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July 23, 2008

B&B / apartment complex deferred; neighbors object to housing density

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20080722-OakhurstMap
The site (marked in black) is located just to the south of UVA's Central Grounds

A project to build a bed and breakfast and 30-unit apartment complex near the intersection of Jefferson Park Avenue and Emmet Street has been deferred at the request of the applicant. Architect Neal Deputy, a representative of Tenth and Main LLC, pulled his plans after the Charlottesville Planning Commission expressed concern about the increased density at the site, as well as the mixture of commercial and residential units.

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Deputy’s plan was to build a 30-unit apartment complex and a 23-room bed and breakfast near the University of Virginia’s Central Grounds.  The site consists of three parcels of land on Oakhurst Circle, with frontage along the corner where JPA takes a sharp right turn.  The applicant needed a special use permit to allow an increase in density up to 33 dwelling units per acre (DUA).  The existing R-3 zoning classification would only allow 23 units on the site by-right. Currently, there are 17 apartments on the site spread across three houses.

Under the plan submitted for the Commission’s approval,  two of those houses would be converted into the bed and breakfast and the other would continue being used as an apartment.  Three new buildings will be constructed for the 30 apartment units, along with a parking garage to accommodate 38 parking spaces. The space for the apartment complex is currently occupied by a parking lot.  The developer also requested a waiver to allow the buildings to be set back 12 feet from JPA, rather than the 25 feet called for under code. Deputy's partner, Bill Chapman, wrote in a comment to Charlottesville Tomorrow that the setback distances set forth in the preliminary site plan varied, with an average setback of JPA proposed at 33 feet. "In one case on one building it is as small is 12 feet," Chapman wrote.

  20080722-Walden
Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden

Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden wrote in her staff report that the development would generate 847 vehicle trips a day, an increase of 347 trips over the existing usage. “The increase in density will likely increase the number of cars on JPA and Oakhurst/Gildersleeve and make it more congested at this intersection as there will be more cars entering and exiting,” Walden wrote.  The development would border the Oakhurst Circle / Gildersleeve Wood neighborhood, which is zoned single-family.

“One could argue that this is an appropriate place for increased density,” Walden wrote, citing the project’s proximity to the University and the South Lawn project.  “A large portion of this site is currently a parking lot; therefore this development will be a significant improvement to the Jefferson Park Avenue Corridor,” Walden wrote. “The proposed density and scale of development are not out of character with new development along this corridor.”

However, several members of the neighborhood spoke before the Commission to argue against that view.  When the City rewrote its zoning ordinance in 2003 to encourage more density, many of these same residents argued against the inclusion of their neighborhood as “University High Density,” which would have allowed up to 64 units per acre.

In order to mitigate the traffic impacts, the applicant had offered to provide bikes for the Inn’s guests, reduce rent for residents who choose not to own a car, as well as a dedicated car to be used in a sharing program. The applicant has also offered to provide valets to park cars so that guests do not travel down Gildersleeve Wood neighborhood. Walden said she was not sure how enforceable these mitigation steps would be, but staff’s recommendation for approval of the special use permit was conditional on their implementation.

The intersection of Emmet and Jefferson Park Avenue will be redesigned in a manner consistent with a 2001 JPA Corridor study conducted by the University of Virginia. Walden said the removal of a driver’s ability to turn right on a yield will result in larger traffic queues at the intersection, but the traffic study did not result in a lesser level of service. Commissioner Michael Farruggio asked for more details of the restructured intersection, but was told they would come when the project proceeds to the site plan phase.

Commissioner Michael Osteen disclosed that he owns property on Oakhurst Circle and lives on Gildersleeve Wood, but felt he was able to participate in the vote.

20080722-Deputy
Neal Deputy

Neal Deputy acknowledged that he did not have the full support of the neighborhood, but said the application was strengthened through a series of meetings with residents. He said the existing buildings are falling apart, and the only way to pay for renovations would be to run them as a bed and breakfast. Rentals to university students, he said, would not recoup the costs. Deputy also said that the new apartments would be one or two bedroom units, targeted to professionals rather than undergraduates.
Commissioners had lots of questions for Deputy. They asked him how the bed and breakfast would operate. Technically, in order for the use of a B&B to be valid under the City’s zoning ordinances, a designated innkeeper must live on the property. 

Commissioner Lewis asked who the innkeeper would be.  Deputy said that many people might share that title, but that he wouldn’t know until the project was closer to completion in 2010.  Lewis asked who would manage all the amenities that Deputy had suggested as ways to mitigate traffic.

“If we check back in five years, will we find that these conditions are still being satisfied?” Lewis asked.  Deputy’s partner, Bill Chapman, said there would be a payroll budget of $125,000 a year to pay for staff to administer them.

During the public hearing, Jane Foster of Gildersleeve Wood, said the bed and breakfast did not meet with the spirit of the zoning ordinance.  Appearing just two days after her husband Gene died, Foster said the project would overwhelm her road with traffic, especially if the developer reneges on the promise to pay for the valets.

Tom Pietro of Jefferson Park Avenue said he is the owner of the only remaining single-family home on his section of JPA.  He said if the Commission recommended approval of the SUP, they would be sending a message that only high-density development is welcome.  Mary Prior of Gildersleeve Wood said her street is already seeing higher-than-normal traffic because of the closure of Brandon Avenue and because of the construction of the South Lawn Project.  Sue Kaiser, also of Gildersleeve Road, said that her neighborhood is not opposed to increased density per se, but that the upper limit should be mutually agreed between the developer and the residents who will have to live nearby.  Nancy Hanes of Oakhurst Circle said a bread and breakfast with 24 rooms was more like a hotel, and she wondered how many deliveries would need to be made along Oakhurst Circle to service the guests.

Walden explained during the Commission’s discussion that the bed and breakfast would be a by-right use, and that the Commission could place no restrictions on that use. However, she said the Commission could determine whether the SUP should be granted based on six criteria.

20080722-Oakhurst-Crowd
Neal Deputy and residents of Oakhurst Circle / Gildersleeve Wood listen as the Commission discuss the SUP

Commissioner Mike Farruggio said he agreed with the basic concept of the project, but that he could not support the increased density or the setback waivers. He said the project as submitted was not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, conflicted with the adjacent neighborhood, and that the area was not rezoned to UHD in 2003 for a reason.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she was becoming increasingly concerned about the number of special use permits the Commission was being asked to support to increase density above the Comprehensive Plan goals.  Commissioner Hosea Mitchell agreed.

Commissioner Cheri Lewis said one reason for zoning was to separate intense uses, something she said was not being done on a project that incorporates both residential and commercial  uses.
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig was more supportive of the project, but said he would only vote for it if there was some way to guarantee no commercial traffic would use Oakhurst Circle.

After requesting a deferral,  Dale Chapman said he was confused because his reading of the comprehensive plan was that it encouraged walkable developments. He said if the Commission and Council did not support a special use permit and the waivers, no developer would touch the property.

Deputy said he did not want to sell the property, but that would become an option if the planning process continues to be a drawn out process. “We’ve bent over backwards to provide the best possible product we could on this site, over countless meetings, countless discussion, and I still remain proud of what we’ve brought forward,” Deputy said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Staff report from Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden
  • 8:45 - Questions from Commissioner Mike Osteen about setback waivers requested for the project
  • 15:40 - Question from Cheri Lewis about the use of a bed and breakfast
  • 16:30 - Commissioner Rosensweig asks if the intersection changes will affect U.Va traffic
  • 21:30 - Commissioner Keller asks about the provision for the rent reduction for tenants who don't drive
  • 30:30 - Presentation by Neal Deputy
  • 45:11 - Public hearing comment from Jane Foster against the SUP
  • 47:15 - Public hearing comment from Tom Pietro against the SUP
  • 49:10 - Public hearing comment from Mary Prior against the SUP
  • 52:15 - Public hearing comment from Gail McIntosh against the SUP
  • 53:40 - Public hearing comment from Sue Kaiser against the SUP
  • 57:30 - Public hearing comment from Nina Barnes against the SUP
  • 59:00 - Public hearing comment from Nancy Hanes
  • 1:00:00 - Commission takes up discussion
  • 1:06:15 - Comments from Commissioner Farruggio
  • 1:07:55 - Comments from Commissioner Keller
  • 1:08:49 - Comments from Commissioner Lewis
  • 1:12:40 - Comments from Commissioner Rosensweig
  • 1:15:20 - Comments from Commissioner Osteen

Sean Tubbs

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