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July 23, 2008

Commission recommends approval for new Whole Foods site plan

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Whole-Foods-Site-Plan The grocery store will front Hillsdale Drive Extended, with a three-story parking garage behind. The image does not depict a traffic signal which will be required

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has approved a preliminary site plan application for the new Whole Foods and three-story parking garage being planned for the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive Extended, next to the K-Mart. The Commission also granted a certificate of appropriateness for the design, which is along one of the City’s entrance corridors.  The vote came just after 2:00 AM on July 23, 2008.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080722-CPC-WholeFoods

The applicant, Meadowbrook Creek LLC, had made several changes to the application after the Commission’s meeting on June 10, 2008. They had requested a deferral after Commissioners expressed concern about several items, including the project’s proximity to Hydraulic Road. At that time, the plan depicted the parking garage being set back from Hydraulic Road by only five feet. Now, the garage will be set back 15 feet, allowing room for more landscaping, as Commissioners had requested.

The applicant also made other requested changes in order to satisfy the Commission and City staff, including the removal of a brick veneer that would be used in the parking garage. The Commission had also indicated they would not waive a requirement that 10% of the site be covered by trees. The applicant has been working with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CHRA), which manages public housing near the site, to negotiate the planting of trees on their property to meet the City’s requirement. 

Mary Joy Scala, the City’s Preservation and Design Planner, said there are too many signs depicted in the application, and they are too large. She said a separate signage application will need to be submitted as the site plan review continues to the final stage.

20080722-Joyce
Mark Joyce of Bohler Engineering presents the plans while Chris Pine and Nick Rogers look on

Mark Joyce, Senior Project Manager for Bohler Engineering, presented the changes to the Commission.  He said increased plantings on and off the site would help the project meet the City’s standards. Another change was additional landscaping to shield a retaining wall along the rear of the property.

Most of the Commissioners appeared satisfied with the changes, with the exception of Commissioner Dan Rosensweig. He asked for more information on how the renegotiations were going with the CRHA. Chris Pine of Red Light Management said they were still on-going, but he was confident that a deal could be worked out Rosensweig said he was concerned that any trees planted on CRHA’s property could eventually be torn down as redevelopment occurs. Pine said he was hoping the planting would occur in one of their easements. He also said Meadowbrook Creek LLC will either pay a cash contribution to CRHA or would contribute to the renovation of an existing playground.

“We’re all very comfortable that we’ll be able to come to an accord prior to the final site plan,” Pine said.
But Rosensweig had other concerns. He said he was not satisfied with the parking garage’s relationship to Hydraulic Road. 

“I appreciate the tree screening and making the effort to push the parking structure back off Hydraulic but I still feel like without any kind of feature that’s going to attract any kind of pedestrian life to that street, we’re kind of throwing Hydraulic under the bus,” Rosensweig said.

Pine said the applicant is committed to building a sidewalk to the CRHA properties. Rosensweig said that was a step in the right direction, but he was concerned that that the long-term future of the Hydraulic corridor was being compromised by a faceless parking garage.

“I can imagine a scenario in the future where this parking deck is the kind of place where people will come, shop at Whole Foods, and if there were easy access to Hydraulic Road, it would spur some development that along Hydraulic Road that is more pedestrian in nature,” Rosensweig said.

Pine pointed out that the next most likely land along Hydraulic to develop will be the K-Mart property, which is also being overseen by Red Light Management. 

During his presentation on the preliminary site plan application, Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers updated the Commission on several issues he discussed at the June 10th meeting, as well as an update on two waivers requested by the applicant. Rogers said the applicant’s request for a sidewalk waiver and the landscape waiver would not have to be granted until the final site plan review. However, Rogers said the tree canopy request could be supported because the additional plantings and the CHRA negotiations met the spirit of the tree canopy requirement.

First, staff had been concerned that the number of parking spaces being proposed by the applicant was too excessive. Rogers said he was satisfied by comments he heard at the meeting, but that the city’s traffic engineer has requested more data from the applicant’s traffic study.  Second, a sewer and gas line depicted as traveling underneath the store and garage has now been re-routed to an easement along Hydraulic Road.  Third, staff no longer objects to the placement of the driveway into Whole Foods from Hillsdale Drive. Rogers said staff’s initial thought was that the entrance was too close to the intersection of Hydraulic and the proposed Hillsdale Drive Extension. Finally, a left turn lane design from Hillsdale into the garage has been re-worked to staff’s satisfaction.

Grading at the site is underway, and most recently the trees on the site have been removed. Rogers said that City inspectors are on site every day to make sure that the work is being done according to code.

Commissioner Michael Farruggio said he was satisfied by the changes that had been made, and he agreed with staff’s recommendation to proceed.

Commissioner Hosea Mitchell said he was very concerned about the additional traffic  that would be generated at the site, though he said he would support the application because the underlying zoning supports a grocery store on the site. But, he warned that the Hillsdale Drive extension would take years to be built because of cutbacks in state funding for road construction.

20080722-Rosensweig
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig cast the lone vote against the entrance corridor review

“I can’t in good conscience vote for a parking garage face with nothing else on it on Hydraulic Road,” Rosensweig said. Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she also wanted more pedestrian activity on Hydraulic Road, but was encouraged by the redevelopment that would occur at the K-Mart site.

City Councilor Holly Edwards asked what efforts Whole Foods would take to employ residents of the public housing units.  Pine said that Whole Foods has already begun to reach out and would hold a job fair closer to the time when the store opens. He said it will employ up to 400 people.

The Commission voted 6-1 to approve the certificate of appropriateness to satisfy the Entrance Corridor Review, with Rosensweig voting against.  Rosensweig did vote with his colleagues to unanimously approve the preliminary site plan review.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Jason Pearson introduces the item, and welcomes Mary Joy Scala to the dais to present the Entrance Corridor Review portion of the Whole Foods application
  • 6:52 - Presentation from engineer Mark Joyce
  • 9:11 - Question from Commissioner Dan Rosensweig regarding tree plantings on CRHA's property
  • 12:30 - Two questions from Commissioner Jason Pearson regarding pedestrian activity in the parking garage
  • 22:30 - Presentation from Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers on the preliminary site application 
  • 33:00 - Comments from Michael Osteen about why the truck and customer/employee driveways have been separated
  • 36:42 - Comments from Commissioner Hosea Mitchell
  • 38:50 - Comments from Rosensweig
  • 40:30 - Question from City Councilor Holly Edwards asked what steps Whole Foods would take to employ CHRA residents
  • 41:21 - Comments from Commissioner Genevieve Keller
  • 42:20 - Comments from Chairman Jason Pearson
  • 44:00 - Commissioner Mike Farruggio makes a motion for entrance corridor review
  • 45:15 - Public comment from Michie Bright, a City resident concerned that Whole Foods won't be built
  • 46:48 - Commissioner Mike Farruggio makes a motion to approve the preliminary site plan

Sean Tubbs

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