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February 09, 2011

Commission denies request to add more homes to William Taylor Plaza

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Charlottesville Planning Commission recommended denial of a petition Tuesday to amend the rezoning for a mixed-use development at one of the city’s key intersections.

A majority of commissioners felt the revised plan for William Taylor Plaza fell short of the original project, which was originally approved for Southern Development in October 2009.

Since then, the company entered into a partnership with Park Properties Management Company to finance the project, which is located at the intersection of Cherry Avenue and Ridge Street Extended.

The model for the project is Park Properties’ Treesdale Park, a rental housing development on Rio Road in Albemarle County that will rely on tax-credit financing to remain affordable.  Among the changes requested include an increase in the number of dwelling units from 50 to 80.

20110208-PC
Developer Charlie Armstrong makes his case to the Planning Commission

“[This] is something the city has been seeking for a long time, and that’s a mixed-use, mixed-income development,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president of land development at Southern Development. “This is the perfect place for that. It’s a one-minute walk to a grocery store and a one minute walk to a park.”

The original proffer required the developer to contribute $235,000 in cash to the city for affordable units or improvements to Tonsler Park, which is directly across Cherry Avenue from the planned development.

Instead, the developers have proffered the setting aside of 30 percent of the units as affordable, which means they would be priced so families who make 80 percent or less of the area median income could be tenants. In 2010, AMI was calculated at $68,500.  The remaining units would be rented at market rate.

Staff recommended approval of the project because it meets several goals of the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan, including increasing affordable housing stock. However, city planner Brian Haluska qualified his recommendation.

“Our comprehensive plan was written in an economic atmosphere that was different from today,“ Haluska said. “Is the need for affordable housing in this area overwhelming?”

Commissioner Dan Rosensweig, however, said he was in support of the rezoning because the affordable housing crisis has gotten worse since 2007.

 “The public housing availability list has grown and the number of people seeking [federal housing] vouchers has grown,” Rosenweig said.  He added he thought this was the best project he has seen in his three years on the commission.

 Commissioner John Santoski said he would like to support the project because of the need for affordable housing, but was bothered by the clustering.

 

“Quite frankly, I was troubled looking through this,” Santoski said. “It does appear that the development as currently proposed provides for economic segregation.”

 In response to a question from City Councilor Kristin Szakos, developer William Park said affordable units would be grouped in the same buildings in order to build affordability guarantees into the project’s deeds.

At least two dozen neighborhood residents rose in opposition to plan at the public hearing. Architect and former mayor Maurice Cox said he could not support the project, thought he lauded the goal to increase the city’s affordable housing stock.

“The challenge I’m having is that this is not the concept plan you approved in 2009,” Cox said.

His comments were echoed by Antoinette Roades of Oak Street, an adamant opponent of the project.

“Among other things, it has a different and greater size and mass, a different and more intrusive footprint… a different market, and a different builder,” Roades wrote in a letter to city council.

However, not all public opinion was against the plan.

The owners of Charlottesville’s Flower Man, a business on Cherry Avenue, wrote to the commission to indicate their support because they said the road needed commercial development.

“We feel that the combination of Pinnacle Construction and Southern Development are the right people to do it,” wrote Jim and Marty Plummer.

Pascal Bussiere, who bought a house on 7 1/2 Street in 2008, wrote the commission to say the development would jump start the revitalization of Cherry Avenue.

“In almost 3 years, we have had plenty of time to witness that the absence of any decent store, except a florist, on Cherry Avenue encourages certain activities that have for a long time discouraged investors,” Bussiere said.

Commissioner Jason Pearson, a nearby resident, said he supported the project because of its mixed use and mixed income components.

“I think this would be an asset for the neighborhood,” he said.

Armstrong said he would accept the recommendation for denial, and would work to address the commission’s concerns before the item goes before City Council on February 21, 2011.

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