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Charlottesville property owners sue city over Future Land Use Map

A group of Charlottesville residents and property owners is suing the city over approval of a new comprehensive plan and future land use map, calling the planning document a “radical upzoning.”

Four couples and three individuals, all identified as John and Jane Doe, are plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit that lists the city and the City Council, as defendants. The suit was filed last month.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say their neighborhoods have been designated as medium intensity residential or higher intensity residential in the new plan. The plaintiffs and their counsel claim the city violated statutory requirements for the adoption of the new comprehensive plan and are asking that the plan be ruled void from its inception.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the city failed to comply with requirements in the state code that comprehensive plans be general in nature rather than addressing specific uses for specific properties.

“The plan violates this requirement because it is specific — not general — with respect to zoning classification,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, rather than identifying general areas for development, the plan designates new zoning classifications for every parcel in the city, which is a process that is reserved for zoning ordinances, not comprehensive plans.”

Councilor Sena Magill on Monday declined comment, citing the pending litigation. Other councilors and planning commissioners did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

During hearings leading to its approval, city officials and consultants on the plan said it is not specific because future land use categories can be multiple zoning classifications.

They said that future land use categories are not the same as zoning classifications and that the city has not started a process to update zoning ordinances or a zoning map.

Although the plan is not designed as a zoning map, it is intended to provide a framework for what zoning should be allowed in the future. The city’s zoning code hasn’t been substantially revised since 2003.

City Council voted unanimously to approve the revised comprehensive plan and accompanying future land use map, which officials consider a substantial first step to address the city’s legacy of exclusionary racial covenants and redlining.

The change has led to significant controversy, with community members organizing community groups to advocate for and against the map, starting petitions and placing ads.

While some community members see the map as a big step forward for housing equity in Charlottesville, others have voiced concerns that developers will take advantage of single-family home neighborhoods to develop large complexes.

The suit also alleges the city violated state requirements that the locality “shall incorporate into its comprehensive plan strategies to promote manufactured housing as a source of affordable housing.”

Last year, a new state law mandated the manufactured housing be considered in comprehensive plans amended after July 1.

The lawsuit also alleges that the city’s public notice must include a “descriptive summary of the proposed action” to be taken on the plan. It also claims the plan does not address the state law requiring designation of new and expanded transportation facilities supporting planned developments.

The plaintiffs are represented by Michael E. Derdeyn and Marc A. Peritz of Charlottesville-based law firm Flora Pettit.


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