In an effort to make good on its goal of bringing more affordable housing into its city’s limits, Charlottesville’s City Council this week approved rezoning that will make two proposed projects possible.
Councilors approved a rezoning and critical slope waiver for property on the Park Street Christian Church’s campus where the church plans to build 50 new residential units to be offered exclusively as affordable housing for senior citizens.
The property was rezoned Tuesday from single-family zoning, to a planned unit development.
City Council also approved rezoning for a Monticello Area Community Action Agency project projected to provide at least 76 affordable housing units. The proposed development is on the MACAA school site also along Park Street.
MACAA is a local nonprofit with a mission of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of low-income individuals and families.
City zoning code defines affordable rental units as targeting households with incomes 80% or less of the area’s median income and committed to remain affordable for at least 30 years. In 2021, the city’s median income – the amount where half of the city’s residents earn more and half less – was $67,500 for a family of three, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A major concern of city staff and the city’s planning commission has been traffic on Park Street and its possible impacts on both projects.
“I don’t want to mislead Council or the public in that 10,000 vehicles, which is what is on Park Street, is a significant number of vehicles,” said city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan. “The theoretical maximum is around 18,000 vehicles per day and that’s at the point where you start seeing pretty severe traffic backups during peak hours.”
Duncan compared the backups to those seen on Preston Avenue during peak hours. However, he said he doesn’t see it as a crisis.
“The impact of 1,200 vehicles per day coming from both the MACAA site and the Park Street Church is not insignificant, but I also do not believe that it will have severely detrimental effects on the [traffic] network,” he said.
There are concerns about accessibility with the MACAA project because of a proposed pedestrian connection to the U.S. 250 Bypass sidewalk. MACAA is proposing to reuse an existing paved driveway to connect the property to existing sidewalks.
Stairs are proposed along this pathway due to the steep grade of the hillside, limiting accessibility for bicyclists and people with mobility impairments.
Councilors said it is better to manage those problems in favor of increasing affordable housing.
“My sense of these problems here is they’re manageable, so that is sort of the way I’m looking at this. There may well be some situations where the problems are not manageable, but this is not one of them,” said Mayor Lloyd Snook.
“There may be things that we are called upon to do as a City Council, and some things that we are called upon to fund, perhaps that may be necessary to fix problems,” he said. “But I do think we have to look at it with an eye that says we’ve got to make it work and we have a responsibility to make it work.”
Councilor Michael Payne agreed.
“I have read every email. I have driven to the site. I walked it myself. There are legitimate concerns. I would have trouble explaining to every family who could have lived there the reasons I voted no,” he said. “To me it seems clear that the benefit for families who will have access to affordable rentals and home ownerships is worth it.”