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City Council backs eased day care regulations, housing and relief funds

Charlottesville City Council has advanced a proposal to ease regulations on day care facilities, making it easier to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The council conducted a first reading of the zoning change during its meeting Monday.

The Planning Commission initiated the zoning revision in July to address the need for child care as people return to the office. Although some employees are returning to work sites, schools are holding either partial or total online classes. Meanwhile, some day care facilities have reopened, but with reduced capacity to increase safety measures, leading to a shortage of open spots.

The code change will allow family day homes and day care facilities by right in all zoning designations and exempt them from off-street parking requirements.

Family day homes fall under residential uses and are regulated based on the number of children they serve. A home serving one to five children is allowed by right in residential and business districts. A home serving six to 12 children is allowed by right in business districts, but requires a special-use permit in all but high-density residential zoning.

Day care facilities serve 13 or more children and are allowed by right in business districts, but require a special-use permit in all but high-density residential zoning.

Limits on the number of children do not include those who live in the house.

Currently, family day homes require one off-street parking space per employee who doesn’t live in the home on top of parking regulations required for the zoning designation. For a day care, one space is required per 1.5 employees.

Under the revisions, a family day home serving up to four children will be allowed in all zoning districts that permit residential uses. Facilities serving five to 12 children would require a provisional-use permit.

Provisional-use permits are less onerous than special-use permits and can be approved administratively. Applicants for the provisional-use permit must provide a valid city business license and a state license.

“If they get their state permit and they comply with a few zoning things, they’re basically signing a piece of paper saying, ‘Yes I will comply with this,’ and they can get their provisional-use permit,” said Deputy Planning Director Missy Creasy.

The permit will limit hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only 12 hours within each 24-hour period.

Applicants also must provide a traffic safety plan addressing drop-off and pick-up procedures. Only one person who does not live at the residence can assist in the business.

One exterior sign is allowed, but it cannot be lighted and must be no larger than two square feet.

Creasy said the permit would be enforced based on complaints. At that point, city staff would focus on compliance rather than outright revoking the permit.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker supported the proposal, but raised concerns about how it might affect people who don’t have access to insurance or will work later hours. Creasy said the number of children would likely be smaller for overnight child care and would be allowed by right. If the need arises for larger facilities overnight, the city plans to revisit the regulations.

The council will conduct a second reading to finalize the measure at its Nov. 16 meeting.

Low-income housing

In other business, the council unanimously signed off on ordinances related to funding redevelopment projects by the Piedmont Housing Alliance and the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The CRHA ordinances are for Crescent Halls and the first phase of redevelopment on South First Street, while the PHA one covers the first phase of the Friendship Court redevelopment.

The council already has put $1.9 million toward Crescent Halls and $1.2 million toward the first phase of work on South First Street.

The council has to approve the money again because it is being provided to a Community Development Corporation created by CRHA for the projects, requiring a different type of bond issuance. CRHA is transferring the money to the corporation on a 30-year term at no interest.

The ordinances came with an agreement that requires the housing authority to reach certain milestones before it can receive the money.

The final agreement no longer requires CRHA to complete a sustainability plan before requesting a third payout of the funds set aside for the projects.

CRHA is still going to complete the plan, which will show how the agency will establish and provide operational and capital funding and other reserves to guarantee the units remain affordable for at least 40 years.

The combined projects come with an expected construction cost of about $27 million, with a total development cost of about $34 million. Work at Crescent Halls would cost approximately $15.4 million and South First Street would be about $11.5 million.

Crescent Halls will be modernized with improved access for residents, who are primarily seniors and people with disabilities. The renovated building will have 98 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments.

On South First Street, 58 existing units will be redeveloped and 142 units will be added, at a total estimated cost of about $38 million.

At Friendship Court, PHA will start by constructing 106 units on about four acres of the property off Monticello Avenue. It includes units designated for those making an income ranging from 80% of area median income to less than 30% of AMI.

Construction will take place on undeveloped land along Sixth Street Southeast and include 35 multi-family homes and a 71-unit apartment complex. Of those units, 46 will be used by current residents who will be moved from the next area of development.

The council approved about $5.6 million for the project in its fiscal 2020 budget.

The loan is for 40 years and would be forgivable if all units remain affordable in that timeframe. The units must have a 99-year affordability period to be enforced through the state. If the units do not remain affordable after 40 years, the city can file a court injunction to maintain their affordability.

PHA plans to start construction on phase one in the spring.

Relief funds

The council also unanimously voted to allocate $54,750 to The Bridge Ministry from its contingency reserve of the second round of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act stimulus package.

The city received roughly $4 million in round two and a majority was allocated in early October.

The council later signed off on spending $415,000 for community initiatives from a $625,000 contingency reserve.

The ministry requested $328,500 to support housing for nine people who have been released from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to increase safety amid the pandemic.

City staff only recommended providing $54,750 for the program because the funds must be spent by Dec. 31. The recommended amount will cover the next two months.

City staff is determining how much stimulus money has and hasn’t been spent between the two rounds of funding. Finance Director Chris Cullinan said officials will bring forward recommendations for the remaining money by early December.


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