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City Council to discuss day care regulations

Charlottesville City Council on Monday will consider proposed zoning changes aimed at easing requirements for certain child care facilities.

The council will conduct a first reading of proposal at its regular meeting. The Planning Commission unanimously backed the proposal in October.

The commission initiated the proposal in July to address the need for child care as people return to the office amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although some employees are returning to work, 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 would 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.

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 would 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.

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

Applicants for the provisional-use permit must provide a valid city business license and a state license. 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.

Relief funds

The council also will consider allocating more of its contingency reserve from the second round of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act stimulus package.

The city received roughly $4 million in the allocation. A majority of that money was allocated in early October while the council considered how to spend $625,000 it had set aside as a contingency reserve to address any unforeseen impacts from the virus.

At its last meeting, the council approved spending $415,000 of the reserve for community initiatives.

One of the requests submitted for reserve funding was from The Bridge Ministry and the council wasn’t sure if it met the requirements for CARES Act funding.

The request for $328,500 would support nine people who have been released from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

After reviewing the request and gathering more information, a staff report indicates the application does in fact qualify for CARES funding.

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

Interim City Manager John Blair has said city staff will convene in early November to determine how much stimulus money has and hasn’t been spent between the two rounds of funding. Officials will then bring forward recommendations for the remaining money, which must be spent by Dec. 31.

Low-income housing

In other business, the council will conduct a second reading 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.

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.

At the last council meeting, CRHA officials asked the city to remove a requirement to complete a sustainability plan before requesting a third payout of the funds set aside for the projects. Officials said CRHA would be unable to close on loans because it couldn’t show the requirement had been met already.

The plan would show how CRHA will establish and provide operational and capital funding and other reserves to guarantee the units would remain affordable for at least 40 years. The agreement would have required the plan to be completed, presented and approved by the City Council before the third request could be made.

The updated ordinances remove the requirement for the plan, although CRHA is still going to create one.

The combined projects come with an expected construction cost of about $26.94 million, with a total development cost of about $34 million. Work at Crescent Halls would cost $15.39 million and South First Street would be $11.55 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.

Crescent Halls work will start in conjunction with the first phase of work on South First Street, where 58 existing units will be redeveloped and 142 units will be added, at a total estimated cost of about $38 million.

The Piedmont Housing Alliance ordinance is for the first phase of redevelopment of Friendship Court.

Phase one includes 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%.

Construction will take place on undeveloped land along Sixth Street Southeast and includes 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 will be for 40 years and would be forgivable if all units remain affordable in that timeframe. The units are required to 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.

The City Council meets Monday at 6:30 p.m. Monday, following a closed session that starts at 5 p.m. To register to participate, visit charlottesville.gov/zoom.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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