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City Council to review low-income housing proposals, pick a mayor

Newly elected members of the Charlottesville City Council will quickly get their first chance to live up to campaign promises.

The council is poised to give final approval to a public housing redevelopment project and extend funding deadlines for an affordable housing proposal during its meeting Monday.

The council will consider a special-use permit and critical slope waiver for phase two of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s project on South First Street.

It will be the first chance for newly minted Councilors Michael Payne, Sena Magill and Lloyd Snook to weigh in on affordable housing, a central tenet of their campaigns.

In phase one of the project, a 63-unit development will be constructed next to the existing public housing near the intersection of South First Street and Hartmans Mill Road in the Ridge Street neighborhood.

The units will be built on undeveloped land that contains a community baseball field. Work is expected to start in the spring and take about a year.

Phase one is estimated to cost $12.8 million, with $1.125 million of that coming from local funding. The remaining money is from federal, state and private funding.

Under consideration Monday will be a permit and waiver for phase two.

That portion of the project will replace the existing 58 units at South First Street with 113 multifamily units. It also includes a 7,000-square-foot community center and 3,000 square feet of office space.

Under the plan, the 18 existing buildings on the site would be demolished and replaced with 23 new structures.

Phase two is estimated to cost $26.7 million, including $3 million in local funding.

Phase two requires a special-use permit because proposed outdoor parks, playgrounds and ball courts would be private. Public facilities are allowed on the parcel by-right.

The critical slope waiver is necessary because construction would occur within certain topographical areas.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the proposal after a joint hearing with the council in December.

CRHA officials hope to begin construction on phase two in March 2021.

As part of the permit, CRHA is requesting a uniform setback requirement of five feet for the total project. Existing regulations calculate setbacks based on density, so it could vary across the property.

A conceptual plan has been presented with the project, but no site plan has been submitted for the city to review.

The work is part of a larger three-phase redevelopment of the city’s public housing stock.

Phase one includes the first phase of work on South First Street, new units on Levy Avenue and redevelopment of Crescent Halls.

Phase two will include a redevelopment of units on Sixth Street and modernizing public housing on Madison and Riverside avenues and Michie Drive.

Phase three will be the redevelopment of the Westhaven complex.

Crossings II

The council also will consider extending deadlines for financial assistance to The Crossings II.

In October, the council allocated $750,000 to Virginia Supportive Housing for the project at 405 Levy Ave. and 405 Avon St., which the organization does not own.

The project would be similar to The Crossings at Fourth Street and Preston Avenue, which provides a place to live for people who are homeless.

The Crossings II would cost about $14.7 million and have 80 units, including 12 accessible to those with disabilities.

The units would be available for people who make no more than 50% of area median income.

The council established deadlines for Virginia Supportive Housing to reach to ensure it received the funding.

Among the requirements was a commitment from CRHA or another agency for rental assistance vouchers by Dec. 31 and to acquire the land or secure a long-term lease by March 15.

The organization has been working with CRHA, but the two haven’t reached a formal agreement.

City staff recommends that the council extend the rental assistance deadline to March 15.

Mayor

However, before any decisions on the affordable housing projects, the council must appoint a mayor and vice mayor to serve two-year terms.

In Charlottesville’s council-manager form of government, the mayor is a figurehead with no real power other than running meetings and setting the agenda. The vice mayor runs meetings in the mayor’s absence.

Nikuyah Walker was appointed mayor on a 4-1 vote in January 2018 in the fallout of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally. She has indicated a willingness to continue to serve in the role.

Councilor Heather Hill served the past two years as vice mayor.

If Walker is reappointed, it will continue a recent trend of mayors serving more than one term in the past 20 years, although the position traditionally has been handed off after two years.

Thirty out of 36 mayoral tenures since 1928 have been for one two-year term.

Nine out of the 12 mayors since 1988 have served for one two-year term, but former Councilor Mike Signer was the only one to do so since 2003 when he served in 2016 and 2017.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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