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City Planning Commission to take final look at form-based code on Tuesday

Charlottesville planners are poised to take a final crack at proposed new zoning regulations that focus on building type rather than usage.

The Planning Commission will hold a joint public hearing with the City Council on a proposed form-based code for a portion of the city’s Strategic Investment Area during its meeting Tuesday.

Form-based codes are land development regulations that replace conventional zoning and are based on specifying the form and mass of buildings and streets in relation to one another and public spaces.

The commission and council held a hearing on an initial version of the proposal in November. At the time, commissioners said they supported some type of form-based code, but the regulations weren’t ready to be implemented.

Sixteen people spoke against it during a public hearing at that meeting. Only one person spoke in favor of the proposal, saying it should be passed because it had been talked about for so long.

City code requires that the Planning Commission make a recommendation on the proposal within 100 days after the City Council initiated the review process. That deadline is Jan. 30, and Tuesday is the only regular commission meeting of the month.

The Strategic Investment Area is bounded by Avon Street, Elliott Avenue, Ridge Street and the railroad tracks north of Garrett Street. It includes the subsidized housing development Friendship Court and public housing site Crescent Halls.

The code would apply to a roughly 80-acre portion of the 330-acre SIA. The newly designated area is focused around the IX Art Park and properties mostly to its northeast and northwest.

The process to designate the Strategic Investment Area started in 2012 and soon was followed by the development of a form-based code zoning ordinance for a portion of it. The process was championed by former Councilor Kathy Galvin, who didn’t get it passed before her term ended on Dec. 31. Efforts to reach Galvin for comment were unsuccessful.

Supporters of form-based code and consultants hired by the city have said it will promote affordable housing, while opponents have said it’s too complicated and won’t incentivize affordable development.

The code would focus more on height and building type than density for zoning designations. Developers would be allowed to construct taller complexes as a bonus for providing affordable housing. The code wouldn’t include a maximum density under its three zoning designations.

The amount of required affordable housing varies depending on the amount of added height and would be a certain percentage of total units in the extra height of the building.

The draft document for Tuesday’s meeting carries a few changes from the initial proposal.

It removes extra sign regulations, strengthens enforcement language and removes loopholes addressing size and location of affordable units.

One of those loopholes would have allowed a developer to theoretically build a four-story building that would get two additional stories under the new code.

The first four stories could have contained as many luxury apartment complexes as the developer can fit. They could then put a smaller number of units in the top of the building to cut down on the required number of affordable units.

The revised document includes safeguards on the size and location of the affordable units.

The proposed regulations do, however, allow developers to cut down on the number of affordable units required. One example is if a property reserves space for a child care facility for a period of 10 years, then the number of affordable units required is reduced by one.

Developers can also get up to 30% of parking requirements waived if they guarantee that 15% of all units will be affordable for a period of 20 years.

The Planning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 605 E. Main St. The public hearing starts at 6 p.m.

The final proposal can be found at


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