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Council votes in support of affordable housing complex

Charlottesville City Council has provided local support to a small affordable housing project.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a resolution of support for the Sunrise Planned Unit Development during its meeting Tuesday. Mayor Nikuyah Walker cast the dissenting vote.

The council established the Sunrise Planned Unit Development in 2009 to cover a block bounded by Carlton Avenue, Rives Street, Nassau Street and Midland Street.

The development allows for a mixed-use, mixed-income development.

Sunrise Cville LLC, which owns the northeast section of the property, plans to construct a 22-unit mixed-income apartment complex at the intersection of Carl Smith Street and Sunrise Park Lane.

Sunrise Cville has applied for financing for the project through the Virginia Housing Development Authority’s mixed-income program.

The loan requires that at least 20% of the units be leased to people making no more than 80% of the city’s median income, which currently would be $71,680, and the remaining units would have no restrictions.

To qualify for the program, the council must approve a resolution supporting the project.

Walker and Councilor Michael Payne asked why the proposal didn’t first go through the Planning Commission.

City Attorney John Blair said that the proposal was purely based on financial support, not land use, and therefore doesn’t fall under the commission’s purview.

Walker didn’t support the project because she felt a small amount of housing for people who make 80% of the area’s median income doesn’t properly address housing needs.

Payne pointed out that if the council didn’t support the proposal, the developer could build only market rate units. He acknowledged issues with the system allowing for such development, but recognized that voting against the proposal wouldn’t change the “larger fundamental issue.”

Walker appeared to be in favor of sending a message to developers to change their mindset.

“What incentive would developers ever have to think differently if we just voted ‘yes,’ just because both options are horrible choices?” she said.

Free trolley and meeting rules

In other business, the council supported the continuation of a temporary route of the Charlottesville Area Transit’s free trolley.

In October, CAT installed a 90-day temporary detour to serve Midway Manor at the request of residents of the affordable housing complex off Ridge Street.

The trolley has dropped off an average of 18 people on weekdays and 23 people on weekends at the complex.

CAT Director Garland Williams was seeking council’s blessing Tuesday to continue the route at least through May. He plans to hire a consultant through a state grant to make changes to the free trolley route system and wants to establish a route that permanently serves the complex.

On its consent agenda, the council adopted a slightly revised version of its rules during Tuesday’s meeting.

The rules have been a sticking point among some residents since they were introduced in March 2016.

At the time, then-Mayor Mike Signer led the push for rules that included time limits for agenda items, guidelines for interactions with staff and a new process for people to be able to speak during public comment times.

In July 2016, a man sued the city over the rules because he was removed from the meeting after making derogatory statements about Muslims. The rules prohibited speakers from making defamatory remarks about groups. The council eventually removed that provision.

The rules have remained a sore spot for some community members who say they stifle public input.

The revised rules allow the mayor to cancel a meeting during bad weather; adjusts the order of a few items on the agenda; revises some rules for the vote on the consent agenda and formalizes the process that allows councilors to participate in a meeting electronically.

The rules also say that the council strives to end meetings by 11 p.m.


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