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Divided Charlottesville Council OKs JPA student-plex

Last month’s 6-0 thumbs-up vote by the Charlottesville Planning Commission did not result in similar unanimity among Charlottesville city councilors on Monday.

In a 3-2 vote Monday evening, City Council voted to approve plans for an eight-story, 27-unit apartment building at 1709 Jefferson Park Avenue, which will see a smaller, eight-unit, 1972 building on the property demolished.

“Based on the surrounding uses, staff believes the ‘use’ of multifamily residential on the Subject Property is harmonious with the existing patterns of development,” wrote one city planner, Matt Alfele, in his report to the council.

He recommended approval of critical slope waiver and a special use permit with 11 conditions, and the council delivered.

The 13,547-square-foot, student-oriented structure is to consist of seven stories of apartments over one story of underground parking. It would appear as eight stories high on JPA and four stories high on Montebello Circle. That’s due to what Alfele called the “extreme grade change” of about 54 feet between the low part of the 1/3-acre lot on JPA and its high point on Montebello Circle.

Alfele noted that replacement of the existing surface parking lot with underground parking should improve the JPA pedestrian experience by reducing curb cuts from two to one. Other proposed public improvements are three new trees facing JPA — a pair of Kentucky coffeetrees and a Washington hawthorn — plus an 1,122-square-foot plaza around the front door.

The developer is Neighborhood Investments LLC, a local company run by Richard Spurzem, while the applicant is a Charlottesville architectural firm, Mitchell/Matthews. Rather than supplying affordable housing on the site, they propose paying $124,257 to the city’s affordable housing fund.

City Council Member Michael Payne alleged that the proposal would take advantage of the impending density increases that the city is considering without providing the commensurate affordable housing demanded by the proposed zoning ordinance. However, the presenting architect pushed back on that allegation.

“Really, it is first and foremost a project under the current zoning,” said Kevin Riddle of Mitchell/Matthews.

“I don’t know what to do,” Council Member Leah Puryear whispered shortly before casting her vote in opposition.

While Puryear, and Payne, ultimately voted against the plans, councilors Lloyd Snook, Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade provided the majority needed for approval.


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