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Divided City Council sends affordable housing proposal to Planning Commission

A divided Charlottesville City Council on Monday sent proposed affordable housing regulations to the Planning Commission despite concerns that the plan needed more review and requests for other groups to weigh in.

The new regulations are aimed at improving the city’s affordable housing stock.

The council voted 3-2 to send the suggested revisions to zoning regulations and policies affecting affordable housing to the planners.

Councilors Lloyd Snook and Heather Hill and Mayor Nikuyah Walker voted in favor of the measure, while Councilors Sena Magill and Michael Payne voted against it.

The council held a work session in February to discuss several recommendations to create zoning incentives for affordable housing and better administer and replenish the Affordable Housing Fund.

Under consideration Monday was a resolution essentially in three parts.

The first part was to generally craft regulations to incentivize affordable housing investment.

The second was to evaluate zoning revisions on accessory dwelling units. The recommendation from staff is to allow accessory dwelling units anywhere throughout the city by right. Property owners would be allowed to have as many as three accessory units as long as at least one remains affordable as a rental for 20 years.

The proposal would remove the requirement that an owner live on the property with an accessory dwelling unit; make loans available; reduce setback requirements; and eliminate additional parking requirements.

City staff has recommended that the Affordable Housing Fund be transformed into a revolving loan program to guarantee continuous funding.

The third part was an affordable dwelling unit program that would oversee regulations.

An early draft of the proposal called for a revision of the 22-member Housing Advisory Committee to a 10-member panel that would advise the housing coordinator. The new panel was to focus on administering the affordable housing program and establish regulations, such as rental and sales prices for projects that received city funding. That means the HAC could be eliminated.

However, the resolution approved Monday directs the commission to review how an advisory panel could work on administering the program and providing policy direction.

Payne wanted to separate the third portion and send it to the HAC for review, while Walker and Snook said that the panel should be involved in the Planning Commission review.

Magill also was concerned that the proposal was too much for elected officials to adequately understand before the vote.

“If I am going to be voting on this I definitely need to understand it an awful lot more and what the implications are.” she said. “I am unsure of the way it is currently written if it’s going to be actually assisting us in getting affordable dwelling units.”

Snook said that the council and HAC would be involved in the review process and learn more about the proposal during the 100-day review process mandated in city code.

“We’re going to use this 100 days as the time that we might readily spend on our own, dithering on our own to at least dither productively with the other people who know something about the whole thing,” he said.

Snook’s motion to send the proposal to the Planning Commission also calls for a formal opinion on it from the HAC.

Emmet-Barracks

In other business, the council unanimously approved an initial design of proposed improvements to the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street.

The project is funded by $8.6 million the city received from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program to perform updates to the intersection. The state funding does not require a local match.

An average of 23,000 vehicles travel north on Emmet Street and 13,000 go west on Barracks through the intersection each day.

The project will include a pedestrian refuge island, a small section of concrete allowing walkers to stop halfway through a crossing, in the medians of Emmet and Barracks on each side of the roads. The existing Charlottesville Area Transit stop would be upgraded with a bus shelter.

It would include right-turn lanes from northbound Emmet Street onto eastbound Barracks Road.

Westbound Barracks would have four lanes at the intersection, of which two would be dedicated left-turn lanes.

The road would include a 10-foot-wide multi-use path with a 3-foot-wide grass buffer between the road and a retaining wall. It would stretch from Hessian Road to Hilltop Road.

The project isn’t expected to reach final design until summer 2021 and construction would begin in spring 2023.

Harris Street apartments

The council also moved forward on a special-use permit request for a planned development on Harris Street.

The council put the request on the consent agenda at its next meeting for final approval.

Woodard Properties is planning a six-story building on 2.4 acres across three parcels at a sharp turn near Allied Street and McIntire Road.

The permit would increase the allowed density from 51 units to 105 and the height from two to four stories.

In addition to the residential units, the building would have retail space and underground parking. Access to the parking area would come from both Harris and Allied streets. The access off Allied Street would be at the end of the dead-end cul-de-sac.

Chris Virgilio, a development project manager for Woodard Properties who is handling the development, said that five units will be set aside as affordable housing at 80% of area median income. He said five additional units will be reserved for housing vouchers.

Walker indicated she doesn’t support the proposal and wants the income levels lower than 80%.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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