The Charlottesville Planning Commission voted to defer City Council approval of a rezoning application for the owner of the 240 Stribling Ave. site to build a housing complex until the developer can address critical issues.
Charlie Armstrong, of Southern Development Group, is the owner’s agent for Carrsgrove Properties LLC, which owns the property off Jefferson Park Avenue behind University of Virginia Urology. He submitted his first draft proposal for the project in August 2019. Armstrong is planning a complex of townhouses, apartments and condos.
The developer was seeking a critical slope waiver and a change to the zoning district classifications of the property near the Fry’s Spring neighborhood from R-1S (Residential Small Lot) to PUD (Planned Unit Development). I
At the Planning Commission’s joint work session with City Council on Wednesday night, commissioners applauded the affordable housing that would be created by the project, but members had concerns about traffic, pedestrian safety, the local environment and funding.
According to the current proposal, the complex would include two single-family attached style units, approximately 69 townhome style units, three multifamily buildings, central green space, a nature trail, four new city standard public roads, pedestrian and vehicular access to Morgan Court and six new private roads built to city private road standards.
In order to align with the city’s PUD requirements, 15% of the various housing units in the housing development will qualify as Affordable Dwelling Units.
The term Affordable Dwelling Unit as defined by the city means a residence reserved for occupancy by a household that pays no more than 30% of its gross income for housing costs, including utilities, provided that the annual gross income of the household/occupant is 60% or less than of the Area Median Income for the city of Charlottesville.
AMI is established annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city’s median household income level for fiscal 2020 was $93,900, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Thirty percent or more of the required ADUs will be reserved for rental to low-income and moderate-income households for 10 years, and 30% or more of the required ADUs will be reserved for ownership by low-income and moderate-income households for 30 years.
Throughout the process, neighbors have been critical of the proposal impacting safety in the area, with dozens of residents voicing their concerns to the Planning Commission through emails and in public hearings.
Most of the opposition centered around increased traffic on the road and pedestrian and cyclist safety. The Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association voted to only support the project if the developer would make improvements to Stribling Ave prior to development of the complex. This would include building a sidewalk.
Originally, Armstrong proposed an R-2 (Residential Two-Family) rezoning for the project, but decided to pursue a PUD model after recommendations from the Planning Commission in 2020 that the project should have a higher density and after hearing concerns from the community.
Kevin Riddle, project architect with Mitchell Matthews, said the project is designed to include greenspace between buildings for a visual aesthetic.
“The interconnected greens also provide potentially a recreational corridor. The very dimensions [of] these open spaces invites a variety of activities on a range of scales. The larger green might be just right to throw a football or set up badminton. Another smaller space is better for a small family gathering to barbecue and catch up around a picnic table,” Riddle said.
Armstrong said the apartment specific buildings would not be clustered in one part of the development, but distributed throughout the property.
Armstrong said the project team has applied for CIP budget funding from City Council for the past few cycles, but hasn’t received it.
Matthew Alfefe, a city planner, said he didn’t see the city approving the project unless there was a plan for the improvements themselves and not just for funding.
The commissioners voiced their support for the affordable housing aspect of the project, but had concerns about funding and other logistics.
Commissioner Hosea Mitchell said he is concerned the proposal doesn’t adequately address the critical slopes at the site, and commissioner Jody Lahendro objected to the removal of 11 large ash, oak and maple trees along Stribling Ave as part of the development.
“I’m sick and tired of having beautiful large trees being torn down because of bureaucratic standards,” Lanhendro said.
Commissioner Taneia Dowell commended the affordable housing project, but suggested the proposal be delayed until the developer can address the traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.
“Do we want to put the people at risk to give them affordable housing … is that really affordable housing?” she said.
It’s unclear how the project and the improvements to Stribling Ave will be funded, but the developer and city staff have suggested a funding agreement to be reviewed and approved by City Council. If this plan went through, the developer would front $2 million and the city would refund this based on increased tax revenue created by development of the project.
“There’s no question that the need for this funding has always been the barrier,” Armstrong said.
The team’s estimated cost for sidewalk and drainage improvements is between $1 million to $2 million. Jack Dawson, city engineer, said he thinks it could cost upward of $2.9 million.