After hours of public comment, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a rezoning request for a 525-unit residential development on Old Ivy Road just outside of Charlottesville.
The measure passed late Wednesday night despite significant pushback from the planned project’s neighbors, who raised concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety.
The proposed Old Ivy Residences would add 525 residential units, including apartments, townhouses and duplexes, near University Village, a senior independent living facility, and the University of Virginia School of Law and Darden School of Business. About 79 of those units would be affordable. Though the area is technically zoned for high density, a 1985 proffer prevented developers from building out to capacity until they made improvements to Old Ivy Road.
“There is a need for improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, no doubt,” Valerie Long, an attorney representing South Carolina-based developer Greystar, told the Board of Supervisors at the Wednesday night meeting. “That’s why Greystar is proffered to build it on their land and extend it across other lands.”
The 1985 proffer does not specify just how Old Ivy Road needs to be improved, just that it should be brought to the board’s satisfaction.
Improvements have included adding curbs and gutters, as well as full-width lanes. That has been mostly completed. There also are now noncontiguous stretches of sidewalk, another improvement identified by the proffer. Realignment of the nearby railroad underpass hasn’t happened.
Greystar will pay for $3.25 million of future road improvements, including a bus stop, shared-use path and signalized crosswalk.
Most of the proposed development’s neighbors expressed fears of increased traffic in the area.
A traffic impact analysis from Greystar, developed with guidance from the Virginia Department of Transportation and county planner Kevin McDermott, said the new housing would add a little over 4,300 daily trips on Old Ivy Road.
“If we add to the traffic on the Old Ivy Road, the risks increase. I am not against development, but I do oppose any consideration that would increase the traffic on the Old Ivy Road and put everyone, particularly pedestrians, at greater risk,” Betsy Vinton, a resident at University Village, said Wednesday.
Others argued that traffic would increase regardless. Nearby UVa is the area’s biggest single employer, and the development is close to the Barracks Road Shopping Center and popular restaurants.
“There will be new households looking for rentals,” said Ivo Romanesco, a resident of the county’s Jack Jouett District where the new development would be built. “New residents will be up in the air about where to live: Rio Road, 29 North, Pantops. But where will they work? Where will they shop? Where will they be entertained?”
For Romanesco, the answer was clear.
“They’re going to commute back here,” Romanesco said.
Some members of the public said that Greystar should build a lower-density development first.
“I very much support the idea of a lower-density development and infrastructure improvements before the development takes place,” University Village resident Jim Bundy said. Bundy said he has lived at University Village since last summer.
If Greystar maxed out the possible units under the new zoning map, there would be 1,202 units. It has requested to build 525 units.
Sally Thomas, who also lives in the Jack Jouett District, said county supervisors should take advantage of the 1985 proffer’s imprecision.
“How do you measure satisfaction?” Thomas asked the Board of Supervisors. “I beg of you, get some satisfaction. Say no to this proffer.”
It’s unlikely the site’s surrounding roads would be improved in the near future without private development.
“Public infrastructure almost always follows private investment,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel, who represents the Jack Jouett District.
Still others said that the plan for the development didn’t provide adequate access for emergency vehicles, especially at University Village, where older residents have a greater need for emergency medical services.
“I’m concerned about the area having adequate access to emergency vehicles,” said Lisa McDermott, a doctor who lives in the Jack Jouett District. “With more cars and people on the road all navigating these challenges, this will slow the response time and put lives at risk.”
A fire marshal determined that the access points for emergency service vehicles were acceptable.
Despite repeated questions and discussions about traffic, parking and road conditions, at least one member of the public said the board had not discussed traffic and car safety enough.
Supervisor Jim Andrews expressed frustration that the conversation was so focused on cars.
“A lot of the discussion here is car-centric. I want to see whether we can start to recognize the need for more public transit,” Andrews said.
After a lengthy public discussion, the board voted to approve the rezoning request around the midnight hour.
“This proposal has been a catalyst for solutions to public infrastructure,” McKeel said. She added that it moves the board closer to its affordable housing goals and helps residents by reducing their commute times.
Livable Cville, a local group that advocates for better urban planning, expressed its support for the development for the same reasons.
“We welcome the opportunity to have so many new neighbors,” a letter from the group to the county reads.
According to Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing policy manager, the county needs to add 439 units of affordable housing per year for 17 years to meet demand. The neighborhood where the Old Ivy Residences would be built has only seen five new units built since 2018.
It will be some time before anyone can move into Old Ivy Residences.
“They are aiming to start construction in approximately 12 months, and that the construction process would take an additional 24 months,” Greystar’s Long told The Daily Progress.