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Neighbors seek to non-suit Rachel's Haven petition

Nearly all of the people who signed a petition seeking to overturn a rezoning for an apartment complex that would include housing for people with disabilities are now asking for the petition to be dismissed.

The petitioners, who wanted a judge to overturn the City Council’s rezoning for Rachel’s Haven submitted a motion earlier this month in Charlottesville Circuit Court to non-suit, meaning they want to drop the case but may pursue it again later.

The petition, which is similar to a lawsuit but does not seek monetary compensation, was filed in September 2019 and has fluctuated in the number of names attached, reaching as high as 31.

In August 2019, the City Council unanimously voted to rezone 750 Hinton Ave. from residential to neighborhood commercial so Hinton Avenue Methodist Church could create a 15-unit apartment building called Rachel’s Haven.

The rezoning came with several restrictions eliminating all nonresidential uses other than for an educational or daycare facility associated with the church.

Other conditions, or proffers, say that at least four units would be available as affordable housing. The church has said that four to six units will be set aside as independent housing for people with developmental disabilities, but that is not included as a proffer.

Opponents of the rezoning have reiterated that they support the church’s mission but say they are concerned with ramifications of commercial zoning.

The church filed a motion in June asking the court to rule in the case because it was holding up the project.

The motion to non-suit says all the petitioners except Mark Kavit have signed and agreed to not move forward with the petition. It cites financial concerns and health concerns from the coronavirus pandemic, while mentioning an “outright attack on our group” through Facebook and Nextdoor.

The petition argued that the rezoning is improper because it violates state law and the city’s Comprehensive Plan and that meeting notice requirements weren’t met.

The city’s response to the petition states that many of the arguments cannot legally be considered by the court or the council in a rezoning decision, such as enforcement of proffers and financial backing for the project. The city also disputed factual and technical parts of the petition.

The motion to non-suit requests leniency in fees, saying the petitioners are “working class.”

A motion hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Charlottesville Circuit Court.


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