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New land use map draft allows more opportunities for affordable housing development

Cville Plans Together is hosting a series of in-person and virtual community forums to give organizers and community members the opportunity to review draft Comprehensive Plan revisions, including the proposed land use map. The first forum was held Monday night via Zoom.

Jenny Koch, project manager for the updates to Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan and an urban planner with the consulting firm Rhodeside and Harwell, led the presentation.

Cville Plans Together is a committee made up of planners from the consulting firm who are working on the Comprehensive Plan revisions.

Koch and her team had presented a draft land use map in March that they made revisions to after receiving feedback from the city’s Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Committee, among others. Koch presented the latest draft during Monday’s webinar.

Koch said most of the changes in the current draft were made after taking into consideration concerns primarily from housing activists about the draft putting too many limitations on affordable housing expansion and mirroring patterns of segregated neighborhoods.

One of Cville Plans Together’s goals for the plan is “ensuring equitable opportunities for density increases, increasing density around community amenities and increasing access to transit.”

Ronald Sessoms, a planner with Rhodeside and Harwell, said Cville Plans Together is working to address the legacy that racial covenant neighborhoods of the Jim Crow era still have on the city today.

“We all know that these racial covenants do not exist today, they’re not enforced today, but it’s important to recognize that these laws did once exist and they did help shape the development of the city, particularly around the demographic profiles of different communities within the city,” Sessoms said.

Sessoms said the map has been revised to allow more areas for medium- or “soft”-density housing, such as duplexes or townhomes. This is a change from the plan presented in March, which was criticized by affordable housing activists for not allowing for more medium-density housing.

Much of the city’s current residential land use is taken up by single-family homes or high-density apartment complexes. Medium-density housing is considered to be a more affordable housing option for residents who may not be able to afford a single-family home but also would prefer not to live in highly populated complexes or public housing facilities.

“There’s a great housing need in Charlottesville,” said Sessoms. “Charlottesville is a city that continues to grow. However, there has been a lack of construction of housing units within the city.”

The future land use map is a part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is a guide for local land use and other big-picture decisions that was last updated in 2013. The zoning code hasn’t been substantially revised since 2003.

Officials started updating the plan in late 2016, but the process was partially derailed by a push to focus on affordable housing in the fallout of the 2017 Unite the Right rally. It came to a halt the following year when the city decided that updating the plan and zoning code was too much for Neighborhood Development Services staff, who said they already were overworked.

Rhodeside and Harwell received a $926,000 contract in October to finish the Comprehensive Plan update, including the land use map, which is expected to wrap up by the end of this year. A final plan is now anticipated no later than June, followed by a zoning rewrite.

Sessoms emphasized that the map presented Monday is not final, and that the committee will be taking the feedback of community members strongly into consideration.

“This is not the final map. We’re going to take in all of the public engagement and our feedback that we’re receiving …,” Sessoms said.

Community members will have four more opportunities to review the proposed changes before the final plan is presented.

In-person pop-up events will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at Reid’s Market, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at IX Art Park and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. Pre-registration is not required for any of these events.

Another Zoom webinar will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 25. Interested participants can access the webinar by registering at

Following presentations from the team, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.


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