Another developer is trying his hand at a proposal for as many as 328 apartments on a 27-acre site at the intersection of the John W. Warner Parkway and Rio Road.
Chris Henry, president of Stony Point Development Group, has resubmitted a rezoning application for the project once known as Parkway Place, now called Rio Point, to change the property’s zoning from R-4 Residential to Planned Residential Development.
Rio Point LLC purchased the 27.3-acre property from the Wetsel family for $7.5 million in January. Henry said the LLC is a group of investors led by Stony Point, which intends to pursue nearly the same plan submitted by Kotarides Developers. Kotarides, based in Virginia Beach, previously held an option to purchase the site.
“Rio Point LLC actually inherited the application that had been submitted and has been working its way through the county process since 2019,” Henry said. “There’s been numerous public meetings associated with that … and the application that we have resubmitted to the county is substantially the same as the former Parkway Place project that we are calling Rio Point.”
Parkway Place initially was proposed to have 414 units, but the original developer lowered the request to 328 units after a community meeting in 2019.
In March 2020, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend approval of the Parkway Place development. The Board of Supervisors accepted a deferral request from the Virginia Beach developer in June 2020, when the board was seemingly split 3-3 on the proposal. Four votes are required for board approval.
County staff did not recommend approval of Parkway Place, arguing that the request did not provide a complete mix of uses consistent with a Neighborhood Service Center, a use recommended for the area in the Places29 Master Plan, and that the site is not located in a Priority Area in that plan.
Staff at the time also cited a number of potential traffic issues as knocks against Parkway Place, including that delay times at some nearby intersections will increase despite road improvements included in the proposal; that the Rio Road corridor study had not yet been funded; and that other “problematic” intersections along Rio Road did not have final solutions or funding in place.
Supervisors were concerned about the proposal’s potential impact on traffic, and cited a then-unfunded corridor study of Rio Road. That study was later funded and is currently under way, and a roundabout at Rio Road and the John W. Warner Parkway was awarded state funding in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process earlier this year.
There are also two transit studies going on in the area — a regional transit vision plan and a transit expansion study for Albemarle. Two meetings about the transit expansion study will be held virtually at 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. For more information, go to albemarle.org/community/county-calendar.
Supervisor Donna Price in October said she regretted her near-vote against Parkway Place, which was offering at least 49 units of affordable housing set to be maintained as affordable rental units for 10 years at fair market rents, a level determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“That is a vote I’ve come to regret, because when I voted against that development, it took away a plan for a substantial number of affordable housing units,” she said at the time. “I have contributed in that vote to not making housing available and affordable.”
The board recently approved a housing policy that, once developer incentives are established, will require that rezoning and special-use permit applications include 20% affordable housing, as well as changes to unit prices and extended periods of affordability.
In the Places29 Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the property is shown on the future land use map as predominantly Urban Density Residential, which recommends between six and 34 units per acre, while other parts of the property are designated as Neighborhood Service Center or public and private open space. The overall recommended allowed housing on the site is a minimum of 104 units and a maximum of 614 units.
The Master Plan was adopted in 2011, and the Places29 Rio Community Advisory Committee, which provides input over the area, has asked for the Master Plan to be updated.
With 328 apartments proposed, Rio Point would have a gross density of 12 units per acre and a net density of 16.2 units per acre.
If the property is developed by right, or without approval from the Board of Supervisors, county staff previously have said that up to 109 dwelling units would be allowed before bonuses, and a developer could build up to 163 units if the land were to be developed as a cluster development.
If approved, Rio Point LLC still would provide $750,000 toward road improvements, a transit stop and space and amenities for a trailhead park.
Henry said that 15% of the units at Rio Point will be affordable for 10 years to those who earn 80% of area median income or less. Parkway Place had offered affordable units at HUD fair market rents for 10 years. Fair market rents are set at the 40th percentile of rents for recent movers, as measured by the Census American Community Survey, and are currently $1,077 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,266 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,575 for a three-bedroom unit.
“These numbers are kind of baked into our pro forma, and to have a change of the level of affordability or the number of units at this point, we think is not financially feasible,” Henry said.
“We would consider some conversation around that if there was more units that we would be allowed to build on site,” he continued. “We’re only asking for half of the density that’s actually recommended in the [Comprehensive] Plan, and there’s a lot of larger issues around that we could talk about for a few hours. But that’s not in the cards for this project because the application’s been moving through the process since 2019.”
Rents for a one-bedroom apartment are anticipated to be about $1,600 a month, Henry said, while two-bedrooms would be about $1,900 and three-bedrooms would go for about $2,200.
In May 2019, Kotarides estimated that monthly rents at Parkway Place could range from the upper $900s to about $1,700.
At the Places29 Rio Community Advisory Committee meeting last week, community members asked about the proposal, including a proposed road that dead-ends at the border with a neighboring property.
That property, owned by Rio Commons LLC, recently received initial site plan approval for 43 townhouses. The initial site plan shows a road connection to Rio Point, which is called for in the Places29 Master Plan.
“It’s not just an emergency access road, so Rio Commons is planning for interconnectivity of a roadway between Rio Point and Rio Commons,” said David Benish, a county development process manager.
Peter Thompson, executive director of The Center at Belvedere who is also on the Places29 Rio CAC, said the county needs this property to be developed in order to meet growing community needs.
“It’s just prime real estate that we really want and need to be developed, and I’m pleased to see a local developer step in who is known and respected in the community,” he said.
A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Aug. 18.