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Willow Glen developer now wants to build 308 apartments instead of townhouses, single-family homes

A developer is asking to change a previously approved project in Albemarle County to build apartments instead of townhouses and single-family houses.

The developers of Willow Glen applied to change the second phase of the project from a mix of townhouses and single-family detached houses to 308 apartments. After a virtual community meeting last week, the developers asked for a deferral of the project.

“The applicant has been forced to withdraw the site plan application for phase two because the phase two sitework was coming in substantially over budget, and the approved proffers would’ve made phase two financially untenable,” said the submission narrative for the proposal. “The developers have already proffered six affordable units in phase one and have paid approximately $500,000 in cash proffers in phase one with a resulting net loss to the applicant of approximately $325,000 for the first 36 homes.”

The deferral was requested Friday. Representatives with the developer could not be reached by press time.

A rezoning for the project off Dickerson Road near the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport was approved in 2007, and changes were later made to the approved project to reduce the number of total allowable units on the site from 234 to about 141.

The first phase of the project, with 36 houses, has been developed and sold.

In July 2019, the owner came before the county Board of Supervisors to ask for a reduction in cash proffers that were approved with the initial rezoning, but that was deferred to allow the applicant to revise the proffers.

Steve Edwards, with Edwards designStudio, said the new proposal also includes eliminating a road that would have connected phases one and two.

“This would allow us to reduce certain environmental impacts to the streams that are on the property, eliminate potential cut-through traffic through the neighborhood when we have adequate circulation routes very nearby and adjacent to the property that could serve the community as they’ve been doing and it preserves the natural landscape and expands our open space from what we had originally proposed to what we are doing today with this proposed plan,” he said.

The proposal includes 46 apartment units that would be affordable for 10 years for those making less than 80% of area median income, said Lori Schweller, an attorney representing the developer.

The property is already zoned Planned Residential Development, and according to county staff, the developer is asking to amend the application plan to change the proposed dwelling units from a mix of residential types to all multi-family units, and to increase the number of dwelling units permitted in the second phase. The total number of units in both phases would increase to a maximum of 360 units, for a gross and net density of 14.53 dwelling units per acre.

In Albemarle’s Places29 Master Plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, most of the property is shown on the future land use map as Urban Density Residential, which recommends density of between six and 34 units per acre.

The Comprehensive Plan is the county’s guiding document for its long-term vision for land use and resource protection, and includes master plans for the designated development areas of the county. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.

During a question-and-answer period, some area residents expressed concerns about the proposed apartments.

One community member said it was “really disappointing” to hear that they want to build more apartments “when we already have plenty.”

“Who are these people that are going to be living there?” she asked. “I think we are still building some of these apartment homes right now, but I don’t see them all full, so who’s going to live there? Are they going to sit there empty? Do we really need that many apartment homes here at 29 North where we could be building nicer affordable homes for residents.”

Brian Revere, president of Breeden Construction, which would build the apartments, said the company completes market studies to make sure that the area will support what they want to build. He said this project represents about a $73 million investment for the company, “so we don’t take that lightly.”

Revere said rents would be approximately $1,425 for a one-bedroom, $1,625 for a two-bedroom and $1,925 for a three-bedroom.

A market study for this area indicated the apartment vacancy rate to be 2.5% or less, Revere said.

“For an apartment developer, we consider stabilization at 93%, so if there’s a vacancy rate of 2.5% or less, that’s a strong market driver for an area,” he said. “The market data … indicates this area’s very well underserved by apartments and we just think it’s a good location. We do not, as well as you do not, want to build an apartment community that sits vacant.”


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