For each of the past 12 months, I’ve kept a regular record of property transactions in Charlottesville and I’ve posted what I come across for people to see. I’m not a real estate agent, but I’ve written about land use for many years. The best way to stay on top of things is to look at all of the details
The biggest land use story in 2021 in Charlottesville has been the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan in November that seeks to increase residential density across the city. Some have speculated that would add to the cost of property within the city, especially the land value. There have been some spectacular examples of people paying for houses way over the 2021 assessment. How big will the assessments be in 2022?
Plans are being made to build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Rivanna River and the Charlottesville Planning Commission got an update last night. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Committee is leading the efforts and a stakeholders group has been meeting to review options. One of its members is Planning Commission Karim Habbab.
“The two options that we’re looking at are a connection near Riverview Park on Chesapeake and the other would be at the Wool Factory,” Habbab said. “One would span between city and county and the other would be basically on county land.”
An official group of planning officials from around the Charlottesville area got a preview last month on a major rezoning on land at the University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork research park. The Land Use Environmental and Planning Committee was created in 2019 when elected officials agreed to cease meeting in public as a body known as the Planning and Coordination Council. One of its members is Hosea Mitchell of the Charlottesville Planning Commission.
“They are actually asking for a rezoning and the rezoning is to allow for residential to be included in the industrial developments that they’re doing there,” Mitchell said.
There’s new leadership in the Charlottesville Democratic Committee. At a reorganizational meeting on Monday, about a hundred participants selected John McLaren and Dashad Cooper to serve as the co-chairs of the committee.
McLaren is a resident of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood and Cooper is a student at Piedmont Virginia Community College who worked on the City Council campaigns of Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade.
The vice chair is Nancy Damon, a Fry’s Spring resident and former member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission. The secretary will continue to be Mary Ann Harris. Jason Vandever is the party’s treasurer. Vandever was elected as the city’s treasurer in a special election in 2013 and has held the position ever since.
The Republican Party of Charlottesville has not fielded a City Council candidate since 2015 when Anson Parker was their candidate. The chair of the party in Charlottesville is Dan Moy and the treasurer is Buddy Weber. Weber ran for Council in 2013 along with former Planning Commissioner Mike Farruggio.
Comprehensive Plan lawsuit
Last week, a group of citizens filed a lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court against the validity of the Comprehensive Plan. The argument cites four specific failures and asks that Council’s vote be held null and void. The seven plaintiffs are Charlottesville residents seeking to withhold their identity. They argue the Future Land Use Map “radically increases density within the city” in a way that violates state code. (read the argument)
“Unlike the Comprehensive Plans that are contemplated by the General Assembly…the Plan at issue is very specific, and assigns new zoning designations to each specific parcel in the City,” reads paragraph 15 of the argument. “As a result of this approach, the City’s actions are already having a direct impact on property owners.”
In November, the City Council adopted a new Comprehensive Plan as the second leg of the Cville Plans Together initiative. The first was adoption of a new affordable housing plan in March. The next step is the rewriting of the city’s zoning code. James Freas, the director of Neighborhood Development Services, told the Charlottesville Planning Commission that the public process for the three phases of the zoning rewrite will kick off at the end of the month.
“What we are looking at is a complete rewrite,” Freas said. “This isn’t going to take your existing ordinance and redline it and make changes. This is going to be a complete rewrite.”
The first meeting of the Albemarle Planning Commission begins tonight at 6 p.m. and two of the items on the agenda are public hearings to clear the way for a hotel on Pantops on U.S. 250 just to the west of the Rivanna Ridge Shopping Center.
The matter went before the Pantops Community Advisory Committee for an update at their meeting in November. Andy Reitelbach is a senior planner with Albemarle County.
“The applicant has submitted this application to request to amend the application and proffers associated with two previous rezonings,” Reitelbach said.
In their first land use items of the year, and the first rezonings since the Comprehensive Plan was updated in November, Council appeared to approve two projects on Park Street submitted by the Piedmont Housing Alliance.
Let’s hear City Planner Dannan O’Connell describe the one at Park Street Christian Church.
“The proposed PUD development plan calls for 50 multifamily units and about 54 parking spaces to be constructed at the rear of the existing church site,” O’Connell said.
Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders has explained what the city is going to address safety concerns on Fifth Street Extended. According to crash data from the Virginia Department of Transportation, there were three fatalities in 2020 on the divided highway. Police have confirmed there was another on the night of New Years Day.
“We very much remain concerned about the serious safety concern along that corridor,” Sanders said. “Our traffic engineer has been working to effect improvements with a few updates. We are pursuing a speed limit reduction. We have been working on that and you will have that matter before you at your next meeting.”
A divided council selects Snook as Mayor, but unanimously elects Wade as Vice Mayor
In their first vote of 2022, Charlottesville City Council chose Lloyd Snook to serve as mayor for the next two years. The first meeting with newcomers Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade was opened by Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall.
“The person elected to serve as Mayor will preside over City Council meetings and may call special meetings, make some appointments to advisory boards, and serves as the head of government for ceremonial purposes and official functions,” Marshall said. “The vice mayor substitutes whenever the mayor is not available.”