Council denies special use permit for 11-unit building in Belmont

Charlottesville City Council has denied a special use permit for additional density at a site in Belmont that would have added 11 units at 1000 Monticello Road. 

Brian Haluska is a city planner. 

“1000 Monticello Road already has a development on it, so that project as its currently developed has more units than what the zoning would allow,” Haluska said. “The project was built in the 70’s and was rezoned in 2003.”

That rezoning was part of a comprehensive rezoning across the city. This portion of Belmont was put in the Neighborhood Commercial Corridor category, which is why there are so many restaurants clustered nearby. 

Several members of the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition asked Council to deny the permit. 

Laura Goldblatt is a member of the Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and a Belmont resident. 

“It doesn’t meet the affordability that we need,” Goldblatt said. “One of the things that we need to demand of developers is affordable housing. The only way we’re going to start to see a lack of displacement and that we’re going to see Charlottesville be more inclusive and welcoming is if developers really have their feet held to the fire and have to do it.”  

Many expressed anger that the owner, Piedmont Realty Holdings III LLC, raised rents in the current building after purchasing the property in February 2019 for $2.75 million. Haluska said staff could not take that into consideration.

“Past actions of an applicant are not something we take into account and you can kind of get into trouble with that when you do that,” Haluska said.

He also said the number of units proposed in the new structure do not trigger provisions in the city code that require a portion of them to be sold or rented to people whose incomes are less than 80 percent of the area median (AMI). (link to code

“Altogether this project does not have enough square footage within all of its buildings including the new building to make it over that line,” Haluska said. 

The applicant had volunteered to make five units comply with the city’s affordable dwelling unit policy anyway, at roughly 65 percent of the AMI. However, Council did not trust the guarantee. Here’s Councilor Lloyd Snook.

“To me the issue is, are we as a city better off if we have 11 units, five of which are affordable at this roughly 65 percent of AMI,” Snook said. 

Councilor Michael Payne was among the three Councilors who voted to deny. 

“Just because an SUP is in front of us doesn’t mean we have to approve it,” Payne said. “It’s our policy decision and we can evaluate all SUPs on the merits and make a policy decision there. Given the adverse neighborhood impacts, the fact that it doesn’t conform with our Comprehensive Plan, the existing zoning there, and under our current ordinance for the criteria for standards for issuance I think there is a strong case to be made that there are adverse neighborhood impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.”

Payne made a motion to recommend denial and it carried 3-2. Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Vice Mayor Sena Magill voted to deny and Snook and Councilor Heather Hill voted to approve. 

A rewrite of the city’s affordable housing policy is underway. The public comment period for the draft has closed, but the document is available for review. The Planning Commission will discuss the draft at their meeting on February 9. (draft affordable housing plan)

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 2, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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