Council holds first reading on Piedmont Housing projects on Park Street

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. 

And here is with the project at the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, two blocks to the south. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville is also participating in that project. 

“The proposed PUD development plan calls for preservation of the two existing single-family homes, 28 new townhome or duplex units, 65 multifamily units in two buildings, and a maximum of 7,500 square feet of commercial child care space.” 

A map from the traffic impact study conducted by the Timmons Group. This is on page 91 of the 180-page staff report that went to the Planning Commission. (download)

Because the public hearings for the items were held in mid-December, anyone who wanted to speak to the matter had to do so at the beginning of the meeting. Brian Day represented the congregation at Park Street Christian Church. 

“The project for affordable senior housing has had tremendous support from IMPACT Charlottesville and the enthusiastic and unanimous support approval from the Planning Commission as well,” Day said. “To be a vibrant city we need affordable housing and we are ready to help you make this possible. 

Kimber Hawkey, a Belmont resident, asked Council to delay a vote on the MACAA project. 

“I’m just asking that the Council take a step back and wait to do any kind of approval on this until there’s more study on traffic impact as well as the affordability,” Hawkey said. “It looks like a promising project but given the traffic and public safety indication, it seems inappropriate in size for the location.”

Traffic improvements at the Park Street Christian Church project include improvements granting an easement to the city to allow for brush to be cleared to increase sight distance at the intersection of Park Street and Cutler Lane, as well as a crosswalk across Park Street at Cutler Lane. 

The affordability level at Park Street Christian Church will depend on a number of factors, including how successful Piedmont Housing Alliance will be in getting low income housing tax credits in the next cycle.

“We don’t have specificity in there around the exact depth of affordability in part because you can only finalize that when you have finalized all of the costs and all of the subsidies so you know how deeply affordable you can go,” said Sunshine Mathon, the executive director of Piedmont Housing Alliance.

Mathon said the target will be that five units will be households less than 30 percent of the area median income, and the majority will ideally be less than 50 percent of the AMI. All units will accept federal housing vouchers. 

The city has not yet contributed any funding to this project. According to a preliminary audit of the city’s affordable housing funds by the firm HR&A, Piedmont Housing Alliance has received around $10 million from Charlottesville, including about $6 million for the Friendship Court redevelopment. (read the update from HR&A)

Mathon said this project will also require city funding to close a financing gap. Piedmont Housing Alliance has submitted a request for $1.5 million in city funding. 

“I would rather rely on state or federal sources to cover that gap but inevitably city sources have to be part of that capital stack in the current day and age,” Mathon said. 

For the Park Street Christian Church, Piedmont Housing Alliance will not submit an application for low-income housing tax credits until the 2023 cycle. 

The Park Street Christian Church item will go before Council at their next meeting on a consent agenda. 

There was more discussion about the MACAA project. Transportation improvements include a realignment of MACAA Drive to be directly across from Davis Avenue to make a safer intersection, as well as a crosswalk. The intersection would remain unsignalized. An existing driveway from one of the single-family houses will be eliminated. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston said there was a lot to like about the project but he was skeptical the traffic improvements would mitigate congestion. 

“But there’s still this fact that at that intersection particularly where 250 and Park are right now is a difficult place to get through,” Pinkston said. 

Councilor Michael Payne had concerns about loss of tree cover. An engineer with the Timmons Group said the development would exceed the city’s requirement for replacement. 

Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade said he felt good about the project, but asked several questions about its impact on traffic. 

“If we don’t address some of those, I think they’re being addressed, then it won’t be a pleasant living environment for the new residents as well as the current residents of the neighborhood,” Wade said. 

Mayor Snook said he did not think the additional traffic would result in conditions as hazardous as on Fifth Street Extended.  

“It’s just simply not going to happen,” Snook said. “You don’t have a four-lane highway. You don’t have it divided. You don’t have it 45 miles an hour. You may well see some incremental increase in rear-enders, minor low-impact kinds of collisions. I don’t mean to downplay them and to say that’s irrelevant but I think it’s kind of distorting to throw that argument in there.”

The MACAA issue will not come back on the consent agenda but will instead come back for a discussion and to allow the applicant to further address concerns raised at the meeting. 

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 January 10, 2022 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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