Charlottesville City Council has given final approval to two separate rezoning requests for new housing projects on Park Street in Charlottesville, just north of the U.S. 250 bypass. At Council’s first meeting of the year, they reached consensus to place rezoning of land at the Park Street Christian Church was approved on the consent agenda for the January 18 meeting, but the rezoning at the Monticello Area Community Action Alliance property was further discussed. Dannon O’Connell is a city planner.
“The proposed [Planned Unit Development] development calls for preservation of 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,” O’Connell said.
The land use designations for both properties were changed in the 2021 Future Land use Map to allow more density. (review the Future Land Use Map on the Cville Plans Together)
Nearby resident John Hossack argued that data supplied by the developer was faulty and a new sample should be taken.
“The traffic analysis was based on data collected in June 2021, in the middle of COVID, middle of summer, and outside of school and University term time,” Hossack said. “This is really significant because this potentially could sink the project or at least justify a reduction in scale which is really what the community is looking for.”
Traffic engineer Brennan Duncan acknowledged the traffic study may have been affected by COVID but defended its use.
“The applicant was on a pretty strict timeline to get their stuff submitted so I did say that if they were going to do it and wanted to move forward, they would have to do the correcting factor,” Duncan said.
Duncan said the applicant was asked to compare their traffic study with a previous one conducted for a previous rezoning for the MACAA property and to traffic counts from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Both of the traffic studies that have been done do fall in line with the VDOT estimate for Park Street so I am confident in both the VDOT estimate and the numbers that came through,” Duncan said.
Duncan acknowledged traffic would increase in the area above the average of 10,000 vehicles that use it today. That’s down from the more than 20,000 vehicles a day that used to use the roadway before the John Warner Parkway opened. (read the 2020 estimated traffic counts for Charlottesville)
“The theoretical maximum is around 18,000 vehicles per day and that’s at the point where you start seeing pretty severe traffic backups during peak hours,” Duncan said. “The 1,200 vehicles per day between both this project, the MACAA site and the Park Street Church is not insignificant. I also do not believe it will severely hurt or have severe detrimental effects on the network.”
Duncan also acknowledges that there are site distance issues with the existing entrance, but that the development will meet the minimum requirement with a new intersection that will align Maaca Drive with Davis Avenue.
“I have worked with the applicant to achieve what I believe to be the safest intersection that we can hope for given the topography of the area,” Duncan said.
Duncan said he would be requesting a left hand turn lane onto Macca Drive from northbound Park when the project goes to site plan approval.
Mayor Lloyd Snook said he has had a concern about the existing MACAA site for years and that the existing conditions with site distance are not good.
“And it just seems to me that the changes that will be coming to eliminate a lot of those obstacles are going to make life a lot easier,” Snook said. “Whether that has anything to do with the accident rate, I don’t know.”
Snook said a Charlottesville with more residential density will mean development on what he called more problematic parcels.
“One of the things we’ve got to do as Councilors, Planning Commissioners, and city planners, and so on is to attempt to recognize when the problem is something that is manageable versus when it is not manageable,” Snook said.
Snook said in this case, the problems are manageable. He added Council will be called on to manage those problems.
Councilor Michael Payne said he walked through the sight and acknowledges the problems. He gave some insight into how he made his decision.
“A heuristic I use is just if a development is appropriate and safe, is would I feel comfortable explaining to everyone who could have lived there the reasons I voted no, and likewise, would I feel comfortable explaining to every individual who lives in the neighborhood why I voted yes,” Payne said. “In this case the tradeoffs to me seem clear for the benefit of at least 76 families who will have access to affordable rentals and homeownerships is worth it.”
The vote was unanimous.
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