The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended approval of a special use permit for additional density at 1000 Monticello Road in the Belmont neighborhood that would allow for 11 units and a small commercial space on the ground floor.
A split City Council denied a similar permit in February 2021 with the majority expressing concern about adverse impacts on the neighborhood. At the time, five of the units were being proffered as affordable to households and individuals whose incomes at around 65 percent of the area’s median.
This time around, two additional units would be restricted to tenants at 80 percent of the area median income.
Neither is required by existing city code.
“This project does not trip the standard in Section 34-12 of our zoning ordinance, the requirement for affordable housing, so this condition is offered by the applicant above and beyond what is required under our code,” said city planner Brian Haluska.
The property in question already has an apartment building with 23 units that was purchased by Core Real Estate and Development in January 2018 and then sold to Piedmont Realty Holdings a year later. The special use permit is required for additional residential units on the 0.81 acre property. An existing curb cut into a parking lot would be removed.
“The proposed new building footprint, which will house 11 units and a small commercial tenant space, is proposed directly adjacent to the existing building fronting along Monticello Road,” said Kelsey Schlein with Shimp Engineering. (view the presentation)
Schlein said the project has been brought back because Council adopted both an Affordable Housing Plan and a Comprehensive Plan that calls for more housing.
“The purpose of the land use section of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Plan states that ‘land use policies shape where housing is located, what housing looks like, and how much housing is built,’” Schlein said.
Schlein said in this case, the developer would not be seeking any city funds to help subsidize the development. She added the site is within walking distance to eight bus stops, is an example of infill development.
The length of the affordability period is at issue. The developer is offering the below market rates for ten years, but the city wants more.
“I think a 30 year period would be more in line with city policy and then also the lack of mention of a willingness to accept vouchers,” said Alex Ikefuna, the interim director of the Office of Community Solutions.
The last time this project was before Charlottesville officials, there were several speakers who argued the special use permit should be denied because the rents at 1000 Monticello Road were increased. Schein said the current owner should not be punished.
“There was a longtime owner, and then there was a short-term owner, and now we have this third owner in place who has been in place since 2018,” Schlein said. “During the short-term owner… I believe 11 of the units had already gone to a rental rate that somewhat more of a market rate.”
Schlein said there are six tenants left at 1000 Monticello Road who are renting below market rate. She said the project would take federal housing vouchers. She said she knows the city would like to see longer terms, but her interpretation of the Affordable Housing Plan is that those would be triggered by the acceptance of public funds.
“When an applicant utilizes city funds, there should be a standard by which they adhere to,” Schlein said. “In this case, ten years is what we can commit to on this project.”
Councilor Michael Payne voted against the proposal the first time and said he wanted it to be known that Piedmont Holding has displaced some of the former owners.
Only one person spoke at the public hearing. Brandon Collins worked for the Public Housing Association of Residents when this permit was last before the city. He now works for a government entity but last night he said he was speaking for himself.
“As it stands I’m going to ask you to deny this special use permit for this property,” Collins said. “A special use permit is going outside of your existing rules. The property is already outside of your existing rules and in order to do so you have to show that there’s a benefit to the community and that there’s not a negative impact on the community and I think it’s really crass to hear the development team talk about their commitment to affordable housing and affordable housing crisis when this exact property has contributed to the crisis in Charlottesville when it comes to affordability.”
However, the Commission recommended approval.
“I do think it is a good infill proposal,” said Commissioner Karim Habbab. “I do like the commercial. I think something creative can happen there to extend that Downtown Belmont feeling.”
“I’m of the opinion that this is a good project,” said Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg. “Certainly if you look at it in a vacuum ignoring the site its possibly the best possible project you can imagine. It’s replacing a redundant driveway and curb cut with 11 units of housing, seven of which are affordable.”
Stolzenberg pointed out that Council is not permitted by law to consider previous actions by previous owners, or the current one, as it considers the permit.
“If we’re denying those homes as punishment to the property owner, when does that punishment end?” Stolzenberg asked.
The Council recommended the special use permit on a 5-1 vote with Commissioner Jody Lahendro voting no and Commissioner Taneia Dowell not present.
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