June 27 meeting scheduled to review Charlottesville zoning report

Two of the three components of Charlottesville’s update of its overarching land use policies are complete, and the work towards the third is moving along. Last week, the city released what’s being called the Diagnostics and Approach Report which provides a pathway forward for how the city’s zoning ordinance will be rewritten. (read the draft)

“This zoning rewrite project is not about adding more plans, goals, or objectives – this work is entirely focused on implementing the Affordable Housing Plan and the Comprehensive Plan,” writes James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services. 

The cover page for the Diagnostic and Approach Report, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the Future Land Use Map (splash page for report)

All of this work has been done and will be done done under the auspices of the Cville Plans Together initiative. A public meeting will be held on Monday, June 27 at the Ting Pavilion about the document. 

“At the core of the entire Cville Plans Together process there has been a commitment to addressing issues of racial equity and affordable housing and that core commitment remains as we work through the zoning rewrite. Meeting this commitment requires that our zoning allow people to build more housing units throughout the city, that it establishes incentives to include affordable units in new multi-family development, and that it is sensitive to the potential for displacement.” 

The draft report calls for several steps to make the zoning ordinance more predictable. This would include restricting the usage of the special use permit process to uses rather than bulk and massing. It would also discourage further rezonings. 

The future zoning map is to facilitate the vision of the Future Land Use Map, which calls for all single-family residential lots to be able to build three units with a fourth available if it is rented or sold at city-defined affordability levels. In fact, much of the additional density in higher-intensity zones would require that same affordability for “bonus” units. 

In a separate but related process, HR&A Advisors are working with Code Studio and the city on an inclusionary zoning ordinance to codify the details. This will also include the Sensitive Communities areas which are intended to stop further displacement in neighborhoods such as Fifeville and Tenth and Page. Several properties in those areas have recently sold for high amounts. 

A scenario demonstrating how the owner of a single-family home could convert it to uses that will reflect the higher land value enabled in the Comprehensive Plan and future zoning

Other useful information and recommendations in the draft:

  • A description of housing types begins on page 33 if you want to know the difference between a carriage house and a triplex and a twelveplex.
  • There is a recommendation to create zoning districts based on building form to reflect the different designations in the Future Land Use Map. There would be a “house-scale district” and a “medium-scale district.” 
  • Smaller lots would be permitted more “lot coverage” than larger ones.  
  • Other recommendations include reducing parking requirements and the modification of existing setback requirements to provide flexibility to place more units on lots. There are pages of diagrams that depict how this might be achieved for different lot sizes and shapes. 
  • There is a focus on urban form rather than density, allowing density to be regulated by building codes and fire codes.
  • Building heights would be expressed in both feet and stories 
  • Some of the many existing mixed use corridor districts with similar building heights and an urban form could be combined into a single district. 
  • The word “family” would be replaced with “household” or “unit” 
  • There should be more use of manufactured homes particularly for “tiny” homes
  • The Entrance Corridor Review Board should be eliminated by building standards into the zoning code

The work is not yet complete. Some but not all of the existing zoning categories have been taken through the process but Appendix B shows the ones that have. There will certainly be more information about this process in the next few months.

One of many diagrams that show how new units could be build on existing lots under new zoning rules that will have different setbacks 

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 June 22, 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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