Four member Council delays action on two land use items, approves a third

Charlottesville City Council has existed as a five member body since 1928 when an amendment to the charter added two more Councilors. In 1981, voters approved a referendum to expand the number to seven, but Council ordered a revote and the idea was defeated the second time around.

This past Monday’s Council meeting illustrates what can happen when one member is not present. Vice Mayor Juandiego is on a sabbatical in Ethiopia with his church. There were three land use items on the agenda and two of them were deferred, both for slightly different reasons. 

A letter from Booker Reaves to Paul Garrett regarding a second referendum to move to a seven-member Council system. Portraits of both are included in an exhibit at the Center at Belvedere. Learn more about the exhibit at this link.

For background, read my June 30, 2022 story Charlottesville Council briefed on city-owned property

In the first item, Council opted to wait on a vote to vacate a paper alley in the Fifeville neighborhood. 

“The owners of 323 6th Street SW have asked the city to close this 20 foot platted right of way,” said City Attorney Lisa Robertson. “City Council back in 2010 previously closed a different section of the platted street.” 

City Councilor Sena Magill repeated her concerns about doing this without a policy in place that explains to the public what paper streets are and how they can be vacated. 

“Having been a homeowner who has easements who looked to try to get easements closed around 2010, I was told it couldn’t be done,” Magill said. 

Robertson said each case is different given the age of the plat, size of property, presence of other easements, and so on. She said Magill was right that the city has taken many approaches. 

“A few years ago, a previous City Council determined that you should use a scoring rubric to determine whether or not to close certain platted alleys,” Robertson said. 

Robertson said the city’s new Office of Community Solutions is looking into the topic as part of their efforts to get handle on what property the city owns.

Mayor Snook said he shared Magill’s concern of a lack of policy.  So did City Councilor Michael Payne, but he said he would support this particular vacation. Pinkston asked if there would be a downside to waiting. 

That’s when Mayor Snook brought up the fact Council was down one member. 

“As least one concern for right now is that I don’t know if we would be 3-1 or 2-2, but if Vice Mayor Wade was here, he would presumably be able to break a tie,” Snook said. 

Council opted to defer a vote to the August 15 vote. 

1000 Monticello Road decision deferred

After that, Council took up a special use permit to allow 11 units at 1000 Monticello Road. An existing apartment complex is on the property and the permit is required for additional density in a structure that would be built on what is now a driveway. 

Council denied a similar request last year on a 3-2 vote after several speakers had argued that the developer should be held accountable for a decision to raise rents that many long-term residents could not afford.  Since then, a second application was submitted that increased the number of units that would be guaranteed to be rented out below market. 

“The Planning Commission reviewed this at their June meeting and recommended that the application be approved,” said city planner Brian Haluska. 

(See also: Planning Commission recommends approval of 11 units at 1000 Monticello Road, June 15, 2022)

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 July 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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