Albemarle delays final action on rezoning of Southwood’s second phase

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors made clear an hour before midnight night that the rezoning of a second phase of the redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park will eventually be granted, but there were some remaining questions when the item came closer to a vote

“I don’t think any of us want to delay things but also none of us want to rush through and not have it done,” said Supervisor Donna Price. 

After a five-hour long public hearing and discussion last night, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors deferred final action on the second phase for a rezoning of the land where the Southwood Mobile Home Park currently stands.

A first phase covered land just outside of the park and both below-market and market-rate units are currently under construction.

A major sticking point between Supervisors and Habitat in this second rezoning was the amount that Albemarle should pay for land for a future school as part of a proffer. In previous rezonings, private developers have given away land for such purposes, but Habitat CEO Dan Rosensweig has maintained that the Southwood project cannot afford to do so without reducing the number of below-market units. (See also: Redevelopment work at Southwood continuesAugust 19, 2022)

Conceptual overview of the Southwood redevelopment (Credit: Habitat for Humanity) 

After four and a half hours of discussion, Supervisor Chair Donna Price called a recess to allow Habitat to amend their proffer statement regarding the school site that put a cap on the cost of the land at $680,000. 

Just before the vote, Supervisors were asked if they had a comment. Supervisor Ann Mallek of the White Hall District went third after two of her colleagues had no comment. 

“In 2019, I said I was ready for a leap of faith on phase one,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek. “I am ready for another leap of faith and my vote is not just words but an action in support of equity of opportunity. I am strongly in support of this application tonight. I understand that not every detail is completely figured out.” 

One of the details to be worked before November 2 is how Habitat might fill a funding gap for the project possibly including Albemarle’s involvement. But, Mallek was ready to proceed. 

“Without Habitat purchasing this land in 2007, I predict that all of the residents would likely already have lost their places,” Mallek said. “I support this rezoning to get more roofs over more heads at Southwood.” 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he still had concerns about the impacts the additional residents would have on transportation infrastructure. But he said he would eventually support it when they are ironed out. 

“When the phase one was in front of us I made the comment voting for that this was the first rezoning that came before us where we already had failing transportation issues and yet there was no opposition to the development moving forward when every other development that comes before us where there’s transportation issues that’s a reason to deny it,” Gallaway said. 

However, Gallaway noted no one spoke out against the project for that reason. He said the main sticking point was the school proffer and whether Albemarle County Public School even wanted to use the site. 

“This will bring more affordable units if the site doesn’t come pass,” Gallaway said. “If Habitat is the applicant and the site is not used, they would use it to be able to build more affordable housing whether its on this site or so others. So I trust that. If it for some reason left Habitat’s hands then that may not be the case.” 

For reference, Gallaway said the recent addition at Crozet Elementary was $18 million. 

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she believed all of her colleagues want to support the project, but needed more details that she said would not be worked out before midnight. 

“It’s late tonight and I’m just uncomfortable with just passing this right now,” McKeel said. 

Supervisor Donna Price was very clear in her support. 

“If you know anything about Southwood, and do not support this redevelopment, you have no heart and no soul because it does need to go through,” Price said. 

Supervisors voted to defer a vote until at least November 2 and a special meeting might be called just for this item.  If the proffers change between now and then, a new public hearing will need to be held. 

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 September 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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