NDS: Extent of design work Stribling Avenue sidewalk improvements not known

Five months have passed since the Charlottesville City Council approved a rezoning in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood for nearly 170 units on land currently undeveloped. Members of the community expressed frustration at a recent site plan meeting when they learned planning work may not yet have begun on infrastructure improvements tied to Council’s decision to allow higher density. 

“I’m flabbergasted that we have moved to this point without anything being done,” said Chris, one of several people on a site plan review call held on September 14. 

Staff in Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services continue to review the preliminary site plan for 240 Stribling, a 169-unit development made possible earlier this year when City Council approved a rezoning for about 12 acres of land in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood. Half of the units will be townhomes and the other half will be in multifamily apartments. 

“The density, the number of buildings, the location of the buildings, basically the layout that went through the [Planned Unit Development] plan is the layout that was approved by City Council,” said Matt Alfele, a city planner. “So at this stage, the site plan stage, what staff is looking for is to make sure they meet the requirements laid out in the PUD development plan, and they meet the requirements laid out in the code in relation to engineering, stormwater.” 

Location map for 240 Stribling

Alfele said site plans must be approved if they meet technical requirements and are not up for discretionary review. 

One of the conditions in the rezoning was that Southern Development would pay up to $2.9 million for improvements to Stribling in order for the roadway to become less rural and more urban. Currently there is no sidewalk. 

Southern Development hasn’t yet been issued a permit to disturb the land. The preliminary site plan has to be approved and the company has to provide the funding for the improvements to Stribling. That work doesn’t have to be complete or even underway for dirt to move. 

Alfele said the city’s Public Works Department is coordinating those improvements, but Alfele didn’t have any information at the September 14 meeting. 

“There’s not been any movement yet on that as far as there’s not been any design or retention of any design teams,” Alfele said. 

Charlie Armstrong, vice president of Southern Development, said the roadway is important to the overall project. 

The project will also connect to Morgan Court, a cul-de-sac in the adjacent Huntley Planned Unit Development. Homes there are still being built out and the entire roadway is not yet in the city’s system. 

“That’s not a part of this project and really can’t be because we don’t have any ownership or authority over the Huntley streets but we’re happy to help in making something happen there if we can either after those become city streets or with an agreement with the Huntley developer,” Armstrong said. 

Many speakers on the call were concerned that there was no movement to get Stribling improved. Armstrong said it is a priority. 

“That sidewalk project was discussed over several years as we went through some of the discretionary approvals for this project,” Armstrong said. “The difference is that this is a private developer project. The city is not undertaking this development and Stribling Avenue is a city street. We don’t own it so anything that needs to be done along there has to be either conducted or closely coordinated with the city.” 

Armstrong said the sidewalk project will likely require the city to purchase additional right of way for drainage. 

“The way we’re participating is by funding it,” Armstrong said. 

No one from Public Works was on the call to answer questions. That frustrated one woman named Diane.

“Why is the city of Charlottesville dragging their feet to get this Stribling Avenue improvement done because once your project is done and Stribling Avenue isn’t done, it is a huge safety priority,” the woman said. “Huge.”  

Diane said she understood that Neighborhood Development Services will not build the improvements. 

“We’re not talking to a different department,” Diane said. “We’re talking to you guys. And if it’s a different department, why is that department not on this call to answer these questions?”

“This is a private development not related to the Stribling improvements,” Alfele said. 

“But it is!” Diane exclaimed. 

Armstrong said the development’s construction should not be held up if the city is unable to build the sidewalk first.

“We can’t fix all of the city’s issues and to stop new housing in the city exacerbates other problems that the city really has to consider,” Armstrong said. 

A lawsuit was filed against City Council for the rezoning back in May and has been served with the papers. but has not been served to the city.  More on the city’s response in a future edition of the program.

A request for more information from the city was not responded to by publication time. This story will hopefully be updated by the time it makes it to Information Charlottesville.

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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 30, 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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