Charlottesville denies preliminary site plan for 245 units in floodplain

Applicant has until January 24, 2023 to respond with revisions

The Charlottesville office that approves land use decisions within city limits has denied an initial site plan to build 245 apartment units on about seven acres of land along the Rivanna River.

“City staff have made a good faith effort to identify all deficiencies within this submission,” reads an October 26, 2022 letter to Shimp Engineering. “

Shimp Engineering has until January 24, 2023 to submit a revised plan that corrects technical issues with the plan. The staff letter wants that some of the corrections may still not be enough to gain city approval. 

“In the event that there remains any other deficiency which, if left uncorrected, would violate local, federal, or state law, regulations, or mandatory engineering and safety requirements, such other deficiency shall not be considered, treated, or deemed as having been approved,” the letter continues. 

The 18 page is a long list of items and reading the full letter is encouraged for detail.  Not all of the comments are deficiencies such as a recommendation to implement the Urban River Corridor Plan adopted earlier this year. 

Some of the comments impose new requirements before a final site plan would approved such as providing bonds for any public improvements such as the stormwater management facilities and requiring a floodplain permit from the city as required by city code.

Sec. 34-256. Minimum flood-proofing requirements of City Code (view) 

Other requirements are necessary to clear preliminary site plan approval. These include providing a phasing plan for construction, indicating areas of the property where the Rivanna River Company operates, and information on outdoor lighting. The applicant also must indicate how many bedrooms would be in the units and must update incorrect references to building heights listed in the preliminary site plan. 

The letter also states that vehicular access would not be allowed to the apartment complex through a property on Caroline Avenue zoned for single-family residential. 

Building official Chuck Miller noted that buildings are shown as within the setbacks of utility lines and that building requirements for floodplain construction had not been met. 

Floodplain manager Tony Edwards listed about a dozen comments including the potential for flooding within one of the structures. 

“On the south end of the site the proposed retaining wall top is at elevation 330 feet and below, along with significant areas of the parking lot and entrances being below the BFE elevation,” Edwards wrote. “This may allow flood waters against or into Building A.” 

Edwards also wants signage to indicate flooding is likely along access points to the site. 

City traffic engineer Brennan Duncan also weighed in. 

“The current site plan’s access points are inadequate for the size and nature of the development,” Duncan wrote. “The connection as shown to East High Street cannot meet design criteria as the minimum width of the entrance needed is wider than that property at that point.”

Other comments are not noted as being necessary for approval of the site plan. These include a public trail easement and connections to the Rivanna Trail. 

“Would like to discuss the City acquiring portions of the open space along the Rivanna River and Meade Creek as permanent public parklands,” writes Chris Gensic of the Parks and Recreation Department. 

The Office of Community Solutions stated they would like to see 10 percent of the units be designated as affordable for households under sixty percent of the area median income for a period of 99 years. 

Nothing in city code compels that to happen. 

Civil engineer Justin Shimp said the letter was about what he expected.

“There are some changes we need to make, and some items we don’t agree with the staff comments on but in general all the comments are items we expect to satisfy with the revisions,” Shimp said in an email. “We are looking at opportunities for potential public access points to the river.”

A map from the Urban Rivanna Corridor Plan of the area. The TJPDC has been putting together the plan for many years. What does it say about this area? Take a look. (Credit: Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission)

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 November 1, 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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