New site plan filed for 245 units off of East High Street

Consultants hired by Seven Development have submitted a second plan for a project to build 245 apartment units off of East High Street on a property within the floodplain. City staff issued a preliminary denial in October

An attorney hired by the firm has also weighed in on a memo stating the modified plan should comply with city regulations. 

“We contend that the updated preliminary site plan application dated December 7, 2022 complies with all applicable provisions of the zoning ordinance,” wrote Valerie Long with the firm Williams Mullen. (read the memo)

The revised plan looks much the same with the same footprint of 322,000 gross square feet, but the description of building height now states clearly the structures will be in the B-1 zoning district. The plan now breaks down the 245 units as being 25 studios, 135 one-bedroom units, and 85 two-bedroom apartments. 

In an email this morning to Charlottesville Community Engagement, Civil Engineer Justin Shimp also said that there are now sidewalks from the project to East High Street, sidewalk improvements on Caroline Avenue, and a path from the development to the Rivanna Trail that he said would be compliant with the Americans with Disability Act. 

The plan also notes that the Rivanna River Company is expected to remain on the property.

The new submission looks a lot like the first with some additions to the text in response to city comments (Credit: Shimp Engineering) 

In her memo, Long rebutted several of the reasons that led staff in the Department of Neighborhood Development Services to deny the site plan. The project is being submitted by-right which means the developers contend they do not need a legislative decision from City Council to grant them the use of the property as they have described.

However, staff issued several reasons for denial in a letter dated October 26 including an interpretation of the city’s current zoning matrix that claimed an entrance to the site could not be made from Caroline Avenue, which is a residential district. A second entrance would enter the site from land on East High Street zoned Central City Corridor. (read the October 26, 2022 letter)

“Given that multifamily residential is a by-right use in the [Central City Corridor] district, and that the Property has frontage on E. High Street such that the proposed multifamily use is not ‘adjacent’ and thus not a separate primary use, the cited provision of the Use Matrix for the Mixed Use Corridor districts is inapplicable to the Site Plan Application,” Long wrote. 

Long said that provision has not been applied in other situations, and called the city’s interpretation “absurd and illogical.” Her memo uses the example of the Dairy Market as an existing site in the city that should not have been permitted under staff’s logic, as well as the 3-Twenty-3 building downtown. 

Shimp Engineering is the firm who worked on the design. They also had a response letter to city staff. One comment from the city suggested that smaller house-sized buildings be built instead given the General Residential designation in the city’s Future Land Use Map. Staff at Shimp have a different interpretation. (read the response letter)

“While the FLUM recommends the development of General Residential zones as house-sized structures, the 0 E High property presents a unique opportunity to provide a substantial amount of housing that is near the City center,” reads their response letter. 

An attorney hired by opponents of the development has responded with a letter of his own, citing the 2005 Virginia Supreme Court ruling in Capelle v. Orange County which involved another development that had multiple types of zoning in it. That case had to do with a road across residential property that was to be used to access a mining operation. 

“[The Supreme Court] rejected the developer’s argument that the property must be considered as an integrated unit and instead held that portions zoned differently must be treated according to the zoning restrictions for that particular category of zoning,” reads the letter from Henry H. Perrit Jr. (read the letter)

Perrit cited several other examples in his six-page letter and argues Long’s examples are all invalid.

City staff will review the new submission and provide comments by January 20. 

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 December 15, 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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