Albemarle Supervisors approve 525 units on Old Ivy Road

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has approved a rezoning to allow 525 units to be constructed on undeveloped land off of Old Ivy Road, despite concerns from neighbors that the project would overwhelm the transportation network. The Virginia Department of Transportation is undertaking a “pipeline” study of the U.S. 250 corridor west of Charlottesville that will identify potential projects to address congestion.

Some parts of the 35 acre property had already been rezoning to the higher intensity categories of R-10 and R-15, but some of the property is zoned for single-family residential. Much of the property is designated as urban density residential.

“That is the highest density residential future land use classification that we have in any of the master plans,” said county planner Cameron Langille. “It basically allows for any residential dwelling unit type to be developed at densities between 6 and 34 units per acre.” 

Neighbors include the privately-owned Huntington Village and University Village, the latter of which has the ability and space to build up to 204 new townhouse units according to county planner Cameron Langille. 

Greystar is planning for a maximum of 525 units in a range of unit types and they’ve offered to designate 15 percent of the units as affordable under the county’s policies.

“If they did develop all 525 units we’d be getting 79 units,” Langille said. 

Credit: Timmons Group

The county’s housing policy manager said those units would help the county meet 17 percent of its affordability goal for this year. 

Transportation access would be onto Old Ivy Road. A secondary access for emergency vehicles would need to be included and there are several options. One of them would be through land owned by University Village which would require their permission. 

The project would add a great deal of vehicular traffic to an already congested road and lacks bike and pedestrian infrastructure. There is a proffer from a 1985 rezoning that gives the county the ability to prohibit future development.

“The 1985 rezoning was approved with a proffer that limited the density to R-1 until Old Ivy Road is, and this is the quote, ‘approved to the satisfaction of the Board of Supervisors of Albemarle County,’” said Kevin McDermott, Albemarle’s interim planning director. “There was not a lot of other detail provided in that proffer.” 

McDermott said curb and gutter has been provided on most of the road, but the underpass under the railroad track remains a single-lane passage with no way for cyclists and pedestrians to get through without walking in the road. Most vehicles owned by Charlottesville Area Transit also would not fit but some owned by Jaunt and the University Transit Service would. 

GreyStar has proffered to build a shared-use path along its frontage and to pay to extend that across property it does not own if that landowner agrees. If not, they’ll pay $500,000 to the county. They’ve also agreed to make a cash proffer to contribute to improvements off-site with the amount depending on the cost of whatever transportation projects. 

“VDOT has been engaged in a study to determine transportation improvements that address some of the significant issues at both ends of Ivy Road Corridor,” McDermott said. “We have been looking at this area for a while. VDOT has been trying to identify improvements.”

That pipeline study will be completed next year and will likely inform future applications for transportation funding such as Smart Scale.

McDermott said staff is confident enough the improvements will be made to recommend approval of the rezoning. He said negotiations have taken place with adjacent property owners. 

In response to a question from Supervisor Jim Andrews, Langille declined to answer if the county has been negotiating directly with UVA. 

Later on in the meeting, McDermott did address the question. 

“As a state agency, the University is not subject to any of our zoning regulations so they do not need to come to us if they want to develop any of their properties or anything like that,” McDermott said. 

There is a 1986 agreement in place, but that’s a digression for another edition of this newsletter. 

The land could yield between 32 and 49 units under the existing zoning.

Valerie Long of the law firm Williams Mullen represented Greystar before the Board of Supervisors. She listed a string of what she said were benefits.

“There’s a large amount of value, $1.25 million, in cash proffers for transportation improvements,” Long said. “There’s also commitments proffered for transportation improvements valued at approximately $1.17 million plus about $830,000 worth of sewer infrastructure upgrades. They’ve already paid for $72,000 of that.” 

Long said the Rivanna Trail would get a permanent easement and added the project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan strategy of providing units in the urban area. 

“Obviously it increases housing supply in a neighborhood where there has been very little housing at all approved recently much less anywhere near this price point,” Long said. 

Long said Greystar would be willing to come back to the table and ask for more units if they would be allowed under whatever incentives package is worked out to encourage development of more below-market units.  (See also: Albemarle Supervisors briefed on grant program to incentivize creation of below-market units, February 15, 2023)

Long argued enough transportation improvements have been made since 1985 and the terms of the 1985 proffer have been met.

“There’s been traffic signals installed at either end, construction of Leonard Sandridge Drive, many turn lanes and deceleration lanes were added,” Long said. 

The conceptual plan lists what Greystar intends to do to address conditions on Old Ivy Road (Credit: Timmons Group)

Public hearing

Over two dozen people spoke in-person at the public hearing.

Several residents of University Village were present to speak out against the rezoning for various reasons. Two people claimed that the Timmons Group used out of date information in the trip generation and undercounted the number of vehicles, including a retired civil engineer.

“Five hundred and twenty-five residential units at this location is out of context for Old Ivy Road and that’s my professional assessment,” said David Metcalf.

Sally Thomas, a former member of the Board of Supervisors who now lives at University Village, said the road was never intended to support an urban setting. She said the Planning Commission recognized the 1985 proffer gave Supervisors the right to control its future. 

“I know when I was on the Board I dreaded that I would make a poor decision that later people would say ‘who in the world made this decision? What a mess they made!’” Thomas said. 

Mignon Worman Tucker pointed out the overall context of the area. The University of Virginia Foundation has plans to redevelop Ivy Gardens to increase density. 

“The residences will increase from 400 units to 710 units,” Tucker said. “So combined if you use the same numbers, and those are the Greystar numbers, you’ll have three million car trips that you’re adding to already compromised infrastructure.” 

Tucker also pointed out Ivy Road will become much more congested as the University of Virginia continued to build out the Emmet-Ivy with the Karsh Institute of Democracy, the School of Data Science, a new hotel, and many more buildings that have not yet been officially announced. 

Attorney Donna Deloria represented Filthy Beast LLC and Father Goose LLC. 

“My clients are paying taxes based on R-15 assessments and have been doing so for years without imposing any additional residential burden on services,” Deloria said. “Meanwhile, Old Ivy Road, Leonard Sandridge Road, North Grounds, University Athletics, and other businesses and destinations have changed and developed around them. My clients feel it is time for this property to enter the development pipeline.” 

Ivo Romensko of Farmington said he is a believer in Albemarle’s growth management policy and said if projects like this one are not approved, there will be increased pressure to expand the development area.

“Albemarle grows about one percent annually,” Romensko said. “We can predict in theory that there will be more than 500 households looking for rentals.”

Romenesko said many of those people will be working and shopping inside of the growth area and that putting homes inside of the area is consistent with the policy that has been in place in Albemarle for 43 years.

“So they’re going to be on the same roads whether the product is built in this location, or not,” Romensko said. 

Comments were also taken virtually including one on that 1985 proffer. 

“The proffer in 1985 creates a higher bar for you and really the question you have to ask what has been improved on Old Ivy Road that would lift this restrictive cap,” said Kathleen Jump. “Tonight you are being asked to make this important planning decision with no solutions to two of the major concerns.” 

After the public hearing, Long had some chance to rebut the concerns and repeated her argument that the conditions of the 1985 proffer have been met and that county planning staff agrees. She said the land has been designated for development since the 1970’s and the only reason it has not been developed is because much of the property had been bought by VDOT for the now defunct Western Bypass. 

“The younger and future generation of our community, my children, your children, your grandchildren, my children,” Long said. “They need a place to live here also.”

Supervisor deliberation

Supervisor Ned Gallaway took issue with the 1985 proffer. 

“It’s too subjective, it should have been defined,” Gallaway said. “I couldn’t fathom doing that to a future board.” 

Gallaway said many apartments have been approved on Rio Road and many of those votes took place before transportation studies had taken place. He was the lone vote against a development called Rio Point approved by the Supervisors in December 2021.

“The Rio Road Corridor Study was the seed out of that decision to get that whole corridor planned and studied and now we have from the city boundary all the way to U.S. 29 a plan of concepts of how to improve that whole corridor and safety was at the forefront,” Gallaway said. 

Gallaway said many projects in the development area have come and are coming in at a density level lower than what could be there. He said the time is coming for a conversation about what will happen when all of the land for large apartment complexes have been used. 

The project is within the Jack Jouett District which is represented by Supervisor Diantha McKeel. She said she understood the traffic concerns but said there many positives with the project. 

“Affordable housing units along with housing for what we call sometimes the missing middle, workforce housing, that’s a positive,” McKeel said. “Housing for those folks that actually work in our community and cut down on commuting time.” 

McKeel said the proposal will be a catalyst for transportation solutions especially as the University of Virginia invests hundreds of millions in the Emmet-Ivy corridor.  

“Public infrastructure almost always follows private development,” McKeel said. “That’s just the way it works.” 

Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley said she supported the project and hoped there could be a way to persuade the University of Virginia to address the conditions at the underpass. 

Supervisor Jim Andrew said he wanted to support because of the need for housing close to the University of Virginia. But he had a lot of questions. 

“The traffic situation is appalling and needs to be fixed and we don’t really have the tools to fix that with a lot of cooperation from VDOT and perhaps from UVA and the neighbors,” Andrews said. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said this has been a “brain-exploding” exercise because she initially thought she would vote to deny the rezoning due to the railroad underpass. But she said she changed her mind in part to its location near water and sewer infrastructure.

“So I think there would be many benefits,” Mallek said. “There will certainly be drawbacks for some which I hope will be short-lived and I hope that we will be able to get even more solutions then we know about today.” 

Supervisor Chair Donna Price noted the time at the vote was 12:15 a.m. and said the item could not be deferred due to budget season and a series of work sessions.  Price said she would support the project. The vote to approve was unanimous. 

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