Planning Commission repeats approval of VERVE Charlottesville near Scott Stadium 

For the second time this fall, the Charlottesville Planning Commission has approved a rezoning under the existing development rules for a project called VERVE Charlottesville. The rezoning now awaits action by Charlottesville City Council. 

The Planned Unit Development rezoning would apply to parts of Emmet Street, Stadium Row, Montibello Circle, and Jefferson Park Avenue. 

“We approved this application 6 to 0 only a month ago but it was decided that we probably needed to get a formal proffer statement included within the docket,” said Planning Commission Chair Hosea Mitchell. 

The location map for VERVE Charlottesville (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

No other changes were made to the plan since the October 10 recommendation except the inclusion of the proffer statement which captures a very important condition. 

“The proffer statement indicates that the applicant will provide a cash contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund in the amount equal to double that which is required under Section 34-12(d)2,” said city planner Matt Alfele. (read that section of code)

Under the plan, 62 existing units spread across nine buildings would be replaced by one large building with between 525 and 540 residential units. 

“The proposed building would have a height range of 75 feet to 135 feet and in stories a range from five stories to 12 stories,” Alfele said. “In addition, the proposed PUD includes improved pedestrian and bicycle circulation along Stadium, Emmet, and Jefferson Park Avenue and road improvements to Montebello Circle.” 

Since October 10, 2023, the University of Virginia has sent a letter to the City Council asking them to weigh the project very carefully. The November 1, 2023 letter urges consideration of the impacts this development would have on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. (read the letter)

“Redevelopment projects near the Academical Village have never proposed new conditions that would diminish the integrity of the site until now,” write UVA Architect Alice Raucher and Senior Vice President Colette Sheehy. “The proposed Verve Planned Unit Development at Stadium Road and Jefferson Park Avenue… could have a major and negative visual effect.”

(Credit: ESG Architecture and Design)

City Council attends Planning Commission meetings for joint public hearings, and Councilor Brian Pinkston brought up UVA’s concern.

“I am aware of a letter was sent by the University relative to the height of this project and the visibility from the Lawn,” Pinkston said. “I don’t know if that’s something that’s in the public record at this point or worth discussing.” 

The matter had come up at the Commission’s pre-meeting which is not televised or recorded on video. Bill Palmer, UVA’s non-voting representative on the Planning Commission, recalled what happened off-camera.

“What came up in the pre-meeting was that the developer may have developed some renderings from perspectives from the Lawn that tried to show how it will look,” Palmer said. “I haven’t seen those. I’ll just say I will look forward to seeing those. We’ll look at those and if there are any revisions we want to make to our statement we can do that. I can get them to City Council at the appropriate time but beyond that our concerns are the same.” 

During the public hearing, nearby resident Ellen Contini-Morava argued that the proffer should not be enough to satisfy the city. 

“Four million sounds like a lot of money but it’s not that much if you compare it with the affordable housing fee a developer would have to pay under the new zoning code if their development doesn’t include any affordable housing,” Contini-Morava said. 

Under the new code, all developments over ten units must provide ten percent of the total units as affordable. At roughly 53 units at $185,000 for each unit, Contini-Morava said the project would bring in over $9.8 million. 

As he did in October, Commissioner Karim Habbab cast the lone vote against the recommendation.  

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 16, 2023 edition.

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