Category Archives: Placemaking

First official roadside memorial unveiled in Charlottesville

There are several makeshift memorials to people who died in crashes on 5th Street Extended in Charlottesville. Yesterday, a city-sanctioned memorial to Quintus Brooks was unveiled with a family ceremony. Brooks died on October 1, 2020 and yesterday would have been his birthday. 

“A new application process is being launched for roadside memorials at the site of deaths resulting from automobile, bicycle or pedestrian accidents that occur on public streets within the City of Charlottesville,” said city Communications Director Brian Wheeler in an email announcing the event.

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Stribling improvements key to Fry’s Spring rezoning

Will the city be able to build the infrastructure residents to allow for a more dense development on Stribling Avenue? At their meeting on September 14, 2021, the Charlottesville Planning Commission pondered this question and a public-private partnership could be worked out to cover the costs that a cash-strapped city cannot afford.

Southern Development seeks a rezoning to Planned Unit Development to build up to 170 units on about 12 acres of wooded land. That came after a directive at an earlier work session for the firm to increase the units in the development.

“The Planning Commission told us very clearly that you wanted to see something less dense and more suburban,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development.      

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Charlottesville City Council holds first reading on lease with Botanical Garden of the Piedmont

At their meeting on September 20, Charlottesville City Council held the first reading of entering into a ground lease with the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, a nonprofit that has been working with the city to use a portion of land in the northeast corner of McIntire Park.

“Documentation previously approved at the Council level goes back to September of 2012 with a master plan of McIntire Park,” said City Manager Boyles. “There have been conceptual designs, resolutions for agreement, a [memorandum of understanding] with the McIntire Botanical Garden, and then most recently in 2017 a final site plan approval for McIntire Park.”

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Belmont Bridge construction details detailed

After several years of planning and study, there is an active construction site for the Belmont Bridge now that the project is fully approved and fully funded. The city held an information session on August 11 and Brian McPeters is with Kimley Horn, the firm that designed and engineered the bridge. The event was referred to as a Pardon Our Dust Meeting. (presentation) (watch the video)

“The project is primarily replacing the existing Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. “That’s the bridge that carries traffic northbound and southbound over the railroad, over Old Avon, and over Water Street. It does include a secondary pedestrian-style bridge.”

(This article was originally in the August 16, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

That bridge connects to a new mezzanine to be built in the area leading to the Ting Pavilion, and will make the walkway from the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“But it will also build a concrete and steel structure that will be a great gathering place and create a sense of place for folks interacting with the bridge and accessing the Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. 

Construction of the bridge will take about 31 months from now to complete, according to McPeters, the manager of the city’s urban construction initiative. The informational meeting focused on how the traffic of all types on the roadway will be affected.

“There will be inconvenience and we do ask for your patience and it will be our job to inform you of what that inconvenience will be so you can plan accordingly and possible take an alternate route or be prepared for slight delays,” McPeters said. 

Right now, construction activities have been limited to utility relocation and parking lot construction. When things really get underway, traffic will be moved around to different sections. 

“Generally speaking, during daytime hours, traffic will always have one lane northbound and one lane southbound, and then you’ll have turn lanes at the intersections similar to what you have today,” McPeters said. 

For the full details, take a look at the presentation. 

Some highlights from the project:

  • Five-way intersection at Old Avon/9th/Garret/Levy will be simplified with removal of Old Avon movement, with a section of Old Avon become a pedestrian plaza space 
  • Expansion of the pedestrian passageway from the bridge to the Pavilion area
  • A pedestrian passageway will be built at the Graves Street intersection to replace existing at-grade crosswalk 

Design Public Hearing held for Barracks / Emmet Smart Scale project

One of several major transportation projects intended to make Charlottesville an easier place to bike or walk passed a milestone last week. In 2017, the city was awarded $8.6 million in Virginia Department of Transportation Smart Scale funds for a project at the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street. The design public hearing was held on July 7, 2021. 

“The purpose of the project is to improve the operational performance of the Barracks Road and Emmet Street intersection while also enhancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities serving the adjacent neighborhoods,” said the narrator of a presentation shown at the virtual meeting. (watch the full presentation)

The work will include a new northbound right-turn lane on Emmet Street, an additional west-bound left-hand turn lane on Barracks Road, upgraded traffic signals, increased medians, and a shared-use path up Barracks Road. Part of the work will involve something called a “pedestrian refuge” to allow slower walkers to cross Emmet Street and take a break. 

“The scope of bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Barracks Road were less somewhat less defined which provided an opportunity to involve local citizens in the early planning and decision-making process,” the presentation continued. 

One man expressed concern that this plan seemed to have come from nowhere and that it may not actually work. 

“This has been a long time question for me about Charlottesville and planning and development,” said Joel Bass. “How do we actually develop in this town without working with [the University of Virginia] and getting feedback from them on their plans?” 

Bass said what was needed from westbound Barracks Road was a right-hand lane. 

Before we hear from city staff, some background. In 1986, Albemarle, Charlottesville and UVA signed a Three Party Agreement and until 2019 there was a public body known as the Planning and Coordination Council (PACC) where projects and planning were discussed in the open. Since late 2019, a private body called the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee meets and those events are closed to the public. This LUEPC group last met on June 25, 2021 and there is one page of minutes. (read those minutes)

Back to the Barracks/Emmet project. There is a steering committee that includes a member of the UVA Office of the Architect and those meetings are open to the public. Kyle Kling in Charlottesville’s public works department.

“In our department, we meet quarterly with the University to discuss projects the city is administering as well as projects that the University has throughout their Grounds and during those conversations we always discuss how things will trend during the future and how projects may supplement each other so that coordination is ongoing,” Kling said. 

Two other Smart Scale projects are in the planning states to the south on Emmet Street. The Emmet Street Streetscape had its design public hearing in December 2019. The Commonwealth Transportation Board just approved $20.6 million in funding for a second phase of that project that would span between Arlington Boulevard and Barracks Road. 

There was some concern at the public hearing about the shared-use path that will travel about a third of a mile up the hill on Barracks Road to Buckingham and Hill Top roads. Gregory Kastner was appreciative to get a dedicated facility, but had a question about how that fits into a larger network.

“As you’re on the bike lane coming up the road, how does that transition to the current sidewalk?” Kastner asked. “With it ending at Hill Top, there’s still a fair bit of up to go where the rider is going to be going pretty slow and it really wouldn’t be a great place to get dumped out on the road.”

Kastner said he hoped the scope of the project extended up to Rugby Road where the hill flattens.

Kling said in the short-term, a sharrow would be painted on the road in the short-term as VDOT has strict rules about extending Smart Scale projects past the boundaries outlined in their initial application. 

“I do know that there are some plans in the works on the city’s end to kind of continue bike and pedestrian upgrades further into town along this stretch,” Kling said. 

About another two-thirds of a mile up Barracks Road is another Smart Scale project to address the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue. That project has also not yet begun. 

Next steps for the project include final approval by City Council this summer and completion of the design in the winter of 2022. If all goes according to schedule, construction would begin in the spring of 2023. 

Crozet Master Plan talk turns to implementation; Crozet Plaza update

(This article is adapted from the June 21, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The Albemarle Planning Commission will next take up the Crozet Master Plan at a work session on Tuesday, June 22. At the June 9 CAC meeting, committee members and participating residents got a presentation on the implementation of projects intended to bolster Crozet’s urban character. They also had the chance to comment on the plan update to date.  

But first, the implementation projects. The master plan is a large overview of the entire area, and further studies are suggested. The draft implementation chapter shows a list of ten potential topics ranging from a Downtown Neighborhood Architectural and Cultural Study to a stream health study for Parrot Branch, a local waterway. Initial feedback has already been submitted and planner Tori Kanellopoulos gave the rundown for how planning projects scored.

“The top ranked projects were the Crozet Avenue Shared-Use Path feasibility study, the Three Notch’d Trail feasibility study, and the Route 250 West design guidelines,” Kanellopoulos said. “And then the policy projects were also ranked and the top priority was updating residential zoning designations to allow for more preservation of natural resources.”

Potential capital projects were also ranked. Kanellopoulos said the highest ranking projects are the completion of Eastern Avenue, downtown Crozet intersection improvements, and sidewalk connections. 

Let’s hear more about that Three Notch’d Trail.

“Lately there’s been a lot more focus and attention on the potential Three Notch’d Trail which would ideally connect from the Blue Ridge Tunnel along Crozet and over to Charlottesville,” Kanellopoulos said. “A feasibility study would look at this alignment and there are opportunities to partner with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and the Planning District Commission and trails groups to look at the feasibility study for the alignment.” 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said later in the meeting that VDOT planning may not have staff to conduct that feasibility study this year, but community work can be done now to prepare for that work possibly in 2022. 

“And the other blessing that goes along with that is 2022 is when [Virginia] is going to take over the rail access right of way from CSX and therefore that increases greatly the possibility that we will be able to have a trail beside the rail,” Mallek said. 

Another “catalyst” project now in the implementation chapter is Western Park, which has long been called for in the plan and for which the county received 36 acres in 2010 as part of the Old Trail rezoning. A master plan for that project was created in 2018 that identified three phases. The first is recommended for funding, a decision which would be made by the entire Board of Supervisors during the budget process.

“This phase one would include the access road with parking, a playground, and additional support of infrastructure and utilities,” Kanellopoulos said.

Committee member Sandy Hausman noted the rankings were based on responses from fewer than a hundred people. 

“I wonder if anybody feels like this there needs to be a bit more outreach, like a mass mailing to everyone who lives in Crozet,” Hausman said. “It just feels to me that this is a relatively small group of people who tend to be paying attention to this stuff and everybody else will be unpleasantly surprised in a year or two when things start happening.”

Committee member Joe Fore said he wanted to see all three phases of Western Park listed as catalyst projects, meaning they would be prioritized first.

“I think just given the fact that it’s been in the works for so long, that the phases of at least getting started, the land is already there,” Fore said. “I understand it’s expensive but it’s not an Eastern Avenue or Lickinghole Creek bridge expensive.” 

Fore also said he would support the creation of a special taxation district to help pay for new infrastructure. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has previously been briefed on how service districts or a “business improvement district” could be levied in certain areas to fund amenities. 

“I looked through currently, and this may be a comment for the full draft, there’s only one mention of service districts in the entire draft and that’s in reference to funding ongoing activities and services at the plaza and downtown,” Fore  said. “But I would like to see maybe a little bit more and maybe a full suggestion saying maybe this is something we should explore in Crozet to fund some of these capital projects so we’re not constantly having these be projects are ten years out.” 

The Board of Supervisors last had a formal presentation on service districts at their meeting on December 7, 2016. (presentation) (story)

Fore has looked up the section of Virginia code that allows for the creation of such districts.

“It’s a pretty broad statute as I read it,” Fore said. “Things like sidewalks, roads, programming, cultural events, economic development, beautification and landscaping. It’s a very broad statute. It seems to me you could raise money for most of the kinds of projects that we’re looking at.  When we look at the list of priorities and say, yikes! Where are we going to get all the money for this? Well, rather than say let’s raise taxes on everybody in the county, you might be able to say let’s raise funds specifically from Crozet that would stay in Crozet for some of these projects we want to see in Crozet.”

CAC member David Mitchell is skeptical of the idea and said it would lead to Crozet receiving fewer direct funds from the county.

“Over time we will start to be looked at by the other Supervisors as ‘they have their own money, they can do their own thing’ and you’re going to slowly over time lose your share of the general fund,” Mitchell said. 

Supervisor Mallek agreed.

“I would really discourage our citizenry from burdening themselves because I think David is right,” Mallek said. “We need to go to toe to toe, to say, this is a need that’s been on the books.”

Mallek singled out the Eastern Avenue connector road that will provide north-south travel. A major obstacle is the cost of a bridge required to cross Lickinghole Creek. 

“We have made all of these zoning changes prior to 2007 that were counting on that bridge and we absolutely have a moral obligation to build it,” Mallek said.

Eastern Avenue is ranked #8 on the county’s transportation priority list and there was an update in May. There’s not yet a full cost estimate on what it will cost, but engineering work is underway. 

“This project is currently being evaluated through an alignment study and conceptual design which is funded through the Transportation Leveraging Fund in the [Capital Improvement Program],” reads the update. “The alignment report was presented to the Board in January and the preferred alignment was selected. This project is being considered for a Revenue Sharing Grant application.”

Allie Pesch, the chair of the CAC, said she wanted Eastern Avenue to be the top implementation priority.

“I like seeing Eastern Avenue at the top of that list,” Pesch said. “That is a priority for everyone in our area and just so overdue.”

After this discussion of implementation, county planner Rachel Falkenstein turned the conversation to the working draft of the master plan. The draft that will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at their work session on Tuesday incorporates feedback from the June 9 CAC meeting. (download the draft

“We still have a couple of steps to go before we get to our public hearings and we’ll continue to accept feedback and make revisions to the chapters and to the content,” Falkenstein said. 

A work session with the Board of Supervisors will take place in August. (Watch the CAC meeting on YouTube)


A few days after the CAC meeting, the Downtown Crozet Initiative held a public meeting to talk about a 30,000 square foot plaza intended to be located at the former Barnes Lumberyard. The plaza would anchor a mixed-use building and a hotel through a public-private partnership. The idea involves construction of a connector road using revenue-sharing funds from VDOT. That process requires a local match. 

Frank Stoner is a principal at Milestone Partners which seeks to redevelop the space. They’re putting up $2 million to serve as that match. 

“This project started in 2014,” Stoner said. “We developed this road plan in 2016, 2017. Most of the design elements of the road have been resolved. We felt strongly and I think the community felt strongly and the county felt strongly that the streets had to be appropriate for the small town that is Crozet and not be a highway through the middle of downtown which is kind of where VDOT wanted to go with it.” 

In all, VDOT is providing $2.49 million in funds for the road improvements. Milestone is paying $2 million and donating the land for the plaza and roads. The Downtown Crozet Initiative will raise $1.6 million or more to program the plaza. Albemarle County has contributed $1.6 million in cash to the project, and will provide another $1.6 million in rebates through a process known as tax increment financing. (read the June 2019 performance agreement)

Stoner said the idea is to build an urban plaza, not a park. 

“And most importantly we wanted this plaza to be the heart not just of the neighborhood but the Crozet community,” Stoner said. 

CreditDowntown Crozet Initiative

VDOT is contributing $2.5 million and the Downtown Crozet Initiative is seeking to raise over a million in private funds. 

“Which will be used to fund essentially the furniture, fixtures and equipment, sculpture, artwork, seating, all of that kind of stuff that goes in the plaza,” Stoner said. 

The designs aren’t close to final yet, but Stoner wanted to get feedback from the community. There are also no identified tenants for any of the spaces yet. 

“We haven’t really been in the position to take commitments because there have been so many unknowns because of the VDOT plans and then we had some stormwater issues we had to work through and so it has just been one obstacle after another,” Stoner said. 

Stoner said if all goes according to plan, construction could get underway next year. To Stoner, success means making sure it’s a place to expand what already makes Crozet Crozet.

“If we can’t create a place that’s affordable for local businesses, then we’re not going to succeed,” Stoner said. 

In April 2020, the firm Downtown Strategies unveiled their report on a Downtown Strategic Vision for Crozet. Stoner suggested interested parties might take a look. (take a look)

Nearby there is a separate VDOT project to rebuild the existing Square to add sidewalks and address ongoing stormwater issues. (watch the June 14 presentation)

Toward a TDM Plan for Charlottesville?

On Monday night, Charlottesville City Council officially adopted a resolution canceling a project to build a 300-space parking garage at the corner of East Market Street and 9th Street. Part of the decision hinged on a notion of whether the city was doing enough to get people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation. 

In 2015, the firm Nelson Nygaard conducted a study of parking downtown, and one of the recommendations was to maintain existing supply through something called “transportation demand management.” 

“Strong promotion of TDM efforts and continued enhancement of alternative travel options will serve Charlottesville well in maintaining its reputation and charm as an attractive, livable and sustainable city,” reads page 8 of the study, which was the most recent official review of parking downtown. 

Specifically, the plan recommended creation of a “Transportation Management Association” to help encourage alternative modes of travel. In early 2008, local community member Randy Salzman brought the idea up to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). That’s the local body that makes decisions on regional transportation projects. Salzman arranged for them to hear from a professor of sustainability from Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Here’s Peter Newman, who co-authored a book with UVA professor Tim Beatley called Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change.

“Now we’ve had all of our cities do regional plans in the last five years and they have all concluded the need for more sustainable future based on less car-dependence with transit prioritized with corridors and centers to make sure the structure of the city changes,” Newman said.

The idea at the time didn’t get much traction. 

At the May 27 meeting of the Regional Transit Partnership — a sub-group of the MPO — Salzman once again appeared to promote the idea. 

“We need to understand why people take the bus or don’t take the bus, why people bicycle or don’t bicycle, why people drive or don’t drive,” Salzman said. “There is another car culture that has done this exceptionally well and that culture is Australia where they have just as much of a car ownership culture as we have in the United States.” 

Salzman mentioned a program called TravelSmart, which has now transformed into a program called Your Move. People who register are assisted in getting used to different forms of transportation. Salzman wants this community to take on the same approach, perhaps by expanding the existing RideShare program. 

“Right now because of the stars aligning at the federal level, this area could go after a grant that would be the leadership for helping America,” Salzman said. “Understand the individuals and how we can help them change as opposed to building the change, building all the transit and then not using it.” 

The Regional Transit Partnership consists of the University Transit Service, Charlottesville Area Transit, Jaunt, and other agencies. A non-voting member of the body is Sara Pennington, who runs the RideShare program as part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. 

“Transportation doesn’t just work in a silo,” Pennington said. “There are so many moving parts and moving pieces and the more that we can work together and band together to help each other out, the better.” 

Much of Pennington’s work this past year has focused on telework, which was crucial for many during the pandemic. 

The TJPDC will soon hire a consultant to create a regional transit vision plan at a cost of $350,000, with half of that amount coming from a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A selection firm is reviewing three proposals for the project and an announcement on who will do the work may be made later this month. 

The TJPDC is also working on a $106,215 study about expanded transit in Albemarle County, above and beyond a second study that Charlottesville Area Transit is conducting to add service to U.S. 29 north of its current terminus at the Wal-Mart. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner and said the firm Michael Baker International has been hired to do the work.

“We are planning our first public engagement session for that project in late July or early August,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

Karen Davis, the interim CEO of Jaunt, said her planning manager’s recent appearance at a Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership panel discussion may lead to the resumption of a discontinued service between the North Fork Research Park and points south. Stephen Johnson talked about the possibility of on-demand transit at the May 20 event. (watch)

“I got a call from UVA Foundation talking about a service we had done for them that is right now discontinued, Park Connect, he was so well-spoken that they called me and said ‘hey, on-demand could actually meet our needs better than the model we were using,” Davis said. 

Later this summer, Charlottesville Area Transit will begin a public period for proposed route changes.

A section from the NN plan

(This installment originally appeared in the June 9, 2021 episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

UVa making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment

(This installment was originally posted in the June 9, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met earlier this month. One of the items on the Building and Grounds Committee’s agenda was approval of a master plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens, an apartment complex between Old Ivy Road and Leonard Sandridge Road that was built in the late 1960’s. 

University Architect Alice Raucher explained the purpose of creating a master plan. 

“It is in general always good to have a plan and physical master planning helps to set priorities to inform future plans,” Raucher said. “It often aligns limited physical resources with often equally limited financial resources and provides the opportunity for broad University and community engagement to create a shared vision.” 

Ivy Gardens is made up of 17 acres and has 440 residential units close to North Grounds, Darden, the School of Law, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the Center for Politics. 

“In 2016, at the direction of the University, the Foundation purchased Ivy Gardens and although its structures are aging, the property is currently income producing with units that primarily house our graduate students in a low-density, automobile-oriented development,” Raucher said. 

The proposed redevelopment plan would increase the number of units to 718 and would add about 46,000 square feet of academic space and 69,500 square feet for commercial uses. The latter would be clustered in a new Town Square that would front onto Old Ivy Road. To the immediate north would be a Residential Commons with different kinds of housing types. In the middle would be a Central Green. A pedestrian bridge would cross Leonard Sandridge Drive, allowing safe passage to Darden and the Law School. 

Source: University of Virginia Office of the Architect
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Oversight group discusses Cville Plans Together initiative

(This article originally appeared in the May 25, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The steering committee overseeing the Cville Plans Together initiative met on May 19 to take a mid-month review of the latest round of the public engagement efforts. To recap, Rhodeside & Harwell is overseeing an update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan as well as a rewrite of the city’s zoning code. They’ve already produced an affordable housing strategy that City Council adopted in March. (review the plan

In February 2019, Council voted to approve spending up to $1 million to hire an outside consultant to take over oversight of the Comprehensive Plan. For background, read my story from then to explain the reasons behind the decision. 

The latest version of the schedule for the process

The work got underway in January 2020 and continued during the pandemic with virtual meetings. There were two previous community engagement periods last year in addition to the one underway now. 

Jennifer Koch is a project manager with Rhodeside & Harwell.

“We fully recognize there are folks in the community who may not have been aware of this process that was going,” Koch said. “We’ve been working hard to reach folks but it’s been quite a year… We’ve been doing a lot of virtual engagement for the past year and we don’t anticipate that will completely go away as we move forward but we also know it’s really nice to speak with people in person.”  

First, members of the steering committee had the opportunity to weigh in. One of them is City Councilor Michael Payne, who will be one of five votes to adopt the Comprehensive Plan and the updated zoning code sometime next year. At this stage, he wanted to suggest a change in the title of one of the draft chapters.

“With the Economic Prosperity and Opportunity [chapter], I know it mentions community wealth building in the update but I still wonder if it may make more sense for the chapter itself to be focused on community wealth building, again to try to gear that chapter towards more system change thinking about things like community land trusts, community development corporations, [and] community gardens all interconnect as a system for wealth creation that’s different than the normal way of doing economic development,” Payne said. 

Seven draft chapters of the Comprehensive Plan are available for review (download)

Christine Jacobs, the interim executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, applauded language about regional partnerships. However, she wanted her organization to be more specifically referenced given the number of bodies it runs on which Charlottesville City Councilors serve. 

“The TJPDC does have the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO,” Jacobs said. “It also has the Regional Transit Partnership and the Regional Housing Partnership.” 

Diana Dale represents the leaders of neighborhood associations in the city, some of which have expressed concern about too much density. She drew attention to the chapter on Land Use, Urban Form, and Historic and Cultural Preservation. 

“And I’m thinking in particular of goal two,” Dale said, reading from the chapter summary. “Protect and enhance existing distinct identitiess of the city’s older neighborhoods while promoting housing options, a mix of uses, and sustainble reuses in the community.” 

Dale said some residents of neighborhoods are concerned that some of their portions have been changed from low-intensity to medium-intensity, such as most of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood and some of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood. That could allow between four to 12 units per lot, but that will remain unclear until it is time to rewrite the zoning code. 

“What is aspirational? And what is actually codifiable?” Dale asked.

The zoning rewrite will be conducted by the firm Code Studio, a subcontractor whose work will be informed by the affordable housing plan and the Future Land Use Map. 

“I’m not certain that we have a whole lot of the answers,” said Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio. “We were hoping we could work through things at the more generalized level of the Future Land Use Map and then begin to craft strategies for implementing those tools.” 

Einsweiler said that each category on the future land use map will not be represented by a single zoning district. 

“There would be two, three, four implementing zoning districts that might all have appropriate strategies for different types of the community but those can’t quite be figured out until we can understand where they are likely to be applied,” said Lee Einsweiler. 

Dale remained concerned. 

“The vagueness is not helping people’s confidence in the plan,” Dale said.

The Lewis Mountain Neighborhood has been designated as medium intensity in the draft future land use map. (interactive map)

Dale also expressed concern about the impacts of a more people on the existing infrastructure. She said roads might need to be widened to accommodate additional traffic, and stated the city has issues delivering on infrastructure projects such as frequent buses and a consistent bike and sidewalk network. 

“The guidance is recommending multimodal strategies, and that’s going to take time and funding to implement and that’s been a long struggle for a lot of improvements over time for those of who have been in the city,” Dale said. 

There are 19 neighborhoods across the city, and the 2007 Comprehensive Plan contains an entire appendix of specific requests from neighborhoods that came from a city-wide design day arranged by a now-defunct non-profit called the Charlottesville Community Design Center. That approach was abandoned for the 2013 Comprehensive Plan and the 2017 process did not seek a thorough capturing of what residents of neighborhoods wanted. 

Ashley Davies, who represents the Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable on the steering committee, suggested an approach that built upon previous efforts to plan at a neighborhood level. 

“I think people are hungry to give you feedback that is more specific to their area and I think it’s a shame that we can’t have the time right now to do the small area planning because I think that’s what a lot of people want to inform the land use plan,” Davies said. 

Neighborhood plans were drafted in the 2007 plan, as described on page 285. If you’re a Charlottesville resident, what was said about your neighborhood? (download the plan)

There’s a lot of discussion of what role the Future Land Use Map plays. Is it advisory? If so, what does that mean? Ron Sessoms is with Rhodeside and Harwell.

“The future land use map is a critical component of a Comprehensive Plan and sets the stage for the city’s long-term vision of how it’s going to grow,” said Ron Sessoms of Rhodeside & Harwell (RHI). “You can think of this as the 10,000 foot view of the city and defining where there are opportunities for growth.” 

Sessoms said the land use map is a guide for development, but is not binding like zoning. 

“As we think about the future land use map, it’s much more broad and the zoning code is much more detailed with specifics of what it means to fulfil the future land use map,” Sessoms said. 

The medium intensity residential category is new with this comp plan update, and encourages construction between four and 12 units per lot. Sessoms said that did not have to be out of scale with existing buildings. 

“They can be integrated into the fabric of a neighborhood,” Sessoms said. “They don’t have to be five stories to get fourplexes or any of the medium intensity development types.” 

Ashley Davies said she liked that the future land use map begins a process of reducing the amount of areas colored as low-intensity residential, but thought there should be some sense of what types of housing units are prioritized. 

“It seems to me the strategy for adding units in the city and adding residential, maybe we need to talk about the hierarchy of that can truly happen in Charlottesville,” Davies said. 

Dale said the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association’s Board of Directors supports soft density by adding accessory units and permitting apartments within structures. But they don’t support being colored as medium intensity. 

“Is there an opportunity to merge the ambitions of transforming Charlottesville to general residential, which is a big step to begin with, and to merge some of the intentions of the medium intensity?” Dale asked. “I recognize this may happen as you move to more strata, more levels of medium density.”

This draft also includes a name change for Low Density Residential to General Residential, which recommends up to three units per lot. 

Lena Seville, a Belmont resident who is on the steering committee, wanted to know why General Residential didn’t recommend allowing four units per lot. 

“There are plenty of little houses that are split into four,” Seville said. “At two stories, it’s four apartments. They’re easier to build. They mirror each other. They have the same footprint.”

Much of what is happening in Charlottesville is patterned off an effort in Minneapolis, where their City Council voted to permit duplexes and triplexes in all R-1 areas. Here’s Lee Einsweiler with Code Studio again. 

“You may have followed the exercise in Minneapolis in which they began talking about four but ended up adopting three,” Einsweiler said. “Part of the conversation was about the likelihood that the existing house would be replaced as opposed to split. The three is most likely an additional building on the property and a main unit carved out of the main house.” 

At the meeting, some members expressed concern about a perceived lack of engagement. Valerie Washington represents the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition

“While this process has been going on for a while now there are still many folks in the community that I’ve spoken to who have no idea about this process,” Washington said. “Is there any plan to really put some education out there for folks who are having difficulty understanding the planning process so they can better participate?”

LaToya Thomas of the firm Brick and Story acknowledges that many people are not knowledgeable in planning issues, but the Cville Plans Together initiative wants to educate more people especially as the pandemic recedes.

“We are reaching out to as many people that we can get connected to, but we also know that many of you are connected to folks and so we will continue to make ourselves available if there are groups of folks that you want to convene,” Thomas said.

Dale suggested a pause while people get caught up on the planning process. That would give people the chance to read the many recommendations in the affordable housing plan adopted by Council in March. 

“Most of the community doesn’t really understand how it informs the plan,” Dale said. “It was previewed with the public last fall when everyone had their head down dealing with Zoom school and Zoom work and health care and everything else. It was a 100-year health event.”

The housing plan was adopted in March 2021 and informed the development of Future Land Use Map (download)

S. Lisa Herndon is a Realtor on the steering committee who wants to see a map that depicts where redlining occurred which overlays areas proposed for more intense development. 

“Going back to the history of Vinegar Hill and Gospel Hill, there [are] communities that were negatively impacted and now we’re going through redevelopment again and we see a lack of equity in terms of participation and I see nothing within this which shows where we were and how we’re going to prevent that negative effect in communities of African-American historical context,” Hernson said. “I don’t see that.” 

Sunshine Mathon, executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, said he has been through this process in other communities where he has worked.  He reminded people the intent of the initiative is to guide change. 

“One of the things that gets lost in the translation is that change is constant and people have this assumption that their neighborhoods are a thing and have always been that thing which is fundamentally not true,” Mathon said. “One of the changes that we are seeing across the city regardless of the form of the city, one of the real changes is a dramatic increase in the cost of living in the city. That’s a fundamental change. The plan itself can’t be the change that solves that on its own, but it is an ingredient in that tool set.”

Comments will be accepted through June 13 now that a two-week extension has been granted. The Planning Commission is expected to have a work session on June 29. 

Proposed apartments for Fifeville draw attention to planned railroad underpass

(This article was originally a segment in the May 11, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will have a joint public hearing with the City Council on a rezoning on a cul-de-sac on the western edge of Fifeville.  A property owner on Valley Road Extended seeks the rezoning and a special use permit to build four apartment units on just under two-thirds of land. The applicant is proffering $48,000 to build a portion of sidewalk and have suggested it could be part of a larger network. (meeting info)

“Sidewalk improvements along the new parcel frontage along Valley Road Extended that ultimately may be incorporated into a more robust pedestrian and bicycle improvement network if the multi-use tunnel under the railroad right of way, as called for in the [2015] Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan,” reads the narrative.

The narrative references a map on page 38 of the plan that depicts many desired projects throughout the city. One of them is this underpass at the northern end of Valley Road Extended.

However, there is no active project planned for such a tunnel at this site to occur, according to city Communications Director Brian Wheeler. In all, there is a distance of 4,500 feet where the railroad bisects the Fifeville neighborhood from the University of Virginia without a pedestrian or vehicular crossing, between Shamrock Road and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. 

The University of Virginia is also not planning for a tunnel at that location, according to its non-voting representative on the Planning Commission. After the city agreed to hand over right of way for the Brandon Avenue corridor, UVA agreed to study for a railroad crossing and settled on a different planning concept closer to Monroe Lane and Paton Street. However, they are not pursuing a crossing at this time but will work with the city on an easement should it choose to proceed.

This map is Charlottesville’s 2015 Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan and can be found on page 38. (download the plan)
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