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Commission balks again at Meadowbrook Flats development
Site plan for Meadowbrook Flats, January 14, 2014
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Credit: William White Associates
Site plan for latest version of Meadowbrook Flats
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by Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8 p.m.

For the second time in three months, members of the Charlottesville Planning Commission have not looked favorably upon a proposal to redevelop the southeast corner of Emmet Street and Barracks Road.

Developer William Park requested a deferral of the design review for the latest version of Meadowbrook Flats after it appeared the commission would not recommend approval.

The commission doubles as the city’s Entrance Corridor Review Board, which grants certificates of appropriateness for projects along “designated significant routes of tourist access,” according to the city’s website. Meadowbrook Flats would be in a entrance corridor.

In October, the commission recommended denial of a critical slopes waiver required for a previous iteration of the project.

Since then, Park moved the proposed five-story residential building slightly so that the slopes waiver would not be necessary. He also added a second three-story building which would stand on the site of the former Tavern restaurant, which closed in December 2011.

“We rebooted and tried to take into consideration the comments that you made, and I think you can see we have a project that incorporated everything that was asked for,” Park said.

However, some commissioners expressed concern that they did not know what would be happening with the rest of the 3.6 acre site, which is owned by Clara Belle Wheeler and contains the Meadowbrook Shopping Center and Anderson’s Carriage Food House.

Wheeler does not own the property on which the ALC Copies building stands.

“It just seems to me that the very first thing [we should see] is a master plan for the whole property that speaks to the big goals of the entrance corridor,” said Commissioner Michael Osteen.

The project’s designer said future development would be informed by these two new buildings.

“What we’re trying to do is set the table for other activities onsite that might comport better with what he have now,” said Dan deBettencourt of DBF Architects.

Zoning at the location allows for buildings up to six stories. However, some residents of the Barracks Road and Rugby neighborhoods pointed to the entrance corridor guidelines, which envision buildings with a maximum height of three stories.

“That’s a recommendation that’s part of the design standards, but the zoning is always going to trump that,” said planning manager Missy Creasy.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller disagreed.

“Throughout the commonwealth, there are many jurisdictions that also have [entrance corridor] ordinances that do allow consideration for height and scale,” Keller said.

None of the commissioners present felt the project deserved a certificate of appropriateness.

“In terms of [creating] inviting streetscapes and public spaces and enhancing the existing street, I’m not seeing that as part of this project,” said Commissioner Natasha Sienitsky.

“I don’t have a problem with the land use, the density, the height or the massing, but I do have a problem with the way the buildings interact,” said commission Chairman Dan Rosensweig. “It fails to create places where people interact, which is so critical to the design guidelines.”

After asking for a deferral, Park asked for more detail for what commissioners didn’t like about the project.

Osteen said he wanted to see a “big idea” at the site.

“These are just amorphous buildings in a sea of asphalt right now,” he said.

 

Strategic Investment Area officially city policy

In other business, the commission recommended amending the city’s Comprehensive Plan to include recommendations made as part of a recent Strategic Investment Area study.

The area targeted for new public and private investments include about 330 acres around the Ix warehouse complex and along Avon Street and stretches as far north as the former Martha Jefferson Hospital.

“The intent of this was to look at how to re-imagine that area so it can become an area where there is a vibrant mix of uses, mixed incomes for housing, and improved public space,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.

The study, which was completed by the firm Cunningham Quill, included many recommendations for how the city could change its code to facilitate development.

Some of these recommendations built on previous plans to redevelop the city’s public housing sites and other subsidized housing complexes such as Friendship Court.

Incorporating the study into the Comprehensive Plan gives more detail to the city’s main blueprint.

“The Comprehensive Plan is a general plan and this is drilling down and getting more specific,” Tolbert said.

The owner of a large piece of property in the middle of the study area supported the move.

“I’m so excited,” said Ludwig Kuttner, the owner of the Ix property. “This was a great process. We are looking forward to this project. We need something to jumpstart it.”

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