The Albemarle County Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended allowing one of the developers of the Hollymead Town Center to alter where townhomes and non-residential units would be built in their portion of the mixed-use development.
Charles Hurt and Katurah Roell are seeking the county’s permission to build 44 townhomes where a parking lot originally had been envisioned.
They also want to eliminate a requirement that a minimum of 32,000 square feet of commercial or office space be built within a second nearby block. That would allow construction of another 30 townhomes.
The Hollymead Town Center was rezoned over several phases dating back to 2003.
The shopping center anchored by a Harris Teeter grocery store and a Target was approved as part of a group of parcels known as Area B.
The residential community of Abingdon Place is in a region known as Area D.
Both blocks that went before the planning commission Tuesday, numbered 4 and 6, are in the town center’s Area C, located toward the north and west of the overall project.
Both are undeveloped, but Hurt and Roell have completed townhomes on an adjacent section known as Block 5.
Area C is approved for a total of 120 townhomes and the pair does not seek additional residential density.
When Area C was rezoned in 2003, the approved code of development called for a parking lot to be built in Block 6 and a mix of non-residential uses in Block 4.
“The applicant has described a low market need for non-residential uses in this portion of the development,” said county planner Claudette Grant.
Roell said the market has changed since 2003, and eliminating the parking lot would allow for more residential units.
“Block 4, when it was conceived of, was three- or four-story multistory buildings with a ground floor of retail and then upper floors of office or residential,” Roell said. “There was no on-block parking at all, and so in order to accommodate for up to 30 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial, it had to have some place close by to park.”
The county’s neighborhood model calls for walkable communities. Grant said the rezoning proposal meets most of the neighborhood model’s 12 principles.
She recommended approval of the changes, which requires the original rezoning approval to be amended.
“The proposed reduction of 32,000 square feet of non-residential space in Block 4 could reduce future opportunities to locate businesses,” Grant said. “However, there remains a large inventory of land and buildable square footage within both the Hollymead Town Center and the greater Hollymead Development Area to support future business needs.”
“There’s still quite a bit of area in the rest of Area C and the adjoining Area A for several hundred thousand square feet of commercial and other additional mixed uses,” Roell said.
Grant said these townhomes would still satisfy county development goals because they would be within walking distance to Hollymead shops, as well as jobs at places such as MicroAire in the former United States Post Office processing center.
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend the rezoning, with Commissioner Karen Firehock absent.
“Generally I’m in favor of this proposal, and it does not give me heartburn with the commercial space we have vacant and undeveloped in the community and in the vicinity,” said Commissioner Bruce Dotson.
No one spoke at the commission’s public hearing.
Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum said he had no opinion on how the Board of Supervisors should proceed, but questioned the level of detail that had been required at the original rezoning.
“The amount of commercial space being lost is minimal and there is no change in overall residential density,” Williamson said in an email.
“Because of the incredible detail required at the initial rezoning phase, this applicant now has to go through the process a second time to meet market demands,” Williamson added.
In an interview following the recommendation, Roell said the code of development is a “fairly onerous” document that required spending over $25,000 and nine months of work to change.
Morgan Butler, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in an email he was not concerned the amendment would set a precedent away from the neighborhood model.
“There is certainly a mix of commercial and residential uses if you’re looking down at the town center area from 30,000 feet, but it’s unfortunate that we’re not seeing the uses better integrated with one another,” Butler said.
“Hopefully, the remaining pieces will be developed with more of the mixed-use pattern that was promised and approved,” Butler said.
Roell said there is a builder who wants to purchase his lots, but that cannot happen until after the Board of Supervisors makes it decision. A public hearing date before that body has not yet been scheduled.