For the third time this year, the Albemarle County Planning Commission has recommended against lowering the amount of money a developer must pay for each home made possible through a rezoning.
“All of the requests for proffer reductions have come without any financial explanation except that the market is not as good as it used to be,” said Commissioner Karen Firehock. “This commission has not yet been given enough adequate information.”
Developer Beau Dickerson has requested a rezoning for a project called Avon Park II on land that has twice been through the process.
“The property is located along Avon Street Extended right before it connects with Route 20,” said Elaine Echols, the county’s acting director of planning.
The 5.2-acre site was previously rezoned from single-family residential to a higher residential density in 2007 by a different developer. A second rezoning in 2013 moved it to the “planned residential community” category that allowed for even more density.
Dickerson’s plan shows eight single-family homes and 22 townhomes.
When a site plan for the project was submitted to the county in 2014, a reviewer with the county’s fire and rescue department observed that the project needed a second entrance point.
“When the site plan could not be approved, they had to request a rezoning,” Echols said. “There are proffer changes that have also occurred with this rezoning request.”
One of those requests is to lower the value of the cash proffers required to be paid for each unit.
The amount set at the 2013 zoning was $13,913 for each townhouse and $20,461 for each detached home.
Since then, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that placed restrictions on how localities can calculate cash proffers. The county's Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee recommended last year that the Board of Supervisors adopt the lower figures of $3,845 for each townhome and $4,918 for each single-family detached unit.
Dickerson said he would pay significantly less if the new proffers are approved.
“Instead of paying $500,000 for cash proffers, I’d be paying $100,000,” Dickerson said.
The previous rezoning established that 15 percent of the homes would be reserved to families who make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. These homes had originally been envisioned as price-controlled rentals, but they will now be targeted for sale to target families.
“Real estate ownership is the way we grow wealth in this country,” Dickerson said. “Getting people in there that could not afford a home otherwise and having them have an opportunity for generational wealth is the goal.”
If the project moves forward, the affordable homes will be constructed by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville.
“It’s really important this moves forward from Habitat’s perspective,” said Don Franco, a developer who spoke on behalf of Habitat. “It’s a great opportunity because it gets us out into the different developments and keeps us from being consolidated just within the city.”
Dickerson said he is discounting the cost of lots to Habitat from $75,000 to about $40,000. He said this was one justification for why the cash proffers should be reduced.
However, commissioners were not interested in doing so.
“As the representative of the [Scottsville] district, there are clearly impacts that we need to pay for,” said Commissioner Pam Riley. “There are going to be traffic impacts. There are going to be children going to those schools. These proffers are much needed.”
“As the representative of the [Scottsville] district, there are clearly impacts that we need to pay for. There are going to be traffic impacts. There are going to be children going to those schools. These proffers are much needed.”
“If it was a viable project when he took it over, it still should be a viable project now,” said Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty. “He entered into a contract to do this development, and I think it would cause an undue precedent in this case to reduce the proffer.”
The commission made similar arguments earlier this year when it recommended denial of requests from developer Vito Cetta to reduce the cash proffers for Out of Bounds and Spring Hill Village. The Board of Supervisors was scheduled to take that matter up on Wednesday but had not voted by press time.
Neil Williamson, of the Free Enterprise Forum, was taken aback by the claims that there has not been enough information.
“The Board of Supervisors tasked a committee that met 18 times and provided a recommendation to follow a 2013 law that came forward to you,” Williamson said. “Why not act on the information you have?”
Avon Park II will go before the Board of Supervisors at a date to be determined.