Rendering of aerial view for 1011 East Jefferson Place Credit: Credit: Henningsen Kestner

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has issued its final approval of a preliminary site plan for an apartment complex at 1011 E. Jefferson St. that could have up to 127 units.

“Approval of a site plan is a ministerial function [over] which the Planning Commission has little or no discretion,” reads the staff report for the item. “When an applicant has submitted a site plan that complies with the requirements of the city’s site plan ordinance, then approval of the plan must be granted.”

The Jefferson Medical Building Limited Partnership has spent the past two years seeking approval of a plan to replace a two-story building with a residential complex. The Great Eastern Management Company is undertaking the development work.

The B-1 zoning for the 1.4-acre property allows for 21 dwelling units per acre. A special-use permit was required for additional residential density.

The Planning Commission voted, 4-3, in October 2016 to recommend denial of request. At that time, all sides of the building were four stories tall.

When the City Council held a public hearing on the request last July, the conceptual drawing had changed.

“Specifically, what has been discussed is the modification to have three stories on the 11th Street side of the building and five stories on the 10th Street side of the building,” said Carrie Rainey, an urban planner with the city.

Council approved the special-use permit in July in a 3-2 vote.

The preliminary site plan first came before the Planning Commission in January. Neighbors had pointed out that the footprint of the building had been expanded by about 10 percent following the City Council’s approval.

“Commissioners and the public expressed concerns about a modification to the rear of the building,” Rainey said. “At that meeting, the applicant requested to defer a vote in order to modify the preliminary site plan to bring the building back to the original form as shown in the conceptual plan.”

The commission’s action came after a brief discussion Wednesday.

“We have a conceptual plan and we have a preliminary site plan and our charge tonight is to determine whether this preliminary site plan is in substantial accord with what was submitted,” Chairwoman Lisa Green said.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller had voted against the permit, and she said she expected the neighborhood would be disappointed. However, she said city staff had convinced her that the commission’s choices were limited.

“Earlier today, I had a conversation with our attorney, and her comments to me and those of Ms. Rainey earlier this evening have convinced me that this is in compliance sufficiently with what council approved against our recommendations,” Keller said.

“We really have no choice rather than to vote on this tonight,” she said

The commission voted, 5-0, to approve the preliminary site plan. Commissioners John Santoski and Corey Clayborne were not present. There is no appeal to the City Council.

GEMC has not yet decided if the affordable units required as part of the permit will be constructed in the building or built nearby in another property managed by the company. A decision will be made as the project nears final site plan approval.