Church seeks approval to construct 15 apartments

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Hinton Avenue rezoning for apartments on church property pulled from agendaSupporters of Belmont church apartment proposal pack city meeting

Charlottesville City Council Chambers overflowed Monday night with Belmont residents and the congregation and supporters of Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church.

Residents largely turned out in numbers to voice their opposition to the rezoning of 750 Hinton Ave. to the neighborhood commercial corridor designation. Sue Woodson, of the United Method Church, requested the change from the existing R-1S residential to create 15-unit apartment building. The maximum height of 38 feet was proffered, and at least four units for people will be reserved as affordable. If the development receives low-income tax credits, all the units will be affordable for households at 80% or less the area median income, church officials said.

At the June 11 Planning Commission meeting, 26 members of the public spoke on the proposal in a public hearing. Concerns about noise from HVAC equipment and worries about traffic congestion were mentioned. The commission ultimately voted, 6-0, to recommend that the City Council approve the rezoning application.

Councilor Kathy Galvin asked for further clarification on the distinction between the proposed proffers — specifically concerning those in the site plans versus operational proffers. The differences between these proffer types were defined as one being a physical implementation while the latter being handled exclusively through management.

Applicant Kim Crater spoke on behalf of Charlottesville District of the United Methodist Church, and said that Rachel’s Haven was a vision to house residents with developmental disabilities. The complex’s namesake is the Rev. Robert Lewis’ late wife, who ministered to people with developmental disabilities.

Crater invited all those in support of the proposal to stand. Over 40 people stood in agreement.

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Nearly three dozen residents stand in agreement with applicant Kim Crater's 750 Hinton Avenue rezoning proposal.

Credit: Norah Mulinda/Charlottesville Tomorrow

“The main goal of this project, providing independent living for those with developmental disabilities, puts it squarely in line with these goals of the Charlottesville [Comprehensive] Plan,” Andy Thomas, an architect, said.

 The Comprehensive Plan is a state-mandated guiding document for land use. Charlottesville currently is revising its plan.

 The church attempted to assuage the Belmont community’s concerns with the NCC zoning, which is what the restaurants in downtown Belmont fall under and is the only one that would allow apartments on the church’s property. Should the church cease to exist, the property would revert to the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, which would be required to designate another ministry use for the property or find an organization consistent with the church’s values, Crater said.

The submitted proffers apply to both the church and any potential future owners and prohibits all commercial uses other than “educational facilities (non-residential) and day care facilities … [that] are not accessory to a house of worship or to residential uses,” according to the staff report.

“Regardless of who owns the property, commercial uses will not be an option,” Crater said.

“We intend for Rachel’s Haven to be managed in a way that allows it to be a blessing, not only for our neighbors with developmental disabilities and out low-income neighbors, but also for our Belmont neighbors.”

The applicant added that the church would be the closest neighbor to the property, and alongside the Belmont community, the congregation does not want to hear loud HVAC noise. 

Susan Minasian, pastor of Sojourner’s United Church of Christ, began her comments by reading the City Council’s vision statement, which speaks to quality housing opportunities for all its constituents.

“The concerns I heard about issues [regarding the proposal] are things that are already problematic, which have not been addressed, and to me sound like old news.” said Minasian. 

She suggested a collaboration between neighbors and the council to solve these issues, so that their long-lasting effects can be removed from being a barrier for the Hinton Avenue project. 

“The welfare of the city and underserved residents … should be your priority.” 

Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association President Kimber Hawkey spoke in opposition of the project. She would like disabilities and affordability to be written explicitly in black and white. 

“The NCC zoning that is being pushed shows that we are being confronted by outside sources of money in the city,” Hawkey said.

Monday night’s public hearing was the first of two readings. The City Council has yet to make a final decision on the rezoning request.

 Upon approval, the United Methodist Church said it plans to apply for low-income tax credits by next spring.

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Charlottesville City Council Chambers overflowed Monday night with Belmont residents the congregation and supporters of Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church.

Credit: Norah Mulinda/Charlottesville Tomorrow