Learn MoreDesign panel not receptive to demolition of West Main housesCharlottesville Planning Commission recommends lower buildings for West MainCouncil wants more time to decide on West Main rezoning
Several members of the public called for the action at a public hearing Tuesday.
“I applaud our zoning laws and whatever you guys can do to preserve the quality of Charlottesville for all of us citizens who live here,” said city resident Maria Chapel.
The rezoning stems from a study of the West Main streetscape that has been underway since 2013. The changes would reconfigure the street’s two zoning districts into eastern and western ends rather than northern and southern ones.
The commission recommended the rezoning at its meeting in October. However, the City Council referred it back to the commission in early November to consider whether the Midway Manor property at 100 Ridge St. should be included in the new West Main East zoning district.
That zone limits the maximum height to 52 feet, and representatives of Midway Manor wanted to retain the ability to go higher on the property.
“The West Main Street and Ridge Street intersection is surrounded by a variety of different districts,” said Carrie Rainey, the city’s urban planner. “If the Midway Manor site is allowed to have a building height that is much greater than West Main East, it could become a disjointed streetscape.”
However, representatives of the property argued that they were being singled out and their development potential would be restricted.
“Application of the West Main East rezoning to 100 Ridge St. will not further the objectives of the zoning to protect the character of West Main Street but will instead unfairly and without broad community benefit limit this property,” said Mark Rinaldi.
Commissioners voted 4-2 to include the property in the West Main East district after considering several other possibilities.
“This has been part of a comprehensive process that’s gone on for almost two years now,” said Planning Commission member Genevieve Keller. “There’s no reason at this time to take it out of West Main.”
The ability to ask for a special-use permit for additional height also would be removed as part of the rezoning.
Currently, developers can build as high as 101 feet with a special-use permit on the southern side of West Main. Such permits were granted for the Flats at West Village, the Uncommon and the proposed Sycamore Hotel at 1106 W. Main.
One property owner welcomed that change.
“There is a unique opportunity for the city to step in and not further compound what I think were unfortunate misjudgments in allowing those special-use permits,” said Scott Payton, one of the owners of the Hampton Inn & Suites. “I realize this is in essence a downzoning but I am in full favor of it.”
The commission also discussed whether the Amtrak station and adjacent property should be included in the new West Main West district, which would allow heights up to 75 feet.
The commission had agreed in October to include it in the eastern side, but the City Council asked the commission to reexamine the inclusion after the property owner complained.
“Our client objects to the downzoning of this property through what they feel is an arbitrary method,” said Page Williams, who represents Union Station Partners, the owner of the land. “I understand that there is a development or two that are on West Main that may not have turned out how they were expected to turn out, but the city has long promoted development of the West Main Street corridor.”
In the end, the commission agreed to support a compromise that would allow the West Main West district on a portion of the property but with the lower zoning east of Cream Street to protect First Baptist Church.
“This recommendation was given in order to allow additional height and potential density in one of the few remaining unbuilt sites in the corridor,” Rainey said.
The commission also debated how far back buildings should be set from the street, whether to change the rules for rooftop appurtenances and whether to change the way building heights are calculated city-wide.
The council is expected to take a final vote on the zoning at its meeting Dec. 21.