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With Charlottesville’s City Council set to consider a permit for a new, five-story building on East Market Street on Monday night, the president of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association wants its members to weigh the project’s impact on the greater community.
“As development takes place in and around the city, it has cumulative effects on neighborhoods,” said Bruce Odell. “The city can’t assume that everything will remain in a static state in the neighborhoods.”
On Monday, the council is expected to decide whether to grant a special-use permit that would allow Woodard Properties and CMB Development additional density at 925 E. Market St. Plans show 56 housing units, 18,690 square feet of commercial space and a two-level parking garage. The zoning code allows a five-story building by-right.
“The property enjoys close proximity to the popular Downtown Mall and is close to employment centers at SNL, Lexus Nexus, CFA, city courts and professional buildings,” reads the application for the permit.
The CFA Institute will move into the city from Albemarle County sometime in 2014, bringing hundreds of jobs to the downtown area. At the same time, 301 new apartment units are under construction at the City Walk development and the city is also considering a rezoning for several dozen units on Water Street Extended
Odell said he is concerned the city has not planned for the additional traffic he believes will be added to his neighborhood’s main road.
“What we want the city to do is to come to grips with the traffic issues along Locust Avenue,” Odell said.
Traffic issues came up when the Planning Commission considered the project in August. One condition of approval was that only one entrance could be made onto 10th Street rather than the two planned.
However, the developer had logistical difficulties meeting that requirement, but will attempt to use landscaping to mask a second entrance onto 10th Street.
Justin Shimp, an engineer with the developer, said he has calculated that the project will generate a maximum of 148 vehicle trips during peak hours, compared with 92 an hour generated by the daycare that operates on the site now.
“The traffic generation figures show a minor potential increase for the site,” Shimp wrote in an email to city planner Michael Smith. Shimp argued the apartments will help the city by satisfying a demand for people who want to live and work downtown.
“Projects like 925 East Market that minimize the distance between the beginning and ending of a trip will ultimately prove a benefit on the overall transportation network within the city as the city continues to grow,” Shimp wrote.
Odell said he does not want the 925 E. Market project to be stopped, but that the city must prepare for the additional traffic. He also pointed out the daycare is just moving a block down East Market, so those 92 trips will still be in the neighborhood.
Odell said he has read the staff report, but said he felt it minimized his neighborhood’s concerns about Locust Avenue.
Odell said he did not have a specific improvement in mind for Locust Avenue, but some possibilities include a northbound bike lane, narrowing the traffic, and curb extensions.
“We are mindful this is a collector road, and we are not trying to turn it into a local street,” Odell said.