Awaiting consultants to complete updated Comprehensive Plan, City planning commissioners hesitate to take a ‘piecemeal’ approach

As the city of Charlottesville seeks an outside consultant to finish updating its Comprehensive Plan, housing strategy and zoning ordinance, planning commissioners on Tuesday were split on recommending amendments to the current plan. 

The first amendment

would allow an increase in intensity of uses, as well as the allowable density of residential uses for a parcel on Maury Avenue — a property surrounded by student housing. The proposal is linked to a rezoning application from Charlie Armstrong, of Southern Properties LLC, who plans to construct student housing on the property. 

The current Comprehensive Plan, last updated in 2013, designates the parcel as a low density. In a 5-2 vote, commissioners voted in support of the amendment to allow high-density uses on the property. 

Meanwhile, commissioners rejected a proposal to upzone certain parcels in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood from R-1 to R-2 — the latter of which permits construction of duplex buildings.

The second rezoning proposal, borne out of a May 28 work session, seeks to mitigate the escalating cost of new homes in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood, as well as increasing influence from the nearby University of Virginia. 

“The UVa community is pushing farther and farther from the university, and it’s happening now,” Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates said. “It’s not happening next year; it’s not happening the following year.”

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The city issued a request for proposals June 24 for consultants to review and complete the city’s Comprehensive Plan update, which has been in the works since 2017. Charlottesville will accept bids from outside consultants until August 16. Until then, the project sits on the shelf.

Frustrated by the update’s stagnation, some commissioners expressed uneasiness about rezoning portions of individual neighborhoods, as opposed to a citywide approach.

“I do not feel comfortable only addressing Fry’s Spring. I do not feel comfortable only addressing one neighborhood,” Commissioner Taneia Dowell said. “I do feel comfortable addressing our city as a whole.”

Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg — who initially proposed the rezoning — pushed back. 

“If we’re not going to do anything ever until we do it comprehensively — really, should we just dissolve the commission … until the consultant gives us a plan?” Stolzenberg said. 

Without an expected completion date for the updated Comprehensive Plan, the commission’s discussion broadened to encompass their struggle to balance responsiveness to residents with comprehensive, long-range planning. 

“I’m hoping soon we will have a clearer path,” said Missy Creasy, assistant director of Neighborhood Development Services. 

A second reading of the Fry’s Spring rezoning proposal is scheduled to take place at the Aug. 19 City Council meeting. The Comprehensive Plan amendment for Maury Avenue will require a public hearing and two readings from City Council during its Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 meetings.