By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood is likely to get another restaurant as Charlottesville City Council appears poised to expand Belmont’s commercial district.  A majority of City Councilors indicated their support to rezone 814 Hinton Avenue from residential to Neighborhood Commercial Corridor (NCC) zoning at their meeting on June 1, 2009.

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The Planning Commission had recommended denial of the rezoning at its meeting on May 12, 2009 on a 4-2 vote. City Planner Brian Haluska told Council the Commission was receptive to neighborhood concerns that Belmont’s evolution as a restaurant district has caused traffic, parking and noise problems for residents.

The NCC designation was given to the area in 1949 with the boundary for Hinton Avenue being set between 814 and 816 Hinton Avenue. In the past 5 years, 816 Hinton has been developed from a residence into the Belmont Barbecue restaurant, and the owners of 814 had argued before the Planning Commission that they had lost the ability to enjoy their property as a residence. In their request before the Commission in May, they made several proffers to address neighborhood concerns.

Attorney Andrew Sneathern (right)
shows Councilors photographs demonstrating the close proximity of his
clients’ house to the adjoining restaurant

Attorney Andrew Sneathern, representing the owners of 814 Hinton, told Council that the NCC designation was created in order to give City residents a commercial hub within walking distance. He said that 60 years later, that logic now has an environmental benefit to it as well. He said the existing boundary between 814 and 816 is against the principles embedded in the City’s zoning ordinances.

“One of the objectives of the [NCC] corridor is to have a place where people want to walk, not to increase parking, but rather to reduce the necessity to have people get in their car and drive to a destination,” Sneathern said. He said an extension of the NCC zoning, as well as the applicant’s willingness to create a buffer, would be appropriate.


Dave Norris

asked Haluska if he thought the rezoning of 814 Hinton would create a precedent that would encourage other residences to apply for rezoning. Haluska said while any owner could decide to go through the rezoning process, 814 Hinton contains a lot of open space between it and the next house over, allowing for the buffer to be created.

Norris, who was in attendance at the May public hearing before the Planning Commission, said he felt many of the opponents of the rezoning were using the rezoning of 814 Hinton as an opportunity to raise serious concerns about how their neighborhood has been transformed. With their concerns in mind, he

asked Haluska what the City could do to address their concerns. Haluska suggested that the City could tighten up its noise ordinance, and mentioned that the Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association is looking at options to address parking and traffic.

Customers enjoy a meal on the patio at Belmont BBQ at 816 Hinton Avenue. Soon, the house directly behind will be the location for the new Southern Crescent restaurant, which will feature French cuisine


David Brown

said that he agreed with the comments, made by Planning Commission Chairman Jason Pearson, that rezoning the property would create a more natural buffer. However, he also said the neighborhood concerns are serious, but Brown announced he would support the rezoning.


Holly Edwards

said since the May Planning Commission meeting, she has frequently visited the Belmont neighborhood and noticed that she saw many of the opponents sitting and eating at the outdoor patios at the various restaurants. Edwards said she struggled with her decision because the Belmont neighborhood already appears to be a thriving alternative to downtown. She said her support was contingent on the community coming together to address parking and traffic concerns.

Norris agreed with Edwards, and he said ‘clear actions’ needed to be taken by City staff and the neighborhood association.

“But I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to hold this particular applicant hostage to some of the broader concerns, so I will be supporting the rezoning,” Norris said.

The rezoning’s second reading will be held on June 15, 2009.


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