Rendering of proposed Blue Moon development Credit: Credit: Bushman Dreyfus Architects

The Charlottesville City Council has cleared the way for a six-story apartment building to be constructed behind the existing Blue Moon Diner on West Main Street.

Council voted, 3-1, Monday to grant a special-use permit for Heirloom LLC that will allow up to 180 units per acre on the site, or a maximum of about 60 units, given the size of the parcel, which is about one-third of an acre.

“We do not yet know what our exact unit mix will be, but current design shows studio, one bedroom and two bedroom units, with a total of approximately 50 units,” said L.J. Lopez of Milestone Partners, a firm assisting Heirloom with the application.

Councilor Bob Fenwick voted against the permit. Councilor Kathy Galvin was not present at the meeting.

Without the permit, the company could only build about 15 units in the development, based upon a by-right density of 43 units per acre.

Heirloom had originally sought permission to demolish the buildings that currently house the Blue Moon Diner and a convenience store, but the Board of Architectural Review signaled last November they would not grant a permit to do so.

The firm then approached the city with a plan that would incorporate the two structures. They formally requested an increase of the density to 200 units per acre. They also asked for a relaxation of city parking rules that require one space per unit.

In May, the Planning Commission only recommended 180 units per acre but agreed to reduce the parking requirement to half a space per unit.

However, many in surrounding neighborhoods expressed concerns that loosening parking requirements would mean vehicles would turn up on side streets.

“Since the Planning Commission’s decision, [city planners], the deputy city attorney and Councilor Kathy Galvin have been working with the representatives for the developer to come up with acceptable alternative conditions,” said Alexander Ikefuna, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services.

The resolution adopted by councilors would require a parking space for each one- or two-bedroom unit, but studio apartments would only require a half space per unit.

“In the [parking] modification, we were particularly focused on these smaller units, which we believe pretty confidently will attract people who don’t necessarily have to have a car,” said Maynard Sipe, an attorney representing Heirloom.

The resolution adopted by the council defines a studio unit as being between 350 square feet and 550 square feet. Up to 40 percent of the building can be made up of these studio units.

City code requires spaces to be provided within 1,000 feet of the development or for the developer to make a contribution to the city’s parking fund.

Ikefuna said at least 40 percent of the parking spaces will be provided on the site and the rest of the spaces will be provided off-site. Compliance must be demonstrated before a certificate of occupancy will be issued.

“There will be an agreement between the developer and the receiving offsite parking area for an increment of five years,” Ikefuna said. Zoning administrators will review renewals of these leases to ensure that offsite parking is still provided.

The developer also will have to provide a parking demand management plan that demonstrates how parking requirements will be met.

Sipe told the council the details of that plan have yet to be worked out.

In other action, City Council approved the transfer of $500,000 from the capital budget into an account that formally starts the city’s new parking department.

Studies in both 2008 and 2015 urged the city to create a department that manages off-street and on-street parking.
“The funding will be used for staffing and infrastructure related to the installation of a metering system, feasibility studies of new potential parking facilities and other costs directly related to the establishment of the department,” Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director, wrote in a staff report.

The city is currently embroiled in a series of legal disputes with the private Charlottesville Parking Center over the future of the Water Street Parking Garage.

A hearing on whether an emergency receiver should be appointed to manage the affairs of the garage will be held in Charlottesville Circuit Court at 3 p.m. June 27.