The Charlottesville Planning Commission considered on Tuesday a special-use permit that would allow for 102 homes to be built on land that was most recently used as a concrete plant.
However, a final recommendation was not made by press time as commissioners worked out conditions by which they could support the project moving forward.
“Your decision is on whether this density is appropriate,” city planner Ebony Walden told the commission and members of the City Council who were present at Tuesday’s public hearing.
The nearly 6-acre site is the former home of the H.T. Ferron concrete plant at the intersection of Franklin and Carlton avenues. The property is just south of the CSX railroad line that is operated by Buckingham Branch.
The land is currently zoned for manufacturing and industrial use and a special-use permit is required to allow home construction.
A 20,000-square-foot adult day care facility known as the Blue Ridge PACE Center is currently under construction in the middle of the property. The project is a joint venture of Riverside Health Systems, the University of Virginia Health System and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging.
The permit would allow for construction of homes on either side of the PACE Center.
One side would be a 36-unit building that would be targeted to seniors who would also be clients of the PACE Center.
“The PACE program targets persons who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare,” said Chris Murray, manager of business development for JABA.
“The reason why we’re so interested in building houses next door is because one of the problems with the American health care system is we are not linking housing with medical care,” Murray added.
Murray said only this first residential building is currently being planned. The exact make-up for the other cluster of homes will not be known until after a market study is completed but Murray said he would like to be dedicated to workforce housing.
The City Council has awarded JABA $500,000 toward the project contingent on the award of the special-use permit, as well as the award of low-income housing tax credits. Murray said they cannot apply for the tax credits until after the permit is granted, but could not offer a firm timetable.
Residential development would create an additional 558 vehicle trips per weekday, according to a traffic study conducted by the city.
The city’s office of economic development has concerns about losing industrial land. There are only nine vacant acres of city land zoned for industrial use.
“Currently, only 100 acres of unimproved parcels exist in zoning categories that permit business-related activities,” said Hollie Lee, the city’s economic development specialist, in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “It is critical to consider the impact that changing this parcel’s use could potentially have on the city’s tax base and its ability to create a diverse mix of employment opportunities for city residents.”
Under zoning, the total height of the residential buildings could be as much as 85 feet, but the applicant only proposed a maximum of four stories. Staff recommended conditioning approval on only allowing the buildings to be a maximum of 50 feet.
Farther up Carlton Avenue is Habitat for Humanity’s Sunrise Court development, which has replaced trailers with single-family homes and a multi-family apartment building.
Directly across the street is a 6.3-acre trailer park where Charles Henderson has lived for the past seven years.
“I think it’s a good idea for them to do that,” Henderson said. “If we have to move, we have to move … I don’t think this will be a trailer park in 10 years.”
Henderson said he is waiting for a spot on the Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority’s list.
Several commissioners wanted to know how much dialogue there has been between the developers and the neighborhood. Walden said a site plan conference was held on April 17 and two people attended.
Bill Emory, a resident of Market Street, appeared at the hearing to express a concern.
“Lighting is a particular concern both for all the residents of the Woolen Mills neighborhood,” Emory said.
The commission appeared supportive of the permit, but still had concerns.
“From my perspective, the use is appropriate and there are some things that can be mitigated with conditions,” said Commission Dan Rosensweig, who is also Habitat’s executive director. He suggested one condition could be requiring lighting to be compliant with the dark-skies ordinance, as well as a certain percentage of affordable housing.
“I can see residential use being appropriate here, but I’m disappointed we didn’t have more guidance on conditions because I think there are some effects that could be mitigated,” said
Commission Chairwoman Genevieve Keller. “What would have been helpful is seeing this a month ago.”