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City Planning Commission recommends rejecting Hogwaller Farm plan

The Charlottesville Planning Commission expressed frustration at times during deliberations leading to split decisions to deny the rezoning and a special-use permit for the proposed Hogwaller Farm development.

Justin Shimp, of Shimp Engineering, has brought the application for the development, which straddles the Charlottesville-Albemarle County line, before commissioners on several occasions throughout the year.

“Specifically, we have heard this four times,” Lisa Green, chair of the Planning Commission said.

Under the proposal, the roughly 9-acre development would include two apartment buildings with 30 one- and two-bedroom units, a greenhouse and a farm store on less than an acre in the city. Albemarle supervisors have approved rezoning the 7.5 acres of the property within its borders from light industrial to rural to accommodate for parking, farmland and sheds. The city had deferred voting on the project until after the county’s decision.

In the city, Shimp is seeking a rezoning from R-2 Residential to Highway Corridor and a special-use permit to allow for additional housing units, a greenhouse and a farm store. The property is located along Nassau Street in the Belmont-Carlton neighborhood between Linden Avenue and Florence Road.

In the rezoning’s proffer statement, 10 percent of the apartments would be reserved for a dozen years as affordable units for household making up to 50 percent of the area median income.

Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg asked about the enforcement of those housing units and whether housing vouchers would be accepted.

They will monitor the affordable housing units for compliance and report back to the city yearly, Shimp said.

“As far as the vouchers, we fully intend to accept those,” he said.

Green asked how the city handed proffer violations.

Lisa Robertson, the chief deputy city attorney, said proffers become zoning regulations.

“In order to pursue a violation, zoning staff has to develop evidence that there is a violation,” Robertson said. “Part of the problem that we’ve had over the years is that when a proffer promises something but doesn’t have specific requirements about how it’s supposed to be done, it’s very difficult to enforce.”

In the public hearing, citizens voiced concerns about the potential for flooding on the property. A portion of the land lies in the 100-year floodplain, and flooding events that included an inundation of Nassau Street has been observed since the 1930s.

Building in the floodplain is allowed by-right, and Shimp has city and Federal Emergency Management Agency approval, he said.

“It’s not a question of will this be built there or not, it’s what will be,” Shimp said.

During the meeting, Shimp distributed to the commission that included some responses and clarifications to questions and comments from commissioners. Also in the packet was a revised map that removed the majority of the proposed residential units outside of Moores Creek floodplain.

“Most of the property is out of the floodplain, not in it,” Shimp said, adding that there would be some minor fill added to the rear of the lot to accommodate the construction of the building.

During the discussion, Green accessed the FEMA floodplain information that contradicted the revised map in the addendum.  Shimp said that the information was there but not in an easily accessible place.

“It’s hidden away, but it’s there. … That is the legal floodplain boundary elevation,” he said.

Commissioners Jody Lahendro and Taneia Dowell questioned the handout as it included new information city staff had not seen before the meeting. The commissioners said the Hogwaller proposal wasn’t the most egregious example, but there had been a pattern at the Planning Commission level.

“I’m extremely uncomfortable with new edits, new changes being made by the applicant at our meeting, not giving the staff the opportunity to review it ahead of time and not giving the public the opportunity to review them,” Lahendro said.

“It is not fair to the Planning Commission, staff or our city residents that people come the night of their presentation with new information or with handouts, …” Dowell said. “If you are coming to speak, do not hand us handouts. It’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to us. … We as a body have to stop accepting it.”

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Commissioners voted, 3-2, to recommend a denial of the rezoning with Stolzenberg and Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates voting no. The vote against the special-use permit fell on the same lines.

A motion on a memo to the City Council on suggested adjustments to the SUP, in the event that the council decides to approve the project, passed, 4-1, with Stolzenberg voting no.

Commissioners Gary Heaton and Hosea Mitchell were absent.

If the City Council votes in favor of Hogwaller Farms, it could wind up with a new name.

After hearing concerns about the use of the Hogwaller name in the development, commissioners asked for input from the Human Rights Commission. Objections to the name stem from the area’s history as the site of a livestock market and that leading to Hogwaller being used as a pejorative term.

“Planning Commission member should engage the residents of the Hogwaller neighborhood to see what they think about the development name. If the Planning Commission feels strongly about using the name, that it be called Waller Farms and not Hogwaller. The development could be called something else, but a historic plaque [could] be added to acknowledge the neighborhood name,” an email from Charlene Green, manager of the Office of Human Rights, states.

“To me, as someone from more of a rural background, … that was us. When I think of the Hogwaller, … I feel good about that. That’s to me, a place where I would live,” Shimp said. “I’m not offended by hogs or living by hogs. … Until I hear something more concrete, I think it’s a good name. I think it does honor to the history there, and I’d like to keep that going.”

Although it originally was billed as a joint City Council-Planning Commission meeting, no councilors were in attendance Tuesday evening. There now will be a second opportunity for comment on the public hearing items when they come before the City Council at a subsequent meeting.