City officials hold joint meeting on development issues

On July 13 , 2006 the Charlottesville City Council held a joint work session with the City Planning Commission and the Board of Architectural (BAR) review.

In the first half of the meeting Council members and Planning Commissioners considered land use and transportation issues in the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The second half of the meeting included the BAR members for a review of downtown development issues related to zoning for building height and design, as well as historic preservation.  [

Download meeting agenda as a PDF


The Daily Progress

covered the story



Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced two separate podcasts

of this event and provides highlights of the key points below.

Podcast #1 — Joint meeting of City Council and Planning Commission

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:


Highlights of Podcast #1

01:10 — The meeting opens with Mayor David Brown welcoming everyone and giving a brief summary of the agenda for the meeting.

04:00 — Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services, begins an overview presentation.

05:00 — Woolen


05:00 — Jim Tolbert gives an overview of the issues in the Woolen Mills neighborhood and describes a strategy to get away from manufacturing/heavy commercial zoning towards mixed use with additional residential.

12:09 — Kevin Lynch (City Council) indicates support for a new road that would go from Franklin Street to Mead Avenue to support improved access and serve as a boundary between industrial and mixed use areas.

30:38 — Kendra Hamilton (City Council) cautions officials to not create special exception for Woolen Mills because other neighborhoods have this mix of zoning types too.

32:34 — Cheri Lewis (Planning Commission) encourages outreach to Woolen Mills residents to see where exactly they would prefer business in their area.

40:00 — Martha Jefferson Hospital Neighborhood Area

40:00 — Jim Tolbert presents the issues that necessitate consideration of re-zoning in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood as a result of the hospital’s relocation to Pantops in Albemarle County.

43:00 — Jim Tolbert expresses interest in taking a close look at land use needs all the way from the hospital, down High Street, all the way to the Route 250 bypass.

50:58 — Cherry Avenue Corridor

50:58 — Jim Tolbert describes the need to examine land use issues in the Cherry Avenue Corridor.

1:06:00 — Cheri Lewis suggests City needs to identify and enforce proper percentages for commercial activity in mixed use projects.

1:09:24 — Rose Hill Neighborhood

1:09:24 — Mr. Tolbert explains that the Rose Hill Neighborhood has issues that are similar to Woolen Mills. There is interest by the neighborhood to change zoning to be mostly residential in area West of railroad tracks and Harris Street.

1:18:15 — Fry’s Springs

1:18:15 — Mr. Tolbert reports that residents would like to downzone areas of the neighborhood away from two family housing (R-2) and towards more single family housing (R-1).

1:21:23 — Mayor David Brown describes the need for affordable rental housing which has to be balanced with single family owner-occupied housing desires of residents.

Podcast #2 — Joint meeting of City Council, Planning Commission and BAR

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:


Highlights of Podcast #2

03:53 — Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services, debunks the myth that in 2003 the building height limit was raised to 9 stories or 101 feet.

In fact, the building height limit was set in 1972 to 175′ and this was lowered in 1985 to 101′ where it remains today.

06:45 — Jim Tolbert describes design guidelines for Downtown architectural design control district

08:20 —

Jim Tolbert outlines

three main questions for consideration by the gathered officials

What is the proper scale and mass for the Downtown Mall? Is nine stories the appropriate height?

May the BAR consider any other items than they do currently when reviewing demolition requests? Does the BAR have all the appropriate tools?

Should the future development plans for a site be considered when evaluating a demolition request?

10:10 — [Brief break in recording]

11:10 — Kevin Lynch (City Council) suggests that adherence to historic preservation guidelines in Downtown Mall area will greatly limit construction of where 9-story buildings could be built.  Discusses how narrow profile of the Monticello Hotel building (referred to as “Court Square Building”) is an example of a tower that works well.  [Note: This building is about 114′ from East Jefferson to the top of parapet.]

16:23 — Mayor David Brown says sunlight and shadow studies would be beneficial for future building projects.

21:54 — Jim Tolbert describes project they are working on with UVA to have all downtown buildings added to a computer digital model that would allow future building proposals to be seen in context.  He references the new

Google Sketch Up

application as a system that will be able to use this data.

24:15 — Parking challenges identified as a concern of developer and residents downtown.  Currently this is a “parking exempt district,” but developers want to make their projects viable by including parking in their projects.

26:40 — Blake Caravati (Former City Councilor) says City should go to General Assembly to get authority for BAR to give additional consideration to what might replace historical properties that are demolished.

30:30 — Jim Tolbert wraps up this section.  Indicates that he heard officials express interest in looking at ordinances to address handling of building stepbacks (building mass gets smaller as it goes up) by incorporating sunlight studies and to evaluate building volume limitations in ordinance, and building articulation requirements (ways in which long building facades are broken up).  Cheri Lewis (Planning Commission) encourages investigation into more stringent height limitations on South side of the Mall, including Water Street and asks for an assessment of downzoning impacts on property rights.

40:35 — Discussion begins of demolition issues.  Lynne Heetderks[?] (BAR) expresses view that the BAR should not consider what is being proposed to be built when considering a demolition request of a historic building since there is no way to guarantee what will ultimately be built in its place. BAR is not permitted to make demolition permits conditional on a promise of what will replace it.  There is no enforcement mechanism.

54:00 — Kevin Lynch indicates BAR is in a better position to make this determination than City Council because of their expertise.  What comes next is important and should be considered.  Council would benefit from BAR’s direction.

1:00:40 — On partial demolitions, Mayor Brown indicates it would be helpful for BAR to provide commentary to City Council on buildings being proposed.

1:11:05 — Kevin Lynch expresses skepticism that the City would have to get enabling authority from General Assembly.  Demolition and new building criteria could just be changed by City Council.

1:13:40 — Kendra Hamilton (City Council) says that if General Assembly needs to be approached, it would be better if development community was involved and supportive in a partnership with City.

1:16:30 — Discussion of appeal process and factors City Council may consider beyond guidelines before BAR.  Perception that BAR made a mistake when Council overturns a BAR decision.  These decisions by City Council do not sit well with BAR, even though they understand other issues are under consideration.

1:19:45 — Mayor Brown suggests that two City Councilors and two BAR members meet further with staff on demolition guidelines.

Brian Wheeler