The developer of a proposed apartment complex on Avon Street Extended asked the Albemarle County Planning Commission for more time to address the commission’s concerns on Tuesday when it became clear the body would not approve his project as-is.
“We are all asking tough questions and that should not be the case at this point in time,” said Tim Keller, the planning commission chairman.
Property owner James Moss is seeking to change 0.91 acres at 2511 Avinity Drive from single-family residential to the county’s “planned residential district” zoning.
“The PRD is intended to promote economical and efficient land use, an improved level of amenities, appropriate and harmonious physical development, and creative design consistent with the best interest of the county and the area in which it is located,” reads the county’s zoning ordinance.
Commissioners were not convinced that the application from Moss was ready to meet those standards.
The property fronts Avon Street Extended where a single-family home currently stands, but the house would be demolished if the project moves forward. The plan for the unnamed apartment complex calls for the construction of 24 units in two buildings that would not be taller than three stories. The site is within walking distance of Cale Elementary School.
The county requires zonings to the PRD designation to have a minimum of three acres, but Moss is seeking a special exception.
The project is also next to the Avinity townhouse development.
Paul McArtor, a resident of Avinity Loop, at the public hearing gave several reasons that the project did not meet the county’s guidelines for the rezoning.
“Too much is trying to be put on [nine tenths of an acre],” McArtor said. “There’s not enough common space and not enough green space. Realistically, what is going to happen is that the tenants of this facility are going to use [our] common area and the amenities of Avinity.”
McArtor said that will add extra liability to the residents of Avinity, whose common areas eventually will be governed by and financed through a homeowners’ association.
Planning staff said the proposed density is in keeping with the “urban density residential” designation for the property in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. However, they could not recommend approval due to several concerns.
“The most important is verification that access can be provided to support this particular project,” said Elaine Echols, the county’s principal planner.
The plan shows the entrance to the new development on Avinity Drive. There is not enough frontage on Avon Street Extended for the Virginia Department of Transportation to access the property.
Echols said that the applicant had not sufficiently demonstrated that an easement can be negotiated with the developer of Avinity.
However, Moss’ representative before the Planning Commission argued that a 1963 deed, a 2000 plat and the rezoning for Avinity all demonstrate that the easement to Avinity Drive should be allowed.
“We’re on it, and essentially what happened … is that there should have been a deed describing it and who can use it,” said Justin Shimp of Shimp Engineering. “Somehow that slipped through the cracks.”
The applicant doesn’t have to have the easement agreement in place before a rezoning is approved, Echols said.
“They just need to give us something in writing that says they can work it out,” she said. “It’s typically what we do.”
Echols also said that many neighbors are concerned about whether the two buildings will be compatible with the townhouses next door.
“Because we’ve had a lot of concerns from the adjoining property owners about what this is going to look and feel like, we’ve asked for better information about the architecture,” Echols said.
In his closing remarks, Shimp said he felt the site could support density, and that not all apartment complexes need to have swimming pools. To assuage concerns about parking spilling over into the adjacent development, he said, the number of parking spaces was raised from 40 to 48.
“When I think about where’s a good place for density, this is a good place to start,” Shimp said, adding that he used the PRD approach to make the affordable housing requirement binding under county law.
The five commissioners present all expressed concerns that there were many outstanding questions.
Commissioner Pam Riley attended a community meeting for the project in March and said little has been done to persuade her to vote for approval.
“All of these issues were raised at the time, and I find it hard to understand why these issues haven’t been addressed,” she said. “We’ve had clear direction to not send applications on to the Board of Supervisors with this many issues.”
Shimp said he had heard from commissioners that they are not opposed to the PRD zoning but want more information.
“I’m happy to take a time out and keep working on it,” Shimp said just before asking for a deferral.