The former Oakleigh property on West Rio Road is the planned site of a assisted living facility set to open in 2018. Credit: Credit: Quality Senior Living

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has approved plans for the Blake at Charlottesville, a proposal to build a 140-bed assisted-living facility in a mixed-use development on West Rio Road.

Supervisor Rick Randolph said the project would help address a significant need for elder care in the county.

“I’m not sure that, even with this facility, we are going to have adequate rooms available within the county to address the needs that are going to continue to mount,” said Randolph.

Last month, the county Planning Commission recommended against approving the rezoning when the developer sought an exemption from proffers to support Albemarle’s affordable-housing goals.

George Ray purchased the Oakleigh property on West Rio from the Nuttycombe family in 2002. At that time, the county permitted the by-right construction of 52 units on the nine-acre property. The parcel was rezoned in 2008 to permit up to 109 residential units and 28,000 square feet of commercial space. But Ray’s initial plans for a mixed-use development were delayed when the housing market collapsed that year.

In 2016, Ray and investor Suzanne Jessup Brooks requested amendments to the Oakleigh rezoning to build a 56,000-square-foot assisted living facility on the property. Ray also resubmitted his original plan for a mixed-use development with 108 residential units, mostly as condominiums.

Albemarle County senior planner J. T. Newberry said submitting two land-use alternatives for a project was an unusual choice, but one that made sense for Ray and the county.

“[The original plan] met a lot of our goals and is something that, if market was to rebound … [the landowners] would be interested in,” said Newberry.

Valerie Long, a Williams Mullen attorney representing Ray, said the original development plan was a “very distant Plan B” that would only be implemented if Oakleigh’s contract with the Blake Management Group — an assisted-living service provider — was terminated.

The county Planning Commission endorsed the amendment with a 7-0 vote on Dec. 6 but subsequently withdrew its support after Ray declined to make recommended changes to a new proffer statement for Oakleigh.

The existing proffers for the 2008 rezoning required 15 percent of the new units to be affordably priced or offset by cash contributions to the county. Cash in lieu of units would only be accepted for half of the required units — the developer would have had to build the remaining homes.

Ray requested to satisfy the proffer with cash contributions exclusively. Albemarle County housing director Ron White favored this option, but it was not recommended by the Planning Commission.

At the Dec. 6 meeting, Commissioners Bruce Dotson and Daphne Spain suggested constructing affordable units to provide on-site housing for employees of the Blake at Charlottesville assisted-living facility.

The supervisors also broke with the Planning Commission on Wednesday by granting Ray credit against the cash proffers for the 52 units he could have built on the property by-right.

Albemarle County does not classify homes in assisted-living facilities as dwelling units, and Ray’s preferred plan for the Oakleigh property leaves room for no more than 36 units. Since up to 52 units are exempted from the proffers on the rezoning, Oakleigh’s cash proffers for affordable housing are unlikely to take effect.

The supervisors voted unanimously to approve the new development plan with the assisted-living facility but withheld a ruling on the original plan to build 108 residential units. “This gives you the green light to start moving forward,” said Supervisor Brad Sheffield.

Supervisor Liz Palmer asked why the plans for the Blake at Charlottesville couldn’t preserve more green space. Newberry said the assisted-living facility’s large staff and built-in amenities would require it to have a larger “footprint” than a normal apartment complex.

“It is a proven model that … in many other places has proven to be successful,” said Newberry.

At an August 2016 community meeting, Ray said the assisted-living facility would create 70 jobs and contribute $250,000 in annual tax revenue to the county.

The Oakleigh developers are currently seeking approval from the neighboring Charlottesville Health and Rehabilitation Center to build an emergency access road for the Blake at Charlottesville.


Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.