A new residential development near the Oakwood Cemetery has received praise from Charlottesville’s Planning Commission following a unanimous approval of a rezoning.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and Southern Development have partnered to build between 45 and 50 homes around a half-acre of communal green space.
 
“This is an example I think we might be able to hold up in the future for how a planned unit development [can] create a space,” said Commissioner Kurt Keesecker.  
 
“That design element really helps make a strong community,” Keesecker added.
 
The City Council selected the Habitat/Southern team in April to develop the site. The group agreed to pay for the costs of cleaning up a former city landfill in exchange for getting the land for only $10.
 
“It is owned by the city and has been historically used as a dumping area for various waste  materials,” said city planner Willy Thompson.
 
There will be between 25 and 29 market-rate homes that will be sold by Southern Development. Habitat will build and supervise another 20 homes to be sold at an affordable rate. Housing types include single-family homes, townhomes and one group home to be managed by Region Ten Community Services Board.
 
The project will create a new street front for Elliott Avenue, and would add sidewalks and a bike lane. Don Franco, a developer working with the project, said he would work with the city’s tree commission to determine the appropriate species that should be planted along Elliott Avenue.
 
The Planning Commission had a preliminary discussion on the rezoning in January and some members had concerns about how it would be laid out. Since then, Franco’s team created a video fly-through of a 3-D model of the proposed development.
 
“Part of what we tried to react to from your comments last time was to consolidate the open space,” Franco noted.
Commissioner Lisa Green asked if a sidewalk on Elliott Avenue could be extended all the way to Ridge Street.
 
“[Otherwise], this would create a sidewalk that ends, and now we’re going to put people in the street to get to Ridge,” Green said.
 
“It’s a really topographically challenging area [and] I don’t know if it’s technically possible to get a sidewalk there,” said Charlie Armstrong of Southern Development. He added that his engineers would investigate the possibility.
 
Commissioner Genevieve Keller agreed with Green that the sidewalk is essential.
 
“That issue of connectivity is really important given that we’re trying to promote pedestrianism,” Keller said.
 
Only one person spoke during the public hearing.
 
“We look forward to Elliott Avenue being another healthy mixed-income community where there are walkable sidewalks and people can age in place,” said Jeanne McCusker, a Habitat board member.
 
One commissioner said he supports the project, but will be watching to make sure the preliminary site plan matches what was presented to the commission.
 
“I have an issue with approving a PUD that looks great on paper, but then there are all kinds of requests for exceptions,” said Commissioner John Santoski. “If this does hold up, it does give a model for what we should be expecting when folks come forward with PUDs.”
 
Commissioners Mike Osteen and Daniel Rosensweig were absent from the meeting. Rosensweig is the executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity.
 
The rezoning will go before the City Council later this spring.  
 
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