By Sean Tubbs
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Despite complaints from neighboring residents, the
Charlottesville Planning Commission
voted at their meeting last week to allow the removal of 10 mature trees in the 110-home cto the landscape plan approved in 2004 would eliminate the need for major retaining walls.
Members of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association pleaded with the commission to deny the request.
“When they received permission to build this giant development of in-fill housing, [Beyer] knew perfectly well that there was challenging topography,” said Andrea Weider. She added that the neighborhood fought hard to require that the trees be spared when the original rezoning was granted by City Council.
Weider argued that if the Commission granted the request, they would be fundamentally changing the parameters of the original PUD.
“This group of ten that we’re talking about today are some of the very few that are left on this completely vanquished landscape of 22 acres,” said Weider. Instead, she said Beyer should be required to build the retaining walls as shown in the adopted plan.
The property was rezoned to Planned Unit Development in 2004 and to date, only 26 of the approved 110 homes have been built. Previous attempts to amend the site plan in April 2007 were deferred.
“There’s no doubt that Huntley has been controversial in the past,” said developer Paul Beyer. “The issue in a nutshell is that the current grades are going to require significant retaining walls in order for the homes to be built.”
These walls would be at least 25 to 30 feet tall, and Beyer said that could present a safety issue. He said he understood the concerns of neighbors, but said his development was a net positive for the city.
“Huntley was designed to keep the professional classes in the city,” Beyer said. “It was seen as a need to make sure that we kept in the tax base people who use city services, [so] they don’t go into Albemarle.”
The five commissioners who participated in the discussion all agreed that to grant the landscape amendment would not significantly change the concept plan under which the PUD was originally granted. They agreed that with sufficient mitigation, removing the trees would be a more favorable option than building the retaining wall.
Commissioner Genevieve Keller abstained from the vote because she was unable to visit the site before the meeting. Commissioner John Santoski recused himself from the debate because he lives near the property.
Commissioner Michael Osteen said the solution should not be to require a specific number of trees, but rather to ensure a more complete approach.
“For all the problems that we have had [with Huntley], the one thing that is going to bail this thing out is a reforested hillside ten years down the road,” Osteen said.
The request was granted with several conditions. An exact number of trees was not specified, but Beyer has been directed to work with the city arborist to adequately reforest the section of land. Beyer also must report back to the city on the development’s progress in two years time.