City Planning Commission approves preliminary site plan for Jefferson Scholars home

The City Planning Commission has voted 5-2 to approve a preliminary site plan for the future home of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation on Maury Avenue. Last December, the Foundation demolished a mansion that was present on the site,

triggering a new review by City Council

of whether other properties across the City should receive ‘individually protected status.’

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The site plan

depicts a two story 27,000 square foot building with a 39 space parking lot, and the Foundation requested a reduction in spaces from the 55 required by City code.  To do so, the Foundation sought approval of a cooperative parking agreement that would mean the 39 spaces would be shared across the office, educational and assembly space uses identified in the site plan. Under City code, a new structure must include enough off-street parking to equal to the sum of its uses. The City’s parking director referred the decision to the Commission for their input on the granting of a waiver.

City Planner Ebony Walden said the applicant requested approval of the 39 spaces because the assembly area being built as part of the Foundation’s headquarters use would be rare. She suggested the Commission could grant the waiver outright, or could restrict usage of the assembly areas to times after regular business hours. The applicant submitted a letter from UVa Chief Operating Officer Leonard Sandridge which stated the Foundation could use the West Stadium lot, but would need permission on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioners Mike Farruggio and Cheri Lewis voted against the site plan out of a concern that the Foundation would need more than 39 spaces. Lewis quizzed Foundation staff about the number of people on the Foundation Board of Directors , the number of staff as well as the total number of scholars. Farruggio said he was concerned that without an offsite parking management plan, staffers would park on roads in the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood which do not currently require a permit.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller asked if it could be possible to require the University Transit Service to provide free passes to attendees of Foundation events. That caused Architect David Neuman  to shake his head repeatedly.

Bob Moje of VMDO Architects said that on the whole, no new uses were proposed for the facility, given that the Foundation would be moving its operations from Alumni Hall.

Keller said she was saddened to see a site plan which did not include any elements of the Compton house, and asked if there would be any commemoration of the demolished structure. Moje said Foundation officials are studying the idea of coming up with some display.

Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he supported the reduced parking requirement, and said many of the people who would be using the building are more likely to walk and use public transit. Commissioner Michael Osteen said the property is close enough to other university lots. Moje said the Foundation knows not to schedule its own events on days such as home football games.

In the end, the assenting members of the Commission  agreed to allow the parking reduction waiver with the condition that at least 21 off-site spaces managed by the UVa Parking System can be arranged for the Foundation’s use during assembly events that take place during business hours.

Sean Tubbs