A trio of single-family homes on a small street in Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood is nearing approval from the City Council. In Monday’s consent agenda, Bruce Wardell’s rezoning and infill special-use permit applications for two parcels on a combined 0.2 acres on Lyman Street moved forward. The item was in the consent agenda because the City Council had a quorum during the public hearing on the project when it was at the Planning Commission level in March. One of the parcels once was a portion of the plans for the Belmont Lofts condominiums, and the other was land that once belonged to the CSX railroad. The current design is for the construction of three three-story contemporary homes with rooftop terraces with a style similar to the Belmont Lofts. The 2,280-square-foot homes also could include 700-square-foot accessory dwelling units in the basements. The rezoning request would put the homes in the R-2 residential zoning designation. The homes will be situated closer to the railroad tracks because of a city water line that crosses the majority of the property closest to the street.

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In March 2013, Wardell attempted to have the properties zoned from R-1 single family residential to the city’s downtown extended category, which would have allowed for buildings between 35 and 101 feet in height. In the wake of criticism from neighbors, he withdrew the proposal. In June 2014, the rezoning to downtown extended proposal returned with proffers that restricted many of the uses in downtown extended, set the height of a building between 18 and 38 feet and restricted the building to no more than six dwelling units. Action on the rezoning once again was deferred, and the City Council in August 2014 rejected the rezoning request. Due to the size and design of the homes in renderings presented to the Planning Commission and City Council in March, it is likely that the homes would have a high price point. Because the project’s gross floor area is less than the parcel size, the developers are not required to contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund. The lot is 8,612 square feet, and the homes will be a combined 8,546 square feet. “I think it’s appalling that City Council turned down the last application and that on a piece of land … that is assessed at $986,000 per acre [and] that we’re talking about putting giant single-family houses there that are going to be sitting on $65,000 of land alone underneath them. And the fact that we’re seeing this proposal now of just very large single-family residences that, undoubtedly, will be quite expensive, and we’re seeing the Belmont neighborhood line up in support just shows the problem we face in trying to achieve actual affordable housing,” Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg said in the March meeting. The Charlottesville area has an estimated 3,000-unit deficit in affordable housing and, although the restate tax rate is set to remain at 95 cents per $100 of assessed value, recent real estate assessments showed a property value increase across the city by about 7.9%. The request will have a second and final reading in a subsequent City Council meeting’s consent agenda. Before construction begins, it would have to go through the city’s site plan process, city staff said in March.


Elliott Robinson has spent nearly 15 years in journalism and joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018 through 2021. He is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.