The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has approved a rezoning that will allow the University of Virginia Health Services Foundation to construct what will be the second-largest office building in the county.
The rezoning came Wednesday despite objections from residents of the adjacent Buckingham Circle neighborhood, which is located to the west of the intersection of U.S. 29 and Fontaine Avenue.
“It’s going to be absolutely crushing to what is a jewel right in the heart of Charlottesville,” said Brie Gertler, a resident of Buckingham Circle.
The 12.6-acre parcel of land had been zoned for dense residential use. A previously approved 61-unit townhouse development was never built.
After the supervisors first public hearing on the matter in May, the foundation agreed to drop plans to open a daycare facility at the location to reduce the traffic impact.
The removal of the daycare reduced the projected traffic impact by about 1,300 vehicles a day, according to architect Bill Daggett.
“After the daycare was removed, we were prepared to go ahead with a vote at that point,” said Supervisor Duane Snow.
However, changes to the proffers required the board to hold another public hearing.
Five people spoke in opposition at the second public hearing and asked for its footprint to be scaled down because they said it overwhelm their residential community.
“What we’re going to see is glass and brick and white lights and a parking garage,” said neighbor Donal Day.
Day urged supervisors to keep the existing zoning in part because homes would generate property taxes, whereas the nonprofit health system will pay none.
“A request for a zoning change has to be motivated on public interest and none has been demonstrated,” Day said.
Day and others also said they did not think the Health Services Foundation needed additional space and that they should continue operating at their current offices in the Fontaine Research Park.
However, Daggett said the health system needed the large space to eventually consolidate the billing services of both the hospital and physicians. Currently these functions are performed by two physically separate departments.
“This is intended to marry these two in the same space in order to generate efficiencies to keep costs low,” Daggett said.
Eric Strucko, chief financial officer of the Health System Foundation, said the space is needed to provide for future needs.
“Our plan is to build a facility where we can bring these two wings together,” Strucko said.
Strucko added that any other tenant would have to have a connection to UVa.
“This is not a rural piece of property,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker. “I don’t know that anything commercial, near residential, is ever perfect, but they have met the requirements.”
As part of the rezoning, the UVa Health System will pay for two new traffic lights to control traffic at the intersection. A new sidewalk will be built on the northern side of Fontaine Avenue that will extend from the new building to the main entrance to the Fontaine Research Park. A pedestrian bridge across Fontaine Avenue will also be built.