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Planning Commission workshops plan for Belmont urban farm
Nassau St. Urban Farm, Oct. 30, 2018
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Credit: Shimp Engineering
Approval for an apartment complex and urban farm proposed for Nassau Street is looking more likely after a city work session Tuesday.
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Emily Hays | Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Approval for an apartment complex and urban farm proposed for Nassau Street is looking more likely after a work session between the project’s developer and the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

Justin Shimp, owner of Shimp Engineering, brought the project application to the Planning Commission in April and earlier in October. Hearing hesitation during the October meeting, Shimp asked the commission to discuss its objections to the project in a separate work session.

“I’m open to doing more. I’m not trying to develop this as cheap as I can. I’m trying to make it a nice community,” Shimp said at Tuesday’s work session.

The Hogwaller Farm development would include two apartment buildings with a total of 30 one- and two-bedroom units, a greenhouse and a farm store on 0.94-acre in the city. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors already has approved the 7.52-acre portion of the project that would lie in the county. That portion would include parking, farmland and sheds.

Shimp has applied for a rezoning of the city portion of the project from residential to highway corridor with only small-scale commercial and residential uses permitted. He also has applied for a special-use permit to allow 32 dwellings per acre on the property.

Planning commissioners discussed whether the project can help them with the city’s goals for more affordable housing.

“Profit cannot be the only thing driving these projects, especially if they’re coming to the city for a special-use permit of this magnitude,” Commissioner Taneia Dowell said. “As someone who knows somebody directly who provides affordable housing, … somebody’s paying for it, but not at the expense that they’re cutting off their leg.”

Shimp is not required to build any affordable units with the current plan, but he has said that he would rent two or three apartments at about $1,200 per month, or the rate affordable to households making 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Shimp said he will keep the commission’s comments in mind and may proffer a different affordable housing package at the next public hearing.

At Tuesday’s work session, members of the public expressed concerns about the property’s proximity to Moores Creek and the possibility of flooding or water pollution.

“We still have significant concerns with the city continuing to approve new developments in the floodplain, but if you do decide to go forward with this, we at least think it’s imperative [that], one, we’re careful about the uses that can occur on this site and, two, that we’re adequately protecting and managing water quality and stormwater,” said Travis Pietila, an attorney at the Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center.

The Planning Commission asked to hear more details from the city engineer about how the project meets the city’s environmental goals and state regulations.

Shimp plans to bring the rezoning and special-use permit applications back to the commission for a vote on whether to recommend the project to the City Council. The council will have the final say on the project.

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