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Council briefed on McIntire Park planning, SRO facility
Charlottesville Tomorrow | Tuesday, February 07, 2012 at 7:25 p.m.

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council has not yet weighed in on one question to be answered during the master planning process for the eastern half of McIntire Park.

Should the park continue to have a golf course?

“At some point, we have to make that decision, and I think we might be getting to that point,” Councilor Dede Smith said on Monday after receiving an update on the plan’s progress.

The council’s approval of a plan for the park is not expected until later this year. That will be after both the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Planning Commission have made their recommendations.

A total of four meetings have been held since the public process began last September.

At the most recent meeting in January, staff showed three concepts to the public. All three gave examples of how a botanical garden, the golf course and the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial could all fit within the same park.

“We wanted to be sure that we’re capturing the universe of opinion and take it from there,” said Brian Daly , the director of the city’s parks and recreation department. “Everything that was presented to the community is what we have heard from the community.”

However, members of a group advocating for the botanical garden introduced their own concept, which envisioned no golf course.

“We think that a passive park experience is not consistent with golf,” said Peter McIntosh , vice president of the nonprofit McIntire Botanical Garden . “We don’t know if we want to have five-story netting that would separate people.”

Councilor Kathy Galvin stood up at a January meeting to support opening the process to include a garden-only design.

That prompted William Page, a proponent of the golf course remaining in the park, to express his concern that Galvin was getting involved before the public process is over.

“Your responsibility should be to carefully weigh the financial impact, the benefits to all our citizenry and the worthiness of the programs,” Page said.

However, Galvin said Monday that she had not made up her mind on which way to proceed but wanted the process to be complete.

“The study groups [at the meeting] were given the charge of putting all the uses on the site,” Galvin said. “I was concerned that we weren’t putting all the options on the table.”

The council has not taken a position on the issue, but some councilors seemed ready to weigh in.

“It’s a little frustrating to see what seems like an assumption that everything is going to go in there when we haven’t really made those decisions,” Smith said. “I want the process to be very inclusive and to be very public, but at the same time I don’t want to be stringing people along.”

Mayor Satyendra Huja said he is a supporter of the botanical garden but has some concerns.

“I do worry about how we’re going to fund it and who is going to maintain it,” Huja said. “The maintenance on a facility like that is extremely expensive and it can’t all be done with volunteers.”

The next meeting, set for Feb. 28 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center, will aim to further narrow down the direction of the park.

SRO to open in April

In other news, officials with Virginia Supportive Housing told the council that their 60-unit single-resident-occupancy facility will open in April.

“We’ve been working for over two and a half years as part of a regional collaboration to bring this housing to the Charlottesville area,” said Allison Bogdanovic of VSH.

Half of the rooms at The Crossings at Fourth and Preston will be set aside for workforce housing, and the rest of the SRO will be for people who are currently homeless.

Each workforce unit will rent for $525 a month to individuals who have an annual income between $15,000 and $27,000. Bogdanovic said there
are still vacancies.

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Albemarle Office of Housing subsidize the other units. Residents of those units will have to pay a minimum of $50 a month.

The total cost of the project to Virginia Supportive Housing was $8.2 million. The organization raised $3.9 million through low-income housing tax credits, $1.6 million in loans from the state and the rest from foundations and bank loans.

That figure does not include the cost of the land on which the SRO has been built. The city of Charlottesville spent $1.55 million to buy property formerly owned by Region Ten.

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