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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

If you live in Charlottesville’s Fifeville neighborhood, you might already know this: Woodard Properties wants to build a grocery store at 501 Cherry Avenue. On the surface, Woodard’s proposal looks like a gift to the community, and residents are delighted. Many have longed for a grocery store for decades, ever since the last store there closed in 2002.

But city officials are skeptical.

A lot surrounded by a wire fence at the corners of a street, with a  one-story brick building. A sign in front is empty, except for some washed out text.
Credit: Erin O'Hare/Charlottesville Tomorrow

A developer’s proposal could bring a grocery store back to Fifeville

Woodard’s proposal includes an apartment building and a two story commercial building. Besides the grocery store, there is space for the nonprofit thrift store Twice is Nice, a nonprofit afterschool music program, and community space.

Sounds great, right?

But planning commissioners are concerned that the proposal does not include enough affordably priced apartment units, which could lead to continued gentrification and pricing existing residents out of their neighborhood. What’s more, City Councilor Michael Payne was not convinced that a traditional grocery store would be able to stay in business on that spot. Woodard doesn’t have anyone signed up for the grocery store yet.

“We should keep in mind that there are no guarantees of a grocery store there, and the economics of making a grocery store work are extremely difficult,” Payne said. “It’s probably likely that in order to make the economics work, you’re going to get a much smaller, boutique grocery store.”

And that kind of store could be unaffordable to many of the residents in the historically lower-income neighborhood, he said.

An aerial view shows a curving street with cars parked along the edge and the roofs of homes and apartment buildings.
Credit: Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Residents rage to City Council on the ‘hidden tax increase’ coming next year

It’s looking more and more likely that real estate tax bills will jump this year — again. The city held a public hearing on its proposed tax rate last night where they presented a plan to leave the tax rate unchanged from last year.

The thing is, the assessed property values in Charlottesville rose more than 12% last year. Tax bills are calculated by multiplying a property’s assessed value by the tax rate. So, in order to keep tax bills more or less even, the city would have to lower the tax rate by about 12%.

It doesn’t look like that will happen — and some residents aren’t happy. Several people went to last night’s public hearing to express their frustration, and concern.

“No one is immune to this,” one resident, Tom Gallagher, told the Council. “Particularly low- and fixed-income residents. I find it hard to understand that the City Council is always talking about affordable housing while approving these really rather remarkably large real estate taxes.”

This is the second year in a row that assessed property values have spiked. Since 2021, the average assessed value of a Charlottesville property rose 25%. That means, across the city, real estate tax bills this year will be, on average, 25% higher than they were in 2020.

A woman walks a dog on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood in front of a house with a yard and trees.
Credit: Andrew Shurtleff/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Local property assessments rose 25% in two years, which means higher tax bills and more money for local governments

If you or someone you know is struggling to afford your real estate tax bill, both the city and Albemarle County have some limited relief programs. They also have options to appeal your property assessment. You can find links to all those programs at the end of this story.

Increased tax bills means that the city might have a bigger budget next year. What are they planning on spending that money on? The budgeting process has just started.

Our new democracy reporter, Eileen Goode, will be following the process closely! If you have any questions you’d like her to answer, or would just like to welcome her to Charlottesville, you can reach her at egoode [AT] cvilletomorrow [DOT] org.

Thanks for reading!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.