The Charlottesville City Council has granted permission for homes to be built on one side of an adult day care and medical center in the Carlton neighborhood, but has deferred action on another set of homes to be built on the other.
The city has wrestled with multiple issues on the project, including the shrinking pool of industrial sites and the development’s ability to meet residential design goals for open space and walkability.
“Our main interest is senior housing, which is one- and two-bedroom units, and in addition to that, workforce housing that permits caregivers to live within proximity to the seniors on the site,” said Chris Murray, manager of business development for the Jefferson Area Board for Aging.
JABA has entered into a partnership with the University of Virginia and Riverside Health Systems to build the Blue Ridge PACE Center. The 20,000-square-foot facility is currently under construction at the former H.T. Ferron concrete plant.
The land is zoned for industrial uses, and the PACE Center meets that criteria. However, a special-use permit is required to build homes on the property.
“To the west and east are residential buildings, one of which is 32 units, which will be senior and disabled housing, and then 70 units of market-rate housing,” said city planner Ebony Walden.
The 32 units are being supported in part by a $500,000 allocation from the City Council from the city’s housing fund, as well as low-income housing tax credits from the federal government.
The Planning Commission recommended approval earlier this month, but only after specifying a long list of conditions under which the permit would be granted.
Among the conditions were that the buildings be no taller than 50 feet, that certain trees be preserved and that there be pedestrian connections between the buildings and the neighborhood.
“We agreed to all the conditions that were laid out by the Planning Commission,” said Murray.
The commission also was concerned about a lack of detail for the market-rate housing. Murray said details won’t be known until the partnership has had a chance to determine what the market will support.
“We, at this point, could not commit to any particular unit mix because we don’t have a market study,” Murray said.
The partnership does not anticipate constructing the market-rate building at this time, and a study would not be conducted until at least six months before work would begin.
However, Murray said he would be willing to increase the minimum number of affordable units from 15 percent to 30 percent.
“It doesn’t make me feel better to see the affordable rate go up to 30 in a very high-poverty area,” Councilor Dede Smith said. “It’s directly across the street from a large trailer park, which is next to a Habitat for Humanity development.”
Councilor Kathy Galvin said the special-use permit was an inappropriate way to proceed because it does not require a developer to show as much detail.
“You’re using this little tool that does not give anybody who has to review it any drawings to look at, or anything other than a two-dimensional site plan,” Galvin said. “It’s very frustrating to me to see something so dramatically done with so little oversight.”
Galvin also expressed frustration with the design.
“Will there be porches? Will there be doors onto the street? Right now the application doesn’t show that,” Galvin said.
Shelli Brady with Fountainhead Properties said those details will be shown in the site plan and pointed out that any conditions imposed by the council would legally have to be addressed.
“The things that we’ve agreed to that are concerns of yours, and that we said we would do … we have to meet that threshold or we don’t get the blessing to actually construct,” Brady said.
Councilor Satyendra Huja asked Brady if she could return before the next City Council meeting with a revised drawing. She responded that a special-use permit needed to be approved before the
tax credits could be applied for, and the deadline is fast approaching.
“We can’t go for funding unless this is residential,” Brady said. “But I have plenty of time to work on a design with you.”
Galvin said she wanted to take a step back and look at how the project would fit into the rest of eastern Charlottesville.
“This whole area should be designed together, that’s not the problem. The problem is that what’s being presented to us is not creating a pedestrian-oriented inviting space with the kind of green space and walkability we say we all want,” Galvin said.
Councilors voted 4-1 on a motion to grant the permit for the PACE Center and the senior housing, but Brady must submit more details for the market-rate housing within the next 30 days for the council’s consideration.
Galvin was the lone vote against approval.
“We would like to see connectivity, that it has open space, and how the buildings relate to the street,” Huja said.