Charlottesville Planning Commission

is considering whether or not to adopt new guidelines for how to deal with “in-kind” and cash proffers from developers seeking a rezoning. At a January 22nd work session, staff sought feedback on whether a cash proffer policy should be initiated, and if a proffer review sheet would be a useful tool.

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Compared to Albemarle County, there are relatively few re-zonings in the City. Neighborhood Planner Missy Creasy said there were only five re-zonings in Charlottesville for all of 2007, and two of those were withdrawn by the applicant. However, one of those re-zonings prompted some on City Council to ask for tighter guidelines of what can be expected.

In August of last year, the Commission voted 4-2 to recommend denial of a rezoning for a new nine-story building to be built in the northeast corner of the intersection of Ridge-McIntire.  A month later, City Council approved the rezoning after the developer agreed to increase a proffered contribution to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“We get very limited rezonings, but the ones that do come forward require a lot of discussion,” Creasy said.

Creasy said there is a proffer policy in place, but it does not address many of the issues that have come up in recent years.

Last year, the Commission and staff developed a draft proffer review sheet to be used as a guide in accepting “in-kind” donations. This document provides an opportunity for staff to review how any proffers generated through the rezoning might address the city’s infrastructure and planning needs. Areas of interest to the city include affordable housing, environmental impacts, opportunities for green building, and potential impacts on traffic congestion. The draft sheet also clearly outlines explains to each applicant what the legal requirements of proffers are, in light of state legislation that recently expanded their potential use.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is, because we have this new-found authority  to take a lot of proffers that we couldn’t have taken before, we’re trying to give some process to it, so there is going to be a definitely reasonable relationship between the impacts and the proffers,” said Rich Harris, the City’s Deputy Attorney.

Harris cautioned that any discussion of cash proffers may be academic, given that

a bill to prohibit them

in favor of impact fees is making its way through the General Assembly.

The County arrived at a figure of $17,500 after coming up with an estimated of how much each new residential unit costs to provide services. The Commission decided that a similar calculation of the incremental impacts of new development in the City would yield a much smaller number. Commissioner Jason Pearson suggested it might be difficult to calculate the incremental impact of each rezoning, given that there aren’t as many opportunities to rezone in the City as in the County, which has more available land to develop.

Other Commissioners wanted to know more information about what an “in-kind” proffer might mean. For instance, Keller asked if a developer offered to donate funding to purchase a land trust, would that be considered a cash-proffer or an in-kind one? Harris said that would likely be considered as in-kind.

Next month, the Planning Commission will also take up new zoning districts for the Downtown Mall and the West Main and South Street corridors.

New height restrictions are being considered that would limit by-right development potential

, meaning developers would need to apply for a special use permit if they wanted to build extra units.Commissioner Cheri Lewis asked if the City could collect additional proffers in exchange for that permit.  That prompted a philosophical discussion in which Pearson said he felt zoning should be a way to guide development, rather than a way to simply get proffers.

The revised proffer policy will be discussed at the Planning Commission’s next meeting on February 12, 2008.

Sean Tubbs


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