Charlottesville’s City Council voted 3-2 Monday to deny a request to rezone a lot in the Rose Hill neighborhood out of a concern that the resulting development would be out of character with the area.
The developer, Rosanna Danna LLC, requested a zoning change on the properties in order to build a six-unit apartment complex on a site zoned for single-family housing.
Even though the change in land use did not match the Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Commission unanimously supported the zoning change because it was in line with current development policies.
“The [Comprehensive Plan] map is a general map and the policies are where we try to fall back,” said Jim Tolbert, director of the Neighborhood Development Services. “The policies they looked at are that we want to promote infill development and more density in areas that are adjacent or near public transit or public facilities.”
The property slated for redevelopment is near Burley Middle School, as well as public transit.
However, Councilor Kathy Galvin expressed concern that the rezoning may not be what Rose Hill neighborhood residents want. She referred to the 2006 Design Day held by Neighborhood Services that allowed Rose Hill residents to outline their priorities for their neighborhood. In those plans, residents stated that they wanted to maintain the character of single-family homes.
“I do think of the Design Day comments as something that’s part of what we should be referencing” Galvin said. “I’m very much a supporter of making sure that we have density tied to well-designed transit and infrastructure, but I’m also very concerned about public process and whatever public process and documents [we have] that gives us an idea of the community’s vision, [we should be] consulting that.”
Rosanna Danna LLC and Tolbert’s department had meetings with neighborhood residents to explain the project.
Michael Smith, neighborhood planner, noted that increasing property taxes and traffic were main concerns of Rose Hill residents, but he said that, overall, residents seemed reassured by the meetings.
“I think [the plan] was well-received,” Smith said.
Councilor Dede Smith was skeptical about the validity of rezoning the property in accordance with infill policies named in the Comprehensive Plan.
“This is what scares me about the term ‘infill development.’ We’ve got a residential neighborhood and you put a completely incongruous building in and call it infill,” she said. “I think the assumption should be that you don’t rezone unless you have a compelling reason, and I just don’t see [that].”
Michael Smith pointed out to the councilors that, although their reasoning against the rezoning was valid, it would be unusual for the Planning Commission recommendation to be overturned.
“I think circumstances need to be pretty extreme for council to overturn a unanimous recommendation [from the Planning Commission],” he said.
Not all councilors were opposed to the rezoning.
“It fulfills more things than it doesn’t, in terms of our Comprehensive Plan,” Councilor Kristin Szakos said. “I would be inclined to go with their recommendation.”
However, the rezoning was not approved and the developer expressed concern that the alternatives for the Rose Hill properties may be more harmful to the neighborhood than the proposed apartment complex.
“If we don’t build an apartment building, we will build two single-family homes for rent,” said Mark Green of Rosanna Danna. “[Those homes] would maybe affect property taxes more directly because those are comparable to the other single-family houses in the neighborhood.”