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Southwood residents, staff at the local Habitat for Humanity and design professionals have put together the rules that will govern the first phase of redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park.

The team last week submitted a third round of rezoning application materials to Albemarle County. The updated application addressed concerns raised by the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and staff members about the entrance to the neighborhood during a work session in August.

“This package goes into more detail than what we normally see in a rezoning package,” said Megan Nedostup, the county planner who has been overseeing the application. “The board and commission, because we’re partners with Habitat, really wanted more detail and really wanted the residents’ voices in that [part of the] plan.”

Since the county agreed in 2016 to partner with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville to redevelop Southwood, the county has contributed funding and staff time to the project.

The 30-plus acres covered by the rezoning application currently are vacant, which allows construction to start without displacing residents. Habitat is planning to sell part of the property to a development partner to help finance the project, and it was this piece — block B — that the supervisors wanted to see in more detail.

Habitat held workshops in the fall to allow residents to determine more specific zoning regulations for block B.

 “We had a big map of this area, and we had little scaled blocks that were color-coded for the use. [For example,] if it was residential, it was a particular color,” said Rush Otis, Habitat’s director of redevelopment for Southwood. “We had them really play with — What happens? What are the forms you want to see? How could you see this laying out on this block?”

The redevelopment team then assessed the patterns on the maps and turned the feedback into “character areas” with different heights, amounts of open space or commercial space and other characteristics.

An example of a neighborhood that the proposed rezoning would allow to happen. Credit: Credit: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

The area of most intensity lines Hickory Street and steps down into the surrounding neighborhood.

“It was really important to us to then take that back to residents and say, ‘This is what we came up with. Does this reflect what you guys said?’” Otis said.

The rezoning application is the first link in a chain of county land use decisions — including a review of the site plan — that must be made before any structures can be built.

If the Board of Supervisors approves the rezoning application at a public hearing, Habitat will start creating the site plan for where the first homes will be built, the first village in block A.

“We can’t really tell you what it looks like right now, because that’s to be done by the cohort of residents that will be moving into the first section when it gets built,” said Bruce Wardell, principal of BRW Architects, which is providing design expertise for the project.

As Habitat waits for the next step of the land use process, the nonprofit has started financial counseling for the 51 families that want to move into the first phase of the new Southwood.


Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.