The developer of a 5.5-acre property in Charlottesville’s Belmont neighborhood deferred a rezoning application Tuesday after the city Planning Commission indicated they would not approve it.
Baldwin Development is seeking a rezoning to “planned unit development” to build 29 homes north of Quarry Road.
However, commissioners said the plan was not yet ready because the application did not include details such as architectural features.
“We have no idea what it’s really and truly going to look like when it’s all done,” said Commissioner John Santoski.
City planner Brian Haluska said the application is a challenging one, unlike any he’s seen before.
“This property was platted along with the rest of the Belmont Farm in the 1890s,” Haluska said. “The plat at this point shows 34 single-family lots and 24 of those have road frontage which would be necessary to acquire a building permit.”
However, to access the site, Baldwin would need to extend Stonehenge Avenue over a steep ravine. That would present engineering challenges, because the road would have to be constructed at a grade less than 10 percent.
“That’s the maximum slope of a new road in the city, and it would involve a lot of grading to do that on the site,” Haluska said. “Additionally, the houses would sit above the houses on [adjacent] Druid Avenue.”
To avoid that, Baldwin submitted a PUD application, but also obtained an erosion and sedimentation control permit in case he decided to take the by-right option. Trees were cleared in May.
“The majority of [citizen] letters are in opposition to the PUD,” Haluska said, adding that many neighbors want to ensure a landscaping buffer between the new development and existing structures.
Greg Baldwin, the developer of the property, said he has had three meetings with neighbors.
“At the second meeting that we had, there was a lot of opposition,” Baldwin said. “Most of the questions were addressed that the neighbors had. After the last meeting, most of them came up and shook my hand and said the PUD project was much more preferable than the by-right.”
Jeanette Halpin of Druid Avenue attended two of those meetings with Baldwin.
“I would have liked very much to be able to consider this proposal strictly on its own merits,” Halpin said. “It has been difficult to support it wholeheartedly because we have been told by the developer during our meetings that if we do not support the PUD, they could do the Stonehenge extension [immediately].”
Katrina Hennigar, also a resident of Druid, said she doubted Baldwin would proceed with the road extension.
“If the developer were to continue with Stonehenge Avenue as platted out, they would have considerable cost to negotiate the stream crossing,” Hennigar said.
Hennigar said she supports the PUD concept but felt it needed some changes such as larger lots, increased setbacks and a limit to 24 units.
None of the six commissioners present were prepared to recommend approval of the application.
“I can certainly can see some justification for the PUD over the by-right, but I am having trouble with the extent of document development that we have at this stage,” Chairwoman Genevieve Keller said. “I find it’s premature compared to other PUD requests that we’ve considered recently.”
“We have 10 objectives that we want to look at very carefully and I have no way to measure this,” Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said. “It’s hard for us to judge and make a
reasonable recommendation to [the City] Council.”
Baldwin’s engineer, Justin Shimp, requested a deferral so he could put more information into writing before the Planning Commission next takes up the application later this year.
“Our goal is to meet the needs of the Belmont association and I think in the end when we have this project and it’s built, I think everyone in the community will feel much better about what has been produced,” said Andrew Baldwin, Gregory Baldwin’s son.