1

Planning Commission opposes rezoning for 29 homes in Belmont

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended that the City Council deny a rezoning that would allow for 29 single-family homes to be built on one of the last remaining open space in the Belmont neighborhood.

“We still think you can have a good development there and take benefit from our comment,” said commission Chairwoman Genevieve Keller to Justin Shimp, a representative of developer Simeon Investments.
 
The developer is seeking a rezoning from single-family residential to planned unit development in order to build 29 homes. A PUD development allows for subdivisions to have flexible lot sizes in order to maximize open space.
 
The property is one of the last remaining open spaces left in Belmont, which was first laid out in the 1890s.
 
The developer claims that 34 single-family homes could be built by-right, though staff disagrees with the developer’s claim that all of those could be built.
 
Since the Planning Commission’s last review in October, the developer has rearranged how the lots fit on the site, adding a 16-foot buffer to screen the property from its neighbors, and adding an alley behind the units on the western side of the property.
 
“The applicant [also] has added pedestrian connections to Stonehenge and Rockland,” said city planner Brian Haluska.
 
Haluska said he recommended that the application be appoved because construction under the PUD zoning would not be as disruptive. If built by-right, Stonehenge Avenue would need to be extended, which would likely result in a road with a grade of 10 percent. Buildings on the new Stonehenge Extended would be significantly higher than those on the parallel Druid Avenue.  
 
Under the concept plan submitted with the PUD application, there would only be vehicular access via Quarry Road.
 
Commissioner Lisa Green was skeptical that the required 16-foot-wide buffer could be built completely around the property. She asked what would happen if that was the case.
 
“If they feel they cannot, then their site plan would not be in compliance and in the spirit of the concept plan that was approved,” Haluska said.
 
Commissioner John Santoski said the language in the concept plan calling for the pedestrian pathways was not strong enough.
 
“If we want to ensure that those connections are going to be made, I’d like to see stronger language,” Santoski said.
 
“We intend to build them,” Shimp said, adding that the city would ask for a bond to be posted to ensure they were built.
 
Another issue related to the timing of when trees were clear-cut on the property. Many were felled before the PUD application was submitted, causing some neighbors to raise concerns with the city. Trees cannot be cut down on property on which a PUD application is pending.
 
Seven people spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing. Many said they were concerned about the single point of access for vehicles.
 
“Quarry Road is covered by traffic every day for baseball games [at Quarry Park],” said James Kelly. “Now we’re going to dump 29 homes into this congested area with only way in and out.”
 
Another resident said they were concerned that the intersection of Quarry Road and Monticello Avenue could not handle the additional traffic.
 
But not all neighbors were opposed to the PUD.
 
“It’s not a perfect plan … but is certainly better compared to the other plans that have come forward,” said Marla Ziegler of Druid Avenue.
 
Commissioner Michael Osteen said he would like to see the property developed, but that the plan submitted was not the right one.
 
“This concept plan is seriously flawed,” Osteen said. “The topography is challenging. The alley and [a] retaining wall are hugely problematic for me.”
 
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he did not feel that it rose to the standards of the PUD because it did not contain a mixture of housing types and that the pathway to Druid Avenue would serve no useful purpose.
 
Santoski, who joined the commission after fighting a PUD in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood, said he did not feel the Stonehenge PUD had enough engineering details to convince him that the development would be something that could fit in with the existing neighborhood.
 
“I have trouble with an applicant who hasn’t been trustworthy from the very beginning,” Santoski said.
 
Shimp said he had not decided if he will take the application to the City Council or if he’s going to build by-right.
 
“We’re going to build one or the other,” Shimp said in an interview after the hearing.