Charlottesville’s City Council will wait until later this summer to take a final vote on a rezoning amendment for William Taylor Plaza, a controversial development proposed for the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue.

The council opted late Monday not to take a vote after the city attorney raised questions about whether language in the amendment would eliminate a previous requirement for residential units along Ridge Street. Neighbors also told councilors that they were strongly opposed to a hotel on the site.

“I always understood that it was residential on Ridge Street and commercial on [Cherry Avenue],” said Mayor Satyendra Huja. “I suggest that we wait until next meeting so we can work this out.”

A previous City Council approved the rezoning in 2009, bringing seven parcels under one zoning district known as a “planned unit development.” The action extended the possibility of commercial uses to Ridge Street.

At the time, the city did not require a list that specified which types of commercial uses would be allowed.

Before the 2009 rezoning the Cherry Avenue District zoning classification only allowed hotels with fewer than 100 rooms on that street. Under the PUD, Southern Development is planning for a 114-room hotel along Cherry.

“It would have been useful if a use matrix had been done at that time,” said city planner Matt Alfele.

Southern Development is now seeking an amendment to the rezoning that would reduce the amount of parking spaces that must be built within a garage from 90 percent to 60 percent. Southern Development has offered to specify in a use matrix which types of development could occur in different areas and phases.

Councilor Dede Smith said she believes the original intent of the 2009 rezoning was to create one mixed-use development. She pointed out that the zoning on the Ridge Street portion of the property had been residential, and that to develop the two sections independently of each other would go against the spirit of the original plan.

“Phasing increases the risk that it will not be mixed use,” Smith said.

The vice president of Southern Development said there was nothing in the 2009 rezoning that required the construction of housing units anywhere on the site.

“There’s no requirement for residential,” said Charlie Armstrong. “It could be 100 percent commercial.”

The original rezoning establishes a maximum of 50 residential units but has no minimum requirement.

However, City Attorney Craig Brown pointed out the existing development plan states that William Taylor Plaza “shall be a mixed-use development with residential and commercial uses.”

He said the usage of the word “shall” implies a requirement when used in a contract or an agreement.

“There are potential problems if the proffer statement and the plan of development are inconsistent,” Brown said.

Armstrong said if staff determines residential units are required, then that’s what will be built. However, he said he did not believe they are required.

“The intent has always been to make the buildings on Ridge residential in appearance to match the residential fabric
of architecture on Ridge Street, but the uses are specified in the matrix now,” Armstrong said

Armstrong said he did not want to eliminate the possibility of commercial space on Ridge.

“There’s been a lot of talk in 2009 and this time about things like a restaurant on the corner that shares that plaza space or small-business incubator spaces on Ridge Street with that same residential architecture,” Armstrong said.

Before Brown made his observation, two councilors spoke in favor of the amendment.

“I do plan to support this,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos, reading from a prepared statement. “This amendment is good for the city and for the Fifeville neighborhood and for the people who live in it.”

Szakos said the hotel would provide jobs within walking distance of neighborhoods even if they are not high-paying ones.

“There are those who oppose any kind of development or growth in Charlottesville and would rather see lots like this stay wooded and unbuilt forever,” Szakos said. “That impulse, when exercised too often, is a huge part of what makes our city such a tough place to move out of poverty.”

Councilor Kathy Galvin praised the Marriott family of hotels for being a good employer.

“This is not a two-bit hotel and this is not a two-bit chain,” Galvin said. “It provides some pretty good growth-track job opportunities.”

After the council’s discussion, several members of the neighborhood said they will continue to oppose the hotel even after acknowledging that the amendment is not about allowing its use.

“Most people understand that someone owns this land,” said Kimberly Lauter, who lives adjacent to the proposed development. “However, one of the big problems that we’re having is there just hasn’t been the input. We keep hearing about engagement. Where is it?”

Before the discussion, the council was presented with 500 signatures on a petition against the construction of a hotel on Cherry Avenue.

“I feel like that even with 500 signatures, you’re still not listening,” said Melvin Grady, who sought a Democratic nomination for the City Council in 2013. “I’m going to go out this week and next week and get 500 more signatures.”

Grady said he also will try to convince Armstrong to consider developing the property differently.