Charlottesville Planning Commission wrestles with industrial zoning in Woolen Mills
At their March 10, 2009 joint public hearing, the Charlottesville Planning Commission discussed the tension Woolen Mills residents feel between the low-density residential nature of the neighborhood today and the current industrial zoning. Although the only action made was a small text edit in the comprehensive plan, it’s a change the speaks volumes to the community and the Commission will bring this topic up for further discussion in their March 24 work session.
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Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan
is the key document to guide growth and development in the 10.3 square miles that make up the City. Victoria Dunham, President of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, was not happy with the following passage in the section of the plan that deals with her neighborhood:
“The challenge with Industrial land is finding somewhere to place it; no one wants to have it in their backyard.”
According to Dunham, “I’m here at the end of a 21 year stretch … we have been repeatedly categorized as an industrial neighborhood.” Whatever the historical characterization of the neighborhood, she feels it is time to change the zoning to fit the current character of the neighborhood.
Many Planning Commissioners agreed that this sentence is unnecessarily editorial. Along with requesting the deletion, Dunham asked Neighborhood Development Services staff to consider altering the Land Use Map to preemptively rezone industrial sections of Woolen Mills. However, the Land Use Map request met a procedural barrier. Any updates to the 2007 map need to take all issues considered during the last update into account before being made. It cannot be amended in a piecemeal fashion.
City Planner Brian Haluska and the Planning Commission discussed the challenge of finding adequate industrial land for economic development and ensuring the quality of life for low-density neighborhoods such as Woolen Mills. The traditional “Euclidian” zoning model sought strict separation of uses, but Haluska also referenced newer models of zoning that seek some compatibility between light industrial use and residential. Haluska acknowledged that, “When we think of industrial we think of smoke, we think of noise.” He said there are many light industrial uses that are closer in character to office and technology parks.
While the topic of the hearing specifically dealt with a particular sentence in the Woolen Mills neighborhood plan, Commissioners probed the definition of industrial use for the City of Charlottesville.
Finding adequate and acceptable land for industry is a regional issue. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have also been seeking land within their own borders to allocate for light industry. Supervisor
(Samuel Miller) expressed her concern last month when she heard that the City Planning Commission was considering scaling back the amount of land available for industrial use in the city.
“I would encourage our staff to work with City staff particularly if they’re considering changing things that would put more pressure on our industrial land,” Thomas said.
Most of the City Planning Commissioner spoke in favor of seeing Woolen Mills become less industrial, but, as Commissioner Mike Farruggio put it, “there is no easy fix.”
Any changes need to be done as part of a comprehensive review, but there seems to be sufficient interest to continue the conversation in the near future. The next installment will take place during the Planning Commissions March 24 work session.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
• 00:55 – Staff report from Brian Haluska
• 10:55 – Keller asks whether there is adequate industrial land zoned
• 14:20 – The procedure for updating comprehensive plan
• 17:59 – Emory asks about previous requests from Woolen Mills
• 21:20 – Emory asks if industrial use compromises neighborhood quality of life
• 24:50 – Limited ability to regulate existing industrial use
• 27:30 – Lewis brings up 2006 discussion on this topic
• 30:40 – Presentation from Victoria Dunham
• 38:00 – Emory moves to defer to March 24 work session
• 43:30 – Commission discusses deleting sentence in comprehensive plan
• 49:50 – Emory is concerned by lack of public interest
• 53:40 – Rosensweig sees connection with residential density discussion
• 56:45 – Commission votes on motion