By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Charlottesville Planning Commission

has endorsed several changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, including a requirement for city staff to authorize and track accessory apartments. However, many other ideas considered as part of a review of the “residential zoning matrix” have been deferred for further study.

The recommendations, which also have to be formally adopted by the City Council, are part of a comprehensive review of the city’s zoning ordinance.

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If adopted by the council, a property owner who wants to build a new accessory apartment inside an existing structure would need a “provisional use permit” to be granted by staff. Many residential zones currently allow this use by right, though a building permit is required before work begins.

Nick Rogers

City Planner Nick Rogers said in an interview that the change would give the city the ability to review internal accessory apartments on a case-by-case basis. Requiring a provisional permit, while free of charge, would allow staff to make sure zoning laws are being met.“It gives us more of an enforcement tool and a tracking tool,” Rogers said.

He added that planning staff frequently get calls from nearby residents who claim zoning laws are being broken. Accessory apartments need to have certain amenities, and can only be occupied by two unrelated residents.

“Members of the public who want to take advantage of [this housing opportunity] need to be knowledgeable of the zoning laws that go with it,” Rogers said.

Developer Charlie Armstrong, who serves as chairman of

Charlottesville’s Housing Advisory Committee

, said in an interview he was opposed to the change.

“One of our goals as a committee is to encourage accessory apartments as a means to affordability,” Armstrong said. “The closer to a by-right use, the more likely we are to have people take advantage of that to provide affordable housing within city limits.”

During the public hearing, Colette Hall of the

North Downtown Residents’ Association

said she was opposed to the requirement because of a concern that property rights would be restricted.

Some commissioners were sympathetic to Hall’s comments, but in the end decided to proceed with recommendation to require a permit for new internal accessory apartments. Existing apartments will not require the permit.

Also as part of the matrix review, mobile home parks would be granted many of the same uses as those allowed in other residential zones, clearing the way for allowing for home businesses and sheds. Staff also recommended that monasteries and convents be required to have a special-use permit, and the commission concurred.

However, after three months of discussion, staff is now recommending not pursuing several other changes that had been under consideration.

Another change involves putting day care centers for the elderly on equal footing with those for children. Adult day care facilities would be allowed by special-use permit in low-density zones, but allowed by right in higher density zones. The change was recommended to make facilities for the elderly allowed anywhere day care for children can be offered.

“We don’t want to see one age group be discriminated against,” Rogers said. “This is a land use that we want to be on the forefront of.”

However, the commission asked staff to table this change until they could have more information about how neighborhoods might be impacted.

Staff is also recommending not proceeding with a proposal to allow bed and breakfasts with up to eight rooms by special-use permit in lower density residential zones. The commission adopted new rules for this type of lodging in January 2009.

“We are not receiving a lot of demand and phone calls for B&Bs of the subtype,” Rogers said.

A majority of Commissioners agreed with staff’s recommendation to defer.

Another proposed change had been to no longer allow private clubs in lower density residential zones. This amendment has been taken off the table. Instead, the Planning Commission will study the possibility of creating a new zoning definition for community centers.


City Council

will vote on the proposed changes at a future meeting.

Later this year, the commission will take up proposed changes to the commercial and mixed-use zoning districts. Planning Manager Missy Creasy said all the residential uses that have been deferred will not be reconsidered until after the commercial and mixed-use reviews are complete.


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