The Charlottesville Planning Commission recommended Tuesday the denial of a rezoning on Carlton Avenue that would have allowed for six two-bedroom units.
Commissioners Jody Lahendro and Kurt Keesecker were the two dissenting votes in the 4-2 decision on 1206 Carlton Avenue. Commissioner Corey Clayborne was absent.
Commissioners said they were balancing the need to address the city’s affordable housing crunch with concerns that the existing infrastructure is inadequate to support additional residential density.
The current zoning on the vacant land would allow for two residential units.
“I think we need more housing like this in the city,” said Justin Shimp, a civil engineer hired by property owner Chris Hulett for the project. “When you look at what’s around, you’ve got big projects like City Walk, and they’re nice, I suppose, and they’re expensive, and it doesn’t cater to all the housing needs we have in the community.”
Some residents of the neighborhood argued for more housing.
“I’m not here specifically to support the applicant,” said Peter Krebs, who lives on Tufton Avenue. “When we think about what we can do for affordability within the market, this seems — from where I stand — pretty good.”
But members of the Planning Commission disagreed about whether the development would help with making housing more affordable.
“This is the kind of housing we’ve been talking about in our Comprehensive Plan process of the city needing,” Lahendro said, adding that small complexes can help increase the overall housing supply.
Other commissioners were concerned about putting dense development on every vacant lot.
“We need this kind of housing, [but] we don’t always need it in every single street, in every single section, on every single lot in the city,” Commissioner John Santoski said.
When Commissioner Genevieve Keller asked what the rent would be, Shimp explained that while affordable housing was not required on the property, the intention was affordability. The proposed residential density is not enough to trigger the city’s requirements.
“I’ve been working with the housing folks, and the affordable rate for two bedrooms must be $1,100 a month,” Shimp said, referring to federal guidelines on affordability. “As I see this project, it’s right in that range.”
One commissioner balked at that price point.
“Maybe that’s affordable to some people, but for most people who are needing this [housing], $1,100 for a small two-bedroom is not affordable,” said Commissioner Taneia Dowell.
Two other Belmont-Carlton projects were before the commission Tuesday. Commissioners recommended approval of developer Richard Spurzem’s request for a rezoning of vacant property on Monticello Road from industrial use.
A mixed-used project being developed by Stony Point Design Build on Carlton Road was deferred.
The Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association, represented by their business liaison Deb Jackson, supported all three developments. The association sent a letter asking for the city to invest in the infrastructure to support additional growth, as well.
“We feel that for these and future projects to be successfully integrated into our neighborhood, a strong financial commitment from the city is necessary to improve the pedestrian and vehicular infrastructure to support them, thereby easing the burden on the existing neighborhood fabric,” Jackson said, reading from the BCNA letter.
The BCNA suggested creating traffic control measures near the intersection of Monticello and Carlton roads before any projects are built.
The commissioners, however, focused on potential traffic issues within the project on Carlton Avenue. The development would have seven parking spaces, with an entrance from the street, and an exit on a private alley.
“Were there any considerations based off of the entire community of children that walk to Clark [Elementary] from there, since there is only sidewalk on one side on [Carlton Avenue], and you have to cross the street there in order to gain access to the school?” Planning Commission Chairwoman Lisa Green asked city staff.
Green lives near the project site.
Missy Creasy, assistant director of Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Development Services, said that the traffic engineer who had looked at the project for the city was not concerned about the location.
“This is a very small site with very low traffic impacts,” Creasy said, reading from the traffic engineer’s statement.
“This is not the only street like this in the city. I live on a street that is supposedly a two-lane street, but parking on one side blocked it down to one lane,” Lahendro said. “People go too fast. And there are no sidewalks.”
Lahendro said he thought offering fewer parking spaces would push residents to walk, bike, or ride a bus to work.
“I don’t know that I want to see a city that has apartments surrounded by asphalt all over the place,” he said.
Santoski said that perspective was not realistic.
“If you have two people living in an apartment, almost both people have an automobile,” he said. “Most people are not going to give up their cars right away.”
Santoski said that he had heard about parking concerns from many residents in downtown Belmont after the establishment of The Local, Mas Tapas, and other restaurants. Residents say that customers park in front of their houses, leaving homeowners to park elsewhere.
“Something like this actually has less parking than it needs and you’re putting it on a narrow street and you’re pushing everybody else into the surrounding neighborhoods,” Santoski said.