Albemarle County Planning Commission

May 18, 2004

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were William Rieley, Rodney Thomas, Chairman; Calvin Morris, Marcia Joseph, Bill Edgerton and Pete Craddock, Vice-Chairman. Absent from the meeting was Jo Higgins. Mr. Rieley arrived at 6:13 p.m.  Mr. Kamptner arrived at 6:15 p.m.

 

Other officials present were David Benish, Chief of Planning and Community Development; Margaret Doherty, Senior Planner; Yadira Amarante, Planner and Greg Kamptner, Assistant County Attorney.

 

ZMA-03-12 Stillfried Lane Townhouses (Sign #21, 51) - Request to rezone 6.53 acres from

R-1, Residential to PRD, Planned Residential District to allow up to 25 dwelling units.  The property, described as Tax Map 60, Parcels 32, 33, and 34, is located in the Jack Jouett Magisterial District on Stillfried Lane off Rt. 250W (Ivy Road) behind the Kluge Children's Rehab Center. The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Office Service in Neighborhood 6. (Margaret Doherty)  DEFERRED FROM THE MAY 4, 2004 PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING.

 

Ms. Doherty summarized the staff report.  She apologized for the inaccuracies contained in the staff report. This staff report was written by Michael Barnes before he left and the plan changed between the time he wrote the report and when it was sent out. She passed out a proffer form. (Attachment 1) She passed out a letter from John Matthews, an adjoining property owner, in support of the change of zoning assuming the run-off problems from “U” Heights development that has occurred in the past and from the new development are addressed so that the run-off in all cases will be retained on site and will be released in controlled amounts after any rain event. (Attachment 2)  The changes include that the applicant plans to keep the old house and to put in four new town homes. She pointed out that information was referenced throughout the staff report. Weatherhill Homes is proposing a rezoning of 6.6 acres from R-1 to PRD to accommodate a 26 unit townhouse project at the end of Stillfried Lane.  The applicant is also requesting a critical slopes waiver in the establishment of internal setback, which has to be approved by the Board.  The site is situated behind the Kluge Rehabilitation Center on Lewis Mountain which gradually slopes up from Route 250. The front portion of the site is an open lawn with numerous large trees. The applicant’s plan seeks to conserve as many of these trees as possible. The rear of the property is heavily wooded and rises steeply. The applicant’s proposal limits grading and construction in the rear of the site and the applicant has proffered to preserve the larger trees found in this area. The applicant has proposed what they feel provides for a high quality relatively high density project that does not impact the site’s natural resources. The applicant is also designing several of the townhouses to be smaller than the others which will be offered at a reduced price and thus be available to a wider market. Staff finds that the application meets most of the applicable principles of the Neighborhood Model and that they have provided cash to assist in the County’s Capital Improvement Program. Their proposal ensures building massing and architecture that meets the County’s goals for the development areas. Therefore, staff recommends approval of the rezoning, critical slopes waiver and the internal setback modification.  The remaining issue as always is the proffers. The applicant has provided a revised proffer form which staff handed out to the Commission tonight, which has been reviewed and approved by the County Attorney’s Office and the Zoning Administrator. The proffers provide a $1,000 per dwelling unit towards pedestrian improvements in Neighborhood V. One of the issues that staff just started working on this afternoon was that neither the proffers nor the application plan addresses the County’s recently adopted goal of providing 15 percent of affordable units. Hopefully what the Commission could do tonight is address any issues about the application plan and then get into a good discussion about proffers in order to get clear direction on how staff and the applicant could work towards the completion of the proffers. The proffers could be changed between now and the Board date, which was June 9.  She pointed out that this project has been deferred many times and they were running behind schedule. If the Commission has any questions, she would be happy to answer them.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if any Commissioner had any questions for Ms. Doherty.  Other than the confusion from going from one plan to the other and getting lost in the shuffle, he asked if the 15 percent of affordable housing was the only thing overlooked.

 

Ms. Doherty stated that staff worked with the applicant for many months on this project and feel like they have gotten towards a very high quality development. The off-site improvements that they were looking for were accomplished.  Also, they worked towards a resolution with the proffers. The applicant is providing for a strategy towards affordable housing by providing different types of unit styles.  But, this project is not what staff would consider affordable. The applicant has said that this is more of a high end project and they don’t anticipate that any of the units would meet our affordability requirements. She pointed out that Nick Michaels may be able to answer this better about what conversations were held between Michael Barnes and the applicant before he left on whether they would be willing to provide 15 percent of affordable housing. 

 

Mr. Thomas suggested that they have the applicant address that issue first. There being no more questions for staff, he opened the public hearing and asked if the applicant would like to come forward and address the Commission.

 

Nick Michaels, representative of Weatherhill Homes, stated that he had not prepared anything, but would be happy to answer any questions.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if he could comment on the affordable housing issue.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that from the very beginning Vito Cedda was on a number of the AHIP affordable housing committees and has been working for a number of years trying to move this issue forward. There are 26 townhouses that are 25 feet wide. There are 4 townhouses that are included as small units to attempt to get into the affordable range, which is somewhat of a moving target.  He pointed out that he was not sure where that target is right now because it goes up and down depending on the interest rates and many other things. He noted that they had understood that it would be around $175,000 at the time they started the project and included the four units hoping that they could deliver them at that price or very close to that price. With the site costs it is not an easy site to work with. They are going to have to go all the way down to Route 250 for water.  It is about 600 feet to the property and then another 200 feet to the nearest unit that the 8” water line will have to be run. They will have to go off site for the sewer connection because the closest line is one property removed at University Heights. With the development costs per lot up because of the site improvements, and short of losing money on providing affordable housing, the closest they think they can come is in that $200,000 to $225,000 range. Again, as they get further into the design they will be able to refine that. But at this stage that is a realistic target. He pointed out that they were trying to get closer to the affordable range.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked how much the non-affordable units would be going for.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that the others would probably be in the $350,000 to $400,000 range, but that at this point that was their closest guess. They had made an effort to meet the guidelines of providing varied surfaces and mixed materials. The first display on the left is a typical unit where the car would enter into a garage.  There will be two parking spaces in each of the wider units on the inside and then two more on the apron for a total of four spaces per unit. The 16-foot units, as currently designed, have parking for two cars inside and one on the apron.  He pointed out that would more than meet the requirements for guest parking and per unit parking. There are three buildings as you look at the site plan. The two at the top of the hill are slightly different and actually are not illustrated with an elevation, but they are very similar in feel. There is some guest parking provided along the road and the owner’s parking is provided underneath the unit.  Therefore, there are only seven surface spaces and the rest are all inside. The other item that they have addressed with the Engineering Department is the storm water runoff. There was a concern in this area because there is a storm water bottle neck at the base of Stillfried Lane that the Engineering Department has done a study on. It was found that it would be too expensive to undo the bottle neck, which is due to the unrestricted water flow from University Heights. At the time that University Heights was built there was no adequate detention requirements. Therefore, when it rains the water comes down and funnels through one property, which is the John Matthews property. What they have managed to do is take the line share and bring the water around the upper part of the site and around the other side of Kluge where there is no bottle neck. All of the storm water system involves retaining the water in underground storage conduits and releasing the water slowly after the rain event.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if the water was being released to the west.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that they have not done any calculations, but estimate that about 90 percent of the runoff will go around to that side. He pointed out that when they added the extra four units they were able to lower that part of the site and now there is a good chance that even less of the water will come around the eastern side. He stated that they have not had a chance to complete the engineering there, but will once they were in the site plan process.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if all four stories of the building closest to Route 250 would be visible from the road.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that the buildings would be two stories on one side and four stories on the other.  He pointed out that right now if you drove past it that he did not think they would be able to see anything because there was a lot of leaves blocking the view. He pointed out that they had gone to some expensive efforts to save some of the trees at the very bottom of the site to the right of the little building.  Specifically, there is a 52 inch Tulip Poplar and a 48 inch Tulip Poplar. There are many trees close to that size growing up the hill also.  It is actually a magnificent site as you look up the hills.  There are some pines trees around the houses. There has been some effort to save trees right at the entrance.  Regarding the review from Route 250, there is a three tiered retaining wall, with each wall being no higher than 6 feet.  The intention is to plant the walls with shrubs and ivy.  The proposed retaining wall is heavily rusticated and concrete, which looks like cut stone. He stated that VDOT was requiring a 150 foot deceleration lane to be added on Route 250.

 

Mr. Craddock asked if there was enough traffic to justify a traffic light.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that they have determined that it is not.

 

Mr. Thomas asked if there was anyone else in the audience who would like to speak on this application. There being none, he closed the public hearing to bring the application back to the Commission for discussion and possible action.

 

Mr. Morris stated that when the Board of Supervisors took action on the fifteen percent affordable housing that he recalled that they stated that it would be a goal. He asked Mr. Kamptner if that was correct.

 

Mr. Kamptner stated that the requirement to provide fifteen percent of affordable housing was part of the Comprehensive Plan and was a goal to strive for.

 

Mr. Benish stated that was correct and pointed out that there is also flexibility to consider other means by which to achieve that. He stated that it was not necessarily a flat number. There was discussion about making sure that the language had some flexibility to achieve it other than having to literally provide 15 percent of the units. 

 

Mr. Morris asked how that could be done here.

 

Mr. Benish stated that there were all sorts of ways that you could do it. There could be cash contributions equivalent to a housing program. He stated that they could do less than fifteen percent, but it would have to be consistent with the character of the development. One of the things that were discussed with the Housing Committee was whether there was going to be a minimum set. For many affordable housing standards there is a minimum because at a certain threshold of development it is more impact to provide that affordable housing. The Housing Committee did not want to set a minimum because they wanted to set that strong goal but still have some flexibility within that goal. He stated that there was an understanding that you might get less than 15 percent in certain developments and in others you might get more.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that in an associated question the applicant seemed to indicate that there was some softness in the calculation of the number.  He asked if there was a formula.

 

Mr. Benish stated that there is a determination of what is affordable. The Housing Office determines that and there is a method to determine what that is.  What happens depends on interest rates and other financial conditions that will fluctuate from time to time. He noted that they could figure out what that is at any time. 

 

Mr. Rieley asked to the best of his knowledge what percentage of this development meets that standard. He asked how many units out of the 26.

 

Mr. Benish stated that he could only go by what the applicant just said because he heard them say that they wanted to have four units and keep the house, which was close to that. He noted that they were not sure if they will be able to achieve any units at the $175,000 or $180,000.  He noted that they were striving to bring it as close to that as possible.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that they were aiming at 4 units, but that so far they would not meet the $175,000 threshold.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that currently there were no affordable units proposed in this development because they can’t meet the threshold for $175,000 units. He stated that there were no affordable units being proposed.  The other issue that he was struggling with was that the fiscal impact study noted that it was going to cost between $15,000 and $25,000 a year of lost revenue to allow this project to go through.

 

Mr. Michaels stated that they had talked with the staff person who prepared that about how he arrived at his numbers.  For instance, in the property taxes generated he is showing $23,000, which is some sort of an average they use on these impacts.  He pointed out that if they were selling the houses for what he mentioned before that the property tax generated would be probably be two to three times what he has stated there.  He noted that it was called an unofficial tabulation versus an official tabulation based on what property taxes would be thrown off.  He pointed out that he used $1,000 per unit and it would be more than that.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that he was concerned about the layout and scale of the buildings on that site, which was a point that Ms. Joseph had raised.

 

Ms. Joseph stated that it was a massive project and would not be reviewed by ARB.

 

Mr. Benish stated that based on the goal the figure would be around four units. One option is to get back with the Housing Office to see what kind of suggestions they might have.  They have been talking recently about some condemnations of locking in fewer homes at a certain price and dedicating some lots to AHIP for them to build homes. There are some new ideas that the Housing Office is thinking about with the Chief of Housing.  He stated that he did not know how much discussion has transpired recently, but that was one option. The Commission can act on the request and then in the intervening period for the Board of Supervisors that the applicant can address that too if it is the Commission’s and applicant’s goal to move it forward.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that the Commission’s action is obviously as advisory to the Board of Supervisors, and therefore could go in several directions after it leaves here. 

 

Mr. Craddock asked to make a comment about the affordable housing.  He stated that he had been the one who talked a lot about it at North Pointe and they were talking about a few hundred or so houses.  He wondered at this location how affordable is something going to be right in that location.  He suggested that the owner take the other 42 units up in price and bring the other 4 down in price.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that they would lose their opportunity if they did not take advantage of this opportunity because this was high end housing.

 

Mr. Thomas stated that the biggest problem is the price of the land.  He pointed out that unless the density is increased there that there would not be any affordable housing in that area.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that this was a rezoning from R-1 to R-6 and that affordable housing should be a part of that.

 

Mr. Benish stated that one thing that would be useful for the Commission to clarify with whatever action they take is the two questions that have been raised concerning the affordable housing and the density of the development. If there is a clear direction and that is the sentiment that the Commission wants staff to address for at least the impact of the development on the site.  He stated that if the Commission could clarify that issue that it would be very helpful.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that there were individual Commissioners that expressed concerns about design and density issues, but he thought that the overwhelming issue for everybody is the affordable housing.

 

Mr. Rieley made a motion to recommend of denial of ZMA-2003-12, Stillfried Lane Townhouses.

 

Mr. Morris seconded the motion, which carried by a vote of (6:0).  (Higgins – Absent)

 

Mr. Kamptner asked if any of the Commissioners had any comments about the proffers. He noted that there was a comment about the adequacy of the cash contribution proffer number 5 as being insufficient to address the CIP impacts. He pointed out that he had some minor typographical changes that he would pass on to Ms. Doherty.

 

Mr. Rieley stated that from the general perspective of the magnitude of the project that the provisions for affordable housing looked extremely low.  He suggested that between now and the Board hearing that it would be useful if staff could make the comparison between this and the residential units at Hollymead Town Center and the residential units at North Pointe so that they were looking at things on equal terms.

 

Mr. Thomas stated that the recommendation for denial of ZMA-2003-12, Stillfried Lane Townhouses, would be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors. The Board will hear this request on June 9.

 

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