Albemarle County Planning Commission

June 6, 2006

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission met on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 and held a meeting and a public hearing at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Room 241, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. Members attending were Eric Strucko, Bill Edgerton, Jo Higgins, Jon Cannon, Marcia Joseph, Chairman and Calvin Morris, Vice-Chairman. Absent was Pete Craddock.  Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, representative for David J. Neuman, FAIA, Architect for University of Virginia, was absent. 

 

Other officials present were Elaine Echols, Principal Planner; Bill Fritz, Development Review Manager;  Keith Lancaster, Senior Planner; Claudette Grant, Senior Planner; Judy Wiegand, Senior Planner; David Pennock, Principal Planner and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney.

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Ms. Joseph called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

            Public Hearing Items:

 

ZMA 2005-014 Poplar Glen Phase II (Signs #81, 83):

PROPOSAL:  Rezone approx. 3.636 acres from R-1 Residential zoning district which allows (1 unit/acre) to PRD Planned Residential District zoning district which allows residential 3-34 units per acre with limited commercial uses. Approximately 28 townhouse units proposed.

PROFFERS:  Yes.

EXISTING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN LAND USE/DENSITY:  Neighborhood Density Residential - residential (3-6 units/acre) and supporting uses such as religious institutions and schools and other small-scale non-residential uses and Urban Density Residential - residential (6.01-34 units/acre) and supporting uses such as religious institutions, schools, commercial, office and service uses in Neighborhood 6.

ENTRANCE CORRIDOR: No.

LOCATION: The south side Ivy Road (Route 250), approx. 1/4 mile from intersection of 29/250 Bypass and Route 250 West.

TAX MAP/PARCEL: 60H/A2.

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT: Jack Jouett.

STAFF:  Claudette Grant

 

Ms. Grant summarized the staff report. (See Staff Report.)

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there were any questions for staff.  There being none, she opened the public hearing and invited the applicant to address the Commission.

 

Vito Cedda, representative for Weatherhill Homes, stated that the Commission has seen this project before and was fairly familiar with it.  He asked to review some of the issues through a power point presentation. He pointed out the uses on the adjacent properties noting that the site is very much an urban project.  The project is at the end of Still Free Lane.  The site is very close in and is very walkable.  As you pull in you would see the fronts of units.  They have tried to minimize the impact of garages and cars.  There are 28 units total.  There will be three-story townhouses.  The units will be stepping up the hill through a brick courtyard.  There are three and four story units.  He presented slides of what the units would look like.  Still Free Lane is a private road, but is maintained by the state.  There are no sidewalks here.  They use a lane behind there to get access to the commercial.  Poplar Glen I is currently under construction.  It is well designed project and will be a nice addition to the community.  Valerie Long will present the other issues.

 

Valeria Long, attorney for the applicant Weatherhill Homes, stated that she was present to talk about technical issues.  She wanted to talk a little on the density, which was an issue raised in the staff report.  They feel that the amount of density proposed for this project for this property is an appropriate fit.  The overall density of the entire property is about 7.5 dwelling units per acre.  The Comprehensive Plan designation for this property is essential in two parts.  It is a combination of urban density and the neighborhood density under the Comprehensive Plan.  Even when you evaluate both halves of the property independently they are in the range. If you combine them together and add up all the units again, it is 7.7 dwelling units per acre, which is within the range whether looking at the neighborhood density or the urban density.  So they feel that is an appropriate density for this property.  The terrain is obviously very challenging.  As seen in the staff report the engineering staff’s diagram shows the areas of the critical slopes.  There are some critical slopes there.  Some of the critical slopes are very steep in the back part of the property.  They are staying out of the steepest parts of the slopes.  They obviously request approval from the Commission of the critical slopes waiver.  They think that they have struck a very appropriate balance between the numbers of units to maximize the units to the extent appropriate for the terrain that is very challenging here.  In addition, the amount of density still provides more than adequate room for open space.  They provided 1.5 acres of open space, which on a 3.6 acre parcel equates to 41 percent of open space.  That compares very favorably to the ordinance minimum of 25 percent.  Also it makes room for the underground storage facility interconnections to the adjacent parcels both pedestrian and vehicular for a nice road network and all of those issues.  They think that on the density issue that they have hit the right balance.  They would be willing to answer the Commission’s questions about that.  She also wanted to point out the new pedestrian path that Ms. Grant mentioned.  They do have an exhibit showing that.  It is in the location that staff has asked it to be located rather than going around the back of the building.  She felt that they have addressed that issue.  As for the drainage she felt that they have heard from Mr. Mac who is an off site property owner at the work session, they have been working very closely with him over the last few months leading up to the work session.  Since then they have worked on an agreement with him that has been signed since the work session.  So they have addressed all of those issues with that property owner.  In addition to that issue and in addition to extenuating and managing all of the on site storm water Weatherhill Homes has also proffered to manage an additional 4 acres of off site storm water.  So they are essentially doubling the amount of storm water that they are required to maintain under the ordinance.  Weatherhill is voluntarily doing that.  It recognizes that this is an existing significant drainage problem.  It is going to step up to the plat on its own to fix this problem for both the U Heights property and Mathews property.  So they are pleased to do that and able to do that.  Again, that is part of a balancing of the issues with the density, terrain and the off site drainage issues.  So they are pleased to be able to speak to that.  On the affordable housing issue, as the staff report noted in lieu of providing actual units of affordable housing Weatherhill is proffering a cash proffer of $1,650 per units being built.  So for 28 units proposed $1.650 for each unit.  That is significantly higher than has ever been proffered for any other project in the area.  Weatherhill has been a leader for the affordable housing issue in our community.  This is a very generous proffer.  As the staff report says, the Housing Director supports this proposal.  The reason for the cash in lieu of the actual units is that this property, again, is a very tight site. The density is about as high as it can get without encroaching on the critical slopes.  For this type of a produce, a high end townhouse unit Mr. Cedda has come up with a lot of creative ways in some of their other projects to tuck in affordable units at the end of condominium buildings and things like that.  He has been very creative.  At this time they are finding that it is not the best fit for affordable units.  So that is why in lieu of that they are providing the generous proffers.  The $1,650 is the amount that the Housing Office tells us is what is needed to provide down payment assistance for the qualified families who can acquire these units.  That is a very precise number. It is a very important component of affordable housing.  In the staff report there was a fiscal impact analysis that was attached to the report. They have been trying to reach the staff that did that, but understands that he is on vacation.  It indicated that there was a net negative impact to the County due to this project because of its residential units.  It appears to us that was not quite accurate based on the assumptions that would generate in the form of real estate taxes for this property.  They felt that $39,000 looked a little bit low.  They went back and did the math.  That assumes if they understand how they got that number correctly that these units would be selling for about $190,000.  In fact they are selling in the first phase of Poplar Glen at about $450,000 and upper 6’s.  So if you even assume $500,000 per unit by their calculations there would be a new positive impact of about $24,600.  They obviously will look forward with talking with Mr. Allshouse when he is available.  But, they just wanted to raise that.  Hopefully, that won’t be an issue for their consideration.  She just wanted to point that out.   Finally, the two phases of Poplar Glen will be managed as a single community.  They will both be part of the same Homeowner’s Association.  That owner’s association will manage the private road network that is proposed as part of this.  Obviously, they will be happy to address any questions the Commission might have.  There are a number of people here tonight to represent the request.

 

Mr. Edgerton said in the staff report it said that the agreement has not been signed.  He asked if that had been signed.

 

Ms. Long stated yes, that was correct in it has been signed.   They have worked out all of the issues with the adjacent landowners. 

 

Mr. Morris said that for a residential area paying for itself is about $500,000. 

 

Mr. Strucko agreed that it was in that area.

 

Mr. Morris pointed out that what they heard is absolutely correct.  It is a break even.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there was any other member of the public present that would like to speak on this item.  There being none, the public hearing was closed and the matter before the Commission.  She asked to take exception to something that was said in the staff report under the affordable housing aspect.  It talks about the fact that staff is recommending that they approve the cash proffers because it is cost prohibitive to put affordable housing in this development.  If they started thinking about that they would think that street trees are cost prohibited.  Or that maybe architectural design is cost prohibitive and sidewalks are cost prohibitive and recreation areas and green ways.  She felt that affordable housing should not be looked at something that is cross prohibited in any of the items that come before us.  She did not support this as a reason for a favorable respond to this project.  However, there are many other reasons that affordable housing in the way that they have handled this can be considered favorable. She felt that the fact that $1,650 for each affordable unit that you would have placed on this is very generous.  She felt that their reasoning was sound to use that as the basis that is the basis that Albemarle County has used for down payments.  She also thought that the Board of Supervisors has made a determination to accept cash proffers and, therefore, the Commission should consider them.  She felt that the scale of the development has something to do with her reasoning also that there are 24 units.  However, she was getting a little worried that people are going to start doing these things in phases now to may be avoid providing affordable housing in each of the phases.  They have also heard that disposal of these affordable places all over the County is very difficult to enforce.  So she understood for that reason, too that there would only be four here.  She also liked the fact that they have not offered any sort of sunset date for the cash proffer and that it is clean and pure and coming to us.  It is designed for affordable housing.  She felt that is really important and that it is specific for the affordable housing.  She felt that this is related and that they are going above and beyond dealing with some off site drainage issues.  Because of that she felt that they were offering the community something.  Therefore, the Commission should be considering whatever sort of favorably decisions they can make for this project. There is one change she would ask the applicant to consider making to the proffers, which is the cash proffer for the affordable housing is $1,650 comes when you have completed 7 units.  So this will come in some sort of proportion so they will be guaranteed that they will get this money and not just as the units come in.  But, she divided 4 into 28, which are 7 affordable housing units.  So as the 7 units come in the cash rolls in to provide affordable housing.

 

Mr. Morris stated that he was impressed with the entire proposal.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he concurred with just about everything that Ms. Joseph said. The Board has made it very clear that they are willing to be flexible about accepting cash instead of actual units.  He felt that long term they are going to have to figure out a way to integrate affordability into each project.  It worries him a little bit that it could not be integrated into the plan.  There is a substantial impact on critical slopes, but as it was pointed out during the work session because of the challenging topography on this site they are proposing to do far less than what the Comprehensive Plan would recommend. That is a give and take.  He thought it was worth addressing the critical slopes.  Engineering has shown us that they can.

 

Mr. Strucko added his voice to the concern about affordable housing.  He read through this and agreed with Ms. Joseph that he was not looking at this as a 28 unit proposal, but he was looking at phase one as well, and the concentration of these high end town homes.  Certainly in phase 2 he thought that the provisions of some units in the affordable range feasible.  But, like she said there were circumstances that brought his intensity of concern down.  That was the proffer and the other issues regarding the project.

 

Ms. Higgins agreed with most of those things, too.  There is one other aspect that she looked at the overall development as that this particular development due to its private road scenario that there is a continuing burden whether it under a single or now joined homeowner’s association that reality is land use and affordable housing has a certain social economic impact for a family that might be helped through the system and assisted with the payment. But, she did not think they should put them into every development.  She disagreed with Mr. Edgerton’s perceptive of always integrating affordable in to every particular development is that an affordable housing scenario integrated here might have a burden of a monthly homeowner’s fee.  It could make it so someone with 80 percent of median income could not achieve what they were calling affordable right now, $185,000 or $195,000.  She thought that the reality of that is that you have to worry about not just doing it as a house is built, but what is the long jeopardy of that.  She thought there were places where houses in this market and this kind of urban density that it would not necessarily work in the long term.  So she felt that the cash proffer gives some of the locations discretion, but that it takes both of the components.  It takes both affordable homes as well as down payments to get them into them.  This is the perfect place to mix that.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that the Neighborhood Model was on his side that they need levels of affordability in all projects.  Therefore, the County’s opinion right now is on his side.  He felt that they need to support that.

 

Ms. Monteith said that it would be unfortunate that if any time you think about urban versus more rural sites and that any time that you are going to have an urban site it is probably going to be denser and the land values are going to be higher.  That if they started to make a practice of not providing affording affordable housing in the urban sites because the numbers are higher she felt that was a mistake.

 

Ms. Higgins noted that she meant in addition to all of those other factors when you weigh all of those in the different neighborhoods. She felt that there was affordable housing adjacent to this.  University is a significant affordable unit.  She felt that they have to look at the composite of the whole neighborhood.

 

Motion:  Mr. Morris moved, Mr. Edgerton seconded, to recommend approval of ZMA-2005-00014, Poplar Glenn – Phase 2 and the proffers with the expectations recommended by staff.

 

Mr. Edgerton asked to make a friendly amendment to include Ms. Joseph’s suggestion about the implementation of the affordable proffer.  He asked for some clarification from the applicant if that would be acceptable to reword the proffers so that at least the first affordable unit would kick in at the construction of the seventh house.

 

Ms. Grant stated that the applicant has agreed to revise the proffers.

 

Mr. Kamptner asked to clarify the motion in reference to Mr. Morris’ reference to the two staff recommendations. 

 

Mr. Morris accepted the friendly amendment regarding condition 3, which was seconded by Mr. Edgerton.

 

  1. The final application plan will reflect a pedestrian path in the location discussed during the Planning Commission work session.
  2. Legal approval of the proffers.
  3. Revise the affordable housing proffer to state that the cash proffer kicks in at the beginning of construction of the seventh unit.

 

The motion passed by a vote of 6:0.  (Commissioner Craddock was absent.) 

 

Motion:  Ms. Higgins moved, Mr. Morris seconded, to approve the critical slope waivers for ZMA-2005-00014, Poplar Glenn – Phase 2.

 

Ms. Higgins asked to make the statement that, again, these particular critical slopes are not in proximity to a stream bed or a highly sensitive area related to a stream or an aesthetic feature. Also, with the amount of open space which encompasses the majority of the critical slopes that it kind of offsets the concerns with disturbing the critical slopes under the plan that is before the Commission.

 

The motion passed by a vote of 6:0.  (Commissioner Craddock was absent.) 

 

Ms. Joseph stated that the critical slope waiver for ZMA-2005-00014, Poplar Glenn – Phase 2 was approved.  This item will be before the Board of Supervisors on July 5 with a recommendation for approval.

 

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