Proposed Belmont Restaurant Gets its Rezoning

By: Justin Westcvillelogo, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern

Currently at the address 814 Hinton Avenue is a tucked away residential home resting in tight quarters with commercial properties just feet to one side and across the street. However, soon that will change, thanks to the Charlottesville City Councils narrow 3-2 decision to up-zone the property from R-1 residential to Neighborhood Commercial Corridor (NCC) during their July 6th meeting. The location will soon join Belmont’s eclectic and vibrant commercial center as a restaurant.

The rezoning of 814 Hinton has been a contentious issue since it came before the Planning Commission in May.  At that point the Commission recommended denial of the plan by a 4-2 vote citing the neighborhoods already burdened traffic, parking, and noise control situations as the reasons the rezoning should not be permitted.

Despite the recommendation when the issue first came before Council on June 1st it seemed as if the petitioner would receive their requested rezoning without a problem as all four Councilors present spoke in favor of it and it was moved to the next meeting on June 15th.

However, when that meeting rolled around Council chose to remove the item from the agenda sometime between when the agenda was published and the start of the meeting, a move that seemed to indicate that the consensus of support voiced two weeks prior was in question. With the issue heading into its third month of public debate the final verdict was handed down on Monday with extensive debate prior to the close vote. Voting in favor of the rezoning were Councilors Brown, Edwards, and Norris. The trio were not dismissive of the concerns of the Belmont neighborhood but simply felt that the issues of noise, traffic, and parking stand alone from the rezoning of 814 and will remain a problem in need of attention whether or not the petition is granted. They argued that this one new commercial establishment would not significantly add to the challenges facing the area. Councilor David Brown also added that the parcel could actually serve to buffer the rest of Belmont from noise, as the new restaurant will not have amplified outdoor music and has agreed to construct and landscaped buffer that would protect the neighboring residential section from the commercial zone. The majority vote also insisted that the property in question is naturally commercial based on its location surrounded my so many other commercial properties.

Councilors Huja and Taliaferro represented the two dissenting votes. Huja was the missing Councilor in the June 1st meeting where there seemed to be a consensus in favor of the rezoning. He argued, this past meeting, that the extension of the commercial zone was neither good for the neighborhood nor consistent with the City’s comprehensive plan. Taliaferro, on the other hand, seemed to change his tune in the month between the two meetings. In June he supported the rezoning, but on Monday he argued against it saying “when you start doing this [expanding commercial zones] when do you really stop” adding, “that neighborhood is under a lot of stress anyway”.

Despite Taliaferro’s concern of creeping commercial expansion, he had to acknowledge that expanding the NCC zoning is something that can never be done without Councils blessing, so it is not something that could go unchecked, rather a purposeful political decision each time it is to occur.

Rezoning for Longwood Drive Redevelopment Seems to Have Narrow Support

Portions of Charlottesville’s Longwood Drive are potentially going to be rezoned from R-2 residential to Planned Unit Development if owner, developer Neighborhood properties gets its way. The plan is to demolish 18 of the existing rental properties in on the street, build 43 new townhomes, and renovate 16 of the existing townhouses for a net gain of 25 new units, with the redeveloped units be a mixture of for sale and rental townhomes. The existing units on the street are priced for low income renters, leading to much concern from the City over the redevelopment potentially displacing a large amount of these people.

However, the representative for Neighborhood Properties claimed in the meeting that the “commitment to affordable housing in this plan is unprecedented” and City staff member Brian Haluska agreed saying that the plan goes “above and beyond City expectations”. The affordable housing previsions in the plan are quite impressive as the developer has proffers to designate 15% of the units to be “affordable” housing, donate $50,000 to the Charlottesville Housing Fund, make four of the units available through section 8 for five years, and provide anyone displaced by the redevelopment the option of moving into a Neighborhood Properties unit elsewhere.

While the petition for rezoning seemed to have support from Council, it was by no means resounding. Although Councilors Huja, Taliaferro, and Brown seemed to support it, Mayor Norris and Councilor Holly Edwards still seem to have significant concerns. This matter will likely appear on the agenda for its final reading at Councils July 20th meeting.

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