By. Neil Williamson, President
In this time of Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful for; unexpectedly, the Charlottesville Planning Commission is now on that list.
Please let me explain.
Late in last night’s Planning Commission work session, after hearing the Free Enterprise Forum concerns with the proposed comprehensive plan and the land use map, as it existed prior to Saturday’s meeting, Chair Lisa Green asked that the map and narrative they created be shared with the 4 members of the public in attendance. Each of us took photographs of the map and narrative with the understanding these are just drafts.
Comparing the two images, I see hope for increased intensity, AKA density, in many nodes.
Green expressed a desire for folks to read the narrative- something I refer to as the “Intensity Spectrum”. Staff attempted to type in new language on the fly during Saturday’s meeting – that is the image below – it will undoubtedly change but we like the direction it is headed.
We again see hope in the draft language that was captured includes the verbiage “Missing Middle Housing”. The previous version went from high to low with very little room for middle housing.
It is our understanding that the Planning Commission will see staff’s rendition of the changes at their regular December 11th meeting but the documents will have already been submitted for the December 17th City Council meeting. The Planning Commission will deliver an incomplete update of the Comprehensive Plan, the Community Engagement chapter is not yet drafted and the Land Use chapter is not yet complete.
Council will provide their comments on the draft and it will return to the Planning Commission for further meetings and refinements (and completion of the two unfinished chapters).
While I remain a healthy skeptic waiting to see the devil in the details, I sincerely appreciate the direction and conversations about making the CITY of Charlottesville a “Welcoming urban environment for all people”.
So I am thankful for the Charlottesville Planning Commission for listening to the public AND sharing the draft output from their Saturday matinee session.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
The Charlottesville Planning Commission seems to believe it is above the immutable economic law of supply and demand as they draft a Comprehensive Plan revision calling for affordable housing while reducing the ‘by right’ building height (and capacity) across nine of the City’s thirteen zoning districts.
If this draft moves forward, it fundamentally shifts the planning paradigm and will likely cause significant harm not only affordable housing but also the overall economic vitality of the City.
Please let me explain.
A 2016 Comprehensive Housing Analysis study conducted for the City by Robert Charles Lesser & Company (RCLCo) found:
The Charlottesville region should not be a supply-constrained market. However, two key factors are creating supply challenges within the City limits and in the close-in areas of Albemarle County and will continue to drive up home prices and rents:
Limited land available for new development within the City and close-in areas, driven both by the City’s small land area and built-out character and Albemarle County’s restrictive growth areas.
A large affluent population that desires city living and can afford to pay higher prices for housing compared to the market today, which will continue to drive up land prices, home values and sales prices.
These two market impacts clearly are pressures on either side of the supply/demand curve. Finance guru Al Erbam defines supply and demand succinctly:
The law of supply states that the quantity of a good supplied (i.e., the amount owners or producers offer for sale) rises as the market price rises, and falls as the price falls. Conversely, the law of demand says that the quantity of a good demanded falls as the price rises, and vice versa.
Given this reality, if the City wants to address affordable housing it would seem like it would be advocating for an increased supply of housing product in their Comprehensive Plan Update.
Per state code, all Virginia localities must review their mandated comprehensive plans every five years. The goal of this review is to encourage localities to think beyond the near term and create a twenty year community vision. This document generally includes chapters regarding land use, economic development, population projections, affordable housing and environmental issues. While these chapters often have competing priorities, the goal is to provide the locality a guide for future development.
The 2018 Comprehensive Plan, as drafted, significantly reduces the residential carrying capacity of Charlottesville thus increasing price pressures on both existing and new residential and commercial units.
The Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable (CADRe) recently sent a letter to City Council and the Planning Commission outlining their concerns with the proposed nearly citywide downzoning.
The Planning Commission has not publicly stated the specific goals and planning principles informing their proposed changes in the City’s land use and zoning. Their work thus far … appears to show a determination to “downzone” our downtown and virtually all of our urban mixed-use corridor areas. Reducing building height and hence buildable area, would create impediments to addressing the City’s housing and workplace shortages, including the affordable housing shortage.
The CADRe letter included a most helpful chart graphically depicting the reduction in by right and “bonus” height compared to the current zoning regulations.
One portion of the Comprehensive Plan that we have not yet seen is the capacity analysis for future growth. It will be interesting to see how this version’s capacity analysis (with these reduced heights) compares with the 2013 Comp Plan which stated:
Adding the by-right calculations together, staff finds that the City’s current zoning could accommodate approximately 10,000 additional residential units, or roughly 25,000 additional residents.
All of this ties into the 2013 Comprehensive Plan goal that stated in goal 5.5
Revise the Future Land Use Map so that it represents the desired vision for the City’s future, Pay special attention to increasing the supply of affordable housing, increasing employment opportunities for all citizens, and encourage the development of mixed income neighborhoods throughout the City. Emphasis added – nw
The City Planning Commission can’t completely ignore the law of supply and demand. Given the proposed downzoning, the commission must be transparent that its objective of restricting heights will reduce the city’s residential AND commercial carrying capacity. The economic impact of these proposals must be quantified to understand their import. We believe these changes will harm the economic vitality of the region and significantly reduce housing affordability across all zoning districts.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes reducing existing regulatory barriers and, at a minimum, maintaining the existing allowable heights is the best path forward to improve housing affordability across all price points.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County.
Photo Credit: 425business.com
By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Last night, the Greene County Board of Supervisors amended its zoning ordinance and accepted amended applicant proffers, both actions will directly impact the proposed expansion of an existing residential community on the southern edge of the county. Preddy Gables, LLC has a development of apartments on the northbound side of Route 29 south of Preddy Creek Road and they came to the October 24th Board of Supervisors meeting asking that the height restriction be increased in order to make changes to their design and amenities for Phase III of their project.
The first step of the process was to request the board to change the ordinance height limitation from 40 to 50 feet. This is included in the R-2 District under Article 6 within the Residential District. County Planner, Stephanie Golon, presented the request which not only affects this property but all R-2 property in the county. She explained that most R-2 designation are in the growth area of Greene County and it is compatible with the Comprehensive Plan.
Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) agreed with the change since R-2 is where the county is planning for increased density, investing in infrastructure and he made a motion to make the change to 50 feet. This motion was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The second action item was from Preddy Gables, LLC which offered to amend the proffers they originally offered in July, 2004. The amended proffer to increase the number of residential units by 90. Originally approved for 350 units, 260 have already been constructed.
The revised proffer, with the just passed 50 foot height allowance, would include structured parking (80 spaces) underneath the building, an additional swimming pool and an enclosed dog run. In addition, this phase would have elevators in the buildings rather than only offer stairs. The structured parking resulted in additional building height also factored into the demand for elevator. The final and perhaps most important from a financial impact to Greene County is that the units will be reduced from three bedroom units to two bedroom units.
The impact of this change is logically that the families occupying the units will be smaller, i.e. fewer children. Fewer children will result in a reduced demand on the school system which is the main consumer of tax revenue in the county.
This was a public hearing yet that were no citizens speaking either for or against the revised proffers. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) commented that this is a reasonable adjustment to Preddy Gables plan and they have listened to the market in making changes to their amenities that their client want to see in Phase III of the project.
Chairperson Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) stated that while Preddy Creek is not specifically designed just for elderly citizens, like Four Seasons a 55 and better community on Route 33, but the inclusion of an elevator to reach the upper floors is a key component to this development. She mentioned this product would be very beneficial for the aging population cohort.
Frydl concluded that this was a market based solution and that amending the proffers, especially from three bedrooms down to two bedrooms, reduces the impact on schools. “There is obviously a market need for this type of housing”, Frydl said. The Board all agreed and approved the revised proffers by a vote of 5-0.
The addition of more residents in Ruckersville will hopefully create more demand and entice new commercial development in Ruckersville. So that even though the previously required commercial development has been removed from the proffers, in the long run, the same result may occur with additional commercial development being attracted by more “rooftops”.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org