The first phase of the redevelopment of Southwood Mobile Home Park took a big step forward Tuesday night.
The Albemarle County Planning Commission voted, 6-1, to recommend approval of a request to rezone about 34 acres of the site to allow a maximum of 450 residential units and up to 50,000 square feet of non-residential buildings.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville bought the property off Old Lynchburg Road near Fifth Street Extended in 2007, and it plans to redevelop the site into a 700- to 800-unit mixed-income, mixed-use development. Habitat expects to do the project without displacing any of the current residents.
Planning commissioner Pam Riley, who voted against the recommendation, took issue with the proposed design of the project, and said she still had concerns about displacing residents.
“I think a future design that actually is similar to what there is now, where ... the [community] center is located within the center of the community and that it is a walkabout community would be preferred,” she said.
Revisions to the project’s code of development were made after a June planning commission work session during which commissioners were concerned about maximum building height and other parts of the proposal.
The height was reduced to four stories or 45 feet in the denser areas near Old Lynchburg Road, or four stories or 50 feet in the Neighborhood Center Special Area, which borders Hickory Street.
The county Board of Supervisors in June approved an agreement with Habitat for the redevelopment of the site, that could give the organization $3.2 million if certain milestones are met.
Most of the approximately 25 county residents who spoke during public comment were in favor of the project and the rezoning.
CEO of Piedmont Housing Alliance Sunshine Mathon, Community Investment Collaborative Vice President Kier Zander and Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia CEO James Pierce all spoke in favor of the rezoning.
“The [county Comprehensive Plan] itself calls for increased residential density in this region, and by definition, this directly translates to impact on the schools and increased traffic,” Mathon said. “The county can’t call for density and then say ‘no’ when someone offers to fulfill on it.”
Southwood Resident Rose Glasgow said she would love to go somewhere safe because she is afraid when storms hit the property.
“The trees there are really old, they may be beautiful but they’re rotten, and they will fall. A limb fell on my house during the last storm on Sunday with the winds being high,” she said.
Nearby residents have worried about traffic and the height of the buildings near Old Lynchburg Road. Some Mosby Mountain residents said the taller buildings should be located further into the development
“The community center really should be at the center of the community, not on the edge of the community,” Preston Miller, who lives in Mosby Mountain, said. “We think that’s where all the commercial buildings should be, is the center of the community.”
A traffic impact analysis showed that many intersections in the area will fail with or without the proposed first phase of the redevelopment, but would be made worse by the redevelopment.
The county staff report noted that the issues will need to be addressed with or without the Southwood development and the county already is planning to address the most serious issues with the corridor.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has started a study to evaluate the road, but the study does not include funding for road projects. Some intersections in the area are considered “high priority” by the county, but there is not yet funding for those projects.
Commissioner Jennie More said the county, in general, needs to get ahead of the infrastructure and road issues that continue to pop up with proposed developments.
“As a leader in our community, we need to come together and figure out a way that we can start to get ahead of this, because I feel like we’re starting to drown in it,” she said.
Some commissioners shared residents’ issues with the height of the buildings along Old Lynchburg Road.
Commissioner Karen Firehock listed a number of concerns she had with much of the code of development.
“I am very supportive of affordable housing, despite what you may think, but I also am concerned,” she said. “The bottom line is that I don’t think that this level of commercial development along Old Lynchburg Road is appropriate for that area.”