Rachel's Haven

COURTESY JJM DESIGN

In August, the City Council unanimously voted to rezone 750 Hinton Ave. from residential to neighborhood commercial so Hinton Avenue Methodist Church could create a 15-unit apartment building known as Rachel’s Haven.

A proposed apartment complex that would include housing for people with disabilities has cleared the penultimate hurdle to approval.

Charlottesville City Council held a first reading of a rezoning request for 750 Hinton Ave. at its meeting Monday.

Hinton Avenue Methodist Church wants to rezone its 0.76-acre parcel from residential to neighborhood commercial corridor to create a 15-unit apartment building known as Rachel’s Haven.

The project’s namesake, Rachel Lewis, is the late wife of the church’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Lewis. She died in 2016 from breast cancer and ministered to people with developmental disabilities.

Twenty-seven people spoke during a public hearing on the proposal, with 15 in favor, 10 opposed and two expressing more general concerns.

Most of the people who attended Monday’s meeting were in favor of the project. When Kim Crater, a member of the Charlottesville District of the United Methodist Church, asked supporters to stand, more than three-quarters of the room rose, including Democratic City Council candidates Sena Magill and Michael Payne. No other candidates were at the meeting at the time.

“We have done everything we can to address the neighborhood’s concerns,” Crater said.

Those in favor of the project highlighted a need for affordable housing and accessible housing for those with developmental disabilities.

“Our society is not set up for them,” Matthew Gillikin said of those with developmental disabilities. “This is an opportunity to provide housing for them in a way that is meaningful in a great location in a community that is supportive for them.”

Opposition focused on possible future commercial uses of the property, noise and parking in the neighborhood.

Neighbors advocated for a residential zoning, rather than neighborhood commercial.

“We’re not opposed to housing for the disabled. ... We’re not opposed to affordable housing,” said Lucius Bracey. “Fix this so that if it’s not successful, we won’t have a spot of commercial uses in the midst of the houses that are so treasured by the people there now.”

The proposal eliminates all nonresidential uses other than for an educational or daycare facility associated with the church.

The complex, which would sit alongside the church in the Belmont neighborhood, would have four to six units set aside as independent housing for people with developmental disabilities, according to the church.

The remaining units would be available for rent by the general public.

The units designated for those with developmental disabilities are not included as part of the conditions, or proffers, of the rezoning.

The proffer statement says at least four units would be available as affordable housing at 80% of the area’s median income. Crater said the church wants to offer all units as affordable housing, but that is dependent on the receipt of low-income housing tax credits.

Opponents are also skeptical of the proffers, saying similar conditions haven’t been enforced throughout the city.

“I understand the frustration of the residents and what they’re facing,” said Councilor Heather Hill. “We have had a lot of precedent set” with poorly enforcing proffers.

While zoning regulations are typically enforced by complaints, City Attorney John Blair emphasized that, even if the property is sold, the proffers would remain. He said any future property owner would be unable to get a business license that violates the proffers.

Neighbors also want the proffers to guarantee housing for those with developmental disabilities. However, the city cannot legally enforce that provision and it could run afoul of federal housing laws.

“We are indeed sincere in our intention to provide housing for people with developmental disabilities,” Crater said, “despite the lack of a proffer to that effect.”

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City hall reporter

Nolan Stout is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7274, nstout@dailyprogress.com, or @nstoutDP on Twitter and Facebook.

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