May 21, 2021: Master plan groups review smaller Breezy Hill and RST projects; City Manager Boyles fills key positions

Another quick look and listen at recent events in the area in and around Charlottesville


In today’s Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit the Code for Charlottesville website to learn more, including details on three projects that are underway.

On today’s show, a lot of catching up on older items in Albemarle: 

  • The Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee considers a neighborhood proposal much less dense than it had been

  • The Places-29 North Community Advisory Committee does the same thing 

  • City Manager Chip Boyles continues to fill key positions

Three months after becoming city manager, much of Chip Boyles’s leadership team is in place. This week, Boyles announced the hiring of Sam Sanders as Deputy City Manager of Operations. For the past 15 years, Sanders has been the executive director of the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance near Baton Rouge.

“He’ll be bringing some extensive knowledge in the areas of affordable housing, community development, as well as small business development,” Boyles said. 

Sanders begins work on July 12. Among other things, he’ll oversee the Departments of Neighborhood Development Services, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works. 

Ashley Marshall began work as the Deputy City Manager of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on May 10. Among other things, the position oversees the Office of Human Rights and the Police Civilian Review Board, as well as the Human Services Department. 

Earlier this month, Lisa Robertson was named as City Attorney, removing the acting in front of the position. Robertson served as deputy city attorney from 1994 to 2006 when she became administrator of Madison County. She returned to Charlottesville in 2013 to once again be deputy. How she’s the first woman to hold the position. City Councilor Lloyd Snook offered some words shortly before her appointment was confirmed by Council on May 3. 

“Anybody who has seen Lisa in action over the last couple of years in particular on all of the statue litigation cannot help but be impressed and cannot help but recognize that we have someone already here and already known to us who is an excellent city attorney and will be an excellent city attorney,” Snook said. 

The Fitch Ratings agency has downgraded the creditworthiness of the company that owns Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County. The Washington Prime Group is now listed as RD, for “restricted default” from C which brings it one step above default. Washington Prime missed an interest payment in February, triggering speculation the company will enter bankruptcy. 

“Fitch believes that the only resolution of the company's capital structure is through a near-term restructuring event or a potential bankruptcy filing,” reads a news release

The former J.C. Penney has been the site of a mass vaccination center operated by the Blue Ridge Health District, but that use will stop by the end of June according to the Daily Progress

At the May 10, 2021 meeting of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee, Southern Development held a community meeting for a reduced version of their Breezy Hill development in eastern Albemarle along U.S. 250. The property is within a growth area and had been since December 1989. At the time, the expected density was 1.3 units per acres but that increased to three to six units in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. Since then, many nearby residents have spoken out against any rezonings at that higher level. (watch the meeting on YouTube)

Last summer, Breezy Hill was a proposal for 160 units on about 84 acres. The Planning Commission recommended denial of that proposal last July, followed by another denial in November when the project was reduced further to 130. Charlie Armstrong described the proposal to committee members on May 10.

“We are proposing R-1 zoning for this property,” Armstrong said. “It’s the lowest conventional district that Albemarle has in its zoning ordinance.”

Armstrong said they will add a maximum residential density of 80 lots before the plan goes to the Albemarle Planning Commission. 

Members of the committee wanted Armstrong to remove a proposed road that leads to Running Deer Road or to depict it as emergency access only. VDOT required a second entrance to planned subdivisions that have more than fifty units. 

“Running Deer is not really a road within the development area,” said Dennis Odinov. “Half of it is and half of it isn’t. And so we’re saying there should be an exception there.” 

Armstong said he would consider making a request for an exemption from VDOT, but that county staff favor the road and it is called for in the Village of Rivanna Master Plan. 

The next step for the reduced proposal is for the Albemarle Planning Commission at some point in the near future. 

Later that week, the Places29-North Community Advisory Committee got a first look at a second submittal of the RST Residences, an apartment and townhome complex proposed at the site of a recently closed mobile home adjacent to the Forest Lakes neighborhood. On March 2, the Forest Lakes Community Association dominated the project’s public hearing before the Albemarle Planning Commission, which resulted in a deferral. (read or hear that story)

Andy Reitelbach is an Albemarle County planner who reminded the Places-29 North that the RST project is intended to be on about 19 acres of land.

“The applicant is requesting that the property be rezoned from its current zoning of R-1 Residential which allows one dwelling unit per acre to Planned Residential Development which allows for up to 34 dwelling units per acre,” Reitelbach said. “And in the Places29 Master Plan, this property is designated as Urban Density Residential and privately owned open space. Most is Urban Density Residential and then there is a narrow strip along 29 that is the open space.”

Valerie Long is an attorney with Williams Mullen who said the project has the same basic alignment of the original plan but there are changes. 

“The number of total dwelling units has been reduced from 370 to 340 units,” Long said. 

One building closed to the Ashwood subdivision has had a story removed in order to fit in closer with their scale.

“We also have enhanced buffers and screening on the site,” Long said. “It was always the attention to retain the berm along Ashwood Boulevard but we recognized after the Planning Commission meeting that we could have highlighted that [more].” 

Long said the plans now clearly state that the affordability goals will exceed the county’s current requirements for some units to be made available at below-market rates. That currently means that 15 percent of units must be rented or sold to households with annual incomes of 80 percent the area median income.

“Seventy-five percent of the apartment units within the project will be affordable for a 30 year period,” Long said. “The average level of affordability would be to those making 60 percent of the area median income.” 

Members of the CAC had the opportunity to ask questions about the project. You can watch all of that on the Albemarle County YouTube page. The next public hearing for the Planning Commission is scheduled for June 15.