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Density increase proposed

Density increase proposed

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Madison County

A public hearing will be held early next month regarding a proposed density change that, if approved, would pave the way for an affordable housing development to be created on Courthouse Mountain Road.

The density change focuses on R-3 zoned property, of which there is little in the county. Currently, R-3 allows for the by-right development of apartment buildings containing eight units, unless the housing is for old persons in which case a single building can contain up to 60 units. If approved, the ordinance would be amended to also include the by-right development of up to 60“affordable housing” units in one building.

The catalyst behind the proposed change is a potential development of affordable housing units on an 8.3 acre parcel located on Courthouse Mountain Road behind the Madison Food Lion. Originally, the parcel was thought to be an ideal spot for senior housing. It was rezoned from B-1 Business to R-3 Multi-family residential in February 2009 with conditions, the principal one being the restriction to housing for those 55 and older. However, a detailed study concluded regional demographics would not support an exclusively senior development. In January 2019, the property was rezoned again, this time to amend the conditions and most notably, remove the senior housing restriction.

Now, a new developer is hoping to again change the property to increase the density. Developer Jen Surber of Surber Development and Consulting, a multi-family housing developer, is hoping to develop the site, which is currently owned by Carlyle Weaver, into apartments utilizing Virginia Housing tax credits. Formerly known as VHDA tax credits, the credits are awarded through a competitive application process each spring. Once constructed, rental units within the tax credit program are offered at below market rates to qualifying individuals and families. The rent depends on household income levels and would likely fluctuate somewhere between $310 and $1,165 per month.

In order to make the project financially feasible, Surber has requested an amendment to the R-3 zoning allowing for more units. Ideally, she has said a single apartment building would be constructed with 48-60 units allowing for additional amenities on the site.

According to county planner Ligon Webb, multi-family housing is something the county has been in need of for some time. In 2018, the U.S. Census estimated 1,385 full-time rental units in Madison County. The rental vacancy at the time was 0.3% indicating a lack of supply. As of Aug. 14, 11 rental properties were listed in Madison County via Zillow with monthly rents of below $1,000 for four of the units and above $1,500 for six of them.

Webb said limiting construction to eight units per building would make Surber’s potential project not financially feasible.

Planning commissioners went back and forth about how to allow for the increased density including allowing it by-right or via special use permit, before ultimately deciding to allow it by-right and also proposing to add definitions for both “affordable housing” which is housing for those who make 80% or less of the area median income and “senior housing” which is for those 55 and older.

The proposed ordinance amendment will be the subject of a joint public hearing between the planning commission and the board of supervisors Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at 414 N. Main Street, Madison.

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