Charlottesville City Council has narrowly backed four state funding applications for road projects, although one of the proposals has created a stir among some residents.
The council approved a resolution supporting the applications during its virtual meeting on Monday. Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Councilors Lloyd Snook and Heather Hill voted in favor of the measure and Councilors Michael Payne and Sena Magill voted against it.
The resolution is required with the applications for funding under the next round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program, which scores projects based on a variety of factors, including safety and cost.
The main point of contention was a $6.1 million application to fund improvements to the intersection of Preston and Grady avenues.
The project would connect Preston and Grady, and Preston would T-off toward downtown. It includes sidewalks, bike lanes and improved public transit facilities.
Although dozens of residents have contacted the city and many weighed in at a public meeting earlier this month, only two people spoke during the public hearing on Monday.
Most of the concerns have focused on a desire to conduct a broader small area plan before reconfiguring the intersection.
“As a private developer in the city of Charlottesville, I am always held to a higher standard of public outreach and planning than has been demonstrated with the application before you tonight,” Chris Henry, president of Stony Point Development Group, which is heading up the adjacent Dairy Central project, said during the hearing.
Henry admitted Preston and Grady is a “convoluted intersection” but the proposal “misses the forest for the trees” by not examining the rest of the neighborhood.
Some residents are also worried the new design would dump more traffic onto Grady Avenue, which city engineer Brennen Duncan said just doesn’t make sense.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from … There’s no reason for them to continue straight,” he said. “If you’re going to Barracks Road, it really does not make sense to continue onto Grady. It’s longer, you’ve got more signals you’ve got to deal with. … Traffic is kind of like water, they want the path of least resistance and that’s quickest.”
Payne supported the “intention” of the proposal, but said “this is a corridor with a fraught history” and was worried about public involvement in VDOT’s review process.
Duncan noted that what was presented is “merely a concept.” City engineer Jack Dawson said that the design can change throughout the process as long it doesn’t stray from its final budget.
The application is one of four that will be submitted next month for funding consideration.
The second is for $7.9 million to cover phase three of the West Main Streetscape project.
The estimated $31 million streetscape project will redesign West Main between Jefferson Park Avenue and Ridge-McIntire Road. Phases one and two are funded through a combination of state and local money.
Phase three focuses on West Main between Eighth Street Northwest and 10th Street Northwest and includes widened sidewalks, redesigned bike lanes, intersection improvements and landscaping.
The third application is $5 million for improvements on Ridge Street.
The proposal would include a continuous bike lane in both directions from Cherry/Elliott Avenue to Monticello Avenue by eliminating on-street parking on the west side of Ridge Street. It also includes curb extension on the east side of the intersections of Ridge and Oak Street and Dice Street.
The final application is $4.5 million for the second phase of a project along Emmet Street.
The proposal would improve bicycle and pedestrian access along Emmet Street between Arlington Boulevard and Barracks Road. Improvements include widened sidewalks and shared-use paths, bike lanes and aesthetic work.
The state will select proposals in 2021, but funding won’t be available until 2026.
In other business, the council advanced a rezoning request, critical slope waiver and right-of-way realignment for a townhouse development near 5th St. Station, home of Wegmans and the Alamo Drafthouse.
Belmont Station LLC, which is owned by developer Charlie Armstrong, wants to rezone about 10 acres from residential to planned development for the Flint Hill project.
The property is off Flint Drive behind the Food Lion on 5th St. Southwest.
The City Council denied a rezoning request in May 2019 for 50 townhouses on the parcel with a minimum of five units that would be affordable for 10 years.
Armstrong submitted a new request this year for 37 single-family homes and two eight-unit condominium buildings.
The proposal has a maximum density of 60 units, or six units per acre. Armstrong has offered that 15% of the units will be affordable for 30 years at 25% to 60% of area median income.
The original proposal called for three acres to be donated to the city for a park. The new project does not donate the land and instead leaves 4.7 acres along Moores Creek as open space.
“Our goal all along with that space was preservation,” Armstrong said.
The proposal will be on the consent agenda at council’s Aug. 3 meeting.