The Charlottesville Planning Commission has reviewed and offered revisions to a proposed framework for the city’s future land use map.
The discussion Tuesday night aimed to provide suggestions for the Cville Plans Together consultants as they revise a draft of the future land use map.
Dan Rosensweig, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, and Sunshine Mathon, executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, worked together to create a framework for the future land use map that focuses on prioritizing affordable housing. Rosensweig and Mathon both serve on the Housing Advisory Committee. HAC voted to endorse the plan in June.
“The framework that we’re proposing will rely on the future land use map being a living document,” Mathon said. “We, collectively, will never be able to detail a vision that fully accounts for all future outcomes. The future land use map must be able to adapt and be refined over time.”
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The proposal aims to protect historically Black and low-income neighborhoods by creating a new Low-Intensity Residential land use category as a base land use for these neighborhoods. Essentially, this would keep existing densities in place in these neighborhoods.
All other residential portions of the city would have a base land use of General Residential. Recognizing that city growth has been accommodated on the backs of lower-income neighborhoods for generations, this framework would shift growth patterns to higher-income areas.
In effect, all residential areas of the city would have a base land use of either Low-Intensity Residential or General Residential.
The idea is that neighborhoods could only have higher density designations for specific, dedicated development of affordable housing as opposed to other types of development, Mathon said.
“This framework does not address every concern of every neighborhood, and, fundamentally, no proposal ever will. What our framework does is set forth a practical vision for growth with purpose, privileging affordability as a central tenet of the city’s future,” he said.
Mathon said the framework was devised to address concerns from residents about increased density, as well concerns that the city isn’t doing enough to address the affordable housing crisis.
Mathon and Rosensweig have presented the framework to various stakeholders, including HAC, Cville Plans Together, city councilors and planning commissioners. After receiving feedback from these groups, Mathon said they have made some revisions to the framework.
The process of revising the city’s Comprehensive Plan has proved controversial, with community members expressing concerns with revisions made by consultants from Alexandria-based firm Rhodeside and Harwell Inc. The consultants were hired by the city and make up the Cville Plans Together team, which is reviewing and revising the Comprehensive Plan and future land use map.
Eleven city neighborhood associations signed a letter asking Cville Plans Together to extend the process by six months because they were unhappy with the process thus far.
Jenny Koch, lead consultant with Cville Plans Together, said the team is working to take pieces of the framework and integrate them into the future land use map.
Rosensweig said the framework is designed to recognize and attempt to correct the legacy of racial covenants that persists in the city today.
“I think that you can’t do a mapping exercise without thinking about the history of the map and the intentionality of the zoning map to calcify what had been put in place with restrictive covenants,” he said.
Planning Commissioner Liz Russell encouraged Mathon and Rosensweig to look at creating a corollary overlay designation that incentivizes renovations for affordable housing. This would prioritize preservation of existing structures.
Mathon said this is a common piece of feedback that he and Rosensweig have received and that they are working to create this component for the framework.
Members of the Planning Commission were most concerned with ensuring that developers would be held accountable for following through on proposed affordable housing projects.
Planning Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg said he liked that the proposal would have the potential to allow affordable housing development in any part of the city as opposed to just specific areas.
“It lets us kind of turn that dial to say we want to make sure that projects are able to pencil in in every neighborhood,” he said. “In sensitive neighborhoods that have historically kind of been disenfranchised in the zoning process, we can create that dialogue.”
City Councilor Michael Payne said he liked the framework, but wants to make sure plans for affordable housing projects would be followed through on.
“[We need to] just make sure we don’t end up in a situation where projects don’t pencil out and we have a de facto downzoning for some neighborhoods that had racial covenant redlining … How do we ensure that we’re actually monitoring and keeping units affordable as part of the requirements of any overlay?” Payne said.