Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development proffers for rezoning again

"This is yet another shameful act in a seemingly endless series of shameful acts." - Toni Roades

Charlottesville, Va. – The northwest corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue, like most issues in town, has been a controversy for decades. The proposed site includes two surplus lots sold by the city.

It’s located in a distressed area of town known as Fifeville, now a historic conservation district despite neighborhood opposition to the regulatory designation. In 2006 the city threatened to seize two allegedly blighted houses across the street. At the last Council meeting, the city discussed leasing the city-owned house at 608 Ridge at the south[east] corner of Ridge-Cherry-Elliott.

In the rezoning application at a fee of $2,000, Bluestone Land LLC agrees to “contribute approximately $253,000, per the terms of the Land Purchase and Sale Agreement, to a Fifeville neighborhood affordable housing fund, another affordable housing fund designated by the City, or for improvements to Tonsler Park, in the discretion of City Council. The contribution shall be made within 30 days of the approval of the final site plan or final plat approval, whichever occurs later.

– OR –

The Developer shall provide at least 20 Affordable Housing Units or 30% of the total number of units, whichever is greater, on site, as part of the project….”

But that’s not all!

  1. A city bus stop.
  2. Public arboretum.
  3. LEED or EarthCraft Certification.
  4. $10,000 in cash to Capital Improvements Program for pedestrian safety or traffic calming.
  5. $15,000 right turn lane from Ridge onto Cherry. (Cash proffers required for Certificate of Occupancy.)
  6. Below ground parking. Cars not visible from street.
  7. 6- to 8-foot wide sidewalks.
  8. $5,000 for striped crosswalks and countdown pedestrian signals.
  9. One bicycle rack for every 10 parking spaces.
  10. Minimum 45% total area to remain Open Space.
  11. Minimum 20% site to be the arboretum open to the public in daylight hours.
  12. 6-inch+ diameter trees to be saved unless blighted.
  13. Retention basin for storm drainage.
  14. Plant and maintain landscape trees along Ridge-Cherry.
  15. Document that only local construction debris recycling facility is used.

Needless to say, this property has flipped several times in a half-decade. The application lists Cherry Avenue Investment LLC as the current owner. Southern Development was the owner in the 2009 rezoning Planned Unit Development (where developer is exempted from zoning laws in exchange for money).

In Sep. 2007, the former Mooney Oldsmobile at Vinegar Hill was approved to become a 9-story tower. The proffer for BAR approval was $300,000 to the city’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the agency which bulldozed Vinegar Hill but spared the then-new Mooney Oldsmobile built 1957. After doing business here for six decades, the Mooneys seemed surprised that the Planning Commission also wanted proffers to approve the development. Currently the site houses a furniture and book store.

Concerned citizen Antoinette Roades has been following this story and researched the many details. She will talk about the Ridge-Cherry project with Rob Schilling on Thursday.

Antoinette Roads on Schilling Show on WINA AM-1070.
Airs 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Thursday Jan. 6, 2011. [Corrected date.]

The only remaining public hearing is on Tuesday Jan. 11, 2011.

[ Update: Charles Hurt has owned since 1998 the site parcels except the two owned by the City. Hurt also owns Southern Development, Cherry Avenue Investment, and Bluestone Land, according to Antoinette Roades on the Schilling Show. A developer called in and said it's not unusual to buy a property but not close until the second buyer closes the deal so the deed records two sales on the same day.

Jan. 6, 2011 podcast first hour with Antoinette Roades. | Schilling Show Podcasts ]

Antoinette Roades’ Email December 28, 2010

People who care about such things:

As some of you already know, City Council and Planning Commission will hold a Joint Public Hearing on 11 January at which PC will decide whether to grant a request to rezone the Ridge-Cherry property (aka William Taylor Plaza). That hearing will be the only opportunity anyone will have to comment on this matter.

As this request is summarised in the 21 December notice mailed from City Hall and a newspaper advertisement that will run in The Daily Progress on 28 December and 4 January, changes asked seem relatively small. In that summary, what stands out most is a retreat from the much touted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards that Southern Development pledged when Councilors voted to sell SD two City-owned parcels on Ridge Street in 2008 and when Planning Commission approved WTP in 2009. But there's much more to this situation and much more at stake.

Within weeks of obtaining key approval for WTC from PC in '09, SD put the property up for sale. Initial asking price was $2.3 million. By this fall, it had been cut to $1.8 million. Apparently, that attracted a buyer.

On 15 December, William Park of Bluestone Land LLC -- styled as "Contract Purchaser" -- submitted a Rezoning Petition to Neighborhood Development Services. (N.B. The property package described in this petition includes the two City-owned Ridge Street parcels that City Council voted to sell SD but that SD appears in City Assessor online records never to have closed on or paid for.) With it was a drawing prepared by Fugleberg Koch for Pinnacle Construction & Development Corporation (same address as Bluestone Land) and dated 20 December. A supporting owner's statement dated 15 December was signed by Charlie Armstrong for SD on 21 December. That same day, notice of the Joint Public Hearing was issued from NDS. So this matter is proceeding at warp speed under cover of holiday distractions and City Hall closures. (And it thereby follows the same scrutiny-dodging strategy that has characterized the whole sorry Ridge-Cherry saga.)

The submitted drawing and related text show a plan with a building area 20 percent larger than the projected maximum approved in '09 -- 120,000 square feet versus 80,000-100,000. Not surprisingly, it also shows greater intrusion on the core of the site -- that is, on the super fragile creek and ravine bottom area. Further, it shows a much modified facade on Ridge Street, which lies in both local and national historic districts.

(Of course, nothing about any of the plans submitted for this site has conformed to oft pronounced City goals vis-a-vis critical slope protection, storm water management, water quality maintenance, tree canopy preservation, green space retention, traffic mitigation, historic recognition, global warming reduction, ad inf. Indeed, all plans have violated all those goals. Also, all plans have heavily impinged on the parcel where all empirical evidence and sightings place the Hawkins family graveyard.)

Despite the profound and diverse impacts of the changes proposed, however, the matter's scheduling allows no more than a very few days for concerned parties -- individuals, environmental groups, historic preservation groups, neighborhood and other community groups, relevant agencies (e.g. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), etc. -- to review the matter and formulate a position before the one and only opportunity to comment (11 January) comes and goes. (Note: The staff report on this item is not expected to be available until the end of the day on 4 January.)

In my opinion, this is yet another shameful act in a seemingly endless series of shameful acts. I will register my disapproval of both the request and its timing with City Council, Planning Commission, and BAR (which seems not to be involved but should be). I hope that some of you will speak out as well.

I wish us all a better New Year than this matter foreshadows.


Antoinette W. Roades

William Taylor Plaza

William Taylor

Historical summary of Charlottesville

“Mixed use development at Ridge-Cherry intersection recommended for approval” by Brian Wheeler, Sep. 11, 2009, Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Minutes from Planning Commission Aug. 11, 2009. Rezoning from R-2 to Planned Unit Development deferred because “there was discomfort about the level of clarity about the existing proffers and whether they would be enforceable and whether all of the possible impacts from this development have been effectively mitigated by the included proffers.” The PUD was approved Sep. ’09.


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