City Council Split on Allowing Drive-Through in Old Kmart Property

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Charlottesville City Council is torn over what to do with the abandoned Kmart property off Hydraulic Road.

At its meeting on Monday, July 2, councilors discussed changing zoning code so that the property could allow drive-throughs, but not everyone is on the same page.

The applicant, Riverbend Development, is working on the future project called Hillsdale Place, and wants to possibly build a restaurant with a drive-through.

Riverbend's site plan includes a reduction in the existing buildings on the site - which includes the old Kmart building and Gold’s Gym - from more than 120,000 square feet to 77,000 square feet.

This change would help provide space for new retail tenants, parking spots, and landscape improvements.

While this plan only suggests renovations, Riverbend also wants to build a restaurant with a drive-through window.

That’s currently not allowed within a highway corridor district, but Riverbend thinks allowing this type of growth is convenient for families.

“I remember well when my children - I have two - when one was an infant and one was a toddler and trying to run errands after work, sometimes the drive-throughs were just a God send,” says Valerie Long, who represents Riverbend.

However, Councilor Kathy Galvin says it’s not aligned with the comprehensive plan.

“That comp plan, in this case, the small area plan is calling for affordable housing within the context of a multimodal street network - all kind of in keeping with principles of pedestrian-oriented design, not car-centric,” says Galvin.

This same request was denied by the planning commission during its meeting on June 12.

Councilors Heather Hill, Wes Bellamy, and Mike Signer all raised support for the idea. Mayor Nikuyah Walker had some questions about the potential project, and did not necessarily support the project.

Ultimately, no vote was conducted on Monday night. It will come back in front of council again in the future.

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