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Future development, including affordable housing units, deferred by Charlottesville Planning Commission due to safety concerns

Zoning Notice for 240 Stribling Avenue in Charlottesville.
Zoning Notice for 240 Stribling Avenue in Charlottesville.(WVIR)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:40 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Bringing new housing, including some affordable units, to one of Charlottesville’s last open green spaces is going to take some more time.

Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission turned down a proposal to redevelop a space on Stribling Avenue due to safety concerns.

The project would have brought as many as 170 residential units to Stribling Avenue, a street with no sidewalks just off a tough intersection. Those concerns led councilors and planners to suggest a delay. They say it will take a greater infrastructure investment -- and plan.

“Charlottesville is the richest-poor city and the poorest-rich city in Virginia,” said new Planning Commission Chair Lyle Solla-Yates. “We can do so much, but also very little.”

Solla Yates likes the project, as do others. It would increase the number of affordable housing units in the city and provide new tax revenue to fund city projects. Kevin Riddle, a project architect with Mitchell Matthews, shared the enthusiasm with the living experience it would provide.

“We realized that more housing, if thoughtfully arrayed, did not have to compromise the greater neighborhood environment,” he said. “In fact, it might be essential to enhancing it.”

But there were differing estimates of how much it would cost to put in sidewalks -- the highest being $2.9 million -- and residents expressed concerns about the project without a solid safety plan.

“It is a zoo there and this cannot get better with a development of that size,” said Marga Bushara.

All in all, there was a plea for collaboration between the developer and the city, and a 6-to-1 vote ensured the discussions would not end here. They want a more detailed plan of how the street can be safe and how much it would cost.

The one dissenting voice, Rory Stolzenberg, shared his reasoning.

“Does it make sense to kick this whole can down the road until this is totally, totally baked, or to let the process kick off and have it fully baked through the years-long site plan review that we know will be ahead?” he asked.

One of the ideas discussed later in the evening was the option to install sidewalks on one side of the street as a cheaper alternative.

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