Charlottesville zoning draft requires permits to cut down large trees, removes parking minimums

Charlottesville City Council and the Charlottesville Planning Commission had a joint meeting on Wednesday, March 29, to look over the new draft.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - No parking minimums, permits needed to cut down large trees, and adding incentives for more affordable housing - that’s all part of the zoning module two that was just released.

Charlottesville City Council and the Charlottesville Planning Commission had a joint meeting on Wednesday, March 29 to look over the new draft.

“That tree removal permit has to be submitted so that we can ensure that the act of removing that tree doesn’t take the site out of compliance with the standards and the zoning ordinance,” Director of Neighborhood Development James Freas said.

Under this new draft, people would need permission to cut down any tree larger than fifteen inches across. The changes are being made to help increase tree canopy in the city, something Freas said is hard to monitor under the current code.

”We don’t have a strong mechanism for doing that today,” Freas said.

The idea of no parking minimums was also debated.

“We want Charlottesville to be a destination, not a place people drive through. So, we need to develop a parking strategy beyond just the residential stuff that allows us to recognize that parking is a driver of our economic enterprise as well,” Planning Commission Member Hosea Mitchell said.

Another debate was held over whether the city should offer a “fee in lieu” option which would allow developers to pay out of having to meet the 10% affordable housing requirement.

The council further discussed how much developers would pay if this option were offered.

“There are different philosophies on how to make that calculation, different models, if you will. Some of them are based in the idea that the fee in lieu is equated to the lost revenue and there’s somewhere the fee in lieu is equated to the cost of producing a unit,” Freas said.

The city says it wants to encourage developers to opt to build affordable housing, and not to pay out of it. Councilor Michael Payne said he was “uncomfortable” having a “fee in lieu” as an option and raised more concerns.

“Making it explicit that ‘Payment in Lieu’ is not contributing to our [city council] $10 million a year commitment. Any ‘Payment in Lieu’ is going above and beyond because I’m also concerned that becomes a backdoor way to invest less city money in housing,” Payne said.

There will be an open house on April 12 where people can learn more about zoning module two.

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