Planning Commission approves zoning for more multi-family housing

By Heather Michon

The planning commission voted on Tuesday (July 14) to nearly double the number of dwelling units allowed per acre in R-4 zoning areas, opening the potential for the construction of more multi-family housing options in Fluvanna County.

The current ordinance allows a maximum of 2.9 dwelling units per acre in areas zoned R-4. The change would increase the density to a maximum of 5.5 dwelling units per acre.

Douglas Miles, director of community development for the planning department, argued that the change would allow Fluvanna County to potentially increase the stock of affordable multi-family and senior housing in the county.

He noted that a recent study by the Thomas Jefferson Community Planning District Commission (TJCDP) found that 95 percent of homes in Fluvanna County are single-family, detached homes, and that the majority were split-level or two-story homes “that do not allow for aging population, to be able to properly age in place.”

Fluvanna also lags in  affordable rental properties. There are no apartment buildings within the county, “and that is a limiting factor for future job growth and economic development,” he said. It makes it hard for the county to attract and retain workers, who end up having to commute from surrounding counties.

The only land within the county currently zoned R-4 is Marina Point at Lake Monticello.

Built in the early 1980s, Marina Point sits within Lake Monticello, but also has its own homeowner’s association and governance. It has 15 lakefront units — nine condominiums and six duplexes — and wants to add another 10 units on the property. They cannot further develop the property without this ordinance change.

This has led some homeowners who live adjacent to Marina Point to argue that the Planning Department is engaging in “spot zoning” to benefit a single property.

Miles agreed the change might only impact one property today. “However, in the next 10 or 20 years, that may not be the case,” he said. From his staff’s perspective, increasing the potential density for R-4 zoning gives them more flexibility in looking at how to best develop housing in the county over the long term.

Jefferson Drive resident Tom Diggs said that he first heard about plans to expand Marina Pont in March. In his public comments, he said that since there was nothing in the existing county development plan that called for increasing R-4 zoning or any plans for multi-family developments on the horizon, it was, in fact, spot zoning.

He also argued the new Marina Point units will not meet any of the affordable or accessible housing criteria highlighted by Miles in his presentation. The developer envisions duplex units containing 2,400 square feet of living space over two floors, with a two-car garage and lakefront access.

Other neighbors have raised concerns about loss of views from their nearby homes, the increase in run-off into the lake, and the increase in traffic from additional residents.

Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission voted 3-0-2 to approve the change to the ordinance. Chair Barry Bibb (Cunningham) and Ed Zimmer (Columbia), were both absent for the meeting.

The measure will have to be approved by the full Board of Supervisors to take effect.

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