April 16, 2003
There are no villains in this rezoning discussion, everyone is virtuous, we just have interests that are at odds.
My interest is maintaining the quality of life the neighborhood offered me in 1987, my fear is that the commercial corridor that extends from the foot of the downtown mall to Meade Avenue will continue its march to the Rivanna River.
These are my fears and concerns on parade. These arent legal arguments, they are feelings. I will quote people out of context, I will offer unsubstantiated opinions.
It is my opinion that the 2025 comprehensive plan is a flawed document, it has been bad for the Woolen Mills and surrounding area. To my eye, our neighborhood is the most beautiful in the City. We live at the foot of the South Western mountains, on the bank of a fine river. But at some point back around 1972, unknown City personnel looked at our neighborhood, saw a railroad, and decided to zone large portions of the Woolen Mills industrial.
Albemarle County planners took the same route. So what do you see from the vantage of Monticello Mountain? Lots of flat roofs, parking lots, metal buildings and junk. But there is still plenty of beauty here, we coexist with the industry, we soften it, we wrap around it, our neighborhood is a garden with a few stony places.
In my letter to the Council last week I suggested sharing the industrial load, lets spread this B3 and M1 zoning around town. Once Oxford Road has the same level of mixed-use as the Woolen Mills neighborhood, then we will gladly accept more business and industry.
I long for a time when businessmen built their residences next to their places of business, when they were members of a neighborhood, sharing the positive and negative effects their endeavors had on the quality of life in the area they called home.
I dont want the City to strip business out of our neighborhood, mixed use is good, but how about a diversity of mixed uses that more reflects what we as a neighborhood consume?
A quote from Allison Ewing:
"As the City continues to grow, we imagine this area becoming its own small center with shops, apartments and offices. This is a solution that will not only bring additional business potential to within the City, with its associated revenue but add diversity consistent with the neighborhood character of the Woolen Mills. This is good growth.
We ask you to consider the future of the Woolen Mills and the highest and best use of this property but a mile from downtown."
A quote from Fran Lawrence:
We have absorbed, weve said to you on occasion over the last twenty-five years, a lot. Not only the muscle-industry that Bill has talked to you about that runs up and down the railroad tracks, thats to some extent a historical accident, but also, we have the communitys sewer processing plant and we have the communitys primary pump-station for the sewage processing plant and we worry that what we are being asked to do is too much.
A quote from Michele Mattioli:
"...we dont want anymore noise, commercial traffic or pollution in our neighborhood, and we have come out time and time again as a neighborhood on this issue and we hope that you will respect our concerns."
A quote from Pat Deane:
"We dont want to move but if they keep rezoning and more businesses keep moving in on Burgess Lane, I mean we are not going to live there, we are going to move and my neighbors are saying the same thing..."
A quote from Steve Holsapple:
"And the building, you know, it aint going to be just an old metal building. I think that hed work with you, I think the building would be, he could make a brick front on it or a brick side or whatever you had to do to make it more homey. You know, it aint got to be just some old metal building you throw up.
If it takes shrubs to please you all I think hed work with you, I dont think hes the type of guy not to."
A quote from Pete Syme:
"I feel for the small business guy, you know, I wish there were some way to make this work out, but this is just not a reasonable use for this property. Its just not where this business belongs."
A quote from Louis Schultz:
"...what Im afraid of is that that change on Burgess is going to send things in the wrong direction, rather than being an interesting entry corridor to our neighborhood I think its going to scare people off Burgess Lane and who knows what happens around that corner from Burgess to Market, Im afraid that the industrial thing Well hey, its next to industrial anyway is going to be the argument and that thats going to pull itself forward from Mr. Coiners business and the Wrights business and then encroach upon Market Street there and thats just my main concern is that the decision you are making today isnt just a decision about that little piece of land, its a decision about that whole corner there and I dont think that approving his appeal is the right choice for now or the future."
A quote from Joe Kerley:
"I would also like to point out that the staff recommended this and still recommends it and they recommended it to us when we questioned them about purchasing the property and possibly moving the building there. The staff recommended it. The staff recommended..".
Commentary from Bill Emory:
Regarding staff recommendations. Back when we were actively looking forward to a sidewalk on Chesapeake Street, Peggy Van Yahres and Allison Ewing met with members of the neighborhood and went up and down Chesapeake identifying trees and architectural features we hoped to preserve and protect when the sidewalk was designed (the design by an engineering firm, a subcontractor, hired by the City).
Peggy and Allison duly transmitted their work product to our City staff rep, but somehow the information never made it to the engineering firm. The firms first drawings reflected none of Allison and Peggys expertise, professional design talent, and labor.
There were no villains, but there was a significant breakdown in communication between Neighborhood Development Services and the Woolen Mills neighborhood. Has that breakdown in communication been repaired?
A quote from Rob Schilling:
"I have heard and appreciated and respect the scope and depth of the concerns that have been expressed here in the past. Those are, more traffic, more noise, residential character of the neighborhood and of the area, industrial creep and affordable housing being just a few things that have come before us.
And I do recognize the validity, to some extent, of each of these concerns. I am certainly hear what you are saying and hear what your concerns are.
In making this decision we were asked to consider the following, and Ill summarize them but one was a proposed use of the property, two was the zoning history, three was the character and use of adjacent properties, four was the reasonableness and appropriateness of the current zoning, five was the reasonableness and appropriateness of the proposed zoning, six, the consistency with the comprehensive plan, and seven, potential uses of the property. Those were given to us and also to the Planning Commission."
Commentary from Bill Emory
The quote above really sums up the presenting problem for me. Mr. Schilling can hear all the concerns that the neighborhood unanimously expresses but feels compelled, by zoning directives, to turn a deaf ear.
The zoning directives, once again, trying to bring to bear a plan made in 1972.
I never knew what the Vinegar Hill neighborhood was like, the plan in those days was "urban renewal". There probably werent any villains then either. Urban renewal was probably thought to be a pretty good plan. Bam! there goes a neighborhood.
I do know what the Woolen Mills is like to live in, I hear my neighbors pleading for a reprieve from the old plan, I hear my neighbors asking for new thinking. We have met with City staff repeatedly, before this property was even a twinkle in Mr. Kerleys eye, we were meeting with our neighborhood planner attempting to influence the future of our neighborhood.
A quote from Jim Tolbert:
In this case and in most we would say that residential zoning surrounded by heavy manufacturing is not appropriate. I do not know how this happened historically and have been unable to find out why it was allowed to happen at all.
Nobody knows how the plan came to be the way it is. It's unquestionable, we need a new plan. The current plan has steered us into what Blake Caravati characterizes as:
this is the most difficult zoning decision Ive ever confronted, the most, its very wrenching.
For 1417 Burgess Lane, City staff recommends buffer zoning, sort of like fighting fire with fire. OK, we have a problem, we have residences in immediate proximity with industry. Staff solution? Staff recommends building the undeveloped lot and residential parcel into a business property, home base for twenty employees, their vehicles and material, call it B3. That buffer is supposed to help! Go figure.
Its a tough decision, tough for everyone. Its a roller-coaster night in City Council chambers. Fairness, tax revenue, plans, its hard to see the forest for the trees. And then from out of the trees comes a voice,
quote from Mayor Cox:
I feel that in the end we have to weigh the interests of one business owner and ten families who live in the City versus the health of an entire neighborhood, hundreds of families. I think that, by our actions, we signal very clearly our intent for the Woolen Mills neighborhood., and I think our intent is to keep a balance in a very precarious balance that exists in that neighborhood, and if anything I think we try to signal that we would like to see that it continue to be a viable neighborhood for families to live, and not only do we want to hold onto the stock and diversity of housing but we want to increase the amount of housing. And I dont think that the neighborhood or the Council has said we want to increase the industrial use in the Woolen Mills neighborhood.
I looked over the neighborhood plans generated by the neighborhood and they did not speak about increasing that use either. So I certainly feel that we need to respect the investment of hundreds of families who have put their life investment in their homes. And moved in knowing full well what the status quo was, but did not anticipate that the quality of life that is anchored by residential use would be further eroded one parcel at a time by conversions. And so I havent, it hasnt been difficult because I have always felt very strongly that I support the viability and future of this as a residential neighborhood. And certainly could not support this rezoning application.
...I believe though that the Woolen Mills Neighborhood has not had the benefit of a real plan for how these acres and acres of M1 and B3 uses are going to be developed over ten or twenty years and other neighborhoods have had the benefit of that and its made a significant difference in how land will develop.
I know Ridge Street neighborhood had a neighborhood plan done for it, for properties that were zoned what we thought was inappropriate for the neighborhood. That project looked at it through another lens, it recommended down-zoning, it recommended a different kind of housing, and seven years later, the kind of housing that the City had anticipated was done because we dared imagine what a different and better use would be for those properties.
I think it is long overdue for the Woolen Mills that they have a clear signal of where their neighborhood is going, and not be done in this piecemeal fashion.
So I guess my hope would be that out of this process, given the talent that they have in their neighborhood, that they get together and decide that proactively we are going to tell you what the future of our neighborhood is going to be, and it is not going to continue to be an erosion of the things that they have come to feel anchor their neighborhood, thats the residential use and some of the mixed use strategies that they have.
And so, dear neighbors, you are confronted with an opportunity. Blake Caravati made a motion:
I move that the property be rezoned to B3.
(Maurice Cox) Could we have a second?
(Rob Schilling) I second that.
This issue will come before City Council for a vote Monday, April 21, 2003, 7:30 P.M.. At present, Meredith Richards and Maurice Cox are positioned to vote against the rezoning of this residential (R2) land to business (B3). Blake Caravati and Rob Schilling appear to be poised to vote for the rezoning. No telling what Kevin Lynchs vote will be.
So, it seems like the man to communicate with would be Kevin Lynch, the swing vote. But I am more optimistic! Write them all. Lets have a unanimous vote for the Woolen Mills Neighborhood. This has been a strong, family centered, business friendly neighborhood for close to two hundred years, invite all the Councilors to join us in our continued development as a working garden at the base of the mountains.
Finally. Id like to apologize publicly for picking on City staff. They are really kind, hard-working people, they are down in the trenches, to them falls the unenviable task of implementing vision. In the case of the Woolen Mills the vision has been an orphaned 30 year old plan.
Give the staff a good plan!
Blake Caravati firstname.lastname@example.org,
Maurice Cox email@example.com
Kevin Lynch firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith Richards email@example.com
Rob Schilling firstname.lastname@example.org