The Place

Neighborhood of the Year is awarded to the Woolen Mills.

The reasons are many, but not the least of which is the Woolen Mills neighborhood’s continued active participation in City planning discussions in an effort to enhance their neighborhood’s assets and, therefore, create unique assets for the entire Charlottesville community.
Ms. Victoria Dunham, Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association president is here to accept the award.-Charlottesville Planning Commission Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Woolen Mills Road (part 1)

Short history of the Woolen Mills Village, in a bend of the Rivanna River, at the foot of Monticello Mountain in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service Woolen Mills Village Historic District, site number 002-1260.
Click here for part two.


For decades, Woolen Mills neighbors have asked for the reversal of the split parcel industrial zoning overlaid on our residential backyards by the same City Council that authorized the removal of the Vinegar Hill neighborhood.

Having contiguous Residential and Industrial zoning with no buffer is an outrage. Preventing this very mix of development was the impetus for the adoption of zoning ordinances by municipalities in the early 20th century. Look at the zoning matrix, see the type of development allowed by right in the Manufacturing-Industrial zones. Brutal massing of structures and parking is allowed. Frenetic programming is permitted on M-I zoned land 24/7. Truck plazas and trash transfer stations are not compatible with a residential neighborhood.

By right one could construct an 85 foot tall parking garage with a party deck on the top floor and a drive through fast food retaurant at the ground level. Complete with big signs.
R1-S districts are meant to provide quiet, low density areas for people to grow up, to raise families, to flourish and to grow old.

Why has Council allowed this bad zoning practice to persist for 54 years? As Mr. Tolbert pointed out at your land-use plan work session in 2006:

(this is) a very hard line between industrial and residential. Not something that is typical in a land use plan or in a zoning ordinance.

We do not seek to evict our manufacturing neighbors. We have sought to change the land-use plan so, as the City continues to evolve, we will have a course plotted to leave this urban planning error in the past.

Our historic neighborhood has been stable for a long time. Our housing runs the gamut from public housing and affordable senior multi-family to detached, single family homes. But the Woolen Mills neighborhood cannot be the sacrificial anode, the Wild Zone as the City of Charlottesville experiments with yet another corridor or a code. Our people deserve peace and quiet. We are not asking for the almost exclusionary zoning of the Greenbrier or Barracks-Rugby neighborhoods, but we are asking for good zoning practice, quiet neighborhood streets, smell reduction, historic preservation and better communication with the City.

When I see projects proposed in Charlottesville which feature Brooklyn-like density of 37,000 people per square mile I am reminded of Jane Jacobs statement:

“But I hope no reader will try to transfer my observations into guides as to what goes on in towns or little cities or in suburbs which are still suburban. Towns, suburbs and little cities are totally different organisms from great cities. We are in enough trouble already from trying to understand big cities in terms of the behavior and the imagined behavior of towns. To try and understand towns in terms of big cities will only compound confusion.”
—The Death and Life of Great American Cities-Jane Jacobs

Timberlake Place

JABA held a ceremony today behind the historic Timberlake-Branham house to celebrate the ground-breaking of its income and age restricted multi-family housing project.

Mayor Satyendra Huja (center) joined by developers Preston Coiner and Chris Murray.

Timberlake Place has been in the planning stages since 1999 according to architect Charles Hendricks of The Gaines Group. Developer of this project is Jefferson Area Board for Aging, Inc.

Timberlake Place will provide 26 units of low-to-moderate income housing and one market-rate apartment for persons aged 55 and over. The new housing combines the historic rehabilitation of the Timberlake-Branham House with 22 newly constructed one- and two-bedroom apartments in three buildings behind the original house. The new construction has been carefully designed to fit in with the scale and character of the Woolen Mills neighborhood, and will feature both “senior-friendly” universal design, and energy-efficient EarthCraft construction throughout.–JABA

53 mgd part two

Scale / Character
The Woolen Mills has recently been designated a historic neighborhood both in Virginia and nationally. The proposed expansion is HUGE. The scale and character of the proposed building and use for Option A is incompatible. The building is massive compared to adjacent homes.

Feasibilty in Question
RWSA provided the information below on sizes of structures. A large portion of the staging area during construction would require tree clearing in the park and floodway. A portion of the site required for the development would be in the flood plain. The Charlottesville Zoning Regulations severely restrict construction in the flood way. Site is banked up against a stream (with no stream buffer) and destroys likely wetlands.

Environmental Impact in the Chesapeake Bay Region
The likely site of the expansion for Option A is bordered by nearby streams on two sides. The green circle indicates an area that may qualify as wetlands. Several years ago, then City Councilor Kevin Lynch indicated the City wanted to preserve this site as wetland. Surely, when this information is further confirmed, RWSA would not consider, in destroying wetlands or occupying important stream buffers, trading one set of water quality measures, for another?

The Woolen Mills is still more affected by Option D than Pantops households. The majority of homes in the Pantops neighborhood are a half-mile distant and unaffected by Option D.

Option D puts the new pumping station more distant from the Woolen Mills and still considerably distant from the nearest Pantops residents.

Smelly, Noisy
Since the 1960’s RWSA has occupied the existing site. When the first facility was installed, the neighborhood was promised there would be no smells, no noise. The Woolen Mills have lived with smells and noise these fifty plus years. We are told if the equipment is enclosed in a building the smells be be mitigated. RWSA acknowledges though there will always be smells and noise. It’s time to reverse poor planning and move the infrastructure out of the neighborhood. When someone flushes a toilet in Forest Lakes or UVA or Belmont, we don’t want to smell it in the Woolen Mills!

Good Urban Planning
Industrial zoning adjacent to residential neighborhoods is not considered appropriate zoning. This is a new facility – we’d like to see any examples of a new facility of this scale in a neighborhood in the United States. We believe few or none exist as testimony to the inappropriateness of these adjacencies.

Parkland lost
The site for Option A is parkland and is situated at the entrance to Riverview Park and is estimated to clear 1.5 acres of parkland for construction. That’s 1.5 acres of cleared park land to be turned into an industrial use! Please keep the “PROTECT” in “Public Park Protection.”

River“view” Park
A view of the river? Or, a view of a massive industrial complex? The image below imagines the view from historic homes toward a meadow and river views – a park restored as a gateway to the Rivanna River.