Tool Use

At this point the driver has failed to see several signs regarding street usage. Tell them, tell them again, tell them again

Zoning is a tool that legislators use to direct the day to day life in their territory. Zoning can be a glass of water for a thirsty person or club against the head of an enemy.
For 40+ years, neighbors have corresponded with legislators and folk in Government about Woolen Mills zoning. This year, an advisory board member responded (thank you Lyle) but otherwise, no member of the City Council, of the deciders, has chosen to engage us in conversation.

In 2000, for the Comprehensive Plan, NDS came to the neighborhood and requested input. It was a different era.

This post is a cursory examination of zoning when used without the consideration of The People whose neighborhood will be shaped by the zoning. We are interested in why zoning practice is repeatedly bad zoning practice. We interact and interact and little changes.

Mr.Tolbert on the “very hard line between industrial and residential.” Now the hard line is between IX-5, NX-3 and residential. Carrying forward the vision of Council from 1957.

South of Market Street/Woolen Mills Road subdivision plat

A neighborhood is a living thing composed of topography, culture, people, plants, pathways, businesses, animals and architecture. Neighborhoods require planning and care. It has been So Discouraging trying to obtain planning and care from our City. Neighborhoods are sensitive.
The land affected by split parcel zoning lies in the area of the Woolen Mills between Carlton Road and Franklin Street. It is the land north of the C&O railroad tracks and south of East Market. This acreage has been the seed for multiple conflicts in the past 35 years.


7 years before the annexation of the area in eastern Woolen Mills and Harland Bartholomew and Associates has a plan to line the south side of Market all the way to the Rivanna with Industrial.

In the beginning, In the 1950’s, around the time that Council approved Harland Bartholomew’s “Workable Program for Urban Renewal” they looked down the road with guidance from HBA and made decisions regarding future zoning of Woolen Mills backyards.

AlbCo adopted zoning in the late 1960s (1969?) Zoning wasn’t a concept familiar to Woolen Mills people, planning for the zoning was done to them in advance of the 1963 annexation. We are not aware of a public process.


This is the region of split parcel zoning, residential in the north, industrial in the south.


2013 ZM detail

With the passage of the decades the green residential boundary bordering the southern edge of Market Street has gradually been eroded.

The proposed zoning map removes another 390 feet of the residential gateway to the neighborhood on the south side of Market. For decades we have fought lot by lot to determine the zoned future of the WMN.


The current Council expresses the intention to remediate the damage done by their predecessors in the 1950s in selected neighborhoods. I wish that Council would act with an awareness that the damage of HBA’s planning advice extended beyond Charlottesville center city.
The split parcel zoning, residential contiguous to industrial, has resulted in numerous land use conflicts over the decades. Thousands of staff and resident hours have been invested in addressing the incompatible zoning district pairings in PUD, SUP, rezoning and BZA public hearings. There have been zoning violations and lawsuits. Neighbors have breathed particulates, smelled stink and been exposed to debilitating noise.


The proposed zoning map needs adjustment in the Woolen Mills neighborhood.
1-pause the proposed Woolen Mills R-B zoning to avoid displacing current residents and motivating the destruction of modest homes. Talk to those who will be affected!
2-abide by the mapping logic and hold with NX-3 zoning instead of NX-8 for the Wright’s property. No ten story buildings at present!
3-Complete the Small Area Plan (SAP) formally requested by Joe Rhames on behalf of the Woolen Mills in August 1988 before up-zoning Woolen Mills residential properties beyond R-A.

bye bye

This is a tale about the 22 houses on the left. The 1300 block of Chesapeake Street.

The lots are long and skinny, they are zoned R1s, they are intended for residential use.

The crow’s eye view.

1300 Chesapeake

The houses’ average age is 75 years old, half of them were built by the end of World War II, the other half were finished at the end of the Korean War.

1302 Chesapeake Street

The homes were built by blue-collar people.

1304 Chesapeake

To this day, not one of them features a garage or a swimming pool.

1306 Chesapeake

Nine of the houses are rented, thirteen are owner occupied

1308 Chesapeake

The houses don’t tend to flip, the average last date of sale was twenty-two years ago.

1310 Chesapeake

Over the years I’ve made the acquaintance of a handful of the residents while walking by.

1314 Chesapeake

I’ve met a librarian, a plumber, a teacher, a postal worker, a United States Marine

1316 Chesapeake

a boat captain, students, an X-ray tech, a museum worker and an IT person.

1318 Chesapeake

These houses average 1100 square feet finished living area.

1320 Chesapeake

The average lot the houses sit on is 0.18 acres, that is five dwelling units per acre (DUA).

1322 Chesapeake

Their average assessment is 290 thousand dollars.

1324 Chesapeake

The 22 homes, are stable, they are occupied, they are the refuge of families who moved to the neighborhood and planned to stay.

1326 Chesapeake

I believe that painting this block with a medium intensity residential (MIR) land use designation is not acceptable planning.

1328 Chesapeake

The MIR designation is unfair to the residents

1330 Chesapeake

The designation will target their houses for demolition, it is an economic bulldozer.



1332 Chesapeake

The Woolen Mills neighborhood requested a small area plan from the City in 1988.

1334 Chesapeake

If the City had provided a framework for public and private investment decisions to the Woolen Mills by means of a small area planning process decades ago the current action could make sense.

1336 Chesapeake

But there has been no small area plan.

1338 Chesapeake

I encourage Council to get scientific, to use the tools of Archimedes and Galileo, math and maps.
Pick some baselines to trigger small area plans in neighborhoods with significant proposed up-zoning.

1340 Chesapeake

For example, if a rezoning will potentially displace 50% of the area’s existing residents, perform a Small Area Plan.
If a rezoning will increase DUA by more than 10X, perform a Small Area Plan.

1342 Chesapeake

Effective city planning is done by having comprehensive neighborhood plans that share the benefits and burdens required to keep the City humming along in an equitable, healthy fashion.

1344 Chesapeake

The 2021 Comprehensive Plan is intended to guide the coordinated harmonious development of the territory within the City to promote the health, safety, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the city’s inhabitants.

The 22 are in the beige, outlined in red.

City Council will decide on the fate of these 22 houses in the next few weeks when they vote on the Future Land Use Map, a part of the not yet approved Comprehensive Plan. Currently, the map shows these humble houses being “redesignated” to a much more intense use known as “medium intensity residential”.

About the medium intensity residential (MIR) the urban planners say:

Medium Intensity Residential: Increase opportunities for housing development including affordable housing, along neighborhoods corridors, near community amenities, employment centers, and in neighborhoods that are traditionally less affordable.

In the case of the 22. These houses, on the spectrum of CHO housing, are affordable. To me, they don’t seem to fit the planners’ criteria. These houses are on a neighborhood street not a “corridor”. The houses aren’t near employment centers.
The MIR designation will potentially result in the demolition of these residences.

What could replace one of these houses once it was demolished? The planners say:

Form + Use:
Allow up to 12 residential units (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)

Allow structures up to 4 stories (depending on site characteristics and context, to be further defined in the zoning ordinance; many areas may be limited based on lot size and other factors)

draft Land Use Plan

All the neighborhoods in beige are similarly threatened.


(I would encourage all concerned to write to City Councilors and to participate at the Council meeting on this subject November 15, 2021. Details of how to participate are available here)

Medium-Intensity Residential: Maximum-Intensity Pain

Medium-Intensity Residential needs to be scaled back in both scope and intensity. It is too much to ask people who bought in R-1 neighborhoods (over 60% of the parcels designated for Medium-Intensity Residential) to accept 12-unit (and possibly larger) buildings and 4+ stories, and it is not necessary for making our housing market more flexible, given other changes under the FLUM. The areas designated – changing up the last minute — do not make sense. MIR areas actually have a lower average Walkscore than General Residential. They lack critical infrastructure and some are so far below required density to support commercial amenities that their ultimate arrival is highly uncertain. There is no precedent for buildings above 3.5 stories in most of these areas. High-Intensity residential, on the other hand, shows clear differences — high walkability, transit access, existing infrastructure and height. With MIR, we could end up with a “worst-of-all-worlds” situation of having a scattering of MFH buildings isolated from amenities. And folks living in MIR feel targeted, because there is no compelling explanation of why their blocks should face a much more extreme transformation than nearly identical blocks nearby. If you need the MIR category to exist, scale it back to a few areas already adjacent to amenities, existing density and infrastructure.–CFRP

The Comprehensive Plan can go forward without a finalized land use map. Move head with the CP, move ahead with the many non-map aspects of the Affordable Housing Plan. But the map ought to be done in conjunction with plot-by-plot zoning. This is how planning usually works.–CFRP

Urban Renewal 2.0

neighborhood mixed use node infographic

page 17 of a slideshow shown at the 3/30/2021 Planning Commission work session.

From the fog of COVID, a draft land use map has emerged. The planning document looks to be a blue print for urban renewal and the starting gun for the teardown of affordable housing in the Woolen Mills Neighborhood.
detail from draft land use map

mixed use node characteristics

The above map is a detail from the draft Land Use Map which was discussed at the Charlottesville Planning Commission’s 3/30/2021 work session. Of particular interest, the purple “Neighborhood Mixed use node” placed on the Woolen Mills neighborhood. At 40 acres, this is the largest such node proposed in the City.

Dorothy Herring Deane used to live here


People have lived in houses lining the south edge of Market Street between Meade Avenue and Franklin Street for 135 years. You do not know their names. They are not rich or famous. They call this area their home.

1935 topo map

detail from 1935 topo map. In 1935, 19 houses lined the southern edge of Market Street between Meade and Franklin

Since its first comprehensive Plan in 1958 the City has represented the bifurcated planning laid across the backyards of these Market Street residential properties in a series of zoning and land use maps.
For 60 years these maps have recognized two elements. The maps show proposed manufacturing, industry, and business in the southern 70% of the land and residential uses bordering Market Street and Franklin.

1976 zoning map detail

1976 zoning map detail

This bifurcated zoning/land use was placed in the backyards of houses and residential properties fronting on the southern edge of Market Street. This allows manufacturing-industrial-business adjacency to residential use, cheek to jowl.

Land Use Plan detail, 8/13/2013

Land Use Plan detail, 8/13/2013

The Woolen Mills Neighborhood has appealed for thoughtful, community-based study and correction of this poorly thought out land use/zoning layout for decades. The Woolen Mills first formal request for a small area plan was made of the City Council at their August 1, 1988 meeting.

In 2013 the Woolen Mills Small Area Plan request had risen to the top of the SAP list, but was bypassed for more exigent planning challenges (Route 29 North, Starr Hill and Cherry Avenue).

Future Diagrammatic Land Use Map

Future Diagrammatic Land Use Map-1956 HBA

The “new” draft Land Use Map mimics the “Future Diagrammatic Land Use Map” produced by Harland Bartholomew and Associates for the City of Charlottesville in October 1956 in regards to its blanket treatment of the residential community south of Market between Meade Avenue and Franklin Street.
(HBA were the primary architects of “urban removal” in the United States back when neighborhoods were torn down with bulldozers.)

Hoping against hope that the powers that be will rethink the proposed upzoning and destruction of the residential neighborhood fronting on the southern edge of Market Street.
We live here. Please…

houses in question on the right

The area of concern outlined in green.

City Planning Commission member Sue Lewis advised residents from the Woolen Mills neighborhood that “you should have mobilized sooner. When you are living in the middle of a potentially unwanted development, you should act before something happens.”—7/14/1988 Planners approve warehouses in Woolen Mills district by Kay Peaslee Observer staff writer

2002 Land Use Plan petition

I think this issue about, you probably can go all throughout the City and find properties that are, inconsistencies between the land use and comprehensive plan and I think it behooves citizens to be
alert to every single one of those fragments that are left in the City. And I think we are working overtime to try and identify them all and I think it is grossly unfair that everyone should anticipate these areas that are caught in between.

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 it’s 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 neighbor-hood 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 neigh-borhood, 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, that’s the residential use and some of the mixed use strategies that they have.
So that is one thing I would hope would come out of this process, and I guess you’ll have to wait to hear the outcome, for another two weeks.— Maurice Cox, April 7, 2003

Attention to Detail

The smokestack one sees most prominently entering Charlottesville from the east on I-64. Nowadays, a favorite roosting spot for crows and black vultures

The Charlottesville and Albemarle Railway (C&A) was a short electric street railroad operating within the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, during the early 20th century. The line was preceded by several streetcar lines operating both horse-drawn and electric powered cars dating back to 1887. After facing financial difficulties, the predecessor lines were reorganized into the C&A in 1903. The C&A’s electric streetcars operated off of an overhead line system that was powered by the railroad’s own power plant. The C&A also offered electric power generated by its plant to the city of Charlottesville. During the mid-1910s, the line received numerous upgrades, including the construction of a new power plant on the Rivanna River, a new company headquarters building, expansion of track, and the purchase of new streetcars.–Wikipedia

Holsinger Studio Collection, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Paul Goodloe McIntire’s Rivanna (06)

Henry Clay Marchant grave

In 1915, five years after Henry Clay Marchant’s death, his heirs turned the riverside land over to a group that saw in it a great aesthetic and recreational resource. The heirs leased, and later sold, the Marchant tract to the Albemarle Golf Club. Established in 1914, the club had enjoyed rapid growth, initially using leased land on Rose Hill. In 1915, George R. B. Michie, a charter member of the club and the president of the People’s National  Bank, approached the Marchant heirs and worked out a three-year lease for their land along the Rivanna River. For Michie, the arrangement seemed ideal. In 1909, Michie and his family had taken up residence in the 1820s house built by John A. G. Davis as the plantation house of The Farm.

Davis house aka the Farm

The house continued to look out over sod and pastures that the Marchant family had maintained since the 1890s. Now, with only minor changes, the landscape character would be preserved, and Michie would have the added advantage of having a golf course adjacent to his residence. For their part, the Marchant heirs insisted on preserving the pastoral character of the site. Their lease called for the land to be used for “athletic and grazing purposes only, and shall not be cultivated except so far as is necessary to get said land in the best condition possible for the raising of grass and sodding said land.” The sod could be removed only to build tennis courts and putting greens, and would have to be restored at the end of the lease. The existing grade of the land could not be altered, and no trees could be felled, save for a small orchard that could he removed if the golfers desired.

The rising popularity of golf in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was directly tied to the perception that urbanization would erode the health and vitality of the American citizens. A growing number of people who had been raised in the outdoors, on rural farms, had now taken up residence in cities and were spending their working lives indoors. This fact made the golf course seem an especially attractive venue for such city-dwellers to ensure healthy and restorative leisure. Pointing to the new golf course along the Rivanna, the Daily Progress reported: “The new grounds are within a short walking distance from the business center of Charlottesville ….The club is meeting a long-felt want in this community-that of furnishing healthful outdoor exercise for business and professional men who are kept in store or office during the major portion of the day.”  Many charter members of the Golf Club did indeed spend their days indoors doing white-collar work. For example, George Michie worked in the People’s National Bank at Third and Main. Marshall Timberlake ran his pharmacy  at Fourth  and Main. W.J. Keller  and  Harry  George operated their Main Street jewelry shop between Second Street and Third Street. All of these men lived within a few blocks of their workplace . All could now golf along the Rivanna where tennis, baseball, and boating were also available. Clearly, the Golf Club represented a new use for the agricultural lands along the Rivanna. Indeed, despite the appearance of the land that seemed somewhat pastoral in nature, the Marchant heirs had forbidden  the planting of corn on the site and in 1915 after a “very rigorous debate,” club members voted to terminate the pasturage of cows on the land, preferring to pay for the mowing of the fairways. Under these changed circumstances, the agricultural landscape grew increasingly attenuated; nevertheless, with the introduction of golf, the site retained both its alluring pastoral character and its intricate connection to the economic, residential, and social life of the region. In 1918, pleased with their location and the growth of their organization, the Albemarle Golf Club paid the Marchant heirs $18,800 and took full ownership of their riverside golf course.

Alb Golf club members

Members of the Albemarle Golf Club, 1921. Although not pictured, women could join the club as non-voting members, paying half the annual membership fee of men while the entrance fee was waived. Photo courtesy collection of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

Paul Goodloe McIntire’s Rivanna: The Unexecuted Plans For a River City
is by Daniel Bluestone and Steven G. Meeks. This article was published in Volume 70 2012 of the Magazine of Albemarle County History by the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Copies of the Magazine are available at

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