West2nd City Council appeal indicates the project could still move forward

Developer Keith Woodard said the project would be abandoned last week, citing “unexpected delays” from the city government

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The proposed West2nd development was abandoned on Tuesday, with the developer citing delays from the City government. Courtesy R2L Architechts | Courtesy R2L:Architects

The company behind the $50 million luxury condominium West2nd project, Market Plaza LLC, has filed an appeal to the Charlottesville City Council of the Board of Architectural Review’s recent decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness for the development despite a press release last week announcing the project’s abandonment. 

The BAR determines the architectural appropriateness of new construction and structural rehabilitations within design control districts throughout the City. 

A certificate of appropriateness must be granted for all projects located within either, a historic conservation district or an Architectural Design Control District in the City, before developers can apply for and receive a building permit for a project. 

The proposed location for West2nd is along Water Street in the Downtown ADC District, near where the City Market is currently held. The plan would completely redesign the space to host the market to include underground parking, amenities for vendors and 97 residential units at a building height of 10 stories. Approximately one-third of the units had been sold when the project was shuttered.

The BAR voted 5-3 in mid-August against upholding an earlier vote for a certificate of appropriateness due to the project’s extensive height and massing, which members said was incompatible with the current layout of the downtown area. At a June meeting of the BAR, the body approved a certificate of appropriateness for the massing, height and a site plan for the project but revoked it at the August meeting. 

“It is a placeholder for the next developer to allow the process to move faster,” Blue Ridge Group President and project spokesperson Susan Payne told The Cavalier Daily in an email Saturday morning with regards to the appeal. Payne did not immediately respond to questions about whether recent developers Woodard Properties and its joint venture Market Plaza LLC would be involved with the project if it were resurrected.

A lawyer representing Market Plaza LLC sent a letter to City Council Chief of Staff Paige Rice Friday afternoon, asking that the Council overturn the previous decision of the BAR. Just days earlier, Woodard said in a press release that the project would be abandoned, citing “unexpected delays” with regards to the BAR decision. 

In the letter, obtained by The Cavalier Daily, attorney David Pettit called the Board’s decision to deny the project a certificate of appropriateness is “inappropriate and improper,” noting that BAR reversed a prior opinion on the building’s size. Though Pettit wrote that he is representing Market Plaza LLC, developer Keith Woodard was carbon-copied on the letter, indicating he received a copy as well.

In the letter, Pettit further added that the BAR decision was unjust and in violation of City code  as the “applicant expended tremendous effort and financial resources in the furtherance of the project in good faith reliance on the Certificate of Appropriateness” and said the decision went against the prerogative of Council. 

The Council initially voted to reject a special use permit for West2nd this past February after councilors called upon Woodard to increase the amount of affordable housing included in the project. The Council later approved the revised permit application at a meeting in April. 

Pettit did not immediately respond for comment.

The City Council voted to overturn a decision of the BAR in May 2016 when a homeowner applied to expand a home in the Venable neighborhood of the City, although the Council does not frequently overturn BAR decisions. 

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