Mixed-income housing on hold

A wastewater pump station constructed as part of the James River Water Project on a property just west of Ferncliff. County leaders are looking at developing a mixed-income housing development on adjacent land.

A site has been identified on Three Notch Road (Route 250) in Ferncliff for mixed-income housing, although whether the development moves forward may depend on federal funding.

Habitat for Humanity of Charlottesville, which is working with Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District) on the project, held a meeting last month to discuss its plans with neighbors as the first step toward rezoning the property. However, Barnes later asked county community development staff to delay the application process.

The 13.3-acre property is located just west of the intersection with Courthouse Road (Route 208) and is currently zoned for agricultural use.

Louisa County purchased the property and an adjacent 1.4 acres in 2016 because it needed land to house a wastewater pump station. The station sends wastewater from Ferncliff Business Park to Zion Crossroads for treatment. In the future, it is likely to see increased use as other nearby land is developed. 

The county only needed the 1.4 acres for the pump station. It was unclear what the other 13.3 acres might be used for until Barnes proposed using it for affordable homeownership, citing rising home prices across the county.  

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger recently included the housing development in a list of projects she requested to be subsidized through the Community Project Funding program. It’s uncertain when Congress will decide whether to fund the $775,000 that is needed. If it doesn’t, the housing won’t go forward, Barnes said.

Habitat for Humanity applied separately for a smaller grant to support construction through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Barnes has advocated for the housing development, expected to include 80 units, because it will include 25 homeownership units for people with low incomes. To qualify for the latter, individuals or families will have to show they have an income of no more than 25 percent of the area median. The median family income is currently $74,500 in Louisa County, according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, so 25 percent would be $18,625.

None of the housing units would be apartments, though there could be a mix of single-family homes and townhouses, Barnes said. He estimated that the affordable homes would be priced at $106,000.

“This is not a low-income project. You could have some houses with people making $80,000,” he said. “It’s a mixed-income development, but we can’t keep dodging the issue of affordable housing. Try to find homes in this county selling for under $200,000.”

As an example of the problem, he cited a letter he received from a teacher’s aide who advised that she was unable to continue living in Louisa County because of the cost of housing.

The median sales price in Louisa County in the first quarter of 2021 was $282,651, up 13 percent from $249,975 in the same time period a year earlier, according to the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.

Barnes said he wants Habitat to reserve the housing for current Louisa County residents, but he isn’t sure yet how to do that. It may also be possible to set aside homes for people in certain jobs such as teachers or firefighters.

At least two neighbors of the proposed housing are not pleased. Heidi Shalloway and Teddy Fung, whose house is just across the property line, circulated a letter to area residents in late May in which they criticized the project as too dense for the rural neighborhood. Citing a recent study prepared for Habitat, they noted there are wetlands on part of the property that will have to be filled in to make them buildable, creating a possible problem for homeowners and with stormwater runoff.

Shalloway and Fung said in their letter that Barnes had delayed the rezoning request after hearing criticism from them and other neighbors at an April 14 meeting. The county’s community development department organizes meetings for abutting landowners as a rezoning or conditional use permit process begins.

Barnes said wetlands on the site won’t present as much of an issue since public water and sewer service will be provided to property owners, and septic tanks will not be needed.

The county paid $229,896.32 on Feb. 4, 2016 to the previous landowners for the 13.3 acres and the adjacent 1.4 acres, according to county records. The expenses were listed in the county’s bill register as being for “effluent line construction.”

If all 13.3 acres are divided into house lots, and 80 house lots are created, each lot would be roughly 0.17 acres, or 7,405 square feet. But because a road will be needed, the actual space available for the house lots will be somewhat smaller.


Recommended for you