Council poised to trump Commission for Belmont eatery

Despite a thumbs-down recommendation from the Charlottesville Planning Commission after several neighbors complained, City Council appears eager to let a house on the edge of Belmont's commericial district become Southern Crescent restaurant, according to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

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"They knowingly bought a residentially zoned property that had no buffer zone against the commercially zoned property next door, so caveat emptor."


They did not know that B BBQ was zoned as commercial. They didn't know. Do you get it? This can't be the first time this has been pointed out.

Everything else you say, from me being a Dumpster friend (not) to the applicants being whiners (not only not, but classic pot-calling-the-kettle-black) completely irrelevant.

Except for one point, that I would like to hear explained.

"Rezoning a residential property to make a buffer zone is bad zoning practice. Period."

Why is this? Seems to me a very good reason to rezone. If there is no buffer or dividing line where (or right next to where) there could so very easily be created one, why is this bad practice? What better reason to rezone?

They bought a home (otherwise known as a residence, which is what it should stay) immediately adjacent to a commercial district, but didn't check to see what the adjacent zoning was? As I said previously, caveat emptor. That's their problem, and shouldn't be anyone else's. To make it other people's problem makes you a whiner. Oh, not to mention arrogant and rude.

Not a friend? You certainly know an awful lot about their personal affairs to not be either a friend or colleague. Are you their stalker? (That's *sarcasm* in case you weren't able to recognize it.)

The Belmont neighbors not wanting YET another residential property to be rezoned commercial, when there are already plenty of commercially available parcels and buildings to choose from, does not make them whiners. It means they care about the future of their neighborhood and their own properties. Just because you can't see beyond the end of your own nose doesn't mean others don't have some foresight.

As to your last paragraph, stick with the music thing. The nuances of municipal zoning obviously don't suit you.

The idea that the nuisance and annoyance caused to long term Belmont residents by the newly emergent nightlife in the neighborhood would best be contained by spreading it even further is ridiculous in the extreme. Even if these particular people were the best of all possible neighbors, which is in no way guaranteed, there is no telling who or what might replace them when they go. The restaurant business is a volatile thing and there's a good chance this one wouldn't make it. If the zoning were to be changed, adjoining neighbors would have NO say in what followed as long as it fell within the very broad range of what would then be allowed by right.

Everything considered, there is simply no compelling reason for City Council to hand the owners of 814 Hinton a windfall. Even if we take as a given that they didn't know that the property next to them was zoned commercial, who but them can we blame for that ignorance? It's unfortunate that they didn't bother to inform themselves about what they might be getting into when they purchased their property. It would in no way make things right however for the City Council to step in to rescue them by inflicting the pain of a permanent rezoning on the next neighbors down the line. Those property owners may well have selected and or paid more money for their homes knowing that they were NOT adjacent to a commercially zoned property. What greater good would be served by punishing them?

This is really troubling and I hope City Council comes to its collective senses and decides to reject rezoning.

Wow, NDS makes a sensible recommendation for a change, and City Council wants to ignore it and do something stupid. The BBQ place is bad enough already. Can anyone say heat island. Nothing steams a place up in August like a couple tons of black mass sitting in full sun. I would be really pissed off if my neighbor did that to me.

In the C'ville Tomorrow post, Holly Edwards is quoted as saying that she saw opponents eating in other neighborhood establishments. That seems to have tilted her towards approving the re-zoning. If that's the sort of "reasoning" she employs in general, I hope to never run into her anywhere in public for fear of what might happen in my neighborhood. Wouldn't attending Friday's After FIve be equivalent to asking for an amphitheater next door?

DF, read the article again. It isn't about whether BBQ or Cajun food is yummy. It is about zoning issues.

Apparently several other people who live there don't want the change and I can easily understand why. It will significantly affect the neighborhood and serve as a precedent for similar changes elsewhere in the city. This time NDS actually made a sensible recommendation, and now council is going to ignore both them and the neighbors who oppose the rezoning!

I recall reading that the people asking for the zoning change opposed the BBQ place. Now they want to force their neighbors to deal with what they didn't want next door. They're moving out and want to cash in with the City's help. Where does that stop, when everything between there and Avon Street is rezoned based on the same argument or just when someone who can't hire a lawyer or isn't doing something cute gets denied?

Just wait until no one who lives in the neighborhood can find a parking space because people coming in to eat and drink have taken them all. We will hear some real noise then. Too late, of course, in classic C'ville style.

If the proerty is rezoned then jobs will be created. The taxes on the property will go up accordingly and the sales tax will be collected. This will also remove one more domicile from the overburdened school system. Finacially it is a win/win situation for the city.

The people of belmont may or may not benefit in the end it is all speculation. AS far as the dumpsters etc go, Perhpaps if they are denied zoning they could simply rent it out to a bunch of crackheads and let the city try and deal woth an open air drug market in belmont.
Or maybe rent it to a bunch of musicians who like to jam all night. Or perhaps to some people with barking dogs.

At least if they grant a zoning variance they can DICTATE the rules such as hours, noise levels, accelerated trash removal and reevaluation for any changes from the original plan.

If someone wants to bring jobs to the city in this economy get the hell out of the way. Even if it fails there will be about 200 grand spent opening it up.

An Olive Garden is really what that spot needs. Talk about making some jobs and pumping our sorry economy right back up.

Wait. So, if I eat in a restaurant in Belmont, that means I support MORE restaurants on property previously zoned as residential? How exactly does one make that leap, when you have those people at the meeting, loudly saying otherwise? Maybe they were trying to be good neighbors by supporting the local businesses which already exist. I also don't see why it's impossible to eat at those restaurants and still complain about the fact that adequate traffic solutions haven't been put in place.

Ms. Edwards: Please do not interpret having a meal as a political statement regarding zoning, safety or most certainly EXPANSION of a commercial district. Another lost vote here.

Many thanks to Cville Eye for his excellent rundown on zoning guidelines and why they exist. As many have pointed out, there are plenty of commercially zoned properties in the Belmont-Carlton neighborhood to choose from-- why target a residential property, especially when one considers the ramifications down the road to others on the block?

It's invariably harmful to take a short-sighted view of zoning, as seemingly happened Monday night. One must always consider what will happen to a neighborhood in the coming years, and where, when, and how the tipping point will come. NCC zoning is a delicate thing and great care must be taken to maintain a healthy balance. If anyone thinks that the rezoning on this block will end with this one parcel, then I have to say they've never paid attention to how zoning decisions are actually made in Charlottesville. If you set a precedent like this, then you have to prepare yourself for a tsunami of rezonings using that precedent as their rationale. We must not assume that anyone will remember and honor Mayor Norris's cautionary comments regarding the challenges the residents will have to face. The only thing that stands up in the long run is the actual change to zoning itself. The important dialog surrounding this decision will be lost in the process as more rezonings are requested. Good intention, bad result.

On a personal level, however, the most disturbing thing to me was that the impacted residents were not allowed to participate in the Council proceedings, yet the applicants were allowed to speak through their lawyer. Whether this was intentional or not, that fact, along with some of the comments made by Council members, leaves a very bad impression that will hopefully be addressed.

I know a house currently zoned commercial a block away from 814 that the owners would be happy to sell if the southern crescent folks want to open their restaurant in belmont this property does not need to be rezoned to make their dream happen. sell 814 and buy a place zoned appropriately to your goals.

Thank you Mary. That clears that up.

You know, what continues to shock me in this entire discussion is that economic activity is only vibrant if it involves a noisy nightlife with lots of cars and loud conversations, excessive drinking, and massive parking conflicts. Belmont must have been dead commercially, because its businesses were active during the day, and didn't require tons of parking and black top.

What that shows is a distinctly limited and biased type of thinking, based on the pure snobbery of a bunch of spoiled snotty brats. Fitzgerald tires, Coles Imports, and a number of other businesses that have an outstanding customer base have been going gangbusters for years. Their owners are the quiet community supporters, that have been esschwewed because they aren't hip providing hip places to hang out.

What made it all work was those businesses close at night, and leave the neighborhood to being a neighborhood, and it has worked for years. When the rest of Charlottesville was thumbing its nose at Belmont, and Belmont residents, artistic intellectual people saw the beauty and peace, and started buying up those properties. Only after they had taken the risk, did these newer business people feel like taking a chance. Mas was welcomed, and initially Taza was welcomed until they decided to open a Tiki Bar with late night noise, and now suddenly, we have conflict.

None the less, mistakes are sometimes made and it was the opinion of the zoning administrator that this property was improperly zoned in the first place since it is in reality within the business district.

No Mary, that is not true. The house was never a house built on commercial property. It was always a residence on residential property, and to speculate it was a mistake is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to justify the city's complete disregard for Belmont as a community, or having an actual growth plan.

CVille Eye - the Belmont Residents DID focus on the zoning regulations, as I have in the past to no avail. The zoning commission obvioulsy didn't ignore it. They did their job following it as legally written document it is.

The reason why Belmont Residents are focusing on the noise, and parking, is because the city also ignored existing regulations about noise and parking requirements for the businesses, to the detrminet of the surrounding residences. Just like they are ignoring zoning guidelines now. So, Belmont is finally speaking up and reminding them that they have a duty to obey all the ordinances so the community can thrive. Residents opposed worked together about what they would say, so they wouldn't all say the same thing.

The fact is, Andrew hasn't done very much to renovate that residence like the rest of us have, and now he wants to cash in on what is going next door, at everybody else's expense.

The city recognizes that they need to have a clear division between the commercial and the residential. There is no way to have such a division between 814 and Belmont BBQ. There is an easy way to have this necessary division on the other side of 814.


Greg, chill. Seriously. Less than 5 feet on one side, 30-some feet on the other. I think the numbers are 4 and 32. 8 times the distance on the one side than the other. You saying this makes no difference? And they're limiting their business to respectable early hours people and promising not to be a late night place for all the loud people who are there anyway.

And now I have to ask, are you seriously suggesting that the city physically pick up and move their house over? I guess so, you say, "HELL, MOVING THE WHOLE HOUSE WOULD BE CHEAPER THAN..."

Greg, what's the matter, you gotta pee or something?

George, I bet that Greg lives a lot closer to ground zero than you do, am I right? Let me guess, you're a musician and you're friends with the Dumpster crew...

Rezoning a residential property to make a buffer zone is bad zoning practice. Period. They knowingly bought a residentially zoned property that had no buffer zone against the commercially zoned property next door, so caveat emptor. They have a history of acting like whiny entitled hipsters, and that's why neighbors don't want to have to deal with them. In the past, they put the burden on their neighbors to quiet their obnoxious parties. In the future, the burden will again be on the neighbors to complain about the inevitable violations to the SUP. Council has made certain of that.

We can't believe that Council fell for their song and dance without looking into it further. Amazing that Council would send such a public F U to a neighborhood. Seriously, did all you people fall off the turnip truck yesterday? Belmont voters, take note.

Few things are certain in life. One is change, growth, development. Another is people who have nothing better to do than complain. The change here will not make an appreciable difference in terms of noise or parking problems, and the people involved with this change are going out of their way to make this work for everyone, and to actually help the neighborhood. From what I've seen, the neighborhood would be better off with this house as a restaurant than a late night hang-out spot, which it could well be at any moment without any permission required from anyone. The people who are so upset about this really need not be. From what I'm reading, if it wasn't this it would be something else, they just need something to complain about, and are wasting a lot of people's time.

"Nick," I have to wonder what your interest in this is. Do you already have a gig lined up to play music there?

There is nothing wrong with people hanging out late at night on a residential porch. If they make more noise than the law allows, then the answer is simple, CALL THE POLICE! There is something very wrong with a re-zoning. It is for ever when it happens and no mater how much this applicant claims to care about the neighborhood, there is no guarantee that the next will. This is the very same process that has done a lot of damage to neighborhoods around UVA.

Umm CC, Belmont BBQ is delicious.

I know CC, pretty surprising that NDS suggested anything that supported residential character in a neighborhood, wasn't it? But hey, that can't get it wrong 100% of the time. Sometimes they make a mistake in the citizens' favor.

Does Council even know anything about zoning? Wake up guys, you're not rezoning the applicants, you're rezoning the property! Rezoning is a gift, not a right. Nobody is being penalized if the request for rezoning is turned down. But thanks for swallowing the cry-baby routine hook, line, and sinker.

All this junk on the WINA and Charlottesville Tomorrow websites about how it's a "simple family" just trying to start up a little restaurant in mean old Charlottesville is such a load of crap. You can't make serious zoning decisions like that. And what about the families that live in Belmont already? Is Council going to permanently bankroll this enterprise so that they stay in business forever? Is Council going to somehow magically stand between that parcel and the inevitable rezoning of all the remaining R-2 on the block?

Regarding Ms Edwards statements outlined above-- I will never in good conscience cast a vote for her again, nor will I ever listen with any seriousness to her opinion on anything. After witnessing this stunt firsthand, I'm pretty shocked she ever got on Council in the first place. Not cool to be pushing so obvious an agenda on a neighborhood in this way, and she should be ashamed of herself.

Belmont BBQ has been a WONDERFUL addition to the area. Who doesn't love taking a little stroll through Belmont to grab some good bbq. The restaurants that have opened up in that specific section have created a fun/vibrant and charming little place to visit. It seems to me the restaurants are revitalizing the area and even work to increase property values. I don't see a problem with creating a small walkable enclave of good food and good times. As a Belmont resident I think it gives our neighborhood some charm.

Well Colfer, regarding your last sentence, you can assume that, but I'm seriously beginning to wonder. And that makes me pretty damned depressed to be honest with you. This is such a case of wrong-headed thinking on Council's part, I'm flummoxed.

Zoning is really serious business, not something to be bestowed on a whim, or because you like the applicants. I'm also very disturbed that the applicants pushed this into the realm of "if you don't agree with us and give us our restaurant, which we deserve, you're uncool." Butter couldn't melt in their mouths when they were in front of the Planning Commission and Council, but their interactions in Belmont have been a completely different story. They feel an obvious sense of entitlement and have been behaving accordingly. Just wish I knew why Council fell for it, but am almost afraid to know the answer.

WTF, bet you get to stroll TO the restaurants from your house, don't you? They're not immediately next-door to you. Of course they're charming to you, you're not smelling their dumpsters 24 hours a day during the summer, are ya?

There's nothing wrong with Belmont BBQ. The zoning allows for them to be there. There's commercial zoning all over Belmont. People are objecting to rezoning residential properties when there are already plenty of commercially-zoned properties sitting empty. Jeez, try and keep up.

How would you like a McDonalds or Taco Bell dropped on that lot? There's no difference in terms of zoning. If the owners decide to cash out this gift, they can sell or rent it to any restaurant they like. Look folks, just because you like restaurants and all that, please understand that commercial property is much more valuable than residential. Zoning is a concept, and it is why Belmont is the way it is. The walkable downtown Belmont thing was created by zoning it a Neighborhood Commercial Corridor in 1949 for Pete's sake! That is the zoning they want to change for no reason other than special pleading. The owners brought this up, not the community or city government or planning board.

No matter how much you think 814 Hinton is a cool idea, just reread "Kick my Neighborhood, please"'s post and try to understand that this is a giveaway. Community good vs. personal profit, etc. And in this case, add is some short-term thinking about how fun restaurants are. Let's assume nobody's being paid off or helping personal friends.

Well said tater. Exactly.

tater salad, you're being ignorant and showing a serious lack of knowledge of Cville zoning history. Once a property is upzoned the surrounding neighbors will have a harder and harder time controlling what goes there. Each preceding use will be used as an excuse for an expanded use. This happens in most cases. The current Council and Planning Commission won't always be in place, and they won't be the ones making decisions about this parcel. Administrations change, and promises and stated good intentions are almost always forgotten. Staff are the one constant, and they're for the developers 98% of the time so can be counted on for biased reports. Many of us have seen this happen for many years in Charlottesville, and frankly we're sick of it. The only solution is for the neighbors to retain as much control as possible over the remaining R-1 zoned parcels.

The Belmont residents obviously failed this time, and the applicants had the audience packed with friends, many not from Belmont. In all likelihood the Belmont residents felt they had stated their case adequately already at the public PC hearing, the PC voted for them, and so there wasn't much reason to have a big show at the Council meeting. I guess they weren't counting on the fact that Council would allow the applicants' lawyer to state their case yet again, show photos, etc. In effect, there was another public forum, but only for the applicants, not for those opposed.

This is the kind of biased stuff that used to happen under previous Councils, and I thought this Council was made of better stuff. I was wrong. Ditto Sue-- contact the Alliance.

Sue, When somone gets a zoning variance the terms are negotiable. It is disingenuous for you to state otherwise.

"This will also remove one more domicile from the overburdened school system." The city's school system is so under-burdened that there are public discussions about closing a school.
"The people of belmont may or may not benefit in the end it is all speculation." No, now that everyone knows that the area is vulnerable to re-zoning, they will hesitate to buy homes there and the housing values near that area will drop, unless someone wants to buy a house and TURN IT INTO A RESTAURANT.
" Perhpaps if they are denied zoning they could simply rent it out to a bunch of crackheads and let the city try and deal woth an open air drug market in belmont." Using the Blight Ordinance, the city will just simply board it up.
"At least if they grant a zoning variance they can DICTATE the rules such as hours, noise levels, accelerated trash removal and reevaluation for any changes from the original plan." What noise ordinance applies to commercial areas? City staff will not be assigned to monitor this property. Any complaints will have to be from residents. Eventually, when new people move in, it will be forgotten that there was a "plan" in the first place.

Unfortunately, the residents gave Holly Edwards and Dave Norris the basis for their vote by complaining that the restaurants in the neighborhood are posing problems with noise, parking, etc. Edwards says, having restaurants in the area can't be that bad because the residents are using them themselves. Norris thinks its a question a getting restaurants to be better neighbors. The residents took this opportunity to bring up issues unrelated to the expansion of the commercial zoning.
During the joint public hearing, only a smidgen of the speakers addressed the city's code that deals with the criteria for rezoning:
"Sec. 34-42. Commission study and action.
(a) All proposed amendments shall be reviewed by the planning commission. The planning commission shall review and study each proposed amendment to determine:
(1) Whether the proposed amendment conforms to the general guidelines and policies contained in the comprehensive plan;
(2) Whether the proposed amendment will further the purposes of this chapter and the general welfare of the entire community;
(3) Whether there is a need and justification for the change; and
(4) When pertaining to a change in the zoning district classification of property, the effect of the proposed change, if any, on the property itself, on surrounding property, and on public services and facilities. In addition, the commission shall consider the appropriateness of the property for inclusion within the proposed zoning district, relating to the purposes set forth at the beginning of the proposed district classification." I think enough Commissioners were listening to rresult in a 6 - 2 vote against rezoning.
Council is only considering #4, although it can be adequately argued that establishing a buffer is not sufficient to ameliorate the effects.
This rezoning will help to establish a very dangerous precedent for reasons for allowing rezoning. Mr. Haluska stated that, because there is existing commercial on one side and existing residential on the other, this property needs to be considered on its own individual merits and proffers. This implies that in situations like these, rezoning is extremely arbitrary and can go anywhere. Nowhere did he indicate that this rezoning up-ends the rezoning process that occurred in 2003 nor does it address one of the purposes of zoning in the first place: property owners should be able to know what to expect when purchasing a property. 814 knew there was a restaurant at 816. 812 (if there is one) did not know that 814 would or even could become a business. Now 812 has to figure out what to do with her property. Down the road, 810 will have to decide what to do about 812. Then jump across the street and start all over again. This is exactly what happened to JPA between Fontaine and Emmett. I hope that all who are in opposition to the expansion of the commercial district will join in with the neighborhood associations group and bombard City with all of the reasons why this proposal does not satisfy the above criteria. Council will be giving it a final vote at its next meeting. And please don't add every problem to the issue.

Nicely stated C'ville Eye!

From someone who has been a part of the city zoning process as a concerned citizen volunteer.
The City rewrites the zoning regulations every so many years and it is a long process with much citizen input. None the less, mistakes are sometimes made and it was the opinion of the zoning administrator that this property was improperly zoned in the first place since it is in reality within the business district. It was probably not Zoned business because it is an attractive building and looks like it should be a home, not a commercial property regardless of it's location. The extra lot adjacent 816 and the deep back yard offer a natural buffer and dividing line between the existing homes and the existing businesses.
The current owners bought the property to live in 2003 when Maas was the only night time business on the street.
It is my understanding that if the varience were approved with the proffers and that if the property were later sold, the special varience would be removed and a new buyer would have to go through the process again. They would not be able to automatically put in another business.

It not only "looks like a home," it was built as a house, it is occupied by someone who bought it as a house, it is zoned as a house, and it has houses beside and behind it. It is not zoned as a business because there was no reason for it to be zoned as a business in the past, nor is there any reason now.

The current owners of the next few houses up the street and many many more in the neighborhood most likely bought their homes before there were any night time business in the area. Why should they have to lose their peace and quiet so someone else can cash in by forcing an inappropriate zoning change?

Make no mistake about it, once that place gets transformed from house to a business, there is no going back. Any new owner would have to pay a premium for it as a business location and then pay to convert it back if it were to revert to being a house. No City Council in the future is going to force that upon the next owner.

Residents of Belmont who are against this re-zoning two things you can do: contact the Alliance of Neighborhoods and start a petition to give to Council.

Disband NDS, too expensive.

Even if this is a family owned business once it is re-zoned the designation sticks and anything can go in there. I agree it's about zoning and neighborhood protection. This is an issue for the Neighborhood Alliance contact Collette Hall through the North Downtown Neighborhood Assoc. We all need to stick together or we'll all get run over.

Stew, you're so right. That's precisely the point that people have tried to raise, but it's fallen on deaf ears. And that's why the point needs to be made over and over again until they wake up and listen. The neighborhood already has enough by-right commercial zoning (probably too much, to be honest) and most residents don't feel they can absorb more in come areas. Instead, Council turned this into an argument that our neighbors didn't like any of the restaurants and were being "unfair" to the applicants.

For younger residents, musicians, those that work the night shifts in restaurants and bars, additional clubs and restaurants are not an issue. It wasn't hard for the applicants to find supporters among this group. For 8-5 working residents and people with families, this is becoming a serious problem, especially the ones that live close to ground zero. If it's Council's intention to create a commercial zone in Belmont that only night owls can live around, then they should be honest about that.

Our Belmont residents spoke loud and clear to the planning commission and concil, but only the planners listened. Belmontians said we appreciate what we have, even though it causes us tremendous problems at times. We've been working with the various owners to remedy the situation, and it's helped with some and not with others. The city has only been just a little helpful. We're asking you to not dogpile on us at the 800 block of Hinton because it's enough already! There's a wealth of commercially zoned properties in our neighborhood for the applicants to choose from. In response, the people received warped logic from Holly Edwards and a cold shoulder from the rest of Council.

Someone needs to send Council a copy of Gladwell's "Tipping Point" to read. It might help.

Ms Caperton. I'll address your points in order. First, As anyone who is actively involved in zoning issues will tell you, there's actually very little citizen input in drafting the Comp Plan.

Second, the zoning administrator Read Brodhead did not issue an opinion in this matter. The neighborhood planner, Brian Haluska, stated that there MIGHT have been a zoning error made in the past. Deed research on 814 and the adjoining properties, however, would likely demonstrate this parcel's solid residential character. The reason that that building looks like it should be a home is because it IS, in fact, a home, and has been for many years.

Third, the applicants purchased their home next to a commercially zoned lot, therefore they knew exactly what they were getting into, and were not surprised when it was turned into a restaurant.

Fourth, you've mixed up your zoning terms and codes. Once this property is zoned commercial, as your friends wish to do, that's it. Any use under the new zoning will be okay there. I am 100% certain that the owner of the property next door will eventually use this precedent as an excuse to rezone his property. His request will probably be allowed.

Let City Council know you oppose this!!! Meeting this coming Monday.