Melbourne Place: Lighting the way to 52 condos

A new condo complex near Charlottesville High School means the demise of an 1890 house towering over Park Street, but neighbors and planners aren't blaming the proposed complex for an impending traffic signal.

If architect/developer Vito Cetta gets his way, the southwest corner of Park Street and Melbourne Road will soon boast a 52-unit complex dubbed, appropriately, Melbourne Park Condominiums.

According to City planner Missy Creasy, the site plan submitted by Cetta's company, Weather Hill Homes, hasn't yet been approved, but that may change in the near future.

Weather Hill has requested creation of a second exit from the development, which would allow cars to turn out of the complex onto Park Street heading south. At a 14 percent grade, the exit would be significantly steeper than the standard maximum grade of eight percent, but Creasy says it's unlikely that will pose a significant problem in the final approval.

Representatives from Weather Hill declined comment on the project.

The City's staff report on the project reveals that Greenbrier neighbors have had concerns about increased traffic on Melbourne, as well as about speeding, noise, and a change in the character of the Greenbrier neighborhood. (Anyone remember the love triangles and cat-fights of Melrose Place?)

But neighborhood association president Ned Michie says most residents are resigned to the idea. Those who live along Grove Road, the first big street to transect Melbourne, have been the most vocal in their opposition.

"The development is going to cause a lot more congestion," says Grove Road resident Henry Wiencek. While he stresses that he supports efforts to supply middle-income housing in the city, he fears the City doesn't realize how burdensome the traffic this project will create may be. Grove Road, he points out, is the main access road for emergency vehicles to get to CHS, so typical "traffic-calming" measures, such as speed bumps or humps, are not a good idea.

Adding to Wiencek's grief is the planned traffic signal at the corner of Park Street and Melbourne Road. Though the City's Creasy says the signal was on the books long before the Melbourne Park Condo plans surfaced, its arrival will likely coincide with the condo development and may compound neighborhood traffic woes.

Michie calls the signal "a double-edged sword." On the one hand, he says, it will make access from Park Street to Melbourne easier– a plus for those in the neighborhood. On the other hand, it will make access from Park easier for thru-drivers, many of whom may decide to use the Greenbrier neighborhood as a handy cut-through to get to Hydraulic Road and Emmet Street.

But, as Michie acknowledges, there's not much that can be done to stop either the signal or the by-right development.

Zoned R-3, which allows for multi-family units, the 6.95-acre parcel is a site that allows for as many as 100 units.

Michie says he and others in the neighborhood are sorry that the slate-roof, four-bedroom house, built in 1890, won't be preserved, but he says there's some sense of relief at the type of development Weather Hill has planned.

"The good news," Michie says, "is that it's 52 nice condos with a tree border and paths. That's a lot better than 100 shabbily thrown-up apartments."


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