Kuttner's conundrum: 'Bad boy' blasts the new law

The mayor jokingly calls him the "bad boy" and credits him with anticipating some of today's now City-sanctioned trends of mixing uses and densifying downtown. But while the creative developments of Oliver Kuttner helped inspire the new zoning ordinance, that doesn't mean he has to love it.

"It's a piece of junk ordinance," rages Kuttner. A developer (and race car driver), Kuttner may be best known for building The Terraces, a towering multi-million-dollar mixed-use structure on Water Street.

What has him so irate?

"'Spontaneous' can't be done here," says Kuttner, who believes the amount of red tape a developer must cut through on any project has become unmanageable.

"I don't really want to deal with them anymore," he says of the City.

Kuttner says the new ordinance may be better than the old one in certain ways, but for his Skatetown building on East Market Street, which is zoned industrial, it's been nothing but a headache.

Under the old ordinance, M-1 zoning, which applies to that segment of Market Street, allowed mixed use– business, light industrial, even residential development.

Kuttner says he tried to be forward-thinking when he re-did the building several years ago by constructing loft-type spaces that would allow people to reside in the same space in which they worked.

His plan backfired, he says.

Under the new ordinance, M-1 has essentially turned into the old M-2, which does not permit residential. Though the apartments that already exist are grandfathered in and could remain mixed use, Kuttner says any future work he might do on the spaces could result in a nightmare of paperwork and special use permits.

As a result, he's removed the showers from the lofts and done what he can to make each space "less inviting" as a home.

"What is at one time the good thing to do becomes the bad thing to do," says Kuttner, shaking his head.

And though Mayor Maurice Cox and his wife, architect Giovanna Galfione, praise Kuttner's foresight on The Terraces project, Kuttner says getting the building to completion was an ordeal.

"I was stopped 18 times," he says, citing the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) and the zoning department as hindrances.

At the former Downtown Tire building between South and Water streets, Kuttner famously vexed the facade-monitoring BAR by putting all his storefronts behind existing– and therefore off-limits to the BAR– retractable metal loading-bay doors.

He says his South Street parking lot, on that same project, is for sale, and he hopes to find the right developer for that space. He, however, isn't looking for any new projects within Charlottesville's city limits.

"It's too much time spent to get too little done," he says. "Life's too short."

Oliver "Bad Boy" Kuttner