Sometimes decisions are just hard to make. In a unanimous vote by the Williamsburg City Council last Thursday, action on the fate of the student-oriented multi-family housing project proposed for the Richmond Road property where currently stands the Southern Inn, My Sister’s Place Florist and Mistress Monica Palm Reader, was postponed for further resolution until February.
The Council, which was to decide whether to schedule a public hearing on the matter or not, chose instead to defer such a decision for 90 days in an attempt to give community members, Council Members, Council Planning Staff and the College time for discussion.
“For my experience [...], I’ve always found it helpful to gather information from as many and as objective of sources as possible to make the best decision,” said Council Member Billy Scruggs.
The issue at hand, which revolves around the rezoning of the current General Business District B-3 to a Limited Business College District LB-2, would be the first step in allowing for the eventual construction of the proposed complex which includes 124 parking spaces and 165 bedrooms divided among 42 different dwelling units.
The motion to defer making such a decision until February, was based in part on the outcry of community response when the proposal was first brought to open forum at a 15 October Planning Commission public hearing. With 20 citizens speaking against the potential student-oriented complex, a majority citing current student renters in their neighborhoods as the impetus for their concern, the City Council Thursday seemed reluctant to ignore the apprehension of so many Williamsburg residents.
On the same note, the proposed complex would help fulfill several Housing Goals in the Housing chapter of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. This includes such tenets as providing decent, safe and sanitary housing for all City residents (in this case college students), emphasizing quality planning in future residential development areas (by building student housing in an area designated for redevelopment), by providing incentives for pro-active revitalization strategies in “threatened” neighborhoods (by ameliorating student rentals) and by building high-quality housing that rises above many sub-standard dwellings that the Property Maintenance Code and Rental Inspection Program target.
“The property in question would profit from development. It is pretty heavy in the ugly department and not very revenue-producing,” said Vice Mayor Wright B. Hughland. Although the Planning Commission recommended 5-0 at the 15 October hearing that the City Council not go forward with rezoning the property, the Council, as was demonstrated Thursday, is under no obligation to heed this advice.
“My intent is to talk about this some more and to explore some of the issues that were raised in the planning hearing,” said Mayor Jeanne Zeidler.