Special Use Permit Alert: 31st and M Street – New Housing Construction

03/08/2019 11:00 AM by

As any resident of the East End knows there is a lot of development going on in the neighborhood.  Schools, grocery store, apartments, houses are all part of a continuous revitalization (to some gentrification, but that’s another topic).  One concern that we’ve discussed at length at CHPN are special use permits and their impact on parking, trash, and the look and feel of the neighborhood. 

How do we make sure and maintain the things that make the neighborhood special?  A community in an urban setting that feels homey and welcoming but that still keeps its historic roots and architecture (while being affordable!).

What is a Special Use Permit?

It is a permit that allows a landowner to obtain or build in a tract of land that does not fall directly under the permitted usage of that zoned area. In Richmond, these SUPs are approved by City Council.

SUPs usually need to be approached with caution and with more in mind than just profits. Therefore it’s encouraged for developers to have conversations with civic associations, property owners and residents. The Church Hill Central Civic Association is a good example of these conversations. They meet quarterly.

So, what’s this about?

SA Chaplin, one of our readers, wrote us recently about some of his concerns regarding a new development filing for an SUP on 31st and M St. You can find his remarks below along with the SUP application and map of the property.

The facts:

  • Currently 31st and M St is an empty lot close to CHAT and the water tower.
  • Parking in the evening and morning hours seems to be normal (2 to 3 cars at any given time)
  • The owner claims that the lot was originally going to be yet another apartment building. The plan is to build 6 houses.
  • The property is approximately 9,925 square feet and originally configured as “six individual lots that fronted along M Street”

From SA Chaplin:

On March 18, 2019 @ 1:30PM the Planning Commission will consider a request for a Special Use Permit (SUP) regarding the lot at the corner of 31st & M Streets. (I live about two blocks from there, so have some stake in this.)

The lot would appear (because of its size and shape and because of the existing north-south alley) to naturally accommodate two houses (with modest size yards) facing N. 31st Street. Instead, the developer is proposing to construct six houses (with virtually no yards) which would face M Street. According to the request for a Special Use Permit (i.e., request for an exception to existing zoning and related requirements) each lot will be less than 75% of the legally required size.

As to parking, if one assumes that each new house will need space for two cars, there would be an immediate parking shortage. (The application states the existence of at most 10 spaces.) More importantly, if this SUP sets a precedent for the remainder of the block, future development would result in severe parking issues. Per the plan submitted, rear yards are nonexistent and required corner lot yardage is nonexistent. Regarding trash cans and recycling cans, there is no alley for these.

Approval of this SUP could set a precedent such that if each lot currently on this block was developed similarly there would be 34 or more houses on a block where there are now seven.

A Few Thoughts from CHPN:

  1. The required lot size for a single-family dwelling is 2,200 sq. ft.  These lots would clock in at approximately 1,647 sq. ft according to the SUP application.
  2. To meet the required lot size, without an SUP, the developer would need to construct 4 homes instead of the proposed six.
  3. The homes being proposed are a decent size at 1,768 sq. ft.
  4. This would be 3 attached pairs of homes.
  5. There doesn’t seem to be a significant parking concern in this area at the present time

We here at CHPN don’t oppose or support this development. We’re presenting the facts.  What we want to do is encourage everyone to be involved and make sure you’re aware of what’s happening in the places you live and work.  In addition, we also encourage responsible development. You may or may not have an opinion, but at least you’re informed!

Support or oppose we would encourage you to make your voice heard. 

To voice your opinion, you can go to the Planning Commission meeting on the 5th Floor Conference Room (City Hall) on Monday March 18th at 1:30 p.m.

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Parking at night time



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