Two residential infill proposals a stone’s throw from one another in the Westhampton area received different receptions from the Richmond Planning Commission last week.
The commission supported a plan to replace six houses on the dead-end Westview Avenue, near Patterson and Libbie avenues, with two clusters of homes totaling 12 units. The proposal from Richmond Hill Design + Build goes to the City Council for a final vote at its meeting tonight.
Commissioners deferred a vote, however, on Eagle Construction of VA’s plan to build two rows of four-story townhomes at 509 and 511 Libbie Ave., across from The Tiber condo building. The 14 townhomes would replace two existing houses and fill the combined lots, which total about three-fourths of an acre.
Permit applications for both projects were filed with the city months ago, but Monday’s meeting was the first time they were considered by the commission. The vote on the townhomes project was continued to the commission’s Feb. 1 meeting.
At issue is the townhomes’ proposed height and density, as commissioners scrutinized how the development would impact neighboring two-story homes.
They also questioned whether the project fits the vision of the recently adopted Richmond 300 master plan, which calls for conflicting building heights along the corridor.
Commissioners noted that the plan designates Libbie Avenue between Grove and Patterson avenues as “community mixed-use,” which calls for building heights of two to six stories. But elsewhere in the plan, in an appendix describing various neighborhood “nodes,” the corridor is recommended for building heights of no more than three stories.
Lory Markham, a consultant representing Eagle, said the goal of the community mixed-use designation was to reflect and encourage changing development along the corridor, a la the four-story Tiber building across the street. Otherwise, she said, the designation would have remained residential.
But commissioners questioned whether the Tiber, which was built in recent years, is what’s referred to in the plan when it says new building heights in community mixed-use areas should depend on the neighborhood’s “historic context.” In a public hearing, Cyanne Crump, executive director of Historic Richmond, said it shouldn’t.
“The Tiber is an aberration. I don’t believe that it should set the tone for this corridor,” Crump said.
Joe Andrews, with the Westhampton Citizens Association, said the group’s understanding during Richmond 300’s development was that building heights along that stretch of Libbie would be restricted to three stories.
The commission also heard opposition from Chris Perkins, a neighboring property owner who said the four-story buildings would dwarf his home. He also said the townhomes’ architectural style would be out of place with the neighborhood, and that the requested density could result in more than 50 people residing where two single-family houses had been.
As proposed, the townhomes would range between 3,000 and 4,500 square feet in size. Each unit would have between three and five bedrooms, at least 3½ bathrooms and a two- or three-car garage accessed by a shared alley. Eagle is working with property owner 509 Libbie LLC, which purchased the two parcels in 2017 for a total of $850,000, property records show.
Markham maintained that the corridor is changing and that the recommendations included in the Richmond 300 plan reflect that.
“By designating Libbie as the community mixed-use designation, there was a goal for the character to change,” Markham said. “Keeping that street community mixed-use in the Richmond 300 plan points to a change in the development pattern along that street as a goal of Richmond 300.”