The Harrisonburg Planning Commission voted Wednesday to continue a public hearing to its next meeting regarding a request to rezone a parcel on Keezletown Road to have a number of different residential units.

Harrisonburg Cohousing requested to rezone 650 Keezletown Road from R-1, single-family residential, to R-7, medium density mixed residential planned community district.

Commissioners Brent Finnegan, Mark Finks, Henry Way, Kathy Whitten, Zanetta Ford-Byrd and council representative Sal Romero voted to continue the hearing to the Feb. 12 meeting.

Chairman Gil Coleman recused himself from the hearing due to a conflict of interest.

The R-7 district is intended to provide opportunities for the development of planned residential communities offering a mix of single-family detached units, single-family attached units and multifamily units in certain circumstances, according to city documents.

According to Thanh Dang, assistant director of planning and community development for the city, after recent conversations with city staff and the applicant, it was recommended that the commission hold a public hearing Wednesday but omit the staff presentation because there are planned changes to the master plan.

“We didn’t think it necessary to present the existing information since it will change,” Dang said. “We are allowing staff to work with the applicant to change up stuff on the master plan before it is presented publicly.”

According to documents, Harrisonburg Cohousing plans to develop 28 dwelling units — including eight apartments, 15 townhouses, two duplex structures with four units, and one single-family detached dwelling — on the 5.5-acre parcel.

The proposed community would be called “Juniper Hill Commons,” according to city documents.

In other news, the commission appointed Coleman as chairman at the beginning of the meeting. Coleman’s second term will end Dec. 31, 2020.

Residents can only serve two terms on the commission.

Coleman replaced Way, whose term ended Dec. 31. He has not applied to serve a second term but will continue to sit on the board until City Council appoints a new resident.

Council has had a number of residents apply for the seat but has requested to see more applicants before choosing someone. It will look at four applicants at the Jan. 14 meeting, according to Dang.

In other news, the commission unanimously recommended approval of a request from the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity to rezone 628, 648 and 658 Virginia Ave. from R-2, residential district, to R-8, small lot residential district.

Coleman recused himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

Central Valley Habitat for Humanity builds “simple, decent homes for sale to low-income families at no profit and no interest in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County,” according to its website.

Each parcel is around 6,250 square feet. Rezoning would allow the nonprofit to increase the number of individuals or families served from three to six by allowing the construction of duplexes on the parcels, according to city documents.

Larry Brown, who sits on the board of the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity, spoke in favor and said it would blend well into the existing neighborhood.

“These homes are provided to families with a low income and enables them to be fully contributing people in the community,” Brown said.

He said the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity has done work in Grottoes, Dayton, Bridgewater and Timberville, among others.

“We work within the county but we are heavily concentrated in Harrisonburg,” Brown said.

Finks, who lives in the neighborhood, said it is clear that there is a need for affordable housing in the city, and the rezoning makes sense for this neighborhood.

Romero said he looks forward to the project moving forward along with future projects the nonprofit will work with the city to accomplish in the future.

Council will hold a hearing on the topic at its Feb. 11 meeting.

The commission also recommended approval for Diversified Properties LLC to rezone 690 Pear St. from R-1, single-family residential, to R-2C, residential district conditional.

If council approves the request at its Feb. 11 meeting, the nearly 18,000-square-foot parcel would be subdivided into two lots for the construction of a duplex.

While the applicant plans to construct a duplex on the site, it is not required to, and the applicant could instead build two single-family detached dwellings, according to city documents.

“Anywhere where we can fit two residences where there would originally be one, particularly in a place like this that’s tucked away, it’s a positive thing,” Finnegan said.

Contact Laine Griffin at 574-6286 or Follow Laine on Twitter @laine_griffDNR

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