A Fight Over Zoning Tests Charlottesville’s Progress on Race

By Campbell Robertson |

It has been four years since white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, wreaking bloody havoc in the streets and killing a young woman. The horror of that August weekend sent the city into a deep study of its own racial past and a debate over what to do about its legacy. The catalog of lingering artifacts of that bigoted history is daunting, beginning with statues but quickly getting to the basics of civic life like schools and neighborhoods.

In a city that prides itself on its progressivism, the push for justice has, in general terms, enjoyed broad support. That this push may entail changes to people’s neighborhoods — streets of one- and two-story brick homes, lovely dogwoods and abundant Black Lives Matter signs — is another matter.

Charlottesville’s planning commission is considering a proposal to roll back some of the city’s zoning restrictions in an effort to encourage construction of more affordable housing, a plan that has drawn reaction ranging from fervent opposition to disappointment that it does not go further.