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New Richmond Zoning Change Sets Limits For Some High-Density Housing Developments

two women at a table
City Council member Kim Gray introduced an ordinance to limit high-density housing in some buildings. (Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Richmond City Council unanimously passed a new zoning ordinance on Monday night that sets a limit on converting some existing properties into multi-family complexes. 

The change applies to 104 properties across the city that have outgrown their zoning regulations. The buildings were originally zoned for commercial or office use in neighborhoods that have since become residential only. Should developers look to convert these properties into multi-family housing, the ordinance requires a project’s surface area to be, at minimum, 750 square feet. 

Second District City council member Kim Gray sponsored the change. She said it’s meant to preserve the character of neighborhoods like Carver, Jackson Ward, Church Hill, Oregon Hill and the Fan. 

“Many historically black neighborhoods are likely to bear much of the impact from these conversions,” Gray said. “We want to protect some of the fabric of those neighborhoods, and not push the residents out with very high-density, dormitory-style developments.”

The ordinance received mixed reviews from residents and members of the public. Advocates of the change said high-density developments could have negative impacts on a neighborhood, like an increase in trash and shortage of places to park. 

Resident Doug Allen was one of a handful to speak out against the ordinance at Monday’s meeting. He voiced concern over its impact on the number of affordable housing options in the city — and it’s potential to advance wealth disparities. 

“Consequences of anti-density zoning further economic segregation by creating enclaves of the rich,” Allen said. 

Another reason he opposed the change was because most of the affected properties were near transit lines. 

Gray says developers can apply for a city permit to possibly bypass the zoning requirements.