Cville Area Land Use Update: Week Ahead for March 25, 2024

Spring is here and perhaps there is less attention than usual on what local governments are doing in our region. Can you blame anyone who may want to just enjoy the world around without thinking about ? The world is becoming alive again, and that’s perhaps more important to pay attention to! 

At least three localities don’t have meetings this week, but that could just be a quirk of the calendar more than a declaration of the awesome nature of nature. There are no meetings in Fluvanna County, Louisa County, or Nelson County. 

However, there are a lot of significant items this week:

  • Charlottesville City Council has two work sessions this week with Tuesday’s about potential ways the city can decarbonize its natural gas utility. Thursday’s meeting is on the capital improvement program which among other things calls for the city to pay Piedmont Housing Alliance and the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to build more affordable housing units. 
  • Albemarle Supervisors have two work sessions scheduled, with only one guaranteed. On Monday, they are expected to finalize their review of County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s FY25 budget and then decide what tax rates they will take to their second public hearing in mid-April.
  • The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners will adopt their budget for the next fiscal year and get updates on the next steps in redevelopment. 
  • Greene County Supervisors will approve resolutions to seek federal funding to pay for local projects
  • Will Albemarle’s Historic Preservation Committee find a quorum to meet for the first time this year? 
  • Charlottesville will present alternatives for how to upgrade Stribling Avenue to accommodate additional people who will live on the the western end.  

Thanks as always to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship of this newsletter and the work that goes into it. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Albemarle Board of Supervisors continue budget review process

In Late February, Albemarle Supervisors were presented with a recommended $629 million budget for fiscal year 2025. So far there have been three work sessions at which the elected officials have asked questions. The fourth will be held Monday at 3 p.m. in Room 241 of Albemarle’s office building. (meeting info)

According to the calendar, the “Board proposes [the] budget and sets [the] maximum tax rate for advertisement.” This is a good opportunity to catch up with what’s happening with the budget and seeing what input from the public has had on Supervisors’ version. There continue to be a series of town hall meetings. 

Here are a couple of stories I was able to write as well as links to materials from other meetings:

There are so many stories in all of the above so this fourth work session is a good one for me to go through this week. A lot of decisions will be made about what to fund and there’s a lot to know. 

For those who want to learn more before the meeting, there are a series of answers from questions so far. Here’s are some things I learned:

  • Albemarle is evaluating properties that would be suitable for a pocket park somewhere in the urban ring. Albemarle County has added 67 firefighter positions since FY20. (from the first set of questions answers)
  • Albemarle enacted a plastic bag tax that took effect in January 2023 and the county collected more than double the $20,000 expected. The FY25 budget anticipates $120,000 in revenue. (from the second set)
  • Albemarle would collect an additional $871,992 in local revenue if the transient lodging tax is increased from eight percent to nine percent. That would be split among local government (54 percent), the schools (36 percent), and debt service (10 percent). (from the third set)

I’ll have more details from those documents in the next regular edition of the newsletter. 

A list of the 67 firefighters hired in Albemarle in the past five years and where they have been deployed (Credit: Albemarle County)

LaPisto-Kirtley and Pruitt to hold Albemarle Town Hall 

One use of Albemarle County’s growth area community advisory committees is to serve as a general forum for public awareness campaigns on county government.  That’s the case for this month’s meeting of the Pantops CAC which will begin at 6:45 p.m. at the Martha Jefferson Hospital Outpatient Center in the Kessler Conference Room. (meeting info)

One-third of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will be on hand for a town hall for both the Rivanna and Scottsville magisterial districts. 

“This town hall will begin with an open house where posters displaying current County projects will be on display,” reads the notice

Those posters will be on the fiscal year 2025 budget, traffic and safety projects, and transportation projects. 

CRHA to adopt budget for FY25

The Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will meet at 6 p.m. (meeting packet)

In Virginia, localities follow the state calendar with a fiscal year beginning on July 1 and ending on June 30. The CRHA is a separate political subdivision with a fiscal year that runs from April 1 to March 30 each year. At this meeting, they’ll adopt an annual budget as well as authorize the five-year capital fund to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Some other items from the packet worth noting:

  • As of March 22, there were 67 units filled at Crescent Halls with three more expected by the end of the month. Another 12 will be filled as April begins. 
  • Materials are being removed from the site of South First Phase 2 to clear the way for existing buildings. A general contractor will be announced soon. 
  • CRHA is awaiting permission from HUD to send out the relocation notices for tenants at the first phase of the Sixth Street redevelopment and a general contractor will be announced soon.
  • An architectural firm has not yet been hired for the redevelopment of Westhaven but residents have been interviewing teams from those that responded to a solicitation for qualified firms last year. Master planning is set to begin this spring. 

The packet also has material about CRHA’s annual plan beginning on page 45. The vision statement is worth a look as it captures the ambition of the agency.

“Our vision is to be more than an entity that manages traditional federal Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs,” the plan states. “As a resident first organization, we collaborate with local governments, and partners from the public and private sectors to carry out our mission.” 

Will the Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee meet for the first time in 2024? 

The advisory panel in Albemarle charged with “protecting the County’s historic and cultural resources” has been canceled for its last three regularly scheduled meetings on the fourth Monday of the month. Will the one scheduled for Monday take place? (meeting info)

If they’re successful in obtaining a quorum, they’ll elect officers for 2024 and will approve minutes from September and November. Then they’ll adopt rules of procedure.

Under updates, they will learn about the listing of the Scottsville Tire Cord Plant on the Virginia Landmarks Register. They’ll also go through a list of buildings demolished or scheduled to be demolished.   

In other meetings:

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

VDOT to make presentation to Greene County Supervisors on paving rural roads

The five-member Greene County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5:30 p.m. for a closed session followed by an open session at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

There will be a public hearing for a special use permit for a home business at 912 Amicus Road. Specifically this would be for a vehicle repair garage. The Planning Commission recommended denial at their meeting on January 17, 2024 but offered several conditions such as the requirement that a building permit be issued for the accessory building. 

The location of the proposed automotive repair shop (Credit: Greene County)

Next up will be a presentation from the Virginia Department of Transportation. There are updates on plans to pave several rural roads. (download the presentation)

There will also be an update on the county’s water and sewer projects from both Davenport and WW Associates. That information is not available in advance. 

The consent agenda contains the draft minutes from four meetings this month. It’s very useful to have these available to catch up. 

There are several resolutions seeking support for grant applications.

  • The first is for a request for $6 million in federal funding for to replace the Stanardsville water tower which was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. (read the resolution)
  • The second is for a request for 15 mobile data terminal toughbooks for the Sheriff’s Office (read the resolution)
  • The third is for a request for 20 Automatic External Defribalators for the Sheriff’s Office (read the resolution)
  • The fourth is for a request from the Dyke Volunteer Fire Company for a generator for an emergency shelter. (read the resolution)

Charlottesville City Council to hold work session on decarbonization

Charlottesville will hold a Tuesday work session to resume discussion on the on-going study of how to decarbonize the city’s utilities division. The meeting will be held at CitySpace. (meeting info)

For background, here’s a story I wrote exactly a year agoA report had been expected in October but was delayed until this work session.  

The presentation for this work session is available One interesting item is a juxtaposition of two different metrics in a survey conducted by the UVA Center for Survey Research. Ninety-six percent of respondents who indicated they are gas customers thought it was important (somewhat, very, and extremely) important to have natural gas service available. Ninety-four percent said global climate change is either a very serious problem or somewhat serious. 

The report also states it will take at least four votes on Council and a public referendum to decommission the city’s natural gas operations. The service would also need to be transferred to a private company. No locality in Virginia has the ability to put a ban on new gas connections. 

However, there has been a 62 percent decline in new connections from 2018 to 2023. The presentation offers another chance for anyone interested in the transition away from fossil fuels that will be required for Charlottesville to meet its 2050 goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. 

Some of the recommendations include charging more for new gas collections and using the additional funding to pay for energy efficiency programs (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

Albemarle Planning Commission to get update on zoning modernization 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)

Albemarle is in the midst of reviewing its Comprehensive Plan. The county is also going through its zoning code. The latter is the sole topic of the Planning Commission’s meeting with an update from staff and the consultant hired to oversee the work. 

“The update process has been split into five separate phases of work over the course of the next few years,” reads the staff report. “At the end of this multi-year project, the Board is expected to adopt the ordinance in full.” 

The process is still in phase 1. The presentation will be on a new Article 3 which is the chapter that governs the kinds of applications and permits. Article 10 covers nonconformities. 

“Following this work session, staff will be incorporating feedback into the draft Ordinance and soliciting additional feedback from stakeholders, including key County staff within Community Development, Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable (CADRe), and Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA),” the staff report continues. 

Two articles I’ve written:

The many phases of the zoning modernization (Credit: Albemarle County)

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Stribling Avenue alternatives to be on display at public meeting 

For whatever reason, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about how infrastructure is developed in this community over the past 20 years. At one point, I lived in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood and before I was at Charlottesville Tomorrow. At the risk of total embarrassment, I provide this link to an October 2005 podcast from something back then. The audio quality isn’t good, but it’s an interesting document of that time.

Since then, I’ve written a lot about the Fry’s Spring neighborhood, including the rezoning of 240 Stribling under the old rules. One of the conditions of the Planning Commission’s recommendation for approval was that Stribling Avenue be improved to a more urban condition as there are no sidewalks. 

Council approved the rezoning on April 18, 2022 during an online meeting, as I wrote about at the time. They also approved an agreement with the developer related to consideration of a $2.9 million dollars to go toward a sidewalk on a roadway with a rural-like set of conditions. 

A screenshot of the minutes for the City Council meeting from April 18, 2022 related to the rezoning and this loan. Read the minutes to learn more about what the public record says about this event. (take a look)

Two years later, the capital improvement plan for FY25 has an allocation of over $4.2 million toward this project. The city will provide more information at a public meeting to be held at the Fry’s Spring Beach Club Wednesday at 6 p.m. 

“The City of Charlottesville is working to construct roadway improvements along Stribling Avenue from Jefferson Park Avenue to the City limits near Nob Hill Circle,” reads a public announcement of the meeting. “This project intends to enhance the safety along the corridor for pedestrians and others traveling along and exiting this roadway.”

Charlottesville has had a rocky history with being able to deliver on transportation projects. But this notice indicates that the public is being asked to weigh in on potential choices on how to proceed rather than starting from scratch.

“In the meeting, the public will be presented with a few different alternatives to enhance the corridor along Stribling Avenue,” the announcement continues. “The public’s opinion is highly requested on the alternatives presented.”

In other meetings:

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Charlottesville City Council to hold work session on the capital budget 

Charlottesville City Council will hold its second work session of the week and the third for the FY2025 budget. The meeting will be held in City Space at 6 p.m. (meeting info)

This particular work session is on the capital improvement program. That’s the five-year budget that demonstrates what projects are being planned. Here are two stories I’ve written already:

Until this moment, I have not really delved into what is in City Manager Sam Sanders’ recommended five-year capital budget. In case you’re unfamiliar with this sort of process:

“The annual capital budget is part of the City’s multi-year Capital Improvement Program, which is designed to coordinate the planning, financing, and construction of capital projects aimed at improving, revitalizing, and maintaining the existing facilities and infrastructure,” reads page 339 of the recommended budget. 

Most of the revenue that pays for capital projects comes from the selling of bonds, whereas other projects are paid for using cash. Projects paid for through bonds have to serve a public purpose and are paid for through debt payments overtime, like a mortgage. 

While the capital improvement program is reviewed in five-year increments, Council are allowed by state law to only approve spending for one year in advance. 

“The Capital Improvement Program for FY25 contains bondable projects totaling $24.8 million, along with non-bondable projects totaling $10.3 million, for a total capital improvement program budget equaling $35.1 million,” reads page 340. 

For years, previous city budgets clearly laid out which projects were bondable and non-bondable. This budget does not so so, another sign of a changing city government that does things in different ways. Does it matter? Will anyone notice? 

Chart depicting the funding for capital improvement projects (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

According to the narrative on page 340, the capital budget for FY25 sets aside $8.6 million for affordable housing projects in a mix of bondable and non-bondable payments. Again, non-bondable means the city is paying cash directly. 

  • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to receive $3 million for public housing redevelopment 
  • CRHA gets another $900,000 for supplemental rental assistance vouchers, a pool of money that CRHA has used recently to purchase new properties 
  • Another $1.5 million goes to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund 
  • The Piedmont Housing Alliance gets $3 million to help finance two developments on Park Street

According to the table on page 343, the total for affordable housing is $8.91 million. There’s an additional $500,000 for Piedmont Housing Alliance to pay for infrastructure improvements at Kindlewood, still labeled as Friendship Court in the budget. 

Future years call for many more millions of dollars in funding to build more income-restricted housing. Bondable or non-bondable? If non-bondable, that means the city pays direct cash to help a private entity cover its financing. What impact will that have on the real estate tax rate in future years? What will the rate be in FY2029? 

Other items for spending in FY25: 

  • There’s $450,000 for replacing windows at Clark Elementary School and another $1,937,504 to replace the roof at Charlottesville High School. 
  • There’s $1.788 million in the FY25 capital budget to buy a new baler and baling facility for the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority. I wrote this in the fall of 2021 when the project was under study.
  • There’s $400,000 for a trail at the Piedmont Family YMCA in McIntire Park. 
  • There’s $270,000 to repair the splash pad at Forest Hills Park.
  • There’s $2 million to irrigate the Meadowcreek Golf Course.
  • There’s $728,000 for Downtown Mall Infrastructure.
  • There’s $600,000 for improvements at the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial 
  • There’s $4,217,000 for the Stribling Avenue sidewalk project. See Wednesday’s entry. 
The city anticipates spending $48.3 million to help pay for the cost of other groups to build income-restricted housing units, with much of that funding in the form of direct cash payments. Previous Charlottesville budgets told you which was, but this one does not. 

Places29-Rio panel to learn more about assisted living facility expansion

The Places29-Rio Community Advisory Committee will meet at 6 p.m. in Room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

The main event is a community meeting for a special use permit. Our Lady of Peace is seeking to build a new wing for its assisted living facility at 751 Hillsdale Drive. This will add another 63,000 square feet and will add 20 new units and 34 additional nursing care units. Another 30 beds will be transferred from the new wing. A special use permit is required. (SP202400009)

A map of the location of Our Lady of Peace (Credit: Albemarle County)

In other meetings:

  • Supervisor Jim Andrews and Supervisor Mike Pruitt will hold a community town hall for the Samuel Miller and Scottsville magisterial districts. This will be held at 6 p.m. at the Yancey School Community Center at 7625 Porters Road in Esmont, Virginia. (meeting info)
  • The second of two budget work sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Dyke Volunteer Fire House at 9144 Dyke Road. (meeting info)

This post was contributed by Sean Tubbs. Sean is a journalist working to build a new information and news outlet centered around Charlottesville and Virginia. In 2020, he launched a daily newscast and newsletter and also created a semi-regular podcast on the pandemic.

Support for Sean’s “Week Ahead” update comes from The Piedmont Environmental Council.