Cville Area Land Use: Week Ahead for April 1, 2024

This week is a relatively quiet one, There do not appear to be meetings in either GreeneLouisa, or Nelson. There is a meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

Some highlights: 

  • Both Albemarle and Charlottesville are marking International Dark Sky Week with proclamations. 
  • Should Charlottesville Police install license plate readers to assist police investigations? That is one of two discussion topics at a Council work session Monday, a work session in which a city report makes the claim there has been a $61 million commitment to affordable housing over a three year period. 
  • Council will also hold first of two readings on a $251 million budget for FY25 that’s based on three tax rate increases. There’s also another vote on a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine after a first one failed on a 3-2 vote on March 18 that led to the resignation of one Planning Commissioner.  
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets on Tuesday, but the night before they’ll tell Council that the State of the Forest is “precarious” and tree canopy is likely to continue declining before it rebounds.
  • Albemarle County Supervisors will hold another Comprehensive Plan work session on Wednesday, this time on goals and objectives in the draft Community Facilities chapter. One overarching question: Should more services including public utilities be located in some of the county’s rural areas? 
  • Fluvanna County Supervisors will appoint a committee to further review a potential prohibition on more utility-scale projects on land zoned Agricultural-1, and will also be briefed on potential savings due to a bond refinancing. 

Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued sponsorship of this newsletter each week. This is the 256th installment, so I guess we’re one byte in. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Council to review affordable housing investments from FY21 to FY23, Flock cameras

The five-member City Council of Charlottesville will meet for a work session at 4 p.m. followed by a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Both events will be in City Council Chambers. (meeting overview)

The work session contains two items. The first is a report on the city’s affordable housing activities for the past three years since adoption of the Affordable Housing Plan in March 2021. 

“While not meant to be an exhaustive affordable housing or market analysis, the report will present data on funding allocation per year, associated units, and populations served, alongside projections for future unit availability,” reads the staff report.

Some highlights:

  • Over $61 million has been allocated or committed to affordable housing in the three  years since 2021. 92.1 percent of that has gone to create housing restricted to households making less than 50 percent of the area median income. 
  • Zoning reforms called for in the Affordable Housing Plan have been completed
  • The Housing Advisory Committee no longer makes recommendations on what programs are funded as a separate Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund committee has been created. However, the HAC continues to consist of leaders of groups that receive city funding such as the executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity, and the executive director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

A closer look at the $61 million shows that figure is inflated by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s decision in February 2022 to allow a third-party group to use its bonding authority to preserve 98 units at Midway Manor. No city or CRHA funds were used. (read the story)

The report also includes information about future projects that Council has not yet approved funding for such as 40 units at the Mews on Little High Street and 195 units at the Wertland and 10th and something called 601 Cherry Avenue. The latter is likely a misprint. 

One of the ways data is presented in the Affordable Housing Report (view the presentation)

The second work session item is a follow-up on the potential installation of Flock surveillance cameras. The proposal included in the package argues license plate readers can assist with Amber alerts and other targeted searches, as well as help with investigation of shootings, robberies, and stolen vehicles. 

The proposal lists where the cameras would be stations in key locations, many of whom are within a heat map that correlates recent shootings and vehicle thefts. The police department is proposing a one-year pilot where data would be retained for seven days and would not be shared outside the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are examples in the package of “transparency portals” including one used in Culpeper. 

A heat map included in the presentation on Flock that Council will review (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

The consent agenda has several items worth reviewing.

  • There’s a ground lease in Pen Park for Council to approve between the City and Bennet’s Village for an all-abilities playground. (staff report)
  • There’s also a memorandum of agreement between the city and Bennett’s Village about how the space will be operated. (staff report)
  • The Batten Foundation is allocating $40,000 to the city to support the Community Attention Youth Internship Program. This is the first of two readings. (staff report)
  • There’s first reading of the allocation of an additional $130,059.50 for the Rugby Avenue Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail project. The project has previously been put out for bid and proposals all came in over budget. (staff report)
  • There is second reading on award of funds from the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund as well as the Housing Operations and Program Support. To see the listings, go back to my post on the March 18 meeting. I also hope to write up whatever discussion that happened tonight by tomorrow. (staff report)

The first item on the agenda is another consideration on a vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. There’s no explanation in the agenda about why this is coming, but one might specular that that City Council will not be able to resume until Council votes for the item. 

“The Charlottesville City Council asks the City Clerk that copies of this Resolution be quickly forwarded to the President of the United States, Joe Biden; Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner; and Representative Bob Good,” reads the final paragraph of the resolution.

Then Council will hold first reading on the budget, the annual appropriation, and the tax rates. I’m hoping to get a special newsletter out with an update on that tomorrow morning. (staff report)

The meeting concludes with the State of the Forest from the Tree Commission. 

“Much of this presentation will relate to current trends in tree canopy and how City programs such as tree planting and invasive plant control/containment will increase the City’s resiliency to climate change,” reads the staff report

The report can be summed up in one word: Precarious. 

While the official canopy coverage is estimated at 38 percent, much of that is likely invasive spaces and the actual canopy coverage is around 25 percent. 

“Expect losses to continue for the foreseeable future reducing the canopy by another ~15 percent by 2050,” reads a summary slide in the presentation. 

However, the presentation lays out steps that are being taken to avoid the reduction or to have it rebound with more plantings and stewardship. 

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board usually meets on the first Monday of the month, but this meeting is canceled. (meeting info)

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Usually Tuesday is a busy day for meetings. Not so much on this day. 

In two meetings:

  • The Albemarle Broadband Authority will hold a meeting that had been scheduled for March 27. They’ll gather in Lane Auditorium at 5 p.m. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission is set to meet at 5 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation Office at 501 East Main Street but there’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Albemarle Supervisors to review road paving funds, consider contractor’s request for $238K 

The six-member Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium which is located in the county office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)

After the usual start to a meeting, Supervisors will take up the consideration of a claim from S.L. Williamson for $238,207.29 in cost overruns associated with their work to build a sidewalk on Ivy Road just to the west of the city. Staff is recommending denial. The company made their pitch on March 6, 2024, an item that’s on a long list of items that no one seems to have reported. (staff report)

Next up is a work session on Albemarle County’s draft six-year plan for how to use secondary roads funds provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation. 

“The Albemarle County Priority List for Secondary Road Improvements, Unpaved Roads is a listing of all Secondary Roads that either the public, a county department, or the Board of Supervisors has requested be paved,” reads the staff report. 

The Board won’t take action to approve this list until May. 

Secondary road funds generally go to pay to pave roads. Click here for a larger image. (Credit: Albemarle County)

The afternoon session will also feature another work session on the Comprehensive Plan, this time on the draft goals and objectives in the Community Facilities chapter. The Planning Commission had their review in February and a summary is provided in the packet. This is the final involvement from the Board of Supervisors before staff moves the AC44 process into Phase 3. 

Why is this relevant? “Community facilities” includes water and sewer and there’s a draft objective to direct the Albemarle County Service Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to provide public water and sewer to “legacy zoning areas in the Rural Area that are near or adjacent to the Development Area where public health and safety needs generated by the existing uses and potential by-right development permitted by existing zoning may be addressed.” 

In the evening session, there are two public hearings.

  • Service Dogs of Virginia seek a special use permit for a private school and a commercial kennel, with the school being to teach people how to train service dogs. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval on February 13. (staff report)
  • The Kenridge development opposite Birdwood Manor on Ivy Road seeks an amendment to a special use permit related to landscaping including a request to eliminate the need for an underground sprinkler system. (staff report)

In the final item of the agenda is a discussion of whether Albemarle wants to revisit rules that prohibit cycling on trails at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. There’s no advance material except these words:

“Discussion and consideration of possible action directing the County Attorney, with input from County staff as appropriate, to develop revisions to Chapter 11, Section 11-303 of the County Code and/or other code sections, if appropriate, for the Board of Supervisors’ Review.”

In March, both Albemarle Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council agreed to a settlement in the long-running legal battle over the issue, with the city agreeing that the county has the right to set the rules. (read the story)

Charlottesville City Manager Sam Sanders addressed the issue further at a City Council meeting on March 18, 2024. 

“There was conflict between the city ordinance and the county ordinance,” Sanders said. “The county ended up filing a lawsuit against the city. We defend all lawsuits no matter if it’s from a friend or now and in that matter we lost. We tried to appeal as well but our chances were not looking very good in that sense.”

Sanders said Council agreed to settle in closed session. He said cycling is available at the city owned Heyward Community Forest which is adjacent to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. 

Some items on the consent agenda are worth noting:

  • Minutes for four Supervisors meetings in June 2022 are up for approval. Unlike many other localities in Virginia, Albemarle does not allow the public to review minutes until they are approved. (staff report)
  • There are several appropriations of revenue for the current fiscal year including $65,000 in revenues from rent from parking lots that are part of the county’s new Rivanna Futures properties. There’s also another $20,000 from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Public Lands Fund for creation of interpretative signage at Biscuit Run Park. (staff report)
  • There are over 350 changes to the Administrative Plan for the Albemarle County Office of Housing, which administers 435 housing choice vouchers, 105 mainstream vouchers, and 34 moderate rehabilitation vouchers. (staff report)
  • There’s a resolution of intent to amend the Rio 29 Form Based Code zoning ordinance after two applications received and reviewed in 2022 “revealed some problematic ordinance revisions.” (staff report)
  • There’s a proclamation recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month. (proclamation)
  • The April 10, 2024 budget work session is canceled (staff report)

More from the consent agenda in a future edition of the newsletter. 

School bond refunds could mean some savings for Fluvanna County 

The five-member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County will meet at 5 p.m. at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union. There will be a work session at 7 p.m. (agenda packet)

After the usual items you’re see at the beginning of a regular meeting, there will be a presentation on School Financing Refunding Bonds from the Virginia Public School Authority. That could have a positive effect on Fluvanna County’s budget.

“Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) is considering the refunding of its 2014C Pool bonds this spring,” reads the staff report (page 13). “The savings from this potential refunding will be passed along as an annual credit to localities.”

This will save about $3,000 in FY25 and about $20,000 a year beginning in FY26 through FY30 for a total savings of around $105,000. 

Potential savings are in Fluvanna’s future if the VPSA agrees to proceed with a refunding proposal (Credit: Fluvanna County)

There are three action items. 

  • April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and a staff member of the Fluvanna County Department of Social Services will accept the proclamation. (staff report)
  • There will be a resolution related to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and a local taxes grant of $500,000 to the Economic Development Authority related to broadband expansion. (staff report)
  • There is a resolution to appoint a Solar Ordinance Review Committee to review the potential of removing utility-scale solar as a special use in agriculturally-zoned land. This will consist of two Supervisors and two Planning Commissioners. (staff report)

The work session will be related to the fiscal year 2025 budget. 

In one other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Community Development Block Grant Task Force may or may not be needed. There’s no agenda, but if they meet, they’ll do so at 6 p.m. in the S&P Annex at 700 East Jefferson Street on the 2nd Floor. (meeting info)

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Council to hold wrap up session for budget 

Will Charlottesville City Council go ahead and take the additional penny on the real estate tax rate that’s authorized by their public advertisement of $0.99 per $100 of assessed value? That may be one of the themes of the City Council budget work session wrap-up session that’s scheduled at 6 p.m. in City Space. (empty meeting info page)

As soon as I hit send on this Week Ahead, I’ll be moving back to writing a catch-up segment on the budget as I still have to write up three meetings. They are the March 18 public hearing on the tax rate, the March 21 public hearing on the budget, and the March 28 work session on the capital improvement program. 

The city of Charlottesville is spending money like I have not seen in my roughly 20 years as a local journalist. Municipal spending has traditionally been something that received a lot of ink in local newspapers, but what I do is no longer fashionable. Thanks to my paid subscribers, I’m going to keep doing what I can to inform in a way that seeks to inform and not inflame. Decisions made by an elected body reflect those who are elected to serve, and my hope is to spend the rest of my days writing up as much of this as possible to explain what’s happening. 

TJPDC Board to review strategic plan for Commuter Assistance Program

The Board of Commissioners for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will meet at 7 p.m. at Water Street Center at 407 E. Water Street in Charlottesville. (meeting packet)

On the agenda are presentations on RideShare’s strategic plan, the unified work plan for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization, and an update on the Blue Ridge Cigarette Tax Board. 

Under new business there will be a review of the agency’s budget for fiscal year 2025 as well as a resolution to support the Move Safely Blue Ridge initiative. 

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee will meet at 5:45 p.m. in Room 235 of the county office building at 401 McIntire Road in Charlottesville. On the agenda is a review of the work plan for the committee, an updated policy at Ragged Mountain Natural Area, and follow-ups on wildlife corridors and the forthcoming solar ordinance. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission has a work session at 233 Fourth Street NW at 6 p.m. There’s no agenda at publication time. (empty meeting information page)
The new planning process for Rideshare involves new data collection such as this map depicting where people work and where they live (Credit: TJPDC)

Saturday, April 6, 2024 

There are no meetings on Friday. On Saturday, however, the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will have a strategic planning session at Crescent Halls beginning at 9 a.m. There’s no agenda, but this is listed on the city’s calendar whereas most CRHA meetings are not as CRHA is a separate unit of government though one who Board is entirely made up of Council appointees and one Councilor. (empty meeting information page)

Looking ahead to next week:

  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors next get together on April 8, 2024 with a special meeting at 4 p.m. 
  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors meet on April 9, 2024 and again on April 11, 2024. 

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.