Cville Area Land Use: Week Ahead for April 22, 2024

Suddenly the trees are festooned with leaves and we’re well on the way to the summer. There is possibly a corresponding lull in local government activity. Yet, I’ve learned as I begin writing these summaries each week of meetings to be prepared for unexpected items that I had not anticipated. Today ended up being longer than expected, as usual. I’m grateful to be able to do this work because all of the stories add up to the future.

Here are some highlights this week:

  • Albemarle will hold a public hearing Wednesday on tax rates including an increase in the lodging tax and the personal property tax rate
  • Greene County is considering an increase on the lodging tax rate from five percent to eight percent, and there are public hearings Tuesday 
  • Nelson County have had their tax rate public hearing but not the budget and Supervisors will have a work session on Tuesday afternoon
  • My calendar had action in Fluvanna County this week, but they adopted their budget last Wednesday, I believe. 
  • There are no meetings in Louisa County 
  • The MPO Policy Board will take up the Long Range Transportation Plan on Wednesday, a document that anyone interested in the future of how we move might becoming more acquainted. 

Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship each week.

Monday, April 22, 2024

CRHA Board to get updates on several redevelopment projects

The seven members of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners will meet in City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. They won’t be buying any property this month. (agenda)

This meeting is just a series of updates with no resolutions. 

  • Earlier this month, City Council allocated an additional $137,000 to CRHA for Resident Services as part of the FY25 budget. From the Deputy Executive Director’s report we learn some of this will be used for youth programming as well as new case management software. 
  • CRHA now has a new construction coordinator, according to the report from the redevelopment coordinator
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved a demolition and disposition document needed for redevelopment of the first phase of Sixth Street to begin. That allows relocation of existing tenants to begin and demolition of an existing building to begin after that process is completed. 
  • “There may be an issue with the new zoning” related to the second phase of Sixth Street, reads the report from the redevelopment coordinator. Executive Director John Sales is working with the city to try to find ways to get the resident-designed plan to work under the new rules. 
  • Work continues at Crescent Halls to prepare lower floors for new tenants. The CRHA hired the firm Breeden Construction after firing the previous contractor for doing work incorrectly. There are also various plumbing issues. 
  • Demolition of existing buildings at South First Street will occur after hazardous materials are removed from the site. 
  • CRHA selected the firm Arnold Design Studio to lead the planning effort at Westhaven. An initial engagement effort has occurred. Other firms involved include Brick and Story, New Ecology, and Water Street Studio. City Council has committed $15 million to the effort. A central question going forward is whether the new units at Westhaven will replace the existing 126 public housing units. Will market rate end up as part of the project? The current goal is to apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits in March 2026. 
One of the photographs from a summary of engagement activities at Westhaven (Credit: Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority)

Pantops group to get briefing on community water supply plan

In a locality of over 115,000, how do people get information about how infrastructure works in the community? One potential venue can be meetings of Albemarle County’s community advisory committees, which were set up in the mid 2010’s to help provide a conduit between residents of growth areas with county staff. 

The Pantops CAC will gather at the Martha Jefferson Hospital Outpatient Center in the Kessler Conference Room at 6:15 p.m. (meeting info) (agenda)

There are two items on this month’s agenda that don’t have anything to do with a specific land use project. Instead there are two presentations on more broad topics.

The first is a presentation from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority on the Community Water Supply Plan. Recently, both Albemarle County and Charlottesville have given approval for work to begin to fill in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area to its fully approved height. (read my story)

A new dam was constructed ten years ago and the idea had been to go up an additional 13 feet when a 9 mile pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir was completed. That pipeline will go to construction within the next few years. 

The second presentation is from the Peabody School entitled “Darden Towe Postage Stamp Prairie Parks and Partnership Project.” This is one of the recipients of Albemarle County’s first round of climate action grants. They received $11,380 to “engage the public and get youth involved in Piedmont grassland education and conservation through a grassland restoration project at Darden Towe Park.”

There will also be reports from Planning Commissioners and Supervisors who may attend. These meetings are open to the public and a great way to get involved. 

In other meetings:

  • The regularly scheduled meeting of the Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee has been canceled. They did have a meeting in March after a long string of events where they could not obtain a quorum. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Greene Supervisors to hold public hearing on $91.3M budget for FY2025

The five-member Board of Supervisors in Greene County will meet at 5:30 p.m. for a closed session followed by an open session at 6:30 p.m. They meet in the County Administration Building Meeting Room in Stanardsville. (meeting info)

After the regular start to the meeting, there will be a public hearing on the budget for fiscal year 2025. There is both the original recommendation and an “adjustments” version created with updated information that states Supervisors have $519,557 to make adjustments. 

County Administrator Cathy Schafrik has provided two scenarios for Supervisors to consider, both of this include adding an additional sheriff’s deputy position at a cost of $110,00 a year as well as $140,000 toward a parks and recreation master plan.  

One of the scenarios would create a new position of deputy county administrator, an animal control officer and a half-time position for emergency management. This position would also restore about $130,000 in various cuts made to various departments.

The other scenario would put $324,000 toward a future recreation center and hold $85,557 in a contingency reserve. 

The two scenarios for how to deal with the “adjustments” package developed since the Greene Board of Supervisors last met. 

There will also be a public hearing on the tax rates which are set at the following levels:

  • $0.71 per $100 of assessed value for real estate tax, a decrease from the current level
  • $0.71 per $100 of assessed value for land owned by public service corporations
  • $4.50 per $100 of assessed value for personal property tax
  • $2.50 per $100 of assessed value for industrial machinery and tools 
  • Farm machinery and livestock is exempt 

The third public hearing is related to the personal property tax rate and sets the tax relief computation. This is related to the 1998 Personal Property Tax Relief Act.

A fourth public hearing is on raising the transient occupancy tax from five percent to eight percent. (resolution)

The final public hearing of the evening is on a resolution to allow the county to levy a lower personal property tax rate for people who volunteer at a fire department. (staff report)

There is one action item seeking a letter of support for a firm called Holistic Apothecary Virginia LLC to operate a “pharmaceutical processor facility” in Ruckersville. The company is applying for a particular license from the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The LLC is part of a larger enterprise.

“C3 Industries, a minority-owned vertically integrated cannabis company, informed us that they have scaled 255,000 sf. of cultivation and manufacturing space that produces $80M in sales per year, as well as opened twenty-one (21) state-of-the-art dispensaries, with an additional fifteen (15) dispensaries underway,” reads the letter

Greene County is among many localities within what’s known to the VCCA as Health Service Area 1. It costs $18,000 to apply. 

“The permit will allow the selected processor to engage in vertically integrated operations, including the cultivation of cannabis plants, production of cannabis products, and dispensation to qualified patients,” reads the VCCA website

A decision on who the VCCA will choose will be made on June 26, 2024. 

Nelson County Supervisors to hold budget work session

The public hearing for Nelson County’s recommended budget for FY25 is not until May 14. The tax rate public hearing was held on April 11 and I have been unable to write that up as of yet. Supervisors voted 3-2 to advertise a one cent increase in the tax rate. 

Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. for a budget work session in the old Board of Supervisors Room (#420) in the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. There’s no detailed information in the notice, but details from the process up to this point are available on the Finance website. (meeting info)

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Albemarle Board of Supervisors to hold public hearing on tax rates

Last week, Albemarle County had a public hearing for the proposed FY25 budget as part of their second regular meeting of April. Tonight they’ll hold a second public hearing for the tax rate for calendar year 2024. This is the primary reason for this special meeting which will begin at 6 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

Technically there are three public hearings for three tax rates:

  • The real estate tax is to continue at $0.854 per $100 of assessed value (staff report)
  • The personal property tax rate is anticipated to be increased from $3.42 per $100 of assessed value to $3.96 per $100. (staff report)
  • The transient lodging tax is being increased from eight percent to nine percent (staff report)

Local planning body to open public comment period for long range transportation plan

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board will meet at 4 p.m. in person at 407 Water Street in Charlottesville. That’s the headquarters of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.(meeting info)

These meetings tend to be very bureaucratic and are laden with jargon. But, decisions made here determine what transportation projects eventually get built. This newsletter exists to try to create less of a barrier to entry by making an attempt at explaining some of the details. 

Start with the minutes of the March 26, 2024 meeting. One of the items was a discussion of applications for funding that go through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process which runs every two years. Final applications for this round are due on August 1. One project is to make changes to the Barracks Road corridor in Albemarle between Georgetown Road and the U.S. 250 bypass. Another is a proposal to convert the Exit 120 interchange at I-64 and Fifth Street Extended to a diverging diamond. A third project would see are improvements on U.S. 250 at Peter Jefferson Parkway and Rolkin Road. 

On April 1, a focus group met to review potential ways to address congestion on Old Ivy Road. More details will be made public soon. 

Here is where the bureaucracy gets a little thicker. Next the Policy Board will consider the “unified work program” that tells TJPDC transportation planners what to work on. A lot of the work is coordinating projects across multiple levels of government. For instance, one of the projects at the moment is the creation of the Move Safely Blue Ridge program that is a precursor to one pool of federal funds. 

The budget for the unified work program for the MPO/TJPDC for FY25. Have a question about any of the acronyms? Leave a comment! Also, view more. (Credit: MPO/TJPDC)

Read one way, J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy novels have a lot of bureaucracy and jargon, too. One of the key pieces of planning in our real world is the Long Range Transportation Plan mandated by the federal government to give a snapshot of what the community wants built over the next 20 years or so. This is not set in stone and can be amended.

There has been no controversy related to the plan for many years, but this document was used for decades to block construction of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 to avoid the commercial strip that began to proliferate in the 1980’s. 

In the here and now, the TJPDC is working on an update of the plan now and a draft was published on Thursday for public comment. The MPO will review the document at this meeting. 

I’ll be writing up a longer review of the document in a future edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. For now, I need to get this newsletter out but I will crank up appropriate music and get to work sometime tomorrow or Tuesday in advance of this item. But just imagine these words written in the font Peter Jackson used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: 

“The Long-Range Transportation Plan is a fundamental document for our community,” reads the executive summary. “It states our region’s collective vision for the future of our transportation system, and it identifies projects that we anticipate our region will implement in the foreseeable future.”

After that there will be a few staff updates including an update to something called the Transportation Improvement Program. This is highly technical stuff, but so is balancing a checkbook when you think about it. 

This particular improvement relates to passenger rail service that comes through Charlottesville. This is related to a recent decision to use a pot of federal funding that comes through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. This region has never used that source before, and the TIP is being updated to give more specifics. This is just a formatting change, according to the staff report. 

Bureautic and jargon-laden, yes. But the end result is additional funding to increase passenger rail. Others may see it as boring, but I think I made it through two pages of The Silmarillion. But this? This I can write about! This is a link to stories I have written about passenger rail in Virginia. This stuff is epic to me. 

There will also be a discussion of the various stakeholders around the table. I often great stories from those conversations. 

This is what an entry in the Transportation Improvement Program looks like (Credit: MPO / TJPDC) 

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Retirement Commission meets at 8:30 p.m. in City Space. On the agenda is a discussion of mortality tables, interest rates for member contributions, and more. (meeting info)
  • The Investment Subcommittee of the retirement panel will meet at 10 a.m. or immediately after the above meeting. (meeting info)
  • Albemarle had two regularly scheduled meetings which have both been canceled. They are the Broadband Authority and the Fire and EMS Board Meeting. 
  • Fluvanna County has created a committee to review potential changes to the ordinance that allows construction of utility-scale solar facilities. They’ll meet at 5 p.m. at the County Administration Building at 132 Main Street in Palmyra. (meeting info)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Office of Human Rights sponsoring tenant rights forum 

While not an official meeting, the Charlottesville Office of Humans Rights is marking Fair Housing Month with a special event to be held CitySpace which will be accessible via Zoom. 

“The presentation will provide an overview of the Virginia Fair Housing Law, the Charlottesville Human Rights Ordinance, and the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and explain how to recognize potential housing discrimination and navigate common processes like reasonable accommodation requests, tenant’s assertions, and repair requests,” reads a press sent out on April 16. 

Charlottesville City Council adopted a Human Rights Ordinance in May 2013. After adoption of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Plan in March 2021, the Human Rights Commission decided to make access to housing a priority. 

A page from the Affordable Housing Plan lays out next steps to expand tenants rights (view the whole plan here)

The budget for the Office of Human Rights has increased in recent years from $282,438 in FY2023 to $487,553 in FY2024. That was due to the hiring of two new staff members to boost up the ability of the office to investigate cases. 

The Office of Human Rights is within the City Manager’s Office. The budget for FY25 lists several performance metrics including one that tracks the number of inquiries the office receives for various inquiries. In 2023, the office received 73 complaints related housing which resulted in two official complaints. 

There were several pieces of legislation to increase tenants rights in the 2024 General Assembly by amending the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Many of these were vetoed, several others were amended, and several were signed into law. Here’s a list of the latter: 

  • HB352 would make it easier for military personnel to break their rental agreement in certain circumstances such as a stop movement order. One such order was issued in March 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HB701 would alter the notice a landlord must give to a tenant before routine maintenance is performed. 
  • HB764 would make it easier for someone who has a protective order can terminate their lease with written notice. 
  • HB957 would make landlords responsible for damages a tenant incurs if a violation of the building code was reported to the landlord by the tenant. 
  • HB967 would require a written rental agreement to have on the first page a clear statement of fees and rent printed in 14-point type. 
  • HB1272 would require a landlord to provide a copy of the signed written agreement to the tenant as well as an electronic copy. 

To learn more about what happens in the Office of Human Rights and on the Commission of Human Rights, check out the many annual reports from the past eleven years

Some of the metrics that track performance of the Office of Human Rights as listed in the FY25 budget (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Places29-Rio panel to review an addition to City Church on Rio Road East

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

The primary item on their agenda is a request for City Church of Charlottesville on Rio Road East to amend a previously granted special use permit to add an additional 13,100 square foot building.

“The addition of a multi-use building would allow the church to expand the uses they are currently able to provide to their members and visitors,” reads the narrative prepared by the Timmons Group. “This includes serving the youth of the church by providing them a place to gather, as well as expanding office space to support current and future staff needs.”

They also want to add up to 185 new parking spaces. This space is within close proximity of both the future roundabout at the intersection with the John Warner Parkway as well as a second project to reconfigure the intersection with Belvedere Boulevard. 

In one other meeting:

  • The Charlottesville Youth Council will meet at City Space at 6 p.m. One item is a discussion of the presentation the group will make to City Council on May 20. 
The location of City Church 

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.