Cville Area Land Use: Week Ahead for June 3, 2024

Here are a few things to note this week:

  • Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville will ask the Albemarle Board of Supervisors for nearly $3 million in two separate requests to assist with the redevelopment of Southwood
  • Albemarle County will also have a public hearing on a rezoning for the 410-unit Holly Hills neighborhood off of U.S. 29 
  • Louisa County will have a public hearing on whether to further reduce the total amount of land available for solar fields from three percent to two percent 
  • Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission will have a jint public hearing on what the county might do to further regulate solar 
  • Nelson County will hold a public hearing on their budget for FY25, one without a real estate tax rate increase but with an increase in the transient lodging tax 
  • Charlottesville City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposal to charge $340 for new gas connections, and will also get details on the plan Charlottesville Area Transit has to boost ridership
  • The University of Virginia Board of Visitors will meet this week and will break format to have a “leadership discussion” on Thursday 
  • There are no meetings in Greene County this week. 

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

Monday, June 3, 2024

Charlottesville City Council to receive Office of Human Rights report, review transit strategic plan

For the past few years, Charlottesville City Council has been holding a work session at 4 p.m. of each regular meeting in order to get a deep dive into particular issues. I’ve only been able to capture a few of them this year, and was glad to have written up the one in February on alternative fuel sources for Charlottesville Area Transit.

I’m also glad I was able to write up the work session in early May on the city’s efforts to get better at delivering transportation projects. 

Council’s June 3, 2024 begins at 4 p.m. work session and has two items. (meeting info)

The first is on the Human Rights Commission and the Office of Human Rights and their annual report. In recent years, the office has grown to four full-time employees.

“The resulting organizational structure now mirrors that of other municipal offices in Virginia with similar human and civil rights enforcement authority, marking the first time since the creation of the OHR in 2013 that the office has full staff capacity,” reads the annual report.

During 2023, the office served 288 individual people who made up 2,060 contacts. Seven ended up being complaints and 214 were inquiries. The number of contacts was down because the office made a decision halfway through the year to “prioritize processing jurisdictional complaints of unlawful discrimination and minimize work related to navigation and advocacy.” 

Two of the inquiries came from North Carolina. 

Of those seven complaints, four were for housing, two were for employment, and one was for public accommodation. There were no complaints for credit or private education, two of the other areas where the Office of Human Rights has jurisdiction. 

Some other information from the report: 

  • One of the positions is an investigator in training. 
  • One of the powers that the Human Rights Commission has is to hold public hearings, but only one has been held since 2013. 
  • There were 16 open complaint cases at the end of 2023. The Office of Human Rights contracts with a firm to provide mediation services. The status of these cases can be seen on page 21 of the report
  • For those the Office of Human Rights can’t help, referrals are given to the Office of Civil Rights in the Attorney General’s Office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, the Legal Aid Justice Center, and other agencies. 
A chart depicting the ratio of inquiries to the Office of Human Rights that have ended up in complaints (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

The second work session is on the transit strategic plan for Charlottesville Area Transit that tells the Virginia Department of Transportation what the agency is planning to do for the next ten years. This document has been produced by the firm Kimley Horn and synthesizes several other plans including the 2021 CAT System Optimization Plan and the 2022 Regional Transit Vision Plan. 

“There are over 40 service improvements from these plans that were included in the CAT TSP,” reads the staff memo. “This set of improvements is fiscally constrained by projected revenues and expenditures and phased in over the short-, medium-, and long-term.”

You can take a look at the plan itself on the city’s website

Or you can read my story from May 17.

You can ask me questions in the comments, too.  

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Public hearing on Charlottesville enacting a $340 connection fee to natural gas

After a few meetings with relatively light agendas, Charlottesville City Council’s regular meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. with several recognitions. 

One of the items on the consent agenda are the minutes of the May 16 to May 18 trip that three members of Charlottesville City Council took to Champaign-Urbana to learn from transit officials there about hydrogen powered buses. I’m maybe halfway through the story I’m writing but here’s a random quote that I may or may not use. 

“We have 118 buses, 18 or 19 of them are 60 foot articulated buses,” said Karl Gnadt managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. “The rest are 40 foot standard buses. Twelve of our buses are hydrogen fuel cell and the remainder are diesel-electric hybrids.”

This is the kind of story that takes longer to crank out and takes a lot of time to write. I’m finding pockets to get it done but need at least two more days. 

Anyway, the rest of the consent agenda:

  • There’s second reading of the action plan for Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnership Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (staff report)
  • There’s first of two readings for a $130,713 payment to the The Local Energy Alliance Program to support their efforts to assist homeowners in making their structures more energy-efficient. (staff report)
  • There first of two readings to appropriate $172,182 from the Virginia Department of Social Services to assist people with independent living services and adoption assistance. (staff report)
  • Piedmont Housing Alliance is asking for a waiver from having to build a sidewalk on one side of a street in the redevelopment of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA) property on Park Street. Their narrative explains their reasoning. This is likely one of the last times Council will have to weigh in on a waiver request, because the new Development Code took that task away from them. (staff report)
  • There is the first of two readings to transfer $9 million to the city’s Retirement Fund related to the city’s recent decision to implement collective bargaining and adjust compensation for all employees. For FY25, the city’s payroll will exceed the three percent assumed by the city’s actuary and the city has to pay more into the fund. The city is making up the difference at one time rather than spread it out over years. The funding comes from the surplus in FY23. This reflects a decision already made by Council but worth pointing out. (learn more)
  • There is the first of two readings to appropriate $45,567 from the Virginia Department of Social Services to assist the Department of Social Services continue the process of closing out cases of individuals who were temporarily eligible for additional benefits due to the pandemic. (learn more)
  • The Tonsler League has requested $10,000 from the Vibrant Community Fund for its summer basketball league outside of the regular budget cycle. This is the first of two readings. (learn more)

There are several public hearings. 

The first and second relate to the city’s various gas, water, and sewer utilities. The city sets rates for its customers and there are proposed rate increases for all three this year. 

The city will also increase the monthly service charge for water and wastewater. 

The stormwater utility fee will remain unchanged at $1.20 per 500 square feet of impervious surface. 

The average residential customer will pay all four $7.94 a month. For those who don’t have natural gas, the average bill would increase $4.36 a month. Details are available in the utility report

Please remember every bill represents a different situation and averages are intended to portray a general trend. 

In addition to a rate increase for natural gas, the city is proposing a $340 connection fee for new gas service. To date, connections have been free for structures within 150 feet of a gas line. 

“The funds from this connection fee will finance an expanded energy efficiency program to promote energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the staff report. 

A chart depicting the breakdown for customers who have all four utilities (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

The next public hearing continues a recent trend of reprogramming previously reallocated Community Development Block Grant funds. In this case, the city would spend $46,000 on repairs to the playground at Johnson Elementary School. The source comes from closed programs that are only identified by number in the staff report. (learn more)

Then there is the first reading of a resolution for a $5,750,000 forgivable loan to the Piedmont Housing Alliance to pay for infrastructure at the second phase of Kindlewood. That’s the new name given to the redevelopment of Friendship Court. 

“Phase 2 of the project proposes the creation of 104 affordable for-rent and for-sale units, including the [one to one] replacement of 54 of the existing Project- based Section 8 rental affordable units,” reads the staff report.

A minimum of four homes is required to be for-sale units. 

In addition, the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority will consider a proposal to reimburse the Piedmont Housing Alliance for real estate taxes. Council has to approve this as well. (read that staff report)

In this staff report, I see something I don’t think I’ve seen before but I can’t confirm that so I will place it here. There are two key considerations mentioned by Brenda Kelley, the city’s redevelopment director. 

“In the event that the Project is foreclosed upon, the affordability restrictions will terminate,” reads the staff report. “At some point, in order to maintain affordability, the City may have the opportunity to control affordable units in the Project. However, if the City were to take advantage of this opportunity, there will be a cost to the City associated with this.”

The meeting closes out with approval of three telecommunications franchises. Consult the agenda if you want to learn more. (view the agenda)

Public hearing in Louisa on further reducing cap on land available for utility scale solar projects  

The seven-member Board of Supervisors in Louisa County will meet at 5 p.m. for a closed session followed by an open session at 6 p.m. (meeting info)

There are three recognitions: 

  • Jodi Dalton is the Louisa County Public Schools William G. Thomas Educator of the Year
  • Cheryl Sites is the Louisa County Public Schools MVP of the Year
  • There’s a presentation recognizing the “Heroic Efforts Displayed by Brett Mills, Jeffry Hart, and Greg Barlow”

There will be a discussion of an affordable housing trust fund. There’s no information available in the packet. 

Under new business, there will be a resolution to support the county’s applications for the Virginia Department of Transportation in Smart Scale Round 6. Louisa is in VDOT’s Culpeper District along with Albemarle, Fluvanna, Charlottesville, and Greene. Nelson County is in the Lynchburg District. 

Louisa County has had two Smart Scale projects completed. They are a $2.6 million project to build a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Cross Country Road and a $7.5 million to realign the intersection of School Bus, Chalk Level Road, and Davis Highway to turn it into a four-way stop. 

A third $5.4 million project to build a roundabout at Route 522 and New Bridge Road is under construction. 

In this round there are three recommendations. 

  • One is to try again for funding to convert the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and U.S. Route 250 into a roundabout. Louisa applied for this in Round 4 and Round 5 but was unsuccessful. 
  • The second is to convert the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and Route 22 into a roundabout. This was submitted in the first Smart Scale round. 
  • The third is to convert the intersection of U.S. 250 and Courthouse Road into a roundabout. This has been submitted in the last three Smart Scale rounds. 

There are three public hearings. 

  • The first would make amendments to the election district map. The Louisa 1 precinct will move from the Louisa Volunteer Fire Department to the New Life Community Church in Louisa. The Patrick Henry 1 Precinct would move from the Standing on the Promises of God Church to Moss Nuckols Elementary School. A voter satellite office would be established at the Louisa Arts Center. (ordinance)
  • The second would be to amend the county’s land development regulations to amend the rules for utility-scale solar to further restrict the total amount of land on which solar panels can be installed from three percent to two percent.  (ordinance)
  • The third is to amend the county’s land development regulations to alter the matrix that says what uses can occur in what areas. This will add several new uses ranging from “automobile graveyard” to “video-viewing booth or arcade booth, adult.” (memo)
A schematic for the proposed roundabout at U.S. 15 and U.S. 250 being proposed for funding through Smart Scale (Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation)

Albemarle design panel to review signs for two new commercial buildings 

The jurisdiction of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board extends to signage in the county’s entrance corridors. Today’s meeting at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium covers two of them. (meeting info)

The first is for a commercial building constructed at the corner of Georgetown Road and Hydraulic Road. The ARB issued a certificate of appropriateness for the structure in 2020, but the application was incomplete.

“Sometime after building construction was completed a painted sign was added above one of the entrances along Hydraulic Road without an approved permit,” reads the staff report. 

The second is for another commercial building constructed at 4920 Ivy Road that is now complete. The ARB approved that design but the signage was not part of the review. 

This is how the signs will look at the two properties (Credit: Albemarle County)

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Executive Committee will meet at 1630 hours (4:30 p.m.) in Fire Rescue Conference Room 2 at 460 Stagecoach Road Suite F.  On the agenda is a continuation of a discussion of training and registration policy for volunteers. Under new business is discussions of policies on child abuse, adult abuse, and the flammable gas policy. (meeting info) (agenda)

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Nelson County Supervisors to hold public hearing on the FY25 budget 

Did you think we were done with budget season? Not quite. Nelson County Supervisors still have to adopt their revenue and expenditure document for FY25 and that still requires a public hearing. The five members of the Board will meet in the General District Courtroom in the Courthouse at Lovingston at 7 p.m. (meeting packet)

All but one of the various taxes will remain the same except the transient occupancy tax will increase from 5 percent to 7 percent. 

“This is expected to generate around $468,000 more than in FY24 for a total of just under $2.3 million,” reads the presentation

The overall budget for FY25 is 4.32 percent lower than FY24 at $49,530,187. 

A pie chart depicting revenues for FY25 (Credit: Nelson County)

In other meetings: 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Albemarle Supervisors to consider $2.94 million in requests from Habitat for Southwood, rezoning for 410-unit Holly Hills community

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the county’s office building for their first meeting in June. (meeting info) (agenda)

There are three items under proclamations and recognitions. 

  • The first is a resolution of appreciation for Richard Hewitt, a developer who recently retired from the Police Citizen’s Advisory Committee. As the owner of the former J.C. Penney building at Fashion Square Mall, Hewitt “was instrumental in the development at the former-JC Penney property of the COVID-19 vaccination center and most recently the Public Safety Operations Center, which is a state-of-the-art facility that houses the County’s Fire Rescue and Police operations and logistics.” The resolution also notes that Hewitt has “provided quality, affordable space for Albemarle County Public Schools’ High School Center I and for administrative departments” at Seminole Place. For the public safety operations center, Hewitt leases the space to the county at $12.90 a square foot with an annual rent of $429,117.21. That’s according to Abbey Stumpf, the director’s communications and public engagement.  (read the resolution)
  • The second is for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. (read the resolution)
  • The third is for National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7. (read the resolution)

There are two action items in the afternoon. The first is for a special exception for a homestay at 320 Home Port Lane in the Samuel Miller District. (staff report)

The second is a request for additional funding from the affordable housing investment fund. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville just under $3 million. 

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville seeks $1,490,000 to help cover some of the costs associated with improving the sewer and septic system in the second phase of the Southwood redevelopment. 

“The proposed project would remove and replace the remaining fifty septic systems at Southwood serving 150 families within the existing Mobile Home Park and provide two permanent connections to County sewer that will serve the redeveloped community and surrounding neighborhoods,” reads the application

This would allow some of the residents to remain in their existing mobile homes for an extended period of time. 

“As our current construction schedule anticipates residents living within this area through 2033, this hybrid of temporary and permanent connections and pipes is essential to bridging the gap between Southwood’s current, failing infrastructure and the fully modernized wastewater systems of the final redeveloped community,” the application continues. 

Habitat purchased the site in 2007. Albemarle Supervisors have previously approved two rezonings for the project which in addition to the income-restricted units will also contain homes that are being built by Southern Development and Atlantic Builders. To subsidize the cost of new construction as well as to guarantee affordable rent or sales-prices for a period of time, Habitat has sought multiple sources of revenue.

Habitat’s second request for funding in the FY25 allocation to the affordable housing investment trust is to match a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is called the Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE) and Habitat seeks $1.5 million to try to unlock an application for $54 million for the project. The application deadline is June 5. (read the second request)

Next, Supervisors will have a discussion of the creation of a foundation to support Fire and Rescue efforts. 

“County staff were asked to provide an understanding of the scope of resources required to support the creation of and maintenance of a positive working relationship with a fire rescue foundation,” reads the staff report.

After that, Supervisors will be briefed on a strategic plan performance reporting program. No details are in the agenda. 

Supervisors will conclude the afternoon with a quarterly report from the Albemarle County School Board. One item for those interested in how students get to school is the appointment of Jamie L. Gellner as the new director of transportation. 

“Gellner’s previous roles include Assistant Director of Transportation and Division Program Evaluator in Charlottesville, VA, where she introduced procedural enhancements resulting in improved customer service and operational efficiency,” reads the report. 

The evening session begins at 6 p.m. There are three public hearings. 

  • The first is for an amendment to the FY2024 budget as well as appropriations. (staff report)
  • The second is for a rezoning of 30.821 acres from Residential-1 to Planned Residential Development for the 410-unit Holly Hills community to be built in between the Brookhill community and Forest Lakes South. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning 5 to 0 but were not asked to provide analysis of a special exception request to waive requirements to stepbacks. This is a project of Dominion Realty Partners and Stony Point Development Group. They’re offering 15 percent of the units will be reserved for households making less than 80 percent of the area median income. That’s not in compliance with Housing Albemarle, which calls for 20 percent of the units being reserved for households at 60 percent of AMI. (staff report)
  • The third is to take public comment on changes to the Water Protection Ordinance and changes to the fee schedule. (staff report)
The conceptual layout for Holly Hills (Credit: Collins Engineering)

Fluvanna Supervisors to get information on the county’s housing needs

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5 p.m. in the Circuit Courtroom in the Fluvanna Courts Building. (meeting agenda)

There are five presentations. 

  • The Virginia Department of Transportation will give a quarterly report (learn more)
  • There will be a semi-annual report on the Children’s Service Act. (learn more)
  • The Department of Emergency Services will present on a plan to use the new Station 3 in Kents Store as a training facility rather than have an ambulance stationed there. (learn more)
  • The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will present on the forthcoming Rural Housing Study. This is not available in advance but the idea is to “identify specific opportunities throughout the Planning District to support citizens in their efforts to maintain their homes, and to act strategically about the aging housing stock, while preserving the rural feel of the County. (learn more
  • There will then be a presentation on the county’s’ housing needs from the Fluvanna-Louisa Housing Foundation (learn more)

There are two resolutions to authorize two future public hearings.

  • One is a request to increase fees for erosion and sediment control applications that would be expected to bring in additional $10,000 to cover the cost of staff time to process them. This would be held on July 3, 2024. (learn more)
  • The other is for a waiver request for the Mountain Hill subdivision which is a rural cluster subdivision on land zoned Agricultural-1. While approved, the current configuration does not meet the open space requirements and the waiver is needed. (learn more)

There are no public hearings at this meeting. 

The suggested alterations to the fee schedule for erosion and sediment control (Credit: Fluvanna County)

Fluvanna Supervisors to meet with Fluvanna Planning Commission on solar policy

All across rural Virginia, localities are pushing back on efforts to build utility-scale solar fields to add to the overall grid. There are many concerns including whether doing so will take away land that would be used for agriculture. 

Fluvanna County has proposed eliminating utility-scale solar as a by-right use in land zoned for agriculture use. To discuss next steps, Fluvanna Supervisors and the Fluvanna Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. in the Morris Room in the county administration building at 132 Main Street. The topic will be solar policy and how to proceed with limitations or further regulations. The speakers will be:

  • Aaron Berryhill of the Virginia Department of Energy 
  • Todd Flowers of Dominion Energy
  • John Ignosh of the Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Katelyn Rose Jordan of the Virginia Farm Bureau 

There are no materials in advance for this meeting. If I had more resources, I’d love to bring together a compilation of what all of the various localities are doing. 

In other meetings:

  • A subcommittee of the Housing Advisory Committee will meet. Where? When? What topic?  We don’t know at publication time because the item on CivicPlus is blank. (take a look)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

UVA Board of Visitors to hold “leadership discussion” 

Over a month has passed since Virginia State Police removed protestors from the UVA Campus. The Board of Visitors held a virtual closed session later in May to get a debriefing. On Wednesday, the full Board of Visitors will meet and there’s a change to the usual schedule. (meeting schedule)

Usually, the Buildings and Grounds Committee meets on Thursday afternoons but this time the full board is scheduled to meet at 2:45 p.m. to have a leadership discussion followed by a closed session at 3:45 p.m. Will there be a change in president this summer? If so, how would that affect relations with the city of Charlottesville? 

“Strengthening the relationship between UVA and the surrounding Charlottesville/Albemarle community is one of my top priorities as president,” reads a section of the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships. “The President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships and the affiliated working groups are helping us engage with our community partners to make our community as strong and equitable as possible.” 

Will initiatives such as the affordable housing project continue, or will a new president seek a different path? A new president will likely have a very different opinion on programs related to equity. Take a look at the website of the Jefferson Council, an organization of alumni who have grown frustrated with diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is likely a new president appointed by the Board of Visitors will share their thoughts. 

The Buildings and Grounds Committee will meet on Friday morning instead.

Albemarle to hold design meeting for Berkmar Drive shared use path 

Albemarle County is still in the early days of managing some of its own transportation infrastructure projects. The latest is to be held at Northside Library at 705 Rio Road West from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

“The County of Albemarle will conduct a design public meeting to provide information and receive public comments related to shared use path (SUP) and transit stop improvements on Berkmar Drive,” reads the meeting notice

These will be on the east side of the road between Woodbrook Drive to the Hilton Heights roundabout. The total span is 0.71 miles. 

“Several existing right turn tapers that were constructed along with the commercial developments on the eastern side of Berkmar Drive will be removed in order to provide space for the SUP,” reads the brochure for the project.

A turn lane in the median will be removed as part of the project in favor of two 11-foot travel lanes. 

After this meeting, right of way acquisition will begin through next summer with utility relocation to be completed by fall of 2005. Construction would be scheduled between spring 2026 and fall 2027. 

The scope of the Berkmar Drive shared use path that will be built by the fall of 2027 (Credit: Albemarle County)

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle and Charlottesville Community Policy and Management Teams will meet at 9 a.m. in Albemarle’s office building at 1600 Fifth Street Extended in Room 231. Fans of undefined acronyms will love this agenda with FC and FAPT among the ones sprinkled around the meeting items. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Natural Heritage Committee will meet at 5:45 p.m. in Room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee meets at 5 p.m. Where? What topics? We don’t know because the agenda item is blank. (check here)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets for a work session at 6:30 p.m. in CitySpace. We know that from one calendar but there’s no agenda yet. (click here for where the agenda will be)

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Fluvanna County Electoral Board will meet at 10 a.m. in the County Administration Building at 132 Main Street in Palmyra. There’s no agenda. (meeting info)

The UVA Board of Visitors meeting will continue. (review the meeting schedule)

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.