Cville Area Land Use: Week Ahead for March 18, 2024

This region is experiencing a lot of transition. In one direction, you have an ambitious push in Charlottesville toward more government spending on social programs as well as construction of housing. In another direction, you have an Albemarle County that sees its purchase of land near the Rivanna Station as the beginning of a new golden age for economic development. All of these things are happening at once, as well as an urbanizing Zion Crossroads.

And at the center of it all, an ambitious public university that seems to be moving in many directions, with a new biotechnology center and a large role to play in Albemarle’s northern urban area. Who can keep track of it all?

Some highlights for this week: 

  • Charlottesville City Council will hold public hearings on two days on the proposed FY25 budget. Monday is tax rates and Thursday is one on spending. Council having public hearings on Thursday is relatively new development and people may not know when the time comes. 
  • An item on Albemarle County’s consent agenda would give County Executive Jeffrey Richardson authority to file for rezonings for county-owned land associated with the Rivanna Futures project. This could include new areas for planned residential communities. 
  • The Boards of Supervisors in both Fluvanna County and Louisa County will reaffirm support for the plan to bring water from the James River to support an urbanized Zion Crossroads. 
  • Charlottesville City Council will also discuss what city planners should work on now that the Development Code is in place and in effect. They’ll also weigh in on recommendations on what groups should get funds for affordable housing projects.
  • Albemarle’s Economic Development Authority will be asked to consider $300,000 in matching funds for CvilleBioHub’s project to create more lab space for industry start-ups. 
  • Fluvanna Supervisors will provide further direction on whether to restrict or prohibit utility-scale solar projects on agricultural land.

In any case, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued sponsorship of this newsletter and the work that goes into it each week. This is the 254th edition for anyone keeping track.

Monday, March 18, 2024

City Council to learn more about $193 million in grants, possible tasks for NDS

The Charlottesville City Council will meet twice this week on both Monday and Thursday. Thursday is the public hearing for the proposed budget for FY25 that’s built on tax rate increases. Monday is a regular meeting with three public hearings on the proposed increases in the meals tax rate, the lodging tax rate, and real property tax rate. They’re connected, but separate. (meeting info)

Monday’s meeting starts at 4 p.m. in City Council Chambers with a work session with two topics. The first will take a look at all of the various grants that are used to fund city operations. Until 2022, there was no centralized place for this work until the Office of Community Solutions was created.

“The Grants Inventory Report allowed the Office of Community Solutions to get a better understanding of each of the grants as well as allow the City to become compliant and better in alignment with the best practices of grants management,” reads the staff report.

The report is to be updated twice a year. The first one found a total of 95 grants making up $193 million in funds, though the report has the caveat that much of that has already been spent. The document also reports that many city departments have misunderstood grants over the past several years.

“This lack of understanding has led grant projects to remain open and require additional reporting and document retention as they were not closed at the completion of the project,” the report continues. 

Other issues identified in the report include staff turnover leading to a lack of institutional memory about previously received grants, a lack of collaboration between departments, and a lack of transparency. Read the document for more information.

One of my perennial questions has been whether the city will continue to update a 2022 audit of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. That appears to have been answered on page 12 with a table listing total allocations and grant awards from FY2008 to FY2023. 

“The CAHF program has lacked monitoring and compliance for the last several years,” reads the report. “Some programs have not spent their allocations during the appropriate period of performance, thus leaving a balance of funds to be reappropriated.”

Much of the $193 million reported in this inaugural grant inventory is in the form of state funding through the Virginia Department of Transportation. This is the first time I have considered those as grants. One omission noted in the report is the lack of grants utilized by Charlottesville Area Transit. 

A table from the Grant Inventory Report lists the appropriations from the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund since it was created in 2008 (Credit: Office of Community Solutions)

In the second work session, the Director of Neighborhood Development Services will check in with Council about additional work needed after the adoption and implementation of the new Development Code. Council will have to decide between eight different projects that are detailed in the report

One possibility would be a small area plan for 10th & Page, Preston Avenue, and Rose Hill corridor. 

“We will collaborate with the community to develop the planning process and to create a plan that is responsive to the issues identified,” the report reads. “Implementation will be considered from the very beginning with a focus on what can be accomplished in a five-year period.”

Another would be a rewrite of environmental regulations including the potential elimination of special rules for dealing with critical slopes. Another would be to implement the Starr Hill Vision Plan, a document put together by the New Hill Development Corporation with $500,000 in funding from the city. Other ideas include an on-street parking policy, a pre-approval program for certain building types, and an update to entrance corridor regulations. 

Some of the potential projects that NDS staff could work on now that the Development Code is in effect and being implemented (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Council has option to raise real property tax rate to 99 cents per $100 of assessed value

The regular meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Some items on the consent agenda worth noting:

  • There is first of two readings to appropriate a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for Charlottesville’s Urban Forest Management Plan. The current plan is from 2009 and needs an update. The new document will establish a formal tree canopy goal and “engage difficult-to-teach and previously underrepresented communities.” (staff report)
  • There is the first of two readings to appropriate a $21,458 grant from the Library of Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Grants Review Board. (staff report)
  • There is the first of two readings to raise the threshold for appropriations that require a second reading from Council from $1,001 to $5,000. (staff report)
  • There is a resolution to refund $10,941.65 in business tangible personal property tax that was paid by a non-profit who relocated into Charlottesville in 2022 but is actually exempt. A previous amount has previously been paid. The resolution does not identify the entity. Would a FOIA request yield that information? (staff report)

Three out of five public hearings for this meeting relate to the tax rates and not to the actual budget itself. That will be held on Thursday, March 21. The processes are connected but separate. 

Charlottesville is one of 135 political jurisdictions in Virginia and subject to state law that requires the publication of information about what the real property tax rate would need to be to bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year. The City Assessor’s office reported a five percent increase in 2024

“The tax rate which would levy the same amount of real estate tax as last year, when multiplied by the new total assessed value of real estate with the exclusions mentioned above, would be $0.9178 per $100 of assessed value,” reads the staff report.

Sanders’ budget is based on a two cent increase in the real property tax rate, but the staff report states an increase of three cents was legally advertised in the Charlottesville Daily Progress in case Council wants to generate more revenue for spending on more government services. I have a question out on when that advertisement was made. The first public hearing is for this rate increase.

The second public hearing is for the proposed lodging tax rate increase from eight percent to nine percent, which will bring in just over $1 million in revenue in FY25. 

The third public hearing is for the increase in the meals tax rate from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent. That is estimated to bring in over $3 million in additional revenue for FY2025. 

There are two other public hearings. The fourth is for a lease renewal with Verizon to rent space in the Market Street Parking Garage for communications equipment. The annual rent is $9,450, a five percent increase. 

The fifth is for additional funding for the New Hill Development Corporation for their BEACON commercial kitchen which is under construction in Kathy’s Shopping Center on Carlton Avenue, which is not within the scope of the Starr Hill Vision Plan. The city has already allocated $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the project and now there is a public hearing on reallocating $89,896.51 in Community Development Block Grant funds. 

According to the materials for the public hearing, the New Hill Development Corporation underestimated what they needed to refit the site. For instance, they planned for smaller connections to water and sewer than what is actually needed. Part of the funding will cover the difference in the required fees. 

“These unanticipated infrastructure enhancements have slowed the current site work, thereby pushing back the timeline by which NHDC can enact the interior renovations and installation of the numerous commercial-grade items needed for the final program, many of which have already been ordered,” reads the staff report.

The CDBG funding had been allocated to public infrastructure projects, and this reallocation would continue a trend away from that in favor of providing infrastructure to private non-profit entities. Council recently agreed to reallocate $215,000 in unspent CDBG funds to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

With the public hearings out of the way, there’s an ordinance for a telecommunications franchise agreement for WANRock for the use of city-owned right of way. (staff report) (franchise agreement)

Anyone who keeps watching the meeting after the public hearings can hear the presentation on how two pools of funding related to affordable housing will be allocated. The housing strategy adopted in March 2021 morally commits Council to spending $10 million a year on the issue. Two of the pools are for Housing Operation Programs Support and for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. 

Recommendations for funding from the CAHF from the FY2024 allocation are:

  • $117,196 for the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program for the Charlottesville Critical Rehabilitation Program for six households. The request was for $210,000. 
  • $74,054 for Community Services Housing to make repairs to 13 units. That was the full request.
  • $393,750 for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville to invest in construction for up to 18 new units. The full request was for $525,000. 
  • $250,000 for Piedmont Housing Alliance to subsidize the cost of rentals of new construction at 501 Cherry Avenue. This is separate from capital funding in the five-year capital improvement program. 

Requests from the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Virginia Supportive Housing were not requested for funding through the CAHF in FY2024. Learn more details in the staff report.

As for HOPS, a committee recommends the following:

  • $35,000 for the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless for the System of Care Coordination Program. A total of $50,000 was requested for this purpose. 
  • $28,000 for the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless for their Homeless Information Line program. The request was for $40,000. 
  • $55,034 for Community Services Housing’s Community Services Housing program. The request was for $78,620. 
  • $65,250 for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville’s homeownership program. The request was for $75,000. 
  • $70,000 for PACEM’s Case Management Program. The request was for $100,000.
  • $148,000 for Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Charlottesville Affordable Housing Program. The request was for $185,000.  
  • $95,716 for The Haven’s Vital Housing Services Program. The request was for $150,000. 
  • $88,000 for the Haven’s Day Shelter Program. The request was for $110,000. 

Anyone sticking around the meeting can watch as Council votes to formally change its rules for meetings. One rule is that Council will no longer have joint public hearings with the Planning Commission, an advisory body that became much less relevant with the adoption of the Development Code. 

Supervisors to hold budget work session in Nelson County 

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will hold two meetings this week with the first being a work session on the budget for FY2025. That will begin at 1 p.m. on Monday in the old Board of Supervisors Room (#420) in the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. (meeting info)

I have not yet had a chance to watch the budget’s introduction last Tuesday but you can go back and view the recording on Nelson County’s YouTube channel. The materials in the packet for last week’s meeting indicate a $2.277 million reduction from the current fiscal year’s budget or a 4.4 percent decrease. (download the budget from cvillepedia)

Louisa Supervisors to reaffirm support for Zion Crossroads utilities project

The seven-member Board of Supervisors in Louisa County will meet at 5 p.m. Monday in the Louisa County Public Meeting Room for a closed session. That will be followed by a regular meeting at 6 p.m. (meeting overview)

There are a few items on the consent agenda worth noting:

  • Louisa Supervisors will officially set the safety goals that are part of the Move Safely Blue Ridge initiative underway from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The goals are to reduce roadway fatalities and injuries in half by 2045. (read the resolution)
  • Supervisors are requesting that the Virginia Department of Transportation conduct a speed study on a section of Oakland Road, a precursor toward reducing the speed limit to 45 miles per hour. (read the resolution)
  • There’s a second speed study request for a section of Courthouse Road to reduce the maximum limit to 35 mph. (read the resolution)
  • A third study is sought for a portion of U.S. 33 to 35 mph. (read the resolution)
  • The University of Virginia’s Institute for Engagement and Negotiation helped broker conversations about the replacement of a bridge that carries Hamilton Road across the South Anna River. (read the report)

In the regular meeting, there will be a presentation from VDOT but that particular piece of information does not appear to be available in advance. There is a six-page monthly report

There are two items under new business. 

  • The first is a $1.034 million budget supplemental request for Louisa County Public Schools to pay for some work for capital items that will be paid for in fiscal year 2025. This includes $855,000 for school bus purchases. (read the resolution)
  • The second seeks a reaffirmation of Louisa County’s support for the work being conducted by the James River Water Authority to build a pipeline to bring water to support urbanization of Zion Crossroads. This is related to refinancing of bonds to be sold to pay for the project. (resolution) (the updated support agreement)

There will also be a public hearing on property assessment increases in the current calendar year. 

“Total assessed value of real property, excluding additional assessments due to new construction or improvements to property, exceeds last year’s total assessed value of real property by 7.83 percent,” reads the notice for the public hearing.

The budget proposes keeping the real property tax rate at $0.72 per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate that would bring in the same amount of revenue is $0.668 per $100 of assessed value. This is known under Virginia law as the “effective tax rate increase.” 

The notice also states that revenues for the total budget for FY25 will be 27.5 percent higher than in FY24. 

According to the budget calendar, The public hearing for the tax rates and the budget will be on April 8. Supervisors are slated to adopt the budget on April 29. 

One of the items in the packet for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors meeting for March 18, 2024 is a report from the community development department. Note the uptick in building permits so far this year. (read the report)

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building. On the consent agenda is review of Old Ivy Residences, and there are reviews of the new Wendy’s at North Pointe, the new Home Depot at Fashion Square Mall, and Rio Point. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Albemarle Agricultural and Forestal District Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. Two  items are on the agenda for review. (meeting info)


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Fluvanna Board of Zoning Appeals to review setback variance for winery tasting room

The Fluvanna County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold an organizational meeting Tuesday for the calendar year. They meet in the Morris Room at 132 Main Street in Palmyra beginning at 7 p.m. (agenda packet)

There is one public hearing. The owners of Hardware Hills Vineyard are seeking a variance to a setback for a tasting room that was constructed in 2012. The structure is encroaching five feet into the 200 feet required from the property line. The owners also seek another variance to allow for an addition to the tasting room to be considered compliant. 

“The plans for the addition were prepared using incorrect setback measurements that were provided by the Fluvanna Planning Department,” reads the staff report. 

Staff recommends the BZA grant the variance. 

Schematics for the property depicting the setback requirements (Credit: Foresight Survey PC)

Albemarle EDA to sign off on providing $300,000 match for CvilleBioHub

The Board of Directors for the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority will meet at 4 p.m. in Room 241 at the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)

Before we get into the meeting, one of the reasons I do this work is to make sure any documents shared with stakeholders before meetings are publicly available. How can the public know what is happening with public money if information is incomplete? 

Item #5 on the agenda is a resolution to provide matching funds to the entity known as CvilleBioHub for something called the Charlottesville Biotech Accelerator. Last June, CEO Nikki Hastings made a pitch to the EDA for additional space for start-ups in an industry that’s going to receive a huge boost from the presence of the Paul and Diane Manning Biotechnology Institute at the University of Virginia. 

But the agenda available at publication through the calendar does not have any more details, nor does a meeting page on the EDA’s website. The proposal, however, was sent to anyone on the EDA’s email distribution list. You can see it now thanks to my uploading of the document to cvillepedia.

“CvilleBioHub… is currently in pursuit of $10 million over three years in funding to establish and sustain a Life Sciences and Innovation Lab Accelerator program,” reads the proposal. “This initiative aims to provide comprehensive guidance and support to approximately 15 to 20 early-stage life science companies during the three-year timeline, facilitating their journey toward success in facilitating growth and retention in the region and in Virginia.”

Four million of that is being requested from the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity program. That requires matching funds from a local agency. The money would be used to outfit a 6,500 square foot lab at the University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork Discovery Park. The ask is for $300,000 in matching funds, something not listed on the agenda at publication time. Read the resolution here. Funding is contingent on similar matching funds from Charlottesville’s EDA as well as the University of Virginia. 

One of the slides from CvilleBioHub’s presentation to the Albemarle EDA regarding their accelerator program 

In other meetings:

  • The Technical Committee of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at 10 a.m. at the Water Street Center. There will be updates on Smart Scale applications as well as more info on a pipeline study at U.S. 250 and Ivy Road. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle County Department of Social Services will meet at 3:30 p.m. in the county’s office building at 1600 5th Street in Room 231. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The planning and operations group of Albemarle County’s Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee will meet in Room 246 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review meets in City Space on Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a pre-meeting followed by a regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. One item on the agenda is for construction of a house behind 745 Park Street on a vacant 0.196 acre lot. Putting the parcel number in the development portal does not yield a result. (meeting info)
  • There will be a community town hall for the Rio Magisterial District hosted by Supervisor Ned Gallaway. This will be held by the Center at Belvedere at 6 p.m with the program beginning at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Nelson County Supervisors to hold public hearing on Comprehensive Plan

In most Virginia localities, the Comprehensive Plan is a big deal.

“A Comprehensive Plan is a broad statement about the community, looking 10 to 20 years ahead,” reads the announcement on the Nelson County website. “It includes specific goals and strategies to achieve the goals set forth in the Plan.”

The update process in Nelson County is nearing its conclusion and the Board of Supervisors will have its public hearing on the 2042 plan at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. This will be held at Nelson County High School. Take a look at the plan before you go. 

The announcement includes a note from Dylan Bishop, Nelson’s director of planning and zoning. 

“As designed, this process has been an inclusive community effort,” Bishop wrote. “From the diagnostic analysis of Nelson County’s existing comprehensive plan, to analysis of the existing conditions, along with robust input surveys, public workshops and listening sessions, we created a vision and goals.”

The vision statement for the Nelson 2042 plan that has been put together with assistance from the Berkley Group (Credit: Nelson County)

Fluvanna Supervisors to further discuss potential prohibition on utility-scale solar ban

The five member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County will meet for a budget work session at 5 p.m. on Wednesday followed by a regular meeting at 6 p.m. They will meet at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway. (meeting packet)

There are four action items.

  • Supervisors will be asked to set tax rates to advertise for a future public hearing.
  • There will be a resolution to authorize a future public hearing on making some forms of personal property tax exempt. According to the staff report, the Commissioner of Revenue does not seek payment on this tax, but the Supervisors have been passed an ordinance to enable that authority. 
  • Fluvanna Supervisors will be asked to reaffirm support for the James River Water Authority’s plan to build a pipeline to bring water to Zion Crossroads. 
  • There are amendments to the zoning code related to small scale, minor scale, and utility scale solar generation. On March 6, Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to approve a resolution of intention to remove utility-scale as an allowed use by special use permit on land zoned agricultural. On March 12, the Planning Commission requested more time. The resolution before the Board could delay consideration of all pending utility scale solar projects until mid-October unless Supervisors state otherwise. 
The proposed tax rates for 2024 are the same as for 2023 (Credit: Fluvanna County)

There are three public hearings:

  • The first is to authorize short-term rentals by-right in some zoning districts (A-1, R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4). This would bring Fluvanna in compliance with legislation that passed the General Assembly that would prohibit localities from requiring a special use permit for short-term rentals if the property owner uses the structure as a primary residence. Governor Younkin has not yet signed SB544.
  • The second is to make a clerical correction related to language on minor scale solar generation projects. 
  • There is a third related to giving the county treasurer discretion in deciding to set terms for payment arrangements for back taxes. 

Albemarle Supervisors to hold public hearings on blighted property, authorize Richardson to pursue rezonings for Rivanna Futures land

The six-member Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road.  (agenda) (meeting info)

The first item on the agenda is the review and potential adoption of guidelines to enable the Public Private Transportation Act to facilitate speedy financing of future projects.

“The PPTA provides alternative financing structures, expedited project execution, and ‘deal structures’ that are beneficial to both parties, when there is a finding of public interest for a transportation project,” read the staff report

The staff report does not specify what projects might be considered under this approach.

Could one of them be the Ashwood Boulevard Connector Road (also known as Archer Avenue) that is the topic of the next action item? County Executive Jeffrey Richardson seeks approval of three revocable license agreements to proceed with construction of the road on land dedicated to the county as part of the Brookhill development. 

“This connector road is shown as an optional roadway network addition included in the Comprehensive Plan and is proposed to provide connectivity parallel to US 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Ashwood Boulevard,” reads the staff report.  

The license agreements would allow Riverbend Development to proceed with road construction, building a stormwater facility, and conduct the appropriate landscaping. There’s no mention of PPTA that I can see. 

Next up is a work session on the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan draft goals and objectives for the Rural Area Land Use and Transportation chapter. The Planning Commission spent about four hours on this in two work sessions, but I don’t believe anyone has written about it. I have it recorded, but have not been able to get to it. Are these things important? Why don’t other media outlets write about them? Is it because we are in what people would call a “news desert?” 

“Many newspapers have become ghosts of their former selves, both in terms of the quality and quantity of their editorial content and the reach of their readership,” reads the website of University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

I do what I can do and will constantly try to improve my efficiency. Your support makes it possible to do this work.

In the evening session that begins at 6 p.m., there is an action item on a request from the 525 unit Old Ivy Residences seeking permission to create a private central sewer system. Supervisors unanimously approved the growth area development last March. 

“Though the subject property is located within the County’s Jurisdictional Area for public sewer, the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) would not agree to maintain the sewer system because it is located on and serves a single parcel and is not expected to be extended beyond the property,” reads the staff report. “Therefore, the onsite sewer system must be privately owned and maintained.” 

Finally, there are three public hearings for three spot blight declarations on Rolling Road, public hearings that met their legal advertising requirements by publishing notices in the Charlottesville Daily Progress. From a story I wrote earlier this month

  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on March 20, 2024 to declare property at 3247 Rolling Road as blighted. “This ordinance would authorize the County Executive or his designee, on behalf of the Board, to acquire, hold, clear, repair, manage, or dispose of the Property and to recover the costs of any repair or disposal of such Property from the owner or owners of record.” Take a look at the property on Zillow(Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 7, 2024)
  • There’s a second public hearing for 3239 Rolling Road. According to Albemarle GIS, the structure was built in 1920 and is classified as being in “very poor” condition. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 7, 2024)
  • There’s a third public hearing for 2941 Rolling Road. Albemarle GIS states this structure dates back to 1754 and is also in “very poor” condition. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 7, 2024)

To round out the meeting, two items from the consent agenda:

  • In an appropriations resolution, Albemarle County Public Schools would be authorized to spend $1.9 million to purchase 10 acres of land for a future school site. (staff report)
  • County Executive Jeffrey Richardson seeks formal approval to apply for land use applications for rezoning and other land use changes associated with the land the county purchased near the Rivanna Station for $58 million. This would involve both commercial and residential uses. (staff report)

Changes to temporary event permitting process before Greene PC 

The Greene County Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the county meeting room in the administration building in Stanardsville. (meeting agenda)

There are three public hearings. 

  • The first is a request from the Quattlebaum Development Company for a rezoning of 2.41 acres from Agricultural 1 to Business 3. This would be to allow for a self-storage facility. (staff report)
  • The second is a request from the Villages at Terrace Greene for an electronic message sign to be located on U.S. 29 by the Matthew Mill Road intersection. (staff report)
  • The third is on a list of changes to the county’s current process through which temporary events are reviewed. The Planning Commission has had three work sessions on the topic. (staff report)

City housing advisory panel to further discuss land bank ordinance 

The Charlottesville Planning Commission is not playing the lead role on developing an ordinance that would create a land bank that would buy and sell property for affordable housing. Instead, the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee is heavily involved in creating a draft ordinance which is the third of three items at their meeting at noon in City Space. (meeting packet)

From the minutes of the February 21, 2024 meeting of the HAC, we learn that Planning Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates is on a working group put together in January of this year to advance the ordinance. So is Planning Commissioner Philip d’Oronzio, a HAC member sitting one of three slots reserved for a “real-estate professional.” The two met with City Manager Sam Sanders on January. 

According to the minutes of the February 21 HAC meeting, member Sunshine Mathon said previous efforts to start a land bank failed due to perceptions that language might undermine the ability of redevelopment efforts being planned by the Charlottesville Redevelopment Housing Authority. The group discussed why the working group was formed. Mathon is also the executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance and is not a member of the working group. Neither is John Sales, a HAC member who is the executive director of the CRHA. 

In the past year and a half, CRHA has purchased several individual properties as well as the 74-unit Dogwood Housing portfolio. The latter involved $5 million in funds from the City Council. In the past year and a half, Piedmont Housing Alliance has purchased several units in the Fifeville neighborhood under their Piedmont Community Land Trust banner. 

The chair of the working group is Dan Rosensweig, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. 

The agenda packet for this meeting has a draft set of by-laws to be used as a starting point as well as a draft ordinance. There’s also a series of discussion questions for the HAC to go through.

  • What is the role of a Land Bank in supporting the Affordable Housing Plan?
  • What are Charlottesville City Council’s land bank establishment options?

There are a lot of moving parts, and city funds are already being used by CRHA to buy property. That does not appear to be mentioned in the minutes for the February 21 meeting.

One of the discussion prompts given to the HAC at their February 21, 2024 meeting

In other meetings:

  • The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the Water Street Center. They’ll also get information on the Smart Scale projects. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Community Development Block Grant Task Force will meet at 6 p.m. in the S&P Annex in the 2nd Floor of 700 East Jefferson. (meeting info)

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Charlottesville City Council to hold first public hearing on the budget

We are in a time where any norms that may have been in place should no longer be assumed to be in place. For years, Council has only had public hearings at their meetings on Mondays. That changed on February 1 when two public hearings related to the Development Code were held on a Thursday. No one spoke. 

This time around, Council will meet in CitySpace for at 6 p.m. for the first budget public hearing. There are no materials in the meeting packet at publication time. The best way to get information is on the budget website. Media coverage has been fairly sparse and I’ve been unable to write up either work session held so far. I pledge to do that by Wednesday. 

In other meetings:

  • The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will meet at 5 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation Department’s conference room in the Market Street Parking Garage. On the agenda is titled “Jenkins Park Findings” and there will also be updates on the aquatics program as well as the master plan that’s in development. There will also be a discussion of the drainage issues at Oakwood Cemetery. 
  • Albemarle’s Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Committee will serve as the forum for a Town Hall hosted by Supervisor Jim Andrews of the Samuel Miller District and Supervisor Mike Pruitt of the Scottsville District. This will be held at the county’s office building at 1600 Fifth Street Extended in Room A. (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.