Spring Updates From Albemarle and Charlottesville

The following text was sent out via email on May 21, 2024. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

The Mobility Summit helped transform Bike to Work Day into a full-month celebration with more activities than there are days in the month of May. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

Dear Supporter,

As a bustling Earth Month in April gave way to an exciting Bike Month this May, The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Charlottesville staff have stayed busy.

Our holistic view of environmental issues means that this quarterly newsletter always comes to you with a broad range of projects we’re working on and upcoming events that reflect different facets of action — utilizing nature-based solutions to fight climate change, promoting better land use planning for development and creating healthier communities — that is crucial creating a more sustainable region. 

Before we get into the newsletter, I’d like to draw your intention to our upcoming Annual Meeting on June 1, which will be taking place at the CODE Building in downtown Charlottesville! This event is $30 per ticket for a full day of fellowship, including a community lunch, three workshop options including two with our Charlottesville team, a special keynote address, and a social hour off the mall. More on that and other exciting events below.

Increasing Support for Conservation Programs in Albemarle

Protected farmland near Schuyler, VA. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

The climate crisis and ever-increasing development pressures mean that proactive, intentional efforts to protect our lands and waters are needed now more than ever. This is why PEC is advocating that, as part of the AC44 Comprehensive Plan update, Albemarle County should increase support for and strengthen its land conservation programs. 

Two programs that help protect rural land by limiting development right are the  Albemarle County Easement Authority‘s donated open space easement program and the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program. The ACE program is specifically designed to make conservation more accessible to landowners of modest means to protect their farmland. Conservation programs are important because conserved lands increase climate resiliency, protect public health, enhance biodiversity, support the local economy, and provide a whole host of other co-benefits.

Read testimonials from landowners who have participated in the ACE program about it has impacted their lives and contributed to conservation in our region. Learn more about the programs, and what you can do to support them → 

AC44 Moves Into Phase 3: Action Steps

Albemarle County is investing millions ($58 million from the initial land purchase alone) in an economic development project that will transform the northeastern portion of the Piney Mountain Development Area. Credit: Albemarle County

The second phase of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan is now complete! Since the beginning, PEC, along with many of you, have been advocating that the Board of Supervisors adopt seven recommendations into the new plan that will guide decision-making for the next 20 years. So far, three of those recommendations have been included in the current draft:  

  • Include a Rural Area chapter– as 95% of Albemarle County is in the Rural Area, it’s important that it be planned for separately from the Development Areas, and have its own dedicated chapter
  • Include a Rural Area Plan – the Rural Area Plan would build on what is outlined in the Rural Area chapter, detailing specific plans for the future
  • Avoid mapping potential future Development Areas – we need to make the best use of redevelopment opportunities and smart growth policies within Albemarle’s existing Development Areas, without bringing sprawl into the Rural Area. The possibility of expanding the Development Areas does not incentivize such redevelopment.

Next, the County will be developing Action Steps for Phase 3 and discussing those throughout the summer. Our attention is focused on strengthening conservation programs (see above) and prioritizing smart growth policies within the Development Areas to limit development pressure in the Rural Area and create better, more connected places to live.

We also hope to raise other topics that have been left out of the Comprehensive Plan thus far, including the outsized land use, environmental, and transportation implications of Rivanna Futures and Virginia’s Research Triangle, with UVA’s Manning Institute of Biotechnology serving as one of the points in that triangle in Charlottesville.  

The Comprehensive Plan impacts every aspect of life in the county — from climate action and conservation to housing and transportation to development and growth — and will guide decisions made about the community well into the future. Stay up to date by signing up for our AC44 email updates →

Bikers in Charlottesville appreciate bike infrastructure at a Bike Month event. Photo by Peter Krebs/PEC

In late March, community members, advocates, and planners all came together for the fourth annual Mobility Summit to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ways to improve walking, biking and access to the outdoors in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. In the morning, local planners gave an update on upcoming infrastructure improvements (detailed list of updates), and a panel of community walkers, bikers and active people shared their experiences — and ideas for improvements.

After lunch, attendees hiked a local trail, visited a nearby park and walked to a local neighborhood that will receive some needed infrastructure improvements. Then, attendees broke up into groups to tackle developing new goals for the coming year. 

An idea that previously came out of the summit, is happening in real life, right now! That idea was Bike Month, which has been happening all month long and includes gatherings and group rides organized by several groups that constitute the Piedmont Mobility Alliance. There are still two more Fridays to participate in free bike valet at Fridays After Five and plenty of beginner-friendly, kids or mountain bike rides left this year. 

See a video recap of the summit → 

Upcoming Events

Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 1

The keynote speech, “Wild, connected and diverse:  Building a conservation system for the future,” will be delivered by The Wilderness Society’s Senior Science Director, Dr. Travis Belote.

For an organization that works across nine counties, the chance to bring members and supporters together to learn and be inspired is a special occasion. 

This is why we’re especially looking forward to PEC’s Annual Meeting this year, taking place in our own backyard at the CODE Building on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. 

The event is a chance to connect with other advocates and to hear one of three interesting and informative presentations by PEC staff:

  • Conservation & Connectivity in the Piedmont – PEC Senior Conservation Field Representative, Kim Biasiolli 
  • Walking Tour: Charlottesville’s Fifeville Community Trail – PEC Albemarle/Charlottesville Community Advocacy Manager, Peter Krebs
  • Data Centers & Virginia’s Clean Energy Future – PEC Director of Land Use, Julie Bolthouse

This is a great way to connect with your local environmental group and meet other engaged community advocates.Tickets are only $30 and include a community lunch. We hope you’ll consider joining us for the occasion!

Solarize Piedmont through June 30

Does the warmer weather put solar on the mind? If you’re interested in accessing solar for your home, Solarize Piedmont, our annual campaign with Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) is running through the end of June. The program offers free satellite assessments of your home’s solar capacity, a roster of pre-vetted installers with discounted prices, and ongoing support and education during the process. Learn more about how to get started → 

If you’d like to see more of this amazing local work, I hope you’ll consider becoming a contributing member of the organization at pecva.org/join.

See you at our Annual Meeting or another community event soon!