Cville Area Land Use Update: Week of August 21, 2023

Summer ends for students in Albemarle and Charlottesville this week as another academic year begins. Will that mean a quiet week or a busy one for local and regional government meetings? Judge for yourself in this latest edition of a weekly summary of what’s coming up, with bits of additional content sprinkled in here and there.

The goal? I want people to know what’s happening in local government and how to find out for themselves. My view of journalism is one that equips members of the public with information about their system of government works. I’ve made a career of sharing what I know and trying to create a culture where none of this stuff is seen as boring. 

When someone tells you something is boring, it could be because they don’t want you to pay attention. I don’t find anything boring because the world is filled with magic if you know how to look in just the right place. 

So here’s some of what’s happening this week, magical or otherwise:

  • On Monday, Charlottesville City Council will consider selling a sliver of land on West Main Street while holding a final vote on use of grant funding to purchase parkland south of Azalea Park 
  • Two families who want to make additional money renting property in Nelson have their say Wednesday in front of the Planning Commission 
  • Five hundred units are coming to a development neat Stanardsville, but the Greene Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a rezoning to reduce the number of single family homes 
  • Want to learn the latest on Albemarle and Charlottesville’s capacity for water and sewer? The RWSA Board will get an update Tuesday. 
  • The Albemarle Economic Development Authority will adopt a few resolutions related to grant funding for Agrospheres and the Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative.

There are no meetings in Fluvanna County or Louisa County this week. I think. 

Thanks as always to The Piedmont Environmental Council for their ongoing support of this newsletter and the research that goes into it each week. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Council to consider sale of West Main Street land, purchase of new parkland on Moores Creek

Charlottesville City Council meets at 4 p.m. for a three item work session followed by a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. (meeting files)

The first work session item is on the alternative of “ranked choice voting” with the presenter being Taylor Yowell, the city’s General Registrar and Director of Elections. This is on the agenda at the request of several City Councilors. Albemarle County explored the possibility last year but made the final decision in April to wait until 2025 to proceed. (view the city presentation)

Ranked choice voting assumes there are people willing to be candidates for public office. Only five people ran for three slots on City Council this year. 

Next, the Charlottesville Area Alliance will make a presentation on their efforts to make the community “age-friendly.” Co-Chairs Kristin Miller and Susan Friedman will provide an update. The presentation is not available in advance.

Finally, the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont will provide an update on what they’ve been up to for the past year. The group is in the middle of its first capital campaign to raise the funds to construct the park on land they lease from the City of Charlottesville in McIntire Park. Maryann Thompson Architects have been selected to design the structures. 

Some of what is planned for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont this year (Credit: Botanical Garden of the Piedmont)

The regular meeting begins with a review of the consent agenda. 

  • The four-hour conversation on the draft zoning ordinance that City Council had with the Planning Commission on July 13, 2023 gets two pages of minutes. I was only able to get through about half of it before I decided to publish my story on July 31. (minutes)
  • There’s a lot on this agenda about the city’s use of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program. There is a proposed amendment of the FY23-24 to use unspent funding from previous years to pay LEAP for more rehabilitation projects to make homes more energy efficient. In all, there’s $111,749 in funding to be transferred. (agenda memo)
  • There is the first of two readings to appropriate $539,369 from a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless for their work on the continuum of care. (agenda memo)
  • There is the first of two readings of an appropriation of $150,000 from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Systems to hire three additional “Care and Safety Assistances” which is what Charlottesville calls School Resource Officers. Under the plan, one additional CSA will be hired at Charlottesville High School and two will be hired at Walker Upper Elementary School. (agenda memo)
  • There is the first of two readings to appropriate a $33,150 non-infrastructure grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. (agenda memo)

Then the regular agenda which has a significant amount of business. 

First is a public hearing on the sale of a 1,141 square foot parcel of land at 601 West Main Street purchased in 1979. 

“It was believed to be acquired for purposes of accommodating a potential future transportation or transit related improvement,” reads the staff report. “These improvements have never occurred, and the land remains unimproved.”

A firm doing business as Main Street West LLC seeks to buy the land for $119,108.99. That’s the full 2022 assessment, according to the staff report. I could not find the parcel in the city’s GIS viewer to find out the 2023 value. Is this part of the overall Starr Hill Park? 

After that, Council will be presented with a new pay structure for the city’s non-unionized employees. This was a 2022 priority of interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers and the firm Gallagher Consulting presented their work to Council on April 3. 

“An updated market-based compensation program is key to attracting and retaining an engaged and high performing workforce to support the mission and values of the City,” reads the staff report. “The end result will help guide the City toward making our compensation competitive with other municipalities, local governments, and jurisdictions in the labor market.” 

A public hearing was already held for this outside of Council on Thursday, July 27, 2023. No one spoke at that event, which can be watched on the city’s video archive of previously streamed meetings.

Why wouldn’t this public hearing be held during the Council meeting? 

Following that item there will be a resolution supporting the Sister Cities Commission’s request to host a delegation from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. That community was chosen over Carlos Paz, Argentina in late 2020 as a Spanish-speaking locality to enter the program. The relationship is now a “Friendship City” which requires at least one exploratory visit within three. (staff report)

Two funding awards totaling $350,000 from two conservation funds will allow the City of Charlottesville to purchase an 8.45 acre property on the south bank of Moores Creek on the other side of Azalea Park. 

“The property may be used for general park uses, trail development, possible stream restoration, and to support urban agriculture and community gardens,” reads the staff report. “Following acquisition, the Department of Parks and Recreation intends to create trails on the property and begin to determine possible tree planting and stream restoration opportunities for the future.” 

The International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Farm will continue to operate on the property for at least three if a new lease agreement is signed. 

A location map of the project (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Next up is the second time the HOME-ARP FY23-FY24 action plan comes up. Specifically, there’s the first of two readings on a resolution to approve the plan and to appropriate the $347,404 in Charlottesville’s share of the funds. Four applications were received and the following two programs will receive the funding (staff report):

  • Community Services Housing, Inc will receive $67,361 to preserve their existing units throughout the city
  • Piedmont Housing Alliance will receive $280,043.92 toward their plan to redevelop the MACAA site at 1025 Park Street 

On a related note, Council will also approve a document that reviews how HUD HOME and Community Development Block Grant funds have been spent in the previous year. This document is known as the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report, or CAPER. This document is not actually linked to the agenda, but is instead on the website of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). That website states that the item is on Council’s agenda for a public hearing. But that’s not what the Council agenda says for item #14. This item does have a resolution indicating what Council’s priorities are for FY24. Clear? 

In the penultimate item, Council will amend for the sixth time the grant agreement for the Charlottesville Supplemental Rental Assistance Program. This program was adopted by Council in October 2017 with an annual allocation of $900,000 from the city. (staff report)

In the final item, Council will get an update on the Internal Work Group on Gun Violence. 

“While shots fired incidents are not categorized as part 1 crime, there has been an increase in both reports of shots fired calls and confirmed incidents of shots fired calls for service,” reads the staff report

Albemarle design panel to review new building material at car dealership on U.S. 29 

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. There is one regular item to review as well as a work session. (meeting info)

The regular item is for an amendment to the certificate of appropriateness that a car dealership has on U.S. 29. At some point, Brown became Umansky. At another point, Umansky became Flow and now they want to use an aluminum composite material in exterior of the showroom for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram vehicles. 

After that will be a work session on design changes to an apartment complex approved on Rio Road West near Four Season Road. 

A rendering of the new look for the Flow CDJR building (Credit: BRW Architects)

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Greene Supervisors to hold public hearing on Blue Ridge Meadows project 

The five members of the Greene County Board of Supervisors begin their meeting at 5:30 p.m. with a closed session followed by an open one at 6:30 p.m. Same as it ever was. They meet in the Administration Building in Stanardsville. (meeting agenda)

The major item on the agenda is a public hearing on a requested rezoning for nearly 140 acres of land near Stanardsville from Residential-1 to Planned Unit Development. This would be to allow for a different configuration than allowed by-right for the 500-home Blue Ridge Meadows project by allowing smaller lots. 

“The proposed Residential PUD is projected to have fewer vehicle trips and potential school children compared to the current residential zoning and the Comprehensive Plan directs higher-density development to the growth area,” reads the staff report

The project will require permission from the Commonwealth Transportation Board for a right-in, right-out access onto U.S. 33. 

After that public hearing, Supervisors will get a quarterly update from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Three projects are in preliminary engineering. Intersection improvements at U.S. 29 and U.S. 33 are complete. (view the presentation)

We learn two interesting things from the monthly report from Community Development:

  • Developers are having challenges with bond requirements due to rising interest rates. 
  • Greene County now has approval from VDOT to remove illegal signs from the right of way. By the time of the report, 133 signs had been removed. 
A chart comparing what could be done by-right and what would require a rezoning.  

Albemarle Planning Commission to review office in Mill Creek, tennis courts at Covenant School

The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)

There are three public hearings. The first is to add a new class of “countywide Certificate of Appropriateness” to allow for expedited design review for any project into which Albemarle County has entered into a contract for a public-private partnership. 

Such countywide certificates exist including one adopted for areas subject to the Rio / 29 Form-Based Code.

“For each class of county-wide certificate, the ARB must establish design criteria against which

the subject development will be reviewed for consistency,” reads the staff report. “Those criteria would be established on a case-by-case basis for each public-private partnership.”

The staff report does not mention what public-private partnerships might be prompting such a review, but the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution of intent to amend the zoning code at its meeting on June 7. That was on the consent agenda and that staff report also doesn’t shed any light on why this would be useful to the county.

Next, there is a request for a special use permit to build a 8,900 square foot office in Mill Creek. This parcel of land was not in the original rezoning to Planned Unit Development but was added later for industrial use. That means a planned warehouse use is allowed, but the office needs permission from Supervisors.

“The applicant plans the independent office to be used for music production and operations, such as a recording studio,” reads the staff report.

Finally, the Covenant School seeks a special use permit to add 2.61 acres to its Hickory Street campus to allow construction of a tennis court. (staff report)

Albemarle EDA to formally match GO Virginia grant for CIC, Venture Central

The Albemarle Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors will meet in room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (meeting materials)

There are four items on the agenda under new business. 

The first is an update on the county’s due diligence on the purchase of 462 acres of land near Rivanna Station for $58 million. Supervisors got an update on August 2 as I reported a few days later.

Next up is a resolution on performance agreements for the firm Agrospheres which has two state grants. 

One is $200,000 from the Commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. This requires the creation and maintenance of 53 new jobs at the “pesticide and fungicide facility.” (details in the performance agreement)

The second is from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. Read more details in that resolution

The third item is a resolution on the GO Virginia Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative grant. The Community Investment Collaborative and Venture Central applied for and received a $300,000 award. That takes a $75,000 match from the EDA, as documented in the resolution

The next is a staff report.  

The EDA next meets on September 19. 

RWSA Board to get full review of water and sewer capacity 

There are many people in the community who are excited about more people coming to live in the community. Others are not. 

Either way, individuals and the groups they are part of might want to pay attention to the details of the water and sewer capacity. For urban Albemarle and Charlottesville, that means reviewing the meetings of the Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. They meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the RWSA headquarters at 695 Moores Creek Lane. (meeting information) (agenda packet)

At this meeting there will be a review of the urban water supply and a review of forecasted demand. There will also be a presentation on wastewater facilities. 

In another meeting:

  • The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee has a special meeting, but where it will be held and what will be discussed is not available at press time. City Calendar #1 has it listed at noon and even has a link to a Zoom webinar. City Calendar #2 doesn’t have any information but says TBD, TBD. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Nelson County PC to consider requests for two short-term rentals 

The Nelson County Planning Commission has two items on the agenda for its meeting that begins at 7:00 p.m. in the 3rd Floor of the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. (meeting packet)

There are two public hearings. The first is for a vacation house at 2617 Rockfish Valley Highway. It’s the primary residence for one of the owners and a part-time residence for the other. They purchased the home last November 2022 and had thought they could rent it out on AirBnB. 

“We now know that we were mistaken and our home is designated in a R-1 zone surrounded by both A-1 and Business zones,” reads the letter from the homeowners. “We really do want to be in compliance with all Nelson County zoning, health, and building regulations.” 

The other is for a campground.

“We own a fifth wheel camper that we would like to rent out occasionally to help us cover the mortgage on the house, as well as the payment on the camper, while we live there with our two toddlers and one on the way,” reads the letter from that property owners. 

The Nelson County Planning Commission next meets on September 27. 

Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO to learn of Smart Scale changes, long-range plan progress

The Policy Board of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization consists of two members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and two members of the Charlottesville City Council, as well as the administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District. They meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month while the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is under consideration. That’s August 23 at 4 p.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s offices on Water Street. (meeting agenda)

At this meeting, they will get another progress report on the creation of the new LRTP as well as upcoming changes to the Smart Scale process. Chief among these is a reduction in the number of applications that entities can make each round. 

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Retirement Commission meets at 8:30 a.m. Calendar #1 does not have a location but there is a link to Calendar #2 which says they meet in the Parks and Recreation Conference Room at 601 East Main Street. They will welcome new members, get a financial update, and a discussion of the “qualified birth and adoption distribution option.” 
  • The Albemarle Broadband Authority will meet at 5 p.m. in Room 241 in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting information) (agenda)
  • The Greene County Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 6:30 p.m. but there’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting portal)

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Places29-Rio group to review Woodbrook Apartments project

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

On the agenda is a community meeting for a project I wrote about last week. 

Forgive me, but I’m cutting and pasting.

G.W. Real Estate Partners has filed a rezoning to build four multifamily apartment buildings on 7.2 acres of undeveloped land the west side of Berkmar Drive between Woodburn Road and Woodbrook Drive. 

The request is to upgrade from R-6 to Planned Residential Development (PRD) to allow for up to 244 dwelling units. 

“The Project proposes five residential buildings and envisions a mix of three and four-story split and five story buildings,” reads the narrative. “Each of the two buildings fronting on Woodburn Road will be five stories.” 

Without the rezoning, a maximum of 43 units could be built on the site. 

There will be a request for a special exception to modify or waive a stepback requirement. Fifteen percent of the units would be rented to households with incomes below 80 percent of the area median. (ZMA2023-006)

After that, the Places29-Rio group will get the same presentation on the Long Range Transportation Plan that other CAC’s have reviewed. 

Regional Transit Partnership group to meet

One of the main reasons for this newsletter is to make sure people who want to attend or watch future meetings of local and regional government can do so. I know that staff members work very hard, but it can be frustrating when meetings are not listed on the government websites but stakeholders have a copy of the agenda in their email inboxes.

That’s the case for this month’s meeting of the Regional Transit Partnership, which also consists of two elected officials each from Albemarle and Charlottesville. Though listed as an upcoming event on the MPO’s website, there is no agenda for the August 24 meeting of the RTP. 

I’ve uploaded the agenda to cvillepedia so anyone not already invited can take a look.  

This particular meeting will have two presentations. One is from the Blue Ridge Health District on the role that transit can play in terms of health equity. The second is from the Charlottesville Area Alliance and their working group on transportation. 

The RTP will next meet on September 28. 

In one other meetings:

  • The Planning and Operations sub-group of the Albemarle Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee (SWAAC) will meet at 4 p.m. in Room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

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.