We are now a month into the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While much is still uncertain, we do know that local governments across Virginia are beginning to test the waters in terms of what business can be conducted via electronic public hearings.
Both the Albemarle and Greene County Boards of Supervisors will hold public hearings this week on a range of issues. More details under the heading for each jurisdiction. Elected bodies all over Virginia are operating under “continuity of government ordinances” which empower them to take action on matters pertaining to the emergency. Attorney General Mark Herring has advised each locality to be cautious as they move forward.
Some of these issues may be covered in the Charlottesville Quarantine Report podcast I’m producing in my spare time. I’ll also be focusing on several of these issues in my work as field representative of the Piedmont Environment Council to make sure that this region we love is protected during this crisis. Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or in Spotify.
But for now, let’s get into what’s happening this week.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets twice this week, and the first meeting was held on Monday at 6:00 p.m. County Executive Jeffrey Richardson got approval for his request to delay the public hearing on the FY21 budget, which is being revised to update sharp cuts in anticipated revenues. Earlier this month, County Executive Jeff Richardson outlined the need for at least $3 million in cuts in the current year’s general government budget. On Monday night, he projected a $5.7 million shortfall going into FY21. Richardson warned there would be cuts to services. I will post more details later.
One thing that likely won’t change is the tax rate. Before the pandemic was declared, Supervisors had agreed to keep the current rate of $0.85 per $100 of assessed value.
On Wednesday, Supervisors will meet in an electronic setting beginning at 3:30 p.m. There is a whole range of ways for you to attend and participate >>
After Supervisors adopt the tax rate, they will hold an action item on a public private partnership between the Economic Development Authority and the developer of the Albemarle Business Campus, which would feature up to 128 residential units and up to 225,000 square feet of non-residential space. The location is across from the county’s office building on 5th Street Extended. I’m still reviewing the details of the public private partnership, but it’s instructive to read through the minutes of the February 18 Planning Commission work session on the rezoning application. The discussion begins on page 11. (minutes) (February 18, 2020 staff report)
After the Planning Commission denied a previous version of the project in October, developer Kyle Redinger met with the Economic Development Office to discuss a revision. The project is within a federal Opportunity Zone. The public component would include an enhanced bus shelter, bike racks, and connectivity.
“The site provides multi-use paths, trails, and sidewalks in a way that exceeds what would otherwise be required by County Code,” reads the staff report for the item. “There will be a raised pedestrian crossing to allow pedestrians to safely and easily move across the main internal street.”
According to the development agreement, the project will also have to “reserve at least 25,000 square feet of Class A office space and associated parking for up to 60 months for a primary business tenant.”
That sounds good, but without specific details on the project, it might be prudent to wait on this project until we have a better idea of how rezonings and other land use applications will proceed without in-person public hearings and votes. At the very least, this is a time when we need eyes on the details of public-private partnerships. Read the development agreement >>
Later in the evening, Supervisors will hold three public hearings, two of which are relatively non-controversial projects. One would allow a 0.9 acre vacant property near Hilton Heights Road to be developed, and the other would allow for Tandem Friends School to construct a pavilion on their campus on Mill Creek Road.
The third public hearing is on an amendment of the county’s continuity of government ordinance, which was adopted on March 27.
“The Governor has issued four subsequent executive orders that increase restrictions on public and private gatherings, businesses, and other measures intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” reads the staff report, which states that the amendment is intended to bring county code in line. We’re still reviewing the proposed changes to see if there are any potential unintended consequences.
This is a good time to read through the finer points of the consent agenda, where you can learn a lot about what’s happening in local government. This time around:
- Supervisors will adopt an emergency ordinance to extend certain tax deadlines Supervisors will direct the Community Development Department to review zoning ordinance to allow landscape contractors to be an accepted business use in the rural area (staff report)
- The Albemarle Broadband Authority presents its quarterly report
- Both the Albemarle County Service Authority and the Rivanna Water Sewer Authority have quarterly reports. Do you know where your water comes from and goes to?
- The Charlottesville office of the Virginia Department of Transportation presents the first report of new district engineer Carrie Shepheard (report)
The only official meeting this week is of the Minority Business Committee, which will meet by phone on Thursday at 3 p.m. They’ll discuss the Economic Development Department’s restructuring of various grant programs to address the COVID-19 crisis, including one that the Minority Business Committee oversees. This meeting will be held on Zoom. (meeting details)
Charlottesville’s new official government program, Cville360, will have at least one new episode this week. Episode 6 on Tuesday at 11 a.m. will feature Charlottesville City Schools, who have begun the third phase of their continuity of learning program. (show details)
City Council will meet on April 20 at 6:30 p.m. according to the city meetings calendar. They have not met as a body since late March.
The Greene Board of Supervisors will meet on Tuesday night electronically and will hold two public hearings, both on land use matters. They’ll also get an update on COVID-19 in Greene. The meeting happens at a time when the editor of the Greene County Record is on a mandatory furlough to reduce costs for Lee Enterprises, the firm that just acquired the weekly as well as the Charlottesville Daily Progress and other Virginia newspapers formerly owned by Berskshire Hathaway. (agenda)
For the two public hearings, participants are encouraged to email email@example.com between now and 4:30 p.m tomorrow. Would-be commenters can also make a comment during the public hearing on the Zoom call, as described at the top of the agenda. This will be a test to see how well a virtual public hearing can due in a primarily rural county.
One of the public hearings is for a special use permit for tourist lodging on 3.1 acres at 224 Mulberry Drive near Stanardsville. The other is more wide-reaching and is for a rezoning that would allow for “light industrial, research, development, warehousing and related manufacturing as a by-right use” in in the “Business Highway and High Intensity” zoning district. Of the 125 parcels in Greene that have this B-3 designation, 36 are currently vacant. This is one for us to watch and we’ll give it a good look before the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. (agenda)
We are still trying to understand how the development review process is working at this time in Albemarle, Charlottesville and Greene. This gives us a better opportunity to present to you information you need on land use and growth issues.
In Albemarle, site plans usually are reviewed at a meeting open to the public. Since the emergency was declared, most those meetings have been canceled. But the language is changing. The notice for the April 20 site plan review committee states it “will not be held.”
“Please note that you can still view the plans, comments, and provide feedback by contacting the lead reviewer, and they will provide an online link for your use,” reads an email sent on March 20. “The comments will be available to view on April 20, 2020. We are also currently developing alternative methods that will allow virtual interactions in the near future for Site Review Meetings and public engagement.”
Between now and then, I will write up a summary of each one as a way of ensuring transparency at this time. Building and development activity still continues. Some noteworthy site plans that would have been discussed at the April 23 meeting are:
126 townhome units in the second phase of the Pleasant Green subdivision in Crozet A new 22,000 square foot “motor vehicle service and maintenance building” near the former Gander Mountain A new drive-through restaurant in Twenty-Ninth Place Six new buildings in the Woolen Mills Industrial Park
Another notice I recently received was for the May 4, 2020 Architectural Review. Here are some noteworthy submissions made on March 25:
- An application has been made for wall signs for a restaurant just to the west of the intersection of US 250 and Route 231 by Mechum’s Trestle. VDOT is also planning to build a roundabout near this location.
- Sheetz has submitted plans to build a store right across from the new WaWa being at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Proffitt Road.
- A Holiday Inn Express is coming along Route 20 north of U.S. 250 on Pantops
There is also at least one upcoming rezoning of interest:
- A developer is seeking permission of rezoning of 9 acres across the street from Starr Hill Brewery from rural area to Neighborhood Model District zoning. This is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan
Stay tuned. We’ll update this page as we can.
As always, thank you, and please reach out to me if you have any questions!
Field Representative – Albemarle, Charlottesville and Greene
The Piedmont Environmental Council