One of the most important tasks of any locality’s elected body is to approve a plan for how money will be raised from the public in order to pay for government services. Last week, Charlottesville City Council adopted a $212.9 million budget that included the first increase in the real estate tax rate for decades. On May 4, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will vote on a $565 million budget.
This week, Fluvanna and Louisa will both take action on their budgets which are much smaller and reflect both smaller populations as well as an electorate that tends to be more skeptical of the ability for the government to provide services in an efficient manner.
All of these localities are nestled within a state government that controls many of the rules for how things should proceed. At different times, there are different factions operating the machinery. There are differing philosophies about how all of these pieces should fit together. Elections are perhaps the most important deciding factor, but not the only one.
The role of the journalist, in my view, is to describe the mechanics in a way in which as many people as possible can understand. For over two years, this newsletter has sought to do just that. Democracy requires information laid out in a way that eschews agenda-setting. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about what you might read here.
As always, thank you to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship of the work that goes into this newsletter each and every week. This time around, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are quite busy but then things get a bit sleepier.
Monday, April 18, 2022
Charlottesville City Council to review climate action planning plans
Charlottesville City Council begins their evening at 4 p.m. with a work session with two items. In the first they’ll get a briefing from students at the University of Virginia School of Law on the limitations of tax relief programs under state law. (meeting info)
“The City of Charlottesville is interested in providing targeted property tax relief to help those most impacted by tax hikes, particularly low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals,” reads the summary of the 28 page memo. “This Memo begins with an overview of legal authority that Charlottesville has, restrictions on its authority, its current property tax relief programs, and recommendations for expanding relief.”
The city’s ability to define who is low and moderate income is constrained by the requirement that the definitions under the state code. The document offers several suggestions for adjustments the city could make to make it easier to provide tax breaks to those who will feel the pinch from higher assessments, the current one-cent tax increase for this calendar year, as well as further ones that are likely required to pay for more capital spending.
Second, Council will get a briefing on climate action programs, which could itself include more capital programs. There are no advanced materials, but you might catch up on the topic with a series of stories posted on Information Charlottesville.
Now, it’s important to state here that Council will be in-person for the above session, but the public can’t attend the work session. A select few can attend the evening session. However, this information is not listed in the meeting info provided above. For those details, take a look at the press release.
The first action item is an amendment of the citizen participation plan for Community Block Development Grant and HOME program. For two years in a row, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has pointed out that programs selected by citizen task forces have not met with timeliness requirements. The amendment would change the process to ensure planning staff can provide input into potential projects to weed out ones that have no hope of being completed on time. This would also remove the Planning Commission from the process but one member would remain on the task force (staff report)
Council will also vote to ratify the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s decision to issue $23 million in bonds to support the renovation of 98 units of low-income housing at Midway Manor.
“City staff consulted with the city’s Bond Counsel and have been advised that these bonds would NOT count against the City’s debt limit or be taken into account by the rating agencies, unless the city were to provide some sort of financial backing for the bonds,” reads the staff report.
The CHRA Board of Commissioners voted on February 28 to approve the deal, as I wrote about at the time.
Next up, Council will hold second readings on a critical slopes waiver, rezoning, and funding agreement for 240 Stribling Avenue. In March, interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers advised Council against entering into an agreement with Southern Development for a loan to upfront the $2.9 million in costs of building a sidewalk on a road that currently doesn’t have one. (See also: City Manager Rogers to negotiate with Southern Development on Stribling sidewalk agreement)
Under the agreement, Southern Development would be paid back through a rebate of property taxes. One of Rogers’ concerns was that this would violate a long standing agreement with the School Board that Charlottesville schools are to receive 40 percent of funds created by new property tax revenues. The agreement has since been amended to reflect that condition. Council also agreed to spend money from the Capital Improvement Program for the project. (staff report)
The final item on the agenda is an amendment to the operating procedures for the Police Civilian Oversight Board. This is for a vote only with no discussion, according to the agenda. (staff report)
The consent agenda contains several items of note:
- Second reading of an appropriation of $280,000 in ARPA funds for the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. (staff report)
- Second reading of $7.2 million in VDOT funding for the Dairy Road Bridge Replacement project. (staff report)
- Second reading of recommendations for Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund projects. I wrote about this in a recent story posted on Information Charlottesville. (staff report)
- There’s a written report from the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. (report)
- The Human Rights Commission have a report for their activities in Calendar Year 2020. (report)
Louisa County Supervisors to discuss coyote management, property for sports complex
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will begin their evening at 4 p.m. with a discussion of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Secondary Six-Year Plan. They’ll move into closed session at 5 p.m. before going back into open session at 6 p.m. (agenda packet)
One of the items on the agenda is a discussion of whether to proceed with an ordinance to enact a bounty on the killing of coyotes. A work group of two Supervisors met with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to shape the ordinance. The idea was brought to the Board in December and staff is recommending proceeding with an ordinance.
There’s also a status report on a funding opportunity made possible by 7th District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. For FY22, Spanberger put out the call for projects that could be funded in that year’s appropriation bills. The deadline to apply for projects for FY23 was April 15. (FY23 call for projects)
Louisa Supervisors will also be asked to enter into a performance agreement with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership for a $300,000 Virginia Business Ready Sites grant. This is intended to make improvements to the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park.
Supervisors will also approve the Capital Improvements Program budget which would see $10.8 million in projects in FY23. This includes $1 million for a communications tower for Emergency Medical Services, $500,000 for a softball/baseball complex, $400,000 for an aquatics facility, and $2.98 million toward the Firefly Fiber Broadband project.
They’ll vote on tax rates for the year which will remain at $0.72 per $100 of assessed value for real property. The total FY23 budget is $135,317,531.
In the evening there are four public hearings, three of which are amendments to Agricultural and Forestal Districts. The fourth deals with election precinct boundaries. For detailed coverage of Louisa County, subscribe to Tammy Purcell’s Engage Louisa.
In other meetings:
- The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet virtually at 1 p.m. On the agenda is an initial site plan for River’s Edge, a 100-unit apartment complex to be built between two runs of the North Fork of the Rivanna River at the northern edge of Albemarle’s Places29-North growth area. (meeting info)
- The Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau will meet at 2 p.m. On the agenda is a presentation from Mark Lorenzoni of the Ragged Mountain Running and Walking Shop. This meeting will be held in-person at the Boar’s Head Resort at Pavilion One. (meeting info)
- The Blue Ridge Cigarette board will meet virtually beginning at 3 p.m. (Zoom registration)
- The Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. On the agenda is an update from Stonefield as well as a discussion of potential topics this year. (meeting info)
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Public meeting for Zion Crossroads traffic changes
Zion Crossroads is a designated growth area for both Fluvanna County and Louisa County. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Virginia Department of Transportation are conducting a transportation study to address two needs.
“We have a safety need,” reads one bullet point. “Several of the intersections in the area are experiencing increases in crashes.”
“We’re planning for future infrastructure that will be needed in the high-growth area,” reads the other.
There will be two meetings from at the Spring Creek Clubhouse for people to take a look at potential designs for new intersections. One begins at 3:30 p.m and the other begins at 5:30 p.m. Read more on the TJPDC site. https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/6OX6wo_q1Kk?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0
Albemarle EDA to discuss grant program for reuse of vacant buildings
There are several examples of old structures being repurposed into new uses. A few years ago, Albemarle’s Economic Development Office assisted Potters Craft Cider with a upgrade to Neve Hall to serve as their new tasting room and production room. That took advantage of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agriculture and Forest Industries Development grant program.
Now the Economic Development Office is considering an internal grant program to disburse between $25,000 and $250,000 to qualifying businesses to help pay for upgrades to stay in business.
“The principal goal is to support business retention and expansion that otherwise would not be financially feasible without the county’s participation,” reads the draft policy.
These would not necessarily be historic structures. Properties must be within the development area and have been vacant for at least six months. Businesses must be within a target industry under Project ENABLE and must be willing to sign a lease for up to two years.
The EDA meets at 4 p.m. virtually. (meeting info)
In other meetings:
- The Albemarle County Department of Social Services Advisory Board will meet virtually at 3:30 p.m. On the agenda is a discussion of something called Safe Children, Strong Communities. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission meets virtually at 4:30 p.m. There’s no agenda posted at the time of publication. (meeting info)
- There will be a community meeting at 5:30 p.m. for a special use permit to expand a power substation near Scottsville. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. One of the items on the agenda is for permission to install a retractable window at 707 West Main Street, which formerly housed two Italian restaurants. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Electoral Board meets in person at the City Hall Annex at 6 p.m. (meeting info)
- The Greene County Emergency Services Advisory Board meets at 6 p.m. in person at the county administration building. (agenda)
- The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 7 p.m. (meeting info)
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Albemarle Supervisors talk $2.5 million in funding for Crozet project, $4.4M in affordable housing projects
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium but there is also a hybrid option. (agenda)
The first item deals with a key component for the future of Crozet. Albemarle County entered into a public-private partnership with an entity known as Crozet New Town Associates to inject new life into a plan to redevelop the former Barnes Lumber site. Part of the plan is to create a road network and public space on which to build new town space. The cost of doing so has increased and now $2.5 million more in public money is suggested.
“The proposed addendum enables the County to complete the road network, whereas the developer will provide additional contributions to include paying for water and sewer utility installation, building a public restroom in a development adjacent to the public plaza, providing seed money to fund an Executive Director for the Downtown Crozet Initiative (a community development organization supporting the project), donating Right of Way (land) in the amount of approximately $300,000, and covering expenses exceeding the new project budget,” reads the staff report.
One million of the funding would come from the American Rescue Plan Act and $1.5 million would come from the county’s Economic Development Investment Pool.
Next there will be an update on the Southwood redevelopment project. A rezoning for the second phase is set to go before the Planning Commission on April 26.
After that, Supervisors will review eight requests for funding from two agencies for funds related to subsidized housing projects. The county has nearly $1.3 million available in its housing fund as well as additional money from the FY21 budget surplus that Supervisors have already committed to subsidized housing projects. (staff report)
“The combined total funding amount associated with these requests equals $22,187,152, which would support the construction of 445 and preservation of 133 affordable housing units,” reads the staff report.
Staff recommends funding of these projects using those funds:
- $421,500 to Albemarle Housing Improvement Program for critical home rehabilitation and repair
- $625,000 to the Piedmont Housing Alliance via the Piedmont Community Land Trust for long-term affordable homeownership
- $250,000 to the Local Energy Alliance Program for their assisted home performance program
Staff offers another scenario where an additional $3.1 million from the FY21 surplus go to:
- $3 million to Piedmont Housing Alliance for additional local funding for their construction of subsidized units at Southwood
- $306,504 to Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity for a resident relocation and anti-displacement plan.
Albemarle Supervisors to hold public hearing on plastic bag tax
In the evening session that begins at 6 p.m. there are several public hearings.
- The first is for the adjustment of the boundary of the Stillhouse Ridge Rural Preservation Tract. (staff report)
- The second is for an adoption to grant real estate property tax exemptions to spouses of people killed in the line of duty. (staff report)
- The third is to increase the income threshold for real property tax relief for elderly and disabled households. (staff report)
- The fourth is to increase the transient occupancy rate from five percent to eight percent for hotels, motels, campgrounds, boarding houses, and any guest rooms. (staff report)
- The fifth is to increase the food and beverage tax to six percent which would have matched the City of Charlottesville but they are considering an increase to 6.5 percent. (staff report
The sixth deserves more than a bullet point. The 2020 General Assembly approved enabling authority allowing localities to impose a five-cent tax on plastic bags.
“Revenues from this tax must be used for programs supporting environmental cleanup, litter and pollution mitigation, or environmental education efforts, or to provide reusable bags to SNAP or WIC benefit recipients,” reads the staff report.
The amount that would be raised by the tax would be around $20,000 in FY23 if the ordinance goes into effect on January 1.
Fluvanna BOS to review economic development goals, adopt budget
The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will meet at 7 p.m. in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union. One item on the agenda is a review of the economic development director’s draft strategic goals for the next five years. Jennifer Schmack recently was hired in the position after serving in Albemarle County’s office.
Two other additional highlights:
- Supervisors will vote to allocate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. That consists of $601,500 for the county’s match to the Firefly broadband public private partnership and $4.3 million to make up for revenue loss.
- Supervisors will vote to adopt a $98 million budget for FY23, including $4.3 million in a capital improvements program for that year.. That’s based on a real property tax rate of $0.87 per $100 of assessed value. The draft strategic economic development goals for FY23
Greene County Planning Commission to talk broadband, meat processing
The Greene County Planning Commission will meet in a hybrid meeting beginning at 6 p.m. They’ll continue to review the Comprehensive Plan with a discussion of what updates might need to be made to broadband policy. (agenda)
Next, the appointed officials will have a work session on whether to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for small scale slaughterhouses.
“The recent supply chain issues that were revealed through the pandemic have increased demand for local foods, including meat,” reads the staff report. “It has been shown that a bottleneck for access to these products has been the producer’s access to local slaughter and meat process facilities.”
Greene is considering making these by-right in agricultural and commercial districts with supplemental regulations and restrictions. The staff report offers several examples, such as setbacks and planted buffer strips.
The packet contains a September 2020 report by Matson Consulting that goes into a lot of detail.
In other meetings:
- The City of Charlottesville will hold a virtual site plan conference for a project at 1101 East Market Street at 10 a.m. There is no information available in the meeting info page, but here’s what I know. The 0.05 acre property is zoned B-1 and the structure currently on the property was built in 1935. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meets at noon. Is this under the new configuration, or the old one? When does the new CAHF Committee meet? What about the next meeting of the CDBG Task Force? None of us this is on the agenda. (meeting info)
- The Albemarle and Charlottesville joint Community Policy and Management Team meets at 3:30 p.m. (meeting info)
Thursday, April 21, 2022
At production time, there was little information about these meetings.
- Charlottesville’s Minority Business Council meets virtually at 3 p.m. There’s no agenda available at this time. (meeting info)
- There is budget town hall for the Jack Jouett District at Jack Jouett Middle School beginning at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)
- The Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Committee meeting will be held virtually at 7 p.m. (meeting info)
Friday, April 22, 2022
Nothing known to me at this time. What meeting would you want to happen today?
Saturday, April 23, 2022
The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission will meet virtually in an all-day retreat beginning at 10 a.m. There’s no agenda available at publication time. (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.