Week Ahead for April 25, 2022: New reservoir for Greene County to move forward; Albemarle Supervisors to decide on athletic fields

What defines whether a week is slow or busy? After producing this newsletter for over three years, I’ve lost an ability to know for sure. I do know that in an area with nearly 250,000 people, there will always be a government meeting that will affect people’s lives. This year, Greene County will adopt their budget for FY23 and hold a public hearing on whether to proceed with a way to pay for a planned reservoir. That topic illustrates the increasing urbanization that is occurring all across the footprint of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

I would say this is a “medium” week in terms of intensity. Albemarle Supervisors meet in a special meeting to hear from the public on the budget and to make a decision about how and where to build new athletic fields. Charlottesville local government has a very quiet week. There are no meetings in Louisa County this week, but a new dog park opens on Thursday. Local government touches so many aspects of so many of our lives and I love doing the research for this newsletter each and every week.

As always, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continuing support of this endeavor. Mark your calendars for a May 21 celebration of PEC’s 50 years to take place at Mistwood in Rapidan in Orange County with a keynote address from environmentalist and activist Terry Tempest. (learn more)

Monday, April 25, 2022

Albemarle to hold rescheduled book discussion

The Albemarle County Community Read Program for spring 2022 is underway and tonight at 6 p.m. there will be a virtual book discussion. This year’s book is We are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai. 

“We know that almost 50 percent of the 26.6 million refugees worldwide are women and girls who face unique challenges during the displacement and resettlement process because of their gender identity, including the threat of sexual violence,” reads the county’s website. “We are Displaced is a compilation of the voices of some of these young girls and women from around the world who have been forced to make the impossible choice of leaving their whole lives behind to start over in a new place.”

There will be another event on Thursday. 

In other meetings:
  • Charlottesville’s Social Services Advisory Board will meet virtually at noon. (meeting info)
  • Albemarle County will hold an information session and application fair at Northside Library for preschools in the area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be staff from Albemarle, Charlottesville and the MACAA Head Start program to answer questions and discuss options. (meeting info) (Go to Grow website)
  • The Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee will meet virtually at 4:30 p.m. They’ll discuss the possibility of a local historic market at Union Run Baptist Church and discuss the Comprehensive Plan. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will be held virtually at 6 p.m. (agenda)

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Albemarle Planning Commission to discuss setbacks, consider Southwood Phase 2 rezoning

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will meet in-person at 4 p.m. for a work session, followed by a regular meeting at 6 p.m. There is a virtual option to watch and to participate in public comment. (meeting info)

The work session relates to the creation of a new zoning code as part of the Comprehensive Plan review. Albemarle has hired the Berkley Group to review the county’s rules on setbacks which dictate how far away new buildings must be from the property line. Albemarle’s zoning ordinance in 2022 is largely the same as it was in 1980. 

“The land use categories have not been substantially revisited since the adoption of the ordinance in 1980,” reads the staff report. “However, there have been multiple amendments to the ordinance. The ordinance now has archaic, duplicative and conflicting land uses.”

This work session is a chance for the Planning Commission to provide feedback to initial diagnostic report from the Berkley Group. Their work was informed by studying other Virginia localities including Fairfax, Loudon, Price William, Chesterfield, and Henrico counties. 

“Setbacks contribute to the character of the zoning district, in addition to ensuring safety, privacy, and environment protection,” reads their report. “For example, a high-density city block would be expected to have little to no setbacks, while an agricultural parcel may be expected to have large setbacks to preserve rural character and protect adjacent properties from dust and odor.” 

Berkeley is suggesting many changes, including elimination of stepback requirements for tall buildings as well as introducing a concept known as a “graduated” setback. They also make recommendations for minimum setbacks across all of the county’s zoning districts.

In the evening session, the Commission will hold a public hearing for the second phase of the Southwood rezoning. I’ll have more information about that in tomorrow’s Charlottesville Community Engagement. (staff report)

There will also be a review of the Rio Road Corridor Plan, which makes recommendations about how public infrastructure on the roadway should be built to prepare for a more urban character. 

“The concepts within this document are not final designed projects approved and ready for construction, but rather reflect the vision for what kind of improvements are needed to address the issues found along the corridor and would be considered the most desired or acceptable form of improvement for the corridor,” reads the staff report.

The goal of the draft plan is to inform ways to create more of a human scale on a roadway currently dominated by vehicles. There’s a lot of detail in the work provided by the firm Line + Grade. Only one project in the area is currently funded. That’s a roundabout at intersection of Rio Road and the John Warner Parkway. 

The Rio Road Corridor Plan runs from U.S. 29 to the border with the City of Charlottesville. Take a look at the details. This is the time to have your voice heard. 

Greene County Supervisors to adopt a budget for FY23, enter into EDA bond for reservoir

The five-member Greene County Board of Supervisors has a full meeting that includes adoption of the FY23 budget and consideration of a rate increase for the county’s solid waste facility. (agenda)

The proposed budget is $76.1 million and is based on a real estate tax rate of $0.82 per $100 of assessed value and a personal property tax rate of $5 per $100 of assessed value. 

Supervisors will also hold a public hearing on the issuance of $14.15 minion in bonds by the Greene County’s Economic Development Authority for the purpose of building the White Run Reservoir. (public notice)

“The Board of Supervisors of the County has previously stated its intention to undertake and finance the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, expansion, and equipping of capital projects for the County’s water system, particularly a water supply reservoir and reservoir intake system and facilities related thereto, including but not limited to a water treatment facility, raw water intake and pump station, raw water piping, access road(s), and associated appurtenances, including payment of engineering fees and other preliminary costs and costs of issuance in connection with such undertakings by the County,” reads a section of the resolution for the reservoir bond

This project was to have been built in conjunction with the Rapidan Service Authority, but that entity’s Board of Directors sought to cancel the project. That prompted Greene County to exit the RSA. 

Another item on the agenda is is an application to apply for funding from the Virginia Department of Forestry to improve a stream buffer near the county administration building in Stanardsville. 

“The James River Buffer Program is collaborating with landowners across the Middle James Watershed to restore or create a forested area near the stream that absorbs nutrients, reduces flood impact, provides habitat and shade, and stabilizes the streambanks,” reads an informational letter about the project.

The project intends to improve conditions along Stanardsville Run, a tributary that flows into Green Mountain Lake. (View the presentation)
In other meetings:
  • The Albemarle Police Citizens Advisory Committee will meet virtually beginning at 9 a.m. One item on the agenda is “an introduction to the complex issues associated with the intersection between Public Policing and Mental Health” issues from Dr. Brian Williams. He’s an associate professor of public policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. 
  • The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority meets at virtually at 2:15 p.m. (agenda)
  • Charlottesville’s Parking Advisory Panel meets at 3 p.m. Rates are increasing in the city-operated garages effective July 1, according to the agenda. (meeting info)
  • Interested in how the Virginia Department of Transportation functions and want to provide your feedback in person? VDOT is holding a series of listening sessions throughout the Commonwealth. The Charlottesville area is within the Culpeper District and an in-person session will be held today at 4 p.m. at the district headquarters at 1601 Orange Road in Culpeper. (press release)
  • The Albemarle Broadband Authority (ABBA) will meet at 5 p.m. in a virtual meeting. On the agenda is a discussion of a program from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development that helps property owners cover the cost of extending broadband lines to their homes from the main network. (meeting info)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Albemarle Board of Supervisors to hold work session on athletic fields, public hearing on FY23 budget

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets in-person for a final budget work session at 2 p.m. and then an evening session at 6 p.m. The only item on the agenda for the night event is the public hearing on the (agenda)

One of the decision points in the budget is where the county should invest in new athletic fields. Staff had recommended proceeding with building them as part of the new Biscuit Run Park, but representatives from athletic organizations appealed to the board to proceed with an earlier plan to install artificial turf at Darden Towe Park. That park is co-owned by the City of Charlottesville, and Council has previously approved $928,963 for that specific project for which bonds have not yet been issued. 

Albemarle currently has 46 rectangular athletic fields, and all but three of them are grass turf. Albemarle County Public Schools are in charge of the three synthetic fields as well as several others, and Parks and Recreation maintains the others. Twenty-three of the fields are game fields and the others are practice ones. 

Staff has now identified four ways to proceed. In all scenarios, someone would be hired to maintain the fields. Grass fields would have a lifespan of 20 years as opposed to a 10 to 12 year lifespan for synthetic turf. 

  • $1.848 million to replace four grass fields at Darden Towe and install irrigation systems to maintain them. This would require hiring of a maintenance manager. (details)
  • $5 million to install four synthetic fields at Darden Towe and install lighting. A turf manager would be required to maintain the fields. (details)
  • $4.99 million to install four grass fields at Biscuit Run park, with no lighting (details)
  • $5.93 million to install four synthetic fields at Biscuit Run park, with lighting. (details)

There’s also an 18-page response to questions from Supervisors stemming from a March 31 work session. 

What else remains to be discussed in the budget? I’ll have a preview in an installment this week of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

An inventory of rectangular playing fields owned by Albemarle County. Read the staff report for more information.

Four public hearings at the Nelson County Planning Commission

In recent months there have been a string of applications in Nelson County for campgrounds on agricultural land. When the Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. in person in the General District Courtroom in Lovingston, the first public hearing is for a small one on Crabtree Falls Highway in the West District. (meeting packet)

“The applicant is proposing rustic camping with outdoor activities such as forest bathing, fishing, yoga, and hiking,” reads the staff report which begins on page 20 of the packet. “Two platforms are proposed to allow tent camping at two sites along an existing logging trail.” 

This would require a special use permit.  

In the second public hearing, Blue Mountain Brewery seeks a special use permit to continue having an signs on two trailers for the Blue Mountain Barrel House on U.S. 29. The Virginia Department of Transportation has made the request. (page 38)

In the third public hearing, a landowner seeks to build a hobby shop on land on Horseshoe Mountain Road zoned for agricultural use. (page 45)

In the fourth public hearing, a landowner on James River Road seeks permission for an automobile graveyard on a portion of the property. The Planning and Zoning Department issued a notice of violation in October 2021 and this is an attempt to become compliant. (page 54)

“According to the application, some of the vehicles are personal, and some are related to [a] logging business,” reads the staff report. “Some are waiting for repair and others are used for parts.” 

The special use permit request asks for a maximum of ten vehicles. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation has requested Blue Mountain Brewery get permission from the county’s for the use of these trailers as signs. 
In other meetings:
  • The Charlottesville Retirement Commission meets virtually at 8:30 a.m. There is no agenda available at press time. (meeting info)
  • A community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. by Stony Point Design Build for a potential rezoning of the Old Trinity Church at the corner of 10th and Grady. I obtained this information from the 10th and Page Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page, as there is nothing on the city’s meeting calendar. (details)
  • The Albemarle Fire / EMS Board meets virtually beginning at 6 p.m. (meeting info)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Transit lessons from Burlington, Vermont 

One of the purposes of the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership is to serve as a forum for ideas about how to provide more effective bus service in the region. In January, the group heard about how Blacksburg Transit serves both Virginia Tech as well as Montgomery County. In March, they heard about an app that Dallas Area Rapid Transit has built to allow people travel across the Dallas / Forth Worth area.

At their meeting this afternoon, the group will hear from two people from Burlington, Vermont about how the operations of the transit system and school pupil transportation have been combined. The guests for this will be Peggy O’Neill-Vivanco of the Vermont Clean Cities Coalition and Jamie Smith of Green Mountain Transit. 

There will also be a quick update on the Regional Transit Vision Plan that is under development. The virtual meeting will begin at 4 p.m. (agenda packet)  

Community meeting for Virginia Institute of Autism expansion

The Virginia Institute of Autism operated for many years on Westwood Road in Charlottesville. VIA recently moved some of their operations to the former Senior Center on Hillsdale Drive and now they want to move their elementary school to an adjacent parcel. That requires a special use permit, as does a proposal to convert another property to stand-alone parking. 

“Students engage in comprehensive, state of the art education and clinical programs designed to address a range of needs for learning, communication, behavior or social supports that are too intensive for public school settings,” reads the narrative for the application. “The Elementary program provides students and families with services from behavior analysts, special educators, psychologists, speech – language therapists, and occupational therapists.”

The Places29-Rio Community Advisory Committee will host a community meeting for the special use permit required. (meeting info)

After that, there will be a discussion of transportation planning in the area. The Places29-Rio CAC has previously served as a forum for the development of the Rio Road Corridor Plan. 

In other meetings:

  • While not a public meeting, something worth noting! Louisa County will open a new Bark Park next to the Louisa County Animal Shelter in Mineral. An existing Bark Park is being closed to make way for the new New Bridge Fire and EMS station. (press release)
  • There is another chance at 6 p.m. to join the Community Read for We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai. (meeting info)
  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will hold a continued meeting beginning at 7 p.m. in the General District Courtroom. There is no agenda available at publication time. (meeting info)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Nothing on the calendar. What am I missing?  

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will hold a planning retreat from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The elected officials will gather at the Fluvanna County Library, but the event will be streamed on the county’s YouTube channel. (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.