Week Ahead for August 2, 2021: City Council recommended to keep meetings virtual for now; TJPDC to adopt regional housing plan

Somehow we find ourselves more than half of the way through 2021, a year in which the pandemic still permeates so much of our lives. Rising numbers of cases in Virginia have many thinking more cautiously about the near future. For instance, Charlottesville City Council will get details about a staff recommendation to not proceed with a once-considered plan to return to normal after Labor Day. 

For some reason this week, I’m pointing out the lengths of packets for various meetings. There is no value judgment implied in listing these numbers, but I find it interesting to compare how our different governments work. 

As always, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support of this research. The community has now benefited from this service for over a year, and I’m grateful for all who are able to help support me as I continue to do this work day in, week out. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Charlottesville City Council will consider two land use items considered by the Charlottesville Planning Commission in July in a meeting with a packet that’s 99 pages long. The virtual meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

In the first action item, Council will be asked to consider a rezoning from R-2 to R-3 for an eight-unit apartment building at 1206 Carlton Avenue. The project also requires a special use permit. A previous Council denied a previous submission in November 2019. On July 13, the Planning Commission recommended approval and I wrote about that in the July 16 edition of the newsletter. (read the story)

Next, Council will consider whether to grant a request from the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to drop a requirement to phase construction of the three buildings as part of a project at South First Street. That is one of the terms of a critical slopes waiver approved in 2019 and I wrote about this in the July 22 edition of the newsletter. (read the story) (staff report)

After that, Council will vote on a resolution to refinance up to $40 million of existing municipal debt. 

“Current market conditions indicate favorable interest rates and potential savings for several of the City’s outstanding bond series,” reads the staff report. “The new bonds would be issued at a lower interest rate to replace bonds previously issued at a higher interest rate.”

Finally, Council will get an update on whether the city will be able to return to normal operations on September 7, 2021 at precisely 8:01 a.m. The current Continuity of Government Ordinance expires on October 19 and a local emergency remains in effect until Council votes to repeal it. A report from staff indicates a hesitancy to revert back to normal due to lower-then-desired vaccination rates and uncertainty over the Delta virus.

“We are not comfortable ending the local state of emergency at the local level prior to September,” reads the report. “We believe that continuing actions to reduce gatherings in indoor settings are necessary, until such time as we see whether the Governor’s implementation of less restrictive state policy remains effective.” 

Private businesses have largely returned to normal with the dropping of state restrictions, but local emergency officials express caution. 

“We do not wish to mandate local businesses or restaurants to maintain restrictions on indoor gatherings, but we do want to encourage voluntary restrictions and want to lead by example through August,” the local report continues. 

The packet for this item also includes a proposal for how meetings will be televised after the pandemic. Under the staff recommendation, up to six city meetings would continue to be held online whereas smaller bodies would revert to normal in-person. 

Under the recommendation, many meetings would revert back to in-person with no virtual option when the local emergency is repealed

On the consent agenda:

  • First reading of $164,607 in additional funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia for foster care prevention services. (staff report)
  • Second reading of allocating $2,500 to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to identify those interred in marked graves outside a cemetery in Pen Park. (staff report)
  • Second reading of $10,000 for the city’s share of a Historic Landscape Study and Management Plan for the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. (staff report)
  • Second reading of $200,000 in reimbursements from the Virginia Department of Education for free breakfast and lunch for children participating in the city’s summer camps. (staff report)
  • Second reading of $539,333 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development through the Virginia Housing Solutions Program. The funding is for a variety of initiatives implemented by the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. (staff report)
Nature education program seeks permission to operate camp

Albemarle County will hold a virtual community meeting at 5:30 p.m. for a special use permit for the Living Earth School to operate a boarding and day camp at Israel Mountain Farm.

“We want it to feel like a world away from mainstream life, a safe place for all, where it reminds people the best of what it is to be a human,” reads the project narrative. “Peak participant counts in past summers was 100- 120 kids, but we look to support 200 individuals on the land, per week-day, over the 8- 9 weeks of summer on Israel Mountain Farm in the future.”

LES also wants permission to hold two events a year with up to 400 attendees. (meeting info)

Map depicting how the property would be used

In other meetings:

  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets in-person in closed session at 5 p.m. and in open session at 6 p.m. Their packet clocks in at 429 pages. Items include a resolution marking Louisa as a Purple Heart county, updates on broadband and the Virginia Department of Health, and a public hearing on a utility-scale solar array on 60 acres of land zoned for agricultural uses. (agenda) (packet)
  • Two subcommittees of the Charlottesville Tree Commission will meet virtually at 5 p.m. These are the Education and Advocacy group and the Arbor group. (meeting info)
  • The General Assembly convenes to take action on Governor Ralph Northam’s proposals on how to allocate $4.3 billion in federal funds that came through the American Rescue Plan Act. I wrote a small rundown in the July 30 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement (legislative schedule). 
Energix Aditya Solar is requesting a special use permit for the solar facility (Credit: Energix Aditya) 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Albemarle Planning Commission meets virtually at 6:00 p.m. There are six public hearings and five of them are related to Agricultural and Forestal Districts. These are areas that qualify for reduced property tax assessments due to conservation benefits. Three of these hearings are to add properties to districts, and two are periodic reviews. 

The sixth public hearing is for a request by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority to add solar panels atop a portion of the Ivy Landfill. The landfill has been closed for many years and the installation would not require land disturbance. 

“The applicant has proposed a solar-energy electrical generation facility including three areas of photovoltaic panels totaling 3.1 megawatts in capacity,” reads the staff report from planner Scott Clark. “This facility would occupy approximately 15 acres of the 300-acre site, and would be located near the center of the open area of the landfill.”

Topographical map showing where photovoltaic panels will be on the site (Credit: Community Power Group)

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet virtually beginning at 1 p.m. There’s no way I know of to see their agenda as one contiguous item. Guesses? (agenda)

They’ll begin with a review of proposed updates to the way that Albemarle funds outside agencies. Albemarle and Charlottesville used to work together to rank programs that provide benefits to the overall community, but went their separate ways beginning in FY2020. 

“The County’s adopted FY22 Budget includes $1.67 Million in funding for [Agency Budget Review Team] community non-profit agencies,” reads the staff report

Changes include incorporating ARPA funding into the process for FY2023 and to reduce the length of the time a nonprofit has to be in operation in order to receive funds from two years to one year. 

Later in the afternoon, there will be a work session on the update of the Crozet Master Plan. The latest draft is dated July 14, 2021 incorporating changes made since the June 22 work session with the Albemarle Planning Commission. (link to materials)

Guiding principles as listed in the latest draft revision of the Crozet Master Plan (download the 141-page draft

In the evening, Supervisors will hold several public hearings. First is one on budget appropriations for the current fiscal year. This includes appropriation of $3 million in the Business Process Optimization Reserve remaining from FY2021 to be used to help improve internal and external efficiency of county departments. Another $67,710.13 in unspent funds from the federal CARES to the county’ Housing Choice Voucher program. Another $10,000 would go to the Office of Equity and Inclusion for a program with the title “Mapping Monacan Land in Albemarle County and Building a Framework for Tribal Consultation in Future Planning.” (staff report)

The second is a public hearing on a proposed use of $314,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for a food security program. (staff report)

The third is for an application from the Mon-U soccer program to amend conditions of a special use permit that allows them to operate fields on the banks of the South Fork of the Rivanna River off of Polo Grounds Road. They want to increase the number of fields from four to seven, drop a prohibition against playing in July and August, and to drop a ban on irrigating the fields. (staff report)

The fourth is a request from the Blue Ridge Swim Club to amend their existing special use permit to allow construction of additional structures and to expand the length of time the space can be used. (staff report)

The fifth related to a change to the county code to move the portion pertaining to county vehicles taxes from the section on motor vehicles (Chapter 9) to the section on Taxation (Chapter 15). (staff report

The sixth public hearing is for further changes to Chapter 9 to add language related to enforcement of parking violations. (staff report)

Site layout for proposed addition of fields at Mon-U

Full meeting in Fluvanna

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meets in-person at 4 p.m. at the Fluvanna County Library in Palmyra. This packet is 632 pages long! Turns out nearly 450 of those pages relate to defibrillators and cardiac monitors Fluvanna will spend $438,902 to purchase. (agenda) (packet)

The Board of Supervisors will get updates on the regional cigarette tax, broadband expansion efforts, and a memorandum of understanding with the Fluvanna Arts Council. There will also be a discussion of the Colonial Circle – Coves at Monticello affordable workforce housing project. 

The General Assembly approved legislation to allow counties to levy a tax on cigarettes. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has been coordinating efforts to create a regional board to administer the tax so it can be applied evenly. Fluvanna Supervisors would be asked to vote on whether to hold a public hearing at their meeting on August 18. The tentative date for the public hearing is September 15. 

Fluvanna Supervisors will also consider an application for state transportation funding for a streetscape project in Palmyra. The work would construct sidewalks on Stone Jail Street and Court Square. 

Schematic for proposed streetscape project in Palmyra

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will meet virtually beginning at 7 p.m. The full packet is 226 pages long. Items on the agenda include adoption of the Planning For Affordability regional housing plan, a resolution to support the rerouting of U.S. Bike Route 76 through Palmyra, and an update on the Watershed Improvement Program. (Zoom registration)

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Board of Equalization meets virtually at 9 a.m. The calendar does not specify what appeals will be heard. (meeting info)
  • If you have questions about what’s happening with the pandemic and the Delta variant, you’ll have the chance to ask health officials questions at a town hall that the Blue Ridge Health District will hold on Thursday, August 5, at 1 p.m. You can ask in advance by sending them a message by Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. Panelists will include Dr. Denise Bonds of the health district and pediatricians Dr. Paige Perriello and Dr. Jeffrey Vergales. Register on Zoom.
  • Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets at 5 p.m. On the agenda is a proposal from the city’s traffic engineer on improving the intersection of JPA, Brandon and Ruppel. There’s also an update on the count of pedestrians and cyclists. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee meetings virtually at 5:30 p.m. On the agenda is an update on the Spotted Lanternfly with representatives from Blue Ridge Prism, the Albemarle County Parks and Recreation Department, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets virtually at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Friday, August 6, 2021

No meetings that I am aware of, but perhaps I am wrong? It is entirely possible. In any case, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or recommendations for a good karaoke song.

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.