Week Ahead for December 12, 2022: Albemarle and Charlottesville Planning Commissions will each get updates on new zoning codes; Public hearing for Woodridge Solar in Albemarle

The holidays are here, but the work of local and regional government for the year is not done. This week is the last full one of 2022, and this week I wrote a very full edition.

This newsletter and a second version I do for other platforms are read by thousands of people each week. There is a lot of interest in the future and how we get there. There will be disagreements. There will be arguments. But it is my hope that this newsletter will continue to inform the conversations. Thank you to those who are helping me implement a vision of this style of journalism. 

Thanks as always to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support over the past four and a half years. Their 50th anniversary is about to turn into their 51st year.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Places29-Hydraulic group to learn about the future of Charlottesville Area Transit 

The Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. at Greer Elementary School in the Lambs Lane Campus. (meeting info)

There are two presentations on the agenda. In the first, the director of Charlottesville Area Transit will tell the group about the future of the city-owned bus system. CAT has won the contract to operate an on-demand pilot program intended to launch next year. No materials are available in advance. In 2021, CAT went through a process to change bus routes but the adjustments have not yet been made.  The status has not changed since June, when I reported last on the delay.

In the second one, the director of Albemarle County’s Office of Broadband Accessibility and Affordability will talk about efforts to expand internet and help people pay for it. 

There is no meeting of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee. All of its members resigned in April and have not been reappointed. Will Supervisors fill those positions in 2023? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Charlottesville Planning Commission to hold public hearings on capital budget, Comprehensive Plan re-adoption

Though the online calendar item for the Charlottesville Planning Commission says the meeting begins at 5:30 p.m., that is not accurate. The seven-member appointed body meets at 5 p.m. for a pre-meeting where business on the agenda is frequently discussed. Either way, they meet in CitySpace with a virtual option. (meeting info) (agenda)

One item on the consent agenda is a site plan for 612 West Main Street, a four-story building being developed at the site of the former University Tire by developer Jeffrey Levien. He also developed the Six Hundred West Main project next door and will develop a nine-story residential building on West Market Street. 

The beginning of the meeting will feature committee reports including an update from the Department of Neighborhood Development Services director on the rewriting of the zoning code to make it easier for new housing to be built with less opportunity for public input. 

“A zoning ordinance is a large and complex body of law and each component requires significant staff review, both within Neighborhood Development Services and in the City Attorney’s Office and other City Departments,” reads the written report in the packet. “It is our goal to adhere to the schedule outlined below, but we reserve the right to take more time as necessary to ensure appropriate review has been completed.” 

A zoning map will be available with the release of the first module. 

The Planning Commission will have work sessions on each release during the first four months of the year. 

The new zoning ordinance will reduce the number of districts from 30 to 17 and will seek to implement the Future Land Use Map. 

“The five proposed residential districts implement the three residential land use categories on the Future Land Use Map,” the report continues. “Each district allows a differing degree of residential density allowing these districts to be applied to the zoning map in a way that places greater density in those areas with greater accessibility and/or adjacency to the mixed-use districts.”

Draft schedule for when parts of the zoning code will be released for review early next year (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Then the Charlottesville City Council will hold an official meeting as they gavel for two public hearings. The first is on the Capital Improvement Program, and for more information take a look at the story I wrote last week. (Draft Capital Improvement Program available for Charlottesville’s FY24 budget, December 5, 2022) 

But if you don’t want to go there, here are two paragraphs from that story:

The draft CIP anticipates a total of $99,853,381 in revenues for projects in FY2024. That includes a bond issue of $55,823,907, which is one of the largest in city history. For comparison, the bond sale for the current fiscal year is closer to $17 million.  Future years currently anticipate a return to that lower level for bond sales. 

Other revenues come from projects that previous City Councils had agreed to fund through bonds but subsequent Councils defunded them. There is $18.25 million from the defunct West Main Streetscape and $5 million for a parking garage on East Market Street. Do take a look! (spreadsheet) (fancy viewer)

The anticipated revenues for capital projects in the next five years (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

The Commission and the Council will also have a public hearing on the readoption of the Comprehensive Plan to address a legal challenge and to add the Climate Action Plan. For more details, take a look at a story I wrote last week. For fewer details, the next paragraph will suffice.

In late August, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell threw out three out of four counts of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous group of landowners seeking to overturn the plan’s adoption. However, Worrell ruled the city may not have provided enough notice that Council would take a vote at the November 15, 2022 meeting. (read that story)

Here’s how the staff report puts it:

“On December 15, 2021, after City Council’s approval of the November 15, 2021 updated Comprehensive Plan, eleven city residents brought a legal action within the Charlottesville Circuit Court, asking the Court to declare the Plan as adopted on November 15, 2021 to be ‘void’. The plaintiffs are individuals who oppose the density increases within the City’s low-density residential neighborhoods.”

How long will the public hearing last? When it does, that’s not the end of the meeting. There is a critical slopes waiver  for a project called Azalea Springs as well a review of the entire Entrance Corridor Review Board process. 

In the former, Stanley Martin Companies seeks a waiver from the critical slopes ordinance for a project that would see 45 single-family homes. 

“The applicant is proposing to replat the existing eight-eight (88) plus lots along with additional dedication of right-of-way to accommodate a City standard road and to bring the existing lots closer to current regulations in regard to square footage and road frontage requirements,” reads the staff report. 

The Charlottesville Planning Commission won’t meet again until January 10, 2023. When they do reconvene, they will review a special use permit for an expansion of the Three Notch’d Brewery, as well as a critical slopes waiver and special use permit for the replacement of the fire station on the U.S. 250 bypass. 

Overview of the Azalea Springs (Credit: Collins Engineering)

Greene Supervisors to consider grant funding for fire/rescue personnel

The five-member Greene County Board of Supervisors will meet at 4:30 p.m. for a closed session (one hour earlier than usual) followed by an open meeting at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)

There are several action items. The first is a public hearing for a rezoning on U.S. 29 from A-1 to Business Highway and High Intensity on a 8.84 acre parcel. The Planning Commission voted 5 to 0 to recommend approval after their public hearing on November 16. The proposed business is an HVAC contractor. 

The second public hearing is to amend the current budget to add $5.461 million for various purposes. That includes $2 million in carryover funds for the county’s efforts to build a water and sewer department, $1.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for broadband expansion, and $1.35 million in assets transferred from the Rapidan Service Authority. 

The third public hearing is to get approval to allow Supervisors to grant employee bonuses. 

The fourth item (not a public hearing) is for a readoption of the county’s Emergency Operations Plan. (read the plan)

The fifth item is to authorize a public hearing to allow for the county to offer rebates on personal property taxes due to higher-than-usual vehicle assessments. 

Next, there is a request for authorization for the county to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to hire firefighters. This is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program which has helped both Albemarle and Charlottesville hire new personnel. The funding only lasts a few years, though. The notice for the next round will be posted on January 9, 2013. (presentation)

Next, interim County Administrator Brenda Garton seeks permission to hire a consultant to conduct a pay study. (staff report)

The antepenultimate and penultimate items relate to the water and sewer department. First, the Supervisors will be asked to allow the award of a contract for construction of an access road to the water treatment plant as well as the relocation of water supply lines. The second is for permission from the Virginia Resources Authority for operations to transfer from the Rapidan Service Authority to the county itself. 

The final item is to approve a special meeting on December 20 to interview candidates for the county administrator position. 

And then there are presentations. 

Three Notch’d Brewery’s distillery request goes to public hearing in Nelson

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will meet at 2 p.m. for the afternoon session followed by an evening session at 7 p.m. (meeting info

In the afternoon session, there are presentations from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Drug Court, JABA, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and Firefly Fiber Broadband.

There will also be discussion of new and unfinished business.  This includes a request from the Commonwealth’s Attorney for additional funding, an authorization for a public hearing to create an Absentee Precinct, a funding request from the Gladstone Volunteer Fire & Rescue, a plan to allocate HOME-related American Rescue Plan Act, applications for real estate taxes, and proposals to redevelop the county website. 

In the evening session there are several public hearings.

  • There will be an update of the county ordinance to introduce a definition of “short-term rental” as a business activity and to repeal references to Bicentennial merchandise. 
  • The code is also being updated to remove references to a short-term rental registry now that that use will be regulated with business licenses instead.
  • Three Notch’d Brewery seeks a special use permit to operate a distillery at the site of the former Wild Wolf Brewery. 
  • A landowner on Crabtree Falls Highway seeks a special use permit to operate a campground. 

Albemarle Planning Commission to review 650-acre solar project, get update on zoning code rewrite

The seven-member Albemarle County Planning Commission will meet for a work session at 4 p.m. followed by a regular meeting at 6 p.m. Both are in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. 

Commissioners will get a review of the work on the zoning code that’s been underway this fall. (Albemarle County Planning Commission reviews ‘reset’ of zoning modernization, September 1, 2022)

“From August to November 2022, staff worked with the Berkley Group, a Virginia-based consulting firm, to begin the first phase of a multi-year effort to modernize the County’s zoning ordinance,” reads the staff report. 

Some of the recommendations from the Berkley Group. Take a look at the rest in the staff report. (Credit: Berkley Group) 

That work involved conversations with multiple stakeholders in the development community and staff, but not the public so far. That will come in January when the Communications and Public Engagement Office will conduct an open house. At the same time, the Berkley Group will begin drafting the ordinance. They are doing similar work in Pittsylvania County. 

As with Charlottesville, a goal is to do as much as possible to eliminate the role that public input and legislative bodies plan in the land use process. 

“Reducing the amount of zoning approval permits that require a public hearing process should be an important goal for any Zoning Ordinance update. Allowing zoning officials to administratively approve these variations in regulations is one way to shorten applicant timelines and ease the burden of the public body,” reads page 12 of the .PDF of the staff report.

This is incredibly important stuff for the public to know about. I wish I had a reporter to assign solely to these two processes. As it stands, I plan to write this up as soon as I can. I also would be able to follow up on items such as the recent departure of Planning Director Charles Rapp and Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein for jobs in the private sector. 

In their regular session, the Commissioners will review special use permits for a 650-acre utility scale solar facility off of Route 708 and a new electrical substation. Hexagon Energy is the applicant and staff recommends approval. 

Overview of the conceptual site plan for the Woodridge Solar project (Credit: Timmons Group)

Albemarle EDA to meet in closed session for two projects

The Albemarle Economic Development Authority will meet in room 241 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road at 4 p.m.  (meeting info)

Under new business, the seven-member Board of Directors will get an overview of the performance agreement for the Brookdale affordable project built by Pinnacle Construction. They will also get a discussion of industrial bonds from representatives from Davenport & Company and Hunton Andrews Kurth. If you’d like to learn more, Hunton Andrews Kurth have developed a primer. (read the primer)

After a closed session, there will be unfinished business in the form of Project Poma. It has been a common practice in Virginia to assign codenames to projects that are not yet within reach of the state’s Freedom of Information Act because they are exempt. In fact, the closed session is to discuss Project Eagles and Project Hatch. 

What do you think Project Poma will be? Or the others? 

Closed meeting resolution for the Albemarle Economic Development Authority

Fluvanna PC to review two rezonings, $31.7 million CIP

The Fluvanna County Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union. There are three public hearings. (meeting packet)

One is on the five-year Capital Improvement Plan which totals $31,736,575. The first year anticipates $10.142 million in projects. One column in the spreadsheet lists the relevant section of the Comprehensive Plan used to justify the capital expense. (CIP packet)

Another is on a request to rezone around five acres of land from A-1 to B-1 on Route 250 in the Zion Crossroads Community Planning Area. The applicant seeks to open a farm machinery and feed store. 

“At this time, you have to travel up the Route 15 corridor or over the mountains onto the west for these items and is cumbersome and creates a longer commute for such farm equipment products,” reads the staff report. 

The third is for a rezoning from A-1 to the Limited Industrial Zoning District for another property on Route 250 in the Zion Crossroads Community Planning Area. 

“The applicant seeks to develop flex warehouses of various sizes to accommodate a variety of users,” reads the staff report. “To realize a cohesive development

encompassing the property and the adjacent tax parcels, the applicant seeks to rezone the property from its current A-1 Agriculture zoning to I-1 Limited Industrial.” 

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Retirement Committee will meet virtually at 10 a.m. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority will meet at 4 p.m. in City Council Chambers. Under new business, they will review a modification to the bond agreement with the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. There is no information in the packet about what this is, but the entity worked with the EDA (then known as the Charlottesville Industrial Development Authority) in 2007 on a bond for their facility on Maury Avenue. They will also review the FY2022 audit. (meeting info)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Albemarle Supervisors to review FY22 audit; hold five-year planning work session

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will meet 1 p.m. There is no evening session and this is the final meeting of the year. Which is good, because I still have items from the mid-November meeting I want to write up! (meeting info) (agenda)

In the first item, the Department of Social Services will make a presentation on their request for five additional “full-time equivalents” to help deal with anticipated work when federal benefits associated with the COVID-19 pandemic expire early next year. 

“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was established to create a safety net of benefits and programs for community members during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” reads the staff report. “FFCRA directed states to maintain Medicaid health coverage for everyone enrolled on or after March 18, 2020.” 

The public health emergency is winding down with no official date, and the Virginia Department of Social Services has a plan to assist localities with the change. At the date of the staff report, Albemarle County has 10,455 open Medicaid cases and 3,162 SNAP cases. When the emergency is over, every case will have to be evaluated to determine if the person receiving benefits is actually eligible. 

“Current DSS staff are unable to take on the tasks of resuming normal enrollment and eligibility determination operations without additional support,” the report continues. 

Next, Albemarle Supervisors will be presented with the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. That’s the official audit from Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates. This is not available in advance but take a look at the staff report to get ready. 

Then there will be a work session on the five-year financial plan. Last week the Supervisors met with the School Board to discuss the latter’s $318 million capital request for the next five years. I am in the midst of writing up that conversation and the first half can be seen here

Finally, a year in review from Emily Kilroy. This year she gained the title Assistant to the County Executive. This review is not available in advance. 

On the consent agenda is a special exception request from Piedmont Community for a wireless tower. (staff report)

In other meetings:

  • The James River Water Authority will meet at 9 a.m. in the Morris Room of the Fluvanna County Administration Building. They’ll get an update on the process for an alternate pump station for the proposed waterline intended to carry water to the growth area in Zion Crossroads. (meeting packet)
  • The Charlottesville Retirement Commission meets for a second time this week with another virtual meeting at 8:30 a.m. No agenda posted at publication time. (meeting info
  • Charlottesville’s Housing Advisory Committee will meet virtually at noon. The website does not list who the current members are. This committee was reconstituted this year following the adoption of the Affordable Housing Plan in March 2021. (meeting info)
  • The Greene County School Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)
The location map for the cell tower proposed on land owned by Piedmont Virginia Community College. (staff report)

Thursday, December 15, 2022

There are three meetings I can see. Possibly more, but this is what I have at publication time:

  • The Albemarle County Service Authority meets virtually at 9 a.m. (meeting packet)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. virtually. There’s no agenda at publication time. 
  • The 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet in person in the Media Center Library at Mountain View Elementary School. There is no agenda 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.