Week Ahead for December 6, 2021: Council takes up affordable housing governance reform, statue disposition

December is not a normal month, with meetings showing up in unusual places to accommodate the holiday slowdown. This week and next will be the last with significant business before local and regional governments. After that, there will be a slowdown of at least two weeks. Perhaps that will allow me to catch up on all I still want to write about!

Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their ongoing sponsorship of this newsletter. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

ARB to review two U.S. 29 projects

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board will meet virtually at 1 p.m. On this agenda are reviews of two former restaurant buildings on U.S. 29. One will become a new dining establishment and the other will sell automotive products. (meeting info)

First, the five-member ARB will take a look at the proposed Chipotle slated at the site of a long-closed restaurant building in Hollymead Town Center. U.S. 29 is one of the county’s Entrance Corridors. A T.G.I. Friday’s franchise had occupied the building after it was completed in late 2004, but the business did not last long. The plan is to demolish the existing structure and build a new one to house the Chipotle, which will include a drive-through window.

Second, a soon-to-be-former Wendy’s restaurant on U.S. 29 south of the Rio Road intersection is slated to be demolished to make way for a Discount Tire franchise. The nearby Hardee’s has become a used car business. 

“Revise the plan to provide additional planting area along the Rt. 29 frontage to accommodate required frontage trees free of utilities,” reads one comment from staff for this item. “Note that this will likely require the elimination of some parking spaces in the 8-space parking row adjacent to the Rt. 29 frontage.”

Image taken from the staff report for the Chipotle item (view)
Louisa Supervisors meeting

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets in person in open session beginning at 6 p.m. On the agenda are presentations from the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce and the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation. There’s also a discussion of the county’s potential purchase of land on Industrial Drive. A public hearing will be held on the creation of a community development authority to support infrastructure in the Cutalog community.

For more details on Louisa County, subscribe to Engage Louisa by Tammy Purcell

Charlottesville City Council has a full plate

One of the innovations in Charlottesville city government this year has been the creation of a regular work session slot at 4 p.m. once a month. This gives more time to discuss specific issues and initiative. (virtual meeting info)

This time around, Council will be asked to give direction on reform of the Housing Advisory Committee as well as establishment of another committee to recommend how the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund is spent. 

The Affordable Housing Plan adopted by Council in March calls for the following reforms of the HAC: 

  • Reduce in size from 21 members to ten to 15 and make all members appointed by Council
  • Expand the HAC’s scope to include other localities in the region, including Albemarle
  • Ensure greater representation by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. 

The packet does not include the results of a study commissioned by Council to review how the Charlottesville Housing Affordable Fund has been used since it was created in 2007. A chart on cvillepedia is current through FY2017. (review the chart)

Next will be a discussion on the make-up of the Community Development Block Grant / HOME Program Task Force. The packet just references the ordinance. After that, Council will get the first look at the audit for FY21. Will there be a surplus? A deficit? Council had been briefed on the status of FY21 during the spring but those updates stopped after a senior budget staff member left to take a job in Albemarle County. There is no advance information about this item. 

A summary from the Affordable Housing Plan

Council’s regular meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)

On the consent agenda:

  • First reading of a resolution stating Charlottesville’s desire to be part of a statewide settlement related to the use of opioids, though it is not yet known how much the city might get from the Virginia Opioid Abatement Fund. (staff report)
  • First reading of $17,448.47 in insurance proceedings to pay for replacement of three damaged pieces of infrastructure related to traffic control or lighting. (staff report)
  • First reading of $245,725 of VDOT funds for intersection improvements at Harris Street and Preston Avenue. Council approved a resolution of support for this project in September 2016. “New pedestrian curb ramps, median refuges, and revised pedestrian crossings will reduce pedestrian crossings widths, increase visibility of pedestrians, reduce pedestrian time within the roadway, and minimize out of distance pedestrian travel.” (staff report
  • Second reading of an appropriation of $178,008.97 from the Virginia Department of Conversation and Recreation for a pedestrian bridge over Meadowcreek. This will require a $42,502 match of local funding from the Capital Improvement Program. There is no map in the staff report that indicates where this is. 
  • Second reading of a contribution of $250,000 from the school system to the city’s Schools Small Cap fund for school security programs. The staff report does not indicate what these programs are. 
  • Second reading of appropriation of $359,879.30 of the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act to assist people who were not able to pay their utility bills between March 12, 2020 and August 31, 2021. “The City has approximately $550,000 in residential arrearages, thus the utility assistance funds will cover approximately 65% of overdue balances.” (staff report)
  • Second reading of $100,000 from the BAMA Works for skate-park lighting, though the project was still $46,685 short as of November 15. Staff reports don’t always get updated on second reading. This one did not.
  • Second reading of an amendment of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention and Visitors’ Bureau to reduce the number of elected officials on the Board of Directors and to increase the number of industry representatives. (staff report

After the consent agenda, a busy evening. 

First, Council will hold first reading on potential amendments to the ordinance authorizing the Police Civilian Review Board. There’s a draft ordinance and a list summarizing changes

Next, there will be the first of two readings on a rezoning for a 0.51 acre property on Nassau Street from R-2 to R-3. That would allow developer Nicole Scro to construct ten units in two buildings along the city’s eastern border with Albemarle County. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval on November 9. (staff report)

After that, there will be a vote on a critical slopes waiver for Habitat for Humanity to build on a property on Coleman Street in the Locust Grove neighborhood. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval on November 9. (staff report)

Subsequently, the legislative program for the 2022 General Assembly will be before Council. It’s the same basic request as 2021 with a few additions including a request to hold a referendum on a sales tax increase to help pay for school reconfiguration.

“We support allowing all localities the option of enacting a one-cent sales tax increase to provide local revenue for the construction or renovation of public-school facilities,” reads the legislative program. “Currently, only a few localities have been designated as ‘qualifying localities’ under the provisions of Va. Code §58.1-602§58.1-605.1, and 58.1-606.1 to raise revenue in this manner, yet the need for this additional revenue source extends beyond those few localities that have it.” 

The city is also asking to allow the Police Civilian Review Board to meet in closed session and funding for improvements to Charlottesville’s Union Station on West Main Street. (legislative program)

“We support legislation to abolish the grocery tax, but only in a manner which is revenue-neutral to localities, and which more properly places the taxation burden on those who can afford to pay,” the program continues. 

There’s also an item to approve the final disposition of statues removed in July, but no information is within the packet. After that Council will have a discussion on collective bargaining.

There is no discussion item related to the search for a new City Manager or the Request for Proposals issued Friday to hire a firm to appoint someone internally to produce those services.

These are the tasks the firm will be charged with finding an individual to perform. (RFP)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Albemarle PC to review automotive use at former Goodwill 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission meets virtually at 6 p.m. There are two public hearings and a piece of new business related to maintenance agreements. (meeting info)

The first hearing is for a request for a special use permit for a Caliber Collision to operate a body shop at the site of the former Goodwill building at 1720 Seminole Trail (U.S. 29). Unlike in the two projects before the ARB on Monday, the structure would remain. Staff is recommending denial of the application for not being consistent with the Rio Road Small Area Plan. The plan is part of the Comprehensive Plan. 

“Specifically, the Rio29 SAP recommends auto-oriented uses that are relegated behind other uses, or with liner buildings along the street frontage,” reads the staff report. “The proposal is inconsistent with this recommendation as the proposed use will front along a through corridor (Rt 29/Seminole), as opposed to being relegated behind other uses.”

The packet also contains different opinions from two members of the Places29-Rio Road Community Advisory Council

Lee Kondor said the project fits in with existing uses and the expectations of the Comprehensive Plan are not realistic. 

“It is definitely not fair to the applicant to not be able to put the old Goodwill building to good use until such time as some developer with a ton of money agrees with the Comprehensive Plan’s grand vision and totally transforms either the entire current Fashion Square Mall site or the entire current Seminole Square site, which will then make it economically feasible for the adjacent property owners to follow suit,” Kondor wrote. “If that happens within the next 20 years, I will be surprised.”

In an email from March, Judy Schussel pointed out concerns about the potential difficulty of getting flatbed trucks into the site, as well as the proliferation of autocentric businesses. Another plan in the area is a car wash at the site of the former Allen, Allen, Allen, and Allen building. 

“This is the ENTRANCE CORRIDOR,” Schussel wrote. “We now have a variety of building facades and it is becoming a MOTOR MILE. Is this truly what we want to have for our Entrance Corridor?” 

The Board of Supervisors approved a form-based code zoning overlay for the small area plan on September 1. The regulating plan for that overlay designates this property as a “flex character area.” 

“The Flex character area accommodates a range of building forms and uses to transition from higher intensity urban development in the Core to the lower intensity development along the Edge,” reads Section 20C of the zoning code.

Staff has provided recommended conditions if the Planning Commission decides to recommend approval. These include an eight foot wide planting strip and a fourteen foot wide shared-use path in front of the building along U.S. 29. 

In the second public hearing, an aging asphalt mixing plant on Red Hill Road in North Garden is nearing the end of its useful life. The S.L. Williamson Company seeks a replacement, which requires a special use permit. The plant is on 4.4 acres of a larger 579-acre parcel where Martin Marietta runs a quarry. 

“S.L. Williamson’s current on-site activities include the production of plant mix asphalt that is sold and used for road paving and construction,” reads the staff report. “The existing asphalt mixing plant is a legal nonconforming use that has been in operation at its current location since 1969.”

The property is within the county’s Natural Resources Extraction Overlay District and this use is allowed by a special use permit application. That was not required 52 years ago. They also need a critical slopes waiver and a special exception related to the building’s dimensions. 

MPO meeting on transportation matters

If you’ve ever wondered how transportation projects are selected in Albemarle County and Charlottesville, consider watching the virtual meeting of the Policy Board of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization. U.S. law requires the existence of the MPO to help coordinate planning for how federal dollars are used for in projects. The MPO consists of two Albemarle Supervisors, two City Councilors, and a representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation. 

This time around is review of how VDOT’s criteria for the Smart Scale funding process has been adjusted in advance of the 5th round deadline late next summer. There will also be a review of how the Afton Express commuter bus has done since launching in September, as well as an update from Jaunt. (meeting info)

In other meetings:
  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will hold a work session all day at Devil’s Backbone Basecamp to discuss capital initiatives including the Recreation Center and the Agricultural Center. There’s also an item simply labeled “Other” which “requires the attendance of all members of the Board of Supervisors.” (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville’s Human Rights Commission will have a virtual meeting on community engagement beginning at 4 p.m. There’s no posted agenda. (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville’s Tree Commission meets virtually at 5 p.m. There will be updates on the city’s tree canopy report, the search for a new urban forester, and the tree planting plan. They’ll also discuss the annual report to City Council, get the latest on Releaf Cville, and a review of the Comprehensive Plan update from commission member Tim Padalino. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Planning Commission meets in-person at 7 p.m. at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center. There is a public hearing on Fluvanna’s draft $24.87 million Capital Improvement Program and a public hearing on Southern Development’s Village Green project. They seek a rezoning from agricultural to R-3 on 122.6 acres. According to an article by Heather Michon in the Fluvanna Reviewthe item was deferred at the November 9 meeting. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Zion Crossroads water update

The James River Water Authority exists to provide a water source for urban portions of Fluvanna and Louisa counties. The Board of Directors meets in person at 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra at 9 a.m. There will be an update on efforts to find an alternative intake from the James River that can meet the support of the Monacan Indian Nation. There’s no advance information in the meeting packet. (meeting packet)

Crozet and economic development

The Crozet Community Advisory Committee will meet virtually at 7 p.m. and get an update on economic development and a presentation about the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center. There will be a discussion of how Project ENABLE could foster new opportunities for business in Crozet. The 2019 project update on that strategic plan highlighted both Perrone Robotics and the future of the Barnes Lumber Yard. 

“Albemarle County entered into a Public-Private Partnership with Crozet New Town Associates to redevelop the Barnes Lumber property,” reads that 2019 report. “The agreement included a $1.6 million County contribution for tax financing and an additional $1.6 million for a public plaza.” (agenda and registration)

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets for two days beginning at 9 a.m. The meetings can be witnessed by the public. I’m particularly interested in the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 2:15 p.m. There’s no agenda yet. (meeting info)

In other meetings:
  • The Charlottesville Retirement Commission will meet virtually at 8 a.m. This will be a closed session. See the image below for the specific exception invoked under state code. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Towing Advisory Board meets virtually at 1 p.m. On the agenda is a discussion of a revision of the city’s towing ordinance. (meeting info
  • Albemarle’s Conservation Easement Authority meets virtually at 4:45 p.m. No agenda at this time. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle County School Board will have a work session at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board meets virtually at 6:30 p.m. An agenda is not available at production time. (meeting info)
  • Albemarle County will hold a panel discussion at 7 p.m. on a Community Read on Racial Covenants: The Continuing Legacy of Exclusionary Housing Practices in Albemarle County on Zoom and Facebook Live. (meeting info)
From § 2.2-3705.7. Exclusions to application of chapter; records of specific public bodies and certain other limited exclusions

Friday, December 10, 2021

Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee meets virtually at 11 a.m. One item on the agenda is a review of a prototype for a downtown walking tour. There will also be more information on a forthcoming briefing to City Council about the future of the Court Square/Slave Auction Block. (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.