Week Ahead for February 6, 2023: Public hearing for Council replacement in Charlottesville; Albemarle holding traffic town halls; Fluvanna PC to review Zion Crossroads Gateway Plan

It’s another busy week on local and regional government, so let’s get right to it!

Monday, February 6, 2023

Charlottesville Council to hold public hearing on replacement member; will consider $500K for BEACON kitchen 

Charlottesville City Council meets at 4 p.m. for a work session followed by a regular meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info) (agenda)

There are two items on the agenda for the work session. In December 2019, the city’s preservation and design planner asked Council to use $9,319 from the city’s Small Area Plan fund to examine whether there were possible gravesites at Pen Park that had not been identified. The idea had been hinted at in a 2003 study of the Gilmer/Craven/Hotopp cemetery. 

The city hired Rivanna Archeological Services to use ground penetrating radar at the site. 

“Evaluation of the GPR data suggests the likelihood of 43 unmarked and unrecorded graves outside the walls of the three family plots, roughly in three rows and primarily to the east, behind the family plots,” reads a staff report dated November 22, 2020. “The majority lie outside the Gilmer and Craven sections. Both families enslaved individuals and the evidence suggests these graves are most likely those of individuals enslaved at Pen Park.”

Staff has been working with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to identify those buried in the hopes of getting in touch with descendants. 

“The February 6 presentation will update Council on other family connections made and the ongoing research by the ACHS to identify the enslaved individuals and descendant families,” reads the staff report. 

For more information, read Tamica Jean-Charles February 11, 2022 article on Charlottesville Tomorrow called “Forgotten no more: Descendants of family enslaved at Pen Park plantations visit their unmarked graves for the first time.” 

For more, here’s a story from NBC29 that aired last year. https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/ummPa6W3RI0

The second item in the work session will be an update from the United Way including a review of their strategic plan from FY23 to FY27. 

“The over-arching goal is to eliminate barriers for minority and economically-disadvantaged populations and enable them to achieve financial stability and thrive economically,” reads a sentence in the presentation.

Goal 1 is to “help lift 1,800 families—including at least 630 families—out of poverty in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District by 2027.”

Goal 2 is to “increase by 10 percent kindergarteners from economically-disadvantaged families who pass development benchmarks by 2027; increase the number of Black kindergartners who pass by 20 percent.”

Goal 3 is to “Build a more connected community through a deepened understanding of race and equity.” 

The report will present an update on whether the goals are being met. 

How well is the United Way meeting the goals of their strategic plan? View the presentation in advance so you can follow along at the work session. 

In the regular meeting, Councilors will make a presentation to former Councilor Sena Magill and recognize this week as Congenital Heart Disease Awareness WeekThey’ll also issue a proclamation for Black History MonthAlbemarle County Supervisors did the same at their meeting last week.

There are some interesting items on the consent agenda:

  • There is second reading of an appropriation of $500,106 in Highway Safety Improvement Funds for improvements at the intersection of 10th Street NW and grady Avenue. (staff report)
  • There is the first of two readings of an appropriation of $229,803 from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the Safe Routes to School program. The grant requires a 20 percent match from the city, or $45,961. The city anticipates in-kind donations from the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club for fleet maintenance. (staff report)
  • There is the first of two readings of an appropriation of $61,500 for the Charlottesville Albemarle Therapeutic Docket program operated by Offender Aid and Restoration. “The program uses the power of the court to assist nonviolent offenders to achieve wellness and recovery through a combined system of intensive supervision, medication management, mental health treatment, and regular court appearances.” (staff report)
  • There is first reading for a special use permit for the new Bypass Fire Station as well as a critical slopes waiver. The Planning Commission held a public hearing with Council on January 10 and the PC recommended approval. (SUP report) (slopes waiver report)
  • There is the first of two readings on the appropriation of $7,743 from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program to cover the cost of incarcerated people who are not eligible to live and work in the United States. (staff report)
  • Council will also hold the first of two readings to spend $3,800 in city funds on a market assessment of the three parcels along the Rivanna River off of East High Street. More on this in the next Charlottesville Community Engagement. (staff report)

I’ll also have more on the City Manager’s Report in the next Charlottesville Community Engagement. There’s a lot and we’re already at 800 words in this blurb. 

The first public hearing is on a lease agreement for the Omni Hotel to operate an outdoor cafe. The lease for this purpose first began in 2010 with a five-year renewal that expired in January 2021. Since then, the lease has been month-to-month and a new one will soon be drawn up to cover a proposed expansion. 

“The Omni Hotel has submitted an application to Neighborhood Development Services to revise the outdoor patio area,” reads the staff report. “Construction is expected to start in the summer and be completed by the end of the year.”

The second public hearing is for the re-precincting of the City of Charlottesville. To recap, the idea is to stop using Alumni Hall and the Tonsler Community Center and instead use Jackson-Via Elementary School and Charlottesville High School. About 40 percent of the city’s voters will have a new precinct if the plan is adopted. The comment period is still underway. (See also: Council to take first step on new precinct boundaries tonight, January 17, 2023)

The third public hearing is for the eventual selection of a replacement Councilor. Twenty people applied and Council cut the list to sixteen six late last week. Here they are: (read my story(see comments)

  • Alex Bryant, former executive director of the Ix Park and former executive director of the Tom Tom Foundation (application)
  • Former City Councilor Kathy Galvin (application
  • Current School Board member Lisa Larson-Torres (application)
  • Twenty-eight year Charlottesville resident Natalie Oschrin (application)
  • Former School Board member Leah Puryear (application)
  • Former City Councilor Kristin Szakos. (application)

The title of this item is “Accepting public comments on filling the City Council seat vacated by Sena Magill as of January 12, 2023.” How will this play out? It’s going to be interesting to watch. Public comments can still be made remotely.

But that’s not it for the meeting. Council will hold the first of two readings on an appropriation of $500,000 to the New Hill Development Corporation for their BEACON project to build a commercial kitchen.

“The Black Entrepreneurial Advancement and Community Opportunity Network (BEACON)… is a business incubator and accelerator to advance opportunities for Black entrepreneurs,” reads the staff report.

A location has been found at Kathy’s Shopping Center at 221 Carlton Road. The total project cost is $2.2 million and the staff report lists multiple other sources of revenue to date including two recent state grants. Read my story from December 29, 2022Or my story from July 5, 2022.

The city’s economic development director is suggesting using $250,000 from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation and $250,000 from the city’s Strategic Investment Account.

In November 2019, Council allocated another $500,000 to New Hill for them to create a small area plan for the Starr Hill neighborhood. This wound up becoming a vision plan.

One question I have is how this made it through the budgetary process. While admirable, all other entities must go through a process to seek funding from the city.

The next item is for approval of a sign plan for businesses at 701 East Water Street. This is the office complex to the east of the Charlottesville Pavilion.

“The property owner would like to erect two directory signs at each entrance to provide more visibility for all the businesses in the 85,000 square foot office building,” reads the staff report.

There’s a technical reason why this has to occur. The property owner wants four signs. Staff recommends two.

While this is perhaps not the most important item on the Council agenda, it is one of the more photogenic. (Credit: American Made Signs)

This meeting keeps going. Council will hold first reading of a resolution to use speed cameras outside of two elementary schools.

“With the bus driver shortage and the need to expand walk zones for all of the city schools, many of the crossing guards have felt the need for enhanced measures to ensure the safety of the increased number of students walking to school along some of our busiest corridors,” reads the staff report from traffic engineer Brennen Duncan.

Take a look at the letter from the crossing guards for their perspective.

If Council wants to proceed, staff is recommending placing them on Monticello Avenue for Clark Elementary School, Cherry Avenue for Buford Middle School, and Cherry Avenue for Johnson Elementary School.

Finally, Council will hold the first of two readings on an appropriation of $237,000 for Charlottesville Area Transit to purchase new radio equipment. (staff report)

Louisa County Supervisors to hold public hearing on unit increase for Zion Town Center

The seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5 p.m. at the Louisa County Public Meeting Room in Louisa. They begin in closed session and them will hold an open session beginning at 6 p.m.

The first item on the regular session is a discussion of the Fiscal Year 2024 Operational & Maintenance and Capital Improvement Plan Budget.

The second item is for commercial entrances on family subdivisions.

The third item is a discussion of changes to Louisa County Code Chapter 14 – Animals Off Owners’ Premises.

“Currently, the only legal recourse a Louisa citizen harmed by trespassing livestock can take is to sue the owner or manager of the livestock for trespass, but the damages are limited to $20 for a first offense, and double damages for every subsequent offense,” reads the staff report.

There are further regulations in both Goochland County and Spotsylvania County.

The fourth item is a discussion of the effective date of a zoning ordinance amendment.

Under new business, Supervisors will consider a resolution for a budget appropriation for a match to the recent grant from the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program for the Shannon Hill Business Park. The grant was $11,590,000 and the county must make an equivalent match. The funding will be used to extend “wet utility” to the project. .

There is one public hearing. This is for a request from Zion Town Center LLC to increase the number of units allowed at the planned development already approved for their 113.825 acre site. Supervisors approved that project in August 2019.

“The major changes increase the allowable residential density from 599 units to 723 units, provide updated Architectural Guidelines, authorize density transfers of up to 10 percent, and prohibit an interparcel connection to the adjoining parcel east of the subject property,” reads the staff report.

An overview of the Zion Town Center project

Albemarle County holding three town halls on traffic

Tonight Albemarle County will hold the first of three “traffic town hall” meetings.

“Albemarle County Police Department is hosting traffic-focused townhalls throughout the county to discuss traffic safety and address community concerns,” reads the meeting info page.

At this event, Supervisors Donna Price and Bea LaPisto-Kirtley will introduce the meeting, which will include a 30-minute presentation followed by a one-hour question and answer session from the police, county staff, and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

This particular event will be held at East Rivanna Volunteer Fire Station at 3501 Steamer Drive in Keswick.

In other meetings: 

  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will hold a work session for entrance corridor design guidelines. On the consent agenda is a review of the proposed health club adjacent to the J.W. Sieg Distribution Center. I wrote about that in late December. There will also be a discussion on Piedmont Housing Alliance’s apartments at Southwood. The ARB meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Fire and Emergency Medical Services Executive Committee will meet at 1630 hours (4:30 p.m.) in the Fire Rescue Conference Room. They’ll review a Material Noncompliance Complaint. (meeting info)
Flyer for the first Traffic Town Hall event. Other will be held on February 7 and February 16 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Fluvanna Planning Commission to review Zion Crossroads Gateway Plan

The Fluvanna County Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. for a work session on the Zion Crossroads Gateway Plan followed by a regular meeting. They meet at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union.

“Development pressure in the area has led to a heightened need to proactively establish a transportation network that serves to effectively move both local and through-traffic throughout the project area,” reads the executive summary of the plan, written by staff at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “There are additional challenges related to the supply of existing infrastructure and the mixture of land uses to support the increased commercial interest in the area.” (read the plan)

Some members of the Louisa County Planning Commission have asked for a pause to the plan. This is a regional issue that is worth paying attention to as it develops.

In the regular meeting, the Planning Commission will take up two site development plans.

One is for a 40,000 square foot professional office and retail center at Lake Monticello Road at Manor Boulevard. The property is currently vacant. This is within the Village Oaks planned community.

A conceptual site plan for the Village Oaks Commercial Center (Credit: Sekiv Solutions)

The other is for a 55,000 square foot self storage building and 1,000 square feet of office space next to the UVA Community Credit Union on Route 53. This site is also vacant.

“The applicant owns an electrical contracting company and is seeking to establish a contractor’s storage yard, to operate his electrical contracting business on-site with a proposed 1,000 square feet of office space for his business and potentially another office space tenant,” reads the staff report. “The applicant plans to construct 55,550 square feet of self-storage space on the premises.” 

In other meetings:

  • Charlottesville’s Sister Cities Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. in CitySpace. They’ll review finalists for their grant program as well as have a discussion of a travel scholarship policy. (meeting info)
  • The second Albemarle County Town Hall Traffic will be held at the Center at Belvedere beginning at 6:30 p.m. This one follows the same pattern but will be introduced by Supervisors Ned Gallaway and Diantha McKeel. (meeting info)

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Charlottesville Council and School Board to discuss budget

Soon Charlottesville City Schools will own the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center outright, having announced last week they will buy the property for $5.3 million. That will mean each school system will own a building in the other’s jurisdiction. Anyway, the School Board will hold a budget work session with City Council at CATEC beginning at 5 p.m. to go over the schools’ budget request for FY24. (meeting info)

For many years, the city has had a policy where 40 percent of new tax revenues go to the school system, but Council in recent years have at times questioned whether that should continue. Schools are expecting an additional $4 million from the increased property tax assessments. 

“The $4 million FY 2024 formula allocation for schools will remove the remaining dependency on non-recurring federal relief funds and will help the schools address inflation and competitive compensation issues,” reads a slide in the presentation Superintendent Royal Gurley made to the School Board on February 2. 

A slide from Superintendent Gurley’s presentation to the School Board from February 2, 2023 (view the presentation)

Crozet CAC to get overview of AC44 process

Did you know that Albemarle County is in Phase 2 of a Comprehensive Plan review and update? If you have any questions about where things stand in that process, you might consider attending the Crozet Community Advisory Committee meeting beginning at 7 p.m. in the Crozet Library Meeting Room. (meeting info)

This will be a “high-level overview of the Comprehensive Plan update’s process to date with a

preview of the next phase and a community discussion,” according to the agenda

Albemarle Supervisors got a briefing on Phase 2 at their meeting on January 11, 2023. 

In other meetings: 

  • The James River Water Authority will meet in the Fluvanna County Administration Building at 9 a.m. They will get a status update on the permitting process for the alternate pipeline that will carry water from the James River to Zion Crossroads. (meeting info
  • The Greene County School Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the County Meeting Room but will promptly go into closed session. Open session begins at 7 p.m. (agenda)
The engagement plan for Phase 2 lays out what will be happening this year. For a larger view of the timeline as well as full descriptions, take a look at the full plan.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Louisa County to review rezoning for 13 single-family lots near Lake Anna

The Louisa County Planning Commission will meet at 5 p.m. in the Louisa County Public Meeting Room for a long-range planning work session. That will be followed by a regular meeting. (meeting page)

One interesting item from the minutes of the last meeting. The Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District is no longer reviewing erosion and sediment control plans for developments on the shoreline of Lake Anna. That work is now being handled by the Louisa County Community Development. 

The work session will contend with the Planning Commission’s by-laws as well as an update on recent amendments to the county code. 

The regular meeting will feature a public hearing for a rezoning request by Mercerville Land Trust. The application seeks to rezone 33 acres of land in the Cuckoo District from agricultural to Residential-2 for the purposes of creating 13 single-family residential lots. There is no access to Lake Anna despite that body of water being close by. 

In other meetings:

  • The Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee Meeting meets at 4 p.m. in the Totier Room (Room 235) in Albemarle County’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Places29-North Community Advisory Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. at Hollymead Elementary School in the Media Center. There’s no agenda available at press time. (meeting info)
A location map for the property for which the rezoning is sought (Credit: Louisa County)

Friday, February 10, 2023

Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee to meet

Some committees in Charlottesville are still meeting remotely. One of them is the Charlottesville Historic Resources Committee which meets at 11 a.m. (meeting info)

On the agenda is a work session on the Downtown Walking Tour Map as well as a staff presentation on historic designations in the city. They’ll then hold their annual meeting. As part of that, members will be asked six questions.

  • Question #1: Why do you care about our organization? What do you personally want to get out of the committee as a member? 
  • Question #2: Why is our organization’s work important? What difference do we make in the community? What makes the HRC unique in the landscape of history and preservation resources in the area? 
  • Question #3: What groups is the HRC serving well? How? What groups could we better serve? How? 
  • Question #5: What specific projects would you like to see the HRC focus on in 2023? 
  • Question #6: How could we improve meetings to ensure projects get completed and that we meet our goals? 

There does not appear to be a question #4. 

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.