The first full week of February is among us at a time when the local government year is beginning to really pick up. Budgets are being developed in all six of the localities covered by this newsletter. It seems everyone is in on the Comprehensive Plan game now. Everywhere there are requests to build more housing. This is the stuff of civic life and I’m glad to bring you this information each and every week.
As always, I thank the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued support of this newsletter. The point is to help you understand what’s happening and provide you with context should you want to get involved. Democracy takes participation by as many people from as many backgrounds as possible. My role is to help show you the way to the playing field.
Monday, February 7, 2022
Council starts new meeting format with report on modernizing the Fire Department
At their retreat in late January, Charlottesville City Council decided to make routine an experiment begun last year to hold a 4 p.m. work session once a month to get reports from staff. Now this will take place at every meeting, allowing long discussions about policy.
This time around, the topic is “Modernizing the Charlottesville Fire Department.” There’s no advance material, but here’s some background. The department has been under the leadership of Chief Hezedean Smith since December 2020, replacing Andrew Baxter who resigned after a public dispute with former city manager Tarron Richardson.
Since taking the helm, Smith has steered the department in the direction of neighborhood risk reduction, has altered dispatch protocols to improve response times, and has called for a more people-centered approach. He also leads a department that has additional staff covered by a multi-year federal grant. At some point, Council will need to find funding to cover that cost. A majority of the department also wants the city to adopt an ordinance allowing them to enter into collective bargaining. (meeting info)
- Council briefed on Fire Department’s Neighborhood Risk Reduction Program, March 17, 2021
- Charlottesville to study collective bargaining options, August 19, 2021
- Charlottesville Fire Department releases annual report; CARS wants answers on new dispatch protocol, September 8, 2021
- Charlottesville Fire Chief Smith explains new dispatch system, explains his vision for CFD in the 21st Century, September 22, 2021
Consent agenda watch: $250K for public private partnership for targeted mental health services
There’s a a consent agenda item related to mental health services for the transient population downtown the Charlottesville Fire Department is about to implement a plan to help out. The consent agenda contains a staff report for a $250,000 initiative funded through private philanthropy to create a Charlottesville Community Care Team
“The initiative will include consistent outreach efforts on the Downtown Mall by a two-person team, housed in the Community Risk Reduction Branch of the Charlottesville Fire Department,” reads a staff report. “Multiple service providers conduct formal and informal outreach in the area but the service system are not coordinated or centralized forcing the law enforcement community to be the first response resource.”
The initiative would hire two “self-sufficiency supervisors” who will provide “trauma-informed services.” No public dollars would be used except for a $14,500 in-kind match from the city. (This item is likely to be removed from the consent agenda)
Another item on the consent agenda is second reading of an appropriation of nearly $1.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for various activities. This include $12,918 in bonuses to the sheriff’s department, $227,735 to cover the cost of café rentals on the Downtown Mall, $776,000 for the Pathways Fund and the Community Hotline assistance, $58,000 for additional cleaning at the Juvenile and Domestic Court, and $20,000 for take-home COVID tests for city employees. (staff report)
Speed limit reduction and Nassau Street rezoning
In the regular meeting, Council will consider a proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to add the contents of the Urban Rivanna Corridor Plan and will have the first of two readings. They’ll also hold first reading of a plan to reduce the speed limit on Fifth Street Extended to try to prevent further traffic fatalities.
“Although it was determined that the posted speed limit was not a factor in the most severe crashes, there were nearly 40% of all of the crashes that could have been mitigated, either in occurrence or severity, by a lower speed limit,” reads the staff report from traffic engineer Brennen Duncan.
Duncan recommends reducing the speed limit to 40 miles per hour, down from 45. This would extend from Cherry Avenue to the Albemarle County border.
Next Council will once again take up a rezoning for a property on Nassau Street from R-2U to R-3 to make way for a ten-unit apartment building. In December, they deferred a vote due to concerns raised by some city residents about the buildings being within the floodplain. Staff will provide an overview of federal policy on floodplains and a risk assessment for building additional density at this location. (December 22, 2021 story) (staff report)
“Key attributes of that discussion included the idea that building in floodplains is inherently risky – wherever the legally defined floodplain line is, nature itself is inherently unpredictable and while a great deal of study and science is behind this work, there is a remaining risk,” reads the staff report. “However, the proposed site for rezoning already has a legal by-right ability to accommodate six residential units and the proposed rezoning, with proffers, would allow ten units to be built in the same footprint and building scale as is currently allowed.”
After that, Council will take up how to spend federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development distributed through the Community Development Block Grant. HUD requires funding to be spent quickly, but the city has been unable to complete projects such as a sidewalk on Franklin Street on time. Staff is recommending using the funds instead on materials to help fire prevention efforts. (staff report) (previous story)
While not on the agenda, there is also expected to direction to budget staff to set a tax rate for the next budget. Read or listen to the February 5, 2022 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement for an in-depth look at the topic.
Albemarle ARB to review two hotels on Pantops
The Albemarle Architectural Review Board meets virtually at 1 p.m. and there are three items for review on the agenda. In the first, they’ll review a sign plan for a Hookaholic Lounge planned for 490 Westfield Road. That’s the building that formerly housed the Nature Conservancy. (meeting info)
The other two items pertain to hotels on Pantops. The first is at the intersection of Town and Country Lane and Olympia Drive on a parcel where previous hotels have been considered but not built. The building will be built downhill from U.S. 250 but will still be visible from the highway. (staff report)
In the third item, the ARB will look at another submission for the Overlook Hotel, which would be built on the other side of U.S. 250. This project had initially needed a special exception for a stepback waiver, but zoning staff have determined that is no longer needed. (staff report)
In other meetings:
- The Albemarle Fire EMS Executive Committee will meet virtually at 4:30 p.m. On the agenda is a review of an accountability framework for the Stony Point Volunteer Fire Company. (meeting info)
- The Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee will meet virtually at 7 p.m. (meeting info)
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
More residential in the Meadows neighborhood off U.S. 29?
The Charlottesville Planning Commission meets virtually at 5 p.m. for a pre-meeting and then at 5:30 p.m for a regular meeting. The main item on their agenda is a special use permit for additional residential density on Angus Road in the Meadows neighborhood. The property currently has a 21-unit apartment building as well as a separate office building. Now, Dermo LLC wants to convert the office to add six more units. (meeting info)
“The applicant is a small landlord who only owns this single parcel,” reads the applicant’s narrative. “This project will assist in meeting one of the City’s stated primary goals to ‘support the opportunity to provide more housing in all neighborhoods in the city.’”
To do so, they’ll need a special use permit to exceed the 21 units per acre currently allowed on the property. The new Future Land Use Map in the Comprehensive Plan designates this as “neighborhood mixed-use node” and the current zoning is B-1.
“The applicant indicates that the current commercial offices are vacant/underutilized, and the small size of the building in question (3,200 square feet) would not be a significant decrease in the context of the larger commercial complexes located nearby along the Route 29/Seminole Trail corridor,” reads the staff report from city planner Dannan O’Connell.
O’Connell recommends approval.
A group called Friends of Downtown Cville will present to the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority.
“Friends of Cville is raising private money to help fund the cost to invigorate the Downtown environment with refreshed lighting, banners, art, music, signage, seating, sanitation and safety add-ons, and a diverse array of events with something for everyone,” reads their website.
The group is seeking nonprofit status and is a designated fund of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. Friends include the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, IX Art Park, the Bridge Progressive Arts Institute, and the Discovery Museum.
The EDA meets virtually at 4 p.m. (meeting info)
Fluvanna Planning Commission to take up Comprehensive Plan
Fluvanna’s review will incorporate three plans crafted by staff at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. These are the 2040 Rural Long Range Transportation Plan, the 2021 Regional Housing Plan, and the Zion Crossroads Small Area Plan. The last plan was adopted in 2015 and according to the introduction was focused on three areas:
- Maintaining Fluvanna’s rural character
- Diversifying the tax base through economic development
- Investing wisely in infrastructure which can facilitate desirable growth
The most recent projection from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service forecasts a 2045 Fluvanna population of 34,517. That would be an increase from the U.S. Census figure of 27,249.
Greene Supervisors to review proposed $145M capital budget
The Greene County Board of Supervisors will meet at 4:30 p.m. for a two-part meeting that begins with a discussion of the capital improvement program (CIP). (agenda)
According to materials provided in advance, the five-year CIP is $145,037,250 of which $117.3 million are new projects. Of that, $60 million is to impound White Run in order to create a reservoir for the county’s future water supply plan. That project had been expected to be built by the Rapidan Service Authority, but there’s been a bit of a divorce.
Other large items in the CIP include a $4 million fire station, $7 million for a training facility for Emergency Services, and $10.1 million in Smart Scale funds for additional turn lanes on U.S. 29 and U.S. 33.
Anyone interested in comparative government should take a look at the way Greene budget staff have laid out their capital improvement program, with each line item indicating potential revenue sources. For instance, a $7 million project for a Rapidan Connector Road would be funded through Smart Scale as well as proffers. (CIP presentation) (the CIP)
At their regular session which begins at 6:30 p.m. the five Supervisors will take action on new magisterial district lines and polling places. There’s also an update on what the Community Development Department has been up to in the last year.
Nelson County Supervisors to finalize contract for Comprehensive Plan review
The Nelson County Board of Supervisors meets in person at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. (agenda packet)
At the afternoon meeting, there will be a further discussion of the contract and scope of work for a consultant to work on Nelson’s Comprehensive Plan review. The county will hire the Berkley Group to conduct the work at a cost of $162,510.40.
In the evening session, there is a continuation of a public hearing for a special use permit for a campground on 29.13 acres in Nellysford.
In another meeting:
- Albemarle’s Police Citizens Advisory Committee will meet virtually at 9 a.m. (meeting info)
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Planning continues for Zion Crossroads water supply
The James River Water Authority meets in-person at 9 a.m. At their last meeting in December, they got an update on an alternate site for a future water intake for an urban water supply plan to serve portions of Fluvanna and Louisa counties. The hope is to find a site that the Monacan Indian Nation will agree following their opposition to one at the important Rassawek site. (agenda packet)
Some of the permitting for the Rassawek site had been approved and will need to be modified and the Timmons Group has been hired to perform that work.
“This is an unusual application as JRWA holds two of the three necessary environmental permits,” reads a February 3 letter from the Timmons Group.
In other meetings:
- Charlottesville’s Electoral Board meets at 6 p.m. (meeting info)
- Charlottesville’s Youth Council meets virtually at 6 p.m. (meeting info)
- Albemarle’s Fire EMS Board meets virtually beginning at 6 p.m. and on the agenda is an “apparatus specification update.” (meeting info)
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Scottsville Town Council meeting on density request downtown
Last month, the Scottsville Town Council had public hearings for two special use requests downtown. The zoning ordinance was recently updated to allow for clustered housing and two proposals are pending. One would see 24 hours on 9 acres and the other would see 48 houses on 12 acres. A group of citizens has arranged a petition against the developments and Council deferred a vote in January. They won’t make a decision at this meeting, but will further discuss the items before making a final vote at their regular meeting on February 22. The meeting will be hybrid and begins at 7 p.m. (meeting info) (previous story)
Louisa County PC to review small area plan process
The Louisa County Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. for a long range planning work session followed by a regular meeting. (agenda packet)
At the work session, they’ll talk about the Comprehensive Plan and how small area plans fit into that document. They’ll also discuss agricultural use definitions. No advance materials are available for this portion of the meeting.
In the regular meeting, they’ll meet the new deputy county administrator, Christopher Coon. Then they’ll move into four public hearings.
One is on the capital improvement plan for FY2023 to 2042 and the fourth is on an amendment to Land Development Regulations related to small scale solar facilities.
“A review of these applications reveal the need to increase the current generation cap from 15kW cap to 30kW; to modify the setback or yard text; and to change the buffer requirements including reducing the distance between evergreens from 20 to 12 feet and the heights
from 5 feet to 3 feet at planting,” reads the memo from Community Development Director Robert Gardner.
The CIP for the five years is for $91.17 million and some of the bigger items are $15.2 million for an addition at Louisa County Middle School and $13.97 million for the CTE Center. There’s another $8.2 million for an athletic field complex and $2.983 million for the Firefly Fiber Broadband Project.
In other meetings:
- Albemarle County will hold the first of several pop-ups for AC44, the name being given to the update of the Comprehensive Plan from 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Northside Library. (meeting info)
- A policy subcommittee of the Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee meets at 12 p.m. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meets virtually at 6 p.m. (meeting info)
- The Places29 North Community Advisory Committee will meet virtually at 6:30 p.m. There’s no agenda published yet. (meeting info)
- The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission meets at 7 p.m. for the first time of the year, slightly off their usual schedule of being on the first Thursday of the month. (meeting packet)
Friday, February 11, 2022
Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee meets virtually at 11 a.m. On the agenda will be a discussion of Engagement of the Descendant Community for Court Square / Slave Auction site, a work session on the downtown walking tour map, and staff updates. (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.