Week Ahead for January 2, 2023: Developer plans nine-story building on Ivy Road; Albemarle design panel to discuss Rio form-based code; BZA to consider developer appeal on bonus units

Another week, but a special one as it is the first of the year! For most local governments, this means the annual selection of the chair and vice chair, as well as setting new meeting rules and times. Some localities have light agendas, while others pick right back up from where the holidays left off. 

And all of it continues to be written about in advance so that as many people can know what’s happening as possible. Democracy requires people to know what is happening, and that’s the kind of work I’ve strived to do for over 15 years in this community. I’m grateful for those who are helping to keep me employed doing this work.

I’ve been producing this weekly summary since sometime in 2019. I went public with Town Crier Productions in the summer of 2020 and each week the research that goes into this summary helps fuel what I’m going to write about the rest of the week. My hope is to let as many people know as possible what’s going before the meetings happen.

Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for sponsoring this newsletter each week. They’ve been doing so since the beginning, and I’m glad for the opportunity to share this with the general public. If you have questions, please drop me a line and I will try to help! 

All county governments are closed today. If you have the day off, take the time to see what’s going on this week. There does not appear to be a meeting in Greene County or Nelson County this week. Or did I miss something? That’s always possible! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2022

Council to consider amendment to existing zoning to allow nine-story building on Ivy Road 

Charlottesville City Council meets at 4 p.m. for a work session followed by a regular session at 6:30 p.m. As they are a city, the presiding officer is a Mayor and is elected for a two-year term so that won’t happen until next January. (meeting info)

The work session will focus on a presentation from a partnership that seeks to improve health outcomes in the community. That is Move2Health Equity. This presentation is not available in advance, so here’s some information. 

“Chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are visible throughout our whole community,” reads the organization’s website. “Chronic diseases are often preventable and frequently manageable.” 

Learn more in the latest report from the organization which dates back to 2019. 

A figure from the 2019 Move2Health Equity report (read the report)

After the closed session, Council will first take up the consent agenda. Here are some of the items:

New lease for McGuffey Arts Center

Under regular business, Council will first enter into a new lease agreement with McGuffey Arts Associates for the lease of the former elementary school at 201 2nd Street. The group currently pays $2,047 a month under the terms of a lapsed lease that ended on October 31, 2020. That works out to $0.72 per square foot which is way undervalued. Comparable office rates are $24.7 per square foot, according to the staff report.

The new lease will increase the McGuffey’s rent to $2,593 per month. This is the only public hearing on the agenda. 

While not strictly an organizational meeting, Council will establish meeting times and dates. (staff report

Next up, Council will hold first of two readings on readoption of the Comprehensive Plan. For details on the reasons for that, take a look at my story from December 4, 2022.

Developer seeks zoning change for nine-story building in midst of UVA land

After that, a very interesting proposition indeed. The University of Virginia or its real estate foundation own most of the northern side of Ivy Road except a bank property at 2117 at the intersection with Copeley Road. This land is owned by RMD Properties who want to develop the one acre property and not sell out. 

“The Applicant proposes to develop the property as a mixed-use development in a building nine stories tall that would include approximately 225-250 residential units (for approximately 610 residents), up to 4,000 square feet of retail/neighborhood commercial uses on the ground floor, structured parking, and high-quality amenity spaces,” reads a December 5 letter from attorney Valerie Long of the firm Williams Mullen. “In keeping with Council’s affordable housing objectives, the Applicant is also proposing a mix of on-site affordable units and/or a cash donation to the City’s Affordable Housing fund.” 

To do so, they need a change to the zoning ordinance to allow a Planned Unit Development less than two acres in size. 

“At this point in time, Council is not being asked to discuss the merits of making this zoning amendment or not, but simply whether to approve a resolution directing the Planning Commission to consider the proposed zoning text amendment and to provide a recommendation to Council,” reads the staff report.

Planned Unit Developments will no longer exist under the new zoning code which makes the timing for this worth reviewing. Will the University of Virginia Foundation make an offer RMD Properties can’t refuse? 

In October, they paid $2.575 million for the property next door that currently houses Moe’s Barbecue. In December 2021, they paid $20 million for the shopping center where Food of All Nations exists. Construction of the Emmet-Ivy corridor buildings is currently underway and none of that land pays property taxes to the city of Charlottesville. 

For comparison, let’s look at a similar project. The Lark on West Main is on 1.27 acres of land. Council voted 3-2 in January 2014 for a special use permit for the multi-use apartment building. In that year, the property had an assessed value of $1.068 million. In 2022, that’s increased to $52.84 million. 

In the penultimate item, Council will extend the dockless mobility sharing system permit for Veo Ride. 

“The operation has approximately 350 scooters and 50 e-bikes operating in Charlottesville and served over a quarter million rides in 2022,” reads the staff report. “Veo Ride, Inc. is interested in renewing its permit for 2023, but has requested an opportunity to revisit the current terms of the permit regulations to better serve the City.”

For now, that will mean a 90-day extension while Veo Ride’s wishes to increase the number of vehicles is studied by staff. 

The final item is Council’s ratification for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s plan for American Rescue Plan Act funding. (staff report)

Location map for proposed nine-story building on Ivy Road (Credit: Williams Mullen)

Louisa Supervisors to consider land purchase by VDOT

The seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. in the Louisa County Public Meeting Room. Administrator Christian Goodwin will begin the organizational meeting which starts with election of a chair and vice chair. Then they’ll set meeting times and adopt bylaws. And then they’ll go into closed session. 

They’ll enter into open session at 6 p.m. with an invocation from Supervisor Duane Adams. 

One thing on the consent agenda is a resolution on how to use Louisa’s portion of $400 million in funding for school construction projects. The county is to receive $1,919,539 in direct aid and the plan is to use it conduct the design phase for an addition to Louisa County Middle School as well as the Career and Technical Building. There is also a resolution of support for Annette Hayes and her work to establish pickleball in the Louisa County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department. 

After the consent agenda and the public comment period, there will be consideration of a resolution for the county to sell property on Zachary Taylor Highway to the VIrginia Department of Transportation for $35,670.

Map of the land to be purchased by VDOT (Credit: VDOT)

There are two public hearings. 

  • The first is to amend a section of the Louisa County Code to grant a property tax exemption for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. That benefit currently extends to the Arc of the Piedmont and the Louisa County Resource Council. (page 172)
  • The second is to add amendments to the building ordinance for design standards for off-street parking. This would allow the use of grass parking to be approved for events in the rural area. (page 174)

ARB to review BP design on south U.S. 29, discuss criteria for Rio 29 form-based code

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. in Room 241 of the Albemarle County Office Building at 401 McIntire Road. You can also watch along on Zoom. (meeting info)

The five-member ARB will also elect a chair and vice chair. 

The first item on the agenda is for a new look for the Trading Post gas station at the intersection of 3017 Monacan Trail Road and Taylors Gap Road. The business dates back to 1990 and now is being given a facelift to become a full-fledged BP station. 

“There are six BP fuel stations within the County that have different canopy designs, building designs, and signage,” reads the staff report. “Consistency with EC Guidelines has been achieved by limiting canopy colors and landscaping and limited illumination in the freestanding sign design.” 

A section of the staff report providing feedback on the submission for the Trading Post’s conversion to a full-fledged BP station (Credit: Albemarle County) 

Next there will be a work session on changing the Entrance Corridor guidelines for the form-based code that’s been adopted for the area under the Rio Road Small Area Plan. Adoption called for streamlining of the review process for projects. (view the code)

“The method established for streamlining was to add a category of Countywide Certificate of Appropriateness (Sec. 30.6.4.b.3.a.12) for the Form-based Code area,” reads the staff report. “That was completed with the adoption of the Form-based Code in September 2021.”

To complete the streamlining, the ARB has to adopt design criteria to make the form-based code work. As a reminder, these are the three aspirational descriptions of the area in question.

  1. A multimodal hub with a connected network of complete streets, which are designed for all users;
  2. A vibrant and diverse mixed-use community with interesting character and a human-scale built environment; and
  3. A place enhanced through conservation with a network of sustainable and usable public spaces that enrich community and preserve and enhance natural resources.

Applications are coming in now and it’s time for the ARB to adopt criteria. 

What is form-based code? Learn more about how it could be applied to the Rio / 29 area in the Rio Road Small Area Plan (view the plan) (Credit: Albemarle County)

Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals to hear developer request to use bonus density provisions

The Albemarle County Board of Zoning Appeals meets for the first time in 2023 at 2 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. (meeting info) (agenda) (full packet)

First, the body will select a new chair and vice chair and adopt meeting times and rules. Then there’s a public hearing for an appeal of a decision by the zoning administrator for a property on Woodburn Road that fronts onto Berkmar Drive. The property is zoned R-6 and the developer sought to use bonus density but county staff thought otherwise. 

The appeal is specifically to overturn a document with the official title of LOD2022-00005. This is a Letter of Determination that explains the zoning administrator’s position. 

The BZA will also discuss renewing the contract with the outside counsel who serves as their attorney during hearings. 

In other meetings:

  • Albemarle’s Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee’s Planning and Vision Group meets at 4 p.m. in the Chris Greene Room (246) in the county office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville’s Sister Cities Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. in an electronic meeting. (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville’s Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. in an electronic meeting. (meeting info)

Wednesday, January 4, 2022

Buford Site Plan conference meeting to take place

For years there has been talk about reconfiguring the city’s schools to move sixth grade to Buford Middle School and return fifth grade students to elementary schools. The idea came close to proceeding in the early 2010’s but Council at the time did not make that a priority. That’s not the case now with a one-cent increase the property tax rate dedicated to the $75 million project, as well as a design by VMDO that is near completion.

So near completion that a site plan conference for the renovation of Buford Middle School is to be held virtually this morning. There are no materials available in advance. I last wrote about the plans in September. (meeting info)

An overview of a reconfigured Buford Middle School (Credit:VMDO)

Fluvanna Supervisors to review proposed renovations to Community Center

The five-member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County will meet and will begin with the organizational meeting. That means the election of the chair and the vice chair, as well as an adoption of the meeting schedule and the board’s by-laws. They meet in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union. (meeting packet)

In the regular meeting, Supervisors will get an update on the Fluvanna Community Center renovation from Administrator Eric Dahl. There is a request for $650,000 in the Fiscal Year 2024 capital improvement program budget. 

They’ll also review a memorandum of agreement with Persimmon Tree Players for storage space that has existed on the property of the Fluvanna Community Center. This practice will now be formalized and the theater company would like to be able to perform and rehearse there as well. 

There will also be five-minute presentations from several non-profit organizations. This is a different process from Charlottesville where all of the requests are reviewed by the Vibrant Community Fund team. 

Albemarle Supervisors to briefly meet to elect chair, chat in closed session

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. As this is their first meeting of the year, County Executive Jeffrey Richardson will gavel the six member body into order before a new chair is elected, followed by the vice chair. (meeting info)

They will also appoint a clerk, set times and dates for board meetings, and adopt rules and policies for 2023. 

Then after announcements, they’ll go into closed session, though the reason has not yet been cited on the agenda. Then they’ll appoint themselves to various boards and commissions. 

The spreadsheet of all the Supervisor appointments to boards and commissions (view the spreadsheet) (Credit: Albemarle County)

Thursday, January 5, 2022

So far, no big meetings. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission usually meets on the first Thursday of the month, but not in the first month of the year. There’s plenty of time for regional development! 

In other meetings:

  • The Community Policy and Management Team (CPMT) will hold their monthly meeting in person in Room 231 at the county’s office building at 1600 5th Street in Charlottesville. This is a joint meeting between Albemarle and Charlottesville officials. “The CPMT is the responsible entity for all [Childrens’ Service Act] policies and programs to ensure accordance with all state mandates and local CSA policies.” On the agenda is a review of “system functioning and activities” as well as review of an anti-racist statement. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee will meet in person in Room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. They will also elect a chair and vice chair and will discuss their input into the Comprehensive Plan update. (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.