Week Ahead for January 3, 2022: New faces join elected bodies to face new challenges in a new year

And just like that we’re back for another year in local and regional government. A new year brings new faces but work that’s already underway will now resume after a very brief break. This week is a fairly quiet one, except for City Council who get right to work with two major rezoning applications.  Everyone else will begin 2022 a bit more subdued with only eleven meetings in this installment. This won’t last. 

This year, the Piedmont Environmental Council turns 50, and I begin the year thanking them for their support of the research that goes into this newsletter each week. I’m grateful I get to begin each work week looking at the landscape to see what’s coming up so I can make plans for coverage. Thanks for reading, and let’s get going with another year! 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Pinkston, Wade join Council

Two new members of the Charlottesville City Council will take their seats on the virtual dais at a meeting that begins in open session at 6:30 p.m. One of the two Deputy City Managers will begin the meeting, as none of the five elected officials has yet been chosen as Mayor. Who will get the nod? Will it be one of the veterans, or one of the newcomers? The last two people to hold the position took the gavel at their very first meeting. 

Who do you think the Council should select? 

Council will get right to work with consideration of two rezonings from the Piedmont Housing Alliance on Park Street. The public hearings for both items have already been held, and these are both first readings. Anyone who wishes to comment will need to do so during the Community Matters section. 

The first is for a rezoning to Planned Unit Development of seven acres at the Park Street Christian Church to allow for 50 units intended for older people. (staff report)

“Each partner brings to the table a mission focused on serving broader community needs including affordable housing for seniors (age 55+) and individuals with disabilities,” reads the narrative. “As financing options become more defined in the coming months, the partners will pursue funding sources that allow enough flexibility to ensure that residences remain affordable for these targeted groups.” 

At the public hearing, people expressed concern about traffic but the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the project. All of the units would be designated as affordable to individuals or households making below 80 percent of the area median income. This project also needs approval of a critical slopes waiver for drainage improvements that need to be made.

A revised map showing the layout of how the 50 units would fit in with the church

The second is for a rezoning to Planned Unit Development on nine acres of property two blocks south owned by the Monticello Area Communication Action Agency. The recently adopted Future Land Use Map designates one parcel as Neighborhood Mixed-Use Node and two others as Medium Intensity Residential. (staff report)

A total of 95 units would be built in a mix of housing types and at least eighty percent would be made for sale or rent for households making less than eighty percent of the area median income. Piedmont Housing will build the multifamily apartments and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville will build the for-sale townhomes and duplexes. There will also be a childcare center that MACAA will operate. 

“The exact unit mix is governed by the degree of subsidy the project is able to secure through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and other means of financing which will be committed only after the entitlements process is complete,” reads the narrative. 

The Planning Commission recommended approval 4-0 on December 14. I’ll have a review of both public hearings in the next installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

In a separate item at the end of the Council’s agenda, Piedmont Housing is asking for the MACAA site to be designated as a revitalization area. 

“Projects seeking LIHTC support score more competitively if located within a revitalization area as defined by Virginia Code 36-55.30:,” reads that staff report.

The credits are issued by the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The agency will hold a meeting in Charlottesville at the Omni Hotel on January 6 to discuss the application process. Applications are due in March and results will be announced in the summer.  

The conceptual layout for the MACCA property (Credit: BRW Architects)
Budget appropriation

On December 20, Council held the first reading and a public hearing on an amendment to the current fiscal year’s budget that would add the $5.5 million surplus from the previous fiscal year. The money would mostly go to employee bonuses and a six percent salary increase. Additionally, an untapped COVID reserve fund of nearly $6.7 million would be reallocated back to the capital improvement fund. (staff report)

In another land use application, Council will consider a critical slope waiver necessary for a 120-unit apartment complex to be built at 1223 Harris Street. 

On the consent agenda is an item to continue leasing a surface parking lot on Water Street for use by the City Market. Woodard Properties leases the 0.992 acre lot from the Charlottesville Parking Center. That company had been seeking to develop the adjacent parking lot as a mixed-use building, but the project fell apart. (staff report)

ARB to review new residential tower at Stonefield

In the first meeting of 2022, the Albemarle Architectural Review Board will pick new officers before proceeding with two review items. The meeting begins virtually at 1 p.m. (meeting info)

In the first, the developers of Stonefield are proposing a seven-story apartment building with 112 units on a one acre lot that’s currently undeveloped. There had been a proposal for a Hyatt hotel at this location but these residential units are a replacement submission. Supervisors approved a special exception for additional height in September, an increase the ARB endorsed in July. If the project moves forward, there will be just under 800 units at Stonefield. 

The second item is an alteration to a design for the renovation of a service station in Ivy. 

Louisa County Supervisors meet 

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meet in person at 5 p.m. with an organizational meeting to pick a new chair and vice chair. Rachel Jones defeated incumbent Bob Babyok in the November election to represent the Green Springs District. Incumbent Fitzgerald 

Barnes held on to his seat representing the Patrick Henry District with a four vote margin. 

The agenda is relatively light, which is a trend this week in county meetings. There is a public hearing on a request for a rezoning for a 72,000 square feet storage facility on Davis Highway. The Planning Commission voted 6 to 1 in December to recommend approval. For fun this year, I’m going to make a note of all the land use applications shepherded by Shimp Engineering. 

Location map for the storage facility 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Many Tuesdays this year will be jam-packed with meetings. Not this one.

  • The Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. for its first meeting of the year. They’ll welcome the new Parks and Recreation Director, get an update on the draft capital improvement plan budget, and will elect new officers. There may also be an update on the tree canopy study, a draft of which shows a steady decline in tree cover within Charlottesville city limits. (meeting info)
  • The Blue Ridge Health District will hold a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. to discuss recent changes made by the federal Centers for Disease Control to isolation guidelines. (meeting info)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Short first day for Albemarle Supervisors

A new face joins the Albemarle Board of Supervisors with Jim Andrews taking the virtual seat to represent the Samuel Miller District on the six-member body. The virtual meeting begins at 1 p.m. (meeting info)

County executive Jeffrey Richardson will open the organizational meeting, which will see the election of a new chair and vice chair. Will Ned Gallaway be selected for a fourth year, or will vice chair Donna Price be elevated to the position? 

They’ll also spend some time adopting new rules of procedure. Proposed changes anticipate a post-pandemic future.

“It is expected that when the Board returns to meeting by physically assembling, the public desiring to participate will be allowed to either physically attend or attend by electronic communication means (‘hybrid meetings’),” reads the staff report for this item.

And then that’s it. Except for a closed session and appointments of supervisors to boards and commissions, the meeting will end. There’s not even a consent agenda! I don’t think I’ve seen that in my nearly 15 years of covering Albemarle government. However they will meet the second and third weeks of January, so it’s not like we won’t be hearing a lot from Supervisors this year!

A light evening for the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors 

The five member Board of Supervisors meets in person at for their first meeting of the year with one new face. Christopher Fairchild was elected to represent the Cunningham District, replacing Donald Weaver. He ran unopposed. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center. (meeting packet)

After selecting a new chair, they’ll get a report from county administrator Eric Dahl on an extension of the west waterline extension to Zion Crossroads to serve four properties whose wells have become contaminated through a “petroleum release.” After a recess, they’ll receive presentations from nonprofits that seek funding. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee will meet virtually at 5:30 p.m. On the agenda are updates on efforts to eradicate or slow the spread of the spotted lanternfly, as well as reports from ongoing working groups. One of these seeks to identify wildlife corridors in the county. (meeting info)

The Charlottesville School Board meets in-person at the Booker T. Reaves Media Center at Charlottesville High School. This will be the first meeting for newcomers Dom Morse and Emily Dooley. There will be updates on COVID, collective bargaining, and various reports. (agenda)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Fridays often have no meetings. This one has two. A new trend for the year?

At noon, Albemarle County will provide updates on the broadband expansion projects funded through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). (meeting info)

Also at noon, a subcommittee of the Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee (SWAAC) will meet. They’ll get an update on efforts to increase the efficacy of glass recycling, efforts to bring composting at county schools, and an update on solid waste planning. There is talk to try to ban glass from single-stream recycling due to the certainty the glass will be too contaminated to use as anything else other than landfill cover. (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.