Week Ahead for July 12, 2021: Charlottesville PC to consider Belmont rezoning, closing a paper street to Little High, alternate Future Land Use Map

Somehow we find ourselves halfway through the month, thought not even close to halfway through the summer. At first glance, this week looked like it might be lighter than usual, in part because Albemarle County is giving its Community Advisory Committees the month off. But as always, there’s a lot going on when you look at the totality of meetings in the area. This week Tuesday is the big day.

This week we’ll get updates on Habitat for Humanity’s redevelopment at Southwood, a request to amend conditions for a previously approved critical slopes waiver for the first phase of redevelopment of the South First Street public housing in Charlottesville, and a previously-denied rezoning in Belmont comes back for a second attempt. 

Thanks as always to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their ongoing support of this research venture. There is a crucial need for independent accounts of what happens at all levels of government. I’ve staked my career on a belief that local government is perhaps the most important to keep a close eye on. 

Monday, July 12

The Scottsville Town Council will meet at 7 p.m. for a work session. Scottsville has returned to in-person meetings for officeholders but the public can watch remotely. They meet at Victory Hall at 401 Valley Street. (register for Zoom) (agenda)

On the agenda is a series of reports, a discussion of itinerant business licenses, and a discussion of cash management for the town government. There will also be a report on how Scottsville will use American Rescue Plan Act funding. Town Manager Matt Lawless wrote me on July 6 with some of the details of how the town plans to use their funding, which is in excess of $500,000. 

  • The Town’s old-fashioned siren for flash flood evacuation is worn out after 30+ years. We’re replacing it, buying a new one from American Signal in Milwaukee. Install later this summer.
  • To open our new DMV Select service, we need to renovate office space. Tocci Mid-Atlantic was the best bid on this, and the Scottsville business started demo and carpentry work today.
  • The James River is the town’s reason for being and the driver of our tourism industry. We have a letter of consent to the state Dept. of Wildlife Resources to help them enhance the waterfront, and the locally based Green Infrastructure Center is helping us design solutions.
  • We also want to work on filling vacant storefronts and helping post-pandemic entrepreneurs. We are applying for the state’s Community Business Launch program, a “Shark Tank” type of recruiting, training, and pitch competition with cash prizes for startups in town. We can leverage ARPA funds with state grants. Application due next week, for a program later in the year.

The Albemarle County Economic Development Authority will hold their second special meeting in the last two weeks beginning at 2 p.m. This time around, they will consider an application from St. Anne’s Belfield School to refinance their existing debt. On June 30, they considered a proposal for Piedmont Housing Alliance to purchase land at Southwood from Habitat for Humanity for at least 130 low-income housing units that will be owned and operated by Piedmont Housing. More on that in a future episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement. (meeting info)

The Fluvanna County Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Council meets at 6:30 p.m. in person at the Morris Room in the county administration building in Palmyra. On the agenda is talk about the County Fair (August 19 – August 21) and something called Fluvanna’s Alphabet Book. Under new business, they’ll talk about the realignment of the TransAmerican bike route through Palmyra. (agenda)

Tuesday, July 13

The Charlottesville Planning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. for a meeting with several items of interest. While the city continues to work its way through a Comprehensive Plan update and move towards a zoning ordinance update, individual applications and property transfers continue. (meeting info) (full packet)

The first of two joint public hearings with City Council is a rezoning application for 1206 Carlton Avenue in Belmont from R-2 (two units per lot) to R-3 to allow for an eight-unit apartment building. Council denied a similar request in October 2018. Staff is recommending approval.

“Staff finds the proposed special use permit could contribute to the City’s Comprehensive Plan goals and provide the missing middle housing type needed in the City and called out in the Affordable Housing Plan,” reads page 11 of the staff report for this item. 

The staff report does not mention the previous denial. Council minutes from October 15, 2018 are not very informative and do not provide anything other than the most basic record

“Ms. Hill gave reasons for not supporting item. Ms. Galvin gave her reasons for not supporting this item.”

Journalism plays a crucial role to fill in the gaps when information is missing. This Charlottesville Tomorrow article from then does a little of that if you want to do some research beforehand. 

Location of 1206 Carlton Avenue 

In the second public hearing, the Planning Commission will be asked to give a recommendation on whether a section of public right of way that was never developed into a street should be vacated. Property maps show an extension of 13th Street NE heading south from the 1100 block of East High Street. A nearby property owner has asked for the city to give up the right of way for at least a portion of its 230 feet length. 

“The Subject Street was created in 1940 within the subdivision plat that established the Little High neighborhood,” reads the staff report for the item. “The 1940 subdivision plat created a new ‘Lewis Street’ running north from the east end of Little High Street all the way to ‘Free Bridge Road’, which is now East High Street.” 

In 2019, Charlottesville City Council updated its policy on closing streets to address the future of what are known as paper streets. (staff report from then)

“The property owners that border a portion of this undeveloped section of 13th street NE have expressed their desire to avoid a cut-through street for the Little High Neighborhood and any added congestion between properties and at the intersection with East High Street,” the staff report continues. 

The Planning Commission will be asked if closing the right of way would be consistent with the  Comprehensive Plan. 

“The City Traffic Engineering does not believe that this right of way should be closed,” reads the report. “This right of way connects two existing dedicated streets and could allow a through type connection from 2 directions.”

The applicant is skeptical the city would ever turn the right of way into a roadway.

“This section of land has been untouched since 1940, and there have been no plans in place to have the city improve this section of 13th Street NE,” writes Roy Van Doorn, the manager of 1140 East High Street LLC. 

Map of location of the paper street once known as “Lewis Street” 

Following that item, the Planning Commission will be asked to relieve the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority of one of the conditions related to a critical slopes waiver granted for the development of the first phase of redevelopment at South First Street. Council approved the request in The change relates to phasing of construction of the four buildings to be built in this stage of redevelopment. 

Condition #4 states that two of the buildings are to be built first “in order to create a better stabilized site during construction and to facilitate more effective erosion and sediment control measures.”

CRHA is requesting to move forward with temporary stabilization measures to prevent sediment from entering Pollocks Branch, a waterway that runs to the east of the property. City staff are skeptical that the measures will work and have suggested an alternative approach. 

“City Engineering (CE) staff understands the difficult position the Planning Commission is placed in being presented with choice of approving something that is not of an acceptable standard, or alternatively, slowing down a needed low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) project,” reads the staff report. 

Next, the Planning Commission will take up a suggestion from the Housing Advisory Committee for an amendment to the Cville Plans Together initiative. Before that meeting, I hope to complete a long summary and podcast of the June 29, 2021 Planning Commission work session on the Cville Plans Together initiative. But the recommended changes are:

  • Much of Fifeville, 10th and Page, and Rose Hill neighborhoods would be designated as a “low intensity residential” category with “a range of housing types scaled in context with the existing single-family character.” The idea would be to preserve homes in the center of the city in neighborhoods historically populated by low-income housing. 
  • The proposed medium-intensity residential designation would apply to every single residential district across the city if a certain amount of below-market units are provided by the developer.
  • High-intensity residential would be allowed in more site-specific areas, if a yet-to-be-determined number of below-market units are provided. 
One of three recommended adjustments to the Future Land Use Map that has been discussed by the city’s Housing Advisory Committee. Proposed high-intensity areas are in dark brown.

Fluvanna PC to consider raise of density limit for by-right multifamily developments

The Fluvanna County Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. in person at the Fluvanna County Library at 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra. There are two public hearings. The first is for a special use permit for an application to allow Outdoor Gatherings on a property on Lowfields Lane. The second is for a change to the zoning code to allow construction of multifamily apartments in R-4 districts without a further rezoning or special permit, provided the property is connected to a central water and sewer system. This would raise the allowed level from 2.9 dwelling units per acre to 5.5 dwelling units per acre. (agenda packet)

Nelson group gets internet expansion update

The Nelson County Broadband Authority meets at 1 p.m. in the General District Courtroom in Lovingston. Nelson has pledged to make broadband available to all county residents by 2024 through a series of public-private partnerships with the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Dominion. Page 12 of the packet has a status of what’s happened so far in the current calendar year. (meeting info

Nelson BOS to consider garage, campground 

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. in the General District Courthouse in Lovingston and again at 7 p.m. In the afternoon meeting, they’ll get an update from the Virginia Department of Transportation and an update on the local Emergency Operations Plan. In the evening session, there are three public hearings. One is for a conversion of an R-1 zoned property to A-1, a special use permit for a 20-space public garage and automotive repair facility on U.S. 29 just north of Lovingston, and a special use permit for a campground on Crabtree Falls Highway. (meeting info

Greene Supervisors also get broadband update

The Greene County Board of Supervisors meets at 6:30 p.m. in open session in person at the administration building in Stanardsville. On the agenda are three public hearings. One is for an upzoning of a property on U.S. 33 from B-2 to B-3. Another is for a request to run a tourist lodging facility on a property in the Greene Mountain Lakes subdivision. The final is a resolution of intent to amend the county’s parking requirements for senior residential communities. After those have concluded, planning director Jim Frydl will provide an update on grant opportunities for broadband. (agenda)

Habitat to give Southwood update to Albemarle Planning Commission

The Albemarle County Planning Commission meets virtually at 6 p.m. They will get an update on Southwood. (meeting info)

“County staff and Habitat will provide a joint presentation on the planning and submittal of site plans, performance agreement progress, resident and other community engagement, affordable units, rehousing, and construction timeline,” reads the materials provided in advance.  

The 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee got an update at their meeting in June, which I wrote about at the time

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority meets virtually at 4 p.m. On their agenda is a request from St. Anne’s Belfield School to refinance existing debt. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. The agenda was not available at production time. (meeting info)

Wednesday, July 14

The James River Water Authority will meet in person at 9 a.m. at 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra. One the agenda is a status update on efforts to evaluate an intake for the urban water supply that will one day provide capacity to Zion Crossroads. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must approve a permit, and a consultant working for JRWA is preparing submission of an alternative to a previous site that was proposed for an important Monacan site known as Rassawek. (agenda packet)

In other meetings: 

  • The Emergency Communications Center Management Board has an executive committee meeting at 10 a.m. On the agenda is a discussion of the pay scale for public safety employees. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Broadband Authority will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board has a special meeting at 6:30 p.m  On the agenda is a closed session, followed by a vote on hearing procedures and a discussion on the ordinance that governs the body. (meeting info)

Thursday, July 15

The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. The agenda is not published at publication time. (meeting info)

Friday, July 16

Charlottesville Area Transit will hold the first of two public input sessions on proposed route changes. Charlottesville City Council had a briefing on the changes in late May and I wrote about that at the time. (read the story) (meeting info)

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have questions, comments, or just want to tell me what you think!===

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.