Week Ahead for July 18, 2022: Charlottesville Council to consider plastic bag tax; Albemarle may lease former J.C. Penney for public safety

Summer break is over for Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council, but this week, Supervisors in both Fluvanna and Louisa counties will skip a meeting. So does the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority. The business of local government doesn’t really take a break, but thankfully there is the occasional day off!

This week:

  • Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors will award $3.3 million in affordable housing funds and consider leasing a former department store for a public safety operations center
  • Charlottesville will hold first reading of a five-cent tax on plastic bags and will discuss a potential settlement with the Omni Hotel over a legal dispute over 2020 and 2021 tax assessments
  • The Greene County Planning Commission will review two key chapters of the Comprehensive Plan
  • A citizens’ transportation committee will get updates on the Regional Transit Vision and Smart Scale applications 
  • Charlottesville parking panel to discuss recent parking lot purchase 

Once again, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued support of this work. I’m honored to be able to do this work and grateful for their sponsorship. I’m also grateful for your reading this, too! Please send it on to others so we can grow the audience and more people can know what’s going on. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Charlottesville plans to levy plastic bag tax; Council to consider settlement with Omni 

Charlottesville City Council has a long day with a meeting split into three segments. 

First, they will meet at 2 p.m. in a virtual meeting to interview candidates for Boards and Commissions. They’re expected to make appointments to the Planning Commissions. There are five seats to fill and three of the existing Commissioners have applied for another term.  Council had a first round of interviews in June. (agenda)

In the second segment beginning at 4 p.m. there will be a presentation on how staff proposes to use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. There’s no material available in advance except a one-page staff report with no information

The business meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)

The consent agenda has several interesting items of note:

  • Council will hold first of two readings on a settlement agreement with the Omni Hotel related to that entity’s lawsuit against the city challenging its tax assessment for 2020 and 2021. The Omni also appealed its 2022 assessment to the Board of Equalization, but withdrew on the day of the hearing. Under the terms of the settlement, the city would pay $135,304.57 to the Omni plus interest. Council has to agree and if they don’t, the matter will proceed to trial. If Council agrees, no side will admit fault. (staff report)
  • Council will technically hold a second reading of a resolution to set aside $50,000 in funding to reimburse freelance writers and authors for business licenses. The Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion against the city on June 9, 2022. (staff report)
  • Council will hold first reading to authorize a refund of $8,132.19 to a business that changed hands last year and mistakenly paid for the business license tax twice. (staff report)
  • Council will hold the first of two readings on a $250,816 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support emergency homeless shelters. The funding passes through to the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH). (staff report)
  • Council will adopt a resolution to stagger the five Planning Commission appointments so that they don’t all expire at the same time. (staff report)

Regular business begins with a report from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. More on that in a future edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

In their first action item, Council will hold first of two readings to impose a five cent tax on all plastic bags used by retailers. The required public hearing would be held at a future meeting. The General Assembly granted enabling authority for this purpose in 2020. There are some exceptions, according to the staff report

“This exclusion would include packaging for ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, produce, unwrapped bulk food items, perishable food items, dry cleaning, prescription drugs, and multiple bags sold in containers for use as garbage, pet waste, or leaf removal bags,” reads the report. 

Revenues from the tax must go to one of four permitted areas including litter and pollution mitigation as well as providing reusable bags to people on government assistance. 

Next, Council will hold the second reading on conveyance of a city-owned alleyway on Oak Street to adjacent property owners. The first reading was held in mid-June at a meeting that featured several items related to city property. (Council denies conveyance of one parcel; Councilor Magill seeks policy on conveyance of paper streets, June 30, 2022) (staff report)

After that, first reading of a special use permit for additional residential density at 1000 Monticello Road. A previous Council denied such a permit in February 2021 and the application was slightly refined. The Planning Commission recommended approval on a 5-1 vote at its meeting on June 14, 2022. (Planning Commission recommends approval of 11 units at 1000 Monticello Road, June 15, 2022)

Another land use item comes up next, with a special use permit for additional density at 923 Harris Street. Shimp Engineering seeks to build seven residential units plus a commercial studio on a 0.13 acre property. (staff report)

In the final action item, Council will hold first reading on an appropriation to transfer $197,181 from the Council’s Strategic Initiatives account to the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Though Council had previously set aside this funding in 2019, the actual transfer has not yet been made. (staff report)

There are two written reports. One is from the Youth Council and the other is from the Rivanna authorities for solid waste, water, and wastewater

Location map and surrounding zoning for 923 Harris Street (Credit: Shimp Engineering)

City to present results of Downtown Mall Historic Survey

Charlottesville’s Main Street was converted into a pedestrian mall in 1976 to a plan created by Lawrence Halprin & Associates. Nearly fifty years have passed, and the city is considering creation of a Downtown Mall Historic District that would be recognized by the federal and state government through the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Registry. 

A first step toward the district is the creation of a preliminary information form. The city will hold a community meeting on the work to date for the eight-block section of what is still technically Main Street. 

“The Downtown Mall is paved from building face to building face in brick laid in a herringbone pattern with contrasting stone accents,” reads the form. “Fountains, planters, streetlights, public sculpture, and bosques of trees enliven the space. Downtown is characterized by banks, law offices, and other businesses, as well as churches and residences, while the Mall acts as a focus for entertainment, dining, and boutique shopping.” 

A community meeting will be held at the Ting Pavilion beginning at 6 p.m. (meeting info)

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet virtually at 1 p.m. On the agenda is a 140 foot tall cell tower in Greenwood and entrance corridor guidelines for “between 2421 Ivy Rd. to the west (just east of White Gables Ln.) and the City/County line at Old Ivy Rd. to the east.” (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna Partnership for Aging meets at 4 p.m. There’s no agenda on the county’s meeting page. (meeting info)
Photo simulation of the Scruby Verizon tower submitted by the applicant 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Charlottesville design review panel to meet after canceled meeting in June

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review did not meet last month due to a lack of a quorum. They’ll try again tonight at a hybrid meeting that will take place in CitySpace. (meeting info)

The consent agenda includes several items:

  • The owners of a house on Park Street has a proposal for rooftop solar panels
  • The new owners of the former Michie Hamlet space at 500 Court Square are seeking to replace windows and alterations to the fire escape
  • The owners of 605 Preston Place seek to modify windows. It’s an individually protected property. 
  • A former hotel turned apartment complex turned hotel on 14th Street seeks permission to make exterior alterations

In items that will go before the BAR:

  • Dairy Holdings LLC seeks designation of 415 Tenth Street NW to be an individually protected property
  • Owners of a proposed new residence on Preston Place seek a certificate of appropriateness
  • The BAR will get an update on the nomination of the Downtown Mall Historic District, the rewriting of the zoning code, and the expansion of the General District Court 

Parking lot purchase subject of city parking panel meeting 

Last month, Charlottesville City Council agreed to spend $1.65 million to purchase 921 East Jefferson Street for additional parking capacity. That transaction is on the agenda of the Charlottesville Parking Advisory Panel. That group meets at 3 p.m. via zoom. 

Other subjects include a report on parking tickets issued downtown, repairs to the Water Street and Market Street garages, as well as a report on utilization of those facilities. (meeting info

In other meetings: 

  • Albemarle’s Board of Equalization will have another “organizational” meeting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is no agenda for this meeting, similar to the ones on June 23June 28, and June 30.
  • The Fluvanna Board of Zoning Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. There’s no information on the county meeting page. (meeting info)
  • The Greene County Emergency Services Advisory Board meets at 6 p.m. (agenda)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Albemarle Supervisors to consider lease of former J.C. Penney for public safety operations

The six-member Albemarle County Board of Supervisors took off the first meeting of July and return for a business meeting that has no public hearings. They meet at 1 p.m. with an evening session scheduled for 6 p.m. (meeting agenda)

After the usual stuff that happens at the beginning of the meeting, Supervisors will consider how to use $3.3 million in funds from the county’s housing fund. Staff is recommending an additional $3 million to the Piedmont Housing Alliance for the Southwood Apartments project and $306,504 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville for “master leasing for resident relocation efforts.” 

“If the Board chooses to approve these funding requests, the funds would be used to support the construction of 121 affordable rental units in the Southwood Apartments project, and to provide up to two years of rental assistance for Southwood residents needed to be relocated from their current units during Southwood Phase 2 construction work,” reads the staff report

Piedmont Housing Alliance had asked for $3.9 million, as well as an additional $4 million for “long-term affordable rental homes.” 

Other applicants include a $1.1 million request from Albemarle Housing Improvement Program for critical home rehab and repair, $2.25 million from Piedmont Community Land Trust for two separate projects, and $250,000 from the Local Energy Alliance Program. Habitat also asked for $6.825 million to address sewer infrastructure issues at Southwood. Take a look at the full matrix for all of the details.

In the next item, the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company is expanding their building at a cost of $2.5 million. They’ve raised $1.3 million and are asking for a $650,000 interest-free loan from the county to come up with some of the remaining balance. (staff report)

After that, three land use items:

  • Supervisors will take up a special exception request for a homestay on Tilman Road. (staff report)
  • The owner of Kindrick Farm in Earlysville bordering Chris Greene Lake seeks a request for a total exemption from the county’s recently upgraded ordinance on fill areas. The applicant claims complying will not allow him to meet the terms of a contract with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Staff is recommending denial. (staff report)
  • There’s a quarterly update on transportation planning for anyone interested in the latest update on where priorities stand.

In the evening session, Supervisors will be asked to authorize a lease at a portion of Fashion Square Mall for a Public Safety Operations Center that would be used by both the Albemarle County Fire-Rescue Department and the Albemarle Police Department. 

“Preliminary discussions with Seminole Trail Properties, LLC, were initiated to explore the suitability of the property located at 1639 East Rio Road, which is the site of the former J.C. Penney’s store at Fashion Square Mall,” reads the staff report. “This retail store included approximately 33,000 square feet of “back of the house” functions, including a large warehouse with loading dock, former tire shop, and office space for employees.”

The cost to upgrade the site is estimated at $3.1 million and the lease would be $558,000 a year. 

Seminole Trail Properties LLC is a company associated with Richard Hewitt. Hewitt is the chair of the Albemarle Police Citizens Advisory Committee. Fashion Square Assets LLC purchased the property in September 2020 for $4.5 million. 

Then three public hearings. 

  • The FY22 budget will be amended related to various school projects (staff report)
  • The FY23 budget will also be amended related to school projects (staff report)
  • Amendments to the regulated enterprises section of the county code to remove Albemale’s regulations for taxicabs and amusements. These are now regulated by state code. (staff report)

Greene County Planning Commission continues Comprehensive Plan review

Different communities in Virginia handle their legally required Comprehensive Plan review differently. Greene County has been going chapter by chapter through their plan. Tonight, they will review the water supply and wastewater chapter and the housing and community services chapter

Since the last plan, Greene has left the Rapidan Service Authority after other member communities of that organization did not want to proceed with the development of a new reservoir. The chapter has been updated to remove references to the RSA in favor of the new Greene County Water and Sewer Utility. 

“The system operated from 1969 until 2022 as the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA). Much of the existing infrastructure has been in operation for more than 40 years and the need for expanded water supply capacity has been identified,” reads the new language. “The County of Greene has applied for several grant funding opportunities to replace the water and sewer infrastructure in the Town of Stanardsville and to create the expanded water supply capacity.” 

Updates to the housing chapter include several recommendations that come out of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Planning for Affordability report adopted in the summer of 2021. 

A chart depicting projected municipal water demand for over the next 28 years

After the Comprehensive Plan work session, there are two public hearings:

  • A landowner on Laurel Mountain Pass seeks an amendment to an existing special use permit for tourist lodging to add a pool, 12 more cabins, four tiny houses, and an additional pavilion. 
  • Another landowner on Mulberry Drive in Stanardsville seeks a special use permit for tourist lodging to add a second tourist-lodging dwelling on the 2.84 acre property

In another meetings:

  • Nelson County will hold the second of three workshops on an update of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. This will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Rockfish Elementary School at 200 Chapel Hollow Road. For more, visit the Nelson 2042 website

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Three meetings today, but let’s just go with bullet points:

Friday, July 22, 2022

No meetings are scheduled today. It is a rare occasion there will be a meeting on a Friday. Last week, the Board of Supervisors in Prince Edward County did have a meeting, but that was to interview candidates for two vacancies. 

I spend part of my Fridays working on my new Fifth District Community Engagement project. There are 24 localities in the new district, and I’m very excited to learn more about them. The study of comparative government fuels me.

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.