Week Ahead for March 15, 2021: Albemarle Supervisors and Greene Planning Commission to review Comprehensive Plans; many communities, many budgets

We are now at the point where budget season significantly increases the number of meetings each week. There will also increasingly be more campaign events for the many races on the ballot this November. With all gatherings geared toward virtual platforms, it’s easier to keep an eye on all of it than before, though I am beginning to really miss being around the many people I’ve gotten to know over the years.

However, the time for a return to in-person meetings is still in the future as we all keep an eye on the vaccination rate and other metrics. Until then, this is a good time to begin paying attention to local government and if you look hard enough, you will likely find something of interest. 

As always, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support for this venture!

Monday, March 15, 2021: Public hearing for Charlottesville’s FY22 budget, town hall for Albemarle’s 

Charlottesville City Council begins their evening of business at 4 p.m. with a virtual work session. They’ll get another financial update and then get two other reports. (meeting info)

In the first report, the new chief and the deputy chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department will present a report on their Community Risk Reduction Initiatives (CRR) intended to prevent fires.

“Based on risk assessments, data, and outcomes, CRR is a wholesale change from traditional fire service practices,” reads the staff report.

The report takes a look at the 10th and Page Neighborhood and the North Downtown neighborhoods and has details that are interesting perhaps beyond the topic of fire prevention. For the purposes of this presentation, the idea is to make sure everyone in the neighborhood has a smoke detector, knowledge of space heater safety, and that pedestrians can move around safely. 

The report will be introduced by Fire Chief Hezedean A. Smith and presented by Deputy Chief Joe Power

In the second, Human Services Director Kaki Dimock will present a report on the $300,000 in emergency relief funds that were given to people who did not qualify for federal CARES stimulus checks. The Open Society Foundation’s Emma Lazarus Campaign for Cities contributed $250,000 in a grant facilitated by the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Inclusion. 

The funds were distributed in the form of $500 VISA gift cards to 600 families. 

“Community providers with existing relationships with individuals likely to meet eligibility requirements were recruited to distribute cards,” reads the staff report. “These agencies included Sin Barreras, Cville Cares, Piedmont Virginia Community College, International Neighbors, International Rescue Committee, Child Health Partnership, Charlottesville Department of Human Services and Habitat for Humanity.”

In the regular meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m., there are two public hearings on the tax rate and City Manager Chip Boyles’ $190.7 million budget. Those will be followed by a presentation on the city’s assessments for 2021.  (meeting info)

Ridge Street infrastructure recommendations

The consent agenda includes recommendations from a task force that has been reviewing and suggesting ways to use federal funding for infrastructure improvements in the Ridge Street neighborhood. In September 2019, Council designated Ridge Street to be the area that receives Community Development Block Grants for a three year period. (staff report)

“The Ridge Street Priority Neighborhood Task Force identified priorities included maintenance concerns, traffic/pedestrian safety, housing, transit, and issues relating to installation and repair of sidewalks,” reads the report. “Similar findings from the 1996 Ridge Street Neighborhood Study and the 1998 Ridge Street Taskforce report also highlight the same identified problems in the Ridge Street neighborhood concerning sidewalk improvements and the need for traffic control and safety.”

Traffic engineer Brennen Duncan worked with the task force on the recommendations which include $25,000 for six traffic calming projects and $220,000 for three sidewalk projects.

The city is also awaiting final confirmation from the Commonwealth Transportation Board for a $5 million Smart Scale project with the title “Ridge Street Multimodal Improvements.”  There’s also $6.1 million in an already approved Smart Scale project to address the intersection at Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue. Last November, Council discussed ways to address traffic safety on 5th Street Extended. I wrote a story about that conversation. 

The recommendations from the Ridge Street CDBG Task Force

In other meetings on Monday:

  • The Albemarle Architectural Review Board meets at 1 p.m. There are no applications on the agenda. Instead, the ARB will continue its discussions of specific entrance corridors and their guidelines. This time around it is Fontaine Avenue and Route 250 West. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold their second budget work session beginning at 3 p.m. I wrote up a summary of the first session that is now posted on my archive site. This time around, the school system’s request and the capital budget will be discussed. (meeting info)
  • The Board of Trustees for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library meets at 3 p.m. (agenda)
  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. for its regular meeting. On the agenda is a discussion entitled “Implementation Date for the Portion of the New Zoning Ordinance Regarding Growth Area Overlay Districts.” (meeting info)
  • The Place 29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee meets at 6:30 p.m and serves as a town hall on the Albemarle County budget for the Jack Jouett District (meeting info)

Tuesday, March 16. 2021: Work session on Greene’s next Comprehensive Plan

The Greene County Planning Commission will hold a work session on the Comprehensive Plan update that is currently underway for the 156.8 square mile locality. In reading the staff report, I learned that the county reduced the size of its designated growth area in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan from 15,104 acres to 6,259 acres, or from 15 percent of the total county land to six percent. (meeting info

“Tonight, we will review the maps, design concepts, theories on density, and additional statistical data to determine the projected future needs of the community to identify if amendments are needed to the chapter,” reads the memo from the planning department on the draft land use chapter

The memo also contains many letters from community members about what they would like to see. One woman wants to see a total moratorium on development. 

“The water situation, the schools, and the roads are already overwhelmed,” wrote Sally Smith. “Please do NOT expand high density residential zoning beyond its current boundaries; I define high density zoning as one unit per 9 acres or less.”

The document also includes comments from the county’s Economic Development and Tourism Department. They were asked to say what was not working in the current plan. 

“Concern of development and sprawl to the west of Rt. 29 into our rural, agricultural areas, thus, having a direct impact on our tourism trade,” reads their input. 

The economic development memo also states there has been an increase in requests from companies from companies from the distribution industry.   

The work session will also include the Natural Resources and Environmental Chapter and the Agriculture and Forestry Chapter. There will also be a presentation on a recent review of the zoning along U.S. 29 in Ruckersville including the intersection with U.S. 33. Staff is recommending an optional overlay district for the area. This memo contains a lot more responses from stakeholders about the area. 

Some of the responses from the Zoning Audit stakeholder group

The Greene Planning Commission will also consider a pending application for a rezoning of 7 acres from B-3 to R-2 for a 55 townhomes on U.S. 29 south of the Holly Hill subdivision. This project known as Cedar Run Townhomes also requires a special use permit. (memo)

In other meetings on Tuesday: 

  • The Charlottesville Parking Advisory Committee will meet virtually at 3:30 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Economic Development Authority will virtually meet at 4 p.m. and will have a presentation on the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center. They’ll also go into closed session to discuss the “location and development of Project Leppard in Albemarle County” as well as the performance grant between the EDA and WillowTree. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission gathers at 4 p.m.  (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review meets at 5 p.m.  Items for review include exterior alterations at 1001 West Main Street for a Starbucks, a new canopy at the structure that currently houses the Little Star restaurant to allow more outdoor dining, and a discussion of outdoor lighting at the Standard (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Electoral Board meets in person beginning at 6 p.m. (agenda)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021: Learn about Albemarle Fire and Rescue at budget work session

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors starts at 1 p.m. and the first item of business is a discussion of the scope of work for the Comprehensive Plan. In February, supervisors pushed back on a proposal to conduct the review over a three-year period. However, staff are sticking to that timeline. (agenda)

“Given the level of engagement, breadth of topics covered in the County’s Comp Plan, and planning best practices as shown in localities across the United States, staff believes that three years is a realistic timeline,” reads the staff report, which recommends setting clear targets for various milestones.

The budget for the comp plan update is $470,550 which includes hiring a project coordinator as well as hiring an organization to help with facilitation for “an equitable and accessible community engagement approach.” 

From page 3 of the presentation on the Comprehensive Plan’s scope

After that work session, there will be a presentation on how Albemarle has used and will use its $19 million in funding from the federal CARES act in 2020. Some of that money has now been allowed to be spent in calendar year 2021. (staff report)

In the evening are two public hearings with impacts on Albemarle’s future. The first is on the Albemarle Housing Plan 

“The new policy recommendations provide the tools necessary to meet the diverse housing needs of all county residents regardless of income, race, age, or special needs,” reads the staff report .”The policy includes initiatives to support the construction of affordable and workforce housing units; to preserve existing housing and communities; to expand housing options and support for the County’s most vulnerable community members; and to inform and empower the Albemarle community to engage with affordable housing issues.”

Several changes have been made to the draft plan, including an updated number of housing units not currently approved that county staff believe will be to required to meet future population needs. The future had been 3,616 but has been revised downward to 2,719 units due to updated data. 

There’s also an 84 page document that collects community feedback to date and answers some questions, such as whether the redevelopment of Southwood Mobile Home is considered a priority, and whether the plan does enough to address a perceived lack of production. This section is worth a deep read before the public hearing.

Feedback from page 12 of the community input document

Next, the supervisors will hold a public hearing on the form-based code for the Rio / U.S. 29 area, which (staff report)

The consent agenda contains eight items for approval and two for information. Let’s go to the bullets!

  • Supervisors will officially approve appropriations including the transfer of reserves to send $3 million to the Albemarle Broadband Authority and $1.1 million for development of a convenience center. There’s also $350,000 for the conceptual analysis and preliminary design for intersection improvements of Reas Ford and Earlysville Road. (staff report)
  • The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library needs the Board of Supervisors approval of an application to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for a marker to honor the legal case that led to the first Black person to enroll for graduate study at UVA. Swanson v. UVA found that UVA violated Gregory Swanson’s 14th amendment rights. (staff report)
  • A recently approved rezoning to allow three housing nonprofits to redevelop the Red Carpet Inn site for low-income housing depends on Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The chances of qualifying are improved if the Board of Supervisors designate the location as a Revitalization Area. (staff report)
  • There are special exceptions for a homestay known as Break Heart Studio, a homestay known as the Little Homestead, and a drive-through window for a Starbucks at 2231 Seminole Lane
  • Supervisors will approve the six-year secondary road plan, which includes fund to pave roads that are currently gravel. (staff report)
  • Supervisors will receive the 2020 annual report from the Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee. If you want to get more involved with efforts to reduce litter and reduce materials going to the landfill, this is the place to start. (annual report)
  • Supervisors will receive the March 2021 report from the Virginia Department of Transportation on activities in Albemarle. If you have interested in tracking road projects, this is the place to start. (report)

In other meetings on Wednesday:

  • Charlottesville will hold a virtual site plan conference at 10 a.m. for a project with the title “Lyman Street Residence” but no further information is available. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will meet at 4 p.m. for a budget work session followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. One item on the agenda is $13,000 to upgrade audio at the Fluvanna County Library to support virtual meetings. Supervisors will also select a tax rate to be advertised for FY22. (agenda packet)
  • Charlottesville will hold a Community Budget Forum beginning at 6 p.m. (meeting info)

Thursday, March 18, 2021: Developers talk cost of housing

Developers often cite long approval processes as one reason the cost of new housing is high. Many will make that case at a meeting of the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership (RHP) beginning at noon. They’ll also talk about what incentives might work to help encourage them to build more affordable units. The RHP is a program of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The guests will be Andrew Clark of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, Charlie Armstrong of Southern Development, and Chris Henry of the Stony Point Development Group. (register)

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will hold their third budget work session at 3 p.m. This one will feature a review of the county’s fire-rescue plans, which have seen a trend toward professionalization in the last several years. The draft budget includes the hiring of five professionals to staff the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company during the day. Supervisors will also finalize a tax rate to advertise before the public hearing. The recommended budget recommends leaving it at 85.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. (meeting info)

In other meetings Thursday:

  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. The agenda was not available at production time. (meeting info)
  • The 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee at 7 p.m. meeting doubles as the budget town hall for the Scottsville and Samuel Miller Districts (meeting info)

Friday, March 19, 2021

In the only meeting today, Albemarle County continues their Stream Health Community Learning Series at noon with a presentation on Stream Ecology and Monitoring. 

Technical experts from the Rivanna Conservation Alliance and DEQ will talk about water quality monitoring efforts and the current conditions of our waterways in Albemarle County,” reads the description available in the 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.