As the pandemic enters its third month, many institutions of local government have managed to get public meetings going again. It is crucial for the public to have access to information to what is happening and to have context by which our decisions are made. The goal of this newsletter continues to help you know what is happening and to let you know how you can get involved.
Monday, May 18, 2020
There’s a new website for the city of Charlottesville, and that means a new place to look for Council agendas. Change can be difficult, but in this case the public now has slightly better access to information. There are now direct links to staff reports for items, including a request on the consent agenda for the Department of Human Services to transfer $400,000 from its fund balance to use for emergency relief funds. The begins at 6:30 p.m. (meeting agenda) (calendar details)
Council will hold a public hearing on the amended budget for fiscal year 2021. City Manager Tarron Richardson’s original budget for the year was for $196.6 million but a projected decline in revenues caused by the closure of non-essential businesses meant that $5.4 million had to be cut. You can read the details from a presentation for the May 5 budget work session or read the budget resolution in the packet for this meeting. Vote on adoption is scheduled for June 1.
In other business, City Council will further discuss the details of how Boards and Commissions can begin to meet. As we’ll see throughout the rest of this newsletter, Albemarle is moving ahead with electronic meetings for many of its advisory panels, but so far the city has been restricted to City Council and the steering committee for the Comprehensive Plan update. Last Wednesday, Council discussed this matter at a work session that you can review on the city’s streaming meeting portal.
These are for:
- Amendment for a renovation of the Starbucks in 29th Place to add a drive-through window
- Conceptual review for a new auto dealership on Pantops Road
- Final site plan for a new 100-unit townhouse development on Avon Street Extended Preliminary review for an oil change facility on U.S. 29 near the former Gander Mountain building
The Louisa Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. While there does not appear to be a lot of business on the agenda, it is important to get in the habit of knowing what is happening in that community. Louisa is part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District, and growth there will affect other communities. (agenda packet)
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
The Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold its third electronic meeting beginning at 6 p.m. featuring two public hearings on land use items. First, though, they will vote on an infinite deferral for a project in Crozet called Pleasant Green. (agenda) (access info)
The first public hearing is for a project called River’s Edge which is at the northern tip of Albemarle’s Places29 growth area. The applicant seeks a rezoning from Rural Area to Planned Residential Development for two parcels along the North Fork of the Rivanna River. The project to build 100 low-footprint units also needs a critical slopes waiver to make room for stormwater management facilities required to mitigate land disturbance. If approved, half of the units would be no more than 1,200 square feet and the other half would be no more than 900 square feet in size. One environmental concern relates to a request for a central sewer system that would require a pump station. (staff report)
The second public hearing is for an amendment to a previous rezoning for a portion of the Hollymead Town Center. This bit of land is just to the north of the Target and the request is to allow more non-commercial space at the location. I could spend an entire week writing up an article where Hollymead Town Center is almost 20 years after the rezoning. (staff report)
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 3:00 p.m. for another electronic meeting that will likely approach the length of the regular meetings we used to be used to attending. The one on May 6 did not end until 10:00 pm so it’s almost like we’re back to normal. Except, we’re not. This meeting contains what will likely be a contentious public hearing. More on that as we go through. (agenda)
First on the agenda is another amendment to the “performance agreement” between Albemarle County and the developer of the Woolen Mills complex. The company WillowTree has been planning on consolidating all of their Charlottesville offices at this new location, and Albemarle has invested $1 million or them “to become the anchor tenant in a redeveloped corporate campus.” Another extension of completion deadlines has been requested.
“While the redevelopment project remains on track and is preparing for tenant occupancy this summer, approvals from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Administration have taken longer than originally anticipated which has impacted the timeline for construction of the pedestrian bridge,” reads the staff report for the request for another extension. (staff report)
Next, Albemarle Supervisors will get an update on truck restrictions on Owensville Road and Miller School Road. For a variety of reasons, there has been an increase of large trucks using rural roads in recent years. This will be an interesting discussion that I suspect will span out from just these two roads. (staff report)
A pandemic-related change has been that general public comments were removed from these electronic meetings. On this agenda, Supervisors will hold a second discussion on whether this should be restored. To learn more about this, read Allison Wrabel’s May 9 story in the Daily Progress.
After 6 p.m., there are four public hearings. The first is to solicit input on the county’s ability to receive money through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. According to the staff report, Albemarle “is eligible to apply to the DHCD for up to approximately $1.5 million in CDBG funding for projects that benefit low- and moderate-income persons, prevent slums and blight, or address urgent community needs.” At this point, no projects are identified and this seems to be early in the process. (staff report)
The second public hearing is for a special use permit for a gas station in the southwest corner of Exit 129 on Interstate 64. The Albemarle County Planning Commission voted to deny the application on February 4, 2020. (staff report)
The third public hearing is to get public comment on how Albemarle will use a certain kind of funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation. These are the funds that pay for paving of certain rural roads. There’s a lot of detail in here and if you want to see it, all of them are in the staff report.
Finally the fourth public hearing will be on various changes to tax filing deadlines. There have been so many changes due to the pandemic, but it’s important to keep track of all of them if we can. (staff report)
As always, the consent agenda contains many items worth a review:
- There is a resolution to support six approved transportation projects currently in development (staff report)
- Albemarle will use $172,567 from the county’s housing fund to support the sheltering of the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic (staff report)
While the pandemic continues, the firm Rhodeside & Harwell continue their work on another chapter of the long-running update of Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan. To those of you who have not yet been involved in this process, there is a webinar on where the process is now, three years after it began.
“This process, branded Cville Plans Together, is kicking off with a virtual conversation series and webinars, as the project team begins to talk with the community about priorities and goals for the future, particularly related to issues of equity and affordability,” reads the calendar item for the May 20, 2020 meeting that begins at 5 p.m. (details)
The Greene County Planning Commission will meet at 6:15 p.m. for an electronic meeting. On the agenda is a public hearing to rezone 0.6 acres of land near Dyke from single-family residential to business to allow for a general store. Staff believes this is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan but we are conducting our own analysis. (staff report)
Also on the agenda are reports on the Ruckersville Advisory Committee, what’s happening in the town of Stanardsville, and an update on development in Greene. (agenda)
Thursday, May 21, 2020
(In my original post, I had correctly stated there was a meeting of the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee, but there was an error on the calendar)
The Natural Heritage Committee is intended to advise the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on matters related to natural resources. Their mission is “to maintain and restore the County’s native biological diversity and provide a healthy environment for the citizens of Albemarle County.” And at 5:30 p.m they will hold their very first electronic meeting. This would be a very good time to get involved with a committee that could use a higher profile. This is also the first meeting for Kim Biasiolli, the county’s new natural resources manager. (agenda) (access info)
The public engagement for Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan continues with the first of five small group discussions, held electronically. This first session begins at 6:00 p.m. and you will have to register. (details)
Friday, May 22, 2020
So, what’s happening with the Comprehensive Plan? Let’s go to the website.
“This process, branded Cville Plans Together, is kicking off with a virtual conversation series and webinars, as the project team begins to talk with the community about priorities and goals for the future, particularly related to issues of equity and affordability.”
This second small group session begins at 12:00 p.m. and you will have to register. (details)
Saturday, May 23, 2020
There’s a lot about Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan this week. And I could write about all of this, and help put it all in context. As you may know, Virginia code requires localities to create and maintain a plan “for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.” The city Planning Commission began work on this in January 2017, but a lot has happened since then. Rather than go over all of that, I’d recommend people take the opportunity to watch a webinar on its second viewing beginning at 10:00 a.m. (details)
Finally, what are you up to? Are there specific issues that you are concerned about?
Let me know how I can help. I want to hear.
Field Representative – Albemarle, Charlottesville and Greene
The Piedmont Environmental Council