Week Ahead for May 2, 2022: City Council to be briefed on homelessness; Albemarle design review panel to review Premier Circle projects to provide homes

Could it be that we’ve finally landed on that mythical week where not much happens? For the first time in a while, the first week of a month lands in such a way that there are meetings of both the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council. There’s always something at those meetings which could use additional scrutiny, and I’ve got a full set of stories to write this week!

Here are some highlights.

  • Homelessness is a topic at two meetings on Monday with the Albemarle Architectural Review Board taking a look at the Premier Circle project followed by City Council getting a Point in Time report from the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless.
  • Council will also take up a request from a develop to convert an apartment complex on 14th Street back into a hotel. The Planning Commission recommended denial in April.
  • Albemarle County will hold a work session Wednesday on how to incentivize the construction of new units that will be kept below the market. That’s one of the missing elements from the Housing Albemarle plan adopted last July.

There are no high-level meetings in Greene County or Nelson County this week. Louisa County’s Board of Supervisors have already adopted their budget, so this week’s appropriations are fairly routine. They do have a public hearing on banning dogs from running off-leash.

Thanks as always to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support of the research that goes into this newsletter each and every week. Mark your calendars for a May 21 celebration of PEC’s 50 years to take place at Mistwood in Rapidan in Orange County with a keynote address from environmentalist and activist Terry Tempest. (learn more)

Monday, May 2, 2022

Albemarle ARB to review Premier Circle project for those with extremely low incomes

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning in February 2021 to clear the way for three nonprofits to redevelop the Red Carpet Inn and adjacent property into permanent supportive housing for those with extremely low incomes.

The sole item on the Albemarle Architectural Review Board’s May 2 meeting is a review of the initial site plan for what’s known as the Premier Circle project. The first phase of the project is construction of a new four-story 81-unit Single Room Occupancy building that will be operated by Virginia Supportive Housing. That’s the same nonprofit that built the Crossings at Fourth and Preston in Charlottesville.

“The building is set within a larger vision for the entire site, one which ultimately and strategically combines housing for homeless and formerly homeless,” reads the narrative that accompanies the architectural drawings.

The second phase will be built by Piedmont Housing Alliance and will include 60 units of subsidized housing. Like the first phase, the units’ costs will be backed by Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The third phase will be a new non-residential building along U.S. 29. 

The ARB meets virtually beginning at 1 p.m. (meeting info)

A conceptual look at how the three buildings will be oriented on the site as the Red Carpet Inn is replaced over time. 

Charlottesville City Council to review homeless count, Marcus Alert system

Charlottesville City Council will meet in a work session that begins at 4:00 p.m. followed by a regular meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. Council now meets in person with a hybrid option for public comment. (agenda

The afternoon session deals with two key issues of our time. In the first, the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH) will present the results of this year’s Point in Time count. Numbers jumped sharply this year. 

In the second, the Regional Emergency Communications Center will update Council on efforts to create a Marcus Alert system to ensure that public safety calls for people who are experiencing mental difficulties are not responded to with police bearing weapons. 

“The Marcus Alert is named after Marcus-David Peters, a young, Black biology teacher, killed by Richmond police in 2018 amid a mental health crisis,” reads a paragraph in the presentation. “The goal of the Marcus Alert is to provide a behavioral health response to behavioral health emergencies.” 

Council will also get an update on the transition to the use of the 9-8-8 prefix for mental health calls. The two are somewhat related. 

The Point in Time count presentation that will be given to Council shows a sharp increase in 2022 and I look forward to the discussion to learn more. (view the presentation

In the evening session, there’s only one action item. That’s for a special use permit request to allow for a hotel to operate at 207 14th Street at a property that is currently being used as a hotel. The Planning Commission voted 4-2 in April to recommend denial after a joint public hearing with Council. I’ll have details of that in tomorrow’s Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

There is also a written report from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. This kind of report has an incredible amount of detail and is more than I’ve seen from a city administrator in my 15 years of covering Charlottesville government. (read the report)

On the consent agenda:

  • Second reading of an amendment for a $6 million loan agreement with Piedmont Housing Alliance for the redevelopment of Friendship Court (staff report) (recent story)
  • First reading of a special use permit request from Southern Development for additional density at 209 Maury Avenue. The site as zoned is allowed 33 units, but the developer seeks to replace parking with more space for apartments for a total of 68. The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 to recommend this permit in April. (staff report)

In other meetings:

  • The Fluvanna County Economic Development Authority meets at 5 p.m. in the Morris Room of the Fluvanna County Administration Building at 132 Main Street in Palmyra. On the agenda is a discussion of the county’s economic development strategic goals. (agenda)
  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. in closed session and then in open session beginning at 6 p.m. On the agenda is a public hearing on an ordinance to prohibit dogs from running off-leash. (meeting info)

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

City tree panel to meet new urban forester, discuss Urban Heat Watch report

Last summer, the city of Charlottesville participated in a program to measure the effects of tree canopy on the urban heat island. That data was available to the public in February. At the May meeting of the Charlottesville Tree Commission, they’ll hear more about the report from city staff. (read the report)

The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets virtually at 5 p.m. They’ll also be interested to the new urban forester, Steve Gaines. (agenda)

In other meetings and events:

  • Albemarle Fire Chief Dan Eggleston will speak with Communications and Public Engagement Director Emily Kilroy about the history and future of the Albemarle County Fire Rescue. This will take place virtually between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Watch on Zoom of the ACFR’s Facebook page. (more info)
  • The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2 p.m. Both of the items on the agenda relate to homestays, but one has been withdrawn. (meeting info)
View the Urban Heat Map report

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Albemarle Supervisors to adopt budget, endorse Stonefield DORA

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets in-person at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium, but members of the public can still offer public comment online. (meeting info) (agenda)

After a series of proclamations, Supervisors will adopt the tax rates and budget for fiscal year 2023. The real estate tax rate will remain at $0.854 cents per $100 of assessed value, but the personal property tax rate will be lowered to $3.42 per $100 of assessed value. The meals tax will increase to six percent, the transient occupancy tax will increase to eight percent, and a five-cent tax will be imposed on individual plastic bags beginning January 1, 2023. 

The plastic bag tax will allow for several exemptions. 

“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 staff report

After adoption, Supervisors will consider special exceptions for two separate homestay projects. 

Next, the six elected officials will consider a letter of support for a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area at Stonefield to allow for events where alcoholic beverages can be consumed in public. 

“Stonefield will be partnering with a local charitable non-profit to submit a DORA license application to the [Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority],” reads the staff report

The safety plan to be submitted to the ABC states that the DORA will be used for the Friday Night Music on the Lawn Series. The non-profit beneficiary will rotate each week, and the county’s Economic Development Office will pick up the $515 application fee. 

At 4 p.m., Supervisors are scheduled to hold a work session on incentives for developers to build units that are sold or rented at below market rate. Last year, Albemarle adopted the new Housing Albemarle plan which is intended to significantly increase the new number of affordable units. In February, Supervisors had concerns about a proposal to create a zoning overlay to encourage more units by providing more density. 

“Based on that feedback, staff has determined a better approach would be the adoption and implementation of an Affordable Dwelling Unit Program ordinance,” reads the staff report.

Under an ADU program, provision of affordable units is mandatory as opposed to voluntary. Staff is recommending that figure be at 20 percent in exchange for reimbursement for water and sewer connections for qualified units, creation of a cash-in-lieu payment amount, and creation of a database to list opportunities for qualifying households. 

One question I have is how this differs from the cash proffer system that was in place up until the spring of 2016 when Albemarle repealed it? One potential answer is that the enabling authority for Albemarle County to enter into an ADU program already exists

In the evening session, Supervisors will hold public hearings on:

  • The Greenbrier Veterinary Clinic wants to be able to expand into in existing building on its property. The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 to recommend on March 1. (staff report)
  • The developers of Glenbrook in Crozet seek for a portion of the property to be relieved of a condition requiring that a minimum of 50 percent of the houses on that section to be single-family detached. The request is to lower that threshold to 40 percent. The Planning Commission voted 7 to 0 to recommend on March 15. (staff report)
Albemarle staff have created a presentation explaining what an Affordable Dwelling Unit program would look like (view the presentation)

In other meetings: 

  • Charlottesville will hold a site plan conference for the joint district courts complex being built with Albemarle County in Court Square. This will begin at 10 a.m. The meeting info page does not indicate whether the meeting is virtual or in-person. There is neither a physical address nor a link to a Zoom call. 
  • The CSA Program Committee meets virtually at 2 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meets in person at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union beginning at 5 p.m. (agenda package)

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Regional Planning District Commission to meet

All across Virginia, planning district commissions provide a space for regional cooperation on all manner of initiatives. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission celebrates 50 years of service this year, something I’m sure will be noted in the coming months.

The May 2022 meeting provides a glimpse into what the regional planning group does for the six localities within its jurisdiction. They meet virtually at 7 p.m. (meeting packet)

One of the first items is a public hearing on the draft plan to use federal HOME funding across the TJPDC. The agency receives about $600,000 a year in HOME funds, which is available for use by nonprofits upon application. 

For Charlottesville, the designees are Piedmont Housing Alliance and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. For Albemarle, it’s the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program. For Greene, it’s Skyline CAP. The others are the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation and the Nelson County Community Development Foundation. 

How the TJPDC envisions HOME funds being used this year (page 6 of the agenda packet)

The TJPDC also plays the role of legislative liaison with Richmond for many counties. Deputy Director David Blount will provide an update on where things stand with the unresolved budget as well as bills that made their way out of the General Assembly this year. (page 30 of the packet)

The TJPDC also is the home of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally mandated body that makes decision on federally-funded transportation projects. The work is guided by a technical document known as the Unified Planning Work Program. One of the big projects to be completed in the next couple of years is a Long Range Transportation Plan. (page 31)

The TJPDC also has a nonprofit arm known as the TJPDC Corporation. They need new members. (page 69

“The TJPDC Corporation normally meets once-twice per year to consider projects or programs that need non-profit assistance or sponsorship,” reads a description in executive director Christine Jacobs’ monthly report. “These meetings are normally held immediately prior to a TJPDC regular board meeting.”

For the duration of the pandemic, meetings have been virtual. That will change after June 1, when emergency provisions allowing for virtual meetings will have expired. Beginning tomorrow (May 2) the TJPDC offices themselves will be open to the public. (page 70)

The aforementioned report from TJPDC Executive Director Christine Jacobs begins on page 83. In this report we learn that the Piedmont Housing Alliance has hired two staff positions funded by $250,000 from the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot. We also learn the Regional Housing Partnership is close to adopting a strategic plan. 

For a full review of what the TJPDC has been up in the first three months of the year, read the report beginning on page 89

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will have a closed meeting at 2 p.m. to continue to discuss the hiring of a county attorney. Currently the county has contracted with the firm Sands Harrison to provide a temporary attorney, a position that has been filled so far by Cynthia Hudson. (meeting info)
  • Staff working on with the review of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan will be on hand at the Yancey Community Center for another pop-up on what they are calling AC44. They’ll be in the Let’s Talk Albemarle van beginning at 4 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Natural Heritage Committee meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. The NHC is intended to make recommendations related to Biodiversity in the county. On the agenda is a discussion of synthetic turf, rural road protection, and a review of the Biodiversity Action Plan. (meeting info)

Friday, May 6, 2022

Nothing planned. Have I missed something? Let me know! Thank you to all for reading, and please consider sharing this with your friends and family. My work is sponsored by many in the community, and I hope to continue to grow the audience as Town Crier Productions begins its third year.

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.