What would Alexis de Tocqueville think about our community, and all of the various ways in which democracy functions here? I vaguely remember reading his seminal 1835 work when I was in college, but I do know when I look at all of the agenda packets each week, I see people coming together to solve problems here.
The meeting I most look forward to this week is the joint meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Charlottesville City Council and top officials at the University of Virginia. A year ago, the two localities agreed to dissolve a public advisory body called the Planning and Coordination Council. The PACC was created after a 1986 agreement between the three entities about how they would coordinate land use planning. The plan was to meet a year later in a joint meeting.
That meeting will take place this Wednesday at 2 p.m. and will feature an “overview of synergistic activities” ranging from disproportionate minority contact to consideration of an agreement on “Collaboration Between the City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle, and the University of Virginia Regarding Equity and Inclusion.” More when we get to Wednesday.
Democracy requires people to know what’s going on, and each week, I write this to give you a glimpse into what’s going on. This is a critically important resource as we enter a new chapter in our country’s history. Find out how you can support it here.
Special thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship of this newsletter.
Monday, October 26, 2020
We begin this week with a state meeting and one that could have a tremendous effect on our area. The very first ever meeting of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Board meets at 10 a.m. for a virtual meeting. The group was created after Governor Ralph Northam announced last December that the state reached a $3.7 billion agreement to purchase 350 miles of railroad right of way, including 225 miles of track. That includes the CSX line from Doswell to Clifton Forge that runs through Charlottesville. (meeting info)
The VPRA will not be the direct operator of any passenger lines, but will work with Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express to “promote, sustain, and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service to increase ridership by connecting population centers.” The whole idea is to reduce congestion on crowded highways.
The Albemarle Historic Preservation Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. for a virtual meeting. In addition to an update on new historical markers for county events and people, there will be a discussion of the Urban Rivanna River Corridor Plan. That is being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
“Phase II is underway, and is focused on developing a river corridor plan that will provide a clear vision and an action plan with strategic recommendations for the area in and near Free Bridge, Woolen Mills, and the Pantops area,” reads the TJPDC’s flier on the work. They held the first of two meetings on the plan Saturday morning and another is set for Thursday at 6 p.m.
The first phase of the plan resulted in a report that took a look at existing conditions.
“An important topic discussed throughout the planning process was the need to acknowledge and honor the historic and cultural history tied to the river,” reads the draft of phase one. “The Rivanna has a rich history serving as a crucial asset for past populations, including the Monacan Indian Tribe. While not mapped as part of this exercise, the County has taken steps to spatially document cultural and historic assets. Their data could be used in conjunction with other data sets.”
For the first time in my memory, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold a joint meeting with the Scottsville Town Council beginning at 5 p.m. Scottsville is Albemarle’s only town, which under Virginia law is a separate political jurisdiction yet connected to the county.
“Founded in 1744 as Scott’s Landing, the town served as the seat of Albemarle County from its founding until 1762 when the General Assembly divided up the county and relocated the county seat to Charlottesville,” reads a presentation created for the meeting. “The new map reinforced Scottsville’s position as a crossroads community, putting it at the intersection of three counties, Buckingham, Fluvanna, and Albemarle.”
Scottsville remains a crossroads community, and town manager Matt Lawless has been working with the Council to position the town for the rest of the 21st century.
“The town’s previous history as a manufacturing center for Uniroyal has left the town with water, sewer, and natural gas utilities that have capacity to grow,” the presentation continues. Scottsville will soon be connected to fiber broadband due to the work of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative.
The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority meets at 6 p.m. for their regular monthly meeting. Last week, Council approved an agreement with CRHA for the renovation of Crescent Halls and creation of new units at South First Street. That requires CRHA to complete a sustainability plan for how the agency will get back on financial track. Tonight the Board of Commissioners will discuss the scope of that work, which Council wants to see by the end of next year. They’ll also be briefed on a recovery agreement between the CRHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Council approved that last week as well. (story)
They’ll also get an update on where those redevelopment are in the process.
“Good news!” reads item 4 on that update. “On Tuesday, Oct. 20, Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services issued the building permit for Crescent Halls renovation project. This is a critical step in allowing construction to move forward once the project closes.”
All of the documents for this meeting are on the CRHA’s website.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
The Greene County Board of Supervisors meets at 7:30 p.m. One of the first items on the agenda is a presentation from the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. (agenda)
There’s also a rezoning for land just north of the county’s border with Albemarle. Borderline LLC seeks a rezoning of about 14 acres of land from business to a mix of business and residential. Greene’s Comprehensive Plan calls for mixed-use development at this location.
“The Future Land Use Map included in the Comprehensive Plan was designed to promote business and residential development in a manner that focuses growth in the designated growth area to protect the rural character of Greene County,” reads the staff report.
There’s another public hearing for a special use permit for a drive-in movie theater at 9836 Seminole Trail.
“The parcel currently includes a retail store located in the former truck stop building and a garden center display area on the southern end of the property,” reads the staff report. “The proposed area for the drive-in theater is currently open with some gravel coverage and the rest mostly grass or small wooded area along the northern property boundary.”
There will also be an update on the Greene County Water Supply Plan. You may recall that the county is suing the Rapidan Service Authority over the latter’s decision to stop collecting certain fees that Greene was planning to use to build a new reservoir. The two parties are now in litigation and the two Greene representatives have been banned from participating in RSA meetings.
Work will soon begin on the conversion of Interstate 64’s Exit 124 from a traditional interchange to a “diverging diamond.” The Virginia Department of Transportation converted the Zion Crossroads to such a DDI in 2014 and will do the same for this Albemarle exit.
“By shifting vehicles to the opposite side of the road, this design eliminates traditional left turns that cross over oncoming traffic,” reads a description of the DDI on VDOT’s webpage for the six projects funded in the second round of the Smart Scale funding process. “The DDI improves safety by reducing the number of spots where vehicles could collide and can handle more than 600 left-turn movements per hour, twice the capacity of a conventional interchange.”
The Pantops Community Advisory Committee will get a briefing on the project at their virtual meeting which begins at 6:15 p.m. (meeting info)
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors will meet at 2:15 p.m. This will be the first meeting for interim city manager John Blair. (agenda packet)
Among the items is a letter from representatives from the county’s Jack Jouett magisterial district to the RWSA Board thanking them for the recent demolition of a decaying wastewater pump station where Greer Elementary School, Jack Jouett Middle School, Albemarle High School, and the Ivy Creek School are located.
“Your removal of the abandoned concrete water retention basin and returning the area to greenspace was a welcomed improvement, representing a first step in our goal of creating a more cohesive pre-K through 12 campus for the 3,000 students and their families who attend these schools,” reads the letters from Supervisor Diantha McKeel, Planning Commissioner Julian Bivins and School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff.
“We believe re-envisioning many aspects of the Lambs Lane Campus is critical to lessening the environmental burden [borne] by our students on this campus and begins addressing long-held equity concerns,” the letter continues.
The RWSA Board will also get an update on major construction projects.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
As noted in the introduction, the joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors, City Council and UVA top officials begins at 2 p.m. (agenda)
After welcome and introductions, the meeting begins with a discussion of disproportionate minority contact led by Charlottesville Human Services Director Kaki Dimock. The study has studying the issue for years and a task force issued a final report in January. (task force page)
Next, the University of Virginia’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Partnerships will give a presentation entitled “Inclusive Community/Assessment.” Kevin McDonald is former chief diversity officer and vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity, and equity at the University of Missouri System and the University of Missouri – Columbia. Here’s an interview he gave to the American Council on Education.
Then Albemarle’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, Siri Russell, will talk about COVID-19 Collaboration followed by a presentation from Dr. Denise Bonds of the Blue Ridge Health District with a report on COVID-19 in the community. Then there will be a demonstration of the Charlottesville Regional Equity Atlas.
The Nelson County Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. in person at the General District Courtroom in the Nelson County Courtroom in Lovingston. On the agenda is a special use permit request for an office use on land zoned agricultural. (agenda packet)
“When the new tenant applied for a sign permit for the office operation (Mountain Life of VA), it was determined that the new use would require a new special use permit,” wrote planning director Dylan Bishop in the staff report for the item.
There will also be a review of the draft ordinance on solar energy systems in the county as well as a review of a draft ordinance on nonconforming ordinance.
“The intent of this ordinance therefore is to permit these nonconformities to continue, but not to encourage their survival or permit their uses as grounds for adding other structures or uses prohibited elsewhere within the same district,” reads the draft ordinance.
The Albemarle Broadband Authority meets at 5 p.m. for a virtual meeting that will feature updates on efforts to expand internet to the rural areas of the county. Last week, the Economic Development Authority got an update from the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative on their work. (meeting info)
At 10 a.m. Charlottesville will hold a site plan conference for a project in the core of the city’s Fifeville neighborhood.
“This site plan is for a mixed use two story building with five two bedroom residential units and 768sf of office space,” reads the agenda for the meeting. “The property has frontage on 7th Street SW and Delevan Street with an address of 214 7th St. SW.”
The project is within the city’s Cherry Avenue Corridor zoning district. (meeting info)
The committee charged with recommending projects to be funded with the city’s next round of Community Development Block Grant funding will meet at 4 p.m. The Ridge Street Priority Neighborhood Task Force Meeting will contain a discussion of current ideas. (meeting info)
A group called the Measurements and Solutions Workgroup will meet virtually at 5:30 p.m. There is no agenda available at this time, but this group’s charge is related to much of what will be discussed in the joint meeting earlier in the day. (meeting info)
“Specifically, the commission is charged with establishing measurements, benchmarks, solutions and metrics in a formal report to Council,” reads the group’s website.
The Charlottesville Tree Commission also meets at 5:30 p.m. An agenda was not available at production time. (meeting info)
Thursday, October 29, 2020
The only item on the calendar is a meeting on the Urban Rivanna River Corridor Plan. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. The website lists a November 12 meeting date for a workshop to “seek public feedback regarding a feasibility study for a potential bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River near Riverview Park.” (meeting details)
Friday, October 30, 2020
Could it really be the case that there are no government meetings on this day? That appears to be the case. If so, then I will gladly take the time to go back and write about everything I can. I’ve created a new platform to post longer stories and more podcast summaries. Still working out the details, but ready to keep rolling with this experiment to capture as much as I can about who we are right now and the decisions that are made. (check it out)
And as always, please let me know what I’ve missed. Now, I’m off to go find a Alexis de Tocqueville costume for Halloween.
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.