Week Ahead for October 4, 2021: Albemarle BOS to review Comprehensive Plan; Charlottesville to learn more about $75 million school reconfiguration

This first full week of October brings a return to a month when both the Charlottesville City Council and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meet in the same calendar week. That will also happen in November but December will bring a return to split meetings. The end of the year is fast approaching.

This is a good week to demonstrate how planning undergirds much of what gets built in the community. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will get updates on the Comprehensive Plan process as well as an update on transportation projects.

Not all plans come to fruition. A project to reconfigure Charlottesville’s middle schools is closer to moving forward because funds have been reallocated from the long-planned West Main Streetscape. In a world of finite resources for local projects, there will be much more scrutiny of all manner of projects in the months, years, and decades to come.

As always, thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support of this newsletter and the research that goes into it each and every week. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Charlottesville City Council meets virtually at 6:30 p.m. The end of the meeting will include another discussion on the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, as well as an update on the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Authority, and a discussion of the chair of the Police Civilian Review Board. (meeting info)

Let’s begin with highlights from the consent agenda:

  • The contract for City Council Clerk Kyna Thomas will be amended to give her 120 days notice should Council want to terminate her employment. The current period is 30 days. (staff report)
  • Council will vote on a resolution appointing a new Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator. (staff report)
  • Council will vote on whether to join the Regional Cigarette Tax Board. For the first time, counties in Virginia will be able to levy such a tax, and Charlottesville is slated to join body which will be administered by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. “Staff believes that it may be only a matter of time before all localities will be required to join such board,” reads the staff report
  • There is a first of two readings for $257,024 in grant funds related to Virginia’s Victim Witness Program. (staff report)
  • There is a second reading for $50,000 to the B.U.C.K. Squad for their community civilian policing efforts. Council held a discussion at their meeting on September 20. (staff report)
  • There is a second reading on appropriation of $88,350 in funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for a multimodal pathway through Washington Park from Preston Avenue to Madison Avenue. (staff report)

Public hearing on park ground lease for garden

In regular business, the first item is a public hearing on a ground lease for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont for a portion of McIntire Park. I’ve got a small blurb from the Sept. 20 reading on my Information Charlottesville sire. (read it) (read the staff report)

Next, Council will vote on whether to continue to the Continuity of Government ordinance under which local government has functioned since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“This Ordinance allows a locality to take actions that, in its discretion, it deems necessary to assure continuity of government during a disaster,” reads the staff report for the item. “The CGO primarily deals with how public meetings may take place, extension of mandatory deadlines, and fees for City-owned areas used by businesses as outdoor cafés.”

If approved, the continuity ordinance would be in effect through March 18, 2022. 

The highlight of the event is a work session on the reconfiguration of public schools. Council held a work session on Sept. 15 at which they directed staff to move funds away from the West Main Streetscape project to help cover the $75 million project. (read previous coverage). The School Board has since endorsed a concept that would see new construction built in between the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center and the existing buildings at Buford. (staff report) (VMDO presentation)

A breakdown of the current cost estimates for all of the work for reconfiguration, which also anticipates construction of a $22.3 million early childhood education center at the Walker Campus. 

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. On the agenda is a review of a cell tower as well as a Discount Tire franchise on U.S. 29 at a spot where a Wendy’s restaurant now exists. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Fire EMS Executive Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will hold a special session beginning at 4 p.m., followed by a closed session at 5 p.m., followed by an open session at 6 p.m. They’ll get an update from the Louisa County Water Authority and an update on the Chickahominy Pipeline. The latter is a proposed gas pipeline for which a map was just released. Read more on that in a September 24 article from Sarah Vogelsong in the Virginia Mercury(meeting agenda packet)

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. On their agenda is a public hearing on a change to the zoning ordinance to clean-up rules for how developers can get permission for additional residential units if they meet certain conditions. These provisions have not been updated since 1985. This review is more of a precursor to a larger one that will be undertaken in the future to reflect the county’s new housing plan which seeks to increase the number of affordable units. (meeting info)

“This [zoning text amendment] does not directly address those strategies, but instead, aims to clarify and simplify the existing, enforceable bonuses in preparation for the upcoming ZTA that will address those strategies,” reads the staff report

The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets remotely at 5 p.m. There will be updates on various initiatives, such as the Cville ReLeaf program which has the slogan “Nurturing Kids and Communities through Nature.” There are several projects underway including development of a city-wide school curriculum on the urban heat island effect and its relationship to tree canopy percentage. (meeting info)

“Increasing the City’s urban tree canopy is critically important for enhancing numerous City goals: public health; energy conservation; environmental sustainability; water and air quality; stormwater management; and environmental justice,” reads the Tree Commission’s FY20 report. “Unfortunately, Charlottesville’s overall tree canopy cover continues to decline, and the city has not met its annual tree planting goals each of the past four years. 

In other meetings:

  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will meet at 7 p.m. in person in the General District Courtroom in Lovingston. (meeting info)

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. They’ll begin with a proclamation honoring Indigenous People’s Day. (agenda)

“Virginia is home to 11 state-recognized Indian tribes: the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indians Eastern Division, Mattaponi Indian Tribe, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond Indian Tribe, Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia, Rappahannock Tribe, and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe,” reads the proclamation. “The Monacan Indian Nation and the Saponi Indians are believed to be the indigenous stewards of present day Albemarle County.” 

Next, the Board of Supervisors will discuss their legislative priorities for 2022. I wrote about a previous discussion in September. These include a request to expand where photo-speed cameras can be used, setting minimum building standards for agricultural buildings, and moving June primaries to the third week of the month. (draft list)

After that, staff will provide an update on how the Comprehensive Plan process will be conducted in Albemarle. In March, Supervisors directed staff to develop an approach that would address zoning issues sooner in the process. Staff has come back with a new timeline. 

“The Phasing Plan proposes four-phases of work for each project and will allow for portions of the Zoning Ordinance to be updated as the Comp Plan Update process is underway,” reads the staff report.

According to a presentation included in the packet, the first phase carries the title Growth Management and Framework and will get underway this quarter. There are three stated goals, and here are two of them:

• To review, evaluate, and update the Growth Management Policy through the lenses of equity, climate action, capacity projections.

• To align Comprehensive Plan Vision & Values to align with Albemarle County’s updated Values 

The schedule shows that a draft of a new growth management policy will be reviewed early next year with adoption by the end of the second quarter of 2022. A first background report would be available by the end of the year. 

For decades, growth management has been a central theme in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan.

“The Growth Management Policy directs development into specific, identified areas for vibrant growth while conserving the remainder of the County for rural uses, such as agriculture, forestry, and resource protection,” reads the plan’s introduction. Learn more about the Plan on the county’s website

The other three phases in the forthcoming review are Policy Review and Framework Design, Strategies and Actions, and Final Draft Review. The schedule anticipates a draft of the plan would be ready in early 2024 with adoption hoped for sometime before the end of the June 2024. 

Click through to see a larger version of the presentation 

If planning goes well, implementation might follow. In the past several years, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars in Virginia Department of Transportation projects in Albemarle. Albemarle has a well-organized list of priorities for future projects that is used by planning staff and decision-makers to select future projects. Reading through the latest report will give you updates on what projects are being considered for the next round of Smart Scale, as well as updates on recently approved and financed projects. It’s quite a list.  (transportation quarterly report

In the evening there are a few public hearings. The first is for routine budget amendment and appropriations. The second is for an amendment to the taxation chapter of the county code to change the deadlines for property tax payment from June 5 to June 25 (staff report). The third is to waive late filing fees for land use revalidation for this year (staff report). 

The fourth is for the rezoning of Breezy Hill. Southern Development has been seeking to build homes on about 76 acres of land in the scope of the Village of Rivanna Master Plan. The land is currently zoned rural area and the request is to change that to R-1. The project has been reduced in size from an original request of 180 units to a current request for 80 units. The Albemarle Planning Commission voted 4-2 on July 20 to recommend approval. 

Members of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Council expressed their displeasure of that vote at their August 9 meeting. One of their concerns is that a secondary entrance to the development is required to be built onto Running Deer Lane. (watch their meeting)

Economic outlook. LUEPC update

There are some interesting items on the consent agenda. One of them is an economic outlook for Albemarle County. (report)

“The County’s economy in FY 21 experienced a number of challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic but, in a general sense, the impact of the pandemic on Albemarle’s economy did not appear to have been as significant as was feared at the beginning of FY 21,” reads the conclusions for the report. 

The report suggests that Albemarle’s economy will continue to fare well, but also hints at potential obstacles. These include problems with global supply lines, a drop in consumer confidence, and growing inflation. 

There’s also a semi-annual update from the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee (LUEPC). That non-public group is made up of staff from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the University of Virginia. In 2019, LUEPC replaced a public body known as the Planning and Coordination Council that consisted of elected officials and was subject to Virginia’s open meeting laws. LUEPC is not. 

“The Committee is intended as a vehicle to share and coordinate land use and development plans and projects; consider environmental and infrastructure issues facing the community; and, from time to time, advance ideas and solutions that support the mutual advantage of these entities,” reads the three-page report. (three-page report)

Here’s some of what they’ve done this year:

Also on the consent agenda is a 151-page document containing all of the annual reports from the various boards and commissions. I’m going to see how many edits I can make on cvillepedia based off of this document. (report of reports)

In other meetings:

  • The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will meet at 4 p.m. at the Carysbook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union. There are no public hearings, but there will be an update on the Fluvanna County Fair. (meeting agenda packet)

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. (agenda)

There will be an update on broadband projects being funded through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative as well as redistricting of Virginia’s legislative boundaries. Then there will be a presentation of the final solid waste plan to be submitted by TJPDC to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Here are some of the key findings:

• There is adequate permitted capacity at area transfer stations to meet 2045 projected capacity requirements.

• No active landfills in the [Solid Waste Planning Unit] means that all waste is handled by transfer stations, convenience centers, or materials recovery facilities. Waste is transported outside of the region for disposal and recycling. 

• Of the waste that’s generated 65% is landfilled and 35% is recycled. 

In other meetings:

  • One of the TJPDC’s current initiatives is a Regional Transit Vision Plan. A stakeholders meeting is being held at 9 a.m. that will take the place of the October meeting of the Regional Transit Vision Plan. An email update on the plan states the meeting is public, but there is no link to how people can join live. I’ll have more information in a future newsletter.
  • The housing subcommittee of Charlottesville’s Human Rights Commission meets at 1 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The legal representation subcommittee of the Charlottesville’s Human Rights Commission meets 1:30 p.m. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. An agenda was not available at publication time. (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets at 5 p.m. They’ll discuss traffic enforcement issues as well as West Main Street. (meeting info)
  • Charlottesville’s Youth Council meets at 6 p.m. There’s no agenda available at publication time. (meeting info)

Friday, October 8, 2021

Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee meets at 11 a.m. One of the items on the agenda is a presentation from Mabel Wilson, a Professor of Architecture at Columbia University. She will speak of her experience planning the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. (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.