Even at this moment of heightened uncertainty after seven months of the pandemic, local government in our area continues to move along under conditions that have shifted. This week features major meetings with items ranging from the climate action plan in Albemarle to a look at the many Council-appointed commissions in Charlottesville. Consider paying extra attention to local issues this week. I’m here to answer any questions.
Monday, October 5
Charlottesville City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. for their first of two regular meetings this month. This is one of at least six meetings overall. (agenda)
There will be a public hearing on a second allocation of $4.12 million in funding related to the CARES Act. According to the staff report, the city currently anticipates using the money in the same way as the first to address the ongoing pandemic response. That means spending is in these rough categories: (staff report)
- $825,000 for a second round of business relief grants (20%)
- $639,000 for community support to various groups in need (15.5%)
- $381,876 in employee support including hazard pay for police, fire, rescure, sheriff, and social service employees (9.3%)
- $1.25 million in operational modifications to city government (30.9%)
- $377,400 million in government-related technology improvements (9.2%)
- $625,000 to go to a contingency reserve fund (15.2%)
Council will also get updates on the strategic plan, just six days after holding a six-hour meeting on the topic. There will be a presentation on the City of Promise, created by City Council in 2012 as a “data-driven, neighborhood-based, community-supported initiative to increase academic achievement and empowerment in Charlottesville’s 10th & Page/Westhaven and Starr Hill neighborhoods.”
There will also be an update on the Home to Hope program called for by Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker in 2019. Home to Hope is a peer support service that provides support and helps find employment for people who are being released from area correctional facilities. Since last year, four “peer navigators” have assisted 235 people with 159 currently active as of September 15, 2020. (staff report)
The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. with two items on the agenda. (meeting info)
The first is a new three-story mixed-use building proposed along U.S. 250 east of exit 124. The structure will house a hardware store and a coffee shop. The property is zoned commercial but is not in the designated growth area. However, it is within an Entrance Corridor Review so the item is before the ARB. (staff report and materials)
The second is for a refurbishment of the Albemarle Square shopping center for a new Aldi store to replace the departed Fresh Market. This project was before the ARB in September and they urged architects with Design Development to “pay additional attention to the pedestrian experience between Aldi and the rest of the shopping center.”
Tuesday, October 6
The Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold a virtual public hearing at 6 p.m. (meeting info)
The owners of the Forest Lakes Shopping Center are seeking permission from the county to expand onto undeveloped land. The JA-ZAN Limited Partnership requires a previous rezoning to be amended to allow additional building space.
“This property is currently underutilized for its central location within an established commercial center in the development areas,” reads the applicant’s narrative. (staff report)
The proposal developed by Shimp Engineering includes additional sidewalks throughout the area and a multi-use path along Worth Crossing. These are intended to fulfil what is called for in the Places29 Master Plan, which calls for increased connectivity in this area. This item had its community meeting in early August.
The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 10 a.m. but there are no public hearings. There is a training session on the powers and duties of the BZA. If you’re interested in the finer aspects of zoning, this is a good primer on Virginia law. (meeting info)
Charlottesville City Council will hold a work session on boards and commissions from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is their fourth meeting in two weeks. There are at least three more scheduled for the rest of the month. (agenda)
This meeting, though, will include a discussion on whether four additional boards can meet during the continuing state of emergency. These are the Towing Advisory Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Parking Advisory Board, and the Historic Resources Committee.
The materials for the meeting include a list of the 34 boards established by Council, ranging from the Belmont Bridge Steering Committee to the Youth Council. There’s also a list of 31 other external Boards that Council appoints people to sit on. (materials)
Wednesday, October 7
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. with two topics of major importance to the future of our area — climate action and housing policy. (agenda)
The Climate Action Plan has been in development for several years and is finally before the Board for a vote. The document offers strategies and specific actions to help Albemarle meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and to be “net zero” by 2050.
“Since local government operations comprise only a small fraction of the community’s total contribution to climate change, the proposed actions are not limited to changing how the County operates,” reads the staff report. “The plan includes initiatives to engage, inform, motivate, and empower the greater community to take part in addressing this worldwide crisis.”
Take a look at the 14-page summary of how the various strategies and actions have evolved over time and to see just what goes into a community action plan such as this.
Next, Supervisors will be presented with draft housing policy recommendations to help increase the number of affordable housing units in the county.
“New residential development in the County has not kept pace with growing housing demand, leaving many County residents struggling to find housing they can afford that meets their needs,” reads the staff report. A housing study conducted last year by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission found that there are more than 10,000 households that pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
“As the County continues to grow, that number is estimated to increase by 4,000 households by the year 2040,” the report continues.
The draft recommendations include a plan for implementation. The first objective is to increase the supply of housing in the county.
“To accommodate this growth, the County will need to add approximately 11,750 new units to our housing stock over the next 20 years,” reads the objective’s narrative .”The majority of this need—8,134 units or 69% of the required new housing – is projected to be met with units already in the residential development pipeline.”
The plan recommends steps such as allowing more types of housing in the urban area, including duplexes, triplexes and other housing that allows more units. Recall this recent article I wrote on RealCrozetVA on “missing middle” housing.
Other objectives are to increase the amount of affordable rental housing, promote affordable for-sale units, and to maintain existing housing stock. How to achieve all of these goals? Read the plan and familiarize yourself with these terms. And listen in. This is a conversation for the whole community.
Following the housing discussion, transportation takes its turn. Albemarle’s transportation planner, Kevin McDermott, will provide a quarterly report. So will Carrie Shepheard, the administration of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Charlottesville residency.
In the evening, the main event is a public hearing on a rezoning for the Albemarle Business Campus across from the county’s office building on Fifth Street Extended. Developer Kyle Redinger is seeking to convert 13.63 acres of property to the Neighborhood Model District to allow for up to 401,000 square feet of non-commercial space and up to 128 residential units.
In August, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning but declined to give support to a request for a special exception to a rule that requires at least two types of housing types. Since then, Redinger has modified the application to state that some of the townhouse units could also have accessory apartments. (staff report)
Following that there will be a public hearing on utility easements across county property at the Yancey Community School Center, as well as a discussion of legislative priorities for the 2021 session of the General Assembly. One of these includes a request to allow counties to regulate minimum building standards for agricultural buildings.
Thursday, October 8
The PLACE Design Task Force meets at noon for a gathering that includes another discussion of its own future. (agenda)
Friday, October 9
The city’s Historic Resources Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m., but the meeting title contains a note that the gathering is subject to Council approval on October 5. Recall that the Historic Resources Committee has not yet been authorized to meet electronically. (meeting info)
The agenda assumes approval, and an assortment and assemblage of actions await. They’ll review the status of Vinegar Hill Park, historical markers for Court Square, a public engagement plan for the Slave Auction Block, and a cemetery in Pen Park. (agenda)
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.