We are now halfway through the month of July and the summer slowdown continues with a pause for several regularly scheduled meetings. There is a lot happening this week, though, as that’s just what we can expect in a community with as many moving parts as this one.
This newsletter is intended to help anyone who wants to get involved. There’s a sharp learning curve for much of this but since 2007 I’ve made my living looking at local and regional government. My aim is to provide context and to do my best to make this stuff accessible.
Please send this to as many people as you can and ask questions in comments or drop me a line.
Highlights this week:
- Charlottesville City Council will approve a contract for Sam Sanders to be the next City Manager and will also learn what’s happening with the various Sister Cities.
- Greene County’s Planning Commission will have a public hearing on a rezoning for 500 dwelling units near Stanardsville.
- There’s a site plan conference for a new hotel on Hillsdale Drive in Charlottesville
- Charlottesville’s new economic development strategic plan will go before both Council and the Economic Development Authority.
- Council will get an update on Charlottesville Area Transit’s plan to transition to zero-emission or low-emission vehicles.
- There are two transportation meetings worth reviewing for those who want to get involved with planning.
- Albemarle Supervisors will approve a site for a future solid waste convenience center and will review how non-profits groups are funded.
Thanks to The Piedmont Environmental Council for their continued support of this work.
Monday, July 17, 2023
Council to review Sister Cities and economic development plan at work session
The Charlottesville City Council will begin their meeting at 4 p.m. with a work session, followed by a closed session for boards and appointments, followed by a regular meeting. (meeting agenda)
The work session has two items. The first is a report from the Sister Cities Commission which can be read here. In all, Charlottesville has five communities that it has some relationship with.
- Poggio a Caiano, Italy
- Pleven, Bulgaria (considered inactive)
- Besançon, France
- Winneba, Ghana
- Huehuetenango, Guatemala (Friendship City still in exploratory phase)
This year, in–person exchanges resumed a trip in April by one Charlottesville representative to Besançon.
“During the visit, a group comprised of Sister City Commissioners, Charlottesville teachers, and CHS students were warmly welcomed in Besançon and honored with a reception at the Victor Hugo Birthplace museum,” reads a section of the presentation.
We also learn from the report that the 10th and 11th delegations to Winneba have taken place this year since the relationship was created in 2010. We also learn that the University of Virginia School of Architecture has an ongoing environmental conservation partnership in Winneba. That would be a very interesting story!
As for Huehuetenango, there have been a lot of negotiations and conversations this year.
“It is anticipated that the CSCC will have a next-step recommendation ready for presentation to the Charlottesville City Council in August 2023,” reads slide 12 of the presentation.
The second presentation is on the economic development strategic plan crafted for the City of Charlottesville. I’ve tracked the creation of this plan.
- Charlottesville to hire consultant to strategic plan for economic development, September 16, 2022
- Economic development plan strategic plan contract awarded, November 21, 2022
- Survey launches for Charlottesville Economic Development Plan, February 1, 2023
- Charlottesville’s new economic development plan to focus on inclusivity, workforce development, May 23, 2023
The plan is now complete and carries this vision statement:
“A cultural and creative capital of Virginia, Charlottesville treasures its people and diversity – a leader in innovation and sustainability,” reads the statement.
Under the consent agenda:
- There’s a resolution to move up the spending of $175,000 for a alert system for the Fontaine Avenue Fire Station from FY2026 to now. (staff report)
- There’s second reading of an ordinance to create a firearms buy-back program. (staff report)
- There’s first reading of an appropriation of $56,316.53 in insurance reimbursements for a variety of damaged city infrastructure such as poles. (staff report)
- There’s first reading of an appropriation of $100,000 from the Virginia Department of Education for the Special Nutrition Program Summer Food Service Program. (staff report)
- There is first reading of a transfer of $33,827.85 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the City of Promise to the city. City of Promise had been using the money for community resiliency activities at the Westhaven Clinic but a decision has been to return the funds to the city. (staff report)
- There is first reading of an encroachment agreement with the owner of 1117 Preston Avenue as some of the infrastructure for a proposed 16-unit apartment building is within the city’s right of way. (staff report)
Council to approve Sanders city manager contract
The first item on the regular agenda is the approval of an employment agreement with Sam Sanders to be the next City Manager. City Council made the announcement last week.
After that, Council will hear an approval of a certificate of appropriateness for an apartment building at 2005 Jefferson Park Avenue. The Planning Commission acting as the Entrance Corridor Review Board approved the project on March 14, 2023 and several neighbors appealed the decision. Council heard the appeal on May 15 and took no formal action. However, there is a concern the city did not follow notice requirements properly so the matter is back before the Council. (staff report)
Next, Council will consider a lease with the Blue Ridge Coalition for the Homeless to rent a portion of CitySpace that was rented for nearly a decade to one of my former employers.
“Given the history of the City providing shared working spaces with Charlottesville Tomorrow, it was worthy of exploration to reduce expenditures which will increase funding available for existing programs and services,” reads the staff report.
BRACH was formerly known as the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. The city awarded funds to the city earlier this year through the Housing Operations Program to hire new employees. They’ll be in the corner office I used to occupy.
After that Council will hold the first and only reading of a resolution to express the city’s support for the second phase of the formerly named Friendship Court. This is an amendment to one adopted in February 2021. Since then, the total amount of city funding for the project has increased to a total of $5,750,000.
“This updated Resolution will be used by Piedmont Housing Alliance to provide documentation of the city funding commitment for their lenders, Low Income Housing Tax Credits applications and other needed support,” reads the staff report.
I do have to wonder why the staff report isn’t using the updated name of Kindlewood? In any case, Kindlewood is being redeveloped in four phases to avoid displacing the people and families who live there now.
“The completed redevelopment will result in 425 to 475 residential units and a variety of commercial, educational, and retail space, as well as a proposed park,” the report continues.
A similar amendment had been made for the first phase, as I reported at the time.
Council will also hold the first of two readings to appropriate $285,665 in funds for a pedestrian trail from Washington Park to Madison Avenue.
“The City recently canceled another HSIP project and VDOT has agreed to move that funding over to the Washington project to enable it to be re-bid and proceed to construction,” reads the staff report.
What project was canceled? When will this one be built? How does it fit in to the city’s plan to connect bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure? Is there a plan?
Council will hold the first of two readings for the request from Heirloom Development to reduce stepbacks for the apartment building to be constructed at 218 West Market Street. Learn more in the staff report or read the story I wrote from the June 13 public hearing before Council and the Planning Commission. Take your pick. I just want you to be informed.
Finally Council will get an update on a study that Charlottesville Area Transit has been commissioned on the transition to zero-emission or low-emission fuels.
“The transition to a new fuel type would support the City’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050,” reads the staff report. “However, to make this transition successfully, CAT will need to ensure that its vehicles are able to serve the work requirements of its routes in a reliable fashion.”
Council was briefed on the creation of the study back in March 2022, as I reported at the time. Will there also be questions about the status of the governance study? The transit strategic plan? Council got a brief update on the microtransit plan for Albemarle in June. Who reported it at the time? I reported it at the time.
According to a slide in the presentation, the consultant Kimley-Horn is also studying space needs that CAT might need for facilities. A site master plan is to be developed by fall 2023 and a “zero emissions bus transition plan” will also be ready in the fall.
In other meetings:
- The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. They’ll review an administration building for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority) at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The property is within the entrance corridor that is Interstate 64. (meeting info)
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
MPO Tech group to discuss OneMap, Moving toward 250, and other transportation matters
One of the areas I am hoping that more people will take an interest in is transportation planning. As I enter into my fourth year of doing this work as an independent journalist, I’m struck by how many people express surprise at various projects when they go to construction.
If you want to take an interest, there are two meetings this week to at review. The first is the MPO Technical Committee which meets at 10 a.m. in the Water Street Center at 407 East Water Street. (agenda)
At this meeting there will be a discussion of a project called OneMap that’s intended to put all bike and pedestrian infrastructure in both Albemarle and Charlottesville in a single place. There’s no advance information about this in the packet.
The next item is a review of the long-range transportation plan known as Moving Toward 2050. I have a story summarizing a recent webinar if you want to know more. Or watch the webinar yourself! There are currently 14 views up from nine on Friday morning.
There will also be a review of changes that will be coming to the Smart Scale Process in the next round.
“While this evaluation process occurs after every round of SMART SCALE, substantive adjustments are being considered as part of the current review,” reads the staff report.
The MPO Tech committee will also learn that a federal grant application for preliminary engineering for a pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River was not successful. Guess what? I have a story on that, too. There will also be an update on the $857,600 Safe Streets for All grant received by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission earlier this year.
In other meetings:
- The Greene County Emergency Services Advisory Board meets at 6 p.m. (meeting agenda)
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Albemarle Supervisors to review process for nonprofits
The meeting begins with a resolution to mark the service of former Deputy County Executive Doug Walker. Walker will step down on August 1 as I reported in February.
The first regular item of business will be a work session on ways that non-profit groups can request funding from Albemarle County. As of this past budget cycle, there are three ways to apply:
- A community non-profit capital request
- The Agency Budget Review Team process
- The Cultural, Arts, and Festivals Review process
Staff will be asked if there should be adjustments as planning begins for FY2025. That Fiscal New Year is only 351 days away.
- There’s consideration of a special exception for a homestay on Jarmans Gap Road to allow for a resident caretaker to fulfill residency requirements. (item materials)
- There will be a resolution to establish a use for some of the 50 acres proffered to the county as part of the July 2019 rezoning for Brookhill. One parcel will be dedicated to the a solid waste convenience center for the northern portion of the Albemarle. The Southern Convenience Center opened last month. (staff report)
- Albemarle County continues to pursue a shared use path on Route 20 between the City of Charlottesville and the bottom of the hill that leads to Piedmont Virginia Community College. The company Line and Grade has produced two design concepts at a cost of $20,000 for a project called for in the Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan but is not on the county’s transportation priority list. A previous study had routed the shared use path down the median. (staff report)
There are no items on the 6 p.m. agenda except reports and matters from the public. But you’re not getting away from Albemarle too easily. There are several items on the consent agenda.
- Supervisors will approve minutes for several meetings from 2021. There are no approved minutes yet for 2022 or 2023. (staff report)
- There are appropriations for FY2023 related to a stream restoration within Biscuit Run Park as well as the Yancey Community Center. (staff report)
- There will also be approvals for FY2024 related to the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center and the Charlottesville-UVA-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center (ECC). (staff report)
- There will be an update of the county’s personnel policy. (staff report)
- A public hearing will be scheduled in the future to correct an error in the noise ordinance. (staff report)
- A public hearing will be scheduled in the future to authorize an ordinance to allow photo speed monitoring devices in school zones and highway work zones. (staff report)
- A public hearing will be scheduled in the future to lease a portion of Walnut Creek to Verizon for a wireless services tower. (staff report)
- Several roads in the rural area will be designated as “rural rustic” to allow for paving standards that are less than what the Virginia Department of Transportation would require for a standard road. (staff report)
- A special exception will be considered to allow an antenna on a Verizon wireless tower that exceeds 1,400 square inches. The county’s policies on siting such towers is under review as I reported recently. (staff report)
A brief interlude on the city’s calendar management software
The City of Charlottesville’s system for publishing meeting notices continues to have issues. As I wrote last week, there are currently two ways to find out about meetings.
- This link goes to the calendar that has been used since Charlottesville moved to a new website in 2020.
- This link goes to the new calendar that the company CivicPlus uses for meeting management for municipal government.
There’s a site plan conference scheduled for 10 a.m. or a project called Hillsdale 2 Home. The item on the original calendar has the wrong start time and does not have any information about where the meeting is going to be held. If you click on “download the agenda” it will go to the page for this meeting on the new calendar. To use this calendar, you click on the items on the left for more information. However, there is none.
So let’s look at the new calendar. When you click on the item for the Housing Advisory Committee, there’s a notice for the site plan conference. More on that in a moment. But how do we find out about what the HAC will be doing? Turns out, the agendas for recent meetings have been posted on the HAC website but on neither of the two calendars above.
Anyway. Back to the meetings.
Site plan meeting for new hotel on India Road
“Do we need another hotel?” I can imagine many people asking as soon as they read that there’s a site plan conference for a hotel to be built on a vacant piece of land on Hillsdale Drive.
“Property owner Albemarle Suites LLC, has submitted a Final Site Plan for a one hundred twenty-one (121) unit commercial hotel development,” reads the letter notifying adjacent residents of the opportunity to attend the meeting which will be held at 10 a.m. in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room in City Hall.
The 2.54 acre parcel is zoned Highway Commercial under the current zoning code and this is a by-right use.
So, do we need another hotel? The property owner seems to think so. One metric used to determine if there’s a market is the occupancy rate. The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau keeps track of these numbers. In April of this year, the figure was just above 70 percent which indicates demand. So Albemarle Suites LLC is proceeding.
What does the Hydraulic Small Area plan say about this property? Not much, it turns out.
Greene County Planning Commission to review rezoning for 500 units near Stanardsville
The Greene County Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the county meeting room in the administration building. (meeting info)
There are two items on the agenda.
The first is a public hearing on a request to rezone nearly 140 acres near the Town of Stanardsville from R-1 (Residential) to Planned Unit Development to allow for a community of 500 units with a mixture of 150 townhomes and 350 single-family detached units.
The Greene County Future Land Use Map designates this area as “mixed use village center” and a portion of one of the parcels is within the town.
“This rezoning is being pursued so that a style of development, with smaller lots and varied unit types that is more consistent with the historic fabric of the Town of Stanardsville than what would be permitted by-right may take shape,” reads the narrative written by Shimp Engineering. “This rezoning will not contribute to increased impacts to the surrounding area beyond the by-right development potential as the unit count is capped at 500, a count consistent with the by-right lot yield per gross density calculations.”
Greene County requires a fiscal impact analysis for each rezoning. The one produced by S. Patz and Associates calculated it would have a net benefit of $530,530 per year to Greene County.
Next, Commissioners will have a work session on prioritizing the various goals and strategies of the recently updated Comprehensive Plan.
“The Board of Supervisors would like 10 ‘Goals and Implementation Strategies’ bullet points selected and presented to the Board,” reads the staff report.” In addition, the Board would like a priority or timeline for each recommendation.”
In other meetings:
- The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee will meet at noon. As I stated above, there’s no agenda. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors meet at 4 p.m. in CitySpace. They usually meet on a Tuesday. They’ll get an update on the same economic development strategic plan that Council will review on Monday. (meeting info)
- The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee will at 7 p.m. That’s the second meeting for transportation and the agenda is very similar. (agenda)
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Fifth and Avon CAC to hold community meeting for office building
The 5th & Avon Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. in the county’s office building at 1600 5th Street extended in Room B. (meeting info)
The main item on the agenda is a community meeting for a special use permit for an office building and warehouse within the Mill Creek planned unit development.
“At the time of the original 1985 planned unit development zoning, the PUD was imagined as a mixed-use development that would feature low-density development with supporting commercial services and industrial areas to the north,” reads the narrative prepared by Shimp Engineering.
The permit is required for the office use but the warehouse is by-right.
The CAC will also get a review of the county’s work to improve broadband access.
In other meetings:
- The Charlottesville Minority Business Commission will meet at 3 p.m. in the conference room in the Office of Economic Development in City Hall. They’ll get an update on what the office is up to as well as efforts to ensure procurement by the city includes minority-owned businesses. (meeting files)
- The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meets at 5:30 p.m. Where? Neither calendar item tells us but here’s the one on the old system. The committee website says the meetings take place on Zoom, but that’s not the case anymore.
- The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m in CitySpace. There’s no agenda. (calendar 1) (calendar 2)
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.