Cville Area Land Use Update: Week of July 31, 2023

The week begins with a fifth Monday which likely means a strange rhythm to the month of August. Usually, the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors meet two days apart from each other, but every now and then this unimportant interval fluctuates. 

There are no top-level meetings in Greene County or Louisa County this week. 

Some highlights this week:

  • The growth of Zion Crossroads depends on large projects to expand water and sewer capacity. Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors will get an update on Wednesday.
  • Albemarle Supervisors will get a large amount of information Wednesday about transportation projects at various stages of the process, including the pedestrian bridge that will span U.S. 29 north of Hydraulic 
  • The Miller School in western Albemarle wants to expand to 500 students and needs a special use permit to do so. There’s a public hearing on Wednesday.
  • Should Albemarle allow the use of photo speed cameras? There’s a public hearing Wednesday if you have a thought for elected officials to consider. 
  • Albemarle’s Board of Zoning Appeals will consider a request from a developer to allow reduced setbacks for a decades-old lot at Albemarle Lake. While this may seem arcane and obscure, consider that much of the discussion of Charlottesville’s new zoning code is about reduced setbacks. 

Thanks as always to The Piedmont Environment Council for their continued sponsorship of this weekly newsletter. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Is there a name for the fifth day of a month? It would be useful to have a way to describe the strange feeling of having a day in which there are no regular meetings. In anyway case, the only known meeting today would have been the Albemarle Board of Equalization but that’s been canceled. (meeting info)

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Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals to hear Albemarle Lake setback reduction request

The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (final packet)

For those interested in the rules governing how things get built, the BZA can be quite fascinating. This level of detail may not be of interest to everyone, but the nuances become really entertaining and captivating the longer you pay attention to the nuts and bolts of government. 

This time around a property owner in the Albemarle Lake subdivision is appealing staff denial of a request to reduce setback requirements in order to build a dwelling on a vacant property fifteen feet from two property lines.  The land is in the Rural Areas zoning district which requires setbacks of 25 feet. 

The lots were created in the 1930s and 1940s and became “nonconforming” with the zoning code enacted in 1980. 

“I am requesting a variance because the strict application of the ordinance would unreasonably restrict the utilization of the property,” writes Greg Baldwin in the request for the variance.

However, zoning staff denied the request for various reasons. 

“The owner has not demonstrated that a dwelling of a different configuration and size could not be sited on the property, nor that agricultural activities cannot happen there,” reads the staff report. “Staff believes that agriculture is still a reasonable use of the land, which may include associated accessory structure(s) for that use.” 

Included in the packet are emails from other property owners, including one from a couple who live in the subdivision who were denied a similar variance request in 1993. 

“It would be a highly inequitable application of the current zoning requirements to grant a setback variance for a parcel that should have been surveyed prior to its recent purchase especially if it was purchased with development in mind,” reads a July 12 email from Anne Johnson and Peter Massarelli. 

I find this fascinating and suspect at least some of you do as well. 

The yellow lines depict the location of the nonconforming lot for which staff denied a variance from setback requirement (Credit: Albemarle County)

The July 11, 2023 meeting is available for you to watch on YouTube if you want to check it out first.

Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission to meet

The Charlottesville Sister Cities meets at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in CitySpace. This is the first time they’ve met since presenting to the City Council in July. I really wanted to report on that discussion because I love the concept of connections to specific international communities. I doubt I’ve ever travel to any of them, but I want to know more about the world around me. Anyway, you can go and watch that presentation here. (meeting files)

A delegation of visitors from Winneba, Ghana have been in town since July 24 and depart on Wednesday.  They’ll talk about the trip including Monday’s meeting with Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook, lunch with Chamber of Commerce officials, and an afternoon tour of Apex Clean Energy. 

There will also be a discussion of connecting to Huehuetenango, Guatemala and a motion to make that connection retroactive to July 1, 2021. 

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Board of Equalization has a hearing scheduled and the calendar says this is happening from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. These videos are captured and placed on the Albemarle County YouTube page and they’re never that long. If you want to see what happens at these, they are viewable on Zoom while they are live. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee (SWAAC) Planning and Vision Group meets at 4 p.m. in Room 246 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. There’s no agenda available at publication time. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. But where? And what will they talk about? Neither a location or an agenda can be found at either calendar #1 or calendar #2Leave a comment

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Public hearings in Albemarle on photo speed cameras, Miller School expansion 

The six member Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (agenda) (meeting info)

After the Pledge of Allegiance, announcements from Board members, matters from the public, and the consent agenda, Supervisors will consider a petition from Woodard Properties requesting the vacation of 430-feet of right of way dedicated to the county in 1968 for construction of a portion of Colonnade Drive that was not built. 

Woodard Properties to use the land for more housing units above the 96 permitted under an active site plan, but staff is recommending denial of the request to preserve interconnection to another nearby parcel zoned R-15. 

“In order to abandon a public road, the Board must find either that no public necessity exists for the continuance of a section of road as a public road, or that the public would be served best by abandoning the section of road,” reads the staff analysis

The location map for the right of way dedicated in 1968 for a roadway that’s not been built. (Credit: Albemarle County)

The meeting continues with an update on the due diligence Albemarle County is doing as it seeks to complete a contract to purchase 462 acres near Rivanna Station from developer Wendell Wood for a purchase price of $58 million. The cost may be slightly more if the county takes more time to conduct environmental and financing work.

“The purchase agreement provides a 90-day due diligence period, extendable with a fee in 30-day increments,” reads the staff report. “The first three 30-day increments would cost $50,000 per increment and the final three 30-day increments would cost $100,000 per increment.” 

If you’re new to this story, here are some previous stories:

Fans of transportation rejoice! Albemarle County staff will go through recent activities and provide updates on projects. I’ve missed a couple of items I have wanted to report, so I’ll hoping to provide some updates of my own! At any given point there are many transportation studies underway and my hope is to get as many of you looking at them as possible so you can have your stay. (here’s the raw report)

For now, here are some items:

  • An application for federal funds to study a 3.2-mile section of U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to Hilton Heights Road did not make the cut. However, county staff met with counterparts in the U.S. Department of Transportation and have been encouraged to resubmit the application to a new grant program called the Neighborhood Access and Equity program. 
  • Supervisors will be updated on Smart Scale applications that have been funded including the District Avenue Roundabout, intersection improvements at Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road, and bike improvements along Avon Street from Druid Avenue to Avon Court. More details in my story from July 9, 2023.
  • A project to install “pedestrian facilities” on Solomon Road and Inglewood Drive between Hydraulic Road and Georgetown Road is on hold due to workload and staff limitations. 
  • There’s an update on the two “pipeline studies” underway at the Virginia Department of Transportation. These are in the Old Ivy Road area and the Barracks Road area. I’ll have more details coming soon in Charlottesville Community Engagement. 
  • “Stakeholders” are concerned that a project at the U.S. 29 / Fontaine Avenue interchange funded in Smart Scale Round Four “does not meet the needs of the rapidly developing area.” The staff report doesn’t tell you who those stakeholders are but I reported in much more detail in an April 13 story
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed an initial review of Plank Road to see if a through-truck restriction would be appropriate. Albemarle staff report that the conditions of the roadway meet the objective criteria. The next step would be a public hearing on a formal request. 
  • Construction will begin next spring for a pedestrian bridge across U.S. 29 just north of the Hydraulic Road intersection. Work will begin for a roundabout at Hillsdale and Hydraulic will be the following summer. These are all part of a Smart Scale funded project.
  • Three large projects funded through Smart Scale will be bundled into one with a public hearing coming later this summer. These are the roundabout at John Warner Parkway and Rio Road, Route 20/Route 53 intersection improvements, and a roundabout at Old Lynchburg Road and 5th Street Extended. The idea is to hire one contractor to create efficiencies. This strategy has been used on the Route 29 Solutions project as well as several recent intersection projects. 
  • The strategy will be used for two other projects. These are the Route 250 East Corridor Improvements and intersection improvements at Route 20/U.S. 250. A public hearing on those will be coming up for the fall. 

There’s so much more in the report. More details this week including a report from the Virginia Department of Transportation. (read that report)

In the evening there are two land use public hearings and two public hearings for ordinance changes. 

First, Community Christian Academy seeks a special use permit to increase enrollment from 85 to 150 students. This is part of a trend across the Fifth District with private schools seeking capacity increases to fulfill increased demand for alternatives to public school after the pandemic. (item materials)

“Not only did the public-school shutdowns emphasize the benefits that private schools offer our community, but also the increasing enrollments in many, if not all, of our private schools emphasize the desire and need for more educational options,” reads the narrative.

The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 on June 27 to recommend approval. 

The second public hearing is also for a private school. 

“The Miller School would like to plan for the future of the institution,” reads a narrative prepared by Line and Grade for a request for a special permit for the school to becoming compliant with the zoning code. They also want to eventually expand up to 500 students including a partnership with the Seven Rivers Day School. 

The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 to recommend approval at their meeting on June 13. 

Credit: Line and Grade

Next there will be a public hearing on whether Albemarle should allow photo speed monitoring devices in school crossing and highway work zones. The General Assembly enabled localities to do so in 2020

“If the proposed ordinance is adopted… County staff will begin procurement of a vendor to assist in implementing a speed enforcement program in school crossing and highway work zones,” reads the staff report.

The fourth public hearing appears to be to correct a clerical error wherein the phrase “motor vehicle” was used instead of “dwelling unit.” (staff report)

Let’s finish up with the consent agenda:

  • Supervisors will approve the minutes for three meetings from 2021. There are no approved meetings yet for all of 2022. 
  • There are several appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023 including $300,000 in additional revenue from EMS cost recovery that will be used to cover the cost of running additional calls. There’s also a payment of $38,069 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville pursuant to a performance agreement held by the Economic Development Authority. (more details)
  • There are also several appropriations for FY2024 including the acceleration of the purchase of a $970,000 ladder truck which still won’t be delivered until FY2025. There’s also $222,000 in federal revenue to allow the Police Department to purchase “drones, ballistic shields and thermal imaging, which will aid in officer safety, further reduce violent situations and reduce gun violence within the community.” (more details
  • Kaki Dimock will become the county’s Chief Human Services Officer completing a reorganization of the social services and human services programming. She’ll oversee the Office of Human Services, Office of Housing, Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the Broadband Accessibility and Affordability Office. Mary Stebbins will be the Director of Social Services. (more details)
  • Supervisors will be asked to forgive $11,036.37 in unpaid interest on a specific loan for downpayment assistance brokered through the Albemarle County Housing Assistance Program. In October, Supervisors will review potential changes to that program including a move to have all future loans be zero interest. ACHAP is managed by the Piedmont Housing Alliance. (more details)
  • There is a written report telling anyone who’s interested in what the closed-door Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee has been up to. Even though members of the public cannot attend these meetings, I’ve managed to write quite a few stories anyway in my quest to keep people informed about regional planning. Take a look at the report. What do you think? 

Fluvanna Supervisors to get updates on water and sewer expansions to serve Zion Crossroads

The five member Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5 p.m. in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union. (meeting packet)

The first item is a special presentation on a resolution commending and appreciating Paige Tomaras, Zach Butler, and Savannah Peterson. The three are lifeguards who saved a woman whose car crashed into Lake Monticello on July 6. Read more about that in this CBS19 story by Garrett Whitton

There’s no public hearing at this meeting. 

There are four action matters:

  • There’s a budget transfer of $91,625 for FY2023 related to higher-than-expected costs for legal services. This will come from the board’s contingency fund for FY2023 bringing that balance to $381.96. This brings the total budget for the County Attorney’s office to $324,328. That’s up from $202,811 in FY2016 reflecting a locality that may be becoming more complicated as growth pressure increase. .
  • There’s a review of the budget calendar for FY2025. The first public meeting related to the budget is a review of the Capital Improvement Program by the Planning Commission slated for October 10. It’s on my calendar. 
  • There’s a resolution of support for the General Assembly to amend the Line of Duty Act to have it apply its benefits to members of private police forces. This is in the wake of the killing of Mark Christoper Wagner on June 16, 2023 in response to a call.  
  • There’s an update on the Palmyra Village Streetscape Project which includes a vote on a resolution to transfer $118,169 in funds to serve as a match for a grant from VDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The project, like so many, is more expensive than originally budgets going from a 2021 estimate of $1,589,156 to a current $2.18 million. 
The May 2021 conceptual sketch for the Palmyra Streetscape (Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation) 

There are four presentations:

  • There’s a report on the preliminary engineering to expand wastewater capacity to serve Zion Crossroads. This would include construction of a new pump station on U.S. 1, new trunk sewers to serve the whole area, and a new force main. These would network with the existing Zion Crossroads Wastewater Pump Station and force main. Dewberry Engineering provided the report. (page 49)
  • There’s an update on efforts to expand the dogs running at large ordinance to all of Fluvanna County and not just Lake Monticello. (page 139)
  • There’s an update on getting signage to notify trucks and tractor trailers that there’s a steep incline at Route 618’s intersection with Route600. The idea is to discourage them by shouting TRUCKERS – ROUTE 618 IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR TRACTOR TRAILERS. (page 145)
  • There will be an update on the cost of the James River Water Authority’s plan to bring water to Zion Crossroads via the James River. There’s nothing about this in advance but it’s important for the future of the area. 
A map of future infrastructure needs to serve the Zion Crossroads (Credit: Dewberry)

In other meetings:

  • The Nelson County Board of Supervisors have a continued meeting at 2 p.m. There’s no further information about what they’ll discuss on the calendar. As this newsletter is over 3,000 words, I’ll update this later.  (meeting info)

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Thursday. August 3, 2023

Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee to review draft riparian buffer ordinance 

The Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee exists to provide guidance and advice to the Board of Supervisors on matters related to the flora and fauna of the county. 

“The mission of the NHC is to maintain and restore the County’s native biological diversity and provide a healthy environment for the citizens of Albemarle County,” reads the entity’s website. 

The group meets at 5:30 p.m. in Room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. I think. The minutes from the July 6 meeting state that this to be a virtual meeting, but that’s not what the meeting info page says. 

Items on the agenda include: 

In other meetings:

  • The Community Policy and Management Team (CPMT) meets at 9 a.m. at the Albemarle County Office Building at 1600 5th Street. Staff from both Albemarle and Charlottesville will be in attendance to discuss FAPT, CSA, OCS, and DJJ. Anyone who wishes to attend should go to the lobby of the Department of Social Services to be directed to room 231. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission will hold a work session at 6:30 in CitySpace. Calendar #1 has the time, address, and a link to the Zoom registration. Calendar #2 does not currently have the agenda. 
The full text of Goal 17 of the Albemarle County Biodiversity Action Plan (Credit: Albemarle County)

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.