Cville Area Land Use Update: Week of June 5, 2023

What do local governments do? That’s the root question at the heart of every installment of the Week Ahead newsletters I do every Sunday or Monday. There are over 336 million Americans and over 108,000 cities and counties across the country. All of my work is based on the assumption there might be more understanding if more people knew what decisions were pending locally. Perhaps I’m wrong, but along the way hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two!

Here’s some of what’s happening this week:

  • Charlottesville City Council will be asked Monday to spend $5.3 million to buy Albemarle County’s share of a regional school as well as $137,500 to help the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority buy a home on Harris Road.
  • The Albemarle Board of Equalization will hold a public hearing on Tuesday on an appeal from some who would like to stop a firearms-related business from operating on Free Union Road.
  • Albemarle Supervisors will learn more about best practices for permitting and approving utility-scale solar solar project and learn more about how county staff plan to pay for the purchase of 462 acres of land next to Rivanna Station.
  • Louisa Supervisors on Monday will consider an amendment to county ordinance to allow for the declaration of a water emergency to mandate cutbacks in consumption.
  • Both Charlottesville and Fluvanna County will hire new lead attorneys for government business.

As this is the first week of the month, there are no top-level meetings in Greene County or Nelson County. They’ll be back next week. 

Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship each week of this newsletter!

Monday, June 5, 2023

Charlottesville City Council to allocate $5.3M for CATEC purchase

The Charlottesville City Council will begin their day at 2 p.m. in City Council Chambers to interview candidates for City Manager. (meeting info)

Then at 4 p.m. the work session will begin with three items:  (meeting info) (meeting agenda)

A snapshot of the various rate increases for water, wastewater, and gas in Charlottesville for FY24

The evening session begins at 6:30 p.m. and has several action items.

  • The city will seek to abandon an easement for a former sewer line that was removed when the CODE Building was constructed. This is a public hearing and first reading. (staff report)
  • There will be a public hearing and first reading for utility rates for FY24. They are all increasing and the average ratepayer will see a 9.49 percent increase for water, a 7.23 percent increase for wastewater, and a 7.11 percent increase for natural gas. Rates for the stormwater utility feed will remain the same. (staff report)
  • The new pick for City Attorney is Jacob P. Stroman. He’s a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law who has been the city attorney in Chesapeake since 2018. The Virginian-Pilot reported in February that Stroman warned that city’s Council they were likely violating the Freedom of Information Act. (resume)
  • Council will resume discussion of the appeal of a denial by the Board of Architectural Review of a demolition permit for 104 Stadium Road. (staff report)
  • Council will hold first of two readings on the use of $137,500 of money budgeted for housing vouchers to instead pay for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to purchase 100 Harris Road. The full purchase price would be $275,000. The current rent is $750 a month and that would remain. (staff report)
  • Council will hold first of two readings on the appropriation of over $7.3 million in federal and state capital funding for Charlottesville Area Transit. This will include five buses as well as funding for the forthcoming microtransit pilot that CAT will run for Albemarle County. (staff report)
  • Council will hold first of two readings of the University of Virginia’s $5 million contribution to two streetscape projects. This funding was originally pledged to the West Main Streetscape but will now be used for the Emmet Street and Fontaine Avenue projects. We learn from the materials that the city owes $78,000 to VDOT for the cancellation of the West Main project.  (staff report)
  • Council will hold the first of two readings on allocation of $5.3 million to the Charlottesville City School Board for the acquisition of the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) from Albemarle County. (staff report)

Louisa County to hold public hearing on ability to declare water emergencies 

The seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5 p.m. in the Louisa County Public Meeting Room. They begin in closed session and the open session begins at 6 p.m. (meeting packet)

There are 14 consent agenda items. Here are a few of interest:

  • The county seeks a speed study for Roundabout Road in the Patrick Henry District. (page 43)
  • The county seeks to lease 60 acres of real property at Quaker Hill Farm for producing hay and spreading bisolids. (page 44)
  • The county will authorize a budget supplement for volunteer fire and EMS stations. (page 48
  • July 3 will be an additional holiday for Louisa County. (page 65)

There are two information or discussion items: 

  • There will be further conversation about the Dogs Running at Large ordinance. (not in packet)
  • There will be a resolution to approve a lease agreement with the Virginia Department of Health. (page 72)

There are six items under new business:

  • Louisa County Supervisors will move the July 3 meeting to July 17. (page 75)
  • There will be a discussion of amending Louisa Code to allow the return of surplus real property taxes. (not in packet) 
  • There will be a request for a waiver from the Virginia Department of Elections to administer a split voting district. (page 77)
  • There will be a resolution to proceed with the design of synthetic turf fields for the middle schools. (page 78)
  • There will be a resolution to appropriate the FY24 operations and maintenance budget. (page 91)
  • There will be a resolution to appropriate the FY24 Capital Improvement Plan budget. 

There are two public hearings:

  • There will be an ordinance amendment to add the ability for the Louisa Board of Supervisors to declare water supply emergency to curtail usage of drinking water by those on the public supply. (page 186)
  • There will be a resolution to amend County Code related to election precincts to add an absentee voter location at 103 McDonald Street in Louisa. (page 192)

But if you want to really know about Louisa County, you have to read what Tammy Purcell writes over on Engage Louisa.

ARB to review self-storage, new porch at Duner’s

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board meets at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium at the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)

There are two items on the agenda. The first is a review of an amendment to the plans for a self storage unit to be built as part of the same Fifth Street Landing development that’s now home to a drive-through Starbucks and a Christian’s Pizza franchise. This project would be visible from Interstate 64 which is one of the county’s entrance corridors.

Next, Duner’s new owner is adding a new covered porch. Wilson Richey took over the renowned Ivy restaurant last year, according to Simon Davidson of Charlottesville 29.  U.S. 250 is also an entrance corridor. 

The plan for a covered porch at Duner’s (Credit: Williams Architects) 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals to consider appeal of Free Union firearm storage 

The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals will gather in Lane Auditorium at 2 p.m. for an item with two public hearings. First, what is this body?

“The Board of Zoning Appeals hears and decides appeals of any decisions of the zoning administrator or their representative, grants certain variances and special use permits, and interprets the zoning district map in cases of district boundary uncertainties,” reads the county’s website

The first is an appeal of a decision to grant a zoning clearance for a home business related to firearms at 2822 Free Union Road. In the application for a home occupation, Legal Gun LLC described the business as “firearms -related services and legal services, including secure storage for long-term travelers ( e.g., military personnel,) legal services for estates with firearms, hand- crafted manufacturing of firearms, and transfers.” 

Neighbors argued this business was not suitable for their community and made nine arguments. 

“We believe that permitting a firearms-related business in the midst of a family-oriented County neighborhood is antithetical to the interests of an area dedicated to small homes and small farms,” reads the first argument. 

In the staff report, Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda responded that none applied to the granting of a home occupation, which must be granted if an applicant meets all of the legal requirements. 

“The Zoning Ordinance’s general purposes of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare, or preventing nuisances, do not provide a basis to deny an application that meets the Ordinance’s specific criteria,” reads the report. 

In a March 23 letter, the business owner called the appeal “unexpected and bizarre.” 

“We don’t live in a ‘neighborhood,’” wrote Timothy Wehner. “There are no sidewalks, no schools, parks, or other public facilities within walking or cycling distance.” 

The second public hearing is for an appeal of denial of a homestay business in a cabin on Dick Woods Road. The cabin is in Albemarle County but the owner’s primary residence is in Nelson County. 

In other meetings:

  • The Fluvanna Board of Equalization meets at 1 p.m. in the Morris Room of the Fluvanna County Administration Building. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission will meet at CitySpace at 4:30 p.m. Planning is underway for a potential trip to Huehuetenango in the fall. (meeting info) (meeting files)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission will meet at 5 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation Office in the Market Street Parking Garage. (meeting info)
  • The third open house for the latest round of the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan update will take place at Walton Middle School at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Albemarle Board of Supervisors to learn about solar policy, Rivanna Station Futures

The six-member Board of Supervisors in Albemarle County will begin their day at 9 p.m. for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new courts complex to be built in Court Square. Any time three or more members meet, this must be noticed to the public. (meeting info)

They’ll gather again at 1 p.m. for their regular meeting. (meeting packet)

The first major item on the agenda is a work session on commercial solar, also titled “Solar Land Use Regulation Overview.” The county hired the Berkley Group to assist with a review of the process by which utility-scale projects are permitted in Albemarle. The Berkley Group is performing similar work for localities throughout the Fifth District. (read the report)

“It is understood that this initiative is in large part based on recent and growing interest in the development of solar facilities in the County, and given the scale and potential impacts – both positive and those less so – the County is seeking a better understanding of the land use issues particular to solar energy generation facilities and how those issues may be better addressed through regulations, permit review, and procedures,” reads the staff report. 

In 2010, there were two gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in the United States. That’s grown to 130 GW by the middle of last year. In Virginia solar capacity has increased from 17 megawatts in 2014 to 470 megawatts in 2020. 

“Most of the state has an average solar insolation of nearly four (4) kilowatt hours (kWh) per square meter of sunlight per day, a percentage of which can be captured by photovoltaic solar panels,” the staff report continues.

The Clean Economy Act of 2020 requires Dominion Energy and American Electric Power to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels and to be 100 percent renewable by 2045 and 2050 respectively. 

Supervisors will learn about impacts to agriculture, experiments in agrivoltaics to combine uses, stormwater management, decommissioning and disposal. 

Solar projects approved in Albemarle County (Credit: Berkley Group) 

Next Supervisors will get an update on the initiative to spend $58 million to purchase 462 acres of land to help prevent Rivanna Station from being encroached. Take a look at my story from May 25. We’ll learn more about how the county would finance the purchase. 

After that there’s a quarterly report from the Albemarle County School Board. Here are some things of note (read the report):

  • C’ta DeLaurier is the new principal of Woodbrook Elementary
  • Seth Kennard is the new principal of Mountain View Elementary
  • Jim Kyner is the new principal of Brownsville Elementary
  • Leslie Wills-Taylor is the new principal of Mountain View Elementary
  • Albemarle County Public Schools is continuing to work on pupil transportation issues related to driver shortages. All parents of students are asked to complete a one question form by June 30 to request service.
  • A community meeting on high school Center II was held on May 9. The new facility is expected to have a capacity of 400 students a day and a total of 800 students. The goal is to be open by the 2026 school year. 
  • The School Board is seeking applications from people who want to be on the Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee. 

In the evening meeting there are several public hearings:

  • Two medical transportation companies are seeking the ability to operate within Albemarle County for non-emergencies. The two firms are Delta Response Team and Kiwi Emergency Medical Services. (staff report)
  • Misty Mountain Camp Resort seeks a special use permit to increase to 158 campsites and 19 cabins, as well as to allow camping year-round. The Planning Commission recommended approval in January on a 6 to 0 vote. (staff report)
  • Albemarle County wants to be able to offer on “sign-on incentives” for new police and fire recruits. (staff report)
  • There’s also a proposal to pay members of Boards and Commissions more money. The funding was set aside in the FY24 budget but a public hearing must be held to change the ordinance. (staff report)
  • There’s also a public hearing to increase compensation to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. (staff report)

Fluvanna Supervisors to approve hiring of new county attorney 

The five-member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County meets at 5 p.m. in the Fluvanna County Library at 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra. This is a change from the usual location. (meeting packet)

There are five action matters at this meeting and no public hearings.

  • There will be a resolution to hire a special deputy county attorney on a temporary basis. This person is Frederick Payne who has performed the function of county attorney for many years through the law firm he retired from on May 1. He will remain with Fluvanna through the end of June. 
  • There will be an agreement to hire Daniel N. Whitten as county attorney effective this week. Fluvanna is transitioning to having its own in-house counsel as opposed to hiring a law firm. 
  • There will be a budget appropriation to address a cost over-run related to the Children Services Act. (page 19)
  • There will be a discussion of Jaunt funding for FY24. To maintain existing service, Supervisors will need to appropriate $10,950, something they opted not to do in the budget process. If they appropriate $22,760, two services can be expanded from three days to five days. A second motion in the packet would officially acknowledge service cuts. (page 21)
  • There will be another discussion about the removal of illegal signs from the right of way held by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Supervisors will learn that Caroline County, Spotsylvania County, and Chesterfield County all have entered into an agreement with VDOT for the locality to remove illegal signs and charge civil penalties of $100 per sign. (page 27)

There will also be a quarterly presentation from VDOT.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Could it be this is a day with only three meetings? That’s all I can find at publication time.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Busy meeting for Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee

The Charlottesville Historic Resources Committee will meet at 11 a.m. in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room in City Hall. (meeting files)

They will once again discuss a Downtown Walking Tour Map. They’ll also consider forming a subcommittee to determine what “Historic Places” should be updated in an online database. They’ll talk about an official historic marker for Court Square.  They’ll also consider forming a subcommittee related to the history of city parks, and consider a local historic marker for the new Jenkins Park by Westhaven. 

Want to join this committee? There are five expiring terms and applications are being taken through June 9. Read this story from April 26 to learn more.

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.