October appears to be moving at a fast pace with the summer behind us and the winter holidays not too far ahead. This fall has been very busy so far and there’s at least one more month of intensity in local government before things begin to ease off. Years with both elections and complicated policy reform tend to speed past. I feel like George Jetson in the closing credits.
- The Charlottesville Planning Commission will take a final vote Wednesday on a new development code that will remove many barriers to construction and could allow commercial uses by-right on some residential properties.
- Albemarle’s community advisory groups will all come together Tuesday to learn how transportation policy is put together.
- Charlottesville City Council will learn how several departments work and will learn more about how the city plans to transition usage of natural gas to help meet greenhouse gas reduction goals.
- Albemarle Supervisors will hold a public hearing on federal funding for a potential loan program for developers of affordable housing projects.
- Fluvanna Supervisors will hold a public hearing on creating a five percent transient occupancy tax and Louisa Supervisors will hold one on a proposed increase in their lodging tax from two percent to seven percent.
Thanks again to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support of this newsletter.
Monday, October 16, 2023
Charlottesville City Council to get decarbonization update, review of social and human services
The Charlottesville City Council meets at 4 p.m. for a work session followed by a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Perhaps the easiest way to review the information is through the link to the meeting overview page. There are links to individual items.
There are two items in the work session and the first is an overview of three city agencies. These are part of the development process for the budget for Fiscal Year 2025. If you really want to know how city government functions, these briefings will be invaluable for you.
First up is the Human Services Department.
“The Department includes all of the foster family and community-based services of the Community Attention Programs and a variety of human services programs and initiatives,” reads the overview presentation Council will receive.
Human Services has 42 staff members with 29 involved in direct services for youth, seven who provide direct services for adults, and six handling administrative tasks. The direct services for adults include housing navigators, staff for the Community Resource Hotline, emergency hotel stays, and the Westhaven CARES Clinic.
There are many more details in the presentation. (view the presentation)
Next up is the Department of Social Services.
“DSS administers benefits programs to help meet the basic needs and promote self-sufficiency for low-income individuals and their families and family services programs to protect children and adults from abuse and neglect to promote and support the development of healthy families,” reads the briefing notes.
Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the refugee assistance program, child protective services, adult protective services and the Energy Assistance Program.
“The department has 110 regular positions,” reads the more detailed presentation. “Currently, eight positions are vacant and recruitment is in process for all of them.”
And then there’s the Office of Community Solutions.
“[The] Office of Community Solutions (OCS) coordinates, manages, and serves as a liaison to housing and redevelopment projects in the city including affordable housing programs, commercial revitalization, redevelopment, and development activities; as well as neighborhood, and constituent services, Federal Entitlement Administration (CDBG/HOME), MyCville, and other key Services,” reads the main briefing.
The Office of Community Solutions has a large portfolio in a time when Charlottesville is moving forward with a lot of big moves to increase the amount of below-marketing housing in the community.
Here’s one piece of information from the briefing. (view the briefing)
“Of the ten projected ‘Housing Investment Project’ applications received in 2022 totaling $33,364,535, City Council committed to five projects for approximately $25.2 million, 76% of the requested assistance.
The second item at the work session will be an update on the decarbonization study. The city of Charlottesville has been operating a natural gas utility for over 150 years but the city has the greenhouse reduction goal to be fossil-free by 2050. Earlier this year, the city hired the firm Black & Veatch to study how decarbonization of the public utility might work. (Charlottesville studying whether to end provision of natural gas, March 24, 2023)
In 2023, the city’s natural gas system has 16 industrial customers, 2,411 commercial customers, and 18,873 residential customers in both Charlottesville and Albemarle.
Councilors will learn that demand for natural gas in Charlottesville from 2011 to 2021 with usage decreasing 35 percent since then. The city’s utilities division has already been reducing its carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offset credits and taking other steps. (view the presentation)
One thing noted in the presentation is that 99 percent of the distribution lines are made of plastic rather than cast iron. That means there is less leakage.
The study is not expected to be completed until March. Council will get a briefing on potential alternatives and examples of the costs to households to switch to different ways of heating and cooling their house. For anyone interested in climate action, the details in here will give a good sense of what’s possible for the future.
The regular meeting begins with consideration of the consent agenda. Items include:
- This includes the minutes from meetings of August 7, 2023, the August 29 joint work session with the Planning Commission, and the September 27 work session on the Development code.
- Second reading of an appropriation of $800,000 for the Meadow Creek Trail. Learn more in the staff report or in the story I wrote earlier this month.
- There is second reading of a resolution to appropriate $452,704 from a grant enabled by the Virginia Juvenile Community Crime Control Act. (staff report)
- There’s the first of two readings to appropriate $382,352 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for a grant applied for by the Department of Human Services with the Blue Ridge Area Coalition on Homelessness and the Service Provider Council. This comes from The Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS/H.I.V. program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (staff report)
Next up is the City Manager’s report. I’ll have more from that in a regular newsletter and podcast later this week but here it is if you want to take a look now.
There are only two items on the regular agenda. The first is an amendment to the city code to reflect state law that now requires drivers to stop when pedestrians are crossing the road.
“The community was not engaged because this is a mandatory State law to which the City needs to conform with by amending its City Code,” reads the section of the staff report.
SB1069 introduced by Senator Richard Saslaw passed the Senate on a 32 to 8 vote and passed the House of Delegates 83 to 16.
Next is another housekeeping item related to changes in state law. Another bill prevented localities from banning towing companies from charging fuel surcharge fees. Charlottesville has not allowed the charge, but Council must now amend the city code to allow a charge of up to $20. (staff report)
HB1649 introduced by Delegate Scott Wyatt narrowly passed the Senate on a 21 to 19 vote and the House of Delegates on a 50 to 45 vote.
The final item before the second round of Community Matters is a quarterly report from the Rivanna Authorities. While there has been rain recently, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality classify much of this region as under a “watch” status for groundwater.
“Precipitation is 19.06 inches below normal over the past 33 months,” reads the presentation. “We are expediting a major water supply piping project, and will propose an accelerated increase in the water storage volume at the Ragged Mtn Reservoir (700 million gallons), to best prepare for the next significant drought.”
That project has an $85 million price tag and the cost-share agreement requires the Albemarle County Service Authority to cover 80 percent of the bill.
Louisa Supervisors holding public hearing on transient occupancy tax rate increase
The seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. for a closed session followed by an open one at 6 p.m. (meeting overview)
There are three items under new business.
- The Mineral Volunteer Fire Department has asked for an $11,676 budget supplement to help cover the cost of replacing a heat pump and their Heating Ventilation and Cooling system. (staff report)
- The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded $1 million to Louisa for construction of a radio tower in the eastern portion of the county. Supervisors have to appropriate the money. (staff report)
- Supervisors also have to authorize the spending on $49,243.21 on planning and zoning software. The staff report does not list what they’re getting but I’d like to know.
Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a proposed increase in the transient occupancy tax rate from two percent to seven percent. Under this arrangement, the county will get four percent of the total revenue generated for the general fund. The other three will go to pay for marketing efforts as required by law. If approved, the new rate would go into effect on January 1. (staff report)
In the second event, a property owner is seeking to become exempt from the county’s real property tax.
“The Elisabeth Aiken Nolting Charitable Foundation is a nonprofit organization that operates Bracketts Farm as a working 515-acre farm, while contributing practical and scientific knowledge about the viability of small-scale farming. with historical, charitable, and educational purposes to preserve this tradition of stewardship of the land that brought the original settlers to the Green Springs District in Louisa County,” reads the staff report.
- The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board meeting has been canceled.
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Albemarle community advisory panels to meet to talk transportation
In recent months, most of my focus has been on Charlottesville and trying to write up the discussions about the new Development Code that will significantly increase the amount of building space that will be allowed in Charlottesville. Thank goodness for this newsletter which at least requires me to know what’s coming up.
One of the many stories on my to-write list is the conversation Albemarle Supervisors had earlier this month on transportation priorities. My goal is to have that written up by Tuesday in time for the meeting of all of the county’s community advisory committees.
“Albemarle County’s Community Advisory Committees (CACs) are groups that help the County by providing feedback on programs, policies, and plans,” reads the notice for the 6 p.m. meeting in Lane Auditorium.
Also in attendance will be the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. Everyone who watches will get an overview of the transportation ecosystem which includes the Thomas Jefferson Planning District and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
I really hope to have that article written in time. A Google search for news articles on the discussion of Albemarle’s transportation priority list came up with nothing. There are about 115,000 people in the county and coverage of policy issues seems to have ground to a halt.
Why is that? Who benefits when there’s no information? Or is there no money to be made in providing information? I’m grateful to my paid subscribers, I can tell you that!
In other meetings:
- The Fluvanna County Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in the Morris Room of the County Administration Building. (agenda packet)
- The Charlottesville Sister City Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. in the Small Conference Room in City Space. They’ll elect a new Communications Officer and will get several reports. (meeting agenda)
- The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review does not have any items to discuss so they will have a work session on updates to the BAR design guidelines as well as a update on the Development Code. They will meet in CitySpace at 5 p.m. (meeting agenda)
- The Albemarle County Economic Development Authority meeting has been canceled.
- The Greene County Emergency Services Advisory Board meets at 6 p.m. in the Administration Building. There will be a guest presentation from the Virginia Department of Forestry. (agenda)
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Albemarle seeking federal funding to for affordable housing incentives
The six member Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets in Lane Auditorium at 1 p.m. for their regular meeting. (agenda)
After the usual start to the meeting, there will be a discussion of legislative priorities for the 2024 General Assembly which begins in about three months. This is the third opportunity this year for Supervisors to discuss their wish list for bills in the upcoming session. In September, they made three main requests:
- Supervisors want Virginia to pick up some or all of the tab for the $58 million purchase of land near Rivanna Station.
- Supervisors want authority to levy a one percent sales tax for school construction. The likelihood of such a bill passing depends on what political party controls the General Assembly. Such authority was granted to many localities when Democrats held both Chambers but that stopped when Republicans gained a majority in the House of Delegates. Here’s a story from February 2021 that illustrates the philosophical differences.
- Supervisors want to be able to deploy speed cameras on rural roads where enforcement is made difficult by narrow lanes.
At this discussion, Supervisors will further discuss a report from the Virginia Department of Fire programs. The draft legislative priority list contains a request for more funding to fully staff public safety personnel. Supervisors will also consider approving a letter of support to Nelson County’s efforts to extend Line of Duty benefits to private police departments.
“Officer Mark Christopher Wagner, II served the Wintergreen community as a private police officer, as recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and while responding to a disturbance call in his capacity as a law enforcement officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty on June 16, 2023,” reads the support letter.
General Assembly approval would be required to make the change.
Supervisors will also get an update on work underway to modernize Albemarle’s zoning code. The Berkeley Group has been conducting a review since early 2022 and will make recommendations.
“The proposed amendments are intended to establish more efficient administrative procedures, provide a clear and user-friendly format, and create an adaptive, modern ordinance that meets the current needs of Albemarle County,” reads the staff report.
I hope to finally get an update written as a result of this presentation.
In the evening session, there will be a public hearing on a grant application to secure funds for the county to begin a couple of loan programs related to the provision of affordable housing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers funding through the Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) program.
“The grant funding can be used for a variety of activities that directly support the County’s efforts to develop a developer incentive program,” reads the staff report for the public hearing.
Such a program is called for in the Housing Albemarle plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors in July 2021. That plan would set a minimum percentage of units that have to be provided at sale or rental prices below market, and would expand the period required for compliance.
Albemarle is now seeking $6,322,642, $5 million of which would support an “Affordable Rental Housing Revolving Loan Fund” for both nonprofit and for-profit developers. These groups could apply for up to $50,000 a unit for new construction or rehabilitation, site acquisition, infrastructure, acquisition, and pre-development work.
If the full grant amount is awarded, another $1 million would go to a “Small Landlord Fund” for repairs to rental units and another $162,009 would be used to fund a part-time housing inspector for four years.
Fluvanna Supervisors to discuss solar policy and projects with Fluvanna PC
The five-member Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will meet with their counterparts on the Fluvanna Planning Commission for a work session at 5 p.m. Then Supervisors will hold their regular meeting at 7 p.m. They meet in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Hwy, Fork Union, VA 23055 . (meeting packet)
The work session will be an informational discussion on solar projects. This information is not in the packet. CBS19 has a preview.
There are three public hearings.
- One is on a quitclaim of a county-held easement for the Free Hill Cemetery in Columbia that will be deeded over to the Fluvanna Historical Society. (page 5)
- The second is to allow revenue-sharing with solar companies as an alternative to taxing tools and machinery. If adopted, Fluvanna would collect $1,400 per megawatt for new projects. (page 15)
- The third is to establish a transient occupancy tax of five percent. (page 19)
Supervisors will also take action on a pay policy for constitutional officers. (page 27)
On the consent agenda is a memorandum of understanding for Fluvanna County to join the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) Task Force. (page 53)
Charlottesville Planning Commission to hold final deliberations on Development Code
After a long process, the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Wednesday will most likely recommend a zoning and subdivision ordinance that will significantly increase the level of building activity that can occur within the city.
The materials for the 5 p.m. meeting in City Council Chambers do not include an agenda at publication time. The Commission spent about 80 minutes on October 11 reviewing several changes that have been made through the deliberations. As there are no minutes, my story from that meeting is probably the best place to understand what changes have been made. I need to write a 550 word story for C-Ville Weekly after I publish this newsletter that summarizes some of the changes. Until then, here’s the much longer version with details as well as an audio version snipped out of the podcast. (meeting info)
Village at Terrace Greene developer seeks permit for light industrial use
The Greene County Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Building. (agenda)
There is one public hearing and that is a request for a special use permit to allow for Light Industrial, Research, Development, and Related Manufacturing on U.S. 29 on land currently zoned Planned Unit Development. That project is the 65 acre Villages at Terrace Greene
“The parcel is currently planned for commercial buildings that exceed 25,000 square feet, and the approved PUD includes architectural design elements that guarantee that the entire site will have consistent and attractive facades and appearance,” reads the staff report.
The applicant said the request is being done to make the building more attractive to potential job creators.
“The parcel is already planned for commercial buildings that exceed 25,000 square feet and the approved plan already includes architectural design elements that guarantee that the entire site will have consistent and attractive facades and appearances,” reads the justification letter.
That’s not a typo on my part. The identical verbiage appears in both places.
In other meetings:
- The full Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee will meet in CitySpace at noon to get updates on what its subcommittees have been doing. (meeting agenda)
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Charlottesville parks panel to review master plan preparation
The City of Charlottesville has hired the firm PROS Consulting to conduct a new master plan for the Parks and Recreation Department. It has been at least a decade since such a document has been created. Instead there have been master plans created for each of the parks.
Here are a couple of stories for some background if you’re interested:
- Charlottesville seeks firms to conduct comprehensive plan for city parks and recreation, April 4, 2023
- Company with previous ties to Charlottesville hired to developer Parks and Rec master plan, September 17, 2023
In other meetings:
- The Charlottesville Minority Business Commission will meet at 3 p.m. I want to note here that this meeting is not visible on one city meeting calendar but is visible on the other. Neither tells us where the meeting is nor is there an agenda posted. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 4 p.m. Where? And what will they talk about? Neither piece of information is readily available on either city meeting calendar #1 or city meeting calendar #2. According to the BZA website, they meet in the basement conference room.
- The Albemarle Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee’s Planning and Operations Group meets at 4 p.m. in Room 246 of the McIntire County Office Building. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)
- The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in CitySpace. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)
- The Darden Towe Memorial Park Advisory Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. in Room 246 of MCOB. (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.