Cville Area Land Use Update: Week Of October 2, 2023

Happy New Federal Fiscal Year! The aversion of a federal shutdown means I will not have to pivot this week to covering how the lack of a federal budget would affect so many aspects of how local government functions. Without federal funding, many appropriations might have been on hold across the entire Fifth District. I’m glad to not have to write those stories because there are so many to catch up on as it is. 

In addition to the federal new year, welcome to the second quarter of fiscal year 2024 in Virginia! Expect all kinds of reviews about what happened July 1 through September 30 in the near future. 

But it’s also the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2023 and the attention of many will now shift to upcoming holidays. At this moment, I’m more concerned with this next week. A new month reunites Charlottesville City Council and Albemarle Board of Supervisors meetings in the same week. I’d say things are more balanced in this kind of weeks week but I’d have no evidence to measure that statement. 

  • The Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a third deliberation Wednesday on the Development Code. City Council has another work session on Tuesday on the same topic.  I hope to write up both by Tuesday.
  • Albemarle Supervisors will get a look at an updated list of transportation priorities which will be used to decide the next round of applications for funding. They’ll also get an economic outlook from Virginia Tech researchers. 
  • Louisa County Supervisors will learn how much revenue might be generated with an increase in the transient occupancy tax from two percent to seven percent. They’ll also consider changes to the land use regulations that would make short-term rentals by-right in certain zoning districts
  • How do short-term rental ordinances work in Albemarle County and Warren County? Fluvanna Supervisors will be briefed on what the rules are in those two localities while development of an ordinance for their county is promulgated. 
  • The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will get an update on the planning for an alternative structure of governance for public transportation intended to generate more revenues for service.
  • There’s a new layout for the 328-unit Rio Point development already approved in Albemarle County. 

There are no meetings in Greene County or Nelson County this week. 

Thanks as always to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their support of the research that goes into this newsletter. 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Charlottesville City Council to consider appeal of PC ruling of 0 East High Street

The five member Charlottesville City Council meets at 4 p.m. for a work session followed by a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Both are in City Council Chambers. (meeting overview)

In just over six months, Charlottesville City Council will adopt a new budget for fiscal year 2025. The development process begins with a kickoff at the work session. This will include a review of the Office of the City Manager, the Office of Economic Development, and Office of the City Attorney and the City Council Clerk. (overview) (OED overview)

The overview of the Office of Economic Development lists recent highlights (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

The regular meeting begins with two proclamations. One is for Digital Inclusion Week and the other is to mark October 8 through October 14 as Fire Prevention Week. A theme for the latter is “Cooking safety starts with YOU!”

“Since January 1, 2023, the Charlottesville Fire Department (CFD) has extinguished over 60 building fires and more than 70 kitchen fires contained to the stove or container,” reads the resolution. 

One item on the consent agenda is worth noting. Council will hold the first of two readings of appropriation of $800,000 for a Transportation Alternative Program grant for a pedestrian bridge over Meadow Creek as called for in the 2013 Meadow Creek Valley Master Plan. 

“This project will construct ADA-accessible stone dust paths from Greenbrier Park up Meadow Creek to behind the Pepsi Plant and up to the Virginia Institute of Autism at Greenbrier Drive near Hillsdale Drive,” reads the staff report.

There are two land use items. 

  • Council will consider a special use permit and a critical slopes waiver for an eight-story building at 1709 Jefferson Park Avenue. The Planning Commission recommended approval in September and you can read my story for more details. (SUP staff report
  • Council will be asked to review an appeal of the Planning Commission’s September 12, 2023 codification of a resolution that some of the public facilities that would be built as part of the 0 East High Street project are not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. For details, read a story I wrote from their recent vote. (staff report)

Louisa County Supervisors to consider increases in lodging tax; public hearing on short-term rental changes 

The seven member Board of Supervisors in Louisa County meets at 5 p.m. for a closed session followed by a regular meeting beginning at 6 p.m. They meet in the administration building at 1 Woolfolk Avenue in the Public Meeting Room. (meeting overview)

I reviewed the tape from the September 18, 2023 meeting and the recording does include the citation of Virginia code that allows the Board to go into closed decision. These aren’t printed in the agenda but worth reviewing. 

The last closed session covered a performance review for public safety employees as well as a discussion with legal counsel about the performance agreement with Amazon Web Services. Last week, a company filed an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the first of two data center campuses to be built as part of an $11 billion investment. (read my story)

The open session for October 2 begins with the usual opening items. Supervisor Toni Williams will give the invocation. There’s also the Pledge of Allegiance, adoption of the agenda, and approval of the September 18, 2023 minutes. (review those minutes)

There are a few items on the consent agenda worth reviewing:

  • Louisa will use $145,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for renovations to the Voter Registrar Building, the Louisa Medical Center Building, and the Sheriff’s Storage Building. (resolution)
  • The General Services Department is requesting up to $98,000 in funds to repair a bulldozer used at the county landfill. (resolution)
  • The Sheriff’s Department seeks approval to proceed with a $50,000 project to upgrade recording equipment. (resolution)
  • Supervisors will approve the pass-through of $158,212 in funds from the Virginia Department of Fire and Rescue for the county’s fire and EMS services. (resolution)

The first item of business is a discussion on a potential increase to Louisa County’s tax on hotels and other forms of lodging. Virginia code allows localities to levy a transient occupancy and guidelines for how a portion of the revenues are to pay for tourism marketing. 

If the rate is over two percent of the bill, then the county gets to use those revenues how they want. Anything over that amount has to go to marketing, unless the total levy is above five percent. 

Currently Louisa has a two percent rate. That yielded $389,331 in FY23. A projection in the presentation calculates what would happen if the total rate was seven percent. That would have generated $583,997 for tourism and another $389,331 for the county to use as Supervisors directed. 

A comparison of existing transient occupancy rates in the region (Credit: Louisa County)

After reports, there will be a public hearing for amendment to the county’s short-term rental ordinance.

“The proposed amendment aims to align local regulations with evolving needs and opportunities while preserving the community’s character and safety,” reads the staff report written by Deputy County Administrator Chris Coon. 

The major change is to allow short-term rentals as a commercial activity in specific zoning districts. Currently they require a conditional use permit county-wide and no one has been granted one. But there’s a caveat according to the presentation.

“The Virginia Attorney General Opinion has clarified that short-term rentals on agricultural property are categorized as agritourism activities and, therefore, cannot be subjected to regulation by the local zoning code,” reads the presentation.

That opinion was issued on January 12, 2023. (read the opinion)

The ordinance would allow short-term rentals by-right on A-1 land, A-1 land in a Growth Area Overlay District (GAOD), and A-2 land in a (GAOD). Short-term rentals would be allowed with restrictions in R-1 land in a GAOD, R-2 in a GAOD and R-D. 

“If you have waterfront property on Lake Anna, you are most likely in a growth area,” the presentation continues. 

A slide from the presentation of the recommendations of a short-term rental working group (Credit: Louisa County)

Albemarle ARB to review new design layout for Rio Point 

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board has two items to look at during their 1 p.m. meeting in Lane Auditorium. That’s in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

The first is a preliminary review of a site development for Rio Point, a 328-unit apartment complex to be built near the intersection of the John Warner Parkway and East Rio Road. The project was before the ARB in March 2022 but everything is different once again. 

“The developer has engaged a new design team,” reads the staff report. “This has resulted in new building footprints, new building designs, and a revised site layout.” 

That revised site also includes a revised design for the trailhead to the John Parkway trail that is required by the terms of the rezoning. 

“Prior county and ARB comment regarding the trailhead park have been incorporated into the revised design which reflects additional plantings, a sculpture pedestal, park kiosk, and seating that is centrally located at the high point of the hill along the proposed greenway trail,” reads the narrative by the Timmons Group

The new layout for Rio Point (Credit: Timmons Group) 

In the second item, the ARB is being asked for its thoughts on the rezoning of 9.9 acres of land on Lambs Lane for the new High School Center II. 

“A key piece of the planning for Center II is the need for replacing the parking spaces that will be displaced by the new building,” reads the narrative by the firm Quinn Evans. “The first phase of the project will include construction of new parking on the north-west side of Albemarle High School, adjacent to the Transportation Services facility and the AHS sports fields.”

These spaces will be in place before construction of Center II itself is set to begin. 

This meeting will conclude with a work session on the entrance corridor on Route U.S. 29 South leading southwest out of Charlottesville. 

“In 1922, the road was one of two state-maintained highways,” reads the presentation. “It was assigned its route number in 1932 and was expanded to four lanes in 1969.” 

Most of this stretch of roadway is zoned Rural Areas and not subject to Entrance Corridor guidelines. Exceptions include the intersection at Plank Road where commercial zoning exists with some parcels zoned Village Residential. There’s also the area around the J.W. Sieg distribution facility which will be the subject of an upcoming rezoning. 

“Another less prominent exception to the RA zoning exists at Gleco Mills Lane where a single parcel is zoned Light Industry and a warehouse stands behind between the street and the railroad,” the presentation continues

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Agricultural and Forestal District Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. in Room 241 of the county office building at 401 McIntire Road. They’ll discuss a potential addition to one of the county’s AF districts. (meeting info)

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Charlottesville City Council to hold their second “special” work session in two weeks

The Charlottesville City Council has a work session scheduled for 6 p.m. in CitySpace. There is no information about what they’ll talk about and perhaps they just want to be present to listen. This work session is listed on the Cville Plans Together website. (meeting info)

Council held a work session on the Development Code on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. A summary will be in the next Charlottesville Community Engagement. You can also watch it on Boxcast

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee (SWAAC) Planning and Vision Group will meet in room 246 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. An agenda isn’t available at publication time. (meeting info)
  • The Fluvanna County Board of Equalization will meet at 4 p.m. to hear one case and to pick a new secretary. They meet in the Morris Room of the Fluvanna County Administration Building. (meeting packet)
  • The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation Office at 501 East Main Street. An agenda was not available at publication time. (meeting files)Share

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

New transportation priority list to go before Albemarle Supervisors

The six-member Board of Supervisors from Albemarle County will meet at 1 p.m. for their first regular meeting of October. (meeting info) (agenda)

The meeting begins with two proclamations. One marks this week as Digital Inclusion Week and the other marks October as Wine Month.

“Virginia has become a nationwide leader in the wine industry, now 6th in the nation in wine grape production, with more than 10,000 tons harvested in 2021 and 2022,” reads the second proclamation. 

“Many of Albemarle’s 44 vineyards, most with wineries on site, are run by families as strong agricultural enterprises that can be passed on to future generations, providing economic benefit for winery owners and employees and for other Albemarle ventures supported by the patronage and purchasing power of winery visitors, including farming of heritage and heirloom crops, restaurant cuisine committed to selling local where possible, and tourism focused on sustaining the land and the local culture,” reads a longer paragraph in the resolution. 

Since adoption of the Housing Albemarle policy in July 2021, the county has been looking for ways to bring down the cost of homeownership through a plethora of different policies. Some of these have been in existence for many years since as the Albemarle County Homebuyer Assistance Program that is administered by the Piedmont Housing Alliance. 

“The assistance is provided as deferred payment, 6 percent simple interest loans of up to $19,100, with the balance of the loans due at the time a home is sold or when an ACHAP loan recipient refinances their mortgage,” reads the staff report.

In January 2021, Piedmont Housing Alliance sought several changes such as reducing the interest rate to zero, capping eligibility to households below 80 percent of the area median income, and increasing the loan amount to $30,000. They also want anyone going through the program to be required to attend at least one counseling session conducted by PHA. Read the full list of changes here.

Next up, the arrival of the second quarter of the current fiscal year means it is time to begin consideration of the budget for the next one. Supervisors will get an economic overlook from Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs. (read the report)

“The U.S. economy, along with other countries’ economies, has been whip-sawed by major global events for over three-and-a-half years since early 2020,” reads the executive summary of the report. 

“Notwithstanding these factors, global economic growth is projected to continue to slow but remain positive in 2023 and 2024 with median forecasts of 2.9 percent and 2.6 percent respectively,” the report continues a few paragraphs later. 

The outlook notes that Virginia’s economy is often tied to the national economy, but also recommends Albemarle prepare for an economic cooling. Local data begins on page 49 for the economists on the list. 

A chart depicting the average hourly wage in the Charlottesville MSA compared to Virginia and the nation (Credit: Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs)

Next, Supervisors will be presented with the draft of a new prioritization of transportation projects. The list is made up of projects called for in various plans or traffic studies and helps determine what funding applications to pursue. (read the summary)

In the draft 2023 ranking, the top priority is a project with the title Fifth Street Extended / I-64 Interchange Improvement. This would see the intersection converted to a diverging diamond and this project increased from 19. The next five priority projects are all new ones to the list. 

Improvements to Old Ivy Road increased from 55 to 6B. The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the early phases of a study to identify potential solutions to a myriad of issues in the great region. 

This report gets quite granular with eight sub-projects under item #12, many of which are not close to each other geographically. This time around, the list also includes a list of second-tier projects. There are a lot. 

Supervisors will also get reports from the county’s transportation planners as well as the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In the evening session, Supervisors will hold two public hearings.

  • One is for a rezoning to allow a warehouse in the Mill Creek Industrial Planned Development. (staff report)
  • The second is for a change to the county’s zoning code to allow sites subject to public-private partnerships to be included in the type of items subject to a countywide Certificate of Appropriateness. (staff report)

On the consent agenda:

  • Will the minutes of the January 19, 2022 Supervisors meeting be approved? If so, they’ll only be the sixth such documents approved for the entire calendar year. 
  • There’s an appropriation of $1,070,645 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for a variety of uses including sign-on bonuses for public-safety employees and $473,400 in funding for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau to make up for losses related to the economic slowdown immediately after the pandemic. (staff report)
  • Supervisors will accept a conveyance of additional land at Pantops Public Safety Station 16. (staff report)
  • Supervisors will accept a compensation agreement with VDOT regarding land taken for the extension of Berkmar Drive Extended. The amount is $1,177. (staff report)
  • There’s a special exception request for a property at 3907 Arbor Terrace. (staff report)
  • If you want to read a who’s who and what’s what for Albemarle’s Board and Commissions, have I got the report for you. (read the report)
  • Albemarle issued 388 certificates of occupancy for the first half of 2023 according to the latest report on such permits. (read the report)
  • There were 123 building permits issued in the first half of 2023. Learn more in the detailed report.
  • There’s an update on collective bargaining in the Board to Board report for September. (read the report
Click through the link to see a larger image of the map depicting the locations for each candidate project in the first tier list (Credit: Albemarle County)

Fluvanna Supervisors to learn how Albemarle and Warren counties regulate short-term rental 

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

There will be a special presentation “honoring the service and retirement of Lieutenant Thomas Rensch.”

There are two action items, both of which are technical. One is a selection of a Supervisor or staff member to have voting power at an upcoming meeting of the Virginia Association of Counties and the other is an amendment to a service agreement with Tyler Technologies. The firm will now add merchant card services and card payments to their portfolio of services. 

There are four presentations. 

  • One is an update from the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center. There’s no advance information in the packet but sign up for their newsletter to know what they are up to region-wide. 
  • The second is an update on the policy for paying constitutional officers. The policy was first adopted in January 2017 and Supervisors will get a presentation on what other localities do. 
  • There will be an update on the County Fair which was held in mid August. 
  • County Administrator Eric Dahl will provide information on the potential short-term rental ordinance. Supervisors will be briefed on two examples with Albemarle County and Warren County the comparative localities. 
More information from the staff report on the context for the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors’ discussion on a potential short-term rental ordinance  (Credit: Fluvanna County)

HAC subcommittee to review final recommendations on land bank

There are a lot of ideas about to provide more affordable housing. Except for my work, there do not appear to be any comprehensive overviews of all that is happening. There’s also a lack of information available for anyone who might be interested in paying attention. 

“The general purpose of this meeting has been determined by the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) on September 20, 2023, for its Policy Subcommittee to discuss the HAC Policy Subcommittee’s final recommendations/motion to the HAC as it relates to the topic of a City Land Bank,” reads the agenda.

But what are those recommendations? The HAC is mostly made up of the directors of non-profit housing developers. One of them, CRHA, has purchased dozens of properties in the past year or so. 

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Planning Commission has a work session scheduled for 5 p.m. in City Space to continue their deliberations on the city’s Development Code. (meeting info)
  • The CSA Program Subcommittee meets at 10:30 a.m. There is no agenda associated with the calendar item. (meeting info)

Thursday, October 5, 2023

TJPDC to get update on regional transit governance study

The Board of Commissioners for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District will meet at 7 p.m. in the agency’s offices at 407 East Water Street. (Zoom link) (agenda on cvillepedia)

Public comment will be taken on an unsolicited request from Firefly Fiber Broadband for additional funding in FY24 from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). 

“The proposal would provide universal broadband internet access to areas in the Counties of Cumberland, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison, and Powhatan, and possibly others,” the report states.

On the agenda is an update on the Regional Transit Governance Study that’s been underway this year. The goal is to suggest ways that a different structure could be created to bring down additional funds for public transportation. 

As it stands at the moment, there is a nearly $19 million gap between existing revenue sources and what would be needed to implement the “constrained” vision developed through a similar grant funding. There’s a $55.5 million gap for the “unconstrained” vision that was developed to put a price tag to fulfill the entire wishlist of transit planners.

The report also calculates how much revenue would be generated by a 0.7 percent increase in sales tax to go to transit. That could close the gap but would likely require permission from the General Assembly in one form or another. 

There will also be an approval of a funding contract with the Department of Housing and Community Development. There’s also a request for funding for the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions. 

In other meetings:

  • The Community Policy and Management Team will meet at 9 a.m. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)
  • The Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee will meet in room 235 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. On the agenda is a question and answer period with staff on the AC44 process that’s underway. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville School Board will meet at 5 p.m. in the Booker T. Reaves Media Center Charlottesville High School at 1400 Melbourne Road. (meeting portal)
  • The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in CitySpace. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting info)
(image) A snapshot of what’s missing in the two elements of the Regional Transit Vision, a non-binding exercise conducted by the TJPDC in recent years (Credit: TJPDC)

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Fluvanna County Electoral Board will meet at the County Administration Building at 132 Main Street in Palmyra, Virginia. There’s no agenda for the meeting posted on the county website. (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.