Cville Area Land Use: Week Ahead for April 15, 2024

Here are some highlights for this week:

  • Charlottesville City Council on Monday will hold a public hearing on a 20 cent increase in the personal property tax rate and then adopt a proposed budget for FY25 that’s 0.55 percent larger than it was on April 1.
  • Earlier in the day, Council will get a briefing on efforts to improve the city’s ability to build transportation projects and officials’ hope for a new era in which more ideas end up being implemented.
  • Albemarle Supervisors will hold a public hearing Wednesday on their budget, though adoption won’t take place until May 1. They’ll also learn more about the county’s efforts to boost economic development with investment in and around the Rivanna Station military base.
  • Fluvanna Supervisors will hold first reading of its budget for FY2025 with the public hearing scheduled for next week 
  • Albemarle’s Economic Development Authority will discuss another secret project and this one is called Project Lightyear. Is there a buzz about?  
  • The Greene County Planning Commission will have a public hearing on a proposed event space for a Charlottesville-based wedding planning company.
  • There are no meetings in Louisa County and the Board of Supervisors there won’t meet again until April 29. 
  • There are no meetings in Nelson County and none are scheduled until May. The Board of Supervisors held two meetings last week including a public hearing on the proposed budget. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Council to get update on transportation planning efforts in Charlottesville 

Charlottesville’s inability to accomplish much in the way of building transportation infrastructure is nothing new. There is a long tradition of planning taking many years before something concrete happens with protracted political arguments along the way. 

For instance, what began as the Meadowcreek Parkway dates back to highway concepts from the 1960’s. Concerned about attracting more drivers to city streets, City Council blocked the parkway for many years and only agreed to proceed in 1999 after demanding 12 conditions needed for their support. According to the minutes of the July 7 meeting that year, that includes limiting the road to two lanes initially as well as a shared-use path for pedestrians. 

Even then, the project never had the full support of Council with opponents making their views known such as a 3-2 vote in March 2009 to approve $10 million in funds to the city’s portion which at the time was called McIntire Road Extended. A string of lawsuits filed by city residents sought to block the roadway and the project would not be complete in 2015. 

Stories around other transportation projects illustrate a community where a need to exhaustively research options can lead to delay and occasionally cancellation. 

  • The Belmont Bridge project is nearing completion around fifteen years after the initial kickoff and already I’m hearing complaints from many about the finished product. Council made the choice to replace rather than repair fifteen years ago this month
  • Millions were spent over years on detailed engineering plans to upgrade West Main Street with new infrastructure and street trees, only for a later City Council to cancel the project and allocate future debt to renovating Buford Middle School instead.
  • Charlottesville City Council was awarded funding for its first three Smart Scale projects in the summer of 2016, and none of them has gone to construction after multiple years have been delayed. In all, Council has agreed to cancel three Smart Scale projects including one that would have provided funding to alter the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue.
  • Council has recently agreed to reallocate funding for sidewalks in the Ridge Street neighborhood that came through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. A total of $215,000 in funds intended for public infrastructure went instead to pay for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to buy refrigeration equipment and make other capital investments. This is consistent with the position of the Public Housing Association of Residents who recently commissioned University of Virginia students to make their case. 

The list could go on. Today there’s a relatively new City Manager who has been with the city less than three years. In May 2022, then-Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders briefed on Council on a series of steps to “reboot” the city’s ability to deliver transportation projects.

Nearly two years later, City Council will have a work session at 4 p.m. Monday on the state of the transportation planning program. The staff report notes that the Comprehensive Plan sets expectations about the city being able to provide safe travel within city limits.

“In recent years, these goals and objectives were met with challenges and opportunities, including transit labor and materials shortages, expansions of the City schools’ parent responsibility zones, and overwhelming backlogs of programmed projects,” reads the staff report.

There are no specifics in the report, but there are two items on the consent agenda (see below) that may come up during the work session. Another challenge is the tendency among community members in this community to fight over the provision of infrastructure. The list could go on but I’ll stick to looking ahead to reporting on how the city attempts to provide infrastructure for a growing community. 

Judging from my email, people get very angry about this stuff. I do not write to make people angry. My goal for writing about transportation is intended to bring people information to quell fears and point out the process that I’ve been covering up close now for a dozen and a half years. I’ll keep going. 

The work session will be held in City Council Chambers. (meeting overview)

Charlottesville Council to hold final tax rate public hearing and then adopt FY25 budget

After the work session, Council will reconvene at 6:30 p.m. for their regular meeting. (meeting overview)

After the consent agenda (see below), a report from City Manager Sam Sanders on the new ANCHOR team, and Community Matters, Council will hold a historic public hearing and second reading on the budget.

For decades, Council has had a tradition of adopting the budget on the second Tuesday of April at a special meeting in order to meet the April 15 deadline in the City Charter to ratify the revenue and expenditures plan. 

This year, Council directed staff to explore the possibility of raising the personal property tax, something that has not been altered in years. Charlottesville was alone in area localities in keeping its rate the same at a time when valuation of used vehicles was skyrocketing. On April 1, City Councilor Natalie Oschrin said she wanted higher rates to deprioritize automobile use

On April 4, 2024, Council reached consensus to advertise a 20 cent increase in the personal property tax rate to $4.40 per $100 of assessed value. That provided enough revenue to limit a proposed meals tax rate increase to half a percentage point. The budget is also based on a two cent increase in the real estate rate to $0.98 cents per $100 of assessed value and a lodging tax rate increase from eight percent to nine percent. (read my account)

On April 6, 2024, Charlottesville performed their legal obligation by advertising the public hearing in the newspaper of record, a newspaper with a circulation about a fifth of the entire population of the city. To be fair, mine’s a lot less. But, it’s important to quote that advertisement:

“NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Charlottesville City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, April 15, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 605 East Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia to consider an amendment to City Code Section 30-31 to increase the local excise tax imposed upon Personal Property Tax from $4.20 per $100 to $4.80 per $100 of the amount charged for such property including business tangible personal property and machinery and tools,” reads the required notice.

Nothing requires the staff report to spell out any of this information, and it does not. The staff report does tell us that the general fund budget has increased by $1,386,668 since the first reading on April 1 to a new total of $253,335,298, a 0.55 percent increase. 

The tax ordinance does have the correct rate but the staff report doesn’t do much to explain what’s going on (review the ordinance)

There is a list of amendments that confirm direction given by Council such a symbolic removal of $12,000 that had been slated for the Fralin Museum of Art. There are a lot of moving parts in this document including an additional $601,681 for Charlottesville Area Transit to hire more drivers to be able to implement long-awaited service restorations. CAT’s budget is now over $15 million. (read the amendments)

Will anyone speak at the public hearing? How many people actually know about its happening? Will the room contain people who yell and jeer at people who have opinions they disagree with? 

After that item, Council will consider reallocating $21,000 toward a plan to reduce stormwater regulation by coming up with a scheme of pre-approved practices for a certain kind of site. 

“These projects would save time and expense in the design and review of stormwater management systems, while still complying with the City’s stormwater management ordinance,” reads the staff report. “If successful, this tool would make it easier for property owners with less experience and expertise to engage in small- scale development projects.” 

The meeting concludes with a report from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority. (review the report)

Here’s what is on the consent agenda:

  • Charlottesville serves as a pass-through conduit in $600,000 funding from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for a project to add parking and a pedestrian bridge for the Dogwood Memorial in McIntire Park. A continued home for the memorial in the park was one of Council’s 12 conditions to support the John Warner Parkway. (learn more)
  • Council will adopt the minutes for the February 27, 2024 work session on the alternative fuels study for Charlottesville Area TransitI wrote a story about it too
  • There will be a second reading of an appropriation of an additional $130,059.50 for the Rugby Avenue Bicycle & Pedestrian Trail Project. I got an angry email about this project this morning. (learn more)
  • Currently vehicles assessed at less than $1,000 are 100 percent exempt from the personal property tax. There’s a second reading of a resolution to extend the threshold to $1,500. (learn more)
  • There is a second reading of a technical amendment related to the above. (learn more)
  • There is a resolution to spend $40,000 on a study to create a shared-use path as part of the Hydraulic Road work that’s currently underway. (learn more)
  • There are resolutions to appropriate $394,256 in funding received from the Virginia Department of Transportation through their Revenue Sharing Program. This is half of what’s required to build two sidewalks that appear on a new priority list that Council will review at the work session. The city pays the rest. (learn more)
The two projects slated to have half the cost covered by VDOT through their revenue-sharing program

Albemarle ARB to review Flow Honda, 45 units in Crozet, 38 units on Rio Road

The five member Albemarle County Architectural Review Board will meet at 1 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. That’s in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

There are three items up for regular review:

  • An existing dealership on U.S. 29 is being remodeled into Flow Honda (details)
  • There’s a final site plan for a 45-unit phase of Glenbrook at Foothills Phase IV in Crozet (details)
  • There’s a final site plan for 999 Rio Road, a project on two acres that had been mixed-use but now will be 38 units (details)
An aerial map depicting the location of the future development at 999 Rio Road across from CATEC 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Albemarle Economic Development Authority to discuss Project Lightyear

What is Project Lightyear? 

No, this newsletter didn’t glitch into Jeopardy. But it’s a serious question all the same. For several years now, Albemarle County officials have used code names to publicly refer about economic development deals that can be discussed in private under Virginia’s open meeting rules. For instance, negotiations about connecting a company seeking to produce new alternative sweetener products with a state jobs grant had the code name Project Leopard.

You know, because of the song “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard? (read the story)

Anyway, the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Authority meet at 4 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

After matters from the public, approval of the minutes, and a financial report, the group will go into closed session to discuss Project Lightyear. 

When the closed session ends, there will be a discussion of the memorandum of understanding between the EDA Board and the Board of Supervisors. The 2017 resolution was a milestone in the county’s economic development efforts because previously the EDA was used to support infrastructure and expansion of nonprofits. The change cleared the way for a shift in the focus of Albemarle County. (read the 2017 resolution)

Several times a week I get correspondence from people opposing development on general principle with many of these blaming Supervisors for adopting too much development. For many years, there were many on the Board who felt inviting businesses to relocate here would accelerate population growth. Slowly over my decade and a half covering this stuff, those voices lost the majority. 

In other meetings: 

  • The Technical Committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at 10 a.m. at the Water Street Center. (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review will meet at 5:30 p.m. in CitySpace. One item on the agenda is preliminary design review for a hotel project at 218 West Market Street that had slated for residential units at the time Council approved a rezoning. (agenda packet)
(image) The closed meeting motion to discuss use of public funds to support Project Lightyear

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Albemarle Supervisors to hold public hearing on FY25 budget and another on 244 units at Woodbrook Apartments

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

After announcements, comments from the public, and a proclamation for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, Supervisor will take action on three special exception requests for three different homestays. 

  • One is at 3074 Doctor’s Crossing in the Rivanna Magisterial District (materials)
  • One is at 5799 Tabor Street in the White Hall Magisterial District (materials)
  • One is at 2895 Rolling Road in the Scottsville Magisterial District (materials)

Next up is consideration of a special exception to the county’s clean earth fill ordinance for a project at Orchard Acres. This relates to a notice of violation that could be cleared up if Supervisors agree. (materials)

Then there will be a presentation of the Department of Social Service’s annual report for FY23. 

“FY2023 brought us hard challenges like figuring out how to ‘unwind’ Federal benefits; and fun challenges like creating an emergency financial assistance program and launching a co-responder team with our colleagues at Albemarle County Police Department and Albemarle County Fire Rescue,” reads the summary of the report.

There will also be a report on Rivanna Futures that covers much of the same ground as I wrote in a story in the April 3, 2024 C-Ville Weekly. Albemarle has filed for a rezoning for some of the 462 acres it purchased last year from developer Wendell Wood to begin the process of creating an industrial campus for intelligence and defense companies. (staff report)

One of the metrics in the FY23 report from the Albemarle Department of Social Services (view the report

The public hearings will begin after 6 p.m. when the Board of Supervisors reconvenes after a break if a closed session is held. 

Albemarle County clearly labels when a public hearing is to be held. There will be one for the proposed $629.1 million budget for FY25 which is based on an increase in the transient lodging tax rate as well as an increase in the personal property tax rate. 

But again, this information isn’t contained in the staff report. To be fair, that could be because this is the public hearing for the budget. The public hearing for the tax rate increase is April 24. 

If you want more information, take a look at my March 29, 2024 story or if you prefer a mainstream article by a legacy newspaper, here’s a story from the newspaper of record

Dig through the county’s budget site for more information on how we go to here. I have a tab of all the budget stories on Information Charlottesville

There is a second budget public hearing on a modification to the ordinance for tax relief for elderly and displaced as follows: (staff report)

  • Increase the net income limit from $83,850 to $88,800
  • Increase the net financial worth limit from $250,000 to $305,000
  • Modify the three relief percentage brackets from $0 to $44,400 for 100% relief, $44,401 to $66,600 for 75% relief, and $66,601 to $88,800 for 50% relief. 

After that public hearing, there are two land use public hearings.

  • Cornerstone Community Church seeks a rezoning of a 3.578 acre parcel from R-1 to C-1 to allow for a 300-seat religious assembly space as well as a 13,500 square foot commercial building. (materials)
  • A developer seeks a rezoning of four parcels totaling 7.202 acres on Woodburn Road from R-6 to Planned Residential Development to allow up to 244 units. (materials)

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors to hold first reading on FY2025 budget

The five member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County meet at 6 p.m. in the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center at 8880 James Madison Highway in Fork Union. (agenda packet)

There are six action items, with the first two being votes on the budget for FY25 as well as tax rates. 

The FY2025 total budget in Fluvanna is $107,398,370 with $6.16 million of that making up the capital improvement program. The budget is built on the following revenues:

  • Real property tax rate of $0.844 per $100 of assessed value 
  • Personal property tax rate of $4.10 per $100 of assessed value
  • Business personal property tax rate of $2.90 per $100 of assessed value
  • Machinery and tools tax rate of $1.90 per $100 of assessed value 

This will be the first reading. Second reading and a second public hearing will be held on April 24. 

Then there are four authorizations to set various public hearings in the future. These all have revenue impacts:

  • There is a resolution to set a May 15 public hearing to increase court fees for district and circuit from $10 to $20 per case. Proceeds will go to cover costs of courthouse security. This was authorized by the General Assembly in 2020 and the increase is expected to bring in between $10,000 and $15,000 each year. (learn more)
  • There is a resolution to set a May 15 public hearing to authorize a regional jail processing fee of $25. The funds will go to the Sheriff’s office to cover the cost of processing individuals. This will bring in between $3,000 and $5,000 a year. (learn more)
  • There is a resolution to set a May 15 public hearing to authorize a $25 fee per recordation of a list of heirs. This would bring in $1,000 a year and there is no use specified for the funds.  (page 35)
  • The final May 15 public hearing would be to amend county code related to the definition of a violation related to unleashed dogs.  (learn more)

There are no public hearings at this meeting. 

On the consent agenda are several items related to spending.

  • There are two term contracts for marketing and design services. One is for Deigra, Inc and the other is for Dorazio Communications. The rate sheets are not included in the public materials. (learn more)
  • There’s a third term contract for Inspired Electrical Solutions for on-call services. There is a pricing sheet in these materials. (learn more)
  • There will be a designation of the person who serves as the Code Enforcement Officer, an authority currently reserved for the County Administrator. (learn more)
  • There’s a contract with Mid-Atlantic Controls Corp. for controller upgrades at the Courthouse. This will come at a cost of $173,676. (learn more)
  • There’s a resolution for a weekly stipend of $150 for the assistant director of public works until the director’s position is filled. Dale Critzer is serving as the interim director. (learn more)
  • There’s a resolution related to a camera system used by the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Revenue (learn more)
Some of the details of the work to be performed by Mid-Atlantic Controls Corp. in the courthouse 

Charlottesville wedding planners seek to relocate to new event space in Greene County

The Greene County Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the administration building in Stanardsville. (meeting packet)

There are two public hearings.

The first is for a farm winery that seeks a special use permit for structures larger than 4,000 square feet. Beard Mountain Winery seeks a structure that would comprise 34,000 square feet. This would be located at 12955 Dyke Road. (staff report)

“The Beard family has run a successful wedding planning business for ten years, has been located in Charlottesville, VA for approximately five years and would like to relocate and expand their business into Greene County,” reads the justification letter included in the packet.

The space would have a maximum of 310 seats in the event building with another 90 in a tasting room building. They propose an average of two events per week.

“With facilities often booked out years in advance, there is an enormous demand for new high-quality venues,” the letter continues. “The winery and agritourism industry is expanding in the area and a great opportunity to generate revenue of the business and the county.” 

Greene County’s zoning ordinance requires public hearings for special use permits which gives people the opportunity to persuade appointed and elected officials to vote a certain way. An adjoining neighbor has already suggested that the proposed planting of a 20 foot buffer of evergreen trees is not sufficient. 

“There is an old barbed-wired fence that separate the two properties,” reads their comment letter. “Establish secure mesh wire fencing, in place of a 20’ foot evergreen screening yard, that is strong enough and provides wildlife safety around the perimeter of adjacent Geer Lane properties.”

The concept plan for the proposed event space in Greene County (Credit: Bowman)

The second public hearing is for a special use permit for a duplex to be built on Sylvia Ridge Road on land zoned A-1. This is to serve as housing for people employed at the equestrian facility. (staff report)

Another item in the packet is a development update. Some items from this worth noting:

  • All of the various site plans and development applications are available for review at this link
  • Greene County will submit the same Smart Scale application in Round 6 that it did in Round 5. This for an alternate intersection at Greenecroft Boulevard at Carpenter’s Mill Road 
  • Zoning officials removed 14 illegal signs from the Virginia Department of Transportaiton’s right of way in the last recording period 

Charlottesville’s Housing Advisory Committee to review land bank ordinance

There are now three new members of the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee. This group recommends policies to Council on how to bring down the cost of housing to the end user through a variety of different mechanisms. 

The group will meet again at noon in CitySpace at 100 Fifth Street NE in the large conference room. The meetings are open to the public but are not recorded. The minutes are fairly decent so far but that will likely change according to the minutes of the March 20 minutes. (agenda)

“Discussion ensued about how detailed minutes need to be. Minutes could be more compressed and do not need to be verbatim if the meeting is recorded”

Where are these recordings? Who gets the final say on what should be in minutes? 

The minutes also contain a note about how the by-laws needed to be reviewed by legal staff. Last week, City Attorney Jacob Stroman went on a sixty-day leave.  The minutes refer to a possibility of the functions of the land bank ordinance being perhaps contracted out to a third party entity. Sunshine Mathon of the Piedmont Housing Alliance was at the March 20 meeting, but both representatives from the Charlottesville Redevelopment Housing Authority were absent. City Councilor Michael Payne, who is a CRHA Board member, was also absent. Nelson County Supervisor Ernie Hand was in the audience. 

Other than the minutes, there are no materials specific to the April 17 meeting. 

In other meetings:

  • Albemarle’s Electoral Board will meet at 9 a.m. (meeting info)
  • The Charlottesville Community Development Block Grant task force will meet at 6 p.m. in the S&P Annex at 700 East Jefferson Street. There’s no information about publication time. (meeting info)
  • The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. in the Water Street Center at 407 Water Street Center. (agenda)

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Tandem Friends School expansion goes before Albemarle’s 5th and Avon panel

Albemarle’s 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee meets in Room B of the county’s office building at 1600 5th Street Extended. (agenda) (meeting info)

The main item is a community meeting for a request to amend the special use permit for Tandem Friends School to allow them to increase enrollment from 250 to 400. 

“Increased enrollment capacity will give Tandem flexibility in their future planning and may help offset the County’s growing need for grades 9-12 schooling facilities,” reads the narrative produced by the firm Line and Grade. “Additionally, it will allow them to fully utilize their existing infrastructure as there is currently physical space available in classrooms that is limited by the allowable enrollment.” 

This would be the latest enrollment expansion with previous increases granted to 177, 200, and then 250. The narrative goes on to say there are no plans to increase enrollment to 400 right away. (SP202400005)

Site overview for Tandem Friends School (Credit: Line and Grade)

Site plan conference for VERVE Charlottesville

Several construction projects in Charlottesville continue to be reviewed under the old zoning code which allowed for site plan conferences for public review. There will be such a review at 10 a.m. in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room for the VERVE Charlottesville project. (meeting letter)

The Timmons Group has submitted a final site plan for a 442-unit development very close to the University of Virginia Grounds just south of Bavarro Hall. 

“The proposed development has frontage on Stadium Road, Emmet Street, Jefferson Park Avenue, and Montebello Circle,” reads the letter. “The properties comprising the development are located at 106 – 114 Stadium Road, 409 Stadium Road, 104 Stadium Road, 102 Stadium Road, 1705 Jefferson Park Avenue, 100 Stadium Road, and the vacated right-of-way of Woodrow Street.”

Site plans are very difficult to overturn unless opponents convince Council to somehow buy the property. What are the odds of that happening again

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Minority Business Commission will meet at 3 p.m. in the Office of Economic Development Conference Room. (agenda)
  • The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will meet at 6 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation office at 501 E. Main Street. They’ll get an update from Cultivate Charlottesville as well as an update on the master plan development. (agenda)
  • The Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in City Space. There are no meeting materials at publication time. (meeting info)
On April 9, the Planning Commission reviewed the design of the VERVE Charlottesville (Credit: Timmons Group)

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.