Cville Area Land Use Update: Week of September 25, 2023

Goodness. We’re at the end of September already. There’s so much to still write about a lot of big meetings, and maybe this is the week I get caught up? Likely not. There’s an extra Charlottesville City Council meeting I did not expect happening on Wednesday. Did anyone? Yet, that’s the sort of thing that happens in this community that happens to be the sixth largest metropolitan area in Virginia. 

Sometimes these summaries may be technical. I’ve made my career out of trying to make them as accessible as possible by writing as clearly as possible. I’ve spent a lot of time attempting to translate this sort of thing to a wide audience.  If you have a question, ask!

  • Charlottesville City Council will have a special work session review a new study on the potential effects of the rezoning on housing, as well as get a presentation on population trends from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center. 
  • This takes place a day after the Planning Commission’s second deliberation on the new Development Code in Charlottesville. Will they make a recommendation?
  • There’s an extra meeting as well in Nelson County. The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission will review the Comprehensive Plan after concerns have been raised about additional density as well as a lack of enough community engagement 
  • Greene County Supervisors will have a work session on water and sewer projects. 
  • The Metropolitan Planning Organization from the Charlottesville area will meet with its counterpart across the mountain. CAMPO meets SAWMPO! I think. I could not find an agenda. 
  • Albemarle’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings on outdoor storage for the new Home Depot as well as a rezoning for up to 122 units in Crozet. 
  • This week, there are no meetings in Louisa County and one in Fluvanna County that doesn’t have an agenda. 

Thanks to The Piedmont Environmental Council for their continuing support for this newsletter and the research that goes into it.

Monday, September 25, 2023

CRHA Board to vote on fair market rent amount for voucher calculations 

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. in CitySpace. The CRHA has recently updated their website and now have a page with packets of the current meeting as well as past ones. (agenda packet from the CRHA website)

From the minutes, we learn that Dr. Wes Bellamy is now the chair of the CRHA Board of Commissioners. Bellamy served one term on Council and opted not to run for a second term. 

There are several resolutions on the agenda.

  • Resolution #1459 establishes the amount for housing choice vouchers will be set at 110 percent of the fair market rent for the region. That ranges from $1,531 a month for a studio apartment up to $3,299 for a five bedroom unit.  (page 9)
  • Resolution #1460 establishes the amounts for utility allowances for federal housing vouchers. These amounts depend on the number of exposed walls in a unit. (page 10)
  • Resolution #1461 is to agree to a contract for an independent audit from the firm Dooley & Vicars. That firm was one of two that put in a bid. (page 17)
  • Resolution #1462 will amend the Family Self Sufficiency plan required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (page 22)

There are many updates in the various reports. 

  • As of September 18, 52 residents have moved back into Crescent Halls. That means the building is at half capacity. Construction is not complete as the contract with GMA was terminated. CRHA needs an additional $2 million to finish the job. The occupied units are all on floors 5 through 8. 
  • Seven families have moved into a third building at South First Street. The other two buildings are fully occupied. 
  • The cost for the second phase for South First Street has escalated which will mean refinancing. Still, construction is anticipated to begin in March and the existing units are being vacated with tenants being relocated elsewhere. 
  • Planning continues for the redevelopment at Westhaven which could include a road connection to West Main Street. I hope to have more details of this in the next Charlottesville Community Engagement. 
  • CRHA is down two property managers at this time which is slowing up leasing. 
  • Claudette Green has turned to CRHA an employee. She’s worked in a variety of positions across the community
  • The section of the report that lists delinquent rents is now split into public housing and non public housing, but there’s a note that states the figures given are incorrect due to recent relocations. The report notes that the eviction process has begun for some “residents who just refuse to pay.” 
  • The report also notes that some residents are concerned about a lack of police presence in the CRHA communities. 
  • In the Section 3 report, one person was served by the program and no one was employed. Eighty-seven individuals were helped through Resident Services. 

Albemarle Historical Preservation Committee to continue review of potential award program

The Albemarle Historical Preservation Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. in the county office building at 401 McIntire Road in Room 241. (meeting info)

“The Committee takes an active role in identifying and documenting cultural resources of importance to the community and provides assistance and advice concerning the County’s historic preservation program,” reads the county’s website.

From the minutes of the July 2023 meeting, we learn that any attempt to create an annual award historic preservation program would need to go through the same sort of process that’s being used to develop a local historic marker program. It will need criteria and be called for in the new Comprehensive Plan. 

Nevertheless, committee members had potential nominations they’d like to make for an award. 

  • Preservation of a historic oak tree at Charlottesville Albemarle Airport
  • Foxfields, which was going to be developed until a lawsuit was filed and then later resolved
  • Findowrie, a residential structure that dates back to 1782 
  • The Chestnut Corn Crib barn at Clover Hill Farm
  • The Garth Chapel
  • Middle Mountain Tree Farm
  • The Yancy Mills Log Cabin
  • The packing shed on White Hall Road

The agenda for this meeting will feature discussions on potential topics for that local marker program, more information on the awards program, and new committee members. 

There will be an update for a local marker for Virginia Lee Murray, goals and objectives for the Comprehensive Plan, and a review of demolition reports for August and September.  

In other meetings:

  • The Charlottesville Social Services Advisory Board Meeting will meet in the Second Floor of the City Hall Annex at 120 7th Street NE. They’ll elect a new chair and vice chair. (meeting report)
  • The Fluvanna County Social Services Board will meet at 3 p.m. at the Department of Social Services  in the First Floor Conference Room in Fork Union.
  • The Pantops Community Advisory Committee will meet at 6:15 p.m. On their agenda is a presentation on the Moving Toward 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan. There have been several projects in the Pantops area and a few more on the way. If I was a member of the PCAC, I would be asking: “How did those projects fit into previous long-range transportation plans? How relevant is this plan to actually deciding what gets built? As in, does the Commonwealth Transportation Board pay attention to this document, or is the LRTP something that gets seen only at the bureaucratic level?” This is probably why I’ll never be on any committee again, but gosh I’d like to ask all of these questions anyway. (meeting info) (agenda)
The “after” picture for the redevelopment of Findowrie in Albemarle County. For an image with a slider that can allow you to compare it with the before, visit the Preservation Piedmont website (Credit: Preservation Piedmont) 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Greene Supervisors to discuss water and sewer projects

The Greene County Board of Supervisors will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Administration Building in Stanardsville for a closed session. I do not ever listen to the beginning of these to monitor what section of Virginia’s open meetings law is invoked to justify keeping the public out. I think they are read on the Zoom call. I’ll add that to the list of things of which to keep an eye on. (meeting packet)

There are no public hearings this time around so you can keep your meeting clothes in the closet.

One item on the consent agenda is to formally end the local emergency water restrictions that were in effect from September 7 to September 15. 

On the regular agenda there’s a resolution to make amendments to the zoning, and subdivision and County codes. This formally directs staff and the Planning Commission to work on three items but stops short of establishing when the public hearings would be. (staff report)

  • The zoning code does not reference a service area for the Water and Sewer Utilities Department.  
  • There is to be a review of whether the county code and zoning code are in synch with regard to temporary events. 
  • The same mission is to be applied to requirements for performance bonds. 

There’s no material in advance for the workshop that’s to be held on water and sewer projects. I am very hopeful I can make time to write about this because I want to be more in command of all of the details of where this project is, as well as where the James River Water Authority’s plan currently stands. Water capacity is a key requisite for residential density in growth areas, which is perhaps one reason many are keen to stop it.

That was the case in Greene County, a locality that used to be one of three members of the Rapidan Service Authority. The members from Madison County and Orange County did not want to pursue the impoundment of White Run, and Greene had to leave in order to move forward. Now they’ve moved forward. 

“Greene County officially assumed ownership and operations of the entire public water and sewer system from Rapidan Service Authority in the County on June 23, 2023,” reads the county website

To learn more about the White Run project, visit the county’s page on that matter.

A chart with projected water usage demand through 2050 from a 2016 presentation to the Board of Supervisors (view the presentation) 

Charlottesville Planning Commission to continue deliberations on citywide upzoning 

The Charlottesville Planning Commission spent two hours on September 19 going through their thoughts and comments and change requests for the city’s proposed new development code. I am hoping to go through those two hours before their second set of deliberations scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday.  I know C-Ville Weekly is doing a write-up as well. The more stories, the more informed the public will be and the less likely this becomes a cartoon. (meeting info)

Here’s how the Cville Plans Together website describes what will happen at this meeting:

“At this meeting, the Planning Commission will discuss the draft Charlottesville Development Code and Zoning Map and will then consider their recommendation to City Council for a hearing and vote,” reads the website

“If needed, Planning Commission deliberation on the Zoning Ordinance may continue to additional meetings.” 

According to an email sent out by the Cville Plans Together team on Friday, that next opportunity would be the October 10 regular meeting of the Planning Commission. City Council will have a work session on Wednesday, vote or no vote. 

I am hoping to have some sort of a summary out on the first set of deliberations on Tuesday. There was a five hour public hearing on September 14. I only had time to get through ten of the 110 speakers

An overview of the zoning map in the Development Code which will grant significantly more development rights across the city while eliminating the role the City Council and the public will make in determining residential density 

Albemarle PC to hold work session on stream protection overlay; public hearing for Montclair development in Crozet 

The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 4 p.m. in Lane Auditorium of the county office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info) (agenda)

The work session will review work to date on the establishment of a riparian buffer overlay district. Since 2017, county staff have been working on the development of strategies to improve the health of streams. A first phase is complete with thirteen proposals, some of which have been implemented. 

“Proposal 1 of the Stream Health Initiative was for the creation of a stream-buffer overlay district within the Zoning Ordinance, with the goal of re-establishing the pre-2014 Water Protection Ordinance (WPO) requirement to retain existing wooded stream buffers throughout the defined buffer areas,” reads the staff report

At the moment, these buffers are only required during the land disturbing activities. A public engagement process is complete for a draft ordinance. 

“The next step for this project will be for staff to prepare a revised draft of these ordinances, taking the public input and the Planning Commission’s input into account,” the report continues. 

Expect Commissioner Lonnie Murray to do a lot of talking. 

A description of the purpose of the Stream Health Overlay district. Review the staff report for more information

There are two public hearings. 

The first is for a special use permit for Home Depot to have outdoor storage and display at their new facility. 

“The proposal includes the storage, display, and sale (“display”) of garden and related merchandise in the fenced, open-air, partially roofed Garden Center and in various locations outside the buildings,” reads the staff report.

A sad man walks in front of the proposed Home Depot at Fashion Square Mall in this rendering.” (Credit: MG2) 

The second is for a rezoning in Crozet that is now known as Montclair but had been known as White Gate Village. Developer Vito Cetta wants around 15 acres to the Neighborhood Model District for construction of a maximum of 122 units as well as an amendment to the jurisdictional areas of the Albemarle County Service Authority. 

The Comprehensive Plan calls for a mixture of Neighborhood Density Residential (3 to 6 units per acre) and Middle Density Residential (6 to 12 units, or up to 18 if affordable housing units are provided).

The county’s Water Protection Ordinance comes into play here. The classification of a stream that runs along the property has been disputed. In January, the county engineer determined the stream is intermittent which brings requirements for vegetated buffers. 

“The developer of Montclair appealed this determination because they believed the stream was more appropriately classified as an ephemeral stream, and therefore would not be subject to further regulation under the WPO,” reads the staff report.

The Director of Community Development upheld the county engineer and the developer revised the proposal accordingly. 

In another meeting:

  • Both the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority  meet and both have light agendas. (meeting info)
A chart depicting the unit counts for the Montclair development (Shimp Engineering)

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

City Council to hold extra work session on consultant report, population report 

The Charlottesville City Council will their deliberations on the Development Code one day after the Planning Commission’s last meeting dedicated to their work. This will take place in CitySpace according to one of the city’s calendars(meeting info)

The report in question is not linked in the materials for this meeting but can be found on the Cville Plans Together website. There’s also no executive summary for this report which has the title . (link to RKG report)

“The importance of this analysis cannot be understated, as setting the appropriate parameters for any residential zoning ordinance is key to ensuring housing development accommodates various income levels across the city while minimizing impact on future development activity,” reads the report. 

Cover for the report (link to RKG report)

The Housing Advisory Committee has been briefed on this report but recordings of those meetings are not often available unless you happen to be on the Zoom call. The membership currently consists of:

  • John Sales, executive director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • Sunshine Mathon, executive director of the Piedmont Housing Alliance
  • Cory Demchack, executive director of the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program
  • Philip d’Oronzio, Planning Commissioner and mortgage broker 
  • Dan Rosensweig, executive director of Habitat of Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. 
  • Josh Hughes, an at-large member
  • Joy Johnson, CRHA resident and Section 3 Coordinator for CRHA
  • City Councilor Michael Payne 

There is no staff report that distills what is in this report and how it might affect the draft zoning or any proposed changes. That HAC meeting would have been useful for someone to have covered so the details could be more widely known. As far as I know, no one covered it. 

As for population, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service estimates that Charlottesville had a population of 51,278 as of July 1, 2022. Their current projections show that declining through 2050 to back below 50,000. This should be an interesting conversation. 

Two MPO groups scheduled to meet? 

What happens when two different Metropolitan Planning Organizations meet? Discussions about potential collaboration, perhaps. 

You may have seen buses with the name Afton Express. They travel between Staunton and Charlottesville as a way of providing an alternative to driving for the many people who commute to work at the University of Virginia or its medical center. That idea was discussed in September 2017 when the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization got together for a meeting. 

I covered these meetings for three years in a row in three uncategorized stories I wrote for a former employer:

These regional meetings laid the groundwork for Afton Express. The two groups meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday but I don’t know where or what the agenda is as of publication time. I’m sure this will get sorted out, but 

  • That information is not on the CAMPO page. (meeting portal)
  • The SAWMPO page says their next meeting is not until October 3 and there’s no item listed for September 27. (events page)  

Did I write this blurb for nothing? Did I dream this meeting? If so, was there a man throwing pickles at me? I would like to know what’s on the agenda because I’d like to write an update on the stories I wrote in the mid 2010’s. I may even categorize them! 

Charlottesville Retirement Commission to meet 

For the more than four years I’ve done this newsletter, I think the Charlottesville Retirement Commission has always been relegated to the “in other meetings” section because I’ve never quite had any idea how this is a public body. Do other localities have such a body? 

Anyway this one gets a few paragraphs because there’s actually some material in the agenda. There’s a performance review by Danab Associates that’s 163 pages long and worth reviewing for anyone interested in finances.  (meeting info)

If I had time, I’d love to go through this to see how this group’s policies affect city residents. 

In other meetings:

  • The Albemarle Broadband Authority meets at 5 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. They have a closed session on the agenda. (meeting info) (agenda)
  • The Greene County Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 6:30 p.m. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting portal). 
  • The Albemarle Fire EMS Board that had been scheduled for this time has been canceled. (meeting info anyway)

Thursday. September 28, 2023

Nelson Supervisors to meet with Planning Commission for next steps on Comprehensive Plan 

The Nelson County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will have a joint work session on the Comprehensive Plan at 6 p.m. in the former Board Room at the General District Courthouse in Lovingston. Supervisors hired the Berkley Group in December 2021 to conduct the work. (meeting agenda)

This work session is a chance to get a schedule and progress update on the work to date. They’ll also review over a hundred public comments that have been made so far. These could lead to some changes in the working draft and the idea will be to reach consensus on what changes to make in the plan. 

Some takeaways: 

  • “Traffic safety along Route 151 continues to be an important issue for the community. Concerns have been raised over vehicle speeds, commercial traffic, and bicycle and pedestrian safety,” reads a summary from the Berkley Group.
  • “I am concerned that most of the “agriculture” in the County is moving toward agritourism,” reads comment #5 in the spreadsheet and one highlighted by the group. “Need to encourage more local food production not in community supported ag (CSAs) but in agriculturally supported communities.” 
  • “Regarding affordable housing, our elected and appointed representatives are flying by the seat of their pants, with no real, comprehensive plan,” reads comment #14 which is also highlighted. “The fact that there is no Nelson County Plan for Affordable Housing is a disservice to the county and its citizens.” 
  • “Bring in businesses, build industrial park off 29,” reads #18. “Get jobs with living wages. The beer wine cider hard liquor jobs do not support families.”
  • “Enough breweries and wineries on 151,” reads #18. “If you have ever been to Napa CA you will understand what I mean.”
  • “Townhouses do not belong in Faber,” reads #31. “Faber should not be designated as a Rural Village.”

There are plenty more. Final edits are due by October 26 so that staff at the Berkley Group can get a draft to post publicly by December 7. The public hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

This discussion also takes place during an election when two of five magisterial districts are on the ballot. There’s an open seat in the South District and West District Supervisor J. David Parr faces a challenger this November. 

Some articles to get caught up on both:

Building height at 0 East High Street to go before Charlottesville Board of Zoning Appeals 

Technical details matter. As evidence, look at all the effort that has gone into changing the city’s zoning rules to make it easier, cheaper, faster, and more convenient for developers to build. In the future, the dockets of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals may get more crowded as it becomes a venue for people who have something to say about what’s being built near them. 

A major point of the new Development Code is to eliminate their say from the legislative process, but the Board of Zoning Appeals is a judicial body appointed by the Circuit Code. 

This body meets Thursday at 4 p.m. in CitySpace to consider three items with one related to 0 East High Street. (meeting info)

In the first, Sam Gulland of 0 Avenue is challenging the determination by the city’s zoning administrator about the building heights at 0 East High Street. That’s a project that would see 245 units constructed in three buildings in the floodplain of the Rivanna River. 

“Without Architectural drawings available, the Zoning Administrator was unable to make a determination on how tall the proposed structure will be,” reads the agenda. “The Applicant contends that the information made available to the Zoning Administrator is sufficient to determine whether the proposed plan complies with the building height restrictions in the B-1 Zoning District.” 

Technical, but the law is all about technical. Whatever rules Charlottesville adopts will have to conform to Virginia law. 

The second item relates to a variance request for a property at 616 Hinton Avenue related to a deck that has to do with setbacks. The third item is also for a deck, with this one at 1001 King Street. 

In other meetings:

  • The operations subcommittee of the Albemarle Solid Waste will meet in Room 246 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. There’s no agenda yet but there’s a few days left. (meeting info)
  • There is an agenda for the Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority. They meet at 4:45 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. According to the agenda, they’ll consider two donations as well as a funding request for a field monitor. (meeting info)
  • There’s no agenda for the Places29-Rio meeting for this month because it has been canceled. (meeting info)
  • If you are on the email distribution list fo the Jefferson Area Regional Transportation Partnership, you have a copy of the agenda because it was sent to you on September 21. But because you are among the 2,400 people subscribed to this newsletter, you can take a look now, too. (agenda on cvillepedia)

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.