Another year, another 52 weeks of government meetings. I skipped last week because there was only one and I featured that in the December 30, 2020 edition of the daily newsletter. Now it’s time to get back to work.
The first gatherings each year usually begin with the election of new chairs and vice chairs, as well as a general sense of goodwill and cheer for the work that will be done in the months to come. There is usually not a lot of heavy lifting, but the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has a full agenda due to the abrupt halt to their meeting on December 16.
What will this year bring? Anyone who says they know the answers is speculating. I suspect our democracy will continue to be tested as the pandemic continues to push the limits of our government’s ability to deliver services. I do not know what the future will bring, but my goal will be to write down as much of what happens as possible. And hopefully to explain the processes we have now in an attempt to make them as transparent as possible.
This newsletter continues to be produced with support from the Piedmont Environmental Council. My sincere thank you.
Monday, January 4, 2021
The 1 p.m. meeting of the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board has the distinction of being the first meeting of 2021. And what does this five-person body do?
“The ARB is charged with the responsibility of regulating the design of development within the County’s Entrance Corridors,” reads the body’s website. “The goal of this regulation is to ensure that new development in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture of the area and that development within the corridors is orderly and attractive.”
The first action will be to elect a chair and vice chair. Then they will dive right into two items related to automotive businesses. The first is a review of an initial site plan for an addition at Scott’s Ivy Exxon. The Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit for the Ivy Road facility in August. (staff report)
The second is for an amendment to the final site plan for the WaWa that is being built at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Proffit Road. The amendment is to accommodate charging station for electric Tesla vehicles. (staff report)
As mentioned above, the ARB’s jurisdiction extends to roadways designated as entrance corridors. The Virginia Department of Transportation classifies streets based on function, and it has been pointed out that several entrance corridors don’t qualify for ARB review. (VDOT manual on functional classifications)
“Some of the County’s streets (or segments of streets) currently listed as Entrance Corridors do not have arterial status, although arterial status is a State code requirement for designation as an Entrance Corridor,” wrote planning manager Margaret Maliszewski in a staff report that lists several suggestions. In some cases, Maliszewski is recommending the county petition VDOT for reclassification, and in others they are requesting state or local historic designation in order to qualify.
Finally, the ARB has been spending time at recent ARB meetings discussing architectural guidelines for various entrance corridors. This time they’ll look at Route 250 West.
Soon after the pandemic began, Albemarle, Charlottesville, Fluvanna and Greene transitioned to virtual meetings made possible by the emergency declaration. However, the seven-person Louisa Board of Supervisors has continued to meet in person. As of Sunday morning, there have been 969 cases of COVID in Louisa County and ten deaths. More than half of the cases in Louisa have occurred since November 11.
Still, government meetings can be held in person if the locality so chooses. At their regular meeting, the supervisors will begin by selecting a chair and vice chair. After a series of administrative items and public comment, they will discuss panhandling in the county. They will also consider a resolution to place a budget surplus into a capital reserve fund. (agenda packet)
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Can you guess what the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals will first do when they meet at 2 p.m.? That’s right! The five-person body will select a chair and vice chair! If you want to know more about the BZA, take a look at the annual report listed in the packet. Or you can read the next paragraph.
“The Board of Zoning Appeals hears and decides appeals of any decisions of the zoning administrator or their representative, grants certain variances and special use permits, and interprets the zoning district map in cases of district boundary uncertainties,” reads the purpose statement on the BZA website.
The Charlottesville Tree Commission will also select a chair and vice chair. If you’re new to local government, you might wonder what this ten-person body does. Let’s look to the purpose statement on the city’s website!
“The Tree Commission will serve strictly in an advisory role assisting City Council, the Planning Commission and City staff on issues regarding tree planting, protection, preservation, and removal,” reads the purpose statement. “The intent of the Commission is to protect and improve the urban forest, which provides better quality of life for City residents and provides environmental and aesthetic benefits, by preserving and monitoring all trees located on public right-of-ways and public property.”
How do they do that? By setting annual objectives that are then documented in an annual report to City Council. That’s the first item on the agenda, followed by a report from the city’s arborist. As the city contemplates a plan for climate action, the role that trees play in our ecosystem will no doubt be part of the conversation. How does that dovetail with the mission of the Tree Commission? One thing to consider in 2021. (agenda)
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
At 1 p.m., the six-person Albemarle Board of Supervisors will follow the lead of other meetings this week and select a new chair and vice chair from a ceremonial hat. Okay, not really, but just checking to see if you are paying attention. Rio District Supervisor Ned Gallaway has held the position for two years. (agenda)
Regardless of who is chair, this is a full meeting that begins with adoption of the calendar and operating procedures for the upcoming year. Then there will be consideration of two special exceptions for two homestays that would allow that use within 125 feet of the property line. One is located on Mechums School Road and the other is on Heards Mountain Road.
Next, the county will consider changes to financial policy, including a move away from creation of a balanced two-year fiscal plan in favor of a long-range, five-year financial plan. The document contains a lot of new word choices. For instance, Supervisors will now obtain “feedback” from the Capital Advisory Committee rather than “recommendations.” The word “debt” has been replaced with “long-term financial obligations.” Under the new policy, the Board of Supervisors will be given quarterly financial reports.
After that discussion, Supervisors will get an update on transportation projects being planned by the county. In just a few weeks, Virginia localities will learn whether their applications for Smart Scale funding have been successful. If you’re interested in these projects, I recommend the ten page report. There are many projects, but funding is limited. Implementation will take creativity and patience. (transportation report)
The Virginia Department of Transportation will also give an update. Six projects are currently under construction under one contract, including addition of a limited traffic light on U.S. 29 that allows safer access to eastbound Interstate 64 for people driving south on U.S. 29. This year construction will get started on a diverging diamond at Exit 124, a roundabout at U.S. 250 and Route 151, and a roundabout at the intersection of Route 20 and Proffit Road. (VDOT report)
To open the evening session at 6 p.m., Supervisors are expected to make appointments to boards and commissions. Then there will be public hearings:
- Amendments to various Agricultural and Forestal Districts
- A lease agreement for a food pantry to lease space at the Yancey School Community Center
- A request to allow “outdoor sales, storage and display” at a car dealership replacing the Hardee’s at 1680 Seminole Trail
- Amendments to the county’s emergency COVID ordinance
- Amendments to the Fire Prevention chapter of County Code to delete references to the now-defunct Scottsville Volunteer Rescue Squad
As always, it pays to read what’s on the consent agenda. These are items that are expected to pass without any objection, but often they will be pulled at the beginning of the meeting for discussion.
- Various appropriations including $101,450 in federal CARES Act funding to expand the county’s Housing Choice Voucher program and $181,010 in federal CARES Act funding to the Albemarle County Service Authority to help with utility relief
- Telework-related amendments to personnel policies
- A resolution of intent to direct staff to gather information for a public hearing on increasing fees paid by developers
- Special exceptions for the first phase of the Southwood development
- Additional special exceptions related to R.A. Yancey Lumberyard
- A monthly report from the Albemarle School Board
The five-member Fluvanna Board of Supervisors meets virtually at 4 p.m. Who wants to guess what they’re going to do?
I will confess I have never seen a meeting in Fluvanna, but that changes this week. My goal is to cover land use issues in the entire region as all of our communities are connected on many levels.
There is a presentation on a proposed 133.8 acre industrial site in Fork Union and the steps that are required to get it considered as a Tier 3 property by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program (VEDP’s VBRSP) The county owns the land which is currently at Tier 2. Draper Aden Associates will work to get the land ready to be zoned for commercial or industrial use from agricultural use. That means review to see if there are any environmental or cultural factors that would disqualify such a change.
The Fluvanna Supervisors will also get an update on their strategic initiatives for 2018 and 2019. This information is presented clearly, showing what staff has been able to achieve and what has not. Like any enterprise, there are limits to what can be accomplished. Later in the meeting, nonprofit agencies will make presentations to defend their budget requests. I recommend taking a look at the format that they use. (packet) (YouTube channel)
Thursday, January 7, 2021
When the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. they will not select a chair according to the agenda. But the group is expected to talk about potential revisions to the county’s lightning ordinance under new business. There will also be updates on other initiatives under the committee’s purview. (meeting info)
“The Natural Heritage Committee (NHC) is a public body appointed by the Board of Supervisors and is charged with maintaining the County’s Biodiversity Assessment, advising the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and County staff on applying biodiversity information in land-use decision-making, and supports biodiversity education in the County,” reads the county’s website. “The mission of the NHC is to maintain and restore the County’s native biological diversity and provide a healthy environment for the citizens of Albemarle County.
Recently the NHC created a subcommittee to study wildlife corridors and has recently discussed ways to combat invasive species in county parks. They will also discuss an upcoming review of the county’s stream health initiative, for which virtual public meetings will begin later this month. The Board of Supervisors received an update on this process on their consent agenda in November.
Friday, January 8, 2021
The Charlottesville Historic Resources Committee meets at 11 a.m. The agenda does not state whether they will pick a chair or not. The purpose of this group is “to advocate for historic preservation; to promote an appreciation of local historic resources, both tangible and intangible; and to encourage and coordinate, with appropriate municipal agencies, civic organizations, institutions and individual scholars, the documentation and interpretation of local history.” (meeting info) (agenda)
Thank you for reading!
Please let me know if there are any meetings I have missed. And let me know what questions you have for 2021. What would you like to see covered?
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.