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December 1, 2021: Virginia's recycling rate increased in 2020; few details on next steps in city manager search

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 1, 2021 15:49

What’s another month in a year that’s already had eleven of them? Another turn of the earth, and each of us is another day closer to the solstice, the holidays, 2022, President’s Day, and so many more milestones that are worth noting somewhere. Perhaps not on this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, which is intended to capture a few things that happened around the time of December 1, 2021. Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To ensure new posts come out as frequently as possible, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber!On today’s show:More details on what happens next in the top executive position in CharlottesvilleThe Albemarle Board of Supervisors seeks patrons for bills on photo-speed camera expansion and more Virginia’s recycling rate increased in calendar year 2020 In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is looking for a few good volunteers for a couple of upcoming events. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the RCA will team up with the James River Association to plant trees along the Rivanna River and Town Branch in the Dunlora neighborhood to serve as a riparian buffer. In all, they’re hoping to put in 9 acres of trees. On Sunday, the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon takes place, and the Rivanna Conservation Alliance is the beneficiary! They’re looking for people to help put on the race. Learn more about both events and the organization at rivannariver.org. COVID updateThe Virginia Department of Health reports that the seven day average for new COVID cases has increased to 1,548 cases a day, and the seven-day percent positivity has increased to 6.7 percent. A month ago on November 1, the percent positivity was 5.5 percent. There were 746 more reported deaths in Virginia in the past month. The Blue Ridge Health District reports an additional 58 new cases today and the seven-day percent positivity is 6.1 percent. There were 26 reported COVID deaths in the health district in November. The Jefferson Madison Regional Library has distributed 631 rapid COVID tests in the past week as part of a pilot program with the Virginia Department of Health. Learn more at jmrl.org. Executive vacancyMarc Woolley will not start today as Charlottesville’s City Manager. Or any other day, for that matter. The former business administrator of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has opted to not take the position of running the city’s executive functions. The City Council met in closed session for over three hours yesterday to discuss the withdrawal. Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker addressed the public afterward to say she had known since before Thanksgiving. “On November 21, Mr. Marc Woolley reached out to me,” Walker said. “We had a planned meeting scheduled for early in the week that had been postponed to that day and he informed me that he for personal reasons would not be taking the job in the city of Charlottesville.”Walker said Council tried to get the notice of Woolley’s withdrawal out before the Thanksgiving holiday.“And we were unable to do that and we apologize to the community for that confusion but we did want to give more time than the notification that happened today,” Walker said. “So we have known for a little over a week and this was the first opportunity for us to get together to explore other options and kind of just brainstorm where we are and where we’re headed.” Councilor Heather Hill had a few more glimpses into what happens next.“Council is considering going into a contract with a firm for interim services,” Hill said. “We’re going to be working through with staff on what the best and most efficient process would be for that. We have made no decisions in that matter.”In the meanwhile, Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders will continue to serve with extended duties. Hill said more information about a search firm will be released in two weeks. City Councilor-Elect Juandiego Wade will be sworn into office at on December 15 at 9:30 a.m. on the City Courthouse steps. He’ll be sworn along at the same time as three members of the School Board. City Councilor-Elect Brian Pinkston will be sworn in on December 23 at 10 a.m. on the Courthouse. However, their terms do not officially begin until January 1. Solid waste planningThe recycling rate in Virginia increased in the year 2020, as reported by 71 planning units across the Commonwealth. Of the 11 million tons of municipal solid waste processed, 5.3 million were reported as recycled. “However, some planning units faced recycling challenges due to the COVID 19 pandemic, lack of recycling markets in their regions and difficulty in obtaining recycling information from private businesses,” reads the executive summary of a report generated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Of that 5.3 million tons, 3.9 million were classified as principal recyclable materials and 1.4 million were in the form of credits. Recyclable materials include: Paper, metal, plastic, glass, commingled materials, yard waste, waste wood, textiles, waste tires, used oil, used oil filters, used antifreeze, inoperative automobiles, batteries, electronics and other.Credits refers to: Recycling residues, solid waste reused, non-MSW recycled (includes construction and demolition material, ash and debris) and source reduction initiatives. Under Virginia code, localities or the regions they are within must develop a solid waste management plan. In this area, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District does that work on behalf of Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, and Fluvanna. The towns of Scottsville and Standardsville are also covered by the TJPDC which reports a recycling rate of 41.9 percent. Louisa County runs its own sanitary landfill and is its own solid waste planning unit. They report a recycling rate of 29.5 percent. The Lunenberg County solid waste planning unit reported a 78.8 percent recycling rate, the highest in the state. Lee County in Southwest Virginia reported the lowest at 10.4 percent. Virginia code requires localities to be above 15 percent. The report singles out Arlington County for improving the recycling rate by prohibiting glass from the single-stream recycling system. Instead, Arlington set-up five drop-off locations to ensure glass would not be contaminated by other materials. Over 1,429 tons of clean glass was collected. “The removal of glass from the residential curbside recycling program had the added benefit of boosting the overall value of a ton of the single-stream recycling significantly,” reads the report. To learn more about Arlington’s program, visit their website.On Thursday, the operations subcommittee of Albemarle’s Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee meets.  On the agenda is an update on efforts to increase the market for glass recycling to attract interest from a processing company. I wrote about this topic back in January and will be interested in getting an update. (meeting info)See also:  Group seeks information from beverage producers on glass recycling, January 26, 2021You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement, supported in part by subscriber supported shout-outs like this one: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!Legislative prioritiesThe General Assembly convenes six weeks from today. Across Virginia, local officials are seeking ways to get Delegates and Senators to carry specific bills. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors held a meeting on Monday to explain their three legislative priorities. County Attorney Greg Kamptner said the first is a request to allow localities to treat some violations of local ordinance with civil penalties as opposed to being criminally punished. Albemarle wants to be able to establish a schedule of fines that exceed what can be charged now. “The initiative would authorize a schedule of civil penalties of up to $500 for the initial summons, with increasing amounts of up to a total of $5,000 in aggregate under the same operative facts,” Kamptner said. Kamptner said the current penalty of $200 for the first violation and $500 for additional ones is too low.“Those amounts are unchanged since 2007 and the county has found that some zoning violators see those payments as the cost of doing business which prolongs the enforcement process for those localities that have opted to pursue civil penalties,” Kamptner said. Both Delegate Sally Hudson (D-57) and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) and expressed interested in being a sponsor for that legislation.Albemarle’s second legislative request is to expand the use of photo-speed cameras to enforce violations of the speed limit. The General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 that allow the cameras to be used in highway in highway work zones and school crossing zones. (HB1442) (current state code)“A photo-speed monitoring device is equipment that uses RADAR or LIDAR in speed detection and produces one or more photographs, microphotographs, video tapes, or other recorded images of vehicles,” Kamptner said. “The enabling authority is self-executing. No ordinance is required and local law-enforcement offices can have the devices installed in those zones.”Kamptner said Albemarle would like to be able to use the cameras on rural roads where speeding has been identified as an issue. “The roads would be selected by the governing body based on speeding, crash, and fatality data,” Kamptner said. Delegate Bell said he would want to talk to someone at the Albemarle Police Department before deciding whether to carry the bill. “I’m reading what is drafted and it’s not exactly what is being described by some of the speakers for what they are looking for,” Bell said. Both Delegate Hudson and Delegate Chris Runion (R-25) both said they would also like to hear from law enforcement. Hudson had concerns. “Historically sometimes automated enforcement devices have been disparately positioned throughout communities and might appreciate some language or guardrails in the bill that would require some kind of public analysis about where they’re going to go,” Hudson said. Albemarle’s third legislative request would be to require agricultural buildings at which the public will be invited to conform to the state’s building code. Currently there is no inspection process or minimum standards for barns and other structures where large events might be held. “The use that would be subject to requirements as such having an automatic fire alarm system, emergency lights and exits, panic hardware at all required exit doors, portable fire extinguishers, and a maximum occupancy of 200 persons,” Kamptner said. Albemarle County cannot currently regulate construction of such buildings due to state law, but a 2018 review of building codes for agritourism and businesses suggested such minimum standards would be beneficial to public safety in an era when many of these buildings are used for breweries, wineries, and other destinations. (read the review)“Many people who go to these properties have no idea that these buildings are not expected and that they don’t meet the building code,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek. Delegate Hudson said she would be willing to request the Division of Legislative Services prepare a draft based on this request. Delegate Chris Runion (R-25) had some concerns about unintended consequences of the requirements and suggested there may be another way to address the issue. “The other area I think is probably a new area of conversation is the limit for 200 people,” Runion said. “I thought there was a limit at 300 previously Also at Monday’s meeting: The Thomas Jefferson Planning District puts together a regional legislative program. TJPDC Deputy Director David Blount serves as legislative liaison and says this year’s regional wishlist is very similar to last year’s.  ‘We’ve added some language to support the expansion of allowing the uses of electronic meetings outside of emergency declarations,” Blount said. “I think we’ll see some legislation on that in 2022.”Charlottesville City Council will be presented with the TJPDC legislative program and their own program at their next meeting on December 6. End notes:Thanks to Grace Liz Cerami, Lisa Edge, Lloyd Goad, and Grace Reynolds for their narration assistance in the podcast. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 30, 2021: Woolley withdraws as City Manager; Scottsville utilizing DORA for holiday event this Saturday

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 30, 2021 16:33

The final day of November is upon us, but will soon give way to December. Eleven named for nine becomes twelve named for ten. Path dependence shows up in mysterious ways. In any case, this is the edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement with a time stamp of November 30. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.On today’s show:Scottsville prepares to use its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area license for A Holiday HappeningMore on the preparation of Albemarle County’s capital improvement program Charlottesville City Council will again look for an interim city managerThe first bills of the 2022 Virginia General Assembly have been filedIn today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. Emergency meetingCharlottesville City Council no longer has an interim city manager on the way. Marc E. Woolley had been expected to begin work tomorrow. Council went into closed session at 12:30 p.m. today for an emergency meeting to discuss a personnel matter. Councilor Heather Hill read the motion.“Pursuant to § 2.2-3712 of the Virginia Code, I hereby move that City Council close this open meeting and convene within a closed meeting as authorized by Virginia Code… for the purpose of discussing of the withdrawal of the appointed city manager and the discussion, consideration, or interviews of perspective candidates for appointment or employment by City Council,” Hill said. Woolley had been expected to fill the vacancy left when former City Manager Chip Boyles resigned in late October. Boyles had been hired in January to replace former City Manager Tarron Richardson, who resigned at the end of September 2020 after about a year and a half. Earlier this month, Richardson sued the city for breach of contract related to a non-disparagement clause in his severance agreement. Richardson had replaced Maurice Jones, whose contract was not renewed in 2018 after nearly eight years in the job. Along the way, two other people have served as interim city manager.After publication of this newsletter, Daily Progress reporter Ginny Bixby reported that Woolley sent a letter to Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker last week.“I am writing to inform you and your fellow Council members that after careful consideration and in consultation with my family, I am withdrawing my application to become the Interim City Manager of the City of Charlottesville,” Woolley wrote. “This was not an easy decision for me and I want to thank the Charlottesville City Council for the opportunity and wish the residents of Charlottesville all the best.”Last week, the Planning Commission held a work session on the capital improvement program for fiscal year 2023. Charlottesville has a AAA bond rating that reflects a well-run and stable city. Commissioner Hosea Mitchell asked if that would continue based on the string of leadership vacancies and he’s answered by Krissy Hammill, a senior budget and management analyst. “Will the high turnover of city level management impact our bond rating?” Mitchell asked.“They do look at management as part of that analysis,” Hammill said. “To date that has not really been at the forefront of a lot of those conversations keeping in mind that the single-most goal of a bond rating is to assess out ability to pay our debt.”The city is currently being managed by Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders. Council next meets on December 6. See also: January 14, 2021: Charlottesville hires Chip Boyles as City ManagerOctober 14, 2021: Boyles resigns as Charlottesville City Manager; Friendship Court agreement reauthorized by EDACouncil selects Marc Woolley as the latest interim City ManagerUnite the Right organizers owe millions in damages; Former City Manager Richardson sues the city over disparagement clauseFirst 2022 bills filedThe General Assembly doesn’t begin for another six weeks, but the first bills have been pre-filed. Two of three bills filed in the House of Delegates are charter requests for two towns to amend their charter to move municipal elections from May to November, and a third would remove the sunset date for a sales exemption on the sale of gold, silver, and platinum bullion. In the Senate, there are five bills so far. One would require the Virginia Employment Commission to establish a family and medical leave program, one would require school principals to report incidents to law enforcement, and another would require absentee ballots to be sorted by precinct. Another would limit the time a Governor’s executive orders could last under an Emergency Declaration, and another would require votes of the Parole Board to be individually recorded under the Freedom of Information act. The General Assembly convenes on January 12. (view pre-filed bills)Scottsville Holiday HappeningEarlier this year, the General Assembly adopted legislation allowing localities to create Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA) where ABC licenses can be granted in the public realm. That means people can move from establishment to establishment while carrying alcoholic beverages in a designated cup. Several localities across Virginia have passed local ordinances allowing such events. This Saturday, the Town of Scottsville will offer this ability during A Holiday Happening. According to Town Administrator Matt Lawless, this is the third time the DORA has been used. “I was interested to kind of follow the progress of this setting up in state law,” Lawless said. “It originated with a neat mix of communities around the state from far Southwest to Richmond looking at how they could promote tourism and support their Main Street businesses.”Lawless said Scottsville has so far held an event to promote an art opening in September. “We had a Virginia of the Arts grant for installations in vacant storefronts,” Lawless said. “Folks can take out the food and drink and stroll around outside.” A second event held at Halloween for a puppy parade on Valley Street and Main Street. Lawless said these are not tailgate parties, and people can’t bring their own beer. The permit just allows people to consume beverages off premises. “So maybe what you’ve seen in the past on these events is like an outdoor event with a strict perimeter defined like with a snow fence,” Lawless said. “We don’t have to do that anymore. The drinks are labeled where they came from in a disposable container. So if we were checking on what is that and where did you get it, you could point to the licensed restaurant where you got it.”Lawless said sandwich boards suffice to mark the boundaries of the DORA. This Saturday’s event runs from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. with the ABC permit in effect from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m“If you’re ever visited a European Christmas Market, it might be kind of like that where we’ve got have the special farmer’s market with special arts and craft sales, musicians playing on sidelots, and then hot cider and mulled wine for sale at our restaurants that you can take up and down the street,” Lawless said. Lawless said a safety plan is created for each event and reviewed by ABC to make sure there are enough people on staff to help with public safety. In the summer, Charlottesville City Council was briefed on the idea but it was met with a lukewarm response with some Councilors concerned with unequal treatment. This story came about due to a story in the Cardinal by Megan Schnabel that takes a look at how Danville, Roanoke, and the town of Tazewell have used this ability for events. (read the story here)Let’s have a second Patreon-fueled shout-out. Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!Albemarle capital planningAlbemarle County’s budget process for Fiscal Year 2023 continues on Friday with another meeting of the Capital Improvement Program Advisory Committee. The group consists of two Supervisors, two School Board members, a Planning Commissioner, and a member of the public who happens to be a former Planning Commissioner.  (view the presentation)“I suspect that each of us have items on the not-included plan that we’d like to see moved up but it is a balance,” said Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District. “We cannot do everything.” Perhaps when you think of capital projects, big items like schools and sidewalks come to mind. The next CIP in Albemarle will likely have an item called Core Systems Modernization which will seek to speed up how the county does business. Andy Bowman is the chief of budget in the Finance and Budget Office. “The technology systems that we use across the county government are disjointed, they’re antiquated, and they don’t allow the community to interact with our government in a way that we expect,’ Bowman said. “Over the next few years, we’re going to be embarking on new financial systems, new human resources systems, and new community development systems related to systems that are connected and enhance our customer and our employee experience.”The job of the CIP Advisory Committee is to help staff develop the five-year program. There’s a target of about $131 million in funding that may be available through FY2027. “For funding in Fiscal Year 2023 to 2027, there is a total of $457 million in projects that was requested,” Bowman said.The budget chief also gave a status report on projects under way. “There is $151 million in projects that are currently appropriated and underway from prior years that extend into Fiscal Year 2023 and beyond.”Those projects include sidewalk installation, the Southern Convenience Center in Keene, and upgrades of the county’s General District and Circuit court in downtown Charlottesville. Future projects that are waiting to be funded include further phases of Biscuit Run Park, future school capacity expansion, and a convenience center in the northern section of Albemarle. Supervisor Bea Lapisto-Kirtley suggested one item she wanted more information on.  “As far a project, I would like to make sure that at Darden-Towe our soccer fields are taken care of, upgraded, and when I say upgraded, regarding natural grass and putting in what needs to be done there to make sure that that’s a good playing field,” Lapisto-Kirtley said. Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry said a previous project had anticipated replacing the natural grass fields with artificial turf and adding lighting. Darden-Towe is jointly owned by Charlottesville and Albemarle.“Eventually that request was discussed in the calendar of 2018 and that was approved and bundled as part of the Parks’ quality of life projects,” Henry said. Henry said $2.5 million was approved for the project, with $2 million of that going for the installation of turf and the rest for the lighting. “That CIP request assumed use of cooperative contracts, meaning existing contracts in the state for both the turf project and the lighting project,” Henry said. “On a December 4 meeting of 2019,  a concern was raised by a Board member about the procurement methodology and several series of questions around the efficacy of turf, environmental concerns.”Henry said staff returned with more information later that winter, but the pandemic put a hold on further consideration of the effort. “The majority of capital projects were paused or deferred,” Henry said. When some of the projects were unpaused, the Darden-Towe project was not one of them. “And it’s back in the queue of all the other unfunded projects that have been requested or formally requested through this process,” Henry said. Since then, the Parks Department request has placed further funding of Biscuit Run as a higher priority. The Parks Department has asked for $8.5 million for the next four years to move into further phases of that future park’s development. After being told by Henry that the natural fields are well-maintained, LaPisto-Kirtley said she would support continuing that practice. School Board Chair Kate Acuff made the pitch for funding to modernize the existing high schools, something that she did not see within the draft CIP presented to the committee. The county in recent years has invested in two high school “centers” rather than a fourth stand-alone facility.“Because a new high school would be $150 million and we were able to craft this plan that including upgrading all of our schools  — Albemarle High School is 70 years old  — as well as the Centers for a fraction of that cost,” Acuff said. “It’s disappointed to me to see that has dropped out.” Acuff also said that over a hundred classrooms are in trailers. She said the county needs at least three more elementary schools.“We’re over capacity at Baker-Butler [Elementary] which is a northern feeder pattern [school] and construction of Brookhill [Elementary] would address that,” Acuff said. There are also overcrowding issues at Mountain View Elementary. A 27,000 square feet addition is underway at Crozet Elementary but Acuff said a third school in the western part of the county will be necessary soon. Of that $131 million, the schools will have access to $77.2 million according to Chief Financial Officer Nelsie Birch. The next meeting of the group will take place on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 29, 2021: Charlottesville PC briefed on next capital budget

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 29, 2021 14:00

As of the typing of these words, there are 22 days until the solstice when our portion of the world will slowly begin illuminating a little more each day. This is the 333rd day of this year. What significance might there be in the number 4,444? Stick around for enough editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement, and that figure may one day show up. I’m your host Sean Tubbs, tracking the trivial and monitoring the memorable. On today’s show:Charlottesville’s Planning Commission gets a look at the preliminary capital budget for fiscal year 23University Transit Service buses return to full capacity More news about the transition team of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin Let’s begin today with two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!As the week begins, the Virginia Department of Health reports a seven-day average of 1,377 new cases and the seven-day percent positivity is at 6.1 percent. On Friday, the VDH reported the first fatality of a child from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 55 new cases today and a seven-day percent positivity of 5.8 percent. There have been two more fatalities reported since Wednesday. Last week, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library entered into a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health to distribute at-home COVID-19 testing kits. The pilot program offers rapid antigen tests that are guided by a virtual assistant. “The test kits must be used away from the library, via an internet-connected device with a camera (including smart phones) with digital test results available within 15 minutes,” reads a press release. “Library staff cannot assist with administering tests, and tests cannot be taken inside any JMRL location.”Today marks the first day in a year and a half that passengers on University Transit Service buses will board from the front door. UTS has ended rules that required riders to board from the middle door. Capacity restrictions have also been dropped, meaning buses will be able to fill to standing. However, masks and facial coverings are still mandatory. The University Transit Service will also restore service to stops at Garrett Hall and Monroe Hall whenever UTS is serving McCormick Road. Those stops had been dropped to help UTS manage the capacity restrictions. Visit the UTS website to learn more about specific details.To learn more about transit, consider attending the Regional Transit Partnership’s meeting on Thursday at 4 p.m. On the agenda is a look at the Regional Transit Vision plan that is in development by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. (agenda)Jaunt buses returned to 100 percent capacity earlier this year. There are a few local names on what Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is calling his transition landing teams. The “landing teams that will coordinate with the cabinet secretaries from the current administration and conduct due diligence across all agencies so that the Youngkin administration will hit the ground running and begin delivering on its promises on Day One,” reads a press release from Wednesday.Senator Emmet Hanger (R-24) will serve on the Agriculture and Forestry team and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) is on the Education team. Bell will also serve on the Public Safety and Homeland Security team. Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17) will be on the Veterans and Defense Affairs team. For the full list, take a look at the full press release. In today’s second subscriber-supported public service announcement: The Charlottesville Jazz Society at cvillejazz.org is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of all that  jazz, and there’s no time like now to find a time to get out and watch people love to play. The Charlottesville Jazz Society keeps a running list of what’s coming up at cvillejazz.org. Sign up for their newsletter today. The Charlottesville Planning Commission got a look last week at a preliminary budget for the capital improvement program for the fiscal years 2023 through 2027. Council will vote next spring to approve the first year of spending, but decisions for future years would be for future versions of Council. (November 23 presentation) (watch the meeting)But first, what is a capital improvement program? Krissy Hammill is a Senior Budget and Management Analyst for the City of Charlottesville. “It’s basically a five-year financing plan that contains infrastructure type projects that usually cost more than $50,000,” Hammill said. “They’re generally non-recurring and non-operational and they generally have a useful life of five years or more.” Major items are usually funded by debt the city takes on in the form of bond sales. Investors front the money in exchange for a steady and guaranteed return. Like Albemarle County, Charlottesville has a AAA bond rating that is both attractive to investors and has a low interest rate. The latter results in a lower debt-service payment for the city. “We are actually part of a very small group of localities that have that rating,” Hammill said. “It is the premiere marker of a locality’s financial stability in strength.” In recent years, Council has increased the amount of spending on affordable housing initiatives, directly funding redevelopment of public housing and Friendship Court. In the past budget cycle, Council expressed a willingness to fund the configuration of City Schools. “We had a placeholder for that project at $50 million and based on Council’s direction from a meeting in October, that has now been increased from $50 million to $75 million,” Hammill said. “The funding has been moved up from FY25 to FY24. We also know that in doing this there will need to be additional revenue enhancements to pay for the additional debt service that will be required.”Revenue enhancements can be translated as “tax increase” and Hammill has previously told Council and the public that the equivalent of a 15 cent increase on the property tax rate may be required to cover the cost. There’s the possibility of the next General Assembly allowing Charlottesville voters to decide on a sales-tax increase with proceeds going toward schools. Even with that possibility, the city may not be able to make any new investments for some time. “We know that our debt capacity will be exhausted for some period of time,” Hammill said. In the current fiscal year, debt service is just under five percent of the $192.2 million General Fund Budget. That amount does not include the amount of general fund cash used for capital projects. That number will increase. “The plan put before you has debt service basically doubling from just over ten million to just over $20 million within a very short period of time, about four years,” Hammill said. A draft of the next Capital Improvement Program won’t be officially presented to Council until late February or early March. Hammill documented several other revisions to the preliminary budget. At Council’s direction, $18.25 million in city funds for the West Main Streetscape were transferred to the school reconfiguration project as well as $5 million from a parking garage on 7th and Market Street. In December 2018, a previous City Council  signed an agreement with Albemarle County to provide parking as part of a multimillion project to locate a joint General District Court downtown. Subsequent Councils have opted to not build a new parking garage to honor the terms of that agreement. (read the agreement)“We don’t have any specifics right now,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director. “We’re in the midst of conversation with the county about the fact that we’re not going to build a structure and what the agreement leaves them with regard to their options and trying to figure out what’s best for both parties.” Pre-construction of the courts facility is underway. Another adjustment in the city’s preliminary capital improvement program is additional funding for a comprehensive plan for the Parks and Recreation Department. “This would be to look at Parks and Rec programs,” Hammill said. “This is not the normal master plan for the parks per se master planning process, but more of a programmatic master plan.” There are also programs for drainage issues at Oakwood Cemetery and McIntire Park as well as funding to assist the removal of dead Ash trees in the city. Council has also approved a housing plan that asks for $10 million a year on affordable housing initiatives. Hammill said not all of the funding for that initiative would come from the capital improvement program budget. City Council will review the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund at its meeting on December 6. Another item not in the capital budget is private funding for a sidewalk on Stribling Avenue. Southern Development has offered to loan the city $2.9 million to cover the cost of the project as part of a rezoning in Fry’s Spring area. The Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the preliminary CIP on December 14. Finally today, the second shout-out for today specifically asked you to check out a local news story. Here’s one to begin with. Last week, Carly Haynes of CBS19 reported on the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue in Charlottesville. Charlottesville was awarded $7.743 million in a Smart Scale project to alter the intersection. Learn more in this report from November 23rd.Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here!. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 27, 2021: Albemarle PC briefed on comp plan, zoning review; A look at rural housing challenges

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 27, 2021 17:44


After today, there are four more Saturdays left in the year 2021. After December 31, there will be only 78 more years in the 21st Century. This perspective brought to you by Charlottesville Community Engagement, a regularly-produced look at happening in and around Charlottesville. I’m Sean Tubbs, the host and producer. Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.On today’s show:The Albemarle County Planning Commission gets a look at Comprehensive Plan underwayThe Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership takes a look at affordable housing challenges in rural areasArea airports will get money from the recent federal infrastructure funding bill Daily Progress-owner Lee Enterprises invokes protections against Alden Global Capital’s takeover attempt Let’s begin with a Patreon-fueled shout-out. Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!Lee responseThe parent company of the Daily Progress appears to want to reject a takeover by the Alden Capital Group. Lee Enterprises issued a press release on Wednesday with the headline Board Takes Action in Response to Alden’s Unsolicited Proposal to Acquire Lee. Specifically, the Iowa-based company’s Board of Directors have initiated a limited-duration shareholder rights plan that issues existing shareholders additional rights in the case of a hostile takeover. “In adopting the Rights Plan, the Board noted Alden’s track record of rapidly acquiring substantial control or ‘negative control’ positions in other public companies and its seemingly inconsistent disclosures,” reads the press release.Alden Capital Group asserts they own six percent of the Lee’s shares. Shareholder rights plans are also known as “poison pills” and have been used since the 1980’s to ward off corporate takeovers. Read more about this topic in an article on Editor and Publisher. (learn more on Wikipedia)Airport investmentThe recently adopted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $15 billion for airports across the nation. Virginia airports will receive nearly $400 million of that amount, according to a press release from Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. The Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport will receive $15.44 million and Freeman Field in Louisa County will get $790,000. The airport in Orange County will also receive $790,000. Elsewhere in Virginia, Dulles International will get $120.4 million, Richmond International will get $35.6 million, and Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional will get $14.97 million. Lynchburg will get nearly $6.5 million and Culpeper Regional $1.48 million. I’ll have more information about how Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport will use their funding in an upcoming edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Albemarle PC comp plan updateThe review of the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan is underway, with a lot of behind-the-scenes work by staff before a public kickoff begins in January. The Albemarle Planning Commission got a update on the process at their meeting on November 16. Here’s Tori Kannellopolous, a senior planner with the county, with a reminder of the plan’s purpose. “The Comprehensive Plan, or comp plan, establishes Albemarle County’s long-range vision that guides growth, development, and change for the next 20 years,” Kannellopolous said. “It assists county staff, appointed committees and boards, and the Board of Supervisor when developing public policies related to private land use activities and use of resources in Albemarle.”For the past forty years, the major theme of the county’s comp plan has been growth management. Roughly five percent of land in Albemarle is designated for urban development including more dense residential areas and commercial activities. The rest is considered rural. This time around, Supervisors have directed staff to update the zoning ordinance while reviewing the overall Comprehensive Plan. The process formally got underway when Supervisors adopted a resolution on November 3. (Albemarle Supervisors Kickoff Comprehensive Review) One of the intents of this review is to streamline much of the content of the plan, which is currently 406 pages. That number doesn’t include the various appendices. (read the current plan)“For example, the existing implementation chapter includes 70 priorities,” Kannellopolous said. “There is not a clear prioritization of these items and the order in which they should be completed. The chapter includes 80 indicators of progress that are intended to be tracked annually but tracking this data is unsustainable and the sheer number of indicators make it unclear for community members to understand what success looks like.”This review also provides an opportunity to integrate the various strategies of more recent plans, such as Housing Albemarle, Project Enable, and the Climate Action Plan. In all, there will be four phases, with the first being a review of the growth management policy. “This includes reviewing, evaluating, and updating the growth management policy as needed using the lenses of equity, climate action, and capacity projections,” Kannellopolous said. “A capacity analysis for housing and economic development in the county is currently underway and this is to understand if we have the capacity in our development areas for the projected growth of our community.” Phase two will identify topics that will be updated in the comprehensive plan, likely related to transportation and economic development. The county will create its first multimodal systems plan as well. Phase three will review the actions the county will take in the form of written strategies. Phase four will be the finalization of the new plan. “We will focus our efforts on identifying and eliminating plan inconsistencies across content and we will engage the community and decision-makers on overall plan priorities once all of the content is considered as a whole,” Kannellopolous said. State code assigns the job of preparing and recommending the Comprehensive Plan to each locality’s Planning Commission. Supervisors have approved a process that includes a working group of stakeholders to guide the process. Rachel Falkenstein is a planning manager in Albemarle. “The working group is approximately an eight to twelve person group of community members whose role would be to advise county staff on plan recommendations, community engagement approaches, and to support staff’s community outreach efforts by sharing information with their networks, their neighborhoods, or their communities,” Falkenstein said. The group members have not yet been selected. “We are going back to the Board of Supervisors with information sharing about the selection process at an upcoming Board meeting in December,” Falkenstein said. Broad community engagement will come in the form of workshops on the plan. The Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will play a role in decisions about changes to Albemarle policies. Planning Commission Chair Julian Bivins noted that the Commission’s input will come later in a process that has already begun. He said he wants the Commission to meet with Supervisors. “So that we can hear each other and discuss these discussions before we get to an endpoint,” Bivins said. The review of the zoning code will happen concurrently and is currently underway. Charles Rapp is the county’s Planning Director. “We have a first phase right now and it’s called modernization,” Rapp said. “Two of those have been brought to you through a resolution of intent that deal with bonus densities and wavers and special exceptions.” The Supervisors will hold a public hearing on special exceptions at their meeting on December 1. (staff report)Rapp said another change will be to streamline the list of land use categories. “I believe our current chart is something like 16 pages long right now with very specific uses and we want to try to tailor that back to something more reasonable,” Rapp said. “We also want to take a look at our setbacks. Our setbacks are quite complicated to figure out with multiple different ways within each zoning classification and we want to try and improve that and make it a little more clear for people applying our zoning ordinance.” If you’re interested in learning more about how Albemarle’s Community Development Department works, take at the department’s work program in the consent agenda for the December 1 meeting. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Let’s have another Patreon-fueled shout-out: Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350Rural housing challengesMuch of the conversation about the cost of housing has centered on building units in urbanized areas. But what role can non-urbanized areas play? The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership led a panel discussion on November 16 to discuss the challenges. One of the biggest is money. (watch the event)“When you talk about funding for affordable housing, you think of urban,” said Colleen Fisher, the executive director of the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing. In fact, the main federal agency most people associate with the topic is called the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fisher reminded the audience that the U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers federal support through their Rural Housing Service, but the program isn’t funded at high levels. One step localities can take is an assessment of what’s currently in the rural area.“We need ample resources to preserve our dedicated affordable housing stock in rural Virginia,” said Jonathan Knopf, the senior research associate for Housing Forward Virginia. “We have a lot of low-income housing tax credit properties that were the first and generation LIHTC properties. And a lot of that stuff is reaching the end of their affordability terms and so we need resources for housing providers to come in and lock in the affordability of that assisted multifamily stock.” Those credits are issued by the Virginia Housing Development Authority. Knopf said one challenge for rural areas is competition for those credits from urban areas. “It’s tough to break from this either-or resource conversation and I think we need to move to a both-and framework for housing resources across the Commonwealth so our rural rent relief programs don’t get left behind,” Knopf said. Taking inventoryGreene County has 146 LIHTC units at four properties. Louisa has 115 units in three developments. Nelson has 159 units in three properties. Albemarle has 1,089 units, most of which are in the urban area around Charlottesville except 34 units reserved for seniors in Scottsville. There are currently no LIHTC properties in Fluvanna. . Jesse Rutherford is a member of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. He says the cost of housing used to be affordable in rural communities, but what he calls overregulation in land use and building codes in the past few decades is a problem.“You can’t add regulation and expect it to get cheaper,” Rutherford said. “In the last 15, 20, 25 years we’ve seen the collapse of affordable housing in the rural area. I think there’s definitely some low-hanging fruit as it relates to zoning form or some certain by-right density. As we know in the urban context, same as the rural, you can’t use the word affordable without density following it.” Rutherford wants zoning ordinances to be altered to reduce setbacks, which he said renders land unusable for more housing units. Knopf said the cost of labor and building materials is drastically increasing the cost of housing and some form of subsidization is required. He said a balance of tools can be used to produce more units and preserve existing ones. “We don’t need rocket science or fancy things to solve so many of these issues,” Knopf said. “In many cases it’s just dedicating the right funding and fixing our existing policies and regulations especially zoning and a lot of things Jesse talked about to make things work. And try to get the economic side and the supply-chain side and the labor market side at least moving in the right direction to correct some of the paths we’ve been on in the past couple of decades.” Fisher said members of her organization report construction costs keep rising.“Just because we’re in a rural area doesn’t mean that things are cheaper and some people have that opinion because you’re building in a rural community that it’s going to cost you less,” Fisher said. “That’s not necessarily true.” One factor is labor. Keith Smith is the chair of the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership. He cited one statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reviewed by the National Association of Home Builders. (via HousingWire) “According to national data, we are anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 thousand construction workers short per month,” Smith said. “We’re going to recover from the material costs. I’ve been building developments for three and a half decades. This goes up and down. It’s going to take many, many decades to work through the labor force.”To review the rest of the event, you can watch the whole thing on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s YouTube page. Leave a comment either there or here to weigh in. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


November 24, 2021: Unite the Right organizers owe millions in damages; Former City Manager Richardson sues the city over disparagement clause

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 24, 2021 15:27

Is there a name for the day before Thanksgiving? Feast’s Eve? Blackout Wednesday? Drinksgiving? Food Prepageddon? What about "I hope I didn't forget anything at the store because I'm not going back Day?” In any case, even though it is a holiday week, there’s still time for Charlottesville Community Engagement. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs. On today’s program:A jury has found that the organizers of the Unite the Right rally guilty of a civil conspiracy and awarded damages, but did not reach a verdict on other claims Governor Northam and the Virginia Service Commission honor two area churches for their COVID testing work since the pandemic began Former City Manager Tarron Richardson is suing the city Albemarle County will revisit its 21 year old policy on cell tower placementAlbemarle says goodbye to long-time budget chief, and a Dean at the UVA School of Architecture takes a new jobSines v. Kessler verdict After a month-long trial, a jury has awarded more than $25 million in damages to the plaintiffs of a civil lawsuit against organizers and participants of the Unite the Right Rally in August 2017. The jury in Sines v. Kessler held that plaintiffs proved their civil conspiracy case under Virginia law as well as their claim that the defendants engaged in racial, religious, or ethnic harassment. Under the conspiracy count, twelve defendants must pay $500,000 each in damages and five organizations must pay a million each. On the harassment count, five individuals must $250,000 each to two plaintiffs $250,000 in compensatory damages. However, the jury did not reach a verdict on a count claiming the defendants “engaged in a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence in violation” of federal code. (42 U.S. Code § 1985 - Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights) They also deadlocked on a second count on the defendants failure to prevent the conspiracy. The jury also found that James F. Fields owes damages for an assault and battery claim to specific victims of his deliberate decision to drive into a crowd of people on 4th Street SE on August 12, 2017, as well as another count for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fields is currently serving time for a criminal conviction on those charges. Read the full verdict on Court Listener. Former City Manager sues CharlottesvilleAnother former Charlottesville official is seeking legal action against the City of Charlottesville. The Daily Progress reports that Dr. Tarron Richardson has filed a federal lawsuit against City Council and four individuals for entering into an agreement that prevented his ability to publicly critique the city after he left his position as City Manager in September 2020. “The First Amendment expressly forbids government bodies — including city councils — from engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliating against people based on the content of their speech,” reads the Nature of the Case section of the suit. Richardson wants a jury trial. The civil rights suit seeks damages as well as a declaration that a non-disparagement clause in his severance agreement is not enforceable. The suit also individually names City Councilors Heather Hill and Nikuyah Walker as well as City Attorney Lisa Robertson and former interim City Manager John Blair. The suit revisits Richardson’s tenure as city manager including his enactment of a policy to regulate use of city-issued credit cards and claims some Councilors sought to usurp his authority. “Because of ridiculous demands and the ongoing chicanery and obstructionism from Walker and Hill that would eventually prevent him from adequately performing his job, Dr. Richardson was constructively terminated,” the suit continues. The narrative claims that Councilors did not hold up their end of the severance agreement and disparaged him in social media posts and one interview that was later removed from a local media outlet. This past January, Dr. Richardson asked to publish an op-ed in the Daily Progress on race-relations in Charlottesville, but Robertson said the city would keep open the option of suing to compel Richardson to return the severance payment of $205,000. In all, the suit has four counts including violation of the First Amendment and breach of contract. He’s represented by the Haley Law Firm of Greenville, South Carolina, Keith B. French Law of Pearland, Texas, and Brand Law of Dallas. Earlier this month, former Police Chief RaShall Brackney announced she was filing a wrongful termination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That’s the first step toward a potential lawsuit. After Richardson left, Council appointed John Blair to serve as interim city manager before naming Chip Boyles this past January. Boyles resigned in October, six weeks after firing Brackney. Marc E. Woolley will become the next interim city manager on December 1. (view the suit on Court Listener)Richmond HUD awardThe agency that owns and operates public housing in Richmond has been awarded a planning grant for the revitalization of a property in Historic Jackson Word. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $450,000 to the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority for revitalization of Gilpin Court as part of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. “Known as “the Harlem of the South," the neighborhood’s once vibrant main street was filled with thriving theaters, stores, and medical practices,” reads a description in a HUD press release. “The historical heart of the neighborhood was all but destroyed by its bifurcation for the construction of Interstate 95/64.” The intent is for the process to be led by residents, a process already underway at the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The CRHA had applied for a planning grant in 2010 but was not selected. The agency has not applied since. (list of 2010 applicants)Outgoing budget chief The government of Albemarle County is in transition with many long-time staffers having already retired or about to do so. One of them is Lori Allshouse, who served for many years leading up the county’s budget preparation each year. Nelsie Birch joined Albemarle’s executive leadership in the summer of 2020 as Chief Financial Officer and had this to say about Allshouse at the Board of Supervisors meeting on November 17, 2020.“She’s been the face of all things budget, all things capital projects, capital planning, five-year financial planning, financial policies,” Birch said.  Birch thanked Allshouse for preparing her and the rest of the staff for all of the various budget challenges that have come during the past two years. Allshouse has worked for the county since 2000. Her last job title was Assistant Chief Financial Officer for Policy and Partnerships in the finance and budget department. Her last presentation dealt with cost allocations for partner organizations in next fiscal year. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement and it’s time now for another subscriber-supported Public Service Announcement. Since the pandemic began, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society has been offering virtual presentations on all manner of topics. This Sunday at 4 p.m. they’ll present an important topic to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. The ACHS is working on a Race and Sports initiative to tell the story of the “Desegregation of Central Virginia Public High School Athletics.” Dr. Shelly Murphy and other participants will update the Richmond groups on local efforts to collect stories from those who lived through the transition away from segregated schools, when institutions such as Jackson Burley High School vanished. This is part of the Sunday Sit-In series put on by the Richmond groups. Register online for the event, which begins at 4 p.m. this Sunday. (register)A-School moveAn associate dean at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture is moving on to take a position at Georgia Tech. Ellen Bassett will become the Chair of the College of Design at the Atlanta-based university. Bassett is currently the associate dean for research at the School of Architecture. She’s also served as the chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and the director of the School of Architecture’s Real Estate Design and Development.*Service awardsTwo Charlottesville-area churches are among the recipients of Governor Ralph Northam’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards for 2021. Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church and Church of the Incarnation have been honored as Outstanding Faith-Based Organizations for their offering of free COVID-19 testing in their respective neighborhoods.“Located within highly populated neighborhoods, the majority of those tested have been members of the community’s most vulnerable populations who would otherwise be unable to receive free, consistent, and timely testing,” reads the press release for the awards. Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church is located in the city’s Ridge Street neighborhood and the Church of Incarnation is located off of Hillsdale Drive in Albemarle County. Albemarle wirelessAlbemarle County will review the rules by which cell towers are regulated. A previous Board of Supervisors adopted a policy in December 2000 which among other things requires tall towers to be as invisible to the eye as possible. Several supervisors since then have asked for the policy to be revisited to increase the availability of voice and data service throughout the county. The Board has authorized $100,000 for a study, and Development Process Manager Bill Fritz checked in elected officials on November 17. (2000 Wireless Policy)“Staff wants to ensure that we put out a [request for proposals] that meets the Board’s expectations for the scope of work in the review of these regulations,” Fritz said. “The policy has never been revisited and changes in the regulations have been largely limited to keep up with changing federal regulations, court decisions, and changes in technology.” Fritz said the consultant would be charged with taking potential changes through a community engagement process eventually resulting in a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Changes might include elimination of some permits having to go to the Board for approval.“It could include revisions to the ordinance to eliminate the need for special exceptions that have been routinely approved,” Fritz said. “It could include allowance of facilities at greater height or lesser design standard in areas of poor coverage. These are just some ideas.”Supervisor Diantha McKeel has been asking for the policy to be revisited for many years. She suggested going right to making changes in the county code. “The policy is so old that to be honest with you I would just start over with an ordinance,” McKeel said. “And let’s get to the meat of it and let’s not worry about this old outdated policy.” McKeel said the new policy needed to put more emphasis on what she said were the positive benefits of more cell towers, including public safety. Supervisor Ann Mallek said there are other ways to provide more voice and data service that would not require a wholesale change to the policy. “This is taking the mantra of the sales people that this is the way to achieve broadband,” Mallek said. “The county has made a dedicated investment and will continue to make a dedicated investment that broadband is delivered through fiber.” Supervisor Donna Price said the county should explore any methods to expand data service. “We need to update our policy and acknowledge the changes in technology as well as the needs, not the desires, but the needs for connectivity through all of the mechanisms that are available,” Price said. The request for proposals has not yet been issued. END NOTES:Thanks to Becky Calvert and Jennie More for their assistance in coming up with names for the day. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 22, 2021: Albemarle PC briefed on capital budget process; Another new owner for the Daily Progress?

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 22, 2021 19:05

It doesn’t seem at this moment like a holiday week, with so many items happening at public meetings before Thanksgiving. But, I’m grateful you are listening to this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, and I’m hopeful that you’ll share it with others. Most people read the newsletter, but the secret is that each one is produced for audio, as my professional career in journalism began in radio. More than a quarter-century later, I’m glad to be bringing you information as often as I can and this is what I have for November 22, 2021. Let’s begin today with a Patreon-fueled shout-out! WTJU is hosting Classical Listening Parties, a series of four free, casual events on Tuesdays in November. These four events are led by Chelsea Holt, pianist, teacher, and one of WTJU’s newest and youngest classical announcers. She’ll guide you through all the eras of classical music and tomorrow night at 7 p.m.: the Romantic period. For a list of the others, visit wtju.net to learn more and sign up! On today’s show:Albemarle’s Planning Commission gets an update on the county’s capital improvement budget for the next fiscal yearA hedge fund sets its sights on the Daily Progress and its parent company The EPA seeks to reestablish jurisdiction in the Waters of the United StatesAnd the University of Virginia seeks a tuition increase for undergraduatesPandemic updateAs the week begins, the seven-day average for new COVID cases is at 1,644 new cases a day and the percent positivity is at 5.9 percent. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 29 new cases today and a percent positivity of 5.5 percent. Three more fatalities have been reported since Friday for a total of 311 since the pandemic began. Fatal fireA fire in an apartment in the 1200 block of Carlton Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood on Sunday has killed one person, according to a release from the Charlottesville Fire Department. Crews began fighting the fire soon after arriving and then looked for anyone trapped. One adult was rescued but died soon after being taken to an unidentified hospital. Fire marshals are investigating the cause. This is the third fatality from a fire this year. Newspaper consolidation continuesThe Charlottesville Daily Progress and most other daily newspapers in Virginia might soon have a new owner. Alden Global Capital has announced in a letter that it will pay $24 a share for Lee Enterprises, thirty percent over the Friday’s closing stock price. “We believe that as a private company and part of our successful nationwide platforms, Lee would be in a stronger position to maximize its resources and realize strategic value that enhances its operations and supports its employees in their important work serving local communities,” reads the letter. Alden Global Capital is a New York based hedge fund that owns the Tribune Publishing Company and Media NewsGroup. Among their newspapers are the Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post, the Mercury News, and the New York Daily News. The company already owns six percent of Lee Enterprises. “Scale is critical for newspapers to ensure necessary staffing and in order to thrive in this challenging environment where print advertising continues to decline and back office operations and legacy public company functions remain bloated, thus depriving newsrooms of resources that are best used serving readers with relevant, trustworthy, and engaging content,” the letter continues. Lee Enterprises completed the purchase of the Daily Progress from BHMedia in March 2020. BHMedia is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which purchased the Progress from Media General in May 2012. Media General purchased the paper from Thomas Worrell Jr. in 1995 as part of a $230 million deal. The Progress was first published on September 14, 1892. Other Virginia papers owned by Lee Enterprises include the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Lynchburg News Advance, and the Roanoke Times. Learn more about the potential takeover from Rick Edmonds on Poytner.org or at Virginia Business. The real question is - who gets the Daily Progress March? In April 2005, the Charlottesville Municipal Band unveiled a tune written by Nellysford composer Paul T. Richards. Check out my news story from that time!Crozet school redistrictingAn Albemarle committee appointed to study scenarios to alleviate overpopulation of elementary schools in the western part of the county has unveiled their recommendation. After meeting four times and holding two public comment sessions, the Crozet-Brownsville Redistricting Committee has suggested a total of 219 students be moved from Brownsville to Crozet Elementary at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. By then, Albemarle should have completed a $21.25 million addition to that school which includes 16 new classrooms. (committee website)Water quality rulesTwo federal agencies that regulate land use as it relates to water quality have announced plans to reinstate a more robust definition of what constitutes the “waters of the United States.” Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers use that phrase as a basis for enforcement of the Clean Water Act of 1972 which among other things regulates industrial discharges into “navigable waters.” A rule change made in the previous presidential administration reduced the geographic scope of the definition, potentially limiting the jurisdiction  of the EPA and the Army Corp’s reach. The Southern Environmental Law Center and other conservation groups sued to overturn the rule. “The prior administration stripped protections under the Clean Water Act from countless streams, lakes and wetlands, leaving thousands of stream miles, many public recreational lakes, and millions of acres of wetlands without protections that have been in place for decades through every other administration and putting our communities and water supplies at risk,” reads a statement issued last week.The SELC argues that preserving wetlands can help preserve the ability of communities to reduce flooding and deal with extreme weather events. To learn more, visit the EPA’s Waters of the United States website. UVA tuitionThe Cavalier Daily reports that tuition at the University of Virginia could increase between 3.5 percent and 4.9 percent in the each of the next two academic years. That’s according to two representatives from the UVA Finance office who spoke to Student Council last week. Public comment will be taken at a forum on December 2 followed by a vote by the Board of Visitors at their meeting a week later. Tuition was frozen for the current academic year. For a sense of scale, the current tuition for most undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences is $14,188 for a Virginia resident and $48,036 for an out-of-state resident. Third-year students pay slightly higher. First-year engineering students from Virginia pay $22,566 for a year’s tuition, with non-Virginians paying $56,730. These figures don’t include fees. Take a look at the UVA website to learn more about how much students are charged for their education. To learn more about the proposed increase, read Eileen Powell’s article in the Cavalier Daily. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Let’s have two more Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!Albemarle Planning Commission’s capital budget briefingTomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m., an advisory committee appointed to help Albemarle County shape its capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year will hold its first meeting. Last week, the seven-member Planning Commission got an overview including a reminder that last year was very different. (watch the meeting)“Last year when we were putting together the FY22 budget, there was no [capital improvement program],” said Andy Bowman, the chief of budget in the Finance and Budget office. “The county was in the middle of the pandemic and there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty and really at that time it was decided instead of focusing on a long-range picture, to focus on the impacts of the pandemic and what might be able to be unpaused from a number of projects that were paused at the start of the pandemic.”Bowman said the economy has rebounded much better than initially anticipated with outlooks becoming more favorable with each passing month. As the FY23 budget approaches, Bowman said the county is not immune to inflationary pressure, with bids for some capital projects coming in higher than budgeted. The process starts with a review of what’s currently in the works.“We have a capital program currently underway, before we even start anything from 2023 to 2027, of around $147 million for about 65 projects,” Bowman said. “Of that $147 million, $91 million has been appropriated in the last eleven months now, from what was unpaused in January which included the expansion at Crozet Elementary.” Bowman noted that over the course of the next five years, the county will adopt a new Comprehensive Plan and the Board of Supervisors will update their strategic plan. Both documents as well as the School Board’s strategic plan will guide future decisions on capital spending. Bowman said the focus this cycle will be on the immediate year to give flexibility on future needs. The CIP advisory committee consists of Supervisors Bea LaPisto-Kirtley and Donna Price, School Board members Kate Acuff and Jonno Alcaro, and former Planning Commissioners Bruce Dotson.and Cal Morris. “They’re charged to do a few things,” Bowman said. “First they will review and evaluate a proposal that is recommended by staff as a starting point and then the CIP committee will sort of make a recommendation and modify that starting point.” Bowman said there will be additional revenue from the cigarette tax and potential revenue from a tax on plastic bags. The county also refinanced its debt earlier this year.“Given the current market we were able to issue a large amount of [borrowed proceeds] at low interest rates and that will create some capacity that didn’t exist in the prior plan prior to the pandemic,” Bowman said Bowman said staff is also reviewing through the details of the American Rescue Plan Act to see how that funds can be used to leverage local dollars capital spending. In August, Supervisors used $4.5 million in federal COVID-relief funds for broadband expansion. One of the biggest items in the capital improvement program is the need for school maintenance and expansion. Rosalyn Schmitt is the chief operating officer of Albemarle County Public Schools. She briefed the Planning Commission on the school’s strategic plan.“Getting the right resources to educators and students for their teaching and learning is key to our success,” Schmitt said The school system has a Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee and their most recent recommendations were published on September 9, 2021. The eleven projects have a cumulative cost estimate of $196 million, with most of the projects containing either word “renovations” or “capacity.”“Adequate capacity continues to be a need for the school division,” Schmitt said. “This is supported by the ten-year enrollment projections and reinforced by both the recently completed development and student yield analysis, and a thirty-year population forecast.”  One item is $40 million for another elementary school in the northern feeder pattern and another would be to purchase land for the western feeder pattern. “As these schools all reach a saturation point where expansion is no longer practical, we recommend a strategy for land acquisition and the construction of new facilities,” Schmitt said. “I think for the first time in a long time you’ll see several new schools on this list.” There’s also a recommendation to improve air quality within schools. There is a possibility that federal ARPA funding could be used for that purpose. “That is a comprehensive program around mechanical improvements that there is some opportunity to have some matching funds from ARPA funding that we are pursuing,” Schmitt said. Luis Carrazana is the associate architect of the University of Virginia and a non-voting member of the Albemarle Planning Commission. He noted that the recent adoption of the Crozet Master Plan update called for capital infrastructure, as did the relatively recent update of the Pantops Master Plan and adoption of the Rio Small Area Plan. “And so I’m wondering how we’re looking at those approved master plans with the CIP and putting the same rigor as we seem to be doing with the School Board,” Carrazana said. Planning Director Charles Rapp said implementation of many projects in the master plans are dependent on lining up ideas with funding opportunities.“A lot of those infrastructure related improvements, we identify them in these master plans or small area plans or corridor studies and that’s often the first phase of identifying a project,” Rapp said. The next day, Bowman gave a similar presentation to the Board of Supervisors. This one has more specifics about the developing budget. (watch the presentation)Supervisors were reminded that there is a significant “positive variance” from the FY21 budget of more than $13 million that can be used for one-time money.“We are proposing, not really for discussion today but this will come back on December 15, to invest some of the one-time fiscal year 21 funding into the economic development fund,” Bowman said. At their December 15 meeting, the Board will also be asked for direction on whether to explore tax relief programs. They’ll also be given a review of what additional revenue sources could be pursued in Richmond.The Board of Supervisors will have a work session on December 1 related to the way the FY23 budget will be developed. Another change this year is the December release of Albemarle’s property assessments for 2022. That will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on December 15, a month earlier than usual. See also: Albemarle may close FY21 with $13.2M in one-time money, November 9, 2021Unsolicited fact of the dayFinally today, sometimes there are pieces of information I come across during my reporting, or facts that people tell me that don’t quite make their way into a news story. These facts are not entirely random, but they may seem that way.First up, the commercial portions of the Stonefield development have paid a total of $841,955 in connection fees to the Albemarle County Service Authority for water and sewer between 2012 and 2020. That’s according to information provided to me by Gary O’Connell, the director of the ACSA. That figure does not include residential connections. Before anyone can connect to water and sewer in Albemarle, they have to pay a hefty connection fee. For instance, for one commercial unit on Bond Street to connect in 2021, they had to pay $14,280 for water and $13,505 for sewer. Both of these fees include a portion paid to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to cover the cost of capital projects to expand capacity. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 20, 2021: Crozet CAC debriefs after Master Plan update adoption; Sage Smith has been missing for nine years

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 20, 2021 19:24

Let’s begin today with a Patreon-fueled shout-out. Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350                                                                                                                  On today’s program:The CDC has approved booster shots for all adult AmericansThe city fills one position while another became vacant The Virginia Supreme Court appoints two Special Masters to complete the redistricting process Members of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee debrief after Supervisors adopt a master planCOVID updateAs the week ended, the percent positivity creeped up slightly to 5.8 percent as reported by the Virginia Department of Health and the seven day average rose to 1,518. Nearly a million Virginians have received a third dose or a booster shot. The seven day average for doses administered a day was 40,389 on Friday. Also on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Moderna and Pfizer booster shots for all adults, and the Centers for Disease Control followed suit later in the day. Dr. Costi Sifri is director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System, and he said this means anyone who completed their two-dose cycle of Pfizer and Moderna can now get a booster dose. “We’re at a point right now where that is going to start including a fair number of people,” Dr. Sifri said. “It’s clear that boosters are really beneficial in boosting up the number of antibodies.”Dr. Sifri said there are an increasing number of “breakthrough-cases” in people who were vaccinated over six months ago. Some of these cases have resulted in hospitalizations and Dr. Sifri recommended those at higher risk should schedule their booster. “I really strongly encourage those people to get a booster especially as we head into the holiday season and as we are starting to see increasing rates of COVID in the nation as well as our community,” Dr. Sifri said. Dr. Sifri said others should consider getting the third dose, especially if they want to avoid contracting COVID. “There hasn’t been much of a rush,” Dr. Sifri said. “Right now we understand that about 16 percent of people in our health district who are eligible for a booster vaccine has received one.”Dr. Reid Adams is the Chief Medical Officer at UVA Health. His recommendation is a little more sharp.“I think the time is now,” Dr. Adams said. “We have gotten to a lower rate in Virginia but it’s certainly not low enough. If you look around the country, particularly in the midwest and the upper plains, we’re really seeing a surge so ideally folks would get their booster now before that happens here.” People who want to schedule a booster dose or get vaccinated for the first time can do so at vaccinate.virginia.gov. There are plenty of appointments and shots.“We have not seen long waits for booster doses here at the medical center,” Dr. Sifri said. “Those are available. In addition there is the availability of getting booster vaccines through local pharmacies and the Blue Ridge Health District.”Since November 6, over 4,674 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have been vaccinated, or around 25 percent of the eligible population. Sage Smith disappearanceToday marks nine years since Sage Smith disappeared, having last been seen in the 500 block of West Main Street. The Charlottesville Police Department put out a release this morning stating they are still seeking the whereabouts of Erik McFadden, calling him a critical person of interest in the case. The two had been expected to meet the night of November 20, 2012, but Smith has not been heard from since. McFadden is believed to have left town rather than speak to the police. “Smith was a beloved family member and friend to many in the Charlottesville and LGBTQ+ communities,” the release reads. “Although [nne] years have passed, CPD is hopeful with the help of the media and continued public interest, we can finally solve this case and bring closure to a family and community that continues to experience anguish.” A missing persons report was filed for McFadden in June 2019 but multiple leads have not turned up any further developments. For more information, take a look at the release. Charlottesville personnel updateThe city has hired a Minority Business Development Coordinator. Ajoni Wynn-Floyd will take the position within the city’s Economic Development Department. The Minority Business Program was created in 2018 to assist qualified businesses with one-on-one business consulting, start-up assistance, and help registering to be vendors for state and local government. “The program is focused on increasing the number of minority- and woman-owned businesses that are registered vendors with the City and to encourage more City spending with such businesses,” reads the intake form on the city’s website.Wynn-Floyd has worked with the Latino Student Alliance and the Diversity Awareness Program board. Earlier this month, the city’s Tree Commission learned of the resignation of Mike Ronayne, the city’s urban forester. He served in the position for five years. The position has not yet been advertised on the Charlottesville jobs board as of Friday afternoon.  At that November 2 meeting, Tree Commission chair Brian Menard said the city must demonstrate support for urban forestry.“We need to have more resources, not just financially, but we need more resources in terms of hands that can do this work and support this work,” Menard said. “We recognize that this has not been an ordinary 18 months but even before then it was clear that there’s just a lot that’s put on one person,” Menard said. Map-drawers selectedThe Virginia Supreme Court has appointed two special masters to complete the process of redistricting maps for the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Sean P. Trende and Bernard F. Grofman are the selected candidates. “Though each was nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the Nominees… shall serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity,” reads the appointment order made Friday.The pair will work on a single map and have 30 days to complete their work. According to the order, Trende and Grofman must resolve differences in good-faith and are not permitted to consult with anyone except for designated staff at the Supreme Court and the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. They are directed to take into account the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. “In short, the Court expects to receive from its Special Masters redistricting maps that have been drafted using factors that are fully compliant with constitutional and statutory law applied in an apolitical and nonpartisan manner,” reads the order. Trende was nominated by Republicans and is a senior elections analyst with Real Clear Politics. Grofman is a political science professor at the University of California at Irvine. Read more at the Virginia Mercury.In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. Crozet updateA month has passed since the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted an update of the Crozet Master Plan, with some land use aspects included over the wishes of some members of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. For a good summary of what happened on October 20, read Allison Wrabel’s story in the October 21 Daily Progress. Or Lisa Martin’s story in the November 5 Crozet Gazette.On November 10, the Crozet CAC had the opportunity to talk about the plan. Chair Allie Pesch didn’t have anything prepared, and neither had Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein. The Albemarle Planning Commission had recommended removing the Middle Density Residential designation from a portion of downtown Crozet, but there were four votes on the Board of Supervisors to move forward. White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek ended up voting with that majority on the eventual 5 to 1 vote in support of the plan’s update.“I should have done it differently,” Mallek said. “I should have made the motion I was going to make that adopted the Planning Commission’s route and if that had been voted down we would have been much more clear to the membership in the community what was going on.”  Meetings in Albemarle are still virtual due to the pandemic and Mallek said the logistics of getting that motion moved forward were difficult to accomplish over Zoom. She acknowledged that many landowners in Crozet are concerned about the increased density. Many CAC members thought their concerns were too easily dismissed.“I found a fair amount of pretty serious community input ignored at points and I feel that ever since the state abolished the ability to negotiate proffers, developers kind of trump most of the decisions,” said Brian Day.Day referred to legislation in 2016 that rendered invalid an Albemarle policy that required a cash payment from developers for every new unit authorized by a rezoning. Proffers are still legal if they are deemed reasonable and contribute to the direct impact of a development. However, the 2016 legislation ushered a cooling off point where localities were hesitant to even discuss the issue. This past week, for instance, representatives of Greystar Development said they would pay a proportional amount toward upgrades on Old Ivy Road. Michael Monaco, a new member of the CAC, said he felt public input had to be broadened in range. He said Crozet needs more housing and more entry-level jobs so young people can stay.“I think any process that is guided mostly by homeowners is going to be guided mostly by the financial interests of homeowners, consciously or not,” Monaco said. “Any attempt to counter that would be wise.” Kostas Alibertis is on his second term on the CAC. “I think the struggle and the challenge that we had here was the vision of the county versus the vision of the community and I think we’ll always have that unless there is some delineation of where those lines are, and I think that’s what led to all of this frustration,” Alibertis said. Shawn Bird said the process was hurt by a lack of in-person community engagement meetings due to the pandemic.“If you remember those meetings we had at the high school, I thought there was really strong turn out, I thought there were people energized by the process, we had a certain momentum behind it,” Bird said. “I saw new people coming out to those things and then COVID hit and we all had to jump on our computers and it just changed the whole dynamic.”During the process, the CAC took votes indicating a majority were not in favor of the middle density residential category. Those votes are not binding and are only symbolic, but Bird defended the practice as well a 2017 survey (as published in the Crozet Gazette),“I think the powers that be need to know was this issue 13 to 2, or 8 to 7, by the CCAC?” Bird said. “I think you need to quantify to some degree where the citizens fall on particular issues. In my mind, that’s what makes a survey much more powerful to some degree than anecdotal one-offs by people who have the time to jump on these cools and may have the loudest voices.”Allie Pesch said the master plan update was revision and not a rewrite. She said an analysis of the update should look at whether existing goals are being met.“We’ve wanted to increase affordable housing for a while and the solution seemed to be just to increase density and not really look at how that has or hasn’t worked in the existing plan,” Pesch said. Marc McKenney is in his first term on the CAC and he said many are concerned that Albemarle has not made the investments to support that density. “There’s been massive growth in Crozet in the past two decades,” McKenney said. “Population went from 2,200 in 2000, to 5,500 in 2010, to 9,500 or 9,200 a decade later. (TRIM) If we cannot show citizens what’s actually been delivered from an infrastructure perspective, I guarantee you there will be a complete loss in faith by citizens to the county that they have their best interest in providing sidewalks, and road repairs, and bridges.”Some of the current projects in the planning process are:$1.5 million in improvement to the Square anticipated to be completed in May 2023 (page 26 here), $21.25 million expansion of Crozet Elementary School expected to be completed in August 2022 (page 28 here)Sidewalk improvements on U.S. 250 West from Cory Farms to Cloverlawn (page 44)A revenue-sharing application was submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation on October 1 to complete Eastern Avenue across Lickinghole Creek to Cory Farms Road (Albemarle transportation priority #8)Improvements at Crozet Avenue and U.S. 250 West are being considered for Smart Scale recommendations in 2022 (Albemarle transportation priority #21) The adoption of the Crozet Master Plan happened just before the first phase of the county’s Comprehensive Plan review got underway. A public kickoff meeting will take place in January. Supervisor Mallek urged members of the CAC to become engaged in that process to ensure that Crozet’s voice can be heard.“While people may feel discouraged about particular outcomes in our process, we all need to be keeping our eyes on this other prize going forward because from natural resource planning to historic preservation to climate change to all slews of things, that is the core book that the Board and the staff refer to and this is our chance to make sure that our local words are maintained,” Mallek said. One of the items to be discussed during the Comp Plan review will be the county’s growth management policy. Thanks to Ting for their support in helping this program be produced each day. Today the newsletter ends with a limerick from friend of the show Bekah Saxon honoring Ting for their commitment to match your initial payment to a paid Substack subscription!There once was a reporter named SeanWho needed a check to go onWith money from TingHe could make his words singAnd keep Charlottesville moving alongSpecial announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 18, 2021: Public housing agency preparing annual plan; State of the James measures the health of the big river

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 18, 2021 17:25

Let’s begin with a Patreon-fueled shout-out. Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s program: The overall health of the James River has dropped slightly The Food and Drug Administration approves focused ultrasound to treat some symptoms of Parkinson’s diseaseArea transportation officials want your input tonight on the region’s transit futureAn update on planning for Smart Scale’s fifth round The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority prepares its annual plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentWhile the number of vaccinated Virginians has increased due to the extension of shots into people between the ages of 5 and 11, the number of cases has been up slightly over the past two days. However the Virginia Department of Health reports Wednesday figure of 2,592 new cases as a technical error that includes counts from previous days. The seven day average is now at 1,475 a day and the percent positivity is at 5.5 percent today. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 49 new cases today and the fatality count is at 309. Do you have something to say about how our area bus systems should work? Tonight you’ll have your chance to weigh in on a Regional Transit Vision that could guide the future. Lucinda Shannon is a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District who briefed a technical committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Tuesday.“I’m really hoping you guys will all sign up for the public meeting which is Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.,” Shannon said. “There’s also surveys on both of the TJPDC transit projects.”The TJPDC is also conducting a separate study of the expansion of transit in Albemarle County.Changes to the Charlottesville Area Transit system have been studied and presented to the public this year, but there is no schedule for when they may go into effect as there are more procedural steps to go through. (story map) (presentation)This week, the Norfolk City Council adopted a resolution approving a plan called Multimodal Norfolk that seeks to increase frequency of some buses. “The Recommended Network focuses 70 percent of resources on service that will maximize access to opportunity for most residents and are likely to get high ridership relative to cost,” reads the resolution adopted Tuesday night. “The other 30 percent of resources are focused on service that is not likely to get high ridership but will provide service in areas where there is relatively high need.”Service in Norfolk is provided by Hampton Roads Transit, which that city pays about $20 million a year to operate service.  That includes the Tide light rail system. Meanwhile, work continues to prepare the next round of applications for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale funding process.  Chuck Proctor is a planner with VDOT’s Culpeper District and he’s assisting Albemarle and the MPO come up with potential submissions.“Most of them are bike-ped related, a lot of them are multimodal projects like Avon Street, 5th Street, the 29-250 bypass,” Proctor said. Other projects that could be submitted include the intersection of Old Trail and Crozet Avenue, a recommendation from the ongoing North 29 corridor study, projects on Pantops, as well as various intersections of U.S. 250 east of Pantops. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District can submit up to four applications on behalf of localities. Proctor said he was not aware of what applications the city of Charlottesville might advance. Jeannete Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative. In most cases, Charlottesville administers its own projects without involvement from VDOT. “I just want to remind everyone this is still early in the process,” Janiczek said. “We have a new City Council coming online. The city does plan to apply for Smart Scale but we haven’t yet decided which projects.” In four rounds, Charlottesville has been awarded millions for various streetscape projects, none of which has yet gone to construction. In September, Council indicated they would no longer support contributing a local match for funds received for the first two phases of West Main Streetscape. VDOT has not yet been formally informed of any decision, according to spokesman Lou Hatter. Janiczek said potential Charlottesville projects for Round 5 a fourth phase of West Main Streetscape, or in the East High Street, Rose Hill, and the Preston Avenue corridors. There is no information about any of these potential projects available on the city website. In contrast, Albemarle and the TJPDC have been discussing potential projects since the spring. In recent years, Albemarle County has increased its capacity to design and build non-vehicular transportation projects. Kevin McDermott is a chief of planning.“We are now finally after many years in the construction phase for a lot of sidewalk improvements including new sidewalks out on Avon Street Extended, both north and south of the Mill Creek intersection,” McDemott said. The others are:New sidewalk along U.S. 250 near the Harris Teeter including a pedestrian crossing New sidewalk along Rio Road East from John Warner Parkway heading east and south toward CharlottesvilleNew crosswalk at Mountain View Elementary School on Avon Street ExtendedNew sidewalk and shared-use path on Lambs Road to the Lambs Land CampusNew sidewalk on Ivy Road between city limits and the UVA Musculoskeletal CenterThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of focused ultrasound to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to a release from the University of Virginia Health System. Specifically, medical device regulators have authorized medical centers to use something called Exablate Neuro by the company Insightec to treat mobility problems associated with tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease. “Prior to the approval, available treatments for the Parkinson’s symptoms included drugs, which not all patients respond to, and invasive deep-brain surgeries,” reads the release.” Focused ultrasound, in comparison, does not require incisions or cutting into the skull.” During the procedure, highly focused sound waves are used to target faulty brain cells and used together with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), treatment can help ease symptoms. The releases stresses that this is not a cure. The medical technology has been pioneered at UVA and shepherded by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. Other potential uses include treatment for essential  tremors, uterine fibroids and some forms of cancer.. Research is ongoing. For more information visit the UVA Health website or watch videos on the Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s YouTube page. Water quality in the James River has declined slightly over the past two years, according to a report card issued this week by an advocacy group that seeks to promote practices to reduce pollution. Since 2007, the James River Association has issued the State of the James and this year’s B- is based on a score of 61 percent. Every two years that score is factored by looking at 18 indicators split into the two categories of River Health and River Restoration Progress. In 2017 the grade was 63 percent. “The decline that has occurred since 2017 reflects the impact of abnormally high rainfall experienced across the watershed in recent years causing increased polluted runoff throughout the James,” reads the press release. “While oysters and tidal water quality showed promising resilience over the past year by bouncing back from the surge of rainwater and pollution, the river also revealed stalled progress in phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment pollution reductions, as well as stream health.” Among the indicators are gauges of how healthy various wildlife populations are. The good news is that the bald eagle scores at 100 percent due to an increase in breeding pairs to 352, indicating the ban on DDT as well as passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 has led to the resurgence. The bad news is that American shad are rated at zero and efforts to stock the James River watershed with hatchery shad have not worked because of the presence of dams, water intakes for water supply, invasive catfish, and fishing nets intended for other species. “Given the dire situation, Virginia must develop an emergency recovery plan that clearly identifies restoration actions,” reads the report card. “But it will take a long-term and sustained effort to bring American shad back from the brink of collapse in the James.” To look through all of the indicators, visit the State of the James website and explore their story map. What are you most interested in? Let me know in the comments. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement and it’s now time for a second Patreon-fueled shout-out. The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners will hold a closed meeting today to discuss a personnel matter. Last week, the appointed body held a work session on a report the CRHA must turn in to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Kathleen Glenn-Matthews is the deputy director of the CRHA. (FY20-FY21 adopted plan) (FY21-22 draft plan) (FY22-23 draft plan)“The public housing authority PHA plan is a pretty comprehensive guide to all of our agency’s policies and programs,” said Glenn-Matthews. “We spent a lot of time on our goals.”There are two parts to the plan, one of which is a five-year review that won’t be due until 2023. The second part is an annual plan with details about what will happen in the next fiscal year. The fiscal year for the CRHA runs from April 1 to March 30, a different calendar than the city, state, and federal government.  HUD classifies CRHA as a “troubled agency” based on the Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) and the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP). Glenn-Matthews said that means CRHA has to give more information in its annual plan. One of the first items in the draft plan is a listing of the number of public housing units and the number of housing choice vouchers. The number of units has dropped from 376 to 324 due in part to the temporary closure of Crescent Halls due to renovations. The number of housing vouchers has increased due to their use to provide temporary places for temporarily displaced residents. Those vouchers are separate from a program funded directly by the City of Charlottesville but administered by CRHA to increase their number. The city has had a line item of $900,000 a year in the capital budget for this supplemental program. Highlights from the past year include the adoption of policies on security cameras as well de-concentration of poverty.“The PHA’s admission policy is designed to provide for de-concentration of poverty and income mixing by bringing higher income tenants into lower income communities and lower income tenants into higher income communities,” reads a statement in the plan.Glenn-Matthews said the CRHA wants to build a homeownership program as well as augment the family self-sufficiency program.“We don’t have funding for it and we’re penalized by being troubled but we are looking at alternate sources for that and it’s definitely a big priority for us,” Glenn-Matthews said. The draft plan indicates that the CRHA will continue to engage in “mixed finance modernization or development” as well as “demolition and/or disposition” in the coming year. One project is development of between 39 and 50 units at Sixth Street SE. There is also a pending demolition and disposition application for the second phase of South First Street, which would replace 58 existing units with a larger project. Planning for redevelopment of Westhaven is expected to begin in the next fiscal year. “We want to make sure everything in this plan is there that we want to do this year because if not we’ll have to do an amendment, and nobody wants to go through the process,” Glenn-Matthews said. The plan also explains how nonprofit companies have been formed to serve to secure funding for redevelopment. There’s also data on who lives in the units. As of August 31, 76 percent of households had incomes below 30 percent of the area median income, 14 percent are between 30 and 50 percent, and three percent are between 50 and 80 percent. Six percent of households do not have their income data available. Only one percent of residents are classified as Hispanic or Latino, three percent are classified as Asian, 21 percent are white, and 75 percent are Black.There are a total of 736 people living in Charlottesville public housing and the average household size is 2.6 percent. The public hearing on the annual plan will be held on Monday, December 20. Thanks to Ting for their support in helping this program be produced each day. Today the newsletter ends with a limerick from show supporter Harry Landers honoring Ting for their commitment to match your initial payment to a paid Substack subscription!There once was a writer from C-ville,Who sought to shine light upon evil.He did his own thing,With some help from Ting.If there's news to report, we know he will.Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 16, 2021: Greystar presents 490-unit Old Ivy Residences to Places29-Hydraulic group; Champion Brewing Company and Reason Beer to merge

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 16, 2021 17:04

Let’s start today with two more Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!On today’s show:Charlottesville City Council adopts a Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map after a long public process and long public hearing President Biden signs an infrastructure bill Two area breweries have announced a merger The Places29-Hydraulic group gets the latest on 490 units planned for Old Ivy Road After nearly five years of review, Charlottesville City Council has adopted a Comprehensive Plan and a Future Land Use Map intended to increase the number of housing units within city limits. Council’s vote came after a long public hearing that came after a work session held in the early afternoon where Council also discussed economic development and population trends. The public hearing ended at 10:44 p.m. and Council then discussed the matter for another hour before voting to adopt. Up next will be the rewrite of the zoning code to eliminate legislative barriers to new residential density. I’ll have more on the adoption of the plan and what is in it in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. Take a look at the adopted Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map here. Two breweries in the area have announced a merger via Facebook post. Champion Brewing Company and Reason Beer will join operations in a partnership that will see Hunter Smith remain as the company’s CEO. One of Reason’s founders, Jeff Railenau, will become the Chief Financial Officer. Josh Skinner of Champion will become the Head Brewer and Reason’s Mark Fulton will become Director of Brewing Operations. Champion will relocate its production operations from a facility in the Woolen Mills on Broadway Street to Reason’s headquarters at Seminole Place on U.S. 29. “We’re excited to announce this partnership with our good friends and esteemed beer minds across town that will bring together two skilled and like-minded teams to streamline operations under one roof,” reads a statement on Champion’s Facebook page.President Joe Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will likely change the landscape for the way all kinds of projects in Virginia and the Charlottesville area are funded. “This law makes the most significant investment in roads and bridges in the past 70 years,” Biden said. “It makes the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years. And in public transit ever.” The bill provides direct funding to specific areas across the entire country. (details from the White House)$55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water, eliminating lead pipes and cleaning up PFAS chemicals $21 billion in funding to remediate Superfund sites in rural and urban communities$66 billion for public transit, including vehicle replacement from fossil-fuel burning to zero emissions vehicles$5 billion specifically to purchase clean school buses$17 billion to modernize ports and update machinery to reduce congestion and emissions$25 billion for airports including efforts to drive electrification and a transition to other low-carbon technologiesOver $50 billion in investments to protect against drought, heat waves, wildfires and floodsThe legislation passed the U.S. Senate on a 69-30 vote and the U.S. House on a 221 to 201 vote. Take a look at the full bill here. “The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together to deliver results,” Biden said. There’s also funding to increase internet access.“This law is going to make high-speed Internet affordable and everywhere, everywhere in America,” Biden said “Urban, suburban, rural, and great jobs laying down those broadband lines.” Environmental groups in Virginia are celebrating the signing of the infrastructure bill, which will provide an additional $238 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Chesapeake Bay Program according to a statement from the Choose Clean Water Coalition.“These additional funds will help reduce pollution in the Bay and its waterways, especially as we approach the 2025 deadline to have all pollution reduction practices in place as part of the Bay's restoration effort,” said Coalition Director Kristin Reilly. Reilly refers to something called the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a framework to reduce pollution across all of the watersheds that feed into the Bay, including the Rapidan, Rivanna, and James Rivers. Investments have been made over the years, including millions to upgrade the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that makes it to the Bay, creating dead zones with no oxygen. The bill has also been celebrated by the Virginia Transit Association, who sent out a release pointing out that the bill contains $102 billion nationwide in funding for passenger and freight rail, or a 592 percent increase over usual funding levels. That could include $1.4 billion for Virginia. “Transit will receive about $1.3 billion in formula funding over the next five years, a 34 percent increase over normal funding levels,” said Danny Plaugher, the Deputy Director of the Virginia Transit Association and the Executive Director of Virginians for HighSpeed Rail. “The Charlottesville area will receive about an extra million a year over that period. Virginia will also be competitive on several expanded transit and rail grant programs which could invest billions into our transportation network."All of Virginia’s Democratic Representatives in Congress voted for the bill, whereas all of Virginia’s Republican Representatives voted against it. But Biden said there was support from industry. “This law was supported by business groups — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Association of Manufacturers; the Business Roundtable, representing 200 of the largest corporations in America and other top businesses,” Biden said.Local governments are watching closely to see what the bill may mean for their bottom line. “Albemarle County will closely monitor avenues for local governments to apply for funding to advance our strategic infrastructure needs as guidance becomes available from the federal and state governments,” said Emily Kilroy, director of Communications and Public Engagement for Albemarle. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement.  Time for another Patreon-fueled shout-out! Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350A proposed rezoning requested by Greystar Development for about 36 acres of land off of Old Ivy Road will be slightly smaller than the 525 units requested in the first application, but it will still be fairly substantial. “Our current plan is to have about 490 units,” said Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams Mullen. “We’re still under 20 dwelling units per acre so well within the range that’s permitted. The Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee got a first look at the Old Ivy Residences project, which is currently not scheduled for a public hearing before the Planning Commission. (watch the meeting)The land is split between five parcels, with three of them already zoned for 15 units per acre. “R-15 residential zoning allows for basically any type of residential development whether its single family detached, single-family attached, or multifamily apartments,” said county planner Cameron Langille. One parcel allows for ten units per acre, and the other is currently zoned for one unit per acre. The application is to make them all R-15. A previous rezoning approved by the Board of Supervisors in 1985 has a condition that states that the Old Ivy Road corridor needs to have been upgraded to a certain performance level before development can begin. “The applicant is asking for us to evaluate that and make a recommendation as to whether corridor has been improved to that extent,” Langille said. The board also approved a rezoning in 1996 for one of the parcels that restricts certain uses. Langille said the applicant wants the Board to drop that condition. There’s also a request to disturb slopes which involves changing their classification from preserved to managed. The county’s Comprehensive Plan designated three of the parcels as urban density residential, which allows anywhere between 6 units and 36 units per acre. Land along the U.S. 250 Bypass is designated as parks space and currently is the home of a section of the Rivanna Trail. Greystar officials said that would continue. Staff has conducted one review and the developer is working through the various questions from staff. John Clarkson is a managing director with Greystar Development, a national developer with projects all across the United States of America. “There are opportunities in University towns that lack housing opportunities, very important housing opportunities to provide that level of affordability to make those communities sustainable over the long term,” Clarkson said. Dan Nickerson, a development senior associate with Greystar, is a graduate of the nearby Darden School.“The number one thing we love about this site is the natural landscape and we’ve done the best job we could and we think we’ve done a really good job preserving the landscape while enabling the density that the Comp Plan allows,” Nickerson said. Old Ivy Road is a two-lane road that has a one-way underpass near its eastern intersection with Ivy Road without a sidewalk or bike lane. The western intersection as well as a two-lane bridge over the bypass are also constraints. Long acknowledged that traffic congestion is an issue.“Obviously those issues are existing, have been growing and increasing over the past few decades, but Greystar is committed to continue looking at those challenges and collaborating with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and the county planning staff as appropriate to work toward identifying solutions,” Long said. Long said Greystar would be willing to pay a “proportional amount” for some of those solutions. VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement program includes funds for a $3 million replacement of the bridge over U.S. 250, but the description currently states it will be built with no additional capacity. Preliminary engineering is underway now with construction scheduled for Fiscal Year 2024. Long said county officials have been able to at least carve out some improvements for the project.“They were able to include in that project design that there will be a pedestrian lane on the new bridge,” Long said. Members of the CAC and the public had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Sally Thomas served four terms on the Board of Supervisors and lives next door in the University Village apartment building. “We don’t oppose having neighbors and we are delighted that they are neighbors that care about the environment,” Thomas said. “We also do have a lovely old stand of trees, some over 100 years old, and we want to try to preserve and protect those.” Thomas said University Village wants to make sure there are pathways that safe and attractive and avoid the trees. Kathleen Jump of Huntington Village complex said she likes to walk, but said this section of Albemarle is landlocked with many obstacles for pedestrians. “The eastern bridge is a concern and the pedestrians at that end of Old Ivy Road put their lives in their hands when they cross under that bridge,” Jump said.Kevin McDermott is a chief of planning in Albemarle who specializes in transportation. “We have been evaluating both ends of Old Ivy Road as Valerie mentioned also, very recently, to try to see if there are options for improving them,” McDermott said. “Nothing has jumped out as an easy solution right now. Trying to expand that underpass is going to be extremely expensive.” McDermott said VDOT is working with a consultant to look at both ends of the road to come up with solutions, possibly to inform a Smart Scale application for next year. Taylor Ahlgren just moved into Huntington Village. He wants the development to do as much as it can to discourage vehicular travel. Here’s what he would like to see.“Supporting future residents to stay away from using a car and using alternative means of transportation,” Ahlgren said. The project currently does not have a public meeting scheduled with the Planning Commission. Stay tuned. Also nearby is the Ivy Garden complex, which the University of Virginia will be redeveloped as a mixed-use community. The UVA Buildings and Grounds Committee got a briefing on that project in June. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 15, 2021: A look at 'missing middle housing' and remediation work at Acme Visible Records in Crozet

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 15, 2021 12:53

WTJU is hosting Classical Listening Parties, a series of four free, casual events on Tuesdays in November. These four events are led by Chelsea Holt, pianist, teacher, and one of WTJU’s newest and youngest classical announcers. She’ll guide you through all the eras of classical music and tomorrow night at 7 p.m.: Classical. For a list of the others, visit wtju.net to learn more and sign up! On today’s show:The Village of Rivanna CAC gets an update on what middle missing housing is A recap of what’s been dropped off at solid waste centers operated by one of the Rivanna authorities Work takes places this work to help remediate an industrial waste site in CrozetLet’s begin the week with a status report on the pandemic. The Virginia Department of Health reports a seven-day average of 1,305 cases a day with 871 reported this morning. The percent positivity is at 5.4 percent, slightly up from 5.3 on Friday. There are 32 new cases in the Blue Ridge Health District and the percent positivity is at 4.7 percent. There have been five new deaths reported in the District since Friday.Belmont Bridge updateThe first major traffic shift of the Belmont Bridge is underway. All vehicular traffic will be routed to the southbound portion of the bridge, according to a project update sent out by the city of Charlottesville. New temporary traffic signals have been installed to control the new alignment. Construction got underway this year after many years of planning. To learn more, visit the city’s website.General Assembly 2022The two major parties have nominated their leaders for the next session of the House of Delegates. Republicans have nominated Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) as Speaker of the House and Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1) as House Majority Leader. Republicans picked up five seats in the November 2 election to have a 52 to 48 edge when the General Assembly convenes on January 12. (press release)Current Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41) has been nominated as House Minority Leader. Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46) will serve as Chair of the Democratic Caucus. (press release)Remediating AcmeCrews are working in Crozet this month at the site of the former Acme Visible Records. The company built storage and retrieval equipment for documents from 1954 until approximately 2001. During that time, they directed wastewater into a lagoon that contained multiple pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit in September 2020 to the Wilson Jones Company to mitigate the harm based on a 2019 status report from the Virginia Department of Environmental quality. All of the buildings have been removed. (permit) (basis)Representatives of the company performing the mitigation sent an update the Crozet Community Association announcing that groundwater samples will be taken between November 10 and November 19. There are also plans this week to dig two wells to inject new chemicals into hazardous areas. “The wells will be installed to facilitate the completion of a pilot study for the injection of chemical oxidants which will treat the chlorinated solvent impacts in groundwater at the facility,” reads the report from a public relations company working with the Wilson Jones Company. As part of the permit, the land can never be used for residential purposes, schools, playgrounds, or daycare. Solid waste drop-off reportThe Rivanna Solid Waste Authority’s Board of Directors meets for the final time of 2021 tomorrow. The packet contains data about activity at the Ivy Materials Utilization Center and McIntire Recycling Center, both of which process all manner of recycling and solid waste. As of late September, 42 containers of paint cans have been shipped out of the facility. “Each container holds about 4,200 one-gallon paint cans,” reads an operations report. “Therefore, we have shipped about 176,400 paint cans since the program began in August 2016.”Leftover latex paint is re-processed back into commercial paint and oil-based paints are converted into fuel. Both September and October were busy months for the compostable food waste collection at the McIntire center, with over 8 tons being dropped off in each month. Commercial customers pay $178 a ton for disposal and residents are not charged. Over six hundred people participated in a Household Hazardous Waste Day held over two days in late September. Albemarle residents dropped off 22,640 pounds of furniture and mattresses on October 2, and Charlottesville residents disposed of 3,380 pounds. On October 9 the Ivy MUC accepted appliances and Albemarle residents parted with 6,800 pounds and 160 freon units. Charlottesville residents dropped off 1,400 pounds and 30 freon units. On October 16, unwanted tires had their turn and nearly 49 tons were processed for recycling. The RSWA continues to work through a permit modification with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to up the tonnage allowed at the Ivy MUC from 300 tons a day to 450 tons a day. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. Interested in learning more about the Ancestral Monacan Homelands in Albemarle and Charlottesville along the Seminole Trail on which our 21st century communities have been built Interested in learning how to document the history, present, and future? Tomorrow the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society will hold a two-part event  in-person at Northside Library beginning at 5 p.m. First, UVA Professor of Anthropology Jeffrey Hantman will discuss his work, which includes which includes archaeology and history of the Monacan people, now with a new emphasis on how the Monacans were targeted by the eugenics movement. That will be followed at 6 p.m. with a workshop on cvillepedia, a collaborative encyclopedia. There will be a tutorial and I’ll be on hand to demonstrate how I use the site to keep the community informed. Professor Hantman’s talk will also be available through Zoom. Visit jmrl.org to learn more and to register for both programs. Missing MiddleFinally today, on Thursday, the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee will discuss an 85-unit rezoning that developers say will provide “missing middle housing” in the form of triplexes, duplexes, and multifamily units. But what is missing middle? Tori Kanellopoulos is a senior planner with the county. “Missing middle housing is housing that is between single-family detached housing and larger apartments and is intended to be compatible and scale and form with existing single-family attached,” Kanellopoulos said. Kannellopoulos said these units tend be smaller and are more affordable because the cost of land is spread across multiple units. “This is a concept that has gained a lot of attention recently though many of these housing types have existed for decades or longer and actually used to be permitted through many localities,” Kannellopoulos said. “Now localities are relegalizing these units by updating their zoning ordinances.” In July, Albemarle Supervisors adopted the Housing Albemarle plan, which seeks to encourage the development of more units with the hope that greater inventory will help with affordability. Renters and morgage-holders who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs are considered distressed. That’s in part because Albemarle is an affluent community with a high median income. “Median home values in the county are about $138,000 higher than the U.S. median and about $83,000 higher than the Virginia median,” Kannellopoulos said. “Forty-two percent of renter households and 18 percent of homeowner households in the county are cost-burdened, meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their gross income toward housing.”The situation is perhaps worse when other factors are taken into consideration such as the cost of transportation, child care, health, and food. To encourage creation of more of these housing types, planners created the Middle Density Residential land use category and debuted this in the Crozet master plan, over the opposition of some on the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. “The category recommends a density of 6-12 units per acre with up to 18 units per acre by meeting middle density housing types or affordability criteria beyond baseline housing requirements,” Kannellopoulos said. Most members of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee were opposed to the rezoning of Breezy Hill for 80 units on about 76 acres due to it being technically above one unit per acre. VORCAC Chair Dennis Odinov expressed skepticism that allowing more density would translate to more affordable prices. “These things have good intentions but in reality a lot of times they just over a period of time they just don’t work,” Odinov said. “That’s my concern. I’m no oracle and I may be wrong but that’s my experience and what I’ve seen. I’ve lived a lot of different places.” Odinov wanted to hear more about why many in Crozet were opposed to the concept. Details about how this might be implemented can be seen in the appendix of the Crozet Master Plan. Take a look beginning on page 72 of the .PDFSpecial announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 13, 2021: Village of Rivanna group debriefs after approval of Breezy Hill rezoning; Habitat files second phase for Southwood Rezoning

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 13, 2021 17:24

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, are you a patron of the James Madison Regional Library system who suffers from a plague of library fines? If so, for the next week you can pay off your balance with a food donation that will go to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. To participate in the Food for Fines program, bring a non-perishable item to the front desk and get a dollar off. Do note this does not apply to missing or damaged items. Patrons who are in better standing than me are also welcome to donate an item or many items. For more information, visit jmrl.org. Visit here for a list of the most wanted itemsOn today’s show: A look at several upcoming developments in Albemarle County including the second phase for Southwood and a three-story self storage building in Crozet  More than 83 percent of adult Virginians are fully vaccinatedThe Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee debriefs after a rezoning vote did not go the way members wantedGreyhound has a new owner, and Virginia launches bus service from far Southwest Virginia to the nation’s capital On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that 83 percent of the adult population in Virginia is now fully vaccinated. Also on Friday, the Virginia Department of Health reported the percent positivity dropped to 5.3 percent, on a day when the seven-day average for new cases is 1,328. But there are hotspots emerging across the country. Vermont is experiencing its worst surge yet, with a record 595 cases on Thursday and 505 cases on Friday according to the website VTDigger.Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System, said colder parts of the country are beginning to see the increase. “Just as we’re entering the cold and flu season, we’re also entering the season where we may see increased transmission of COVID just because we’re going into the winter months,” Dr. Sifri said. Dr. Sifri said COVID still represents a significant risk and he recommended people continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks and Dr. Sifri emphasized caution.“One thing I’d want to emphasize is the importance of boosters for people who are vulnerable,” Dr. Sifri said. In the Blue Ridge Health District, ten percent of children between 5 and 11 have been vaccinated during the first week a reduced Pfizer dose has been available.The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected three Republican nominees to serve as Special Masters in the next phase of the redistricting process. In October, a 16-member redistricting commission failed to reach consensus on maps for legislative districts for both the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw petitioned the Court to disqualify the three Republican nominees, claiming conflicts of interest due to their previous work on creating maps.The Virginia Supreme Court agreed.“The Court intends to appoint Special Masters who are qualified and do not have a conflict of interest,” reads a November 12 letter from Chief Justice Donald Lemons. “Although the Special Master candidates are to be nominated by legislative leaders of a particular party, the nominees… will serve as Officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity.”Justice Lemons said that nominees must not consult with political parties once they have been appointed. One of the Republican nominees, Thomas M. Bryan, had been hired by the Republican Party of Virginia as a consultant on using 2020 U.S. Census data for redistricting. That information had not been disclosed in the nominating materials. Republicans have until Monday at 5 p.m. to submit three new names, and Democrats are being asked to submit one more name due to a potential issue with one of their three nominees. For more information, visit the Supreme Court’s website. The national bus company Greyhound has been purchased by a German firm called FlixMobility. They operate a service called Flixbus which operates in 36 countries in addition to the United States. Greyhound serves 2,400 stops across the country, and has a ridership of 16 million passengers. “Buses as a sustainable and accessible alternative are now more important than ever,” reads an October 21, 2021 press release.  “Fluctuations in the cost of gas, the recent escalation of car prices, and climate change concerns have increased the interest of many consumers in finding alternatives to individual car usage.” For $46 million cash and $32 million in future payments, Flixmobility will now own the Greyhound name and the bus fleet, but not any real estate or stops. Flixbus has been running buses in U.S. since 2018. Meanwhile, on Monday the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will launch the Highland Rhythms service between Bristol and Washington D.C. This is the fourth Virginia Breeze intrastate route to be funded by the state agency, which will be operated by Megabus. A ceremony was held this morning at the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol (read more in the Bristol Herald-Courier)Time now to take a look at recent land use applications in Albemarle County.First, a site development plan has been submitted for a new Chipotle restaurant to be located in Hollymead Town Center. Before the pandemic, there would be site plan review meetings for the public to comment, but those have not been held. However, the Albemarle officials are looking to begin to resume the public process. “These projects are ‘by-right’, which means that if the proposed plans meet the minimum requirements of the County’s zoning, site plan, or subdivision ordinances, they must be approved,” reads the notice for this application. (take a look)A TGI Friday’s Restaurant used to operate on the site and the existing building will be replaced and a drive-through window will be installed in the new building. Another site plan has been filed for a three-story self-storage facility at the intersection of Brownsville Road, Route 240, and Rockfish Gap Turnpike (U.S. 250).  The zoning on the site is Highway Commercial and a gas station used to operate on the site. That building and a couple of others will be removed to make way for the structure. (take a look)Southwood Phase 2In October, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville filed the second phase of their rezoning for the redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park. The rezoning would amend the first phase to add 93.32 acres from R-2 to the Neighborhood Model District. “Phase 2 is planned within the project's existing mobile home park where development will occur in phases so as to limit the impact to the existing residents,” reads the narrative. “The resident planners who designed and wrote the Code of Development for Phase I has provided input in this next phase that the form, density, and uses established with Phase I should continue into Phase 2.”This phase of redevelopment would include up to 1,000 housing units in a mix of single-family houses, duplexes, townhomes, and apartment buildings. There would also be another 60,000 square feet of non-residential space. (read the Code of Development)Several blocks in phase one are under construction. *You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement, and time now for another subscriber-supported public service announcement. Are you using too many chemicals in your yard and garden? Would you like to learn more about alternatives? The Piedmont Master Gardeners will a free online information session on the topic Monday November 15 at 3 p.m.  Participants will learn how to keep their landscapes safe and healthy using Integrated Pest Management. The Center at Belvedere will host the session, which carries the name “Why and How to Reduce Chemical Use in your Yard and Garden.” Learn more and register at thecentercville.org.  Albemarle County staff have begun work on the update of the Comprehensive Plan with a public kick-off expected sometime in January. A major aspect of the current plan is a growth management policy which designates specific areas for density. This plan was last updated in 2015 and since then Supervisors have adopted several other policies, such as the Housing Albemarle plan.“To accommodate this growth, the County will need to add approximately 11,750 new units to our housing stock over the next 20 years,” reads Objective 1 of the plan, which was adopted by Supervisors in July. “The county must support the development of an additional 2,719 units to fully accommodate projected household growth through 2040.” One of the growth areas is the Village of Rivanna and their Community Advisory Committee met on November 8. Most of its members are not happy with the Board of Supervisors 4-2 vote in October for a rezoning from rural area to R-1 for an 80-unit single-family neighborhood called Breezy Hill. (staff report) (Village of Rivanna Master Plan) (watch the meeting)Dennis Odinov is the group’s chair. “We all know how it turned out and we may be disappointed but what are lessons learned?” Odinov said. “Are there any lessons learned from this?” Members of the group thanked Supervisor Donna Price for her against the rezoning. Price was joined by Supervisor Ann Mallek. Southern Development had initially requested 200 units, but scaled back due to community opposition. The Village of Rivanna Master Plan designated the land as Neighborhood Density Residential, and a map describes that as up to three dwelling units per acre. Members of the CAC maintained the plan only allows one dwelling unit per acre. Neal Means said pressure from the group helped get the number to 80 but he does not have a positive view of Southern Development. “It just goes to show you that the developers really don’t care about the master plan at all and the arguments they made much later about it should be one unit per gross acre and not net, is just an argument,” Means said. “They’re going to try to get as much as they can any time they want, no matter what the master plan says.”Gross density is a simple calculation of the number of units divided by the size of the land. Net density subtracts from the size of the land the square footage that would be used for infrastructure or open space. In the case of Breezy Hill, the gross density was 1 unit per acre, but the net density was 1.4 per acres. To Means, that means the system is broken. “I don’t think the county’s master planning process is functioning well,” Means said. “I think it’s dysfunctional and it needs to be revisited.” Ultimately, elected officials make their decisions based on interpretation of master plans. Odinov said the current version of the plan was not clear enough to state the wishes of the community. “We have no language in the master plan that says one unit per acre, net,” Odinov said “We don’t say it in the verbiage.” The master plan also states that no new developments should be approved until specific transportation projects are built on U.S. 250. However such a directive is not permissible under Virginia law. In Virginia, localities cannot specifically ask for infrastructure to be built in exchange for a rezoning, but developers can volunteer to pay for projects in something called a proffer. “I thought it was a slap in the face,” said Paula Pagonakis. “I took it as a slap in the face when the developer said he could not provide any proffers because he would not get enough profit out of the project. I don’t know how much impact that had on the vote by the Supervisors but I felt a bit insulted.”In Charlottesville, Southern Development has agreed to contribute nearly $3 million upfront for the creation of a sidewalk on Stribling Avenue, a 170 units project on about 12 acres. If Council approves the rezoning, Southern Development will be paid back through the incremental revenue generated.Supervisor Donna Price voted against the rezoning but said the community pressure to reduce Breezy Hill’s scope resulted in a more palatable project. “Did we achieve everything?” Price asked. “No. But we came out I think a whole better strategically than if it had been at 160 or 130.”Price said she supported increased density in Crozet and voted for the 332-unit RST Residences near Forest Lakes. “Highly dense, but it is also right on a six-lane highway up there,” Price said. “I’ve tried to maintain a consistency of if you get to the periphery of development areas it should be less developed and as you move more toward the center of development it should be  more highly developed and more dense.” An update of the Village of Master Plan is not currently scheduled, according to county planner Tori Kanellopoulos. “It would need to be on the Community Development work program and we do have the Comprehensive Plan update that just started,” Kanellopoulos said. “That will take up a significant amount of resources.”I’ll have a report from the Crozet Community Advisory Committee in an upcoming edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 10, 2021: Southern Development agrees to contribute $900K more to Stribling sidewalk, PC recommends rezoning approval

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2021 13:44

Happy Not-Really-Pie Day! November 10 is the 314th day of the year, which is an association that many have not yet made. There have been 241 days since the most recent March 14, which many so associate with a mathematical constant, and there are 124 days until the next 3/14. What does it all mean? Are these correlations, causations, or just random bits of trivia? And who gets to decide? None of this is relevant to the calculus of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but all of it is at least worth puzzling out.On today’s show:Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends rezoning for 170 units in Fry’s Spring neighborhood, conditioned on a deal between the city and Southern Development to build a sidewalkBrian Wheeler is leaving as Charlottesville’s Communications Director Fire marshals determine a deadly house fire in July was accidental Highlights from November’s meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. The city now has another high-level vacancy. Several media outlets are reporting that Brian Wheeler will leave his position as Communications Director later this month on November 19. Wheeler said the city has no further comment on his departure. There is currently no city manager, but Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders are still in office and will remain so after Interim City Manager Marc Woolley begins work on December 1. In recent months, both the city’s parks director and public works director have left. The assistant economic development director is also leaving the city to take a job in the private sector. In a follow-up, Wheeler said offers are being made this week for parks, public works, and human resources. Charlottesville is not alone in job turnover. The Deputy Clerk of Virginia Beach has resigned, citing “toxic energy” within city government. That’s according to a report on WVEC. Consumer prices in the United States rose 0.9 percent in October. That brings the increase over the past year to 6.2 percent. That’s the largest yearly increase since November 1990. “The monthly all items seasonally adjusted increase was broad-based, with increases in the indexes for energy, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles among the larger contributors,” reads the press release that accompanied today’s numbers. The cost of energy rose 4.8 percent, with gasoline increasing 6.1 percent. Energy costs are up 30 percent over the past 12 months, and food costs are up 5.3 percent. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has launched a website with information related to his transition to become the 74th chief executive of Virginia. If you’re interested in a position in the next government, this is where you would go to apply. The website is also where to go for information about the inauguration. The Charlottesville Fire Department has found that a fire this summer in July at a home in the 1000 block of Cherry Avenue was accidental. The fire on July 21 killed two people and critically injured a third. Fire marshals found that flames started in an unoccupied bedroom and the presence of home oxygen cylinders contributed to the fire’s intensity. “Every family should have a home escape plan with a specific meeting place outside,” reads the press release. “Practicing your family's plan will ensure that everyone evacuates your home and reunites at the designated meeting place during a fire emergency.”The two fatalities are the first in Charlottesville since a fire in the summer of 2010. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District will mark its 50th anniversary next year. The public entity’s creation stemmed out of reform in Virginia. David Blount is the deputy director of the TJPDC and he explained the passage of the Regional Cooperation Act in 1968.  (state code)“[Planning District Commissions] and the framework for them is laid out in state code,” Blount said. “It’s encouraging and facilitating not only that local government cooperation, but also providing that link between the state and localities for addressing issues on a regional basis.” TJPDC formed later than other similar bodies. The body last met on November 4. Executive Director Christine Jacobs said the agency has been awarded $2 million in funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to distribute to groups who can build affordable housing units. “We have cast a very wide net to make sure we are reaching out to potential public, nonprofit, private developers to submit proofs of concept so that we can see what types of projects are eligible under this funding,” Jacobs said. Applications are due on November 29 and the application can be found on the TJPDC website.The TJPDC continues to oversee the creation of a “regional transit vision” with a meeting scheduled for November 18. “We want to make sure we get as much as the public’s voice in that regional transit vision plan as possible,” Jacobs saidTo add your voice, there are two surveys you can fill out before participating in that November 18 meeting. (surveys are here)November RoundtableTJPDC meetings offer the opportunity for members to share what it happening in their localities. Yesterday I reported on Albemarle’s $13.2 million unaudited surplus from fiscal year 2021. Except, Albemarle doesn’t call it that. Here’s Supervisor Donna Price. “We don’t really see it as a surplus, but we do see it as a positive variance and that’s really a difference there because when that pandemic first hit we cut back on our spending substantially,” Price said (cut bite).The chair of the TJPDC Board of Commissioners is Jesse Rutherford, recently re-elected to another term on the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. He appreciated Price’s distinction. “You taught me something that I’m going to bring with me to my tax accountant,” Rutherford said. “Positive variance. I’m already texting my account and we’re getting rid of the word net income.” City Planning Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg noted that the seven member advisory body recommended approval of the city’s Comprehensive Plan update on October 12. He also provided an update on the redevelopment of public housing. “The very first buildings, the phase one of South First Street building in the empty ballfields, the first two buildings are just about complete structurally,” Stolzenberg said. “They have roofs and walls and are topped out. So they just need to be finished and that means building 3 can start.”The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a work session on November 11 on the draft annual plan that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (presentation) (draft plan) (register for 5 p.m. meeting)2021 began with Chip Boyles as the executive director of the TJPDC, a position he left to become City Manager. He resigned on October 12, citing professional and personal abuse in the wake of the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney. City Councilor Michael Payne reported the news. “I won’t sugarcoat it,” Payne said. “It’s probably the biggest challenge we face. Just the turnover there. We’re in a maybe unique situation where this internal stuff has a major impact on our ability to execute a lot of the things we want to begin, Comprehensive Plan, housing, climate action planning. It makes it difficult for our ability to do long-range planning as well.” Rutherford offered the services of the planning district.“Of course if there’s anything that we can do as an organization to assist in whatever way, we’re here for you,” Rutherford said. “What happens to Charlottesville does have a regional effect.” Time for a second Patreon-powered shout-out! The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!Sidewalk progressA rezoning of 12 wooded acres in Charlottesville’s Fry’s Spring neighborhood moved one step closer to approval last night. The seven-member Planning Commission recommended approval of a project that goes by the name 240 Stribling that would see 170 units. On September 14, the developer asked for a deferral of a decision following a public hearing. City Planner Matt Alfele has this recap.“During the public hearing, the Planning Commission heard from 16 members of the public,” Alfele said. “Most speakers raised concern about the safety of Stribling Avenue and how additional dwelling units on the subject property would be detrimental to public safety.” At that meeting, Southern Development’s vice president and the city’s Economic Development director discussed the details of an agreement in which Southern Development had agreed to pay up to $2 million for sidewalk improvements. City Engineer Jack Dawson said that figure was too low to cover the cost, and in October, he told Council his estimate would top out at $2.85 million. (Council Balks At $850k Cost For Stribling Sidewalks) “As I stated to Council, it’s not a complete estimate, it’s just an improved upon estimate but it is likely to be higher than that would be my guess,” Dawson said last night. The city’s Capital Improvement Plan budget is at capacity with expectations of spending millions a year on affordable housing projects as well as tens of millions over the next five years for reconfiguration of the city’s elementary and middle schools. Southern Development has agreed to increase their upfront funding to $2.9 million. “Though we feel that this work can be completed for significantly less, we do think it is important enough that we want to make sure our amount jibes with the city engineer’s estimate,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development. “We want to get those sidewalks built,” he added. “We want to provide the funding so that it could be put into the [capital improvement program].”Armstrong said Southern Development is ready to move on the sidewalk project and his team has worked on a survey of the corridor. So has the city engineer. “There are some differences but I think we have a pretty good idea of a basic what would be needed,” Armstrong said. “There’s a lot of details in the detailed engineering that will come later.”Southern Development will be paid back by getting the incremental difference between the current value of the land and what it will be like after the units are built.“Our development obviously significantly increases the value of the real estate at 240 Stribling so the taxes go up,” Armstrong said. “And we’re not talking about just a little bit. They go up a lot. In twenty years, this produces, conservatively, eight and a half million dollars of new tax revenue. And that’s after paying for the sidewalks.” Armstrong said 25 units would be designated as affordable with rents or sale prices held below market for households with incomes below 60 percent of the area median income. Next up will be a vote by the City Council. The Planning Commission will have a work session on the next Capital Improvement Program budget on November 23. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 9, 2021: Albemarle preparing for FY23 budget, anticipating $13.2 million in one-time money from FY21; Brackney to file EEOC complaint against Charlottesville

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 9, 2021 15:36

Let’s begin with a Patreon-fueled shout-out. Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show:One of Charlottesville’s former police chiefs wants to sue the city for wrongful terminationAlbemarle Board of Supervisors formally begins Comprehensive Plan review Albemarle may also have a potential budget surplus of over $13 million ProPublica takes a look at the links between industrial air pollution and cancer The Virginia Festival of the Book will return to an in-person event next March Former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney has filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging she was wrongfully terminated by former City Manager Chip Boyles. Boyles resigned on October 12 citing personal and professional abuse in the aftermath of the firing. Brackney and her lawyer Charles Tucker held a press conference this morning to announce the complaint as well as a demand for millions in damages. Tucker appeared to make the claim that Brackney is still the chief.“She’s not here today to talk about an abrupt termination,” Tucker said. “She’s here today to talk about a wrongful attempt at termination.” Tucker alleged collusion to remove Brackney by Council, top police officials, and former manager Boyles. Complaints to the EEOC are private and information is only available to be released the individual who files the complain as well as the subject of the complaint. A spokesman for the EEOC told me today he could neither confirm or deny the existence of the complaint. He noted that an EEOC complaint is the first step toward filing a lawsuit. Learn more about this process on the EEOC’s website. The agency’s authority comes from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There’s also a FAQ worth reviewing.  Tucker is employed by the Cochran Firm, a national law firm founded by the late Johnnie Cochran.  Cochran was part of the legal team that successfully defended former football player O.J. Simpson on double murder charges in October 1995. Special thanks to Dori Zook of WINA for providing the audio. Take a look at coverage on NBC29 for more information. One of Charlottesville’s most popular events will return to some in-person events next spring. The Virginia Festival of the Book was canceled in 2020 and was held virtually in 2021, but will return with a hybrid event from March 16 through March 20. The Festival has also been holding online programs year-round as part of its Shelf Life series. Headlining speakers for the 28th festival will not be announced until January. Review previous programs on the VABook website at vabook.org. Industrial investigationAn investigation by ProPublica has identified the Radford area in the New River Valley as one of the places in Virginia where residents are more likely to contract cancer due to air pollution. That’s due to the presence of the U.S. Army Radford Ammunition Plant.“This facility alone is estimated to increase the excess cancer risk for people living within five miles by an average of 1 in 4,100,” reads their summary of the Radford area. ProPublica’s interactive map also shows pollution hotspots in Richmond and Petersburg. Their work is based on analysis of five-years of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more in a story on NBC29 that’s part of a collaboration between Gray Communications and ProPublica. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement and it’s time for two more Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!Albemarle Comprehensive Plan processTwo stories from Albemarle today. First, Albemarle County has formally begun the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan. The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution on November 3 that kicks off a multiphase process and public engagement plan for the first round. But let’s get a reminder on what this is from planner Tori Kanellopoulos. “The Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document for the county and is a twenty year plan which includes housing, transportation, land use, economic development, natural and historic resources,” Kannellopoulos said. The plan influences everything from the Capital Improvement program to decisions on land use such as rezoning. Supervisors last adopted a plan six years ago.“Since the current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2015, there have been a variety of new policies and plans adopted by the Board including the Climate Action Plan, an updated housing policy, Project ENABLE and an updated Strategic Plan,” Kannellopoulos said. “Additionally the Office of Equity and Inclusion was created and the Board adopted the new organizational value of community.”Since 2015, Kanellopoulos said 4,000 new dwelling units have been built and the population is expected to continue growing. With that comes increased demand for urban services to be delivered by the local government.  The first phase will take a look at the county’s growth management policy, which has been embedded in the Comprehensive Plan for decades. That will include a capacity analysis for the county’s ability to provide new housing, as well as the needs of economic development. “Phase 2 will identify the main topics of the Comprehensive Plan, evaluate existing conditions for each, and provide updated frameworks using the lens of equity and climate action,” Kannellopoulos said. “Phase 3 will identify recommended action steps to implement the plan and metrics to track progress. And Phase 4 will finalize the document for adoption.” At the same time, Supervisors have asked for some changes to the zoning ordinance to happen concurrently with the Comprehensive Plan review.  The winter holidays are approaching so there will not be a public kickoff for this process until January. Between now and then, a working group of community members and other stakeholders will be assembled to oversee the process. Supervisor Ann Mallek said the process to update the Crozet Master Plan at times was more difficult due to the lack of institutional memory and history about how that area has been a designated growth area. “There was a real challenge to help people to get enough background to be able to understand what they were being asked,” Mallek said. “And I think getting that knowledge base will prevent a lot of frustration that happens when people are asked to respond to a survey about which they’re given no information. And they just get mad.” Mallek also wants more public meetings in places that aren’t government buildings. Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he wants to make sure that the public knows the review is underway.“It can be frustrating I would imagine for everybody involved where community members maybe come late to the game,” Gallaway said. “We do our best effort to put things out there that this is going to be worked on and the ways to participate are there. And then if they are missed, we get ‘Well, where is this coming from?’ at the 11th hour. Whatever we need to do [public relations] wide to engage the community, we’ll have to do.”The Albemarle Planning Commission will have a work session on the Comprehensive Plan review at its meeting on November 16. This is a reminder that I created Town Crier Productions specifically to cover this kind of topic. I have never and will never take any payment from Albemarle County for this service, nor will I take any direct payment for any other level of government. This program is supported by contributions from listeners and readers, and the goal there is to keep this reporting independent and to be transparent when you do hear shout-outs and the like. Closing out FY21 Our second story from the November 3, 2021 Albemarle Board of Supervisors meeting comes from a fiscal update that came from a briefing from County Executive Jeffrey Richardson on the closing of Fiscal Year 21, which ran from July 1, 2020 to this past June 30. Like all localities, Albemarle was affected by the pandemic.“The last 20 months have been unlike any in my professional working career and I probably speak for staff when I say our challenges and the kinds of issues and problems we face are unlike any that we have faced in our career,” Richardson said. The pandemic began officially in Virginia on March 12, 2020 with the declaration of a state of emergency. That happened just as Albemarle was finalizing the budget for fiscal year 2021. A decision was made to rewrite the budget to pause some spending while more was known about underlying economic conditions.  Richardson said staff initially assumed the worst case scenario. “We artificially lowered our budget base so we had to go in and we had to make drastic cuts for fiscal year 21,” Richardson said. Richardson said the economic outlook did not turn out to be as severe and he detailed the reasons why in his presentation. There has also been federal funding in the form of the CARES Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Here’s one example from Albemarle budget chief Andy Bowman. “The county was able to reimburse a significant portion of its public safety expenditures which created a one-time savings in the middle of fiscal year 2021 which the Board of Supervisors used to establish a local pandemic reserve,” Bowman said. Now the time has come to begin preparing for the budget for FY23, which will be adopted by the Board next May. That comes as the fiscal year 2021 budget is audited which will reveal whether there are additional funds leftover that be reprogrammed to achieve the county’s strategic goals. This is known as “one-time” funds. In FY21, revenues were up 5.3 percent over budget and county spending was down 4.9 percent. “Unaudited, we expect there to be $13.2 million in one-time funding that can be available to be reprogrammed as the county is heading into the season again of financial planning,” Bowman said. Richardson told the Board that the local economy is strong, and there are many ways this funding could be used to make further investments in economic development.“You met recently with your [Economic Development Authority] and I think that we need to consider more and I think now is the time to do more to set ourselves up for the future to help business expansion and to be a catalyst in this community to continue to strengthen our economic foundation,” Richardson said. Richardson also suggested the Board consider a mid-year salary increase for county personnel could also be an option. The Board will have a work session on “workforce stabilization” on December 1. Other suggestions from staff will continue to come to the Board in weeks to come. The next immediate step is a meeting of the Audit Committee on November 19. (meeting info)A major change this upcoming year is that real estate reassessments for calendar year 2022 will be sent out a month earlier than usual due to issues with the post office and potential for delays caused by mail. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 8, 2021: Charlottesville's Woolley era to begin on Dec. 1; Fifeville group seeks facilitator for Cherry Avenue plan listening sessions

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 8, 2021 16:42

Let’s begin the show with the first of two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350On today’s show:Charlottesville selects a Pennsylvania administrator as the third interim City Manager in three and a half years The Fifeville Neighborhood Association seeks a facilitator to help with implementation of the Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan A Charlottesville television pioneer has diedCOVID vaccinations for those aged 5 to 11 have begun  And a Louisa County Supervisors wins a seventh term on a four-vote marginThis weekend, vaccinations of children between the ages of 5 to 11 began in the Blue Ridge Health District. According to spokeswoman Kathryn Goodman, there were 127 vaccinations in that range at the Community Vaccination Center in Seminole Square and Pediatric Associates vaccinated 565 children. The Blue Ridge Health District and the University of Virginia Health System begin administering shots today.  “I think this is a really big step forward and the COVID vaccine is one of the most well-studied vaccines at this point in history,” said Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, an expert on pediatric infectious diseases at the UVA Health System. “There have been hundreds of millions of doses already given. There have been clinical trials done in adults, young adults, adolescents, and now children in the 5 to 11 age group.”Federal officials approved the Pfizer vaccine for children last week, which uses a smaller dose than the one given to people 12 and above. Dr. Shirley said that lower dose was suggested through the testing process. Last week, she penned an article on UVA Today outlining the work that has gone into producing the shots. “Using that low dose vaccine, they still make really high levels of antibody that were comparable to the same antibody levels that we’ve seen in adolescents and older adults who received higher doses,” Dr. Shirley said. Dr. Shirley said Moderna has submitted their data to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, and Pfizer will soon submit data for a vaccine for even younger children. This morning the Virginia Department of Health reports another 913 new cases and the seven-day average of new cases at 1,276 a day. The percent positivity has increased slightly to 5.6 percent, up from 5.4 percent on Thursday. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 42 cases today and there have been five more reported fatalities since Thursday.The man who started Charlottesville’s first commercial television station in 1973 has died. Harold Wright passed away on Saturday at his home at Lake Monticello. WVIR launched on March 11, 1973 using $500,000 of capital as well as second-hand equipment. That’s according to a story published this morning on NBC29.com. Wright retired from the station in January 2020, not long after it was purchased by Gray Communications in March 2019. Louisa County Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes has won re-election to a seventh term representing the Patrick Henry District. A canvas and recount on Friday that included remaining provisional and absentee ballots extended Barnes’ election-night lead of one vote to four votes over challenger William D. Woody Jr. According to coverage on Twitter by Tammy Purcel of Engage Louisa, Woody would have had ten days to ask for a recount but he conceded the race. Charlottesville’s Fifeville Neighborhood Association and the city government are seeking a consultant to help with a series of listening sessions to help implement the Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan. That document was produced by consulting staff at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District and approved as an addendum to the city’s current Comprehensive Plan on March 1. On that same night Council adopted an affordable housing plan as the first milestone in the Cville Plans Together initiative. The neighborhood association seeks a “third-party facilitator to help co-design and lead up to three Anti-Displacement, Land Acquisition, and Development Working Sessions.” The goal is to move forward with  implementation of the plan.  (read the request for proposals)The firm Rhodeside & Harwell will not pursue this request for proposals, according to Cville Plans Together project manager Jennifer Koch. Her team is familiar with the Cherry Avenue Plan.“We reviewed this plan, as we reviewed other completed Small Area Plans, and looked to support recommendations related to fostering a mix of uses and more housing options/density at levels that respect the current scale of the neighborhood,” Koch wrote in an email this morning. “The affordability framework and anti-displacement mechanisms built into the plan (including, but not limited to, the Sensitive Community Areas) also align with goals in the Cherry Avenue SAP.”Since adoption of the plan in March, several properties have exchanged hands. In April, Woodard Properties purchased the Cherry Avenue Shopping Center as well as vacant land immediately behind. In July, the company bought a vacant lot in the 800 block of the busy roadway. Also in July an LLC called Project New Life bought undeveloped land on Cherry Avenue at the intersection of 7 1/2th Street. The Future Land Use Map in the draft Comprehensive Plan calls for Cherry Avenue west of Roosevelt Brown Avenue to be in the new Medium Intensity Residential, which calls for increased housing opportunities “along neighborhood corridors, near community amenities.” The areas around Nalle Street and King Street north of Cherry Avenue east of Roosevelt Brown are designated as “low-intensity residential (sensitive community areas)” to “allow for additional housing choice, and tools to mitigate displacement, within existing residential neighborhoods that have high proportions of populations that may be sensitive to displacement.”But will that stop those with wealth from purchasing single-family homes that would then be protected from additional density? In April, a house in the 700 block of Nalle Street sold for $700,000, or 85.83 percent over the 2021 assessment. October’s property transactions will be posted soon for paid subscribers of Charlottesville Community Engagement. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement and it’s time for the second Patreon-fueled shout-out. WTJU is hosting Classical Listening Parties, a series of four free, casual events on Tuesdays in November. These four events are led by Chelsea Holt, pianist, teacher, and one of WTJU’s newest and youngest classical announcers. She’ll guide you through all the eras of classical music beginning Tuesday, Nov 9th, 7 p.m.: Early & Baroque. For a list of the others, visit wtju.net to learn more and sign up! At the same time ballots were being counted in Louisa County on Friday afternoon, City Council introduced Marc Woolley as the next interim city manager. Woolley recently resigned as Business Administrator in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. The city has U.S. Census 2020 population of 50,099. Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders will remain in place. “Together with the assistance of staff, Sam, Ashley, and Council, I will be focusing on some key issues currently before Charlottesville,” Woolley said. “Mainly the budget and the completion of the Comprehensive Plan.” Woolley will begin work on December 1. The process to find a permanent city manager will resume once again in April. Woolley is a native of Wilmington, Delaware who went to law school at Boston College. He’s worked as general counsel for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, two positions at the Delaware River Port Authority, three positions at the Hershey Trust Company, and the position in Harrisburg. (read his resume)“I’ve been with the City of Harrisburg for the past four years as the Business Administrator,” Woolley said.Harrisburg has a form of municipal government where the executive and legislative branches are separate, so a “strong mayor” oversees department heads. The business administrator position is equivalent to a city manager. “All administration functions flowed through me except for the city solicitor,” Woolley said. According to an article on Pennsylvania Live, Woolley’s resignation had been expected to begin on November 12, but Mayor Eric Papenfuse made that effective November 1 after learning of the Woolley’s decision to leave Harrisburg. Papenfuse was defeated the next day in his bid for a third term, though he ran as a write-in. Anticipating questions from the press about Woolley’s careee, Councilor Lloyd Snook led a friendly cross-examination of his career history after resigning from the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Snook:“Looking at the next ten years or so of your career it seems like you were often put in a position of having to kind of clean up a mess. Is that an accurate assessment?”Woolley:“I think to first assess what the issues were and then accordingly if there were things that needed to be done to implement those policies in order to rectify anything.” Harrisburg has been considered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a distressed municipality since 2010. That requires creation of a Financial Recovery Plan which is called the Harrisburg Strong Plan. The latest financial report for the capital city is from 2019.  Snook:“When you got to Harrisburg there were shall we say some financial difficulties that you were having to unravel.”Woolley:“Some financial difficulties. We are in Act 47 which is for distressed municipalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Years before I arrived in Harrisburg there were a number of bond deals that were done and saddled the residents with a lot of debt and turns out they just couldn’t pay it. The city couldn’t pay it back. The state sent in a receiver to develop what they call the Strong Plan. They sold off a lot of assets, almost $400 million worth of assets, applied those to the debt and set up payments for other general obligation debts. When I arrived in Harrisburg, we were rounding the corner. This year and actually starting last year, was able to entertain actually getting back our credit rating. We didn’t have a credit rating. Looking to refinance debt and put out for capital projects. It’s a 180 degree turn from where they were and I think Harrisburg is going to better for it and I think they’re going to get a credit rating. Not as good as Charlottesville, but they’re going to try.”The city has held a AAA bond rating from Standards and Poor’s since 1964 and a AAA bond rating from Moody’s since 1973. For the past several years, the city has been steadily increasing debt-financing for capital projects, including several million a year for affordable housing projects and $75 million for the renovation of Buford Middle School. The next budget may include a property tax increase to help pay the debt service. Woolley will oversee creation of that next document but acknowledged Council will be reopening the pubic process for a permanent manager next spring. (Routine advice wanted for city bonds, October 26, 2021)“This is not necessarily the transition,” Woolley said. “The transition will occur when the new city manager is appointed through the process that you’ve described in April but right now there are certain acute issues that need to be taken care of, mainly the budget and the Comprehensive Plan.” Woolley said his role is to lay the foundation for that person. While Charlottesville’s government is not considered distressed, the separate Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is considered a troubled agency by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Watch the whole press briefing which included comments and questions from members of the community. The entire event was just over an hour long and is on the city’s streaming archive. (watch)Former City Manager Chip Boyles recently took a job as the executive director of the George Washington Regional Commission, the planning district around Fredericksburg. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 4, 2021: Study underway for alternative to Rassawek site for Zion Crossroads water intake; Council to make leadership announcement on Friday

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 4, 2021 14:49

Let’s begin today with a Patreon-fueled shout-out! The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!On today’s show:More details about the next phase of public housing redevelopment in CharlottesvilleCouncil to make a leadership announcement Friday at 3 p.m. UVA Health System reports vaccination numbersLouisa Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes holds a one-vote lead over his challengerAn overview of the Central Virginia Small Business Development CenterAnd Louisa Supervisors an update on a plan to bring water from the James River to Zion CrossroadsWe begin the day with an announcement of something that’s happening tomorrow. City Council will meet at 3 p.m. for an open meeting with the one word description of “Personnel.” City Communications Director Brian Wheeler explained in an email to me this morning that it will be a leadership announcement. There is no interim city manager in place. What will happen? Leave your guess in the comments. (meeting info)There’s a very close race in one of Louisa County’s magisterial districts. In the Patrick Henry District, incumbent Fitzgerald Barnes has a one-vote lead over challenger William Woody Jr. Qualified absentee ballots can be counted up until tomorrow at noon. Thanks to Tammy Purcell of Engage Louisa for the heads-up. Employees at the University of Virginia Health System had a deadline of November 1 to get a COVID vaccine. Wendy Horton is the CEO of the UVA Health System. “At this point today, we are at 98.4 percent fully vaccinated or exempt as a health system and this includes UVA Community Health as well,” Horton said.However, that leaves 173 employees who will either resign or be terminated for non-compliance. Horton said that includes 83 people who directly work with patients and that number includes 43 registered nurses. People who refuse the vaccine will be suspended without pay for a certain period of time for reflection. Those with approved medical exemptions must have a COVID test each week. Today the Virginia Department of Health reported 1,494 new cases and the seven-day percent positive rate dropped to 5.4 percent. Another 69 deaths have been reported since Tuesday. The Blue Ridge Health District reported 58 new cases today. The percent positivity in the district is 5.1 percent. Yesterday, the City of Charlottesville held a public meeting for the next phase of redevelopment at the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Carrie Rainey is an urban planner in the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services.“What we’re looking at right now is a final site for what is currently a by-right project to build a new apartment building with structured parking at 715 Sixth Street SE,” Rainey said.Riverbend Development is working with the CRHA on this project, continuing a partnership that has also been involved with Crescent Halls and the two phases at South First Street. CRHA has a new redevelopment coordinator in Brandon Collins, formerly with the Public Housing Association of Residents. “Our resident planners at 6th Street have been working diligently on this plan and I think it really reflects CRHA’s approach to resident-led planning and we’re confident this is the best use of this site,” Collins said. The project is at the corner of Monticello Avenue and 6th Street SE. Six of the existing townhouse units will be removed in this first phase at this property. “The reason we’re taking this approach is because we want to ensure that we have a promise and a priority to the residents of public housing that no one will be displaced throughout the redevelopment process,” said Ashley Davies, vice president at Riverbend Development. In all of these redevelopment projects, the land will continue to be owned by CRHA, but the actual structure will be owned by a nonprofit holding company connected to CRHA. The height of the building has not been finalized.“It’s going to be a three or four story building,”  Davies said, “We’re still working with the resident planners to determine the exact height of the building and number of units, but for now the site plan shows this as a three-story building and 39 units.”The current zoning is Downtown Extended which would allow for that height. There would be at least 40 parking spaces in a structure beneath the building. The goal is to get the site plan approved in order to help qualify an application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority. Davies said a master plan is in development for the entire four-acre site, but there is no timeline for how that will proceed. “Those conversations are really just beginning to understand what the overall needs are for that area,” Davies said Comments brought up during the site plan conference included landscaping, parking requirements, and pedestrian safety.  The community garden maintained and operated by the Urban Agriculture Collective will be removed to make way for the new units. NDS staff will make comments on the site plan and submit those back to the development team later this month. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time for the second of two Patreon-fueled shout-outs: Do you suffer from Classical Music Insecurity Complex? That is, you like classical music you hear, but you feel intimidated by all the stuffy etiquette and specialized knowledge? Suffer no more!WTJU is hosting Classical Listening Parties, a series of four free, casual events on Tuesdays in November. These four events are led by Chelsea Holt, pianist, teacher, and one of WTJU’s newest and youngest classical announcers. She’ll guide you through all the eras of classical music beginning Tuesday, Nov 9th, 7 p.m.: Early & Baroque. For a list of the others, visit wtju.net to learn more and sign up! The seven-member Louisa County Board of Supervisors got an update on Monday on the water supply plan for Zion Crossroads, but they also got a pitch from the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center (CVSBDC). The entity is partially funded by the Small Business Administration.“We’re funded by the [Small Business Administration] and the localities that we serve to provide business advising services to individual localities,’ said Greg Dorazio, the assistant director of the CVSBDC. The CVSBDC covers ten counties stretching from Nelson County to Culpeper County from its headquarters in Charlottesville. The idea is to level the playing field for small businesses through counseling. “We have access to research and resources including capital, access to technical experts,” Dorazio said. Last year, the Charlottesville Investment Collaborative became the small business center’s fiscal partner.“Their microloan program is one of the best ways for small businesses to get capital and a lot of folks don’t really know about it,” Dorazio said. Last year during the pandemic, the small business center provided more than double the number of hours of working with clients from around 2,200 hours to over 5,000. That’s in part because of the transition to virtual meetings. “When we’re talking about the client service time, that’s one-on-one with a business owner,” Dorazio said. “We’re really helping them figure out what is the problem they’re facing right now? What are the decisions they need to make? And what do we need to do to help them get the resources they need to make good decisions about their business and continue to grow and move forward?”Dorazio was before the Louisa Board of Supervisors to ask for referrals for businesses as well as $21,249 in funding for the next fiscal year. That decision will come during the budget cycle.The Louisa Board of Supervisors also got an update on progress to build a waterline from the James River to Zion Crossroads. Louisa and Fluvanna are both members of the James River Water Authority, an entity that exists for the purpose.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to grant a permit for the project and the James River Water Authority was about to submit one that included an intake at the site of Rassawek, an important site in the history of the Monacan Indian Nation. Justin Curtis is with Aqualaw, a firm hired to prepare and submit the permit.“At our request, that application has been put on hold while we evaluate an alternative a site a couple of miles up the river,” Curtis said. “We’re doing that in coordination with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) as well as the Monacan Indian Nation.”Curtis said the decision point for the James River Water Authority will be whether to pursue the alternative, or proceed with the Rassawek site. That could come in December or January. The Rassawek site was selected in 2013 and two of three required permits had been granted. All of the planning work had been conducted.“That site had been selected because it was the shortest, it was the least expensive, and it followed a bunch of existing corridors and lines which is utility siting 101,” Curtis said. “Fewest number of landowners affected and it had the right water quality and quantity to meet our needs.”Curtis said the Monacans had been consulted, but their stance changed as the granting of the permit drew closer. The federal government recognized the tribe in January 2018. (Learn more about Rasswak from Cultural Heritage Partners)“To get the final permit we needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we have to go through this process where have to mitigate any impacts to historical or cultural resources and that involves consultations with the tribes and certain other agencies and that added a lot of time and expense to the regulatory process,” Curtis said. Curtis said Alternative 1C, also known as the Forsyth site, is the preferred site for the Monacans. “And we ended up reaching an agreement which was memorialized in writing in January of this year and what we came to an agreement on was that if JRWA went and did a new archaeological study of that alternative site and that study did not find any evidence of buried human remains or historic burial sites, then the Monacans would not oppose the project and they would support the project and help us work through the remainder of the permitting process,” Curtis said. The first phase was completed in August and while historic materials were found, none of them were human remains. The second phase started on Monday and will be concluded the week of December 6. The results will be discussed at the next  meeting of the James River Water Authority on December 8. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 3, 2021: Republicans sweep Virginia as Youngkin aims to change Commonwealth's trajectory

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 3, 2021 12:27


Elections bring changes, and fundamental changes will likely come to the way Virginia is governed as Republicans appear to narrowly win all three statewide seats and regain the House of Delegates. Closer to home, Democrats continue to hold all of the seats on the City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. What will the landscape be like as 2022 begins? That’s for another day, for this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement is solely about election returns:In this newsletter:Republicans narrowly win all three statewide seatsAn incumbent is ousted in the Charlottesville City School Board raceGraham Paige fends off a write-in candidateBob Babyok is defeated in Louisa County, while two Nelson incumbents hold onBut first, a Patreon-fueled shout-out. Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!*As of this writing, the Virginia Department of Elections website has recorded 2,723 of Virginia’s 2,855 precincts have reported and Republican Glenn Youngkin has 50.68 percent of the vote to 48.55 percent for Democrat Terry McAuliffe. The difference is around 57,000 votes. These results are considered incomplete because qualified absentee ballots can be accepted through noon on November 5 and the results will be certified on November 15. These numbers will change but probably not very much. While none of the results here are technically complete, the Associated Press called the race for Youngkin after midnight last night and he took the stage in victory. “Alrighty Virginia, we won this thing,” Youngkin said. McAuliffe also appeared before supporters but did not offer a concession speech but appeared to continue his campaign for a return to the Governor’s mansion. “When Ralph and I were elected eight years ago, we had made our state open and welcoming but the fight continues,” McAuliffe said. McAuliffe then listed several pieces of his platform.“We are going to continue that fight tonight and every day going forward,” McAuliffee said Youngkin takes over a Commonwealth that appears to be in good financial shape. Unemployment has dropped for sixteen months straight to a September figure of 3.8 percent. Virginia had a $2.6 billion surplus at the end of fiscal year 2021. In his comments, Youngkin called his victory a defining moment that will change the trajectory of the state. “Friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one,” Youngkin said More on that transformation later on in the newsletter If the results hold up, Youngkin will be sworn in on January 15. The 2022 General Assembly will convene three days before. The Republicans appear to have retaken the majority of the House of Delegates with 51 to 49 seats, according to information tallied by the Virginia Public Access Project. (VPAP)The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate which did not have an election yesterday and will remain under Democratic control with a majority of 21 seats of 40 seats.Republican Winsome Sears will be the next Lieutenant Governor with 50.82 percent of the vote with Democrat Hala Ayala at 49.08 percent. Sears is the first Black woman to be elected to statewide office in Virginia and she said her victory is the embodiment of the American dream.“When my father came to this country, August 11 of 1963, he came at the height of the civil rights movement from Jamaica,” Sears said “He came and I said to him, it was such a bad time for us. Why did you come? And he said because America was where the jobs and the opportunities were.” For Attorney General, Republican Jason Miyares has 50.49 percent of the vote to incumbent Democrat Mark Herring at 49.43 percent. The Republican ticket carried most localities across rural Virginia. Youngkin carried Nelson County with 55.58 percent of the electorate with all but absentee ballots counted. The Governor-elect also carried Fluvanna with 56.86 percent of the vote. Louisa County also went for Youngkin with 66.28 percent of the vote. The Republican’s margin in Greene County was even higher at 71.86 percent The story is different in Albemarle and Charlottesville. McAuliffe carried Albemarle with 61.86 percent of the vote and Charlottesville with 82.87 percent of the vote.Local racesNow let’s look at local races. In Nelson County, Central District incumbent Democrat Ernie Reed fended off a challenge from Republican Pamela Brice with 50.78 percent of the vote. North District Incumbent Tommy Harvey defeated Democratic challenger Mary Cunningham. Harvey was first elected in 1984. (Nelson results) In Louisa County, incumbent Robert Babyok Jr. appears to have been defeated by challenger Rachel Jones. Jones has 53.2 percent as of production time. (Louisa results)In Albemarle, all three Democrats on the ballot for Supervisor won because they had no opposition. Graham Paige retained his seat representing Samuel Miller on the Albemarle School Board with 73.84 percent over a write-in candidate. (Albemarle results)In the Charlottesville City Council race, Democrat Juandiego Wade got the most votes with 11,582 before the absentee ballots are counted. Democrat Brian Pinkston got 10,041 votes. Independent Yas Washington secured 3,407 votes and withdrawn incumbent Nikuyah Walker got 1,916.  (Charlottesville results)In the School Board race, four-term incumbent Leah Puryear came in fourth, meaning she will not serve a fifth. Incumbent Lisa Larson-Torres got the most votes with 7,329, followed by newcomer Emily Dooley with 6,633, and newcomer Dom Morse with 6,500. Christa Bennett placed fifth with 4,488 votes. In Greene County, Abbey E. Heflin has a close lead over Tina A. Deane in the Stanardsville District race at 960 to 917 votes. Bill Martin opted not to run for re-election. (Greene results)There were no contested races for Supervisor in Fluvanna County. (Fluvanna results)Preparing for the Youngkin administration Back to the Governor-elect. Between now and January 15, Youngkin will appoint candidates to the Secretariats ranging alphabetically from Agriculture and Forestry to Transportation. A new governor will shape the entire tone of state and local government. Youngkin’s victory speech called for new spending.“We will invest the largest education budget in the history of the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said. “We’re going to invest in teachers, new facilities, special education. We’re going to introduce choice within our public school system.” For Youngkin, that means more charter schools and giving parents more control over what is taught in public schools. But the call for spending also came with a call to reduce revenue that comes into the state. “Friends, we will reduce our cost of living on day one,” Youngkin said. “On day one, we will declare the largest tax refund in the history of Virginia.” Among taxes Youngkin wants to reduce is an increase in the Virginia gas tax that passed the General Assembly in 2020, as well as increasing deductions. He also called for more spending on salaries for law enforcement. “We’re going to comprehensively fund law enforcement because they stand up for us and we’re going to stand up for them,” Youngkin said. Younkin also said he would replace all members of the Virginia Parole Board. The governor-elect also promised investments in economic development. This past July, CNBC named Virginia as the number one state in the nation to do business. “We’re going to get this economy moving again, growing 400,000 new jobs, fostering 10,000 start-up,” Youngkin said. “Friends, Virginia will be open for business.”Here’s a quick look at the legislative races that touch Albemarle County: Republican incumbent Chris Runion defeated Democratic challenger Jennifer Kitchen in the 25th District with 62.36 percent to 37.51 percent. Democratic incumbent Sally Hudson fended off Republican challenger Philip Hamilton in the 57th District with 78.37 percent to 21.41 percent.Republican incumbent Rob Bell defeated Democrat Sara Ratcliffe in the 58th District with 63.4 percent of the vote.Republican incumbent Matt Farris won against Democratic Ben Moses with 64.64 percent of the vote. Moses raised over $600,000 in the campaign. Pre-filing for the 2022 General Assembly begins on November 15. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


November 2, 2021: Council indicates support for Food Equity Initiative but funding decisions to come later; Office vacancy rate at 4.9 percent in Charlottesville

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2021 18:29

Let’s begin today with two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. One person wants you to know "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!On today’s show:COVID update from Dr. Denise Bonds of the Blue Ridge Health District Charlottesville Council indicates support for Charlottesville Food Equity Initiative, but funding decisions will come in the months to come A quick look at commercial office space in the Charlottesville areaCharlottesville’s public housing agency is owed $52,000 in unpaid rent Two million for affordable housing projectsThe Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is seeking applications from private, public, and nonprofit developers for projects to increase affordable housing stock throughout the region. The TJPDC received $2 million from the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority for the purpose of building actual units. The first step is for applicants to submit a proof of concept. “This proof of concept will be issued to collect key details about the proposed project, including number of proposed units to be constructed, partner development experience, and location of development,” reads the release. “The requested proof of concept will serve as a precursor to a more detailed formal project application.”The funding is part of a $40 million statewide initiative. Proposals are due on November 29 at 5 p.m. Visit the TJPDC’s website to learn more about the application.Sixth Street site planTomorrow, the city of Charlottesville will hold a site plan conference for the next public housing project to be redeveloped by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Plans for 39-units at Sixth Street will be reviewed. The CRHA Board of Commissioners’ got an update on this topic at their meeting on October 25. Brandon Collins is now the redevelopment coordinator for CRHA. (read his report )“Resident-led planning continues and to update you all in case you don’t know, the plan is in the space along Monticello Avenue where the garden currently is we’re going to knock down six apartments on the end of the garden to get a little extra room and build an apartment building,” Collins said.Collins' redevelopment report for October states that a three-story building had been originally, but architects suggested a fourth story would make the project more competitive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.“Residents seem to be generally in favor of that,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of process questions that we’re all going to work through to get a decision on that.”The site plan conference begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. (meeting info)Former Planning Commissioner Lisa Green resigned from the CRHA Board of Commissioners on October 5. No reason was given but Green had been on the Redevelopment Committee. Council is seeking applications to fill the vacancy as well as other open positions on boards and commissions. Take a look at the list on the Charlottesville City Hall website. At the CRHA meeting, Executive Director John Sales reported that some tenants owe tens of thousands in back rent. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development currently considers CRHA a “troubled” agency which requires additional scrutiny from the federal agency including increase inspections. “A big item that we should always discuss is the delinquency account for tenants,” Sales said. “We’re currently at $52,000. That is probably our biggest concern in terms of exiting out of troubled status. The $52,000 represents about a hundred tenants.”Sales said that represents about a third of public housing residents. He said there is a CRHA staff member working on rental assistance to help cover the back log and to find out what barriers are in place to paying the rent. Office space check-inThe Charlottesville office market had a vacancy rate of 4.9 percent in the second quarter of this year according to an analysis from Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. That’s less than the same period in 2020, but below the forecasted amount. The report states that office space remains high in demand. “Absorbency in the market was down for the quarter but that is more a reflection of large new deliveries than lack of demand and remains net positive for the past 12 months,” reads the report. “In fact, 87 percent of the nearly 380,000 square feet of office space under construction is already pre-leased and since Q1 2020 there has been more space delivered than in prior decades.” The report states that rents continue to rise. The current average is $27.52 per square foot, a 55 percent increase over the 2015 average. Pinkston’s bountyElection results will come tomorrow. One final piece of information before the votes are tallied. Brian Pinkston’s campaign for one of two seats on City Council received a last-minute contribution of $3,000 on Monday from the Democratic Party of Charlottesville.COVID updateThe number of new COVID cases reported each day continues to decline. “If you look at the trend over the past couple of weeks here, a month or so, it’s really been on a downward trajectory indicating that we may be past the worst with regards to the Delta virus,” Bonds said.Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 1,245 new cases today, and the Blue Ridge Health District reports 41 new cases. There have been 12 deaths reported in the district since October 25. Since Dr. Bonds last addressed Council, booster shots are now available for all of the three major vaccines. The Moderna booster is available for those over the age of 65 or those with some underlying condition or situation. “If you got [Johnson and Johnson] as your first one, it’s a little different,” Bonds said. “Anyone who got J&J as their first vaccine for COVID is eligible as long as you’re over the age of 18.”Bonds said anyone who got the J&J vaccine can also opt to switch to the Moderna or Pfizer as a booster. “Really the best person to talk to about this would be your physician,” Bonds said. “There are some reasons to think that mixing and matching may be beneficial. You get higher antibody levels with the rMNA boosters but there’s some evidence that if you get J&J it activates more of a different part of your system called T-cells.”Vaccines are available at the Community Vaccination Center at the former Big Lots in Seminole Square Shopping Center. Visit the Blue Ridge Health District website to learn more. Dr. Bonds said the district will have a limited quantity of Pfizer doses for children between 5 and 11 when they are available next week.“It’s going to one third of the amount that anyone 12 and over gets,” Dr. Bond said. Because there is a limited amount, the District is prioritizing shots for the most vulnerable children, working with school districts and pediatricians to identify those people and schedule shots. “There will be a small amount of vaccine that is available at our Community Vaccination Center,” Dr. Bonds said. “It is by appointment only and those vaccines.gov should be out and available by Friday of this week we believe.” In all, the District will get an initial distribution of 6,300 doses. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. Dr. Denise Bonds spoke at the City Council meeting last night. The meeting was overseen by the two deputy city managers in the wake of the resignation of former City Manager Chip Boyles on October 12. That meant it was up to Sam Sanders to provide responses from previous comments for the public. Who maintains the mall side streets?“The first item was in regards to side street maintenance near the Downtown Mall and I did check in with staff in regards to who is responsible for maintaining those side streets and that is a function of Parks and Recreation,” Sanders said. “They have been short-staffed and struggling to keep up with everything that needs to be done is what I am hearing at this moment.”The second item dealt with a request to install a four-way stop on Rose Hill Drive at Burley Middle School, which is owned and operated by Albemarle County Public Schools.“There is a speed study underway and its in relation to the configuration that’s being proposed for Walker Upper Elementary, “ Sanders said. “Even though it is not the same impact area, they will be able to take a look at what is happening on Rose Hill Drive.”Sanders said the last study of the area around Burley dates back to 2004 and some traffic calming efforts were installed in the second half of the decade. He referred people interested in the topic to the city’s Traffic Calming Handbook as well as the petition to begin the process. Food Equity discussionThe main item last night was a report on Charlottesville’s Food Equity Initiative. The nonprofit group Cultivate Charlottesville has been the recipient of city funding for the past three years and seek additional money for years to come. They also want two percent of the meals tax to go a new Food Equity Fund.“We believe that food is a human right and we operate from that perspective that everyone, all Charlottesville residents, deserve access to fresh produce and high quality food,” said co-executive director Richard Morris.Morris said food equity is an outcome where all residents have access to food that meets nutritional and cultural needs. Earlier this year, Council was presented with a Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform which seeks to serve as a strategic plan to fund a variety of initiatives, and they’ve sought support for funding through an online petition. Much of this work is also finding its way into the draft Comprehensive Plan which Council will consider on November 15. One challenge is that the Urban Agricultural Collective has lost or soon will lose control of land it has used for community gardens. Land at the public housing site at Sixth Street SW is slated to be used for redevelopment. “The overall budget for the Food Justice Network has been about $400,000, $155,000 of what was the Food Equity Initiative contributed,” said co-director Jeanette Abi-Nader. “And you’ll note that the majority of the budget goes toward staffing.” The group is seeking a multiple year commitment, despite the fact that elected bodies in Virginia cannot appropriate money beyond the next fiscal year. The request comes outside of the budget cycle, as well as the Vibrant Communities process through which nonprofits apply for funding. That process used to be conducted jointly with Albemarle County. Mayor Nikuyah Walker praised the report submitted with the funding request, but had concerns. “If we are adding this as a three-year item, that the way other nonprofits have to compete for funding, I have some reservations there,” Walker said. Abi-Nader said Cultivate Charlottesville did not apply for Vibrant Community funds in the past two years because they had been funded by Council outside of that process. She explained how she thinks the current request is different. “We see the Vibrant Communities funds as really about programs that impact the community, like direct support programs and engagement, and this program is seen as a support for a function of city government,” Abi-Nader said. Walker noticed there have been several groups funded outside of the budget cycle and the Vibrant Community fund, such as the B.U.C.K. Squad and Peace and Streets.“I think our whole process needs to be reviewed and if there is a list of community partnerships that are doing the work the city thinks is essential that can’t be done without that partnership, then that needs to be a separate list from the Vibrant Communities but the way things are set up now, I don’t think it’s a fair process,” Walker said. Councilor Lloyd Snook appeared to agree that the resolution as presented was not appropriate. “Franky it appears to me to be an attempt to circumvent the budget process,” Snook said. Misty Graves, the interim director of the city’s Human Services Department, said the resolution came up because the initiative was a creature of City Council. “So I think that’s why it’s coming to back to City Council for whether or not it is a renewed commitment and if this is still a priority of City Council,” Graves said. Next year will be the fourth year of the initiative. The $155,000 will be built into the general fund budget that will be introduced by whoever will be City Manager early next March. The vote was 3 to 2 with Walker and Snook voting against and the resolution does not guarantee funding for FY23. The other request was for two percent of the meals tax proceeds to go to a Food Equity Fund. In Fiscal Year 2020, the city collected $12.6 million from the meals tax, which would have generated just over $250,000 for this purpose. (Charlottesville’s 2020 annual report) Abi-Nader said this fund would cover infrastructure to support food equity goals.“And by infrastructure, I mean that informally, not like literally always physical things, but infrastructure support for our city to move from a foodie city to a food equity city as an overall goal,” Abi-Nader said. “There are things that go beyond what an individual nonprofit can do.” One idea is a cooperative grocery store to be located near subsidized housing. Another is to build a new community garden in a section of Washington Park.“There’s space there to sight a quarter-acre park,” Morris said. “We’re talking about 10,000 square feet which from a growing perspective that’s a space that can grow a lot of food.”Councilors did not commit to the idea at this point in the budget cycle, but there was general support for the initiative. “For the record, I really support this group,” said Vice Mayor Sena Magill. “What they are doing is amazing work and it’s greatly needed work. I know I’ve been learning from them for the last three years now.” Another issue worth continuing to track into the future. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP? The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

November 1, 2021: CAAR reports lower home sales in third quarter; Early voting statistics from across the region

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 1, 2021 15:04

Time for the first of two Patreon-fueled shout-outs: Do you suffer from Classical Music Insecurity Complex? That is, you like classical music you hear, but you feel intimidated by all the stuffy etiquette and specialized knowledge? Suffer no more!WTJU is hosting Classical Listening Parties, a series of four free, casual events on Tuesdays in November. These four events are led by Chelsea Holt, pianist, teacher, and one of WTJU’s newest and youngest classical announcers. She’ll guide you through all the eras of classical music beginning Tuesday, Nov 9th, 7 p.m.: Early & Baroque. For a list of the others, visit wtju.net to learn more and sign up! On today’s program:Development updates from Albemarle’s Pantops Community Advisory Committee including an update on transit expansion Home sales were down slightly in the third quarter of 2021 according to the Charlottesville Area Association of RealtorsStatistics on early voting in the Charlottesville areaThe Charlottesville Fire Department will deploy dronesAnd the 5th and Avon CAC gets an update on Albemarle’s future Biscuit Run ParkEarly voting resultsElection Day is tomorrow, and the time for early voting is over. While the result aren’t in, there are some significant numbers to review. In Charlottesville, 6,241 ballots were recorded in early voting. That’s according to data made available by the Virginia Public Access Project. There are 33,549 registered voters. And the rest of the area: Albemarle has 18,545 early votes recorded. There are 81,738 registered voters. Louisa has 5,170 early votes recorded. There are 28,177 registered voters. Fluvanna has 5,790 early votes recorded. There are 20,282 registered voters. Greene County has 3,442 early votes recorded. There are 14,394 registered voters. Check out the Virginia Public Access Project for a comparison of how that compares with early voting in 2017. Resources: Department of Elections page with registration statisticsVPAP Early Voting pageCAAR reportHome sales were down slightly in the region in the third quarter of 2021, but sales prices continued to increase with a median increase of 12 percent. That’s according to a report out this morning from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, which covers Albemarle, Charlottesville as well as Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties. There were 1,393 homes sold between July 1 and September 30, a four percent decrease from the same period in 2020. The median sales price was $365,000, $38,000 more than in 2020. The report notes inventory is limited. “There were 643 active listings across the CAAR footprint at the end of the third quarter, 30 percent fewer listings than this time last year,” reads the report. When looked at by jurisdiction, transactions in Charlottesville were up 28 percent with 187 residential transactions. Albemarle saw 598 sales, or a three percent increase. Sales in Louisa were down 18 percent and sales in Nelson were down 28 percent. I’ll have an anecdotal summary of Charlottesville’s transactions coming up in a future edition for paid subscribers to this newsletter. Check out September’s here. More municipal dronesThe Charlottesville Fire Department will begin to use drone aircraft in their responses to public safety calls. In a release today, the department announced that several of its employees have completed a three-day drone pilot certificate at the Piedmont Virginia Community College. “As a 21st-century all-hazards department, CFD is now prepared to implement [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] to support building inspections, firefighting operations, swift-water rescue, response to trails, and other emergencies,” reads the announcement. The next step will be to update procedures to incorporate the drones into operational policies. The department will be using DJI Mavic 2 drones which including thermal imaging cameras.You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time for a second Patreon-supporter shout-out. In today’s subscriber-supported Public Service Announcement, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards continues to offer classes and events this fall and winter to increase your awareness of our wooden neighbors and to prepare for the future. This week there is a three part class on Winter Invasive Plant Identification and Treatment. The first begins tomorrow virtually with identification. A field session will be held at Azalea Park this Saturday. Learn more at charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org. (register for Tuesday’s session) For the rest of today’s newsletter, development updates from Albemarle County. We start first with the October 25 meeting of the Pantops Community Advisory Committee. Supervisor Bea LaPisto Kirtley had the task of providing the new information, such as the next tenant for the former Malloy Ford building on the north side of U.S. 250. (Watch the CAC meeting)“The old Malloy Ford site, that is being renovated and there are permits for signs for Flow Automotive, Flow Volkswagen,” LaPisto Kirtley said. Plans for a new hotel to be built in the parking lot of the Rivanna Ridge Shopping Center have been through two sets of review.“There is an associated special use permit to remove a previous condition for a landscaped buffer where the hotel is planned for,”  LaPisto Kirley said. An additional community meeting will be held on the Overlook Hotel project in the future. Albemarle transit expansion Discover Transit Month may be over, but the input period for Albemarle County’s Transit Expansion Study is still underway. Boris Palchik is with Foursquare ITP, one of the companies hired to conduct the work.“The expansion study is meant to identify short-range opportunities to expand transit service in key population employments in the county,” Palchik said. These are the U.S. 29 north corridor, Pantops, and Monticello.  The study comes at a time when Charlottesville Area Transit is also reviewing its opportunities in the U.S. 29 north area. “While there are a lot of different ways to provide transit service and to improve transit service, each of those ways that we are considering has its own ideal operating environment and when we look at fixed-route transit service which is what CAT operates today, fixed route transit service is really dependent on density,” Palchik said.Another key factor is a functional sidewalk system that allows people to get to and from stops. Palchik said initial work in the study has reviewed existing land use patterns. Fixed-route service is recommended when there is a density of five people or five jobs per acre. Currently the north side of U.S. 250 on Pantops falls short of that threshold, but that could change in the future. The preliminary study recommends an additional fixed-route service in this area. “This additional route, additional fixed-route would serve the growing residential population up there as well as some of the key destinations like the Social Security office,” Palchik said Charlottesville Area Transit has prepared route changes which would eliminate Route 10 service on Stony Point Road. However, there is no date set for when those changes would be made. The preliminary study does not indicate who would run that service but it would require at least one additional vehicle. Another recommendation is study a demand-response service. “Demand-response-service is buses that can come to a passenger wherever they are, sort of a a point to point service that can take them to their home,” Palchik said. This can also be provided by the private sector but micro transit technology is seeking to extend that convenience with public transportation.“The main difference between Uber and Lyft and what we call micro transit in the transit industry is that micro transit has a dedicated fleet of vehicles so you have purpose-built vehicles that are designed for transit service, designed for share rides,” Palchik said. Fares on micro transit would be regulated and more predictable than the cost of private sector rides. The study recommends two vehicles to be operating at any one time. A survey to get additional input is open through November 18. There’s an English and a Spanish version. (take the survey)Biscuit Run ParkLet’s go back in time for a bit further back to the October 21, 2021 meeting of the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee. They got an update on planning for the county’s Biscuit Run Park from the Albemarle planners. The county has a long-term ground lease with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to operate and build what had been expected to be a state park. Tim Padalino is the county’s parks planner. (download his presentation)“In 2018, the final park master plan was reviewed by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing and adopted with DCR’s endorsement and blessing,” Padalino said. Currently, the park is not open to the general public. Padalino said that’s because the county does not have the staff to do the necessary maintenance.“And in terms of public safety, there’s no signage and there are no maps for a large, relatively wild and undeveloped landscape, and there’s incomplete cell phone coverage,” Padalino said. The land is mostly undeveloped, which means its serving as a piece of green infrastructure almost entirely covered by forest. “And that’s effectively a carbon sink that’s purifying the air and sequestering carbon dioxide in a way that is supporting the climate action plan,” Padalino said.Work to open the first phase is underway. That includes an entrance into a parking area off of Route 20 about 500 feet south of the southern end of Avon Street Extended. There will be a parking area and bathrooms. “It is one of the county’s top strategic plan goals as identified by the Board of Supervisors, and that’s apparent in that this is a fully-funded project through the county’s Capital Improvement Program,” Padalino said. “The budget is about $2.1 million.” Padalino said if all approvals are granted, construction of this could be completed by the end of next summer. Planning for trails is also underway. There are about nine to ten miles of existing trails. Tucker Rollins is the county’s trail maintenance supervisor. “What we’re hoping to create is a trail system that will make lots of different users happy,” Rollins said. “We’re expecting lots of hikers, trail-runners, mountain-bikers, bird-watchers, lot of native plant folks. So we’re trying to create something that will allow all of these different types of people to get in there and spread out and be happy.”Rollins said the park’s size can accommodate about 35 miles of trails while leaving lots of space to be left untouched. Parks staff has been working with the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club on a multi-use loop that would be open around the same time the parking lot opens. Planning is also under way for dedicated mountain bike trails, one of which will be funded by CAMBC.  Watch the whole 5th and Avon CAC meeting to review the whole presentation. (watch)Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 30, 2021: DRPT report states Bedford train stop won’t delay freight; a briefing on the hotel industry in Albemarle/Charlottesville  

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 30, 2021 14:38

Let’s begin today with a Patreon-fueled shout-out! Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350Should Amtraks’s Northeast Regional train make a stop in Bedford? The Charlottesville-Albemarle tourism bureau gets an update on hotel happeningsResidents of the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood will go without water on MondayMonday begins a nearly two-week total shut down of Emmet Street at Ivy Road Vaccinations are coming for children between 5 and 11 If you live in the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood in Charlottesville, be ready for a planned water outage on Monday. A contractor will be working on water infrastructure between Barracks Road and Preston Avenue. City crews will place door hangers on properties that will be affected. The shutdown will be between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.  (learn more)Monday also marks the beginning of a two-week shut down of Emmet Street at Ivy Road for the installation of a massive piece of stormwater infrastructure. Sunday is the second Halloween of the pandemic, but local health officials aren’t concerned that a return to trick-or-treating will see return of another surge.“It’s really important to recognize and understand that the outdoors in always safer than indoors and so those outdoor activities are really fantastic,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, the director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System. Dr. Sifri said people probably don’t have to disinfect any received treats, but recommended frequent hand washing. He also recommended having children avoid large indoor gatherings and wear masks indoors. Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration Approval approved the Pfizer vaccines for people between 5 and 11. More details on that roll-out will be rolled out next week. “Logistics are being worked out but there’s going to be emphasis of trying to make sure the vaccines that are offered are going to be in places that are child-friendly,” Dr. Sifri said. On Friday, the Virginia Department of Health reported a seven-day average of 1,431 new cases a day and a seven-day percent positivity rate of 5.8 percent. On October 1, that last figure was 8.8 percent. Virginia has also recorded 1,101 COVID deaths in October today. The next new metrics won’t be available until Monday morning. Tourism is one of the region’s largest industries, and the pandemic has shown just how important the sector is to the municipal bottom line. Russ Cronberg has been general manager of the Boar’s Head Resort for the past five years.  He gave a presentation on October 25 to the Board of Directors of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CACVB markets the region as a tourism destination and is funded by a portion of the transient lodging tax. “We have 3,891 hotel rooms roughly give or take a room or two in our market currently,” Cronberg said. “Our annual occupancy is around 65 percent.”Cronberg said most hotels need between 50 percent and 60 percent occupancy in order to break even, so an average of 65 percent is a sign of health.  He said in a given year, over 1.8 million people stay in hotel rooms in the area.“That is not timeshares, that’s not bed and breakfasts, it’s not our AirBnB’s,” Cronberg said. “That’s strictly just our hotel community.” In the year before the pandemic, Cronberg said hotels brought in nearly $14 million in revenue for Albemarle and around $9 million in Charlottesville. The sector is still slowly rebounding after a time when most travel stopped for a while, and the hotel industry lost millions. “Thankfully for many of the grant programs and other government funding that has helped, city funding, we’ve only lost two hotels to permanent closure but actually we have a couple more than are going to reopen,” Cronberg said. The labor shortage is affecting all sectors, including hospitality. Cronberg said the Boar’s Head over 90 job openings in September, forcing the resort to limit the number of guests. He acknowledged that low wages are part of the problem.“One thing that I’m proud of that has come out of this is that it really has opened the eyes of ownership and maybe operators to really speed up the increases in our industry,” Cronberg said. “And I think it’s a really good thing to get back to more equitable wages.”Cronberg said when he began at Boar’s Head in 2016, housekeepers were getting $8.50 an hour. That’s now been increased to $17 an hour. But to keep that going, the economy still has to make it through the pandemic.“The current COVID environment has continued to provide [difficulties] to navigate, but we in the hotel industry have continued to remain flexible with the priority of security and safety of our team as well as our guests,” Cronberg said.Cronberg said the Charlottesville will have to compete with other destinations around Virginia. “In order to do that, I really think and speaking with operators and other GMs and other hotel owners, we really have to look at the CACVB funding model. It’s not just giving the funding and saying thank you, here you go, but measuring those successes and making sure the thing we are doing are driving occupancy to our area, are driving tourism dollars into the arts and into the historical communities.” Later in the meeting, the CACVB discussed the possibility of changing the representation on the Board of Directors to include more representatives from the industry. Such a move would have to be approved by Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. Read more about that story in Allison Wrabel’s October 25, 2021 article in the Daily Progress. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement and time for a second Patreon-fueled shout-out! The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!(Want a shout-out? Check out Patreon to learn more!)*At the same time the CACVB seeks to compete with other areas within driving distance, another community along the Amtrak line between Roanoke and Washington wants in on the action as well. A group in Bedford has been lobbying for a stop on the service. This past week, officials with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation reviewed a study on whether that’s feasible and what it would cost. Emily Stock is the manager of rail planning at DRPT. “Our focus is the movement of people and goods throughout the Commonwealth and our primary areas of activity are rail, public transportation, and commuter services,” Stock said.The DRPT began funding regional service in Virginia in the late 2000’s, and the Northeast Regional Service between Lynchburg and Washington’s Union Station began in the fall of 2009. In 2014, DRPT reached agreement with Norfolk Southern to extend passenger service to Roanoke. At that time, the Bedford / Franklin Regional Rail Initiative launched. The Town of Bedford hired a consultant to produce a report in 2016, and the DRPT studied whether there would be enough ridership to support a stop. On October 25, Stock presented the latest report. (watch)“Fast forward to now and we’ve had a few years now under our belt of Roanoke service which has been very helpful to us in projecting potential ridership for Bedford also,” Stock said. But before ridership is considered, the station has to be located on a section of a track within certain parameters. “Norfolk Southern, the host freight railroad, does not allow adjacent high level platforms to their main line tracks,” Stock said. A stop in Bedford would likely be a “caretaker” station and located downtown. Two sites have seen the most study, including the site of a former train depot near the Courthouse. Stock said what would be needed. “A platform with a canopy,” Stock said. “A station building. We’d need enough room for that. Also room for parking, for rental cars, for auto and taxi pick-up drop off.” The courthouse site was dropped from consideration because an at-grade vehicular crossing would have to have been closed to address safety concerns. The alternative is located about a mile west outside of downtown Bedford. “Our cost to construct here would be almost $11 million in 2025 construction dollars and that includes a 40 percent contingency which is standard for this level of design,” Stock said. One consideration while looking at potential ridership is how close Roanoke and Lynchburg are to Bedford. One forecast has found the stop would have 25,400 ons and offs per years, but some of that would take away from nearby stations. The net new riders to the system would be 10,500 per year generated by the Bedford station. The good news for proponents of a Bedford station is that the freight hauler that owns the lines do not have technical objectives. “What we found Norfolk Southern was that they did not see any new material delay for Norfolk Southern operations as a result of a stop in Bedford which is very good news,” Stock said. The report is due to the General Assembly by November 15. Next steps will include federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act and working with the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority on a grant application for the federal funding. “Other good news is that we do expect to start an Amtrak Thruwaybus as a first step,” Stock said. “You may recall that for Roanoke there was a Thruway bus that was operating before any rail service went to Roanoke.”That Thruway service is expected to begin next spring, though a location for the stop has not yet been determined. This service will eventually be extended to Christiansburg, where work is underway to design a passenger rail station to serve the New River Valley. Thanks again for reading!Now, what about supporting the program? Town Crier Productions is open seven days a week to keep up to date with all manner of items. This is the 269th installment of this program, not counting the Week Ahead newsletters. Research is underway to bring even more information to you and the rest of the community.To cover the cost, I need funding. Subscribing through Substack is one way to support this newsletter. Another is to donate through Patreon. There are nearly 100 people who contribute through Patreon each month, making up a good portion of the revenue that supports my ability focus solely on this work. Please visit the site to learn more, and please ask me questions. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 29, 2021: Moses, Bell are biggest fundraisers in Albemarle's legislative races; elevated PFAS levels in the Chickahominy River

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 29, 2021 28:17

In today’s first subscriber supported public service announcement, one person wants you to know about another community litter cleanup event in Albemarle, this time on October 30 in the southern part of the county. The latest Love Albemarle event will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at sites in Esmont, Keene, Scottsville, and North Garden. Around fifty people showed up for a similar event in Esmont this past spring, and organizers want to double that amount. Organizer Ed Brooks is seeking to get children involved, so if you’re a parent or guardian and want to spend the morning cleaning up road-side litter, register now!On this installment of the program:More campaign finance numbers in advance of Election Day A preview of a film on Stan Brock, the founder of the Remote Access Medical CorpsThe Chickahominy River has elevated levels of forever chemicals known as PFASAnd a quick look at the wonderful world of wastewater can help track the scope of the PFAS problem Virginia flags will be at half-mast for the next 30 days to mourn the passing of former Governor Linwood Holton. Holton was elected in 1969 as the first Republican governor of the 20th Century, though he would later endorse Democratic candidates for statewide office. Holton was born in Big Stone Gap in 1923 and died at his home in Kilmarnock yesterday. (Wikipedia) While in office, Holton and his wife sent their children to public schools. Governor Ralph Northam noted that in a statement yesterday. “If you want to know what American strength looks like, look at the famous photographs of Governor Holton—smiling, as he walked his children to Richmond’s public schools during the tensest moments of desegregation,” Northam said. “He faced down Virginia’s demons and enabled this Commonwealth to look ahead.”In the most recent letter, we took a look at campaign finance for local candidates in Albemarle County, Charlottesville, and Nelson County. Election day is just a few days away. Today let’s look at House of Delegates races. Albemarle County currently has four different districts within it boundaries. Let’s start with the 25th House District, which stretches from Albemarle into Augusta and Rockingham Counties. Democrat Jennifer Kitchen is challenging incumbent Republican Chris Runion. Kitchen began the October reporting period with $108,930 on hand, raised an additional $29,673, and spent $37,189. Runion began October with $77,655, raised an additional $37,837, spent $39,320 in cash, and recorded $16,314 in in-kind donated expenses. The 57th District includes all of Charlottesville and some of Albemarle. Incumbent Democrat Sally Hudson began October with $29,158 on hand, raised $24,469, spent $7,482 in cash, and recorded $2,499 in in-kind expenses. Hudson’s Republican challenger, Philip Hamilton, began the month with $2,917 in the bank. He raised $495 and spend $1,468. The 58th District consists of eastern Albemarle, all of Greene County, and parts of Fluvanna and Rockingham counties. Incumbent Republican Rob Bell began October with $354,466 in the bank and raised $89,293 in the first three weeks of the month. Bell’s campaign spent $164,137 during the period and recorded $21,435 in expenses.  Bell’s challenger is Democrat Sara Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe began October with $14,035 in the bank and raised $48,668 in the period. She spent $28,618 in cash and marked $24,928 in in-kind expenses. Southern Albemarle is within the 59th District, which also includes portions of Appomattox, Buckingham, Nelson, and Campbell counties. Republican Matt Fariss is the incumbent and he began the month with $29,671 in the bank. His campaign raised $18,285 in the period and spent $38,201 in the first three weeks. Farris had $9,755 in the bank on October 21.His Democratic challenger Ben Moses began the month with $84,215 and raised an additional $102,505. Moses spent $76,789 in cash and recorded $61,231 in in-kind expenses. Moses has raised $603,138.01 during the campaign. (report)Independent Louis Scicli began October with $207, raised no money, and spent no money. Special thanks to the Virginia Public Access Project for their work in making this information accessible. Before the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, it would be commonplace for factories to discharge pollutants into rivers and streams without any consideration of the effect of the natural world. Nearly fifty years later, there is a system of permits and regulations in place to improve water quality. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is working with certain industries in the community to pre-treat industrial waste before effluent is released into the ecosystem. Patricia Defibaugh is the laboratory manager for the RWSA.“The purpose of this program is to protect the sewer system and wastewater treatment plants through limits on industrial waste discharges,” Defibaugh said. “This is a requirement of the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.” This is part of the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and an annual report is due to the DEQ by the end of every January. The goal is to remove as many fats, oils, greases as well as metals, nutrients, and acidity as possible by working with industries who create those waste products. “The ones we’re concerned with are the significant industrial user, and that’s either a categorial user which is metal finishing, or semiconductor manufacturers,” Defibaugh said. “Or non-categorical which discharge more than 25,000 gallons per day or had a potential to adversely affect our treatment processes.”The types of businesses of concern include restaurants, breweries, wineries, dentists, and dry cleaners. None of the breweries connected to urban water exceed the 25,000 gallon threshold. Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, said there is a program that seeks to remove cooking oil from the wastewater process. “There’s an active [fats, oil, and grease] program that goes on,” O’Connell said. “I know in our case it’s about 260 grease traps that we inspect.On the more industrial level, the RWSA has three companies that are in the pretreatment program. These are Virginia Diodes, Mikro, and Northrup Grumman. For more information on this topic, visit Henrico County’s Industrial Pretreatment Program. PFAS concernsFifty years after the Clean Water Act, there are concerns about other pollutants that are not easily seen. In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Virginia Department of Health to study the level of polyfluorinated substances in drinking water (PFAS). These are chemical byproducts of the processes used to make non-stick cooking utensils, fire-fighting foam, food packaging, and other uses They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down. The health effects are being studied. (CDC fact-sheet on PFAS). The industrial pretreatment work will be used to help identify the scope of the problem. “DEQ is going to be sending out a survey to Rivanna’s significant industrial users to confirm their use and manufacture of PFAS compounds,” Defibaugh said. Yesterday, the DEQ announced that elevated levels of PFAS have been found in the Chickahominy River. They found out from a report from the Newport News Waterworks (NNWW) and now the DEQ will work with the VDH to further study the issue.  “NNWW is continuing to monitor source waters in coordination with state agencies and has assured residents that the water it provides to its customers is safe to drink and has consistently shown PFAS levels well below the lifetime health advisory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” reads the press release. Last week, the EPA announced a national strategy will be undertaken to confront the PFAS problem. “EPA’s Roadmap is centered on three guiding strategies: Increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination,” reads a press release from that initiative. Next up, a quick Patreon-fueled shout-out!Fall is here, and with it, more moderate temperatures. While your HVAC takes a break, now is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!The 34th Annual Virginia Film Festival is underway today and runs through Sunday, Halloween. In all there are dozens of films being screened in Downtown Charlottesville and at other various locations. Some of the films provide glimpses into topics of things that may not be working. One of those is Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story, a documentary about one person's attempt to bring healthcare to various places across the United States of America where regular care is hard to come by. Brock is a British-born adventurer who founded Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit that holds pop-up free clinics in remote places across the world. Earlier this week I spoke with Paul Michael Angell, the director of the documentary which screens this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Violet Crown.  Take a listen to the podcast version to hear the interview. Or, take a look at the video interview on YouTube. Do sign up for the podcast on Spotify, Apple Music, Audible, Amazon, or however you get your podcasts! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 26, 2021: PVCC extends free tuition program to spring semester; last campaign finance reports before Election Day

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 26, 2021 18:32

Let’s begin today with two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. One person wants you to know "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one brand new Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!On today’s show:The latest campaign finance reports are out a week before Election Day in VirginiaArea planning and housing directors provide updates on projects across the region Charlottesville’s seeking a firm to help with financial advice related to long-term debtAnd Piedmont Virginia Community College is extending a tuition assistance program We’ll begin today with a quick update from three newsletters ago. On Saturday’s program, I wrote about the suspicious package found Friday night by the federal courthouse. The Virginia State Police bomb squad was called and the item was deemed to be no threat to public safety. Over the weekend, city communications director Brian Wheeler confirmed to the Daily Progress that the suspected threat was a “personal item.” (article)Jury selection began yesterday in the Sines v. Kessler trial, as well as the defeat of a motion from defendant Christopher Cantwell to sever himself from the case. Cantwell is representing himself in the civil rights suit which seeks damages and an injunction on further events such as the Unite the Right Rally from August 12, 2017. Read Tyler Hammel’s coverage in the Daily Progress to keep up to date. (Day 1 coverage)Last campaign finance report before the electionElection Day is one week away and the latest campaign finance reports have been submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections.CharlottesvilleIn the Charlottesville Council race, Democrat Brian Pinkston began October with $14,400 and raised only $25 in contributions. He loaned himself $1,815 and spent $1,816 in the period leaving a balance very similar to where he started. Pinkston has raised $111,122 in the campaign (info). Ticket mate Juandiego Wade began the month with $15,201 on hand and raised an additional $140. He spent $175 leaving a balance also similar to where he started. Wade has raised $81,375 this cycle. (info)Independent Yas Washington raised no money and spent no money and had a balance of zero on October 21. She’s raised and spent a total of $415 in the election cycle. (info)Albemarle County None of the Supervisors races in Albemarle County are contested, but there was campaign finance activity. Jack Jouett incumbent Diantha McKeel raised an additional $100, spent $6,473, and had a balance of $22,815 on October 21. (VPAP)Rio District Incumbent Ned Gallaway raised no money and spent $3 on parking in downtown Charlottesville according to his campaign finance report. Gallaway began the 2021 campaign with $7,293 on-hand and has raised $10,150 in total this year. He had an ending balance of $14,086 on October 21, 2021. (info)Newcomer Jim Andrews raised no additional money in the first three weeks of October, spent $2,503, and had a balance of $19,281 on October 21. Andrews has raised a total of $38,117 in the campaign cycle. Nelson County There are two contested races for the five-seat Board of Supervisors in Nelson County. Democrat incumbent Ernie Reed faces a challenger in Republican Pam Brice. Reed began October with a balance of $10,965 and raised an additional $275. He spent no money during the period. (info)Brice began October with a balance of $2,430, raised an additional $325, and spent $1,316 in the first three weeks of the tenth month. She had an ending balance of $1,439. (info)In Nelson’s North District, incumbent independent Thomas D. Harvey has been in office since 1984 and is being challenged by Democrat Mary Cunningham.  No online records of Harvey’s campaign finance reports are available. He’s filed an exemption from reporting requirements, according to Nelson County Registrar Jacqueline Britt. Cunningham began October with $1,450 on hand and received $550 in contributions. Her campaign spent $420 and finished this reporting period with $1,580 on hand. Cunningham has raised a total of $7,132 this year. (info)More from this cycle of campaign reports in the next installment of the program. Routine advice wanted for city bondsCharlottesville has issued a routine request for proposals for a firm to provide advice with financial services related to the city’s capital improvement program as well as the issuance and administration of debt. The city’s request details the city’s existing $207 million in outstanding debt which includes a total of $17.8 million in debt service for the current fiscal year. (read the RFP)Charlottesville sells municipal bonds each spring for the CIP as well as four utilities that are all separate accounts. This year the city issued $20.8 million in bonds, $8.22 million of which is for new debt. The city has held a AAA bond rating from Standards and Poor’s since 1964 and a AAA bond rating from Moody’s since 1973. The RFP comes at a time when the city is anticipating sharp increases in capital spending to pay for $75 million in upgrades at Buford Middle School as well as a $10 million a year commitment to affordable housing projects. In September, Council signaled to budget staff that they no longer want to pursue local funding for the West Main Streetscape, a multi-phase project that also included funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Council was told in September that the additional spending will require additional tax resources. Assistance extendedPiedmont Virginia Community College announced this morning that a  tuition assistance program will be extended into the spring semester. The PVCC4U 100%! initiative covers one hundred percent of tuition and fees for qualifying students.“During the current fall semester, the PVCC4U. 100%! program has made it possible for 431 students to receive $508,842 in additional funding to cover the full cost of their tuition and fees,” reads a press release. “For the full academic year, PVCC estimates $1.4 million in funding for over 700 students.”To be eligible, participants must be a Virginia resident, go through the financial aid process, and have a household income of less than $100,000 a year. Alternatively, the student could have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19. The student must also enroll in at least six credit hours. Learn more and apply at the PVCC4U 100% page. Albemarle building efficiencyFinally in our news round-up, a correction. In the last newsletter, I identified Albemarle Deputy County Executive Doug Walker under an incorrect title. To make it up, why not a quick soundbite from Mr. Walker in which he highlights an item from the recent report from the county’s Facilities and Environmental Services Department. (read the report)“I want to draw your attention specifically tonight today to the energy management program update which includes a report on the very real and meaningful savings the county has been able to realize in building operations through this program which tracks and optimizes energy consumption in your buildings,” Walker said.Energy consumption at the Scottsville Community Center, the Crozet Library, and Northside Library has been reduced to 25 percent of FY2017’s figures due to the program.“At Crozet Library the issue had been a missing sensor in the building,” Walker said. “In Scottsville there were relatively minor repairs needed and operational adjustments made. And at Northside, programming adjustments helped to realize those savings.” Walker said in addition to saving money, these reductions will also help Albemarle meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. In today’s second Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership was created by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District to serve as a regional clearinghouse for issues related to places to live. Last week, the partnership held the first in a series of fall and winter seminars on the topic which held up to that spirit. (watch the video)Representatives from four localities gave their perspective, including Alex Ikefuna, the former city planning director who is now the interim director of the Office of Community Solutions. “Local action alone is not going to be enough to address the affordable housing crisis so there is an outlook now that regional cooperation, partnership, and collaboration is going to be a critical component of addressing the affordable housing,” Ikefuna said. Jim Frydl is the planning director and zoning administrator for Greene County and he said the partnership’s assistance has been helpful.“We’re in the process of developing and refining our Comprehensive Plan and the public input and the support and the networking and the data from the Regional Housing Study that we have received are all invaluable as planning tools going forward,” Frydl said. Frydl referred to the Planning for Affordability report, adopted by the TPDC in August. The report has a chapter for each of the six localities in the planning district.“As a region, we’re tied together economically which means people commuting back and forth between jobs,” Frydl said. “The housing issue is a regional issue because affordability in Charlottesville impacts Fluvanna and impacts Greene and vice versa.”Frydl said between 700 and 800 housing units will come on line in Greene within the next year. “It’s a mixture of market rate apartments, senior-restricted apartments, independent living apartments, townhomes,” Frydl said. “There’s a lot more multifamily or missing middle housing that Greene County hasn’t had in the past.” The partnership also provides potential for dialog between communities of shared interest such as the urban ring around Charlottesville. Stacy Pethia is Albemarle’s Housing Policy Manager. “Often those conversations have been disconnected so this is a great way to bring everyone to to the same table,” Pethia said. Douglas Miles has been the director of Community Development in Fluvanna County since the summer of 2019. Fluvanna is also undergoing a Comprehensive Plan update to plan for places to live.  ‘We’re about 96 or 97 percent single-family housing here and we have projects that are coming on board now such as Colonial Circle with 124 apartments, things like that,” Miles said. “We’re entering kind of this new era for us which is great for getting affordable workforce house type requests.”Colonial Circle is at the corner of Route 53 and Lake Monticello and also includes single family homes. The apartments are being built by Pinnacle Construction and will be targeted at households making between 50 percent and 70 percent of area median income. “This proposed development will be very similar to Brookdale in Albemarle, so that’s the model and that’s the style of the apartments with the clubhouse and the pool and the [recreational] areas,” Miles said.A performance agreement will be worked out with the Fluvanna Economic Development Authority, the developers, and the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors. Fluvanna and Louisa also share the Zion Crosswords growth area and Miles said that area will become residentially dense as water and sewer service is connected. Ikefuna said Charlottesville is ground zero for affordable housing, and many projects are underway. “We got a massive redevelopment initiative by the housing authority, a wholesale renovation of Crescent Halls which is about 100 units plus,” Ikefuna said. According to an October 21 update from CRHA Redevelopment Coordinator Brandon Collins, the waterline break from this past June has altered the construction schedule. All residents will eventually be moved out of the building and into other housing covered through vouchers for the duration of construction. Read the update for more info on public housing construction, which is being backed by millions in city taxpayer funds. The current five-year Capital  Improvement Program anticipates $13.5 million in funding. (report)City taxpayers are also helping finance the Piedmont Housing Alliance’s redevelopment of Friendship Court.  “That is a massive project,” Ikefunda said. “Four phases. At build out you will be looking at between 450 and 480 units.” The current CIP budget anticipates $15.9 million in taxpayer funds for all four phases. Construction has not yet been scheduled for the first phase. Ikefuna said the draft Comprehensive Plan seeks to increase residential density by allowing more units on individual lots. The extent of how many and where will be up to the rewrite of the zoning ordinance as well as development of an inclusionary zoning policy.“We’re expecting that it’s going to be done early next year and that will help with the rewriting of the zoning ordinance,” Ikefuna said. City Council is expected to have a first reading of the ordinance on November 15. The full video for the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership meeting can be viewed on YouTube. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So that’s pretty cool, right? This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 25, 2021: Jaunt misreported ridership numbers, owes money back to state of Virginia; Home to Hope program honored

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 25, 2021 14:32

Let’s begin with a Patreon-fueled shout-out!Fall is here, and with it, more moderate temperatures. While your HVAC takes a break, now is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s program:A review of economic development efforts in Albemarle County Jaunt owes the state of Virginia nearly a million for false ridership numbersCharlottesville’s Home to Hope program gains national recognition A closed-door group of planners gets several interesting presentations related to climate adaptation Let’s begin with a quick look at COVID cases in Virginia coming out of the weekend. The seven-day average of new cases has dropped to 1,545 as of this morning, with 943 reported by the Virginia Department of Health. The percent positivity has fallen to 6.3 percent. That figure was 8.8 percent on October 1. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 50 cases and the percent positivity is 5.7 percent. The district will hold a town hall meeting Wednesday on COVID vaccinations for children between the age of 5 and 11. Approvals are pending. (Facebook link)Employees at the University of Virginia will be required to be vaccinated by December 8. That’s according to a Cavalier Daily article. Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis set an email to staff Thursday notifying the requirement is necessary to comply with federal regulations. The article states UVa’s vaccination rate was 95 percent as of Thursday. Home to Hope honoredAn international group that promotes excellence in local government has honored a new Charlottesville program created to help formerly incarcerated people return to society. The International City/County Management Association honored the Home to Hope Program, which was proposed by Mayor Nikuyah Walker in 2018 to provide support to a vulnerable demographic.Four full-time employees serve as peer navigators to help people find employment, housing, and reliable transportation. According to a write-up in the ICMA’s latest newsletter, the program has served 389 individuals.“Of the 389 enrollees, only seven have returned to custody, and only three of those were actively involved in the program,” reads the article on page 34 of the newsletter. “That represents a recidivism rate of 1.8 percent, well below the 38 percent across the region.” The honor is part of ICMA’s Program Excellence awards under the Community Sustainability section. (read more)LUEPC meetingA routine closed-door meeting of key planning officials in Albemarle, Charlottesville, and University of Virginia was held last week on October 15. The Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee (LUEPC) had four presentations on items related to climate adaptation.Paul Zmick, Director of Energy and Utilities at UVA, gave a presentation on the school’s efforts to develop a strategy for thermal energy use. That’s one way UVA hopes to become fossil-free by the year 2050. A recent study evaluated dozens of potential ways to reduce reliance on old technology. Some strategies are recommended to be dropped from further analysis such as solar thermal, biomass, and deep geothermal. (presentation)Lance Stewart, the county’s director of facilities and environmental services, gave a presentation on the recent publication of the 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory. That tool will be the primary way Albemarle measures its programs toward emissions reduction goals. The next milestone is to reach 45 percent of 2008 levels by 2030. (presentation)“Emissions estimated to have decreased by nearly 10% between 2008 and 2018,” reads one slide in the presentation. “To achieve the County’s 2030 target, we need to reduce emissions by 39 percent from 2018.”The presentation also states that the effectiveness of the Albemarle’s Climate Action Plan won’t be known until after the 2022 inventory is published in 2024. Bill Mawyer of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority briefed LUEPC on a program to recover methane gas that is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process. The Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant generates 32 million cubic feet of methane each year that is captured as biogas and used internally in plant operations to produce biosolids which are shipped to Waverly, Virginia for eventual use as fertilizers. (presentation)Albemarle County’s Bill Fritz gave a presentation on “Large Scale Solar opportunities being studied and deployed for Albemarle County.” That is the only of the fourth that was not posted to the LUEPC website.  Jaunt audit The transit agency Jaunt owes the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation nearly a million dollars due to alleged misreporting of ridership figures by former CEO Brad Sheffield. Sheffield resigned last November after the Jaunt Board requested his departure. The Daily Progress first reported from an October 6 letter from DRPT officials regarding a review of Jaunt’s financial report for fiscal year 2020.“The findings of this review are troubling and indicate a pattern of misinformation and inaccurate reporting by JAUNT leadership that resulted in the over-allocation of state and federal resources to Jaunt from FY19 to FY22,” reads the letter from DRPT director Jennifer Mitchell.In 2019, DRPT moved to a system where funding was based on performance. The audit compared reported numbers to Jaunt’s scheduling software and found that overall ridership was overstated by 19 percent in FY19. The total amount overpaid to Jaunt was $968,640 and allocations for the current fiscal year will be reduced. The DRPT has also canceled the capital purchase of 23 vehicles. The DRPT will also require Jaunt to provide a new transit development plan. Read Allison Wrabel’s story in the Daily Progress for more context. *In today’s second subscriber supported Public Service Announcement, one person wants you to know about another community litter cleanup event in Albemarle, this time on October 30 in the southern part of the county. The latest Love Albemarle event will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at sites in Esmont, Keene, Scottsville, and North Garden. Around fifty people showed up for a similar event in Esmont this past spring, and organizers want to double that amount. Organizer Ed Brooks is seeking to get children involved, so if you’re a parent or guardian and want to spend the morning cleaning up road-side litter, register today! *For the rest of the show today, we take a look back at highlights from the Albemarle Board of Supervisors from the last week. Let’s start with an update on Project Enable, the county’s strategic plan for economic development. The Albemarle Economic Development Authority administers grant and bond programs that seek to encourage businesses to expand in Albemarle or to locate their operations there. On October 19, 2021, the seven-member EDA Board of Directors formally authorized their role in a performance agreement for the firm Bonumose to open a demonstration facility in the former State Farm Building. That came at a joint meeting with the six elected members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. Doug Walker is the Deputy County Executive. “These two bodies work in collaboration with each other,” Walker said. “They are considering the same projects, the same agreements, and they do them in concert with each other.” Many of these discussions are held in closed session, as a provision in Virginia’s open meeting rules allows for the public to be excluded from conversations where “Discussion concerning a prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made of the business' or industry's interest in locating or expanding its facilities in the community.” (Virginia code)These packages are often given code names and Walker said the following represent exceed $136 million in private investment which then enters the local economy. “Turtle. Daffodil. Macintosh. Proton. Patriot. Bronco. 49ers,” Walker said. “Those projects are actually Woolen Mills, WillowTree, Potter’s Craft Cider. Afton Scientific. Barnes’ Lumber. Castle Hill Gaming. Albemarle Business Campus.”Walker said those projects have resulted in nearly 600 new jobs in Albemarle. Another key performance agreement is one with Habitat for Humanity for the provision of affordable housing units at Southwood, as well as one with Pinnacle Construction for the Brookdale apartment complex off of Old Lynchburg Road. “And then there are other active pending projects that we can’t talk about by name but we can talk about by code,” Walker said. “Project Gadget, Project Puma, Project Baja, just illustrating that the work continues.” The EDA also works to help build infrastructure to help industrial sites more accessible and attractive. The University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork Research Park is considered a Tier 4 site by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Recently the Foundation paid to extend Lewis and Clark Drive to Airport Road in order to provide an additional entrance. (go look!) “It’s the county’s only tier 4 site so the Foundation provided more than $6 million toward that infrastructure improvement,” said J.T. Newberry in the Economic Development Office. Newberry said the economic development office is working with the Foundation to elevate the North Fork park to a Tier 5 site. He also said the firm Kimley-Horn will provide a long-awaited study for the county as part of the Comprehensive Plan update. “A long desired piece of information for us is an inventory of our commercial and industrial properties,” Newberry said. Watch the rest of the video to see the whole presentation on the Board of Supervisors’ website. (watch)Supervisors also met on Wednesday, October 20, for a full meeting. At the very beginning, Chair Ned Gallaway said he recently attended a meeting earlier this month welcoming more than 250 families from Afghanistan to the area. The International Rescue Committee is seeking assistance from the community. “Things like if you’re a landlord or somebody that has housing or space available, to contact the IRC, the International Rescue Committee to help,” Gallaway said. “Employers in the area, helping these folks find employment. And then obviously just assisting with the transition, just navigating simple things like how to get around the community can be daunting coming out of a very stressful and traumatic experience for these folks.” Visit the Welcoming Greater Charlottesville page to learn more about how you can help.  Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 23, 2021: Mixed-use building planned for Broadway Blueprint area, and other Albemarle development updates

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 23, 2021 13:52


In today’s first subscriber supported Public Service Announcement, one person wants you to know about another community litter cleanup event in Albemarle, this time on October 30 in the southern part of the county. The latest Love Albemarle event will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at sites in Esmont, Keene, Scottsville, and North Garden. Around fifty people showed up for a similar event in Esmont this past spring, and organizers want to double that amount. Organizer Ed Brooks is seeking to get children involved, so if you’re a parent or guardian and want to spend the morning cleaning up road-side litter, register today! On this edition of the program:A host of development updates in Albemarle County, including a mixed-use development in the Broadway BlueprintThe Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association releases its annual awardsEmmet Street at Ivy Road to be closed for nearly two weeks for stormwater projectChris Greene Lake reopens to dogs after a month’s closureA suspicious item is found at Charlottesville’s federal courtFire crews and police officers responded last night to reports of a suspicious item at the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Charlottesville, but the item was determined by the Virginia State Police to be of no threat. The area was closed from 6:45 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m. according to a release from the city’s communications office.The incident comes just three days before a trial gets underway in the federal cases against multiple organizers involved in the August 12 Unite the Right rally. The lawsuit was filed four years ago and seeks damages based on an 1871 civil rights law as well as a prevention of future rallies. Defendants include Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, and Christopher Cantwell, among others. The trial begins Monday morning. (read more in the University of Michigan’s Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse)The water at Chris Greene Lake Park has been reopened to dogs and people. Albemarle issued an advisory in late September after tests reported elevated levels of harmful algae. There have been two consecutive tests which have indicated water quality has returned to normal levels. A release announcing the reopening went out Friday afternoon. Emmet Street will be fully closed between Ivy Road and Rothery Road for nearly two weeks between November 1 and November 12. Traffic will be detoured along Massie Road and Copeley Road. According to a release, the roadway will be shut to allow for installation of a large stormwater utility structure across Emmet Street. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and transit-riders are warned of potential delays. “Please expect traffic backups along the detour route and if possible, utilize Rt 250 or other city streets to bypass the area,” reads the release. “Pedestrians will be detoured through the UVA site along the parking garage service road.” The school superintendent in Nelson County has announced she will step down next June 30. The Lynchburg News Advance reports that Martha Eagle has plans to retire after a 32-year career in the Nelson school system. Nelson County has 1,520 students and more than 300 employees. (read the article)The Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association has released its awards for 2021 at a hybrid conference in Roanoke. Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-6) received the Cardinal Award for his role as a legislator, singling out key pieces of legislation that were signed into law in the from the past year.SB1350: Requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board to incorporate resiliency into project selection processSB1374: Establishes a carbon sequestration task force which must report before 2022 General Assembly  SB1389: Requires landowners whose properties are prone to flooding to report that risk to potential buyersSB1404: Adjustments to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to clarify intent to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous reduction Fairfax County won the Commonwealth Plan of the year for its Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, which cut the length of those regulations in half.“The new streamlined ordinance is half the size of the previous Ordinance from 1978, which was accomplished through elimination of repetition and use of easy-to-understand language, graphics, and figures,” reads the award’s write-up.The city of Norfolk won three awards for three projects. OpenNorfolk is an initiative that helped businesses connect with customers during the pandemic. Norfolk also created a Missing Middle Pattern Book to explain how additional density could be achieved in single-family neighborhoods. The Norfolk Thrive plan presents a vision for how to extend urban development in the coastal city from the Harbor Park ballpark to Norfolk State University. The latter won the APA’s Resilient Virginia Community of the Year. Other awards include:Williamsburg Planning Director Carolyn Murphy won the Outstanding Service AwardThe Edge District between York County, James City County, and the City of Williamsburg won the Holzheimer Economic Development Award Frederick County won the Commonwealth Connectors Award and planner John Bishop won the Outstanding Service Award for the Crossover Boulevard project, which is a new four-lane roadway in WinchesterIn today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!Time now for a round up of various developments in Albemarle County. Developer Alan Cadgene has filed plans with Albemarle County for a mixed-use development to be built on a 1.36 acre property just to the northwest of the redeveloped Woolen Mills factory. The proposal is for a 2,500 square foot manufacturing buildings with 13 dwelling units. The project is being submitted by-right. “[That] means that if the proposed plans meet the minimum requirements of the county’s zoning, site plan, or subdivision ordinances, they must be approved,” reads the public notification for the project.The county’s Comprehensive Plan designates the land as Neighborhood Density Residential which calls for between three and six units per acre. According to the project application, the residential density on the site be 9.55 units per acre. An existing structure on the property would remain. This is within the scope of the county’s Broadway Blueprint planning area. That’s being run by the county’s Economic Development Office. Elsewhere in the county, plans have been filed for 250 units along Rio Road near Four Seasons. Andy Reitelbach is a senior planner with the county. “So the application is called the Heritage on Rio,” Retelbach said.The property is within the jurisdiction of the Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee, which had a community meeting on a rezoning application for the project on October 18. “Sometimes the current zoning and the future land use designation do not always line up so that is one reason why a property owner may choose to request a rezoning of their property,” Reitelbach said. In this case, the request is to go from R-6 zoning to a customized zone known as a Planned Residential Development. That would allow up to 35 units per acre as well as some commercial uses. The buildings have not been designed, according to attorney Valerie Long with the firm Williams Mullen. The Architectural Review Board will also weigh in on the project as Rio Road is an entrance corridor. “The project is proposing that 15 percent of the rezoned units will be affordable to those making up to 80 percent of the area median income,” Long said. By-right there could be 50 units on the property, so that translates to 15 percent of 200, or 30 units. The Places29-North Community Advisory Committee met on October 14 and one topic was an update on the Brookhill development south of Forest Lakes and north of Polo Grounds Road. Cameron Langille is another planner in Albemarle. (watch the meeting)“Brookhill was rezoned by the Board of Supervisors in 2016,” Langille said. “Brookhill totals 277.5 acres so it is a pretty large project. It’s going to be developed in multiple phases and the rezoning referred to each of those phases as blocks.”Brookhill is a mixed-use development that must have at least 552 residential units and a maximum of 1,550 units. These include apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes. Langille said the developer could have constructed many more under the Comprehensive Plan but opted to go at a lower density. Final approval so far has been granted for 535 total dwelling unitsBlock 1 is the center of the development. “There’s going to be also a public park and a plaza gathering area, and that is going to be the primary focal point for non-residential uses in this project,” Langille said. Some blocks have been approved and constructed, while others are working their way through the review process. Block 8A consists of a 179-bed assisted living facility which is nearing opening. Block 1A and Block 8B consist of multifamily units that look like townhomes but contain more units. A site plan had been submitted for a hockey rink in the town center. “That plan got to the final site plan stage which is basically the last thing they have to do application wise before they get final approval,” Langille said. “We were reviewing that back in 2018 and from what the developer has told me it’s not going to be build in that block any longer. They are still working with the folks who are looking to do that ice rink and they are potentially going to relocate it a little further north on the north side of the town center area.”Allison Wrabel of the Daily Progress reported in February 2020 that the park had been delayed. A group called Friends of the Charlottesville Ice Park had been fundraising for the project. The website for the group has expired. Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown MallAdditionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


October 22, 2021: Contraline gets $10.7 million in funding; Lovingston to get a brewery

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 22, 2021 13:20

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, are you interested in picking up some new fibrous friends? On Saturday, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library invites you to Gordon Avenue for a front porch plant swap. Bring a healthy plant or a cutting on October 23 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and exchange it for another in an event that also includes a selection of plant-related library resources, including plant care cards with QR codes to help your new friend develop deep roots. That’s the Front Porch Plant Swap at the Gordon Avenue branch of the library. Visit jmrl.org to learn more. On today’s show:A company that wants to take a shot at a male contraceptive gets a shot of fundingBoosters are authorized for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson VaccineRegional updates from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission including information about broadband expansion Ground is broken for the School of Data Science at the University of Virginia It’s been a few days since a newsletter, so let’s catch up first on today’s COVID numbers. The September surge is now in the past with new case numbers continuing to decline in Virginia. The seven-day average is currently 1,688 new cases a day. Compare that to 3,486 a day as registered on September 22. The seven day percent positivity has declined to 6.5 percent. In the Blue Ridge Health District there are another 50 new cases reported today.  The percent positivity is 5.5 percent. Though numbers are currently on a downward trend, that may not remain the case. “We’re all hopeful that we’re on the back side of this Delta wave right now,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia. “I think we also do recognize that we’re heading into colder drier times right now and that we’re going into to respiratory virus season, the so-called cold and flu season, and cold, flu, and maybe COVID season.”Dr. Sifri said people need to continue to keep their guard up against community spread by continuing to wear masks, to wash hands, and all of the preventative measures that have been recommended over the course of the pandemic. This week, the Centers for Disease Control cleared the way for booster shots of the Modern and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines. The Moderna third dose is for people over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions.“For Moderna it’s similar to the Pfizer dose, it would be a third dose,” Dr. Sifri said. “For both the Pfizer and the Moderna, the booster eligibility is six months after the completion of your primary series, that initial two dose series. There is a difference in the dose for the booster dose for the Moderna vaccine. It’s a half dose compared to what was used for the primary series.”The Johnson and Johnson booster is a second dose that Dr. Sifri said will be available for anyone over the age of 18, regardless of underlying health conditions. “I can tell you here at UVA and I’m sure at the Blue Ridge Health District as well and local pharmacies, we are gearing up to provide those vaccines through local resources,” Dr. Sifri said. A Charlottesville-based company that wants to bring a male contraceptive to market recently announced the securing of $10.7 million in new capital financing. Contraline will use the funding to begin a human trial of ADAM™ , a hydrogel implant. “The ADAM hydrogel is injected into the vas deferens through a quick and minimally invasive outpatient procedure, where it’s designed to block the flow of sperm,” reads a press release making the announcement. The trial will take place in Melbourne, Australia and has been sanctioned by the Human Research Ethics Committee there. The press releases states this is the first human trial for a male contraceptive in a couple of decades. (Hat tip to the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council!)Ground has been broken for construction of the new School of Data Science at the University of Virginia. According to UVA Today, officials marked the occasion with a ceremony Thursday. The new building is within the 14 acre Emmet / Ivy corridor, which will also include a hotel and conference center as well as other uses that have not yet been announced. The school is being funded in part through a $120 million gift to UVA from the Quantitative Foundation and Merrill and Jaffrey Woodriff. Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350This week, Governor Ralph Northam’s press office sent out a message announcing that Virginia’s government and the private sector have teamed up on over $2 billion in investments in broadband. The goal is to have the state on track to have universal broadband access by 2024.  The work is coordinated through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, or VATI. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has made one of 57 applications from across Virginia for $943 million in available funding in the latest round of VATI funding, Those applications will leverage $1.15 billion in private funding. The program is run by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. “These applications are all posted online so other services providers are able to see those applications to see what the projected service areas to be covered are and if they believe that they already have service or provide the opportunity for service in a particular area, then they can indicate they want to challenge the application or that portion of the application,” said David Blount, deputy director and legislative liaison at the TJPDC. Challenges are due October 24. The TJPDC’s application is part of the Regional Internet Service Expansion project, or RISE. The private aspect is Firefly Fiber Broadband, Dominion, and several electric cooperatives. The public aspect includes thirteen counties as far south as Campbell County south of Lynchburg. (read the application)TJPDC’s request is for $85.9 million for a $307.8 million project. Localities have put up $35.3 million in local matching funds. “The application proposes putting 4,300 miles of fiber either in the air or underground passing over 40,000 total locations,” Blount said. Blount said TJPDC’s role would be to administer the project. He made his comments at the October 4, 2021 meeting of the TJPDC’s Board of Commissioners. At the same meeting, Dale Herring of the Greene Board of Supervisors reported that short-term rentals are no longer allowed in that county’s residential districts. “Unfortunately or fortunately depending on which side of the fence you are on, that was voted down after about three years,” Herring said. “It turned out that a lot of investors were beginning to buy properties in R-1 zoning and that definitely created an issue for the homeowners in those areas.” The TJPDC meetings always include a roundtable where representatives from the different localities are able to give updates on what’s happening. Tommy Barlow is on the Louisa County Board of Supervisors. “It looks like to me that every meeting we are dealing with mid-year appropriations that weren’t expected such as Sheriff’s Department raises to keep up with other counties,” Barlow said. “We just lost our deputy county administrator so we’re looking to hire another one.”Employment was also on the mind of Albemarle Supervisor Donna Price, who said a thorough review of compensation will soon get underway. “We are facing loss of some critical people primarily because of compensation packages from other governmental entities that are extremely difficult for us to match,” Price said. “I would just as one Supervisor speaking anticipate that we’re going to have to put some more money into our labor expenses in the county in order to avoid losing some of our better people.” Tony O’Brien is on the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors. He agreed that the cost of paying people to do government work is increasing.“Because Louisa raised their pay rate for the Sheriff’s office, Fluvanna had to follow in turn, too,” O’Brien said. “Obviously Sheriff’s compensation and deputy’s compensation is an issue for many many counties as recruitment is increasingly difficult.” O’Brien suggested a regional compensation study be conducted. As part of her report, TJPDC Executive Director Christine Jacobs reminded the board that City Council has extended its local COVID emergency due to a high number of cases. “How that affects us here is that we will continue to hold our public bodies, partnerships, and commissions virtually to ensure that we are keeping it as safe as possible for people,” Jacobs said. The chair of the TJPDC is Jesse Rutherford of Nelson County. Rutherford said Nelson is considering a recreation center and a business park, among other things. He also had this news. “I’m excited to announce Lovingston is getting its brewery here soon after our vote on Tuesday,” Rutherford said. According to the Lynchburg News Advance, supervisors voted unanimously on October 12 for a special use permit for the Outback Brew House to operate at the site of a former church on U.S. 29. Rutherford told the News Advance that this may begin to alleviate pressure on Route 151, which has seen multiple alcohol related businesses spring up over the years. Outback Brew House will be a microbrewery. Special announcement! Today’s the third day of a new promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 19, 2021: Council balks at $850K cost for Stribling sidewalks; more funding available for clean-fuel buses

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 19, 2021 13:40

In the first of three Patreon-fueled shout-outs:Fall is here, and with it, more moderate temperatures. While your HVAC takes a break, now is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show:A quick update on campaign finance in Albemarle and CharlottesvilleCharlottesville City Council gets an update on sidewalks at Stribling AvenueMore funding is available for Virginia school systems to begin to replace their bus fleets with cleaner vehiclesLet’s begin with a quick COVID update and the continuing downward trend. The Virginia Department of Health reports 1,617 new cases today, and the seven-day average for new cases has dropped to 1,983. On October 1, those numbers were 2,552 and 2,780 respectively. Since October 1, there have been 732 deaths reported. The percent positivity has dropped to 6.8 percent, down from 9.1 on September 30. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 66 new cases reported today, This afternoon, the district announced changes to COVID tests they offer. Specifically, you can now register for a PCR test on the BRHD website. Antibody tests are not available for this service, which takes place at various places. (link)*The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has announced $10 million in grant funding for school systems to use to purchase replacements for diesel school buses. The money comes from Virginia’s share of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, a result of that company’s lying about the emissions ratings of their vehicles. In August, the DEQ announced the award of $10 million to 19 school districts, allowing for the replacement of 83 buses including two in Albemarle.This time around, localities can apply for either $300,000 for each electric bus and its charging infrastructure, as well as $15,000 for every propane bus. DEQ will hold webinars on October 26 and November 4. Applications are due February 1. Campaign finance reports for SeptemberThe latest deadline for campaign finance reports from candidates in Virginia were due Friday, and the results are in. None of Albemarle County’s three candidates for three seats the Board of Supervisors raised no funds between September 1 and September 30. All three races are uncontested, including newcomer Jim Andrews for the Samuel Miller District. The two Democrats in the Charlottesville continued to raise funds. According to data pulled together by the Virginia Public Access Project, Brian Pinkston raised an additional $20,589 in September with 26 contributions of over $100 including $2,500 from the Realtors Political Action Committee of Virginia. Pinkston spent $23,437 in September and had $14,399 on hand as the month concluded. Pinkston has raised $109,280, a record amount for a City Council campaign. (details on VPAP)Juandiego Wade raised an additional $14,636 in September, including a $4,500 check from the Realtors Political Action Committee of Virginia. That was among 29 contributions over $100. Wade spent $8,019 in the period and had a balance of $15,201 at the end of the month. Wade has raised a total of $96,400. (details on VPAP)Independent Yas Washington raised $100, spent $100, and ended the month with no money on hand.  (details on VPAP)Campaign finance reports are also required for School Board candidates. There are five candidates seeking three seats in Charlottesville. Let’s start with the three newcomers. Christa Bennett began September with $2,575.79, raised $60 in new funds, spent $611.67, and ended the reporting period with $2,024.12. (report)Emily Dooley began the period with $9,112,60, raised $2,375 in new funds, spent $903.40, and finished the month with $10,584.20. (report)Dom Morse started September with $5,342.32 in the bank, raised $1,783.35, spent $3,519.60, and concluded the reporting period with $3,606.07 in the bank. (report)Now the two incumbents. Leah Puryear had no campaign funds at hand on September 1, but raised $1,375 during the period. Her campaign spent $821.46 and had $553.54 on September 30. (report)Lisa Larson-Torres had $3,345.47 on hand at the beginning of the month, raised $50, spent $1,099.86, and had a balance of $2,295.61. Three of Albemarle’s magisterial districts have School Board races this year, and the at-large seat is not one of them. Unlike the Board of Supervisors, there are seven seats for the School Board. In the Rio District, Kristin Callsen is running unopposed. In the Jack Jouett District, Kate Acuff is running unopposed.In the Samuel Miller District, Graham Paige is running unopposed on the ballot, but there is a write-in candidate. Randy Zackrisson began September with $9,349.81 on hand and raised $5,587.72 and spent $2,462.87 to end the month with $12,474.66 on hand. (report)Paige began September with $1,721.69 and raised $5,984 but spent no funds during the month. That left him with $7,705.69 on hand as October began. The next campaign finance reports are due on October 25 for the reporting period between October 1 and October 21. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time now for two more Patreon-fueled shout-outs. One person wants you to know "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one brand new Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!Charlottesville City Council held a work session yesterday on how to cover the costs of sidewalk improvements for Stribling Avenue to support a 170 unit development on about 12 acres of undeveloped land. James Freas is the director of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services department. “So, as many as you know, there’s a [Planned Unit Development] proposed for 240 Stribling Avenue,” Freas said. “The proposed project includes a mix of apartments, townhouses, two-family units.”Freas said Southern Development will proffer 15 percent of the units to be affordable or for-sale to 60 percent of the area median income. That means rent or the mortgage would be capped at 30 percent of those household’s monthly budget. “A critical issue and consideration of whether to rezone this property or not is the status of the sidewalk of Stribling Avenue itself,” Freas said. “Stribling Avenue does not currently have any sidewalks on it. It sees a fair amount of traffic and is a relatively narrow street as it exists today.”Southern Development has also offered to pay up to $2 million to cover the costs of building the sidewalk and worked with the economic development office to come up with an agreement on how to be paid back through using the incremental tax revenue that would be generated by the increased value of the property after development. In September, city engineer Jack Dawson said the cost estimate would be slightly higher. The work session was intended to provide an analysis of the estimate, but not a finalized estimate for many reasons. (Dawson’s analysis)“This has not gone through community engagement and stakeholder meetings which can add significantly to a project as you may be aware,” Dawson said. “And then projects of this type are not insignificant undertakings nor are they cookie cutter in design typology or execution. A sidewalk is not just a sidewalk.”Dawson described how additional right of way would need to be purchased by the city, how the drainage system would need to be built, and how many on-street parking spaces and trees would need to be removed. All of that adds up. “The original cost amount was $1.2 million with a 25 percent contingency of $1.5 million,” Dawson said. “And then after I did the analysis, I adjusted all of those things and it went to $2.4 million almost with a 20 percent contingency bringing it to $2.8 million.”The scope of the project does not include upgrades to Stribling’s intersection with Jefferson Park Avenue Extended. Upgrading the pedestrian crossing there would be a separate project that Dawson said is being undertaken by the city using existing funds. Vice Mayor Sena Magill asked if Stribling could be turned into a one-way road that would connect back to Fontaine Avenue along land in Albemarle County. Dawson said that would be tough and expensive. Outgoing City Manager Chip Boyles did not attend the virtual Council meeting, so it was up to Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders to sum up the button line.“Where we are is that we’re looking at the moment an $850,000 gap based on what the proffer that we have received is and what we have come up with our estimate,” Sanders said. “We have 170 units that are being proposed by the developer with 15 percent, so 25 units being offered up for rental for 10 years and ownership for 30 years at 60 percent of AMI.”Sanders asked Council if that investment would be worth it to achieve that level of affordability.“Because of the stresses that we face with the decisions that we have to make regarding schools and all of the various priorities that we have, that’s a tall order of coming up with that $850,000,” Sanders said. Councilor Michael Payne was not sure the return on investment was worth it. “It seems realistically like that $850,000 just is not really feasible in terms of being ahead of other priorities,” Payne said. Payne said investing in Piedmont Housing and other entities would be a better use of funds. Councilor Lloyd Snook said he favored the use of incremental tax financing for projects, but also said the $850,000 was too much for the city to cover at this time. The rezoning application will return to the Planning Commission at a later date. Special announcement! Today’s the third day of a new promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 15, 2021: After nearly five years of review, Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends approval of Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Map

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 15, 2021 18:51

In today’s subscriber-supported public service announcement, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards continues to offer classes and events this fall and winter to increase your awareness of our wooden neighbors and to prepare for the future. On October 19, there’s a free class on the Selection, Planting, and Care of Trees from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (register) In early November, there is a three part class on Winter Invasive Plant Identification and Treatment. Information on all the classes and the group can be found at www.charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org. On today’s show:The Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends approval of the update of the Charlottesville Comprehensive PlanA start-up seeking sugar substitutes secures funding for expansion at the State Farm BuildingThe Charlottesville Tree Commission looks forward to the future and a little ReLeafWe begin today with an economic development announcement in Albemarle County. Specifically at the former regional headquarters for State Farm on Pantops. Governor Ralph Northam was on hand to announce that the firm Bonumose will partner with the Hershey Company to research and develop reduced or zero sugar chocolate.“This is a $28 million investment that Bonumose is putting forth in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam said. Ed Rogers is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Bonumose, which was formed in 2016 and currently operates out of the University of Virginia’s North Fork research park. Using a $256,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and $300,000 from the Virginia Investment Performance Grant program, Bonumose will move to a portion of the State Farm site.“It’s an important milestone, 36,000 square foot building,” Rogers said. Bonumose is betting that its technology can provide a healthy sugar substitute that can be produced at a price that can be affordable. Rogers said there’s a lot of hard work to do to prove that the tech will pay off. “We are not so full of hubris that we think that’s going to be easy,” Rogers said. “I mean, sugar is great. Who doesn’t love sugar? I mean even if you hate sugar, you probably love sugar also. It’s the gold standard of sweeteners. It’s natural. It tastes great. It is functional. It provides structure to foods. It helps depress the freezing point so you have creamy ice cream. It caramelizes. It does all of these things in food so when you’re talking about replacing sugar, it’s just not a matter of replacing the sweetness.” Current sugar substitutes do not work as well in cooking, and can be much more expensive than the real thing. Rogers said the product Bonumose will make s based on tagatose, a naturally occurring sweetener. The Pantops facility will serve as a demonstration project and will provide at least 64 new jobs. Rogers said this only came about because the county’s Economic Development office approached the company with options on how to expand. Soon after the pandemic, State Farm said they would shift entirely to a teleworking model and would not return to the 365,000 square foot building. Economic Development Director Roger Johnson is fond of using code names for various projects that they are working on before the deals can be announced. “Albemarle County had begun working with Bonumose well before the state die and we named this project internally Project Leopard, after Def Leppard’s hit song Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Johnson said. This is a story I’ll continue to monitor in the weeks, months, and years to come.New grant programThe City of Charlottesville has launched a new grant program intended to encourage job creation. The GO Hire program run by the Office of Economic Development will be adapted as part of the city’s pandemic recovery efforts. The position must pay $15 an hour. (learn more)“Grant funds can be used for City based businesses hiring a new employee that is a City resident,” reads the application for the program. “[The Office of Economic Development] will reimburse 50 percent of the wages for the initial eight week hiring period.”Grants are capped at $5,000, but the positions are eligible for the Virginia Return to Earn Initiative operated by Virginia Career Works. Comprehensive Plan milestone achieved After four years and ten months of review, the seven member Charlottesville Planning Commission has voted unanimously to recommend approval of an updated Comprehensive Plan as well as the Future Land Use Map. They did so after a long public hearing in which dozens of community members spoke about the plan, which has been drafted by the firm Rhodeside & Harwell as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. James Freas has only been Charlottesville’s director of Neighborhood Development Services for one month, but had the honor of introducing the public hearing. “The result of this process to date is the draft plan that you have before you tonight which is itself only a first step as we move on to the implementation actions and rulemaking through the zoning ordinance project,” Freas said. That’s the third step in the Cville Plans Together project, but Freas said the Planning Commission had to take into consideration all of the chapters of the Comprehensive Plan. “As we move into implementation, we will be considering this entire plan,” Freas said. “While there has been discussion of the land use map, the strategies in this plan call for environmental protection, historic preservation, recognition of neighborhood context, addressing climate change, and providing affordable housing among many other issues and all of these will go into crafting a new zoning ordinance.”Freas said that densities called for in the future map may be adjusted in places where it is not suitable. He said he is excited to join the team just as this next phase gets underway. Update on Climate Action PlanAfter a presentation on the plan, Commissioners got the chance to ask questions before the public hearing began. One yielded an update on the Climate Action Plan from Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental sustainability and facilities development manager. “There’s been sort of some competing priorities that the city has worked on and so we have in some ways given some deference to the comp plan process,” Riddervold said. “There’s been a lot of ground work and climate protection related supporting work that’s been going on for the past year. There is still fully a commitment to develop a climate action plan because that is consistent with Council’s commitment with the Compact of Mayors.”Bill Palmer works in the Office of the Architect at the University of Virginia. He said he supported goals in the draft Comprehensive Plan that refer to the role UVA plays in the community. “And the acknowledgement of UVA’s influence on many aspect of Charlottesville both positive and negative,” Palmer said. “I think continuing the collaboration and cooperation between the city and University is very important and [Albemarle] County as well.”Public hearingThe public hearing lasted nearly two hours and featured competing visions. Some are concerned that additional density in the map could worsen the phenomenon of gentrification.“The process that got us to this point has been incredibly flawed and is now barreling toward a forced premature conclusion,” said Julia Whiting. One former Planning Commissioner agreed with that sentiment. “It feels like we’re driving drunk at night,” said Bill Emory. “Kind-hearted developers will not address our shortage of affordable housing.Third-year UVA student Chloe Estrada said she supports a plan which will hold landlords accountable. “Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of students who have lived off-Grounds to learn more about their housing experiences with specific regard to treatment they have received from landlords,” Estrada said. “Broadly, only 43 percent of student renters were satisfied with their off Grounds housing experience.” One supporter of the plan wanted the implementation phase to begin quickly.“I recommend that you not slow down the process and that you go ahead and adopt this map as a guide for creating new zoning,” said Kathryn Laughon. “We know that changes in status quo are going to create a lot of backlash.”On Monday, Council and the Planning Commission held a two-hour question and answer period on the plan. Kevin Hildebrand had listened and it cleared up one aspect of the plan. “I was encouraged listening to yesterday’s meeting that the up to 12 units is not a by-right development in medium density,” Hildebrand said. “Heretofore that has not been made clear and perhaps the allowable density will be based on lot size.”Commission review and adoptionDozens more people spoke over the next hour or so before the Commission got to their deliberation. There were many discussions of tweaks, and quite a few amendments. Some of this came down to what language should be used. Here’s an interchange about bonus density for providing affordable housing in “sensitive” areas.“I got a new wording,” said Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg. “Consider allowing additional units and height under a bonus program or other zoning mechanism with greater and deeper affordability than non-sensitive areas.” “Is it ‘consider’ or just ‘allowing’ because ‘consider’ means that maybe you can, maybe you cannot,” said Commisioner Taneia Dowell. “‘Allowing sounds like something can happen.”“I don’t think we know yet whether that it should be considered,” said Commissioner Liz Russell. “That’s I think the point.”“In my opinion we can change it to allow and then we can figure out the number in that bonus program,” said Commissioner Karim Habbab. Going forward, NDS Director James Freas will be leading the discussions. If this were a role-playing game, he’s sort of like the dungeon master. “When we say consider, what we mean is that the planning board and the City Council would be the ones doing the considering at the time when you’re moving forward with the adoption of the zoning,”Council will have to take a vote and some of the amendments suggested by the Planning Commission need to be fleshed out by the consultants with more information and specifics. Shortly before the vote, NDS Deputy Director Missy Creasy listed four changes that would be made. One of them was the language we just heard. Here is another:“Require that zoning changes preserve and enhance historic and cultural resources,” Creasy said. Another is to further outline what is meant by a “sensitive” area.“And number four, recommend that sensitive area delineation should continue to be defined and additional means and metrics beyond Census block data need to be considered,” Creasy said. The next step will be the first reading by City Council, scheduled for November 15. In today’s second Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. While Charlottesville does not yet have a specific Climate Adaptation Plan, the draft Comprehensive Plan has several references to the importance of trees to the city’s overall goals. In 2015, a measurement found that the city’s tree canopy was at 45 percent of the land cover. The 2021 draft Comprehensive Plan features more calls for preservation requirements including Goal 6 of the Environment, Climate, and Food Equity chapter which includes many strategies for increasing tree canopy, especially in areas that experience the urban heat island effect due to a lack of shade. “The Comprehensive Plan when it is finally done is going to have significant statements about supporting trees, adding trees, and the environmental health of the city,”  said Planning Commissioner Jody Lahendro at the October 5 meeting of the Tree Commission. The Tree Commission was created in 2010 to advocate for those types of policies, and to recognize specific trees. At the beginning of their meeting on October 5, Chair Brian Menard noted that a landmark tree in Maplewood Cemetery crashed to the ground the weekend before.“There is significant damage to the fabric of the cemetery,” Menard said. “There are a lot of stones damaged, some surely beyond repair.” Menard said the sudden death of the tree has caused an impact and points to the importance of celebrating trees. “Just watching people through the neighborhood react to this, it reminds me that for the last year or so we have especially stressed the functional benefits of trees, the health benefits, the environmental benefits,” Menard said. To help with education about those benefits, a group called Charlottesville ReLeaf has formed to lead efforts to help spread the word and to plant trees in strategic areas. Peggy Van Yahres is one of its members. (learn more)“What we want to do is get kids and families excited about trees and the green industry, so we’re really starting with some educational events,” Van Yahres said. Van Yahres said the group is working on developing a website. One idea is to develop materials that can demonstrate the heat differences between different playgrounds. The one at Venable Elementary features a bit of shade, whereas most others do not. Menard said the Tree Commission should be playing a role in making sure that new public projects will include new trees.“We need to know who and where and when plans are being made to make changes to city property so that we’re in early enough on the conversation,” Menard said. “So whether that is with Public Works or with the school division or whoever.” The Tree Commission also got an update on municipal tree planting on public property. The current capital improvement program has set aside $75,000 for that purpose. Mike Ronaybe is the city’s arborist and he said staff needs to be in place to do the planting and to make sure planted trees are regularly watered. “We usually hire 17 seasonals that work at parks in the summertime,” Ronayne said. “I think we are able to fill three of those positions so that’s just seasonal staff. Our full-time staff we’re down about a third from where we need to be for full-time positions.”In the 2020 State of the Forest report, Ronayne stated there is a city planting goal of 200 trees a year, but that has not been met for four years. The Tree Commission discussed ways to encourage other ways to help meet the goal.Special announcement! Today’s the third day of a new promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 14, 2021: Boyles resigns as Charlottesville City Manager; Friendship Court agreement reauthorized by EDA

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 14, 2021 18:27

Today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!On today’s show:Charlottesville City Manager resigns, citing personal and professional attacks from Nikuyah WalkerThe Charlottesville Economic Development Authority reauthorizes a performance agreement with the Piedmont Housing Alliance for the redevelopment of Friendship CourtCharlottesville moving forward with planning for climate adaptation The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority has reauthorized a performance agreement with the Piedmont Housing Alliance for a loan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Piedmont Housing Alliance would pay the money back through the incremental tax revenue the city would get from a more intense residential development. Here’s Economic Development Director Chris Engel. (staff report)“Typically, our performance agreements are done to encourage business development, job creation, capital investment that creates office space or an industrial building,” Engel said. “In this case, the public good if you will is the rehabilitation and addition of not public housing, but affordable housing that would be owned and managed on a long term basis by the Piedmont Housing Alliance.” The city is currently considering using this tool to finance improvements to Stribling Avenue. This is also the same mechanism that was proposed by the owner of the skeleton Landmark hotel. In this case, the 11.75 acre property is assessed at $8.185 million this year, which yields $77,714 in property taxes for the city. When the first phase of redevelopment is completed, the value is projected to be over $20 million, which Engel said would bring in an additional $190,000. Piedmont Housing Alliance would get that increase through a transfer from the Economic Development authority. “This is a very complicated, complex deal to get this to all come together,” Engel said.This is separate from the nearly $16 million in capital funds city taxpayers will contribute to all four phases of redevelopment. Under this agreement, Piedmont Housing Alliance would collect the funding up to $6 million.“There’s not a profit making opportunity here for anybody but it’s an opportunity to see additional affordable housing added to the city again and an old site that needs rehabilitation,” Engel said. The EDA approved the reauthorization with little debate. The original agreement was written up by former city attorney John Blair before he became the acting city manager after former city manager Tarron Richardson resigned. Engel said the Piedmont Housing Alliance is ready to begin construction. Their website has not been updated with information about redevelopment since last October when a December start-date for construction was expected. More information as it comes in. Charlottesville’s efforts to create a Climate Adaptation Plan move forward this month with a community forum to get input on potential threats from more extreme weather patterns. The October 25 event will be the first steps for the city to complete a Climate Vulnerability Assessment. “As part of the city’s climate action effort, it has committed to developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare and respond to our changing climate,” said Susan Elliott, the city’s climate protection program manager..Participants are being asked to review a webinar recorded on October 7 where representatives from ICLEI described Charlottesville’s projected climate hazards and gave an overview of the process. Another pre-forum webinar will be held on October 15. (register) The Community Forum on October 25 will begin at 5:30 p.m. (register)Charlottesville City Council will have to appoint someone to serve as City Manager as of Monday, November 1. The five-member elected body held an emergency closed session Tuesday afternoon to discuss “Urgent Personnel Matters.” “I move that we accept the resignation of Chip Boyles, effective October 29, 2021 per the letter that he has sent to Council,” said City Councilor Heather Hill as she read a motion coming back from closed session. Council voted 5-0 to accept the resignation, but there was no sense of who would take over as city manager. There are two deputy city managers who were hired by Boyles, both of whom have a collective tenure of seven months. Ashley Marshall has been Deputy City Manager for Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion since May and Sam Sanders has been Deputy City Manager for Operations since August. Before we get back to Boyles, there was also news of another person leaving city government. In an earlier motion, Hill disclosed the departure of the city’s Information Technology department, Sunny Hwang. He’s served in that position since September 2018 according to his LinkedIn profile, which has not yet been updated. There are also vacancies at the tops of the parks department and the public works department. Back to Boyles. Boyles was hired in January to replace John Blair, who served as interim city manager after Dr. Tarron Richardson resigned in September. In his resignation letter, Boyles said he had been hired to help the organization get back on its feet after a “time of turbulence and organizational instability.” “This success was disrupted with my decision to to change the leadership of the City Police Department,” Boyles wrote. “I continue to support my decision taken on this matter, but the vitriol associated with this decision of a few vocal community members and the broken relationship with Mayor Walker have severely limited my ability to be productive towards the goals of City Council.”Boyles said personal and professional attacks from Walker and others were beginning to hurt his mental health. He resigned to protect himself and his family. To recap, Boyles terminated the contract of Chief RaShall Brackney on September 1, 2021, triggering a ferocious outcry from Walker. She spent much of the September 7 meeting using her privileges as Mayor to force a conversation about the topic. For context, go back and listen to the September 8 edition of this newsletter. The soundbites for the read of the newsletter today come from the October 4, 2021 meeting of Council, and the last hour or so of the meeting. The agenda listed a formal discussion of the matter at the conclusion of other business. Boyles defended his decision, which was his alone to make under the city’s charter. Boyles’ explanationBoyles said Brackney had moved the department toward being a more just and fair system, but said surveys conducted by the Police Benevolent Association indicated low morale.“It became to me evident that some type of change needed to be made that while we had been making strides in one area, the implementation into the department itself was in jeopardy,” Boyles said. That soundbite comes from about an 11 minute explanation that Boyles gave. For some more background, I refer you to the August 20 “response from the city” to those PBA surveys. The statement also describes the resignations of two members of the SWAT team and the termination of a third. (read the statement)What followed were questions from the rest of the Council. Councilor Michael Payne said he was concerned about the timing of the incident.“It has to be stated that, one, the PBA is an organization that is one that is not friendly to reform,” Payne said. “Those organizations across the country are not friendly to officers being disciplined and held accountable for mistreatment.” Vice Mayor Sena Magill said she wanted Boyles to write down his vision for the city.“I have seen the team that you are building in City Hall and I believe that you are focused on a team that wants to bring Charlottesville into 21st century practices on a lot of things including a teamwork environment,” Magill said.Councilor Heather Hill.“We’re not condoning any of the behaviors that were rightfully dealt with in the police department and that we are committed to a very way of policing in the city of Charlottesville,” Hill said. In his comments on October 4, Councilor Lloyd Snook referred to a closed session from mid August after the disciplinary actions described in the statement were made. “When Chief Brackney explained to use in closed session on August 16 I believe it was what the evidence was of the SWAT team officers conduct, showed us a few snippets of video,” Snook said. “Every Councilor in the room, every senior management person in the room was satisfied with the chief’s decision.”Snook said the City Manager has the right and power to fire the police chief.“The only issue for us quite frankly is whether we fire the city manager for firing the police chief,” Snook said. On October 4, Snook said the answer was no.But for Mayor Nikuyah Walker, the answer was not no. Walker’s cross-examinationWalker used her time to ask Boyles a series of pointed questions, including this one about internal surveys. “How did you arrive from looking at the survey that the Chief was the issue based on those surveys,” Walker asked.“Most of the survey was built around the command staff and answers were regarding the individual command staff but it was just an overall leadership from both the questions that were included in the survey and then the chance for the officers to comment,” Boyles said. Let’s skip ahead a little to another section.“So these issues arose and you didn’t afford her a conversation to talk with her about the issues that you had come to learn and create a plan with her to rectify those issues,” Walker said.“I did,” Boyles said. “And one of our meetings after a lot of this started becoming evident, I asked her about preparing a plan to try to address some of these items. The response was that a plan wasn’t needed and what did I have in mind to put into a plan.”Boyles said that was not his area of expertise. Let’s skip ahead. Walker quoted from the September 17 op-ed Boyles wrote for the Daily Progress.“So, in the immediacy of the decision in the op-ed piece that you wrote that the CPD was ‘gripped in chaos’,” Walker said.“Yes, it was my understanding that some of the leadership positions were not going to be staying if Chief Brackney were staying,” Boyles said. This line of questioning continued. Walker said her information said only two of six members of the command staff were set to leave. “So, you consider two of six people to be chaos?” Walker said. “No, I think it extends beyond,” Boyles said. “It’s the statements from the survey of people looking for other jobs, wanting to be out of the police department. There is no smoking gun in this.”Walker went through many of the comments and read through them out loud. She also wanted to pin down Boyles on what conversations he had with regional leaders about policing issues. Boyles said those were conversations were private and in confidence.“Okay, Chip, so since all of these people are secretive and you think that’s okay, because what you want us to do on whether or not you want to stay here or not based on some random conversations we had without talking to you about?” Walker asked.”That’s a decision you all will make,” Boyles said. “As I stated earlier, I’m here to fulfil the direction of Council. I took this job knowing. I think I’ve even stated for me there’s a job evaluation every other meeting. I accept that.”The questioning continued. At one point, there was to have been a press conference after the release of the August 20 statement.“And then, Chief Brackney arrived at a meeting, right, Chip? And you had changed course by that time that there’s no longer going to be a press conference,” Walker said.“Yes,” Boyles responded. “We had a disagreement over wanting to show the videos that you all saw in your closed session.” A little later on in the cross-examination, Councilor Hill brought a specific incident related to how former Police Chief Brackney responded to feedback. Go back to the tape to learn more about that but Walker asked Hill to read the email in question. “Okay, do you want to pull that email up?” Walker asked“I’m happy to find it, but I don’t think it’s necessary right now,” Hill said. “I’m just saying you are trying to pick specific examples. I don’t want to go down this path with you.”“I’m not,” Walker said, her voice rising. “I was open to whatever you all presented. I asked and allowed you all you to talk first because I’m just trying…”“We were trying to be respectful,” Hill said. “Excuse me?” Walker asked.“We were trying to be respectful of the process,” Hill said. “This is not the appropriate forum to get into all of this.”“You were not trying to be respectful of any process,” Walker said. “I have been on this Council and I know how you operate.”“I’d like for us to move on,” Hlll said. The conversation went back to that meeting after the August 20 press release. Boyles explained the dynamic that was leading him to make a decision. “That meeting was a good indication similar to what Councilor Hill was just talking about when we began to disagree over the videos and other issues, Chief Brackney just left the meeting which again gave me concern of being able to work with that type of interaction, with that type of relationship,” Boyles said. Boyles acknowledged that Brackney had told him that she had felt targeted by members of the community as well as internally. “My knowledge of that comes from what she’s told me and I certainly believe it to be true,” Boyles said. Walker was clear she was not going to let Boyles forget his decision to terminate Brackney. “I can go on about every city manager that has been here, and you are never going to, I told you this, Chip,” Walker said. “You’re never going to live past this decision.”Soon after, Walker quoted from the book White Rage to make part of her point and chastised her fellow Councilors for trying to control her.“Have I made 100 percent of the right decisions?” Walker asked. “No. Have you all made 100 percent of the right decisions? No. You haven’t. But again, your white gaze gets to determine who wins in a situation like this.”Earlier this year, Walker wrestled with whether to seek a second term before announcing in May she would be a candidate. She withdrew from the race on September 8, citing the racism of her fellow Councilors. Walker raised no campaign funds this year. The conversation on October 4 continued, and the rest of the discussion is available to watch.  Now it’s perhaps a better use of our time to think ahead to Council’s next meeting on October 18, as well as the four regular meetings of the year. Two new Councilors will join in January when Walker and Hill’s terms are up. Who will be the city manager? Who will be mayor? Who will be running the city This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 12, 2021: Albemarle Supervisors get lengthy update on transportation projects; new tenant for new office building in Charlottesville

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 12, 2021 14:47

Time for a new Patreon-fueled shout-out:Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350On today’s show:The Charlottesville City Council and the Planning Commission spend two hours asking questions about the Comprehensive Plan in advance of tonight’s public hearingAlbemarle’s Board of Supervisors gets an update on transportation projectsA new tenant signs on for a new office building in downtown CharlottesvilleThe summer and September COVID surge in Virginia continues to wane, but community spread continues. The seven-day percent positive rate has dropped to 7.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2,443. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 205 new cases reported and the percent positive rate is 5.8 percent. There have been eight more fatalities reported since October 4. The Blue Ridge Health District will have a town hall on October 13 and one of the topics will be vaccination in pregnant people. Register in advance. Today is the last day to register to vote in the November 2 election, which is three weeks from today. Local registrars will take in-person registrations through 5 p.m. Registrations submitted via mail must be postmarked with today’s date in order to be accepted. You can also register online up until 11:59 p.m. You will need an ID issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in order to register in that fashion. (Department of Elections online portal)The last day to request a mail-in ballot is October 22. The last day to vote early in-person is October 30. Charlottesville’s Office of Voter Registration will have additional hours on October 23 and October 30. There are several makeshift memorials to people who died in crashes on 5th Street Extended in Charlottesville. Yesterday, a city-sanctioned memorial to Quintus Brooks was unveiled with a family ceremony. Brooks died on October 1, 2020 and yesterday would have been his birthday. “A new application process is being launched for roadside memorials at the site of deaths resulting from automobile, bicycle or pedestrian accidents that occur on public streets within the City of Charlottesville,” said city Communications Director Brian Wheeler in an email announcing the event. Charlottesville has hired a Nevada firm to provide pest control services in two prominent locations. In September, the city sent out a request for proposals for a firm to provide pest suppression for the 135,000 square feet of the Downtown Mall and the 30,000 square feet of the Corner. “The Contractor will be responsible to provide a program to control rodents such as, but not limited to, rats, mice, squirrels, snakes, all insects (roaches, flies, bees, ants – including fire ants, cockroaches, moths, crickets, silverfish, all spiders, termites),” reads the proposal.Pestmaster Services has been awarded the contract. These areas include outdoor dining spaces, including locations where tables are set up near tree wells. Another tenant has been announced for the new 3-Twenty-3 building in downtown Charlottesville. General Atomics Commonwealth Computer Research will lease just under 50,000 square feet in the building.“With projects ranging from optimizing the world’s largest container port to predicting future asymmetric warfare events, CCRi has no shortage of experience in diverse client expectations,” reads a description of the company on their website. The 3-Twenty-3 building is being developed by Insite Properties and marketed by Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. A press release describes the building as a five-story office building on top of a four-story, 200 space parking garage. There’s about 27,000 square feet left to be leased in the 120,000 square foot structure, according to leasing agent John Pritzlaff.  McGuireWoods and Manchester Capital are already in their spaces, and Williams Mullen is starting building out now. Tonight, the seven-member Charlottesville Planning Commission and the five-member Charlottesville City Council will hold a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan, the second task performed by Rhodeside & Harwell as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. That includes a Future Land Use Map which increases residential density across most of the city. Yesterday, the elected body and the appointed body spent two hours asking questions about the plan. Councilor Lloyd Snook went first. “A common criticism which I personally believe to be based on ignorance… is that the Future Land Use Map and the suggestions of higher density have not taken into account either… the effect of the University of Virginia, the effect of the student population, and the distorting effect on the poverty data for the student population,” Snook said. Jennifer Koch with Rhodeside & Harwell said her team began their work based of a housing needs assessment conducted in 2018 by the Form-Based Code Institute and Partners for Economic Solutions. (download)“There was a fairly robust discussion in that document about how students may or may not play into various impacts on affordability in the city,” Koch said. “The other way we are looking to include considerations for students in this plan is in looking at potential intensity near UVA, for example Jefferson Park Avenue, Fontaine Avenue area. We’ve included additional intensity in those areas and we’ve included a discussion of potential intensity in those areas as we move through zoning.”The first step in the Cville Plans Together initiative was adoption of an affordable housing plan. The next step after adoption of the Comprehensive Plan will be a rewrite of the zoning code. The University of Virginia is working on an initiative to identify space on land it or its real estate foundation owns to build up to 1,500 below-market units. In September, a top official at UVA told the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership that the work is slightly behind schedule. (UVA housing initiative website)Other topics at the two-hour meeting included assumptions about population growth and the links between increased density and affordability requirements. Watch the whole thing in advance of tonight’s hearing, which begins at 6 p.m. (watch)And time for another Patreon-fueled shout-out:Fall is here, and with it, more moderate temperatures. While your HVAC takes a break, now is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!At their meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will get an update on the Rio Corridor Study, an effort to reshape the public realm along Rio Road on stretches of the roadway in Albemarle’s Places29-Rio growth area. Opponents of recent rezoning applications in the area cited transportation concerns for why the Board of Supervisors should vote against more intense residential density. But last week, they got an update on other transportation projects from Kevin McDermott, a planning manager in Albemarle. Though the applications aren’t due until next summer, work is underway for the next round of Smart Scale projects. (Albemarle transportation report)Right now the top candidates that the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization might submit are: A roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road Avon Street Corridor Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements between Druid Avenue and Avon Street park and ride5th Street Extended multimodal improvements between the future (and funded) 5th Street Trail Hub to Harris RoadRivanna River Bike and Pedestrian bridge from South Pantops Boulevard to the Woolen Mills area Right now the possible candidates Albemarle County might submit in the 5th Smart Scale round are: Avon Street Extended multimodal improvements from Mill Creek to Peregory Lane 5th Street Extended bicycle and pedestrian improvements between Albemarle Business Campus and the Southwood community U.S. 250 corridor improvements between Peter Jefferson Place and Hansen Road U.S. 250 / Route 22 / Milton Drive intersection improvements Belvedere Boulevard / Rio Road improvements Hillsdale Drive extension and realignment from Mall Drive to Rio Road U.S. 250 West interchange with U.S. 29 / 250 bypassU.S. 250 West and Crozet Avenue intersection improvements Albemarle has recently turned in an application for VDOT Revenue-Sharing Funds for Eastern Avenue South, a project that has been in Crozet Master Plan since it was adopted. “That goes from the Westhall area, across Lickinghole Creek, to Cory Farms, and connects to U.S. 250,” McDermott said. In most cases, it takes several years for transportation projects to go from project approval to construction. A project to upgrade the intersection of U.S. 250 and Virginia Route 20 at Pantops was funded in 2018. “They are currently in design for that and we will hopefully be seeing some construction out there in about two years or so,” McDermott said. Another VDOT revenue-sharing project is to extend Berkmar Drive to Lewis and Clark Drive, which would complete a north-south roadway parallel to U.S. 29 from Fashion Square Mall to the University of Virginia’ North Fork Research Park. “We’ve got a lot of economic development going on up there, a lot of new development also,” McDermott said. “This would also provide that parallel facility to U.S. 29 so it can take some of that traffic off of 29 and remove it from some of those intersections that are experiencing some delays like Airport Road and U.S. 250.”McDermott said construction of that project is expected for 2025. Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District noted the length of the report as well as its detail.“I really appreciate the way you explain some of these so that it differentiates between a study and a proposal,” Price said. “We get a lot of communications from people in the community that are to the effect of ‘I can’t believe you’re even considering’ [a project],” Price said. “But when you’re looking at transportation, if you don’t look at the various options, then you’re really going in with a narrow-minded approach. We appreciate your wide approach of looking at all of the different possibilities before narrowing down what really appears to be the best course of action.”Special announcement! Today’s the first day of a new promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:Free installationSecond month of Ting service for freeA $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 9, 2021: Virginia Redistricting Commission Chair appears to quit during meeting; Charlottesville promotes Durette to assistant police chief

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 9, 2021 24:43

Listen now (24 min) | Each and every day is a chance to catch up with local government in and around Charlottesville This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 7, 2021: Supervisors briefed on Comprehensive Plan review; Speakers ask for compact legislative districts for Albemarle

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 7, 2021 19:53

In today's subscriber-fueled public service announcement: Lovers of used books rejoice! The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will resume the tradition of their annual Fall Book Sale this October 2nd through October 10 at a new location! The Friends of the Library sale will take place at Albemarle Square Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Half-price days on October 9 and October 10. Questions? Visit jmrlfriends.org for more information.On today’s show:Locals weigh in on how redistricting would treat Albemarle when new legislative districts are approvedAlbemarle County’s Board of Supervisors get an update on the Comprehensive PlanInvestment firm takes majority stake in Apex Clean EnergyJaunt hires Tulsa’s top transit officialA company called the Ares Management Corporation has acquired a majority stake in the Charlottesville-based Apex Clean Energy, according to a release on Business Wire. “The transaction will provide Apex with additional equity growth capital as it seeks to transition to a pure-play renewable energy independent power producer (IPP),” reads the release. Apex has over $9 billion in utility-scale energy projects across the country. Ares has already been an investor on projects such as the construction of the largest single-phase, single-site wind facility in the country. “Through origination, construction, and operation of utility-scale wind, solar, and storage facilities, distributed energy resources, and green fuel technologies, Apex is expanding the renewable frontier across North America,” reads the description of Apex Clean Energy in the release. The same management team will remain in place. The company has over 300 employees. Construction continues on their new headquarters in downtown Charlottesville. Jaunt has hired the head of the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority to be its next chief executive officer. Ted Rieck will start work on December 6 and interim CEO Karen Davis will continue on as chief operating officer. In Tulsa, Rieck oversees a public transit fleet that serves five communities and has a $23 million budget. According to the agenda for the most recent meeting of the authority’s seven-member board, Rieck has faced many of the same challenges facing transit agencies in our area such as a shortage of people willing to be drivers as well as COVID testing employees. According to the minutes of the August meeting, Rieck had announced his retirement from Tulsa to the board. (September meeting packet)This is of course Try Transit Month and this morning there was a stakeholder meeting for the Regional Transit Vision plan under way. I’ll have more on that in a future installment of the program. But all of the local transportation providers have banded together to produce a series of videos about how you can discover transit.  The first one is called Calling In. Take a look and if you share it, use the hashtag #busorbust on Twitter when you share it with all of your friends. (watch)Remembering MiddleditchWhen the Albemarle Supervisors met on Wednesday, Supervisor Ann Mallek noted the passing of Leigh Middleditch, a lawyer with a long history in Charlottesville affairs, at the age of 92.“People of his and my parents’ generation worked in so many different ways to build community here,” Mallek said. “He was always focused on collaboration and finding solutions with people of all comers, all ages, all neighborhoods, all locations.” Mallek said that Middleditch organized an effort to improve transportation funding in the area in the mid-2000’s. “He also founded the Planning and Coordination Council to bring city, county, and UVA together to find solutions to local problems from the water supply plan to roadway to all sorts of things that are local group is dealing with today,” Mallek said. The Planning and Coordination Council was disbanded in 2019 in favor of a closed-door body known as the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee. There was an update on their efforts on the Board of Supervisors’ consent agenda. (LUEPC update)Supervisor Liz Palmer noted Middleditch was actively engaged in efforts to make this year’s redistricting less partisan than in years past under the OneVirginia2021 initiative.“He also was instrumental in the Virginia 2021 redistricting revisions and getting that going,” Palmer said. In a bit, we’ll hear more about redistricting. Read more on Middleditch’s legacy in any one of these articles:In Memoriam: Leigh Middleditch ’57, Sorensen Institute Founder Who Worked To End Gerrymandering in Virginia, UVA Law From the newsroom: We say goodbye to civic leader and Charlottesville Tomorrow board member Leigh Middleditch, Jr., Charlottesville TomorrowMiddleditch, activist who fomented change in state and region, died at 92Comprehensive Plan updateIn yesterday’s newsletter, we heard about the beginnings of fire engine service from a fire station on Pantops at station 16. I had hoped to get a quote in from someone at the Board of Supervisors meeting when this was announced, and here it is from Supervisor Chair Ned Gallaway. “Having a full fire engine along with an ambulance stationed at Pantops, which is our second busiest area in the county not only helps the immediate area of Pantops, but this impacts our entire system,” Gallaway said. “So now that other places that are just as busy as areas don’t have to get pulled out and over to [Pantops], they can serve as the secondary or the backup to Station 16.” For decades, Albemarle County has planned for growth and investments such as the Pantops public safety station by concentrating residential development into designated areas. That’s codified in the county’s Comprehensive Plan which was last adopted in July 2015. Michaela Accardi is a senior planner with Albemarle County. “The Comprehensive Plan or the comp plan establishes Albemarle’s long-range vision that guides growth, development, and change for the next 20 years,” Accardi said. “The Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for land use development regulations and decisions, such as rezoning and special use permits, capital improvements, new county programs and the distribution of county budget dollars to programs and agencies.”Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors directed the next plan review to take place at the same time changes are made to the county’s zoning ordinance. Accardi said the Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated to reflect new initiatives and policies adopted by the county, many of which are summarized in a strategic plan adopted by the Board in 2018.  (download the presentation)“The Board’s strategic plan includes climate action planning, economic development, infrastructure planning, revitalizing aging neighborhoods, and expanding broadband,” Accardi said. Economic development is codified in the Project ENABLE plan. The Climate Action Plan was adopted last October.  Housing Albemarle was adopted this past July. Now, the Comprehensive Plan has to be updated to reflect this general direction for the county. “Finally, to further the county’s commitment to providing the highest level of public service and enhancing the quality of life for all its residents, the county’s Office of Equity and Inclusion was created in 2018,” Accardi said. Accardi said staff hopes to take from best practices in planning to integrate all of these into a new plan. One cited is Minneapolis 2040.“Which reviewed the city’s land uses to identify opportunities for a mixture of housing types and levels of affordability,” Accardi said. Others include Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth and Memphis 3.0. The latter has the tag line “In our third century, Memphis will build up, not out.” Phased approached to zoning reviewRachel Falkenstein, a planning manager with Albemarle, said the zoning review will take place over many phases with adoption of several steps at a time. “Phase 1 will be focused on simplification and clarity of a few topics such as use classification and setbacks and work on this phase has already begun,” Falkenstein said. “Phase 2 of the zoning update will be intended to focus on resource preservation topics such as dark skies, tree preservation, and historic preservation.”Phase 3 would look at street standards in commercial and industrial zoning districts and Phase 4 will update residential and mixed-use zoning districts. Most of the presentation dealt with the scope of the Comprehensive Plan update. The first phase will take a look at the central cornerstone of the plan for decades. “Phase 1 is called Growth Management Policy and Plan Framework and the goal of this phase is to review, evaluate, and if needed update the growth management policy through the lens of equity, climate action, and county capacity projections,” Falkenstein said. Work is underway on this phase. The second phase will look at what other topics should be highlighted in the plan and a review of the existing plan. Phase 3 will see the creation of action steps for implementation. “In Phase 3 we also intend to detail out each of our topics and determine how the topic goals should be implemented and we’ll identify metrics for each of our topics so that we can track progress moving forward,” Falkenstein said. Phase 4 will bring the draft document together. Falkenstein said the goal is to have an updated document ready for adoption in the middle of 2024. More details will return to the Board at their first meeting in November when the Board will have a work session on how community engagement for the plan review will take place.Supervisor Diantha McKeel supported the approach.“I do like the targeted look at specifics rather than try to do a broad Comprehensive Plan all at one time,” McKeel said. “I think this is absolutely the way to go.” Supervisor Liz Palmer sought more specifics for what specific changes needed to be reviewed in the zoning ordinance as part of this process. Falkenstein had this answer.“Our zoning map does not match our comp plan land use map in a lot of places and that’s an additional step we could take to prioritize,” Falkenstein said. In another public service announcement, want to take a tour of Secret Charlottesville? On October 15, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society will lead a tour based on author Marijean Oldham’s new book Secret Charlottesville: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. The tour begins at 7 p.m. and is free, though donations are welcome. The book is available at New Dominion Bookshop. Email the ACHS to reserve your spot. Locals weigh in on redistrictingThe Virginia Redistricting Commission next meets tomorrow after a week of public hearings in which participants were asked to weigh in on two different maps for both the 40 seats in the Virginia Senate as well as the 100 seat House of Delegates. The 16-member commission was able to reach consensus between different versions produced by Democratic and Republican consultants. Yesterday, it was the Charlottesville area’s turn to weigh in on the different maps. Here’s Commissioner Sam Kumar of Alexandria, who chaired yesterday’s public hearing. “The most recent House of Delegates maps are A7 and B6,” Kumar said. “The most recent Senate maps are A5 and B4.” You can take a look at the maps here to follow along. Under the A7 Statewide map for the House of Delega tes drawn by the Republican consultant, Albemarle County is split into three legislative districts. Northern Albemarle would be in the 74th District along with all of Greene and some of Orange County. Charlottesville would be in the 75th District along with much of Ivy in Albemarle County. Southern Albemarle would be in the 76th District along with all of Amherst and Nelson counties. (A7 map comment page)Under the B6 Statewide Map for the House of Delegates drawn by the Democratic consultant, Albemarle is in two districts. Charlottesville would be in the 80th district with central-eastern Albemarle. All of Albemarle County would be in the 81st District along with a portion of eastern Augusta County. (B6 map comment page)Former Charlottesville Mayor Kay Slaughter went first during the public comment period to object to how Albemarle County was treated under both plans. “The Republican plan divides it into three districts,” Slaughter said. “The Democratic plan makes it one district which crosses the Blue Ridge  to August County, and while Augusta County and Albemarle County may share these beautiful mountains they are not a community of interest. Neither does Albemarle share interest with the Lynchburg area an hour to the south.”Slaughter urged the Commission to redraw the maps to include parts of Nelson, Fluvanna, or Greene because they are all are part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Currently, Albemarle’s House delegation is split into four legislative districts. Albemarle County resident Michael Rodemeyer asked for a less fractured map.“My plea to you is pretty simple,” Rodemeyer said. “Keep Albemarle County together. Taken together, Albemarle County and Charlottesville almost make up enough of population for two House of Delegate districts. We only need about another 12,000 to 13,000 people for there to be a complete district.” Tim Hickey ran as a Democrat in the 59th district in 2019. He urged the Commission to support a major theme in map B6. “Map B6 keeps Albemarle County as unified as possible by keeping us into two districts,” Hickey said. “Not three, not four, but two, and that needs to be non-negotiable.” Hickey suggested that Albemarle be included with Nelson rather than Augusta, but that Amherst has nothing to do with either despite the presence of U.S. 29. “I have spent a lot of time on that stretch of road,” Hickey said. “People in Amherst largely use it to go back and forth to Lynchburg and people in Nelson largely use it to go back and forth to Charlottesville. When I was campaigning, people south of Nelson County, the voters, would routinely ask me if I were in the right place. They would say ‘we’re not in the same district as people in southern Albemarle.”Edgar Lara of the group Sin Barreras said he could see a Congressional district that included Albemarle and Augusta County. His family has lived in the Waynesboro era for over twenty years and he lives in Albemarle. “My community is primarily one of immigrants or children of immigrants with us speaking Spanish as our first language and working the same types of jobs, we have a similar culture and experience many of the same challenges in our communities of Virginia,” Lara said. Pete Costigan of Ruckersville also said that Augusta and Albemarle don’t share enough interests to be in the same district. “Greene County residents have more common interest with Albemarle County than they do with either Page or Rockingham,” Costigan said. “Specifically, Greene County residents largely drive to Albemarle for shopping or medical care.”Under the A5 statewide map for the Senate drawn by the Republican consultant, Albemarle and Charlottesville would be within the 31st District along with Nelson, Fluvanna, and Buckingham counties. (A5 Senate map)The B4 statewide map drawn by the Democratic consultant is similar, but the 31st District would include Greene rather than Nelson. (B4 Senate map)The Virginia Redistricting Commission meets tomorrow at beginning at 9 a.m. Visit virginiaredistricting.org to learn more. (view maps and plans)Thanks for reading! If you’d like to support the work, please consider a subscription through Substack, a contribution through Patreon, or send it on to someone else you think might be interested. Everyone gets a personalized thank you, as every new subscriber or patron makes me work that much harder. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 6, 2021: Charlottesville awarded $153K for flood study from RGGI funds; Transit updates from the regional partnership

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 6, 2021 15:15

In today’s subscriber-supported Public Service Announcement:The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards continues to offer classes and events this fall and winter to increase your awareness of our wooden neighbors and to prepare for the future. On October 19, there’s a free class on the Selection, Planting, and Care of Trees from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (register) In early November, there is a three part class on Winter Invasive Plant Identification and Treatment. Information on all the classes and the group can be found at www.charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org. On today’s show:Updates on regional transportation studies and issues from the Regional Transit PartnershipA 250-unit apartment complex is in the works along Rio Road in Albemarle CountyMaterials are available for the October 12 Cville Plans Together hearingCharlottesville has been awarded $153,000 in RGGI money for flood mitigation along Moores CreekThe percent positivity for COVID-19 has further dropped to 8.3 percent, but the number of new cases reported increased by 3,919. Another 50 new deaths were reported over night for a cumulative total of 12,999 since the pandemic began. There are another 100 cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District today. Plans have been submitted in Albemarle County for a 250-unit apartment complex on Rio Road. According to the application for a rezoning prepared by Collins Engineering, the Heritage on Rio would consist of seven buildings and a clubhouse on 8.23 acres of land. The properties are all zoned R-6 and the application is for a rezoning to Planned Residential Development (PRD). There are currently four single family homes that would be removed to make way for the development. “At just over half a mile from the Route 29/ Rio Road intersection, the proposed community would be within walking distance to many conveniences, including the numerous retail shops and offices in the Berkmar Crossing commercial area, several grocery stores, the Northside Library, and the large number of destinations surrounding the Rio/ 29 Intersection, including CVS Drugstore, Fashion Square Mall, Rio Hill Shopping Center, and Albemarle Square Shopping Center,” reads the application. The developer is G W Real Estate Partners.  The project will also have to go before the county’s Architectural Review Board because Rio Road is an entrance corridor. Materials are now available for the October 12 public hearing for the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, one of three tasks the firm Rhodeside & Harwell is conducting for the city as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. The City Council and Planning Commission will hold a joint hearing on October 12, but now they’ll also hold a two hour discussion on the plan update the day before from noon to 2 p.m. The draft Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map are available for review now. The document is 118 pages long and this is the first time the entire draft has been put together with its eleven chapters and several appendices. Take a look at the materials here. The professionalization of fire and EMS calls in Albemarle County reached a new stage Monday when the Ivy and Pantops stations began 24-hour service and two other milestones were met.“An ambulance moved to the East Rivanna station to implement cross-staffing, and a daytime fire engine went into service at the Pantops station on Mondays,” wrote Abbey Stumpf, Albemarle’s public safety information officer, in a press release this morning. The Pantops fire engine will be the first to operate out of a station that was built on land donated to the county earlier this century. For the past 18 months, Albemarle has been implementing an initiative to hire more personnel funded in part through a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as investments approved by the Board of Supervisors. In all, Albemarle has hired 22 public safety workers in the past 18 months. Earlier this year, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state program that places caps on the amount of carbon emissions for many industries. If companies exceed their limits, they have to purchase credits. Revenues go to state governments for programs such as the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which is to receive 45 percent of the RGGI funds. So far, Virginia has received $142 million over three auctions. Charlottesville will receive $153,500 from the fund to pay for a plan to prepare the Moores Creek Watershed for the floodings. That’s part of $7.8 million in grants announced yesterday by Governor Ralph Northam. The funds are distributed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, an agency that is also working on a master plan for coastal resilience in Virginia. Most of the funding is going to localities either on the coast or much closer. However, Charlottesville is not the westernmost recipient. The city of Winchester will receive $65,040 for a resilience plan and Buchanan County will receive $387,500 for “plans and capacity building” and that’s enough money for them to hire a consultant. Charlottesville will use the money to create a two-dimensional hydraulic model for the Moores Creek watershed within city limits. Andrea Henry, the city’s water resources protection administrator.  "2D modeling has the ability to identify drainage issues for our inlets, pipes, ditches, and streams across the entire City using the same methodology and analyses for a variety of storm scenarios," said Henry.  "We can use the results of this model to predict when our streets, sidewalks, homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure will be susceptible to flooding with the types of storms we see now and may see in the future due to our changing climate."Speaking of the draft Comprehensive Plan, water resources protection is covered in Goal 3 of Chapter 7, Environment, Climate, and Food Equity. “Charlottesville will be an environmental leader, with healthy air, water, and ecosystems, as well as ample, high-quality, and accessible open space and natural areas, and a preserved and enhanced tree canopy,” reads the community vision statement for the chapter. “The Rivanna River and other waterbodies will be celebrated and protected, and  environmentally-sound community access will be enhanced.”Read the rest of the recipients here. You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In today’s second Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. We are now six days into Try Transit Month, an effort to encourage people to consider using fixed-route or on-demand service to get around the community. It has now been 13 days since the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership met on September 23 Since October 2017, the advisory body run by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District has served as a clearinghouse for different providers. Karen Davis is the interim director of Jaunt and she stated one of the biggest challenges facing all bus fleets. “The driver shortage continues,” Davis said. “Jaunt is going to move to match [University Transit Service] and [Charlottesville Area Transit’s] recruiting and retaining bonus programs to try to entice more people into the door.Jim Foley, the director of pupil transportation for Albemarle County, could not give an update at the meeting because he was driving a school bus. Becca White, the director of Parking and Transportation at UVA, said ridership is rebounding following the pandemic. “We are up to about 8,000 riders a day on our system,” White said. “Three thousand of those are employees and the rest are students.”That’s down from pre-COVID levels of around 12,000 to 15,000 a day while school was in session.“During the height of COVID it was 3,000 to 4,000 passengers a day.” White said. One of the steps UTS has taken to make efficient use of their drivers has been to eliminate bus trips on McCormick Road through the heart of Grounds during the day. White said that might be one reason numbers have not rebounded as high. “We need to concentrate our transit trips from the end points in given the limited resources that we have,” White said. The free trolley-style bus operated by Charlottesville Area Transit has returned to McCormick Road. CAT has been fare-free since the beginning of the pandemic. CAT Director Garland Williams said he is hoping to keep it that way by applying for a Transit Ridership Incentive Program grant. “We applied for the TRIPS grant program with the state to keep CAT zero-fare for an additional three years,” Williams said.Williams said the planned route changes will not take place until January due to the driver shortage. Under the new alignment, Route 11 will go to the Center at Belvedere and there have been requests to make that change sooner. Williams said that would present problems. “If we were to make the adjustment to the Center now prior to making all of the adjustments, we would run the risk of individuals who are using the 11 missing their connections because it does take longer to get to the Center and get back,” Williams said. Williams said the timing will be correct when the changes are made. On September 1, the Afton Express began operation from Staunton to Charlottesville with a month of fare-free ridership. The service is operated by Brite, the transit service in the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro They’re now charging $3 each way. For the first three weeks, the service only carried about a dozen to 18 passengers each day, according to RideShare manager Sara Pennington.“We’re still looking to creep those numbers up but is still nice and early,” Pennington said. Pennington also discussed what the regional services are doing for Try Transit month. One thing is the usage of the hash tag ion Twitter #Busorbust.Albemarle County and the TJPDC are continuing work on a transit expansion study. The latest milestone is publication of a market and service analysis FourSquare ITP and Michael Baker International. (market and service analysis)“Ripe for service expansion, the US-29 corridor is the second busiest transit corridor in the region,” reads an overview of the study areas. “The Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2015, outlines goals for increasing the supply of affordable housing for households with incomes between zero percent and 80 percent of area median income, through rezoning and incentives to developers.” The study also covers Pantops and Monticello. There will be a stakeholder meeting on October 22 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and a public meeting on October 21st from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. “Those will be going over the new alternatives or the draft alternatives that they are working on for each of the study areas,” said Lucinda Shannon, the TJPDC’s transportation manager. The TJPDC is also conducting a regional transit vision study.  There’s a stakeholder meeting for that tomorrow at 9 a.m. The meeting can be watched live on their YouTube page. (watch)“And that’s going to be asking people to identify community goals around Charlottesville and what the community values and what they want to see,” Shannon said. You can also offer your views as part of a survey that’s on the project website. Before we go, let’s look at the draft Comprehensive Plan one more time. Transit is embedded in many chapters of the plan, including the land use chapter. But take a look at Chapter 6 and goals 5 and goals 6. Williams’ attempts to help CAT become fare-free are specifically embedded in Strategy 13.2:“Ensure that transit is  financially accessible to all residents and those  who work in the city, including low-income populations, the elderly, and those with disabilities.” This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

October 5, 2021: Charlottesville City Council approves garden lease, $50,000 for B.U.C.K. Squad; RSWA planning for new paper-sort facility

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 5, 2021 17:21


In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out:Fall is here, and with it, more moderate temperatures. While your HVAC takes a break, now is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show:A private vendor will be setting up a community vaccination center at the Big Lots in Seminole SquareVDOT’s hired a new engineer to run the Culpeper District that includes our communityPlanning is underway to replace a machine that helps with paper and cardboard recycling in Albemarle and CharlottesvilleCity Council votes to join a regional tax board and to give $50,000 to a community policing effortPandemic updateThe Virginia Department of Health reports 1,428 new cases of COVID-19 this morning. Last night, the head of the Blue Ridge Health District had the beginnings of good news to report to City Council. “We’re beginning to see a slight downturn in our current infection rate,” said Dr. Denise Bonds. “For the first time last week we did not have any triple-digit days with regards to cases. They were all below 100.”Dr. Bonds said most of the cases are the delta variant and there are currently no signs of any other new strain. There is currently no universal recommendation that vaccinated individuals get booster shots, but they are available for people who had the Pfizer vaccine and who are older than 65 or people with underlying medical conditions. “We do ask that you schedule an appointment so we have enough Pfizer on board but they are available everywhere that we are vaccinating,” Bonds said. Beginning next week, a new site at Big Lots location in Seminole Square in the location where the University of Virginia was providing vaccines. “This is actually a vendor-run vaccination clinic,” Bonds said. “It’s a contract that our central office at [the Virginia Department of Health] has with an emergency response organization called Ashbritt.” An official announcement will be forthcoming regarding the new community vaccination center. Later this month on October 14 and October 15, a Food and Drug Administration panel will review data regarding the possibility of boosters for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. (meeting announcement)“This will be emergency use authorization again and it will still even if its approved on that date will have to go to the CDC advisory committee,” Dr Bonds said.Dr. Bonds said the FDA has tentatively scheduled a meeting for October 26 to consider use of the Pfizer vaccine in children under the age of 12. New VDOT leader for Charlottesville areaWhen the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board next meets, there will be a new person representing the Virginia Department of Transportation. Sean Nelson will become the new district engineer for VDOT’s Culpeper District, which spans nine counties.“I am honored to return to Culpeper District as the district engineer and look forward to working with our talented teams and valued community partners,” Nelson is quoted in a September 30 press release. “I was born and raised in Louisa and am now raising my family there. I am proud to come home and am committed to making a difference in this region.”Nelson’s last post was as the maintenance engineer for VDOT’s Richmond District. In the new job, he will be in charge of “construction, maintenance and operations maintenance, project development and business functions of nearly 10,500 lane miles.” VDOT manages road construction projects in all of those counties, including six projects being designed and built under one contract in Albemarle County. However, Charlottesville manages its own construction projects and has been the recipient of multiple projects under Smart Scale. Last month, Council signaled it would likely forgo $3.25 million in VDOT funds for the first phase of the West Main Streetscape and $4 million for the second phase. Both required a match of local funding, funding which will now be transferred to a $75 million project to renovate Buford Middle School. This summer, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $10.8 million for the third phase of West Main Street, which requires no match. It is unclear if that phase will move ahead. All of the phases were designed as part of a $2.85 million planning study overseen by Rhodeside & Harwell. Construction on the Belmont Bridge finally got underway this summer after many years of planning. There are many other open VDOT projects in Charlottesville that have not gone to construction. Council round-upLast night, Charlottesville City Council voted 4-1 to join a regional board that would administer cigarette taxes generated in outlying counties. Until this year, only cities have been able to levy such a tax, which generated $641,494 for Charlottesville in fiscal year 2020. The city gets $0.55 a pack. Mayor Nikuyah Walker voted against the item partially out of a concern it would penalize people who are low-income. “I know we discuss it from a public health platform but most people are not going to stop smoking because there’s an increased tax on it,” Walker said. The tax board would be administered by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. David Blount is deputy director.“And right now we have six counties that have so far agreed to establish this board,” Blount said. “We know of one additional county in our region and even one in our town that is showing some interest in participating.” Counties can not charge more than 40 cents a pack. Council also agreed to donate $50,000 to the B.U.C.K. Squad for their community policing efforts on a 3 to 2 vote. Councilor Michael Payne joined Mayor Walker in voting against the measure out of concerns raised by the Public Housing Association of Residents and the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “The B.U.C.K. Squad program is something really important, that model,” Payne said. “But I would just want to have very clear lockstep assurance that CRHA and PHAR are all on the same page regarding in terms of what they’re doing and not being 100 percent assured of that I’m going to vote no for that reason hoping that partnership can evolve and become successful.”Council also voted to establish a ground lease for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont to operate in a section of McIntire Park. The group will be responsible for raising the funds to construct improvements called for in their schematic plan. “It’s very important for the nonprofit to obtain a lease so that they can complete their fundraising efforts,” said City Manager Chip Boyles. “The city does not have any funds in the [capital improvement program] for this project and therefore this would not be a project that would go under construction under city management.” The vote was 5-0. Time for another shout-out from a Patreon supporter!WTJU 91.1 FM is a different sort of radio station. It's dedicated to sharing the transcendent experience of music while raising funds from listeners across the world. From October 4th through 10th, WTJU airs its annual Jazz Marathon. Tune in for a deep dive into everything from bebop to blues. WTJU's Volunteer DJs will play the spectrum jazz – from Billie Holiday to Canonball Adderly to Pharoah Sanders. Plus live, local jazz performances throughout the week.  Visit wtju.org to learn more!At the end of their meeting last night, Charlottesville City Council held another lengthy discussion about the termination of Police Chief RaShall Brackney. I may or may not make it back to that item in a future installment of the newsletter. In addition to the police chief, Charlottesville continues to have many high-profile vacancies.  The position for Director of Elections is being advertised through October 15, 2021. Other openings include the director of Parks and Recreation as well as the Director of Public Works. The person who most recently held the latter position is David Brown, who only worked for Charlottesville for a year. Brown was honored by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority at their meeting on September 28. Here’s the chair, Mike Gaffney.“And what is that old saying? David, we hardly knew ye,” Gaffney said. RSWA seeks tonnage increaseLet’s stick with the Rivanna Authorities for a moment. The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority has been experiencing higher volumes of tonnage received at the Ivy Materials Utilization Center. Material is sorted before sent out to other landfills. As a result, the RSWA is asking the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to increase the amount it can transfer each day to 450 tons, up from 300 tons. “We believe that by increasing our facility limit to 450 tons per day will not result in a great deal more traffic, but rather allow us to accept the few, large load, customers that are bringing us material from infrequent large projects (like the field turf replacement project or a UVA building demolition project that we’ve seen in the past couple of years,” reads the executive director’s report for the September meeting. RSWA Solid Waste Director Phil McKalips said that many times his agency does not know material is coming until it shows up. “We tend to find out about these projects when they come across the scale, so our ability to impact the planning of a project is usually far down the pipeline by the time we see it,” McKalips said.  McKalips said the RSWA has received a lot of waste material from the Southwood project in recent weeks. Recently an area where household waste had been discarded over the years was cleared and sent to the Ivy Materials Utilization Center. The increase would help on days when they exceed the 300 ton a day limit. “Whoever cleared the site mixed a lot of debris in with the soil so they had to bring it all out to us for disposal,” McKalips said. “We didn’t know that was coming ahead of time and all of a sudden we have 140 tons in a day to deal with.” McKalips said this material is not to be confused with areas that may have been contaminated with oil that leaked from storage tanks under trailers. That will be going through a separate process monitored by the DEQ.RSWA to conduct engineering study on new paper-sort facilityPlanning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions takes many forms. Albemarle County’s Climate Action Plan has a whole chapter on “sustainable materials management” which has multiple strategies to divert items from landfills. Strategy 5.1.3 is to “identify if there is a need to local additional paper/cardboard balers in Albemarle County.” That item is under review by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and McKalips gave a briefing.The RSWA operates a facility on Meade Avenue that sorts paper material brought to the Ivy Materials Utilization Center and the McIntire Recycling Center. “People put their recyclable materials in there and we take those back to the paper sort facility and we by and large bale all of those products,” McKalips said. “That allows us to save a lot of shipping costs in getting them to our vendors.”However, there are access issues with the site that have to be addressed. The property on which the facility is located on Meade Avenue is leased from Woolen Mills Self Storage but RSWA can only access it on property leased by Gerdau Metals Recycling. An access agreement has a 90-day termination clause and the bailing equipment is over 20 years old. “The thing has been well used and it’s getting near the end of its service life,” McKalips said. That’s prompted McKalips to see if there’s another option for the future. For instance, there’s not enough covered storage space to keep the material protected from rain and moisture that would make it unusable for recycling. The RSWA also collects paper material from other private collection sites such as at Kohl’s and Wal-Mart. That creates logistical issues with what to bale and when. “So this facility gets a lot of cardboard,” McKalips said. “That cardboard isn’t conducive to pushing that back into a trailer and pulling it out later so we leave it out front and then that’s one of the earliest products to get bailed. Having said that though, we have all [these] materials that need to be pulled back out, driven around the cardboard, and baled.”So with a future need, McKalips presented three options for the future. The first would renovate and expand on site and would have have a $2 million capital cost. The second would be to skip the local baling facility entirely and ship out to other entities. That would include no capital costs, but increase operating costs of $550,000 in the first year and $300,000 each year after. The third would be to build a new paper sort facility with two bailers.  “Obviously this is going to be the most expensive option,” McKalips said. “It was looking to be about $4.3 million in the feasibility study.” If the third option is pursued, McKalips said the next step is to work with Albemarle and Charlottesville to identify a potential site for the new location. They’ll need about three acres of land. Lance Stewart, Albemarle’s Director of Facilities and Environmental Services, said that he is hopeful to be able to work with city government to develop an approach to move forward with a new facility. “I think it’s a complex set of issues that hopefully we can come together on,” Stewart said. The presentation comes just as Albemarle and Charlottesville are about to start their budget cycle. The RSWA Board reached consensus to direct staff to move forward with the engineering study for a new facility. Thank you for reading! Please send on to someone else you think might be interested, and please let me know if you have any questions! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


October 4, 2021: Public hearings underway for legislative redistricting in Virginia; Suicide prevention hotline to be reachable at 9-8-8

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 4, 2021 23:44

Let’s begin today with two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. One person wants you to know: "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one brand new Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!On today’s show:A local nonprofit that focuses on water quality releases a report card for the Rivanna RiverThe legislative redistricting process continues this week with a public hearing scheduled for ThursdayThe September surge of COVID-19 cases continues to slow down, but there’s still cause for concernI try to take transit to a campaign forum! The summer COVID surge continues to wane in Virginia, with a seven-day average of new cases at 2,748 and the seven-day positive test rate is 8.5 percent, down from 10.9 percent three weeks ago. The number of COVID deaths continues to increase with 819 fatalities reported since three weeks ago. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 69 new cases today with a percent positivity rate at 7.2 percent. There have been 17 deaths reported since September 13. Case counts are trending downward but are still higher than at the beginning of the summer. “There are a lot of factors that play into that,” said Dr. Kyle Enfield, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia. “One is that as lots of people have been infected, there are fewer people that are susceptible to Delta at this point in time.  We have seen locally based on data that was collected through social media that mask usage has gone up and there was an uptick in vaccination that has probably contributed to this.”However, Dr. Enfield said behavioral changes that come with seasonal transitions could push case counts back up. “If we look at what happened in October and November and December of last year, we saw increased spread as people moved from the outdoors into the indoors more often so I think there is still some thought and some pause in the epidemiology community that we could see that surge again,” Dr. Enfield said. A COVID-19 model developed by the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute currently shows a downward trend in cases. Dr. Enfield said epidemiologists remain concerned about the emergence of a new variant, and the best way to reduce the risk of that taking hold is for people to get vaccinated and to continue to wear masks. If our collective efforts to guard the health of the Rivanna River were graded, we’re doing about average. The Rivanna Conservation Alliance has presented their first Rivanna River Report Card by sifting through five years of data from the 50 monitoring sites they have throughout the watershed to look for the presence of E. coli bacteria. “A stream’s biological health is measured by catching, identifying, and counting the different small organisms that live in it,” reads the report card. The RCA has been monitoring water quality since 2003 when part of it was known as StreamWatch. Monitoring sites closer to developed areas tend to register as poor or fair. The RCA further breaks the watershed down into five subwatersheds. The Lower Rivanna in Fluvanna county scored the highest with a health rating of 63.7 and South Fork Rivanna subwatershed #1 in western Albemarle scored second at 62.4. Anything over 60 meets the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s water quality standards. The South Fork Rivanna subwatershed #2 is at 57.8. The North Fork subwatershed covers portions of Greene and Orange counties as well as northeastern Albemarle and is at 54.9. The Middle Rivanna which includes Charlottesville and southern Albemarle is at 51.9. To learn more about the RCA’s monitoring efforts, visit their website at rivannariver.org. If you live in the 804 or 276 area codes, you will soon need to dial ten numbers when making a phone call. That’s because of a need to prepare for the launch next year of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Beginning on July 16, 2022, people in crisis will be able to call 988 to connect with mental house counselors. Both the 804 area code for Richmond and the 276 area area code for southwest Virginia have exchanges that start with 988, hence the need to switch to ten-digit dialing. For now if you or anyone else need to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, you can do so at 1-800-273-8255. Learn more about the transition at the Federal Communication Commission’s website. Public hearings are underway today for maps for new legislative boundaries in Virginia with virtual events for northern Virginia and southwest Virginia. Over the weekend, the 16-member redistricting committee worked to finalize maps for the 100-member House of Delegates as well as the 40-member Virginia Senate. They did not reach consensus, and four sets of maps are still under consideration. On Saturday, they discussed two approaches to how the Charlottesville area would be redrawn. We are in the Central Region and the public hearing for the area is Wednesday at 4 p.m. Register here. Under the A7 Statewide map for the House of Delegates drawn by the Republican consultant, Albemarle County is split into three legislative districts. Northern Albemarle would be in the 74th District along with all of Greene and some of Orange County. Charlottesville would be in the 75th District along with much of Ivy in Albemarle County. Southern Albemarle would be in the 76th District along with all of Amherst and Nelson counties. (A7 map comment page)Under the B6 Statewide Map for the House of Delegates drawn by the Democratic consultant, Albemarle is in two districts. Charlottesville would be in the 80th district with central-eastern Albemarle. All of Albemarle County would be in the 81st District along with a portion of eastern Augusta County. (B6 map comment page)Under the A5 statewide map for the Senate drawn by Republican consultant, Albemarle and Charlottesville would be within the 31st District along with Nelson, Fluvanna, and Buckingham counties. (A5 Senate map)The B4 statewide map drawn by Democratic consultant is similar, but the 31st District would include Greene rather than Nelson. (B4 Senate map)The Redistricting Commission did not reach consensus on how to proceed with the House of Delegates before the public hearings began. The Commission next meets on October 8. Watch Saturday’s six hour meeting here. In another sign that the pandemic is loosening its grip on the delivery of some government services, walk-in service will begin tomorrow at Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle customer service centers across the Commonwealth. “At the direction of the General Assembly, DMV is integrating walk-in service back into its operations in addition to appointments,” reads a press release sent out this morning. “Based on research, surveys, experience, and the ongoing pandemic, DMV developed a hybrid service model to offer options and flexibility.”Walk-in service will be available Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Appointments are required for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The release states that masks are required and long wait times should be expected. Appointment service began in May 2020 after a two-month closure due to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic. In today's subscriber-fueled public service announcement: Lovers of used books rejoice! The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will resume the tradition of their annual Fall Book Sale this October 2nd through October 10 at a new location! The Friends of the Library sale will take place at Albemarle Square Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Half-price days on October 9 and October 10. Questions? Visit jmrlfriends.org for more information.October is Try Transit month, and anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I have a real passion for getting around the world without driving alone. Maybe it was those old Greyhound ads, but I’d rather leave the vehicle maneuvering to someone else. So, over the next month I’m going to take a little time in some of these newsletters to document my attempts to get to various places without getting in a car. Some context. I own a car, but it’s at a point where I need to make a repair before I can use it again. I do plan to do that in the near future, but for now I’ve been using the new Charlottesville Area Transit app. Again, anyone who’s followed me on Twitter the past few years knows I like to document my regular journeys. The new app presents an opportunity for me to describe a little bit about how I personally use it to try to get around. I am not an advocate and none of this is intended to persuade any policy decisions. I’m simply going with what I have. (download the app)So, in a future installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, you will hear clips from a Charlottesville City Council campaign forum that my company Town Crier Productions held with the Free Enterprise Forum. This in-person event was to be held at the Hillsdale Conference Center on Hillsdale Drive just over the border into Albemarle County. For some context, a friend of mine asked if she could store a car in my driveway, and I had permission to use it. But, as our audio story begins, with no further narration outside the moment, I was determined not to use it. Yesterday’s newsletter, however, was delayed by a total crash of the work I’d put into the podcast close to the end of production. I had to take an hour to recreate things. I’ve been using the new SPOT app which makes it easier to see where the buses are in relation to each other. The app I had before just told me the estimated times before a bus would show up at a stop. That was not enough information to be able to rely on to get to where I am going.This app, though? After you get used to it, it’s easier to see where the buses are in relation to each other. In the past few weeks, I’ve been using it to time my trips to the grocery store. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Willoughby Shopping Center, which is currently a de facto hub for the southern end of Charlottesville. I’ve seen a lot, and don’t yet know how to report it all. So, this is the first of a series of trips I hope to record and document. It’s October, but in the late afternoon of September 30, 2021, I was still trying to complete a newsletter. My intention had been to be done early, but… fate intervened. I still wanted to try to use the bus to get to the campaign forum, and this is an attempt to document that journey. Newsletter readers: You’ll have to listen to the rest to find out how I got to the event. I did get there, and you can watch the forum on YouTube. But if you want to skip to the end, watch the video conclusion of my journey, also on YouTube. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 30, 2021: Regional housing group talks budget, grant opportunities, strategic plan; Smith Aquatic Center to reopen in early 2022

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 30, 2021 15:43

On today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out:Fall is here but some days of summer heat may be in the days to come. Either way, tour local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s program:The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership updates its members on grants for eviction prevention and affordable unit constructionPlanning continues for a train station in Christiansburg at the future terminus of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional serviceThe city’s newest indoor pool will remain closed for the rest of the yearSeptember ends with a downward trend away from the COVID surge that’s overtaken Virginia and much of the country. Today the seven-day percent positivity is down to 8.9 today, down from 10.3 on September 1. The seven-day average for new cases has decreased to 2,828. There have been 889 fatalities reported in Virginia since September 1. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 89 cases today and the seven-day percent positivity has dropped to 6.8 percent. Charlottesville’s Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center will remain closed through the end of the year. Since opening in 2010, the facility has been plagued with ventilation problems and work is finishing up on a renovation project with a $2.2 million cost. “Our goal is to provide a safe, healthy, and inviting aquatic environment for the community and a safe work environment for our staff,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders in a press release that went out on September 27. Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center had been expected to close for repairs in the spring of 2020, but the pandemic shut down all Parks and Recreation facilities. When they began to gradually reopen this year, staffing shortages kept Onesty Pool in Meade Park closed for the entire summer. Smith is now expected to open on January 3. Work continues to build a train station in the New River Valley to be ready when the Amtrak Northeast Regional Service is expanded to that location in 2025. On Monday, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors got a briefing on Monday about progress to form an authority to finance and construct the station. The New River Valley Regional Commission is hoping to create that body by the end of the year. In May, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation allowing the formation of the authority. The group will work off efforts to bring passenger rail back to Christiansburg, including a ridership study from 2015 that projects a ridership of 40,000 a year. (read the study)According to a presentation to the seven-member Montgomery BOS, the MPO Policy Board for that area has selected a site near the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. Now the authority will work to convince localities in the region to chip in to the debt services to cover the cost of the station, estimated to cost $4.25 million. An Italian company that specializes in cured meats will set up its first operation in the United States in Rockingham County, according to an economic development announcement from Governor Ralph Northam. Veronesi Holding S.p.A. expects to provide about 150 jobs over the next four years in the county’s Innovation Village research and technology park. “The company plans to explore the possibility of working with smaller Virginia farms for its American production needs,” reads a press release about a $3.8 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund. Veronesi Holding had over €3.1 billion in sales in 2020 and 9,000 employees. The company can get benefits through the Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone grant program, and tax credits through the Majority Business Facility Job program. In today’s second Substack-supported public service announcement: The Charlottesville Jazz Society at cvillejazz.org is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of all that  jazz, and there’s no time like now to find a time to get out and watch people love to play. The Charlottesville Jazz Society keeps a running list of what’s coming up at cvillejazz.org. As the newly confirmed executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, one of Christine Jacob’s first jobs will be to secure the financial footing of a regional advisory body created a few years ago to encourage production of more residential units in the region.“Composed of an overarching consortium of housing interests, the Partnership enhances regional coordination and effectiveness to address the housing needs of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s region, with a focus on housing production, diversity, accessibility, cost, location, design, and increasing stability for the region’s residents,” reads the website for the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership. One of their products so far is a regional housing plan called Planning for Affordability  which includes strategies for each of the six localities. Charlottesville’s chapter echoes the Affordable Housing Plan adopted by Council in March of this year.(download the regional plan). At the partnership’s meeting on September 22, Jacobs told the partnership’s board members that a sustainable budget is required going forward. The FY22 budget has been reduced from $95,000 to $65,000. (watch the meeting on YouTube)“Originally what we had was that the TJPDC would contribute from its per capital regional fund $25,000 and we would be asking an immediate one-time ask from our local governments but pro-rated per capita,” Jacobs said. “We would be asking of you all partners within the CVRHP to contribute and then also seeking grants and scholarships.” Jacobs said asking local governments for funding out of the budget cycle is unusual so the idea of asking for funding was dropped. “It is assuming that we will run a very lean FY22 year focusing the majority of our energy and staff time on strategic planning,” Jacobs said. However, this is the beginning of the FY23 budget cycle for most localities, so this is a good time to make a request for ongoing funding. Jacobs is aiming for a $72,000 budget for the year that runs July 1, 2022 though June 30, 2023. Staff with the partnership are finalizing their work on implementing a $20,000 planning grant to help prevent or reduce evictions. Ian Baxter is the staff member for the regional housing partnership.“That’s the Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot planning grant, it’s kind of a mouthful,” Baxter said. “What we’re doing with now is we’ve contracted services from the UVA Equity Center to create a comprehensive eviction database to sort of determine where evictions are happening and which property companies are evicting the most people or bringing the most judgements or cases.”Baxter said the TJPDC will apply for a follow-up grant to implement some of the recommendations. In the meantime, some of the work involves the city of Charlottesville.“We’re working with the city of Charlottesville who are donating some staff time to do some focus groups with tenants, landlords, and judges here in the region and really thinking about what some of the best practices are in terms of reducing eviction in our region,” Baxter said. Implementation could include stabilization services, rental assistance, financial counseling, or other ways to keep people in the homes they are renting. Another grant the regional housing partnership will administer is direct funding from Virginia Housing for actual construction of units. “We ended up receiving $2 million to develop at least 20 units of affordable housing by June 2023,” Baxter said.  Baxter said the process for how the choices will be made is still being developed and a draft will be circulated by the end of October. There were other updates at the partnership including one from Thomas Haro, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. He said that while there are at least some more permanent shelters due to his agency’s use of the Red Carpet Inn in Premier Circle, there are not enough as winter approaches.“We’re trying to figure out how to get additional shelter capacity this winter,” Haro said. “So focusing on that with some community partners and trying to figure out the best way to bring that through.” As the partnership prepares a strategic plan, Haro said he would like to see language to ask developers to consider building units in new developments for homeless individuals. “There are ways to incorporate units specifically designated for people experiencing homelessness, particularly chronic homelessness,” Haro said. “There are ways to make it really sustainable. It works. The data is really supportive if you have supportive services in the picture. But without really specially holding aside those units for people experiencing homeless, it is difficult for people to get into units.”Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she sees an opportunity in the strategic plan.“If we could think about how we might better communicate and educate the public about affordable housing and what it really means or what it is,” McKeel said. Jessie Ferguson of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors agreed with McKeel and said it is time to stop demonizing those on government or philanthropic support.“It’s your neighbor, it’s the guy at the grocery store, it’s your police officer, actually,” Ferguson said. ”People don’t realize how personal this is.”Ferguson he hopes Nelson County will allow more residential units to be built by-right.An update on UVA’s housing initiativeThe University of Virginia continues to work toward its goal of working with a private developer to build up to 1,500 affordable units on land that either UVA or the UVA Foundations. The company Northern Urban Real Estate Ventures has been hired to come up with a plan through their community engagement efforts. Colette Sheehy is UVA’s Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government Relations. “We continue to work with our consultant and try to offer some educational videos for the public,” Sheehy said. “There are two of them up on our website currently.”The titles of these videos are Zoning and Matter of Right Development and The Development Process and Financing Overview. There will be more videos in the series and can be seen here.  Sheehy shared one piece of feedback the consultant has received so far from members of the community. “It’s important to them that we consider the economic opportunity that a project like this would offer to the community and therefore try to use local businesses and local contractors to the degree that that’s possible,” Sheehy said.Sheehy said the idea had been to circulate a list of potential sites by the end of September, but they are not quite ready to do so.  More on that in future installments of the show. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 29, 2021: Fry's Spring rezoning could depend on innovative sidewalk agreement; Virginia redistricting process nearing public hearing stage

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 29, 2021 17:17

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  It’s not too early to think about next spring! Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!On today’s program:A rezoning in Fry’s Spring for 170 units hinges on how to pay for a sidewalk on a road that would be more traveled The Weldon Cooper Center compares its population estimates to the Census countA quick lesson redistricting in VirginiaThe Foxfield Fall Races will benefit Habitat for Humanity this year and for the next fourOn this upcoming Sunday, Foxfield Races will hold their annual fall Family Day events at the tracks on Barracks Road west of Charlottesville. This year, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville will be the nonprofit group that will receive a portion of the proceeds as part of a five-year partnership.  The races are held on land under conservation easement. “We are focused on preserving open space to enable the broad diverse Charlottesville community to use Foxfield,” said Foxfield Executive Director Kelsey Cox in a Habitat press release. “We are overjoyed to create a long-term partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and look forward to welcoming new and returning attendees on race day to further support this partnership with Habitat.”Mark Lorenzoni of the Ragged Mountain Running and Walking Shop penned an article in the September 25 Daily Progress that provides a lot of background and perspective as we wait for the 43rd annual fall races at Foxfield. Visit the Foxfield website at foxfieldraces.com for details and to purchase ticketsThe Virginia Redistricting Commission met again this morning. They’ve been meeting this month to finalize a map for the 100-seat House of Delegates and the 40-seat Virginia Senate. The sixteen members consisting of eight legislators and eight citizens must finalize their maps this Saturday in time to meet one of several deadlines in the Virginia code. The Commission’s work began as soon as the U.S. Census Bureau released population counts from 2020. Further meetings are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, with the public hearings beginning on Monday. Coverage of what will be in those maps will come up in a future edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. The Commission must submit maps to the General Assembly by October 10. Virginia Code also specifies nine criteria for Congressional and legislative districts. You can register to speak at the public hearings at the redistricting website. It’s now been almost two months since the U.S. Census Bureau released the official population count for the country. That’s given the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia the time to make some observations about how the results compare to the annual estimates and regular projections their demographers make. “Our projections were higher than the actual counts in 66 localities, and lower for 67 cities and counties, indicating well-balanced results,” writes Shonel Sen in the latest edition of the Stat Chat blog that Weldon Cooper produces. The article explains the methodology used to calculate estimates and projections. Thirteen localities were in excess of a margin of error of five percent, including Charlottesville at 8.9 percent. Weldon Cooper’s 2020 estimate for Charlottesville was 49,447, but the Census count was 46,553. (2020 Weldon Cooper estimates) (Charlottesville Census quickfacts)An explanation in the footnotes of the blog post states that many college towns are perhaps undercounted due to students leaving the area at the start of the pandemic. Weldon Cooper’s 2020 estimate for Harrisonburg was 54,049, whereas the Census was 51,813. The Census Bureau’s 2019 estimate for Harrisonburg had been higher at 53,016, and 47,266 for Charlottesville. For more information, go back to the August 21, 2021 edition of this newsletter for an interview with Hamilton Lombard of the Weldon Cooper Center. (link)A quick Patreon-shout out before we continue.A concerned Charlottesville parent wants to make sure the community participates in the Middle School Reconfiguration process that is currently underway. After years of discussion, concrete plans are being put forward. You can learn more and contribute at the City of Charlottesville Schools/VMDOs information page" at charlottesvilleschools.org/facilities. (For my latest story on the topic, go back to the September 16, 2021 edition of this newsletter.)If the population projections put out by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia are to be believed, the area will continue to grow for many decades. The act of planning as well as the art of land development both take place in response to anticipated needs for places to live, seats in classrooms, and ways for people to get around. In many cases, it takes a legislative decision by elected officials to approve larger residential complexes. “I personally live in an area where many apartment units have gone up and they fill quickly,” said Ned Gallaway, the chair of the Board of Supervisors. “The question is whether the infrastructure is there to support the density.” On September 15, 2021, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 to approve a rezoning off of U.S. 29 for 332 units on property where the county’s Comprehensive Plan has long anticipated growth and along a stretch of U.S. 29 where a $61.3 million road project was completed in October 2017. The firm RST Development agreed to restrict 75 percent of the units to households below a certain income percentage. “We talk a lot about how we are an inclusive and welcoming place to live and this is an opportunity to create a place for people to live that have not been able to live in our community,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.“It is part of our primary development area, and when you’re looking at the development area, it is the area where there should be a larger concentration of lower-cost and more affordable housing,” said Supervisor Donna Price. A similar conversation took place in Charlottesville the night before on September 14, 2021. That’s when the Charlottesville Planning Commission held a joint public hearing with City Council on a rezoning at 240 Stribling Avenue in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood.Southern Development seeks a rezoning to Planned Unit Development to build up to 170 units on about 12 acres of wooded land. That came after a directive at an earlier work session for the firm to increase the units in the development.“The Planning Commission told us very clearly that you wanted to see something less dense and more suburban,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development.      Last year, the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association voted on a resolution to support the rezoning if sidewalks and other infrastructure on Stribling could be built to handle the additional traffic. The current Comprehensive Plan designates the land as low density residential, which is one reason a sidewalk there has not been prioritized in the city’s limited Capital Improvement Program budget. Southern Development’s proposal would set aside 15 percent of those units for either rental or homeownership to households making below 60 percent of the area median income. They also worked with the city’s economic development team to come up with a financing structure to pay for the roadway improvements on Stribling. However, this novel approach points to a potential disconnect in the process.Armstrong negotiated an agreement with the city’s Office of Economic Development to where Southern Development would make a $2 million loan for the city to build those improvements. The city would then pay Southern Development back over a period of years out of the increased property taxes that it will receive. “I do want to be clear that this agreement is not part of the rezoning request but it does impact the area nearby and certainly of interest to many in the neighborhood,” said Economic Development director Chris Engel. "In its simplest form this agreement that the developer provides up to $2 million in funds to construct the needed improvements in a timeframe that is likely contemporaneous with the PUD development.” The cost estimate provided by Southern Development for the upgrades is around $1.6 million.  City Engineer Jack Dawson only saw the agreement or the two days before the hearing and said that amount would not be enough because it did not contemplate the full extent of work required. “My concern is that probably that estime is a little light, to probably very light,” said Jack Dawson. “It isn’t just a sidewalk. It’s essentially a streetscape because when you touch a road you need to bring it up to code.” Code requires a 20 foot right of way which Dawson said would likely require the taking of private property for curb and gutter drainage, which would add to the cost.  Dawson cited an internal estimate created within City Hall of $2.9 million. However, Armstrong bristled at the cost estimate provided by Dawson.“That’s not a number that I’ve ever seen published or have ever heard and we’ve been talking with the city and been in this review process with the city for months and years so I would have hoped that might have come up,” Armstrong said. Under the terms of the agreement, the city would have to pay anything in excess of $2 million but finding those funds will be difficult. Earlier this month, Council opted to transfer funding allocated for the West Main Streetscape to the $75 million reconfiguration of Buford Middle School. Budget staff said when added to the existing capital improvement program, reconfiguration will require a 15 cent tax increase next year, or less depending on how the 2022 property assessments come in. “Right now, every penny we are going to have in capital funds until we figure out something else every penny is going to get allocated for school reconfiguration,” said City Councilor Lloyd Snook. The co-president of the FSNA appreciated the work that went into the agreement but said it was not yet enough to satisfy his concerns. “There is a potential to find a solution here but there is a big but,” said Jason Halbert. “It’s about safety on that street and the JPA intersection.”Halbert said the agreement had not been fully reviewed by the appropriate staff. He asked for the project to be delayed while the details of the agreement are worked out. Commissioner Hosea Mitchell said he liked the project over all but agreed it might not be ready.“I think it could use a little more baking,” Mitchell said. “There would be value in sitting with the engineers and the economic development people and working out the details and logistics so that we know exactly what it would like before we’re going to move on it.”Another commissioner suggested the city has to do a better job of communicating better internally about coming up with innovative ways to support density. “It’s endlessly frustrating to me the degree of dysfunction within the city where the economic development is negotiating this agreement and isn’t even telling [the city engineer] about it literally two days ago,” said Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg. The issue comes at a time when new city management is just finding its feet. Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders has been on the job less than two months, and new planning director James Freas has been in his job for less than two weeks. At the same time, the city is debating a new Comprehensive Plan. The current draft encourages more density across the city. “There’s no way to support this project without having a firm grasp of how we’re going to provide these infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood,” said Councilor Heather Hill. But which comes first? The rezoning or the infrastructure?  And whose cost estimate is to be believed? Southern Development’s $1.6 million, or $2.9 million from the city engineer? City attorney Lisa Robertson had this advice. “Leadership needs to put their heads together and talk about what’s realistic in terms of whether or not from inside City Hall a number can be developed that builds upon the work that Mr. Armstrong’s team has done, or clarifies it,” Robertson said. “Another function that really needs to be updated is the process by which we develop the city’s capital improvement program.”Robertson said the CIP cannot be a wish list of aspirational projects. More developed projects with more concrete estimates would provide more certainty. At the hearing, the question was whether an updated performance agreement could be completed to further scope out the project. Armstrong asked for an indefinite deferral while the agreement is worked out. What’s happened in the past two weeks?“The City is continuing to discuss the project with the developer while looking to confirm the cost estimate for the sidewalk project,” wrote Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville’s Communications Director. Before you go, a plug for a campaign forum I’m co-hosting with the Free Enterprise Forum. Here’s the media advisory:On Thursday September 30 the, three candidates for Charlottesville City Council will appear in person to answer questions posed by Town Crier Productions President Sean Tubbs and Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson in a candidate forum sponsored by The Hillsdale Conference Center. The event will also be live streamed via Zoom webinar. Register here!WHO: Candidates: Brian Pinkston, Juandiego Wade, Yas WashingtonModerators: Sean Tubbs, President, Town Crier ProductionsNeil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise ForumWHAT: Candidates will explore their vision for the city including their views on the Future Land Use Map (FLUM), proposed tax increases, affordable housing, equity issues, organizational issues, and Economic Development. WHEN: Thursday, September 30 th 7:00 pmWHERE: Hillsdale Conference Center Ballroom, 550 Hillsdale Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22901. MASKS REQUIRED – SOCIAL DISTANCING ENFORCED. WHY: Election Day 2021 is now. Early voting has already begun. Learn where the candidates stand before casting your ballot. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 28, 2021: Wawa to replace Hardee's on 5th Street Extended; Kamptner to retire as Albemarle's attorney

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 28, 2021 12:41

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out:WTJU 91.1 FM is a different sort of radio station. It's dedicated to sharing the transcendent experience of music while raising funds from listeners across the world. From October 4th through 10th, WTJU airs its annual Jazz Marathon. Tune in for a deep dive into everything from bebop to blues. WTJU's Volunteer DJs will play the spectrum jazz – from Billie Holiday to Cannonball Adderly to Pharaoh Sanders. Plus live, local jazz performances throughout the week. Visit the Jazz Marathon schedule now to plot your listening schedule!On today’s show:Catching up with Charlottesville City Council with info on the police chief search, a lease for a garden in McIntire Park, and moreA major convenience store franchise is pursuing a fourth store in Charlottesville’s urban areaAn update on the pandemic from Governor Ralph NorthamSince the last newsletter on September 23, 2021, COVID’s late summer surge in Virginia is showing signs of slowing down. The seven day average of new cases has decreased down to 3,003 and the seven-day percent positivity is down to 9.1 percent. That figure was 9.7 five days ago. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there have been 392 cases reported today since the last newsletter and and another four fatalities. The seven-day percent positivity is 7.2. Governor Ralph Northam held his first pandemic press briefing in some time yesterday and said this trend is encouraging.“In the past few days, case numbers have started to move down and hospitalization numbers are leveling off and that is a hopeful sign,” Northam said. “But the numbers are still way too high.”Northam reminded Virginians that at one point at the beginning of the summer, there was a day with less than a hundred new cases. As of today, 60.1 percent of Virginians are fully vaccinated and 71.5 percent of the adult population is now fully vaccinated. “The data show that nearly everyone who is getting COVID is unvaccinated,” Northam said. “I want to repeat that. Nearly everyone who is getting COVID is unvaccinated.”You can check the data here. The Delta variant began widespread transmission in early June and Northam said the current surge could have been avoided if people had gotten their shot or shots. He said the cost of hospital care for this summer’s surge is $5 billion and rising. Northam said at this point, there is little he can do to urge people who refuse to get the vaccine, but he brought up his personal experience contracting COVID.“Believe me, you don’t want to get it,” Northam said. “My case was back in September, and a year later I still can’t smell anything or taste anything and now the COVID variant that’s going around is a lot worse than the one in September.”You can watch all of Northam’s briefing on YouTube. He has updated on booster shots and more. (watch)Albemarle County will soon begin a search to find a new county attorney. Greg Kamptner has been in the position for nearly six and a half years and will retire next year, according to materials for Wednesday’s closed door meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Kamptner began working for the county in 1995 and became deputy county attorney in 2007. If you’re interested in land use law in Albemarle and Virginia, Kamptner literally wrote the handbook. (Land Use Law Handbook)A site plan has filed for a Wawa gas station within the city of Charlottesville on 5th Street Extended. If approved and constructed it would be either the third or fourth franchise within the urban area around Charlottesville. Plans have also been filed for a Wawa at the corner of Route 29 and Greenbrier , just over the line in Albemarle. The property in Charlottesville is currently a Hardee’s restaurant. A virtual site plan conference is scheduled for October 20. Materials for that meeting sent to neighborhood associations do not identify the 5,300 square foot gas station as a Wawa, but the agenda for the September 14, 2021 Planning Commission identifies Wawa as the subject of a future consideration by the Entrance Corridor Review Board. That will be the only legislative approval required for the project as the property is zoned for Highway Mixed Use Corridor. In today's subscriber-fueled public service announcement: Lovers of used books rejoice! The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will resume the tradition of their annual Fall Book Sale this October 2nd through October 10 at a new location! The Friends of the Library sale will take place at Albemarle Square Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Half-price days on October 9 and October 10. Questions? Visit jmrlfriends.org for more information.To celebrate my high school reunion this weekend, I took a few days off last week. That means there will be a lot of segments this week about a lot of different meetings I missed. There’s a lot to get through so we’re all caught up. Let’s go back first to the City Council meeting from September 20, 2021. City Manager Chip Boyles brought up an op-ed column he wrote for the Daily Progress regarding his decision at the beginning of this month to fire former Police Chief RaShall Brackney.“While standing firm on the decision I did make, the fact is I could have handled the decision quite differently,” Boyles said. “I could have and should have engaged Council and my leadership team in more deliberating and on my intended actions so that I not only had their input but also had a broader perspective of the community’s response.”Boyles said he could not talk about all of the reasons for the firing at this time due to confidentiality but did say he did meet with representatives of the Police Benevolent Association about their survey. He said the August 20 press release that went out unsigned was approved by him, and that the briefly retired Major Jim Mooney will serve as assistant chief only until an interim police chief is hired. “Procedures are in place to create a committee for both the interim police chief search and to fill the permanent police chief position,” Boyles said.That will consist of one City Councilor, representatives from the city manager’s office, the Police Civilian Review Board, the Human Rights Commission, and three other members of the public. Later, Council voted 4-1 on a resolution to approve the report for how the city spent its Community Development Block Grant and HOME funding for fiscal year 2020 which ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30 of this year. Mayor Nikuyah Walker voted against what’s known as the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER). (staff report)“The CDBG and the entitlement portion of what’s in here, I think there are some things we could do differently,” Walker said. “And I have questions that I have expressed the entire time I’ve been here about the HOME funds are used and whether the citizens are receiving the best services possible.”After that, Council held the first reading of entering into a ground lease with the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, a nonprofit that has been working with the city to use a portion of land in the northeast corner of McIntire Park.“Documentation previously approved at the Council level goes back to September of 2012 with a master plan of McIntire Park,” said City Manager Boyles. “There have been conceptual designs, resolutions for agreement, a [memorandum of understanding] with the McIntire Botanical Garden, and then most recently in 2017 a final site plan approval for McIntire Park.”Under the terms of the MOU, the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont would cover the costs of any buildings or structures in the site. Under the terms of the lease, they would have to begin construction within five years of it being signed. “This would be a landlord/tenant lease and not a partnership with the botanical garden,” Boyles said. “The city is not asked to contribute any financial resources to this other than once complete, Parks and Recreation would be asked to maintain the parking lots and the sidewalks of the parking area.” The project will include a stream restoration and a pedestrian trail through the area. The proposed ground lease will be updated to provide more clarity on this item before the second reading and public hearing on Council’s October 4 meeting. There will be no cost to visit the park but there will be a fee to reserve function space. (9/20 edition of the ground lease)Next, the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) briefed Council on the way several public housing construction projects are being financed. But, we’re going to hold off on that one for today until a future installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement.  This week I’m hoping to get one out each day so I can get caught up with what I’ve missed. I hope my writing continues to be of benefit to you. Please send it on to someone else you think might be interested! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 23, 2021: Habitat provides Southwood details to Albemarle Supervisors

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 23, 2021 16:38

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Fall is just around the corner, but the summer heat is sticking around a bit longer. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show: The Albemarle Board of Supervisors gets an update on Habitat’s redevelopment of SouthwoodThe Blue Ridge Health District holds a town hall on the continuing pandemicSeveral new historic markers are on the docket today at the Virginia Department of HIstoric ResourcesAll of Virginia’s 132 school divisions are now open in person, according to a press release from Governor Ralph Northam. First Lady Pamela Northam just concluded a statewide tour of schools and the release includes a link to COVID-19 safety resources for parents and students. Most schools systems continue to list the number of COVID cases, including Amherst County, which was closed for part of September due to a high positivity rate.Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 3,767 new cases and 54 new fatalities. The percent positivity has decreased to 9.7 percent. There are another 128 new cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District and an additional COVID death. Last night, the Blue Ridge Health District held a town hall to talk about continuing resources in the days of Delta. “As we all know, it’s much more transmissible than previous variants than what we’ve experienced with COVID,” said Ryan MacKay, director of policy and planning for the district. “It’s also sort of coincided with the expiration of a lot of the mandates that had been in place for masks, distancing, limiting numbers at social gatherings, so we’ve had this combination.”MacKay said health officials meet with schools each week to minimize risk as much as possible. That involves case investigations to understand how further transmissions may have occurred. MacKay said this is also the time of year when there are other ailments that are very similar to COVID. “As we enter flu-season and we enter into what traditionally is more disease-spreading in congregate settings such as in schools, it’s going to make that a little bit more difficult,” MacKay said. “So the reason we’re asking schools and pediatricians to really work with families to really identify what is causing the illness. It’s critical because that minimizes the risk of spread and makes sure we can keep children where they need to be which is in classrooms and schools.” That means that children with any symptoms should stay home until COVID is ruled out. If the diagnosis is positive, 14 days of quarantine with no school activity or interaction with anyone. The Blue Ridge Health District is currently offering third-dose boosters to those who qualify.“Third doses for people who are immunocompromised began on August 13,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, director of the Blue Ridge Health District. “You don’t have to bring in any proof. You can self-declare and the best person to speak with is your primary care physician who can help you make that determination that you need that third dose.” Around the same time as the town hall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone over the age of 65 and well as those at high-risk of severe COVID. (press release)There is not yet a recommendation for those who got the Johnson and Johnson shots. More as we continue. Several proposed historic markers in the area are being considered today by the Board of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at their meeting at Montpelier. One would recognize a 1950 court case that forced the University of Virginia to admit a Black man who had been denied a space because of his skin color. A three-judge panel heard the Swanson V. University of Virginia case in the former federal court on Market building that now houses the Central Branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. That’s where the marker will stand. Another is at Jackson Burley High School on Rose Hill Drive. The building opened in 1951 to unify several Black high schools across the area. “The 26-classroom building reflected an effort to provide “separate but equal” facilities in an era when lawsuits frequently challenged poor conditions in Black schools,” reads the proposed text. “The 1956 football team was undefeated and unscored on.”Jackson P. Burley High School was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places last year. The DHR Board will also consider a marker for Dr. W. W. Yen, the first international national to attend the University of Virginia. The Chinese national graduated in 1900 and went on to a career as a diplomat. His nomination is part of a contest held as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Read the full nominations here. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time for two quick Patreon-shout-outs. One person wants you to know "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one brand new Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!This summer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has been updating various committees in Albemarle on their efforts to redevelop the Southwood Mobile Home Park as a mixed-use community. The Board of Supervisors approved the first phase of a rezoning in August 2019, and they got an update at their meeting on September 15. There are a lot of details, and if you want all of them, I recommend watching the full presentation. (watch)But here is a summary beginning with planner Megan Nedostup with the basic info. “Habitat acquired the property in 2007,” Nedostup said. “1,500 residents live there in 341 mobiles homes.”Supervisors adopted a resolution to work with Habitat on redevelopment in 2016 and an action plan in 2018 that included financial contributions from the county. “Involved with that approval we appropriated $675,000 to Southwood to assist with the rezoning application,” Nedostup said. “In 2019 the performance agreement was approved. $1.5 million for construction of 75 affordable units. $300,000 for 80 or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). And $1.4 million over ten years in tax rebates.”The rezoning approved a total of 458 housing units on undeveloped land along Old Lynchburg Road. Site plans are coming in for each of the 12 blocks in this stage of the development. Piedmont Housing Alliance is building the LIHTC units and aim to exceed the total by constructing 121 apartments in three buildings. Nedostup said Habitat has met one milestone of the performance agreement and has received $100,000 for planning work. Another $300,000 payment for securing the LIHTC credits is being processed. “Milestone 1C included $200,000 when Habitat demonstrates it has secured funding for 57 affordable units and that one is in process,” Nedostup said. Other milestones are also in the process of being met. Outside of the performance agreement, Albemarle County also partnered with Habitat on a $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). In his presentation, Habitat CEO Dan Rosenweig showed a fly-through video of what the development will look like when it comes together. The idea has been to build a new community along new roadways. “We worked closely with Atlantic Builders to design a new product typology so that this streetscape created a really great walk from deeper into the neighborhood toward the neighborhood downtown,” Rosensweig said. “[These are] townhomes that are two stories in the front and then they take advantage of the grade to be three stories behind so what it appears are townhomes that are really human scale.”Rosensweig reminded the Board that the Planning Commission had had concerns about whether there would be enough affordable units in the first phase. “There was concern among Planning Commissioners about the ultimate amount of affordable housing in phase one and whether that would be enough housing to take care of the residents who exist at Southwood now as we move phase by phase but also to create new affordable housing in the region,” Rosensweig said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job with 335 total units in phase one with 207 of them affordable,” Rosensweig said. “Habitat is going to build 86 of them. That’s going to be almost exclusively homeownership but there are some residents who will not LIHTC and who will not want to purchase a home, so we’ve committed to making some deeply affordable rentals available interspersed in the neighborhood as well.”Rosensweig said he estimated about 100 families will be rehoused as part of the first phase. Unfortunately, some families have had to be moved on a temporary basis due to poor environmental conditions that he said Habitat has inherited from the previous owner.“Instead of one or two mobile homes hooked up to a septic tank there were ten, and so those leach fields are extending into the areas of construction so out of an abundance of caution and safety for residents we are in the process of moving the first 25 families from the area immediately adjacent to the construction site to the other side of the mobile home park in trailers where there are served by sewer,” Rosensweig said. There are about fifty more families that will need to be rehoused due to the next phase of construction. Rosensweig said a rehousing task force has been formed to identify solutions. There are other environmental issues. “There’s also a remediation task force that has formed to deal with some of the things that were a little bit hard to dig,” Rosensweig said. “For example, the mobile home park has been on electric for many years but originally there was an oil tank installed under every trailer. As we started to move them, we expected one in ten to leak. If they were decent material to start with, they wouldn’t leak. But all ten of the first ones that we dug up leaked, which suggests to us that all 341 are going to be removed.” Rosensweig said Habitat has worked with Albemarle and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to remove the damaged sections of soil where it has been encountered. “It’s kind of like cutting out a tumor,”  Rosensweig said. “You remove the bad stuff and also dirt around it, stockpile it, and remove it. The site is pristine now but it has cost a lot more than we expected.” Rosensweig said the Board of Supervisors can expect to see the next phase of the rezoning. Habitat will ask to extend the rules for the existing zoning and its code of development across the whole park. “More like a zoning amendment than a rezoning,” Rosensweig said. The goal is to submit the application by mid-October. Supervisor Liz Palmer has been on the Board since 2014 and wanted to make sure all of the steps of the performance agreement are tracked. “I’m wondering going forward on future projects how we compare what we’re getting for the amount of money that we’re putting in because these numbers are hard to keep track of overtime.”Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing coordinator, said it is too early to be able to break down a cost-per-unit, but that will be available as the projects go through the many variables involved in a construction project.“The cost as we’ve learned over the past year continues to significantly change and has a significant impact on the project,” Pethia said. Rosenweig had an exact figure for the roughly $4 million in Albemarle’s investment.“That works out to about $19,000 a unit,” Rosensweig said. “The cost for each of our homes on average is probably looking because of COVID price spikes in the mid $200K’s and so your funding represents a little less than ten percent of each of the units.” This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 22, 2021: Charlottesville Fire Chief Smith explains new dispatch system, explains his vision for CFD in the 21st century

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2021 16:26

Today's Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Rivanna Conservation Alliance. What are you doing on September 25? That's the day when RCA staff and volunteers will spend the day at the second annual Rivanna River Round-Up, a community watershed clean-up event. Last year, nearly a hundred people helped remove sixty large bags of trash from waterways that feed into the Rivanna as well as over 120 discarded tires. The Rivanna Conservation Alliance will also accept specific areas that you might want to clean as part of the Round-Up. More information as well as registration can be found at rivannariver.org.On today’s show:Charlottesville Fire Chief Hezedean Smith explains changes to the EMS dispatch system to City Council UVA’s new hotel will have a rooftop bar The area’s regional planning body will be run a familiar face The COVID-19 pandemic continues with another 3,737 cases reported today by the Virginia Department of Health. In the past seven days there have been another 239 fatalities reported in Virginia. The seven-day testing positivity has fallen to 9.8 percent from 10.5 percent a week ago. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 112 cases reported today and the percent positivity is at 7.1 percent. There have been four more fatalities reported since the last edition of this newsletter on September 16, 2021. The Blue Ridge Health District will hold a virtual town hall on the pandemic tonight at 7 p.m. If you have questions, you can send them in advance when you register to be on the Zoom call. (register)The person who has been serving as the interim director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District has been given the job on a permanent basis. Christine Jacobs has been serving in the position since February and was hired after an extensive search. Jacobs took over the position from Chip Boyles who has been serving as Charlottesville City Manager. The TJPDC is a regional planning body that covers the city and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. When the University of Virginia’s new hotel and conference center opens on Ivy Road, there will be a rooftop bar. The Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Visitors will meet Thursday to approve a change to the design for the six-story structure which is part of the Emmet/Ivy Corridor. Another future building is the Institute of Democracy and the Committee will consider design guidelines for that structure as well as a renaming proposal to the Karsh Institute of Democracy. They’ll also consider a proposal to name a new McIntire School building Shumway Hall and will consider the expansion of the Encompass Rehabilitation Hospital at the  Fontaine Research Park. The latter had been originally proposed as a new structure at the North Fork Research Park, but the decision was made to expand in place. “The proposed project will renovate and update nearly 50,000 SF in the existing hospital and construct a 16,400 SF addition, allowing the hospital to convert from 50 beds in semi-private rooms to 60 beds in private rooms,” reads the staff report for the item. (meeting packet)In today's subscriber-fueled public service announcement: Lovers of used books rejoice! The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will resume the tradition of their annual Fall Book Sale this October 2nd through October 10 at a new location! The Friends of the Library sale will take place at Albemarle Square Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Half-price days on October 9 and October 10. Questions? Visit jmrlfriends.org for more information.Charlottesville Fire Chief Hezedean Smith has been on the job nearly ten months and he had the opportunity Monday to talk about the department as well as to explain changes to the way the fire department dispatches ambulances. Earlier this month, representatives from the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad critiqued the new “proximity dispatch” system. (Story from September 8, 2021)“I’m appreciative of the many years of contributions from CARS for over 60 years and for our Fire Department for over 165 years and agree that working together collaboratively, we’ll be able to create a model system framework in this region based on 21st century concepts and strategies,” Smith said. In this community, emergency calls are routed through the Charlottesville-UVA-Albemarle Emergency Communications Center. Smith said there are initiatives underway to make the system more efficient.“This medical priority dispatch system will replace an almost 25 or 30 year old system that’s being currently used to triage calls that are sometimes not necessarily 100 percent accurate because it requires on information from the 9-1-1 caller,” Smith said.Smith said EMS services across the nation are working to implement something called EMS Agenda 2050 which seeks to position public safety calls as people-centered. “It talks about how EMS personnel must have immediate access to resources that they need for patients including health care providers, social services, and other community resources,” Smith said. In his tenure, Smith said he has realigned the command structure of the Fire Department to better meet those goals and others. One of those is the Neighborhood Risk Reduction program which seeks to inform residents about the specific hazards that face specific demographics and geographic areas.  A StoryMap on this program is available online:“So for example if you want to look at 10th and Page, what’s going on in 10th and Page, you can see what the community profile looks like and this is a compilation of various data sources that are out there,” Smith said. “This neighborhood is first in cardiac arrests. Third for structure fires, diabetic emergencies, cardiac emergencies, falls.” Smith said knowing that information can help with preparations and community outreach. As it relates to the dispatch system, Smith said everyone wants a system that works but there are disagreements about whether the recent change to the proximity dispatch system has been beneficial. Chief Smith said he is in frequent conversations with Albemarle Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston. “Chief Eggleston and I have the same vision for this system delivery in this region so we have conversations about what the future should look like in this system,” Smith said. Smith said while he intends to collaborate with CARS but if they cannot meet a desired level of service, the city will provide the service instead with professional crews whose salaries are covered by tax dollars. At issue is how to get service calls to get to the scene more quickly with a travel time target of four minutes. Also at issue is the difference between Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS). Here’s Deputy Chief Mike Rogers with an explanation. “The basic life support level is emergency medical technician basic,” Rogers said. “That’s a requisite for the jobs that the firefighters here at the Charlottesville Fire Department have and that’s the basic level. Bleeding wound care, CPR to the basic life support level, basic anatomy and physiology of being able to take care of the patient.” Advanced Life Support requires more training to allow care at a trauma level. “And essentially that allows the EMT to begin to place IV’s, give some limited amounts of medication,” Rogers said. Chief Smith said the system that has been in place is due for a replacement to increase the chances of a patients’ survival by ensuring all calls have the chance of receiving ALS. “The triage protocols that are in place are greater than 20 years old so the move to a 21st century protocol and electronic framework is underway currently,” Smith said. “Oftentimes the basic life support if all you have is an EMT who cannot execute any advanced skills, that patient does not have getting anything done pre-hospital unless there’s a call for the Fire Department to come and provide ALC which oftentimes delays care even more.”The proximity dispatch system uses algorithms to dispatch calls using automatic vehicle localities and the global positioning system. Chief Smith acknowledges that that the system has caused concerns, but also notes that Albemarle County initiated proximity dispatch in recent years. He also presented evidence that shows how the system is working to increase response times in some neighborhoods. In all, he gave an hour-long lecture that is a must-view for anyone interested in this topic. (watch on BoxCast)During his hour-long presentation, Chief Smith said that “what can be measured can be improved.” “Seventy-one percent of the time in FY21, the first arriving CARS unit on the scene met the performance benchmark for turnout and time,” Smith said. “Not bad. Actually decent! But there’s opportunities for improvement.”However, CARS’ performance on more advanced calls were much lower. Chief Smith said CARS met these calls on time ten percent in FY21. But here’s where the need for better metrics comes in.“The system is designed in a way that the numbers for ALS versus BLS are not necessarily clearly defined because the protocols vary in how the system was set up but essentially there are opportunities for improvement,” Smith said. Smith said the Charlottesville Fire Department’s results on more advanced calls could also use improvement. “Here we have a 58 percent metric that we’re not doing well,” Smith said. “There’s opportunities for improvement here for CFD as well,” Smith said. During the public comment period, UVA trauma surgeon Forest Calland took the opportunity to ask Smith a series of questions and to question the idea of sending ALS units to as many calls as possible. “There’s just simply no evidence pointing to the benefit of having response teams under four minutes for BLS calls and there’s no evidence that sending paramedics to BLS calls is of any benefit,” Dr. Calland said. Last year, Charlottesville a federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire additional firefighters. Dr. Calland said he is concerned by prioritizing ALScalls, the city will lose the financial benefit of volunteer labor. “Your system is going to cost $2.5 million additional per year once your grant runs out,” Calland said. “Is the City Council prepared to take this money out of the taxpayers’ pockets when CARS has been providing this service for free for the last 50 years?”Chief Smith said his presentation was to prepare for the future, and not debate the past. In addressing the questions, he said the SAFER grant was to ensure firefighting capacity and he acknowledged a need to address capacity issues. “I will not be satisfied having insufficient firefighters on the fireground and potentially risking losing a firefighter,” Smith said. “Ultimately the staffing limits will have to be addressed.”Chief Smith said he would be willing to meet with CARS officials when the time is appropriate. “But the idea is to have a conversation because what we have done for the last 60 years or what we’ve done for the last 165, if we continue to do that I don’t think we will move forward with meeting the needs of this community,” Smith said. Charlottesville’s arrangement with CARS is in a memorandum of understanding that has both an operational and a budgetary component. City Attorney Lisa Robertson had suggested that Chief Smith not meet with CARS management while disputes were ironed out.“I think the two issues were conflating and they need to be separate,” Robertson said. “The financial relates to the other but they’re two separate issues. In both issues, both the city manager and the fire chief will have to sit down with CARS and work through both sets of issues. It has absolutely not ever been by intention to tell anyone that you can’t sit down and talk to each other because of legal issues. These are almost purely operational and financial issues.”If you want to know about how emergency services operates in the area do take a look or listen to the whole discussion. (watch on BoxCast)Thanks for listening! Please forward this on to others, and please ask questions in the comment section below! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 16, 2021: Charlottesville City Council chooses school reconfiguration over West Main streetscape; Early voting begins on Friday

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 16, 2021 17:58

The first of two Patreon-fueled shout-outs!WTJU 91.1 FM is a different sort of radio station. It's dedicated to sharing the transcendent experience of music while raising funds from listeners across the world. From October 4th through 10th, WTJU airs its annual Jazz Marathon. Tune in for a deep dive into everything from bebop to blues. WTJU's Volunteer DJs will play the spectrum jazz – from Billie Holiday to Canonball Adderly to Pharoah Sanders. Plus live, local jazz performances throughout the week.  Visit wtju.org to learn more. On today’s show:Charlottesville City Council discusses the costs of reconfiguring Buford Middle School and make a decision on West Main StreetEarly voting in Virginia begins tomorrow, and a look at voting as it stands in Albemarle and Charlottesville in 2021 Rio Hill Shopping Center has asked Charlottesville Area Transit to stop stopping thereAnd a new job for Charlottesville most recent planning director Another day, another large number of new COVID cases. That number is 4,181 and the percent positivity is 10.6. There are another 145 new cases in the Blue Ridge Health District and one more fatality reported. That person lived in Greene County. The COVID-19 model created by the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute currently projects that the Charlottesville area will reach a peak of 2,245 new cases a week in mid-October. “Models can help us understand the potential course of COVID-19, but they are not crystal balls,” reads a statement on the website for the model. “Most models struggle to project policy changes, changes in human behavior, or new and rare events.”With the pandemic raging, many indoor venues are now requiring proof of vaccination before admittance. To make showing that proof more convenient, the Virginia Department of Health announced today they are offering QR codes.“As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Biden and Governor Northam to require that employees and customers be vaccinated,” reads a press release. “QR codes will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.”Visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain a QR code. Virginia is the fifth state to adopt protocols developed for SMART Health Cards. *Early voting in Virginia begins tomorrow as acting Charlottesville Registrar Taylor Yowell explains.“Under Virginia election law, voters can vote up to 45 days early in-person or absentee,” Yowell said.  “So with that 45 days in advance of an election, that is 33 actual days that you can come into our office and vote.”Yowell made her comments this past week at a Sunday seminar held by the League of Women Voters of the Charlottesville Area.  Yowell said mail-in ballots will be distributed beginning this week. (listen to the whole event)“In order to receive a mail ballot, you must fill out a mail ballot application and that can be submitted online, in-person to our office, mailed in to us,” Yowell said. “We do have a lot of voters and say ‘hey, I don’t have availability to get online and fill one out’ so we will send them the application with a return envelope so they can be added to the list.” Once registrars across Virginia receive ballots, there is a process known as curing that validates the vote. According to the instructions on voting absentee in Virginia, there’s an A envelope, and a B envelope.   “Whether this is by mail, whether you drop to our dropbox, whether you drop into our office, we take it inside and it will be automatically opened up and we check to make sure every component on your B envelope… this is where your name, your address, your signature, your witness signature, the day you filled out the ballot… this is where we make sure everything is correct. And we have three days after we receive a ballot to notify you if there’s something that needs to be cured, so that way your ballot can be accepted and processed in our office,” Yowell said. In 2020, the state of emergency related to the pandemic temporarily waived the requirement for a witness signature. That will be required again this year. Yowell said voting early in-person is just like voting on Election Day. “No results are pulled until 7 p.m. on Election Day, just like at the precincts, because no one will know and no one can prior to 7 p.m.,” Yowell said.Now, what if someone requested a ballot via mail, and then shows up in person anyway? Yowell said in that case, the person is asked to sign an oath.“It’s just a gold piece of paper saying ‘I have lost or not received my ballot’ and it’s pretty much an affirmation signing that you will not attempt to vote twice,” Yowell said. “If you do, it will be turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.” The last day for in-person voting before Election Day will be October 30. Charlottesville Area Transit Route 5 will no longer serve the Rio Hill Shopping center, according to a release from the bus agency. The release states the property owner has requested the change, and that means two stops within the shopping center will become dormant. The 31 acre property is owned by SCT Rio Hill LLC, a firm associated with the retirement system for employees of the state of Connecticut. The manager of the Rio Hill Shopping Center said in June 7 letter to the city that planned renovation implements a vision that does not involve public transit.“Not only are the buses a safety hazard for the customers crossing the main drive lanes to get to the stores, but the weight of the buses is also causing significant damage to the asphalt resulting in wear and cracking,” wrote Jim Paulus, the center’s manager. The planned route changes that have not yet been fully approved had already taken the request into account. In addition, Route 5 will no longer terminate at the Wal-Mart but instead will stop at Fashion Square Mall. Route 7 will instead travel to Wal-Mart and the plans show the alignment as missing Rio Hill Shopping Center. There is no date for when the transit changes will be made. H   The Regional Transit Partnership meets next Thursday. Previous coverage:February 6, 2021: Catching up with Albemarle's Comprehensive Plan, Entrance Corridors, Rio Hill Shopping Center renovationJuly 4, 2021: Preparing for Charlottesville area's transit future; Water authority gets update on cybersecurity, capital projectsNow that Charlottesville has a new director of Neighborhood Development Services, the person who last held the position now has a city post in a newly created city department. Alex Ikefuna is the interim director of the Office of Community Solutions. “The Office of Community Solutions will reside in CitySpace and the team will concentrate on our housing priorities, commercial redevelopment interests, federal entitlements/investments coordination and management, and neighborhood constituent services,” said city communications director Brian Wheeler in an email. Ikefuna will oversee the Office of Housing, which will report to Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “The vision for this office is to expand and deepen the City’s approach to a variety of community-based efforts, especially related to addressing our affordable housing crisis,” Wheeler continued. In today’s second Substack-supported public service announcement: The Charlottesville Jazz Society at cvillejazz.org is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of all that  jazz, and there’s no time like now to find a time to get out and watch people love to play. The Charlottesville Jazz Society keeps a running list of what’s coming up at cvillejazz.org. Last night, the Charlottesville City Council got the latest details on the plans for reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools. Go back and read/listen to the September 14, 2021 edition of the show for the details. Since that was posted, a Community Design Team that has been shepherding the work of architectural firm VMDO has made their final recommendation. Here’s Wyck Knox of VMDO with the latest information. (presentation from September 14, 2021 CDT meeting)“The unanimous choice by the CDT was Option 3 that builds in the bowl and gives a new look to the school and the most square footage and the most variety of outdoor spaces to the new building,” Knox said. This is also the most expensive option at an estimate of $73 million. The five-year capital improvement program budget has a $50 million placeholder for reconfiguration. If Council agrees to proceed with the project, they’ll need to approve a budget with actual numbers in order to calculate how many millions of dollars in bonds need to be sold to pay for the capital costs. (FY22 adopted CIP)For the Council meeting, the city’s budget office presented funding scenarios all of which include an increase in the property tax rate to cover the cost of the additional debt service to pay the bond proceeds back. These hinge on whether the city proceeds with a long-planned and multi-phased project to upgrade West Main Street that grew out of a $350,000 planning study requested in 2012 by the PLACE Design Task Force. While the currently adopted CIP does not include any additional funding for the $49 million project, Council has previously allocated $20.54 million in local money to match state funding for the first two phases.  That’s according to a slide presented to Council back in February. Council could opt to transfer that to the school project. The tax increases were initially to have been phased in gradually at two cents a year to cover the five-year plan as adopted by Council in April. For the purposes of these scenarios, the tax increases are shown happening next year all at once, and include an additional five cents to cover the additional cost to finance the reconfigured schools.“If you want to start construction in FY23, which is next year, then we have to have the money to sign a contract, so that means all the money all at once,” said Krissy Hamill, the city’s budget performance analyst. Option 1 would cover just the cost of that $50 million placeholder and would include the West Main project. This would result in a 15 cent tax increase next  year to a rate of $1.10 per $100 of assessed value. “Option 2 would decrease the amount of tax increase that would be required if West Main Street were removed,” said City Manager Chip Boyles.That would be a 13 cent tax rate to $1.08 per $100 of assessed value. The next two options raise the reconfiguration cost to $75 million. Option 3 keeps West Main Street with a 18 cent tax rate increase. Option 4 drops West Main and is also a 15 cent tax increase. Those actual rates could be different depending on the results of the 2022 assessment. That’s why you see the phrase “tax rate equivalent” in the options. There will be no room for any additional capital projects for at least two years under these scenarios. “There are a lot of variables in this,” said Boyles. “This is making the assumption that there is no sales referendum and no sales tax increase.” Boyles estimates the one percent increase in the tax would bring in an additional $12 million a year. The current sales tax is 5.3 percent, but Charlottesville only gets one percent of that amount. The budget for the current fiscal year anticipates the city will collect $12 million a year. In Fiscal Year 2020, the city collected $11.4 million according to data compiled by the Auditor of Public Accounts for the Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s up from $9.3 million in 2010. The capital budget for FY22 includes $1 million for a parking structure at Market Street and East High. Earlier this year, Council opted to wait a year on that project and wait until next year to spend the remaining $7 million. So far, the options presented to Council did not factor in what happens if the project is dropped but that project cannot get totally zeroed out. (FY22 adopted CIP)“What we have been looking at is reserving at least a couple of million if we had to create surface parking on the properties that we own,” Boyles said. “I would say definitely $5 million could be transferred if needed.”However, Hammill said that would not affect the projected tax rates because the capital budget already assumes bonds will be sold to cover the cost of paying projects. The housing plan adopted by City Council calls for $10 million a year to be dedicated to affordable projects. The current five-year capital improvement program anticipates $13.5 million on public housing, $925,000 a year on the city’s affordable housing plan, $900,000 a year for housing vouchers, and $11.4 million in city funds for the redevelopment of Friendship Court.  (FY22 adopted CIP)There was no specific decision point on the agenda last night but Knox said he wanted to know what Council is thinking. There will be an information item presented to Council on October 4. A decision on West Main?Mayor Nikuyah Walker wanted to know where Councilors stood on the West Main Street project. The results were pretty clear. “The only way I can see West Main Street surviving is if we get this one [percent] sales tax for the school reconfiguration,” said vice mayor Sena Magill. “That’s it.”“I would definitely fully support reallocating the West Main project to schools,” said Councilor Michael Payne. “I can see West Main continuing as just as Hail Mary of if Congress passes the stimulus bill and there’s no local city money required.”“I would prioritize this ahead of West Main,” said City Councilor Heather Hill. “Projects like West Main had a lot of revenue come in from other sources and I’ve said before that it’s a hard one to swallow but I think we’re at a point where there’s not another option.”“As probably maybe the last defender of the West Main project, I also agree that whatever option we end up taking is going to have to be an option that does not include the West Main project,” said City Councilor Lloyd Snook. Much of the Virginia Department of Transportation funding for West Main Street comes in the form of Smart Scale, which requires projects to be completed within six years. In the current round, the city was awarded $10.4 million for the third phase. None of that funding requires a local match. The University of Virginia committed $5 million to the West Main project as well. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 15, 2021: Smith pool to remain closed through late fall; input sought on natural hazard mitigation plan

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2021 15:24


In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! In today’s show: Several odds and ends from the Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting The Virginia Film Festival will return to movie screens in Charlottesville this OctoberYour input is requested on thoughts and concerns about future natural disastersWe begin today again with today’s COVID numbers. Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 4,066 cases today. The number of COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Virginia is now at 12,170. Since September 1, there have been 309 reported, with 52 reported today. That does not mean all of those fatalities happened within a 24-hour period, as that number is tallied as death certificates are reported to the VDH. When natural disasters strike, governments across the region often cooperate with each other to lend a hand in the emergency response and recovery efforts. Before they strike, there is a federally-mandated document intended to provide direction on how to prepare to lessen their impacts.“The purpose of the Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan is to prepare for natural disasters before they occur, thus reducing loss of life, property damage, and disruption of commerce,” reads the current plan, which was put together by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.The last plan was adopted in 2018 and it is time to put together the next one as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. The TJPDC wants your input in the form of a survey which is now open. Participants are asked if they’ve ever experienced a natural disaster and if so, what the specific impact was. You’ll also be asked what hazards you are concerned about, ranging from dam failure to winter weather. (take the survey) The Virginia Film Festival will return to in-person events this October when the long-running series returns for action. Last year the event pivoted to drive-in and virtual screenings, but will return to the Violet Crown, the Culbreth Theatre, and the Paramount Theater. “The Festival will also continue its very popular Drive-In Movies series at the beautiful Morven Farm in Eastern Albemarle County.” said festival director Jody Kielbasa in a release. “As always, the Festival will work to create the safest environment possible for its audiences, requiring masks at all indoor venues.”The festival will run from October 27 to October 31, and the full program will be announced on September 28. Tickets will go on sale on September 30. A major highlight this year will be the screening of an episode of Dopesick, an upcoming series on Hulu about the nation’s opioid epidemic. The series is based on the work of former Roanoke Times journalist Beth Macy and the event at the Paramount will be presented in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book. For more information, visit virginiafilmfestival.org.Albemarle Supervisor Ann Mallek is one of 16 elected officials from around the United States to be appointed to an advisory panel of the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan made appointments to the Local Government Advisory Committee and its Small Community Advisory Subcommittee, and Mallek will serve on the latter. “From tackling climate change to advancing environmental justice, we need local partners at the table to address our most pressing environmental challenges,” Regan said in an August 25 press release. Kwasi Fraser, the Mayor of Purcellville in Loudoun County, is the only other Virginian appointed to either of the two groups. Speaking of appointments, last week Governor Ralph Northam appointed several Charlottesville residents to the Virginia Board of Workforce Development. They are:Rich Allevi, Vice President of Development, Sun Tribe SolarJohn Bahouth Jr., Executive Vice President, Apex Clean EnergyTierney T. Fairchild, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Resilience EducationAntonio Rice, President and Chief Executive Officer, Jobs for Virginia GraduatesThe Virginia Board of Workforce Development will meet next week for a special briefing. The board’s executive is Jane Dittmar, a former member of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Time for two quick Patreon-shout-outs. One person wants you to know "We keep each other safe. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance."And in another one, one brand new Patreon supporter wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!For the rest of the show today, highlights from last night’s City Planning Commission meeting. I want to state up front that this newsletter does not feature the meeting’s main event, which was a public hearing for 240 Stribling in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood. That conversation that focused on a novel method of funding infrastructure improvements to support additional vehicular and human-powered traffic. I’m going to focus on that in an upcoming newsletter, but I want to get one concept on your mind. Let’s get some legal guidance from City Attorney Lisa Robertson about that mythical beast known as a “proffer.” For large developments that require a rezoning or a special use permit, you may also see the applicant offer cash or specific improvements as a required condition if their desired land use change is accepted. “Proffers are really to deal with impacts generated by the development itself and to provide cash for infrastructure that’s more directly sort of connected to or necessitated by the development,” Robertson said during the Commission’s pre-meeting. “In this situation as evidenced by the fact that the Stribling Avenue need for sidewalks has already been documented for a number of years in the city’s master plans and [Capital Improvement Program].”Southern Development is the applicant behind 240 Stribling had wanted to make its willingness to fund some of the infrastructure improvements in a proffer, but Robertson asked to pursue the matter in a different way because proffers are not two-way agreements. What happened with that? We’ll come back to that tomorrow. Highlights from the meetingAt the top of the actual meeting, the Commission elected Lyle Solla-Yates to serve as the body’s Chair. Solla-Yates was appointed to the seven-person body in March 2018 and succeeds Hosea Mitchell, who will remain on the commission. “Thank you very much Chair Mitchell for your two years of excellent service and for this honor and attempting to follow you,” Solla-Yates said. “Remarkable opportunity.”Next, Commissioners gave various reports on the various committees they are on. This is a good way to find out quickly a lot of things that are going on. Commissioner Mitchell said he and Commissioner Jody Lahendro with city Parks and Recreation officials reviewing a major problem in McIntire Park.“The drainage in McIntire Park is also creating a violation of the Department of Environmental Quality, their standards,” Mitchell said. “That is going to be a top priority and that’s going to be about $350,000 that we will be asking Council to approve but this is a must-do. We are in violation if we don’t fix that.” Mitchell said repairs to bring the outdoor Onesty Pool back next summer will cost about $400,000. There’s a lot of erosion and standing water at Oakwood Cemetery that will cost about $52,000.“And the last must-do thing is a comprehensive master plan,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t had anything like that in a number of years and our future is going to be relentless for Parks and Rec if we don’t do that and that’s going to be about $150,000.”Mitchell said the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center is not expected to open now until late fall. Smith has been plagued with air quality problems since it opened in 2010. The facility shut down for several weeks in 2015 to install new exhaust pipes and has been closed since the spring of 2020 for at least $2.25 million in repairs. At least, that’s what Council approved as a capital improvement program budget line item in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. In any case, Mitchell also announced that Todd Brown will be leaving his position as director of the city parks and recreation department to take a position in Fredericksburg. Bill Palmer, the University of Virginia’s liaison on the Charlottesville Planning Commission, reminded the Commission that UVA is working on an update of its Grounds Framework Plan. Palmer did not have much specific information but the closed-door Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee got a briefing at their meeting on July 23. “The Plan will be underway from Summer 2021 to Fall 2022 and includes a robust engagement process with the University and regional community,” reads a presentation made to LUEPC. The Grounds Framework Plan is intended to guide planning and development over the next 20 years with an emphasis on sustainability, resiliency, and equity. Some guidance in the presentation is to “capitalize on the potential of existing and new facilities” and “holistically consider Grounds as an integrated campus of mixed-use buildings and green spaces.”The firm Urban Strategies has been hired to conduct the work, which will build on smaller plans developed in the past several years ranging from the 2015 Brandon Avenue Master Plan to the 2019 Emmet Ivy Task Force report. UVa is also undertaking an affordable housing initiative to build up to 1,500 units on land that either UVA or its real estate foundation controls. The community also got a first look at Jim Freas, the new director of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services. “Today is my second day so still finding my feet and learning my way around the building,” Freas said on Tuesday. Freas comes to the position from a similar one in Natick, Massachusetts. Natick consists of over 16 square miles in Middlesex County and has a population of 37,000 according to the U.S. Census. Thank you again for reading today. Want one of those shout-outs? Consider becoming a Patreon supporter. For $25 a month, you get four shout-outs spread across the various programs. That price will increase in the near future. Questions? Drop me a line! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


September 14, 2021: Charlottesville School Board briefed on three design options for Buford Middle School; Albemarle EDA learns about CvilleBioHub

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 14, 2021 15:54

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Fall is just around the corner, but the summer heat is sticking around a bit longer. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show:Charlottesville City School Board is briefed on details of reconfiguration projectThe Albemarle Economic Development Authority learns about the CvilleBiohubCrutchfield files plans to expand their warehouse space near the airport The seven-day average for new COVID cases in Virginia has increased to 3,689 a day, with 3,659 reported this morning by the Virginia Department of Health. The percent positivity dipped slightly to 10.8 percent. In the Blue Ridge Health District there are another 139 cases reported today and one more fatality. The percent positivity in the district is 8.2 percent. *The Crutchfield Corporation has submitted plans with Albemarle County to expand their warehouse space near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. The company filed a site development plan to add nearly 61,000 square feet. The warehouse currently is at 84,872 square feet. Crutchfield was formed in 1974 to sell car stereos and has expanded to all manner of electronic equipment. The company website states there are now over 600 employees. Crutchfield is listed as Albemarle’s sixth largest employer in a profile put together in April by the Virginia Employment Commission. (review the site plan)On Wednesday the Charlottesville School Board and the Charlottesville City Council will meet to discuss the various options that have been put together by VMDO Architects for the reconfiguration of Charlottesville’s middle schools. The multimillion project seeks to bring 6th grade to Buford Middle School and convert Walker Upper Elementary into a pre-K facility. This summer, a Community Design Team has been going through the various options. They meet again today at 6 p.m. (register) The School Board got an overview of the project at their meeting on September 2 including cost estimates. Wyck Knox is an architect with VMDO who led the presentation and he began with a recap. (9/2 School Board presentation)“The direction from the working group was to look at schemes that tried to spend $60 million all at Buford, to stay within the 140 to 150 square feet per student range,” Knox said. “The state average for a new middle school in the Commonwealth of Virginia is 151 square feet.”Knox said the project is aiming for a construction start at Buford of 2023.“Mostly to fight inflation and to be giving two or three million to inflation,” Knox said.The plan for Walker is to renovate one of the buildings for pre-K with minimal investment while preparing the overall campus for eventual construction of a new facility for that purpose in the future. Cost estimates for the two detailed schemes are in the mid-$20 million range, and the estimate to move pre-K at Walker in the short-term is $1.35 million. The cost to add furniture to all of the elementary schools is $425,000 in 2026 dollars. There are three options for Buford and all three are in excess of the $60 million placeholder given to Knox’s team. There are currently four buildings at Buford. A is the main academic building and includes the cafeteria on the lower level. B is the auditorium and performing arts space. C is the gymnasium. D is a smaller academic building that would be demolished under three design scenarios. One option with the working title “Renovate More, Build Less” has a current cost estimate of $65.14 million and would keep A, B, and C. There would be 147 square feet per student. “Option two gets rid of C and builds more new [space] and we call it the ‘Big Room’ because there’s an idea of doing a big basketball court for all sports that’s also part of the school,” Knox said. “It would be adjacent to the dining commons and use that as a function space for big gatherings.”Option two has a cost estimate of $66.79 million and would also be at 147 square feet per student. Option 3 is called “Build in the Bowl” and would see construction in a green area between Buford and the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center. Remember that the Boys and Girls Club also operates a facility in the area. “So we looked at an option of building there which also helps us get a new architectural presence at the front door or the school,” Knox said. This is the most expensive at $68.2 million but it would raise the square-foot-per-student metric to 151. There are commonalities between the three options.“All of them connect all of the buildings via indoor space,” Knox said. “All of them take the admin suite and take it to the entry level where it makes more sense. All of them expand parking. All of them keep a gym down at the field level.”All would move the bus lanes to the rear of the building. The Schoolyard Garden would also need to be relocated. With all of the options, Knox said there could be savings through strategies such as having a power-purchasing agreement for solar panels on school roofs. Another would be to delay some of the renovations. “We’ve got a bunch of options that have an ability to get as low as $50M and could go up to as high as $70 million and averaging somewhere around $64 million to $65 million,” Knox said. Another choice will be made on what level of renovation to occur. VMDO is recommending the heavy renovation option to ensure thermal comfort, air quality, acoustic quality, electric lighting, and daylighting. City Council and the School Board will likely see an updated design that will come out of tonight’s Community Design Team meeting. The basic recommendations will be to start construction at Buford in 2023 and to move 5th graders to elementary schools by August 2026. Wednesday’s joint meeting is a work session. Council will be asked in October to select an option for VMDO to proceed with further engineering and design. “I think this is a pretty easy yes to say to at this point because we’ll just continue to study it up until March where we will have even more accurate pricing and then we really have to decide if we’re going to do this project and fund it, or not,” Knox said.That coincides with the budget development process for Fiscal Year 2023. Between now and then, there will be two new City Councilors. Between now and then, there is also the possibility of legislation action to approve a new source of revenue. “The other thing that comes up is this one percent sales tax option,” Knox said. That refers to a provision in state code that allows localities to enact a one-percent sales tax for the specific purpose of constructing or renovating schools. Charlottesville would have to get approval from the General Assembly to be added to the list of localities that can levy the tax.“And then in November of 22, if the General Assembly passes the one percent, it would also have to be passed by a local referendum,” Knox said. The project also assumes a five-cent increase in the tax rate. One of the people who will likely take a vote on that is Juandiego Wade, who is currently on the City Council. In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement, want to get the latest update on Virginia’s efforts to expand passenger rail? Tomorrow at 1 p.m you can hear directly from the two top officials responsible at a virtual town hall held by Virginians for High Speed Rail. The guests are:Jennifer Mitchell, the director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public TransportationD.J. Stadtler, executive director of the Virginia Passenger Rail AuthorityThe event is free. Register today and for more information visit Virginians for High Speed Rail at vhsr.org. Today at 4 p.m., the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority will get an overview of the work undertaken by the CvilleBiohub. The nonprofit “serves to strengthen the regional biotechnology industry through engagement, resourcing and advocacy.” The same overview was given to the Albemarle Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors at their meeting in August, shortly after Stephany Oettinger became the new executive director. (watch the meeting video)“I have recently assumed the executive director position to focus on the organization and moving it forward in terms of our community building, programming aspects,” Oettinger said.The founding executive director, Nikki Hastings, has moved to the position of Entrepreneur-in-Residence where she will continue to work to seed new companies. Oettinger said she will build on Hastings’ leadership. “We have been a recognized leader across the state for our industry clustered development, specifically in biotechnology and life sciences through our key programs,” Oettinger said. “We were started in 2016 as a mission driven organization for networking, education, and resourcing.”In December 2019, CvilleBiohub received a $548,000 grant from an economic development initiative known as Go Virginia to create the entrepreneurship-in-residence program. “We currently have three entrepreneurs in residence with Nikki’s addition,” Oettinger said. “So we’re really humming along in terms of our service to early-stage concepts. We regularly host pitch reviews for companies who are looking to hone in their storytelling and their pitch as they look for angel and seed funding.” A lot of the work is aimed toward increasing career opportunities in the sector. “We’re now at more than 2,000 jobs and growing which I’ll highlight in a moment,” Oettinger said. “With quite an amplifying effect. $300 million in wages and $1.2 billion in industry output.”This year, CvilleBiohub placed 19 interns across 11 companies. The organization has served 117 businesses to date. “We’ve retained, created, or attracted a total of 15 companies to the area,” Oettinger said. “There have been more than 335 jobs created in the region since January 2020.”Oettinger said one thing the industry needs is additional space for research, and CvilleBiohub works with the EDA to help companies find places to grow. For instance, they helped Rivanna Medical purchase a larger space within Albemarle County. They also worked to retain a presence for the company PRA Health Sciences after they were acquired by a larger firm. “When companies come to us us, we’re very aware of movement and we work really hard to make sure to fill that space as companies moving around but the bigger picture we are all talking about is the need for more wet lab space in the region,” Oettinger said. “So we developed a wet lab incubator model that included the Broadway District as the key development site.”The Broadway District refers to an area of Albemarle County that is entirely landlocked by the city of Charlottesville at the end of Carlton Avenue. The redeveloped Woolen Mills is considered an anchor and the EDA and Albemarle County have made investments in that program. At the end of her presentation, Oettinger made a pitch for $25,000 in additional funding from the EDA to continue their efforts to strengthen the biotech industry. “We have a very ambitious goal to double the industry sector by 2030 and our well on our way and we need a collaborative partner to house these growing concepts and growing companies,” Oettinger said. The EDA approved the request contingent on CvilleBiohub receiving a grant from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority. A similar request is being made to the Charlottesville EDA. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 13, 2021: Pantops, 5th/Avon groups get development updates; TJPDC preparing solid waste plan

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 13, 2021 16:01

Today's Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Rivanna Conservation Alliance. What are you doing on September 25? That's the day when RCA staff and volunteers will spend the day at the second annual Rivanna River Round-Up, a community watershed clean-up event. Last year, nearly a hundred people helped remove sixty large bags of trash from waterways that feed into the Rivanna as well as over 120 discarded tires. The Rivanna Conservation Alliance will also accept specific areas that you might want to clean as part of the Round-Up. More information as well as registration can be found at rivannariver.org. In today’s show:Development updates from Pantops and the 5th and Avon Community Advisory CommitteesA look at the Thomas Jefferson Solid Waste ReportA quick round-up of timely information The seven-day average for new COVID cases is now 3,452 according to data collected by the Virginia Department of Health and the percent positivity rate is now 10.9 percent. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 81 new cases reported today. Since September 8, there have been three more fatalities reported in the district. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will get an update from the Blue Ridge Health District late Wednesday afternoon. They sent out an information email on Friday night. “Since September 4, 713 people have tested positive for COVID in our district,” the newsletter read. “Ninety-six percent of all of these cases are the highly contagious Delta variant.” As of September 4, the Virginia Department of Health reports that 4.89 million Virginians were fully vaccinated on that day. “Of these people, 0.4 percent have developed COVID-19, 0.0017 percent have been hospitalized, and 0.0038 percent have died,” reads the VDH’s website that breaks down cases by vaccination status. A motorcyclist struck a pedestrian walking on U.S. Route 250 near Hansen Road earlier this morning, killing the person on the site. The person operating the motorcycle was taken to the University of Virginia hospital. Albemarle police sent out a release with the information this afternoon, but have not yet released the identity of the pedestrian. There have been six fatalities on public roadways in Albemarle this year. The Charlottesville Police Department has arrested an Albemarle County man in conjunction with an altercation and a shots fired incident on West Main Street. According to a release, an officer witnessed a “verbal disorder” in the 1000 block of West Main Street. Two men were in an argument, and one of them shot into the windshield of the car the other was in. Roy Willard Gray has been charged with malicious wounding. The Pantops Community Advisory Committee got an update on development projects within their jurisdiction at their meeting on August 23.  Let’s go through them real quick. There’s a new car wash building coming to the Pantops Shopping Center, according to Principal Planner Rachel Falkenstein.  (watch the video)“It’s about a 1,000 square feet and it’s at the rear of the shopping center near where the Little Caesars used to be,” Falkenstein said. A Hampton Inn on State Farm Boulevard is also under site plan review and is awaiting further information from the developer, meaning there is no timeline for when construction might begin. “A lot of that is really on the applicant and the developer and as soon as they can get their final easements recorded we can approve it but that can take weeks or months,” Falkenstein said. “It just depends on how motivated or how much of a hurry they are in, or how long it takes the signatures they need on those easements.”The former Malloy Ford dealership will be replaced with another automotive showroom with a new 4,000 square foot service building on the site. “Still don’t know who the end user is going to be but it indicates it will continue to be an automotive dealer,” Falkenstein said. There’s another site plan in the initial stages for a new 1,500 square foot automotive service facility in the southwest corner of the Pantops Corner development. “And that’s where the Wa Wa and the Holiday Inn express and the storage facility development are on the north side of U.S. 250,” Falkenstein said. There is also an initial site plan in the works for the South Pantops Townhomes on a property that had previously had a project called the Vistas at South Pantops which was withdrawn. “And this project is proposing 40 single-family attached townhomes which would be density of about three units per acre,” Falkenstein said. There’s also a proposed hotel in an undeveloped part of the Rivanna Ridge Shopping Center that would require a rezoning. A community meeting was held for this project this past January. “The applicant in this has since gone through two reviews with staff and the last review was completed in May,” Falkenstein said. “There were still some outstanding questions and comments from the reviewers and it sounds like it’s the reviewers’ understanding that the applicant does intend to submit for a third review. At this time we don’t have any public hearings scheduled with the Planning Commission.” The Pantops CAC has requested that the application come back to them as part of the review of the third plan, but there is no obligation for them to do so. One member of the CAC asked if there was any way to attract a hardware store to Pantops. Falkenstein said she would be on the look-out. In today's second subscriber-fueled public service announcement: Lovers of used books rejoice! The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library will resume the tradition of their annual Fall Book Sale this October 2nd through October 10 at a new location! The Friends of the Library sale will take place at Albemarle Square Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Half-price days on October 9 and October 10. Questions? Visit for more information.A few days earlier on January 19, the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee held their month.  They also got an update on projects under review from planner Victoria Kanellopoulos. A major mixed-use project at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street Extended is called the Albemarle Business Campus.  (watch the meeting on YouTube)“This was approved with a rezoning to Neighborhood Model District so mixed-use, and it’s kind of split into two main sections by [a] part of Old Lynchburg Road,” Kanellopoulos said. “It’s across from the County Office Building at 5th Street.”Included in the project is a 130,000 square foot self-storage facility and restaurant. There’s also a site plan for 128 apartment units across five three-story buildings. Another recent rezoning was for over five dozen homes at Galaxie Farm between Route 20 and Avon Street Extended. This was to the Planned Residential District. “So the rezoning allows up to 65 units which is what they are proposing,” Kanellopoulos said. Also nearby is Avon Park 2 next to Avon Park along Avon Street Extended. “That will be 28 townhouses and then the two existing hours [will] remain,” Kanellopoulos said. On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will get a preview of the Southwood redevelopment that was organized by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. Supervisors approved the rezoning in August 2019. “There are several site plans under review,” Kanellopoulos said. “The site plans are in the phase 1 rezoning area adjacent to the existing Southwood neighborhood.”Habitat is working with the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Southern Development, and Atlantic Builders to construct the 335 units in the first phase. Kanellopoulos also had an update on the Granger property, a 69-acre property south of the Fontaine Research Park. Earlier this year, Riverbend Development submitted a subdivision request to create 73 lots for single-family homes on the property, utilizing existing zoning.“The preliminary plat was denied,” Kanellopoulos said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t actually happen or won’t get built.” (read the August 6, 2021 disapproval letter)In this case, reviewers across all levels of county staff still have a lot of outlying questions before they can sign off. These include the Virginia Department of Transportation. fire and rescue, stormwater, and other issues. The Southern and Western Urban Neighborhoods Master Plan calls for a Sunset-Fontaine Connector road, but there are no active plans for it to go forward due to high costs and the likelihood of the Granger property developing by-right. (read the SWUN master plan)One CAC member observed that there were a lot of developments in the area.“We’re reaching sort of a tipping point here that our neighborhoods in this part of the county, the northern part of the county, the western part of the country are all very popular destinations for people and people with families,” Storm said. Storm said school capacity is an issue with trailers being built at Mountain View Elementary to accommodate overcrowding. He predicted tough decisions ahead about how to pay for the capital projects.“There may have to be a look at what the tax rate is if we’re going to really provide the services,” Storm said. Supervisor Donna Price told the CAC she felt consideration of an increase in the tax rate is on the table. “We do have a lot of things that we want to get done and as a rapidly developing county, we’re not a rural county, we’re not Nelson County,” Price said. “The Scottsville District has almost as many people as Nelson County in its entirety.”In the second quarter of 2021, 45 percent of the building permits issued in Albemarle were in the Scottsville district. When you look at the certificates of occupancy, the White Hall District led the way with 36 percent of the 156 units cleared to be lived in, with 28 percent in Scottsville. To conclude today’s meeting, a quick item from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission from September 2, 2021. We’re closer to today’s date, at least! In any case, one of the items was a review of a draft Solid Waste Report that the TJPDC will send to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in October. Shirese Franklin is a planner with TJPDC. (review the Solid Waste Plan)“The solid waste and recycling plan for our region consists of Albemarle, Charlottesville, Fluvanna and Greene,” Franklin said.Nelson County works with the planning district commission around Lynchburg and Louisa County manages and maintains their own municipal landfill. Solid waste planning units have to submit a plan every five years. “The plan aims to address regional collaboration and how the region reduces, resuses, and recycles,” Franklin said. “We also within this plan want to encourage education around those things.”Every year, the TJPDC submits a recycling rate report to the DEQ.“We have to make sure that we are over 25 percent in our recycling rate,” Franklin said. “This year we haven’t received our final result from the DEQ. When I sent it, I believe we are at 43 [percent], but it depends on what they give in the final say of what we actually are.”Interested in specific parts of the plan? Section 2.5 deals with “markets for the reuse and recycling of materials. Section 3 reviews all of the landfills in the community that are now closed. Section 4.1 projects how much waste is expected to be generated by 2045. Section 4.4 explains how that recycling rate is calculated. Franklin said she needed to add additional data to the plan before it will be completed. The TJDPC will take another look in October. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 10, 2021: Albemarle briefed on greenhouse gas emission inventory; Lessons on adaptation from Resilient Virginia conference

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 10, 2021 16:42

Death. Taxes. Should we add rising global temperatures to the list of the inevitable, or is there something that can be done? Is that thing adaptation? A massive behavioural shift? These are the questions that come to mind as we begin this September 10, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Help support black-owned business in the Charlottesville area. Check out the Charlottesville Black Business Directory at cvilleblackbiz.com and choose between a variety of goods and services, ranging from beauty supplies, professional services, and e-commerce. Visit cvilleblackbiz.com as soon as you can to get started!On today’s show: The Albemarle Board of Supervisors is briefed on the county’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate changeLessons in adaptation from officials across the mid-Atlantic from the recent Resilient Virginia conferenceIt has been about a month since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes issued an update on progress toward efforts to keep the average global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees. Achieving that ambitious goal will take coordinated action at all levels of government, including the county-level in Virginia. Earlier this month, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors learned the county is not currently on track to meet a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 2008 levels by the year 2030. A second goal is to become at net-zero by the year 2050. To get there, the county has a Climate Action Plan that Supervisors adopted in October 2020. (read the plan)“This report increases certainty in what we’ve already known,” said Gabe Dayley, Albemarle’s climate program coordinator. “Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change.”Dayley said the IPCC report also links increased instance of extreme weather with climate change. He said there is a sense of urgency in the report and the Climate Action Plan is intended to document the various ways emissions can be reduced. “The climate action plan has 135 actions,” Dayley said. “They run across five chapters on transportation, buildings, renewable energy, waste management, and landscape/agricultural/natural resources.”The plan will help guide investment in various programs. So far, Albemarle has provided funding to the Albemarle Home Improvement Program and LEAP to install energy-efficient improvements in homes of people with lower incomes. “That program has gone really well in the first six months of this year,” Dayley said. “We’ve had 15 homes that were retrofitted with better insulation, with improved appliances to help reduce homeowners energy bills and then of course the weatherization to help folks who are losing a lot of heat.”Dayley said the county is working on an assessment to determine who and where in Albemarle is most vulnerable. That work has been funded by the Piedmont Environmental Council and a report is due in mid-November. But about those emissions targets? To get a sense of where Albemarle currently is, a greenhouse gas inventory was conducted based on data from 2018. “We calculated that in 2018 the community wide emissions for the county where 1,419,367 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent,” Dayley said. “We calculate that we saw a ten percent decrease in community-wide emissions between our last inventory in 2008 which is the baseline for the county’s targets.”Dayley said that happened despite an increase in population, which generally leads to an increase in emission. He said explanations include greater fuel efficiency, the increase of carbon-neutral or lower-carbon energy sources, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. However, to hit the 2030 target, Dayley said the community needs to cut reductions by another 40 percent. The next inventory will come out in two years based on data from 2020. The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and Albemarle County are working together to implement various action plans. Supervisor Diantha McKeel wanted to know how that work would influence various policies, such as how to move transit fleets away from fossil fuels.“We have five transportation systems in this community of somewhere around 150,000 people using diesel buses right now,” McKeel said. “And I understand that there’s a change in Albemarle County Public Schools towards electric school buses and that’s all great. But what is our outreach to [Charlottesville Area Transit] and the University of Virginia all working together? Where is that connection happening?”McKeel referred to a statement made earlier this summer that CAT is continuing to study the right way forward and is pursuing a study of compressed natural gas. Dayley said that transportation is the largest sector of emissions and there is a high priority to address the issues. He hoped that further program development of the climate action plan will help to facilitate those conversations. “One of my next steps is to reach out to them and hear in a little bit more detail about how that’s going and how the climate program team can help advance that effort,” Dayley said. Lance Stewart, the county’s director of facilities and environmental services, said a closed door group consisting of UVA, Albemarle, and Charlottesville staff have “touched upon climate” at their meetings. The Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee (LUEPC) last met on July 23 and discussed the University of Virginia’s plans to comply with an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam to reduce single-use plastics. (disclaimer: Both PEC is one of my sponsors and LEAP contributes through a $25 a month Patreon contribution. I am not involved with either organization beyond these transactions and the occasional copy)*In today’s second Substack-supported public service announcement: The Charlottesville Jazz Society at cvillejazz.org is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and perpetuation of all that  jazz, and there’s no time like now to find a time to get out and watch people love to play. The Charlottesville Jazz Society keeps a running list of what’s coming up at cvillejazz.org. * Let’s go back in time a bit to last month’s conference on adaptation from Resilient Virginia. The nonprofit organization seeks to build awareness of available resources to plan and build for a world where the weather has warped. All over the country, scientists and planners are turning resilience from an abstract concept into policies Amanda Martin is the Chief Resilience Officer for the state of North Carolina, which is based within their Department of Public Safety. “We were created in 2018 after Hurricane Florence when this additional massive infusion of federal recovery funding and I say additional because we had just Hurricane Matthew in 2016,” Martin said. “It became clear that the state needed some new administrative capacity to handle disaster recovery funds.”One result of the department’s formation has been the creation with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality of a North Carolina Resilience Plan. Part of its purpose is to coordinate activity across multiple state agencies, and to define working regions. (read the document) “The scale of community and the scale of region is really important to address resilience challenges,” Martin said. “That’s both because of the legal and regulatory authority that local government has but also because of the regional nature of our climate impacts. A lot of them are bigger than a municipality but smaller than a state.”Martin said in North Carolina, cities are taking on the resilience work in regions and one concern is that rural areas may be left behind. The plan seeks to address that balance. In Virginia, much of the focus has been on coastal resilience where Rear Admiral Ann Phillips is the special assistant to Governor Ralph Northam for coastal adaptation. Phillips said Virginia is not as far along as North Carolina in terms of preparing.“We are just starting down this path,” Phillips said. “We have taken some substantial steps through the course of a number of gubernatorial administrations but have been kind of challenged to get over the hump to actually get started and get moving because there was no direct funding focused in this area within the Commonwealth’s budget or fiscal plan.”Phillips said Virginia has been fortunate to not have received a direct hit from a major hurricane in recent years, but preparations are underway to know how to respond.  In Virginia, the Secretary of Natural Resources is the chief resilience officer and that’s been Matthew Strickler since action by the General Assembly in 2020. (HB1313)“My position was created by the 2018 General Assembly,” Phillips said. “I do not effectively have a direct staff or a budget. That is still the case. However, with Virginia joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and creating in 2020 a Commonwealth-wide flood resilience fund, we now have capacity to do statewide studies of significance.”A master plan for coastal adaptation is underway and is expected to be ready for review in November.  (learn more)So far, Virginia has received over $89 million from proceeds from auctions of carbon credits for companies likely to exceed their emissions limits. (RGGI auction results)“I should note that of the RGGI funds, 50 percent go to a Department of Housing and Urban Community development energy efficiency fund, 45 percent go into this community flood preparedness fund,” Phillips said.The rest goes for the administrative costs. The Department of Conservation and Recreation administers that flood preparedness fund. Phillips said around 6 million of Virginia’s population of 8.5 million live within eight coastal planning district commissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative covers most of the mid-Atlantic. Shaun O’Rourke serves two roles in the the managing director of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and the chief resilience officer for the state. He’s held that position since September 2017 and helped create the Ocean State’s first resilience plan called Resilient Rhody. “We were looking at all of the natural hazards and impacts the state was facing with regard to climate change and to be able to propose solutions across a number of themes — critical infrastructure, natural systems, emergency preparedness and so on — that could better Rhode Island,” O’Rourke said.Resilient Rhody suggested 61 actions for state government to take including what the municipal role would be. “One of the things that I say all of the time is that better prepared municipalities are going to equal a better prepared Rhode Island,” O’Rourke said. “And that’s exactly why we established a municipal resilience program as an outcome of our Resilient Rhody strategy.”O’Rourke said the infrastructure bank is lined up to fund projects to support adaptation efforts, prioritized by a number of factors. The bank has funded over $2.5 million of action grants in its first two years for stormwater management projects and infrastructure upgrades. “They are often times very targeted specific projects that they know they need to get done now and stormwater management very much falls into that category,” O’Rourke said. “We’re seeing roads and bridges and parking lots flooded all the time. We’re addressing those issues, that low-hanging fruit that demonstrates progress and momentum, and then working with these  municipalities on the larger more complicated projects that may not have permitting and design as a technical assistance follow-up.”Since O’Rourke and the others spoke, Hurricane Ida caused dozens of deaths across New England, and some parts of Rhode Island received up to ten inches of rain. We’ve heard from North Carolina and Rhode Island. The major difference in Virginia is that cities and counties are independent of each other.  Here’s Rear Admiral Ann Phillps with an explanation. “We have 38 independent cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia and then 95 counties, and the independent city moniker is quite unique,” Phillips said. “There are 41 in the country, and 38 in Virginia, ten in Hampton Roads. So what that means is that cities are responsible for their own destiny.” Phillips said regional cooperation will be crucial in Virginia’s efforts to adapt. “The state’s role is to try to align efforts so that we can move forward collectively to try to make progress,” Phillips said. How much coordination is occurring at this local level? This is a question that Charlottesville Community Engagement seeks to answer. Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to visit the Climate Action Together website to see what Albemarle, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia have done and might do. And then, let me know what questions you have? What steps have you taken? Or, is climate change something you don’t think will affect your life? I’m curious to know. Leave a comment below or drop me a line. You can just reply to the newsletter. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 8, 2021: Walker withdraws from election the morning after pressing Council on Brackney termination

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2021 25:52

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! On today’s show:Charlottesville’s Fire Department releases an annual report and the chief defends critiques of a new dispatch system City Council discusses the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney An incumbent drops out of the race for Charlottesville City Council Nikuyah Walker is withdrawing from the 2021 election and will be a one-term City Councilor. Walker made the announcement in a Facebook post this morning in which she stated that another Black candidate in the race is being used by the Democratic Party. She said racism she experienced at last night’s City Council meeting was “the final straw.” In the Facebook post, Walker blasted Council for being advocates of white power and called for reform of the city’s city-manager form of government. More on that at the end of today’s newsletter. Walker has so far raised no money during the campaign process. Democrats Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade have raised about $70,000 each. Independent Yas Washington has raised $315. The next campaign finance report is due next Wednesday. (VPAP data)The Virginia Department of Health reports another 4,474 new cases of COVID today, with a seven day average of 3,364. There have been 406 deaths since August 9. The seven-day percent positivity has decreased to 10. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 92 cases reported today. There have been a total of 239 fatalities in the district with 146 of them reported in the current calendar year. Those seeking to file new unemployment claims in Virginia will now have to wait a week after enrolling with the Virginia Employment Commission.  The VEC issued a release today to notify people that a temporary suspension of “Waiting Week” first made at the beginning of the pandemic is now over. “In March 2020, Governor Ralph Northam waived the waiting week policy for all Virginia UI claimants as part of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration,” states the release. “The reinstatement coincides with the end of temporary Federal benefit programs on September 4, 2021.”For more on Waiting Week, visit the VEC’s website.The Charlottesville Fire Department has released its annual report for the fiscal year that ended on June 2021. In the past year there is a new chief in Hezedean Smith, recruited 22 new firefighters, and boosted work in community risk reduction. There are 114 total employees in the fire department, including six civilians. There were 5,717 calls for service, with 2,105 of those for fire calls and 3,612 medical calls. Last week, the fire department issued a press release announcing a process change made in July called “proximity dispatch” where automatic vehicle locators and the global positioning system are used.  Council will have a work session on this change on September 20. “When an emergency prompts a 911 call, the region's Emergency Communications Center activates an automated process that immediately finds the closest emergency resources,” reads the release. “Based on the proximity of the vehicles and the city's roadway network, the emergency communication center dispatches the closest units.” At last night’s City Council, Dr. Forest Calland spoke out in objection to the new system. He’s a trauma surgeon at the University of Virginia Health system concerned that Charlottesville - Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS) units are not being used efficiently. “The system that has been designed and implemented is not well-conceived,” Dr. Calland said. “Survival in an urban EMS system is inversely proportional to the number of paramedics that are deployed out in the city.” Later on in the meeting, CARS chief Virginia Leavell gave a specific example of how the new system is not working. There are a lot of acronyms in this soundbite to explain first. ALS stands for Advanced Life Support and offers advanced care for critical patients. BLS stands for basic life support. “On July 27, two fire engines and a CARS BLS ambulance were dispatched to an ALS level chest pain call because [Charlottesville Fire Department]’s ALS unit was on a BLS call and unavailable,” Leavell said. “CARS had three BLS ambulances in service and available within 1.2 miles of that BLS call at the time of dispatch.” Chief Leavell said CARS should be handling those basic calls. “The new dispatch protocol is an ineffective system in the city,” Leavell said. “It has not resulted in improved patient care. In fact it puts those at the highest risk in jeopardy.”Leavell said she has attempted to meet with Fire Chief Smith but has not been able to do so. In this year’s budget cycle as well as the last, Leavell and others made the claim that the fire department was not holding up its end of a memorandum of agreement related to funding. “I raised the concern last year that I thought what was happening last year to the rescue squad and their budget was grossly unfair to them,” Snook said. “I’m concerned that this year —I don’t know the details but I would like to know more — I’m concerned that we appeared to be headed toward a situation where the present EMS providers to not value the contributions of the rescue squad, which has really been a beloved institution in this town for many, many years.” Remember that quote. We’re going to need it later on. Later on in the meeting, Chief Smith was asked to comment. “Ultimately the enhancements that have been adopted are appropriate for the ten square miles in a city and it is used in other regions that provide EMS and fire services,” Smith said. “We don’t have to look far as it relates to proximity dispatch. Albemarle County right next to us has implemented proximity dispatch since 2016 or 2017. Proximity dispatch ensures that our residents and visitors get the closest appropriately staffed ambulance and or first response vehicles based on established national standards and best practices.” Smith said the changes have lowered response times to the Tenth and Page neighborhood. The conversation on September 20 will shed more light on what may become a legal issue. City Attorney Lisa Robertson said a meeting was to have been held between Chief Smith and CARS, but a string of correspondence from CARS attorney led to that being delayed. Thanks for reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out. A concerned Charlottesville parent wants to make sure the community participates in the Middle School Reconfiguration process that is currently underway. After years of discussion, concrete plans are being put forward. You can learn more and contribute at the City of Charlottesville Schools/VMDOs information page at charlottesvilleschools.org/facilities.The Charlottesville City Council meeting on September 7, 2021 was dominated by one of its members’ opposition to the termination on September 1 of former Police Chief RaShall Brackney. No official explanation has been given. Council selects one of its own every two years to serve as Mayor, a position held since January 2018 by Nikuyah Walker. At the beginning of the meeting, a fellow Councilor requested to add an item for discussion that was not previously on the agenda. “Madam Mayor, I would like to ask to add one thing to the agenda,” said Councilor Lloyd Snook. “It would be to move to add the discussion of an appointment of an acting [Americans with Disabilities Act] coordinator.”“And I would like to also request to add the discussion of the termination of the police chief,” Walker said. Snooks’ request was granted on a unanimous vote, but Walker could not get a second to add her discussion to the official agenda. But her opposition would be felt throughout the entire meeting including a few minutes later when she used the Proclamations section of the meeting to thank Brackney for her three years of service to Charlottesville. “I would just like to thank Chief Brackney for her leadership and apologize on behalf of the city for a termination that has tarnished her reputation when she was doing exactly as someone who sat around a table to hire her and was able to participate in that democratic process which as apparently has changed,” Walker said. The powers of City Council are outlined in Chapter 2, Article II of the Charlottesville city code and further detailed in the City Charter. Council appoints a city manager to serve as an executive, and also appoints a finance director and a clerk. Council plays no official role in selecting a police chief.“All departments of city government, including the fire department and police department, shall be under the general supervision of the city manager,” reads Section 5.01 of the charter. The charter is also clear that all Councilors have the same powers. “The mayor, or vice-mayor when performing the duties of the mayor, shall be entitled to a vote on all questions as any other councilor, but in no case shall they be entitled to a second vote on any question,” reads a portion of Section 9. Brackney terminated on September 1City Manager Chip Boyles opted to terminate Brackney’s contract on September 1, 2021 and immediately placed her on administrative leave through November 1, the end of a 90-day period of notification. (read the press release)During the proclamations period, Walker took nearly nine minutes to talk about Brackney’s firing, and to tell future employers that she was treated poorly. She spoke of the need to address systemic racism and to tell Council why the termination was the wrong choice. None of the other Councilors responded and the body moved on to the consent agenda, which Walker voted against. The meeting proceeded with updates from City Manager Chip Boyles. “Staff has developed a formal application process to create roadside memorials along certain city streets for family members of those fatally injured in auto accidents,” Boyles said. “This program should be available by October 1.” Then Council moved on to one of two public comment periods known as Community Matters, where several members addressed the issue. Attorney Jeff Fogel called Council rude for not responding to complaints the firing. “We expect an answer,” Fogel said. “If you meet me on the street and ask me a question on the street, dammit I’m going to answer it? You got a problem? Get off the Council.” Melvin Burruss thanked Walker for speaking out about the firing, and said it was all based on hearsay related to an informal survey conducted by the Police Benevolent Association. An unsigned statement in response to the survey was posted on the city’s website on August 20 shortly after 5 p.m on a Friday. Addressing Boyles, Burruss accused Councilor Snook of acting to remove the chief.“I’m really disappointed there wasn’t an investigation,” Burruss said. “Snook counseled you and he was part of it with you on the termination. You didn’t go to the Council and discuss it with all of them because they are acting… if you did, they are acting kind of ‘I don’t know what happened.’ Or that’s the conveyance they are giving to us. You should do better than that, Chip. We thought better of you when you took over this position.”When it was Council’s turn to speak, Snook wanted to respond why he did not second Walker’s desire to place Brackney’s termination on the record. Virginia’s open meetings law allows for elected bodies to discuss personnel in closed session. (code)“I asked the question when we were in closed session what would be the ground rules if we did so,” Snook said. “Nobody could answer. I am concerned that if we have a public discussion without any ground rules, recognizing that there are libel, slander, other procedural issues that may come up, that we’re opening ourselves up for more problems and I just don’t know what the ground rules are.”Councilor Michael Payne said the timing of the firing created doubt in the minds of the community. “What are we going to do to ensure and ensure for the public that we do not go backwards on reform and that is a real concern,” Payne said. “Has this sent a signal that it is time to go back to the old ways of doing things? I desperately hope that it’s not.”Payne said city leadership must demonstrate that Brackney’s firing was not motivated by a sense that reform was going too far in the department. Councilor Heather Hill said she also did not feel comfortable discussing the matter in public.“These are personnel discussions and I am really sensitive to how much we will discuss publicly at this time without really understanding what the scope of that discussion would be,” Hill said. Vice Mayor Sena Magill did not comment. In rebuttal, Walker took issue with the comment Councilor Snook made about the Charlottesville - Albemarle Rescue Squad. “You used the words ‘grossly unfair’,” Walker said. “So maybe you don’t know how to monitor yourself but that would be a good time to do that. You would need to find out more information without critiquing employees publicly when you and Councilor Hill already have a lot of information because you’ve been meeting with them.” To be clear, Snook did not mention the names of any employees of the fire department.  Council is to have a work session on these issues. Walker said she hoped the process would be fair. But back to the termination. Walker noted that Dr. Brackney was on the call and willing to have a public conversation. “And so if there’s any questions about whether there is a willingness to have that conversation and if it’s about personnel, then we can ask her that question,” Walker said.“It would also involve personnel discussions of other people than Chief Brackney,” Snook said. “Well the other people were not terminated,” Walker said. “Doesn’t matter, “ Snook said. “They still have rights to confidentiality that we are bound legally to respect.” In another back and forth, Walker pressed Hill on whether she was involved in the decision to terminate Brackney. “I have not influenced this process,” Hill said. “I found at the same time at the rest of this Council. That decision has been made. Do I support that decision? I do.”Walker said the time has come for reform of the way Charlottesville is governed. “I know there’s been a lot of discussion about one-fifth means, and I know there’s been a lot of confusion about the fact that I’m a strong Black woman and people don’t like that,” Walker said. Walker said the city manager position should be elected.“Not because I see myself in the position,” Walker said. “But because of the power of that position. I hope the community is understanding that while that is not something that today, this is your community and deciding whether you want someone who doesn’t have to answer your questions to be able to make a decision this important behind closed doors and never answer.”The last time the topic of elections came up was in 2004 when an election study task force was commissioned. Review the results here.Walker asked each Councilor to say if they supported the decision. Vice Mayor Magill went on the record.“I feel that this is a decision of the City Manager, and we hired the City Manager and this is his job,” Magill said. “It is his job to run the city under our overarching policies. I feel like he talks to us, I feel he communicates with us and fundamentally this is his decision and I’m behind him on it, period.”Walker accused the rest of the Council of speaking with Boyles before the termination. “Mayor Walker, one of your fundamental premises is correct,” Snook said. “I have never recommended to Mr. Boyles that he fire Chief Brackney and I’ve told you that.” Walker has more questionsAfter that, Council moved on to other business, business we’ll cover in a future newsletter. After that business concluded, Walker had several questions about what happened with the police chief. Some dealt with comments made by Bellamy Brown, the chair of the Police Civilian Review Board, related to the Police Benevolent Association survey. “The August 20th press release was also unsigned and that was a concern, where people thought this was something the chief forced out,” Walker said. “I would like a public response to who worked on that survey and why their name was left off of it. Specifically, for the city manager. Why wasn’t your name on it?”Walker also wanted to know when the decision was made to place Chief Brackney on leave. Walker also wants to know if Assistant Chief James Mooney will receive special dispensation after rescinding his retirement in order to lead the department in the interim. In the second public comment period at the end of the meeting, Michael Wells of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association thanked Boyles for terminating Brackney. “Unfortunately for Dr. Brackney, the Police Benevolent Association climate survey is largely focused not on policy but internal procedural justice issues,” Wells said. “I just want to tell you guys that you have a real issue in Charlottesville City. You have a few people that speak up all the time and those people garner your attention all the time. Now I’m going to be one of those people. Because I’m involved, I want to be involved. I want the city to have a good chief. I wish it had worked out with Dr. Brackney but it did not.”When he was done, Walker took the opportunity to question Wells. That exchange is fully documented in the audio version of this newsletter. Here is some of it:Walker: “Do you think that internal procedural justice is important than healing the wrongs that have been done by policing in this community?” Wells: “I think if you want your police officers to take on other policies and procedures that you have to have buy-in from them.”Walker: “So, 21st century reform, you think our focus should be getting buy-in from police officers?”Wells: “I think your focus should be safe streets because about every other night you have shootings now, so I think your focus needs to be on supporting your officers.”Walker: “So you think throughout the history of policing that there hasn’t been a need for reform?” Wells: “No, I think it’s important for officers to have confidence in their command in order to be most effective, and effective officers are what you need and deserve… you can’t afford a police department with limitless internal distractions and non-existent morale. There’s work to be done.”Walker: “They surveys talked about the reform was causing that low [morale].”Wells: “No, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong. How long have you been a cop?”Walker: “I’m telling you what I read. Your survey also said that both the citizens of the community and the command were a problem.”Wells: “That’s right. They need support from the community…. the community is what’s most important and that means everyone, every race and color and not just Black and brown. Everyone.”Walker: “So the community that’s most affected by policing practices, you don’t believe…”Wells: “Where are your facts about racist policing? Where is that? Provide it?”At this point, a report on 21st Century Policing came up. Have you read it? Here’s a link to a 36-page document with its results. (report)Another resource that was not discussed was the Disproportionate Minority Contact report from January 2020. (report)Walker: “Why did President Obama institute that task force?”Wells: “I think we know why.”Walker: “Tell me!”Wells: “Good day, Mayor.”Walker then addressed Council. “That’s what you just signed on for and you all should be ashamed because as I told you in closed session, they’re not coming for your kids.” Walker said. “They’re not going to target you.”To conclude today, I want to draw your attention to legislation that passed the General Assembly in a special session held in the summer of 2020. Localities in Virginia are subdivisions of the state government. Legislation in that session included:Officers are now required to intervene if they see a fellow officer using excessive force Law enforcement agencies are no longer allowed to purchase surplus military gearPolice civilian review boards received additional oversight powers Neck restraints are explicitly banned Attorney general obtained more power to pursue civil suits against law-enforcement officersDepartment of Criminal Justice required to add implicit bias training to uniform curriculum for sworn officerCreation of the Marcus Alert system to create reform of how government first-responders operate in mental health crisesSome of this legislation was discussed in the pilot episode of a new program on Radio IQ that I helped produce. William Fralin moderates a discussion of police use of force with guests Claire Gastañaga, formerly of the Virginia ACLU, and Chief Maggie DeBoard, of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. Take a listen.What’s next in Charlottesville? Not sure. As you can hear in this newsletter, the community faces a lot of problems. This newsletter intends to try to track as much of it as I can and I appreciate your reading and listening. I do not know the answers and my role is never to tell you what to think. Thanks for reading. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 3, 2021: Charlottesville hires Gurley as new superintendent; Albemarle Supervisors discuss legislative priorities

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 3, 2021 13:01

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out:Fall is just around the corner, but the summer heat is sticking around a bit longer. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round! LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents, so, if you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show: Charlottesville Public Schools hires Royal Gurley as the next superintendentAlbemarle’s Board of Supervisors discusses legislative priorities for the next General Assembly session An update on the pandemic There are 4,070 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia reported today by the Virginia Department of Health. Since Wednesday, there have been 361 new cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District. Tomorrow the University of Virginia men’s football team will play and attendees will be required to wear masks in any indoor spaces, though outdoor use is strongly recommended. (UVA update)“People who are not vaccinated are also required to wear masks outside on UVA property so there’s not a process of checking who is vaccinated or not,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health. “The delta variant can cause breakthrough infections so in this setting with 30,000, 40,000 people in close proximity to one another, wearing a mask during the game is advised.”Dr. Sifri said the delta variant is fueling the recent spike in cases and modeling data indicates that infections will continue to rise. “What’s more difficult to tell, I think, is when is the surge going to occur, and at what level, but I think it’s clear we’re on the upsurge right now,” Dr. Sifri said. Virginia has now administered more than 10 million doses of vaccine, and 57 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated and 68.1 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. Yet, the increase in cases has caused UVA to go back to higher mitigation measures.“Back to universal masking, decreasing visitors and other folks in the institution to try to minimize the virus coming in and out,” said Dr. Reid Adams, the chief medical officer at the University of Virginia. “I think probably the biggest difference is the mask recommendation rather than a mandate throughout the Commonwealth. That’s probably the biggest different from the prior part of the pandemic.”Another change is that public schools are in session five days a week with attendance by anyone who chooses to be back for in-person instruction. For now. Amherst County Public Schools are closed until at least September 13 due to a high number of positive tests at a community-wide testing event held this past Tuesday. In their first action item at their September 2, 2021 meeting, the Charlottesville School Board filled an important leadership position. James Bryant is the body’s vice chair. “Madam Chair, I would like to make a motion to move for the acceptance of the appointment or Dr. Royal A. Gurley Jr. for Superintendent of Charlottesville Schools,” Bryant said. Gurley will take the reins on October 4 as he finishes up his time as assistant superintendent for academic services in Dinwiddie County southwest of Petersburg. (press release)“Leading Charlottesville City Schools is not something that I take lightly,” Gurley told the Board after signing his four-year contract. “I believe as Superintendent I must continue to create opportunities for our students and help them to reach their fullest potential.”Gurley succeeds Rosa Atkins, who retired at the end of May after fifteen years in the position. Later this month, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will take up a rezoning for 332 housing units off U.S. 29 in Hollymead. In June, the Planning Commission voted six to one to recommend approval of the RST Residences project. That advisory body appeared not ready to make that recommendation in March when they saw a slightly larger version. (listen to March 5 podcast) Last week, one member of the Board of Supervisors met with the Forest Lakes Community Association, a homeowners group whose Board of Directors have opposed the project. “I listened to their concerns regarding development that is coming up and it was a good opportunity to meet with a lot of the residents and I really appreciated that,” said Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley of the Rivanna District. The proposal states that 75 percent of the units will be within the county’s affordability guidelines. To learn more about the Planning Commission’s action, read Allison Wrabel’s coverage in the Daily Progress. The item goes to the Board of Supervisors on September 15. Now time for the second Patreon-fueled shout-out:What’s your perfect holiday weekend in Charlottesville? Hanging with friends outside... Great live music... Maybe breaking a Guinness world record? Then mark your calendar for WTJU 91.1 FM's Freefall Music Festival -- Saturday, September 4 starting at 3 p.m. at IX Art Park. Live performances by Zuzu's Hot Five, Susie and the Pistols, and Good Dog Nigel. There will be an attempt to form the world's largest human music note at 7:30 p.m. Plus, a hot dog and veggie dog cookout for our whole community. Find out more at wtju.net. With only four months left in the year, the 2022 General Assembly session looms large and localities across the Commonwealth are putting together their legislative wish lists. Albemarle County will meet with area legislators in November with the hopes of enticing each to carry bills for changes in state law. (read list of 2021 legislative positions)One request has the title “Enable Civil Penalties in Lieu of Criminal Punishment.” “The purpose was to decriminalize a lot of the actions that are prohibited under the code,” said county attorney Greg Kamptner. Many of these actions relate to zoning violations and would convert them to civil infractions rather than criminal ones. Some supervisors were concerned that frequent violators are still able to be held accountable. (sample legislation) “I just want to make sure we’re not doing anything that makes it more difficult to deal with the so-called frequent fliers,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel of the Jack Jouett District. “I recognize that there are not that many of them, but the ones that we have have just really consumed an enormous number of staff time.”Zoning administrator Bart Svoboda said if the change was made, the county would be able to request higher fines for repeated violations. “There may be some additional tools in the toolbox as we apply this to other sections of the county code,” Svoboda said. Another legislative priority is to change law to require inspections and building standards for structures built for events and operations on agricultural properties.“The buildings under current law do not have to meet the minimum requirements of the building code,” Kamptner said. Kamptner said the agricultural community and the Farm Bureau would need to be involved in order for the legislation to have a chance of passing.Supervisor Ann Mallek of the White Hall district said buildings where events are held should at the least be required to have features like panic bars in case of emergencies. She hoped to get support from her colleagues to move the legislation forward. “If people want to put a tractor or livestock in some building, that’s different than having 300 people there,” Mallek said. Another legislative idea is to expand an already approved law that allows photo-speed monitoring cameras to be used in school crossing zones and highway work zones. (HB1442 from 2020)“The idea would be to expand the enabling authority to allow localities to decide whether they want to place these devices on rural roads,” Kamptner said. LaPisto-Kirtley said police struggle to enforce speeding on two-lane roads in the rural area. “I think long stretches of the rural roads where there it is virtually impossible for the police to ticket someone because if they do stop someone on a two-lane road it’s going to cause a mile-long back up,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. Supervisor Diantha McKeel suggested the legislation be tailored for specific roads rather than a blanket provision. She also said Albemarle has yet to implement the authority it currently has. “Our police department is still looking at that,” McKeel said. “They’re going to have to come back to us to let us know if they think they can even do that.”Kamptner said the 2020 bill that gave enabling authority for cameras at work and school zones had originally included residential areas, but that was removed in order for it to pass.“The concern that we have in our county are the crashes and the number of deaths which would indicate high speed so if we were to pursue these devices in locations at above 35 miles per hour that would take us out of the traditional residential areas,” Kamptner said. Supervisors also discussed legislation to allow a portion of recordation tax to be set aside for affordable housing initiatives. They opted to not pursue legislation, but to instead find out whether they can take that step without additional enabling authority. A final vote on the 2022 legislative agenda will be held in October. Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, please share widely on social media so we can continue to keep growing the audience. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

September 2, 2021: Charlottesville PC reviews third version of Future Land Use Map

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 2, 2021 28:48

The name of the initiative is Cville Plans Together, but an attempt to update the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan to increase the number of affordable places to live at times seems like it could tear the community apart. Here’s one of over 50 community members who spoke this week during a five-hour work session on the topic.“I wish this whole thing had been approached in a different way because it’s been so divisive and I’m sad to hear citizens of our community so upset with one another and I also wish we’d been able to talk in person,” said Mary Whittle. On this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a summary and recap of the review and preparation of an aspirational map intended to guide future development. I’m your host and guide, Sean Tubbs. Most people in the community are unfamiliar with much of the jargon, but I’ve spent a good chunk of my career trying to explain the terms required to explain how the pieces fit together. Societies are complex organisms that have no instruction manual, but the goal of this newsletter and podcast, each and every time, is to help you better understand what’s happening. Thanks for listening.In today’s first Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects, and to sign up for a new volunteer orientation coming up this Saturday, September 4, at 4 p.m. With four months to go until the end of 2021, the chair of the Charlottesville Planning Commission is hopeful Council will adopt a Comprehensive Plan before the clock strikes 2022. That will mark two years since the launch of the Cville Plans Together initiative. The firm Rhodeside & Harwell is leading the completion of the Comprehensive Plan, and subcontractor HR & Advisors has created an affordable housing plan that Council adopted in March. Preliminary work is underway on a rewrite of the zoning ordinance. All of the work is done to fulfil a previous City Council’s request in the spring of 2019 to hire a firm to complete work on all three. Before we begin, let’s review the languages in the request for proposals. (read the RFP). “Housing is at the root of historical structural inequity and oppression in the United States, and it came to be this way deliberately,” reads the request for proposals. “As we build a strategy to achieve a local housing landscape that is healthy, ample, high quality, and affordable, we must be equally deliberate in dismantling the dynamics and the structures that perpetuate continued inequity—structures that often go unnoticed by those of us who benefit from them or don’t directly experience their harm.”In Late August, Rhodeside and Harwell released the third version of something called the Future Land Use Map which is intended to guide future development. In late March, the Planning Commission directed Rhodeside & Harwell to increase potential residential density allowed across the entire city but mostly in single-family neighborhoods. Some in those neighborhoods pushed back, and a third map balanced the two previous drafts. At a work session on August 31, the Planning Commission met for over five and a half hours to weigh in on the map. While not a public hearing, nearly sixty people spoke during the virtual meeting. At the outset, RHI Project Manager Jennifer Koch stressed they were not reviewing a final product.“This is a draft and we expect there may be adjustments that may be made to it,” Koch said. “If we do make revisions to the map after tonight, the Future Land Use Map, we will make it clear how and why those changes were made.”The Commission also reviewed the Land Use chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, which is connected to the Future Land Use Map. “The land use map is connected to a variety of not only goals and strategies but also this overall chapter vision statement of what Charlottesville wants to be in the future related to land use, urban form, and historic and cultural preservation,” Koch said. During her review of public engagement, Koch summarized two major camps that emerged during the input process earlier this spring.“People who live in neighborhoods that are currently single family neighborhoods, there was a lot of expression of concern related to community character, development scale, and whatnot,” Koch said. “But I want to note there were a lot of comments and support for more housing, affordability and density in the city.”Koch said the Future Land Use Map is intended to implement the major tenets of the affordable housing plan. The current map dates back to 2013 and most of the city’s land is designated for low intensity residential. Beginning with the second draft map released in late April, that base level that has been renamed to General Residential.“What we were talking about at this point was to allow up to three units on those sites and a lot of those right now are currently zoned for single family use only,” Koch said. “So that represented a potential tripling of what was allowed in those areas.”Another change to General Residential is the ability for a property owner to build a fourth unit on a lot if that unit were kept below the fair market rent. Corridors and nodesBefore we get too much further, a little bit of history. You might want to take a look at the implementation chapter from the city’s 2001 Comprehensive Plan. The word “corridor” is used over four dozen times. Here are a few examples from a plan adopted by City Council 20 years ago. “We will support initiatives to increase commercial, retail and residential growth opportunities in our commercial corridors,” reads a progressive economic center vision principle. “We will increase the amount of market rate, higher density residential housing downtown and along the economic development corridors,” reads a residential opportunities principle. “Adopt zoning changes and urban design criteria to implement the recommendations of the Corridor Study,” reads a section on land use and zoning changes. That study refers to a December 2000 Commercial Corridor Study that heavily influenced the last major zoning citywide zoning change in 2003. If you’ve ever wondered why there are taller buildings on West Main Street or dense apartment complexes on Jefferson Park Extended, that rezoning is why. (read about the study on cvillepedia)Koch and her team of planners built all three drafts of the Future Land Use Map on the 2013 land use map, which builds off of the one from 2007 Comprehensive Plan. The review process never really ends.But, a new plan has to be adopted, and on August 31, 2021, Koch wanted to explain a bit more about corridors and nodes. “I want to be clear that when we’re talking about corridors and nodes in the city, we do have those land use categories that are called mixed-use nodes, mixed-use corridors,” Koch said. “But when we talk about a development pattern that is sort of node and corridor centric, we are also looking at things like residential corridors, you know, nodes of residential intensity.”For instance, maps designate a section of Cherry Avenue west of Roosevelt Brown as increasing to Medium Density Residential. That’s within walking distance to Buford Middle School, a facility proposed to be upgraded in the near future to accommodate 6th graders. That area is also near Forest Hills Park and Fifeville Park. “We’ve looked at how can we put potential intensity near schools and near parks, and that’s been important from the beginning of this process,” Koch said. In the second version of the map, most of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood was designated as Medium Intensity Residential as were portions of the Greenbrier and Barracks / Rugby neighboorhoods. However, feedback led the consultants to scale back some of those to General Residential. “We heard concerns about some locations of the medium intensity residential and the mixed-use nodes, and we heard concerns about the city’s ability to plan for infrastructure in advance of development, and that includes traffic, transportation, utility, stormwater, and other types of infrastructure,” Koch said. Koch said others are concerned that simply allowing more housing units will not lead to reduced prices. “We heard a lot of people who said density does not equal affordability and we 100 percent agree with that,” Koch said. “The land use map alone will not get to the housing goals that we have for Charlottesville.”There has been concern about people being displaced from neighborhoods that have historically been home to Black residents and people with lower-incomes. For many years, real estate investors and wealthier households have purchased single family homes in 10th and Page, Fifeville, and Rose Hill and invested in them. A feature of the third draft of the Future Land Use Map would seek to restrict intense development in these areas.“In the Future Land use map, to reduce the allowable intensity in those areas, we are proposing this Sensitive Community overlay that could then potentially include less development intensity in the zoning,” Koch said. “But we have heard mixed opinions on whether allowing less development in those areas would be preferable for those who may be in those at-risk communities. We want to make sure we’re not impacting potential wealth-building in those communities.” We’ll hear more details about the changes in this third iteration of the map as Commissioners ask questions.  For now, Koch said the changes made to the map, including the conditional allowance of a fourth unit in General Residential, could help the city attain its housing goals.Over fifty people speak at public commentKoch spoke for nearly an hour before members of the public were allowed to give their inputs. At that point in the call, there were 238 people watching the Zoom call. Over the course of the five hours meeting, nearly sixty people would speak. There’s not enough time to go through it all, but before we hear what Commissioners and the City Council think, let’s hear some voices skeptical opposed to the map. “We had no idea that the ultimate goal of Charlottesville was to have this high density area,” said Michelle Rowan. “We specifically looked for something close to the hospital, R-1, coming off of acreage. That’s what we were looking for.”“Is it really an issue of affordable housing or is it really an issue of poverty?” said Fred Borch. “Is the issue of poverty whether or not housing is affordable?”“Census data has shown that construction of new homes in the city has outpaced the city’s population growth,” said Kaki Pearson. “If the city of Charlottesville is serious about redressing housing and racial injustices, they could create a program to target individuals and families much like the voucher program created in Evanston, Illinois, where aggrieved African-Americans only need to show that they were descendants of residents during a certain time period,” said someone who was on the zoom call as Mary Simpson. “Instead, our government is proposing to dismantle single-family neighborhoods like mine. Yes, I will be punished twice. Let me be clear. I don’t want 12-unit buildings or commercial establishments in my neighborhood. I don’t want the traffic, the trash, the noise, the crime, and all of that which naturally accompanies denser neighborhoods.”“I really would like to just make a huge plea to slow down the process and expand it,” said Martha Smythe. “We are still living in a pandemic which has changed everything and we’re talking about a rezoning which projects to alter everything in the city and I see no reason to rush it.”“This plan being presented by the consulting team is what I believe to be an ideological blueprint for pro-density interests,” said Philip Harway.“I want to confess that I do not share your goal of increasing density in the city and I don’t recall ever that ever being on any ballot presented to the citizens,” said Andrew Grimshaw. There were also many comments in favor of the plan.“I’m a little puzzled at all the outrage behind what’s being proposed given that the unit that I live in currently is pretty emblematic of a lot of the proposed changes, which is a converted house that looks just like all of the other houses on the block,” said Brendan Novak. “The only difference is that I can afford to live there whereas I could not live in an entire single family home for example.” “Something that we noticed when were looking at the side-by-side slide of the August map and the May map is that there is in general a lot less gray in the historically exclusionary neighborhoods, the white neighborhoods,” said attorney Caroline Klosko with the Legal Aid Justice Center, speaking on behalf of the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition. “North Downtown, Lewis Mountain Road. Locust Grove. Barracks / Rugby. There’s less allowance for medium density than under the May version of the map and we think this is a step backwards and we’re disappointed by this. “I hope we can move back in the direction that the first Future Land Use Map was going,” said Chris Schopper. “I feel like we’ve taken a step back.” “I think that cutting down the General Residential stories from 3.5 to two is going to create issues in the long run,” said Tim Giles. “We’re going to have houses that can’t even be built in existing R-1 neighborhoods.”“It’s important that this process considers to take the needs of renters and center them as we are fifty percent renters and probably will grow as that demand grows with the University of Virginia’s growth,” said Oliver Platts-Mills, a developer with several holdings in the Fifesville and Rose Hill neighborhood. “I think you need to support a version of this plan that increases density across the city and allows all sorts of people who want to live here to be able to move here,” said David Singerman. “I’d just like to express my support for the May revision that had more substantial changes to density across the city and I’d like to express my support for greater density in historically exclusionary neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods across the city,” said Jamelle Bouie. You’re reading a special edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement on the Charlottesville Planning Commission’s August 31 work session on the Future Land Use Map and the Comprehensive Plan. In today’s second Substack-supported public service announcement: The Charlottesville Jazz Society at cvillejazz.org is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and preservation of jazz, and there’s no time like now to find a time to get out and watch people love to play. The Charlottesville Jazz Society keeps a running list of what’s coming up at cvillejazz.org. This week, find out that the Charles Owen Trio plays at Miller’s Downtown on Friday at 9:30 p.m., Zuzu’s Hot 5 will play the WTJU Free Fall Concert on Saturday, and the Beleza Trio plays at Potter’s Craft Cider also on Saturday. For details, visit cvillejazz.org.But what did the Commissioners think? When it was their turn, Commissioners had five minutes to ask questions and make comments. Commissioner Jody Lahendro has served on the advisory body since August 2014 and is one of the most critical voices on the Commission. “I have been doing a lot of reading and most of the literature that I’ve come across has concluded that simply adding density does little to nothing to adding affordability to a city, or affordable units to a city,” Lahendro said. The current draft allows a fourth unit in General Residential if it is subsidized or sold below its market value. Lahendro expressed skepticism. “Why wouldn’t developers simply turn single family parcels into three residential units and take the money and run?” Lahendro asked. “Is the fourth unit based on some kind of data?”Koch repeated that the Future Land Use Map and the zoning would not be enough, and that tools in the affordable housing plan would be required. But, size of units could play a role in bringing down housing costs. “There is an opportunity to provide units that are more sort of naturally affordable if they are at a size that is not available in a neighborhood right now,” Koch said. The zoning rewrite will be overseen by subcontractor Code Studio. Lee Einsweiler is the founding principal. “You’re right, Jody,” Einsweiler said. “There’s no specific evidence that that fourth unit is somehow magically more affordable. It is just a trade-off we felt was reasonable for adding to our original three that if you were going to add more we needed some guarantee that some portion might be affordable.” Lahendro said he could not support the additional density without precautions. He said developers will purchase existing homes, tear them down, and build three units where they can. “The land has become more valuable now than the buildings that are on it,” Lahendro said. “Given the opportunity to provide more housing units on the same parcel of land through upzoning, developers will build more units but at market rates that will not meet the affordability definition.”Lahendro said he could support the density of or three additional units in single-family zoning in if the units were guaranteed to be rented or sold at affordable levels. As a general rule, households who pay more than 30 percent of their income for the roof of their head are considered distressed. Commissioner Lyle Solla-Yates said areas near the University of Virginia such as the Lewis Mountain neighborhood should be places where children in low-income families can live and have opportunity. He studied the changes to the Future Land Use Map over the weekend. “And I only saw really large reductions in potential affordable housing there,” Solla-Yates said. “I didn’t understand it. I understand there has been public comment calling for less, especially among the highest-income homeowners. That’s really the big group that’s been pushing this story.”Commissioner Taneia Dowell went next. She also supported Lahendro’s idea of an overlay district for additional units only if all are affordable. “I too have some heartburn about the density in this plan,” Dowell said. The newest Commissioner is Karim Habbab, who joined the advisory body earlier this summer. “I think we need more assertive language regarding affordable housing and the affordability of the affordable housing throughout all different intensities and zoning requirements, not just the General Residential one,” Habbab said. “I think it could apply to most of them.”Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg began his comments with a pointed question to the consultants. “How do you decide whose opinions matter?” Stolzenberg said. “We’ve heard many hundreds of people’s feedback. Many people are arguing for one thing while many others are arguing for the direct opposite.”Koch said the consultants have tried to strike a balance between multiple points of view. “In terms of who we are listening to, we are trying to make that equity and affordability piece maintain strength and we think we have while also making compromise,” Koch said. “We are not swinging wildly one way or the other. I would say if we did that, if we really listened specifically to certain neighborhoods, a lot of these neighborhoods outside of those sensitive communities would not have any additional increase in potential density at all.”Back to affordability. Stolzenberg said the city needs to provide incentives to developers if anyone is ever going to build the fourth unit. He said the nonprofit housing groups may not be interested unless they can build certain kinds of units in more places. “My understanding in talking to our local housing nonprofits is that we have a couple of rental-oriented ones that don’t build buildings that size and you need at least 40 or 50 to get to a [Low-Income Housing Tax Credits] application,” Stolzenberg said. “And then we have homeownership ones like Habitat and the Community Land Trust.  And for them, I think what they’re really seeking is for townhomes and in particular stacked townhomes. They keep saying stacked townhomes. That’s the fastest path to get affordability because land is so expensive and you can half the cost of land.”Stolzenberg also said he did not favor a reduction in the number of stories allowed in General Residential from 3.5 in the second draft to 2.5 in the third. Commissioner Liz Russell picked up on this thread.“It seems that the definition of missing middle housing is 2.5 to 3 stories, so if that’s what we say we want then that explains the reduction from 3.5 stories,” Russell said. Russell said the process should result in a city that provides choices in housing. “A range of housing opportunities in a way that is sensitive to the built form of our existing neigborhoods,” Russell said. “I think that’s what Cville Plans is working toward and I think it’s our role as Planning Commisioners to guide the density more specifically and not leave it to the market to decide what is built and what is affordable.”This was Hosea Mitchell’s last meeting as chair. As such, he thought he would be candid in what said about the latest draft. “The latest iteration disappoints,” Mitchell said. “The affordable housing plan that the consultants put together was designed to promote zoning and development that increased multifamily development in a way that buoyed equity and buoyed affordability in Charlottesville.”Mitchell said the latest draft does not do enough to combat the long history of exclusionary zoning. Mitchell said he would support four stories in General Residential in places where it would make sense. Three City Councilors weigh-inThe Commission’s role is advisory. Elected officials will make the final call. Let’s hear from three of them. First, Councilor Lloyd Snook. “We have to remember that the Future Land Use Map is part of the Comprehensive Plan,” Snook said. “It is only about three pages of the Comprehensive Plan. The purpose of the Comprehensive Plan is to plan to deal with current and emerging problems. It is not particularly frankly to only preserve existing neighborhoods, though in some instances that could be a problem that we’re trying to address.”Snook said the three values the Comprehensive Plan should address are racial equity, climate change, and affordable housing. “Number three is dealing with all varieties of affordable housing,” Snook said. “We have to recognize that at the moment Charlottesville is becoming increasingly unaffordable for virtually everybody and that includes people who are making 100 percent of [area median income], not just 80 percent or 40 percent of 50 percent.”Snook also said he wanted to see more information about the costs of building multiple units within one building. Mayor Nikuyah Walker was on City Council in February 2019 when the decision was made to hire a firm to finish the Comprehensive Plan. “I understand that a lot of people are challenged by Charlottesville, what has happened with past developments, the increase in pricing of housing and land, but there are certain members of our population who without us prioritizing them and especially the lower [area median income] they won’t be able to figure out in Charlottesville or existing areas,” Walker said.Councilor Michael Payne said the Comprehensive Plan gives the change to change Charlottesville’s ecosystem for the better.“Opening up the opportunity for more affordable homeownership and rental opportunity throughout the entire city and directly confronting the reasons that those opportunities aren’t available and allow more affordable duplexes, triplexes, townhomes to be built instead of having a system where you can only build a single family homes that’s selling for $600,000 or $700,000 in many cases,” Payne said he was concerned that the latest version of the map was a step back in terms of meeting the city’s affordable housing goals. He said the longer the delay, the worse the housing ecosystem will get. “Every day, week, month, and year the status quo continues and we know exactly what the status quo is, it’s gentrification, it’s displacement, it’s all the things that people continue to highlight as problems in our city,” Payne said.Next steps?Koch said she and her team will return to the Planning Commission at their regular meeting on September 14 for that review, and there is a work session slot reserved for September 21. The official public hearing will take place in October. Between now and then, what are you going to do if you’re a Charlottesville resident? Have you taken a look at the map? Have you talked to your neighbors? As you’ve heard in this program, there are many opinions and thoughts. As you continue to read or listen to Charlottesville Community Engagement, I’ll continue to track this story, alongside the many other stories I write about land use, growth, economic development, and more of what makes this community function. Or not function. It’s a matter of perspective, but I’ll be here, documenting from as many views as I can. Was this newsletter and podcast useful to you? Please consider support if you’ve not done so already. Here are some ways to do so:Support general research by making a donation through PatreonSign for a subscription to Charlottesville Community Engagement, free or paid. Ting will match that amount!Pay through Venmo This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

August 31, 2021: Public housing board approves sustainability study, surveillance camera contract; Regional tourism body may amend its make-up

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 31, 2021 17:12

Today’s first Patreon fueled shout-out is a new one. A concerned Charlottesville parent wants to make sure the community participates in the Middle School Reconfiguration process that is currently underway. After years of discussion, concrete plans are being put forward. You can learn more and contribute at the City of Charlottesville Schools/VMDOs information page. On today’s show:A quick rundown on a couple of transit planning exercises and new routes in the areaInformation on how area hotels have been doing this summer, and how the make-up of an area tourist board may changeThe same firm that’s studying’s UVA’s housing initiative has been hired by the city’s public housing agency for a redevelopment study Former Warren County EDA director indicted on federal fraud chargesBefore we begin today, another COVID update. The Virginia Department of Health reports another 3,487 new cases today. In the Blue Ridge Health District there are another 75 new cases. The agency put out an alert late Monday evening that all localities under its jurisdiction are experiencing a high level of community transmission.“As we experience this surge in cases, we urge all individuals, businesses, and other  organizations to take prevention measures that include masks indoors and physical distancing,” reads the email. “The Delta variant is the dominant strain of the virus and the primary driver of recent high transmission rates of COVID-19 because it spreads more easily than earlier strains of the virus.” This afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health announced the receipt of $4.3 million from the Centers for Disease Control to hire more community health workers to address the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Virginia initiative will focus on geographic areas of Virginia with high rates of COVID-19 identified by project partners,” reads the release. “Those areas include parts of the Richmond metro region, Norfolk, Portsmouth, the Danville area, and the Southwest Virginia communities served by the Mount Rogers Health District.” Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency related to the approach of Tropical Depression Ida. Heavy flooding is predicted across much of the state, particularly in southwest Virginia. The move allows the Commonwealth to mobilize forces to assist in a variety of different emergency situations. “Given the storm’s current forecast, the Commonwealth will assist localities, especially those with vulnerable populations, to provide support in response to a large-scale weather event during the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads Executive Order 81.. A collision in Charlottesville Monday afternoon between a pickup truck and a cement truck killed the driver of the pickup truck. The crash occurred at a construction site on Druid Avenue. The 53-year-old driver was initially taken to the University of Virginia hospital but soon died from the injuries. According to a release from the city, the driver of the cement truck was not injured and is cooperating with an investigation. The former director of the Economic Development Authority for both the Town of Front Royal and Warren County has been indicted on several federal fraud charges. Jennifer Rae McDonald, 44, is accused of wire fraud, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. “McDonald, through her position as executive director at the EDA, had access to funds belonging to the EDA and, as the indictment alleges, used EDA funds to pay on debt owed by her, other individuals, and LLCs she controlled, to purchase real property for which she often earned commissions as a real estate agent, and to purchase real property in the name of an LLC she controlled,” reads the release. In all McDonald faces 34 counts for activities from June 2014 to December 2018. Several other people have been charged with crimes, including the entire Warren County Board of Supervisors. For more on the story take a look at coverage from Alex Bridges in the Northern Virginia Daily. Now it’s time to pick back up from last week’s meeting of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. The CACVB is an entity funded in part by transient lodging taxes that seeks to market the area for tourism. One key metric is the hotel occupancy rate. That figure was higher this summer than last year but still below pre-pandemic levels. Courtney Cacatian is the director of CACVB. “My understanding is that’s largely due to employment challenges but some of our properties are doing better than others on that front,” Cacatian said. After that update, Cacatian gave the Board updates on efforts to update marketing plans. That starts with data on what people who don’t live here know about the area. “We received some research from SIR, a firm based in Richmond, and they had let us know that when our past visitors come to Charlottesville and Albemarle County, they are 83 percent more likely to make a return trip to this region,” Cacatian said. “With our prospective visitors, there was a major need here to let people know who we are and what we’re all about to attract them here in the future.”What are your observations about how other people perceive the area? Leave a comment. I’m curious to know these things. In any case, there are currently two City Councilors and two Albemarle Supervisors on the CACVB Board. Earlier this year, several members of the tourism sector asked the Board to consider changing its make-up to include industry members. That may happen according to this bit of information from Albemarle County Executive Jeffrey Richardson.“I did go back and speak to the Board of Supervisors and the Board has indicated to me that they would be willing to move forward with the City of Charlottesville to look at the recommendations for modifying the existing [CACVB] Board.” City Manager Chip Boyles said City Council will discuss amending the CACVB Board as well, but it’s not the elected officials’ positions that localities would give up.  “I was able to go back and converse with each of our City Council members and the consensus there is that likewise with Albemarle County we would be open to considering a change,” Boyles. “I think the discussion was that the City Manager and Chief Administrative Officer positions would possibly be replaced with industry representatives.”Still remaining to work out are the specifics over those industry representatives. In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: Help support Black-owned business in the Charlottesville area. Check out the Charlottesville Black Business Directory at cvilleblackbiz.com and choose between a variety of goods and services, ranging from beauty supplies, professional services, and e-commerce. Visit cvilleblackbiz.com as soon as you can to get started!*The Thomas Jefferson Planning District is in the midst of conducting two studies related to transit, one of which is focused on increasing the amount of service in urban portions of Albemarle County.  Lucinda Shannon is the planner working on the projects.“We have two different grants that we are working on,” Shannon said. “The transit expansion study is a short-term project and it’s just within Albemarle County and it’s to expand transit services in the near term.”Two public input sessions were held in late July and the goal is to have a feasibility study in place early next year. (See also Studying the Expansion of Transit in Albemarle, August 11, 2021)“The transit vision plan is a little bit longer and it’s for the long-term project and it’s for the entire region so it’s going to go over about 18 months and should be completed on June 30, 2022,” Shannon said. The plan is intended to present steps towards implementing a regional system. “Right now we’re in the gathering information phase,” Shannon said. “We’ve kicked off the project and we’re made data requests from providers and gathered land use. We’re developing a website and a logo.” You can also look forward to an interactive survey and map on the topic. To learn more about transit in this area, do go back and read or listen to the August 27, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Outside of this newsletter’s immediate coverage is Bedford County, which launches its first public transportation service on Wednesday with a 21-passenger vehicle known as the Otter Bus. This service is a partnership between the Town of Bedford and the Bedford Community Health Foundation. Also beginning Wednesday is the Afton Express, which will provide service between Staunton and Charlottesville. That service will be operated by BRITE.*Now let’s load up the time machine and go back eight days to the August 23, 2021 meeting of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.  One item on the agenda was the hiring of a real estate firm to conduct a sustainability review of the CRHA’s properties and holdings. John Sales is the CRHA executive director. “We are looking to undertake a sustainability plan to determine the future redevelopment and positioning of the housing authority’s assets to expand for and prepare for redevelopment,” Sales said. The firm to be hired is Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures. That’s the same firm that’s been working with the University of Virginia on an initiative to plan and build up to 1,500 affordable housing units on land owned by UVA or its real estate foundation. “We have already started redeveloping multiple sites and planning for the Sixth Street redevelopment and working to create a couple of resident planners for Westhaven,” Sales said. “So we’ve already started but we really do need to have a game plan about how we’d like to redevelop all of these sites.” Sales said the study will try to determine what needs to be built and would include suggestions for new units that could be built to serve people with federal housing vouchers. New construction being built today is renting at too high levels for many to use that system.“Developers aren’t building the housing units that are needed for the individuals that are getting the vouchers,” Sales said. Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures will be paid up to $229,960 for the work. They were one of two finalists. (resolution)A previous CRHA Board adopted a master plan in the summer of 2010, but the current renovation of Crescent Halls and the building of new units at South First Street did not directly follow that blueprint. For reference, you can read that old plan on cvillepedia. The CRHA Board also narrowly approved a resolution to hire a firm to run video surveillance cameras on CRHA properties for security purposes. “Residents have continued to ask for this ever since I’ve been with CRHA as a director, and that’s been been about a year ago in August,” Sales said. “There was a lot of violence and a lot of shootings going on at several of the sites and residents continued to ask about cameras and why CRHA didn’t have cameras.”The CRHA Board adopted a policy on cameras at their meeting in July. Provisions are in the policy to make sure footage is not used for other reasons, but some residents want to know if that means footage can be used to see if residents are violating the terms of their lease. “We have not expanded the cameras for that roll yet, but those are conversations that are starting to happen in the safety committee,” Sales said. The vote was not unanimous. Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker voted against the contract out of a concern that the cameras will eventually be used to punish and harass residents. “I think it’s just a really slippery slope and I think until people are impacted negatively they won’t even really realize,” Walker said. The move was supported by the Public Housing Association of Residents. Shelby Marie Edwards is the executive director. “I think everybody on this call probably knows that the Sixth Street residents have sustained quite a bit of violence over the past month or so, really all summer,” Edwards said. “The residents I was talking to there, I was talking to them and they said it would be really have something tangible to look forward to next. I do hear everything that the Mayor said about systemic oppression and how the use of cameras could go left, and we’ve been trying our due diligence to let people know about that but the fact of the matter is there’s something very real in front of them and they are hopeful the cameras will be able to help mitigate that violence.”Walker was joined by CRHA Chair A’Lelia Henry in voting against it, but it passed on a 3-2 motion. Two Commissioners were absent from the meeting. The contract with Turnkey will be for $186,040. There may be more from this meeting of the CRHA in a future installment of the show. Thanks for reading and listening. Just a reminder that for $25 a month in Patreon, you get to direct four shout-outs a month! That amount will go up soon, but this is a very good way to get info in front of people in a way that supports production. Visit the Patreon site to learn more. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

August 30, 2021: Crozet Master Plan draft is available for review; VMDO seeks feedback on Charlottesville schools reconfiguration

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 30, 2021 10:05


In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout:What’s your perfect holiday weekend in Charlottesville? Hanging with friends outside... Great live music... Maybe breaking a Guinness world record? Then mark your calendar for WTJU 91.1 FM's Freefall Music Festival -- Saturday, September 4 starting at 3 p.m. at IX Art Park. Live performances by Zuzu's Hot Five, Susie and the Pistols, and Good Dog Nigel. There will be an attempt to form the world's largest human music note at 7:30 p.m. Plus, a hot dog and veggie dog cookout for our whole community. Find out more at wtju.net.On today’s show:An update on COVID numbers from over the weekendA representative from King Family Vineyards on the area’s wine industryA draft of the Crozet Master Plan is ready for reviewThe architect for Charlottesville City School reconfiguration wants feedback on the latest design schemesThe number of fully vaccinated Virginians continues to increase and is now at a total of 56.6 percent of the whole population and 67.7 percent of adults. The seven-day average for new cases each day is now 3,112 and the percent positivity has increased to 10.1 percent. The percent positivity in the Blue Ridge Health District has increased to 6.3 percent with 54 new cases reported today. The agency sent out an email at publication stating there is now a high level of community transmission. Officials are urging people to wear masks and return to physical distancing. To the south, Amherst County schools have reverted to virtual instruction due to a COVID outbreak. In-person instruction will begin again on September 2 and all students will have to show a negative test to enter classrooms. If they refuse, they will have to stay home until September 7. The public school systems in both Albemarle County and Charlottesville have public dashboards with the number of cases. (Charlottesville Schools tracker) (Albemarle County Schools tracker) Speaking of schools, the Charlottesville City Schools system is seeking feedback on various design schemes for the multi-million reconfiguration of elementary and middle schools. The architectural firm VMDO has produced a series of potential upgrades to both Walker Upper Elementary School and Buford Middle School. Walker would be converted to a pre-K facility and 6th grade would be added at Buford, with 5th graders distributed across the existing elementary schools. The Charlottesville School Board will get a project update on Thursday, and the City Council will get an update on October 4. Council will be asked to provide direction on October 18. The current five year capital improvement program budget sets aside $50 million for the project, but that number is not expected to cover the full cost. (fill out the survey)Later this week we’ll hear a lot about the Comprehensive Plan process in Charlottesville. Last week, the full draft of the Crozet Master Plan was released for public comment and it might be worth comparing the two. The Crozet Master Plan is part of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan and an update has been in development for the past two years. The draft has been produced internally by planners in the Albemarle Department of Community Development and is similar in design to the Rio Road / 29 Small Area Plan and the update of the Pantops Master Plan. There are five chapters in the 137-page plan. A questionnaire is open through September 14, which is also the day of the public hearing before the Albemarle Planning Commission. The Board of Supervisors will hold their public hearing on October 20. (read the draft here)*A researcher at Virginia Tech wants your help to find out if there are any pine snakes in the Commonwealth. The last sighting of this non-venomous snake was over 30 years ago, according to a release from the College of Natural Resources and Environment. If you think you’ve seen one and can provide documentation, Assistant Professor Kevin Hamed wants to hear from you.  You can get his information here. “Pinesnakes (aka bull snakes) provide ecosystem services to humans by preying on many creatures that cause homeowners problems, such as small mammals,” reads a press release from August 26. “A better understanding of their current distribution in Virginia is needed to manage and conserve these amazing reptiles.”The typical pinesnake is around 50 inches long, and is not to be confused with either the eastern hog-nosed snake, or the juvenile eastern ratsnake. In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! Charlottesville is not the only college town in Virginia that may have been undercounted in the 2020 U.S. Census due to the closure of universities at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Demographer Hamilton Lombard of the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia told the Harrisonburg Citizen last week that that city’s population count may be as much as 2,000 below where it should be based on a comparison with housing data from building permits. The official count in the Census is 51,484, which is much lower than the Weldon Cooper Center’s 2020 estimate of 54,094. Charlottesville’s count of 46,553 is lower than the Weldon Cooper estimate of 49,447. To listen to more from Lombard, go back and review the August 21, 2021 installment of this newsletter. Albemarle County leads the Commonwealth of Virginia in the amount of acreage of grapes planted for wine. “Just over 700 acres right now,” said James King of King Family Vineyards. “Loudoun County in northern Virginia currently takes second place with 33 percent fewer acres planted, so Albemarle County leads the way by a large margin.King made those comments last week to the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, which featured him as a guest to talk about the role the wine industry plays in tourism. “While a lot of other agricultural sectors like produce and other crops have seen consolidation, over the last few years, viticulture in Virginia continues to be very much a family-owned operation and enterprise,” King said. King said there were seven wineries in Virginia in 1979 and that number has grown to over 300. King Family Vineyards opened in 1998 and is part of the Monticello Wine Trall, which has grown to 40. “In agritourism, wineries tend to thrive in clusters,” King said. “Guests often multiple wineries in a day so when wineries opens down the road, it ends being good business for everybody.” However, King said the industry faces many challenges, including unpredictable weather and threats to the grapes. “We’re always battling Mother Nature, whether it is frost in the spring or invasive species in the summer,” King said. “Right now it’s the spotted lanternfly from China.”King used his time to appeal to elected officials on the CACVB to not further restrict public events, which he said generates money that goes back into the winemaking operation. He said that can keep a farm within a family.  King Family has 15 full-time employees and around 35 part-time employees. There will be more from the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. Thanks for reading and or listening. Special thanks to those who do both! And extra special thanks for the handful of people who are making a contribution through both Patreon and Substack! Patreon covers the cost of general research, and Substack covers the cost of producing this newsletter. This is all done under my company, Town Crier Productions, with a goal of bringing information about all of these various projects. If you do subscribe through Substack, Ting will match your contribution as a way of supporting this local source of independent journalist. If you have any questions, please ask me in email! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe


August 27, 2021: Regional transit partnership meeting reveals partnership examples; COVID cases continue to rise among unvaccinated

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 27, 2021 19:18

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! On today’s show: Charlottesville Area Transit makes some route adjustments and some examples of the “partnership” in the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership An epidemiologist at the University of Virginiaexplains key differences between the current pandemic surge and the winter surge The Free Enterprise Forum releases its annual report on local government spending trendsThe number of new COVID cases in Virginia has exceeded 3,000 for each of the past four days, with 3,518 reported by the Virginia Department of Health. The percent positivity is 10, which means one out of every ten tests is coming back as a confirmed case. There have been 254 reported COVID deaths since July 27. The VDH updated a dashboard today that tracks cases by vaccination status. Due to a variety of factors, this is a difficult one to update every day. Here are two conclusions listed on the site:“Between January 17, 2021 and August 21, 2021, unvaccinated people developed COVID-19 at a rate 13.3 times higher than fully vaccinated people and 2.6 times higher than fully vaccinated people,” reads the section below “rates by vaccination status.” “As of August 21, 2021, 4,767,990 Virginians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” reads one under “vaccine breakthrough cases.” “ Of these people, 0.2 percent have developed COVID-19, 0.009 percent have been hospitalized, and 0.0017 percent have died.” Dr. Costi Sifri is the director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia. He told members of the press today that the term “breakthrough case” is a bit misleading in a time when the delta variant is so prevalent. “Some of us are concerned by the word breakthrough suggesting that it is a vaccine failure and most of these infections that have occured are not failures,” Dr. Sifri said. “Most of these infections that occurred after vaccinations really are not failures. People have received the vaccine and the vaccine has done its job. It’s kept people out of the hospital. It’s kept them from serious consequences of COVID.” The seven-day average for new cases now is where it was in early December as the winter surge hit. Let’s hear one interchange between UVA Health public information officer Eric Swensen and Dr. Sifri. Eric Swensen:“The number of new cases is now in the 3000’s which is roughly about where they were sort of shortly after Thanksgiving of last year. So the question is really, what’s different if anything between now and then and should we be concerned that case count has risen back to where it was?”Dr. Costi Sifri:“There is one huge difference and that is that we now have an effective vaccine and we did not have one in November that was being used and distributed. Our vaccination started December 15 and nationwide it started that week. So what we’re seeing right now is almost entirely preventable. That is the big difference and the frustration.” Eric Swensen:“Should people be avoiding crowds at this time until those third doses are more widely available for people. For some context, Liberty University is on a campus-wide quarantine through  September 10. What are your thoughts on people being out and being out in crowds?” (LU page on their temporary mitigation period)Dr. Costi Sifri:“This gets into sort of the gray areas and challenges I think with COVID that are often individually based. Part of the calculation is whether you are vaccinated or not vaccinated. What is the nature of the event? Is the crowd 40 people out on a mountaintop or 500 people in an indoor arena? And what is your level of risk tolerance? The risk tolerance may not only be you but it may be the people that you live with. The kids that are home, loved ones, family members. I think that is a very specific answer. I think again if we’re vaccinated, that’s very effective. If you’re in a situation with crowds, wearing a mask is easy to do. You should be doing it if you’re indoors in the state right now where we have substantial or high levels of COVID transmission in nearly every county of the state.”More on the pandemic as we move forward. A regional pro-business group that takes a close look at local governments in the region has released its annual report on spending habits. The Free Enterprise Forum’s Choices and Decisions report is a Local Government Spending Index that compares municipal expenditures in Charlottesville as well the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson. “The analysis seeks to develop and track over time an objective metric to capture the spending trend in each locality and determine if this trend can be correlated to other trends occurring within the locality,” reads the report. One metric generated is per-capita operational spending, and Charlottesville ranks highest with a 2020 figure of $4,975.75 per resident. Albemarle is next at $3,398.44, followed by Nelson at $3,090.44, Louisa County at $3,026.44, Greene at $2,804.17, and Fluvanna at $2,559.43. The index is modeled after the Consumer Price Index, a metric used by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure the cost of goods and services over time. The Free Enterprise Forum uses data from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. Review the whole report on their website. There’s also a spreadsheet with all of the data. *If you’re interested in becoming directly involved in Charlottesville government, the city is looking for applicants to many boards and commissions, ranging from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Authority to the Youth Council. If you’re interested in transportation, there are vacancies on bodies like the Jaunt Board of Directors and the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee. For housing, there’s the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority or the Community Development Block Grant Task Force. Either way, if you’re interested in experience, even applying for these positions is a good way to get involved. Visit charlottesville.gov to learn more. (release)You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. In today’s second Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit the Code for Charlottesville website to learn more, including details on projects that are under way. Before we get to a quick review of the Regional Transit Authority, two small pieces of Charlottesville Area Transit news. First, the free trolley-style bus that runs between downtown and the University of Virginia will return to traveling down McCormick Road through the heart of UVA Grounds. Second, additional service will be added to Route 9 during peak hours. That route currently travels between the University of Virginia Hospital, the Piedmont Family YMCA, Charlottesville High School, and downtown Charlottesville. CAT Director Garland Williams said the move is being made in the short-term to help with the start of the school year. “Because we know there was going to be potentially some high schoolers that were going to use our service, we added additional service during the peak periods of time on Route 9,” Williams told the Regional Transit Partnership on Thursday. According to the last seven years of ridership data, Route 9 is one of the least traveled of all of the current CAT routes whereas the trolley-style bus route has consistently had the highest ridership. The current Route 9 will change its configuration if Council agrees to the route alterations that have been under public review this year. Under its new alignment, Route 9 will travel between downtown and Fashion Square Mall via the Piedmont Family YMCA in McIntire Park. Other routes will serve the UVA Hospital. Review all of the changes here. One of the people who will take a final vote on the proposed transit changes is City Councilor Lloyd Snook. He became vice chair of the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership on Thursday and explained why he was interested in serving on that advisory body.“My main interest in transit has been that I am convinced that Charlottesville is needing a transition from being a suburban-thinking town to being a city-thinking city and transit is an important part of that,” Snook said. “It’s also an important part of an affordable housing strategy and a city planning strategy.”Another member of the Regional Transit Authority is the interim executive director of Jaunt, Karen Davis.“I’m pleased to let you know that ridership is coming right back and this is trending up and our services are back to full service in all areas,” Davis said. “Despite the driver shortage that we’re seeing.”Davis said that includes the Crozet Connect service, which had been running on a limited schedule due to the pandemic. Another of the partners is the University of Virginia Transit Service, who joined as a voting member of the advisory body. Davis said the two transit providers recently got together for discussions. “They got picked up in a Jaunt bus, brought to our home base, and we had three hours of meeting where we were brainstorming, where we made connections, and from here we have committed to meeting regularly and setting some priorities,” Davis said. One example of a current conflict that might be resolved is that Jaunt vehicles cannot directly pick up or drop off passengers who are headed to the Emily Couric Cancer Center. One place Jaunt buses can go is the Center at Belvedere, where Davis recently met with Director Peter Thompson. The Center is a non-voting member of the Regional Transit Partnership will also be served by Charlottesville Area Transit’s Route 11 when the service changes are made. Now back to that driver shortage. There are several area transit agencies and each of them need more people to work behind the wheel.“I was just taking steps to put a recruitment bonus in place only to realize that both CAT and UTS have totally offered much bigger bonuses so I have to address that program line,” Davis said.Davis said she is retaining her existing drivers, and only one that she knows of has gone to work for CAT. CAT is paying a $2,400 bonus for new drivers who work for at least nine months as well as existing drivers. New and existing UTS drivers will get a $2,500 bonus.“It’s going to be a $1,000 payout right away for our standing staff and $1,000 for new staff, and then after two full semesters of driving, the rest of the bonus,” said Becca White is the director of UVA’s Parking and Transportation. White said she has been tracking closely the number of faculty and staff who have opted to pay for spaces as the pandemic continues. “As we know, transit and parking are tied together very closely so we’ve been watching that uptake of parking permits because that’s oftentimes an indication of how many people are back in the office and what potential riders we have for CAT or Jaunt or Afton Express,” White said. “On August 1, about 55 percent to 60 percent of the academic employees had purchased their permits as compared to pre-COVID. Just in the last three weeks that number has now increased to 85 percent.”White said ridership on health employee shuttle routes have increased as the semester approaches. The academic routes that serve Central Grounds have increased to 10,000 passengers a day. Before COVID, that number was around 15,000.“And all of that service is in the last mile,” White said. “Every bit of it.” U-Heights is an apartment complex on Ivy Road in Albemarle County that is no longer served by University Transit Service. However, there is a large immigrant and refugee population. White has worked with management at U-Heights to provide mobility for residents who are no longer served by fixed-route transit. The theme of collaboration continued. The Regional Transit Partnership is staffed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Garland Williams is the director of CAT. “On the third of September, TDJPC staff will be over for a visit,” Williams said. “I want to kind of introduce them to my team and get them the lay of the land.”That will include a look at capital projects that CAT will pursue. A major purchase in recent years has been automatic passenger counters that will help provide more accurate ridership counts. Williams said these have been installed on all buses and the data is being validated. But what about those route changes?“We are in the final processes of getting the approvals,” Williams said. “The last piece that we have to do which we will hopefully be able to kick off next Friday is to get a consultant on board to finish up the required Title VI review from the changes based on the feedback we got from the community. Once that is done it has to go to Council and we’ll also share that information with Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.” Title VI refers to the Civil Rights Act, which requires a public process before making changes on routes paid for with federal funds. That means there is no set date for when the forthcoming changes will be made. That will require installation of new bus stops at places that currently do not have them, as well as removal of the stops that will be discontinued. A reason for the delay has been to address the driver shortage. CAT is down 22 drivers and pupil transportation for city school is down 20. More from the Regional Transit Partnership in an upcoming newsletter. Thank you for reading! Next up is the Week Ahead newsletter on Sunday, followed by another attempt to get one of these CCE newsletters done each weekday. Each week I get a little more efficient, which means I can bring you more information. And it’s all thanks to those of you who have contributed financially. I have taken my previous experience as a freelance journalist and created a one-person newsroom. Rather than give a set of links today, I just wish you a happy 239! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

August 25, 2021: Resilient Virginia conference speakers outline steps being taken to adapt to climate change

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2021 20:42

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: With the summer heat in full swing, your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, wants you and yours to keep cool. LEAP offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!On today’s show:Highlights from the Resilient Recovery Conference being held by Resilient VirginiaThat includes a broad overview of the link between transportation systems and climate changeUniversity of Virginia Health moves to make COVID vaccination mandatory for employeesThe COVID surge in Virginia continues with the seven-day average for positive tests increasing to 9.8 percent and another 3,453 new cases are reported today. The seven day average for new cases is at 2,731. At the same, the seven-day average for vaccination shots per day has risen to 15,011. Officials at the University of Virginia Health System announced they would require all employees to become vaccinated, or to face disciplinary action. Wendy Horton is the Chief Executive Officer for the UVA Health System.  (press release)“Between now and November 1 we will be working with anybody that isn’t vaccinated to get vaccinated and that means for us fully vaccinated with the last dose of vaccination plus two weeks by November 1,” Horton said. “We feel that it’s really an important time to make this change with the delta variant and with the information that we know about the effectiveness of vaccines, we feel it’s an important step that we can take.” As of today, 86 percent of the health system’s staff are vaccinated though that does not include contractors. The move comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration granted full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine. The bulk of today’s show is coverage of a conference underway. Resilient Virginia is a nonprofit formed in 1995 to help raise awareness of ways communities across the Commonwealth may need to adapt in response to any number of calamities that may come our way due to climate change. Heatwaves. Drought. Extreme rain. Invasive species. Seven years ago, the organization changed its name from the Virginia Sustainable Building Network in order to put a sharper focus on the topic. This week they’re holding an online gathering they’re calling the Resilient Recovery Conference. Governor Ralph Northam kicked off the event this morning. “Over the past sixteen months, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of comprehensive resiliency plans that address health, social, and economic concerns together with the increasing and significant impacts of climate change,” Northam said. Northam said one of the top priorities in his one four-year term has been climate change. Individual initiatives include the Coastal Adaptation and Resilience Master Plan and the Community Flood Preparedness Fund. Virginia has joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. “Last year, I signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act into law,” Northam said. “Virginia is now one of just a few states and the first in the south to adopt a 100 percent clean electricity standard,” Northam said. Northam signed Executive Order 24 in November 2018 to direct the administration to prepare for sea-level rise and other natural hazards. (read the order)“The number of federally declared disasters has steadily increased nationally and in Virginia,” reads the order. “The number has experienced a 250 percent increase in federally declared disasters over the past 20 years, including declarations for flooding, hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfire.”That order cites an earlier report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one that is now outdated because the IPCC entity released another one earlier this month that suggests change is inevitable to the weather system we have known throughout our lives.  We’ll hear that report being referenced throughout this show. (IPCC report)“As these types of events become more frequent and more intense, so do the threats to public health and safety, our environment, and our economic well-being, including our courts, military installations, infrastructure, tourism, assets, farms, and forests,” Northam said. Just before the event began, Northam’s press office announced that Dominion Energy  will lease space from the Port of Virginia at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal as a staging area for wind turbines that will be erected 27 miles off of the coast of Virginia Beach. (press release)Krystal Laymon is the deputy director for climate resilience of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She repeated the impacts of predicted climate change are being felt now. “Over the past few years, the U.S. has seen the number of weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion sky-rocket,” Laymon said. “From the years 2000 to 2009, there was an average of six disasters a year, each totaling a billion dollars. Last year alone, the United States faced 22 such events with a cumulative price tag in excess of $100 billion.” Laymon said investment in mitigation before disaster strikes can save money, but acting now can also help to save lives. President Biden signed Executive Order 14,008 in February with the title “Tackling the Climate Crisis Home and Abroad.” (read the order)“Every agency must be a climate change agency,” Laymon said. “A whole of government response ensures that the federal government presents a unified front on climate and considers climate resilience with every decision.”The executive order established a national task force on climate change. That group’s fifth “readout” came just after the latest IPCC report. A particular concern is sea-level rise. “It’s important to recognize that while coastal areas make up less than ten percent of the land area of the United States, they’re home to nearly 42 percent of the population,” Laymon said. This week, volunteers across the country including Charlottesville are measuring the urban heat island effect. Laymon said extreme heat is another concern. “The devastating heat waves are harming so many facets of people’s lives and the community,” Laymon said. “The urban heat island effect increases those vulnerabilities. In addition, extreme heat hits people’s wallets with increased energy costs which creates greater energy burden.” Laymon also mentioned other initiatives such as Justice40, a program that seeks to ensure that 40 percent of federal investment in mitigation goes to disadvantaged communities. (read more) In April, President Biden set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (fact sheet)“President Biden has set a new target of 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” Laymon said. “I’ll repeat that again. Fifty percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.”  Current targets for Albemarle and Charlottesville are to hit 45 percent of emissions by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. The University of Virginia seeks to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil free by 2050. But that’s the future. Where are things now?“The recent IPCC report on climate change showed that the sum amount of the climate change activities are already unavoidable,” Laymon said. “While we’re working to reduce carbon emissions, we need to prepare for the climate impacts that we are already seeing today.” You’re listening to Charlottesville Community engagement, and an edition almost solely devoted to the first day of today’s Resilient Virginia conference. But, now, time for another subscriber supported public service announcement. Do you ever look at a tree and wonder what kind it is? In September, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards will hold several identification walks in city parks for people who want to know more about the bark, leaves, and the flowers of our wooden neighbors. These walks are free, but you’ll have to register because groups are limited to 16. September 5 at 11 a.m. at Pen Park (register)September 11 at 11 a.m. at the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont (register)September 24 at 11 a.m. at the University of Virginia (register)Learn more at charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org.One of the first panels dealt with one of my favorite subject areas - transportation. Angela Conroy is the senior air quality planner with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “We’re having this conversation this morning because the scientists have measured a one degree Celsius increase in global temperature,” Conroy said. “The increase in global temperature is being due to human related carbon dioxide emissions that have drastically risen over the past several decades.”Transportation makes up a good portion of those emissions, and reforming the way we move around is intended to reverse the trend. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is essential to curbing national and statewide emissions,” Conroy said. “Currently the mainstream strategies to achieve transportation decarbonization include; the deployment of light, medium, and heavy-duty zero emissions vehicles; the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations; investing in research, development, demonstration, and deployment efforts of new generation renewable fuels, particularly in the aviation sector.” Conroy said other investments include transit as well and other ways to reduce overall vehicle miles traveled. She also said other tools will be required such as carbon sequestration, taking out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and reducing methane and other gases that contribute to the warming of the global atmosphere. While attempts are made to reduce emissions, effects are also presenting themselves. “Virginia climate change poses a significant threat to Virginia’s community infrastructure and the economy,” Conroy said. “The state has the highest rates of sea-level rise on the Atlantic seaboard with more than 34,000 buildings, 534 square miles of coastal land at risk of flooding by 2060.”Some of the cost to prepare and adapt will be covered by Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Conroy said there have been two auctions so far in which various polluting agencies pay to exceed their allowed emissions allotment. (review all RGGI auction results)“Two auctions in Virginia to date produced over $84 million of available revenue for flood mitigation and resiliency projects and for energy energy efficiency projects,” Conroy said. “Decarbonizing the electricity sector is absolutely necessary for decarbonizing transportation as well as buildings and the industrial sector.”Virginia has also been tapping into its share of the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund, a fund created when that automaker was caught lying about some of its vehicles emission standards. About sixty million of the $93.6 million the Commonwealth has received has been awarded, including an announcement last week of the purchase of electric school buses, including two for Albemarle County. Looking to the future, legislation passed the General Assembly this year to require the State Air Pollution Control Board to set up a low-emission and zero emission vehicles program to regulate tailpipe emissions in new vehicles. Conroy said over 60,000 electric vehicles sold in Virginia in June, the highest amount to date. (read the bill)Another bill passed to create a rebate program for electric vehicles, but it has not yet been funded. Conroy said rapid deployment on many fronts is required if warming is to be kept below the 1.5 degrees Celsius figure.So, that’s the view from the state level. What about the view of the state level from a regional perspective? Jeremy Holmes is the executive director of the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission. That’s a group akin to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Before Holmes took on his current job, he ran a sustainable transportation program in that part of southwest Virginia. “We actually worked with four other planning districts and covered a geography the size of the state of Massachusetts in Southwest Virginia so that included our urban centers of Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Blacksburg but as you can imagine most of what we dealt with was our rural communities, rural counties, cities and towns,” Holmes said.Holmes said the economic shutdown that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic gives a glimpse into what could happen if people change behavior, but he was frank about the transportation problems facing rural Virginia. “One of the fundamental things to remember is that these transportation systems are almost exclusively based on single occupant vehicle travel, so the infrastructure, the services, the locations of stuff almost entirely assume that you are getting to these places and accessing these services by yourself in your own motor vehicle,” Holmes said. Holmes said this leaves many rural communities isolated. Many are already shrinking in population and in job opportunities.“The impact here really is that people in order to access jobs and work now have to drive farther and farther than they did before,” Holmes said. “In Virginia, the Martinsville and Danville used to have the largest percentage of billionaires in the country driven by the furniture and textile industry. Now it’s one of the highest areas of poverty in the state and Martinsville and Danville commuters are commuting to Lynchburg, Roanoke, farther away, an hour each way. Which means they’re driving more, they’re driving by themselves and taking more time. They’re emitting more on these long trips and they’re more vulnerable.”Vulnerable in particular to the volatility in fuel prices. Specialized health care is also located in urban areas. And, state transportation funding formulas and processes mean more funding goes to urban areas. That includes maintenance funds, which may lead to more damage as rainfall increases. “These communities often have fragile infrastructure,” Holmes said. “They have relatively few roads, bridges that are way beyond when they should have been maintained, and surprises like sinkholes and things just waiting to happen as they address issues of flooding and storm surges and mudslides and that sort of thing.”On the plus side, Holmes said telework and telehealth may be ways to reverse those trends if they can become more commonplace as the pandemic continues. He also said efforts to increase rural broadband may help with some kinds of trips. Holmes said many rural communities that have been on hard times might have more positive futures as the 21st century continues if there is investment. “Our small communities have great bones,” Holmes said. “These are places that were built and lived in at a human scale for a long time. They still have that scale. There’s been huge disinvestment. Buildings are empty or abandoned or need a lot of work, but mostly the community scale is there so that if folks don’t have to drive long distances to get to things, the infrastructure is in place to revitalize these communities to places that people want to live and can have access services that they are now going out further to get to.”We’ll have more from the Resilient Virginia conference over the next few weeks or so. There are two more days if you’re interested in purchasing a ticket. They are not a sponsor, hence this text is not italicized. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

August 24, 2021: Piedmont Housing pitches Park Street projects; HAC members discuss housing plan implementation

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 24, 2021 14:40

On today’s show:A preview of two Piedmont Housing Alliance projects that go before Charlottesville’s Planning Commission today Updates on UVA housing initiative and the Charlottesville affordable housing plan at recent Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meeting In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Help support black-owned business in the Charlottesville area. Check out the Charlottesville Black Business Directory at cvilleblackbiz.com and choose between a variety of goods and services, ranging from beauty supplies, professional services, and e-commerce. Visit cvilleblackbiz.com as soon as you can to get started!The Virginia Department of Health’s COVID tracker is functional again and today the agency reports another 3,027 cases and the seven-day percent positivity of test results is 9.7 percent. Nationwide, over 150,000 COVID cases have been reported. There are 43 new cases in the Blue Ridge Health District where the percent positivity is 5.1 percent. The rest of today’s stories are all about housing. Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a preliminary discussion on two rezoning proposals from Piedmont Housing Alliance to build a variety of affordable housing types. (meeting info)In one, 50 age-restricted units would be built on undeveloped land at the Park Street Christian Church, and in the other, 95 units would be built on the campus of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency. Both projects have been designed by BRW Architects and engineered by the Timmons Group. There was a community meeting for the two rezonings on August 10. Let’s hear about the Park Street Christian Church first from architect Bruce Wardell. “The property itself is at the edge of a fairly well-organized neighborhood,” Wardell said. “The church for those of you who are familiar with the site, the church sort of sits at the top of the site and the land slopes down pretty steeply to Park Street.”   They’ll also need a rezoning to Planned Unit Development as well as a sidewalk waiver to avoid having to build a pathway on the eastern side of Park Street.“In order to build a sidewalk along that edge of the property, you would need to disturb a fairly significant part of that, the woods and the wooded areas coming down to that side of the street,” Wardell said. The 50 housing units themselves would be built on an area in between the church and Park Street. “These buildings will be essentially invisible from the neighborhood,” Wardell said. “They avoid the critical slopes.” Wardell said. “This will be 100 percent affordable housing for seniors. It will be targeted at 60 percent of the area median income or below, which in this area is an annual salary of about $45,000 for a total of two. And the structure of this is that the rent would be about 30 percent of their monthly income.”The second Piedmont Housing Alliance project that will be before the Planning Commission also involves BRW and Timmons, but also includes Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. Wardell said providing affordable housing units is one goal. “And some mixed-use, and some market rate homes, and some Habitat homes in the project,” Wardell said. In order to secure Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to finance the project, rezoning approval needs to be in place by next march in order to meet a deadline from the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority. “We have current zoning that’s there but as everyone knows we are also in the middle of a very enthusiastic discussion about future land use and future zoning in the city,” Wardell said. “Currently the site is zoned R-1.”The draft Future Land Use Map depicts the land as neighborhood mixed-use node. The application is for Planned Unit Development, a district that would be customized for the site. “There will be 85 affordable units, eight market rates, two existing market rate homes that are the existing homes, and then there’s affordable homeownership which is part of it which is 20 townhomes and duplexes which will be focused on 30 to 60 percent of the area median income,” Wardell said. Tonight’s discussion before the Charlottesville Planning Commission is a preliminary one. You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement and it’s time now for another reader-supported announcement. The nonprofit group Resilient Virginia works to inform decision makers and officials about how to prepare for a changing world. They’re holding their annual event virtually this year and I’ll have a few stories from it. But, you have the chance to attend! The Resilient Recovery Conference will take place the mornings of August 25, August 26, and August 27. Take a look at the details of the event as well as pricing at resilientvirginia.org. Moving ahead now to a week later, when the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee met for what chair Phil d’Oronzio said would be a light agenda. The meeting was filled with information, however. Looking ahead to a week from today, outgoing Neighborhood Development Services Director Alex Ikefuna gave an update on the development of the Future Land Use Map and the Comprehensive Plan. “There is a work session scheduled with the Planning Commission on the 31st of this month,” Ikefuna said. “Subsequent after that work session there will be a meeting with the Steering Committee, and there may be some more changes based on the feedback from the Planning Commission on the 31st of this month.”The material for that meeting is not yet available. You can register in advance, though. The City Council and Planning Comprehensive Plan will hold a joint meeting in October at which they are expected to make a recommendation to the elected officials. “We’re looking at completing all this before Christmas, and hopefully Council will get to take a shot on the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan at some time between November ending and Christmas,” Ikefuna said. After that, the Cville Plans Together initiative will turn to a rewrite of the zoning ordinance. In March, the Council adopted an affordable housing plan that influenced the development of the Future Land Use Map and will do the same with the zoning code. The HAC also got a brief update on the University of Vir ginia’s pledge to build up to 1,500 affordable homes on land that either it or its real estate foundation owns. The campaign kicked off a public input session in April, as I reported back then. UVa has hired Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures to conduct the work with principal Gina Merritt leading the initiative. Alice Raucher is the Architect at the University of Virginia.“We have kicked off a listening tour with Gina with two goals,” Raucher said. “To perform the development principles that will guide the developer’s work and to understand where UVA’s initiative can fit in and be complementary to existing efforts in the city and the county.”Raucher said they’ve listened to dozens of groups and individuals, and several themes are emerging. “There may be funding gaps even with Low Income Housing Tax Credits and we need to figure out what the University will do about that,” Raucher said. “We don’t have an answer just yet.”Raucher said the consultant team has been doing due diligence on land owned by the University or its Foundation. “Our findings will be discussed internally and with the advisory group and more information will be shared publicly this fall,” Raucher said. UVA will contribute the land and a third party developer will actually build the units. More information can be seen on the project’s website.As mentioned, the City Council adopted an affordable housing plan in March. Some next questions are how it will be implemented and how that implementation will be measured. A draft spreadsheet was discussed. (draft spreadsheet)“The idea here is that this is a useful base of operations and as we build out and fill this out it’s going to produce the need for specific work product as we move forward,” said HAC Chair Phil d’Oronzio. The current draft is not an official tool but one governance recommendation is for the city to hire a housing coordinator to oversee all of the various initiatives underway. The spreadsheet assigns that goal to Sam Sanders, the new deputy city manager. Under funding recommendations, is this specific goal:“Dedicate $10m per year to fund affordable housing to: 1) increase the # of subsidized affordable homes by 1,100 homes (on top of an existing stock of 1,630 actively subsidized homes)2) preserve 600 existing subsidized affordable homes3) stabilize 1,800 to 2,200 owner and renter households facing housing instabilityBut, who should be tracking the information? As mentioned, the city has not had a housing coordinator for a year. The last person who had that role now runs the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The person before that now is Albemarle County’s housing coordinator.  Sam Sanders just started work, and Ikefuna’s replacement doesn’t start work until September. City Council has spent about $165,000 to create an inclusionary zoning program and to track funding spent through the existing Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. Who’s doing the tracking of implementation now?HAC member Dan Rosenweig is also president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. “In a really general sense boiled down I don’t know that we have many other options other than to jump in and support staff as our senior leadership team in the city rebuilds the infrastructure in City Hall, adds people at staff on the housing side,” Rosensweig said. Sanders welcomed assistance from members of the HAC, especially in terms of potential recommendations for next year’s budget. “Being perfectly honest with you and trying to remain a straight shooter that I promised to always be, if I had to timeline this, and have staff handle it, we probably would not have it done by the end of the year,” Sanders said. For the full story, watch the entire meeting, which is under an hour. Take advantage of these meetings being virtual while it lasts, because otherwise you’ll have to attend in person. (watch the video)Thanks again for reading! Please forward on to someone you think might be interested. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe

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