U.S. county in Virginia
The Charlottesville region continues to dig out after an early winter storm sets the tone for 2022, a year that has a lot to do to compete with its cousins 2020 and 2021. Only five days in, and it’s possible we’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. Charlottesville Community Engagement is prepared, and asks that you keep your arms and hands inside the vehicle at all times, lest you be thrown to the wolves. I’m Sean Tubbs. On today’s program:As the Albemarle Board of Supervisors begins a new year, the last year ended with rezoning on Rio Road East for a maximum of 328 units Governor-elect Youngkin appoints his top agricultural officialsThe community continues to recover from a devastating winter storm Subscriber-supported 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 such as an expungement project with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a map of Charlottesville streetlights, and the Charlottesville Housing Hub. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects.Storm recoveryThere are still many thousands of people without power across central Virginia, two days after a winter storm hit that surprised many after the New Year began with temperature in the sixties. As the sun rose this morning, Dominion’s outage map shows about a third of its customers in Albemarle remain without power. That number began to drop throughout this morning. The situation in Charlottesville is markedly improved with just over a tenth of the city’s 24,744 customers without power at su“As of 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, crews have already restored power to 310,000 customers impacted by this damaging storm,” reads an email the company sent out late last night. They urge anyone affected who hasn’t reported their outage to update that info at dominionenergy.com or phone 1-866-366-4357. Louisa County customers on Dominion Energy are still out, and about two-thirds remain out in Fluvanna. Several areas of the community are served by Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, who report about a third of their customers without power this morning. View their map here. Charlottesville has sent out a notice to property owners reminding them that public sidewalks must be shoveled 24 hours after a snowfall. “With widespread power outages and the severity of this particular snowstorm, the City recognizes the need for additional time,” reads the release. “As a result, the Deputy City Managers have declared 8:00 am on Thursday, January 6, 2022 to be the official end of snowfall.”That gives property owners until Friday at 8 a.m. to clear pathways, but the notice acknowledges the potential of another storm on Thursday and points out that the time will reset if a second storm hits this week. Charlottesville will delay trash and recycling pick-up one more day until Thursday and residents who get service Monday through Wednesday won’t get service this week. “With the potential for an additional snow system arriving at the end of the week this current revised schedule is subject to change,” reads a release. Interstate 95 was opened in both direction last night shortly after 8 p.m. after being closed for most of yesterday due to traffic jams caused by hazardous and impassable conditions. A release sent out by the Virginia Department of Transportation last night warned drivers that parts of the roadway in Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Caroline counties remained hazardous with below freezing temperatures. Albemarle public safety responds to shooting, structure fireIn addition to contending with the aftermath of the snow storm, Albemarle public safety had two other incidents yesterday. In one, police responded at 11:15 a.m. to a shots fired incident on Dick Woods Road and arrested an Afton man on charges of brandishing and reckless discharge of a firearm. Marc McCann, 62, is currently being held at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond.Later in the day at around 3 p.m., Albemarle County Fire Rescue responded to a structure fire on Route 53 near Milton Road that injured one and displaced three. While the cause of the fire is under investigation, the news release contains this warning. “Albemarle County Fire Rescue would like to remind everyone to keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heating equipment and to always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning heaters,” reads the release. Youngkin makes agricultural picksIncoming Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has named two people who will oversee policy and programs related to agriculture in Virginia. Matt Lohr will be the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and Joseph Guthrie will be the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. According to a release sent out yesterday afternoon, Lohr is a fifth-generation farmer from the Shenandoah Valley who has been chief of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He served in the House of Delegates from 2006 to 2010 before becoming the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.That position will now be filled by Guthrie, who grew up on a family farm in Pulaski County. Guthrie is currently a senior instructor at Virginia Tech where he was named as Man of the Year in 1989 as a graduating senior. He and his family continue to own a beef farm in the New River Valley. There are several reports that Youngkin will nominate his Secretary of Natural Resources later today. I’ll have that information tomorrow. Prince Edward County seeks local sales tax for education; other billsThe General Assembly session convenes in seven days and about two new dozen bills were pre-filed yesterday including more proposed rollbacks of legislation that passed the General Assembly under Democratic control in both houses. Delegate James Edmunds (R-60) filed a bill that would add Prince Edward County to the list of localities authorized to levy a one percent sales tax to fund education projects, if approved by a referendum. (HB63)Edmunds also filed a bill allowing hunting on Sundays but only in wildlife management areas operated by the Department of Wildlife Resources. (HB64)In another piece of legislation, Edmunds has a bill that would allow employees of the Department of Wildlife Resources “to sell, possess, sell, offer for sale, or liberate in the Commonwealth any live fur-bearing animal commonly referred to as nutria.” (HB65)Edmunds has a fourth bill that would allow people with valid driver’s licenses to operate certain utility vehicles on secondary roads in counties with fewer than 100,000 people. (HB66)Incoming Delegate Tim Anderson (R-83) has a bill clarifying that active military with homes in Virginia are registered to vote if they are on active duty. (HB68)Delegate Glenn Davis (R-84) filed a bill altering the section of code dealing with custody to change the word “visitation” to “parenting time” and to encourage maximization of time spent with each parent. (HB69)Davis also filed a bill that would guarantee minimum rights for police officers and removing exceptions for those rights if a locality has a police civilian review board. (HB70)Delegate Lee Ware (R-65) filed a bill prohibiting campaign finance donations from utility companies or their subsidiaries. (HB71)Ware also filed legislation prohibiting the sale of marijuana seeds or plants if the Assembly passed other legislation to allow retail sale of the end-product. (HB72)Ware also has a bill that would remove several sections of language in the state code that pertains to the Air Pollution Control Board. (HB73)There’s other legislation from Ware that would tweak the Virginia Clean Economy Act by adding a definition for “energy-intensive trade-exposed industries.” (HB74)Last year, Albemarle County Supervisors suggested they would like to look into increasing the transient occupancy tax to more than four percent. Ware has another bill that would require a referendum for counties that want to do that or increase the meals tax. (HB75)Ware has another bill that would require the state government to reimburse localities for the cost of counting absentee ballots. (HB76)Delegate Glenn Davis (R-84) also has a bill specifying that skills games are gambling devices (HB77)Annoyed by free online trials that don’t seem to have a cancellation option? Davis has a bill that would make that illegal. (HB78)Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-24) has a bill that would restore police ability to stop motorists and pedestrians for a variety of infractions including detecting the presence of marijuana. (HB79)Delegate Davis has another bill that would create the Virginia Healthcare Regulatory Sandbox Program for innovative and pilot health care products. (HB80)Today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out:Algorithms know how to put songs and artists together based on genre or beats per minute. But only people can make connections that engage your mind and warm your heart. The music on WTJU 91.1 FM is chosen by dozens and dozens of volunteer hosts -- music lovers like you who live right here in the Charlottesville area. Listener donations keep WTJU alive and thriving. In this era of algorithm-driven everything, go against the grain. Support freeform community radio on WTJU. Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.Pandemic update: Another 10K+ dayThis morning the Virginia Department of Health reports another 10,728 new COVID cases and the percent positivity has increased to 32 percent, meaning that one in every three PCR is positive. Positivity in the Blue Ridge Health District is at 24.7, or one in four tests. There are 207 new cases in the district reported today. A town hall scheduled for last night was postponed and will be held on Thursday at 7 p.m. (meeting info)Starting January 1, VDH has updated its case definition for COVID-19 related deaths which will mean delays in the reporting of deaths. The agency recommends monitoring that information by date of death rather than date reported. Learn more here. Supervisors approved Rio Point project in late December In one of their last actions of 2021, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to approve a rezoning in the Rio District that will bring over 300 rental units to the county’s urban ring. The project had originally been developed by a Virginia Beach firm who opted to not continue with the review process after Supervisors appeared ready to deny the project on a tie-vote on June 3, 2020. Local company Stony Point Design Build took over and have since purchased the 27-acre property. The company also built Dairy Central in Charlottesville. Stony Point Design Build renamed the project Rio Point but more or less kept the development, though they made a few changes. Cameron Langille is a planner with Albemarle County. “To the northeast is the Dunlora subdivision, to the southeast is the Dunlora Forest neighborhood,” Langille said. “The property is bounded by the north by the John Warner Parkway and across John Warner Parkway is the CATEC site and to the east is actually land that’s within the city of Charlottesville’s municipal boundaries.” Many of those neighbors have expressed concern about building more homes in that area, making the argument that the roads are already overburdened. The land has been zoned R-4 for many decades. “Under that zoning they could be developed for residential purposes up to 109 units or if they did a bonus level cluster development they could get 163 units,” Langille said.Doing so would likely mean all would be sold at market rate. That’s how Southern Development developed Dunlora Forest. The county’s Comprehensive Plan for many years has encouraged developers to seek rezoning to increase residential density in order to satisfy the county’s growth management policy.“The developer is proposing 328 units maximum,” Langille said. “There is some open space areas that are also proposed. Overall it is about 13 total acres and 1.1 acres of that open space is located closest to the intersection of the John Warner Parkway and Rio Road East. This applicant is proposing to dedicate that to public use to establish a county park that will be connected to the existing greenway system.” The new developer submitted a new traffic impact study that informed changes made to the vehicular entrances to the project and have dedicated other property along Rio Road to allow for tapered turn lanes. But Langille said the biggest change is the approval and funding of a roundabout at the intersection of John Warner Parkway and Rio Road. “It would get rid of the signalized intersection that’s currently at John Warner Parkway and Rio Road East and it would be a roundabout that would allow the traffic flow to move in any of the direction that it currently does,” Langille said. Stony Point Design Build would contribute $750,000 to the roundabout. Survey work is underway and Langille said its design will begin later this year. He added that Agnor-Hurt Elementary and Burley Middle School can both absorb students that would be generated by the development, but acknowledged that the project may contribute to existing overcrowding at Albemarle High School. All but two of the ten speakers at the public hearing asked the Board to deny the application. “In my opinion, doubling the allowable density for a development of this type which is built on a two-lane road which will always be a two-lane road and is surrounded by two lane roads in all directions is a little misguided,” said Lisa Drummond, a nearby resident. “The by-right with bonus still gets you within what’s in range of the master plan.” However, Supervisors appeared to be in favor of the project to help achieve the county’s goal to create more housing units as identified in the Housing Albemarle plan. “Without a doubt, the market is demanding rental and we need more rental which is what this provides,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel. Chris Henry, the president of Stony Point Development Group, said that his firm conducts market analysis before proceeding with its projects. “Today the vacancy rate for apartments in Albemarle County is like one percent,” Henry said. “What’s considered a healthy vacancy rate in any market is something like five percent and I don’t think Charlottesville has had north of a five percent vacancy rate for a decade at least.” Henry also claimed that 30,000 commuters travel into Charlottesville every day and providing more homes within the urban ring would reduce the overall vehicle miles traveled. He said a comparable project is Arden Place for rents. The affordable rents will be over $1,000 for a one bedroom unit versus about $1,400 for a market rate unit. Supervisor Ned Gallaway noted that the proposal was submitted under Albemarle’s previous housing policies, which required 15 percent of housing units created under a rezoning to be affordable. Housing Albemarle moved that to 20 percent, though Supervisors have yet to approve an incentives package designed to help developers make that goal. “Going it under the old policy allows an easy, quick efficiency to happen,” Gallaway said. “To aspire to the new Housing Albemarle plan would require something different. Was that considered?”Henry said the project might have been able to make that 20 percent goal with additional density. The previous developer had originally requested more than 400 units, but that was reduced due to community engagement. “There’s always the trade-off between more density and more affordability because obvious the project is supported by the revenue that’s being generated from those units,” Henry said. “If the revenue is lowered, we have to have more units to get to the same result. And so, from our perspective we considered it. If we had to meet the county’s new requirement that was enacted after this application was completed, we would have wanted to have significantly more units to offset.” Supervisor Donna Price had been opposed to the rezoning went it was before the Board of Supervisors in June 2020 due to transportation concerns.“I feel like we have a better application in front of us today than we did then and I appreciate the changes you have made,” Price said. Gallaway, however, could not support the project because he said it was not quite ready because the second phase of a corridor study for Rio Road is not yet complete and because it does not meet the Housing Albemarle goals. “I’m frustrated that this application has made it before us before that corridor study is done and I’m equally frustrated that some comments have been made that we’ve learned enough from the corridor study to be able to make some of those decisions,” Gallaway said. The vote was 5-1 in favor of the rezoning. To learn more about the Rio Road Corridor Study, visit this website. Support the program!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
In the third hour of WMAL's morning show, Larry O'Connor and Amber Athey speak to supply chain expert Jason Killmeyer, discuss the media's sudden shift in Covid coverage, and ask Ryan Bangert about ADF's new lawsuit in Albemarle County. For more coverage on the issues that matter to you, visit www.WMAL.com, download the WMAL app or tune in live on WMAL-FM 105.9 FM from 5-9 AM ET. To join the conversation, check us out on Twitter: @WMALDC, @LarryOConnor and @amber_athey Show website: https://www.wmal.com/oconnor-company/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
There are days in the past and days in the future, but there’s only one day at a time. This edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement is specifically tied to December 22, 2021, a particular 24-hour period filled with equal parts anticipation, dread, potential, and other pensive emotions as the holiday of Christmas approaches. Stay safe! Charlottesville Community Engagement is free to read or listen to and it’s my hope that you’ll sign-up. In today’s edition:Governor-elect Youngkin appoints a veteran banker to serve as his finance secretaryA trade publication names Virginia as having the best business climate in the nationA bridge in western Albemarle is shut down before repairs begin A study is underway on where to locate a train station in the New River ValleyCharlottesville City Council holds first reading on the use of a $5.5 million surplus, defers action on Lewis, Clark and Sacagewea statue and a rezoning on Nassau Street 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. COVID updateThe Virginia Department of Health reports another 5,972 new cases of COVID-19 today, and the percent positivity for PCR has risen to ten percent. Today’s case number is the highest it’s been since the last week of January. The highest one day total of the pandemic to date is 9,914 recorded on January 17. On this day a year ago, there were 3,591 cases reported. A hundred and nine of today’s cases are in the Blue Ridge Health District. Virginia reports another 50 COVID deaths today, with one of those in the Blue Ridge Health District. The University of Virginia will require students, faculty, and staff to receive booster shots in order to be on Grounds next semester. According to a page on the Human Resources website, faculty and staff must get the shot by February 1 if they are eligible. If not, they must demonstrate proof of a shot 30 days after eligibility. Students must upload their proof by February 1. Visit that website for more information. Bridge closureA small bridge in western Albemarle County that carries about 560 vehicles a day has been closed due to significant deterioration. Engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation have been inspecting the bridge on Burch’s Creek Road across Stockton Creek due to known concerns and have decided to close the road until repairs are made. “VDOT bridge inspectors determined today that its condition was not safe for continued use,” reads the statement. “During the closure, traffic should detour around the bridge from U.S. 250 to Route 824 (Patterson Mill Lane) to Route 688 (Midway Road) and back to Route 689.” Repairs will take place between now and January 7 when the bridge is expected to reopen. Virginia business awardA trade publication that writes about economic development and site selection has named Virginia one of its states of the year. Business Facilities named Virginia, Tennessee, and Massachusetts in their annual contest. Specifically, Virginia was named the Overall Business Climate. Massachusetts was honored with Best Workforce / Educational System. Tennessee was given the Best Dealmaking award. A press release in advance of their next publication states that Virginia was selected “because of the steps many economic development councils in the commonwealth, both local and statewide, are taking to make the area more attractive.” The release cites the state’s low unemployment rate, successful workforce development programs such as the Virginia Talent Acquisition Program and Fast Forward Virginia. According to an article on Virginia Business, Virginia last won this award in 2018. New Finance SecretaryFor the third day in a row, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has named a member of his cabinet. Stephen Emery Cummings will be the next Secretary of Finance. Cummings is a veteran of several financial institutions, including a tenure as global head of corporate and investment banking at Wachovia. According to a release, he has recently served as the President and CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. “Steve shares my vision of respecting Virginians’ hard-earned tax dollars and ensuring the Commonwealth’s budget is managed effectively and efficiently, and he has the skill set and leadership qualities that our team needs to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Youngkin said in a statement. Yesterday Youngkin announced Caren Merrick will serve as Secretary of Commerce and Trade. Several outlets report that Youngkin founded the nonprofit Virginia Ready Initiative that Merrick has run since it was formed last summer during the pandemic. On Monday, data consultant Aimee Rogstad Guidera was named Education Secretary. Inauguration Day is January 15.NRV Train StationThe Virginia Passenger Rail Authority has launched a website for a feasibility study for where to locate a train station to serve the New River Valley. Earlier this year, outgoing Governor Ralph Northam announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern to extend passenger service from Roanoke to the valley for the first time since 1979. The state of Virginia will purchase 28.5 miles of track from Norfolk Southern. The feasibility study is examining four locations. A community meeting will be held sometime this winter and an initial survey is available. Go back and listen to the May 6, 2021 installment of this newsletter and podcast to hear a segment from when Northam signed legislation authorizing an authority to raise funds for the future station. (May 6, 2021: Green Business Alliance forms to advance emissions reductions; Northam signs legislation for New River Valley train station)There’s also another study underway to determine if Amtrak service should stop in Bedford. That town is between Roanoke and Lynchburg and on the route of the Northeast Regional service that will eventually be expanded to the New River Valley. You can go back and listen to that, too. (October 30, 2021: DRPT report states Bedford train stop won’t delay freight; a briefing on the hotel industry in Albemarle/Charlottesville)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. Winter is here, but spring isn’t too far away. This is a great 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!Public hearing held for FY21 surplus, transfers Council has held the first of two readings and a public hearing on a mandated review of the city’s budget for fiscal year for 2021, which ended on June 30 of this year. There’s a $5.5 million surplus as well as a $6.7 million reserve fund of cash set aside for COVID. The latter was not tapped. Christopher Cullinan is the city’s Finance Director. “The audit has been completed and to close out the city’s financial records for fiscal year 2021, several year-end adjustments require City Council action,” Cullinan said. “These adjustments are to carry over unspent funds from the last fiscal year to the current fiscal year.” Cullinan said one the two main recommendations are to put the COVID reserve into the city’s Capital Improvement Program contingency fund. The other is to put the $5.5 million toward employee compensation. That includes both a bonus and an across-the-board salary increase of six percent for all employees with benefits. “This is a market adjustment that recognizes the need for the city to retain and recruit qualified employees,” Cullinan said. This would happen before the results of a study on compensation is completed. Ashley Marshall is one of two deputy city managers currently running the city. “But what we do know is that the six percent is inadequate to raise us up to where we should be for equitable and appropriate pay,” Marshall said. “So we know that we’re not going to find out later on nine months from now that six percent was too much. That’s not going to be the answer.” Five people spoke at the public hearing.“I just want to say that I would like to see a lot of this money, a good portion of it, be used toward the affordable housing fund to shore that up and get that going toward the goal you indicated previously that you’d like to have ten million dollars [a year],” said Mark Kavit. Both Kimber Hawkey, Martha Smytha and Tanesha Hudson agreed with that position, and said the city should spend money for housing on more than just Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “I think that there’s things the city could also do with purchasing land space and building things themselves as well,” Hudson said. “That’s something that they need to work towards.” Hudson said the cost of living adjustment should also extend to hourly employees as well. Rosia Parker, a newly appointed member of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said more of the funding should go to affordable housing, especially for programs to address homeless. “There are a lot of homeless people that are out here,” Parker said. “You see them when you sit in front of City Hall. You see them as you walk up and down the mall. You see them as you drive up and down the different corridors of Charlottesville. Homelessness is a very threatening danger to people’s lives. Mentally, physically and emotionally.” Capital discussionAfter the hearing was closed, outgoing Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she wanted the $6.7 million to be used for a different purpose than putting it in the CIP contingency fund. The next Council will decide how that funding would be used, but Walker will not get a vote. “If we just simply transfer it to the CIP and then we have those asks that are just presented to Council randomly based on whatever’s on the funded or what makes it from the unfunded to the funded list, I don’t think that serves us,” Walker said. Vice Mayor Sena Magill supported the transfer to the CIP due to a long list of capital needs. “Because if we don’t work on some of the basic infrastructure needs of our city as well,” Magill said “That’s where we pay for a lot of the affordable grants is through the CIP and we’re looking at $75 million for just one school.” Cullinan said the idea of a contingency fund is to be ready for unforeseen events or cost over-runs.“I think the the critical thing is that it gives you choices and its cash which is easily accessible and you can make fairly quick decisions as opposed to a bond issue which takes time and effort,” Cullinan said. Council would have to approve any use funds from the CIP contingency. The second reading will be held at the next City Council meeting on January 3. Nassau Street rezoningA proposal to rezone land on the eastern half of Nassau Street in the Belmont neighborhood did not move forward on Monday. Developer Nicole Scro and engineer Justin Shimp are seeking a rezoning from R-2 to R-3 on about a half acre of land. Several members of the public asked Council to deny the request due to the property being located within a floodplain as governed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Magill said she wanted more information from staff about the issue. “I am concerned about the floodplain issue and I am concerned about the design that is being submitted in a flood plain,” Magill said Several other buildings have been constructed on that side of the street in recent years including structures built by the Piedmont Community Land Trust. That project received $240,000 in funding from the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. City Councilor Lloyd Snook also said he wanted more information about the floodplain. “We’re not required to act on this tonight,” Snook said. “I would like to defer it and ask the staff to give us real feedback on what the flood danger is. The one thing I don’t want to do is end up saying we’re going to put in affordable housing but we’re going to put it in the floodplain.”In recent years, Shimp successfully petitioned FEMA to lower the elevations shown in the floodplain map by four feet. Tony Edwards is a development services manager in the city’s public works department. The foundation must be above the where FEMA establishes the 100-year floodplain. “This is the basis that we need to use because we follow the same methodology that FEMA provides and this is what’s been approved through FEMA,” Edwards said. James Freas, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, also weighed in.“We know the flood plain legally has been defined where it is now based on the amended flood maps in the process that Mr. Edwards described,” Freas said. “So that’s legally the location of the floodplain and defines the elevation at which the building has to be built. In terms of what can happen in an actual flood? We can be less clear about that. That’s less predictable.” Freas said the question before Council was the appropriate density at the location. By-right structures could be built. One in the 900 block constructed in 2018 is built on stilts to raise it out of the floodplain. Snook wanted more information.“I’d like to have more expertise than I can bring to bear and take a look at it and tell me whether I’m all wet,” Snook said. “Pardon the expression.” Shimp said any further review would prove his assertion that building in the location would be safe. The item will be deferred until the second council meeting in January. Outgoing Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she would have voted against the request. Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea statue decision deferredCouncil spent nearly an hour and a half discussing the terms on how a statue removed from West Main Street will be treated in the future. Several parties agree that the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center should receive the statue for its continued display at their location in Darden Towe Park. However, details about how the story of Sacagawea’s involvement were not resolved during the conversation. Center officials and descendants of Sacagawea will continue negotiations. “We are definitely willing to do that,” said Alexandria Searls, the center’s director. “We are invested and no matter what, even without the statue, we want relationships with them. The relationships are more important than the statue. We’re willing to walk from the statue if we have to.” The hiring of the Robert Bobb Group to run the cityAs mentioned at the top of yesterday’s newsletter, Council has hired the Robert Bobb Group to perform the functions of the city manager. Council spent their closed session negotiating with the two firms that responded. Lisa Robertson is the city attorney. “The fact that using an outside firm on a contract basis to provide these types of services, while it’s not the normal manner in which the services are delivered, it’s not unheard of,” Robertson said. “This type of contract has been used on occasion in other places including other places in Virginia.” The contract still has to be finalized after being written up. There was no little discussion of the merits of either proposal. In the resolution, Councilor Hill said “the firm made the best proposal and offer” with regards to price and quality. Walker abstained based on a sense that Council should not vote to award the contract until it is written. Update!According to City Council Clerk Kyna Thomas, Council will not need to vote on the contract as it can be signed by the Mayor. However, Council will interview specific individuals that will be suggested by the firm. There is no public knowledge yet about how much the Robert Bobb Group will be paid. Here are some other news articles about other work the firm has done:Robert Bobb back in business with new venture, Washington Business Journal, December 9, 2011Robert Bobb Group outlines goals for Petersburg, WRIC, October 26, 2016Cash-strapped Petersburg spent about $1 million on turnaround services from Bobb Group, forensic audit, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 4, 2017 Durham leader calls criticism of consultant a lynching, a charge with political history, Raleigh News and Observer, North Carolina, March 10, 2021Black community questions motives behind some Durham commissioners rejection of minority-owned firm proposal, ABC 11, March 25, 2021Firm being paid $16K a month to provide city with financial services, Rocky Mount Telegram, North Carolina, August 13, 2021Charlottesville hires firm to perform interim city manager duties, Walker and Hill bid farewell, Daily Progress, December 21, 2021Support the program!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
The 2021 farewell tour continues with the final Monday installment of the year for the newsletter and podcast you’re about to read or listen to. This is likely also the last one that will be posted before the winter solstice. Will you be able to feel the shift, or are maneuvers of solar systems mechanics something that only shows up as a trick of the light? That’s not the concern of this edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but it certainly is something to note.On today’s program: The Ivy Square Shopping Center is purchased by an entity associated with the University of Virginia FoundationPiedmont Housing Alliance sets a date for the groundbreaking for the redevelopment of Friendship Court Charlottesville is considering a historic district to honor the architectural legacy of prominent builder C.H. Brown Transportation updates from the Metropolitan Planning Organization Governor-elect Youngkin names a data policy specialist to serve as Secretary of EducationIn today’s first 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. Winter is here, but spring isn’t too far away. This is a great 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 Piedm+ont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!Covid updateAs the week begins, the Virginia Department of Health reports another 2,991 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average for positivity PCR tests has increased to 9.3 percent. The seven-day average for new cases has risen to 3,286 a day. The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 67 new cases today and the percent positivity is at 6.7 percent.UVA Foundation purchases Ivy Square Shopping CenterA company associated with the University of Virginia Foundation has paid $20 million for the 2.77 acre shopping center where Food of All Nations is located. Ivy Square of Charlottesville LLC paid nearly 126 percent over the assessment for the two properties and three buildings. A second shopping center to the west is broken up among several owners. The UVA Foundation has been steadily purchasing properties along Ivy Road for many years. The UVA Office of the Architect began planning a master plan for the area east of Copeley Road in the fall of 2016. Work is underway for a precinct that will include the School of Data Science, the Karsh Institute for Democracy, a hotel and convention center, as well as other uses that have yet to be announced. This summer, the Office of the Architect presented a plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens off of Old Ivy Road to the UVA Buildings and Grounds Committee. The Foundation purchased that property in Albemarle back in the summer of 2016 according to Albemarle County property records. (UVA making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment, June 9, 2021)Date announced for Friendship Court groundbreakingThe Piedmont Housing Alliance has set a date for the groundbreaking for the first phase of redevelopment of Friendship Court. The nonprofit has spent several years planning to upgrade the 150-unit complex and a ceremony will be held on January 15 to mark the beginning of construction. “The last five years of dedication and hard work by the residents of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee are finally about to blossom,” said PHA executive director Sunshine Mathon in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement this morning. “The beginning of Phase 1 of redevelopment marks the beginning of a transformed neighborhood as envisioned by the residents themselves. I am deeply honored by the opportunity to bring their vision to creation.”According to the PHA website, the existing buildings were constructed in 1978 on what had been a neighborhood that was razed in the name of urban renewal. Piedmont Housing Alliance and the National Housing Trust acquired the property in 2002 and PHA began managing it in 2019. “We are committed to zero displacement,” reads the website. “The first phase of housing will be built on existing open land.”The city of Charlottesville has committed to a multimillion dollar investment across four phases of development. The adopted capital budget for the current fiscal year sets aside $2 million in cash for infrastructure improvements, nearly $400,000 for the first phase, and $750,000 for the second phase. Future years carry on that investment. (Council approves agreement for Friendship Court funding, October 30, 2020) New historic district?The city of Charlottesville will study whether to create a new historic district to commemorate a man who built many structures for Black families and businesses in the mid 20th century. Planning Commissioner Jody Lahendro is also a member of the Board of Architectural Review and he briefed his PC colleagues last week (staff report)“This is actually a tremendous story that I wish more of us knew about,” Lahendro said. “This designation would honor and recognize the importance of the Reverend Charles H. Brown. From his experience in the building trades in the early 30’s and 40’,s Reverend Brown personally managed, financed, and participated in the construction of about 70 houses from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.”Lahendro said Brown built in Black neighborhoods and used materials that allowed for houses to be affordable. “He often provided the co-sign and promissory notes and provided financing to get people into these houses,” Lahendro said. Lahendro said the district will cover the Holy Temple of God In Christ as well as five other homes in the Venable neighborhood built by Brown. The matter will go through the usual rezoning process including public hearings with the Planning Commission and the City Council. You’re reading to Charlottesville. Community Engagement. Let’s continue 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!Youngkin chooses Education SecretaryGovernor-Elect Glenn Youngkin has selected the founder of a national education nonprofit to serve as his Secretary of Education. Aimee Rogstad Guidera formerly created the Data Quality Campaign in 2005 to advocate for the usage of metrics to guide education policy. In a statement released this morning, Youngkin said Guidera will help him implement his vision for public education. “Aimee is deeply respected for her distinguished career advocating for innovation and choice, data-driven reform, and high standards, and will apply these principles in order to implement the Day One Game Plan,” he wrote. “Most importantly, she understands that parents matter, and the best interests of students must come first.” Guidera stepped down from the Data Quality Campaign in 2017 and now runs her own consulting firm called Guidera Strategy. Her time at the campaign provides some insight into her philosophy on education. Here are a few examples. Time to Ditch the Data Boogeyman, June 6, 2016Data Quality Campaign Releases Statement on Trump’s Education Priorities, November 14, 2016Statement on the Recommendations from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, September 7, 2017Transportation updatesTo conclude today, let’s go back to the December 7, 2021 meeting of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board to get some updates. The Virginia Department of Transportation is working on a new way of planning for the state’s future connectivity needs. Project Pipeline builds off of the Smart Scale funding process which seeks to pay for projects that will accomplish specific goals. Several preliminary corridor studies are underway across Virginia, including two in Albemarle. Chuck Proctor is a transportation planner in VDOT’s Culpeper District.“One of them is for Pantops and it goes from Hansen Road to the interchange at I-64, and the other is the Shadwell intersection at Route 22 and Route 250 and also North Milton Road and 250,” Proctor said. Community engagement for both studies is expected to take place around this time with a public meeting sometime in January. Both are areas identified to have a Potential for Safety Improvement. The website for the Pantop study notes a lack of pedestrian connectivity in the area, and the website for the Shadwell study notes a prevalence for rear end collisions due to long back-ups. Those studies would yield projects for a future beyond the current looming deadline for the fifth round of Smart Scale funding. Albemarle and Charlottesville will have the chance to submit four projects. The MPO Policy Board will select four, and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will select another four. One potential application for the MPO is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the Rivanna River to connect Charlottesville and the Pantops section of Albemarle County. A stakeholder group has met twice in the past month to discuss that application. Sandy Shackleford is the director of transportation and planning at the TJPDC. “We’ll plan to again in the spring or maybe February or March plan to do a full meeting where we go through all of the projects for the MPO area as well as the PDC,” Shackleford said. The other three applications for the MPO under consideration are bike and pedestrian improvements on Avon Street Extended, multimodal improvements 5th Street, and a roundabout at the intersection of District Avenue and Hydraulic Road at Stonefield. Supervisor Ann Mallek said there may be support for the latter project.“I just learned this week that UVA has moved a lot of their IT department out to Hydraulic Road and they were very interested in safe crossings to Stonefield at lunch,” Mallek said. Staunton-Cville bus ridershipThe Afton Express commuter route between Staunton and Charlottesville is now in its third month of operations, according to Sara Pennington, the TJPDC program manager for Rideshare. “In those three months there have been more than 1,500 passenger trips taken and that is across the four morning and the four evening runs and the service does run Monday through Friday,” Pennington said, adding that ridership has grown steadily since launching with November outperforming September despite the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s still about 40 rides a day, and the goal from the planning study is to get to 80 riders a day. Speaking of Smart Scale, a new park-and-ride lot in Waynesboro funded through the process has just been completed. (VDOT information)“But they also put in a shelter for the Afton Express so those kinds of things went hand in hand,” Pennington said. Pennington said Afton Express will soon launch a new text-alert system for its service that would let riders know about potential delays and other service changes. Charlottesville Area Transit is working on a pilot project to improve bus stops. Garland Williams is the agency’s director. “We’re going to use Belmont Park as kind of that test,” Williams said. “There is a shelter there but it isn’t [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant. It basically sits on the street. We’re going to remove that and put in a shelter so that everyone can see when we’re starting to do capital projects along transit, what it looks like and what we have to do to make it compliant.” Sean Nelson, the district engineer for VDOT’s Culpeper District, updated the MPO on the status of a project awarded Smart Scale funds in Round 4. “The only thing I can give an update on is the U.S. 29 and Hydraulic design-build package that we’re putting together,” Nelson said. “That is slated for a public hearing in March or April of 2022 with a [request for proposal] to be released at the end July 2022, anticipated award in December 2022, with a project completion in the winter of 2024.” This project will include a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 as well as a roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive Extended. Learn more in the Smart Scale application. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe
We’re now less than a week away from the solstice, which takes place at precisely 10:59 a.m. on December 21 on the eastern coast of the United States. Until then we’ve got a few more days of lengthening night before the pendulum shifts back to light and the march to 2022 continues with new energy. Between now and then there will be a few installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement and this is the one for December 16, 2021. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.Charlottesville Community Engagement is a great way to find out about what’s happening and how you can get involved It’s free to sign-up, but there are many opportunities to support the work!On today’s show:Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade are officially sworn in as City Councilors, as well as members of the Charlottesville School BoardVirginia Tech and a Richmond consortium have both been awarded half-million grants for economic development A pair of transit updates, including the fact that Charlottesville Area Transit will remain fare-free for four years The Charlottesville Planning Commission provides direction on Charlottesville’s next capital budget 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. COVID UpdateThe number of new COVID cases in Virginia continues to climb, but the percent positivity has dipped slightly. This morning the Virginia Department of Health reported another 3,688 new cases and 102 of those are in the Blue Ridge Health District. Statewide the seven-day percent positivity is 8.5 percent and in the BRHD it’s at 7.2 percent. New elected officials sworn-inThere are still 15 days left in 2021, and City Councilors Heather Hill and Nikuyah Walker have one more meeting on Monday. The near future became a little closer on Wednesday as two incoming City Councilors and three members of the Charlottesville School Board took the oath of office on the steps of Charlottesville Circuit Court. The School Board went first with newcomers Emily Dooley and Dom Morse sworn in individually with family members at their side. Second-termer Lisa Larson-Torres went next. Then it was time for City Councilor-elect Brian Pinkston followed by Juandiego Wade. I asked both if they are ready to take on the task. “You know, I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Pinkston said. “I joke that it’s a little like getting married or having a kid. You think what you’re getting into but it’s not what you expected. There’s good part and bad parts to that and so the short answer is yes. I’m ready. I’m excited about it. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and try to make a difference.” “I’m ready, I am prepared,” Wade said. “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this for the last years being connected and involved in the community. I feel like now is an opportunity for me to take my service and my commitment to the city to a different level.” In a separate ceremony that also took place yesterday morning, the members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors were also sworn in, including newcomer Jim Andrews, who will represent the Samuel Miller District. Andrews joined third-term Supervisor Diantha McKeel (Jack Jouett) and two-term Supervisor Ned Gallaway (Rio). Transit updatesIn yesterday’s newsletter, there’s a lot of information about planning for a Regional Transit Vision that may include formation of an authority that could raise funds for expanded service. There’s also a second study underway to determine the feasibility of additional routes to serve urbanized portions of Albemarle County as well as Monticello. The results are in from a survey conducted on two potential scenarios according to Lucinda Shannon, a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. (project website)“They found that most of the services that people selected in that public outreach was scenario 2 for all three of the areas which is a lot of microtransit connecting with some fixed routes,” Shannon said. The study also found that 98 percent of people who travel to Monticello do so in a car that they either own or rent. That’s based on 51 respondents. The U.S. 29 North survey got 104 responses and the Pantops survey got 54 respondents. The consultants hired for this project are Michael Baker International and Foursquare ITP. The next step is a Board of Supervisors meeting on January 19, according to Shannon. Charlottesville Area Transit will remain fare-free for the next four years. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation awarded a $1.07 million grant through the Transit Ridership Incentive Program. CAT had already put some of the American Rescue Plan Act funding for this purpose, and the new grant covers fares for an additional year. CAT Director Garland Williams said he anticipates planned route changes will soon be implemented. The adjustments have been through the public process. Williams briefed the Regional Transit Partnership at their meeting on December 2. “We’re still moving forward and hoping to be able to implement in January unless something changes,” Williams said. Learn more about those route changes on the Charlottesville Area Transit website at catchthecat.org. In other news, Jaunt’s new chief executive officer has named Karen Davis the transit agency’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer. Davis served as interim CEO for exactly a year after the Board asked former CEO Brad Sheffield to resign. Ted Rieck started work as CEO earlier this month after heading a similar transit agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma. *Infrastructure grantsTwo entities in Virginia have been awarded $500,000 planning grants from the federal government to increase infrastructure necessary to increase commerce and trade. The U.S. Economic Development Authority awarded Build Back Better Regional Challenge awards to Virginia Tech and the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority for initiatives that seek to create “regional industry clusters.” Virginia Tech’s application is called The Future of Transportation Logistics and covers a wide section of southwest and southern Virginia. The idea is to accelerate the adoption of electric and automated vehicles. “Projections by the World Economic Forum expect freight demand to triple by 2050,” reads their application. “This growing demand poses challenges from environmental degradation to a strained transportation workforce.”The New River Valley region includes three truck manufacturers, including the national headquarters for Volvo. The work will involve building a coalition to share information as well as demonstration projects such as upgrading a section of Interstate 81 between Salem to Dublin to accommodate automated vehicles. The Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority covers the Richmond and Petersburg area and is intended to create an Advanced Pharmaceutical and Research and Development cluster. “A staggering 73% of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-registered active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturing facilities are located outside the United States,” reads that application. ”Overseas pharmaceutical manufacturing not only poses a security risk but also takes essential jobs away from the U.S.”Both entities will now be eligible to apply for additional funding from the U.S. Economic Development Authority to implement the projects. Thanks to Route 50 for the information on this grant program. (read their article)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. Tree canopy declineAt their meeting on Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission held three public hearings on three big topics. But first, they got updates from various committees. Commissioner Jody Lahendro and he relayed news from the Tree Commission about the forthcoming tree canopy study. A preliminary report states that the percentage of the city covered by trees has shrunk by at least four percent since 2015. “Because of COVID, the flyover for this tree canopy study was done in 2018 so it’s dated now,” Lahendro said. “The news is not great as you might imagine.” Lahendro said the city had a tree canopy of 50 percent in 2004 and that declined to 47 percent in 2009. “In 2014 it went down to 45 percent and in 2018, this latest, it’s to 40 percent,” Lahendro said. When you break the city down by neighborhood, nine out of 19 recognized areas are below 40 percent. Lahendro said that is the point where both health and economic development is affected.“And then two of our districts — Starr Hill and 10th and Page — are below twenty percent,” Lahendro said. “Those are where significant detrimental effects are happening.” Lahendro said the city is projected to lose 360 ash trees to emerald ash borers over the next five years. The city can only afford to treat 30 trees. Charlottesville’s FY23-27 CIP discussionThe Charlottesville City Planning Commission has made its recommendations for how to amend the draft capital budget for the next five years. That came at the end of a public hearing Tuesday that featured a discussion with City Council. Elected officials will make the final decision next spring as they adopt a budget that will be prepared under the supervision of a yet-to-be-named interim city manager. (draft FY23-FY27 CIP presentation to Planning Commission) (adopted FY22 budget)The Commission got a look at the information at a work session on November 23, and heard it a second time from Senior Budget Analyst Krissy Hammill in advance of the public hearing. To recap, the capital budget is close to capacity due to the increase of spending in recent years, including a $75 million placeholder for the reconfiguration of middle schools. Council has also authorized a reorientation of priorities to find more money for the schools project. (previous story)“There were some large projects that were previously authorized to use bonds for that we unfunded essentially to be able to move them to get us to a place where we could increase the $25 million for the school project,” Hammill said. “That was the West Main Street project which was originally in the CIP at $18.25 million and the 7th Street Parking Garage which we unfunded about $5 million of that project.”Hammill said to pay for the projects, the city will need additional revenue and will not be able to add any more capital projects for many years unless they are paid for in cash. The city has had a AAA bond rating from Standards and Poor since 1964 and from Moody’s since 1973. “Essentially the AAA bond rating gives the city the opportunity to borrow money at the lowest cost available so that means that more dollars are going to the projects and less dollars are going towards interest,” Hammill said. Hammill said the city is in good financial shape, but funding future investments will be a struggle. At the work session, Hammill invited ideas for further reallocations from other projects. She also said that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will likely not be a salvation for the city. “Many of us in finance have sort of been waiting in the wings to find out what would be available and it’s actually not a one size fits all and it doesn’t deliver on a lot of what we already have in our CIP,” Hammill said. “So it not going to help us address our financing problems largely.”Another issue is that many of the funding sources will require local matches. She pointed out one opportunity for Charlottesville Area Transit to raise up to $37 million, but the city would have to provide a $2 million match.“That’s not in our curent CIP,” Hammill said. Revisising the Strategic Investment AreaThe two bodies discussed many aspects of the capital budget, including whether or not several general interest line items should be given additional funds in the next year’s budget. Councilor Lloyd Snook questioned one of them related to a 2013 small area plan known as the Strategic Investment Area. “One example would be that we’re suggesting another $200,000 for this coming year and three years beyond that for the [Strategic Investment Area] immediate area implementation,” Snook said. “And that balance in that account is over a million and has been as far as I can tell over a million dollars for quite a while.”Alex Ikefuna, the interim director of the Office of Community Solutions and former director of Neighborhood Development Services, said that balance has been used to pay for a $228,000 study of a form-based code for the area. Nolan Stout reported in the February 4, 2020 Daily Progress on the current Council’s decision to put that plan on hold indefinitely. Ikefuna pointed to one example of how the funding in the account will be used.“We have a Pollocks Branch pedestrian bridge which is currently being finalized for construction,” Ikefuna said. “There are several other project within the SIA that consume that balance.”One of them is a project to upgrade the streetscape on Elliot Avenue in an area where dozens of new homes have been built in the Burnet Commons area. The public housing site at South First Street is also expanding in residential density. Ikefuna also said the SIA fund could also be used for additional costs that may be incurred at Piedmont Housing Alliance’s redevelopment of Friendship Court. “Part of the Friendship Court project includes infrastructure improvement because they have to break up that neighborhood and then integrate that into the city’s grid,” Ikefuna said. “And they may have a cost overrun.”Council approved $5.5 million for the project in October 2020. (read my story)The current year’s capital budget allocated $2 million in cash for the line item of “Friendship Court Infrastructure Improvements” as well as $394,841 for Phase 1 and $750,000 for Phase 2. The draft five-year capital plan anticipates spending $2.5 million on Phase 2 in FY23, and a total of $3.25 million for phase 3 and $4.5 million for Phase 4. Ikefuna also said there’s a project called the Elliott Avenue Streetscape for which a design is almost complete. Snook said Council is not given information about what any of these plans are. “I assume somebody has a plan but it’s not been revealed to us,” Snook said. “I look at the next item. Small area plans. We’re putting in another $100,000 in and the balance of the project is $496,000.” Outgoing City Councilor Heather Hill had one suggestion for where that funding could go. In July 2020, Council chose to proceed with a Smart Scale project over the opposition of some nearby residents and businesses. (July 22, 2020 story on Information Charlottesville)“The Grady / Preston / 10th intersection area related to one of the VDOT projects for Smart Scale funding was identified at that time as something we would want to have more planning around because there was a lot of resistance that there wasn’t a lot of community engagement when that proposed plan was coming to fruition,” Hill said. According to the application for that project, the preliminary engineering phase will not begin until December 2025. There is no design for the Smart Scale project, which was funded on a set of parameters. “Preston Avenue will be realigned to create a consolidated intersection at Preston Avenue / Grady Avenue / 10th Street,” reads the application. “New sidewalks will be constructed throughout the project limits.”Hoping for a sales tax referendumSeveral commissioners expressed concern about the enormity of the school reconfiguration project. The draft plan shows $2.5 million in FY23 and $72.5 million in FY24. Hammill has previously said the money needs to be in place when a contractor is hired for new construction and renovation of Buford Middle School. The school project has not yet come directly before the Planning Commission. “The amount of that project is the entirety of the five-year [capital] FY2017 budget,” Stolzenberg said. “It’s this elephant in the room but it does seem like Council and the School Board have approved the project.” The idea of a dedicated one-cent sales tax increase has been floated to be dedicated funding for the project, but the General Assembly will have to approve a bill allowing Charlottesville voters decide on whether to impose it.“I really, really hope that if we go through with it that the sales tax comes through and frees us from this burden,” Stolzenberg said. Later in the meeting, Commissioners discussed several potential recommendations. One was whether to recommend increasing the amount for affordable housing. Here’s what’s in the proposed CIP. $3 million for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority in FY23, and $9 million in the out yearsA base of $925,000 a year into the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund $900,000 a year to the CRHA to administer additional housing vouchers $2.5 million for the second phase of Friendship Court In March, Council adopted an affordable housing plan that set an ambitious spending target for each year, as noted by Stolzenberg. “It’s recommendations are pretty clear,” Stolzenberg said. “Ten million a year. $2 million are tax relief. A million to administration. So it’s really $7 million in direct subsidy and that’s all on page 49 of the plan for reference.” Here’s what the PC’s recommendations are:Reduce funding for the 7th Street parking structure funding to the minimum amount necessary to satisfy Charlottesville’s commitment to provide parking for Albemarle County per a 2018 agreement related to the joint General District Court that will be under construction.Find more more funds for the line items of tree planting, new sidewalks, and bicycle infrastructure, and hazardous tree removal. Reduce funds going to the line item for economic development strategic initiatives, small area plans, and Strategic Investment Area implementationFully fund the Stribling Avenue sidewalk project that Southern Development has agreed to pay upfront for as part of a rezoning that Council will consider in early 2022.Explore ways to add enhancements to the Drewary Brown Bridge to honor the Bridge Builders, potentially using a portion of funds for the West Main Streetscape. Increase budget for Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund and find ways to fund housing requests that were requested but not included in the draft budget, possibly directing any budget surpluses for this purpose. On Monday, City Council will hold first of two readings on a proposal to reallocate the $5.5 million surplus from FY21 to employee compensation and bonuses. They’ll also consider the transfer of $6.7 million in cash from a COVID reserve fund into the Capital Improvement Plan Contingency Fund. (staff report) This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe
Welcome to the antepenultimate Tuesday of 2021, also doing business as the 348th day of the year. This is the 294th installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. There are many more to come in the future due to the certainty that where will be items to write about far into the future. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.Charlottesville Community Engagement needs fuel in the form of new subscriptions, paid or unpaid. Sign up today to keep this going! On today’s show:The Regional Transit Partnership ponders a potential future as a regional transit authorityThe University of Virginia picks two sites in Albemarle and one site in Charlottesville on which to build affordable housing The Rivanna Conservation Alliance publishes its 2021 water quality reportRegional broadband expansion projects nets $79M in state fundingIn today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out:Winter is here, and now is the time to think about keeping your family warm through the cold Virginia months. 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!UVA Housing initiativeThe University of Virginia has announced three sites upon which it will work with a developer to build affordable housing units, two of which are in Albemarle County. They are:The low-density Piedmont housing site on Fontaine AvenueThe corner of Wertland and 10th StreetProperties at the North Fork Research Park President Jim Ryan made the announcement this morning in a written statement.“Economic growth over many decades has had a profound effect on housing in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community, and we are committed to working with community partners to create more housing intended for local workforce and community members who have been priced out of the local housing market,” Ryan said. “We believe these sites may be suitable for affordable housing, to potentially include mixed-use development.”J.J. Wagner, UVA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said these sites were selected in part because they were not in any other strategic plan. There’s a website where people can submit feedback. (website) According to a press release on UVA Today, Piedmont would likely be completely redeveloped except for an existing structure. The Piedmont property is on the north side of Fontaine Avenue and is within Albemarle County. UVA owns this site outright. The University of Virginia Foundation purchased 1010 Wertland Street from developer Keith Woodard in February 2017 for $4 million, which was well over the $1.85 million assessment for that year. That 0.4 acre property is currently occupied by an apartment complex. The foundation also owns two other properties at this corner, one of which is currently vacant. The North Fork Research Park currently does not have any residential units. This past March, the foundation issued a request for proposals for a firm to help rezone portions of the property to Neighborhood Model District zoning. “Coordination with the UVA Affordable Housing Task Force will be required,” reads the RFP. Existing leases at both Piedmont and 1010 Wertland Street will be honored for their duration. UVA or its foundation will donate the land though a ground lease and will not contribute any funding to the projects. The next step is for the UVA Foundation to issue a request for qualifications for potential builders. Initial work for the project was conducted by the firm Northern Urban Real Estate Ventures. That company is now working with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority on a master plan for sustainability. These three sites are the only ones under consideration at this time. UVA spokesman Brian Coy said they will work with the selected firm to meet the goal of building between 1,000 and 1,500 units. Broadband expansion The Thomas Jefferson Planning District has been awarded a $79 million grant from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative for a project to expand broadband to nearly every home across a 13-county area. Governor Ralph Northam made that announcement yesterday as part of a $722 million funding package for similar Internet expansion meetings across the Commonwealth. The TJPDC was the lead applicant for the RISE project, which stands for Regional Internet Service Expansion. Several localities including Albemarle are contributing a total of $33.5 million as a match for the public-private partnership involving Firefly Fiber Broadband, the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, and Dominion Energy. Over the next three years, more than 5,000 miles of fiber will be installed across an area that spans from portions of Campbell County to the south to Goochland County to the east to Greene County to the north. In all, an additional 36,283 homes will be connected. They will then ne able then purchase Internet from Firefly Fiber. TJPDC’s award is the third largest in the state. (read the grant application) (Governor’s press release) Avon Street DevelopmentTonight, the Albemarle Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a rezoning for a planned residential district in the 1800 block of Avon Street Extended. Andy Reitelbach is a senior planner with the county.“It involves a request to rezone two parcels of land on Avon Street right south of Avinity,” Reitelbach said. “The two parcels together total about 3.6 acres and the applicant is requesting a maximum of 85 two-family and multifamily resident units.” Reitelbach made his comments at the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee from November 18. So did Kelsey Schlein with Shimp Engineering, the firm taking the project through the review process. “It’s designated urban density residential in the Comprehensive Plan so at 24 dwelling unit per acre with a maximum density on the property, we’re within the recommended density range for urban density residential,” Schlein said. Schlein said there will be a mix of housing types with triplexes, quadplexes, townhomes, and multifamily units. None of the buildings will exceed three stories. She noted that the county has adopted a corridor study to make the area more hospitable to people on bikes or on foot. (read the study)“Since there is an existing sidewalk in front of Avinity that kind of extends in front of the elementary school, we’re proposing to continue that network,” Schlein said. “However, we’ve provided enough right of way for a multi use path improvement so if there’s ever a comprehensive reimagining of the pedestrian network on the [east] side of Avon Street, this application will have provided the right of way for that.” Some members of the 5th and Avon CAC expressed concerns about traffic, the lack of a playground, and the possibility the application did not include open space. The Planning Commission meets virtually at 6 p.m. tonight. (meeting info)New look for tourism websiteThe quasi-government entity charged with marketing the region to tourists has updated their website. The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau launched an refreshed version last week of visitcharlottesville.org. The designer is a firm called Tempest as we learn in a press release.“In addition to better serving visitors and industry partners, the new website will also reduce costs for the CACVB, in anticipation of a significant budget decrease projected for Fiscal Year 2023,” reads the release. “The reduction in budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a direct result of decreased transient occupancy tax collection from local lodging properties, due to the impacts of COVID-19.” The Bureau is governed by a Board of Directors that currently includes two members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and two City Councilors. In October, the CACVB Board discussed reducing that to one elected official from each locality in favor of more representatives from the hospitality industry. For more, read Allison Wrabel’s October 25 story in the Daily Progress. For more on the hospitality industry, read a story from me from October 30 on the archive site Information Charlottesville. The CACVB Board next meets on December 20. *General Assembly 2022With Republicans in control of the House of Delegates next year, that means Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) will chair a major committee. Yesterday, incoming House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) assigned Bell to chair the Courts of Justice Committee and made five other appointments. (release)Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) will chair Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural ResourcesDelegate Jay Leftwich (R-Chesapeake) will head General LawsDelegate Bobby Orrock (R-Caroline) will chair Health, Welfare, and InstitutionsDelegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) will head Labor and CommerceDelegate Terry Austin (R-Botetourt) will chair Transportation. RCA reportThe Rivanna Conservation Alliance has issued its annual stream health report based on water quality monitoring from 2018 through 2021. Based on their data, the number of impaired streams increased. (read the report)“The percentage of our sampled streams that failed to meet water quality standards for aquatic life grew from 68 percent in last year’s report to 82 percent in this one,” reads the report. However, the document acknowledges difficulty in collecting data in 2018 and 2019 due to heavy rain events that scoured stream beds and banks, as well as difficulty collecting data during the pandemic. “Most notably, seven of the nine sites that moved from an assessment of very good or good down to fair were affected by unusually large hatches of black fly larvae that reduced biodiversity in our samples,” the report continues. Another item of note in 2020 is the completion of a 15-year study on the long-term effects of large-scale water quality improvements such as stream restoration, planting of buffers along streams, or upgrades to wastewater treatments plants. That’s based on looking at all 50 monitoring sites and finding that those that improved were close to some form of improvement. More shout-outsYou’re listening to Charlottesville. Community Engagement. Let’s continue 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!Regional transit authority?It has been some time since I’ve had an update on transit issues and now is the time to do so. Earlier this month, the members of the Regional Transit Partnership got an informal recommendation from a consultant that it may be time to move from an advisory body into a decision-making body that can raise its own funds. Before we get into all of that, though, there is still time to take two surveys to get your input on the Regional Transit Vision for the Charlottesville Area. That’s a project being led by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District to “evaluate transit service” in the region in order to “establish a clear long-term vision for efficient, equitable, and effective transit service.” One survey is on transition visioning and the other is an interactive map that asks the question: “What are the long-term transit needs for the Charlottesville region?” “You’re able to kind of sort of pinpoint on a map some issues or wants or desires regarding transit,” said Tim Brulle, a project manager for the vision who works for the firm AECOM. “We are using the public survey as part of our main avenue for that public feedback right now.” The project is being funded by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation with additional funds from the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Albemarle County is conducting its own separate study, and Charlottesville Area Transit has pending route changes that have not yet been implemented. On December 2, 2021, the Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership got a status update on the studies, beginning with the Regional Transit Vision. As of that date, only about a hundred and thirty people had responded. (watch this meeting)Also as part of the meeting, Scudder Wagg of the firm JWA briefed the partnership members on the fact that many other transit systems in Virginia are regional. In this community, there are three major transit systems in Jaunt, Charlottesville Area Transit and the University Transit Service. Wagg suggested a reorganization across multiple communities that could yield more funding for expansion. “If you are to think about a regional funding source and a regional funding agency, then you would start to need to think about this on more of a regional scale,” Wagg said. “That’s where we want to help you consider how you might address that.”Wagg said the combined operating budgets of CAT and Jaunt are around $16 million, with about half of that funding coming from local sources. He suggested the total amount could increase if the community took steps to create an authority which can issue bonds. Wagg said three other regions in Virginia have managed to create authorities to expand transit and fund other transportation improvements. “Northern Virginia is using a combination of a sales tax, a grantor’s tax, and bond proceeds,” Wagg said. Legislation passed the General Assembly in 2009 to allow creation of a Regional Transit Authority, but a bill to allow a local referendum on a one-cent tax increase did not pass that year. According to the legislation, the authority could expand to include Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. (take a look)In the next General Assembly, Charlottesville is seeking a referendum for a one-cent sales tax for the purposes of funding the reconfiguration of the city’s schools. The director of Charlottesville Area Transit would encourage elected officials to pursue additional sources for funding through an authority. “This is an avenue we do need to explore and consider seriously to make sure that this happens eventually in the next three to five years,” Williams said. Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel said the point of the Regional Transit Partnership was to prepare for an eventual next step.“When this Regional Transit Partnership, the intent was for it to be the first step in working towards an authority,” McKeel said.Becca White, director of Parking and Transportation at UVA, said the University Transit Service serves a very small footprint as a “last mile” service to relieve congestion and to shuttle people from parking lots. However, she said there are some portions of the city covered, including Fontaine Avenue and Ivy Road. The members of the Partnership informally directed Wagg to base the next set of potential scenarios for expanded service based on a theoretical $30 million budget.“We’ll have two scenarios,” Wagg said. “We’ll have maps showing where would routes go, how frequently, all of that sort of stuff. And then what would the outcomes of some of those things be in terms of how many more jobs could people in Greene County reach in an hour by transit or how many more people would have access to different kinds of transit services in different places?”A second round of public engagement for the Regional Transit Vision will begin early next year and the study is to be completed by the summer of 2022. Want to help influence it? Fill out those surveys! Resources for Regional Transit Vision Plan: A stakeholder meeting was held on October 7 and around 30 people attended (watch the video)A public meeting was held on November 18 and 20 members of the public participated (watch the video) (view the presentation)A land use assessment was produced by the consultantsA transit propensity technical memo was also produced by the consultantsSpecial thanks to Jenn Finazzo for recording some of the voice work today. Very much appreciated! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at communityengagement.substack.com/subscribe
In today’s first 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. Winter is here, but spring isn’t too far away. This is a great 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:Governor-elect Youngkin pledges to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Two mapmakers hired by the Virginia Supreme Court have laid out their boundaries in advance of public hearings Albemarle County Supervisors agree to dedicate more resources to monitoring blighted properties and enforcing rulesThe Charlottesville Tree Commission gets a first look at data showing a continue decline in tree cover in the cityThe Carter G. Woodson Institute celebrates forty years of research into the African diasporaCovid updateA quick look at COVID-19 numbers, which continue to an upward trend. Today the percent positivity increased to 7.9 percent and the Virginia Department of Health reports another 3074 new cases. That number includes another 100 cases in the Blue Ridge Health District. There are another three new fatalities reported in the Blue Ridge Health District today. RedistrictingAlbemarle County may be represented by two people in the U.S. House of Representatives if a map drawn under the direction of the Virginia Supreme Court is adopted. This fall, the first Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to reach consensus on new legislative maps for the U.S. House and the two houses of the General Assembly. That left the task to two special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court. “These maps reflect a true joint effort on our part,” reads a memo written by Sean P. Trende and Bernard F. Grofman. “We agreed on almost all issues initially, and the few issues on which we initially disagreed were resolved by amicable discussion.” Interactive House of Representatives mapInteractive House of Delegates mapInteractive Senate mapIn their memo, the pair of Special Masters noted they ignored incumbents when drawing the map. In doing so, 7th District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger would no longer be in the same district. They also noted that the district numbers might change. Under the Congressional map, northern Albemarle County would be in a district that stretches north to Loudoun County and the Maryland border. Charlottesville and southern Charlottesville would be in a district that stretches to the North Carolina and contains much of the Southside. Crozet would be split between the two districts.Under the House of Delegates map, Charlottesville and much of Albemarle’s urban ring would be in the 54th District and most of Albemarle would be in the 55th. This district would include the western portion of Louisa County and an eastern sliver of Nelson County. Greene would be in a district with half of Orange County, half of Culpeper County, and all of Madison County. Fluvanna would be in a district with Buckingham, Cumberland, and Appomattox counties, as well as the western half of Goochland. Under the Senate map, Albemarle and Charlottesville would be within the 11th District along with Amherst and Nelson counties, as well as the western portion of Louisa County. The rest of Louisa would be in the 10th, as well as all of Fluvanna County. Greene County would be in the 28th with all of Madison, Orange, and Culpeper counties. The two public hearings will be held virtually on December 15 and December 17. People who wish to comment should email to email@example.com to notify the Court a day in advance of that desire. “The Court recognizes that the establishment of voting districts for the Virginia General Assembly and Virginia’s congressional representatives will have significant and lasting impact on every Virginian,” reads the notice for the public hearing. Written comments will be taken through December 20 at 1 p.m. RGGI withdrawal?According to multiple accounts, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce that he will remove Virginia from an interstate compact that seeks to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Youngkin called it a carbon tax and said he will issue an executive order to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in order to reduce energy costs for consumers. Since joining in July 2020, Virginia has received $227.6 million in proceeds from auctions with the funds designated for climate change mitigation efforts. Read Sarah Vogelsong’s story in the Virginia Mercury to learn more. (Youngkin pledges to pull Virginia from carbon market by executive order). According to a press release from the Hampton Roads Chamber, Youngkin said he will seek to eliminate the grocery tax, suspend the gas tax for a year, and lower taxes for veterans. Also yesterday, a recount in the 91st House District confirmed that Republican A.C. Cordoza defeated Democratic incumbent Martha Mugler in the November 2 election, though the margin of victory shrank from 94 votes to 64 votes. That gives the Republicans a 52-48 majority in the House of Delegates next year. Preservation awardsA community group that seeks to raise awareness of historic structures and preserve them has issued their annual awards and grants. Preservation Piedmont offered three small grants to the following groups. All copy below comes from them: ● The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, for their project to restore and keep active the Hatton Ferry, a small historic ferry across the James River. ● Burley Varsity Club, for the publication of Unforgettable Jackson P. Burley High School, a book about the history of Jackson P Burley High School, built by Charlottesville and Albemarle to provide a modern high school for its African American communities and known for its superlative athletic teams and academic accomplishments. ● Friends of Gladstone Depot (with assistance from the Nelson County Historical Society), for their efforts to move the Gladstone depot to a new site and repurpose the facility as a community center. There were seven community awards. Here are six of them. ● A Special Recognition Award to the University of Virginia, for thoughtful community engagement in the development of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. ● An Adaptive Reuse Award to Armand and Bernice Thieblot, owners of the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler, for their dedication to adaptive reuse of the Quarry Gardens, and for making it available to the public. ● An adaptive Reuse Award to The Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation and Allen Hale, for their efforts to preserve and make publicly available one of the great engineering feats of the world, the Blue Ridge Railroad Tunnel. ● A Preservation Award to owners Tim Mullins and Tara Crosson, and builder Craig Jacobs, for thoughtful rehabilitation of an important Albemarle County structure, Findowrie (2015 C-Ville Weekly article). ● A Design Award to Charlottesville Quirk, LLC, for the Quirk Hotel's sensitive infill development on Charlottesville's West Main Street. ●The Martha Gleason Award goes to a member of the community who has exhibited sustained dedication to advocating for our community. This year the award went to Jean Hiatt for her role as a founding member of Preservation Piedmont, service on the Board of Architectural Review, and for contributions to oral histories and to the book Bridge Builders, and her active involvement with neighborhood associations and preservation advocacy. ”Finally, something called Charlottesville Community Engagement was honored for some reason. I can report the award is a framed certificate and a tote bag. Institute celebratedBefore the break, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and Africa at the University of Virginia celebrates its 40th anniversary today. The Institute is named after a 20th century historian who established the first Black History Week. Learn more about the Institute and the work accomplished over the past four decades in a piece by Anne Bromley in UVA Today. 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. I’m told that a native plants database may be in the works? Tree canopy declining A contractor working on the calculation of the Charlottesville’s tree canopy has turned in the first set of data. Chris Gensic is with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and he spoke to the Tree Commission on Tuesday. (watch the meeting)“We have lost some canopy,” Gensic said. “I think their average right now is in the 40 percent plus a little bit of change, not quite to 41 percent. I think the first one we did, we were in the 47 realm maybe in ‘08.” That number dropped further to 45 percent in 2015. (Urban Canopy Reports)Gensic said he is going through the data neighborhood by neighborhood to see how it compares to previous tree canopy reports.“Is it that the aerial photo is of a different quality?” Gensic asked. “We’re trying to keep these five-year increments pretty consistent in terms of how data is gathered and how its analyzed so we can say consistently that the loss or gain in trees is actual trees but not an anomaly in the data.”Gensic said a final report will be ready by sometime in January but could be available by the end of the month. He asked Tree Commissioners to take a look at the preliminary data to see what their interpretations are. The data collection was delayed by the pandemic. Fighting blightA year ago, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors asked the Department of Community Development to look into ways the county might be able to compel property owners to maintain their property to keep it out of blighted status. Jodie Filardo, the county’s director of community development, addresses supervisors on December 1, 2021. “We’re here today to seek Board input on whether to take measures to establish a new program under the Virginia Maintenance Code to continue with focused tools and measures using spot blight abatement,” Filardo said. Priority number six of the county’s strategic plan is to “revitalize aging urban neighborhoods.”Filardo returned to the Board on December 2 with options about how to proceed. But first, a definition. “Blighted property is defined as a structure or improvement that is dilapidated or deteriorated because it violates minimum health and safety standards,” Filardo said. Filardo said in the past year, the county has received six complaints about individual properties, and five of these have approved maintenance plans in place. One of these properties will be demolished. “If any of the properties with approved maintenance plans do not meet satisfactory progress toward compliance before you, they will be brought before you with the spot blight ordinance,” Filardo said. Amelia McCulley is the outgoing deputy director of community development. She briefed the board about options to expand the enforcement in the county under the Virginia Maintenance Code to items beyond health and safety, such as peeling paint, crumbling siding, and broken gutters. Staff is recommending a phased approach. “An option for the Board is to not go entirely responsive but to prioritize our aging urban neighborhoods by being proactive in one to two neighborhoods each year,” McCulley said. “Second point would be that we recommend a focused enforcement that prioritizes public health and safety and that we adopt a portion of the maintenance code and that would be Section 3 which focuses on the exterior of the structures.”McCulley said hiring new staff to fully enforce the VMC would not be cheap. The first year would cost half a million with an ongoing cost of $390,000 a year. Adoption of the full code would cost more.“Adoption of the full maintenance code with proactive enforcement countywide is estimated to have a first year cost of $888,001 and an ongoing cost of $679,382,” McCulley said. Supervisor Donna Price said she was not satisfied that the status quo was not sufficient. She had brought up three properties at the December 2020 work session and has suggested others since then.“And it’s clear that what we currently have been doing has not been able to fully address the blighted unsafe property situation,” Price said. “I think of the three I first brought up, pretty much the only thing that was achieved of significance would be that an abandoned minivan was removed from the property and some openings were boarded up. But other than that, the properties are still out there and just as blighted as they would otherwise appear.”Price said she did not favor adopting the full maintenance code in part due to the potential for unintended consequences and costs. Having heard that the Office of Equity and Inclusion has potential concerns, Price said some distinctions need to be made.“To me, one of the things that has to be taken into account and this ties into the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s participation in this process, is the distinction between those who cannot take care of their property primarily due to financial resources versus those who simply will not or refuse to do so,” Price said. “One of the things I am not interested in is providing a financial benefit to those who refuse to take care of their property.” Price leaned towards some form of adoption of the Virginia Maintenance Code. Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley suggested revisiting the topic in another year. She said thought the spot blight abatement might suffice for now. Supervisor Diantha McKeel also supported using the existing program and agreed with staff’s recommendation to hire a dedicated staffer for this purpose. That decision will come during the development of the FY23 budget and whether to spend $110,000 for this project. “I think the Virginia Maintenance Code sounds not like its not going to get us to where we really need to be, and it’s prohibitively expensive, it would appear,” McKeel said. McKeel said she wants a focus on rental properties in the urban areas that are owned by people out of the community. Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he would support eventually adopting the Virginia Maintenance Code. “We have to be doing something proactive no matter what phase we do to help people that are burdened to be able to get their houses back into a healthy and safe environment for themselves,” Gallaway said. “Maybe that’s the tack I take here. A proactive approach would identify that more quickly in my opinion.” Aside from the budget discussion on hiring the new staffer, the topic will return to the Board of Supervisors in a year.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
In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, WTJU 91.1 FM invites you to tune in next week for the annual Classical Marathon. It’s a round-the-clock celebration of classical music, specially programmed for your listening pleasure. Throughout the week there will be special guests, including Oratorio Society director Michael Slon; UVA professor I-Jen Fang; Charlottesville Symphony conductor Ben Rous; early music scholar David McCormick; and more. Visit wtju.net to learn more and to make a contribution. On today’s program: Virginia receives over $85 million in the latest carbon credit auction A community group gets a look at the next phase of Habitat for Humanity’s development at Southwood Council gets a budget update and decides to donate the Lee Statue for future artistic purposesCharlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Lee statue voteCharlottesville City Council had a full meeting last night that will take a few newsletters to get through. We begin at the end with a vote to remove one of three statues removed in July. Here’s City Councilor Heather Hill reading the motion. “Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Charlottesville that the statue of Robert E. Lee is hereby donated and ownership transferred to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a charitable institution organization in accordance with the provisions of Virginia Code 15.2-953,” Hill said. “This disposition is final.” Vice Mayor Sena Magill was not present at the virtual meeting, citing a family emergency. To read more on the statue and the Center’s desire to melt it down to create new public works of art, check out Ginny Bixby’s article in today’s Daily Progress. The further disposition of the Stonewall Jackson and Lewis, Clark, and Sacagewea statues will wait for another day. Possibly on December 20. The vote took place after midnight. Council had begun their day at a work session that began at 4 p.m. at which they discussed reform of the Housing Advisory Committee and the way projects are selected for to be funded through the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. I’ll get to that in a future installment of the show. FY21 year-end balanceAlso in the work session, Council learned how the city fared as the books for fiscal year 2021 closed. Readers and listeners may recall there had been a concern the city would have a shortfall. Chris Cullinan is the city’s director of finance. “I’m pleased to report that we finished fiscal year 2021 in the general fund at surplus revenues of $5.5 million,” Cullinan said. Cullinan reminded Council that the pandemic hit just as the budget for fiscal year 2021 was being finalized. At the time, there was uncertainty about the long-term financial impact but the shutdowns immediately affected the city’s meals and lodging tax collection. Property and sales tax collection performed a bit better than expected. The city also didn’t spend as much as expected.“Several of our larger departments had vacancy savings over the course of the year as well as reduced levels of service or closed facilities during COVID and that resulted in expenditures being less than expected,” Cullinan said. Cullinan said the $5.5 million does not include any federal funding through the CARES Act or the American Rescue Plan. Those funds are accounted for separately. “But what it did allow us to do was instead of utilizing our general fund projects or eligible activities, we were able to use the CARES money instead so that CARES money stepped in the place of the city’s own revenues,” Cullinan said. Staff will return to Council on December 20 with a suggested year-end appropriation. Cullinan said they will make two recommendations that will affect the next year’s budget preparation. One involves a $6.7 million economic downturn fund that was set aside for a reserve fund at the beginning of the pandemic. “We didn’t have to tap into that money through the course of the fiscal year, and so that $6.7 million is outside of the $5.5 million,” Cullinan said. Cullinan said the $6.7 million had been taken by withholding cash funds to the capital improvement program. Now staff is recommending returning that money back to the capital budget. “Obviously as we all know there are several large capital needs both in the upcoming year but also in the five-year plan,” Cullinan said. Outgoing Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she wanted would prefer the money be used in some other way, especially if there is the possibility of funding coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as well as future federal legislation. “And I don’t know if CIP is where we should be considering allocating that with the fact that there may be funding coming in the future,” Walker said. Outgoing City Council Heather Hill said Council has agreed to proceed with a $75 million investment in upgrading Buford Middle School and would support Cullinan’s recommendation. “I think that any contributions we can put into the CIP right now are going to be needed if we’re going to do any of our other priorities,” Hill said. “And again, this is where those funds were intended to be when this fiscal year began.”For the second recommendation, said staff proposes that the $5.5 million be used for employee compensation adjustments including a one-time bonus related to the pandemic, as well as a six-percent mid-year salary increase to try to retain employees in a tight job market. Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders said the bonuses will cost $3 million and the salary increase will cost $2.5 million. “The plan is to make it effective in January so this would be immediate relief to folks seeing an increase in pay beginning January of 22 and we are already looking forward to how we sustain this going forward and feel comfortable that the projections for revenues are such that we can sustain this as a permanent increase,” Sanders said. Before the meeting, Walker had directed staff to see if they could find a way to vote to approve this before January 6, 2022 when a potential second reading would be held. Walker will not be on Council at that time. Sanders said did not know yet but staff would be looking on whether they could do so under Virginia law. “It’s based on the size of the appropriation that dictates how many days we’re required so we’ll be able to take a look at that in the morning as I did get that later today and we need to dig into that to figure out if we can move faster,” Sanders said. Under state code, localities that make a budget amendment in excess of one percent of the total budget must hold a public hearing, which must be advertised seven days in advance. Take a look at § 15.2-2507 yourself and let me know your interpretation. The FY21 budget was $192.2 million. RGGI auctionThe latest auction of carbon emission credits held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will result in Virginia receiving another $85.6 million to help fund programs to mitigate the impact of climate change. Virginia joined the program in the summer of 2020 and became the first state in the southeast to join the compact. Through 54 auctions, RGGI has brought in $4.7 billion from power companies.“RGGI is the first market-based, cap-and-invest regional initiative in the United States,” reads the website. “Within the RGGI states, fossil-fuel-fired electric power generators with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater (‘regulated sources’) are required to hold allowances equal to their CO2 emissions over a three-year control period.”Virginia has now brought in $227.6 million from the program across four auctions. Around half of the funding goes to pay for flood control and mitigation. In October, Governor Ralph Northam announced Charlottesville would receive $153,000 in RGGI-funded grants to create a model of the city’s portion of the Moores Creek watershed to assist with flood prevention. (October 6, 2021 story) You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement and it is time now for another subscriber-supported shout-out. Filmmaker Lorenzo Dickerson has traced the 100 year history of the libraries in the Charlottesville area, including a time when Black patrons were restricted from full privileges. The film Free and Open to the Public explores the history of library service from the Jim Crow-era until now. If you missed the premiere in November, there’s an online screening followed by a Q&A with Dickerson this Thursday at 7 p.m. Register at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library site to participate in this free event that’s being run with coordination from the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Visit jmrl.org now to sign up! Southwood updateHabitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has filed an application to extend an existing rezoning application to cover all of the Southwood Mobile Home Park. The 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee got a look at the details in a community meeting on November 18. (watch the meeting)Rebecca Ragsdale is now the county planner overseeing the implementation of the initial rezoning and the preparation for the next one, taking over from Megan Nedostup who now works as a planner for the firm Williams Mullen. “It does include 93.32 acres and is the remainder and is the existing mobile home community along with a couple of smaller parcels,” Ragsdale said. “There’s three parcels in total. And the code of development proposes a minimum of 531 units or up to a maximum of 1,000 units.” There’s also a request to allow up to 60,000 square feet of non-residential uses in this second phase. Speaking nearly three weeks ago, Ragsdale said the review was just getting underway. Lori Schweller is an attorney with Williams Mullen and she provided additional details. Technically, this application is to amend the existing zoning approval granted by the Board of Supervisors in August 2019. “The current trailer park is located in the largest parcel right in the center and the first development is happening outside that area to minimize disruption from development and construction in phase 1 as much as possible,” Schweller said. Habitat purchased the 341-trailer Southwood Mobile Home Park in 2007 with the intent toward preserving affordable living spaces. The rezoning approved in phase 1 is to the county’s Neighborhood Model District, intended to create walkable communities. “As a neighborhood model development, the plan for phase 1 incorporated included a block plan logically organizing the areas of the development in accordance with the uses, forms, and density set out in the code of development. Density will range from green space at the lowest level of density upward through neighborhood, urban residential, neighborhood mixed-use, urban density mixed-use, to neighborhood center special area in that area designated for a center by the Comprehensive Plan.” Phase two extends the code of development across the whole property. Dan Rosensweig, Habitat’s CEO, said the plan has crafted with input from residents of Southwood. “Not trying to get buy-in but to elevate them to be the engineers and architects of their future,” Rosensweig said. “As such, they created a form-based code that regulated the basic formal characteristics of particular blocks in synch with the land itself, with the contours of the land and with a general pattern of development for the neighborhood.” Rosenseig said Habitat hopes to exceed the county’s affordable housing requirements as it seeks to not displace existing residents.“They all live in dramatically substandard housing on infrastructure that has failed,” Rosensweig said. “And so, to non-displace we have to at least replace the amount of housing that’s there but that’s not enough. We want to overperform that because there’s such an acute shortage in the region.” Rosenweig said 50 units were proffered to be affordable in phase one, but that phase will now include 207 affordable units. That’s in part because the Piedmont Housing Alliance is using low-income housing tax credits to subsidize rents in an apartment complex for households witj between 30 and 80 percent of the area median income. There are 128 market rate units in the first phase. “So 62 percent of the units in phase one are affordable,” Rosenweig said. Rosensweig said residents have led the charge to make sure the neighborhood is mixed-income. “They really wanted to make sure that every block had a mixture of Habitat homes and market rate homes so you can’t tell the difference between the two,” Rosensweig said. The number of units that will be built in the second phase is not yet know. Melissa Symmes is the residential planning and design manager with Habitat.“Based on the concept plan, we can build a minimum of 531 units as Rebecca mentioned, but we hope to build closer to a thousand units,” Symmes said. “If we were able to build a thousand units in phase two, this would result in a gross density of 10.71 dwelling units per acre and then a net density of 13.5 dwelling units per acre.”Symmes said the total for the entire Southwood redevelopment would be a range of between a minimum of 681 units and a maximum of 1,450 units. “One thing to note is that we are not building the maximum permitted units allowed in phase one,” Symmes said. “We’re building about 100 units less than what the phase one code of development would actually permit.” The first phase allowed up to 50,000 square feet of non-residential space, but Symmes said only up to 10,000 square feet will be built. “So with that in mind there will likely be about 70,000 square feet of non-residential space in Southwood phases one and two total,” Symmes said. Symmes said Habitat will guarantee that 231 of the housing units in the second phase will be affordable and that will be enough to replace the existing trailers. Rosensweig said it may take up to a decade to fully develop the park. Guaranteeing affordability?After the discussion, CAC Chair James Cathro asked several questions including this one.Cathro: “What happens after a family is sold an affordable rate home and they pay it off, can they immediately sell it at market value? Is it their asset to use as they like or are there conditions or restrictions?”Rosensweig:“Great question. The latter. There are 30 to 40 years of deed restrictions on all Habitat homes. In the affordable housing space, there are programs where all of the equity is invested in, it’s really about the unit. On the other side of the spectrum, it’s all about the family. Habitat kind of splits the difference.”That means Habitat has the right of first refusal on purchasing units for a period of 40 years. “They put it on the market, they get a bona fide offer, we have a week to match that offer,” Rosensweig said. “Additionally there are significant incentives in the deed restrictions that incentivize families for staying for an extended period of time.” Rosensweig said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has sold about 300 homes and all but a handful have remained either under original ownership, were passed on to other family members, or were repurchased by Habitat. In the first village under construction, Rosenseigh said Habitat is building 49 units and 40 families are in line to purchase them. The rest are being reserved for Southwood families who want to rent rather than purchase. “Village 2 immediately adjacent to that will have another 25 Habitat homes and then Block 10 will have another 16 so there will be another 41 Habitat homes,” Rosensweig said.Impact on traffic and schools5th and Avon CAC members had questions about what Habitat might contribute to address potential traffic congestion. Steve Schmidt is a traffic engineer with the Timmons Group who is working with Habitat on the project. “You’re absolutely right, there’s a significant amount of traffic out there today, and there’s more coming,” Schmidt said. “There was a reason study done by VDOT to look at the whole corridor to kind of identify improvements that are coming. One of the improvements that we know is coming online is the roundabout at Old Lynchburg and the county complex there. That’s a funded improvement that will be in place in the coming years.” Schmidt was referring to a funded $7.26 million Smart Scale project in which Albemarle put up $2 million from the capital improvement program to help make this submission more attractive under the funding criteria. The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the project in June. Construction is not anticipated to begin until at least October 2025, according to the application. Schmidt said VDOT and the county are both reviewing the traffic study. Another issue is the amount of additional children that will need spaces in the county school system. Schweller addressed those concerns and said the county is working to identify capital solutions in addition to the $6.25 million expansion of Mountain View elementary that was added to the current capital budget earlier this year. “What the schools are doing now is doing a new master plan analysis and we’ll have more recommendations coming up,” Schweller said. “Those capacity solutions could include a new school, redistricting, grade level reconfigurations. So we’ll wait and see what study reveals.”Schweller also said it is difficult to come up with an estimate of how many students would be generated by a mixed-use development with many types of housing.“It’s very difficult to estimate the number of students,” Schweller said. “If you have a thousand units, for example, in phase 2 that could yield from 40 and 470 students given the wide range of multipliers.” Schweller said there had been initial talk about providing land at Southwood for a new school, but that didn’t pan out. “Dan had discussions with the schools early on to offer a location for an elementary school and the schools at that time decided that was not what they wanted,” Schweller said. “At this point design and planning have moved on so there simply isn’t room in phase two for a school site and still accommodate all the homes that need to be built there.” Another attendee asked if Habitat would sell some of the land for the school, especially if the development does generate more need for elementary school seats. Rosensweig explained further why he would not proffer giving land over for a school. “You have to think about the purpose of a mixed-income community,” Rosensweig said. “There are really two purposes of a mixed-income community. One is to deconcentrate both wealth and poverty and create a neighborhood where people of all walks of life can live together. That’s very different from the last 150 years in our country which has become more segregated and intentionally so. So that’s one purpose. So if we take lots off line for market rate sales then we don’t concentrate wealth or poverty quite as much.”Rosensweig said the sale of market rate units subsidized the affordable units, and a balance has been worked out. He also said the architecture used for schools currently might not be compatible with the urban form of Southwood.“It would take a little bit of a frame shift in the way schools are planned to create the form of a school that would fit the context and character of this neighborhood,” Rosensweig said. “Something like a traditional Albemarle County ten-acre that has ballfields next to it that’s sprawling and on one level, I can’t in any shape or way or form seeing that fit this neighborhood but if the county were looking at something creative like a three-level school with minimal parking.”As an example, Rosenweig pointed to Rosa Parks Elementary School in Portland Oregon, which was built in the mid-2000’s as part of a public housing redevelopment project. The building is shared with the Boys and Girls Club and also functions as a community center.“So something like that if people were interested in thinking outside the box and you could pull some partners together, I think it would be a huge addition,” Rosensweig said. One community member who served on the Planning Commission from 2016 to 2019 noted that there appeared to be a lot of loose ends in the process about what would actually be built in the second phase.“I’m trying to figure out what level of certainty that the community, not just the legacy residents but the overall community, what level of certainty can be provided that the descriptions in the code of development by block are going to be built out in a way that those permitted uses and locations and appearance and everything, that there is some certainty about what’s going to be built,” Riley said. Symmes listed in the Code of Development said the blocks will clearly lay out what can be built where, but said she would follow up with Riley to get on the same page. There’s nothing new to report since November 18, but this item will eventually go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. I’ll be there when it happens. Eventually! 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! 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Friday’s come and go, but this one hasn’t yet. There’s still time to write out a few things about what’s been happening in and around Charlottesville in recent days. But we’d be better quick because the world we live upon will not stop turning. Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported newsletter and podcast. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.On today’s show:Charlottesville hires two department heads and one from Albemarle gets a promotionAlbemarle’s Supervisors are briefed on the county’s stream health initiativeA campaign finance update for City Council and the Board of SupervisorsAn update on COVID-19 in VirginiaSome development news, a familiar new owner for Wintergreen, and USDA grantIn today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, WTJU 91.1 FM invites you to tune in next week for the annual Classical Marathon. It’s a round-the-clock celebration of classical music, specially programmed for your listening pleasure. Throughout the week there will be special guests, including Oratorio Society director Michael Slon; UVA professor I-Jen Fang; Charlottesville Symphony conductor Ben Rous; early music scholar David McCormick; and more. Visit wtju.net to learn more and to make a contribution. COVID updateA small surge of COVID-19 is under way in Virginia, with a seven-day positive test rating of 7.2 percent. That’s up from 5.9 percent on November 24. The Virginia Department of Health reports another 2,598 cases today, with the seven-day average increasing to 1,836 new cases a day. Sixty-five point four percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated and there is a seven-day average of 28,534 shots administered. Over 1.3 million Virginians have had a booster or third dose.In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 67 new cases reported today, and the percent positivity is 6.7 percent. There are now confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the United States. Dr. Amy Mathers is an associate professor of medicine and pathology in the University of Virginia Health system. She’s part of statewide efforts to sequence the various variants. “We’re contributing about 250 to 300 sequences a week,” Dr. Mathers said. “But we can only sequence what tests positive by PCR.” That means the rapid antigen tests do not collect the same biological information required for gene sequencing, which could limit efforts to identify the spread of the new variant. In the meantime, Dr. Costi Sifri urges calm while research is conducted. “There’s more that we don’t know about the Omicron variant than we do know about the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, the director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health. “What we do know is that its a variant that carries a lot of mutations. More than 30 in the spike protein as well as 20 or more additional mutations spread across the genome.” Dr. Sifri said some of these mutations relate to greater transmissibility and infection rates, but the emergence of Omicron is not unexpected. He said time will tell the impact on public health. “It’s not surprising that we’re seeing it around the world at this point, in more than two dozen countries,” Dr. Sifri said. “What is the efficacy of vaccines against the omicron variant? We really don’t know right now. We have heard of breakthrough infections but of course we’ve heard about breakthrough infections with Delta as well.” Dr. Sifri said it appears vaccinations will continue to provide benefits and more information and time will help test that assumption. He said in the meantime the best thing to do is get vaccinated and to continue to practice mitigation strategies. “We are seeing an increase in cases and it’s important since we were just talking about Omicron to understand that right now, 99.9 percent of cases are due to the Delta variant,” Dr. Sifri said. “What we have been seeing this fall and now heading into the holiday is Dela.”The major difference between this holiday season and last year is the widespread availability of vaccines. Dr. Mathers urged anyone who is ill to take precautions. “If you’re symptomatic, get tested,” Dr. Mathers said. “The only way we’re going to see emergence of new virus is to get tested. So following up exposure or symptoms with testing is an additional way to help limit the spread of this virus.Dr. Sifri said people who do get tested should limit contact with others until the result comes back. “Don’t go to work, don’t go to school, don’t go to holiday parties,” Dr. Sifri said. “If you’ve gotten tested, wait for your test result before you go out into the community.” New Charlottesville personnel Charlottesville has hired two people to serve as department heads. Arthur Dana Kasler will serve as the new director of Parks and Recreation and Stacey Smalls will be the new director of Public Works. Both positions have been open since September and were filled despite the transition at the city manager position when Chip Boyles resigned in October. Kasler comes to Charlottesville after serving as the director of Parks and Recreation in Louisville where he oversaw over 14,000 acres of parks, natural areas, and other services. According to a profile on Linkedin, he’s held that position since April 2019. Prior to starting work in Louisville, he was parks and recreation director in Parkland, Florida. According to the Lane Report, he’s also worked in Pittsburgh, Ponte Verde Beach in Florida, Kingsland, Georgia, and Athens, Ohio. Kasler takes over a position in Charlottesville in which he may oversee creation of a new master plan for recreational programs in the city. Stacey Smalls recently worked as director of the Wastewater Collection Division in the public works department in Fairfax County. Smalls has been in that position since February 2016. Prior to that, she served in similar capacities for the U.S. Air Force, including serving as deputy public works officer for the Joint Base at Pearl Harbor. She’ll oversee a public works in Charlottesville that took on responsibility for transportation design from the Department of Neighborhood Development Services during the administration of former City Manager Tarron Richardson. Both Kasler and Smalls will start work on December 20. They join Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders, as well as NDS director Jim Freas, as relative newcomers to municipal government in Charlottesville. Albemarle personnel, development infoIn other personnel news, this week Albemarle County announced that planning director Charles Rapp will be promoted to Deputy Director of Community Development, succeeding Amelia McCulley who is retiring from the county after more than 38 years of service. Rapp began work in Albemarle in March 2020 after serving as director of planning and community development for the Town of Culpeper. A search for a new planning director is underway. Rapp’s immediate boss is Jodie Filardo, the director of Community Development Department. She’s been in that position since September 2019. This week, the Community Development Department sent out a notice for two site plans of note. One is to construct a 1,300 square foot addition at the North Garden Fire Department. Earlier this year, Supervisors approved a budget that includes five full-time staff at the station to be there during the daytime to improve response times in the southern portion of Albemarle County. In the second, the owners of Stonefield have put forth a site plan for a seven-story 112-unit apartment building in what’s known as Block C2-1. You may also know this as the intersection of Bond Street and District Avenue, two of the public streets created as part of the initial development of Stonefield. Republican House Majority confirmedThe Associated Press is reporting that a recount in Virginia’s 85th House District has reaffirmed a narrow victory by Republican Karen Greenhalgh over Democrat Alex Askew. The certified election results recorded a 127-vote majority for Greenhalgh. A panel of three judges oversaw the recount and found this morning that the certified results stand. A recount is still underway in the 91st district. That gives Republicans at least 51 seats in the next General Assembly. In the 91st District, Republican A.C. Cordoza has a 94-vote lead over Democrat Martha Mugler, though there is an independent candidate in that race. Incoming speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-15) issued a statement welcoming Greenhalgh to the Republican caucus. Campaign finance The final campaign finance reports are in this year’s elections, covering a period from October 22 to November 25. City Councilor-elect Brian Pinkston raised an additional $3,325 during that time, and spent $8,938.04, leaving a balance of $1,227.76. He’s also repaid himself $7,231.24 in loans. In all, Pinkston raised $115,095.77 in the campaign. (report)Fellow City Councilor-elect Juandiego Wade raised $5,265 during the final period and spent $2,702.86, resulting in a balance of unspent funds of $17,728. In all, Wade raised $101,806.45 during the campaign. (report)In Albemarle County, Samuel Miller District Supervisor-elect Jim Andrews raised an additional $250, spent $2,015.74, and ended the campaign with a balance of $17,515.74. In all, Andrews raised $38,366.77 during the campaign. (report)Jack Jouett District Supervisor Diantha McKeel raised $250, spent $1,783.07, and her end-of-year bank balance is $20,652.76. McKeel began the year with $14,971 on hand and raised $19,127.99 during the 2021 campaign. (report)Rio District Supervisor Ned Gallaway has not yet filed a report for this cycle and missed the deadline. In the first three weeks of October raised an additional $3 and spent nothing. He began 2021 with a balance of $7,293.28, raised $10,150, and had a balance of $14,806.40. All three Supervisors ran in uncontested races. In today’s second 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. Wintergreen ownerThe resort company that has been running Wintergreen now owns the Nelson County property. Pacific Group Resorts of Utah had been leasing Wintergreen since 2015 but finalized acquisition from EPR Properties in October. “PGRI now owns the real estate, lifts, and snowmaking systems at the [resort] in addition to the operating equipment which it previously owned through its operating subsidiaries,” reads the release. Pacific Group Resorts also owns several other ski areas, including the Ragged Mountain resort in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Albemarle stream healthVirginia and many of its localities are responsible for taking steps to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. That includes Albemarle County, which is in the midst of an initiative to create policies to encourage, incentivize, or mandate the installation of vegetated buffers on the many tributaries of the James River. The Board of Supervisors was updated on the Stream Health Initiative on December 1. (materials)Kim Biassioli is the Natural Resources Manager in Albemarle County. She said the initiative is intended to advance the goals of the Climate Action Plan, the Biodiversity Action Plan, and the Comprehensive Plan itself. “Of course the focus of our work here today is on water quality and stream-health, but in protecting stream health and water quality, we’re likely to be providing so many other benefits for climate, for scenic value, for wildlife, for public health, and so on,” Biassioli said. This past summer, Supervisors asked staff to come up with more information about what it would take to fully adopt the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which gives localities more options to enforce and require stream buffers. Albemarle is not within the Tidewater region as defined by the Act. “We found that full adoption is an extremely resource and time intensive option relative to the anticipated benefits that we feel might be received,” Biassioli said. The first proposal under consideration would reintroduce a requirement that property owners retain buffers by creating a stream overlay district. “And I say reintroduce because this language which was originally modeled after the original language in the Bay Act was in our water protection ordinance prior to 2013 but currently retention of stream buffers is required during a land disturbing activity,” Biassioli said. Biassiloi said this would not require property owners to expand existing buffers if they are not to the requirement established. The zoning overlay would establish a list of existing uses allowed in the buffer areas. Other ideas under consideration include a program to fund riparian buffers, more oversight of septic fields, and greater incentives for installing Best Management Practices for mitigating the effect of agriculture on the watershed. USDA climate change grantsFinally today, Virginia will receive $778,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from the Rural Energy for America program. According to the USDA website, this initiative “provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.”Recipients are:Waverly RB SPE LLC - $500,000 (4th House District)Zion Crossroads Recycling Park LLC - $139,671 (5th House District)Twin Oaks North LLC - $52,225 (6th House District)Railside Industries LLC - $21,424 (6th House District)Mill Quarter Plantation Inc - $64,680 (7th House District)Thanks to Resilient Virginia for pointing this out!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
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
Joe and the audience get into Rep Spanberger's call for a "supply chain czar" the history of US Presidential 'Czars' and what would have happened if Lincoln had thought of it... (or DID it happen, anyway?) See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Candidate for the Samuel Miller seat on the Albemarle County school board is on with his reaction to the Loudon County transgender rape verdict and more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
So, where does their victim's Dad go to get his good name back (and off of AG Garland's list)? with special guest Marie Mierzejewski of Citizens Advocating for a Responsible Education See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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
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
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
Peter Wurzer from the Albemarle County Electoral Board (GOP Member) is on with their side of the story Steve Harvey shared with us yesterday. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Steve Harvey who has been able to get a team of volunteer poll watchers to cover the registrars office for all of the 45 days of early voting, says the county staff has started kicking them out while voting is still going on! (more to come 10/21/21) See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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
Joe and the audience get into it over yet another thing the character assassination of Trump and the abandonment of GOP offices in Virginia that it caused has allowed to come to pass... See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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
Virginia's redistricting commission drafts a proposal for redrawing federal Congressional districts; Tax revenues in the Commonwealth soared in September; Charlottesville and Albemarle County prepare to resettle about 250 Afghan refugees; And the race for one school board seat in Rockingham County is a microcosm of the fierce debates over a variety of issues
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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