Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
April 19, 2023: Council agrees to give $5M to CRHA to purchase 74 affordable units; Former Newark cop to head Charlottesville's police oversight board
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April 19, 2023: Council agrees to give $5M to CRHA to purchase 74 affordable units; Former Newark cop to head Charlottesville's police oversight board

Plus: City Council drops COVID-19 era meeting restrictions
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What is it that you really want to do? Are you making progress toward what you want to achieve? As a member of an intelligent species, it’s always a good time to ask such questions. But I’m told by a website of dubious repute that today is Refresh Your Goals Day. Charlottesville Community Engagement has not become a self-help newsletter and podcast, but I always encourage everyone to remember they are alive. I’m Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s program: 

  • Charlottesville hires a veteran of the police force in Newark, New Jersey to serve as executive director of police oversight work here

  • Council holds first of two readings on allocating $835,000 for one bucket of affordable housing funds

  • Charlottesville ends the COVID-19 era for local meetings

  • And Council unanimously approves the award of $5 million to the city’s public housing agency for half of the purchase cost for 74 units of housing to keep it below-market

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First shout-out: Prepare to celebrate Downtown In Bloom

In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Friends of Charlottesville Downtown are getting ready for the month-long Downtown in Bloom event this May with a celebration of art, flowers, and the beauty of Spring. They want you to get ready for a series of free events. 

  • Charlottesville City Schools will host their annual art exhibit in the windows of shops on the Downtown Mall with a family night on May 5 with project displays on the CODE Building

  • There will be a Spring Stroll all month with speciality drinks at bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Pickup the Spring Stroll passport to qualify for a special celebration!

  • There will be a Flower Market at Ting Pavilion on May 4 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

  • Participating businesses will have a Flower Competition in container gardens and planter boxes outside of their establishments 

  • The 2023 Chalk Fest will be held on May 20 with 13 local artists creating murals from the Ting Pavilion to the Dairy Market

To learn more about Downtown in Bloom and other initiatives of Friends of Charlottesville Downtown, visit friendsofcville.org

Charlottesville appoints new police board director

The City of Charlottesville has hired a 28-year veteran of law enforcement to serve as the next director of civilian oversight for the police department. Inez Gonzalez served 25 years with the police department in Newark, New Jersey

“Ms. Gonzalez is passionate about police accountability and policies that ensure that accountability,” said Ashley Marshall, the city’s Deputy City Manager for Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

Gonzalez will begin work on May 1. 

“Her tenure at the police department included her being the first Hispanic female to be appointed to the rank of Lieutenant as well as the rank of Captain in the history of the Newark police force,” Marshall said. 

Hansel Aguilar left the position last October to take a similar job in Berkeley, California.  A search has been underway since then. Marshall explained more background about the position. 

“The Police Civilian Oversight Board as created through the hard work of members of our community in 2019 has the power to develop and administer a process for receiving complaints about the Charlottesville Police Department, to review the police department’s Internal Affairs investigations at the request of a civilian complainant, and among other tasks, the Board may conduct hearings and make findings concerning CPD’s Internal Affairs investigations,” Marshall said. 

The city received twenty applications and seven people were interviewed remotely. Three of those were interviewed in-person. 

“After those interviews, the ordinance also allows those participating PCOB members to provide a recommendation of a hire to the City Manager,” Marshall said. “They did so and the City Manager accepted their recommendation without question.” 

Council passed a resolution to confirm the appointment, but such a move is not required by the city charter or the city ordinance. 

Marshall said Gonzalez also served as commander of internal affairs before she left the department. 

Council signals support for affordable housing fund recipients

In the past six months, the city of Charlottesville has made changes to the way affordable housing projects are funded in the city. 

Every fall, the city will send out a Notice of Funding Availability announcing the different buckets of money available, including the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. The CAHF was created in the late 2000’s. (City announces new funding opportunities for affordable housing projects, October 17, 2022)

“There have been process changes since the Office of Community Solutions was created and the Affordable Housing Plan was enacted by the Council in 2021,” said Alex Ikefuna, the director of the city’s Office of Community Solutions the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services

Those changes included creation of a committee separate from the Housing Advisory Committee that exists only to make recommendations on where the city’s affordable housing money should be spent.

Ikefuna was on hand at the Council meeting to present the CAHF Committee results.  This time around there is $835,000 in CAHF funding. 

“Staff received six applications from potential applicants totaling $1.72 million,” Ikefuna said. “Of these, five we are recommending for funding. The only agency that submitted an application that wasn’t funded was [Albemarle Housing Improvement Program].” 

A list of the six requests for CAHF funding, five of which were funded. AHIP did end up with $225,000 in the FY24 budget. (take a closer look)

I’ll get back to AHIP in a minute. For now, here’s what is recommended for funding in the CAHF. 

  • $187,500 to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the Public Housing HVAC Equity Project that would bring air conditioning to existing units. The request had been for $450,000. 

  • $67,806 to Community Services Housing Inc. for rehabilitation repairs to preserve 34 existing units. The request was for $135,611. 

  • $225,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville for their program to transition people to homeownership.  The request had been for $410,000. 

  • $167,972 to the Piedmont Housing Alliance for their project to purchase homes in the Orangedale section of the Fifeville neighborhood for re-sale. The request had been for $225,000.

  • $186,722 to Virginia Supportive Housing for the Premier Circle project. The request had been $250,000. 

Ikefuna said the CAHF Committee felt the AHIP application was not one of quality. He also said AHIP had not accessed $100,000 in previous funding and that the organization is having difficulty finding households below 60 percent of area median income to qualify for the program. 

“I don’t think that they have people on the waiting list that they are supposed to have,” Ikefuna said. “I am not sure how long it would take for them to go out and solicit or publish funding availability so they would be able to recruit folks that would take advantage of the situation.” 

AHIP had requested $225,000  from the CAHF for the next fiscal year, having received $162,500 in the current fiscal year. 

Another bucket of funding is the Housing Operations and Program Support which had $575,000 available. Applications through that process also go through a review process. AHIP had asked for $250,000 for their “Charlottesville Critical Rehab and Home Repair Program” but their request did not make it through the process. 

Nevertheless, Charlottesville’s final budget for FY24 does include $225,000 for AHIP after budget staff found additional revenue to support Council requests.  

This was Council’s first reading and the second will be on the consent agenda at the May 1, 2023 meeting. 

Second shout-out: Piedmont Master Gardeners seek items for Green Elephant Sale

In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement:  If you are cleaning out your garage, basement or garden shed as spring continues to blossom, the Piedmont Master Gardeners will gladly take any yard and garden equipment you no longer need.

PMG is now accepting donations of new and used tools, hoses, decorative items, outdoor furniture—virtually anything used to create, maintain and enjoy a garden. These “Green Elephants” will be offered for sale to the public during PMG’s Spring Plant Sale. Donated items may be dropped off at 402 Albemarle Square between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays through the end of April. PMG is not able to accept plastic pots or opened chemicals. To arrange a pickup or for more information, contact the Piedmont Master Gardeners at greenelephant@piedmontmastergardeners.org.

As for that sale? Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 6, at Albemarle Square Shopping Center. 

Council ends COVID restrictions 37 months after pandemic began

There will soon be no more restrictions on who can attend meetings held by Charlottesville city government. The city has remained one of the only localities in Virginia to still be holding some of its meetings electronically and restrict physical participation due to COVID-19. 

“Effective May 1, 2023, the following will go into effect,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “The Clerk of Council will discontinue seat reservation procedures making the Council Chambers accessible to anyone.”

Community members will still be able to speak at Council and Planning Commissions meetings remotely. That hybrid status will also apply to meetings of the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, the Police Civilian Oversight Board, and the Human Rights Commission. 

“Announcements to the public would include that no food or drink is permitted in the Council Chambers,” Sanders said. “The Sergeant-at-arms will be in their assigned place during all meetings of Council. The City Manager and Clerk of Court will return to seats on the dais which has already started in our trial run today.” 

Those expecting the media to return to the gallery may be disappointed, as now Sanders and fellow Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall will be seated there as will the City Attorney. Media representatives can sit on the back wall on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

All other meetings will be held in-person effective May 1. Council passed the resolution unanimously. 

Council agrees to $5 million in funds to CRHA to purchase 74 units across Charlottesville

Charlottesville has voted to agree to provide $5 million for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to use as part of their loan to purchase several dozen apartment units throughout the city. 

“This is a $10 million acquisition of 74 units referred to as the Dogwood Portfolio which is a naturally occurring affordable housing set of properties here in the city,” Sanders said. 

CRHA will have to pay Riverbend Development back their $5 million but that will be interest-free. 

“The arrangement that they’ve established thus far would provide that monthly payments would commence after a three-month grace period so that CRHA could build a reserve account to be able to respond to any maintenance issues that were to arise in the interim of the transition,” Sanders said. 

CRHA will not need to pay the city back as the city will co-own the properties, but they will have to provide the following:

  • An annual report is due every January 31 with ongoing details of ownership of the 74 units 

  • That report would also cover the properties on Montrose Avenue and Coleman Avenue purchased by CRHA in the past year

  • The Dogwood Portfolio is to be included with the sustainability plan CRHA is putting together for its long term operations (Council updated on CRHA’s sustainability plan, March 29, 2023)

  • CRHA will need to keep the finances for these units separate from the rest of their housing stock

  • The city will also have right of first refusal if the properties are sold and Council will also have to approve any physical changes to the properties beyond general maintenance

  • CRHA will assume the $850,000 loan Woodard Properties was given by Council to purchase the portfolio. (Learn more about the loan)

“CRHA will also be provided a ten percent monthly management fee of rents collected which is to cover leasing, financing, finance services, auditing, and administration charges,” Sanders said. “[This] is normal practice within a development project. They will also charge the portfolio  for monthly water, sewer, and trash services versus having those apply to each individual unit.” 

Kathleen Glenn-Matthews is deputy executive director of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.  She asked Council to support the effort. 

“CRHA is an agency that has undergone considerable transformation and positive growth the last ast three years through strong management, allowing for strategic improvement and working on the agency’s sustainability,” Glenn-Matthews said. “Decent affordable housing is core social determinant of an individual or family’s personal health and well-being.” 

Glenn-Matthews said investing in more housing to be guaranteed to be affordable will help more people.

“I think this is a historic action for the city in terms of the amount of properties,” said City Councilor Michael Payne. “It’s been many years, decades, since we’ve engaged in acquisition like this. This is growing CRHA’s housing portfolio by about 20 percent.”

Council voted unanimously to support the resolution. An acquisition agreement will be signed by interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. 

Reading material:

At the end of Number Five Two Five:

Somehow there have now been 525 editions of this newsletter. I set a goal to get back to producing journalism and I seem to have stuck to it. I’ve been able to do that because many of you appreciate the vision I have for producing information that’s trustworth, thorough, and reliable. That’s the business model of Town Crier Productions!

The main revenue comes from this newsletter and podcast, and you can become one of the one in four who contribute financially. In return, I agree to produce as many newsletters as possible. And if you do this, Ting will match your initial contribution. That’s also part of the business model.

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