April 22, 2022: Former UVA basketball Sean Singletary player enters Charlottesville's development market with townhouse plan; PHAR wants Crescent Halls bus stop to remain where it is
Plus: PVCC gets a new president, and Charlottesville expects a $13M surplus
Today consists of a four and four twos, adding up to April 22, 2022. Far more understandable than Day 112, which is another name this Friday could go by. My name is Sean Tubbs, and this is another installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to provide information about all manner of items in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville.
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 program:
Charlottesville City Council learns of an even higher surplus than expected for the current fiscal year
Virginia is set to end its rent relief program in mid-May
A Colorado educator will become the next president of Piedmont Virginia community College
A series of speakers wants Charlottesville Area Transit’s Route 6 to continue to stop at the doorstep of Crescent Halls
And former UVA basketball star Sean Singletary enters the development community in Charlottesville
First shout-out goes to the Piedmont Master Gardeners for their annual plant sale
In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, the Piedmont Master Gardeners are pleased to announce the return of their annual plant sale! That’s happening on Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Albemarle Square Shopping Center. The sale will offer thousands of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vegetables, herbs and houseplants, including a large selection of native plants.
In addition, shoppers can purchase garden implements, yard ornaments and other “Green Elephants”; have their tools sharpened by an expert; and drop off their surplus plastic nursery pots for recycling. The sale will also feature a Help Desk for gardening questions and information tables on native plants, soil and composting, invasive plants, conservation landscaping and much more.
For more information, visit piedmontmastegardeners.org.
Before we begin today, a quick program note. This show is a product of the pandemic. For the past two years, I’ve been producing informational podcasts to help people know what’s going on. I became a journalist almost 30 years ago because bringing people information is what I’ve always wanted to do. At no point do I want to tell you what to think. And for the past two years, I’ve more or less been able to do this all from home. And for a lot of that time, most of you were at home too.
Now that Albemarle and Charlottesville have both gone back to in-person meetings, it’s a bit jarring. I’m not used to it yet and I still have one eye on COVID cases to see what’s going on. Tomorrow’s show will contain an update from the UVA Health System.
But I know I’m not alone. At Monday’s first in-person meeting in 25 months, Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook had a similar sense of disorientation when a resident of Crescent Halls came up to speak.
“You’re Miss Sandridge… I know what you look like without a mask on a Zoom call but I don’t know what you look like face to face,” Snook said.
We’ll hear more from Judy Sandridge later in the show, but I wanted to begin today by acknowledging the past two years and how they were very different from any other time in my career. I’ve gotten used to writing from home. Soon I’ll be back out there doing more, but it’s still an end to an era.
The writer Addison Del Mastro has a piece on his Substack Deleted Scenes called Final Pandemic Thoughts which I think is worth a read. That’s not really within the scope of Charlottesville Community Engagement, nor is this whole first segment. But I am curious to know what your thoughts are on where we’ve been the last two years, and what you’d like to see going forward. As for me, I hope to continue bringing you this program.
Council gets revenue update
Even though Council has recently adopted a budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, there is never a time when the city’s finances are not in the public eye. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers briefed Council this week on the state of revenue collection for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.
“So far this year we have currently collected 66.93 percent of our budgeted revenue and we remain on track to collect more than the adopted revenue budget of $192,212,843,” Rogers said.
The next tax bills are due on June 6 and will include the one cent real estate tax increase adopted by Council earlier this month. Tax rates go with the calendar year, not the fiscal year. That means a budget surplus is almost certain.
“While we discussed during the budget process that we would end up with $12 million more, what I’m seeing now based on that revision, it’s $13 million,” Rogers said.
Final decisions about how to use that funding will be made by Council later this year after the FY22 books are audited.
Runyon named as PVCC’s next president
The chancellor of Virginia’s Community College System has named a Colorado educator as the next president of Piedmont Virginia Community College. Dr. Jean Runyon is currently the campus vice president at Front Range Community College in Larimer. .
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Runyon to PVCC and believe she will be able to build upon the success and great potential that exists here, not just at the College but throughout the community,” said PVCC College Board Chair Lola Richardson in a statement.
Runyon will be PVCC’s sixth president since it was founded in 1972. She’ll succeed Frank Friedman in the position he has held since November 1998.
The new president has a long history in higher education with positions such as the director of the Innovative Teaching Center at the College of Southern Maryland and eight years in various positions at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. She’ll take the reins at PVCC in July.
Virginia rent relief program is set to end
In another sign that the pandemic era is over, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is closing an online portal through which people can apply for rent relief. Virginians have until midnight on May 15 to make a new application.
Virginia was one of the first states in the nation to put a mortgage and rent relief program in place soon after the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES). The program went live in June 2020 and has provided more than $713 million in relief for 104,990 households across the Commonwealth.
To be eligible, households need to have an income less than 50 percent of the area median or have to have had one member out of work for up to 90 days.
“DHCD will continue to work with partners and stakeholders across the state to create comprehensive strategies to increase the supply of affordable housing, address and prevent evictions and reduce barriers in housing throughout the Commonwealth,” reads a notice on the agency’s website.
For more information, visit the DHCD’s website.
Today’s second shout-out goes to WTJU
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. This week is the annual Rock Marathon, so tune in and support freeform community radio on WTJU Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.
Former UVA basketball star part of redevelopment project at 1101 East Market Street
A former University of Virginia basketball player who also played in the National Basketball Association is part of a development team that seeks to build eleven townhouses in downtown Charlottesville.
“Just excited to be back in town and on about the progress with this project,” said Sean Singletary, who played for UVA in the mid 2000’s. “Ever since I graduated from school here, I’ve always wanted to move back here and just give back to the community. Charlottesville and UVA have done so much for me.”
A preliminary site plan has been filed with the city of Charlottesville to build several townhomes in the Little High subsection of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood at the intersection of East Market and 11th Street.
In all, 11th Street Partners seeks to consolidate four lots into one before building ten townhomes. Several existing structures on those properties would be removed, but a house at 1103 East Market Street would remain as it is not part of this project and is owned separately.
As part of this plan, the house at 1101 East Market Street would be replaced with a new structure.
“We determined that the most beneficial to the community would be to demolish these existing structures and replace them with very attractive units that we think are going to add a significant benefit to the community at large,” said engineer Eric Woolley.
One of these would be a sidewalk on this stretch of East Market where there currently is not one on the northern side of the road. Utilities would be placed underground. Each townhouse would have three bedrooms and three off-street parking spaces.
“The way we’ve oriented the units, we think it’s going to be beneficial to the neighborhood by actually providing more parking within the development which alleviates the pressure of overlap parking to other neighbors,” Woolley said.
While the application for the Vue at East Market is by-right and would not require a decision by elected officials, a request to close off a public right of way does.
“The alley closure piece does have discretionary review by City Council but the other components would not,” said Carrie Rainey, a city planner.
One of Singletary’s three partners is Keith Payne, an All-ACC conference running back on the UVA football team.
“This is extremely exciting for our team to be able to develop in Charlottesville, especially downtown in a great neighborhood,” Payne said.
Payne said he and Singletary graduated together, and have always been looking for an opportunity to develop in Charlottesville.
“Being on the corner there, we felt this could be a vibrant site for the city,” Payne said.
The team wants to develop other projects in the community.
No one spoke at the community meeting on Wednesday.
To view the discussion, take a look at the video here.
PHAR seeks to keep Crescent Halls bus stop in place
A series of speakers at Monday’s City Council meeting asked the elected officials to weigh in on a decision by Charlottesville Area Transit to relocate the bus stop at Crescent Halls, a public housing site that is currently undergoing renovations. The homes are currently served in both directions by Route 6 and the agency is making the change to help speed up the route.
That had not been the plan, according to one resident.
“We were told that they would pick up one side and when they come back they would let people off in front of the door,” said Alice Washington. “We need that. Crescent Halls is a senior and disability building.”
As such, Washington said many residents use wheelchairs or walkers to get around and need to be able to board the bus. That will be much harder if they have to walk what she said were the 89 steps to the new stop.
“If they got to walk from way over here over there and some of these people are almost 80 or 90 years old, it’s impossible,” Washington said.
We briefly heard from Judy Sandridge earlier. Let’s hear her again.
“If you see me hear with my cart here again, my oxygen, and a thing full with food trying to walk 89 steps?” Sandridge said. “She walked 89 steps. I can’t do that.”
Other voices included Brandon Collins, the redevelopment coordinator of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority who said keeping the bus stop where it is has been a high priority during renovation discussions.
Another was Shelby Edwards, who succeeded Collins as the main voice of the Public Housing Association of Residents in her capacity as executive director.
“PHAR has hosted both private and public conversations with CAT about this topic,” Edwards said. “We don’t understand why this has been such a laborious task. We know that that CAT would like to move to the 30 minute service to increase ridership, but this means little if the people who switch over already have other forms of transportation. Yes, we do want a world where everyone can use mass transit but we first need one where everyone who has no other form of transit can continue to move around freely.”
Council also heard directly from CRHA’s Executive Director, John Sales.
“We need that bus stop in front of the building,” Sales said.
Sales added that a site plan amendment to the Crescent Halls renovation would be required, which could delay the ability for residents to move back in. Sales also pointed out that the route change has not yet been finally approved by City Council.
“So I just want to make sure that any other route changes that are going to be impacted by this 30 minute transition gets discussed because not only will Crescent Halls be impacted, but people all over the city are going to be impacted, without anyone knowing,” Sales said.
In 2021, Charlottesville Area Transit worked with a consultant to realign the routes, but the changes have not yet been implemented. Under the new changes, Route 6 would no longer travel to the University of Virginia Health System but would stil travel between Willoughby Shopping Center and Downtown. The route would also no longer travel on Ridge Street via Brookwood Drive.
No action was taken at the meeting, but this morning Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders and CAT Director Garland Williams offered the following statement:
“The City Manager has asked staff to consider options regarding the bus stop service to residents of Crescent Halls, including the Paratransit service administered for the City by JAUNT. There are multiple conversations in progress and a number of options are being considered but the iterative process of review, feedback, and costing is in full motion. We will be convening all parties to review and determine workable options to present to Council as soon as possible.”
The route changes have not yet been made because of a lack of drivers that would be required to provide the additional service.
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