Apr 25 • 19M

April 25, 2022: Village of Rivanna community group resigns en masse; Greer School name evaluation begins this week:

Plus: Delegate Sally Hudson nominated for Democratic Caucus Chair in fellow Democrat's leadership challenge

 
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Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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The final Monday of the fourth month of 2022 is here, as April apparently prepares to transition into the middle of summer. Things are always heating up in local and regional government and this begins another week of coverage from Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to take the temperature as frequently as possible. I’m your unofficial proctor, 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 program:

  • The Virginia General Assembly meets this Wednesday and some members of the House Democratic Caucus seek new leaders 

  • Finalists are announced for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s awards gala in May

  • The entire Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee has resigned in protest

  • A committee will get to work to determine if an Albemarle elementary school should continue to be named for educator Mary Carr Greer 

  • And Albemarle County Supervisors approved another $2.5 million to move Crozet plaza project forward 

First shout-out is for the Rivanna River Fest

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, did you know we are now in the middle of the Rivanna River Fest? A host of partners including the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, the Nature Conservancy are holding a series of events this week to celebrate that waterway that helps define urban Albemarle and Charlottesville.

This all culminates in the main event this Sunday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rivanna River Company on the banks of the Rivanna. This includes the Rivanna River Paddle Race, the virtual Fix a Leak Family 5K, There will also be Water Quality Monitoring Demonstrations, City Nature Challenge, Pop-up Environmental Education Activities, and a Guided Bird Walk at Riverview Park. Learn more at rivannariver.org!

General Assembly to meet this week as some Virginia House Democrats seek new leadership

The General Assembly is set to return to Richmond this Wednesday for a session to respond to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recommendations and vetoes. Brandon Jarvis writes for the Virginia Political Newsletter that one Democratic member of the House is seeking a new leadership vote before that work gets underway, with him at the top. (read the story for more details)

Delegate Don Scott (D-80) sent a letter yesterday to members of the House Democratic Caucus offering his resignation as its Vice-Chair for Outreach. He also claimed caucus by-laws require an election for his replacement before Wednesday’s veto session begins. He also invoked the by-laws to call for a leadership vote. 

“I therefore call for a vote for the Leader, Caucus Chair, and if a replacement is appointed, Vice-Chair for Outreach,” Scott wrote.

The current minority leader is Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41), who had served as speaker when the Democrats had a ten seat majority from 2020 to 2021. The current caucus chair is Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46). 

Republicans now have 52 seats to the Democrats’ 48 and Scott nominated himself as the new Leader with Delegate Sally Hudson (D-57) as Caucus Chair. 

Brandon Jarvis reports that the vote will be a secret ballot, and 25 votes are needed for a slate to be elected. 

Letter from Delegate Don Scott. For more details and follow-up coverage, read the Virginia Political Newsletter produced by Brandon Jarvis

Process underway to reevaluate name of Greer Elementary School

Albemarle County Public Schools continues their review of existing schools this week to see if their current namesakes are appropriate for the third decade of the 21st Century. On Tuesday, a committee to review the name of Mary Carr Greer Elementary School will begin their work at a 3 p.m. organizational meeting, but the public is not allowed. Twelve people have been selected to see if the name is consistent with the county’s naming policy. This includes Principal Steve Saunders as well as guidance counselor Susie Lee. 

As with other schools that have gone through this process, the committee will develop a community survey to solicit suggestions for a school name. Two public meetings will be held as well. 

“Members of the community and the committee can recommend either a new name be chosen for the school or the retention of its current name,” reads a notice on the county’s website. “If the advisory committee selects the current school name as one of its three finalists, the policy requires the committee to examine if Mary Carr Greer, for whom the school is named, made contributions to the community of state, national or world-wide significance.” 

According to the Ivy Creek Foundation, Mary Carr Greer lived from 1884 to 1973 and was the eldest daughter of Hugh Carr. She attended Union Ridge Graded School, a school for Black students established after Emancipation. Greer would become a teacher and joined the faculty at the Albemarle Training School before becoming its principal in 1931. She retired from education in 1950. The elementary school that carries her name opened in 1979 off of Lambs Lane. 

So far, the names of Broadus Wood Elementary and Virginia L. Murray Elementary School have been retained.

Paul Cale Elementary was renamed Mountain View, Mortimer Sutherland Elemawas renamed Lakeside Elementary, and Murray High School is now the Community Lab School. Jack Jouett Middle School will become Journey Middle School on July 1. 

Mary Louise Carr Greer (Credit: Ivy Creek Foundation)

Village of Rivanna CAC members resign en masse

All but two members of one of Albemarle’s growth area advisory committees have resigned. The county’s website shows eight vacancies on the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee (VORCAC). That group is charged with making recommendations and providing guidance to the Board of Supervisors on land use items within the scope of the Village of Rivanna Master Plan

However, in an April 19 post on their Substack newsletter, members cited staff interference in their efforts to provide education efforts about the master plan. 

“Supervisor [Donna] Price is concerned that our review of the Master Plan update is taking too much staff time,” they wrote. “It is our opinion that more time is needed to create a working plan that can be used as intended.”

The group last met in March, but an April 11 meeting was canceled. 

The post concludes with an email Price sent to former VORCAC Chair Dennis Odinov explaining that the ongoing review of the Comprehensive Plan takes precedence over other planning activities which are requiring staff time. Price is the Board of Supervisors’ liaison to VORCAC.

“There are no active development applications ready for discussion at the VORCAC, and consistent with Staff recommendation from [Planning Director] Charles Rapp on March 1st, there is no necessity for holding a VORCAC meeting this month,” Price wrote on April 5. 

Many of the VORCAC members have insisted loudly for many years that the plan allows for no more than one housing unit per acre. Last October, they successfully held the Board of Supervisors to that interpretation of the vision with Southern Development’s Breezy Hill development. The company had sought to build many more units than the maximum of 80 approved by Supervisors. 

Joe Fore is a member of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee who addressed the Board of Supervisors last week about the issue. He spoke as a community member and not in an official capacity as the Crozet group’s new chair. 

“To the extent that this portends the Board’s treatment of all CAC’s, it is troubling,” Fore said. “The notion that CAC’s would be prevented from meeting or even setting their own agendas even in months where there are no pressing issues from county staff is a dramatic departure of how these committees have operated.” 

Fore said county staff have used the pandemic to assert more control over the groups. Questions sent this morning the Office of Communications and Public Engagement were not returned in time for this newsletter, but I will continue to follow-up.

There is a precedent for Supervisors putting limitations on CACs and making other changes. In December 2014, Supervisors voted to suspend the Places29 CAC and split it into three different groups at the request of former Supervisor Brad Sheffield. 

Screenshot of the vacancies section on the Albemarle County website show eight VORCAC vacancies

Three more shout-outs for our middle break!

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. 

Another supporter of the Town Crier Productions’ Patreon account 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 final comes from another Patreon 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 Supervisors approve $2.5 million in infrastructure funding for Barnes Lumber project

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has agreed to spend an additional $2.5 million in public money on a public-private partnership to redevelop the Barnes Lumber yard in Crozet to provide the infrastructure for a more urban character. 

Supervisors had previously agreed to the partnership in 2019. The original agreement required the county to pay $1.6 million toward the plaza and to provide the equivalement amount in tax rebates through a synthetic tax increment financing scheme. 

Doug Bates is on the board of the Downtown Crozet Initiative, a nonprofit group also working toward the effort. 

"For the last five years, we have engaged in an aspirational dream out in Crozet, hoping for a plaza," Bates said. "A couple years back that dream began to get some real teeth to it when you as a Board acted to develop an agreement between New Town Associates, DCI, and yourself, the county itself."

Bates said the addendum to the agreement is necessary to help jumpstart the economic development efforts to complete the project.

"It's going to be your western outpost," Bates said. "A moment of real inspiration to watch the mountains and see children play. 

However, additional funding is required to help with cost overruns caused by inflation. The cost estimate for the first phase is now $7.88 million, higher than the $5.4 million originally anticipated. 

“The roads in particular which are of most significance with respect with what we’re asking the Board to consider in its investment as a part of this package today,” said Doug Walker, the deputy county executive.  (review Walker’s presentation)

An overview of the Barnes Lumber yard and the public private partnership (download the presentation)

Walker said the project would not happen without the public-private partnership. 

“It provides public contribution to provide for public benefit including the developer’s contribution of his money in order to match [Virginia Department of Transportation] revenue-sharing money,” Walker said. 

Walker said the closest equivalent to what the plaza hopes to be is the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. 

“In fact, that is a plaza owned by and managed by the city Parks and Recreation [Department],” Walker said. “You can see the essential connectivity it provides to that business corridor and the life that it brings into that area.” 

Walker said this project builds off of previous Albemarle investment into the Crozet Library which build a road connection to a future Library Avenue. It’s also interconnected with efforts to also transform what’s known as The Square. 

“The Square is that piece of road that runs from Crozet Avenue in front of Mudhouse, Fardowners, Parkway Pharmacy, and then ties into what would be Phase One of this project,” Walker said. “That also is a VDOT transportation revenue sharing project.” 

Staff suggested using $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $1.5 million from the Economic Development Investment Pool. 

“This is an old industrial site being repurposed,” Walker said. “This is putting it back into constructive public and private use.” 

As part of the amended agreement, the developer will build public restrooms in the first phase. Another $50,000 will go to the Downtown Crozet Initiative for seed money for an executive director to program the new space. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway wanted to know more about how that $50,000 would be used 

“How will the relationship between the county and that entity and then the responsibilities for each to manage the space and that position be formalized?” Gallaway asked. 

Lance Stewart, the county’s director of Facilities and Environmental Services, said a management agreement would be worked out. 

“I would expect a couple of work sessions with the Board in the future to make sure we are comfortable with the role that they would hold and the management responsibilities that they have,” Stewart said.

Gallaway said he just wants to avoid a county employee being required to run the plaza. 

CBIC announces finalists for tech awards

An organization that seeks to promote business and technology in the greater Charlottesville area has announced the finalists for its annual awards gala. The Central Business Innovation Council will hold their first in-person ceremony since 2019 on May 26 at Castle Hill Cider. 

“These awards serve as annual touchstones others can look to for inspiration and encouragement during their professional journeys,” said Tracey Greene. “These past two years have been challenging for many and we are delighted to recognize the perseverance, resilience, growth and creativity of these outstanding leaders, innovators, and organizations.”

CBIC has been handing out these awards since 1998, but took last year off due to the pandemic.  The 2020 event was held in September and was held virtually, as reported in the September 11, 2020 edition of this newsletter.

Business of the Year

Educator of the Year

  • Emily Anderson of Lakeside Middle School, Albemarle County Public Schools

  • Robbie Munsey of St. Anne’s Belfield

  • Heather Schmidt of Career and Tech Ed, Albemarle County Public Schools

Employer of the Year

Entrepreneur of the Year

Innovator of the Year

Partnership

Startup of the Year

Social Good Award

Student Entrepreneur of the Year