Apr 26 • 18M

April 26, 2022: Albemarle Supervisors briefed on Southwood's funding gap, septic issues; Council approves Midway Manor revenue bonds

Plus: The Virginia Solar Initiative releases a landmark survey on how localities regulate installations

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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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What’s shaking? Sounds like an appropriate greeting for Richter Scale Day. Have yourself tied in knots? An appropriate pose for National Pretzel Day. I know I am able to tell you this is the 369th edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a clear sign of how I honor Get Organized Day. I’m Sean Tubbs, the host of this regular newsletter and podcast about things both trivial and of massive importance. 

Help spread the word by sharing this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement!

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In today’s edition: 

  • The Virginia Solar Initiative has the first ever survey of how localities in the Commonwealth regulate solar installations large and small 

  • The Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee in Albemarle will not be reappointed anytime soon

  • Charlottesville City Council ratifies the issuance of $23 million in revenue bonds for Midway Manor

  • And the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors get an update on Southwood in advance of a public hearing tonight for a rezoning for the second phase 

Shout-out to Camp Albemarle

Today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate. 

Survey released on solar rules across Virginia localities

In six years, the amount of electricity generated by solar panels in increased by 12,150 percent. That’s according to data cited in the first ever survey of Virginia localities on their policies related to permitting large utility-scale installations as well as rooftop panels. 

The survey was conducted by the Virginia Department of Energy and the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and asked a series of questions to officials in Virginia’s 133 localities. 

“In Virginia, the permitting and siting of solar energy and energy storage facilities is heavily informed by local governments,” reads the report. “Therefore, to realize the full potential of solar energy development in Virginia, it is important to understand and support the solar experience, concerns and priorities of local governments.”

One hundred and nine localities responded to the survey, which was conducted a year after the General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act which among other things mandates that Virginia’s largest two investor-owned utilities be 100 percent carbon free by 2050. 

“The VCEA also deems 16,100 megawatts (MW) of solar and onshore wind to be in the public interest, greatly reducing the barriers for project approval with the State Corporation Commission,” the report continues.

The survey is intended to help inform policy across Virginia, given that localities set the detailed rules for siting and zoning of solar facilities. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity generated through solar in Virginia increased from 30 megawatts in 2015 to 3,675 megawatts in 2021.

Smaller installations on homes and businesses are called “distributed” solar projects. That number has risen from 948 net-metering installations in 2011 to 26,237 in 2021. 

Read the rest of study to learn more about how different Virginia localities regulate solar.


No plans to reappoint VORCAC 

There are eight vacancies on the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has no intention of filling them any time soon. That’s according to Emily Kilroy, the county’s director of communications and public engagement. 

“The Board will not seek to make reappointments at this time, as Committee support right now is in a transition,” Kilroy wrote in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement on Monday. 

The previous appointees resigned en masse in April after their April 11 meeting was canceled by the county for a lack of pressing issues. Committee members disagreed and announced their resignation in an April 19 Substack post

Albemarle County is currently reviewing the Comprehensive Plan, of which the Village of Rivanna Master Plan is a component. As part of that work, staff resources in the Community Development Department are not as available. 

“Recently, the Community Development Department’s long range planning staff have traditionally managed all CAC meetings and scheduling,” wrote Charles Rapp, the deputy director of community development, in a March 1 email. “To transition the primary focus to the comprehensive plan, staff is proposing a structured schedule for the CACs for the remainder of the 2022 calendar year.”

That did not meet the favor of the former members of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee. 

Today, the Free Enterprise Forum is calling for the county to disband all of the Community Advisory Committees.

To learn more about the Comprehensive Plan project underway, visit the AC44 pages on the Albemarle County website. This is not to be confused with the Air Canada flight between Vancouver and Dublin. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!

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City Council signs off on bonds for Midway Manor

At their meeting on April 18, City Council agreed with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s decision to issue $23 million in bonds for a third-party to refurbish the Midway Manor housing complex in downtown Charlottesville.

“It is assistance with the financing for the substantial rehabilitation of Midway Manor Apartments by Standard Communities,” said Michael Graff, a bond counsel with McGuire Woods. 

The funding will flow through the CRHA as a conduit for tax-exempt bonds, which requires the city to also issue its approval. 

“At a high level we will be ensuring that this property continues to provide affordable housing for at least the next 30 years through partnership with Virginia Housing and an allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as renewing the subsidy contract that provides the current residents with a rental subsidy that is set to expire in two years,” said Steven Kahn of Standard Communities.

Kahn said Standard is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend that contract for 20 years. He said that’s the maximum length HUD will allow. He also said there will be a substantial renovation of the units. 

“Sixty-plus thousand dollars per unit,” Kahn said. “Very little will be untouched. The things you typically think of for renovations is kitchens, bathroom, flooring, and electrical systems, absolutely. But also some of the behind the scene elements that can also plague older buildings if they are not invested in. Façade, windows, roofing.”

Paragraph below updated on April 27, 2022

Kahn said work on the elevator systems is currently underway.  More details was provided in a statement sent to Charlottesville Community Engagement on April 27.


“We continue to plan for a comprehensive renovation and upgrade of Midway Manor, which is expected to begin later this year in conjunction with the implementation of extended affordability protections for the property. Recognizing that the elevators were in need of more immediate attention, we have accelerated the modernization of both elevators at the property, with on-site work currently underway. In efforts to minimize disruption to residents, one elevator car is being worked on at a time, with the entire project expected to be complete within the next 8 weeks.” - Steven Kahn, Director, Standard Communities

Councilor Michael Payne also sits as a voting member of the CRHA Board. He voted to approve the bonds on February 28, but said he would vote on Council with “unease.” 

“There’s not a way for City Council to have baked in our approval a lock-step assurance for example when and if the elevator get renovated, how is this process going to go, so I will certainly be trying to watch it as closely as I can and be talking to residents throughout this process,” Payne said. 

Midway Manor sits on 2.32 acres and was built in 1981 according to city property records. Standard Communities paid $16.5 million for the property on January, 13, 2022. 

A fiscal impact statement for the $23 million in bonds. All of the details are in the staff report.

Today’s second shout-out goes to LEAP

We’re now well into spring, and many of us may have already turned on our air conditioning units for the first in months. To see what you can do to get the most out of your home, contact LEAP, your local energy nonprofit, to schedule a home energy assessment this month - just $45 for City and County residents. 

LEAP also offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If someone in your household is age 60 or older, or you 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 Supervisors briefed on Southwood Redevelopment

Tonight the Albemarle Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the rezoning of the second phase of the Southwood Mobile Home Park being overseen by a local nonprofit. (meeting info)

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville purchased Southwood in 2007 and entered into an agreement with the Board of Supervisors in 2016 to work with the nonprofit. A performance agreement for a public private partnership was signed in 2019 to govern $3.25 million in county investment. 

Supervisors got an update at their meeting on April 20, 2022.

“That was shortly followed by approval of the phase one rezoning application and just to let you know, the rezoning application for phase two was submitted to the county in 2021,” Pethia said. 

Phase one is for 34 acres on the eastern and southern edges of the property, with a maximum of 450 homes, 270 units of which will be made affordable to residents through various interventions. There’s also a maximum of 50,000 square feet of non-residential space. Before describing phase two, Pethia gave an update on how the site plan for phase one has turned out. 

“The approved site plan will provide a total of 335 residential units, 211 of those are affordable,” Pethia said. “The affordable housing units include approximately 121 low-income housing tax credit units which will be located along Hickory Drive, 86 Habitat built units to be located in villages one and two as well as in block ten. Habitat units include condominiums, townhomes, and single family attached and detached units.”

Pethia said Habitat has currently identified 37 Southwood households who are ready to move forward with purchasing their homes in phase one. 

Phase 2 extends the rezoning to the existing mobile home park. 

“If approved, phase two will approve 527 to 1,000 housing units, 227 of which will be affordable, including a potential sixty additional Low Income Housing Tax Credit units,” Pethia said. 

Phase 2 would allow for a maximum of 60,000 square feet of nonresidential space. The Planning Commission will review this rezoning tonight.

Funding overview

In addition to $3.25 million associated with the performance agreement, Albemarle has used $675,000 from the housing trust to help pay for costs associated with the first phase of the rezoning as well as the equivalent of $175,000 in county staff time. 

“Additionally, the county applied for and was awarded a little over $2.4 million in grant funding including a $40,000 Community Development Block Grant,” Pethia said. 

Pethia said Habitat estimates the total cost to develop Southwood will be $154.7 million, including the cost to prepare the sites and to engage with residents. 

“Habitat anticipates securing $131.1 million to cover the project costs,” Pethia said. “This amount includes funds that have already been received and that will be expended by the end of this fiscal year. The balance of total project funds include donations received through Habitat’s capital campaign, revenue generated through mobile home park operations, proceeds from the sale of land for market-rate housing, and funds Habitat anticipates receiving through federal and state grants, local government, and foundations.” 

Pethia said there’s a current $16.6 million revenue gap and county staff are looking to close it. Many sources will include a local match from Albemarle taxpayers. Another option would be increased funding from the housing trust or development of a new public private partnership. 

In March, MacKenzie Scott gave Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville $5.75 million. Habitat CEO Dan Rosensweig said the deficit already includes that spending. (Daily Progress story)

“It’s a blessing and a curse because it’s already baked into this,” Rosensweig said. 

Another expense has been and will be removal of oil tanks under trailers as well as failing septic systems. 

“There were two areas of the mobile home park that are on failing septic right now and there is one area of the park that was draining directly into the part of the park that we are trying to develop and that was obviously a catastrophe,” Rosensweig said. “One of the things that we’ve had to do earlier than we thought was scramble to create trailer pads on the other side of the park that’s on [public] sewer. We’ve been moving people. Some folks moved out over the years and we purchased mobile homes and rehabbed them. So the first 80 or so families, we’re about halfway through moving them out of the park so we can decommission all of that septic.” 

Rosensweig said another 170 trailers are on failing septic and it is directly pouring into Biscuit Run and into the watershed. They’re applying for funding to install a sewer line into the park, but that cost is $6.5 million and the county will be asked to cover some of the cost. 

“It would also be infrastructure that we’re designing to be part of the second phase so it would be infrastructure that’s not temporary infrastructure, but permanent infrastructure,” Rosensweig said. 

The Planning Commission takes up the second phase of the rezoning tonight. 

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