Apr 28 • 19M

April 28, 2022: Council approves 170 units in Fry's Spring, loan agreement for Stribling upgrade; JMRL holds annual Poem in your Pocket Day

Plus: Virginia House Democrats oust their leader

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Sean Tubbs
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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After today, there are only two more days in April. After today, there are 247 days left in 2022. But for now, it is still April 28 and this is the appropriate Charlottesville Community Engagement. After this installment, is it my hope that you will know slightly more than you did before. I cannot quantify precisely. I am Sean Tubbs, the host and producer.

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts in your email, become a free subscriber. To keep them coming, become a paid one!

On today’s program:

  • The Jefferson Madison Regional Library is celebrating National Poetry Month today with a series of scrolls 

  • The General Assembly takes action on Governor Youngkin’s vetoes and recommendations 

  • More documents filed in the Goldman v. Brink case to force a 2022 House of Delegates election

  • The Virginia Film Festival is taking submissions and Virginians get a break

  • Charlottesville City Council approves a rezoning for 170 units in the Fry’s Spring area

  • An update on the elevators at Midway Manor

First-shout is for the Saturday premiere of Raised/Razed

In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, Preservation Piedmont wants you to know about this Saturday’s premiere of Raised/Razed, a film by filmmaker Lorenzo Dickerson and Jordy Yager about the life and destruction of Vinegar Hill, one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Charlottesville. The Maupintown Media production charts the lives of residents over nearly a century as they built prosperity in the face of racially discriminatory policies at every level. The film will be willl be shown outdoors at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at 8 p.m. Tickets are available on the center’s website with donations to be divided between seven Black-led organizations. Visit https://jeffschoolheritagecenter.org/ to learn more. 

General Assembly convenes for veto session 

Virginia legislators returned to Richmond yesterday to continue the 2022 regular session of the General Assembly by responding to vetoes and recommendations from Governor Glenn Youngkin. 

Before both the House of Delegates and Senate convened at noon, the House Democratic Caucus met and ousted minority leader Eileen Filler-Corn. Brandon Jarvis of the Virginia Political Newsletter reports a secret ballot motion to remove Filler-Corn passed with 25 votes. That’s the minimum required by caucus by-laws. There are 48 Democrats in the 100-member House of Delegates.

Jarvis reports a motion to remove Delegate Charniele Herring failed. There was no vote for a new leader. 

In total, Youngkin had vetoed 26 bills and made recommended changes to 117 others. David Blount, legislative liaison for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, reports in his update to area officials that none of the vetoes were overridden. Blount reports that no action was taken on the state budget, but the chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee had an update. 

“We’re working to resolve our differences while also maintaining the Senate position as it relates to the importance of funding core services, especially in the areas of education and health and human services,” said Senator Janet Howell. 

For a full recap of the action on the vetoes and recommendations, check out the Virginia Mercury’s coverage.

We’ll hear more from Howell in tomorrow’s installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

Attorney General’s office files briefs in 2022 House race case

The final round of briefs in a federal case to force a House of Delegates race this November may have been filed this week. Richmond Attorney Paul Goldman filed suit against the Board of Elections last year claiming the certification of winning candidates in the 2021 race was not valid because the districts are outdated because they are based on the 2010 Census.

In March. the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the Eastern District of Virginia to answer the question of whether Goldman has the right to have filed the suit. In a new brief filed on Monday, Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson argues Goldman does not have standing. 

“Goldman’s brief is long on rhetoric but falls short on standing—the only question the Fourth Circuit authorized this Court to answer,” reads the motion. “He offers no explanation of how he has suffered the sort of particularized injury-in-fact that Article III requires for any plaintiff who wants to invoke federal jurisdiction.”

The brief goes on to argue that the action by the Virginia Supreme Court to adopt new legislative boundaries in late December did nothing to invalidate the elections of 2021. 

“The Supreme Court merely drew the maps for the next election,” the motion continues. “The Commonwealth of Virginia’s conduct of the 2021 election did not violate the United States Constitution.”

The brief also argues that a federal judicial order to hold a state election this year would be intrusive and would lead to “judicially created confusion.”  The state also argues that oral argument on this question is not necessary.

In response, Goldman filed a surrebuttal arguing that the state’s latest motion introduced new matters that he deserves to have the right to respond to. On Tuesday, Judge David Novak issued an order supporting Goldman’s request to consider a case called Avery v. Midland County as he reviews how to proceed with the case. 

JMRL celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day

If you happen to be on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall today, you may have someone approach you with a small scroll. If so, take it, and rejoice that you have been handed an item of poetry. The Jefferson Madison Regional Library is once again celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day at several locations throughout the area.

“On this annual international day honoring the power of poetry to inspire and delight, children, teens and adults are invited to stop by any JMRL library branch to pick out a poem scroll tied with a bow,” reads the information release for the day. “Unwrap it, and possibilities unfold: read it to yourself, share it with someone close (or even a stranger), or just tuck it in your pocket for a rainy day.” 

The library system has teamed up with local businesses and other organizations for this occasion. Partners include: 2nd Act Books, Botanical Fare, Chaps, Mudhouse (Downtown), Splendora’s Gelato (Shops at Stonefield), UVA Medical Center, and Virginia Discovery Museum.

There’s also a virtual program at 2 p.m. with “An Afternoon with Laura Shovan.”  The poet and children’s author will discuss her work with Supervising Children’s Librarian Tasha Birckhead. Shovan is the author of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

Tonight at 7 p.m. there will a Poetry in the Park at Market Street Park next to the library. Everyone is to read their favorite poem at an open mic event. That goes through 8:30 p.m. 

Chaps on the Downtown Mall is one place you can pick up a poem (Photo credit: Jefferson Madison Regional Library)

Virginia Film Festival waiving fees for Virginia filmmakers

The Virginia Film Festival is six months away but time is running shorter to enter your submission. If you live within the Commonwealth or attend a school here, you can send in your work without having to pay a fee. 

“The VAFF showcases celebrated new narrative and documentary features, independent and international projects, fresh perspectives on timeless classics, and local filmmakers from throughout Virginia,” reads the submission webpage.

For those outside Virginia, the Early Bird Deadline is June 6, 2022 and you can submit a feature for $30 or a short for $10. For reference, features are anything over 31 minutes. The regular deadline is June 27, 2022 and those fees go up to $50 and $25 respectively. 

Students from all over the world can submit their work, regardless of length, for $10. 

The 2022 Virginia Film Festival begins November 2 and runs through November 6. 

Second shout-out is for the Rivanna River Fest and an E-Bike demo

In today’s second 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 and 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!

In the same area on the same day, there will be an ebike demo day at Meade Park this Sunday, May 1, from 2:00-4:00. A pair of interested ebike owners in town will be bringing their bikes, and anybody who's interested can stop by, ask questions, and take test rides. They will have some ebikes with seats for children. If you’re going, drop them a line in this form. 

Council considering amendment of Friendship Court agreement

The current Charlottesville City Council had the chance this month to check in with the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The Piedmont Housing Alliance came before Council on April 18 with a request to amend an agreement that governs a $6 million forgivable loan granted in November 2020 for the first phase. 

The amendment is a technical one because the full amount had not been allocated by Council in a subsequent budget cycle. 

Brenda Kelley is the redevelopment manager for the city of Charlottesville, a position currently housed in the Office of Community Solutions. 

“This request is not asking for additional funding,” Kelley said. “This funding is already approved in this current budget.” 

Council had no issue with the amendment. 

“This was kind of staggered mostly because of COVID,” said City Councilor Sena Magill. “Friendship Court was really trying to help ease some of the potential future unknown burden that we might be facing with COVID.” 

The item will require a second reading and it will be on the consent agenda for the May 2 meeting. 

Construction of the first phase of Friendship Court is now underway. 

See also: Council approves agreement for Friendship Court funding, October 30, 2020

The bottom of the Friendship Court redevelopment page has a camera that updates every five minutes. Take a look!

Council approves rezoning for 240 Stribling, new agreement to pay for sidewalks

Charlottesville City Council has voted to rezone nearly 12 acres of land in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood in order for Southern Development to build 170 units. They also voted for the first time on a proposal that would tie a specific infrastructure project to increased revenues that will be generated by higher property taxes. 

“This is going to allow us to get infrastructure that we need in that part of the city that we would not have otherwise done,” said Councilor Brian Pinkston. 

Approval came at the April 18, 2022 meeting.

Last year, the City Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning but only if Stribling Avenue would be upgraded as part of the development.

Southern Development agreed to loan the city $2.9 million to pay for sidewalks and drainage on Stribling Avenue. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers recommended against the agreement as it was written at Council’s first reading on March 21. 

“We did have discussions with the developer, [Charlie] Armstrong, and we did come to agreement, a funding agreement,” Rogers said 

Location map for the 240 Stribling project

The amended agreement would keep the loan at $2.9 million. The idea has always been that Southern Development would be paid back through the tax revenue generated by higher assessments based on the new development. The initial agreement would have given Southern Development 100 percent of the new tax revenue, but that would have been against the city’s policy to allocate a percentage of new real estate tax funds towards education. 

“We negotiated that it would be 60 / 40 and 60 percent would go to repay the loan,” Rogers said. “And we agreed for that arrangement, it would be a longer financing agreement.” 

The city will also allocate $1.3 million funding in the Capital Improvement Program for the project as well to cover the costs and possible overruns. 

“And from discussions with the engineer, that should be enough to cover the project,” Rogers said. 

Armstrong said the $2.9 million will be available to the city shortly.

“The agreement stipulates that we would have those funds available and drawable by the city before we can pull a land disturbing permit,” Armstrong said. 

City engineer Jack Dawson said he did not have a timeline when the roadway would be upgraded, but said planning work on Stribling would commence on July 1 if not before. 

“Which means finding a consultant, doing the planning, community outreach, all of the things that go into development of a project of this size,” Dawson said. 

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook was persuaded to proceed. 

“If the neighbors’ concern is that somehow the developer is going to withhold the construction of the community assets until everything else is done, that’s not going to be happening,” Snook said. 

Armstrong said he is hoping to be under construction within 12 to 18 months. The project will be constructed in 20 phases. 

Snook said the intersection of Stribling and Jefferson Park Avenue Extended also needs to be improved. 

“That’s the kind of thing it strikes me as a manageable problem and one that we can continue to work toward for solutions,” Snook said. “It doesn’t seem to me to be an insurmountable problem.” 

Existing conditions on Stribling Avenue (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders said Council would get an update in the future on how Stribling would be maintained at a time when construction of both 240 Stribling and the upgrade to the street are underway.

“We will bring back to you more details on how we will manage this project unlike maybe how we’ve done other projects in the past because this one is such a significantly complicated and somewhat controversial project,” Sanders said. 

Councilor Michael Payne said the city should be able to better analyze how much economic value a developer gets for lots that are rezoned. 

“So that we can understand our position vis-a-vis the developer in a situation like this when we are in a way going to be informally negotiating,” Payne said. “I will say I don’t think that we were perhaps were careful in our analysis in setting ourselves up for this.” 

Payne voted in favor of the rezoning and the agreement, which passed unanimously. 

Midway Manor Elevator update

Finally today, in Tuesday’s program, there was a section on Council’s approval of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s approval of $23 million in tax-exempt bonds to cover the costs of purchasing and renovating Midway Manor. Councilor Michael Payne had expressed concern about a faulty elevator. I checked in with Standard Communities and received this statement yesterday.

“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

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