Apr 8 • 21M

April 8, 2022: City public housing awarded over $1M this week for South First Street Phase 2; Both Albemarle and Greene pursuing RAISE grants for future pathways

Plus: Charlottesville to resume disconnecting utility customers for non-payment

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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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Another Friday has arrived, and somehow this is the 14th such day of 2022. Is this year going faster than the others, and if so, is there a way this can be stopped? These are not questions within the scope of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to put some of the pieces together. I’m your ever-puzzling host, Sean Tubbs. 

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On today’s program:

  • Albemarle Supervisors return to in-person meetings and commemorate Fair Housing Month

  • Both the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the City of Charlottesville award funding to housing projects in the area

  • Charlottesville may change the way to administers transportation projects

  • Governor Youngkin rescinds an executive order that banned state agencies from using single-use plastic 

  • Bacteria levels in a Charlottesville waterway are back to normal

  • And the city of Charlottesville will resume disconnecting utility customers for unpaid balances 

First subscriber-supported public service announcement - MLKCVILLE

Charlottesville’s Community Celebration of the life, times, and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. continues on April 10 with  keynote speeches from the Rev. Brenda Brown-Grooms, the Rev. Alvin Edwards, and Rabbi Tom Gutherz. All three will appear the event at the Ting Pavilion on the east end of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall beginning at 3 p.m. Rev. Brown-Grooms is co-pastor of New Beginnings Christian Community; Rev. Edwards serves Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, and Rabbi Gutherz, Congregation Beth Israel.

The Community Celebration is put on each year by the Mount Zion First African Baptist Church. Visit and bookmark the YouTube MLKCVille page to review part one of the celebration as well as previous events. 


Albemarle Supervisors return to in-person meetings

After 25 months, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors have held a meeting in Lane Auditorium, where they have met since the county acquired the former Lane High School for an administration building back in the late 70’s. Members of the public were there, too, and Rivanna Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley noted the occasion. 

“I just wanted to welcome everybody who came today and it’s wonderful to be back in person and to see so many people and all of us to be together,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. 

The sentiment was shared by Scottsville Supervisor and Chair Donna Price.

“It is wonderful to be back live, in-person, in Lane Auditorium, and we expect that we will continue to see more people show up for our meetings,” Price said. “But the silver lining that’s come out of the pandemic in terms of our situation is that we now have this hybrid opportunity so those are not able to come to Lane Auditorium can still participate virtually.” 

Albemarle Supervisors then made a proclamation to recognize April as Fair Housing Month. Supervisor Ned Gallaway of the Rio District read from the proclamation, which marks the 54th anniversary of the passage of Title ViII of the Civil Rights Act

“This act provides for equal housing opportunities for all Americans, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability, as well as to ensure fair practice in the sale, rental, or financing of property,” Gallaway said. 

The proclamation states it is the intention of Albemarle Supervisors to recognize the importance of housing rights. They heard from Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing coordinator. 

“I can’t say enough about how important it is to be able to provide housing choice to all of our residents because where we live really does matter,” Pethia said. “It determines the quality of education we will have, the quality and types of employment opportunities that we can access, what amenities we have available to us. Fair housing is really the basis of success throughout everyone’s lives.” 

Pethia said Albemarle is celebrating Fair Housing Month with an art contest. Visit the county’s website at engage.albemarle.org to learn more and to submit your work. 

Poster from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development marking Fair Housing Month

TJPDC funds three affordable housing projects; Charlottesville funds five

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has awarded $1.8 million in funds to regional housing nonprofits and entities. The funding comes from a $2 million grant to the TJPDC from the entity formerly known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority for the purpose of constructing or preserving affordable housing. 

“By virtue of us receiving $2 million, we are obligated to construct at least 20 new affordable housing units,” said Ian Baxter, a planner with the TJPDC. 

The TJPDC received five proposals totalling $6 million in requests. Baxter said these were measured by a series of metrics. 

“Cost per unit, location of development, type of development, affordability level, site control, funding sources, and the capacity to be completed by June 2024,” Baxter said. 

The funding will be split among three providers.

  • $640,000 for three Habitat for Humanity chapters for 32 new units to be build throughout the TJPDC region

  • $660,000 to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for 48 units at the second phase of the South First Street redevelopment

  • $500,000 for Virginia Supportive Housing for 80 new permanent supportive housing as part of the Premier Circle project

“This $1.8 million will fund developments in all of the six jurisdictions in the planning district,” Baxter said. “It will create a mix of rental, supportive housing, and new homeowner units, all affordable.”

This is the first time the TJPDC has received funds from Virginia Housing for this purpose. Executive Director Christine Jacobs said she is hopeful that there will be another round in the future. 

Unit counts for the TJPDC’s award of $1.8 million in funds for affordable housing 

Council makes CAHF awards, repurposes the HAC

On Monday, the city of Charlottesville awarded $750,000 in funds from the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. Alex Ikefuna is the interim director of the Office of Community Solutions, a relatively new division of city government set up to oversee housing issues.

“Staff received seven applications totaling $4,6 million,” Ikefuna said.

They are:

  • $425,000 to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for South Street Phase 2

  • $75,000 for down payment assistance for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville’s Equity Homeownership Initiative 

  • $100,000 for Albemarle Housing Improvement Program’s Charlottesville Critical Repair Program 

  • $50,000 for the Local Energy Alliance Program’s Assisted Home Performance and Electrification Ready (AHP) targeted to owner occupied homes.

  • $100,000 for LEAP’s AHP for renter occupied homes

Council also agreed to amend the by-laws for the Housing Advisory Committee to reduce membership and to transfer review of city housing funds to a dedicated Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund Committee.

Three Councilors indicated they wanted to make sure a representative from the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is on the amended Housing Advisory Committee. 

“In my view, the bottom line is just to try to have a body that is more effective in giving City Council guidance about how to implement our affordable housing strategy and meet our affordable housing goals and these are just changes meant to have it be a more effective and efficient body in doing that for us,” said City Councilor Michael Payne, who is also on the CRHA’s Board of Commissioners. 

Charlottesville to resume utility disconnections for non-payment

In another sign that the pandemic has receded, the city of Charlottesville has announced they will resume disconnecting water, sewer, and natural gas service for non-payment beginning next week. 

“Green door hangers will be distributed to addresses that owe balances, encouraging customers to set up payment arrangements,” reads the announcement sent out by the city yesterday

The city’s utility billing office stopped disconnecting service for unpaid bills in March 2020 soon after the state of emergency was declared, followed by a moratorium imposed by the State Corporation Commission. That was lifted in last September. 

According to the release, the utility billing office continued to tell customers with unpaid balances how much they owed. The city covered the cost of $557,000 through various federal assistance programs related to the pandemic.

Governor Youngkin overturns previous administration’s order to ban single-use plastic 

In March 2021, former Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning state agencies from buying, selling, or distributing single-use plastics. 

His successor, Governor Glenn Youngkin, has called that directive “burdensome” and yesterday replaced it with a new one that directs state agencies to recognize the value of recycling. 

"It is the policy of the Commonwealth, and all executive branch state agencies, including state institutions of higher education, and their concessioners (Agency or Agencies) to increase awareness of the importance of recycling and better capture recyclable material, as well as encourage the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) products and biodegradable materials,” reads Executive Order 17.

The order also takes an economic development approach and directs the Department of Environmental Quality to attract recycling-related businesses to Virginia.

The University of Virginia formed a working group last April to begin to implement the Northam administration’s order. Last month, the UVA Sustainability Office accepted the 2022 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Gold Award for its efforts, according to an article on their website.

“The University of Virginia is taking active measures to enhance sustainability and reduce waste, pursuant with the directives detailed in Governor Youngkin's Executive Order 17 and in former governor Ralph Northam's Executive Order 77,” said Deputy UVA Spokesperson Bethanie Glover in an email to Charlottesville Community Engagement this afternoon.

Glover said sustainability leaders at UVA will be evaluating the new executive order to determine what additional steps need to be taken.

Lela Garner accepted the 2022 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Gold Award. Learn more on the UVA Sustainability website. (Credit: University of Virginia)

 

Need trees? Charlottesville Area Tree Steward sale is this Saturday! 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled public service announcement, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards are preparing to hold their first in-person tree sale since 2019. On April 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards will open up their tree nursery at the Fontaine Research Park and will sell saplings of native trees, some of which are hard to find from commercial sources. The prices will be between $5 and $15. There will be large trees from Birch to Sycamore, smaller trees from Blackgum to Witch Hazel, and shrubbery! Visit charlottesvilletreestewards.org to learn more!

Albemarle and Greene both receive regional support for Three Notch’d Trail planning grant

The members of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission have indicated support for two separate planning efforts for more pathways in the region. Both Albemarle County and Greene County are seeking federal funds to build new infrastructure. 

“The grant would fund a shared bike pedestrian path from the city of Charlottesville to Crozet likely along U.S. 250,” said Jessica Hersh-Ballering, a transportation planner with Albemarle County. “From there it would continue west all the way to the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Nelson County.” 

“In Greene, because we are a more rural community, there are no walking paths even in our growth area,” said Jim Frydl, the Greene County Planning Director. “If you live in the housing that’s in the growth area, there’s no safe way to walk to the shopping and the work centers.”

A federal infrastructure bill passed by the U.S. Congress last year has increased funding for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program, which goes by the acronym RAISE. 

A basic overview of the area planned for the future Three Notch’d Trail

Albemarle is requesting between $1.5 million and $3 million for the planning effort. The idea would be to build something that works as both a functional transportation use as well as a recreational destination that could attract tourism as is the case with the Virginia Capital Trail

“This is a range that we are requesting because we are still working through our budget for this project with some local consultants,” Hersh-Ballering said. “We will have a number somewhere in this range finalized by the time we submit our application next week.” 

If funded, the project would first conduct a feasibility study, particularly to identify a route between Crozet and the Blue Ridge Tunnel. 

“It could go directly through Crozet, it could go a little south of Crozet and go near more schools, or it could follow potentially the CSX railroad line to have a very gentle grade for the entirety of that section,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

The funding would also include public outreach as well as “functional design” for the trail that would fall short of environmental review required for the project to go to construction.

“So the idea is that it would be really expensive to construct the project all at once so what we’re probably going to do is identify those pieces that can stand-alone and then use some of our more common, smaller funding sources to fund construction separately,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

The entire route would span between 25 to 30 miles and would connect three localities. The TJPDC agreed to send a letter of support without comment. 

Greene County is seeking a $1.4 million RAISE grant to plan for a trail between the South River Falls in the northwest of the county to the town of Stanardsville, A second pathway would follow along U.S. 33 to connect to the unincorporated area of Ruckersville. 

“And then interconnectivity pathways in Ruckersville that connect the two nodes of the Ruckersville growth area,” Frydl said. 

Frydl said Greene’s project would also likely be built in phases. 

Charlottesville will be reviewing how it works with VDOT

Since 2005, The City of Charlottesville has planned and administered construction of transportation projects within city limits as part of something called the First Cities program or the Urban Construction Initiative. This includes major projects such as the Belmont Bridge replacement currently underway, and extends to the many Smart Scale projects for which the city has received dozens of millions of dollars in funding.

This week, Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders told City Council on Monday that this arrangement is under review.

“Our leadership and project management teams are completing a review of our [Virginia Department of Transportation] program ahead of a deep dive with VDOT that’s scheduled fot later this month,” Sanders said. “We anticipate some changes that we’ll be bringing to Council in regards to how we manage those projects going forward.”

Last year, City Council agreed to withdraw local money required to match state funds awarded to the West Main Streetscape and to put this local dollars toward to renovations of Buford Middle School. 

Sanders said the city has begun work with the firm EPR on a study of Fifth Street Extended to inform a new Smart Scale application for the next round. Community meetings may be held later this month but definitely by May. Council will get a presentation at their meeting on May 16. 

Dairy Road bridge

There is no local match necessary for the pending replacement of a bridge that carries Dairy Road over the U.S. 250 bypass. VDOT has provided $7.2 million in funding to replace the bridge from a pot of money called State of Good Repair. Tony Edwards is the Development Services Manager in the Charlottesville Public Works Department. 

“It received a condition rating of 4 for the deck, and therefore qualifies for the SGR funding,” Edwards said. “In 2015 the sidewalk was replaced by a separate bike and pedestrian bridge next to the original structure which will provide public access during construction.” 

The design phase will now begin and a public hearing for that phase will be held at some point in the future.  

Pollocks Branch bacteria levels have returned to normal

Finally today, the City of Charlottesville has reported that bacteria levels in a waterway south of the Downtown Mall have returned to normal. In late March, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance analyzed water samples from Pollocks Branch and found elevated levels of E.Coli. A second round of tests saw lower levels. 

“Given the steady decrease in E. coli levels and the lack of evidence of a source of the E. coli, the elevated levels were likely related to rainfall and associated runoff,” reads today’s announcement. 

The Rivanna Conservation Alliance will continue to monitor the situation. For more information, visit rivannariver.org.

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