August 16, 2021: Belmont Bridge construction details; Administrator Lawless talks about Scottsville

Another week begins as the earth moves closer to the next equinox

  
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In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Help support black-owned business in the Charlottesville area. Check out the Charlottesville Black Business Directory at cvilleblackbiz.com and choose between a variety of goods and services, ranging from beauty supplies, professional services, and e-commerce. Visit cvilleblackbiz.com as soon as you can to get started. 

On today’s show:

  • Details on the Belmont Bridge construction

  • Jack Jouett Middle School gets a new name 

  • The COVID surge continues 

  • A conversation with Matt Lawless, the town administrator of Scottsville


The summer COVID surge continues with a seven-day average of new cases at 2,058 and a percent positivity of 8.2. A month ago those numbers were 336 and 2.7 respectively. There were 2,302 cases reported Saturday, 1,887 on Sunday, and 1,712 this morning. The percentage of fully vaccinated Virginians is now at 55.2 percent and the percentage of adult Virginians is at 66.3 percent.

On Friday, a Centers for Disease Control panel recommended third doses of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine for people who are immunocompromised. Later that day, the federal Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency authorization to allow that to eventually occur. 

Dr. Denise Bonds, the head of the Blue Ridge Health District, will be a featured guest at tonight’s meeting of the Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee to answer questions on the pandemic. 


On Saturday, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville dedicated two homes in Charlottesville’s Venable neighborhood. The two new homeowners are graduates of Habitat’s Homeownership Program and the Pathways to Housing Program. Habitat purchased two lots on 12th Street Northwest from Dogwood Properties of Cville LLC in December 2019. 

Earlier this month, Habitat submitted a site plan for more blocks of the first phase of the redevelopment of the Southwood mobile home park. Specifically, Timmon Groups has filed a site development plan for the Village 2 on the land that’s already been zoned by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. This section will contain eight market-rate single family homes and 21 market-rate townhomes with no income restrictions. 

Among the Habitat units in this section are three Habitat single family homes to be reserved for households below 80 percent of the area median income for an affordability period of 40 years. There are also ten Habitat townhomes, and three Habitat units in duplexes. The Albemarle Planning Commission got an update on the rest of the first phase of rezoning in July, and you can read a summary here


In 319 days, Jack Jouett Middle School in Albemarle County will be known as Journey Middle School. The Albemarle School Board voted to rename the school, which has been named for the historical figure since opening as a junior high school in 1966. For more on this story, I recommend Katherine Knott’s story in the Daily Progress. (presentation to Albemarle School Board)


After several years of planning and study, there is an active construction site for the Belmont Bridge now that the project is fully approved and fully funded. The city held an information session on August 11 and Brian McPeters is with Kimley Horn, the firm that designed and engineered the bridge. The event was referred to as a Pardon Our Dust Meeting. (presentation) (watch the video)

“The project is primarily replacing the existing Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. “That’s the bridge that carries traffic northbound and southbound over the railroad, over Old Avon, and over Water Street. It does include a secondary pedestrian-style bridge.”

That bridge connects to a new mezzanine to be built in the area leading to the Ting Pavilion, and will make the walkway from the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“But it will also build a concrete and steel structure that will be a great gathering place and create a sense of place for folks interacting with the bridge and accessing the Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. 

Construction of the bridge will take about 31 months from now to complete, according to McPeters, the manager of the city’s urban construction initiative. The informational meeting focused on how the traffic of all types on the roadway will be affected.

“There will be inconvenience and we do ask for your patience and it will be our job to inform you of what that inconvenience will be so you can plan accordingly and possible take an alternate route or be prepared for slight delays,” McPeters said. 

Right now, construction activities have been limited to utility relocation and parking lot construction. When things really get underway, traffic will be moved around to different sections. 

“Generally speaking, during daytime hours, traffic will always have one lane northbound and one lane southbound, and then you’ll have turn lanes at the intersections similar to what you have today,” McPeters said. 

For the full details, take a look at the presentation. 

Some highlights from the project:

  • Five-way intersection at Old Avon/9th/Garret/Levy will be simplified with removal of Old Avon movement, with a section of Old Avon become a pedestrian plaza space 

  • Expansion of the pedestrian passageway from the bridge to the Pavilion area

  • A pedestrian passageway will be built at the Graves Street intersection to replace existing at-grade crosswalk 


You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement and time now for another audience -supported public service announcement. 

The nonprofit group Resilient Virginia works to inform decision makers and officials about how to prepare for a changing world. They’re holding their annual event virtually this year, at a time when we’re all digesting the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Resilient Recovery Conference will take place the mornings of August 25, August 26, and August 27. Take a look at the details of the event as well as pricing at resilientvirginia.org


Albemarle County and Fluvanna County both have one town, and it’s Scottsville. The 1.54 square mile community has its own separate municipal government, with a police force, an administration building, a town Council, and a town administrator. That person is currently Matt Lawless, who has served in the position since March 2018. Before that, he served in the same position in the town of Boones Mill in Franklin County. Lawless lives in Scottsville, but recently traveled up to Charlottesville to sit with me one morning on the Downtown Mall. 

To have the full experience, take a listen to the fifteen minute interview. Here are some of the highlights for readers.

“Scottsville is the oldest and only incorporated town in Albemarle County,” Lawless said. “We’re on the James River at the southern end of Albemarle and we can see Buckingham and Fluvanna from a high point in town.”

As town administrator, Lawless oversees planning, economic development, zoning, flood control, tourism marketing, and anything else that is required of him. At one point, Scottsville was the Albemarle county seat.

“Before Charlottesville was settled and before the Three Notch’d Road was built, the trade up and down the James River was fastest and most efficient, so having a town on the river right upstream from Richmond was of primary importance,” Lawless said.

Lawless said there are architectural styles from colonial to early modern in the buildings that have survived floods. A levy project in the 1980’s now protects the community from cyclical devastation.

“The last big flood in town was in 1972,” Lawless said. “Hurricane Agnes. Water above the first floor and into the second floor of many of the downtown buildings. In the 1980’s, the town organized and got support for a levy and pump system which protects the town to a wonderful high level now. It still needs maintenance and staffing, and that’s very important. We rely on a volunteer corps to maintain that but it protects the town and supports future investment.”

Is Scottsville in Albemarle’s growth area? What role might Scottsville play in providing homes for people to live? What are the constraints on its growth? What about the future of the tire plant? What about passenger rail? Why didn’t Columbia in Fluvanna County survive like Scottsville?

For those questions, you’ll have to take a listen to the whole interview. After all, this is a podcast and newsletter.

Thanks to all of my Substack and Patreon supporters for their investment. The interview was made with equipment purchased earlier this year. I’m grateful for the ability to dedicate my time and energy to this line of work. Special thanks as well to my friend Jeffry Cudlin for most of the music in the show. His involvement is made possible by a generous contribution this past January from the Valley Research Center, which may or may not actually exist.