Aug 25 • 22M

August 25, 2022: Fifth/Avon group gets first look at 145-acre Sieg development proposal; Charlottesville panel approves demolition for downtown building

Plus: TJPDC schedules two meetings for special business

 
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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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As of today, there’s one more week until September, a statement possibly not relevant except to people selling month-to-month calendars. There are 28 days until the Fall Equinox, so fans of longer days have a full February to celebrate or lament the coming of winter. This is Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that keeps track of a lot of things, and not all of them are numbered. I’m your two syllable host, Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s series of segments:

  • The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission schedules two meetings to address the sale of their buildings, and possible changes to a Smart Scale project at Hydraulic and 29 

  • Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review approves demolition of a building on West Market Street

  • The end of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s Summer Reading Challenge is near

  • Albemarle’s Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Committee gets a first look at a 145 acre development whose size could depend on what transportation infrastructure gets built 

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First shout-out: Save the date for Rivanna Conservation Alliance’s Community Watershed clean-up

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Mark your calendar for the Rivanna Conversation Alliance’s third annual Rivanna River Round-Up community watershed cleanup coming up on Saturday, September 24. The RCA organized the first round-up in September 2020 as a safe way for the community to give back to the river during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two years, a total of 245 volunteers have cleaned up 67 miles of streams, nearby trails and the Rivanna River, removing 192 tires and 213 large bags of trash from the waterways. Details will soon be made available and you can get those by signing up for the Rivanna Conservation Alliance newsletter at rivannariver.org

Two new TJPDC meetings scheduled for this week

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has scheduled two meetings this week to discuss various issues. One involves a series of transportation projects in the area, and the other is more administrative.

At noon-thirty on Friday, the executive committee of the TJPDC will meet virtually to discuss the sale of the building on Water Street that serves as their headquarters. As mentioned in my July 2022 property transactions report, 2PIC LLC bought four parcels from JA-ZAN LLC for $10.5 million, including the TJPDC’s offices. The company is represented by Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, according to a letter to the TJPDC from new property owners. 

The other three parcels are in the Seminole Square Shopping Center. 

The committee will also take a look at the FY24 budget and have a discussion of the per capita rate for the agency. Meeting materials are available on their website.

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, the policy board of the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet to amend a previously awarded Smart Scale project. In 2021, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $5.73 million in additional funds for a project to address various aspects of the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29. There had been about $18 million left over the Route29 Solutions project and that funding was used as a match in the Smart Scale process. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation held the official design public hearing for the project in late May. There are five components:

  • Improvements at Hydraulic Road / U.S. 29 intersection

  • Construction of Continuous Green-T intersection at Angus Road / U.S. 29

  • Construction of Pedestrian Bridge over U.S. 29 near Zan Road

  • Construction of Roundabout at Hydraulic Road / Hillsdale Drive

  • Access Management at Michie Drive and Brandywine Drive

There will be an update on the $24 million project, which is currently expected to go to bid sometime this fall. According to the agenda for the meeting, there will be a discussion of potential adjustments.

Three of the projects in the Smart Scale Round 4 project that the MPO Policy Board at their meeting on Friday

BAR conditionally approves demolition of downtown Charlottesville building

The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review has approved the demolition of a former gas station on West Market Street that has been the home of Brown’s Lock and Safe, but it will take some time before the structure is removed. 

“Built in 1935 and was renovated sometime in the mid 1960’s,” said Jeff Werner, the city’s historic preservation planner. 

The building is a contributing structure to the Charlottesville and Albemarle County Historic Courthouse District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1982. The BAR must weigh in on demolition requests as well as whatever use may take place on the site. (read the nomination form)

“There’s nothing about the building that is remarkable in terms of craftsmanship or materials,” Werner said. “It could easily be duplicated. A cinder block building in Charlottesville is not unusual.”

There are no plans for what would replace the building, but it’s next to 218 West Market Street which will be demolished to make way for the Market Promenade residential building. 

“The demolition is requested in order to facilitate redevelopment of the site and I don’t know what the plan is for this and the building may well remain in use until that time.”

Werner said that with the case of 218 West Market Street, a building permit was required to be issued before demolition could begin. That permit has not yet been issued, according to the city’s building permit database

Jeff Dreyfus of Bushman Dreyfus Architects represents Heirloom Development, the developer of Six Hundred West Main and what be known as Market Promenade at 218 West Market Street. He said Heirloom wants to possibly include 210 West Market as part of that project. 

“The current owner signed the application [and] there is an agreement to move forward with sale of the property under a number of conditions,” Dreyfus said. “One of them is if the building can be demolished.”

Dreyfus said his client would be willing to places conditions on their demolition permit.

“We wouldn’t take the building down until we were ready to move forward with the construction project,” Dreyfus said. 

Dreyfus said design of Market Promenade is still in the works and has been delayed by the COVID pandemic. 

BAR member Cheri Lewis said she would support a vote to demolish, but not without some sadness.

“I think this application does satisfy all of the criteria for demolition,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t say that I don’t have another twinge of regret seeing another little blast from the plase like the watchmaker’s building on Water Street gone from the landscape.”

Lewis noted that all of Vinegar Hill was razed on a speculative basis by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority in the 1960’s.  She said she was glad of the condition to require a building permit before this structure and the one next door at 218 come down. 

“We demolished an entire community in Charlottesville and had nothing to replace it with and I think we need to learn from that and never do that again,” Lewis said. 

The motion passed.

Two photos of 210 East Market Street from two different eras (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

JMRL Summer Reading Challenge wrapping up

The days are growing less lazy, less hazy, but let’s be honest. The crazy isn’t going away anytime soon. But, we are close to the end of traditional summer if not astronomical summer, which means students back in school and the end to the Jefferson Madison Regional Library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge. 

“3,506 participants have collectively logged 1,270,726 minutes of reading!” wrote Jennifer MacAdam-Miller, a public communications specialist for JMRL. 

The Summer Reading Challenge is a way for the library to promote the visual consumption of printed material while school is not in session. MacAdam-Miller said that as of Tuesday, there have been 36,429 reading challenge activities completed, 20,745 badges have been earned, and 5,471 prizes have been redeemed. 

“With 1,063 participants, Northside Library is leading all branches in Summer Reading Challenge participation,” MacAdam-Miller wrote. “Crozet is a close second with 967 participants.”

There’s still time for you to add to the numbers but you may want to look into upcoming challenges. In September, the Beanstack Reading Challenge pertains to NASA’s Artemis Project. 

Second shout-out: Rivanna Trail Foundation marks 30 years

In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out: The Rivanna Trail turns 30 this year and to mark the occasion the Rivanna Trail Foundation is throwing a party the weekend of September 24. It’s also the annual Loop De Ville which is being expanded this year. 

That Saturday is National Public Lands Day, and if you want to walk the 20 mile loop of the Rivanna Trail or take place in a run of the circuit, go ahead and register now. What about a mountain bike ride? The first 25 registrants for each will get free admission to that night’s Rivanna Roots Concert at the Rivanna River Company

Visit rivannatrails.org to learn more about what’s happening on Sunday, including a 15-mile mountain bike ride with the Charlottesville Mountain Bike Club, a family-friendly walk at Riverview Park, and a five mile run. That’s followed with a celebration from noon to five at the Wool Factory. For all of the details, visit rivannatrails.org

Community meeting held for large mixed-use community near I-64 / U.S. 29 interchange

Albemarle County is in the early stages of a Comprehensive Plan review as well as an update of its zoning code. There will be many more stories about the crafting of those aspirational and regulatory documents, but this next one is about one of the largest development proposals to come through Albemarle in some time. 

Last week, the Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Committee got a first look at Riverbend Development’s proposal for how to develop what’s known as the Sieg property. Riverbend has a rezoning application in for seven parcels of land totaling 145 acres. 

“They are located on the south side of I-64 and on the northwest side of U.S. Route 29,” said

Cameron Langille, a principal planner in Albemarle County’s Community Development Department. “It’s basically right next to the exit 118 interchange at [29] and I-64].”

That’s just within Albemarle’s growth area and part of the land is zoned for single-family residential use. The other part is zoned for highway commercial.

“These properties are located within the Southern and Western Neighborhoods Development Area and that’s the master plan that applies,” Langille said. 

That section of the Comprehensive Plan calls for some of the land to be “Regional Mixed Use Center.”

“And that allows for residential units up to 34 units per acre,” Langille said. “It also calls for larger retail and service uses as well as offices.” 

Some of the land is colored purple for industrial uses and some of the land is green for Parks and Green Systems.

“That land use designation applies to properties of land where there is sensitive environmental features so things like a stream buffer of steep slopes or a food plain and what the master plan says is that if a proposal comes forth to redevelop those pieces of land that those areas should basically be left undisturbed,” Langille said. “They could be incorporated into something like a greenway or open space.” 

A proposed land use map for the Sieg property, though the exact concept will likely change as the Code of Development is amended (Credit: Riverbend Development) 

The rezoning request is for the Neighborhood Model District which calls for residential and non-residential uses. A fifth of the land rezoned must be in open space and the rules for the rest are drawn up unique to the site.

“Neighborhood Model Districts, if they are approved for a property, get what is called a Code of Development applied to them and a Code of Development is a specific set of development regulations that apply within that project alone.” 

In this case, Riverbend Development has written up a 37-page Code of Development that seeks a range of a minimum of 500 residential units and a maximum of 1,365 as well as a range of 100,000 to 350,000 square feet of nonresidential uses. (read the current Code of Development)

Ashley Davies with Riverbend Development said the project’s location is ideal. 

“When you’re on the property, you almost feel like you’re in the Shenandoah mountains but you’re really just right outside the city limits so it’s really a special place,” Davies said. 

Davies said future residents would have close access to the future Hedgerow Park that the county will eventually program as well as other natural areas nearby including Ragged Mountain Natural Area. She said Riverbend might build an entranceway to unlock the 340 acres at Hedgerow, which was donated to the county by the late Jane Heyward. 

A diagram of the proposed internal roadway to serve the development, including access points to U.S. 29 (Credit: Riverbend Development) 

One of the biggest impacts from the more intense use would be traffic. The U.S. 29 and Interstate 64 interchange is already a troubled one that has seen two fatal accidents this year. The Virginia Department of Transportation has recently added a limited-use traffic signal to control some of the turn movements, and Davies explained how this project would interface with what is now a four lane highway to Lynchburg. 

“There are three access points to Route 29, two primary access points and then the existing Shepherds Hill Road would be just kept as an emergency access,” Davies said. “But the primary access point would be a new road. And then we’re currently studying on the new access point what makes the most sense for getting people out of the development and heading back to Charlottesville.” 

Potential commercial uses could be fast casual restaurants as well as a brewery. 

“And we have been working with Roger [Johnson] and his team in economic development on the office buildings that we’re proposing,” Davies said. 

The number of units on the site as well as the exact amount of commercial space will depend on how well new transportation infrastructure might function. Potential solutions to assisting with left-hand turn movements out of the development include a restricted-crossing U-turn, conventional signals, and a continuous green-T intersection. 

“This entire development is really governed by the traffic patterns and people being able to get in and out of the site so that’s going to be kind of the natural determinant of the mix of uses that you can actually achieve on the site plan but at the level of the rezoning, the idea is that you want to maintain a certain flexibility and that gets more and more specific as you work your way through the site plan process,” Davies said. 

Several members of the Fifth and Avon Committee expressed concern about traffic impacts.

“Any sort of mixed-use development of this size needs probably three main sources of ingress and egress as opposed to one,” said Shawn Brydge. “The volume you’re going to have with 825 homes plus all the commercial uses is going to overwhelm one intersection coming in and out.”

Davies repeated that the exact number of units is not known yet. She said the Brookhill development south of Hollymead is one comparison of a project whose build-out depended on developing new intersections onto U.S. 29.  At one point, more commercial uses were planned there. 

“We definitely added more residential as we brought in the second part of the site so that did require we really dial down some of those higher intensity commercial uses because the access point just wouldn’t be able to handle it if you get beyond a certain level of development,” Davies said. 

No dates have yet been set for public hearings with the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors. A review letter from staff was sent out on Wednesday that includes the following comments: (read the letter)

  • Albemarle’s Housing Office wants to know how much Riverbend would pay for each unit required to be below-market under the county’s Housing Policy. Developers have the ability to pay a certain amount per unit rather than provide them on site, but Riverbend has not specified what will happen at this project.  

  • The county wants more information about how many new students the development would generate for public schools. The project is in the feeder pattern that includes Red Hill Elementary, Walton Middle, and Monticello High School. 

  • The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority wants more information about sewer capacity with the statement: “It doesn’t appear this parcel was initially planned for growth for RWSA must confirm that capacity is available.” The RWSA also wants details on how the project will tie into existing water and sewer lines. 

  • The Virginia Department of Transportation is concerned about proposed improvements at the intersection of Teel Road and Route 29.

  • Staff wants to see Riverbend’s math on their claim that the Comprehensive Plan calls for a maximum of 3,104 units (see Table 7) 

Table 7 of the Code of Development (Credit: Riverbend Development) 

Housekeeping notes for Episode 422

Another episode out, and another opportunity to thank the new subscribers who have stepped up this week to ensure this newsletter and podcast is able to continue production. There’s a lot of information to sift through, and I’m seeking to write up as many summaries as possible so many people know more about the details about how land use proposals and transportation infrastructure fit together - or don’t. Charlottesville Community Engagement seeks to keep track of what’s planned, what’s funded, and what’s delayed, but hopefully in a way that’s engaging.

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