August 30, 2021: Crozet Master Plan draft is available for review; VMDO seeks feedback on Charlottesville schools reconfiguration

  
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In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout:

What’s your perfect holiday weekend in Charlottesville? Hanging with friends outside... Great live music... Maybe breaking a Guinness world record? Then mark your calendar for WTJU 91.1 FM's Freefall Music Festival -- Saturday, September 4 starting at 3 p.m. at IX Art Park. Live performances by Zuzu's Hot Five, Susie and the Pistols, and Good Dog Nigel. There will be an attempt to form the world's largest human music note at 7:30 p.m. Plus, a hot dog and veggie dog cookout for our whole community. Find out more at wtju.net.

On today’s show:

  • An update on COVID numbers from over the weekend

  • A representative from King Family Vineyards on the area’s wine industry

  • A draft of the Crozet Master Plan is ready for review

  • The architect for Charlottesville City School reconfiguration wants feedback on the latest design schemes


The number of fully vaccinated Virginians continues to increase and is now at a total of 56.6 percent of the whole population and 67.7 percent of adults. The seven-day average for new cases each day is now 3,112 and the percent positivity has increased to 10.1 percent. 

The percent positivity in the Blue Ridge Health District has increased to 6.3 percent with 54 new cases reported today. The agency sent out an email at publication stating there is now a high level of community transmission. Officials are urging people to wear masks and return to physical distancing.

To the south, Amherst County schools have reverted to virtual instruction due to a COVID outbreak. In-person instruction will begin again on September 2 and all students will have to show a negative test to enter classrooms. If they refuse, they will have to stay home until September 7. 

The public school systems in both Albemarle County and Charlottesville have public dashboards with the number of cases. (Charlottesville Schools tracker) (Albemarle County Schools tracker


Speaking of schools, the Charlottesville City Schools system is seeking feedback on various design schemes for the multi-million reconfiguration of elementary and middle schools. The architectural firm VMDO has produced a series of potential upgrades to both Walker Upper Elementary School and Buford Middle School. Walker would be converted to a pre-K facility and 6th grade would be added at Buford, with 5th graders distributed across the existing elementary schools. 

The Charlottesville School Board will get a project update on Thursday, and the City Council will get an update on October 4. Council will be asked to provide direction on October 18. The current five year capital improvement program budget sets aside $50 million for the project, but that number is not expected to cover the full cost. (fill out the survey)


Later this week we’ll hear a lot about the Comprehensive Plan process in Charlottesville. Last week, the full draft of the Crozet Master Plan was released for public comment and it might be worth comparing the two.

The Crozet Master Plan is part of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan and an update has been in development for the past two years. The draft has been produced internally by planners in the Albemarle Department of Community Development and is similar in design to the Rio Road / 29 Small Area Plan and the update of the Pantops Master Plan. There are five chapters in the 137-page plan. A questionnaire is open through September 14, which is also the day of the public hearing before the Albemarle Planning Commission. The Board of Supervisors will hold their public hearing on October 20. (read the draft here)

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A researcher at Virginia Tech wants your help to find out if there are any pine snakes in the Commonwealth. The last sighting of this non-venomous snake was over 30 years ago, according to a release from the College of Natural Resources and Environment. If you think you’ve seen one and can provide documentation, Assistant Professor Kevin Hamed wants to hear from you.  You can get his information here.

“Pinesnakes (aka bull snakes) provide ecosystem services to humans by preying on many creatures that cause homeowners problems, such as small mammals,” reads a press release from August 26. “A better understanding of their current distribution in Virginia is needed to manage and conserve these amazing reptiles.”

The typical pinesnake is around 50 inches long, and is not to be confused with either the eastern hog-nosed snake, or the juvenile eastern ratsnake. 


In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! 


Charlottesville is not the only college town in Virginia that may have been undercounted in the 2020 U.S. Census due to the closure of universities at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Demographer Hamilton Lombard of the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia told the Harrisonburg Citizen last week that that city’s population count may be as much as 2,000 below where it should be based on a comparison with housing data from building permits. The official count in the Census is 51,484, which is much lower than the Weldon Cooper Center’s 2020 estimate of 54,094. Charlottesville’s count of 46,553 is lower than the Weldon Cooper estimate of 49,447. To listen to more from Lombard, go back and review the August 21, 2021 installment of this newsletter


Albemarle County leads the Commonwealth of Virginia in the amount of acreage of grapes planted for wine. 

“Just over 700 acres right now,” said James King of King Family Vineyards. “Loudoun County in northern Virginia currently takes second place with 33 percent fewer acres planted, so Albemarle County leads the way by a large margin.

King made those comments last week to the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, which featured him as a guest to talk about the role the wine industry plays in tourism. 

“While a lot of other agricultural sectors like produce and other crops have seen consolidation, over the last few years, viticulture in Virginia continues to be very much a family-owned operation and enterprise,” King said. 

King said there were seven wineries in Virginia in 1979 and that number has grown to over 300. King Family Vineyards opened in 1998 and is part of the Monticello Wine Trall, which has grown to 40. 

“In agritourism, wineries tend to thrive in clusters,” King said. “Guests often multiple wineries in a day so when wineries opens down the road, it ends being good business for everybody.” 

However, King said the industry faces many challenges, including unpredictable weather and threats to the grapes. 

“We’re always battling Mother Nature, whether it is frost in the spring or invasive species in the summer,” King said. “Right now it’s the spotted lanternfly from China.”

King used his time to appeal to elected officials on the CACVB to not further restrict public events, which he said generates money that goes back into the winemaking operation. He said that can keep a farm within a family.  King Family has 15 full-time employees and around 35 part-time employees. 

There will be more from the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. 


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