Dec 1, 2021 • 16M

December 1, 2021: Virginia's recycling rate increased in 2020; few details on next steps in city manager search

Albemarle pitches legislative priorities to local Delegates and Senators

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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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What’s another month in a year that’s already had eleven of them? Another turn of the earth, and each of us is another day closer to the solstice, the holidays, 2022, President’s Day, and so many more milestones that are worth noting somewhere. Perhaps not on this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, which is intended to capture a few things that happened around the time of December 1, 2021.

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On today’s show:

  • More details on what happens next in the top executive position in Charlottesville

  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors seeks patrons for bills on photo-speed camera expansion and more 

  • Virginia’s recycling rate increased in calendar year 2020 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is looking for a few good volunteers for a couple of upcoming events. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the RCA will team up with the James River Association to plant trees along the Rivanna River and Town Branch in the Dunlora neighborhood to serve as a riparian buffer. In all, they’re hoping to put in 9 acres of trees. On Sunday, the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon takes place, and the Rivanna Conservation Alliance is the beneficiary! They’re looking for people to help put on the race. Learn more about both events and the organization at rivannariver.org. 


COVID update

The Virginia Department of Health reports that the seven day average for new COVID cases has increased to 1,548 cases a day, and the seven-day percent positivity has increased to 6.7 percent. A month ago on November 1, the percent positivity was 5.5 percent. There were 746 more reported deaths in Virginia in the past month. 

The Blue Ridge Health District reports an additional 58 new cases today and the seven-day percent positivity is 6.1 percent. There were 26 reported COVID deaths in the health district in November. 

The Jefferson Madison Regional Library has distributed 631 rapid COVID tests in the past week as part of a pilot program with the Virginia Department of Health. Learn more at jmrl.org


Executive vacancy

Marc Woolley will not start today as Charlottesville’s City Manager. Or any other day, for that matter. The former business administrator of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has opted to not take the position of running the city’s executive functions. The City Council met in closed session for over three hours yesterday to discuss the withdrawal. Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker addressed the public afterward to say she had known since before Thanksgiving. 

“On November 21, Mr. Marc Woolley reached out to me,” Walker said. “We had a planned meeting scheduled for early in the week that had been postponed to that day and he informed me that he for personal reasons would not be taking the job in the city of Charlottesville.”

Walker said Council tried to get the notice of Woolley’s withdrawal out before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“And we were unable to do that and we apologize to the community for that confusion but we did want to give more time than the notification that happened today,” Walker said. “So we have known for a little over a week and this was the first opportunity for us to get together to explore other options and kind of just brainstorm where we are and where we’re headed.” 

Councilor Heather Hill had a few more glimpses into what happens next.

“Council is considering going into a contract with a firm for interim services,” Hill said. “We’re going to be working through with staff on what the best and most efficient process would be for that. We have made no decisions in that matter.”

In the meanwhile, Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders will continue to serve with extended duties. Hill said more information about a search firm will be released in two weeks. 

City Councilor-Elect Juandiego Wade will be sworn into office at on December 15 at 9:30 a.m. on the City Courthouse steps. He’ll be sworn along at the same time as three members of the School Board. City Councilor-Elect Brian Pinkston will be sworn in on December 23 at 10 a.m. on the Courthouse. However, their terms do not officially begin until January 1.


Solid waste planning

The recycling rate in Virginia increased in the year 2020, as reported by 71 planning units across the Commonwealth. Of the 11 million tons of municipal solid waste processed, 5.3 million were reported as recycled. 

“However, some planning units faced recycling challenges due to the COVID 19 pandemic, lack of recycling markets in their regions and difficulty in obtaining recycling information from private businesses,” reads the executive summary of a report generated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 

Of that 5.3 million tons, 3.9 million were classified as principal recyclable materials and 1.4 million were in the form of credits. 

Recyclable materials include: Paper, metal, plastic, glass, commingled materials, yard waste, waste wood, textiles, waste tires, used oil, used oil filters, used antifreeze, inoperative automobiles, batteries, electronics and other.

Credits refers to: Recycling residues, solid waste reused, non-MSW recycled (includes construction and demolition material, ash and debris) and source reduction initiatives. 

Under Virginia code, localities or the regions they are within must develop a solid waste management plan. In this area, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District does that work on behalf of Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, and Fluvanna. The towns of Scottsville and Standardsville are also covered by the TJPDC which reports a recycling rate of 41.9 percent. 

Louisa County runs its own sanitary landfill and is its own solid waste planning unit. They report a recycling rate of 29.5 percent. 

The Lunenberg County solid waste planning unit reported a 78.8 percent recycling rate, the highest in the state. Lee County in Southwest Virginia reported the lowest at 10.4 percent. Virginia code requires localities to be above 15 percent. 

The report singles out Arlington County for improving the recycling rate by prohibiting glass from the single-stream recycling system. Instead, Arlington set-up five drop-off locations to ensure glass would not be contaminated by other materials. Over 1,429 tons of clean glass was collected. 

“The removal of glass from the residential curbside recycling program had the added benefit of boosting the overall value of a ton of the single-stream recycling significantly,” reads the report. 

To learn more about Arlington’s program, visit their website.

On Thursday, the operations subcommittee of Albemarle’s Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee meets.  On the agenda is an update on efforts to increase the market for glass recycling to attract interest from a processing company. I wrote about this topic back in January and will be interested in getting an update. (meeting info)

See also:  Group seeks information from beverage producers on glass recycling, January 26, 2021


You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement, supported in part by subscriber supported shout-outs like this one:

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. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. 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!


Legislative priorities

The General Assembly convenes six weeks from today. Across Virginia, local officials are seeking ways to get Delegates and Senators to carry specific bills. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors held a meeting on Monday to explain their three legislative priorities. 

County Attorney Greg Kamptner said the first is a request to allow localities to treat some violations of local ordinance with civil penalties as opposed to being criminally punished. Albemarle wants to be able to establish a schedule of fines that exceed what can be charged now. 

“The initiative would authorize a schedule of civil penalties of up to $500 for the initial summons, with increasing amounts of up to a total of $5,000 in aggregate under the same operative facts,” Kamptner said. 

Kamptner said the current penalty of $200 for the first violation and $500 for additional ones is too low.

“Those amounts are unchanged since 2007 and the county has found that some zoning violators see those payments as the cost of doing business which prolongs the enforcement process for those localities that have opted to pursue civil penalties,” Kamptner said. 

Both Delegate Sally Hudson (D-57) and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) and expressed interested in being a sponsor for that legislation.

Albemarle’s second legislative request is to expand the use of photo-speed cameras to enforce violations of the speed limit. The General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 that allow the cameras to be used in highway in highway work zones and school crossing zones. (HB1442) (current state code)

“A photo-speed monitoring device is equipment that uses RADAR or LIDAR in speed detection and produces one or more photographs, microphotographs, video tapes, or other recorded images of vehicles,” Kamptner said. “The enabling authority is self-executing. No ordinance is required and local law-enforcement offices can have the devices installed in those zones.”

Kamptner said Albemarle would like to be able to use the cameras on rural roads where speeding has been identified as an issue. 

“The roads would be selected by the governing body based on speeding, crash, and fatality data,” Kamptner said. 

Delegate Bell said he would want to talk to someone at the Albemarle Police Department before deciding whether to carry the bill. 

“I’m reading what is drafted and it’s not exactly what is being described by some of the speakers for what they are looking for,” Bell said. 

Both Delegate Hudson and Delegate Chris Runion (R-25) both said they would also like to hear from law enforcement. Hudson had concerns. 

“Historically sometimes automated enforcement devices have been disparately positioned throughout communities and might appreciate some language or guardrails in the bill that would require some kind of public analysis about where they’re going to go,” Hudson said. 

Some of the comments collected as part of the 2018 study of farm buildings in Virginia and how they are used for public use

Albemarle’s third legislative request would be to require agricultural buildings at which the public will be invited to conform to the state’s building code. Currently there is no inspection process or minimum standards for barns and other structures where large events might be held. 

“The use that would be subject to requirements as such having an automatic fire alarm system, emergency lights and exits, panic hardware at all required exit doors, portable fire extinguishers, and a maximum occupancy of 200 persons,” Kamptner said. 

Albemarle County cannot currently regulate construction of such buildings due to state law, but a 2018 review of building codes for agritourism and businesses suggested such minimum standards would be beneficial to public safety in an era when many of these buildings are used for breweries, wineries, and other destinations. (read the review)

“Many people who go to these properties have no idea that these buildings are not expected and that they don’t meet the building code,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek. 

Delegate Hudson said she would be willing to request the Division of Legislative Services prepare a draft based on this request. Delegate Chris Runion (R-25) had some concerns about unintended consequences of the requirements and suggested there may be another way to address the issue. 

“The other area I think is probably a new area of conversation is the limit for 200 people,” Runion said. “I thought there was a limit at 300 previously 

Also at Monday’s meeting: The Thomas Jefferson Planning District puts together a regional legislative program. TJPDC Deputy Director David Blount serves as legislative liaison and says this year’s regional wishlist is very similar to last year’s.  

‘We’ve added some language to support the expansion of allowing the uses of electronic meetings outside of emergency declarations,” Blount said. “I think we’ll see some legislation on that in 2022.”

Charlottesville City Council will be presented with the TJPDC legislative program and their own program at their next meeting on December 6. 

End notes:

Thanks to Grace Liz Cerami, Lisa Edge, Lloyd Goad, and Grace Reynolds for their narration assistance in the podcast.

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