Comes now December into the court of our current existence. What shall the tenor of this month be? Does this depend on the player and their ability to read the script? Every single episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement is written down in a fashion to serve as a way to communicate items of importance. I’m Sean Tubbs, producing these informational programs to describe as much of the stage as possible.
On today’s program:
One person is dead after an early morning fire on Pen Park Lane today
Charlottesville opens up applications for nonprofits to provide supportive services related to housing
Republican Delegate Marie March of Christiansburg submits several bills to undo legislation passed in 2020 when the General Assembly was controlled by Democrats
And the Albemarle Planning Commission recommends denial of a rezoning for 525 units on Old Ivy Road in part because of a lack of information about transportation solutions that are not yet ready for the public to see
First shout-out: Homelessness in Charlottesville: From Stigma to Solutions
Want to learn how to help our unhoused neighbors find affordable permanent housing? LivableCville is hosting a webinar, "Homelessness in Charlottesville: From Stigma to Solutions", on Wednesday, December 14 at 5:30 PM. Learn from experts from The Haven and the Blue Ridge Area Coalition for the Homeless about housing, homelessness, and policy recommendations to address homelessness in Charlottesville. Registration information is available at LivableCville.org
Fire on Pen Park Lane claims one life
An early morning fire in Albemarle County’s urban ring killed one person after midnight today. The Albemarle County Fire Rescue announced that both career and volunteer units responded to a structure fire report on Pen Park Lane.
“The first apparatus arrived on scene seven minutes after dispatch and observed fire through the roof of the residence,” reads a press release.
Crews from the City of Charlottesville also responded. Unfortunately, the occupant of the home was found dead. The name has not been released and the Fire Marshal is investigating.
The release ends with a reminder to check to see if your smoke alarms are working. Learn more at Albemarle.org/SafeatHome.
Charlottesville opens up housing support applications
A housing plan adopted by the Charlottesville City Council in March 2021 called for a shift in the way the city funded programs to build, preserve, and maintain units that are guaranteed to be sold or rented below the market value.
“The Affordable Housing Plan recommends that the City make a strong and recurring financial commitment to address housing needs in Charlottesville in order to (1) increase the number of subsidized affordable homes by 1,100 homes (on top of an existing 1,630 actively subsidized homes), (2) preserve 600 existing subsidized affordable homes, and (3) stabilize 1,800 to 2,200 owner and renter households facing housing instability,” reads an application for non-profit groups seeking funding for Housing Operations and Program Support.
One of them is $575,000 made available to nonprofit organizations under the Housing Operations and Program Support category. This used to be under the city’s Vibrant Communities Fund. (read the FY23 report)
“This competitive application process is open to not-for-profit organizations that engage in affordable housing related activities that may be requesting operational or program type funding. Organizations must have substantial presence in the City of Charlottesville and engage in affordable housing activities within the City limits. Funding will not be guaranteed.”
Examples of groups that are funded through this process range from the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program to Shelter for Help in Emergency.
Applications are due on December 30, 2022.
In early November, the city issued a notice of funding for major construction projects similar to the ones currently under construction at Friendship Court and at South First Street. That application round closed on November 30.
2023 legislation round-up
There are now 40 days until the beginning of the 2023 General Assembly and the flow of prefiled legislation continues.
Delegate Marie March has filed a bill to allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. That’s HB1393. March has another bill in HB1394 that would repeal the provision that allows a judge to approve the removal of someone’s firearms if they are deemed to be a risk to others. Another bill in HB1398 would prohibit a private property owner from prohibiting others from carrying concealed weapons on their premises or in their vehicle.
Human rights would begin at conception under another March’s next bill, HB1395.
Another bill from March would create the Education Savings Account Program which would allow parents and guardians who don’t enroll their children in public to have the government pay for their education anyway. (HB1396)
March also has legislation in HB1397 that would allow parents to opt out of all immunizations required to attend school.
March also seeks repeal of the Community Policing Act and its provision that prohibits law enforcement officers from making decisions based on race, and would stop the requirement that police departments and sheriff’s offices record racial data for motor vehicle stops and other interactions. (HB1401)
Another bill from March would change the way vehicles are assessed by altering the calculation method for personal property taxes. (HB1402)
Some of Virginia’s colleges and universities would be required to provide housing at no cost to certain students when classes aren’t in session. HB1403 is from Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata.
Switching to the Senate, Senator Ryan T. McDougle has filed a bill to require a photograph be presented as identification before someone votes. (SB794)
Senator Emmet Hanger has filed a bill to continue a requirement that 50 cents for each head of cattle that is assessed and earmarked for the Cattle Industry Board. (SB795)
Second shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign
Since the very beginning of this newsletter, one Patreon supporter who has been there since July 2020 has used his shout-out to draw your attention to the work of the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign. The campaign is a coalition of grassroots partners including motivated citizens and volunteers, partner organizations, and local governments who want to promote the use of native plants. We’re now close to the beginning of winter and if you’re already looking forward to the spring, this is the time to learn about what you need to plan to attract pollinators who’ll keep native species going. To learn more, visit plantvirginianatives.org to download Piedmont Native Plants: A Guide for Landscapes and Gardens.
Albemarle Planning Commission recommends denial of Old Ivy Residences project
The Albemarle County Planning has recommended that the Board of Supervisors deny a rezoning for development of a rental housing complex with 525 units on Old Ivy Road after several members said they did not have enough information about details about transportation improvements that are being planned but not yet released to the public.
The motion to deny came after most members said they supported the project otherwise.
“Hopefully our Supervisors will have seen that we wrestled hard with this and that we liked the development,” said Commissioner Julian Bivins. “But we are also trying to figure out how to get the various infrastructure in place.”
This is the second time the Planning Commission has seen the proposal. The first was in June when the developer asked for a deferral after a long conversation about transportation impacts. (Greystar asks for more time on Old Ivy Residences rezoning after Planning Commission public hearing, June 23, 2022)
The planner working for Albemarle County is Cameron Langille. He described the location of the five properties that make up the project.
“To the west is the U.S. Route 250 and U.S. Route 29 bypass,” Langille said. “To the south is Old Ivy Road. To the north is some land that’s actually owned by [the University of Virginia]. To the east there are some existing residential developments and that includes University Village and Huntington Village.”
The Darden School of Business and the School of Law are to the northeast of the site.
Some sections of the properties are designated as Urban Density Residential in the Future Land Use Map and others are designated as Parks and Green Systems.
“Basically they want to rezone all of these parcels to R-15 so that a total of 525 dwelling units could be built on site,” Langille said.
The development would be a mix of different types of housing from townhouses to apartment complexes. Greystar is proposing to guarantee 15 percent of the total units will be rented to households with incomes below 80 percent of the area median income, a change since the first proposal. That would last for a period of ten years.
“That’s the county policy now,” said Valerie Long, an attorney with the firm Williams Mullen representing Greystar. “Eighty percent AMI for ten years.”
Long said she is aware the county is working on the details of a new policy to require longer terms at deeper levels of affordability.
As for transportation, Greystar has proposed a transit stop on Old Ivy Road, new turn lanes into the development, a multiuse path along Old Ivy Road, and they’ve agreed to pay a portion of infrastructure improvements off-site up to $750,000.
The area already has issues according to a traffic study conducted for the rezoning.
“The existing conditions that were identified show that there are failing movements during the morning and afternoon peak hours,” said Kevin McDermott, a planning manager for Albemarle who specializes in transportation. “There’s also a lack of pedestrian and bicycle connectivity in the corridor.”
One of the requests in the rezoning is to have a proffer associated with the 1985 proffer waived. At the time, the landowners agreed to restrict further development until the county was satisfied that enough transportation infrastructure was in place.
“That wasn’t specified to what would meet that criteria,” McDermott said.
Some sidewalks in the area have been constructed since 1985, but problems still exist such as the one-lane railroad underpass at the eastern end of Old Ivy. Road McDermott said the Virginia Department of Transportation has reviewed potential solutions and concepts have been shared with the county, the city, and the University.
“They are still finalizing that study and it will be made publicly available but based on what we have seen, staff and VDOT believe that there are immediately implementable solutions to address those poor operational issues at the western end of the corridor,” McDermott said.
McDermott added VDOT has identified funding for those projects as well. He said there are no immediate solutions to address the underpass.
“But we are still digging into some options over there for a way to get pedestrians under that railroad,” McDermott said.
Overall, staff changed their recommendation to one of approval.
John Clarkson with Greystar Development represented the company and said the new application reflects previous concerns about affordable housing and transportation made in June.
“We want to be good neighbors and participants within the community and we feel like we’ve made a lot of changes working with staff to meet those requests that you all made for us at that meeting,” Clarkson said.
Long said the amount of funding for transportation has also been increased since the summer.
“We increased the cash proffer for transportation,” Long said. “It’s a total of $1.25 million. We’ve drafted the proffer to be very flexible.”
Before we get to the public hearing, it’s important to note that the University of Virginia has long-term plans to develop Ivy Garden, a 20th century apartment complex that will be replaced with more housing and non-residential space. (UVA making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment, June 9, 2021)
Several dozen person spoke at the public hearing, mostly in opposition. One resident of University Village said the transportation impacts would still be too much.
“You know that it takes a no vote on your part to nudge Greystar toward making some improvement in their project,” said Bill Sherman.
“I am not against development, be it student or private housing, but I do oppose any consideration that would increase the traffic on Old Ivy and put everyone, especially our pedestrians, at greater risk,” said Elizabeth Vinton, a retired pediatrician who now lives at University Village.
Another University Village resident, Lyle Hallowell, said he was concerned that some of the information about transportation including a new traffic study had not been made available to the public before the meeting
“One thing I’ve heard is that there was new data collected and I’m happy to hear that as I’m a bit of a data person,” Hallowell said. “I’m a little sad that it wasn’t widely shared with everybody so we learned a lot about who counts and who doesn’t tonight.”
Hallowell also said he would have liked to have known more about why staff felt comfortable switching their recommendation based on information not yet available to the public. He said residents already on Old Ivy Road should also be considered stakeholders.
“We heard that were good plans here and in those good plans, shared with the stakeholders, that there’s great promise for this road, shared with the stakeholders. In New York, where I came from two years ago, we say, ‘what am I, chopped liver?’
Not all of the public comment was against the project. Will Sanford lives in the Rivanna District.
“This property contains one of the longest privately-owned parts of the Rivanna Trail connecting Leonard Sandridge Road to Old Ivy Road,” Sanford said. “I’d like to thank the current owner for letting the public use this trail on the property for more than 20 years. Greystar has been proactive in reaching out to the Rivanna Trail Foundation and the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club and after working with board members at both organizations, Greystar has illustrated the approximate location of the trail on the concept plan and are willing to proffer a permanent solution for the trail as part of their site plan.”
Other speakers supported the project because they said it would bring new housing options to the area that needs them. One of them is Ivo Romenesko, who served in the early 2000’s on an Albemarle County committee that recommended the creation of the Neighborhood Model District in zoning.
“Predictability of land use was critical to approval of the Neighborhood Model principles over 20 years ago,” Romenesko said. “That was for neighbors and for landowners. Today urban areas are responding to density change, but not fast enough for the population growth.”
Romenesko said Old Ivy Residences satisfies the Comprehensive Plan by putting new homes exactly where it was recommended. He reminded the Planning Commission that the reason it’s not been developed yet is because VDOT planned to use some of the land for an intersection for the Western Bypass, a project long planned and now defunct.
In her rebuttal after the public comment, Valerie Long acknowledged the project would impact a congested road but said Greystar would be part of the eventual solution by providing a multi use path and other infrastructure.
“Denying this application and preventing it from being developed will not solve those safety problems or those congestion issues,” Long said.
Long added that this project has jump-started a look at the existing issues.
“Once we submitted our application, people started looking at, VDOT hired a consultant, they’ve continued to look at it,” Long said. “There have been lots of discussions with the University, VDOT, Mr. McDermott, and others about how to address it. The University is highly interested in pedestrian issues under the bridge. For all the same reasons that everyone else is.”
Then it was time for the Commissioners to weigh in. Lonnie Murray went first.
“I do feel very uncomfortable that we heard that there are proposed traffic solutions but we don’t know what they are and so we can’t really evaluate whether they would be effective or not because we don’t have them in front of us,” Murray said.
Commission Chair Karen Firehock agreed with the sentiment .
“I have to weigh evidence that I have before me in terms of whether solutions are viable and I don’t have enough detail on what it is that VDOT has proposed or what it is thinking of,” Firehock said.
Commissioner Corey Clayborne said he could support the project. He said a by-right project would also impact transportation, but that would not come with anything from the developer to address issues. He said he trusted staff if they say there is a solution.
Commissioner Julian Bivins said he had to honor the condition for the 1985 rezoning that limits development.
“The Supervisors put a conditioned precedent on development there whether or not I like it or don’t like it,” Bivins said. “They are the ones who get elected. We get appointed.”
Bivins also said the University of Virginia needed to step up to be part of the solution to fix the railroad underpass.
Commissioner Luis Carrazana also said it was difficult to have a position if the infrastructure would be sufficient. But he said much had improved since June.
“There has been several areas that has improved,” Carrazana said. “However, we don’t have the infrastructure. Maybe it’s on the way. Maybe the plans are there and if this goes to the Board of Supervisors, they can evaluate if they believe it’s substantial enough.”
Carrazana also urged neighbors to come to the table to do their part to create a safer transportation network.
“If everyone keeps trying to work together, we can actually make this happen,” Carrazana said.
Valerie Long was offered one more opportunity to answer questions, most of them about transportation. She said she hoped the Commission would take McDermott at his word that the VDOT study will show solutions that will address issues on the western end.
“I think we need to trust the experts,” Long said.
Long also said the Timmons Group has produced documents to share with the University about ways to address the eastern end of Old Ivy Road.
“The biggest problem with that bridge, and obviously the drainage is a significant issue that needs to be fixed, it’s the alignment of the road under the bridge,” Long said. “It doesn’t go perpendicular under the bridge. It comes in at an angle.”
After that, Bivins made a motion to deny the rezoning. The vote was 5 to 2 with Commissioners Clayborne and Missell voting no. However, the Commission did vote unanimously to recommend approval of changing the classification of slopes from preserved to managed.
The VDOT study may be available for the public by the time the project gets to the Board of Supervisors.
“They may hopefully be in possession of the VDOT study by that time and can perhaps miraculously UVA could come forward and be more communicative about their willingness to engage in and help make some of these connections,” Firehock said.
Reading material for this Friday afternoon:
After long hiatus, UVA’s Democrat, Republican groups are speaking, dining again, Andrea Ramspacher, UVA Today, November 11, 2022
PVCC launches new associate degree program in partnership with WillowTree, Dominga Murray, NBC29, December 1, 2022
Albemarle County police say gang violence is behind increase in shootings, car thefts, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, December 1, 2022
ACPD: Juveniles charged in connection with shootings, car thefts, Dryden Quigley, NBC29, December 1, 2022
Police say Charlottesville area has a gang problem, members are juveniles, Felicity Taylor, CBS19, December 1, 2022
Around Virginia, transit agencies navigate the transition to electric buses, Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury, December 2, 2022
Housekeeping for #465
Another end of the week and another end of the program. There’s still so much to get to, but the next regular installment won’t come out until Monday. However, there will be installment of the Week Ahead out on Sunday as well as another installment of Fifth District Community Engagement.
I have increased Fifth District Community Engagement’s frequency and am slowly going through each locality to find out what elections are coming up at local bodies. Currently my time to do this is covered by those paying me through Patreon and I’d love you to subscribe if you haven’t already.
I also appreciate those subscribing through Substack and I’m just about to invoice Ting for our arrangement where Ting matches the initial payment. That could be for $5 a month, $50 a year, or $200 a year. That latter category comes with two shout-outs a month.
And even if you don’t subscribe, Ting still wants to be your Internet provider. If you sign up through this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you will unlock:
A second month for free
A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall
This Friday is Bandcamp Friday and consider buying a copy of Wraki’s Regret Everything. Much of the music in the podcast comes from Wraki. Original theme is by P.J. Sykes and other things come from the Fundamental Grang.
Any questions? Drop me a line and thank you for reading and or listening.