Dec 8, 2021 • 15M

December 8, 2021: Albemarle group briefed on climate action; redevelopment continues for Charlottesvile public housing sites

Plus: Some more bills are filed with the General Assembly, and Virginia has a plan to prepare for coastal flooding

 
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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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Welcome to day 342 of the year 2021. There are 23 days until the final day of the year. How many more years are left? Results will vary. How many more installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement will there be? The virtual magic eight-ball reports: Better Not Tell You Now. In either case, this is the installment for December 8, 2021, which is the 290th edition of the show so far. 

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts, sign-up below for free updates. To support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber!

On today’s show:
  • An update on finances and redevelopment at Charlottesville’s public housing authority

  • There’s a few new bills pre-filed for the 2022 General Assembly 

  • Governor Northam releases a master plan to prepare for increased flooding along Virginia’s coast

  • Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee is briefed on climate action efforts 

Let’s begin today with a subscriber-supported shout-out for another community event. 

Filmmaker Lorenzo Dickerson has traced the 100 year history of the libraries in the Charlottesville area, including a time when Black patrons were restricted from full privileges. The film Free and Open to the Public explores the history of library service from the Jim Crow-era until now. If you missed the premiere in November, there’s an online screening followed by a Q&A with Dickerson this Thursday at 7 p.m. Register at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library site to participate in this free event that’s being run with coordination from the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Visit jmrl.org now to sign up! 


COVID update

Before the rest of the show, a quick update on COVID numbers, which continue to rise slightly as we move through the holiday season. The Virginia Department of Health reports another 2,850 new cases today, bringing the seven-day average for new cases to 2,374. The seven-day average for new positive test results is at 7.7 percent, up from 7.2 percent on Friday. There are 79 new cases in the Blue Ridge Health District, which has a percent positivity of 7.5 percent. 

Speaking of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, a pilot project with the Virginia Department of Health has now distributed 1,086 home COVID-19 tests. These are rapid antigen at-home tests where people can use their smartphone to get results within 15 minutes. Visit the VDH’s website to learn more about the Supporting Testing Access through Community Collaboration program. 


Coastal resilience

The Commonwealth now has a plan in place to address sea rise and other hydrological issues caused by a changing global climate. Yesterday outgoing Governor Ralph Northam was on hand in Hampton for the release of the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan

“Climate change, rising sea levels, sinking land, and storms that are more frequent and more extreme are really causing increased problems in coastal communities,” Northam said. “What we call nuisance flooding is now a regular occurrence.”

The master plan looks ahead as far as the year 2080 and concludes that the number of homes and roadways that will be exposed to extreme coastal flooding will drastically increase between now and then. The plan offers suggestions for what infrastructure is needed to withstand flooding as the geology of the coast changes in the presence of more water. The plan will be updated with additional data. 

“This plan has some seriously alarming data,” Northam said. “According to the science, over the next 60 years there will be places in Virginia that will no longer be habitable or accessible. They’ll be flooded temporarily or permanently. And while there are things we can do to protect our communities the plan also shows us that in some places we’re going to have to focus on moving people and structures out of harm’s way.” 

Rear Admiral Ann Phillips coordinated the plan in her capacity as the special assistant to Governor Ralph Northam for coastal adaptation. She was one of the speakers at this year’s Resilient Virginia conference and hers is one of several voices in a September 10, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Take a look or a listen!

The website devoted to the plan contains a database that allows people to look at threats as well as mitigation projects. (Virginia Coastal Resilience Web Explorer

The plan projects how coastal flooding is projected to increase over the next 60 years

Albemarle Climate Action

Last week, the Albemarle Natural Heritage Committee got an update on the county’s efforts to address climate change. The Natural Heritage Committee developed the county’s Biodiversity Action Plan, which became part of the Comprehensive Plan in July 2019. The Board of Supervisors adopted a Climate Action Plan in October 2020. (watch the meeting)

Gabe Dayley, Albemarle’s climate protection program manager, said there are a lot of areas of overlap between the two plans.

“We have actions in the Climate Action Plan around promoting conservation easements, around outreach and education, as well as incentives to the general public as well as incentives to the general public as well as to landowners,” Dayley said. 

Other overlapping goals are to minimize fragmentation of land to preserve areas for wildlife that also can serve as carbon sinks. 

“You know a lot of the overlap here is between strategies for mitigation,” Dayley said. “In other words, reducing our impact or our contribution to global climate change but the county is also beginning a process to do climate resilience planning. That’s more preparing our community to hopefully be resilient and stay strong in the face of some of the climate changes that we know are coming no matter how swiftly the world acts at this point.”

Dayley specifically pointed out goal 9 of the plan which is “develop strategies for biodiversity conservation during climate change.” 

He also briefed the NHC on the county’s 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Take a look at a story from September 10 for more information. Dayley told the Natural Heritage Committee that development of the inventory included a new tool that analyzed forest cover in Albemarle. 

“We found that somewhat to our surprise that there’s actually a lot of carbon sequestration in trees and forests across the county,” Dayley said. “So there’s an important takeaway there which is the critical importance of maintaining forest and tree cover that we have in the county which I think is something that’s expressed as being important in multiple ways in the Biodiversity Action Plan.” 

To watch the rest of the conversation, take a look at the full meeting of the group. I’ll have information about Charlottesville’s tree canopy in the next installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement


More pre-filed bills

Before the break, a few more bills have been filed in advance of the next General Assembly session. 

  • Delegate Scott Wyatt (R-Mechanicsvile) has filed a bill requiring school principals to report potential criminal acts by student to law enforcement. (HB4)

  • Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has filed a bill to make Virginia’s standard deduction for income taxes equal to the federal deduction. (SB7)

  • Senator Petersen also filed a bill to permit hunting on Sundays (SB8)

  • Senator Peterson also filed a bill related to eminent domain (SB9)

  • Delegate James Morefield (R-North Tazewell) filed a bill to alter the portion of proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that go to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund (HB5)

The General Assembly convenes on January 12, 2022. That’s the 12th day of next year. 


You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. Let’s continue today with two Patreon-fueled shout-outs. The first comes a long-time supporter who wants you to know:

"Today is a great day to spread good cheer: reach out to an old friend, compliment a stranger, or pause for a moment of gratitude to savor a delight."

The second comes from a more recent supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!


Public housing update

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners will have a work session Thursday night. They last met at a regular meeting on November 22 and got a series of updates. One was on the CRHA budget from Mary Lou Hoffman, the agency’s finance director. CRHA’s fiscal year runs from April to March 30. (financial statements through October 31, 2021) (watch the meeting)

“We’re $517,000 ahead of budgeted at this point but that includes $644,000 worth of for all intent and purposes non-recurring money,” Hoffman said. 

That includes shortfall funding the CRHA was awarded in each of the past two fiscal years. 

Hoffman said one piece of good news is that the CRHA’s Paycheck Protection Program loan received near the beginning of the pandemic has been forgiven and won’t need to be paid back. 

The number of public housing units has been temporarily reduced from 376 to 324 units due to the renovation of Crescent Halls, which is also affecting the way the financial statements look. 

“It basically is shifting some of the costs that we had budgeted for Crescent Halls to the other properties and between now and the end of the year we will see an effect from that,” Hoffman said. 

An overhead view of the lay-out for a one-bedroom unit in the renovation (Credit: Public Housing Association of Residents)

A piece of bad news is an unexpected $17,567 payment in October to the Internal Revenue Service related to unpaid bills that were not known to CRHA staff until recently.

“That was an IRS tax penalty that I was previously and totally unaware of,” Hoffman said. “It was assessed against CRHA for failing to timely file 1099s for the tax year of 2017.” 

Hoffman said these 1099s were related to the payment of vouchers to landlords and other vendors, and they were eventually paid.

“I believe the minimum penalty was assessed which is $50 per 1099, so it’s around 340 or 350 1099’s,” Hoffman said. “It’s not only for our vendors but most of our landlords have to get a rent 1099.” 

Hoffman said part of the confusion stemmed from the CRHA having multiple mailing addresses including a one-time stay in City Hall. Headquarters have moved around a lot in recent years. 

After Hoffman’s presentation, executive director John Sales put the current year’s budget in a different light. Soon after the fiscal year began, there was a massive water leak at Crescent Halls that has affected the near-term. 

“Crescent Halls threw a curveball,” Sales said. “The changing of Crescent Halls, the redevelopment plan, drastically changed revenues for the housing authority. The plan included keeping Crescent Halls at least partially filled with adding voucher units which added an additional revenue for the housing authority.”

But the damage at Crescent Halls has meant moving all of the residents out while the renovation continues. Those shortfall funds have helped make up the difference for now. As of November 22, Sales said tenants owed $92,000 in unpaid rent. That’s attracted the notice of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“They ask us about it every other week,” Sales said. “We are currently working through the rent relief program to get funding and asking other sources as well to assist families that are delinquent.” 

Brandon Collins is the new redevelopment coordinator for CRHA and gave an update on planning for the second phase of redevelopment at South First Street. According to the CRHA website, the plan is to redevelop 58 existing public housing units into 113 new townhouse units and apartments. Collins said the CHRA has filed an application to change the financing structure.

“The demo-disposition application and mixed-finance application have gone in,” Collins said. “It took a lot of doing to figure out the mixed-finance application but what we’ve landed on is phase two will have 20 public housing units, 38 project-based vouchers and 55 non-subsidized units.” 

Collins said CRHA is looking to see how they can get the rent for those 55 units to be as low as possible. 

“It appears we can get those units down pretty low,” Collins said. 

An aerial rendering of both phases of the South First Street site. Phase one is the three apartment buildings on the right, which are under construction. (Credit: Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority)

 A site plan has been submitted for the first phase of redevelopment at Sixth Street.

“Building A is going to be there along Monticello and wrapping around the corner onto Monticello onto Sixth Street,” Collins said. “It will be four stories with 50 homes. It will have an elevator and parking underneath.” 

A master plan for the full site is being developed. Collins said some of the units will be set aside for homeownership. The Westhaven site will be the next future location of redevelopment with the intent to apply for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in March of 2024. Resident planning initiatives will begin in earnest soon. 

As all of these developments continue, Collins said CRHA has to strike a balance to ensure it follows federal rules to limit the number of public housing units on site. 

“For those who don’t know there was a law passed that you can’t have any more public housing than you already had since October 1, 1999,” Collins said. 

The future of all CRHA properties will include a balance of multiple types of funding sources to keep rents low. Sales explained further about regulations of the U.S. Department of Urban Housing. 

“HUD will allow us to add more subsidized units to the site if we’re removing them from our housing-choice voucher portfolio,” Sales said. 

There’s a lot of complexity. If you’re interested, I recommend watching the meeting for a fuller explanation. 

The CRHA will take up their annual plan at their meeting on December 20. I wrote about the process in the November 18, 2021 edition of the show. You can read it on the archive site

Thursday’s work session begins at 5 p.m. 


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