There is perhaps nothing else to be said about December 9 except that it is National Llama Day. I am unaware of any way to celebrate this occasion except to tell as many people as possible. How many other animals have a national day? How much of this matters? There are no answers, only questions, and an increasing number of episodes in the archives of Charlottesville Community Engagement. I’m Sean Tubbs, wondering where the nearest llama may be.
On today’s program:
The Charlottesville Climate Action Plan is to be added to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and you can comment on this at the December 13 public hearing
A run down on recent procurement activity in Charlottesville
The Miller School seeks expansion to as many as 500 students, as well as other Albemarle County developments
The first in a two-part series on this week’s meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and School Board on planning for future improvements and new facilities
Today’s first shout-out: LEAP wants to help you prepare for winter
Crisp air and colorful leaves. Hot cocoa. Snow days. There are plenty of reasons to get excited about fall and winter, but the return of high heating bills isn't one of them. Your local energy nonprofit, LEAP, has been empowering Virginians with energy efficiency and solar solutions since 2010. With programs for all income levels, residents can access upgrades like insulation, LED bulbs, low-flow fixtures, and affordable rooftop solar systems. Visit www.leap-va.org to learn more, and fill out the LEAP Services Inquiry form to lower high heating bills and stay cozy this winter.
Charlottesville Climate Action Plan to be added to the Comprehensive Plan
When they meet on December 13, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will vote to recommend the re-adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in part to address a legal issue that may have occurred when the current version of the document was originally approved on November 15, 2021.
In late August, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell dismissed three of four counts on a lawsuit calling for the Comprehensive Plan to be overturned, but said he would hear arguments on a claim that the public notice was not sufficient. The readoption will render those claims moot because a new public hearing will be held on December 13. (read my story)
But the notice is not the only change that will be made before the public. Charlottesville’s Climate Action Plan will also be added to the document but in slightly revised version not yet seen by Council. (Review the November 22, 2022 Climate Action Plan)
“It is a community-wide plan that has been developed based on the key sources and sectors of greenhouse gas emissions and contains a framework of actions that can be implemented by and throughout the community,” reads a December 8 press release.
The plan is already generating policy changes. This week, the city awarded a contract to the firm Black & Veatch for professional services related to “decarbonization of gas utility.” For context, here’s a section from the Climate Action Plan that calls for this work to be performed.
“This technical study seeks to determine how the gas utility can be a part of the solution in achieving the City Council and [Albemarle County] Board of Supervisor’s adopted, community-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals and recognizes the University of Virginia’s fossil fuel free goal,” reads page 76 of the plan.
The Planning Commission meets Tuesday and public hearings begin at 6 p.m. They will also have a public hearing on the draft Capital Improvement Program. (read a preview)
There are other procurement activities in Charlottesville worth noting:
Caspian Construction has been awarded a contract to replace a fuel tank at the city’s fleet lot on Avon Street. Council agreed in October to allocate an additional $700,000 to the project because previous bids had all come in over the estimate. (read my story)
A request for proposals went out today for a firm to renovate Washington Park Pool before next summer. Bids close on December 29 with work to commence at the end of February. The firm will have to replace 21 skimmers, repair plumbing leaks, replace all of the porcelain edges, and replaster the pool tub. (bid page)
Today is the last day for firms to submit a bid for a project to create a new paved cycling trail connecting Madison Avenue and the Washington Park parking lot. (bid page)
EPR, PC has been awarded a contract for engineering services related to the intersection of Preston Avenue and Harris Street.
Miller School seeks potential expansion to 500 students
The Miller School in western Albemarle will turn 150 in 2028 and currently has 230 students in grades 8 through 12. The school currently is not in compliance with the zoning ordinance that came along decades after is was originally founded. Now the boarding school has applied for a special use permit to expand to add kindergarten through seventh grade.
“At first, this looks like a strategic partnership with Seven Rivers Day School who will occupy the Haden-Hart building on campus,” reads the narrative written by the firm Line + Grade.
A second phase of expansion would seek to increase the total population to 500 students by creating two new dormitories, building a new gymnasium, and making other renovations.
“It is the intent of the Miller School that when this master plan is realized, the student population will generally correspond with less than 200 boarding students and up to 300 day students,” the narrative continues. (SP20220032)
Here are some other proposed projects in Albemarle County that may not rise to the level of a full news story.
The owner of a 0.904 acre parcel on Hydraulic Road seeks a rezoning from R-4 to R-15 to build a 14-unit apartment building. (ZMA202200012)
The McDonald’s restaurant on Stony Point Road is seeking clearance from the Architectural Review Board for a second drive-through. (ARB202200101)
Another Starbucks is planned for 1815 Fortune Park in the Hollymead Area. (ARB202200102)
A zoning clearance has been filed for a V & E Auto Tire and Services to operate at 3400 Greenbrier Drive. The tenant had been Rock Steady Boxing. (CLE202200151)
A new Korean restaurant is slated to open in Stonefield. Doyoung Moon will operate from a space on Bond Street. The materials appear to show this is in the former Rock Salt space. (CLE202200152)
The former GameStop space in Fashion Square Mall will become Lush Steam Therapy. The materials for a zoning clearance indicate the place will sell “herbal remedies, teas, tinctures, oils, soaps, combined with steamtable therapy, cups, kettles, steam therapy equipment and appliances.” (CLE202200153)
Brown Collision Center plans to operate in a new location at 1580 Seminole Trail on property currently occupied by Virginia National Bank. That company intends to sell the parcel to S&B Realty Venture in January. (CLE202200155)
The former Title Max Car Loans business at 1646 Seminole Trail, Suite 104, is slated to become a Better Menswear franchise. (CLE202200157)
Second shout-out: WTJU Classical Marathon
In today’s second subscriber supported shout-out: All year long, WTJU Classical provides Charlottesville with a serene and inspiring musical oasis. The radio station now needs your support to keep this classical community vibrant and thriving!
There are still three days left in WTJU’s 2022 Classical Marathon — Music Across Time and Place. It’s a round-the-clock celebration of classical music, specially programmed for your listening pleasure. Tune in through Sunday!
Speaking of Sunday, this upcoming Sunday morning, WTJU is holding its first annual Classical Quiz Show! Compete against other listeners for prizes and glory in this friendly test of your knowledge of classical music, instruments, and history. While you play, you’ll also hear a local panel of experts take on fiendishly difficult questions.
You can play from home or in-person at WTJU’s Stage (2244 Ivy Road). Either way you play, you’ll submit your quiz answers through a web form on your phone or computer. Visit wtju.net to learn more!
Albemarle Schools present $318 million capital request
Albemarle County Public Schools want to build two new elementary schools and buy land for a third as part of a $318 million five-year request to the Board of Supervisors.
The two bodies met in a long range planning work session Wednesday to discuss how to pay for school infrastructure needs. The goal was to give the School Board an opportunity to explain specifically what they need and to strategize for how to pay for it. Andy Bowman, the chief of the county’s Office of Management and Budget, was clear to state what the meeting was not. (view the presentation)
“This isn’t a budget discussion,” Bowman said. “We’ll hold those in February, March, and so on. So while we’ll have some numbers and charts and graphs today that I’ll be sharing, it’s not going to feel as much of a budget work session as it will be in a few months from now.”
For many years, Albemarle has used a five-year planning model for operational and capital budgets. However, the declaration of an emergency for COVID in March 2020 caused Albemarle and other localities in Virginia to take a different approach.
“Many projects at that time, due to the uncertainty in the economy and the county’s inability to access the financial markets, we paused those and came up with a plan to reevaluate that in three and six month increments to make sure we were being agile in responding to situations as they changed,” Bowman said.
That meant the five-year capital improvement program was not updated for fiscal year 22. Instead, Bowman said $34 million worth of projects were unpaused in January 2021. A five-year plan was adopted for the current fiscal year.
“We have the adopted CIP totalling $298 million,” Bowman said. “That’s $153 million for the public schools, $117 million for county government, and there’s a unique placeholder of $27 million related to strategic plan implementation.”
Supervisors adopted a new strategic plan in October and set aside that funding. The current five-year plan anticipates no increase in the real property tax rate over the period.
The county has also altered its long-term position by restructuring its debt. Bowman said refinancing in June 2021 and March 2022 reduced the payments on debt service. His office now reports to the Chief Finance Officer rather than the County Executive. It’s all part of a “fresh look” at the way the county does business.
“We’ve also made investments in our procurement office and we’ve looked in partnership with our schools about how we manage our capital projects with building services and facility planning and construction with the intent to improve the execution and service delivery to our residents,” Bowman said.
Another change coming into the next budget cycle is that Supervisors increased the food and beverage tax, the transient occupancy tax, and the cigarette tax. Bowman said that equals the equivalent of a 3.3 cent increase in the property tax rate.
Turning to the next five-year plan, Bowman said rising interest rates could mean less return for the issuance of bonds.
“In our adopted CIP, $1 million of debt service that we pay annual for example over 20 years of a life of a bond, that would buy $13.1 million worth of projects,” Bowman said.
However, Bowman said that the lease-revenue bonds the county usually issues would yield only $11.8 million worth of projects. He said an alternative would be to hold a referendum on general obligation bonds.
“The county would be able to get a better rate of about a quarter percent based on [word] financial advisors, and that would stretch that dollar a little farther, and that would stretch that dollar a little farther and $1 million of debt service would then buy $12.1 million of projects,” Bowman said.
Bowman also said the county is seeking to time the sale of bonds to be as close to project delivery as possible.
Albemarle Schools have a request for $318 million for the next five years. Bowman said that would currently mean the need to find $182 million in new revenue taking into account inflation.
Maya Kumazawa is the Director of Budget and Planning for Albemarle County Public Schools. She began her presentation with a statement on the importance of physical spaces for education.
“An adequate built environment is a critical resource to foster high quality teaching and learning,” Kumazawa said. “As our county continues to grow, several schools are out of space and several schools are aging. Investments are needed to support our students.”
The enrollment for the 2022 academic year is 13,585, down from a peak of 14,032 in 2019 due to the pandemic. Projections are derived from historical trends and data from the pipeline of new housing construction developed by Albemarle’s Office of Community Development. The current projection shows an increase to 14,986 over the next ten years.
As the buildings get more crowded, they are aging as well.
“Our newest schools were built more than 20 years ago and our oldest schools were built more than 80 years ago,” Kumazawa said.
The first school that ACPS would like to build would be an elementary one for 500 students in the southern part of the county to alleviate capacity issues at Mountain View Elementary. If approved, this 72,500 square foot structure would be designed in FY2024 and constructed in FY25.
“This would cost about $44 million and the school would be open to students in the fall of 2026,” Kumazawa said.
There are currently 690 students enrolled at Mountain View, and Kumazawa said there will be a need for more school space.
“There are currently about 2,400 approved residential units in the pipeline, including Southwood Phase 2,” Kumazawa said.
The second project would be an elementary school in the northern feeder pattern.
“There’s a similar story at Baker-Butler Elementary with growing enrollment at an already large school,” Kumazawa said. “As you are aware, the U.S. 29 North corridor is our most dense and quickly growing development area and there are over 8,000 residential units in the pipeline.”
This school would be built in time to open for the fall of 2029 at an estimate of $50 million.
Kumazawa said the school also wants to conduct a redistricting study and conduct a limited redistricting to help balance overcrowding.
The five-year request also includes additional funding for renovations for existing schools. The current CIP only anticipates $2 million a year for high school renovations, but the school system’s request calls for a total of $34.6 million. At Albemarle High School this would include creation of collaboration areas, corridor and classroom improvements, and circulation improvements to make disabled individuals move around.
“At Western Albemarle, the prioritized projects include corridor improvements, outdoor learning spaces, commons improvements, window upgrades, and athletic wing commons,” Kumazawa said.
The request also includes projects to implement the Lambs Lane Study intended to make the area around Albemarle High School, Journey Middle School and Greer Elementary into more of a place. This would include construction of a new field house, a new loop road from Lambs Lane to Hydraulic Road, and landscaping.
Read the presentation for the details and for the rest of the projects.
And in the next installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, we’ll hear what Supervisors and School Board members had to say.
Other articles to read through:
The more houses built, the more cost to the county, research shows, Heather Michon, Fluvanna Review, November 30, 2022
Report: Virginia ill-equipped to deal with the revival of gold mine industry, Whitney Pipkin, Chesapeake Bay Journal, December 5, 2022
Warrenton police chief to leave town for top post in Charlottesville, James Jarvis, Fauquier County, December 6 2022
Albemarle County launches affordable connectivity program, Franklin Spain, CBS19, December 7, 2022
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, school board begin capital budget negotiations, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, December 7, 2022
Businesses eye development at Zion Crossroads, Heather Michon, Fluvanna Review, December 8, 2022
BOV Committee Reviews Plans for Karsh Institute of Democracy Building, Matt Kelly, UVA Today, December 8, 2022
End notes for #469
There is so much to write about, and I appreciate you taking the opportunity to read and listen. I’m a big believer that for government to work, people have to know what’s happening and every single edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement seeks to share what I know with as many people as possible.
Thank you to Bree Luck for her contributions to the podcast version today!
Thank you to the paying subscribers who are helping cover the cost for everyone else! I talk about this part a lot, but at least I leave it to the end and I try best to just report rather than endlessly fundraise. For two and a half years I’ve been able to cover my bottom line and that’s because of a lot of people who also believe that this work is important.
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Now back to preparations for the next program! To 470 and beyond!