Feb 1 • 17M

February 1, 2022: Transportation group briefed on University of Virginia's master plan for land use; CAAR releases 4th quarter real estate report

Plus: Today begins Black History Month

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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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This is not the day that repeats and to my knowledge there are no important prognostications or forecasts that I am aware of. But this is the first day of the second month of the current year, and there may be sayings that I am not saying, except to say hello and welcome to the February 1 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that does repeat in the sense that it comes out as often as possible. I’m Sean Tubbs, here are the things I have to say: 

On today’s program:
  • The University of Virginia is in the early stages of creating a new master plan for the future of its land use 

  • A bill to extend oyster season is one of several bills that has passed the Virginia Senate, and I have a small rundown

  • The housing market in the Charlottesville area shows signs of cooling down

Camp Albemarle shout-out!

Today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting http://campalbemarleva.org/donate

Pandemic update

COVID’s omicron surge continues to recede, though numbers are still higher than at most points of the pandemic. Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 6,055 new cases and the seven-day percent positivity dropped to 24.5 percent. 

The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 130 new cases today and the percent positivity in the district is at 22.4 percent. 

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Moderna version of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use since December 18, 2020 and will now be marketed as Spikevax. (release)

Black History Month begins today

February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, and Governor Glenn Youngkin has issued a proclamation to mark the occasion that cites leadership provided by Black Virginians including former Governor Doug Wilder as well as Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office.

The proclamation also recognizes the roles played by Dr. Robert Russa Moton, Maggie Lena Walker, and Dorothy Height. Each of those links goes to Encyclopedia Virginia, where you can learn more. (read the proclamation)

CAAR: Residential sales in region beginning to cool 

The housing market in the Charlottesville area continued to increase in price with constrained inventory, though there are signs of cooling. Sales were down five percent but sales prices were up six percent according to an analysis published this morning by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. 

“There were 436 active listings across the CAAR footprint at the end of the fourth quarter, which is 33 percent fewer listings than this time last year,” reads the report. 

The report suggests more homes are on the way. Housing construction was up 34 percent in the first eleven months of 2021 compared to the previous year. 

“Between 2020 and 2021, the number of permits for new single-family homes increased by 15 percent, while the number of permits for multifamily units more than doubled,” the report continues. 

The report also breaks matters down by jurisdiction. Sales were up 14 percent in Charlottesville in the fourth quarter of 2021 and up 15 percent in Greene County. However, sales were down 14 percent in Fluvanna and 38 percent in Nelson County. The median price in Charlottesville was down was one percent, but was 26 percent higher in Nelson. 

Check out the report for more information on consumer confidence, mortgage interest rates, employment, and many other economic indicators.

The report can be downloaded on the CAAR website
General Assembly update: Split Senate votes on law enforcement notification, funding for kidney disease

Let’s continue with another quick update on the status of some legislation in the Virginia General Assembly beginning with a bill that has passed the House of Delegates.

  • The House passed a bill 99 to 0 to require companies that charge for services on a continuing basis to notify the consumer at the end of a seven-day trial period. (HB78)

  • The Senate passed a bill 40 to 0 to direct the Department of Education to develop policies to inform coaches, parents, and guardians about the risks of heat-related illness. (SB161)

  • The Senate also passed a bill to direct the State Registrar of Vital Records to update the Department of Elections once a week with names of people who have died. The vote was 32-8. (SB211)

  • The two parties split 21 to 19 on a bill to create the Renal Disease Council and a fund to support people with kidney disease. (SB241)

  • Another party line vote was held on a bill that would require law enforcement officers to tell a motorist why they have been pulled over before identification must be presented. (SB246)

  • A bill that would clarify the definition of composting also passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. (SB248)

  • Food manufacturers that operate in historic buildings would be exempt from certain laws and regulations if SB305 also passed the House of Delegates. The Senate passed this bill from Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25)

  • The Senate passed a bill 39 to 1 to create the Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority to be made up of Williamsburg and the counties of James City and York. (SB438)

  • A bill to extend oyster season to March 31 passed the Senate on a 39 to 0 vote. (SB629)

Second shout-out goes to Code for Charlottesville

Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects such as an expungement project with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a map of Charlottesville streetlights, and the Charlottesville Housing Hub. Visit codeforcville.org to learn about those projects.

MPO Policy Board briefed on the UVA Master Plan

Readers and listeners should know by now that planning is a constant theme of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

Tonight the Albemarle Planning Commission will get an update on the county’s Comprehensive Plan process. Visit the new engage.albemarle.org to learn more about AC44 (which is also a regular Air Canada flight between Vancouver and New Dehli).

Staff and consultants are at work on the third phase of Charlottesville’s Cville Plans Together initiative, which will see the rewriting of the city’s zoning code.

But how does the University of Virginia plan for its future? Something called the Grounds Framework Plan. Julia Monteith is the Associate University Planner and she briefed the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization on January 26. 

“The last one of these that we did was completed in 2008 and we roughly due them on a ten-year cycle,” Monteith said. (read the 2008 plan)

Creation of the next plan was to have begun in 2020, but as with many things, the pandemic got in the way. 

“The world had other plans for us so the project went on hold,” Monteith said. 

Last spring, UVA hired a consultant called Urban Strategies to do some of the background work. The Toronto-based firm recently completed a master plan for Princeton University.

“This plan will take about a year and they’re planning to wrap it up in fall of next year and so to date what they’ve been doing is really coming up to speed, doing a background review, data assembly, interviews, and quite a bit of analysis and understanding of who we are and what we’ve done to date,” Monteith said. 

Monteith said the plan will help to physically implement the Great and Good University Plan, which was adopted in August 2019 as UVA’s strategic plan. One of the strategic goals in that document is to “be a strong partner with and good neighbor to the Charlottesville region.” A key initiative is the “Good Neighbor Program.” 

UVA’s relationship to the community is called out in the Great and Good University strategic plan (read the plan)

The next Grounds Framework will update the 2008 plan which Monteith said called for compact growth and redevelopment of existing sites where possible. 

“We’ll be considering the Grounds and for those who may not be familiar, we delineate the Grounds into three precincts—Central Grounds, West Ground, and North Grounds with the Academical Village at the center of Central Grounds,” Monteith said.

All of those properties are owned by the state of Virginia through the Rector of the Board of Visitors. The University of Virginia Foundation also owns property throughout the community and some of that will also be addressed in the plan update. 

“We’re also going to be considering the context of some of the Foundation properties,” Monteith said. “Westover, Boar’s Head, Birdwood, Foxhaven and the [Blue Ridge Sanitorium].”

In the context of the plan, these properties are not intended for new facilities any time soon but instead are intended to be “spheres of influence” for development into the future. 

Monteith said there is a lot of capacity for redevelopment within the Central Grounds area. Urban Strategies will also take into account a Strategic Framework for Academic Space from 2018 and a Landscape Framework Plan from 2019. There’s also a key transportation study as well. 

“In 2019, we completed our third parking and transportation plan,” Montieth said. “This plan really takes a hybrid approach towards transportation that really looks at transportation demand management balanced with more traditional transportation planning.” 

Among other things, this plan seeks to limit the number of parking spaces that UVA will need to build by offering alternatives to driving alone in a single occupancy vehicle. In all there are eighteen strategies, ranging from “reorganize commuter and student parking to reduce event impact and enhance commuter service” to “evaluate need to build new parking facilities in the long term.” 

Statistics cited in the 2019 Parking and Transportation Plan 

Back to the idea of redevelopment. Monteith said a master plan is completed for each one before construction begins. That includes Brandon Avenue, Emmet-Ivy, Ivy Mountain, Fontaine, and more. There’s also Ivy Gardens, which is owned currently by the UVA Foundation. The Grounds Plan update is intended to bring it all together.

(See also: UVA making plan for Ivy Garden redevelopment, June 9, 2021)

“A framework plan of this type is going to be looking at place and character, land use and facilities, and transportation, but equally important to us are equity and inclusivity, community well-being, and sustainability,” Monteith said. 

One theme is to continue to move more medical programs and outpatient services from the West Complex to the Fontaine Research Park.

UVA has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil-free by 2050 and the Grounds Plan will take this into account, and how UVA will work with Albemarle and Charlottesville to achieve those mutual goals, as well as others. 

“Of course I think you are all aware that UVA is committed to facilitating the development of 1,000 to 1,500 affordable housing units, so that’s part of our discussion also,” Monteith said. 

Those are at the UVA North Fork Discovery Park, the Piedmont site on Fontaine Avenue, and Wertland Street. Monteith said the plan also will provide opportunities to think how the University Transit Service can work better with Charlottesville Area Transit and Jaunt to improve the regional transportation system. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek said she wants the University to make an investment to connect Old Ivy Road to points south. At the eastern end, there’s currently a narrow railroad tunnel with no sidewalk or other concessions for pedestrians and Mallek said that needs to change. 

“I do hope that the University will take on its responsibility for dealing with that trestle either with a walk over the top or something for pedestrians because it really is dangerous every day for the people who live there now,” Mallek said. 

Monteith said Old Ivy Road is the responsibility of the Virginia Department of Transportation, and she said the University is working with VDOT on potential solutions for both ends of the roadway. In addition to the Ivy Residences, Greystar Development is seeking to build over 400 units at the western end of the roadway. 

“We’re waiting to hear back from what the thinking is to approach that and long-term it has been discussed that it’s a priority for [Albemarle] County should funding appear but it’s quite a challenge to figure out how to realign the road to better move through that railroad trestle,” Monteith said. 

More information on the development of this plan, and all of the other plans, will come in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement. 

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