Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
February 13, 2024: Sanders puts decarbonization study on pause; Council to hold another work session on CAT fuels
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February 13, 2024: Sanders puts decarbonization study on pause; Council to hold another work session on CAT fuels

Plus: The first in a series of summaries of legally mandated public notices
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We are in an age where perhaps we need new metaphors to describe 21st century life. Sometimes people will say they are “drinking from a firehose” when they’re placed in a new situation, or perhaps “in the deep end” or perhaps “in the weeds.” These may no longer be relevant. Sadly, the research budget for Charlottesville Community Engagement does not include funding for neologisms, but your suggestions for phrases, new and old, are requested. I’m Sean Tubbs, not sure if this a sequitur or the non kind. 

On today’s show:

  • A truck hit a utility pole in downtown Charlottesville last night knocking out internet service with the Ting slowly returning service throughout the day 

  • City Manager Sam Sanders gives an update on his quarterly work plan and announces the city’s decarbonization study is on pause 

  • A very brief look at bills that have passed the House of Delegates including new rules that would allow cyclists to yield at stop signs and ride two abreast

  • A very brief look at a series of legally mandated public notices in the first of a new signal boosting series

First shout out: Charlottesville E-bike Lending Library 

In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out, one Patreon supporter wants you to know that Charlottesville has an eBike Lending Library!  E-bikes are a great way to get around the community but there are many brands and styles to choose from. Because many e-bikes are sold online, it can be a challenge to try an e-bike before buying one.

The Charlottesville E-bike Lending Library is a free, not-for-profit service working to expand access to e-bikes in the area. They have a small collection of e-bikes that they lend out to community members for up to a week, for free. You can experience your daily commute, go grocery shopping, or even bike your kids to school, and decide whether e-bikes are right for you. Check out this service at https://www.ebikelibrarycville.org!

Truck collision with utility pole knocks out Ting internet service for Charlottesville

Internet service provided by the company Ting was knocked out of operation last night after a tractor trailer struck a utility pole at the intersection of Park Street and East High Street. 

“This caused a transformer to catch fire,” reads a post on the Charlottesville Police Department’s Facebook page

Soon after, Ting reported on its status page that the collision damaged fiber lines and repairs could not begin until after Dominion Energy cleared them to do so. 

At 8:23 a.m. this morning the company reported that had not yet happened. 

“We currently have no ETA as we are waiting on the Dominion repair crew to repair the fallen power pole and restore power before we begin repairs on the damaged fiber,” reads the status page. .

Three hours later, another status update reported that engineers were able to get to the site to begin repairing the damage and that some service had been installed. 

A disclaimer that Ting is one of the sponsors of Charlottesville Community Engagement

The incident happened within the geographic scope of a streetscape project funded by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2016 but that has not proceeded to construction in part because of the need to construct the Belmont Bridge replacement first. For more details on the East High Streetscape, take a look at the dedicated website though it’s not been updated for four and a half years. 

The incident shut down the intersection due to the amount of repair needed (Credit: Courteney Stuart)

Sanders: Charlottesville’s administration is fully in place 

Charlottesville City Council’s meeting on February 5, 2024 was so packed with information that I’m still going through it to make sure I captured all of the action. I’ve already written about Council’s second reading of a $4.181 million purchase of property owned by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which you can take a look at here.

Future editions of the newsletter will have more from the meeting, but for now City Manager Sam Sanders had a lot to say during his regular update to City Council and the public. He was particularly pleased to report that two new top officials have taken their station in City Hall. 

“For me this is an exciting time because it’s the first time that our full executive leadership team has been filled at the same time,” Sanders said. 

Eden Ratliff is the Deputy City Manager for Administration and Lionel Lyons is the Deputy City Manager for Operations. 

  • Ratliff will oversee human resources, finance, information technology and the budget.

  • Lyons will oversee Neighborhood Development Services, Public Works, transit, and utilities. 

  • Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall will oversee Human Services, Social Services, the Office of Human Rights, Parks and Recreation, the Police Civilian Oversight Board, the Office of Sustainability, and the Office of Social Equity. 

Sanders presented the second quarter update on his work plan, a document he said he would track his performance since becoming City Manager last August. He said he is pressing city staff on the importance of service and impact. (view the second quarter update)

“The team hears me say it often in many of my message to them focusing on quality service and how we can impact lives daily because I believe that to my core,” Sanders said. “I came into government because I want to fix government. I don’t know if everybody knows that about me but I’ve been very critical at times in my past and my goal here is to influence it to do things I know it can do.”  

One of the slides in Sanders’ presentation (download the presentation)

Sanders listed three areas of collaboration between multiple departments to deliver new services, such as an alternative response public safety team equipped with people capable of doing mental health interventions.  

“We’ve been looking at opioid abatement and spending money in that space,” Sanders said. “We’ve also been looking at violence reduction and a pre-arrest diversion program so those are things you can expect to hear from us.” 

The presentation also included a calendar of work sessions for the rest of the year, including topic areas for what are known as 2 x 2 x 1 meetings. This is where Sanders and other officials can brief Councilors two at a time to evade the need to hold a noticed meeting. 

A stand-alone work session to follow up on alternative fuel sources for Charlottesville Area Transit is planned for February 27. In January, Council was briefed on a recommendation to purchase two battery-electric vehicle buses for a pilot as well as to plan to purchase a hydrogen vehicle in 2027. 

“It’ll be a discussion on what Council has heard since you were able to hear from Kimley-Horn in their presentation to you last month and just to be able to provide any additional context that may have come in through the responses,” Sanders said. “And to really frame up what is the decision point.”

Sanders said there are no federal or state mandates related to the fuel type, but the city does have its own greenhouse gas reduction goals. 

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced there would be $1.5 billion available through the Federal Transit Administration for low-emission and no-emission buses. (read the press release)

Sanders also said a decarbonization study that has been underway is now on pause due to a number of critiques and concerns raised by advocacy groups. Council had a briefing on October 16 and the minutes indicate that individuals associated with the Community Climate Collaborative spoke but does not indicate their specific objections. 

“The decarbonization work has been challenging at best,” Sanders said. “I think you would all join me in acknowledging that for some of the questions and concerns as to where we are.” 

Sanders also apologized to the public for audio visual issues that made it hard to follow Councils’ retreat on January 26. To make up for it, he wrote up a nine-page summary of the event for people to read. Some takeaways:

  • Council will no longer participate in joint public hearings with the Planning Commission  and these will instead be scheduled for actual Council meetings. 

  • The city’s financial advisor, Public Financial Management, is recommending a conservative approach to budgeting for FY25.

  • Employee wages make up 33 percent of the city’s general fund expenditures, and the amount subject to collective bargaining is about a third of that. Ratings agencies are monitoring negotiations across the Commonwealth due to the potential of uncertainty through labor disruptions. 

More from City Council in the next edition of the newsletter.

A list of initiatives Sanders is working on is the final slide in his presentation (view the document) 

Sponsored message: Buy Local 

From Crozet to Barracks Road, the Downtown Mall to the Shops at Stonefield, and everywhere in between, Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s Offices of Economic Development encourage you to Buy Local as the New Year unfolds. 

Buying locally supports our neighbors and community members and makes a big impact for our local economy. Local businesses are more likely to reinvest in our community and their goods and services contribute to the unique character of our community.

Learn more about how you can support local business at ShowLocalLove.org and on social media:

General Assembly review: Bill allowing cyclists to yield at stop signs narrowly passes House of Delegates

Today is Crossover Day in the General Assembly which means that any remaining legislation in both chambers must be approved or it dies. As of Monday night, that’s 1,228 regular bills in the House of Delegates and 473 in the Senate. That number is already obsolete no doubt. 

This does not apply to the budget, as both of the relevant committees in each chamber have until the end of February 18 to report what they’ve come up with. The House and Senate have to approve their versions by February 22 and then have to approve the other chamber’s version by February 28. 

All committees have to complete their work by midnight on March 4 and all bills have to be approved by midnight on March 9. Then the 140 legislators go home until they reconvene on April 17 to consider amendments and vetoes that will have been made by Governor Glenn Youngkin. 

Here’s the status of several bills in the House of Delegates. If a vote count is not given, the vote was unanimous. 

  • Last June, Wintergreen Police Officer Chris Wagner was shot and killed while responding to a call. His family is not eligible to receive health and disability benefits under Virginia’s Line of Duty Act because the Wintergreen Police Department is a private force. The Nelson County Board of Supervisors requested that legislation be introduced to extend those benefits to non-public police departments. The version in the House of Delegates failed in a subcommittee on January 18 due to fiscal concerns but SB466 is still alive and unanimously passed the Senate on February 8. Another bill, HB1433, offers other changes to the Line of Duty Act. 

  • HB1495 would establish the Television and Film Production Development Grant Program to create apprenticeship programs. This passed on a 55 to 43 vote. 

  • HB1488 would standardize public notice requirements for certain meetings. This one passed unanimously and awaits action in the Senate Local Government Committee. 

  • HB1462 would create a civil penalty for anyone caught leaving a firearm unattended in a motor vehicle. This passed the House of Delegates on a 51 to 46 vote. 

  • HB1429 introduced by Delegate Amy Laufer (D-55) would exempt indoor agricultural equipment from personal property taxes. 

  • HB1415 would allow localities to create a civil penalty if a property owner demolishes a building in a historic district without approval. This passed 54 to 44. 

  • HB1398 would allow localities to create a framework to preserve housing currently rented at affordable levels by allowing a right of first refusal to the locality or a qualified designee. This passed yesterday on a 54 to 46 vote. 

  • HB1386 would require that workplaces must comply with local laws on firearms. This passed on a 51 to 46 vote. 

  • HB1370 would prohibit medical debt to be reported to consumer reporting agencies. This passed on a 54 to 45 vote. 

  • HB1284 would allow firefighters and emergency medical services personnel to engage in collective bargaining as part of a union .The vote on this one was 51 to 47. 

  • HB1266 would allow bicyclists, e-bikes and scooters to yield at stop signs in certain conditions and to allow riders to ride two abreast in lanes. This was originally defeated on a 49 to 49 vote but then passed on a second vote 51 to 49. 

  • HB1077 is a similar bill that passed 52 to 47. 

  • HB1174 would raise the age to own an “assault firearm” to 21 and that passed on a 51 to 46 vote. 

  • HB1071 would allow localities to reduce speed limits to less than 25 miles per hour. This passed 53 to 46. 

  • HB894 would slightly expand the number of all-virtual meetings that advisory boards and commissions could meet. Currently that’s capped at no more than 25 percent of their total meetings and the proposal would change that to no more than 50 percent. The effectiveness of this would be limited by the fact that these groups would still be restricted to two electronic-only meetings a year. This passed the House 74 to 26. 

  • HB842 would allow localities to contract with private companies for pupil transportation. This passed 81 to 19. 

This is just a snapshot and I’ll have another one tomorrow. I use the Virginia Legislative Information System if you’d like to do your own research. Find anything interesting? Put it in the comments. 

The text of SB466 defines “private police officer” under Virginia Code to allow for benefits upon the death of an officer killed in the line of duty 

Public notice: Cost to build 47 CRHA units at Sixth Street is $29.2 million

I recently failed to report that there were public hearings coming up before City Council and when I fail I put new systems in place to try not to repeat the same mistake. In this case, I am redoubling my efforts to make sure I’m seeing whatever public notices local governments are mandated by Virginia law to provide. 

As such, I am going to begin to post summaries of these as well. The whole point of calling this Charlottesville Community Engagement and calling my business Town Crier Productions is to point out that this is what a municipal journalist does. Or at least, it seems to make sense to me and I suspect people will be interested. 

However, newspaper circulation is very low when compared to the total population. My circulation is fairly small, but my job is to provide as much information as I can. You know. Community engagement. This is not an exhaustive list, but you can conduct your own research at Public Notice Virginia

  • There will be a public auction on February 27 at 2 p.m. on the front steps of the Albemarle County Courth ouse to pay delinquent taxes on three properties in Albemarle and one in Charlottesville. Details are available at the website of the law firm Martin & Wren. The Charlottesville property is 217 Oak Street and the owner since at least 1985 is deceased. (C-Ville Weekly, February 8, 2024)

  • Southwest Mountain Vineyards on Route 231 is seeking a limited brewery and limited distillery license. Objections to the issuance have to be submitted to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority no later than 30 days after the first of two required newspaper notices and the first was published on February 3.  The ABC license search tool is here. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 10, 2024)

  • The Department of Environmental Quality is seeking comment on a recommended “enforcement action” on the firm Linco for violations of the State Water Control Board regulations within the City of Charlottesville. The notice points to a DEQ website with pending corrective actions, and here’s a link to this one. This is related to a fish kill in an unnamed tributary of Moores Creek related to an unpermitted discharge around Stratford Court that killed around 869 fish, 527 dead salamanders, and 309 dead worms. The comment period is open from February 12 to March 12. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 10, 2024)

  • An entity called KIRTI HIR LLC is seeking a license to sell beer and wine at a location at 1001 West Main Street trading as 7 Day Jr. This building is currently occupied by several other businesses.  (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 8, 2024)

  • Crozet Seafood is also seeking a license to sell beer and wine at their location. There’s also a pending application that will go before the Architectural Review Board as mentioned by Jim Duncan on January 22, 2024. This application is COL-5000137. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 8, 2024) 

  • The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a public hearing on March 25 on their Capital Fund Plan for FY24 through FY28 and 5 Year Action Plan. The former is available here and the latter is available here. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 3, 2024) 

  • The total cost of construction is estimated at $29,228,900 to build 47 units of new public housing units in the first phase of the Sixth Street Apartments projects, according to a public notice of two actions to be taken by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. One is a request the state agency will make of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to release funds for the project. Forgive the shouting, but the other is a FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT that construction won’t have an effect on the human environment. That means no further review is necessary. The notice has more information about people can make comments. (Charlottesville Daily Progress, February 1, 2024)

Find this useful? Let me know and I’ll keep doing these. 

A portion of the notice of the enforcement order against Linco

Reading material:

The end of the road for #635

Today’s edition does not end stories to come out of Charlottesvile’s City Council on February 5, 2024. Still to come are stories on adoption of the development processes manual, the affordable housing manual, a rezoning on Lankford Avenue, and another budget discussion. In my years of reporting, I’ve never seen more happening at once in one community. 

I strive to report as much as I can, and there are stories I’ve not yet written about things that happened in Albemarle County. It’s just me at Town Crier Productions, but I’ve got to change that quick so all of us can know more about what’s happening in this very critical point in our region’s history.

Thanks to those who are paying for a subscription, I feel confident I’ll get there. If you pay through Substack, Ting matches your first payment. 

And maybe you’re in the market for new Internet? Check out Ting to see what they have to offer, and if you decide to proceed, enter in the promo code COMMUNITY to receive:

  • Free installation

  • A second month for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

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Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
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.