Feb 17, 2022 • 16M

February 17, 2022: Charlottesville to respond to Richardson lawsuit by end of the month; Work continues on Zion Crossroads water supply

Plus: A regional round-up from Thomas Jefferson Planning District communities

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Sean Tubbs
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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Round and round and round we go on this 333rd installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Where will we stop? In about 16 minutes if you’re listening to the podcast. If you’re reading it, that would depend on your pace, I suppose. Either way, this is February 17, 2022 and we are indeed one third of the way to a thousand editions of this program. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs, and I hope to be here for all three of the years it may take to get there. 

On today’s program:
  • An update on former City Manager Tarron Richardson’s lawsuit against Charlottesville City Council

  • The Thomas Jefferson Planning District is working on two major housing initiatives

  • A round-up of what’s happening in TJPDC communities

  • Louisa Supervisors gets an update on water supply plan for Zion Crossroads

  • A closed-door group gets an early look at the University of Virginia’s master plan 

First Patreon-fueled shout-out goes to the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards

In today’s first subscriber-supported Public Service Announcement, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards continues to offer classes this winter and spring to increase your awareness of our wooden neighbors and to prepare for the future. The next event is February 22 at 7 p.m. when tree steward Emily Ferguson will help you look beyond the monotonous winter forest by focusing on the finer details that will help you differentiate between species of trees. Learn more at charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org. (register for the February 22 session

And in the second shout-out, there’s still 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."

Visit infocville.com and click on the Support the Info button to find out how you can support the show and get a shout-out!

Richardson lawsuit update 

Both sides in a federal lawsuit filed by a former city manager against Charlottesville City Council have filed extensions requesting more time to file the next round of legal responses. 

Dr. Tarron Richardson sued Charlottesville City Council and several individuals by name in the Western District of Virginia last November alleging that the city had denied his first amendment rights by not allowing an op-ed to be published in the Daily Progress months after his resignation in September 2020. In addition to Council, former City Attorney John Blair, current City Attorney Lisa Robertson, former City Councilor Heather Hill, and former Mayor Nikuyah Walker are all named in the suit. 

Before resigning, Richardson had signed a release and waiver governing his $205,000 in severance that included a mutual non-disparagement clause. 

On January 26, an attorney for Lisa Robertson filed a motion asking for the suit against her to be thrown out. (read the motion)

“The complaint does not state a claim against Robertson, as she did not personally deprive Plaintiff of his First Amendment rights,” reads that motion. “Plaintiff waived his claims against the City, as well as its employees and officials by signing the release.”

The motion also states Robertson has qualified immunity and cannot be sued as a private individual. It goes on to refute Richardson’s claim that his publication of the op-ed was stopped by Robertson. Instead, the motion states the then interim city attorney warned Richardson’s counsel twice in February 2021 that the city could pursue action if he broke the non-disparagement clause. 

On February 8, Richardson’s attorneys filed a motion requesting more time to respond to Robertson’s request to be dismissed, a request granted by Judge Norman K. Moon on February 11. 

Charlottesville has hired Richard Milnor to represent the city and he filed a motion on January 20 requesting more time to respond to the initial complaint. On February 11, Milnor asked to have until February 28 to respond. Judge Norman K. Moon granted that extension. 

Yesterday, the suit turned 90 days old which triggered a notice to Richardson’s attorney that summons have not yet been served to Heather Hill, Nikuyah Walker, John Blair, or Robertson. Only the city of Charlottesville has received a summons. 

Land Use, Environment and Planning Committee to meet tomorrow

A regularly-scheduled closed door meeting of planners from Albemarle, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia is scheduled for tomorrow, and materials are now available from the last meeting.

The Land Use, Environmental and Planning Committee (LUEPC) was created after November 2019 when the public Planning and Coordination Council which consisted of elected officials was disbanded. The group also consists of officials from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. 

In January, they got two briefings from the University of Virginia’s Office of the Architect. One was an update on the UVA Grounds Framework Plan, which is a master plan for UVA. The public Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization got the same presentation a week later. (view the presentation)

See also

The second presentation was a four-slide review of the three sites the University of Virginia has selected as locations for up to 1,500 affordable housing units that would be build in partnership with a private developer. These are at the North Fork Discovery Park, Wertland Street, and the Piedmont site on Fontaine Avenue. Of those three, a rezoning application has been filed with Albemarle County for the North Fork site. (download)

A slide from the UVA Grounds Framework presentation made to the LUEPC group (download)
Third 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.

TJDPC Roundtable: Fluvanna and Nelson both updating Comprehensive Plans this year

To conclude the show today, let’s return to the February 10 meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Let’s start with a couple of staff reports. 

The TJPDC will work with a nonprofit partner to help prevent evictions through a pilot program with funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. (DHCD)

“It’s $250,000 for Charlottesville and Albemarle County,” said executive director Christine Jacobs. “That grant actually will have a subrecipient and that will be Piedmont Housing Alliance and that will allow them to hire an eviction prevention case manager as well as a landlord outreach manager which was what we requested in the grant application.”

Last year, the city of Charlottesville used $300,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay Legal Aid Justice Center to also work in the area of eviction prevention. Jacobs said the TJPDC used that funding as a local match to secure the DHCD grant.

The TJPDC is also administering a $2 million grant from Virginia Housing to actually construct units. Jacobs said requests for proposals have been received and there three entities have been selected to proceed.

“We will then have those three priority applicants submit their formal applications with all of their documentation and then a review panel will look at the feasibility of the project,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the TJPDC Commissioners will be shown a recommendation at their meeting in April. 

Last year, the TJPDC completed a regional housing plan which has chapters for each of the six jurisdictions. Keith Smith represents Fluvanna County on the TJPDC Board. (plan website)

“We’re starting our comp plan process and it looks like we’re going to be leaning pretty heavily on the work that the Regional Housing Partnership has done,” Smith said. 

Each jurisdiction in the TJPDC has a chapter outlining housing recommendations (download the plan)

Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring said his locality continues its separation from the Rapidan Service Authority. That entity did not want to proceed with Greene’s vision to create a new reservoir for an urban water supply. 

“For those who don’t know, we’ll stay with it until we actually own our own water authority,” Herring said. 

Greene County has recently created its own emergency medical services department and has offered to pay for full time firefighters. However, there may be an issue. 

“We had one fire department that has asked originally for four staff members,” Herring said. “They came back and asked for seven.” 

Herring said the county continues to hope to supplement fire service with volunteers, but numbers are dwindling. 

The TJPDC meetings are also an opportunity for urban communities to brief rural ones on trends that may affect them in the future. City Councilor Michael Payne shared information about the fundamentals informing the creation of the budget for next fiscal year.

“We got our assessment increases and the average assessments were up eleven percent,” Payne said. “We’re beginning budget discussions and to afford everything currently in our budget, on top of that 11 percent increase will require a ten cent real estate tax increase.” 

The major driver is the renovations to Buford Middle School as a major plank in school reconfiguration, as well as an $10 million commitment to affordable housing projects.

“So we are going to have to have some difficult, honest, and realistic conversations over the coming weeks about how to get our budget working,” Payne said. 

Another difficult conversation will be had when the public process related to the upgrade of the zoning code begins later this year. Planning Commission Chair Lyle-Solla Yates is a new member of the TJPDC and he said Rhodeside & Harwell and internal city staff are working on a review. 

“They’re doing an analysis of what we’ve got versus what our Comprehensive Plan says we need,” Solla-Yates said. “It’s going to be a big project and it’s going to be difficult. We should have something I’m recalling, an initial assessment in mid-April and once we have that we will go into public process and people will share their thoughts and feelings on zoning which is always a good thing.”

Nelson County faces a lot of changes and challenges, according to Jesse Rutherford. He’s chair of both the Nelson Board of Supervisors as well as the TJPDC. A Comprehensive Plan review is soon to get underway. 

“And trying to figure out it is we can thrive as a community, which leads into the bigger thing which is even more important than the Comprehensive Plan - zoning,” Rutherford said. “How do you define things in rezoning? I think affordable housing has to be radically looked at and radically approached as opposed to pandered by the respective demographics in power. At the end of the day its about making sure that everybody and every income bracket has a place to live.” 

Rutherford said Nelson has many more people who are opting to work from home, and the county’s pledge for universal broadband by 2024 could accelerate a trend. 

“And we’re starting to see a change in the conversation of what does the future of a rural county look like,” Rutherford said. “Obviously preserving rural is such an interesting thing. Is it preserving trees? Is it water? For some people it’s culture.” 

That housing plan also has information for Nelson County. The TJPDC next meets on March 3.

Louisa Board briefed on new intake for Zion Crossroads water supply

Staying regional to conclude this installment. The Louisa County Board of Supervisors got an update this Monday on the efforts of the James River Water Authority to secure a final permit to proceed with a plan to build a waterline between the James and Zion Crossroads for an urban water supply. One site for an intake is seriously contested by the Monacan Indian Nation because it on a major historical site called Rassawek. Archeological work has been conducted on a nearby site. 

“[GAI Consultants] who are the Authority’s current archeology consultant is very close to finalizing a phase one archeology report on alternative 1C and they are doing that in conjunction with Gray & Pape who are the Monacan’s selected archeologist so that’s a good team effort and that report is finished,” said Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin. 

If the Monacans agree, the JRWA will apply for a permit for that location from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 

“The attorney for the Monacan Indian Nation attended last week’s JRWA meeting and voiced the Monacan’s intent to continue supporting the project if the conditions are met, and those conditions being that we worked with their archeologist Gray & Pape and that no evidence of burials were found and that appears to be the route we are proceeding upon right now,” Goodwin said. 

The JRWA is next scheduled to meet on March 9. 

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