Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
February 22, 2023: Council elects Puryear to replace Magill through rest of 2023; Planning Commission provides questions for next week's zoning work session

February 22, 2023: Council elects Puryear to replace Magill through rest of 2023; Planning Commission provides questions for next week's zoning work session

Plus: David Brown drops out of the House District 54 race

There are less than six days left to enjoy whatever it is that you enjoy about February. Brevity? The lack of a fifth day? The only month that begins with an F? Either way, soon this year will turn two months old, or a sixth of a way through. Is there a way to determine if time is moving faster, or is that something to ask a philosopher about? These are not the subjects of this episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement, which is more concerned with documenting some of the items that have happened this month. I’m Sean Tubbs, grateful for those who might take an interest.

On today’s program:

  • Former School Board member Leah Puryear is elected by Council to serve as their fifth member through the end of 2023

  • Jennifer McClellan wins election to Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District 

  • David Brown drops out of the House District 54 race 

  • Albemarle Police are investigating a homicide near Azalea Park south of I-64

  • The Charlottesville Planning Commission provides some questions about the draft zoning code 

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

First shout-out: Homelessness in Charlottesville: From Stigma to Solutions

Want to learn how to help our unhoused neighbors find affordable permanent housing? LivableCville is hosting a webinar, Homelessness in Charlottesville is a Housing Problem, on March 1 at 6:30 p.m. The online event will feature Dr. Gregg Colburn, assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington and co-author of the groundbreaking recent book "Homelessness is a Housing Problem." He will discuss his research into the causes of homelessness and solutions. The discussion will explore connections between homelessness, the Charlottesville area housing market, and the Cville Plans and Albemarle County 2044 projects. 

Puryear named to Charlottesville City Council 

Charlottesville City Council has selected a former member of the Charlottesville School Board to fill out the unexpired term of former Councilor Sena Magill. The election by the four remaining Councilors took place at the beginning of their meeting last night.

“Is there a motion for the appointment?” asked Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

“Yes, Mr. Mayor,” answered Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade. “I move that the City Council appoint Leah Puryear for the uncompleted for Sena Magill.” 

The vote was unanimous and Puryear was sworn in immediately but will not actually begin her term until February 27 when the human resources paperwork is complete. 

“I’d like to say thank you to all of the Councilors for all of the time and energy and effort you put into this process,” Puryear said. “I’d like to say thank you to all 19 people plus myself that applied. And to those of us who made the final round, I had some very tough competition and I was very much aware of that but I am willing to do the work and roll up my sleeves and get started.” 

Charlottesville Circuit Court Clerk Llezelle Dugger swears in Leah Puryear to an unexpired term on City Council on February 21, 2023 (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Puryear is the director of the Uplift@UVA program, which used to be named Upward Bound. 

Councilors thanked everyone who applied for the position. 

“It’s makes me feel good about the city and the future that we have where we have some newer folks that have expressed interest in serving,” said Councilor Brian Pinkston. 

Vice Mayor Wade served four terms on the School Board alongside Puryear. Both won races in 2006 as part of the first elected School Board race in Charlottesville. 

“This was difficult and this was a trust that the public gave to us to make this decision for the next ten months and it’s something that we did not take lightly as we went through this discussion,” Wade said. 

The first Council meeting Puryear is eligible to attend will be next Tuesday when Council will have a joint work session with the Planning Commission on the first module of the draft zoning code.

Puryear went first during the February 6 City Council meeting when applicants on the short-list had up to eight minutes to have their say. Puryear explained that she moved here in November 1980.

“We all have experienced difficult times but through those times we have all learned,” Puryear said. “It is my hope that Charlottesville will continue to be a community that understands the importance of diversity.” 

Of the three concepts, of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Puryear said inclusion is the key. 

“I will be at the table,” Puryear said. “I will be included. But more important, I will be respected. I will be heard. I will be able to participate. I will practice effective listening. We must listen. We must hear what our community is saying.”

Puryear said working in higher education as an administrator and on the School Board, she’s worked with budgets and has built many relationships with those at the University of Virginia and Albemarle County.

“The three of us must work together,” Puryear said. “We must collaborate. We must partner. I want to be your mirror. I want to be the new set of eyes that will look at the budget.” 

Puryear comes on Council at a time when the city is about to implement the results of a compensation study. During her testimony, Puryear referenced poems by Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. 

Podcast listeners can hear her whole testimony. 

McClellan elected to represent Virginia’s Fourth House District in Congress

State Senator Jennifer McClellan received three out of four votes in yesterday’s special election to elect a new Representative to the U.S. House in Congress. According to the incomplete election night results, Democrat McClellan got 80,752 votes compared to 27,939 for Republican Leon Benjamin. 

“We’ve done a lot of good here in Richmond at the statehouse, whether it was passing the Voting Rights Act, passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, passing the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights,” McClellan said. “All of that work needs to be done in Washington.”

McClellan was first elected to the 71st District in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2005 where she served until being elected to the Senate in 2017 in a special election to replace Donald McEachin, who had won election to the U.S. House that previous November.  McEachin died in late November, kicking off the special election yesterday. She becomes the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in Virginia. 

McLellan also ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2021. 

Unofficial results from the February 21, 2023 special election (Credit: Virginia Department of Elections)

Former Councilor Brown drops out of House District 54 race

And then there were four, though that number could still change.

Former Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown has dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for House District 54. 

“This will be a very competitive primary, and I realize that I am not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed,” wrote in an email to supporters. “I will continue to be involved in helping our community address the serious challenges we face, but will look for opportunities locally instead of in Richmond.” 

Brown served two terms on Council from 2004 to the end of 2011. He spent the last several years as director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions before Governor Glenn Youngkin appointed a replacement last November. Before that, Brown spent two years as an assistant to former Delegate David Toscano, according to his LinkedIn page. 

The four candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination in the June 20 primary are: 

“Whoever gets elected, I hope they will be an advocate for campaign finance reform,” Brown continued. “Bills this legislative session would have capped individual contributions at $20,000, prohibited contributions from public utilities, and prohibited personal use of campaign funds, but all were defeated in committee.” 

Albemarle Police investigating homicide

The Albemarle County Police Department is investigating a murder that took place last night. At around 9:42 p.m, police responded to a shots fired call on Timberland Lane near Azalea Park just south of Interstate 64. When they arrived they found 34-year-old Joshua Lamont Jones of Charlottesville had been struck by gunfire. Jones was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. 

Police continue to investigate the incident. On February 15, officers responded to another shots fired incident in the nearby Cavalier Crossing and have been conducting extra polls, according to information available through the Citizen Connect portal run by the Charlottesville-Albemarle-UVA Emergency Communications Center. 

Second shout-out: Piedmont Master Gardeners seek items for Green Elephant Sale

In today’s first subscriber supported public service announcement:  If you are cleaning out your garage, basement or garden shed as spring approaches, the Piedmont Master Gardeners will gladly take any yard and garden equipment you no longer need.

PMG is now accepting donations of new and used tools, hoses, decorative items, outdoor furniture—virtually anything used to create, maintain and enjoy a garden. These “Green Elephants” will be offered for sale to the public during PMG’s Spring Plant Sale. Donated items may be dropped off at 402 Albemarle Square between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays through the end of April. PMG is not able to accept plastic pots or opened chemicals. To arrange a pickup or for more information, contact the Piedmont Master Gardeners at

As for that sale? Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 6, at Albemarle Square Shopping Center. 

Planning Commission reviews Charlottesville zoning changes in advance of open house meetings 

Tonight the City of Charlottesville begins the first of three open houses on the first module of the draft zoning code. For a recap, take a look at the story I wrote on February 4 within 24 hours of the draft new rules being produced. 

The first open house is at Charlottesville High School tonight at 6 p.m. with the second tomorrow night at Buford Middle School at 6 p.m. I’ll be at that one. Then on Saturday, the final open house will be held at 11 a.m. at CitySpace. The meetings are all informal and offer a chance to talk to staff about the work.

A broad overview of the new zoning map. View the interactive map to drill in to different areas of the city. Read below for descriptions. 

If you are new at this and didn’t click on the above story for more information, the changes to the city’s zoning ordinance are the third leg in the Cville Plans Together initiative, which is intended to create more housing units across the city and to also introduce rules to require a portion of them be reserved for people with incomes less than 60 percent of the area median income. 

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has helped steer the process and had a chance to offer initial feedback and questions on the new zoning module at their meeting on February 14, 2023. That was all in preparation of their work session on February 28. 

“The questions we’ve provided you as a prompt are: what have you been hearing from your community on the zoning ordinance materials? Topics for in-depth discussion on the 28th, and topics for exploration,” asked James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services. 

The first question was on affordability. As written at the moment, a property owner in a Residential-A zone could build up to four units without providing affordable units.  Residential-B could build up to six units and Residential-C could build up to eight units by-right. Each could get double that amount if they agree to designate all of them as affordable. 

“Module 2 will have the detailed actual ordinance language that implements what you see in that summary,” Freas said.

Freas said that will also include details on the inclusionary zoning.

“The other thing that we will have in module 2 is a separate document which will be our manual for implementing the inclusionary zoning so that will actually have the rules for how the game is played,” Freas said. 

Commissioner Phil d’Oronzio said there needed to be more information for the areas designated in the Future Land Use Map for protection of Black residents and property owners.

“There’s a lot of reference to this proposed tentative Sensitive Communities Overlay that we’re thinking about,” d’Oronzio said. “I’d like to get one level less abstraction on that.” 

Right now, there do not appear to be any policy interventions to stop these properties from transferring. Since the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, several of these parcels have been flipped. Here are some examples from 2022: 

  • A couple bought 708 West Street on January 7 for $250,000 and then sold it on December 2, 2022 for $510,000. describes it as “a complete and total transformation in the heart of the city.”

  • A two bedroom house in the 800 block of King Street in the Fifeville neighborhood sold for $305,000 on January 12, 2022.

  • A three bedroom house on 7 1/12 Street in Fifeville within the Sensitive Communities area sold for $522,000

  • Visions of Love LLC paid $400,000 for 856 Nalle Street on February 15

  • A couple paid $645,000 for 723 West Street on March 21 

  • A vacant lot on Concord Avenue where a building was demolished in 2020 sold for $200,000 on June 9 

  • One half of a duplex on Bailey Road was purchased for $140,000 on June 14 by Aspiring Developments LLC and sold in December for $270,000. 

  • A three bedroom house on Henry Avenue in the Rose Hill neighborhood sold for $429,000. That was 71.12 percent over the 2022 assessment of $250,700. 

It still is not yet known if existing site plans under review will be grandfathered when the zoning code is adopted. The city currently does not have a City Attorney and is relying on the firm Pandak & Taves for land use issues. Commissioner Karim Habbab had this thought on this issue.

“My opinion would be that someone put a lot of work into doing something and if its already under review there’s a lot invested in it,” Habbab said. “It would be kind of wild to have to go back to the drawing board.” 

“But you also have to figure out where are you going to draw those lines,” Freas said.

The new zoning introduces the concept of the “sublot” which might allow for more homeownership opportunities. Commissioner Carl Schwarz had questions.

“Does it work? In what conditions would it not work? When will the fire department say ‘you can’t do that?’” Schwarz said. 

Commissioner Rory Stoltzenberg shared what he has heard from people in the community. 

“I have heard people express concern about the prohibition on front yard parking including driveways,” Stoltzenberg said. “I know for a lot of the small-scale residential forms that we have in the city now, people have driveways in front that they park in.”

Stoltzenberg also said he’s heard positive things about allowing restaurants and coffee shops in Residential-B and Residential-C zones with a special use permit. He also said he looks forward to a more detailed conversation about affordability. 

“I still have a lot of heartburn about the height reduction we are contemplating in the [Residential-A] zone relative to the current R zones,” Stoltzenberg said.

One topic for the 28th will be when special use permits can be used. Freas said these will be more about whether the use should be allowed rather than for asking for more building space and scale. 

The use table in the draft zoning code specifies what additional activities could happen in each zone, including restaurants below 4,000 square feet in R-B an R-C zones (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

The non-voting Commissioner who represents the University of Virginia had one concern to share.

“Some of the districts have unlimited units and I think that’s hard for me to get my head around,” said Bill Palmer of the Office of the University of Virginia Architect. 

Palmer acknowledged there would be limits in the building code based on size of bedrooms, but seeing the word “unlimited” may be jarring to many community members. 

More on the zoning rewrite in future editions of the program.

Reading material:

411 on #501

There is a need to get these ending points down in size for the podcast. I’ve got about a minute in the new ending song before I have to begin looping it. That’s definitely possible, but I don’t know how to make it work well yet. Yet, I jumped in to something new, befitting this experiment in journalism. 

Thank you to those helping to cover my costs to produce the show as well as other things I create under the Town Crier Productions banner. That doesn’t include cvillepedia, which is just something I work on. You can too at an edit-a-thon tomorrow. Details on this Facebok post. 

Paid subscribers through Substack also help me qualify for additional revenue from Ting in the form of a sponsorship where they will match your initial payment. Sign up for Ting and put in the promo code COMMUNITY and you’ll free installation, a second month for free, and a $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall. 

Thanks to Wraki for the music and to P.J. Sykes for the opening theme. And thank you for reading to this point. Please share so we can keep growing the audience. 

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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.