Jan 12, 2022 • 19M

January 12, 2022: Details emerge on Charlottesville’s zoning rewrite; Lawsuit filed against Comprehensive Plan

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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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There have been a dozen days to the year so far, and after today there are 29.4 dozen 24-hour periods left until we all sing Auld Lang Syne once again. Until then, let’s not forget any of our acquaintances for now, and let’s stock up on cups of kindness. This is Charlottesville Community Engagement for this particular period of time, and I’m Sean Tubbs, here everyday “to take a right goodwill draught for auld lang syne.” 

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On today’s show:
  • New data shows that inflation is occurring at the highest rate since 1982

  • Charlottesville City Council holds interviews for interim city manager but don’t yet make a decision

  • Regional planners get a first look at a rezoning at UVA’s North Fork Discovery Park 

  • The Charlottesville Democratic Committee selects two new co-chairs

  • Charlottesville’s NDS director gives a preview of the rewrite of the zoning ordinance

  • Two options are alive for a pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River 

Today’s first subscriber supported shout-out

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society invites you to hear from their newest board member at a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Gayle Jessup White is the first Public Relations and Community Engagement Officer for Monticello and the first descendant of Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved community to work for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Gayle Jessup White will talk about her book Reclamation: Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant’s Search for her Family’s Lasting Legacy. That’s 7 p.m on Monday and you can register for the Zoom call or watch on Facebook Live. Sign up now at albemarlehistory.org. 

More “investigation” needed before interim city manager pick

Charlottesville City Council met in closed session for over three hours yesterday to meet with candidates for interim city manager. The five elected officials met with Robert Bobb of the Robert Bobb Group as well, but had nothing much to report at the end of the meeting. Here’s Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

“We have interviewed some very impressive candidates,” Snook said. “We have some further investigation yet to be done. We are not yet prepared to make a decision but expect to make a decision probably on Tuesday, January 18.” 

Council’s regular meeting will be that day due to the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Zoning rewrite update

In November, the City Council adopted a new Comprehensive Plan as the second leg of the Cville Plans Together initiative. The first was adoption of a new affordable housing plan in March. The next step is the rewriting of the city’s zoning code. James Freas, the director of Neighborhood Development Services, told the Charlottesville Planning Commission that the public process for the three phases of the zoning rewrite will kick off at the end of the month.

“What we are looking at is a complete rewrite,” Freas said. “This isn’t going to take your existing ordinance and redline it and make changes. This is going to be a complete rewrite.” 

Freas said some portions of the existing code would be copied over into the new version with new formatting and wording. 

“There are some aspects of the new ordinance we anticipate bringing over wholesale but it will be a new document,” Freas said. 

The Future Land Use Map increases the density potential across the entire city. Download the plan here for a closer look.

The first phase will be a diagnostic comparing the existing zoning code to the Comprehensive Plan to eliminate barriers to implementation. A report will come before the Planning Commission and City Council for approval before the drafting process begins.

“That first phase will probably take us up to the end of May, hopefully not, but maybe the beginning of June but I’m anticipating that first phase will take us to the end of May,” Freas said.

In the fall, drafts will begin to be shared with the Planning Commission and Council. The adoption process will be the third phase and that section has not yet been determined. 

“But we’re anticipating that adoption process taking us into 2023 and culminating in a vote by Council sometime in the spring of 2023,” Freas said. 

There will be a community engagement process, but of course, there will also be Charlottesville Community Engagement. Details to come as they’re known. 

During the process, there will be at least two new Planning Commissioners. The terms of Commissioners Jody Lahendro and Taneia Dowell will expire at the end of August and neither can reapply.

Commissioner Karim Habbab is filling out an unexpired term that ends in August, but he can reapply. Hosea Mitchell and Rory Stolzenberg’s terms expire at the end of August, too, and both can reapply. 

Comprehensive Plan lawsuit

Last week, a group of citizens filed a lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court against the validity of the Comprehensive Plan. The argument cites four specific failures and asks that Council’s vote be held null and void. The seven plaintiffs are Charlottesville residents seeking to withhold their identity. They argue the Future Land Use Map “radically increases density within the city” in a way that violates state code. (read the argument)

“Unlike the Comprehensive Plans that are contemplated by the General Assembly…the Plan at issue is very specific, and assigns new zoning designations to each specific parcel in the City,” reads paragraph 15 of the argument. “As a result of this approach, the City’s actions are already  having a direct impact on property owners.” 

The argument singles out one home on 10th Street NW that is now listed on the market for $485,000 but has a 2021 assessment of $315,600. According to the real estate listing, there are currently three one-bedroom apartments there, but states “Charlottesville City's new proposed plan shows this property as mixed urban use.”

The suit also argues the plan does not sufficiently plan for transportation improvements within the city to support additional growth, and that the public notice for the adoption on November 15 was not sufficient. The city has not yet been served with the lawsuit, according to city attorney Lisa Robertson. 

(image) The lawsuit was filed on December 15, 2021 but has not yet been served to the parties, which would trigger a response from the defendants. Read the argument here

Charlottesville Democrats pick new chairs

There’s new leadership in the Charlottesville Democratic Committee. At a reorganizational meeting on Monday, about a hundred participants selected John McLaren and Dashad Cooper to serve as the co-chairs of the committee. McLaren is a resident of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood and Cooper is a student at Piedmont Virginia Community College who worked on the City Council campaigns of Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade. 

The vice chair is Nancy Damon, a Fry’s Spring resident and former member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission. The secretary will continue to be Mary Ann Harris. Jason Vandever is the party’s treasurer.  Vandever was elected as the city’s treasurer in a special election in 2013 and has held the position ever since. 

The Republican Party of Charlottesville has not fielded a City Council candidate since 2015 when Anson Parker was their candidate. The chair of the party in Charlottesville is Dan Moy and the treasurer is Buddy Weber. Weber ran for Council in 2013 along with former Planning Commissioner Mike Farruggio. 

Second subscriber supported shout-out

Algorithms know how to put songs and artists together based on genre or beats per minute. But only people can make connections that engage your mind and warm your heart. The music on WTJU 91.1 FM is chosen by dozens and dozens of volunteer hosts -- music lovers like you who live right here in the Charlottesville area. Listener donations keep WTJU alive and thriving. In this era of algorithm-driven everything, go against the grain. Support freeform community radio on WTJU. Consider a donation at wtju.net/donate.

Regional planners get preview of North Fork rezoning

An official group of planning officials from around the Charlottesville area got a preview last month on a major rezoning on land at the University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork research park. The Land Use Environmental and Planning Committee was created in 2019 when elected officials agreed to cease meeting in public as a body known as the Planning and Coordination Council.  One of its members is Hosea Mitchell of the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

“They are actually asking for a rezoning and the rezoning is to allow for residential to be included in the industrial developments that they’re doing there,” Mitchell said. 

The presentation at the December meeting was made by Fred Missel, the UVA Foundation’s director of design and development. He has since been named to serve on the Albemarle Planning Commission as a voting member after spending several years on the Albemarle Architectural Review Board. 

The LUEPC meetings are not open to the public, but Missel presented the rezoning in detail. The Foundation seeks a rezoning for portions of the North Fork park to the Neighborhood Model District. The Code of Development calls for a multiblock approach with a minimum of 200 residential units and a maximum of 1,400 units. The University of Virginia has announced this location as one of three sites where the Foundation will partner with a developer to build affordable units. At North Fork, buildings would be up to six stories. 

Albemarle County’s first round of comments back to the foundation are due at the end of this month, according to the presentation. A community meeting will also need to be held for the rezoning.  

Back to the Land Use, Environmental and Planning Committee. This year, the city of Charlottesville takes on administrative responsibility for the group. According to Mitchell, utilities director Lauren Hildebrand will be the chair this year. 

The University of Virginia Master Planning Council meets next week. Those meetings are not open to the public but there are representatives from Albemarle and Charlottesville. 

Rivanna bridge options narrowed to one

Plans are being made to build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Rivanna River and the Charlottesville Planning Commission got an update last night. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Committee is leading the efforts and a stakeholders group has been meeting to review options. One of its members is Planning Commission Karim Habbab. 

“The two options that we’re looking at are a connection near Riverview Park on Chesapeake and the other would be at the Wool Factory,” Habbab said. “One would span between city and county and the other would be basically on county land.”

The Woolen Mills is located on a small peninsula of Albemarle County that is landlocked within Charlottesville. The stakeholder group will take a tour of the two sites on Friday. 

Study area for the bridge as depicted in a technical memo created by the firm VHB (download it)
Prices continues to rise

The cost of goods in the United States has increased seven percent over the last 12 months according to data released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the largest yearly increase since 1982. 

The consumer price index rose half a percentage point in December.

“Increases in the indexes for shelter and for used cars and trucks were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all items increase,” reads the press release. “The energy index declined in December, ending a long series of increases.”

Overall, energy prices increased 29.3 percent from December 2020 to December 2021. 

Pre-filing period for General Assembly completed

By the time you hear or see this, the Virginia General Assembly will have convened for the 2022 session. Republicans now have 52 seats in the House of Delegates and the Speaker is now Todd Gilbert, a Republican from the 15th District. Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn will be the minority leader with 48 seats.

Yesterday, Democrats retained the 89th District in Norfolk when Democrat Jackie Hope Glass defeated the Republican candidate with 75 percent of the vote. (election results

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing up some of the bills, and now we’ll see how many make their way through the legislative process. General Assembly sessions move fast. 

Here’s some more of the legislation to give you a sense of this aspect of our democracy: 

  • Delegate M. Keith Hodges (R-98) has a bill that would assign chief executive powers to the Mayor of the Town of Urbanna in Middlesex County. (HB190)

  • Hodges has another bill that would create the position of Special Advisor to the Governor for Health Workforce Development. (HB191)

  • Another bill from Hodges would add more chemicals to Virginia’s list of Schedule 1 drugs, including 4-chloro-alpha-methylaminobutiophenone. Also known as 4-chloro Buphedrone. (HB193)

  • Delegate Chris Runion (R-25) filed legislation that would allow electric cooperatives to petition the State Corporation Commission for permission to raise rates to recover the cost of providing broadband. (HB194)

  • Delegate Michael Webert (R-18) has a bill that would allow school board to use an alternative system to measure the progress of elementary and middle school students in reading and mathematics. Specifically, the NWEA MAP Growth system. (HB197)

  • Webert also filed legislation that would require localities that do not provide in-person instruction to pay parents who remove their children from school “a prorated share of the applicable Standards of Quality per-pupil state funds appropriated for public school purposes.” (HB201)

  • Another bill from Webert would prohibit localities from removing property from land use taxation programs if a hardship related to an emergency declaration made by a governor. (HB199)

  • Webert also has legislation that would lower the threshold for streamlined permitting processes for solar facilities from 150 megawatts to 20 megawatts (HB202)

  • Delegate Keith Hodges (R-98) has filed a bill that would allow certain pharmacies to sell cannabis products at the retail level without a prescription to people over the age of 21. (HB211)

  • Delegate Karen Greenhalgh has submitted a bill to require physicians and nurses to follow certain procedures related to getting a woman’s informed written consent when a woman seeks an abortion. (HB212)

  • Senator Mark Peake (R-22) filed a bill directing the Virginia Department of Health to develop a plan to mitigate algae blooms. (SB171)

  • Peake has another bill that would allow nurses to pronounce a person dead (SB169)

  • Peake would also end the state’s further minimum wage increase, capping it at $11 an hour. (SB173)

  • Babysitters, home health aides, and personal care aides would no longer be considered “domestic workers” under another bill from Peake (SB179)

  • A bill from Senator Montgomery Mason would allow people with advanced degrees in public health to serve as health directors, something that’s currently reserved for people with medical degrees. (SB192)

  • Senator Joe Morrissey (D-16) wants Petersburg to be added to the list of cities that can hold a local referendum to allow for opening of a casino. (SB203)

  • Senator Chap Petersen (D-34) has a bill to require the Virginia Department of Health to expedite the process to issue certificates of need for certain medical facilities, such as increased psychiatric beds. (SB205)

  • Senator Jeremy McPike (D-29) would require all candidates for office to file electronically with the Department of Elections. (SB222)

More tomorrow. t

So far, there is a 100 percent success rate for all pending bills. Visit the Legislative Information System to see how sharply that number will drop in the coming week