Jan 17 • 17M

January 17, 2023: Albemarle and Louisa both awarded state funds for site-readiness projects; Charlottesville Council to begin public reprecincting process tonight

 
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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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Today we begin the program by checking in by asking: Are you being served? After all, this is Customer Service Day, which may or may not actually exist. But the idea reminds me of the many years I spent in food service while also working as a reporter.

Either way, Charlottesville Community Engagement exists to be the best it can be at bringing you information about the immediate world around. I’m the host, Sean Tubbs, and I value each and everyone of you and if you have questions, please drop me a line and I’ll try to do what I can. 

On today’s program:

  • Albemarle County gets $3 million from Virginia to help position UVA’s North Fork be ready for business while Louisa County gets $11.6 million for Shannon Hill Regional Business Park

  • Charlottesville City Council will review proposed new precinct boundaries at a meeting tonight 

  • Comprehensive Plan meetings abound this week with reviews in both Greene County and Nelson County

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First shout: Teaching History in Historic Times tonight!

In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and the Center at Belvedere continue a series of important discussions coming up this January 17 at 6 p.m. What are the challenges and opportunities faced by local educators teaching history? 

A panel of history teachers will take up that topic! They are Hashim Davis (Albemarle County Public Schools), Matt Deegan (Charlottesville High School), and Sally Duncan (Renaissance School). The event will be moderated by Annie Evans, Director of Education and Outreach with New American History at the University of Richmond. To attend in-person register at www.thecentercville.org/calendar/event/68488//19/ or watch the program on the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ACHistSoc).

North Fork project awarded $3 million from Virginia Business Ready Sites program

Albemarle County is set to receive $3 million in funding for infrastructure to help a 31 and a half acre site at the North Forth Discovery Park become more attractive for a economic development prospect. 

Louisa County will receive nearly $11.6 million for the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park. 

The two awards are part of $90 million in grants announced yesterday from the Virginia Business Ready Sites Grant program. 

“The leading priority of the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program is to increase our project-ready sites portfolio across the Commonwealth, and this unprecedented site development funding is an important step forward in strengthening Virginia’s infrastructure,” Youngkin is quoted in a press release. “Prepared sites drive economic growth, and we have to move faster to attract new businesses.” 

Albemarle had asked for $7.5 million for the North Fork project. That’s according to comments made by staff at the December meeting of the Albemarle Economic Development Authority.

The EDA will also meet later today to ratify an agreement for an announcement last week of a $1.4 million investment in space at the Albemarle Business Campus by PS-Fertlity. That involves something called the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. (meeting info)

The largest award was $25 million for Chesterfield County for a project called Upper Magnolia Green. The City of Waynesboro will get just over $3.9 million for the Nature’s Crossing Technology Center

Elsewhere in the Fifth Congressional District: 

The North Fork Discovery Park is already listed on the website maintained by the Virginia Business Ready Site Program. (view the search page for other sites)

Council to take first step on new precinct boundaries tonight 

Tonight the Charlottesville City Council will meet on a Tuesday due to yesterday’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. For more on what’s in there, check out this week’s Week Ahead newsletter

Last month, Councilors held a work session on one of the items on tonight’s agenda. A committee has worked on new boundaries for the city’s voting precincts and Council will hold first of two readings on enacting them. 

“After the 2020 election, the City of Charlottesville was kind of tagged by the state Board of Elections because one of our precincts had 4,500 active voters in the precinct,” said Ann Hemenway, vice chair of the Charlottesville Electoral Board. “It didn’t require us to make a big change but it did alert that that particular precinct, Johnson precinct, was getting larger and larger.”

Hemenway said this also presented an opportunity to address an issue at Tonsler Community Center. 

“It’s just too small and that polling place, that precinct was also getting larger in size because of the development in the southern part of the city,” Hemenway said. 

Hemenway also said Alumni Hall is privately held and there has been concern it might not be available when the city needs it. So Hemenway and Charlottesville Registrar Taylor Yowell took a look at other public schools to see if they could join the others that have been used for decades. 

“The City Schools are now by state closed on the November elections,” Hemenway said. 

The proposed changes would eliminate Tonsler Recreation and Alumni Hall in favor of Johnson Elementary School and Charlottesville High School. That will mean a redistribution of voters to new places to make it all work. 

A map of the proposed boundaries for Charlottesville’s voting precincts 

An initial round of changes was made in response to come community feedback, mostly around people being able to walk to the polls. 

“One of the party reps was concerned that we had moved Friendship Court back into Key [Recreation Center] which is walkable for them and he felt it was more important that they go back to Clark [Elementary School] which is their original voting place because that’s where those kids go to school and the families in that area… just expected to be at Clark so we moved that back.” 

Hemenway also said there was concern that some who now walk to Tonsler might not be able to walk to Buford further down on Cherry Avenue. 

But there’s a public process that has to happen for those changes to be made. Deputy City Attorney Katrina Callsen said tonight’s appearance before Council is the first step.

“That’s going to kick off a public comment period that’s going to last for about 30 days,” Callsen said. “During that period there’s going to be at least one public hearing during that public comment period. After the public comment period, then we’re going to meet again and you guys are going to approve the ordinance changes and they won’t go into effect until a waiting period  has happened. The waiting period is to allow anybody that might have a claim for voter suppression or an issue to bring a claim so that allows for that to come to your guys’ attention should it be out there.” 

The earliest it could go into effect is early April. The next election is the primary on June 20. As of December 17, Callsen had filed paperwork to be a candidate in one of those races in Charlottesville as she is one of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for House District 54.  The others are Fifeville resident Dashad Cooper and former Charlottesville Mayor David Brown.

If the changes make it through the public process, there will be an education campaign to let affected voters know. About forty percent will be affected according to Charlottesville Registrar Taylor Yowell.  

“Anyone that does move precincts, they will get a new voter notice in the mail,” Yowell said. “So, telling them where they need to go on Election Day. It is going to be posted on our website. It does have to be posted in a newspaper.”

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said he expected there to be a lot of discussion. He said he wanted to have as much of an education way before the public hearing. Hence the December 17 work session. 

“It looks like roughly 40 percent of our voters will be voting someplace different from where they voted last November,” Snook said. “And I can tell you that every time we’ve even had tweaks to the boundary lines before, there has been great consternation.”

On January 17, 2023, there is no mention of the reprecincting on the registrar’s website, nor on the main news page on charlottesville.gov. You can find it in the agenda for tonight’s Council meeting or right here in this newsletter. 

Second shout-out: Haven to hold open house on January 30 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Haven will host its first ever Community Open House on Monday, January 30! The event is free and open to the public. With the goal of demystifying their work and the experience of homelessness, this will be an opportunity to learn more about what The Haven does and why they do it. Stop by for building tours, small bites, and an informal meet-and-greet with staff. The event begins at 112 West Market Street at 6 p.m. with remarks from the Executive Director at 7:00. 

Register for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-open-house-tickets-487174982487

Greene Planning Commission to continue Comprehensive Plan review 

The Week Ahead newsletter that went out on Sunday is nearly 4,000 words long. But this is where I confess I neglected to list the meeting Wednesday of the Greene County Planning Commission. 

The group will meet in the administration building in Stanardsville at 6:30 p.m. but the meeting can be watched. You can also participate via Zoom. (agenda)

The first thing the group will do is elect officers in the annual organizational meeting. After that they will continue work on the Comprehensive Plan review. Greene County is taking a much more literal approach to the state code requirement to review the plan every five years by having the five Planning Commissioners go chapter by chapter.

“Greene County is very much a community in transition, a reality that underscores the importance of ensuring that whatever the County evolves into reflects the wishes and aspirations of those who live here,” reads the final paragraph of a section called Greene County: From Past to Present. (read the draft plan)

An image from the Economic Development chapter (Credit: Greene County) 

The entire draft will go before the Planning Commission at this work session, as will the 2023 update of the Ruckersville Area Plan. That plan was adopted a few years ago and is a ten-year look at what the county can do to make the unincorporated area of Ruckersville more of a place. (review the 2023 plan)

The Planning Commission will also take up a review of the county’s sign ordinance. The Board of Supervisors sent this review to the advisory body in September. 

“The Supreme Court issued a ruling that will require amendments to County Zoning Ordinances,” reads the staff report for this item. “ It has been determined that if a sign ordinance organizes and regulates signs based on their message or content, those portions of the regulation will be subject to strict scrutiny.”

The report also states the Ruckersville Area Plan update calls for a review of the sign ordinance to address clutter. 

An exhibit in the packet shows the locations of various signs in the Ruckersville area. To get the full effect, view the full map from the Greene County website. 

Nelson Supervisors and Planning Commission to review Comprehensive 

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors and the Nelson County Planning Commission will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. for an update on the Comprehensive Plan. They’ll meet in Room #420 in the Courthouse at Lovingston. The county has hired the Berkley Group to do the work. (meeting info)

The last meeting was held on October 25 and there are minutes if you want to catch up on that meeting. 

There will be a close look at three chapters.

  • Chapter 2 is “Setting Our Direction” and includes a current demographic profile for “Nelson Today” and introduces a planning framework for how to get to “Nelson Tomorrow.” 

    An interesting fact to note: The average median age in Nelson County is 51.3 years, older than the statewide average of 38.4 

  • Chapter 6 is “Protecting Valuable Resources” and takes a look at “the features of the County’s natural and cultural environment that are essential to the health and quality of life of residents, such as, climate, topography, sensitive landscapes, water resources, and historic resources. The strategies for this section address protection of valuable environmental resources, sustainable development, additional planning for protection of historic resources, and planning for natural hazards and climate change.”

    An interesting fact to note: 76.4 percent of Nelson County is forested. 

  • Chapter 8 is “Serving the Community” takes a look at what government services and functions exist now. “Strategies in this chapter focus on enhancing efficiency and access to community services, expanding recreation opportunities, continued improvement and development of water and sewer infrastructure, and responsible planning through local partnerships.”

    One thing to learn from this chapter is that Nelson County is a member of the Region 2000 Services Authority which operates a regional landfill in Rustburg. That facility is expected to be at capacity by 2029. 

Will these population forecasts from the Weldon Cooper Center hold up for Nelson County? The Comprehensive Plan could have a lot to say about that topic. (Credit: The Berkley Group

Reading (and listening) material:

Notes that make the house cleaner for #485

Let’s begin this section with a fun fact! Four years ago, I was not a working journalist but I decided to be one. For the month of January of 2019, I put together a rudimentary version of this newsletter just to see if I could do it. The entry for January 16, 2019 contains all the same kinds of stories you’ve come to expect and I’ve come to produce. Go take a look and a listen!

Thanks to hundreds of you, I am now able to devote my full attention to this work, each and every day. I’m hoping to set up to do this work for the rest of my life, and to serve the community in which I’ve grown up and lived. Everything has fallen into place so far, but there’s a long way to go. 

Thanks to Ting for matching the initial payment for all Substack subscribers and thanks to those Substack subscribers! I’m currently putting together a plan to hire people to assist me in this work so if you’re a paid subscriber, that is part of what you are helping to build!

And, if you want to upgrade your Internet provider, check out Ting! 

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