January 2 is the 2nd day of 2024, a year so new that there have not yet been any editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to inform humans in a small section of Central Virginia about local government and other issues. I’m Sean Tubbs, glad to be back to work piecing it all together for a growing audience.
In today’s program:
Charlottesville selects a new mayor for 2024 and 2025
UVA’s Buildings and Grounds Committee gets a first look on student housing proposed at the Darden School of Business
UVA wins several sustainability awards
The area’s new members of the General Assembly have filed their first bills
A quick look at one land use application making its way through Charlottesville’s processing system
First shout-out: Friends of JMRL
In the first subscriber supported shout-out of 2024: Let’s learn a little about a nonprofit group that plays a major role to keep the Jefferson Madison Regional Library going strong.
Friends of JMRL plays an important role in the slightly Byzantine structure of library budgets. Proceeds from the popular book sale go to pay for children’s, teen and adult programs. The five jurisdictions that make up JMRL pay for facilities, salaries, and operational costs. State aid funds the collection acquisitions for all materials, physical, and digital. The federal e-rate program pays for equipment purchases. And Friends of JMRL raise funds for all sorts of activities.
That includes the Library endowment in conjunction with the Charlottesville Albemarle Community Foundation awards money to special efforts such as the NAACP scholarship as well grants to out-of-area patrons to cover the $30 fee for residents of non-member localities. Friends of JMRL also manages the Books Behind Bars program. Volunteers find and ship books to Virginia inmates at no cost to the inmates. Expenses are paid through private benefactors and Red Light Management.
Visit jmrlfriends.org to learn more and find out how you can get involved.
Council unanimously elects Wade as Mayor, Pinkston as Vice Mayor
In their first act of business for 2024, Charlottesville City Council has unanimously elected Juandiego Wade as for Mayor for the next two years.
“I love this community and I have served it since I was a student here in 1988 in the planning school and continued on in different capacities,” Wade said shortly after the vote. “I often tell people I’m a humble public servant and this allows me to do it in a lot different capacity then I thought I did when I first came to this community but things happen and I’m here on Council now as Mayor and I’m going to use my position to continue to move this city forward.”
Councilor Brian Pinkston nominated Wade to the position for his service to the community, including four terms as an elected member of the Charlottesville School Board. Wade had been nominated to serve as Mayor in 2022, but declined to serve paving the way for two years of Lloyd Snook in the first-among-equals position after a divided 3-2 vote.
“He’s taken the last two years to sort of learn the ropes of what’s involved and to keep an eye on Mr. Snook and what he could learn from him,” Pinkston said. “I think he’s brought his trademark kindness and compassion but also willingness to really roll up his sleeves and get his work done.”
Wade then nominated Pinkston to serve as Vice Mayor.
“We have worked together in many capacities over the last few years and we have ran together and we have worked out many issues together as Councilors over the last couple of years.”
In his comments, Pinkston thanked Snook for his leadership over the last two years, particularly getting the new Development Code. He said he would use his position to push the priorities of other councilors in addition to his own.
“I feel really optimistic about where this city is and where it’s going,” Pinkston said. “I think we’ll get a lot of done for the City of Charlottesville.”
More from City Council in future editions of the newsletter.
Buildings and Grounds committee gets first look at student housing at Darden
Sometime this year, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors will get a look at a planning study that will inform how to implement an initiative to provide enough beds on Grounds to second year students.
In December, the BOV’s Buildings and Grounds Committee had a preliminary look at schematic designs to house students at the Darden School of Business, located in UVA’s North Grounds. UVA Architect Alice Raucher began with this geographical perspective.
“Central Grounds lies roughly equidistant from the Downtown Mall and North Grounds, so the work we’re doing to make Ivy Corridor and the athletic area more connected and pedestrian and bicycle friendly, along with all of the wonderful Darden projects will really serve to break down this perceived distance,” Raucher said.
Many of those projects are considered as part of a master plan for Darden adopted in 2017 and refreshed in 2022 by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The new version was approved by the Buildings and Grounds Committee that September as I reported at the time.
Raucher said the updated plan included an addition to Saunders Hall to include an innovation hub, additions to improvements to faculty buildings to support Darden’s strategic vision goals, and the development of two areas for student housing.
“The development of student housing in two locations,” Raucher said. “South connected to existing Ivy Gardens by a new pedestrian crossing Leonard Sandridge Road, and north to surround the existing parking garage and it’s this north student housing that I’ll be presenting for your review today.”
The residential units would be constructed in two buildings oriented in an L-shape with one between the main parking garage and Abbot Center, and another to the west of that building. This is a deviation from the master plan, which had anticipated these buildings constructed along slopes to the north of the garage.
“The two buildings will house about 218 units of studio, and one, two, and three bedroom units with a total of approximately 350 beds,” Raucher said.
People parking in the garage to visit Darden would walk through two open breezeways in the larger structure.
One note from committee members was for planners to do what they can to limit the impact construction will have. BOV member Jim Murray wondered if the “user experience” had been taken into consideration when deciding the location, though he noted there was no floor plan available yet.
“It seems like a massive building,” Murray said to some mumbling from his colleagues. “It seems more like a prison or an undergraduate dormitory. I just think for graduate students and for people who might be out and about in the business world, and to be crammed together in a huge building like that, are they going to be happy?”
Raucher said she has worked with Robert A.M. Stern Architects to develop two new residential colleges and she said the design would work.
“They’re quite lovely, actually,” Raucher said.
Student housing would not be mandatory but would be optional.
“We do think and survey our students that there is a strong desire to have proximate housing,” said Scott Beardsley, the dean of the Darden School of Business. “That’s what we see in our peer business school landscape.”
There will be many stories on this topic over the course of the next 12 months. Stay tuned!
UVA wins three sustainability awards
At the end of their meeting on December 7, 2023, the Buildings and Grounds Committee learned of several awards from Colette Sheehy, UVA’s Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government Relations
The renovation of Gilmer Hall received the 2023 Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects’ Northern Virginia chapter in the Juror’s Citation for Institutional Architecture.
The renovation of the Chemistry Building won the a 2023 United States Green Building Council’s Community Leadership award in the Rise to the Challenge Award. Sheehy said that has reduced energy consumption by 50 percent.
“That translates into an annual cost-savings of $1.2 million,” Sheehy said. “In addition, we reduced water consumption by 60 percent for another $130,000 a year.”
UVA is also a participant in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge. President Jim Ryan was recently that goals have been surpassed.
“We had a goal when we joined the Better Business challenge in 2013 of reducing our net energy usage by 20 percent and in 2023 we exceeded that with a reduction of 27 percent,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy said UVA will also install more rooftop solar across Grounds, including installations at the School of Data Science and the Old Ivy Office Building.
Second shout-out: Charlottesville Jazz Society
In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement, the first few notes of 2024 have now been played and the Charlottesville Jazz Society has all the details you need to learn where the best ones can be heard this month.
Check out the event calendar at cvillejazz.com to learn what’s coming up beginning this Thursday with a monthly jam session at Center at Belvedere and ending with the Society’s Local Jazz Spotlight Series at Miller’s on Sunday, January 28. This month will feature The Royce Campbell Trio with Royce Campbell on guitar, Bob Bowen on bass, and Jim Howe on drums.
The Charlottesville Jazz Society is also seeking assistance with efforts to house out-of-town performers. A previous sponsorship with a local hotel has ended, so the Society is hoping for new donors who might be willing to be Hotel Heroes to help continue the flow of talent who comes to Charlottesville to play. Visit cvillejazz.org to learn more!
Local legislators file first bills for 2024 General Assembly
The General Assembly begins in eight days and Albemarle and Charlottesville both have new legislators starting at the same time. Delegate Katrina Callsen (D-54) will represent all of Charlottesville and a portion of Albemarle, and Delegate Amy Laufer (D-55) will represent the rest of Albemarle.
Creigh Deeds will represent the new 11th Senate District, which covers all of Charlottesville and Albemarle, as well as all of Amherst and Nelson County. Deeds also represents the western portion of Louisa County.
Both of the new Delegates have filed their first bills.
Delegate Laufer has filed a bill that would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to possess a weapon into a mental health services facility, or to transfer a weapon into such a place. (HB23)
Delegate Callsen has filed a bill that would establish the Kinship as Foster Care Prevention Program allowing an alternate pathway for some children who need homes. (HB27)
Laufer and Callsen are both co-patrons of a Constitutional Amendment to restore voting rights to those convicted of felons upon their release. Deeds is a co-patron of a similar amendment in the Senate. (HJ2) (SJ2)
Callsen is also a co-patron of legislation filed by Senator Jeremy McPike (D-29) that would allow all localities to hold a sales tax referendum to provide revenue for school construction. Senator Deeds is also a co-patron. (SB14)
Senator Deeds is the chief patron of a bill that would make it a class 1 misdemeanor to buy, possess, sell, or otherwise transfer an assault firearm. (SB2)
Deeds is also a co-patron of legislation to increase Virginia’s minimum wage (SB1), a bill to prohibit extradition to other states for crimes related to reproductive health (SB15), and a prohibition on search warrants to find a person’s menstrual health (SB16). He’s also a co-patron of a constitutional amendment to guarantee an individual’s right to making their own choices on reproductive health. (SJ1)
Final site plan filed for Azalea Springs development in Charlottesville
A new year brings a new zoning code for Charlottesville and new challenges for those of us who try to keep track of what’s happening. While at least one civil engineer has already indicated he will seek City Council’s approval to rezone at least one property, it is widely understood that most projects will move forward by-right.
Unlike Albemarle County, Charlottesville does not have a public archive for land use applications. People who are interested in projects are notified by planners in the Department of Neighborhood Development Services when new documents are filed.
That was the case on December 20 when City Planner Matt Alfele wrote to residents who signed up for information on Azalea Springs, a proposed 45-home single-family subdivision in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood between Monte Vista Avenue and Azalea Drive. The project involves a consolidation of 88 platted lots into half that amount as well as infrastructure to support the site’s wastewater needs.
“The final site plan for Azalea Springs has been resubmitted to the City for review (submission #3),” Alfele wrote to over a dozen people who had indicated interest in the development. “Staff will be reviewing the [application] for the next 45 days.”
Alfele also provided a link to various files for this round of the project. However, the package does not include a list of staff comments from the previous round.
Alfele also wrote that civil engineer Scott Collins had submitted the latest iteration of the final site plan through the city’s new permitting portal. According to materials in Alfele’s OneDrive folder, the project seemed to have the permit number of PL-23-0006 but nothing seems to come up under a search of that number. A quick question to the city revealed the actual number is P21-0125 and that yielded information and confirmed the project is under review.
Documents do not appear to be available and I acknowledge I may not be looking in the right place.
This year I’ll be documenting my attempts to learn about what’s happening in the city through this portal and hope to work with the city to provide feedback to improve the ability of the city to communicate what’s happening.
Links to reading material you might want to read next:
This week in county government; BOS set for first meeting of 2024; A look back at 2023; How Louisa County works to save centuries-old records, Tammy Purcell, Engage Louisa, December 31, 2023
Charlottesville civil rights pioneers Lorraine and Eugene Williams 'actually walked the talk', Hawes Spencer, Charlottesville Daily Progress (paywall), January 1, 2024
Virginia Passenger Rail Authority announces project construction partners, Jimmy Sidney, Capital News Service, January 1, 2024
#619 is not a number that reminds me of a fresh start
2024 has gotten off to a good start because of many new paid subscribers through both Substack and Patreon, which leaves me with a renewed sense I may be able to keep doing this. Many information providers hit me with endless requests for donations over the holiday season. I deliberately wrote three newsletters that didn’t ask you for money out of a hope that people will pay for information. Now, I’m using my first end note of the year to send a general thank you to those who made a contribution!
For 2024, the plan will be to continue to publish these in the afternoon. I would love for this to be a morning newsletter, but that would mean waking up at 3 a.m. every day and I can’t seem to make that work.
I’d also like to thank Ting for their continued support as this year begins, and hopeful for another 12 months of partnership. If you become a subscriber through Substack, Ting will match your initial payment.
If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:
A second month for free
A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall