Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
January 24, 2023: Albemarle Supervisors briefed on Phase 2 of Comprehensive Plan review; Albemarle EDA learns more about PS-Fertility jobs

January 24, 2023: Albemarle Supervisors briefed on Phase 2 of Comprehensive Plan review; Albemarle EDA learns more about PS-Fertility jobs

Plus: Federal judge throws out former Police Chief Brackney's lawsuit against the city

Information compiled by humans can be flawed and it is incumbent upon the independent journalist to do as much as possible to be correct and accurate. Systems must be in place to ensure that the information received by the reader and listener is correct, which means rigorous checks and cross-checks. For instance, I have checked multiple times to ensure that this is January 24, 2023, I’m Sean Tubbs, and this is in fact another edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement

On today’s program:

  • A pair of single-vehicle crashes claim two lives in Albemarle County over the weekend

  • A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a former police chief against the city of Charlottesville

  • The Albemarle Economic Development Authority learns more about a new company that’s investing at the Albemarle Business Campus and gets updates on an outstanding loan to the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center

  • The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors get a briefing on phase 2 of the county’s Comprehensive Plan update 

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First 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:

Pair of fatal crashes in Albemarle this weekend

The Albemarle County Police Department continues to investigate two separate incidents this weekend in which the driver of a single vehicle died in a crash. 

The first was Saturday morning around 2:50 a.m. off of Rolling Road near Scottsville. Albemarle Fire and Rescue Crew responded and 48-year-old Jeffrey Gale Gunsallus died at the scene. Learn more in a release

The other was Sunday morning at around 8:30 a.m. on the James Monroe Parkway near Ashlawn-Highland Drive. Learn more in another press-release.

Both crashes are being reviewed by Albemarle Police’s Fatal Crash Reconstruction Team. 

Judge Moon throws out former Charlottesville Police Chief’s suit against the city

Judge Norman K. Moon has thrown out a federal lawsuit filed by former Police Chief RaShall Brackney against the city of Charlottesville. Among other claims, Brackney had argued her firing in late summer of 2021 was racially motivated and was a violation of Virginia’s whistleblower statutes. 

The city had sought dismissal of the suit and Judge Moon agreed.

“Because Plaintiff does not allege sufficient facts to support these claims, Defendants’ motions to dismiss are granted,” reads the executive summary of the January 20 ruling.  (read the full ruling)

The 39-page ruling goes through all of the various counts against individuals named in the suit including Mike Wells of the Police Benevolent Association, various members of City Council, former City Manager Chip Boyles, former communications director Brian Wheeler, and assistant police chief Latroy ‘Tito’ Durrette. 

First page of Judge Norman K. Moon’s ruling dismissing the case (read the full ruling)

EDA officially agrees to local match for male fertility jobs

The Albemarle Economic Development Authority has formally approved an agreement to make a local match for a state grant that will pay an Albemarle County start-up firm for each new job it creates.

PS-Fertility is investing $1.4 million to fit out a 4,000 square foot site at the new Albemarle Business Campus for its purposes. 

“It’s going to be a diagnostic testing company for male fertility,” said Kevin Combs, CEO of PS-Fertility. “There are going to be two Ph.D. doctors out of the University of Virginia that discovered some new fertility science around male sperm.”

There are two different tests the company will begin processing at the new facility which has high-tech lab space that will be of use. 

“I was really happy to be able to keep this company in our geographic county here,” Combs said. “I’ve lived here. I’ve raised my four children who attended the county schools. My daughter teaches in the county schools.” 

Under the terms of the Virginia Jobs Investment Program grant, PS-Fertility will get $1,600 for each new job created. He said this is valuable because it will incentivize hiring. 

“We are going to want to add lab personnel,” Combs said. “The University of Virginia is a very fertile ground for students coming out that would have the skill sets we need.” 

The EDA’s funding for this project comes from a transfer from the county’s Economic Opportunity Fund. The Board of Supervisors created the fund in December 2006, as reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow.  

Last week, the EDA also got an update on a recent award of $24,000 to Kelly Turkeys by Governor Glenn Youngkin from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Grant Program. (read the story)

J.T. Newberry, principal business development manager for Albemarle County, said there may be more applicants for the next cycle. 

“We’ve had many other companies in the community reach out for the next round and so there will be likely a competitive process that we will come back to the EDA,” Newberry said. 

The EDA also learned more about the recent award of $3 million to Albemarle County from the Virginia Business Site Ready Program for the North Fork Discovery Park. The county’s Economic Development office worked on the project for two years according to Director Roger Johnson. 

“That process had us working directly with the [University of Virginia] Foundation to get them to change their stance on lease-only options,” Johnson said.

Newberry said the $3 million will cover pre-development work as well as clearing and grading of the 31-acre site within the larger North Fork Discovery Park. 

“As those companies explore interest in this area and we go and do a site visit with them they’ll be able to visualize what their new home could look like,” Newberry said. 

Newberry said the request was higher than what was awarded, but he is hopeful for future investment from the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Senator Creigh Deeds has filed legislation to allow for the Virginia Business Site Ready Program to be able to consider properties below 100 acres in size for the program. That was one of the top legislative requests of the Board of Supervisors. SB1308 is waiting for a vote in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee

This is what most bills look like. Existing state code is marked up with additions and strike-throughs. Follow the progress of SB1308 on the Virginia Legislative Information System.

Progress being made towards resolving Lewis and Clark loan 

The economic development authorities in both Albemarle and Charlottesville are both owed money by the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center for $260,000 in loans granted in 2013 to help cover unforeseen construction costs. 

The center has asked for forgiveness, but the Albemarle EDA has remained committed to getting repaid. Negotiations are underway for a way forward. EDA Chair Donald Long said progress has been made but there was no resolution as of their January 17 meeting. 

“We’ve got a little bit more work to do but they’ve been very cooperative and have made a $5,000 payment on the loan which shows that they are serious about getting this done,” Long said. 

Long said there might be more information next year. 

Watch the full meeting:

Second shout-out: Teaching History in Historic Times 

In today’s second subscriber supported shout-out: What are the challenges and opportunities faced by local educators teaching history? That was the topic of a panel discussion convened last week by the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and the Center at Belvedere. 

A panel of history teachers took up that topic! They are Hashim Davis (Albemarle County Public Schools), Matt Deegan (Charlottesville High School), and Sally Duncan (Renaissance School). The event was moderated by Annie Evans, Director of Education and Outreach with New American History at the University of Richmond. Now you can watch the event on YouTube!

Phase 2 of Albemarle Comprehensive Plan review underway

New year, new opportunity to write about the ongoing update of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan. If you’re new to such a thing, the state code of Virginia requires every locality to create and maintain a plan “for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.” 

The plan is to be reviewed every five years to see if it needs a major update. Some like Greene County have their Planning Commission take charge of the process and their current review is more modest. Others like Nelson County and Charlottesville hire consultants if the plan is either out of date or if the Planning Commission gets stuck.

But where’s Albemarle? Supervisors were briefed on the ongoing process at their meeting on January 11.

“The comp plan is being updated using a four-phased approach moving from big ideas and visioning to more details policies and action steps,” said Tori Kannellopolos, a senior planner with Albemarle County’s Community Development Department. “We just completed phase one where we focused on reviewing the growth management policy and building the framework to build the next phases of AC44.” 

The engagement plan for Phase 2 lays out what will be happening this year. For a larger view of the timeline as well as full descriptions, take a look at the full plan.

AC44 is the name given to the Engage Albemarle process and reflects a look forward to the year 2044. 

A main goal is to reflect the county’s recent adoption of equity, economic development, and climate resilience as strategic initiatives and values that were not in place the last time the plan was updated. Another goal is to bring multimodal transportation planning into the process. 

“To implement these goals in the county’s mission statement, we will be using an equity and climate action lens to evaluate plan recommendations,” Kannellopolos said. 

Jesse Brookins is the Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion for Albemarle County. He said one outcome is to be able to have metrics by which these goals can be measured. This will built on the Albemarle County Equity Profile published in May 2021.

“Equity [is] defined as being all community members having access to community conditions and opportunities needed to reach their full potential and to experience optimal well-being and quality of life,” Brookins said. “As distinguished from equality, whereas equality means the same to all, equity begins with the process of acknowledging that there is an unequal starting place and continues to correct and address the imbalance.” 

Gabe Dayley is the Climate Protection program manager. 

“Ultimately, integrating climate action into AC44 is about enabling our community members to be able to make choices that help them reduce their carbon footprint,” Dayley said. 

Vlad Gavrilovic is a principal planner with the firm EPR which has been hired by Albemarle County to work on the plan update. He briefed Supervisors on one proposal for how to structure the plan update and to help make it more usable. 

“As you know, the 2015 plan is an extensive document,” Gavrilovic said. “It runs over 400 pages with 900 pages of appendices, 700 pages of reference documents, but its truly comprehensive.” 

Gavrilovic said one approach is to develop a “family of plans” with the Comprehensive Plan serving more of a guide of where someone needs to look for information.

“A plan nowadays does not live in a 3-ring binder, it lives online,” Gavrilovic said. “So it really helps the user-friendliness to have these documents be links within the overall plan.” 

For a larger view of the Family of Plans concept, view the rest of the presentation.

Gavrilovic also said there won’t be an equity chapter or a resilience chapter. Instead, those concepts will be woven into the entire document. 

Phase two will last for the rest of this year and will identify the goals and objectives for each topic. According to the timeline for Phase 2, neither the Planning Commission nor the Board of Supervisors will be directly involved again until the fall when there will be a work session.

Until then, a new working group will meet to get input from each members’ network. In all, this group will meet at least three times but will have more flexibility than the working group for the first phase. 

“We’re going to have fewer meetings with them overall but then provide more robust materials and more support for them to do their own engagement,” Kannellopolos said. 

There will also be another series of questionnaires. Charlottesville Community Engagement will let you know when these are ready and will try to cover as much of the update as possible. 

One Supervisor wanted to make sure the questions in the surveys are written in a neutral manner. 

“We have to be really careful about avoiding leading questions in these surveys,” said White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek. “That’s been a real pushback that I have received from people calling and complaining about that.” 

Mallek also said steps need to be taken to not create a divide between the rural and urban communities. 

Supervisor Donna Price acknowledged that rural residents may have a larger carbon footprint because of the need to drive to amenities in the urban areas. She said bringing down the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per household down across the county would mean additional density. 

“As we reach the balance between density of development and quality of life, ensuring that we are approving developments in the development area to a higher capacity then we have heretofore been approving in order to avoid an unnecessarily early expansion of the development area into the rural area,” Price said. “And it’s not just the climate directly but the cost of services being provided by the county to our community. The larger the geographic area those services have to be provided to, the more expensive it becomes to our community members.” 

Price essentially described the growth management strategy that has been in place om Albemarle. Phase One of the plan took a look at that strategy and the final product is to be a completed Framework for an Equitable and Resilient Community.

A final version of that document is not yet available but will be shared sometime early this year according to the December 2022 AC44 update. In the meantime, the draft from September is still available for review

What is the Framework for an Equitable and Resilient Community? Take a look at the full presentation to learn more.

Reading material:

Housekeeping for #488: Explaining the introduction

In this end note, I explain more about the introductory note for this installment. As you may know, I write another newsletter called Fifth District Community Engagement. This is an experiment in covering the local governments in the 24 localities within the new Congressional boundaries. I’ve not spent much time marketing it and have less than 300 subscribers.

Adding another newsletter may seem strange but there are many reasons I’m seeking to do that work in addition to this newsletter. For one, I grew up in Campbell County and am always spending a lot of time trying to find out what’s happening there anyway. For another, I have always pushed myself to try to take on new challenges. 

One thing I’ve added is a summary of who is running in the various localities. Yesterday I got something wrong and I got a concerned email from one of the candidates saying I had posted incorrect information. And I did!

This was from a locality where I’ve not spent any time as a reporter, but yet am trying to write out a little bit of what’s happening. I only know a little bit at this point, and have blind spots. 

I also have bad eyesight, and an election report I thought was from 2019 was actually from 2011. I also didn’t take redistricting into account. So, I made a correction as fast as I could and expressed my regret to the candidate. She thanked me, and now I’ll take steps to make sure a similar error doesn’t occur. 

I take this seriously, even if I throw in as much humor as I can into the mix. And thanks to those who are helping support it. Today, a break from the sponsorship stuff except to say briefly that Ting will match your initial contribution. And I will redouble my efforts to be accurate, even though sometimes I do this work knowing there will be the occasional error. And I will correct those as soon as I am able. 

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.