July 16, 2021: Democrats in 25th and 59th House races outraise Republican incumbents; City PC recommends Belmont rezoning, considers potential connector trail
This is the 28th Friday of the year, and there are another 24 to go.
In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: Help support black-owned business in the Charlottesville area. Check out the Charlottesville Black Business Directory at cvilleblackbiz.com and choose between a variety of goods and services, ranging from beauty supplies, professional services, and e-commerce. Visit cvilleblackbiz.com as soon as you can to get started.
On today’s show:
Work to begin on roundabout at intersection of Stony Point and Proffit roads in northern Albemarle
The latest campaign finance is in for candidates in Albemarle and Charlottesville
The Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends approval of a rezoning in Belmont that was previously denied in November 2018
And discussion of a street closure in the Little High neighborhood could pave the way for a new trail connection
We’re in the middle of summer, and it’s been quiet on the local elections front. Not only has there been a lull in campaign events, there was not much campaign finance activity in Albemarle or Charlottesville. Reports for activity between May 28 and June 30 were due yesterday to the Virginia Department of Elections. They have been made available through the Virginia Public Access Project.
Democrat Juandiego Wade began the period with a balance of $32,626 and raised an additional $1,015 in cash over that time. He spent $28,381 during the reporting period with $18,000 spent on Liveview Marketing and $2,350 in advertising with the Daily Progress. Wade finished the money with a balance of $5,259.
Democrat Brian Pinkston began the month with a balance of $14,152 on hand, and raised an additional $850 in additional funds including $500 in a loan from himself. He spent $12,701 during the period, including the repayment of $9,922 in loans to himself. Pinkston concluded the period with a balance of $2,301.
The two independents in the race did not report any fundraising. Incumbent Nikuyah Walker filed a report that stated a campaign balance of $90 with no expenditures or receipts. There is no report yet in the Virginia Department of Elections database from challenger .
None of the races for Albemarle County Supervisor are contested this year, but new reports are available all the same from the three candidate. Incumbent Jack Jouett District Supervisor Diantha McKeel raised an additional $500 and reported no spending, bringing her balance to $32,556.
Incumbent Rio District Supervisor Ned Gallaway reported no fundraising or spending, and has a balance of $15,809. In the open Samuel Miller seat, Newcomer Jim Andrews raised $2,001 in cash and spent $3,190 in the period, leaving a balance of $29,317. No write-in candidates filed a report.
There are four General Assembly races of note in the area.
The 25th House District includes part of western Albemarle County. Incumbent Republican Chris Runion began the period with $44,960, raised $13,235, and spent $2,566, leaving a balance of $55,628. Democratic challenger Jennifer Kitchen began the period with $78,249. She raised $29,834, with cash contributions from nearly 600 individuals or entities. Kitchen spent $24,524 and had a end-of-period balance of $83,558.
The 57th House District case is contested. Incumbent Democrat Sally Hudson began the period with a balance of $52,254, raised $1,348, and spent $10,742. Her opponent is Republican Philip Hamilton, who began the period with a balance of $1,179 on May 28. Hamilton raised $150 in cash, spent $990, and had a balance of $338 on June 30.
In the 58th House District, Incumbent Republican Rob Bell began the period with $264,965 and raised an additional $20,565, spent $3,935, and had a balance of $281,594 on June 30. Challenger Sara Ratcliffe began the period with $2,804, raised $5,532 including $3,002 in loans, and and spent $1,108.
The 59th House District includes a portion of southwestern Albemarle and the Republican incumbent is Matt Fariss. Fariss began this reporting period with $12,846 on May 28 and raised $24,120 from 60 individuals or entities. He spent $5,628 in the period and had a balance of $31,338. His Democratic challenger, Ben Moses, began the period with a balance of $130,216 and raised $56,985 in the period with cash coming from 141 individuals or entities. He spent $29,627 and ended the period with a balance of $157,248. Independent Louis Scicli reported no money during the period.
Races in the Virginia Senate are not until 2023.
Another roundabout is coming to another corner of Albemarle County. Construction will get underway next week at the intersection of Stony Point Road and Proffit Road for the project, which was funded in the second round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process in 2017. In order to save money and attract efficiencies, VDOT opted to bundle that project with several others into a single $28.5 million design-build contract that was eventually awarded to Curtis Contracting. Completed projects include a traffic light on U.S. 29 at Interstate 64’s Exit 118 and the Rio Mills Connector Road that opened in June. A conversion of the junction of I-64 and U.S. 250 at Exit 124 is underway, and a roundabout at Route 151 and U.S. 250 southwest of Crozet will begin construction later this summer. (more information)
Today, two segments that make up half of a recap of the Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting from earlier this week. There was a lot of activity and it is all worth documenting. First, the meeting began with announcements. First up was Bill Palmer, the non-voting representative from the University of Virginia’s Office of the Architect. Another office building from the 20th century is coming down.
“The demolition of the Dynamics building over at the Emmet/Ivy corridor is underway and a lot of the utility enabling seems to have started over there so that project to enable the Data Science institute as well as the conference center and hotel that we’re building over there so that’s finally getting underway after lots and lots of planning,” Palmer said.
Planning Commission Chair Hosea Mitchell serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He told his colleagues and the public that the Onesty Family Aquatic Center will not open this summer.
“The reason is we just can’t get enough lifeguards to support all of the parks we’ve got,” Mitchell said. “This is not unique to Charlottesville. This seems to be a nationwide problem that we just can’t get the lifeguards.”
In the first item of business, the Commission considered a rezoning and special use permit for a vacant lot currently zoned R-2, which would allow two units on the property.
“The requested rezoning would be to R-3, residential multifamily medium density,” Mitchell said. “And then the following special use permit would then allow the applicant to build eight units.”
A similar application went before Commission and the Council in 2018 and was denied by Council in October that year. As part of this application, eight parking spaces would be provided on site. Here’s Matt Alfele, a city planner.
“Residents are concerned that the code-required eight parking spaces will not be enough for this development and the overflow parking will impact the surrounding neighborhoods, especially the homes on Chestnut Street,” Alfele said.
One change since 2018 involves how vehicles will get in and out of the site. Justin Shimp is the engineer on behalf of MSC.
“We have worked with the traffic engineer and we have a one-way entrance off of Carlton because that is a narrow street and the one-way entrance is a safe entrance and we exit out the alley, so there’s no traffic concerns,” Shimp said.
Shimp said the rezoning was consistent with the city’s desire to build more housing units.
“The reality is that if you look at the goals that are stated for the city in terms of providing housing to folks who take alternate means of transportation, and how to deal with climate change and other issues we face, these sort of in-fill projects are an excellent way to achieve those goals,” Shimp said.
Though not a representative of the rental company that would manage the units, Shimp said the one bedroom units would be rented between $1,100 and $1,200, and the two-bedroom unit would be around $1,500. None of the units are being subsidized and will not be proffered to keep them below market.
The situation may be different in the future when the Comprehensive Plan is adopted and the zoning ordinance is rewritten. Lisa Robertson is the city attorney.
“What we’re all waiting for so anxiously is a zoning ordinance that can have regulations that say if we’re going to require a certain amount of affordable housing for every development of a specific size, we want to be right upfront about what that means and what the paperwork that’s going to be required over the course of the affordability period will be,” Robertson said.
Several residents of the immediate neighborhood asked for the rezoning to be denied or for more parking to be required. Another Belmont resident said there should not be more parking.
“I have to say I’m a little dismayed by the number of my neighbors who want more car storage here,” Gold said. “This is a really solid location for car-free living.”
This time around, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of both the special use permit for more density and the rezoning. It goes next to City Council at a future meeting.
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water. Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!
Next, the Commission was asked to weigh in on whether Charlottesville should give up public right-of-way between East High Street and Meriwether Street in the Little High Street area. This is what is known as a “paper street” because most of the land dedicated to the city for a road was built upon. Tony Edwards is the Development Services Manager in the city’s Department of Public works.
“This subject street was created in 1940 with a subdivision plat that established the Little High neighborhood,” Edwards said. “The 1940 subdivision created a new Lewis Street.”
An adjacent landowner has asked for the city to give up the right of way in order to avoid a cut-through street from ever being built to the Little High neighborhood. Another nearby landowner asked that an existing gravel path be turned into a formal city trail for bikes and pedestrians.
“It was determined that the existing gravel path actually veers outside of the platted right of way of 13th Northeast over the yard of a private residence and a busy parking lot,” Edwards said. “Staff at that time was also of the opinion that establishing a bike and pedestrian connection within the platted right of way would be difficult and expensive.”
Nonetheless, city staff recommended not vacating and closing the right of way in part to preserve the possibility of meeting future transportation needs.
The applicant for the street closure said one reason for the request is because the amount of developable property on the parcel he manages is less than it should be because of differing building setback rules when there’s an adjacent street - real or paper. In this case, twenty feet versus fifteen.
“If you take 20 feet away from the property line, basically, it removes all of that property from utility,” said Roy Van Doorn, the manager of the LLC that owns 1140 East High Street.
Van Doorn said a connector road would overwhelm the Little High neighborhood. Under his proposal, there would be more parking for uses on East High Street and he would fix drainage issues. He made this offer on behalf of himself and neighboring properties.
“I made a proposal and its on the table that we as property owners around this section would put in a 12-foot wide gravel connector so that bikes and pedestrians could walk in that area,” Van Doorn said.
If the city were to work out an arrangement for that land to be dedicated to public use, that connector would need to be built to standards according to traffic engineer Brennen Duncan.
“It wouldn’t necessarily have to be built to the full roadway standards but it would have to be built to [Americans with Disabilities Act] or bicycle-trail standards,” Duncan said.
The specific question before the Commission was whether vacating the street conformed with the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Jody Lahendro said no.
“I don’t like the idea of forfeiting the city from the future possibility of doing something,” Lahendro said.
Commission Lyle Solla-Yates said he support thinking about the issue more while an arrangement is worked out to use the right of way for non-motorized modes of travel. Van Doorn had sent over his compromise proposal on Monday, which was not enough time for the Planning Commission to get a staff report on the idea.
Van Doorn requested a deferral to work through the details of how to make the connector trail work.
“Owning the land for us is not that important,” Van Doorn said. “What is important is that the Little High Street neighborhood has a way to utilize connectivity but not automobile,” Van Doorn said.
Will this come to pass? Stay tuned in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement.