July 21, 2020: Preston-Grady moves forward, mobile home development, and latest COVID numbers

  
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Today’s edition of the program is sponsored by Mead Oriental Rugs, located on 4th Street NE. Open by appointment, call 971-8077 to set up your visit. Learn more at the Instagram account Rug Merchants Daughter

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The Virginia Department of Health has posted another 996 new COVID-19 cases this morning, and the seven-day positive rate for all testing encounters has risen to 8.2 percent statewide, up from 7.7 on Monday. VDH reports another 17 deaths for a cumulative total of 2,048.  Another death has been reported in the Thomas Jefferson Health District for a cumulative total of 30. The TJHD reports 26 new COVID cases with ten in Albemarle, six in Charlottesville, four in Greene, five in Fluvanna, and one in Nelson. The positive test percentage for all testing encounters is 6.7 percent, down one tenth of a percentage point from yesterday. 

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There are no scheduled public COVID-19 mass-testing events today, but several are coming up in the days to come. Free drive-through tests will be offered on Wednesday in Nelson County at the Rockfish River Elementary School from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Appointments are required and you can call 434-972-6261 today. Drive-through tests will be conducted in Fluvanna County at the Kents Store ARC Community Center. Also call 434-972-6261 to sign up. Sentara Martha Jefferson will hold a free event at Washington Park on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. This event is intended for “communities of color” and registration is not required.  

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Charlottesville City Council concluded their meeting last night at around 2:30 a.m. after a full meeting that will take another day to get through. Earlier in the evening, Council agreed to proceed with a funding request to redevelop the intersection of Preston and Grady, along with three other transportation projects. Council voted 3-2 on a motion to proceed with Smart Scale applications that are due in early August. Several nearby residents had asked for the Preston/Grady project to be put on hold. Vizena Howard is the president of the 10th and Page Neighborhood and she said that nearly 300 signatures were collected opposing the project. 

"I believe that rerouting the traffic through Grady Avenue is an error with which a high volume of traffic would create additional congestion issues for residents on the adjacent side of the street," Howard said. "And I believe it's important more than ever that those in positions of power to be listening to residents who have long lived in this neighborhood," Howard said.

City traffic engineer Brennan Duncan explained he did not think vehicles would be pushed onto Grady Avenue because many want to get elsewhere. He said future development on Preston Avenue as well as the redeveloped Dairy Central require the intersection to be reconfigured. He said the current configuration is flawed.

"We know the history of it and we know that when Preston happened it did separate the historically African American community of 10th and Page from Washington Park," Duncan said. "Reducing this back down to one intersection and one light where we can control pedestrian crossings I think is a huge benefit for trying to reconnect that community to the park that was historically theirs."

The Preston project was supported by Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Councilors Lloyd Snook and Heather Hill. Vice Mayor Sena Magill and Councilor Michael Payne opposed it. Payne said the Smart Scale process itself needs to be reviewed. 

"I think it tends to promote urban sprawl, it is a flawed process, granted its out of our control, and this is the kind of thing where if we were to approve it tonight it's still ten years until anything even begins to happen and  if we didn't approve it that could be fourteen or fifteen years maybe even longer than that," Payne said. "My concern is about what happens with the institutional inertia of this process and outside out of our intentions about the future of the corridor, what will actually happen." 

The Smart Scale applications next go before the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board at their meeting on Wednesday. 

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In other city infrastructure news, the construction on the Belmont Bridge is now expected to begin in spring of 2021. City transportation staffer Jeannete  Janiczek sent an email that stated Council will be briefed on funding for the project. There are $5 million in the current year’s Capital Improvement Program to pay for previous design work, which has been in process since 2010. There is also a plan in the works to create sixty temporary parking spaces to replace that will be lost under the bridge. (update)

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The developer of a proposed 370-unit apartment and townhouse complex near Forest Lakes on U.S. 29 had the chance Monday to share details of the plan in a public community meeting. RST Development of Virginia Beach purchased the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park and a former motel last fall for around $6 million and are seeking a rezoning for more residential density. Valerie Long of the firm Williams Mullen represents RST Development. 

“We’re proposing a maximum of 370 units which is comprised of 254 apartments and 108 townhome units,” Long said. 

One member of the public asked what would happen to the residents of the mobile home park. Long said there are plans to address their future housing needs.

“Our project team has been working very closely with them since they purchased the property in November,” Long said. “Some may know that it was under common ownership and management by a prior owner for over thirty years and he was managing it for over 30 years all along to our understanding and Scott and Todd at RST Development started meeting with him. One of the first things he cared about the most was that the residents in the community had plenty of time to make another arrangements and not be displaced on short notice.”

Long said residents have until November to find a place, but RST Development is willing to grant an extension. The rezoning will now move on to the Planning Commission for a public hearing in the near future. 

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In today’s meetings, the Greene County Board of Supervisors will have an emergency meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the decision last week by the Rapidan Service Authority to take away Greene’s administration of a plan to create a reservoir. The Albemarle Economic Development Authority meets at 4 p.m. for a virtual meeting. There will be a presentation on the CvilleBioHub from executive director Nikki Hastings, an update on business relief funding through the CARES Act, and a resolution to transfer grant money to WillowTree related to their move to the redeveloped Woolen Mills. There will also be a review of the Albemarle Community Survey.  

There are two public hearings on the agenda for the Albemarle County Planning Commission. In the first, a change in the zoning ordinance is being reviewed to allow landscape contractors to operate within the rural area. (staff report) In the second, Stanley Martin is seeking changes to the proffers for Spring Hill Village, a planned 100-unit community off of Avon Street Extended. They are seeking changes to the transportation improvements agreed upon at the rezoning in the fall of 2014. (staff report)