July 7, 2021: Council approves $1 million for statue removal, storage or covering; Another lot on Cherry Avenue changes hands
Today is Day 188 of Year 2021, and there are 177 days remaining until a year with three twos...
Today's 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!
In this installment:
Charlottesville City Council funds future action on Confederate statues
News on several key property transactions in the region
Federal help is on the way for Virginia’s towns
Governor Ralph Northam has announced an additional $304.5 million in American Rescue Funds for the 190 towns in Virginia. Under Virginia’s constitutions, towns are municipal jurisdictions within counties that have their own form of local government. In this region, that includes Stanardsville in Greene County, the towns of Louisa and Mineral in Louisa County, and Scottsville, which is in both Albemarle and Fluvanna counties. I’ll speak with the town manager of Scottsville in a later installment of the show to find out how they’ll use their funding. (press release)
Emmet Street near Ivy Road will be closed overnight tonight and the next two nights to relocate a natural gas pipeline from the west side to the east side of the road. According to a release, the work is being done as preparation work for the University of Virginia’s Emmet/Ivy Corridor project. The nighttime closure is also scheduled to take place on July 20. The roadway is already under a partial closure for the work which is expected to be completed by July 31. Learn more about the project on cvillepedia.
Tonight, the Design Public Hearing for a nearby transportation project will take place at 6 p.m. This is for a Smart Scale project known as the Barracks / Emmet Intersection and it involves new turn lanes and others upgrades to the roadway as well as a shared-use path heading up Barracks Road. Details can be seen at barracksroadimprovements.com (meeting info)
If you’re hoping to speak at the general public comment at the Albemarle School Board meeting on Thursday, you may want to sign up now to get in the queue. According to a news release on the school system’s communication page, the School Board is limiting the number of speakers to 40 and will choose who gets to speak through a random lottery. That lottery will be conducted by Jon Zug, the clerk of the Albemarle County Circuit Court.
“Historically, school board agendas have set aside 30 minutes to hear public comments during business meetings, with each speaker provided up to three minutes,” reads the release. “In recent meetings, however, the number of requests from people wishing to address the board during a meeting has exceeded two and three times that number, extending well into the time set aside to review or vote on business agenda items.”
A development firm has filed a request with Albemarle County to subdivide a 69-acre property south of the Fontaine Research Park to make way for a neighborhood of 73 single-family homes. Riverbend Development submitted the request for the Granger property, a piece of land that has long been the subject of speculation.
Access to the site would be to Sunset Avenue Extended with an emergency access point onto Stribling Avenue, which is restricted by a one-way railway underpass. The lots will each have a minimum of 20,000 square feet and 80 feet of road frontage, except in the case of lots along cul-de-sacs. This project would be consistent with the existing R-1 zoning and the Comprehensive Plan of Neighborhood Residential Density. No action is required by the Board of Supervisors as this is what is known as a ministerial review.
Woodard Properties has purchased another couple of properties on Cherry Avenue in an area currently zoned for mixed-use. The company paid $1.55 million for two properties at 801 Cherry Avenue, currently a vacant lot. That’s 41.24 percent over the 2021 assessment. In April, Woodard Properties paid $3.1 million for the Cherry Avenue Shopping Center and five vacant properties behind it. These two lots make up about 0.85 acres.
Now it’s time for a reader-supported public service announcement. The Friends of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library are having a Warehouse Sale at Albemarle Square Shopping Center (300 Albemarle Square) Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11 from 10-6 each day. There will be Fiction, Mysteries, SciFi and Fantasy, Cookbooks, Military, Biographies and YA and Children’s Books There will be a capacity limit of 80 shoppers. Proceeds benefit our regional public library system, *JMRL, serving Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.
Whenever a plan becomes known for what will happen to the Confederate Statues in two Charlottesville parks, funding will be in place to cover at least some of the costs. Charlottesville City Council took action this morning at a special meeting on a resolution to allocate $1 million to the effort, which would be a legal action given a ruling this spring by the Virginia Supreme Court that the two statues are not protected war memorials. Council voted on June 7 on a resolution to ask groups if they had interest in taking ownership. (read the resolution)
“The 30 day window for considering statue relocation is coming to a close very shortly so we wanted to be able to have funding in place to take care of that," Boyles said.
So far, there have been eight inquiries from entities interested in taking on the statues.
The resolution voted on by Council today also covered the Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea statue on West Main Street.
"This is just putting funding in place so that we can either remove, store, or cover any or all of the three statues,” Boyles said.
Boyles said Council will have to vote to approve any transfer of ownership. The funding allocated today could cover the costs of relocating or covering, actions which by themselves would not require a vote by Council.
Councilors did not make any comments before taking the vote. In the public comment period, art historian Malcolm Bell said Council should not treat the Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea statue the same as the Confederate statues.
“The Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea monument is an important work of art by a well-known artist,” Bell said. “It is also completely innocent of the accusations that have been made against it.”
Council directed staff to come up with a plan to remove the statue in November 2019. Charlottesville Mayor Walker said the request came from Sacagawea’s descendants.
“If people go back and look at that 2019 meeting, we didn’t just make this decision and tried to be really thoughtful about making the decision, I guess that’s my comment, by bringing Sacagawea’s descendants here.”
Council also held first readings on three resolutions for which there were not fully detailed staff reports. Boyles said the items were urgent matters. The first was an appropriation of $1.986 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“The city will be the recipient of just approximately $19 million that is divided over a two year period,” Boyles said. “Right now what we’re recommending is that for community support that we go ahead and approve on July 19 funding for the Peace in the Streets program, which is a neighborhood support program and likewise the mentoring at Lugo-McGinness Academy. These are both [Conscious] Capitalist programs.”
Other funding in this appropriation includes $300,000 for the Legal Aid Justice Center for a eviction prevention program as well as $811,000 for emergency assistance for families through the Pathways program, $250,000 in support for small businesses, and $200,000 in safety improvements at the City Hall lobby.
“We will do community engagement,” Boyles said. “There will be a public hearing at your July 19th meeting on this matter and we’ll be able to provide a written presentation on this ahead of time.”
Council also took first reading on a resolution to use funds to provide bonuses to encourage more people to apply as bus drivers for both the school system and Charlottesville Area Transit. Boyles said the school system needs about 30 drivers to operate, but is well below that figure at the moment.
“We do have the ability through additional routes to get by without about 14 drivers and we currently have nine drivers with the school year right upon us,” Boyles said. “This is not unique to Charlottesville or Albemarle or Virginia. This is a national epidemic that’s occurring all over.”
The resolution proposes a $2,400 bonus for new drivers as well as enhanced health benefits for school bus drivers. Participants would get that bonus over a nine-month period, and existing drivers would also get the amount to encourage them to stay on the job.
A similar bonus will go for CAT drivers to prevent people from quitting that job to drive a school bus. If approved on July 19, the program would last two years.
More details will be available in time for the July 19 meeting.