Jun 14, 2021 • 12M

June 14, 2021: Planning to upgrade Charlottesville's Union Station; Albemarle's diversity director moves to UVA School of Data Science

Today is the 165th day of the year, and I guess I'm counting...

 
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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.
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In today’s Substack-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit the Code for Charlottesville website to learn more, including details on projects that are underway.

In this installment: 

  • The TJPDC will try again to get grant to plan for future of Charlottesville Union Station, and other regional updates

  • Election updates for outlying Greene, Nelson and Louisa

  • The comment period is over for the Cville Plans Together initiative

  • Albemarle County’s diversity chief is heading to the UVA School of Data Science 

  • Fashion Square Mall owner files for Chapter 11


The public comment period has now closed for the latest round of the Cville Plans Together initiative, two weeks after the initial deadline for people to submit feedback on the Future Land Use Map. Staff with Rhodeside & Harwell will now comb through the responses and will present that information to the Charlottesville Planning Commission on June 29. 

On Wednesday, the Housing Advisory Committee will discuss at noon changes being suggested by the executive directors of Habitat for Humanity and the Piedmont Housing Alliance. (meeting info)

“They shared their early general concept/proposal with us,” said project manager Jennifer Koch. “However, the Cville Plans Together team is currently focused on summarizing the feedback we have received over the last six weeks and we are not yet proposing any [Future Land Use Map] revisions.” 

More on the future land use use plan in a future installment of the newsletter. 

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While there are no contested races for Albemarle’s legislative body, that’s not the case in surrounding counties. 

In Louisa County, two of the magisterial districts have contested races and another two have candidates who are running opposed. In the Green Springs district, incumbent Robert Babyok Jr. faces challenger Rachel Jones. In the Patrick Henry district, incumbent Fitzgerald Barnes faces William Woody Jr. Duane Adams is unopposed in the Mineral District and Tommy J. Barlow is unopposed in the Mountain Road District. 

In Greene County, Bill Martin will not seek another term representing the Stanardsville District. Abbey Heflin and Tina Deane are running to replace him. Marie Durrer is unopposed in the Midway District. 

Let’s move on to Nelson County. In the North District, incumbent Tommy Harvey will face Democrat Mary Cunningham. Harvey is an independent. In the Central District, incumbent Ernie Reed will face Republican Pamela Brice. Reed is a Democrat. Republican Jesse Rutherford faces no opposition in the East District. 


The top official for diversity and equity in Albemarle County is moving on, but not going far. Siri Russell is the new Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the School of Data Science at the University of Virginia. Russell has been the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Albemarle since 2018 and helped oversee removal of a Confederate statue in front of the court house last summer.  She’s already a member of President Jim Ryan’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships. 

In a press release on the School of Data Science’s website, Russell said she is excited about working to put theory into practice.

“I’m interested in exploring how data science can empower communities, individuals, and policy-makers to improve outcomes and maximize societal benefits,” Russell said.

Siri Russell

The company that owns Fashion Square Mall has filed for bankruptcy to protect its assets and attempt to stay in business. Many media outlets are reporting that Washington Prime Group filed for Chapter 11 on Sunday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Texas. 


You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement. What are some of the factors that support, or inhibit, efforts to increase equity in our communities and housing developments? That’s the topic of an upcoming panel discussion held by the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership. Guests include Kathryn Howell of the RVA Eviction Lab, Hamilton Lombard of the Weldon Cooper Center, Andrew Mondschein at the UVA School of Architecture, and Stacy Pethia, Albemarle’s housing manager. The event begins at 12 p.m. on June 17, 2021. Register today


Today’s newsletter ends with a recap of the June 3 meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

The group will try again to get a federal grant for a planning study for the future of the Amtrak station on West Main Street. The agency applied last year when the grant program was known as a BUILD. Now it’s known as RAISE, for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner for the TJPDC. 

“We applied for BUILD the last time it was available,” Hersh-Ballering said. “We requested $711,000 to create a Charlottesville regional multimodal transportation station master plan to meet the capacity, accessibility, and safety demands of Charlottesville’s union station.”

The application was not successful, but there’s still a need to expand the station in order to prepare for a future with more passenger service through the region. A second daily train between Roanoke and points north is expected in the near future. 

“The station doesn’t have the infrastructure of the amenities to adequately serve the existing ridership, let alone the increased ridership projected for 2045,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

It’s not just trains, though. The Virginia Breeze bus service between Danville and D.C. is expanding, and MegaBus also expects more service. Both currently stop at Arlington Boulevard at Barracks Road Shopping Center. 

Hersh-Ballering said the goal is to come up with a shared community vision for the station site, which is privately owned. The station is currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“The station [is] missing a lot of important things, such as lighting, canopies to protect people from the weather, appropriate and useful signage, among other things,” Hersh-Ballering said. “There was also a lot of pooling of water on the platforms.”

The money being sought now is for planning, and other funds will have to be found to pay for the upgrades. 

Charlottesville’s Union Station in 2009. What have your experiences been here?

Hersh-Ballering made her comments at the June 3 edition of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The TJPDC agreed to a resolution to move forward with the grant application. Charlottesville’s representatives on the Commission were not present at the meeting. 

At that meeting, new officers were elected. Nelson County Supervisor Jesse Rutherford is the new chair. Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring is the new vice chair and Keith Smith of Fluvanna County is the treasurer. 

Nelson County will use the services of the TJPDC to apply for a pair of several transportation grants. Interim executive director Christine Jacobs explains. 

“One of them is for sidewalk infrastructure in downtown Lovingston and the other is for a potential application for the Gladstone Train Depot relocation of the old building,” Jacobs said. 

Work also continues to implement a regional tax on cigarettes.

“At this time, we’ve had seven counties in our broader region endorsing resolutions and expressing interest in participating in the regional cigarette tax administration,” Jacobs said. 

After a closed session, the Commissioner opted to extend Jacobs service as interim executive director until the end of the calendar year. A search for a permanent executive director to replace Chip Boyles will begin on July 1. 

At a roundtable on happenings in each jurisdiction, Dylan Bishop of Nelson County had more information about the Gladstone project. 

“The Friends of Gladstone Depot is a non-profit agency that purchased this property from the railway, from CSX,” Bishop said. “They’re going to be moving that train station, converting it to a community center and transportation museum for the community there.” 

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning for the project at its meeting last week. 

On Wednesday, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will have a public hearing on rezoning of land adjacent to the Bremo Power Station from agricultural to industrial to allow for a lined landfill to store coal ash. Here’s Supervisor Tony O’Brien.

“They will retain their coal ash ponds tapped and sealed and covered in Fluvanna and they are proffering close to $50 million for that so that’s a big bonus for Fluvanna in terms of being able to ensure that the water quality in the Fork Union area remains stable and is not affected by any of their efforts,” O’Brien said.  

The proffered funding includes $47.1 million for water supply improvements, $2 million for transportation improvements, and half a million for Green Infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of the landfill. (meeting info)

Greene Supervisor Dale Herring provided an update on the ongoing efforts of the county to leave the Rapidan Service Authority in order to build a reservoir that the entity has opted not to build. 

“Madison and Orange County did vote to allow us to leave the authority so we should be out of the Rapidan Service Authority in the near future and what that means for us is that we can actually begin to build the reservoir that we’ve already spent between $11 million to $13 million on,” 

The TJPDC will next meet on August 5 and will be in-person. 

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