It’s the final Friday of June, unless something can be done to add another day to the month. I am unaware of any campaign to do so, but perhaps there need to be changes.
So, welcome to this 24th day of the fifth interval of what we’ve come to call the two thousand and twenty-second year. This is Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast about the built environment that celebrates 400 editions with this installment that arrives 711 days later. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.
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On today’s edition of the program:
Charlottesville’s budget surplus is increasing with revenues higher than originally budgeted
Charlottesville City Council will make appointments to the Planning Commission in July
You can count on one hand the number of Albemarle residents who voted in the Republican Primary for the 7th Congressional District
Changes to Charlottesville Area Transit routes could soon occur as soon as more drivers can be hired
First shout-out: The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign
Since the very beginning of this newsletter, one long-time Patreon supporter has used his shout-out to draw your attention to the work of the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign but today let’s talk about National Pollinator Week, which runs through June 26! There will be many events designed to draw your attention to the crucial role that bees and other creatures play in making sure plants reproduce.
On Saturday at 10 a.m., Scottsville’s Center for the Arts and Natural Environment will host
Allison Wickham from Siller Pollinator Company will lead an introduction to bees and beekeeping. If you're thinking about starting a backyard beehive or are just curious about what's involved with keeping bees, then this is a great introductory class for you. There will even be a honey competition judged by Allison Wickham! For the tuition rate and to register, visit svilleartsandnature.org for a list of all of the upcoming classes.
Charlottesville’s FY22 surplus likely to increase
There’s less than a week until the fiscal new year for Virginia and its local governments. On Tuesday, Charlottesville City Council got an update from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers on what can be expected in terms of “one-time money” in the form of a financial report. (read the report)
“And we see that there’s a projected $14 million surplus for revenue,” Rogers said.
That’s higher than the $13 million projected in April.
However, Rogers said that number could change as the city’s expenditures have also been down due to various reasons including COVID.
“We have a lot of vacancies in our budget, the market has had an impact on our ability to hire as rapidly as we need to,” Rogers said. “While 92 percent of the budget year has passed, we’ve only spent about 85 percent of our budget expenditures. That’s going to release in a surplus.”
However, Rogers said the actual surplus will not be known until later in the year after the city’s books are closed and reconciled.
One of the reasons why there will be a surplus is due to tax rates increases and assessment rises for personal property and real estate.
Earlier this year, Council voted to increase the real estate tax rate to $0.96 per $100 of assessed value. That penny increase applied to the entire calendar year of 2022.
Council also opted to keep the personal property rate at $4.20 per $100 of assessed value, also contributing to the surplus. That was over the recommendation of Commissioner of Revenue Todd Divers who suggested reducing it due to a sharp increase in the value of used vehicles.
The city also will not bring in as much revenue from Parks and Recreation as originally believed.
“During the budget process we budgeted for the idea that we thought we would be fully operational but as you know we’re not and so therefore we are not going to make those marks,” said Krisy Hammill, the city’s senior budget performance analyst.
The city has also closed on its latest sale of municipal bonds which are used to finance capital projects. The cost of doing so will increase as interest rates go up.
“We closed with about $28 million at a rate at about 3.07 percent, which is about double of what we got last year but it is indicative of the market and still a very good rate,” Hammill said.
Council makes appointments, but not yet to Planning Commission
On Tuesday, City Council appointed Laura Knott and Sally Duncan to the city’s Historic Resources Committee and Dashad Cooper to the Police Civilian Oversight Board. Other appointments included members of the Sister Cities Commission, the Region 10 Board, and the Retirement Commission.
However, they did not fill all the open positions.
“Appointments to the Planning Commission have been postponed until the July 18 Council meeting,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. “There were a few people we needed to interview and didn’t have time to do it today and at least one person was not available.”
Council will not meet the first week of July.
The window to apply for the Planning Commission has closed. There were at least 28 applications for the five seats, including those of sitting Commissioners Karim Habbab, Hosea Mitchell, and Rory Stolzenberg. There will be at least two newcomers because Commissioners Taneia Dowell and Jody Lahendro are not eligible for another term.
There are three at-large vacancies on the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Applications for those positions are due on August 5, 2022. That entity’s next public meeting is June 27, 2022 and there’s no information yet available on their website. In fact, there’s not been a meeting listed on the CRHA website since January 2021. (apply here)
City still seeking to fill key vacancies crucial to approval of new buildings
Earlier this month, interim Charlottesville City Manager Michael C. Rogers told Council of a shortage of building inspectors. On Tuesday, he said positions are being readvertised and other solutions are being explored.
“I have executed an agreement with the University of Virginia’s building official to provide staff capacity to assist us in the permitting and inspections process and they began last week,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the agreement will carry into the fall.
Albemarle Republicans choose Anderson in 7th Congressional District
Voters in Albemarle’s “Small Sliver” within Virginia’s new 7th Congressional District went to the polls Tuesday in the Republican primary. Eight people in all voted in the six way race and half selected Derrick Anderson, the candidate who came in second-place overall.
There were two votes for State Senator Bryce Reeves who came in third and two votes for the winner. Yesli Vega received 10,878 votes and will face incumbent Democrat Abigail Spanberger in November.
Albemarle County is otherwise entirely within the new Fifth District.
I’ve begun reporting on the Fifth District with a new newsletter if you want to join my journey in learning more about the localities within.
In today’s two other shout-outs: Code for Charlottesville and local media!
You’re listening to Charlottesville. Community Engagement and it’s time for two quick shout-outs.
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 codeforcville.org to learn about those projects.
The final comes from another Patreon supporter who wants you to go out and read a local news story written by a local journalist. Whether it be the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, C-Ville Weekly, NBC29, CBS19, WINA, the Crozet Gazette, or some other place I’ve not mentioned - the community depends on a network of people writing about the community. Go learn about this place today!
Next steps for Charlottesville Area Transit route changes outlined at partnership meeting
Before the pandemic, Charlottesville Area Transit hired the firm Nelson Nygaard to take a look at its routes to suggest changes to optimize service. The study was done but nothing has been implemented so far. The Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership got an update at their meeting yesterday.
“CAT planned on implementing that system optimization plan last year but they’ve been dealing with driver shortages like every other transit agency in the country so that’s been postponed,” said Jim Baker of Nelson Nygaard.
CAT director Garland Williams directed Nelson Nygaard to revisit the route changes to identify how it might be phased into service over time rather than be done all at once. This would include restoring service to pre-COVID levels, expanding service areas in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, and expanding Saturday and Sunday service. Since the pandemic, CAT has run no service on Sundays.
“We felt like that’s a pressing need to get some level of Sunday service back on the streets,” Baker said. “So we’re proposing to get the trolley back online, the Route 12 which ran pre-pandemic up the U.S. 29 corridor, and to get service down into Avon Street past the CAT garage for Sunday service.
Baker said three routes would see changes as part of the first phase.
The Center at Belvedere would finally be served by the northbound journey of Route 11. To make up for the time, there will no longer be service on a loop that runs through the Locust Grove neighborhood.
Route 2 would be split into two services with 2A serving Fifth Street Station and the Willoughby Shopping Center and 2B serving Mill Creek in Albemarle County for the first time on its way to Piedmont Virginia Community College. This would also serve Monticello High School. 2A would run for some of Sunday
A second bus would be added to the current Route 6 to improve frequency to 30 minutes
The second phase would make changes to services along the U.S. 29 corridor.
Route 7 would be expanded to the Wal-Mart and would travel bi-directionally along Hillsdale Drive and through Seminole Square Shopping Center. Baker said the goal here is to link downtown Charlottesville with Wal-Mart, which is a major shopping destination.
Route 5 would no longer travel to the Wal-Mart but would instead have a northern terminus at Fashion Square Mall. Its new southern terminus would be the UVA Hospital.
The Sunday-only Route 12 would be eliminated in favor of Route 7 going seven days a week
The third phase will implement the rest of the changes. Here are some of them:
Saturday service would be introduced to Route 1
Route 3 would be broken into two routes with one traveling solely between downtown and Willoughby Shopping Center
A new route, tentatively known as Route 3E, would travel around Belmont and downtown
Route 6 would no longer serve the University of Virginia Hospital via Prospect Avenue. It would also be routed along South First Street as it travels between downtown and the Willoughby Shopping Center. This would add additional service to Crescent Hall.
Route 8 serves Stonefield and would be altered to travel south to the University of Virginia Hospital and down to Willoughby Shopping Center via Prospect Avenue. This service would no longer travel downtown.
Route 9 would also no longer serve the UVA Hospital and would instead travel to Fashion Square Mall
Route 10 would be altered to no longer travel on Stony Point Road and instead would travel bidirectionally through the Pantops Shopping Center on its way between Downtown Charlottesville and Sentara Martha Jefferson
When will the phases be implemented? According to the presentation, that’s all going to depend on drivers.
Six more drivers are needed for phase one, a total of 12 are needed for phase two, and a total of 27 are needed for phase 3. There’s an additional “phase three plus” that’s perhaps not worth detailing because it would need a total of 46 additional drivers. That’s a much higher number than six.
“Assuming we can get the pay scale to be comparable to Jaunt and [University Transit System], and we can get six more drivers, that should not be [beyond the reach] and then we can begin phase 1,” Williams said. “The jump, though, is getting authorization from the city and the county to fund us to make the additional resources.”
The Regional Transit Partnership meeting was held a couple of hours before a public meeting on the Regional Transit Vision Plan. which is $350,000 in the making. The following illustrates confusion that can come from having planning processes not tied to actual logistics.
City Councilor Brian Pinkston asked what the proposed CAT changes had to do with that study.
“Is this sort of like a first step towards that larger vision?”
Williams said these changes have nothing to do with the Regional Transit Vision Plan.
“They didn’t even copy these routes,” Williams said. “They took a whole new approach and said the slate was clean.”
I’ll have more from the Regional Transit Partnership and more on the Regional Transit Vision plan in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement.
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