Jun 7 • 14M

June 7, 2022: Federal judges dismiss lawsuit seeking House of Delegates races this year; RWSA turns 50 and will get to turn 100

Plus: Updates from the City of Charlottesville on various issues

 
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Sean Tubbs
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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There are two weeks left before the next solstice, with fourteen more days of the sun springing above the horizon just a little bit higher each sunrise before the march to fall begins once more. I will not mention that other season for I know that may trouble some readers and listeners. It is June 7, 2022, and this is the matching installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement. I’m Sean Tubbs, planning for a summer of content.  

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On today’s program:

  • A panel of federal judges has dismissed a lawsuit seeking an election for the House of Delegates this year

  • The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority turns 50 today, and both Albemarle and Charlottesville have agreed to extend its existence

  • Various updates from Charlottesville City Manager Rogers, as well as an update on why consideration of a seven-story building on Jefferson Park Avenue has been delayed

First shout-out to Camp Albemarle

Today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate

Federal judges dismiss Goldman’s lawsuit seeking 2022 House of Delegates election

There are 518 days until the next time voters will decide on who will sit in the Virginia House of Delegates. That’s a year later than the 154 days that Richmond attorney Paul Goldman had wanted, but a panel of three federal judges have ruled that he did not have standing to bring the lawsuit either as a voter or a potential candidate. (read the opinion)

In his original complaint filed June 28 of last year, Goldman alleged that the legislative boundaries at the time of the 2021 House of Delegates elections scheduled for that November would be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He argued the population of some districts were much larger than others due to the outdated districts.

The case made its way up to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals before being sent back to the lower court this past March.

Attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the case on April 1, 2022, and yesterday’s opinion granted their request.

“The current Motion to Dismiss follows a convoluted, months-long procedural history involving multiple complaints, motions to dismiss, motions to intervene, various hearings, as well as the appointment of a three-judge court and an interlocutory appeal to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals on sovereign immunity,” reads the introduction to the opinion. 

The opinion is also a history of the delays experienced by the U.S. Census Bureau in delivering data from the 2020 count due to pandemic-related issues as well as the failure of the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission to reach consensus last October. 

The opinion notes that Goldman opted to not file paperwork to actually run in 2021, and notes Goldman resisted proving that he even voted that year. That means he could not prove he personally suffered an “injury” that would grant him the right to sue. 

“Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that he has standing, but he has not properly supported his assertion that he voted in November 2021,” the opinion continues. “If Plaintiff did not vote in November 2021, he lacks standing, as he cannot claim injury to a right that he voluntarily failed to exercise.” 

Goldman later did file an affidavit stating he did vote, but the opinion notes this was filed improperly. Still, the ruling goes on to state Goldman had not sufficiently explained why he was personally disadvantaged by voting in 2021 in the older district. 

“Virginia has 100 House of Delegates districts, making the ideal district population 86,314,” Judge Novak writes in the opinion. “Plaintiff’s House of Delegates District, District 68, had an adjusted population of 85,344.” 

The case is now closed, according to the order, with no possibility of appeal. 

City Manager report: Utility disconnections, city leases, building permits, and more

One innovation to come with the tenure of interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers is a written report that is produced once a month to address items that come up at City Council.  He also read from the report at the beginning of last night’s meeting and provided an update on the city’s current pause on issuing new building permits. No new inspections or permits will take place through June 13. (read the report)

“We have made multiple offers for a new building official and have to restart the process again with the most recent candidate changing their mind about relocating here at the last minute after we thought they accepted the position,” Rogers said. “We had previously contracted with a firm to help us with the inspections to offset our shortage. The two employees signed by that firm also left us recently so we are scrambling to catch up.”

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. Watch the video of the meeting here.

In his written report, Rogers said the city is working with the University of Virginia on a solution. 

Rogers also said an award should be made soon for a firm to help the city write a collective bargaining ordinance and that should be before Council in September with a draft ready in August. 

The interim city manager also reported that the city has been once again awarded a AAA bond rating from both S&P and Moody’s. A $26 million sale of bonds to fund capital projects is expected to be made today. 

Council also got an update on the city’s resumption in April of disconnecting utility customers for non-payment. A moratorium was in place for nearly two years due to the pandemic. 

“The utility billing office notified 282 accounts of pending disconnections by hanging cards on their doors,” said Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall. “To date, 246 of those accounts have made payment arrangements.” 

The written report contains several other pieces of information that touch on previous stories:

  • The June 21 Council work session will resume the discussion of city-owned properties and whether the city is getting the most out of current arrangements

  • A request for proposals for $178,394 in remaining Community Development Block Grants will be released this week 

  • Final design of a parking and pedestrian access for the Dogwood Memorial in McIntire Park has been reviewed and a budget and scope of work is being drafted, as well as a fundraising plan 

Rogers’ employment by the city is through a contract with the Robert Bobb Group, and Council extended that contract until the end of this year. 

Council action on seven-story building on Jefferson Park Avenue delayed

Charlottesville City Council had been expected to consider a special use permit for a seven-story building on Jefferson Park Avenue  at their meeting last night, but the item was delayed until a further meeting. The Planning Commission voted 4-3 on May 10 to recommend approval, with some members expressing concerns about the massing and scale of the project. Mayor Lloyd Snook addressed the delay. 

“There were a number of issues raised at the Planning Commission and the approval that the Planning Commission gave was in some ways was conditioned upon ‘you all go figure ways to moderate this, to mitigate some of the harmful effects of the way it was appearing to be so massive and so on,” Snook said. 

Snook said the Department of Neighborhood Development Services requested more time to work on the proposal before it gets to City Council. The item will be rescheduled. 

One rendering of the building (Credit: Mitchell + Matthews Architects & Planners)

Second shout-out goes to a Livable Cville event

In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out, Livable Cville wants you to know about an online presentation coming up on June 7. The Community Climate Collaborative and Livable Cville are presenting a talk on what they consider Climate-Smart Zoning. Executive Director Susan Kruse and Director of Climate Policy Caetano de Campos Lopes will be the presenters. This is happening on Tuesday, June 7, from 5:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m. Sign up for the free event on EventBrite. 

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will get to turn 100

Fifty years ago today, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was incorporated as a public body, pursuant to what was known as the Virginia Water and Sewer Authorities Act. The body was created at the request of both Charlottesville and Albemarle County. 

“That was for the purpose of managing our reservoirs and dams, our public drinking water, treating that and distributing it, and also treating our sewage,” said Lance Stewart, the director of Facilities and Environmental Services for Albemarle County. 

Under the terms of the incorporation, a term limit of 50 years was imposed but extension could be granted if its member bodies pass resolutions to allow it to continue. 

Bill Mawyer has been the RWSA’s executive director for the past five years and he appeared before both bodies in the past week to make the case for continued existence.

“Our staff works very hard to diligently, professionally, and economically provide water for the greater region of the city and the county, including Crozet, Scottsville, in Red Hill we have a small system,” Mawyer said. “We operate and manage six water supply reservoirs, five water treatment plants, and four wastewater plants.” 

No one spoke at the public hearing in Albemarle and the resolution passed. 

Last night, it was City Council’s turn, but before that public hearing, City Council Clerk Kyna Thomas read the consent agenda which included this item:

“Approving the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority northern area projects allocation agreement, one reading,” Thomas said. 

Consent agenda items are resolutions that are not controversial for which a public conversation isn’t deemed necessary. Capital projects are paid for by ratepayers and each locality pays a share. 

In this case, the agreement lays out that the Albemarle County Service Authority will pay the full costs of new service to increase capacity in the area north of Hollymead Town Center, with the exception of a future storage tank that will hold one million gallons. By the terms of the agreement, the city will pay ten percent of that project because it adds to the system’s overall capacity. 

The city will pay 48 percent of the $2.425 million cost to decommission a water treatment plant on the North Fork of the Rivanna River. 

Details on the plan to decommission the North Fork Water Treatment Plant from the May packet of the RWSA

After holding a public hearing on rates for water, wastewater, and natural gas, it was time for Council to adopt their resolution extending the existence of the RWSA. 

“It’s been 50 years, it expires tomorrow, and so this action is placed here for renewal,” Rogers said. 

No one spoke at City Council’s public hearing, either, and Council concurred with Supervisors to keep the RWSA in business. The RWSA next meets on June 28. 

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