Mar 14 • 15M

March 14, 2022: Albemarle launches online permitting software; Council to pay land use consultant for more community engagement, housing model

Plus: Virginia General Assembly adjourns without passing a budget, requiring a special session

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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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The United States of America is only one of a handful of places on Earth that puts the month before the day when listing a date numerically. There are likely arguments for why the other way around would be more appropriate, but the best argument in favor of the American way is that today is Pi Day, thus named for 3/14. This is likely the least significant fact contained within this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but perhaps the most salient. Does it matter that I’m your host, Sean Tubbs?

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

On today’s program

  • Virginia to receive $74.2 million in the latest auction carbon cap-and-trade program

  • Charlottesville to pay Cville Plans Together Initiative consultant additional funds for community engagement and a housing model

  • Albemarle County has a new portal to file for land use applications online 

  • Charlottesville Area Transit gets state funding to study alternative fuel sources

  • The General Assembly adjourns without passing a budget and several bills, but a special session will soon be called 

First shout-out goes to Mulch Madness! 

In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, are you ready for Mulch Madness? The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority has a free mulch giveaway through April 16. In between all the big games, the RSWA wants you to get your yard ready for spring. If you have a way to transport mulch, head on over to the Ivy Material Utilization Center between 7:30am and 4:00pm, Monday through Saturday, where you can pick up up to two tons free. Rivanna staff are available to help load, but ask that you bring a covering. Mulch is double ground and derived from vegetative materials brought to Ivy for disposal. That’s Mulch Madness at the Ivy Material Utilization Center. Visit rivanna.org to learn more. 

Virginia nets $74.2 million in latest carbon cap-and-trade auction

The Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative has held its latest auction of carbon allowances to organizations that generate electricity. Virginia will receive $74.2 million in proceeds from the latest sale last week. That’s the fifth time Virginia has participated since joining the interstate compact in 2020 for a total of $301,855,695.52. 

“RGGI is a cooperative effort among eleven states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the nonprofit’s website.

Those states have received nearly $5 billion in proceeds. By law, Virginia is required to direct 45 percent of its funding to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund and 50 percent to support energy efficiency programs for low-income households. 

RGGI has no enforcement authority and exists to facilitate each state’s carbon dioxide trading program. Governor Glenn Youngkin wants Virginia to end its participation in the program, but legislation to to allow that to happen failed in the General Assembly session this year. 

To learn more, read Sarah Vogelsong’s story posted this morning at Virginia Mercury. The headline is As Virginia nets another $74 million, RGGI uncertainty lingers

Council to allocate additional money to Cville Plans Together initiative

It’s been three years since Charlottesville City Council opted to hire a consultant to create an affordable housing strategy, update the Comprehensive Plan, and rewrite the zoning code. Rhodeside & Harwell has been working on the Cville Plans Together initiative for over two years, and has accomplished the first two tasks.

Work is underway now on the zoning code and the Department of Neighborhood Development Services is seeking additional resources. 

“The first part is for $143,810 for community engagement and projects management as an ongoing activity,” said James Freas, the director of NDS. “And then the second part is for a housing market outcome modeling at $45,000.”

Freas said the community engagement work is necessary because the original scope with Rhodeside & Harwell was for them to do that work for 25 months. 

“And now we’re in month 28 with another 12 to 13 months or so left to go,” Freas said. 

Freas said the work to actually rewrite the zoning is funded, but the additional funding will go to create the model, which is intended to predict how the housing market might respond to the land use changes already embedded in the Comprehensive Plan as well the new zoning.

“That would be essentially looking at what would be the scale or pace of new housing development that might happen, what types of housing, what level of affordability, etcera,” Freas said. “And we really consider this essential work for both the Council, the Planning Commission, and the public to get an understanding of what these changes in zoning would produce on the ground.” 

Freas said subcontractor HR&A will look at housing trends and data to attempt to project what might happen when the zoning code is rewritten to enable more units on every residential lot across the city.

“To put it more clearly, how many housing units will we see on a year-by-year basis with the changes in zoning,” Freas said. “What types of housing units? Is it going to steer more toward two-families or more towards [AccessoryDwelling Units]? Looking at different parts of the city, is it going to lead to tear-downs or is it going to lead to reuse of existing buildings?” 

This model will be developed as HR&A is also working on a build-out analysis of what can now be built under the Comprehensive Plan. This is the first phase of the zoning process. 

In August, Council allocated another $165,000 to the firm HR&A to further work on ways to ensure the zoning rewrite is “inclusionary” and to audit how Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund has been used since it was created in 2007. 

This funding will come from money in the city’s Capital Improvement Program budget for small area plans. Freas recommends the city produce a small area plan for the Tenth and Page neighborhood as well as the Preston Avenue corridor. However, that work would not begin until after the new zoning code is adopted. 

The second reading of the item will be on the consent agenda for the March 21 meeting. 

See also: 

Additionally, the Steering Committee for the Cville Plans Together initiative met on March 2. You can watch that event here: 

Charlottesville Area Transit to study alternative fuels

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is expecting additional funding due to more favorable revenue forecasts, and agencies such as Charlottesville Area Transit will receive additional money this fiscal year. CAT Director Garland Williams told City Council on March 7 that his agency will receive an additional $980,599. About a third of that will be used for a study Williams told Council about at a work session on January 18. (watch the entire work session

“We talked about doing alternative fuel vehicles as priority vision number two,” Williams said. “The $300,000 that will be earmarked will complete the feasibility study and help us to also develop the integration plan.” 

The remaining funds would be added to this year’s operating budget. 

Today the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has launched a new campaign to try to encourage people to return to public transit. The Rediscover Your Ride program is part of the DRPT’s Transit Recovery Initiative.  

“We know there’s a lot to consider as you head back to work, school, or anywhere else,” says the narrator of a television spot. “For over a year, public transportation providers have put your health first by working hard to make your ride as safe as possible. As you think about getting on board, you can trust we’re taking care of the big things.”

For more information, visit vatransit.org.

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 350 new cases and the percent positivity is 4.2 percent. 

Today’s second shout-out goes to a Livable Cville event

In today’s second subscriber supported shout-out, Livable Cville wants you to know about an online presentation coming up on Wednesday, March 16. "Can Zoning Create a More Affordable Charlottesville?" That’s the question to be explored by Dr. Jenny Schuetz of the Brookings Institute. She’s the author of Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems. The event is free but you’ll have to register at EventBrite

Albemarle launches online portal for land use applications

This segment was updated with new information at 6:50 p.m. after the newsletter was sent out

This morning Albemarle County announced the public launch of software intended to make it easier for builders and developers to apply for land use permits and changes. Camino will allow for online submission of “building permits, architectural review board applications, home occupations, subdivisions and applications relating to our water protection ordinance.” 

“Camino will create a more streamlined and automated front-end interface, resulting in complete applications prior to submission,” said Jodie Filardo, Director of Community Development. “It will enable faster processing times and implements the first of many technology-oriented process improvements within the department.”

The system will cost $40,000 for the first year, according to Emily Kilroy. She’s Albemarle’s Director of Communications and Public Engagement.  

The new software is one of many projects under the county’s Core Systems Modernization initiative. Kilroy said other examples include a new Human Resource Information System, an Enterprise Resource Planning system, and a Customer Relationship Management system.

The current way to track and monitor land use applications, CountyView, will continue to be available. 

Earlier this month, Charlottesville awarded a contract to the Timmons Group to develop software to accomplish the same goals.  NDS Director James Freas told the City Planning Commission that information at their meeting on March 8. 

“That’s going to be probably up to a year of implementation time,” Freas said. “Hopefully there will be aspects of this project we can roll out periodically through that time but it is moving us toward a digital permitting system.” 

General Assembly adjourns without adopting budget 

The last day of the regular session of the Virginia General Assembly was on Saturday, and both houses adjourned without passing a budget. Governor Glenn Youngkin said he was encouraged about progress between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat controlled Senate. 

“We still have work to do,” Youngkin said in comments recorded by political reporter Brandon Jarvis. “We need to get taxes down and we need to make some investments in some important areas like education and law enforcement and behavioral health. There’s still work to do.”

There are a number of bills that remain in conference. The budget and those bills will carry over to a special session that will likely be declared later in this week. Pending legislation includes:

  • The elimination of sales tax on groceries and personal hygiene products (HB90) (SB451)

  • A bill to require witnesses of absentee ballot signatures to provide their date of birth and last four digits of their social security numbers (HB177)

  • A bill to establish lab schools in partnerships with institutes of higher education (HB346)

  • A bill to make hazing a Class 5 felony if it results in someone’s death (HB993) (SB440)

  • A bill to create a Virginia Football Stadium Authority (HB1353) (SB727)

  • A bill to create a School Construction Fund (SB473)

I’ll have a wrap-up segment on the General Assembly in a future installment. In the meantime, here are some other resources:

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