A no-nonsense introduction today to the March 18, 2023 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement to mark a Saturday just before the equinox in a time of rapid change as the first blooms travel through the air on winds that no one really understands. I’m Sean Tubbs, ready to get straight to the information.
On today’s program:
A shooting in a parking lot on Elliewood Avenue early this morning killed a 26-year-old Charlottesville man and the shooter is still at large at publication time
The UVA representative on the Charlottesville Planning Commission gives an update and I fill in more of the details
A 245-unit apartment complex on East High Street could still go before the Charlottesville Planning Commission
There will be a delay in the next set of rules for Charlottesville’s zoning code
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First shout-out goes to the Rivanna Conservation Alliance
In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance wants wildlife and nature photographers to enter their second annual photography contest! They want high-resolution photos related to the Rivanna watershed and the winning entries will be displayed at the 2023 Rivanna Riverfest on May 20. The two categories are 16 and under, and those over the age of 17. You can send in two entries, and the work may be used to supplement Rivanna Conservation Alliance publications. For more information, visit rivannariver.org.
Charlottesville Police investigating early morning homicide on Elliewood Avenue
Anyone with emergency text alerts activated from University of Virginia public safety communications got a message at 2:07 a.m. this morning that shots had been fired in a parking lot on Elliewood Avenue in Charlottesville’s Corner District. A shelter in place order was issued.
As more information came out, the Charlottesville Police reported that 26-year-old Cody Brian Smith of Charlottesville died at 5:31 a.m from his injuries. The suspect is still at large.
“A vehicle, described as a silver, four-door sedan may have been involved,” states a section of the release.
“Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Detective Raines, CPD Criminal Investigations Division at (434) 970-3266 or submit an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (434) 977-4000,” the release continues.
Last night on social media, the police also reported a second shooting at 8th Street and Hardy Drive but stated it was not known if they were related. This is the latest in a series of shooting incidents. To see all of the data that is available to the public, visit the Regional Citizen Connect site operated by the Charlottesville-Albemarle-UVA Emergency Communication Center.
There were two homicides in Charlottesville in 2019, four in 2020 and none in 2021. That’s according to data from the CPD’s annual reports. The 2022 report is not yet available.
UVA building report on Fontaine, Center for Politics: Does Area B still exist?
The rest of today’s newsletter uses the March 14 meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission as its primary source material. There’s a lot to go through.
The Commission got an update from Bill Palmer, their non-voting representative from the Office of the University of Virginia Architect. The terms of the 1986 three-party agreement on planning state that this position is to exist. (read the document)
“We have a number of large projects going on,” Palmer said.
All of those projects are planned by the Office of the Architect, which is overseen by a Master Planning Council. While these meetings are not public, the presentations are made available to the public. That Three Party Agreement requires a member from both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Planning Commissions.
Major construction is underway at the moment on the Ivy Road corridor with a new hotel and convention center, the Karsh Institute for Democracy, and the School of Data Science all at various stages of the building process. All of these were anticipated in plans, which are all available on the Architect’s website.
But it is good to hear directly from a member of the office.
“The McIntire School is doing an expansion onto Cobb Hall over by Brandon Avenue, that area and JPA, as well as the athletics area, there’s a new athletics building for Olympic sports but before that as football operations building,” Palmer said.
But the impact of what the University of Virginia decides to do isn’t limited to Charlottesville. Palmer also reported on the Board of Visitors recent first step in approving a major transformation coming to the Fontaine Research Park in Albemarle County.
“Site and design guidelines, which is kind of the first step in the design process for capital projects at UVA, were approved for a number of projects at Fontaine to kind of enable to the biotech institute that was announced for that site,” Palmer said.
The next paragraph comes from a story I wrote on March 3.
Paul and Dianne Manning donated $100 million to UVA for the institute, which will be built on what is now a surface parking lot at Fontaine and next to existing buildings used for biotechnology research. This is part of a master plan adopted by the Board of Visitors in September 2018.
“And then there was another concept site design guidelines approved for the Center for Politics which is actually in the county off of Old Ivy Road,” Palmer said.
A map in the Three Party Agreement from 1986 puts this in what’s known as Area B.
“Area B includes land which lies at the boundaries of or between the University and either the City or the County and on which the activities of any or all three of the parties might have an effect,” reads the agreement.
While the agreement is in effect, note that neither Palmer nor anyone continue to use the phrase Area B. There used to be a public body called the Planning and Coordination Council that met to discuss Area B issues openly, but City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted to disband it in late 2019.
But the plans themselves are public. The Center for Politics project is perhaps the first step toward implementing the Ivy Gardens Master Plan, which went before the Board of Visitors in June 2021. The Center will be renovated in place and will anchor one half of a new central green.
In terms of infrastructure, a very important fact is the new driveway for the Center for Politics will connect to Leonard Sandridge Drive, and not Old Ivy Road. Concern over the ability of Old Ivy Road to handle existing traffic led the Albemarle Planning Commission to recommend denial of a rezoning for 525 units to the west of Ivy Gardens. However, the Board of Supervisors approved the project earlier this month after members expressed confidence in transportation solutions.
The Commission didn’t hear any of that, though. Planning Commissioner Hosea Mitchel was absent this week, so he could not report from a recent meeting of the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee. That’s the closed door group where UVA, Charlottesville, and Albemarle staff exchange information that is not yet required to be publicly available.
“Hosea if he was here would probably recount the LUEPC meeting that he attended where Fontaine is going to be kind of ground zero for a lot of projects coming up with us, the city and their Smart Scale project as well as some VDOT [and] county projects as well,” Palmer said. “There’s going to be a lot going on there.”
How is the public to know any of this? If this newsletter didn’t exist, how would you know any of this information? How would you know that the city’s Fontaine Avenue Streetscape project has been delayed and that the city requested (and received) additional funding from the Commonwealth Transportation Board? (see that story )
Anyway, become a paid subscriber so I can continue to piece the pieces together.
Second shout-out: Charlottesville Jazz Society
You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement and time for another subscriber-supported public service announcement. Remember a time when there was no live music? Now it’s back, and I highly recommend you check out what’s happening and getting out there to hear people who are out there waiting for you to be the audience! A great place to start is the the Charlottesville Jazz Society and their running list of events! The Charlottesville Jazz Society is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and perpetuation of all jazz, and that the best thing you can do now is to go check out some music.
Planning Commission likely to review 245 units planned for East High Street
The developers of a proposed 245-unit apartment building on East High Street along the Rivanna River submitted a third version of a preliminary site plan in late February, around the same time that Charlottesville City Council agreed to hire a firm to appraise the potential value of the site.
This week, the Deputy Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development Services reported that a third round of comments has now been sent out. Those documents are not easily available without requesting them, but Missy Creasy said a round of recent public comment may lead to a Planning Commission review of the site plan.
“So the code allows for the commission, even though this is a ministerial review, the code does allow for the Commission to call up a site plan that wouldn’t necessarily come forward and I understand that we are likely to get paperwork from this body to do that,” Creasy said.
This possibility was first mentioned at the October meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, as I reported at the time.
One person took advantage of the public comment period to make his views known.
“The proposal is concerning because it involves a massive amount of fill dirt and it would be placed in the 100 year floodplain to elevate the buildings and the surface parking,” said Sam Gilliand of Goodman Street. “Fill dirt is the worst way to elevate structures because it increases the risk of flooding to properties around it and on a large enough scale it can also change the flow and velocity of the river in flood events.”
Gilliand said the Planning Commission has a role to play under state code to review the effect of such an artificial topographical change on public facilities such as roads and utility lines.
Release of Charlottesville’s second zoning module delayed
This week those following the rewriting of Charlottesville’s zoning code had expected to be able to review the second module of the new draft. The first was released in early February and set out the basic rules for what could be built and where. The second will add more of details on items such as parking, landscaping, and affordability requirements.
“Given certain circumstances outside of our control, I’m having to exercise what I said early on that we may need to change our release schedule,” said James Freas, the director of Neighborhood Development Services.
Freas said the second module is now anticipated to be released on March 29.
“Circumstances arose at the end of last week and at the end of this week that kind of put us in a position that we need to push out,” Freas said.
A City Council and Planning Commission work session scheduled for that day will still be held. That will now be an introduction to the second set of rules, which will also include the details for inclusionary zoning and for “Sensitive Communities” where displacement of Black households is more likely to occur.
“We’re going to aim for a late morning, noonish release,” Freas said.
Stay tuned as March 29 is about five seconds away.
Lake Monticello Community Foundation breaks ground on all-inclusive playground, Madison McNamee, NBC29, March 17, 2023
Notes for the end of #511
Thank you for bearing with the schedule disruptions. I am the sole employee of Town Crier Productions, a company that I am hoping to grow to help keep producing this content. That’s a level of complexity I hope to master in the coming months, but for now, there’s a lot of material to process. Thank you for being at this point in the newsletter, and thank you to all of the paid subscribers.
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