Mar 22 • 17M

March 22, 2022: Albemarle EDA briefed on Broadway Blueprint, Lewis and Clark Center loan, $5M in economic development funding, and exploring a DORA

Plus: The Crozet Community Advisory Committee learns about transportation projects

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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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There is much more light in the northern hemisphere today than there was yesterday. This will be the case for 90 more days until the pendulum shifts back the other way, but perhaps now isn’t the time to bring that up. It is time to tell you that this is another edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement and I’m the same version of Sean Tubbs. 

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On today’s show:

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 first-ever photography contest! They want high-resolution photos related to the Rivanna watershed and the winning entries will be displayed at the 2022 Riverfest Celebration on May 1. 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.

Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center officials met in closed session with EDA to talk loan forgiveness

The Albemarle Economic Development Authority met with leaders of the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in closed session last week to share information about the nonprofit’s ability to pay back a loan that dates back to 2013. 

“The pandemic of course dealt us a hefty blow as I think it did most nonprofits,” said Malou Stark, the president of the center’s Board of Directors. “We were not able to open during most of the pandemic. We began very small last fall with very private small group tours of two or three people at a time.”

That’s important as the Center owes just over $125,000 to the EDA for the loan, which was taken out to cover higher-than-expected construction costs to build the Center in Darden Towe Park. The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority also contributed $130,000 for that purpose, and has said it will forgive the loan if the Albemarle EDA follows suit. 

However, they have consistently indicated they expect repayment. 

Stark and fellow board member Sarah Gran met with economic development staff before the meeting to speak privately about the issue. 

“We took away the thoughts and ideas that were addressed a week ago and really wanted to hear what the EDA was saying about repayment about this loan and that we take it seriously,” Gran said. 

The EDA told the center board members that they want a plan for repayment. Stark said the Center sees an ability to bring in more revenue now that it can open. 

“We’ve continued renting out our building and we have been very successful during the pandemic in getting grants that we have gone after,” Stark said 

Stark said the Center will resume holding its summer camp this year and that will be one source of revenue. However, schools are not yet booking the property for field trips. 

The EDA met with Stark and Gran to discuss the matter in closed session. At the closed session, they also discussed an economic development project with the codename Khaki. 

There was no action on the matter after the closed session. There will be more from the Albemarle Economic Development Authority later on in this newsletter. Watch the whole thing on the county’s YouTube page. 

Crozet CAC briefed on transportation infrastructure projects

This month all of Albemarle’s seven advisory committees have been briefed on transportation projects from the county’s planning staff. In recent years, Albemarle has been successful at securing money for projects, such as the conversion of the Route 151 and U.S. 250 intersection to a roundabout. 

On March 8, 2022, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee had their turn. Planning Manager Kevin McDermott explained how the process works in Albemarle. 

“We regularly update a list of transportation priorities and this list basically is every project that’s been identified,” McDermott said. (read the list)

Those projects are identified in master plans, small area plans, corridor plans, and so on.

“And then we evaluate all of those projects based on a set of metrics which we think kind of capture, really, the needs of a transportation system,” McDermott said. “Those include measuring for safety, congestion, economic development, accessibility, land use, and environmental impact.” 

That ranking system is similar to the one used by the Virginia Department of Transportation in their Smart Scale process. That’s one of many sources of revenue for transportation projects and McDermott said the priority list is used to help position projects for applications. For the past few years, Albemarle has used a capital fund called “transportation leveraging” that is used to come up with local matches for major projects. 

A map with the locations of Albemarle’s transportation priorities from page 13 of the list (read the list)

Other sources include a revenue sharing program with VDOT and a Transportation Alternatives program for projects for non-motorized users of the public realm. 

“These projects are things that would cost definitely under a million and it requires a twenty percent local match,” McDermott said. 

Major projects in the Crozet area include the southern extension of Eastern Avenue (#8). That’s been a plan on paper for many years, but when it came time to apply for funding the cost estimates were out of date. 

“And so we decided to move forward with an engineering study using local funding and so that engineering study also looked at the potential locations of Eastern Avenue,” McDermott said. 

The county will find out in April if VDOT will award funds to the Eastern Avenue project, which could have a cost around $25 million. 

Other projects in the area include conversion of U.S. 250 and Virginia Route 240 to a roundabout and a Smart Scale application for a roundabout at Old Trail Drive and U.S. 250 at Western Albemarle High School. 

The priorities will be reexamined as part of Albemarle’s ongoing review of the Comprehensive Plan, including new projects suggested in the recent update of the Crozet Master Plan. 

For more from the meeting, take a look on YouTube:

Albemarle EDA releases Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville from Southwood deed 

The Albemarle Economic Development Authority has adopted a resolution releasing Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville of its obligations related to a ground lease for the Southwood Mobile Home Park. 

According to Albemarle’s property records, Habitat purchased the land and trailers at Southwood on March 1, 2007. Senior Assistant County Attorney Richard DeLoria said the Albemarle EDA took on the note for some of the debt in 2010. 

“Long story short is that the EDA assumed a $6 million obligation that was secured by a deed that was presented to the EDA,” DeLoria said. 

DeLoria said Habitat paid back the funding in the form of rent to the EDA but now Habitat is seeking to refinance. That means they needed to clear up the obligation to the EDA. 

“Habitat would like a deed of release from the EDA and also a termination agreement for the lease,” DeLoria said. 

The vote to adopt the resolution was unanimous. As of the March 15, 2022 EDA meeting, Habitat had not completed the refinancing packet. 

Today’s second shout-out goes to LEAP

You don’t need the “luck of the Irish” to be safe and comfortable in your own home. To see what you can do to get the most out of your home, contact LEAP, your local energy nonprofit, to schedule a home energy assessment this month - just $45 for City and County residents. LEAP also offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If someone in your household is age 60 or older, or you have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!

Albemarle making major investment in economic development funding with surplus funds

The proposed budget for Albemarle County for fiscal year 2023 contains a recommendation from County Executive Jeffrey Richardson that will give the Albemarle Economic Development Authority a large pot of money to use to help close deals. 

“Our Board has heard the recommendation from Mr. Richardson to put $5 million back into the economic development investment pool,” said Roger Johnson, the county’s economic development director. “That would sort of reestablish our investment pool that we have spending over the last four years or so. It is getting lowered as every project comes along.” 

The source of the $5 million is funding left over from FY21. These funds are often used to cover the county’s match for grants such as the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP)  and the Agricultural and Forestry Industries Development fund (AFID). The latter was used to help Potters Craft Cider renovate Neve Hall to become its tasting room and production facility and the EDA contributed $50,000. 

This week, Governor Glenn Youngkin awarded the first AFID grant of his administration to Hidden Pines Meat Processing in Madison County. 

“The company, which has been operating for more than twenty years, is expanding to year-round operations and adding USDA inspection services to meet surging consumer demand for locally produced meats,” reads the press release

Johnson said having a dedicated pool allows his team to work without getting an appropriation for each development project. 

The recommended FY23 budget contains details about the Economic Development Fund (page 259 of the .PDF)

Albemarle County seeking to explore DORA 

Albemarle County is considering taking advantage of new state laws that allow the use of Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas to help boost tourism and economic development. 

“It’s a geographic area licensed by the ABC annually that allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages—wine, beer, mixed beverages—within public spaces or inside a business without an ABC license as long as the business owner agrees,” Johnson said.

The Town of Scottsville has used its DORA license on two occasions so far. The city of Charlottesville has discussed the idea but has not pursued it since a majority of the last Council did not appear to support it. 

Under the DORA, a nonprofit group would hold the ABC license. A business improvement district could also hold the license, but there are none in Albemarle County. 

“What’s allowed is up to 16 events per year,” Johnson said. “Each event can be no longer than three days. You need a letter of support from the locality, and in this case that’s Albemarle County. You have to submit an ABC application and there is a fee associated with that.”

Beverages must be in designated containers. Johnson said he’s met with the Police Department to get their feedback on the events. 

EDA Director Stuart Munson praised the DORA set up for Scottsville for two events so far. 

“We saw a significant increase in traffic both on the street and in businesses and we had no problems whatsoever,” Munson said. 

Other potential uses for a DORA in Albemarle are in Crozet and at Stonefield. 

A slide from Roger Johnson’s presentation to the EDA Board of Directors, March 15, 2022

EDA briefed on Broadway Blueprint study

The Albemarle Economic Development Office has officially completed a planning study for a portion of the county around the Woolen Mills Factory on the western banks of the Rivanna River. (read the report)

“The general idea was to take the 46 and a half acres on the Broadway Corridor and turn that into a place that people, businesses, and activities all occur at the same time and everyone would like to be there,” Johnson said. 

Recommendations in the plan include creation of an arts and cultural district, creation of a business association for the corridor, increased bike and pedestrian facilities, design of a multimodal streetscape, and enhanced public transit. 

The report was delayed by COVID and during that time, Albemarle has adopted a new value of “community” which means equity and inclusion. That’s meant a new round of recommendations after the study was looked at through an equity lens. 

The new recommendations include connectivity to all outside communities including the city,” Johnson said. “We were talking about this being a county-only type project but there are some surrounding neighborhoods that we believe it makes sense to connect to as well. It also includes targeting programming and the use of public space to serve the broader neighborhoods.” 

The item was on the consent agenda for the March 16, 2022 meeting of the Board of Supervisors. 

On Thursday, the MPO Policy Board will select an alignment for a pedestrian and bike bridge to connect the Woolen Mills with Pantops. One would connect to Charlottesville at Chesapeake Street at a cost of $11.3 million. The other would connect at East Market Street and would have a cost of $15.4 million. (alternatives report) (comparison matrix)

Albemarle’s Broadway Street is entirely landlocked by Charlottesville (read the report)

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