March 29, 2021: Affordable housing project nets CACF's largest-ever grant; Solar panels at landfill; Washington doesn't make Democratic ballot for Council
In today’s subscriber-supported information announcement. This shout-out is in celebration of Stewart Johnston's birthday. In celebration, please consider donating to your favorite environmental charity in his honor. I’ll put a list at the end of the newsletter. Here’s to you, Stewart, and hope you have a good day.
On today’s show:
Solar panels are being planned for the long-closed Ivy Landfill
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is briefed on what to do with land for the never-built Buck Mountain reservoir
One candidate for City Council has failed to make the primary ballot and another’s slot is still pending
The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation make a multimillion commitment to an affordable housing project
And the Local Food Hub moves its drive-through market to new location
Only four of the five candidates in the race for two Democratic nominations to City Council have qualified for the June 8 primary, and another’s slot is still pending.
Yas Washington did not obtain the 125 signatures of registered city voters required to get on the ballot. That means Carl E. Brown, Brian Pinkston and Juandiego Wade are on the ballot, and the registrar’s office is still waiting to finalize Josh Carp’s paperwork. Carp did turn in at least 125 signatures but has additional paperwork that must be received by tomorrow at 5 p.m.
However, a staff member in the Charlottesville registrar’s office told me this morning that Washington can still qualify for the November ballot as an independent should she choose to do so.
In 2009, candidate Andrew Williams failed to qualify for the ballot in the Democratic primary, but later ran as a write-in candidate. Williams did qualify for the general election ballot in 2011 as an independent candidate.
Stay tuned for more information about upcoming campaign forums.
The Charlottesville School Board has voted to designate Jim Henderson as the Acting Superintendent of the city school system. He’ll take over from Rosa Atkins, who retires as of May 31 and is taking a position in the Virginia Department of Education. Henderson worked in Charlottesville Schools for more than 40 years before retiring in 2020. He began as a teacher at Clark Elementary in 1975. (read more)
The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation has made its largest ever grant with $4.25 million going to Piedmont Housing Alliance for their redevelopment of land on U.S. 29. Piedmont Housing is working with the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless and Virginia Supportive Housing to redevelop the Red Carpet Inn site for a total of 140 units that will be guaranteed to be rented at prices for people with extremely low and very low incomes. Eboni Bugg is the director of programs for the CACF.
“This first came on our radar last April when we received a grant application from TJACH and PACEM and the Haven regarding wanting to ensure that there was a non-congregate option for our homeless community members so that they could weather the pandemic without being in congregate shelter,” Bugg said.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors rezoned the land for the project in February. The Red Carpet Inn will continue to be used as a shelter by TJACH in the short-term as the project moves forward. Bugg said the CACF’s investment is made in the spirit of community health. There will be an update on grant at an event on April 15.
Plans are being crafted to install solar panels atop 12 acres of the Ivy Landfill, which has been closed since 1998. The facility is now run by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority to oversee a remediation program and now contains a Materials Utilization Center where people can discard various items. Dominion Power has been working on the project since 2017, but legislation allowing Dominion and Appalachian Power to proceed with solar energy facilities didn’t become law until last April. Phil McKalips is the director of solid waste.
“We just found out about a month ago that our project has been selected by Dominion for the program,” McKalips said. “We’ve already reached out to neighbors in the area and seem to have gotten quite positive feedback from them.”
Dominion will need up to a year to finalize interconnection agreements and construction could get underway next spring. The facility will be owned by the Community Power Group and not by Dominion, who will purchase the energy from CPG. They will pay the RSWA $800 per acre per year for a 20-year period.
“There is a possibility of later on adding one megawatt, basically 50 percent increase if Dominion seems to think that will be advantageous,” McKalips said.
Community Power Group will be responsible for maintaining the landscape and the panels. Albemarle County will need to grant a special use permit for the project. Under the plans, Dominion will get all of the green energy credits associated with the project.
You’re reading Charlottesville Community Engagement. What do you know about rock music? Want to put it to the test? Join WTJU virtually on April 16 for their first-ever Trivia Night at 8 p.m. Join a team in the virtual pub and put your screens together to answer rounds of questions with themes that relate to rock, radio, and local lore. There will be merriment! There will be prizes! Trivia Night is just three days before the beginning of the rock marathon, a seven-day extravaganza to help fund the station. Visit wtju.net to learn more!
After the solid waste meeting, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority met and got a presentation on plans to continue owning and managing hundreds of acres of land in the White Hall district.
“It’s up in the northern part of the county near Earlysville and Free Union,” said Andrea Bowles, the water resources manager for the RWSA .
The property was purchased in the 80’s for the proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir, but that project was abandoned when the presence of the endangered James River spinymussel was detected. That would have made permitting extremely difficult if not impossible.
“There’s a total of 1,314 acres and it cost the Authority $6.95 million,” Bowles said.
Some of the land is currently being used to satisfy the terms of an Army Corps of Engineers permit that allowed for the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“Back in 2012, we started working on our mitigation plan for the impacts that we had at Ragged Mountain Reservoir and we impacted a lot of streams and we impacted of wetlands so we used the Buck Mountain property as the stream restoration area or the stream mitigation area,” Bowles said.
This meant planting of trees along Buck Mountain Creek and other waterways for a total of about 80,000 linear feet of new riparian buffers.
“We planted over 40,500 trees and we placed 600 of those acres into deed restrictions,” Bowles said.
In 2019, a landowner came forward to ask to buy some of the land back, and the RWSA Board directed staff to come up with a master plan for how the property should be managed.
“Whatever we’re doing up there, we want to address it through our mission and our values and our strategic plan goals,” Terry said. “So environmental stewardship, we would like to have water quality protection, operational optimization. We’d like to be efficient in how we use those properties and sustainable with the use of resources.”
There are 484 acres that are leased for others for agricultural use generating about $1,900 a year in revenue and one recommendation in the plan is to increase the rents to market value. None of the deed restricted lands are leased.
“And the other thing we would like to do is evaluate additional parcels for leases,”
Staff has also reviewed the possibility of selling some of the land and what the development potential might be. They’re recommending demolishing one structure known as the Buck Mountain House and selling off lots, potentially netting the RWSA between $243,000 and $325,000. There’s also the issue of a bridge over a creek on RWSA land that is failing and many have liability issues. Staff is recommending removing the bridge after 2024, which is when the time RWSA will no longer need to use the bridge.
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she needed to hear more voices on that last issue.
“I’m just going to put out there that I think we definitely need to know what the neighbors thinks about this before we do anything and hear from them,” Palmer said.
Palmer also said that other members of the Board of Supervisors have expressed concerns about selling the lots for development.
“Can these be put into conservation easement to remove those development rights so we don’t have clusters of homes?” Palmer asked.
No decisions were made and the plan will come back to the RWSA Board in the future.
The RWSA Board was also presented with a $38.95 million budget for the next fiscal year, split between $20.533 million for operating expenses and $18,418 million in debt service. The public hearing for the budget will be held on May 25. Last year, the RWSA drew about a million from its reserves in order to prevent rate increases. Bill Mawyer is the executive director of the RWSA.
“As we move forward into the next year we have reduced that contribution from our reserve funds,” Mawyer said.
The charges to the Charlottesville Department of Utilities will be increased by 7.6 percent and the charges to the Albemarle County Services Authority will increase by 14.3 percent. The RWSA sells water to the city and the ACSA on a wholesale basis, and those two entities retail rates for individual customers.
The RWSA budget has more than doubled since 2007 due to capital projects to expand capacity and to make upgrades to becoming compliant with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality mandates. According to a cost-share allocation, Albemarle can expect larger increases in rates to cover the cost of increased capacity and redundancy.
For a year now, the Local Food Hub has been running a drive-through market in order to connect local food producers with customers. They’ve done so in the parking lot of the former K-Mart, but have recently moved to a different space. The market now operates at Seminole Square Shopping Center on land owned by the Great Eastern Management Company.
“We’ve realized over the past year that the desire for safe and convenient access to local food is strong and enduring,” said Local Food Hub Executive Director Kristen Suokko in a press release. “As the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel continues to brighten, we remain committed to bridging the gaps between our community and our farmers as effectively as we can.”
The market operates on a preorder-only, drive-through basis. Ordering for the Wednesday market is open Thursday at 3:00pm-Monday at 2:00pm. Ordering for the Friday market is open Monday at 3:00pm-Thursday at noon. Place orders at www.localfoodhub.org/market.
Some environmental organizations you might consider donating to for Stewart Johnston’s birthday: