Mar 3 • 20M

March 3, 2022: Speakers seek more athletic fields in Albemarle at first budget public hearing; A new name for Maury Hall at UVA

Plus: Places29-North group gets first look at UVA Foundation's North Fork rezoning

 
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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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For those who like the rhythm of numbers, 3/3 is the sixty-second day of 2022. For those who do not, disreputable sources tell me that this is I Want You to Be Happy Day, If Pets Had Thumbs Day, and Talk in Third Person Day. With that, Sean Tubbs truly wants you to know that this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement has nothing to do with any of those things besides this introductory paragraph. 

Sean Tubbs would be happy if you signed up for the free newsletter, but cannot imagine a pet with a thumb?

On today’s program:
  • Albemarle County holds the first public hearing on staff’s recommended $565M budget for fiscal year 23 and it appears a turf battle is brewing 

  • A land use advisory group gets a first look at the rezoning to add homes at the North Fork Research Park 

  • The University of Virginia’s Buildings and Grounds committee will rename a building after the late Senator John Warner 

  • Governor Youngkin signs eight relatively non-controversial bills

First shout-out goes 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 http://campalbemarleva.org/donate.

Albemarle holds first public hearing for $565M budget

The first of several opportunities for the public and elected officials to mark up Albemarle’s next budget got underway with a handful of people taking advantage of the first public hearing. 

The total budget is $565.1 million, and that’s made up of several different components including the general fund, the school fund, the school special revenue fund, the special revenue fund, the capital improvement fund, and the debt service fund. 

“These funds can be highly variable year to year,” Richardson said. “As an example, the FY23 recommended budget includes the influx of $12 million in remaining one-time funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally the nature of capital projects and their related borrowing will vary year to year based on the timing of projects beginning.” 

This next year’s budget includes funding for High School Center 2 as well as the final phases of the construction of a new General District Court in downtown Charlottesville that would serve both communities. Richardson said for those wanting to make a year-to-year comparison of budgets, the general fund is where to look. 

“It’s where all tax revenue is received and its the primary ongoing funding source for the school fund, the capital fund, the debt program,” Richardson said. “It also doesn’t involve pass-through grants that may vary from year to year.” 

The general fund is built on maintaining the same property tax rate of 85.4 cents per $100 of assessed, but an increase in the rate for the food and beverage tax and the transient occupancy tax. There is funding from the new cigarette tax and proposed revenues from a plastic bag tax. 

There is also a proposed 86 cent drop in the personal property tax rate due to a spike in used car values in the past year. 

See also: Richardson presents $565M “Transform Albemarle” budget to Supervisors

An image from page 38 of the .PDF of the recommended Albemarle FY 23 budget (download)

The public hearing was the first chance for professional groups and community members alike to influence the budget. 

A representative from an environmental group supported additional funds for Biscuit Run and for the transportation-leverage program, but lamented that the capital budget anticipates no new funds for a program where Albemarle funds the acquisition of conservation easements. 

“As you all know, our land and water resources are vital for the future of our region and are a critical component of what makes Albemarle County a special place to live,” said Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “In fact, the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan acknowledges this and specifically calls for the county to ‘strengthen the Acquisition of Conservation Easements ACE Program by providing a stable, dedicated funding source and staff resources for administering the program.” 

Later in the meeting, Supervisor Ned Gallaway said that the program is under review at this time and that is not being zeroed out. 

“We’ll do a proper evaluation and Mr. Richardson, I presume if we wanted to put funds into the 

ACE program, even though its zeroed out now because of the pause, that we would have plenty of reserve options to go if we had projects to fund,” Gallaway said. 

Several people want the county to restore $2.9 million in funds to install lights and artificial turf for athletic fields at Darden-Towe Park, which is owned by both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. That was anticipated in the FY2020 budget but has not proceeded.

“Quite frankly, I am very disappointed that this extremely important community project has been pushed to the wayside,” said Robyn Mattern.

The project was paused in the FY21 budget due to the pandemic and was not recommended to be resumed. Charlottesville would also need to provide a portion of funding in their capital fund. 

Mike Ginsberg also spoke to the issue and he argued for more athletic facilities for youth sports at Darden Towe Park. 

“In my time coaching child soccer in Charlottesville for the past 20 years, I have seen hundreds of multisport turf complexes across America and Europe,” Ginsberg said. “Every sports complex mirrors one another in that they all have numerous turf fields lined for various sports like soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football.” . 

The FY23 budget anticipates $3 million in spending at Biscuit Run Park in FY23 and $5.3 million in FY24, and that will include new athletic fields. 

The executive director of Live Arts appeared before Supervisors to thank them for the recommendation of $5,000 in funding next year. 

“I just wanted to let you know the focus of this grant is rebuilding our 1,200 person volunteer corps after it was decimated during the pandemic,” said Anne Hunter. 

Hunter was the last speaker at the public hearing. 

After that, Supervisors had the chance to provide direction in advance of next Wednesday’s budget work session. At one of those events, there will be a discussion about the future of athletic fields in Albemarle and whether Supervisors want to unpause the project. 

“We are planning to present to the board at the March 23 work session,” said Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry. “It’s not just a turf field discussion. It’s also going to be a discussion led by Parks and Recreation on overall field needs. We will talk a little about the history of the Darden Towe turf project and the current CIP request for four natural grass fields at Biscuit Run Park. 

Darden Towe Park is within the Rivanna Magisterial District represented by Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley. She said she looked forward to the work session.

“Because I do feel that we need to have a really good sports venue here in Albemarle County,” LaPisto-Kirtley said. “Biscuit Run, I think, is the optimum place to have that. I’m just going to put that out there already.”

Supervisor Chair Donna Price said she also wanted a sports plex within Albemarle and looked forward to the discussion.

“I also continue to have questions as do many of our community members based upon various opinions that have been shared with us about the advisability of artificial turf versus natural grass because there are advantages and disadvantages of each,” Price said. 

The first work session begins at 3 p.m. on March 9. (meeting info)

UVA building to be renamed for late Senator

The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors this week, including the committee that reviews land use items. Tomorrow the Buildings and Grounds Committee will consider a proposal to rename Maury Hall after the late Senator John Warner. The university’s Naming and Memorials Committee reviewed the name and found that Matthew Fontaine Maury has no connections to UVA except for an 1855 speech when he gave a lecture supporting slavery.

“During the 1850’s, Maury was an outspoken advocate for the policy that slave-holding states should establish a commercial slave network with Brazil and other parts of South America,” reads the staff report

Maury Hall was built by the U.S. Navy in 1942 as an ROTC facility and continues to house that program even though the military branch no longer owns the building. The naming committee has recommended renaming the building after the late Senator Warner who died in May 2021. Warner temporarily left his studies at the UVA School of Law at the start of the Korean War in 1950 and returned at its conclusion. After some years in private practice, he was Under Secretary of the Navy and served as Secretary of the Navy in the mid 1970’s. If approved by the Board of Visitors, Maury Hall would become John W. Warner Hall. 

The Buildings Committee will also see a schematic design for the new UVA Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital at Fontaine Research Park. The existing structure will be upgraded to a 60-bed hospital with all private rooms.

Location in Fontaine Research Park of the UVA Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital 

The Buildings and Grounds Committee will also review revisions to the Major Capital Plan, which was last revised in June 2021. There is a proposal to begin design for a Center for the Arts, the School of Architecture Center for Design, and an engineering academic building. 

Four major capital projects are also being proposed to be added. They are the Institute for Biotechnology, Ivy Corridor Landscape and Infrastructure Phase IIA, Memorial Gym Infrastructure and Accessibility Renewal, and Monroe Hall Addition HVAC Renewal. 

Shout-out to the Piedmont Master Gardeners

The second shout-out today goes to the Piedmont Master Gardeners to announce their 2022 Spring Lecture Series featuring leading experts on sustainable landscaping, indigenous gardening wisdom and small fruit production at home. For all four Thursdays in March, you can buy a virtual ticket for these informative events. On March 3, acclaimed garden designer and photographer C. Colston Burrell will discuss Beauty, Integrity and Resilience: Can A Garden Have Everything? On March 10, Renée Gokey and Christine Price-Abelow of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian will discuss  “The Three Sisters: Indigenous Origins and Best Growing Practices.” For the rest of the sessions, visit piedmontmastergardens.org/events.

Places29-North Committee gets first look at North Fork rezoning to add residential

The University of Virginia is working to locate up to 1,500 units of affordable housing at three locations, one of which is the North Fork Discovery Park on U.S. 29 near the Charlottesville Regional Airport. The Places29-North Community Advisory Committee got a look at a rezoning that UVA’s real estate foundation needs in order to place some of those units. (watch the February 10, 2022 meeting)

“We’re at the very early stages of this [and] there are a lot of much more detailed things that will be coming out at a later date,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s lead reviewer for the project. 

Albemarle community advisory committees play the role of information clearing house more than an advisory body, as any resolutions adopted by the group are non-binding. They often host community meetings for land use applications. 

This land is currently all zoned Planned Development Industrial Park and the University of Virginia Foundation seeks to change a portion of it to the Neighborhood Model District. 

“That district has the widest variety of uses of all of the districts that we have and in that particular portion of the property… they are proposing to be allowed to do residential development and some commercial development,” Fritz said.

The land is within the Places29 Master Plan, which was adopted in February 2011. 

“Even though North Fork does not currently permit residential, which is why we’re here, it was clearly contemplated back with the Places29 Master Plan when that was adopted ten years ago,” said Valerie Long, an attorney with the law firm Williams Mullen.

Since then, the UVA Foundation has covered the costs of extending Lewis and Clark Drive to Airport Road, providing more connectivity to the area. They’ve also been slowly adding more businesses to support companies that have offices in the research park. For instance, Foods of All Nations runs a café and there is also a large outdoor area enabled with wi-fi. 

“However to support those amenities you actually need people who live near or who will spend money on those service-oriented companies,” said Deborah Van Eersel, chief administrative officer at the UVA Foundation. “We think that bringing housing in makes it more vibrant. We’ve talked about multifamily, townhomes, and single-detached housing to create active, diverse communities. We’ve talked about affordable housing.”

In the application, the UVA Foundation is asking for a minimum of 200 and a maximum of 1,400 units. 

“That’s quite a range,” said Supervisor Bea Lapisto-Kirtley (Rivanna). 

“We acknowledge that most certainly,” Long said. “We wanted to provide flexibility to accommodate the market demand and interest but also it’s a new thing for North Fork so we think there will be a lot of interest.” 

Part of that range may depend on water supply. Learn more about that aspect of this development in Allison Wrabel’s February 20 story in the Daily Progress.

There is no date yet for when the project will go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. Fritz said the county is expecting a resubmittal based on input from staff and the public so far.  Read the latest round of comments back to the UVA Foundation in this February 9, 2022 letter.

This is from the initial application for the rezoning (download)
Youngkin signs eight more bills

As the 2022 Virginia General Assembly continues to reach its end point, legislation continues to either be passed, passed by indefinitely, continued until next year, or some other fate. The ultimate fate that any legislator wants is for a bill to make its way to the Governor’s mansion for consideration. 

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed eight more bills yesterday and it is worth documenting upon these. 

  • HB518 changes the way that transient occupancy taxes are collected and alters the steps “accomodations intermediaries” must take when submitting revenue to the Department of Taxation. 

  • HB3 will allow a sales tax exemption on gold, silver, and platinum bullion to remain in place until June 30, 2025. This would have expired at the end of this June.

  • The sunset of Major Business Facility Job tax credits will now be June 30, 2025 rather than this June 30. (HB269)

  • Another sales tax exemption is also being extended for three years, this time for components used in building or renovating aircraft components. (HB462)

  • HB148 allows a locality to certify pollution control equipment themselves rather than have that done by the state government. 

  • James Madison University and Virginia Tech will both be able to float up to $101 million in bonds for “revenue-producing capital projects” now that HB165 has been signed into law. 

  • Some changes to the Shipping and Logistics Headquarters Grant program have now been made. (HB324)

  • Some definitions of contributions to the Virginia Retirement System will also happen with the passage of HB473

Governor Glenn Youngkin and Delegate Christopher Head after signing HB518.