March on Monday! That would be the slogan if Charlottesville Community Engagement was a newsletter and podcast about positive motivation. Instead, this is another edition of a program about budgets, buildings, and other items that are of interest to many people who may not have the 411 yet. But alas, that was the July 22, 2022 edition and we’re 227 days later at 506 now at March 6, 2023. March on, madness!
On today’s show:
A 17-year-old has been charged with the second degree murder of a Gordonsville man in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon
Albemarle County will begin work this week on Biscuit Run State Park
The latest information from Charlottesville government including news on collective bargaining
Albemarle County holds the first public hearing for the proposed $551.5 million budget for FY24
First shout-out: Charlottesville Community Bikes
In this first subscriber supported shout-out, Charlottesville Community Bikes believes that bicycles can be a means to social change, addressing issues of equity, access, and inclusion. They provide free bikes to adults who need one, and have a special program that provides free bikes to children. Want to learn more or support their work? Charlottesville Community Bikes currently is seeking matching funds for a grant from the Outride Fund. Visit charlottesvillecommunitybikes.org to learn more.
Sunshine Market shooting claims live of 20-year-old, wounds another
A seventeen-year-old has been charged with second degree murder in the slaying of a 20-year-old man Saturday afternoon at the Sunshine Market on Cherry Avenue. That’s according to a press release from the Charlottesville Police Department.
A second suspect was later arrested at an apartment complex in Albemarle County and charged with one count of malicious wounding.
The deceased is Justice Kilel, a resident of Gordonsville, who had been inside the business when the pair attacked him and gunfire was exchanged. The 17-year-old suspect ended up at the nearby UVA Medical Center to treat a gunshot wound.
Albemarle begins work this week on Biscuit Run park
Fifteen years ago, the hottest development story in Albemarle County was what would be built at Biscuit Run, an 828-acre tract of land in the growth area that was rezoned in September 2007 for a large mixed-use neighborhood.
Then the Great Recession hit, and the developer sold the property to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2009 for it to become a state park. While a master plan was created by the Virginia Department of Conservation in 2013, funding from the state did not immediately materialize.
In January 2018, Albemarle County entered into a lease with DCR to operate the land as a regional park to be funded locally and not by the state. This week, work will finally begin to get the first phase of the project moving.
“To prepare for the construction of these park improvements and amenities, Albemarle County will begin clearing approximately 7 ½ acres of land on Wednesday, March 8, 2023,” reads a press release that went out last week. “This work is expected to be completed by Saturday, April 1, 2023.”
The first phase includes an entrance to the park from Route 20, 75 parking spaces, bathrooms, and a trailhead. The actual opening is now planned for the late fall of 2023.
City manager’s report: Collective bargaining process soon to begin
Yesterday’s Week Ahead newsletter was too long to feature anything from a very informative section of the agenda for tonight’s City Council. Here are some highlights from the city government in Charlottesville from the March 6 report from interim city manager Michael C. Rogers. (read the report)
For some reason, the top item is an announcement of nonstop flights from Charlottesville to Orlando from the Charlottesville Regional Airport beginning on May 3. Direct flights to Philadelphia on Americans Airlines begin on April 4.
The city has hired a Labor Relations Administrator to serve as the negotiator in the forthcoming collective bargaining between employees and management. Sarah Miller Espinoza has also performed similar duties in Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria. The city has hired Jimmy Morani to represent management. Espinoza will lay out the rules for the petition and election process in 21 days. Councilors are to be trained by someone from the firm Venable today.
Mark your calendars for a strategic planning retreat for City Council on May 5 and May 6. The North Carolina-based firm Raftelis was hired in January to work on the document which has been delayed a few years.
There’s one more week to submit a poster for a contest honoring the 50th anniversary of the City Market. Learn more about that in my story from February 15, 2023. The market season will begin on April 1.
The window is open for elderly and disabled community members to apply for relief from real property taxes and will close on May 1. See the image below for criteria or visit the Commissioner of Revenue’s section of the city’s website.
A request for proposals is expected to go out this month for a firm to assist Charlottesville Area Transit in providing microtransit service in Albemarle with service anticipated for the summer. Learn more about the program from this article I wrote on February 14, 2023.
Fifteen percent of city staff failed an email phishing campaign in February, the same rate as the previous training exercise.
Second shout-out: Piedmont Master Gardeners seek items for Green Elephant Sale
In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement: If you are cleaning out your garage, basement or garden shed as spring approaches, the Piedmont Master Gardeners will gladly take any yard and garden equipment you no longer need.
PMG is now accepting donations of new and used tools, hoses, decorative items, outdoor furniture—virtually anything used to create, maintain and enjoy a garden. These “Green Elephants” will be offered for sale to the public during PMG’s Spring Plant Sale. Donated items may be dropped off at 402 Albemarle Square between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays through the end of April. PMG is not able to accept plastic pots or opened chemicals. To arrange a pickup or for more information, contact the Piedmont Master Gardeners at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for that sale? Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 6, at Albemarle Square Shopping Center.
Albemarle County holds first public hearing for FY24 budget
For the first time since 2019, members of the community in Albemarle County had the opportunity to give public comments about the draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year in Lane Auditorium.
“It was reality shocking that we had a couple of years when no one showed up for the budget hearings so it's nice to see folks,” said Jack Jouett District Supervisor Diantha McKeel.
The pandemic closed the space to meetings for three years, but several people took advantage of the resumed normality to give feedback on the proposed $551.5 million budget for fiscal year 2024.
But first, County Executive Jeff Richardson gave a condensed briefing that included this fact.
“Real property assessment values year over year are up approximately 13.5 percent,” Richardson said.
That amount results in about $25 million in new revenues and Richardson is recommending using some of that money for infrastructure projects identified in the capital improvement program. Richardson said a very large portion of the county’s revenues this year will go to support Goal 5 of the strategic plan - Education and Learning.
“The goal is to support exceptional educational opportunities,” Richardson said. “The single biggest expenditure in our budget each year is the transfer to Albemarle County public schools.”
The capital program also sets aside funding for two new elementary schools and a High School Center, as well as an expansion at Mountain View Elementary. For a full recap of the budget, read my story from February 25, 2023.
One of the speakers d uring the public hearing was Paul Newland of the Rio District. He said this year’s assessments reflect a real estate market that has behaved erratically in the past year.
“Albemarle County experienced an eight percent rise in home prices during the past year, a significant increase,” Newland said. “This was probably driven by an extremely low interest rate, about three percent for most of the year. It is now at seven percent and home sales have decreased over 25 percent since the first of the year. The market is clearly not as robust as it was during this short period of time reflected by our assessments.”
Newland said inflation is adding to economic hardship for retirees on fixed incomes, and increased property taxes. He urged the Board of Supervisors to scrutinize the draft budget to find cuts so that the real property tax rate could be reduced.
Gustavo Espinoza of the Legal Aid Justice Center said he spent the pandemic organizing residents of the Jack Jouett and Rio districts with eviction prevention and rent relief. With dwindling state and federal funds, he advocated for more local spending.
“I’ve witnessed the urgent need for both emergency rental assistance and for long term affordable housing and so I’m asking, please invest more money in both of those items in the budget,” Espinoza said.
Lydia Brunk of the Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America also advocated for spending for low-income tenants facing eviction.
“I am increasingly aware of the fact that tenants are paying increasing amounts of money for poorly maintained houses and have increasingly scarce resources to turn to in an emergency,” Brunk said. “We’ve spoken to tenants who are paying $1,700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment with issues like mold or broken plumbing that don’t get addressed.”
Don Long of the White Hall District appeared on behalf of the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle and asked for investment in more places for people to play sports.
“I was excited to see two additional fields in the new budget but I wanted to encourage the board to really consider additional fields and additional field maintenance into the budget,” Long said. “We are dramatically underserved in terms of the numbers of fields for our population for soccer and for other sports.”
Those fields would be built at Biscuit Run park at a cost of $3.8 million for design in FY24 and construction in FY25.
And that was it for the public comment. Supervisors will begin their review of the budget on Wednesday with a work session at 3 p.m. Some of them had some parting comments after the public hearing.
“Pay attention to what your Supervisors do during the budget because you will learn what their priorities are,” said Supervisor Ned Gallaway of the Rio District.
Supervisor Jim Andrews of the Samuel Miller District reminded the audience that the materials are available for anyone with access to the internet.
“This big book that each of us has up here is available online, and the presentations are available online all through the albemarle.org website under finance and budget,” Andrews said.
Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District asked for specific information to be ready for the work sessions.
“When assessments are calculated, how they are calculated, and what flexibility the county has with regard to how those assessments are determined because we’ve gotten a lot of questions about that,” Price said.
Stay tuned for more from the Albemarle budget in future editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement.
Major Albemarle County residential development moves forward, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 2, 2023
Albemarle County schools to draft union contract, Alice Berry, Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 3, 2023
John and Jane Doe return to fight city upzoning, Hawes Spencer, Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 4, 2023
Does Virginia’s renewable future have space for alternative forms of gas? Charlie Paulin, Virginia Mercury, March 6, 2023
Notes for #506:
This is the end of the newsletter for today. There will be another one tomorrow. There is nothing really significant to note here except don’t forget that I appear on WINA with Courteney Stuart at 5 p.m. every Monday to talk about a lot of this stuff. Tune in and find out!
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