May 17, 2022 • 18M

May 17, 2022: Crozet panel learns about Albemarle's climate action planning; Developer seeks 130 units in "downtown" Belmont

Plus: Time is running out to fill out a survey for Charlottesville's climate action efforts

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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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On this day in 1890, Idaho became the 43rd member of the United States of America, a fact that may not have resonance but could be the important piece of information you hear today. This is doubtful, but we are only at the very beginning of this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a program that contains between two and two-hundred-and two facts per newsletters or podcast. Actual amounts may vary by consumer. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs. 

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On today’s program:

  • A site plan will be held tomorrow for a large condominium complex on land in Belmont that’s been used for automotive repair 

  • It’s the 68th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and the R.R. Moton School in Farmville is now an officially designated historic site 

  • Albemarle County’s Climate Action Coordinator talks Climate Action with the Crozet Community Advisory Committee

  • Albemarle Supervisors to vote on resolution to allow reintroduction of a freshwater mollusk to area rivers 

  • Time is running out to inform surveys for climate action planning in Charlottesville 

First shout-out: Charlottesville Jazz Society spotlighting benefit show for Ukraine

In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out. The Charlottesville Jazz Society is spotlighting a benefit event to support the people of Ukraine at the Whiskey Jar this Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Young jazz students near the besieged city of Mariupol sent guitarist Royce Campbell a plea to help, and several area musicians have jumped into action.

Vocalist Monica Worth has organized the event, and Campbell will play for Ukraine with bassist Andre La Vell and drummer Jim Howe. Many of Charlottesville’s best jazz musicians will sit in. Donations will be collected and sent to Global Giving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, and you can also go ahead and support this effort with a payment online. That’s We Play for Ukraine at the Whiskey Jar this Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. 

City climate actions surveys closing this Friday

The city of Charlottesville is working on a Climate Action Plan to guide decisions on funding and resources for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community. Charlottesville and Albemarle County both have agreed to meet certain reduction targets by 2030 and to be carbon-free by 2050. 

A pair of surveys has been live since April 20, but the deadline to participate is coming up this Friday. 

The first seeks input on how you think greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced and there have been over 160 responses so far. (survey #1)

The second wants your thoughts on what issues are faced by vulnerable populations when it comes to the top three climate hazards identified by staff. They are extreme heat, increased intensity of precipitation and flooding, and changing season conditions. This survey is five pages long. (survey #2)

To learn more, there are five Climate Action Fact Sheets on the city’s website.

One of the fact sheets is on the role more efficient buildings can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Credit: City of Charlottesville) 

Site plan review meeting for Belmont infill residential scheduled for tomorrow

As Charlottesville continues to change under the impact of a new Comprehensive Plan that encourages more residential density, there are still some examples of projects that could build to higher density under existing zoning.

One such example comes up tomorrow at a site plan review conference that will be held virtually at 10 a.m. by the city’s Neighborhood Development Services Department. (meeting info)

An entity with the name Belmont & Carlton Holdings LLC owns 16 parcels in the area, with one of them being a 2.58 acre parcel purchased in February 2006 upon which an automotive repair use has been on the property for many years. All of the land is zoned Neighborhood Commercial Center, which is the reason there are commercial uses in what some refer to as downtown Belmont. 

Now, that entity seeks to develop a portion of nearly 6.2 acres of their property and they need a critical slopes waiver to do it. 

“The applicant is looking to construct 118 multi-family condominiums and 12 single-family attached townhouses,” reads a supplement for the site plan review related to the critical slopes waiver. “The site includes existing city right of way that will be improved with the project for the development of the street grid and proposed neighborhood.”

As part of the development, the applicant is seeking to designate eight of the units as affordable and argue that is why the slopes waiver should be granted. Of the total site, 14.31 percent are defined as critical slopes. To mitigate the impact, the applicant will build a stormwater management facility to reduce the impact to the watershed. 

In addition to the site plan review meeting, the critical slopes waiver will need to come through the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education ruling today

Today marks the 68th anniversary of the ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case which struck down the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” that sanctioned and required schools to be segregated. 

This anniversary marks the first time the U.S. Park Service has extended official recognition to other sites in other communities across the country that played a role in the Brown v. Board ruling. One of them is Farmville, where students at the R.R. Moton High School walked out on April 23, 1951 to protest inferior conditions and a pattern of being denied funds for improvements. A month later a lawsuit was filed by NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill and the case Davis v. County School Board was consolidated with four other cases on appeal to the Supreme Court. 

To learn more about the ruling and about how the ruling eventually led to the five-year closing of all public schools in Prince Edward County, visit the R.R. Moton Museum’s website or its Facebook page

Last week, President Joe Biden signed into law the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Park Expansion and Redesignation Act which officially designates the R.R. Moton Museum as a National Historic Site. Learn more in a press release on the R.R. Moton website

Visit the R.R. Moton Museum website to learn more (Credit: R.R. Moton Museum)

Second shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s second 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

Albemarle Supervisors to be asked to support reintroduction of James Spineymussel 

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is working on a plan to restore an endangered freshwater mollusk back into the James River watershed from which it has perished. 

On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution giving their support to efforts to introduce the James Spineymussel into the Rivanna River as well as the James River. 

“Existing JSM populations have been augmented in six streams in Amherst, Bath, Buckingham, Botetourt, and Nelson Counties, but to truly recover this endangered species, the mussel also needs to be reintroduced to waterbodies from which it has been lost,” reads the staff report.

According to a staff report, there are over 300 species of freshwater mussels and many of them are located in the southeastern United States. They provide filtering of water with each individual able to process as many as 12 gallons a day in a single day. 

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources have been working on a recovery plan for decades and have raised James Spineymussel at the Virginia Fisheries and Aquatic Wildlife Center at the Harrison Lake National Hatchery. The species has been on the federal endangered list since July 22, 1988. 

The sighting of James Spineymussel has been enough to stop infrastructure projects in the past. At one point, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was considering a reservoir in northwestern Albemarle County, but the potential presence of the James Spineymussel eliminated that from further consideration. 

The lifecycle of a typical freshwater mussel from the 39-page recovery plan (download) (Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Albemarle CACs are being briefed on county’s climate action implementation

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted a Climate Action Plan in October 2020 to help guide the county’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of a baseline by the year 2030. That’s the first step before a second goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 and the baseline is derived from the year 2008. 

Albemarle Climate Program Coordinator Gabe Dayley began his journey through the county advisory panels by asking the Crozet Community Advisory Committee what their first thoughts are when thinking about climate action and what he might have as an update. (review Dayley’s presentation)

“I’ll jump in because I hope that I will hear some real substantive things that we’re going to do and not just talk about them,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek. 

Another CAC member said he’s noticed temperature changed over the decades. Kostas Alibertis has been in Crozet since the 1980’s. 

“Truly in the winter time we used to be a lot cooler than Charlottesville and now our temperature seems to be more comparable to Charlottesville,” Alibertis said. “I think that some of the growth has taken away some of the coverage, the greenery and the grass, and that’s led to the community being a little warmer. Maybe I’m completely wrong about that, but how do we address what we’ve lost?” 

There are some new members of the Crozet CAC and this was the first for Mallory DeCoster.

“I feel excited that this is a topic because this is my first meeting and I joined this group because I care about the environmental issues particularly in this county,” DeCoster said. 

Another new member is local Realtor Jim Duncan, who said more needs to be done about getting infrastructure built to get people out of their cars. 

“Climate change is a real legitimate thing but I don’t know what the viable action items are that the CAC can voice our opinion on,” Duncan said. 

A pie chart depicts the 2008 baseline for greenhouse  gas emissions in Albemarle and their sources (Source: Climate Action Plan, Albemarle County)

The Climate Action Plan was adopted prior to the review of the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan which is currently underway. Dayley said the overarching Comprehensive Plan that will be adopted will be influenced by the climate plan as well as efforts to include equity as a major consideration in future county decisions.  He also said there’s a lot of work to be done.

“Climate change is big and can feel overwhelming and I think sometimes in professional spaces, policy spaces, local government, and science we can shy away from that side of things,” Dayley said. “But the number two point is that there is research showing that actually kind of like acknowledging our reaction whatever it might be to climate change might move us to effective actions.”

Dayley said everyone can take actions to be part of the solutions to meet community targets. Dayley said CACs can play a role in communicating back to the public what the county and its partners are doing.

There are four themes to Albemarle’s Climate Action Plan that mirror the county’s adopted missions and values. 

“Through our efforts to address global climate change we also want to attend to our local health of people and place here, benefiting the local economy through our climate action,” Dayley said. “Also the local environment and thinking about some of our intersecting county priorities like clean water and biodiversity and then making sure the work that we do and the services we offer to folks are equitable and inclusive in how they involve people in the community and bring benefits.”

The plan itself has 135 action areas to reduce emissions for each of the sources including transportation, land use, building energy use, sustainable materials, renewable energy sources, agricultural and natural resources and more. 

The most recent inventory of greenhouse gas emissions dates back to 2018 and another one is underway now that will give a glimpse into 2020. In September, the Board of Supervisors was told more work needs to be done to meet the 2030 targets. (read previous coverage)

A slide from the presentation depicts how Albemarle reduction efforts fared in 2018

Dayley said for the county, climate action means things like transitioning to an electric fleet and continuing to make county buildings more efficient. 

“We’re also looking at how the county manages landscapes it owns and that includes things like parks and natural areas as well as school grounds,” Dayley said. “We’re soon going to be looking at also our procurement and the sustainability of the materials that we procure like plastics and paper and things like that.”

A second phase for the climate action plan will be on adaptation and mitigation and to prepare for impacts. The results of a climate vulnerability and risk assessment will be available for review in the coming months. 

As Albemarle reviews its Comprehensive Plan and the growth management policy, Dayley said one idea is to continue to build places to live that are more dense to support public transit. Study and analysis by county staff demonstrates the role that conservation of existing ecological resources can play.

“They found that our forests are helping us quite a lot,” Dayley said. “They are sequestering and drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, almost a million carbon dioxide metric tons a year.”

Another slide from Dayley’s presentation discusses the role forests can play in drawing down carbon dioxide

I’ll have from other CAC presentations in future installments of Charlottesville Community Engagement

At publication time, there are 12 views of this meeting on YouTube. Can we make that 24 in 24 hours time?

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