Nov 10, 2021 • 14M

November 10, 2021: Southern Development agrees to contribute $900K more to Stribling sidewalk, PC recommends rezoning approval

Another look at a variety of movements at area meetings

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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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Happy Not-Really-Pie Day!

November 10 is the 314th day of the year, which is an association that many have not yet made. There have been 241 days since the most recent March 14, which many so associate with a mathematical constant, and there are 124 days until the next 3/14. What does it all mean? Are these correlations, causations, or just random bits of trivia? And who gets to decide? None of this is relevant to the calculus of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but all of it is at least worth puzzling out.

On today’s show:

  • Charlottesville Planning Commission recommends rezoning for 170 units in Fry’s Spring neighborhood, conditioned on a deal between the city and Southern Development to build a sidewalk

  • Brian Wheeler is leaving as Charlottesville’s Communications Director 

  • Fire marshals determine a deadly house fire in July was accidental 

  • Highlights from November’s meeting of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission 

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, Code for Charlottesville is seeking volunteers with tech, data, design, and research skills to work on community service projects. Founded in September 2019, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. Visit to learn about those projects. 

The city now has another high-level vacancy. Several media outlets are reporting that Brian Wheeler will leave his position as Communications Director later this month on November 19. Wheeler said the city has no further comment on his departure. 

There is currently no city manager, but Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders are still in office and will remain so after Interim City Manager Marc Woolley begins work on December 1. In recent months, both the city’s parks director and public works director have left. The assistant economic development director is also leaving the city to take a job in the private sector. 

In a follow-up, Wheeler said offers are being made this week for parks, public works, and human resources.

Charlottesville is not alone in job turnover. The Deputy Clerk of Virginia Beach has resigned, citing “toxic energy” within city government. That’s according to a report on WVEC

Consumer prices in the United States rose 0.9 percent in October. That brings the increase over the past year to 6.2 percent. That’s the largest yearly increase since November 1990. 

“The monthly all items seasonally adjusted increase was broad-based, with increases in the indexes for energy, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles among the larger contributors,” reads the press release that accompanied today’s numbers

The cost of energy rose 4.8 percent, with gasoline increasing 6.1 percent. Energy costs are up 30 percent over the past 12 months, and food costs are up 5.3 percent. 

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has launched a website with information related to his transition to become the 74th chief executive of Virginia. If you’re interested in a position in the next government, this is where you would go to apply. The website is also where to go for information about the inauguration. 

The Charlottesville Fire Department has found that a fire this summer in July at a home in the 1000 block of Cherry Avenue was accidental. The fire on July 21 killed two people and critically injured a third. Fire marshals found that flames started in an unoccupied bedroom and the presence of home oxygen cylinders contributed to the fire’s intensity. 

“Every family should have a home escape plan with a specific meeting place outside,” reads the press release. “Practicing your family's plan will ensure that everyone evacuates your home and reunites at the designated meeting place during a fire emergency.”

The two fatalities are the first in Charlottesville since a fire in the summer of 2010. 

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District will mark its 50th anniversary next year. The public entity’s creation stemmed out of reform in Virginia. David Blount is the deputy director of the TJPDC and he explained the passage of the Regional Cooperation Act in 1968.  (state code)

“[Planning District Commissions] and the framework for them is laid out in state code,” Blount said. “It’s encouraging and facilitating not only that local government cooperation, but also providing that link between the state and localities for addressing issues on a regional basis.” 

TJPDC formed later than other similar bodies. The body last met on November 4. Executive Director Christine Jacobs said the agency has been awarded $2 million in funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to distribute to groups who can build affordable housing units. 

“We have cast a very wide net to make sure we are reaching out to potential public, nonprofit, private developers to submit proofs of concept so that we can see what types of projects are eligible under this funding,” Jacobs said. 

Applications are due on November 29 and the application can be found on the TJPDC website.

The TJPDC continues to oversee the creation of a “regional transit vision” with a meeting scheduled for November 18. 

“We want to make sure we get as much as the public’s voice in that regional transit vision plan as possible,” Jacobs said

To add your voice, there are two surveys you can fill out before participating in that November 18 meeting. (surveys are here)

One of the technical reports made as part of the study depicts residential density in the entire TJPDC region. (download)
November Roundtable

TJPDC meetings offer the opportunity for members to share what it happening in their localities. Yesterday I reported on Albemarle’s $13.2 million unaudited surplus from fiscal year 2021. Except, Albemarle doesn’t call it that. Here’s Supervisor Donna Price. 

“We don’t really see it as a surplus, but we do see it as a positive variance and that’s really a difference there because when that pandemic first hit we cut back on our spending substantially,” Price said.

The chair of the TJPDC Board of Commissioners is Jesse Rutherford, recently re-elected to another term on the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. He appreciated Price’s distinction. 

“You taught me something that I’m going to bring with me to my tax accountant,” Rutherford said. “Positive variance. I’m already texting my account and we’re getting rid of the word net income.” 

City Planning Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg noted that the seven member advisory body recommended approval of the city’s Comprehensive Plan update on October 12. He also provided an update on the redevelopment of public housing. 

“The very first buildings, the phase one of South First Street building in the empty ballfields, the first two buildings are just about complete structurally,” Stolzenberg said. “They have roofs and walls and are topped out. So they just need to be finished and that means building 3 can start.”

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a work session on November 11 on the draft annual plan that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (presentation) (draft plan) (register for 5 p.m. meeting)

2021 began with Chip Boyles as the executive director of the TJPDC, a position he left to become City Manager. He resigned on October 12, citing professional and personal abuse in the wake of the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney. 

City Councilor Michael Payne reported the news. 

“I won’t sugarcoat it,” Payne said. “It’s probably the biggest challenge we face. Just the turnover there. We’re in a maybe unique situation where this internal stuff has a major impact on our ability to execute a lot of the things we want to begin, Comprehensive Plan, housing, climate action planning. It makes it difficult for our ability to do long-range planning as well.” 

Rutherford offered the services of the planning district.

“Of course if there’s anything that we can do as an organization to assist in whatever way, we’re here for you,” Rutherford said. “What happens to Charlottesville does have a regional effect.” 

Time for a second Patreon-powered shout-out!

The Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. The leaves have started to fall as autumn set in, and as they do, this is a good time to begin planning for the spring. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!

Sidewalk progress

A rezoning of 12 wooded acres in Charlottesville’s Fry’s Spring neighborhood moved one step closer to approval last night. The seven-member Planning Commission recommended approval of a project that goes by the name 240 Stribling that would see 170 units. 

On September 14, the developer asked for a deferral of a decision following a public hearing. City Planner Matt Alfele has this recap.

“During the public hearing, the Planning Commission heard from 16 members of the public,” Alfele said. “Most speakers raised concern about the safety of Stribling Avenue and how additional dwelling units on the subject property would be detrimental to public safety.” 

A Fry’s Spring resident submitted this photo to the city to demonstrate existing conditions on Stribling Avenue (page 197 of the 9/14/21 packet)

At that meeting, Southern Development’s vice president and the city’s Economic Development director discussed the details of an agreement in which Southern Development had agreed to pay up to $2 million for sidewalk improvements. City Engineer Jack Dawson said that figure was too low to cover the cost, and in October, he told Council his estimate would top out at $2.85 million. (Council Balks At $850k Cost For Stribling Sidewalks

“As I stated to Council, it’s not a complete estimate, it’s just an improved upon estimate but it is likely to be higher than that would be my guess,” Dawson said last night. 

The city’s Capital Improvement Plan budget is at capacity with expectations of spending millions a year on affordable housing projects as well as tens of millions over the next five years for reconfiguration of the city’s elementary and middle schools. 

Southern Development has agreed to increase their upfront funding to $2.9 million. 

“Though we feel that this work can be completed for significantly less, we do think it is important enough that we want to make sure our amount jibes with the city engineer’s estimate,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development. 

“We want to get those sidewalks built,” he added. “We want to provide the funding so that it could be put into the [capital improvement program].”

Armstrong said Southern Development is ready to move on the sidewalk project and his team has worked on a survey of the corridor. So has the city engineer. 

“There are some differences but I think we have a pretty good idea of a basic what would be needed,” Armstrong said. “There’s a lot of details in the detailed engineering that will come later.”

Southern Development will be paid back by getting the incremental difference between the current value of the land and what it will be like after the units are built.

“Our development obviously significantly increases the value of the real estate at 240 Stribling so the taxes go up,” Armstrong said. “And we’re not talking about just a little bit. They go up a lot. In twenty years, this produces, conservatively, eight and a half million dollars of new tax revenue. And that’s after paying for the sidewalks.” 

Armstrong said 25 units would be designated as affordable with rents or sale prices held below market for households with incomes below 60 percent of the area median income. Next up will be a vote by the City Council. The Planning Commission will have a work session on the next Capital Improvement Program budget on November 23. 

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