Nov 11, 2020 • 12M

November 11, 2020: 5th Street safety petition; Planning Commission seeks rezoning on parking structure land

 
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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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The eleventh day of the eleventh month has arrived, and we remember our veterans today, especially those who may not have made it through this difficult year. This November 11, 2020 edition of the program is dedicated to their memory. 

Today's Patreon-fueled shout-out is from a supporter who wants you to consider a donation for Monica Johnson, a Pro Strongwoman who will be competing in a charity powerlifting event on November 21 called Make Every Rep Count. Gregory Carey-Medlock is donating 30 cents for every pound Monica squats to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. You can choose between three other charities.  Learn more at Shenandoah Power. Sponsors accepted through November 14

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There are another 1,594 new cases of COVID-19 reported by the Virginia Department of Health this morning. That brings the seven-day average for new daily cases to 1,524. The seven-day average for positive test results remains at 6.2 percent statewide today.

There are another 18 cases in the Blue Ridge Health District reported today, bringing the seven-day average to 26. The percent positivity for the district for PCR tests has increased to 2 percent, up from 1.8 percent yesterday. 

Governor Ralph Northam is asking Virginians to continue to follow health guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19 but said yesterday he is not likely to impose restrictions.

“We’re seeing a rise in cases and in percent positivity which is now 6.2 percent and we’re also seeing a ride in our hospitalizations,” Northam said. “This is very concerning, especially because it is getting colder. The holidays are approaching and the temptation to gather with other people is high.” 

Northam said the VDH continues to be concerned about Southwest Virginia where a high number of cases were reported late last week. In Wise County, the seven-day average for new daily cases per 100,000 population is 65.8. That figure is 52 for Washington County, 57.7 for Scott County, and 59.3 for Russell County. For comparison, those numbers are 7.8 for Albemarle and 19 for Charlottesville. 

“Our team has been in communication with health directors in Southwest Virginia about the spread in that region,” Northam said. “We’re focusing on a communications campaign to emphasize the importance of doing the things that we know work. Avoiding indoor gatherings. Washing our hands. And wearing face coverings.” 

Northam reminded the public that Virginia has a mask mandate in place for indoor spaces. 

“While we are concerned about southwest Virginia I want to remind Virginians that we are seeing rising cases in other regions and around our nation as well,” Northam said. “The central region of Virginia for example is seeing a steady increase in case counts.” 

Thanksgiving is 15 days away, and Northam urged people to remember that the virus spreads more easily indoors. 

“I’m not saying don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but if you’re planning to gather with people outside of your household, think about ways to do it more safely,” Northam said. “Consider how the space is ventilated. Or think about ways to have gatherings outdoors.”

I’ll have more from this press conference in the next installment of the Charlottesville Quarantine Report

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A petition created to demand changes to the physical character of 5th Street in  Charlottesville now has over 1,300 signatures. Binta Rose’s son Rahmean Rose died following a motorcycle crash on August 30. Fifth street is a four-lane divided highway between Ridge Street and Interstate 64, but more residential streets have been added in recent years. 

“When exiting from Bailey Road, Brookwood, Cleveland Avenue or 5th Street Station, oncoming traffic is going entirely too fast,” reads the petition. “Too many families in the last year have lost loved ones to [crashes] on 5th Street.”

The petition calls for the speed limit to be lowered, mandatory high fines for speeding and traffic calming measures in the corridor. 

There are several ongoing and recent projects in the area, including a Smart Scale funded improvement for the intersection of 5th, Ridge Street, Cherry Avenue and Elliott Avenue. However, that $6.1 million project is not expected to begin design until January 2024, according to an email from Jeanette Janiczek with the city. 

In 2018, the city completed work on a corridor study for the 5th Street-Ridge-McIntire area. A task force that reviews the city’s Community Development Block Grant process is currently investigating potential projects that could be paid for through that funding. Planning Commissioner Taneia Dowell is on that task force. She said she is hopeful for coordination between all of these studies and more. 

“A couple of things that we want to take into place before we move forward is how the Elliot Avenue Streetscape Plan, the [Strategic Investment Area], the old Ridge Street plan and the Smart Scale 5th plan will be able to tied together with our recommendations of the task force so that we are not duplicating efforts,” Dowell said. 

The city completed a study of the 5th Street area in November 2018. You can download it here.

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Last night, the Charlottesville City Council and the Charlottesville Planning Commission met in a joint session to discuss an affordable housing plan that’s been crafted as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. Today at 6 p.m the consultants working on the project will hold the first of several webinars intended to get public input (register).

“We’ve all been working on this for quite a while and this is the draft that is out there,” said Missy Creasy, the assistant director of Neighborhood Development Services. “We’re looking forward to hearing what the community has to say about this. We hired the consultant team who does this day in and day out and they are providing recommendations that they feel would be helpful for the community.” 

Among those recommendations is a commitment to spend $10 million in city funds on affordable housing over ten years. Another is to collaborate with communities throughout the area. That concept has the support of Planning Commission Chair Hosea Mitchell.

“The urban ring is where we’re going to most effectively address this problem,” Mitchell said. “We cannot do it just inside Charlottesville so collaboration is going to be very important.”

Tomorrow, the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership will unveil an online search tool for affordable housing at a meeting that begins at noon. More on that tomorrow. 

I will be writing up a full account of the Cville Plans Together discussion in a stand-alone story.  Comments will be taken through December 2. 

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At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg made a pitch to his colleagues to push for a rezoning for the land on which a future municipal parking garage will be built. In January 2017, a previous Council paid $2.85 million to buy land that currently houses a Lucky 7 convenience store and a Guadalajara restaurant. The plan is to build as a parking garage to serve a joint General District court with Albemarle County.

“My primary ask would be for Council to initiate a rezoning to Downtown Extended,”  Stolzenberg said. Doing so would allow for additional floors to allow for the structure to be more than just a parking garage. A request for proposals to design and build the garage has not yet been and Stolzenberg said he did not want the possibility to go away. 

Council will hold a work session Thursday on the capital budget for next year, and interim city attorney Lisa Robertson said the elected officials will have to weigh in. The current year’s capital improvement program allocated $2 million to the project and anticipates an additional $8 million will be allocated next year. 

“It’s going to be a financial decision and I have not talked to staff about whether it’s possible,” Robertson said. “It sounds like there is a good consensus that people would like to see more done with this property and I think you need to make Council aware again of your strong feelings.”   

The Commission made a motion to request the rezoning. Councilors were present for the discussion. You can hear the whole 40 minutes discussion on my SoundCloud page

The land in question is within the blue box. D means Downtown Zoning. DN is Downtown North.

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No meetings today, but let’s preview something happening on Friday. The newest school at the University of Virginia is the School of Data Science, which was created after a gift of $120 million to UVA from the Quantitative Foundation, associated with Jaffray Woodriff. The school will eventually be located on Ivy Road in the new Emmet / Ivy corridor.

On Friday, the school will hold a half-day conference called Datapalooza which includes two keynote speakers and panel discussions on the role data science can play in solving community problems. Danielle D’Andrea is the communications manager for the School of Data Science. 

“Data science still is happening not only at the school but everywhere across UVA and the conference started just to highlight all the work that everyone was doing,” D’Andrea said. “Data science happens across discipline, and it lives in all of the schools so the conference started as a way to highlight all the great work students, faculties and staff were completing.”

D’Andrea said the free conference will be virtual which will allow for an unlimited number of viewers as opposed to being limited to who can show up in person. The first keynote speech is on the “Positive Impact of Data Science on Emerging and Reemerging Disease - COVID-19.” The speaker is John J. McGowan.

“He’s the deputy director for science management at the National Institute for Health, specifically for the National Institute for Allergy and Infection Disease,” D’Andrea said. 

A panel discussion called “Data Science that Works With and For Our Communities” will include presentations on the Charlottesville Housing Hub (not to be confused with the regional affordable housing locator being produced by the TJPDC), improving open data, and the Center for Civic Innovation. 

“Essentially from a high level perspective what that panel will be talking about is just how we can use data to better inform community and community work and how we can partner as data activists to make things more open, more accessible and what we can do to really move community work forward,” D’Andrea said.

Visit the Datapalooza website to learn more, and we’ll have more of a preview in tomorrow’s program.


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