November 13, 2021: Village of Rivanna group debriefs after approval of Breezy Hill rezoning; Habitat files second phase for Southwood Rezoning

There are 38 days left until the solstice, when our part of the world begins to turn back to the light...

  
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In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, are you a patron of the James Madison Regional Library system who suffers from a plague of library fines? If so, for the next week you can pay off your balance with a food donation that will go to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

To participate in the Food for Fines program, bring a non-perishable item to the front desk and get a dollar off. Do note this does not apply to missing or damaged items. Patrons who are in better standing than me are also welcome to donate an item or many items. For more information, visit jmrl.org. Visit here for a list of the most wanted items

On today’s show: 

  • A look at several upcoming developments in Albemarle County including the second phase for Southwood and a three-story self storage building in Crozet 

  •  More than 83 percent of adult Virginians are fully vaccinated

  • The Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee debriefs after a rezoning vote did not go the way members wanted

  • Greyhound has a new owner, and Virginia launches bus service from far Southwest Virginia to the nation’s capital 


On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that 83 percent of the adult population in Virginia is now fully vaccinated. Also on Friday, the Virginia Department of Health reported the percent positivity dropped to 5.3 percent, on a day when the seven-day average for new cases is 1,328. 

But there are hotspots emerging across the country. Vermont is experiencing its worst surge yet, with a record 595 cases on Thursday and 505 cases on Friday according to the website VTDigger.

Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System, said colder parts of the country are beginning to see the increase. 

“Just as we’re entering the cold and flu season, we’re also entering the season where we may see increased transmission of COVID just because we’re going into the winter months,” Dr. Sifri said. 

Dr. Sifri said COVID still represents a significant risk and he recommended people continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks and Dr. Sifri emphasized caution.

“One thing I’d want to emphasize is the importance of boosters for people who are vulnerable,” Dr. Sifri said. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District, ten percent of children between 5 and 11 have been vaccinated during the first week a reduced Pfizer dose has been available.


The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected three Republican nominees to serve as Special Masters in the next phase of the redistricting process. In October, a 16-member redistricting commission failed to reach consensus on maps for legislative districts for both the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw petitioned the Court to disqualify the three Republican nominees, claiming conflicts of interest due to their previous work on creating maps.

The Virginia Supreme Court agreed.

“The Court intends to appoint Special Masters who are qualified and do not have a conflict of interest,” reads a November 12 letter from Chief Justice Donald Lemons. “Although the Special Master candidates are to be nominated by legislative leaders of a particular party, the nominees… will serve as Officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity.”

Justice Lemons said that nominees must not consult with political parties once they have been appointed. One of the Republican nominees, Thomas M. Bryan, had been hired by the Republican Party of Virginia as a consultant on using 2020 U.S. Census data for redistricting. That information had not been disclosed in the nominating materials. 

Republicans have until Monday at 5 p.m. to submit three new names, and Democrats are being asked to submit one more name due to a potential issue with one of their three nominees. For more information, visit the Supreme Court’s website


The national bus company Greyhound has been purchased by a German firm called FlixMobility. They operate a service called Flixbus which operates in 36 countries in addition to the United States. Greyhound serves 2,400 stops across the country, and has a ridership of 16 million passengers. 

“Buses as a sustainable and accessible alternative are now more important than ever,” reads an October 21, 2021 press release.  “Fluctuations in the cost of gas, the recent escalation of car prices, and climate change concerns have increased the interest of many consumers in finding alternatives to individual car usage.” 

For $46 million cash and $32 million in future payments, Flixmobility will now own the Greyhound name and the bus fleet, but not any real estate or stops. Flixbus has been running buses in U.S. since 2018. 

Meanwhile, on Monday the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will launch the Highland Rhythms service between Bristol and Washington D.C. This is the fourth Virginia Breeze intrastate route to be funded by the state agency, which will be operated by Megabus. A ceremony was held this morning at the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol (read more in the Bristol Herald-Courier)


Time now to take a look at recent land use applications in Albemarle County.

First, a site development plan has been submitted for a new Chipotle restaurant to be located in Hollymead Town Center. Before the pandemic, there would be site plan review meetings for the public to comment, but those have not been held. However, the Albemarle officials are looking to begin to resume the public process. 

“These projects are ‘by-right’, which means that if the proposed plans meet the minimum requirements of the County’s zoning, site plan, or subdivision ordinances, they must be approved,” reads the notice for this application. (take a look)

A TGI Friday’s Restaurant used to operate on the site and the existing building will be replaced and a drive-through window will be installed in the new building. 

Another site plan has been filed for a three-story self-storage facility at the intersection of Brownsville Road, Route 240, and Rockfish Gap Turnpike (U.S. 250).  The zoning on the site is Highway Commercial and a gas station used to operate on the site. That building and a couple of others will be removed to make way for the structure. (take a look)

Southwood Phase 2

In October, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville filed the second phase of their rezoning for the redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park. The rezoning would amend the first phase to add 93.32 acres from R-2 to the Neighborhood Model District. 

“Phase 2 is planned within the project's existing mobile home park where development will occur in phases so as to limit the impact to the existing residents,” reads the narrative. “The resident planners who designed and wrote the Code of Development for Phase I has provided input in this next phase that the form, density, and uses established with Phase I should continue into Phase 2.”

This phase of redevelopment would include up to 1,000 housing units in a mix of single-family houses, duplexes, townhomes, and apartment buildings. There would also be another 60,000 square feet of non-residential space. (read the Code of Development)

Several blocks in phase one are under construction. 

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You’re listening to Charlottesville Community Engagement, and time now for another subscriber-supported public service announcement. 

Are you using too many chemicals in your yard and garden? Would you like to learn more about alternatives? The Piedmont Master Gardeners will a free online information session on the topic Monday November 15 at 3 p.m.  Participants will learn how to keep their landscapes safe and healthy using Integrated Pest Management. The Center at Belvedere will host the session, which carries the name “Why and How to Reduce Chemical Use in your Yard and Garden.” Learn more and register at thecentercville.org.  


Albemarle County staff have begun work on the update of the Comprehensive Plan with a public kick-off expected sometime in January. A major aspect of the current plan is a growth management policy which designates specific areas for density. This plan was last updated in 2015 and since then Supervisors have adopted several other policies, such as the Housing Albemarle plan.

“To accommodate this growth, the County will need to add approximately 11,750 new units to our housing stock over the next 20 years,” reads Objective 1 of the plan, which was adopted by Supervisors in July. “The county must support the development of an additional 2,719 units to fully accommodate projected household growth through 2040.” 

One of the growth areas is the Village of Rivanna and their Community Advisory Committee met on November 8. Most of its members are not happy with the Board of Supervisors 4-2 vote in October for a rezoning from rural area to R-1 for an 80-unit single-family neighborhood called Breezy Hill. (staff report) (Village of Rivanna Master Plan) (watch the meeting)

Dennis Odinov is the group’s chair. 

“We all know how it turned out and we may be disappointed but what are lessons learned?” Odinov said. “Are there any lessons learned from this?” 

Members of the group thanked Supervisor Donna Price for her against the rezoning. Price was joined by Supervisor Ann Mallek. 

Southern Development had initially requested 200 units, but scaled back due to community opposition. The Village of Rivanna Master Plan designated the land as Neighborhood Density Residential, and a map describes that as up to three dwelling units per acre. Members of the CAC maintained the plan only allows one dwelling unit per acre. 

A map from the 2010 Village of Rivanna Master Plan appears to designate the land as having up to three units per acre. CAC members said that conflicts with text elsewhere in the plan. Breezy Hill is within the darker yellow area.

Neal Means said pressure from the group helped get the number to 80 but he does not have a positive view of Southern Development. 

“It just goes to show you that the developers really don’t care about the master plan at all and the arguments they made much later about it should be one unit per gross acre and not net, is just an argument,” Means said. “They’re going to try to get as much as they can any time they want, no matter what the master plan says.”

Gross density is a simple calculation of the number of units divided by the size of the land. Net density subtracts from the size of the land the square footage that would be used for infrastructure or open space. In the case of Breezy Hill, the gross density was 1 unit per acre, but the net density was 1.4 per acres. To Means, that means the system is broken. 

“I don’t think the county’s master planning process is functioning well,” Means said. “I think it’s dysfunctional and it needs to be revisited.” 

Ultimately, elected officials make their decisions based on interpretation of master plans. Odinov said the current version of the plan was not clear enough to state the wishes of the community. 

“We have no language in the master plan that says one unit per acre, net,” Odinov said “We don’t say it in the verbiage.” 

The master plan also states that no new developments should be approved until specific transportation projects are built on U.S. 250. However such a directive is not permissible under Virginia law. 

In Virginia, localities cannot specifically ask for infrastructure to be built in exchange for a rezoning, but developers can volunteer to pay for projects in something called a proffer. 

“I thought it was a slap in the face,” said Paula Pagonakis. “I took it as a slap in the face when the developer said he could not provide any proffers because he would not get enough profit out of the project. I don’t know how much impact that had on the vote by the Supervisors but I felt a bit insulted.”

In Charlottesville, Southern Development has agreed to contribute nearly $3 million upfront for the creation of a sidewalk on Stribling Avenue, a 170 units project on about 12 acres. If Council approves the rezoning, Southern Development will be paid back through the incremental revenue generated.

Supervisor Donna Price voted against the rezoning but said the community pressure to reduce Breezy Hill’s scope resulted in a more palatable project. 

“Did we achieve everything?” Price asked. “No. But we came out I think a whole better strategically than if it had been at 160 or 130.”

Price said she supported increased density in Crozet and voted for the 332-unit RST Residences near Forest Lakes. 

“Highly dense, but it is also right on a six-lane highway up there,” Price said. “I’ve tried to maintain a consistency of if you get to the periphery of development areas it should be less developed and as you move more toward the center of development it should be  more highly developed and more dense.” 

An update of the Village of Master Plan is not currently scheduled, according to county planner Tori Kanellopoulos. 

“It would need to be on the Community Development work program and we do have the Comprehensive Plan update that just started,” Kanellopoulos said. “That will take up a significant amount of resources.”

I’ll have a report from the Crozet Community Advisory Committee in an upcoming edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement.


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