Many people awoke this morning in dread for it is Monday the 13th as November continues its journey toward December. This is another edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to dispel the dread of not knowing about what’s happening in local and regional government. I’m Sean Tubbs, incorrectly influenced by the old 2000 A.D. Comics.
In today’s edition:
Abigail Spanberger has announced a bid to be Virginia’s next governor, opening up a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives
Charlottesville City Council officially supports a lawsuit to block Governor Youngkin’s plans to leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Charlottesville has begun the process of creating a master plan for Parks and Recreation
A quick check-in with the Comprehensive Plan update in Albemarle County
Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
First shout-out: eBike Lending Library
In today’s first subscriber supported shout-out, one Patreon supporter wants you to know that Charlottesville now has an eBike Lending Library! E-bikes are a great way to get around the community but there are many brands and styles to choose from. Because many e-bikes are sold online, it can be a challenge to try an e-bike before buying one.
The Charlottesville E-bike Lending Library is a free, not-for-profit service working to expand access to e-bikes in the area. They have a small collection of e-bikes that they lend out to community members for up to a week, for free. You can experience your daily commute, go grocery shopping, or even bike your kids to school, and decide whether e-bikes are right for you. Check out this service at https://www.ebikelibrarycville.org!
Spanberger to run for Virginia Governor rather than seek re-election to U.S. House
Election 2023 is only six days behind us, though all of the final numbers are still waiting to be certified by the Virginia Board of Elections.
There are 722 days until November 4, 2025, when the ballots will begin to be counted in the next governor’s race.
There are 358 days until November 5 of 2024, and at least one of Virginia’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives will not stand for re-election.
“I know how to bring people together and get real things done that improve people’s lives,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger in a campaign video launched today. “That’s why I’m running for Governor, because when we rise above the chaos and division, we can focus on what matters most to Virginians.”
View the announcement advertisement:
Unlike all other states in the nation, Virginia does not allow governors to seek a second consecutive term so Glenn Youngkin cannot seek another term. One potential candidate on the Republican side is Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears or perhaps Attorney General Jason Miyares. There are a lot of days to follow.
Spanberger’s announcement also opens up a vacancy in the 7th District, which includes Greene County and a very small sliver of Albemarle County. So far, the Virginia Public Access Project doesn’t list any candidates. Expect that to change in the days that follow.
In the Fifth District, Republican Bob Good has not yet announced if he will seek a third term. The Virginia Public Access Project also does not list any candidates.
City Council votes to support lawsuit to stop Virginia from leaving carbon trading program
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit in late summer against the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board and the Department of Environmental Quality to stop the Commonwealth from leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. (read my story)
Leaving the interstate compact is a key centerpiece of the administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin. He signed an executive order to do so on his Inauguration Day. After legislation in the General Assembly to complete the move failed in both 2021 and 2022, Youngkin laid out a pathway to exit RGGI administratively. The Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-3 this past June to make the withdrawal.
The SELC suit in Fairfax Circuit Court argues that only the General Assembly has the power to end participation. SELC filed on behalf of several other conservation organizations, including the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals.
On November 3, the court transferred the case to the Floyd County Circuit Court based on a ruling that Fairfax County was not a proper venue because none of conservation organizations had demonstrated they would be harmed by an exit from RGGI. AECP has a claim because it is based in Floyd County. (read the opinion for the details)
On November 6, Charlottesville City Council voted to support a “friend of the court” brief in support of SELC.
“Virginia joined RGGI through legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2020,” said Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental sustainability manager. “RGGI is a cooperative market-based initiative among 11 mid-Atlantic and northeastern states designed to reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions from the power sector through the sale of pollution allowances.”
Virginia has received hundreds of millions in dollars from a portion of the proceeds, with 45 percent required to go to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund. Charlottesville has received several grants for its work.
“In recognition of the negative effects on local communities should Virginia withdraw from RGGI, several Virginia localities are working together to file a joint amicus brief in support of SELC’s lawsuit,” Riddervold said.
Council’s vote was unanimous.
Charlottesville seeking input on Parks and Recreation Master Plan
One of the items that City Manager Sam Sanders has requested during his time in city government has been a master plan for Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation Department.
That process has now begun and the person leading the work is a familiar face to long-time observers of city government.
“My name is Mike Svetz, a principal with PROS Consulting, a recovering parks and recreation director,” Svetz said. “I did spend about five years with the City of Charlottesville.”
In 2005, PROS Consulting conducted a needs assessment for the city’s parks and recreation department. I’m hoping to find a copy of it, if anyone has one.
Svetz’s tenure from 2004 to 2009 coincided with the development of the John Warner Parkway, which among other things led to the lease of space in McIntire Park to the Piedmont Family YMCA for what was to have been a replacement for Crow Pool. Crow Pool is still open for rental.
In 2023, the firm LPDA has been hired as a subcontractor.
“They have been out assessing an inventory of the entire system,” Svetz said. “This creates a good foundation to give us an understanding of the current system as it exists today and will be a jumping off point for us as we start to talk about improvements for the overall system going forward.”
The process is just getting started with a series of meetings being planned for the future. As possibly expected, there’s a survey to get early input.
“Tell us your likes, your dislikes, your opportunities for improvement, what you like most about the system or a specific park,” Svetz said.
Second shout-out: Extending the Season with the Piedmont Master Gardeners
In today’s second subscriber-fueled shout-out: There’s a sudden dip in temperatures, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop growing some of your late fall vegetables. At 2 p.m. Saturday, November 18, the Piedmont Master Gardeners and Virginia Cooperative Extension will present “Season Extenders in the Edible Garden,” a free Garden Basics class on how to use crop choice, garden layout and row covers to grow fresh produce into the winter.
The class will take place at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1118 Preston Avenue in Charlottesville, and will include a hands-on demonstration of how to position and secure row covers. Register at https://piedmontmastergardeners.org.
Checking in with AC44
There are a lot of moving parts with Albemarle County’s update of its Comprehensive Plan and the process known as AC44. At the moment, AC44 is in the second of four phases and the county is seeking public input through a series of questionnaires including one for housing. Surveys are also open for economic development, environmental stewardship, parks and recreation, and historic, scenic, and cultural resources.
What follows is a primer of sorts for where we are at the moment.
The first phase included a review of the county’s growth management policy, an update on whether there is enough land in the development area to support future growth, and to update the plan with new county values adopted since the last Comprehensive Plan update in June 2015 such as equity and climate action.
The county held a virtual meeting on November 6 to provide a chance for people to learn more about the plan.
“During phase 1 of last year, we created a framework and we called that a Framework for an Equitable and Resilient Community,” said Ben Holt, a planner with Albemarle County. “This serves as a guide for the rest of the AC44 Comprehensive Plan project.”
Phase 2 is winding down and includes the aforementioned questionnaires. Activity has included reviews of “planning toolkits” intended to inform discussion of such questions such as where should the county expect future expansion of the development areas should Supervisors proceed to eventually adjust the boundaries.
The toolkits are:
These are to inform the creation of new goals and objectives, the stuff of any planning document.
“Phase three will begin next year and that’s where we will start drafting the action steps that fall underneath the goals and objectives,” Holt said. “Phase four is to finalize and adopt the plan and that should be late 2024.”
But Holt said that we’re now in step three of phase two which is to release all of the draft goals and objectives for the plan. In October, the Planning Commission reviewed:
I was unable to review that meeting from October 10, 2023 but the discussion is available on YouTube.
The Planning Commission will take up the Housing and Economic Development chapters at their meeting tomorrow night
The goals and objectives for the Land Use, Transportation, and Community Facilities chapters will be released in December.
A review of results from previous surveys might indicate that participation has been relatively low so far. There were 528 responses to the survey that went out as step one of phase two. The trend toward low participation continued in step two of phase two.
“Our questionnaire response was a little bit lower for step two than it was for step one but the AC44 website where we share this information still had a lot of visitors,” Holt said.
That number is about 5,000, Holt said. Here are some other numbers.
“There were a total of 148 responses across the four questionnaires, with 19 responses for Activity Centers, 52 responses for Criteria for Development Areas Expansion, 39 responses for Crossroads Communities, and 38 responses for Rural Interstate Interchanges,” reads a summary of public engagement.
In comparison, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia estimates that Albemarle’s population as of July 1, 2022 is 115,495. That number is expected to increase to 138,523 by 2040.
Ending notes for #601
Another Monday edition, the day when it seems everything is due. There’s no real deadline for this newsletter, but I do like to be regular.
There’s a lot happening, and I’m trying to do what I can to spread awareness. This is a reminder that I am the only person working on this, aside from the occasional copy editor and the occasional voiceover work. I’d like to change that in the future, but it’s difficult to do business things when there’s so much to write about each day.
If you’d like to support the work and increase the likelihood of it continuing, do consider a paid Substack subscription or a Patreon subscription.
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