Friday editions of Charlottesville Community Engagement have become rare, but here we are with an installment for November 17, 2023 in order to get some items out as quickly as possible. There are now almost 2,600 subscribers, a number that has me realizing that this is no longer a game of Yar’s Revenge. I’m Sean Tubbs, hopelessly stuck in an 8-bit mindset.
In today’s edition:
Albemarle County institutes a ban on outdoor burning in advance of wind gusts expected tomorrow
Charlottesville High School classes are canceled today due to a lack of staff and substitutes, due to at least two fights that broke out yesterday
A trial date has been set next summer for a lawsuit against Arlington County’s zoning code
The Charlottesville Planning Commission gives more time for a development on Lankford Avenue, a project that might end up being one of the first rezonings under the new zoning code
First shout-out: Camp Albemarle
Today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for over 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. Are you looking to escape and reconnect with nature? Consider holding an event where the natural beauty of the grounds will provide a venue to suit your needs. Visit their website to view the gallery and learn more!
Albemarle issues burn-ban
Albemarle County has become the latest locality in the area to make it unlawful to burn materials outside. The Fire Marshal’s office issued the order this afternoon.
“The decision to issue the open-air burn ban has been made in response to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) alert today announcing a Fire Weather Watch for Albemarle County, after careful consideration of current weather conditions,” reads a press release.
That Fire Weather Watch is in place Saturday morning through Saturday afternoon and warns of high wind that could spread wildfire. Albemarle’s burn ban will remain in place until the Fire Marshal’s office has lifted it.
Yesterday, Louisa, Greene, and Nelson counties all put an outdoor burn ban into effect.
Meanwhile, the fire on Afton Mountain that sparked yesterday after a vehicle fire is now known as the Royal Orchard fire and is 20 acres large and 50 percent contained as of 1:44 p.m. this afternoon. That’s according to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Wildfire Viewer. (take a look)
Charlottesville High School closed today
but will reopen Monday with police patrols
Charlottesville City Schools have closed Charlottesville High School today due to a shortage of people willing to work after a day where multiple fights broke out across the school. All other schools remained open.
“Due to an unusual number of staff absences [and] a limited number of substitutes, classes at Charlottesville High School will be canceled today, Friday, November 17,” reads an email sent out in the early morning from Beth Cheuk, the Supervisor of Community Relations.
Later in the day, Charlottesville City Schools confirmed that the absences were related to a series of recent altercations.
“In some cases, these staff absences were precipitated by two related fights yesterday as well as a number of other fights this school year among a small subset of students,” reads the second email sent out at 2:58 p.m. This was signed by Superintendent Royal Gurley and outgoing School Board Chair James Bryant.
“These same students have often been tardy or absent from classes or otherwise disruptive,” the message continued. “While these students have received both supportive and strong disciplinary actions, the situation remains.”
The email states that the situation has been compounded by the resignation of CHS Principal Rashaad Pitt which was announced on November 9. The email states a new principal will be announced on Monday. The email suggests other corrective actions:
“Crafting plans for community conversations with area leaders to address community issues that impact our schools.”
“Elevating the voices and perspectives of the overwhelming number of CHS students who are making good choices each day.”
“Clarifying our expectations and procedures for student and family behavior.”
“Disciplining all students according to the state’s guidelines, to include suspension and expulsion.”
“Connecting students with the social and emotional support they need.”
“Building a network of alternative community and school programming available to those students for whom CHS is not fully meeting their needs.”
Update: Charlottesville High School had been scheduled to reopen on Monday but the School Board met on November 18 and decided to cancel classes. There will be teacher workdays on Monday and Tuesday. Learn more on Information Charlottesville.
In response to messages from alumni and parents who want to help, city schools are also seeking people who want to become substitute teachers.
The incidents have become an issue for conservative talk show host and Republican consultant Rob Schilling who has posted footage of four incidents on his blog, including yesterday’s events.
In September, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported the school system cracked down on the use of cell phones after two previous brawls were filmed and distributed online. School officials said that was part of a larger policy to improve education by eliminating distractions.
In early January, the Charlottesville School Board will welcome four new members who were recently elected to four-year terms. Four incumbents oo
“Please take some extra time to love on your kids today and reflect on what you are doing to be a part of the solution,” wrote Amanda Burns on her Facebook. Burns will enter office in January alongside Chris Meyer, Shymora Cooper, and Nicole Richardson.
Burns posted throughout the day offering resources for students with nowhere else to go, such as Parks and Recreation’s open gym hours at Carver Recreation. The group Charlottesville Area Harm Reduction provided free meals at several sites across the city.
Were you or your family affected? Have a suggestion? Leave a comment below.
Trial date set for lawsuit seeking overturning of Arlington’s zoning code
As Charlottesville comes closer to adopting a new zoning code that will grant significantly more development rights to landowners across the city, City Council is being advised by both a city attorney and an outside counsel in order to avoid legal missteps.
There is still an active lawsuit against the city for the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, though parts of a previous lawsuit were thrown out by Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell in August 2022. (read that story)
Meanwhile, there’s an active lawsuit against Arlington County for a new zoning code that does much of what Charlottesville’s new Development Code intends to do. The Arlington Patch website reports that Judge David Schell has set a five-day trial beginning on July 8. That’s after an October 19 ruling against Arlington County’s request to dismiss the case. Writer Mark Hand also notes that Arlington will try again to have the case dismissed by appealing Schell’s decision.
More information from one side of that topic is available on the GoFundMe page for the group Neighbors for Neighborhoods LLC who brought the suit forward.
Arlington’s Expanded Housing Options process is much different from Charlottesville’s proposed Development Code. Developers must get a permit from the county before proceeding and only 58 such permits are allowed each calendar year. Learn more at the Arlington County website.
Second shout-out: Design Develop
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, architectural firm Design Develop wants you to know about a new service aimed at the development community that may not be widely known yet — 3D point cloud scanning! That’s a technique that uses specialized equipment, such as 3D scanner systems, to gather a large amount of data points that represent the surface of the scanned object or scene.
The applications of 3D point cloud scanning are extensive and cover various fields, including architecture, construction, cultural heritage preservation, virtual reality, industrial design, manufacturing, and more. These applications require accurate 3D spatial information, and Design Develop’s workflow provides precise and comprehensive results, all while being more cost-effective than traditional methods.
Design Develop has expertise in this workflow for their own needs and now has a dedicated team offering this service in the Charlottesville and Albemarle Area. If you're involved in the real estate, design, or construction industry, feel free to contact us for more information or a free quote.
Visit their website for an introductory video that captures the 3D point cloud scanning of the Downtown Transit Center and a booklet that will explain more!
Rezoning for Lankford Avenue deferred to allow for new application
A series of high profile rezonings continue to make their way through Charlottesville’s existing land use approval process. On November 14, the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the City Council approve as many as 540 units at Verve Charlottesville and several hundred more at 2117 Ivy Road.
In between there was consideration of a much smaller rezoning, but one that would have a big impact on Lankford Avenue, a key street in south central Charlottesville. (staff report)
“That is a rezoning from R-1S to R-3,” said Planning Commission Chair Hosea Mitchell. “If this development is approved, it’s going to allow for about 48 units to be built in this space. It is also accompanied by affordable housing proffers.”
The project also requires a special use permit and a critical slopes waiver. On November 14, Civil Engineer Justin Shimp began his presentation by asking for a deferral so that the project could be resubmitted. But he added an editorial comment about the Development Code.
“It is much, much better than the one we have, the proposed ordinance, increasing density in a variety of places,” Shimp said. “My entire career now, I’ve essentially fought against density restrictions everywhere I go.”
Shimp said density restrictions increase the cost of housing. Even in the new zoning code, he said he would like to see density increased on some properties designated Residential-A and this project is in one of those areas.
“However, where I think I went wrong was bringing in a three-story building onto the Lankford Avenue Streetscape and upon looking at it and reading the staff’s comments and really going out to the site and walking around a bunch more, I want to amend that to keep the two houses in the front, keep the two historic structure, and then build in the back,” Shimp said.
Shimp said there are six households in those two historic structures, and said the change would prevent their displacement. One structure would have to be removed to make way for a road entrance, and the net unit count would likely drop to 44.
Shimp also wanted to delay for ten years the requirement to provide affordable units on site, arguing that without a subsidy the project would have to pay for itself first.
“The simple math of that is that to build this project, getting it off the ground is the most difficult part,” Shimp said. “Once you get past ten years and you’ve paid down your debt you can refinance it and then you can make that work.”
Commissioner Phil d’Oronzio said the math may make sense to the developer, but not to the city’s stated goals to provide more affordable housing.
“The question is that this is future money for the city and for the developer that we’re talking about ten years hence,” d’Oronzio said. “And I’m not sure if the math maths or if there’s a way sort of to engineer that in a way that’s either equitable, sensible, or even possible.”
Shimp’s new idea had the favor of Planning Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg, but he was skeptical the project could come back before the new Development Code is adopted.
“Are you betting that they’re not going to pass the new zoning ordinance any time soon and so you’ll have time for that?” Stolzenberg asked. “If they’re going to pass it in December like they plan and you get a Planning Commission public hearing in December, you’re not going to get a vote in time.”
Shimp said the project was delayed while investigations took place to see if there was a historic cemetery on the property. He said that proved inconclusive and if they have to apply for a rezoning under the new zoning, they will.
“If it comes down to it and the ordinance is passed and if it said ‘we’re cutting it off on this day and you’re not approved’ I think we would simply amend this to like an R-X,” Shimp said. “There will be a zoning district under the new ordinance that would adopt the same project.”
Stolzenberg suggested that may also take an amendment to the Future Land Use Map in the Comprehensive Plan because of the General Residential designation. He noted that anything under the new zoning would not allow deviation from the policy requiring ten percent of units be affordable from day one.
Charlottesville’s Dogwood Vietnam Memorial raising funds for bridge project, Jacob Phillips, NBC29, November 16, 2023
Judge Sets Trial Date in Missing Middle Housing Case, Press Release, Neighbors for Neighborhoods, November 16, 2023
Staffing issues prompt closure of Charlottesville High School Friday, Maggie Glass, NBC29, November 17, 2023
Charlottesville High School abruptly cancels class due to 'unusual' staff absences, Jason Armesto, Charlottesville Daily Progress (paywall), November 17, 2023
The day after police respond to fights, Charlottesville High School abruptly cancels classes, citing staffing issues, Jessie Higgins, Charlottesville Tomorrow, November 17, 2023
The end of #604
When I first started this newsletter in the summer of 2020, I didn’t know how it would expand to cover a great many kinds of stories. This work is the result of growing up wanting to be a reporter, but not really having anyone willing to pay me to do what I wanted.
Now, each of you has the chance to decide if you want to pay me for my work, and over 550 of you are doing so. I’m grateful for your contributions, because it allows me to keep experimenting with getting information out to people.
If you’ve not done so, that’s fine, too. You’re reading or listening, which is just as important. My aim is to continue publishing this newsletter and hopefully adding capacity where I can to be here as a resource for when you need to know things. I’m grateful for all of the notes and feedback and I strive to practice the profession I chose over 30 years ago for as long as I can.
Ting will match your initial Substack payment. They want to support the community, and I believe their sponsorship works well for all involved.
Maybe you’re in the market for a new high speed internet provider? If so, check out Ting! If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:
A second month for free
A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall