November 20, 2021: Crozet CAC debriefs after Master Plan update adoption; Sage Smith has been missing for nine years

Plus: Virginia Supreme Court appointed Special Masters for redistricting and all adults are eligible for all COVID boosters

  
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Let’s begin today with a Patreon-fueled shout-out. 

Charlottesville 350 is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Charlottesville 350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. To learn more about their most active campaigns, including a petition drive to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cville350                                                                                                                  

On today’s program:

  • The CDC has approved booster shots for all adult Americans

  • The city fills one position while another became vacant 

  • The Virginia Supreme Court appoints two Special Masters to complete the redistricting process 

  • Members of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee debrief after Supervisors adopt a master plan


COVID update

As the week ended, the percent positivity creeped up slightly to 5.8 percent as reported by the Virginia Department of Health and the seven day average rose to 1,518. 

Nearly a million Virginians have received a third dose or a booster shot. The seven day average for doses administered a day was 40,389 on Friday. 

Also on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Moderna and Pfizer booster shots for all adults, and the Centers for Disease Control followed suit later in the day. Dr. Costi Sifri is director of hospital epidemiology at the University of Virginia Health System, and he said this means anyone who completed their two-dose cycle of Pfizer and Moderna can now get a booster dose. 

“We’re at a point right now where that is going to start including a fair number of people,” Dr. Sifri said. “It’s clear that boosters are really beneficial in boosting up the number of antibodies.”

Dr. Sifri said there are an increasing number of “breakthrough-cases” in people who were vaccinated over six months ago. Some of these cases have resulted in hospitalizations and Dr. Sifri recommended those at higher risk should schedule their booster. 

“I really strongly encourage those people to get a booster especially as we head into the holiday season and as we are starting to see increasing rates of COVID in the nation as well as our community,” Dr. Sifri said. 

Dr. Sifri said others should consider getting the third dose, especially if they want to avoid contracting COVID. 

“There hasn’t been much of a rush,” Dr. Sifri said. “Right now we understand that about 16 percent of people in our health district who are eligible for a booster vaccine has received one.”

Dr. Reid Adams is the Chief Medical Officer at UVA Health. His recommendation is a little more sharp.

“I think the time is now,” Dr. Adams said. “We have gotten to a lower rate in Virginia but it’s certainly not low enough. If you look around the country, particularly in the midwest and the upper plains, we’re really seeing a surge so ideally folks would get their booster now before that happens here.” 

People who want to schedule a booster dose or get vaccinated for the first time can do so at vaccinate.virginia.gov. There are plenty of appointments and shots.

“We have not seen long waits for booster doses here at the medical center,” Dr. Sifri said. “Those are available. In addition there is the availability of getting booster vaccines through local pharmacies and the Blue Ridge Health District.”

Since November 6, over 4,674 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have been vaccinated, or around 25 percent of the eligible population. 


Sage Smith disappearance

Today marks nine years since Sage Smith disappeared, having last been seen in the 500 block of West Main Street. The Charlottesville Police Department put out a release this morning stating they are still seeking the whereabouts of Erik McFadden, calling him a critical person of interest in the case. The two had been expected to meet the night of November 20, 2012, but Smith has not been heard from since. McFadden is believed to have left town rather than speak to the police. 

“Smith was a beloved family member and friend to many in the Charlottesville and LGBTQ+ communities,” the release reads. “Although [nne] years have passed, CPD is hopeful with the help of the media and continued public interest, we can finally solve this case and bring closure to a family and community that continues to experience anguish.” 

A missing persons report was filed for McFadden in June 2019 but multiple leads have not turned up any further developments. For more information, take a look at the release. 

Anyone with information about McFadden’s disappearance or Smith’s homicide is asked to contact Det. Ross Cundiff at (434) 970-3373, or our anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at (434) 977-4000.

Charlottesville personnel update

The city has hired a Minority Business Development Coordinator. Ajoni Wynn-Floyd will take the position within the city’s Economic Development Department. The Minority Business Program was created in 2018 to assist qualified businesses with one-on-one business consulting, start-up assistance, and help registering to be vendors for state and local government. 

“The program is focused on increasing the number of minority- and woman-owned businesses that are registered vendors with the City and to encourage more City spending with such businesses,” reads the intake form on the city’s website.

Wynn-Floyd has worked with the Latino Student Alliance and the Diversity Awareness Program board. 

Earlier this month, the city’s Tree Commission learned of the resignation of Mike Ronayne, the city’s urban forester. He served in the position for five years. The position has not yet been advertised on the Charlottesville jobs board as of Friday afternoon.  

At that November 2 meeting, Tree Commission chair Brian Menard said the city must demonstrate support for urban forestry.

“We need to have more resources, not just financially, but we need more resources in terms of hands that can do this work and support this work,” Menard said. “We recognize that this has not been an ordinary 18 months but even before then it was clear that there’s just a lot that’s put on one person,” Menard said. 


Map-drawers selected

The Virginia Supreme Court has appointed two special masters to complete the process of redistricting maps for the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Sean P. Trende and Bernard F. Grofman are the selected candidates. 

“Though each was nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the Nominees… shall serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity,” reads the appointment order made Friday.

The pair will work on a single map and have 30 days to complete their work.

According to the order, Trende and Grofman must resolve differences in good-faith and are not permitted to consult with anyone except for designated staff at the Supreme Court and the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. They are directed to take into account the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. 

“In short, the Court expects to receive from its Special Masters redistricting maps that have been drafted using factors that are fully compliant with constitutional and statutory law applied in an apolitical and nonpartisan manner,” reads the order. 

Trende was nominated by Republicans and is a senior elections analyst with Real Clear Politics. Grofman is a political science professor at the University of California at Irvine. Read more at the Virginia Mercury.


In today’s second 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 codeforcville.org to learn about those projects. 


Crozet update

A month has passed since the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted an update of the Crozet Master Plan, with some land use aspects included over the wishes of some members of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. For a good summary of what happened on October 20, read Allison Wrabel’s story in the October 21 Daily Progress. Or Lisa Martin’s story in the November 5 Crozet Gazette.

On November 10, the Crozet CAC had the opportunity to talk about the plan. Chair Allie Pesch didn’t have anything prepared, and neither had Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein. 

The Albemarle Planning Commission had recommended removing the Middle Density Residential designation from a portion of downtown Crozet, but there were four votes on the Board of Supervisors to move forward. White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek ended up voting with that majority on the eventual 5 to 1 vote in support of the plan’s update.

“I should have done it differently,” Mallek said. “I should have made the motion I was going to make that adopted the Planning Commission’s route and if that had been voted down we would have been much more clear to the membership in the community what was going on.”  

Meetings in Albemarle are still virtual due to the pandemic and Mallek said the logistics of getting that motion moved forward were difficult to accomplish over Zoom. She acknowledged that many landowners in Crozet are concerned about the increased density. 

Many CAC members thought their concerns were too easily dismissed.

“I found a fair amount of pretty serious community input ignored at points and I feel that ever since the state abolished the ability to negotiate proffers, developers kind of trump most of the decisions,” said Brian Day.

Day referred to legislation in 2016 that rendered invalid an Albemarle policy that required a cash payment from developers for every new unit authorized by a rezoning. Proffers are still legal if they are deemed reasonable and contribute to the direct impact of a development. 

However, the 2016 legislation ushered a cooling off point where localities were hesitant to even discuss the issue. This past week, for instance, representatives of Greystar Development said they would pay a proportional amount toward upgrades on Old Ivy Road. 

Michael Monaco, a new member of the CAC, said he felt public input had to be broadened in range. He said Crozet needs more housing and more entry-level jobs so young people can stay.

“I think any process that is guided mostly by homeowners is going to be guided mostly by the financial interests of homeowners, consciously or not,” Monaco said. “Any attempt to counter that would be wise.” 

Kostas Alibertis is on his second term on the CAC. 

“I think the struggle and the challenge that we had here was the vision of the county versus the vision of the community and I think we’ll always have that unless there is some delineation of where those lines are, and I think that’s what led to all of this frustration,” Alibertis said. 

Shawn Bird said the process was hurt by a lack of in-person community engagement meetings due to the pandemic.

“If you remember those meetings we had at the high school, I thought there was really strong turn out, I thought there were people energized by the process, we had a certain momentum behind it,” Bird said. “I saw new people coming out to those things and then COVID hit and we all had to jump on our computers and it just changed the whole dynamic.”

During the process, the CAC took votes indicating a majority were not in favor of the middle density residential category. Those votes are not binding and are only symbolic, but Bird defended the practice as well a 2017 survey (as published in the Crozet Gazette),

“I think the powers that be need to know was this issue 13 to 2, or 8 to 7, by the CCAC?” Bird said. “I think you need to quantify to some degree where the citizens fall on particular issues. In my mind, that’s what makes a survey much more powerful to some degree than anecdotal one-offs by people who have the time to jump on these cools and may have the loudest voices.”

Allie Pesch said the master plan update was revision and not a rewrite. She said an analysis of the update should look at whether existing goals are being met.

“We’ve wanted to increase affordable housing for a while and the solution seemed to be just to increase density and not really look at how that has or hasn’t worked in the existing plan,” Pesch said. 

Marc McKenney is in his first term on the CAC and he said many are concerned that Albemarle has not made the investments to support that density. 

“There’s been massive growth in Crozet in the past two decades,” McKenney said. “Population went from 2,200 in 2000, to 5,500 in 2010, to 9,500 or 9,200 a decade later. (TRIM) If we cannot show citizens what’s actually been delivered from an infrastructure perspective, I guarantee you there will be a complete loss in faith by citizens to the county that they have their best interest in providing sidewalks, and road repairs, and bridges.”

Some of the current projects in the planning process are:

  • $1.5 million in improvement to the Square anticipated to be completed in May 2023 (page 26 here), 

  • $21.25 million expansion of Crozet Elementary School expected to be completed in August 2022 (page 28 here)

  • Sidewalk improvements on U.S. 250 West from Cory Farms to Cloverlawn (page 44)

  • A revenue-sharing application was submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation on October 1 to complete Eastern Avenue across Lickinghole Creek to Cory Farms Road (Albemarle transportation priority #8)

  • Improvements at Crozet Avenue and U.S. 250 West are being considered for Smart Scale recommendations in 2022 (Albemarle transportation priority #21

The adoption of the Crozet Master Plan happened just before the first phase of the county’s Comprehensive Plan review got underway. A public kickoff meeting will take place in January. Supervisor Mallek urged members of the CAC to become engaged in that process to ensure that Crozet’s voice can be heard.

“While people may feel discouraged about particular outcomes in our process, we all need to be keeping our eyes on this other prize going forward because from natural resource planning to historic preservation to climate change to all slews of things, that is the core book that the Board and the staff refer to and this is our chance to make sure that our local words are maintained,” Mallek said. 

One of the items to be discussed during the Comp Plan review will be the county’s growth management policy. 


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