November 21, 2020: Crozet master plan update; Albemarle stream health; Code for Charlottesville Meetup today

  
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Today’s program is supported by all of the listeners and readers who are able to make a financial contribution, but also to those who cannot do so at this time. The information in this program is for everyone as everything in it is intended to be for all of us. We are now four months into this program and I’m continuously working on new ways to get civic information to you. Please let me know what you think. I’m here for as many of you who are listening. 

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The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases in Virginia has now climbed to 2,126 a day. That’s based on today’s report from the Virginia Department of Health of another 2,348 cases. The seven-day average for positive tests has increased to 7.1 percent from 7 percent yesterday. 

The Blue Ridge Health District reports another 40 cases today, crossing the 5,000 threshold with a cumulative total of 5,018 cases since March. Of that number, Albemarle reports another 19 cases and Charlottesville has eleven new cases.

The in-person fall semester at the University of Virginia is now over, and as of yesterday afternoon, UVA reported 86 cases with 59 of them students. There have been 1,254 cases identified by UVA officials since August 17. These numbers are included within those of the Blue Ridge Health District.

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The Charlottesville City Council spent three hours yesterday in a budget work session to hear more information about capital projects. Staff had hoped for direction on what high-cost large projects are priorities. The two major items discussed were the multimillion dollar West Main Streetscape as well as the multimillion dollar renovation of Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle School.  In general, no hard decisions were made at the meeting. I’ll have more from that in Monday’s newscast or in a longer story I hope to complete later on today. 

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The Albemarle Board of Supervisors got an update last week on the status of the Crozet Master Plan from White Hall District representative Ann Mallek. The Crozet Master Plan is a document intended to guide development and was first adopted by the Board in December 2004 and updated in 2010.

A long-awaited update is being shepherded by the Crozet Community Advisory Committee. The work is "zooming along" according to Supervisor Mallek. 

"There were over 70 participants in the meeting last week," Mallek said. "Lots of challenging new concepts are being introduced by staff to solve problems that hopefully if they work in Crozet will be able to be used across the county in the other growth areas."

One of these is an effort to expand interpretation of the zoning code to allow and encourage more duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit buildings. The idea is to increase the number of housing units in the county. (story from September)

"This is a little anxious making for the Crozet residents who feel a little vulnerable since nobody knows exactly how it's going to turn out but we're all working very hard together,” Mallek said.  

The Crozet Community Advisory Committee next meets on November 30 at 7 p.m. 

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On the Board's consent agenda Wednesday was a summary of public engagement efforts that will be made as Albemarle begins to look at its rules for stream buffers in the rural areas. A first phase of the stream health initiative looked at the development areas.

Supervisor Liz Palmer of the Samuel Miller District asked for the summary to be removed for discussion. She suggested that rather than talk about the rules in the abstract, the public engagement effort could be more specific in order to explain how water quality can be improved. (staff report)

“Picking a waterway that we know is being impacted, that we know is in trouble now, and needs to be addressed and maybe we could have lessons learned from that in a situation where we already know the areas residents are interested in doing something about,” Palmer said. 

Palmer said the Moormans River would be a good waterway to look at because of the impacts  of recreational use at the Sugar Hollow Reservoir. 

“There’s a lot of trash, erosion, etc,” Palmer said. 

Kimberly Biasiolli is Albemarle’s natural resources manager. She said the goal of the second phase of the stream health initiative is intended to be more collaborative than the first phase. 

“The report on the agenda today is really about this new phase of the project focused on the rural areas and planning for how to engage the public and stakeholder groups hopefully in new and strategic ways to not repeat necessarily what was done but to build upon it and create more of a collaborative and iterative process where we can receive feedback and incorporate that as we work on building solutions,” Biasiolli said. 

According to the report shared with the Board, the discovery stage is expected to begin in January. 

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An organization that seeks to increase the availability of passenger rail in Virginia wants you to give your thoughts on what it would take to get you back on a train whenever the pandemic is over. Danny Plaugher with Virginians for High Speed Rail said the feedback will be used in their next report on the state of passenger rail in the Commonwealth. 

“And as you know with all public transportation, mass transportation, whether it be airlines or rail or buses, have been dramatically been impacted because of COVID so what we’ve done is put this survey together to ask our members, ask every Virginians across the state what would make them feel more comfortable getting back on the train,” Plaugher said. 

Plaugher said previous reports called for the state to invest in rail, something the Northam Administration accomplished late last year when they announced the purchase of right of way from private companies. We’ll hear more from him about that in Monday’s newsletter.  You can access the Virginians for High Speed Rail survey here

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Finally today, a repeat of a story from yesterday. A volunteer group of computer programmers and technical experts is holding an information session this afternoon to find out more about what projects it can work on to benefit the greater Charlottesville community. 

Jonathan Kropko is the volunteer lead with Code for Charlottesville.

“Code for Charlottesville is a local chapter of Code for America which is a national network of groups that begin volunteers with tech or data or code or design or research skills to work on a project for a community partner,” Kropko said. 

So far, Code for Charlottesville has worked on projects for the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. To find new partners and volunteers, they are holding a work session today at 4 p.m for people who want to be part of the leadership team. 

“There’s a huge movement in the tech industry, the phrase they use is social good and I want to put that in quotes,” Kropko said. “Because a lot of time when they talk about the tech for the social good, it’s not really doing anything good for society. A lot of time these projects fizzle out without doing anything useful.”

Kropko said the goal of the information session is to try to come up with useful projects. He said that starts by recruiting volunteers. 

“You have to do a good job with organizing so that people know what they are working on and what the goals are,” Kropko said. “And you have to do a really good job communicating with your partner in the community. 

The Code for Charlottesville MeetUp begins at 4 p.m. for people interested in civic tech. Register here