November 25, 2020: Citing traffic impact, Albemarle planning panel recommends denial of 130-unit neighborhood near Glenmore

  
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In today’s newsletter:
  • An update on COVID numbers in Virginia

  • For the second time, Albemarle Planning Commission recommends denial of rezoning near Glenmore

  • Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce preparing for Rebound Ball


On the eve of Thanksgiving, all metrics point to the largest surge of COVID-cases since the state of emergency was announced on March 12, 2020. After nearly nine months of lockdown, Virginia and rest of the United States of America face the possibility of a tragic holiday period. 

Virginia has set another new daily record for COVID cases with 2,718 cases reported this morning. The seven day average is now 2,495 cases a day. The seven-day average for new positive tests has increased to 7.5 percent, up from 7.4 percent yesterday. 

The seven-day average for new daily cases reported per 100,000 population is 29.3 today. This is known as the “incidence rate” and that figure was 18.7 on November 16. The total number of cases per 100,000 population within the last 14 days in Virginia is 349.8 today. That figure was 249.1 on November 16, and 169.5 on October 16, 2020. 

In Virginia, the death toll has climbed over 4,000 and stands at 4,008 today. In the Blue Ridge Health District, there have been 81 fatalities, with all deaths in people over the age of 50. Nearly sixty percent of COVID-deaths in the district are in people over the age of 80. 

Looking across the state, the central region has an incidence rate of 25.5 and a percent positivity of 5.9%. The eastern region has an incidence rate of 22.1 and a percent positivity of 7.4%. For the far southwest region, the incidence rate is 46.3 and percent positivity is at 16.7%. The near southwest region has a high incidence rate of 44.7 but the percent positivity is lower at 8.6%. 

Northern Virginia has a incidence rate of 29.2 and a percent positivity of 8%. The northwest region has an incidence rate of 25.5 and a percent positivity of 5.9 percent. This is a reminder that figure is likely skewed downward due to a high amount of prevalence testing in the Blue Ridge Health District due to the University of Virginia. 

In our immediate region, Culpeper County continues to have a high count with an incidence rate of 81 and a total number of new cases per 100,000 population of 923.7. They reported 64 new cases today and had a high of 175 new cases on Sunday. 

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The Albemarle Planning Commission last night recommended denial of a rezoning on land within the designated Village of Rivanna growth area. This was the second time the seven-member appointed body saw the proposal for the Breezy Hill neighborhood, which required a rezoning on about 84 acres just to the east of the Glenmore community. 

Commissioners received over 200 emails from neighbors who requested denial because of the impacts on U.S. 250. Many cited a line in the executive summary of the Village of Rivanna Master Plan which reads “Future residential development should only be approved if and when transportation improvements to US 250 have been made and sufficient sewer capacity is in place to support that development.”

However, deputy county attorney Andy Herrick told the commission that is a non-binding statement. 

“A local government body does not have the authority to enact an ordinance that would establish an outright moratorium on all zoning changes in a portion of a locality until highway improvement is made,” Herrick said. “However, current and projected traffic can be a consideration in individual applications.” 

Southern Development had reduced the size of the proposed neighborhood from 160 units to 130 units. They also proffered funding to coordinate traffic signals along the corridor to improve the flow of traffic.  (proffer statement)

“The signal improvements that we’re proposing are a complete reconfiguration of the existing signals at Milton Road’s intersection with U.S. 250 and Louisa Road’s intersection with U.S. 250,” said Charlie Armstrong with Southern Development. “By doing that is actually provides additional capacity for those intersections.”

Within the last decade, the Virginia Department of Transportation piloted new signal technology on U.S. 250 on Pantops. This was initially credited with increasing traffic throughout the Pantops growth area. 

The idea did not impress Rick Randolph, the planning commissioner for the Scottsville District who previously represented that area on the Board of Supervisors from 2016 to 2019 before opting not to run for a second elected term. 

“Those of us that have some experience in the congestion on this corridor and living with it on a daily basis well understand that past technological fixes don’t begin to address the fact that the volume of automotive traffic has been increasing significantly year by year by year,” Randolph said. 

In 2019, VDOT estimated that 9,500 vehicles a day went through the intersection of U.S. 250 and Louisa Road. The estimate in 2010 was 7,300 vehicles a day. 

Commissioners were unanimous in their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to deny the rezoning. The matter will go to the Board of Supervisors in December.  

The Commission will next meet on December 8 when they will discuss the county’s draft affordable housing plan in a joint session with the Board of Supervisors. That document identifies a need for 11,750 new housing units by 2040 to meet forecasts for population growth. That includes 8,134 units that are approved not yet built and a need for rezonings or special use permits to allow the remaining 3,600 units projected united to be constructed.

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There’s only a week left until the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce holds its annual celebration the only way to do so in 2020 - virtually. The Rebound Ball will feature the handing out of 14 local business awards as well as a keynote speech from author and podcaster Priya Parker, whose latest work is called The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Parker is to have a “fireside chat” with Chamber CEO Elizabeth Cromwell about meaningful gatherings in the age of COVID. Each event attendee will receive a free e-book copy of The Art of Gathering

One of the award winners is Liza Borches who will receive the 2020 Chamber Business Leader of the Year award. Borches is the head of Carter Myers Automotive, which has sixteen dealerships throughout six communities in Virginia. 

The award dinner is called the Rebound Ball after the name of the Chamber’s collaboration for local economic recovery - Project Rebound. The awards this year reflect the innovation and determination shown by many during this challenging year.  (ticket information

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Today in meetings, the Albemarle Broadband Authority will meet virtually at 5 p.m. One of the items will be a report on the Board of Supervisors’ recent discussion on the strategic plan and capital budget work session. One of the county’s strategic goals is to expand broadband throughout the county. I’m pleased because this means I’ll have at least one fresh soundbite in Thursday’s newscast!  (meeting info)