Nov 30, 2021 • 17M

November 30, 2021: Woolley withdraws as City Manager; Scottsville utilizing DORA for holiday event this Saturday

Plus: Albemarle CIP group begins work 

Open in playerListen on);
Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
Episode details
1 comment

The final day of November is upon us, but will soon give way to December. Eleven named for nine becomes twelve named for ten. Path dependence shows up in mysterious ways. In any case, this is the edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement with a time stamp of November 30. I’m your host, Sean Tubbs.

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

On today’s show:

  • Scottsville prepares to use its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area license for A Holiday Happening

  • More on the preparation of Albemarle County’s capital improvement program 

  • Charlottesville City Council will again look for an interim city manager

  • The first bills of the 2022 Virginia General Assembly have been filed

In today’s first 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 to learn about those projects. 

Emergency meeting

Charlottesville City Council no longer has an interim city manager on the way. Marc E. Woolley had been expected to begin work tomorrow. Council went into closed session at 12:30 p.m. today for an emergency meeting to discuss a personnel matter. Councilor Heather Hill read the motion.

“Pursuant to § 2.2-3712 of the Virginia Code, I hereby move that City Council close this open meeting and convene within a closed meeting as authorized by Virginia Code… for the purpose of discussing of the withdrawal of the appointed city manager and the discussion, consideration, or interviews of perspective candidates for appointment or employment by City Council,” Hill said. 

Woolley had been expected to fill the vacancy left when former City Manager Chip Boyles resigned in late October. Boyles had been hired in January to replace former City Manager Tarron Richardson, who resigned at the end of September 2020 after about a year and a half. Earlier this month, Richardson sued the city for breach of contract related to a non-disparagement clause in his severance agreement. 

Richardson had replaced Maurice Jones, whose contract was not renewed in 2018 after nearly eight years in the job. Along the way, two other people have served as interim city manager.

After publication of this newsletter, Daily Progress reporter Ginny Bixby reported that Woolley sent a letter to Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker last week.

“I am writing to inform you and your fellow Council members that after careful consideration and in consultation with my family, I am withdrawing my application to become the Interim City Manager of the City of Charlottesville,” Woolley wrote. “This was not an easy decision for me and I want to thank the Charlottesville City Council for the opportunity and wish the residents of Charlottesville all the best.”

Last week, the Planning Commission held a work session on the capital improvement program for fiscal year 2023. Charlottesville has a AAA bond rating that reflects a well-run and stable city. Commissioner Hosea Mitchell asked if that would continue based on the string of leadership vacancies and he’s answered by Krissy Hammill, a senior budget and management analyst. 

“Will the high turnover of city level management impact our bond rating?” Mitchell asked.

“They do look at management as part of that analysis,” Hammill said. “To date that has not really been at the forefront of a lot of those conversations keeping in mind that the single-most goal of a bond rating is to assess out ability to pay our debt.”

The city is currently being managed by Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders. Council next meets on December 6. 

See also:

First 2022 bills filed

The General Assembly doesn’t begin for another six weeks, but the first bills have been pre-filed. Two of three bills filed in the House of Delegates are charter requests for two towns to amend their charter to move municipal elections from May to November, and a third would remove the sunset date for a sales exemption on the sale of gold, silver, and platinum bullion. 

In the Senate, there are five bills so far. One would require the Virginia Employment Commission to establish a family and medical leave program, one would require school principals to report incidents to law enforcement, and another would require absentee ballots to be sorted by precinct. Another would limit the time a Governor’s executive orders could last under an Emergency Declaration, and another would require votes of the Parole Board to be individually recorded under the Freedom of Information act

The General Assembly convenes on January 12.

(view pre-filed bills)

Scottsville Holiday Happening

Earlier this year, the General Assembly adopted legislation allowing localities to create Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA) where ABC licenses can be granted in the public realm. That means people can move from establishment to establishment while carrying alcoholic beverages in a designated cup. 

Several localities across Virginia have passed local ordinances allowing such events. This Saturday, the Town of Scottsville will offer this ability during A Holiday Happening. According to Town Administrator Matt Lawless, this is the third time the DORA has been used. 

“I was interested to kind of follow the progress of this setting up in state law,” Lawless said. “It originated with a neat mix of communities around the state from far Southwest to Richmond looking at how they could promote tourism and support their Main Street businesses.”

Lawless said Scottsville has so far held an event to promote an art opening in September. 

“We had a Virginia of the Arts grant for installations in vacant storefronts,” Lawless said. “Folks can take out the food and drink and stroll around outside.” 

A second event held at Halloween for a puppy parade on Valley Street and Main Street. Lawless said these are not tailgate parties, and people can’t bring their own beer. The permit just allows people to consume beverages off premises. 

“So maybe what you’ve seen in the past on these events is like an outdoor event with a strict perimeter defined like with a snow fence,” Lawless said. “We don’t have to do that anymore. The drinks are labeled where they came from in a disposable container. So if we were checking on what is that and where did you get it, you could point to the licensed restaurant where you got it.”

Lawless said sandwich boards suffice to mark the boundaries of the DORA. This Saturday’s event runs from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. with the ABC permit in effect from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m

“If you’re ever visited a European Christmas Market, it might be kind of like that where we’ve got have the special farmer’s market with special arts and craft sales, musicians playing on sidelots, and then hot cider and mulled wine for sale at our restaurants that you can take up and down the street,” Lawless said. 

Lawless said a safety plan is created for each event and reviewed by ABC to make sure there are enough people on staff to help with public safety. 

In the summer, Charlottesville City Council was briefed on the idea but it was met with a lukewarm response with some Councilors concerned with unequal treatment. 

This story came about due to a story in the Cardinal by Megan Schnabel that takes a look at how Danville, Roanoke, and the town of Tazewell have used this ability for events. (read the story here)

Let’s have a second Patreon-fueled shout-out

Colder temperatures are creeping in, and now is the perfect time to think about keeping your family warm through the holidays. Make sure you are getting the most out of your home with help from your local energy nonprofit, LEAP. LEAP wants you and yours to keep comfortable all year round, and offers FREE home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying residents. If you’re age 60 or older, or have an annual household income of less than $74,950, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing. Sign up today to lower your energy bills, increase comfort, and reduce energy waste at home!

Albemarle capital planning

Albemarle County’s budget process for Fiscal Year 2023 continues on Friday with another meeting of the Capital Improvement Program Advisory Committee. The group consists of two Supervisors, two School Board members, a Planning Commissioner, and a member of the public who happens to be a former Planning Commissioner.  (view the presentation)

“I suspect that each of us have items on the not-included plan that we’d like to see moved up but it is a balance,” said Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District. “We cannot do everything.” 

Perhaps when you think of capital projects, big items like schools and sidewalks come to mind. The next CIP in Albemarle will likely have an item called Core Systems Modernization which will seek to speed up how the county does business. Andy Bowman is the chief of budget in the Finance and Budget Office. 

“The technology systems that we use across the county government are disjointed, they’re antiquated, and they don’t allow the community to interact with our government in a way that we expect,’ Bowman said. “Over the next few years, we’re going to be embarking on new financial systems, new human resources systems, and new community development systems related to systems that are connected and enhance our customer and our employee experience.”

The job of the CIP Advisory Committee is to help staff develop the five-year program. There’s a target of about $131 million in funding that may be available through FY2027. 

“For funding in Fiscal Year 2023 to 2027, there is a total of $457 million in projects that was requested,” Bowman said.

The budget chief also gave a status report on projects under way.

“There is $151 million in projects that are currently appropriated and underway from prior years that extend into Fiscal Year 2023 and beyond.”

Those projects include sidewalk installation, the Southern Convenience Center in Keene, and upgrades of the county’s General District and Circuit court in downtown Charlottesville.

Future projects that are waiting to be funded include further phases of Biscuit Run Park, future school capacity expansion, and a convenience center in the northern section of Albemarle. 

Supervisor Bea Lapisto-Kirtley suggested one item she wanted more information on.  

“As far a project, I would like to make sure that at Darden-Towe our soccer fields are taken care of, upgraded, and when I say upgraded, regarding natural grass and putting in what needs to be done there to make sure that that’s a good playing field,” Lapisto-Kirtley said. 

Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry said a previous project had anticipated replacing the natural grass fields with artificial turf and adding lighting. Darden-Towe is jointly owned by Charlottesville and Albemarle.

“Eventually that request was discussed in the calendar of 2018 and that was approved and bundled as part of the Parks’ quality of life projects,” Henry said. 

Henry said $2.5 million was approved for the project, with $2 million of that going for the installation of turf and the rest for the lighting. 

“That CIP request assumed use of cooperative contracts, meaning existing contracts in the state for both the turf project and the lighting project,” Henry said. “On a December 4 meeting of 2019,  a concern was raised by a Board member about the procurement methodology and several series of questions around the efficacy of turf, environmental concerns.”

Henry said staff returned with more information later that winter, but the pandemic put a hold on further consideration of the effort. 

“The majority of capital projects were paused or deferred,” Henry said. 

When some of the projects were unpaused, the Darden-Towe project was not one of them. 

“And it’s back in the queue of all the other unfunded projects that have been requested or formally requested through this process,” Henry said. 

Since then, the Parks Department request has placed further funding of Biscuit Run as a higher priority. The Parks Department has asked for $8.5 million for the next four years to move into further phases of that future park’s development. 

After being told by Henry that the natural fields are well-maintained, LaPisto-Kirtley said she would support continuing that practice. 

School Board Chair Kate Acuff made the pitch for funding to modernize the existing high schools, something that she did not see within the draft CIP presented to the committee. 

The county in recent years has invested in two high school “centers” rather than a fourth stand-alone facility.

“Because a new high school would be $150 million and we were able to craft this plan that including upgrading all of our schools  — Albemarle High School is 70 years old  — as well as the Centers for a fraction of that cost,” Acuff said. “It’s disappointed to me to see that has dropped out.” 

Acuff also said that over a hundred classrooms are in trailers. She said the county needs at least three more elementary schools.

“We’re over capacity at Baker-Butler [Elementary] which is a northern feeder pattern [school] and construction of Brookhill [Elementary] would address that,” Acuff said. 

There are also overcrowding issues at Mountain View Elementary. A 27,000 square feet addition is underway at Crozet Elementary but Acuff said a third school in the western part of the county will be necessary soon. 

Of that $131 million, the schools will have access to $77.2 million according to Chief Financial Officer Nelsie Birch. The next meeting of the group will take place on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. 

Special announcement of a continuing promo with Ting! Are you interested in fast internet? Visit this site and enter your address to see if you can get service through Ting. If you decide to proceed to make the switch, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • Second month of Ting service for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Additionally, Ting will match your Substack subscription to support Town Crier Productions, the company that produces this newsletter and other community offerings. So, your $5 a month subscription yields $5 for TCP. Your $50 a year subscription yields $50 for TCP! The same goes for a $200 a year subscription! All goes to cover the costs of getting this newsletter out as often as possible. Learn more here!