Oct 12, 2021 • 15M

October 12, 2021: Albemarle Supervisors get lengthy update on transportation projects; new tenant for new office building in Charlottesville

There have been 284 days in 2021 so far, and this is the 285th.

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Sean Tubbs
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.
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Time for a new 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 show:

  • The Charlottesville City Council and the Planning Commission spend two hours asking questions about the Comprehensive Plan in advance of tonight’s public hearing

  • Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors gets an update on transportation projects

  • A new tenant signs on for a new office building in downtown Charlottesville

The summer and September COVID surge in Virginia continues to wane, but community spread continues. The seven-day percent positive rate has dropped to 7.8 percent and the seven-day average is 2,443. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are 205 new cases reported and the percent positive rate is 5.8 percent. There have been eight more fatalities reported since October 4. 

The Blue Ridge Health District will have a town hall on October 13 and one of the topics will be vaccination in pregnant people. Register in advance

Today is the last day to register to vote in the November 2 election, which is three weeks from today. Local registrars will take in-person registrations through 5 p.m. Registrations submitted via mail must be postmarked with today’s date in order to be accepted. You can also register online up until 11:59 p.m. You will need an ID issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in order to register in that fashion. (Department of Elections online portal)

The last day to request a mail-in ballot is October 22. The last day to vote early in-person is October 30. Charlottesville’s Office of Voter Registration will have additional hours on October 23 and October 30. 

There are several makeshift memorials to people who died in crashes on 5th Street Extended in Charlottesville. Yesterday, a city-sanctioned memorial to Quintus Brooks was unveiled with a family ceremony. Brooks died on October 1, 2020 and yesterday would have been his birthday. 

“A new application process is being launched for roadside memorials at the site of deaths resulting from automobile, bicycle or pedestrian accidents that occur on public streets within the City of Charlottesville,” said city Communications Director Brian Wheeler in an email announcing the event.

Credit: City of Charlottesville

Charlottesville has hired a Nevada firm to provide pest control services in two prominent locations. In September, the city sent out a request for proposals for a firm to provide pest suppression for the 135,000 square feet of the Downtown Mall and the 30,000 square feet of the Corner. 

“The Contractor will be responsible to provide a program to control rodents such as, but not limited to, rats, mice, squirrels, snakes, all insects (roaches, flies, bees, ants – including fire ants, cockroaches, moths, crickets, silverfish, all spiders, termites),” reads the proposal.

Pestmaster Services has been awarded the contract. These areas include outdoor dining spaces, including locations where tables are set up near tree wells. 

Another tenant has been announced for the new 3-Twenty-3 building in downtown Charlottesville. General Atomics Commonwealth Computer Research will lease just under 50,000 square feet in the building.

“With projects ranging from optimizing the world’s largest container port to predicting future asymmetric warfare events, CCRi has no shortage of experience in diverse client expectations,” reads a description of the company on their website

The 3-Twenty-3 building is being developed by Insite Properties and marketed by Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. A press release describes the building as a five-story office building on top of a four-story, 200 space parking garage. 

There’s about 27,000 square feet left to be leased in the 120,000 square foot structure, according to leasing agent John Pritzlaff.  McGuireWoods and Manchester Capital are already in their spaces, and Williams Mullen is starting building out now. 

Credit: Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer

Tonight, the seven-member Charlottesville Planning Commission and the five-member Charlottesville City Council will hold a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan, the second task performed by Rhodeside & Harwell as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. That includes a Future Land Use Map which increases residential density across most of the city. 

Yesterday, the elected body and the appointed body spent two hours asking questions about the plan. Councilor Lloyd Snook went first. 

“A common criticism which I personally believe to be based on ignorance… is that the Future Land Use Map and the suggestions of higher density have not taken into account either… the effect of the University of Virginia, the effect of the student population, and the distorting effect on the poverty data for the student population,” Snook said. 

Jennifer Koch with Rhodeside & Harwell said her team began their work based of a housing needs assessment conducted in 2018 by the Form-Based Code Institute and Partners for Economic Solutions. (download)

“There was a fairly robust discussion in that document about how students may or may not play into various impacts on affordability in the city,” Koch said. “The other way we are looking to include considerations for students in this plan is in looking at potential intensity near UVA, for example Jefferson Park Avenue, Fontaine Avenue area. We’ve included additional intensity in those areas and we’ve included a discussion of potential intensity in those areas as we move through zoning.”

The first step in the Cville Plans Together initiative was adoption of an affordable housing plan. The next step after adoption of the Comprehensive Plan will be a rewrite of the zoning code. 

The University of Virginia is working on an initiative to identify space on land it or its real estate foundation owns to build up to 1,500 below-market units. In September, a top official at UVA told the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership that the work is slightly behind schedule. (UVA housing initiative website)

Other topics at the two-hour meeting included assumptions about population growth and the links between increased density and affordability requirements. Watch the whole thing in advance of tonight’s hearing, which begins at 6 p.m. (watch)

A chart from the 2018 Housing Needs Assessment

And time for another Patreon-fueled shout-out:

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At their meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will get an update on the Rio Corridor Study, an effort to reshape the public realm along Rio Road on stretches of the roadway in Albemarle’s Places29-Rio growth area. Opponents of recent rezoning applications in the area cited transportation concerns for why the Board of Supervisors should vote against more intense residential density. 

But last week, they got an update on other transportation projects from Kevin McDermott, a planning manager in Albemarle. Though the applications aren’t due until next summer, work is underway for the next round of Smart Scale projects. (Albemarle transportation report)

Right now the top candidates that the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization might submit are: 

  • A roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road 

  • Avon Street Corridor Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements between Druid Avenue and Avon Street park and ride

  • 5th Street Extended multimodal improvements between the future (and funded) 5th Street Trail Hub to Harris Road

  • Rivanna River Bike and Pedestrian bridge from South Pantops Boulevard to the Woolen Mills area 

Right now the possible candidates Albemarle County might submit in the 5th Smart Scale round are: 

  • Avon Street Extended multimodal improvements from Mill Creek to Peregory Lane 

  • 5th Street Extended bicycle and pedestrian improvements between Albemarle Business Campus and the Southwood community 

  • U.S. 250 corridor improvements between Peter Jefferson Place and Hansen Road 

  • U.S. 250 / Route 22 / Milton Drive intersection improvements 

  • Belvedere Boulevard / Rio Road improvements 

  • Hillsdale Drive extension and realignment from Mall Drive to Rio Road 

  • U.S. 250 West interchange with U.S. 29 / 250 bypass

  • U.S. 250 West and Crozet Avenue intersection improvements 

Albemarle has recently turned in an application for VDOT Revenue-Sharing Funds for Eastern Avenue South, a project that has been in Crozet Master Plan since it was adopted. 

“That goes from the Westhall area, across Lickinghole Creek, to Cory Farms, and connects to U.S. 250,” McDermott said. 

In most cases, it takes several years for transportation projects to go from project approval to construction. A project to upgrade the intersection of U.S. 250 and Virginia Route 20 at Pantops was funded in 2018. 

“They are currently in design for that and we will hopefully be seeing some construction out there in about two years or so,” McDermott said. 

Another VDOT revenue-sharing project is to extend Berkmar Drive to Lewis and Clark Drive, which would complete a north-south roadway parallel to U.S. 29 from Fashion Square Mall to the University of Virginia’ North Fork Research Park. 

“We’ve got a lot of economic development going on up there, a lot of new development also,” McDermott said. “This would also provide that parallel facility to U.S. 29 so it can take some of that traffic off of 29 and remove it from some of those intersections that are experiencing some delays like Airport Road and U.S. 250.”

McDermott said construction of that project is expected for 2025. 

Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District noted the length of the report as well as its detail.

“I really appreciate the way you explain some of these so that it differentiates between a study and a proposal,” Price said. “We get a lot of communications from people in the community that are to the effect of ‘I can’t believe you’re even considering’ [a project],” Price said. “But when you’re looking at transportation, if you don’t look at the various options, then you’re really going in with a narrow-minded approach. We appreciate your wide approach of looking at all of the different possibilities before narrowing down what really appears to be the best course of action.”

Other updates for Albemarle projects funded through VDOT’s revenue-sharing program

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