Oct 13, 2022 • 20M

October 13, 2022: Charlottesville seeking input on draft Climate Action Plan, firm to conduct strategic plan; LUEPC briefed on Fifth Street project planning

This installment is likely the most planning-heavy edition yet!

 
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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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The thirteenth day of the spookiest month has arrived, with just 18 days until Monday the 31st. Until then, one can feel the excitement in the air. If in fact, one has an excitement detector. Do such things exist? What about ghouls, goblins, or newsletter writers who get to the point? These are not the items within the usual provenance of Charlottesville Community Engagement, so please stay tuned for items of information, intended to be true. I’m your ghost, Sean Tubbs. 

On today’s installment:

  • Inflation increased once again in September 

  • Charlottesville will conduct another round of public input meetings on the Climate Action Plan

  • Planning continues for project to address congestion and safety issues on Fifth Street, as well as other transportation updates

  • Charlottesville’s Planning Commission might possibly have a hearing on a by-right project on East High Street, but it’s unlikely they can vote against it 

  • The City of Charlottesville is seeking a consultant for a strategic plan

  • Albemarle County Supervisors will learn more about the next step in their Comprehensive Plan review next Wednesday

Sign up for free to keep track of a lot of things that may or may not be obscure. Upgrade to a paid subscription to keep me looking and looking.

First shout-out goes to Camp Albemarle

Today’s first subscriber-supported public service announcement goes out to Camp Albemarle, which has for sixty years been a “wholesome rural, rustic and restful site for youth activities, church groups, civic events and occasional private programs.”

Located on 14 acres on the banks of the Moorman’s River near Free Union, Camp Albemarle continues as a legacy of being a Civilian Conservation Corps project that sought to promote the importance of rural activities. Camp Albemarle seeks support for a plan to winterize the Hamner Lodge, a structure built in 1941 by the CCC and used by every 4th and 5th grade student in Charlottesville and Albemarle for the study of ecology for over 20 years. If this campaign is successful, Camp Albemarle could operate year-round. Consider your support by visiting campalbemarleva.org/donate

Consumer Price Index rises 0.4 percent in September

The latest official measurements of inflation are in from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent in September after increasing 0.1 percent in August. 

“Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 8.2 percent before seasonal Adjustment,” reads the press release that went out this morning

The Consumer Price Index can be broken down regionally as depicted here. For more charts, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) 

The cost of medical care, food, and shelter all increased in September, but the gasoline index declined 4.9 percent. Over the past 12 months, the energy index rose 19.8 percent. 

If you know any economists or skeptics of economists, send them in the direction of the press release from the BLS which has more information than can fit right here. 

For more perspective, here’s a tweet from a CNN reporter. 

Public input meetings scheduled for Charlottesville Climate Action Plan

Last week, the Charlottesville City Council got a briefing on the draft Climate Action Plan, as reported in the October 11, 2022 edition of this newsletter. At the end of a work session last week, Councilors indicated they wanted to adopt the plan as soon as possible and make it part of the Comprehensive Plan. But, there’s a process that needs to be followed.  (view the plan)

“So that would entail a joint public hearing with Council and the Planning Council and then it would come to the Council for a vote,” said James Freas, the director of the City’s Neighborhood Development Services Department. 

The draft Climate Action Plan is the result of a lot of previous planning (view the plan) (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

However, the city is taking additional comment on the plan through November 9 and have scheduled several public engagement opportunities to learn more.

First, there’s a contact form. And if you want to know more about the plan before you fill it out, there are four scheduled office hour periods you can drop in to converse with staff:

  • October 19 from 9 to 10 a.m. (virtual via ZOOM)

  • October 24 from noon to 1 p.m. (in person at City Space)

  • October 26 from noon to 1 p.m. (virtual via ZOOM)

  • October 27 from 4 p.m. to 6.p.m. (in person at City Space - directions) 

An exact date for the public hearing is not yet known. 

Planning continues for safety improvements on Fifth Street in Charlottesville

Today’s newsletter is a little different, as the main source for the next two sections come from the very beginning of the October 11, 2022 meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission. There are a lot of other meetings from further back to review, including the second part of the September 27, 2022 City Council and Planning Commission work session on the zoning rewrite. It’s coming, as is so much more. 

But, it’s also important to review as soon as possible the beginning of a Charlottesville Planning Commission for all kinds of updates.

For those interested in infrastructure planning, not all meetings are open to the public. The Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee is made up of staff and appointed officials from Albemarle County, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia. They gather once a month behind closed doors to talk about issues of regional interest. This was the spirit of a 1986 document called the Three Party Agreement.  (view the Three Party Agreement)

Relations between Albemarle, Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia are still governed by the 1986 Three Party Agreement. (view the Three Party Agreement)

At the most recent LUEPC meeting on September 16, city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan gave an update on the city’s planning for projects to address safety issues on Fifth Street, a four-lane divided highway that runs between downtown and Harris Road. The city did not submit an application for funding through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process as part of a deal to boost the city’s project management capabilities. (view the presentation

The delay also gives more time for a project to be selected. Three other projects are funded in the area and the goal is to coordinate all of them to improve conditions. 

“In that area, there have been 95 crashes since 2017 and 2022,” said Planning Commissioner and LUEPC member Hosea Mitchell. “Four people have died in crashes and six people have been hurt pretty badly.”

Mitchell said potential solutions include roundabouts, guardrails, a road diet, bike lane enhancements, and photo-speed monitoring to enforce the 40 mile per hour speed limit. 

“We are waiting on some direction and input from Council as to which of these, any or all of these improvements and fixes we’re going to embrace,” Mitchell said. 

An overview of the various projects on Fifth Street in Charlottesville (view the presentation) 

Another reason for the delay is the need for staff to work on the planning for such projects. NDS Director James Freas announced a new transportation planner will start work on November 1. 

Commissioner Mitchell also relayed information about the Rio Road Corridor Study as well as the planned improvements at Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29.

There are no recordings of the September 16 meeting of the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee, nor will there ever be such a recording because it is a closed meeting. But, there are some slides from a presentation from Albemarle County Planning Manager Kevin McDermott. (view those slides)

Albemarle County has a Smart Scale funded project further south to build a roundabout at the intersection of Fifth Street Extended and Old Lynchburg Road. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has a Smart Scale funded project for improvements on its portion of Fifth Street. 

Long Range Transportation Plan process getting underway

Before we leave this section, Planning Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg also serves as the chair of the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee. On Tuesday, he told rest of the Planning Commission about one major initiative that is about to get underway.

“We are just beginning the planning for the 2050 long-range transportation plan which is the high level plan that all of the projects that we’ll submit to Smart Scale and build will come out of,” Stolzenberg said. “It will be a roughly two year process, lots of community engagement, lots of stakeholder groups.”

Interested to learn more? A good place to start is the current Long Range Transportation Plan, which was adopted in 2019. The Federal Highway Administration requires the document as a condition of federal funding. You can take a look on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Committee’s website, and if you’re really interested, go back and look at the 2014 plan. 

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors also got an update on the long-range transportation plan at their October 5 meeting. Here’s Supervisor Ann Mallek, a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board. That’s the body that will adopt the plan.

“And I would encourage people to listen out for participation opportunities to provide your input on that long range plan because our local projects to be funded with state or federal dollars do have to be on that plan,” Mallek said. “While it’s sort of a bureaucratic process it is incredibly important.” 

In other transportation news, earlier this month the Charlottesville City Council granted air rights over Emmet Street to the University of Virginia for a new pedestrian bridge that will connect Newcomb Hall Plaza with the Contemplative Commons. This will replace a span that is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“Long overdue to have an ADA compliant, bikeable route that traverses that,” said Bill Palmer, the GIS planner for the UVA Office of the Architect. 

The University of Virginia is currently working on an update of its Master Plan. This new pedestrian bridge is called for in the 2019 Landscape Framework Plan

“With this new bridge, Newcomb Road South may have more pedestrian traffic as a connector to places in West Grounds such as the Dell, the Curry School of Education, and the future Contemplative Sciences Center,” reads page 150 of the plan put together by Michael Vergason Landscape Architects. 

For all of the UVA’s planning documents, visit the Office of the Architect’s website

A conceptual drawing of the new pedestrian bridge

Second shout-out: Piedmont Master Gardeners offering Love Food, Hate Waste class

In today’s second subscriber supported public service announcement: Want to learn how to reduce food waste by growing your own food and learning how to preserve it? The Piedmont Master Gardeners are teaming up with the Virginia Cooperative Extension to offer a class on Saturday October 15 at 2 p.m at Trinity Episcopal Church on Preston Avenue. In addition to covering food preservation techniques, the program will examine the problem of wasted food—how much goes to waste, why waste happens and why waste matters—and how to keep the valuable resources used to produce and distribute food from ending up in landfills.

Space is limited. To reserve a place in the class, register at https://piedmontmastergardeners.org/events/. Registration closes at 5 p.m. October 14.

Charlottesville Planning updates: PC might get to review 0 East High project

With transportation out of the way, we turn to land use updates. This is not the newsletter that has the second part of the September 27, 2022 meeting between the Planning Commission and the update on the zoning rewrite. You can read the first installment on Information Charlottesville.

Planning Commission Chair Lyle Solla-Yates said he recently appeared before a committee of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development that is updating Virginia’s building code. He wants them to allow a housing type that would significantly increase residential density. 

“And I spoke in favor of allowing six-story single-stair homes which would save…  a large amount of money if a second staircase is not required,” Solla-Yates said. “So it could be a significant affordable housing benefit.”

Solla-Yates said he believes that did not get adopted in this cycle, but there’s another one in the next three years.  

The Commission also got several updates on projects within the city. One of them is the 245 units planned for land along the Rivanna RIver within the floodplain. One of the meetings from the past I hope to document in more detail is the site plan conference for what’s known at the moment at 0 East High Street. 

Missy Creasy, Deputy Director of the Neighborhood Development Services Department, wanted the Planning Commission to know what is going on. 

“The applicant has submitted a by-right site plan so this site plan is in their opinion adhering to the regulations that are allowable in the code,” Creasy said. 

Creasy said the site plan is being evaluated by staff and comments will be provided to the applicant by October 28.  

“There are a number of concerns that have been raised by the community and there are technical concerns that we know are coming to pass as well,” Creasy said. 

Creasy said this site plan might come before the city Planning Commission for their review, though the plan must be approved if it meets all of the technical requirements. 

In the meantime, you can review the site plan conference yourself on the NDS website. Take a look here

The entire site plan conference is available for viewing here

Charlottesville seeks firm to help with strategic plan

At the risk of overloading this particular newsletter with information about plans, I continue anyway with the following.

Charlottesville is seeking a firm to help relaunch the creation of a new strategic plan. A request for proposals for a consultant went out on Monday to update a plan that ran out in FY2020 but was extended. 

“The process will be closely coordinated with and guided by a Strategic Plan Working Group comprised of City staff members,” reads the RFP. “The Working Group envisions a highly engaged consulting role that is deeply involved in gathering, processing, and summarizing the information generated by various consultation and participation processes.”

The consultant will be required to facilitate a strategic planning retreat and work on a plan with goals for calendar years 2023 through 2025.  Where Comprehensive Plans provide a vision for a locality, strategic plans are more about how to implement a community toward a stated direction. 

Proposals are due on November 9. 

Anyone interested in learning more can view the current strategic plan on the city’s website

Albemarle County is also updating its strategic plan and a community survey closed this week. For comparison, take a look at my previous story from September 30 or take a look at their strategic plan website.  

AC44: Albemarle Board of Supervisors to review draft Framework for Equity and Resilience

Albemarle County is also updating its Comprehensive Plan through a process they’re calling AC44. We’re still in the first phase of the update, which is taking a fresh look at the county’s growth management policy. Supervisor Ann Mallek encouraged people to get involved at the October 5 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

“There are four terrific big ideas frameworks out that really deserve input from all of our citizens, rural area citizens and urban area citizens,” Mallek said. 

The Board of Supervisors will have a work session next week on the draft Framework for Equity and Resilience. The Planning Commission had their work session on that draft in late September. Take a listen in the October 6, 2022 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. This will eventually be posted to Information Charlottesville under the Land Use - Albemarle topic


Housekeeping notes for #443

This installment of the program certainly is planning and heavy and I can certainly imagine that to many this stuff is impenetrable. It certainly was to me in 2007 when I was hired to work for a blog that sought to try to explain it to people. To do that, I had to write a lot of stories and fifteen years later, I’m glad to still be doing this work. I know it can seem really dense, but there are always patterns that can be seen with enough information and knowing where to look.

There are hundreds of you who know to look to Charlottesville Community Engagement for the latest on land use planning, even if it does sometimes take me a bit to get to the detailed summaries many of you want to see. There’s a balance that goes into this work, and even though this is episode #443 I’m still seeking to improve and innovate. 

If you’d like to support my quest for an equilibrium of sorts, please consider a paid subscription through Substack. That’s the best way to fund my work, because Ting will match your initial payment. I also want to remind people that I have several dozen complimentary paid subscriptions to anyone under the age of 25. Why bother doing all of this planning if younger generations aren’t at the table? 

And if you sign up for Ting through this link in this newsletter, you’ll get a free standard install, your 2nd month free, and a $75 Downtown Mall gift card! Enter the promo code COMMUNITY to get those benefits. Thank you, Ting! 

Music in the podcast is put together by either the Fundamental Grang or the D.C. Sensation Wraki. Only one of those has music available via Bandcamp, and you’ll just have to click through to see which one

Please follow Town Crier Productions on Twitter for schedule updates. And now, on to write the next one.