October 6, 2022: Albemarle PC discusses framework for "equitable and resilient" Comprehensive Plan; More details on Hillsdale Place development
Plus: Local Food Hub gets federal funds for Virginia Black Farmer Directory
Today is Inbox Zero Day, a time to find new ways to process the information that comes to us via email each and every day. I’m currently at 347. What are you at? I do hope each edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement that comes to you through email is welcome and is worth the time to read. I’ll also take this moment to say there’s a Substack app that’s worth checking out if you’d like to experience this experience in a different way. Either way, I’m Sean Tubbs and this is the beginning of the program.
On today’s show:
The University of Virginia complies with federal law by releasing its annual report on crime statistics
Riverbend Development answers questions about a new site plan for redevelopment of the former K-Mart
The Local Food Hub gets a federal grant for innovative new programs
And the Albemarle Planning Commission discusses what should be in the draft Framework for an Equitable and Resilient Community to guide development of a new Comprehensive Plan
Help support the program by signing up for a free subscription. One in four of you will help cover the cost, a fact I’ll keep mentioning because words don’t grow on trees
First shout-out: Teaching Hard History: A Discussion w/ Hashim Davis
In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society continues its speaker series with a discussion on Teaching Hard History with Hashim Davis. Mr. Davis is a native of Brooklyn, New York who teaches high school history at Albemarle High School.
Davis has received numerous fellowships and other honors for his efforts to fight antisemitism and racism by bringing stories of Holocaust victims and survivors into the classroom. His efforts have been noted by Virginia Public Media, NBC29, the Daily Progress, CBS19, and the News & Advance. Davis will be speaking with the ACHS about the current challenges and opportunities of teaching hard histories. The program will be in person at the Northside Library on October 13 at 6:30 p.m. or catch the event on Facebook Live.
UVA Public Safety report published
The University of Virginia has published an annual report that takes a look at crime on Central Grounds as well as its satellite locations across the Commonwealth. The 2022 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report covers the activities and statistics compiled by the UVA Department of Safety and Security, which includes the UVA Police Department with its 170 employees.
“UPD participates in a mutual aid agreement with other local departments and a cooperative patrol agreement with the City of Charlottesville, which gives University officers jurisdiction in much of the city area surrounding the University,” reads a description on page 11 of the report. (review the report)
“The mutual aid agreements do not apply to the investigation of most criminal cases, as UPD provides the full range of police services,” the report continues.
UVA is compelled to provide the report due to the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act or Clery Act. This was signed into law in 1990 after the 1986 murder of a student raped and murdered in her residence hall at Lehigh University.
In Charlottesville in 2021, there were 15 reported incidents of rapes with 11 of those on campus and four off campus. There were 42 stalking incidents reported, 19 motor vehicle thefts, 12 burglaries and 13 aggravated assaults. There were four hate crimes.
For the full details, take a look at the report. The disclosures begin on page 82. Thanks to the Cavalier Daily’s Notes from Newcomb for notifying me of this report. Take a look at the story from Emily Horn and Allison Metcalf.
Site plan meeting held for former K-Mart site
The city of Charlottesville is reviewing a private company’s latest plans for redevelopment of the K-Mart Plaza, though few new details emerged at a site plan conference last month.
“This is a site that we previously have taken a site plan through the city for a slightly different design,” said Ashley Davies, vice president of Riverbend Development.
Riverbend Development also developed the Whole Foods nearby.
In addition to the K-Mart, the site used to have a Gold’s Gym franchise. The K-Mart closed in the summer of 2017, according to the Daily Progress. A movie theater called the Terrace Triple Theatre used to stand on what is now Hillsdale Drive Extended.
The site consists of ten acres and takes up a big chunk of the northeast quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road. In addition to the redevelopment of the existing building, the site plan shows two proposed new buildings along U.S. 29 with space for two additional buildings lining the entrance to Hydraulic Road in a second phase.
“The plan maintains the same basic ingress and egress to the site,” Davies said. “There’s kind of three components. Component one is making some changes to the existing building that’s there so we can accommodate three new tenants on the site.”
Component two includes the buildings along U.S. 29. One would be for a bank and the other in the corner would be a ‘fast casual restaurant” with a drive-through window. Component three would be the two new buildings in phase two.
A separate application for a special use permit for that drive-through window is also making its way through the Department of Neighborhood Development Services. The Planning Commission will see that application at its meeting in November.
The site plan shows left-hand turns movements from Hydraulic Road onto southbound U.S. 29, but that turn movement is expected to be eliminated as part of a funded Smart Scale that is in the design review process. That project also included a pedestrian bridge across U.S. 29 at Zan Road.
City Councilor Michael Payne said he was disappointed that no housing is proposed as part of the development. Alan Taylor of Riverbend said the company does not own the property but only has a long-term ground lease.
“It just makes it really, really difficult to do anything on the site aside from ground leases because if you’re building buildings and all of that stuff, the economics just don’t support making those kinds of decisions,” Taylor said. “It’s unfortunate and I agree because that’s probably what it wants to be but just based on the structure it really makes it difficult for us to achieve that end goal.”
Payne said the City Council would be willing to work with the developer to work towards that goal.
Nearby, Great Eastern Management Company has submitted plans to redevelop the former Giant store in Seminole Square Shopping Center with about 350 units of housing. That site plan conference was held in March, as I reported at the time.
Names of potential tenants were not disclosed at the site plan meeting, but Taylor ruled out one retailer.
“It might have maybe been a Target in the past but it is no longer a Target and we are not allowed to talk about who the tenants are because they don’t want to have out there until things start but Target, if they were involved, are no longer involved,” Taylor said.
The next public step for the project will be a public hearing for the special use permit. Riverbend Development is currently responding to a comment letter sent out by staff late last month.
Local Food Hub awarded federal funds for new app, Virginia Black Farmer directory
An organization that seeks to promote the local food economy across Virginia has been awarded $67,810 for three of its programs. The funding for the Local Food Hub comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
“The Virginia Black Farmer Directory will build new bridges to market access for underserved farms,” reads the public notice of the award. “The Grower/Buyer Expo will help farmers and purchasers emerge from the pandemic by connecting face-to-face once again.”
The Virginia Black Farmer Directory was created by Cultivate Charlottesville and Michael Carter Jr. of Africulture and Carter Farms. The Local Food Hub will maintain the directory over time.
The Local Food Hub is also creating an app to help farmers keep records to help comply with food safety regulations.
In all, the VIrginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received $614,225.38 for projects. Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia will share $75,000 for research into a spray to help fight blight cankers.
Virginia Tech will also get nearly $75,000 for research into pumpkins.
“Pumpkins are an important crop in the Commonwealth of Virginia with a value of $17.6 million produced on 5,500 acres in 2020,” reads that award announcement.
For the full list of grants made across the nation, check out the USDA announcement. Know anyone interested in the future of farming? It’s an interesting list filled with useful information.
Second shout-out: Charlottesville Community Bikes
In this second subscriber supported shout-out, Charlottesville Community Bikes believes that bicycles can be a means to social change, addressing issues of equity, access, and inclusion. They provide free bikes to adults who need one, and have a special program that provides free bikes to children. Their mobile bike repair clinics continue October 20 with a stop from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. pm at South 1st St with Region 10. Want to learn more or support their work? Charlottesville Community Bikes currently is seeking matching funds for a grant from the Outride Fund. Visit charlottesvillecommunitybikes.org to learn more.
Albemarle County Planning Commission discusses Comprehensive Plan
Virginia law assigns a locality’s Planning Commission the primary responsibility for creating and maintaining a Comprehensive Plan, but many communities hire consultants to help with the heavy lifting.
Charlottesville hired Rhodeside & Harwell to complete the city’s plan after the Planning Commission got bogged down after two years. Nelson County has hired the Berkley Group to review their Comprehensive Plan.
Albemarle’s current Comprehensive Plan update is being managed by staff with assistance from the firm EPR. The Planning Commission got a check-in at their meeting on September 27, 2022 that served as their most extensive conversation on the plan review in a couple of months. They had previously been briefed in late July on several options to proceed with alterations to the growth management plan. (See also: Albemarle Planning Commission reviews seven options for growth management)
“Throughout the AC44 process, we’re using two main lenses to guide our work which are equity and climate action,” said Tori Kanellopoulos, an Albemarle County planner.
The first topic was a review of something called the Framework for an Equitable and Resilient Community. This was put together after a series of public comment periods and roundtables over the summer.
“Additionally the framework was developed based on the input from community members, the AC44 working group, and the Planning Commission, as well as a review of goals in the current Comprehensive Plan and research of best practices,” Kanellopoulos said.
The Board of Supervisors will be presented with the draft framework at a work session on October 19.
Another study underway is an analysis of how much available land remains for development in the current growth area boundaries.
“And as a reminder, the purpose of the build-out is to understand the maximum theoretical build-out potential based on land use designations of our current development areas and consider if the maximum potential build-out is sufficient to accommodate projected growth and demand in the next twenty years,” Kanellopoulos said.
Also feeding into the framework is input received at a series of community roundtables held last month. Kanellopoulos summarized some of what was heard on the topic of housing.
“There’s a need for housing that is affordable to people employed in Albemarle County who also want to live here,” Kanellopoulos said. “Community members should be able to age in place and have housing accessible to all abilities. Housing needs the infrastructure to support it. And there’s a concern that many community members who want to live in Albemarle County and continue to move away because they are unable to stay or return to the county.”
Vlad Gavrilovic with the firm EPR went next to explain the draft framework, and how it will help to get the concept of equity into the next Comprehensive Plan.
“Really this framework is a bridge,” Gavrilovic said. “It bridges Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Comprehensive Plan document. Phase 1 is about growth management and incorporating the direction from the Board that we received and Phase 2 is about turning that input from the community into a policy direction for all the different chapters of the plan.”
There are four themes in the framework. Their titles are “A Green and Resilient Community” and “A Welcoming and Equitable Community” and a “Thriving and Prosperous Community.” Another is “A Connected and Accessible Community.”
“What we heard is that there’s a real desire to have better connections throughout the community, especially biking, walking, and transit,” Gavrilovic said. “It relates to this theme that we heard also of being able to age in place, having transportation options for all ages and abilities.”
The Albemarle Planning Commissioners were asked whether they thought this framework was worth pursuing, what’s missing, and whether they thought it was ready to forward to the Board of Supervisors.
Our first comment comes from Luis Carrazana, the at-large member of the Planning Commission. He said it was not too early in a high-level discussion to talk about metrics.
“I don’t see where we’ve looked at strategies to measure success or to measure how we’re doing with some of these goals,” Carrazana said. “So how do we measure looking back eight years ago, what are we doing well or maybe we just do more of it, right, if we’re doing it well, but we need to improve, and what are we not doing well? And perhaps what we need is a different strategy.”
For instance, Carrazana pointed out a statistic in the build-out analysis that projects in development areas are only being filled in at 58 percent of their potential capacity.
“So that’s an important measure,” Carrazana said. “There’s a lot of these areas where we can do similar type measures that will help us identify our strategies in the future. Maybe we shouldn’t just keep doing the same things over and over again.”
Carrazana said the document also could use examples of what has worked, such as successful mixed-use communities. He also said the document should point out potential conflicts but does not necessarily have to reconcile them.
“There are some things we’re not doing very well and housing is one and transit is another,” Carrazana said.
Commissioner Julian Bivins said he is concerned that the plan could end up becoming useless as a force to guide the future if it attempts to please all stakeholders.
“The intimate conflict of us holding on to this rural community versus this hopefully dynamic development area, how we move through that successfully… will be a huge sort of magic trick in my mind, simply because when I’ve heard discussions around similarly-typed things, we always come to a negotiated outcome in which no one wins,” Bivins said.
Commissioner Lonnie Murray introduced a concept he felt was missing from the framework.
“One of the things I would encourage is that I think we need to look at the concept of ecological density and encouraging ecological density, particularly in our growth areas, that do more with less in terms of ecological services,” Murray said.
Murray pointed to the example of the Dell stormwater pond on Emmet Street at the University of Virginia as an example of a place that is able to provide habitat to species. For those unfamiliar, the Dell is a daylighted stream.
“Prior to this daylighting, it was really a wasted field of grass,” Murray said. “They took the stream, brought it to the surface, they planted it with 100 percent native plants, they put in a nice pond, and it’s an attractive feature for the community who likes to go to the pond and walk around it.”
The Dell is also adjacent to the new University of Virginia Contemplative Commons Center, which is currently under construction on the site of a former parking lot.
Bivins took issue with the following sentence under the theme Green and Resilient Community.
“As part of the commitment to resilience, the County has encouraged sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices, and these have in turn been supported through a robust local food system making abundant healthy food choices available locally,” reads the sentence.
Bivins said he did not think that was accurate because very little food is produced in Albemarle but instead has lots of boutique farms.
“As exciting and as good language as that is, it is not going to happen,” Bivins said. “I went and looked at the 2017 census put out by the U.S. Department of Census of Agriculture is Albemarle County is one percent of the Commonwealth’s agriculture.”
The next Census of Agriculture will take place this winter with data being released in the summer of 2024.
Commissioner Karen Firehock also thought the language needed a reality check.
“The more I read of this entire document, the more I thought this is a lovely fantasy place that I would love to visit one day but I just, it was almost like too much,” Firehock said. “And I’d rather us sound a little more humble, like we aspire to utilize local food.”
Firehock also had this overarching observation.
“The county is creating a city around a city with our urban ring and we’re struggling because it was a suburban development pattern and now we’re trying to make it an urban one,” Firehock said. “We lack the powers our neighbor has right here because we are not a city.”
Bivins said he would like to see more economic activity in some sections of the rural area.
“I think there is some role for crossroads communities,” Bivins said. “I think there is some role for reinvigorating Esmont. I think there is some roles in reinvigorating the path that used to go from Scottsville to Staunton.”
Bivins referred to a 19th century turnpike that used to connect those two communities. There is a paper written in 1975 that’s worth reviewing for anyone interested in the concept and the history.
If you are in this story and I have quoted you, I please let me know if I took you out of context. I strive to capture people’s ideas accurately, and am always willing to be corrected and clarified. I also make a point of trying to point people to the entire recording so they can listen to the conversation. For instance, this one is on YouTube. There are currently 19 views. Can we get that to 30 by the end of the day?
Housekeeping notes for episode #440
Another episode down, how many more to go? That number depends on whether I can continue to rely on one quarter of the audience for paid subscriptions through Substack or through Patreon or through other means of revenue. There’s a market for this newsletter, and I sincerely appreciate the people who have paid.
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Musical interstitials in the podcast version come from Wraki. The album Regret Everything is available on BandCamp and you can pay what you want. I recommend and tell him that Barry Fritztravalis is still missing.
Finally today, if you want more writing about local government, do check out the companion newsletter Fifth District Community Engagement. No matter who is the representative to Congress’s lower House, there are 24 localities that make up the new district, and this newsletter seeks to better get to know what’s up at meetings of local meeting elected.