Sep 13 • 19M

September 13, 2022: Albemarle Supervisors to seek legislation to allow virtual advisory board meetings; UVA "Great and Good" plan turns three

Plus: 83-hour detour begins Sunday for U.S. 250 / 151 roundabout construction

 
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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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Break a mirror today. Step on a crack! Shout “MacBeth” behind the stage in a theater. Or perhaps you have some other superstition you’d like to defy on this September 13, an entire day in which you are encouraged to push past beliefs which have no basis in fact. That may or may not be relevant to the general purpose of Charlottesville Community Engagement, a newsletter and podcast that seeks to let you know a few things that may be going on. 

On today’s program:

  • There’s a big milestone coming up for construction of a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 151

  • The latest figures on inflation are out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • The University of Virginia marks three years since passage of a strategic plan

  • Albemarle County Supervisors want to continue a push to allow advisory bodies to meet virtually 

Sign up for free to get the info. Pay for a subscription and you’ll help keep my eyes and ears focused.

First shout-out: Save the date for Rivanna Conservation Alliance’s Community Watershed clean-up

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out: Mark your calendar for the Rivanna Conservation Alliance’s third annual Rivanna River Round-Up community watershed cleanup coming up on Saturday, September 24. The RCA organized the first round-up in September 2020 as a safe way for the community to give back to the river during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two years, a total of 245 volunteers have cleaned up 67 miles of streams, nearby trails and the Rivanna River, removing 192 tires and 213 large bags of trash from the waterways. Registration is now open and you can sign up for the Rivanna Conservation Alliance newsletter at rivannariver.org. 

83-hour traffic pattern shift next week for U.S. 250 / 151 roundabout

The conversion of a traffic signal at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Virginia Route 151 in Albemarle County is nearing completion, but there will be a detour beginning this upcoming Sunday scheduled for three and a half days. That will begin at 7 p.m. on September 18. 

“The detour, which will be in place until 6 a.m. September 22, is necessary to reconstruct the roundabout approach on Route 151 to meet the elevation of the new roundabout,” reads a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation. 

For details of how the movements will work in the short-term, do check out the press release or take a look at the image below. 

Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation 

The project is one of several applications Albemarle County submitted for funding in the second round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process. Curtis Contracting was paid $28.5 million to construct all of the projects, which included a roundabout at Virginia Route 20 and Profitt Road as well as a limited traffic signal at the U.S. 29 / I-64 interchange. 

The other two projects are a new road connection between Berkmar Drive Extended and Rio Mills Road and an additional lane at the ramp to Fontaine Avenue from northbound U.S. 29 

The roundabout at 151 and U.S. 250 is expected to be completed by February 2023, as is the conversion of the Interstate 64 / U.S. 250 interchange into a diverging diamond. 

Consumer Price Index increases by 0.1 percent

The latest figures on the cost of goods and services across the United States were released promptly at 8:30 a.m. this morning. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumer increased 0.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“Increases in the shelter, food, and medical care indexes were the largest of many contributors to the broad-based monthly all items increase,” reads a press release from this morning. “These increases were mostly offset by a 10.6-percent decline in the gasoline index.” 

The overall energy index decreased 5 percent, though the cost of electricity and natural gas increase. The cost of food increased 0.8 percent.

Overall, the index has seen an 8.3 percent increase from August 2021 to August 2022. That’s lower than the 8.5 percent rise from July 2021 to July 2022. 

Table depicting the various prices in the indexes

UVA marks three years since adoption of “Good and Great” strategic plan

The publication UVA Today notes that it has been three years since the University of Virginia adopted a strategic plan that has the name Great and Good. Several goals and objectives in the plan seek to position UVA to become “a strong partner and a good neighbor to Charlottesville.” 

“Our relationship with Charlottesville and the surrounding counties is critically and mutually important, “ reads the introduction to Goal 2. “Our success as a university depends in no small part on the strength of those communities, and on the strength of our relationship with them. We will reach our potential as a university only if we partner with our neighbors to ensure that the Charlottesville region is an attractive and equitable place to live.”

Some of the language in the Great and Good Strategic Plan for UVA (download the plan

UVA’s webpage for the strategic plan has been updated with a timeline marking progress toward the goals. This notes that a UVA-Community Working Group was appointed in October 2018, a minimum wage of $15 an hour was announced in March 2019, and the Equity Center was created in October 2019. The latter announced this summer a program called Starr Hill Pathways to help get local middle school students on track to attend UVA. 

Also in October 2019, the Community Working Group became the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships and eventually led to a commitment from UVA to partner with a developer to build up to 1,500 below-market homes on land owned by UVA or its real estate foundation. In June, a request for qualifications was issued for a firm to work on two sites and 19 firms responded, according to UVA Foundation President Tim Rose.  

In November 2019, Albemarle County and Charlottesville both agreed to suspend the Planning and Coordination Council for one year, a suspension that has become permanent. The public body had been a forum for top officials to discuss matters publicly, and has transformed into a closed-door group known as the Land Use, Environmental Planning Committee. That group is not subject to Virginia’s open meeting rules and last met in June.

The President’s Council also established three working groups to make recommendations on the local economy, early childhood education, and how to increase ways for local residents to work for or get an education at the University of Virginia. A fourth working group on community health was established in May 2021. 

A Center for Community Partnerships was opened on West Main Street in December 2020 as a physical home for the Equity Center. The UVA School of Law opened a Community Solutions Clinic in June 2021. A partnership called WellAWARE began this past January to improve health care outcomes in neighborhoods with high rates of disease. 

Meanwhile, UVA continues to purchase more land, particularly along Ivy Road where various components of a new section called the Emmet-Ivy Corridor are now under construction. In April, the Foundation purchased 1926 Ivy Road for $750,000, which was 250 percent over the 2022 assessment. In December, an LLC associated with the UVA Foundation purchased the Ivy Square Shopping Center for $20 million. 

Food of All Nations and the rest of the Ivy Square Shopping Center are now all owned by a subsidiary of the UVA Foundation

The UVA Board of Visitors meets this week beginning with a Wednesday meeting of the Finance Subcommittee on Tuition. The full Board meets Thursday and Friday. On the agenda of the Buildings and Grounds Committee is a vote on the demolition of University Gardens, an apartment complex on Emmet Street across from the Barracks Road Shopping Center. 

“The University Gardens apartments were built in 1948 and acquired by the University during the 1960s to provide alternative housing for married couples and graduate students,” reads the staff report for the item. “The removed location allowed married students and families to establish a neighborhood community environment within the sphere of the growing University.” 

There are currently no plans for what to do with the property. That may be informed by the 2030 Grounds Framework Plan, a key part of the next master plan for UVA. The firm Urban Strategies has been hired to do some of the work which is expected to be completed sometime this year.

Much of Central Grounds is technically within Albemarle County, where either UVA or the UVA Foundation has a substantial presence with ownership of the Fontaine Research Park, the North Fork Discovery Park, and the unprogrammed Blue Ridge Sanitorium.  (A clarifying update: The University now owns entirety of the Fontaine Research Park outright, having purchased it from the UVA Foundation over many years with the transaction becoming complete in 2018, according to the UVA Foundation website)

This year, two top UVA officials joined the Planning Commission as full members. Fred Missel is the director of development at the UVA Foundation and Luis Carrazana is the Associate University Architect. A non-voting seat reserved for UVA has not been filled since Carrazana became a full-fledged member of the body. 

Keep reading and listening to future stories to keep up with what’s up at UVA. This is what subscribers are helping pay for! If you’re new here, please know most of the content will remain free.

Second shout-out: Rivanna Trail Foundation marks 30 years

In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out: The Rivanna Trail turns 30 this year and to mark the occasion the Rivanna Trail Foundation is throwing a party the weekend of September 24. It’s also the annual Loop De Ville which is being expanded this year. 

That Saturday is National Public Lands Day, and if you want to walk the 20 mile loop of the Rivanna Trail or take place in a run of the circuit, go ahead and register now. What about a mountain bike ride? The first 25 registrants for each will get free admission to that night’s Rivanna Roots Concert at the Rivanna River Company

Visit rivannatrails.org to learn more about what’s happening on Sunday, including a 15-mile mountain bike ride with the Charlottesville Mountain Bike Club, a family-friendly walk at Riverview Park, and a five mile run. That’s followed with a celebration from noon to five at the Wool Factory. For all of the details, visit rivannatrails.org

Albemarle Supervisors to support legislation to allow advisory body meetings to go virtual 

There are 120 days until the 2023 session of the Virginia General Assembly begins, and already there are dozens of bills that have either been pre-filed or carried on from 2022. This is the time of year that localities across Virginia establish what bills they would like their legislators to do.

Last week, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors had another work session on their priorities for 2023, which will build off of what they did not get passed in 2022. 

“One of those was to provide for civil penalties in lieu of criminal punishment for violations of local ordinances,” said Steve Rosenberg, who has been Albemarle’s County Attorney for about six weeks. “Another was to require agricultural buildings used by the public to comply with minimum safety standards that apply to other buildings in the locality. And the third was to expand the authority to use photo-speed monitoring devices.” 

Of those, the only success was on agricultural buildings as a bill carried by Senator Emmet Hanger (SB400) was signed into law. However, it must also pass the 2023 General Assembly in order to take effect. Additionally, an advisory committee has been formed to implement the legislation as it moves forward. They met in August and will meet again later this month.  (read the meeting minutes)

Rosenberg said those priorities will proceed, and three more are being suggested. 

“The first one of those is to provide for county taxing authority for school division capital projects and there are certain localities in the Commonwealth that already enjoy this authority,” Rosenberg said. 

Similar legislation died in a House of Delegates subcommittee last February, as I reported at the time

A second new priority would change the eligibility for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Business-Ready Sites program.

“Currently in order to be eligible in this region a site must have 100 contiguous acres,” Rosenberg said. 

Albemarle doesn’t have such sites in its development area, but other regions have lower thresholds to participate. 

A final priority would be to amend Virginia’s open meetings rules to allow more flexibility for virtual participation in meetings of advisory bodies. Legislation adopted this year (HB444) only allows some bodies to have two virtual-only meetings per year, but not Planning Commissions, School Boards, Boards of Zoning Appeals, or elected bodies. 

“I believe Supervisor Gallaway raised the issue during [a] meeting that this was particularly burdensome on the Community Advisory Committees,” Rosenberg said. “There are some challenges there to separate out one type of a public body for particular treatment

The Crozet Community Advisory Committee meets for the first time in-person on Wednesday, and already at least one member is not attending due to health concerns.  

Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Park (D-45) is expected to revisit the issue with a bill next session, according to David Blount, legislative liaison with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

“She is looking to come back with a bill this session and again asking for the authority for all virtual meetings to be allowed for all public bodies,” Blount said. “That’s where she started out this year and I believe it passed the House.”

Blount said the second attempt will be to have non-elected bodies able to hold unlimited virtual meetings. 

Several amendments were made in the Senate that Blount said had whittled down the scope. Supervisors said they want to pursue the legislation. 

“I would love for our advisory bodies to meet by Zoom all of the time and I think we can make a good case for that with our increase in participation,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel (Jack Jouett). 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway (Rio) said he believes mentalities are changing and that more legislators may support the effort to allow more virtual meetings.

“The state needs to stop trying to dictate who can do what,” Gallaway said. “Just give everybody the authority to do it and put requirements on it. Notice. Record the session. Public access.” 

Gallaway said that virtual meetings for regional bodies such as the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission would go a long way toward helping Virginia encourage part-time legislators. 

“As somebody that has a full-time job, what I learned during the pandemic is that [Board of Supervisors] meetings I set aside time for,” Gallaway said. “But my MPO, my TJPDC, my RHP, all of these other assignments I have to do as an elected official became much easier for me to do and participate in because of the virtual piece.” 

Another possible piece of legislation is the addition of impact fees to mechanisms the county can use to help cover the cost of building infrastructure. Supervisors were in support of all of the priorities. 

They will officially adopt a legislative agenda in October and meet with legislators in November. 


Closing notes for CCE #430

Another day, another newsletter. Later on today I’ll be posting a third installment this week of the Government Glance, a glibly named newsletter that seeks to preview what’s coming up at local meetings in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. This is another offering from Town Crier Productions, the company I’ve formed to try to get as much documented as possible about the ins, outs, and other directional adjectives related to local and regional government. 

Everything is still a work in progress, but here we are at episode 430, a number that does not appear to have any significance unless you are in the United States and your birthday is April 30. Most of the stories you see here are also archived on Information Charlottesville, a website that is also still finding its forever shape. 

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Music in the podcast version comes from a musical entity known as Wraki, a musical entity you can sample more of if you purchase the album Regret Everything on Bandcamp. Pay what you want! Thank you, Wraki!