Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
September 14, 2023: Mitchell takes over as chair of the Charlottesville Planning Commission
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September 14, 2023: Mitchell takes over as chair of the Charlottesville Planning Commission

Plus: Area officials urge water conservation

Somehow we are already halfway through September, prompting me to wonder if time has sped up somehow. However, there is no way to really study such perceptions in a scientific way, and scientific research into temporal practice is not the major focus of Charlottesville Community Engagement. I’m Sean Tubbs, glad to be at September 14, 2023  no matter how or when I got here. 

On today’s program: 

  • A new chair of the Charlottesville Planning Commission takes over before the big public hearing on the Development Code

  • The city hires a firm to conduct a master plan for Parks and Recreation and there’s information about how many newly planted trees actually took root 

  • Utility officials urge water conservation amid dry conditions 

  • UVA submits a new plan to Albemarle County for the new energy plant at Fontaine Research

At least 97 percent of the newsletter is free, but there is the occasional piece that goes first to paid subscribers. Sign up for the info and share it with your colleagues and family!

First shout-out: Charlottesville Community Bikes 

In today’s first 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. Want to learn more or support their work? Visit charlottesvillecommunitybikes.org to learn more. And stay up to date by following them on Facebook

Mitchell and Schwarz appointed to be chair and vice chair of Charlottesville Planning Commission

There is new leadership at the Charlottesville Planning Commission as two members with many years of experience as appointed officials have been selected to run the meetings. Commissioner Karim Habbab read the report from the nominating committee at the group’s meeting on September 12. 

“The chair is Commissioner [Hosea] Mitchell and the vice chair Commissioner [Carl] Schwarz,” Habbab said. 

Mitchell thanked outgoing chair Lyle Solla-Yates for his work in implementing the Cville Plans Together initiative. 

“Two of the most important things that you’ve gotten done is that you got Council to vote yes on the Comprehensive Plan that we developed,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell used a football metaphor in thanking Solla-Yates to getting the Development Code into the red zone, referring to the last fifth of a football field where one team can score six points by running or throwing the ball across the goal line. 

“Now the red zone if you watched football this weekend, you know that the red zone is the most difficult part of the field to navigate,” Mitchell said. “You often settle for a field goal or maybe there’s a turnover through interceptions or a turnover through a fumble or maybe a turnover after four downs. We do not want to accept a field goal and we absolutely cannot tolerate a turnover.” 

Mitchell was recently appointed to a new four-year term. He also served on the Planning Commission for one term in the late 2000’s before joining the Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. 

Schwarz served two terms on the Board of Architectural Review before being appointed to the Planning Commission in August 2022

Committee reports: LUEPC met in July, tree mortality, parks plan

Commissioners also gave reports from various committees.

Mitchell said he was not present at the most recent meeting of the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee, but he said he sent copies of the agenda and the presentations to the other members of the Planning Commission.

The group last met on July 21, 2023 and these are those presentations:

Familiar face returning to master plan Charlottesville Parks?

Mitchell is also a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and he reported that the city has awarded a contract to a firm to produce a master plan for the parks system. 

“And it’s been awarded to the organization that did the work for the county as well,” Mitchell said.

That company is Pros Consulting of Brownsburg, Indiana, according to the Notice of Award sent out on August 17, 2023. They completed a needs assessment for Albemarle County in 2018. (download that document)

Pros Consulting has a tie to Charlottesville in that the company’s principal was the city’s Parks and Recreation Director in the mid 2000’s. Mike Svetz appeared before the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in early 2018 to talk about the needs assessment in that locality according to an uncategorized story on Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tree planting mortality rate lower than expected

albem“An inventory of trees planted this spring was completed and we found about 12 percent mortality rate which is actually great given our expected 20 to 25 percent due to extreme weather conditions this year,” Habbab said. 

Habbab also noted that Parks and Recreation seeks input on where to plan 160 trees this November. Learn more about that in a previous story I wrote

“Lastly, Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards is installing over 20 trees at Rives Park,” Habbab said. 

More from the Charlottesville Planning Commission later in the newsletter.

Albemarle and Charlottesville officials urge community to conserve water

Dry conditions throughout the area have prompted both Albemarle County and Charlottesville to issue press releases this week to urge community members to conserve water. 

“Recovery from moderate drought-like conditions may take several months, depending on the amount of rain we receive and the severity of the dry conditions in the watershed,” reads the press release that Albemarle sent out

The press release on the Charlottesville website states that between 10 and 12 million gallons are consumed each day by urban customers of the city’s utility department and the Albemarle County Service Authority. Both entities purchase treated water from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. 

“Guided by a long-term water supply plan completed by our community in 2012, RWSA has been constructing infrastructure to increase the water supply for our community in preparation for growth and extended droughts caused by uncertain climate conditions,” reads the press release that that agency sent out.

In today’s daily report on the levels of the reservoirs, the urban reservoirs are at 92.11 percent of useful capacity. 

The message suggests reporting plumbing leaks, short showers, and running only full loads in dishwashers and washing machines. 

The RWSA Board of Directors next meet on September 26. 

The latest daily report on the capacity of the reservoirs run by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (Credit: Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority)

Second shout-out: Plant Northern Piedmont Natives

Since the beginning of this newsletter, one Patreon supporter has dedicated their shout-out to an organization that seeks to draw awareness of the importance of native species to the ecosystem. As summer comes to an end and fall begins, Now is the time to visit  Plant Northern Piedmont Natives to learn what you can about what species are specific to your region! 

Plant Northern Piedmont Natives is one of ten regional campaigns for ten different ecosystems across Virginia, including Eastern Shore. Take a look at the full map below for the campaign for native species where you are in the Commonwealth. You can also download a free copy of their handbook: Piedmont Native Plants: A Guide for Landscapes and Gardens

In this guide, Piedmont native plants are defined as those that evolved before the influence of European settlements shaped and changed the landscape. Plants included in the guide were selected from the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora and occur naturally within the region. 

UVA submits plans for new energy plant at Fontaine Research Park

The University of Virginia has plans to expand the Fontaine Research Parks to include the new Paul and Dianne Manning Biotechnology Institute. The state institution has now filed plans with Albemarle County for a new energy plant that will provide utilities to the institute.

“The Fontaine Central Energy Plant will provide district heating and cooling at the Fontaine Research Park,” reads the executive summary. “It will be master planned in the project, with utility corridors route to the property, to serve any building in the future up to $1.4 million gross square feet of space.” 

The materials state that this will be the first “zero combustion” Central Energy Plant with no use of fossil fuels required. The plant will use thermal energy and geothermal storage as part of a suite of strategies. 

There will be room at the site for a future data center that is not part of this application. 

More on this item in future editions of the newsletter. 

Reading material for this edition: 

Ending material for this 567th edition: 

There’s a lot in this information but I had hoped for more. This week’s gravity is affected by items that have not happened yet such as the Board of Visitors’ meeting at the University of Virginia and the epic public hearing for the Development Code. Those will be in future editions of this newsletter and podcast. 

If you didn’t see it, the last edition wasn’t a podcast at all, but a long overview of how we got to that Development Code. Take a read and spread it around if you would like. I am hopeful to keep writing the history because I continue to have questions about the process and how we got here and who will actually benefit from an increase in residential density with a corresponding decrease in the public process that has been in place. I’m a skeptic by nature and by profession. 

Thank you to paid subscribers of this newsletter for keeping it going, and yesterday you may have seen the July property transactions. I hope to get to August soon. 

About a quarter of you have opted for a paid subscription, which I very much appreciate. If you have not done so, perhaps today is the day? If you do, Ting will match your initial payment. Hooray for Ting!

Perhaps you are in the market for new high speed Internet? If you’re in Charlottesville, check out Ting! If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

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