Sep 15, 2021 • 15M

September 15, 2021: Smith pool to remain closed through late fall; input sought on natural hazard mitigation plan

Weaving together multiple aspects of greater Charlottesville since July 2019

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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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In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water.  Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you! 

In today’s show: 

  • Several odds and ends from the Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting 

  • The Virginia Film Festival will return to movie screens in Charlottesville this October

  • Your input is requested on thoughts and concerns about future natural disasters

We begin today again with today’s COVID numbers. Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 4,066 cases today. The number of COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Virginia is now at 12,170. Since September 1, there have been 309 reported, with 52 reported today. That does not mean all of those fatalities happened within a 24-hour period, as that number is tallied as death certificates are reported to the VDH. 

When natural disasters strike, governments across the region often cooperate with each other to lend a hand in the emergency response and recovery efforts. Before they strike, there is a federally-mandated document intended to provide direction on how to prepare to lessen their impacts.

“The purpose of the Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan is to prepare for natural disasters before they occur, thus reducing loss of life, property damage, and disruption of commerce,” reads the current plan, which was put together by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The last plan was adopted in 2018 and it is time to put together the next one as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. The TJPDC wants your input in the form of a survey which is now open. Participants are asked if they’ve ever experienced a natural disaster and if so, what the specific impact was. You’ll also be asked what hazards you are concerned about, ranging from dam failure to winter weather. (take the survey

This chart depicts the Hazard Identification and Analysis / Vulnerability Assessment on which the current hazard mitigation plan has been built (read the current plan)

The Virginia Film Festival will return to in-person events this October when the long-running series returns for action. Last year the event pivoted to drive-in and virtual screenings, but will return to the Violet Crown, the Culbreth Theatre, and the Paramount Theater. 

“The Festival will also continue its very popular Drive-In Movies series at the beautiful Morven Farm in Eastern Albemarle County.” said festival director Jody Kielbasa in a release. “As always, the Festival will work to create the safest environment possible for its audiences, requiring masks at all indoor venues.”

The festival will run from October 27 to October 31, and the full program will be announced on September 28. Tickets will go on sale on September 30. A major highlight this year will be the screening of an episode of Dopesick, an upcoming series on Hulu about the nation’s opioid epidemic. The series is based on the work of former Roanoke Times journalist Beth Macy and the event at the Paramount will be presented in partnership with the Virginia Festival of the Book. For more information, visit

Albemarle Supervisor Ann Mallek is one of 16 elected officials from around the United States to be appointed to an advisory panel of the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan made appointments to the Local Government Advisory Committee and its Small Community Advisory Subcommittee, and Mallek will serve on the latter. 

“From tackling climate change to advancing environmental justice, we need local partners at the table to address our most pressing environmental challenges,” Regan said in an August 25 press release

Kwasi Fraser, the Mayor of Purcellville in Loudoun County, is the only other Virginian appointed to either of the two groups. 

Speaking of appointments, last week Governor Ralph Northam appointed several Charlottesville residents to the Virginia Board of Workforce Development. They are:

  • Rich Allevi, Vice President of Development, Sun Tribe Solar

  • John Bahouth Jr., Executive Vice President, Apex Clean Energy

  • Tierney T. Fairchild, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Resilience Education

  • Antonio Rice, President and Chief Executive Officer, Jobs for Virginia Graduates

The Virginia Board of Workforce Development will meet next week for a special briefing. The board’s executive is Jane Dittmar, a former member of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. 

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For the rest of the show today, highlights from last night’s City Planning Commission meeting. I want to state up front that this newsletter does not feature the meeting’s main event, which was a public hearing for 240 Stribling in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood. That conversation that focused on a novel method of funding infrastructure improvements to support additional vehicular and human-powered traffic. I’m going to focus on that in an upcoming newsletter, but I want to get one concept on your mind. 

Let’s get some legal guidance from City Attorney Lisa Robertson about that mythical beast known as a “proffer.” 

For large developments that require a rezoning or a special use permit, you may also see the applicant offer cash or specific improvements as a required condition if their desired land use change is accepted. 

“Proffers are really to deal with impacts generated by the development itself and to provide cash for infrastructure that’s more directly sort of connected to or necessitated by the development,” Robertson said during the Commission’s pre-meeting. “In this situation as evidenced by the fact that the Stribling Avenue need for sidewalks has already been documented for a number of years in the city’s master plans and [Capital Improvement Program].”

Southern Development is the applicant behind 240 Stribling had wanted to make its willingness to fund some of the infrastructure improvements in a proffer, but Robertson asked to pursue the matter in a different way because proffers are not two-way agreements. What happened with that? We’ll come back to that tomorrow. 

Highlights from the meeting

At the top of the actual meeting, the Commission elected Lyle Solla-Yates to serve as the body’s Chair. Solla-Yates was appointed to the seven-person body in March 2018 and succeeds Hosea Mitchell, who will remain on the commission. 

“Thank you very much Chair Mitchell for your two years of excellent service and for this honor and attempting to follow you,” Solla-Yates said. “Remarkable opportunity.”

Next, Commissioners gave various reports on the various committees they are on. This is a good way to find out quickly a lot of things that are going on. Commissioner Mitchell said he and Commissioner Jody Lahendro with city Parks and Recreation officials reviewing a major problem in McIntire Park.

“The drainage in McIntire Park is also creating a violation of the Department of Environmental Quality, their standards,” Mitchell said. “That is going to be a top priority and that’s going to be about $350,000 that we will be asking Council to approve but this is a must-do. We are in violation if we don’t fix that.” 

Mitchell said repairs to bring the outdoor Onesty Pool back next summer will cost about $400,000. There’s a lot of erosion and standing water at Oakwood Cemetery that will cost about $52,000.

“And the last must-do thing is a comprehensive master plan,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t had anything like that in a number of years and our future is going to be relentless for Parks and Rec if we don’t do that and that’s going to be about $150,000.”

Mitchell said the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center is not expected to open now until late fall. Smith has been plagued with air quality problems since it opened in 2010. The facility shut down for several weeks in 2015 to install new exhaust pipes and has been closed since the spring of 2020 for at least $2.25 million in repairs. At least, that’s what Council approved as a capital improvement program budget line item in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. 

In any case, Mitchell also announced that Todd Brown will be leaving his position as director of the city parks and recreation department to take a position in Fredericksburg. 

Bill Palmer, the University of Virginia’s liaison on the Charlottesville Planning Commission, reminded the Commission that UVA is working on an update of its Grounds Framework Plan. Palmer did not have much specific information but the closed-door Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee got a briefing at their meeting on July 23. 

“The Plan will be underway from Summer 2021 to Fall 2022 and includes a robust engagement process with the University and regional community,” reads a presentation made to LUEPC. 

The Grounds Framework Plan is intended to guide planning and development over the next 20 years with an emphasis on sustainability, resiliency, and equity. Some guidance in the presentation is to “capitalize on the potential of existing and new facilities” and “holistically consider Grounds as an integrated campus of mixed-use buildings and green spaces.”

The firm Urban Strategies has been hired to conduct the work, which will build on smaller plans developed in the past several years ranging from the 2015 Brandon Avenue Master Plan to the 2019 Emmet Ivy Task Force report. 

UVa is also undertaking an affordable housing initiative to build up to 1,500 units on land that either UVA or its real estate foundation controls. 

The community also got a first look at Jim Freas, the new director of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services. 

“Today is my second day so still finding my feet and learning my way around the building,” Freas said on Tuesday. 

Freas comes to the position from a similar one in Natick, Massachusetts. Natick consists of over 16 square miles in Middlesex County and has a population of 37,000 according to the U.S. Census. 

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