Today could be construed as the Ides of September, but that construction could turn out to be faulty. A little research might help with this foundational first line of this edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but that work is usually reserved for the body and not this header which likely did not make a goal. I’m Sean Tubbs, and it turns out September 13 was the Ides of September.
On today’s program:
The Charlottesville Planning Commission specifies why they feel roads to be built as part of 0 East High Street doesn’t comply with Comprehensive Plan
The Charlottesville Police Department
is usingis seeking feedback on the potential use of license plate readers to assist with investigations but insists the use is limited and data is notwould not be retained
Charlottesville is one of several Fifth District localities using federal funds to modernize infrastructure
Albemarle and Charlottesville are launching an effort to plan for climate adaptation together
The Virginia Department of Education has released the lasted school quality profiles
The Charlottesville Planning Commission takes action on a special use permit at 1709 JPA
This newsletter and podcast seeks to educate people about what’s happening in local government. There are a lot of details, and the most important one right now is your email address on the list so you can get them, too!
First shout-out: eBike Demo Day
Are you interested in a climate-friendly, family-friendly way to replace short car rides? Have you heard about eBikes? Wondering what kind might be right for you? Join Livable Cville on Sunday, October 8 from 2–4pm at Tonsler Park in Charlottesville for a fun afternoon with lots of eBikes owners you can talk to and several types of eBikes you can take for short test rides. Everyone is invited to their eBike Demo Day. Registration is recommended. To learn more, please visit livablecville.org.
Charlottesville PC reaffirms that 0 East High Street’s aren’t compliant with comp plan
The appointed body that advises Charlottesville City Council on planning matters has adopted a resolution stating more clearly why they do not feel that two public roads proposed as part of a riverfront development are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
If this sounds familiar, the Planning Commission held a public hearing last month to determine whether the “general character and approximate location” of proposed trails and roadways were consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
Seven Development has filed several site plans for a new complex that would see 245 apartments units constructed above the floodplain of the Rivanna River. Staff had made multiple denials before the Planning Commission discussed the matter on August 8.
This time around, they had to take a final step.
“Virginia Code requires that the Commission communicate its findings to the City Council indicating its approval or disapproval with written reasons for its decision,” said Carrie Rainey, the city’s urban planner.
That had not happened on August 8 and a resolution laid out the will of all but one of the Commissioners.
The Planning Commission got legal advice on the matter in a closed session that began their day. City Councilor Michael Payne was not present for the closed meeting and had a question.
“What would be the process in terms of after the Planning Commission takes a vote, what happens after that?” Payne asked.
City attorney Jacob Stroman there have been two appeals from the developer.
“Given the timing constraints in the Code of Virginia, we would recommend that Council take up both of those appeals at its first meeting in October,” Stroman said
Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg was not present on August 8. He said he did find that one of two roads would be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan because it connected to the public trails that would also be provided. He voted against the reaffirmation
Another loose thread is an appraisal of the property commissioned by the City of Charlottesville in February. The work is complete but has not been shared with the public.
Charlottesville police considering use of license plate recognition system
This story was clarified on September 18, 2023
The Charlottesville Police Department has set up an email address to take questions from community members who want to know more about a new tool
that officers are using that the department is considering using.
“With the association between our stolen vehicles, shots fired calls, and homicides, we have identified the FLOCK License Plate Recognition (LPR) system as a proven tool to assist in deterring and solving crime,” reads a press release sent out by the Police Department this week.
“This is an extremely useful tool in helping us locate missing, endangered, and wanted individuals. In the event that stolen or flagged vehicles (Amber Alert, Wanted Vehicles, etc.) enter the City of Charlottesville, CPD will receive real-time alerts, notifying our officers, allowing us to deter and mitigate crime within our city. The sole purpose of FLOCK is to keep our Charlottesville community safe.”
The website for Flock Safety states their systems can help eliminate crime.
According to the release, the department will be notified if specific vehicles are picked up by one of the surveillance devices. These can be stolen vehicles or ones flagged in an AMBER alert.
The release claims that data collected will not be kept for additional purposes.
“The still-frame images captured are strictly for official law enforcement purposes only,” it continues. “In most cases, captured data will go unreviewed and will be automatically deleted in 30 days.”
The executive director of the Police Civilian Oversight Board will be responsible for auditing the system to make sure it is not used for facial recognition, personal identification, and traffic enforcement. CPD will also conduct a monthly review of its use.
That email is firstname.lastname@example.org. A series of meetings will also be held to answer questions.
New dashboard tracks spending from federal infrastructure program
It is now 22 months to the day that President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which is intended to fund projects across the entire nation. Since then, localities in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District have been awarded $19.2 million for projects.
That’s according to an interactive database and map unveiled by the National League of Cities intended to track how the money is spent.
“This map represents $13 billion dollars in direct infrastructure funding awarded to local governments for investments in resilience, safety and clean energy as well as roads, bridges, public transportation and other infrastructure that are used by more than 97 million people,” reads a press release sent out on Thursday.
Charlottesville has received $7,120,650 for a project to modernize the infrastructure for the distribution of natural gas under the Safety category.
The City of Lynchburg’s public schools system received $9,875,000 for a clean school bus program from the Electric Vehicles, Buses and Ferries category. The Lynchburg Economic Development Authority got another $500,000 for brownfield projects, as did the City of Danville. These came from the environmental remediation category.
Charlotte County Public Schools got $1,185 million for their clean school bus program.
The biggest project in Virginia to be funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is $49.6 million for Washington Dulles International Airport.
This database does not include grants won by cities in collaboration with other entities, according to the press release.
Albemarle and Charlottesville launch new effort on joint climate action work
Both Albemarle County and Charlottesville have individual climate action plans that have been approved in recent years. Today the two localities have launched Resilient Together, a new initiative to indicate how the two localities work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate mitigation.
“Locally, we are experiencing longer, hotter heat waves, more destructive storms, wildfire smoke, and invasive pests,” reads a press release sent out by Albemarle County. “Scientific projections show these challenges will increase in the coming years and decades, with implications for our community’s health and well-being.”
With assistance from the University of Virginia, Resilient Together will take 18 months to develop complementary resilience and adaptation plans.
You can sign up on the website for additional information or consider attending a project kickoff at Carver Recreation Center on September 26.
Virginia Department of Education releases school quality profiles
Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Education released the latest in what they call “school quality profiles” for all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth. In my work for the Fifth District Community Engagement newsletter, I noticed media outlets to the south did reports on these. I haven’t seen any here from these reports.
Education is not one of my primary beats, but I thought sharing the links to the reports might be of use to some of you. I may come back to this later but perhaps some of you might want to tell stories of your own?
Second shout-out: Black Business Expo coming up on September 22
In today’s second Patreon-fueled shout-out, WTJU 91.1 FM wants you to know about the Charlottesville-Albemarle Black Business Expo, coming up on September 22 at the Ix Park from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This year’s Black Business Expo includes an exhibition of booths operated by Black-owned businesses, three panel discussions by leading professionals, a business pitch competition, live music entertainment, and more.
Acclaimed reggae artist Mighty Joshua headlines the event starting at 7:30 p.m. Newly formed Charlottesville super-group Afro Asia opens at 6 p.m.
Learn more about the event at blackbusinessexpo.org and there is still time to register as a vendor.
Planning Commission recommends approval of permit for larger building at 1709 JPA
If City Council approves a new Development Code later this year, the land use process will be very different. There will no longer be public hearings for special use permits for additional height and density, though they’ll remain for requests to have some commercial uses in residential neighborhoods.
There are still special use permit requests pending and this Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission held a public hearing for 1709 Jefferson Park Avenue.
“The applicant is making his proposals as part of a request to redevelop the property and replace the existing eight unit multifamily apartment building with a 27-unit multi-family apartment building,” said Matt Alfele, a planner with the City of Charlottesville.
Under the process that has been in place for decades, that use requires a special use permit for additional height and density as well as reductions in setbacks, as well as a reduction in parking requirements. That requires a public hearing.
The Planning Commission also conducted an initial review of the site in their capacity as the Entrance Corridor Review Board. They recommended to Council that the project would not have an adverse impact on the Fontaine-JPA entrance corridor but not before learning what will be removed from the site.
“Currently on the site is a four-story brick apartment building built in 1972,” said Jeff Werner, the city’s preservation planner. “The building is set back about 66 feet from JPA. Available records indicate no buildings on this site prior to the existing apartments and there is no historic designation associated with the site or the building.”
Staff recommended additional screening on the section of the building that faces Montebello Circle in part because major changes are expected in this area in the Future Land Use Map and the Comprehensive Plan.
“The JPA corridor is anticipated to go through a significant change in the coming years based off the stated intent goals of the plan,” Alfele said. “These goals include more intense mixed use development within five to eight story buildings.”
Under the city’s existing affordable policies, the developer would need to build three units or pay into the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. That’s either $122,838.75 or $124,257 depending on if you go with the city’s math or the developer’s math.
“The owner prefers the fee in lieu to satisfy the affordable housing contribution,” said Kevin Riddle of the firm Mitchell Matthews Architects. “We realize the city is currently reevaluating the fee method and amount as part of a potential new ordinance. However, the draft ordinance is still a work in progress.”
The figures under the new code would be much higher according to the draft affordable housing manual.
However, Riddle did point out there would be no density limits underneath the new zoning and stated there was a proposal to go even higher than what’s allowed under the draft zoning map.
“The proposal is now that what is called CX-5 in this map would actually go to CX-8,” Riddle said.
City Councilor Michael Payne went with CX-5 and pointed out that under the new ordinance, the project at 1709 JPA would not have gotten more than five stories without an affordability bonus. He also suggested the project should use the new method for calculating that payment.
“I understand the situation you are in but for the Planning Commission and Council’s deliberation, I continue to have a lot of heartburn about the Future Land Use Map being a justification for approval but being selective about what is in it in excluding the affordable housing height boud as well as the inclusionary zoning,” Payne said.
Ellen Contini-Morava of the JPA neighborhood urged the Planning Commission to hold the building at five stories, arguing that the applicant was not fully complying with the intention of the Comprehensive Plan.
“This application is another example of how developers are scrambling to exploit the current special use permit process to add height and density to their projects that go beyond what current zoning would allow by-right without having to include any affordable units which they would have to do if the proposal for inclusionary zoning are implemented,” Contini-Morava said.
Mo Van de Sompel, a University of Virginia graduate student in economics, urged the Commission to recommend approval.
“My rent currently takes more than half of my monthly income,” he said. “Charlottesville’s tenants are being choked by a lack of adequate supply and at the end of the day, that’s all it is. Supply and demand.”
After the public hearing, different Commissioners weighed in. Commissioner Phil d’Oronzio said he was not concerned about a couple additional stories of height given the project’s location.
“I do tend to agree that density period is going to pull on the affordability issues as one of the speakers said,” d’Oronzio said. “The more units you have closer to the university, the tighter that is and that also tends to relieve pressure elsewhere.”
d’Oronzio said he was satisfied with the applicant paying into the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. Commissioner Karim Habbab was not.
“Going with the cash-in-lieu option always gives me heartburn and I would always prefer if the units were built on site,” Habbab said.
Other Commissioners were fine with the payment in lieu.
“The payment-in-lieu is ideal for this part of the city but I don’t think it’s enough but I’m not sure there’s anything we can do about that,” said Hosea Mitchell.
The Commission voted unanimously to recommend the special use permit and added a condition for a continuous sidewalk on Jefferson Park Avenue. They also recommended approval of a critical slopes waiver.
There is currently one vacancy on the Planning Commission and Council could make an appointment on Monday.
Youngkin signs Virginia budget offering tax reductions, major new spending, Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury, September 14, 2023
Block in downtown Charlottesville cleared for Jackson statue to be probed for historical artifacts, Hawes Spencer, Charlottesville Daily Progress (paywall), September 14, 2023
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