September 23, 2021: Habitat provides Southwood details to Albemarle Supervisors

  
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On today’s show: 

  • The Albemarle Board of Supervisors gets an update on Habitat’s redevelopment of Southwood

  • The Blue Ridge Health District holds a town hall on the continuing pandemic

  • Several new historic markers are on the docket today at the Virginia Department of HIstoric Resources


All of Virginia’s 132 school divisions are now open in person, according to a press release from Governor Ralph Northam. First Lady Pamela Northam just concluded a statewide tour of schools and the release includes a link to COVID-19 safety resources for parents and students. Most schools systems continue to list the number of COVID cases, including Amherst County, which was closed for part of September due to a high positivity rate.

Today the Virginia Department of Health reports another 3,767 new cases and 54 new fatalities. The percent positivity has decreased to 9.7 percent. There are another 128 new cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District and an additional COVID death. 

Last night, the Blue Ridge Health District held a town hall to talk about continuing resources in the days of Delta. 

“As we all know, it’s much more transmissible than previous variants than what we’ve experienced with COVID,” said Ryan MacKay, director of policy and planning for the district. “It’s also sort of coincided with the expiration of a lot of the mandates that had been in place for masks, distancing, limiting numbers at social gatherings, so we’ve had this combination.”

MacKay said health officials meet with schools each week to minimize risk as much as possible. That involves case investigations to understand how further transmissions may have occurred. MacKay said this is also the time of year when there are other ailments that are very similar to COVID. 

“As we enter flu-season and we enter into what traditionally is more disease-spreading in congregate settings such as in schools, it’s going to make that a little bit more difficult,” MacKay said. “So the reason we’re asking schools and pediatricians to really work with families to really identify what is causing the illness. It’s critical because that minimizes the risk of spread and makes sure we can keep children where they need to be which is in classrooms and schools.” 

That means that children with any symptoms should stay home until COVID is ruled out. If the diagnosis is positive, 14 days of quarantine with no school activity or interaction with anyone. 

The Blue Ridge Health District is currently offering third-dose boosters to those who qualify.

“Third doses for people who are immunocompromised began on August 13,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, director of the Blue Ridge Health District. “You don’t have to bring in any proof. You can self-declare and the best person to speak with is your primary care physician who can help you make that determination that you need that third dose.” 

Around the same time as the town hall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone over the age of 65 and well as those at high-risk of severe COVID. (press release)

There is not yet a recommendation for those who got the Johnson and Johnson shots. More as we continue. 


Several proposed historic markers in the area are being considered today by the Board of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at their meeting at Montpelier.

One would recognize a 1950 court case that forced the University of Virginia to admit a Black man who had been denied a space because of his skin color. A three-judge panel heard the Swanson V. University of Virginia case in the former federal court on Market building that now houses the Central Branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. That’s where the marker will stand. 

Another is at Jackson Burley High School on Rose Hill Drive. The building opened in 1951 to unify several Black high schools across the area. 

“The 26-classroom building reflected an effort to provide “separate but equal” facilities in an era when lawsuits frequently challenged poor conditions in Black schools,” reads the proposed text. “The 1956 football team was undefeated and unscored on.”

Jackson P. Burley High School was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places last year. 

The DHR Board will also consider a marker for Dr. W. W. Yen, the first international national to attend the University of Virginia. The Chinese national graduated in 1900 and went on to a career as a diplomat. His nomination is part of a contest held as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Read the full nominations here


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This summer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has been updating various committees in Albemarle on their efforts to redevelop the Southwood Mobile Home Park as a mixed-use community. The Board of Supervisors approved the first phase of a rezoning in August 2019, and they got an update at their meeting on September 15. There are a lot of details, and if you want all of them, I recommend watching the full presentation. (watch)

But here is a summary beginning with planner Megan Nedostup with the basic info. 

“Habitat acquired the property in 2007,” Nedostup said. “1,500 residents live there in 341 mobiles homes.”

Supervisors adopted a resolution to work with Habitat on redevelopment in 2016 and an action plan in 2018 that included financial contributions from the county. 

“Involved with that approval we appropriated $675,000 to Southwood to assist with the rezoning application,” Nedostup said. “In 2019 the performance agreement was approved. $1.5 million for construction of 75 affordable units. $300,000 for 80 or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). And $1.4 million over ten years in tax rebates.”

The rezoning approved a total of 458 housing units on undeveloped land along Old Lynchburg Road. Site plans are coming in for each of the 12 blocks in this stage of the development. Piedmont Housing Alliance is building the LIHTC units and aim to exceed the total by constructing 121 apartments in three buildings. 

Nedostup said Habitat has met one milestone of the performance agreement and has received $100,000 for planning work. Another $300,000 payment for securing the LIHTC credits is being processed. 

“Milestone 1C included $200,000 when Habitat demonstrates it has secured funding for 57 affordable units and that one is in process,” Nedostup said. 

Other milestones are also in the process of being met. Outside of the performance agreement, Albemarle County also partnered with Habitat on a $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). 

In his presentation, Habitat CEO Dan Rosenweig showed a fly-through video of what the development will look like when it comes together. The idea has been to build a new community along new roadways. 

“We worked closely with Atlantic Builders to design a new product typology so that this streetscape created a really great walk from deeper into the neighborhood toward the neighborhood downtown,” Rosensweig said. “[These are] townhomes that are two stories in the front and then they take advantage of the grade to be three stories behind so what it appears are townhomes that are really human scale.”

Rosensweig reminded the Board that the Planning Commission had had concerns about whether there would be enough affordable units in the first phase. 

“There was concern among Planning Commissioners about the ultimate amount of affordable housing in phase one and whether that would be enough housing to take care of the residents who exist at Southwood now as we move phase by phase but also to create new affordable housing in the region,” Rosensweig said. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job with 335 total units in phase one with 207 of them affordable,” Rosensweig said. “Habitat is going to build 86 of them. That’s going to be almost exclusively homeownership but there are some residents who will not LIHTC and who will not want to purchase a home, so we’ve committed to making some deeply affordable rentals available interspersed in the neighborhood as well.”

Rosensweig said he estimated about 100 families will be rehoused as part of the first phase. Unfortunately, some families have had to be moved on a temporary basis due to poor environmental conditions that he said Habitat has inherited from the previous owner.

“Instead of one or two mobile homes hooked up to a septic tank there were ten, and so those leach fields are extending into the areas of construction so out of an abundance of caution and safety for residents we are in the process of moving the first 25 families from the area immediately adjacent to the construction site to the other side of the mobile home park in trailers where there are served by sewer,” Rosensweig said. 

There are about fifty more families that will need to be rehoused due to the next phase of construction. Rosensweig said a rehousing task force has been formed to identify solutions. There are other environmental issues. 

“There’s also a remediation task force that has formed to deal with some of the things that were a little bit hard to dig,” Rosensweig said. “For example, the mobile home park has been on electric for many years but originally there was an oil tank installed under every trailer. As we started to move them, we expected one in ten to leak. If they were decent material to start with, they wouldn’t leak. But all ten of the first ones that we dug up leaked, which suggests to us that all 341 are going to be removed.” 

Rosensweig said Habitat has worked with Albemarle and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to remove the damaged sections of soil where it has been encountered. 

“It’s kind of like cutting out a tumor,”  Rosensweig said. “You remove the bad stuff and also dirt around it, stockpile it, and remove it. The site is pristine now but it has cost a lot more than we expected.” 

Rosensweig said the Board of Supervisors can expect to see the next phase of the rezoning. Habitat will ask to extend the rules for the existing zoning and its code of development across the whole park. 

“More like a zoning amendment than a rezoning,” Rosensweig said. 

The goal is to submit the application by mid-October. 

Supervisor Liz Palmer has been on the Board since 2014 and wanted to make sure all of the steps of the performance agreement are tracked. 

“I’m wondering going forward on future projects how we compare what we’re getting for the amount of money that we’re putting in because these numbers are hard to keep track of overtime.”

Stacy Pethia, the county’s housing coordinator, said it is too early to be able to break down a cost-per-unit, but that will be available as the projects go through the many variables involved in a construction project.

“The cost as we’ve learned over the past year continues to significantly change and has a significant impact on the project,” Pethia said. 

Rosenweig had an exact figure for the roughly $4 million in Albemarle’s investment.

“That works out to about $19,000 a unit,” Rosensweig said. “The cost for each of our homes on average is probably looking because of COVID price spikes in the mid $200K’s and so your funding represents a little less than ten percent of each of the units.”

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