Sep 7 • 14M

September 7, 2022: Former Councilor Bellamy appointed to public housing board; Special election looming for Virginia House of Delegates

Plus: Several updates from last night's City Council meetings

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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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Today is the 250th day of 2022. In just under four years the United States of America will mark 250 years since the Declaration of Independence. Closer to now, September 7 is International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, a day the United Nations uses to spread awareness of the idea that air pollution knows no boundaries. It’s been 18,878 days since President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. These are all facts that have no bearing on the rest of this installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement, but I thought you might want to know anyway. I’m Sean Tubbs.

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On today’s program:

  • The Virginia General Assembly meets today with one fewer member

  • Charlottesville extends the deadline to file for a grant to help cover real property taxes 

  • Former City Councilor Wes Bellamy is one of two appointments to the city’s public housing oversight board

  • Several updates from the city of Charlottesville including regional cooperation, the appointment of a building code official, and the reasons a traffic signal has been temporarily removed 

First Shout-out is for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards 

In today’s first subscriber-supported shout-out, an area nonprofit wants you to know about what they offer to help you learn how to preserve, protect, and appreciate! The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards have an online class coming up on September 20 where you can learn to select, plant, and care for trees. Two days later on the morning of September 22, there’s a one-mile urban tree walk in Belmont with a focus on tree identification and noteworthy information. Either would help prepare you for the Fall Tree Sale coming up on October 1, specializing in native trees, some of which are hard to find at commercial nurseries. For details on all, visit charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org/

Fairfax Delegate Mark Keam resigns from General Assembly 

There will be a special election for an open seat in Northern Virginia. Fairfax Delegate Mark Keam has resigned effective today in order to take a position in the Biden administration. That’s according to the Virginia Political Newsletter

In that article, Brandon Jarvis explains that the timing of a special election depends on how the General Assembly concludes business at the end of today’s meeting in Richmond. The legislature is technically still in the special session that convened in April to respond to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s action on bills that passed the General Assembly.  

Several bills remain in conference between the two houses. You can take a look at the House Calendar here and the Senate Calendar here

The special election will be in the new House District 12. Two Democrats had already filed paperwork to challenge Keam in a primary, according to the Virginia Public Access Project

Former Delegate Mark Keam

Deadline extended for property tax relief in Charlottesville

In a year when both real estate assessments and the real estate tax increased in Charlottesville, the city is taking one step to help some property owners who may be having difficulty with the extra amount they have to pay.

“The application deadline for the Charlottesville Homeowners Assistance program has been extended to September 16,” said Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade during City Council’s announcements last night. 

There are a few restrictions on the program.

“You must be the legal owner and occupant of the residential property as of January 1 of the current year,” Wade said. “Applicants and spouses living inside the home cannot own any other real estate.”

The current assessed value of the house cannot exceed $420,000 to qualify and the applicants have to make less than $60,000. Learn more at the Commissioner of Revenue’s office. Here is the form Here is the online form.

Council appoints former Councilor Bellamy and another to CRHA Board

The Board of Commissioners for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority finally has seven members again. Last night, Charlottesville City Council appointed former City Councilor Wes Bellamy and Airea Garland to the body which oversees operations of an agency that has seen much activity in recent years.

This will be the second time Bellamy will serve on the CRHA Board. He was Council’s representative on the body for his term from 2016 to 2019. During that period, the CRHA began receiving additional funding, including $900,000 a year to distribute additional housing vouchers to help subsidize rents.

Investment in public housing began to increase during Bellamy’s tenure on Council. The FY2020 budget was the last he voted on as a Councilor and it included $3 million a year for the first redevelopment projects in decades. That public investment coupled with low-income housing tax credits got the project moving ten years after a master plan was adopted and put on the shelf.

A refurbished Crescent Halls is expected to reopen to residents last this year and residents will begin to move into the first new units at South First Street sometime this month. 

Wes Bellamy’s Council photo from 2018 (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

Second shout-out: Charlottesville Jazz Society has a concert coming up 

In today’s second subscriber-supported shout-out, the Charlottesville Jazz Society wants you to know about the upcoming return on September 15th of Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans to Charlottesville with a concert at the Irving Theater in the new CODE building.

Eric Vloeimans will perform as part of a duo with the remarkable accordionist Will Holshouser. They’ll play evocative, folk-inspired original compositions that mix European and American influences, plus a few choice covers, such as a ballad by Prince. The pair are on an American tour promoting their new live album, Two For The Road. For ticket pricing and purchases, visit cvillejazz.org. Charlottesville Jazz Society supporters get a discount.

Albemarle, Charlottesville officials meet 

There are many governmental connections between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, which are two totally separate entities under Virginia law. One is a revenue-sharing agreement adopted in 1982 that has led to Albemarle contributing a share of its property tax revenue with Charlottesville in order to stave off annexation. There’s also a shared water and sewer authority, a jail authority, and other regional bodies. 

Last week, top officials from both communities got together to get to know each other after extensive turnover in city leadership.

“The two deputy city managers with Jeff Richardson, county executive, and his deputies, at a half-day retreat last Friday,” said Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. “We share a lot and we have a lot of common issues and problems that we’re working on.”

According to the written report, Albemarle, Charlottesville, and top University of Virginia officials meet once a quarter and one gathering took place recently. 

“In this meeting there was discussion of development plans, organizational challenges, governance issues and areas where coordination would be beneficial,” reads that document.

For 26 years, such meetings were public under the Planning and Coordination Council, but that body voted to cease existing in the fall of 2019. Now there is a closed-door group called the Land Use & Environmental Planning Committee that last met in June, according to their meeting page

Rogers said Friday’s retreat will lead to further cooperation on issues. 

One area where they compete is in staff retention and recruitment. Several senior staff have recently left the city for Albemarle County including the recent departure of a deputy fire chief. One reason is for higher pay.  Rogers said the city is trying to make public safety careers more appealing from a financial perspective.

“We work with the police department to fund a new payscale within their budget,” Rogers said. “They had a tremendous amount of savings actually because of the number of vacancies that they had so we were able to accomplish that.”

The city some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to provide retention bonuses to keep people in the Sheriff’s Department and the Fire Department. 

Rogers said increasing pay for transit workers has been more difficult given federal funding mechanisms. He said Council will be offered a solution for pay increases at its next meeting. 

One of the many things in the City Manager’s written report (view the report)

Sanders addresses concerns about Rose Hill intersection

The intersection of Rose Hill Drive and Rugby Avenue has twice been the subject of configuration changes which have angered some motorists. Over the summer, the traffic signals were bagged up and a four-way stop was installed.

“This is a part of a critical response to our providing safe routes to schools,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “This was one of the top three priority areas for the school system in identifying the challenges of more kids walking to school.” 

Sanders said the four-way stop is temporary and pedestrian signals will be added to the intersection sometime this fall. 

“So as soon as that signalization project is complete it will convert back to a signalized intersection so this is not a permanent transition,” Sanders said. “This is just temporary.” 

Charlottesville building officials in place

Charlottesville finally has a Building Code Official in place after the position was vacant for two years. Chuck Miller started work on the job on August 29 adding extra capacity to an ailing department. 

This spring and summer, the city of Charlottesville has struggled to process building permits leading many developers to seek third-party inspectors to do the work. Sanders said the city has informed those that had to go that route that they will be paid back for their trouble.

“Because of our inability to perform, we will be reimbursing them of their charge so they will be able to submit their receipt that shows that they paid that bill and we will cover that expense for them as a sign of good faith on our part that we’re trying to do better and get better at the management of our responsibilities,” Sanders said.  

The city has also recently hired a building inspector as well to help with the backlog of permits. 

“For the last six to eight months if not longer we have had a real crisis in that area so to have added really two new people to the general field is really excellent,” said Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook. 

“It means that there is truly light at the end of the tunnel,” Rogers added. 

Sanders also announced the hiring of Emily Irvine to be the city’s Climate Action Specialist. 

“This is a critical position for us,” Sanders said. “The person will be responsible for implementing our climate action plan.”

Sanders said Council will get an update on that plan in October. 


Concluding notes for episode #428

There are lots of smaller items in today’s newsletter, a newsletter whose style changes depending on what needs to be written about on a particular day. If you’ve not heard the program before, I strongly recommend doing so. If you have an Alexa thing, try asking “Alexa, Play Charlottesville Community Engagement” and it will do so. This is still a work in progress, so please feel free to send your ideas on how to get the content to more people.

There are roughly 250,000 people in the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area, and about 1,600 regular subscribers of this newsletter. Just over a quarter of that amount are helping to pay me to keep it up, and if you’d like to contribute to the upkeep consider becoming a paid Substack subscriber.  And if you do, Ting will match your initial payment! I thank them for helping me to keep on unfolding the tapestry of local and regional government. 

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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. I come up with the interstitials you’ll hear in the podcast and hope to make more music. Want to contribute something? Let me know! And if you sign up for Ting through this link in this newsletter, you’ll get a free standard install, your 2nd month free, and a $75 Downtown Mall gift card! Enter the promo code COMMUNITY for full effect.

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. I come up with the interstitials you’ll hear in the podcast and hope to make more music. Want to contribute something? Let me know!