Week Ahead for February 15: Presidents' Day Edition

A weekly look at what's happening in local government around Charlottesville

Today is Presidents’ Day, and what better a time to get this newsletter out to you than on a national holiday! In these times when it may seem powerless to affect what happens in federal government, perhaps this is a good day to learn more about what’s happening locally. That’s where this newsletter comes in each and every week. Thanks for reading and please send it on to someone you think might benefit from the information. 

With a holiday on Monday, the rhythm of the week is a little different. Tuesday ends up being overloaded with meetings regularly scheduled for Monday. I say it’s a good idea to use this time to do some research into what’s happening in greater Charlottesville. 

But yet in writing this installment, I found a national holiday did not stop one local meeting today in Albemarle County. Things barely stop around here. I’ve made my life about making sure I know what’s going on so that you do, too. 

Thank you to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their ongoing support of the research that leads to this newsletter’s creation each and every week.

 

Monday, February 15, 2021

There is one meeting scheduled even though there is a holiday for Presidents’ Day. The Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee meets virtually beginning  at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)

At this meeting, students from Jack Jouett Elementary School will make a presentation to CAC members. After that, Greg Harper will give an update on the Albemarle Climate Action Plan. Then there will be an update on general happenings in the area.  

The Place 29-Hydraulic CAC advises the Board of Supervisors on implementation of the Places29 Master Plan. That’s part of the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan.

If you read this newsletter each week, you are likely interested in planning issues. So if you have time off today, why not take a look at Comprehensive Plans in the area? 

  • Albemarle County last updated their plan in June 2015. The Board of Supervisors was briefed on their upcoming review plan earlier this month. I wrote this story.

  • Charlottesville last updated their plan in 2013. A new review began in 2017 and stalled in the wake of the Unite the Right Rally that summar. The city hired the firm Rhodeside & Harwell to conduct a review of the plan in addition to creation of an affordable housing policy and updating the zoning code. That work is ongoing. I last wrote about this in December.

  • Fluvanna County last updated its Comprehensive Plan in September 2015. (website)

  • Greene County last updated its Comprehensive Plan in October 2016. Their Planning Commission has a work session on the plan this Wednesday. They plan to complete an update by October. (website)

  • Louisa County last updated its Comprehensive Plan in August 2019. (website)

  • Nelson County first adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 2002 and the document was last updated in 2014. (website)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Charlottesville City Council has two open meetings separated by one closed. The first begins at 4 p.m. and the second begins at 6:30 p.m. Both are the first official meetings with Chip Boyles serving as City Manager. (first agenda) (second agenda)

In the first, the Council will get three reports. That will include an update on the city’s financial reports, followed by a document from the Jefferson Area Community Criminal Justice Board. 

“This document is intended to standardize data collection and analysis processes, serve as a general template for annual reports in future years, establish trend lines, and provide opportunities for local decision makers to better understand long-term changes in crime patterns, jail utilization and costs,” reads the 32-page report.

Next, Council will get an update on the Cville Plans Together initiative. Specifically the Housing Plan. The firm HR&A Associates has crafted the plan to help inform updates of the Comprehensive Plan and the city’s zoning code in order to make it easier to construct housing units. The draft plan has called for $10 million in city investment each year in housing. An updated draft now clarifies how that funding should be broken down. 

At the regular meeting, there will be a regular public hearing on required amendments to the city’s Community Development Block Grant program. The city is not compliant with regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“On January 14, 2021, the City of Charlottesville was found to be noncompliant, for the second consecutive year, with the CDBG timely expenditure requirements,” reads the staff report.

Somehow, the city has not yet spent $244,950.82 in funding for a sidewalk on Franklin Street in Belmont. To meet HUD requirements to spend the money in time, city staff are proposing a COVID-relief program for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. This project has already been approved, but this incident raises further questions about the city’s ability to manage transportation projects. 

Following that public hearing, there will be a review of the city’s COVID ordinance. Several groups have approached the city to request permission to hold sporting events for more than ten spectators. The city’s ordinance is currently more restrictive than Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order. (staff report)

Next will be the approval of a joint memorandum of understanding between Albemarle County and the University of Virginia on a Equity and Inclusion. This was the topic of a joint meeting in late October 2020. 

“Staff from all three organizations have met on a regular basis to identify potential initiatives that would move these commitments to action,” reads the staff report. “Under preliminary consideration are activities to improve mental health services, expand financial opportunities, increase human service and human rights programming, adopt a regional tribal consultation policy, and investing in permanent supportive housing, among others.”

After that, Council will be asked to spend an undisclosed amount of money for the New York-based group Guns Down America to run a training program this week to reduce firearms violence. 

“The purpose of the upcoming training and ongoing programs is to bring together the Charlottesville Community to reduce the cycle of gun violence within the neighborhoods of the City of Charlottesville,” reads the letter from the organization including in the staff report. “The services to be provided by Interrupt the Violence will include training local stakeholders with the successful tools that have been used by Guns Down, Inc in other localities including the ongoing programs.” 

But wait! There’s more! 

Council will get an update on the work of the Historic Resources Committee on the city’s Honorary Street naming population. There will be a further discussion of the city’s Capital Improvement Program and possibly direction on the West Main Streetscape. And, a discussion of the city’s credit card policy. Mayor Nikuyah Walker has reported she is under investigation for her use of the policy to purchase giftcards. Read Allison Wrabel’s story in the Daily Progress to learn more.

Good luck, Chip Boyles! 

*

Albemarle also has two meetings on Tuesday. In the first, the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority begins their virtual gathering at 4 p.m. (meeting info)

On the agenda is a review of Albemarle’s property assessment for 2021. The overall tax base increased by 1.4 percent. Urban residential properties increased 3.2 percent while commercial properties declined 5.5 percent. Read more in the county’s news release. Property owners have until February 28 to submit an appeal. 

Next, Steven Allshouse will present the latest economic outlook, followed by an update on a Virginia Jobs Assessment Program agreement between the EDA and Afton Scientific for the latter’s expansion. 

At 6 p.m. the Albemarle Planning Commission begins their virtual meeting. Both items pertain to the future of one of the county’s largest growth areas. (meeting info)

First, there is a public hearing on the form-based zoning code overlay proposed for the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29. The Rio Road Small Area Plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors in December 2018 called for a revision of the zoning to encourage property owners to build more dense structures to create a more urban place. Since then, we have seen some glimmers of change, but it will be interesting to see if any landowners appear to talk about the proposed code. (staff report)

Second, opponents of recent rezonings on Rio Road East have called for transportation infrastructure to be built before any new units are constructed. Supervisors have heard the call and directed staff to pursue a corridor study to look at possible transportation improvements. Since then, the Virginia Department of Transportation has recommended funding for a roundabout at the intersection of John Warner Parkway and Rio Road. Can this study help Albemarle address its transportation issues? (staff report)

Other meetings:

  • Charlottesville’s Parking Advisory Panel meets at 3:30 p.m. On the agenda is Jennifer Koch, the project manager for the Cville Plans Together initiative (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Sister Cities Commission  meets virtually at 4:30 p.m. (meeting info)

  • The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority will hold a safety meeting (PHAR link)

  • The Louisa County Board of Supervisors meets at 5 p.m. in person. On the agenda is a public hearing on the proposed highway panhandling ordinance (agenda packet)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. (agenda)

The night before, Charlottesville City Council will have adopted the regional MOU on Equity and Inclusion. That’s the first item on the agenda at the Board before another look at a specific request for a special exception to allow a homestay in the urban area.

After that, Supervisors will be briefed on how the $19 million in CARES Act funding received by the Albemarle has been used. In December, Supervisors approved a separate $6.85 million for a Pandemic Response, Recovery and Reconstitution and Contingency Reserve. 

“In addition to pandemic-related expenses, this reserve may be used to support advancing strategic priorities and may be used as a contingency for other unanticipated priority needs,” reads the staff report.

Now staff is recommending forward with using a portion of the reserves for broadband expansion as well as development of a solid-waste “convenience center” in Southern Albemarle.

After that, Supervisors will consider a proposal to direct study of the zoning ordinance intended to streamline the review process for rezonings, special use permits, and special exceptions. The Planning Commission had a work session on this topic on January 11, 2021. (staff reports)

Next, Supervisors will get a report on how the county’s funding of a position to run the Defense Affairs Committee of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

“It is estimated by the Chamber there are more than 2,500 federal workers employed by the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in the national government’s defense/intelligence enterprise at Rivanna Station,” reads the staff report. “The Chamber estimates that private defense/intelligence enterprises in the region now employ approximately 2,000 people.”

In the evening session that begins at 6 p.m., a rezoning application to redevelop the Red Carpet Inn for low-income housing will go to public hearing. Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH), Piedmont Housing Alliance, and the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH) are working together to redevelop the site and need a rezoning to the Neighborhood Model District (NMD). If approved, the project would be built in phases and TJACH would use the existing hotel as transitional housing. Full build-out would see 80 units owned by VSH and 60 units owned by Piedmont Housing. 

The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to approve the plan but had concerns about the improvements and subsequent maintenance required for use of Premier Circle as a public road. There was also concern about the safety of crossing U.S. 29. Since then, the applicants have removed residential uses from a proposed building that would be along the highway. (This was covered in December 16, 2020 Community Engagement). They’ve also provided more details about how the project would be phased. 

There’s a lot on the consent agenda:

  • Supervisors will approve an agreement with the Virginia Department of Health that includes the terms of payment from the county to the VDH (staff report)

  • Second quarter FY21 financial report (staff report)

  • The 4th fourth quarter 2020 building report shows Albemarle had the largest number of building permits for some years, with 1,207 in the development area and 129 in the rural area. That was followed by the largest number of certificates of occupancy in some years with 1,143 (1,037 development area, 106 rural area). The majority of these units are in multifamily settings. 

  • The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed a safety of the 5th Street Corridor that looks at ways to make the roadway safer. This work by the firm Kittleson and Associates is a document that should get a wider audience, and not just for the people who live in the immediate area. Take a look at it yourself, and share with your friends and family. (report)

  • VDOT’s Monthly Report is often done in person but is on the consent agenda for this month (monthly report)

Other meetings:

  • Did you notice in the Albemarle Supervisors write-up the bit about the broadband expansion? While not noted in their formal agenda, they will be joined by the Albemarle Broadband Authority who have a public notice for a meeting beginning around 2 p.m. (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Housing Advisory Committee meets virtually at noon. On the agenda is a welcome for Chip Boyles as City Manager and subsequent discussion. (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review meeting begins virtually at 5 p.m. On the agenda is a review of the plans for a four story building at 612 West Main. (meeting info)

  • The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors meets at 4 p.m. for a budget work session and at 7 p.m. for their regular session (agenda)

  • The Greene County Planning Commission has a work session on the Comprehensive Plan beginning at 6:30 p.m. (agenda)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

What am I missing for this day? This is what I have at publication time. 

  • Charlottesville’s Towing Advisory Board meets at 1 p.m. (meeting info)


  • (updated Feb 15 at 209 p.m.) The Albemarle’s 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. On the agenda is a discussion of performance agreements for projects in which the Albemarle Economic Development Authority is involved. Albemarle entered into a performance agreement with the Albemarle Business Campus even before a rezoning was approved by the Board of Supervisors. (April 15, 2020 agreement)

    I suspect CAC members would like to know more about that 5th Street Extended study. I know I’d like to hear what they have to say! (meeting info)

Friday, February 19, 2021

Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee has the second installment of their two-part annual meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. You can watch the first one here.