Week Ahead for January 15, 2024: Charlottesville pondering $4M million purchase of CRHA property on Avon Street; Albemarle's 2024 property assessments to be released
Your weekly guide to what's coming up in local government around Charlottesville with an eye on planning and implementation
The third week of the year begins with a holiday to mark the legacy and mission of Martin Luther King Jr. All levels of government have the day off. And then there’s a lot happening as Tuesday takes the place of Monday. As I’m at over 4,100 words, I’ll get right to some highlights:
A study of fuel types for future Charlottesville Area Transit buses is recommending the city-owned and city-managed fleet pilot both battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles and setting a goal of 2040 to be emissions-free.
Charlottesville City Council will have a public hearing on the use of a $21 million plus surplus for FY24, with about two-thirds of the funding going to a contingency fund for future capital projects.
Council will also be asked if the city can buy a key property on Avon Street from CRHA for a future homeless shelter.
The Albemarle Architectural Review Board will provide feedback on design standards for future buildings at the Barnes Lumber site in Crozet as well as the visibility of the 525-unit Old Ivy Residences.
Albemarle’s Economic Development Authority will go into closed session to discuss a potential property acquisition for the top secret Project Hornet.
The future of a funded $12.4 million intersection improvement at U.S. 29 / Fontaine Avenue goes before the MPO Tech committee after concerns from both UVA and the City of Charlottesville.
What will be the percentage change for real property assessments in Albemarle County? The Board of Supervisor will find out on Wednesday.
Louisa Supervisors will have a discussion on the FY25 budget.
Fluvanna Supervisors will consider whether to participate in efforts to comment on Aqua’s request for water and sewer increases.
If you read this via email, you’ll need to click through to the Substack website. Segments will also appear on Information Charlottesville as the week continues. I also recommend the app.
Thanks to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their ongoing sponsorship of this newsletter and the research that goes into each week’s installment.
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
CAT fuel study recommends purchase of two battery-electric vehicles in 2024 for pilot
The Charlottesville City Council meets today at 4 p.m. for a work session followed by the regular section at 6:30 p.m. (meeting overview)
For the first time in several meetings, the 4 p.m. work session does not consist of budget presentations from various departments. In a world where I had more time, I would write-up one very large article on all of those to give a snapshot of the financial health of Charlottesville government post-COVID and after two years of very large budget surpluses.
This work session begins with a presentation from the Charlottesville Scholarship Program. Founded in 2001 by the City Council with an initial endowment of $250,000, 188 students have received awards and 89 have achieved a degree. (presentation)
Next up, Charlottesville Area Transit and Kimley Horn will present the recommendations for a new transit facility as well as a pathway to transition the fleet to zero emissions vehicles. Several advocacy groups have made the latter a major campaign and have pushed the city to declare it will proceed with battery electric vehicles. CAT Director Garland Williams has cautioned about the need to ensure buses are reliable as the city seeks to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. (view the presentation)
The recommendations are:
CAT will transition to a zero-emissions fleet by 2040
CAT will pilot two different fuel types in the short term with the purchase of two battery-electric buses in 2024 and the purchase of hydrogen fuel cell buses in 2027. The latter would be delayed to identify a source of hydrogen
During the pilot, CAT will continue to purchase vehicles in order meet inventory requirements for the long-planned expansion
A final decision will be deferred while the pilot proceeds
Here are some previous stories:
Charlottesville Area Transit to study alternative fuels, March 14, 2022
City Council gets update on study on future fuels for CAT, August 2, 2023
Sanders addresses community feedback on fuel for public transportation, September 11, 2023
Council to appropriate $21M surplus, consider purchase of land from CRHA at Avon/Levy
The regular session begins with a proclamation declaring the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a Day of Racial Healing. Here’s the last paragraph.
“Community members in the City of Charlottesville have a unique responsibility to work earnestly and collaboratively to create courageous and supportive environments that acknowledge the traumatic past; promote the healing of the wounds created by racial, ethnic, and religious, and other social biases; and build an equitable and just society so that all people of the City of Charlottesville’s community can thrive.”
After the consent agenda, City Manager Sam Sanders will give an update and I’ll have details from that in the next regular edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Before the public comment period, Sheriff James Brown will give his budget presentation as that did not occur when other constitutional officers gave their pitches on January 2. (view Sheriff Brown’s presentation)
Also before the public comment period, the Parks and Recreation Department will provide an update on the tree management plan for the Downtown Mall that’s been put together by the firm Wolf Josey Landscape Architects. One issue identified is a conflict between heaters used to allow restaurants to operate patios in cold weather. One corrective action is that these will no longer be allowed without approval from the city. (view the presentation)
Then the public comment period. How many slots will be taken by advocacy groups wanting to comment on the fuel study? If I was a betting person, I’d wager nine of 16.
After that, Council will once again have to take a vote on rezonings for the Verve Charlottesville and 2117 Ivy Road projects. This is because the advertisements for the public hearings did not proffer statements with higher cash-in-lieu payments to meet the city’s for affordable housing requirements. The public hearings for this were held on January 9 at a joint meeting with the Planning Commission.
There is one public hearing related to the city’s finances.
A few paragraphs above, I alluded to two years of large budget surpluses in two consecutive fiscal years which have washed away any talk of austerity. The amount for FY22 was $22,917,915.01 and the resolution for how that money was used can be viewed here.
“The economic rebound from COVID 19 that began in FY22 continued in FY23,” reads the staff report. “Despite record high interest rates and inflation, the City’s largest revenues performed above projected budget amounts.”
Older readers may recall that the maximum interest rate for mortgages hit 18.63 percent in the fall of 1981, much higher than anything seen this century. In any case, the city has another large surplus of $21,739,731 for FY23.
This time around, the majority of funds will be translated to the Capital Improvement Program’s contingency fund. That’s an additional $15.8 million of cash for the city to use towards infrastructure.
There are $5.9 million in recommended general fund expenditures. This includes:
$2.6 million for a cost of living adjustment for city retirees
$1.5 million for an upgrade of the city’s financial management system
$400,000 for cost increases associated with the city’s refuse contract
$300,000 toward a project to build bathrooms at Riverview Park
$92,500 toward increasing capacity in the City Attorney’s office.
$47,000 for an upfit of a new police substation in the Downtown Transit Station
Next, the city will consider purchasing two parcels of land at 405 Levy and 405 Avon Street for a combined price of up to $4.2 million. The proposed source is remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“This acquisition supports the City Manager's commitment to homelessness intervention as it could become the site of a facility that serves to meet that need among others,” reads the staff report.
The staff report states that the city would work with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to purchase the properties, but CRHA already owns both 405 Levy Avenue and 405 Avon Street and has done since September 24, 2010. The Levy property consists of 0.84 acres and is currently used as a surface parking lot for city employees. The Avon property is .249 acres and is currently used by CRHA for its maintenance crews.
“The City and CRHA have an opportunity at this point to acquire and indefinitely preserve this property as an affordable unit,” the staff report continues.
A sustainability study produced last year by Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures listed other scenarios in mind in their report such as selling the asset to a private developer to fund other CRHA efforts.
“Small site, but high value in terms of the ability for an outside developer to come and build say a market rate development that it could be worth selling that property and yielding a significant value for the sale of the land and being able to create a reserve for CRHA for the future,” said Gina Merritt of NREUV at Council’s September 18, 2023 meeting. (read the story)
Merritt suggested the land could sell for as high as $11 million. The 1.2 acre site is now zoned Node Mixed-Use 10.
If the city were to purchase the property from CRHA for $4 million, the transaction would be just under 51 percent of the 2023 assessment and would preclude the city receiving and tax revenue from the property.
Louisa Supervisors to discuss FY25 budget
The seven-member Board of Supervisors in Louisa County meets at 5 p.m. for a closed session followed by the regular session at 6 p.m. (meeting overview)
One item on the consent agenda is a statement of opposition to proposed legislation in the General Assembly to shift some of the costs to prepare electricity infrastructure for broadband colocation to electric cooperatives. (resolution) (HB800)
There are three discussion items. The first is on the operations and capital budget for FY2025. The second is from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The third is for a photo contest.
There are two land use public hearings.
The first is for a rezoning and conditional use permit for Stafford Contracting LLC to for an office and shop on property on Kentucky Springs Road in the Lake Anna Growth Area Overlay District that’s currently vacant. (staff report)
The second is for a rezoning of nearly 22 acres of land designated as Agricultural-1 to Agricultural-2 to allow the property to be divided into seven single-family lots. This is at the intersection of U.S. 33 and Halls Store Road. (staff report)
ARB to review Old Ivy Residences, design guidelines for Barnes Lumber site
On the consent agenda is approval of the design of an initial site development for Old Dominion Village in Crozet. That’s a 110-unit development with 94 townhouses and 16 single-family detached residences. (staff report)
The first regular item of business is an advisory review associated with a special use permit request. The developer of Stonefield is seeking a permit to allow outdoor sales associated with a proposed Tesla dealership. I wrote about that in late November. (staff report)
There will be two work sessions. The first is to discuss design criteria for any applications within the Barnes Lumber property in Crozet that are subject to the public private partnership between Albemarle County and Crozet New Town Associates. The materials have been prepared by BRW Architects. The site is within the Route 240 entrance corridor.
“Future development of the property will include buildings supporting neighborhood and business uses,” reads the narrative. “These new uses and buildings, more typical of the new downtown setting, will provide an opportunity to enhance the corridor experience and reinforce the views along the corridor edge and its interior of the site as a background to more active spaces beyond.”
The redevelopment will include a new public road. It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on what’s happening with this overall project.
The second work session is on the final site plan for Old Ivy Residences, a 525-unit rental complex approved by the Board of Supervisors in early March 2023. The ARB’s review is germane due to the U.S. 29 / 250 bypass being an entrance corridor.
Albemarle EDA to go into closed session to discuss Project Hornet
The Board of Directors for the Albemarle Economic Development Authority will meet at 4 p.m. in Room 241 in the county’s office building at 401 McIntire Road. (meeting info)
The agenda is not available from the Albemarle meeting page but materials are available on the Office of Economic Development’s main page. To save you time looking it up yourself, here is all that information:
If you want to speak at an EDA meeting, you have to fill out a form in advance. This is that form.
After the election of new officers, there are three items under new business. The second is a recap of a recent training session with the Virginia Industrial Development Authorities. The third is a staff report.
The first is a closed session to discuss Project Hornet, the code name for an economic development project that may involve the purchase of real property. Here’s a quote from my recap of the October 2021 EDA meeting.
“Turtle. Daffodil. Macintosh. Proton. Patriot. Bronco. 49ers,” said Doug Walker, who had been deputy county executive at the time. “Those projects are actually Woolen Mills, WillowTree, Potter’s Craft Cider. Afton Scientific. Barnes’ Lumber. Castle Hill Gaming. Albemarle Business Campus.”
What will Project Hornet be? Project Leopard was the code name for state funding for the artificial sweetener firm Bonumose to create jobs at the former State Farm call center on Pantops.
“Albemarle County had begun working with Bonumose well before the state did and we named this project internally Project Leopard, after Def Leppard’s hit song Pour Some Sugar On Me,” said former Economic Development Director Roger Johnson said in October 2021.
Any friendly bets on what Project Hornet will yield?
Regional transportation body to consider future of U.S. 29 / Fontaine project
A question running through the work of Charlottesville Community Engagement is what level of planning and coordination there is between the two local governments and one state institution that are able to make sovereign decisions on land use matters.
A fourth organization is the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission which staffs the federally mandated Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization. Elected officials from the city and the county take binding votes on applications on transportation projects that would receive state and federal funding.
One of those projects is something called a “displaced left turn” at the intersection of Fontaine Avenue and U.S. 29 that was submitted for funding in the fourth round of Virginia’s Smart Scale process. The project qualified for funding and the request of $12,374,620 was granted. (review the application)
The University of Virginia is not a voting member of the MPO Policy Board, but is a major player in the closed-door Land Use and Environmental Committee which replaced the public Planning and Coordination Committee. In February of last year, the Virginia Department of Transportation presented LUEPC with plans for how to implement this project.
In March, the firm VHB presented their review of VDOT’s plans at a LUEPC. A member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission spoke about these at that body’s April meeting, prompting changes to LUEPC to ask that participants not report what happened. Read my story from April 13 to learn more about UVA’s concerns.
As 2024 begins, a decision point about the future of this project will be before the MPO Policy Board in February. Before then, the MPO’s advisory committees will discuss the matter beginning with the MPO Technical Committee at 10 a.m. VDOT has worked with the firms ATCS and Michael Baker International on potential revisions.
Move forward as planned, despite concerns from both UVA and the city of Charlottesville.
Cancel the project and return the funding and reapply in the future for a more expensive diverging-diamond
Pursue a different design, which would likely mean rescoring the project under updated Smart Scale criteria
Some questions for anyone to consider:
Why is there only one way in and out of the Fontaine Research Park?
Are there any other viable alternatives to get into the park? Would the concept of the Sunset-Fontaine Connector provide additional pathways?
If UVA was a private developer subject to Albemarle County land use rules, would they have been required to build a second way in and out of a research park slated to expand significantly in the next ten years?
Should UVA have a vote on the MPO Policy Board rather than a non-voting participant?
The MPO Tech Committee will also get updates on the long-range transportation plan, the sixth round of Smart Scale, and more items.
In other meetings:
The Albemarle County Department of Social Services Advisory Board will meet at 3:30 p.m, in room 231 of the County Office Building on 5th Street Extended. Topics include a presentation on “The State of Childcare in the Community” and the board’s annual report. (meeting info)
The Fluvanna Board of Zoning Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. and hold their organizational meeting for the year and then hold public hearings on variance requests. (meeting overview)
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Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Albemarle Supervisors to get 2024 property assessment data, hold AC44 work session
The first item on the agenda is a work session on the county’s Comprehensive Plan update, which goes by the name AC44. This one is on the draft goals and objectives for the chapters on Environmental Stewardship, Historic Resources, Parks and Recreation, Housing, and Economic Development.
The Planning Commission reviewed this material at work sessions on October 10 and November 14. There’s a five-page summary of their feedback in the packet.
Next, Supervisors will be presented with the assessment data for calendar year 2024.
“The Real Estate Assessor's Office has completed the annual reassessment process for CY 2024 and notices are scheduled to be mailed to property owners on or before January 26, 2024,” reads the staff report. “Information traditionally provided by the County Assessor's Office includes the average overall change in assessed value and average change for different property classes.”
The material is not available in advance. Real property assessments were up an average 13.46 percent in 2023, as I reported at the time. The average increase in 2022 was 8.4 percent. Time limitations prevent me from tracking property transactions as closely as in Charlottesville, so I have no sense of what this year’s result may be.
One item to note on the consent agenda is a resolution authorizing a total of $476,402.48 in tax refunds for a variety of reasons ranging from overpayment, overestimation, land value changes, and a business actually being in Charlottesville and not Albemarle County. (resolution)
In the 6 p.m. session, there are two land use public hearings.
The first is for a rezoning of a nearly 1 acre parcel on Hydraulic Road from R-4 to R-15 for a maximum of 14 residential units. The project is called Arbor Townes.
The second is a request from Albemarle County Public Schools to rezone a portion of the Lambs Lane Campus to allow for the construction of High School Center at that location. (staff report)
Fluvanna to consider ambulance purchase, participation in Aqua’s request for rate increase
The five-member Board of Supervisors in Fluvanna County meet at 5 p.m. at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center in Fork Union. (meeting packet)
The meeting begins with budget presentations from six organizations who receive funding from Fluvanna County and their requests for FY25. They are the Legal Aid Justice Center, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Hospice of the Piedmont, Ready Kids, Region Ten Community Services Board, and the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project.
After the dinner recess, there will be six public hearings, though two are deferred to a later date.
The first is for the creation of a new Agricultural and Forestal District called Quaint Lea of Nahor. This would span 404 acres across three parcels.
The second is for a special use permit for the Antioch Baptist Church to operate a daycare center.
The third and fourth are a rezoning and a special use permit for additional density at the residential development known as the Marina and Lake Monticello. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 in December to recommend denial of the request. Inside the packet is a nine-page letter from an unidentified party urging denial.
The fifth is for a proposal to amend the county code to authorize the treasurer to approve tax refunds up to $10,000.
The six is for a proposal to ban dogs from running off-leash in certain parts of Pleasant Grove Park
There are five action items.
There’s an amendment to the Board of Supervisors’ bylaws and rules of practice and procedures. The second meeting of the month will now start at 6 p.m. and the meetings must adjourn by 10 p.m.
There’s a resolution to reclassify two positions in the Clerk of Circuit Court office.
There’s a discussion of using capital improvement program funding for the Department of Emergency Services to purchase an ambulance. The funding comes from a trust fund that had been gifted to the Fluvanna County Rescue Squad which has since been dissolved with assets transferred to the county.
There’s a proposal to amend the budget calendar for FY25.
There’s a resolution to authorize the county’s participation in an application by Aqua Virginia to seek a rate increase for water and sewer services. This resolution would allow the county to make comment and make testimony against Aqua’s request for additional revenue.
In the one presentation, the program manager for the Childrens’ Services Act will give a semi-annual report.
In other meetings:
The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee will meet in CitySpace at noon. There’s no agenda at publication time. (meeting information)
The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review meets at 5:30 p.m. in CitySpace. This is a different day due to the holiday. (meeting information)
The Greene County Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. They’ll elect officers and have a public hearing on a request for a special use permit for a garage for vehicle repair. (meeting information)
The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the headquarters of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District at 401 E. Water Street. (committee page)
Thursday, January 18, 2024
Albemarle’s 5th and Avon advisory group to hold two community meetings
The 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. in the 5th Street County Office Building in Room B. (agenda)
There are two community meetings. One is for a request from Kappa Sigma International to amend an existing special use permit to relocate the position of a future building. If you have trouble accessing the link that’s after the sense, log in to the Albemarle Laserfiche system and then reload. (SP202300018)
The second is for a rezoning of one 1.33 acre parcel at 1928 Scottsville Road from R-1 to R-10 to allow for eight single-family attached units. (ZMA202300015)
Human Rights Commission to host second meeting on city’s ADA transition plan
One item in the city manager’s report for January is that there are now four full-time employees in the Office of Human Rights. There is no agenda yet for this Thursday’s meeting but the title for the meeting on one of the city’s two meeting calendars is “Human Rights Commission and ADA Transition Plan Information Session.”
A press release from January 2, 2024 provides more information.
"The City of Charlottesville and Precision Infrastructure Management (PIM) will host its second public meeting discussing the ongoing development of the ADA Transition Plan to support the City’s residents with disabilities,” reads the press release.
This will take place at 6:30 p.m. in CitySpace and will be live-streamed.
Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation Board to meet
During the pandemic, one meeting I really enjoyed attending virtually was the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Now those meetings are held in person and not recorded so I’m not able to be as up to date as I’d like. But if you have an interest, I encourage you to attend.
They will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Parks and Recreation office at 501 East Market Street. At this meeting, they’ll get an update on the Meadowcreek Trail, the current capital improvement program, dogs in parks, and the Downtown Mall tree work that Council will also get an update on on Tuesday.
There’s also a closed meeting on the agenda and I can’t speculate on a reason why this body would need to invoke an exception to Virginia’s open meeting laws. (agenda)