Week Ahead for November 30, 2020: 11 months down, one to go!

Weeks that begin with the last day of the month somehow always feel somewhat off to those of who observe government meetings. For example, Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors usually meet in the same week, but only the latter shall gather in the next week. There are only a few city government meetings in the next five days.

When there is a fifth Monday, it feels like an extra day before the regular week begins.  But there is no holiday! With December’s arrival, there’s a lot of business to complete before the next year begins. 

I extend Thanksgiving a few days to express gratitude to the Piedmont Environmental Council for their sponsorship of this newsletter. 

Monday, November 30

The owners of a historic property on Plank Road near Batesville are seeking a special use permit to hold events, but under a different section of the zoning code than the one for wineries, cideries and breweries. 

“The Special Events ordinance was developed expressly for hosting events at historic properties for the public to share the enjoyment of the County' s historic resources and rural viewsheds,” reads the narrative of the application from Hilmasco Operations, LLC. 

This requires a community meeting which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Several neighbors have already expressed opposition to the project, citing noise and traffic concerns. (meeting info)

The property was originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as Wavertree Hill Farm, but has since been renamed to Bellevue. Under the proposal, weddings and other activities would take place in an existing indoor riding ring which will be remodeled.

“This structure is not a contributing historic structure, was built in the 1970' s, and is visually inconsistent with the other structures on the Property,” reads the narrative. “Though the Applicant would prefer to raze this structure and to construct a more attractive building in the same location, Section 5. 1. 43( d)( 1) requires each structure used for a special event to have been in existence on the date of the adoption of the section.”

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation holds a conservation easement on the property which will not allow new commercial buildings to be constructed. Under the proposal, outdoor amplified music would end at ten p.m. and all events would be over by midnight. The applicant has requested a special exception that four events be allowed to have up to 350 guests. The others would be restricted to 150 or fewer. 

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The Crozet Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. for another meeting on the revision of the master plan. They will have a discussion of proposed changes to date, and then a discussion of possible resolutions the CAC may make. (meeting info

Tuesday, December 1

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is an entity required by national law to oversee and approve transportation projects that receive federal funding. The Policy Board for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) consists of two Albemarle Supervisors, two City Councilors, and the administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District. CAMPO is a function of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

The holiday crunch meant that the regularly scheduled meeting for the fourth Wednesday was postponed a week, so this meeting now falls on the first Tuesday beginning at 4 p.m. Don’t get used to that! (agenda and meeting info)

While much of this work is bureaucratic, that’s the point. Implementation of large transportation projects comes after a lot of planning, and much of that is discussed at MPO meetings across Virginia. In thirteen years of covering this area, I would argue the MPO meeting is the most powerful regional body. If you ever have any questions about any of the terms, please contact me and I’ll be glad to try to help. 

On this agenda is a public hearing for something called Title VI, a document set up “to discuss how the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CA-MPO) mitigates against and avoids inadvertently excluding low-income, minority, limited-English-speaking, disabled, and elderly populations in the planning process and in the development of numerous planning documents.” 

The Title VI plan was last adopted in 2016 and the document has been updated with new demographics in the community. There’s also a mention of an Equity in Transportation project being undertaken by CAMPO staff. 

There is also a public hearing on the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) which identifies all of the activities that CAMPO will undertake in a given fiscal year. Much of this is a reshuffling of various approved tasks under new categories. One task moved to information-sharing is to “analyze available data to identify whether MPO boundaries may expand into additional counties after the 2020 census.” There a lot of interesting tidbits that I’ll write up more of in Wednesday’s newsletter. 

There will also be an update on changes to how CAMPO and TJPDC select their submissions to VDOT’s Smart Scale funding process. The next deadline for projects is the summer of 2022, and the results of the fourth round will be known in January. After that, there will be a presentation on VTrans, a transportation planning document put together by Virginia’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. If a project meets one of the priorities in VTrans, it has a better chance of getting funded. That presentation will be followed by one on safety targets and another on performance measures. 

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The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2 p.m. for a virtual meeting with two public hearings. The first is a request by a landowner on Dick Woods Road to waive the 75 foot back setback from the roadway required for the location of a barn. The BZA serves as the group that can grant variances. In this case, complying to the letter of the law would push the structure into a stream buffer. (meeting info)

“We plan to spend a great deal of time and money repairing and enhancing the current riparian buffer — so putting the barn further down onto the property from the current parking area will not only damage the pristine area we are seeking to preserve — but also contradicts the purpose of the county's stream protection ordinance in the first place,” reads the request from owners Michael and Michelle Corbett of Round Top Roots Farm. 

The second deals with the 893-unit North Pointe development in Albemarle’s northern growth area. The Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning on August 2, 2006 but development did not begin until last year. Then complaints began to come in. One came from a person who maintains the use of construction entrances off of Pritchett Lane was a zoning violation, but Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda ruled that their usage was not. 

The appellant, Stewart Wright, recently retired from Albemarle County as a permit planner and lives on Pritchett Lane. The roadway serves as one border between the designated growth area and the rural area. 

“During my tenure at the County I did keep a close eye on the North Pointe project regarding what was being proposed by the developer and what was approved by the County,” Wright wrote in his letter to BZA members. “Our street was never designed to accommodate very large and very heavy construction vehicles.” 

Wright maintains that nothing in the special use permit allows for temporary construction roads. Svoboda disagrees.  

“Based on inspections of the Property and the proffers/conditions, the evidence supports the determination that the construction access points on Pritchett Lane are compliant with the zoning ordinance and special use permit conditions,” Svoboda wrote in his staff report. 

Other meetings:

  • Supervisor Donna Price will hold a virtual town hall meeting for the Scottsville magisterial district beginning at 7 p.m. (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. (meeting info)

Wednesday, December 2

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. for another virtual meeting. They will begin with action on two special exception requests for setback variances for homestays. The first is for one on Gillums Ridge Road and the second is for one on Taylors Gap Road. 

“Being able to rent out rooms on Airbnb is going to help me keep my house and property from going into foreclosure,” wrote the 70-year-old owner of the Tayors Gap Road property in a letter to Supervisors. “If I become unable to pay the mortgage and I am forced to move from this house through a foreclosure, I could end up homeless, as my social security is not enough to pay rent in the area.” 

Later in the afternoon, the Board will discuss a county tax on cigarettes, which would utilize the enabling authority secured in this year’s General Assembly for counties to levy such a tax. 

“Prior to enacting such a tax, the Board is required to hold a public hearing and adopt an Ordinance,” reads the staff report from chief finance officer Nelsie Birch. Supervisors will also vote on resolutions to extend the deadline for payment of certain taxes. (staff report)

After that, Supervisors will receive a draft version of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 of this year. The audit of the year was completed by the firm Robinson, Farmer, Cox and Associates. Then Supervisors will get a monthly report from School Board Chair Graham Paige. (draft CAFR)

At 6 p.m. the Board will reconvene and take action on a request from the Regents School for a private sewer system to serve the new facility they will build at the end of Fontaine Avenue Extended. Such systems require approval from the Board of Supervisors. The elected body already approved a special use permit for the school, which is not served by public water and sewer but yet is within the county’s designated growth area. 

“This request is specifically for a shared Central Sewerage System to be located on the properties of The Regents School and the adjacent Trinity Presbyterian Church,” reads the staff report.

Following that, there are two public hearings. One is for a request from the Forest Lakes Shopping Center for additional building space. The other is for a realignment of a roadway to serve the recently approved Galaxie Farm near Mill Creek. 

On the consent agenda:

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The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors meets at 4 p.m. in person at the Fluvanna County Library at 214 Commons Boulevard. On the agenda is a letter of support for a pharmaceutical processor to operate a medical cannabis production facility, a quarterly report from VDOT, and a discussion on local allocations of CARES Act funding. In the evening, the Board of Supervisors will have a joint meeting with the School Board on their preliminary budget for FY2022. (meeting packet)

Thursday, December 3

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Board will gather at 7 p.m. for another virtual meeting. There will be a presentation on the status of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, as well as a discussion of regional legislative priorities. There will also be an update on the Rental and Mortgage Relief Program that the TJPDC is administering. (zoom link)

“We have received grant approvals of $1,800,000 for the region,” wrote executive director Chip Boyles in his monthly report. “We are estimating being able to expend $1,500,000 of that amount in rent and mortgage relief assistance by December 30, 2020.”

In other news from the report, the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust will become part of the Piedmont Housing Alliance effective January 31. The land trust was created by the TJPDC in 2008. 

Other meetings:

  • A group appointed to oversee development of Albemarle’s Capital Improvement Program for FY2022 will have its second meeting at 2 p.m. (meeting info)

  • Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets at 5 p.m. (meeting info)

Friday, December 4

The Virginia Broadband Advisory Council will meet at 2 p.m. Albemarle’s director of information technology, Mike Culp, is a member of the 17-person group. On the agenda is a discussion of potential legislative changes to help expand internet service throughout the state. Last week, Culp briefed the Albemarle Broadband Authority on the latest in broadband development for rural parts of the county. I wrote about this the Thanksgiving edition of the daily newsletter. (agenda