Week Ahead for November 9, 2020: Your guide to this week in local government

With the federal election out of the way, more attention can now be paid to municipal government in our community and throughout Virginia. Turnout is always much higher in presidential years, but this being Virginia, we’ll have another election next year for local and state races. I hope many people who have become interested in national politics this year will turn their eye towards local civics.

We’ll have plenty of time to get into the specifics as 2021 approaches, but as you read this week’s installment, note that this is a major week for the Cville Plans Together initiative, which you will see pops up a lot this week 

This newsletter goes out during a week when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Virginia. I’m keeping an eye on this in my daily update as well as on Twitter. I am here to pay attention to things in the hopes you’ll be more aware of what’s happening. This is a good time to take a look around, look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now! 

Support for this newsletter comes from the Piedmont Environmental Council and I am grateful for their sponsorship. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

There are no meetings today. I will spend the day plotting and planning, and hopefully writing up a few longer stories from meetings that have already happened. 

The first will build on a meeting held in late October about the feasibility of a glass manufacturing facility in this region. I teased it in a daily episode last week, and want to finish the story. So, it will be nice to not have anything to record so I can get caught up!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

On a crowded day, let’s start with Nelson County. 

The Board of Supervisors meets in person beginning at 6 p.m. They meet in person at the General District Courtroom in Lovingston. They’ll begin with a COVID update from Dr. Denise Bonds, of the soon-to-be-named Blue Ridge Health District. Nelson has had the lowest number of cases of the district’s localities. The county has opted to operate its school system fully remotely this semester, much to the chagrin of some people who spoke at the Board’s meeting on October 13. (meeting packet)

On the consent agenda, the Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution to allocate $285,000 from their portion of federal CARES Act funding on a broadband expansion project from Piney River along Route 151 north to the Tye River. This is a project involving the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and their Firefly Fiber Broadband subsidiary. CVEC spoke with the Albemarle Economic Development Authority in late October, and I included a bit in one of my newscasts.

There is an action item to rezone land in Afton from residential to agricultural to allow for a farm brewery. This discussion was on the October 13 meeting by a decision was deferred. 

“We would like to have the economic advantage of using agricultural resources to improve, conserve, and maintain the property that consists of an 1820’s farmhouse and old barnhouse which is recognized by many as a landmark,” reads the application from the owners of the current Wild Man Dan Bed and Breakfast

The Nelson BOS will have two public hearings. One is for an amendment to the ordinance on dogs running at large and the other is for a consideration of a special use permit to allow office use on a property zoned for agricultural use. 

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The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority meets at 4 p.m. On the agenda is a presentation on the city’s COVID response. There will also be an update on the performance agreement between CEDA and Piedmont Housing for tax increment financing for the first phase of Friendship Court. For those details, take a look or listen to a longer story and podcast I produced from the October 19, 2020 City Council meeting where the agreement was approved by elected officials. (meeting info)

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In February 2019, the City Council at the time directed staff to hire a consultant to complete the work of the Comprehensive Plan, write an affordable housing strategy, and adopt a new zoning code. I wrote about that, too

Now, the Cville Plans Together initiative coordinated by Rhodeside & Harwell has unveiled a draft affordable housing strategy and a first draft of a Comprehensive Plan update that you can take a look at on their website

The Planning Commission will get an update along with City Council at a joint session. The Commission meeting begins virtually at 5:30 p.m.  (meeting info)

Before the planning discussion begins, the Commission and Council will take up an actual rezoning. There’s planning, and then there’s the actual.

Hulett Management Services wants a 0.19 acre parcel at 817 Nassau Street rezoned from single-family residential to two-family residential. A structure on the property was demolished in the past year and the land is assessed at $59,500 according to the city’s GIS system. 

There is no specific development plan for this rezoning, and no proffers have been made. City planners are recommending approval. 

“Staff finds the proposed zoning change could contribute to goals of the City’s Comprehensive Plan such as increasing the City housing stock without the need for a Provisional Use Permit to construct an internal or external Accessory Dwelling Unit,” reads the staff report. 

Nassau Street and much of the Carlton neighborhood has seen a lot of construction in the years following completion of a project to control odors emanating from the nearby Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Nearby, Albemarle County continues to work on the Broadway Blueprint to increase business activities on land within their jurisdiction. 

Following that public hearing, Council and the Commission will take up the Cville Plans Together Initiative

“This agenda assumes a 90-minute discussion,” reads advance materials made available by Rhodeside & Harwell. “This discussion will not include a presentation of the full draft Affordable Housing Plan.” 

The Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee took a quick look at the affordable housing plan at their meeting last Wednesday. I wrote up a partial summary of their comments for the Thursday edition of the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter. Should I expand on this before Tuesday’s meeting? (actually asking)

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The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. There are three public hearings. The first couple are reviews of two of the county’s Agricultural and Forest Districts, which are voluntary rural conservation areas. Property owners pay lower taxes on their property if they agree to limit development, but there are conditions.

“By voluntarily establishing or joining districts, landowners have committed to continuing rural land uses such as farming or forestry, and agree not to subdivide their land to a more intensive non-agricultural use during the term of the district (with the exception of family subdivisions),” reads information about AFDs on the county’s website.

In November 2018, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to look at all of the districts to remove properties in open space agreements that no longer have development rights. This process gives landowners the ability to withdraw from the district now so that they do not have to pay penalties in the form of rollback taxes if it is determined they no longer qualify for the tax benefits. 

This time around the Batesville AFD and High Mowing AFD are under review. The staff report notes that the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative has asked to remove one 136 acre parcel in the Batesville AFD because they intend to submit a special use permit for a utility-scale solar energy facility. 

The third public hearing is for a zoning text ordinance to eliminate certain special exceptions for recycling facilities. The Planning Commission had a work session on this in October 13, and I will aim to have a small write-up of that in Tuesday’s edition of the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter. (meeting info)

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Earlier in the day, the Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2 p.m. for a meeting that consists of a training session for members on their roles and responsibilities. This is a good opportunity to get a primer on land use law in Albemarle. (meeting info)

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The Greene County Board of Supervisors will meet in open session at 7:30 p.m. They’ll get updates on the COVID-19, the first month of Greene County’s new rescue squad, and an update on CARES Act funding. The consent agenda includes a resolution to appropriate $508,410 in CARES funding for the school system. 

After a presentation on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s legislative agenda for the 2021 General Assembly, there are three public hearings.

  • Special use permit request for a home business on Route 33 (staff report)

  • Special use permit request for tourist lodging on residential property near Stanardsville (staff report)

  • Amendment to the zoning ordinance to change language related to utilities and facilities (staff report)

The Greene Board of Supervisors will also get an update from the executive director of Jaunt. The agency took over management of Greene County Transit on July 1. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The consultants hired to conduct the Cville Plans Together initiative will hold a webinar at 6:30 p.m. on the draft affordable housing plan. This is a 133-page document that suggests a wide range of initiatives to increase the amount of affordable housing units in the city. (register)

“Though there are many tools and recommendations included within this Plan, there are three major initiatives that together would represent a significant commitment to supporting racial equity in affordable housing in Charlottesville,” reads the plan’s executive summary. 

These are to dedicate $10 million a year in funding to affordable housing for ten years, additional funding to ensure training to make sure diverse voices into housing discussions, and to adopt zoning reforms to eliminate single-family zoning in favor of more inclusionary zoning.  See Saturday’s entry for more on the Comprehensive Plan draft. 

Governance involves details, and details are guided by planning documents. But all of it takes funding. See below for Thursday’s City Council work session. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has conducted a feasibility study for the possibility of a bike and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River. At 6 p.m. they will hold a webinar to present their findings. According to the TJPDC website, this work is related to the Urban Rivanna River Corridor plan currently underway. (meeting info)

The link to the feasibility study is not working at production time. One thing I am looking for is whether it draws from a previous study conducted by the TJPDC in 2013 and 2014 that looked at several alternatives to address congestion on Free Bridge. (Eco-Logical final report) (cvillepedia page on the study)

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The Albemarle Solid Waste Alternatives Advisory Committee meets at 4 p.m. No agenda was available at production time. (meeting info)

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The Crozet Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. outside of its normal Wednesday meeting. The CAC is currently overseeing the update of the Crozet Master Plan. There is no agenda posted at production time. (meeting info)

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An advisory group appointed to oversee the city’s Community Development Block Grant process will meet at 3:30 p.m. (meeting info)

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Charlottesville Council will hold a work session at 6 p.m. to discuss what the picture looks like for FY22. (meeting info)

Earlier this week, Council will have heard details on the affordable housing plan, which as stated above calls for $10 million of funding for ten years. However, the city is facing revenue shortages due to the pandemic. City Councilor Michael Payne mentioned this fact at the Housing Advisory Committee. But what will the actual budget look like?

We’ll begin to get a glimpse at a virtual budget work session that begins at 6 p.m.  Materials for the meeting are not yet available. In May, Council adopted a budget that was lower than what had been proposed by former city manager Tarron Richardson. One way he closed a budget hole was to defer all non-bondable capital projects for one year, saving $6.1 million in the process. 

Capital improvement programs are paid for through the sale of bonds, which gets the city funding up front which is paid off over time. However, that requires a physical asset to be built. The CIP routinely has many other line items for things such as “economic development strategic initiatives” and “bicycle infrastructure” and “urban tree planting.” These were all zeroed out to plug the revenue gap. 

Please note no final decisions will be made at this meeting. The budget for FY2020 won’t be adopted until next April after two months of review by Council and the public. 

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The Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. As part of the agenda, Delegate Sally Hudson will give a review of legislation that passed the General Assembly in the recently concluded special session on police reform and COVID. There will also be a presentation on how complaints are received. City Councilor Michael Payne is also expected to make comments. Note this meeting is concurrent with the Council budget work session. (meeting info)

Friday, November 13

Usually there aren’t many meetings on Friday. But November is weird, so bullets!

  • Albemarle County will hold a meeting at noon for property owners within the proposed geographical boundaries of the Rio Road Form Based Code. I’ll have more context for this as the week continues. (meeting info)

  • Charlottesville’s Historic Resources Committee will meet at 11 a.m. for a work session on the city’s honorary street naming policy. (meeting info)

  • The Cville Plans Together initiative will hold three virtual sessions for people to ask questions and make comments about the draft plans. These will not feature presentations, but are intended to gather comment. The first begins 1130 a.m. (meeting info)

  • A subcommittee of the city’s Tree Commission meets at noon to discuss the greater body’s annual report. (meeting info) . 

Saturday, November 14

In addition to a draft affordable housing plan, the Cville Plan Together initiative has also released a draft of the guiding principles for the Comprehensive Plan update. The first of two interactive webinars will be held at 10 a.m. (meeting info

I’ve not had a chance to dig into this yet, and will conclude here because I am close to the word length maximum. But if you read it, tell me your comments? What do you think? And that goes for anything in this newsletter.