Council’s emphasis on housing issues reflected in proposed capital budget
The Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday will see a draft capital improvement plan for the next five years that corresponds with a desire by City Council to refurbish the existing stock of subsidized housing units.
Budget staff have prepared a draft capital budget that more than doubles the amount of funding for housing-related programs.
“As has been the case in recent years, preparing for this five-year plan was most challenging,” wrote Ryan Davidson, the city’s senior budget and management analyst. “What is being presented to the Planning Commission reflects what we know at this time regarding the City’s total revenue and expenditure needs for FY2020.”
Interim City Manager Mike Murphy’s recommended budget for the next fiscal year will be presented to Council in early March of next year. Each year, Council generally approves the budget by April 15 after a series of work sessions that include public input.
While the capital budget lists potential outlays for a five-year period, Council only adopts a definitive budget for the twelve months that begin on July 1. The other four years are projections and can be changed or altered by future Councilors.
This past April, Council adopted a capital budget for FY2019 of $23.4 million. The proposed capital budget for FY2020 is $35.3 million, an increase of 51 percent over the current year.
The higher amount reflects a willingness of the current Council to put more funding toward affordable housing, including the redevelopment of properties owned and managed by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Piedmont Housing Alliance.
The additional $12 million in capital funding for FY19 is made up of a $1.7 million increase from the general fund, $1.87 million by moving money from existing capital funds, $3.2 million from a budget surplus from FY 2018 and a bond issue in FY20 that is $7 million higher than the previous year.
The surplus money is specifically to be used for “affordable housing redevelopment” according to the line item in the draft budget.
The capital budget anticipates spending $15 million on public housing redevelopment over the next five years. That’s an increase from $500,000 in the current year. While the topic has been the subject of at least two Council work sessions, no specific course forward has been agreed to yet.
“This project would be to begin to set aside funding for the future redevelopment of the
City’s public housing sites,” the staff report reads.
There will no longer be a capital contribution made specifically to the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund.
Instead, funding will go to specific line items such as $900,000 for a supplemental rental assistance program to help increase the number of housing vouchers. Another $500,000 will go to “housing rehabilitation.”
“This would provide a continued source of funds for the housing rehabilitation projects
that were previously funded through the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund,” reads the staff report.
The Piedmont Housing Alliance is slated to get $1.54 million in infrastructure improvements for Friendship Court and another $4.4 million toward the first phase of redevelopment.
“This is a request for the costs of infrastructure construction related to the phased
redevelopment of Friendship Court into a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood,” reads the staff report. “The final redevelopment will be approximately 450 residential units in addition to an early childhood center and other commercial spaces that will serve the community.”
That includes replacement of 150 existing units that are currently provides to households that make less than 30 percent of the annual area median income, 150 new units that be set aside for families making between 40 and 60 percent of AMI and 150 for “middle-income households.”
All told, that translates to more than a doubling of funds toward housing in the capital program from $3.4 million this year to $7.3 million in FY2020. The five-year budget anticipates $17.5 million to be spent on this priority from FY20 to FY24.
There is another $300,000 that is anticipated for “City Yard Environmental Remediation.” City Yard is a 10.4 acre plot of land owned by the city of Charlottesville between West Main Street and Preston Street. The land is within the scope of a small area plan being conducted by the New Hill Development Group that is intended to help design a future neighborhood on the site.
“The City Yard at 4th St NW is the site of a former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP), the
nearly 100-years of operations of which have left various byproducts and contamination
On-site,” reads the staff report. “While there is no clear State mandate or authority to address the on-site waste, its presence is and will continue to be a real or perceived liability that may limit or preclude transfer of ownership and redevelopment.”
The specific request is to complete the investigation stage and to pay for design of whatever remediation is required. A request for proposals for this service was issued earlier this month.
The 10.4 square acre property was assessed with a value of $6.87 million in 2018, down from $7.67 million in 2017.
Public safety and parks
The increased capital budget is not all related to increased capital spending on housing projects.
In early December, Albemarle and Charlottesville officials finally agreed to proceed with a plan to jointly locate their two General District courts in Court Square. The city anticipates spending $6.36 million on this project over the next two years. Albemarle County will pick up the rest of the $30 million tab.
“Under the agreement, Albemarle and Charlottesville will undertake a redevelopment of the Levy Building site, located at 350 Park Street,” reads the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting. “The Levy Building will be renovated for use by the County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office and a new 3-story building connected to the Levy Building will accommodate court sets for the City General District Court and County General District Court.”
Additionally, the capital budget shows $3.7 million going toward a replacement of the fire station on the U.S. 250 bypass. The city this week issued a request for proposals for a firm to design the new structure.
“After accounting for current station deviancies and various constraints surrounding ‘optimal’ fire station locations, the Study recommended the redevelopment of both the Bypass Station and the Ridge Street Station at their current locations, with the Bypass Station being the highest priority,” reads the staff report.
While there is $245,000 programmed for new restrooms at Riverview Park, there is no money in the five-year capital budget to implement a master plan for McIntire Park. The budget does anticipate the spending of $1.2 million over the next three years (including the current year) on renovations at Darden Towe Park, which is jointly owned by the city and Albemarle County.
Several line items that have been in the budget for many years have been zeroed out for the coming year and others have been slated for elimination completely. There is no money proposed for “economic development strategic initiatives” in FY20 or FY21, though $150,000 is programmed for each of the following three years.
The capital budget for the current fiscal year includes $250,000 for “NDS permit tracking software replacement” and $50,000 for a “cultural landscape study.” Neither of those will receive additional funding.
The city will continue to spend $200,000 a year on “bicycle infrastructure.”
“Potential projects will be vetted through the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee as well as at Traffic Meetings to include N.D.S., police, fire, parks/trails planner, and public works,” reads the staff report.
Two separate line items for “trails and greenway development” and “parkland acquisition” have now been combined into a single “parkland and trails acquisition and development” that is slated to receive $1.25 million over the next five years.
“These funds will be used to pursue land acquisition opportunities to preserve open space,
protect natural resources and improve riparian buffers and provide future trail connections,” reads the staff report. “Green infrastructure and open space conservation are often the cheapest way to safeguard drinking water, clean the air and achieve other environmental goals.”
There is another $625,000 that would be spent to refurbish infrastructure of the downtown mall, a project that currently does not have a dedicated source of revenue. If agreed to by Council, this money will come directly from fees paid for by mall vendors.
“Examples of work would include runnel repair or renovation, crossing repairs,
repairs to section from Omni to Water Street, reworking/repairing larger fields of pavers
that have failed or are failing, light relocation or replacement, upgrading electrical
systems to include more efficient lighting fixtures, banner and flag bracket replacement
and repairs, twice a year cleaning and sanding and similar activities,” reads the staff report.
As is the case every year, there are more requests than can be funded.
- Central Library Renovation – $12.3 million
- Ridge Street Fire Station and Redevelopment – $10.9 million
- Dairy Road Bridge Replacement – $6.5 million
- McIntire Park Master Plan Implementation – $6 million
- Washington Park Recreation Center Replacement – $5.25 million
- New sidewalks inside the Strategic Investment Area – $4.9 million
- Tonsler Park Master Plan implementation – $3.5 million
- Meadow Creek Valley Trail Railroad Tunnel – $1.47 million
- Stribling Avenue sidewalk – $1.45 million
- Monticello Trail / I-64 Tunnel – $1.45 million
- Structural maintenance at Market Street Garage – $485,000