Week Ahead for September 23, 2019

Not a single week goes by in this community where there is not some action that affects our community’s future.  This week’s biggest event is perhaps not at a government meeting, but at the formal dedication of the U.Va. School of Data Science on Tuesday. 

When combined with the C.O.D.E. building under construction a mile and a half away, the addition of this new school is likely to attract more people to the area. How will this transform the community? Are we prepared? We won’t know unless we’re prepared to ask the right questions and know the facts. Threaded through this update are the venues and forums where our future will unfold. We need to make the right choices. 

There’s a lot in this briefing. Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Monday, September 23: Public Housing and Pantops growth 

After many years of relying mostly on federal funding, apartments owned and operated by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority are finally getting upgraded. The CRHA Board of Directors meets tonight at 6:00 p.m. The agendas are not currently posted online but the meeting is streamed live on Charlottesville’s cable channel 10. As the city continues to invest in public housing, efforts must be taken to make sure the materials are available for public review. (CRHA website)

A revision of the Pantops Master Plan was adopted in July of this year that clarified the vision of Pantops as a place that will become more walkable and bikeable over time with the Rivanna River serving as the backbone. The Pantops Advisory Committee is charged with implementing that vision as each development comes through the county’s process, even though many recent developments have been inconsistent. The agenda was not ready at press-time but they will meet at 6:15 p.m. in the Kessler Conference Room at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. (CAC website

Tuesday, September 24: Growth management in Albemarle

A key component of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan is to use land within the designated growth area before opening up rural land for new neighborhoods. Doing so premature could lead to suburban sprawl and to the sale of agricultural lands. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission will receive the 2019 Growth Management Report which includes an analysis of how much capacity is there for new units in the development areas. (report

The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing on whether a new 123 too tall monopole at the county’s office building is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The unshielded and highly-visible tower will be used by the UVA-Charlottesville-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center as part of an upgrade of their radio equipment. This is yet another example of the county moving away from its long-standing policy on the location of wireless equipment. If you are opposed to this tower, this may be one of the only opportunities you have to say so publicly as the county believes it does not a special use permit to proceed. We believe it does.  (hearing materials

***

While Charlottesville waits to see who will be hired to help rewrite the city’s Comprehensive Plan, individual projects continue to make their way through the development process. 

The Planning Commission will hold a work session on 218 Market Street, a proposed nine-story building put forward by developer Jeffrey Levien. The project requires a special use permit for additional height and additional density. Last week, the Board of Architectural Review signalled its support for by granting a certificate of appropriateness. That body has already approved a demolition permit for the existing buildings. 

Commissioners are being asked for their input on how the project will fit in with Old Preston Avenue and West Market Street. The staff report notes that while the C.O.D.E. building and the Omni are tall buildings, there are many shorter buildings all around. While this work session is specifically about design issues, anything is fair game including affordability.

“The project is planned to include a mix of units, including studio units, at a variety of price points,” reads the staff report. “This is a better option than what would be built under the existing zoning density (24 large, expensive units) or if the project were not undertaken at all.” 

Will that satisfy Commissioners and City Council? Attend the meeting at 5:00 p.m. in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room at City Hall and find out. This meeting will not be televised. (meeting materials

***

I’ve lived in this region for over a third of my life now, and it wasn’t until last year that I visited Stanardsville, the county seat of Greene County. The town dates back to 1794 and is one of the Greene’s designated growth areas. 

“The Town of Stanardsville serves as an ideal model for traditional neighborhood development,” reads a portion of the Greene Comprehensive Plan. “The buildings along Main Street in Stanardsville come right up to the sidewalk, giving pedestrians something to see and offering the opportunity for people to stop and chat.”

On Tuesday, an Eagle Scout candidate will present to the Greene Board of Supervisors his plans to create a walking tour of downtown Stanardsville to draw attention to the town’s revitalization efforts. In addition to physical signs at the 32 stops along the tour, Garrett Ensor is also planning an online map using GIS. He needs permission from elected officials to place three signs on public property. Let’s wish him luck! (presentation

The Greene Board of Supervisors meets at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at the Administration Building. The meetings are live-streamed and available to review on demand. (agenda

***

Both of the “RIvanna authorities” will meet today to discuss matters that most people take for granted. The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority meets at 2:00 p.m. for a special meeting, followed by a meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. The make-up of each body is mostly identical, with one City Councilor, one Supervisors, one member of the public, and city and county staff. 

At the RSWA meeting, Charlottesville officials will present the results of efforts to divert food waste material from making it to landfills. After that, the Board will get an update on a study on the feasibility of adding an organic waste composting component to the Ivy Materials Utilization Center. The report by Coker Composting and Consulting (CCC) forecasts food waste will increase from 550 tons a year to 4,000 tons by 2030. Composting rather than landfilling could reduce greenhouse emissions, but will come at a cost. (RWSA agenda)

The RSWA has two action items on their agenda. In the first, they will consider alternative forms of disposal of dewatered sewage solids produced at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Currently these “biosolids” are trucked 120 miles to Waverly, Virginia where they are turned into a commercially available composting product. 

***

As mentioned above, there will be an official launch of the School of Data Science, funded by a $120 million gift from the Quantitative Foundation. There will be an event at 4 p.m. at the Dell 1 Building on Central Grounds with remarks from UVA Provost Elizabeth Magill and school Dean Phil Bourne. Last week, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia formally approved the school, which will be built on Ivy Road as part of new Emmet/Ivy Corridor. 

According to a story on UVA Today, the school will see the hiring of 10 endowed chairs, an associate dean and faculty. The article does not mention how many additional students this will add to the overall population On-Grounds. Forecasts sent to SCHEV earlier this year project flat undergraduate enrollments through 2025 despite a growth trend since 2001. The primary driver of growth in our community has been and remains the University of Virginia. It is crucial to keep a watchful eye. (SCHEV report, page 16)

Wednesday, September 25

A new organization called the Center for Civic Innovation will have their formal launch event. The group is a project of Smart C’Ville and is described on its website as being “where community residents, local governments, and University of Virginia students and faculty tackle some of our region’s biggest challenges.” (website

What would you like to see this group do? 

Thursday, September 26

Last week, the Albemarle Supervisors opted not to take a vote on a rezoning at 999 Rio Road, but instead sent the application back to the Planning Commission for more consideration. Tonight, the Places29-Rio Community Advisory Committee will consider a resolution calling for the Board to deny the nearby rezoning of the Parkway Place project. 

“The proposed high residential density of 12 units per gross acre will generate increased traffic on adjacent roads that are already suffering from overcrowded and unsafe conditions,” reads the resolution. 

The county’s Comprehensive Plan designates the land as being “urban density residential” which allows for a range of between six units and 32 acres. The growth report listed above will no doubt be scrutinized by many in the weeks to come as this rezoning and others make their way through the Board of Supervisors. 

***

In the past six months, I have been able to transition to using Charlottesville Area Transit as my primary means of commuting to my office downtown. That works for me because I’ve been able to patiently learn the system and because I live a mile and a half away. For many in our community, public transportation is not an attractive option. I believe the work of the Regional Transportation Partnership can help improve efficiency, especially as JAUNT continues to become more innovative. 

What do businesses in our area need from transit? The RTP is partnering with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce this month for a “listening tour” to hear concerns and discuss opportunities for transit improvements.This meeting will be held at 8:00 a.m. at the Water Street Center. 

I’m always interested in your stories about transit, whether they be good or bad. My listening tour is always open! Drop me a note.  

Friday, September 27

The Rivanna River Basin Commission was formed as a governmental organization in 2007 to recommend ways to enhance the natural and water resources of the Rivanna River. Their signature event each year is an annual conference. This year’s event takes a look at stormwater regulations in area communities ten years after a key report called Before the Storm was produced to recommend best practices. The morning conference begins at 9:00 a.m. in Lane Auditorium in Albemarle’s office building on McIntire Road. 

Keeping with the river theme, the James River Association is working with the Town of Scottsville to have the James River designated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation as a Scenic River. 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the program. To assess the river’s eligibility, JRA will provide a flotilla of eight canoes to take volunteers on a 13-mile paddle between Scottsville to New Canton. This is not strictly a public event, but if you’re interested in volunteering I can put you in touch with the organizers. 

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