Two months down, ten months to go. 2020 has been a busy year so far, and this week is no exception. This week features a key rezoning public hearing in Albemarle County, the formal beginning of Charlottesville’s budget development process, and the commemoration of the arrival of Union troops in the community in 1865, freeing thousands of enslaved people. City government has a public holiday Tuesday for Liberation and Freedom Day, as well as a series of events all week about equity and the pathway forward. While we look to the future, the past is always with us.
Monday, March 2: Brookhill in Albemarle, City Council
Charlottesville City Council has a full agenda that covers land use, transportation and budgetary matters. They’ll first take action on a special use permit for Harris Street Apartments, which would see 36 units built next to McIntire Plaza. The Planning Commission voted 7-0 in February to move to recommend the permit, which asks for additional residential density as well as two additional floors. Parking would be underground and the developer has to submit a traffic study before a final site plan is turned into the city. (staff report)
Next Council will take up a resolution to affirm that the $8.6 million Barracks Road / Emmet Street project funded by VDOT’s Smartscale process is compliant with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Among other things, the project will create a safer pathway for pedestrians and cyclists along Barracks Road. Why this review? Take a look at Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson’s note in the staff report. The project is only about a third of the way through the planning process and construction is not expected until spring 2023. (staff report)
After that, Council will be presented with the School Board’s budget request as well as city manager Tarron Richardson’s recommended budget. My colleague Peter Krebs is watching the process closely and is asking for restoration of funding cuts to bicycle infrastructure. (budget website)
The consent agenda is also worth a review, as always.
Council will accept $47,540 in donations to light the skate park at McIntire Park, though the cost estimate is around $300,000 (staff report)
Council will officially direct the Planning Commission to review three specific ways the city’s zoning could be changed to increase the supply of affordable housing units. They received a briefing on this on February 20 and directed staff to prepare this initiation. Read the details in the staff report. (staff report)
Council will consider raising the maximum rate that can be charged to remove devices that can immobilize vehicles that are parked in the wrong place. Currently the maximum charge to remove a boot is $25, but that figure is not enough to incentivize potential new technologies. This is an initiative of the Parking Advisory Panel. (staff report)
People who travel on U.S. 29 north in Albemarle’s northern ring may have noticed a lot of development activity south of Forest Lakes. The Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning for Brookhill in November 2016 that included several blocks of development. Two of these will go before the Architectural Review Board at their meeting which begins at 1:00 p.m. in Room 241 at the main county office building on McIntire Road. Specifically they’ll see a final design for Block 8B and an initial plan for blocks 9, 10 and 11. Block 8B is for 110 multifamily units and the other blocks are for 85 townhouses. These are both on the western side of the project towards U.S. 29. (agenda)
This week is the tenth year in a row that the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation is marking Telework Week in Virginia, a time when employers are encouraged to let workers telecommute from home. “Telework helps alleviate traffic congestion, reduces our consumption of fuel, and improves air quality,” reads a proclamation signed by Governor Ralph Northam. Do you have the opportunity to work from home some of the time? A “higher-use” of telecommuting is one of the University of Virginia’s strategies to manage parking and transportation on Grounds. (Telework Virginia website)
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors also meets at 5:00 p.m. in the county office building in Louisa. Items include an update on broadband initiatives and a public hearing on amending the county code to provide tax exemptions for solar energy equipment. (agenda)
The Scottsville Town Planning Commission will meet at the town hall beginning at 7:00 p.m. Scottsville is a separate town that is part of Albemarle but has its own government. That differs from Albemarle’s designated growth areas, which have no independent governance. The Planning Commission will take up a special use permit for a car wash and will continue to work on the West Downtown Small Area Plan. That covers a closed factory that town officials hope will be a major redevelopment item. (agenda)
Tuesday, March 3: Code for Charlottesville “navigation” work
While Albemarle and Charlottesville both investigate policy changes to encourage the creation of more affordable housing units, others in the community are finding ways to get information out about options that do exist. The group Code for Charlottesville is working on a project they’re calling “Building a Platform to Make Housing Navigation Easier.” The idea is to help those who have federal housing vouchers find property owners who will take them as tenants.
“The goal of this project is to develop software for the internal use of credentialed housing navigators that provides navigators with an up-to-date and comprehensive list of the available rentals in the Charlottesville area, along with the various screening policies employed by landlords,” reads the notice for a kickoff event being held at the Haven beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Todd Niemeier with the city’s Office of Human Rights will discuss the challenges faced by people with low incomes and Code for Charlottesville representatives will talk about how the work will be organized. A series of follow-up events will be held throughout the spring. (RSVP page)
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold their second work session for County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed budget. This time will cover operating expenses, including funding for community development, parks and recreation, and public works. The meeting begins at 3:00 p.m. in Room 241 in the county’s main office building on McIntire Road. (agenda)
Charlottesville City Hall is closed all day and there are no meetings due to the commemoration of Liberation and Freedom Day. There are a series of events all week to mark the occasion. Check the city calendar’s website for a full listing. (calendar)
Wednesday, March 4: What will Albemarle’s planners do?
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1:00 p.m. and after a series of proclamations they will hold a work session on something called the Community Development Work Program. This is the first time that new director Jodie Filardo will present an update on what staff feels the Department of Community Development can handle in the coming year.
“The ongoing challenge is to manage the Board’s interests while addressing the needs of the department to build capacity in a world of increasing volumes in the CDD workload,” reads the staff report.
Supervisors last reviewed the work program in September, and since then two new Supervisors have joined the Board. It is important to track what staff works on and what never seems to make the cut. For instance, a further look at the county’s lighting ordinance to strengthen Dark Sky protections has been listed as a potential project for years, but not prioritized. For me, this is one of the most crucial discussions of the year. (staff report) (2019 staff report)
In the evening session, Supervisors will hold a public hearing for 999 Rio Road, a greenfield development proposed on two acres at the intersection of Rio and Belvedere Boulevard. The property is zoned for R-4 and developer Nicole Scro seeks a change to the Neighborhood Model District. Supervisors last saw this project last September when they sent it back to the Planning Commission. The current proposal is for 28 units and a maximum of 6,000 feet of office space. That’s down from as many as 46 units. (staff report)
Following that public hearing is another on County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed $451 million budget for FY21. Have you had a look yet? This year the budget’s title is “Expanding Opportunity” and is based on no new increase in the property tax rate. (budget page)
On the consent agenda:
The Piedmont Housing Alliance is seeking to build 80 units in a section of the Southwood redevelopment project off Old Lynchburg Road. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville obtained a rezoning for the project in August 2019. PHA needs the Board’s support for low-income housing tax credits for this phase of development, which would be new development along Old Lynchburg Road. (staff report)
There is new information about when several construction projects will get underway in Albemarle County. According to the VDOT monthly report, the first of six Smartscale projects will get under construction this summer. (VDOT report)
Thursday, March 5: UVA tops a long list of meetings
The University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets all day and on Friday for their first major meeting of the year. The Buildings and Grounds Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. today at the Rotunda. The agendas for the meeting are not yet available. (BOV website)
Charlottesville City Council will hold the first work session on Dr. Tarron Richardson’s budget beginning at 5:00 p.m. in CitySpace. Have you taken a look yet? (budget page)
The Charlottesville Bike and Pedestrian Committee Meeting will also meet at 5:00 p.m. but in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room. This month features a discussion with Charlottesville Police Captain Victor Mitchell, as well as a review of the Safe Routes to School program. There will also be an update on the city’s capital improvement program. Dr. Richardson’s budget currently shows no additional funding for bicycle infrastructure in FY21. (agenda)
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will also have a budget work session beginning at 3:00 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s main office building on McIntire Road. (BOS agendas)
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will meet at 7:00 p.m. in their offices on Water Street. There does not appear to be a major item on the agenda for this regional body. Still, the packet is worth reviewing each month as it can give clues to future events and initiatives. (agenda)