(This post originally appeared in the February 25, 2021 installment of Charlottesville Community Engagement)
Albemarle County Executive Jeffrey Richardson unveiled a $466 million recommended operating budget for the Board of Supervisors to review over the several weeks. (review the recommended FY22 budget)
“This year’s budget theme pulls forward the budget theme year from fiscal year 21 which was ‘Respond, Recover and Recalibrate’,” Richardson said.
Tonight, the Places29-Rio Community Advisory Committee will get a briefing on the Rio Road Corridor Study, a project underway in that is in part a response to opponents of recent rezoning proposals on Rio Road East. They argued Albemarle County needed to address congestion on the street before approving any more residential units. The firm Line + Grade was hired last year to conduct the work following their work on a similar study of Avon Street Extended.
The Albemarle Planning Commission got a look at the study’s scope at their meeting on February 16. (project website)
Last night, a community meeting was held for a special use permit for a 60-acre utility-scale solar facility near Batesville. Sun Tribe Solar is applying for the 8-megawatt project on behalf of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, which purchased the property last year. Supervisors updated the zoning code to allow such facilities with a special use permit.
Bobby Jocz is a permitting lead with Sun Tribe Solar.
“Once the life of this facility is complete, the site will be restored to its original condition,” Jocz said.
Neighbors had the opportunity to ask questions about the project. Paul Miller is a resident of Craigs Store Road, where the site would be located.
The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners held their final meeting before groundbreaking will take place for the first new public housing units to be built in a generation.
Jay Kessler has been working as the project manager on behalf of the CRHA in a position known as “owner’s representative.” Riverbend Development is the private partner under an LLC called the Affordable Housing Group.
“And in this case, the owner is different than my normal clients because it really is AHG, it’s CRHA, and it’s PHAR,” Kessler said. “Owners have a significant role to play in the success of their design and construction projects. I bring a 35-year construction background.”
At their meeting on February 16, Council was briefed on a plan to remedy the city’s noncompliance with a mandate from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to spend previously funding on a timely basis. Erin Atak is the city’s grants coordinator.
“City staff had identified an immediate program for funding to solve the city’s timeliness concerns by May 2,” Atak said. “The city has unexpended 2019 [Community Development Block Grant] entitlement funds totaling $244,950.82 from the delayed Belmont /Franklin sidewalk activity.”
At their meeting on February 16, Council discussed the future of capital funding for a 300-space parking structure, but took no action on whether $8 million in funding should be included for the project.
The topic also came up at a meeting earlier on February 16 of the Charlottesville Parking Advisory Panel that featured an update on the city’s Parking Action Plan. Rick Siebert was hired as the city’s first parking manager in the fall of 2016 to implement a plan.
“This was originally a five-year plan that expired in 2020 and we’ve been talking about how we might change some of the objectives for the next five years,” Siebert said.
The prospect of the West Main Streetscape being implemented is still alive as City Council still wants more information about how the project could be salvaged. The project was split into four phases in order to secure funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation, but staff has recommended not fully funding the project.
Council has not made several final decisions about the proposed $160 million Capital Improvement Program for the next fiscal year and the four years that come after it. That amount also includes $8 million for a 300-space parking deck as well as a $50 million placeholder for reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools.
“There certainly is a lot of unknowns when we think about going into the future of the CIP especially when we think about schools and not knowing the scope of what they’re going to be [doing],” said City Councilor Heather Hill. “And also thinking about the parking deck situation and what options we may have.”
On Tuesday, the Albemarle Planning Commission held a public hearing on a new zoning overlay district created by staff for the area around the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road. The idea is to encourage the redevelopment of single-story shopping centers into a more urban form. The form-based code would be optional and would allow for more square feet in a structure. Rachel Falkenstein is a planning manager with the county.
“The application process for development under form-based code would look pretty similar to a by-right development process that we have today with a couple of small tweaks,” Falkenstein said. “The first is that we are requiring a pre-application meeting for applications under the form based code where we could discuss topics with the applicant such as the location of streets and civic spaces and any unique site characteristics.”
The Albemarle County Economic Development Authority has entered into a job creation agreement with Afton Scientific for that company’s expansion.
Afton Scientific manufactures pharmaceuticals that are sterile and digestible and has around 60 employees. Their products include therapies for cystic fibrosis, immune diseases, and breast cancer. Tom Thorp, the firm’s CEO, told the EDA about a probiotic for infants that Afton Scientific is working on.
“That will get rolled out nationwide, and it’s very exciting,” Thorp said. “A lot of major companies are going to be backing that and we’ll be making that at our third facility. What we do is we take the ingredients and we mix it up and we sterilize it and put in these vials and cap and crimp it and give it back to the customer.”
Charlottesville City Council received several reports yesterday afternoon, beginning with an update on the city’s financial forecast. Senior Budget Analyst Ryan Davidson said nothing much has changed since the last one in January. (forecast)
“We’re still looking at projecting our revenues to come in approximately $9.9 million lower than the FY21 adopted budget amount,” Davidson said.