Earlier this year, City Council agreed to transfer federal funding that had been allocated to add a sidewalk on Franklin Street, which serves as part of its eastern border with Albemarle County. The project was within the jurisdiction of a task force that was put together to recommend projects eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Erin Atak is a grants coordinator with the city of Charlottesville.
“This is funding that’s issued by HUD,” Atak said. “These are federal funds that the city receives each year as an entitlement community.”
The city selects a neighborhood every three years to receive the money for infrastructure and a task force is put together to make recommendations to Council. One recent project funded through this process is a pocket park in the 10th and Neighborhood. The current neighborhood receiving funds is the Ridge Street neighborhood. The Belmont task force last met in February 12, 2019.
“And in this case, the Belmont Priority Neighborhood [Task Force] recommended to City Council the Franklin Street sidewalk which was approved to create a new sidewalk on the west side between north Moores Creek Lane and Nassau Street, which was approximately 1,600 feet of new sidewalk.”
This process is separate from the city’s sidewalk priority process. The Belmont neighborhood was allocated a total of $449,214 and the sidewalk made up a portion of that amount.
Tim Motsch is a transportation project manager with the city, hired in the summer of 2017.
“Myself and Kyle Kling were hired in order to manage transportation projects including the sidewalks which I have been involved in as well as Smart Scale projects that I’ve been involved in such as the East High Streetscape and the Emmet Streetscape.”
More on those projects in a future newsletter. For now, Motsch explained that design for the Frankin Street sidewalk began in late 2018 when the engineering firm A. Morton Thomas was hired to do the work. Complications happened.
“It is a challenging plan from the point of the view of stormwater management depending on which map you look at and which datum you refer to, the sidewalk is either right next to the floodplain or in the floodplain,” Motsch said.
That delayed the design for the project, which included the need to purchase easements from landowners on which mitigating features and drainafe could be built. The pandemic’s effect on the city’s budget also led to a delay.
“Add to the fact that last year, for several months all sidewalk projects were on hold due to the possibility of having to use city funds,” Motsch said.
Construction is now slated for next spring, but that’s if the right of way can be acquired from around a dozen property owners.
However, Atak explained that HUD has time limits by which its money can be spent and this project did not make the deadline.
“Normally funds are required to be spent within one year of receiving CDBG dollars,” Atak said.
In February, Council transferred the funding to a rent relief initiative for public housing, but Atak said the funding will be restored on July 1, 2022. Everything has to be in place for the project to move forward.
“It’s very important that we receive public support with the right of way moving forward so that we can secure this funding and there aren’t any delays moving forward,” Atak said.
Atak said HUD has already issued a warning on the project.
Motsch said a round of certified letters are being sent out to property owners this week for negotiations, and that the city wants to avoid taking properties by condemnation. One of the abutting landowners is Sunshine Court, which owns a six and a half acre mobile home park on Carlton Avenue. The property has a land value of $2.4 million.