The Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership is nearly finished with a plan intended to coordinate efforts to increase the number of below-market housing units across the six localities of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. The title of the document is Planning For Affordability: A Regional Approach. (download the draft plan)
“We felt that it was important to somehow identify what was particular to the region instead of just rehashing individual action steps that might be in the individual chapters for each locality,” said Anthony Haro, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. “And this led to some good conversations about how to track regionally these goals.”
The plan is intended to foster collaboration that pools resources and improves communication about housing issues in order to reduce pressure on individual localities to shoulder the burden alone. But Haro said that won’t happen without coordinated implementation.
“This naturally led to the question of who is going to track these regional goals and who is responsible for overseeing the region,” Haro said.
There’s also an additional chapter for each locality in the region. Each of these will be presented to the governing body in each before being approved by the entire Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Christine Jacobs, interim director of the TJPDC, outlined what would happen the June 23 meeting and that consideration for approval.
After years of planning, construction is well underway for the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville’s redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park in Albemarle’s southern growth area. Land has been cleared along Old Lynchburg Road to make way for the first phase of the project.
Andrew Baxter is the director of operations for Habitat and he briefed the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee at their meeting on June 17, 2021.
“Last September as you probably are aware we had the ribbon-cutting, have owned the park for a number of years, invested a great deal in basic infrastructure and safety over the years,” Baxter said.
In August 2019, The Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning of nearly 34 acres of land from R-2 to the Neighborhood Model District, and the concept plan in the application is for up to 450 homes.
“We’re operating now under a 2019 approved non-displacement plan,” Baxter said. “That’s our primary commitment in this redevelopment, that we will not displace current residents of the park, unless they choose to go somewhere else.”
Baxter said the idea had been not to move any existing residents in the first phase, but issues with aging septic systems on the site forced a change.
“If you can imagine, a trailer park that was initially put in place in the 1950’s and 1960’s, about half the park is not on public sewer so that’s created some challenges,” Baxter said.
In all, 26 mobile homes are in the process of being relocated and that work is expected to be complete in August. Baxter said Habitat is complying with the federal Uniform Relocation Act as part of those efforts. (watch a video on the URA)
“The options vary from physically moving a trailer to an empty pad in the park and the family goes with it, to moving a family to a vacant trailer that we own, to moving the trailer off property to a location that’s identified and desirable by the family, by the homeowner,” Baxter said.
The first lots to be used for new homes will be ready this fall.
“That will allow for the construction of what we call Village 1, so Phase 1 Village 1, which will be a combination of duplexes, there’s one single-family dwelling in Village 1, and then four condo buildings that constitute twenty units total,” Baxter said.
Baxter said the process is also underway for existing residents to apply for Habitat’s homeownership program.
“And that is an incredibly detailed, individualized process for each family that involves financial coaching, to get those folks ready if they want to be homeowners,” Baxter said.
At the same time, the Piedmont Housing Alliance has been successful in their application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits for 70 units in what’s to be called Southwood Apartments. (2021 LIHTC rankings)
“So there’s very low rent units will be available for certain folks if they qualify as well,” Baxter said.
A second rezoning application is also being prepared for the rest of the park’s redevelopment.
Partners in the project so far are Faulconer Construction, Atlantic Builders, and Southern Development. Atlantic is building the condominiums and Southern Development is building the market-rate units.
There is other construction happening nearby on Old Lynchburg Road. After Baxter was County Planner Tori Kanellopoulos gave details on site plans that are under review, such as part of the Albemarle Business Campus development for which ground has already been broken.
“Block 5 includes a 103,500 square foot self storage building with additional retail space and restaurant that would be 3,800 square feet,” Kanellopoulos said.
The Albemarle Planning Commission will next take up the Crozet Master Plan at a work session on Tuesday, June 22. At the June 9 CAC meeting, committee members and participating residents got a presentation on the implementation of projects intended to bolster Crozet’s urban character. They also had the chance to comment on the plan update to date.
But first, the implementation projects. The master plan is a large overview of the entire area, and further studies are suggested. The draft implementation chapter shows a list of ten potential topics ranging from a Downtown Neighborhood Architectural and Cultural Study to a stream health study for Parrot Branch, a local waterway. Initial feedback has already been submitted and planner Tori Kanellopoulos gave the rundown for how planning projects scored.
“The top ranked projects were the Crozet Avenue Shared-Use Path feasibility study, the Three Notch’d Trail feasibility study, and the Route 250 West design guidelines,” Kanellopoulos said. “And then the policy projects were also ranked and the top priority was updating residential zoning designations to allow for more preservation of natural resources.”
Potential capital projects were also ranked. Kanellopoulos said the highest ranking projects are the completion of Eastern Avenue, downtown Crozet intersection improvements, and sidewalk connections.
Let’s hear more about that Three Notch’d Trail.
“Lately there’s been a lot more focus and attention on the potential Three Notch’d Trail which would ideally connect from the Blue Ridge Tunnel along Crozet and over to Charlottesville,” Kanellopoulos said. “A feasibility study would look at this alignment and there are opportunities to partner with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and the Planning District Commission and trails groups to look at the feasibility study for the alignment.”
Supervisor Ann Mallek said later in the meeting that VDOT planning may not have staff to conduct that feasibility study this year, but community work can be done now to prepare for that work possibly in 2022.
“And the other blessing that goes along with that is 2022 is when [Virginia] is going to take over the rail access right of way from CSX and therefore that increases greatly the possibility that we will be able to have a trail beside the rail,” Mallek said.
Another “catalyst” project now in the implementation chapter is Western Park, which has long been called for in the plan and for which the county received 36 acres in 2010 as part of the Old Trail rezoning. A master plan for that project was created in 2018 that identified three phases. The first is recommended for funding, a decision which would be made by the entire Board of Supervisors during the budget process.
“This phase one would include the access road with parking, a playground, and additional support of infrastructure and utilities,” Kanellopoulos said.
Committee member Sandy Hausman noted the rankings were based on responses from fewer than a hundred people.
“I wonder if anybody feels like this there needs to be a bit more outreach, like a mass mailing to everyone who lives in Crozet,” Hausman said. “It just feels to me that this is a relatively small group of people who tend to be paying attention to this stuff and everybody else will be unpleasantly surprised in a year or two when things start happening.”
Committee member Joe Fore said he wanted to see all three phases of Western Park listed as catalyst projects, meaning they would be prioritized first.
“I think just given the fact that it’s been in the works for so long, that the phases of at least getting started, the land is already there,” Fore said. “I understand it’s expensive but it’s not an Eastern Avenue or Lickinghole Creek bridge expensive.”
Fore also said he would support the creation of a special taxation district to help pay for new infrastructure. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has previously been briefed on how service districts or a “business improvement district” could be levied in certain areas to fund amenities.
“I looked through currently, and this may be a comment for the full draft, there’s only one mention of service districts in the entire draft and that’s in reference to funding ongoing activities and services at the plaza and downtown,” Fore said. “But I would like to see maybe a little bit more and maybe a full suggestion saying maybe this is something we should explore in Crozet to fund some of these capital projects so we’re not constantly having these be projects are ten years out.”
The Board of Supervisors last had a formal presentation on service districts at their meeting on December 7, 2016. (presentation) (story)
“It’s a pretty broad statute as I read it,” Fore said. “Things like sidewalks, roads, programming, cultural events, economic development, beautification and landscaping. It’s a very broad statute. It seems to me you could raise money for most of the kinds of projects that we’re looking at. When we look at the list of priorities and say, yikes! Where are we going to get all the money for this? Well, rather than say let’s raise taxes on everybody in the county, you might be able to say let’s raise funds specifically from Crozet that would stay in Crozet for some of these projects we want to see in Crozet.”
CAC member David Mitchell is skeptical of the idea and said it would lead to Crozet receiving fewer direct funds from the county.
“Over time we will start to be looked at by the other Supervisors as ‘they have their own money, they can do their own thing’ and you’re going to slowly over time lose your share of the general fund,” Mitchell said.
Supervisor Mallek agreed.
“I would really discourage our citizenry from burdening themselves because I think David is right,” Mallek said. “We need to go to toe to toe, to say, this is a need that’s been on the books.”
Mallek singled out the Eastern Avenue connector road that will provide north-south travel. A major obstacle is the cost of a bridge required to cross Lickinghole Creek.
“We have made all of these zoning changes prior to 2007 that were counting on that bridge and we absolutely have a moral obligation to build it,” Mallek said.
Eastern Avenue is ranked #8 on the county’s transportation priority list and there was an update in May. There’s not yet a full cost estimate on what it will cost, but engineering work is underway.
“This project is currently being evaluated through an alignment study and conceptual design which is funded through the Transportation Leveraging Fund in the [Capital Improvement Program],” reads the update. “The alignment report was presented to the Board in January and the preferred alignment was selected. This project is being considered for a Revenue Sharing Grant application.”
Allie Pesch, the chair of the CAC, said she wanted Eastern Avenue to be the top implementation priority.
“I like seeing Eastern Avenue at the top of that list,” Pesch said. “That is a priority for everyone in our area and just so overdue.”
After this discussion of implementation, county planner Rachel Falkenstein turned the conversation to the working draft of the master plan. The draft that will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at their work session on Tuesday incorporates feedback from the June 9 CAC meeting. (download the draft)
“We still have a couple of steps to go before we get to our public hearings and we’ll continue to accept feedback and make revisions to the chapters and to the content,” Falkenstein said.
A few days after the CAC meeting, the Downtown Crozet Initiative held a public meeting to talk about a 30,000 square foot plaza intended to be located at the former Barnes Lumberyard. The plaza would anchor a mixed-use building and a hotel through a public-private partnership. The idea involves construction of a connector road using revenue-sharing funds from VDOT. That process requires a local match.
Frank Stoner is a principal at Milestone Partners which seeks to redevelop the space. They’re putting up $2 million to serve as that match.
“This project started in 2014,” Stoner said. “We developed this road plan in 2016, 2017. Most of the design elements of the road have been resolved. We felt strongly and I think the community felt strongly and the county felt strongly that the streets had to be appropriate for the small town that is Crozet and not be a highway through the middle of downtown which is kind of where VDOT wanted to go with it.”
In all, VDOT is providing $2.49 million in funds for the road improvements. Milestone is paying $2 million and donating the land for the plaza and roads. The Downtown Crozet Initiative will raise $1.6 million or more to program the plaza. Albemarle County has contributed $1.6 million in cash to the project, and will provide another $1.6 million in rebates through a process known as tax increment financing. (read the June 2019 performance agreement)
Stoner said the idea is to build an urban plaza, not a park.
“And most importantly we wanted this plaza to be the heart not just of the neighborhood but the Crozet community,” Stoner said.
VDOT is contributing $2.5 million and the Downtown Crozet Initiative is seeking to raise over a million in private funds.
“Which will be used to fund essentially the furniture, fixtures and equipment, sculpture, artwork, seating, all of that kind of stuff that goes in the plaza,” Stoner said.
The designs aren’t close to final yet, but Stoner wanted to get feedback from the community. There are also no identified tenants for any of the spaces yet.
“We haven’t really been in the position to take commitments because there have been so many unknowns because of the VDOT plans and then we had some stormwater issues we had to work through and so it has just been one obstacle after another,” Stoner said.
Stoner said if all goes according to plan, construction could get underway next year. To Stoner, success means making sure it’s a place to expand what already makes Crozet Crozet.
“If we can’t create a place that’s affordable for local businesses, then we’re not going to succeed,” Stoner said.
In April 2020, the firm Downtown Strategies unveiled their report on a Downtown Strategic Vision for Crozet. Stoner suggested interested parties might take a look. (take a look)
Nearby there is a separate VDOT project to rebuild the existing Square to add sidewalks and address ongoing stormwater issues. (watch the June 14 presentation)
The Charlottesville Economic Development office has been working on a recovery plan for the city, and the Charlottesville Economic Development Authority got a look at their meeting on June 8. Director Chris Engel said his department will seek American Rescue Plan funding from City Council to pay for projects within the initiative.
“Essentially we met and did a series of outreach efforts including a series of phone calls that was led by Jason Ness on our team with previous recipients of our grants from last year to find out how they’re doing,” Engel said. “We found four basic buckets in which there was desire for additional assistance.
Items in the roadmap include direct financial assistance through continued grant programs and additional training programs including a “specific hospitality focused training program.” Other ideas include updating maps for business corridors and creating a marketing leverage program. There are also ideas to create new infrastructure.
“One of them is a unique opportunity that is now available to municipalities to seek out what are called designated outdoor refreshment areas,” Engel said. “These are areas where alcoholic beverages can be served in an outdoor environment without putting up the traditional hard barriers that people might be accustomed to for these types of things.”
(This piece originally appeared on Charlottesville Community Engagement as an article for paid subscribers. Please consider becoming one to ensure these reviews can continue!)
2021 continues to be a year where the price of single-family residential homes and lots is increasing in Charlottesville, seemingly with no end in sight. Interest-rates remain low, as does interest in making large financial investments.
I feel it’s important to understand what’s happening here parcel by parcel, transaction by transaction. That helps me have a better understanding, though this month’s list raises more questions.
What insights do you have? How do these real-world transactions affect consideration of the recently adopted Affordable Housing Plan? Were any of these transactions influenced by the not-yet-adopted Future Land Use Map? How many of these houses might have been purchased for their land?
On Monday night, Charlottesville City Council officially adopted a resolution canceling a project to build a 300-space parking garage at the corner of East Market Street and 9th Street. Part of the decision hinged on a notion of whether the city was doing enough to get people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation.
In 2015, the firm Nelson Nygaard conducted a study of parking downtown, and one of the recommendations was to maintain existing supply through something called “transportation demand management.”
“Strong promotion of TDM efforts and continued enhancement of alternative travel options will serve Charlottesville well in maintaining its reputation and charm as an attractive, livable and sustainable city,” reads page 8 of the study, which was the most recent official review of parking downtown.
Specifically, the plan recommended creation of a “Transportation Management Association” to help encourage alternative modes of travel. In early 2008, local community member Randy Salzman brought the idea up to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). That’s the local body that makes decisions on regional transportation projects. Salzman arranged for them to hear from a professor of sustainability from Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Here’s Peter Newman, who co-authored a book with UVA professor Tim Beatley called Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change.
“Now we’ve had all of our cities do regional plans in the last five years and they have all concluded the need for more sustainable future based on less car-dependence with transit prioritized with corridors and centers to make sure the structure of the city changes,” Newman said.
The idea at the time didn’t get much traction.
At the May 27 meeting of the Regional Transit Partnership — a sub-group of the MPO — Salzman once again appeared to promote the idea.
“We need to understand why people take the bus or don’t take the bus, why people bicycle or don’t bicycle, why people drive or don’t drive,” Salzman said. “There is another car culture that has done this exceptionally well and that culture is Australia where they have just as much of a car ownership culture as we have in the United States.”
Salzman mentioned a program called TravelSmart, which has now transformed into a program called Your Move. People who register are assisted in getting used to different forms of transportation. Salzman wants this community to take on the same approach, perhaps by expanding the existing RideShare program.
“Right now because of the stars aligning at the federal level, this area could go after a grant that would be the leadership for helping America,” Salzman said. “Understand the individuals and how we can help them change as opposed to building the change, building all the transit and then not using it.”
The Regional Transit Partnership consists of the University Transit Service, Charlottesville Area Transit, Jaunt, and other agencies. A non-voting member of the body is Sara Pennington, who runs the RideShare program as part of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District.
“Transportation doesn’t just work in a silo,” Pennington said. “There are so many moving parts and moving pieces and the more that we can work together and band together to help each other out, the better.”
Much of Pennington’s work this past year has focused on telework, which was crucial for many during the pandemic.
The TJPDC will soon hire a consultant to create a regional transit vision plan at a cost of $350,000, with half of that amount coming from a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A selection firm is reviewing three proposals for the project and an announcement on who will do the work may be made later this month.
The TJPDC is also working on a $106,215 study about expanded transit in Albemarle County, above and beyond a second study that Charlottesville Area Transit is conducting to add service to U.S. 29 north of its current terminus at the Wal-Mart. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner and said the firm Michael Baker International has been hired to do the work.
“We are planning our first public engagement session for that project in late July or early August,” Hersh-Ballering said.
Karen Davis, the interim CEO of Jaunt, said her planning manager’s recent appearance at a Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership panel discussion may lead to the resumption of a discontinued service between the North Fork Research Park and points south. Stephen Johnson talked about the possibility of on-demand transit at the May 20 event. (watch)
“I got a call from UVA Foundation talking about a service we had done for them that is right now discontinued, Park Connect, he was so well-spoken that they called me and said ‘hey, on-demand could actually meet our needs better than the model we were using,” Davis said.
Later this summer, Charlottesville Area Transit will begin a public period for proposed route changes.
(This installment originally appeared in the June 9, 2021 episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement)
The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met earlier this month. One of the items on the Building and Grounds Committee’s agenda was approval of a master plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens, an apartment complex between Old Ivy Road and Leonard Sandridge Road that was built in the late 1960’s.
University Architect Alice Raucher explained the purpose of creating a master plan.
“It is in general always good to have a plan and physical master planning helps to set priorities to inform future plans,” Raucher said. “It often aligns limited physical resources with often equally limited financial resources and provides the opportunity for broad University and community engagement to create a shared vision.”
Ivy Gardens is made up of 17 acres and has 440 residential units close to North Grounds, Darden, the School of Law, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the Center for Politics.
“In 2016, at the direction of the University, the Foundation purchased Ivy Gardens and although its structures are aging, the property is currently income producing with units that primarily house our graduate students in a low-density, automobile-oriented development,” Raucher said.
The proposed redevelopment plan would increase the number of units to 718 and would add about 46,000 square feet of academic space and 69,500 square feet for commercial uses. The latter would be clustered in a new Town Square that would front onto Old Ivy Road. To the immediate north would be a Residential Commons with different kinds of housing types. In the middle would be a Central Green. A pedestrian bridge would cross Leonard Sandridge Drive, allowing safe passage to Darden and the Law School.
A plan to update a hydroelectric plant at the Jefferson Mill Dam on the Hardware River obtained a recommendation of approval from the Albemarle Planning Commission on June 1, but not without a tough question intended as a softball. In beginning of the 21st century, construction of dams is strongly discouraged in most cases, with the exception of impoundment for water supply. But the Jefferson Mill Dam dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. Bill Fritz is the county’s development process manager. (staff report)
“The existing dam and the adjacent building date to the 1800’s and the mill building is now used as a home,” Fritz said.
Power has been generated at the location for much of that time, but the proposal is to update the turbine that’s within an underground water room through which a diverted portion of the river flows.
“The project will improve the outfall from the water room, install new inlets to bring water to the turbine,” Fritz said. “The applicant has submitted by far the most extensive and complete application I’ve seen in thirty plus years I’ve worked for the county.”
The latest campaign finance reports have been filed with the Virginia Department of Elections, as reported by the Virginia Public Access Project. Let’s start with Albemarle County.
Incumbent Jack Jouett District Supervisor Diantha McKeel raised an additional $6,522 during the period and spent $9, leaving her campaign with a balance of $32,056 as of May 27. McKeel is a Democrat who currently faces no opposition on the November 2 ballot for a third term.
Incumbent Rio District Supervisor Ned Gallaway raised $10,150 in the period, with $10,000 of that coming from a single corporate donor known as Seminole Trail Management LLC. Gallaway spent $5 in the period and has a cash balance of $15,809. Gallaway is a Democrat who currently has no opposition on the November 2 ballot for a second term.
At a work session on May 25, 2021, Charlottesville City Council was briefed on upcoming changes to the city-run bus system. Charlottesville is the sole owner and operator of Charlottesville Area Transit, and Albemarle County pays the city for service each year. Ridership on CAT has declined significantly in recent years. In 2013, ridership was at 2.4 million. By 2018, that dropped to 2.05 million. (view presentation)
Garland Williams has been director since August 2019 and previously served as director of Planning and Scheduling for the Greater Richmond Transit Company.
Near the beginning of the pandemic, the city hired Kimley Horn to review the system to recommend changes to make it more efficient on the other side.
“This is not designed to be a total revamp of our system,” Williams said. “This was kind of stop-gap measure because as you know, over the last six year CAT’s ridership has been declining precipitously so what we’re trying to do right now is stop that, build a nice foundation, and then build from there.”