Monthly Archives: September 2021

Stribling improvements key to Fry’s Spring rezoning

Will the city be able to build the infrastructure residents to allow for a more dense development on Stribling Avenue? At their meeting on September 14, 2021, the Charlottesville Planning Commission pondered this question and a public-private partnership could be worked out to cover the costs that a cash-strapped city cannot afford.

Southern Development seeks a rezoning to Planned Unit Development to build up to 170 units on about 12 acres of wooded land. That came after a directive at an earlier work session for the firm to increase the units in the development.

“The Planning Commission told us very clearly that you wanted to see something less dense and more suburban,” said Charlie Armstrong, vice president at Southern Development.      

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Charlottesville City Council holds first reading on lease with Botanical Garden of the Piedmont

At their meeting on September 20, Charlottesville City Council held the first reading of entering into a ground lease with the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont, a nonprofit that has been working with the city to use a portion of land in the northeast corner of McIntire Park.

“Documentation previously approved at the Council level goes back to September of 2012 with a master plan of McIntire Park,” said City Manager Boyles. “There have been conceptual designs, resolutions for agreement, a [memorandum of understanding] with the McIntire Botanical Garden, and then most recently in 2017 a final site plan approval for McIntire Park.”

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WaWa to replace Hardee’s on 5th Street Extended

A site plan has filed for a Wawa gas station within the city of Charlottesville on 5th Street Extended. If approved and constructed it would be either the third or fourth franchise within the urban area around Charlottesville. Plans have also been filed for a Wawa at the corner of Route 29 and Greenbrier , just over the line in Albemarle. 

The property in Charlottesville is currently a Hardee’s restaurant. A virtual site plan conference is scheduled for October 20. Materials for that meeting sent to neighborhood associations do not identify the 5,300 square foot gas station as a Wawa, but the agenda for the September 14, 2021 Planning Commission identifies Wawa as the subject of a future consideration by the Entrance Corridor Review Board. That will be the only legislative approval required for the project as the property is zoned for Highway Mixed Use Corridor. 

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Habitat provides Southwood details to Albemarle Supervisors

This summer, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has been updating various committees in Albemarle on their efforts to redevelop the Southwood Mobile Home Park as a mixed-use community. The Board of Supervisors approved the first phase of a rezoning in August 2019, and they got an update at their meeting on September 15. There are a lot of details, and if you want all of them, I recommend watching the full presentation. (watch)

But here is a summary beginning with planner Megan Nedostup with the basic info. 

“Habitat acquired the property in 2007,” Nedostup said. “1,500 residents live there in 341 mobiles homes.”

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Charlottesville City Council chooses school reconfiguration over West Main streetscape

Last night, the Charlottesville City Council got the latest details on the plans for reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools. Go back and read/listen to the September 14, 2021 edition of the show for the details. 

Since that was posted, a Community Design Team that has been shepherding the work of architectural firm VMDO has made their final recommendation. Here’s Wyck Knox of VMDO with the latest information. (presentation from September 14, 2021 CDT meeting)

“The unanimous choice by the CDT was Option 3 that builds in the bowl and gives a new look to the school and the most square footage and the most variety of outdoor spaces to the new building,” Knox said. 

Option 3 was the choice of the Community Design Team. (downloard presentation)

This is also the most expensive option at an estimate of $73 million. 

The five-year capital improvement program budget has a $50 million placeholder for reconfiguration. If Council agrees to proceed with the project, they’ll need to approve a budget with actual numbers in order to calculate how many millions of dollars in bonds need to be sold to pay for the capital costs. (FY22 adopted CIP)

For the Council meeting, the city’s budget office presented funding scenarios all of which include an increase in the property tax rate to cover the cost of the additional debt service to pay the bond proceeds back. These hinge on whether the city proceeds with a long-planned and multi-phased project to upgrade West Main Street that grew out of a $350,000 planning study requested in 2012 by the PLACE Design Task Force. 

While the currently adopted CIP does not include any additional funding for the $49 million project, Council has previously allocated $20.54 million in local money to match state funding for the first two phases.  That’s according to a slide presented to Council back in February. Council could opt to transfer that to the school project. 

Council budget scenarios 

The tax increases were initially to have been phased in gradually at two cents a year to cover the five-year plan as adopted by Council in April. For the purposes of these scenarios, the tax increases are shown happening next year all at once, and include an additional five cents to cover the additional cost to finance the reconfigured schools.

“If you want to start construction in FY23, which is next year, then we have to have the money to sign a contract, so that means all the money all at once,” said Krissy Hamill, the city’s budget performance analyst. 

Option 1 would cover just the cost of that $50 million placeholder and would include the West Main project. This would result in a 15 cent tax increase next  year to a rate of $1.10 per $100 of assessed value. 

“Option 2 would decrease the amount of tax increase that would be required if West Main Street were removed,” said City Manager Chip Boyles.

That would be a 13 cent tax rate to $1.08 per $100 of assessed value. 

The next two options raise the reconfiguration cost to $75 million. Option 3 keeps West Main Street with a 18 cent tax rate increase. Option 4 drops West Main and is also a 15 cent tax increase. 

Those actual rates could be different depending on the results of the 2022 assessment. That’s why you see the phrase “tax rate equivalent” in the options. 

There will be no room for any additional capital projects for at least two years under these scenarios. 

“There are a lot of variables in this,” said Boyles. “This is making the assumption that there is no sales referendum and no sales tax increase.” 

Boyles estimates the one percent increase in the tax would bring in an additional $12 million a year. 

The current sales tax is 5.3 percent, but Charlottesville only gets one percent of that amount. The budget for the current fiscal year anticipates the city will collect $12 million a year. In Fiscal Year 2020, the city collected $11.4 million according to data compiled by the Auditor of Public Accounts for the Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s up from $9.3 million in 2010. 

The capital budget for FY22 includes $1 million for a parking structure at Market Street and East High. Earlier this year, Council opted to wait a year on that project and wait until next year to spend the remaining $7 million. So far, the options presented to Council did not factor in what happens if the project is dropped but that project cannot get totally zeroed out. (FY22 adopted CIP)

“What we have been looking at is reserving at least a couple of million if we had to create surface parking on the properties that we own,” Boyles said. “I would say definitely $5 million could be transferred if needed.”

However, Hammill said that would not affect the projected tax rates because the capital budget already assumes bonds will be sold to cover the cost of paying projects. 

The housing plan adopted by City Council calls for $10 million a year to be dedicated to affordable projects. 

The current five-year capital improvement program anticipates $13.5 million on public housing, $925,000 a year on the city’s affordable housing plan, $900,000 a year for housing vouchers, and $11.4 million in city funds for the redevelopment of Friendship Court.  (FY22 adopted CIP)

There was no specific decision point on the agenda last night but Knox said he wanted to know what Council is thinking. There will be an information item presented to Council on October 4. 

A decision on West Main?

Mayor Nikuyah Walker wanted to know where Councilors stood on the West Main Street project. The results were pretty clear. 

“The only way I can see West Main Street surviving is if we get this one [percent] sales tax for the school reconfiguration,” said vice mayor Sena Magill. “That’s it.”

“I would definitely fully support reallocating the West Main project to schools,” said Councilor Michael Payne. “I can see West Main continuing as just as Hail Mary of if Congress passes the stimulus bill and there’s no local city money required.”

“I would prioritize this ahead of West Main,” said City Councilor Heather Hill. “Projects like West Main had a lot of revenue come in from other sources and I’ve said before that it’s a hard one to swallow but I think we’re at a point where there’s not another option.”

“As probably maybe the last defender of the West Main project, I also agree that whatever option we end up taking is going to have to be an option that does not include the West Main project,” said City Councilor Lloyd Snook. 

Much of the Virginia Department of Transportation funding for West Main Street comes in the form of Smart Scale, which requires projects to be completed within six years. In the current round, the city was awarded $10.4 million for the third phase. None of that funding requires a local match. The University of Virginia committed $5 million to the West Main project as well. 

A breakdown of funding for the West Main Streetscape project from February

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the September 16, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

CAT buses no longer welcome at Rio Hill Shopping Center

Charlottesville Area Transit Route 5 will no longer serve the Rio Hill Shopping centeraccording to a release from the bus agency. The release states the property owner has requested the change, and that means two stops within the shopping center will become dormant. The 31 acre property is owned by SCT Rio Hill LLC, a firm associated with the retirement system for employees of the state of Connecticut. 

The manager of the Rio Hill Shopping Center said in June 7 letter to the city that planned renovation implements a vision that does not involve public transit.

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Albemarle not on track to meet 2030 emissions reduction goals

It has been about a month since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes issued an update on progress toward efforts to keep the average global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees. Achieving that ambitious goal will take coordinated action at all levels of government, including the county-level in Virginia. 

Earlier this month, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors learned the county is not currently on track to meet a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 2008 levels by the year 2030. A second goal is to become at net-zero by the year 2050. To get there, the county has a Climate Action Plan that Supervisors adopted in October 2020. (read the plan)

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August 2021 property sales in Charlottesville: New owners for La Quinta Inn, residential prices still up

When I launched this particular feature in January, I did so because I wanted to better understand the real estate economy in Charlottesville. I have owned my home for over 13 years now, a time that roughly coincides with the time I have spent taking a close look at local government as it relates to land use, transportation, growth development, and more. 

One of the cornerstones of my journalistic philosophy is that I know nothing. Every single time I begin writing a story, I look at every single fact and where I got it from. I want to make sure that what I am putting in writing and sending out under my name is accurate. I try to strip out commentary. 

So, this is another in a series of anecdotal accounts of real estate transactions in Charlottesville. It is a result of research I do as I track the Cville Plans Together process. There are big conversations happening about the future of the built environment, and thanks to your support I have been able to stay on top with summaries of these discussions.

My goal in all of this is to provide you with information with context drawn upon all of those years of meetings and interviews and stories. I have dedicated my life to this work and the result is the coverage that you are increasingly coming to depend upon. I cannot thank you enough all for your support but work that much harder with every new subscribe. You get first look at this curated information before it goes out to a wider audience. 

This month appears to continue the trend towards purchase prices well above assessments. There are also a few commercial transactions of note. All of the information comes from the city’s Open Data portal as well as other sources cited. Every transaction is unique to a situation between individuals or organizations, and not a single one of the following blurbs is the complete story. 

August 2, 2021

  • A two bedroom house on Valley View Circle in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood sold for $280,000, which is 2.17 percent below the 2021 assessment. The purchaser is Two Dog LLC, a company registered with an Ivy address. 
  • A two bedroom house in the 200 block of Meade Avenue built in 1947 sold for $245,000 which is 2.82 percent below the 2021 assessment. 
  • A two bedroom house in the 1100 block of Altavista Avenue built in 1931 sold for $220,000. That’s 30.33 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • Half of a duplex on Rock Creek Road in Orangedale section of Fifeville sold for $175,000, or 24.91 percent over the 2021 assessment.
House on Valley View Circle
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Walker drops out of City Council Race

Nikuyah Walker is withdrawing from the 2021 election and will be a one-term City Councilor. Walker made the announcement in a Facebook post this morning in which she stated that another Black candidate in the race is being used by the Democratic Party. She said racism she experienced at last night’s City Council meeting was “the final straw.” 

In the Facebook post, Walker blasted Council for being advocates of white power and called for reform of the city’s city-manager form of government. More on that at the end of today’s newsletter.

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Charlottesville Fire Department releases annual report; CARS wants answers on new dispatch protocol

The Charlottesville Fire Department has released its annual report for the fiscal year that ended on June 2021. In the past year there is a new chief in Hezedean Smith, recruited 22 new firefighters, and boosted work in community risk reduction. There are 114 total employees in the fire department, including six civilians. There were 5,717 calls for service, with 2,105 of those for fire calls and 3,612 medical calls. 

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