In their final item of the year, Council agreed to cancel a project to build a sidewalk on Franklin Street using federal funds that come through the Community Development Block Grant process. The project had been selected by a task force but was defunded earlier this year because it could not be completed by a federal deadline.
Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders recommended Council consider moving away from the task force model.
“Routinely, a task force model doesn’t necessarily help to meet the regulatory conditions because typically what you’re doing is simply allowing community members to pick projects and they don’t necessarily always know the details that go into executing,” Sanders said.
A firm hired to conduct an audit of the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund presented preliminary results to City Council at their final meeting of the year in the early morning of December 21.
HR&A had already completed an affordable housing plan as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative but Council paid an additional $165,000 to the firm for that audit, as well as creation of a program to ensure that the upcoming rewrite of the zoning code is inclusionary. The adopted plan called for the city to spend $10 million on housing for at least ten years.
As the calendar year concludes, localities in Virginia are just about to enter the third quarter of their fiscal year. Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors got an update on how the county’s finances look as the start of budget season approaches.
First, they got an update on the county’s assessments for 2022, which were made available a month earlier than usual. Peter Lynch is Albemare’s assessor.
“Because of the mail issues that we’ve had, I wanted to mail the ordinances earlier so we have a target date of January 14 to mail the notices this year,” Lynch said.
Virginia’s new Congressional and legislative districts are now in place for the next nine years, effective immediately. The state Supreme Court has approved new districts for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and the eleven members of the House of Representatives in Congress. These were drawn by two Special Masters after a bipartisan commission failed to reach consensus in October. Those maps were amended following public comments earlier this month.
“Redistricting is a complex task, one that requires the balancing of multiple competing factors,” wrote Sean Trende and Bernard Groffman. “Unfortunately, it simply was not possible to incorporate every single request while remaining within the bounds of Virginia and federal law.”
In the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly, the city of Charlottesville will seek permission to hold a referendum on a one-cent sales tax increase. That’s the path Danville took in 2020 when they and several other Southside communities petitioned the 2020 General Assembly to the list of “qualifying localities” that could have such a ballot initiative. In November, Danville citizens voted 7,515 to 4,921 in favor of levying the tax.
On Tuesday, the seven-member Danville City Council voted unanimously to levy the tax, which will expire at the end of May of 2041.
Vice Mayor Gary Miller had this observation before the vote. G.W. is George Washington High School.
“Today I had a patient in and her daughter was a proud member of the 1965 GW Women’s Championship basketball team, the last time they won the state championship,” Miller said. “She said she was dismayed. She’d been to GW, that’s where she graduated, and she said how dismal the schools was and she didn’t think it was conducive to learning. And I was just happy to assure her that with the passage of this referendum and the sales tax, that school’s going to look like a different school in just few years and you wouldn’t be able to recognize it.”
A proposal to rezone land on the eastern half of Nassau Street in the Belmont neighborhood did not move forward on Monday. Developer Nicole Scro and engineer Justin Shimp are seeking a rezoning from R-2 to R-3 on about a half acre of land. Several members of the public asked Council to deny the request due to the property being located within a floodplain as governed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Magill said she wanted more information from staff about the issue.
“I am concerned about the floodplain issue and I am concerned about the design that is being submitted in a flood plain,” Magill said.
Council has held the first of two readings and a public hearing on a mandated review of the city’s budget for fiscal year for 2021, which ended on June 30 of this year. There’s a $5.5 million surplus as well as a $6.7 million reserve fund of cash set aside for COVID. The latter was not tapped. Christopher Cullinan is the city’s Finance Director.
“The audit has been completed and to close out the city’s financial records for fiscal year 2021, several year-end adjustments require City Council action,” Cullinan said. “These adjustments are to carry over unspent funds from the last fiscal year to the current fiscal year.”
The Charlottesville City Planning Commission has made its recommendations for how to amend the draft capital budget for the next five years. That came at the end of a public hearing Tuesday that featured a discussion with City Council. Elected officials will make the final decision next spring as they adopt a budget that will be prepared under the supervision of a yet-to-be-named interim city manager. (draft FY23-FY27 CIP presentation to Planning Commission) (adopted FY22 budget)
The Commission got a look at the information at a work session on November 23, and heard it a second time from Senior Budget Analyst Krissy Hammill in advance of the public hearing. To recap, the capital budget is close to capacity due to the increase of spending in recent years, including a $75 million placeholder for the reconfiguration of middle schools. Council has also authorized a reorientation of priorities to find more money for the schools project. (previous story)
In yesterday’s newsletter, there’s a lot of information about planning for a Regional Transit Vision that may include formation of an authority that could raise funds for expanded service. There’s also a second study underway to determine the feasibility of additional routes to serve urbanized portions of Albemarle County as well as Monticello. The results are in from a survey conducted on two potential scenarios according to Lucinda Shannon, a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. (project website)
“They found that most of the services that people selected in that public outreach was scenario 2 for all three of the areas which is a lot of microtransit connecting with some fixed routes,” Shannon said.
It has been some time since I’ve had an update on transit issues and now is the time to do so. Earlier this month, the members of the Regional Transit Partnership got an informal recommendation from a consultant that it may be time to move from an advisory body into a decision-making body that can raise its own funds.
Before we get into all of that, though, there is still time to take two surveys to get your input on the Regional Transit Vision for the Charlottesville Area. That’s a project being led by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District to “evaluate transit service” in the region in order to “establish a clear long-term vision for efficient, equitable, and effective transit service.”