The city of Charlottesville has planned and built most of the transportation infrastructure projects within city limits since 2005. Soon after Deputy City Manager for Operations Sam Sanders took on the role last summer, he noticed there were some performance issues that require a total reboot of the way the city undertakes this work.
“Some initial assessments when I first arrived here was that the development review process within [the Department of Neighborhood Development Services] needed some attention,” Sanders said. “And in doing that work since I’ve been here I’ve discovered it was more than just that. It was also looking closely as the Public Works / Engineering side of the house.”
Staff shortages are causing the city of Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services to put a pause on building and trade inspections between May 31 and June 13.
“The department acknowledges the inconvenience this may cause and appreciates everyone’s patience and cooperation during this time,” reads a press release that went out Friday afternoon.
Skepticism of bus lanes, support for roundabout, more data needed on road diet details
On Tuesday, Charlottesville’s elected officials met with the appointed Charlottesville Planning Commission to give feedback on a set of proposals to slow down traffic on Fifth Street Extended.
Several groups have called upon to Council to take action to increase safety conditions on the roadway following a string of fatal crashes in 2020.
“Our consultant team and staff have been working for the last couple of months to expedite a design plan to improve transportation safety,” said James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services.
In a one-sentence order issued last night, the United States Supreme Court has cleared the way for the federal government to study the “social cost” of greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is essential that agencies capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account,” reads Section 5 of an executive order issued by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
It has been nearly a dozen years since Amtrak running daily service through Charlottesville and we are perhaps months away from when a long-awaited second train will begin work. This week, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s Board of Directors met and got an update from executive director D.J. Stadtler, who said a deal with Norfolk Southern has to be closed. He expects that to happen next month or early in July. (meeting material)
“It’s only when that close takes place that we can start the new service,” Stadtler said. “There are three trains waiting for that close. One is the new Roanoke train which would be the second-round trip. One is the [third] Newport News train that was paused due to COVID/Amtrak staffing issues. And then the third one is the new Norfolk train.”
For the past six months, Albemarle staff have been working behind-the-scenes on the update of the Comprehensive Plan, which will be conducted in four phases.
“And the first phase is Plan for Growth where we are evaluating the current growth management policy and we’re using the theoretical maximum build-out of the county’s development areas based on the current land use plan from our 2015 plan to determine what the maximum build-out could be of those development areas,” said Rachel Falkenstein, one of Albemarle’s planning managers.
Officials with Riverbend Development have offered details on a proposal to build dozens of condominiums on undeveloped land in Charlotteville’s Belmont neighborhood.
“I know on this site in particular I have been working with the neighborhood off and on for at least five years regarding this site and we’ve owned it for well over a decade now I believe,” said Ashley Davies with Riverbend Development.
City Council will hold a work session with the Planning Commission this afternoon but before the joint session on transportation matters gets underway, there will be a second reading of an appropriation of $1.5 million in city funds to be used as grants to low- and middle-income property owners.
This would replace the long-running program Charlottesville Housing Affordability Program (CHAP) that the city had been using to provide tax relief. Todd Divers is Charlottesville’s Commissioner of Revenue.
“We’ve kind of scrambled to put together a program that I think is going to get us close to what we were doing,” Divers said.
City Council has approved an action plan for federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the next fiscal year. Staff had suggested making some changes to the process in order to meet HUD’s guidelines, but some groups pushed back on some of those proposals. (read the staff report)
“Staff will no longer request that the task force be changed to staff advisory,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders. “Instead we’re going to focus on identifying income eligible participants to ensure that the diverse voice is always available.”
A new partnership has formed between the City of Charlottesville and an entity that secures open space easements in Virginia, and that will slightly increase the cost of land transactions.
“We have a property owner that we’ve been negotiating with and we have a granting agency in the Virginia Outdoors Foundation that’s providing the funding which has already been appropriated,” said Chris Gensic, a planner in the Parks and Recreation Department.