What role should economic development play in the future of Charlottesville? That question is a crucial one as local governments continue to recover from the pandemic, and key in a city where there’s been much executive turnover in the past five years. This week, the city’s seven-member Economic Development Authority was briefed on a new strategic plan intended to guide the city’s efforts.
“It has been about ten years since we embarked on a full-blown strategic planning process so with the encouragement of our interim city manager, Michael Rogers, we are proceeding down the path to have a consultant guide us through a strategic planning effort,” said Chris Engel, the city’s economic development director.
The 17-member Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia is meeting this week at the Rotunda and yesterday a committee charged with overseeing audits and compliance gathered first.
One of their discussions yesterday was a review of a public safety audit conducted after the events of August 11, 2017, when a large group of white supremacists led a tiki-torch parade around Grounds shouting slogans such as “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” This resulted in a confrontation in front of the Rotunda in which several were injured.
The University of Virginia Police were criticized for inaction during the incident. A month later, UVA hired the firm Margolis Healy to conduct a review of safety and security programs and a series of recommendations was presented to the Board of Visitors that December. (UVA Today article from that time)
An audit plan approved by the Board of Visitors in June 2021 called for a status update on what’s happened since.
“Sometimes audits scare people, especially if it’s like the [Internal Revenue Service] or something like that,” said Tim Longo, UVA’s Associate Vice President for Safety and Security and Chief of Police. “But audits are about holding people accountable and reminding us of what we committed to and what we promised we’d do.”
The Margolis Healy report had six recommendations, and only two of them are considered fully implemented.
“When Margolis & Healy came, it’s important to remember why they came,” Longo said. “It is become something really bad happened in our community and what we found along the way that were things that were broken. Systems got broken. Communication was broken. Integration was broken. Cooperation was broken, amongst critical public safety systems and the damage will outlive all of us in this room.”
One of the implemented items is Longo’s new position which he said helped created a central command structure for UVa’s police department, the emergency management department, threat assessments, and security cameras.
“What the audit did was remind us that there’s just a couple of things we haven’t done yet,” Longo said. “One of the things we haven’t done yet in the police department is create a strategic plan around community engagement. We’ve put a lieutenant in charge of community engagement and promoted a sergeant into that rank. We hired a student, a community engagement person. We hired a diversity officer. But we didn’t create the plan.”
Longo said the plan needs to be completed “yesterday” but he hopes it will be done by the end of the academic year.
Longo said another item waiting to happen is the transfer of fire safety responsibility and the Medical Center’s emergency management functions to his office.
The full results of the audit were not listed in the packet, and I have requested a copy. Members of the committee had the chance to ask questions. Thomas A. DePasquale is in his second term.
“Do you feel there’s a good implementation between us and the city now?” DePasquale asked. “There was almost no implementation between us and the city during the crisis. Where are we on that?”
“Mr. Chairman, I believe that in the last couple of years the communications between the police departments has been far more robust than it had been in two or three previous years,” Longo said. “Historically the communication has always been great between the city, the county, and the University across the governing bodies and the law enforcement agencies. That’s beginning to improve greatly.”
Longo pointed to the recent decision by Albemarle County to create a separate emergency management division within the Fire Rescue Department.
The University of Virginia Police Department currently has 19 people in queue to become officers, which Longo attributed to recent pay increases for officers.
“I think we’ve just dropped down below double digits,” Longo said. “It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been there.”
September is National Preparedness Month, and Albemarle’s Deputy Fire Chief for Emergency Management wants you to create a plan for times when normality is disrupted.
“Emergency management is something that we have focused on for a number of years but lately we have really been kind of expanding our broadening that focus,” said Deputy Chief John Oprandy said. “What emergency management focuses on for the whole county government and the community is a preparedness for all types of hazards.”
“Now more than ever Democracy is backsliding, civic space is shrinking, distrust, mis- and disinformation are growing while threats to the freedom of journalists and media workers are expanding by the day,” reads the website for the day.
The rewrite of the zoning ordinance is underway with sometimes heated conversations happening all over Charlottesville. This monthly summary of property transactions in the city is my way of checking out what’s happening as the rules of development change. There have been many claims that speak with certainty about what might happen, but I am a professional skeptic and I will continue this anecdotal look as long as I am able to do so.
This time around I am including the total acreage for each parcel as well as the current Future Land Use Map designation. It’s possible the specifics for each parcel will change but the map is an adopted part of a Comprehensive Plan that assumes every parcel will have more development rights. The way those new development rights may be realized will depend on the size and shape of the plot. That’s where the zoning rewrite comes in.
Last week, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors had another work session on their priorities for 2023, which will build off of what they did not get passed in 2022.
“One of those was to provide for civil penalties in lieu of criminal punishment for violations of local ordinances,” said Steve Rosenberg, who has been Albemarle’s County Attorney for about six weeks. “Another was to require agricultural buildings used by the public to comply with minimum safety standards that apply to other buildings in the locality. And the third was to expand the authority to use photo-speed monitoring devices.”
The publication UVA Today notes that it has been three years since the University of Virginia adopted a strategic plan that has the name Great and Good. Several goals and objectives in the plan seek to position UVA to become “a strong partner and a good neighbor to Charlottesville.”
“Our relationship with Charlottesville and the surrounding counties is critically and mutually important, “ reads the introduction to Goal 2. “Our success as a university depends in no small part on the strength of those communities, and on the strength of our relationship with them. We will reach our potential as a university only if we partner with our neighbors to ensure that the Charlottesville region is an attractive and equitable place to live.”
An elementary school in Ivy is the latest in Albemarle County to go through the process of determining whether its name is appropriate in the 21st Century. A committee is being formed to review whether Meriwether Lewis Elementary should continue to be named after the 19th century American explorer.
“This is a great opportunity for Meriwether Lewis Elementary School families to gain a greater understanding of their school’s namesake and to build community in the process,” said Karen Waters, the director of community education for Albemarle County Public Schools.
Transportation staff at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District are putting the final touches on an application for federal funding from a new grant program created as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year.
The Safe Streets and Roads For All program can be used to develop a safety action plan, plan for projects listed in the plan, or actually build projects listed in the plan. There’s a deadline of September 15 for eligible groups to apply.
Last week, Supervisor Ned Gallaway asked why Albemarle is not making its own application or participating with other localities.
“The TJPDC is putting a regional effort forward but it’s not the only way to participate,” Gallaway said. “You can participate as a county.”