Monthly Archives: October 2022

CTB briefed on Smart Scale funding as Round 5 approaches

In three months, the Virginia Department of Transportation will release the results from the fifth round of Smart Scale, the major avenue through which projects related to roads and sidewalks are funded. 

“We are in Smart Scale season,” said John Lawson, Virginia’s deputy transportation secretary. “Everybody will be wondering how much money will be available for this round and for many reasons it is to be determined.” 

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Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of utility charge for carbon reduction

The State Corporation Commission acted lawfully when it approved a request from the Virginia Electric and Power Company to add a surcharge to utility bills to cover the costs of purchasing carbon allowances in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctions. That’s according to an opinion yesterday by the Virginia Supreme Court. 

“Though highly complex in its details, the [Carbon Dioxide] Budget Trading Program relies on a basic economic thesis: CO2 emissions can be reduced over time by making those responsible for them pay for the right to emit,” reads the opinion by Justice D. Arthur Kelsey

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Center for Politics forum explores election security in advance of Election Day

Tensions are running high across the country as Election Day approaches and many members of one of the two American political parties continue to insist that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. 

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics held a forum last week to discuss the upcoming elections moderated by Christopher Krebs, who served as the United States Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He said much of the threat dates back to Russian efforts to hack the 2016 elections. (wikipedia article)

“It had three different components,” Krebs said. “The first was attempts to get into voter registration databases and other systems administering elections. The second was targeting and hacking into political campaigns, the [Democratic National Committee], the Hilary Clinton and the third is this more pernicious, drawn out disinformation campaign that’s really rooted in the entirety of Russian information doctrine going back really a century or more.” 

Audio from the October 24, 2022 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement
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CTB briefed on second daily D.C. / Roanoke train

This past July, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority began running a second Amtrak service between Roanoke and D.C.’s Union Station. This additional train had been planned for many years, but it took negotiations with Norfolk Southern to make it work. 

“We negotiated a second train on that route because ridership in 2019 actually hit record highs on that route, one of the best routes in the county in terms of a cost benefit analysis so we added a second train starting July 11,”  said Michael McLaughlin is the chief operating officer of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority. 

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Latest report on family self-sufficiency is released

The number of families who don’t have enough income to cover the cost of living has decreased since 2011, according to the latest study from Network 2 Work at Piedmont Virginia Community College. The fifth version of the Orange Dot Report tracks households who make less than $35,000 in Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties. (read the report)

“The comparable number of families struggling in the region in 2011 was 12,552, which was 21% of families,” reads a summary of the report. “The 2022 number–9,413 families–is a 25 percent reduction in the number of struggling families in the region.”

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Commonwealth Transportation Board briefed on why construction estimates are increasing

Charlottesville Community Engagement is a newsletter and podcast that tries to keep up with how much it costs to build things, a major factor in the provision of infrastructure. The Virginia Department of Transportation also keeps an eye on changing trends as part of an effort to deliver services more efficiently. This comes out of a 2020 study by the firm of Ernst and Young who took a lot at the methodology VDOT uses to estimate the cost of projects and the way it bids them. 

The Commonwealth Transportation Board got a briefing at their meeting on Tuesday, October 25.

“Ernst and Young made several recommendations to the Department and one of those recommendations was to constantly keep up with the economic items including inflation and commodities in our bidding process throughout the year, which is historically something VDOT has not done,” said Bart Thrasher, VDOT’s chief engineer.  

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WillowTree acquired by Canadian firm

Charlottesville-based WillowTree started operations in 2008 and has since grown to have over a dozen studios across the world. Today, the TELUS Corporation of Vancouver in Canada announced it is buying WillowTree for $1.225 billion, buying out the shares held by the Insignia Capital Group, who have held the majority stake. 

“The acquisition of WillowTree brings key tech talent and diversity to TELUS International’s portfolio of next-generation solutions, and further augments its digital consulting and innovative client-centric software development capabilities,”  said Darren Entwistle, Chair of the Board of TELUS International and President and CEO of TELUS in a release

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Albemarle County Supervisors adopt new strategic plan goals

Longtime readers and listeners know by now that this newsletter and podcast seeks to give information about various plans, be they site, Comprehensive, Small Area, Biodiversity Action, strategic, or otherwise. Local governments in Albemarle and Charlottesville have hundreds of employees and in order to run an organization you need some kind of documents to coordinate what everyone’s doing.

Or in many cases, you don’t. 

In any case, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors made progress with two overarching plans at their meeting on October 19, 2022. The first was the Strategic Plan, which sets six overarching goals for what the county government hopes to achieve. These goals and their objectives can be reviewed on the county’s websiteHere’s the staff report for the October 19 work session

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Medium Intensity density on General Residential land?

Should areas designated as General Residential be eligible to be considered Medium Intensity Residential if all of the units will be guaranteed to be below-market? That was one question asked of City Council and the Planning Commission at a work session on September 27, 2022.

The Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition sought support for this position with a petition signed by 203 people out of a concern that the Inclusionary Zoning provisions suggested did not go far enough. 

“You are talking about potentially allowing middle density into General Residential density,” said Phillip Kash of the real estate firm HRA Advisors. “That’s a significantly larger and density property.”

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City Council and Planning Commission discuss elimination of minimum lot sizes in new zoning code

Second of three articles from the September 27, 2022 City Council and Planning Commission

Charlottesville City Council adopted an Affordable Housing Plan in March 2021 and a Comprehensive Plan last November. The zoning is being rewritten to make it easier to build residential units with more density across the entire city. That can take many forms, such as eliminating the role elected bodies play in making land use decisions, and eliminating or reducing requirements.  (review meeting materials for the September 27, 2022 meeting)

On a broad level, the Commission and the Council were asked to give feedback on specific questions. Let’s get right into this one with the second of three questions, asked by Lee Einsweiler of CODE Studio. CODE Studio is a subcontractor hired as part of the Cville Plans Together process. 

“So, the second question is really about lot splits,” Einsweiler said. 

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