The Jefferson School Center for African American Heritage has asked the city to help it cover the cost of the rent it pays to the Jefferson School Foundation. That’s the entity that owns the former elementary school. The Center leases just over 11,000 square feet at a cost of $15,134.76 per month.
Staff has recommended Council donate seven months of rent to cover the Center from December 1 through the end of next June for a total of $107,203.32.
“The reason for taking this action at this moment is to provide Council the space that it needs to conduct its strategic planning sessions to determine how it will engage in investments for moments like this to invest in arrangements with non-profit organizations,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders.
In the near future, Charlottesville could very well finalize plans to renovate Buford Middle School to accommodate sixth grade students, a first step toward a long-planned and long-awaited reconfiguration of the city’s schools.
The School Board got an update on construction estimates in September, and the final number will factor heavily into the city’s budget discussions for the next fiscal year. (VMDO working against inflation as design for Buford expansion continues and estimates increase, September 2, 2022)
On Monday, Council approved guidelines for the use of funds that could be raised through something called the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, which goes by the acronym PPEA.
Charlottesville has many tools in the effort to ensure some residential units in the city that are below-market. Two of them date back to 2007.
One is the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, which has disbursed $46.7 million in funds since 2010 according to a report Council was briefed on this past April. (Deputy City Manager Sanders reviews recent audit of Charlottesville’s housing fund, April 6, 2022)
The other is a 2007 loan to the Piedmont Housing Alliance to assist Woodard Properties in acquiring Dogwood Housing.
“In 2007, Council at that time extended a loan in the amount of $850,000 for the acquisition of 57 residential units to be maintained as rental properties,” said Sam Sanders, the Deputy City Manager.
Charlottesville is considering a Climate Action Plan to guide efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050. In the meantime, much of the city’s fleet still operates on fossil fuels with a fueling station on Avon Street in Albemarle County.
“That fuel station has been in place for quite a while and the below-ground fuel tank is at the end of its usable life and is becoming uninsurable at this point,” said Michael Goddard is a Senior Project Manager in the city’s Public Works Department.
Tax relief changes deferred until November 7
The Charlottesville City Council voted on October 17, 2022 to update the city’s transient lodging tax ordinance to reflect recent changes in Virginia law.
“The General Assembly for the last two years has made some significant changes to provision of sales tax and local transient occupancy tax to try to address various issues raised by online travel agencies and online travel platforms like AirBnB and others,” Divers said.
Divers said Council made some changes last year, but the 2022 legislation forces the city to make new ones related to how the taxes are collected and reported. The new law allows the taxation on the total charge for a stay, such as cleaning fees.
Charlottesville City Council changed the rules classifying whether freelance writers and authors are subject to the city’s business license ordinance. The Virginia Supreme Court in City of Charlottesville v Regulus Books ruled earlier this year that Charlottesville’s ordinance did not sufficiently specify that work from the profession was not a “service” that triggered tax collections. (read the ruling)
“In my opinion, [the ruling] curiously found a deficiency in our business license ordinance and this so measure attempts to… it will address it,” said Todd Divers, the Commissioner of the Revenue.
Divers said the new ordinance creates a specific category for writers under subclassification H. Those are businesses that must pay $0.36 for every $100 of gross receipts. The city has had to refund several thousand dollars in taxes to several people who had previously been taxed incorrectly. There was no discussion on Council and the motion passed 5 to 0.
The Charlottesville City Council has voted to approve the relocation of a sewer line for the redevelopment of 209 Maury Avenue. That’s a property right on the border with the University of Virginia. In May, Council approved a special use permit allowing for additional density and a parking reduction for a total of 64 units.
“As part of the development process, the current developer is going to be constructing a new sewer line in a different location than the one that was established previously,” said City Attorney Lisa Robertson at the October 17, 2022 Council meeting.
A key ingredient in plans to both reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions is public transportation. In Virginia, there’s a brand new person heading up efforts to improve bus and train routes throughout the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has named Zach Trogdon to be the new Chief of Public Transportation.
“Trogdon will lead the evaluation, assistance, and execution of a $4.7 billion portfolio of public transportation, commuter assistance, and congestion management programs throughout the Commonwealth,” reads a press release from the DRPT.