Charlottesville infrastructure updates: Sanders seeks more time to help city build back capacity

One of the main purposes of this newsletter is to keep track of various pieces of transportation infrastructure. There’s a lot to report from last night’s City Council meeting as Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders offered several updates. 

For background, this has been a year in which the city of Charlottesville’s inability to complete transportation projects became an issue with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Several projects were canceled and the city has hired a new transportation planner to help with staff capacity to manage the workload. Here are some articles on the topic from this year:

In April, City Council approved a rezoning in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood for 170 units. As part of the conditions, Southern Development agreed to pay $2.9 million toward the upfront costs of bringing Stribling Avenue up to standard including adding a sidewalk.  

“In regards to Stribling, the sidewalk project that is to accompany the Southern Development project is not moving with the vigor that we had anticipated at this moment because there was a lawsuit filed against the city for the financial instrument that we’re planning to use,” Sanders said. “We hoped that that would be resolved as a legal matter at some point in the first quarter of the next year but in the meantime the city is working internally in figuring out the various things that we need to do to make sure that once that matter is resolved we are full steam ahead.” 

The city would pay Southern Development back by using the additional property tax revenue that will come from the rezoning. 

Cabell Marshall sued the city in Charlottesville Circuit Court earlier this year asking for the rezoning to be declared void. 

“The Infrastructure Funding Agreement does not comply with the clear mandate of Article VII, Section 10, of the Constitution of Virginia that a city can only borrow money ‘provided the notes shall mature not later than 12 months after the date of the issue,’ reads Paragraph 12 of the complaint. (read the complaint)

No date has been set for that case.

Many Fry’s Spring residents have also pushed for ways to control vehicle movements on Jefferson Park Avenue Extended including its intersection with Stribling Avenue. 

“There are many, many different ideas of things that can be done,” Sanders said. “I honestly don’t think that there’s a proposed concept for JPA that we have not heard.  There are a variety of projects at varying degrees of consideration. Some funded, some not funded. We have a lot to take a look at for that corridor specifically and we intend to continue to do that.” 

Sanders said more coordination is needed and will happen now that there is a transportation planner who started work on October 31. 

Sanders also addressed a petition from Andy Orban to install dedicated bike lanes on West Main Street. That won’t be happening any time soon.  

“We’re not ready to consider alternative ideas for West Main having just officially canceled that project on the books,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said staff has been meeting with VDOT to understand what the state agency needs from the city going forward. 

“Once we are in full alignment with VDOT which we hope is going to be concluded in the first quarter of 2023 with the state transportation board taking action on our various requests, we’ll be able to come back and take a look at West Main for some potential reconsideration,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said that any further funding for West Main would have to be balanced against the city’s other needs.

One of those could be on East High Street which has limited facilities for pedestrians and none for cyclists. Sanders said Council will see a report in the near future about how $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding devoted to Safe Routes to School will be spent and there will be a request for additional funding. Some projects on East High Street may be on that list including a sidewalk in front of a utility building. Some non-infrastructure steps have already been taken. 

“Charlottesville Area Transit has already moved the bus stop in that section to prevent some of the ongoing traffic concerns with people going around the bus through the parking lot at Jak-n-Jil,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said he understood there are many concerns about transportation and he said he needed more time to help build the city’s capacity to address connectivity issues. 

In other news, Rogers announced that seven firms have responded to a request for proposals for a firm to help Council develop a new strategic plan for the municipal government. 

“We are sorting through those and we should have an award made in the next week or so that we can launch our efforts in January,” Rogers said. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the December 6, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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