Charlottesville Planning Commission pre-discuss capital improvement program at pre-meeting

For much of the next couple of weeks, you’re going to read and hear a lot from meetings I’ve not yet been able to get to. That begins right now with the first of several reports from the December 13, 2022 meeting of the Planning Commission. 

The official start to the meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and that’s what the calendar entry on the city’s website says. But the Commission starts a pre-meeting at 5 p.m. at which official business is discussed. 

One of the items on the regular agenda was the draft capital improvement program. Chair Lyle Solla-Yates took the opportunity during the pre-meeting to ask a broad question.

“We have a lot of I think important projects that are not recommended for funding in this [Capital Improvement Program],” Solla-Yates said. “I suspect they are important and we need them. I would like to have a better understanding from staff about how difficult this is to not fund them. How much pain are we in for?” 

This question is asked before the meeting begins and before a presentation has begun. Still, there’s an answer from Krisy Hammill, the city’s budget director. She said this time last year, the city did not feel it would have additional capacity for more projects in the future. Hammill said that’s not entirely the case going into FY22 due to greater than expected revenues. 

“I think what we’ll talk about tonight is that capacity is not really an issue,” Hammill said. “We’re really back more to affordability.  To your point, there are lots of things that aren’t even on the list, for example for schools that we know they have needs and they weren’t submitted and they’re not on that list yet but they’ve been talked about as well as affordable housing projects and other things. We’re never without projects.”

The conversation about the capital improvement project continued, despite the meeting not technically starting yet. Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg noted that the city received seven submissions answering a recent request for proposals from nonproift developers to construct below-market housing.

“How are we anticipating that we would hypothetically fund those if we wanted to?” Stolzenberg asked.

Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders said that was a good question. 

“The reality is that there’s basically no money that’s been basically set aside for that purpose so when those applications come in the approach that we’re taking by creating this RFP to try to channel all of them at one time is so we can review them [and] basically compile that information and put it before Council.” 

Sanders said that staff’s direction from the Affordable Housing Plan adopted in is to make $10 million available each year for affordable housing projects. In addition to the RFP for construction, there is also a request for proposals for nonprofit groups for operations that will close at the end of this month

“We are actually implementing the Affordable Housing Plan as it was intended but we know there are a lot more projects that are out there that are on the table to be done,” Sanders said. “There is a lot of desire for the city to be engaged in that and Council has to help balance that.”

Sanders said that will include making comparisons of what each of those seven projects would offer. Two projects by Piedmont Housing Alliance in addition to Friendship Court are already included in the draft five-year capital improvement program. 

All of these quotes from before the meeting. The actual conversation takes places again both later on the meeting and in a future edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement.

More from the Planning Commission: Moving Towards 2050, Downtown Mall tree removal

The actual meeting of the Charlottesville Planning Commission began with updates from members of the Planning Commission. Each member serves on other committees and these updates are a good way to learn what’s happening or at least what’s being planned.

Commission Karim Habbab serves on the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee which advises the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board. He had a briefing from that group’s recent meeting.

“We looked at an overview of the long range transportation plan for 2050 which is now going to be called ‘Moving Towards 2050’ in an effort to make it more palatable, I guess,” Habbab said. 

Logo for Moving Toward 2050. Help public engagement reach one percent by getting involved now! (LRTP website)

The long range transportation plan is required by the Federal Highway Administration to signal what projects have the support of elected official when it comes time to having them funded. 

Habbab said Public engagement opportunities for the plan should begin early next year. 

“We’ve set a goal of about one percent public engagement which is kind of slightly ambitious but possible achievable,” Habbab said.

For scale, the official population of Charlottesville is over 46,500. One percent would be about 465 people, and one percent of Albemarle’s total population is over 1,100 people. Can they do it? Stay tuned. 

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 19, 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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