Charlottesville Planning Commissioners give committee updates

Church solar panels, tax change legislation fails, and MPO tried again for funding for pedestrian bridge

You can learn a lot about what’s happening in the overall community by reviewing the first several minutes of one of their regular meetings of the Charlottesville Planning Commission. The following all comes from this last Tuesday’s event. 

Commissioner Phil d’Oronozio told his colleagues he would be a representative on the new appointed body that will review applications for funding from one of Charlottesville’s affordable housing pools. Applications now go through the Office of Community Solutions, which is headed by Alex Ikefuna. 

“Alex expressed to us that if Commissioners wanted to have a participatory role on the CAHF allocations or the Housing Advisory Committee to see if they qualified for a category and apply which I dutifully did,” d’Oronozio said. 

Council appointed d’Oronzio to both the funding and the non-funding housing committees in January. 

In all, there are four separate pools of funding for affordable housing projects from the city such as the Housing Development Project Investment, Housing Operations and Community Support, and the Community Development Block Grant program. The fourth is for the original Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, and applications for that closed on January 31. (See also: Charlottesville seeks proposals for affordable housing fund, January 4, 2023)

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is also in the affordable housing realm with their Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership. They’ve got an event coming up, as we learn from Planning Commissioner Liz Russell. 

“In March, Friday March 24, TJPDC hosts the second annual Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership summit and it’s called Coming Back Home,” Russell said. “It will present a regionally focused summit on affordable housing needs. It’s all day, it’s at the Omni, and registration can be found online.”

Next, Commissioner Carl Schwarz explained why the Board of Architectural Review voted not to approve a plan for United Methodist Church on East Jefferson Street to put a solar panel on their roof. The church is appealing their decision to City Council.

“To put the panels on the roof would have required removing a 100 year old, very good quality slate roof and replace it with asphalt shingles,” Schwarz said. “That was kind of part of the rub. Our guidelines are very vague and our ordinance says to look to the [Virginia] Secretary of the Interior’s standards and their advice in such a situation.” 

Schwarz said the guidance was to deny but he also acknowledged anyone who passed by wouldn’t notice either the slate roof or the solar panels. 

“It was complicated, it was difficult, and some guidance from Council would be very useful,” Schwarz said. 

Schwarz spent two terms on the BAR before being appointed to the Planning Commission last year. He’s now the PC representative on the design review board. 

Next, Commissioner Rory Stolzenberg is a member of the technical committee for the Metropolitan Planning Organization which last met on January 18. 

“Charlottesville Area Transit is developing a new strategic plan and Jaunt is developing a transit development plan,” Stolzenberg said.

Those plans are required by the Federal Transit Administration and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A governance study currently underway to suggest the future is not. 

Transportation staff at the TJPDC are also in the initial stages of putting together a federal grant for preliminary engineering of a pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River. The project was not recommended for funding during the fifth round of Smart Scale. 

There was no update from Bill Palmer of the University of Virginia, a non-voting member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, despite three major projects being under construction in the Emmet-Ivy Corridor and despite ongoing master planning initiatives. There used to be a public committee that openly discussed such matters, but Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board Supervisors agreed to turn it into a closed-door private body in late 2019. 

Commission Chair Lyle Solla-Yates reported on the fate of legislation in the General Assembly to allow Charlottesville different taxation power than most of the rest of the state. HB2112 from Delegate Sally Hudson would have allowed Charlottesville to tax structures and land separately, with buildings being taxed at a lower rate. 

“It’s something that I personally believe is very important strategically and for affordable housing,” Solla-Yates said. 

This ability currently exists for the cities of Fairfax, Richmond, and Roanoke. A subcommittee of the House Finance Committee failed to report the bill on a 4-2 party-line vote. Republicans hold a 52 to 48 majority in the House of Delegates. 

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 February 17, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: