The December 9 meeting of the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting was a shorter one than usual, but members were briefed on several items of note. One related to UVA’s sustainability efforts. Colette Sheehy is the Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government at UVA.
“You’ll recall that the big audacious goal for sustainability is to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil-fuel free by 2050,” Sheehy said. “Overall our emissions are down by 44 percent over the last decade which is equivalent to about 160,000 tons of carbon.”
President Joe Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will likely change the landscape for the way all kinds of projects in Virginia and the Charlottesville area are funded.
“This law makes the most significant investment in roads and bridges in the past 70 years,” Biden said. “It makes the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years. And in public transit ever.”
A routine closed-door meeting of key planning officials in Albemarle, Charlottesville, and University of Virginia was held last week on October 15. The Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee (LUEPC) had four presentations on items related to climate adaptation.
Paul Zmick, Director of Energy and Utilities at UVA, gave a presentation on the school’s efforts to develop a strategy for thermal energy use. That’s one way UVA hopes to become fossil-free by the year 2050. A recent study evaluated dozens of potential ways to reduce reliance on old technology. Some strategies are recommended to be dropped from further analysis such as solar thermal, biomass, and deep geothermal. (presentation)
Charlottesville’s efforts to create a Climate Adaptation Plan move forward this month with a community forum to get input on potential threats from more extreme weather patterns. The October 25 event will be the first steps for the city to complete a Climate Vulnerability Assessment.
“As part of the city’s climate action effort, it has committed to developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare and respond to our changing climate,” said Susan Elliott, the city’s climate protection program manager.
Earlier this year, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state program that places caps on the amount of carbon emissions for many industries. If companies exceed their limits, they have to purchase credits. Revenues go to state governments for programs such as the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which is to receive 45 percent of the RGGI funds. So far, Virginia has received $142 million over three auctions.
Charlottesville will receive $153,500 from the fund to pay for a plan to prepare the Moores Creek Watershed for the floodings. That’s part of $7.8 million in grants announced yesterday by Governor Ralph Northam. The funds are distributed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, an agency that is also working on a master plan for coastal resilience in Virginia.
It has been about a month since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes issued an update on progress toward efforts to keep the average global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees. Achieving that ambitious goal will take coordinated action at all levels of government, including the county-level in Virginia.
Earlier this month, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors learned the county is not currently on track to meet a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 2008 levels by the year 2030. A second goal is to become at net-zero by the year 2050. To get there, the county has a Climate Action Plan that Supervisors adopted in October 2020. (read the plan)
(This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)
The Charlottesville Tree Commission got an update on several topics at its meeting on May 4, including an update on several projects planned for Charlottesville’s McIntire Park.
“In McIntire Park there are three projects going on that are really private-public partnerships,” said Peggy Van Yahres, a member of the Tree Commission.
Van Yahres is part of one project to install a memorial grove in McIntire Park to commemorate people who have been awarded the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s citizenship award.
“We wanted to preserve the landmark oak trees on the top of McIntire Park on the east side,” Van Yahres said. “The other objective was just to enliven the park and make it a better place for people to go and sit underneath these beautiful trees.”
The memorial would be a stone terrace on which the names of the past and future award winners would be displayed.
“There will be a beautiful lawn, people can play, a walkway, and of course, a lot more oak trees to continue the tradition,” Van Yahres said.
Van Yahres said the grove has been added to the schematic design for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont. That’s the new name for the nonprofit that entered into a memorandum of agreement with the City of Charlottesville to operate in the northeast section of McIntire Park. She said the grove will hopefully be installed by this fall.
As for the garden, Jill Trischman-Marks is executive director of the newly renamed organization. There was a naming contest.
“We had over two hundred responses and selected Botanical Garden of the Piedmont because it was precise and concise,” Trischman-Marks said. “It not only identified where the garden is located but it also talked about the trees and other plants that will be highlighted in this garden.”
The nonprofit is on the hook to raise funds to pay for infrastructure and to install the garden.
“The city of Charlottesville has dedicated the land to this project but that’s where the taxpayer burden ends,” Trischman-Marks said. “All of the funds that are needed to design, construct, and maintain the garden will be privately raised but once it is built just like any other city park, the Botanical Garden will be free and accessible to all.”
“And share the survey with your friends, families, and neighbors because the more feedback we get, the better this garden will be,” Trischman-Marks said
Trischman-Marks will update the Charlottesville Planning Commission at their meeting on Tuesday.
The third project is a more low-key initiative from the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards to plant new specimens.
Later in the meeting, the Tree Commission got an update on plans to fight the Emerald Ash Borer from the city arborist, Mike Ronayne.
“The Emerald Ash borer is an invasive insect from Siberia and it will be killing all of our untreated ash trees in Charlottesville,” Ronayne said. “And now it seems like it’s come through other parts of Virginia like northern Virginia and now we’re really just starting to deal with all the dead ash trees that we’re finding in Charlottesville.”
The goal is to protect 31 individual trees in the city, and have sought additional funding from City Council for the purpose and to remove the dead trees. About one to two percent of trees in the city’s parkland are ash trees. A draft cost estimate to remove the trees over five years is $480,000. That does not cover the cost of planting replacements. The cost to annually treat those 31 trees will be $8,425 a year. Todd Brown is the city’s director of parks and recreation.
“Basically this is a state of emergency situation,” Brown said. “These trees are dying. Ninety-nine percent of them are going to die and right now we’ve been hitting at a tiny fraction of them. For everyone we’re doing, there are ten more that need to be done and ten more that die. We’re chasing a moving target that’s eventually going to stop and eventually we are going to have to catch up to it.”
local governments in the area as well as the University of Virginia have set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. Tomorrow, the Environmental Resilience Institute at UVA begins a series of virtual events designed to help connect many of the pieces together. Karen McGlathery is the director of ERI.
“We decided to call it the Climate Ambition Summit because we have ambitious goals that we need to reach by 2050 if we’re going to have any chance of bending the curve with regard to climate change and climate warming,” McGlathery said.
Last night, a community meeting was held for a special use permit for a 60-acre utility-scale solar facility near Batesville. Sun Tribe Solar is applying for the 8-megawatt project on behalf of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, which purchased the property last year. Supervisors updated the zoning code to allow such facilities with a special use permit.
Bobby Jocz is a permitting lead with Sun Tribe Solar.
“Once the life of this facility is complete, the site will be restored to its original condition,” Jocz said.
Neighbors had the opportunity to ask questions about the project. Paul Miller is a resident of Craigs Store Road, where the site would be located.