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.
After half of the summer, a long fall, and half of the winter, the city of Charlottesville has published the first draft materials for the new zoning ordinance. The city is referring to these as modules, and the initial installment includes the new proposed zoning districts and the new zoning map.
“The zoning rewrite is part of what we’re calling Cville Plans Together which is focused on updating the future for the city of Charlottesville with a particular focus on community equity and affordability for housing,” said Jennifer Koch of Rhodeside & Harwell in a YouTube video that seeks to explain the new map.
Resources from Cville Plans Together:
New year, new opportunity to write about the ongoing update of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan. If you’re new to such a thing, the state code of Virginia requires every locality to create and maintain a plan “for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.”
The plan is to be reviewed every five years to see if it needs a major update. Some like Greene County have their Planning Commission take charge of the process and their current review is more modest. Others like Nelson County and Charlottesville hire consultants if the plan is either out of date or if the Planning Commission gets stuck.
But where’s Albemarle? Supervisors were briefed on the ongoing process at their meeting on January 11.
“The comp plan is being updated using a four-phased approach moving from big ideas and visioning to more details policies and action steps,” said Tori Kannellopolos, a senior planner with Albemarle County’s Community Development Department. “We just completed phase one where we focused on reviewing the growth management policy and building the framework to build the next phases of AC44.”
The Week Ahead newsletter that went out on Sunday is nearly 4,000 words long. But this is where I confess I neglected to list the meeting Wednesday of the Greene County Planning Commission.
The group will meet in the administration building in Stanardsville at 6:30 p.m. but the meeting can be watched. You can also participate via Zoom. (agenda)
The first thing the group will do is elect officers in the annual organizational meeting. After that they will continue work on the Comprehensive Plan review. Greene County is taking a much more literal approach to the state code requirement to review the plan every five years by having the five Planning Commissioners go chapter by chapter.
“Greene County is very much a community in transition, a reality that underscores the importance of ensuring that whatever the County evolves into reflects the wishes and aspirations of those who live here,” reads the final paragraph of a section called Greene County: From Past to Present. (read the draft plan)
The Botanical Garden of the Piedmont has cleared a technical hurdle to its future existence in a portion of McIntire Park that is within Albemarle County.
“The proposed activity has been determined as a public use… by our zoning administrator,” said David Benish is a development process manager with the Albemarle County Community Development. “Public uses are permitted by-right in all zoning districts. However, if the proposed public use is not identified in a Comprehensive Plan, a review for the proposal’s compliance with the Comprehensive Plan is required, and that’s a state code requirement.”
Charlottesville City Council has held first reading of an updated version of the Comprehensive Plan that was altered in response to a lawsuit.
The re-adoption did not come without changes.
“There are substantively two items in fact,” said James Freas, the city’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services. “The adoption of the Climate Action Plan and amendments supporting manufactured housing as a form of affordable housing.”
Those with criticisms of Charlottesville’s new Comprehensive Plan will have another opportunity to go on the record about the long range planning document, as will those who are in support. But a joint public hearing scheduled for December 13, 2022 is largely a formality related to a legal challenge.
“On that same day, following the public hearing, it is the intention of the City that the Planning Commission will vote on the proposed action,” reads a legal notice in the November 29, 2022 Daily Progress. “(City Council’s vote would take place at a later City Council meeting agenda, following receipt of the Commission’s recommendation.)”
Virginia law assigns a locality’s Planning Commission the primary responsibility for creating and maintaining a Comprehensive Plan, but many communities hire consultants to help with the heavy lifting.
Charlottesville hired Rhodeside & Harwell to complete the city’s plan after the Planning Commission got bogged down after two years. Nelson County has hired the Berkley Group to review their Comprehensive Plan.
Albemarle’s current Comprehensive Plan update is being managed by staff with assistance from the firm EPR. The Planning Commission got a check-in at their meeting on September 27, 2022 that served as their most extensive conversation on the plan review in a couple of months. They had previously been briefed in late July on several options to proceed with alterations to the growth management plan. (See also: Albemarle Planning Commission reviews seven options for growth management)
“Throughout the AC44 process, we’re using two main lenses to guide our work which are equity and climate action,” said Tori Kanellopoulos, an Albemarle County planner.
Last week, the Charlottesville City Council and the Charlottesville Planning Commission gathered in CitySpace to provide guidance for the next phase of the Cville Plans Together initiative.
“The overview question for you tonight is are we on the right track as far as adopting zoning that will advance us into implementation of our Comprehensive Plan and affordable housing plan,” said James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services.
A lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville alleging the Comprehensive Plan adopted last November is invalid can proceed, but Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell on Friday dismissed three of the plaintiff’s four counts.
Worrell agreed that the city may not have provided sufficient language in the notice for the November 15 City Council public hearing by not stating a vote would be held and by not adequately describing what “updated density” might mean.
However, Worrell agreed with the city’s request that seven anonymous parties did not have the legal standing to argue against the plan for insufficient consideration of transportation, the use of manufactured housing, and whether the plan was too specific in nature.
A motion on whether the plaintiffs should be identified will be taken up later this year as the case proceeds.