The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors met earlier this month. One of the items on the Building and Grounds Committee’s agenda was approval of a master plan for the redevelopment of Ivy Gardens, an apartment complex between Old Ivy Road and Leonard Sandridge Road that was built in the late 1960’s.
University Architect Alice Raucher explained the purpose of creating a master plan.
“It is in general always good to have a plan and physical master planning helps to set priorities to inform future plans,” Raucher said. “It often aligns limited physical resources with often equally limited financial resources and provides the opportunity for broad University and community engagement to create a shared vision.”
Ivy Gardens is made up of 17 acres and has 440 residential units close to North Grounds, Darden, the School of Law, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the Center for Politics.
“In 2016, at the direction of the University, the Foundation purchased Ivy Gardens and although its structures are aging, the property is currently income producing with units that primarily house our graduate students in a low-density, automobile-oriented development,” Raucher said.
The proposed redevelopment plan would increase the number of units to 718 and would add about 46,000 square feet of academic space and 69,500 square feet for commercial uses. The latter would be clustered in a new Town Square that would front onto Old Ivy Road. To the immediate north would be a Residential Commons with different kinds of housing types. In the middle would be a Central Green. A pedestrian bridge would cross Leonard Sandridge Drive, allowing safe passage to Darden and the Law School.
The project would be phased.
“The success of this proposal does not depend on wholesale redevelopment,” Raucher said.
For more on the timing, let’s hear a question from Robert Hardie, the chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.
“From a density standpoint are you satisfied that, obviously greenspaces are wonderful and we need those, but we also need to provide enough housing for this area, for what’s going to a growing law school and a growing Darden School and other programs around that area,” Hardie said. “And secondly, can you give us a little about the time frame and how long this will take to come to fruition? Obviously it will be done in phases, but when we might see this start and when it might be complete?”
“Yes, Mr. Hardie, the density on this site is improved by 150 percent so we have not only the 440 units that currently are there but there’s an additional 250 or thereabouts,” Raucher said.
The Architect added that what was before the committee was a master plan, and not a schematic design for imminent building construction. She also said there’s no capital project yet associated with the area.
President Jim Ryan said the University has many projects it would like to work on.
“Increasing the supply of housing for second-year students remains a top priority,” Ryan said.
The committee voted on a resolution to approve the master plan. Afterwards, the group was given an update on plans to remove the George Rogers Clark statue on West Main Street.
“We are ready to move in to phase one of that work which is the removal of the statue,” said Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations and state government relations at UVA. “We’re prepared to an issue a [request for proposals] this month to a firm that would remove the statue and relocate it and store it.”
Sheehy said the cost to do the work will be around $400,000 and the work should be complete this summer. The second phase will be to engage with the indigenous community about what should be featured at the site in the future. (download the B&G presentation)
In 2019, the Albemarle County Economic Development Department began a planning study of the roadway that leads to the Woolen Mills factory, a historic property that has renovated in recent years by developer Brian Roy. The main entrance is along Broadway Avenue, which extends from Carlton Avenue at the border between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. In all, there are about 45 acres of land that were the subject of an interim study presented to the Board of Supervisors in November of 2019.
“The goal at that time was to leverage the public and private investment that had taken place and projected to take place at the Woolen Mills redevelopment and the Willow Tree relocation at that site,” said J.T. Newberry in the economic development department.
Much of the land is zoned for light industrial use, and several businesses are operating in the area. Construction of the new Woolen Mills Industrial Park is underway. The Board of Supervisors was to have seen the results of an implementation study in April 2020, but the pandemic put a pause on the work.
“Nevertheless we have tried to stay engaged with stakeholders on the corridor,” Newberry said. “There have been a number of projects that have continued on the private side.”
After the interim study, Albemarle staff met with city staff at least twice, and the blueprint has been run by the Planning Commission, the Economic Development Authority, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. The latter suggested a new approach to the project following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the topic by Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia. Roger Johnson is the director of economic development for Albemarle.
“We are going to pause our project and go back and review the Broadway corridor through an equity lens,” Johnson said. “We don’t know if that will change anything substantively or not but we expect that it will.”
That will include a meeting with the city’s new Deputy City Manager of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Ashley Marshall.
Next steps could include creation of a business association for the area, similar to the Downtown Crozet Association. Another would be to create an arts and cultural district for the location.
“Some other types of activities we are contemplating are to complete pedestrian and bike connectivity, multimodal streetscape, enhanced public transportation,” Johnson said.
Those activities are now considered to be long-term goals.
At the height of the Great Recession earlier this century, Albemarle County froze many positions and slowed contributions to its capital improvement program. One job that was not filled for many years was transportation planning, but for the past few years, Albemarle has put together an organized list of potential projects to address road capacity issues as well as bike and pedestrian connections.
In July 2019, they adopted a priority list ranging from Hydraulic/29 Improvements at #1 to U.S. 250 West / Gillums Ridge Road Intersection Improvements at #89.
“That list provided all capital transportation projects that are recommended through the various county planning processes,” said Kevin McDermott , a chief of planning in Albemarle, in a May 19 to the Board of Supervisors. (review the update)
The list is intended to help planners identify funding sources for projects, such as the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program as well as the county’s own capital improvement program.
“We have gotten 12 projects from that 2019 project list funded,” McDermott said.
Hydraulic 29 / Improvements, including a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 and a roundabout at Hillsdale and Hydraulic, are slated to be funded at $24 million by Commonwealth Transportation Board in June (#1)
U.S. Route 250 improvements to add median between Route 20 and Rolkin Road to receive $6 million in Smart Scale funding using $2 million in local funds (#2)
Route 20 / U.S. 250 intersection will be rebuilt using funding from 2018 Smart Scale round sometime in 2024 (#3)
Berkmar Drive will be extended further north to Lewis and Clark Drive, providing a continuous roadway to UVA North Fork Research Park. Funding came from VDOT’s revenue sharing program.
Further changes to Fontaine Avenue / U.S. 29 intersection including a shared-use path (#6)
A roundabout will be built at Old Lynchburg Road and 5th Street Extended with $5 million in VDOT funds and $2 million in Albemarle funds (#7)
A roundabout at Rio Road and the John Warner Parkway is recommended for $8 million funding in the current Smart Scale process and $2 million in Albemarle funds will be used (#15)
Bike and pedestrian improvements will be made on Old Lynchburg Road using Albemarle funds (#26)
A section of the Northtown Trail shared-use path will be built between Seminole Lane North and Carrsbrook Drive at a cost of $4 million (#35)
A greenway trail on Moores Creek and a trail hub at 5th Street Station will receive Smart Scale funds and has a total cost of $10 million (#40)
A park and ride lot will be constructed near Exit 107 and Crozet Park to serve Jaunt and the future Afton Express at a cost of $3 million (#82)This map depicts location of projects that have received funding since 2019 (Credit: Albemarle County)
McDermott’s purpose for appearing before the supervisors was to get their preliminary support for the next round of transportation projects. At the top of a short list for this year’s cycle of VDOT revenue-sharing funds is the completion Eastern Avenue, a north-south roadway designed to increase connectivity and traffic circulation throughout Crozet.
“That project is currently being evaluated through an alignment study and conceptual design which the county has funded through our transportation leveraging project,” McDermott said. “We have just recently received the updated cost estimates from that consultant we have hired and their preliminary cost estimates are now at $19,983,000.”
That would require at least a $10 million match from county funds. However, if approved the state funding would not be available until 2027.
Another project on the list for potential revenue-sharing projects is one to build bike and pedestrian improvements on Mill Creek Drive to Peregory Lane, a top priority in a recent corridor study. That has a cost estimate of $2 million.
Applications for revenue-sharing projects are due this year. Next year Smart Scale projects will be due. Potential applications to be made next year include a roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road, a realignment of Hillsdale Drive, and a roundabout at the intersection of Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road.
There’s plenty of time to get involved with these applications. Keep reading and stay tuned.
The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation has made its largest ever grant with $4.25 million going to Piedmont Housing Alliance for their redevelopment of land on U.S. 29. Piedmont Housing is working with the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless and Virginia Supportive Housing to redevelop the Red Carpet Inn site for a total of 140 units that will be guaranteed to be rented at prices for people with extremely low and very low incomes. Eboni Bugg is the director of programs for the CACF.
“This first came on our radar last April when we received a grant application from TJACH and PACEM and the Haven regarding wanting to ensure that there was a non-congregate option for our homeless community members so that they could weather the pandemic without being in congregate shelter,” Bugg said.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors rezoned the land for the project in February. The Red Carpet Inn will continue to be used as a shelter by TJACH in the short-term as the project moves forward. Bugg said the CACF’s investment is made in the spirit of community health. There will be an update on grant at an event on April 15.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors said last week they want a faster review of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and that three years will be too long.
Supervisors last updated the plan six years ago and much has changed since then, according to Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein.
“Since the 2015 update, we have had significant work on: climate action planning; economic development; and equity, inclusion, and infrastructure investments and we want to better align the plan with those initiatives,” Falkenstein said.
Falkenstein said the Comprehensive Plan also needs to inform a rewrite of the rules of where development can go, and how.
“We’ve identified the need for a zoning ordinance update and doing the comp plan update now to incorporate these initiatives will help set that stage,” Falkenstein said.
In February, Supervisors had pushed back on the three year process staff recommended to update the Comprehensive Plan and asked for a more expedited review. However, Falkenstein said staff still believed in a 36-month process.
“We feel that given the level of engagement and the breadth of topics that are covered in the comp plan, that three years is really a realistic timeline for this work,” Falkenstein said.
A detailed community engagement plan will come back to the Board later this year. A project advisory group would be formed to oversee the process and members would be paid a stipend. Staff has now changed that to have the funding to used to “reduce barriers to participation.” These could include access to language as well as transportation.
Supervisor Ann Mallek said the existing plan is clear to read, and she did not want that to be lost as the current plan is amended.
“The benefit of our comp plan and I think why it won awards and is very well accepted is its readability and the fact that it is not just the last 12 months of something,” Mallek said. “It is a very long term history document about how we got here.”
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she wanted the Planning Commission to weigh in about whether the plan needed to be rewritten, or just updated.
“I am concerned about this idea of a three-year plan being a complete rewrite of this Comprehensive Plan and that’s the part I’m really struggling with,” Palmer said.
Palmer also wanted to know if the zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Plan could be updated at the same time given many conflicts. County Attorney Greg Kamptner said he would prefer to do the comp plan update first.
“The ideal situation would be to have a comp plan and then immediately follow it with a comprehensive rewrite and updating of the zoning ordinance because it is 40 years old,” Kamptner said.
Palmer asked if that would mean the zoning rewrite would not begin for three years. Planning Director Charles Rapp said supervisors will have the chance to weigh in with more direction as the work plan for the Community Development Department comes before them. He said work on the the zoning rewrite could at least begin before the comp plan is finished.
“I think once we get to that framework for the comp plan so we know what it’s going to contain, then we can go ahead and start making progress on the zoning ordinance,” Rapp said.
Charlottesville hired one consultant to produce an affordable housing plan, a Comprehensive Plan, and a new zoning ordinance. The Cville Plans Together initiative just completed the housing plan, which Council endorsed earlier this month. Albemarle Supervisors had a public hearing on their new housing plan last week, but sent it back to the Planning Commission for further work. I’ll have more on that in the next installment.
As for the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan, Supervisor Diantha McKeel also thought three years was too long to wait, and that parts of the zoning needed to be changed sooner.
“The zoning, the code, it is critical to getting it updated,” McKeel said. “To be honest with you it’s really my priority along with specific areas in the comp plan. Economic development. Climate action. I mean, I could go through and name maybe just a couple of others.”
Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said he heard a disconnect between staff and the Board on this issue. He provided some clarifications.
“This is not intended to be a rewrite which was actually done the last time,” Walker said. “It is an update but I acknowledge that to some extent updating and rewriting may seem a lot the same if we’re not very careful about how we distinguish one from the other.”
Falkenstein said staff will come back with a more detailed scope, but still maintained the process will be lengthy. County Executive Jeffrey Richardson agreed.
“The staff is trying to manage this and manage the Board’s expectations,” Richardson said. “Three years sounds like a long time but everywhere I have ever been, a Comprehensive Plan update takes quite some time because of the domino effect of touching all of the various aspects of the plan document.”
A review of the Crozet Master Plan is slowly making its way through Albemarle County’s planning process and this is a good time to check in. Crozet is one of seven designated growth areas in Albemarle County, and the master plan has been in place since late 2004.
On Wednesday, March 10, the Crozet Community Advisory Committee reviewed the draft land use chapter for the plan which sets the vision for the future of the unincorporated area. Planning Manager Rachel Falkenstein said they are in the third phase of the community process, where the actual chapters are written based on broad recommendations that have been discussed with community members in previous phases.
“To kind of develop that content we’ve had all virtual engagement,” Falkenstein said. “Because of COVID, we’ve been virtual for this phase of work. Several CAC meetings through the summer and fall of 2020. We’ve had the online engagement opportunities, and then just feedback we’ve received through email, comments, discussions with community members and stakeholders.”
There have also been two work sessions with the Planning Commission.
Goal 1: Support the continued revitalization of Downtown as the historic, cultural, and commercial heart of Crozet with distinctively urban design and support a mixture of uses in Crozet’s other designated centers of activity.
Goal 2: Provide a variety of housing options that meet the needs of Crozetians at all income levels.
Goal 3: Support existing neighborhoods and the historic context of Crozet through ensuring that new and infill development is compatible in design and scale with existing neighborhood fabric and allowing reuse of historic buildings.
Goal 4: Maintain a distinct rural edge along Crozet’s boundary to provide a visual connection to its cultural heritage as a town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Goal 5: Leverage and amplify Crozet’s artisan community, culture, history, and entrepreneurial spirit through creative placemaking projects and partnerships.
“I’ll remind you that this is a working draft,” Falkenstein said. “There are some sections that need some work. We have some placeholders in there. We’re still developing graphics and images to support some of the narrative. The land use content itself is still a working draft. We have this meeting. We have public engagement that we’ll put online, and we have a Board meeting coming up. All of that feedback will continue to refine the draft as we go along.”
At this meeting, some CAC members wanted to get right into their critiques of the plan. Those five goals are in support of a new guiding principal .
“Support and strengthen Crozet’s history as a self-sustaining town, while welcoming new and infill development that is compatible in scale and design and provides housing choice for all community members.”
Staff had intended to go through a presentation before taking comments from CAC members, but Doug Bates said he wanted to get his comments out ahead.
“And it’s at that very first guiding principle that I have my most fundamental question,” Bates said. “It says ‘Support and strengthen Crozet’s history as a self-sustaining town, while ensuring new and infill development that is compatible in scale and design… ’ with what? is my question. You can’t have a comparison with nothing.”
“I think the intent was with the small town identity and the scale would be appropriate there, but we can take that feedback and look at revisions to clarify,” Falkenstein said.
“Rachel, that’s great,” Bates rescinded. “I just know that things are in the eye of the beholder and if you don’t make it very specific, then it’s whatever you imagine it’s compatible to is the right answer. I would suggest that you compare it to the neighborhood model.”
The Neighborhood Model is a zoning district in Albemarle that is intended to be used in the designated growth areas where developments are required to conform to 12 principles including pedestrian orientation, human-scale buildings, and redevelopment of existing buildings when possible.
Tom Loach, a CAC member who also served on the Planning Commission from 2008 to 2015 called for the guiding principles to be removed in favor of keeping what is already in place.
“There are already a set of guiding principles that were in the first master plan in 2004 and they were repeated in the second master plan in 2010,” Loach said. “There are seven guiding principles and I think we should stay with the guiding principles that have stayed with use for all of these years.”
Loach also wanted two statements inserted into the plan to retain guidance to limit future growth.
“One statement is a restatement of the original intent of the consultants in the master plan that Crozet wouldn’t build out in about 20 years to a population of 11,200 to 12,000 and that we have reached that mark.” Loach said.
Loach said his second statement would state that the existing infrastructure cannot support existing traffic.
This came before a presentation of recommendations from staff such as “update residential zoning categories to remove barriers to housing affordability where appropriate such as minimum lot size requirements, minimum frontage requirements, and minimum parking standards.”
Falkenstein carried on with her presentation on land use changes.
“The majority of the land use changes, this is to the map itself now, are kind of clean-up related changes to kind of do two things,” Falkenstein said. “To try to bring greater consistency across all of the county’s master plans in terms of our land-use categories and the second is to bring consistency with existing zoning where appropriate to make sure that expectations, you know, we set expectations for what development can happen when existing zoning is there to allow development.”
Falkenstein said growth projections remain similar to the 2010 master plan in part because there are not many vacant parcels of land in Crozet. She said the new land use map doesn’t make too many significant changes. One change, though, is the creation of a “middle density residential” land use category. Other changes relate to downtown Crozet.
“Themes of the feedback we’ve heard [include] concern about neighborhoods around downtown experiencing teardowns, and then also experiencing new construction that would be out of scale with some of those existing neighborhoods,” Falkenstein said. “So we’ve heard a desire for more protection for some of these homes, especially the historic homes and those are existing affordable housing in some of these neighborhoods.”
Falkenstein said staff also had support for new housing types to add a little more density while not being out of scale, such as bungalow courts, duplexes and accessory units.” Staff suggested a downtown overlay district to allow that additional density, but also heard concerns from many.
“Concern about inadequate infrastructure to support new density here and concern there was not enough clarity in it so that there is a cap on the density and the ‘infill’ wasn’t defined,” Falkenstein said.
The new draft chapter recommends further architectural and cultural resources study to further inform how development might look in the future with an eye toward neighborhood preservation. Another recommendation is an acknowledgment that there may not be as much demand for commercial uses in some of downtown.
Doug Bates said existing neighborhoods could not support that additional density.
“Just because there may be more land behind some of these older homes, the roads do not support new growth at the expansion level that’s being described in this document,” Bates said. He said there be no higher density by-right than R-2, or two units per lot.
“And if you want to build something more, you’ve got to ask if we can build something more,” Bates said.
Loach said the draft reflected the words of the staff and not the words of the community. Before the meeting, he circulated a five page list of changes he wanted to see and said he would ask for a motion on his changes. (download Loach’s suggested changes)
“Otherwise what’s going to happen is that we’re going to be here, we’re going to be talking, it’s going back to the staff and it’s going to go forward the way it is,” Loach said.
Loach would have to wait to make his motion, as Falkenstein had not yet finished her presentation, which included details on the “middle density residential” category that is new to the updated plan. The idea is to encourage development of townhomes with accessory apartments.
“We pulled feedback from the community survey kind of two sides of the coin here,” Falkenstein said. “One is that there’s not enough affordable housing or increasing the availability is very or somewhat important to the community, but also limiting growth is important as well so trying to strike that balance was what we were trying to do with this category.”
Falkenstein said the Planning Commission had supported this concept, but Loach objected and said they and staff were overstepping their bounds.
“So, let me get this right,” Loach said. “This is no longer the Crozet Master Plan, this is now the Planning Commission and staff master plan. Because we voted against middle density and here we are back with it again.”
Votes by the Community Advisory Committees, and the Planning Commisison, are not binding.
CAC member Joe Fore said the vote against middle density had been based on an earlier definition that had a higher density. He supported the updates staff had made.
“I very much appreciate Rachel and staff’s tweaking of the middle density category,” Fore said.
“I really like this definition and I think this gets at…I appreciate the form recommendations, the scale recommendations. I do think, Tom, the point of whose plan this is, I do think a lot of this in terms of the form guidance… tiny houses, accessory units, cottages, bungalow courts, that kept coming up at meetings where people were putting stickers on things and saying what they liked and wanted to see more of.”
Fore said he was disappointed that the middle density residential wasn’t shown on many more areas of the map, which would mean those kinds of units won’t be built. Loach interjected.
“Joe, we voted on this,” Loach said. “I understand you like it, but we voted on it. If you want to redo the vote, based on the new information maybe that’s something we should think about.”
Fore tried to respond, but Loach kept talking until Chair Allie Pesch told him to let Fore finish.
“I’m just suggesting Tom that the thing we voted on previously has been changed,” Fore said. “It’s not what it is now. We voted on something that is now different.”
The presentation continued. Next were changes to the section of Crozet were the Old Trail Development is to reflect what’s been built and to better align terminology used in other master plans, such as the Pantops Master Plan. Tori Kanellopoulos is another county planner. +
“With our public feedback online as well we heard support for designating Old Trail as a village center and heard it needs to continue to be a distinct and secondary center of activity compared to downtown and heard the same feedback about why Crozetians visit Old Trail for those gathering, shopping, and recreational uses,” Kanellopoulos said.
The Board of Supervisors will have a work session on the draft land use chapter on April 7. Before then, many Crozet residents want their views heard and they took that opportunity at the CAC meeting.
“I’m Matt Helt, born and raised in Crozet, and live off of St. George Avenue. I’m going to drop about fourteen things.”
Let’s hear the first two.
“One, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructures. We’ve talked about it. We’ve beat the dead horse. Sidewalks, bike lanes, parks. It doesn’t matter what zoning you do. We need the infrastructure investments, period. No more ifs, and or buts or excuses from the county, period. Number two, whatever zoning allowed the development of the apartments on Jarmans Gap Road, or the intersection of Jarmans Gap Road and Blue Ridge should be banned from Crozet permanently. Quite frankly it should be demolished. If we’re going to say it’s providing low-income housing, I would love for the county to produce a survey that shows any of the residents who moved into those apartments are former residents of Crozet who needed low-income housing.”
Helt was referring to the Vue, a 126-unit development under the R-6 zoning built by Pinnacle Construction on land that Piedmont Housing Alliance had previously intended to build at a slightly lower density. A historic home was demolished to make way for new buildings, prompting a lot of concern.
Helt also took aim at those who spoke from Old Trail, revealing a divided community.
“Really interesting perspective from the Old Trail Community, I greatly appreciate your sentiment but I don’t know that you recognize the irony in your statements,” the speaker said. “For those of us who grew up here, played in those fields and sixth-grade science class in Slabtown Branch Creek, I’m glad you finally are opposed to more dense zoning. I would have preferred Old Trail not be developed either, but we’re 20 years past that conversation.”
Loach wanted to keep on with the critique of the plan, but Pesch suggested waiting until the public comment period opens. There’s a lot more time to continue these discussions.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors discussed the matter on April 7, 2021.
The Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia has released its annual population estimates for localities across the Commonwealth. Albemarle County has grown by 11.7 percent since the 2010 Census, with an estimated population of 110,545 as of July 1, 2020. The population of the City of Charlottesville increased by 13.8 percent to a population of 49,447. (Weldon Cooper Center site)
There are also increases in most other localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Fluvanna County jumped 5.9 percent to 27,202. Greene County is estimated to be at 20,323, or an increase of 10.4 percent. Louisa County increased by 11.6 percent to a population of 37,011 people. Only Nelson County is estimated to have declined over the past ten years, losing just over a hundred people to 14,904 people.
When added all together, the planning district as a whole increased 10.5 percent to a total population of 259,432. Other planning districts that experienced that level of growth include Northern Virginia with 13.5 percent growth, the Rappahannock-Rapidan with 8.7 percent, the Richmond Regional at 10.6 percent, the Crater District at 7.7 percent and the George Washington Regional Commission at 14.9 percent.
The U.S. Census Bureau, however, organizes localities into Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The Charlottesville MSA is similar to the Planning District, with the exception that Louisa County is replaced with Buckingham County. When viewed that way, the MSA grew by 10.4 percent. Buckingham County remained flat in the Weldon Cooper estimate with an increase of just 16 people.
The U.S. Census results are expected to be posted later in the year, later than the usual release date of April 1.
To put this into perspective, I asked Hamilton Lombard at Weldon Cooer a few questions.
These numbers show a ten percent increase in growth in the TJPDC. How does this fit into overall demographic trends in Virginia?
Growth in the TJPDC was the fastest outside Northern Virginia and Richmond (I’m counting Winchester as part of NOVA since it is in the same combined statistical area). The Charlottesville area has grown in part because of UVA, most other college metro areas around the country and in VA, such as Blacksburg and Harrisonburg, have also grown as universities have expanded their enrollment, employment and spending. But the majority of the region’s growth has come from people moving into the Charlottesville area from Northern Virginia and Richmond, particularly younger families and to a lesser extent retirees.
What can you tell us about the Census? When will we see those numbers come out?
The 2020 Census numbers are coming out much later than they have in the past. Right now we probably won’t have any local numbers until the end of September at the earliest. When the 2020 numbers are released they are going to need to be used carefully for two reasons. One reason is that the disruptions from the pandemic may have impacted the Census count.
For example, many UVA students were no longer in Charlottesville when the census was conducted on April 1st, 2020. The bureau has made an effort to ensure students were counted where they attend school but Charlottesville’s 2020 numbers may still be missing some UVA students.
The other reason the 2020 numbers will need to be treated with caution is the bureau’s use of “differential privacy” in the 2020 census which masks respondents identities by moving some respondents to different geographies. As a result the 2020 Census numbers below the state level won’t be 100 percent accurate. For smaller geographies or populations, such as the population of Mineral or the number of Stanardsville residents who identify as Black, the 2020 Census numbers will often not be reliable enough for use. See more here.
On Monday, February 15, Chip Boyles will officially become Charlottesville’s City Manager. On February 4, the Board of Commissioners of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission said goodbye to Boyles in his capacity as their executive director. He has been there since April 2014. Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring is Chair of the TJPDC Board and he read from a proclamation.
“Whereas the influence and reputation of the TJPDC and the quality of programs and services during Chip’s tenure has been greatly enhanced by the vision, skills, and passion he brought to TJPDC’s mission, therefore be it resolved that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission expresses enduring gratitude and appreciation for the generous and faithful service provided to the TJPDC and this region by Chip Boyles.”
Commissioner Keith Smith of Fluvanna County said Boyles took over at a time when the TJPDC had opted to not renew the contract of a previous director.
“We were in a bad way and just to do a 180, it was purely upon his skill, his leadership, and that funny accent of his, people apparently trust him,” Smith said. “Who knew?”
Charlottesville City Councilor Michael Payne said he appreciated the comments from other TJPDC Commissioners.
“I’m just incredibly excited to work with Chip going forward and I think there are really bright days ahead for the region as a whole,” Payne said.
Nelson County Supervisor Jesse Rutherford praised Boyles’ optimism but also made a threat in jest.
“Michael and you all, I’m just saying,” Rutherford said. “My threat out there of saying that if this doesn’t go well, we will ban all fruit products and beverages from going into Charlottesville from Nelson County. That’s a serious one and whoever the reporter is in here, write that down!”
Rutherford also sounded a more positive tone.
“We look forward to the success of Charlottesville,” Rutherford said. “That is not only important to Nelson County but the region. I can’t say this enough, but we have sent you our best, alright?”
One of TJPDC’s achievements with Boyles in charge is the creation of the Regional Transit Partnership, a gathering of various agencies that has spent the last few years laying out the foundation for a more integrated system. Recently the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) awarded TJPDC a grant to help build more of the framework.
“This award is $175,000 for the development of a regional plan as recommended by the Regional Transit Partnership,” Jacobs said. “There is a match for this of $175,000 to be provided both by Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville over two fiscal years.”
This plan will involve coordination between Charlottesville Area Transit, the University Transit Service, JAUNT and Albemarle County. The DRPT also awarded a $106,500 grant to TJPDC to study expansion of transit in Albemarle. The county will have to pay half of that as a match.
“This study is to develop the financial feasibility of new transit services in three different areas,” Jacobs said. “Route 29 north, Monticello, and Pantops.”
The TJPDC also coordinates regional priorities for Community Development Block Grants. Applications to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development from non-urban localities are due on March 26.
“As of the end of January, we’ve already been notified of one project in Louisa County for a planning and infrastructure grant for affordable housing,” Jacobs said. “We know of a Nelson County potential grant for downtown revitalization of Lovingston. We have Albemarle County acquisition and redevelopment for an affordable housing project. And Scottsville has a redevelopment project going on.”
The Virginia DHCD is now directly administering a rent and mortgage relief program to assist households during the pandemic, but the TJPDC was in charge of the program in the second half of calendar year 2020.
“We were awarded a total grant of $1.8 million dollars for the region [and] $1.624 million of that went directly to pay for rent and mortgage relief for qualifying families,” Jacobs said. “That was 570 families in this region who were served with an average of $2,000 rent per household.”
Locally, the TJPDC has launched an online portal called Porch Light that allows people to find affordable housing opportunities.
“If you know people who have rental properties, direct them to our website and they can go directly to the site,” Boyles said. “We need landlords to list their properties. It’s free. It’s easy.”
Nelson County Supervisor Rutherford said the COVID pandemic has brought a real sense of urgency about housing.
“We’re going to be doing some hard soul-searching in Nelson County and what it is we can do to get some economies of scale and some more dense housing,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said he is aware that some newcomers to the area are choosing Nelson due to the provision of more broadband Internet. He said he has a tenant who works in Crystal City and commutes twice a week.
“We’re going to see some major culture changes in our workforce and in how we operate on a business level,” Rutherford said.
“In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants,” reads 15.2-2223.
Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan guides all decisions made in the county, and a major plank is a growth management policy. Charles Rapp became planning director in 2019, but he knows the history. The county’s first Comprehensive Plan dates back to 1971.
“At that time there was a population of just under 40,000 people here in the county,” Rapp said.
Nine years later, the county’s Comprehensive Plan had been updated to call for a growth management policy to limit suburban sprawl. The Board of Supervisors adopted a downzoning in 1980 that established the designated growth areas we know today. The last update was approved in 2015 after a long period of review.
“That update along with the numerous updates over the past 15 years have added a wealth of information throughout our Comprehensive Plan and that has resulted in a document that is over 400 pages long,” Rapp said.
Rapp said the county continues to experience growth, and the pandemic did not slow down the number of building permits and land use applications. Forecasts show the trend will continue.
“The current population is estimated at just below 110,000 here in Albemarle County which is bringing new challenges,” Rapp said. “There have been recent discussion with the Board and with some of our community groups and other boards and commissions focused on transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, development density and form as our development areas take on more urban character, protection of natural resources, scenic viewsheds, and the rural areas.”
Rapp said the upcoming Comprehensive Plan update will give community members and elected officials the chance to review all of these issues. He said there’s also an opportunity to add focus on two new priorities that have emerged in the past few years.
“There’s been an organizational core value of equity and inclusion and diversity which we feel should really be folded into all aspects of this Comprehensive Plan,” Rapp said. “Another item that we’d like to see is to strengthen the synergy between the comp plan’s policies and the goals of the Climate Action Plan so they really align together.”
Rapp said staff is recommending an approach that would “deconstruct” the existing plan and try to root inconsistencies. The idea is to hire a temporary project coordinator to work on a three-year, five phase process to update the plan. The first would be pre-planning, but planning manager Rachel Falkenstein said community engagement would begin in the second. (conceptual scope)
“The second phase we are calling Big Questions and Community Goals, and here is where we would begin the broad engagement process on developing a community vision,” Falkenstein said.
The third phase would deal with land use topics in order to set expectations for community development. The fourth would include development of new policy recommendations, and the fifth would be adoption of the plan. The conceptual framework said this would take place in the first quarter of 2024. A new committee would be created to oversee the project and members of this Project Advisory Group would be paid stipends. The county would hire artists to try to find new ways of conducting community engagement.
Not mentioned by staff, but this year, three seats are up on the Board of Supervisors, and the other three are up for election in 2023. Before then, current supervisors get to approve the pathway forward.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel is in the final year of her second term representing the Jack Jouett District and she expressed a concern.
“Three years is taking me back a little bit,” McKeel said. “That is a long time. I understand there is a lot of work and we don’t want to rush it but three years seems like a long time to get this update done.”
For comparison, the city of Charlottesville is entering the fifth year of its Comprehensive Plan process. (cvilleplanstogether)
But back to Albemarle. The first plan in 1971 envisioned a lot more urban development than currently planned. Supervisor Ann Mallek has been active in civic affairs there since the mid 1980’s and was active with the Earlysville Area Residents’ League.
“Back in the 90’s, 80s, Earlysville’s crossroads was a village and thankfully during the early 90’s the leaders of our little organization at the urging of the residents said, well go down to the Board of Supervisors and ask them when we’re going to get out sewers and our sidewalks to go along with all of the townhouses that we were supposed to have right here in the middle of Earlysville,” Mallek said. “And the Board at the time said you’re not getting any, so the response was, take away our village, and they did. That’s not going to happen now I’m sure because all of the services have expanded out much much further than they used to be.”
This will be the first Comprehensive Plan update for Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District. She said Albemarle’s population has grown by 175 percent since 1971.
“This simply exemplifies the complexities of what we are dealing with as an urbanized county that many of our other nearby communities don’t face and really demonstrates the necessity of a review of our Comprehensive Plan,” Price said.
Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley of the Rivanna District was elected in 2019 along with Price. She said she thought the plan revision should be conducted through the Community Advisory Committees rather than create a new committee.
“I will be honest with you, I’ve got a problem with offering some stipends to people,” LaPisto Kirtley said. “I didn’t see how much it would be per person.”
LaPisto-Kirtley said she would support a chapter-by-chapter review of the existing documents rather than appear to start from scratch. Supervisor Liz Palmer’s first year on the Board of Supervisors in 2014 was spent during such a review.
“A lot of people communicate through the Board,” Palmer said. “They elect us. They listen to us. And development and land use planning is what they’re asking us about half the time. I would want to make sure the Board is quite involved in this and doesn’t come in at the end when you guys have gotten this document all together and it’s dumped on our lap.”
At the end of the discussion, Rapp said he would try to come back with a way to speed up the timeline. A new proposal will come back to the Board of Supervisors at a later date.
An ad hoc group of environmental professionals working on a way to reduce the amount of glass that winds up in landfills resumed the conversation earlier this month. The work is an outcome of Albemarle County’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee and Better World Betty. They have been asking area wineries and breweries to tell them how much glass they discard in an online survey that is open through February 1.
“There’s just a lot of glass to be had and we’re excited about the survey results that we’ve received,” said Teri Kent, the founder of Better World Betty.
The idea is to collect the information with an eye towards hiring a hauler who could collect glass from beverage providers and aggregate the material at a processing facility run by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority. For this to work, the glass must be separated in the waste stream to avoid contamination.
“I am instinctively drawn to anything that will do something than what we’re doing with glass now which is just putting it in the landfill,” said Stan Joynes. “But I do have this question at the outset which is what is the end of this material?”
Philip McKalips is the solid waste manager at the RSWA. He said for many years, the agency collected glass and was able to find places for it to go but has recently formalized an arrangement.
“More recently we wanted to have more of a structured program, something that we could rely on functionally, and we set up an arrangement with Strategic Materials where they actually a hire a trucking company, they come on a regular process, out to our closed landfill, where we stockpile our recycled glass that comes in from our collection centers,” McKalips said.
From there, the glass goes to a facility in Wilson, North Carolina, where the materials are sorted.
“And then they either use it internally or sell it to other users,” McKalips said.
“All of the glass that’s going into the bins in the Northern Virginia communities of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax is now making its way down to Wilson and getting turned around into glass container plants,” DeFife said.
DeFife said much of what ends up in mixed recycling bins winds up in a landfill.
“Getting enough clean, you know, a critical mass of good quality glass can get that glass back into the supply chain,” DeFife said. He added that there is a market for a glass manufacturer somewhere in Virginia which would reduce travel time.
“But the economics of processing are very chicken and egg,” DeFife said. “Nobody is going to build a $10 million to $15 million glass processing plant if there’s no glass to go to it.”