Category Archives: Land Use – Albemarle

(This story was originally part of the March 14, 2021 episode of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

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.

There are five goals in the draft plan:

  • 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. 

Image of 12 principles taken from appendix to the Comprehensive Plan, page A.8.3

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.” 

Image of seven guiding principles from the 2010 Crozet Master Plan, page 7

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.

Thomas Jefferson Planning District region grew by 10.5% in last decade

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.

Source: Weldon Cooper Center

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.

Regional body says goodbye to outgoing director on his way to Charlottesville

(This story was originally published in the February 8, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

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.” 

Dale Herring

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.”

The state program is not covering additional mortgage payments at this time, but are still accepting applications for rent relief. Visit their website if you or someone you know needs assistance

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.”

Chip Boyles (lower right) presided over his final TJPDC meeting

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.

(watch the whole TJPDC meeting here)

Albemarle Supervisors briefed on process to update Comprehensive Plan re

(this story originally appeared in the February 6, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The time has come for Albemarle County to review the Comprehensive Plan. On February 3, 2021, the Board of Supervisors was briefed on a proposal from staff on a three-year process.

Virginia’s code requires the Planning Commission in each locality to create and maintain such a plan to guide future development. 

“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.” 

Review the above image on the Albemarle website

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.”  

The last Comprehensive Plan took four years to update. (story from June 2015)

For comparison, the city of Charlottesville is entering the fifth year of its Comprehensive Plan process. (cvilleplanstogether)

A slide from a 2008 presentation on the Comprehensive Plan shows the 1971 Future Land Use Map. Areas in beige were slated for development, but many outside the urban ring were removed in later plan updates.

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. 

Group seeks information from beverage producers on glass recycling

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 group wants wineries, breweries, and other beverage producers to fill out a survey on glass recycling needs. (survey)

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. 

A co-founder of Valley Road Vineyards in Afton said he supported the idea.

“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. 

The goal of the current initiative is to collect enough glass so it can be used as material to make new containers. Localities in Northern Virginia have created a program where purple bins are used to collect glass, returning to a time when materials were separated by those who purchased the product. Scott DeFife is with the Glass Packaging Institute. 

“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.” 

So work continues to organize the waste stream. The group wants as many beverage producers as possible to fill out the survey. Jesse Warren is with UVA Sustainability. 

“What we’re thinking is some kind of weekly hauling route where a provider will provide something like a 64×96 gallon cart that you all will then fill up with glass,” Warren said. 

Area Smart Scale projects recommended for funding in fourth round

A data-driven application process has recommended funding for several major projects in the area, including $24.6 million for improvements at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road. This also includes nearly $8 million for the third phase of the West Main Streetscape in Charlottesville. Both are recommended for funding under the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process, which ranks projects according to a series of metrics including congestion relief, public safety, and economic development. 

Source: Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Albemarle and Charlottesville are both within VDOT’s Culpeper District. 

“Culpeper gets a total of 20 projects recommended for funding for a total of $166.9 million dollars,” said Chad Tucker with the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. 

Smart Scale was put in place after nearly $230 million was spent on several projects to address congestion on U.S. 29 including construction of Berkmar Drive Extended and a grade-separated intersection at 29 and Rio Road. Smart Scale is now in its fourth round and nothing is final until the Commonwealth Transportation Board takes a vote in June. Under the recommended scenario, the Hydraulic project received the highest score in the Culpeper District. 

“That will really augment the investments that have been done at Rio in helping to keep traffic moving efficiently and safely along the U.S. 29 corridor in the Charlottesville,” Tucker said. 

Projects recommended for funding in Albemarle include $11 million in Route 250 East Corridor Improvements, $8.5 million for safety improvements at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and 5th Street Extended, a roundabout at the intersection of the John Warner Parkway and East Rio Road, and a $7.5 million for a roundabout and other safety improvements at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53.

Projects recommended for funding in Charlottesville include $5 million for a project to increase safety on Ridge Street, $6.1 million for improvements at the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenuea second phase of multimodal improvements on Emmet Street, in addition to phase 3 of the streetscape.

Council has been waiting for the results of Smart Scale before making a long-term decision about the future of the West Main Streetscape, which was broken into multiple phases in 2017 after a previous Smart Scale application to cover the whole cost did not qualify for funding in the second round. A portion of the project was covered in the third Smart Scale round. 

A roundabout at Troy Road and Route 250 in Fluvanna County has also been recommended for funding. 

“I think Culpeper did a very good job of having targeted improvements that are addressing safety in congestion hotspots throughout the district,” Tucker said. 

More on this as the weeks and months continue. For a more complete picture, be on the look-out for a story from Allison Wrabel in the Daily Progress.

Source: Virginia Department of Transportation

Scottsville Town Council discusses mayoral declaration post propaganda drop

The Scottsville Town Council met last night for their first meeting of the year with a work session and the topic of public safety came up in a several ways. First, town Police Chief Jeff Vohlwinkel updated the Council on compliance with a presidential executive order issued last summer in the wake of the protests that rocked the nation after George Floyd was killed on May 25 after being held to the ground for nine and a half minutes by a police officer’s knee. 

“So it’s a presidential executive order related to community policing and safety that requires us to show that we have a use of force policy that complies with the federal and state laws as it relates to use of excessive force and that we have a duty to intervene within the policy as well as barring choke holds,” Vohlwinel said.  

Vohlwinkel said the police department’s accreditation would be in jeopardy and it could not receive federal funds without having made the policy change. He also told Council he has been in touch with federal and local authorities regarding the distribution of racist fliers in and around Scottsville. 

“I’ve been in touch with the FBI and the Commonwealth’s Attorney and our adjoining agencies to converse with them as to what they have seen or heard related to this matter and I’ve reached out the Virginia Fusion Center as it related to receiving intelligence from them,” Vohlwinkel said. 

The Virginia Fusion Center is a counterterrorism agency.  

Source: Town of Scottsville Facebook page

Later in the meeting, the Council discussed a draft of a proposed Mayoral Declaration of the Ideals of the Scottsville Community. Councilor Laura Mellusi read it in the absence of Mayor Ron Smith. (read the statement on the town’s Facebook page)

“We are Scottsville’s community and local government,” Mellusi read. “ We are a small town like thousands of others in our United States but we all have responsibilities to action when our country is threatened.” 

The statement went on to say the community does not condone “political violence and intimidation, bigotry and political corruption.”

Councilor Ed Payne said he supported the statement but took issue with the phrase. 

“The one word that troubles me is the term political violence,” Payne said. “Now that’s timely because there has been recent political violence but as we all lived through 2020, we saw there were other forms of violence that may in some opinion have been political or may not have. Social, maybe. If this is to go out to the public I would like to see the word political struck from this because violence is violence.” 

Councilor Dan Gritsko agreed with Payne and said he appreciated what Mayor Smith was trying to do especially in light of the racist propaganda distributed over the weekend. 

“I applaud his effort to be proactive to remind our citizens and to remind those around us who might want to stir up trouble that we don’t want there and we are trying to create a community that is inclusive, that honors people of enormously different backgrounds,” Gritsko said. 

Jim Bowling serves as the attorney for the Town of Scottsville. After the discussion on the Mayoral declaration, he updated Council on the weekend’s incident. 

“I can stress enough that I’d be surprised if this was done totally by outsiders and I think you’re going to fine some regional or local people involved and it’s important that the town’s citizens take on the responsibility to help their other citizens in trying to find whoever is responsible for this,” Bowling said. 

Council discussed a potential reward for more information, but Councilor Dan Gritsko said he was concerned about overreaction. 

“I’m not overly worried about who did it, we’ll find out who did it one way or the other,” Gritsko said. “We should be thick-skinned enough as a people to be able to deal with somebody’s poor reasoning or poor thinking in the light of freedom of speech as a country.”

Gritzko said he regularly takes students to the National Holocaust Museum in D.C. and the truth is that the Nazis murdered millions of people. But Bowling pointed out that the fliers were intended to intimidate. 

‘The point here though is that this is criminal behavior and its domestic terrorism and anything else is to kick it under the table,” Bowling said. 

Will it happen again? Mellusi told anyone watching to notify the authorities if they are intimidated.

“If you received information you’re not comfortable with, or if you’re feeling threatened in anyway, to please contact our chief of police and to share that information with him,” Mellusi said. “If you don’t live in the town but you’re in the county of Albemarle, county of Buckingham, county of Nelson, county of Fluvanna to reach out to those police.”

This post was originally published as part of the January 12, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement.

Regional Transit Partnership discuss fare-free, lessons from the pandemic

The pandemic has affected much of how the community functions, and has drastically affected how transit agencies get people around the region. 

On October 22, 2020 the members of a working group of Albemarle and Charlottesville officials talked about lessons learned as buses have been running at reduced capacity due to the need for physical distancing. 

Take a listen to an audio version of this story!

Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel is the chair of the Regional Transit Partnership. 

“The thought was today to have a work session for our group to discuss transit in light of the pandemic,” McKeel said. “Is our strategic plan still relevant? Do we need to articulate a new direction in some areas? What is absolutely the most important thing about transit today, which may not have been true when we were looking at our strategic plan?” 

The Regional Transportation Partnership has been meeting since October 2017 and is a forum to talk about ways to increase coordination between multiple transit agencies in our area. 

Brad Sheffield is the executive director of Jaunt, which is a regional transportation system that serves the city and surrounding counties. He said the pandemic has led to increased communications between his agency, Charlottesville Area Transit and the University Transit Service.

“Going forward there’s going to be a need for more and more communication and more positive communication about what safety measures are being taken and so forth,” Sheffield said. “We can’t just assume that something we put out today is going to be remembered two months from now.” 

But what if there are fewer potential passengers in the future? 

Albemarle Deputy Executive Trevor Henry said the county is putting together its budget for next year, and wanted to know what financial changes can be identified now. He said many companies may allow their employees to continue to work from home after the pandemic. 

“We didn’t have a work from home policy and we created one in three days whenever we forced everyone out of the office, and we’ve been able to keep county operations hit,” Henry said. He added that the county will expect to keep a virtual option open going forward. 

“We’ve upgraded all of our conference rooms and we’ve made the assumption that we’ll never have a meeting that everyone is in the room together,” Henry said. 

Sheffield said Jaunt has switched its dispatchers so they can work at home. That means they may not need to expand their administrative building. . 

“It’s really challenged the fact that we’ve been shoehorning our staff in the current facility that we have, and this has really shown that we can’t do that anymore,” Sheffield said. “We see that this is part of that future issue where we need better space planning now to just be ready for how we come out of this.”

And then there’s the cost of cleaning and disinfecting all of the buses. CAT Director Garland Williams said his agency is using money from the CARES Act to cover the high cost.

“There needs to continue to be that level of cleaning to make sure the public feels safe when riding public transportation,” Williams said. “Our cleaning bill is fairly high. We’re at half a million dollars already and growing.”    

Another topic is whether transit agencies will resume collecting fares after the pandemic. On CAT buses, passengers now enter through the side door bypassing the farebox as a safety precaution. McKeel said she wanted to know if that could be continued in the future as a way to boost ridership.  

Chip Boyles, the director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, said he supported such a study but said the term “fare-free” can be misleading from a budgetary standpoint.

“A lot of people think fare-free and it’s not,” Boyles said. “Somebody’s paying. It just may not be the end consumer handing a dollar bill over to the driver. Somebody’s paying, but I have seen it directly experienced where there are a lot of benefits.”

During the pandemic, that means contactless transit. It also would mean not having to pay someone to account for collecting the fares, or installing expensive fareboxes. He said fare free transit usually works in college towns where the school picks up the tab. 

“Somebody writes one check instead of a million people handing over 75 cents,” Boyles said.

Williams said he believes CAT could go fare-free in the future and he is working on a pilot project.

Neal Sherman with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation said his agency was in the process of developing a grant program for this purpose before the pandemic, but they want to use a different phrase.

“We are changing the terminology to zero fares,” Sherman said. 

Fares make up about ten percent of CAT’s budget, for instance. The University Transit Service is fare-free. UVA Parking and Transportation Director Becca White said the University pays about a quarter of million dollars to CAT for its employees to ride CAT buses fare-free. 

“We consider our program with CAT to be a reciprocal ridership program such that UTS provides service on Grady, Rugby Street, 14th Street, JPA, we just open the doors and anyone boards,” White said. “CAT used to run on Massie Road and Arlington Boulevard and Rugby Road and because of our coordination with our routes, CAT was able to reallocate resources to other routes and UTS became the public provider on some roads.” 

As the meeting was a work session, there were no decisions made. The TJPDC is awaiting news about whether it will get a planning grant from the DRPT to come up with a way to improve the regional vision as well as enhanced transit service in Albemarle. The Commonwealth Transportation Board did not make a decision at their meeting on Tuesday. 

Supervisor McKeel said her interest in transit leans toward finding ways to serve a growing urban population in the county. Albemarle pays for service by CAT, but the process to get new routes is a long and uncertain one. The county is working with Jaunt on potential on-demand service to augment CAT and UTS. 

“Fixed routes are not going to serve our population by themselves,” McKeel said. “We hardly have a proposal that comes to us now that doesn’t talk about the need for some sort of transit or on-demand, and we’re talking about transit stops that also offer opportunities for on-demand and looking at them as multimodal stops with bike racks, shelters, charging stations.”

The Regional Transit Partnership is next scheduled to meet in late January 2021.

Where will be in the pandemic by then? Stay tuned.

Habitat breaks ground on Southwood

(This story was originally posted as part of the September 21, 2020 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has broken ground for the redevelopment of the Southwood Mobile Home Park off of Old Lynchburg Road in Albemarle County. Habitat purchased the site in 2007. Dan Rosensweig is president and CEO of Habitat.  

“See, thirteen years ago, this community was facing a deeply uncertain future,” Rosensweig said. “Like a lot of trailer parks in the nation, it’s underground infrastructure had basically passed its useful life.” 

Rosensweig said there was also development pressure on the property and residents asked the owner at the time to sell to Habitat. The organization was working on redevelopment of the Sunrise Trailer Court in Charlottesville. Now Habitat has been working with Albemarle County on a multiphase effort to redevelop the site without displacing residents. 

“We came up with a plan of development that within the next ten years or so is going to turn this wonderful community of people into a wonderful community of people who are here, new people who are joining the community, new homes, and a little downtown core,” Rosensweig said. 

Albemarle Supervisors voted on a rezoning last year that paves the way for the first phase, which will take place along Old Lynchburg Road and does not involve any of the existing trailer homes. Scottsville District Supervisor Donna Price was not on the board when the rezoning happened, but she is supportive of the funding Albemarle has committed to the project. 

“When I think of Southwood, I think of the core values of non-displacement and sustainability,” Price said. “When I think I see Southwood, I see a representation of an essential public-private partnership that will produce a neighborhood consistent with Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan.”

The ceremony was held on September 18, 2020.

RealCrozetVA – Crozet Master Plan serves as test conversation for “missing middle” housing

All across the country, advocates of affordable housing have been combing through zoning codes to find ways to increase the number of homes in urban areas. 

One idea is to increase the number of duplexes, town-homes, triplexes and other types of housing that allow for more people to live in an area. Many zoning codes across America prohibit these so-called “missing middle” homes. 

“They’re called missing because these aren’t being built very often right now,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a senior planner with the county. “Often times we see both ends of the spectrum but you don’t see the middle housing types being built, primarily because these are prohibited by a lot of local zoning ordinances.”

Read the rest of this story at RealCrozetVA.

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