Category Archives: Land Use – Charlottesville

A summary of Charlottesville transactions in May 2021

(This piece originally appeared on Charlottesville Community Engagement as an article for paid subscribers. Please consider becoming one to ensure these reviews can continue!)

2021 continues to be a year where the price of single-family residential homes and lots is increasing in Charlottesville, seemingly with no end in sight. Interest-rates remain low, as does interest in making large financial investments.

I feel it’s important to understand what’s happening here parcel by parcel, transaction by transaction. That helps me have a better understanding, though this month’s list raises more questions.

What insights do you have? How do these real-world transactions affect consideration of the recently adopted Affordable Housing Plan? Were any of these transactions influenced by the not-yet-adopted Future Land Use Map? How many of these houses might have been purchased for their land?

While this is an article intended for paid subscribers, feel free to send the email on to others.

May 3, 2021

  • A single-family home in the 1100 block of Altavista Avenue sold for $425,000, or 67.65 percent over the 2021 assessment of $253,500. The new owners do not have any other property within Charlottesville and review of the city’s building permit database does not bring up any recent renovations. The property is zoned R1-S. 
  • A unit in the Belmont Village townhouse community sold for $342,000, or 8.40 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 200 block of Sunset Avenue sold for $245,000, or 33.22 percent over the 2021 assessment. The property sits on 0.217 acres and is zoned R1-S. 
  • A single-family home in the 1600 block of Brandywine Drive sold for $570,000, which is 5.47 percent below the assessment of $603,000.

May 4, 2021

  • In November 2009, City Council approved a rezoning of the former Sunrise Court Mobile Home park for a Planned Unit Development, allowing Habitat for Humanity to begin a phased redevelopment of the site. Eight years later, Southern Property purchased several lots for new construction. On this day, one half of a duplex on Midland Avenue built in 2019 sold for $317,700, or 19.57 percent over the 2021 assessed value. 
  • A single-family home on 12th Street NW in the Venable neighborhood sold for $340,000, or 7.63 percent over the 2021 assessment. The 902 square foot building was constructed in 1997. 
  • In the Fry’s Spring neighborhood, a 1958 single-family home in the 200 block of Azalea Drive sold for $365,000. That’s 35 percent over the 2021 assessment. The house sits on a 0.2 acre lot. 
  • Both sides of a duplex on Longwood Drive in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood sold for $470,450. That’s 11.96 percent over the 2021 assessment of $420,200. The 2020 assessment was $264,700, making this transaction 77.73 percent over that figure. 
  • A single-family home on the western side of Center Avenue in Fry’s Spring sold for $298,000, or $100 over the 2021 assessment, or 5.04 percent over the 2020 assessment.
  • A single-family home on Wine Street in North Downtown was transferred to a company called Wine Street LLC.  The structure and land are assessed at $493,300.
  • One half of a duplex on Rosa Terrace in the Ridge Street neighborhood sold for $120,000, or 2.91 percent under the 2021 assessment. The 718 square foot home was built in 1969. 

May 5, 2021

  • A unit in the Ridgecrest townhome community sold for $184,500, which is 17.21 percent under the 2021 assessment. This price may be lower due to this being a transaction within a family. 
  • A single-family home in the 900 block of Altavista Avenue sold for $292,500, which is 36.11 percent over the 2021 assessment. 

May 6, 2021

  • A 728 square foot single-family home in the 800 block of Blenheim Avenue in Belmont sold for an even $350,000. The 2021 assessment is $258,000, making the sale 35.24 percent over the assessment. The building was constructed in 1949.
  • A company called Hillside Construction and Remodeling LLC purchased a single-family home in the 200 block of Palatine Avenue in Belmont for $220,000. That’s 8.43 percent over the 2021 assessment. This building was also constructed in 1949. 
  • A single-family home in the Meadows neighborhood in the 1600 block of Ricky Road sold for $410,000, or 19.01 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 1963 and sits on 0.39 acres.
  • A single-family home built in 2005 on Raymond Lane in the Ridge Street neighborhood sold for $465,000, or 9.36 percent over the recent assessment. The 2021 assessment of $425,200 is lower than the 2020 assessment of $454,400. 
  • A single-family home in the 700 block of Ridge Street sold for $517,500 or 51.32 over the 2021 assessment. The previous owner made several interior and exterior renovations in 2019. 
  • A single-family home on the one-block Mulberry Street in Fry’s Spring sold for an even $350,000, or 14.34 percent over the 2021 assessment. The building was constructed in 1952 and is on 0.172 acres.

May 7, 2021

  • One half of a duplex on Birdwood Court sold for $277,000, or 21.54 percent over the 2021 assessment. The building was constructed in 1987. 
  • A 0.235 acre lot on Moseley Drive sold for $50,000 to Southland Homes Inc. That’s 43.18 percent under the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Dellmead Lane in the Meadows neighborhood sold for $265,000. That’s 9.15 percent under the 2021 assessment. The house was built in 1960 and is on 0.527 acres. 
  • A 523 square foot apartment in the building at 1800 Jefferson Park Avenue sold for $170,000, or 30.07 percent over the 2021 assessment. The residential building dates back to 1966. 
  • A 896 square foot single-family home built in 1940 on Westerly Avenue in the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood sold for $300,000. That’s 24.02 percent over the 2021 assessment. The previous owner made several renovations. 

May 10, 2021

  • A small duplex in the 700 block of Avon Street sold for $108,800, which is 40.64 percent below the 2021 assessment. Property records indicate the structure was built in 1900, but the appearance from the street is of a square building with a flat roof. 
  • An 870 square foot unit in the Monticello Overlook condominium complex sold for $193,500. That’s 5.22 percent over the 2021 assessment and 15.73 percent over the 2020 assessment of $167,200. 
The Monticello Overlook 

May 12, 2021

  • One half of a duplex on Nassau Street built by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville sold for $214,900. This and other homes were dedicated on May 15 and are the subject of a story by Andrew Webb on NBC29
  • A single-family home on Amherst Street in the Barracks/Rugby neighborhood sold for $415,000, which is 18.64 percent over the assessment. 
  • A 1,028 square foot unit in a condominium complex on Arlington Boulevard in the Barracks Road neighborhood sold for $225,000. That’s 43.04 percent over the 2021 assessment.

    May 13, 2021
  • An office building at 918 Emmet Street purchased by the University of Virginia in 1993 had its title updated from “RECTOR, & VISITORS OF U OF VA” as the owner to “RECTOR & VISITORS OF THE U OF VA.”
  • A townhome on Melbourne Park Circle built in 2005 in the Locust Grove neighborhood sold for $280,000, which is 6.06 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on King Mountain Road in the Greenbrier neighborhood sold for $915,000. That’s 43.3 percent over the 2021 assessment.
  • A single family on Northwood Avenue in the North Downtown neighborhood sold for $1,069,900. That’s 48.79 percent over the 2021 assessment. That’s 105.72 percent over the 2021 assessment.
  • A single-family home on Altamont Circle sold for $1,045,000, which is 3.76 percent over the 2021 assessment and 31.63 percent over the 2020 assessment of $793,900.
  • A single-family home on Porter Avenue in Fry’s Spring sold for $650,000, or 10.88 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 2018. 
  • A single-family home on Westerly Avenue in the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood sold for $375,000 to Ward Properties LLC at about 1.96 percent under the 2021 assessment. The company owns five other properties in Charlottesville. 
918 Emmet Street is owned by the University of Virginia

May 14, 2021

  • A single-family home on Cameron Lane in the Lewis Mountain neighborhood sold for $928,000 to F L Clover LLC. That’s 36.53 percent over the 2021 assessment for a building constructed in 1935 that sits on a half-acre lot. 
  • A single-family home in the 1500 block on Cherry Avenue in the Fifeville neighborhood sold for $398,000. That is 52.84 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A 900 square foot unit in the Walker Square condominium complex in Fifeville sold for $250,000. That’s 3.92 percent below the 2021 assessment and 2.71 percent over the 2020 assessment. 

May 17, 2021

  • A single-family home on Bainbridge Street in Belmont sold for $365,000, which is 53.55 percent over the 2021 assessment. According to property records, the structure built in 1945 has 1,104 square feet and no basement. The 0.134 lot is zoned R-3. The home was recently renovated by Blue Dog LLC, who had purchased the property in January.
  • A 976 square foot unit in an apartment building constructed by Habitat for Humanity at  Sunrise Park sold for $186,000. That’s 38.08 percent over the 2021 assessment. The unit was purchased from Sunrise Park LLC. 
  • A single-family home on Briarcliff Avenue sold for $400,000, which is 33.69 percent above the assessment. The 1.5 story building was constructed in 1962.
  • A single-family home on Dairy Road that is also along Rugby Road sold for $700,000 to an Afton-based company called LBHOME LLC. The structure built in 1948 sits on 0.54 acres. The draft future land use map depicts this as “middle residential density” which currently would recommend between eight to 12 residential units on the property if it were to be redeveloped. 
  • A single-family home in the 300 block of 10th Street in the 10th and Page neighborhood sold for $320,000. That’s 21.17 percent over the 2021 assessment for a 1,150 square foot building with no basement. 

May 18, 2021

  • A single-family home in the 1500 block of Oxford Road sold for $580,000, or 6.46 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • New construction of a five bedroom house on Bennett Street in the Lochlyn Hill neighborhood sold for $694,490. The lot was assessed in 2021 for $140,000. 
  • A single-family home on Augusta Street in the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood sold for $475,000, or 27.72 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 1957.
  • A single-family home in the 300 block of Cherry Avenue sold for $380,000 to an entity called Project New Life. The 0.25 acre property had been owned by Neighborhood Investments, a company associated with developer Richard Spurzem. The recent transaction is 25.54 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
Project New Home LLC now owns this structure on 7 1/2 Street

May 19, 2021

  • Arcadia Builders purchased three lots in the Lochlyn Hill development. The company purchased a 0.131 lot on Pen Park Lane for $178,250, which is 154.64 percent over the 2021 assessment. They bought an 0.151 acre lot on Lochlyn Hill Drive for $191,100, which is 36.5 percent over the 2021 assessment. The third 0.145 acre lot is also on Lochlynn Hill Drive, and Arcadia Builders purchased that one for $197,400,or 41 percent over the 2021 assessment. What will the finished products sell for? Stay tuned! 
  • One half of a duplex in the 700 block of Ridge Street sold for $175,000, or 3.43 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 1974. 
  • One half of a duplex in the 800 block of Prospect Avenue sold for $160,000, which is 15.77 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Kelsey Court in the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood built in 2002 sold for $570,000. That’s 7.51 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Lewis Mountain Circle sold for $531,000. That’s 1.61 percent under the 2021 assessment. The structure dates back to 1954 and is on 0.351 acres. 

May 20, 2021

  • A single-family home in the 300 block of Palatine Avenue sold for $309,000, which is 55.67 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Willow Drive in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood sold for $341,000. The house was built in 1953 and is on 0.11 acres. The land is zoned R-2. 
  • The title of a single-family home in the 600 block of Evergreen Avenue in the North Downtown neighborhood was transferred to an LLC named after its address. 
  • A single-family home in the 1600 block of Brandywine Drive sold for $420,000, or 6.44 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 2001.
  • A single-family home on the eastern side of Center Avenue in Fifesville built in 1960 on 0.1720 acres sold for $365,000. That’s 28.93 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Woodfolk Drive in the Ridge Street built in 1965 sold for $430,000, or 11.95 percent over the 2021 assessment. There were significant renovations in 2019 according to the city’s building permit database. 

May 21, 2021

  • A single-family home in the 800 block of Monticello Avenue in Belmont sold for $340,000, which is only 3.19 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on Kenwood Lane in Greenbrier neighborhood sold for $375,000, which is 0.79 percent under the 2021 assessment.
  • New construction of a five-bedroom home on Payne’s Mill Road in the Ridge Street neighborhood sold for $600,962. The 0.19 acre lot had a 2021 assessment of $115,000. 

May 24, 2021

  • A unit in the Melbourne Circle complex in the Locust Grove neighborhood sold for $325,000. That’s 17.41 percent over the 2021 assessment. This particular structure was built in 2006. 
  • A commercial unit in the medical building at 901 Preston Avenue sold for $65,000, or 9.06 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 700 block of Stonehenge Avenue sold for $617,000, or 25.97 percent over the 2021 assessment. This house last sold in July 2018 for $475,000.Melbourne Circle

May 25, 2021

  • A single-family home on St. James Circle in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood sold for $450,000, which is 40.98 percent over the 2021 assessment. The structure was built in 1956. While there have been multiple transactions over the years, the last time money changed hands was in 1970 when it sold for $19,500.
  • A single-family home in the 1300 block of Chesapeake Street in Woolen Mills sold for $380,000, or 45.82 percent over the assessment.
  • A 900 square foot unit in the Walker Square complex sold for $257,000, which is 0.55 percent over the 2021 assessment and 7.53 percent over the 2020 assessment. The purchaser is NFH LLC.  
  • A single-family home on Winston Road in the Venable neighborhood sold for $907,500, or 16.06 percent over the 2021 assessment. The building was constructed in 1946.

May 26, 2021

  • A townhouse unit in the Ridgecrest complex on Danbury Court in the Belmont Neighborhood sold for $220,000, which is 24.72 percent over the 2021 assessment. The unit was built in 2000. 
  • A unit in the apartment building at 1800 Jefferson Park Avenue sold for $220,000. That’s 8.96 percent over the 2021 assessment. 

May 27, 2021

  • Peak Builders LLC picked up a pair of lots on Lochlyn Hill Drive for $349,650. Each has a 2021 assessment of $140,000, making the total purchase 24.88 percent over the collective value of $280,000. 
  • A single-family home on Plymouth Road in the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood on 0.31 acres sold for $417,000. That’s 22.72 percent over the 2021 assessment for a building constructed in 1952. 
  • Directly across the street, another single-family home on Plymouth Road sold for $735,000, which is 59.37 percent over the 2021 assessment. This structure was built in 1953 and sits on 0.283 acres. 
  • A single-family home in the 1000 block of Blenheim Avenue in Belmont sold for $571,000, which is 168.96 percent over the 2021 assessment. That may not reflect extensive renovations including a second story addition undertaken by the previous owners in 2020.
  • A single-family home on Rayon Street in the Ridge Street neighborhood sold for $330,000. That’s 30.18 percent over the 2021 assessment for a 1947 structure with 1,033 square feet of finished space. 
  • A single-family home on North Baker Street in the Fifeville neighborhood sold for $340,000. That’s 10.35 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • Nearby on Baker Street in Fifeville, a single-family home with three bedrooms sold for $391,000, or 62.17 percent over the 2021 assessment of $241,100. There have been no recent building permits for renovations. 
  • A single-family home in the 200 block of Cleveland Avenue sold for $420,000. That’s 4.52 percent below the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home on 0.227 acres on Westerly Avenue sold for $340,000 to 122 Westerly LLC. That’s 30.12 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 300 block of 11th Street NW in the 10th and Page neighborhood sold for $559,000, or 59.17 percent over the 2021 assessment. 

May 28, 2021

  • A townhouse unit at the end of Rock Creek Road in Fifeville sold for $321,000. The unit was built in 2010 as part of a planned unit development in a section of the neighborhood that is otherwise single-family residential with some duplexes scattered around. The transaction is 12.12 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A 1,230 square foot unit in Walker Square sold for $321,000, which is 1.72 percent under the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 300 block of 5th Street SW in the heart of Fifeville sold for $520,000, or 32.25 percent over the assessment. The property last transferred in February 2006 for $385,500. At the time, that was 50.64 percent over the 2006 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 1100 block of St. Clair Avenue in the Locust Grove neighborhood sold for $315,000. That’s 33.14 percent over the 2021 assessment for a one-story building on a 0.201 acre lot.
  • One half of a duplex on Birdwood Court built in 1989 sold for $250,000. That’s 9.75 percent over the 2021 assessment. 
  • A single-family home in the 900 block of Altavista Avenue sold for $177,000, or 20.56 percent below the 2021 assessment. However, this appears to be a transaction with a family. 
  • A single-family home on the Robinson Woods cul-de-sac in the Barracks / Rugby neighborhood sold for $549,000. That’s 12.99 percent over the 2021 assessment. 

UVa making plans for Ivy Garden redevelopment

(This installment was originally posted in the June 9, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

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. 

Source: University of Virginia Office of the Architect

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)

council agrees to bridge funding for belmont bridge

(This article originally appeared as a segment in the May 18, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The main event at Council’s meeting on May 17, 2021 was direction to proceed with a plan to use millions of funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation to cover another cost overrun for the long-planned Belmont Bridge replacement. The project was put out for construction bids in February with a $31 million cost estimate. According to the city’s Urban Construction Initiative manager Jeanette Janiczek, that wasn’t enough money. 

“The lowest responsive, responsible bid can be awarded with existing project funds, however there is a need for additional funding, $4.2 million, to cover contingency, construction inspection services, VDOT oversight, as well as utility relocation,” Janiczek said. 

VDOT has suggested adding funds from its bridge maintenance account, something referred to as State of Good Repair. Janiczek said possible reasons for the higher estimate include inflation, increases in material costs, and potential issues related to the pandemic.

Janiczek said one choice would have been to remove items from the project, such as a pedestrian tunnel on the southern end. 

“Any of these options would result in us having to rebid the project,” Janiczek said. “This adds at least a year in time but most importantly it doesn’t fulfil the commitments we’ve made to the public as well as the Board of Architectural Review.” 

Janiczek if the appropriation of the VDOT goes forward in June, construction could begin this summer. Another public meeting will be held when the contractor is hired to explain how traffic will continue to use the bridge during construction. 

“So once they submit their baseline schedule, we’ll release that to the public and let people know what to expect during construction,” Janiczek said. 

Asked by Council if the project costs could increase, Janiczek said many of the prices for materials would be locked in as soon as the construction contract begins. 

City Manager Chip Boyles said he thought construction costs would increase as the federal government prepares to make billions of investments in infrastructure projects. That’s why he r

“If this project is delayed, we’re already seeing very substantial inflationary projections into the near future,” Boyles said. “If President Biden’s infrastructure package that is in Congress is approved, you will see multiple fold of capital projects underway. If this had to be rebid, I would say that we would end up with less product and at least the same amount or more of the cost.” 

The second reading of the appropriation will be on the consent agenda for Council’s June 7 meeting. They’ll next meet on May 25 to have a work session on the 7th Street Parking garage followed by a May 26 joint meeting with the city School Board on the reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools. 

Council adjourned their meeting before 8 p.m. something that newcomers to city government should never ever expect. 

Proposed apartments for Fifeville draw attention to planned railroad underpass

(This article was originally a segment in the May 11, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will have a joint public hearing with the City Council on a rezoning on a cul-de-sac on the western edge of Fifeville.  A property owner on Valley Road Extended seeks the rezoning and a special use permit to build four apartment units on just under two-thirds of land. The applicant is proffering $48,000 to build a portion of sidewalk and have suggested it could be part of a larger network. (meeting info)

“Sidewalk improvements along the new parcel frontage along Valley Road Extended that ultimately may be incorporated into a more robust pedestrian and bicycle improvement network if the multi-use tunnel under the railroad right of way, as called for in the [2015] Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan,” reads the narrative.

The narrative references a map on page 38 of the plan that depicts many desired projects throughout the city. One of them is this underpass at the northern end of Valley Road Extended.

However, there is no active project planned for such a tunnel at this site to occur, according to city Communications Director Brian Wheeler. In all, there is a distance of 4,500 feet where the railroad bisects the Fifeville neighborhood from the University of Virginia without a pedestrian or vehicular crossing, between Shamrock Road and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. 

The University of Virginia is also not planning for a tunnel at that location, according to its non-voting representative on the Planning Commission. After the city agreed to hand over right of way for the Brandon Avenue corridor, UVA agreed to study for a railroad crossing and settled on a different planning concept closer to Monroe Lane and Paton Street. However, they are not pursuing a crossing at this time but will work with the city on an easement should it choose to proceed.

This map is Charlottesville’s 2015 Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan and can be found on page 38. (download the plan)

Ash trees are in a “state of emergency”

(This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The Charlottesville Tree Commission got an update on several topics at its meeting on May 4, including an update on several projects planned for Charlottesville’s McIntire Park. 

“In McIntire Park there are three projects going on that are really private-public partnerships,” said Peggy Van Yahres, a member of the Tree Commission.

Van Yahres is part of one project to install a memorial grove in McIntire Park to commemorate people who have been awarded the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s citizenship award. 

“We wanted to preserve the landmark oak trees  on the top of McIntire Park on the east side,” Van Yahres said. “The other objective was just to enliven the park and make it a better place for people to go and sit underneath these beautiful trees.” 

The memorial would be a stone terrace on which the names of the past and future award winners would be displayed. 

“There will be a beautiful lawn, people can play, a walkway, and of course, a lot more oak trees to continue the tradition,” Van Yahres said. 

Van Yahres said the grove has been added to the schematic design for the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont. That’s the new name for the nonprofit that entered into a memorandum of agreement with the City of Charlottesville to operate in the northeast section of McIntire Park. She said the grove will hopefully be installed by this fall. 

A rendering of the proposed Grove in McIntire Park. Learn more on the Chamber and Grove website.

As for the garden, Jill Trischman-Marks is executive director of the newly renamed organization. There was a naming contest.

“We had over two hundred responses and selected Botanical Garden of the Piedmont because it was precise and concise,” Trischman-Marks said. “It not only identified where the garden is located but it also talked about the trees and other plants that will be highlighted in this garden.” 

The nonprofit is on the hook to raise funds to pay for infrastructure and to install the garden.

“The city of Charlottesville has dedicated the land to this project but that’s where the taxpayer burden ends,” Trischman-Marks said. “All of the funds that are needed to design, construct, and maintain the garden will be privately raised but once it is built just like any other city park, the Botanical Garden will be free and accessible to all.” 

Trischman-Marks said the plan for the garden is to utilize native species and demonstrate the ecosystem of our area. You can weigh in on a survey they have listed on their website

“And share the survey with your friends, families, and neighbors because the more feedback we get, the better this garden will be,” Trischman-Marks said

Trischman-Marks will update the Charlottesville Planning Commission at their meeting on Tuesday.

The third project is a more low-key initiative from the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards to plant new specimens. 

Later in the meeting, the Tree Commission got an update on plans to fight the Emerald Ash Borer from the city arborist, Mike Ronayne.

“The Emerald Ash borer is an invasive insect from Siberia and it will be killing all of our untreated ash trees in Charlottesville,” Ronayne said. “And now it seems like it’s come through other parts of Virginia like northern Virginia and now we’re really just starting to deal with all the dead ash trees that we’re finding in Charlottesville.”

The goal is to protect 31 individual trees in the city, and have sought additional funding from City Council for the purpose and to remove the dead trees. About one to two percent of trees in the city’s parkland are ash trees. A draft cost estimate to remove the trees over five years is $480,000. That does not cover the cost of planting replacements. The cost to annually treat those 31 trees will be $8,425 a year. Todd Brown is the city’s director of parks and recreation.

“Basically this is a state of emergency situation,” Brown said. “These trees are dying. Ninety-nine percent of them are going to die and right now we’ve been hitting at a tiny fraction of them. For everyone we’re doing, there are ten more that need to be done and ten more that die. We’re chasing a moving target that’s eventually going to stop and eventually we are going to have to catch up to it.” 

Brown said that presents a safety issue and more and more limbs become prone to falling. For more on the Emerald Ash Borer, take a look at the Virginia Department of Forestry website. The agency is offering a cost share program for individual removals. (learn more)

The woods shroud this dead Ash tree near Crozet. The homeowner took advantage of the Virginia Department of Forestry cost-share program to help treat some of its fellow specimens, but this one was too far gone. (Credit: Grace Reynolds)

An update on Franklin Street sidewalk

(This story initially appeared in the April 19, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

Earlier this year, City Council agreed to transfer federal funding that had been allocated to add a sidewalk on Franklin Street, which serves as part of its eastern border with Albemarle County. The project was within the jurisdiction of a task force that was put together to recommend projects eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Erin Atak is a grants coordinator with the city of Charlottesville.

“This is funding that’s issued by HUD,” Atak said. “These are federal funds that the city receives each year as an entitlement community.”

The city selects a neighborhood every three years to receive the money for infrastructure and a task force is put together to make recommendations to Council. One recent project funded through this process is a pocket park in the 10th and Neighborhood. The current neighborhood receiving funds is the Ridge Street neighborhood. The Belmont task force last met in February 12, 2019. 

“And in this case, the Belmont Priority Neighborhood [Task Force] recommended to City Council the Franklin Street sidewalk which was approved to create a new sidewalk on the west side between north Moores Creek Lane and Nassau Street, which was approximately 1,600 feet of new sidewalk.”

This process is separate from the city’s sidewalk priority process. The Belmont neighborhood was allocated a total of $449,214 and the sidewalk made up a portion of that amount.

Tim Motsch is a transportation project manager with the city, hired in the summer of 2017.

“Myself and Kyle Kling were hired in order to manage transportation projects including the sidewalks which I have been involved in as well as Smart Scale projects that I’ve been involved in such as the East High Streetscape and the Emmet Streetscape.”

More on those projects in a future newsletter. For now, Motsch explained that design for the Frankin Street sidewalk began in late 2018 when the engineering firm A. Morton Thomas was hired to do the work.  Complications happened. 

“It is a challenging plan from the point of the view of stormwater management depending on which map you look at and which datum you refer to, the sidewalk is either right next to the floodplain or in the floodplain,” Motsch said. 

That delayed the design for the project, which included the need to purchase easements from landowners on which mitigating features and drainafe could be built. The pandemic’s effect on the city’s budget also led to a delay. 

“Add to the fact that last year, for several months all sidewalk projects were on hold due to the possibility of having to use city funds,” Motsch said.

Construction is now slated for next spring, but that’s if the right of way can be acquired from around a dozen property owners. 

However, Atak explained that HUD has time limits by which its money can be spent and this project did not make the deadline. 

“Normally funds are required to be spent within one year of receiving CDBG dollars,” Atak said. 

In February, Council transferred the funding to a rent relief initiative for public housing, but Atak said the funding will be restored on July 1, 2022. Everything has to be in place for the project to move forward. 

“It’s very important that we receive public support with the right of way moving forward so that we can secure this funding and there aren’t any delays moving forward,” Atak said. 

Atak said HUD has already issued a warning on the project. 

Motsch said a round of certified letters are being sent out to property owners this week for negotiations, and that the city wants to avoid taking properties by condemnation. One of the abutting landowners is Sunshine Court, which owns a six and a half acre mobile home park on Carlton Avenue. The property has a land value of $2.4 million. 

CDBG-funded Franklin Street sidewalk to be delayed

At their meeting on February 16, Council was briefed on a plan to remedy the city’s noncompliance with a mandate from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to spend previously funding on a timely basis. Erin Atak is the city’s grants coordinator. 

“City staff had identified an immediate program for funding to solve the city’s timeliness concerns by May 2,” Atak said. “The city has unexpended 2019 [Community Development Block Grant] entitlement funds totaling $244,950.82 from the delayed Belmont /Franklin sidewalk activity.”

That project came about when Belmont was the city’s Priority Neighborhood but has not moved forward due to COVID as well as difficulty securing space for the project.

“Right now we’re having a lot of issues achieving right of way,” Atak said. “We have reached out ot the Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association and the Belmont CDBG Task Force with help on this and they are pretty motivated to help.”

Atak has recommended that the money instead be used for COVID-relief programs and the sidewalk project would be financed by the federal government again in the future.  A previously approved rental relief program for public housing residents will now get the additional funds in the short-term. 

This item will be included on the consent agenda for the March 1 Council meeting.

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)

Charlottesville’s draft capital budget includes $50 million for middle school reconfiguration

The Charlottesville City Council will be presented with a $160 million five-year capital improvement program (CIP) that anticipates spending $50 million on a reconfiguration of middle school education. 

Council and School Board will meet Thursday, January 28 at 5 p.m. to discuss budget preparations. (meeting info)

Staff has not recommended new funding for the West Main Streetscape in Charlottesville’s proposed capital improvement program for the next fiscal year, though the first phase of the project is fully funded. The future of a second phase is not certain at this time.  

“The current CIP draft reflects priorities raised by City Council in previous budget work sessions,” said Charlottesville Communications Director Brian Wheeler. ”The inclusion of a $50 million placeholder for the City Schools reconfiguration project means other projects have to be reconsidered.”

The draft capital improvement program for FY22-FY27 is ready for review

While capital improvement budgets look ahead for five years, Council will only adopt an actual budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1. The proposed budget for FY22 is for $35.4 million, with $26.8 million anticipated to come from the sale of municipal bonds. 

The draft CIP also continues the city’s $10 million investment in a new parking structure at the corner of Market Street and 9th Street. The project’s purpose is to support a new General District court to be used by both Albemarle County and Charlottesville. 

The five-year budget anticipates a total of $13.5 million in investment in new construction of Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority including $1.5 million in FY22. 

“This funding is the second year of a original City projected commitment of $15 million for the redevelopment of the public housing sites,” reads a summary of projects.  In October, Council signaled they would approve a performance agreement governing the use of $3 million to help finance the Crescent Halls redevelopment and the first phase of redevelopment at South First Street. 

The draft CIP restores several budget line items that were zeroed out for the current fiscal year. Instead of spending about $6.7 million of general fund revenue for certain items that could not be paid for through the sale of bonds, Council agreed with a plan to put that money aside in case of a shortfall. 

For FY22, the draft budget restores funding to “non-bondable” items such as “city-wide traffic engineering improvements”  and “bicycle infrastructure,” as well as funding for parks. 

The draft budget also includes $800,000 a year in funding for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund, for a total of $4 million. The specific use of those funds would be determined later.  

Another significant project that would be paid for with cash is $2 million for infrastructure at Friendship Court. That’s separate from $394,841 for the first phase of Friendship Court redevelopment and $750,000 for phase two. Council approved a performance agreement for that funding in October

School reconfiguration

The basic details of a plan to reconfigure Charlottesville’s middle schools were presented to the City School Board in December 2018. Michael Goddard is a project manager with the city who addressed Council at a work session on November 20, 2020.

“The plan is to utilize existing public properties so no land acquisition would be required,” Goddard said. “We would like to expand the pre-school and provide best-in-class wrap-around services, move 5th grade back to the elementary schools, reduce middle year transitions. By adding the 6th grade to Buford, we would make that a three year school.” 

Both Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle School were built in the 1960’s. Goddard said another goal is to eliminate students needing to go outside to transfer between buildings.

Presentation from December 19, 2018 Charlottesville School Board meeting

The project has a placeholder cost estimate of about $55 million based on work conducted by the firm VMDO. In the fiscal year budget for 2020, Council authorized $3 million for design and pre-engineering.

“What we expect to see from our architect as part of this initial phase is a visioning document which gives us a general idea of what we can do, a goals and objectives document which lays out exactly what it is we intend to accomplish,” Goddard said. 

West Main Streetscape

The firm Rhodeside and Harwell has been paid at least $2.8 million to develop design and construction documents for the three-quarter mile stretch between the University Corner and the Downtown Mall.

A value engineering study intended to reduce the costs will be shared with Council on Monday. 

A slide from the September 30, 2020 City Council work session on the West Main Streetscape. (preview story) (summary story)

A total of $12.95 million was requested for the West Main Streetscape project in FY22 , but was not included.  The project was split by Council into four phases in October 2017 in order to help secure funding. Phase 1 spans from West Main’s intersection with Ridge Street and McIntire Street to 6th Street NW. 

“Phase 1 remains funded from prior CIP allocations,” Wheeler said. “The local allocations to Phase 1 are $3,162,045 spent and $13,422,860 available.” 

The city received $3.2 million in VDOT revenue-sharing funds for West Main Phase 1, and the city will still spend $13.4 million in city funds. 

Phase 2 travels between 6th Street NW and 8th Street NW. The city received $2 million in VDOT revenue sharing and $2 million in VDOT Smart Scale funding for this phase. The city had anticipated spending $7.1 million in capital funds but that is not reflected in the current CIP. 

“We expect City Council to provide additional feedback on both phases in the budget discussions,” Wheeler said. 

City staff had not budgeted spending any city money on West Main’s Phase 3, which spans from 8th Street NW to Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. Last year, Council agreed to submit a $10.38 million request to the VDOT’s Smart Scale process. Last week, staff recommended funding of this project. 

As of last September, the city had not identified a funding source for Phase 4 which has a preliminary cost estimate of $8.7 million. 

A former chief operating officer at the University of Virginia said in a March 2018 letter to Council that UVA would allocate $5 million for the city to use on the West Main Streetscape. The offer still stands. 

“The University remains committed to its funding pledge for the West Main Streetscape project,” wrote UVA spokesman Brian Coy. “Per discussions with the City, our intent is to focus on safety and security improvements towards the western end of Main Street, supporting both students and the broader community.”

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