A new partnership has formed between the City of Charlottesville and an entity that secures open space easements in Virginia, and that will slightly increase the cost of land transactions.
“We have a property owner that we’ve been negotiating with and we have a granting agency in the Virginia Outdoors Foundation that’s providing the funding which has already been appropriated,” said Chris Gensic, a planner in the Parks and Recreation Department.
In March, Albemarle’s growth area advisory committees learned about the county’s transportation process, and got updates on area projects. Albemarle keeps a list of projects that have been identified to address congestion issues, improve public safety, increase economic development, and achieve other goals.
“The last it was updated was in 2019, but we are embarking on another update and a reprioritization over the next year or two combined with the Comprehensive Plan update,” said Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a principal transportation planner for Albemarle County.
Tonight the Charlottesville City Council will take up two land use items.
The first is a request from an out-of-town developer to build 28 units on 0.62 acres at the end of Valley Road Extended. On March 8, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend a rezoning and a special use permit, and 5-2 on a critical slopes waiver for the project. At that meeting, Vice Mayor Juandiego expressed skepticism for the $48,000 the developer has agreed to pay sidewalk improvements somewhere in Fifeville. (staff report) (story and audio piece I wrote on the PC hearing)
One of the purposes of a Comprehensive Plan is to direct government resources into specific areas in order to maximize investment in infrastructure. For over forty years, Albemarle County has envisioned an urban area that gets the vast majority of capital dollars. Pantops is one of the designated growth areas, as is the area around the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29. (Rio Corridor Public Input page)
For the past year, Albemarle has been working on a plan to address traffic congestion and a lack of walkability on Rio Road East in and around the intersection with the John Warner Parkway. They hired the firm Line and Grade to do the work which is being done in two phases.
At any given point there are dozens of candidates for transportation projects in the community. In recent years, Charlottesville has been successful in seeking funding for streetscape projects to add bike lanes, sidewalks, and other urban amenities.
The next deadline for Smart Scale funding process through the Virginia Department of Transportation is coming up later this year and one of the projects under consideration is a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists that would cross the Rivanna River. (most recent presentation)
In their final item of the year, Council agreed to cancel a project to build a sidewalk on Franklin Street using federal funds that come through the Community Development Block Grant process. The project had been selected by a task force but was defunded earlier this year because it could not be completed by a federal deadline.
Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders recommended Council consider moving away from the task force model.
“Routinely, a task force model doesn’t necessarily help to meet the regulatory conditions because typically what you’re doing is simply allowing community members to pick projects and they don’t necessarily always know the details that go into executing,” Sanders said.
Council also approved the design for the $11.7 million Fontaine Avenue Streetscape, a project funded by VDOT’s Smart Scale in 2017 that is working through the long process from idea to construction. Kyle Kling is a transportation planning manager for the City of Charlottesville.
“In January of 2020, Council accepted the Planning Commission’s recommendation that this project’s conceptual design was found to be in accordance with the city’s Comprehensive Plan,” Kling said.
Charlottesville will seek additional funding to implement a plan to build a trail along Meadow Creek through the City of Charlottesville. Trails planner Chris Gensic told Council the details last week on a Transportation Alternatives grant opportunity offered by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“The grant the parks department is pursuing is to construct a long awaited portion of an [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible the Meadow Creek valley from the Michie Drive area up to the Virginia Institute of Autism at Greenbrier Drive and also around the corner to Greenbrier Park,” Gensic said.