Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bonumose to set up Hershey research plant at former State Farm HQ

An Albemarle County start-up that seeks to create an artificial sweetener for the mass market will set up shop at the former regional headquarters of the State Farm insurance company.

Governor Ralph Northam was on hand to announce that the firm Bonumose will partner with the Hershey Company to research and develop reduced or zero sugar chocolate.

“This is a $28 million investment that Bonumose is putting forth in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam said. 

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RCA grades health of the Rivanna River

If our collective efforts to guard the health of the Rivanna River were graded, we’re doing about average. The Rivanna Conservation Alliance has presented their first Rivanna River Report Card by sifting through five years of data from the 50 monitoring sites they have throughout the watershed to look for the presence of E. coli bacteria. 

“A stream’s biological health is measured by catching, identifying, and counting the different small organisms that live in it,” reads the report card. 

The RCA has been monitoring water quality since 2003 when part of it was known as StreamWatch. Monitoring sites closer to developed areas tend to register as poor or fair. 

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Studying the expansion of transit in Albemarle County

Charlottesville Area Transit is in the midst of studying how it might increase its service into northern Albemarle County. The northernmost stop for CAT has for many years been at the Wal-Mart on U.S. 29.

(This article was originally part of the August 11, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement. Sign up today!)

At the same time, Albemarle County and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission are doing the exact same work as part of a study partially funded by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. 

Boris Palchik is a transit planning project manager with Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, a firm hired to help conduct the work. The other consultant is Michael Baker International. Palchik ran a meeting on July 26 that sought to get initial feedback for the study.

“It’s really a feasibility study and implementation plan for expanding transit service in both population and employment centers in Albemarle County,” Palchik said. 

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No property tax rate increase in Charlottesville this year; staff suggests one is likely next year

Council also held its first public hearing on City Manager Chip Boyles’ recommended $190.7 million budget for Fiscal Year 22. Before that, Boyles said revenue projections for next year are up slightly.

“This amount is being recommended to increase by $1,260,307 to a total of $191,950,146, still less than a one percent change,” Boyles said. 

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Albemarle design panel reviews Fontaine Avenue Corridor

The next time you walk, bike, or drive along Fontaine Avenue in Albemarle County, think about possible futures. Much of the land is owned by the University of Virginia or its real estate foundation. The road itself is one of Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors, and as such is under design guidelines of the Architectural Review Board

“The majority of the land is either owned or controlled by the University,” said Fred Missel, director of design and development at the University of Virginia Foundation. “Some land, primarily Foxhaven Farm, Morey Creek, Observatory Hill, are all being held for long-term needs of the University. 

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Ridge Street CDBG projects move forward

One item on Charlottesville City Council’s consent agenda for the March 15, 2021 meeting were the recommendations of a task force for how a small pool of federal funding should be spent in the Ridge Street Neighborhood.

The group is suggesting that $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money be spent on traffic calming and another $220,000 be spent on three sidewalk projects. As part of the traffic calming, speed limit signs would be installed on the old section of Ridge Street. 

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Council briefed on Fire Department’s Neighborhood Risk Reduction program

At their meeting on March 16, Charlottesville City Council got a report from the fire department on their new approach toward Community Risk Reduction, which is intended to lower service calls through various preventative measures. Joe Powers was hired from Henrico County to be the first deputy chief for community risk reduction. 

“We’re one of the few fire departments across the United States that has invested in community risk reduction at an executive level,” Powers said. “From a traditional standpoint, we’ve always heard of fire prevention as a part of the fire department. We’re changing that mindset and taking it from a section of the fire department and making it an organizational process.”

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CAAR releases sales report for 2000’s fourth quarter

The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors has released its home sales report for the final quarter of calendar year 2020. In summary, mortgage rates are at a historic low which may be fueling recent activity in the market. (download the report)

“Sales are surging in the CAAR area housing market,” reads the executive summary of the report. “There were 1,278 sales in the 4th quarter, a 23 percent jump from last year.”

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July 17, 2020: 1,002 new cases, $1.25 in business funding and 58 percent tax revenue

Today’s edition materializes thanks to the French Press, open every day from 7 to 7 in Waynesboro for delicious coffee and light treats. Cool snacks, and cold and frozen bevvies. Order in advance on the @cloosiv app or call ahead 540.221.6568. See you there at the French Press? 

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Virginia has increased by another 1,002 cases, and the percent positive rate rate for all testing encounters has risen to 7.4 percent. That number was 7.1 percent on Thursday. There have now been 2,013 fatalities. Yesterday the Health District reported another 14 new cases and today reported another 23 cases for a cumulative total of 1,335 cases. Since Wednesday, that’s ten new cases in Albemarle, 15 in Charlottesville, four in Greene, three in Fluvanna, four in Louisa and 1 in Nelson. There have been 29 fatalities but none reported since July 7. The positive percentage rate is 7.4 percent for the PCR test, and 7.2 for all tests. 

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The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will meet sometime next week to discuss what steps the county might take to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The six elected officials brought the matter up at the end of Wednesday’s meeting after getting a briefing from health officials. Here’s Supervisor Donna Price of the Scottsville District.

“I think there was a fairly strong consensus about concern over moving from phase two to phase three, but the board did not take a formal vote and did not take a formal action,” Price said. 

Some supervisors are concerned that the large gathering permitted under Phase Three of the Forward Virginia plan will lead to more infections, and some want to tell Governor Ralph Northam to go back to Phase 2, which limited gatherings to 50 people or fewer. Supervisors aren’t scheduled to meet again until August 5, but Price said there is a need for a special meeting. 

“What we’re anticipating is a meeting next week where we will have more information from the Virginia Department of Health,” Price said. “We’re looking to have consultation with the city of Charlottesville, UVA. Obviously from my perspective we’re going to also include the town of Scottsville.”  

Price said she is concerned about what the next few months may be like and is concerned many have become fatigued by physical distancing and facial covering guidelines. The supervisor made her comments at the virtual meeting of the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee. 

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A local group that studies public policy in the area reports that tourism activity was down 58 percent in March and April. The Free Enterprise Forum reviewed transient occupancy and meals tax records from Albemarle and Charlottesville in its research. Neil Williamson is the organization’s president. 

“The fact that tourism activity is down 58 percent is dramatic,” Williamson said “ You have to remember that the taxes are collected one month after the activity occurs, so when you look at May taxes, it’s really reflecting April activity. In May 2020, the city collected nearly 50 percent less, about a million dollars less, in meals tax revenue compared to 2019 or even 2018. 

Williamson said the Free Enterprise Forum will continue to look at the numbers. When asked what steps he would recommend to improve those numbers, he urged people to follow the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. (blog post)

“I think it’s critically important that customers and employees follow the protocols. It is for the safety of everyone to follow the safety protocols,” Williamson said. “Wear the mask.” 

This week, Albemarle County launched an initiative to help businesses get through the downturn in the economy. The $1.25 million Lift Grant program will provide some funding for up to 100 small businesses. Roger Johnson is the county’s economic development director.

“We want to provide aid to small businesses, all businesses in Albemarle County, giving a preference to women, minority and veteran owned businesses, as well as the hospitality and tourism industry. As for why we gave preference to the tourism industry, they have a direct economic impact in our community of over $400 million.” 

A webinar will be held on the Lift Grant program on July 27 at noon. (press release)

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The University of Virginia has released its latest plans for on Grounds opening for the fall semester. Students will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning, and must have a negative COVID-19 test to attend in-person classes. The plan has details about how UVA will hire a third-party vendor to provide tests for students. All students, faculty and staff will be required to have a daily health check and must wear facial coverings. Everyone on Grounds will be given a touch tool to open doors, and there will be 2,600 free-standing hand sanitizer stations. Dining rooms will be open at 50 percent capacity, but takeout options will be increased. More information can be found in the five-page plan. (the plan)

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