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August 30, 2006

County worksession on affordable living choices

On August 29, 2006, the Albemarle County Planning Commission held a worksession with Ron White, Albemarle County's Chief of Housing, and representatives from non-profit partners in the affordable housing community. 

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The purpose of the meeting was to review the County's strategic goal regarding the availability of affordable living choices for its residents, to review current initiatives, and to receive input from partner organizations.  Invited guests included representatives from the Piedmont Housing Alliance, the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program, and Habitat for Humanity. 

Later in their meeting, Ms. Joseph brought up a suggestion from Dave Phillips of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.  Mr. Phillips suggested another worksession should be held so that the Commission could hear from builders and developers on affordable housing issues. The Planning Commission reached consensus to hold another worksession with those groups in the near future.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060829-CoPC-Affordable.mp3

Highlights:

  • 01:17 -- Call to order by Marcia Joseph, Chairman of the Albemarle County Planning Commission
  • 01:45 -- Report by Ron White, Chief of Housing, Albemarle County
  • 19:15 -- Report by Theresa Tapscott, Executive Director, Albemarle Housing Improvement Program
  • 27:29 -- Report by Peter Loach, Deputy Director of Operations, Piedmont Housing Alliance
  • 41:30 -- Report by Overton McGhee, Coordinator of Charlottesville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity
  • 57:05 -- Report by Noah Schwartz, Executive Director, Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • 1:05:00 -- Discussion

Brian Wheeler

August 29, 2006

C-Ville Weekly Story and the Mayor's Blog

Sqdowntown06q3C-Ville Weekly has a story today about the City Market and a letter sent to Mayor Brown and signed by 16 community members.  I want to clarify a few points and provide some helpful links in case you are visiting Charlottesville Tomorrow's blog because of that story.

I was one of 16 individuals who signed the letter to Mayor Brown and I did so representing Charlottesville Tomorrow.  Some of the other 15 individuals who signed the letter deserve the credit for being the principal authors.  Six former Charlottesville Mayors signed the letter.

Here are some helpful links related to this story:

Brian Wheeler

August 28, 2006

Proffit Road closure to continue to late September

Proffit Rd will remain closed as the Norfolk Southern rail road bridge replacement work continues until about September 24, 2006, according to VDOT's Darin Simpson.  As reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow in May, VDOT told the Board of Supervisors that the road might be closed as long as 90 days, but they hoped the project would be completed before schools reopened last week.

The County and VDOT have received positive feedback about the temporary traffic signals installed on Polo Grounds Road at the one lane underpass.  These were installed in anticipation of additional traffic caused by the bridge replacement.  Mr. Simpson informed Charlottesville Tomorrow this morning that VDOT will be evaluating the warrants, or list of conditions, to determine whether those lights or improved signage should be made permanent.

Brian Wheeler

August 25, 2006

Supervisors outline transportation priorities

Bos20060825cEarlier today, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met with five members of the General Assembly delegation representing the Charlottesville area.  The purpose of the meeting was to review transportation priorities identified by the County for the 2007 General Assembly session and the upcoming special session on transportation.

Bos20060825bPresent for the discussion were Supervisors Dennis Rooker, Ken Boyd, David Wyant and Lindsay Dorrier.  General Assembly members included Senators Creigh Deeds and Emmett Hanger, and Delegates Rob Bell, Steve Landes, and David Toscano.  Butch Davies of the Commonwealth Transportation Board also participated in the discussion.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:Download 20060825-bos-trans.mp3

Highlights:

  • 01:20 -- Call to order by Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), Chairman, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
  • 01:50 -- Mr. Rooker describes local transportation priorities and funding challenges.
  • 02:36 -- Mr. Rooker notes that between 1996 and 2006 the cost of transportation projects has increased 300% but the revenues available from the state for secondary road funds has decreased from $2.9 million to $2.14 million over those ten years.
  • 05:15 -- Mr. Rooker describes the Meadowcreek Parkway as an example of the funding challenge.  The City and County need an additional $7.6 million to keep the project on schedule for its June 2008 advertised start date.
  • 07:44 -- Mr. Rooker describes the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange project and the joint efforts of the community to raise $27 million in funds for that component of the Parkway.  Last year's inflation costs on the County's portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway was about $4 million.
  • 30:30 -- Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asks about expectations for special session on transportation.
  • 31:38 -- Delegate Steve Landes suggests new tolls and taxes based on vehicle road miles traveled deserve consideration.   Mr. Landes indicates his belief that long-term transportation solutions are 4-5 years off.
  • 34:07 -- Mr. Boyd details three important road projects (Meadowcreek Parkway, Hillsdale Dr., and 29/250 bypass lane improvements at Best Buy) and asks what the General Assembly can do to help.
  • 35:20 -- Senator Creigh Deeds critiques "abuser fees" which he does not think are a legitimate funding mechanism.
  • Bos20060825a 46:50 -- Butch Davies of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) provides details on cooperative efforts by Albemarle, Charlottesville and VDOT to fund improvements on 29 North corridor, Meadowcreek parkway, and Hillsdale Drive. [This is a very significant set of remarks by Mr. Davies describing how he views the funding challenges]
  • 58:32 -- Delegate Rob Bell asks Butch Davies about the status of the legislation sponsored by Lynchburg/Danville area to penalize the Culpeper District if the US 29 Western Bypass resources ($40 million spent for land in right-of-way) are redirected to other projects.  Mr. Davies describes his past efforts to sell the bypass property because of its increased value.  He describes what he sees as political obstacles to redirecting these funds to other improvements in the 29 corridor.
  • 59:50 -- Mr. Davies outlines his belief that development North of the proposed bypass terminus (ending near the South Fork Rivanna River on US 29 in the area of Sam's Club) with projects like Hollymead Town Center, North Pointe, and in Greene County have rendered the 6 mile, $250 million bypass obsolete.
  • 1:01:25 -- Mr. Rooker asks for consideration of the County's legislative proposal to allow for primary road funds to be spent on urban construction projects.  Specifically, the County would like to direct proffers from Albemarle Place to improvements in the City of Charlottesville to build a new lane on Route 29 starting at Hydraulic Road and to add a new lane on the ramp from Route 29 to the 29/250 Bypass at the Best Buy.

Brian Wheeler

August 23, 2006

Major developments near Fontaine & Sunset Ave.

Wina20060627b_1Yesterday I made my weekly appearance on WINA AM 1070 with Coy Barefoot on the Charlottesville Right Now program.  I remained for the 5-6 PM segment to join Coy's guest Dennis Rooker, Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  During the discussion, Mr. Rooker announced that two major developments were being discussed for the area of Albemarle in and around the UVA Fontaine Research Park, projects that could bring up to 1 million square feet of office/retail and up to 450 homes.

Charlottesville Podcasting has the audio of the program here.

UvagrangerIn his comments, Mr. Rooker indicated UVA is expected to add 300,000 to 500,000 sq.ft. of offices to the research park.  As part of this project, Mr. Rooker said he anticipated proffers from the University related to transportation needs and a connector road between Sunset Avenue Ext and Fontaine Avenue. This map (click for larger version) gives the approximate location of the Granger property along I-64, South of the Norfolk Southern railroad and the UVA Fontaine Research Park.  A separate rezoning application is expected related to the Granger property for 400,000 to 500,000 sq.ft. of office/commercial space and 450 units of housing.  Charlottesville Tomorrow will provide more details on both of these developments as they become available.

Brian Wheeler

County Planning Commissioner Jo Higgins Stepping Down

Higgins_joAt last night's meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, Jo Higgins (White Hall) announced that she was moving to Augusta County and would be stepping down from the Planning Commission.  Ms. Higgins was appointed in early 2004 by Supervisor David Wyant (White Hall).  Mr. Wyant is expected to recommend a replacement to complete Ms. Higgins' term at an upcoming meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Brian Wheeler

August 18, 2006

August 2006 MPO Policy Board Meeting

On August 16, 2006, the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization held their monthly meeting [agenda]. Topics included the work plan for the formation of a new Regional Transit Authority and an amendment to the 2006 Transportation Improvement Program .  Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced two recordings of this event.

P8160002This first recording begins with matters from the public, followed by a presentation by the MPO's Transportation Coordinator, Kellem Agnew Emanuele, updating the board on research related to public transit options. This is followed by a discussion of issues related to the Regional Transit Authority led by MPO Chairman David Slutzky.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060816-MPO-Part1.mp3

Highlights:

  • 01:25—Matters from the Public begins with Peter Kleeman suggesting that surrounding counties such as Greene and Fluvanna be included in the planning of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA).  He urges the staff and board to be aware of the high growth and high density areas and include those in the RTA’s plans to create the most efficient system possible.
  • 04:45—Sarah Hendley (PHOTO above), a River Run resident leading a petition drive to protect Pen Park from being designated as a route for a future Eastern Connector road, reports that over seven hundred people have signed the petition to preserve Pen Park.
  • 07:05—Sonia Fox also requests for the board to preserve Pen Park and to consider other transportation options that do not include building new roads.
  • 18:35—Supervisor David Slutzky responds to Mr. Kleeman’s comment about including other counties by saying that currently the MPO is focusing on creating a successful RTA within Albemarle and Charlottesville. Mr. Slutzky says that the board would welcome involvement from UVA and surrounding counties in the future.   
  • 19:33—Mr. Lynch responds to the public’s concern over the Eastern Connector and Pen Park by saying that all possible options have to be on the table at this time.
  • 24:55—Staff member Harrison Rue gives an overview of the RTA presentation staff has prepared for the board. The presentation includes the information that staff has collected to aid in the development of an effective transit system. The board and the staff discuss the research that will be necessary to move their project forward.
  • 29:50—The UVA representative Julia Monteith, the director of land use planning at UVA, introduces Becca White, the director of parking and transportation at UVA. Mrs. White will represent UVA for the RTA and Mrs. Monteith will continue as an MPO representative.
  • 31:05—Mrs. White presents the board and the public with a map and profile of the UVA transit system (UTS) in comparison to the Charlottesville transit system. She highlights the fact that UVA’s buses cover one-fourth of area that Charlottesville’s buses do, but UVA still has twice the number of the passengers.
  • 34:20—The board discusses UVA’s successful transit system as a model for a regional transit system.   
  • 39:00—JAUNT Executive Director Donna Shaunesey voices her concern over their involvement in the RTA, because currently they have a very functional system and by collaborating with the RTA they do not want to have to sacrifice certain efficient aspects of their system.
  • 40:55—Mr. Slutzky responds to Mrs. Shaunesey’s comment by saying that the RTA does not intend to erode existing systems. Their goal is to enhance existing transit and add new transit where necessary.
  • 46:50—Ms. Emanuele analyzes and explains the maps that staff created for the board. She asks for the boards feedback to guide the creation of staff’s next set of maps.
  • 1:03:35—Supervisor Dennis Rooker says that while they should not worry too much about the technical aspects of the system, the board does need to have some level of detail to present to the County and the City to secure funding for the project. 

P8160004This second recording begins with additional public comment on a proposed amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program. The board then discusses and approves the amendment related to the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange at Route 250 and McIntire Rd.  The meeting closes with additional matters from the public. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060816-MPO-Part2.mp3

Highlights:

  • 2:05—VDOT staff member John Giometti explains the proposed amendment to the FY2006 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) related to the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange.
  • 5:45—Mr. Giometti explains the steps that VDOT must take to receive reimbursement from the government for VDOT’s expenditures on the project.
  • 11:35—Mr. Lynch asks if the $1.5 million the city has allocated for the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange can be shifted back to other projects like Hillsdale Drive.
  • 14:10—Mr. Lynch discusses the expenses that will be associated with the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange and which designs will be less expenses.
  • 16:50—Public comment on the proposed amendment.
  • 17:00—Peter Kleeman states his concern about financial constraints and segmentation issues (separating the Meadowcreek Parkway and Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange as two projects) associated with the TIP.
  • 22:35—Chuck Rotgin from Great Eastern Management emphasizes the importance and necessity of the interchange project and encourages the board to approve the amendment to the TIP.
  • 24:00—Stratton Salidis asks the board to take the Meadowcreek Parkway out of the TIP entirely. He also asks for them to not build the Eastern Connector through Pen Park.
  • 26:50—Mr. Rotgin states that in an independent survey conducted by Mason Dixon 67% of all respondents were in favor of the Meadowcreek Parkway.
  • 27:45—Board members respond to several of the public comments.
  • 38:40—Mr. Giometti explains why the decision was made to segment the Meadowcreek Parkway and Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange into two separately funded projects.
    The board discusses the validity of this decision.

Brian Wheeler

August 15, 2006

Albemarle Place preliminary site plan approved

On August 15, 2006, the Albemarle County Planning Commission approved the preliminary site plan for the Albemarle Place development located near the intersection of Hydraulic Rd. and US 29.  The vote was 5-0 in favor of approval with commissioners Bill Edgerton and Jon Cannon absent.

Copc20060815

Much of the questioning by the commissioners related to future connections of the site to the Comdial property, the retaining walls around the Sperry Marine site, and transportation plans for a future grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road and US 29. 

Not all aspects of the site plan have been reviewed by the Architectural Review Board.  In the future, they will give consideration to Block D which is currently on hold.  Block D is the area with the tallest proposed buildings.  Preliminary plans showed 10-story residential buildings at 150' in height.  Any building exceeding 90' in height will require a modification to the original rezoning.

Developer Frank Cox informed the Commission that his team had been working for many months on the parameters for a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic and US 29.  While the interchange will not be constructed as part of Albemarle Place, Mr. Cox is funding the design study for this future VDOT project.  Wayne Cilimberg, the County's Director of Planning, stated that before the final Albemarle Place site plan can be approved, the County's official map has to be updated to show the ultimate interchange improvements authorized by VDOT.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060815-AlbemarlePlace.mp3

Brian Wheeler

August 08, 2006

City Council approves resolution on transit authority: Slutzky outlines vision for City-County cooperation

On August 7, 2006, the Charlottesville City Council approved a resolution of intent to establish a new Regional Transit Authority with Albemarle County. The resolution was previously approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Albemarle County's Board of Supervisors.  The University of Virginia has not yet indicated whether it will be a participant.

"What I am hoping we will do together is devise a plan to more forward with a comprehensive transit system that is a much larger scale than what we have in place today. And if that means a significant increase in County participation financially, I believe our current [County Board of Supervisors] is prepared to move forward in that way."  David Slutzky

In this recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Mayor David Brown introduces the topic for the Council's consideration.  Following his introductory remarks, Mayor Brown invites David Slutzky to the podium to speak to Council.  Mr. Slutzky is a member of the Albemarle County BOS and the acting chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060807-CityCouncil-RTA.mp3

Highlights:

  • 00:58 -- Introduction by Mayor David Brown
  • 03:25 -- Supervisor David Slutzky speaks to Council.  Mr. Slutzky describes the goal of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) would be to figure out a way to have a much more comprehensive public transit system. He points out there is no interest in reducing the level of service to any existing community in the City or County. He mentions it would be desirable to have the University of Virginia, which operates its own bus transit system, participating in the RTA which would allow access to greater federal resources. 
  • 06:00 -- David Slutzky, "What I am hoping we will do together is devise a plan to more forward with a comprehensive transit system that is a much larger scale than what we have in place today. And if that means a significant increase in County participation financially, I believe our current [County Board of Supervisors] is prepared to move forward in that way."
  • 06:30 -- Dave Norris asks why an authority needs to be created instead of using existing relationships on transit.
  • 09:33 -- Kevin Lynch - Asks for confirmation that the County recognizes there is a need to have additional transit in the urban ring, that the County is ready to step up to the plate to provide more funds, and that before doing so it wants an agreement with the City to ensure it is part of the decision making process?
  • 10:11 -- David Slutzky responds that the City currently is a monopoly provider.  He indicates that for the County to invest significant operating and capital funds, it makes sense for the County to have a greater say. 
  • 11:10 -- David Slutzky, "My vision... is to see if it is possible to create an integrated system that may have a backbone, not just of a series of bus routes, but maybe a bus rapid transit loop, or some other vibrant connective tissue that would relate the traditional downtown of Charlottesville to the University, and the Medical Center, to the 29 North corridor, and then hopefully also to Pantops..."
  • 17:19 -- David Slutzky - "I can tell you my interest in this, it isn't just because buses are fun, we have serious growth challenges confronting the City and the County.  Our board has struggled, and is going, in the next few months, to struggle mightily with how to manage the influx of new folks in a way that we do not under serve them with infrastructure..."
  • 23:53 -- David Brown indicates he is willing loosen the City's control on public transit if there is greater financial commitment from the County.
  • 25:39 -- Motion approved by a vote of 4-0 (Kendra Hamilton absent)

Brian Wheeler

August 07, 2006

Parking lots and the City's vertical growth

Citymarket1Writing in his blog today Charlottesville's Mayor David Brown discusses the challenge of our community's vertical growth.

"A lot of controversy in Charlottesville revolves around development - infill development, increased density, tall buildings. Partly this arises from people wanting to live here, and the market responding to demand; part is due to rising prices making it feasible to build on difficult parcels (many times, in my opinion, parcels that never should have been zoned for development in the first place), and finally because of the zoning ordinance passed 3 years ago (before I joined council), allowing more density"

Citymarket2The recent approval of a nine-story mixed-use complex near Lewis and Clark Square between South Street and Water Street, proposals for several additional tall buildings, and citizen concerns about plans for two downtown parking lots (photos) all have public officials talking about the City's vertical future.

20060714letterThe two parking lots between Water Street and South Street are of particular interest to a group of community members that recently sent a letter to Mayor Brown and City Council [download letter as PDF].  The metered lot, home to the City Market, is owned by the City of Charlottesville.  The other parking lot is owned by Charlottesville Parking Corporation which has been trying to sell the property for over a year.  I was one of sixteen people that signed the letter to Mayor Brown which begins:

"The purpose of this letter is to open a dialogue with you and other city leadership about the accelerating development of Charlottesville's city center and the Water Street Corridor.  We are particularly focused on the City Market site, though our goal is to consider this property in the larger urban context of downtown Charlottesville.  We would like to encourage the city to begin an open discussion and launch a proactive process for rendering a shared vision for this critical tract and its surroundings, rather than be in a reactive mode to private development proposals."

You can download the letter to read about the issues we suggest should be considered in a visioning process for this area (Note: Page three of the PDF version is a list of all the residents that signed the letter, in case you can't make out the signatures). 

The 2001 Comprehensive Plan describes the City's goals for this area as follows:

Water Street:
Two blocks, bordered by West 2nd Street and East 2nd Street, represent the last large development opportunity in the historic downtown area. The urban design plan here illustrates 1st Street divided to create a public green between the two blocks. The plan calls for the existing structures across South Street and Water Street to complete the edge around this space. Retail uses should line Water Street and 1st Street; with the 1st Street green being an ideal spot for restaurants and cafes. Ideally, these two blocks would develop simultaneously so a shared parking facility under 1st Street could be constructed as part of the whole scheme. If such holistic development is impossible, then development on the western block should still line South Street and partially line West 2nd Street. Architecturally, care should be taken that the development along these blocks does not appear to be monolithic; continuous facades spanning the length of a block should be avoided. The façade and overall structure, or massing should be articulated individually and the details and scale of openings should change along the length of the building.

Brian Wheeler