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September 27, 2006

The Meadowcreek Parkway Funding Challenge

20060920mpo_1
MPO Chairman, David Slutzky
(Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Rio District)

The Virginia General Assembly starts their special session on transportation today.  While local projects like the Meadowcreek Parkway aren't on the mind of many lawmakers in Richmond, rapidly rising funding estimates for the cost of this road are getting increasing attention by our local officials.  In Albemarle, funds previously set aside for Jarmans Gap Road and Georgetown Road may soon be diverted to the Parkway.

In advance of the special session, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads representatives have been trying to secure approval for local tax increases in an effort to fund their priority transportation projects.  According to the Washington Post, those efforts failed in the House Finance Committee yesterday.

"...a decisive majority of lawmakers on the committee -- including six from Fairfax and Prince William counties -- voted against raising taxes to finance the plan, most of them saying the state can pay for roads through existing revenue or bond sales."

Other bills championed by House Speaker William Howell seeking to address the links between land use and transportation decisions were deferred to the 2007 session.  The Richmond-Times Dispatch described this outcome as due, in part, to "the muscle of a homebuilding industry that has resisted caps on growth and new fees on construction to finance road improvements." 

Similar funding strategies have been recommended by our local  Transportation Funding Options Working Group, a task force with diverse representation that included the Chamber of Commerce, the local realtors' association, UVA, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.  Their October 2005 recommendations for ways to secure funding for over $100 million in priority projects may get a fresh look by local officials after the General Assembly completes this special session.

While there were not any bills* for this special session related to Charlottesville and Albemarle's transportation priorities, local officials have told our General Assembly delegation that the Meadowcreek Parkway needs their attention this week.  The Parkway's funding challenges were most recently discussed at last week's monthly meeting of the the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization [see agenda].

During the Policy Board's discussion [podcast below] of the first draft of their annual priority statement for presentation before the Commonwealth Transportation Board (public hearing on October 25, 2006 for the 2008-2013 VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program), Board members discussed the Meadowcreek Parkway, the Western 29 Bypass, and the Fontaine Avenue/Sunset Connector. 

In the discussion, Dennis Rooker, Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, shared updated figures on the funding deficit for the City and County portions of the Meadowcreek parkway.  In the table below, you can see Mr. Rooker's estimates that indicate an additional $9.7 million is needed before the project can begin as scheduled in June 2008.

Meadowcreek Parkway
Section
Cost of Project

Previous Funding
Allocated

6-Year Plan
Allocation
Balance to
Complete
County's portion $25,500,000 $18,222,932 $2,673,520 $4,603,548
City's Portion $13,500,000 $8,419,000 $0 $5,081,000
Interchange at Rt. 250 $26,500,000 Federal commitment n/a --
TOTAL $65,500,000 -- -- $9,684,548

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060920-MPO.MP3

For more information on these and other local transportation projects, visit the Charlottesville Tomorrow Transportation Matrix.

Brian Wheeler

* HB 5049 & SB 5021 are not expected to be considered until the 2007 session.

September 18, 2006

Development survey available on County website

Sqkidsa06q3As I reported here earlier this month, the Albemarle County Development Review Process Task Force is conducting a survey of the public and the development community in an effort to determine what the County could improve upon in its public engagement and in its process for rezonings and special use permits. 

If you are a citizen or someone that works in the local development community this is an important opportunity to make your voice heard!  The County is listening... now we get to do the talking.

Click here to view the survey

The survey will be available online from Monday, September 18 through Friday, September 29. In the County's announcement of the survey, they point out that individual responses are confidential and only a summary of results will be reported to the Task Force. 

Here are the questions posed to each constituency group:

Citizens' Survey

  1. Below is a list of the ways of getting information about County development proposals. Please check each of the ways of which you are aware...
  2. Please check, from the list below, all of your preferred methods for getting information about County development proposals...
  3. What specific information do you want to know related to development proposals?
  4. Does the current review process adequately allow for citizen involvement?
  5. What methods would you suggest to improve citizen input regarding development proposals?

Developers' Survey

  1. Please briefly describe your role in the development process...
  2. Understanding that the purpose of the Task Force is not to alter current Development Area/Rural Area policy, but instead to focus on the review process itself, do you believe that the current rezoning and special use permit review process works adequately?
  3. Please suggest any specific improvements you would like to see made to the review process...
  4. How do you currently provide for citizen input on your development projects?
  5. Are there additional citizen information/input methods that you think would be helpful in creating successful projects in the development areas?

Brian Wheeler

September 14, 2006

Crozet rezonings move forward

On September 13, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved two new Crozet developments erasing a "line in the sand" that was drawn in early August when the Board indicated they were unlikely to authorize new rezonings until developer proffers were substantially increased and the funding of infrastructure was more adequately addressed. Westhall Phase V (30 units) and Wickham Pond Phase II (106 units) were both approved by 4-2 votes with Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) and David Wyant (White Hall) voting against the rezonings.

Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced a podcast of just the Westhall discussion.  The full audio of the Wickham Pond discussion will eventually be available on the County's website here.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060913-BOS-Westhall.mp3

Highlights of the Westhall Discussion

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) made a notable shift in his position since the August 2nd meeting at which Westhall was initially deferred.  Then, Mr. Boyd indicated he could not support the project and he said the issue had to be settled for Crozet with a "line in the sand" and a different message sent to the development community about the County's expectations.  At this evening's meeting, Mr. Boyd said, upon further reflection, he felt it was really unfair to change the rules for the development community in the middle of the game for a "good developer playing by the rules."  He indicated he would be working with the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee to bring recommendations to the Board on a new proffer policy as soon as possible.  In the case of Westhall, the proffers did not get larger following the Board's deferral, but the timing changed so more cash would be paid up front.

David Slutzky (Rio), the sole Supervisor who did not want to defer Westhall in August, indicated he was still supportive of the project. He took issue with Mr. Rooker's concerns about the inadequacy of public facilities, the large supply of approved housing in Albemarle, and concerns about the future population of Crozet as combined reasons to deny the project.  He argued that Westhall is consistent with the Crozet growth area and master plan intentions. 

He encouraged the Board to support thoughtful projects in compliance with the master plan and "have confidence that that doesn't mean that there are going to be more than 12,000 people in Crozet in less than twenty years..."  Mr. Slutzky continued, "If we are concerned about limiting the population in Crozet to a certain number by a certain date... then what we ought to do is go back and do a whole new master plan that is designed to have a carrying capacity of 12,000 people."

Dennis Rooker said that his concern was that Westhall did not make an adequate contribution to Crozet's overall infrastructure, in the form of proffers, that is adequate for its impacts.  He reminded the Board of his view that rezonings are the only tool they have to control rate of development in Crozet and that they promised the public that they were "not going to let this get out of hand."

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) outlined a number of pros and cons about the development.  In favor of the rezoning, she argued, was the fact that the County would get proffers that they would not get if the development went by-right and either way the County is going to get additional traffic on the roads.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) said he would support Westhall because the applicant did everything they had been asked to do by the County.

Supervisor David Wyant joined Dennis Rooker and voted against Westhall because he felt the timing was wrong for the Crozet community.

Brian Wheeler

September 13, 2006

Rural area phasing and clustering proposals fail to move forward

On September 13, 2006, a deadlocked Albemarle County Board of Supervisors failed in their attempt to move forward new proposals to strengthen efforts to protect the County's farms, fields and forests, a goal established in their 2005 update of the County's Comprehensive Plan.  [Link to agenda item]

The first item considered in the worksession today was a proposal to adopt phasing or a time release of lots for new development.  Before the Board was a resolution of intent to adopt a phasing ordinance, something that would come back for further public comment and Board review. 

After their discussion, only Supervisors Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), David Slutzky (Rio), and Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) were willing to support phasing in some fashion.  Supervisors Ken Boyd (Rivanna), Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville), and David Wyant (White Hall) said they would not support phasing in any form, even if the proposal was modified to allow creation of at least 1 new lot every year.  The proposal on the table was for a maximum of 2 lots every 10 years.  All the Supervisors opposed to phasing indicated a preference for voluntary conservation easements.

The second item focused on clustering development in the rural areas and a similar resolution of intent to develop a new ordinance was under consideration.  The clustering proposal also failed to move forward.  Mr. Rooker indicated that he could not support clustering alone without a companion phasing ordinance.

Mountaintop protection proposals were also reviewed by the Board.  No action was taken by the Board which decided to hold a future worksession jointly with the County Planning Commission to discuss a number of issues raised by the Supervisors, particularly now that it would be considered without phasing and clustering proposals in place.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060913-BOS-Rural.mp3

Brian Wheeler

September 12, 2006

City Council receives development status report

Sqmall06q3 On September 5, 2006, the Charlottesville City Council received a development status report from Jim Tolbert, the City's Director of Neighborhood Development Services.  In a series of six PowerPoint presentations with 155 slides, Mr. Tolbert reviewed the development projects completed since 2003, development in progress, projects in various stages of review or discussion, and potential development sites in the City and around the University of Virginia.

Status # of projects # of dwelling units
Completed 36 625
Underway 36 1113
In Review 32 1006
In Discussion 22 at least 500
Potential Sites 26 --
Major UVA projects 4 --

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20060905-City-DevReport.mp3

Highlights:

  • 01:06 -- Introduction by Mayor David Brown
  • 01:15 -- PowerPoint presentations by Jim Tolbert’s the City's Director of Neighborhood Development Services.  Mr. Tolbert describes this report as a picture of development since the September 2003 zoning ordinance changes.  He points out that the City is expecting $130 million in new construction permit values in 2006.  Last year was first time City crossed $100 million mark in one year.
  • 04:20 -- Presentation of completed development
  • 07:47 -- Presentation of development underway
  • 14:40 -- Presentation of projects in review
  • 21:05 -- Presentation of projects in discussion
  • 25:12 -- Presentation of potential sites and projects
  • 30:52 -- Presentation of UVA development
  • 32:10 -- Discussion by City Council
  • 34:00 -- Councilor Kevin Lynch asks about the three to four 9-story buildings proposed for downtown and inquires as to whether staff has followed up on discussions with the Planning Commission about revising the ordinances which allow 9 stories by right.  Mr. Lynch suggests Charlottesville might follow Chicago’s lead where tall buildings can only take up a certain percentage of a lot. 
  • 35:24 -- Mr. Tolbert responds that staff are working with the Planning Commission to assess new regulations as part of their work on the comprehensive plan revisions.
  • 36:07 -- Councilor Dave Norris observes that ten years ago this report would have been much different.  Concern then that there was not enough new development.  He asks if the pendulum has swung too far away from affordable living choices?  Asks how City is planning for the traffic burden?  Expressed frustration that traffic issues could not be assessed when the Council reviewed the Cherry Hill project.
  • 38:30 -- Mr. Tolbert explains that part of what we are seeing is the strategy working of getting new housing near the University.  He states that the City has about half the density needed for transit to be successful.  He said the City is hopeful that new development will be able to take greater advantage of transit.
  • 40:00 -- Councilor Kendra Hamilton asks why the City’s population seems to be tremendously stable in the face of all this development?
  • 40:23 -- Mr. Tolbert indicates it is very hard to get a handle on the constantly changing and corrected census numbers. Mr. Tolbert agrees that by all appearances we are growing, but notes the schools are not getting new students.  He indicates his belief the City is gaining population and vehicle registrations are up 10%.
  • 42:20 -- Councilor Julian Taliaferro asks if staff are taking into consideration issues related to public safety.  He mentions that increased density creates challenges for fire/rescue and law enforcement.
  • 43:50 -- Mayor David Brown asks about a project where fill is being deposited in the flood plain.
  • 44:13 -- Mr. Tolbert indicates fill is being placed in the flood plain and not the flood way.  Albemarle County’s ordinance does not allow fill in the flood plain.
  • 44:58 -- Mayor Brown indicates he is bothered by fill adjacent to the streams given all the attention on a streams ordinance.  Mr. Tolbert indicates he is talking with the Planning Commission about changing the City ordinance to match the County.
  • 45:30 -- David Brown asks about development's net effect on trees and suggests a scorecard so the City can keep track and seek a net increase in trees with new development.
  • 47:05 -- Mr. Norris brings up a concern from Westhaven residents.  He reports that there are regular rumors about Westhaven’s sale to UVA.  Mr. Norris clarifies that the Housing Authority Board cannot sell to UVA or another developer without a clear public process that would involve the residents.  He says legally they can’t sell it without jumping through a lot of hoops.
  • 49:10 -- Mayor Brown's closing remarks.

Brian Wheeler

September 07, 2006

Task force searching for feedback and ideas with survey of development community, citizens and staff

Bosdrp20060907The County's Development Review Process Task Force met today and approved a set of survey questions, five each for the public and for the development community, in an effort to determine what the County could improve upon in its public engagement and in its process for rezonings and special use permits.  The online and paper survey will be available starting September 18th and the County will collect submissions for a two week period.  A hybrid version will be used to survey staff in the County’s Community Development Department.

The task force was formed in response to what was seen by some members of the Board of Supervisors as a broken development review process for the growth areas that was pushing new home construction to the rural areas at an unacceptable rate.  Further, resident concerns from Crozet and the Village of Rivanna motivated the Board to look for an improved public engagement process. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060907-DevTaskForce.mp3

20060630ruralareapermitsDevelopment in Albemarle County’s rural areas has been very consistent over the past eight years averaging 293 housing units annually [click chart for larger image].  During this same period, there have been numerous changes to the comprehensive plan that impact development in the designated growth areas, including: approval of the Crozet Master Plan; the adoption of the Neighborhood Model; and the approval of thousands of housing units in the designated growth areas in rezonings like Albemarle Place, Old Trail Village, Belvedere Farms, Cascadia, and North Pointe.  With respect to the rate and form of rural area development, the Board of Supervisors is considering a number of ordinance proposals which are intended to further protect the rural fields, farms, and forests, an identified priority when the comprehensive plan was updated by the Board last year.

According to the County’s data, there are over 7,500 potential housing units that have been approved and are in the pipeline, but have not been built.  The City of Charlottesville has over 1,000 units that have been approved and are in various stages of construction.  In fact, on August 2, 2006 when the Supervisors approved the Cascadia development, Supervisor Ken Boyd remarked that there now seems to be an oversupply of approved housing in the County.  He stated, “A couple of years ago there was a real concern by the development community that we didn’t have a lot of supply of lots in the development area.  We have changed that… this Board has approved thousands of residences.”  He then asked developer Don Franco, “How do you think you are going to make money on all this?  Where are you going to find all the people to put in [these growth area lots]?  Whether you bring them in from the rural area or not, it just seems to me that we have already shifted that supply to where we may have an oversupply of residences.”

That shift in the housing pipeline seems to have shifted the emphasis of the task force as well.  During the meeting, the group reviewed the numerous recommendations which have come forward as a result of their process review thus far, and collecting more feedback and ideas from the survey is seen as essential to finalizing a set of recommendations.  The group plans to meet three more times in September and October before making its final report to the Board of Supervisors.

Brian Wheeler

September 06, 2006

Duane Zobrist named to County Planning Commission

At today's meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor David Wyant (White Hall) received approval for his nomination of Duane Zobrist to the Albemarle County Planning Commission to complete the remaining term of Jo Higgins who resigned last month.  Mr. Zobrist's term will run until December 31, 2007.  Appointed to the Crozet Community Advisory Council in March 2006, Mr. Zobrist is an attorney who lives in Crozet.  He moved to the area in 2001.

Brian Wheeler

County Planning Commission seeks enforcement of Hollymead Town Center proffers

In their September 5, 2006 meeting, the Albemarle County Planning Commission unanimously rejected a request from LeClair Ryan attorney Steve Blaine representing Target and Hollymead Town Center LLC for a two-year extension on the deadline to build a new road behind the Harris Teeter and Target stores.  The Hollymead Town Center development is divided into four major areas lettered A thru D.  Mr. Blaine’s clients occupy what is called Area B and the road in question is on Developer Wendell Wood’s property in Area A which has not yet been rezoned. 

20060905copc

The Planning Commission took a tough stand in defense of the County getting what has been promised to them in proffers, or voluntary contributions from a developer in exchange for a favorable determination on a rezoning request.  Unless there is a meeting of the minds, the road named Meeting Street may be 1-2 years from construction and some occupants of Hollymead Town Center may not get occupancy permits they need to open for business.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060905-CoPC-HTC-Proffers.mp3

BACKGROUND

20060905htcmeetingstDeveloper Wendell Wood proffered the construction of several roads as part of the original Hollymead Town Center rezoning for Area B in July 2003 when it was approved by the Board of Supervisors.  In what is known as Proffer 3, Mr. Wood promised to continue Town Center Drive from near the Harris Teeter to Dickerson Road.  In what is known as Proffer 4, Mr. Wood promised to build Meeting Street (formerly Ridge Road) connecting Area A to Area C behind the Harris Teeter store. 

When Area B was sold to Hollymead Town Center LLC (Dierman Realty and the Regency Realty Group) to support development of the first phase for tenants including Target and the Harris Teeter, a private agreement was made between the two developers as to when the road would be constructed by Mr. Wood to support the rest of the town center’s development and in compliance with the proffer agreements between Mr. Wood and Albemarle County.  Mr. Blaine reported that his client had already paid $400,000 to Mr. Wood to support construction of Meeting Street.

Because Town Center Drive has not been built as required by Proffer 3, a moratorium on the issuance of new certificates of occupancy was ordered on August 18, 2006 by Jan Sprinkle, the Albemarle County Deputy Zoning Administrator.  According to Mr. Blaine, there are several small businesses that are waiting for these certificates before they can legally open.  County staff told the Commission that this was standard practice for a property with a zoning violation. 

As required under Proffer 4, when the certificate of occupancy was issued for the Target on June 15, 2005, the clock started ticking on the deadline for the construction of Meeting Street, which was due for completion one year later on June 15, 2006.  Even if Mr. Wood can clear up the requirements of Proffer 3, it appears that the additional zoning violation under Proffer 4 could lead to further delays on Area B’s occupancy permits. 

The Commission’s denial sets up an interesting discussion before the Board of Supervisors on October 11th and a potential lawsuit by Mr. Blaine’s clients against Wendell Wood to force construction of Meeting Street, if they do not build it themselves and bill Mr. Wood for their efforts.  If the situation is not quickly resolved by the two developers or the Board of Supervisors, the completion of Meeting Street could be delayed by 1-2 years as it moves through the courts or the County calls the bond, collects the cash from Mr. Wood, and bids out the road project on its own.

Staff also informed the Planning Commission that a stop work order currently exists on Area A because of a pattern of repeated erosion and sediment control violations.  A rezoning request submitted by Mr. Wood for Area A is currently under review by the County. 

THE DISCUSSION

Steve Blaine submitted on behalf of his client a proffer amendment request that would extend the deadline for the construction of Meeting Street by two years.  In his comments to the Commission, Mr. Blaine argued that the County was in a much better position to get Meeting Street built through leverage related to Mr. Wood’s upcoming rezoning request for Area A and because of its ability to call the bond and build the road on its own.  Mr. Blaine described the challenge his client faces building a road not on the Area B property and which, even if they built their portion, would not allow for a connection all the way to Route 29 unless Mr. Wood complies with the requirements of Proffer 3 for Town Center Drive.  Mr. Blaine asked why they should “build half a road to nowhere” since it would end in a dead end in the short term.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Blaine said that local small businesses trying to open in the Hollymead Town Center would be hurt if the Planning Commission did not make an accommodation.  He encouraged the Commission to find a practical remedy that utilized financial incentives to compel Mr. Wood to build the road.  He said his client was being held to a standard that was not just.

The Planning Commission had a sharp reaction to the presentation.  Chairman Marcia Joseph argued that it was not the County’s fault that occupants built businesses without the property owner handling their obligations to build roads promised in the rezoning.  Commissioner Bill Edgerton stated that the proffers should be enforced and that he would have difficulty believing the road would even be built in two years if an extension was granted.  He took exception to Mr. Blaine’s suggestion that this was unjust treatment when both parties signed an agreement saying the road would be built.  Commissioner Eric Strucko pointed out that this is another example of where he sees the need for concurrency of road infrastructure with development.  He pointed out that businesses also face risks in the partners they choose, but those risks are not the County’s problem and this infrastructure should be built by the applicant as promised.

Wendell Wood was not present at the Planning Commission meeting and Steve Blaine declined to comment for Charlottesville Tomorrow after the vote.

Brian Wheeler

September 05, 2006

Kevin Lynch & Ken Boyd appear on WINA

On September 5, 2006, City Councilor Kevin Lynch and County Supervisor Ken Boyd appeared separately on WINA's Charlottesville Live with Jane Foy and Jay James as part of the program's monthly Government Day episode. 

Kevin Lynch talked about the Eastern Connector and other transportation projects and funding issues.  Ken Boyd talked about the County's efforts to protect our fields, farms and forests, about the regional transit authority being formed by the City and County, and about current openings on County boards and commissions.

This recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow has been produced with permission of WINA.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20060905-WINA-GovDay.mp3

Brian Wheeler