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October 31, 2006

Daily Progress seeks "uptown" shoppers

Uptown1Last Friday's Daily Progress featured an interesting advertising insert that caught my attention. 

[Download the complete PDF with text and map]

I was surprised that:

  • it referred to a stretch of Route 29 as "uptown"
  • it had a map of the County's growth areas
  • it appeared to be trying to engage the public's attention on the Places29 master planning process, yet it had information that certainly wouldn't have come from our planning and transportation experts
  • it seemed oriented towards shopping opportunities
  • BUT it gave no indication of who paid for the advertisement

So I picked up the phone and called the Daily Progress.  Gina Talley in the advertising department filled me in on the publication which was run by the Daily Progress itself in an effort "to boost traffic towards that area which is not getting the attention it deserves."

Ms. Talley explained to me that the newspaper was running these inserts once a year.  Last year the focus was Hollymead Town Center.  This year, since the Places29 master planning process was underway, attention was given to the entire "uptown" corridor. I find it fascinating that the term "uptown" has already been adopted from the as yet unapproved master plan.  By the way, the Daily Progress headquarters near Rio and Route 29 is in the middle of what the Places29 team refers to as "midtown."

Transportation was also on the mind of the Daily Progress advertising staff, however, not in the same way as our transportation planners and the Board of Supervisors.  While the latter are considering a bus rapid transit system up and down the 29 North corridor, the Daily Progress is "trying to change the mindset of the public who avoid that part of town because of traffic [congestion]."  Ms. Talley said this sort of advertising will educate the public that they can get to "uptown" a lot faster than they realize.

In the ad, the Daily Progress mentions:

"Charlottesville is turning up in numerous polls as one of the country's best places to live and it appears that people are taking notice.  Every where one looks in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties, growth is occurring at an ever quickening pace....But growth is inevitable and Albemarle County is doing a good job in its attempt to direct this growth properly through Places29."

So jump in your car and get shopping!  Now at least you know who was doing the talking in this interesting advertorial.

Brian Wheeler

Development community shares insights on affordable living choices

On October 24, 2006, the Albemarle County Planning Commission held the second of two worksessions on affordable living choices.  This worksession follows up on an August 2006 meeting where the Commission heard from non-profit partners in the affordable housing community.  This meeting's invited guests included representatives of the local development community.

20061024copc

The following individuals presented information to the Commission

  • Dave Phillips, Executive Director of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors
  • Vito Cetta, Weather Hill Development
  • Josh Goldschmidt, Church Hill Development
  • Don Franco, KG Associates

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061024-CoPC-Affordable2.mp3

These leaders described the current housing market and their concerns about the best approach to keeping the affordable homes they proffer to the County affordable for future owners.  In sharp contrast to the Free Enterprise Forum's May 2006 report Locked Out: The Impact of Local Regulation on Affordable Housing, there was little concern expressed about County regulations, the size of the designated growth areas, or the supply of housing.  Instead, they described:

  • an affordable housing policy and proffer conditions they had come to accept and support
  • the oversupply of building lots now approved in Albemarle and concern that these houses cannot be absorbed anytime soon based on our population growth rates
  • differing viewpoints were expressed as to how to keep affordable units from being "flipped" and rendered unaffordable.  Vito Cetta recommended deed restrictions.  Don Franco expressed a preference for subsidizing the individual buyers instead of the houses themselves
  • a recommendation for a 1-2 cent property tax increase for a housing trust fund to help make homes affordable to new buyers
  • an interest in better public transportation to more distant neighborhoods to help reduce commuting expenses (and thus allow more income to be used for housing)

The only comments on regulations that were deemed somewhat problematic were as follows:

  • Don Franco mentioned a trend toward more complicated affordable housing proffers, but at the same time expressed a commitment by the development community to work with Housing Director Ron White to do whatever it takes to deliver on the affordable homes needed in the community.
  • Josh Goldschmidt described the County's adoption of the Neighborhood Model as something that initially put a squeeze on the housing supply, but now he acknowledged it was a much different situation.
  • Planning Commissioner Bill Edgerton pressed the group for details as to whether the County was increasing the cost of housing with its policies.  The response from Don Franco was that he had no problem with the "new urbanist" development style, but that it did come with a cost and was more expensive than traditional development. He suggested more research would be required to put the actual numbers on the added cost of the added amenities required by Neighborhood Model principles.

Brian Wheeler

October 23, 2006

City celebrates website honors

This is an experimental blog post taking advantage of the camera on my Treo mobile phone and some publishing software from my blog host, TypePad. This is an example of how blogs and wireless Internet access are important tools for citizen journalists and "new media" organizations like Charlottesville Tomorrow.

In this case, I am attending a celebration at the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau honoring the City for two recent national awards for their new website. The site is certainly an improvement and I am looking forward to support for RSS feeds on media releases, calendar items, and the agendas for City Council and the Planning Commission. Ric Barrick, the City's Director of Communications, tells me video streaming of Council meetings, RSS feeds, and blogging are coming soon, and in that order. Albemarle County's website needs those tools too, but they are taking a major leap forward with a public geographic information system (GIS) in the next couple of months.

I'll wrap this up as my fingers are getting tired from using my mobile phone keyboard and they are about to give away door prizes.

Brian Wheeler

October 20, 2006

MPO hears from residents on Meadowcreek Pkwy and Eastern Connector

Mpo20061018a
Cindy Leal as a James River Spiny Mussel

It was an unusual spectacle at this week's meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) when Policy Board members were dressed down by concerned residents adorned with placards, spikes and fur expressing their concerns about the Meadowcreek Parkway, the Eastern Connector, or both transportation projects.

Residents opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway cited environmental concerns and preferences for transportation solutions that do not require new road construction. Some Parkway opponents argued that the project should have a comprehensive environmental impact study (EIS),

Mpo20061018c_1
Tatyanna Patten
Rivanna Conservation Society

a study they argue has been avoided by the segmentation of the transportation project into three parts (City portion, County portion, and the interchange). City resident Stratton Salidis told the MPO that the road would be unbuildable if Federal law was followed and an EIS conducted on all three segments.  City resident Colette Hall asked the MPO to put more time and energy into the Eastern Connector instead of the Meadowcreek Parkway.  Cindy Leal (photo above) voiced her concerns dressed as the endangered James River Spiny Mussel while Bruce Hlavin came as a woodchuck (photo below).

In this recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Albemarle County Supervisor and MPO Chairman David Slutzky opens the public hearing.  After listening to comments from the public, Mr. Slutzky and Supervisor Dennis Rooker both offer responses to the concerns raised by local residents.  For more information on these and other local transportation projects, visit the Charlottesville Tomorrow Transportation Matrix.

Brian Wheeler

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061018-MPO.MP3

Mpo20061018d
Bruce Hlavin, The Woodchuck

October 19, 2006

Slutzky shares further details on TDR initiative

Earlier this week, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) appeared on WINA's afternoon radio program Charlottesville--Right Now.  In the interview, Mr. Slutzky provided additional details about a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) initiative which he is hoping will be embraced by his fellow Supervisors and the public as a new approach to protecting Albemarle's countryside.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061017-WINA-SlutzkyTDR.mp3

First unveiled by Mr. Slutzky at an October 3rd press conference, there is no written proposal on the table about how a TDR program would specifically work in Albemarle County.  At the Board of Supervisors meeting on October 4th, the Board agreed to hear a presentation on TDRs which has now been scheduled for their November 1st meeting. Charlottesville Tomorrow interviewed Mr. Slutzky at his press conference [click for podcast and summary] and we will continue to provide comprehensive coverage of this initiative on our weblog.  In that spirit, this interview on WINA was quite interesting because Mr. Slutzky added some additional details to the TDR proposal.

Additional information on the TDR proposal

  1. The boundary area that would be created to receive development rights would be 1% of the County and represent an expanded growth area.  Mr. Slutzky argues that this new zone of development is required to create an effective market mechanism for the TDR program.  When questioned about why the existing growth areas are not the TDR receiving area, Mr. Slutzky has said the incentives do not exist there because developers already have a voluntary proffer system that they use to get higher housing density as part of a rezoning application.  He also suggests the existing County growth areas have a form of development (the County's Neighborhood Model) that present obstacles to the market incentives needed for a TDR program.
  2. Mr. Slutzky sees the boundary area as a way to cluster growth closer to the urban ring that would have otherwise been scattered in the rural countryside.  A developer who purchases development rights would have to use them in a specific neighborhood, one which could be built as "by-right development," thus not subject to proffers or Neighborhood Model design principles.
  3. Rural area development rights would get a 1:2 or 1:3 bonus as they move into the boundary area (i.e. 10 houses in the rural area could be converted to 20-30 houses in the boundary area).  Once purchased by a developer, the rights would become taxable property ineligible for land use tax subsidies.  In the rural area, these theoretical development rights are not taxed as discreet property assets.  Mr. Slutzky sees this as a way to raise additional revenues to fund the boundary area infrastructure (roads, schools, utilities).
  4. The boundary area would be 100% residential (i.e. not the "mixed use" development that places commercial buildings in town centers with a mix of housing types, such as Old Trail Village or North Pointe).
  5. The TDR program would have waivers for family sub-division rights in the rural area.
  6. The boundary area would have specific caps on housing density that would be lower than those allowed in neighboring growth areas.  Mr. Slutzky believes that with caps in the boundary area and a downzoning in the rural area, the end result will be "a net loss of development rights in the County as a whole."

Highlights of the WINA interview

  • 05:00 -- Supervisor David Slutzky explains the thinking behind the TDR program and how it was influenced by his conversations with residents who have raised property rights concerns with previous rural area protection strategies considered by the County.
  • 07:35 -- The TDR "proposal in a nutshell."
  • 10:50 -- Mr. Slutzky expands on the process by which rural landowners could voluntarily sell their development rights and how revenues could be raised by taxing these rights once purchased for use.
  • 17:25 -- Mr. Slutzky shares his view that past proposals to phase rural area development failed because of opposition by rural area land owners.  The TDR program is intended to create a market that will garner their support for a 50 acre downzoning in the rural areas.  Mr. Slutzky notes that he would not support a TDR program that didn't downzone the rural areas.
  • 21:20 -- Crozet resident Tom Loach calls in with a critique of the TDR program and Mr. Slutzky's votes in support of other growth area projects. 
  • 24:42 -- Mr. Slutzky describes the bonus densities allowed for transferred rights and caps on housing totals that would be in place in boundary area.  He argues that with caps and a downzoning in the rural area, the end result will be "a net loss of development rights in the County as a whole, but it still creates an active and vital market."
  • 25:40 -- Mr. Slutzky responds that he will continue to support quality projects in the designated growth areas until the rural areas are "constrained" in their development potential.
  • 26:30 -- Caller John Martin asks about Mr. Slutzky's statement that rural area residents have certain rights to sub-divide their property and questions whether they will want to give up those property rights in a downzoning.

Brian Wheeler

October 18, 2006

County to release web-based GIS application to public

On October 11, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors received a demonstration of the County's new Geographic Information System Website [agenda item].  GIS Web will provide public access to the planning and property databases of Albemarle County in one easy to use application.  This sophisticated tool will offer incredible access to public information for citizens, realtors, and the development community. The Supervisors authorized the release of GIS Web to the general public before the end of 2006.

ListenListen to the podcast at the bottom of this post

Download_2 Download a PDF file with screen snapshots from the GIS Web prototype

Giswebbatesville
(Image from Albemarle County's GIS Web showing Batesville with map layers for watersheds, historic districts, and conservation easements)

Citizens will have the ability to interact with and display on maps a multitude of data such as school districts, zoning types, conservation easements, aerial photos, and watershed boundaries.  In addition, citizens will be able to look-up public zoning notice signs and locations and perform data queries of recent property sales.  The results, including maps and even mailing labels of property owners, can be printed directly from GIS Web. In November, the County plans to integrate the development tracking and application system into GIS Web too.

Giswebcrozet
(Image from Albemarle County's GIS Web showing Crozet with map layers for master plan roads and schools plus land use designations)

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061011-BOS-GIS.mp3

Brian Wheeler

October 17, 2006

Lee Catlin reviews County survey results on WINA

On October 16, 2006, Lee Catlin, Albemarle County's Community Relations Manager, was a guest on WINA's Charlottesville Live morning radio program.  In this segment, hosts Jane Foy and Rob Schilling ask Lee Catlin about heating fuel assistance programs and the results from the County's recently published 2006 Citizen Survey.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061016-WINA-Catlin.MP3

Highlights

  • 00:58 -- Introduction by Rob Schilling and Jane Foy
  • 02:05 -- Lee Catlin addresses heating fuel assistance programs
  • 04:22 -- Lee Catlin addresses Albemarle's 2006 Citizen Survey

In her remarks, Ms. Catlin described the survey results that show the public continues to rate the County highly when it comes to quality of life ( 8.04 on a scale of 1 to 10).  Further, she indicated that while there is some concern about the County's ability to manage growth, the strategy to channel growth into designated growth areas is receiving continued support from residents (72.6% indicating they are in favor of these efforts to direct where growth and development occurs).

Here are the survey's conclusions on growth management:

"Overall, citizens were satisfied with the job the county government is doing in maintaining the quality of life while accommodating growth and development. Approximately three-quarters (73.4%) of residents were somewhat or very satisfied, nearly the same percentage as in 2004 (70.7%)....In regards to the County’s efforts to manage growth, only about half (55.6%) were somewhat or very satisfied with the county government’s efforts. This is not significantly different from the satisfaction levels in 2004 (56.4%) but is the second lowest item in terms of satisfaction....In regards to the coded geographical areas, residents from the development areas expressed more satisfaction than residents from the rural areas."

This last statement indicating that the population in our development areas is more satisfied with the County's efforts to manage growth benefits from further analysis.  In the appendix of the survey (C-17, Page 95 of PDF-"Manage growth in the county"), there is certainly an interesting difference of opinion between rural area and development area residents, however, the geographic area cited in the report's conclusions above excludes Crozet, Hollymead/Piney Mountain, and the Village of Rivanna. Here is the data:

Satisfaction item Rural Areas Dev Areas (1-7) (i.e. urban ring) Other Growth Areas (e.g. Crozet) Overall
Manage growth in the county 50.8% satisfied 61.3% 53.2% 55.6%

Development Areas 1-7 [click for map] are all in the urban ring immediately surrounding the City of Charlottesville.  The survey separated Crozet, Hollymead, etc. into a separate group called "Other Growth Areas."  The "other growth areas" had a level of satisfaction much closer to those in the rural areas.

Charlottesville Tomorrow will continue to examine the results in the County's survey.  For example, I am hoping the County can provide a geographic breakdown of the 72.6% who indicated they are in favor of the designated growth areas.  I have not been able to find that data in the report.  I also welcome the assessments of others and hope readers will leave a comment here on the blog.

Brian Wheeler

October 15, 2006

Cavalier Way, The Podcast

Sqtraffic06q3Since Charlottesville Tomorrow broke the story about UVA's suggestion Route 29 should be renamed from Seminole Trail to Cavalier <something>, there have been a number of stories in the local media, including today's editorial in the Daily Progress [link coming soon] (see also: The Hook, WCAV, Daily Progress).

Given the community interest in this issue, I decided to go ahead and post the short 7 minute discussion from the October 4, 2006 meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors as a podcast.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061004-CavalierWay.mp3

Brian Wheeler

October 13, 2006

Development Review Process Task Force survey results

Yesterday, the Albemarle County Development Review Process Task Force received a report on their recent community survey of citizens, members of the development community and County staff to collect input related to possible improvements in the county's rezoning and special use permit processes. [Links: survey questions / task force background]

While not a scientific survey, it did generate a fairly good number of responses for the brief period the survey was administered (351 citizen submissions, 30 developer submissions, and 23 staff submissions).  On the County's website you can download an executive summary as well as the verbatim comments by each constituent group.  You can see some of the themes below.

DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
When asked if the current review process works adequately, the development community's responses included the following themes: Too Time Consuming; Conflicting Goals and Priorities; Lack of Clear/Consistent Guidelines; Inappropriate Citizen Involvement; Too Much Detail Required at Early Stages.

CITIZENS
When asked if the current review process allows for adequate citizen involvement, those citizens that responded "No" offered comments with the following themes: Inadequate Public Comment Opportunities; Intimidating/Complex Process; Developers Appear to Have an Advantage; Insufficient Information on Website; Need Better Visuals/Project Materials; Inadequate Notification.

The task force will meet again in November to continue their review of the survey feedback as they finalize their recommendations for the Board of Supervisors.

Brian Wheeler

Podcast of County's 2006 Citizen Survey Results

Bos20061011aOn October 11, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors received a report on the results of their 2006 Citizen Survey [agenda item].  The UVA Center for Survey Research conducted the telephone interview of 787 County residents during June and July 2006.  This research follows up on previous surveys conducted in 2004, 2002 and 1994.  The survey goals included assessing opinions about our quality of life, evaluating the importance and satisfaction level of different County services, and evaluating public opinion on the County's growth management efforts.  The complete results of this survey are available on the Albemarle County website.

In this recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow, we begin with Chairman Dennis Rooker calling on Thomas Guterbock, Director of the UVA Center for Survey Research to make the presentation.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061011-BOS-Survey.mp3

Highlights of Survey Results

  • 90.6% of all respondents were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with county services.
  • Quality education for school children was identified as the most important service of the County.  This was followed by public safety and water resources.
  • Emergency rescue services received the highest satisfaction ratings for any service.
  • Residents are concerned about issues related to growth and development.  Efforts to manage growth had one of the lowest satisfaction levels.
  • Citizen input on the development process was identified as a highly important concern with currently only a medium satisfaction rating.
  • Quality of life scored 8.04 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible place to live and 1 the worst.  This is not significantly different from past surveys.
  • There were no significant decreases in satisfaction rankings from 2004 to 2006.

Brian Wheeler