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June 28, 2007

Experts answer questions about groundwater in Albemarle County

On June 25, 2007, the League of Women Voters of Charlottesville-Albemarle held the first of three forums on groundwater in our area. A crowd of about seventy people filled the Ivy Creek Natural Area Education Building to hear four panelists discuss the technology behind well-drilling, how septic tanks work, and what home owners who are on wells can do to protect the quality of their water.

Watch the video here or listen to the podcast below:

Sally Thomas of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors said the forums are being held in the memory of Treva and Howard Cromwell, a pair of school-teachers who moved to the area in the 1970's who became active in water quality issues through the League's Natural Resources Committee. Treva Cromwell served for seven years on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and was the only woman to ever serve as Chair.

Nickevans_2 The first speaker was Nick Evans, the Chair of the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. Evans is a specialist in hydrogeology, and he's the president of the firm Virginia Groundwater Inc. The company helps people locate water underground by sending electric pulses into the ground to map the bedrock.

"We put a bunch of stakes in the ground and you run electricity and then working with the computer we're able to come up with an image. Having run a couple hundreds of these surveys, it's pretty reliable for showing where water is, and where it isn't."

Evans says he is often consulted by developers who are looking to know if they can find a well, but sometimes they come to him far too late in the planning process.

JeffmcdanielThe second speaker was Jeff McDaniel, the Environmental Health Manager for the Thomas Jefferson Health District. He discussed how septic systems work, and recommends that homeowners with septic systems flush their tanks at least once every five years.

"Septic tank maintenance is crucial, it's kind of like changing their oil in your car. If you don't do it enough you'll be replacing your entire drainfield."

The third speaker was David Swales, the former Groundwater Manager for Albemarle County. He gave a status report on the county's efforts to monitor groundwater quality for pollutants, an initiative passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2006. Swales says the ordinance sets up a voluntary information-gathering process, but is non-regulatory.

Swales Swales described one hypothetical bad case. "There's a leaky underground storage case adjacent [to the property], and there's a public well on one side, and an old landfill on the other, and a state highway with lots of road salts on the fourth side. A lot of bad stuff." Despite the potential dangers, Swales said that neither the planning commission nor the Board of Supervisors could not deny a building application based on that threat alone, but could recommend alternatives.

"In an ideal situation, we would work with the developer to rearrange the lots, or at least try to put the house sites in a better position," he said.

The final speaker is Lonnie Moore, the President and Manager of the C. R. Moore Drilling Company. He talked about the general history of his family's business, which was started in 1930.

Lonniemoore Moore said a lot of people today do not realize how much water they use in a given day, and that many times he has to explain to his customers that their consumption is limited by what can be pumped from the ground. "You don't need as much as you think you do," he said. He said changing fashions in home-building practices during his three and a half decades as a driller of wells have placed more pressure on groundwater.

"Some of you probably remember back when you were growing up, you had one bathroom, a kitchen sink, and that was about it. Today, you go into a family of four people, you got four bathrooms, a laundry room, and an automatic washer." He said the well-building industry has improved their technology to keep up with demand, but there are limits.

After each panelist spoke, the panel answered questions ranging from the practice of dowsing, whether homeowners with wells have to comply with water restrictions during drought emergencies, and what other kinds of pollutants can seep into groundwater.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070626-LWV-Groundwater.mp3

Sean Tubbs   

June 27, 2007

NCBC members hear more on grade-separated intersections on U.S. 29

How much detail should be required during the master planning process?

2007062529placesmeetingAround 25 members of the North Charlottesville Business Council attended the meeting

That's one of the major questions that came up when members of the North Charlottesville Business Council met on June 25, 2007, with planners who are currently coordinating the Places29 process. The meeting was the result of a letter written in May by NCBC Chairman Michael McGowan to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

The letter expressed McGowan's disappointment in the process to date, and asked the Board to slow the planning process down so that business and property owners along the Route 29 corridor could take a closer look. The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which coordinates transportation policy in urbanized Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, suggested holding a detailed meeting to better explain the process.

"Our interest in U.S. 29 is that it's the main street of our county, and our ambition is to see 29 evolve into an urban boulevard," McGowan said at the beginning of the meeting. “We don't want to see it continue a path of becoming the main regional expressway through the middle of our town." He said the NCBC's opposition to the Places29 plan is based on its reliance on grade-separated interchanges at Hydraulic Road and Rio Road, as well as several other locations.

20070625rue
Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planing District Commission, speaks to members of the North Charlottesville Business  Council

Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the MPO, thanked the NCBC for their letter, and said that his organization will continue to do everything it can to involve property owners, including one-on-one conversations with planners if necessary.

"We have a lot more in common that we agree on than not," Rue said.

One of the other concerns expressed in the letter was the lack of detail in the master plan. Albemarle County Planner Judith Wiegand told the group the eight chapter text for Places29 is just now being written.

"We've mentioned throughout this process that you're going to have more definitions, more explanations, more details about all of these things we've been showing you, and it would be in the text,” Wiegand said. She added that the text will be ready in time for a series of eight work sessions to be held by the Albemarle County Planning Commission. Staff will present the transportation study on July 10, Chapters 1-4 on July 17, Chapters 5 and 6 on July 31, and further work sessions will be scheduled throughout the year. After the plan is adopted, Wiegand said planning staff would engage in small area plans at the intersections of Hydraulic and Rio to begin planning for the grade-separated intersections.

"This is a review period,” said Wiegand. There was some concern in the NCBC's letter about slowing down the process because people thought this was the beginning of the approval process. It's not. We're not there yet."

But asked by principals of the Great Eastern Management Company if the grade-separated interchanges at Hydraulic and Rio Road were definitely part of Places29, Wiegand responded that they are “very likely.”

That prompted GEMC President Chuck Rotgin to insist the small area plan process be undertaken immediately.

"Otherwise I can see contentiousness, political in-fighting, and I think we're all wasting our time." He said he did not want to hurt the small-business fabric of Route 29 during the "years of construction” he said would be required.

But Wiegand said Places29 is a framework plan, meaning that there are far too many details to be worked out at these preliminary stages. A framework plan gives the county, the city, and VDOT flexibility when the intersection project enters the design stage. "If we waited to do that level of detail throughout the corridor at the places where there might be overpasses, we'd be here working for another three years, and by the time we got a plan ready, it would be so far out of date, it would be pointless." But Wiegand said the text would clearly state that the small area plans would follow soon after adoption of Places29.

Rue said other meetings with business owners affected by each intersection would be held in the future, but that small area plans could not be undertaken at this time because the TJPDC/MPO does not have the financial resources to pay for such studies.

A debate about grade separation also occurred earlier this month before the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors when they received an update on Places29 during their June 6th meeting.  Reflecting some of the same concerns of Chuck Rotgin, Supervisors David Slutzky (Rio) and Ken Boyd (Rivanna) expressed their interest in having a work session before the Planning Commission got too far along in decisions on transportation.  At the meeting, Slutzky said, “When there is a clear cut issue of disagreement like the grade separated interchanges along 29, that is the backbone of this Places29 exercise, I just think it’s not efficient for us to wait until it comes to us.”  Boyd said he felt like the Board needed to give big picture direction to the Planning Commission on grade-separation.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) expressed his concerns about having the Board step in to the middle of the Places29 process currently before the Planning Commission.  He encouraged his colleagues to wait and see what recommendations and rationale came forward before they preemptively weighed in with changes based on limited data.  The Supervisors reached consensus to have a work session only after the Commission receives the transportation plan for Places29, but before the Commission makes their final recommendations.  The decisions at that meeting will likely have a major impact on the future of Places29.

Henry Weinschenk, who owns the Express Car Wash, said he is an opponent of the grade-separated interchanges, but says he got frustrated participating a previous design study (the 29H250 process) because elements he thought had been approved later disappeared from the plan.

"Business people are always going to lose, because you have all this staff who work at this five, seven days a week, and we have limited time and we can't constantly watch you every step of the way, unless you also look out for [the business community's] interests," Weinschenk said. A former engineer, Weinschenk said he thought the plans revealed for the interchange at Hydraulic were unbuildable without taking a lot of buildings, including his own.

20070625dupontcircle_2 U.S. Route 29 as it passes underneath DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C.

Rue disagreed, and pointed to a few examples of other communities in the nation that have overcome similar obstacles. "There is a new road science that is really remaking suburban corridors into being boulevards that still carry a lot of traffic. We're not alone. This is not an expressway. This is a boulevard."
Two examples of urban-style grade separations with buildings nearby include Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, California and U.S. 29 under DuPont Circle in Washington D.C.*

Other business owners expressed concerns about the extent of the proposed parallel road networks to be built to help take local traffic off of U.S. 29. Rue said many of these will only be possible as owners redevelop their property into mixed-use. For instance, he said roads networks through Hollymead Town Center and Albemarle Place are being built by the respective developers as part of their approval.

Only 12 percent of the traffic measured along the Places29 corridor is considered "through", meaning origin and destination are out of the urbanized section of Albemarle County. 24 percent are "external" and 64% are internal, meaning people traveling within the corridor. That's why the Places29 plan is tied to the expansion of the local road network, such as the extensions of the Hillsdale Connector and Berkmar Drive. But to do that, Rue said need to have a grade-separated intersections to get across U.S. 29.

"The grade separations are kind of critical to make the parallel road network work because you have to have places to cross," Rue said, adding each new improvement will provide immediate benefit to congestion on 29, forestalling a traffic crisis as vehicle counts continue to climb.

“If you go way back to the original western bypass study that recommended a western bypass, even that study said even if the bypass is built, there are five locations along here that fail after twenty-years,” said Rue.

Rue said the Meadowcreek Parkway and the Hillsdale Connector would both need to be built before the interchange at Hydraulic could begin construction. He also acknowledged that the four businesses at the corners of the Hydraulic interchange would be affected, and possibly taken.

The current framework shows a different kind of intersection at Rio to handle extra traffic flows generated by the Meadowcreek Parkway, in part to boost development at each of the four corners. But, the full details would be ironed out when the small area plans are developed. Among the likely conditions suggested by Rue before a grade separated intersection at Rio, Berkmar Drive would need to be fully extended to from Sam’s Club to Hollymead Town Center.

One reason why grade-separated intersections are opposed is the fear that traffic delays during construction will hurt business. A Virginia Department of Transportation planning engineer tried to convince them otherwise.

"We've instructed the developer of Albemarle Place to demonstrate a plan that would keep three lanes open in each direction during construction,” said John Giometti.

Rue said his staff will add more details to the plan to include possible construction strategies before the September workshops with property owners, and that his staff would look at similar intersections to see how their construction times affected local traffic. "Before this is built, you'll see the full plans for that maintenance of traffic and what the impact is on every business," he said.

Business owners Henry Weinschenk and Chuck Rotgin want to see more details as soon as possible.

Weinschenk said he was tired of hearing sermons from planning officials about failing levels of service. “The sky is not falling. Right now you can drive 65 miles an hour on 29, almost any time of day.”

“I think for this plan, your framework to be credible, you need to show all buildings on your plan so there is relationship between framework design and the existing structures,” said Rotgin. “It makes absolutely no sense to approve the framework that has no chance of ever being implemented."

But VDOT's Giometti said it was important for business owners to remember that planning studies are inherently less detailed than full engineering studies.

"A lot of the questions that you're asking are things that will be answered when the actual design of the interchange is done. A lot of effort has gone into this planning study to develop concepts to depict them as realistically as possible." Giometti said that the level of detail requested by some NCBC members would be too expensive to undertake until the project can actually get underway.

Rue said his team will incorporate traffic counts and buildings into the next set of plans in advance of a second meeting with business owners tentatively scheduled for September.

Sean Tubbs

June 25, 2007

Meadow Creek sewer line replacement expected to cost $19.2 million

20070625rwsa02
      RWSA Chief Engineer Jennifer Whitaker (right) and Frederico Maisch (left) of Greeley and Hansen present to the RWSA Board

At the June 25, 2007 meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Board of Directors, a consultant presented recommendations on how to best replace the more than fifty year old Meadow Creek Sewer Interceptor.  As was recently reported in the C-Ville Weekly, the inadequacy of this sewer line is one of the reasons for the delay of the Albemarle Place development.  It is also one of the reasons water and sewer rates have been increased in the City and County.  According to the staff report, the Meadow Creek Interceptor "was placed into service in the mid-1950s and currently serves the northern and eastern portions of the City of Charlottesville, bordering County neighborhoods, and the University of Virginia Sports and Arts Precincts."

Frederico Maisch of Greeley and Hansen told the Board that they should replace the four mile sewer line in its existing location and increase the sewer pipe diameter from 36" to 42" at its widest point.  The preliminary cost estimate for this project is $19.2 million.

20070625rwsa01 Tom Frederick, RWSA's Executive Director, received authorization from the Board to hire Hansen and Greeley to commence engineering design work in a contract worth $1.3 million.  The project is part of RWSA's capital budget approved in March 2007, however at the time only $13.4 million was budgeted for the interceptor's replacement.  The RWSA board will revisit the funding situation in early 2008.  Construction would start in September 2008 and be completed by the end of 2009.

Later this year, the RWSA Board will receive information on the costs related to the upgrade of the Moore's Creek Interceptor which will service the proposed 3,100 home Biscuit Run development south of Charlottesville in Albemarle County.

Brian Wheeler

City hands over $400k to Rivanna Solid Waste Authority

20070625rwsa04With City funds, solid waste authority's 2008 budget is passed and recycling programs will continue

City Manager Gary O'Connell arrived at the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) board meeting today with $400,000 and a letter from Mayor David Brown that detailed "a fair and equitable way for the City to address its obligations."  The contribution to RSWA erased a deficit in the FY 2008 budget which had placed recycling programs on the chopping block.

As has been reported in recent articles in the Daily Progress (here and here), the City has been withholding payments since 2001 related to the operation of the Ivy Materials Utilization Center (aka the old Ivy Landfill). Today's payment of $400,000 was a good faith installment on what will be the release of the almost $2 million the City has been holding in escrow, pending resolution of all the details in the Mayor's letter.

20070625rwsa03 RSWA Chairman Michael Gaffney read Mayor Brown's letter and shared his relief that progress was being made by both localities to reach a final agreement.  The City of Charlottesville wants what it believes are inequities in the current cost sharing structure to be resolved as part of the RSWA's upcoming strategic planning process. 

Free Union resident John Martin has been lobbying the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the RSWA Board to resolve the impasse with the City, by legal means if necessary.  At today's meeting under public comment, he thanked the City for resolving the budget crisis and for being open about the issues that remain to be addressed.  "I think it is a huge step forward," said Martin. On the remaining negotiations, he challenged the elected officials and the RSWA Board to share more information about what has been the subject of numerous closed door meetings. "I would greatly appreciate it if you could try to open the discussion to the public to the maximum extent that you can."

Brian Wheeler

June 23, 2007

An in-depth look at the NGIC deal

NGIC land deal
in the news...
October 2005: NGIC's
Expansion Announced
10/20/05 * Daily Progress: NGIC plans for expansion with $85 million facility
May 2006: The vote on
the land deal
5/3/06 * Charlottesville Tomorrow Includes audio and PDF download of resolution

5/4/06 * Daily Progress: 
County Adjusts for NGIC

March 2007: C-Ville Weekly's
Jayson Whitehead
starts a series of articles
on the land deal

3/20/07 * C-Ville Weekly: 
Let’s Make a Deal

5/1/07 * C-Ville Weekly: Army keeps Wood's secret:  Government refuses to disclose value of NGIC land

5/7/06 * Daily Progress: Conflict delayed land deal: County  vote to aid NGIC, area developer

5/15/07 * C-Ville Weekly: Citizen presses for NGIC info:  Accuses Supervisor Boyd of lying about land swap

May 2007: Planning Commission  takes Wheeler parcel off the table

5/29/07 * C-Ville Weekly: Pantops land will remain in growth  area: Supervisors respond to impact on NGIC resolution

6/5/07 * Charlottesville Tomorrow Includes audio of Planning Commission discussion about Wheeler parcel

6/6/07 * Daily Progress: Planning Commission eyes Pantops  site

6/19/07 * WINA AM 1070: Clara Belle Wheeler interview

6/23/07 * Charlottesville Tomorrow's in-depth report (this posting)

WINA’s talk radio programs have drawn some added attention to the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) land deal this week.  Unfortunately because of a thunderstorm Tuesday that interrupted power at their studio, much of the recorded audio from these programs has been lost.  Since I was one of the guests and took some notes during the interviews, in this post I’ll share the information Charlottesville Tomorrow has pulled together on this important public policy issue.

Watch a 1 minute video at the bottom of this post showing which parcels of land are part of the NGIC deal

Download
Download a printer-friendly PDF of this article

The NGIC land deal has been described by supporters as an effort by Albemarle County to ensure a major employer on Route 29 North remains in Charlottesville and has room to expand to support another 800-1000 jobs being moved here from a defense facility in Maryland.  The “deal” involved the sale by Wendell Wood of about forty-seven acres of land to the federal government.  It came with support from the Board of Supervisors, via a May 2006 resolution of intent, to have Albemarle County consider a future redrawing of the comprehensive plan boundaries to move thirty other acres of Wood’s rural land near NGIC into the growth area with an offsetting adjustment to move seventy-seven acres near Pantops, owned by Clara Belle Wheeler [no relation to this author], into the rural area.  The deal has been described by critics as not starting with an open process, as government being bullied into helping increase the investment profits for a private citizen, and as an over reaction to the suggestion that Department of Defense might pick up their facility and leave town if they didn’t get Wood’s land for $7 million or less.

The resolution of intent passed by the Board was intended to send Wood the signal that he could proceed with the sale of land to NGIC knowing that five of the six members of the Board of Supervisors had supported his request for a growth area boundary adjustment.  The resolution has initiated a sequence of reviews to be incorporated into the development of both the County’s Places29 Master Plan and the Pantops Master Plan.

A little over a year ago, Supervisor Ken Boyd took the lead bringing the matter before the Board and he spoke directly to Wendell Wood and Clara Belle Wheeler in advance of the Board’s meeting on May 3, 2006.  Wood’s letter formally requesting the adjustment is dated April 26, 2006.  In that letter, Wood asked that portions of five separate parcels of land be incorporated into the growth area adjacent to NGIC and along Watts Passage Road.  In an appearance on WINA’s Charlottesville Live on June 22, 2007, Boyd described how Wood had “said that he was going to lose a lot of money on this if he sold it to them at [$7 million], but if we were willing to redraw the boundary lines to put another thirty acres, which was adjacent to it, or surrounding it, into the development area, he could recoup his losses with that.”  Boyd also said that no promises were made to Wood about the boundary change beyond the fact that the Board’s recommendation would go through the public process as part of the master plan reviews.

20070623ngicwoodroads_2 Unlike Wendell Wood, Clara Belle Wheeler never put a request in writing to the Board.  When Boyd called her and described the proposed swap of land involving a property owner on Route 29N, she says she told Boyd, “I’ll think about it.”  Wheeler’s interest in having her land remain undeveloped was well known by the Board and her parcel was held out as a way to offset the boundary adjustment being proposed for Wood.  The County Attorney, Larry Davis, even revised the resolution of intent the day before the vote to insert language related to Wheeler’s parcel as an offsetting adjustment.  Boyd told the Daily Progress that Wheeler had told him she was committed to moving her land into the rural area.

After the resolution was passed, Wheeler was shocked to hear via a phone call from Supervisor Sally Thomas that her land had been included as part of the proposed NGIC resolution.  In her appearance on Charlottesville Right Now with host Coy Barefoot on June 19, 2007, Wheeler stated, “If you don’t know there is going to be a public meeting, and you don’t know what is going to be discussed, you can’t be there.  If you are going to discuss something as major as trading rural and urban development rights, that needs to be done in a pre-announced public forum.”  Sally Thomas was the lone vote against the resolution.

Wendell Wood called in to Coy Barefoot’s program shortly after Clara Belle Wheeler’s appearance.  When it was suggested he was getting special treatment, Wood responded, “I think I deserve special treatment.  I pay millions of dollars in taxes.  In reality, I think I do get special treatment, negative treatment.  I truly believe I get negative treatment as a developer in this community.”  Wood said before the matter came to the board he had no prior knowledge of the offsetting arrangement with Wheeler’s land.

Thus part of the controversy related to the NGIC land deal relates to the fact that the matter was not published in the Board’s meeting agenda and it was brought up by Boyd under other business at the very end of a meeting.  Neither the general public, nor Clara Belle Wheeler, had any advance notice that the Board would be acting on the resolution of intent.  Even Wood was not aware of proposed boundary adjustments involving anything but his property.  Further, the exact parcels belonging to Wood were not detailed for the public’s review.  In addition, the Supervisors had discussions behind closed doors that, while legal, meant the public didn’t have the benefit of knowing the details of their past discussions leading up to the vote on the resolution.  [Listen to our podcast of the May 3, 2006 vote]

Two months after the resolution of intent was adopted by the Board of Supervisors, Wood sold the 47 acres to the federal government for $7 million in July 2006.  He said on WINA this week that he did not know how much money he was giving up by letting the property go at that price because he did not have it appraised.  The federal government’s appraisal has not been shared with the public. 

In May 2006, Wood told Charlottesville Tomorrow that federal government was $4.5 million short of the property’s appraised value.  That puts Wood’s understanding of the appraisal at about $11.5 million in May 2006.  In May 2007, C-Ville Weekly concluded after interviewing Wood that he thought the property was “appraised at around $16 million.”  Wood and Boyd have both pointed out on WINA that taking the property by eminent domain was not an option because the government still couldn’t pay fair market value for the property. 

While the government now owns the land they need for NGIC’s expansion, the other parcels and the officials that voted for the deal are facing increasing scrutiny, particularly as the Places29 and Pantops Master Plans are coming under review.  The Albemarle County Planning Commission had an opportunity to act on Wheeler’s land when they voted to approve the Pantops Master Plan on June 5, 2007.  Wheeler says they did what she asked them to do which was to leave her land in the designated growth area. 

C-Ville Weekly has quoted Supervisor David Slutzky as saying he did not recall Wheeler’s land was involved in the deal nor was it a factor in his decision to help NGIC.  Supervisor Boyd was quoted as saying, “there was never any tradeoff, there was never any association between the two items,” the Wood property and the Wheeler property.  When interviewed this week by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Slutzky expanded on his remarks and said that the two pieces of land “were not linked in my mind as justification for my support of the resolution.”  “Our decision to do this was not tied to her land, that [77 acres] was just an illustrative example that such things would be possible,” said Slutzky.  He acknowledges now that the resolution does reference her land, but he points out that, in the resolution’s action statement, it only refers to Wood’s 30 acres as being identified for a specific boundary adjustment.

What will become of the land Wendell Wood’s wants added to the growth area?  That will certainly be a topic in future Places29 work sessions and upcoming public hearings.  The Daily Progress recently quoted Supervisor Dennis Rooker as saying he felt like the Wheeler parcel was a “material” factor in his vote in favor of the resolution and that he would be “less likely” to support moving the boundary adjustment for Wood without other land as an offset.  At the same time, the Daily Progress has reported that Supervisor David Wyant, Slutzky, and Boyd agree that “having the land swap was not crucial to the decision, and that they will continue to support the designation Wood wants.”

Reviewing the matter with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Slutzky says, “This isn’t about Wendell Wood, this is about NGIC.  Because of what I learned in my own investigation, I became convinced that it was what we needed to do.  The threat was real, that if we couldn’t give them some assurances, that we would likely lose the existing NGIC.”

No matter what happens with Wheeler’s land, Wood said on WINA this week that he expects the County to follow through on their intentions to move his land into the growth area, particularly since he has already sold his other property to help NGIC.  Rooker pointed out in a call to WINA Friday that a change in the comprehensive plan doesn’t rezone Wood’s property.  He noted there would still be public hearings for a rezoning before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.  However, if a revised comprehensive plan and the Places29 Master Plan call for the additional growth on Wood’s thirty acres, he would have every reason to also expect their approval of a reasonable rezoning request.  Wood is accustomed to lengthy deliberations by Albemarle County and he knows the math—it will take four votes in the future to seal the deal.

Watch a 1 minutes video presentation showing Wendell Wood's property involved in the NGIC land deal:

Brian Wheeler

June 22, 2007

June 2007 MPO Policy Board Meeting

Mpotrails
      John Giometti (VDOT) describes potential changes to the Meadowcreek Parkway Trail in Albemarle County to Dennis Rooker, David Slutzky, and Dave Norris

The Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization gathered on June 20th, 2007 for a monthly meeting. Topics up for discussion and approval in this meeting include changes to the Meadowcreek Parkway Trail through the new Belvedere subdivision in Albemarle County, and public hearings on amendments to the MPO's Public Participation Plan and an Environmental Mitigation Addendum to its Long Range Plan, known as UnJAM.

(Download a .PDF of the meeting packet from the TJPDC website)

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070620-MPO-Complete.mp3

  • 01:00 - Matters From the Public
  • 03:20 - Adoption of Draft Minutes from the May 16th, 2007 meeting of the MPO Policy Board
  • 08:42 - Area Trails Discussion: Meadowcreek Parkway Trail (summary memo)
  • 27:38 - FY07 Work Program Review (draft analysis)
  • 33:54 - Other Business (moved up while MPO Policy Board waited for scheduled public hearing time) - includes discussion of an update to construction of the Jarman's Gap road, right-of-way acquisition for the Meadowcreek Parkway, as well as a discussion of green infrastructure
  • 57:41 - Public Hearing: Public Participation Plan Addendum (draft plan) (additional suggestions)
  • 1:21:31 - Public Hearing: Environmental Mitigation Addendum to Long Range Plan (draft addendum) (additional suggestions)
  • 1:42:31 - Other Business - Board members discussed the location of a DEQ air monitoring device in Albemarle County, possible realignment of CTS bus routes, a Biscuit Run transportation update, and the possible implementation of photo-red cameras in Albemarle County and Charlottesville
  • 1:59:51 - Additional Matters From the Public

Sean Tubbs

UVA details journey to becoming a 'Greener Grounds'

20070621uva_2

Attendees of the Community Briefing review exhibits highlighting UVA's environmental projects

All new buildings constructed at the University of Virginia will be built to LEED certification. A transportation demand management plan will reduce car traffic coming to Central Grounds. Efforts to save water and electricity will be continued, resulting in a lower environmental impact and increased cost savings.

These are just three of the ways in which the University of Virginia is changing its culture to reflect a new commitment to becoming a more sustainable part of the community. They were presented as part of UVA's Community Briefing, an annual event in which the school updates the public. This year, sustainability was chosen as the focus of the briefing.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070621-UVA-GreenerGrounds.mp3

Leonard Sandridge, UVA's Chief Operating Officer, says the administration's efforts to promote sustainability are not a one-time project. "It's not something we're going to start and finish, but rather what we are promoting is a culture," he said.

The University's sustainability plan (.PDF) is being used as a road map to guide the various changes, which he says are realistic and achievable. But Sandridge seemed most pleased with what he called the "quiet leadership" that various UVA departments have been undertaking to push the issue.

"There have been water conversation programs, storm water management, recycling and public transportation initiatives that have singled us out from the competition," adding that these grass-roots efforts are becoming part of the culture UVA is trying to build.

Implementation of these initiatives is the responsibility of David Neuman, the University Architect. His office is currently developing a new Grounds Plan to guide planning for the next hundred years. It will include for the first time a comprehensive biohabitat survey of more than 5,000 acres owned and managed by the University and its foundation.

Emilycouric_2 All new buildings to be constructed at UVA will be to LEED certification, including the new Emily Couric Cancer Center, the Claude Moore Medical Educational Building, and the various structures of the massive South Lawn Project. Neuman says this will add about three percent to the cost of each, but that the savings in energy will be worth it.

The new master plan will also focus heavily on connectivity, and the importance of giving people more choices to get from one place to the other. Neuman said the University will seek to replicate the pattern of the Lawn, where residential, classroom, and other uses co-exist in a tight footprint. He suggested using the railroads through the area as a way of improving the ability of getting around, and also in designing better bikeways and sidewalks. That will take close cooperation with planning staff in the county and city.

"The notion that we have artificial boundaries between any of these jurisdictions has to be forgotten when it comes to sustainability," Neuman said.

Rebecca White, Director of Parking and Transportation, said her department is currently designing a Transportation Demand Management plan to help reduce the number of people who get to UVA in a single occupancy vehicle. Elements of the plan include coupling transportation planning with parking management, investment in alternative modes of transportation, and identifying where employees and students live using geocoded data.

"We have the opportunity now to assess commuting patterns, and these data start telling us how we can match transportation alternatives," she said. "It's a very systemic and strategic way to measure your impact on the environment."

Potential strategies which may be included in the plan include preferential parking for carpools, encouraging human resources departments to allow for flexible work-times, and car-sharing. White says this last strategy helped the University of North Carolina replace much of its fleet of state-owned vehicles.

Bikemap2
      University officials created this map (.PDF) to make it easier to get around Grounds without a car

White also said marketing existing programs is one piece of the puzzle. She explained the recent decision by the Charlottesville Transit Service to offer free rides to anyone with a UVA ID card is paying off, leading to an average of 10,000 extra riders per month on CTS routes. White says UVA is also participating more in the efforts to create a regional transit authority.

One piece of becoming sustainable is to reduce energy consumption and to conserve the use of water. That's happening at UVA, according to Chief Facilities Officer Don Sundgren. For example, he claimed the University saved 70,000 tons of carbon emissions in 2006. The University is also saving more water, too. Sundgren says in 2006, 13,000 gallons were consumed per person, down from 23,000 in 1999.

Small steps such as switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs are beginning to pay dividends, by using less energy to light buildings. 

"Programs in energy conservation and recycling have resulted in almost six million dollars in savings in the last academic year alone," said Ida Lee Wootten, the Community Relations director.

You can track the latest in UVA's efforts at their new website devoted to the issue.

Sean Tubbs

June 20, 2007

Supervisors move cash proffer policy forward

On June 20, 2007, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a work session to review a proposed cash proffer policy. Voluntary cash proffers are typically offered by a developer to the County as part of a rezoning request in order to mitigate the impact of the new development on the community.  Cash proffers are used to fund infrastructure needs like schools, roads, libraries, and public safety.

In May, the Supervisors received recommendations from the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee for the County to change its methodology related to cash proffers. On May 2nd, the Board approved some placeholder proffer amounts for different types of homes.  For example, a single family detached home will now have a cash proffer expectation of $17,500 from the developer. In recent developments, Albemarle has accepted about $3,200 as a cash proffer for each of these homes.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:Download 20070620-BOS-Proffers.mp3

At this afternoon's work session and after a presentation from Mark Graham, the County's Director of Community Development, the Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution of intent to have staff initiate a change to the County's Comprehensive Plan to incorporate a formal cash proffer policy.  Once staff prepares the text for the amendments, it will be reviewed later this year with a public hearing before the County Planning Commission and later a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors.

Download

Download the key documents related to this discussion:

Brian Wheeler

Kleeman appears on WINA's Charlottesville Live

20070519kleemanWINA AM 1070 's Charlottesville Live morning program is inviting all of the candidates running for Charlottesville City Council to come on the radio to share their background and priorities. On June 19th, Independent Peter Kleeman was the guest of Jane Foy and Rob Schilling.

Long active in city politics, Kleeman told WINA he is an independent thinker who wants to help the city manage growth. "Charlottesville is under a great deal of growth pressure," he said. "We are the focus of our region and we need to take a leadership role."

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070619kleemanonWINA.mp3

Highlights of the program:

  • 00:48 - Introduction by Rob Schilling and Jane Foy
  • 01:18 - Peter Kleeman describes his background
  • 02:04 - Peter Kleeman outlines his qualifications
  • 02:55 - Peter Kleeman explains why he entered the race
  • 06:25 - Peter Kleeman discusses his thoughts on transportation issues
  • 10:49 - Peter Kleeman on regional cooperation on transportation issues
  • 11:31 - Peter Kleeman on increasing public participation in government

Sean Tubbs

June 19, 2007

Second vehicle crossing on mall to be permanent

20070618citycouncil1
Rod Gentry of Union Bank & Trust asks City Council to keep the vehicular crossing at 4th Street East

On June 18, 2007, the Charlottesville City Council reviewed the status of the Downtown Mall’s second vehicular crossing.  Council voted 3-2 to make the crossing permanent and to have staff bring back additional recommendations as to whether the crossing should remain at Fourth Street East or be relocated to Fifth Street East.  Councilors Lynch and Norris voted against the proposal. 

Councilors received a staff report which did not make a recommendation for or against the crossing and they heard from thirteen citizens during the public hearing in which residents made arguments both for and against the crossing of Charlottesville's pedestrian Downtown Mall.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070618-CC-Crossing.mp3

Mallcrossing20060801 "We are not making a recommendation as to whether or not there be a mall crossing or not," said Jim Tolbert, the City's Director of Neighborhood Development Services. "There's really no science that would say there should be a crossing or there should not be a crossing. It's really a philosophical decision about whether or not the Mall is closed to automobiles."

The trial crossing at Fourth Street East was initially approved by a 4-1 vote of City Council in April 2006, in part, to make up for the loss of crossings at the East end of the mall eliminated by the mall's extension for the First Amendment Monument, the Pavilion, and the Transit Center.  At the time, Councilor Kevin Lynch was the lone vote against the trial crossing.

After the vote, there was some debate as to whether this issue will require further review before the City Planning Commission.  Acting City Attorney, Allyson Davies, informed Council that state law required that road changes of this type require the Planning Commission's review. In January 2006, the Planning Commission voted 5-2 against the crossing.  Tolbert suggested that their review had already taken place.  Staff will come back to Council with a clarification on this matter.

One issue that came up during the discussion was a reported drop in pedestrian traffic on the mall in the period following the approval of the one-year experiment. The study by engineering consultants RKK found a 22 percent drop between April 2006 and May 2007.

20070619chart2 Tim Hulbert of the Chamber of Commerce said those numbers meant the city had to improve its efforts to promote the Mall.

"I think it's very clear that the decrease in pedestrian traffic may in fact be the canary in the coal mine regarding all the things we need to do as a community and as a city and as private enterprise to make sure this Mall stays accessible and vibrant, and that requires traffic, pedestrian and vehicular," Hulbert said.

Kendra Hamilton said the City needs to continue to monitor the drop in pedestrian traffic, but said the methodology of the study couldn't explain the drop. "Is it because of competition from the county? Are those people simply choosing not to come into the City at all? We don't know enough yet to say that the crossing is depressing pedestrian traffic?"

Julian Taliaferro supported the second crossing at Fourth Street. "I am swayed by what I hear from the business community. It think it is important to listen to their opinion because it's important to the future of the downtown that businesses do well.

Mayor Brown said the decision was one of the hardest he's had to make while in office. "We can all agree that there is no clear data that points in either direction. My opinions are I've never been particularly bothered by the vehicular crossing at Second Street and I don't find this crossing impacts me particularly when I'm on the Mall."

Crossing opponent Dave Norris expressed the concern that the second crossing affected the quality of Downtown. "Having another crossing  and bringing more cars on to the Mall has negatively affected the pedestrian experience. It's negatively affected the aesthetic experience when you have noise and exhaust. The question is, do the benefits of the second crossing outweigh these negative impacts? At this point, I've not seen clear data."

While he voted against a second crossing, Kevin Lynch said he would prefer Fifth Street because that would create a larger stretch of the Mall unimpeded by vehicles. Tolbert told councilors it could cost up to $970,000 to switch the crossing to Fifth Street because utilities would need to be relocated and because the street would need to be rebuilt.  He said the costs "were essentially the same" for a permanent crossing at Fourth Street.

Highlights of the discussion:

  • 01:00 - Staff report by Jim Tolbert
  • 12:54 - Public hearing
  • 49:45 - Council discussion
  • 1:13:42 - Motion and vote

Brian Wheeler