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July 31, 2007

An introduction to rainwater harvesting

20070731vortex_2
    A "vortex" filter used in a rainwater harvesting system in Albemarle County 

The drought watch recently declared by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has many people wondering what steps they can take to save water. But another option is to look above your head and consider collecting the water that falls on your roof.

In this video feature, we get a demonstration of a rainwater harvesting system from Benjamin Sojka of the Charlottesville office of Rainwater Management Systems. We then spoke with John Quale, of the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, who describes a system installed at the ecoMOD house in Fifeville which collects and filters rain for drinking water.


Watch the video on YouTube below:


   

Will Faulconer and Sean Tubbs

July 30, 2007

Charlottesville Tomorrow releases results of public opinion research project

20070730surveycoverCharlottesville Tomorrow has completed a major non-partisan public opinion research project which included focus groups and a telephone survey to assess the views of voters related to Albemarle County’s rural countryside, community infrastructure, and satisfaction with local government leadership on these issues.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Survey 2007 indicates that voters in Albemarle County strongly believe the rural countryside is important to their quality of life.  Furthermore, there is strong agreement about many statements that describe how people feel about the rural countryside.

KEY FINDINGS
With respect to policy issues related to land use, infrastructure, taxation, transportation, and leadership, the survey results indicate:

  • There is strong public support for policies, like phasing or time based zoning, that would set a schedule for the rate of new development in Albemarle County’s rural areas.  77.8% of respondents indicated they would be likely or very likely to support such a policy.
  • 86.1% of respondents think the rate of new home construction in Albemarle’s rural countryside should be slower.
  • 81.4% of respondents indicated they support the use of tax dollars to purchase rural development rights if it would permanently protect the land with conservation easements.
  • 32.8% of respondents felt like local government was doing a very good or good job ensuring infrastructure was in place to support new development.  When asked about government’s efforts to have developers pay their fair share for infrastructure, 42.2% of respondents were satisfied.
  • 58.4% of respondents indicated they strongly or somewhat supported the land use taxation program.
  • 56.2% of respondents supported a modest increase in local taxes to support priority transportation projects.  When asked which tax they preferred, 54.8% of respondents offered support for either a gasoline tax or a sales tax.
  • 40% of respondents think citizens get an appropriate amount or a great deal of attention when they raise legitimate concerns about county growth, development, and transportation issues.
  • 57.2% of respondents indicated they were satisfied local government was making decisions that benefit the community as a whole.
  • 48.9% of respondents indicated satisfaction with government’s efforts to make decisions to protect the rural countryside.

Banner2

METHODOLOGY

20070730wheeler
      Charlottesville Tomorrow's Executive Director, Brian Wheeler, at the July 30, 2007 press conference

Charlottesville Tomorrow commissioned Interviewing Service of America (ISA) to conduct a telephone survey of registered voters in Albemarle County, Virginia.  Albemarle County voters were called by ISA during June 20-28, 2007 and randomly selected from a universe of 45,932 voters whose telephone numbers were identified in a phone match by Blaemire Communications.  The ISA telephone survey has a confidence rate of 95%, and a sampling error rate of ±3%.  A total of 1,045 interviews were completed with a participation rate of 27% and an incidence rate of 100%.  Respondents were asked twenty topical questions and nine demographic/qualifying questions in a survey that typically took 11 to 20 minutes to complete.  Additional information on the survey methodology can be found in the complete survey report.

Brian Wheeler

July 27, 2007

Forever Albemarle exhibit opens to celebrate rural conservation

20070727foreveralbemarlea
Click here for a slideshow of the photo exhibit with the remarks by Albemarle County Farmer Jimmy Powell

On July 27, 2007, a photo exhibit entitled 'Forever Albemarle' opened in the County Office building outside Lane Auditorium.  The exhibit celebrates Albemarle's growing inventory of rural land protected from future development by voluntary conservation easements. All three hundred and fifty easement holders were invited to be honored for their contributions. 

Members of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission also welcomed Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources, Preston Bryant20070727bryant Bryant told the audience that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has made land conservation a centerpiece of his agenda and had set a goal of protecting 400,000 acres by the year 2010.  Albemarle County alone has almost 69,000 acres protected with conservation easements and the photographs in the exhibit pay tribute to the farms, fields, and forests protected by area residents.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070727-ForeverAlbemarle.mp3

Highlights of audio:

  • 01:35 -- Welcome by Supervisor David Wyant (White Hall)
  • 04:25 -- Remarks by Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) on the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program
  • 12:25 -- Remarks by L. Preston Bryant, VA Secretary of Natural Resources
  • 17:20 -- Joan McDowell, Principal Planner, Albemarle County
  • 20:00 -- Jimmy Powell, Albemarle County Farmer and the first participant in the ACE program

Watch a slideshow

Watch a video of the presentation:

Brian Wheeler

July 23, 2007

RWSA declares area to be under ‘drought watch’

The Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has issued a Drought Watch for the area. The move is the first step called for as part of a drought action plan adopted by the RWSA last September, and is being taken now because streams that fill the area's reservoirs are slowing at a rapid
pace.

Watch the video on YouTube below:

 

20070723rwsadrought_2
     RWSA Director Tom Frederick 

“Stream flows in our watershed are now 19 percent of seasonally adjusted normal levels," said Tom Frederick, the Executive Director of the RWSA. He and his staff have been watching levels drop over the course of the spring and summer, with rainfall amounts declining. "There have been some scattered thunderstorms, but they did not bring the widespread rains that contribute significantly to increase in streamflows."

Under a drought watch, members of the public are asked to conserve as much water as they can. The idea is to stretch the water supply for as long as possible if the area continues to be dry, and to get people planning now.

The lighter flows are not replenishing the reservoirs as water is pumped out for use by consumers in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070723-RWSA-Drought-Watch.mp3

20070723rwsadrought02
   Stream flows on Mechums River near White Hall helped the RWSA make a drought watch declaration 

As of the press conference, reservoirs are at 93 percent capacity and falling. The Ragged Mountain Reservoir is down 3.8 feet, and is holding steady because the RWSA is using the pipeline from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir as the source for the Observatory Hill water treatment plant. Sugar Hollow itself is down 1.6 feet, with one foot of that coming in the last five days, according to Frederick. He added that Sugar Hollow is now dropping at a rate of about two and half inches a day.

Frederick predicted that the South Fork Reservoir will stop spilling over sometime this week if there is no significant rainfall. The hydro-electric plant there has been turned off for several weeks because of low stream flow.

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center lists our area as abnormally dry, and Frederick said the Center shows that for the fall and winter, Virginia could remain to be drier than normal. He said a good hurricane season could bring enough rain, but that can't be guaranteed.

"We feel that actions need to be taken proactively, sometimes assuming that the worst can happen," Frederick said. "We don't want to induce panic or alarm, but we do want to make sure we prudently use our water supply so that if nature has continued dry conditions ahead of us, that we position ourselves in the best way that we can possibly be towards the future."

There are no mandatory water restrictions under a Drought Watch, but City and County governments will begin asking their employees and residents to begin conserving. Shortly after the watch was declared, Albemarle County officials released a statement saying they will continue with measures implemented last year during a similar situation. Outdoor shrubs on county property will no longer will be watered, and neither will the green roof at the County Office Building on McIntire Road.

If there is not enough rain to recharge the aquifers that supply the streams that supply the reservoirs, the RWSA will consider moving to stage 2 - a drought warning. Under that stage, elected officials will be asked to consider mandatory restrictions. RWSA staff will continue monitoring levels in advance of the August 27 meeting of the RWSA board.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecast throughout this week, but Frederick said that likely won’t be enough to call off the drought watch.

“Generally, when it’s dry as it is right now, that’s not enough to significantly elevate stream flows, which is what we track when we determine how severe drought conditions.”

Sean Tubbs

Construction begins on Third Street makeover as Mall expands

Construction workers have recently fenced off the Third Street North area near the Downtown Mall and construction is ready to begin on the pedestrian mall's expansion up the side street near the Paramount Theater.

3rdstconstruction
Workers begin process of re-bricking and landscaping Third Street

Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, said this project is a “long range plan to extend the mall to its side streets.”  Workers will lay brick and add landscaping so that both businesses and pedestrians can make better use of the area.  After construction is completed in September, vendors delivering to businesses along the street will only be able to load and unload until 11 AM, after which Third Street will be closed off to all vehicles.  The streetscape project has recently completed work on Fifth Street, and there are future plans to take on Second Street next, followed by the re-bricking of the entire Downtown Mall.  Tolbert said funding for this project is coming from the capital improvement budget.

Tenants along the Third Street stretch from East Market Street to the Downtown Mall have mixed feelings about the project.

Tee-Tee and Gail Jackson, two stylists from the Jackson II Body & Soul Salon, believe that the construction will hurt their business, and they are not happy about the situation.  Third Street had just been fenced off while the Paramount Theater was being renovated, making this the second time in less than two years that Third Street businesses have had to deal with construction going on outside. 

Tee-Tee and Gail both said they are frustrated by all the dust and dirt being tracked into their salon, and they had hardly enough time to clean up the mess from last time.  They fear that only their regular clients will know about their salon, and it will be more difficult to gain new ones.  They also believe that there could have been better negotiations with the businesses along Third Street.

3rdstconstruction02_3
Third Street is fenced off from the Downtown Mall to East Market Street

Right next door, at Nail Secrets, Shirley Barrett said she is not happy with the construction either and feels that her workplace may lose some business during the construction.  She stated that this whole process has taken much longer than she anticipated.  However, Barret said she will be pleased with the street’s makeover.

Across the way Brice Cunningham of the popular French restaurant, Fleurie, said he believes this project will make the street much more pleasant for everyone.

“It is too bad they didn’t do this earlier” says Cunningham.  When asked if he felt the construction would affect the number of people coming into dine at his restaurant, he replied that business in summertime is always slow, and this is the perfect time for work to be done.  He just hopes that the process does not go past the intended mid-September finish date.

Will Faulconer

How well do you know these people?

How well do you know the dozen candidates running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council?  How many names can you put to the faces below?  Charlottesville Tomorrow has just released our updated Election Watch website for the 2007 elections. 

Allcandidates546x182

Charlottesville Tomorrow is a non-partisan organization and we do not endorse any candidates.  Our goal is to offer the most comprehensive coverage of local elections to ensure the public is informed about each candidate's positions on the issues of land use, transportation and community design.

Want to learn more about the candidates? On our website you can read the candidates' bios, find their websites and blogs, and start educating yourself about why these citizens want to represent YOU in local government. 

Do you know WHERE to vote or WHO you will have on your ballot?
  Our website has links to helpful election websites and a map of the County candidates running for Supervisor.

Want to know who is ahead in campaign fundraising?  Charlottesville Tomorrow is supporting the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) local elections initiative.  From our Election Watch website you have easy access to each candidate's contributor list.

Want to attend a candidate forum?  Charlottesville Tomorrow has the community's only comprehensive election calendar.  Seven candidate forums have already been scheduled and Charlottesville Tomorrow is co-sponsoring four of those events in October.

Even more information will appear on our website as we approach election day, including in-depth coverage on this blog with audio and video downloads of the candidate forums.  You will be able to download the audio or transcripts of our candidate interviews in September.  And the last week before the election, Charlottesville Tomorrow will mail a voter guide to every household with one of these local races on the ballot.

Want to help Charlottesville Tomorrow make these resources available? Charlottesville Tomorrow needs your help to ensure our local elections get the coverage they deserve.  Please join our growing group of supporters by making a quick tax-deductible online donation.

Brian Wheeler

July 19, 2007

CTS sets new ridership record

The Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) set a new ridership figure last year, with over 1.5 million riders. That's according to CTS Director Bill Watterson, who gave an update on the system at the July 18, 2007 meeting of the MPO Policy Board.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20070718-MPO-Transit-Update.mp3

2007071801
      CTS Director Bill Watterson  (center) addresses MPO Policy Board

"During my three years here, the way I've been trying to help make this more of a connected community is by having our transit service have routes that run on schedule," he said. "Getting consensus that we need on how to change routes when resources are constrained is a big challenge."

Watterson highlighted some recent changes that he said has helped boost ridership. The free trolley between UVA and downtown Charlottesville now runs every fifteen minutes. In late August, the Route 5 bus will travel every thirty minutes. Changes to other routes have resulted in more timely service. Some of the changes were made when the Downtown Transit Center opened in March. What had been circular routes were cut in two to make travel times more realistic.

"The initial indication is that these changes have helped them run on time," he said. Watterson told the MPO that using the transit center as a focal point has made it so that buses are running more efficiently. "On Water Street, buses will come together particularly towards 15 minutes past the hour and 45 minutes past the hour, because then it facilitates moving, exchanging buses for any of the other routes. In the past we had buses doing circles, and there was never any place on the circle that could accommodate as many buses that were scheduled to be there at once."

Watterson said adjustments will continue to be made on some routes. Extra stops will be added along Route 3B in response to requests made by residents of the Tenth and Page neighborhood. Sunday service will also begin on some routes including the trolley beginning in late August.

By the end of the year, riders who use two-dozen stops across the CTS system will be able to use an interactive kiosk to find out when the next bus will arrive. The same information will be made available to riders online.

Watterson said cooperation with the University of Virginia's transit service will also continue. The two entities are now publishing a rider's guide for both services, and UVA staff and students can ride CTS buses fare-free until spring of next year.

All of these changes have lead to a four percent increase in ridership, with 1,512,049 trips in FY2007.

Watterson also said CTS is taking steps to makes it fleet of vehicles more green. Last year, some buses began running on biodiesel, and by the end of this year, all should have made the conversion. CTS officials are also debating whether to buy hybrid buses in the near-future, though Watterson said they are significantly more expensive than buses with diesel engines.

When asked by Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett District) if hybrids would provide any savings on fuel costs, Watterson said there would only be a marginal potential. "I really think it's about communities across the country seeming to be feeling strongly that a leadership role should be played by the public sector."

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio District) urged Watterson to buy the biodiesel from local sources if available, and questioned whether the benefit of hybrids would be cost-effective. Watterson responded that hybrids would be much quieter, something useful as CTS considers expanding night service in the future.

Citing a recent decision by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to allocate an additional $250,000 in funding for CTS, Slutzky urged Watterson to do whatever it could to market the extra services such as the expansion to Southwood Mobile Home on Route 2B.

"Now that we're there, it's really important that we get increased ridership out of our investment," Slutzky said.

When asked what CTS is doing to improve accessibility to some of its stops in the county, Watterson asked for help from county staff so an inventory of all stops could be made. "We need to have someone on the county side tied to someone representing CTS so that we can make the best use of our time."

Supervisor Rooker suggested part of the county's additional funding could go to help pay for more bus shelters. Watterson said CTS has applied for federal funding to help pay for some of these. Albemarle County Chief of Planning

David Benish told the MPO that the County's initiative to add more sidewalks gives more priority to areas along transit routes.

Sean Tubbs

July 2007 MPO Policy Board Meeting

2007071802
      The DEQ's Tom Jennings demonstrates air quality monitoring procedures to MPO Policy Board Members

The MPO Policy Board held a monthly meeting on July 18, 2007, at the MPO's office on Water Street in Downtown Charlottesville. Topics included the location of an air quality monitoring station for the Charlottesville area, an update on area transit services, as well as a public hearing on two amendments to the Transportation Improvement Program.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070718-MPO.mp3

TIMELINE

  • 1:00 - Matters from the Public
  • 3:45 - Responses to Matters from the Public
  • 10:45 - Adoption of Minutes from June 20, 2007 meeting - deferred to next meeting
  • 12:00 - Albemarle County Air Monitoring Station Location. Tom Jennings of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) presents information about an air quality monitor station that will be located in Albemarle. MPO Members ask detailed questions about air flow as a way of determining if the location selected at Albemarle High School is adequate
  • 40:45 - An update from Bill Watterson, director of the Charlottesville Transit Service
  • 1:28:45 - An update from JAUNT's Kevan Danker
  • 1:35:00 - Public Hearing: FY07 TIP Amendment:  The Policy Board holds a public hearing regarding two proposed amendments to the FY06 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). The proposed amendments would add obligations to the Preliminary Engineering Phases of the two Interchange Projects in the TIP: Widen Westbound Exit Lanes at 5th Street (Project I-3) and Dual Left Turn Lanes, Shadwell Exit (Project I-4).
  • 1:48:15 - Proposed Virginia STIP/TIP Process
  • 1:52:10 - Other business:
  • 1:57:30 - Additional matters from the public

Sean Tubbs

July 17, 2007

City Council asks County to sign agreement before Meadowcreek work begins

20070716council_2(left to right) Mayor Brown and Councilors Kendra Hamilton and Dave Norris 

The Charlottesville City Council wants the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution affirming their commitment to building and funding a regional transportation network before they will be willing to proceed with construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway.

On the agenda for the July 16, 2007 City Council meeting was a request from staff to grant a temporary construction easement to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) while the agency makes preparations to accept bids for the City's portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway project. Under the terms of the deal, VDOT will pay $1 for full access to 22.21 acres of the eastern section of the park during construction.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070716-CC-Meadowcreek-Update.mp3

The City Council gave tentative approval of the Parkway in 2000, provided that a set of twelve conditions were met. Since that time, many of the criteria have been satisfied. For instance, the scope of the Parkway has been narrowed to be a two-lane highway with a maximum design speed of no more than 37.25 miles per hour, as well as a grade-separated interchange where it intersects with the 250 Bypass. But, the City also wanted to see the County to assist funding for a regional road network to include the Eastern Connector so that the Meadowcreek Parkway did not serve as a conduit for traffic between Route 29 North and the Pantops area.

In letter dated January 20, 2006, Mayor David Brown gave an update on the conditions to VDOT’s Greg Whirley and Dennis Rooker of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. "The City expects to see a funding commitment for the Southern Parkway by VDOT and/or the County by 2008 before construction begins on the parkway," Brown also wrote in the letter that both the City and the County are helping to fund an ongoing alignment study for the proposed Eastern Connector.

Another of the City’s criteria involves the replacement of parkland. The City has asked for 50 acres of replacement parkland to make up for that which will be taken up by the roadway.

At the July 16 meeting, Jim Tolbert of Neighborhood Development Services gave a new update on the project to Council.  He said the project is now fully-funded according to the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s Six Year Plan. The multiuse trail requested by Council is now to be built at a width of ten feet. All construction plan sheets will alert the contractor of the boundaries of the Vietnam War Memorial, and these dimensions will also be staked in the field as well.  He said VDOT has been taking steps to purchase the right of way for replacement parkland, but that the transactions are not yet complete. Advertisement for construction bids are scheduled to go out in June of next year.

Tolbert also said no action was required at the meeting, but the packet for the board meeting did include the legal documents required for the granting of the easement.

CONCERNS FROM CITY COUNCIL

Councilor Kevin Lynch said he still had reservations about the status of three of the City's criteria. Before he votes to grant an easement, he said he wants to see a final design for the interchange, wants to see the parkland easements finalized, and wants a commitment from the County to pursue the regional network.

Easement_2 VDOT is seeking a 22 acre easement through McIntire Park to prepare for construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway 

"VDOT has acquired one of several parcels they said they would buy us in exchange for this easement, but they've not acquired all of them," Lynch said. "When VDOT has acquired all of these parcels, and when we have assurances from the County that all of these parcels have been acquired, that's when we should say we'll trade you the easement for them."

Lynch, a member of the Eastern Connector steering committee, expressed concern that it is proceeding too slowly. "I'm not impressed by the County's commitment to this project. My sense from serving on that committee is that it exists mostly to figure out ways not to build the Eastern Connector, so it doesn't surprise me to hear that there is a Board of Supervisor Members who say it isn't going to happen. " He also doubted whether the County was committed to the Southern Parkway. 

"The Southern Parkway may be on the list of the County's secondary road projects, but it was on that list before I got on Council but it hasn't gotten a bit of funding," he said. "There is no commitment by the County to a regional transportation network, or none that I've seen." He said Council should see an alignment for the Eastern Connector as well as funding plan for the Southern Parkway before it grants permission for construction to begin.

Lynch serves with fellow Councilor Dave Norris as the City’s representatives to the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  The MPO most recently established regional transportation goals and priorities when it approved the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan (UnJAM 2025) in May 2004.  Both the Southern Parkway and the Eastern Connector are priority projects in UnJAM 2025 and in the County’s  2007 Six-Year Secondary Road Plan.  In their FY2008 budget, the County Board of Supervisors allocated  $2 million for critical transportation projects.  Albemarle has increased its funding of transportation projects as the state’s contributions to the secondary road fund have decreased.   However, with limited funds available and escalating project costs, in January 2007 the Supervisors agreed to focus their funding on three of the sixty-nine projects in the County’s Six-Year Plan: the Meadowcreek Parkway; Jarman’s Gap Rd; and Georgetown Rd.

Councilor Norris asked Tolbert if he knew of any plans by the County to fund the Eastern Connector. "I've heard in public forums that the County doesn't envision securing sufficient funding to build the Eastern Connector at any point in the near future." Tolbert said road-building in Virginia is problematic because of state-funding issues, but that he had not heard the County was going to not pursue funding.

Norris expressed the concern that the Meadowcreek Parkway would increase through-traffic in the City's residential neighborhoods as County residents used it to travel between growth areas in the County. He wanted Tolbert's opinion on whether Biscuit Run and other large development projects were factored into the planning studies for the Meadowcreek Parkway. Tolbert responded that traffic studies used as part of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s CHART study take land use planning into account.

"When those types of models are run, they anticipate development in the growth area based on the land use plan, not necessarily what's there or known about. They may not have known about that significant development per se, but it would have anticipated a development at a certain level in the urban ring." But Tolbert said he didn't have the specifics.

Councilor Kendra Hamilton said she was confident VDOT was acting in good faith to acquire the parkland, but did say the regional road network issues needed to be resolved. She cited a 2004 resolution adopted by the County Board of Supervisors that endorsed the City's portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway. 

"I would be satisfied if they were to pass a similar resolution on the regional road network. We may not be able to get alignments in place, but a resolution has the force of law saying that they are going to be looking at taking these actions."

Councilor Julian Taliaferro said he was also concerned about the County's commitment to a regional road network, but was more concerned that the intersection at Melbourne Road might defeat the whole purpose of the Parkway. Lynch agreed, and said that Melbourne Road should have been addressed in the City's original criteria.

Councilor Norris defended the County's commitment to regional transportation network. "I think the whole CHART process was a way of the County committing to a vision for the regional road network," he said. "I would like to see that sort of commitment be extended to beefing up the regional transit system." Earlier in the meeting, Council accepted $250,000 in County funding from the Board of Supervisors to pay for service expansions to the Charlottesville Transit Service.

Lynch pointed to the Southern Parkway as an example of a road project the County is reluctant to fund, even though there’s an alignment on the books. “The reason the County doesn't want to build it is twofold. Number one, the development has already happened there so they don't get any new development dollars out of it. And number two, now that development has already happened, there are neighbors who don't want the traffic,” Lynch said. "The time for resolutions of support has passed and we need to see some concrete evidence the County can do transportation planning," Lynch said.

Mayor Brown disagreed, and asked Mr. Tolbert and City Manager Gary O'Connell to come up with a strongly worded resolution to present to the County regarding the status of the Eastern Connector. Brown also said he wanted Tolbert to give Council a timeline of when the various parcels of parkland will be acquired.

A RESPONSE FROM THE COUNTY

Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett District) said he could not comment on any proposed resolution without seeing its language, but said the County has shown a “substantial commitment” to a regional transportation network.

“We have a 20 year road plan, which is a result of work by the CHART Committee approved by the MPO,” on whose policy board Rooker serves alongside Councilors Lynch and Norris.  Rooker says said the County and the City offer examples to the rest of the state for cooperative transportation planning.

“We’re the only community in the state that has allowed proffers from development to be spent in another locality,” Rooker said. He said money proffered from the Albemarle Place development will be spent to build an additional lane on US 29 north of the 250 Interchange.  He also cited $1 million dollars in proffers made by the developers of Biscuit Run to go towards transit projects, as well as additional money to help pay for improvements on Old Lynchburg Road within City limits.

Rooker said the slow pace of road projects in the area can be blamed on a lack of state funding.  Each year, the County gets $3.7 million in road funding from the state each year. Rooker says the County has slowly been accruing enough money to pay for its portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway. But, he says future road projects will be harder to pay for.

“I’ve been a big supporter of the Eastern Connector, but at this point, no one can identify funding sources for construction. Now, we’re willing to work with the City to find a way.” Both jurisdictions have contributed $250,000 for a corridor location study. Road connections in the southern part of Albemarle County’s growth area may likely end up being paid for by developers through proffers.

But Rooker said the City’s continued request for demands is not a good way to build trust between communities. He says the City and County have both worked too hard to obtain money to pay for the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange to set more conditions now.

“I think too often there’s an us-against-them mentality that surfaces between the City and the County, and there’s a kind of pervasive view that the County is spurring all this growth and it is negatively impacting the City,” Rooker said.  “In fact, residential growth in the County financially benefits the City because they don’t have to provide services.”

This was a point Rooker made directly to Lynch and Norris at a MPO meeting this past February.  During discussions of the Biscuit Run project Rooker encouraged City Council to invest some of the funds it receives from Albemarle as part of the 1982 revenue sharing agreement ($13.21 million in FY08) into regional transportation infrastructure.  Earlier that month, Lynch had given the County a one-month ultimatum to demonstrate it was serious about building the Fontaine-Sunset Connector.  Lynch wanted Biscuit Run proffer dollars to build that connector road, otherwise, he said City Council might entertain closing Old Lynchburg Road at the County line.


Selected Highlights from the Discussion:

  • 1:23 - Jim Tolbert of Neighborhood Development Services briefs Council on the status of its conditions for approval of construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 12:22 - Councilor Dave Norris asks Tolbert for a status update on the Eastern Connector
  • 15:20 - Collette Hall of the North Downtown Neighborhood Association tells Council that Dr. Brent with the Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing in October to address water quality issues with Schenk's Branch
  • 18:00 - Independent Peter Kleeman tells Council he is opposed to the granting of an easement to VDOT
  • 21:15 - Ernie Reed of the Living Education Center expresses his concern that the project will negatively impact Schenk's Branch, but offers up the services of his organization to help. Reed also comments on the Storm Water Management plan
  • 25:10 - Timothy Hulbert of the Chamber of Commerce expresses his support for the Meadowcreek Parkway Project
  • 29:26 - Councilor Kevin Lynch comments on the Storm Water Management plan and discusses Schenk's Branch water quality
  • 31:46 - Councilor Lynch outlines three conditions for approval that are not yet met
  • 32:51 - Lynch says he wants to see more replacement parkland acquired
  • 34:24 - Lynch says he's not impressed with Albemarle County's commitment to the Eastern Connector
  • 35:40 - Mayor Brown asks Lynch for the time lines for the Eastern Connector study
  • 36:50 - Councilor Kendra Hamilton tells the public that no action will be taken at this meeting
  • 37:15 - Councilor Kendra Hamilton floats the idea of asking the County to adopt a resolution affirming support for the regional road network
  • 39:45 - Councilor Julian Taliaferro says he's concerned about the intersection at the Meadowcreek Parkway and Melbourne Road
  • 40:55 - Councilor Dave Norris defends County's role in regional road planning, but says additional investments need to go for the area's public transportation network
  • 43:06 - Councilor Lynch says resolutions of support are not enough to demonstrate County's commitment, and uses the history of the Southern Parkway as a description
  • 45:22 - Mayor Brown says he would like to see a "strongly worded" resolution that mentions County's support for the Eastern Connector, and requests a written time line for when parkland will be transferred to City
  • 53:46 - Councilor Lynch suggests revisiting the three party agreement between the City, the County, and the University of Virginia

Sean Tubbs

July 16, 2007

Biscuit Run: A detailed look at the discussion on parks, transportation, and water needs

The Biscuit Run development took a giant step forward at last week’s meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. The project made its first appearance before the Board since being recommended for approval by a unanimous Planning Commission last May.  During a two and one-half-hour work session, proffers dominated the Board’s discussion.
20070711bos
Developer Hunter Craig has volunteered numerous proffers as part of his rezoning request in order to mitigate the impact of the new development on the community.  Proffers are used to fund infrastructure needs like parks, schools, roads, libraries, and public safety. 

By the end of the meeting, the Supervisors had:

Attorney Steve Blaine, representing Craig, pointed out that Biscuit Run’s proffer proposals had come together in response to specific issues raised by the community and prior to the development of the County’s new per-home cash proffer expectations.  Reconciling these proffers with the County’s emerging cash proffer policy is one of the key considerations before the Board. 

20070711biscuitrunBlaine described the development’s proffer contributions as being valued at $30.86 million.  However, County staff told the Board that the proffers actually represented a shortfall of between $17.4 to $30.7 million.  In part, this shortfall is the result of staff’s calculation that $12 million in proffers should not be counted unless the Board granted some exceptions to their new guidelines.  One example is the 402 acre district park which has an estimated value of $5.3 million.  This amount is included in the applicant’s total, but excluded by staff because a park this large is not a specific project currently in the County’s Comprehensive Plan or capital improvement budget. 

Thus County staff asked the Board to weigh the value of the applicant’s proffers versus the cash that might be paid for each of the development’s 3,100 homes (for example, a one-time charge of $17,500 per single family detached home as required in the County’s new guidelines).  Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) stated that he thought the cash proffers, estimated by the developer at $11,711 per unit, showed a deficit of about $3,000 per unit that the applicant would need to make up in their rezoning request.

COUNTY AGREES TO 402 ACRE DISTRICT PARK

In their deliberations, the Board agreed new ideas like the park had to be considered on a case by case basis.  Blaine pointed out that had the new cash proffer policy been in place in the beginning, the Biscuit Run development would have looked much different and “innovative things” such as the park would have been absent.

Pat Mullaney, Director of Albemarle County Parks & Recreation, was asked about the value of the park proffer.

“This park will be here forever, and as the County grows that property becomes more and more valuable.  They print money every day.  They won’t make any more land….Accepting this park land is directly in line with your strategic plan objective to increase the total combined acreage, either in conservation easements or in qualifying public park land.  I really don’t want to see us miss this opportunity to set this land aside.  It’s one of the best things we can do for the quality of life of our citizens in the future….Parks are forever.  It may be a hundred years from now, but someone is going to thank you for protecting this park land.”

During questioning about the construction of the road and bridge to allow access to the park, developer Hunter Craig made it clear to the Board that he could do other things with the 402 acres of rural land.

“I have a verbal offer for over nine million dollars for that piece of property.  So if you would like, we would be more than happy to just give you that five and one-half million in cash [the estimated proffer value].  We were doing that to be community-minded.  It is my heartfelt belief and desire that the entire community will benefit.  There are not enough fields for [soccer], youth lacrosse, and this was entirely meant to be a community benefit.”

In a separate cash proffer of up to $1.8 million ($500 per home built), Craig has offered to build one or more playing fields.  Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said that this was a proffer he had personally advocated for with Craig in an effort to get additional playing fields for the community.  The Board reached consensus that the district park was a benefit to the community and an acceptable proffer.

DEVELOPERS SAY VDOT OVERSTATES TRANSPORTATION NEEDS

At multiple points in the meeting, Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked questions about the scope of the general transportation proffers as compared to the needs identified in memos from VDOT.  Thomas asked, “How do we get from a memo from VDOT that says that the figure, just on Route 20 [improvements alone] ought to be $12.974 million to something called 'general transportation fund contribution' of $7.75 million?”

Blaine responded by quoting from the memo saying it was provided for “informational purposes only and did not necessarily reflect improvements that are needed entirely due to the impacts associated with the proposed rezoning.”  Blaine continued:

“I think what VDOT was attempting to do was to make certain that the County understands that there is planning needed for the widening of Route 20.  What we found in the public hearings and the meetings with the community is there’s not necessarily a consensus right now for the widening of Route 20.”

Blaine shared his view that VDOT had overstated the share of costs attributable to the development, including the needs for widening Route 20. VDOT's March 2007 analysis addressed improvements required only to Route 20, Avon Street, and Old Lynchburg Road. The total cost of the improvements for these three roads alone was estimated to be $88 million (in 2014 dollars) with VDOT suggesting the pro-rata share that should be proffered in cash by the developer totaling $32 million.

Further, Blaine indicated VDOT had oversimplified the cost allocation and he cited the comprehensive transportation study conducted for Biscuit Run. 

“We have spent eleven months on a traffic study that recommended various improvements, and that’s what the staff’s recommendation is based upon and what our proffers are based upon.  And so the VDOT memo does not provide anything other than a planning tool and a suggestion, and we disagree with it if it is suggesting that our fair share is $14 million [for Route 20 improvements].”

Biscuitruntia5thst The Biscuit Run transportation study also called for the widening of the 5th Street bridge over Interstate 64 to allow for two full-length parallel turn lanes, a need not yet addressed by VDOT, County staff, the applicant’s proffers, or the Board of Supervisors (see diagram prepared by Charlottesville Tomorrow at left). 

By the end of the meeting, when Chairman Boyd was encouraging board members to submit their questions in advance for the next work session, he suggested the board not revisit matters already addressed by the Planning Commission.  After Thomas again mentioned that some of VDOT’s concerns had not been fully addressed, Blaine told the Supervisors that the Planning Commission had fully vetted the transportation issues.  “Their findings were supported by a unanimous, enthusiastic recommendation,” said Blaine.

WATER AND SEWER CAPACITY WILL BE ADEQUATE


Supervisor Thomas asked the Gary Fern, Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA), to address the adequacy of water and sewer infrastructure to support Biscuit Run.  Fern started his response by saying he didn’t know of any unresolved water or sewer issues.  He assured the Board that water would be available for the development and he detailed the two memorandums of understanding that outline the developer’s agreement to help pay for increased sewer capacity in the future.  Fern said he had no concerns about the agreements reached between the County and the developer.

ROAD CONNECTION TO MILL CREEK SOUTH

Interconnecting our neighborhoods is a goal of the County’s neighborhood model form of development.  However, a proposed road interconnection between Biscuit Run and Mill Creek South has been a hot potato bounced around by the developers as they have received conflicting feedback from Mill Creek residents and County decision makers. 

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) raised concerns he had recently received from Mill Creek residents who were opposed to the road connection.  He favored a bicycle and pedestrian only connection to the existing neighborhood.  Other Supervisors like Sally Thomas, David Slutzky, and Dennis Rooker expressed their support for a future vehicle connection.  Thomas had feedback for both the timing and design of the connection.  She suggested that it might start as a pedestrian/bicycle connection then be upgraded for vehicles only after the elementary school was built or a certain amount of retain space was built.  She asked for a revised plan that showed this road being built as a “T-intersection” with a stop sign which would minimize cut-though traffic.  Slutzky indicated that he did not want to specify when the connection would occur out of deference to the neighbors’ concerns, but that he was confident the community would ask for it in the future and that the proffers gave the County the flexibility to establish the road when needed.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Board of Supervisors has allocated another hour and a half for a second work session on August 8, 2007 at 2:00 PM.  A public hearing will be held in September 2007.

Brian Wheeler