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August 31, 2007

Beaver Creek adequate for Crozet until 2035

Sqbeavercreek1 As Crozet’s water supply, the Beaver Creek Reservoir was thought in 2005 to have an adequate supply for at least the next 50 years.  This week, the Board of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) learned that a safe yield study and revised population projections had shortened that window of sufficiency to approximately 30 years.  As part of a $20,000 water supply planning grant, RWSA’s consultant Gannet Fleming determined the reservoir’s safe yield, or the amount of water the Beaver Creek Reservoir can provide Crozet at the time of our worst drought on record, to be 1.8 million gallons per day (MGD). [Gannet Fleming report]

In June and July 2007, Crozet’s almost 5,000 residents were using on average about 0.48 MGD of treated water from Beaver Creek.  In other words, with a safe yield of 1.8 MGD, there is plenty of water in Crozet for today’s population.  As a result of the excess capacity, and until the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is expanded, Beaver Creek is also looked to as a backup water source for the urban water supply (i.e. Charlottesville, UVA, and Albemarle’s urban ring) should the community enter a drought emergency.

When will Crozet’s growing population require more than 1.8 million gallons of water per day?  The new answer: Sometime after 2035.

Longbeavercreek1

Gannet Fleming, first in 2004 while developing a 50-year urban water supply plan, and now in 2007 as part of the Beaver Creek safe yield analysis , has asked Albemarle for population estimates .  In 2004 Gannet Fleming was told that Crozet’s projected build-out population in twenty years would be 12,000 people, a number they extrapolated to also be Crozet’s maximum population in 50 years.  Since then, County staff have determined that the "theoretical ultimate build-out" population for Crozet could reach closer to 24,000 sometime beyond 2024.

Year Crozet
Population
Estimate*
Growth
Rate
2000 3849  
2006 4798 5%
2010 5832 5%
2015 7443 5%
2020 9500 5%
2025 12124 5%
2030 14751 4%
2035 17101 3%
2040 18880 2%

Albemarle County's 30-year population projection for Crozet (2005-2035) is 17,101 [see table].  Mark Graham, Albemarle’s Director of Community Development, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that, “This is a population number for RWSA’s planning purposes, but it is in no way a number the County has adopted for Crozet.”  Graham emphasized that the Board of Supervisors has not taken any action on these estimates and that they are for a point in time beyond the current master plan.

In their June 2007 report, Gannet Fleming determined that, by 2035, a potential Crozet population of 17,101 will demand 1.59 MGD.  In light of the safe yield data, Gannet Fleming projects current water demand needs in Crozet could be met for next 30 years.  RWSA staff suggests, however, that beyond 30 years, "future forecasts should reassess capacity for Crozet." By contrast, before this 2007 study was completed, Gannet Fleming had predicted Crozet (at a population of 12,000) would require approximately 1.1 MGD in 2055.

Having a good water supply is but aspect of producing a safe and sufficient water and sewer system for growth area residents.  As it stands now, Crozet’s water treatment plant has a capacity of only 1.0 MGD; furthermore the plants pipes reach maximum capacity at 1.3 MGD.  Thus RWSA has other infrastructure upgrades to plan during the next 30 years to satisfy Crozet’s growing population.  The capital project to design the water treatment expansion is currently scheduled to begin in 2010.

Here you can view all of Charlottesville Tomorrow's past posts on Crozet, including items related to the 2006 discussion by the Board of Supervisors of Crozet's population estimates.

Brian Wheeler

* Crozet population estimates provided by Albemarle County to Gannet Fleming as part of water supply planning study completed in June 2007.

August 30, 2007

Commission evaluates Places29 in advance of Board work session

20070828pc

The future of the ten mile stretch of U.S. Route 29 through Northern Albemarle County is under consideration as the Places29 Master Plan continues to make its way through the County Planning Commission.

The commission considered the Transportation Framework section of the Plan during a work session held on August 28, 2007. This session is a continuation of the Commission’s previous meeting in July. Although time ran out on them last month, the review had to be completed before September 5th, when the Board of Supervisors will take up the same chapters.

Albemarle County Senior Planner Judith Wiegand told the Commission the Transportation Framework has been influenced by numerous studies and public workshops held throughout the last few years. She detailed the numerous traffic forecasts and modeled different construction scenarios that guided the plan, which provides methods as to how new pathways, both vehicular and pedestrian, might be constructed to give people more choices in getting to their destinations.

Some such roads as Northern Free State Road (a northern extension of the future Meadowcreek Parkway) proposed for construction after the scope of the Places29 study –  have been taken off of the framework map. However, there are still references to it in the narrative, because its existence was taken into consideration in some of the forecasts.

REQUIRING INFRASTRUCTURE

Transportationframework
The Transportation Framework Map 

Chairman Marcia Joseph (At-Large) expressed concern that the Transportation Framework depicts elements not likely to be built until after the 2025. She wanted to know if development in the region could be tied to the creation of those transportation improvements.

“There has to be a connection between the roads and the development that occurs,” she said. “We can't have the development without the roads.”

Wiegand explained that the land use depicted on the framework assumes full build out and redevelopment, which may take longer than the period of 2025. “If the pace of development slows down, it may take us a while to get to what we're calling the 2025 point.” That process will be tracked by the Metropolitan Planning Organization as it shepherds its UnJam Area Mobility Plan.

The Transportation Framework recommends grade separations at six interchanges (Hydraulic Rd., Rio Rd., Hilton Heights Road, Ashwood Blvd., Timberwood Blvd, and Airport Road) as being in place by 2025. A seventh at Greenbriar Road is projected to occur after 2025.

Commissioner Duane Zobrist (White Hall) asked Joseph if she was looking for a statement of principle connecting transportation infrastructure to be in place before development. “We've heard an awful lot of discussion about development getting ahead of infrastructure, and why can't we get a strong statement of principle to the extent that if infrastructure is not in place, development projects will not be approved?”

Wiegand pointed out that Places29's Guiding Principle #8 contains language that does stress this. It reads:

“It is important to provide infrastructure at or before the time it is needed to serve new
development. Infrastructure may be funded by local government, the private sector, or a
combination of funding sources.”

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said that language was not strong enough. “Since we are bound to evaluate any rezoning or variance based on how it complies with the comprehensive plan, I for one would like to see a stronger statement saying that if the infrastructure is not in place, that would be a legitimate reason for denying the request for rezoning.”

Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) was more cautious, and said he did not feel the commission should box itself into a corner and restrict itself. Commissioner Pete Craddock (Scottsville) agreed, and said that in many cases, the Commission would not have the legal authority to require off-site improvements for a proposed development.  “It's a great idea about having infrastructure in place,” he said. “But if there's nothing we can do about it because of the Dillon rule or some other things, are we putting ourselves into a box?”

Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish said the implementation portion of the Places29 narrative, Chapter 8, will establish priority areas for infrastructure improvements. “Improvements in the implementation plan is going to set a strategy for which projects will need to be done sooner rather than later.” He said the Commission's recent approval of U.Va's Area B study recommendations contained language that set timing for certain improvements. He says in the past, the Comprehensive plan did not specifically articulate what kinds of improvements the County might want.

DOES PLACES29 GO FAR ENOUGH TO PROMOTE TRANSIT?

Transit
Proposed Bus Rapid Transit Map

In addition to roads, Chapter 5 also outlines how a series of transit improvements could connect the various Centers being created as part of the Places29 plan. For instance, the section suggests a two-phase approach to implementing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Under the first phase, the BRT would terminate at Rio Road, before being extended to Airport Road in the second phase.

"The Charlottesville Transit Service in the Places29 area is entirely south of the South Fork of the Rivanna and we are looking for ways to expand that,” Wiegand said, adding that more details on this would be available when the Commission takes up Chapter 8. She added that the Places29 Plan in general puts a priority on transit-ready development, especially in areas where circulator roads are desired.

The traffic models used to develop the Transportation Framework estimate that by 2025, 2 percent of total trips in the Places29 area will be accomplished by transit. Julia Monteith, the University of Virginia’s Senior Land Use Planner, expressed the concern that this number was far too low.

Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District, explained that the numbers used in the modeling process are fairly conservative. He added that the MPO is beginning to develop a formula to calculate the number of additional trips that might switch to transit as a result of higher fuel costs. “We think [the number] could be higher, and part of that will depend on the development decisions that both the county makes as well as individual developers.”

Monteith felt language used in the Places29 Plan should be strengthened to further encourage transit use. “To me, part of the idea behind doing a master plan is to help lead you in the direction you want to go, not to accept everything as a fait accompli,” she said.

David Benish said he felt the plan does promote transit, but that reality constrained how quickly higher transit numbers can be achieved. “We could be overestimating if we have approved a number of developments with a significant square footage in residential that's not at the ultimate level of density that we'd like to achieve. So, the plan shows a lot of mixed-use development, and a lot of increases in density, but some of those are overlaying developments that have been approved but haven't even broken ground yet.”

Commissioner Cannon asked what the relationship was between density and transit use. Harrison Rue answered that it's a combination of density plus how “walkable” an area is. “We do have a significant
amount of developments up there that don't have a place to walk to,” he said. But he added that more detailed study was needed, and will be part of the discussion of a regional transit authority.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE TRANSPORTATION FRAMEWORK

Since the Places29 process began, public input has influenced the development of the Transportation Framework. To illustrate this, Wiegand walked the Commission through eight sections of the area that have been changed.

First, the Framework originally showed a roadway connecting the end of Ashwood Boulevard in Forest Lakes South to Polo Grounds Road. Wiegand said this was then taken out after overwhelming opposition from the Forest Lakes Association. The connection is still shown on the map but with the support of the neighborhood and as a pedestrian-only trail.

Next, a local access connection was suggested to link Ashwood Boulevard and Hollymead Drive as a road to run parallel to Route 29. This will now be depicted as an alleyway to provide rear access to any developments that may occur along that portion of Route 29, which is listed as residential. Another proposed local access connection was suggested between Timberwood Boulevard and Hollymead Drive, behind the cemetery. Partially built, this road will no longer be connected.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Places29 process is the proposal to construct grade separated interchanges along Route 29. The North Charlottesville Business Council is concerned about the disruptions that may occur during construction, as well as uncertainty over whose businesses might be taken to accommodate the interchanges. The NCBC took their concerns to the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, and Wiegand said a series of workshops will be held in late September with business owners around each proposed interchange. She added that specific details about each interchange won’t be known until those projects move into the design phase.

“The only way we’re going to know who’s going to be affected is by doing a preliminary design and engineering study which is not something that’s done until we actually get ready to build the road,” she said.

VDOT’s John Giometti said the plan would also be influenced by input from public hearings, but he said that before that happens, officials still need to demonstrate a purpose for the interchanges.

“The important thing is not how people are impacted, but whether the need exists, and you really have to come to agreement as to whether there is a need for grade separation,” he said. VDOT would reimburse property owners if their land is required in the right-of-way.

Harrison Rue said the grade separations were crucial to get people moving throughout the area, but reminded the Commission that proposed roads going through existing shopping centers will not be built without the participation of future property owners.

“The roads are likely to go where someone wants to redevelop,” Rue said. “There’s some flexibility in the roads leading up to the grade separation.” That means that any grade separation at Rio Road will likely be several years off as redevelopment continues. Wiegand says the County will work closely with VDOT during the design process for Rio Road, and the goal is to improve access to businesses in that area.

“The [existing] road network through here doesn’t make some of those parcels as accessible as they would be if you put in a different type of road network,” she said.

"JUG HANDLES" AT FOREST LAKES

Places29 also calls for a grade separation at the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and Route 29. A “jug handle” access road would lead to a bridge that would allow traffic from Forest Lakes South to cross Route 29. The location of this jug handle is depicted on the map as traveling through the northeast corner of Ashwood and 29, but this has been opposed by the Forest Lakes Association because that land is currently the site of a mobile home park.

“[The consultant] said they found that actually putting it over on the north side would work better from a road design standpoint,” Wiegand said. “It was the opinion of staff that we were not looking at any time to put this through the mobile home park. The assumption behind that was that [the interchange] would not happen until the mobile home park redevelops.”

The Commission asked Wiegand to update the map to show the road as traveling through the southeast corner over County-owned land. However, the text will continue to reflect both development possibilities for the future road.

The plan originally also depicted an interconnection between Polo Grounds Road and Ashwood Boulevard. Wiegand said the area to be served is designated as Neighborhood Urban Residential in the current Comprehensive Plan, and the roadway is necessary to help support the Neighborhood Model form of development, if that section of land is ever developed.

“The precise location of this road doesn’t have to be exactly where it is shown, but what we’re trying to do is convey a message to a potential developer that he needs to somehow connect the two places, Ashwood and Boulevard,” Wiegand explained.   

NEXT STEPS

During the July 31st meeting, Commissioners were asked to consider expanding the growth area and recommended denial of several boundary changes, though they deferred a decision on one section of land near Piney Mountain and NGIC. Commissioners did not revisit that issue at this meeting, but will do so before the Places29 Master Plan is sent to the Board of Supervisors.

There was no public comment during the work session, but when the Commission began its regular meeting, Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum stood to express his concern that no cost estimates have yet been released. He requested that a cost section be written into the chapter. "As we all know, we don't have an unlimited budget," he said.

The Commission stopped the discussion just before getting to the Green Infrastructure Map, and did not have time to consider it publicly before the Board of Supervisors considers it next week.

Sean Tubbs

August 28, 2007

Water levels being watched closely as students return

082707002 As Wahoos flow back into Charlottesville to the University of Virginia, water is also once again flowing over the South Fork Rivanna Dam.  How long the latter will continue in the face of an influx of new users and little new rainfall is a major question on the minds of local water officials.  In one form or another, the community water supply was the dominant theme at the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s August board meeting.  The prevalence of the county’s still-existing drought condition was acknowledged repeatedly as the Board of Directors moved through their agenda; in fact, Tom Frederick wasted no time by starting the meeting with a presentation of his findings on current water levels in the area. 

Dry conditions coupled with last week’s thunderstorms have caused a spike in water levels in certain parts of the County, and according to his report, “we would expect some further improvement in reservoir levels over at least the next two to three days.”  After that short-term period, however, levels will be dependent on future weather conditions.  The upcoming weather forecast calls for dry days with little to no chance of rain.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070827-RWSA.mp3

Frederick noted that last Tuesday, August 21st, the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir reached its lowest point since summer of 2002, a period that resonates with many as the worst drought in recent history.  Despite the rain that has occurred in the week since that low point, water storage conditions hover at levels comparable to those which existed three weeks ago – a date just prior to the drought warning declaration.  Frederick also voiced concern for the long-term water availability: even if the area soon experiences recovery by way of rain, the question of whether reservoirs will fully recover by next spring remains to be answered. 

Appearing ultimately optimistic, Frederick closed his report by sharing some positive news with the Board of Directors.  He predicted that, although the County will maintain its drought warning status for the time being, the community is unlikely to reach the emergency stage.  Furthermore, the community itself is playing an active role in ensuring water conservation.  Average water demand was 10.78 million gallons/day during the drought watch phase.  Since the upgrade of watch to warning, demand has averaged 9.97 million gallons/day.  This represents a decrease of 7.5% in water consumption in response to the drought warning – a higher figure than the 5% reduction in water consumption anticipated by RWSA’s Drought Response and Contingency plan.

Charlottesville' Director of Public Works, Judy Mueller, sounded a cautionary tone by reminding those present that the return of UVa students to Charlottesville will undoubtedly impact the area’s water supply.  “We have to remember that a large population of students came back this weekend….We have to be out there, constantly telling our new residents that we do have an issue, and historically September can be a very high consumption month,” said Mueller.

Mueller told the Board that these new residents deserve to be just as educated about our environmental conditions as the rest of the community is, and for that reason she called for another “public information campaign” to ensure student awareness about our, and now their, water supply.

Kendall Singleton

August 27, 2007

Pen Park route not among Eastern Connector alternatives

20070824ec4
      Lewis Grimm of PBS&J (standing) leads the steering committee through eleven alternatives for the Eastern Connector

The group of local officials responsible for shepherding the Eastern Connector Corridor Study has until next spring to present possible options to the public. But, if the latest meeting of the steering committee is any indication, there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

Committee members were shown eleven concepts of how traffic flow might be improved between the Route 29 North Corridor and the Pantops area. These consisted of six independent alternatives, as well as five that combined elements of the other six.  None of the alternatives considered a potential route from Rio Road through Pen Park to Route 20 as the site for a future Eastern Connector.

Lewis Grimm of the engineering firm PBS&J stressed that these are still conceptual alternatives. “This is the difficult phase on projects like this, trying to get people to agree on what to even look at,” he said.

The Committee spent the first portion of their meeting getting an explanation of the traffic modeling that PSB&J is using to determine the parameters of the project. Grimm said they are using a technique called Select Link Analysis, which takes a look at 32 random points throughout the regional transportation network to forecast how traffic numbers will increase between 2005 and 2025.

Selectlinkanalysis
      PBS&J is using Select Link Analysis as part of their traffic modeling

According to PBS&J’s numbers, traffic volume on Route 250 across Free Bridge will increase by 41.8% to 68,340 cars per day. Traffic on Route 20 will increase 76.8% with 23,040 cars per day, according to the Select Link Analysis. 

"It's a good planning tool, representing the state of the practice for travel demand forecasting for urban areas of this size," he said. He acknowledged it is just a model. "You'll never get it exactly perfect."

Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd said it was important to County residents to make sure there is a need for the Eastern Connector.

"One of the precursors for anything here was that we determined that the amount of traffic that's going to be pulled off of 250 and the impact of that before we go further with any location study,” he said. “I'm not sure if I've heard in layman's language what we think that will be."

Committee members also heard the results of two public information meetings that were held in May. Over 125 people attended the two Eastern Connector public information meetings. The majority of participants expressed concerns over potential impacts on natural environment, public parkland, and existing residential neighborhoods. Comments left by participants ranged from "Don't use the city as a major intersection for county traffic", "Where can we put the road and avoid neighborhoods?" and "Create small connections to disperse traffic."  Feedback from these meetings was incorporated into the "universe of alternatives" depicted in the various concepts.

Alternative1
      One of 11 alternatives presented to the steering committee

The first alternative would relocate and straighten Proffit Road east of Laurel Cove Road, carrying the Eastern Connector to the east of the Proffit Historic District. The roadway would then travel south  before picking up Route 20. There would be no entrances or exits along this limited access roadway. However, Albemarle County’s Director of Community Development, Mark Graham, pointed out that much of this land is currently held in conservation easement.

The second alternative would upgrade Polo Grounds Road, widening the single-lane underpass to two lanes, as well as extending Polo Grounds Road southeast , at the spot where it currently makes a sharp turn north. This roadway would then connect with Route 20 just north of Redbud Lane.  “It would get a new connection and a new crossing of the river while trying to minimize the impacts on the community as much as possible,” said Grimm.

The third alternative consists entirely of making serious upgrades to the Route 250 Bypass and Route 20, instead of building a new Eastern Connector. That would consist of turning the highway east of Free Bridge into a six-lane arterial, and Route 20 would be converted to four-lanes for a considerable stretch north.  Under this proposal, all of the ramps that currently feed the 250 Bypass would be converted to one-way. “It’s a more urban solution than what Charlottesville may have seen in the past, but we feel it should be given some consideration.”

Both the fourth and fifth concepts shown would build a new roadway along the power lines, on the right of way owned by Dominion Power through the center of the area’s urban core.  This idea was suggested by members of the public during the May information sessions. One of these versions would include a new crossing of the Rivanna north of Free Bridge, through Darden Towe Park. This new street would parallel Route 250 and would connect with the Meadowcreek Parkway.  Grimm acknowledged that this would likely impact several City neighborhoods, and it would a fairly expensive option. “It’s an existing disruption in the community,” said Grimm.  Of these two options, one would stretch from the Fontana Neighborhood to the Meadowcreek Parkway, and the second would run from Darden Towe to the MCP.

The final option was the most controversial, and the steering committee asked Grimm to not consider it as an actual alternative. This option involves building several additional bridges over the Rivanna River, including at least one south of Free Bridge, instead of building a single Eastern Connector.

The remaining five alternatives combine elements of the above. “This to us seems like a reasonable range of alternatives,” said Grimm. He added these combinations represents a “systems approach” to addressing traffic growth.

Grimm did not provide any cost estimates for each alternative, but any funding for these projects will likely have to come from secondary road funds. However, any upgrades made to Route 20 would possibly come out of the state’s primary road funds.

When asked by committee member John Pfaltz asked why none of the alternatives considered the use of Pen Park, Grimm responded that it would be hard to convince the federal government that the use of parkland would be justified. Section 4(f) of the National Environmental Policy Act requires planners to show that all other alternatives have been considered before parkland can be used.  Committee member Cal Morris asked if Section 4(f) would apply to the use of Darden Towe. County staffer Jack Kelsey responded that he thought the easement for the power line predates the foundation of the park, and thus would theoretically allow the use of that space.

City Traffic Engineer Jeannie Alexander told the Committee she felt the need and purpose for the project had not yet been adequately defined, especially given some of the concepts presented would heavily impact City streets. John Pfaltz picked up that argument.

“The City is participating in this on the condition that we not consider crossing south of Free Bridge,” he said. “This is a political reality that should be mentioned.” City Councilor Kevin Lynch is a member of the Steering Committee, but did not attend the meeting. Mark Graham said that the conditions of the study allow for modeling to show what kind of an effect southern bridges would have on traffic congestion. 

Alexander also asked why there were no alternatives that showed north-south connections east of Route 20. Grimm said terrain issues prevented his team from taking a serious look.

Alexander wanted to know when comparisons between the various alternatives would be made in terms of their effectiveness in reducing traffic congestion.  Grimm said that would be forthcoming, but that he first wanted to make sure that all of the possible alternatives were on the table.

Supervisor Boyd said he wanted the public to have a list of impacts that each alternative would have on cultural and natural resources, as well as cost figures.

The steering committee will meet again in early October to see revised concepts in advance of the next public information meetings, a pair of which are scheduled for the third week in November. Given that many of the alternatives contain suggested improvements in the City, one of the two meetings will be held within Charlottesville city limits.

August 24, 2007

Eastern Connector panel to meet this afternoon

Studyarea
The area within the dotted lines is being studied for three possible routes for the Eastern Connector

The main charge of the Eastern Connector Steering Committee is to determine whether a road between two of Albemarle County’s urbanized areas is necessary.  But, a recent discussion by the Charlottesville City Council about transportation priorities may come up during today's meeting.

Earlier this summer, City Councilor Kevin Lynch told his fellow councilors that he did not think the County was serious about even building the roadway.

"My sense from serving on that committee is that it exists mostly to figure out ways not to build the Eastern Connector," he said. Lynch went on to recommend that final City approval of the Meadowcreek Parkway should be withheld until an alignment for the road is chosen, and a plan for funding has been put into place.

So far, the County Board of Supervisors has not taken up the City's request at one of its meetings. But Lynch serves on the Steering Committee, alongside Board Chairman Ken Boyd.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization has identified the Eastern Connector as a potential project in its UnJAM 2025 Area Mobility Plan. The road is seen as "a possible alternative to address existing and future traffic volumes on Route 250 East, Route 29 North, and the Route 250 Bypass."

The current feasibility study is being conducted by the engineering firm PBS&J, which is trying to determine whether those future traffic volumes will be enough to justify the construction of a new road to connect the Pantops area with the 29 Corridor in Northern Albemarle County.

“The long range forecast says we're seeing more interaction between the two areas, but we have few transportation linkages,” said Lewis Grimm, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at PBS&J. 

Los
      This chart depicts how traffic congestion can be measured

The MPO’s UnJAM plan is designed to "create a balanced, multi-modal transportation network" by making the area's road system more connected and by making more transportation choices available. Under the MPO’s traffic modeling program, the area's existing roads are projected to have a failing level of service by 2025, assuming no improvements are made. One of these roads projected to "fail" includes Profitt Road from 29 North to Polo Grounds Road, a two-lane road that will carry a lot of traffic to and from the County's northern development area.

The Eastern Connector would be designed to address the "significant east to north traffic pattern" that’s expected to increase as the County continues to develop. 

As the committee evaluates possible locations for the corridor, they will be investigating potential impacts on natural and cultural resources. How, for instance, would it affect Pen Park? If bridges are necessary, how would the Rivanna watershed be affected?

The committee also has to take a look at how the Eastern Connector would fit in to the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, as well as the Pantops and Places 29 Master Plans.

They'll also have to determine what the design speed for the road will be. That will determine how wide the road will be. One thing is for certain – the roadway will be designed with bike lanes and sidewalks.

The road will be built using context-sensitive design, an evolving philosophy to transportation planning which involves blending the roadway into the surrounding environment.  “You have to look at the exsiting landscape in which you propose to make the improvements and keep those factors clearly in mind as you go to construction,” said Grimm.  “Everything doesn't have to be designed for 75 miles an hour.”
Detailed engineering issues will not necessarily be fleshed out during the feasibility stage. But, Grimm said questions about the eventual scale and purpose do need to be answered. Should it be an arterial road, or a collector road?

“One of the things we have been hearing is, let's look at this transportation improvement as being multimodal first,” he said. “Second, how can it link other existing transportation corridors. We very definitely don't want this thought of as a bypass.”

At today's meeting, committee members will review public comments made at two information hearings on May 22 and May 24. They’ll also plan for the next public meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for sometime in October.

The corridor study will be finished by next spring. After it is delivered, the County will decide whether to proceed with preliminary engineering, which will involve a more detailed look at the area.

“Any significant project can take a decade to move an idea to a point where it's actually under construction,” Grimm said.

August 22, 2007

Glenmore expansion projects recommended for approval

20070821glenmore1_2
Don Franco and Planning Commissioner Pete Craddock

At their meeting August 21, 2007, the Albemarle County Planning Commission recommended approval of two developments that would expand the Glenmore community off Route 250 East of Charlottesville.  Developer Don Franco of KG Associates came into the meeting prepared to address concerns about a roughly $360,000 difference between his proposed cash proffers and the expectations detailed by County staff.  However, while he left the meeting with the Planning Commission’s blessing on both the Leake and Livengood developments, he also took home a new bill for an additional $1.4 million in cash proffers.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070821-CoPC-Glenmore.MP3

Speaking with Charlottesville Tomorrow the day after the decision, Franco said, “I am a little disappointed about where we are… $1 million is a fairly significant sum to drop on us at the last minute.  I remain disappointed about the process.”

For Franco, the process has included multiple Planning Commission work sessions in 2006 and numerous meetings with County staff and Glenmore residents.  Since the Planning Commission last reviewed the projects, the County Board of Supervisors has set new cash proffer expectations for Albemarle rezonings.  All of the proposed 153 new homes for Glenmore are single-family detached which now carry a cash proffer expectation of $17,500 each.  Another expectation is that 15% of a new development’s housing will be “affordable housing.”  As an alternative to building affordable units, a developer may volunteer to pay cash into the County’s housing fund at a rate of $19,100 per required affordable unit. That approach was supported in the staff’s recommendations.

While that math seems pretty straight forward, it was the number of proposed lots that got the Planning Commission’s attention.  Throughout the staff report, it was presented as an expansion of Glenmore by 103 homes, not the 153 homes representing the combination of the Leake (up to 110 homes) and the Livengood (up to 43 homes) developments.

Franco thought he was on the same page with the County on this matter.  "We’ve got the ability to build an additional 50 lots in [the existing] Glenmore.  We had gone through this lengthy process showing how we could get to those 50 lots.  We also showed an approach [in the Leake development] that keeps us out of the environmentally sensitive areas.  We thought we should be able to get some credit against those units in the proffers," said Franco.

20070821glenmore2 Glenmore’s existing zoning allows for up to 813 homes and 763 of those lots have been created.  While some of those homes could already be built by-right in portions of the Leake development, significant critical slopes would make developing certain areas a challenge.  It would also certainly impact environmentally sensitive areas identified by the County as an important resource.  With the addition of new acreage to Glenmore via the Leake property, Franco prepared a plan that showed how the development could occur along the ridge-top creating less of an impact on critical slopes.  Thus while willing to pay the new cash proffer expectations, Franco hoped to do so only on the units beyond the 50 existing lots still allowed in Glenmore. 

For the Planning Commission, that didn’t add up.  Commissioners were uncomfortable with the prospect of new homes being built in Leake or Livengood under the old Glenmore proffer expectations ($2,300 per home).  They argued that any development the size of Glenmore was unlikely to be built at its fully authorized amount (hence the remaining 50 undeveloped lots) and that with these new rezonings, the updated cash proffer expectation should be in place for all 153 proposed lots.

It was an interpretation that seemed to catch the staff off guard as well.  After several commissioners had agreed on the staff recommendation to seek $2,089,000 in cash proffers, Chair Marcia Joseph asked County Attorney Larry Davis when exactly the cash proffers would come into play.

"As it is currently proposed in the draft proffers, it wouldn’t kick in until after they have developed [813] lots,” said Davis.  “I think that’s an issue that needs to be further examined….It’s something certainly the Planning Commission should weigh in on, ultimately the Board [of Supervisors] will have to decide whether or not the cash proffer has adequately addressed the impacts of the development.”

After further discussion, the Planning Commission came around to calculating the cash proffer expectation for Leake and Livengood as being based on all 153 lots:

  • 153 single-family detached homes * $17,500 = $2,677,500
  • 23 affordable units (15%) * $19,100 = $439,300
  • TOTAL cash proffers = $3,116,800

By comparison, the per unit cash proffers previously negotiated for Glenmore were one-time contributions of $2,300 per home to support the County’s capital budget needs ($1,000 for schools and $1,300 for roads).  There are other significant proffers for the development, but the total per unit cash proffer expectation for Glenmore’s 813 current lots would be about $1.87 million.  As recommended by the Planning Commission, the 153 lots proposed for Leake and Livengood would have total cash proffers more than one and one-half times that amount.

Since the Board of Supervisors upped the ante for cash proffers, the Planning Commission has strictly interpreted the evolving guidelines as a regular part of their discussions, including the recent review of Wendell Wood’s NGIC expansion project. 

Franco says he will now take the matter up with the Board of Supervisors.  They are scheduled to review the Leake development on November 14, 2007 and the Livengood development on October 10, 2007.

Brian Wheeler

Scottsville Supervisor candidate King on WINA

King104e
Candidate Denny King

WINA AM 1070's Charlottesville Live morning program is inviting all of the candidates running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to come on the radio to share their background and priorities.

On August 3, 2007, independent Scottsville district candidate Denny King was their guest. King is the owner of Paladin Pictures, and is running for Board of Supervisors in the Scottsville District against incumbent Lindsay Dorrier and fellow independent Kevin Fletcher. This recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow is produced with the permission of  WINA. Visit Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch 2007 website for detailed information on the candidates, campaign finance reports, and upcoming candidate forums.

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King moved to Albemarle County in 1991 after a career in film and television, and says he is seeking office out of a strong desire to serve the public. In 2003, he ran for the Scottsville seat on School Board and lost to two-term incumbent Steve Kolezar by a margin of 154 votes.

King says large development projects such as Biscuit Run in his district prompt him to ask questions about the preparedness of the County's infrastructure. "Obviously when you build 3,000 additional homes, that creates a lot of human traffic," he said. He also says he's been asked by many people about the health of the community's water supply.

 

TIMELINE

1:30 - King explains why he moved to Albemarle County
3:20 - King on seeking office for a second time
7:00 - King on the growth of traffic congestion
7:45 - King praises cooperation between Charlottesville and Albemarle
9:00 - King says citizens are searching for "genuine representation on the Board of Supervisor"
11:30 - King explains how he is surveying his would-be constituents
14:50 - King is asked why he deserves a vote more than his two opponents
16:00 - King on how projects such as Biscuit Run will affect the infrastructure in his district
17:30 - King suggests ways to improve the community's water supply\

Sean Tubbs

August 21, 2007

City Council Candidate Satyendra Huja appears on WINA

Huja
City Council Candidate Satyendra Huja

WINA AM 1070's Charlottesville Live morning program is inviting all of the candidates running for the Charlottesville City Council to come on the radio to share their background and priorities. On August 3, 2007, Democratic candidate Satyendra Huja was the guest of host Jane Foy. This recording by Charlottesville Tomorrow is produced with the permission of WINA. Visit Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch 2007 website for detailed information on the candidates, campaign finance reports, and upcoming candidate forums.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070803-WINA-Huja.mp3

Huja recently ended a 31-year career with the Charlottesville City Government, stepping down as Director of Strategic Planning. In that position, he says he helped on a number of city improvement projects, such as the restoration of Court Square and a revitalization program for the 10th and Page Neighborhood. In general, he says the quality of life in Charlottesville improved during his time working for the City. Huja thinks things can be even better if the City and County share more services, such as transit, parks, and public safety.

Highlights:

1:35 - Huja lists accomplishments he made as Director of Strategic Planning
2:35 - Huja says why he left retirement to seek public office
4:50 - Huja outlines his priorities as a candidate
5:50 - Huja weighs in on the possibility of a regional transit system and other City-County partnerships
8:00 - Huja describes why he helped launch Charlottesville's Art In Place program
10:45 - Huja discusses what he'd like to accomplish while on City Council if elected
11:50 - Huja on completing the area's transportation network
13:06 - Huja on relieving property tax burdens for low-income City residents


August 20, 2007

Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange panel hears cost estimates for bridge

C1overviewArtist's conception of Alternative C1 with further refinements  (Image: RKK) 

The panel guiding the design of an interchange for the Meadowcreek Parkway and the 250 Bypass held its tenth steering committee meeting on August 16, 2007.  Members were briefed on the progress of the Project Team’s work refining various options, and were asked to consider design priorities for the large bridge that will carry the 250 Bypass over top either an oval roundabout (Alternative C1) or a signalized intersection (Alternative G1).

UPDATE

Owen Peery with the consulting firm RKK said the Project Team has made several adjustments to the design since July when the City Council approved two interchange alternatives as being consistent with the City's Comprehensive Plan.

At-grade crossings for pedestrians moving north-south have been eliminated, in favor of underpasses that go below the on-ramps to the oval roundabout. The north-south multi-use trail will now definitely travel along Schenck's Branch. A pedestrian bridge has now been designated to cross the parkway north of the interchange, rather than across the 250 Bypass. Peery suggested construction of this bridge might be built later than the rest of the project in case the overall cost exceeds the funding available.

Similar refinements were made for Alternative G1, which is being refined as a second option without a roundabout.

The steering committee also heard about a July 30 traffic summit between the design team and VDOT engineers. RKK is preparing a report for the Federal Highway Administration to demonstrate how it is arriving at its traffic figures for modeling purposes.  At issue is whether RKK can continue to use traffic models which assume no significant improvements to Free Bridge (and no improvements are planned), constraining the amount of traffic that can get to the interchange in a given hour.

If Alternative C1 is selected, RKK recommends building a multi-lane roundabout in order to accommodate future traffic. 

RKK Traffic Engineer Jeff Parker says VDOT remains concerned with a traffic weave that will be required for traffic getting onto Route 250 from the roundabout.  VDOT also wants to know how the interchange will affect the Park Street interchange to the east, and how that exit could be refined accordingly. The project team will evaluate options to update Park Street to a signalized interchange to control flow on and off of the 250 Bypass

Peery said more detailed planning work can be done once a bridge alternative is selected because that will give engineers a height from which to work. He said a lower height is preferred, because it will keep the costs down.

"It's still a moving thing here, but we think we're honing in on where we want to be," Peery said.

MEMORIAL UPDATE

Memorial The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial will be affected by the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange

Angela Tucker of the City's Neighborhood Development Services Department is the staffer coordinating the project on behalf of Charlottesville. She briefed members of the steering committee on an August 13th meeting with project team members and representatives of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Tucker reported the veterans would prefer to not move the memorial, and that they are willing to lose a lower planting ground if they can keep it in its current location, facing the 250 Bypass. Plans for both Alternatives C1 and G1 show a ramp running through there.  The Project Team will also work on designing a gathering space for the Memorial, a feature that is currently not landscaped at the location.
Because of changes required by the Army Corps of Engineers to a proposed storm water retention pond, Mike Svetz of the City Parks and Recreation Department said the McIntire Park Master Plan would need to be changed to reflect multiple ponds spread along the Schenck's Branch trail, rather than one big pond.

BRIDGE DISCUSSION

The main topic of conversation was a presentation of possible design alternatives for the bridge to carry the Route 250 Bypass across the interchange.

“The bridge is the focal point of this interchange, and depending on what style of bridge it can either drive us over our budget or keep us within budget,” Peery said.

Bridgetable
      

In presenting a matrix of five options for Alternative C1 and four options for Alternative G1 (.PDF), Peery said steering committee members would have to weigh the various trade-offs between the budget and aesthetics.  He called the bridge selection process a "reality check," saying that higher prices are what you get when "you go outside the box." 

Peery warned the steering committee that the ultimate bridge selection would not have the same impact as the stone bridge that carries motorists traveling to Monticello.

For Alternative C1, Option 1 would carry 2 spans over a 460 length feet across an impressive pair of concrete arches at a cost of $10.1 million, bringing the total project up to $38.1 million. That assumes a 25 percent contingency.  Option 2 is cheaper, at $8.5 million for a 380 foot long concrete box girder bridge across three spans, with stone trim.  The options decrease in price, with Option 5 built as a pair of precast concrete U-girder spans, at a cost of $3.5 million. While considerably But this option would lack many of the distinctive features that would make the project a “gateway” for Charlottesville.

Bridge cost estimates for Alternative G1 range from $3.9 million to $6.4 million. Steering committee members were asked to consider design elements independent of their use in any of the interchange alternatives.

Steering committee member Robert Winstead said that the bridge should be designed with the same character as existing bridges on the Route 250 Bypass. "We're not designing this thing in a vacuum," he said. He also said that the 25 percent contingency fee factored in to the provided estimated was too high.

Fellow steering committee member Lee Middleditch suggested there were too many options, and that a financial figure should be put out for the bridge first before thinking out the logistics.

Peery said that it was unclear how much money was going to be available from the federal government for construction, but suggested that parts of the project be phased. "There are options that we need to sharpen our pencil for sure but also want to work within your palette," he said.

Committee members also asked RKK to keep bridge maintenance and long-term maintenance costs in mind when refining the bridge design alternatives.

At some point in the review process, the Board of Architectural Review will weigh in on the project. City Planner Mary Jo Scala said the BAR has never reviewed something as large as a bridge before.

ROUNDABOUT DEMONSTRATION

At the City Council meeting, Mayor David Brown expressed safety concerns about roundabouts.  RKK Traffic Engineer Jeff Parker previewed a presentation that might one day be made to City Council to allay fears about the safety of roundabouts. He pointed to a 1999 study from the Institute of Transportation Engineers which showed significant reductions in accidents in 7 out of 8 intersections converted from stop-signs to roundabouts, as well as a 2000 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study which showed similar results.

Parker said no one is ever going at full speed as they travel through a roundabout, and that pedestrians only have to worry about one lane of traffic at a time. VDOT even has a demonstration of roundabouts on their site. Peery promised an education campaign if the roundabout is built.

NEXT STEPS

No official decisions were made at this meeting. RKK will continue refining the design alternatives,
incorporating a general consensus among the staff to continue revising bridge options 2 and 3. RKK staff are also completing environmental evaluations, and plan to hold a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public hearing in the fall.

Mayor Brown also requested to see a video drive-through of each of the renderings.  Peery said his team was working on putting this together in advance of the next Steering Committee meeting, and was trying to craft the computer simulation so that it would be an accurate representation of travel through the roundabout.

The next steering committee meeting will be held sometime in late September.

Sean Tubbs

August 17, 2007

UVA asks City-County for $2 million in transportation funding

20070816pacc1
Supervisor Ken Boyd and UVA's Leonard Sandridge

As UVA Architect David Neuman walked into the August 16, 2007 Planning and Coordination Council (PACC) meeting, he grabbed Supervisor Dennis Rooker and jokingly asked, “How are you doing with my bridge?”  The railroad bridge near Ivy Nursery just off Route 250 West was recently damaged by a passing train and the County, VDOT and railroad officials are trying to determine how it can fund a long term repair.  For a couple days last week, Neuman and other Flordon residents faced a painful detour and learned that their bridge was not rated to support fire trucks.

However, Neuman and Leonard Sandridge, UVA’s Chief Operating Officer, had other transportation infrastructure matters to bring before the City and County officials in their quarterly PACC meeting.  Neuman asked the City and County each for $1 million for an Ivy Road Gateway Enhancement Project.  The University would match it with $1 million of their own if the City and County pursued matching funds from VDOT bringing the potential funding pool to $5 million.  UVA is not eligible for state matching funds.

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20070816pacc2_2 UVA officials want to dust off some of the recommendations from a 1994 joint study of the Ivy Road area because this entrance corridor is being used for an increasing number of visitors to the new John Paul Jones Arena and UVA’s future arts district being built at the Emmet Street intersection.

Neuman outlined the following project objectives:

  • Enhance pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access and safety
  • Calm traffic speeds in certain areas
  • Create a more aesthetically attractive entrance corridor for thousands of visitors

Albemarle County has a lengthy list of primary and secondary road priorities.  For the past couple of years there has been an intense effort by Albemarle officials to redirect all available local funding towards just three roads: the Meadowcreek Parkway; Georgetown Road; and Jarman’s Gap Road.  There is not a lot of money to go around.  Albemarle is expecting to receive only $3.7 million from the state this year for all secondary road projects. 

Both of Neuman’s presentations to PACC this year have outlined a vision for the community’s future, and assessments of the significant dollars required to make those dreams a reality.  In February, Neuman gave a presentation of active UVA construction projects costing over $385 million and intended to address, he emphasized, “space deficiency” issues, not to accommodate growth in needed employees or additional students. 

Often when City and County officials see those presentations by developers, they are trying to angle for cash proffer contributions as part of a rezoning request.  Despite the scale of these projects at UVA, proffers are not part of the equation for land being redeveloped by the University.  On land owned by the UVA Foundation, however, the City and County are hoping for a proffered contribution for a piece of the Fontaine Avenue-Sunset Connector.  That road will be used largely by UVA employees and other local commuters, not visitors to Charlottesville.  At this meeting, UVA made their case that enhancing Ivy Road should find a place on the community priority list.

Mayor David Brown and Supervisors Ken Boyd and Dennis Rooker all voiced support for efforts that would include improvements for bicycles and pedestrians in the corridor.  However, as the local leaders dealing with annual transportation funding challenges, and pressure from new development in the County on City roads, they were clearly in no position to promise any funding. 

Supervisor Boyd said, “I certainly agree this is a worthwhile project to move forward with.  Unfortunately all of these when taken by themselves look like great projects for us to do and collectively it creates a real financial burden for us….We have to consider, how this [compares] in priority to all the other things we have going on.  It should be explored…”

Rooker also reflected on the funding challenges and suggested the community and UVA consider an “events tax.”

“There is obviously a funding tension between the various demands in the community.  On the one hand, we have projects that the City and County have a joint interest in, the Eastern Connector, the Southern Parkway, and roads like that that we are trying to get to a point where we can [fully] fund.  Our growth areas, which themselves have high demands for infrastructure….Then we have what I would call the normal road projects that are either putting down or creating new connections, new roads, widening, or repairing older roads.  All those are competing for money.  One thought might be, I’ll just put this on the table…kind of thinking out loud let’s say, would be the possibility of an events tax.  With the money from an events tax earmarked for transportation projects of mutual interest to the City, County and University.”

While they did not agree on a source of revenue, the PACC members did vote unanimously to send the Ivy Road project to their technical review committee for further study.  Rooker suggested an events or admissions tax should be a topic at a future PACC meeting.

Brian Wheeler