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September 26, 2007

City-County Planning Commissions discuss transportation and University issues

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The Charlottesville and Albemarle County Planning Commissions were briefed on transit and trail improvements at a joint meeting on September 25, 2007. Also present were top planners from the University of Virginia.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070925-JointPlanningCommissions.mp3

Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, gave a presentation outlining the status of several transportation studies, including the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan (UnJAM) which serves as a guideline for future road projects.  He also showed slides from the 29H250 Study detailing how the area around the intersection of US 29 and US 250 could be transformed through a series of transit improvements and commercial redevelopment.  For example, Hydraulic Road in the City could become a new “main street” once motorists have more options to get around.

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      A photo-simulation of how a redeveloped Hydraulic Road might look

“I think that the Planning District works best as a kind of in-house consultant for the localities,” he said. But, he pointed out that local governments are the ones who have to figure out how to pay for the projects. He said some of the projects laid out in UnJAM have been built, but many have not because there is no money to pay for them. 

Juandiego Wade described the efforts of the Tri Modal group, which consists of City, County and University planners. The idea is to coordinate plans for bike and pedestrian trails to give people more choices to get where they’re going in the region.  “We’ve actually caught several projects that each of us were doing that we didn’t know about,” he said.  One project he’s working on now it negotiate with churches outside of the urban ring to see if it might be possible to use their parking lots for park-and-ride lots. 

Charlottesville City Trail Planner Chris Gensic demonstrated what projects have either have recently been completed or are proposed.  They include a pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River connecting Pen and Darden Towe Parks, a trail connecting downtown with the Rivanna Greenway via the Coal Tower project, and the Meadowcreek Parkway multimodal trail.

“From my point of view, I think we’ll see quite a bit of new bike, pedestrian and multimodal stuff in the next few years,” he said. “It’ll be a whole different place.”

COMMISSION DISCUSSIONS

After the presentation, City and County Commissioners discussed a variety of topics, sharing ideas about possible solutions to traffic congestion and other issues. They took the time to pepper Harrison Rue with questions about ongoing projects.

County Commissioner Bill Edgerton asked Harrison Rue how critical grade separation at key intersections was to the success of the Places29 Master Plan. Rue said the new interchanges will be required in order for the plan to work for several reasons. Through-traffic will have a smoother flow through the corridor, but more importantly, Rue said it would connect centers on both sides of the highway to allow safe passage across for bikes, pedestrians and drivers. 

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  County Planning Commissioner Eric Strucko

County Commissioner Eric Strucko took the opportunity to ask University of Virginia Architect David Neuman if the University has been participating in efforts to reduce single-occupancy vehicles.

“When I look at the planning I see from the Real Estate Foundation and the University, I see a lot of planning for parking decks next to the buildings where people work,” he said. “To me, that’s not very multimodal.”  He cited plans to build new parking decks at the Medical Center and the Fontaine Research Park.   

U.Va Senior Land Use Planner Julia Monteith said the Grounds Plan contains a transportation demand management program which is designed to reduce single drivers.  Strucko pressed on.

“I hear good intentions and designs but in actually what we’re seeing being developed is potentially something different, and that is an orientation towards a single vehicle,” he said.

“I think that’s wrong,” said David Neuman.  He said there are currently too many spaces at Fontaine, and that they are not used enough.

“We have approached the county on several occasions about lowering the normal standard for parking because we do have bus circulation to that site.” He went on to say that the parking structures at the Medical Center are for patients and their visitors, for who transit would not be appropriate.

“But in terms of employee parking we now have most of the hospital people park at the Stadium, so the idea is that that becomes a park and ride facility.”

Neuman said one challenge is getting the appropriate density in the area to support a working population that can take transit. He said the University is planning housing projects for North Fork Research Park for employees, but Fontaine is increasingly becoming integrated with Central Grounds via transit.

“Even though the proposal for rezoning at Fontaine Park does show three parking structures, that’s based on what the County’s requirement,” he said. “It’s not based on what we hope would happen, which would be that the bus service and potentially some redevelopment at Piedmont for housing would encourage a much more transit-focused/pedestrian combination.”

Strucko said he was encouraged to hear Neuman’s comments. 

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City Commissioner Michael Farruggio (left) and Harrison Rue (right) 

Harrison Rue pointed out that current conditions require parking, citing the Reston Town Center as an example of how that development has evolved.

“They actually started out with surface lots, and they had one parking garage, and they gradually in-filled what were surface lots with a walkable mix use of high -density.” He recommended that Commissioners consider flexibility in site plans to allow for changing conditions.

City Planning Commission Chair Bill Lucy said he was struck by the possibilities for commercial and housing redevelopment that could occur in the 29H250 Study Area.

“We of course know about Albemarle Place in the County, but we haven’t talked much about more density in that immediate area in the city, and what it looked like to me, conceptually, as a third downtown for the City,” referring to the Downtown Mall and Barracks Road Shopping Center as the other two.  He said that would raise questions about whether the City actually wants that kind of development in that area and whether it would transform the whole Emmett Street corridor.

County Planning Commissioner Chair Marcia Joseph asked her colleagues in the City if they have been following the Places29 discussion.

“You need to look beyond and see what’s being planned for near the airport, because that truly is another downtown bigger than Albemarle Place,” referring to the Uptown area. Harrison Rue said the City was actively engaged in the 29H250 Study, which is the precursor of the Places29 Study. “Since 95 percent of the corridor is in the County, most of the public involvement work and the new work is in the County area,” he said. He pointed out that the City is now moving ahead with implementing the high priority suggestions made in the 29H250 Study - for instance, an extra ramp to the 250 Bypass from 29 South.

Lucy wanted to know what the status of Places29 is, and asked about opposition from the North Charlottesville Business Council. 

Wayne Cilimberg, the County's Director of Planning and Community Development , said the County Planning Commission has three more chapters to review, including the section on implementation. The Board of Supervisors held a work session in September, and the Commission will resume its deliberations with a work session in late October.  Joseph encouraged her colleagues to look at the maps and offer feedback.

Commissioner Bill Edgerton predicted that adoption wouldn’t happen for at least another nine months to a year, an assertion Chief Planner David Benish agreed with. Harrison Rue and his team are meeting privately this week with business leaders to discuss the grade separated interchanges.  He said he’s making progress explaining how grade separated interchanges would work.  While some remain skeptical about grade separated interchanges, there is also some support.

“We’ve met with six or a dozen different property owners and developers who just think this is a great idea and are moving ahead with their plans,” he said, adding that they see an improved 29 and the resulting redevelopment as a competitive advantage.

That prompted Commissioner Strucko to wonder if some departments in the University may  lose a competitive advantage if it becomes harder to recruit and retain top tier faculty because of a lack of parking. Strucko said he deals with this issue in his capacity as the Chief Financial Officer for the Health Services Foundation.

“To have a renowned  physician park at Scott Stadium and get on a bus or to have a renowned researcher do the same becomes a very difficult business consideration to deal with,” he said.

Commissioner Edgerton asked how critical transit is to making the Places29 model work.  “The reality is, it’s a chicken and egg thing. In order to increase the ridership significantly, we do have to build some [transit-oriented projects],” he said.  “Developers are acting on this stuff. They don’t do it unless the market is there.”

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      City Planning Commission Chair Bill Lucy and County Planning Commission Chair Marcia Joseph

Commissioner Bill Lucy asked what the University’s plans for the Emmett Street Corridor between Grounds and Barracks Road.  Neuman responded that the plan is redevelop those areas to have more dense housing, and that the areas across from the shopping center are set to eventually be developed as mixed-use, but there are no plans to do so at this time.

Edgerton asked if the University will try to house more students on Grounds. Neuman said on-Grounds housing is guaranteed for second-year students, but that a culture shift is necessary to make such arrangements more attractive. The real target is to house more graduate students in rooms closer to their laboratory space.

“We’re housing 40 percent of our students,” said Julia Monteith.

“It does seem as though the combination of asking how to reduce driving alone and the timing of some of the County’s Work, and the TJPDC work seem to fit together pretty well,” Lucy said, just before adjourning the meeting.

The next joint meeting of the City and County will be held later this year. No specific subject is under consideration at this time. Cilimberg suggested the MPO’s CHART Committee would be another location for both City and County Commissioners to provide input as the UNJAM plan is updated.

CONCERNS ABOUT LOCATION OF MEETING

Even though there was no opportunity for public comment, two members of the public stood to be heard after the meeting was adjourned.   One man said he had a hard time hearing the discussion, despite his hearing aids. “I got about one-third of the conversation. I think this is an important meeting, and this is a very poor place to have an important meeting,” he said. He suggested the two bodies should meet in Lane Auditorium, which he said provides special equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing.  Another newcomer said she had a hard time finding the event.

Sean Tubbs

September 25, 2007

RWSA to continue drought warning, no need for emergency action

20070924rwsa The Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) has voted to continue the area’s drought warning. Executive Director Tom Frederick recommended the action because water conservation  measures have reduced demand since the RWSA moved to the second phase of its drought contingency plan.

“Since August 15th demand has dropped by 5.3% to date,” Mr. Frederick said. “Our demand in recent days has been between 9.5 and 10 [million gallons a day.]”

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070924-RWSA.mp3

The City and County has been closely following RWSA’s drought action plan by running as much water as possible through the South Fork treatment plant.  Frederick said this lessens the impact on the Observatory Hill treatment plant and ultimately helps to prevent significant storage drops at both the Ragged Mountain and Sugar Hollow reservoirs.

“We are projecting at this point in time that if there are no changes – no dramatic increases in water use – we do not expect to go to a drought emergency this year.”  He added that this will depend on if the general public can maintain its lessened water use. However, Mr. Frederick recommended the RWSA leave the drought warning in effect to prepare for the possibility of a dry winter. 

“If we reach a point where we can state that with normal demand conditions for fall/winter/spring we have a 95 [percent] or higher probability of refilling our reservoirs, that would be the point in time that we could lift the drought,” he announced. 

Although the RWSA has not changed its strategy in dealing with the current drought, it has slightly modified its data analysis.  Current conditions had been plotted against 2002 conditions, the last time there was a major drought.  There was a recent switch-over to measuring against 2001 conditions, as that was the driest fall and winter on record, and, as Frederick pointed out, “we can compare where we are right now against the driest fall and winter statistics.”

When the time came for public comments, Keswick resident Jim Colbaugh asked when the releases were going to start from the Beaver Creek Reservoir. 

“That was part of our water supply plan that was supposed to eliminate drought and it seems like everything’s dying,” he said. “We’re still in the same stage of drought.”

20070924frederick Mr. Frederick responded to say that release from Beaver Creek reservoir was contingent upon the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir no longer spilling.  This would ensure that any water released from Beaver Creek could be “actually captured in the reservoir at South Fork, and that’s not the case right now – so that’s the reason we’re not releasing it.”

Mr. Colbaugh went on to ask, “So, why are we still in a drought?” prompting  Frederick to make a few clarifications as to the nature of our County’s drought procedures.  Frederick explained that RWSA’s drought management plan is based both on historic records and risk assessment, “not based on levels of a reservoir, or whether something’s spilling or not spilling.”  The logic is to give the County an ability to start conservation early if a drought ends up being severe, but also to avoid crying wolf too frequently.  Last year, a drought watch  was  initiated, but called off  after summer rains were enough to replenish the reservoirs.

RWSA PLANNING FOR NORTHERN ALBEMARLE UPGRADES ALONG 29

In other action, the RWSA Board voted to amend an engineering services agreement with Michael Baker Jr. whose firm has been contracted  to design upgrades for water supply capacity along US 29 in Albemarle County.  The corridor north of Carrsbrook Drive is currently served by a 12-inch pipeline that runs between the North Rivanna and South Rivanna water treatment plants. 

“As  we’ve looked at transmission needs, supply needs, into the future for these areas, it’s become obvious that the 12-inch pipeline along this route is very severely hydraulically limited  in its ability to move water north and south,” said Jennifer Whitaker, the RWSA’s Chief Engineer.  Her recommendation is to build a new 24-inch pipeline to connect the two pressure zones, as well as to begin design work for future storage facilities in the area. These would be built in two phases as demand in the area continues to grow.

“Part of the problem with the current pipeline is that it runs up old 29, and as Route 29 has expanded, the pipeline is now either in the median, in the travel lane, the valves get paved over regularly. There’s just a slew of problems and when we do have a break it causes massive traffic snarls,” Whitaker said. Her team is working with County staff and property owners to find a corridor for the new pipeline.

Funding for the project will come the RWSA’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Timeline for podcast:

00:48 - Introduction from RWSA Chair Michael Gaffney and approval of minutes
01:45 - Comments from the public
08:00 - Update on the drought by Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director (PDF)
13:15 - RWSA Chief Engineer describes plans to upgrade water capacity along US 29 in Northern Albemarle (PDF)
22:46 - Review of stream flow policy for the water protection plan (PDF)

Kendall Singleton & Sean Tubbs

September 22, 2007

City Council candidates discuss cut-through traffic, budget at Fry's Spring Forum

20070920fsna_4 The Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association sponsored a City Council candidates forum on September 20th, 2007. The five candidates for three seats took questions on a range of issues concerning the neighborhood, including whether City neighborhoods should be protected from growth in Albemarle County, how traffic on Old Lynchburg Road can be calmed or stopped, as well as other issues pertinent to the whole City of Charlottesville. The moderator is John Santoski, president of the Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070920-FrysSpringForum.mp3

DownloadDownload the transcript

Watch the video:


Opening statements

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Holly Edwards

Holly Edwards:
"I plan to give voice to issues that are entangled with housing, education, and health care, and I believe that I can be effective because of my experience of providing credible leadership in the community."

Peter Kleeman:
"We are at a critical point in the history of Charlottesville, and we need to pick a path that will be sensitive to the needs of the community as well as the changes in our economy and the demands for growth."

David Brown:
"I think it's a really interesting discussion to have this discussion not simply be about the City, but to be a discussion that can occur with the same discussion occurring in the County at the same time...Our issues are intertwined. Affordable housing is not just a City issue. Growth is not just a County issue."

Barbara Haskins:
"I'm running for City Council because last spring the City budget cycle was mesmerizingly appalling... The number one thing that really caught my attention was the million dollar set aside for the new ambulance program that didn't really dovetail with [Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad] at all... How does the City keep going forward with this kind of a structure of relying so heavily on homeowners to finance all the costs of the city?"

Satyendra Huja:
"I'm looking at the future, how we can make this community an even better community... My definition of a good neighborhood is where I would love to live myself... Other areas in which interest me is the preservation and enhancement of the environment... I would love to see our transit system be better transit system, more frequent, direct and dependable."


Highlights from selected questions

Question 1:
What two issues do you believe are of particular importance to the residents of Fry's Spring, and if elected, what specific steps would you take to address them? (the candidates received this question in advance)

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David Brown

Brown: "This is a neighborhood that's under a tremendous amount of stress... I think the first one is encroachment from Albemarle County... and I think the solution to that is that we have to have a connector, there has to be a connector between Sunset and Fontaine and we have to work earnestly to make that happen. The second thing is pedestrian and bike safety... Hopefully we can deal with it by better traffic enforcement to cut down the speeding, by putting money into improvements on Old Lynchburg Road..."

Haskins: "One would be property tax relief... It sounds as if you all have had to become a shadow government, and take on a lot of governmental functions in terms of monitoring development, roads, planning, infrastructure and advocacy... It seems to me the major players in City Hall need to have a change in how they are rated anually on their performance... where you actually ask the customers of an individual how did they do. And obviously if you take someone like Mr. Tolbert, he has customers in City Hall but every neighborhood association is also his customer... We need to change the process so that neighborhood association opinions matter for his performance evaluations."

Huja: "There are many needs in your neighborhood, and at least eight of them I saw on your website... I have visited almost all of them... You should be deciding what is most important in your neighborhood, and not City Council... First, is the replacement of the JPA Bridge, because I think it's not safe... I support a narrow version of the bridge as you have suggested... Second is improved safety and drainage on Old Lynchburg Road."

Kleeman: "First of all, growth is the pressure, I think here as well as in other neighborhoods in the City... My feeling is that things the City can do, besides working closely with the County, is to really identify what the growth potentials are in our City, and what the desirable growth is within our City... The second issue I think that is of concern is communication among neighborhoods and the City. I'm a member of the North Downtown neighborhood, and I know that neighborhood, as this neighborhood, has difficulty communicating their ideas to staff, to Councilors... As a Councilor, I would certainly encourage my colleagues to ask that any of the interested stakeholders in a community are invited to participate."

Edwards: "The neighborhood has inherited issues that have been bequeathed to them by the County... the two issues that are most important are traffic volume and speed, and the Sunset-Fontaine Connector. What I'd like to provide regarding neighborhood issues I have labeled the three E's: ears... equity... evaluation..."


Question 2:
Do you think City Council's Strategic Vision 2025 is adequate with respect to protecting and improving residential neighborhoods, and making sure traffic never cuts through neighborhood streets such as Old Lynchburg Road?

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Peter Kleeman

Kleeman: "We need to say, if we're going to grow, how are we going to protect certain neighborhoods from being the conduit for flow between where people are going to live and where they're going to work and where they're going to shop, and we need to have a more strategic idea of where we're going to be starting in 2007, where we're going to be in 2012, where we're going to be in 2017... We just don't have the ability from now into the future, and I think that's what's necessary."

Edwards: "I have two sets of twins, so when I look around the neighborhoods and I think about the plans, I want them to be able to say, 'Mommy, I want to go outside and play...' So when I think about the 2025 vision, I'm accountable to the people who call me Mommy now..."

Huja: "There are solutions to solve those problems, unfortunately, there are not solutions to every problem... A few years back I recommended to City Council to close Sunset.... there was no other option. We need to channel all traffic on major arteries and collector streets and minimize traffic... I'm not so sure I can change things so quickly."

Haskins: "I become concerned when I hear words like never and always and forever, because it's very hard to endorse absolutes... My biggest theme is, does it make sense to be the City? A lot of these issues are about the County and County development, and does it make sense for us to remain a discrete political entity?"

Brown: "The bigger question being asked really is about safety and quality of life on streets as more and more streets are subject to cut through traffic... The Greenbrier neighborhood is very alarmed by the amount of cut-through traffic that's now going between Rio Road through their neighborhood to get to the Bypass... We can name a lot of places, and in fact, I kind of thought maybe challenge this audience and say how many people here don't have a favorite little cut-through?


Question 3:
A recent traffic count recorded 4200 cars passing through Old Lynchburg Road in a 24-hour period, and within a one-hour period, they recorded 104 cars running through the stop sign. If we can't stop the traffic now, what are we going to do when developments such as Biscuit Run are fully built?

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Barbara Haskins

Haskins: "Who makes the money appear for the connector road? We don't control that at all... I wonder if Old Lynchburg Road were one-way if that would force people to think much harder about the routes they're taking? I know that would be a total inconvenience to you, but you're already completely inconvenienced."

Huja: "Things are not hopeless... With additional fines, that may help... I don't think you can change the number unless the connector road is built or the transit idea is used."

Brown: "We need better enforcement of our traffic laws... We need a fully staffed police department, and we don't have a fully staffed police department... I think the big solution, and it's one I believe we can do, is a connection between Sunset and Fontaine... I believe in order to make that road work, we'll need to have the City and the County come together and create a transportation district so we can create our own stream of revenue in order that we can issue our own bonds because if we wait for the state to come up with the money to pay for a new road, we'll be waiting for a long time."

Edwards: "I know the County supports the Sunset-Fontaine Connector, but I don't know how much of a priority that is. But I can offer a spirit of consistency to make sure it appears on their radar screen, because that has to happen."

Kleeman: "I understand what cut-through traffic is about and most of the people who are cutting through don't want to drive through my neighborhood... They would rather get where they're going some other way, as I do. I live downtown, I leave my car home. I get most places on foot. I can get there by bus. And we need to provide these same options to these people who are cutting through neighborhoods because they do not have that choice."


Question 4:
Do you agree or disagree that the price tag for the Community Water Supply plan, done all at once, is unjust for City residents whose water usage is dropping? Would you pledge to conduct an on-the-ground environmental impact statement for the 142 acres of land that will be flooded as part of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir Expansion?

Haskins: "I completely agree that costing it out this way socks it to the city, and we have endless boundary issues with the County over solid waster and water... Moving on to the second issue... there were many many many person hours that went into developing the idea of selecting the place for the reservoir, and so, to second think it at this point I think is a kind of a habit that we tend to have have, and I don't agree with that habit."

20070920huja
Satyendra Huja

Huja: "The projection for our population growth is not for a great deal more than what we have now... I would think that we should pay a very limited part of the $142 million dollars if at all, only proportioned to our use... I'm not in a position to tell you about the second part, but I think the plan has been approved, but my understanding that of all the studies, this was the best option there was. I would be interested in seeing that open space that is going to be lost be replaced by other open space, and hopefully in the city or near the city."

Brown: "The city will invest in a small part of that plan... Even if we did nothing we would have to pay some to make improvements. The dam at Ragged Mountain has to be if not replaced, renovated, but we should not pay more than what we would be paying if we did nothing... Expanding the water supply is going to be Albemarle County's cross to bear..."

Edwards: "Because of the problems we're having with our water supply and the drought that we're in now, I find it unfortunate that the City has to pay that much... I'm sure we could probably explore more studies, but given the time frame, I think it's best to proceed with what we have in mind now."

Kleeman: "The City owns this land which happens to be in the County. The water resources are run by a special purpose government, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority... My feeling is that City Council really has limited capacity to solve that problem totally, but that doesn't mean we can't take assertive action toward changing the way infrastructure is paid for... Added capacity needs due to growth need to be subsidized by that growth..."


Question 5:
Do you support changing the mission and the name of the Department of Neighborhood Development to be the Department of Neighborhood Preservation, and do you see the leadership of [Director] Jim Tolbert as being a positive influence on which ever of these two solutions you support?

Edwards: "I like the idea of changing the name to better encompass the values in the vision that we have for the future of the community... Regarding the staffing, I know the staff has worked hard and there's been a lot of struggles... we need to take the time to look at those struggles, evaluate what they are, and make a plan so that things are working well for everyone."

Kleeman: "The short answer is yes... I do believe Neighborhood Development Services is too large and it encompasses too many elements that are in conflict with each other..."

Huja: "You can name it anything you like. That doesn't change things very much. If you're going to change something, you need to think what are the functions of what it does, and how it does, and how it can do better. I do not agree with Peter that it's too big...

Haskins: "What I'm hearing embedded in your question is that development has become a toxic word for a lot of people... The City has finite ways of paying for itself, and it's on the homeowners... so, short of restructuring the entire financial set up for the city, it's going to be do it to the homeowners, or have more development, or both... The question is, what can we do so it's not so toxic?"

Brown: "I've never liked the name Neighborhood Development Services... I'd be in favor of changing the name to reflect more of what the community wants out of that office. I think a lot of the issues and problems that people have with that office stem from the changes to the zoning ordinance in 2003 which allowed a tremendous increase in by-right development throughout the city... I think a lot of good that comes out of having more density in certain areas, but I think a lot of the consequences weren't exactly thought through... The pace of development became so high it overwhelmed that development..."


Question 7:

My property taxes have more than tripled. Last year the City cut the tax rate by 2 cents, and my property taxes went up. Why?

Kleeman: "The issue is clearly one of understanding what it is we pay for, and why? I must admit I've looked at the budget the last few years, and I'm not sure what all of the categories are... Isn't it possible for us to divide out in the budget the items that are required by mandate from the state... and the discretionary funds. We only have as citizens the opportunity to manipulate the discretionary funding. I would very much like to know what proportion of our budget is discretionary, and what proportion is pretty much mandated."

Edwards: "It's because the University community that we're living in, and being able to buy and sell houses has been relatively easy..."

Brown: "State and federal mandates... No Child Left Behind puts a lot of burden on the schools. You have to do a lot of testing, you have to prepare for the resting. It was intended to come with funding to pay for all of that. It came with none... There are lots of costs that exceed inflation"

Haskins: "The ambulance program, a million dollars, that's two cents on your tax rate, and I find zero justification to do that... I'm cutting the taxes, do across the board cuts. Community wide, there has to be a discussion that we're willing to get by with less."

Huja: "As Americans, we have a habit of living beyond our means. We don't live on what we have, but what we hope to have... There are things we can control and should control. I also remember very vividly, every time we try to cut something, everybody wanted to cut, but not in their neighborhood, not in their program, not in their pet idea, but somebody else's. There ought to be a limit to budget increases...


Question 10:
It feels like to me that Albemarle County is pushing some stuff down our throat. I want to see a strong City Council... We're not getting anywhere. When I read the paper tomorrow, I want to see what you people are going to do for us... Albemarle County uses our road all the time like it's their's... I want to know what you all are going to do about it... I'm going to vote for the person who does the most for me... We want you to do something for us...

Huja: "We're here to listen to the concerns you have... and not only to listen, but to follow up on it."

Haskins: "Part of the stress on your neighborhood is all the development that's occured south of here in the County. It's happened. It's done. And, nobody here has the power to make connector roads, guaranteed. Given those two facts, it becomes making Old Lynchburg Road as toxic as possible for people who are using it from the County..."

Brown: "The solution to [Albemarle County development south of Fry's Spring] involves us getting them to step up to the plate and make the Connector road."

Kleeman: "The issue is to really accept the fact that we are the heart of the Charlottesville-Albemarle region and we need to take a leadership role and we need to talk to the people who are on the Board of Supervisors and actually work with them... Having personal relationships with some the people who are the leaders in these other jurisdictions I think is key... I believe Councilors have a whole lot of influence over what goes on in those other bodies as much as they do in the City."

Edwards:
"I believe that for every Goliath there is a David, there's an opportunity to be the right leader with the right equipment at the right time. I believe the Council you will select will be the opportunity to be the right leader at the right time."


Question 11:

What would be the one thing on the discretionary side of the budget that you would cut in the face of upcoming revenue shortfalls?

Haskins: "I would kill the ambulance program, although the million dollars would have already been spent buying new ambulances, and they're hiring new staff... I tend to favor across the board reductions. It seems in the long run fairest to me when you have a bad situation you take the percentage of cut and just do it across the board."

Huja: "I do not know the details of the budget to talk intelligently... I really don't think I can respond to you at this time without studying the budget... But I would not be opposed to across the board cuts..."

Brown: "We have not spent the money on ambulances because we've got a study group... to try study the problem... The one thing I would have spent less money on last year and will vote to spend less on this year is in affordable housing. We've put a lot of money, a million dollars a year for five years we've committed to affordable housing programs...

Edwards: "I want to look at how the money has been spent, to see whether we're getting the outcomes that we're looking for... To say now which areas I would choose to decrease would be based on how effective that area has been over the last fiscal year..."

Kleeman: "Based on some of the comments made earlier today, I look at some of these large expenditure items in the City. For example, the expenditure that's going to be made in building the Meadowcreek Parkway and the Interchange. We're talking fifty to a hundred million dollars, to be expended in bringing more traffic into our community."


Closing Statements:

Edwards: "The entire community is only as strong as the neighborhoods, and this neighborhood is an example of that strength..."

Kleeman: "No other independent has ever won in the history of Charlottesville. I offer myself to you as a candidate because I think you want really someone who is not afraid of doing something that nobody has ever done before.... We need to find new innovative solutions that perhaps no one has done before. I think you need to consider me as a candidate, because that's what I do."

Brown: "It's very important as we move forward that we have a good working relationship with both the County of Albemarle and the University of Virginia... Relations are a little better between the City and the University and the City and the County than they were four years ago."

Haskins: "How do we pay to be the City and why are we doing it this way? We can choose to keep doing it this way, but I just hope people keep looking at the trajectory because it's going to cost lots and lots of money that's coming out of homeowners' pockets unless something changes."

Huja: "I will listen to you and learn from you and follow up on your concerns... I will return your calls... I will work with you and find solutions to your neighborhood concerns by working with you, not against you."


Timeline of podcast:

  • 3:15 - Holly Edwards' opening statement
  • 4:21 - Peter Kleeman's opening statement
  • 6:14 - David Brown's opening statement
  • 8:33 - Barbara Haskins' opening statement
  • 11:10 - Satyendra Huja's opening statement
  • 14:10 - Question 1: What two issues do you believe are of particular importance to the residents of Fry's Spring, and if elected, what specific steps would you take to address them?
  • 26:08 - Question 2: Do you think City Council's Strategic Vision 2025 is adequate with respect to protecting and improving residential neighborhoods, and making sure traffic never cuts through neighborhood streets such as Old Lynchburg Road?
  • 35:17 - Question 3: A recent traffic count recorded 4200 cars passing through Old Lynchburg Road in a 24-hour period, and within a one-hour period, they recorded 104 cars running through the stop sign. If we can't stop the traffic now, what are we going to do when developments such as Biscuit Run are fully built?
  • 43:55 - Question 4: Do you agree or disagree that the price tag for the Community Water Supply plan, done all at once, is unjust for City residents whose water usage is dropping? Would you pledge to conduct an on-the-ground environmental impact statement for the 142 acres of land that will be flooded as part of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir Expansion?
  • 53:17 - Question 5: Do you support changing the mission and the name of the Department of Neighborhood Development to be the Department of Neighborhood Preservation, and do you see the leadership of [Director] Jim Tolbert as being a positive influence on which ever of these two solutions you support?
  • 1:00:39 - Question 6: I would like to know if you would support the idea of making Old Lynchburg Road one of the places that you would allow us to put a photo-red camera to give our police force extra eyes to stem the problem of the high volume, high speeding that we currently have to endure on Old Lynchburg Road?
  • 1:08:31 - Question 7: My property taxes have more than tripled. Last year the City cut the tax rate by 2 cents, and my property taxes went up. Why?
  • 1:18:30 - Question 8: Question about Council oversight over City staff
  • 1:24:54 - Question 9: Does everyone agree that we need an increase in the police department?
  • 1:28:20 - Question 10: Question about what Councilors will do to address Old Lynchburg Roads concern
  • 1:36:34 - Question 11: What would be the one thing on the discretionary side of the budget that you would cut in the face of upcoming revenue shortfalls?
  • 1:46:17 - Holly Edwards' closing statement
  • 1:47:23 - Peter Kleeman's closing statement
  • 1:48:53 - David Brown's closing statement
  • 1:50:19 - Barbara Haskin's closing statement
  • 1:51:40 - Satyendra Huja's closing statement

Sean Tubbs


September 21, 2007

Largest local campaign contributions as of September 17th

This weekend the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) will release the updated campaign finance data for our local elections.  The online VPAP database will include the September 17th financial reports covering fundraising activity for July and August 2007.  On the VPAP website you can get contribution profiles on all the Charlottesville City Council and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors candidates. 

In the most recent reports, the largest donations of $2,000 and above are as follows:

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

White Hall

Scottsville

Rivanna

Charlottesville City Council races
No donations of $2,000 or more.

Once VPAP has the data online (by Monday, September 24th), the links above should reflect all of the contributions shown.

Brian Wheeler

*UPDATE 12/10/07: Two $2,500 contributions which were originally reported by the Wyant and Dorrier campaigns as coming from "Shelter PAC" and recorded by VPAP as being from "Realtors PAC of Virginia" is now being reported as coming from the "Va Assn of Realtors - Charlottesville Area."  This post has been adjusted accordingly to match VPAP's database.

**UPDATE 12/10/07: A $2,500 contribution which was originally reported by the Boyd campaign as coming from "Realtors PAC of Virginia" is now being reported as coming from the "Va Assn of Realtors."  This PAC appears to have changed its name. This post has been adjusted accordingly to match VPAP's database.

City accepting applications for Planning Commission seat

The City of Charlottesville has extended the deadline for applications for a seat on the City Planning Commission to Monday, October 1, 2007.  Applications may be completed on the City’s website, or you may call Jeanne Cox, the Clerk of City Council, at 970-3113 or e-mail at coxj@charlottesville.org.  Applicants must be residents of the City of Charlottesville.

20051115citypc

Here are a few additional details from the City's website:

  • Meetings: 2nd Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.
  • Membership: 7 members (must be City residents, qualified by knowledge and experience to make decisions on questions of community growth and development, provided that at least half the members be property owners)
  • Term: 4 years
  • Purpose: Advises Council on promoting orderly development of community. Advises in the development of comprehensive plan, including land use, transportation, community facilities and service, and designation of renewal and other treatment areas. It advises on zoning, subdivision, capital programming and other planning activities.

Brian Wheeler

MPO discusses ways to improve pedestrian safety on US-29

20070919mpomeeting
      Harrison Rue (right) briefs the MPO Policy Board on potential pedestrian improvements

Over the past several years, many studies about pedestrian activity on US 29 have been conducted. Harrison Rue took an hour at the September 2007 meeting of the MPO Policy Board to review some of these projects, and to suggest what steps can be taken, in the short-term and long-term, to improve safety on what many have called Albemarle County’s Main Street.

The topic was suggested after a class at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture worked with the North Charlottesville Business Council to develop low-cost enhancements for pedestrians. Rue said pedestrian activity was a major component of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Eastern Planning Initiative which began in 2000, as well as VDOT’s 1998 Pedestrian Study, the Hillsdale Drive Safety Study.

“Our regional long-range plan for the MPO really has a lot of focus on pedestrian, bike and transit,” he said, adding that planning for the Regional Transportation Authority would specify projects that would enhance sidewalks and street crossings in order to make it easier for people to use the bus system. “The bottom line is you can’t take the bus if you can’t cross the street to get the bus home.”

Rue’s slideshow presentation showed examples of poor sidewalks at locations across the country, and also offered up potential solutions. He said many people avoid crosswalks at traffic intersections on major highways like US 29, electing instead to cross at mid-block. “It’s easier, quicker and safer if you’re not in the middle of turning traffic.”

Rue suggested using narrow medians to divide traffic in order to provide a refuge for pedestrians crossing the road. This in turn would mean slightly narrower road lanes. He also displayed before and after pictures of a road in University Place, Washington that was redesigned by walkability expert Dan Burden. The center turn lane was removed in favor of a median, and sidewalks and bike lanes were added because utility poles were relocated underground.

Beforeafter
      This street in University Place, Washington, was redesigned to make it easier for pedestrians to cross

“It’s really integrated with transit, you’ve got mid-block crosswalks and the transit right after, so it’s a good design for people crossing the street,” he said. He suggested this kind of work could work on Rio Road near “Gasoline Alley” and added that Juandiego Wade has included these elements in the Hillsdale Drive redesign slated for construction to begin next year. That redesign will include five pedestrian crossings for Hillsdale Drive, which is home to many senior citizens.

Rue said the US 29 US Pedestrian Study conducted by VDOT in 1998 recommended a lot of ideas that are now being considered as part of other studies, but that most of the major improvements would be implemented as part of the parallel road network to create a series of pedestrian paths, some of which could be built through existing shopping centers. Rue said MPO staff will soon be meeting with the new owners of the Shopper’s World Plaza to discuss how that area could be made more “walkable.”

Any pedestrian improvements made would also be performed to help connect people to transit, especially as transit service is increased in Albemarle County. “It makes no sense to invest in really
cool vehicles if we’re not going to actually get to the bus and cross,” Rue said.

Dennis Rooker pointed out that many of the recommendations made in the US 29 Pedestrian Study were not that expensive, adding that overpasses for pedestrians are likely not cost-effective.

“Obviously what we’re doing now with Places29 is taking this to a different level and tying in the pedestrian study with land use and transportation elements,” he said, adding that if Places29 is adopted, it will need to list specific priority projects. “It may be that we can say the County should allocate half a million a year to implementing some of these pedestrian improvements.”

Rue said the process can take a long time because of all the bureaucratic steps necessary when federal funds are involved. He suggested the process might be sped up if the County applied for VDOT revenue sharing money, and administered certain projects themselves. The City of Charlottesville, for instance, is taking this approach with the Hillsdale Drive safety improvements. “We would still have to follow all the right design guidelines, it’s a federal facility, but we may have more flexibility and an ability to move construction.”

Dennis Rooker said that the County has maximized its revenue sharing, but that VDOT doesn’t match the full amount because there’s not enough money. “For the next seven years, we have projects committed.” 

Rue then suggested that there may be new dollars out there, perhaps as part of a new program. “I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in with Federal Highways and VDOT where everyone says safety is our top priority, but we don’t actually match that with the dollars.”

Councilor Kevin Lynch said many of the projects the City has initiated with VDOT revenue sharing have not been pedestrian friendly.  He expressed the concern that pedestrian improvements on US 29 might crowd out funding for projects in other areas, such as Hillsdale Drive.

“It’s the 29 crossings that are the big expenses, and I wonder if, and it’s painful to say this, but  maybe there’s not a lot of bang for the buck there, and that pedestrians would be better off thinking of 29 similar to the way they think of the Rivanna River,” Lynch said.

Supervisor David Slutzky said there was no way that 29 would become a dividing line. “We’ve got a vision through Places29 for making that corridor more of a cohesive, instead of a divided universe… You can’t just ignore the idea that people have to be able to get across 29, so if it’s an expensive proposition because it is such an important corridor, then it’s an expensive proposition.”

Harrison Rue said some cost estimates would be part of the implementation chapter of the Places29 Master Plan, which will be discussed by the Albemarle County Planning Commission later this fall.

Dennis Rooker suggested some funds may be available if new bodies are created. “When we approved Albemarle Place and Hollymead Town Center was improved, we included language in there, proffers that required them to join Community Development Authority, if one were created… One way of trying to implement these things would be to create a transportation district.”

Sean Tubbs

Supervisors schedule public hearing on rural area critical slopes and family sub-division rights

Sqrural1bw The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing on zoning ordinance changes related to rural area critical slopes, family sub-division rights, and stream protection measures. On September 11, 2007, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed ordinance changes for critical slopes and family sub-divisions.

At yesterday's meeting of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) told the audience that the October 10th meeting, "may be one of the most important evenings since I have been on the Board of Supervisors."

[Read more about the proposals on the County's website]

Rooker was a panelist for an ASAP discussion on the policy implications of Charlottesville Tomorrow's Survey 2007.  Rooker predicted the Board would receive a lot of feedback at the October 10th public hearing about property rights issues as the Board reviews these three remaining proposals to protect Albemarle's rural countryside.  He said the environmental community had provided very little input at past public hearings and he urged audience members to participate.  "Members of the Board are very swayed by the people in the room at the hearing," said Rooker.

In his reflections on the survey results related to rural area protection policies, Rooker said past stalemates on the Board of Supervisors have prevented adoption of proposals like the mountaintop protection ordinance.  He said that led the Board to form an advisory committee to make recommendations about how to best protect environmentally sensitive resources in Albemarle's mountain areas.  Late last year, mountaintop protection proposals were the last surviving initiative of three proposals being considered by the Board to advance the goals of the Rural Area portion of the Comprehensive Plan.  Proposals related to phasing and clustering in the rural area failed to receive the Board's endorsement last September.

During 2007, the County has steered the committee's mountaintop protection recommendations towards measures that could be applied universally in Albemarle's rural areas.  On May 2, 2007, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved resolutions of intent to modify the zoning ordinances related to critical slopes and family subdivisions. That action led to the Planning Commission's review of the ordinance changes which are now before the Board for a public hearing and action.

Brian Wheeler

September 20, 2007

September 2007 MPO Policy Board Meeting

On September 19, 2007, the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization held their monthly meeting.  Topics include a review of potential Pedestrian Safety projects on Route 29, a discussion of a new multimodal trail along Emmett Street in Charlottesville, and an update on the MPO’s long range plan. The MPO Policy Board is chaired by Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky.


Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070919-MPO.mp3

CHARLOTTESVILLE TRANSIT UPDATE

20070702200x20005 The MPO received a transit update at the meeting.  CTS director Bill Watterson reported that CTS’ rider’s guide – with both CTS and UTS logos clearly visible from the front of the brochure – was released at the end of August.  Route 7 began a Sunday trolley service (7:45am – 5:45pm) at that time, and will likely see increased ridership.  There has been an increased bus frequency on Route 5, which travels west of 29 North in between Barracks Shopping Center and Walmart.

Overall bus ridership is continuing to increase.  There was a 4% increase last year, reaching 1.5 million riders for the first time, and even an additional 2% increase this summer, which, in a college town that loses much of its population between May and August, is a significant success.  Since Route 7 runs through Grounds and caters to the University population, Watterson suspects that “Route 7 is really leading the charge there.”  Not only is that particular route accessible to a portion of the area’s citizens that already heavily use public transportation, but CTS is still offering fare-free service to those with valid University IDs.  This will continue through the academic year and further conversation is expected to take place.

In light of the free fare’s success amongst members of the University community, CTS has announced October as an upcoming fare-free month to the general public.  Watterson explained that they are “trying to get a better handle on what the potential impacts on ridership might be if we were to eliminate fares sometime in the future.”  In conjunction with its fare-free month, CTS will be celebrating the grand opening of the downtown transit station (adjacent to the Charlottesville Pavilion) on October 4th at noon.

Watterson also shared a bit more information about the forthcoming tracking devices to be used by both CTS and UTS.  Their goal is to have this real-time travel information in place by the beginning of 2008.
Approximately two dozen bus stops will have bus-finding devices: at the touch of a button, such a device will “indicate the number of minutes until the next scheduled arrival.”  The main transit station will also host several view screens with real-time bus tracking.  That same information will be available online.

City Councilor Kevin Lynch expressed curiosity about CTS’ ability to extend service into both Sundays and holidays.  Watterson explained that in fact CTS already has a higher frequency of service than is obligated.  Service is offered without overtime pay on 49 out of the 52 Sundays in any given year – excluding Memorial Day Weekend, Labor Day Weekend, and Easter Sunday – and CTS operates with approximately half as many holidays as are recognized by the City.  MPO recognized that although service may be beneficial on those days that CTS currently does not run, a limited service would probably suffice to provide transportation for the lower number of riders. 

According to Watterson, most city bus systems define a “Sunday level of service” and then use that measurement to provide the same level of service on remaining holidays.  This ensures that transportation is available without coming at a significantly increased cost to the bus system itself.

TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES

At the meeting, the MPO Policy Board considered what priorities to bring to the attention of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). The annual request lists the MPO’s major projects, and identifies which ones may need increased funding, or additional dollars for implementation. The CTB’s public hearing  will be held on November 1st in Culpeper. The MPO will finalize their priorities at its next meeting in October. The discussion began by a quick review of last year's list.

Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) pointed out that the status of the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange had not been updated. Charlottesville City Councilor Kevin Lynch said funding for the interchange could be an issue, with estimates for the 250 Bypass bridge pushing the project over the $32 million that has been set aside for the project in the Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan. Harrison Rue said federal obligations are being reduced because of the ongoing war in Iraq.

Dennis Rooker asked for some language to be added about funding for bridge improvements. “We’ve got three or four bridges that are substandard that very much need upgrading,” he said.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) asked if the Berkmar Extended bridge, a proposed parallel road which would cross the South Fork Rivanna River just north of the Sheraton Hotel, could be added to the list. Harrison Rue said Congress is considering allocating a hundred million dollars for bridge maintenance, but not for new construction.

Rooker asked if the parallel roads proposed as part of the Places29 Master Plan could quality for primary road funding, because they would assist with traffic management on Route 29, which is classified as a primary road. Rue said an argument could possibly be made to justify such funding, but that the County will have to adopt the plan first. VDOT Culpeper District Administrator Quentin Elliot said state law has been recently changed to allow such flexibility, but he’s not aware of an example close to what Rooker suggested. 

City Councilor Dave Norris suggested adding language to say that the City and County are looking for additional park and ride lots around the area. He also asked if something should be written about the MPO’s efforts to create a regional transportation authority. That was the number one priority in last year’s transit priorities. David Slutzky said it should be changed to ask state officials to form a transportation district, which would have the ability to raise taxes to fund transportation improvements.

Dennis Rooker suggested including Charlottesville Tomorrow’s recent survey results, which indicated 55 percent of Albemarle County residents would be willing to pay higher gas taxes in exchange for more transportation funding.

MONEY SOUGHT FOR NEW BIKE TRAIL NEAR UNIVERSITY

20070919mpomeetingsidewalk
      The location for the proposed multimodal trail

On behalf of both the City and the University, Charlottesville Parks and Trails Planner Chris Gensic presented the MPO with information regarding a proposal the two bodies have co-written to seek $200,000 in funding for a sidewalk widening project on the western side of Emmet Street, in between Groundswalk – a pedestrian bridge – and Arlington Boulevard.  Potential grant money from VDOT’s new Highway Safety Improvement Program would be used to widen the sidewalk for increased cycling and pedestrian purposes. 
Historically this proposed site performed more as a thoroughfare between two zones – the City and the University – than much else, but last year’s completion of the John Paul Jones Arena has seen an increase in bike and pedestrian traffic.  The upgraded sidewalk could serve as a better connector to the University and 29 North for the rising foot and bike population sector.  Gensic reported that the City is prohibited from widening the roads to increase the curbside for bike lanes, so instead they plan to nearly double the sidewalk width in order to create a 10- or 12-foot promenade-like path.  This will allow for enough space for two additional lanes of cyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

"This area, just from observation, is probably as heavily a trafficked bicycle area as there is in our community," said Supervisor Dennis Rooker. The MPO approved a resolution to approve the grant application.

How far the $200,000 could be stretched will depend on the necessary amount of cut and fill involved in construction.  UVa has also stressed appearance, stating a desire for an aesthetically pleasing – and probably costly – stone wall along the stretch of sidewalk that runs past the Arena. 


Timeline of Meeting:

  • 1:00 - Matters from the Public
  • 3:00 - Responses to Matters from the Public
  • 3:35 - Approval of August 15, 2007 minutes
  • 5:00 - Area Highway Safety Improvement Program Grant Application
  • 13:00 - Transit Update from CTS and JAUNT
  • 30:35 - Discuss the Draft Priority Statement for the October Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) FY2009 Six Year Improvement Program (SYIP)
  • 51:00 - Review Rt. 29 Pedestrian Study and Potential Pedestrian Projects along US 29N -
  • 1:50:00 - Long Range Plan Update:
  • 2:02:46 - Other Business

Kendall Singleton & Sean Tubbs

Council defers decision on financing of HQ for Jefferson Scholars

Citing concerns about the fate of a historic house near the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville City Council has deferred approval of bond package to help the Jefferson Scholars Foundation build their new headquarters on the same property.

The 94-year old structure was originally the home of a doctor who worked at the University of Virginia, before being sold to the local chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. After that group lost its charter, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation purchased the site in February of this year, and have so far not said whether or not they will need to destroy the building to accommodate their plans.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 070917-CC-Jefferson-Scholars.mp3  

Council already approved the revenue bond once, at its meeting on June 18, 2007, but had to consider it again because the amount requested has risen from $18 million to $21 million. Technically, the Albemarle County Industrial Development Authority will issue the bonds, but the City Council has to approve the action because the property is located within the City. The Board of Supervisors approved the item last week.

Three members of the group Preservation Piedmont spoke during the Council's public comment period.

Anita Anderson of Earlysville said destroying the house would hurt the historical fabric of the community, and that demolition of the house would be an ironic action.  "This house is actually a beautiful example of classical architecture, and it's totally an heir of Jefferson's idea of architecture," she said.

Aaron Wunsch, an adjunct professor with the U.Va. School of Architecture, urged Council to support preservation of the house.

"This fine Spanish revival house is the work of an important early 20th century architect, Eugene Bradbury. It has seen a hard life as a fraternity house, but it is solid in construction and eminently reusable."

Wunsch listed a number of other former homes that have been saved from the wrecking ball, and added that the City's Comprehensive Plan specifically calls for historic preservation.

Daniel Bluestone, another U.Va. professor of architecture, held up a map of the site, and said that the Jefferson Scholars Foundation could keep the building, and still build the 23,000 square feet headquarters that they have proposed.

"If they don't have the intestinal fortitude to [preserve the building], let them give the building to someone who will take care of it,” he said.

The City's authorization of the bond issue was originally placed on the consent agenda, meaning that it would have been voted on with about a dozen other items. Councilor Kevin Lynch asked for it to be pulled do Council could ask questions of the president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, Jimmy Wright.

Wright said the increase is because the size of the planned facility has increased, and to cover costs to make the building "environmentally-friendly."

"We are still in the process of trying to determine the exact size and scope of the facility," he said. "We have not decided, contrary to what some folks said earlier tonight, to do anything with the existing facility. We're still examining that." He did say that the site is not located within any existing historic preservation area. He says the decision on what to with the Bradbury-Compton house would be up to VMDO, the architectural firm hired to perform the design work.

Councilor Dave Norris asked what power the Council actually had to place conditions on the revenue bonds. City Attorney Craig Brown said he would do more research, seeing as the City will not providing the financing. "It's a different situation where we're consenting to it, as opposed to actually providing the bonds," he said.

"What we're trying to do is figure out is what kind of facility is going to be most attractive to allow [Jefferson Fellows] to do their research and their work," Bob Moje of the firm VMDO said. He added that a decision on the house will be made after a full site plan for the property is designed. "And then we can compare it with what the value of that existing structure is to contribute or hinder that mission and that goal."

Councilor Kendra Hamilton asked Moje what priority his team was placing on adaptive reuse. He responded that he's been in touch with the University architect as well as the descendants of Dr. Compton to get information on what the house looked like in its early days. Moje said the full site design can't proceed until they can set their budget, something that will be delayed now that Council deferred action.

Councilor Norris asked if the Jefferson Scholars Foundation would oppose designating the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wright said that was not his decision to make, but that the fact that it was not so designated came up when the Foundation was evaluating whether or not to purchase the property. "The highest priority for us is to create a facility that will give us the best chance of carrying out our mission. We are not as a Foundation in the historic preservation business, per se. We are in the business of trying to create a world-class intellectual community... I can assure that whatever happens there, with the house or without the house, we're going to need financing to do it."

Mayor Dave Brown said he was not prepared to support the financing until the Foundation prepared a report outlining why or why not the house can be incorporated into the site plan. "It is a value for us to preserve historic structures, and I believe it's also a value for the University of Virginia... You're asking us to endorse this funding, and we're asking for you for something - to do your best to preserve that building."

Wright protested that no decision to demolish the building had been made, prompting Councilor Hamilton to explain what she saw as the City's role.

"Generally when we are asked to make decisions about these types of things it comes in a very different form. We're looking at site plans, and if people want to demolish buildings, then we have the opportunity to delve into their reasoning a little bit more. And so, I think what some of the Councilors are saying is that we're going to have to justify to the community if you decide that you're not able to save this building," she said.

"I understand that there are some, I guess, very talented architects and architectural professors and other of you who must know far more than I do about what makes something historic as opposed to just being old . It seems to me that if this building were the gem that's been described by numerous people, it would have been designated as such. It's not," he said.

Council then voted unanimously to defer approval of the financing until a future meeting.

Sean Tubbs

September 18, 2007

City to advertise lease agreement for McIntire Park YMCA

The Charlottesville City Council has voted 3-1-1 to allow the Parks and Recreation Department to advertise for possible tenants for land on the west side of McIntire Park upon which a recreational center could be built.

The only organization expected to bid on the proposal is the Piedmont Family YMCA, which has been conducting a capital campaign to build a new facility. Their first choice is to build in McIntire Park near Charlottesville High School, but the back-up plan is to build at Piedmont Virginia Community College if Council rejects the proposal. Albemarle County will contribute $2 million to the project. If the City approves the lease, the YMCA will pay $1 a year for the next forty years.


Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070917-CC-YMCA.mp3


The process raised the concern of Downing Smith, a City resident who said he thought the lease proposal as written on the Council agenda was misleading because there was no mention of the YMCA.

“I still have a really hard time understanding how things work in the City. Don't you want to figure out whether or not you actually want to lease something before you ask for proposals? It looks suspicious. If you put out a lease proposal, and everybody knows that only one group is going to bid on the lease, what's the point?” asked Smith, adding that the process seemed rushed.

City Manager O'Connell later explained the first step in the process would be to advertise the lease, even if a tenant is already in mind.

Mike Svetz, Director of Parks and Recreation, said that the process has been going on for several years, and disagreed that there was a rush to judgment.

“We have been to Council eight or nine times in the last three years to discuss the issues associated with the future of our department,” he said. Council feedback from those meetings was incorporated into the lease agreement.

In July, Council also directed Svetz to begin writing up a draft lease. “The very first step is for Council to consider the draft lease, but also the provisions in that lease that deal with the lease agreement. Some of the conditions that City Council would like to see as part of any proposal brought forward.”

City Attorney Craig Brown acknowledged that the lease procedure is unusual, but required by state law because of the length of the agreement. “Legally we can lease City property for a period of up to five years. Any time you go over five years you must advertise it and seek bids before awarding a lease.”

City Manager Gary O'Connell said the same process was also used with the Boys and Girl's club facility at Buford School, as well as the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center in Pen Park.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro said he was concerned that the lease agreement was too vague. “There's still a lot of unanswered questions in the user agreement portion of this,” he said. “I kind of think we have the cart before the horse. It talks about the user agreement in here, but I would like to see more detail in here.”

Mayor David Brown asked City Attorney Brown if the details would be contained within the proposals that are submitted as part of the RFP.

“That's going to be a requirement of the solicitation, that anyone interested in leasing this property agree to the lease and to propose a user agreement,” the City Attorney responded. Hopefully the terms of the lease will be pretty well set but I don't anticipate that the terms of the user agreement will be. I suspect those will be subject of some negotiation.”

Councilor Kevin Lynch said he wanted to see more detail in the proposal. “We've had a fair amount of discussion between Council members about what our expectations would be for what would be in that use agreement. For example, I think it's fair to say that we would have an expectation that the [Charlottesville High School] swim team would have priority to use that facility.”

Mayor Brown then pointed out that the lease agreement under consideration already covered that particular issue in a note. The note requires anyone entering into a lease to submit a detailed use agreement that lays out how available the center would be to CHS students, who will be within walking distance of the facility.

Lynch said that wasn't sufficient. “We have some specific ideas about what we're looking for, and it would be clear to get that on the record.”

Brown said he didn't want to drag out the issue, and added that the use agreement would be negotiable. “What I'm trying to get at is to not to have a process that's dragged out for months.”

Councilor Taliaferro said because only the YMCA is going to bid on the proposal, it should be more detailed. “We talked about some issues with it, and I've never seen any of the answers to the questions we brought up for it.”

Mayor Brown disagreed, and said the lease agreement contains certain provision that will allow the city to use the facility for athletics. “I would think that a lot of things that we're asking for, they already know where we are because they've attended the meetings.”

Councilor Kendra Hamilton said she did not like the project, but that the lease agreement as written is responsive to the things that were brought up.

“It seems like the minute that we have made an agreement to put a road through our park, suddenly we're talking about developing a piece of it,” Hamilton said. She added that many people in the community are against the YMCA proposal out of concerns that low-income families will not be able to afford a membership.

“Very good points have been raised that the County is lacking in [recreational] facilities, and maybe this is a facility that should be in the County,” she said.

Councilor Lynch said the discussion of the YMCA needed to be placed in the context of all of the City's pools. “While I see that we have an obligation to keep the pool facilities, we will continue to have lanes available for laps. Presuming that we hold up our end, I do think that Smith and Crow need to be replaced, and that it would be more efficient to replace them with a single facility then to try to replace two facilities. I think working with the Y, we can do a better job of that.” He then advocated for a replacement of Smith pool, in conjunction with the new YMCA.

Mike Svetz said the Council might be overreaching in the level of detail requested. “If you asked me today exactly how I would program a pool that is yet to be defined in scope and size and number of lap lanes, it would be awfully difficult for me to say the CHS swim team is going to swim between the hours of 3 and 5.”

After certain language about the location of the facility was struck from the lease, a motion was made to proceed. Councilors Lynch, Brown and Dave Norris all voted to proceed. Taliaferro voted no. Hamilton abstained. The lease will now be advertised in the Daily Progress on September 20 and September 27.

FUTURE OF OTHER CITY POOLS

At a July 9 work session held at Key Recreation Center, Council said they wanted to make service at the City's neighborhood pools would not be affected. Specifically they wanted to know the future of the City's existing indoor pools at Smith and Crow pools. Those issues were raised by members of the public yesterday evening.

City Resident Sandra Stamp expressed concerns that the replacement pool at the YMCA would not include enough lap lanes. “I don't know how many of you City Councilors are regular lap swimmers, but many of us swim almost every day of the year,” she said. “City Council should truly look at how many lap lanes will stay open. At this point, the information being given to us is that with the Y, there will not be nearly the same number of lap lanes.”

County Resident Ann McClung said she's used the City pools at Smith and Crow for decades. “We need to still have the facilities available to all the public, and if you turn over the pools to a private organization such as the Y many people will not be able to use the facilities,” she said.

“Our current pools are set up as six-lane 25 yard pools, and really from a programmatic stand point, there are many more modern ways to go about doing that,” he said.

Svetz said he will bring a report on the future of neighborhood centers at Council's meeting on October 15. Part of that report will include a conceptual site plan for a new indoor swimming pool at the Buford School to be run in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club.

Sean Tubbs