WELCOME

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

    The articles on this blog were published during 2005-2012. All of this content has been moved to our new website at www.cvilletomorrow.org
    © 2005-12 Charlottesville Tomorrow
    Our photos have some rights reserved.

Categories

« March 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

April 30, 2008

Three options to be recommended for Eastern Connector

20080425-EC-wideshot
The Steering Committee overseeing a corridor location study for the proposed Eastern Connector has agreed to recommend three routes for the proposed road. The Committee will meet again in late May to review the presentation that the consultant will give to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council later this year.

Both jurisdictions contributed $250,000 to hire the firm PBS&J  to oversee the study, which was charged with identifying a minimum of three corridors for the proposed road which steering committee members acknowledged would not be constructed for decades.

The routes to be recommended are:
  • Route 20 to  Rio Road via Pen Park (2 lane or 4 lane)
  • Polo Grounds Road (reserve as transportation corridor)
  • Profitt Road Relocated (reserve as transportation corridor)
At its previous meeting in March, the Committee had asked PBS&J to calculate how much additional traffic capacity would be provided if these roads were built as four-lane roads, as opposed to the original expectation of a 2-lane connector road. Steering Committee members received a packet filled with tables predicting traffic volumes for 2025 under dozens of possible permutations, up to a completely theoretical 8 lane Pen Park route.  According to these tables, a 2-lane Pen Park Route would carry over 16,000 vehicles a day, whereas 4 lanes would carry 22,000. 

“There’s a certain demand to move back and forth across the [Rivanna] river,” said Lewis Grimm with PBS&J. Currently the Route 250 bypass is the only way for vehicles in the urban ring to cross the river. The MPO’s UNJAM 2025 traffic forecast projects a traffic volume of 65,500 vehicles a day over Free Bridge. Grimm said the construction of a four-lane Pen Park route, which would include a new bridge over the Rivanna, would reduce that figure to 54,800. But would that be enough to justify building the road?

Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch said that would still technically represent a failing level of service according to VDOT’s methodology.  Mark Graham, Director of Community Development for Albemarle County, said the public would not support the construction of a road if the traffic forecast still shows a failure.

“None of these scenarios is going to improve the existing condition,” Graham said. “We’re only talking about how much worse it’s going to get… if we come out and the message comes across that none of these is going to improve the existing situation, we’re D.O.A.”

Lynch said there had to be a way to explain that to the public.  Grimm suggested it would be possible to present the data in such a way that would describe when traffic congestion would be worse, possibly by depicting the growth of peak periods over time. As an example, Albemarle County Planning Commission

Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) said Pantops is now experiencing a third rush hour at mid-day, as people who work there drive around in search of a bite to eat.  Grimm said he has seen the phenomenon in other areas, where new suburban multi-use centers are built without a place to serve lunch.

County Transportation Planner Juandiego Wade asked the Committee how they felt they should proceed. Should they  move on to a public  information hearing such as the one held in November of last year, or present to the Board and Council? After some discussion, they opted to go to the elected officials first for a presentation.

Lynch said he felt it necessary to explain to the public why the committee sought the data for a four-lane road.

“We wanted to justify to ourselves that the demand is really there… and we can look at this and say yes, there is a lot more demand  and if we build larger roads, they would get used. Whether or not those roads are politically feasible to build, that’s a whole other question,” Lynch said. He warned it would be difficult to translate a spreadsheet with data to the public, and that it would be hard to construct the political will to build a new road. 

20080425-Boyd Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asked his fellow Steering Committee members if they felt they had been charged with determining the political feasibility of the roads. Lynch said no, but he said the committee should recommend options that can actually get built.

“I don’t want to put a solution on the table that we know is a non-starter,” Lynch said.  He suggested the Committee consider City Council’s recommendation to evaluate a transit-only option for the Eastern Connector.

Grimm said transit could be a viable option, but that the community would have to display the political will to support an expensive transit-only option, as well as a willingness to actually use it.  Lynch said he felt Charlottesville would be more inclined to support a transit-only link than a four-lane road. Boyd said he would be more interested in a satellite system of buses on Pantops to help get people around during the day.  City Resident John Pfaltz said transit was a separate but related issue, and Boyd said the Regional Transit Authority study currently under way would cover much of that ground.

Pfaltz also said he would recommend the Polo Grounds and Proffit Road Relocated alternatives be studied, even though the traffic forecast data shows that neither would be as effective as the Pen Park route.

“I’d love to see this committee lay it out and say these roads will be built sometime in the future so that the land is not preempted by easements, and so that people know that those roads are going to go in at some time, and it doesn’t come as a big surprise,” Pfaltz.  Wade said elements of those two roads are already in the county’s Six Year Plan, though they are not currently strategic priorities.

Lynch said he thought that was a good idea.

“Call it a transportation corridor or something and say we can’t justify it in 2025, but we know looking at the County build-out patterns it’s going to be there at some point, “ Lynch said.

Grimm reminded the Committee that the MPO is currently updating its long range plan, and that those solutions chould be considered as part of that process.  The UNJAM 2035 process begins on May 10 with a half-day regional summit.

Boyd said his fellow Supervisors would be cautious about reserving corridors.

“If we start planning transportation corridors, development is going to follow along these corridors,” Boyd said, adding that the County’s policy is not to build roads in rural areas.

Cal Morris said he wanted the steering committee to send the message that the eventual Eastern Connector is “a first step in a multi-step operation” to increase the area’s transportation capacity.

The Steering Committee will next meet on May 30, 2008, with appearances before the City Council and the Board of Supervisors to follow in the summer. Boyd said the Board would likely not hold a public hearing on the Eastern Connector until it takes up its Six Year Secondary Road Plan next winter.

Sean Tubbs

April 29, 2008

Planners want your feedback in creating regional transportation vision

2025_cover The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) wants your help in updating the region’s long-range transportation plan.  The United Jefferson Area Mobility 2025 Plan, or UNJAM 2025, was adopted in 2004 and is used by area and state government agencies to help plan out future roads by taking land use and development into consideration.

The process to create UnJAM 2035 officially kicks off on May 10 with a regional workshop to be held at Monticello High School. Before then, area residents are encouraged to complete a survey about their own transportation patterns.  Participants are asked how they get to work or school, how far do they travel, and how frequently they use public transportation. There are also opportunities to make suggestions, and add comments about the area’s road, train and trail infrastructure.

“Both the feedback we get from the survey and the workshop will help us in drafting the parts of the plan where we talk about regional priorities,” said Ann Whitham, a TJPDC planner who works on transportation. She said the survey process gives the region the opportunity to find out if conditions have changed in the past five years. For instance, the price of gas is significantly higher than it was in 2004. You can review the last plan here.

Each metropolitan area that collects federal funds is required to create and maintain a long-range transportation plan which lists important projects likely to be under construction during the planning horizon. The plan is fiscally constrained, meaning only those projects which have a possibility of funding are included on the list. UNJAM is just one measure of how the community would like to grow.

Sean Tubbs

Questions asked about Community Water Supply Plan

20080428-Wideshot
There were no major items on the agenda during the April meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. But questions asked by members of the public prompted an update on the status of the Community Water Supply Plan from Executive Director Tom Frederick.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080428-RWSA.mp3


The RWSA Board takes comments from the public each month during its regular business meeting. This month, two people used the time to ask questions. Albemarle County resident Lois Rochester asked for an update on the three phasing options for the water supply plan put forward by the RWSA in September 2007. She wanted to know if the Board had made a final decision.

20080428-Spencer
Hawes Spencer
Hawes Spencer, editor and publisher of The Hook, used his time to ask questions about the RWSA’s contract with engineering firm Gannett  Fleming to design the Community Water Supply Plan.  After asking a detailed question, Gaffney told Spencer that the public comment portion of the agenda was meant for Board members to listen to comments, and not to respond to direct questioning, a practice followed by almost every local public body. Spencer asked his question a second time, and Gaffney told him he did not have an answer for him.  Spencer then asked a more pointed question:

“When you have competitive bids on your water supply plan, including at least a couple of firms that offered to do it for under $800,000, how did this Board through a series of amendments wind up paying well over $2.5 million for a firm that threw out many of the contentions from the earlier consultants, including O’Brien and Gear. How could one firm so take over water policy in this region that it could get that much money and really destroy the old water plan?”

The Board did not answer the question, but Charlottesville City Manager Gary O’Connell asked Frederick to provide an update on the Community Water Supply plan.

Frederick said the Department of Environmental Quality gave state approval on February 11, 2008, and that the RWSA is waiting for the US Army Corps of Engineers to approve its draft permit to build the new dam at Ragged Mountain. In the meantime, crews have been performing geotechnical work to plan the exact location for the new dam.

“You have to have a lot of knowledge of what the rock looks like underneath the soil,” Frederick said. The RWSA has until November to submit a detailed study and plan to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, whose Dam Safety Division is allowing the existing dams to continue operating under a conditional permit that anticipates their forthcoming replacement. Frederick predicted the RWSA would make that deadline, but it would be tight.  

The Hook’s Hawes Spencer has advocated a specific position that dredging alone can satisfy the community’s 50-year water supply needs and that maintaining natural stream flows in the Rivanna and Moormans rivers have been unnecessarily mandated by the RWSA’s permit application.  Spencer has used a series of articles over the past two months, along with appearances on WINA AM 1070, to repeatedly challenge the community water supply plan, to explore second opinions on dredging alternatives, and to disseminate the arguments of a group of activists opposed to the construction of a new 112’ dam at Ragged Mountain.

20080428-frederick  
Tom Frederick
The RWSA’s Tom Frederick has responded that dredging alone, regardless of the cost, will not restore enough capacity at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to meet the community’s long term needs.  Further, Frederick argues that maintaining local stream flows are another priority of the community which is accomplished in the RWSA plan which seeks to balance human and environmental needs.  Presenting a united front in face of The Hook’s ongoing coverage, the RWSA, Albemarle County Service Authority, Albemarle County, and City of Charlottesville all signed a joint letter published in late March 2008 to update citizens on the status of the water supply plan.

Interviewed by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Frederick said, “If you ignore the cost of dredging, and it somehow gets done to restore the original water volume at South Fork, the water supply would have a safe yield of 14.3 Million Gallons per Day (MGD).  If you then were to shut off all stream flow releases from all the dams, something we strongly recommend against and we further believe is highly unlikely to be approved by regulatory agencies, you could get in theory up to 17.5 MGD available for the urban water supply.  That is still not enough.  We identified 18.7 MGD as what this community will need in our 50-year plan.”

Thus, according to Frederick, a water supply plan that relies on dredging alone without creating greater storage capacity would not meet the forecasted future water demand of this community during a severe drought.  It would appear to Charlottesville Tomorrow that Spencer’s plan, in addition to still requiring dam repairs at Ragged Mountain and construction of a new pipeline from Sugar Hollow to Ragged Mountain, would also “turn off” the Rivanna River in Charlottesville during severe droughts since all available supply would need to be held back to satisfy the urban water system needs of the future.

In response to Rochester’s question about the phasing options, Frederick said the RWSA’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) assumes the new dam will be built to its full height now, with the pipeline to be constructed outside of the five year horizon of the CIP.  This scenario is known as Option 3. Option 1 would build the full height of the dam as well as the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Pipeline as soon as possible. Option 2 would build the full pipeline as soon as possible, but would phase construction of the dam into two steps.

“We can change those plans if we get direction to go with a different option,” Frederick said. Under Option 3, the draft CIP also anticipates the purchase of right of way for the pipeline.

The City Council will hold a work session on the Community Water Supply issue on May 6.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST
  • 01:00 – Call to order by Mike Gaffney, Chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Board of  Directors
  • 01:40 – Albemarle County resident Lois Rochester asks for an update on the three phasing options put forward by the RWSA in September 2007
  • 03:42 – Hook publisher Hawes Spencer asks two questions
  • 7:03 – Consent agenda, but O’Connell asks for discussion on on-going projects to address the water supply issue
  • 13:10 – Gary Fern of the Albemarle County Service Authority asks question about cost of painting steel tanks, followed by answers from RWSA Chief Engineer Jennifer Whitaker
Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

April 28, 2008

VDOT moves ahead with utility relocation for Meadowcreek Parkway

County-mcp2
The alignment for Albemarle County's portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is marked in blue
While the Charlottesville City Council continues to debate the design of the interchange for the southern terminus of the Meadowcreek Parkway, preparation work continues this week at the northern end. The eastbound lane of East Rio Road will be closed on Tuesday morning to allow crews to relocate utilities. VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter told Charlottesville Tomorrow that means the project is still moving forward.

“We’re looking to get it advertised in the late summer,” Hatter said. Work in the County has begun now because the County’s portion of the road will take longer to complete, and because of the time involved in coordinating between VDOT and the various utility companies. That goal is for the utilities to be taken care so the eventual contractor hired to build the road will be able to focus on road construction.

VDOT also has to continue negotiating settlements for property along the Parkway’s right-of-way. One of the last remaining owners is the City of Charlottesville, which owns about nine critical acres of land in the County. The Charlottesville City School Board is expected to vote Thursday night on a resolution to donate the land to the project. Some Board members have expressed concern about the safety of the road, which will intersect with Melbourne Road near Charlottesville High School.

One member of the School Board, Colette Blount, spoke out against the Meadowcreek Parkway in general, during a City Council public hearing on the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange.  Council declined to endorse the alternative selected by the Steering Committee overseeing its design, and will instead hold a work session on the matter in late May or early June.

Hatter said another remaining property still under negotiation is an easement through the Wetzel property, a 33 acre parcel just to the south of CATEC.

Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) told Charlottesville Tomorrow he’s hopeful the project will soon get underway.

“The project has consistently been supported by the Board of Supervisors and by City Council, and I think that the City, probably within the next month, will come to a decision on the interchange design,” Rooker said. “My expectation is the School Board will approve the transfer of the property, even though I’m not certain that’s legally required.”

Rooker acknowledged that the right of way acquisition process has taken longer than expected, resulting in a slight delay. He said the City should make its decisions quickly so utility relocation can occur on their side of the project. VDOT’s Lou Hatter says further delays will only increase the cost of the road. In the meantime, utility relocation for the County’s portion will continue throughout the spring and summer.

Sean Tubbs

April 25, 2008

Danville and Lynchburg Chamber presidents advocate for 29 bypass

The presidents of the Danville and Lynchburg Chambers of Commerce have called on Charlottesville’s business community for help in building demand for a bypass of US Route 29. They were invited to address the North Charlottesville Business Council  on April 23, 2008 to give their view of the draft Places29 Master Plan, which includes converting key intersections along 29 to grade-separated interchanges as a way of speeding up through-traffic.

“We’ve been dealing with the conflict between being a local road and a regional highway,” said Michael McGowan, outgoing NCBC President. He said the Places29 process has been a frustrating one, and there has not been enough input from other communities.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080423-NCBC-29.mp3

20080423-Moran
Laurie Moran of the Danville / Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce
Laurie Moran, president of the Danville / Pittsylvania County Chambers of Commerce said her community is only now rebounding from the economic collapse of the Southside in the late 20th century, as the tobacco and textile industries both fell apart. Companies like IKEA have recently opened new factories, but will require a reliable transportation network for advanced manufacturing to flourish.

Manufacturers want immediate access to markets because retailers and other manufacturers no longer want to carry inventory, meaning supplies and parts need to be able to get to their destination “just in time.”

“For us and our companies that are trying to get product out of the area, and to get supplies in, we depend heavily on U.S. 29. Right now, most of our manufacturing companies are taking U.S. 58 east to Interstate 95 because of the bottleneck here in the Charlottesville area,” Moran said. She added that access to Dulles International Airport is important for recruiting more overseas investment.

Danville opened up a bypass/expressway of U.S. 29 in the early 1990’s, and the Lynchburg district followed suit earlier this decade with an expressway around Madison Heights in  Amherst County.  Rex Hammond of the Greater Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce said U.S. 29 also serves as the primary north-south highway for his community, given that Lynchburg does not have an Interstate highway.  He said 20% of Lynchburg’s workforce is employed in manufacturing, and that the City is home to about 5 colleges with over 20,000 students.

20080423-hammond2
Rex Hammond of the Greater Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce
“We’re interested in the vitality of the entire corridor,” Hammond said. “29 runs the breadth of this country and for us it’s our main commercial artery.”  He added he was concerned about growing congestion of Route 29 north of Charlottesville as well.

The Places29 transportation plan includes construction of six bridges, interchanges or overpasses along Route 29 with a cost approaching $185 million (2007 estimate not including right-of-way acquisition).  These grade-separated approaches would eliminate traffic signals for vehicles on Route 29 at Hydraulic Rd., Rio Rd., Hilton Heights, Ashwood Blvd., Timberwood Blvd., Airport Rd.  These six improvements are part of the twenty-year plan.  Greenbrier Drive is expected to have a grade-separated interchange sometime after 2025.
McGowan asked Hammond what he thought about the Places29 plan.  “From my perspective, the notion of having students and senior citizens and the public walking across a US highway is a ridiculous notion,” Hammond said. “These two concepts cannot co-exist. I think it’s a cruel hoax that is being perpetuated on your community.”

Carter Myers, a former member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board who supported the Western Bypass, said the issue was dead unless federal dollars were available. He asked Moran and Hammond if they had plans to lobby the federal government similar to the way this community lobbied for a federal earmark to build the interchange for the Meadowcreek Parkway. Moran said Danville spent 15 years accumulating enough money from VDOT and the federal government for its bypass, and

Myers said the Culpeper District would not support the project, and that an effort would have to be made to secure federal funding. Hammond said there had to be a resolve on the part of Charlottesville to build one.

“This project is being ignored by your planning district. My Senator, Steve Newman, has put in legislation that’s been passed and has been supported by the Attorney General that Charlottesville needs to build its bypass,” Hammond said. “We’re waiting patiently for the [Charlottesville] community to be part of the solution.”

Developer Chuck Rotgin of the Great Eastern Management Company said that the current alignment for the bypass is obsolete.  “It seems to me that if we’re going to be talking about a bypass, it has to be a true bypass and it has to be either east or west of town, and it’s going to take political courage and local leadership to see that through,” Rotgin said.

VDOT is currently soliciting proposals for a study of the entire US 29 Corridor from the North Carolina border to Gainesville at Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia. 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
  • 1:00 - Introduction by Mike McGowan, outgoing president of the North Charlottesville Business Council
  • 3:12 - Introduction of speakers by Tim Hulbert, President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • 8:23 - Laurie Moran, President of the Danville / Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce
  • 18:03 - Rex Hammond, President of the Greater Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • 25:24 - Questions begin with one about Areva, a spin-off of nuclear reactor producer Babcock and Wilcox
  • 25:51 - McGowan asks the guests what they think about the Places29 plan, with its contention that US 29 can be both a commercial Main Street as well as a place for through-traffic
  • 28:46 - Carter Myers questions Hammond and Moran on their strategy to lobby for federal dollars
  • 33:08 - Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum asks how qualify of life has been affected by bypasses in Danville and Lynchburg
  • 37:35 - Chuck Rotgin says that the current bypass alignment is obsolete
  • 41:39 - Someone asks if widening of I-81 will benefit Danville and Lynchburg
  • 43:48 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker tells people in the room to lobby Richmond for more transportation funds

Sean Tubbs

City Council debates options for investing affordable housing money

20080422-CC-wideshot The Charlottesville City Council held a work session on April 22, 2008 to how to prioritize money it has designated to help lower the cost of housing for people who cannot afford it. Council set aside $1.4 million in the FY2009 budget for new housing initiatives and spent two hours debating the best ways to maximize that investment.  

“Back when we were working on the budget for this coming year, we had some discussions about the City’s affordable housing initiatives and there was a desire on the part of Council to bring a little more strategic focus to our affordable housing work,” said Mayor Dave Norris.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080422-CC-AffordableHousing.mp3

Council also agreed in principle to use $1 million from the City’s Strategic Investment Fund to create a
revolving loan fund that would go to developers to build new affordable units.

Norris said the work session was not an opportunity to discuss the details of the City’s initiatives, but was a chance for the Council to take a look at the big picture. To guide their discussion on affordable housing, staff developed the following questions:

  • Where are the gaps? What is needed in different sectors? How many units? Price point?
  • What criteria should we be using when awarding priority to funding?
  • How will we know when we have been successful? How do you measure success?
  • Do we target what we want to do with funds and solicit proposals to do that or do we simply advertise we have dollars available for whatever the applicants deem important?
  • What does Council see as the top housing challenges? What are your top three priorities?
20080422-CC-Tolbert2 Jim Tolbert, Director of the City’s Neighborhood Development Services, gave an overview of the City’s efforts to date to try to bridge the gap between the rising cost of housing and the inability of low-income residents to pay. He began by reminding Council’s vision statement includes language that addresses the issue:
“Our neighborhoods retain a core historic fabric while offering housing that is affordable and attainable for people of all income levels, life stages, and abilities.”

However, Tolbert sought guidance on how to turn that objective into material fact. He said the City has been working on the issue since the mid-1990’s, when Councilor Satyendra Huja held a position similar to Tolbert’s – Director of Planning and Community Development.  The focus then was to invest in infrastructure, such as at Burnett Commons, as a way of jump-starting development in the City.

Tolbert said the City has helped keep 342 housing units “affordable”, either as rentals or as new units, by working with three key non-governmental agencies. The Piedmont Housing Alliance has received about $2.1 million to help low-income residents quality for loans. Tolbert said PHA has contributed about $30 million from its own sources. Habitat for Humanity received $844,000 from the City and contributed $3.9 million. The City has also worked with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) to rehabilitate and preserve about 80 houses.

In the last year, the City has begun investing in a new program called the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Investment Program, which was initiated by Dave Norris soon after he was elected to Council in 2006. The City has paid $2 million into the fund further supporting these three agencies as well as Region 10, the Jefferson Area Board for Aging and the Dogwood Housing Limited Partnership. Norris said many of these organizations are also providing in-kind support.

Tolbert reviews “The Housing Continuum”

Continuum Tolbert said his staff needed direction from Council on what the criteria should be for the additional $1.4 million set aside in the FY2009 budget.  To facilitate the conversation, Tolbert gave a top-to-bottom overview of the Charlottesville housing market by going through something called the “housing continuum.” That’s a framework that describes the gamut of people who need housing – from the person in an emergency homeless shelter all the way up to the person who can afford a house that costs over half a million dollars.

Tolbert said looking at the continuum can help staff and other parties figure out what the barriers are to
helping find other solutions.

In Charlottesville, groups like PACEM and the Salvation Army help provide temporary shelter to both the emergency homeless  and the working homeless.  However, the Salvation Army’s shelters are consistently full, and a new strategy is required.   

 “A lot of the group is in the working homeless and could go to some kind of subsidized rental ,” Tolbert said. “But we just don’t have enough of those.” The City has 376 public housing units, but there is a waiting list of 875 families seeking access.  

The next step on the housing continuum would be an affordable rental at market value, followed by a subsidized rental  backed up by Section 8 vouchers. However, Tolbert warned that many of these are run-down and pushing the limits of City code.  There are also waiting lists for these opportunities as well, which poses a dilemma.

“If you’re down on [the lower end of the housing continuum] and you want to move up, public housing is not available to you because there aren’t enough units available, or you probably can’t find a Section 8 voucher because there’s just not enough of the Section 8 vouchers out there,” Tolbert.  “The problem is as you start moving up the chain, [there is a] lack of availability.”

On the subject of home ownership, Tolbert referred to a Daily Progess article that recently reported a glut of homes priced in the $250,000 range. He said they were still out of the reach of many people who earn less than $40,000 a year, and the City might be able to do more to help out with down payment assistance to qualified homebuyers.

Council begins discussion

20080422-CC-brown-huja 
Councilors Brown and Huja
After Tolbert’s presentation, Councilor David Brown asked about the regional housing picture. Norris said surrounding counties have historically not had a lot of government subsidized housing.

“They’ve had a lot of affordable housing which often times takes the form of trailer parks, in Louisa and Fluvanna County for instance and rural Albemarle County,” Norris said. He gave credit to Albemarle County for creating a “robust” Section 8 voucher program, preserving affordable rental units such as Park’s Edge, and the recent approval of the Treesdale Park complex which will create 90 affordable rental units. But the Mayor also said the County’s strategy on homeownership could use a new direction.

“In their Neighborhood Model, they require developers to have a certain percentage [of units] that are affordable. For families under 80% of area Annual Median Income that translates to roughly a $190,000 townhouse in many cases, and so [the County] has sort of been flooded with proffers for $190,000 townhouses but not a whole lot below that.”

Tolbert said that strategy can also backfire when the time limits on proffers either run out or developers find a way to sell the units on the open market. He said in a community such as Charlottesville, student housing can drive up the rents higher when market conditions are a certain way.

After Tolbert’s presentation on the housing continuum, the discussion moved to consideration of six possible programs suggested by Neighborhood Development staff:
  • Work with Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to stimulate their redevelopment efforts to both create additional housing and make them financially stable
  • Put more dollars into homeowner rehabilitation
  • Create a flexible revolving loan program for land purchase and site development for City’s non-profit partners providing low income housing
  • Put dollars in rental rehabilitation to assist owners of lower and rental properties to maintain their properties to basic code requirements and keep rents affordable
  • Build or assist with the construction of Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units near the Downtown  or with excellent access to services
  • Create a program through the Economic Development Strategic Investment Funds to promote affordable housing units in major new development projects
Councilor David Brown wanted more information on SRO units. Tolbert said they are units smaller than studio apartments, generally about 300 square feet or less without a stand-alone bathroom.

“Richmond is doing a lot of them, Norfolk is doing them, they’re doing them in old warehouses,” Tolbert said. Norris said that a group called Virginia Supportive Housing  has expressed an interest in building one in Charlottesville.

Councilor Huja said he would like to strengthen the City’s down payment assistance program, and wanted the City to also invest in new construction.

“My worry is that we’re spending a lot of money in the market, and the net units [of affordable housing] are not increasing too much,” Huja said. He also said he wanted the University to build new on-Grounds housing to bring down the rental costs throughout the marketplace. That prompted City Manager Gary O’Connell to ask Tolbert for his assessment on whether the market for student rentals was over-saturated.
Tolbert said developers are still submitting new projects, but they tended to be closer to the Grounds.

“What we’ve seen is quite a few units that were rented to students in the past are converting to family rentals and actually some of them are being sold,” Tolbert said. He added a lot of recently built complexes in the County are “four bedroom ghettoes” that would be hard to repurpose for families. These days, Tolbert said occupancy is pretty low.

How will Council measure success?

As the session wound down, Mayor Norris raised the final question:  How would success be measured? Councilors Huja and Julian Taliaferro said they would like to measure it by the number of affordable units actually produced.

20080422-CC-edwards
Councilor Holly Edwards
Brown said that would need to be further defined, but also said Council also needs to know when programs fail.  For example, if a unit built to be an affordable rental were sold to a homeowner, would that be a failure? Taliaferro said he was interested in measuring how people are moving up the housing continuum. Councilor Holly Edwards said City needed to be able to gauge whether it were providing for financially stable and strong communities.

“The reality is, the only affordable housing we have is public housing, and one of our goals should be to start there and see where we can develop and move forward,” Edwards said.

Edwards also wondered if the City failed if it helped place someone into an affordable unit in the County.

“What resources are we willing to use and still count that as valuable, or is success measured by how many people we can keep in the City?” she asked.

“My answer to that would be yes, that is a failure if that’s their only option, and if we’re at a point where there’s no housing, and I think we are at a point where there’s virtually no housing in the City that a low-income working family can afford to buy, and so they’re having to move out to Louisa County, strictly from a smart-growth perspective, promoting sprawl and increasing reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, clogging our roads because they’re still coming back into town to work, and it’s increasing their budgets because they’re paying all the gas bills, from a smart growth perspective we need to have a housing stock here in our community that people can afford to buy,” Norris said.

Brown said he agreed, and wanted to have a discussion with other jurisdictions to plot out a unified strategy.

“As we take on more of the responsibility for affordable housing, low-income affordable housing, but because it’s green and more sustainable and because as the model of ‘drive-til-you-qualify’ is going to get harder and harder to do as gas becomes five dollars a gallon, why can’t we get other jurisdictions involved in recognizing that we’re taking on the responsibility?” asked Brown.

Council reached no firm conclusion at the meeting, but did agree to spend $1 million from the Strategic Investment Fund on a revolving loan fund to partner with developers for construction of new affordable units.
Staff will come back with a proposal with more details.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST
  • 1:00 - Introduction by Mayor  Dave Norris
  • 2:21 - Presentation by Jim Tolbert, City's Director of Neighborhood Development Services
  • 4:05 - City Manager Gary O'Connell asks if the current Council agrees with previous Council's vision statement on affordable housing
  • 8:20 - Tolbert describes the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Investment Program (CAHIP)
  • 13:15 - Councilor Holly Edwards explains why she supports the Region 10 program
  • 14:15 - Councilor Satyenda Huja asks how long the loan to Dogwood Housing Limited Partnership lasts (five years), prompting a discussion about projects that use City money work
  • 16:36 - Tolbert explains the Housing Continuum
  • 22:38 - Tolbert on the availability of $250,000 homes in Charlottesville
  • 25:16 - Councilor Brown asks about the regional picture of housing affordability
  • 29:29 - Huja asks about the possibility of providing more facilities for the homeless, prompting a discussion
  • 31:47 - Huja suggests Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units as a solution for the homeless
  • 35:07 - Discussion moves to debate over that programs the City might consider
  • 40:10 - Councilor Brown asks for a definition of what an SRO is
  • 44:37 - Councilor Huja suggests two other programs
  • 50:45 - Mayor Norris said accessory apartments are one of the best opportunities for creating afforable housing in the City without actually building any more new units
  • 51:36 - Councilor Huja asks how the City can better market its existing programs
  • 53:23 - Councilor Huja asks about the shifting market for rentals versus ownership
  • 56:15 - Councilor Brown asks about recalculating the definition of affordable by moving towards regional area median income as opposed to the City's annual median income
  • 1:02:38 - Councilor Huja asks question about accessory units, prompting Tolbert to remark on their popularity
  • 1:04:51 - Councilor Huja suggests criteria, and fellow councilors join in
  • 1:10:00 - Councilor Taliaferro asks Peter Loach of the Piedmont Housing Alliance if there's an increase on foreclosures
  • 1:11:56 - Councilor Brown asks for more information on the report last year that minorities in Charlottesville were being denied credit
  • 1:13:26 - Councilor Edwards asks if existing programs have been successful, specifically asking about down payment assistance program. Discussion continues with an explanation by City Attorney Craig Brown
  • 1:17:56 - Councilor Brown says he wants to talk about strategies to increase the number of affordable rental units
  • 1:18:45 - Councilor Huja suggests the City fund the purchase of houses now while prices are down
  • 1:20:09 - Mayor Norris picks up on a suggestion Huja made earlier on helping the County fund projects, leading to a conversation about how to work with the County to share resources
  • 1:22:02 - Conversation switches to the need for credit counseling, with remarks from Joy Johnson, president of the Public Housing Association of Residents
  • 1:26:28 - Mayor Norris asks Council how they would define success for their affordable housing initiatives
  • 1:35:46 - Tolbert asks for a clarification on what Council means by programs to assist City residents
  • 1:43:36 - Councilor Brown asks if there could be a public hearing or forum similar to this work session to get input from citizens, prompting a discussion about what to do next
  • 1:47:05 - Councilor Brown asks if City programs would be a disincentive to homeowners doing things for themselves, and asks if Council should allocate money in a more systematic way, prompting discussion about coming up with a more long-term strategic plan rather than thinking on a one-year horizon each year
  • 1:59:14 - Mayor Norris asks about the Strategic Investment Fund, with a balance of $4 million, and wonders if Council is interested in setting aside up to $1 million of that figure in a revolving loan fund to partner with developers for construction of new affordable units (loans, not grants). Staff was directed to develop the program
Sean Tubbs

April 24, 2008

Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation addresses Free Enterprise Forum

Staley2A The Free Enterprise Forum’s Economic Opportunity Luncheon series continued this month with a lecture by Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation. Staley is the Director of Urban and Land Use Policy at the Foundation, which is a non-profit group that advocates for free markets. He’s the author of several books, including Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century and The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think and What We Can Do About It.

He is also a former chair of the planning board of his hometown, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio called Bellbrook.  In his talk to the Free Enterprise Forum, Staley drew upon his decades of experience in planning to explain to the audience why he felt “smart growth” was something to be weary of.

“While I am a critic of smart growth, I also take planning very seriously, and I take urban growth  management very seriously,” Staley said. 

Watch the video below:

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080417-Staley


Over the course of his 30 minute talk, Staley made five observations:
  • All local politics is conservative and resistant to change
  • Change is inevitable
  • Most planning tools are inadequate for addressing the demands of the market
  • Comprehensive plans in particular are ineffective and inadequate for  guiding community decisions about growth
  • Markets work best if they are allowed to move freely
Virginia law requires local governments to develop comprehensive plans describing how each locality intends to manage its long range physical development and transportation infrastructure.  Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan includes a chapter on the Neighborhood Model form of development which sets the County’s goals for, among other things, interconnected and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that mix residential and retail/office uses. 

Recent major rezoning in Albemarle County including Old Trail Village, North Pointe, Biscuit Run, and Rivanna Village all envision mixed-use developments in accordance with various elements of the County’s Comprehensive Plans, and in some cases, in compliance with more detailed 20-year Master Plans.

After making his remarks, Staley offered suggestions for how to reform the planning process to make it more flexible for changing business conditions. He then took questions from local officials and representatives of the media.

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

April 22, 2008

Council defers decision on Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange

20080421-CC-wideshot
The Charlottesville City Council has delayed for at least one month consideration of a preferred design alternative for the interchange to connect the future Meadowcreek Parkway with the Route 250 Bypass. After a two and a half hour public hearing, Council decided they needed more time to select a preference. A work session will be scheduled held in late May to consider the comments of 34 citizens who spoke.  

Alt-c1 On March 19, the Steering Committee overseeing the design of the interchange voted 5-1-1 to designate Alternative C1, a grade-separated interchange above an oval roundabout, as its candidate for preferred alternative. Since then, the vote was expanded to 8-2-2 after all members of the Steering Committee were polled.

Before the public hearing, Mayor Dave Norris asked Angela Tucker of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services how much the interchange was going to cost.  Tucker said the estimate for the project ranged between $31.5 million and $35 million, but those figures would be refined as the design goes from conceptual to actual. When she explained the City received an earmark from the federal government for $27 million, Norris asked how the Steering Committee expected to close the gap.

“With direction from Council, we can be directed to stay within the earmark budget,” Tucker said.  “We can certainly refine and do intend to refine the estimate as we move forward with design.”  

Councilor Julian Taliaferro asked for some examples of how that cost-cutting would affect the interchange. Tucker said that the bridge itself could be reduced in scope, and that the non-vehicular items such as the bike and pedestrians trail could be phased, something that she said would go against the direction and vision of the Steering Committee. But Tucker said it was most important for Council to make a “timely decision.”

“The inflationary costs of holding projects back even months when we’re on the accelerated schedule that Council asked us to undertake this particular project can make the difference or $4 or $5 million dollars just from one fiscal year to the next,” Tucker said.

Owen Peery of the consulting firm RK&K said a less expensive bridge design would look common, and the Steering Committee and the Project Team had been charged with developing a design that would be one of the City’s main gateways.

Nearly three dozen people speak at public hearing

Perhaps most notable among the comments were those of former City Councilor Kay Slaughter of the Southern Environmental Law Center, who told Council she felt the two alternatives presented to Council were too big for the community.

“The interchange in conjunction with the Meadowcreek Parkway is the most important physical project in Charlottesville since the Mall was built,” Slaughter said. She requested that Council adopt six specific directives for any interchange design:

  • Develop for the public an appropriate simulation of the appearance of the interchange with a bridge
  • Downscale the bridge design paying attention to materials
  • Fit the project into the landscape rather than the other way around
  • Avoid removal of existing trees and create other stormwater mitigation through natural plantings
  • Use transportation management including signalized crosswalks for bicycles and pedestrians and weekend closure of the Parkway  to all but walkers and bikers
  • Incorporate Rock Hill Gardens into Parkway Design

She said without these conditions, the Meadowcreek Parkway would become a “supersized” road like Route 29.  By the end of the meeting, at least two Councilors said they supported her directives and will consider them at a future work session.

The majority of the other speakers during the public hearing spoke against a grade-separated interchange, though many expanded their opposition to include the entire Meadowcreek Parkway project.

20080421-CC-white
G. Edward White addresses Council

G. Edward White of Park Street said the interchange was too large and would further empower the role the automobile plays in downtown Charlottesville.  Chad Freckman, who lives nearby McIntire Road, said heavy amounts of traffic predicted by various models would not materialize because of sharp rise in fuel costs. John Cruickshank of the Sierra Club, a County resident, presented a petition with 77 signatures asking the City to abandon the Parkway and instead spend the money to expand public transit.

As a child, Pat Napoleon of Lyons Avenue attended McIntire Elementary (now Covenant School) and said the man who donated the parkland, Paul Goodloe McIntire, would be horrified that the “City fathers have caved in to the demands by the County, state and Chamber of Commerce” to build the road through the park. Susan Michaels of Northwood Circle said her neighborhood would receive more cut-through traffic if the interchange and Parkway were built. Peter Kleeman said it was important for the City to take the three projects together into consideration as one, and that if they were, it would be evident that the entire Meadowcreek Parkway would provide no transportation benefit.

Daniel Bluestone said the interchange design was “poorly flawed” and suggested the City merely build a bridge carrying the Parkway over Route 250 with no ramps or connections to the bypass. Colette Hall said that her North Downtown Neighborhood Association would only support an at-grade interchange.

Betty Mooney, who served on the Planning Commission in the 1980’s, said the City should decline to vote on the interchange until the County agrees to build the Eastern Connector.
Ted Jones of Hillcrest Road was concerned that both Alternatives C1 and G1 would close his street, leaving only one way in and out of his neighborhood.

Several speakers felt the County was not paying its fair share. Freckman said the County should pay the difference between the earmark  and the project’s total cost because it will benefit the most from the road. School Board Member Colette Blount said the County cannot solve its transportation problems on the the backs of City taxpayers who own McIntire Park. Blount will get the chance to vote on whether the City School Board will grant an easement  for the County’s portion on May 1.

A handful people of did speak in favor of the Interchange and the Parkway, though most of them were on the Steering Committee. John Hossack represents the Park Street neighborhood on the Committee, and said Park Street currently carries approximately 30,000 vehicles a day, and will get worse if nothing is done. Hossack said the Meadowcreek Parkway is not a perfect solution, but that the County intended to build its portion with or without the City.

“It will terminate onto Melbourne, and my position is that we either engage in the process and control it, or we lose control and we have a situation where that traffic pours onto Park Street and into Greenbrier, and destroys both of those neighborhoods,” Hossack said. He implored those advocating the no-build to come up with other alternatives.

Bob Hodous, another member of the Steering Committee, said  the road was necessary to help County residents to get to jobs in the City, and for City residents to get to jobs in the County.  He pointed to a recent Chamber of Commerce study on the area’s work force.

“Approximately 44% of the jobs in the City of Charlottesville are in fact filled by people coming in to Charlottesville from Albemarle County,” Hodous said. “Over 30% of the people who seek jobs from the City of Charlottesville go into Albemarle County, so whatever is done to get back and forth between the County is in fact positive for the citizens of Charlottesville and its economic vitality.”

Hodous said opponents of the Parkway were spreading misinformation about its design. He said the bridge height would not be known until detailed engineering work could be done, both the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad and Vietnam Memorial would remain in their existing locations, and that the Steering Committee would continue to oversee the interchange design as details are worked out.

20080421-CC-Middleditch
Leigh Middleditch

County resident Leigh Middleditch, another Steering Committee member, said the economic vitality of downtown Charlottesville depends on good parking and vehicular access.  Planning Commissioner Cheri Lewis, another Steering Committee member who lives in the North Downtown neighborhood, said the no-build alternative would result in a 17-lane at-grade intersection to handle all of the traffic volumes anticipated by the MPO’s UNJAM 2025 plan. Instead, she said Alternative C1 would allow improve conditions for three modes of north-south transportation: vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian.

Not all Steering Committee Members supported the road. Former City Councilor John Conover told Council he voted against Alternatives C1 and G1 on March 19, and suggested Council look at an at-grade intersection because it would be the safest.

Albemarle County resident and developer Chuck Rotgin warned the City that it would lose a competitive advantage unless it invested in ways to improve access to the downtown corridor.
“I have some knowledge about pending competition that the retail and the restaurants on the downtown Mall are going to face in the future,” Rotgin said. “Not the least of which will be Albemarle Place and the redevelopment that is going to occur in the Route 29 North corridor-Hydraulic Road corridor… There’s no way that enough residential units can be built in the downtown area and in the Main Street corridor to allow the downtown mall to flourish.”

Rotgin, who is not on the Steering Committee, reminded the present Councilors that when their predecessors agreed to build the Parkway in 2002, they set the condition that the interchange would be grade separated.  He said a bi-partisan coalition, including then Mayor David Brown and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna), helped secure the funding from Senator John Warner to construct that interchange.

The final speaker, Ariana Williams, urged Council to not make a decision after the public hearing, but instead to take time to consider how the interchange construction would affect “the next seven generations.”

Council agrees to defer after discussion

After the public hearing, Council debated the issue for another forty minutes before deciding to postpone a vote.  Councilor David Brown spent 12 minutes asking questions about the project.  He first said he was concerned about the safety of cyclists using the roundabout, and said a traffic light would seem to be more safe to him. Peery said they would have a choice of either traveling through the roundabout or using a special exit lane to enter the 10 foot wide multi-use path.

Brown also asked how tall the bridge would be. Peery responded that would depend on the length of the bridge, but he estimated it could be in the 30 foot range.  Brown also asked what the advantages of a roundabout would be. Tucker responded that north-south traffic would keep moving without an intersection, and that there would be a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

Brown also took up Slaughter’s concern that no model has been developed depicting the scale of the bridge. He said he had requested one months ago, but has yet to see it. Peery said his team had developed and presented a video at the November 1 public hearing, but Brown insisted he had never seen it.

20080421-CC-Huja Rather than ask questions of the project team, Councilor Satyendra Huja took Ariana Williams up on her suggestion to postpone the decision, preferably after a work session.  He said he continued to support the Meadowcreek Parkway   but thought the footprint for the interchange should be as small as possible.  

“I realize that time is of the essence. We’ve been talking about it for 40 years and I think a few more months won’t make a difference,” Huja said. Huja, who recently joined the Steering Committee, supported Slaughter’s six conditions, but said he would support an at-grade interchange but if grade-separation was necessary, he seemed to favor further refining Alternative G1, the signalized diamond.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro also said he supported the Parkway, and wasn’t against an at-grade intersection.

Angela Tucker said the Steering Committee selected C1 and G1 because they had the smallest footprints of the 14 alternatives that have been vetted since the interchange design process began. Alternative C1 would take up 7.3 acres, whereas Alternative G1 would be 5.9 acres.

Councilor Holly Edwards, who in September 2007 told Charlottesville Tomorrow that she did not anticipate she would be in a position to ever vote on the Parkway or its interchange, said she did not feel comfortable with Alternative C1, and that the delay would give Council the chance to reevaluate the whole concept of the Parkway.

“I think of all of the things that I heard this evening, the most compelling has been if we are making the decision now for the next seven generations, and if this is my time on Council to do it, I really want to do it well,” Edwards said.

Councilor Brown said he was attracted to Alternative G1, which would stop traffic using a light. He asked staff to find ways to make the design smaller, which he said would lower the cost of the interchange. Tucker said one way to do that would be to shrink the size of the traffic lanes from 12 feet wide to 9 feet, but she doubted VDOT would allow that reduction.

After asking a couple questions of his own, Mayor Norris said it was clear that Council would not act that evening. He said Council wasn’t qualified to redesign the intersection, and his preference would be to direct the Steering Committee to return to the drawing board, specifically to address Kay Slaughter’s six conditions.

Huja disagreed and said Council should use the work session to give more specific guidance to the Steering Committee, after sifting through the many suggestions provided by the public. Councilor Brown agreed. Edwards was concerned the public would not have an opportunity to comment at the work session. (Public comment has been allowed at all 12 of the Steering Committee meetings)

City Manager Gary O’Connell said the earliest a work session could be scheduled was late May, but said he was concerned that he did not have clear direction on what new information staff would need to bring to the table.  Huja said Council did not need any new information, but just needed to assess the information it already had. Norris disagreed, and said he wanted more information on the future of Hillcrest Road, for instance.

“I would challenge staff and the team and the consultants… in advance of our work session to take a stab at some other alternatives that might address some of these concerns, and when we come back together in a work session we can maybe use that as a basis for our conversation.”

And with that direction, the two and a half hour discussion ended and will resume at a later date.

Sean Tubbs

April 21, 2008

School Board postpones vote on Meadowcreek Parkway land donation

The Charlottesville City School Board has postponed a decision on whether to donate nearly 9 acres of land for various easements associated with the County’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway. Board members wanted more time to consider the resolution, and also wanted to confer with members of City Council. The Board will now take up the matter at its meeting on May 1.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080417-SchoolBoard-MCP.mp3

The issue was first presented to the School Board during a work session on April 3, 2008. At the time, Board members sought more information about the design speed for the road, the timing of the road’s construction, and pedestrian safety. Many questions had to be deferred at the time because Spencer DeJarnette, the VDOT official on-hand, is a right-of-way expert who could not provide answers to detailed questions about the parkway’s design.

Tucker
Angela Tucker
Two weeks later, a contingent of City, County and VDOT officials were present to provide those answers. City Manager Gary O’Connell, Angela Tucker of the Department of Neighborhood Development Services, and City Attorney Craig Brown were all in attendance. Jack Kelsey, a transportation engineer for the County, was also on hand to answer questions.  They also provided a context map that depicts the parkway as well as a linear park that includes a 10’ wide trail that spans the entire length of the Parkway from Rio Road to the Route 250 bypass.  The map lined the rear wall of the Booker T. Reaves Media Center.

The School Board’s line of questioning was primarily lead by Kathy Galvin, who was elected to the School Board last year. She wanted assurances that the lowest possible speed limit would be posted through the parkway’s intersection with Melbourne Road.

“I would like to actually see it get down to like 15 if possible because as I understand it, the chances of fatalities greatly diminish once you get it under 15 miles per hour,” Galvin said.

In fact, the City portion will be sign-posted at 25 miles per hour, and runs from Melbourne to Route 250.  Jack Kelsey said the County’s portion is being designed to the same standards as the City’s portion. The County will have to petition VDOT for permission to post a 25 m.p.h. limit, because the County lacks the authority about how secondary roads are governed.

Tucker-galvin
Kathy Galvin (in red) describes one possible location for a pedestrian connection from CHS to the linear park
Most importantly, Galvin said she wanted to see a raised pedestrian bridge to link Charlottesville High School with the linear park, which will be to the east of the parkway.  She said she wanted to eliminate the potential for conflict between cars and pedestrians, and asked if that had been considered.   Galvin added that the linear park is “exactly the kind of feature” she’d like to see, but that she had reservations.

“I’m really finding it very difficult to completely embrace this two mile long road with no east-west connection,” Galvin said, referring to the County’s portion of the road. There are plans for a pedestrian bridge across the City’s portion of the road north of the Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange.  Galvin said she has begun looking to see what funding might be available to build a similar bridge or tunnel near Charlottesville High School.

School board members spent much of the hour and twenty minute discussion standing in front of the map, pointing out possible locations for such a bridge. Tucker said that further additions could be made in the future. She said was concerned about the funding and time required for redesign needed, and recommended that enhancement projects could be coordinated with the City, the County and the Rivanna Trails Foundation. Tucker said efforts can continue to add to the project, as long as funding could be found for some of the features. “There’s no reason we couldn’t work toward that,” Tucker said.

Galvin also raised the possibility of workforce housing being built in the County near CHS, and the multi-use trail would help connect people to both CHS and CATEC, which is located at the northern terminus of the County’s portion of the road. She said one benefit to the linear park is that it would allow people living in those areas to walk or bike to work, but also said she was concerned that would generate more traffic.

Tucker said the traffic model used has taken future residential development into consideration. The road is expected to handle 20,000 vehicles a day.

School Board Member Colette Blount asked if the road would be expanded to four-lanes in the future. Tucker said the road was only approved by City Council as a two-lane facility, and it would be very  unlikely that an expansion in the design would happen.

School Board member Leah Puryear said that no speed limit short of zero would be safe for students, and that she needed to be assured that the lowest possible speed limit would be enacted.

Michie-kelsey
Jack Kelsey listens as Ned Michie points out another potential location for a bridge
School Board Ned Michie asked if trucks would be allowed to use the County’s portion of the road. Kelsey said that the topic had not come up, but that the County is planning to match the City’s design criteria. The City will not allow commercial trucks on its portion of the Parkway.

Several Board members asked why the City was being asked to donate its portion of the land, rather than be compensated for it. Tucker said one of City Council’s conditions is that the City will receive about 50 acres in extra parkland on what is now County land.

Galvin introduced amendments to the resolution that would commit the City and County to designing and building an east-west grade-separated connection between CHS and the trail. 
However, Blount suggested the School Board have additional time to consider the possibility.
Michie agreed. He said the School Board shouldn’t make a transportation decision, but should only consider the effect on the high school. “I do want to make sure that this is a safe friendly road,” he said.

The School Board will now consider the issue at its meeting on May 1. The City Council will take up the topic at its meeting on May 5, as well as the design for stormwater management facilities to be built in the park.

School Board member Juandiego Wade recused himself from the discussion because of his employment as the County’s transportation planner.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
  • 1:00 - Introduction from Henderson
  • 2:30 - School Board member Kathy Galvin asks about the speed of the road
  • 5:00 - Galvin asks if the trail between Rio Road and Route 250 would increase pedestrian traffic
  • 6:22 - Galvin raises the concern that the Meadowcreek Parkway itself blocks access to the linear park to the east, and she is answered by Angela Tucker
  • 17:00 - Tucker says the existing design of the Parkway does not preclude any structures from being built in the future  
  • 18:15 - Galvin asks if cars driving to McIntire Park would access the park via Melbourne Road
  • 19:00 - Galvin asks if City and County would consider allowing cars to park on the Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 21:30 - Colette Blount asked if the Parkway would ever be expanded to four-lanes in the future
  • 24:30 - Leah Puryear says no speed short of zero is safe, and asks how close the road will be to the CHS football stadium
  • 27:30 - Blount asks what other projects have recently been built in the state of Virginia and is answered by Spencer DeJarnette. DeJarnette answers several other questions as well.
  • 31:20 - Galvin asks question about residential development to the north in the County
  • 33:20 - Michie asks what the anticipated traffic volume will be when the road opens
  • 34:05 - Blount asks how the Meadowcreek Parkway will decrease congestion
  • 36:35 - Lizelle Dugger asks about the barrier between the stadium and the Parkway, prompting a discussion about a potential location for the east-west pedestrian connection
  • 39:50 - Michie asks Jack Kelsey if there is room for a pedestrian connection near a drainage pond
  • 45:45 - VDOT's Brent Sprinkle says there is a possibility of using pedestrian countdown lights at the intersection of Melbourne and the Parkway
  • 48:00 - Blount asks if buses will be able to use the Parkway, followed by a question from Ned Michie about commercial truck traffic
  • 52:30 - School Board discussion
  • 55:03 - Tucker explains why the School Board is being asked to donate the land, rather than be compensated for it
  • 56:30 - Galvin reads from her alternate resolution, which included calling for at least one east-west grade-separated connection.

Sean Tubbs

Meadowcreek Parkway discussion on WINA

C1-artistic
Artist's rendition of Alternative C1
A neighborhood leader with concerns about the Meadowcreek Parkway and a City transportation official overseeing the project both appeared on the local airwaves to address the interchange designs up for consideration by the Charlottesville City Council. Colette Hall of the North Downtown Neighborhood Association and Angela Tucker of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services were both guests on the April 18, 2008 edition of Newsradio 1070’s WINA’s morning radio program.Hosts Jane Foy and Rick Daniels spent the full hour on the topic of the road, which has been in the planning stages for several decades.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080418-WINA-MCP.mp3

At their meeting tonight, the City Council is scheduled to select a preferred design alternative for the interchange that will connect the Route 250 bypass and McIntire Road/Meadowcreek Parkway.  After Council’s action, the design will be further refined in advance of a future meeting where Council will approve the final interchange plan. Hall says the interchange selected by the steering committee is much too large and will reduce the quality of life in her neighborhood. Tucker says the two projects have cleared nearly all of the regulatory hurdles and are ready to go forward.

Sean Tubbs