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June 30, 2008

Board will receive update on cash proffers

Albemarle County received $819,300 in new proffers in the first three months of this calendar year, and spent $814,000 from various proffers collected in the past several years. The information was released as part of the County’s 3rd Quarter Proffer report, which also states the County has the potential to receive up to $56.7 million in cash proffers as approved residential and commercial developments are built-out. 

The new proffer money came from the rezoning of land for the Fontana subdivision on Pantops and the Patterson subdivision near Crozet, and will be mostly added to the County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The County now generally receives a $17,500 cash proffer from a developer for each new housing unit approved, as well as the expectation that 15 percent of units be designated as ‘affordable.’ If a developer opts to not build affordable homes, an additional cash proffer of $2,809 per unit is expected. In the case of the Fontana 4C rezoning approved on March 19, 2008, the developer chose to pay $95,500 in lieu of constructing the affordable units.

However, the County actually collected just over $69,000 in cash during the quarter. That’s because a developer often is not required to pay up until certain conditions are met. The process by which the funds are transferred to County coffers are governed by the proffer statements signed by the developer prior to the approval of a rezoning.

Proffer money spent in the quarter mostly went to help pay for the construction of the $5.9 million Hollymead Fire Station. Funds totaling nearly $555,000 came from the rezoning of Hollymead Areas C and D, which are in the process of being built out. The rezoning that allowed for the construction of the 35-unit Wickham Pond contributed $59,000 towards the Crozet Streetscaping project, and the proffer fund for North Pointe contributed $200,000 towards the County’s affordable housing fund.

At the end of the third quarter, staff tallied up the outstanding obligations owed by developers and came up with a total of over $56.7 million, adjusted for inflation.  The biggest single category is the Biscuit Run rezoning, which carries an adjusted total of $17.9 million in cash the County can expect if that development reaches full build-out. There are also additional non-cash proffers from the Biscuit Run development including land for a park and for a school. 

The next largest cash proffer is expected to come from Hollymead Town Center Area A2, which was rezoned the same evening as Biscuit Run. In all, the County can expect $15.2 million in cash proffers in exchange for changing the Rural Area zoning to Commercial and Neighborhood Model zoning. According to the proffer statement, the developer won’t have to pay until a building permit is issued for the 151st market rate unit. However, the amount per unit will be adjusted for inflation each year.

Sean Tubbs

Local leaders define dredging task force membership, charge & timeline

20080630-4chairs1 On June 30, 2008, four local officials met to review the responsibilities and membership of a proposed task force to study maintenance dredging at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  Charlottesville City Council was represented by Mayor Dave Norris, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was represented by Chairman Ken Boyd, the Albemarle County Service Authority was represented by Chairman Don Wagner, and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) was represented by its Chairman Mike Gaffney.

The dredging task force is being created as the result of recent resolutions passed by City and County officials as well as action taken by the RWSA to allocate up to $300,000 for a dredging study.

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These four officials reached consensus on the membership of the task force as well as the specific issues to be addressed in its work.  The eleven member task force is expected to meet over the next four months presenting their recommendations to a joint meeting of the four bodies in November 2008.
 
The task force will work in parallel to the RWSA's efforts to qualify a consultant to undertake a future dredging study. A request for qualifications is being released by the authority in July 2008. The recommendations of the task force are expected to shape the final scope of work to be undertaken by a qualified consultant.

20080630-4chairs2
(L to R: Mike Gaffney, RWSA; Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris; Supervisor Ken Boyd; and Don Wagner, ACSA)

Early in the almost one hour meeting, Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) and Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris made clear their differing views as to whether the task force recommendations would potentially change elements of the fifty year Community Water Supply Plan. 

“The big question here is whether or not anything coming out of this task force would impact our fifty year plan?” asked Boyd.  “I think I speak for my Board on this… that it should not.  This is in addition to the Ragged Mountain plan and the pipeline plan and that should really be taken off the table [so the task force] does not think we are studying an alternative to that.” Mike Gaffney and Don Wagner expressed their agreement with Boyd. 

Then Mayor Norris outlined the City’s view.  “I may be the loan lone one out here but, I do support, and our Council certainly supports, the fundamentals of the plan, but my feeling has been… that if we end up doing some maintenance dredging [that] is going to free up water supply, I don’t see why we wouldn’t factor that into the equation in terms of how much additional capacity we pay for at Ragged Mountain,” said Norris.  “I don’t see that as a way to undermine the fundamentals of the plan.  I am talking about [seeing] if there is a way to save a few million dollars and a few thousand trees at Ragged Mountain.”

20080630-4chairs-memo The officials discussed the possible issues that the task force would explore and reached consensus that the first question they should address is "Should we dredge and if so why?"  Two other possible work areas were identified:

  • Confirm the list of public resources of the reservoir and define the outcome desired for each resource
  • Identify studies desired by the dredging consulting team
  • Click here to download complete memo

The task force will have eleven members made up of representatives from local governing bodies, non-profits, and users and property owners at the reservoir.  Each of the following will be asked to nominate a representative to the task force:

  1. Charlottesville City Council
  2. Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
  3. Albemarle County Service Authority
  4. Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority
  5. One representative from The Nature Conservancy/Rivanna River Basin Commission
  6. League of Women Voters
  7. Ivy Creek Foundation
  8. Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply Plan
  9. Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce
  10. One citizen representing property owners around South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
  11. One representative from the University of Virginia as an entity with “recreational interests”

As the officials considered how much time to give the task force to make recommendations, the differing perspectives of Norris and Boyd were once again apparent.  “What we don’t want to have happen is anybody to see this as a delaying tactic where by the time this group gets done with their work and the consultant gets done with their work, the train has already left the station on the infrastructure improvements related to the fifty year plan,” said Norris. 

“I think that train has already left the station and should keep moving,” responded Boyd.

“I think it has left the station in terms of the policy, but in terms of actually constructing the dam, thankfully we have got time,” said Norris.  After the meeting, Mayor Norris told Charlottesville Tomorrow that he was satisfied that the work of the task force could be done in a timeframe that could shape decisions about how large a dam to build at Ragged Mountain.

Frederick told the group that the recent resolutions passed by the City and the County gave the RWSA the “green light” to continue with the preparations for the foundation of new Ragged Mountain Dam.  The foundation construction should begin before the end of 2008 and the dam design will be completed in early 2009 with construction bids for the dam being issued in Summer 2009.

Brian Wheeler

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 02:05 – Call to order by RWSA Chairman Mike Gaffney
  • 03:25 – Gaffney suggests discussion start with memo on “Consideration of responsibilities of the South Fork Reservoir Task Force.”
  • 05:30 – Supervisor Ken Boyd asks how recommendations of task force will relate to work of consultant to be hired by RWSA.  Says that it needs to be clear what task force is being asked to do.
  • 07:23 – RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick describes request for qualifications for dredging consultant to be sent out in early July.
  • 08:16 – City Manager Gary O’Connell mentions how work of task force and selection of dredging consultant was expected to happen in parallel.
  • 08:53 – Mayor Dave Norris suggests studies of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could be done in two phases.  First an immediate bathymetric and soil study followed later by a broader study of maintenance dredging.
  • 10:35 – Gaffney opens up discussion of the composition of the task force.  Three options were presented in the memo from Tom Frederick.
  • 11:54 – Boyd says he can support a larger task force with various community members and non-profits involved, but encourages specificity on scope of work for the task force.
  • 12:10 – Boyd says the work of the task force should not impact fifty year community water supply plan.  Wagner and Gaffney agree.
  • 12:32 – Norris expresses interest in factoring dredging results at South Fork into calculation for how much new capacity to build at Ragged Mountain.
  • 15:03 – Gaffney opens up discussion on possible issues to be addressed by the task force
  • 15:31 – Boyd suggests that an item missing from the list of issues is a determination as to whether dredging is necessary for the water supply plan
  • 16:10 – Gaffney and Frederick describe how their studies estimate that the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could continue to be used as a water supply source, with diminished capacity, even without maintenance dredging.
  • 25:11 – Gaffney asks about permits required for dredging operations and whether that will be examined by task force vs. consultants.
  • 25:41 – Frederick describes likelihood of getting dredging permits from Virginia DEQ and US Army Corps of Engineers.  Frederick reflects on failure in 2002 to get a permit for a different type of dredging operation.
  • 27:40 – Norris restates consensus on issues to be evaluated by task force
  • 29:11 – Albemarle County Service Authority Chairman Don Wagner asks who the task for will report to and who will make decisions on their recommendations.
  • 31:00 – Boyd recommends that task force have at least one public hearing
  • 31:19 – Norris opens of discussion of task force membership.  Eleven representatives were ultimately identified.
  • 39:50 – Boyd asks for a specific timeline for the work of the task force.  A four month timeline was selected with a final report to be made in November 2008.
  • 41:02 – Norris indicates he wants the task force to have time to inform the specifications of the fifty year water supply plan
  • 42:52 – Norris asks Frederick to update the group on the timing of the Ragged Mountain dam design and construction
  • 46:07 – Gaffney restates membership of the task force

New funding gap opens for Meadowcreek Parkway

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has increased the cost estimate for Albemarle County’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway by $5 million to $30.6 million. A recent staff report from the County says the rise is due to higher fuel and construction costs, as well as additional VDOT requirements that the County take special efforts to maintain traffic on Rio Road during construction. 

The County has been saving up its Secondary Road funds allocation from VDOT for several years to pay for the long-planned road, which VDOT estimated in 2000 would cost just over $10 million. The cost estimate has increased over 200% since then, during a time when the County’s allocation for Secondary Road allocation has been shrinking. In FY2001, the County received just under $5 million. In FY2009, the County will receive $3,564,325 from VDOT for Secondary Roads.

The County is also saving up secondary road funds for two other road projects targeted for safety improvements, bike lanes, and sidewalks–Jarmans Gap Road and Georgetown Road. Those projects have been repeatedly delayed due to a lack of funds.  Jarmans Gap Road in Crozet is now estimated to cost $14,964,792, a $300,000 increase since the Board adopted its Secondary Road Six Year Plan in March. There is no cost estimate for Georgetown Road on VDOT’s website, but County Transportation Planner Juandiego Wade told Charlottesville Tomorrow the project is estimated at just over $3 million.

Allan Sumpter, the Director of VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency, told Supervisors in March that the County had a balance of over $28.7 million to apply to the Meadowcreek Parkway. That figure includes $1 million in VDOT revenue sharing funds that the County applied for and received last year. That leaves a $1.89 million shortfall. 

Now, VDOT is recommending applying for the revenue sharing funds again this year to fill in the funding gap. The Board will consider the measure as part of its consent agenda on Wednesday. The County is not guaranteed to receive the funding.  Beginning next year, the state will give the highest priority for revenue sharing to jurisdictions that take construction responsibility over from VDOT, something the County is considering for Jarmans Gap and Georgetown Road.

Albemarle’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is scheduled to be advertised for construction in October 2008. Meanwhile, utility relocation and right of way acquisition will continue throughout the summer.  The grade separated interchange to be built where the Parkway meets the 250 Bypass is expected to be advertised in Spring 2009. 

Sean Tubbs

June 27, 2008

Business leader gives Austin vs. Aspen update

20080621-GaryHenry On June 21, 2008 local businessman Gary Henry gave his “Austin vs. Aspen” development presentation to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Democratic Breakfast.

Henry, a Board member of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, is continuing his efforts to call attention to a fork in the road that he sees approaching for the area’s future; one branch leading to an economically and culturally diverse city with a healthy middle class (Austin), the other leading to a ritzy retirement and tourism community where only the wealthy can afford to live (Aspen).

Henry began his presentation by examining the current perception of Charlottesville, citing numerous national magazines that have awarded Charlottesville high marks in various “best place to live” rankings, but also referencing local articles that bemoan the economic struggles of the middle class in the area. Henry listed characteristics of Charlottesville that he said match those of Aspen, Colorado (environmental beauty, attractive to retirees) and Austin, Texas (large university, strong arts community).

According to Henry, if the region’s planners do not take action, greater Charlottesville will slowly drift towards the Aspen model, attracting more and more wealthy retirees until those providing services in Charlottesville will not be able to afford to live there. He advocates the pursuit of the Austin model, and his suggested method is the creation of a strong technology presence that would attract young, middle class workers to counterbalance the area’s aging population.

Henry told the audience that technology firms pay high wages, with a positive impact on the local economy. The ideal company would have upwards of 25 employees, size  that would fit neatly within the area’s current infrastructure.

“Sixty-five percent of the difference in economic success for regions is accounted for by the growth and presence of technology industries,” Henry said, citing study from the Milken Institute.

Henry closed by detailing the steps local governments could take in order to achieve his vision, and stressed the importance of cooperation between counties and cities in the region with each other and with businesses. Henry said that if the region didn’t take proactive steps in the near future, “then I fear we’re going to be on that default path which will look more and more and more like Aspen, Colorado, something I would not want to have happen to the area. I think we could be a lot more like Austin- a lot more diverse, and a lot more economically viable.”

Watch the video:

Ben Doernberg

June 26, 2008

An update on Bundoran Farm with David Hamilton

20080625-Bundoran-Farm Areas marked in yellow depict areas of working farmland that are preserved at Bundoran Farm

On the June 24, 2008 edition of WINA’s “Charlottesville–Right Now!” Coy Barefoot speaks with David Hamilton of Bundoran Farm, a “preservation development” near North Garden. Throughout the course of the show, Hamilton explained to Coy what that means.

”We’ve preserved upwards of 90% of the productive agricultural and forestal land,” Hamilton said. “It’s very important to have a method of developing property which doesn’t destroy that which is important to the community, meaning productive farmland.” The site plan involves building the houses in such a way that allows the farm to continue operations.

Hamilton also weighs in on the topics of land use taxation, how high fuel prices are affecting Albemarle’s farmers, and whether the Albemarle County Fair will be affected by the new development.

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Ben Doernberg

Pat Enright of Dominion Development on WINA

On the June 23 2008 edition of WINA’s “Charlottesville–Right Now!” Coy Barefoot speaks with Pat Enright, CEO of local developer Dominion Development Resources, LLC (DDR).  Enright discussed two major projects his firm has been involved in recently, the Northtown Center development on behalf of developer Wendell Wood, and the proposed dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

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  • Northtown Center approved - Phase I of the Northtown shopping center will contain a bank and other retail. Enright described his job as“really trying to align what the client needs, with what they’re allowed to do, with what the residents are going to be impacted by.”
  • Dredging - DDR has proposed that an active quarry 3,000 feet from the reservoir be used as the disposal site for dirt removed from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Enright admits that his company has a financial stake in that piece of land, but argues that this shouldn't prevent citizens and government from looking at the merits of the proposal. Enright estimates the approximate cost of removing the 2 million cubic yards of dirt currently in the reservoir to be between $24-29 million dollars.

Ben Doernberg

June 25, 2008

County approves preliminary plan for hospital facility on Route 250 West

At their June 24, 2008 meeting the Albemarle County Planning Commission approved a preliminary site plan for the University of Virginia’s Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) on Ivy Road. The project, a 50 bed hospital facility for patients staying longer than 25 days, can move forward as long as the final site plan addresses several conditions identified by the Commission, including completion of a new traffic study.

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Download 20080624-PC LTACH
Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) began the proceedings by recusing himself from all proceedings relating to LTACH, as he is the Chief Financial Officer for the UVA Health Services Foundation. Thomas Harkins, UVA Chief of Environmental Care, explained that the new facility is not a nursing home, but rather a hospital designed to serve the needs of patients who need to be monitored for long periods of time

20080624--LTACH-Diagram The UVA hospital is a state agency, and as such would normally be exempt from all local land use regulations. However, as part of the three-party agreement between the County, the City, and UVA, signed in 1986, the University agreed to voluntarily comply with local regulations in certain parts of the region, including the land for the proposed hospital which will share parking with the existing Northridge medical office building on Route 250 West.

The first task before the Commission was to determine whether the development would be in “substantial compliance” with the County’s comprehensive plan. Nearby development includes car dealerships and businesses, and are zoned either commercial or light industrial. These zonings pre-date the current comprehensive plan, which designates the land as "rural area."


Thomas Harkins, UVA Chief of Environmental Care

Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) was troubled by the intrusion of further development into the rural area.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) stated that in her opinion, a hospital certainly did not constitute rural use, and as such was not truly in substantial compliance with the comprehensive plan. However, she was concerned that if the hospital didn’t move into the space, something even larger and more intense could take its place as a by-right light industrial development. Despite these concerns, the Commission voted 4-1 to find the site plan in compliance; Morris opposed the motion.

UVA next had to obtain critical slope waivers allowing it to develop on soil areas with an angular rise or fall of 25% or more. Staff recommended approval without condition of the waivers because of a provision in the ordinance that recommends critical slope waivers be granted in situations where such a waiver “would serve a public purpose of greater import than would be served” by enforcing the regulation. County planner Gerald Gotobu presented staff’s reasoning on the matter, pointing out that many of the critical slopes on the properties are not natural, but were actually created by parking lot construction for the Northridge medical office building.

The Commissioners had a number of concerns about the traffic impact of the project on Route 250 West. The applicant proposed a design wherein there were two entrances to the LTACH; one would be the existing Northridge entrance, for staff and visitors, and the other would be a side road reserved for ambulances to drop off and pick up patients. County staff, the Route 250 West Task Force,  and the Commission agreed that it would be desirable to add a traffic signal at the existing Northridge entrance.  Engineers for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) concurred with this assessment. However, VDOT said a “complete warrant analysis” had not been conducted to approve the signal.  The engineer for VDOT expressed concern that, if the nearby Seig warehouse, Northridge office building, and LTACH each had their own entrance, it could result in insufficient volume at Northridge to warrant a signal.

The commission placed a condition on the site plan’s approval that UVA construct a vehicular connection between the Seig warehouse and the Northridge building, to funnel traffic to that entrance. Final site plan approval was also made conditional on submission of a traffic study from VDOT fully evaluating the need for a new traffic signal.

Madison Spencer, a landowner whose property abuts the Seig warehouse to the north, expressed concern about the impact the proposed sewage plan would have on his property. He urged the Commission to expand the area UVA is allowed to pump sewage through, so that it will not be routed through the trees that currently serve as a buffer between his property and the warehouse. Staff pointed out that there is an ordinance governing screening buffers in the area, but the Commission agreed to place the creation of an adequate buffer as an additional condition on the plan’s approval.

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) asked about whether the lighting at the Northridge parking lot, which would be used for LTACH visitors, would need to be upgraded to meet current lighting code regulations. Staff explained that although Northridge parking spaces are being counted towards those required by code for the new LTACH construction, there is no actual development taking place on Northridge property, and therefore the lighting currently in place does not have to be modified.

Edgerton characterized this as “a very generous interpretation…they’re asking for something, and in return perhaps we could ask for something back from them.” Harkins explained that they were already planning on replacing the lighting in question to meet current code. Fulfillment of this promise was added as a condition to site plan approval.

Edgerton also expressed confusion as to why County staff was planning on granting an exemption from regulations governing the allowed grade of connections between parcels. Current ordinances mandate a maximum slope of 10% for such connections, whereas the connection between Seig warehouse and Northridge office building proposed by the applicant has a slope of 14%. Staff replied that they were planning on allowing an exception due to the desirability of a connection and the difficulty of implementing it at the 10% slope with the existing topography. Edgerton was not convinced, and the final condition placed on the approval was the compliance of the connection with the 10% slope regulation.


Ben Doernberg

City planners hold work session on cell towers, reduced parking for parks

20080624-CPC-worksession City Planning Commissioners Genevieve Keller, Jason Pearson, Dan Rosensweig, Cheri Lewis and Mike Farruggio

Cell towers and park parking requirements were the two main topics of a Charlottesville Planning Commission work session held on June 24, 2008. The Commission agreed to initiate a review of the City’s zoning ordinances that govern the amount of parking spaces required at City parks. They also viewed a presentation from Steven Blaine, an attorney working with Verizon Wireless to petition the City to allow telecommunications towers on residential and school properties.

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The request to revisit the parking ordinance was initiated by City Parks and Recreation staff while they continue redeveloping various parks across Charlottesville. Neighborhood Planner Brian Haluska said the new site plans for Meade and Forest Hill Parks have triggered a concern that existing zoning requires too many spaces.

“Our standard of parking for these facilities is essentially based on one line in the City code, which is out door recreational facilities,” Haluska said. “I think it says a space for every 600 square feet [of active parkland].”

20080624-CPC-ForestHills
Existing zoning could be interpreted to require 57 parking spaces at Forest Hills Park as it is redesigned

Haluska said that would mean Forest Hills Park would require 57 spaces, which would eliminate parkland. In fact, the park redesign shows the removal of an existing asphalt space in favor of more open space.  Haluska said the City can’t currently grant a waiver to overcome the limit without changing the existing code. After a lengthy discussion, the Commission voted to begin the process of considering the ordinance change. Commissioner  Cheri Lewis said she supported the change, but would have liked to have had more information in front of her before making a decision. The item will come back before the Commission later this year.

Earlier this month, the Commission agreed to initiate the study of a zoning ordinance change that would allow “telecommunications facilities”  - or cell towers – to be installed in more locations throughout the City. This work session was intended to advance that work. Verizon Wireless, which has petitioned for the change, wants to be able to erect monopole or alternative towers on residential property and on school property by special permit.

Blaine said under the existing zoning code, cell towers are prohibited on 61 percent of City land. That means that Verizon and others have a hard time completing their network for wireless data and voice.  Towers can currently be permitted in residential zones, but Blaine said the existing law is very restrictive.
“You can only have an antenna that is not visible from the adjoining street or adjoining property owner,” Blaine said. “That makes the effectiveness of the antennas severely limited.”

Blaine is seeking changes that would allow camouflaged towers in locations that otherwise are quite visible.  For example, currently there are towers on top of the Omni and the Monticello Hotel that are technically visible, but blend in with the surroundings. Valerie Long, an attorney representing other wireless providers, was also on hand at the meeting to provide comments.

Blaine also told the Commission that under Federal law, the City could not restrict the placement of cell towers based on electromagnetic interference or health concerns.  He said Verizon Wireless would be conducting a campaign to convince the public that there is no connection between cell towers and health conditions. Chairman Jason Pearson agreed, and that the Commission would restrict its deliberation to what was legally possible. Deputy City Attorney Rich Harris said that the 1996 Telecommunications Act specifically limits a locality’s ability to regulate towers based on health concerns, and that the City could be sued if it proceeded to do so.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller asked if providers could be required to update any antennas or towers as new technologies are developed that cause these towers to become obsolete. Blaine said that would be acceptable.  Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said it would be difficult to define “camouflage” in the City Code given the highly subjective nature of the technique.

Chairman Pearson had concerns that the Planning Commission would increase its workload by having a whole new category of special permits to consider. Blaine said Verizon Wireless would only be submitting six applications, and that is only because the company is newly entering the market. Lewis requested more information on how other jurisdictions across Virginia are handling the zoning of cell towers.

Four members of the public attended the meeting, which was held in a the close quarters of the Neighborhood Development Services conference room. Greenbrier resident Mary Sullivan  said she was  concerned that the ordinance change would allow the construction of the towers on school property, something she said would put children’s health in danger.  UVA Professor of Opthamology Paul Yates said the City should not risk exposing students to the added electromagnetic frequencies, even if the data is not yet conclusive. 

“The problem is that the long-term studies on electromagnetic  radiation on children exposed to cell phone towers… has not been done,” Yates said. “We will find out in twenty years whether there are any effects.” He urged the Commission to find some other way to keep these off school property. Andrew Gilmore said there were already enough wireless providers in Charlottesville and that the zoning change would open the door to many more.

The item will come back before the Planning Commission at its regular meeting on July 22, 2008.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - City Neighborhood Planner Brian Haluska introduces discussion of whether to initiate zoning text amendment to allow the Parks department to petition for reduced parking requirements
  • 23:00 - Discussion of proposed zoning ordinance change to allow cell towers in residential areas with a special use permit
  • 1:29:30 - Discussion of Commisson's Work Plan
  • 1:47:45 - Public Comment period opens up with three comments about cell towers
  • 1:59:15 - Commissioner Dan Rosensweig discusses a new proffer work sheet that he is helping staff develop

Sean Tubbs

A visual look at the issues of interest to our subscribers

Last year Charlottesville Tomorrow began tracking information about the issues our subscribers would like to see us cover in our reporting.  You can edit or add your suggestion in your membership profile.

As the response postcards came in from residents who received our 2007 Voter Guide, I was impressed by the volume of interest in transportation matters, specifically public transportation, bikes, and rail.  I made a note to myself that I needed to find a way to mine this data and share the results.

Tag clouds” or “word clouds” are one interesting way to visually analyze text and I was alerted last week to a website called Wordle that is devoted to this task.  The basic concept is that words that appear more frequently in a document are given more prominence in a computer generated image of the words in that text.

So I took all the text that had been submitted by our subscribers and created the following word cloud. Given that the Virginia General Assembly is meeting this week in their special session on transportation, this cloud’s results seemed particularly timely.

20080625cloud1

[Note: You can click the cloud to visit its home on Wordle. Some of the text submitted by these 186 subscribers was standardized for clarity (eg. 'rt 29' became 'route29', 'bike' became 'bicycle')]

Providing in-depth coverage of transportation matters in our community has been a priority since Charlottesville Tomorrow launched in 2005.  This tag cloud, while not a scientific survey, certainly reinforces the importance of this issue in our work.  It was also a major topic that surfaced in last year's focus groups that supported our Survey 2007 research.

Here is a word cloud for Charlottesville Tomorrow’s mission statement:

20080625cloud2

Brian Wheeler

RWSA Board approves up to $300,000 for dredging study

In the past month, both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of supervisors have passed resolutions directing their representatives on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) to investigate the possibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. At their monthly meeting on June 23, 2008, the Board voted to authorize up to $300,000 for a study of dredging.  The RWSA will release a request for proposals by July 8, 2008.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080623-RWSA


During the public comment period, much of the feedback for the Board was directed towards the possible dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir which was built in 1966 and is losing about 1% of its capacity annually due to siltation. Before the meeting, Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, had prepared a memo for the Board outlining a series of recommendations for initiating a dredging study.
20080623-Frederick
According to Frederick’s memo, “from the context of the [City & County] resolutions themselves, the stated goal is high water quality, and the purpose behind the goal is to enhance the reservoir’s resources to the community.” The memo recommends that the staff of the RWSA issue a request for proposals (RFP) by July 8, 2008 to identify consulting companies with expertise in a number of areas relevant to dredging, including experience in design and implementation of dredging strategies, disposal of removed sediment, and water quality analysis.

Rich Collins, a former Chairman of the RWSA (and member of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) and Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan), stated his opinion that Frederick’s memo downplays the issue of water quantity and plays up the issue of water quality. He told the Board he felt the dredging study being proposed by Frederick downplayed the contribution the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should make to the urban water system’s safe yield. Collins said it was his impression that City Council wanted to find a way to lower the necessary height of the new dam at Ragged Mountain.

Betty Mooney, a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and a critic of the 50-year water supply plan as adopted, began by suggesting to the Board that they reschedule their meetings in order to encourage more citizen participation. The meetings currently occur at 2 PM on Monday, which is during the work day for many citizens who would otherwise attend according to Mooney.  She next presented a petition with over 500 signatures advocating dredging.  “I hope we can trust you to get these surveys done professionally, and as soon as possible, so the water supply strategy can proceed with all the information necessary,” said Mooney.

Kevin Lynch, former City Councilor and a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, advocated a more expedient schedule to study dredging than that laid out by Frederick. Pointing to a draft RFP created by the Piedmont Environmental Council, he argued that setting a date of July 1st for the creation of an RFP for dredging study would be an aggressive schedule, “but certainly not an impossible one.”

Pat Enright, CEO of Dominion Development Resources (DDR) LLC and Earlysville resident, said the first priority of any dredging study should be to find a disposal site for the sediment. He talked about a hypothetical scenario in which expensive analysis determined dredging to be the best option, but the lack of a disposal site for sediment made the study “a waste of money.” Enright has already expressed his firm’s interest in utilizing dredge material to fill an abandoned quarry owned by Dr. Charles Hurt which is near the reservoir.

When it came time for the Board to consider the RFP for the dredging study,
Frederick recommended the Board pursue two parallel courses of action. He suggested that there are two goals of the initial stage of the process: ; identifying the purposes of dredging, and choosing a consulting firm with the requisite experience to help guide the RWSA.  “We’re suggesting that we start on a parallel track but recognize these tracks are going to come together in the coming weeks,” said Frederick.

For the first goal, Frederick proposed a meeting between RWSA Board Chairman Mike Gaffney, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Boyd, and Albemarle County Service Authority Chairman Don Wagner to determine whether a task force would be an effective way to address the issue, and if so, who should be asked to serve. Frederick said this meeting should occur by July 4, 2008.

For the second goal, Frederick suggested RWSA staff issue an RFP soliciting credentials and ideas from consulting companies, in order to identify the group that will be best able to design an effective dredging strategy. Once a company is chosen, it would be responsible for designing a plan that meets the goals laid out by the task force. Frederick recommended a deadline of July 8th for the issuance of an RFP.

County Executive Bob Tucker asked for a clarification on whether a scope of work would be included in the RFP. Frederick responded that there would be no specific scope of work initially, but that the RFP “would identify the areas of possible study that we need expertise to fill.” Frederick added that he wants to know how consultants would approach the problem, suggesting it was more of a Request for Qualifications rather than a detailed RFP. Tucker asked if the task force would help develop the RFP, and Frederick said yes. “We’re anticipating the task force will help us define why we are performing the study,” Frederick said. The Board, after only a brief discussion, voted unanimously authorize the expenditure of up to $300,000 for the study and RFP process.

OTHER BUSINESS and PUBLIC COMMENT

In other business, Frederick briefed the Board and the public on the status of area reservoirs. He explained that as of mid-June, the Charlottesville area had been dropped from the National Drought Mitigation Center’s list of areas in drought condition, and that the likelihood of a severe drought in 2008 was “very small.” Citing the unpredictably of the weather, Frederick closed his statement by reminding those in attendance that regardless of the current year’s water situation, it was always important to focus on water conservation.

Landowner John Via, who sold some of the land that was originally slated for construction of the proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir, was the first to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. The Buck Mountain Reservoir plan had to be tabled, in part, when the James River spiny mussel, an endangered species, was found in the area.  Via asked the RWSA Board to sell back the land, rather than use it as part of the mitigation plan for the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“It shouldn’t be used for other purposes other than what it was bought for,” Via said.
County Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller), speaking as a member of the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), asked Frederick and the Board to undertake an effort to encourage rainwater harvesting, and provide a standard set of procedures for builders wishing to implement such systems on their property. She expressed a desire for a joint meeting between the RWSA and the RRBC to discuss the topic further.

WASTEWATER TREATMENT

The RWSA also directed a consultant to evaluate a new design for the proposed upgrade to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment plant, which, if approved, would add an extra $2 million to the approximately $40 million budget for the project.

State water regulations passed in 2005 require water treatment facilities to reduce nitrogen levels to 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or lower, with an incentive program allowing facilities with lower nitrogen levels to sell credits to other facilities and jurisdictions who are unable to meet the regulation.

Hazen and Sawyer, an engineering firm hired by the RWSA to design the upgraded plant, had estimated the current nitrogen levels at 25 (mg/L). The firm recommended the RWSA aim to reduce levels to 5 mg/L and increase revenue by selling credits. Unfortunately, further study authorized by the RWSA in January has revealed that the current nitrogen levels are approximately 30 mg/L, and the treatment methods as designed would not be able to reduce 30 mg/L to even the 6 mg/L required by law.

Hazen and Sawyer presented three design alternatives. Option 1 would cost $108,000 and would add extra filtering capacity with six tertiary filters to bring nitrogen levels down to 6 mg/L. Option 2 would build an additional aeration basins at a cost of $3.4 million. Option 3 would add 2 more tertiary filters, and bring nitrogen levels down to 5 mg/L as originally planned, allowing the RWSA to earn between $50,000 and $75,000 a year through the sale of credits. This option would cost $2 million.

Frederick recommended Option 3 in part because it would qualify for funding from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s Water Quality Improvement Fund, which would reimburse the RWSA for 60% of the total $2 million bill as long as it did not go significantly above budget. He also said the extra filters would be consistent with a planned expansion of the Moores Creek facility by 2022.

Frederick also said DEQ’s water quality regulations continue to evolve, and the state could create more stringent requirements at a later date. Frederick did admit that there was no way to determine what future limits could be enacted, and another member of staff answered a question from Gary O’Connell by identifying California and Florida as states with requirements of fewer than 1 mg/L.

The RWSA voted unanimously to allocate approximately $82,000 for Hazen and Sawyer to revise their design, $49,200 of which will be reimbursed by the DEQ. The Board reserved the right to review the changes, and decide on a final course of action after there was a clearer indication of how close the total cost would come to the estimate of $2 million.

Watch the video:



TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:49 - Report from RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick
  • 5:21 - Public hearing comment from landowner John Via, who sold land to the RWSA for the once-planned Bucks Mountain Reservoir"
  • 6:00 - Public hearing comment from Rich Collins
  • 9:44 - Public hearing comment from Hawes Spencer, who asked why the RWSA Board has not taken a look at the alternative plan suggested by Kevin Lynch and other members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 10:44 - Public hearing comment from Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller), who serves as chair of the Rivanna River Basin
  • 12:56 - Public hearing comment from Betty Mooney of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 16:30 - Public hearing comment from Kevin Lynch Betty of Citizens for a Sustainable Water
  • 20:42 - Public hearing comment from Pat Enright of Dominion Development Resources LLC
  • 22:50 - RWSA considers and approves consent agenda
  • 23:30 - RWSA officials receive 2007 Excellence in Granular Media Filter Water Treatment Plant Performance, Bronze Award
  • 24:30 - RWSA receives an update from Tom Frederick on the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade
  • 45:16 - RWSA considers the RFP for maintenance dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

Ben Doernberg