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July 30, 2008

RWSA Board told search for firm to conduct dredging study will wait for feedback from new task force

20080728-RWSA-Board At the July 28, 2008 meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), proponents of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir expressed their opposition to the Board’s decision to postpone the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a consultant to conduct a dredging study. Statements made by members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan accused the Board of misleading the public and not following state laws governing the Authority’s responsibilities for maintaining the water supply.

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DREDGING DEBATE

At their previous meeting , the RWSA Board voted to follow a joint directive from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council to investigate the possibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The resolution adopted by the Board called for the creation of a task force to determine the needs and goals of dredging the reservoir, as well as the simultaneous issuance of what was later called a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find a consulting firm with relevant dredging experience and qualifications. The resolution set a deadline of July 4 for the creation of the task force, and July 9 for the RFQ.

The group charged with creating the task force met on June 30, 2008  and consisted of Mayor Dave Norris representing Charlottesville City Council, Ken Boyd representing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Don Wagner representing the Albemarle County Service Authority, and Mike Gaffney representing the RWSA. Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, polled the RWSA Board between its June and July meetings, and reported that they had unanimously agreed to wait for the task force’s results before going ahead with the RFP.  The task force membership is still being finalized, and the group will now consist of 13 members.  Two changes to the composition have been made since the June meeting: the Rivanna River Basin Commission and the Nature Conservancy will now each have a representative, instead of sharing one; and the Sierra Club has been given a spot on the task force as well. The date of the task force’s first meeting has not yet been set, although Frederick set a target of mid-August. 


Betty Mooney, representing Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

Betty Mooney of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan began her statement by repeating her request that the RWSA meetings be rescheduled for a time more conducive to public attendance by those who work during the day. She also criticized the RWSA’s policy of not responding to questions asked during the public comment period of the meeting.  “[This is] not just a request, I want to make it more than a request, that any individual who comes before you receives some sort of response,” said Mooney.

She then read a statement written by former City Councilor Kevin Lynch, who was unable to attend. Lynch applauded the City’s efforts to encourage increased water efficiency, citing their newly announced partnership with the EPA’s WaterSense conservation program, but asked, “What is Rivanna doing?” Lynch argued that a section of the state’s water regulations require the RWSA to consider the effects of greater conservation when estimating future water supply needs, and said that he saw “no evidence” of compliance with this requirement. Lynch also repeated his contention that the RWSA’s references to a community water supply “plan” are incorrect, because a formal plan has not been filed with the state. Mooney asked the RWSA Board, “When will Rivanna stop trying to mislead the public and start following the requirements of the state water planning law which was passed into law over two years ago?” 

In May 2008, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wrote a letter to Lynch and Mooney stating that Charlottesville, Albemarle, and the RWSA actually had until November 2011 to submit a water supply plan to comply with state regulations.  In 2007-08, RWSA has been seeking and receiving approval for permit applications related to the components of the 50-year community water supply plan.  “Much of the work submitted for the permit application is likely to be adequate to comply with planning requirements,” said DEQ.


FOIA REQUESTS

20080728-FrederickFrederick advised the Board the staff might go over their budget for legal services this year by as much as $10,000 due to an increase in the number and complexity of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to the dredging controversy. This organization takes the issue of the people’s right to know very, very seriously….We will do whatever we need and is necessary to ensure the public is informed,” said Frederick.  “Over the past four months there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Freedom of Information Act requests; in particular, requests are sometimes very very broad in scope, cover many many years of files, including files that this organization has placed in the archives, and in some cases the requests are written in a complex manner that requires considerable legal consultation.” 

Frederick suggested that citizens seeking information could first meet with RWSA staff before filing a FOIA request, so that staff can answer questions and explain what would be involved in satisfying the request.  Frederick also said that the RWSA’s legal advisors were examining the possibility of getting reimbursed by those making “complex requests requiring significant expense.”

OTHER BUSINESS

20080728-ChecksFrederick notified the board that he had authorized an extension for the coaches of the UVA rowing team to continue using gas powered boats at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir for another year, with the understanding that the Athletic Department is researching the transition to electric powered boats.


 Lonnie Wood, Director of Finance and Administration, also detailed a series of fraudulent checks issued as if from the RWSA that were traced to Canada. Wood assured the Board that none of the checks had been successfully cashed, and that as far as he was aware, the fraud was no longer ongoing.


Finally, the Board voted to cancel their August meeting, citing a lack of topics needing to be addressed. Their next meeting will be in September.

Ben Doernberg & Brian Wheeler


Committee delays Eastern Connector presentation to Supervisors

The consultant overseeing the Eastern Connector location study has been given more time to prepare a final report to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council. The steering committee spent its meeting on July 25, 2008 debating what items should be in the presentation, but ended up requesting more information on the preliminary cost estimates.

20080725-EC-Boyd-Lynch
Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch and Ken Boyd, Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

The committee began their meeting as Lewis Grimm, project manager for PBS&J, reviewed the presentation he was expecting to give to the Board of Supervisors in August.  Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch took issue with one item including in the meeting packet put together for Committee members. PBS&J created a spreadsheet which lists cost estimates for the various alternatives, and Lynch wanted to know how they were put together.

“Without knowing what assumptions are made, it’s hard to say that Alternative 3 could cost from $28 to $79 million dollars,” Lynch said.

Grimm said he could provide that information to the committee, but had not included the methodology in the packet because he had compiled data on right-of-way costs up until the day before the meeting.  The spreadsheet broke cost estimates into construction and right of way costs.

Lynch was particularly concerned about the figure of $54 million Grimm used as the cost to acquire the land for a two-lane Eastern Connector alignment that travels straight through Pen Park. The land acquisition costs for Pen Park alignments that skirt the park’s edges were both estimated at $14.8 million. Lynch was concerned that the high price tags would push City Councilors and Albemarle Supervisors to drop the Eastern Connector from consideration.

“If all you have is this spreadsheet, it looks like an excuse to do nothing,” Lynch said. He questioned whether Grimm’s $54 million was accurate, given that the City donated land in McIntire Park to VDOT for the construction of its portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway. 

The County’s transportation planner, Juandiego Wade, said the County’s real estate office had been involved in the calculations, and said the estimates were preliminary. Lynch urged Wade and Grimm to get more realistic cost estimates before showing them to the Board and Council. 

20080725-EC-Graham
Mark Graham, Director of Community Development for Albemarle County

Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development, said he was concerned the numbers provided the illusion of specificity. He also questioned whether detailed cost estimates were useful at this time.

“It’s a very big project that we have no identifiable means of funding, so whether [the spreadsheet] says its $30 million or $50 million, it’s being viewed the same way. We’ll have to go and identify an entirely new  way of funding a project if this thing is ever going to have a hope of being built,” Graham said. 

For a frame of reference, Graham pointed out that the County will spend $30.5 million to construct its portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, a two-lane road with one bridge.  That led him to assume the Pen Park route would cost somewhere in the $40 to $60 million range.  The spreadsheet with preliminary cost figures listed a total cost estimate for the northern Pen Park route at $46.4 million, and the southern Pen Park route at $28.5 million.

Melissa Barlow, the Director of Transportation Programs for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, urged Grimm to include the costs associated with complying with environmental regulations into the estimates. Specifically, the project will need to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as a process to prove to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that the project is the least environmentally damaging alternative.  While not a voting member of the steering committee, Barlow said she understood Lynch’s concern, but felt the PBS&J numbers should be given to elected officials in the interest of full transparency. Lynch agreed, but said that’s why the methodology had to be open as well. 

20080725-EC-Farruggio
Planning Commissioner Mike Farruggio

City Planning Commissioner Michael Farruggio suggested breaking down the right-of-way costs further in the spreadsheet by listing the cost of private and public land. Lynch said he did not think elected officials should be given the cost figures at this time, given that the Committee was not charged with coming up with them. Farruggio disagreed and said that would be the first piece of information he would want to know if he was a Councilor.

The Committee also discussed whether the spreadsheet should include a cost estimate for the widening of High Street, a suggestion made at an earlier meeting that Farruggio felt would alleviate congestion on Route 250, as an alternate to building a new bridge over the Rivanna.  Lynch said including this would be distracting, though he could see the advantages of redeveloping High Street.  Farruggio said he did not think it should be included unless the elected officials would be presented information on whether a second bridge south of Free Bridge would be considered. The City has rejected consideration of a new bridge from the Pantops Shopping Center area as part of the Eastern Connector project, but the Board of

Historical Traffic Growth
The committee spent 20 minutes discussing the ramifications of this chart (Source: PBS&J)

Supervisors has requested modeling data to show its effect on traffic congestion. Wade suggested showing it to the County, but not the City. Barlow pointed out that there is no cost estimate for a second bridge, so the comparisons would not be complete. Ken Boyd, Chairman of the Albemarle County Supervisors (Rivanna), said he believed the second bridge was not an option because of City opposition.  

While looking at a chart titled “Historical Traffic Growth 2001-2006”, the Committee discussed the destinations of  motorists coming and going from Charlottesville across Free Bridge at the Rivanna River. In particular, the chart indicated a 73.3% growth in vehicles traveling on Route 250 across Free Bridge to Route 20.

“That’s the traffic we’re trying to hit with the Eastern Connector road, and that’s what we’re trying to narrow down and find out what traffic we’re possibly going to divert,” said Boyd.

Wade directed Grimm to provide information on how many vehicles turned left onto East High Street, turned right onto River Road, or continued on the Route 250 bypass. Grimm said he was not sure if he had that information, but said he could use the forecasting model to obtain the data, or could look at any traffic counts conducted by the City or VDOT between 2001 and now.

Lynch said the City has numbers of movements on the bridge, but did not have similar counts for Locust, Park and Hydraulic to find out where vehicles go when they continue into the City.  Farruggio said it was important to get that data.

“You’ve got to determine where the traffic is going once it crosses that bridge. Is it ending up on Rio Road, is it ending on Hydraulic Road, is it ending up going straight, is it ending up going left onto McIntire or left on High Street? You need to be able to break that part into where they’re going,” Farruggio said. He asked how hard it would be to come up with that data. City Traffic Engineer Jeanette Janiczek said she was not sure if the City had enough counters, but they could look into getting the data on turning movements. Farruggio said the count would need to be done on a day when the University of Virginia is in session.

Farruggio is the most recently appointed member of the Committee. Wade reminded him that the topic of traffic destination has been a subject of debate since the beginning of the corridor location study.

“When we first started, we thought the major thrust [of the corridor location study] was traffic on 250 seeking to go to Route 29 North and vice versa, and I think what we found was that wasn’t necessarily the case,” Wade said. 

The bridge again came up after Grimm went through the various alternatives, and explained how each was still supported by the Committee, he went on to describe how various improvements to Route 250 might relieve traffic congestion. He said purely looking at the data, two new bridges over the Rivanna would provide the most traffic relief.

The mention of a two-lane bridge crossing from Pantops into the City troubled Farruggio because unlike the other alternatives, there was no cost estimate for it on the spreadsheet. Lynch agreed there should be a cost estimate associated with the south bridge, but that the Committee has already decided it will not be presented as an option. Wade asked the Committee if it should be taken off. Farruggio suggested including information as a summary at the end separate from the Committee’s recommendations.

When Farruggio asked Janiczek’s opinion, she said she was concerned that the committee was focusing too much on fixing Free Bridge. “If we increased the function of the bridge, that is going to push the problem [of traffic congestion] further along,” Janiczek said. “I’m not quite sure if we have the infrastructure to accept all of these cars coming in so much faster.”

Lynch said he could understand why the County wants a southern bridge. “The City is in the middle of the County, and it’s always going to be more efficient to drive another road through the City, then to go around it,” Lynch said. Boyd began to object, and Farruggio called time out and said that Lynch’s comment was “kind of divisive.”

“If the traffic is going downtown, we have to build our infrastructure to accommodate it, or we have to build an alternative way for them to get into the City. If the case is what we originally thought, which is that they’re going up on 29, then we do need to find an alternate route around the City to get there,” Farruggio said.

Janiczek said East High Street cannot absorb any more traffic, and doesn’t know if the City has the resources to widen it.  Lynch said the County’s urban ring has developed rapidly without the proper infrastructure being in place. “There’s no way to get around the urban ring other than going through the City,” Lynch said. He said Avon, Park and High Street all served as north-south corridors.  Janiczek said she thought the Committee had not done a good job of addressing the purpose and need of the location study. Boyd said that in his mind, the ultimate purpose of the study is to find out what infrastructure improvement will provide the most relief to US 250, which is projected to worsen into a “disaster” over the next twenty years. “If an Eastern Connector on the north side of 250 is the solution to that congestion, then let’s build it,” Boyd said. But he added that it was not worth building if it did not provide a way to divert significant amounts of traffic. Boyd acknowledged that he was not pushing for the southern bridge as an Eastern Connector, but that the region might benefit more from concentrating on fixing Route 250 by expanding it to six lanes and by reducing the number of access points.

Graham suggested that the final report include a statement that the Committee acknowledges some of the challenges associated with Alternative 3 (Rio Road to Route 20 via Pen Park), not the least of which is the opposition from many City residents to using the park for a road. Second, he said it would be difficult to obtain federal environmental permits to go through the park.  He also said both Alternatives 1 and 2 could potentially be obstructed by conservation easements as well as the Southwest Mountain Historic District.

Farruggio said he had no problem with adding such comments, but added that the hurdles associated with widening Route 250 and building a southern bridge be listed too. County Planning Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) said he did not want the report to be too watered down.

“All of the information we’ve shown shows that we can’t just sit by and do nothing,” Morris said.

After reviewing the next steps, the committee decided that the consultant would need more time to prepare the next set of cost estimates. They decided to postpone the Board of Supervisors presentation to the first meeting in October, two weeks after the presentation to City Council. The committee will meet again to review the work before then.

Sean Tubbs

July 29, 2008

County planners oppose expansion of growth area for proposed business park near Yancey Lumber

20080729-yancey-map Albemarle County has a shrinking quantity of light industrial (LI) land available for business development. At their work session on July 29, 2008, the Albemarle County Planning Commission discussed how land zoned for industry can contribute to the County’s economic development goals.  The Commission was asked to provide direction on changes that could be made to the quantity and location of light industrial land, as well as the specific uses that should be allowed in these areas to best serve the County’s economic policy goals in its Comprehensive Plan.

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Susan Stimart, the County’s Business Development Facilitator, informed the Commission that light industrial land can support over 70 distinct uses.  According to the staff report, “the uses range from basic and advanced manufacturing (e.g. bio-tech) to heavy equipment storage, warehousing, and even office uses….LI zoning also accommodates companies providing locally-used services and goods.”

20080729-Yancey-Aerial  Yancey Lumber Company, Crozet, VA
Photo courtesy Will Yancey

In 2005, Albemarle determined it had about 111 acres of undeveloped light industrial land that was also designated for industrial use in the comprehensive plan.  The dwindling supply of light industrial land is due in part to the County’s own actions.  Some parcels in the County’s growth areas have been converted to residential and retail uses.  County staff believe there is increased competition for the remaining parcels, and that limited supply has increased land prices. 

In the audience, Will Yancey listened carefully to the discussion.  During public comment, Yancey unveiled what he believes will be a smart way for the County to increase the inventory of light industrial land in an area served by Interstate access, nearby water and sewer, and a growing population base that he thinks would benefit from a new employment center.

20080601-Yancey-logs For nearly sixty years, the Yancey family has owned and operated the Yancey Lumber Company.  The lumber mill property is zoned heavy industry and is located on Route 250 West near the Interstate 64 exit in Crozet.  Yancey told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the mill processes yellow pine trees cut from a 50-60 mile radius.

The saw mill operation sits on 36 acres that represents about 32% of all the heavy industrial zoned land in the County.  Today, the family also owns 148 surrounding rural acres, some of which has been in the family since 1878.  It is this land, which borders Interstate 64 and Western Albemarle High School, on which Yancey is proposing that the County allow his family to develop a new light industrial business park. 

One challenge facing any development proposed to be located in Albemarle’s rural fields, farms and forests is that it runs counter to the County’s growth management plans.  New residential and business development is intended to happen in the 5% of the County designated for growth.  Yancey’s proposed business park is located on the 95% of Albemarle land zoned rural and that is outside the Crozet growth area.

County staff outlined three options for the Commission to consider in its review of the economic development policy with respect to light industrial needs:

  1. As part of the Master Plan Process, designate and proactively re-zone additional areas within the existing growth areas for light industrial uses. This may include rezoning county-owned or privately-owned parcels.
  2. Modify zoning code with respect to what uses are allowed in light industrial areas by-right and/or change other zoning areas to include some light industrial uses.
  3. Increase land available for industrial uses by expanding growth areas or creating new industrial zones adjacent to or separate from a designated growth area where adequate infrastructure exists.

The third option, creating new industrial zones, would support the Yancey business park.  For the past several months, Will Yancey has been quietly shopping around his development proposal to members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, his neighbors, and key community stakeholders.  He anticipates spending the next two years in an effort to get a comprehensive plan amendment approved, likely in conjunction with the 5-year review of the Crozet Master Plan which starts in 2009.  With the comprehensive plan changed to support a light industrial business park, Yancey would then expect to spend another year getting a rezoning approved.

Yancey Will Yancey

Yancey presented his preliminary proposal to the Planning Commission during the work session’s public comment period. He acknowledged that he is asking for something that is outside of the ordinary for the County. “Approval of our application will take some unorthodox, outside of the box thinking, quite literally,” Yancey said. After showing the property’s proximity to I-64 and water/sewer lines, he ended his remarks by telling the Commission his family has been in the County since 1765.

“We’re not going anywhere, we have to live here, and we’re willing to work with anyone willing to contribute to making this ambitious undertaking successful for the County, the community and the Yancey family,” he said.

However, at least four members of the Planning Commission expressed their opposition to expanding the growth area at this time. Throughout the work session, Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) asked Stimart tough questions to determine if there really is a shortage. He dismissed any consideration of expanding the development area until existing land there is exhausted.

“Mr. Yancey’s proposal just goes against my principle about encouraging that kind of activity [outside] the development area,” Strucko said. “What that would do is extend the Crozet development area south of 250 and that wasn’t envisioned by the community during the master planning process, and I think it’s counter to County policy.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) was more supportive of the proposal, though she did not comment directly on it. She said the County should be able to look at land in the rural areas that are suited for development, such as the stretch of Route 250 between I-64’s Shadwell Exit and the VDOT offices.

Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) said he would want to explore option 2 as a way of fully using the growth area. He pointed out that the County has never considered opening up the rural areas to development to solve the affordable housing shortage.

20080729-Yancey-farm  Yancey family farm as viewed from near I-64
Photo courtesy Will Yancey

Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall), whose district contains Yancey’s land, said growth area residents should determine for themselves what land uses are appropriate. As such, he said Yancey’s proposal should only be considered as part of the Crozet Master Plan update scheduled for next year. Loach was opposed to option 2, which he said went against the free market, and agreed with comments made by Crozet Gazette publisher Mike Marshall that there are several sites in the Crozet growth area that could be redeveloped.

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) says there are many reasons not to expand the growth area, and that more efforts should be made to rezone land in the growth area as LI.

“Light industrial can be integrated into the growth areas through rezonings in a sympathetic way that will not impinge on the Neighborhood Model concept any more than some of the large scale retail has already,” Edgerton said.

Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) also said that there is enough land in the growth area to satisfy the County’s requirement, and he supported a mixture of options 1 and 2. “I am at this point in agreement with Jon and Eric that option 3 is not a viable option at this time,” Morris said. “I like the use of areas that are almost dormant at this time.” He also said he reluctantly supported the County developing some kind of a subsidy for business owners who can’t afford the market rate, an idea floated by Jon Cannon earlier in the meeting.

“We have a market failure problem here, and the question is, how can we overcome it, and it’s not just by traditional zoning,” Cannon said. When Strucko and Cannon objected to that characterization, Cannon explained that the market was producing a result the County doesn’t like.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) was absent from the meeting.

Afterwards, Yancey was not deterred and said he would continue pursuing his proposal through a Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

“We look forward to filing out our application,” he said after the work session concluded.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Presentation from Susan Stimart, Albemarle County's Business Development Facilitator
  • 1:40 - Commissioner Strucko interrupts Stimart's presentation to ask why she thinks there is a shortage
  • 3:12 - Stimart resumes her presentations
  • 9:30 - Stimart explains the three options suggested to increase the amount of land zoned for light industrial
  • 13:40 - Commission discussion begins with comments from Eric Strucko
  • 15:22 - Commissioner Loach says any discussion of expanding growth area should be in context of master planning
  • 17:00 - Strucko repeats his concern about the methodology of Stimart's study
  • 18:20 - Comments from Commissioner Bill Edgerton
  • 22:21 - Edgerton brings up the proposed Faulconer construction yard in Ivy
  • 24:00 - Commission hears from Nora Gillespie of the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center who describes the space requirements of maturing small businesses
  • 30:00 - David Benish, Albemarle's Chief Planner, explains more about the three options
  • 32:30 - Strucko asks what the differences are between Highway Commercial and Light Industrial and asks if the two are compatible
  • 37:00 - Commission discusses ways to address the market forces that cause LI land to be priced out of the reach of small businesses
  • 39:00 - Chairman Morris expresses interest in reducing the number of uses allowed on LI land
  • 47:00 - Loach asks about the pay differential between retail jobs and jobs in data centers
  • 49:00 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield clarifies the land she would like to have pulled into the growth area
  • 52:00 - Public comment period begins with presentation by Will Yancey on his preliminary proposal
  • 57:00 - Public comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center
  • 1:00:00 - Public comment from Peter Hallock against turning land on Route 250 into light industrial
  • 1:01:30 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 1:04:00 - Public comment from Mike Marshall of the Crozet Gazette and the Crozet Advisory Council
  • 1:06:00 - Comments and direction from Strucko
  • 1:08:00 - Commments and direction from Porterfield, followed by more comments from Strucko
  • 1:11:00 - Comments and direction from Loach
  • 1:13:00 - Comments and direction from Edgerton
  • 1:17:50 - Comments and direction from Chairman Morris
  • 1:19:00 - Benish recaps what he's heard from the Commission

Brian Wheeler & Sean Tubbs

July 28, 2008

Mixed-use development near UVA medical center moves forward

Grove-square-master-plan
The Master Plan for all four phases of the Grove Square project

The building boom around the UVA Medical Center will soon extend southward over the railroad tracks into the Fifeville neighborhood. The Charlottesville City Planning Commission granted two special use permits to two phases of the Grove Square project at their meeting on July 22, 2008, clearing the way for two four-story buildings that will provide space for offices, retail and residential units along Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.  The area is zoned under the Cherry Avenue Mixed Use District, which was created during the City’s 2003 rezoning in order to spur redevelopment along the corridor. This is the first project to take advantage of the district.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080722-CPC-GroveSquare

When complete, the first building (Grove Square II) would consist of 4 residential units, 26,150 square feet of office space, and 8,275 square feet of commercial space.  The applicant requested the SUP in order to allow for up to 5,000 square feet of retail space, as well as setback adjustments. By-right, the applicant could have 4,000 square feet and sought the SUP to have flexibility in selecting tenants. An existing two-story building that has previously been used by Piedmont Virginia Community College and Computers4Kids will be demolished.  Outdoor seating for a restaurant café will be placed on the corner of the site.

The second building (Grove Square III) would consist of 20 residential units (3 to 4 bedrooms each) above 6,330 square feet of commercial space on the first floor.  The land is currently being used as a parking lot, and the new building will include structured parking with 50 spaces for the building’s residential tenants. A plaza on the corner of Grove Street and the Roosevelt Brown Connector will be built with a fountain.

Parking for the site will be provided by a 928-space parking garage which was approved as part of the project’s first phase. Grove Square IV will come before the Planning Commission at a later date, and is immediately to the west of Grove Square III.

20080722-CPC-GroveSquare
An illustrative drawing of Grove Square II

A traffic light at the intersection of Grove Street and Roosevelt Brown has been discussed as part of the project. While the traffic study conducted for the first three phases of Grove Square recommends a signal, City staff do not support its installation because the recently installed light at Crispell Avenue is only 350 feet away.

Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden said the applicant could incorporate some mechanism to encourage people not to drive, but the applicant had not provided that information before the hearing.

“Bicycle storage facilities would be one suggestion, but they’re not limited to that,” Walden said.
Attorney Valerie Long, representing the applicant, said the entire Grove Square project will create a “livable, walkable pedestrian-oriented” community. Long said an effort has been made to work with the Fifeville neighborhood. No public comment had been received by Neighborhood Development Staff, and no one spoke during either public hearing. One item that resulted from the negotiations was a planting strip along Roosevelt Brown to allow pedestrians to pause while crossing the road. She said the area will not be overwhelmed by parking because of the structured parking garage.

 20080722-CPC-GSexisting
This existing building will be torn down to make way for Grove Square 2. The UVA Medical Center is in the background.

City Councilor Satyendra Huja asked if the applicant was making any proffers to address affordable housing. Chairman Jason Pearson pointed out that proffers would not be considered in the granting of a special use permit.  Long said that because the City’s guidelines on requiring affordable housing are not clear, they did not propose any affordable units.  “We’re certainly willing to entertain discussions about affordable housing, but we didn’t know what the rules were,” Long said. 

The Commission spent a lot of their time discussing how the applicant would address bike storage.
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig said he would like to see the extra parking spaces being requested by the applicant be used for bike lockers instead. After discussing how many bike rooms should be required, Long agreed to a condition where a bike room will be built underneath the retail space where up to 40 bikes might be stored. 

The Special Use Permits for Grove Square will now go before City Council at a later date. Because Council has already held its public hearing, it is likely they will be granted on the Council's consent agenda.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

1:00 - Chairman Jason Pearson introduces Grove Square 2
2:12 - Presentation on Grove Square 2 from Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden
8:42 - Presentation on Grove Square 2 from Valerie Long, attorney for the applicant
18:40 - Questions from Commissioners on Grove Square 2
29:40 - Commission votes to approve special use permit for Grove Square 2
30:30 - Commission takes up Grove Square 3
48:00 - Comments from architect John Matthews

July 25, 2008

Albemarle takes steps to preserve and support country stores

Flickr-1619662304
The Batesville Store, Batesville, VA - Photo: Natalie Krovetz

At their July 22, 2008 meeting the Albemarle County Planning Commission approved a zoning text amendment that the County expects will help preserve rural country stores as economic, historic, and cultural resources. The changes are intended to provide owners of both new and historic country stores with added flexibility for their operations.

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Download 20080722-Country Stores

When  Albemarle amended its comprehensive plan in 2005, it identified country stores as an important community resource, and the Albemarle Historic Preservation Plan adopted in 2000 also called for the reuse of historic country store buildings in order to ensure their preservation. County staff surveyed eighty-three country stores in Albemarle to determine what changes could be made to support their continued viability.

While the country store owners were encouraged by the support from local government, they had concerns about a number of issues, including:

  • A continuation of the policy limiting country stores to 4,000 sq. feet.
  • A rule allowing only 20% of the floor space of a country store to be used for dining seating.
  • A passage referring to non-conventional sewage disposal systems, sometimes required due to limitations of traditional country store design.
  • A restriction on the number of gasoline pumps and nozzles allowed.
  • A requirement for the Architectural Review Board to take into account guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings as established by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The existing ordinance has a maximum size of 4,000 sq. feet included in its definition of a country store, which did not allow for exceptions to be made by the Planning Commission.  As amended, this restriction could be waived at the Commission’s discretion.  Further, the revised ordinance would allow secondary uses in country store buildings so long as a majority (51%) of the building remains in use as a country store.

Historic country stores, those more than 50 years old, will be exempt from a number of regulations affecting setbacks from the road, entrance corridor design reviews, and sewage disposal. Non-conventional septic systems may be used as long as it can be demonstrated to the zoning administrator that a conventional system would not work. Alternative septic systems would also have to receive approval from the Virginia Department of Health before being implemented.

Several country store owners were on hand to share their views on the ordinance. “I think you’ve done a great job on this,” said Dave Wyant, a former County Supervisor and owner of Wyant’s Store in White Hall. However, Wyant was concerned about the regulation requiring that a country store not use more than 20% of its space for food seating, explaining that in the rural area, the country store table is the real gathering place for the community. Joe Jones, owner of another country store in White Hall, echoed Wyant’s concern about the 20% number, citing stores in neighboring counties with 33-50% of the floor space dedicated to seating.

Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said that flexibility in the seating requirements was important and suggested a 33% maximum for that purpose.  The Commission discussed that matter and decided to leave the 20% limit it in place since any store wanting a larger seating area could simply ask for a waiver from the Commission.

20080722-CoPC2
Chip Royer, Boyd Tavern Market

Chip Royer, part owner of Boyd Tavern Market in Keswick, voiced  concerns about the sale of gasoline.  “We can’t take advantage of the economies of scale that someone like a BP or a Sheetz can do….If you knew what we had to pay for gas compared to some of the larger stations, you’d be shocked,” said Royer. The ordinance requires country stores wishing to sell gasoline to receive a special use permit to do so, and allows a maximum of one pump and six nozzles dispensing gasoline. The Commissioners clarified that the regulations apply only to gasoline, and stores have no restrictions on diesel or kerosene pumps, often used for farm vehicles.

Another area of concern were changes that called for the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to use the guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings, as established by the U.S. Department of the Interior, when determining the  appropriateness of country stores located in the entrance corridors. Forty-nine of the country stores in the County (59%) are in entrance corridors where design oversight is provided by the ARB.

Neal Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum thanked the Commission for recognizing the importance of the country stores, and for encouraging private enterprise. ”I am troubled, however, by the continued conflicts that I see between the ARB and other goals of the County…I continue to be concerned that there are 22 entrance corridors to Albemarle County, and a higher level of regulation in those areas,” said Williamson.

20080722-CoPC1 Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) pointed out that the purpose of the amendment was to make country stores a more viable business, and argued that factoring in the 59 pages of guidelines from the Secretary of the Interior would be an unreasonable burden on both the owner and the ARB. The other Commissioners agreed to remove the sections of the ordinance that referenced the guidelines.

The Commission also accepted a recommendation by Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney, that all existing country stores be grandfathered in, so their current uses would be considered conforming uses, giving owners further flexibility.  

The Commission’s 4-0 vote in favor of the amendments sends the ordinance to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, which will consider the changes at a work session in the near future.  Commissioners Tom Loach, Jon Cannon, and Bill Edgerton were absent.

Ben Doernberg

July 24, 2008

Charlottesville airport approved for 800’ extension of runway 21

At their July 22, 2008 meeting, the Albemarle County Planning Commission approved an 800’ extension of Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport runway 21, despite some concerns over the environmental impact. The 3-1 vote in favor of the runway project allows the airport to make improvements they view as essential for their economic success.

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20080722-Runway-GISAfter the staff report, Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) called attention to a decision made by Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development, to classify the runway project as a driveway. Driveways are exempted from certain sections of the water protection ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors in February, and are allowed to be constructed within a stream buffer. According to Strucko, Graham stated in an email that he made this decision because a runway is an access way for a vehicle to reach the building, as is a driveway; Strucko maintained that the two were substantially different, even if only the dimensions are considered.

Barbara Hutchinson, Executive Director of the Airport, explained that the runway extension was a key part of their master plan from 2003. According to Hutchinson, atmospheric factors in the area frequently result in a condition known as high density altitude, which hamper takeoffs. During these periods, the larger aircraft, such as military, UVA athletic, and tourist charter planes, are unable to take off carrying a full load of passengers, or in some cases full fuel tanks, because the current runway is not long enough. Hutchinson pointed to the airline industry’s current examinations of the profitability of airports, and said that “when they automatically have to kick 4-8 people off the flight…that puts us on the map of the airline looking to potentially discontinue service.”

20080722-Runway-Commission

During the public comment period Allan Kindrick, the owner of land adjacent to the proposed runway extension, raised several concerns about the project. The runway would come closer to Chris Greene Lake, which Kindrick said has already been harmed by the airport activities. “I really believe that it’s unsafe for a recreational facility, and it’s certainly not safe for drinking water, which is its secondary purpose.” Kindrick also expressed confusion about the airport’s decision to locate the runway on this end of their property, “since the airport owns enough land on the other end…I do not understand the planning to go to all the effort to build this thing and further damage Chris Greene Lake.” Commissioner Calvin Morris (Rivanna) later thanked Kindrick for being a “good shepherd” of  his land for 50 years, and recognized the Kindrick family’s 200 year history on the property.

 Marcia Joseph (At-Large) asked staff about the airport’s environmental mitigation plans.  Amy Pflaum, Senior Engineer with the County explained that “with the administrative decision… to allow this development as a driveway, no mitigation for stream or critical slope is required.” Joseph also expressed concerns about chemical runoff into the streams.  Those were addressed by Hutchinson, who assured Joseph that due to special equipment and use of a vacuum truck, there was no significant risk of de-icing chemicals flowing into the stream.

Strucko repeated his opposition to the driveway designation.

“I for one disagree with staff’s opinion that this should be treated as a driveway…I don’t think I could approve this knowing that there’s no formal mitigation plan in place... this is in a critical slope area, in a stream buffer, in an area, as the public speaker mentioned, next to Chris Greene Lake, which is also part of a long term water supply plan if I’m not mistaken. I can’t understand why we wouldn’t want a mitigation plan for this project.”

Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) asked if there was any reason the Commission could not require a mitigation plan. Bill Fritz, the County’s Chief of Current Development, instructed the Commission that they “don’t have any authority to require anything above and beyond what the ordinance already requires… there’s no waiver mechanism, there’s no trigger.” However, he reiterated that there were some water quality controls present in the ordinances, and the airport is required to submit some mitigation plans to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Fritz also explained that if the runway had not been designated a driveway, it would have had to meet some other requirements in the ordinance, or else it would not have been allowed in the stream buffer.

The final vote was 3-1 to approve the major site plan amendment with Strucko voting against. The plan does not require the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

Ben Doernberg

July 23, 2008

Commission recommends approval for new Whole Foods site plan

Whole-Foods-Site-Plan The grocery store will front Hillsdale Drive Extended, with a three-story parking garage behind. The image does not depict a traffic signal which will be required

The Charlottesville Planning Commission has approved a preliminary site plan application for the new Whole Foods and three-story parking garage being planned for the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive Extended, next to the K-Mart. The Commission also granted a certificate of appropriateness for the design, which is along one of the City’s entrance corridors.  The vote came just after 2:00 AM on July 23, 2008.

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The applicant, Meadowbrook Creek LLC, had made several changes to the application after the Commission’s meeting on June 10, 2008. They had requested a deferral after Commissioners expressed concern about several items, including the project’s proximity to Hydraulic Road. At that time, the plan depicted the parking garage being set back from Hydraulic Road by only five feet. Now, the garage will be set back 15 feet, allowing room for more landscaping, as Commissioners had requested.

The applicant also made other requested changes in order to satisfy the Commission and City staff, including the removal of a brick veneer that would be used in the parking garage. The Commission had also indicated they would not waive a requirement that 10% of the site be covered by trees. The applicant has been working with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CHRA), which manages public housing near the site, to negotiate the planting of trees on their property to meet the City’s requirement. 

Mary Joy Scala, the City’s Preservation and Design Planner, said there are too many signs depicted in the application, and they are too large. She said a separate signage application will need to be submitted as the site plan review continues to the final stage.

20080722-Joyce
Mark Joyce of Bohler Engineering presents the plans while Chris Pine and Nick Rogers look on

Mark Joyce, Senior Project Manager for Bohler Engineering, presented the changes to the Commission.  He said increased plantings on and off the site would help the project meet the City’s standards. Another change was additional landscaping to shield a retaining wall along the rear of the property.

Most of the Commissioners appeared satisfied with the changes, with the exception of Commissioner Dan Rosensweig. He asked for more information on how the renegotiations were going with the CRHA. Chris Pine of Red Light Management said they were still on-going, but he was confident that a deal could be worked out Rosensweig said he was concerned that any trees planted on CRHA’s property could eventually be torn down as redevelopment occurs. Pine said he was hoping the planting would occur in one of their easements. He also said Meadowbrook Creek LLC will either pay a cash contribution to CRHA or would contribute to the renovation of an existing playground.

“We’re all very comfortable that we’ll be able to come to an accord prior to the final site plan,” Pine said.
But Rosensweig had other concerns. He said he was not satisfied with the parking garage’s relationship to Hydraulic Road. 

“I appreciate the tree screening and making the effort to push the parking structure back off Hydraulic but I still feel like without any kind of feature that’s going to attract any kind of pedestrian life to that street, we’re kind of throwing Hydraulic under the bus,” Rosensweig said.

Pine said the applicant is committed to building a sidewalk to the CRHA properties. Rosensweig said that was a step in the right direction, but he was concerned that that the long-term future of the Hydraulic corridor was being compromised by a faceless parking garage.

“I can imagine a scenario in the future where this parking deck is the kind of place where people will come, shop at Whole Foods, and if there were easy access to Hydraulic Road, it would spur some development that along Hydraulic Road that is more pedestrian in nature,” Rosensweig said.

Pine pointed out that the next most likely land along Hydraulic to develop will be the K-Mart property, which is also being overseen by Red Light Management. 

During his presentation on the preliminary site plan application, Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers updated the Commission on several issues he discussed at the June 10th meeting, as well as an update on two waivers requested by the applicant. Rogers said the applicant’s request for a sidewalk waiver and the landscape waiver would not have to be granted until the final site plan review. However, Rogers said the tree canopy request could be supported because the additional plantings and the CHRA negotiations met the spirit of the tree canopy requirement.

First, staff had been concerned that the number of parking spaces being proposed by the applicant was too excessive. Rogers said he was satisfied by comments he heard at the meeting, but that the city’s traffic engineer has requested more data from the applicant’s traffic study.  Second, a sewer and gas line depicted as traveling underneath the store and garage has now been re-routed to an easement along Hydraulic Road.  Third, staff no longer objects to the placement of the driveway into Whole Foods from Hillsdale Drive. Rogers said staff’s initial thought was that the entrance was too close to the intersection of Hydraulic and the proposed Hillsdale Drive Extension. Finally, a left turn lane design from Hillsdale into the garage has been re-worked to staff’s satisfaction.

Grading at the site is underway, and most recently the trees on the site have been removed. Rogers said that City inspectors are on site every day to make sure that the work is being done according to code.

Commissioner Michael Farruggio said he was satisfied by the changes that had been made, and he agreed with staff’s recommendation to proceed.

Commissioner Hosea Mitchell said he was very concerned about the additional traffic  that would be generated at the site, though he said he would support the application because the underlying zoning supports a grocery store on the site. But, he warned that the Hillsdale Drive extension would take years to be built because of cutbacks in state funding for road construction.

20080722-Rosensweig
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig cast the lone vote against the entrance corridor review

“I can’t in good conscience vote for a parking garage face with nothing else on it on Hydraulic Road,” Rosensweig said. Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she also wanted more pedestrian activity on Hydraulic Road, but was encouraged by the redevelopment that would occur at the K-Mart site.

City Councilor Holly Edwards asked what efforts Whole Foods would take to employ residents of the public housing units.  Pine said that Whole Foods has already begun to reach out and would hold a job fair closer to the time when the store opens. He said it will employ up to 400 people.

The Commission voted 6-1 to approve the certificate of appropriateness to satisfy the Entrance Corridor Review, with Rosensweig voting against.  Rosensweig did vote with his colleagues to unanimously approve the preliminary site plan review.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Jason Pearson introduces the item, and welcomes Mary Joy Scala to the dais to present the Entrance Corridor Review portion of the Whole Foods application
  • 6:52 - Presentation from engineer Mark Joyce
  • 9:11 - Question from Commissioner Dan Rosensweig regarding tree plantings on CRHA's property
  • 12:30 - Two questions from Commissioner Jason Pearson regarding pedestrian activity in the parking garage
  • 22:30 - Presentation from Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers on the preliminary site application 
  • 33:00 - Comments from Michael Osteen about why the truck and customer/employee driveways have been separated
  • 36:42 - Comments from Commissioner Hosea Mitchell
  • 38:50 - Comments from Rosensweig
  • 40:30 - Question from City Councilor Holly Edwards asked what steps Whole Foods would take to employ CHRA residents
  • 41:21 - Comments from Commissioner Genevieve Keller
  • 42:20 - Comments from Chairman Jason Pearson
  • 44:00 - Commissioner Mike Farruggio makes a motion for entrance corridor review
  • 45:15 - Public comment from Michie Bright, a City resident concerned that Whole Foods won't be built
  • 46:48 - Commissioner Mike Farruggio makes a motion to approve the preliminary site plan

Sean Tubbs

B&B / apartment complex deferred; neighbors object to housing density

20080722-OakhurstMap
The site (marked in black) is located just to the south of UVA's Central Grounds

A project to build a bed and breakfast and 30-unit apartment complex near the intersection of Jefferson Park Avenue and Emmet Street has been deferred at the request of the applicant. Architect Neal Deputy, a representative of Tenth and Main LLC, pulled his plans after the Charlottesville Planning Commission expressed concern about the increased density at the site, as well as the mixture of commercial and residential units.

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Deputy’s plan was to build a 30-unit apartment complex and a 23-room bed and breakfast near the University of Virginia’s Central Grounds.  The site consists of three parcels of land on Oakhurst Circle, with frontage along the corner where JPA takes a sharp right turn.  The applicant needed a special use permit to allow an increase in density up to 33 dwelling units per acre (DUA).  The existing R-3 zoning classification would only allow 23 units on the site by-right. Currently, there are 17 apartments on the site spread across three houses.

Under the plan submitted for the Commission’s approval,  two of those houses would be converted into the bed and breakfast and the other would continue being used as an apartment.  Three new buildings will be constructed for the 30 apartment units, along with a parking garage to accommodate 38 parking spaces. The space for the apartment complex is currently occupied by a parking lot.  The developer also requested a waiver to allow the buildings to be set back 12 feet from JPA, rather than the 25 feet called for under code. Deputy's partner, Bill Chapman, wrote in a comment to Charlottesville Tomorrow that the setback distances set forth in the preliminary site plan varied, with an average setback of JPA proposed at 33 feet. "In one case on one building it is as small is 12 feet," Chapman wrote.

  20080722-Walden
Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden

Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden wrote in her staff report that the development would generate 847 vehicle trips a day, an increase of 347 trips over the existing usage. “The increase in density will likely increase the number of cars on JPA and Oakhurst/Gildersleeve and make it more congested at this intersection as there will be more cars entering and exiting,” Walden wrote.  The development would border the Oakhurst Circle / Gildersleeve Wood neighborhood, which is zoned single-family.

“One could argue that this is an appropriate place for increased density,” Walden wrote, citing the project’s proximity to the University and the South Lawn project.  “A large portion of this site is currently a parking lot; therefore this development will be a significant improvement to the Jefferson Park Avenue Corridor,” Walden wrote. “The proposed density and scale of development are not out of character with new development along this corridor.”

However, several members of the neighborhood spoke before the Commission to argue against that view.  When the City rewrote its zoning ordinance in 2003 to encourage more density, many of these same residents argued against the inclusion of their neighborhood as “University High Density,” which would have allowed up to 64 units per acre.

In order to mitigate the traffic impacts, the applicant had offered to provide bikes for the Inn’s guests, reduce rent for residents who choose not to own a car, as well as a dedicated car to be used in a sharing program. The applicant has also offered to provide valets to park cars so that guests do not travel down Gildersleeve Wood neighborhood. Walden said she was not sure how enforceable these mitigation steps would be, but staff’s recommendation for approval of the special use permit was conditional on their implementation.

The intersection of Emmet and Jefferson Park Avenue will be redesigned in a manner consistent with a 2001 JPA Corridor study conducted by the University of Virginia. Walden said the removal of a driver’s ability to turn right on a yield will result in larger traffic queues at the intersection, but the traffic study did not result in a lesser level of service. Commissioner Michael Farruggio asked for more details of the restructured intersection, but was told they would come when the project proceeds to the site plan phase.

Commissioner Michael Osteen disclosed that he owns property on Oakhurst Circle and lives on Gildersleeve Wood, but felt he was able to participate in the vote.

20080722-Deputy
Neal Deputy

Neal Deputy acknowledged that he did not have the full support of the neighborhood, but said the application was strengthened through a series of meetings with residents. He said the existing buildings are falling apart, and the only way to pay for renovations would be to run them as a bed and breakfast. Rentals to university students, he said, would not recoup the costs. Deputy also said that the new apartments would be one or two bedroom units, targeted to professionals rather than undergraduates.
Commissioners had lots of questions for Deputy. They asked him how the bed and breakfast would operate. Technically, in order for the use of a B&B to be valid under the City’s zoning ordinances, a designated innkeeper must live on the property. 

Commissioner Lewis asked who the innkeeper would be.  Deputy said that many people might share that title, but that he wouldn’t know until the project was closer to completion in 2010.  Lewis asked who would manage all the amenities that Deputy had suggested as ways to mitigate traffic.

“If we check back in five years, will we find that these conditions are still being satisfied?” Lewis asked.  Deputy’s partner, Bill Chapman, said there would be a payroll budget of $125,000 a year to pay for staff to administer them.

During the public hearing, Jane Foster of Gildersleeve Wood, said the bed and breakfast did not meet with the spirit of the zoning ordinance.  Appearing just two days after her husband Gene died, Foster said the project would overwhelm her road with traffic, especially if the developer reneges on the promise to pay for the valets.

Tom Pietro of Jefferson Park Avenue said he is the owner of the only remaining single-family home on his section of JPA.  He said if the Commission recommended approval of the SUP, they would be sending a message that only high-density development is welcome.  Mary Prior of Gildersleeve Wood said her street is already seeing higher-than-normal traffic because of the closure of Brandon Avenue and because of the construction of the South Lawn Project.  Sue Kaiser, also of Gildersleeve Road, said that her neighborhood is not opposed to increased density per se, but that the upper limit should be mutually agreed between the developer and the residents who will have to live nearby.  Nancy Hanes of Oakhurst Circle said a bread and breakfast with 24 rooms was more like a hotel, and she wondered how many deliveries would need to be made along Oakhurst Circle to service the guests.

Walden explained during the Commission’s discussion that the bed and breakfast would be a by-right use, and that the Commission could place no restrictions on that use. However, she said the Commission could determine whether the SUP should be granted based on six criteria.

20080722-Oakhurst-Crowd
Neal Deputy and residents of Oakhurst Circle / Gildersleeve Wood listen as the Commission discuss the SUP

Commissioner Mike Farruggio said he agreed with the basic concept of the project, but that he could not support the increased density or the setback waivers. He said the project as submitted was not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, conflicted with the adjacent neighborhood, and that the area was not rezoned to UHD in 2003 for a reason.

Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she was becoming increasingly concerned about the number of special use permits the Commission was being asked to support to increase density above the Comprehensive Plan goals.  Commissioner Hosea Mitchell agreed.

Commissioner Cheri Lewis said one reason for zoning was to separate intense uses, something she said was not being done on a project that incorporates both residential and commercial  uses.
Commissioner Dan Rosensweig was more supportive of the project, but said he would only vote for it if there was some way to guarantee no commercial traffic would use Oakhurst Circle.

After requesting a deferral,  Dale Chapman said he was confused because his reading of the comprehensive plan was that it encouraged walkable developments. He said if the Commission and Council did not support a special use permit and the waivers, no developer would touch the property.

Deputy said he did not want to sell the property, but that would become an option if the planning process continues to be a drawn out process. “We’ve bent over backwards to provide the best possible product we could on this site, over countless meetings, countless discussion, and I still remain proud of what we’ve brought forward,” Deputy said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Staff report from Neighborhood Planner Ebony Walden
  • 8:45 - Questions from Commissioner Mike Osteen about setback waivers requested for the project
  • 15:40 - Question from Cheri Lewis about the use of a bed and breakfast
  • 16:30 - Commissioner Rosensweig asks if the intersection changes will affect U.Va traffic
  • 21:30 - Commissioner Keller asks about the provision for the rent reduction for tenants who don't drive
  • 30:30 - Presentation by Neal Deputy
  • 45:11 - Public hearing comment from Jane Foster against the SUP
  • 47:15 - Public hearing comment from Tom Pietro against the SUP
  • 49:10 - Public hearing comment from Mary Prior against the SUP
  • 52:15 - Public hearing comment from Gail McIntosh against the SUP
  • 53:40 - Public hearing comment from Sue Kaiser against the SUP
  • 57:30 - Public hearing comment from Nina Barnes against the SUP
  • 59:00 - Public hearing comment from Nancy Hanes
  • 1:00:00 - Commission takes up discussion
  • 1:06:15 - Comments from Commissioner Farruggio
  • 1:07:55 - Comments from Commissioner Keller
  • 1:08:49 - Comments from Commissioner Lewis
  • 1:12:40 - Comments from Commissioner Rosensweig
  • 1:15:20 - Comments from Commissioner Osteen

Sean Tubbs

UVA renews request for $2 million from City-County to improve Ivy Road

20080721-PAC-TECC
At their July 17, 2008 meeting, the Planning and Coordination Council’s Tech Committee (PACC Tech) received updates from Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, and University of Virginia staff on the various public transit efforts ongoing in the community. The meeting was by chaired by David Neuman, Architect for the University of Virginia.

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Julia Monteith, a Senior Land Use Planner at UVA, began the meeting by presenting a report from the Ivy Road TriModal (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists) Improvements Taskforce, an informal group made up of staff members from the University of Virginia, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the City of Charlottesville, and Albemarle County. The University has proposed a $5 million plan to make the Ivy Road entrance corridor safer for pedestrian and bicycle traffic by implementing recommendations from a study commissioned by UVA, the City, and the County in 1994. The study, conducted by Lardner Klein Landscape Architects, called for additional sidewalks, bike lanes, and plantings, as well as improved lighting and modified utilities wiring. Since 1994, the City and the County have applied for funds from the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), but VDOT has not awarded the necessary funds.

VDOT has a program to match funds put up by localities in Virginia to construct improvements, but money from this fund is available only for a locality’s top priorities. Currently, the Ivy corridor improvements are not prioritized highly enough to receive the matching funds. The University is suggesting that the City and the County increase the priority of these improvements, and then each put in $1 million of their own money, to be matched by $2 million from VDOT. UVA would contribute an additional $1 million, resulting in the $5 million needed to implement the recommendations. The City and County have not changed their funding priorities in the manner that UVA is requesting given the limited transportation funds available from the state. David Neuman jokingly suggested that they “pass the hat” around the meeting to raise the necessary five million dollars.

The University first requested $2 million from City and County taxpayers at the August 2007 PACC meeting.  In that discussion, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) suggested such a project might be funded by a new events tax, since the University was looking to spruce up the entrance corridor to the John Paul Jones Arena and a future arts district at the Ivy Road and Emmet street intersection. 

Next, County Planner Jaundiego Wade presented the MPO’s report on the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) the City and County have been working to establish. The University is not participating as an official party in the RTA’s formation at this time. In April of 2007 the Virginia state legislature passed HB 3202, which created RTA’s in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, tasked with coordinating transit for their region and levying taxes to carry out improvements. The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the taxing authority of these bodies as unconstitutional, but ruled that the concept of an RTA was valid. Wade laid out a number of goals for the RTA, including providing more effective service, pursuing more efficient coordination and integration, more effectively addressing air quality and land use issues, and relieving traffic congestion on area roads.

Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for Albemarle County, pointed out that there may be limits on how much an RTA in this community could accomplish, because “transit depends on proximity of riders, and typically there are some densities that are associated with transit that can be successful, and we’re not probably very close in most areas of the county, in fact even in the City we’re probably not hitting those kinds of levels.” The next step for the RTA is an August joint work session where the County Board of Supervisors and the City Council will draft a resolution to be presented to the Virginia General Assembly, asking the Assembly to authorize a Charlottesville-Albemarle RTA.

Zipcar

Andy Mansfield and Mike Goddard, filling in for UVA Director of Parking and Transportation Rebecca White, detailed the University’s current transportation efforts. Goddard showed off the department’s new website design, which features local news and events, as well as detailed bus schedules and recommended walking and biking routes. Mansfield previewed upcoming changes to the way UVA administers automotive transport on campus, including a new program of discounts and incentives for UVA employees to carpool, known as “Cavpool.” He also revealed that the University is in talks with a company called Zipcar, which provides cars in cities and on campuses that can be rented by the hour. Students would only have to provide a credit card to obtain the car, and pay an hourly rate; insurance, gas, and car maintenance are taken care of by the company. UVA will start the program with six cars, which would be reserved for use by students and employees. 

Neuman expressed his support for a Human Resources decision to officially allow alternative work scheduling, enabling UVA employees to reduce their travel costs by varying their schedule. He also expressed his hope that this policy, coupled with the Cavpool program, would result in significant changes in travel habits of employees. Mansfield agreed, and stated that they are already seeing reductions in student driving and parking as a result of improvements in the UVA bus system.

The next meeting of PACC Tech will be held on October 16, 2008.

Ben Doernberg & Brian Wheeler

July 22, 2008

New design for Charlottesville Tomorrow’s blog includes global comments feed and your Flickr photos

Charlottesville Tomorrow has enhanced our blog design to provide you with a wider screen format, a global comments feed, feeds for news specific to Albemarle, Crozet and Charlottesville, and a slide carousel which includes local photography from Flickr

The new comments feed will allow you to easily keep track of all the community input on this site.  We also hope it will motivate you to join in the discussion.  Our policy is to not allow anonymous comments and that has kept the discussion on our blog very constructive over the past three years .

The menu bar at the top of the blog includes handy links to existing pages on our website related to local elections, links to community organizations, and contact information for your elected and appointed local officials.  It also has links to a list of all our RSS feeds and photographers who have been selected from Flickr to have their work showcased on the blog and in our other communications.

Please let us know what you think of the improvements (just add a comment below).  As a little non-profit without a lot of resources to devote to this, we have tried to maximize the tools available to us and still keep the site cost-effective and easy to maintain. 

Brian Wheeler