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August 29, 2008

City Planning Commission discusses work plan; Preston Avenue study de-prioritized

Preston-avenue
According to the City's website, a formal corridor study of the Preston Avenue area has never been conducted.

A study of the Preston Avenue Corridor is no longer at the top of a list of items that the Charlottesville Planning Commission will address in the coming years. The proposed project had been championed by former Commissioner Bill Lucy, but current Commissioners decided it should be put on hold given that the City cannot fund the implementation of such a study in the next few years. The decision came during the Commission’s work session on August 26, 2008.

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The Commission keeps a list of priorities, called the work plan, to direct the activities of planning staff. Planning Manager Missy Creasy also keeps a running list of various requests from Commissioners about potential items for the work plan. At the beginning of the work session, there were twenty-six requests for projects, ranging from the Preston Avenue study to a request by Commissioner Genevieve Keller to find ways to restrict drive-through windows in the City. Other requests involve finding ways to increase the City’s tree canopy, rewriting the City’s ordinances that deal with accessory apartments, and altering the City’s critical slopes ordinance.

Chairman Jason Pearson recently met with Bill Lucy, who was the immediate past chair of the Commission. Pearson said Lucy told him that he felt the Commission should be thinking bigger as it approaches the next year.  For instance, Lucy said that the Commission should take steps to reduce vehicle-miles-traveled and single occupancy vehicles. Both are elements of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which was rewritten in 2007. Pearson suggested that the Commission’s priorities could be re-ordered to address those goals.

“Are there so many trees here that we can’t see the one forest that we should really be focusing on?” Pearson asked.

Commissioner Hosea Mitchell, who leaves the Commission at the end of this week, suggested that a new Entrance Corridor Review Board (ERB) be created to take some of the work load off of the Planning Commission. Commissioner Michael Osteen suggested that the new ERB consist of members of the Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission. Missy Creasy said that even if a new board were created, there would not necessarily be staff time to support its activities.

Commissioners agreed to merge some of the requests into concrete steps. For instance, a general request by Commissioner Mike Farruggio to explore “housing quality” will now accommodate several of the other requests including accessory reports. Farruggio wanted to find ways to create incentives for home owners to remodel smaller and older homes in order to increase the quality and size of the City’s housing stock. That project will now be bundled with a request by Carla Mullen, a Charlottesville resident, to study if accessory apartments are allowed to be too large.  A project to reduce storm water run-off will be bundled with efforts to increase the tree canopy coverage. Planning staff will be meeting with the Southern Environmental Law Center to follow up on recommendations Morgan Butler made to City Council earlier this year.

Commissioner Cheri Lewis suggested that the Commission could check in with the Comprehensive Plan goals once a year in order to measure progress. Keller said she would support that given that there are now three Commissioners who did not participate in the recent update. 

Rosensweig acknowledged that there is more work to do than available time, and said he has been working with staff to develop a document that will address Comprehensive Plan goals. His suggestion is that the Commission pick three or four goals a year.

“And then if we make requests to staff that don’t fit under one of those goals, those are the ones that get less priority,” Rosensweig said.

Tolbert said he understood that the Preston Avenue Corridor study  was something everyone wanted to do, but pointed out that it might not be the best use of City funds during an economic slow-down.
“The reality is, we’ve had five urban design studies done for West Main, and we’ve now just finally begun funding it,” Tolbert said. “There’s no money to implement it if you do it.” Farruggio asked if the Commission should lobby City Council to include the project in the Capital Improvement Program. Tolbert said the Council places a higher priority on Downtown and West Main.  Commissioner Cheri Lewis said she would prefer the High Street corridor receive attention first.    

The Commission’s conversation on priorities will resume at a future meeting. After the discussion, Rosensweig suggested that something needed to be done to reduce the length of Commission meetings. He said he personally had become sick after two consecutive meetings that ran after midnight, but he said he was more concerned about how the late meetings might affect public participation. Tolbert said planning staff will monitor future public hearings to make sure that the situation does not happen again.

One solution would be to hold a second regular meeting instead of a work-session during months when they are multiple public hearings. 

Pearson said that the reason there were so many public hearings in July and August was because the Commission has taken on ERB responsibilities, initiations to adopt zoning text amendments, as well as the Individually Protected Properties discussions.

Missy Creasy said there are only three public hearings scheduled for the September 9th meeting of the Planning Commission, and there might not be any in the October meeting.

Sean Tubbs

August 28, 2008

County Planning Commissioners give feedback on Riverside Village

Riverside-park
 Conceptual drawing for Riverside Park

At their meeting on August 26, 2008, the Albemarle County Planning Commission spent an hour in a work session reviewing a proposed development in the Pantops Mountain area.  Riverside Village would be built on 18.6 acres between Free Bridge Lane and Route 20, north of Route 250.

The applicant, Dominion Development Resources (on behalf of Southland Homes), is seeking a rezoning from R-1 to Neighborhood Model District in order to build 102 residential units, 30,000 square feet of office space, and 5,000 square feet of retail. Up to 26 units can be built by right, if bonus density provisions are requested. The applicant also has requested a special use permit to allow for a portion of the flood plain to be filled in.

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Planning staff sought input from the Planning Commission on several questions:

  • Are the proposed non-residential uses appropriate? The adopted Pantops Masters Plan calls for only 20,000 square feet of non-residential uses in a area designed to have “Neighborhood Density.”
  • Should additional land be dedicated for a public park and amenities, in addition to the public park being proffered by the applicant?
  • Is the scale of the proposed 5,000 square foot, 4 story mixed-use building in “Block 3” appropriate, given its proximity to the Rivanna River? The building will contain commercial space on the ground floor, with multi-family residences on the upper floors
  • Does the applicant’s proposed stormwater management plan meet the Commission’s expectations?

A previous work session was held in December 2007. Since then, the project has been slightly reduced in size, and less development is now planned in the flood plain. Regarding the special use permit, Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said he did not think any of the flood plain should be developed at all.

“I don’t see any reason why they can’t pull this plan back a little bit just to really respect the flood plain and to really let nature take its course,” Edgerton said.

20080826-Strickland
Kelly Strickland of Dominion Development Resources

Kelly Strickland with Dominion Development Resources said his firm has worked on developments along the river corridor, and wants to put a public space near the river.  He disagreed with staff’s interpretation of the Pantops Master Plan and felt that the limit of 20,000 square feet of commercial space shouldn’t apply to this project, because many of the individual businesses will be designed as buildings similar to the residences on site.  He asked the Commission to interpret this guidance as no more than 20,000 square feet per building.

Regarding Block 3, Strickland said there would be two or individual businesses in the space. He’d like to see a restaurant with a river overlook, as well as a canoe rental business or some other fitness-related operation. Strickland also said that he did not see the need for additional amenities in the development itself, given the proximity to Darden-Towe Park as well as the future park being donated to the County by the developers.  The type of amenities offered in the park will be decided by the Parks and Recreation Department after the rezoning has occurred.

Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) agreed that the developer shouldn’t be required to build more amenities on-site, but did express the concern that the donation of the land in the flood plain as a public park might encourage it to be developed.  Strucko also said he was pleased to see the applicant willing to proffer the park, as well as to conform with the County’s affordable housing expectations. However, he was concerned that no cash proffers had been specified to assist with roads, schools and other infrastructure needs. He calculated that the applicant should pay just over $1 million to help offset infrastructure needs.

Wayne Cilimberg  said many developers are now making equivalent donations, rather than cash, in order to satisfy the County’s requirements. The Pantops Master Plan calls for a park in the general location of the development, so Cilimberg argued that Dominion Development Resources is providing something the County wants.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said she could see the benefits to the park, even though it is in the flood plain. “It’s something that’s being given to the County, and I’m really happy to see that you’re facing the river instead of facing away,” Joseph said. “We’ve had so many of the areas along the Rivanna River thrown away, and it’s been the back door. In this you’re actually setting the stage here maybe for people who come after to actually use this river and this walkway so I appreciate that aspect.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she thought the residential density was too high for the site, and Edgerton agreed.  Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) said while he thought the density was an issue, the land is in the growth area.

Porterfield was concerned the applicant had not provided enough parking. Senior Planner Rebecca Ragsdale said she had asked for more information on the topic. Further information on the project’s impact on traffic volumes on Route 20 will be presented as the item makes its way through the planning process.

On the issue of the rain gardens, the Commission asked the developer to re-orient the buildings that face Route 20 so that they are parallel to the road, rather than being diagonal to the road. This will mean the rain gardens will be moved internal to the development.

Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) said he thought a four-story building against the river was “over-powering” but he could not decide if it was appropriate because the exact uses are not yet decided. Loach agreed and said he would rather see it lower. Ragsdale said only the ground floor would be commercial, and the upper floors would be multi-family residential.  Edgerton said he wasn’t opposed to the size, but did want the massing to be broken up.

The item will return to the Planning Commission at a date to be determined.

Sean Tubbs and Brian Wheeler

Panel discusses population growth in Charlottesville

20080821-Panel

What is the trend for the City of Charlottesville’s population? Does Charlottesville have the public infrastructure to support a growing population? Those are some of the questions explored during the August meeting of the Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP). Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson and transportation activist Peter Kleeman shared their views in a forum moderated by former Mayor Nancy O’Brien.

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20080821-Kleeman
Peter Kleeman held up a series of formulas to describe his ideas

Mayor Norris said he is both concerned and frustrated with the city’s infrastructure, saying too much time and effort is being put into refurbishing basic utility systems. Norris said the city needs to focus on how it will financially take care of maintaining the current infrastructure, much less debating how to fund new areas of development or where they should go.

Pearson encouraged citizens to embrace the World Wildlife Fund’s concept of“one planet living ” which strives for every person to use no more than their fair share of the planet’s resources.  Pearson said American’s use five times their share of available resources.  He said he is very interested in research and new technological progress, which will help manage how the city uses or takes advantage of its resources.

Pearson and Norris had differing perspectives on the question of an optimal population, a concept under review by ASAP in a study partly funded by both Charlottesville and Albemarle County.  Pearson indicated he did not think it was possible to come up with an optimal size for a community.  Citing New York’s Manhattan Island as an example, Pearson said population size was a question of community values and not carrying capacity of the environment. 

Mayor Norris said he thought growth was both good and inevitable for Charlottesville, but he specified that increased housing density should be in appropriate parts of the city and combined with adequate infrastructure.  “Good growth” should be transit oriented and pedestrian friendly.  Norris said he would not “lose any sleep” if there was a population cap established for the region, though he acknowledged the Commonwealth does not give local government’s authority to establish a population cap outside of a community’s zoning decisions.  ASAP’s Jack Marshall was quick to point out the study may determine an optimal population range, but not a specific number of people.

Kleeman stressed the idea of developing visions for the community using words like ‘justice’ and ‘optimize’ in an effort to help the community start thinking about its own values. He said people come to Charlottesville for a way of life and encouraged citizens and officials alike to think about whether the community is letting go of Charlottesville’s fundamental values.

Watch the video:

Brian Wheeler & Jessie Abrams

August 27, 2008

Enter the Scenic Virginia photo contest

20080827-collageScenic Virginia
is having a photo contest

DEADLINE is 5PM, Monday, September 1st.  [details]

All you have to do is upload your photos to the Scenic Virginia group in Flickr.

Then make sure you have tagged your photos in Flickr as follows:

"SV08" PLUS one of the five categories:

  1. Costal/Chesapeake Bay
  2. Mountains
  3. Open Space Farm
  4. Rivers / Waterways
  5. Urban Landscapes 

Also remember this competition is for Viewsheds. Scenic Virginia says they enjoy close-ups, but they are not applicable to the competition.

Even if you don't do online photography, you can still view all the entries.  Great shots from all over Virginia, including some of our submissions from Pie Day 2008.

Brian Wheeler

Albemarle County Service Authority prepares for joint meeting with County BOS

20080821-ACSA On September 10, 2008, the Board of Directors for the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) will hold a rare joint meeting with the County Board of Supervisors. They’ll have one hour to discuss issues ranging from how to pay for the extension of sewer infrastructure inside the urban ring to the future of the North Fork Pump Station. The ACSA Board spent their monthly meeting on August 21, 2008, preparing for the meeting.

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NORTH FORK PUMPING STATION UPDATE

20080821-map
Don Wagner said the area along the North Fork of the Rivanna River could be opened to development in a "receiving area" underneath a TDR plan. The areas in white are currently in the County's rural area

During a discussion of the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program, Executive Director Gary Fern updated the Board of Directors on the status of the North Fork Pump Station that the ACSA is planning in order to increase sewer capacity in the northern section of Albemarle’s urban ring. The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearing the end of its service life, and new capacity is needed before recently approved developments such as North Pointe are built.  The pump station would move sewage to the Powell Creek Interceptor, which is under the RWSA’s jurisdiction.

Fern said ACSA staff have been holding meetings every two weeks with the various developers with projects in the area to determine anticipated flow rates over the next several decades, with full build-out anticipated by 2060. The consultant designing the station is modeling three potential pumping scenarios.

“Time is the crucial element right now in that we’re looking to have Camelot abandoned within two to three years, so we’re looking at what arrangement of pumping stations will work, which will be most efficient in that period so [the North Fork pump station] can be constructed very quickly and put on line very quickly,”  Fern said. The preliminary engineering report is expected to be ready by the first of October.
“Our next step internally is to meet with each of the developers, go over the flows, and that in essence is going to be their percentage of what they’re paying for the project,” Fern said. 

John Martin (White Hall) said it would be useful to have a cost estimate for the project in advance of the joint meeting. The last figure he was aware of was a $38 million figure provided by engineering firm Greeley and Hansen in their technical report from this July, but he said that might not be valid.

“Greeley and Hansen is recommending one pump station, but as I understand it, our engineers may be recommending two pump stations,” Martin said. Fern said he could not provide an estimate until the report is ready.

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) asked if there had ever been any discussion of routing a sewer line down the Rivanna River, which would allow gravity to move sewage to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said he had spoken with Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), and said that if that method were chosen it would allow that area to be developed, and that the land would be a “logical” receiving area in conjunction with Slutzky’s proposal for transferrable development rights or a TDR program.

“It is out of the watershed, and if you had a sewer line following the river it could open  the area close to the airport, close to NGIC, close to existing businesses on 29 North,” Wagner said.  

The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) is now part of the U.S. Army’s growing Rivanna Station Military Base.  Between the base and Watts Passage Road, the northern bank of the North Fork Rivanna River runs for about 2.5 miles entirely in the County’s rural area on 500 acres of land owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC.  Wood previously sold land to the Federal Government to allow the expansion of the base and requested expansions of the County’s Piney Mountain growth area.

20080821-Wagner
Don Wagner

The ACSA’s Wagner, who was involved in the nearby North Pointe project, said an increased growth area that was part of Slutzky’s TDR plan might call for different infrastructure.  “And if that was going to happen, we ought to be talking about a gravity line as opposed to a pump station.” However, Wagner added that he had talked to another Supervisor who was not very enthusiastic about the TDR plan. He said this would be a topic for the meeting on September 10.

Fern said those were the sorts of questions being discussed in the three scenarios. “In the short term, if we’re looking to get the Camelot plant abandoned, we’re going to need a pump station or two pump stations. Longer term, putting a gravity line to follow the river is where the Service Authority wants to be, preferably before 2060,” Fern said.

The capital costs for a gravity line would be considerably more expensive, but would have lower operating costs.  

Martin asked if the Powell Creek Interceptor would have the capacity to handle the growth. Fern said it would be able to, at least for the first few years, but that the RWSA and ACSA will need to determine at what point the Interceptor will need to be upgraded.

Wagner also said another unknown was what future members of the Board of Supervisors would do in terms of zoning in the North Fork area. “The lines are built to accommodate the zoning,” Wagner said. He said in the case of the Hollymead, the Board of Supervisors rezoned the area from Light Industrial to Neighborhood Model District without taking sewer capacity into account.

Colbaugh said that is why the ACSA is empowered to charge connection fees.

 “Our job is to serve and collect the money to build whatever it is that we need to build,” Colbaugh said.

BOARD APPROVES PHASE 4 OF NORTHFIELD SEWER PROJECT

The Board approved a plan to align Phase 4 of the Northfields Sewer Project underneath Huntington Road. The area is being connected to the Albemarle County Service Authority in part because septic fields in the development are failing. The other alternative was to route the sewer along one of the homeowner’s land, an action she had planned to oppose. VDOT granted a waiver to allow the alignment after Supervisor David Slutzky intervened on the ACSA’s behalf.

Robert Humphris (Jack Jouett) said he was concerned about the precedent the ACSA might be setting by putting the sewer line in the middle of the road. ACSA Counsel Jim Bowling  said he thought this was a one-time event, and that he suspected VDOT would not approve similar alignments in the future.  The ACSA estimates it will pay $36,000 to repave the road when the line is in place.

CAN THE COUNTY ASSESS ACSA CONNECTION FEES?

When existing homes need to be connected to sewer lines run by the Albemarle County Service Authority, they are subject to the full connection fee, which can cost up to $15,000. In a new home, that cost is built into the sale price. But, an existing homeowner would have to come up with the funds before service can be installed.  The ACSA is investigating what solutions can be found to lower the burden.

One possibility would be for Albemarle County to assess the connection charge, and then bill the customer on a monthly basis. This would be in the form of a County service district, which would require approval from 50 percent of the property owners in the area.

ACSA Attorney Jim Bowling said that service districts are not common in part because of the statutory framework that needs to be put in place.

“The Board of Supervisors would contract with the Service Authority to do the work, the Service Authority would put in a bid for the contract and collect the lump sum which would include hook up fees… they then would then and assess a levy on the property owners that were affected,” Bowling said.  

Jim Colbaugh was concerned that owners of vacant lots would be forced to pay for a connection they might not use until the property is developed.  The ACSA Board said they were hoping to address the issue at the September 10th  meeting with the Board of Supervisors.

ACSA DISCUSSES WATER RESTRICTIONS

The ACSA also discussed proposed changes to how the Authority will handle water restrictions in the future. Earlier this year, Gary Fern and Judy Mueller of the Charlottesville Public Works Department met with landscapers, irrigation contractors and members of the Mid-Atlantic Car Wash Association.  Now he is proposing changes.

  • During the “Drought Watch” stage, outdoor watering will be allowed from 8:00 PM to 10:00 AM
  • During the “Drought Warning” stage, cars can be washed at any licensed, certified vehicle wash facility
  • Buildings can be washed by a licensed commercial power washing company with written approval from the ACSA
  • The filling of swimming pools and wading pools will require ACSA approval
  • Hotels will be required to institute a policy limiting linens for customers during the “Drought Warning” stage. Previously, this was only required during the “Drought Emergency” stage.

The car-wash certification program will be created in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Carwash Association. Participating companies will be allowed to operate as long as they can prove they are recycling a percentage of their water. The percentage varies depending on the severity of the restrictions.

The City and County will both be asked to amend their ordinances to reflect these changes. Charlottesville City Council will hear a report on this matter in September.

The ACSA is also revising its drought management plan to change the way the public is notified about water restrictions. Fern did not have the draft ready by the time of the ACSA Board meeting.

ACSA LOSING WATER?

Water-flow-chart

During consideration of the ACSA’s financial report from July 2008, Clarence Roberts (Rivanna) was concerned about a discrepancy between the amount of water that the ACSA purchases from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the amount it sells to its customers. By his estimate, the ACSA has lost over 500 million gallons (MGD) over the last year.

“To lose 500 million gallons of water in a year, something is just not right,” Roberts said. He called on the Board to address the issue.

Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the ACSA, said the Authority is working with the City to expand leak detection and repair programs, and is also working to recalibrate RWSA meters to make sure that they are accurate.

ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said that the City has the same issue as well.

“The real point is that the ratepayers in the long run are having to absorb the loss,” Roberts said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:15 - Discussion of whether ACSA or RWSA is losing water in the system
  • 10:50 - Update on the North Fork Pump Station
  • 22:40 - Discussion on changes to water restrictions
  • 47:00 - Discussion of alternative financing for existing homes that require connection to ACSA sewer lines

Sean Tubbs

August 26, 2008

County Planning Commission recommends expansion for Four Seasons daycare

Four-seasons The Albemarle County Planning Commission spent two hours at their meeting on August 19, 2008, debating whether the Four Seasons Learning Center near Rio Road should be granted a special use permit that would allow it to expand. Nearby residents urged the Commission to deny the request, while parents whose children are enrolled in the center pleaded for the permit to be allowed so that the Center can continue to keep their tuition rates low.

The center is located at the corner of Four Seasons and Lakeview Drive, within the County's urban ring. The owners of Four Seasons, Barbara and Krzysztof Sliwinski,  sought permission to expand to sixty-four children. Forty are allowed today. The item first came before the Planning Commission on June 24, 2008, but was deferred after the applicant agreed to conduct a traffic study. Senior Planner Elaine Echols said the applicant’s study did not meet the County’s expectations. 

“The applicant provided a study based on vehicles per hour in the peak hour, and we had analyzed it based on vehicles per day,” Echols said. “The applicant also confirmed that there was a total of six staff members at the facility and that meant that parking could be provided both on and off street.”  

County Engineer Glenn Brooks calculated that the existing enrollment generates 84 trips during peak hours, and the proposed expansion would generate 123 trips during peak hour.  Echols said she is also concerned that the entrance to the facility is too close to the intersection of Four Seasons and Lakeview Drives, and that the expanded daycare may be too large for the existing neighborhood. There are 19 homes on Lake View Drive, a cul-de-sac built as part of the Four Seasons development. 

Echols acknowledged that the community needs access to affordable day care centers, but recommended that the Planning Commission deny the permit. 

“We think that the factors unfavorable outweigh the factors favorable,” Echols said. “We think that the additional students and the number of vehicle trips that are going to be added to this neighborhood street is going to have a negative impact on the neighborhood.”

20080819-Simpson
Attorney John Simpson

Attorney John Simpson represented the Four Seasons Learning Center before the Commission. He said his client deserved a “fair shake” and he disputed the traffic data provided by Brooks. 

“The facts that support the Planning Department’s opinions and conclusions  about the traffic impact have been horribly distorted, not just today, but the last time we were here as well,” Simpson said. Raina Rosado conducted the traffic study for Four Seasons, and insisted that in the worst case scenario, the expanded day care would generate 52 trips during peak hours. Additionally, Rosado said the County did not request a full traffic study that would look at the entire area.

“What hasn’t been done here is that you haven’t analyzed the intersection. You’ve just used these numbers to say [Four Seasons] is going from 30 trips [during peak hour] to 50 trips,” Rosado.

Comments during the public hearing were split between neighbors and parents of children enrolled in Four Seasons. Jan Sprinkle has lived on Lakeview Drive for 21 years, and said she frequently experiences the worse-case scenario.

“For me the worst case is if all the children do arrive in that hour, and they’re all in individual cars, right now you’ve got 40 trips in and 40 trips out… if you increase it to 64, then you’re going to jump 100 trips every day,” Sprinkle said. She also pointed out that VDOT has prohibited parking on Four Seasons Drive adjacent to the day care facility because sight lines at the intersection would be obstructed, and asked that if the Commission did decide to grant the expansion, the center should provide parking for all of its employees.

Steve Harris also lives on Lakeview Drive, and says that parking is a major issue.  “In addition to the level of traffic coming and going throughout the day, we must endure the constant battle for on-street parking, frequent lack of mail delivery as a result of blocked mailboxes, increased noise, and what I call an us-versus-them mentality.”

Rafal Kalemba has a child enrolled in the Center. He said many people in the community are desperate for affordable day care inside the urban ring of the County.

20080819-Laurintz
Shannon Lauritzen and her young child during the public comment period

“It seems from the previous meetings that a small number of people in the community are keeping  a large number of the rest of the people from having access to this affordable child care,” Kalemba said.

Parent Gary Hawthorne took his daughter Isabelle to the podium to tell the Commission that he walks her to day care every day, and he said allowing the daycare to expand would keep tuition low. Another parent, Shannon Lauritzen said she has never had a problem trying to drop off her son.

“At every time that I have taken my son in and out, I have never incurred a problem,” Lauritzen  said. However, she said she would not be able to do that if all employees are required to park on-site.

Lauren Root is a pre-kindergarten teacher and assistant director of the Four Seasons Learning Center.
She said there is a crucial need for more daycare slots in Albemarle County.

“Every day I receive on average five to seven calls for parents looking for quality, affordable child care,” Root said. “There are simply not enough quality affordable centers in our area. This is a problem because if a parent does not have child care they cannot go to work.”

Root also addressed the parking situation.

“Several of the people who do live on Lakeview Drive have two and three vehicles. They also each have a driveway. I have seen them deliberately park their cars on the street, even in front of our daycare center in an attempt to not allow us to park our cars,” Root said.

During their deliberation, members of the Planning Commission were sympathetic to the neighbors as well as the owners of the facility. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said that the Neighborhood Model calls for businesses such as day cares to be in residential communities, but that the Four Seasons Development predates that.

“This neighborhood was done, what, in the early 1980’s, and at that time it was very progressive because there were a lot of different uses in Four Seasons,” Joseph said. “I think that now we’re a little bit more careful about where we’re placing these things. We want to make sure that the roads can handle it, that the intersections can handle it,” she said. Joseph also pointed out that the ACAC’s aquatic facility on Four Seasons Drive also generates traffic, so the Commission needed to take that into consideration.

Joseph also said she did not buy the argument that more students would allow the Sliwinski’s to keep tuition low. “I do think that this site is too small to support that many more children, because of that, I can’t support it.”  Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) agreed with Joseph, and said that the expansion would increase tensions between day care parents and the neighborhood.

However, Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) said the site itself could accommodate the 64 requested, except for the traffic impacts. Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said he wanted to continue to encourage mixed uses in the area, and suggested he could support the special use permit if design changes were made.

“There are lots of ways that some of these issues could be resolved, from a design point of view, “ Edgerton said. “There’d be a way of maybe collecting students at a different location and then bringing them over in a shuttle.”  Edgerton also recommended that all employees be required to park on-site, and be prevented from using on-street parking.

Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) said he was concerned that might take up space that is currently used by parents to drop off their children.

“That might exacerbate other problems and maybe even put children in danger, so I’m not without understanding more I’m not sure if I’m persuaded that that’s a viable solution,” Cannon said.
The Learning Center currently has enough space for nine on-site parking spaces, as well as four spaces on Lakeview Drive. Wayne Cilimberg, Albemarle County’s  Director of Planning, described how those spaces are currently utilized.

“Parents come and go, so I think what the applicant wants to do is provide the most amount of spaces… if you get eight parents there, or eight kids coming at one time in a car, they want to have as many spaces on the site to drop them off rather than having them dropped off on the street, so it’s a trade-off  in terms of whether you feel like if this is to be supported you want to see the employees parked on site with less accommodation of the drop-offs,” Cilimberg said.

Krystoff Sliwinski, the owner of the center, said he would be willing to accept the condition to require all employees on-site, but said he could not have a staff member shepherd each student from car to the center’s front door.

“This is against the state license because the parents have to come inside with the children, sign them up, leave the child and get out,” Sliwinski said.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she could not support 64 students, but said she could support it if the amount were lowered. The Sliwinskis suggested they could go as low as 58 students. Edgerton suggested a compromise.

“I am convinced from the staff report that this facility can accommodate that much of an increase with the condition that the number be dropped down to 50 and with the condition that all staff be  required to park on-site,” he said, and then made a motion reflecting the compromise. However, Deputy County Attorney
Greg Kamptner pointed out that under County zoning, the  applicant has to provide at least one  on-site parking space per ten children, meaning they could not satisfy the second condition. 

“It is part of our parking regulations for day care centers, it’s one-space per 10 children enrolled in the  major class or shift plus one space per employee,” Kamptner said. “And the standard also requires that a pick-up and drop-off area shall be provided on the site.”

The vote on Edgerton's motion was 5-2 with Commissioners Strucko and Joseph voting against. The item will go before the Board of Supervisors on October 8, 2008. If they follow the Commission's recommendation, Elaine Echols told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the issue of parking would have to be worked out with the zoning administrator.

Sean Tubbs

August 25, 2008

Task force tours South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

20080822-slideshow
View a 21 minute slide show
of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir tour

On the morning of August 22, 2008, Charlottesville Tomorrow joined the South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force for a field trip led by Kevin Sauer, Head Coach for the University of Virginia women's rowing team.

The tour of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is the first action of the Task Force since it held its first meeting on August 12, 2008. The members will develop recommendations for the use and maintenance of the reservoir, a key component of the community water supply, to guide its stewardship over the next fifty years.

Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced a twenty-one minute slide show and audio podcast which highlights Sauer's presentation to the group.  Coach Sauer has spent twenty years on the reservoir and during the tour he provided detailed insights into many of the challenges he sees facing UVA's rowing program and other recreational users.

This link allows you to just download the audio: Download 20080822-SFRR-tour

Brian Wheeler

August 21, 2008

MPO Policy Board adopts FY09 Transportation Improvement Program, agrees to move meetings

20080820-Electeds
The four elected members of the MPO Policy Board are (left to right) Supervisor David Slutzky, Supervisor Dennis Rooker, Councilor Satyendra Huja, and Councilor Julian Taliaferro. CHART represenative Mac Lafferty is on the far left

At their meeting on August 20, 2008, the MPO Policy Board adopted its Transportation Improvement Program for FY2009, was briefed by area transit services, and agreed to move its monthly meeting to the CitySpace location in the Market Street Parking Garage.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080820-MPO

Beginning on October 22, 2008, the MPO Policy Board will begin holding its meetings in the CitySpace. The City of Charlottesville, which owns the venue, has agree to waive its rental fee. However, the move will mean the MPO’s meetings will now be held on the fourth Wednesday of the month rather than the third Wednesday. 

This was the first MPO meeting attended by Jim Utterback, VDOT’s new Culpeper District Administrator. Mac Lafferty is now the new representative from the CHART Committee.

TRANSIT UPDATES

“We had a very good year last year,” said Bill Watterson as he began his bi-monthly report on the Charlottesville Transit Service. Ridership increased 12 percent and totaled just over 1.7 million passengers. He also announced that new services would begin on Saturday, August 23, 2008:

  • Route 3: Additional Service between Belmont and Downtown during morning hours
  • Route 5: This line between Walmart and Barracks Road Shopping Center will now run at night
  • Route 6: Route has been altered to add additional service between Downtown and UVA hospital
  • New Route 8: Created to connect Downtown with Barracks Road, K-Mart, Seminole Square via Preston Avenue
  • New Route 9: Created to add service between Downtown and Charlottesville High School via UVA Corner and 14th Street

“All of these changes are responding to comments from the public in terms of service improvements,” Watterson said. “We certainly hope that this is going to add to our success with building ridership.”
Watterson also updated the MPO on the status of CTS’s new operations center on Avon Street extended. The lowest bid for the project came was over the project’s $15.56 million budget, according to the City’s construction report for August. “We’re going to have to do some design changes in order to keep the cost in line,” Watterson said. 

CTS has recently placed eight new 35-foot buses, one 29-foot bus, one mini-bus, and one new trolley into service. An auction will be held in September to sell five buses.  Some existing buses will be having new engines installed to increase their service life.  

“We actually have a reasonably young fleet, particularly now with the insertion of these new buses,” Watterson said. He added that the larger buses have a lifespan of 12 years or 500,000 miles, while the smaller mini-buses only last 150,000 miles or four years. 

MPO ADOPTS TIP

Tip-example
One of the Primary Road projects on the TIP is a long range study of the entire US 29 corridor from the North Carolina border to I-66 in Northern Virginia

The TIP is a list of all of the transportation projects within the MPO’s jurisdiction that will receive federal funding over the next year. This includes new highway construction, road maintenance projects, as well as bike lanes and sidewalks.  The TIP describes each project and gives an accounting of how much money has been expended to date or is expected in the future. 

The first item listed in the TIP is the Western Bypass, a project that has received no money for construction and is widely thought to be defunct and obsolete. The bypass is still listed because $47 million has been spent to date to acquire right of way for the highway. 

With funding in short supply, many projects in the TIP show little or no funds allocated. This year, an new category called “illustrative transportation projects” was created as a wish-list for projects that the MPO desires, but has not yet identified a federal funding source. These include a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic Road and US 29, the Fontaine-Sunset Connector, and the Southern Parkway. However, this list also includes projects that are at various stages of planning, ranging from the Eastern Connector to the multi-use trail between the Downtown Transit Center to Meade Avenue. City Trails Planner Chris Gensic is applying for Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA) funds to complement the funds being contributed by the City as well as a private developer. 

The TIP has been the subject of two previous public hearings. Comments were made by two citizens, but neither were made directly to the contents of this year’s TIP. CHART member Robert Burke encouraged the MPO to consider adding a placeholder for the TransDominion Express should that project come to fruition. Gerry Deily suggested that if a pedestrian bridge is ever built over the Rivanna River south of Free Bridge, that it be strengthened to allow buses to cross. 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Opening of the meeting, followed by public comment by John Pfaltz
  • 2:40 - Consideration and approval of minutes
  • 3:00 - Introduction of new MPO attendees
  • 3:50 - Transit update from CTS Director Bill Watterson
  • 12:50 - JAUNT update from Donna Shaunnesy
  • 17:50 - UVA update from Julia Monteith
  • 25:30 - Regional Transit Authority update
  • 35:00 - Consideration of the TIP
  • 44:00 - Public comment from Robert Burke of Albemarle County
  • 45:45 - Public comment from Jerry Reilly of Charlottesville
  • 47:00 - Public hearing suspended as MPO discusses the relocation of its meetings to CitySpace
  • 55:00 - Public hearing re-opened for TIP, and is quickly adopted

Sean Tubbs

Officials discuss governance issues and legislative matters for new transit authority

20080820-rta2 On August 20, 2008, the work group of local officials tasked with making recommendations on the formation of a regional transit authority held their first meeting where they discussed legislative strategy, governance, and funding issues.  They also picked a working name for the new entity, the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA).  CARTA, it turns out, is an acronym also used by Charleston, SC and Chattanooga, TN to describe their public transportation systems.

At the opening of the meeting, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) was named chairman of the group.  Other members of the work group include:  Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett); Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris; City Councilor Satyendra Huja; Rebecca White, UVA Transportation; and Donna Shaunesey, JAUNT.  Staff from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) are helping facilitate the meetings, including Melissa Barlow and David Blount.  The group plans to meet weekly during the next two to three months before it presents its recommendations, and proposed legislation, to Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080820-RTA

CARTA would eventually assume the operations of the Charlottesville Transit System (CTS).  The University of Virginia plans to operate its transportation system independent of this cooperative venture.  While CTS currently runs buses on routes in Albemarle County’s urban ring, local officials are seeking to create a regional transit authority to significantly increase public transit options and to raise new revenues for transportation projects.

Key decisions at this meeting included the following:

  • The goal is to create a transit (not transportation) authority that will seek funding powers for both transit and transportation projects
  • CARTA’s voting representation will be 50:50 between the City and County which would each have two votes.  The group discussed having CARTA’s voting board consist of two Supervisors and two City Councilors appointed by each body.
  • Non-voting members will include: University of Virginia (1); JAUNT (1); Citizens (2-one from each locality); Monticello (1); VDOT and/or the Commonwealth Transportation Board (1-2); and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) (1).
  • The service area for enhanced public transportation will initially be limited to Charlottesville and Albemarle, with a mechanism for adding other localities or UVA in the future.
  • The work group plans to have a joint meeting with the Transportation Funding Options Working Group that made recommendations to the MPO and local officials in October 2005.  That group was chaired by Leigh Middleditch.
  • The work group will decide at a future meeting what to recommend as a cost allocation formula to be split operating and capital costs between Charlottesville and Albemarle.
  • Enabling legislation will need to be approved by the General Assembly.  The work group is modeling its proposed legislation on SB467 (2006 GA) used by Williamsburg, VA.  Taxing authority will remain with City Council and the Board of Supervisors.

20080820-rta1
Birth of an Acronym: Melissa Barlow & Dennis Rooker smile as Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA)
is selected as a working name

In future meetings, the work group will evaluate funding mechanisms, voter referendum requirements, the transfer of City transportation assets to CARTA, and human resource issues like the wage differential between City and County workers.  Draft legislation enabling the formation of the RTA and allowing for new local revenues to be raised has to be reviewed and approved by the City and County before December 8, 2008 in order to be considered by the General Assembly.

After the meeting, UVA’s Rebecca White explained to Charlottesville Tomorrow why the University intends to operate its bus system independent of CARTA. 

“We are glad to participate so fully in these discussions,” said White.  “There are strings attached to federal funding for our charters and parking lot shuttles that might be impacted [were UVA to join as a full partner].”

However, White said she saw the potential for increased City-County cooperation to help the University.  “My interest [here] is mostly in facilitating our employees’ commute to work.  That is where UVA’s interests are significant.”

The work group’s next meeting will be Friday, August 29th from 9-11 AM at the offices of TJPDC.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:03 - Call to order by Melissa Barlow, TJPDC
  • 01:21 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker nominates Supervisor David Slutzky to serve as Chair and Mayor Dave Norris to serve as Vice Chair of the working group
  • 02:07 - Barlow summarizes joint meeting to discuss RTA held on August 5, 2008
  • 04:54 - Slutzky restates their goal as creating a transit (not transportation) authority that will seek funding powers for both transit and transportation projects
  • 05:52 - Discussion of work group meeting schedule and news that City of Richmond plans to submit legislation next session for a transportation authority
  • 07:39 - Discussion of best process for engaging local General Assembly delegation
  • 28:00 - Discussion of draft legislation, legislation approved for Williamsburg, VA, and approach being taken by Fredericksburg, VA
  • 36:00 - Rooker provides background on Transportation Funding Options Working Group
  • 41:50 - Slutzky opens discussion on opportunities for feedback from Council/Board of Supervisors and the public
  • 46:58 - Barlow mentions June 24, 2008 letters sent by Harrison Rue to City and County requesting $25,000 from each locality ($50,000 total) to support TJPDC's ongoing support of RTA creation
  • 58:20 - Work group discusses name and Rooker suggests Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA)
  • 59:00 - Discussion of RTA service area
  • 1:00:33 - Discussion of member jurisdictions
  • 1:06:00 - Discussion of elected vs. appointed officials, board composition, and voting rights
  • 1:19:40 - Discussion of assets held by Charlottesville Transit System
  • 1:28:00 - Discussion of funding cost allocation approaches.  Bill Watterson, CTS, describes current system.

Brian Wheeler

August 20, 2008

Bill Emory appointed to City Planning Commission

20070517-emory The Charlottesville City Council has appointed Bill Emory to the City Planning Commission, replacing Hosea Mitchell. His four-year term will begin on September 1, 2008.

Emory told Charlottesville Tomorrow that he is excited about his new position but he said he will need some time to get adjusted to his new role.

“It’s an awesome responsibility,” Emory said, “but it’s going to take me a while to get used to it. A lot of things that you think you can do as a Planning Commissioner you really can’t.”

Emory said he thinks the existing Planning Commission is a fantastic group of people and that it takes care of some of the most important work done by the city. He said he hopes he will be worthy of the position.

“I hope to just essentially serve the city for a couple of years and learn to listen to people really well from neighborhoods and people impacted by the city of Charlottesville,” Emory said.

While Emory said he doesn’t mean to imply the Planning Commission isn’t already doing a good job of listening to the people of Charlottesville, he said time restrictions make it hard to hear everyone. Between reading documents and attending meetings, sometimes lasting as long as eight hours, Emory said it is difficult for the Commission to be able to listen to the entire community.

“We spend a disproportionate amount of our energy and planning efforts on certain areas, like the downtown mall, and other areas are somewhat neglected,” Emory said.

Time demands also make applying for the position unreasonable for many people without a lot of spare time to devote to the group Emory said. For this reason, he feels participation is limited to people who do not have very many other large commitments.

In the community, Emory has spent his time co-founding a group focused on the preservation, research and education about the historic Woolen Mills Village  and working with photography. Last year Emory sued the city over zoning issues in regards to the historic, Timberlake-Branham house, which borders properties in Woolen Mills. He dropped the case in mid April and did not want to comment on it. Emory said he has been on the Woolen Mills board for about two years and will continue to serve there; however he said he is going to cut back on photography.

“Actually the Planning Commission comes along at a good time. I’ve spent 35 years learning how to do film,” Emory said. “It’s a good time to sort of take a break from photography for a little bit. I’m just trying to let the technology phase settle down.”

Emory said he thinks he is ready to start his work and he is looking forward to learning from the Commission and listening more to the community starting next month.

Jessie Abrams