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September 29, 2008

County Planning Commission receives update on Village of Rivanna master plan

Design1
Village of Rivanna design 1

The process of creating a master plan for the Village of Rivanna advanced a little further this week with a work session held September 23, 2008 by the Albemarle County Planning Commission. The Village of Rivanna, which includes Glenmore, is one of the County’s designated growth areas, and the master planning process is being undertaken around the County to plan in greater detail future development in these areas.

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During the work session held on September 23, 2008, many Commissioners expressed a desire to find a way to make sure that necessary improvements to Route 250 are in place before new development occurs.  Commissioners also heard details about the format for a public meeting on the master plan that will be held later on this year.

In her staff report, County Senior Planner Elaine Echols said Glenmore itself is zoned as a Planned Residential Development, Rivanna Village at Glenmore is zoned as Neighborhood Model, but the rest of the area under consideration is currently zoned as Rural Area.

A previous work session was held before the Commission on June 17, 2008. After that meeting, the Commission decided not to expand the boundaries for the master plan, and settled on an average residential density target of 3 to 6 units per acre. However, the Commission requested to see options of how that density could be concentrated away from the Running Deer subdivision, a portion of  which is within the master planning area.

Design2
Village of Rivanna design 2

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is assisting with the development of the Master Plan. County and TJPDC staff sought the Commission’s input on three potential designs for how the master plan would accommodate that desire. TJPDC Planner Bill Wanner presented the three designs to the Commission.

Design 1 envisions higher residential density clustered around two “centers” that would be organized around “civic greens.” This center would not feature commercial uses, according to County Chief Planner David Benish. Design 2 only features one “center” allowing for a greater dwelling-units-per-acre. Design 3 lacks a “center” and instead shows residential density decreasing in intensity away from the Village Center which is shown in all three designs. Under all three scenarios, there could be 800 to 1,600 units of new housing, according to Wanner.  However, a population estimate based on full build-out has not yet been calculated. 

Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) asked why the community was not given an option to feature lower density. Wanner responded that his work has been guided by the Comprehensive Plan, which designates the Village of Rivanna as one of the areas designated for growth. Echols said that the existing zoning would not allow for the density recommended in the Comprehensive Plan.

Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) said he could not give staff the feedback they wanted, because he felt staff were separating the form of the development from the density. 

Design3
Village of Rivanna design 3

“For me, the big implications of these different forms is where the density masses, and where it becomes proximate to areas that have expressed sensitivity about higher density,” Cannon said. Echols instructed Cannon to not consider specific numbers of units at this time, to instead think of gradations of density. The Commission spent several minutes discussing the finer points of what this actually meant.

Only one person spoke during the public comment period. Village resident Neil Means asked for information on the transportation plan in the master plan. He expressed his concern that Route 250 will not be able to handle the additional capacity.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) wanted Means to know that transportation decisions will come as each portion of the Village of the Rivanna comes back for a rezoning. She said that the Commission’s job during the work session was to provide feedback on the form the master plan should take.

However, Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) pointed out that the Commission had spent time talking about sewer capacity [see summary below], and that he did want to have a discussion about the Village’s transportation infrastructure. Benish tried to refocus the Commissioners back to a discussion of form, and said whatever form of density Commissioners chose would inform questions of transportation capacity. But Loach said that he too wanted to discuss transportation capacity.

“If we are going to make assumptions on density, we have to know if based on that
density, there’s going to be either enough transportation capacity or [that] there will be when this is built,” Loach said.

Joseph pointed out the Pantops Master Plan does not fully address that area’s transportation issues, but the master planning process allows the Commission to develop a vision for how the growth areas should look as they are built out.

Loach, who disagrees with the County’s interpretation of the population build-out numbers provided in the Crozet Master Plan, said there can be dire consequences of not taking existing conditions into account when creating a new plan. He singled out the Crozet Master Plan’s reliance on an improved Jarmans Gap Road to serve as a major transportation corridor. However, despite the Plan’s approval in 2004, the County cannot sufficiently fund improvements to Jarmans Gap, so it remains a two-lane street without sidewalks, bike lanes, or any of the other amenities called for in the plan.

“Every development put on the road was predicated on improvements to the road,” Loach said. “Every improvement on the road [has been] delayed. So what I worry about is that we put this vision of the density, it’s considered then that’s what [developers] are allowed and [they] can go ahead no matter what the roads are because that’s what’s coming.”

Joseph said rezoning is when transportation decisions should be made. “If we know that existing conditions are not what we need to do the development, then certainly we need to put that verbiage within the master plan, but I can’t see us just deciding to stop right now with planning into the future because we don’t have the infrastructure.”

Strucko called for language that specifically lays out what upgrades need to happen with Route 250 before development occurs.

Jon Cannon (Rio) said he heard one important question while listening to the discussion. Should a rezoning go forward if the planned infrastructure is not in place?

“Typically in a rezoning we take into account the impact of the rezoning on the highway or on the school system and we’re able to extract a proffer that represents the incremental impact of that development but that does not ensure that an adequate transportation link is going to be available…. Tom [Loach] is saying that there ought to be a mechanism to ensure as a condition of a rezoning under a plan like this that the 250 improvements have been made.”

Loach asked if rezoning approval could be tied to hard data, such as a transportation level of service. Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner said that such language in the plan would require specific criteria. He pointed to a situation in Loudoun County where a court upheld that county’s comprehensive plan requirement that shopping centers only be built in areas with a specific population in a given radius.

“The more specific and the more objective the comp plan is, the stronger the basis it is to support a particular action on a rezoning,” Kamptner said. Benish added that the Southern Urban Area B study established specific road standards before expansion can take place.

SETTING UP A PUBLIC MEETING

County Community Relations Manager Lee Catlin suggested the Commission sponsor a public meeting where the TJPDC could present the options to the public and would feature break-out sessions where details could be discussed.

Commissioner Joseph suggests keeping all three design concepts on the table for the public to weigh in on. Strucko agreed, and suggested the community should come up with their own vision. Catlin cautioned that the Commission should establish clear parameters under which those visions could be developed.

Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) suggested that the public be given clear reasons for why the comprehensive plan calls for a certain targeted density for the Village of Rivanna. He also urged that the ultimate design should include transition zones so that high-density areas do not directly abut lots with single family homes.

The Planning Commission will sponsor the public meeting later this year. Catlin said it would likely take place before Thanksgiving. Staff will come back to the Planning Commission with a plan for the public meeting sometime before then.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SEWER CAPACITY CONCERNS

20080923-ACSA-RWSA
(left to right) ACSA Engineering Director Pete Gorham, ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern and RWSA Director of Operations Bob Wichser

Officials from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) were on hand to answer questions about sewer capacity for the Village of Rivanna.

 “The Service Authority has told us that the treatment plant was sized for 385,000 gallons per day for the overall Village, and that now only 120,000 gallons per day are being used,” Echols said.

ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern told the Commission that under the terms of the four-party agreement, the ACSA owns the Glenmore Wastewater Treatment Plant, but the facility is operated by the RWSA. He said the ACSA is currently evaluating the treatment plant to examine the possibilities for expansion if necessary in the future, with results from that study due in three months. ACSA Engineering Director Pete Gorham told the Commission that he felt the plant could handle the additional capacity when the Village of Rivanna is fully built-out.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - County Senior Planner Elaine Echols describes parameters and goals of work session
  • 4:00 - TJPDC's Bill Water describes the three design concepts
  • 11:30 - Albemarle County Spokeswoman Lee Catlin describes the process for public input  
  • 12:47 - Bill Wanner asks specific questions of the Commission
  • 13:40 - Commissioner Tom Loach asks if the three design concepts have been before the public yet  
  • 14:33 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton asks if the three design concepts feature the same density
  • 15:00 - Commissioner Loach asks why the community is not being given an option to scale back density
  • 16:46 - Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks about sewer capacity concerns
  • 18:30 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton follows up on sewer questions, and is answered by Gary Fern, Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority
  • 20:30 - Bob Wichser of the RWSA describes the operations of the Glenmore Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • 27:48 - Commissioner Jon Cannon expresses concern he can't give staff the feedback they want
  • 33:24 - Public comment from Neil Means on transportation capacity sparks discussion about whether whether transportation capacity should be addressed at this time. Commissioners debate whether a discussion of form should include  
  • 50:30 - Commissioner Joseph suggests keeping all three options on the table for the public to weigh in on, leading to a discussion of how the public input process will proceed
  • 54:48 - Comment from Julia Monteith from UVA about how open space
  • 59:11 - Comment from Bill Edgerton 
  • 1:04:20 - Lee Catlin recaps what she thinks she heard from the Commission regarding the public meeting
  • 1:07:30 - Strucko asks if a population estimate has been factored for ultimate build-out of the Village of Rivanna

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

September 25, 2008

Norris and Boyd discuss Ragged Mountain Dam cost increase

20080630-norris-boyd
Mayor Dave Norris (Left) and Supervisor Ken Boyd (Right) appearing together at a June 2008 meeting

On September 23, 2008, Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) and Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris were both guests on WINA AM 1070's Charlottesville Live radio program.  Hosts Rick Daniels and Jane Foy spoke with the local leaders about the 50-year community water supply plan and the news released the day before that engineering firm Gannett Fleming had raised the cost estimates for the proposed Ragged Mountain Dam dramatically. 

In a joint press release, the local governments and agencies reported that the Ragged Mountain Dam’s expected cost had grown from $37 million to $70 million.  A second opinion solicited by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority indicated that the dam could be built for about $56.5 million, still a 53% increase.  However, the detailed report on the Ragged Mountain Dam from Gannett Fleming identified a high end price with contingency funds at almost $99 million (2010 dollars).  The new dam is one component of the 50 year water supply plan which also includes a pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

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"As chairman Boyd said, I don't think any of us have a real strong interest in going back to square one after all the work and all the community discussions that happened, and all the community interests that were balanced to get us to this point... To this point there still is no alternative proposal that accomplishes all these varying goals at any less costs than the one that we have endorsed." Dave Norris

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:43 - Start of WINA radio program with hosts Rick Daniels and Jane Foy
  • 03:00 - Host Jane Foy asks Dave Norris and Ken Boyd about increase in costs for Ragged Mountain Dam
  • 03:35 - Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) responds
  • 04:44 - Mayor Dave Norris describes original cost estimates as being for a conceptual design.  Norris credits the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) for seeking a second opinion and for recommending a panel of experts to review the engineering analysis and cost estimates.
  • 06:49 - Host Rick Daniels asks if the community needs to start over with the community water supply plan.
  • 07:50 - Boyd indicates he is not in favor of starting over
  • 08:35 - Norris indicates he sees value in dredging the South Fork for any number of reasons and that this should be factored into the decision about the Ragged Mountain Dam's height. 
  • 09:15 - Norris: "As chairman Boyd said, I don't think any of us have a real strong interest in going back to square one after all the work and all the community discussions that happened, and all the community interests that were balanced to get us to this point... To this point there still is no alternative proposal that accomplishes all these varying goals at any less costs than the one that we have endorsed."
  • 10:00 - Foy asks about relationship between South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force and panel of dam experts to review Ragged Mountain project
  • 13:15 - Daniels asks about Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and their call for members of the RWSA board to resign.
  • 14:00 - Norris mentions that City and County have both expressed interest in exploring having elected officials on the RWSA board "to instill more public confidence in this process."
  • 15:39 - Boyd talks about experts being brought in for Ragged Mountain Dam assessment as compared to work of South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force and their look at dredging.
  • 16:35 - Norris states that Task Force is going to envision the future of reservoir, then the next phase, if they decide to recommend dredging, is to bring in dredging experts.
  • 17:32 - Foy asks Norris and Boyd how much water the community needs.
  • 18:30 - Norris responds and talks about projected growth rates and water consumption rates.  He encourages more attention be given to conservation efforts.
  • 22:00 - Daniels asks if it would be prudent to build a larger reservoir as opposed to "rolling the dice."
  • 22:26 - Norris responds and says he believes we can conserve more water as a community.
  • 22:56 - Daniels asks about the involvement of the University of Virginia as a "gigantic" water customer.
  • 24:05 - Daniels asks if the South Fork Reservoir Task Force will be able to deliver recommendations by the end of 2008.
  • 24:25 - Norris responds that the end of the year should still be reasonable.  He indicates it will take longer for a panel of experts to provide feedback on the Ragged Mountain Dam.
  • 25:06 - Foy asks about composition of panel of experts.
  • 25:33 - Norris describes impact of new cost estimates and the work of the expert panel on the construction schedule for Ragged Mountain Dam.
  • 28:00 - Foy asks about difference between City and County structures that do billing and set rates for public water and sewer.
  • 29:08 - Daniels asks about total costs for 50 year community water supply plan and phasing of project.
  • 29:45 - Norris responds and describes need to replace or repair Ragged Mountain Dam.  Norris says he expects future growth in City and County will help "shoulder the burden" for paying for water supply plan.  Funding formula between City and County is discussed.

Brian Wheeler

September 24, 2008

Planning Commissioners updated on Whole Foods stormwater incident

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The breach occurred when the stormwater retention ponds failed after five inches of rain fell in the area

Heavy rain in mid-September overwhelmed the stormwater management system put in place by the developers of the new Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road, City Planning Commissioners have been told. City Planner Nick Rogers provided an update on the incident at the Commission’s work session on September 23, 2008.

“Well over five inches of rain in a very short period of time fell and the erosion and sediment control measures planned by the applicant were shown to not have been sufficient,” Rogers said. The runoff flowed out of the banks of three retention ponds set up at the site, and flooded the public housing site on Michie Drive. Rogers said the developers were on the scene immediately to clean up the mess. 

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20080924-storm-sewer
Crews are working to complete a new stormwater system to prevent future breaches

“We had had discussions before that with the staff and the applicant on the stability of their site because the Whole Foods parcel is about 3.7 acres, but it’s the nexus of a drainage area that is well over 14 acres,” Rogers said. To fix the problem in the future, Rogers said the developers will be making improvements to the system by connecting a storm sewer pipe that will run from the K-Mart to the Whole Foods property to prevent “overland flow” in the next heavy rain event.

Commission Dan Rosensweig asked if it were possible that the Planning Commission erred by granting a steep slopes waiver for the site in January, before seeing a preliminary site plan. City Planner Brian Haluska said that the waiver was granted based on how the final site will look, and that construction sites create temporary conditions that are mitigated by an erosion and sediment control plan. The two, he said, are separate processes.

“These types of failures do happen when five inches of rain get dumped on a site,” Haluska said. He said similar events happened with the River Bluff development, who also had to upgrade their erosion and sediment control program. “How the final site is and whether or not they’ve graded on 25% slopes or not, it doesn’t really affect the E & S plan.”

Rogers said the Meadowbrook Creek LLC has not yet reached an agreement with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority regarding an easement to plant trees on the public housing site. That will be required before final site plan approval can be granted by staff.

Sean Tubbs

Stormwater experts detail efforts to control runoff

On September 17, 2008, the Charlottesville-Albemarle League of Women Voters held the latest in the Treva Cromwell Memorial Lecture series on water quality issues. The forums are being held in the memory of Treva and Howard Cromwell, a pair of school-teachers who moved to the area in the 1970's who became active in water quality issues through the League's Natural Resources Committee. Treva Cromwell served for seven years on the Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and was the only woman to ever serve as Chair.

The event was held at the Ivy Creek Natural Area. A series of experts discussed “non-point source pollution,” or what happens to streams and reservoirs when stormwater carries sediment and pollutants from parking lots, lawns, farms and construction sites. 

Watch the video:

20080916-Frisbee
Dan Frisbee

The first speaker is Dan Frisbee, the Environmental and Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of Charlottesville. He said that non-point source pollution is the leading cause of water-quality problems, but is also much harder to regulate than point-source pollution where effluent is routed directly into a waterway. Frisbee also talks about Charlottesville’s recent environmental commitments.

20080916-Sappington
Alyson Sappington

The second speaker is Alyson Sappington, District Manager for the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. She discusses how she works with farmers to mitigate their impact on the environment. This involves keeping cows out of streams, improving grazing management and developing other best management practices. Sappington also detailed changes that are coming to the way the state of Virginia manages stormwater, including granting localities the authority to regulate pervious surfaces through permits and fees.

20080916-Harper
Greg Harper

The third speaker is Greg Harper, Water Resources Manager for Albemarle County, who discusses the County’s efforts to implement erosion and sediment controls on new developments. He outlines the challenges that come with mitigating the impact caused by denuding forests.

Previous lectures from the Treva Cromwell series include a June 2007 discussion of groundwater, a November 2007 presentation by RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick, and a March 2008 presentation  detailing proposed upgrades to the area’s water and sewer infrastructure.

TIMELINE FOR VIDEO:

  • 1:00 – Introduction by Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas
  • 6:00 – Dan Frisbee provides an outline of how non-point source pollution threatens water quality
  • 15:30 – Alyson Sappington describes the potential impacts of agriculture, and describes how the Soil and Water Conservation District helps with mitigation efforts
  • 27:00 – Greg Harper describes the impact that commercial and residential development can have on erosion, and talks about what Albemarle County does to try to control sedimentation
  • 40:15 – Dan Frisbee details the City of Charlottesville’s efforts to address non-point source pollution
  • 1:00 - Greg Harper details Albemarle County’s efforts to address non-point source pollution
  • 1:07 - Alyson Sappington previews the proposed changes to the way Virginia regulates stormwater

Brian Wheeler & Sean Tubbs

September 23, 2008

RWSA approves panel to evaluate engineering and costs for new Ragged Mountain Dam

20080922-RWSA-wide

The Board of Directors for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) has approved the creation of an independent panel of experts to determine the best way to proceed with the design of the new dam to enlarge the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Shortly before their meeting on September 22, 2008, RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick announced that the cost estimate for the dam had risen to over $70 million, and that a second opinion had been sought. Frederick will now put together the panel but will need further approval from the RWSA Board before their work can begin.

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In his presentation to the Board, Frederick provided further details about Gannett Fleming’s revised cost estimate, which jumped from $37 million to as much as $71 million. Frederick said one of the biggest challenges of building a new dam is to evaluate the geology of the foundation on which it will be built.  Gannett Fleming’s initial interpretations of the various borings and other surveys led their engineers to recommend digging the foundation deeper into the ground, as well as building wider walls along the sides. 

“The magnitude of those increases in the opinion of that engineer was enough concern to RWSA staff that we felt it prudent and necessary to stop the design work and obtain a second opinion,” Frederick said. Schnabel Engineering was brought in to review Gannett Fleming’s work, and Frederick said Schnabel’s report points out up to $13.5 million in cost savings by building a foundation that is only slightly deeper and wider than the existing Gannett Fleming design. However, Schnabel is also calling for additional geotechnical work in order to determine if additional savings can be made.  Gannett Fleming has conducted some of those surveys, but have not yet analyzed the data.

Frederick recommended that design work on the new dam Ragged Mountain Reservoir continue to be halted while a panel of independent experts is convened. He acknowledged the panel will cost the RWSA money, but said the extra expertise would benefit the project.

“We do want to look for people who are renowned in their experience in dams and try to get the best information and best decisions that we can,” Frederick said. The panel will review both cost estimates as well as the raw geotechnical data. Frederick said the panel may also want to conduct additional surveys, and also asked the RWSA board if the proposed pipeline from SFRR to RMR should be included in the review.  The Board later declined to add the pipeline to the review at this time, but left the possibility of adding that topic at a later time.

In response to questions from the RWSA Board, Frederick had more details. The panel review is expected to last until at least the end of the calendar year. There is currently no cost estimate for how much the panel review will cost. Gannett Fleming will be allowed to analyze the additional data they have already collected, information that will also be shared with Schnabel Engineering. The composition of the panel, as well as how much money the RWSA will spend convening it, will come back to the Board for consideration at its meeting in October.

Opponents of the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir used the public comment period to advocate that dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir be undertaken as a component of the 50 Year Community Water Supply Plan. Former RWSA Chairman Rich Collins, now a member of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, said he did not understand why dredging was not being considered, especially in light of the increase in the cost estimate for the dam.

Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch, who voted for the Community Water Supply Plan in June 2006, said he did so as an “unwitting participant in a fraud on the ratepayers and taxpayers.” Lynch called for the development of a new plan, because he claimed an expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir will not work without the construction of a new pipeline to carry water from SFRR.  Charlottesville resident Betty Mooney called for the resignation of the entire RWSA Board because, in her opinion, none of them represent ratepayers, and she threatened taking action to dissolve the RWSA itself. 

In response, County Executive Bob Tucker said that four of the five members of the RWSA Board are appointed due to their position in local government, but that all serve the will of the City Council and the Board of Supervisors.  

Other news:

  • The RWSA has begun releasing 1 million gallons a day of water into the Moormans River, or natural inflow, whichever is less. Frederick said this is above and beyond the requirements of the federal permit, which requires only 400,000 gallons a day. “We will do so as long as there is no threat to the water supply,” Frederick said.
  • Frederick reported that water levels at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir will be dropping over the next few days due to an emergency repair of the Sugar Hollow.  Water is diverted from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir into the Ragged Mountain Reservoir through an 18-inch gravity fed pipeline about 13 miles in length.  Since 2000 the RWSA has made several emergency repairs to the pipeline, including one in September 2004 that cost close to $200,000.  The oldest portion of the pipeline  dates to 1908 and, because of its condition, the pipeline will be abandoned as part of the 50 year Community Water Supply Plan.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Executive Director's report (truncated due to recording error)
  • 4:00 - Public comment from Hawes Spencer
  • 4:51 - Public comment from Rich Collins, former RWSA Chair
  • 8:15 - Public comment from Kevin Lynch of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 10:00 - Public comment from Albemarle County resident Richard Lloyd
  • 12:30 - Public comment from Betty Mooney
  • 17:00 - Consent agenda passes
  • 17:30 - Frederick's briefing on the new Ragged Mountain Dam
  • 27:00 - Discussion of whether the pipepline would be part of the independent review panel
  • 30:00 - County Executive Bob Tucker asks for a timeline for the review
  • 32:00 - ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern asks what further information can be analyzed
  • 32:49 - Schnabel Engineer Chris Webster responds
  • 33:30 - Gaffney asks Webster what other information a panel might want to review
  • 34:45 - Fern asks Webster about Schnabel's claims that the Gannett Fleming estimate is "too conservative"
  • 36:30 - Gaffney asks Frederick what kind of people should serve on the panel
  • 40:50 - Tucker moves to accept Frederick's recommendation to convene a panel
  • 42:20 - Tucker addresses Betty Mooney's call for RWSA Board members to resign

Sean Tubbs

County planners raise concerns over the development of a private school

Proposed-site The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a pre-application work session during their September 16, 2008 meeting to help the Charlottesville Day School determine whether to seek approval for a special use permit for a new private school. The pre-application process has been established as a way for applicants to test the waters of the governing body before committing too many resources to any given project. Each of the Commissioners weighed in on whether the Planning Commission would consider a private school an appropriate use for the selected site off of Hydraulic Road, and, if so, what would need to be done to secure their approval.

The current enrollment of the Charlottesville Day School is 152, but it expects to expand to between 185 and 228 students on a new site. Adopting a line from Socrates, the school director David Bruns emphasized their mission: “wisdom begins with wonder.” He said this commitment led them to consider a piece a land with open space and natural characteristics for the children to explore. They determined that land off of Hydraulic Road would suit these purposes well and remain within the vicinity of many of the families who would be traveling to the school. The school expressed an interest in preserving the aesthetic nature of the land, as well as reusing a residential building on the property for either offices or faculty residence.

The Commissioners questioned several aspects of this proposal, especially noting the proximity of this site to the South Fork Rivanna reservoir. Commissioner Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) pointed out that a church that wanted to develop this property in 1988 was denied and another private school also withdrew a similar application in 1997. The reason for the initial denial was the potential for water contamination in this sensitive watershed. He wanted to know how this case was relevantly distinct from earlier cases. Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) expressed that other commissioners shared this concern.

The water contamination issue is especially pertinent in this case because county water and sewer services cannot be extended into this rurally zoned property, outside of the designated growth areas. Current owner Miles Wilhelm told the Commissioners that they receive water from the Albemarle County Service Authority. However, any expanded development would have to provide its own septic tank and well. The planning staff reported that there is very little precedent for granting variances to public service limitations, and that these exceptions are only considered for health cases in existing use of the property. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) stated unequivocally that she would not support expansion of these services even if it were a procedural possibility. Commissioner Morris stated that, “schools produce a lot of septic.” Whatever the size of the school, in his opinion, a private septic tank would be problematic for this area

Another important factor, in this particular case, is that the site is located directly adjacent to the border between a designated growth zone and a rural zone. The staff report reminded the Commissioners that the comprehensive plan calls for sharp boundaries between these zones. Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) said he was particularly sensitive to this issue, saying that it was important to be able to see the open space from the developed region. The boundaries were not drawn arbitrarily but rather they follow closely the river watershed. Since the County had been pretty good at sticking to its boundaries, he did not want to see that track record compromised.

Additional traffic volume was also mentioned as a concern, especially considering the potential access road to the school is actually a private road. For the development to be approved, neighbors would have to be supportive of the increased traffic, which is estimated to be approximately 150 – 200 vehicle trips during the peak hour. More work would have to be done both in traffic analysis and public engagement.

While the work session was not intended to reach any final decisions, the general impression was that the Planning Commission would not approve the request in its current form. With the exception of Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville), who felt that the school would be an acceptable use for the area, each of the other commissioners expressed their doubts about the potential application.

Daniel Nairn

September 22, 2008

Cost estimate for Ragged Mountain Dam construction increases to $70 million; RWSA seeks second opinion

4boardsfrederick

The ground slated to serve as the foundation for the future Ragged Mountain Dam consists of fractured bedrock, which means consultant Gannett & Fleming has raised their cost estimate to approximately $70 million. The news was announced at a special media briefing given on September 22, 2008, by the four chairs of the governing bodies with jurisdiction over the area’s water and sewer infrastructure.
Further information will be available at the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors meeting later this afternoon. 

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The new information comes after a geophysical survey of the area discovered fractures. Gannett Fleming engineers have suggested building a dam with a larger underground foundation along with core side walls. Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, said that he sought a second opinion after getting the revised cost estimate

“This is substantially larger than the $37 million that they reported to us during the conceptual phase,” Frederick said. Schnabel Engineering of Glen Allen, Virginia, was asked to look at the same information, and have suggested they can do the work for around $57 million, even with the discovery of weathered and fractured rock. However, both Schnabel and Gannett Fleming are requesting additional  information on the geology involved. Schnabel is suggesting ways to mitigate the fracturing.

Frederick suggested that the RWSA convene an independent panel of dam experts to determine how to proceed with the two estimates. The RWSA Board of Directors will discuss the issue at its meeting this afternoon.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Introduction by Mike Gaffney, RWSA Chair
  • 2:20 - Summary of Community Water Supply plan to date
  • 5:00 - Discussion of the discovery of fractured rock at the location
  • 10:00 - Questions from the media

Sean Tubbs

September 18, 2008

City Manager O’Connell highlights issues facing a Regional Transit Authority

Transit-center

At the very end of City Council’s meeting on September 15, 2008, City Manager Gary O’Connell told Councilors that he had prepared a fact sheet laying out “some things to consider” as they pursue a Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Minutes later, the Council had just reaffirmed their commitment to the pursuit of enabling legislation to enact a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for transit and road projects

The item was not included in Council’s packet, but O’Connell said he wanted Councilors to consider “some of the more practical issues, hurdles that we have to face if we would get money and if you seriously consider legislation to go to the General Assembly.”

Charlottesville Tomorrow obtained a copy of the memo, which contains seven numbered items describing various aspects of how the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) might be affected if it transitions to a structure that is jointly run with Albemarle County.

The nearly $6 million 2008 CTS operating budget is funded 79.3% by the City and 20.7% by the County. In his memo, O’Connell points out that the current proposal for the RTA’s governance is to have an even split between City Councilors and Albemarle County Supervisors. 

“The issue of weighting votes by members of the board of the RTA needs to be determined,” O’Connell wrote. He went on to point out that the City  has a current depreciated value of $32 million in CTS assets.

Furthermore, a “large number” of CTS employees are enrolled in the City’s retirement program. O’Connell speculates that the RTA employees would likely be in the Virginia Retirement System. He also pointed out that the City currently provides $400,000  in “support services” to CTS, costs which would the RTA might have to reimburse the City for. His memo did not specify what these services are.

So far the working group of Councilors and Supervisors discussing the RTA have not seriously discussed the cost allocations, but instead have been using their time at weekly meetings to discuss the enabling legislation, funding for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Council’s work on the RTA, as well as strategies to broaden public support for the idea.

“The issue of how to allocate the cost of regional transit services between members of the RTA needs to be determined,” O’Connell wrote to conclude his memo.

Sean Tubbs

Over objections of some property owners, Council takes first step to identify historic buildings

Wachovia
A portion of the Wachovia bank in the Barracks Road Shopping Center is being considered for designation as an Individually Protected Property

City Council has indicated it supports the designation of four separate buildings in the City of Charlottesville as Individually Protected Historic Properties.  After passing through both the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) and the Planning Commission, Council held a first reading of the historic designation measures at its meeting on September, 15 2008. If Council passes the ordinance change at its meeting on October 6, 2008, it will be the first time since 1993, and only the second time ever, that the city has focused protection on individual buildings.

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The first building is former Coca-Cola plant, now converted into apartment buildings, on 10th Street. City Councilor Satyendra Huja expressed agreement with the BAR that examples of this era of industrial architecture are fairly unique and deserve protection. The second building still functions as a Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston Street. Built in 1937, it is the largest remaining example in Charlottesville of the art deco style, a mixture of both classical and modern design elements popular around the world between the 1920’s and the 30’s. Since there have been newer or less significant additions to the building, Council decided to designate only the front portion of the property as historic.

Monticello
The old Monticello Dairy building is another being considered for protection

The third building is a bank that sits on a 22 acre property in Barracks Road shopping center. The original building dates back to around 1965. Although modern in design, it was intended as a reference to the Rotunda. Councilor Holly Edwards felt it contributes to the “Jeffersonian feel that makes Charlottesville Charlottesville.” Finally, the fourth building is the former Monticello Dairyon Grady Avenue. Another industrial building in the Preston corridor, the Monticello Dairy is noted for its neo-classical façade.

Several of the property owners objected, whether in part or in full, to the designations, claiming they would lose the flexibility to engage in future redevelopments of their property. To do so they would have to seek approval from the BAR. Councilors wrestled with the idea of moving forward without the owners full consent. Mayor Dave Norris asked staff to consider the possibility of providing incentives to help “soften the blow” of the approved restrictions. This could be achieved, in the form of tax breaks, or through recommendation to the National Historic Register.

Council also spent time deliberating between protecting the whole parcel and selecting important the parts of the building for protection. The dilemma arose because many of these buildings have been added to several times, and some of the owners were willing to grant protection of the old portion while seeking to retain the right to alter the less significant additions. In August, the City Planning Commission had struck a compromise by selecting individual buildings in larger parcels but not breaking down the buildings into parts. Council’s action followed this reasoning, except in the case of the Coca-Cola plant on Preston, which was approved only for front portion of the building facing the street.

Other properties are also working their way through the approval process to become individually protected. On October 6, Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to protect Holy Temple Church of God on Rosser Avenue. Two other public hearings for Fry’s Spring Beach Club and 603 Dale Avenue have not yet been scheduled according to Mary Joy Scala, the City’s Preservation and Design Planner.

Daniel Nairn

MPO endorses pedestrian/bike bridge for McIntire Park

At their meeting on September 17, 2008, the MPO Policy Board endorsed the City of Charlottesville’s efforts to secure federal funding for a pedestrian and bike bridge that would span a railroad line that bisects McIntire Park. The MPO also approved a new vision statement for the UNJAM 2035 plan, approved a priority statement to submit to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and held a further discussion on appropriate meeting times.

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MCINTIRE BRIDGE

New-bridge

Chris Gensic, the Parks and Trails Planner for the City of Charlottesville, appeared before the MPO to present a plan to build the bridge. The City is applying for Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA) funding to help pay for the project. A similar grant application was made last year, but the City did not receive funding.

The bridge would help complete a pedestrian and bike trail that the City is planning that would run from the “whale tail” sculpture at Meadowbrook Heights Road to McIntire Road.  An existing bridge will connect the trail to US 29. Gensic said the structure is necessary because the bridge that carries the 250 bypass over the Norfolk Southern railroad is not wide enough to accommodate wider sidewalks or bike lanes.

“Effectively, if we get from Route 29 to this railroad, we can hop the railroad with this [McIntire Park] bridge and either go under 250 when the interchange is built and you come down Schenck’s Greenway and you’re at the Downtown Mall,” Gensic said. An additional benefit is that the two sides of McIntire Park would be connected. If the grant is obtained, Gensic said construction could be complete by the spring of 2011. He said its completion would be more or less at the same time that the Meadowcreek
Parkway is completed.

Gensic
City Trails Planner Chris Gensic

Gensic said he has letters of support from various neighborhood associations, the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, and others. MPO Chairman David Slutzky (Supervisor-Rio) said he would ask the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to send a letter of support as well, even though the project is in the City.

Julia Monteith from the University of Virginia questioned the cost estimate of $250,000 provided in the application. Gensic said the project budget would also include money left over from a previous TEA grant to build the Coal Tower trail. The developer of the Coal Tower mixed-use complex near Belmont has agreed to pay for much of that trail, meaning there is money left over. 

During the public hearing, ACCT Board Member Steven Bach said the project would become an important part of the region’s bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure. Bach added he was happy to see the County willing to support the project.

MPO ADOPTS NEW VISION STATEMENT FOR UNJAM2035

In July, the MPO Policy Board approved a draft vision statement for the MPO’s long-range constrained transportation plan – the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan (UNJAM2035). In August, the MPO’s Citizens (CHART) committee decided to revisit the language in the statement. In September, they crafted the following:

Preamble:
The era of cheap oil is over. This fact, coupled with the adverse effects on our climate caused by the consumption of oil, will increase the need and demand for alternatives to the automobile.

Vision:
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s transportation system will provide safe, sustainable, efficient and attractive multi-modal choices, support the movement of people, goods and services, and protect the environment, our communities and quality of life, while addressing regional and statewide transportation needs.

CHART member Bobby Burke said that the committee felt it was important to make a statement.

“We want to sort of get people thinking that they’re going to have to start conserving resources and also get them out of their cars,” said Burke after the MPO approved the new language.

OTHER NEWS:

  • MPO agreed to hold public hearings close to the beginning of each meetings in order to maximize public input
  • Agreed to remove the Eastern Connector Alignment Study from the priority statement it will submit to the Commonwealth Transportation Board because the study is nearing completion
  • VDOT Representative Jim Utterback said he anticipated no further delays with the Meadowcreek Parkway
  • Considered moving November and December meetings to the fourth Monday of the year so as not to be held close to Thanksgiving and Christmas (will finalize decision at next meeting)
  • Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish said that the County may be applying for a TEA grant for the Crozet streetscape project

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 1:00 - Matters from the public with comment from Peter Kleeman
  • 5:00 - Response to Peter Kleeman's comments
  • 10:16 - Approval of minutes is deferred because the MPO did not have a quorum
  • 10:40 - Discussion of Draft Priority Statement is delayed because of a lack of a quorum
  • 11:00 - Discussion of UNJAM 2035 Vision Statement begins
  • 13:50 - Supervisor David Slutzky arrives, meaning that the MPO had a quorum
  • 16:00 - Approval of the minutes
  • 16:30 - Discussion of draft CTB statement
  • 20:30 - Discussion of TIP adjustments for Advance Mills Bridge and McIntire Road interchange
  • 24:35 - Preview of what MPO will be talking about in October
  • 26:30 - Discussion of whether public hearings should be held immediately after MPO meetings begin
  • 40:18 - Discussion of TEA grant for McIntire pedestrian  bridge
  • 53:00 - Other business including a discussion of the RTA and a solicitation from MPO members to seek more members of the Transportation Funding Option Working Group to attend

Sean Tubbs