WELCOME

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

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

Categories

« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

October 30, 2008

Planning commission recommends no changes to the secondary road plan

At their October 21, 2008 meeting, the Albemarle County Planning Commission discussed potential changes to the Six-year Secondary Road Plan the County submits to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) each year.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  20081021-roadpodcast

20071210benish
David Benish (file photo)

David Benish, Chief of Planning for Albemarle County, began his presentation by joking, “there is no money, so we can all just go home.” Staff had recommended making no changes to last year’s project priorities.

Nevertheless, Commissioners did have a few points to make about the plan. Commissioners Tom Loach (White Hall) and Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) both drew attention to the transportation projects called for in the Crozet Master Plan.  Commissioner Loach pointed out that the new entrance to the Crozet library may need paving, and Commissioner Strucko suggested raising the priority of the proposed Eastern Avenue that would connect Route 250 and Route 240. Even if the projects may not be implemented right away, Strucko said he felt the Commission should make a symbolic gesture that the infrastructure needs of the designated growth areas will be taken care of. The Commission did not decide to take action on these suggestions, in the interest of maintaining a fair balance of projects across the County.

The Commission discussed how proffers from developers fit into the transportation plan. Currently, some proffers go into a general fund for roads rather than specific projects, but in the future the Board of Supervisors could “get into the road building business” by dedicating these monies to projects on a case by case basis. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At Large) suggested that more of these projects could be dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian access. Most of the road priorities currently have some bicycle/pedestrian elements, particularly within the urban area. According to Benish, this is a “sea change from where VDOT was a dozen years ago.”

Last year, the Commission decided to lower the priority of the paving of rural roads unless a “significant safety issue” was identified. Staff suggested that such a concern be defined using crash data, fire requests and access issues, erosion, and subjective opinion. Two requests for paving were made by the school division and the fire department, but, given the lack of VDOT funds, none of these new proposals were added to the priority list. The Commission reaffirmed their position on the paving or rural roads.

The Six-year Secondary Roads Plan will move to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for further discussion and approval.

Daniel Nairn

October 29, 2008

Area legislators offer feedback on proposals for transit authority and local tax increases for transportation

20081023-Legislative-Lunch1 The road got rough last week for local leaders trying to orchestrate the formation of a Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (RTA).  On October 23, 2008, the task force of two City Councilors and two members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met with three area legislators to get their feedback to this regional approach to the state’s transportation funding crisis.  Before the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly, local leaders intend to endorse a legislative framework which, if approved in Richmond, would allow the creation of the RTA and for new taxing powers to raise funds for transportation.  

“We have a serious problem of inadequate funding to tackle our transportation challenges,” said Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio).  “Our community is being proactive… by coming up with a request for the enabling legislation to collaboratively manage our transit system.”

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081023-RTA-WG

Delegate David Toscano (D-57), Delegate Rob Bell (R-58), and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) listened to a description of the RTA project and then weighed in with their assessment of the political landscape in Richmond, and their home districts.  The legislators all offered their support to help Charlottesville and Albemarle seek authority to jointly operate a transit system.  However, funding it with new taxes ran into a mix of skepticism, alternative ideas, and outright opposition.  The legislators did agree that if there was to be any local tax increase, it would require a voter referendum.

Hanger and Toscano both expressed a preference for statewide solutions to fund transportation needs.  Hanger specifically suggested an income tax as a way to tap into the community’s wealth.  Hanger indicated a gas tax or a sales tax should only be adjusted at the state level.  Toscano said he didn’t want to “balkanize” the state’s approach to funding by giving Charlottesville-Albemarle a different set of taxing tools.

Rob Bell sat next to Supervisor David Slutzky and the two sparred over whether Albemarle residents should have the opportunity in a referendum to vote for a tax increase, solely to support transportation projects.  Slutzky said the voters should be able to decide whether they want to tax themselves.  Bell responded that the state and local government’s budgets had continued to grow in recent years and it was a question of how to allocate existing tax dollars.  Given the current national economic crisis, Bell said it wasn’t an appropriate time to raise anyone’s taxes.

“This is extraordinarily bad time to be looking at a tax increase,” said Delegate Bell.  Bell said he felt better that there was interest ina voter referendum, but that it was still an extraordinary request to seek a tax increase at a time when the economy is so fragile.

“That is a very substantial tax increase, and I am very concerned about it, said Bell.  “Nothing you have told me so far that would allow me to say, ‘Yes, I would support that.’”

20081023-Toscano
Delegate David Toscano (D-57)

Delegate David Toscano said that since the General Assembly is unlikely to pass a statewide tax increase, local governments need to be granted the authority to do so by a voter referendum.  Toscano recommended the creation of a very concrete list of transportation projects that would receive support.  

“Specificity… is [the] key,” said Toscano.  “Unless you are specific, people are going to pick this thing to death and you won’t have a chance of getting it passed.”

As their almost two-hour conversation wrapped up, Dennis Rooker told the legislators that the community was not wed to a once cent sales tax increase and that even a half cent would be a significant help.  He warned, however, that the RTA was unlikely to move forward without new funding.

“I don’t know that the City really wants to cede control of transit in the absence of some commitment by the County [to expand funding],” said Rooker.  “Without additional revenues, it’s going to be difficult to do that.”

Councilor Huja agreed.  “I think the solution for the [Regional Transit] Authority alone without money is really a non-starter in my mind.”

Key points by local officials:

  • The state is not adequately funding transportation and allocations to this area have declined to the point no new major transportation project can be undertaken
  • Local government is being forced to fund transportation infrastructure
  • The City and County want to work together and provide increased support to public transit
  • In the absence of state funding, local government desires the power to levy a local tax that would generate revenues exclusively for transportation (including transit operations)
  • Authority to create the RTA and authority to raise a tax for transportation needs are two separate legislative matters
  • Funding transportation by increasing the local real estate property taxes should be avoided.  A sales tax increase is one likely option.
  • Taxing authority would remain in the hands of the elected officials (Council and Board of Supervisors).  The RTA would have no taxing powers.
  • A voter referendum on the tax increase could be required if that was deemed necessary to gain support in the General Assembly

Key points by General Assembly members:

  • A regional approach to public transit sounds like a good idea.
  • There should be specificity on the transportation projects to be supported by a tax increase.
  • There was no consensus as to which type of local tax should be increased, if any.
  • A voter referendum should be required for any local tax increase.

20081023-Legislative-Lunch2 The next day, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held their annual retreat.  Reflecting on the feedback from the legislators, Slutzky and Rooker gave their colleagues an assessment of the RTA’s legislative challenges.

“With the funding ideas that we put on the table, I certainly didn’t come away from that meeting feeling that they had much chance of getting passed this year,” said Rooker.  “We didn’t get real far with them on even accepting the idea of legislation that would enable us to have a referendum locally to determine if [our citizens] want to tax themselves to improve transportation in the area.”

Both Rooker and Slutzky recommended that enabling legislation still be pursued for the creation of the RTA, even if it could not be utilized in the near future.  Slutzky went further to say that, despite the cool reception from the legislators, he felt the community should also still move forward with the request for legislation allowing for a referendum on a local tax increase to support transportation.

The RTA work group meets again at the end of this week to select a legislative approach they can bring back to Charlottesville City Council and the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

Brian Wheeler

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:26 – Call to order by Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), chair of the work group.  Slutzky shares the work group’s purpose, transportation funding challenges, and desire for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
  • 09:00 -- Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) provides background on the 2005 recommendations of the Transportation Funding Options Working Group (TFOG).
  • 16:57 – Rooker reports that a majority of citizens responding to a recent citizen survey, conducted for Albemarle County, indicated they would support increased taxes for transportation.
  • 21:11 -- Rooker comments on the difficulty of computing and collecting a local gas tax.
  • 32:07 – Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) shares his support for an RTA and mass transit.  He says there will be significant debate on the funding questions.  Hanger says there needs to be comprehensive tax reform in Virginia.  Hanger prefers sales taxes be adjusted uniformly across the state.
  • 34:40 – Senator Hanger describes challenges with sales tax and fuels tax.  Hanger prefers both be addressed statewide and said it would be reasonable to look at a gas tax as a transportation user fee.
  • 43:00 -- Senator Hanger says he would support a local income tax increase to take the burden off the property tax and to “capture the wealth of Charlottesville.”
  • 44:14 – Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) begins asking a series of detailed questions about the RTA proposal and funding options.
  • 48:20 -- Delegate Bell asks how much money would be raised on an annual basis with a 1 cent sales tax.  Rooker responds that 1 cent sales tax would raise about $25 million in Charlottesville and Albemarle County combined.
  • 48:30 – Delegate Bell asks what Albemarle County transportation projects would receive support.
  • 48:54 – Rooker outlines the current approval process by the County and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  He argues that the process for selecting projects would be no different if the state provided the funding vs. local governments raising the funds.
  • 1:09:09 – Slutzky asks Delegate Bell which taxing option he thinks might have more appeal.  Delegate Bell shares his view that a voter referendum on any tax increase would have to be a required for him to get even close to supporting this effort.
  • 1:10:22 – Delegate Bell says that state and local budgets continue to increase.  He says other priorities, besides transportation, have received support.  His first reaction is that a sales tax increase is not the answer to the funding problem.
  • 1:12:47 – Delegate Bell tells David Slutzky that he does not recall him bringing up a tax increase of this magnitude in his 2005 election for Supervisor.  Slutzky says at the time he supported a gas tax increase.  Rooker observes that a lot has changed with the funding picture since that election.
  • 1:20:57 -- Delegate Bell asks whether the proposed Western Bypass to Route 29 north of Charlottesville would be on the project list and eligible for support.  Slutzky responds that it is not a project on the list because in his view it fails any cost-benefit analysis.
  • 1:22:10 – Rooker says the Western 29 Bypass cost is estimated to be $300 million.  He shares VDOT’s opinion that even with the bypass Route 29 would have an “F-level of service” without additional improvements.
  • 1:28:10 -- Councilor Satyendra Huja asks Delegate Bell if he would support a tax increase, like a sales tax, if it had a voter referendum.  Bell answers that he could not support a tax increase unless it was approved by the majority of the voters first.  Huja points out that the group is seeking permission to ask that question of the voters.
  • 1:29:05 – Delegate Bell expresses concerns about the absence of a specific list of defined projects and costs.  Indicates the 1 cent sales tax increase seems to him an arbitrary way to arrive at a funding pool of $25 million.  Bell says this is an extraordinarily bad time to ask for a tax increase.
  • 1:32:50 – Delegate David Toscano says he is concerned about the balkanization of transportation funding around the state, but that since the General Assembly is unlikely to pass a statewide tax increase, local governments need to be granted the authority to do so.  Toscano recommends creation of a very concrete list of transportation projects that would receive support.  Toscano questions the size of the tax increase needed.
  • 1:39:45 -- Senator Hanger offers his closing remarks and says he prefers the local income tax option.
  • 1:43:40 – Delegate Bell offers his closing remarks and shares that nothing he has heard would lead him to support a local tax increase for transportation.
  • 1:46:45 – Rooker says even a half cent sales tax increase would help a lot.  He points out that the 1 cent number came from a consultant’s report that analyzed the transportation funding authority offered to Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.  Rooker says that a Regional Transit Authority is unlikely to go forward without additional funding.

October 28, 2008

Reservoir task force receives public input

20081027-wide
The South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force convened to take input from the public regarding the future of the maintenance and enhancement of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. A public hearing was the only item on their agenda at their meeting on October 27, 2008, though members also discussed the future of the task force’s charge for an hour before adjourning.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081027-SFRR-TF

Before the public hearing opened, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris appeared before the task force to read a joint statement from himself and Ken Boyd, Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. The two-page letter sought to explain the purposes of the task force and recommended that the task force “focus its efforts on building a well-rounded case as to how the Reservoir benefits our community.” Norris referred back to the Board and Council resolutions which in June 2008 reaffirmed the water supply plan, and ultimately led to the creation of the Task Force:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in addition to the specific elements of the local Water Supply Plan endorsed and approved by this Resolution, the City Council hereby requests the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to undertake a study of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the viability and merits of maintenance dredging, siltation prevention and any other appropriate initiatives that could maintain and enhance the aquatic health and water quality of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, as a valuable water resource for the long term future benefit of the community. The Council hereby requests that Albemarle County, the Albemarle County Service Authority, the Rivanna River Basin Commission and other affected regional partners formally express their support of this study”


“As is clear from the text I just read, measures to sustain the long-term health of the South Fork Reservoir, potentially to include dredging, were not envisioned as replacing, but rather supplementing the other components of the water supply plan approved by the City and County,” Mayor Norris said. 

The statement also identified areas which Norris and Boyd felt were not related to the purpose of the task force:

  • “[T]his Task Force was not charged with responsibility for reassessing the fundamentals of the water supply plan itself.”
  • The “broader issue of how to proceed with the water supply plan itself” was described in the statement as being “outside the scope of the committee’s charge.”
  • If the task force recommends dredging, the decisions that result from assessing the impact of any resulting gains in water supply capacity lie “outside the purview of this Task Force.”

20081027-Norris
Dave Norris

The statement also commends the RWSA for planning to convene a panel of experts to assess the cost estimates of the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, and says the RWSA should take another look at the “various components” of the water supply plan.

“We believe the RWSA should take advantage of this pause in the implementation process to more closely analyze the key components of the adopted and alternative plans to ensure that the path we choose for meeting our community water supply goals is the most economically and environmentally responsible one,” Norris said.

PUBLIC HEARING AND OTHER AVENUES FOR PUBLIC INPUT

The Task Force Chair, Sally Thomas, urged the public to also fill out the task force’s online questionnaire. So far, over 250 people have given their views on the future of the reservoir. 

Nineteen people spoke during the public hearing, with the vast majority calling into question the logistics as well as the costs of the adopted water supply plan. One speaker, Elizabeth King, delivered a sales pitch for the dredging services of one particular firm.

20081027-Lynch
Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch

Charlottesville resident John Wheeler said dredging was the fastest way to prepare for the next drought, which he said might be imminent.  John Cruickshank of the Sierra Club said 362 area residents have signed a petition calling for the task force to recommend studying the costs of dredging to restore the reservoir’s original water storage capacity. Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch said the RWSA “got greedy” and designed a water plan that is more than what the community needs, and more than the RWSA can successfully manage. Albemarle County resident Sam Frielich called for a bathymetric study to be conducted to assist with dredging. City Resident and former Mayor Francis Fife called for that study to be conducted immediately. Ivy resident Keith Rosenfeld also called for dredging to restore the original capacity, as well as the installation of upstream sediment basins to slow down siltation in the reservoir.

The only person to question dredging to restore water capacity was City resident Jeff Werner, who works for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC). He told the task force that dredging all the current and future sediment in order to maintain capacity would likely require some around-the-clock work. Speaking as a City resident and not on behalf of the PEC, Werner also asked for improved land use strategies to minimize sedimentation at its source.

TASK FORCE DISCUSSES DREDGING

After the public hearing, Chair Sally Thomas asked members what additional information they thought they would need over the task force’s remaining three meetings.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked what non-dredging methods could be undertaken to maintain the health of the reservoir. He also asked if the infestation of hydrilla plants was considered to be a good thing or a bad thing for the reservoir. Thomas responded that she had spoken with John Kaufman of the Virginia Department of Environmentally Quality (DEQ), and he told her that unless the hydrilla covered more than 30 percent of the reservoir, it would not affect water quality. Kaufman may be asked to speak at a future meeting of the task force.

Ridge Schuyler suggested the task force should hear a presentation on stopping sedimentation from Sam Austin of the U.S. Geological Survey. Austin is serving as a technical expert on the Rivanna River Basin Commission’s work to find solutions to slowing the siltation rate.

Commenting on Norris and Boyd’s statement, Dede Smith repeated her claim that it was necessary for dredging to be seen in a holistic fashion. She said she was frustrated to hear more conversation about hydrilla, when the real issue was how to proceed with dredging. Smith called for the task force to recommend hiring an expert to study dredging, and said the RWSA already has money in its budget to conduct the study.

Tom Jones, who represents property owners around the reservoir, said recommending a bathymetric study would give all potential bidders on dredging a “good scientific basis for their recommendations.” He wanted to know if the task force would have a chance to review the results of the study.

Liz Palmer, representing the Albemarle County Service Authority, said she wanted to know more information about tightening land use controls to stop sediment from entering the reservoir, and also wanted more information on how much of the reservoir would need to be dredged.

Ridge Schulyer of the Nature Conservancy said it has been confirmed that the task force is trying to answer one question – why dredge?

“If you want to maintain it in order to maintain its current storage capacity, you would do one thing. If you wanted it to maintain it in order to preserve fish habit, you might do another thing,” Schuyler asked.  “You wouldn’t just say ‘do a bathymetric study because bathymetric studies can vary quite widely depending on their specifics.”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he didn’t disagree with Schuyler, but said that there might be companies that could do the job without one. RWSA Chair Mike Gaffney said that before any dredger could get on the reservoir, permits would have to be obtained from the DEQ and the Army Corps of Engineers. Rooker suggested a dredging company might make an offer that would include paying to get the necessary permits.  Gaffney suggested a bidding process for dredging would return many estimates that will be incomplete until all of the engineering studies are performed.

Thomas asked if the task force should invite representatives of dredging firms to the next meeting to further explain how dredging would work. Rooker said he thought that would be helpful.  Gaffney suggested asking Gahagan and Bryant to provide samples of RFPs that it has submitted for reservoirs similar to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Thomas said she would put together an agenda for the next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, November 13, 2008. It will begin at 6:00 PM in the City Hall Basement Conference Room.

Sean Tubbs

October 27, 2008

MPO considers UNJAM 2035 priorities

20081022-MPO-wide

At their meeting on October 22, 2008, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)  discussed the revisions being made to the UNJAM 2035 plan, heard updates from area transit agencies, and briefly talked about the Eastern Connector.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081022-MPO2

MPO REVIEWS DRAFT UNJAM 2035

The MPO’s two subcommittees have been updating the list of projects contained in UNJAM 2035, the update to the area’s fiscally-constrained long-range transportation plans. All metropolitan areas in the country are required to keep such a document to communicate transportation priorities to state and federal transportation agencies.

The current draft projects that the MPO could administer total up to $483 million in state and federal funding which would be needed between now and 2035. At the beginning of the MPO work session, the draft list showed $390 million in projects with $87 million left that could go to new projects. Projects that currently little chance of being funded are placed on a “vision list.”

Several projects have been removed from UNJAM because they are complete, including an $11.4 million project to widen Airport Road in the County to four lanes as well as the $3 million replacement of a bridge that carries Route 53 over Buck Island Creek.  The list has also been amended to reflect new cost estimates. For instance, two bridges that would need to be upgraded to allow for Dickerson Road to become paved would cost $7 million. Dickerson Road is one of the last remaining unpaved roads in the County’s development area.

20081022-MPO-Rooker
Supervisor Dennis Rooker

MPO members discussed the suggested amendments and offered their own recommendations. Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) suggested listing the proposed second ramp lane at Best Buy from Emmet Street (Route 29) to the Route 250 bypass as a separate project. That project had been listed in a category called “Route 29 Corridor Improvements.”

Supervisor Rooker also suggested removing “Northern Free State Road” from the constrained plan given that it will not be built before 2035, if at all. Additionally, he suggested moving the Southern Parkway to the vision list given that the new Fifth and Avon development will come with a new connector road. Chief Planner David Benish said that County fire and rescue officials are concerned about future response times in Southern Albemarle.

During a discussion of the vision list, Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use Planner for the University of Virginia, suggested removing the Maywood Connector, given that it “went down in flames several years ago.” The road would have provided a new way to get from the UVA Medical Center south to residential neighborhoods in Charlottesville.

Staff will now take feedback from MPO Board Members regarding what projects suggested by the MPO Tech and CHART committees will be placed on the UNJAM 2035 plan. The only projects that were automatically suggested by staff to be added to the constrained list are ones to rebuild several interchanges along I-64, as well as a replacement of the Dairy Road overpass on the Route 250 bypass. MPO members asked for more detailed cost estimates on the proposed project list before deciding what projects will be selected.

For a perspective on why this process is important, consider the Eastern Connector. That project was recommended as a project in UNJAM 2025, which led to both the County and City agreeing to fund a $500,000 corridor location study.  However, that project might be moved to the vision list in UNJAM 2035 because of the results of that study. No decision will be made until City Council hears the same report that was heard by the Board of Supervisors on October 1, 2008. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) said a better decision could be made on the future of the Eastern Connector after additional data has been made available.

In other news from the meeting:

  • The MPO held a public hearing on the final draft plan of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) report produced by VHB. Public comment can be submitted until December 8, 2008.
  • The University of Virginia will not be able to offer a car-sharing program through Zipcar for the foreseeable future due to a contract dispute. Julia Monteith said that under the program, UVA had to guarantee a certain level of usage, a requirement she said is difficult to obtain year-round. Monteith said UVA will try to offer the service next fall. Instead, UVA will seek to enter into a bike-sharing program through the firm Collegiate Bike Company. 
  • Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish reported that CTS Route 5, which travels from Wal-Mart to Barracks Road, is no longer permitted to use the private roads in the Colonnades assisted living facility. 
  • Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky will remain as MPO Chair for another year. City Councilor Satyendra Huja will continue as vice chair. Slutzky was expected to hand over the chairmanship to Huja, but asked to have his term extended for another year because of the ongoing efforts to create the RTA
  • Staff briefed the MPO Policy Board on likely reductions in federal funding that could affect the MPO’s work plan

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - Meeting called to order by Slutzky, Peter Kleeman makes public comment, reports on Section 106 meeting and concerns about legality of Meadowcreek Projects
  • 4:55 - Public comment from CHART member John Pfaltz about increased road connectivity in Albemarle County as well as comment to eliminate projects from UNJAM 2035
  • 9:45 - Slutzky asks MPO staff to clarify John Giometti's status on the MPO Policy Board (he is staff)
  • 10:30 - Public comment from City resident Steven Bach in support of the inclusion of a pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River on UNJAM 2035
  • 12:00 - Responses to comments from MPO Members
  • 13:45 - Public hearing on RTA Transit Plan
  • 16:15 - Discussion of adoption of minutes
  • 17:30 - Transit update from JAUNT's Kevan Danker
  • 21:00 - UTS update from Julia Monteith
  • 26:20 - Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish reports on the service reduction on Route 5
  • 28:30 - Discussion and election of David Slutzky as MPO chair for another year
  • 30:00 - Discussion of UNJAM priorities 
  • 1:29:00 - Discussion of the Eastern Connector    
  • 1:36:00 - Discussion of 10% reduction in funding to MPO
  • 1:39:00 - Additional public comment from Peter Kleeman, who is concerned about the changes for start-times of public hearings

October 23, 2008

County Supervisors receive data on local jobs, housing, and other indicators in advance of annual retreat

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have begun preparations for their annual strategic retreat.  On October 8, 2008, Steven Allshouse, Coordinator of Research and Analysis in the County Executive's Office presented the Board with the 2008 Albemarle County community profile, which is compiled every year to assist with policy decisions regarding the County’s strategic goals. The profile measures the County’s demographics, assesses economic and business indicators, and paints a picture of the County’s workforce.  Other data includes measurements of the County’s housing inventory, where new development is taking place, as well as other socioeconomic trends.

The Board of Supervisors will hold their annual strategic retreat on Friday, October 24, 2008 at the Department of Forestry’s offices in the Fontaine Research Park.

Sean Tubbs & Fania Gordon

TIMELINE FOR SLIDESHOW:

  • 00:45 Steven Allshouse introduces presentation of Community Profile, give a quick overview in how it is aligned with strategic plan
  • 04:45 Demographic Information
  • 07:15 Economic and business profile
  • 20:45 Workforce Profile
  • 24:45 Housing Profile
  • 28:45 Public Safety Profile
  • 29:30 Families and Children Profile
  • 30:30 Development Profile
  • 32:00 Conclusions

ASAP updates County Planning Commission on population study

20081021-ASAP-Wide

Members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission have been briefed on efforts being undertaken by the group Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) to calculate an optimal population size or range for Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville. Jack Marshall, ASAP’s President, said the group is conducting a series of studies which will provide a future planning tool for the County.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081021-APC-ASAP

“A first approximation of our community’s optimal sustainable population size should be a key element as the County and Charlottesville consider further residential, commercial and industrial development,” Marshall said. “We want you to value and use the results… We’ll have failed if the study is praised by academicians, but ignored by local decision-makers.”

The Board of Supervisors agreed to spend $25,000 for the scientific aspects of the study, and the City of Charlottesville paid $11,000. Additional funding came from ASAP members as well as a $50,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The City and County currently have a population of about 135,000 according to Marshall. He said if population forecasts of 200,000 or half a million people come to light, the community will pay the price.

“The costs of mindless continued growth are unacceptable in terms of environmental degradation and the erosion of a community’s quality of life and in higher taxes,” Marshall said. However, no community in the United States has ever defined a limit for itself of how many people should be permitted to live in an area. ASAP hopes to establish that number using its nine study areas, five of which are scientific in nature. The rest will focus on socioeconomic data, but the County’s money cannot be used for that research.

ASAP-chart
A sample of the kind of data being analyzed in ASAP's suite of studies (Source: Tom Olivier)

Tom Olivier of the Sierra Club is a member of the study’s steering committee. He presented an overview of one study, which involves examining the ecosystem services provided by land in Albemarle County.

“These are processes or other outputs of ecosystems that are of benefit to human beings,” he said. Examples include the role that forests play in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as the ability of the ground to filter drinking water. Olivier said ASAP’s goal is to develop a way to model how a growing population will affect these ecosystem services.

One of the other four scientific studies will calculate an “ecological footprint analysis” for Albemarle County. This work is being done in conjunction Dr. Claire Jantz of the Department of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

Transportation activist Peter Kleeman is studying whether the region’s air quality is affected by population growth. Groundwater expert Nick Evans is studying the effects of growth on ground water, and Streamwatch will prepare a similar report on how stream health is impacted. Marshall said that ASAP is not ready to release data collected so far, but said the survey was intended to create a policy debate.

“If, as we expect, we find our local footprint exceeds our bio-capacity, that is our environmental demand exceeds our supply, what are the policy implications?" Marshall asked. "We could of course ignore the situation… Or we could increase our bio-capacity, or we could reduce our footprint in two ways. We could reduce our consumption per person and or we could reduce or at least not continue to increase our population.”

The first phase of the ASAP study is expected to be completed by April 2009.  After that, the social sciences work will be performed, according to Marshall.

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:00 - ASAP's Jack Marshall introduces the study and traces how it came to be
  • 8:53 - Tom Olivier of the Sierra Club discusses the ecosystems services study
  • 16:30 - Jack Marshall describes the ecological footprint study
  • 26:50 - Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks for more information on groundwater survey and is answered by Nick Evans
  • 30:10 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton asks Olivier a question about whether land in conservation easements are included in the study, and is answered by Dr. Claire Jantz
  • 32:30 - Commissioner Jon Cannon asks question about how you measure a community's footprint
  • 39:30 - Commissioner Tom Loach asks if any other communities have conducted this kind of work

Public asked to assist in Albemarle county efficiency review

As part of an Albemarle County efficiency review, the public will have an opportunity weigh in on the allocation of Albemarle County’s resources at a forum to be held on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm. The forum will be held in the Lane Auditorium at the County Office Building on McIntire Road.


Dr. William Bosher on right (File Photo)

Comments collected from this forum will assist in a resource management review commissioned by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. A consultant team, led by Dr. William Bosher and Lane Ramsey, from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute (CEPI) was hired to conduct the study.  While each of the county departments evaluate their performance and efficiency internally, both the Board of Supervisors and County staff agreed last Spring that operations could be enhanced by a one-time external review as well.

Albemarle County Public Schools went through this process with CEPI last year, and the Charlottesville Public Schools have hired consultants to examine their own resource usage during the 2008-09 school year. The City of Charlottesville is undergoing a similar review with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. The results will be presented to the City Council in early 2009. At this date, there have been no similar public forums for the city announced.

Albemarle County is scheduled to complete the study by the end of the year and present the results to the Board of Supervisors shortly thereafter.

Daniel Nairn

October 22, 2008

Landmark Hotel developer given permission to take down black granite facade

20081022-granite The developer of the new Landmark Hotel on the Downtown Mall has been granted conditional permission to tear down the black granite façade that is the last standing remnant of the former Boxer Learning Building. The Board of Architectural Review (BAR) approved the permit at their meeting on October 21, 2008. However, if Minor Family Hotels does decide to take down the façade, they may be required to build an exact replica. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeoz

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081021-BAR-Landmark

Mary Jo Scala, the City’s Historic Preservation Planner, said the original permit to demolish the building was granted in January 2004, except for the façade. When the demolition was reapproved in February 2007, Minor was required to keep the first 12’ of the building, which was built in 1966. Currently, the Landmark is under construction and the removal of the building behind the façade has exposed structural problems.

“Apparently, they’re nervous about when they get to the point of removing the existing floor that firms the first floor because that’s kind of holding it all together,” Scala said. She said that the project's construction manager, Cliff Harrison, said to her that Minor wants to try to preserve the façade if at all possible.

In his testimony to the BAR, Harrison said the applicant had believed the floor could be used for the restaurant space that be located at the front of the building. However, the floor may not be able to support the required weight load. Harrison said the hotels’ construction is ahead of schedule, and that the applicant wants the option to demolish the façade if it were deemed necessary by the engineers overseeing the work.

“We don’t want to get to a point and have something bite us in the back end, and we saw this as being as one of those variables out there,” Harrison said. If it is necessary to take the façade down, Harrison said it would be “resurrected” according to the designs approved by the BAR.  

BAR Member Brian Hogg asked if the applicant would later come back with a proposal to change the façade, given that the original designs depicted using the original structure and façade.  Harrison said that was out of his control, but that the intent of the design would remain intact.

“Granite is granite, and I think it’s a matter of what the degree of polish you have on it and what the color tone is,” Harrison said.  “I’m coming here in all honest saying that this is just an issue that we have concern [about] on a construction site that does have some relevance to safety.”

BAR Member Syd Knight said he was the only member of the BAR who was there in January 2004 when the demolition permit for the back of the building was granted.

“There was some discussion at the time of taking of that façade down and whether it was worth saving, and there was fairly strong feeling in both camps,” Knight said. “Some said it was out of character with the rest of the mall and not exactly the most attractive or architecturally worthy….Others felt that whether or not it was considered compatible with the rest of the Mall, it was certainly an example of its time and place.”

Knight then said the owner of the property at the time “short-circuited” the discussion by offering to keep the façade. He said he leaned in favor of granting the applicants the “flexibility they’re looking for” but hoped that they could keep it.  He said the building currently under construction is one of quality.

BAR Member Eryn Brennan, a historic preservationist, said she was not in favor of granting the request because the façade is unique. She said construction was always going to be an issue, and said that a replica would not be as desirable as the original.  

“Although my own personal aesthetic preferences don’t tell me that’s the best façade, nonetheless I think it has a great historical value on the mall and in Charlottesville,” Brennan said. “It gives the new building a very grounded sense of place here on the Mall.”

Hogg said he did not share Knight’s confidence that the developer would be able to come up with a suitable replica. Although he said that a good engineer could find a way to save the façade, he said the BAR should consider letting  the façade go, because it’s only a shred of the original structure.

“I think we’re deluding ourselves when we’re talking about demolition here,” Knight said. “I mean, that building is gone… I think this one has already been killed and maybe we should just put it out of its misery.”

Brennan said she thought the scraps are worth saving, and that the Mall will face this issue again and again and she did not want to set a precedent that would make it easier to take down other facades in the future.

BAR Chair Fred Wolf suggested requiring the applicant to replace the façade as-is in order to create an incentive for them to keep it.  However, Wolf said the compromise would not prevent the applicant from coming back before the BAR in the future with a new façade design. Wolf’s motion passed 5-1 with Brennan voting against.

Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville seeks applicants for boards, including RWSA

The City of Charlottesville is accepting applications for five different boards and commissions from now until December 4, 2008. One of the open positions is the citizen representative seat on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA).

The purpose of each of these positions is to advise the City Council on community-related matters. City Council members will appoint a qualified citizen to each position after reviewing applications.

Empty-rwsa-chairs
Empty chairs await the RWSA Commissioners

Mike Gaffney’s term as the only appointed member of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors will expire on December 31, 2008. He also serves as the appointed member of the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA). Gaffney has held the position since February of 2003, when he replaced Rich Collins.

Both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors jointly appoint the citizen representative, and they take turns recommending who that person should be. This year, City Council will make the recommendation, which will be ratified by the Board of Supervisors.

The other four members of the RWSA Board hold their positions on the basis of their position in City or County government. City Manager Gary O’Connell and Public Works Director Judy Mueller represent the City, and County Executive Bob Tucker and Albemarle County Service Authority Executive Director Gary Fern represent the County. Because they are government employees, they must recuse themselves from votes that deal with rate increases because of the state’s conflict of interest laws.This has resulted in rate decisions being approved by the single vote of the citizen member.

Other Boards with vacancies include:

  • City Board of Architectural Review (BAR) – The BAR provides oversight for individual protected historic properties and properties within Architectural Design Control (ADC) districts. The city is looking for applications from a landscape architect or licensed professional contractor, and from a business owner within an ADC. There are two vacancies. Both Syd Knight’s and Amy Gardner’s terms will end on December 30, 2008.
  • City Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee – Members of the committee are liaisons to City Council between the Parks and Recreation Department and citizens of Charlottesville.
  • Rivanna Solid Waste Advisory Committee – The committee advises the Board of Directors of the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority.

There are a few ways to apply for these positions. Either call City Council Clerk Jeanne Cox at 970-3113 or Apply online.

Daniel Nairn and Sean Tubbs

October 21, 2008

ACSA prepares to build $10.7 million pump station to replace aging Camelot facility

NFRPS-per-plans
Preliminary design drawing created by Whitman, Requardt & Associates

The Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) is proceeding with plans to replace the aging Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant with a $10.7 million North Fork Regional Pump Station. The ACSA’s Board of Directors has approved the spending of $105,000 to conduct a topographic study of the general area where the facility is to be located. The cost of the project will be split between developers and ACSA ratepayers, though the distribution of those costs has not yet been finalized.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081016-ACSA-NFRPS

At the ACSA’s Board of Directors meeting on October 16, 2008, Executive Director Gary Fern presented the preliminary engineering report developed by the firm Whitman, Requardt & Associates. The new pump station would send wastewater to the Powell Creek Interceptor that is maintained by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA). However, the future capacity of that sewer line is still being evaluated by the RWSA, which could force a further revision to the plans for the North Fork pump station. 

Planning for the North Fork Pump Station dates back to 1992, when an agreement was signed between the ACSA, the RWSA and several development interests to provide wastewater service in Albemarle County’s northern development area via the Camelot facility. The interests included Woodbriar Associates, the UVA Real Estate Foundation, and the Gold Leaf Trust. Under the terms of the agreement, the ACSA and the RWSA were required to develop a plan for future wastewater capacity when Camelot reached 80% capacity, that plan was to be implemented when capacity reached 90%.

However, a report released in late 2007 by engineering firm Hazen & Sawyer states that Camelot is at 100% capacity. In March 2008, the RWSA Board of Directors endorsed a plan  to extend the life of the Camelot for another two years at a cost of $385,000.  That has meant that additional construction cannot occur until the additional sewer capacity is ready.

Camelot currently handles 130,000 gallons of wastewater a day (GPD) for customers who are north of the North Fork of the Rivanna River.  However, Fern said that in the near-term, the capacity to handle as much as 220,000 GPD is required to accommodate the expansion of the Briarwood subdivision, two office buildings in UVA’s North Fork Research Park town center, two new office buildings near the National Ground  Intelligence Center (NGIC), an office building to be used by the Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility as well as an addition to the existing NGIC facility.  The upgrades to Camelot will allow those structures to be connected, but no further additional capacity can be granted unless the North Fork Pump Station is built.

The firm Greeley and Hansen are working with the RWSA on the study of the future capacity needs for its interceptors, which deliver wastewater to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Fern said they have suggested three alternatives to handle the future capacity needs of the northern development area. They are a gravity-fed sewer line would run along the Rivanna River, a new wastewater treatment facility to replace Camelot, or a new regional pump station to feed into the Powell Creek Interceptor. Greeley and Hansen have recommended the pump station option.

Developers in the northern development area have been asked by the ACSA to produce estimated wastewater flows for the future. By 2012, the anticipated flows are expected to reach 500,000 GPD. By 2030 that number jumps to 1.7 MGPD (million gallons per day), and by 2060 the anticipated flows are expected to reach 2.1 MGPD.  

20081017-Fern-ACSA
Gary Fern describes how the North Fork Regional Pump Station would fit in with the ACSA wastewater system

Those numbers increase when development to the south of the North Fork of the Rivanna is factored in, including the North Pointe development. Fern said the ACSA is now proposing pumping wastewater from the southern side of the river initially through a 6” “force main” which would utilize an existing pipe that currently routes wastewater in the other direction from the UVA North Fork Research park to the Camelot WWTP. That line would need to be upgraded by 2012 to 12” to accommodate the additional capacity required for 2030. A 16” force main would be laid along Route 29 to connect the new pump station to the Powell Creek Interceptor.

Further questions to be answered include how to lay the sewer lines through the North Pointe development to get that wastewater to the North Fork Regional Pump Station. Fern said that can’t be fully designed until the site plans for North Pointe become more clear.

The initial pump station project is expected to provide enough capacity until the year 2030.  Whitman and Requardt are recommending the NFRPS be constructed near the existing Research Park Pump Station. An 16” force main would carry wastewater south to connect to the Powell Creek Interceptor.

However, Fern mentioned one important caveat to the pump station project.  He said it is not clear if the Powell Creek Interceptor can handle the additional capacity. That will not be known until the RWSA interceptor study being conducted by Greeley and Hansen is complete around the first of the year.
Closer to the year 2030, a decision will have to be made on whether to upgrade the pump station to accommodate anticipated capacity, or whether a gravity sewer line could be constructed along the Rivanna River.

The preliminary engineering report will be complete in November, with design and permitting scheduled to occur by May 2009. Fern said he hoped construction could be completed by August 2010.

Sean Tubbs