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January 30, 2009

MPO adjusts project costs in long-range transportation plan

Benish-explains At their meeting on January 28, 2009, the MPO Policy Board continued discussion of the UNJAM 2035 long-range transportation forecast, revised a document that governs the MPO’s relationship to VDOT and discussed the possibility of a list of regional transportation projects for inclusion in President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

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Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) served as the Acting Chair for the meeting.
Regular Chair, Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), was in Richmond testifying before the House of Delegates committee considering a bill to grant Charlottesville and Albemarle County permission to hold a referendum on an up to 1 cent sales tax increase to fund transit and transportation projects. The bill (HB2161) was voted down 6-2 in a House Finance subcommittee, according to the Daily Progress.

“I think everybody recognized that this bill was unlikely to get out of committee,” Rooker said.  “I think it’s important that we submitted it because it continues to elevate the importance of the state dealing with transportation funding. All of us would prefer that the state meets its obligations but it’s not doing that.”

A bill to create the regional transportation authority (HB2158) is still proceeding through the General Assembly.

UNJAM 2035

In December, the MPO adopted a constrained long-range transportation plan as part of the UNJAM 2035 long-range plan. That meant that members adjusted the list of transportation projects to include only those that could be paid for using projected funding over the next 26 years. However, new rules from the Federal Highway Administration require the MPO to adjust the list once more to take inflation into account.  The constrained long-range plan (CLRP) must now calculate the amount a project will cost in the year the funding is to be expended.

Ann Whitham with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission told the Policy Board that when those calculations were made, the CLRP was $87 million over budget. Cuts were made after discussing the over-run with City and County transportation engineers as well as the CHART and MPO Tech Committees. After the cuts were made, Whitham said there was still a balance of around $164,000 that needed to be cut.

The MPO was also asked to weigh in on the choices that were made to balance the CLRP. CHART, staff and the MPO Tech Committee did not reach consensus on whether a $16 million project to add safety improvements to Proffit Road should be moved to the CLRP’s vision list.  Supervisor Rooker asked if doing so would hurt the County’s ability to collect on proffer money from the North Pointe development.  Albemarle County’s Chief of Planning, David Benish, explained the proffers would only apply to the sections from US 29 to Pritchett Lane.  The project was left in the CLRP.

Jim Utterback, Administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper Residency, warned that the MPO may need to rebalance the CLRP one more time after the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes to adopt new secondary road allocations in February.

Rooker-mpo
Supervisor Dennis Rooker

Rooker suggested balancing the CLRP by reducing the cost estimate for the Berkmar Drive Extension and accompanying bridge over the South Fork of the Rivanna River.  The project currently has an estimate of $22 million, and Rooker suggested it could be lowered because the project will only get built if the County can get a developer to pay for it.

“The whole road would probably be built by developers,” Rooker said. “We won’t build the bridge unless we get a significant proffer on the bridge.  

Benish suggested rounding the estimate to $20 million to create a cushion if other adjustments need to be made.  The MPO did not make that adjustment, but gave direction to staff to make further adjustments by reducing the cost estimate for the Berkmar project.

HYDRAULIC VS RIO INTERCHANGES REVISITED

In December 2008, the MPO voted to move the Hydraulic Road grade-separated interchange to UNJAM 2035’s vision list, and to move the Rio Road grade-separated interchange to the  constrained long-range plan. The move was made at the request of City representatives, and supported by the County representatives who felt that improvements at Rio would be more pressing once the Meadowcreek Parkway opens in 2012.

However, Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said that his organization would like to see both interchanges included in the long-range plan.

“We feel both are critical to untangling local and regional traffic on the 29 corridor, “ Butler said, though he added that the SELC understands that the region can only afford one of the projects.  The Rio project has a price-tag of over $50 million and is projected as a mid-term project, meaning it would not be built for 10 to 20 years from now.

Butler went on to say that the Hydraulic interchange was called for in two significant transportation studies. First, the US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study adopted by the MPO late November calls for Hydraulic Road to be upgraded in order to alleviate traffic congestion between the interchange south to the interchange with the US29/250 bypass.  Second, the 29H250  study released in 2004 found that a grade-separated interchange was essential to alleviating traffic conditions.

However, City Councilor Satyendra Huja repeated his preference to see the Rio Road interchange built first. VDOT Engineer Chuck Proctor warned that any changes to the Hydraulic interchange would affect the 29/250 interchange further south, because the Hydraulic Road intersection with US 29 currently acts as a gate to stop traffic from overloading the interchange.   Benish reminded the MPO that the prior developer of Albemarle Place, Frank Cox, commissioned a plan for the interchange demonstrating how a grade-separated interchange could be successfully built at that location.  

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Meeting called to order with Supervisor Dennis Rooker serving as acting chair
  • 01:30 - Public hearing comments from former City Council candidate Peter Kleeman regarding draft memorandum of understanding
  • 04:45 - Public hearing comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center calling for Hydraulic Road interchange to be prioritized over Rio Road interchange
  • 07:40 - Public hearing comment from City resident and CHART member John Pfaltz calling for new connection
  • 08:50 - Responses from MPO members
  • 10:50 - Melissa Barlow (TJPDC) responds to Kleeman's idea of expanding MPO to accommodate areas that will be urbanized during the horizon of the UNJAM 2035 plan
  • 12:08 - MPO takes up discussion of draft memorandum of understanding
  • 20:30 - MPO adopts draft memorandum of understanding
  • 20:45 - MPO adopts minutes from December 22, 2008 meeting
  • 22:00 - MPO takes up UNJAM 2035 Fiscally Constrained Long Range Plan
  • 24:00 - Ann Whitham (TJPDC) describes how the $87 million was saved
  • 26:30 - Huja asks question about County portion of Old Lynchburg improvement
  • 27:30 - Huja asks why I-35 (bike and pedestrian projects) were cut by $824,000
  • 28:10 - Huja asks question about N-12 (Rivanna River pedestrian bridge)
  • 29:10 - Whitham reads requests from David Slutzky, who was absent
  • 30:06 - Rooker asks question about I-22, a $22 million bridge replacement project that carries Route 250 over a railroad
  • 32:30 - Rooker asks question about elimination of Proffit Road from CLRP
  • 39:00 - Jim Utterback of VDOT points out that CLRP may need to be recalculated again once CTB issues secondary road allocations
  • 41:00 - Rooker asks question about why I-43, a $3.3 million replacement for bridge that carries Avon Street over I-64, is being moved to vision list
  • 47:00 - Julia Monteith of the University of Virginia asks Barlow if the CLRP is balanced; Barlow says it is not, MPO needs to address consensus issues to finish job
  • 50:00 - Rooker suggests balancing CLRP by reducing cost estimate for Berkmar Drive Extended
  • 53:00 - Rooker addresses Butler's comments regarding the priority of grade-separated interchanges
  • 59:45 - Benish says he's concerned about raiding estimate Berkmar by too much
  • 1:02:00 - CHART Member Mac Lafferty makes case for balancing CLRP by removing Proffit Road project
  • 1:04:15 - Rooker says Proffit Road is the County's next highest priority after Jarmans Gap and Georgetown Road
  • 1:05:50 - Melissa Barlow says MPO must finish meeting quickly because CitySpace was double booked
  • 1:06:30 - Barlow announces that funding options bill was killed in House Finance subcommittee
  • 1:07:30 - Barlow discusses the possibility of the MPO presenting a regional transportation project list
  • 1:12:00 - Barlow updates MPO on the USDOT's definition of shovel-ready
  • 1:15:30 - Whitham says MPO will need to revise its meeting times for February meeting

Local utilities receive honors from state regulators

Amy-owens 
Amy Owens, DEQ Regional Administrator
At their meetings on January 26, 2009 both the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) received recognition from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  Amy Owens, DEQ Regional Administrator, presented the RWSA and RSWA with Virginia Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP) E3 (Exemplary Environmental Enterprises) designation.

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“They have done a marvelous job reaching E3 status... it is notable that less than one fifth of VEEP facilities are at the E3 or E4 level,” Owens said. 

The E3 designation is awarded based on environmental management system audits conducted by the DEQ and improvements based on DEQ recommendations. The management and staff of the Observatory Water Plant, the McIntire Road Recycling Center, the Paper Sort Facility and the Ivy Transfer Station were recognized and wall plaques were awarded.

“The Water and Sewer Authority’s South River and Moore’s Creek Facilities were accepted as E3 several years ago,” Owens said.

Benefits of DEQ’s E3 designation include administrative flexibility with environmental regulations, a single point-of contact within the DEQ, permit fee discounts, and public recognition. 

“I would like to further congratulate the RSWA in its membership in EPAs National Partnership for Environmental Priorities,” said Owens.  NPEP focuses on limiting the release of 31 priority chemicals into the environment.

Fania Gordon

January 29, 2009

Cannon resigns from Albemarle County Planning Commission; Slutzky to appoint replacement

Cannon_jon
Jon Cannon

Jon Cannon has resigned from the Albemarle County Planning Commission, effective immediately. Cannon, who was appointed by Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) in January 2006, is concentrating on his duties as a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team.

Cannon is Director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the University of Virginia’s School of Law. He came to Charlottesville after a stint as the General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency. Cannon will be taking a leave of absence from UVA during the spring semester.

In an e-mail interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Cannon said he was proud of the diverse set of opinions held by Commissioners which allowed the group to work to improve developments such as Biscuit Run.

“The members' different perspectives, I thought, contributed to the evolution of a well-tailored, balanced approach over a number of sessions,” Cannon said. “It has been the Commission's ability to work as a deliberative body, rather than just a collection of individual views, or votes, that has most impressed me.  I'm hopeful that that deliberative quality can continue.  It is a great asset to the County.”

Cannon also praised what he describes as a “highly-skilled” County staff that works to support the Commission.

“Without this support, the Commission could not function effectively,” Cannon said.
Slutzky will now have a chance to name a replacement for Cannon, whose term expires at the end of 2009.

Sean Tubbs

January 28, 2009

Planning commission reshapes City’s definition of a bed and breakfast

InnCourt
Inn at Court Square in downtown Charlottesville

The Charlottesville Planning Commission voted during their meeting on January 13, 2009 to recommend a new ordinance that would provide some clarity and precision to the City’s legal definition of a Bed and Breakfast. The discussion was precipitated by last year’s by-right acceptance of a 27-room lodging facility on Oakhurst Circle under the zoning category of a “Bed and Breakfast.” The new ordinance is intended to provide some objective criteria for these uses, particularly in residential neighborhoods throughout the city.

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The proposed ordinance will create a three-tiered system with the following options:

Bed and Breakfast “homestay”:

  • No more than three guest rooms
  • Owner occupied and managed
  • Food service is limited to breakfast and light fare for guests only
  • Maximum length of stay limited to 90 days out of 365
  • Allowed in all zoning districts

Bed and Breakfast:

  • No more than eight guestrooms
  • Owner occupied and managed, or occupied by a residential manager
  • Food service is limited to breakfast and light fare
  • Maximum length of stay limited to 90 days out of 365
  • By-right in R3 and above, Special use permit in R1 and R2

Bed and Breakfast “Inn”:

  • No more than fifteen guestrooms
  • Owner occupied and managed, or occupied by a residential manager
  • Food service may be provided
  • Maximum length of stay limited to 90 days out of 365
  • Special use permit in R2 and above.

In the Commission’s pre-meeting gathering, the fact that residents are already free to rent rooms from their homes without the B&B designation was discussed. The proposed ordinance will not add any new restrictions to homeowners who simply wish to rent rooms out of their house, even for long periods of time. In fact, as Commission Chairman Jason Pearson clarified, it would be technically possible to have certain rooms in a household considered as a Bed and Breakfast and others considered as a standard residential room rental.

The commissioners were in broad agreement on the motion, with a few exceptions. Commissioner Dan Rosensweig would have liked to see Bed and Breakfast “Inns” allowable not just in R2 zones, but also in R1 by Special Use Permit. However, this difference was not substantial enough to preclude his affirmative vote. The City zoning code defines both R1 and R2 as “quiet, low-density residential areas,” with the difference being that R2 zones allow a slightly broader variety of housing types. Commissioner Bill Emory, on the other hand, did vote against the proposal. He pointed out that 11 of the 12 commissioners and councilors actually live in R1 neighborhoods, and he inferred that it was unfair to subject residents in R2 zones to the possibility of a 15-room inn while forbidding it in their own neighborhoods.

The ordinance in its complete form will be presented to City Council at an upcoming meeting.

Daniel Nairn

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

2:00 – Staff Ms. Walden introduces the proposed ordinance
8:30 - Commissioner Lewis questions how this would affect residential homestays
15:10 – Councilor Huja wants to know why B&Bs would be allowed in R2 zone; restaurant/B&B combinations
18:40 – Joyce Casmodic, B&B homestay director, speaks at public hearing
25:10 – Candice Sloan, B&B Innkeeper, speaks at public hearing, questioned by Commission
32:50 – Commissioner Keller asks about the use of signs in B&Bs
33:50 – The Difference between “B&B Inn” and “Hotel”
39:40 – Commissioner Farruggio wants to loosen some restrictions; expand stay times to 90 days, allow more meal service
49:20 – Commissioner Pearson praises this mix of uses in residential areas
51:10 – Commissioner Emory wants to allow possibility for inns in R1
59:40 – Commissioner Lewis requests room increase for homestays to three
1:05:00 - Motion made by Commissioner Farruggio
1:10:40 – Commissioner Osteen considers possibility of students moving in
1:15:55 – More discussion on Inns in R1 and R2.
1:21:05 – Motion passes; Emory only dissent.

January 27, 2009

Reservoir task force adopts final report calling for selective dredging only after specific goals and locations are identified

Task-force-wide The task force created to explore dredging opportunities and community uses of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir has voted 11-2 to adopt a final report that accepts the fundamentals of the adopted 50-year community water supply plan, calls for an investigation of encroaching wetlands that could be dredged in the future, recommends an ongoing dialog with UVA and other recreational users, and calls for “selective dredging” only after “purposes, priorities and specifically identified areas have been established.”  

The final report also states that since the water supply plan already addresses the sedimentation of South Fork and its shrinking storage capacity by calling for an enlargement of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, the “lost storage capacity [at South Fork] is not a reason to dredge or slow sedimentation, but it is undeniably a benefit created by dredging or slowing sedimentation undertaken for whatever reasons.” 

The two task force members who voted against the report said they would release a minority report that will call for a full set of studies to be conducted to prepare for a complete dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  That step was viewed by the majority of the task force as a decision to be made by the accountable public officials who “should determine whether the benefits of any measure to maintain the reservoir are worth the cost of that measure.”  Opponents of the water supply plan have argued that the cost-benefit analysis of the new Ragged Mountain Dam and pipeline should factor in complete dredging as an immediate alternative.

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Rather than edit the document throughout the course of the meeting, Chair Sally Thomas asked the task force members that they phrase their changes in the form of a motion that could be voted by the group as a whole. Dede Smith, representing the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, immediately said that she could not support the report.

“We feel this does not answer the questions that were given to us by the City and County,” Smith said. She claimed that Charlottesville City Council the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors wanted the task force to provide cost comparisons between dredging and other components of the adopted community water supply plan.

“The City clearly asked that they receive cost comparisons, apples-to-apples is the term that they used, and I feel the fact that this report has limited the scope of any collection of data… is basically telling the City that we’re not going to give the information that they need,” Smith said.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked Smith to point out the language she was referring to, and read from a statement that Mayor Dave Norris and then-Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) gave to the task force in October 2008 during the public hearing:

“In our opinion, the South Fork Reservoir task force should focus its efforts on building a well-rounded case as to how the reservoir benefits our community, what measures would be most effective in maintaining those benefits, what is likely to happen to the reservoir if no such measures are undertaken, and what the next steps would be in order to move those measures forward.”

Rooker said the statement made it clear that the task force was to assume the adopted community water supply as a given. In response, Smith referred to City Council’s November 3, 2008 resolution in which Council requested a full review of the community water supply plan. The four boards met jointly in November 2008 to discuss Council’s additional requests for studies.

“When we had the four board meeting, it was specifically brought up as to how the cost analysis of those components would be done,” Rooker said. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will eventually issue an RFP to conduct various studies.  However, negotiations between the four boards on what those studies should entail are still ongoing as a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the outcome of the November joint meeting has yet to be finalized.

Smith said the directives from the four boards did not preclude the task force from recommending a comprehensive study to look at all of the options for the reservoir. Wren Olivier, representing the Sierra Club, said she would have resigned from the task force  at the start if she had known they would not address the water supply plan.

Supervisor Rooker asked Smith and Olivier if they thought it were fiscally responsible to spend between $50 million and $150 million to dredge the reservoir twice in addition to the components of the water supply plan. Smith countered that it was not fiscally responsible to address the change the community water supply plan, even if costs continue to escalate. Liz Palmer of the Albemarle County Service Authority said that decision is outside the charge of the task force, but that the work will be done by others.

The discussion continued for some time as Smith tried to persuade task force members, but Thomas eventually asked Smith to make a motion. Smith made a motion to recommend that the task force report include:

“A comprehensive professional study of dredging; to get a baseline evaluation of the reservoir condition with defining physical and geophysical information including bathymetric measurements, side scans and geotechnical data; to identify potential dewatering and disposal sites; to identify potential commercial uses of the sediment; work with the community and the Army Corps of Engineers to establish an integrated resource management plan for the reservoir; an analysis of new sandbar wetlands and potential for removal; assess the impact of dredging on the control of hydrilla; prevention of future sedimentation; cost estimates for a menu of dredging options; evaluating permitting conditions.” 

Smith acknowledged that many of her requests are included in the full report, but that her motion reflected the need for a more comprehensive study. Olivier seconded the motion.

During the long discussion, Palmer said the cost of the study would take away from other items the ACSA and County needs, such as a County employee to work on erosion control measures.

Mark Fletcher, who represents the University of Virginia's recreational interests in the reservoir, says the task force had one arm tied behind its back, but that he had to support the report as written.
“I don’t know that there’s not anything in here that doesn’t supply the information based on what we know and learned,” Fletcher said. He said it was up to the four boards to decide how they would spend their money. “But we’ve certainly given them some options of how they can spend dollars if they choose to do that.”
After 25 minutes of debate, Smith’s motion failed on a vote of 10-3. Councilor Holly Edwards voted for Smith's motion, along with Wren OIivier. Before moving on to discuss other issues, Thomas thanked Smith for the time she put into her efforts.

The task force also made other minor amendments to the report, including where a reference to sediment forebays should to appear in the report. Dede Smith also objected to the way the public input’s role was represented in the report. 

After the task force members discussed County Water Resource Manager Greg Harper’s depiction of how the reservoir might silt in, edited the description of the role public input played in the report, and other minor edits, Supervisor Rooker made a motion to adopt the report. But, Olivier asked that she be allowed to read a statement from the Sierra Club into the record:

“A stated purpose of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Stewardship Task Force is to assess the benefits of the Reservoir and to recommend measures to preserve its benefits to the community. The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club notes that since this Reservoir was constructed over forty years ago, the primary benefit has been the provision of water to the Albemarle-Charlottesville urban community. This benefit will be lost without capacity-restoring dredging.

The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club recommends a study of the costs and feasibility of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir to restore its original water storage capacity be conducted. Possibly excessive estimates of the cost of dredging provided during development of the current water plan may have led to the mistaken rejection of dredging of the Rivanna Reservoir as the primary means of providing long term water supply.

The adopted water plan, which does not include capacity-restoring dredging, has significant environmental and economic costs. Many members of the public and our organization believe that the adopted water plan should be reconsidered. The Task Force should recommend such a study of capacity-restoring so that decision-makers involved in long term water planning can make informed choices that serve the public interest.

The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club rejects the notion that stewardhip of the Rivanna Reservoir should be based on the assumption that the reservoir will function primarily as a 'water park' or some other form of cultural asset.”

Supervisor Rooker said the report was clear that the reservoir’s primary purpose is for water storage, and that the Sierra Club’s statement incorrectly states that the reservoir will be abandoned. Dede Smith made a motion to attach the Sierra Club statement which was also defeated 10-3, with Smith, Olivier and Edwards voting against. Smith encouraged Olivier to submit the statement as part of a minority report. She later made the case for the Sierra Club’s statement to at least be included under the public comment section of the report.

Before the vote, Smith read a statement objecting to the task force’s report which formalized the arguments she had made previously in the meeting.  Ridge Schuyler then described why he thought dredging is not the best solution to meet the community’s water supply needs.

“The Ragged Mountain Reservoir solution is a 100% solution,” Schuyler said. “If we spent $30 million to dredge the reservoir, we would be able to reduce the dam height by 5 feet.”

After final comments from City Councilor Holly Edwards, the task force adopted the report on a 11-2 vote with Smith and Olivier voting against. Though she voted for Dede Smith's alternate recommendations, Edwards said that she was okay with the report because it was time to bring the task force's "journey to a close."

Presentations of the report will be made to all four boards, according to RWSA Chairman Mike Gaffney. 

After the vote, Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan issued a statement saying they agreed with the statement made by the Sierra Club.

Task-force-approval

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:20 - Chairman Sally Thomas introduces item
  • 3:00 - Liz Palmer of the Albemarle County Service Authority
  • 3:20 - Dede Smith of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan says she is opposed to report as written
  • 5:40 - Wren Olivier of the Sierra Club says the public expected the task force to recommend full studies to prepare for dredging
  • 6:40 - Smith claims Mayor Norris and Chairman Ken Boyd's October 2008 clarification of task force purpose charged task force to readdress water supply plan
  • 7:20 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker asks Smith to point out the language she is referring to
  • 8:50 - Smith says the clarification also called for task force to conduct thorough assessment of cost estimates of water supply
  • 9:31 - Rooker says the four boards meeting specifically stated RWSA would hire professionals to conduct cost estimates
  • 10:50 - Smith says the task force is restricting the options in its report, deliberately withholding the other information
  • 11:20 - Ridge Schuyler said the task force was not charged with reassessing fundamentals of water supply plan
  • 12:50 - Tom Jones, representing South Fork area residents, says that he agrees that the task force was not to readdress water supply
  • 13:35 - Schuyler rejects allegation by Smith that the task force is being disrespectful to the City
  • 14:00 - Wren Olivier says the public is paying for all of this, and the public wants to dredge the reservoir rather than expand Ragged Mountain
  • 14:35 - Smith says the City expects a menu of options; Schuyler responds that the task force report does recommend one
  • 15:20 - Rooker asks if it is fiscally responsible to dredge and implement the water supply plan
  • 16:50 - Smith says it is fiscally irresponsible to not even discuss the possibility of changing the water supply plan
  • 17:10 - Palmer says that work is outside the purview of the task force but that it will be done by professionals
  • 17:50 - Smith says City council resolution calls for dredging study
  • 18:05 - Palmer points out that the task force is there to answer one question: why dredge?
  • 19:20 - Smith makes motion   
  • 21:20 - Palmer says it would be irresponsible to spend ratepayer money on a study
  • 23:10 - Palmer and Smith discuss the cost differentials of different levels of study
  • 24:00 - Rooker disagrees with Smith's accusation that report is disrespectful
  • 25:50 - Tom Frederick of the RWSA explains cost differentials between different feasibility studies for different dredging scenarios
  • 28:20 - Rooker refers to a study that called for bathymetric studies to be done every five years
  • 32:20 - Palmer points out reasons why the task force does not recommend a full feasibility study; leaves that up to four boards
  • 32:50 - Christopher Lee, representing the Chamber of Commerce, asks Smith how her recommendation addresses water quality
  • 34:10 - John Martin, representing Rivanna River Basin Commission, calls for a vote
  • 35:20 - Schuyler asks Smith what she means by feasibility, and what she wants to achieve with full dredging
  • 36:50 - Schuyler says report answers why by saying dredge for rowing, recreational and aesthetic purposes
  • 39:00 - Smith says the intent of the City is to get as much information as they can as directed in the November 3 resolution
  • 40:20 - Lee says it is inappropriate for the task force to take on work that professional groups will be hired to do
  • 41:00 - Smith says full study should be conducted to help inform the work of the professional groups
  • 42:00 - Schuyler says it is clear that readdressing water supply plan is not the task force's charge
  • 42:40 - Rooker says that he may support an expanded study in the future, but that's not his role to make as a task force member
  • 44:20 - Mark Fletcher, representing the University of Virginia's recreational interests in the reservoir, says the task force had one arm tied behind its back
  • 46:20 - Thomas calls the question on Dede Smith's motion
  • 46:35 - Comment from City Councilor Holly Edwards, then the vote (10-3 against Dede Smith's motion)
  • 47:55 - Smith objects to the way the public input's role was represented in the report
  • 49:20 - Jones makes a suggested amendment in a motion
  • 50:30 - Jones says a lot of people spent a lot of time answering the online questionnaire
  • 54:05 - Martin objects to placing certain language in a footnote and that survey was self-selecting
  • 56:30 - Fletcher suggests a compromise, discussion continues
  • 59:30 - Thomas summarizes the changes being made to the public comment section, followed by adoption of motion
  • 1:01:23 - Jones questions the way that Greg Harper's presentation is depicted, leading to discussion -
  • 1:07:40 - Rooker makes a motion representing group consensus after the discussion
  • 1:08:40 - Smith objects to emphasis on Harper's presentation, and questions its scientific relevance
  • 1:18:35 - Supervisor Rookermakes a motion to approve the report
  • 1:19:40 - Wren Olivier reads the statement from the Sierra Club into the record
  • 1:21:33 - Dede Smith makes motion to attach Sierra Club's statement
  • 1:23:00 - Palmer explains her use of the phrase water park
  • 1:23:20 - Rooker says report is clear that reservoir's primary purpose
  • 1:25:20 - Schuyler asks if the task force needs to attach an attachment that corrects mistakes in third-party statements
  • 1:25:50 - Rooker says there should be no third-party statements attached to the report
  • 1:27:10 - Smith suggests that a minority report will be written
  • 1:27:18 - Tom Jones steers discussion back to where include Sierra Club report, and discussion of including e-mails as minutes in report
  • 1:34:18 - Smith asks to read a statement from her group into the record
  • 1:36:18 - Thomas explains a technical issue with the e-mails
  • 1:37:42 - Consensus is reached on Sierra Club
  • 1:39:20 - Smith reads statement from Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan into the record
  • 1:41:20 - Schuyler reads facts about the reservoir's relationship to the water plan into the record
  • 1:46:00 - City Councilor Holly Edwards said the report has great information and that she thinks its okay
  • 1:48:00 - Task force votes 11-2  to approve report
  • 1:48:50 - Thomas explains the next steps for the four chairs

Supervisor Slutzky will not challenge Delegate Bell; Focusing on local agenda in 2009

20090126-slutzky-barefoot On January 26, 2009, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky (D-Rio) appeared on WINA’s Charlottesville Right Now radio program and announced he had decided not to challenge Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) for his seat in the Virginia General Assembly.  Slutzky told host Coy Barefoot that he intended in 2009 to remain focused on the priorities in his work before local government. 

Slutzky did not announce whether he would seek re-election for a second term on the Board of Supervisors.  In an open seat election, Slutzky defeated Gary Grant (R-Rio) in November 2005 after the retirement of David Bowerman from the Rio District seat.  Earlier this month, Slutzky was elected by his colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Board during 2009. His current four-year term on the Board ends on December 31, 2009.  The seats held by Supervisors Sally Thomas (I-Samuel Miller) and Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) are also up for re-election in November 2009.

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“My role on the Board of Supervisors has gotten interesting,” said Slutzky.  “I’ve got a lot of things that we are dealing with that are very important to the community…and [I am] very interested in and engaged in some of these topics, and to take on a major campaign at a time like this…would be very distracting.”

Coy Barefoot asked Slutzky to name the top issues on his local government agenda.  “Right now, front and center is the issue of transportation.  We have serious transportation challenges in Albemarle County and Charlottesville right now,” said Slutzky.  As a Supervisor, Slutzky also serves as Chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and has represented Albemarle on a task force related to the formation of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority.  

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Slutzky described two bills (HB2158 and HB2161) introduced by Delegate David Toscano (D-57) that would allow the community to form the joint transit entity and, separately, to hold a voter referendum on a local sales tax increase to fund both transit and transportation needs.  Slutzky said that if the local sales tax was raised by a penny the City and County would raise close to $25 million a year which could be applied to the community’s approved list of priority transportation projects.

Supervisor Slutzky identified two other priorities that will get his attention in 2009.  First, efforts to address climate change and reduce the community’s ‘carbon footprint,’ and a proposal to allow for the transfer of development rights in Albemarle County.

Brian Wheeler

January 23, 2009

South Fork Task Force members take to WINA to air competing views

20080822-SFRR The task force charged with making recommendations on the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir will meet one last time on Monday, January 26 to finalize its report. Since the group’s last meeting in December, different factions of the task force have appeared on local airwaves to make their case.

On January 16, 2009, Dede Smith appeared on WINA’s Charlottesville Live program to argue that the task force has not focused enough on increasing the water storage capacity at the reservoir. Smith represents the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan on the task force.

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“The fact that we would throw away a resource as valuable as the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as a water storage facility is just unsustainable,” Smith said. The reservoir, however, remains an important component of the adopted water supply plan, even with continued sedimentation reducing its capacity.

Smith was joined by Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has issued a statement requesting that the task force recommend dredging be expand the reservoir’s storage capacity. Oliver’s wife Wren is a member of the task force. Both Smith and Olivier are opposed to any emphasis on dredging for recreational access rather than to restore water supply capacity.

On January 20, 2009, two other members of the task force had the chance to rebut Smith and Olivier. Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) is the Chair of the South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force and Liz Palmer represents the Samuel Miller District on the Albemarle County Service Authority’s Board of Directors.

Thomas said the task force is considering recreation as a reason to dredge because of the many people who fish and row at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. She added that dredging the reservoir to the original capacity it had in 1967 would not provide enough storage to meet the community’s projected water demand in 2055.

Thomas said when chairs of the four boards with jurisdiction over the water supply plan created the Task Force, they instructed the group to assume the adopted plan would go forward.

“Some members of the task force don’t accept that part of the charge, and would like us to do something outside our charge,” Thomas said. “We can’t revisit the Ragged Mountain Plan and people who want to revisit it, this simply isn’t the means for doing that.”

Thomas is editing the report, and the task force is expected to vote on it this Monday. After the report is issued, it will be forwarded on to the chairs of the four boards with jurisdiction over the water supply.
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s recording of Charlottesville-Live is made with permission from WINA.

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:15 – Introduction by Jane Foy
  • 02:30 – Smith explains why Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan was created
  • 03:30 – Smith says the task force’s charge was changed after it was created
  • 04:30 – Smith says assigning decision on dredging to four chairs led to the charge of the task force changing
  • 05:45 – Smith explains why she thinks the report isn’t complete because some members of the task force do not agree with the recommendations
  • 06:45 – Smith says there are recommendations in the report that the task force didn’t see in advance
  • 08:15 – Olivier explains why the Sierra Club got involved
  • 10:45 – Olivier describes the statement that the Sierra Club wants included in the report
  • 12:15 – Olivier says the Ragged Mountain Natural Area is a pristine spot that will be damaged
  • 13:45 – Smith explains why she is not pleased that her recommendations are not in the report
  • 14:45 – Smith says community only has to plan for 30 years, not 50 years
  • 15:15 – Olivier mentions local optimal population study being conducted by Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP)
  • 16:35 – Smith questions who will pay for the community water supply plan
  • 17:57 – Introduction by Rick Daniels of Thomas and Palmer’s January 20, 2009 appearance
  • 19:28 – Supervisor Sally Thomas explains why the task force was created
  • 20:00  – Thomas explains why recreation is part of the task force’s charge
  • 21:15  – Thomas addresses concern that there has not been sufficient public input into the task force’s work
  • 23:15 – Jane Foy asks why dredging is not being considered as a first option over new dams
  • 24:15 – Thomas explains how the water supply plan is trying to address problem of sedimentation
  • 26:45 – Palmer explains how South Fork Reservoir cannot meet storage needs for future
  • 28:15 – Thomas defends the population estimates projected for 2055
  • 29:05 – Thomas describes that 96% of community’s drinking water will come from SFRR watershed
  • 30:45 –  Rick Daniels asks why question about task force’s charge
  • 31:45 – Thomas explains the task force was not created to revisit the water supply plan
  • 35:00 – Thomas explains what the next steps will be

January 22, 2009

Affordable housing task force unveils report

Slutzky
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Slutzky (Rio) was a member of the task force

A task force created to recommend ways to create more affordable living choices in Charlottesville and Albemarle County has reported its results. The Joint Task Force on Affordable Housing formed in December 2007 and consisted of representatives of the two localities, the University of Virginia, and the advocacy group IMPACT. The group was charged with reviewing current public and private initiatives to address the cost of housing, to address the gap between low-income families and their ability to afford a home,  and to suggest better ways in which local governments and UVA can collaborate.

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Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Slutzky (Rio) said the task force took on a difficult challenge, especially as hard economic conditions create even more pressure for those with lower incomes. “Affordable housing is going to become an even more critical issue for the constituents that we’re trying to take care of here,” Slutzky said.

Slutzky said while some of the recommendations could be “costly”, the community should try to implement them as soon as possible. Specific recommendations depend on the jurisdiction, and more direct suggestions were aimed at Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

“We recognized fairly late in the game that there are limits on what the University is legally allowed to do,” Slutzky said. “They have as their first priority under the law to provide education functions and not specifically to provide housing functions.”

Selected recommendations for both the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

  • Commit to a dedicated annual stream of funding to support the building and preserving of existing affordable housing
  • Support the creation of a regional housing fund that can accept investments from public and private sources
  • Support the creation of “single room occupancy” units and other affordable living choices
  • Support and encourage new security measures in neighborhoods that may have affordable living choices but the perception of being unsafe
  • Consider the use of general obligation bonds to pay for affordable housing initiatives
  • Support the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust which could lower cost of housing by purchasing the underlying property
  • Pay all City, County and UVA employees a “living wage”
  • Support efforts to create a regional transit authority
  • Continue support for regional non-profits that work on affordable living choices such as the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Albemarle Housing Improvement Fund

Selected recommendations for the City of Charlottesville:

  • Adopt a proffer policy that requires affordability for three different income levels – extremely low, very-low, and low-income levels based on specific annual median income levels
  • Create a Housing Ombudsman Office

Selected recommendations for Albemarle County:

  • Amend existing proffer policy by putting caps on cost of proffered units, provide more incentives for developers to get more credit for making units even more affordable, and to enforce the affordable cost of proffered units through deed restrictions
  • Create a new fund that would aggregate all County housing money (including cash proffers

Recommendations for the University of Virginia:

  • Consider building housing sites to provide higher density mixed income housing for students, staff and faculty
  • Continue providing housing for all first-year students, consider more housing options for other undergraduate and graduate students
  • Pay all employees a living wage and encourage all contractors to pay a living wage
  • Support regional transit authority and other transit network options

Slutzky said that the task force decided not to recommend a specific dollar amount for the City and County governments to allocate towards affordable housing. “That wasn’t really in the purview of the task force,” Slutzky said.

UVA Architect David Neuman represented the University on the task force, but neither he nor an alternate was present at the press conference. Slutzky said it was his thought that UVA sees the issue as being a City and County responsibility now that the task force has done its work.

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Introduction from City Councilor Satyendra Huja
  • 02:30 - Huja lists the four charges of the committee
  • 04:40 - Albemarle County Chairman David Slutzky lists some of the task force's recommendations
  • 16:22 - Slutzky lists the recommendations for the University
  • 18:40 - Rachana Dixit of the Daily Progress asks  how much money will be devoted in City and County's budgets for affordable housing next year
  • 19:30 - Brian Wheeler of Charlottesville tomorrow asks where UVA representatives are
  • 19:50 - Wheeler asks if other UVA recommendations were discussed
  • 20:30 - Will Goldsmith of C-Ville Weekly asks how recommendations will be prioritized
  • 21:30 - Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum asks if regulatory reform was discussed
  • 22:40 - Goldsmith asks question about whether proffer policy should be changed to encourage "cash-in-lieu" as opposed to dedicated units
  • 23:10 - Dixit asks how regional fund would be governed to ensure proper use

January 21, 2009

County planners grant waiver for 125-unit complex on Pantops if developer provides affordable homes

Condo-mapThe Albemarle County Planning Commission has granted a critical slopes waiver that will allow a 125-unit condominium complex to be built on South Pantops Drive. The Commission granted approval despite the project’s lack of conformity with the Pantops Master Plan, which calls for open space to be preserved at the location. The comprehensive plan designation for the land changed when the County Board of Supervisors adopted the Pantops Master Plan in March 2008. However, the existing zoning is R-15, allowing for Charles Hurt’s Virginia Land Trust to construct 7 buildings at the location.

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County staff recommended a denial of the critical slopes waiver.  The application was called before the Planning Commission because a portion of the preliminary site plan involves the disturbance of critical slopes. That requires an applicant to ask for a waiver.

County Planner Patrick Lawrence told the Commission that the County’s open space policy discourages the disturbance of critical slopes so close to streams and waterways. He added that the retaining walls that will be required “may present an aesthetic problem looking up from the river to the property itself.”  However, the Planning Commission previously approved a different site plan for the property back in January 2005.

The applicant is proposing that the project will connect trails that are currently not linked to the rest of the Pantops area. Lawrence said the County’s Parks and Recreation Department are working to finalize how the project’s trails and other amenities would be connected.

Kelly Strickland of Dominion Development Resources represented the applicant and said the project would be close to two major employment centers – State Farm Insurance and the new Martha Jefferson Hospital. He referred to the Pantops Master Plan’s call for housing units to be located close to jobs to encourage people to walk to work. 

“There’s going to be a proportion of affordable units in this site plan,” Strickland said. Because the developer is not seeking a rezoning, the County cannot seek a proffer, or voluntary contribution, that 15 percent of the units be designated as affordable. He said the plan conformed to the spirit of the Pantops Master Plan because it protects views of Pantops from Monticello, it would construct a greenway along the Rivanna River, and because of the access to jobs. 

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said that because the site plan needed a critical slopes waiver, he could not consider it a by-right development.

“You could avoid building on the critical slopes by building a smaller project,” Edgerton said. He asked Strickland if he would be willing to proffer that 15 percent of the units be designated as affordable. Strickland said he could not make that decision on behalf of the property owner, who was not present at the public hearing.

Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) said the property owner never came forward to protest the fact that the land was designated as open space during the Pantops master planning process.

Condo-style   Illustrative rendering of how the condos will look (Source: County staff report)

“That concerns me, especially when we do not have compliance with the affordable housing element of it,” Morris said. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said she was concerned that affordable housing elements could not be guaranteed. She said County planners have been anticipating the property would undeveloped ever since the County developed its open space policy in the early 1990’s.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she could support the project because of the need for housing for those with moderate incomes, and because other condominium complexes are nearby. She said the project’s trail connections would be a benefit to the County.

“I don’t know that it does the County a lot of good to keep the whole space unbuilt,” Porterfield said.
However, Joseph was unwilling to take Strickland’s word that there would be affordable housing. Edgerton said he would prefer to see an application that did not disturb critical slopes.

“I personally do not want to give them permission unless they’re willing to give us something back in return,” Edgerton said. “I would be willing to go against our opinion in the Pantops Master Plan because I think there would be a benefit to the community to have a component of affordable housing in this complex.”

Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said he would also be open to going against the Pantops Master Plan if the affordable housing provision could be guaranteed. “We’ve seen condominiums of this sort sell for upwards of a million dollars a unit,” Strucko said. He also added that he would like to see sidewalks along South Pantops Boulevard so residents could walk to jobs at State Farm and Martha Jefferson.
Strucko suggested granting the waiver with conditions. Edgerton made a motion to grant the waiver with the condition that 15 percent of units be affordable. Morris seconded and the vote was 6-0. Commissioner Jon Cannon (Rio) was not present. The proposal is not expected to come before the Board of Supervisors unless the applicant appeals the conditions.

Though he voted to grant the waiver, Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) said it was disingenuous for the County to have a master plan that did not conform to the property’s zoning. “I hate to think that the people in the Pantops area were depending on this remaining green space when in fact it was zoned R-15,” Loach said. “It seems to me that master plans should be based on reality.”

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from County Planner Patrick Lawrence
  • 05:30 - Comment from County Planner Bill Fritz regarding Pantops Master Plan designation
  • 07:00 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton asks if areas that can't be built on can be included in DUA
  • 09:00 - Commissioner Calvin Morris asks question about possibility of more than 125 units
  • 10:00 - Edgerton asks why project is not consistent with Pantops Master Plan
  • 11:30 - Presentation by Kelly Strickland of Dominion Development Resources on behalf of the applicant
  • 22:20 - Question from Commissioner Tom Loach regarding affordable housing provisions
  • 23:00 - Edgerton asks Strickland if he would proffer that 15 percent of units be "affordable"
  • 24:30 - Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks about the location of a retaining wall
  • 25:30 - Strickland points out that owner is not obligated to provide greenway connections
  • 28:00 - Bill Fritz points out that a previous site plan involving critical slopes disturbance was approved in January 2005
  • 30:30 - Joseph said she is bothered that affordable housing cannot be guaranteed
  • 32:15 - Comments from Commissioner Linda Porterfield
  • 36:30 - Comments from Commissioner Bill Edgerton
  • 38:30 - Comments from Commissioner Eric Strucko
  • 40:10 - Comments from Commissioner Loach
  • 40:50 - Porterfield says she assumes there will be one-bedroom apartments for sale in the complex
  • 44:00 - Morris says if the affordable housing provisions aren't "proffered" they won't happen
  • 45:00 - Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner explains how the Commission can grant waiver on conditions
  • 47:30 - Loach comments that it is disingenuous to have a master plan that does not match reality
  • 50:30 - Edgerton makes a motion

City Planning Commission recommends new historic preservation tool

Fifeville
Fifeville is listed as a potential candidate for a conservation district

A new historical preservation tool could potentially be given to Charlottesville residents that wish to preserve the character and scale of their neighborhoods. In their January 13, 2009 meeting, the Charlottesville Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval for the creation of a conservation district ordinance (abbreviated ‘CV’ by City staff).

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According to Preservation and Design Planner, Mary Joy Scala, the conservation district would function as an “architectural design control district lite.” Unlike the more robust ADC overlay district, the new CV district would only affect new construction and demolition, not renovations. It is intended for use in more “modest neighborhoods,” although this ordinance itself does not apply to any specific neighborhoods. An interested neighborhood would have to propose a rezoning and get it approved through the public process to be adopted.

The Planning Commission previously discussed creating the category of CV districts during their November 11, 2008 meeting. They deferred the item on account of a letter from Mark Watson of Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA), which implied that CV districts could limit the supply of affordable housing in the city. The letter stated: “If the proposed ordinance had been in-place during the past decade, PHA’s revitalization initiatives in Starr Hill, Hinton Avenue, and 10th & Page would probably have been impossible to accomplish.”

The Commissioners took this criticism seriously. They said they needed time to read the letter in its entirety and hear more from PHA. Since then, the PHA board reconsidered their stance and sent a more supportive letter to City staff, although they still acknowledged that such a tool could be used to limit development and promote segregation. Their primary concerns were that the interests of the entire city be taken into account when deciding on implementing CV districts, and that a fair public process take place.

During last week’s meeting, the Commissioners focused on the nature of this public process. How would the necessary consensus be achieved among neighbors to request this designation? Some neighborhoods have strong neighborhood associations that can offer a clear voice, but many of the neighborhoods that might be candidates for CV districts do not have these structures in place. Commissioner Dan Rosensweig mentioned that sometimes even he, an active citizen of Charlottesville, is not always privy to the actions of his neighborhood association, and he worried about whether others may also be left out the decision.

Mayor Dave Norris asked whether a formal process could be devised similar to a federal National Registry designation. In this case, all residents of a neighborhood are given notice, and if more than 50% of the owners object the process can be blocked. Ms. Scala responded that a system is already in place to ensure public participation. If neighborhood associations themselves are not effective in generating consensus, than the objections would likely come out in the public hearing for the rezoning. She clarified that each resident for whom a CV district would affect would be sent written notice prior to the public hearing.

Commissioner Jason Pearson brought up the recent unsuccessful attempt to historically preserve his neighborhood of Fifeville as evidence of a successful public process. Other Fifeville and Ridge Street residents have recently expressed their frustrations with the development review process when they were disappointed by City Council’s action to sell two parcels of City-owned land on the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue to Southern Development. Opponents of that project have cited years of feedback in opposition to the development which they believe fell on deaf ears and led to citizen apathy at later public hearings.

Having passed through the Board of Architectural review in July 2008 and the Planning Commission in January 2009, the CV district ordinance will next be heard by City Council at an upcoming meeting.

Daniel Nairn & Brian Wheeler

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

1:35 - Preservation planning Mary Joy Scala presents ordinance
7:20 – Commissioner Emory asks about the role of planning staff
8:40 – Commissioner Farruggio raises concerns about additions to existing houses
11:50 – Commissioner Rosensweig opens discussion about public process of designation
16:40 – Mayor Norris points to a codified federal process for historic designation
19:05 – Sub-neighborhoods can still apply
22:30 - Public comments from neighborhood association representatives
29:10 – Comment from architectural historian
32:55 - More discussion on public process of designation
34:45 – Commissioner Farruggio concerned about cost burden for homeowners
 43:20 – Commissioner Lewis supportive but wants to be sure property can be adapted
53:10 - Commissioner Emory offers philosophical reason for preservation
57:50 – Motion made and passed