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May 29, 2009

MPO discusses new branding for Charlottesville Transit; I-64 Interchanges at 5th Street and Shadwell to get improved ramps

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 29, 2009

At their meeting on May 27, 2009, the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) was presented details on a possible new marketing strategy for the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS), heard more information about how federal stimulus money is being spent on transit systems in Virginia, and adopted the UNJAM 2035 long-range transportation plan.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090527-MPO

A new identity for the Charlottesville Transit Service?

Since January, Selena Barlow with the firm Transit Marketing has been working with CTS to help improve the agency’s communications and branding strategy. Part of that work has involved a week-long survey of over 3,000 bus riders conducted this spring. Here are some of the findings:

  • 96% of riders said they would recommend CTS to their friends and co-workers
  • 81% of riders said they are either “very in favor” or “somewhat in favor” of a Regional Transit Authority
  • 49% of riders have some affiliation with the University of Virginia
  • 56% of riders are under the age of 30
  • 31% of riders have access to a car and hold a driver’s license
  • 43% only ride 1 to 3 times a week and are considered “occasional” users

Download Download Selena Barlow's presentation to the MPO

Barlow said all of the above information indicates that Charlottesville is a community supportive of transit, but she said that the numbers could improve if people knew more about how to use the system.

“There’s a high level of awareness for CTS but not a lot of knowledge,” Barlow said. “People know the bus system and know a little about it, but when I started to dig a little deeper into what people knew about there were a lot of misperceptions.” In particular, she said people are not aware that transfers between routes are free.  She said many people requested GPS-locator systems in the survey. CTS began using such systems in 2008, and added a Google Transit feature in December 2008.

Cts-logo
The existing CTS logo

Barlow said much of that information could be better relayed to the public if CTS incorporated a branding strategy that included a more navigable website. She said the existing brand may be dated and somewhat ineffective.

“It doesn’t really communicate transit unless you’re seeing it on the side of a bus,” Barlow said. This would be an ideal time to consider a new brand, according to Barlow. “One of the reasons this came up early on was the possibility of transitioning to a Regional Transit Authority and introducing a new name that would be appropriate for use when that transition happens.”

One potential idea that came up in a branding workshop was to rename the service as CAT, which could represent Charlottesville Area Transit or Charlottesville Albemarle Transit. That would allow the use of a slogan such as “catch the cat.”  She suggested such a slogan could lead people to a website that was much more accessible than the CTS’ existing site, which is currently nested inside the City’s website.

“It’s not a bad website, it has a lot of information, but it’s not really that easy for a novice user to use,” Barlow said. A website dedicated to the transit service would be more user-friendly and could lead to more riders.
Proposed-cat-branding

MPO welcomes new TJPDC Executive Director

20090527-Williams
Steve Williams, the new Executive Director of the TJPDC

This MPO meeting was the first attended by Steve Williams, the new Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Williams said he has worked for various MPO’s across the country over the past 25 years. His last job was in Nashua, New Hampshire, a community he said was of similar size to the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.

Williams said he did not want to be labeled as being an expert in any one area of transportation. He told the MPO Policy Board that all modes of transportation must work in order for a metropolitan area to function.

“I think we are moving into a period in time where we at the MPO level will be challenged in ways that we have not been challenged before,” Williams said. Those challenges include finding local methods of funding transportation projects as well as connecting land use with transportation planning.

MPO holds two public hearings to adjust Transportation Improvement Program

Federal planning for improvements to transportation includes a lot of layers of paperwork in order to track the status of the hundreds of projects planned for any one given MPO area. If any new sources of money become available, the changes must be reflected in an MPO’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Any change to the TIP must be accompanied by a public hearings.

Download Download Melissa Barlow's staff report for the I-64 TIP adjustment

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has so far resulted in more money for transportation maintenance projects in the Charlottesville MPO’s jurisdiction. That required the MPO to hold two public hearing at the May 2009 meeting.

First, the MPO officially placed $1.3 million in stimulus money from  ARRA on the TIP to indicate that the Charlottesville Transit Service will receive the funds to pay for two new buses, four new shelters, as well as spare parts and other various pieces of equipment. None of the money, which was funneled through the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) requires a local match. DRPT will open up a second round of funding from ARRA later this year.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked the DRPT’s Joe Swartz if it were possible to use stimulus money to pay for pedestrian crosswalks to improve access to bus stops. Swartz said there was no precedent, but that the community could at least apply. Bill Watterson of CTS said it was unlikely that would be the best use of stimulus funds.

CTS Director Bill Watterson said his agency has decided to apply for funding to plan for a new transit station at Barracks Road Shopping Center. The idea would be to make it easier for riders to transfer between Route 5 (serves Albemarle County via Commonwealth Avenue) and Route 7 (Fashion Square Mall to Downtown). Watterson said CTS will also seek stimulus funding to replace 6 existing buses with hybrid fuel vehicles. 

For the second public hearing, the MPO agreed to suspend its public participation requirements in order to hold an unadvertised public hearing to accept money into the TIP for interstate highway improvements. The westbound exit at the interchange of I-64 and 5th Street will be widened at a cost of $1.15 million, and an additional left-hand turn lane will be constructed at the Shadwell exit. No local match is required for these projects.  Barlow said these would not be major overhauls, but would improve the flow of traffic at the exits.

MPO Adopts UNJAM 2035

The MPO adopted the UNJAM 2035 long-range transportation plan, which has been in the works over the last year. The adoption came despite a request from City resident John Pfaltz to restore the Southern Parkway to UNJAM’s fiscally constrained long range plan. Pfaltz claimed the road would help improve response times for the fire department, and would provide an important transit connection between the Southwood mobile home park, Piedmont Virginia Community College and the stores at Mill Creek. He also said the Southern Parkway should be a higher priority and was more important to the region than developing an urban cross-section for Proffit Road. Supervisor Dennis Rooker said the Bent Creek Parkway, which will be built by the developer of the Fifth and Avon Center, provides the same connection and thus the County would be unlikely to allocate its diminishing secondary road funds to the Southern Parkway project.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Meeting begins with a public comment from City resident Peter Kleeman
  • 04:10 – Slutzky asks MPO if they will waive public participation requirements to hold unadvertised public hearing on additional stimulus money for interstate highway improvements
  • 06:30 – Melissa Barlow, Transportation Program Manager for TJPDC, introduces public hearing for TIP amendment for CTS
  • 08:00 – Public hearing comment from City resident Peter Kleeman
  • 10:40 – MPO adopts TIP amendment for CTS
  • 11:00 – Second public hearing is held for TIP amendment for additional interstate highway funds
  • 13:30 – Public hearing comment from City resident Peter Kleeman
  • 14:30 – Public hearing comment from City resident John Pfaltz
  • 16:00 – Public hearing for UNJAM 2035 adoption
  • 17:45 – Public hearing comment from City resident Peter Kleeman
  • 20:20 – Public hearing comment from City resident John Pfaltz requesting addition of Southern Parkway to UNJAM’s CLRP
  • 23:20 – Barlow and MPO responds to Kleeman’s comment
  • 28:40 – MPO discusses Pfaltz’ request to place Southern Parkway back on CLRP
  • 32:00 – Steve Williams, the new executive director of the TJPDC, is introduced and makes remarks
  • 37:00 – Approval of minutes from April meeting
  • 39:15 – Slutzky and Barlow introduce discussion of how ARRA will help localities in Virginia pay for additional transit projects
  • 40:00 – Presentation from Joe Swartz of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation
  • 46:30 – Supervisor Dennis Rooker asks Swartz if it would be possible to use stimulus money for crosswalks near bus stops
  • 50:00 – CTS Director Bill Watterson says his agency will apply for stimulus funds to pay for a new bus station at Barracks Road Shopping Center.
  • 53:00 – Watterson introduces next item – CTS marketing study discussion
  • 54:00 – Selena Barlow of Transit Marketing begins her presentation of the survey results
  • 1:08:00 – Selena Barlow switches gears to discuss the marketing plan and suggests a rebranding strategy
  • 1:28:00 – Regional Transit Authority update
  • 1:32:00 – Update on the Regional Transit Authority toolkit
  • 1:35:00 – Consideration of resolution to recognize work of Ann Whitham
  • 1:36:10 – Slutzky reports on the work of a Monticello High School class that did a project on transit in the community
  • 1:39:00 – Discussion of a grant application requested by Charlottesville Citizens for Better Rail Alternatives that Steve Williams helped fill out
  • 1:49:30 – Public comment from Jerry Diely regarding Bike Virginia 2009

May 28, 2009

Governor Kaine helps break ground on “innovative” Moores Creek treatment plant upgrade

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 28, 2009

20090527-Groundbreaking
Governor Tim Kaine helps break the ground for the Moores Creek nutrient removal project

The $40.3 million upgrade and renovation of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is officially underway. Governor Tim Kaine (D) was on hand for a May 27, 2009 ground-breaking ceremony held on the location of what will be one of the plant’s new aeration basins.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090527-Moores-Creek-Groundbreaking

Construction will take 42 months, according to Mike Gaffney, the Chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA). Adams and Robinson, the contractor who won the bid for the project, will begin work next week.

The project is being funded in part by $21.5 million in grants from the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund. The RWSA has also taken out low interest loans from Virginia’s revolving loans fund. Albemarle County will reimburse the RWSA for a new septage receiving facility. Gaffney said the project serves multiple purposes.

“First and foremost is the advancement of treatment technology to remove significant nitrogen and phosphorous from the treated wastewater,” Gaffney said. Those nutrients can contribute to algae blooms downstream, including the Chesapeake Bay, which leads to reduced oxygen for aquatic life.  Gaffney added the upgrade represents a significant investment in infrastructure, and will also improve the quality of life in nearby neighborhoods by reducing odors. Finally, Gaffney said the upgrades will reduce the amount of energy required to run the plant by harvesting energy locked up inside of the waste products themselves.


20090527-Slutzky
Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio)

“As we’ve densified human activity and concentrated on ourselves in cities, we’ve tended to densify our waste outputs,” said David Slutzky, Chair of the Albemarle County Supervisors. Slutkzy said the Moores Creek upgrade represents the next step in addressing the impact of humans on the natural ecology. He said the new technology installed at the plant will allow the RWSA to exceed the state-mandated guidelines to reduce nutrients, so much so that the RWSA will be able to sell credits to other localities in Virginia that cannot meet the same requirements.

“I’m very happy to come and shine a spotlight on what is being done in this community because I want other communities in Virginia to see it too and maybe emulate you,” Kaine said. As Governor, Kaine had never attended the groundbreaking for a new wastewater treatment plant but said it was important to attend this one.

Frankly, Virginia has been kind of a laggard among states in the Chesapeake Bay clean-up,” Kaine said. He said his predecessor, Governor Mark Warner (D), helped write new regulations calling for lower nutrient loads. Since then, Kaine said his administration and the General Assembly has made over $1 billion available to local governments to meet the new requirements, despite the slowdown in the economy.  He said both political parties seem to agree that cleaning the Chesapeake Bay is worth the investment.

“These projects can’t just happen without state help because there is no way the local community could make that investment and then charge it to the ratepayers without the rates just sky-rocketing,” Kaine said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Introduction from Mike Gaffney, Chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority
  • 03:30 – Comments from Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky on the environmental aspects of the upgrades
  • 07:00 – Comments from Don Wagner, Chair of the Albemarle County Service Authority
  • 10:30 – Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown introduces Governor Kaine
  • 14:15 – Comments by Governor Tim Kaine

May 27, 2009

Albemarle Republicans nominate Snow, Thomas as candidates for Board of Supervisors

20090526-Candidates2  

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At a caucus held underneath a picnic shelter in McIntire Park, the Albemarle County Republican Party chose Duane Snow to be their candidate for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors from the Samuel Miller District. Rodney Thomas was unopposed for the Republican nomination in the Rio District. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090526-Albemarle-Republican-Caucus

Snow’s opponent, Philip Melita, ceded the race after a first count of the ballots showed an overwhelming majority for Snow. While 74 people from the Samuel Miller District registered to vote, the caucus agreed to suspend the rules to allow ballots to be counted by people who had to leave before it came to vote.

20090526-Thomas
Rodney Thomas (R) accepts the Rio District nomination

Seventeen people were on hand from the Rio District to nominate Thomas. His nomination speech was given by former Albemarle County Sheriff Terry Hawkins. Hawkins said he’s known Thomas since they were teenagers, and that Thomas’ decades of public service has prepared him to serve on the Board of the Supervisors.

In his acceptance speech, Thomas pledged to reduce County spending in order to keep the County’s tax rate low, to implement “zero-based budgeting ”, and to complete the Meadowcreek Parkway. Thomas also said he would ensure that the County’s urban water supply was safe.

“This means building a new dam as well as increasing the use of sensible conservation measures,” Thomas said. “It also means taking a hard look at dredging and how that fits into a new 50-year water supply plan.” Thomas also said he would protect the property rights of Albemarle County landowners.

20090526-Boyd-Snow
Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) gave the nominating speech for fellow Republican Duane Snow

After Thomas accepted, it was time for the two candidates in the Samuel Miller District to come forth to give their nominating speeches. Philip Melita’s was given by Charles Rockacy , who said Melita’s leadership had helped out the neighborhood in which they both live. Duane Snow’s speech was given by Rivanna District Supervisor Ken Boyd (R). Boyd said Snow would help protect property rights in Albemarle County.

Melita, who has lived in Albemarle County since 1993, said he became a candidate after becoming concerned that the County’s government spending has increased at a faster rate than its population.
Snow echoed Thomas’ call for zero-based budget, and said his experience running a small business has prepared him to understand how to translate that approach to County government.

“You go in, look at the expenditures, see what you funded in the past, and [ask] are you getting your money’s worth,” Snow explained. “If you’re not getting your money’s worth, then why continue to spend money in that area?”

20090526-Snow
Duane Snow

Snow also said that he would cut down on what he said was the County’s reliance on conducting studies. He said that thirty years of study have not produced enough results when it comes to transportation and the water supply plan. Snow then called for a full study of dredging to determine whether it can help adjust the water supply plan adopted by the City Council and the Board of Supervisors in July 2006. On the subject of transportation, Snow said the City of Charlottesville has benefited tremendously from the construction of the Route 250 Bypass, despite opposition from nearby landowners at the time.

When it came time to vote, Albemarle County Republican Chairman Christian Schoenwald asked the caucus if they would be willing to suspend the rules to allow people who had to leave early to have their votes counted. The caucus agreed, and at least 12 additional ballots were cast.

20090526-Tellers
The teller on the left holds a stack of votes for Philip Melita. The teller on the right holds a larger stack for Duane Snow

The tellers counted the votes and distributed the votes into two stacks. Charlottesville Tomorrow observed that Snow easily won a majority. Before the official counting was concluded, Melita approached Schoenwald and asked to address the caucus. He made a motion for the caucus to nominate Snow by acclimation, which was approved.

Snow will face two other candidates in the general election to replace outgoing Supervisor Sally Thomas (I) – Independent John Lowry and Democrat Madison Cummings. In the Rio District, Thomas will face incumbent David Slutzky (D). Unless an independent candidate emerges before June 9, 2009, Jack Jouett District Supervisor Dennis Rooker will be unopposed on the November ballot.

See Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch page for complete coverage of the County's 2009 elections.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 – Christian Schoenwald introduces mass meeting for Rio District
  • 04:45 – Former Albemarle County Sheriff Terry Hawkins gives nominating speech for Rio District
  • 07:00 – Acceptance speech from Rodney Thomas
  • 17:00 – Christian Schoenwald introduces mass meeting for the the Samuel Miller District
  • 20:30 – Nominating speech for Phillip Melita by Charles Rockacy
  • 21:30 – Nominating speech for Duane Snow by Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd
  • 24:00 – Speech by Phillip Melita
  • 27:30 – Speech by Duane Snow
  • 35::30 – Schoenwald asks members of the Samuel Miller mass meeting if they will vote to suspend the rules so absentee ballots can be cast

May 26, 2009

Local officials agree to keep developing plans for regional transit authority

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

20090514-RTA-WG On May 14, 2009, the working group overseeing the creation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) met to discuss its next steps for the Charlottesville and Albemarle County project to form and fund a new entity expanding public transit options in the community.  Consensus was reached to have staff of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) prepare recommendations on RTA governance issues and to draft a budget to retain a consultant to guide the RTA’s formation and system design.  The resulting project plan will then be brought back to local officials for further consideration.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090514-RTA-WG

Local leaders received both good news and bad news in the 2009 General Assembly session.  While legislators easily granted authority for the creation of an RTA, they withheld permission for local governments to hold a voter referendum on a potential sales tax increase that would fund the cooperative venture.

The RTA initiative began over a year ago when the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council reached consensus in February 2008 to jointly pursue a Regional Transit Authority which would take over and expand the operations of the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS).  In August 2008, the RTA Work Group was formed to develop legislative proposals to secure the blessing of the General Assembly in 2009.  The University of Virginia, while a participant in the meetings and a major operator of local bus service, has consistently stated it did not intend to join the RTA.

At the one-hour meeting earlier this month, the general mood of the RTA Work Group was one of disappointment with the General Assembly, a belief that there would be a public backlash against inadequate funding for the state’s transportation needs, and an expressed desire to elect representatives at the state level who would address transportation.  Four of five members of Charlottesville City Council came to the meeting and they were joined by Supervisors Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) and David Slutzky (Rio).

Slutzky started the discussion describing three potential paths for the group’s work:

  1. Take no action (in the absence of a funding mechanism).
  2. Form the RTA to demonstrate serious intent to General Assembly.
  3. Form the RTA and establish a service district to raise funds for transportation and/or transit projects.  A service district is already allowed by the General Assembly.

Slutzky shared his calculations on how much revenue could be raised if a 5 or 10 cent tax was levied on residential and/or commercial property in the City and County.  In one scenario, Slutzky said $4.2 million could be raised annually with a 5 cent tax (per $100 assessed property value) on a service district covering all urban commercial property.  In a second scenario, if urban residential and rural commercial property was included in the district, Slutzky said $8.2 million could be generated annually.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said that half of the counties comparable to Albemarle in Virginia have established service districts to raise local revenues.  Rooker said, however, that he favored letting the “dire funding situation” in Richmond play out before implementing new local taxes.

“Basically the state has no money for construction, no money for anything in transportation…and they are barely meeting the minimum necessary to obtain federal [matching funds],” said Rooker. “I think we need to let what’s happening in Richmond play out a little bit because, I think that given these most recent cuts, there is going to be a big public backlash at some point soon.”

The officials debated whether the community would benefit from an incremental or comprehensive approach to a new public transit system.  They assessed the cost vs. benefits of Charlottesville transitioning control of CTS to the new Authority.  They concluded by asking TJPDC staff to develop a proposal and budget for the RTA’s governance and formation.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:18 -- Call to order by Melissa Barlow, Director of Transportation Programs (TJPDC) and Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio)
  • 03:25 – Slutzky asks David Blount (Legislative Liaison, TJPDC) to provide an update on 2009 General Assembly actions
  • 11:58 -- Slutzky outlines three potential paths for the RTA Work Group’s next steps
  • 13:15 -- Slutzky describes funding options with a service district and shares his calculations on potential revenue
  • 22:20 -- Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) describes current VDOT funding issues and his preference for letting the politics in Richmond play out before raising new local taxes
  • 24:58 -- Slutzky asks group to consider next steps for RTA formation
  • 36:45 – Councilor Satyendra Huja indicates desire to radically restructure public transit but questions why City would want to give up control of Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS)
  • 40:17 -- Slutzky outlines steps required to move forward with RTA
  • 51:06 -- Bill Watterson, CTS, describes current costs of public transit and states the costs will be greater with RTA, for no increase in service, if the RTA takes on the in-kind contributions of about $400,000 provided today by Charlottesville
  • 55:16 -- Slutzky describes next steps to be taken by TJPDC staff to develop a proposal and budget for RTA governance and formation

May 22, 2009

Video: Duane Snow's Board of Supervisors campaign announcement

Duane Snow announces campaign for Albemarle Board of Supervisors
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

Northern Albemarle County resident raises concerns about new Byrom Park

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 22, 2009

Byrom-preddy
Map showing the location of the County's two new parks

Joe Ford sat in Lane Auditorium for the entire three hours of the Albemarle County Planning Commission’s meeting on May 19, 2009, waiting for a chance to speak out against the County’s new Patricia Ann Byrom Preserve Park. His property adjoins the proposed park and he had several concerns about introducing recreational uses to the mountainous terrain in the northwest corner of the County. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090519-APC-Byrom

The Commission’s consent agenda contained a request from the County’s own Department of Parks and Recreation for a preliminary site plan approval for the first phase of improvements to be made to the park. As adjoining property owners, both Ford and his father had received letters from the County informing them of the application.

Download Download the staff report for the preliminary site plan application

The plan included a request for a waiver to allow the County to disturb .3 acres of critical slopes to allow for construction of a stream crossing to provide access to new pedestrian and equestrian trails. Hearing no comments from the audience during the public comment period, the Commission quickly passed the item without discussion.

So, Joe Ford waited patiently for three hours as the Commission discussed a garage in Earlysville, a new cell tower in Keswick, and amendments to the County’s rules on accessory structures. Unfamiliar with the workings of the Commission, Ford did not know to stand up and be heard at the beginning of the meeting.

Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) was seconds away from adjourning the meeting when County Planner John Sheppard brought Ford up to the dais to be heard. Ford said he had brought many other people to speak out against the improvements being made to the park, but they left out of frustration.

“If someone had known, we would have pulled the item,” Strucko said. He asked Senior Assistant County Attorney Andrew Herrick if it would be possible to reconsider the item even though it had been approved. Herrick said the Commission could choose to hear Ford under new business.

Ford said he was disappointed the Commission had approved the item without hearing from the public. He said he had attempted several times to set up a meeting with County officials to find out more about the improvements.

“As a resident of Albemarle County for my life, other than the time I spent in the service, I’d really like to understand the Planning Commission’s views on the area that this park is located in,” Ford said. “It has no cell service there for emergencies… [the site plan] also shows horseback riding which the County does not provide.”

20090519-Joe-Ford
Joe Ford

Ford went on to say that another adjoining property owner is applying to the County for permission to operate a stable to serve the horse trails in the park. Ford questioned whether the Commission would approve of a commercial use in a County-owned park. He also said he was concerned about the security of his property and wondered if the park would be policed and closed at night. He also pointed out that the park will be accessed via County Route 810, which he said was a narrow two lane road that barely met VDOT’s site distance requirements.

“This land is definitely gorgeous land and I can understand people wanting to enjoy it,” Ford said. “I’m not that opposed to it. However, I think there should be bigger communication between Albemarle County and the residents who live there.”

Ford also raised a philosophical question. If the County approved a critical slopes on land it owned, would that make it easier for him and his family to get a waiver so they could build homes on their own steep land? He also claimed the topographic map on the site plan underestimates the true scale of the critical slopes.

After he spoke, Commissioners politely told Ford that if he has a concern in the future, he should make sure that the Chair knows of his objections at the beginning of the meeting. But, a preliminary site plan approval with a critical slopes waiver does not necessarily go to the Board of Supervisors.

All Commissioners said they would be willing to reconsider the motion. Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said it would be appropriate to review the item further with County Parks and Recreation staff present so they could address Ford’s concerns. The Commission voted on a motion to reconsider the waiver, which halts any critical slopes work at the property. The item will be re-advertised for the Commission’s consideration at the June 9, 2009 meeting.

After the vote, Porterfield requested that Strucko read aloud the contents of the consent agenda at every meeting before taking a vote.

 

May 21, 2009

Duane Snow announces campaign for Albemarle Board of Supervisors

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Duane Snow has entered the race for the Republican nomination for the Samuel Miller seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Flanked by members of his extended family, Snow said he would bring a “common sense approach” to the Board if elected in November.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090521-Snow-Announcement

20090521-Snow-family
Duane Snow was surrounded by family and friends during his campaign announcement

Snow’s grandfather founded a “market garden” in 1912 which eventually grew to become Snow’s Garden Center. In 1970, Duane Snow returned to Charlottesville to work for the family business after graduating from Brigham Young University in Utah.  He retired from the company in 2005 and he and his wife Rena recently completed an 18-month missionary trip to the Phillipines. Snow decided to run shortly after returning home.

Snow thanked outgoing Supervisor Sally Thomas (I-Samuel Miller) for her 16 years of service on the Board. He said he had been approached many times over the years to run against Thomas, but wanted to wait until she left office.

Snow, who will be sixty-four on election day, and his wife have five children, all of whom attended Albemarle County Public Schools. Ten of Snow’s 12 grandchildren were behind him as he read his campaign announcement to the media. 

“As you can see, we have a sizeable investment in Albemarle County,” Snow said. He said he has overwhelming support from his family to run.  Joining Snow’s family on the steps of the County Office Building was childhood friend Rodney Thomas (R-Rio), another candidate for Supervisor, who is challenging incumbent David Slutzky (D-Rio).

Prior public service in the community includes a term on the Architectural Review Board, service on the board of the local chapter of the American Heart Association, as well as ten years on the Virginia State Agricultural Council. He also co-hosts a radio show about gardening and landscaping that airs Saturday mornings on WINA

20090521-snow

Snow listed taxes, transportation, education, growth and land use as issues he is concerned about. He said as a Supervisor, he would first listen to his constituents, collect facts, make decisions based on common sense, and then take action. He offered no specific policy recommendations during his speech, but did suggest a position on the water supply plan.

“It is my opinion that we’re moving in the right direction and we don’t need any more studies other than finding out how much water is actually behind the dam,” Snow said.  “I know that we have one dam that is faulty and that dam needs to be fixed as soon as possible. We need to look at additional water supplies. But one thing we need to continue to do is to conserve the water that we have.”

Snow’s opponent for the Republican nomination is Dr. Phillip Melita. The nomination will be decided at a Republican caucus to be held at one of McIntire Park’s picnic shelters on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. The Democratic Party has nominated former School Board member Madison Cummings to run for the seat. Independent John Lowry is also a candidate to replace Thomas.

See Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch page for complete coverage of the County's 2009 elections.

May 20, 2009

City Council endorses UNJAM 2035; Hydraulic grade-separation jettisoned off 20-year plan

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Charlottesville City Council has rebuffed a recommendation from its Planning Commission to move the grade-separated interchange of Hydraulic Road and Route 29 back onto the region’s long-range transportation plan. City Councilors on the MPO Policy Board recently placed the project on the “vision list” during consideration of the five-year update of the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan (UNJAM 2035). Projects on the “vision list” have no funding and no expectation that they will be started in the next twenty years.

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Hydraulic-map
Three corners of the Hydraulic intersection are in the City of Charlottesville. The NW corner in Albemarle, location of the 7-11 store, is the area of the mixed-use Albemarle Place development (Click for a bigger picture)

To clear up the conflicting recommendations, Mayor Dave Norris pulled Council’s endorsement of UNJAM 2035 from the consent agenda at the Council’s meeting on May 18, 2009. Both the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and City Council were required to approve the plan before it can be officially submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, the federal body that mandates each metropolitan area to produce a long-range plan. The MPO will hold a final public hearing on UNJAM 2035 at their meeting May 27, 2009.

Norris wanted an explanation from Councilors Satyendra Huja and Julian Taliaferro about why they pushed the Hydraulic Road interchange to the vision list. The project, however, is one of six such grade separations on US 29 recommended in the County’s Places29 twenty-year Master Plan.  This project would involve lowering the elevation of US 29 to allow for the construction of an overpass to carry Hydraulic Road over the highway eliminating the traffic light for traffic on US 29.  The other intersections targeted for grade separation include Rio Rd, Airport Rd, Ashwood Blvd, Timberwood Blvd, and Hilton Heights.

“My opinion is that [Hydraulic] should be in the plan, but I’d be interested to hear what other Councilors think,” Norris said. “From a transportation utility standpoint, that intersection is a major clog in our machine and I think if we’re trying to ‘unjam’ our machine, that’s one project that should be considered.”
Huja said that too many City businesses would be affected by the construction of the interchange. He also cited the lack of funding for the project. Taliaferro said that was his recollection of the meeting as well. Councilor David Brown said that County businesses would not be affected and he didn’t want to send the “wrong message” to City merchants.

With the endorsement of Charlottesville City Council, the UNJAM 2035 plan will next be considered by the MPO at a final public hearing next week.

City Council will pay for additional South Fork Reservoir dredging studies

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The City Council has finally prevailed in its quest to get the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) to issue an RFP for a series of dredging feasibility studies that would provide an estimate of how much it would cost to restore the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to its original water storage capacity for the urban water supply. At their meeting on May 18, 2009, Council voted to pay for several specific studies that the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA)  prefers
not to fund.

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The studies include:

•    A pre-dredge survey that would check the reservoir floor for stumps and other obstacles to dredging
•    Analysis of the sediment that has collected in the reservoir since 1966
•    An evaluation of potential disposal sites that would include at least four locations
•    An analysis of dredging alternatives, to include a sequence of events of how dredging would be implemented

20090518-CC-Wide
Charlottesville City Council

During his report, City Manager and RWSA Board member Gary O’Connell explained to Council that the ACSA was only willing to pay for studies that would pertain to maintenance dredging of the reservoir. These would include a bathymetric study of the reservoir, legal advice on whether wetlands that have formed since 1966 would prevent dredging and analysis of whether forebays would stop sedimentation.
O’Connell said the cost estimate for the full scope of services is $300,000, though an exact cost-share between the City and the ACSA will likely not be worked out until bids are received by the RWSA.

City Councilor Satyendra Huja said he was disappointed that the ACSA was not willing to pay for the full scope of services. Councilor Julian Taliaferro said he was bothered by what he saw as a lack of cooperation. Councilor David Brown, on the other hand, said he thought that the Albemarle County Service Authority was within its rights to refuse to pay for what its Board felt was unnecessary.

“Whether dredging should be considered is controversial in our community,” Brown said. He said he agreed with those who feel dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is unnecessary for the purposes of the community water supply plan. “But I also think there are a lot of people who erred by not looking seriously at dredging, that the costs were over-inflated.”

After some discussion, Council unanimously voted to approve the conditions under which the RFP will be issued. The RFP will be issued on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, according to Mary Knowles with the RWSA.

Shorty before the discussion, City Attorney Craig Brown explained the paperwork that had to be filed with the State Corporation Commission to allow Edwards to vote. The State Conflict of Interest Act regulates the ability of a city or county employee from voting on matters that they may benefit from. Because Edwards makes over $10,000 as a City Councilor, Brown was concerned she would be disqualified from serving on the RWSA Board under the act.

“There was enough concern that the law was written broad enough that it would apply and preclude the City’s representatives from voting on certain matters that are important to the City that came before [the RWSA],” Brown said. Penalties for violating the Act could include being charged with a misdemeanor or a fine, but Brown said that Albemarle County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford has written a legal opinion that says she believes Edwards will act in good faith on the RWSA Board.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Mayor Norris introduces the subject
  • 02:15 – City Attorney Craig Brown explains the legal circumstances regarding Edwards’ ability to vote on the RWSA Board
  • 07:30 – City Manager Gary O’Connell describes what happened at the RWSA meeting regarding the RFP
  • 10:30 – City Councilor Satyendra Huja expresses his disappointment with the ACSA
  • 11:15 – City Councilor Julian Taliaferro said he is troubled by the lack of cooperation
  • 13:00 – City Councilor David Brown defends the stand taken by the ACSA
  • 16:20 – City Councilor Holly Edwards explains why she wanted to move ahead by having the studies done under the umbrella of one RFP rather than splitting it up
  • 17:30 – Mayor Dave Norris requests that the City select at least half of the selection committee
  • 19:45 – O’Connell requests a motion to make sure that Council’s direction is clear

May 19, 2009

RWSA approves RFP for dredging feasibility studies of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

20090518-city-reps-on-rwsa
The City's representatives on the RWSA Board are Public Works Director Judith Mueller, City Manager Gary O'Connell and City Councilor Holly Edwards

After nearly a year of discussion, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) has approved an RFP calling for a series of studies designed to provide a full cost estimate and logistical analysis of a full restorative dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. While the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) has announced it will only cover those studies which pertain to maintenance dredging of the reservoir, the Charlottesville City Council has agreed to pay for those that relate to the possibility of dredging the reservoir as an alternative to or an expansion of the adopted community water supply plan.

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Download Download the draft RFP considered by the RWSA

The discussion and eventual vote spanned two meetings held on May 18, 2009. First, the RWSA took up the RFP at its regular Board meeting. They did so after going into executive session where they received legal advice related to the concern that dredging may interfere with wetlands that have been created due to sedimentation of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. That legal opinion was released to the public by vote of the board.

Download Download the letter from Attorney William Ellis to the RWSA

After RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick explained the details of the various studies to be called for in the full RFP, ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern explained the ACSA’s willingness to support the RFP, but only to support an analysis of the possibility of installing forebays to stop sedimentation into the reservoir as well a bathymetric study. Shortly thereafter, he made a motion to move forward with the RFP based on the ACSA’s vision of the scope of services.

City Manager Gary O’Connell seconded, but with a comment. He said he was representing the will of the City Council.

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City Manager Gary O'Connell

“We come here with Council’s blessing and approval of this RFP, and in the spirit of working together in the community, and my belief that there will be support for us, I’d like to make a motion to amend Mr. Fern’s motion,” O’Connell said. His amendment was to include the City’s requested studies in the RFP and that the City would pay for it. He added a condition that the City’s expenses would be reimbursed if the data returned by the studies resulted in the community water supply plan being amended to include dredging for water capacity.

Fern accepted the amendment. After some discussion, the RWSA voted unanimously to approve the amended motion. Later in the evening, the City Council voted to pay for the studies it requested. Charlottesville Tomorrow will detail those proceedings in an upcoming story.

Several members of the public spoke to encourage the RWSA to approve the RFP. County resident Bernard Williams said that maintaining infrastructure was as important as brushing one’s teeth. Dede Smith of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said that the City and ACSA had come to an impasse on the RFP and that the City should proceed without the ACSA’s involvement if that’s what it takes to get the information requested by the City.  Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch agreed with Smith, if only to end what he described as the stalling by the ACSA. However, Lynch called for several amendments. First, he wanted the City to retain full control over the selection committee to pick a vendor. Second, he sought several technical amendments, most notably one to find out if the dredged material could be used to help fill in a runway. Third, he wanted language in the draft to be amended to encourage more contractors to apply.

Richard Collins disagreed with his fellow water activists and insisted that the ACSA should be compelled to pay for the full cost of all the dredging studies.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 – Hawes Spencer of the Hook objects to the RWSA entering into executive session
  • 02:20 – RWSA takes a roll call vote to approve its going into executive session
  • 02:45 – RWSA Legal Counsel Kurt Krueger explains the legal reason why the Board went into executive session
  • 03:15 – Judith Mueller explains the contents of why the Board went into executive session and makes a motion releasing the privileged communication to the public
  • 04:40 – Executive Director Tom Frederick gives a staff report on the RFP and what it is for
  • 09:50 – City Manager Gary O’Connell asks question about what studies are necessary
  • 11:00 – ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern gives an outline of the ACSA’s concerns as embodied in the letter sent to City Council
  • 12:20 – Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asks if the bathymetric study to be conducted would also count towards the RWSA’s mandated need to conduct one by the completion of the new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir
  • 14:30 – City Manager Gary O’Connell asks about what requirements will be asked of potential firms
  • 15:30 – Mueller asks if one firm will be hired, or a team of firms
  • 16:30 – City Councilor Holly Edwards asks if one firm will be capable of doing all the studies
  • 19:20- Gary Fern makes a motion for the RWSA to move the RFP ahead according to the ACSA’s view of the scope of services
  • 28:15 – Motion to approve RFP is voted on unanimously