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June 30, 2009

MPO considers re-hiring consultant for further RTA studies

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At their meeting on June 24, 2009, the MPO Policy Board considered whether to spend additional funds on hiring a consultant to help with the formation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA), viewed the results of two surveys conducted on the Charlottesville Transit Service and endorsed a letter asking for earlier service for an additional passenger train that will commence in October.

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20090630-RTA-chartThis chart from the VHB report on the RTA shows potential transit corridors for either an expanded CTS or the proposed authority. Click to enlarge. (Source: VHB)

The basic framework for the proposed RTA has been put in place through work conducted by the firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, and specifically, transportation expert Frank Spielberg. The City and County both contributed $50,000 to match a $90,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration to pay for their services. 

Their 45-page report outlines several different scenarios by which such an authority might be formed, and details different governing structures under which it might operate. Even more intricate details about how the community could proceed are featured in the 12 appendices that accompany the report.

In August 2008, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors affirmed their willingness to create the RTA during a joint work session. They set up a working group of two Councilors and two Supervisors to help guide the process. Throughout the fall of 2008, this group spent most of their time at several meetings to determine what sort of legislation should be pursued. They decided to ask the General Assembly to pass two pieces of legislation. The first would create the RTA (HB2158), and the second (HB2161) was for permission to ask citizens in a referendum if they would support a sales tax increase of up to 1 cent to fund the RTA’s operations. The General Assembly approved the first bill, but did not approve the second.

On May 14, 2009, the working group met once more to discuss whether it was worthwhile to continue pursuing the RTA’s creation without the favored method of funding. At that meeting, consensus was reached to have Barlow and her staff prepare recommendations on RTA governance issues and to draft a budget to retain a consultant to guide the RTA’s formation and system design. That consensus was ratified by the MPO later that month. Barlow contacted Spielberg to find out how much his services would cost to address some of the remaining issues, and gave four points of his action on which his firm should base a cost estimate:

  • Determine what issues must be addressed before the RTA can be formed
  • Develop alternative approaches to how to resolve those issues
  • Understanding different cost scenarios for each potential resolution
  • Develop a comparative analysis of how similar authorities in Virginia have dealt with the issues

A representative from VHB wrote back and said that the first bullet would likely consist of resolving the issues defined in the initial report’s Appendix J. While that section of the report contains an implementation schedule that largely assumed approval of a funding mechanism, many of the questions asked have yet to be answered or fully addressed, such as:

  • Do the jurisdictions want to establish the principles, or the detailed methodology, for cost sharing prior to establishment of an Authority?
  • What process should be used to develop a Memorandum of Understanding before proceeding to an Authority?
  • Does the County accept the cost of providing service as computed by CTS staff? If not, what would the County need to accept the cost computations?
  • Should the Authority strive to establish a fully independent organization or should it obtain some services from the City and County?
  • How are costs of providing service allocated to the member jurisdictions?
  • How are costs of capital equipment and facilities allocated to member jurisdictions?
  • Can jurisdictions provide in-kind services to fulfill their funding obligations?
  • How are revenues received from state and federal programs allocated?
  • How are revenues received from UVa or other sources allocated?
  • How are revenues accruing to the Authority allocated?
  • Do the jurisdictions need to resolve all issues prior to forming the Authority?
  • Is the City willing to cede this power to the Authority?
  • Is the City willing to continue to allocate a portion of these funds to County services, prior to formation of an Authority?

The letter from VHB says that the above questions, along with others in Appendix J, would be a starting point for a first meeting with Frank Spielberg. It then proposes his attendance at an additional five meetings. VHB’s initial cost estimate assumes using 14 days of Spielberg’s time for meetings as well as an additional six days for research. Spielberg bills at the rate of $215 an hour, suggesting a budget of $40,000.

20090630-RTA-funding
VHB's report contains multiple references to potential funding sources. This chart refers to revenues available to localities under HB3202 , a transportation funding bill passed in 2007. Click to enlarge. (Source: VHB)

During the MPO’s meeting, Barlow said she wanted to get input on whether this proposed estimate matched the MPO member’s expectations of what Spielberg’s future involvement should be. She also said her contact at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) said there are least two grant-funding opportunities to help pay for VHB’s additional work. One would be a “technical assistance” grant where VDRPT would pay half of the costs with the rest coming from local sources. The second would be a federal planning grant  in which 80% of funding would come from the federal government, 10% from VDRPT and a required 10% match from localities.

Councilor Satyendra Huja said he was more interested in getting additional information about how to fund the RTA, given that the state denied the sales tax referendum. Barlow referred him to Appendix H of VHB’s RTA plan, which lists several other potential funding mechanisms. She said some of these were discussed at the May 14 meeting of the RTA Working Group.

“Before moving in any direction on how to fund the RTA, the question arose as to exactly what is it going to cost us to develop this in terms of what bridges we need to cost, what we do with employees, what we do with assets,” Barlow said. Huja is also a member of the RTA working group.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro, who is not a member of the RTA working group, asked if Albemarle County would “put up any money” to purchase some of the assets currently owned by City of Charlottesville.

20090630-bus-system
Routes 5 and 7 serve Albemarle County and run twice an hour from 6:00 AM to midnight, Monday through Saturday. Route 7 is one of only two routes that run at all on Sunday. Albemarle County currently pays for the enhanced service

“I guess the question is, are we going to do a study if we don’t know what [Albemarle County’s] commitment is,” Taliaferro asked. “It perplexes me a little bit that we’re going to do a study and we really don’t know if anyone is going to join in.”

Neither Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) nor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) was present to respond. The County’s Chief Planner, David Bennish, was the County’s lone representative at this meeting and he said the purpose of the additional study by VHB would be to determine if there’s a way for the City and County to work together to plan for future transit.

CTS Director Bill Watterson said that the study is a “work in progress” to determine how hard it would be to resolve some of the remaining questions. He said the further study’s scope of work could be expanded or reduced.

Barlow suggested that the discussion should be postponed until the MPO’s July meeting. Huja concurred.

MPO VIEWS TWO PRESENTATIONS ON IMPROVING CTS

At the May 2009 meeting of the MPO Policy Board, Chair David Slutzky had mentioned that a class at Monticello High School had conducted a survey of CTS passengers. Their basic recommendations focused on adding more buses at night, adding more stops at night, and to expand bus service further in Albemarle County.

Download Download Anna MacIntosh's presentation

20090624-MPO-Survey-Chart
Source: Southeastern Institute for Research

Some of these findings were echoed in a more complex survey conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research. Anna MacIntosh, Program Director for the firm, related the results of her group’s marketing study, which was conducted under the brand “Transportation Tomorrow.” The project was paid for in part by a grant received by the MPO to assess interest in forming a Regional Transit Authority. MacIntosh said the project was designed to increase public awareness of transportation planning. Outreach efforts included a telephone survey, an on-board passenger survey, a widely-promoted online survey as well as a paper survey handed out at places such as Charlottesville’s Senior Center.  As a result, MacIntosh claimed 4,385 citizens participated in the process.

Some of the findings from the random phone survey of 300 citizens:

  • 13% of respondents said they are involved in local transportation planning
  • 56% said they have never been involved with local transportation planning
  • 9% said they ride a bus, including the free trolley, once a week
  • 74% said they never ride a bus
  • 61% said they do not have a bus stop within a mile of their house
  • 11% said they would be likely or very likely to increase their usage in the next year
  • 70% said they are unlikely to increase their usage in the next year
  • 38% said they would use transit more often if they were closer to stops
  • 39% of Albemarle County residents surveyed would be interested in a long distance commuter bus
  • 46% said they would ride the bus more often if there were more frequent headways
  • 67% are either in favor or very much in favor of establishing a Regional Transit Authority
  • 88% said they are in support of a public vote on public funding for the RTA

MPO ADOPTS RESOLUTION CALLING FOR EARLIER AMTRAK TRAIN

Earlier this year, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved three years of funding to launch new daily Amtrak passenger service from Lynchburg to Washington. At the time, it was believed that the service’s schedule would allow for citizens to conduct a full day’s business in the nation’s capitol.

However, when the schedule was released, it depicted the train leaving Lynchburg at 7:43 a.m., with the train not arriving at Union Station until 11:20 a.m. This is because a railroad line owned by the CSX Corporation cannot accommodate the earlier schedule, which is considered a “peak-hour” slot.

At the May 2009 meeting, the MPO Policy Board directed staff to write a resolution asking the VDRPT to “closely monitor the ridership performance during the first year… to determine if it is meeting expectations.” A fear held by some in the community is that the three-year experiment will not be extended if it is not useful for business travelers. The resolution also asks for state transportation officials, including Governor Tim Kaine, “to do everything within the state of Virginia’s legal power and authority to negotiate an additional peak hour slot” for the service.
Service is expected to begin this October.

FEDERAL & STATE OFFICIALS CONFIRM UNJAM 2035 IS ‘FISCALLY CONSTRAINED’

As area planners and elected officials formulate and adopt plans for the community’s future infrastructure, one issue they face concerns how to best represent cost estimates for large capital projects. Critics of the adopted community water supply plan have repeatedly said that plan is unsound because some elements lack definite cost estimates. In June, the Free Enterprise Forum released a critique of the Albemarle County Planning Commission for using current year dollars for road improvement projects called for in Places29 rather than figures adjusted for inflation.

At the MPO’s May 2009 meeting, former City Council candidate Peter Kleeman questioned how the UNJAM 2035 long range transportation plan factors in the costs related to maintenance and upgrade associated with Interstate 64. He said that because that funding can only be used for that purpose, it artificially misleads the public into thinking that the community has more money to spend on transportation projects then it really does.

“There was something on the order of $100 million of funding in the long-range plan that are Interstate dollars that have been distributed for non-Interstate projects,” Kleeman said at the June 2009 meeting. He claimed that as a result, the UNJAM 2035 plan cannot be implemented or approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 

Acting MPO Director Melissa Barlow said she reviewed federal regulations after receiving Kleeman’s comments, and said her interpretation was that the federal requirement for “fiscal constraint” takes all sources of funding into consideration: federal, state and local.

“There is no direction that I could find that you needed to financially constrain yourself to a particular system,” Barlow said. She then checked with VDOT and FHWA officials who agreed with her assessment. Unwanna Dabney, the FHWA representative on the MPO Policy Board, said the MPO met her agency’s basic requirements for showing fiscal constraint.

“That is the demonstration that a cumulative amount of funds are reasonably expected to be available over the 20 year timeframe [of the long range plan],” Dabney said. She said that some MPOs across the nation do break down the funding sources in their long-range plans, but that the goal of such documents is to serve as a planning document. Dabney also pointed out that much of the federal funding that comes to local communities comes through the SAFETEA-LU Act, which expires this year.

“It’s asking a bit much to constrain everything by program when we really have no idea what the next federal legislation [for transportation] is going to look like,” Dabney said.

OTHER NEWS:

This was the last meeting for Melissa Barlow, who will leave the MPO and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission for a job with the Federal Transit Administration. The TJPDC’s new Executive Director, Steven Williams, has been officially certified as the Director of the MPO

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Meeting called to order by Vice Chair Satyendra Huja
  • 01:20 – Public comment from Peter Kleeman regarding long range plan
  • 04:46 – Public comment from John Pfaltz asking that the MPO tell the County that the Woodbrook be connected to the rest of the County’s transportation network so regional transit can work
  • 06:54 – Adoption of minutes from May 2009 meeting
  • 07:26 – Acting MPO Director Melissa Barlow notes that David Benish is Supervisor David Slutzky’s alternate for the purposes of a quorum
  • 08:00 – MPO begins “fiscal constraint discussion
  • 16:30 – Presentation of Monticello High School CTS Survey
  • 26:00 – Presentation of Southeastern Institute for Research’s RTA Toolkit
  • 1:15:15 – Discussion of letter to support earlier schedule for AMTRAK Passenger Service
  • 1:18:40 – Discussion of funding of further study of RTA by Frank Spielberg of VHB
  • 1:28:45 – CHART Member Mac Lafferty reports on Bike Virginia

University of Virginia’s water usage hits 6-year high; Water data adjusted for 2008 meter error

20090629-UVA-H20 By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 29, 2009

The University of Virginia’s rate of public water usage has increased by about 42.1 million gallons from the previous year.  In the fiscal year that ends this week, the University reports that it has used about 511.6 million gallons of water during 2008-09, that is an increase of almost 9% from the 469.5 million gallons used during 2007-08.  The 42.1 million gallons of additional water used would fill a pool the size of a football field to a depth of about 117 feet.

In a November 2008 article, Charlottesville Tomorrow assessed the University’s water usage trends.  This past month, the University provided Charlottesville Tomorrow with updated data covering the past school year.  In their response, the University reported that a meter error had been corrected in fall of 2008 which added another 65.8 million gallons to their water bill from the City of Charlottesville.  According to Ric Barrick, the City’s Director of Communications, Charlottesville collected $167,440 in additional water fees from the University once the discrepancy was resolved.  The adjustment also led the University to restate its FY 2007-08 water usage, increasing the total for that year by 3.89%.

Because the University uses approximately 7 - 8% of the total water distributed by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), these updated usage estimates are relevant to the ongoing discussion over the 50-year community water supply plan.

The University of Virginia provided the following additional information about water usage in the 2008-09:

  • There was approximately 14.8 million gallons of additional water consumption related to newly constructed facilities (3% of the FY 2008-09 total).
  • Water usage data for the current and previous fiscal year have been restated after a meter configuration error was detected early in FY 2008-09.  The City of Charlottesville issued a billing correction for approximately 65.8 million gallons of estimated water usage. Part of this correction (approximately 17.6 million gallons) was accounting for consumption that actually occurred in FY 2007-08.
  • The corrected water usage total for FY 2007-08 is 469.5 million gallons.
  • The University experienced a few water line breaks in FY 2008-09 which resulted in water being lost from the distribution system. The University is still gathering information on these events to estimate the amount of water loss.

June 29, 2009

Judge Swett: Supermajority of votes not required for Meadowcreek Parkway easement

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 29, 2009

Judge Jay Swett of the Charlottesville Circuit Court has denied a claim made by the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park that a City Council vote to convey property to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was unconstitutional. In an opinion dated June 26, 2009, Swett ruled the Virginia Constitution does not require four out of five Councilors to have approved the granting of temporary and permanent easements to VDOT in June 2008.  At that time, Council voted 3-2 to grant nearly 8.6 acres of land the City owns in Albemarle County to VDOT for construction, equipment storage and utility and drainage easements.

DownloadDownload Judge Swett's ruling 

Judge Swett’s ruling also denied an injunction requested by the Coalition to stop work on the Parkway, and also denied a request for the City to pay its legal fees. His ruling first gives a basic overview of Article VII, Section 9 of the 1971 Revised Virginia Constitution. The section contains two paragraphs, the first of which reads:

“No rights of a city or town in and to its waterfronts, wharf property, public landings, wharves, docks, streets, avenues, parks, bridges or other public places…  shall be sold except by an ordinance or resolution passed by an affirmed vote of three-fourths of all members elected to the governing body.”

The Virginia Supreme Court has only addressed this issue once, in Stending Development Corp. v Danville (1974). Swett writes in his opinion that that case is not helpful in shedding light in whether or not Council’s conveyance of land to VDOT is constitutional. Consequently, he says he is required to carefully examine the language used in the state Constitution.

“The framers’ choice of the term ‘sold’ should be given deference and the assumption is that the framers used this term for a specific purpose,” Swett writes. He then refers to the second part of Article VII, Section 9, which is a much longer paragraph which deals with special rights municipalities have to lease public property to other groups. For example, when Council granted a ground lease to the Piedmont Family YMCA in December 2007, this section restricted the terms of the lease to only 40 years.  Something to note is that Swett’s interpretation is that this second paragraph does not require a supermajority for such actions. Swett also writes that these two paragraphs must be taken together to interpret the intent of the Constitution’s framers:

“If the framers meant that any sale also included any lease, easement, or other encumbrance, then the framers would presumably would have chosen to add those words in addition to the reference of a sale,” Swett wrote in his opinion.

Council-vote
City Council voted 3-2 to grant the easement on June 2, 2008. Councilors Holly Edwards and Dave Norris voted against

The plaintiffs in the case had argued that transfer of land should be considered a sale because a sum of $43,120 was recorded as changing hands when the deed for the property was signed over to VDOT. At the May 2009 trial for the case, a representative from VDOT as well as Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris testified that figure was to reimburse the City and the Charlottesville School Board for landscape-screening and other related damages.

The plaintiffs had also argued that Article VII, Section 9 was designed to protect the public from having property it owns from being transferred for the benefit of private interests. Swett’s ruling details two competing interpretations of Section 9, and its precursor in the 1902 version of the Virginia Constitution. He then relates the work of constitutional scholar A.E. Dick Howard, who wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution that the framers intended for Section 9 to protect the public from elected officials who sold public land to private interests at lower than market value.

However, Swett said that interpretation did not fit in this case. He said that the City first turned consideration of the matter to a second elected body when it asked the Charlottesville School Board to vote on the easement in May 2008. That body voted 4-1 to grant the easements.  Swett also noted that the City will benefit by having a public road built and paid for by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“It is difficult to see how this conveyance to VDOT by the City is within the category of evils which the framers of the Virginia Constitution had in mind when Section 9 of Article VII was considered,” Swett wrote.

Swett did rule that at least some of the plaintiffs in the case had legal standing to bring the case to trial in the first place. His ruling cited a Virginia Supreme Court decision to grant standing to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in a suit against tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris. Swett’s ruling states he could grant standing to those members of the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park who claimed that the Meadowcreek Parkway would cause them injury by damaging the park. Specifically, that granted Stratton Salidis, Peter Kleeman, City Council candidate Bob Fenwick, John Cruickshank standing in the case. That means they can likely appeal the decision. However, Swett found that the North Downtown Residents Association and Richard Collins did not allege “a sufficiently particularized injury” and thus cannot play a role in an appeal.

June 26, 2009

RWSA approves decision to begin search for new Ragged Mountain Dam designer

By Julia Glendening
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 26, 2009

20090625-Frederick
Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) announced on June 25, 2009 their plans to hire a new engineering firm to re-start the design work on the new Ragged Mountain Dam. Gannett Fleming was the firm working on the dam design and originally stated the dam would cost $37 million, but in September 2008 raised the cost projection with contingencies to almost $99 million (2010 dollars). The RWSA Board approved a motion to begin searching for a new design firm and a selection is expected later in the summer.  Construction of a larger dam at the existing Ragged Mountain Reservoir is a key component of the 50-year water supply plan.

“We have significant respect for Gannett Fleming, but decided that a new direction on design best serves the current discussions in this community,” stated Mike Gaffney, Chairman of the Board, in a RWSA press release.

Gannett Fleming raised their cost estimate for Ragged Mountain Dam in part due to the discovery of weathered and fractured rock in the area. The RWSA obtained a second opinion from Schnabel Engineering. They said it would be possible for the dam to be built for about $57 million, which was still a 53% increase from the original $37 million estimate.

Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director, presented the proposal and said staff recommended selecting a new firm for the design of the dam, but did not state a specific reason for the change.

City Councilor Holly Edwards, who became an RWSA board member in May 2009, asked Frederick about how the timing of the dam construction would be changed. Frederick responded by saying the new firm would be picked no later than September 2009 and hoped to begin reviewing design plans in early 2010, with completion in early 2013. He also assured the Board the new firm would collaborate for a short time period with Gannett Fleming so the process would not be started completely from scratch.

“Our staff will work diligently in the coming weeks to make this as smooth a transition as possible, and we understand and appreciate that Gannett Fleming shares that view,” stated Frederick in a RWSA press release. “A significant amount of work to-date, including the underground geotechnical investigations, is of sound quality and will be a great aid in resuming the design.”

June 25, 2009

Arden Place site plan deferred; Woodbrook neighborhood vehemently against connectivity

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The developer of the proposed 206-unit Arden Place “luxury” apartment complex off Rio Road has requested a deferral of its preliminary site plan application. The action came at the very end of the June 23, 2009 meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission after a majority of members indicated they would deny a waiver of the County’s requirement that all neighborhoods with more than 50 residential units connect to two public streets.

During the three-and-a-half hour discussion, thirty speakers from the Woodbrook subdivision told the Commission they wanted their neighborhood to continue to only have one entrance point off of U.S. Route 29 near Lowes. While some residents said they could accept a pedestrian trail on a County-owned right-of-way, the majority of speakers expressed concern that such a walkway would lead to additional crime and would alter the character of their neighborhood.

The Commission was asked by County Planner Gerald Gatobu to review five specific actions during their meeting: 

  • Consideration of a critical slopes waiver
  • Consideration of a waiver to disturb a buffer between commercial and residential areas on the applicant’s property
  • Consideration of a waiver of County regulations requiring two entrance to public streets for residential complexes with more than 50 units
  • Approval or denial of preliminary site plan
  • Approval or denial of applicant’s dedication of open space to the County

Arden-place-background2  
The commercially zoned portion of the property has over 700 feet along Rio Road, but the preliminary site plan under review did not show an entrance coming through that section. Click for a larger image.

Charlottesville Realty Corporation, and the parcel currently has two zoning classifications on it. The applicant, Coleway Development, has an option to purchase the portion zoned R-15 for high-density residential development. If the site plan for Arden Place is approved by the County, Coleway will purchase the land. The remaining portion, which is zoned for commercial uses, will be subdivided and a site plan for that section will come before the County at some point in the future.

Gatobu said most of the critical slopes on the property are the result of fill created when Fashion Square Mall was constructed in the late 1970’s. It is easier to get a waiver for man-made critical slopes. Gatobu added that there are also natural critical slopes where the property abuts the Woodbrook neighborhood, but those would only be disturbed if a road were to be constructed there.  

The buffer disturbance issue relates to the fact that the property contains both R-15 and C-1 zoning classifications. Attorney Valerie Long, representing Coleway Development, said because the road will pass through both sections, the waiver is required to protect the residential section from disturbances made in the commercial section.

By-right, the developer could have built 170 units but sought a 5% density bonus from the County because of a commitment to preserve some of the wooded area and a 15% bonus because of a commitment to dedicate open-space to the County. The amount of units could have been higher if Coleway Development had proposed affordable housing units.

The waiver for the two-entrances requirement was the main cause of controversy. Gatobu said there were three potential access points. The site plan depicted one – a connection to Putt Putt Place. He said the developer had unsuccessfully negotiated with Dunbarton Properties, the owners of Albemarle Square, to obtain access through that commercial development. The third would be along the public right-of-way through Idlewood Drive in the Woodbrook neighborhood, but that the developer did not want to pursue that option. That right-of-way, owned by the County, has existed since the creation of the Woodbrook neighborhood in the 1960’s.

Instead, the developer proposed constructing a pedestrian walkway along the right-of-way, complete with a bridge to cross the stream that passes through the area. Because of that offer, the developer requested the waiver to allow vehicular access only through Putt Putt Place. Gatobu said staff recommended approval of the waiver with that condition. Additionally, Gatobu said that County fire and rescue officials were satisfied with the pathway if it could be built to allow for emergency access for public safety vehicles.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) asked if the applicant had considered a fourth option – building the second entrance on Rio Road through the commercial portion of the property. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Engineer Joel DeNunzio said there was room in that area to build a “right-in, right-out” entrance, but that VDOT’s access management standards did not consider another entrance to be desirable. He also said that if that option were proposed, VDOT would need to perform another traffic study. DeNunzio said VDOT preferred the Albemarle Square option.

The intersection with Putt Putt Place is problematic to both VDOT and County traffic engineers. DeNunzio said that even though a fully built-out Arden Place would generate an additional 1,250 vehicle trips a day, the intersection of Putt Putt Place and Rio Road would still not meet VDOT’s warrants to install a traffic signal.

County Transportation Engineer Amy Pflaum said that the traffic study did not include the Woodbrook intersection for two reasons. First, staff and the developer were both aware that the Woodbrook neighborhood was opposed to a vehicular connection. Second, preliminary traffic modeling showed that even if that connection were built, it would not alleviate the long delays that would be experienced by motorists seeking to turn left from Putt Putt Place onto East Rio Road.

Gatobu pointed out that even if a road were constructed along the public right-of-way, Woodbrook residents would have no guaranteed right to use it to travel south to Rio Road as both the Arden Place development and Putt Putt Place are private streets. 

Gatobu said he had met with Jim Plotkin of Dunbarton Properties, the owner of Albemarle Square. After looking at the site plan for Arden Place, Plotkin told him that denying the connection through Albemarle Square is “a business decision.” On the day of the hearing, Plotkin sent a letter to Gatobu  saying they wanted Coleway Development to construct a fence to block children from the Arden Place development from entering the Albemarle Square property.

ATTORNEY VALERIE LONG PRESENTS CASE FOR ARDEN PLACE

Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams Mullen, represented Coleway Development during the hearing. She said Arden Place was being designed as a “luxury” apartment complex offering market-rate rentals. She said the Places29 area lacked high-end rental housing and Arden Place would satisfy that demand. Long said residents would be able to walk to a large number of destinations including Fashion Square Mall, the Northside library, Woodbrook Elementary and numerous office buildings.

20090623-Long
Attorney Valerie Long addresses the Planning Commission

“We really think it’s a perfect fit for this area and obviously the zoning contemplates this use,” Long said.
Long said the developer did not have the legal right to make the connection to Albemarle Square, but that they would continue to pursue negotiations with Dunbarton Properties. Long said Albemarle Square would need to relocate some parking spaces in order to accommodate the connection. Long also said that her client did not want to build a road connecting to the Woodbrook neighborhood because it would cause too much of an impact on a stream.

“Strict application of the two-vehicular connection requirement would result in significant degradation of the site and adjacent properties,” Long said. “We think it would be a different story if the Woodbrook community were just being platted and there weren’t any people living there now.”

Long said her client was willing to conduct additional traffic studies, and would be willing to explore a second connection to Rio Road if the Commission did not grant the waiver.

After Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) pointed out that the Putt Putt Place already has a failing intersection for those seeking to turn left, Long said the developer will have an incentive to work out the transportation issues so that people will want to live in Arden Place.

“If [residents] feel it’s not a safe entrance, they won’t want to live there,” Long said. “So there’s a built-in incentive on the part of the applicant to make sure that it’s going to work.”

PUBLIC COMMENT OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST INTERCONNECTIVITY

Thirty people spoke during the public comment period. The first speaker, John Gallagher, captured the general spirit of the audience when he said he was not opposed to the development, but did not want to be connected to it.  Another speaker, Charlie Trachta, said that crime from outsiders is already rampant and would only get worse if people could easily walk to the neighborhood. Bill Nuckols said he could see no advantage to having pedestrian access to Rio Road. Mike Mueller said he was opposed to the walking trail because it would bring strangers into his community.

“I moved to Woodbrook because it was a nice neighborhood,” Mueller said. “If you open it up to the shopping center and the apartment complex then it becomes the neighborhood recreational facility with people from ACAC running laps around our neighborhood. I don’t know those people.”

Some Woodbrook residents did support the pedestrian pathway. Steven Wilson said that while he was concerned about the potential for crime, he supported the County’s goals for connectivity and thought children in the Arden Place neighborhood could at least walk to Woodbrook Elementary School.

Many of the residents spoke to a greater sense of their residential neighborhood being affected by the growing urbanization of Albemarle County. Ann Hobson has lived in Woodbrook for 39 years, but now her son wants her to move elsewhere because he thinks U.S. 29 is too dangerous.

Kathy Welch said she had originally planned to support the applicant’s request for the waiver until she heard Long acknowledge that the applicant had not sought to build a second entrance onto Rio Road. Instead, she asked for a denial of the waiver because the site plan was “too preliminary.”

“Tell them to start over because they haven’t even considered using their own property as an access way,” Welch said.

On the subject of the public right-of-way, Jeff Deal said he believed that land was platted decades ago at a time when Albemarle County was not as developed. He said U.S. 29 was narrower and Rio Road was not a major arterial. He said if his community had sidewalks, it would make sense to connect to Arden Place.

COMMISSION CONSIDERS THE SITE PLAN APPLICATION

After the public comment period concluded, Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) immediately said that the Commission had the power to deny all the waivers. He called the preliminary site plan application “an ill-conceived proposal” and suggested the applicant start again.

Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) said he generally supports interconnectivity, but that it has to be on an equal basis. He did say he could support the pedestrian trail, because he did not see it as a threat to the neighborhood. However, he said the entrance of Putt Putt Place onto Rio did not pass his own safety test so he could not support the waiver of the two-entrance requirements.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said she also supported interconnectivity, but she was convinced that Woodbrook would not benefit in this case. She suggested the applicant develop a direct entrance onto Rio Road before coming back to the Commission.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she understood that having the second entrance onto Rio Road would not solve the traffic conditions, but at least it would give drivers leaving Arden Place a choice.

Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said he thought the develop needed two entrances, but said he was concerned that if the waiver is not granted, the developer might have the ability to build the road anyway. Bill Fritz, the County’s Chief of Current Development, said the Commission could still determine the “location and design and number of entrances.”

Strucko, a staunch supporter of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, said he entered the meeting trying to hold fast to interconnectivity but that he had been convinced by the overwhelming public opinion against both the road connection and the pedestrian connection.

The Commission spent several minutes debating potential options for where the second entrance should be. Edgerton called on his Commissioner to stop redesigning the project and to simply vote to deny the waivers.

“I would love to see our development area develop at the density that the zoning calls for, but not in a bad way,” Edgerton said. “If we grant waivers to help them do this, we’re working against the community.”
With a denial of the waiver for two-entrances looming, various Commissioners repeatedly asked Long if her client was willing to ask for a deferral. Long said she would prefer to move forward with the critical slopes waiver and the buffer-disturbance waiver, and then come back with a site plan showing a second entrance.

Porterfield said she was uncomfortable approving any waivers for a preliminary site plan she hadn’t yet seen. Commissioner Don Franco (Rio) agreed and said the applicant should take feedback from this meeting and return in the future with a revised plan.

In the end, five Commissioners expressed their opposition to the pedestrian trail. Without the pedestrian trail, the residential density allowed at Arden Place would be lower because it would no longer qualify for a 15% density bonus.

Porterfield said she thought one benefit would be that children from Arden Place could walk to school at Woodbrook Elementary School, rather than have to travel onto Rio Road and U.S. 29.

Long said her client was disappointed in the conclusion on the pedestrian committee trail.

“When we met with planning staff, they made the comments about that the fact that it would connect multiple neighborhoods within the designated development areas from one set of public roads to another,” Long said. “It facilitates walkability and exercise and open space and all of those things…. We’re very respectful of the neighborhood’s comments about not wanting people walking, but there is a public elementary school in the middle of their neighborhood.”

Long said because the land is already zoned R-15, it is costing the developer more to purchase so that is why they are pursing the bonus density. Strucko said he could appreciate that, but that the additional units would place additional burdens on the community’s infrastructure.

“We have to weigh the benefit of those additional 30 units and the traffic they generate on Rio Road versus the availability of this green space,” Strucko said.

DeNunzio said it would take VDOT at least 30 days to review a new preliminary site plan once it is received.

Franco encouraged the developer to seek another way to obtain the density bonuses, possibly by making off-site road improvements.

Andrew McGinty with Coleway Development said  that another way to get the bonus density would be to convert the project to a 100% affordable housing project, but that might be his only option.

20090623-McGinty
Andrew McGinty with Coleway Development

“Based on what I’ve heard [at this meeting], I can’t make a luxury product work here,” McGinty said. Instead, he might consider applying for tax credits through the Virginia Housing Development Authority and returning with a fully by-right development with 220 units.  He could do so by eliminating all open space and without preserving the woods.

“I am under a tremendous amount of pressure from my partners to not even try to do a luxury product,” McGinty said. “There’s absolutely no risk in doing more tax credit apartments on this site. A new community there would lease up instantly. All the tenants in the existing [nearby] communities would move over to the new one.”

Strucko said he acknowledged McGinty’s property rights, but that the Commission was charged with weighing the community’s greater interests versus the developers.

Edgerton grew impatient and asked to call the question on a motion to recommend denial of the waivers and the preliminary site plan application. With that, McGinty called for a deferral. The Commission voted to accept the deferral, and the preliminary site plan application will come before the Commission at a later date.

City seeking two new Planning Commissioners; Lewis, Farruggio stepping down

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The City is taking applications for two vacancies on the Charlottesville Planning Commission. Commissioner Cheri Lewis has served two terms and is ineligible for reappointment, and Commissioner Michael Farruggio has decided not to see a second term. Their terms expire at the end of August.
Potential members must be Charlottesville residents who are “qualified by knowledge and experience to make decisions of community growth and development.” At least half of the Commission must consist of property owners, which means citizens who are renting are eligible to serve.

The Commission serves as an advisory body to City Council and is charged with developing and evaluating the City’s comprehensive plan. They hold one regular meeting per month, as well as one work session. Each member also takes on committee assignments and some serve on other advisory bodies throughout City government.

Recent topics that have come before the Commission include whether or not to expand Belmont’s commercial corridor to accommodate another restaurant, how to amend the City’s zoning to accommodate single resident occupancies, and a preliminary site plan application for a new Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road.

20071211-Cheri-Lewis
Cheri Lewis (file photo)

Lewis joined the Planning Commission soon after unsuccessfully applying to the City’s Board of Architectural Review. Because Lewis is a Republican, she did not think she had a chance of being appointed to the Commission, but was encouraged to apply by then-Mayor David Toscano and Councilor Blake Caravati.

“If anyone is reluctant to apply, I would tell them to be encouraged because their chances are probably better than mine were”, Lewis said in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow. Lewis also said that anyone appointed to the Commission must be willing to work hard and must have a significant amount of time in order to do the job.

“You must be prepared to leave your predispositions, prejudices, agendas and niche expertise at the door of City Hall,” Lewis added. “You must be willing to make sometimes unpopular decisions based on our ordinances and guidelines and on behalf of all of the citizens of our City. 

Michael Farruggio, a full-time officer with the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow that he is stepping down in order to spend more time with his children.

Farruggio
Michael Farruggio (file photo)

“My kids are now 7 and 9 years old,” Farruggio said. “Four years ago they were 3 and 5 and me being away at meetings had less of an impact.” He recommended that applicants to contemplate how each developments that comes before the Planning Commission will affect the long-term future of Charlottesville.

“When it's done, and the developer has made their money and the politicians have moved on, will it be an asset or a detriment?” Farruggio asked.

Anyone wishing to apply should phone City Council Clerk Jeanne Cox at 970-3113. The deadline to apply is July 16, 2009. If Council receives enough applications to fill the two open positions, interviews with Council will likely be held in August with an appointments made later that month. Terms will begin on the first of September.

June 24, 2009

County Planning Commission continues Places29 discussion; Free Enterprise Forum’s Williamson softens criticism

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

At their meeting on June 16, 2009, the Albemarle County Planning Commission continued reviewing the Places29 Master Plan with further discussion of how future land use decisions will be shaped by the plan. Staff presented design guidelines for how buildings and properties should be developed along major roads and gave further detail about land use goals in the various “centers” called for in the plan.

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The work session covered Chapter 4 and Chapter 7. For this work session, County Senior Planner Elaine Echols said staff wanted feedback on how buildings should be placed in connection with roads (frontage conditions), as well as what kinds of boundaries should be placed between different place-types.

“[Frontage conditions are] a very important part of the plan because when the [Architectural Review Board] reviews projects on the Entrance Corridors, they really need some guidance on what [the Place29 Master] Plan’s expectations are for that road,” Echols said. “How should the buildings be oriented? Where should sidewalks be? Where should street trees be?”

The Commission reviewed five frontage types:

  • Urban frontage: Designed to promote buildings that are close to streets and “higher level of pedestrian activity,” according to Echols. Buildings would face the street.
  • Landscaped development yard frontage: Designed as a temporary solution for suburban-style parking lots that are currently the existing condition in many sections of U.S. 29. This type provides guidance on how to create buffers between those lots and the street through plantings
  • Landscaped residential yard frontage: This type would be rare, given that very few homes are on U.S. 29 in the Places29 area. It would mostly apply to other entrance corridors in the Places29 area, such as Rio Road
  • Open landscape frontage: Designed to preserve existing views of river valleys and fields. Echols said a goal of the County is to preserve a visual break between the southern and northern sections of the Places29 area.
  • Forested buffer frontage:  This type is meant to preserve the rural stretch between Hollymead and Polo Grounds Road, requiring an 80 to 100 feet deep buffer of forest.

Urban-frontage-example
Wiegand showed this conceptual image as an example of how the urban frontage condition would look, with buildings oriented close to the street

Ex Officio Commissioner Julia Monteith (University of Virginia) asked how realistic it would be to expect the urban frontage condition on U.S. 29. She asked if that would involve traffic calming to slow down vehicles so that café patrons could enjoy their meal. Echols responded that some approved developments, such as Albemarle Place, already include urban frontage in their site plans. Senior Planner Judy Wiegand said the expectation is that buildings will be built up to the road, but that pedestrians will likely spend more of their time on parallel and perpendicular roads as they travel to the future neighborhood centers. Wiegand said the pedestrian traffic at Albemarle Place is generally expected to be internal to the development.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) said she thought that 80 to 100 feet was too deep for a forested buffer. She said land in the growth area was too expensive and it was too unrealistic to expect developers to use that much of their land for a buffer. But Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said that the community had clearly expressed a desire to preserve the forested areas on U.S. 29 and he defended the depth called for in the forest buffer frontage condition..

“They put a lot of pressure early on in the [Places29] process that these residential communities not be really part of this plan,” Edgerton said. “I think it’s safe to say that this plan has responded to that.” He reminded the Commission that the idea of a parallel road on the eastern side of U.S. 29, the Northern Free State Road, was removed due to opposition.

Echols said she would bring back more specific descriptions in order to address the concerns expressed by Joseph and others.    

During the public comment period, Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum said he thought the urban frontage condition should not apply to Airport Road, given that the area contains a lot of the County’s remaining parcels of land zoned for light industrial uses. Williamson said he had a hard time envisioning the area being redeveloped with restaurants, shops and other retail uses.

Echols explained that the area around Airport Road is being planned as the “Uptown” for the Places29 area. She said she thought airport employees would walk to those restaurants.

“We wouldn’t want to have along that entrance corridor just a strict industrial look,” Echols said.
Echols also asked for the Commission’s opinion on how to manage boundaries between the urban and rural portions of the Places29 area. “The Neighborhood Model suggests that we should have a hard boundary between the development areas the rural area,” Echols said. That means that there would be no transition zone because that would mean land would not be as developed at the density called for in the Master Plan. One reason why this is relevant is because West Rio Road marks the boundary between the two areas and large portions of it are expected to be developed or redeveloped in the coming years.

As with frontage conditions, there are six suggested boundary conditions:

  • Urban-Developed – would allow for dense residential with minimal or no setbacks, small yards and fewer landscape elements
  • Urban-Landscaped – less dense development with deeper setbacks. An example would be the way Agnor-Hurt Elementary School is oriented to Berkmar Drive
  • Rural Residential – an example would be one side of Pritchett Lane. The side of the road facing the North Pointe development will not be redeveloped, but will remain with a rural character
  • Rural Fields – Only minimal development would be allowed in these area, such as individual buildings. The undeveloped grasslands on Hydraulic Road near Albemarle High School are one example of this existing condition.
  • Rural Forested - Only minimal development would be allowed in these area, such as individual buildings.
  • Riparian /Floodplain – Some boundaries are rivers and floodplains such as the areas that abut the Rivanna River

COMMISSION REVISITS LAND USE TABLES

On March 31, 2009, the Commission held a previous work session on Chapter 4, which deals with land uses in the various center types that will be defined in the Places29 Plan. Senior Planner Judy Wiegand said she had further revised five items based on Commissioner comments from that meeting:

  • Commission had been concerned about the suggested mix of uses in multi-story buildings as well as whether enough parking would be made available.
  • Commission recommended each “center” have 10% set aside for open space.
  • Commission recommended mixed uses be “maximized” so services are close to where people live.
  • Commission sought more information on whether two-story grocery stores might be possible.
  • Commission wanted to see more ways to discourage retail centers from being developed the same way they are today, with large parking lots fronting the road. In particular, the Commission wanted to stop “suburban style” centers.

On that last point, Wiegand said much of the way to discourage such development would come in the form of design guidelines that will be included in an appendix to Places29. She said the County’s comprehensive plan already relies on the use of the Neighborhood Model in the growth area.

Destination-center-example  
Wiegand showed this as an example of how a "destination center" might look. The "uptown" area is being slated as one of these place types

We’re looking to make sure that these centers are more densely developed and walkable,” Wiegand said. “That will help avoid the suburban style if [developers] will come in and concentrate the buildings and the parking and the open space… We have these centers oriented towards parallel and perpendicular streets so they can be more walkable and a suburban style is not going to be attractive in those locations.” Interconnectivity is also being encouraged so that people can walk between and within centers.

On the topic of two-story grocery stores, Wiegand said she doubted whether any developer would be willing to build such a structure in the near future given the current lack of density. However, Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) noted that he has recently seen a grocery store in Chester, Virginia that offers restaurant-seating on the second floor.

Commissioner Don Franco (Rio) said he remained skeptical that neighborhood service centers would realistically develop the way County planners envisioned. Using the Westfield area as an example, Franco said if redevelopment occurs with multiple owners, there could be a lack of coordination that could prevent “meaningful open space” from being reserved. He said he could see a situation where developers are forced to buy up an entire street to carry out the County’s goals. 

County Planner Echols said the Places29 narrative acknowledges that large areas of open-space will be hard to achieve if neighborhood centers are developed on a parcel-by-parcel basis. However, she said developers may have the 10% requirement waived or reduced if their property is within walking distance of a County park.

“We’re trying to accommodate those concerns realizing that redevelopment could come in as one small parcel, [or] it could come in as several parcels being redeveloped together,” Echols said.

During the public comment period for Chapter 4, Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum warned that sales tax revenue would decline if retail stores move out to surrounding counties in order to avoid the various requirements called for in Places29.

Free Enterprise Forum’s Williamson softens statement on recent report

20090616-Williamson
Neil Williamson

At the beginning of the meeting, Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum read a statement that defended his organization’s recent “Reality Check Report” but also recognized that the use of the word “deceitful” in its accompanying press release was out of line. He said his group continued to encourage the Planning Commission to use inflation-adjusted figures in calculating cost estimates, rather than current-year figures. “While disagreeing vehemently with that approach, the Free Enterprise Forum regrets what was an inartful characterization of it,” Williamson said. “The Free Enterprise Forum recognizes there are positive elements to the Places29 plan. [We] will never shy away from highlighting policy disagreements with the [Planning Commission] or any other governmental entity.”

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Don Franco read a statement indicating that he resigned from the Board of Directors for both the Free Enterprise Forum and the Blue Ridge Home Builder’s Association when he joined the Commission. 

“I stepped back from my leadership role in these organizations because of the required time commitments and to help ensure that as a Planning Commissioner I was equally accessible to all citizens,” Franco said. He said he continued to support the goals of the Free Enterprise Forum, but stood by the Planning Commission’s decision to use current year dollars to calculate cost estimates for the transportation components of the Places29 Master Plan.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum reads a statement
  • 04:50 – Planning Commission Chairman Eric Strucko introduces work session
  • 08:52 – County Planner Elaine Echols describes the “urban frontage” type
  • 11:08 – Echols describes the “landscaped development” type
  • 12:45 – Echols describes the “landscaped residential yard” type
  • 13:30 – Echols describes the “open landscape” and “forested buffer” types
  • 15:40 – Echols begins conversation about the need to create boundaries between rural and urban areas
  • 18:00 – Echols describes “urban-developed” boundary condition
  • 18:52 - Echols describes “urban-landscaped” boundary condition
  • 19:23 - Echols describes “rural-residential” boundary condition
  • 21:00 – Commissioner Tom Loach asks how boundaries would be maintained
  • 22:45 – Loach asks question about multi-use paths shown next to grade-separated interchanges
  • 24:15 – Julia Monteith asks a question about how realistic the urban frontage condition actually is
  • 25:10 – Monteith also asks what happens to transitional conditions in the long run.
  • 26:00 – Echols and Judy Wiegand respond to Monteith
  • 29:20 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph says she does not support a forested buffer of 80 to 100 feet because land is expensive
  • 34:10 – Joseph asks question about setbacks for parking
  • 37:00 – Loach commented that it is a good idea to further distance cyclists from U.S. 29 as the speed of the roadway increases
  • 38:20 – Franco agrees with Joseph that the forested buffer of 80 to 100 feet is too deep
  • 45:30 – Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum expresses concern about the urban frontage condition applying to the Airport Road area, followed by a discussion of his concern
  • 52:00 – Commission switches to discussion of Chapter 4
  • 52:50 – Wiegand lists the Commission’s concerns from March 13 work session
  • 53:50 – Wiegand addresses issue #2: open space in centers
  • 55:30 – Wiegand addresses issue #3: maximizing mixed use
  • 56:30 – Wiegand addresses issue #4: whether grocery stores can be two-story; she doubts it
  • 58:00 – Wiegand addresses issue #5: how to avoid duplicating existing conditions
  • 59:30 – Wiegand addresses issue #1: concerns with parking in multiple story buildings; Wiegand than shows slides of other what other center types may look like
  • 1:10:30 – Wiegand discusses parking requirements for different building footprints
  • 1:17:00 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks about the definition of a “flex” building
  • 1:19:20 – Joseph asks question about impacts of heavy industrial
  • 1:21:00 – Joseph makes comment about potential restrictions on moving companies
  • 1:22:15 – Commissioner Cal Morris gives Virginia example of a two-story grocery store
  • 1:24:30 – Commissioner Don Franco says he remains concerned about how retail service centers will work
  • 1:26:30 – Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) makes comment about multi-story buildings and parking
  • 1:28:20 – Echols responds to Franco’s concern
  • 1:30:00 – Julia Monteith raises a concern about using the potential redevelopment of Shopper’s World Plaza as an example of developing green space
  • 1:32:00 – Neil Williamson hands out sheet with sales tax revenue handed out by Chamber of Commerce
  • 1:36:00 – Strucko addresses Williamson’s comments
  • 1:37:00 – Joseph asks a question about mixing retail and light industrial uses
  • 1:42:00 – Franco comments about his former position as a Board member for the Free Enterprise Forum

June 22, 2009

New 206-unit apartment complex raises interconnectivity concerns with Woodbrook neighbors

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 22, 2009

One of the goals of the Places29 Master Plan is to encourage greater housing density in Albemarle County’s growth area. One way to achieve that goal is through in-fill development on empty parcels of land. However, the reality may be that some of the plans will be hard to implement due to a lack of cooperation between adjoining property owners, fears from existing residential neighborhoods, as well as County regulations designed to ensure that the transportation infrastructure can support the additional density.

20090622-ArdenPlace    Location map for the proposed Arden Place development.
The arrows in blue indicate sites for possible road connection
s.

On Tuesday, June 23, 2009, the Albemarle County Planning Commission will take up a preliminary site plan for a 206-unit by-right multifamily apartment complex called Arden Place. The property is located off of Rio Road and Putt Putt Place and is being developed by Coleway Development for the Charlottesville Realty Corporation.  The project does requires a critical slopes waiver as well as a waiver to disturb an existing buffer between the property and the Woodbrook neighborhood. On the surface, it would seem that the development is in keeping with the spirit of Places29. Because of appropriate efforts to mitigate impacts, staff has recommended approval of the two waivers.

However, even with the waivers, County staff initially recommended that the Planning Commission deny the preliminary site plan application because the developer cannot currently build a second road to support the complex. County regulations require that an apartment complex with over 50 residential units have at least two vehicular connections to public streets.

County Engineer Glenn Brooks wrote in a May 1, 2009 review that building only one vehicular entrance at Putt Putt Lane and Rio Road would not be enough to support the development. In particular, those seeking to turn left from Putt Putt Place onto Rio Road will experience long delays. However, Brooks also noted in his letter that the intersection did not yet meet the minimum guidelines for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to build a traffic signal. Additionally, Brooks said the development would further congest the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. Route 29, as well as the intersection of Putt Putt Place and Rio Road.

Download Download County Engineer Glenn Brooks' May 1, 2009 letter (.PDF)

However, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner intervened in the review late last week with a June 18, 2009 letter which states that the County lacks the authority to deny a site plan based on anticipated off-site transportation impacts.. Since then, the developer has asked for a waiver of the County regulations that require two vehicular connections. Instead, of a vehicular connection to Woodbrook, the developer is proposing to build a pedestrian path connecting to a strip of property owned by the County, a public right-of-way which was intended for future neighborhood connectivity. This would allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic between Arden Place and Mallside Forest Apartments to the Woodbrook neighborhood, location of the neighborhood elementary school. In an updated staff report, County Planner Gerald Gotubu recommended approval of this waiver.

DownloadDownload Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner's letter

Additionally, the developer is also in negotiations with the owners of the Albemarle Square commercial development to build the second road connection near the former Circuit City building. This would allow traffic to reach Rio Road via the traffic light for Albemarle Square. However, negotiations have not yet been successful.

With seemingly reluctant support of the site plan, County staff continues to warn against the traffic impacts Arden Place will have on Rio Road.

“Without a signal, and anticipating normal growth as well as the addition of the Arden Place development, in  approximately 5 years the expected delay for a vehicle attempting to turn left from Putt Putt Place onto Rio Road East will be over 19 minutes,” the amended report states. “Without the Arden Place development, this delay would be 7.3 minutes.” The report goes on to say that if the connection to Albemarle Square could be constructed, the wait would be only 5 minutes.

As the site plan evolved, residents of the Woodbrook neighborhood mobilized to take action to oppose the connection of a public street through their neighborhood. They created their own blog to monitor the situation and will be on hand for the Planning Commission’s meeting this week to provide input. 

June 19, 2009

Albemarle County Service Authority approves 2010 water rates; Forty-percent of customers will see lower rates with conservation

By Julia Glendening
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 19, 2009

On June 18, 2009, the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) reviewed and approved water and sewer rate increases as part of its FY 2010 budget. The ACSA also unanimously approved the year’s budget. The increased rates will go into effect on July 1, 2009 and were first announced on March 19, 2009.

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20090618-acsa-table
Proposed ACSA water/sewer rates for FY 2010

Some of the changes this year include a decreased rate for single-family residential customers who use less than 3,000 gallons a month. The proposed rate is $3.32 per 1,000 gallons, a 14% decrease from the 2009 price of $3.86. The ACSA would not make money from customers who use less than 3,000 because all of their water would be sold at the same amount it is purchased from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority(RWSA). According to the ACSA Rate Study updated on May 29, 2009, this level will include approximately 40% of customers. 

The ACSA has a tiered rate system. Customers in the second tier will be charged $6.64 for every 1,000 gallons they consume over 3,000 gallons a month.  Customers who consume over 6,000 gallons per cycle will be charged $9.96 for every 1,000 gallons.  This year, the ACSA authorized a fourth level to the system which will charge customers $13.28 for every 1,000 gallons they consume over 9,000 gallons. The idea is to encourage conservation through lower prices for those who save water, with higher rates for those who do not.

The wastewater price will be increased from $7 to $7.21 per 1,000 gallons in 2010 for all customers, a 3% increase from the 2009 rate.

During the public hearing, County resident Fred Weinberg asked the ACSA to explain why rates in the County were higher compared to his research of other counties, especially Fairfax. He expressed the need for a comparison of rates between counties and then a public explanation about the reason for higher rates.

20090618-ACSA
ACSA Board members

“As just a public Mr. Joe, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why our sewer rates are so much higher than others. I don’t understand why our water rates are so much higher,” said Weinberg.

ACSA Board member Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) said an “exhaustive” study was conducted over the past six to eight months and said he believed the “structure made sense.” Reasons he listed for the 1.3% increase were to try and keep customers conservative with the incentive of a cheaper rate for using less water and to not burden current customers.

“What we’re really trying to do is honestly charge people what in fact the expenses are going to be for the coming year,” said Colbaugh.

ACSA Board member Liz Palmer (Samuel Miller) agreed it would be a good idea to compare counties, especially neighboring counties similar in size to Albemarle. She said Fairfax has lower water rates due to higher connection fees, but the main reason is because Fairfax has a larger number of people on the water system.

Chair Don Wagner (Rio) said a possible explanation for higher rates is because ACSA receives no extra money from the County or State and only receives what is collected from citizens for water use.

Vice Chair Clarence Roberts (Rivanna) expressed his worry that citizens will experience “rate shock” over the next couple years. He stated the rate study predicts an 8% increase in water rates in 2011, while there will only be a 1.3% increase in 2010. He questioned whether the County should borrow less from their reserves and increase 2010 rates in order to mitigate the much greater 2011 rates.

 “I think that the attempt this year was to not burden people because of the economy,” responded Palmer.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:21 - Clarence Roberts comments on future rate increase
  • 04:17 - Liz Palmer states a reason for small change in rates
  • 08:16 - Fred Weinberg comments on high price of water
  • 12:06 - Betty Mooney asks how dam costs will it affect water rates
  • 15:09 - Palmer responds to Weinberg
  • 16:51 - Don Wagner comments on no excess money for the Service Authority
  • 17:49 - Jim Colbaugh states reasons for rate increase
  • 24:34 - Palmer comments that the change is relatively small
  • 27:00 - John Martin comments on history of Charlottesville water supply
  • 30:34 - Roberts asks about management of transfer process
  • 31:56 - Colbaugh asks about emergency rates
  • 33:04 - Martin suggests change in rates for irrigation
  • 34:51 - Colbaugh disagrees with Martin’s suggestion
  • 37:10 - Palmer asks if irrigation is in a separate class in other counties
  • 40:31 - Richard Carter moves to pass the water rate budget

City Council defers temporary parking permits for residents near new Onesty Pool

Charlottesville Tomorrow
By Julia Glendening
Friday, June 19, 2009

20090618-onesty-view2
Onesty Family Aquatic Center opens June 20, 2009

On June 15, 2009, City Council deferred the establishment of a permit parking zone near the new Onesty Family Aquatic Center in Meade Park. The Onesty Pool opens on Saturday, June 20 and some residents have expressed concern that the neighborhood will lose parking spots due to overflow parking from a large number of visitors. The press release announcing the center’s opening warned that the pool will exceed capacity in its inaugural weeks.

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City staff held a community meeting on June 4 to discuss possible options to maintain parking for residents in the area. The residents decided zone permit parking would be their preferred option, however, by a 3-1 vote, City Council deferred the issue until their next meeting on July 6 to examine the parking problem after the pool has opened.

The Onesty Pool will have an area of 62,000 square feet, which would require a private developer to provide 104 parking spaces. However, the Planning Commission granted a waiver on September 9, 2008 to reduce the number of parking spaces to 38. Jeanie Alexander, the City of Charlottesville's Traffic Engineer, said the Parks and Recreation Department will shuttle employees from City parking lots in order to reduce parking spaces used by employees. Alexander also confirmed there are bicycle racks and there was a revision to the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) route 1A, so a bus will directly access the pool.

“We’re trying to decrease the dependence on the automobile and increase transit, walking,” said Alexander.

Alexander said there are potentially 25 parking spaces along roads adjacent to the property, making a total of about 60 available spaces to pool users. The pool’s maximum occupancy is 255 and residents of the area voiced their opinion about the large amount of street parking which could be taken by pool patrons. At the June 4 meeting, the citizens requested the implementation of zone permit parking on streets next to the Onesty Pool to reserve some spaces for residents.

City staff recommended City Council approve a trial period of a year for the parking permits. At the time of the Council’s consideration, the areas under consideration for parking permits were:
Chesapeake Street from Meade Avenue to Fairway Avenue

  • 200-320 Meade Avenue
  • East Jefferson Street from 12th Street (southern leg) to Meade Avenue
  • 13th Street between East Jefferson Street and Little High Street
  • Little High Street from 13th Street to Meade Avenue

During the trial period, the permits would be free of charge. Usually the permits cost $25 each for residents with driveways. If a household does not have a driveway, it is eligible for two free permits. The permit would be required from 10 AM to 8 PM during the pool season and signs would be installed to indicate permit parking locations.

20090615-onesty-parking-lot
The Onesty Pool parking lot has 25 available spaces for visitors

Councilor David Brown said he was unsure about trying to solve a problem before it was documented. He acknowledged there might be problems for residents who do not have driveways, therefore requiring them to find a parking spot on the street.

“I’m frankly somewhat uneasy about solving a problem before we know it exists,” said Brown. He said he felt this was a preemptive complaint by the residents and the Council should wait to go through the usual permit zone process after the pool opens.

Alexander did not know the percentage of residents without driveways, but said the area does have some houses without driveways. She reiterated this would be a trial year for the permits and the Council could examine the issue again throughout the pool season.

Mayor Dave Norris said he approved of the trial parking permits because the residents of the neighborhood decided on this solution and believed numerous people will use the pool, especially in the opening season.

“We sort of created a monster here because [the pool] is going to be such a beautiful facility and I think people are going to want to flock to this facility,” Norris said. “It wasn’t necessarily intentioned as a regional facility.”

Brown recommended the Council discuss the issue during their July meeting in order to observe any parking problems during the first month and then possibly approve the trial period for the permits. Councilor Julian Taliaferro agreed that he would rather wait to hear complaints before creating a permit zone.

The Onesty pool was compared to the Washington Park pool, which has a greater maximum occupancy of 300 and fewer parking spaces, about 24 or 26. Alexander said there have been no complaints in this area.

The Council voted 3-1 to defer the application of trial parking permits in the Onesty pool area and will be reviewed on July 6.

During the same discussion, Norris said he was concerned about the future of the farmer’s market currently located in Meade Park. Brian Daly, Acting Parks and Recreation Director, assured him that the market would still be located in Meade Park and said it would have a maximum of 25 vendors, a similar amount to this past year. Daly said the pool would close at 2 PM on Wednesdays in order to keep the market in the same location, but the market might also affect parking in the area.

“Throughout the master planning process for Meade Park, it was very evident among the members of the community and the neighbors that they loved the farmer’s market and wanted to keep it,” said Daly.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 - Dave Norris introduces
  • 01:13 - Jeanie Alexander presents background information
  • 04:17 - Norris clarifies number of spaces
  • 05:45 - Satyendra Huja asks about bicycle racks
  • 06:05 - David Brown comments on whether problem exists
  • 11:12 - Julian Taliaferro asks about Washington Park
  • 11:18 - Norris asks questions about logistics of permits
  • 12:38 - Norris begins discussion on farmer's market
  • 15:45 - Huja asks whether permits can be postponed
  • 17:40 - Brown recommends discussing the issue in July
  • 22:10 - Brown motions to defer issue