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July 30, 2009

Report: Bigger South Fork pipeline won’t affect required size of new Ragged Mountain dam

20090728-Wide

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 30, 2009

At their meeting on July 28, 2009, the Board of Directors for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was updated on the implementation of the 50-year community water supply plan, and heard the results of a study to determine whether a larger diameter pipeline called for in the plan would allow for a reduction in height of the new Ragged Mountain Dam.

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Board receives updates on water supply plan

2006map-from-permit
A portion of a map included in the 2006 permit application for the community water supply plan shows the RWSA water supply system. The red line marks the 36" pipe that would connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir with the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. (Click to enlarge)

The 50-year community water supply plan  adopted by the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in June 2006 established a requirement that the water supply be able to maintain a safe-yield of 18.7 million gallons a day (MGD) by the year 2055. That is the daily amount that could be safely be taken from the water supply while ensuring a reserve large enough to provide drinking water during the worst drought on public record.

The plan, which has received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, would meet the 2055 demand by expanding the Ragged Mountain Reservoir to a total storage capacity of 2.19 billion gallons. Currently the reservoir holds 464 million gallons. The new dam would need to be 45 feet higher in order to create the necessary storage. The Ragged Mountain Reservoir would be filled via a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

However, the plan has been come under fire from some in the community who for various reasons would prefer to increase the system’s water capacity by dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to its original capacity. Since the fall of 2007, members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan have put pressure on the Charlottesville City Council to reconsider the adopted plan.

Councilors and Supervisors both reaffirmed the plan in June of 2008, but not without reopening negotiations about some of the elements of the plan. In March 2008, City Council and the Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting with the RWSA and Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) boards at which it was decided that additional information was needed to provide better cost estimates to determine if dredging met the community’s needs while remaining cost-effective.

At their retreat in June, RWSA Board members requested a status update on the efforts to obtain the additional data on the elements of the community water supply plan. Frederick provided the following updates at the July meeting of the RWSA Board.

  • Firms have until August 4 to submit a bid for the redesign of the new Ragged Mountain Dam. The RWSA terminated its contract with original designer Gannett Fleming after the cost estimates on the dam approached $100 million. A revised cost estimate for the new dam is expected to be ready in Spring 2010. 
  • Two firms who submitted proposals for a dredging feasibility study will be interviewed on August 3, 2009 at the Albemarle County Service Authority’s headquarters. The RWSA is expected to make a decision at its meeting on August 25, 2009.
  • Four firms have submitted proposals to review the conceptual design for the pipeline between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The RWSA Board gave Tom Frederick the power to select a firm to conduct the study, but it cannot spend more than $25,000 on the project. The study is expected to be finished by the end of this year.
  • RWSA staff will create a table listing the pros and cons of three pipelines to fuel the community’s water supply. These are the South Fork pipeline, a pipeline from the James River and a replacement of the existing Sugar Hollow pipeline. This table will be ready after the review of SFRR to RMR pipeline is completed.

During the public comment period, Betty Mooney of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said the RWSA staff was misrepresenting the wishes of City Council in the way the dredging feasibility study is being characterized.

“The City is paying for studies not for opportunistic dredging or for selective dredging or for recreational dredging, but for full restorative dredging to possibly be part of the long-term solution for our 50-year water supply plan,” Mooney said. “The City has clearly said they want the dredging information to make a cost comparison to the dam-pipeline concept and that is why they are paying for a large part of the study.” Mooney said one of the proposals makes no references to restorative dredging. City Councilor Holly Edwards now represents Council on the RWSA Board.

Mooney also called upon the RWSA to revisit the demand analysis conducted in 2004 by Gannett Fleming that established the safe-yield target of 18.7 MGD for 2055.  She and other members of her group argue that the community will need less water in the future because of better technology and education about water conservation.

Bigger South Fork pipeline won’t decrease necessary size for new Ragged Mountain dam

At the March 2008 meeting of the four boards, Mayor Dave Norris asked for a study to be conducted to determine if the size of the new Ragged Mountain Dam could be lowered if a larger diameter pipeline could be installed to connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The theory was that the community could have enough water supply to withstand a drought if the Ragged Mountain Reservoir could be filled more quickly.

The RWSA hired Hydrologics, a water resource management firm based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, to study the issue. Their engineers conducted a series of simulations in which different pipeline sizes were tested using the same meteorological and hydrological data from previous droughts. They concluded that diameter of the pipeline would have no bearing on the necessary storage needed in the entire water supply system to meet the projected safe yield demand of 18.7 million gallons a day in 2055.

Download  Download the report from Hydrologics

Dede Smith of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan accused the RWSA of doctoring the report, claiming that they had issued a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain correspondence between RWSA officials and Hydrologics. Tamara Ambler, Water Resources Manager for the RWSA, explained that the document was edited to make it more clear to the public.

“I can guarantee you that no factual changes were made,” Ambler said. “I’m not an engineer and one of the things that I think is important given public scrutiny is that we make sure that reports written by engineers can be understood by people who are not engineers.”

Other news from the meeting:

  • Leslie Middleton, Executive Director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission, called upon the RWSA to sign a letter asking Governor Tim Kaine to clear up the state’s rules on the use of rainwater harvesting and other gray waters. She said several other area organizations have endorsed the letter, which asks for a clarification of the rules. Frederick said he would have an answer for Middleton by the end of this week.
  • Frederick said the risk for drought is currently low. The pool at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is temporarily being drawn down by 3 feet to prepare for hurricane season to reduce the risk of the dams failing.
  • Faulconer Construction has agreed to work with RWSA to make sure work on Schnenks’ Branch Interceptor coincides with construction of McIntire Road Extended. This way work doesn’t have to be done twice
  • New estimate for the Meadowcreek sewer interceptor project is $30.2 million
  • The Board allocated $75,000 to match a grant from the Water Research Foundation to upgrade water treatment process at Scottsville and South Rivanna water treatment plantsTIMELINE FOR PODCAST:


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Meeting called to order by Chairman Mike Gaffney
  • 02:50 – Report from Executive Director Tom Frederick
  • 04:10 – Frederick details updates to the community water supply plan
  • 06:30 – Frederick discusses Hydrologics study on diameter of South Fork pipeline
  • 07:45 – Frederick begins conversation on developing the Capital Improvement Program
  • 09:20 – Frederick updates Board on streamflows
  • 11:20 – Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas asks when cost allocation regarding dredging feasibility study will be worked out
  • 12:30 – Public comment from City resident Betty Mooney
  • 19:22 – Public comment from City resident Dede Smith
  • 22:20 – Tom Frederick responds to Dede Smith’s accusation of fraud
  • 25:00 – Public comment from County resident Richard Lloyd regarding legality of “four chairs”
  • 28:00 – Public comment from Hawes Spencer, publisher of the Hook
  • 31:30 – Public comment from John Martin of Friends of the Moormans River and ACSA Board Member
  • 35:00 – Public comment from Leslie Middleton, Executive Director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission
  • 38:30 -  Thomas asks what progress is being made towards the Comprehensive Sanitary Sewer Interceptor
  • 39:30 – Thomas asks question about Route 29 Pipeline being designed by RWSA to connect South Fork and North Fork water treatment plants
  • 42:00 – Thomas talks about the importance of linking infrastructure availability to land use decisions made by the Board of Supervisors
  • 45:50 – Frederick updates Board on negotiations with VDOT and Faulconer Construction regarding coordination of Schenk’s Branch Interceptor work with Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 48:15 – ACSA Executive Gary Fern asks questions about issuance of bonds to pay for Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment upgrades
  • 49:20 – Christopher Kulp of Hunton & Williams explains the conditions of the bond package
  • 52:30 – RWSA Operations Director Bob Wichser explains the $75,000 grant being applied for from the Water Research Foundation to upgrade water treatment process at Crozet and Scottsville plants
  • 59:30 – RWSA’s Tamara Ambler begins discussing Hydrologics report
  • 1:03:00 – RWSA receives award from the Virginia Department of Health
  • 1:05:30 – Thomas encourages RWSA to endorse letter as requested by Leslie Middleton
  • 1:07:00 – City Councilor Holly Edwards requests RWSA to be consistent in its responses to matters that come from the public

July 28, 2009

Planning Commission approves potential new site for Senior Center; Charlottesville Day School would need new home

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has recommended approval of a special use permit (SUP) that would allow the Senior Center to relocate into the Four Seasons neighborhood. The non-profit organization would move from Pepsi Place to a building owned by ACAC that is currently rented to the private Charlottesville Day School (CDS). That institution received an SUP in March 2007 allowing it to enroll up to 250 children.

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20090728-CDS-ACAC
The Charlottesville Day School currently rents half of this building owned by the ACAC

However, now the owner of ACAC is considering selling the building and two adjoining parcels to the Senior Center, which mean CDS needs to find a new location. Negotiations are ongoing, but the Senior Center sought their SUP now in order to make sure they could operate in the new location should the sale be finalized.

Staff recommended the Commission grant the SUP because it would allow the Senior Center to expand to offer programs for Albemarle’s growing elderly population. Senior Planner Judy Wiegand also said the SUP would “mitigate or eliminate some of the issues with the current private school use.” At least one neighbor has complained about noise made by children at the facility. CDS offers education to two-year-olds through 6th grade.

Mary Reese, the President of the Senior Center’s Board of Trustees, said the organization will plan its 50th anniversary in 2010. She said there is an increasing need to address the region’s senior population.

“We are excited about what the move will mean in terms of our being able to not only continue but to increase our services to the senior population in the community,” Reese said. Peter Thompson, the center’s Executive Director, said the need to expand is crucial.

20090721-Peter-Thompson
Peter Thompson, Executive Director of the Senior Center

“We are bursting at the seams, and this is all about meeting a community need,” Thompson said. He said the Senior Center has outgrown its current location. “We don’t have adequate parking, we don’t have enough program space to provide new programs, and we don’t have the right type of program space to make meet the growing demand for lifelong learning and group exercise.” 

He said the new location offers twice the space and twice the parking, and is accessible via transit via the Charlottesville Transit Service’s Route 5. He said the new neighborhood is also more pedestrian-friendly, and that being next door to ACAC’s aquatic facility would provide a natural partnership. Thompson said the Senior Center would be a better neighbor to nearby residents than CDS because of the presence of loud children.

“Our fun and games tend to be more inside, and we don’t expect a lot of screaming children outside,” Thompson said. He also said that vehicle traffic to the site would be spread out throughout the day, rather than being heavy during peak hours. 

However, two CDS representatives appeared before the Commission to make sure their needs were not neglected. Last September, they appeared before the Commission during a pre-application work session  to determine whether a site in the rural area off of Hydraulic Road would be appropriate for their school. The site in question was not within the Albemarle County Service Authority’s jurisdictional area, and Commissioners were doubtful that they could recommend approval.

20090728-CDS-close-up
The Charlottesville Day School can stay in their current location at least through August 2010

CDS School Director Dave Bruns, who has two children enrolled in the school, said he did not oppose the Senior Center moving in to the space. He said the school is in a 5-year lease with the owners of ACAC, but the last two years can be discontinued if ACAC so chooses. Bruns said the situation is filled with uncertainty for the future of the Charlottesville Day School.

“We are not in the position to go around pursuing special use permits and spending donation and tuition dollars on projects that may not be necessary,” Bruns said. “We don’t know if we’re leaving or not.” At the very least, the school knows it can stay put until August 15, 2010.

Bruns said he was concerned that County staff said in their report that the presence of seniors would be more favorable than the presence of children at the site. 

“We don’t make nearly the noise that’s going to be permitted under [the Senior Center’s] special use permit,” Bruns said. Bruns said he needed to know where CDS might relocate, as soon as possible.

“We employ 30 people. This year, in our third year as a school, we had 150 kids,” Bruns  said. “I think that speaks to the need in this community. We need the support of the County and our fellow non-profits to meet that need, and currently we’re not getting it.”

Dr. Sean Reed said that he also had no issue with the Senior Center, but took issue with the noise concern raised by staff. He said the building had housed two schools previous to the CDS, and said he was nervous about his institution’s future.

Both Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) and Commissioner Don Franco (Rio) said she felt staff had raised the noise issue because that reflected the public input that had been received.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she was concerned that the existing entrance would not be suitable when the property serves an elderly population rather than school children. Thompson said that engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation had studied the site, and did not recommend making any adjustments to the entrance.

During their discussion, the Commission did not otherwise address the situation with CDS. However, Linda Porterfield asked the Senior Center to give as much notice as possible to the Charlottesville Day School when they make a decision. The vote to recommend approval of the SUP was 4-0, and it will now go to the Board of Supervisors later this year.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Staff report from Judy Wiegand, Albemarle County Senior Planner
  • 06:45 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks about the timing of the SUPs
  • 11:50 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield asks if a new entrance can be created
  • 14:08 – Presentation from Mary Reese, President of the Senior Center’s Board of Trustees
  • 16:30 – Presentation from Peter Thompson, Executive Director of the Senior Center
  • 24:00 – Joseph asks if Senior Center will serve as a community center for nearby residents
  • 26:10 – Public comment from Lawrence Cabel
  • 27:20 – Public comment from Dave Bruns of Charlottesville Day School
  • 33:30 – Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 34:30 – Public comment from Sean Reed, husband of teacher at CDS
  • 37:15 – Joseph addresses the noise question
  • 40:00 – Commissioner Don Franco makes a motion to approve the SUP with conditions
  • 40:20 – Deputy Attorney Greg Kamptner suggests some revisions to conditions
  • 43:50 – Commissioner Bill Edgerton expresses concern about two SUPs being on the same property at the same time
  • 49:00 – Porterfield asks the Senior Center to give as  much notice to the school as possible

Fenwick says City Council should invest in sidewalk repairs

By Julia Glendening & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

20090725-Fenwick1
Bob Fenwick, City Council Candidate (I)

Independent City Council candidate, Bob Fenwick, held the second of his “Fenwick Forums” on July 25, 2009 at the First Amendment monument on the Downtown Mall. He plans to hold weekly forums leading up to the election on November 3. Last week he discussed the Meadowcreek Parkway and this week he focused on the importance of repairing the Charlottesville infrastructure, especially city sidewalks. Fenwick said many injuries have occurred due to faulty sidewalks. Pat Napoleon attested to this statement and told her story of a sidewalk injury.

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“Several months ago I tripped and fell on a jagged, defective downtown sidewalk,” said Napoleon. “I endured weeks of pain and effects of trauma and narrowly missed severe permanent results to my face.”

Napoleon agreed with Fenwick by saying the City should be allocating its money towards repairing the city and said she believed Fenwick is “ably and effectively taking charge” of the sidewalk problem.

“The injury amount seems to be in the thousands of dollars,” said Fenwick. “It is only a matter of time until the City of Charlottesville has a major lawsuit followed by a major million dollar judgment.”

Fenwick was asked by Charlottesville Tomorrow to comment on City Council’s current priority to fix the aging infrastructure and what he would do differently. Fenwick said if he had the power he would begin repairs immediately. He also said there would be no need to raise taxes and believed enough money could be found within the budget. Fenwick said the money saved from the Downtown Mall renovation project also could have been reallocated to fix city sidewalks.

Fenwick is running against Paul Long (I), Dave Norris (D), and Kristin Szakos (D) in the November 3, 2009 City Council election. Andrew Williams (I) is also running a write-in campaign for one of the two available seats on City Council.

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

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 – Bob Fenwick begins forum on the City budget
  • 06:08 – Pat Napoleon gives her example of a sidewalk injury
  • 08:11 – Brian Wheeler from Charlottesville Tomorrow asks what Fenwick would do differently if elected to City Council
  • 10:14 – Wheeler asks if the City has the resources to fix the infrastructure
  • 10:35 – Bill Sampson asks how Fenwick would relieve pressure on overly taxed homeowners
  • 13:02 – Sampson comments on amount of tax revenue going to City schools

July 26, 2009

Planning Commission weighs cost estimates and inclusion of Western Bypass in Places29 Master Plan

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, July 24, 2009

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has conducted another review of the draft Places29 Master Plan. This time their attention was focused on Chapter 8, which lays out a series of steps of how the master plan’s recommendations could be implemented. The Commission’s latest deliberation took place during their meeting on July 14, 2009.

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Commission revisits chapter on implementation

The main subject of the latest work session was a further review of Chapter 8, which details how the Places29 Master Plan will be implemented. An updated list of 58 transportation and other infrastructure projects now features more detail as well as preliminary cost estimates. The Plan does not tally up the total amount for these projects, but Charlottesville Tomorrow has calculated around $352 million in improvements recommended to be begin within the next 10 years.

Download Download the Places29 Implementation table dated June 23, 2009

 29H250image
The various elements of "Project 5" are depicted in multiple colors, and would be built over time. The area in red is the proposed grade-separated interchange for Hydraulic Road (click to enlarge)

“Project 5” consists of nine individual projects, mostly in the City of Charlottesville, that were recommended as part of a previous study called 29H250. Some of the projects, including the building of a second lane for the on-ramp to the Route 29-250 Bypass in front of the Best Buy, are already awaiting construction funds. Future improvements in “Project 5” include a partial reconstruction of the existing 29-250 interchange,  the widening of Route 29 between Hydraulic Road and the 29-250 Bypass, and a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road. Together, the projects have a preliminary cost estimate of $84 million in 2010 dollars.

Another high priority project is the widening of Route 29 to six lanes from Polo Grounds Road at the South Fork Rivanna River to Hollymead Town Center. This carries a preliminary cost estimate of nearly $30 million.

Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) wanted to make sure that the plan is presented in such a way as to not give false expectations to the community that infrastructure will definitely be built just because these projects are listed in a master plan. He said the Crozet Master Plan called for improvements to be made to Jarmans Gap Road, but the County has not yet saved up enough secondary road funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to begin construction. He repeated a request made at the previous meeting on Chapter 8 to list all potential funding sources. He noted that the implementation table shows “responsible parties” for each project and suggested that the table also list percentages of how much each party would contribute to the project’s cost.

Julia Monteith (University of Virginia), a non-voting member of the Planning Commission, said it was unusual to include cost estimates in a comprehensive plan. She suggested changing the language to “magnitude of costs” in order to give a sense of how much each project might cost.

“There are really more [like] cost guidelines if anything,” Monteith said. “The amount of volatility in terms of getting projects costed in the last five years has been flying all over the place.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) objected to including cost estimates from UNJAM 2035 in the document, saying that doing so would confuse the public.

20090714-Loach-Edgerton
Commissioners Tom Loach (White Hall) and Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett)

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) said he wasn’t sure that any of the cost estimates were valuable information, given that in some cases, the cost of right-of-way purchase is left out of the estimate. For instance, Edgerton noted that the estimated cost of Hillsdale Drive is listed at $30.5 million, even though negotiations over right-of-way have not yet been held. He said the value of Places29 was to be a vision document that lists projects that will help the County’s transportation problems.

But Loach said the implementation table needed to list cost estimates, because the Board will at some point need to make decisions on how to raise additional revenues to pay for necessary infrastructure.

“The implications of these dollar values may become important vis-à-vis local taxation that may occur,” Loach said. “We have to have some estimates on what [transportation projects] are going to cost us so we can start making policy on how we’re going to get that money in lieu of the situation in Richmond.”

Commissioner Don Franco (Rio) said he had no problem with including the cost estimates, because Places29 is a transportation plan as well as a comprehensive plan update.  

During public comment, Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council said the Commission needed to be very careful in being specific about what estimates are used. He said many of the projects called for in Places29 are not fully designed, but pointed out that the Western Bypass isn’t either. He said proponents of the Western Bypass are going to use cost estimates contained in Places29 in making an unfair comparison.

“We have no idea what something is going to cost until it’s been designed and contractors have responded with bid,” Werner said. “The most important thing that you all need to do in this is establish a new transportation policy that allows effective and efficient use of transportation dollars.”

Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said it was important for the Commission to explain the goals of Places29 to the public.

“This is indeed a plan, a long-term vision,” Strucko said. “Not everything is going to be built next year. These are costs that will be spread over decades and we have to determine the priorities. The challenge of the community is to come up with the resources to make the plan viable.”

David Benish, the County’s Chief of Planning, said staff would make sure the definition of “estimated costs” would be clear that the numbers are not solid, but are more along the line of Monteith’s suggestion that they be order of magnitude.

Commission debates role of Western Bypass in Places29

Following a previous work session on Chapter 8, staff was directed to change how the Places29 draft refers to the Western Bypass. Here is the revision made before the July 14, 2009 work session:

A Note about the “Western Bypass.” The US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study has shown that the set of transportation improvements recommended in this Plan will be an effective and efficient means to address existing and future transportation demands for all users of the US 29 Corridor during the 20-year implementation timeframe. While the Western Bypass would have served most of the regional traffic (the 12% of drivers moving through the Places29 area without stopping), the Bypass would not have helped local traffic (64%) or served many of the subregional vehicle trips (24%). An alternative route from the 250 Bypass north to Greene County that would have functioned as a longer bypass to the west of US 29 was considered during the early phases of the Places29 transportation modeling, but such an alternative route would have been significantly more expensive and, most importantly, would not have served
more than about 12 – 20% of the traffic on US 29.

Commissioner Edgerton didn’t think staff went far enough to emphasize that the Western Bypass is no longer under serious consideration.

However, Porterfield said a recent letter from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce that called for prioritizing the Western Bypass over Places29 referred to a claim that VDOT has already millions for the road. She asked the Commission if they really wanted to kill a project that she thought could receive funding.

Other Commissioners told her that the debate is long over for the Western Bypass. Chairman Strucko said the bypass would destroy neighborhoods, would pass to close to County schools, would touch the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, and would be ineffective.

“It’s a bypass that bypasses nothing,” Strucko said. “The development has moved up 29 North. It is designed for through traffic that isn’t really a substantial percentage of what is U.S. 29 now. What is on 29 now is Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents.”

Rio-area-ring-roads
Places29 calls for the Rio Road/U.S. 29 intersection to be converted to a grade separated interchanges that would be connected to a series of ring roads

But Porterfield pointed out that the Chamber is opposed to grade-separated interchanges. Loach acknowledged that, but said the Commission is responding to policy decisions made by the Board of Supervisors, who have chosen to prioritize those improvements over a Western Bypass. Edgerton’s concern was that the U.S. 29 Corridor Study could recommend repurposing some of the right-of-way that VDOT already owns for the project.

Benish said in talking with consultants from Parsons Transportation Group, the firm hired to conduct the study, he feels confident they will not recommend using the full bypass. However, Benish said there could be a recommendation to use at least some of the right of way.

“They’re looking at two tandem improvements, that actually is a variation on a theme for the interchanges at Hydraulic and Emmet Street,” Benish said. This concept would “extend the parallel road concept all the way into the [UVA] North Grounds.” He said he want the Commission to make changes in the plan until the full corridor study was released.

Edgerton called for the history of the community’s opposition to the Bypass to be included in the note. Strucko and Joseph agreed, and said there is a long history of County policy-makers opposing the bypass. Benish suggested making a single reference to a 1990 resolution signed by the MPO opposing VDOT’s planning efforts for the Bypass. Commissioner Franco suggested leaving the note alone until the public hearing to get the public’s opinion on the bypass.

Benish said staff would list a chronology that backs up a firm stand against the bypass.

Porterfield said the Chamber is concerned that grade-separated interchanges will hurt businesses in the County. Benish said the plan intends to minimize impacts to businesses, but acknowledged that there will be some impacts.  He said he would revise Chapter 8 to reflect that the intent is to minimize impacts on businesses.

Uptown area to be de-prioritized

20090714-Commission

Staff had previously shown the Commission a version of the plan that indicated a priority was to create a new mixed-use “Uptown” area near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport and the University of Virginia’s North Fork Research Park.

Porterfield said she was concerned that it may be too early to consider developing an “uptown” area near the airport. That same concern has been expressed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.  Joseph said that it will be necessary if and when the North Fork Research Park begins to develop further. However, Benish said that he would be open to de-prioritizing the Uptown area as long as the goal of creating a small area plan for the location is left intact.

“We’ve always seen [creating the Uptown area] as a long-term process,” Benish said. “The main thing we’re trying to make sure we’re doing now is that in order for something to evolve like a Downtown Mall, it kind of has to have the bones to develop.”

Lee Catlin outlines the public review plan for Places29

Lee Catlin, the County’s Community Relations Manager, told the Commission how the County plans to involve the public in the final stages of the Places29 Master Plan’s adoption. She said the fall will offer an opportunity to reintroduce the master plan to the community and people who have recently moved to the County.

“We want to have a chance to review with the public significant changes that are in the plan since the time they saw it before,” Catlin said. The final draft of the complete Places29 will be released to the public on August 11.  The public hearing on the complete Places29 Master Plan is tentatively scheduled on October 13.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) asked if the public process would specifically address the business community. In particular, she reiterated that the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is opposed to some of the transportation elements of Places29.

Catlin said that before August 11, she would be meeting with Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum as well as other business leaders to get their feedback.  She also said that any individual or representative of an organization would have the opportunity to speak at the public hearing.

Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) asked if it would be a good idea to “kick-start” the public awareness in some way. Places29 began in 2005, but Morris noted that few people seemed to be paying attention.

“We have seen the attendance dribble, dribble, dribble and I really thought we would have quite a few people here tonight,” Morris said. He noted that around 40 people had attended an event that the Piedmont Environmental Council had held on Places29 the night before

Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) suggested holding more than one public hearing on Places29, given that interest groups will likely direct their members to attend the hearing.

“I’d hate for us to be sitting there at 1:30 in the morning on October 13th and us trying to make a decision,” Edgerton said. David Benish, the County’s Chief Planner, said there was no expectation that the Planning Commission make a recommendation to the Board immediately after the public hearing.

Commissioner Marcia Joseph (At-Large) suggested holding the public hearing in some location in the Places29 area, perhaps at Hollymead Elementary School. Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) agreed, and reminded the Commission that they have held remote hearings for the Biscuit Run rezoning, as well as the Crozet and Village of Rivanna Master Plans.

One remaining item for the Planning Commission to decide is whether to expand the growth area on the western side of U.S. 29 north of the South Fork of the Rivanna River. That issue will come before the Commission on August 11, 2009.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Lee Catlin begins discussion of the public review plan
  • 06:52 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield asks if business community will be included
  • 11:55 - Commissioner Tom Loach asks question that prompts discussion of Western Bypass
  • 17:00 - Porterfield expresses support for continuing to study Western Bypass
  • 37:30 - Porterfield asks question about usage of Neighborhood Model Principles in Places29
  • 44:00 - Porterfield questions whether developments anticipated by Places29 will ever come to fruition
  • 45:00 - Porterfield questions whether uptown area is worth prioritizing at this time
  • 49:00 - Porterfield asks what grade-separated interchanges will do to existing businesses
  • 53:06 - Commissioner Marcia Joseph asks a question about Project 34 (recycling centers)
  • 57:30 - Joseph asks question about Project 57 (new elementary school somewhere in the County)
  • 59:00 - Julia Monteith asks question about cost estimates, prompting discussion about how they should be defined in Places29
  • 1:19:30 - County resident Bob Brue expresses concern about the improvements being made to Georgetown Road
  • 1:21:30 - Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum expresses concern about priorities
  • 1:24:00 - Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council on cost estimates in Places29
  • 1:27:00 - Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center
  • 1:31:20 - Commissioner Bill Edgerton asks question prompting further discussion of cost estimates
  • 1:34:30 - Chief of Planning Wayne Cilimberg explains why Places29 is more specific than other master plans, as well as how CIP process will flesh out cost estimates
  • 1:40:45 - Commission discusses prioritization of "Uptown" area near the airport
  • 1:43:15 - Porterfield asks to discuss cost estimates one more time

July 25, 2009

MPO gets update on signal timing, VDOT cameras, record bus ridership, and AMTRAK

20090722-MPO
By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, July 25, 2009

On July 22, 2009, the Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Charlottesville-Albemarle met and received an update on local Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).  These systems include synchronized traffic signals, traffic cameras, and message boards. 

The MPO also received updates on bus ridership, the launch date of the new daily AMTRAK passenger train service from Charlottesville to Washington, DC, and next steps for the formation of a Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority.

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INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

Dean Gustafson, VDOT's Northwest Regional Operations Director, gave the MPO an update on recent ITS initiatives.

  • 20090722-VDOT-cameras VDOT has sixteen cameras monitoring traffic in the area that cost $900,000. Eight on I-64, seven on Route 29, one on Route 250. Many of the cameras can be viewed by the public on the Internet.  VDOT has been surprised by the variety of organizations making use of the cameras, including the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Traffic signal timing optimization on Route 29 has saved average of 1 minute on travel from Hydraulic Rd to Airport Rd. Travel time is down on that stretch from 10.2 minutes to 9.2 minutes. The average stops per vehicle in that area is down from 3.1 to 2.4.
  • VDOT expects to complete coordination with the City of Charlottesville's traffic signal timing system on Route 29 (signals south of and not including Hydraulic Road) later this summer.
  • The airport runway lights used for foggy conditions on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain are the only ones used on roads in U.S. They are being replaced with LED versions this fall.

TRANSIT UPDATE

Bill Watterson, Director of the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS), told the MPO that CTS surpassed two million passenger boardings for FY2009 which ended June 30th.  The 2,012,462 is the greatest number of passenger boardings CTS has ever had in one year.  Ridership by students and staff at the University of Virginia and the UVA Medical center were a significant contributor to the increased usage of public bus service in this first year of the UVA Photo ID Program.  UVA students and staff can ride for free on CTS. 

Rebecca White, UVA's Director of Parking and Transportation said increased ridership by UVA on CTS continued to be strong this summer even after the departure of the students from the community.  White told Charlottesville Tomorrow that UVA had 20,000 "non-free Trolley" boardings on CTS in June 2009 alone.  Watterson said UVA ridership on CTS buses in FY2009 was up 41% over 2008.  Total UVA passenger boardings were almost 300,000 last year, an average of 25,000 per month.

AMTRAK PASSENGER RAIL TO DC

As reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow in April 2009, AMTRAK's new passenger train from Lynchburg to Washington, DC will launch this fall, but not on the daily schedule desired by business and political leaders in Charlottesville.  The train is now scheduled to leave Lynchburg at 7:43 AM, come through Charlottesville around 8:45 AM, and arrive in Union Station by 11:20 AM, giving only about a five hour window of time before the returning south-bound train leaves the station.

The MPO discussed a resolution adopted at their May meeting expressing the MPO's belief that the 11:20 AM arrival time in Washington "will not be useful for the business traveler."  The resolution calls on the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to negotiate an improved schedule with freight operators in the corridor.

The resolution states in part: "[W]ith the approved schedule, the Lynchburg-DC train will add to the rail options available for recreational travelers and others making extended stays, but will perpetuate the existing situation wherein passenger rail is of limited utility to the business, professional, academic, government and defense-related sectors of the Charlottesville and Central Virginia region."

Stephen Williams, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (the TJPDC is staff to the MPO), announced that the grand opening of the new AMTRAK route would be on September 29, 2009

REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY

The MPO also agreed to gather more information on a consulting project related to the formation of a new Regional Transit Authority.  The firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), who developed the original plans for the transit authority, will be asked to submit a more detailed proposal and budget for work to help facilitate the implementation plans.  The MPO will seek grant funds for the consulting project from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to help with the planning effort. The final details of the consulting project will be brought back to the MPO at a meeting later this year for final approval.   

July 24, 2009

Lowry calls for Albemarle County to boost economic development efforts

By Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, July 24, 2009

20090723-Lowry  
John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller)

Using the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport as a back-drop, Independent candidate for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller) has called on the County to create a Department of Economic Development. Lowry, who serves as Chair of the County’s Economic Development Authority, said it was one of the best ways to help the County recover from the recession.

Lowry selected the airport as the location for his statement because he formerly served as Chair of the Joint Airport Board. He said under his leadership, the Board made a strategic decision to make the airport the “gateway to the community.”

“By the time I left in 1992, this facility was transformed into a driver of economic growth for our community, helping many new businesses create new, high-paying jobs,” Lowry said.

Watch the video:

Lowry calls for Albemarle County to boost economic development efforts from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

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(Click to enlarge)

Lowry said one way the County can solve its budget problems is by increasing the commercial tax base. He pointed to Henrico County and Chesterfield County as localities generating a larger percentage of their revenues from the commercial sector.  Calculations by Charlottesville Tomorrow indicate the commercial tax base for Albemarle County in 2008 was 17.9% of all taxable property. That figure is derived from adding the market value of commercial, industrial, and multifamily apartment complexes. Using the same methodology, Henrico County’s commercial tax base was 30.2% for 2008.  Albemarle’s commercial tax base has grown at a faster rate than Henrico’s during the past decade.

20090723-commercial-total
(Click to enlarge)

When asked by Charlottesville Tomorrow if Albemarle County was in a different position then Henrico because of the presence of the University of Virginia (a major tax-exempt commercial entity), Lowry said that James City County might be a more appropriate comparison. He said that James City County, which is home to the College of William and Mary, has diversified over the past few decades by attracting industries such as Anheuser Busch. Lowry said UVA needs more support from Albemarle County in order to fill its two research parks.

“We have a blossom that’s just beginning to bloom,” Lowry said.

Lowry also pointed out that the Resource Management Review commissioned by the County called on the County to develop a strategic plan for economic development policy.

Lowry also said growth in the commercial sector was not to be feared as long as it was managed responsibly. He said responsible economic development would ease the financial burdens of the County’s citizens.

“It is one of the best ways of moving the tax burdens from homeowners who see proposals to raise their property taxes every year,” Lowry said.

To reach that goal, he said the County should create a Director of Economic Development to work with businesses looking to relocate their operations. However, Lowry does not support the expansion of Albemarle County’s designated growth areas to create more land for commercial uses. When asked if he would support the Yancey Mills Business Park, a project to build a light industrial business center in the rural area near Crozet, Lowry said he would not make a decision until the proposal makes it way through the County as part of the review of the Crozet Master Plan. 

The County only joined the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development in 2006 after Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) was elected and provided a tie-breaking fourth vote. Soon after, the position of Business Development Facilitator was created on County staff. Lowry said an Economic Development Director would simply build on the work that Susan Stimart has done in that position.

 

July 22, 2009

City Council allocates nearly $1 million to affordable housing projects; SRO project has received total of $500,000 from City

20090720-Councilwide

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At their meeting on July 20, 2009, the Charlottesville City Council allocated $929,143 from the Charlottesville Housing Fund to various projects. One of the beneficiaries is Virginia Supportive Housing, which has now received a total of $500,000 to purchase a site near downtown for a proposed 60-unit Single Room Occupancy (SRO) facility.

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The allocations came from money previously set aside in both the FY2009 and FY2010 budgets.
In FY2009, the Charlottesville City Council invested $1.4 million into the Charlottesville Housing Fund. Non-profit organizations that work on increasing the community’s stock of affordable housing submit applications to fund various projects. Most of the money appropriated for FY2009 has now been allocated.

On May 18, 2009, Council made the following allocations totaling $855,000.

  • $100,000 for Public Housing Association of Residents
  • $50,000 to pay for a new housing position in City government
  • $100,000 for 608 Ridge Street project
  • $120,000 for HOME Match
  • $125,000 to help Virginia Supportive Housing purchase land for SRO facility
  • $50,000 for Piedmont Housing Alliance for Monticello Vista project
  • $20,000 to Piedmont Housing Alliance to pay for foreclosure assistance
  • $15,000 for the Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust
  • $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity to pay for infrastructure
  • $175,000 to the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) to pay for rehabilitation work

The allocation for AHIP was reduced by $144,637 at Council’s meeting on July 6, 2009. That funding was given to Habitat for Humanity  for the creation of two LEED-certified units as part of a development on Paton Street. 

On July 20, 2009, Council was asked how to spend the FY2009 balance of $545,000. Here are the recommendations made by Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services:

  • An additional $150,000 for Virginia Supportive Housing (SRO)
  • $100,000 to Region Ten for rent subsidies and counseling
  • An additional $20,000 for HOME Match
  • $50,000 for the Charlottesville Community Foundation and Piedmont Housing Alliance for down payment assistance
  • $50,000 to help AHIP pay for emergency repairs
  • $2,143 to Region Ten for cover a shortage from FY08
  • $85,000 for Small Rehab/Handicap Access
  • An additional $20,000 to pay for the City’s new housing position
  • $10,000 for utility work for EcoMod4 being built on Elliot Avenue
  • $2,000 to pay for Housing Advisory Committee meeting expenses

Tolbert also began preparing Council for the process of allocating money for FY2010. Council appropriated $1 million to the fund for this Fiscal Year, and Tolbert had the following recommendations, which were approved by Council.

  • $225,000 to VSH to complete City’s $500,000 commitment
  • $100,000 to pay for the second year of the Housing Leader position
  • $100,000 to pay for AHIP’s housing rehabilitation project

That leaves a balance of $575,000 for FY2010 that Tolbert said would be handled through the usual process where non-profits submit proposals for the City’s consideration.

Virginia Supportive Housing receives $500,000 to pay for purchase of site

20090722-Fourth-Street-Stat
Virginia Supportive Housing is negotiating with Region 10 to purchase this site on Fourth Street to build a 60-unit SRO facility

With these allocations, Virginia Supportive Housing has received a total of $500,000 from the City to help them purchase a site for a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) facility with 60 units. Earlier in the meeting, Council approved a zoning ordinance change to allow SRO units to be built in more locations throughout the City.  VSH is looking to purchase the “Fourth Street Station” building from Region 10 for $1.5 million, according to City Attorney Craig Brown.

Councilor David Brown wanted to know what other localities in the region are contributing to the SRO project.  Norris said the total development costs for the SRO are estimated to be in the $8 million range. In addition to the $500,000 being sought from the City, VSH is looking for $1 million in commitments from Albemarle County and other surrounding localities.  Norris said VSH expects to raise additional money from foundations, state funds, federal low-income tax credits and bank loans.

Norris said the SRO will also need to find funds to pay for ongoing operations, currently estimated at $468,000 a year.  On that front, he said Albemarle County is considering offering up between eight and fifteen Section 8 rental vouchers, and Region 10 has agreed to contribute some as well.  To give a sense of perspective, Norris said the County gets about 400 vouchers a year.

“Our hope is that between Albemarle County and Region 10, they will contribute a significant majority of the annual operating funds for this project,” Norris said.

Brown said he was skeptical that those promises would materialize into commitments. He said he wanted to put a contingency in the resolution to say that City funding depends on participation from Albemarle County and other regional partners. Norris said he did not have a problem with that.  The resolution was changed to say that the City expects to see these commitments.  [Earlier this year Charlottesville Tomorrow published an in-depth comparison of the investments, inventory, and proffers for affordable living choices made in both Albemarle and Charlottesville]

City to create new position for housing

With these allocations, a total of $170,000 has been committed to pay for a new City position that will have the title “Housing Leader.”  Councilor Satyendra Huja asked why the amount was so high. Tolbert said the additional funding for the housing position is to make sure there is at least enough to pay for two years. The person hired for the position will supervise the City’s affordable housing strategies. Mayor Dave Norris said it was his hope that the person hired will be able to generate enough revenue to pay their own salary within that two year period.

City to pay for utility work for EcoMOD project

20090722-Lot
Site of UVA's EcoMOD4 project on Elliot Avenue

The University of Virginia’s fourth EcoMOD project house is being built near the corner of Ridge/5th Street and Cherry Avenue. The house is being built for the Habitat for Humanity. However, there have been unexpected issues regarding clearing the site for foundation and utility work.

“What they’re finding is stuff that the City many, many years ago put on that lot which we didn’t even own at the time,” Tolbert said. “I think it’s a reasonable thing for us to help clean it up.” The cost of cleaning it is estimated at $30,000.  Councilor Satyendra Huja suggested increasing the amount for the EcoMOD4 house from $10,000 to $25,000, which was approved by Council.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Tolbert begins reading through recommendations of how to use the funds
  • 06:23 – Councilor Satyendra Huja asks about the ECOMOD house funds
  • 07:30 – Councilor David Brown asks why the additional $20,000 is necessary for the housing position
  • 10:40 – Brown asks question about regional participation for SRO, leading to discussion about what City expects from Albemarle County
  • 25:40 – Tolbert begins discussion of FY10 CHF
  • 27:15 – Huja questions why $170,000 is needed for the City’s new housing position

July 21, 2009

Council allocates Downtown Mall savings to other streetscape projects; Holds balance in reserve

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Charlottesville City Council has reallocated some of the cost savings from the $7.5 million Downtown Mall renovation project which was completed under budget. Council voted to spend $800,000 on work to improve 2nd Street SE next to the stalled Landmark Hotel as well as improvements near the University Corner. However, Council opted not to approve a staff recommendation to use $300,000 to brick part of 6th Street SE between the Market Street Parking Garage and City Hall.

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Jim Tolbert, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services, said while the City expects approximately $1.5 million in savings from the Mall, he could only confirm $1.1 million at the time he appeared before Council on July 20, 2009. He offered three projects for Council to consider:

  • 2nd Street East: The uncompleted Landmark Hotel project left this street in a state of disrepair. This project, estimated by Barton Malow to cost $800,000,  would install bricks as well as place utilities underground. Tolbert said the project would be done in such a way that the improved sidewalk would be protected if and when the hotel project resumes. The City has previously allocated $208,000 to this project, and Tolbert asked for $600,000 more.
  • Corner streetscape projects: An existing project to repair curbs and sidewalks in the Corner district was budgeted at $300,000, but Tolbert told Council the work is actually going to cost $500,000. He asked for an additional $200,000 to make the sure the project can be completed. Missing bricks are being replaced, trip hazards are being minimized, and basements are being water-proofed.
  • 6th Street East: The alleyway between City Hall and the Market Street Parking garage currently only has one narrow sidewalk. This plan would add bricks to a third of the street leading up from the Mall, widen the sidewalk, and add landscaping near Market Street to improve the street’s appearance. Tolbert asked for $300,000.

20090720-6th-Street-SE
NDS Director Jim Tolbert had argued that 6th Street NE could use wider sidewalks to  improve pedestrian safety

Council did not feel that the 6th Street project was a high priority at this time. Councilor Satyendra Huja said he felt that improvements should be made first to 2nd Street Northwest between McGuffey Park and the Mall, 5th Street East between the Mall and Court Square, and 2nd Street North between the Mall and Lee Park. He asked for designs to be conducted for each project. Tolbert said those designs could be done.  However, rather than allocate the $300,000 to those projects, Council opted to place that money in reserve to carry over into the Capital Improvement Budget for fiscal year 2011.

“I’m not sure this is a time where we can justify improvements that are purely cosmetic in nature,” said Mayor Dave Norris.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro questioned why curbs are being replaced on Elliewood Avenue, given that delivery trucks will likely wear them back down again. Tolbert said the existing curbs were installed over 25 years ago, and needed replacement.

20090720-2nd-Street-E
2nd Street SE is currently in a state of disrepair

Councilors also questioned whether improvements to 2nd Street East would be premature. Tolbert said the hotel developer, who must contribute $200,000 to the project by 2014, would be responsible for any damage done when construction resumes. Tolbert said that the design would allow for scaffolding to be placed on the building, and added that the project will no longer need heavy cranes given that the hotel’s structure is already in place.

Councilor Holly Edwards asked if the savings could be use to reduce the fees paid by vendors. Tolbert said he would look into it as his department reevaluates the fee structure this fall.

Councilor Huja also questioned the estimates for the other projects and asked his fellow Councilors if they would support reducing the amount for each project by $50,000 each. However, Tolbert said he would have to alter the Corner streetscape project dramatically if the budget was reduced.

“I promise you that we won’t spend a dime more than we have to,” Tolbert said.

Council unanimously voted in favor of reallocating $800,000 towards two of the projects recommended by Tolbert. The rest will be kept in reserve. 

July 20, 2009

Army Corps of Engineers wants new map for City’s portion of Meadowcreek Parkway; Say their letter to VDOT is routine request for information

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, July 20, 2009

A federal environmental review of the City’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is on hold until the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) can submit additional material. An official with the Army Corps of Engineers has sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) requesting a new map for McIntire Road Extended

“We have concluded that the project plans we are currently reviewing do not show a terminus at the southern end of McIntire Road [Extended],” reads a July 16, 2009 letter from J. Robert Hume III, the Chief of the Regulatory Branch for the Corps’ Norfolk District. “In order for us to continue our evaluation of the proposed McIntire Road Extension, the work must be a single and complete project with logical termini.”

The Corps has jurisdiction over construction projects that affect the nation’s watershed. VDOT had asked the Army Corps of Engineers for permission for an unnamed tributary of Schenk’s Branch to be re-routed through a box culvert. The letter states that the Corps’ review cannot proceed unless engineers can see the full scope of the work.

“Please submit additional plans, including quantifications of any additional impacts to waters of the United States, necessary to complete the project to a logical ending point,” the letter reads.

The drawings submitted to the Corps assume that the McIntire Road Extended ends at the northern end of the Parkway’s grade-separated interchange with the 250 Bypass. Both the road and the interchange are considered by VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to be two separate projects. The County’s portion, which is well under construction, is considered to be a third.  Each has a separate funding source. The County’s portion has been funded through Albemarle’s share of state secondary road funds and the City’s portion has been paid for through urban funds from the state. The proposed interchange is funded by a federal earmark from former Senator John Warner.

Parkway opponents have long alleged that the parkway was segmented into three portions in order to avoid a full environmental review from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). In February, an attorney for the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park sent a letter to the FHWA that argued this case.

“In my opinion, the FHWA has unlawfully constrained the scope of the [Environmental Assessment] and Section 4(f) evaluation by failing to evaluate McIntire Road Extended and the Interchange as part of a single, federalized project,” wrote attorney Andrea Ferster.  Section 4(f) refers to a portion of the Department of Transportation Act that requires environmental assessments for road constructions projects that use public parkland.

Download Download Ferster's letter to the Federal Highway Administration

Former City Council Candidate Peter Kleeman has consistently appeared before Council to point out the project’s drawings are clear evidence that none of the projects can exist independently.  He said the letter from the Corps could issue in a new era of federal scrutiny.

“This position will change the way the parkway/interchange projects move forward and may in fact re-federalize the entire project,” wrote Kleeman in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Mark Haviland, Chief of Public Affairs for the Corps’ Norfolk District, said the letter has been taken out of context by opponents. He said the Corps’ routinely asks for more information from applicants. 

“Sometimes when applications are sent, we require additional information so we can do an accurate evaluation,” Haviland said in an interview. He said opponents of the parkway should not read too much into the Corps’ letter. “Nowhere in [the letter] do we talk about where the terminus needs to terminate. All along VDOT has said there are one or two possibilities. It either ends at a proposed interchange being handled by FHWA, or it would end at Route 250. From the Corp’s perspective, what we have to do is find out where the road is going to end.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is also involved with a review of what steps will be required to mitigate the effects the parkway will have on McIntire Park, which has been determined as a historic resource. This process is required in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Corps will issue a memorandum of understanding as soon as one is ready.  The FHWA is the lead federal agency for the Section 106 process required for the interchange project.

Lou Hatter, a spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District, said the agency is still formulating a response to the letter. He said while the Corps has raised a valid question, he is confident the project will not be halted as a result.

“We don’t see this as a significant obstacle,” Hatter told Charlottesville Tomorrow.

July 19, 2009

Our Water. Our Future. First issue of Charlottesville Tomorrow's new publication now available

Ourwater-ourfuture1 Our Water. Our Future.  That's the title of Charlottesville Tomorrow's new six-part online publication on the state of our local water supply.  Subscribers to our e-mail alerts will be notified when each issue is published. 

I am pleased to announce that the first issue is now available.

We welcome your feedback and participation.  I hope you will take advantage of the ability to comment on the content and even contribute your own insights to the detailed articles linked throughout “Our Water Our Future.” 

Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow