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October 31, 2009

Snow calls on County to halt zoning fee increases

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, October 31, 2009

Republican Duane Snow, a candidate for the Samuel Miller seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, is calling for the Planning Commission to end its discussion of raising a variety of zoning fees, including those on home businesses. 

20091030-Snow
Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) holds a press conference on zoning fees at the home of Kirbie & Nelson Moore
“Here we are in the worst economy that I have ever been a part of, and to take someone with an idea to start a new business, and then raise the fee [from $440 to $4,500], I find that truly amazing,” said Snow on Friday.

Snow was referring to one of a number of fee increases which will be considered by the planning commission at a November 10th public hearing.  The Home Occupation – Class B one-time fee is currently $440 which covers a home business with no more than 2 employees, other than family living in the residence. 

The Class B fee has been proposed for an increase to a maximum of $4,500.  The Class A Home Occupation permit, is proposed to increase from $13 to $25.

The County’s Chief of Current Development, Bill Fritz, confirmed in an interview these particular fee increases and said the planning commission directed that fees be advertised that recovered 75% of the costs incurred by the county.

“Staff’s recommendation was $2,000 for Class B,” said Fritz. “Class A has an administrative process and they can sometimes be done while the person is standing there in the office, no more than a day or two at the most.”

“Class B is a special use permit just like any other special use permit,” said Fritz.  “The process does add to the cost, and the County’s fee study tried to capture all those costs.”

Planning Commission Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) said it was appropriate for the county to review its fee structure and associated costs for reviewing zoning applications and special use permits.

“The amount advertised for public hearing becomes the absolute ceiling and we purposely make it high so there is some leeway in the deliberative process,” said Strucko in an interview.  “We will most likely bring them down, as some of these increases are very significant.”

County staff assessed the fees charged in other localities and made recommendations based on recovering a portion of the actual costs for the work involved.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said she believes in “100% cost recovery” if reasonable costs have been calculated up front.  “We shouldn’t inflate a fee just to pay for something else,” said Porterfield in an interview.

“I think that the fees should be set reasonably, but the person getting the opportunity should be paying the price,” said Porterfield.  “I don’t think my neighbor should pay for me to do something, thus subsidizing it.”

Other proposed fee increases caught the attention of Valerie Long, an attorney who represents a number of local developers and other business owners.

“Rezonings applications are a good example,” said Long.  “Right now a planned development of 50 acres or less costs $1,020.  Under this proposal it would increase to $13,500, a 1,220% increase.” 

Asked about the County’s effort to recover its costs of doing business, Long recommended the county strike a fair balance with developers and streamline the way it does business.

“The costs are driven in large part by the complexity of the regulations and the scope of review that the county chooses to undertake,” said Long.  “The level of review is premised on protection of the public interest.  If we want quality development in the growth areas, the community should help cover the costs.”

Snow announced today that, if elected, he would not support any increases in the zoning fees. 

“I think right now what we need more than anything is an economic development plan with measurable goals, and by doing something such as that we will be able to increase the vitality of our economic condition,” said Snow.

Independent John Lowry is also running for the Samuel Miller seat on the board.  Lowry chairs the economic development authority and in July he called for the county to create an economic development office that would generate more tax revenues.

Lowry said he would want to review the planning commission’s final recommendations, and that he thought the cost recovery approach made sense. 

“These are not fee increases to raise revenues for the county, they are simply more reflective of what these costs are for what the county provides,” said Lowry.  “It is impractical to think you can close the door on fee increases.  You have to have an open mind on what reality dictates.”

Democrat Madison Cummings is the third candidate in the three-way race which will be decided in Tuesday’s election.  Cummings could not be reached for comment.

October 30, 2009

Business PAC makes large campaign contributions in Albemarle races

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 30, 2009

With four days to go before the Nov. 3 general election, a local political action committee is making its presence known with large contributions to some of the candidates running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and to the County Republican Party.

The latest campaign finance data was published Wednesday by the Virginia Public Access Project and includes fundraising through October 21.  According to VPAP, the Monticello Business Alliance, a political action committee that receives its funding primarily from local real estate and development interests, has invested $40,000 in Albemarle County’s political contests. 

Albemarle Supervisor Candidate Amount raised
through
Oct 21st*
Jack Jouett District
Dennis Rooker (I) – Incumbent $70,405
Rio District
David Slutzky (D) – Incumbent $82,595*
Rodney Thomas (R) – Challenger $72,345*
Samuel Miller District
Madison Cummings (D) $20,980
John Lowry (I) $20,578
Duane Snow (R) $42,208*

* Total for this candidate includes contributions of $500 or more received between October 22-28, 2009
Source: Virginia Public Access Project

The Monticello Business Alliance was formed in 2003 and has a steering committee made up of more than 100 area business people and individuals.  It describes itself as a non-partisan organization working, “to preserve, protect, sustain and enhance an economically sound and vibrant community.”

In September, the Alliance made a contribution of $1,500 to each of the five candidates running in contested races for the Board of Supervisors.  It also contributed $10,000 to the County Republicans which the party says it is using to hire campaign consultants.  Since 2003, 82% of the PAC’s funding has gone to Republicans according to VPAP.

In October, however, the Alliance made additional large contributions only to three candidates--both Rio district candidates, incumbent Democrat David L. Slutzky and challenger Republican Rodney S. Thomas, and Republican Duane Snow who is running in the Samuel Miller District. 

With the help of an additional $7,500 contribution from the Monticello Business Alliance, Slutzky has maintained his lead in local campaign donations with an overall total of $82,595.

“Considering they traditionally fund Republican candidates, it reveals a lot about my broad base of support,” said Slutzky.  “A significant amount of Thomas’ money comes from himself and the Realtors, but at the end of the day, it is really about how the voters feel, not the donors.”

Thomas received two additional contributions from the Monticello Business Alliance in October totaling $5,000.  He has made $11,592 in in-kind donations to his campaign from his printing company.

“I probably have 500 donors” said Thomas.  “When I get higher numbers of small donations, that means I am going to get more votes.  I’d rather have one-thousand $100 donors than ten $10,000 donors.”

According to Christian Schoenewald, chair of the Albemarle County Republican Party, the $10,000 donation it received from the Alliance is being used to hire campaign consultants for Thomas and Snow.

“We hire people that work with the party and we farm them out to work with the candidates,” said Schoenewald.  “The party pays them as campaign consultants, and they help the Supervisor candidates with their campaign needs.”

Snow is in the three-way race for the open Samuel Miller District seat being vacated by the retiring Sally Thomas.  Snow has raised a total of $42,208, twice as much as each of his opponents, Democrat Madison Cummings and Independent John Lowry.

Snow garnered his biggest financial boost from the Monticello Business Alliance, now his largest contributor, when they made an additional donation of $10,000 after the end of the early October filing period.  Large contributions of $500 or more must be reported in the two weeks before the election. 

“I never had any idea what it took to run a campaign and get your message out.  It was a complete eye opener for me,” said Snow.  “I thought you could do something like this for $8,000 to $10,000.  It all adds up.  You have flyers, radio, and television.”

Asked why he had received the largest candidate contribution from the Alliance, Snow said in an interview he thought it was because of his concern for “waste and inefficiencies in government.” 

“That message is resonating with people everywhere,” said Snow.

While Snow is running television ads in the last week before the election with some of the additional funding, his opponents, Cummings and Lowry, said that was not in their game plan.  Cummings has raised a total of $20,980 and had the smallest contribution total for early October with $1,800 in new donations.

“I think we have run our campaign in a very fiscally responsible fashion and our expenditures have been what we targeted to spend,” said Cummings.  “I think is has been a very successful campaign and we have done it on a lean budget.”

Lowry has raised a total of $20,578 and he brought in additional contributions of $3,194 in early October.

“I have knocked on most of the doors of all the homes that will be voting in the Samuel Miller District,” said Lowry.  “I am not convinced additional media advertising will do much more. I am happy with what I have done so far because I am running as an independent.”

In the last pre-election campaign finance reports, VPAP reports a total of $309,111 raised for Albemarle’s supervisor races through late October.  This exceeds the 2007 fundraising total of $261,138, a year which also had two hotly contested supervisor races.

October 29, 2009

RWSA approves dredging study, modified Meadowcreek Interceptor work

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 29, 2009

At their meeting on October 27, 2009, the Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) approved a contract for a dredging feasibility study of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, agreed to a modified work order for the Meadowcreek Interceptor, and directed staff to work with Schnabel Engineering on a proposal to develop a cost estimate for raising the existing dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir by 13 feet.

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RWSA approves dredging feasibility study

After months of discussion between the “four boards”, the RWSA has approved a $343,778 contract with HDR Engineering to perform a series of dredging feasibility studies at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The studies will provide a range of cost estimates for restoring the reservoir to its original capacity and disposing the spoils.

The full study was requested by City Council in order to determine if dredging would be a cost-effective way of providing some additional water capacity, and Council agreed to pay for studies that dealt directly with dredging for that reason. Members of the Albemarle County Service Authority did not feel the information was necessary to move the adopted water supply plan forward, and thus were unwilling to pay for the full suite of studies. Full restorative dredging, and maintenance of that condition over the 50-year period of the community water supply plan, does not by itself provide enough new water storage capacity to meet needs identified in the 2006 plan. 

HDR was selected as a finalist for the project in August, but the price for their services was initially much higher than City Council had expected. Earlier this month, they agreed to a “standard” study that will provide less detail. Council also removed a study that would have examined the sediment to determine if it had any “beneficial re-use.”

20091027-Frederick RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick
RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick has warned both Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors that without the more detailed study, HDR may not be able to come up with a full cost estimate. Another item that was removed by Council was a public meeting that would be held while the study is being conducted so citizens can ask questions of HDR consultants. Gary Fern, who sits on the RWSA Board because of his position as Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, offered to contribute an additional $8,880 to ensure the second public meeting will be held. 

 “We’d hate to have all that data and then not be able to express it to the public,” Fern said. 

Frederick said a decision on whether to conduct the beneficial reuse study anyway could be made after that meeting. HDR would hold a second public meeting when their study is complete.

One item in the study is a new bathymetric analysis of the reservoir, which will be paid for by the RWSA from its watershed fund. The RWSA will write the check to HDR and will be reimbursed by the City of Charlottesville for the portions of the study that it has requested. The ACSA will pay the $8,880 for the additional public meeting.

According to City Public Works Director Judy Mueller, The City’s share of the study is nearly $256,000 and includes a pre-dredge survey, a characterization of the sediment, an analysis of dredging alternatives, an analysis of potential dewatering sites, and the final public meeting.

The RWSA’s share of the study is nearly $79,000 and includes a bathymetric study, an assessment of whether there are any federally protected wetlands in the reservoir, as well as the final report.

State regulators want answers on dam replacement

RWSA officials have been requested to appear at a November 19 meeting of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board to answer questions about efforts to replace or repair the existing dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  A final decision about how to proceed with the dam is not expected to be made until the spring of 2010. That is when Schnabel Engineering, the firm hired to replace Gannett Fleming in designing the new dam at the reservoir, is expected to complete its work on a preliminary design and cost estimate. 

The Lower Dam at the reservoir is currently operating under a conditional permit from the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Dam Safety division. The permit expires at end of this month. Frederick said the permit might possibly be extended as long as the RWSA continues to show progress towards complying with state regulations.

Frederick said that the RWSA continues to assume that the Lower Dam will be replaced by a larger one just downstream as called for in the 2006 community water supply plan. However, City Council has also directed Frederick to ask the dam’s new designers to model a scenario in which Lower Dam would be raised by 13 feet.  In order to do so, Schnabel will need to perform underwater tests to investigate the strength of the bedrock on which the existing structure rests. Frederick told the RWSA Board that Schnabel’s initial guess was that it would not be cheaper to build on the existing dam because of the complications that could arise when building on 100-year-old technology.

Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked if Schnabel would study how the Ragged Mountain Reservoir would be treated during construction. Would the pool have to be lowered, reducing the amount of water available to the community? Would the City and County have to enact mandatory usage restrictions in order to reduce demand? Frederick said he did not have those answers handy, but Schnabel’s proposal for the study will come back before the RWSA Board for a vote at the next meeting in November.

RWSA Chief Engineer Jennifer Whitaker said there are questions about the strength of the dam’s cement core. She also said to build anything on top of the existing dam, construction crews would need to remove an earthen buttress that was built around the dam in the 1930’s to address earlier safety concerns.

“There are legitimate concerns that you could not [remove the buttress] while the water was up against the dam,” Whitaker said. “You’d run the risk of tipping it over.”

Whitaker said before building on top of the dam, Schnabel will need to determine how the existing dam would be incorporated into the new structure, and how the two different types of materials would bond together. She also said a higher pool of water would exert a higher pressure on the base of the dam.

During the public comment period, Richard Lloyd of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said he thought concerns about the safety of the dam were being exaggerated.

“I don’t get it. That dam is a hundred years old. It has withstood hurricanes, it withstood Camille,” Lloyd said.

Board votes to approve modified work order for Meadowcreek sewer replacement

Interceptor
Click for a larger map of the interceptor's alignment
The RWSA board voted 5-0 with one abstention to place a section of the Meadowcreek sewer interceptor replacement project under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Built in the 1950’s by the City and sold to the RWSA in the 1970’s, the Authority is in the final stages of planning a replacement sewer line. Frederick said the existing pipe is deteriorating, a situation made worse after storms when it is infiltrated by runoff.

Part of the pathway for the interceptor lies on the same right of way being used to construct the Meadowcreek Parkway. Frederick said in the initial planning for the project, it was assumed the sewer line would be laid before the roadway is built. However, due to a delay over negotiations with property owners in the City for easements to build the interceptor, the road project has moved ahead of the interceptor.  

At issue is 410 linear feet on City-owned land in Albemarle County where the RWSA needs an easement in order to proceed, as well as 2,130 linear feet on VDOT property.  Faulconer Construction, the company building the Meadowcreek Parkway in the County, has so far delayed their work on this section of land.

Frederick suggested that the Board approve a motion to remove this portion from the rest of the interceptor project so the project as a whole can go to bid. The work on the 2,540 linear feet would be performed by Faulconer as part of their contract with VDOT. However, City Council must approve the easement on its land before the contractor can work on that section of the project.  The earliest Council can take up the easements is on November 16, 2009, but they need to have two readings of the matter before it can be passed.

20091027-Edwards City Councilor Holly Edwards
City Councilor Holly Edwards abstained from the vote because she said had concerns about the design. While on Council, Edwards has consistently voted against the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Thomas asked if Edwards abstention meant that she would not recommend Council approve the easements. Edwards said she would not make that decision until it came time for City Council to vote.

The modified bid will be released on November 5. VDOT will be paid nearly $2 million for the work.

Other news from the meeting:

Frederick asks Board and Council to call on Richmond to appropriate an additional $175 million to the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund. He said unless the next General Assembly comes up with the funding, the RWSA may receive only two-thirds of the state money it was expecting to upgrade the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment plant. That means the agency may have to find an additional $3.1 million to pay for the project.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
  • 01:00 - RWSA Chair Mike Gaffney opens meeting
  • 01:30 - Executive Director's report from Tom Frederick
  • 05:00 - Frederick comments on the request from DCR to update them on the dam progress
  • 11:30 - Frederick says any additional requests for studies need to be made now
  • 12:30 - County Executive Bob Tucker directs Frederick to submit WQIF request to TJPDC Legislative Liaison David Blount
  • 13:15 - City Councilor Holly Edwards asks what information Schnabel needs
  • 15:15 - Thomas asks if Schnabel's conceptual design for building on existing dam would look at different heights other than 13 feet
  • 20:30 - RWSA Chief Engineer Jennifer Whitaker describes the challenges Schnabel will face
  • 25:45 - Public comment from Richard Lloyd of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 29:00 - Public comment from City Council Candidate Bob Fenwick (I)
  • 31:45 - Public comment from Dede Smith of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 35:30 - Public comment from Albemarle County resident Susan Bacik
  • 37:00 - Public comment from Betty Mooney of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 43:15 - Public comment from Liz Palmer of the Albemarle County Service Authority
  • 46:45 - Dede Smith makes a correction to her comment
  • 47:00 - Responses to public comment
  • 50:00 - Thomas makes a comment about her role in efforts to create a sustainable water plan
  • 52:00 - Edwards asks for clarification on whether bathymetric study is required and if RWSA will pay for it
  • 55:20 - Edwards asks why Sugar Hollow Reservoir is down
  • 59:30 - RWSA takes up engineering services contract with HDR for dredging feasibility study
  • 1:11:00 - Edwards explains why Council made its decision to cut costsF 
  • 1:14:00 - Gary Fern of the ACSA offers to pay for second meeting
  • 1:16:00 - Frederick answers question from Edwards about how studies will be paid for
  • 1:19:00 - Fern makes the motion
  • 1:22:00 - Frederick begins his update of the Meadowcreek Interceptor study
  • 1:37:00 - Thomas reports on DEQ's new Total Maximum Daily Load requirements
  • 1:39:30 - Frederick expresses his opposition to the new requirements

October 28, 2009

Planning commission endorses Places29 over objections of business community

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

After an investment of four years and $1.6 million, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Tuesday to endorse Places29, a master plan for future development and transportation projects along the U.S. 29 corridor north of Charlottesville.

The decision came after a public hearing dominated by local business leaders who oppose many of the plan’s key transportation recommendations.  Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091027-CoPC-Places29
20091027-Williamson
Neil Williamson, Free Enterprise Forum

Neil Williamson, executive director of the business advocacy group the Free Enterprise Forum, told the commission his group could not support the current plan. 

“The plan is over budget, it over promises, and ignores the time frame stipulated by the planning process,”  said Williamson in an interview.  “By ignoring the [20 year time frame], the planners have relieved themselves from the restrictors of time and money.”

Commissioners Marcia Joseph (At-Large), William Edgerton (Jack Jouett), Cal Morris (Rivanna), and Tom Loach (White Hall) all voted to endorse the plan which now goes to the Board of Supervisors.  Commissioners Don Franco (Rio) and Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said the concerns of the business community about the impact of transportation proposals and potential fiscal impacts both needed further review.  Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) was not present at the meeting and was unavailable for comment today.

Chris Tyler is the owner of the Red Carpet Inn on U.S. 29. Tyler shared a view that resonated strongly with several members of the commission.

 “The first thing I’d like to say is kind of like what the doctors are told, ‘First, do no harm,’ said Tyler. “This plan will directly affect the businesses on the 29 corridor, and it will affect them adversely.  It will lower the revenues produced and therefore it will lower the tax base that the County has to work with.”

20091027-Butler
Morgan Butler, Southern Environmental Law Center
Morgan Butler is an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  He was one of two speakers who encouraged the commission to endorse the master plan.

“Transforming this part of the County into a more appealing and functional growth area that can also generate sustainable economic growth is a big challenge, but it is also a critical one for the county to undertake,” said Butler. “The first step is getting a plan in place, that sets forth that vision and then charts the course for getting there.”

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

Judy Wiegand, the Albemarle planner heading the project, said the staff had been directed from the beginning to take that approach and that it was “essential that they be done at the same time.” 

“There is no place in the County where that can be shown more clearly than in the 29 North corridor,” said Wiegand. 

Wiegand also pointed out that when future development projects are reviewed, the Places29 master Plan will help establish expectations about private sector contributions to accommodate a backlog of existing transportation needs.

20091027-WendellWood
Local developer Wendell Wood
Wiegand said she believed the extension of parallel roads like Berkmar Drive and Hillsdale Drive, combined with six grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29, would lead to greater economic vitality in the business sector.

“Businesses have been in our minds since the beginning,” said Wiegand. “Once we get more of the road improvements in place and the mixed use centers start to develop, there will be more economic vitality in the business community.  We are trying to make it easier for people to get to these businesses.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield was most concerned that the plan did not do more to encourage developer Wendell Wood to make a proffer to contribute financially to the plan’s road improvements.  She said expanding the County’s growth area to include land he owns in the path of the proposed Berkmar Drive extension was important.

Wood told the commission that he paid for the improvements and widening of U.S. 29 in front of Hollymead Town Center.  He encouraged the commission to expand the growth area to include his properties near the South Fork Rivanna River and the National Ground Intelligence Center, but those adjustments were not part of the final plan endorsed by the commission.

The Board of Supervisors is not expected to review the Places29 master plan until January 2010 at the earliest.  More information about the plan can be found on the County’s website at http://www.albemarle.org/places29

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

 

  • 1:35 – David Benish gives staff report on Places29 Master plan
  • 6:29 – Henry Weinschenk, Owner of Express Car Wash in the City, speaks against the plan, specifically the grade-separated interchanges
  • 9:34 – Neil Williamson, Executive Director of the Free Enterprise Forum, speaks against the plan, specifically against the absence of project timelines
  • 12:40 Carter Myers, owner of Colonial Auto Center, speaks against plan
  • 16:46 – Lloyd Wood, Chairman of the North Charlottesville Business Association, speaks against plan
  • 19:46 – Jim Kennan, County resident, speaks against plan
  • 22:36 – Tom Fromm, small business owner, speaks against plan
  • 26:39 – Chris Tyler, owner of the Red Carpet Inn, speaks against plan
  • 28:01 – Tim Hulbert, President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks against plan
  • 31:14 – Wendell Wood, property developer, speaks against existing designated growth area classifications [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 35:01 – Morgan Butler, from the Southern Environmental Law Center, speaks in support of the plan and against expanding the growth area
  • 37:36 – Jeff Werner, from the Piedmont Environmental Council, speaks in support of the plan
  • 40:08 – Bob Hodous, City resident, speaks against plan
  • 43:18 – Mark Green, the developer of Rivanna Plaza, speaks against plan
  • 45:36 – Roy Van Doren, owner of property at Hollymead Town Center, tells Commission that with plan which encourages density, comes traffic
  • 47:08 – Public hearing closed
  • 47:27 – Commissioner Cal Morris says business community concerns were clear
  • 48:06 – Commissioner Don Franco says public raised serious questions
  • 49:14 – Julia Monteith, UVA’s representative on the Planning Commission, asks why there is a disconnect between the planning process and resident concern
  • 50:08 – Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for Albemarle County, responds that the plan minimizes impact on businesses as much as possible, but says there must be a balance
  • 53:16 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph says this balance has been issue for a long time and specific components of the plan were decided long ago
  • 55:23 – Monteith says that she is surprised after all this planning that so many spoke against plan
  • 58:22 – Commissioner Bill Edgerton says that public comments did not come as a surprise to him and that since growth is coming to the area, improvements must be made on Route 29 now
  • 1:02:19 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield says that they have adequately heard objections from the business community in the past and that in the current economic climate, harm to businesses need to avoided as much as possible
  • 1:06:08 – Commissioner Tom Loach  says that the people commenting tonight do not fully represent the community as a whole and that the plan has been well-vetted
  • 1:21:16 -- Edgerton explains his view of consequences of growth area expansion and nature of Wendell Wood's offer to help build Berkmar Drive
  • 1:23:55 -- Cilimberg shares history of Wendell Wood's proposal to move this rural land into the growth area [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 1:25:43 – Joseph moves for approval; Edgerton seconds
  • 1:26:00 – Wendell Wood interrupts Planning Commission, accuses Edgerton of “lying” 
  • 1:27:04 – Cilimberg asks for clarification; does motion include the expansion for growth areas?
  • 1:27:34 – Joseph says that motion does not recommend expansion of growth area
  • 1:29:02 – Franco says he remains concerned about the plan’s impact on businesses along Route 29
  • 1:30:03 – Joseph says that she doesn’t see how impact on businesses can be accurately measured now
  • 1:30:59 – Cilimberg says that impacts must be reviewed and that any time comprehensive plans can be amended
  • 1:37:49 – Porterfield says she can’t support the plan that doesn’t contain adequate parallel roads
  • 1:39:03 – Final vote taken: 4 Yeas (Edgerton, Loach, Joseph, Morris), 2 Nays (Porterfield, Franco)

20091027-AlbCoPC1

October 26, 2009

County candidates square off on growth issues at final forum

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, October 26, 2009

Population growth, transportation improvements and protecting the watershed were the three topics discussed at the final candidate forum for the six men vying for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. The forum, held on October 22, 2009, was sponsored by Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation (ACCT), the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Rivanna Conservation Society.

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Watch the video:

Albemarle County Candidates Forum from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

The forum was moderated by Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.

The sponsors asked three long questions in advance of the forum, each of which was backed up with facts and footnotes.

Download Download the full list of questions here

Question 1: In light of ASAP’s survey on the area’s ecosystem services capacity, what policy implications do you envision for the pending revision of the Comprehensive Plan? What additional facts would be necessary to help you form your opinion about the desirability of capping County growth at an optimal sustainable population size?

20091022-ASAP-Thomas Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “I think the research for this study was flawed because it didn’t take into consideration technological advances and the increase in growth and density proposed by the master plan… After the last drought, many residents stepped up and worked to reduce the amount of water they used.... We can continue to be good stewards of the land and not handcuff future generations… I don’t believe in population control.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “The comprehensive plan is a beautiful statement of intent, but intent is empty, if you will, without process to support it, and we are limited in our process elements to our comprehensive plan… We need to strengthen policy choices that would lead to rural area protection….”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “Some of the additional information we need is really what I would call geographic specific information about the areas that we need to focus on to better protect areas where natural resources are housed. One of the things we do know is that forest protection is incredibly important.”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “The facts presented should give us all pause regarding the future size of our population. The study gives us time to address the possibility of rampant growth… If we can keep the growth in the urban ring… we’ll be able to mitigate the potentially harmful effects on our water, forests and fields.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “The study is valuable from the standpoint of helping to illustrate the needfor us to continue to set clear-cut policies in terms of zoning… I asked the question if the study took into account conservation easements… [the Consultant] said no… Right now some of the things we can continue to do is fund the [Acquisition of Conservation Easements] program…”

20091022-ASAP-lowry John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “I did see some things in the study that didn’t seem quite right. I am in North Garden, only 6.5% developed, and the study said the population could go from 6,800 to 60,000, and I don’t see that happening… It’s good to have the discussion in a conceptual and abstract sense because it’s better to plan for your future than not plan for your future…”




Question 2: Do you support the approach taken in the Places29 Master Plan to address traffic congestion through parallel roads, bus rapid transit, grade-separated interchanges and better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians? If so, how will you secure funding? If not, what is your plan for addressing the transportation problems of the County?

20091022-ASAP-slutzky David Slutzky (D-Rio): “If we’re going to have traffic, meaning people moving from place to place, I think we need to disperse and diffuse that energy across modalities… We’ve got to get people out of cars and into alternative modes of transportation… To the extent that people are in automobiles, we need to create a network of parallel roads… How we pay for them is a whole other matter….”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “I know of no place in the United States where a community our size has significantly increased alternative transportation by throwing massive amounts of taxpayer dollars at it, so I am inclined to think that throwing money at a fleet of empty buses is not the answer.... We need some of the parallel roads that are on the drawing board put in place, but at this time there does not appear to be any money for them…”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “We sought a bill at the legislature last year that would have allowed us to have a public referendum on whether or not we could add up to a penny on the sales tax for dedicated transportation funding for this area. The legislature did not allow that to get out of committee. Had we done that… we would have had adequate transportation funds to do most of the things that we know need to be done.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “If we have the seed money that we can raise on our own, that will allow us to do debt issues of long term capital to finance our improvements in the transportation system. After all, they’re long-term investments and they’ll pay us back… We really need to have the Sunset Avenue/Fontaine Avenue connector….”

20091022-ASAP-cummings Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “We must find ways to get out of our cars…If the General Assembly were to at least allow the localities to choose what improvements their citizens would desire and how to fund them by means of local referenda, I believe we would do the responsible thing.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “I think that we need the parallel roads… I’m not interested in seeing in seeing a through-way with U.S. 29 with grade-separated interchanges and increasing the speed limit to 60 miles an hour….”


Question 3: The County’s comprehensive plan calls for a number of policies to protect the Rivanna watershed, but a number have not been implemented. Can you comment on the County’s willingness to approve developments that are consistent with the plan, but its unwillingness to support policies such as the Mountain Overlay District? Do you agree with the County passing ordinances to make sure clean water flows towards the Chesapeake Bay?

20091022-ASAP-rooker Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett): “The County amended the zoning ordinance to include driveway standards… The County amended the water protection ordinance to require stream buffers and all intermittent and perennial streams… The County amended its process for development in the rural areas to require that building permits include critical resource reviews….”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller): “I do feel like Albemarle County is very effectively managed… I do support ordinances to protect the watershed… I think we need to have firm policies that we will not expand our growth area….”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller): “There should be equal respect given to protecting the natural environment as there is to development… I feel like we’ve made a promise to our fellow citizens in this community and the other states that feed into the Bay… We all need to do a better job… I feel like we must protect our forests because they clean the air, they hold the soil from erosion, and they enhance the quality of the water….”

20091022-ASAP-snow Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller): “Working on the Architectural Review Board, we started taking a really close look at how these projects were developing and making sure they got the controls in place… In large-scale development we need to make sure we have the runoff that we’ve had in the past… I’ve spent my life trying to educate people on how to take care of their land  and how to improve water quality… I look at myself as one of the original environmentalists in the area….”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio): “I think the solutions arrived at by the Board of Supervisors over the past several years were a reasonable balancing of the rights of property owners and improved steps to preserve our ecosystems…100 foot buffers on streams, required timely vegetation on development sites, driveway requirements in rural standards… We must be careful not to make farming impossible by making rules that limit our farming heritage….”

David Slutzky (D-Rio): “The comp plan gives us guidance… but it’s the Board’s job to carry out that will… How do we get further? I tell you when we sit there at a Board hearing and the folks who are there to defend their property rights are out in numbers, and the folks that want to have ecological systems protected for the benefit of future generations are at home talking about it among themselves, the political will isn’t there for our Board to be more proactive and assertive….”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Introduction from Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership
  • 04:50 - Gibson introduces the candidates
  • 07:00 - Question 1
  • 08:30 - Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) responds
  • 10:30 - David Slutzky (D-Rio) responds
  • 14:30 - Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) responds
  • 17:30 - Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 20:00 - Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 22:20 - John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 24:15 - Gibson reads additional information to set up Samuel Miller rebuttal
  • 25:30 - Cummings rebuttal to Question 1
  • 27:15 - Snow rebuttal to Question 1
  • 30:20 - Question 2
  • 32:10 - David Slutzky (D-Rio) responds
  • 34:10 - Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) responds
  • 36:00 - Slutzky rebuts Thomas
  • 37:00 - Thomas rebuts Slutzky
  • 38:20 - Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) responds
  • 41:45 - John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 43:45 - Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 45:45 - Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 47:45 - Lowry rebuts Snow and Cummings
  • 49:40 - Cummings rebuts Snow on the idea of zero based budgeting
  • 51:15 - Snow uses his rebuttal time to call for economic development
  • 52:45 - Question 3
  • 54:00 - Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) responds
  • 57:30 - Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 59:45 - John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 1:01:00 - Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller) responds
  • 1:04:00 – Samuel Miller candidates rebut on question 3
  • 1:09:40 - Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) responds
  • 1:10:30 - David Slutzky (D-Rio) responds
  • 1:12:00 - Rio candidates rebut on question 3

October 23, 2009

City candidates emphasize citizen input; local government accountability

By Connie Chang & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 23, 2009

With less than 2 weeks left until Election Day, citizens had one last opportunity to hear Charlottesville City Council candidates come together to discuss their views on local issues.  All five candidates relayed messages of the need for a more accountable local government, preservation and acquisition of green space, and methods to assist those in the lowest-economic bracket in the City.


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20091021-Alliance-1
Bob Fenwick (I), Paul Long (I), Moderator Jack Brown
At the Wednesday night forum hosted by the Alliance of Neighborhoods in City Council Chambers, Democrats Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos and independents Bob Fenwick, Paul Long, and Andrew Williams, responded to questions provided in advance as well as to inquiries from the audience. The Alliance of Neighborhoods was created in 2008 in order to protect the quality of life for Charlottesville and Albemarle County neighborhoods, which was a theme that resonated throughout the forum.

One of the prepared questions asked candidates to respond with measures they would take to improve traffic conditions and safety on Charlottesville roads. All of the candidates agreed that implementing traffic calming measures can help lessen problems associated with automobiles already on the road, but that more emphasis should be made on encouraging pedestrian and transit use. Many felt that expanding the current transit system to include more routes with more frequent service should be a transportation commitment made by the City.

Long, who has been a long-time advocate of alternative forms of transportation, said that there should be an “equal commitment to transportation” as with other issues Council must consider.

Candidates also agreed on the need to preserve green space throughout Charlottesville. With current state law, the City of Charlottesville does not possess the authority to require developers to protect green space with new projects. However, incumbent Dave Norris (D) noted that for the first time in many years, the City currently has funding to purchase green space and has worked to expand its tree planting program.

20091021-Alliance-2
Dave Norris (D), Kristin Szakos (D), Andrew Williams (I)
The forum called into question the capacity of local government to address citizen concerns. Several agreed that citizens need an “ally” in the City who they can depend on to listen to their requests and follow-through with results.

“The ability and willingness to listen should radiate through the department,” said Andrew Williams, the race’s independent write-in candidate.

The Alliance asked candidates whether they would eliminate or change the structure of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, both entities are jointly administered by Charlottesville and Albemarle County. No candidate called for the elimination of the water authority and only Norris said the City’s participation in the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority should be reexamined in the next year.

“Both of these organizations have hard working and competent employees…but the leadership is dysfunctional,” said Fenwick who cited the community water supply plan and the lawsuit against Peter van der Linde as examples.

“I think we need to make sure these folks work for us,” said Szakos.  “One way to do that is to be more proactive in who we chose to put on those boards and commissions.”

On these particular boards, there is only one voting member who is not there by virtue of their job in local government or as an elected official.  That seat is currently held by citizen Michael Gaffney who was jointly reappointed by City Council and the Board of Supervisors in December 2008.

Norris also commended citizens for stepping up and questioning on-going work of the RWSA and RSWA.  He said the addition of elected officials on both boards earlier this year would lead to more accountability.

Another audience question prompted the candidates to discuss their priorities in assisting the City’s poor. Fenwick identified jobs, education and neighborhood associations as the main elements to reaching this goal.

“The key to a strong city is strong neighborhoods,” said Fenwick.

Other candidates agreed that the City must work hard to close the achievement gap and affordable housing gap for its citizens by providing a broader range of job opportunities and investing in technical and vocational training.

“We need to come together with businesses and non-profits to figure out how to get a community that doesn’t fail our kids,” said Szakos.

The candidate forum was moderated by Jack Brown, a member of the Executive Board of the Alliance of Neighborhoods, and was attended by about 30 people.  The forum was broadcast live on public access television.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

01:00 - Introduction from Jack Brown, member of the Executive Board of the Alliance of Neighborhoods
03:00 - Opening statement by Andrew Williams (I)
04:31 - Opening statement by Kristin Szakos (D)
07:14 - Opening statement by Bob Fenwick (I)
10:35 - Opening statement by Dave Norris (D)
12:59 - Opening statement by Paul Long (I)
16:30 - Prepared Question 1: Countless surveys, formal or informal, over the past decade show traffic as the top problem confronting every city neighborhood -- too many cars and too much speeding.  But we have seen little effective action by city police, the planners, or NDS.  Quite the reverse.  What specific actions do you propose to address the problem?
25:54 - Prepared Question 2: Lately, Charlottesville has been placing an emphasis on our urban tree canopy.  Almost all can agree that our green surroundings are a matter of civic pride, and a draw to tourists and potential residents.  Would you support requiring developers to actively plant street trees and other significant vegetation-- even if it means that they might have to slightly reduce the size of their project to allow for this?
33:25 - Prepared Question 3: Almost every neighborhood organization has experienced the following scenario: They go before Council and/or the Planning Commission requesting assistance for a problem affecting their neighborhood.  These issues run the gamut from traffic relief to sidewalks to zoning conflicts.  Frequently, they are told that leaders or city staff will look into the problem and revisit the situation within a proscribed number of months, or meetings will be set up asking for neighborhood input.  But more often than not, the request either falls through the cracks, or the neighborhood's wishes are ignored, resulting in a carrot & stick scenario.  What would you propose to stop this frustrating and time-consuming cycle?
43:58 - Prepared Question 4: Many people in the city feel that both the RWSA and RSWA, including our appointed representatives on these Boards, are failing to represent the wishes of many residents.  In light of all that's happened over the past few years, should we do away with the Authority model entirely, or would you propose changes to the existing model?  What would those changes be?
53:40 - Prepared Question 5: What specific areas (e.g. institutions, joint services) could and should be administered jointly with Albermarle County?  For example, would you support joint City/County "Charter Schools" that can draw from the best of both school systems?  Should first responder services be merged, and if so, how and when?
1:06:36 - Audience Question 1: What is the number one thing you would do to help those on the lowest-economic rung?
1:12:27 - Audience Question 2: Are there city management issues that give you cause for concern? What are they? What do you plan to do about them?
1:17:57 - Audience Question 3: The city assessor has indicated that city assessments are down this year. Would you be more inclined to increase taxes or reduce services to make up for this shortfall?
1:23:40 - Audience Question 4: What will you do to offset the destruction of our natural resources by actions that the city may take?
1:29:45 - Audience Question 5: Do you favor requiring all landlords to conduct regular quality maintenance?
1:33:31 - Audience Question 6: Why say that the YMCA will be next to Charlottesville High School when it will really be in McIntire Park which we're trying to save?
1:37:15 - Audience Question 7: Why should City Council continue to support the Meadowcreek Parkway when the County has not lived up to its part of the agreement by for example, building the Sunset-Fontaine connector?
1:41:22 - Audience Question 8: We do not yet have a state-approved 30-50 water plan required by law by 2011. Will you pledge to get decade by decade calculations of the amount of water needed as required by the state plan before signing any agreement with the County to move forward with a new dam?
1:45:13 - Audience Question 9: Why did City Council allow the RWSA and RSWA to "fly under the radar?" Isn't it the responsibility of City Council to make sure that proper maintenance is done for the reservoir? Why wasn't dredging done? Is City Council paying attention?
1:51:46 - Closing statement by Paul Long
1:52:56 - Closing statement by Bob Fenwick
1:54:17 - Closing statement by Andrew Williams
1:56:06 - Closing statement by Kristin Szakos
1:57:00 - Closing statement by Dave Norris
1:58:18 - Closing remarks by Jack Brown

Albemarle candidates discuss transportation, economic development, and water supply

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 23, 2009

The six candidates running for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors made their case before a group of Charlottesville business leaders Thursday. The North Charlottesville Business Council asked questions about transportation plans, the government’s role in economic development and the community water supply plan.

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The candidates each had three minutes to make a brief opening statement.

20091022-NCBC-Sam-Miller Samuel Miller candidates, left to right: Madison Cummings (D), Duane Snow (R) and John Lowry (I)
Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller) pointed to his eight years on the Albemarle School Board. John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller) touted his chairmanship of the County’s Economic Development Authority. Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) said he would apply the lessons he learned running a business to County government.

David Slutzky (D-Rio) cited his entrepreneurship and gave examples of what he has done to attract jobs to Albemarle County. Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) said his time as Chair of the Planning Commission prepared him to serve on the Board.

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) faces no opposition, but said he should be re-elected in order to help maintain what he described as Albemarle County’s “fiscally-sound” local government. Rooker pointed to the County’s AAA bond rating, a tax-rate he described as low, and the transition to a five-year financial planning process.

The first question asked whether the candidates supported the adopted 50-year community water supply plan. All six said they agreed with the plan, but Thomas explained why he did not sign a pledge supporting the plan.

“I do support the plan… but I just want to see what the new designers and architects will come up with,” Thomas said, referring to the recent decision by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to hire Schnabel Engineering to design a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Thomas said he also wanted to know about why dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir was not selected as a way to add capacity to the water supply system.

Slutzky said that dredging will be more expensive than its proponents think, and that there are many logistical issues that may prevent that option from receiving federal and state permits.

“It might be possible to put the spoils in [a nearby] quarry, but it might not,” Slutzky said. “That quarry might have fracture zones in that will make it connect with an aquifer down below and the Clean Water Act isn’t going to let us just willy-nilly put a bunch of dredging [spoils] that might contaminate that.”

Lowry said he understood that many in Charlottesville are opposed to the plan because they don’t see the city’s population increasing. However, he said that could change as new information comes in from both Schnabel and the dredging feasibility study.

“My perception is that people in the City are getting the message that they’re going to need to be part of the plan because it’s the best alternative,” Lowry said. He said it was fair that County ratepayers pay more for the additional capacity that will be created under the plan.

Duane Snow said the elements of the plan should be built as quickly as possible. Madison Cummings said he did not want the plan to become another delayed infrastructure project, like the Meadowcreek Parkway.

The second question dealt with transportation. The NCBC, which is an affiliate of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, has been critical of the Places29 Master Plan over its potential to affect businesses along the U.S. 29 corridor. Chamber President Tim Hulbert asked what transportation improvement projects the candidates would support as Supervisor.

Lowry said he supports the parallel road network called for in the Places29 Master Plan, as well as a fourth lane on southbound U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the U.S. 250 Bypass. However, Lowry said the main issue is getting the state of Virginia to resume paying for roads.

Snow said he supports the extension of both Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar Drive, as well as the widening of U.S. 29 from Polo Ground Road to Hollymead Town Center. Snow said he is opposed to the grade-separated interchanges called for in Places29.

“Before I would consider grade-separated interchanges, I think we should reopen the bypass discussion,” Snow said. However, he pointed out the idea was moot because there is no funding for any of the projects at this time.

Cummings said he also supported Hillsdale and Berkmar, as well as a grade-separated interchange at Rio Road and U.S. 29. However, he said a similar interchange at Hydraulic may not be necessary. Cummings also said that in his opinion the Western Bypass was dead.

20091022-NCBC-Jack-Rio Left to right: Rio District Supervisor candidates David Slutzky (D) and Rodney Thomas ( R) as well as unopposed Jack Jouett District candidate Dennis Rooker (I)
Thomas said he was against all of the grade separated interchanges because they would “destroy the businesses” along U.S. 29. He added that it was crucial that both the City and the County are on the same page concerning the stretch between Hydraulic Road and the U.S. 250 Bypass. Thomas said he supports the Western Bypass or the extension of Leonard Sandridge Road.

Slutzky said he is concerned that VDOT wants to turn U.S. 29 into an “expressway” in order to make it easier for through traffic to travel through Albemarle County. He said there might be a good case to be made for the Western Bypass, but raising “a quarter of a billion dollars” for the project would be difficult.

Slutzky said building parallel roads to U.S. 29 and expanding the transit system would help alleviate congestion on what he called Albemarle County’s Main Street. Slutzky said the only way Berkmar Road would be expanded is if the County expands its growth area to allow for development between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center.

The final question sought to find out the candidates’ position on the role local government should play in economic development.

Slutzky said one thing the government should do is fund infrastructure. Thomas said local government should provide services such as police in order to attract businesses. Rooker said that a good education system is a requirement for companies looking to locate or grow here. Cummings said sometimes government should foster a climate for economic development, and sometimes government needs to stay out of the way. Snow said the role of government is to facilitate planning. Lowry repeated his call for the County to create an economic development department.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
  • 01:00 - Introduction from L.F. Wood, Chairman of the NCBC
  • 02:15 - Opening comments from Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller)
  • 05:00 - Opening comments from Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller)
  • 07:20 - Opening comments from John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller)
  • 10:45 - Opening comments from David Slutzky (D-Rio)
  • 13:30 - Opening comments from Rodney Thomas (R-Rio)
  • 16:10 - Opening comments from Dennnis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett)
  • 20:30 - Question 1: The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the Albemarle County and Charlottesville 50-year water supply plan. Do you support the plan?
  • 32:30 - Question 2: The north Charlottesville corridor houses 20,000 jobs and contributes for $800 million a year in salaries. There are lots of plans for transportation projects in the corridor. Which ones do you support? Which might you champion? Grade-separated interchanges? Western Bypass?
  • 49:00 - Question 3: What is Albemarle County's role in economic development?
  • 56:00 – Closing comments from L.F. Wood

October 22, 2009

Competing interchange plans under review for Hydraulic and U.S. 29

DailyProgress
By Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Less than a month after the Virginia Department of Transportation unveiled its plans for the U.S. 29 corridor, a local solution to the traffic congestion at U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road has resurfaced before planners in Albemarle County.  At their meeting Tuesday night, engineering plans for a grade-separated interchange were reviewed by the Planning Commission as part of the process to establish right-of-way boundaries around the future Albemarle Place development.

Download Download the plan developed by the Cox Company

Hydraulic-interchange
Cox Company design for a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic and U.S. 29 (Click for a higher resolution image)
One corner of the Hydraulic Road intersection is in the county at the current location of a 7-Eleven store.  The other three corners are all in the City of Charlottesville.  When the county approved the mixed-use Albemarle Place development in 2003, it required the Cox Company to submit a design for the interchange in order to identify viable building locations in the development area behind the 7-Eleven store. 

VDOT and Albemarle County have been reviewing the interchange design plans since late 2006. In an interview, Jack Kelsey, the county’s transportation engineer, said more design work would be required prior to construction.

“This has not been accepted as a final design, but for the purposes of adopting an official map, it provides the necessary information,” said Kelsey.

The Planning Commission recommended adoption of an “official map” that shows which parcels of land the county would need to ask be reserved in order to prepare for construction of a grade-separated interchange. No similar process is currently underway to reserve right-of-way in the city.

David Benish, Albemarle County’s Chief of Planning, said approval of the map does not indicate approval of the interchange itself.

“It’s just to establish the amount of land which may be necessary for such an improvement,” Benish said.

The interchange, which was designed by the Cox Company, is known as a “single point urban interchange.” During construction, U.S. 29 would be lowered by about 25 feet allowing for Hydraulic Road to be rebuilt overhead at its existing elevation. According to the Places29 Master Plan, the cost estimate for the project is around $40 million in today’s dollars,.

This design is consistent with what is envisioned in the Places29 Master Plan,” said Kelsey.

The plan has also convinced VDOT and the County that at least three lanes of through traffic would be kept open in each direction during construction, a condition required by VDOT according to Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development.  However, Graham said in an interview that the compromise made to achieve that goal was that the Hydraulic Road crossover would have to be closed during construction.

The official map has to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors before the end of this year or the requirement that the developer reserve right-of-way would expire. Proffers signed at the time of the rezoning also require the developer, now Edens & Avant,  to “diligently pursue approval of the plans in the City.”

20090929-VDOT-250-Hydraulic

(Click for larger image)
However, VDOT’s corridor-wide study of U.S. 29, released last month, recommended a much different approach for moving traffic on and off the U.S. 29/250 Bypass. Their study proposes an elevated road starting north of the Hydraulic intersection and passing over the Kroger grocery store and other city businesses. This “flyover concept” known as the 250-Hydraulic Connector remains in the study’s recommendations, despite the removal late last week of two other local proposals, the Leonard Sandridge Road extension and the so-called “eastern bypass” along Albemarle’s border with Louisa County.

"Given the fact that the corridor study eliminates the grade-separated interchange and replaces it with a flyover concept, that changes the dynamic there,” said Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services.

Tolbert called the Cox design nothing more than a concept, and said the city continues to have concerns that too many of its businesses would be impacted by the construction. No funding has been dedicated to the interchange nor is any expected to be available in the immediate future from the state transportation budget.

In May, City Council overruled the recommendation of the city’s planning commission to put the Hydraulic interchange back in the region’s long-range transportation plan.  Council indicated its priority was for the Hydraulic Road interchange be built only after one is constructed in Albemarle at the intersection of  Rio Road and U.S. 29. 

The Board of Supervisors will consider the right-of-way map at their meeting on December 2nd. Next Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Places29 Master Plan at 6:00 PM in Lane Auditorium at the County Office Building.

October 21, 2009

2009 voter guides now available in interactive online format

The Charlottesville Tomorrow - Daily Progress 2009 Voter Guides are now available in an interactive page-flipping format.  Special thanks to Catstone Press for making this special contribution to our local election coverage offerings.  Leave a comment and let us know what you think.


Click to view the 2009 City & County Voter Guides in an interactive window.


2009-Voter-Guides Note: You can still download individual PDFs too:

City Voter Guide | County Voter Guide


UVA Hospital Plan calls for new construction, greenspace enhancements

By Tarpley Ashworth
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The University of Virginia has shared plans with the City of Charlottesville showing how it intends to transform its medical center complex into more of a “campus atmosphere” that enhances the experience of patients, visitors, and staff.


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Download 20091013-CPC-UVA-Final

David Neuman, the Architect for the University of Virginia, presented an update on the Health System Area Plan to the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday, October 13, 2009. The plan includes infrastructure, design, and landscaping objectives for the hospital campus and the areas that surround it.

20091013-Health-Proposals
Health System Proposals (Source: UVA Medical Center)

Construction is booming throughout the medical center complex, with two substantial building projects completed within the past year and three additional projects slated for completion by 2011. Of the projects currently underway, the Claude Moore Medical Education Building will be completed first and ready for occupation by 2010. The Emily Couric Cancer Center and the 72-bed hospital tower expansion will be completed in 2011. A pocket park was also dedicated recently at the edge of hospital property across from Stacy Hall.The existing covered pedestrian walkway which traverses over Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA) and connects the hospital’s main building to the West Complex is also scheduled to be extended. After its completion, the pedestrian bridge will reach further East, connecting the West Complex directly with the East Parking Garage and the North Parking Garage that’s currently under construction off of West Main Street.

20091013-Entryways
Green Space Improvements: Major Entrances (Source: UVA Medical Center)

The hospital has also proposed several additional projects, including a Health Sciences Library expansion, a new research center, a new education building between the Couric Center and the East Parking Garage, a new clinical building, and new headquarters for the UVA Children’s Hospital.

All of these projects are within the existing boundaries of hospital property. Neuman said that this infill development is a goal of future expansion so the hospital can maintain a connected character while not stretching across the City.

“That’s a very sustainable approach. We can focus on doing better with the existing area,” said Neuman.

The plan also calls for enhancements to the three road approaches to the hospital. Two of these, the JPA/West Main Street gateway and the JPA/Lane Road gateway, are already being improved with construction of additional sidewalks and the planting of trees and other vegetation.

The third entryway at Crispell Avenue and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard will be the “most dramatic” improvement, according to Neuman. The plan envisions the undeveloped land on either side of the roads transforming into a tree-lined thoroughfare.

“This project will be to the order of several hundred trees,” said Neuman.

20091013-Linkages
Green Space Improvements: Pedestrian Linkages (Source: UVA Medical Center)

Finally, the plan proposes greenspace enhancements throughout the area. Small pedestrian malls, complete with benches, streetlamps and grass, are recommended for areas around Jordan Hall and Lancaster Street (formerly known as 15th Street SW). The Jordan Hall pedestrian mall is proposed for an existing slab of concrete behind the building, while the Lancaster pedestrian mall is proposed in the space of the existing street. Lancaster Street has been closed for construction of the Claude Moore Medical Education Building for more than a year.

Additionally, a terrace of trees and shrubs are proposed for the side of McKim Hall and improvements to the sidewalks on Hospital Drive, which runs from University Avenue to Varsity Hall. Neuman also foresees a greenspace connector from the School of Nursing to the nearly-complete South Lawn Project crossing Brandon Avenue.

Members of the Planning Commission provided nothing but praise.

“As someone who lives near the medical center and makes my way on foot… to the Corner or Central Grounds, the vision you described to transform the medical center into a campus is really inspiring,” said Chairman Jason Pearson.

Vice-Chairman Genevieve Keller thought the greenspace enhancements were of particular importance.

“What struck me [in the presentation] is that there will be many parks. This will be important not just to the people who work there, but also for the people who are there for treatments,” said Keller. “So often I see people from southwest Virginia and they are stuck in Charlottesville for six weeks to get radiation [treatment]. I think this will provide such respite and it will be great.”