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December 31, 2009

Biscuit Run bought by Virginia to create new state park in Albemarle

DailyProgress

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Related Stories:

Windfall for Biscuit Run developer? Tax credits could become cash - 12/28/09
By Bryan McKenzie and Brandon Shulleeta, The Daily Progress

Biscuit Run may become state park - 12/9/09
By Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Biscuit Run property in Albemarle County has been acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia for $9.8 million for use as a future state park. On Wednesday, Forest Lodge LLC transferred the 1,200 acres to the state, land that had once comprised the largest residential development ever approved in Albemarle County.

“When developed as a state park, this extraordinary piece of land will benefit the citizens of Albemarle, Charlottesville and the Commonwealth for recreation, natural resource protection and the preservation of open space in a fast growing area,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a media release.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state to acquire such a valuable property which offers spectacular mountain views, abundant flora and fauna and is in the viewshed of Mr. Jefferson’s Monticello estate and farms,” said Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr.

Forest Lodge LLC and its principal, local banker and developer Hunter E. Craig, have been in discussions with the state for the past several months. Susan Payne, of Payne, Ross & Associates, a public relations firm representing Craig, said the sale was a very exciting outcome for everyone involved in the project.

“The investors believe that preserving 1,200 acres of land for generations to come will be a tremendous benefit to the County of Albemarle,” said Payne in an interview. “Giving a gift was in the best interest of all concerned.”

Asked about the financial impact on investors who paid a reported $46.2 million for the land in 2005, Payne said “the investors will not come out whole and no one is getting a windfall.”

According to the deed records, Craig intends to pursue Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credits and federal charitable deductions. The state credits are an incentive for property owners to permanently protect undeveloped land and are available for 40 percent of the appraised value of the property. The property is currently assessed by Albemarle County at almost $44 million.

‘Bargain sale’

“This is what is known legally as a ‘bargain sale,’ when there is a reduced cash payment and the seller applies for tax credits,” said Bryant in an interview. “We have determined that this project is eligible for land preservation tax credits. The seller will have to apply in the 2010 calendar year and it will be up to the state Department of Taxation to act on their application.”

The amount of those tax credits has not yet been determined, according to Bryant, and will be a matter for Craig to resolve with the department of taxation.

Since this story was first reported by The Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow earlier this month, Albemarle County officials have also expressed concerns about the loss of a quality neighborhood project and the loss of proffers that would help build community infrastructure.

The 800 developable acres, and 400 acres originally proposed for a county park, are between Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road south of Charlottesville, in one of the county’s designated growth areas. Urban development is only permitted in about 5 percent of the county’s land.

“The county has not been involved in the recent Biscuit Run transaction and did not have any authority or ability to influence the decision one way or another,” said County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. “We will work cooperatively with state officials to create the most positive possible outcome for the community and to realize the maximum benefits of the park, which include protected land for our residents and a boost to our tourism industry.”

In September 2007, Biscuit Run was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors for 3,100 homes on about 800 acres, representing about 3.5 percent of Albemarle’s designated growth area. Another 400 acres of rural land was going to become a local park.

“We do remain concerned about what we consider to be substantial impacts to the county which include loss of tax revenue and proffers including a school site and a major road connection,” said Tucker. “The loss of significant acreage in our designated development area will create pressure for development elsewhere in the county.”

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Group lauds park idea

John Cruickshank, head of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, said he thought the new park would be supported by the “vast majority” of area residents.

“This is a wonderful development for the greater Charlottesville community and for the whole state of Virginia,” said Cruickshank in an interview. “The Sierra Club commends all those who made this possible.”

Asked about the County’s concern that pressure may build for replacement land in the growth area, Cruickshank said he did not expect that to be a problem.

“I don’t see that this is a reason to open up new areas for growth. There has already been plenty of growth and other areas zoned for new development,” said Cruickshank. “A lot of that growth is already going to occur north of town and there is plenty of room for people who need homes.”

Secretary Bryant was asked how the state reconciled its 40-year goal to have a new park in central Virginia with Albemarle’s existing comprehensive plan designating Biscuit Run for development.

“Albemarle has among the most progressive land use planning processes of any jurisdiction in the state,” said Bryant. “The County had an opportunity to weigh in and we are very cognizant of this land being in the growth area.”

Bryant also emphasized that, while Albemarle would lose some short-term property taxes since the property is now tax-exempt, there would be other economic benefits from tourism.

‘Economic benefit’

“I think this is going to be a very good recreational and economic benefit to Albemarle County,” said Bryant. “The 2009 figures for the revenue generated from all state parks show they created about $180 million in positive economic impact to localities.”

The state funding to purchase the property is coming from two sources. According to Bryant, $5 million is left over from a 2002 voter-approved bond issue for the purchase of state park lands. The balance of $4.8 million is federal transportation enhancement funds.

“The federal government gives VDOT funding each year for enhancement projects like land acquisition and beautification,” said Bryant.

Both the Federal Highway Administration and the Commonwealth Transportation Board have already approved the use of funds for the purchase.

Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council helps negotiate many local conservation easements. He said PEC had initially been approached to help with the donation of the property.

“Given the magnitude of the project, we thought it was best left to the state because of the implications for local planning,” said Linville who was also at the courthouse to witness the transaction. “The way they have prepared this deed ties their hands in a positive way for the community. The state has formally agreed to only use it for park land.”

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will launch a master planning process for the future park, a process that can take as long as a year. Beyond that, Bryant said the General Assembly would also have to appropriate operating funds consistent with the park’s master plan.

The deal was negotiated throughout December and Payne said it was a challenge to pull it all together before the Albemarle County Circuit Court closed for the calendar year. The Biscuit Run deed paperwork was brought to the courthouse by Lori Schweller, of the firm LeClair Ryan, late Wednesday afternoon.

Schweller stood patiently for about thirty minutes while she waited for a final phone call giving her authorization to make the transfer. Once the call came in at 4:23 p.m., the documents were recorded. With the New Year’s holiday beginning today, Clerk Debra M. Shipp said it was the last deed recorded in Albemarle for 2009.

Kaine is expected to attend a news conference on Jan. 8 in Charlottesville to formally announce the purchase.

Regal Cinema may opt for new site instead of expanding in current location

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 31, 2009

Plans announced in May to expand Regal Cinema 4 theater behind the K-Mart shopping center in  Charlottesville may not come to fruition. The Regal Entertainment Group has yet to submit a site plan for an expanded theater and announced this week they may build a larger theater elsewhere along U.S. Route 29.

The news will surely disappoint some movie-goers  anxiously awaiting the arrival of state-of-the-art theater amenities such as stadium-seating and digital projectors.

Seminole The Regal Seminole Square cinema may not expand as previously announced
They have nice comfy chairs and your view is never blocked,” said Barb Pollard of Crozet. Pollard stood in line Tuesday to catch a screening of “It’s Complicated” at the Regal Downtown Cinema .

The Charlottesville-Albemarle community has four commercial movie theaters. Two are owned by Regal, a six-screen cinema on Seminole Trail is owned by Carmike Cinemas, and a one-screen theater is owned by Staunton-based Visulite Cinemas.

None of the area’s 17 movie screens are located in a theater with stadium seats, where each row is significantly higher than the one in front so all audience members have a good view.  Rows in traditional theaters have a more gradual slope.

In May, the Regal announced plans to expand its existing cinema on India Road to add five screens, some of which would include stadium seating and digital projectors. Those plans raised the alarm of City officials who had assumed the cinema would be abandoned in order to make way for the extension of Hillsdale Drive from Greenbrier Road to Hydraulic Road.

20090501-hillsdale-plan
Location of theater and proposed Hillsdale Drive Ext. in
Fall 2008 project update newsletter (click to enlarge)

Preliminary plans for Hillsdale Drive have the road passing through the site of the current Regal Cinema 4 theater and the City had planned on negotiating the right-of-way on the property.  The $30.5 million project is currently on hold while efforts are made by the city to secure funding. Due to the ongoing recession, the state of Virginia will likely not resume funding for new transportation projects until at least 2016.


Regal has not yet submitted a site plan for the Seminole Square location to the City of Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development. Vice President of Marketing & Communications  Russ Nunley told Charlottesville Tomorrow that his company’s primary goal is to find a place for a “state-of-the-art” theater.

“After announcing our plans to move forward with a re-build and expansion at our current location, we were approached with a new proposal from another project along the popular Seminole Trail corridor,” Nunley said. “If we are successful in securing a deal, then we will abandon plans to expand our existing theatre. “

Nunley would not identify exactly where this other location might be, but a top Albemarle official says there are many options.

"I would think there's a number of developments that are approved in the county where there's an opportunity for that type of use," said Mark Graham, Albemarle County's director of community development.
      
One candidate could be Albemarle Place, a 1.8 million square foot commercial development planned just across U.S. 29 from the Regal’s existing location. Officials with developer Edens & Avant would not comment on whether a movie theater is currently under consideration on their site. 

Even without an expansion, Charlottesville appears to be an attractive market for Regal. Nunley said his company’s Seminole Square and Downtown Mall cinemas set box office records for the Christmas weekend.

 

December 20, 2009

ACSA discusses financing for two extensions of sewer service

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 18, 2009

At their meeting on December 17, 2009, the Board of Directors for the Albemarle County Service Authority discussed scenarios in which two service expansions could be financed. They set a date for a public hearing for a special rate district to pay for a new sewer pump station to serve Albemarle County’s northern growth area. The Board also considered a grant application to connect a low-income neighborhood in the southern growth area to the sewer system.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091217-ACSA-Expansions

20090404-Camelot-WWTP

The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plan will be retired when the North Fork Regional Pump Station is complete
The North Fork Regional Pump Station will replace the aging Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant, which lacks the capacity to meet future demand.  When the station is completed, sewage will be pumped south to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Charlottesville.

However, the area to be served by the pump station contains many vacant lots that will one day be developed, including the North Pointe development. The ACSA will borrow $14.5 million so the project can be built as soon as possible, in advance of development. The goal is to recoup costs through the special rate district.

The district, if enacted, will be split it into two zones, with the dividing line coming at the North Fork of the Rivanna River. Those in the north will pay an additional $2,088 per residential connection, and those in the south will pay a $854 fee. Those in the north are paying more because that area is currently not served by the ACSA’s sewer system. This special fee is in addition to other charges the ACSA levies on homebuilders and existing property owners who want to connect to the system.

The ACSA is paying for 10% of the project to replace Camelot.

 “We already have customers so therefore that’s our percentage of the overall flow,” Fern said.

The pump station will also allow for the ACSA to extend sewer service to the Airport Acres neighborhood. That community is currently served by septic fields, but it is anticipated that these will no longer be adequate in the coming decades.

The Board set a date of February 18, 2010 for a public hearing for the rate district. They also authorized staff to proceed with hiring a financial consultant to put together a bond package.

ACSA Board agrees to waive sewer connection fees for Oak Hill extension

The ACSA is applying for a federal Community Development Block Grant with the Albemarle County Department of Housing to pay for a extension of sewer service to the Oak Hill neighborhood in the county’s southern growth area. To do so, the Board of Directors agree to waive connection fees to any resident or property owner who agrees to be served by the extension.

The Oak Hill neighborhood is located off of Old Lynchburg Road south of I-64. Drinking water in the community was recently supplied by wells, but the ACSA recently installed water mains.

“The next step is to provide wastewater service,” Fern said. The construction estimate to do so is $737,000.

The deadline for the grant application is at the end of February. By then, at least 43 of 57 households in the neighborhood must respond to an income survey. In order to qualify for the grant, at least 22 of the homes must be classified as having residents who have low to median incomes (LMI). Additionally, all of the residents and property owners who want to be connected must sign a user agreement committing to the project.

December 19, 2009

Crozet leaders anticipate a critical review of Yancey Mills Business Park in January

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Albemarle County officials gathered more input on potential changes to the twenty-year Crozet Master Plan at a forum held Thursday evening.  The Crozet community continues to weigh in on modifications to the county’s first ever master plan, originally approved in 2004, which is now getting its first five-year review.

Mike Marshall, chair of the Crozet Community Advisory Council, welcomed an audience of about 40 residents to the third of five planned community forums on different aspects of the master plan.  Marshall said he didn’t think there would be much controversy about the matters on the evening’s agenda, however he foreshadowed concerns about the Yancey Mills Business Park proposal. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:Download 20091217-Crozet-Forum3

20091217-Crozet-Marshall
Mike Marshall, Chair, Crozet Community Advisory Council
Marshall, an outspoken critic of the expansion of the growth area and business park, encouraged residents to each return with “15 or 20 friends” for the next forum being held January 21st.“The next forum is going to be about light industrial uses,” said Marshall. “This is a highly significant issue for Crozet and we need a good turnout and we need people to pay attention.  The Yancey’s have put in a comprehensive plan amendment which would create a 184-acre light industrial park at the southeast corner of the I-64 interchange.”

The Albemarle County Planning Commission will receive a highly anticipated report on issues related to light industrial zoning at their meeting January 19th.  Marshall said he wanted the advisory council to weigh in on that report, with feedback from Crozet residents, before the recommendations are considered by the Board of Supervisors in February.

Incoming Supervisor Rodney Thomas (Rio) said in a November interview that he was interested in finding new locations for light industrial businesses and that he was open to discussing the business park proposal in Crozet’s rural area. 

A year ago, the supervisors overturned a 6-1 vote by the planning commission to table the business park and directed that the Yancey Mills project be considered as part of the master plan review.  At the time, Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) expressed concern about leaving a decision that he said could have benefits for the entire county “in the hands of a relatively small group of people” in Crozet.

At the first two forums on the master plan revisions, the community discussed downtown Crozet and land use patterns.  The topics at Thursday’s meeting included transportation facilities, parks and greenways, and community facilities like libraries and schools.

20091217-Crozet “I think that the planning process is a good one,” said participant Mac Lafferty in an interview.  “I like the way that the county has broken it down into several different meetings. I  was pretty pleased with the participation we had last night.”

Lafferty, an engineer that previously lived in Crozet, was appointed last week by Supervisor Dennis Rooker to the county planning commission’s Jack Jouett seat.  His term begins in January.  Supervisor Ann Mallek was another local official in attendance at the forum.

On transportation, residents said they wanted a reexamination of a frontage road proposed by staff to run parallel to Route 250 in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School.  The County’s Community Relations Manager, Lee Catlin, said she also heard residents express a high priority for trails and pedestrian connections that would allow people living in Western Ridge, Highlands  to get into downtown Crozet.

Mike Marshall said a pedestrian connection was also needed between downtown Crozet and Old Trail Village.

“We now have two economic centers that really are within walking distance, that are trying to emerge and get stronger,” said Marshall.  “We need to make it plain to people that you can walk there.”

After the fifth community forum is held in February, a summary of recommendations from staff and the public will be provided to the planning commission in March.  The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to start its review of the Crozet Master Plan revisions in June.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 00:01:11 – Introduction by Mike Marshall, Chair, Crozet Community Advisory Council
  • 00:07:24 – Presentation by Elaine Echols, Albemarle County’s principal planner for the development areas
  • 00:10:30 – Echols describes timeline for master plan review.  Planning Commission to get recommendations in March 2010.  Recommendations go to Board of Supervisors in June 2010.
  • 00:11:19 – Echols reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for transportation issues
  • 00:18:05 – Echols reviews staff recommendations for transportation changes in the master plan
  • 00:24:10 -- Echols discusses staff recommendation to maintain proposed frontage road in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School, parallel to Route 250.
  • 00:25:09 -- Rebecca Ragsdale, Albemarle County Neighborhood Planner, starts staff presentation on parks and greenways
  • 00:26:19 – Ragsdale reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for parks and greenways
  • 00:27:58 – Ragsdale reviews the limited staff recommendations for changes in the master plan related to parks and greenways
  • 00:31:38 – Ragsdale reviews guiding principles and 2004 recommendations for community facilities
  • 00:36:36 – Ragsdale reviews staff recommendations for community facilities in the master plan
  • 00:38:40 – Marshall asks residents for feedback on transportation issues.  Goal of road interconnections in 2004 master plan is discussed.
  • 00:40:35 – Marshall asks for discussion of proposed frontage road in front of Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle School.  Resident questions value of this road.  Ragsdale describes benefit for traffic that would not need to get on Route 250.  Marshall says he doesn’t think it will contribute much benefit.  Parent describes benefit of road for student pick up and drop offs.
  • 00:48:18 – Marshall reflects that there are a number of concerns being raised about traffic congestion at the school.  Discussion of truck traffic and proposed Eastern Avenue.
  • 01:10:47 – County Transportation Engineer, Jack Kelsey, provides update on Jarmans Gap Road improvements.  He reports that VDOT’s staff cuts in right-of-way acquisition department is causing some delays.  Kelsey says there is a $900,000 gap funding shortfall on the project.
  • 01:16:00 – Marshall starts discussion of parks and greenways.
  • 01:19:30 – Marshall calls for a pedestrian connection between Downtown Crozet and Old Trail.
  • 01:22:00 -- Marshall starts discussion of community facilities.  Need for placeholder for a third elementary school is discussed.
  • 01:23:41 -- Recap of comments as captured by Lee Catlin, Albemarle’s Community Relations Manager

December 18, 2009

RSWA will review bids to privatize trash and recycling operations

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 18, 2009

The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority board on Thursday approved a resolution indicating it will accept competitive bids to privatize operations at the Ivy Material Utilization Center and McIntire recycling facilities.

20091217-RSWA-Brown
Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown
The RSWA has said it needs to upgrade equipment at the Ivy facility if it is going to continue operating the trash transfer facility. A Charlottesville-Albemarle County agreement related to solid waste operations expires in June and some officials have recommended that, instead of renewing that agreement, local governments should privatize the operation.

In the public comment opportunity, former City Council candidate Bob Fenwick was one of three speakers who asked the board to drop a lawsuit against Peter van der Linde, who is operating a private solid waste and recycling facility in Zion Crossroads.

Officials have said the lawsuit and their interest in privatization are not related.

City Councilor David Brown responded to the public's comments and shared his rationale for supporting the van der Linde lawsuit.

"This case is Rivanna accusing Mr. van der Linde of fraud, and the fraud he is accused of is intentionally not paying as much as a million dollars in fees due to Rivanna," Brown said. "I would hope people aren't saying, 'That's OK. We don't really care what he did, he is doing such a good business now, that he is to be excused from that.'"

"Is there compelling evidence to support a lawsuit against Mr. van der Linde? In my opinion, there is," Brown said.

20091217-RSWA-vanderlinde2
Peter van der Linde
After listening to the statements from Brown, van der Linde said in an interview that the lawsuit was still unfounded.

"They got it wrong, 100 percent wrong," van der Linde said. "They are relying on information provided only by their counsel and have chosen to ignore information provided independently by [me]."

Van der Linde, who maintains he is being singled out in the lawsuit, said that he has provided the RSWA with all the information he has ever had concerning the records on service fees. He said the RSWA has not reciprocated to provide him information on their other trash customers.

"[The records] would allow me to establish with absolute certainty the widespread neglect of the collection of the fees from other haulers," van der Linde said. "I am innocent."

Construction contract awarded for Meadowcreek Interceptor; Some property may face condemnation

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 18, 2009

At a public hearing held Thursday, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority heard from three property owners who have not accepted offers for the purchase of easements needed to upgrade a major sewer line that passes through their properties. The Meadowcreek Interceptor, used by 40 percent of city and county urban ratepayers, is going to be upgraded from a 24-inch to a 36-inch sewer pipe at a cost of $19.2 million.

20091217-RWSA
The neighbors said they wanted to continue negotiations before the authority made a final decision to start construction. The RWSA successfully negotiated easements on 49 other residential properties. The authority said they did not get positive responses from just five property owners, who were offered a total of $11,662 in compensation, largely for permanent easements for the sewer line.

20091217-RWSA-Kildoo
Kathleen Sicard Kildoo
Kathleen Sicard Kildoo, who was offered $5,694 for an easement on her property, said she came to the public hearing in the hopes of avoiding condemnation proceedings.

"We are continuing to negotiate," Kildoo said. "We haven't refused your offer. We never made any ... indication of refusal."

Residents said that while they received the final offers from RWSA in September, there was no deadline to respond. Kildoo said the next communication from the RWSA was the notice they received last week for the public hearing indicating the authority was going to pursue condemnation to secure the easements.

"We have been working on this project for about three years," said the RWSA's executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr. "We've had multiple contacts with each of the property owners."

"There are landscape plans, there are pipes that have been moved further from houses, there are pipes that are being buried 5 feet [deeper] than they were originally designed," Frederick said. "All of those were attempts to accommodate the positive suggestions that we got, and I think that speaks for itself that we have made the effort to negotiate fairly."

After the public hearing, the authority's board authorized condemnation proceedings for the easements, but asked Frederick to not submit the paperwork to the court until Jan. 14, allowing the residents a window for further negotiations.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the compensation offered to each property owner would be held in escrow by the Charlottesville Circuit Court while the RWSA moves ahead with construction of the new sewer line. Property owners can challenge the appraisals in court or accept the compensation offered by the RWSA.

The RWSA also agreed to retain Metra Industries, based in New Jersey, which was the lowest of nine bidding companies for the construction work. Metra won a $10.8 million contract, an amount the officials said was well within their budget and almost 50 percent lower than expected. Engineers originally estimated the construction costs for this bid at $21 million.

"RWSA is very pleased that the bid prices are reflective of the current competitive bidding market," said Jennifer Whitaker, the RWSA's chief engineer, in her written report to the board.

Greeley and Hansen, with offices in Richmond, was retained for construction administration at an amount not to exceed about $1.8 million. According to Frederick, the overall cost of the interceptor project is now estimated at $19.2 million, including engineering, land acquisition, legal costs, landscaping and contingencies.

December 16, 2009

Planners endorse amendments for architectural review process

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ever since Albemarle County created an Architectural Review Board (ARB) in 1990, many in the development community have expressed concern that the extra layer of scrutiny adds time to an already lengthy approval process for rezonings, site plans and special use permits.

Property owners along any of the county’s 21 specially designated ‘entrance corridors’ must apply to the ARB for a “certificate of appropriateness” before construction can begin. The county’s entrance corridors include all major routes into Charlottesville as well as Virginia Route 6 (Irish Road), Route 151 (Critzer Road) and Airport Road. Interstate 64 is also considered an entrance corridor.

Now the county is poised to change the language that governs the ARB in order to lighten the body’s workload and to speed up the review process. A task force of citizens, developers and staff recommended in 2007 that Albemarle rewrite its code to make the ARB’s role more clear. After two years of revision, the Planning Commission endorsed those changes on Tuesday night.

Flow-chart This flow chart depicts the various ways an application to the ARB could travel through the system. Click for a larger view.
“A lot of the changes are just clarifying the process that already exists,” said County Planner Margaret M. Maliszewski. She said the existing language does not clearly spell out the steps in which projects should proceed through the ARB. The code will now also include a flow chart that outlines the many steps in which a project may proceed.

“I think this is a good first step,” said Paul Wright, chair of the ARB.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum said he appreciated some of the changes but added that he did not think they went far enough.

“I find this to be window dressing and not comprehensive reform,” Williamson said. He said the county code needs further clarification to determine the order in which projects should proceed through the county.  Each applicant can choose when submit an application to the ARB. If a developer decides to go before the ARB first and receives a preliminary approval, but then has to make adjustments to the site plan in order to win approval from the Planning Commission, the project might end up in violation of the ARB’s design guidelines.

However, Wright said he did not  want to take away a developer’s right to be flexible about how a project should proceed.

20091215-Edgerton
Williamson asked the Commission to defer consideration of the changes until new members are seated in January. However, outgoing Commissioner Bill Edgerton disagreed. “I don’t for the life of me see how bringing three new people into this process at this time is going to be of any benefit to the county,” Edgerton said. “We’ve put a lot of work into this.”

In other business, the Commission recommended approval of a special use permit to allow the First Baptist Church in Covesville to double in size. If ratified by the Board of Supervisors in February, the congregation will build a second building to house a fellowship hall and classrooms.

The Commission also recommended approval of a permit to a Stony Point woman who runs a kennel for special-needs dogs under her care.  Blair Morgan has been operating her Hugs & Kisses Day Camp and Hotel since 1999, but a recent complaint pointed out she had been doing so in violation of the county’s zoning ordinance.

December 11, 2009

Council approves Meadowcreek Parkway interchange; mitigation letters awaiting signatures

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 11, 2009

On Monday, the Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 to approve a design for an interchange to connect the Meadowcreek Parkway with Route 250 and McIntire Road, despite concerns from some in the community that it does not provide grade-separated pedestrian and bike access to McIntire Park.

The project will move forward after a memorandum of agreement is signed which lists how impacts to the park and other historic resources will be mitigated, and after the project is fully designed.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091207-CC-MCP-Interchange

Council signs off on interchange after design tweaks

Since Council’s last meeting on the topic, several aspects of the design have been changed to satisfy their wishes. These changes include:

  • Addition of an north-south trail on the eastern side of the McIntire Road that will pass through skate park and Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad.
  • A right-turn lane from south-bound Meadowcreek Parkway to west-bound 250 will be eliminated removing 11 feet of asphalt, reducing the amount of space that will need to be crossed. However, he lane may be built in the future if necessary.

Other requests were analyzed but not integrated into the design. In November, Council directed staff and project consultant RK&K to investigate two other ways to make the interchange safer for pedestrians.

20091209-MCP-Picture1 Conceptual drawing showing what the interchange might look like looking south (Click for larger image)

One was a possible tunnel underneath the on-ramps leading to Route 250. Jim Tolbert, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Development, said the idea is not feasible because such a structure would be too long and potentially unsafe.

The other way was to build a pedestrian bridge north of the interchange that would allow people to walk across the parkway. Citing research from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Tolbert explained that staff feels not enough pedestrians would use it to justify building it at this time. However, he said the project would be addressed in the McIntire Park master planning process.

“As we do the master plan and look towards where the trail systems might go, there might very well be a good location to cross the parkway,” Tolbert said.

20091209-MCP-HarrisConceptual drawing for Harris Street intersection, which has not been fully designed yet (Source: RK&K)

Another issue to be resolved is a design for a new intersection of Harris Street and McIntire Road. Tolbert said the new design must reduce the amount of asphalt at the intersections. Norris said he would have preferred those improvements to be considered along with interchange. Tolbert said that Council will see those plans as soon as they are developed.

The Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad will be able to control the traffic signals to allow their emergency vehicles to access the interchange. If that solution does not work, Peery said a special emergency-only vehicle exit could be constructed at a later date.

Public comment

The public hearing on the interchange was held on October 29, 2009, so those who wanted to comment had to speak during Council’s general public comment opportunity.

James Schisler said the Meadowcreek Parkway is necessary to provide relieve to a congested Park Street and Rio Road.

City resident Patricia Napoleon called for a referendum on the entire project. County resident David Steinberg said there was no need to build more infrastructure for cars because the era of the automobile was coming to a close.

City resident and transportation activists called for an interchange that would clearly separate cars from bikes and pedestrians. City resident Randy Salzman said doing so would encourage more people to use alternative forms of transportation.

Daniel Bluestone, whose home is near the interchange, claimed that the design would not be accepted by federal highway officials. Colette Hall, president of the North Downtown Residents Association, said the price of the project was going to be well over $33 million, and that figure would not include the cost of mitigating the project’s impacts on historic resources.

Questions remain regarding mitigation to historic resources

At Monday’s meeting, critics of the plan argued that Council should not approve the interchange until the public has a chance to scrutinize a document that will lay out how the project’s impacts to McIntire Park and other historic resources will be mitigated. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) listing specific actions has not yet been signed by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR).

“Isn’t it premature for us to approve a design before the MOA has been finalized and we know what the mitigation costs will be?” asked Mayor Dave Norris.

20091209-Peery Owen Peery appears before Council

Owen Peery, project manager for RK&K, said that the MOA is in final draft, which means that all the federal and state oversight bodies agree on the various mitigating steps. Council will have to approve the MOA before the project can go to bid. 

Charlottesville Tomorrow has obtained a copy of the draft MOA from July 2009, as well as letters from the ACHP and VHDR giving their feedback.

The following is a summary of recommended mitigation techniques which will be overseen by the Federal Highway Administration.

  • The City must document the existing conditions at the landscape of the former Rock Hill Academy as well as the portions of McIntire Park.
  • The City will provide interpretive signs explaining the history of the park and the academy at a cost not to exceed $12,000.
  • City must develop landscape design plans for the McIntire Park and the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial (up to $150,000) and the Rock Hill landscape (up to $25,000) as well as a plan to plant screening vegetation at CARS as well as at 501 and 502 Park Hill.
  • City shall develop an archaeological treatment plan for the Rock Hill landscape (up to $25,000).
  • Interchange design should keep pedestrian trail on western side of McIntire Road to allow for shorter bridge, bridge should be lowered, and retaining wall should be built in front of Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.
  • If a previously unknown archaeological resource is found, City must require contractor to halt construction in area of discovery. Federal and state officials must be notified and further mitigating steps will need to be recommended.

The ACHP in a letter dated October 30, 2009 called for the following steps to be added to the MOA:

  • Future of McIntire Golf Course to be made within City planning process.
  • City should minimize impact to Rock Hill landscape to fullest extent possible, avoiding direct impacts to terraced gardens. Contractor must be educated about importance of Rock Hill landscape.
  • Public access to Rock Hill landscape should be considered.
  • City should work with MACAA to develop partnership to rehabilitate and restore Rock Hill landscape.
  • More details on screening vegetation should be in MOA.

VDHR has agreed with the recommendations made by ACHP. A final draft MOA which incorporates feedback from the ACHP and the VHDR is in development but has not yet been obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Download Download the July 2009 Draft Memorandum of Agreement

Download Download the October 30, 2009 letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Download Download the November 16, 2009 letter from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Council approves interchange; Norris seeks more answers

20091207-Norris

Mayor Dave Norris

Council approved the interchange design on a 3-2 vote with Norris and Councilor Holly Edwards voting against. However, Norris acknowledged that the interchange will provide better access to McIntire Park for pedestrians and cyclists.

Councilor Satyendra Huja said the project has been discussed and designed for over 40 years.

“Given the need has been identified, I think this is the best we could do right now,” Huja said.

After the vote, parkway opponent Peter Kleeman said he was concerned that the project was not fully funded. He said there was a least a $1 million shortfall that he said could climb higher when all of the mitigation steps are fully identified.

“It appears to me that the material that has been presented to you is a bit rosy in saying that all of these loose ends have been tied together,” Kleeman said.

Council’s resolution on Monday authorized City Manager Gary O’Connell to sign the MOA when it is finished. Signatures by the various consulting parties (including Kleeman’s, Hall’s and Bluestone’s who are consulting parties) are not required for the MOA to go into effect.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Norris asked staff to report back on the status of the memorandum of understanding as well as the alleged $1 million funding gap.

In an interview Wednesday with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Tolbert said when the entire federal earmark of $27 million is factored in with revenue sharing money from VDOT, the project’s fund balance is $700,000 over the cost estimate. He said the City has applied for revenue sharing money from VDOT that has also helped fund the project.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Public comment from Jim Schisler in favor of the interchange and Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 03:00 - Public comment from Pat Napoleon against the interchange and Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 04:40 - Public comment from David Steinberg against the interchange and Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 07:50 - Public comment from Randy Salzman calling for interchange to have grade-separated trails 
  • 10:30 - Public comment from Colette Hall against the interchange and Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 14:10 - Public comment from Daniel Bluestone against the against the interchange and Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 17:45 - Presentation from Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services
  • 22:45 - Tolbert explains why a tunnel is not necessary
  • 24:45 - Tolbert says the intersection of McIntire and Harris has not yet been redesigned 
  • 28:40 - Tolbert explains why staff feels the pedestrian bridge will not be used
  • 31:15 - Tolbert describes the resolution that is under
  • 32:20 - Councilor Brown asks for clarification for which design the resolution addresses
  • 34:15 - Councilor Brown asks Tolbert how far away from the road certain ramps will be
  • 37:45 - Mayor Dave Norris asks if it is premature to approve interchange before the Section 106 process is complete
  • 37:20 - Owen Peery of RK&K updates Council on the Section 106 process
  • 39:30 - Norris asks Peery about how CARS will access the interchange
  • 42:45 - Norris asks Peery if a turn lane from north-bound McIntire Road to east-bound Route 250 can be removed
  • 46:55 - Norris says Harris Street improvements
  • 50:45 - Resolution received first and second, and then approved on a 3-2 vote
  • 54:40 - Councilor Satyendra Huja makes statement about project
  • 55:20 - Public comment from Peter Kleeman
  • 59:30 - Public comment from Sonia Ingram from Preservation Virginia
  • 1:01:00 - Norris says he is "troubled" by Kleeman and Ingram's comments and asks staff to report back on memoranda of agreements and funding

Rooker names engineer to County Planning Commission

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recently re-elected Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) has named Russell “Mac” Lafferty to serve on the county’s Planning Commission. Lafferty, a native of Crozet, will replace Bill Edgerton, who did not reapply for a third term.

“I think he would be a very good addition to the planning commission,” Rooker said while nominating Lafferty to the position. The Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Lafferty’s appointment.

20090624-lafferty Mac Lafferty at the June 24, 2009 meeting of the MPO Policy Board

Lafferty, a retired engineer and professor, lived in Crozet for many years before moving to the Jack Jouett District. A 1966 graduate of the University of Virginia, he has taught engineering and physics courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College as well as his alma mater. For a time, Lafferty owned and operated a firm called Deerfield Enterprises.

“My engineering background and the civil engineering experience I have from running a heavy construction company gives me an appreciation for what happens on the ground and how it affects the environment,” Lafferty said in an interview.

Lafferty has a great deal of experience serving the community. His positions in local government include a stint on the Crozet Community Advisory Council and the MPO’s Citizens (CHART) Committee. For the past year, he’s served as CHART’s representative to the MPO Policy Board.

He has also served on the board of the Second Street Art Gallery, the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and is currently active with Charlottesville-Albemarle Robotics.

While on the Commission, Lafferty will be in a position to weigh in on the five-year review of the Crozet Master Plan. He said a priority for him would be finding a way to get the new Crozet Library back into the development pipeline. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors agreed to defer the project from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) due to the county’s financial crisis.

“I think [the Crozet Master Plan] has served a good purpose in that it has given some guidelines about growth,” Lafferty said. “Not only has it gotten the involvement of the citizens of Crozet, but the County has taken notice that the citizens want a great deal of input in their living conditions and environment.”

Lafferty, who is also on the board of directors for Bike Virginia, is an avid cyclist who wants improvements to Jarmans Gap Road to be completed as soon as possible.

“If Albemarle County ever gets around to developing a park in Old Trail Village, then more and more people will be walking to that park,  and right now Jarmans Gap Road is certainly not safe to bike,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty said he will reach out for advice and his insight from Edgerton before he attends his first meeting in the new year.

Lafferty will be joined by at least two and as many as three other newcomers. Incoming Supervisors Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) and Rodney Thomas (Rio) will choose their nominees from a list of applicants. Thomas could also re-appoint Commissioner Don Franco, who told Charlottesville Tomorrow last month he would re-apply.

The entire Board of Supervisors will also vote for a new at-large member of the Commission. Marcia Joseph said she would not be applying for a third term.

December 10, 2009

City’s portion of Meadowcreek Parkway advertised for bid

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another milestone in the planning of the Meadowcreek Parkway has been reached. On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) opened the bidding process for McIntire Road Extended, the name for the City’s portion of the parkway. 

"We decided to go ahead and advertise now so we can take advantage of the full construction season,” said VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter in an interview. He added that VDOT hopes it will receive bids considerably lower than the $5.575 million estimate for the construction of the road.

When built, the road will carry traffic for a third of a mile from the Route 250 bypass to the Albemarle County border at Melbourne Road. The county’s 1.3 mile section of the road is already under construction.

The project was advertised even though the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet finished its analysis of how the road’s impacts to McIntire Park, other historic resources, and the watershed will be mitigated. Hatter said VDOT will not award a bid until that “Section 106 process” is completed.  A spokesman for the Corps could not be reached for comment.

Peter Kleeman, a former City Council candidate and long-time parkway opponent said he thinks VDOT’s action is premature.

“The whole notion of the Section 106 process is to inform the design by taking into account how historic resources are impacted,” Kleeman said. "In short, it's not a very historic-resource sensitive action.”

Bids on the project will be taken through January 27, 2010. A contract will be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder. Construction is expected to be completed by December 2011, around the same time that Albemarle’s portion is completed.

The project’s intersection with the Route 250 bypass is a separate project being administered by the City of Charlottesville. On Monday, Council approved a design for that grade-separated interchange.