By Jean Feroldi
Friday, July 30, 2010
The Charlottesville Planning Commission began Tuesday the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan to reflect new challenges and policies.
By Jean Feroldi
Friday, July 30, 2010
The Charlottesville Planning Commission began Tuesday the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan to reflect new challenges and policies.
With the state casting doubt on the viability of a proposed alternative water supply plan for the region, Albemarle County’s representatives on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority said Tuesday that they are ready to move forward with the plan adopted in 2006.
“I am not convinced that [it’s] the best path forward,” Norris said.
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The approved plan calls for a new dam to enlarge the Ragged Mountain reservoir as well as a new pipeline to connect it to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. To satisfy concerns the City Council has raised about the scope and cost of the plan, the RWSA commissioned a series of studies to re-examine all of its components.Only three of these studies remain to be completed. In August, the RWSA Board will hear details of the Interstate 64 embankment study and a review of the 2004 demand analysis. Also next month, the City Council will receive the first phase of its independently commissioned study of repairing and extending the 1908 Lower Ragged Mountain Dam.
“The whole point of doing these studies was to say, ‘Are there other ways of meeting our long-term goals,’” Norris said. He said he wanted a summary that lists the costs and benefits of four or five alternatives to the current plan.Albemarle County Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd objected to listing that many options, given that the studies were commissioned to reaffirm the plan, and not to start from scratch.
“We have the numbers now, so we know what the costs are going to be,” Boyd said. He said he and his board are convinced that a combination of dredging the South Fork reservoir and expanding the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam would not provide water to meet the target of 18.7 million gallons a day by 2055.
“I can tell you that the Board of Supervisors is solidly behind the plan we decided on in 2006,” Boyd said. “Everything we’ve done so far has just reinforced that that’s the best way to go.”
Albemarle County Service Authority Executive Director Gary O’Connell said his board was also prepared to move forward.
The discussion comes after a draft report from the Department of Environmental Quality cast doubt on the ability of dredging combined with renovations to the existing Ragged Mountain dam to meet the required long-term water needs. Norris had suggested in February 2009 that instead of building a new dam, the existing dam could be raised by 13 feet to provide sufficient water storage at a potentially lower cost.Boyd asked Norris on Tuesday if the City Council could decide in August whether to move ahead with the approved plan. Norris said he was unsure when the council would be able to discuss the matter but that it would do so when all studies are complete.
“I’m not interested in delaying this any longer than necessary,” Norris said.In other water supply news, further revisions of the design for an earthen dam at Ragged Mountain have enabled Schnabel engineers to lower the size of the full dam by 3 feet, while still allowing 2,189 million gallons of storage. This reduces the number of trees that will need to be removed by 3 acres, according to RWSA Executive Director Thomas L. Frederick Jr.
The Albemarle County Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended approval for a rezoning, despite concerns from city residents that an expanded research park would mean more traffic through their neighborhoods.
“The Comprehensive Plan proposes the Sunset-Fontaine connector to be accommodated on the site,” county planner Claudette Grant said. “Outside of showing this area on the application plan, the applicant has made no commitment elsewhere to address this [project].”
City, county and university planners agreed on the concept for the road as part of a 2004 planning study. The road would reduce traffic congestion on Old Lynchburg Road and would link to the county’s designated growth areas south of Interstate 64.
The University of Virginia Foundation originally proposed in 2007 to expand Fontaine Research Park by 725,000 square feet but has scaled that back to 310,000 square feet.
“The major issue was the need for a traffic study,” Grant said. “The traffic study revealed that the research park could propose an additional 310,000 square feet instead of 725,000 square feet in order to mitigate traffic impacts.”
Fred Missel, director of design and development of the UVa Foundation, said at the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association’s meeting held earlier this month that the county has not yet decided what the exact route of the connector should be. However, the county is suggesting at least one alternative.
“Staff believes an alternative location would be to utilize parts of Natural Resources Drive which accesses the Department of Forestry building,” Grant said. “This would necessitate relocation of a part of this road which the applicant has indicated they are not supportive of because this would generate too much traffic going through the park.”
Staff also recommended the applicant participate in a Sunset-Fontaine connector study that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will be undertaking.
Projects to maintain the community’s urban wastewater system are the primary driver of a $171.6 million capital improvement program for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.The five-year plan, which was presented to the RWSA board on Tuesday, anticipates spending $49 million on projects related to the urban water system and $121 million on the urban sewer system.
“We have inherited an infrastructure that has not been well taken care of in the past, but could be in the future,” said the RWSA’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr.
Typically the RWSA has adopted a capital budget every year, but it has been more than two years, in part because cost estimates for construction and design for a new dam at Ragged Mountain more than doubled from the $34.5 million budgeted in 2008.The capital budget also sets aside $2.3 million for right of way acquisition for a pipeline to connect the Ragged Mountain and South Fork reservoirs. Construction of the pipeline is not included in the five-year-plan and in February was projected to cost $63 million total.
The capital budget has been updated to reflect Schnabel Engineering’s design for an earthen dam and assumes spending $37.4 million on final design and construction. That figure includes mitigation required by federal and state permits, as well as an enhanced embankment where the reservoir touches Interstate 64.
The majority of money recommended in the capital budget is to address wastewater issues. In March, the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the RWSA all agreed on a coordinated plan to reduce the amount of stormwater that infiltrates the system. Projects include the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the replacement of the Meadow Creek Interceptor and upgrades of various pumping stations.Dede Smith of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan questioned several aspects of the capital budget. She pointed out that a study of the pipeline released earlier this year only listed a cost estimate of $1.3 million for right of way for the pipeline. Smith also claimed the terms of the agreement on which the RWSA operates were not being honored.
“As a city resident, I object to the city for paying for any expansion of the water supply,” Smith said.The RWSA wholesale rates are split into two sections. The city and county pay a portion toward operating costs, and another toward debt service to pay for RWSA infrastructure.
“With respect to water supply, there was a cost allocation agreement adopted in 2003 that established a split of 27 percent to the city and 73 percent to the county,” Frederick said. “Those percentages can be changed immediately upon the adoption of a new agreement.”The city has been in negotiations with the Albemarle County Service Authority on a new agreement.
“The cost allocation agreement that we’re operating under now was for a different set of improvements,” said the city’s public works director, Judith Mueller. “Until we’re clear on what we’re going to build, it’s hard to do the cost [allocation].”
“The four-party agreement is pretty clear … that the locality that seeks an increase in supply is expected to pay for that supply,” Norris said.The RWSA will vote on the capital budget at its meeting in September. Frederick also said he expected a new cost allocation agreement could be in place by then as well.
The director of Virginia’s state park system said Biscuit Run could open as a park within four years, depending on whether the General Assembly approves a bond referendum in 2012.
“If the stars all line up, it could happen,” said Joe Elton, state parks director.The land was sold to the state for $9.8 million on the last day of 2009 by Forest Lodge LLC, a company that had paid $46.2 million for 1,200 acres. In 2007, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning that would have allowed the construction of 3,100 homes south of Charlottesville.
However, the poor economy prompted the landowners to work with the state on a deal that involved selling the land below market rate in exchange for preservation tax credits.“Biscuit Run was a surprise opportunity for us,” Elton said. “For 20 years there’s been the notion that there’s a need for a state park in the greater Charlottesville area.”
Last week, Elton gave an update on master-planning efforts to members of the group Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards. He said the park’s cultural and natural resources have been surveyed, and the boundaries of the park have been marked. An advisory committee is working on the plan now, and there will be at least two meetings early next year to get input from the public. The master plan will have to be approved by the Board of Conservation and Recreation.Virginia’s park system was created in 1936 and has since expanded to 35 parks. Elton said the system received an injection of resources for improvements due to a pair of bond referendums in 1992 and 2002. A third is being considered for 2012, which could provide the capital for phase one of Biscuit Run, which would allow the park to be open to the public at least during the day by 2014 at the earliest.
“Phase one is infrastructure,” Elton said. “Roads, trails, picnic areas.”Full build-out of the park would likely include cabins, which have become a money-maker for the park system. Elton said the state made more than $4 million in rentals last year, all of which goes back into the system.
Some in the community hope the park will include athletic fields, but Elton said such amenities are not likely to become part of the plan.“State parks are generally more passive recreation,” Elton said. In all, he said he anticipated that less than 15 percent of the park would be developed, leaving the rest for open space.
One potential obstacle to the park’s swift development is a desire to keep the park intact. Currently, there is a 36-acre parcel owned by the Breeden family, the original owners of the larger parcel sold to Forest Lodge LLC in 2004. Elton said negotiations are under way to conduct a land swap.“We’d like to not have a hole in the middle of the park,” Elton said. “They’d like to be on the edge of the property.”
The General Assembly would have to approve any land-swap deal.Elton himself has visited the property three times to determine its suitability for a park.
“When I got to the highest point [in the park], I had a 360-degree view and I don’t remember seeing any evidence of man. I saw forest,” Elton said.
|Draft letter from DEQ|
|DEQ's draft model summary|
DEQ analysis finds Norris proposal would not provide sufficient supply
A plan that features dredging as a cornerstone of the area’s 50-year water supply plan falls short of long-term needs and might require costly new permits to be put in place, according to an analysis by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality that could be delivered to local officials as early as this week.The analysis comes as local leaders appear close to having all the information they say is needed to make a final call on the components of a water plan that was originally approved in 2006 with a price tag of $142 million but has been the subject of contentious debate over costs and design ever since.
Who should pay when the Albemarle County Service Authority decides to build new infrastructure to increase the reliability of its water distribution system? The ACSA Board of Directors briefly explored that question last week while discussing a proposed $2 million water tank to serve the Village of Rivanna.
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At their July 15 meeting, the ACSA board heard a report about a location study for a water tank which would add redundancy, but not additional storage capacity. The tank would ensure the growth area around the Glenmore community continues to have water if there is a break in the line that carries water to eastern Albemarle County.“From a system planning standpoint, you put things in place to anticipate something bad happening,” said ACSA executive director Gary O’Connell.
As part of the conceptual phase, the ACSA hired the Michael Baker Jr. engineering firm to determine how big the structure should be and to provide a preliminary cost estimate. The size and location of the tank will be determined if the project moves into a design phase.
Martin said that when the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning for the Glenmore development in December 1990, they accepted a proffer that required then developer Frank Kessler to cover the full costs of creating the infrastructure for water and sewer services.“In order to build [Glenmore], they had to build a 23,000 foot water pipeline from the urban area to where the [neighborhood] was going to be,” Martin said. “One of the proffers was that the developer would provide water and sewer collection, distribution and treatment facilities at his expense.”
Martin said he wanted to know why the developers did not build the tank as Glenmore developed.Jim Colbaugh, who represents the Scottsville district on the ACSA board, said a tank was possibly not considered to be necessary as the community was growing.
“Now it’s [over] 800 homes, and it’s a little different and it’s going to be more different as future growth occurs,” Colbaugh said. “They probably never considered capacity issues for a tank when the 1990 agreement was made.”
O’Connell said the ACSA might not want to set the precedent of asking developers to pay for system enhancements and other capital projects not related to enhancing capacity. He said traditionally such projects have been paid for by current ratepayers.“With the reserve that we have, we have the ability to finance it and pay for it if the board wanted to move forward,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell said he would like the board to sort out who will pay for it before taking the project to the community for their input. The ACSA Board will discuss the issue again at its meeting in August.
By Sean Tubbs
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris has asked city staff to begin writing a request for proposals for companies interested in dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to remove some of the sediment that has accumulated there over the past 43 years.
“What I want to do is to get our ducks in a row so that we’ll be prepared to issue the RFP if council decides officially that dredging should be part of the water-supply solution,” Norris said in an interview. He added that he expects that decision to be made within a couple of months.
Opponents of the plan, which carried an original price tag of more than $140 million, have urged the council to insist on updated studies, including a second look at dredging. As part of a series of studies, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority commissioned HDR Engineering to conduct a dredging feasibility study and the council heard the report at its meeting Monday.
HDR identified a total of 1.4 million cubic yards that could be removed without affecting protected wetlands or the shoreline. Project Manager Carey Burch said one of the challenges to dredging is the requirement to find a site for the sediment to dry out.
“There’s not a lot of flat land near the reservoir that doesn’t have something on it,” Burch said. “There are a lot of rolling hills. Land in a conservation districts is out. Land that is in flood plain is out.”
HDR is recommending a multi-phase, one-time dredging project that would cost $34 million to $40 million and take about seven years. The first phase would cost between $8 million and $13 million to gain 58.6 million gallons of storage. The cost depends on whether sand contained in the sediment could be sold.
Burch said sand is particularly valuable, with a cost ranging from $52 and $62 per cubic yard.
The second phase would cost between $26 million and $27 million to restore 169 million gallons of storage. Burch said this phase would be more expensive because it would require the construction of basins to retain water during the dewatering process.
“The community water supply plan approved in 2006 identified a need for 1.7 billion gallons of additional storage [for the year 2055],” Frederick said. He said dredging as outlined by HDR would supply only 13 percent of that amount.
Supporters of dredging praised the HDR study but said the feasibility study’s approach constrained the dredging alternatives. For example, they said, HDR was told to identify only two potential dewatering sites.
Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch said issuing an RFP for dredging would allow the private sector to come up with its own solutions and may produce lower bids.
“I think you’ll find that when it’s a real RFP and people are talking about real money and not just a study, you’ll get better proposals back and you’ll see parcels [of land] that were not [considered] in the study,” Lynch said.
Norris said he is leaning towards dredging but is not ready to decide his vote until additional studies are completed.
“I haven’t been convinced yet that we can’t meet our 50-year water supply needs through a combination of dredging and a slightly enlarged dam at Ragged Mountain,” he said.
In August, the firm Black and Veatch will complete the first phase of a study of whether it is feasible to build on top of the 102-year-old Lower Ragged Mountain Dam instead of building a new, larger earthen dam downstream. The RWSA board will also get a report in August related to a re-examination of the 2004 demand analysis that served as the basis for the community water supply plan.
Members of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association pleaded with the commission to deny the request.“When they received permission to build this giant development of in-fill housing, [Beyer] knew perfectly well that there was challenging topography,” said Andrea Weider. She added that the neighborhood fought hard to require that the trees be spared when the original rezoning was granted by City Council.
Weider argued that if the Commission granted the request, they would be fundamentally changing the parameters of the original PUD.“This group of ten that we’re talking about today are some of the very few that are left on this completely vanquished landscape of 22 acres,” said Weider. Instead, she said Beyer should be required to build the retaining walls as shown in the adopted plan.
The property was rezoned to Planned Unit Development in 2004 and to date, only 26 of the approved 110 homes have been built. Previous attempts to amend the site plan in April 2007 were deferred.“There’s no doubt that Huntley has been controversial in the past,” said developer Paul Beyer. “The issue in a nutshell is that the current grades are going to require significant retaining walls in order for the homes to be built.”
These walls would be at least 25 to 30 feet tall, and Beyer said that could present a safety issue. He said he understood the concerns of neighbors, but said his development was a net positive for the city.“Huntley was designed to keep the professional classes in the city,” Beyer said. “It was seen as a need to make sure that we kept in the tax base people who use city services, [so] they don’t go into Albemarle.”
The five commissioners who participated in the discussion all agreed that to grant the landscape amendment would not significantly change the concept plan under which the PUD was originally granted. They agreed that with sufficient mitigation, removing the trees would be a more favorable option than building the retaining wall.Commissioner Genevieve Keller abstained from the vote because she was unable to visit the site before the meeting. Commissioner John Santoski recused himself from the debate because he lives near the property.
Commissioner Michael Osteen said the solution should not be to require a specific number of trees, but rather to ensure a more complete approach.“For all the problems that we have had [with Huntley], the one thing that is going to bail this thing out is a reforested hillside ten years down the road,” Osteen said.
The request was granted with several conditions. An exact number of trees was not specified, but Beyer has been directed to work with the city arborist to adequately reforest the section of land. Beyer also must report back to the city on the development’s progress in two years time.