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September 29, 2010

Earthen dam design moves forward for Ragged Mountain; Many other water plan issues remain unresolved

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
 
The final design for a new full-sized earthen dam at Ragged Mountain will proceed despite a phasing plan recently floated by Charlottesville’s City Council. The decision comes a week after the county supervisors, Albemarle County Service Authority, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and the City Council met to discuss the status of the 50-year community water supply plan that includes a larger dam and new supply pipeline.

“Our board is still solidly behind the 2006 plan,” said Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd at Tuesday’s RWSA board of directors meeting. “I see that possibly we can conserve better … and if we end up with more water than what we need, I think that’s great because then it will be a 100-year plan instead of a 50-year plan.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100928-RWSA

Schnabel Engineering will work on the earthen dam’s final design, for at least the next month, with the understanding that Albemarle will cover the costs and the RWSA and city will continue to explore dredging plus other dam approaches.

20100928-earthen_dam
Earlier this month, the city received the results of a study by engineering firm Black & Veatch that said the existing dam at Ragged Mountain, built in 1908, could be expanded in phases. Last week, the council floated a compromise proposal that had the dam being designed, with an initial increase of the reservoir pool by 13 feet, but built with a foundation that could support a reservoir up to 42 feet taller.

“I don’t think anyone wants to delay this any further,” city Mayor Dave Norris reiterated at Tuesday’s RWSA meeting. “From the city’s perspective, we are ready to move on implementation of a plan.”

However, Chris Webster, Schnabel’s Charlottesville project administrator, said the earthen dam designed by his firm required a minimum initial pool increase of 20 feet, 7 feet taller than the city’s preference, if it was also going to be built to go as high as 42 feet in the future.

County officials said Tuesday that they wanted an earthen dam to be designed and built all at once and that the city’s Black & Veatch study, if pursued, should first be evaluated by an independent panel of dam experts. However, Boyd warned that further analysis of any alternatives of interest to the city could result in more delay and higher costs.

“Whichever way we go it is going to cost money and time to try and get further clarification on very preliminary information about expanding the existing dam,” Boyd said. “That’s probably what’s bothering us in the county an awful lot, this money and time.”

When a motion to approve the entire $869,000 final design contract for the full-sized earthen dam failed to get any support from the three city representatives on the RWSA board, a requirement was added to specify that the county would cover the initial costs. County officials responded by limiting the initial scope to one month and up to $50,000, and that motion was approved unanimously.

“Let’s keep Schnabel working — which I think has been the direction of our board — on a dam 42 feet [higher] with a pool level [initially] at 30 feet,” said Gary B. O’Connell, the former city manager and now ACSA executive director. “I’ll get [the ACSA board’s] approval at the next board meeting to extend it beyond that … I think their concern is to keep it moving.”

Last week, the four boards agreed that dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should be priced through an RFP process separate from the water plan. Tuesday, the RWSA board discussed the next steps on dredging and who would manage the work — the city or the RWSA.

A June study by HDR Engineering said one-time dredging of the South Fork could be accomplished for between $34 million and $40 million in a seven-year project. Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan has said additional options for dredging need to be evaluated and priced before a water plan is finalized.

“Quite frankly, I do not think that [the RWSA] should be in charge of the RFP,” said the group’s Dede Smith to the RWSA board. “It should be the city, the city paid the bulk of the costs for that [HDR] study and I would ask the city representatives to take on that RFP.”

Later in the meeting Norris said he wanted to discuss further with the City Council the specifics of who would administer the dredging RFP process.

“If we are talking about doing the one-time dredging in the HDR study, from a purely financial standpoint, I don’t know if that makes a whole lot of sense,” Norris said. “I have been convinced that there are better ways to dredge and cheaper ways to dredge and I just want to make sure that the RFP is structured to allow that.”

The RWSA is also still coordinating with officials from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to schedule a meeting, as early as in October, to review the water plan. City officials said last week that they had been unaware that the DEQ had finalized a letter of determination indicating that dredging plus a 13-foot dam increase would not be sufficient for the community’s long-term needs nor stream flow requirements. [See DEQ's August 2, 2010 letter]

RWSA board members said they supported having the meeting with DEQ officials open to the public at a location in Charlottesville.

September 27, 2010

An update from Charlottesville Tomorrow on the non-profit news sector

201009-bxb2010 I had the pleasure of attending the Block by Block Community News Summit 2010 this past week in Chicago.  I met a lot of very smart and dedicated people all very passionate about the critical importance of engaging communities in local news. Many of the participants represent what are collectively known in the "new media" realm as the "hyper-locals."  About 125 people were able to attend and our hosts Michele McLellan and Jay Rosen deserve a lot of credit for their work putting together a great conference.

A big take away was that Charlottesville Tomorrow is not alone. There are thousands of people around the country working on hyper-local news sites.  Many are 1-2 person operations run by former journalists who lost their jobs in the newspaper industry.  They have launched over the past 6 years as both for-profit and non-profit companies trying to fill an information gap in their community.  At over five years, Charlottesville Tomorrow is among the veterans in this group.

While in good company, Charlottesville Tomorrow remains unique, particularly in its media partnerships and approach to community engagement. We still appear to be the only hyper-local in the country with a substantial relationship with a print newspaper.  Further, our investment in a community wiki (www.cvillepedia.org), in community visualizations (www.cvilletomorrow.org/cville3d), in non-partisan election coverage, and in outreach and participation with other business and community groups appears to be uncommon. The Block by Block participants demonstrated a number of unique approaches and new ideas that we will learn from and apply here in Charlottesville.

Given the uniqueness of our partnership with The Daily Progress, I want to share some very positive data covering the first year of our work (Sept 2009 to Aug 2010).

Partnership Highlights 2009-2010

  • 145 published stories (newspaper’s online and print editions) including major front page stories, features, and collaborative series
  • 20% increase in newspaper’s content on growth and development (Charlottesville Tomorrow now produces 23% of content in that area)
  • 100% of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s stories now appear on the newspaper’s website (automated RSS feed) and 50% appear in print
  • Significant collaboration between editors, reporters and graphic artists, in both organizations, to maximize quality and timeliness of coverage
  • Joint production of local election voter guides
  • There is no direct financial contribution to Charlottesville Tomorrow

The benefits of this partnership to Charlottesville Tomorrow have included increased exposure, greater credibility, access to the newspaper's talented team, and most importantly an increasing number of people informed by our high quality in-depth local news.

As always, we would appreciate any feedback about this ongoing collaboration.  You can leave a comment on this post or contact me directly at bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org or via phone at 434.260.1533.
 
Brian Wheeler
Executive Director
Charlottesville Tomorrow

"The partnership is clearly benefitting our readers,
who are getting more public affairs reporting at a
time when most news organizations are pulling back.
The Daily Progress is a better, more consistent
newspaper because of this partnership."

McGregor McCance
Managing Editor, The Daily Progress

20100926-DP-CT-Area

20100926-DP-CT-Line   


 

Albemarle planners narrowly approve Hollymead modification for new cinema

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, September 27, 2010

Plans for a new 12-screen Great Escapes movie theater in Albemarle County’s Hollymead Town Center moved one step ahead last week. The Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of a modification of the zoning text amendment that created the initial development.

“It’s a theater company that actually goes out and buys the land and develops their own building,” said Scott Collins, representing developer Wendell Wood before the commission last Tuesday. “So, they have a buy-in into the community.”

The theater would offer stadium seating, according to Collins. He said the modification to the rezoning was necessary to build the theater to Great Escape’s specifications. 

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20100921-APC-Great-Escapes

 

B1-2007-plan
The above plan submitted with the 2007 rezoning envisioned a different layout (click to enlarge)

B1-2010-plan The applicant redrew the plan to remove one through street and to allow for a large theater (click to enlarge)

One of the specific changes requested was to alter the flow of an internal road through the development in order to allow the theater to have a larger footprint. The original plans showed a wide through road connecting the northeast and southwest parts of this triangular shaped parcel of land.

Staff recommended approval of the modification as long as certain conditions were met. One was that the application reconsider how large retaining walls behind the theater would stand as much as 20 feet above a greenway called for in the original rezoning. Collins said the structures are necessary in order to develop the land.

“My concept of a greenway is it’s supposed to be used by people and relaxing, and I’m not sure if you’re walking next to a wall that’s four times your height that it’s very relaxing,” said commissioner Mac Lafferty.

Collins agreed to the move the trail.

After a long discussion, Chairman Tom Loach said he felt he needed to see how the applicant responded to the commission’s feedback before he could grant approval. He gave Collins a chance to defer in order to resubmit the plan.

Collins said Great Escape wants to be showing films in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest times of the year.

 “They have to be finish construction by October which means they have to start construction in February, which means the site plan has to be under review fairly quickly,” Collins said.

Cilimberg suggested the board consider recommending approval with conditions. That would allow the developer to alter the plan, but still allow the application to proceed to the Board of Supervisors without delay.

That was not acceptable to Loach.

 “Are we negating what our mission is in trying to craft something so that hopefully between now and when it gets to the board you will meet our recommendations without getting our feedback for them?” Loach asked.

Commissioner Don Franco said he was comfortable setting the conditions and voting for approval.

“We’ve got a board [of supervisors] that would like to see things facilitated and moved forward in a responsive manner,” Franco said.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said she appreciated the need to expedite the process but she needed to see if the conditions were carried out on the plan before she could consider approving the project.

“If we’re a planning commission, and we don’t do…our own job, you might as well just dissolve us and let’s let the Board of Supervisors act as a committee of the whole and they could just do this stuff,” Porterfield said.

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval with Lafferty, Loach, and Porterfield voting against.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Judy Wiegand, introduced by Chair Tom Loach
  • 11:00 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield requests more information on the streets in the plan 
  • 14:30 - Testimony from Scott Collins representing Route 29 LLC
  • 26:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks for more information on
  • 37:00 - Collins explains why a multiple story parking garage is a "deal-breaker"
  • 52:30 - Commissioner Ed Smith asks if Collins has considered making a portion of the street one-way
  • 54:00 - Public hearing comment from Justin Morgan, a neighboring resident concerned about connection to Abingdon Place neighborhood
  • 55:00 - Loach resumes discussion after five-minute break
  • 1:00:45 - Loach asks Collins to respond to commission's input  
  • 1:10:00 - Planning Director Wayne Cilimberg reviews the various conditions he has heard
  • 1:27:20 - Commission Don Franco specifies the exact conditions on which PC approval is based

 

September 24, 2010

Davies’ replacement on transportation board seeks new approaches to congestion

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 24, 2010

The Charlottesville region’s new representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board urged members of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Wednesday to come up with fresh solutions to addressing traffic congestion. 

“We don’t have to do [road construction] the same way it’s been done for years and years,” James Rich said.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:   Download 20100922-MPO

 

20100922-Rich
James Rich

Rich is from the Plains, a small town in Fauquier County. Governor Bob McDonnell appointed him to succeed Butch Davies on the CTB, which serves as the board of directors for the Virginia Department of Transportation. This is his second stint as a CTB member, having been previously appointed by former Governor George Alllen in 1994.

Rich also served as co-chair of the Route 50 Task Force, a group charged by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with recommending ways to preserve the scenic quality of a stretch of that highway just outside the D.C. suburbs. He said VDOT for many years had plans to build a huge cloverleaf and new highways around the 18th century villages of Middleburg, Aldie and Upperville.

“Local citizens of the area got together and raised $250,000 to get a well-respected traffic calming engineer to look at this,” Rich said. “They came up with this plan to put roundabouts at Gilbert’s Corner and we did some traffic calming in the villages which stopped [fast moving traffic]. It’s universally popular, the footprint is so much less, and saved millions and millions of dollars.”

Rich is now part of a CTB sub-committee charged with finishing a corridor-wide study of U.S. 29. The report was originally supposed to be released last year, but has been postponed because some members of the CTB felt recommendations were not effective in addressing congestion.

Rich said he felt it was important to limit the number of entrances and driveways that have direct access to U.S. 29.

Route50-roundabouts
VDOT brochure depicting location of roundabouts installed to improve traffic congestion on Route 50 in Loudoun County

“You can’t build a bypass around everything, and as soon as you build a bypass here, then further north and further south the cuts come in and you need a bypass there,” Rich said.  “It seems like we could all work together and maybe come up with something different and new in the 29 area down here and elsewhere,” Rich said.

At their meeting Wednesday, the MPO Policy Board also further discussed the Northtown trail, a project to connect the downtown mall with Hollymead Town Center for cycling commuters.

“This concept will hopefully establish a comprehensive network,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “We’re really viewing it as a north-south spine for the bike system in the region… and improve connectivity.”

The trail will be built by connecting segments such as the Meadowcreek Parkway trail, Schenck’s branch, and a trail planned to pass through the Belvedere neighborhood. To get to Hollymead, the trail would require a bridge to be built over the Rivanna River.

MPO staff are working on a document to list all of the various segments. The TJPDC will hold an open house for the public to view the plan on October 27, 2010.

Also at the meeting, the executive director of Charlottesville Area Transit reported that ridership is down in the first two months of this fiscal year.

“In the first quarter of last year we had tremendous growth and we set the bar pretty high,” said Bill Watterson. “We are still growing with our UVa ridership. That’s up more than 15% even though we’re down overall.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 - Introductions of all members of the MPO Policy Board
  • 02:40 - Comments from Jim Rich, Culpeper District represenative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board
  • 35:00 - Discussion of MPO presentation to December CTB meeting
  • 46:30 - Discussion of Sunset-Fontaine Connector modeling project
  • 1:04:45 - Discussion of Northtown Trail
  • 1:30:30 - Transit updates
  • 1:40:30 - Updates on new appointees to CTB, new TJPDC employees
  • 1:42:00 - Mac Lafferty reports on diversion of TEA funds to non-transportation related purchases

 

September 22, 2010

Martin resigns from Albemarle water authority

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 22, 1010

John Martin has resigned from the Albemarle County Service Authority’s board of directors, saying he will not stand by while Charlottesville leaders rewrite the area’s long-term water plan.

His resignation, which is effective immediately, came a day after the county supervisors, ACSA, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and the City Council met to discuss the status of the plan.

20100715-John-Martin
Former ACSA Board Member John Martin

“The city is basically revoking its approval and wants to negotiate a different plan,” Martin said in an interview. “My sense from the four boards meeting [Tuesday] was that there seemed to be things set in motion to negotiate a compromise, and I am unwilling to compromise.”

The original plan would raise the height of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir dam by 42 feet and build a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill the larger pool.

The original cost estimate was $142 million, which included other infrastructure work.
On Monday, the City Council voted to endorse a revised plan that keeps elements of the 2006 plan but advocates a smaller initial dam increase with future additions considered when more water is needed.

The council-backed plan also would include dredging the South Fork reservoir as well as more conservation measures.

No agreement was reached on the water plan during Tuesday’s meeting among the boards.

“My intention is to defend the plan at the state level vigorously in the hope that no changes to the approved plan will be made,” Martin said.

Martin has been active in regional water issues since the late 1990s as a member of the group Friends of the Moormans River. The river flows between the Sugar Hollow Reservoir and the South Fork Rivanna River. Martin said he got involved after growing tired of seeing the river run dry every summer.
The Ragged Mountain Reservoir near Charlottesville is filled via a pipeline from Sugar Hollow, which diverts water from the Moormans.

His advocacy for water issues led Supervisor Ann Mallek to appoint him in 2008 to represent the White Hall magisterial district on the ACSA board. He became vice chairman in January.

“I think he’s done a fabulous job of representing the needs of the environment and filling that role for the White Hall District,” Mallek said. “So much of the Moormans is suffering due to the draw-down of water into the Sugar Hollow pipeline.”

The approved 50-year water plan, which received permits in 2008 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers, would return the natural stream flow to the Moormans and allow water to be collected downstream and transferred via a new pipeline between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and Ragged Mountain. The water storage capacity planned for an enlarged reservoir at Ragged Mountain would ensure stream flows could meet the targets identified in the plan for the Moormans River, Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.

“It was clear from the early part of the planning process that the state would require in-stream flow protections,” Martin said. “A lot of work went into taking a look at the amount of storage we would need to cover the amount of demand and what the rivers and streams would need.”

He said the time to amend the plan was in 2006 because RWSA has been working off the assumption that unanimous approval by both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors was the direction desired by the community.

“If council had not approved it, we could have done something else,” Martin said. “I think it’s unfair and I don’t think it’s in the community’s best interest.”

Martin said it was necessary to step down because he could be more effective as a citizen-advocate, and because he did not want his personal concerns to conflict with whatever position the ACSA ultimately adopts.

Dede Smith of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said she was surprised Martin felt the need to step down because he has been advocating for the approved plan in his capacity as a board member.

“This has been his position all along,” Smith said. “He wants everything in the 2006 plan and nothing new.”

Smith said meeting stream-flow requirements in the Moormans River was an important goal of the modified plan advocated by her group.

"We absolutely feel that the stream flows for the Moormans can be met with a revised plan,” Smith said.

“We concur with [Charlottesville Mayor] Dave Norris that we should only build new infrastructure as it is evidenced to be needed,” Smith said. “There seems to be a race to get this monstrous infrastructure installed before we get [a new demand analysis].”

Mallek said she has already reached out to potential replacements for Martin on the ACSA board.

Virginia’s top transportation official addresses business community

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

20100921-Connaughton
Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton

The man in charge of Virginia’s transportation agencies told area business leaders Tuesday that addressing congestion on U.S. 29 is a key state priority.

“We view [U.S. 29] as a critical corridor for central Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. “We’ll hopefully be able to start to have a better dialogue on how we solve some of these transportation problems.”

Connaughton’s comments were addressed to the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, a group that has long advocated for a western bypass of U.S. around Albemarle County’s urban ring.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100921-Connaughton

While the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has spent $47 million to design and buy property for a western bypass route, elected officials on Charlottesville’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) have never approved funding for construction. To actually build the 6.2 mile road would cost an estimated $230 million, according to VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter.

The project has stalled due to uncertainty about where the money would come from.
Officials in Lynchburg and Danville have long argued that the state should force the construction of the road against the will of the MPO. 

“We have to get a consensus of the parties involved, particularly the governments,” Connaughton said. The secretary had scheduled an August meeting  between elected officials in both the Charlottesville and Lynchburg, but it was canceled. Connaughton said the meeting will be rescheduled, but not until after the fall.

The secretary himself has not taken a position on whether the bypass should be built.

“I understand the position of supporters and I understand some of the concerns of the opponents,” Connaughton said in an interview. “The thing for us is to find a way to address some of the concerns that have been raised while making the transportation enhancements that you need.”

Connaughton saved most of his time to address structural changes to the way the Virginia Department of Transportation plans and manages projects.

For instance, a report due in December will offer recommendations on how to decouple state road planning from federal planning requirements in order to reduce delays introduced by additional oversight.

“When you have a road that has had federal money applied to it, it becomes a federal process,” Connaughton said. “And when you have a federal process, it drives up the costs and delays projects.”

He said federal projects tend to get funded first, leaving no funding for maintenance for secondary roads.

“We’re not putting maintenance money into them because none of those roads qualify as federal roads,” Connaughton said. “Our program is being driven by our dollars, and not where the needs are.”

Connaughton said the administration will seek to find new revenue sources to pay for projects. These could include state royalties from off-shore drilling, as well as money from Governor McDonnell’s plan to privatize ABC stores. One option, however, is clearly off the table.

“The governor has made it quite clear he doesn’t support a gas tax increase,” Connaughton said. “The number of cars registered in the state has actually increased in the last five years, and vehicle miles traveled has increased, yet our gas tax revenues are actually declining.”

Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker pointed out that Albemarle will receive $330,000 in secondary road funds next year, down from $5.5 million in 2005. The allocation for next year is projected to decline further, potentially to zero.

Connaughton responded that VDOT needs to review the way it classifies roads.

“Right now, we classify roads by an administrative system that was developed in the 1930’s,” Connaughton said. “Secondary roads are everything from some of the rural roads… to the Fairfax County Parkway, a six-to-eight lane road that’s congested… We really want to go back and take a look at how the formula drives us to do things that aren’t very smart and also starves some areas of the state of money.”

He said 51% of all the state’s transportation money is spent in Northern Virginia, and reminded the audience of large projects such as the Springfield “mixing bowl,” the Wilson Bridge over the Potomac as well as Metro.

In his presentation, Connaughton said the state would invest in the airport runway expansion project at the Charlottesville Airport, and would also put more money in intercity rail.  He singled out the new service from Lynchburg to D.C. as a successful project he would like to replicate across the state.

“It’s one of the few services in the county that are actually making a profit because the usage on that train is about 100% more than we estimated,” Connaughton said. He said he wants to continue extending service to Roanoke and Bristol.


September 21, 2010

Local officials find some common ground on water plan, but request more information on dam heights and dredging costs

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A water supply proposal passed Monday by Charlottesville’s City Council was met with skepticism and frustration Tuesday from some Albemarle County officials. While the four boards with decision-making roles on the water supply found a lot of common ground, they failed to reach agreement on the specifics of a revised plan.

ListenAudio podcast of meeting available here

20100921-4boards1Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris emphasized at a joint meeting of the boards that the city’s revised water plan was intended to enact a phased approach to dam building that would provide new water storage when it was determined to be really necessary.

“We are not talking about starting over, we are not talking about throwing the plan out the window,” Norris said.

Almost three hours later, the parties had agreed to get additional information on several important issues, but no single water supply plan or approach to the dam’s construction had been identified as the preferred solution.

The city proposal, shared with county officials at the joint meeting Tuesday, emphasizes extensive and ongoing dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, phased construction of a taller dam at Ragged Mountain Dam, a new pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to South Fork and aggressive water conservation efforts. Most of the joint meeting focused on the first two items, dredging and dam construction.

20100921-Norris

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris

“We are looking to the reservoir for water supply and we are looking to restorative dredging to recapture water supply,” Norris said. “We are looking to the [request for proposals] process to help inform the final decision [on what areas should be dredged].”

The four boards agreed that dredging should be priced through an RFP process. However, the boards said dredging should be evaluated separately from the water supply plan and that the costs would still have to be negotiated between the city and county.

While county officials were quick to offer their qualified support for more information on the costs of dredging, they were strongly opposed to the city’s recommendation that the first phase of the new Ragged Mountain Dam only raise the reservoir level by 13 feet.

John Martin, a member of the Albemarle County Service Authority’s board of directors, said that he was concerned phasing the dam project could lead to a difficult decision in the future about when to add more storage.

“[If] the city views itself as being in a position in 15 or 20 years of either approving or vetoing a dam expansion … at that point in time the city would be making judgments on county growth,” Martin said. “I frankly don’t think it is the city’s call to be determining what additional capacity the Albemarle County Service Authority needs to serve county residents, that’s our job. Your job is to decide what capacity the city needs for your residents.”

The four boards’ discussion of whether to build the dam to its full height or in phases focused on factors related to feasibility, costs and whether a smaller initial dam would meet the approval of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, particularly with respect to the stream flow release requirements adopted in the 2006 water plan.  [See DEQ's August 2, 2010 letter and comment below]

20100921-M_Gaffney
Mike Gaffney, Chairman, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s executive director, said that his staff had done some preliminary work on phasing options for the dam and that the initial pool height needed was likely to be a minimum of 30 feet higher than the existing reservoir, more than twice what the City Council has recommended.

“That gets you, in terms of safe yield, something on the order of approximately one third of the way between where we are now and that goal that was set in 2004 of 18.7 [million gallons a day],” Frederick said. “What we are looking at preliminarily is that 13 feet is not going to be enough to give you a 15 to 20 year plan.”

Norris, however, insisted on another face-to-face meeting with DEQ officials by a delegation representing each of the four boards. There was consensus that a meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible to get the DEQ’s input on the dam’s height.

While the county agreed to accommodate dredging, the city agreed the final design of a full-height earthen dam at Ragged Mountain could be initiated. County officials agreed the city’s study of renovating the existing dam should be assessed by the RWSA’s outside panel of dam experts.

“Without an agreement between the city and county we are heading down a path I don’t think anyone wants to go,” Mike Gaffney, RWSA chairman, said in an interview. “Somehow, we have to agree on a plan.”

A summary of next steps will be reviewed by the RWSA board at its meeting next week. The four boards are expecting to meet again later this year to finalize an agreement on the community water supply plan.

Charlottesville City Council unanimously approves a new water plan proposal

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Charlottesville City Council has unanimously approved a revised community water supply plan proposal that emphasizes phased construction of a new or refurbished Ragged Mountain Dam (with an initial water level height increase of 13 feet and a larger foundation that would support up to a 42 foot increase in water level), extensive and ongoing dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, a new pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to South Fork, and aggressive water conservation efforts. The public hearing had 59 speakers and lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Listen to a podcast of just council's deliberations using player above
or download the podcast here
: Download 20100920-CityCouncil-water

Council is expected to share their plan (see resolution below) at a scheduled meeting of the "Four Boards" later today (Sept 21, 3 PM at the Albemarle County Office Building South - Fifth Street).  The Four Boards with authority over water supply matters are City Council, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and the Albemarle County Service Authority.

Charlottesville City Council unanimously approved the following resolution at their meeting on September 20, 2010.  The key modifications agreed to by Council have been underlined by Charlottesville Tomorrow for clarity. 

Download Update 9/30/2010: The text below is what was read verbatim by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris prior to the vote except where noted in [square brackets].  The official approved resolution has now been made available and is available for download here.


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council for the City of Charlottesville that the Council hereby readopts and reaffirms its prior June 2, 2008 approval of the local Water Supply Plan, with the following components and modifications:

  • To aggressively promote conservation of water and reduction in leakage in the next 20-40 year period;
  • To conduct [restorative] hydraulic dredging of [at least segments 1-3 of] the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as identified in the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Dredging Feasibility Study and to conduct continuous maintenance [through] hydraulic dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir—RWSA shall seek a separate state permit for these activities;
  • Commit to adequate water flow to the Moormans River and South Fork Rivanna River as expressed in the joint permit application for the water supply plan;
  • Maintain the pipeline from Sugar Hollow Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir in the event of a failure in the water transmission system;
  • Permit a dam with a height of up to 42 feet by adding additional feet to the existing dam or by constructing a new dam up to a height of 42 feet.  In case the existing dam is built upon, improvements, repairs, and modifications to the existing spillway structure will be constructed to bring the dam into compliance with all applicable dam safety laws and regulations.  The construction is to be done in phases with the first phase being constructed to 13 feet in height and construction to an additional 29 feet as needed to meet adequate water supply needs.  The filling of the dam will be done in phases as water is needed.
  • A new 36 inch transmission pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir, which pipeline will replace the 18 inch pipeline from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir, constructed in 1927;
  • The complete replacement of the piping and pumping transmission system between the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and the Observatory Water Treatment Plant, which will replace the two cast iron pipelines constructed in 1908 and 1949 and the very aged Royal Pump Station;
  • A major overhaul of the Observatory Water Treatment Plant to advance public health by providing state-of-the-art facilities that will increase the Plant’s rating to 8 million gallons per day;
  • The expansion of the capacity of the South Fork Rivanna Water Treatment Plant to 16 million gallons per day; and,
  • The expansion of the capacity of the Observatory Water Treatment Plant to 10 million gallons per day; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the construction of the improvements contemplated by this water supply plan is contingent on the approval by City Council of a cost allocation agreement for each component of the plan between the City, the Albemarle County Service Authority and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and City Council’s approval of any agreement required for the use and / or conveyance of City-owned assets.

The City of Charlottesville will be credited with the sale price of trees cut and sold due to development of dam and additional water impoundment.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all prior resolutions and actions taken by City Council approving the components of the local water supply plan that are inconsistent with this resolution are hereby superseded by and replaced with the provisions of this resolution.

The Clerk of Council is directed to send a certified copy of this Resolution to the respective Chairs of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the Albemarle County Service Authority Board of Directors and the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors.

County planners debate decreased resources for community engagement

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission expressed concern last week that public bodies created to oversee the county’s master plans will be less effective now that budget cuts have forced them to meet less often.

“This is not a very good idea,” said Tom Loach, chair of the planning commission. “As far as I’m concerned, the advisory council has been indispensible in helping make decisions in my district because that’s where I get my feedback from.”

Download 20100914-APC-Community-Engagement

 

Lee Catlin, the county’s community relations manager, said the reduction is due to dwindling financial resources and is not a reflection they are no longer needed.

“It was pretty clearly stated during the budget process last year… that support to master planning advisory councils would be reduced,” said Catlin. She said no one from the councils spoke up during this year’s budget process to make the case for sustained funding. As a result, a community engagement position in her office was eliminated, as well as three positions in the planning department.

The Board of Supervisors endorsed the changes at their meeting on September 1.

When both the Crozet and Pantops master plans were adopted, advisory councils were created to provide a way for citizens to have a say in how those plans were implemented. However, their mission has been reduced because of county budget cutbacks.

“Each of the councils [will] meet three times a year,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “There [will] also be an annual meeting of all the councils together.”

The councils are public bodies, and as such fall under Virginia’s open meeting laws which require publicly advertised meetings and the keeping of minutes. No more than two members of a public body are allowed to meet and discuss public business without following those regulations.

County Attorney Larry Davis advised the board of supervisors earlier this month that council members had to be aware of these obligations in any forum where they are meeting when more than two members are present, even if it is at a local community association gathering, a meeting not convened by the county.

Loach said that when the Crozet master plan was originally adopted, the community accepted it because they were told a full-time community planner would assist with its implementation. However, over time that person has been moved to deal with rezoning due to budget cuts.

“If there’s a lot of development activity as a result of either the master plan or the economic stimulus plan, then these advisory councils may need to more regular,” Loach said.

The Village of Rivanna is the latest growth area to have an adopted master plan, but a council has not been created at this time due to a lack of current development there. However, key stakeholders will be invited to the annual meeting.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said there are already significant problems her constituents and staff, and added it was inconsistent to treat her growth area different from that of Pantops and Crozet.

“We need communication, and if we lose communication, we’re in real trouble,” Porterfield said.  She also objected to supervisors signing off on the changes before the commission had a chance to weigh in.

Cilimberg pointed out that the adopted master plan for the Village of Rivanna anticipated a low level of development in the short-term.

“We have a capital program with essentially no money for initiatives,” Cilimberg said. “The Board is bombarded with a multitude of budget considerations and demands and balancing that against a constituency that does not want to see increases in their taxes,” Cilimberg said. “At some point the reality strikes and that’s our reality right now.”

The Board of Supervisors will consider the Places29 Master Plan in November.


September 20, 2010

City planners consider two residential in-fill projects

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, September 20, 2010

In 2003, the Charlottesville City Council adopted a zoning code that encouraged more  compact residential development within city limits. That vision is being realized as developers seek projects that take advantage of undeveloped land.

The Charlottesville Planning Commission finds itself trying to strike a balance between what a property owner can build by-right and the concerns of existing residents about loss of green space and increased traffic. Two such projects were considered by the commission last week and both illustrate the role that neighborhood involvement plays in whether a development is ultimately approved.

Download 20100913-CPC-Estes-Eton

Commissioners granted a special use permit allowing for a developer to slightly increase the density allowed on vacant land in the city’s Cherry Avenue zoning corridor just south of the railroad tracks and within sight of the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Download Download staff for Estes' special use permit

By right, the firm Estes Street Partners could build 15 units on the site, but the permit allows construction of 2 more units.

Katerina Krzancic, who lives nearby on Nalle Street, spoke out against the project when it originally came before city planners. 

“The applicant originally came forward five years ago with a proposal that I and other neighbors felt was very inappropriate for the neighborhood,” Krzancic said. “It was a very high density project with a lot of concrete and parking.”

On Tuesday, however, Krzancic told commissioners she supported the project because the developer had worked with the city and neighbors to reduce the density and maintain the neighborhood’s character.

“Sometimes we hear about delayed processes and I think this is one where the cooperation among neighbors and applicants over the years has resulted in something that no one quite envisioned in the beginning,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller.

In contrast, Commissioners told developer Alex Hancock that his request to rezone land in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood would likely be denied unless he took the time to work with his neighbors to improve the project.

20100914-CPC-Hancock
Alex Hancock makes his case before the commission

Hancock is seeking to rezone 2.5 acres of land at the end of Eton Road, a cul-de-sac just on the edge of city limits. The preliminary plan is to build 9 additional homes on land that is currently wooded.

City Planner Brian Haluska said Hancock could likely squeeze between 5 and 7 units on the site by right, but the exact number would not be known until an engineering plan is performed.

Developers are invited to participate in a preliminary discussion with the planning commission the month before a public hearing on a rezoning is held. Several residents of Eton Road appeared Tuesday to argue against the development.

Anne Lucas said the homes would double traffic on her street, making it unsafe for pedestrians. 

“We feel like this project would set a poor precedent for the direction of the city,” Lucas said.

Bill Niebel, another resident of Eton Road, said he was opposed to the development because he thought the land was undevelopable.

“It doesn’t belong and it shouldn’t happen,” Niebuhl said. “No one wants this to happen. You don’t even need to take it into consideration.

However, Hancock already paid the $2,000 fee for the process to begin so the application is proceeding through city hall.

At their meeting, Commissioners were concerned that the conceptual site plan was out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and told Hancock he should work with his neighbors.

“I would encourage you to be as open to your neighbors as possible given that they’re going to be an integral part of whatever’s going to happen,” Keller said.

Commissioner Michael Osteen, an architect, encouraged Hancock to continue pursuing the rezoning rather than developing on the site by-right.

“There is a great project that could be built from this, but you’ve got a lot of things going against you,” Osteen said.

Haluska said Hancock plans to take his chances and will present his plan to the commission for formal consideration at its October meeting.