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November 30, 2010

Head of DEQ says he will meet with local officials to review water plan

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
 
The head of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has agreed to facilitate a meeting with local officials on the future of the area’s community water supply plan.

DEQ Director David K. Paylor extended the offer in a letter sent Nov. 23 to the four boards that must reconcile the different water plans favored by Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

20101130-DEQ-letters
Recent correspondence between the VA DEQ and the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority related to the water supply plan

Download November 23, 2010 - David Paylor's (DEQ) letter to "four boards"
DownloadOctober 28, 2010 - Tom Frederick's (RWSA) letter to Scott Kudlas (DEQ)

DownloadAugust 2, 2010 - Scott Kudlas' (DEQ) letter to Supervisor Mallek & Mayor Norris

“[I]t has been suggested that DEQ staff assist by facilitating a public meeting of stakeholders, where these issues could be discussed openly and constructively,” Paylor wrote. “Although the current suggestion is not a typical function for DEQ, we are happy to explore with the community whether and how such a meeting might be possible and useful.”

Paylor’s letter was written in response to an invitation from Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s executive director. Frederick collected questions from city and county officials about possible changes to the water plan and extended an invitation to DEQ for a face-to-face meeting in Charlottesville.

After reviewing Paylor’s letter, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said he was pleased with the DEQ’s response.

“It’s very encouraging and one more sign that DEQ is willing to play a constructive role in bringing this issue to a good resolution,” Norris said. “I suspected all along that ... this is the path they would prefer to take rather than seeing the parties battle back and forth.”

Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, said her board would review the letter at its meeting Wednesday.

“We look forward to hearing from the city what the specific items are that they would like to discuss with DEQ,” Mallek said. “The Board of Supervisors has not yet discussed its response to the letter yet.”

At a joint meeting in September the city and county were unable to agree on how or whether to revise the long-range plan for the reservoir. Earlier this month the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board granted a six-month extension for continued use of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir through May 31 on the condition that construction permits be issued for the dam’s repair, renovation or replacement by that deadline.

Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors still backs the original water plan, which calls for an earthen dam to be built downstream of the existing dam, raising the reservoir pool vertically by 42 feet. The Albemarle County Service Authority is now paying for the final engineering to design that dam.

Charlottesville’s City Council favors a revised plan that would build a taller dam in two phases, with a second height increase to be built only if deemed necessary to satisfy future water needs. Phasing was contemplated in the community’s 2006 permit application as one way to address safety issues with the 1908 dam and spread out the capital costs.

The original 2006 plan carried an estimated price tag of $142 million. While the city and county have agreed on about $102 million in capital projects, Norris has estimated that the phased dam component, as part of a more modest water plan, could save about $25 million when combined with an investment in dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

John Martin, a former member of the ACSA Board of Directors who resigned in September to lobby on behalf of the 2006 water plan, said a public meeting with DEQ was unnecessary.

“I am impressed by the DEQ’s attention to our situation … and I appreciate that they continue to support our existing permit,” Martin said. “With respect to facilitation, I don’t think it is necessary. There will not be a compromise by Albemarle County or the ACSA. We have a plan and I don’t think this meeting will serve any useful purpose.”

Paylor asked that the four boards — the Albemarle supervisors, the City Council, the ACSA and the RWSA — “independently confirm” that they want to participate in the proposed public meeting, which has not been scheduled.

City Council has asked the DEQ to weigh in on the minimum height increase of the first phase of the dam. Council’s September resolution said the first phase should be only 13 feet higher. Norris believes the city’s commitment to build a taller dam, when needed, could be part of a plan that meets DEQ approval within the existing permits.

Ourwater Paylor indicated in his letter that the agency supports the 2006 water plan but is open to changes.

“The [DEQ] supports the community’s existing water supply permit,” Paylor wrote. “If, however, the community chooses to submit a new or modified permit application to DEQ, then DEQ will evaluate the application and advise the community on the extent to which the application meets DEQ’s statutory and regulatory requirements.”

Paylor met privately with Norris in late October to discuss the agency’s approach to water supply planning. That meeting was of concern to some supervisors and city councilors who were unaware of the mayor’s trip until two weeks after the fact.

“This is exactly what he told me when I met with him — the permit in hand is the one that is duly recognized with standing authority,” Norris said. “They have also been clear that if the community wants to modify it, we can seek modification and they will work with us to try and accommodate the direction we want to pursue.”

Mallek said she expected the DEQ to focus on responding to the questions outlined in Frederick’s Oct. 28 letter.

“We asked DEQ for explanations, not to have them negotiate our decision,” Mallek said. “I am skeptical the meeting will do any good because DEQ has said several times they are not negotiators and that they don’t want to get into these debates.”

Norris added that the ongoing review of the proposal by the city’s consultant, Black & Veatch, to build on top of the old dam needs to come to a resolution quickly.

“Before we have this meeting with DEQ, we need to make sure we have a viable alternative when it comes to dam design and construction. If we don’t, then it’s a moot point,” Norris said. “If [Black & Veatch] can assure us their approach is still sound, and will not have major cost implications, then we will be able to come to a decision on the best way to approach our dam.”

November 29, 2010

Commission seeks advice from City Council before slopes hearing

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, November 29, 2010

The Charlottesville Planning Commission’s review of the city’s critical slopes ordinance will not proceed until City Council has a chance to weigh in on the revised ordinance’s ‘purpose and intent’ section.

“We’d like to get some feedback from them prior to giving them the draft ordinance,” said commission chairman Jason Pearson.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101123-CPC-Slopes

The ordinance has been under review for over a year following concerns from the Southern Environmental Law Center that waivers are granted too frequently.

“The current ordinance says any slope over 25% would be subject to a waiver request in order to disturb that slope,” Pearson said. “What we’ve done instead is to try to focus down from that very broad current ordinance.”

City planner Brian Haluska has written a revised ordinance after commissioners went through it line by line on specific provisions and definitions of when a request to disturb a critical slope.

 

Download Download draft critical slopes ordinance

The new purpose and intent section adds at least two criteria to what slopes would be covered. One would define a slope as critical if its disturbance would cause “loss of significant, natural, or topographic features that contribute to the natural beauty and visual quality of the community.”

 However, this language has attracted the concern of the Housing Advisory Committee, a group charged by City Council with exploring ways to increase the stock of affordable living choices within city limits.

“The [HAC] is very clear that it appreciates all the efforts to clarify, quantify and make the ordinance objective as much as possible,” said outgoing chair Charlie Armstrong, who is also with Southern Development.

However, he added that the draft ordinance does not meet that goal, and claimed that use of the language “significant and natural features” is too ambiguous and subjective.

“There [is] a predominant feeling that nobody would really feel like they had a good grasp on whether they could or could not get a waiver for any given project at any given time… It’s been the general feeling of housing providers that a waiver, as long as it’s not egregious or disrespectful to the land and engineered well, would probably get approved,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said if the revised ordinance reduces the supply of developable land in the city, land prices and housing prices would increase.

Commissioner Lisa Green asked if there was any sense of how many undeveloped parcels the ordinance would affect.

“We don’t have an exact count,” Haluska said. “Based on the ordinance, there could be parcels out there that have critical slopes on them but [they still] have a sufficient building site to accommodate the development that needs to be there.”

Commissioner John Santoski said he favored an ordinance that gives the commission flexibility to adjust over time how it defines subjective terms.

“Community values change over time, so what may be important to us today  may not be important to us ten years from now,” Santoski said. “We should allow [future] planning commissions the flexibility to determine what those significant features should be.”

The commission’s public hearing will not be scheduled until after Council has provided its input, according to Haluska. That agenda item has not yet been scheduled before Council. 

Commissioner Genevieve Keller said that even if council decides to keep the existing ordinance in place, the experience of revising the ordinance had educated the current commission.

“I wouldn’t think that…so many waivers would be granted, because I think we’ve learned a lot about this,” Keller said.
 

November 25, 2010

Charlottesville planners briefed on $23.4 million capital budget

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, November 24, 2010

A new city fire station and a long-awaited upgrade of Old Lynchburg Road will proceed next year if a proposed $23.4 million capital improvement program is adopted by Charlottesville’s City Council in the spring.

The money will come from a variety of sources, including a $4.8 million transfer from the general fund, as well as a proposed bond sale of $15.9 million. The University of Virginia is contributing $750,000 toward the fire station, which will be built on Fontaine Avenue. That project’s total cost is $8.75 million.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101123-CPC-CIP

Download Download draft CIP for FY2012-2016

Another source of funding for next year’s CIP is the transfer of an expected $2 million fund balance from this year’s budget, which will allow the Old Lynchburg Road project to move forward. The project had been pushed back to 2014 after the Biscuit Run development became a state park, costing the city $1.5 million in proffers from the developers of the Albemarle County project.

 

Council has directed that that get funded all at one time,” said city budget director Leslie Beauregard.
Sidewalks and bike lanes will be added to Old Lynchburg Road to satisfy the Fry’s Spring neighborhood’s concerns that high traffic volumes are a threat to its residents.

“The sidewalks have become a huge need with the increased volume of traffic, which puts our increased numbers of pedestrians only inches away from being hit on a daily basis,” said resident Jeanne Chase in an e-mail.

The proposed CIP budget contains $300,000 for new sidewalks, $500,000 for a new bathhouse at Washington Park pool and $50,000 for new bicycle infrastructure. Another $1 million contribution will go to the Charlottesville housing fund, which is awarded to nonprofits working to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Another $775,000 will go toward stormwater initiatives, a figure that staff said might not be sufficient.

“This assumes that there will be no [stormwater utility] fee in place for 2012,” Beauregard said.
In previous years, the commission has recommended implementing a fee that would charge property owners for impervious surfaces. However, the council has not yet chosen to do so.

Jim Tolbert, director of neighborhood development services, said the city will likely have to significantly invest in the stormwater system to comply with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements, known as the Total Maximum Daily Load, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires localities to upgrade their stormwater systems.

“We’re looking at between $3 million and $15 million a year based on what iteration of the TMDL is adopted,” Tolbert said.

The CIP for fiscal year 2012 will not contain a $625,000 allocation for the Piedmont Family YMCA.

“That was moved to [2013] because their construction schedule is being pushed out as they’re trying to get their fund-raising done,” Beauregard said. “It doesn’t hurt them at all, but it helps us balance the budget.”

The CIP also does not include any funding for improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure. That money comes instead from utility rates.

The CIP budget for FY 2012 is 31 percent lower than the $33.85 million budget adopted in the current fiscal year. This is the year in which federal and state funds to pay for the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange have been disbursed to city coffers.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the budget at its meeting on Dec. 14. Councilors will be presented with the budget in March and will adopt the budget in April.
 

November 24, 2010

MPO approves bike trail plan, hears details of sustainability awards

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The MPO Policy Board has been briefed on how the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will use a $990,000 “sustainable communities” grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101122-MPO

20101122-MPO-Pic
 

Stephen Williams, the TJPDC’s executive director, said the money will be used to implement the Sustainability Accords which were developed by the Thomas Jefferson Sustainability Council and signed by regional governments in 1998.

“The alternative to a sustainable future is an unsustainable one in which both nature and community are at risk,” reads the document’s preamble. The accords call for action on 68 individual objectives ranging from encouraging compact land use to reducing single occupancy vehicles.

Download Download narrative used by TJPDC's grant application

The grant will allow the TJPDC to implement and measure progress on some of those objectives.

“One of the products [will be] a behavior change plan that would focus on what needed to be done to bring about those changes,” Williams said. This will involve further development of transportation demand management plans and support for the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP).

Other products will include benchmarks to gauge performance on achieving the objectives, the development of a cross-jurisdictional land-use map, the integration of sustainability principles into city and county comprehensive plans, and recommendations for code changes that might be necessary to implement best management practices.

“We expect this sustainable communities grant will allow us to move some very important work forward,” Williams said. Much of that work will be done as both communities begin revision of their comprehensive plans.

The grant will allow the TJPDC to hire a project manager for two and a half years to shepherd the project, as well as two more planners.

“We did not want to create something that was going to create extra work for [city and county] staff after the grant was over,” Williams said.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum expressed concern about the grant in a blog post last week, likening the grant to a “planner employment plan.”

“Rather than “removing barriers” to sustainable development, we have seen such efforts in the past become mandates for specific design criteria,” Williamson wrote. “The government goes too far when it dictates design criteria, that’s the market’s job.”

Williamson said he would prefer to see the money used directly on actual transportation and transit improvements as opposed to more planning.

MPO endorses Northtown Trail plan

20101122-MPO-trail-picture  Source: TJPDC

The MPO adopted a final plan for the creation of a 14.1 mile long bike commuter trail spanning from northern Albemarle County to Charlottesville’s downtown mall. The Northtown Trail will be built in phases over many years as new transportation infrastructure is constructed.

“A good bit of this will be constructed with the Meadowcreek Parkway and the Belvedere development,” said Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker. “The real challenge is going to be getting across the [Rivanna] river.”

That will depend on the building of a new bridge to allow for the extension of Berkmar Drive across the Rivanna River. Earlier this month, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors opted against further consideration of a comprehensive plan amendment to bring land north of the river into the development area. Developer Wendell Wood had offered to pay for a portion of the road and bridge’s $25 million cost, but that plan is now in doubt without the expansion.

Download Download final draft of Northtown plan

Also at Monday’s meeting, the MPO endorsed an application for a VDOT transportation enhancement grant to help pay for a bike/pedestrian bridge to connect the eastern and western sides of McIntire Park. The project will cost about $400,000, according to city trails planner Chris Gensic. 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:30 - Discussion of final draft for Northtown Trail plan
  • 12:00 - Discussion of $990,000 sustainability communities  grant
  • 28:30 - Discussion of resolution endorsing TE grant application for McIntire bike/ped bridge
  • 33:00 - Discussion of appointing representatives to the Virginia Association of MPOa
  • 43:00 - Discussion of US 29 corridor report
  • 1:02:45 - Discussion of Charlottesville MPO's presentation to CTB on December 8, 2010
  • 1:42:00 - Transit updates

Dam experts say renovation of existing dam requires more significant study

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An independent panel of dam experts says there is insufficient information to determine whether building on top of the 1908 Lower Ragged Mountain Dam should be considered as part of the Charlottesville-Albemarle water supply plan.

Three dam experts met for two days with local officials and dam engineers to evaluate a feasibility study prepared in July by Black & Veatch at the request of Charlottesville leaders. That feasibility study said the existing dam could be raised to increase the water level by 35 to 45 feet.

Listen using player above or download the podcast (timeline at bottom): Download 20101123-RWSA

“I think the panel’s discussions were very constructive,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, in an interview. “There were one or two areas of disagreement between [the panel and Black & Veatch], but it was more an acknowledgment of differences of opinion.”

The panel’s findings were presented Tuesday to the RWSA Board of Directors.

20101123-RWSA-Johnson
Daniel Johnson, Tetra Tech

Daniel Johnson, vice president of Tetra Tech, Golden, Colo., and a member of the panel, said in an interview that the body concluded it would need more information before it could advise whether to expand the existing dam or build a new one.

“We don’t have the information to make that decision now,” Johnson said. “If the costs end up being close together, it’s always better to go with new technology rather than an old system.”

In his presentation to the RWSA board, Johnson outlined areas that could increase the Black & Veatch cost estimates, some relating to deficiencies in the design identified as far back as 1913. For example, he said the panel recommended a grout curtain be installed beneath the existing dam to limit seepage if the renovation option was pursued, something not included in the Black & Veatch proposal.

Other grouting applications, excavation work and the widening of the road leading to the construction site were all areas that Johnson said could raise the cost of renovating the existing dam.

Black & Veatch reported in August that a 45-foot increase in the reservoir pool could be accomplished for between $21.4 million and $27 million. The firm also reported that the existing dam could be raised 13 feet for a cost between $9.9 million and $13.1 million or just repaired for $6 million to $7.9 million. There are no cost estimates for phasing the construction from one height to another.

Charlottesville’s City Council voted in September to expand the existing Ragged Mountain Reservoir as part of a revised water plan by building a new or renovated dam in phases, beginning with a 13 foot height increase. No preliminary engineering has been completed on a concrete extension of the existing dam.

Albemarle County, however, has stuck by its preference for a new earthen dam to be built all at once, raising the reservoir by 42 feet. The Albemarle County Service Authority is paying Schnabel Engineering to complete the final design work on that earthen dam, which has an upper cost estimate of about $40.7 million.

Greg Zamensky, an engineer with Black & Veatch who participated in the panel’s review, responded to questions from the RWSA board.

“We need a chance to go back and look at the extent of their comments,” Zamensky said. “As it stands now, I can’t tell you how I could respond to each of those points or how it would impact the cost.”

Judith Mueller, the city’s director of public works, said she believed that the Black & Veatch proposal merits further study. Zamensky said his firm could spend several weeks responding to the panel’s major questions.

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris told the RWSA board he wanted Black & Veatch to respond to the panel’s feedback in order to update the cost estimates.

“I think they have their marching orders to walk through all the points that were raised in the [panel’s] review,” Norris said.

Frederick began the board meeting by asking for “clear direction” from the policy makers about the specifics of the community water supply plan. No verdict was reached at the meeting.

“I think the judgment that the board really needs to make is a gut call as to what is in the best interest of the community,” Frederick said in an interview. “The question is, do we spend more time and money to find out if this option should be pursued? It’s a judgment call they will have to make.”

Norris reiterated that he thinks the city is close to wrapping up its review of this option for an enlarged reservoir.

“It’s really the last major sticking point between the city and county on how to proceed,” Norris said after the meeting. “We will get this report back in a couple weeks and at that point we will be able to make a decision as to whether we want to see the dam renovated or replaced.”

At a meeting in Richmond last week, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board granted a six-month extension for continued use of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir through May 31, 2011 on the condition that construction permits be issued for the dam’s repair, renovation or replacement by the end of May 2011.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 0:02:12 -- Call to order my Charlottesville's acting city manager Maurice Jones
  • 0:02:55 -- RWSA Executive Director's report by Thomas Frederick
  • 0:11:40 -- Public comment
  • 0:25:50 -- Responses to matters from the public
  • 0:41:50 -- Robert Huff with Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates presents comprehensive annual financial report
  • 0:46:10 -- Dan Johnson with Tetra Tech provides report from dam expert panel
  • 1:03:25 -- Greg Zamensky, an engineer with Black & Veatch, responds to the panel's findings
  • 1:21:50 -- Update on action items from Sept 21 "four boards" joint meeting
  • 1:30:16 -- Pros and cons of procurement options for South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
  • 1:44:50 -- Survey and management of Hydrilla in South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
  • 1:52:30 -- Employee appreciation/bonuses
  • 1:54:45 -- Resolution of appreciation for Albemarle County Executive Robert W. Tucker, Jr.

November 23, 2010

Meetings sought to conclude unfinished US 29 corridor study

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A subcommittee of the Commonwealth Transportation Board is calling for a series of meetings of localities along U.S. 29 to build consensus on projects to improve travel times on the highway.

In 2009, the CTB commissioned the Parsons Transportation Group for a $1.5 million study of the entire 219 mile U.S. 29 corridor. The goal was to develop a blueprint to guide planning for future infrastructure improvements for the road, which is considered a “highway of national significance.”

Originally expected to be completed in November 2009, the study has been in limbo after several potential alternatives were removed from a draft at the request of Albemarle County supervisors.

One was the extension of Leonard Sandridge Road from the University of Virginia’s North Grounds using right of way originally purchased by the state for the U.S. 29 western bypass.

“[The study] failed to note that [it] would be a secondary road and there’s no visible means to ever fund such a road,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker at Monday’s meeting of the Charlottesville Metropolitan Planning Organization.

20091007-BOS-Center-State
This map depicts the eastern bypass alternative removed from the corridor study. Click through for a larger image (.PDF) (Source: VDOT)

Another was the consideration of a new road that would travel north-south near Albemarle’s eastern border. Supervisors expressed concern that the route would require the use of many properties that are under conservation easements.

In a vote last December, the CTB expressed dissatisfaction with the way the study was undertaken. A subcommittee was tasked with developing “a plan to improve mobility and accessibility north of Charlottesville.”

The subcommittee’s recommendation, outlined in a Sept. 15 draft report, is to hire a professional facilitator to conduct a series of meetings, including a joint workshop in which Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Danville area officials would participate.

“The outcome of this workshop should be the identification of … potential solutions and new ideas and approaches into outcomes that have cross-jurisdictional support,” reads the draft outline.

Download Download subcommittee's draft recommendations

However, the different localities along the corridor maintain widely divergent positions about the future of U.S. 29.

Earlier this month, the Lynchburg City Council passed a resolution calling on the CTB to restore the alternatives that Parsons removed at Albemarle’s request.

Mark Peake, Lynchburg’s representative on the CTB, supported the resolution.

“I think it’s an excellent proposal and we have to keep the heat on them,” Peake said in remarks to the Lynchburg council at its Nov. 9 meeting.

Lynchburg City Manager Kimball Payne acknowledged in his presentation that the existing bypass route is obsolete.

“Anybody who’s been out there lately realizes the amount of development that has occurred in that corridor in the last 25 years,” Payne told his council. “The need for the bypass certainly hasn’t gone away, but the utility of that corridor that was set aside … is now greatly in question.”

Payne said his city’s resolution was intended to send a message that Lynchburg wants a long-term transportation solution that supports statewide and national interests.

“The work that went on last summer came up with a number of ideas about what a bypass alternative might look like,” Payne said. “I think it was the expectations of the stakeholders that those ideas were going to make it through the report and be in the final published report.”

Since the 1990s, the Charlottesville MPO has consistently stood against funding construction of the western bypass, which remains in VDOT’s long range plans. The MPO’s preference has been to increase traffic flow by widening U.S. 29 and synchronizing traffic signals, building the Meadow Creek Parkway and building a series of grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29.

This approach, which said the western bypass should be considered only after these improvements had been completed, was codified in the so-called “Three Party Agreement ” signed in December 1991 by Charlottesville and Albemarle, and then in February 1992 by the University of Virginia.

However, the future of the grade-separation on U.S. 29 is now in doubt. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has directed staff to de-emphasize the role that the interchanges will play in the 20-year Places29 master plan.

The transportation priorities still remaining in the draft plan are to widen U.S. 29 to six lanes north of the South Fork of the Rivanna River, as well as to build parallel roads to remove local traffic from U.S. 29.

Supervisor Rooker said he questioned the wisdom of developing corridor-wide plans.

“If you’re trying to make decisions on what to do in the corridor, at some point you have to get down into the weeds instead of looking at it from the top up,” Rooker said. He added that the changes made to the plan were made to reflect reality.

The full Commonwealth Transportation Board will vote Dec. 8 on whether to pursue the meetings-based strategy.

James Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District, said it was possible the full CTB board could take another approach.

“What comes out of this meeting will dictate how this goes forward,” Utterback said.

The CTB’s contract with Parsons has now expired, and so any additional work to prepare the facilitator will be done by CTB staff with assistance from MPOs in the participating communities.

November 20, 2010

New water storage tank in the works for Glenmore development

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, November 20, 2010
 
The Glenmore community has a single source of public drinking water, a 4-mile pipeline that runs along U.S. 250 east of Charlottesville. However, if Albemarle officials decide to add a backup storage tank, they will use $2 million of the county’s capital funds rather than ask the developers or Glenmore residents to pay for it.

“It is not something that is needed to provide [water] for Glenmore,” said James Bowling IV, legal counsel for the Albemarle County Service Authority. “It’s a convenience [but] one that you would certainly call a necessity if there was an emergency.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101123-ACSA-Redundancy


The service authority board on Thursday discussed options for addressing the vulnerability created by the system’s potential for a single point of failure. The Michael Baker Jr. engineering firm has recommended a $2 million project to build a new water storage tank in case of a break.
In July, the authority had asked staff to determine if the Glenmore developers could be required to build the tank.

Bowling investigated the proffers included in the Glenmore rezoning and concluded that because the new tank is not essential for new development, the developers can’t legally be required to pay for it.
Another option would have been to charge Glenmore residents a special rate to cover the costs.

The ACSA has twice instituted such a rate, according to Bowling.

For example, developers of future neighborhoods in northern Albemarle County will contribute toward a sewer project with the new North Fork Regional Pump Station, and the Farmington neighborhood’s water distribution system was built with such a fee. Authority staffers, however, did not support this approach.

“[Glenmore] doesn’t seem to us to be the kind of project where a special rate district would apply,” said Gary O’Connell, ACSA executive director.

The authority has slowly been trying to build redundancy into the system by building parallel transmission lines and by asking private developers to install oversized pipes to allow for greater future capacity.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:30 - Presentation of report on water redundancy efforts by Pete Gorham
  • 13:30 - Presentation of item on Glenmore storage tank
  • 35:30 - Presentation of item on West Leigh tank

November 19, 2010

State gives deadline for plans to replace Ragged Mountain dams

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, November 19, 2010
 
RICHMOND — Despite a plea from a former water official to shut down the Ragged Mountain Reservoir for safety reasons, state regulators have granted an extension to the operating permit for the Upper and Lower Ragged Mountain dams used for the Charlottesville-Albemarle urban water supply.

The action was accompanied by a warning that if the community is not ready with construction permits to build a new dam by May 31, it could face unspecified enforcement actions.

At its meeting in Richmond on Thursday, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board unanimously granted a six-month extension for continued use of the water supply reservoir through May 31. Conditions were added to accommodate a revised timeline specifying that the replacement dam’s final design had to be completed by April 30, with the construction permits issued by the end of May.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101118-VA-SWCB


20101118-VA-SWCB
John Martin, a former member of the Albemarle County Service Authority board of directors, traveled to Richmond to ask the board to completely revoke the permit for the dams, which were built in 1885 and 1908.

“My purpose is to attempt to bring pressure on the city of Charlottesville, in any way possible, to convince them to return to the 2006 water supply plan so we can get the Ragged Mountain dams repaired and so that we can proceed,” Martin said. “Right now, my community is tearing itself apart over this controversy, and I don’t know where it’s going to end.”

“It’s getting so bitter that it’s affecting almost every aspect of the relationship between the city and the county,” Martin added. “I thought it was time to go to the state and ask for help.”

20101118-Martin
John Martin testifies before the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board

Martin resigned from the ACSA board in September, saying he wanted to be free to lobby state officials to build support for the 50-year community water supply plan, which was approved by Charlottesville and Albemarle in 2006. He resigned immediately after a joint meeting in September where the localities were unable to agree on how or whether to revise the long-range plan for the reservoir.

Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors still backs the original plan, which calls for an earthen dam to be built downstream of the existing dam raising the reservoir pool vertically by 42 feet. The ACSA is now paying for that dam’s final design.

Charlottesville’s City Council favors a plan that would build a taller dam in two phases, with a second height increase to be built only if it is deemed necessary to satisfy future water needs. The city also wants consideration given to dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and to building on top of the existing dam as a potential cost-saving measure.

Any replacement dam is expected to address safety concerns that have been unresolved since inspections in 1978. The board questioned Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, about the timeline for building the earthen dam favored by Albemarle.

“I am working very hard, as hard as I can, to figure out a resolution to what are some political differences in the community at the present time,” Frederick said. “I would not characterize the differences as jeopardizing the progress that has been made to date with respect to the repairs for the Ragged Mountain dams, but certainly I can’t deny that it has the potential in the future, if some political decisions aren’t made … to prevent us from being able to meet some future milestones.”
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Board member Daphne W. Jamison asked Frederick about the public’s understanding of the safety problems.

“Is the public aware that the dam does not meet safety requirements as it is now?” Jamison asked.

“We certainly have done everything we can do … to try and communicate that reality that something needs to be done,” Frederick responded.

Steve Snell, a dam safety engineer with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, informed RWSA staff in July that he was concerned to hear city officials had concluded the existing dam was safe.

After his message, a conceptual study was completed for the city by Black & Veatch in July. It indicates an enlarged dam could be built 35 to 45 feet higher on top of the existing 1908 Lower Ragged Mountain dam.

In an interview Thursday, Snell was asked if his opinion on the dam’s safety had changed as a result of Black & Veatch’s findings.

“The state and federal government have maintained the same concerns about the safety of this dam for the last 30 years,” Snell said. “If it floods out, it will destroy 50 homes downstream and probably cause loss of life.”

“Thirty years of debate is enough; the localities need to take action. This is not like the Meadow Creek Parkway, where it is a road that’s not a hazardous situation. This has gotten to the point of almost negligence,” Snell added. “Any decision they come up with that makes the dam safer will be acceptable to us, but that should be made at the local level.”

After the board’s decision, Martin said he thought they were “paying attention and listening carefully.”

“I think they will be watching very carefully as we proceed,” he said. “I understand their decision and it’s something we can work with.”

As Frederick left the meeting, he noted that the board had raised the issue of consequences if the revised timelines are not met.

“If we pursue the city’s interest in raising the existing dam, we don’t know how long that would take,” Frederick said. “There is the potential that it could take longer to do the preliminary and final designs, beyond the deadline just given by this board.”

Snell said that enforcement actions could include canceling the operating certificate, forcing the community to lower the reservoir to a safer level, emptying the reservoir entirely, or requiring an alteration permit to immediately build a safer spillway.

“We prefer not to dictate conditions; we prefer to work with localities. But if it comes down to enforcement, the board will decide what that will be,” Snell said. “We just really want them to have an adequate spillway for that dam.”

The next meeting of the RWSA board is scheduled for Nov. 23 to receive input from a panel of dam experts who are reviewing the city’s Black & Veatch concept for enlarging the existing dam.

DIA chief: Room for intelligence community to grow

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, November 19. 2010
 

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Phil Roberts (right) of the DIA updates local officials on the DIA's move to Albemarle County while UVa president Teresa Sullian and chief operating officer Leonard Sandridge look on

Hinting at potentially more growth of the local intelligence community, the man who is overseeing the relocation of more than 800 Defense Intelligence Agency employees to Albemarle County said he expects the transition to be completed by March.

“The largest single group of DIA people outside of the Washington metropolitan area will soon be in Charlottesville,” said Phil Roberts, chief of field support for Rivanna Station and a 29-year agency veteran.

Roberts briefed city, county and University of Virginia officials at a meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council on Thursday.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101118-PACC-DIA


The move was set into motion by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure report, which called for the positions to be transferred from Bolling Air Force Base to a new facility near the U.S. Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center. The BRAC report requires the transition to be completed by September.

So far, 247 employees have made the transition, according to Roberts. About 45 percent have chosen to live in Albemarle, with Greene County and Charlottesville close behind.

Roberts said about two-thirds of the positions being relocated here will be filled by current DIA personnel. However, he said DIA was committed to giving back to the community by hiring locally, as well.

“The majority of the remaining positions will be filled and are available to be filled by current and future Charlottesville residents,” Roberts said.

When all the jobs are filled, DIA itself will be the seventh-largest employer in the region. When jobs at the adjacent National Ground Intelligence Center are factored in, the intelligence sector will be the area’s fourth-largest employer.

However, those positions won’t be filled until Congress passes an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 3.

Roberts said the area’s quality of life makes it an attractive location for future growth, but that would ultimately be up to the area’s elected officials to decide.

“The potential to do more and sell this area as a center for good intelligence work on behalf of the nation exists,” Roberts said. “There are communities that wake up every day and think about how to expand the intelligence sector.”

Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said he welcomed the expansion.

“When you tour NGIC and [Rivanna Station], and you talk to the people who work there about what they do, you come away with a feeling that there’s a patriotic duty of the community to enable your activities,” Rooker said.

 

November 17, 2010

Hillsdale Drive construction depends on right-of-way acquisition

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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An engineer demonstrates a feature of the Hillsdale Drive extension at Tuesday's public hearing

The fate of Hillsdale Drive Extended, a proposed one-mile parallel road to U.S. 29 in Charlottesville, depends on how much land the city can acquire for free or reduced cost.

“We have been moving forward saying that we can’t afford the right-of-way, and it needs to be donated in order for us to construct Hillsdale Drive,” said Jeanette Janiczek, a city traffic engineer in charge of the project.

Hillsdale Drive Extended is planned as a two-lane road that will stretch behind the U.S. Post Office facility from Greenbrier Drive south connecting to Hydraulic Road. A five-foot-wide sidewalk will be built on one side, with a larger mixed-use path on the other side for cyclists.

The road is being designed to handle an average daily traffic count of 16,200 vehicles with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. New traffic signals will be installed at the Greenbrier and Seminole Court intersections, with a roundabout to be built at Zan Road in the Seminole Square Shopping Center.
Construction is estimated to cost around $9.3 million, with another $15.5 million assumed for purchase of right-of-way.

Janiczek said the city cannot enter into right-of-way negotiations with landowners until a timeline for the road’s construction is developed. However, the city held a design public hearing Tuesday to advance the development process.

“By going to this meeting, we’re going to hopefully hear what people have to say, change the plan as needed, get approval from City Council and VDOT, and then we can enter the right of way stage,” Janiczek said.

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In all, 25 parcels of land will be affected. At least two businesses in the Seminole Square Shopping Center would be relocated. Several of the parcels are owned by large developers including the Jessup family and the Great Eastern Management Company. Efforts to reach both for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

The southern terminus of the road has already been built by the developers of the new Whole Foods grocery store and is open to traffic. The city did not purchase the land for that small stretch, a move that Janiczek called encouraging.

“We’ve been successful in acquiring property from Kroger, Dominion Virginia Power and Whole Foods,” Janiczek said. “That does show this [approach] is not just talk.”

However, the city did agree to give $2.1 million from the city’s Economic Development Authority to Meadowbrook Creek LLC for construction costs of the first section of the road. It is anticipated that money will be recouped by the city through higher sales tax receipts from the store.

Another obstacle that has been cleared is the fate of the Regal Cinema that currently blocks the new section of Hillsdale. At one point, Regal had announced plans to expand its existing building, but later decided to relocate to Albemarle Place across the street and out of city limits into the county.

Janiczek said the city likely will not begin saving money for the road’s construction until after 2016. Until then, the city will apply its share of VDOT funding to the $9.2 million Belmont Bridge replacement project.

While over 75 people attended the hearing, only three people made public comments.

Sherman White, a native of Charlottesville who worked for VDOT for 18 years, welcomes the road but says the road’s first phase has created a traffic hazard for residents of Michie Drive. That street is down the hill from the new intersection of Hillsdale and Hydraulic Roads.

"There is no traffic control, and right now it’s haphazard," White said. "It’s an accident waiting to happen."

Russell “Mac” Lafferty, a county planning commissioner representing Bike Charlottesville, said the design for the mixed-use path would not incorporate two-way traffic essential for commuting by bicycle.

"The way this is designed, the only connection you’re providing is by automobile," Lafferty said. "This is the only chance we have to incorporate bicycle accommodations. If we miss it here, we’ll miss it for a long time."

The city will take written comments on the Hillsdale project through Nov. 30. Final plans are expected to be finished by the spring of 2011.