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December 24, 2010

Albemarle panel debates slaughterhouse rules

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 24, 2010

A divided Albemarle County Planning Commission could not reach consensus earlier this week on whether to relax rules that govern where animal slaughterhouses can be operated.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101221-slaughterhouses

No slaughterhouses operate in the county today and planning staff recommended changes, in part to satisfy the growing interest in the local food movement. The debate over slaughterhouses is also part of an ongoing review of the zoning ordinance to satisfy a directive from the Board of Supervisors to promote economic development.

“What you will see potentially happening in the coming years is more of a local demand for ways to process local food products,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “The turn there seems to be towards having more local food available for local sales.”

“We do have a lot of folks who raise cattle and they have to take their animals outside of the area over fairly long distances,” said Susan Stimart, the county’s economic development facilitator.

Currently, slaughterhouses are only allowed in heavy industrial zones with a special-use permit. Staff had recommended dropping that requirement, except when the operator wanted to render inedible parts of slaughtered animals into some form of marketable byproduct.

“What we’ve tried to do is to identify opportunities to make industrial districts more viable for modern industrial operations,” Cilimberg said. “In the first phase we moved certain by-right heavy industry uses into the light industrial category by special-use permit.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said she opposed the change.

“There are many considerations with a slaughterhouse, including the runoff,” Porterfield said. “There’s noise, bringing in the animals, killing the animals … They need a lot of water for this particular kind of business.”

Porterfield noted that the existing public hearing requirement with a special-use permit gives the community a chance to make certain that slaughterhouses are located in appropriate locations.

“Without a slaughterhouse available, people are doing these types of activities on their own,” said zoning official J.T. Newberry. “Having a slaughterhouse that would be able to accommodate some of their plans for the future might be a use we would want to consider.”

Commissioners Russell Lafferty and Tom Loach agreed with Porterfield’s position, but Commissioners Don Franco, Duane Zobrist and Calvin Morris said they could support the change. Commissioner Ed Smith was not present at the Tuesday meeting.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum argued to accept the staff recommendation because it would fulfill a local demand.

“Albemarle County defers a great deal of tax base to allow [the land use tax program], and in the Comprehensive Plan, you support agricultural production,” Williamson said. “Cows become hamburger.Why would you create barriers to discourage the end result of the activity that you’re encouraging on the other side?”

Performance standards for how slaughterhouses would be regulated have not yet been written, but will be discussed by the commission during the next phase of the review of industrial zoning.
Commissioners agreed not to give a direction on slaughterhouses until that information was made available.

The ordinance review also is taking a look at whether office and residential uses should be restricted in the light industrial zones because of the relative scarcity of that type of land in the county.

“Concerns have been expressed previously that we may be losing some of our industrial land to non-industrial activities,” Cilimberg said.

To protect industrial land, staff recommended that commercial office uses require a special-use permit for all industrial districts.

Staff also proposed that homes be allowed in light industrial districts but only with a special-use permit.

“There may be areas in industrial zonings where residential uses are appropriate because if it’s a large employment area, people may want to live near where they work,” Cilimberg said.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said he supports those changes.

“The encroachment of commercial uses into industrially designated land is a significant issue,” Butler said. “Not only does it affect the supply of industrial land in the county, but it also drives up the cost, making it unaffordable for would-be industrial users to move here.”

A public hearing on the changes will be held early next year.

December 23, 2010

County planners endorse changes for rural home businesses

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Property owners in rural Albemarle who want to operate businesses out of their homes may soon have an easier and less costly process for compliance with county rules.

The county Planning Commission endorsed earlier this week a set of amendments to the ordinances by which home occupation permits are handled in rural zoning districts. If approved by the Board of Supervisors next year, the changes will make all home occupations a by-right use in the rural area.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101221-APC-Home-Occupations

“We viewed these amendments as trying to promote rural enterprise,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “We feel [this will give] the opportunity for people to use their land and their property for purposes that prevent further rural subdivision.”

During the Planning Commission’s public hearing Tuesday, many commissioners sought examples of when a home occupation permit is needed.

“There are a couple of indicators that would lead you to need a home occupation [license],” said Joan McDowell, the county’s rural areas planner. “One would be if your business license lists your home as your base of business.”

However, if a business owner only occasionally works from home, no home occupation approval would be required.

Planning Commissioner Cal Morris said he was impressed by the amendments, which he said would clear up misunderstandings.

“A lot of people don’t understand the rules and then they get in trouble,” Morris said.

The existing Class A and Class B home occupation permits for the rural area will be renamed to minor and major.

20101221-APC-Chart
Click for a larger view of a chart comparing the current changes and the proposed revisions

A minor permit would grant a property owner the right to operate a business out of a home, but would not allow for any employees to be hired unless they live in the residence. No customers could visit the site to purchase goods or services.

A major permit would be required for those businesses that have multiple employees and expect customers to visit. The business could also operate out of an accessory unit. Currently, a special-use permit is required for a Class B home occupation, requiring a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

Despite home occupations being converted to a by-right use, a property owner would still have to check with the county to ensure the proposed business did not violate the zoning code.

“Both minors and majors require a zoning clearance and it’s the request for the zoning clearance that will trigger the need for some notice to abutting parcel owners,” said deputy county attorney Greg Kamptner.

Only major permits would require neighbors to be notified of the request for the permit. They would have five business days to comment on the application.

The cost for the major permit will be reduced from a $2,000 fee to a $25 charge for the zoning clearance, though the applicant would have to cover the costs of notifying adjoining property owners.

For both permit types, no more than 25 percent of the home could be used for business purposes, but those seeking a major home occupation permit could apply for a waiver for a $425 fee.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said he supports the goal of the amendments, but was concerned they could lead to development in the rural area.

“The trick is to make legitimate home occupations more viable without creating a loophole that basically turns your rural areas into de facto commercial zoning districts,” Butler said. “The provisions limiting on-site sales are one of the most important provisions in here because they will ensure that these home occupations don’t become an end run around rezonings.”

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum lauded the reduction in fees.

“The reduction in fee because of the reduction by county staff is beneficial and will certainly help rural enterprises,” Williamson said.

The amendments will go to the Board of Supervisors for their review early next year.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

01:30 - Commission Chair Tom Loach introduces Joan McDowell and her staff report
08:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks McDowell the steps to get a major license 
10:30 - Commissioner Tom Loach asks when threshold gets crossed from personal use to home occupation
14:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks if there will be a notice period for adjoining property owners
16:00 - Commissioner Don Franco asks question about vehicle parking
23:10 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield asks where signs would be allowed
25:10 - Commissioner Linda Porertfield asks question about mulch
32:45 - Public comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center
37:30 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
41:30 - Response to public comments from deputy attorney Greg Kamptner
46:30 - Loach asks question about whether waivers can be handled administratively
48:30 - Kamptner discusses potential for recovation of permit
55:00 - Vote

December 22, 2010

Albemarle supervisors lobby legislators on 2011 legislative agenda

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will request that the General Assembly change a state formula that calculates its ability to pay for education costs to reflect tax revenues lost due to the land use taxation program.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:   Download 20101221-BOS-Legislators

 “One of consequences of [the land use] program is that we defer about $2.4 billion of real estate value from being taxed,” said county attorney Larry Davis.

Albemarle instituted the land use program in 1975 to allow qualified property owners to pay a lower tax rate if their land is used for agricultural purposes, the harvesting of timber, or preservation of open space.

“If the formula [for the composite index] is truly designed to truly reflect the ability to pay, that land value doesn’t give us income and we can’t use that to pay for schools which is the whole purpose of the composite index,” Davis added.

20101221-BOS-roundtable


However, the concept was met with skepticism at a meeting between supervisors and area legislators Tuesday.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) said the decision to implement the land use program was a local one, and that it would not be fair to recalculate the formula because half of the counties in the state have chosen not to assess agricultural land at less than .

“You’re basically pushing to those people the cost of the decision,” Deeds said. “There’s going to be some resistance to that.” 

Another of Albemarle’s legislative priorities for 2011 is a request to streamline the application process for placing land in agricultural-forest districts. The proposal is to remove one step in the public notification process. Currently the county must advertise three public meetings at which each application is discussed.

 “What we were hoping to eliminate is the first advertisement that has to be done when we refer it to the [ag-forest] committee, which is something we don’t even do for a rezoning,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek.

A major legislative priority for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is an effort to persuade legislators to represent local interests as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to clean up the Chesapeake Bay is implemented. The EPA is placing a pollution diet on Bay States through a process called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

 “[The TMDL] was the issue that bubbled to the top among all the localities as being the critical one out there this year,” said David Blount, legislative liaison for the TJPDC.

In November, supervisors were told that Albemarle could be required to invest $5 million to $10 million to retrofit its storm water system to reduce sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous that enters the watershed. Charlottesville officials have estimated it could cost the city between $7 million and $15 million a year.

“The [legislative] program really calls on both the federal and state governments to provide various forms of financial and technical resources, and also be fair in how the requirements of the TMDL are going to be allocated among the various source sectors,” Blount said.

20101221-mallek
 

However, Mallek said she could see the benefit in taking tough steps to clean up Albemarle’s rivers and streams.

“If we solve our own problems for own rivers, over 70% of which are impaired in some way, then we’re helping our local residents and we’re also therefore providing an additive effect to helping those downstream as well,” Mallek said.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he supports the goals of the TMDL program, but questions some of the science behind the model upon which the pollution diet is being set.

“It’s really not clear to me how well the science has been advanced on determining actions that may be mandated be taken and what the net effect is going to be on the bay,” Rooker said.

Exact details on what the EPA will require will not become known until the final TMDL is published on December 31.

Rooker also called on legislators to try to do something to support additional revenues for transportation.

“Our secondary road funds have been reduced by 95% over the last six years,” Rooker said. “We’ve been told we may have none next year. We can’t remain competitive as a state if we have virtually no money for secondary roads.”

Delegate David Toscano (D-57) agreed with Rooker, and pointed out that China will build more roads in one year than all of the existing roads in Virginia.

“When you travel the world, there are tremendous economic forces at work and there are many countries in this world that are not playing for second best,” Toscano said. “They’re doing a lot of investment that we’re not doing.”

Earlier this month, Governor Bob McDonnell announced a plan to issue up to $1.8 billion in bonds to pay for transportation projects. The money would be paid for with future federal highway funds. McDonnell also wants to create a transportation infrastructure bank that would provide loans to localities and private companies that seek to build their own roads.

The General Assembly session begins on January 12.

December 16, 2010

Mayor sees new cost estimates for dam as ‘major breakthrough’ in water debate

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 16, 2010
 
An engineering firm hired by the city of Charlottesville has revised its cost estimates for a dam being considered as part of the community water supply plan. Black & Veatch spent the past several weeks incorporating feedback from an independent panel of dam experts and has raised a previous cost estimate by $1.2 million.

Holsinger-slides1 The firm is developing a concept plan for building on top of the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam as an alternative to the new earthen dam in the approved 2006 water plan. The competing approaches to the dam’s design are now at the crux of the debate about a long-term water plan sought by the city and Albemarle County.

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said the letter released by Black & Veatch on Wednesday was a “major breakthrough” and he called for the county and the University of Virginia to drop its preference for an earthen dam in favor of building the first phase of a concrete dam.

“I hope we can all agree to move forward in due haste to implement the approach set forth by Black & Veatch,” Norris wrote in what he described as a personal statement on his blog. “We have an excellent opportunity now to address the dam safety issues at Ragged Mountain and start expanding our long-term water supply.”

Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd supports the construction of the earthen dam and serves with Norris on the board of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority. Boyd said he still had many questions about the Black & Veatch proposal.

“I would disagree that this is a ‘major breakthrough.’ It looks like a preliminary report that might have additional costs,” Boyd said. “Once they look at the other recommendations from the expert panel, it could mushroom into more. … This [letter] indicates the city would have to spend more money to do additional engineering work.”

Greg Zamensky, an engineer with consultant Black & Veatch, wrote that his firm now believes the existing dam can be expanded, raising the reservoir pool by 45 feet, for a cost between $13.5 million and $19.5 million. Factoring in other costs identified by Black & Veatch in its September presentation to the City Council, the concrete dam, if built all at once, now has an estimated total cost between $22.2 million and $28.2 million.

Download Download Black & Veatch's December 14, 2010 letter

Meanwhile, the earthen dam’s final design is currently in progress and being paid for by the Albemarle County Service Authority. It would raise the reservoir pool at Ragged Mountain by 42 feet and be built downstream of the existing concrete dam.

The $142.6 million water plan first approved in 2006 includes $40.77 million as the total budget for the earthen dam. About $3 million has already been spent on engineering studies and preliminary design work. Some of those expenditures were for earlier concrete design concepts recommended by consultant Gannett Fleming that have since been discarded.

Charlottesville’s City Council supports phasing the dam’s expansion and only raising the reservoir pool by 13 feet initially. Black & Veatch has not provided a cost estimate for building the dam in two phases. In September, Zamensky told the City Council that “no design has really been done” yet and that his firm’s range of cost estimates reflected the resulting “great deal of uncertainty” about the project.

Ourwater Norris emphasized in an interview that the main point of the city’s approach is to limit upfront costs and the environmental impacts of a much larger reservoir. He said he believes the first phase of the dam, with an expanded base to support a second phase in the future, can now be built for about $14.3 million.

“Let’s not indebt our residents now for infrastructure we won’t need for several decades to come,” Norris said. “If we can find a path that saves us $20 million or more, it doesn’t make sense to continue down the path we have been on. Up until yesterday, we all had questions about whether the Black & Veatch approach was viable and cost effective.”

Last week, the RWSA released a written report from an independent panel of three dam experts that identified 15 technical areas in the Black & Veatch concept needing more study. The report notes that money spent “remediating” the old dam “would possibly be better spent constructing a new dam.”

“It seems like they haven’t addressed all the questions raised by the panel,” Boyd said. “We are a lot further along solidifying the costs of the earthen dam.”

Zamensky was unavailable to comment, but he noted in his letter that Black & Veatch had limited time to respond to all of the comments from the expert panel and that his firm’s intent was to “capture several of the major and potentially costly items to adjust [the cost estimate].”

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA, said Black & Veatch was not expected to have had time to address all the feedback from the expert panel.

“I think it’s very premature to start comparing cost estimates when they haven’t addressed all the issues,” Frederick said. “We recognize it takes time to do that and it’s up to the city to decide if they want to pursue this further.”

According to Judy Mueller, director of Charlottesville's Department of Public Works, the city has paid Black & Veatch $186,135 for their work on the concrete dam feasibility study. The May 2010 contract limits costs in the first phase of study to about $200,000. A second phase, if authorized by the city, would allow Black & Veatch to refine a preliminary design concept for another approximately $150,000.

Norris said the City Council would discuss the water supply plan at its meeting Monday.

“The first thing we need to do is get a sense of council,” Norris said. “Assuming council stands by its previous resolution to phase the dam, we can sit down with the county and figure out a way forward.”

Nature Conservancy biologist named to Albemarle water board

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 16, 2010

A biologist who helped conceive key approaches in the 2006 community water supply plan has been named to the Albemarle County Service Authority.

The new appointee, Bill Kittrell, is the director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy.

20101026-Kittrell
Bill Kittrell

“This is a good way for me to use some of my science and economic experience to help the community with a very important issue,” Kittrell said in an interview. “I thought it was a good way for me to become involved more directly.”

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to name Kittrell to the seat vacated when John Martin resigned in order to advocate for the water plan as a private resident. Supervisor Ann H. Mallek approached Kittrell to find out if he would finish Martin’s term.

“I’m very excited he would step in,” said Mallek, who represents the White Hall magisterial district. “I wanted to make sure that the ACSA Board had someone representing the rivers.”

Kittrell, who has been with The Nature Conservancy since 1990. worked with Ridge Schuyler and other staff to develop one of the plan’s key concepts. The existing water supply relies on a pipeline from the Sugar Hollow Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Kittrell said that has altered natural conditions for the Moormans River by diverting the natural stream flow.

“Currently, the Sugar Hollow Dam releases waters that mimic the Moormans’ natural flows only 64 percent of the time,” Kittrell said. “Under the proposed community water supply plan, the Moormans’ flows will mimic its natural flows 99 percent of the time.”

Charlottesville and Albemarle agree on the elimination of the Sugar Hollow pipeline, which would restore natural stream flows.  However, they disagree about the degree to which the streams should be improved and the approach to be taken with a new dam at Ragged Mountain.  Charlottesville favors a taller dam built in two phases only as needed, an approach Mayor Dave Norris has said can be much cheaper and have less of an impact on the environment.

Kittrell said that he did not believe dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should be part of the water supply plan, as some city residents and city councilors have demanded.

“It’s not cost effective and it doesn’t meet stream flow requirements. I don’t think it’s environmentally beneficial, and I don’t think that it’s going to be a reasonable solution to meeting the water supply needs for the community in the future,” Kittrell said. However, he added he would support dredging of the reservoir for other purposes if it were not too expensive for ratepayers.

Kittrell was born in Greenville, N.C., and received degrees in biology and economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Crozet with his wife and daughter.

December 14, 2010

Localities wait on federal review of bay cleanup plan

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will not know until early 2011 if they will be required to make significant public investments in order to comply with a federal mandate to clean up the bay.

“Everyone is holding their breath,” said Leslie Middleton, executive director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission, at a meeting Monday. The RRBC is a quasi-governmental organization created to enhance water quality in the Rivanna River watershed, which is itself part of the bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101213-RRBC-TMDL

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing plans submitted by Virginia and other bay states that detail what actions will be taken to reduce the amount of phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment that enters the watershed. The watershed has been split into 92 segments, each of which will be allocated a total maximum daily load (TMDL) of the pollutants.

If the EPA is not satisfied that states will reach the reduction goals, the agency has the power to impose “backstop” measures through its existing authority to regulate wastewater treatment plants, municipal stormwater infrastructure and other “point-sources” of pollution.

Albemarle County and Charlottesville officials have expressed concerns that these measures could cost millions of dollars each year in capital upgrades to capture, treat and store stormwater.

The EPA does not have the authority to regulate “non-point” sources of pollution such as agricultural waste and stormwater runoff outside of urbanized areas.

“We really won’t know what will be acceptable to the EPA until they publish the final TMDL on December 31,” Middleton said.

The commonwealth’s first draft was deemed by the EPA to have “serious deficiencies” that would not allow Virginia to meet its targets by 2017. In their final draft, state officials responded to EPA concerns by increasing the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen that must be removed at wastewater treatment plants.

“We have now crafted a good, amended plan that addresses the issues raised by EPA and allows us to achieve pollution reductions absent ‘backstops’ from EPA,” wrote Douglas W. Domenech, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources.

However, Domenech’s revised plan also called on the EPA to delay implementation of the plan until May of next year to allow more time for public comment. He claimed it will cost $7 billion over the next 15 years to reach the goals called for by the EPA, and said funding from the General Assembly is far from guaranteed.

“The success of the [plan] may be subject to the provision of sufficient federal funding to assist in covering these massive new unfunded mandates,” Domenech wrote.

Download Download Virginia's November 29, 2010 watershed implementation plan

The executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a statement that Virginia’s changes were a step in the right direction, but cautioned the EPA may not find it satisfactory.

“Unfortunately, while the revised plan includes many more promising ideas for reducing polluted runoff from Virginia farms, it continues to lack commitments that such reductions will actually be achieved,” Ann Jennings wrote.

After the TMDL is published by the EPA, the second phase of the clean-up plan will be written by localities with assistance from agencies like the RRBC and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

“We want to create an environment where point and non-point sources can be looked at holistically and the entire community of rural, suburban and urban stakeholders can do their part,” said Charlottesville City Councilor David Brown, who is chairman of the RRBC.

One of the challenges will be in balancing the regulatory burden across all sources of pollution. That debate will play out next year as stakeholders at the local level gather to discuss how to best attain the pollution targets.
 

December 09, 2010

Albemarle rejects meeting with DEQ and says it won’t compromise on water plan

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 9, 2010
 
Albemarle County has told the Department of Environmental Quality that it won’t meet with state officials to discuss alternatives to the 50-year community water supply plan. The letter from Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, tells DEQ director David K. Paylor that it sees no room for compromise with the city of Charlottesville.

“We support no compromise of the approved and permitted water supply plan in the belief that to do so, would compromise the county’s future,” Mallek wrote in the Dec 8 letter. “[I]t would be disingenuous for the county to agree to a DEQ ‘facilitated’ joint public meeting, the mere organization of which would suggest to you, and to the public, that there is room for compromise …. There is none.”

Download Download Albemarle's December 8, 2010 letter to DEQ

Paylor extended the offer to facilitate a joint meeting in a letter he sent Nov. 23 to the four boards who must reconcile the different water plans favored by Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

City representatives were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Dede Smith, a representative of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, a group that opposes the new earthen dam for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir that is part of the approved 2006 water plan, said she was surprised at the county’s uncompromising position.

“My first impression is that it’s really ironic that the county would use DEQ as a threat when it serves their purposes,” Smith said. “Now they are pushing DEQ away when they are willing to facilitate a solution.”

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. At that meeting, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris insisted on a face-to-face meeting with DEQ officials to get the agency’s input on technical matters including any larger dam’s minimum initial height increase.

In the letter declining to participate in the meeting with DEQ, Albemarle reiterated its preference for a new earthen dam. It also for the first time officially indicated a willingness to only partially fill the enlarged reservoir, an approach suggested by some city councilors in September.

“We insist on the full height earthen dam constructed at the initial phase, with an initial pool of at least 30 feet [higher], if it is not to be filled to 42 feet [higher] in the first phase,” Mallek wrote.

The city’s plan 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. Norris persuaded the City Council to include in its revised water plan only a 13-foot increase for the first phase

The phased approach, according to Norris, only makes sense if the first phase, plus the cost of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, comes in at a cost lower than the $40.7 million earthen dam. The specific costs for the city’s approach are currently unknown.

County officials prefer to have the full reservoir capacity available immediately and they have argued the final cost of the earthen dam is likely to be significantly cheaper if the community takes advantage of the current construction market.

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., said Albemarle was the first to respond to the DEQ’s invitation for a meeting.

“I see consistency with the message the county has been sending,” Frederick said. “My job is to help facilitate a resolution to this issue. If the county doesn’t think it is wise to accept an invitation, then respecting that, there are other ways we can try and facilitate a resolution.”

Mallek said in an interview that a joint meeting also didn’t make sense to Albemarle officials because the city has not completed its review of the Black & Veatch study of adding onto the Lower Ragged Mountain Dam.

“At this point, to schedule a meeting when City Council hasn’t had a chance to figure out what it’s going to do, that seems premature,” Mallek said.

In recent interviews, Norris has also said the meeting with DEQ should only come after the city completes its investigation of remediating and enlarging the 1908 dam in phases. The city expects to receive revised cost estimates later this month.

“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 in late November.

Asked to identify next steps for the community’s decision on the water plan, Frederick said he saw no single clear path, but he said that delaying a decision has cost implications.

“Continued dialogue is very important and continuing to move information forward is important,” Frederick said. “The Albemarle County Service Authority is paying for final design of the earthen dam and the city is paying for further work with Black & Veatch. If we continue on multiple tracks, then we will spend more money than we need to be spending.”

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan believes a meeting with DEQ would help to resolve questions the city has about the permits and the group is urging both localities to resolve a cost-sharing arrangement before finalizing a water plan.

“My expectation is that the city will continue to put its citizens’ best interests at the forefront,” Smith said. “I find it really disturbing that the county, or the city, would not understand first what the full cost implications are … as there is not yet a cost-sharing arrangement.”

Western bypass for U.S. 29 scrutinized by state transportation board officials

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 9, 2010

ROANOKE — The executive director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Policy Organization told the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday why a western bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is not favored by local officials.

“We think the projects and ideas we have for the 29 corridor would serve both state and local transportation needs better than a bypass and would also be less expensive,” Stephen W. Williams said.

 

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101208-CTB

20101208-Williams
MPO Director Stephen Williams address the Commonwealth Transportation Board at their meeting at the Hotel Roanoke

Williams said the MPO plans to address traffic congestion by increasing the capacity of existing roads, encouraging people to take public transportation and by building parallel roads such as Hillsdale Drive.

“Our focus for the 29 corridor is on maximizing the movement of traffic,” Williams said. “We think that’s the cost-efficient way to deal with the whole issue. Once the existing corridor and parallel roads have been maximized, then we will move on and look at the bypass as a next alternative.”

Williams said the top two priorities to address congestion on U.S. 29 are to add an additional lane from the U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 intersection to Hydraulic Road and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Airport Road to the South Fork of the Rivanna River.

The MPO still lists the western bypass as a project on its six-year plan because $47.2 million has been spent on preliminary engineering and to buy right-of-way for the 6.1 mile route. Estimates for construction of the four-lane, limited-access highway range from $161 million to nearly $300 million.

Williams said the most recent origin and destination study estimated that 85 percent of the traffic on U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is local.

Officials from cities south of Charlottesville continue to call for the road’s construction. State Sen. Steve Newman told the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that he has requested a meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to press the issue.

James Davis, who represents the Staunton district on the CTB, asked Williams if the MPO’s philosophy is skewed toward local needs rather than state needs.

20101208-MPO-Slide1
A slide from Williams' presentation

“As a small MPO working with local government, what we primarily have access to is funds related to the local systems,” Williams said. “However, we would very enthusiastically support investment by the state of Virginia in capacity improvements in the major corridors of significance.”

In January, the CTB will take up a draft report of a subcommittee tasked with completing a corridor-wide study of U.S. 29. The study fell short of the CTB’s expectations after several improvements were removed at the request of elected officials in Albemarle and Louisa counties. The draft report calls for meetings between elected officials from communities along the U.S 29 to build consensus on long-term planning.

When another CTB member asked if that would be an “exercise in futility,” Lynchburg’s representative said yes.

“It has been in dealing with the Charlottesville and Albemarle folks,” Mark Peake said. “They have fought us every step of the way in proceeding with the bypass.”

CTB member James Rich, whose Culpeper District includes Albemarle and Charlottesville, suggested that selling the right-of-way for the western bypass might help pay for some of the projects Williams had described. In all, $33.7 million was spent to purchase land.

However, Peake reminded Rich that VDOT must offer to sell the property back to the original landowner at its original cost.

“We are not going to get any windfall by selling the right-of-way,” Peake said. “The landowners will get the windfall. We cannot sell this right-of-way and use that money. … It would be a tremendous loss of taxpayer dollars.”

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he would try to get an opinion on the issue from VDOT staff before the next discussion of the bypass.

Albemarle Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas attended the meeting to represent the MPO.

“I learned that there’s a big concern on the board because of the bottleneck,” said Thomas, who supports the bypass. “I don’t want U.S. 29 to be the catch-all road for everything. I want there to be an alternative.”

Bypass opponent Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker also attended the meeting and came away with a different message.

“I think that the CTB appears to be open to dealing with different strategies at a time when there’s little money,” Rooker said. “I think they recognize that our strategies will improve the traffic.”

Williams also asked the CTB to assist the MPO in efforts to pass legislation to allow Charlottesville and Albemarle County to hold a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements.

“We hope there’s some way you could influence the members of the legislature,” Williams said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:30 - Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton introduces Steve Williams of the MPO
  • 08:15 - Williams details improvements to be made at U.S. 29 and U.S 250 interchange
  • 17:50 - Williams details UVA's transportation demand management plan
  • 24:00 - Questions from Mark Peake, CTB representative for Lynchburg
  • 26:00 - Question from James Davis about balance between state and local needs
  • 27:45 - Question from James Rich about make-up of traffic on U.S. 29
  • 30:20 - Question from Rich about Hillsdale Drive   
  • 31:00 - Question from Rich about Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 32:45 - Question from Gary Garczynski about fate of subcommittee on U.S. 29
  • 37:00 - Question from Aubrey Layne about ways to fix existing program
  • 40:30 - Question from Connaughton about efforts to secure local sales tax increase
  • 43:30 - Rich raises the hypothetical of selling right of way to fund other projects

 

Western bypass for U.S. 29 scrutinized by state transportation board officials on Charlottesville plans

 

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org

 

ROANOKE — The executive director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Policy Organization told the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday why a western bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is not favored by local officials.

“We think the projects and ideas we have for the 29 corridor would serve both state and local transportation needs better than a bypass and would also be less expensive,” Stephen W. Williams said.

Williams said the MPO plans to address traffic congestion by increasing the capacity of existing roads, encouraging people to take public transportation and by building parallel roads such as Hillsdale Drive.

“Our focus for the 29 corridor is on maximizing the movement of traffic,” Williams said. “We think that’s the cost-efficient way to deal with the whole issue. Once the existing corridor and parallel roads have been maximized, then we will move on and look at the bypass as a next alternative.”

Williams said the top two priorities to address congestion on U.S. 29 are to add an additional lane from the U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 intersection to Hydraulic Road and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Airport Road to the South Fork of the Rivanna River.

The MPO still lists the western bypass as a project on its six-year plan because $47.2 million has been spent on preliminary engineering and to buy right-of-way for the 6.1 mile route. Estimates for construction of the four-lane, limited-access highway range from $161 million to nearly $300 million.

Williams said the most recent origin and destination study estimated that 85 percent of the traffic on U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is local.

Officials from cities south of Charlottesville continue to call for the road’s construction. State Sen. Steve Newman told the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that he has requested a meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to press the issue.

James Davis, who represents the Staunton district on the CTB, asked Williams if the MPO’s philosophy is skewed toward local needs rather than state needs.

“As a small MPO working with local government, what we primarily have access to is funds related to the local systems,” Williams said. “However, we would very enthusiastically support investment by the state of Virginia in capacity improvements in the major corridors of significance.”

In January, the CTB will take up a draft report of a subcommittee tasked with completing a corridor-wide study of U.S. 29. The study fell short of the CTB’s expectations after several improvements were removed at the request of elected officials in Albemarle and Louisa counties. The draft report calls for meetings between elected officials from communities along the U.S 29 to build consensus on long-term planning.

When another CTB member asked if that would be an “exercise in futility,” Lynchburg’s representative said yes.

“It has been in dealing with the Charlottesville and Albemarle folks,” Mark Peake said. “They have fought us every step of the way in proceeding with the bypass.”

CTB member James Rich, whose Culpeper District includes Albemarle and Charlottesville, suggested that selling the right-of-way for the western bypass might help pay for some of the projects Williams had described. In all, $33.7 million was spent to purchase land.

However, Peake reminded Rich that VDOT must offer to sell the property back to the original landowner at its original cost.

“We are not going to get any windfall by selling the right-of-way,” Peake said. “The landowners will get the windfall. We cannot sell this right-of-way and use that money. … It would be a tremendous loss of taxpayer dollars.”

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he would try to get an opinion on the issue from VDOT staff before the next discussion of the bypass.

Albemarle Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas attended the meeting to represent the MPO.

“I learned that there’s a big concern on the board because of the bottleneck,” said Thomas, who supports the bypass. “I don’t want U.S. 29 to be the catch-all road for everything. I want there to be an alternative.”

Bypass opponent Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker also attended the meeting and came away with a different message.

“I think that the CTB appears to be open to dealing with different strategies at a time when there’s little money,” Rooker said. “I think they recognize that our strategies will improve the traffic.”

Williams also asked the CTB to assist the MPO in efforts to pass legislation to allow Charlottesville and Albemarle County to hold a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements.

“We hope there’s some way you could influence the members of the legislature,” Williams said.

Charlottesville Tomorrow is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization covering land-use and transportation issues in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

 

 

 


From: Brian Wheeler [mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 9:42 PM
To: Rector, Jennifer W.; Barney, Joshua D.
Cc: 'Sean Tubbs'
Subject: RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight

Reminder Sean needs final copy.  Thanks!

 

From: Brian Wheeler [mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 5:20 PM
To: 'CMcCance@dailyprogress.com'; 'jrector@dailyprogress.com'; 'jbarney@dailyprogress.com'
Cc: 'Sean Tubbs (stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org)'
Subject: RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight

 

Story attached – Please send edits back to both Brian and Sean

 

From: CMcCance@dailyprogress.com [mailto:CMcCance@dailyprogress.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 4:05 PM
To: bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org; jrector@dailyprogress.com; jbarney@dailyprogress.com
Subject: RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight

 

ok thanks for the reminder.

 

 

 


From: Brian Wheeler [mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 3:54 PM
To: McCance, Charles M.; Rector, Jennifer W.; Barney, Joshua D.
Subject: Reminder about CTB story tonight

Reminder that Sean will be filing a story from Roanoke on the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting today that included a presentation by a delegation of Cville-Albemarle officials.

 

Brian

 

Brian Wheeler, Executive Director
Charlottesville Tomorrow
P.O. Box 1591
Charlottesville, VA 22902
bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org
tel: 434-260-1533
fax: 866-252-5530
www.cvilletomorrow.org

 


 

 

December 08, 2010

Two long-awaited road projects poised to move forward in Albemarle

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A pair of projects to improve two key Albemarle connector roads will move forward this winter after years of planning.

A $13.5 million project to widen a stretch of Jarman’s Gap Road in Crozet will be advertised for construction in January 2011. The right of way phase for this project first began in 1998.

“Given the amount of development that has taken place, the improvements are important for providing adequate access,” said chief planner David Benish in an interview. The project will also add sidewalks and a bike lane, which will make downtown Crozet more accessible.

Georgetown Road will also get pedestrian improvements as part of a $2.3 million dollar project that will be advertised in February. That project has been scaled back dramatically due to funding cutbacks and a lack of space. A sidewalk will be built on the western side of the road, but there is no room for a bike lane.

“Even with available funding it would be very expensive and cost-prohibitive because of the amount of existing development on the road,” Benish said.

For several years, the two projects have been among the county’s top transportation priorities. Another is Albemarle’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, for which the county invested over $30 million.

Under VDOT regulations, localities must save up the entire amount of a project’s cost estimate before construction can be advertised. Accruing the money for all three projects has taken longer than expected because of state budget cuts.

In 2005, Albemarle received around $5.5 million in secondary road funds. That figure has dropped to around $325,000 for the current fiscal year. VDOT will release an estimate for how much Albemarle can expect in FY2012 later this month.

Even though funds are limited, supervisors will be asked early next year to indicate their priorities for what secondary roads will be funded next.

"It's always good to have a plan for when opportunities present themselves,” said Benish. One of those opportunities could be the release of several hundreds of millions of dollars uncovered an internal VDOT audit.

The next project to accrue funding will be a replacement of a wooden railroad bridge on Broomley Road off U.S. Route 250 West  that was damaged when a train hit it in August 2007. In April, chief planner David Benish told the board that it might not be until 2017 before enough money is accumulated  for the project.

Another opportunity for new funding could come as the Meadowcreek Parkway is completed.

“The bid came in less than we had originally estimated, and we put a lot of our secondary road funds in it over many, many years,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker. 

Karen Kilby, investment manager for VDOT’s Culpeper District, said she would not know about any unspent balance until at least five months after the project is complete in late 2011.

The county is also facing a potential setback in an alternative effort to pave gravel roads while avoiding extensive widening. The state places a high priority on paving roads, but VDOT standards require at least a 40 foot right-of way. Concerned that such roads would attract more development in the rural area, supervisors opted instead to use VDOT’s rural rustic program which allows for more flexibility in design, less impact to the landscape, and results in a lower cost.

However, Supervisor Ann Mallek recently discovered that the rural rustic program will not be the cheaper alternative it was expected to be.

 “Our estimates that we’d been looking at for some of these roads are woefully undervalued, to the tune of two or three times,” Mallek said during the board’s December 1 meeting. “There has been a change in procedure that requires professional engineers’ signatures on all plans instead of just sending our paving company out there to grade them, put the ditches in and drop the asphalt.”

Two Supervisors fail in attempt to resurrect western bypass

The controversial 6.1 mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 remains dead, despite an attempt by two supervisors to revive it last week.

“In the past, the majority of this board has been totally opposed to it,” said Supervisor Ken Boyd. “I’m not so sure that’s still the case.”

Boyd asked the board if they would consider bringing the Western Bypass back before the Metropolitan Policy Organization. The MPO has never authorized funding for construction of the road, thought it has accepted $47.2 million in state and federal funding for design and the purchase of right of way.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas supported the request, but no other supervisors voiced their support at the meeting.

Reached in an interview, Supervisor Duane Snow said he did not support bringing the idea back at this time.

Boyd said he wanted further study to determine whether the right of way could have some value as a parallel road or limited access parkway. However, that idea would also appear to be off the table. In October 2009, the board asked a consultant preparing a study of the U.S. 29 corridor to delete language that called the right of way to extend Leonard Sandridge Road north of the U.S. 250 bypass.


December 07, 2010

University of Virginia favors building new earthen dam

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The University of Virginia has shared publicly for the first time its preference for how to resolve the contentious battle over a long-term water plan and thus address the school’s needs and those of Charlottesville and the urban areas of Albemarle County.

20101207-Sandridge
Leonard W. Sandridge, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer

Leonard W. Sandridge, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, told a gathering of neighborhood leaders Tuesday that the university favors building a new dam downstream of the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam.

“We believe the preferred solution is quite clear,” Sandridge said. “That involves increasing the capacity of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir by building a new dam, not by adding to the top of the old … dam that is there now.”



Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101207-UVA-Neighborhoods

The city of Charlottesville is continuing to evaluate a proposal to build a concrete extension on top of the 1908 dam and is waiting for its consultant, Black & Veatch, to provide a revised cost estimate later this month. Albemarle County continues to invest its own funds in the final engineering for a new earthen dam, the approach now known to be favored by the university, the city’s largest water customer.

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said the community should wait for the next report from Black & Veatch before settling on an approach to a larger dam.

“I think it is awfully premature to reach any conclusions on the viability of the existing dam,” Norris said in an interview. “We need to have the actual data from Black & Veatch, and they are a very well-respected engineering firm.”

The 50-year water plan was originally approved by the City Council and Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors in 2006. The estimated $142 million plan includes building a taller dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Ragged Mountain and associated support infrastructure.

Since 2006, the water plan has turned into one of the most contentious public policy debates in regional history. The current focus of negotiations between the city and county relates to the design of the new dam.

“There have been a lot of studies and a lot of discussions, but no steps to remedy the basic problem,” Sandridge said. “By any measure this is a risk … for the university and a risk for the businesses that are in our community.”
 
Report raises more questions
 
On Monday, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority released the written report from an independent technical review team of dam experts. It identified 15 technical areas needing more study that it said could add to the cost of Black & Veatch’s August estimates for raising the reservoir by up to 45 feet by building on the existing dam.

Download Download indepdendent technical review team's November 23, 2010 report

The report suggests money spent “remediating” the old dam “would possibly be better spent constructing a new dam.”

The independent technical review team noted in its report that there “is considerable evidence in the records … indicating that the integrity of the 100-year-old existing cyclopean concrete dam is highly questionable and has been since first filling.”

City Councilor David Brown said in an interview that the city was continuing to review its options, the feedback from the dam experts and the ongoing analysis by Black & Veatch.

“If a big advantage of building on top of the old dam was saving money, well if that’s not going to be the case, then we need to take a hard look at the new dam,” Brown said.

[UVa] certainly have a stake in this, especially since they are expecting to grow significantly,” he added.

Sandridge also reflected with the neighborhood leaders on the 2002 drought, the community’s worst drought on record, and said that the university’s operations were challenged by the water shortage.

“At one point [in late 2002], we were being told that we might have to ask our students to go home before the end of the semester,” Sandridge said. “That is not a good solution for an institution that depends on completing its work on a semester system.”

20101207-Neuman
UVa Architect David Neuman

UVa Architect David Neuman told the audience that the university’s water usage was starting to increase again after many years of implementing conservation measures.

“Our new dormitories, for example, are air conditioned, and that increases water use,” Neuman said. “It’s not the toilets and it’s not the sinks, it’s that the air conditioning system actually loses water as the chilling process occurs.”

Neuman noted that more than 25 percent of the university’s water usage is related to mechanical equipment.

Norris said the City Council would talk about the water plan at its next meeting, on Dec. 20, if Black & Veatch finalizes its revised estimate beforehand.

“We appreciate the university’s opinion. They are a major consumer of water, but in the grand scheme of things it is the ratepayers of Charlottesville I am most concerned with,” Norris said. “They don’t have billion-dollar endowments and I want to make sure we are coming up with the most cost-effective water solution.”