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March 31, 2011

City still planning for rectangular fields at McIntire

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two years since softball fields at Charlottesville’s McIntire Park were last threatened with elimination, the city’s park plan continues to call for their replacement with rectangular athletic fields.

At a recent budget work session, the City Council learned a study of the matter, which they requested in 2009, remains incomplete and council members are currently split as to how to best allocate McIntire’s fields in the future.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110316-CIP-Work-Session



That came as news Tuesday night to Ivar Dowell, a city resident who is playing in his 15th season in the Charlottesville Adult Softball League.

“I am pretty sure if you ask anyone around here, [they will say] these are going to stay softball fields,” Dowell said as he waited for his turn at bat. None of his teammates knew about the impending change, nor did anyone on the other team.

 

20110329-Chubby-Sign
Signs commemorating Carl "Chubby" Proffit were installed to honor the World War 2 veteran

Elsewhere in the park, city resident Mary Katherine Barnes said she thought the issue had been resolved, especially after the city renamed the softball complex for World War II veteran Carl “Chubby” Proffit last year

“Why would the city pay to put up new signs if they are going to remove the fields?” she asked.

That was the same concern raised by City Councilor David Brown during the work session on the city’s capital needs. He is a proponent of the rectangular fields.

“I had some concern that we were dedicating softball fields to Mr. Proffit when we [haven’t] actually made a decision whether to keep softball fields,” Brown said.

A master plan adopted by the council in May 2008 continues to call for the replacement of the softball diamonds with a rectangular field to support soccer, lacrosse and other sports. The plan was developed through a needs assessment conducted by the city and Albemarle County.

“Many user groups, particularly those who play rectangular field sports, expressed the need for more fields,” Brian Daly, the city’s parks director, wrote in an email.

Mcintire-park-plan
The McIntire Park master plan was adopted in May 2008 and depicts a multi-use rectangular field at the location of the softball diamonds. (Click to enlarge)

However, members of the softball community felt they had been left out of the process. On their behalf, Mayor Dave Norris asked fellow councilors in June 2009 to amend the plan to preserve the fields, but that action was deferred. Instead, the council directed staff to conduct a field allocation study.

Norris said he was told the study would be finished by the end of that year, but Daly said it has been delayed.

“Work was done with [Albemarle] County in the fall and winter of 2009 and 2010, including meeting with user groups and conducting surveys of each user group to determine the level of satisfaction with the allocation process,” Daly said.

Daly added his department was busy renovating Forest Hills Park and building the new Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center, but said the study should be presented to the council within two months.

In an interview Tuesday, Norris said he continues to support keeping softball at McIntire Park and wants to use the results of the study to determine where a new rectangular field might be located.

“I’ve long believed that we should not be pitting needs of various recreational users against each other,” Norris said. “Let’s work to expand the size of the pie so we can keep softball at McIntire and expand fields elsewhere.”

However, the ongoing study may not yield the results Norris is hoping for.

“The purpose of the allocation study was to determine the community’s satisfaction with the process by which athletic fields are allocated [and] not to examine the need for new fields,” Daly said.

“As for the future of the softball fields at McIntire Park, ultimately that is a decision that will be made by the City Council once all the facts are presented to them,” Daly added.

Bob Fenwick, a former council candidate who wants softball to continue to be played at McIntire Park, said he was not confident the diamonds would remain.

“The softball fields are lost,” Fenwick said in an interview. “There will be a rectangular field unless there is a change in the City Council.”

Councilor Satyendra Huja said he is waiting for the study to be completed before he makes up his mind. Councilor Holly Edwards said she supports the rectangular field. Councilor Kristin Szakos could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the two fields at McIntire Park, league softball games are played at Darden Towe Park, Washington Park and Piedmont Virginia Community College.

In October 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors took public comment on a proposal to install lights so softball could be played at night at Darden Towe. The board decided not to do so because of concerns about the impact on the nearby rural area.

Without the ability to play at night, and with a loss of fields at McIntire, the softball league would likely have to shrink in size. Two baseball diamonds for Little League use would be retained at McIntire under the adopted plan.

City Manager Maurice Jones said it was still appropriate to name the softball complex after Proffit.

“We said we would name [the field for Proffit] but that we would do so in such a way that we could change the [use of the] field,” Jones said.
 
Increased spending for bicycle infrastructure

In other business at the city’s recent budget work session, Council asked for the amount of funding for bicycle infrastructure to be doubled from $50,000 to $100,000. Jones said he would like Council to have some idea of what that might pay for before committing the funds.

“If we add another $50,000 it’s nice, but we don’t necessarily have a plan to use that money just yet,” Jones said. “Quite honestly it’s going to be a lot more expensive once we get past striping [new bike lanes] because we’re going to have to do some other things that we haven’t done thus far.”

Additional capital budget initiatives included:

  • $500,000 for a project to adjust the entrances of Edgewood and Harris Streets when the Meadowcreek Parkway interchange is built.
  • A decrease in allocations to the Economic Downtown Fund in order to increase the FY2012 contribution to the Charlottesville Housing Fund to $1.41 million.
  • Transfers into the capital budget of $4.4 million  from the general fund, $2 million from the fund balance, $750,000 from UVa to contribute to the Fontaine fire station, and a scheduled bond sale of $15.6 million.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - City Manager Maurice Jones introduces discussion and the general overview of the budget 
  • 03:00 - Budget director Leslie Beauregard begins going through the budget
  • 05:00 - Beauregard taking questions about CHS artificial turf field
  • 10:40 - Discussion of Charlottesville Housing Fund
  • 12:30 - Discussion of CIP Revenues FY2012 - 2016
  • 17:50 - Discussion of Bonded Projects FY12 – 16 CIP
  • 20:00 - Discussion of additional state funds to city
  • 23:50 - Discussion of schools lump sum
  • 26:10 - Beauregard explains difference between bonded and non-bonded projects
  • 38:50 - Discussion of economic development initiatives
  • 45:30 - Discussion of transportation & access programs
  • 51:00 - Discussion of parks & recreation projects
  •     57:00 - Discussion of “Percent for Art Program”




March 30, 2011

Area may not meet federal air quality standards

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

20110323-MPO
The MPO Policy Board met on March 23, 2011

An increase in air pollution as well as tighter regulations could soon lead to greater federal scrutiny of transportation projects overseen by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Between those two things, we’re concerned that within the next two years we may find ourselves in non-attainment status,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

That would mean that any transportation plan approved by the MPO would have to demonstrate what steps would be taken to reduce pollution locally.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110323-MPO

 

The Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO is currently within approved guidelines whereas the MPOs that oversee planning Hampton Roads, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, and Richmond are all considered to be non-attaining.

“If [an] MPO area does not meet national standards for air quality, [the MPO] is required to make an analysis showing that their [transportation improvement program] will make air quality better,” said Dan Painter, a planner with VDOT’s Culpeper District.

The topic came up during the March meeting of the MPO Policy Board, the body which coordinates transportation planning in Charlottesville-Albemarle between state and local officials.  A presentation was made to educate the board’s newer members on how transportation planning works in Virginia.

The Clean Air Act of 1977 requires that state goals to improve air quality be taken into account when deciding what transportation projects should move forward.

“The state has to submit a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency each year which shows how areas that have healthy air maintain that healthy air, and how regions with unhealthy air will clean up their air,” said Morgan Butler, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The TJPDC’s Williams said over time, regulations are becoming tighter because the EPA is assuming vehicles are becoming more efficient.

If the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO is designated as “non-attaining”, it would be eligible for additional money for congestion mitigation. However, that would come at a cost according to Williams.

“The air quality analysis is not easy to do and it also limits your choices because many of the types of projects we might want to do might actually increase air pollution,” Williams said. “Becoming a non-attainment area for the money is like going to prison just for the food.”

Williams said the planning process would become more arduous and expensive because a staff member would have to be qualified to conduct an air quality determination.

Butler said he did not think a change in status would be too hard for the community to handle.

“Knowing how proposed transportation projects would affect air quality is smart policy any time, but it becomes even more important if the air we’re breathing isn’t healthy,” Butler said.

Readings for ozone in the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO come from a single source – a monitoring station located at Albemarle High School.

Williams said ozone detected at the station may not necessarily have been generated in this location.

“In reality, once it goes into the air, who knows where it goes?” Williams asked. “All we can do is reduce the amount we’re putting into the air and hope that the other reductions in other places reduce air quality enough so that we can have better air quality overall here in Charlottesville.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 - Meeting called to order with election of Rodney Thomas as the Chair of the MPO
  • 03:45 - Approval of minutes
  • 04:00 - Discussion of changes to Bike Route 76
  • 09:30 - Presentation of VDOT's Six Year Improvement program
  • 22:45 - Snow asks about status of 29/250 improvements
  • 34:45 - Karen Kilby describes different funding sources for transportation projects in Virginia
  • 53:00 - Discussion of changes to Transportation Improvement Program
  • 1:08:30 - Discussion of Unified Planning and Work Program
  • 1:17:45 - Williams discusses data from American Community Survey
  • 1:31:00 - Discussion of FY12 Annual Listing

March 29, 2011

City and county planning commission talk coordination, sustainability

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 28, 2011

Work has begun on implementing a $999,000 “sustainable communities” grant awarded last year to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions gave input on the grant at a joint work session on Tuesday, March 22.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110322-Joint-PC-meeting

20110322-cpc-apc
The two commissions met in CitySpace on March 22, 2011

Part of the grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow the city and county to hire additional staff to help rewrite their comprehensive plans. The plans help guide land use and zoning decisions.

“We’re both working on our comprehensive plans at relatively the same time, and the opportunity to receive this grant to assist us in that process is truly amazing and will allow us to do some things  we haven’t been able to do in the past,’ said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.

“The main benefit that we see for this project is that Charlottesville and Albemarle County are going to receive some really great resources and information into their comprehensive planning processes,” said Stephen Williams, the director of the TJPDC.

During the same time, the TJPDC will begin developing an update of its long-range transportation plan.

“This is going to be almost a complete re-write of the long-range transportation plan from beginning to end,” Williams said. “We have a great deal of data coming out of the census and another data set called the National Household Transportation Survey.”

He said it would take about three and a half years to complete the rewrite. The last one was adopted in May 2009.

Summer Frederick, TJPDC’s project manager for the grant, said it will help coordinate all three processes, which are independent of each other.

“Ultimately it’s up to each of the separate organizations to adopt the updates,” Frederick said. “It is by no means moving to one plan that will be shared by all.”

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said the county’s comprehensive plan review will be informed by the Board of Supervisor’s desire to increase economic development. The county will spend $25,000 next fiscal year on a study to identify which businesses and industries that it should try to attract.

“That will be informing some of the land use decisions we need to make,” Benish said.

Albemarle Planning Commissioner Tom Loach asked whether staff could handle the additional workload. Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the TJPDC grant would allow him to augment his staff to conduct the mandated review.

“This hasn’t made work for us,” Cilimberg said. “This is work we already anticipated.”

The University of Virginia says it will play an important role in the process.

“We view ourselves as collaborators in the sense that we’re technically either in the city or the county by boundary condition,” said David Neuman, the architect of the University of Virginia. “The fact is we have buildings and programs that are in both, like the law school.”

City Planning Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she wanted the joint review to address the edges between city, county and UVA.

“We [will be looking] at areas of pretty dramatic change over the next few months, most likely at Martha Jefferson as it moves up to Pantops,” Keller said. “I see those all of those edges as areas where we would want to focus some redevelopment.”

Albemarle Commissioner Cal Morris agreed.

“It’s a wonderful crossover, and we see that we have to start tearing down these artificial and real boundaries,” Morris said. “It just doesn’t work anymore.”

Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson said he welcomed the opportunity to work with his counterparts in Albemarle.

“What [is] exciting to me is the idea… of erasing the line that is currently the boundary of the city of Charlottesville and seeing this process as an opportunity to see that combined land area as an area of intelligent planning activity,” Pearson said.

For instance, Pearson said he wanted the comprehensive plan review to provide the chance to have deep conversations about regional planning.

“The idea that the city is an appropriate place to concentrate intense density and development and the county is a place to protect natural resources is an idea that reoccurs,” Pearson said. “I hope that this process will allow the city and county to have a conversation about the impacts of that language.”

The next public meeting on the grant’s implementation will be on April 27, 2011. That is the official kick-off date for the review of the TJPDC’s long-range transportation as well as the city and county’s comprehensive plans.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson calls meeting to order
  • 01:45 - Stephen Williams of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission begins describing grant 
  • 02:00 - Introduction of all commissioners and staff
  • 14:00 - Summer Frederick describes the April 27 kick-off event
  • 18:30 - County planner David Benish describes county's comprehensive planning process
  • 27:00 - City planner Missy Creasy describes city's comprehensive planning process
  • 36:00 - Benish responds to a question about growth area expansion
  • 46:00 - Kurt Keesecker asks what UVA's role will be in the grant implementation
  • 01:21:00 - Public comment from Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

City and county planning commission talk coordination, sustainability

 

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, March 24, 2011

 

Work has begun on implementing a $999,000 “sustainable communities” grant awarded last year to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions gave input on the grant at a joint work session on Tuesday, March 22.

 

Part of the grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow the city and county to hire additional staff to help rewrite their comprehensive plans. The plans help guide land use and zoning decisions.

 

“We’re both working on our comprehensive plans at relatively the same time, and the opportunity to receive this grant to assist us in that process is truly amazing and will allow us to do some things we haven’t been able to do in the past,’ said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.

 

“The main benefit that we see for this project is that Charlottesville and Albemarle County are going to receive some really great resources and information into their comprehensive planning processes,” said Stephen Williams, the director of the TJPDC.

 

During the same time, the TJPDC will begin developing an update of its long-range transportation plan.

 

“This is going to be almost a complete re-write of the long-range transportation plan from beginning to end,” Williams said. “We have a great deal of data coming out of the census and another data set called the National Household Transportation Survey.”

 

He said it would take about three and a half years to complete the rewrite. The last one was adopted in May 2009.

 

Summer Frederick, TJPDC’s project manager for the grant, said it will help coordinate all three processes, which are independent of each other.

 

“Ultimately it’s up to each of the separate organizations to adopt the updates,” Frederick said. “It is by no means moving to one plan that will be shared by all.”

 

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said the county’s comprehensive plan review will be informed by the Board of Supervisor’s desire to increase economic development. The county will spend $25,000 next fiscal year on a study to identify which businesses and industries that it should try to attract.

 

“That will be informing some of the land use decisions we need to make,” Benish said.

 

Albemarle Planning Commissioner Tom Loach asked whether staff could handle the additional workload. Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the TJPDC grant would allow him to augment his staff to conduct the mandated review.

 

“This hasn’t made work for us,” Cilimberg said. “This is work we already anticipated.”

 

The University of Virginia says it will play an important role in the process.

 

“We view ourselves as collaborators in the sense that we’re technically either in the city or the county by boundary condition,” said David Neuman, the architect of the University of Virginia. “The fact is we have buildings and programs that are in both, like the law school.”

 

City Planning Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she wanted the joint review to address the edges between city, county and UVA.

 

“We [will be looking] at areas of pretty dramatic change over the next few months, most likely at Martha Jefferson as it moves up to Pantops,” Keller said. “I see those all of those edges as areas where we would want to focus some redevelopment.”

 

Albemarle Commissioner Cal Morris agreed.

 

“It’s a wonderful crossover, and we see that we have to start tearing down these artificial and real boundaries,” Morris said. “It just doesn’t work anymore.”

 

Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson said he welcomed the opportunity to work with his counterparts in Albemarle.

 

“What [is] exciting to me is the idea… of erasing the line that is currently the boundary of the city of Charlottesville and seeing this process as an opportunity to see that combined land area as an area of intelligent planning activity,” Pearson said.

 

For instance, Pearson said he wanted the comprehensive plan review to provide the chance to have deep conversations about regional planning.

 

“The idea that the city is an appropriate place to concentrate intense density and development and the county is a place to protect natural resources is an idea that reoccurs,” Pearson said. “I hope that this process will allow the city and county to have a conversation about the impacts of that language.”

 

The next public meeting on the grant’s implementation will be on April 27, 2011. That is the official kick-off date for the review of the TJPDC’s long-range transportation as well as the city and county’s comprehensive plans.

 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

 

·         01:00 - Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson calls meeting to order

·         01:45 - Stephen Williams of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission begins describing grant 

·         02:00 - Introduction of all commissioners and staff

·         14:00 - Summer Frederick describes the April 27 kick-off event

·         18:30 - County planner David Benish describes county's comprehensive planning process

·         27:00 - City planner Missy Creasy describes city's comprehensive planning process

·         36:00 - Benish responds to a question about growth area expansion

·         46:00 - Kurt Keesecker asks what UVA's role will be in the grant implementation

·         01:21:00 - Public comment from Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

March 25, 2011

Huja launches bid for second term on Charlottesville City Council

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, March 25, 2011

Satyendra Huja has announced he will seek a second term on the Charlottesville City Council.

“I bring a proven record of service to this community and I have experience and expertise to help out and create solutions for this community,” Huja said at a news conference Friday.

20110325-Huja Huja, 69, said he has achieved many of his goals during his first three years on council. He cited increased investment in bicycle infrastructure; changes to the noise ordinance to improve quality of life in the Belmont neighborhood; and the creation of the city’s tree commission.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20110325-Huja-Announcement

“I have a bright vision for Charlottesville,” Huja said. He added that he wants to further improve the transit system, continue investment in affordable housing projects and work to build stronger neighborhoods.

“I will also propose deferral of property taxes for low- and fixed-income families until the sale of their property so they can continue to afford to live in their home,” Huja said.

Huja is the president of Community Planning Associates, a company he formed after retiring from city government after more than three decades of service. He served as the city’s director of strategic planning from 1998 to 2004.

Earlier this year, Huja was one of three councilors who voted to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, rather than repair and enlarge a dam that was built in 1908.

“I think it’s a great decision because we need water for our community and we need to plan ahead and think of the future and not just think of the next five years,” Huja said.

While making his announcement, Huja was flanked by more than two dozen supporters, including several former and current city councilors.

20110325-Huja-group
Hosea Mitchell, a former member of the Planning Commission, served as an intern while Huja was the city’s planning director.

“I think he’s a responsible leader and knows about good, responsible government,” Mitchell said. “I admire that.”

Kurt Keesecker, a local architect and current member of the Planning Commission, also identified himself as one of Huja’s supporters.

“He was a professor of mine at the University of Virginia,” Keesecker said. “I learned a lot about planning from him.”

Huja will be the only incumbent in the race this year. David Brown and Holly Edwards have both announced they will not seek re-election.

Watch the video below:

20110325-Huja from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

In 2007, Democrats held a mass meeting to nominate candidates and Huja received the most votes of the five candidates running. The party altered the format in 2009 to an unassembled caucus, also known as a “firehouse primary.”

“Only about 400 people participated [in 2007],” said James Nix, the co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Party. “This time it is more democratic and we’re hoping for a big turnout.”

More than 1,600 people cast ballots in the 2009 firehouse primary, according to Nix.

Nix said that he expects at least six candidates to compete to be one of the party’s three nominees. The primary will be held Aug. 20 at Burley Middle School.

The competition is healthy and I look forward to that,” Huja said. “I will work hard and knock on every door in town if I can.”

Huja is the second declared candidate in the race. Independent Scott Bandy filed his paperwork earlier this week.

The terms of Councilors Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos will continue until the end of 2013.

Independent Bandy becomes first official council candidate

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, March 25, 2011

Cherry Avenue resident Scott Bandy is the first person to file papers to run for the Charlottesville City Council this year. Bandy will appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

"If elected, I'm going to be the independent voice on City Council," Bandy said.

20110324-Bandy
Scott Bandy is the first registered candidate for city council for the 2011 election

Bandy, 50, is currently unemployed but said he has spent many years working in retail. He first moved to Charlottesville in 1989 from his native Fredericksburg.

"I'd like to think that I could make a difference," Bandy said. "This is such a good place to live. I see so many issues that seem to not be acted on or constantly tabled. That's no way for a proper locale such as Charlottesville to do business."

Bandy began collecting the necessary 125 petition signatures in February, the process for candidates not placed on the ballot through a political party's nomination.

"In my adventures to get signatures, I introduced myself as an independent," Bandy said. "Because of that I vowed to stay independent and not be beholden to either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party."

Bandy said his relative inexperience with local government issues is an asset.

"Sometimes an outside eye can see things a heck of a lot better than the jaundiced eye that has been so bogged down with the typical status quo of doing things," Bandy said.

Bandy said Albemarle County has done a "terrific job" in trying to contain growth. He said the biggest challenge for Charlottesville is to diversify its tax revenue base.

"The city cannot solely depend on residential growth as a means of revenue," Bandy said. "We have got to be business friendly to industry and commercial interests but at the same time, sensitive to the environment."

Bandy's candidacy is the first during an election cycle with three seats on the council up for grabs. No other candidates have yet announced their plans to run for election.

However, incumbents Holly Edwards and David Brown have both announced they will not seek re-election. City Councilor Satyendra Huja will announce whether he plans to seek a second term at a City Hall press conference at 11 this morning.

Independent candidates for local elections have until Aug. 23 to submit their candidate paperwork and petition signatures.

Democratic candidates will compete in an unassembled caucus on Aug. 20 at Burley Middle School. The Charlottesville Republican Party has not yet announced how it will select candidates if any decide to run.

City acquires more land for park and trails along Meadow Creek

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, March 25, 2011

The city of Charlottesville announced Thursday that it has purchased 3.3 acres along Meadow Creek off Hydraulic Road. The property connects to another 18.3-acre parcel that was donated to the city in late 2009.

Charlottesville paid $20,000 to the Region Ten Community Services Board from the city’s trails development fund to acquire the land, which is located on both sides of Meadow Creek between Brandywine Drive and Michie Drive. The city has been acquiring land and negotiating easements along the creek to establish a multi-use crushed stone trail from Hydraulic Road to Pen Park.

20110324-MeadowCreek-land “Now there is a linear park for all of Meadow Creek that is almost all publicly owned,” said Chris Gensic, the city’s park and trail planner. “We are continuing to pursue other park land acquisitions around the city and we hope to have more good news soon.”

“The city approached us some time ago about the possibility of acquiring the land to complete some trails,” said Caruso Brown, deputy director at Region Ten. “Our only concern was whether it would impact our existing or future programs.”

“The board met and agreed it was a worthwhile project,” Brown added. “It’s an excellent opportunity to partner with the city to help them carry out something they felt was important to the community.”

The land will now also be included in the Meadow Creek Restoration Project. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has designated Meadow Creek as impaired. The restoration project is aimed at reducing erosion of the stream banks, improving water quality and aquatic habitat, and improving the aesthetics of the surrounding natural areas.

“The initial conversation with Region Ten was to get a trail easement, and they asked themselves why they even owned the land on the other side of the creek behind their building,” Gensic said. “We noticed if we got land on both sides of the creek it would allow us to do stream restoration work even farther upstream, and it also allows us to protect some more forest land.”

Gensic noted that the Rivanna Trail runs parallel to Meadow Creek in this area. The city, he said, wants to build a multi-use trail farther from the stream that would accommodate strollers and bicyclists.

“The Rivanna Trail is a little more adventurous as a single track and you can’t always walk side by side,” Gensic said. “A multi-use trail is several feet wide, at a minimum, where you can use strollers and walk side by side. It opens up usage to a wider audience that might not walk on a nature trail.”

Brown noted that once the more gently sloped multi-use trail is in place, Region Ten’s clients might also be able to get better access to the park.

“We have a day support program located there where we provide training and rehabilitation services to people with intellectual disabilities,” Brown said. “We have had to be careful with the slopes to ensure safety. We would see the [multi-use trail] as a wonderful activity for our consumers as well.”

Gensic said the city would begin a master planning process later this year to gather more public input.

“With this acquisition in hand, we hope to open a public discussion about all the park land we have acquired,” he said. “We wanted to wait to get them all in place, then start a master planning process for all the natural areas and trails.”

March 24, 2011

Commuting data unveiled for Albemarle, Charlottesville

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 24, 2011

A majority of Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents drive by themselves to work, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The American Community Survey, conducted from 2005 to 2009, shows that 59 percent of Charlottesville residents drive by themselves to work, as well as 77 percent of Albemarle workers.

The city has a goal in its comprehensive plan to reduce single occupancy to 50 percent of all vehicle trips by 2015. The county’s plan does not have a specific target, but contains many references to using transit and car-pooling to achieve reductions.

“It should be a priority for everyone to start working on those numbers to the best of our ability,” said County Supervisor Duane Snow. “I think that with the price of gasoline, it becomes even more important.”

The data, which was shown to members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization Wednesday, also breaks down how many people use alternative forms of transportation.

Ten percent of Charlottesville residents regularly car-pool, 7 percent take public transportation, 2 percent ride a bike and 15 percent walk. Another 5 percent work from home and 1 percent use “other means.”

In Albemarle, 11 percent car-pooled, 2 percent took the bus and 2 percent walk. The survey indicated that a statistically insignificant number of Albemarle residents bike to their place of employment work and 7 percent telecommute or work from home.

20110323-Williams
Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

“I think people make their choices about how they get to work based on cost and what’s convenient to them,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “These statistics are really a reflection of what works well for people from a cost point of view and what’s convenient for them.”

Williams said local governments have to work together to provide adequate alternatives in order to meet their goals. 

“People aren’t going to ride their bike to work if they don’t feel safe on the road,” Williams said.

“They’re not going to walk if they don’t feel safe. They’re not going to ride transit if the bus doesn’t go where they need to go.”

Bill Watterson, director of Charlottesville Area Transit, said he felt his service would play a role in helping the city further meet its goal.

“We want to see the number of people using transit grow, and I’m confident that number is growing because our ridership is growing,” Watterson said. He added that CAT is projected to increase its ridership by more than 4 percent in the current fiscal year.

Heather Higgins of the advocacy group Bike Charlottesville said there are a lot of ways to increase the number of people who cycle to work.

“We can have more bike corridors that are clearly marked with either bike lanes or ‘sharrows,’” Higgins said.  The latter term describes the use of shared-lane street markings to create bicycle paths on existing roads.

“We can have better connections between the city and the county so folks who don’t live in the city can actually get to [work in] the city more easily and more safely,” Higgins added.

One project on the MPO’s long-range transportation plan is a bike trail to connect the Hollymead area with downtown Charlottesville. The Northtown Commuter Trail would rely on a patchwork of other projects being completed, including the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Bike-76
Source: TJPDC (Click to enlarge)

In other business, the MPO policy board endorsed a route change for Bike Route 76, a national cycling corridor route that passes through Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

The route, also known as the Trans America Bike Trail, was created in the mid-seventies to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial.

“Route 76 was drawn from Williamsburg to Oregon to follow the original path of Lewis and Clark,” said city trail planner Chris Gensic.

Visiting cyclists recently complained that signage was missing in downtown Charlottesville. Gensic said that gave the city the opportunity to update the route.
 
The route currently crosses the Belmont Bridge and follows High Street to Ridge-McIntire before connecting to Water Street. Now the route will turn at Garrett Street before connecting to Water Street.

“People figured out it would be better to turn on Garrett and bring bicyclists to the downtown mall,” Gensic said. The route is laid out the way it currently is because Water Street was a one-way street when the route was created.

March 23, 2011

Bidding approach for dredging approved; Location of sewer pump station deferred

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
 
With the particulars of the first phase of an earthen dam to be built at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir recently finalized, the board of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority now finds itself confronted with expensive choices about dredging a major reservoir and building sewer system upgrades.

Some Charlottesville residents are advocating that the RWSA spend more on dredging and less on construction of a new dam. Other city residents are advocating for investments to protect the Woolen Mills neighborhood from being the site for a new sewer pump station.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the RWSA board, it was clear these regional projects will join the unfinished Meadow Creek Parkway and the controversial water plan as further tests to the cooperative spirit of Charlottesville and Albemarle officials.

“We’ve got to learn how to work better as a county and city, and I’m very much in favor of doing that,” said Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “But there has to be a give and take on both sides. It can’t all be the county giving in to the city, which is what people think a lot.”

“I agree completely we need to learn to work together, and learn to really look at the broad interests of the greater community, rather than looking at our own parochial interests,” City Councilor David Brown said in an interview. “What happens now is we both think we are always giving in, but sometimes the county does, and sometimes the city does, but Ken Boyd is fundamentally correct, we do need to work better together.”

20110322-RWSA (L to R) RWSA board members David Brown, Michael Gaffney, and Kenneth Boyd

After months of research, the board took action to lay the groundwork for a formal bidding process for future dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The reservoir has not been dredged since it was built in 1966. RWSA staff said they would need outside help to carefully develop the request for proposals for a dredging program.

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, recommended utilizing a new bidding approach aided by an engineering firm well-acquainted with this area’s dredging opportunities. HDR Engineering completed a dredging feasibility study in 2010.

“The board has asked us to seek from HDR their fee for developing a request for proposals under the Virginia Public-Private Partnership in Education and Infrastructure Act guidelines,” Frederick said in an interview. “Next month we will present the board with HDR’s fee to develop that RFP. If that’s authorized, then HDR will develop the RFP and we will bring it back to the board for approval.”

Dredging is being evaluated outside of the 50-year water supply plan. RWSA officials say the PPEA approach, approved by the board Tuesday, will give them flexibility to evaluate a wide variety of proposals as opposed to being constrained by a normal state procurement process with specific outcomes identified in advance.

Rebecca Quinn, who served on the original committee that selected HDR Engineering to consult on dredging, is a representative of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan.

“It’s taken a long time, but I am glad that we are at this point,” Quinn said in an interview. “I appreciated the interest in the board in taking what I call a performance-based approach [to dredging].”

Quinn says that a new RWSA study of the 50-year water supply demand and actual bids to conduct dredging will demonstrate that the new earthen dam is both unnecessary and not cost effective.

“We have not waivered,” Quinn added. “Our message is to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, protect Ragged Mountain from destruction that is unnecessary and make data-based decisions.”

The City Council plans to discuss at its next meeting whether to include a commitment to dredging in a new cost-sharing agreement currently being negotiated between the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority.

Meanwhile, Woolen Mills residents reiterated to the RWSA board their preference to have a new sewer pump station built outside their neighborhood rather than enlarged in place. The Rivanna Pump Station, built in 1981, needs to be upgraded to improve reliability and protect the environment.

“Like my neighbors, I have dealt personally with the smell and the sight of an industrial facility that never should have been in the neighborhood in the first place,” said Jennifer Ackerman, who has lived near the pump station for the past two decades. “You have a wonderful opportunity here to undo an egregious mistake rather than to amplify it.”

Earlier this month, the City Council sided with the neighbors and expressed its preference for a pump station site across the Rivanna River in Albemarle. That location may cost an additional $9 million and Boyd said he was concerned about the expense.

Brown clarified with the help of RWSA staff that the additional cost would amount to about 30 cents a month for each ratepayer.

“We are being asked here to try to make a good decision, not to make the cheapest decision,” Brown said. “Can you imagine a neighborhood in the county that would not object to having this placed in their neighborhood?”

Boyd said he would need to bring the matter before the Albemarle supervisors at their meeting April 6 before he could rule out the existing site in Woolen Mills. The RWSA will take up the matter again at its meeting in late April.

March 21, 2011

See the community in 3D: The earthen dam for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir


Hyperlocal community news in 3D

Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to share 3D visualizations of the
earthen dam being designed for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

The existing Upper and Lower Ragged Mountain Dams will be taken out of service with the construction of a new earthen dam built downstream during 2012-2013. The first phase of the earthen dam will raise the existing reservoir pool by 30 feet and an oversized foundation will support a future 12-foot increase if conditions indicate additional water supply is needed. Learn more about the community water supply plan.

Background

A goal of our Cville3D initiative is to help our readers and decision makers see the community and proposed infrastructure projects in a whole new way. Taking the publicly available drawings, we can render a project in a three-dimensional real-world environment. Presto! You get more information to make an informed decision.

Funding for the Cville3D initiative has been provided by generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Oakwood Foundation. The models are created by Bob Pineo, an independent local architect working under contract for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The final product is our best approximation of what this project will look like based on the material submitted to local government.

Using  Google Sketchup and Google Earth, we create the 3D perspective of the earthen dam design as seen in this Flickr slideshow


View other 3D models and learn more about the Cville3D initiative

 

City expects 29/250 interchange improvements in 2014

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 21, 2011

Motorists traveling south on U.S. 29 often experience long waits to access the U.S. 250 Bypass, leading to congestion during peak driving times.

“You have the basic problem of too much traffic using a roadway that doesn’t have enough capacity,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The city of Charlottesville’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan identifies the capacity limit at the intersection as a major reason for congestion on its portion of U.S. 29.

20110321-dp-image

“Congestion on Emmet Street is largely due to the high traffic volumes, lack of access management and the merge onto the U.S. 250 Bypass westbound from southbound U.S. 29,” the plan reads. “Currently, improvements to the ramp from U.S. 29 onto the bypass are being explored to improve traffic flow in the area.”

Now those improvements are set to move forward. The city is administering a project that would add an additional southbound lane from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, a second ramp leading up to the U.S. 250 Bypass near the Best Buy and a third lane on the bypass that would extend to the Barracks Road exit. The preliminary cost estimate is $4.7 million.

The city has saved up $4.2 million in state and federal funds to implement the plan, but a final design must be produced before construction can begin.

The TJPDC manages regional transportation planning through the Metropolitan Planning Organization. In 2010, the MPO requested a $517,000 earmark through former Congressman Tom Perriello to pay for the final design, but it did not make it through the federal budget process.

However, engineering work has proceeded anyway. An engineering survey of the area is completed, according to Angela Tucker, the city’s development services manager.

“The plan is to complete the design work in fiscal year 2013 and complete construction in fiscal year 2014,” City Manager Maurice Jones said in an email.

Some of the money to pay for final design could come from a $1 million proffer the city is to receive from Edens & Avant, the developer of the Stonefield mixed-use center in Albemarle County. (The center was formerly known as Albemarle Place.)

“We’ve conducted all the work that we can without having all the funding in place,” Jones said. “We’re now just waiting for the funding to come together, including the $1 million proffer and the $500,000 local match, before we move forward with design and construction.”

In 2009, the Virginia Department of Transportation estimated that an average of 51,000 vehicles travel through the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 250.

Stonefield, which will include the area’s first IMAX movie theater, will add more traffic at both the interchange and on U.S. 29.

A separate project would see a fourth southbound lane from Westfield Road to Hydraulic Road, but that project will be administered by VDOT and paid for through another proffer connected to the original rezoning for Stonefield.

County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said he feels the project is important for the entire region.

“This improvement has been judged by the city and the county through the MPO to be perhaps the most important project in the area,” Rooker said. “My concern is that if the city doesn’t move to utilize those funds they could end up being lost to the area.”