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May 27, 2011

Dumler announces campaign for Albemarle Board of Supervisors

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 27, 2011

Scottsville attorney Christopher J. Dumler has entered the race to succeed Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Dumler, 26, will seek the nomination of the Democratic Party when it holds a caucus later this summer. Dorrier announced in March that he would not be running again. Scottsville Republican James C. Norwood has also filed as an official candidate for the open seat.

Dumler_Christopher2x600
Christopher J. Dumler
Photo provided by candidate

“I am running because I think that we really need a concrete comprehensive vision for the community that extends more than three to five years in the future,” Dumler said.

According to Dumler, that vision needs to include economic development, education and rural and agricultural preservation as priorities.

“Job creation is my No. 1 priority,” Dumler said.

“Albemarle and Scottsville deserve a government that is accountable,” Dumler said. “A vision should be born out of a public process, but be implemented fully such that it doesn’t have so much wiggle room that it changes at the whim of vocal minorities.”

Dumler moved to Virginia from Georgia after receiving an undergraduate degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2009 and opened his law practice in Scottsville in 2010. He is an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps.

Dorrier, also a Virginia law graduate and former JAG officer, will leave office at the end of 2011, having served 18 years as the Scottsville district supervisor.

“I am running to follow in the footsteps of Lindsay Dorrier,” Dumler said. “I don’t think anyone could replace Lindsay and I truly respect everything he has given to Albemarle County. He is the epitome of a public servant.”

“If there is a legacy I would follow, it would be his responsiveness and recognition that local politics really is local,” Dumler added.

Dumler has been involved in the community as a member of the Region Ten Community Services board of directors and an appointee to Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee. He also serves on the Scottsville Board of Zoning Appeals.

“Albemarle deserves a government that is collaborative,” Dumler said. “We have a very poisonous relationship with city of Charlottesville today, for a variety of reasons, including the water plan, the Meadow Creek Parkway and revenue sharing.”

“Through my board service, I have developed a number of relationships with people in the city that I think can lead to breakthroughs on those issues,” Dumler said.

The Albemarle supervisors have unanimously backed the almost $140 million 50-year community water plan since it was approved in 2006. Dumler said he supports the construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

“I do support the water plan that has been approved,” Dumler said. “It is not the perfect plan, but it was born out of a public process and it is a sustainable plan. It is also a plan that takes advantage of a great bidding market right now.”

Dumler said his campaign will allow him to better understand the needs of the Scottsville district.

“I want to find out what the local neighborhood problems are and develop neighborhood solutions,” Dumler said. “That’s what Lindsay did so well.”

Three of the six supervisor seats will be on the November general election ballot. Two current supervisors — Ann H. Mallek, D-White Hall, and Kenneth C. Boyd, R-Rivanna — have announced they are seeking re-election.

Norwood is the only other candidate who has filed paperwork to become an official candidate for supervisor. Norwood postponed an election campaign announcement earlier this week and was unavailable Friday to comment on the race.

Public provides feedback in advance of new study on long-term water needs

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 27, 2011

After several years of debate about the decision to secure the community’s long-term water supply needs through the construction of a new dam and pipeline, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority now finds itself in the middle of another study of the region’s water needs.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2. One element of the plan will be a new study of the region’s 50-year water needs.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110526-RWSA-water-demand

About 25 people, mostly Charlottesville residents, came to a public input session Thursday to learn about the project and the process for calculating a new water-demand forecast.

“Previous conversations in this community about water…have focused on building a project for the urban water system, and those conversations led to the decision to build a new Ragged Mountain dam,” said Mike Gaffney, the RWSA chairman, in a media release.  “This focus is different. It’s a new conversation that is not about a dam or any other project focus; it is instead about regional, comprehensive planning, focused on water.”

Rebecca Quinn, with Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, insists the conversation is still about the dam, which the RWSA says it expects to start building by the end of 2011. Quinn says the community has a responsibility to adjust the water plan based upon the study’s findings.

“They don’t intend to use the results to revisit anything about the approved water supply plan,” said Quinn in an interview.  “They say the plan is adopted. I challenge that position.”

“We have not passed the irrevocable line on the water plan,” Quinn said. “We believe that if this new demand analysis, which we think is being done very well, if it shows our 50-year need is really different, we do have a responsibility to reevaluate our plans.”

RWSA officials and water plan activists have been debating the requirements of the state-mandated process for the past couple of years. Thomas L. Frederick Jr., RWSA’s executive director, said Thursday that the new study would provide helpful data that could impact the phasing of the water plan.

“The results of this analysis will definitely be considered with respect to the rate we implement different facilities within the approved water supply plan,” said Frederick in an interview.

The almost $140 million community water plan, originally approved in 2006, was based primarily upon water demand analyses completed in 1997 and 2004. To meet the projected 50-year needs, Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors agreed in February to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir for water storage. A new supply pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be built later to help keep it full.

The RWSA has hired AECOM, a global engineering firm and fortune 500 company, to analyze historical water use and project future water needs. The research involves all water users, including those on private wells and public water users in both Crozet and Scottsville.

Since 2007 opponents of the new dam, which would inundate nearly 100 acres in the Ragged Mountain natural area when the water level is raised 30-feet, have said that older demand estimates are overstated and that the community can spend less money on a smaller water supply that emphasizes dredging and conservation. 

Quinn said if any dam is going to be built it should be a smaller concrete extension of the 1908 lower Ragged Mountain dam.

“The beauty of the concrete dam is that we can [raise it incrementally] and pay for it when it’s needed, rather than all at once now,” Quinn said. “Then we have another 10, 20, 30 years of enjoyment of all the trees at Ragged Mountain.”

Tom Olivier spoke as chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. He encouraged the AECOM consultants to consider the community’s interest in environmental protection and sustainability. 

“We think it’s feasible that this community would support stronger water conservation measures, readily, than would many communities in many parts of the United States,” Olivier said. “We ask that…you consider using more aggressive conservation programs.”

“We also think it’s plausible that the growth rate of our population may decline over time in the face of the fact that our environment is limited,” Olivier added. “We ask that in the scenarios that you model you include some which include a declining rate of population growth.”

AECOM will present its initial findings at community meetings being held July 11 and 12. Their final report will be completed in September.

For more information see: http://rivanna.org/waterplan/index.htm

May 26, 2011

Supervisor Thomas calls for MPO to change western bypass policy

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Albemarle County Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas has called for the Metropolitan Policy Organization to reconsider a 2002 resolution that prevents funding from being allocated for construction of the proposed Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

“I’ve been trying to get the U.S. 29 [bypass] back on the burner for a long time,” said Thomas at an MPO meeting Wednesday. “I thought it should have been part of Places29. I think it needs to part of our overall discussion of the U.S. 29 corridor.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110525-MPO

Bypass-on-tip
The Western Bypass is a primary road project on the MPO's Transportation Improvement Program. (Click to enlarge)

Thomas’ request was made during a discussion of the transportation improvement program (TIP), a document through which the MPO communicates priorities and coordinates funding with federal and state officials.

Since 2002, the TIP entry for the Western Bypass has contained a lengthy paragraph that explains the MPO’s opposition to the project’s current design.  

“The project as designed does not meet community or regional needs, and has been determined too costly for the transportation benefits to be gained,” reads the text.

Estimates for construction of the four-lane, limited-access highway range from $161 million to nearly $300 million.  Critics have said the planned roadway is already obsolete because its northern terminus is located south of the Hollymead Town Center and other commercial developments that were not present when it was designed.

In November 2002, the MPO policy board passed a resolution limiting the project’s funding to preliminary engineering and right of way purchase. Members at the time were concerned the project would have an adverse impact on schools, neighborhoods and the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“[The text] is there because it expresses the policy that this board adopted in 2002 by resolution after a fairly lengthy process about the bypass,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “That still essentially is the MPO policy board’s position.”

“It’s old information,” Thomas said. “To remove [the text] is to say we do not oppose it.”

Julia Monteith, a non-voting member of the MPO who represents the University of Virginia, said she felt the policy board needed input from more stakeholders before changing its policy.

“It would seem to me that if we were going to be discussing changing this, that this is something the city and county would have to get involved in,” Monteith said. “I think it would be well beyond the MPO.”

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Supervisor and MPO Chair Rodney Thomas

Thomas disagreed with that view.

“I think it’s up to us to get it on the burner as an MPO,” Thomas said. “That’s our duty, to get it back on there.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation still lists the Western Bypass as a project on its six-year improvement program because $47.2 million has been spent on preliminary engineering and to buy right of way for the 6.1-mile route.

Thomas stopped short of making a formal motion to rescind the 2002 resolution, but said he would bring it forward at the MPO’s meeting in June.

Williams said if the MPO rescinds the resolution, the project will also have to be included in the MPO’s long-range transportation plan. The MPO is currently beginning an update of that plan, which will require multiple public hearings and is part of the TJPDC’s Livable Communities Planning Project.

 City Councilor Kristin Szakos said after the meeting she would need to study the matter further. City Councilor Satyendra Huja said he believed the Council had supported the project in the past.

Supervisor Duane Snow said his top transportation priority is to widen U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork of the Rivanna River and Hollymead Town Center. However, he also suggested he would be open to selling the right of way in order to free up money for other projects.

State law requires land obtained for “advance acquisition” of highway projects to be sold back to the original owner twenty years after the original sale if the project has not gone to construction.

“If they decide they don’t want to purchase it, then we can put it out on the open market and get fair market value for it,” said VDOT policy chief Rick Walton at the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s March meeting.

The first parcel of land for the project was purchased on October 28, 1991, according to Albemarle County’s geographical information system. VDOT bought a total of 62 parcels for a total cost of $33.7 million between then and April 20, 2001.

Environmental groups opposed to the road have actively sought the sale of the land to pay for other transportation projects in the area.

“The Southern Environmental Law Center believes the best outcome would be to remove the project from the [six year improvement plan] and sell the right-of-way so that the money can be put toward more cost-effective and less damaging solutions along the U.S. 29 corridor such as the Hillsdale Drive Extension,“ said SELC attorney Morgan Butler.

Thomas’s request prompted outrage from two fellow members of the Board of Supervisors.

“This issue has been brought up a number of times at Board of Supervisors meetings and the Board has not changed its long standing opposition to this project,” said Supervisor Dennis Rooker in an e-mail to Thomas obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“Moreover, during the Board’s numerous Places 29 and transportation discussions, we all agreed to the priority projects in the Rt. 29 corridor,” Rooker said.

Supervisor Ann Mallek said reopening the bypass discussion would distract the community from more pressing issues.

“Let's truly focus on economic vitality, on water, [and] on the projects we do support,” Mallek said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

 

  • 01:00 - Meeting begins with public comment from Crozet resident Paul Grady regarding U.S. 29/250 improvements
  • 07:00 - Responses to Grady's public comment
  • 09:00 - Approval of minutes from last meeting
  • 09:30 - Discussion of the MPO's annual work plan
  • 22:99 - Discussion of amendments to Transportation Improvement Program
  • 48:10 - Supervisor Rodney Thomas calls for reconsideration of Western Bypass
  • 1:09:30 - Discussion of letter to Secretary Connaughton

 

MPO wants explanation for state funding disparity

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Metropolitan Planning Organization wants Virginia’s top transportation official to explain why Charlottesville and Albemarle County are slated to receive what they believe is a disproportionate amount of funding over the next six years.

20110525--MPO(group4)

According to a letter addressed to Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the Charlottesville-Albemarle metropolitan area makes up 1.8 percent of Virginia’s urban population but is only expected to receive about 0.14 percent of the amount the state will spend on transportation between now and 2017. 

“Overall, $3.34 billion is proposed to be invested in transportation improvements in the [state’s] 14 metro areas with only $4.5 million proposed to be invested in transportation improvements in Charlottesville-Albemarle,” reads the letter, which was written by MPO staff and signed by Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas, the MPO chairman.

In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will take action on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s draft six-year improvement program for fiscal years 2012 through 2017. The MPO Policy Board voted Wednesday to submit the letter as part of the public input process.

“The six-year improvement program is the way the state decides how it’s going to spend money and where it’s going to spend money for transportation improvements,” said Stephen W. Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District.

“If money doesn’t go into the [plan], the project is not going to get built,” Williams added.

One project not included in the draft plan is the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork of the Rivanna River and the Hollymead Town Center. The project is a top priority in the county’s Places29 Master Plan.

“Any user of the transportation system in Central Virginia is aware that this segment of this primary roadway is currently highly-congested and also has safety issues related to grades and sight distances at intersections,” reads the letter.

The six-year plan also does not include several other priority projects identified by local officials. 

“Two projects which come to my mind, [replacing] Belmont Bridge and [extending] Hillsdale Drive, can be done right now if we had the money,” said City Councilor Satyendra Huja.

James Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District, said one reason for the disparity is that the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO often has a difficult time reaching consensus on transportation improvements.

“You know, as well as everyone else, how difficult it is to move a project [forward] in this area,” Utterback said. “The more the MPO focuses on regional issues, the more opportunities there are.”

However, Williams said he did not accept Utterback’s point of view.

20110525--MPO(williams2)
Stephen Williams

“Everybody else in the state got their projects in this six-year improvement program and we didn’t, and I want to know why we did not,” Williams said. “This statement that there isn’t a consensus is something that I’ve not noticed.”

Huja pointed out that the city and county have agreed on the extension of Hillsdale Drive. David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the county placed a top priority on that road in the Places29 Master Plan even though it is in city limits.

A design public hearing was held for the Hillsdale extension last year, a requirement before right of way can be obtained through purchase or donation.

It was also announced at Wednesday’s meeting that the cost estimate for the Belmont Bridge replacement had been raised from $9.2 million to over $14 million.

Utterback suggested the city continue to work on the design for the bridge replacement. A design public hearing for that project is scheduled for later in the year.

“Continue to push the design and get it ready to go to construction so there’s no doubt it’s ready to go,” Utterback said.

Secretary Connaughton was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

State and local officials support Ragged Mountain dam plans

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 26, 2011

The current and future dams at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir were the subject of decisions made Tuesday by state and local officials.

In Richmond, regulators approved another extension of the operating permit allowing the existing dams built in 1885 and 1908 to continue to be used amid decades-old safety concerns.

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Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director and Judy Mueller, Charlottesville's Director of Public Works

Locally, the Albemarle County Planning Commission recommended approval of a special use permit to allow the construction of a new earthen dam that would replace the older structures and significantly expand the reservoir.

“[The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board] did approve a six-month extension to the conditional operating certificates for upper and lower Ragged Mountain, that’s the existing dams,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority. “The [board] is interested in seeing continued progress on remedying the situation that has been on the public record for many years.”

Virginia dam safety engineers have said the dams must be repaired or replaced and that their concerns have been raised repeatedly for the past 30 years. In February, the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County both agreed to replace the existing dams with a taller earthen dam built downstream that would raise the reservoir by 30 feet.

Frederick told the RWSA board on Tuesday that the extension would allow continued use of the reservoir through November. The previous extension specified that the replacement dam’s final design had to be completed in April, with the construction permits issued by the end of May.

Jennifer Whitaker, RWSA’s chief engineer, attended Tuesday’s meeting in Richmond and said in an interview that no questions were raised by the board members when they authorized the latest extension. The RWSA has completed the dam’s design and the construction permits are under review by Albemarle County.

Frederick also told the RWSA board Tuesday that other state and federal reviews of the earthen dam project were still ongoing. He also said negotiations are continuing on the cost sharing for the almost $140-million water plan.

“We understand that the cost-share agreement negotiations are taking place between the [Albemarle County Service Authority] and the city,” wrote Frederick in a recent report. “[And] we are aware that the land-use agreement between the RWSA and the city is being actively reviewed by the attorneys.”

Dede Smith, representing Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, asked the RWSA to produce a new budget that considered the full costs of the water plan beyond the five years included in its capital budget.

“Transparency is what I am here today to request,” said Smith. “Specifically that you provide both the short term and the long term impact of the capital projects that have already been approved, not just for the five years but for the full term of those projects.”

“While the community water plan has changed, the financing of it actually hasn’t changed that much,” Smith said. “I am asking that you do this [debt financing analysis] again, that you rework this not only for the current community water plan but also for the other water and the sewer projects before you.”

During the review of RWSA’s fiscal year 2012 budget, Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said the proposed budget helped the community play “catch up” on its water and sewer infrastructure.

“[T]here’s always going to be ongoing projects that we’re going to have that will be dictated by regulations and by need for upgrading our infrastructure,” said Boyd. “We wouldn’t be so far behind the eight ball right now if we had paid attention to this … and dealt with some of these infrastructure problems in the past.”

The RWSA board unanimously approved its fiscal year 2012 operating budget of $12.2 million, representing a 4.78 percent increase over the prior year. Debt service includes an additional $10.9 million, an increase of 8.01 percent over last year.

[ 20110524-CoPC-RWSA-Schnabel
RWSA Staff and representatives from Schnabel Engineering who addressed the Albemarle County Planning Commission

Later Tuesday, the Albemarle County Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend approval of a special use permit facilitating the construction of the new earthen dam.

Ednam resident Sam Freilich was one of two speakers at the public hearing. He asked the county to delay a decision on the dam until the impacts related to Interstate 64 could be further studied, a supply pipeline route is selected and construction noise impacts are assessed.

Jody Lahendro spoke as a member of the Camp Holiday Trails Board of Directors. Lahendro explained to the commission how the camp, adjacent to the construction site, would be impacted, particularly in its program offerings and road access.

“We are working through these issues,” Lahendro said. “I am looking forward to coming up with … an agreement with the [RWSA] in the next few weeks.”

The permit notes that public access will be prohibited to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area during the two years of the dam’s construction. If approved in June by the Albemarle supervisors, the permit also allows the dam to be raised in a second phase to elevate the pool by up to an additional 12 feet.

May 25, 2011

McIntosh enters race for Democratic nomination to Charlottesville City Council

2011-election-DPx476 By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Retired attorney Peter McIntosh announced Wednesday that he is entering the race for one of three seats on Charlottesville City Council.  McIntosh said he would seek the Democratic party’s nomination at the unassembled caucus, or “firehouse primary,” to be held on August 20.

20110525-McIntosh(400head) McIntosh, 67, moved to the city in 1975 to accept a job as director of the Legal Aid Justice Center where he provided legal services to low income clients, a position he held for 13 years.  During 1989-2006, McIntosh was an attorney with Michie Hamlett.


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110525-McIntosh

McIntosh held a press conference outside the Charlottesville Transit Center and told a gathering of media and campaign supporters that he had broad experiences in leadership and community service. 

“I don’t think there was a day in my time, 36 years here, that I wasn’t on one board or another, so I am very adept at working with groups and reaching consensus,” said McIntosh.  “I also practiced mediation for 12 years and that requires you to get both sides to talk to each other in ways that they might not have before.”

McIntosh said his campaign would be organized around several major issues including improving access to “workforce housing,” economic development, and maintaining the city’s AAA bond rating.  In addition, McIntosh called for the city to move forward with the Meadow Creek Parkway, the water plan, and the YMCA facility in McIntire Park.

“I want the city to be looking through the windshield and not the rear view mirror,” said McIntosh.  “I think we need to go forward.  The decisions [past] councils have made were struggles, they were difficult, they had detractors, I understand that…but it’s time to focus on the benefits.”

McIntosh said the Meadow Creek Parkway, which has been almost completed in Albemarle County but not yet started in the city, will provide the benefit of allowing more access to the park.

20110525-McIntosh(400group3 “[We can] create a beautiful garden in McIntire Park and make it our Central Park,” McIntosh said.  McIntosh is on the board of the McIntire Botanical Garden, a project he has encouraged city council to include in the park’s next master plan. 

“The benefit of the water plan is that we will not have to go through the agony of the 2002 drought,” said McIntosh.  “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the next drought happens.”

“If the question is between underbuilding or overbuilding [the water supply], I favor the approach the city used in 1966 when they overbuilt, and that water supply has lasted us to this day,” McIntosh added.

McIntosh said he would support dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“I think maintenance dredging will have to take place,” McIntosh said.  “I think the [University of Virginia] should contribute since their rowing team is one of the prime users.”

McIntosh also said city-county cooperation was “not a choice, it’s an imperative.”

“Now it’s easy to fixate on where the disagreements arise between the city and county,” said McIntosh.  “It is…often forgotten that the city and county cooperate on a wide range of policies and services.”

McIntosh joins Kathy Galvin, James Halfaday and incumbent city councilor Satyendra Huja in the race for the Democratic nomination.  Three other candidates have already announced they are running for city council.  Independent candidates collecting petition signatures to get on the November ballot include Scott Bandy, Brandon Collins, and Bob Fenwick.

Watch the video below:

McIntosh announces campaign for Charlottesville City Council
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

Tea party plans campaign to stop TJPDC grant

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

 
The Jefferson Area Tea Party plans to ask city officials to end their involvement with a federal grant that is being used to coordinate a joint review of Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s separate comprehensive plans.

“Any statement that we’re making in terms of [the sustainability communities grant] … we’re certainly making it also [for] Charlottesville and the University of Virginia as well,” said Carole Thorpe, the group’s chairwoman.

Local tea party members object to a $999,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was awarded to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

One-community

The funding will allow the organization to coordinate the reviews of the city and county’s comprehensive plans at the same time the TJPDC updates its long-range transportation plan. For instance, the city and county planning commissions will hold several joint public hearings to collect input from citizens of both jurisdictions.

“The sustainable communities grant has the potential to improve collaboration between the city, county and UVa on regional planning for land use, transportation, housing, economic development and protection of natural resources,” Mayor Dave Norris wrote in an email.

Norris said that while he has questions about the specifics of how the money will be used, he does not see a downside to the project.

“We should redouble our commitment to the ideals of smart growth, sustainable living and regional collaboration and use this grant to move us in the right direction,” Norris said.

However, members of the Tea Party are concerned that the grant will be used to encourage principles that have been promoted by the United Nations.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has called for the county to end its membership in a group called ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, claiming that group has “infiltrated” county staff.

Because of that concern, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has postponed signing an agreement to move forward with the grant until after a work session on June 8.

The TJPDC’s application was based on an effort to implement the Sustainability Accords, which were signed by city and county officials in June 1998.

The accords are 15 vision statements that, among other things, encourage land use policies to ensure water quality, protection of wildlife habitats, and the development of transportation alternatives to reduce the number of people who drive alone to work.

Thorpe said her group is not opposed to regional cooperation but is opposed to federal and international involvement with local affairs. She said the accords have no authority because they were not signed by any sitting members of either the City Council or the Board of Supervisors.

Last week, city, county and UVa officials stressed at a meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council that the final products of the grant will only be advisory in nature.

The grant will produce several products. A performance measurement system will be created that will benchmark the area’s impacts on the environment. A single map will be developed to depict land uses in both jurisdictions. Recommendations will be made for ways city and county ordinances could be changed to encourage or implement “livability” policies.

On a practical level, the grant has allowed the TJPDC to hire additional staff to assist city and county planners. For instance, Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services will have extra help as it conducts a survey this summer to assess how every single parcel of land in Charlottesville is being used.

“City staff needs and wants to use this information in their Comprehensive Plan update,” said Steve Williams, executive director of the TJPDC.

City Planning Commission Chairman Jason Pearson said he welcomed the concerns of citizens who are concerned that the project is being coordinated by international forces.

However, Pearson said he sees no evidence that local officials are giving up control.

“The language of sustainability helps us to ask good questions about how we want to engage with the world — locally, regionally, nationally and globally,” Pearson said. “To my mind, that’s a good framework for community conversation.”

Thorpe said Tea Party representatives will soon appear before councilors to ask them to revoke their membership in ICLEI and to reject involvement with the HUD grant.

“We’re certainly for having a clean environment and we all want to have clean air and clean water …  but it’s the method by which we achieve that that has caused us to have a question in this matter,” Thorpe said.
 

 

Three options will be studied for pump station

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Officials from the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County were unable to agree Tuesday on how to narrow the list of study sites for the location of a new sewer pump station. Thus, in separate votes by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board, they ultimately decided to study every plan still on the table.

Despite operating a joint water and sewer authority, three studies were approved by split votes and each will be paid for by a different body. City Councilor David Brown and Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, the two elected officials on the RWSA board, both said there were some options they couldn’t support and that their locality wouldn’t pay to study.

20110524-Boyd
Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd

“If you want to spend money on an option that we think is just not going anywhere … knock yourselves out,” Brown said. “We have to work together to find a good solution.”

“I want to do that,” Boyd responded. “But I’d like to have all the information on the table for us to make a reasonable decision.”

Brown ultimately supported the investigation of moving the pump station across the Rivanna River, an option the Albemarle supervisors have said they will not support. Boyd voted against having the RWSA evaluate the cross-river location.

The capacity of the pump station is being increased to improve its reliability and protect the environment. Residents in the Woolen Mills neighborhood have lobbied the RWSA for the past six months, raising concerns about the $25 million to $37 million project’s location and appearance and arguing that a new station would never be placed in a historic neighborhood today.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110524-RWSA

20110524-Frederick
Thomas L. Frederick, Jr., RWSA Executive Director

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, acknowledged the board had some difficult decisions to make. He said that the RWSA’s balanced approach — fixing pipes to minimize the infiltration of stormwater in the sewer system, with the addition of new treatment capacity — was an industry standard being taken by communities around the nation.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t tough decisions,” Frederick said. “Sometimes, there are no ideal options. Sometimes, that’s what life hands us, but we have to do the best we can to make the best decision possible.”

After Tuesday’s vote, not accounting for any economies of scale, the RWSA could pay engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer up to about $430,000 to study three pump station locations known as Options A, D and E.

The Albemarle County Service Authority will pay about $122,000 to have Option A studied. It would upgrade the pump station at its current location in the Woolen Mills neighborhood adjacent to Riverview Park.

The City Council said at a meeting earlier this month that it would not support Option A. The RWSA voted 4-3 to study Option A with Brown and the other city representatives all voting against.

Gary O’Connell
, the ACSA’s executive director, and Liz Palmer, an ACSA board member, both called for Hazen and Sawyer to evaluate creative options for placing as much of the new pump station underground as feasible.

“There is no really good solution on the table here at all. I think sometimes we lose track of why we are doing this,” Palmer said. “We have been dumping sewage into the Rivanna River in wet weather events for decades and now we are faced with fixing it.”

“At the ACSA board of directors we asked for Option A to stay on the table with challenge to the consultants to … put as much underground as possible [and] stay on [RWSA] property,” Palmer said.

The RWSA will pay about $122,000 to study Option D, a new location for the pump station at a location across the Rivanna River in Albemarle. The supervisors have said they will not support Option D, which is on land in the Pantops area owned by Albemarle and land owned by State Farm Insurance.

As a third and final option, the city of Charlottesville will pay about $184,605 to study Option E, a new idea proposed by residents of Woolen Mills. It involves drilling a 2,000-foot-long tunnel to extend the sewer pipe to a new pump station location closer to the Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

While still in Woolen Mills, the tunnel approach avoids digging a 30-foot-deep trench through the backyards of about five homes in what was known as Option C. Near its end, the tunnel is expected to be 90 feet below ground, at which point the pump station would lift the material to Moores Creek for treatment.

Boyd and County Executive Tom Foley voted against studying Option E, but that was because the motion by Brown coupled it with a study of Option D across the river.

Victoria Dunham, president of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, said after the meeting that she was pleased to see multiple options being explored.

“I am thrilled they are going to study Options D and E,” Dunham said. “Option A won’t work because the electrical equipment [for the pump station] needs to be above ground.”

May 22, 2011

Transportation official calls on Charlottesville-Albemarle to work together

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, May 22, 2011

James Rich is serving for the second time as a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Appointed in the 1990s by Gov. George Allen, then in 2010 by Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rich told local officials last week that if the Charlottesville-Albemarle community is willing to work together, he is willing to fight for transportation funding.

20110519-Rich-PACC
James Rich, Culpeper District representative,
Commonwealth Transportation Board

At a meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council — a joint body with representation from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — Rich said he was happy to be serving the community as the CTB’s Culpeper District representative.

“My parents live in Albemarle County, my sister lives in Albemarle County and I have been a lifelong disciple of Thomas Jefferson,” Rich said. “It’s kind of like coming on to hallowed ground here.”

Rich painted what he described as a “challenging picture” of the transportation funding available from both state and federal sources.

“The recent figures show that about 52 percent of all funds are going into Northern Virginia, and, of course, Tidewater has significant needs with tunnels being built,” Rich said. “We smaller districts have to fight for virtually every dime, and we kind of are given the leftovers.”

Rich was peppered with questions about whether Charlottesville-Albemarle is being punished with low doses of transportation funding and about how projects with unanimous approval could get done more quickly.

“In order for us to fight for these dollars, we all need to work together in the Culpeper district,” Rich said. “We need the county working with the city and the stakeholders and the businesses. We really have to come together, because if we don’t someone else is going to get the money.”

Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said he had just reviewed the proposed six-year funding plan and asked Rich if other localities were already getting more than their fair share.

“What’s really concerning to me … if you look at it on a per capita basis, our [Metropolitan Planning Organization] is getting about $41 per capita over the next six years,” Rooker said. “The state average is $548 per capita and the next lowest MPO in the area is over $200 per capita.”

“It doesn’t look like we are getting a reasonable share of the dollars,” Rooker said. “We have lost 94 percent of our secondary road funds over the last six years.”

According to the data shared by Rooker, of the 14 MPOs in Virginia, the Charlottesville-Albemarle area ranks dead last in per capita funding in the six-year improvement program for FY2012-17. The Blacksburg MPO receives the largest per capita allocation at $910, or 22.2 times as much as Charlottesville.

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris asked Rich if he thought the community was being penalized for not supporting the proposed western bypass of U.S. 29.

“I haven’t sensed that,” Rich said. “I have sensed that in some quarters there was a concern that there wasn’t communication between the various entities and therefore, until that happens, there was a concern [road projects] wouldn’t be done in a seamless way.”

“If you work with me, I view part of my job as to fight for additional money,” Rich said. “Obviously, you need some more money.”

Officials shared with Rich the consensus list of priority road projects that they hoped would receive funding more quickly to alleviate traffic congestion. The list included the Best Buy ramp at U.S. 29 and the U.S. 250 Bypass, the Hillsdale Drive extension and the elimination of the “hourglass” on U.S. 29 near Hollymead where the highway shrinks to four total lanes.

Rich suggested a local delegation meet directly with McDonnell and the state’s secretary of transportation.

“I met with [the business community] recently, and I think they have a very good attitude about working together to do the things that are doable,” Rich said. “Let’s go down and show everybody we are on the same page.”

May 20, 2011

Albemarle seeks study of multiple options for new pump station

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 19, 2011

When the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority meets next week, the executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority will ask for further study of several potential locations for a new pump station.

“We should keep all these options alive and do some basic study on them so [the community] can continue to do some comparison [between] them,” Gary O’Connell said Thursday.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110519-ACSA

Plans are being drawn up to replace the existing pump station in order to comply with an order from the Department of Environmental Quality to stop raw sewage from flowing into the Rivanna River and other local waterways after heavy storms.

The DEQ consent order requires the RWSA to select a site by Dec. 31. Four official options have been advanced, and others are still being developed.

Download Download RWSA Consent Order

However, Charlottesville city councilors have said they will not support a plan to replace the station at its current location in the Woolen Mills neighborhood, nor will they support a plan to build one on nearby RWSA property adjacent to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The latter would require digging a 30-foot-deep trench through the backyards of about five homes in Woolen Mills in order to extend the existing sewer line.

Instead, the council said Monday that it only wanted further study of a plan to move the station across the Rivanna River into Albemarle, as well as an option to drill a 2,000-foot-long tunnel to extend the sewer line to the Moores Creek facility while minimizing the neighborhood impact.

O’Connell suggested that further study of the existing site, known as Option A, could involve working with Woolen Mills residents to address their concerns.

“Could [the station] go further underground? Could it stay on the existing [RWSA] property? Is there a way to take advantage of that site?” O’Connell asked.

O’Connell said Option A is likely to be the least expensive option, with a preliminary cost estimate of $25 million. The proposal to move the facility across the river has a preliminary cost estimate of $34 million, and the proposal to move it down the river has a preliminary cost of $37 million.

O’Connell said those estimates could all rise as more study is done, especially if they require drilling through rock.

ACSA board members acknowledged that the city would be opposed to further study of expanding the station at its current location.

“I know the city doesn’t want Option A on the table, but because the ultimate decision is going to be based on looking at the alternatives rather than picking the ideal thing, we need to advocate for keeping A on the table,” said ACSA member Liz Palmer.

Palmer said doing so would be contingent on directing the consultant to place the new facility as far underground as possible, as well as giving consideration to making it as “architecturally as attractive as possible.”

Board member Bill Kittrell suggested that a design challenge could be conducted to find a solution for Option A that would be supported by the neighborhood.

“Give [designers] a challenge to come up with some ideas that might meet these very restrictive set of circumstances which, in society as a whole, aren’t going away as our communities grow and evolve and these types of situations pop up in urbanized areas,” Kittrell said.

Since Sunday, more than 4 inches of rain have fallen in the community, according to data from the National Weather Service. That amount has overwhelmed the RWSA’s sewer system.

“The volume of water coming into the wastewater plant was beyond the physical capability of the plant to treat, resulting in 5.3 million gallons [of sewage] flowing into Moores Creek,” Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director, wrote in an email.

“Treatment plant operators performed well to the extent the existing infrastructure is capable, which is verification for the need for the capital improvement program we are trying to implement,” Frederick added.

The RWSA’s most recent capital budget, adopted in October, calls for $122 million in projects to repair and upgrade its sewer lines. That includes $25 million for the new pump station, as well as an upgrade of the Moores Creek plant to store more stormwater for later treatment.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Clarence Roberts calls the meeting to order and recognizes employees for their service
  • 05:30 - ACSA Executive Director Gary O'Connell recognizes Lisa Breeden
  • 07:30 - Public comment from John Martin
  • 11:00 - Discussion of consent agenda
  • 15:00 - Discussion of FY2012 ACSA budget
  • 24:30 - Liz Palmer objects to ACSA joining the Chamber of Commerce
  • 38:00 - Update on earthen dam design and permitting
  • 43:00 - Update on Rivanna pump station
01:00 - Clarence Roberts calls the meeting to order and recognizes employees for their service
05:30 - ACSA Executive Director Gary O'Connell recognizes Lisa Breeden
07:30 - Public comment from John Martin
11:00 - Discussion of consent agenda
15:00 - Discussion of FY2012 ACSA budget
24:30 - Liz Palmer objects to ACSA joining the Chamber of Commerce
38:00 - Update on earthen dam design and permitting
43:00 - Update on Rivanna pump station