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August 31, 2011

Boyd assembles Western Bypass taskforce; VDOT says northern terminus won’t require public hearing

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has assembled a 12-member task force to provide citizen input as the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares a design for the northern terminus of the Western Bypass.

While VDOT is moving quickly to put the project to bid and indicating no other public hearings will be required, federal officials have to ensure that prior environmental reviews are adequate, which may open the project to further public scrutiny.

“This [is] a shining example of how we can involve the citizenry of my district particularly in some of the process that’s involved with the Western Bypass, particularly the northern terminus,” Boyd said. 

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110831-Boyd-Press-Conference


 

 

The 6.2 mile Western Bypass was revived this summer after a series of public hearings that concluded with the Metropolitan Planning Organization voting 3-2 on July 27 to authorize funding for construction of the bypass. The Commonwealth Transportation Board has allocated nearly $200 million to fund the project.

Contributing to the total project’s cost uncertainty is that no design for the northern terminus has been completed because the bypass plans were changed in the late 1990’s to extend the road over the South Fork of the Rivanna River. In 2002, the MPO approved a resolution to block further funding and design work was halted.

VDOT’s conceptual plans for the terminus show a sprawling interchange that appears to intersect with Ashwood Boulevard at U.S. 29. In July, Boyd held a town hall meeting to connect members of the Forest Lakes and Hollymead neighborhoods with VDOT engineers to explain that the design would be revisited in part to address neighborhood concerns.

“It was obvious to me that the conceptual design wasn’t giving them all the information they needed, so I went to VDOT and asked if they would be alright with me setting up a committee that could work with them on the design and provide input,” Boyd said. 

One of the members of the task force is Jim Grace, a bypass supporter and former board member of the Forest Lakes Community Association. 

“My only concern with the bypass is the northern terminus,” Grace said. “I’ve also been very concerned about Ashwood Boulevard’s interchange with U.S. 29.”

Ann Thornber, another task force member, said she was an opponent of the bypass but is now taking a pragmatic approach.

“Because of where I live, right inside [Forest Lakes] on Ashwood, I want to be sure we have the best possible northern terminus,” Thornber said. “If I can have an input, then I want to.”

20110831-Boyd
Supervisor Ken Boyd

Boyd said the committee is not officially a county-sanctioned body and its meetings will not be open to the public. He said they will meet three times in September before holding a public meeting to discuss its results.

“This group has no authority to enforce anything at all,” Boyd said. “It’s really just getting the citizens involved in what’s going to go in their neighborhood. They’re very concerned about that, so this was the best vehicle I felt to do that.”

Morgan Butler with the Southern Environmental Law Center attended Boyd’s press conference and said the task force’s efforts would not amount to much.

“When asked how—or even if—the task force’s input will be incorporated into the design of the interchange, there were no clear answers,” Butler said. “The community’s input should have been sought before, not after, our local officials voted for the bypass and gave all control over the design of the interchange to the state.”

“We committed to Mr. Boyd back at his town hall meeting back in July that we want to listen to the community and get community input on this,” said VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter. “This project is moving forward very quickly.”

Earlier this month, Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton told an audience in Lynchburg that he hopes to advertise the project for construction bids by the end of September.

“VDOT plans to advance the Route 29 Bypass project using a Design Build procurement method,” Connaughton said in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “The successful team will be responsible for [both] the final design and construction of the project.”

Connaughton added that VDOT will continue to acquire right of way while a contractor is found.

VDOT’s website lists around 20 active projects currently underway that were procured using the design-build approach.

Scott Collins, an engineer who is serving on the task force, suggested the bypass project may be broken up in order to speed up its construction as happened with another controversial road.

“Just look at the Meadow Creek Parkway which has been broken up into three distinct projects – the intersection, a city portion, and a county portion,” Collins said. “I can see that happening [with the bypass].”

Even if the project goes to bid this fall, construction cannot begin until the Federal Highways Administration conducts an environmental assessment of the project to see if previous studies remain valid. That process will take at least six months, and VDOT has not yet submitted that paperwork to FHWA.

“We look forward to reviewing the documentation from the state, and as the process continues, we will consider opportunities for public input,” said Doug Hecox, a spokesman with the FHWA.

However, in a follow-up interview, Hatter said there would be no official venue for public input.

“The northern interchange will not require a public hearing,” Hatter said.

LIST OF TASK FORCE MEMBERS

  • Dale Anderson – North Forest Lakes Resident
  • Ken Boyd – Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
  • Scott Collins – Local Engineer
  • George Fitz-Hugh – Bank Manager Forest Lakes – Union First Market Bank
  • Sue Friedman – South Forest Lakes Resident and member of FLCA Board
  • Jim Grace – North Forest Lakes Resident
  • David Lourie – Polo Grounds Road Resident and Head of School at St. Ann’s Belfield
  • Charles Martin – Terrybrook resident and former Albemarle County Supervisor
  • Russell Moody – North Rt. 29 land owner
  • David Shifflett – South Forest Lakes Resident and President of the FLCA Board
  • Charlie Smith – Hollymead Resident, President of the Hollymead Citizens Association
  • Ann Thornber – South Forest Lakes Resident

Commercial center on U.S. 29 gets under way

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A long-stalled commercial development on U.S. 29 broke ground Tuesday after the developer announced a $4.2 million loan that will allow the project to move forward.

“There were some dark days during the recession, and it was very hard to get construction financing,” said Mark Green, president of ECorp Management Associates.

The firm is developing the 31,200-square-foot Rivanna Plaza, which Green said is backed by 20 local investors.

20110830-groundbreaking

At a ceremony Tuesday, Green officially announced that Dunkin Donuts, Ragazzi’s Italian Restaurant and a large daycare facility will be the first three tenants of Rivanna Plaza. The development is located on undeveloped land between the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, Schewel’s Furniture Store and the Kegler’s Bowling Alley.

In his remarks, Green noted it took 1,333 days between the time he bought the property and the groundbreaking. He said it was impossible to find financing after several major banks collapsed in 2008 during the home mortgage crisis.

“We’ve been through a world economic collapse, our original bank is no longer [in existence] … but we’re still here standing,” Green said.

Green’s holding company for the project, Rivanna Plaza LLC, filed bankruptcy itself in November to buy more time to secure tenants and financing.

“The lending aspect is key,” said Susan Stimart, economic development facilitator for Albemarle County. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave special provisions for commercial lending, but that never really materialized.”

Green said the project is moving forward primarily because of the local involvement, and because 50,000 vehicles travel past the site every day.

Download View .PDF of site plan for Rivanna Plaza

“We have local investors, a local bank, some great local tenants and when the going got tough it was the nationals that high-tailed it out of town but the locals understand the area, understand the potential for this site,” Green said. He added that at least 40 jobs will be created by the new Dunkin Donuts and the daycare.

StellarOne bank agreed to grant a loan for the project in part because of a strong local presence.

“Banks are lending,” said Arnold Blackmon of StellarOne. “The opportunities are a little less in aggregate [but] when we find a quality project in a quality community in a pro-business growth environment, it makes for a phenomenal opportunity.”

The Kiddie Academy, part of a national chain, will have enough room for at least 180 children in an 11,000-square-foot building with a large playground.

20110830-rivanna-place-rend
Rendering provided by Rivanna Plaza LLC

Andy Rod owns Norson, a company that operates more than a dozen Dunkin Donuts stores in Central Virginia. He originally signed on to be a part of Rivanna Plaza back in 2008.

The county granted a special-use permit allowing the Dunkin Donuts to have a drive-through window.

“In our world, [they’re] very important and certainly having the Kiddie Academy here with the parents dropping off their kids and then driving through the drive-through on the way to work wasn’t something that was lost on us,” Rod said. “We weren’t going to walk away from this project.”

No Dunkin Donuts in the area will be closing.

Ragazzi’s, owned by Bart Neumann, will move from its existing location in the Shopper’s World Plaza.

“We need an upgrade, we need a facelift, and we’ve been there for 15 years,” Neumann said. “The [Shopper’s World] center is in a little disrepair. A lot of changes have been going on with Whole Foods moving out.”

As part of the site plan, a new access road will be built slightly to the north of the site and the existing driveway will be closed. The Kegler’s bowling alley will remain.

Green said the county has already approved the site plan and the design for the buildings. He is now seeking building permits and is hoping construction will be completed by March. Rivanna Place LLC is also seeking tenants for a second phase of development.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas said the project was moving forward in part because the Board of Supervisors has directed staff to encourage economic development.

“This could be the beginning of our business district that we’ve been talking about,” Thomas said. “This is what we’re all about in Albemarle County now.”

 

August 30, 2011

Population and employment projections assessed in new water demand forecast

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A 50-year water demand forecast for Charlottesville-Albemarle has been updated in advance of a public hearing to be held in September.

AECOM Technology Corp.’s projections now show slightly less water consumption, but greater projected population growth.

Download Download AECOM's August 2011 water demand forecast

Late last week, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority released AECOM’s final forecast updating a July draft. The state is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2. 

20110711-Shorter_Kim
Kim Shorter, AECOM

“The final regional water supply demands reflect the future human water demands of the regional water supply planning area which includes the citizens in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Town of Scottsville, and Crozet,” said Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM, in an email. “These forecasts will support development of the Regional Water Supply Plan, required by the Virginia Local and Regional Water Supply Planning regulations.”

This research is separate from the water storage plan being implemented for the urban water supply, which includes a new earthen dam and water supply pipeline to accommodate future droughts and population growth. Yet its findings allow a review of that 50-year water plan’s assumption that the community would need 18.7 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2055.

That original demand assumption was part of the information local leaders had in hand when voting to approve the $140 million water supply plan. Since, both the demand projections and the approved plan have come under intense scrutiny by those who believe dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could provide enough water for the city, urban areas of Albemarle and the University of Virginia.

A report released in July
by the RWSA indicated one-time dredging would produce a so-called “safe yield” of 9.2 mgd and continuous dredging of South Fork for 50 years would produce a safe yield of 10.3 mgd.

AECOM’s forecast revises the projected water needs downward to 16.17 mgd in 2055, a 13.5 percent drop from the water storage plan’s original assumptions. The report indicates current water usage is about 9.76 mgd.

AECOM’s estimate extends to 2060, when it projects demand will be 16.96 mgd. The revised figures are a slight decrease from AECOM’s July estimate of 17.01 mgd.

AECOM’s forecast method evaluates population projections, jobs, residential per capita water use and per employee water use. Baseline projections are then evaluated against other factors like water conservation, use of efficient water fixtures, area comprehensive plans and potential fluctuations in population or employment.

While AECOM considered scenarios that called for greater water usage, it ultimately lowered its estimates somewhat from the established baseline despite rising population projections.

At a July public input session, residents raised concerns about AECOM’s population projections for Charlottesville. In the previous report, the city’s 2010 population of 43,475 was projected to increase to 71,500 in 2060, reportedly based upon input from city planners.

At the last City Council meeting, Mayor Dave Norris asked city staff for feedback on the population projection, which he called a “pretty shocking estimate.”

“AECOM had expressed to folks that we had provided those numbers to them, which in fact we did not,” said City Manager Maurice Jones to council on Aug 1. “[AECOM] said they would go back … and reevaluate those numbers.”

In its final report, AECOM revised its estimate and disaggregated the University of Virginia student population between Charlottesville and Albemarle. The result is a revised city population projection of 63,482.

However, with the addition of on-grounds students that live in Albemarle but use city water, the population for the city’s “water service area” is projected to be 72,642, representing a further increase of 1,142 from the July estimate.

“We received additional information to help us refine the population forecasts,” Shorter said. “One of the refinements included a closer look at UVa population and the difference between the water-supplied population and the demographic population.”

Rebecca Quinn, chair of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, which favors dredging before building a new dam, said she remains concerned about the city population estimates and was surprised to see them go up even higher in the latest report.

“How can it go up?” asked Quinn. “I would like to know what the city has to say about the population numbers. It looks like they have simply taken the growth rate from the last six years and straight-lined it.”

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, said he thought the new population numbers were “reasonable.”

“What they basically did was lower that number from 71,500 to 63,482,” said Tolbert. “As they explained to me, the water service area includes the city plus the [UVa] students living on Grounds who do not live in the city.”

AECOM also raised its long-term estimate for Albemarle’s population of urban water users.

According to the report, the Albemarle County Service Authority had 51,095 urban water users in 2010. That is projected to increase to 112,210 in 2060 as the county directs further population growth into its urban growth areas on public water. That represents an increase of 10,348 from the July estimate.

“I think the way it was developed was about as reasonable a way as you could develop one,” Tolbert added. “It is very difficult to do a population projection in this community.”

On Sept. 13 AECOM will present its final forecast to a joint meeting of the “four boards” — the RWSA board, the ACSA board, Charlottesville City Council, and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. A separate presentation will be made to Scottsville’s Town Council on Sept. 12.

August 29, 2011

Four independents weigh in at Tea Party council candidate forum

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, August 29, 2011

20110825-four-candidates

 

On August 25, 2011, the Jefferson Area Tea Party hosted a candidates’ forum for the Charlottesville City Council race. Five independents and three Democrats were invited to the event, but only four independents were able to attend. The forum was held at the Hibachi Grill on Seminole Trail. The moderator is Carole Thorpe, the chair of the Jefferson Area Tea Party.

Participating in the event were Scott Bandy, Brandon Collins, Bob Fenwick and Paul Long. Absent were independent Andrew Williams, and Democrats Kathy Galvin, Satyendra Huja and Dede Smith.

Topics included switching to a ward system to elect City Council, positions on immigration reform, and the region’s participation in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Livable Communities Grant.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110825-Tea-Party-City-Forum

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

•    00:45 – Introduction from Carole Thorpe
•    08:30 – Opening statement from Scott Bandy
•    14:15 – Opening statement from Brandon Collins
•    19:45 – Opening statement from Bob Fenwick
•    25:45 – Opening statement from Paul Long
•    35:45 – Question 1 from Carole Thorpe: If you are elected to City Council, you will be asked to swear an oath to uphold the United States Constitution. The Tea Party believes the U.S. Constitution is a uniquely special document. We believe in our form government and this is the one place in the world where people can come regardless of who your family is and what country you come from. You can work, you can make something of yourselves, and we strive for everyone to have equal opportunity. As you swear your allegiance to uphold the Constitution, what does the United States Constitution mean to you and what do you see yourself being able to do or not do in your role as a City Councilor to support the Constitution and American ideals?
•    42:00 – Question 2 from Carole Thorpe: The three core principles of the Tea Party movement, including the Jefferson Area Tea Party, are constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise. Pick one of these topics and discuss your view.
•    48:00 – Question 3 from Carole Thorpe: The city, county and university are working cooperatively with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on a livability planning project. They were recently awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is to fund a three-year plan that will be proposed and some people hope they will finalize for implementation in the county, the city and with UVA. This is having to do with, in the Tea Party’s opinion, a fairly gross overreach of government. Certainly this is sort of a blueprint for having local government having a hand in every aspect of our lives so I’m not trying to beg the question, but I would like to know what your feeliings are about the livable communities project, about the acceptance of the grant, and also if you are elected to City Council  and these issues come up to you, how do you see your role as a councilor in either support of or opposition to these projects?
•    55:45 – Question 4 (directed at Brandon Collins): What is your general philosophy on illegal immigration?
•    57:45 – Question 5 (directed at Bob Fenwick): I am an immigrant who moved here legally 26 years ago. I waited my turn, I’m from Iran originally, and I entered America as a resident alien. Don’t you think if people come here illegally they are taking something away from people like me who come legally?
•    1:00:15 – Question 6 (directed at Brandon Collins): I’m just curious. A person who is arrested for a DUI and is illegal, what should be done with that person if not deported?
•    1:02:45 – Question 7 (directed at Brandon Collins): I think I heard you talk about the justice system and how we all have to be equal in it. At the same time, you’ve just ignored that someone has violated our laws and they don’t to face the justice for it. Who is it to determine and which laws are not followed? It seems like you’re making an arbitrary decision for us on that issue? How do you justify someone breaking a major law in crossing the border illegally, yet you all have to say we all have to say the justice system, but you say they don’t?
•    1:07:45 – Question 8: (directed at Bob Fenwick): What about ward elections or a mixed-ward system for City Council elections?
•    1:10:00 – Question 9: I’ve heard calls for an improved public transportation system and the idea of having buses every fifteen minutes has been floated. It just occurs to me that would triple the number of buses and I’m wondering if all of you have thought what that means in terms of having that many buses on the road during rush hour, as well as additional wear and tear on the roads.

 

August 27, 2011

DEQ releases draft permit modification for public scrutiny

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday. August 27, 2011

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has released a draft of a modified permit that must be approved before construction of an earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir can begin.

“It’s another milestone,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

Download Download cover letter from DEQ to RWSA Director Tom Frederick

Download Download cover page for permit modification

Download Download general conditions under which permit modification would be issued

Download Download special conditions under which permit modification would be issued


The original permit, issued in February 2008, would have allowed the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority to build a concrete dam downstream of the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam in order to raise the reservoir by 45 feet to create 2.19 billion gallons of water storage.

The expanded reservoir is one of two key components of a community water supply plan approved by the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in the summer of 2006. The other is a supply pipeline to fill the enlarged Ragged Mountain Reservoir from the South Fork Reservoir.

The permit also lists specific amounts of water that must be released from the reservoirs in order to improve natural stream flows.

However, the RWSA changed the plan after the cost estimate for the concrete dam more than doubled. The original engineering firm was fired and Schnabel Engineering was hired to find an alternative that would keep costs down.

The Albemarle County Service Authority agreed to pay Schnabel for the design of a new earthen dam that would raise the reservoir by 42 feet.

However, the City Council voted 3-2 in February to accept the plan but only with an initial rise of 30 feet and 1.55 billion gallons of water storage. The foundation of the dam will be built to support a second phase of construction.

The RWSA submitted a request to change the permit in March. The DEQ classified the modification as “major,” requiring a public hearing, and requested more information from the RWSA, which was submitted in late July.

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA, said the permit modification includes two primary changes.

“It adjusts the expected environmental impacts of the earthen dam,” Frederick said. “It [also] provides stream flow requirements for the initial phase of raising the pool 30 feet. The original permit only specified stream flow requirements for the fully raised pool condition.”

A public hearing on the permit modification will be held Sept. 29 at the Albemarle County Office Building. Written public comments will be accepted by the DEQ through Oct. 14.

The permit must be approved by the State Water Control Board, which only meets quarterly. DEQ staff will compile public comments and modify the permit if necessary.

“We are hoping they will be able to get their work done and make the December agenda for the State Water Control Board,” Frederick said.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Dam Safety Division issued a construction permit for the new earthen dam in late July. The permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project must also be modified.

“The biggest issue that remains to be resolved is the cost share agreement between the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority on how the cost of this project should be paid through wholesale rates,” Frederick said. “We understand they are meeting in an effort to work this out and hope it will be completed very soon.”

“We are having continuing conversations and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find agreement,” O’Connell said.

The RWSA’s capital improvement program adopted in October 2010 set aside $32.5 million for construction of the dam, including embankment improvements where the expanded reservoir meets Interstate 64.

In April, Schnabel engineers estimated construction of the dam would cost between $18.8 million and $22.3 million.

“If we can get it out to bid in the fall we still feel like we can get good prices,” O’Connell said.

The permit does not have to be issued before the RWSA can advertise for construction bids.

“However, in fairness to contractors, we need to believe we have a very good chance of receiving permits within 60 days before deciding to advertise for bids,” Frederick said.

Under the permit, the Sugar Hollow pipeline would be retired after the dam is fully expanded and the new pipeline is built. Frederick said there is no firm date for construction of the new pipeline.

Rebecca Quinn, of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, said Friday that she had not fully reviewed the permit modifications in order to make a comment.

 

August 24, 2011

Consultant: Hybrid option for Rivanna pump station is feasible

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors learned Tuesday that a compromise plan to replace the Rivanna pump station by drilling a 2,000-foot tunnel is technically possible.

“It is in fact feasible and there are no fatal flaws with it,” said Janice Carroll, a project manager with the engineering firm Hazen & Sawyer.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110823-RWSA

However, Carroll said the option would likely be the most expensive of three choices the firm has been studying for the RWSA.

20110823-Janice-Carroll
Janice Carroll of Hazen & Sawyer

The RWSA is upgrading the capacity of the station to handle up to 53 million gallons of wastewater a day to prevent raw sewage from flooding into Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.

The RWSA board is required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to make a decision on which option will be used by Dec. 31.

The compromise, known as Option E, emerged earlier this year after Charlottesville and Albemarle County members of the board were each concerned about other options to replace the station.

City officials do not want to move forward with an option that would replace the station at its existing location near Riverview Park because of opposition from the Woolen Mills neighborhood. This option has an initial cost estimate of around $25 million.

Likewise, Albemarle officials have said they are concerned about an option to build the station across the river because State Farm Insurance, a major employer, would be impacted. This scenario has an initial cost estimate of $37 million.

Community discussion in the spring led to consideration of an option that would extend the existing gravity sewer onto the grounds of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“That option was of particular interest because it would place the pump station on the plant site,” Carroll said.

In May, the RWSA directed Hazen & Sawyer to conduct geotechnical surveys for all three options in order to refine cost estimates.

Enough work has been done on option E for Carroll to put a cost range between $40 million and $43 million. However, preliminary engineering for the other options will not be complete until the end of September.

The RWSA will hold a community meeting in early October to present all three options to the public. One remaining question is how much each community will contribute towards the project.

“We have got to resolve that issue and can’t keep it lingering,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.

20110823-burch
Casey Burch of HDR

The RWSA board was also briefed on a “market sounding study” conducted by HDR Engineering in advance of a request for proposals to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

In June, the RWSA board approved the spending of up to $3.5 million to put toward a request for proposals for dredging, which would be conducted under the state’s Public-Private Education Facilities Infrastructure Act (PPEA). This would grant bidders more flexibility to suggest creative proposals to dredge the reservoir.

“We reached out to dredging contractors that HDR knows by reputation,” said Carey Burch, project manager with HDR. “We spoke with a total of 11 contractors and explained the process to them ... Six of the contractors were willing to [participate].”

Burch said none of the firms have ever bid for a dredging project under the PPEA rules before. He added most of the contractors were concerned about the level of risk they would assume under the project.

“Acquiring land is one of the biggest areas of risk in any dredging project,” Burch said. “Acquiring land for staging, for materials dewatering, for processing. [This] often drives how you dredge a certain body of water.”

Other risks include whether a market would be in place to purchase the materials.

“If the materials market is going to fluctuate over time, it would be difficult to project out several years to figure out what their rate of return is going to be,” Burch said.

Burch asked if the RWSA would consider purchasing some of the property identified in previous dredging studies in advance in order to assume some of the risk and cost.

Boyd said a feasibility study previously conducted by HDR identified specific parcels of land that could be used and that that should be enough information for any potential bidders.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of purchasing the land first because it would take the creativity out of the project,” Boyd said.

The RWSA board agreed not to further discuss the matter until the city and county can agree on a cost-allocation agreement for how much each locality would contribute to the $3.5 million set aside for the project.

Burch predicted the RWSA would receive between three and five proposals based on the study.
None of the city’s three voting members were present at the meeting. City Councilor Holly Edwards serves as an alternate but is not allowed to vote.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Meeting called to order by RWSA Chair Mike Gaffney
  • 03:30 - Executive Director's report from Tom Frederick
  • 08:30 - Public comment from Rebecca Quinn of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 12:45 - Public comment from John Martin
  • 16:00 - Public comment from Liz Palmer of the Albemarle County Service Authority
  • 17:30 - Responses to matters from the public
  • 21:30 - Discussion of extension of waiver for UVA rowing to use South Fork Rivanna Reservoir 
  • 27:30 - Discussion of changes to the RWSA's financial policy
  • 31:45 - Discussion of "market sounding report" from HDR Engineering
  • 1:07:00 - Discussion of Rivanna Pump Station

August 22, 2011

VA Supreme Court to hear YMCA case of fitness clubs vs. Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, August 22, 2011

The Virginia Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of fitness clubs challenging Albemarle County’s investment in the Piedmont Family YMCA facility in McIntire Park.

While the YMCA is not party to the lawsuit, its leaders said Monday that the court case has just caused them to lose their general contractor and a very competitive bid. Groundbreaking on the almost $14 million 77,000-square-foot aquatics and fitness center had been scheduled to begin in September or October.

“Not in our wildest dreams did we think the Supreme Court would accept this case,” said Denny Blank, CEO of the Piedmont Family YMCA. “[ACAC owner] Phil Wendell told us all he wanted was his day in local court. He said he would step aside if the courts didn’t rule in his favor, but he is not happy with that and has appealed it.”

Blank says the legal fight has put the YMCA project in jeopardy.

“The contractor has said their bid price is now null and void,” Blank said. “You can’t expect a contractor to hold their bid price indefinitely and the banks are saying they will only lend the money when the lawsuits are resolved.”

The Charlottesville Area Fitness Club Owners’ Association, formed specifically for the legal fight which began in 2010, is composed of ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers and Gold’s Gym.

The suit maintains that Albemarle and the city of Charlottesville violated the Virginia Public Procurement Act by not giving the clubs the option of bidding on the aquatic services that will be offered by the YMCA.

“The Supreme Court saw fit to hear our arguments, and they saw some merit in the arguments that we were making against the county that they did not follow the Virginia Public Procurement Act,” said Greg Wells, CEO of ACAC. “It just means they will hear the case, it doesn’t mean that it will be decided in our favor or the county’s favor.”

Total Performance Sports and Fitness was previously involved in the lawsuit. Its owner, Todd Proctor, said in an interview Monday that he withdrew from the lawsuit shortly after Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins dismissed the case against Charlottesville in April. 

The city has designated $1.25 million for construction of the pool and signed a 40-year lease with the YMCA for $1 a year for the building site. Albemarle is expected to contribute $2.03 million to the project.

Greg Kamptner, deputy attorney for Albemarle County, said he expected the case to be scheduled for oral arguments in the spring. An appeal of the case against the city of Charlottesville could still be heard separately.

“The case presents some interesting issues because they raised a Dillon Rule challenge to the board’s actions, and those cases are always interesting,” Kamptner said.

Under the Dillon Rule, local government only has the power given to it by the General Assembly. He said the case against Albemarle was narrowly focused on whether the donation could be tied to a specific use agreement.

“The fitness clubs argue that the board of supervisors didn’t have the authority to make the charitable contribution to the YMCA subject to a written agreement,” Kamptner said. “The court has seemed to have an interest in Dillon Rule cases in recent years and this case does present a unique challenge to the board’s authority.”

YMCA officials say the cost to build the fitness center will likely increase and that other non-profits funded by local government could face consequences if the fitness clubs prevail. 

“It came in under $14 million, which means we could do a lot more for a lot less if we act now,” Blank said. “It may be back to $16 million or more if we come back to this a year from now.”

“It’s time for the public to get outraged that one man has set about blocking this project for personal greed,” Blank said. “We have been trying to take the high ground and not mention his name, but now it’s really hurting us badly because we have lost our contractor and we have lost this price.”

“I don’t think the comment justifies any reaction,” responded the ACAC’s Wells. “I think it’s just a very inappropriate comment for him to make.”

Wells added that his organization supports what the YMCA does and that his own children have participated in YMCA youth basketball and soccer. He said ACAC was concerned about the use of taxpayer dollars to support a project that was not open to a competitive bid.

“The crux of the whole issue is that we were unjustly and unfairly denied the opportunity to participate,” Wells said. “Other solutions may rear their head that would actually be better than the currently proposed YMCA, and you save a park.”

Blank maintains the YMCA will not negatively impact other activities in the city’s McIntire Park and that the facility’s clientele is different from the for-profit fitness clubs.

“Our customers are lower to middle class, people who cannot afford to get these services elsewhere,” Blank said. “We are not a chain like ACAC or a franchise like Gold’s Gym — we are owned and funded by the community with a volunteer board and volunteers on staff.”

August 21, 2011

Democrats nominate Huja, Galvin and Smith for City Council

2011-election-DPx476 Voters participating in the Charlottesville Democratic Party's firehouse primary have selected Satyendra Huja, Kathleen Galvin and Dede Smith as their nominees to run for the City Council race on November 8.

Huja and Galvin were nominated on the first round of counting in the party's selection process, which used an instant run-off procedure to ensure that the winning nominees each received a majority of votes.

"There was a very close race for the third position, and it required actually going to the fifth ballot to resolve it," said James Nix, the co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Party.

Smith was nominated with a 31-vote margin over Paul Beyer.

Colette Blount, Brevy Cannon and James Halfaday were also eliminated during the counting.

Beyer told reporters that he would ask for a recount of the votes, the results of which were announced at 1:30 am on Sunday morning after more than five hours of counting.

"It's a 30 vote difference and we need to check things and make sure they are correct," Beyer said.

"There is always the possibility that the candidate who came almost in third place may want to examine the ballots, but I hope not," Nix said. "I think we did a very careful job in counting the ballots and I certainly don't anticipate that any further examination would show any change in the totals."

Nix said the full vote counts would be released sometime on Sunday.

The three Democrats will face independents Scott Bandy, Brandon Collins, Bob Fenwick, Paul Long and Andrew Williams in the November election.

 In all, 2,524 Charlottesville residents voted in the primary, including 284 absentee ballots.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:

Download 20110821-City-Democratic-Primary-Results

 

View our Firehouse Primary slideshow

 

August 19, 2011

Video of 'The People's Forum' for Charlottesville City Council candidates

On August 17, 2011, Ryan DeRamus, owner of Random Row Books, hosted a forum for all candidates running for Charlottesville City Council. Eleven of the 12 declared candidates seeking three seats on the council participated.

The almost 70 citizens in attendance took full advantage of the opportunity and generated all the questions.

Read our news story describing this forum and access audio podcast and timeline here.

Watch the video below:

Charlottesville City Council
candidate forum
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

Joint economic development efforts gaining momentum

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, August 19, 2011

The Planning and Coordination Council — a joint body with representation from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — met Thursday and discussed joint economic development efforts.

Officials were updated on a united undertaking to grow local economic development opportunities in venues as diverse as local K-12 classrooms, university labs, local farms and at existing private and government businesses.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110818-PACC

Pace Lochte, the university’s director of economic development, said UVa views economic development as a means to “leverage the assets of the university to meet the needs of companies, government agencies, and communities.”

“It means to us that we are helping to build a workforce that is educated, we’re helping to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem and we’re also helping to meet the needs of existing companies to help them remain competitive through access to our advanced research and technology,” Lochte said.

Albemarle County’s Lee Catlin, whose job responsibilities have been expanded from community relations to also include business partnerships, described Albemarle’s “sharpened focus” in this area.

“The county has become more intentional and strategic in how we address economic vitality,” Catlin said.  “We have adopted an action plan that lays out five very specific objectives.”

Catlin highlighted Albemarle’s efforts to support the growing local wine and brewery industries as well as initiatives supporting locally grown foods.

“One of the major areas of focus is supporting existing businesses, including helping small businesses grow and expand,” Catlin said.

Both Catlin and Lochte discussed existing initiatives underway in both Charlottesville and Albemarle schools to inspire and train a skilled workforce for science and engineering jobs. Catlin highlighted the Math, Science, & Engineering Academy based at Albemarle High School. Lochte described a federally funded pilot project to train all of the city’s elementary school teachers.

“We are providing teachers with new ways to introduce science to their students,” Lochte said. “It’s a three-credit hour course called ‘Teaching the nature of science and scientific inquiry.’”

Chris Engel, the city’s assistant director of economic development, said the joint effort was important for recruiting businesses to the community.

“We do work together, on virtually everything,” Engel said. “The bottom line is businesses don’t see our political boundaries or differences, they look at the community as a whole and what it can offer in terms of infrastructure, workforce, arts and entertainment and cultural amenities.”

In the audience, Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he liked what he heard.

“If you went back several years, a conversation about economic development and economic vitality wouldn’t have been focused or maybe even on that agenda,” Hulbert said after the meeting. “The magic is that it was presented to county, city and university officials in an organized fashion.”