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January 24, 2012

Historic day for water supply plan; City, county officials give final approval

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The community water supply plan received its final approvals at Tuesday’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board of directors. Representatives from the RWSA, the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Albemarle County Service Authority were all present to sign the official documents.


On hand to sign the documents approving the community water supply plan, front row (L to R), Charlottesville Mayor Satyendra Huja, Mike Gaffney (RWSA Chairman), Clarence Roberts (ACSA Chairman), and back row, City Councilor Kathleen M. Galvin, Thomas L. Frederick, Jr. (RWSA Executive Director), Liz Palmer (ACSA Board), Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, and Albemarle County Executive Thomas Foley (who signed on behalf of Albemarle).

The action, following separate votes by city and county officials at earlier meetings, and a unanimous vote by the RWSA that day, concludes years of study and negotiations. Next, the RWSA will oversee construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir beginning as early as March.

“I think it is a momentous day,” said Mike Gaffney, the RWSA board’s chairman. “We have gone through a six-year period of time, between 2006 to 2012, to get to where the community water supply plan is approved, the cost-sharing agreement is approved and the property agreement is approved. We are moving forward to take care of the next 50 years’ worth of our community’s water needs.”

Mayor Satyendra Huja signed on behalf of the city and County Executive Thomas Foley signed for the county.

City Councilor Kathleen M. Galvin attended her first meeting as one of two elected council representative on the RWSA board.

 “I think it represents the culmination of a long, hard series of negotiations … and it’s very good to have it done,” Galvin said. “Now we can start thinking about what other issues are on the table, so I am excited we can get on to new business.”

Continue reading "Historic day for water supply plan; City, county officials give final approval " »

January 23, 2012

City shares designs for McIntire Park in attempt to balance competing uses

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, January 23, 2012

The city of Charlottesville unveiled three design concepts for the eastern portion of McIntire Park at a public meeting attended by almost 90 residents Monday.


In September, city staff kicked off the public input process, saying the 61 available acres in the park were a “blank slate.” In December, more than 100 citizens put pen to paper in a planning workshop to suggest how activities as varied as golf, skateboarding, soccer and botanical gardens could be accommodated.

The three design concepts unveiled by city staff shared a lot of common ground. All accommodated some degree of golf, botanical gardens, a relocated skate park, the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, perimeter trails and a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to the park’s western side. Two of the three concepts include a wading pool and a rectangular athletic field.

Shown plans that would share McIntire Park between golf and garden enthusiasts, local golf coach Leonard Taylor said his sport should continue to take priority.

“The First Tee program needs a golf course, and there is already a course there and they don’t have to spend a nickel,” Taylor said. “The uses in the park can be balanced to some degree, but you can’t let it get out of hand.”

City Councilor Kathy Galvin challenged the goal of designing for both uses.

Continue reading "City shares designs for McIntire Park in attempt to balance competing uses" »

Albemarle supervisors frustrated by ramp delays

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, January 23, 2012

Albemarle County supervisors have expressed frustration over the lack of tangible progress on the interchange project of U.S. 250 and 29 after the city transferred management of the effort to the state.

Photo: The Daily Progress - Used by permission

The project, also known as the “Best Buy ramp,” was handed off to the Virginia Department of Transportation last year with the intention of expediting its construction, but county leaders say that progress seems as distant as ever.

“[We’re] pulling our hair out because every time you talk to VDOT they add on two or three more years — it was like 2014 or something like that,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek. “I don’t know what we can do to light a fire under them. They got completely distracted by the whole Meadow Creek Parkway [project].”

James Rich, the area’s Commonwealth Transportation Board representative who spearheaded the project’s transfer, said that the prospect of a quicker completion was his main motivation.

“It was a way to expedite it,” said Rich. “We were just kind of stuck in neutral.”

Continue reading "Albemarle supervisors frustrated by ramp delays" »

January 22, 2012

Meet Your Government: Ebony Walden

PhotoEbony Walden
Photo by Sarah Cramer of Cramer Photo


Ebony Walden

Neighborhood Planner, City of Charlottesville

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

I was born in Queens, New York and lived there until I was 8. The rest of my youth I spent in Long Island, NY (Hempstead)

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

I moved to the Charlottesville area in the fall of 2003. I came here from Washington, DC to participate in the Trinity Fellows Program, a leadership development program that prepares young adults for entering their future vocations and approaching their lives from a Christian worldview.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I have spent most of my time in Charlottesville living in Fifeville (Prospect), but most recently I live in North Downtown.

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

I am single with no children

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

I graduated from Georgetown University in 2002 and the University of Virginia in 2006.

What were you doing before coming to the city government?

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Ebony Walden" »

Albemarle’s citizen advisory councils hold second annual meeting

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Albemarle County’s citizen advisory councils, tasked with representing their neighborhoods and providing feedback on the implementation of their unique master plans, held their second annual joint meeting last week.

The Board of Supervisors appoints a group of 13 to 15 citizen advisers for each growth area with an approved master plan. Those four areas are Crozet, Pantops, Places29 along U.S. 29 North and the Village of Rivanna, which includes Glenmore.

“The Board of Supervisors has adopted a new strategic goal which talks about promoting citizen ownership of community challenges,” County Executive Thomas Foley told the council members Thursday. “That’s different than volunteering and being on a committee. It’s about accepting responsibility and ownership for our community and where we are going in the future.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120119-AlbAdvisoryCouncil

About 33 representatives heard presentations on public safety, comprehensive planning and upcoming zoning issues before breaking out into neighborhood groups.


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January 20, 2012

Albemarle approves cost-sharing agreement for water plan

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, January 20, 2012

Just two days after an identical set of agreements was passed by a sharply divided Charlottesville City Council, the Albemarle County Service Authority’s board of directors unanimously approved the cost-sharing and property use agreement for the community water supply plan on Thursday.

The action will send the plan, which approves a full-height earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and a future pipeline to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, to the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority for implementation.

NowcommentNEW! You can review and add your comments and questions to the proposed cost sharing and property use agreements using Now Comment

A cost allocation agreement specifies how the city and county split the costs for these projects.

“It’s one more big step,” said board member Liz Palmer. “Well, City Council [passing the plan] was the big step. This was a no-brainer.”

Construction of the dam is tentatively set to begin in early March, according to Gary O’Connell, the executive director of the ACSA. The county will pay for 85 percent of the dam construction costs and also contribute 80 percent of the money for the new pipeline, with the city providing the rest of the funds for each project.

The plan eliminates a previous concept of building the all new earthen dam in phases. While the larger dam can raise the reservoir’s water level by up to 42 feet, a property use agreement sets the initial increase at 30 feet, with conditions specifying when a future increase might occur at the request of either locality.

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January 19, 2012

Environmental groups continue fight against bypass

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 19, 2012

A consortium of groups opposed to the construction of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 is taking advantage of a lull in planning activity to coordinate efforts to have the project canceled.

“A lot of people think that this is a done deal, but it isn’t,” said Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club.

The organization hosted a meeting Wednesday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church to educate opponents of the road on steps that can be taken to influence the process at upcoming meetings.

The Federal Highway Administration is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the project to see if previous approvals of the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway are still valid. The review is not expected to be completed before the end of September, according to FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox. A public hearing associated with the review has not yet been scheduled.

“What we really need people to do is contact the Federal Highway Administration and let them know there are concerns about this project,” said Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said a federal law called the National Environmental Policy Act must be followed before the FHWA can approve construction of the bypass.

“NEPA requires that careful consideration be given to projects like this before the federal government will approve them,” Butler said. “It’s about looking at the impacts of a project on the environment, health and community.”

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Virginia Supreme Court ruling limits power of planning commissions

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that planning commissions do not have the power to grant waivers that allow property developers to deviate from zoning ordinances.

“Delegation of such authority to the [Albemarle] planning commission is inconsistent with the general role of planning commissions, as reflected by their enabling statutes,” reads the ruling issued last Friday from Justice William C. Mims.

Albemarle County Attorney Larry Davis said in an interview that the county has delegated decision-making powers to its Planning Commission for many decades.

“It’s an important decision that affects our processes, and not just in Albemarle County, but every locality statewide,” Davis said.

The case, Sinclair v. New Cingular Wireless et al., stems from a waiver granted in February 2010 by the Albemarle Planning Commission that allowed the construction of 103-foot cell tower on land subject to the county’s critical slopes ordinance.

Kent Sinclair, an Albemarle resident who owns adjoining property, argued at two public hearings against the waiver. After the commission granted it, Sinclair filed a suit that claimed Albemarle was in violation of the Dillon Rule, which prevents localities from exercising power not granted to them by the General Assembly.

The Albemarle Circuit Court did not agree with Sinclair’s complaint, and the case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, where justices ultimately upheld Sinclair’s suit.

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January 16, 2012

City’s incoming economic development chief fleshes out goals

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, January 16, 2012

Charlottesville officials did not have to look far to find a new director of economic development.

Chris Engel, currently the city’s assistant economic development director, has been appointed to replace Aubrey Watts.

“I am very excited about this opportunity and I look forward to continuing the important work of economic development in this community,” Engel said.

Engel has worked for the city since 2005.

“During his time with the city, Chris has proven himself to be an effective leader in our organization and in the community,” said Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones in a prepared statement.

There were more than 150 applicants for the position and four were interviewed, according to Jones.

Watts will continue to serve as the city’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Watts is also serving as the interim head of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing
while a new director is found to replace Randy Bickers, who resigned at the end of 2011.

Continue reading "City’s incoming economic development chief fleshes out goals" »

January 15, 2012

Hollymead movie theater falls through; Town center continues to fill out

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Despite the recent fizzling of plans to open a state-of-the-art 12 screen movie theater, Hollymead Town Center developer Wendell Wood is confident in the market’s continued interest in the development.


He cites four new buildings providing 265,000 square feet of commercial space that are going up next to Kohl’s and says that he is seeing “pretty good demand” from prospective tenants.

“I should think people would be pretty impressed with what’s going on [at Hollymead Town Center] right now,” Wood said.

Even after receiving an approval from the Albemarle County Planning Commission for a larger movie theater, Great Escape Theatres has given up on the project.

“It’s died from inaction,” said Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, noting that the applicant failed to submit its final paperwork.

Wood identified a different culprit, saying that the theater would not accept the county’s favored traffic pattern in front of the proposed building site. He said that another movie theater has expressed interest in the location but that they also thought that the county’s traffic demands were inappropriate for a cinema.

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