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February 29, 2012

Albemarle warns of rising sewer costs and continues to question move of pump station

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Albemarle County leaders came to this week’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority with two big things on their mind to share with the public and representatives from the city of Charlottesville.

First, they want the public to know that bigger utility bills in the future are due largely to unfunded federal mandates and new sewer infrastructure, not new water supply dams. Second, they still believe the city is flushing $13 million down the drain on plans for a new sewer pump station.

“For the five-year period for wastewater, we are looking at over a 35 percent increase for our customers,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority. “Whereas for water in the city, it is a reduction of 10.7 percent, and 2 percent or so [reduction] in the county.”

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(L to R) Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd, Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley, and ACSA director Gary O'Connell

On Tuesday, the RWSA approved a five-year capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2012-2016 with projected new expenditures of $129 million. The budget is about 9 percent less than the plan adopted last year.

Judy Mueller, the city’s director of public works, said she shared O’Connell’s concern and added that RWSA’s budget does not include other infrastructure upgrades budgeted separately by the city and ACSA, the RWSA’s two wholesale customers.

“We are looking at 35-38 percent increases on our customers, and we have not done the job that we probably should have to communicate to our customers why we are having to do that,” Mueller said. “We need to go on a massive public education campaign.”

Continue reading "Albemarle warns of rising sewer costs and continues to question move of pump station" »

McIntire Park planning process continues

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department unveiled three conceptual drawings Tuesday depicting possible master plans for the eastern side of McIntire Park.
 
Supporters of the First Tee of Charlottesville golf program and advocates for a proposed botanical garden both made their case for space in the park, but city staff said the meeting was only held to get more information on the table. 
 
“We are not going to make a decision tonight,” said Chris Gensic, the city’s trails planner. 
 
The meeting was the fifth since the design process began last September. At another meeting in January, staff unveiled three concepts, each of which included both a botanical garden and some form of a golf course. 
 
Supporters of the nonprofit McIntire Botanical Garden introduced a concept that removed the golf course entirely. That option received the most votes in January. 
 
Participants at Tuesday’s event were shown three conceptual designs that had more distinct differences. 

Continue reading "McIntire Park planning process continues" »

February 27, 2012

New hotel planned for corner at West Main & Ridge McIntire

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, February 27, 2012

The corner of West Main Street and Ridge McIntire has been the location of several speculative development proposals, including condominiums and a CVS drugstore. Now developers are preparing to submit plans to the city of Charlottesville for an eight-story Marriott Residence Inn.

315WMainSt3
The Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review met last week for a preliminary discussion about the plans.

BAR members shared concerns about how redesigning this area may impact the atmosphere of the neighborhood. Chairman Syd Knight noted, “[this corner] is the lifeblood of Charlottesville … and anything we can do to reinforce that is going to be beneficial.”

Current business owners at the site said they chose the Random Row Warehouse area to begin their businesses because of the cultural amenities.

“I feel like my business is wedded to West Main Street … I love the feel,” said Cat Thrasher, owner of Cat Thrasher Photography, in an interview. “It’s very different from the Downtown Mall. It’s got a lot of soul.”

“I looked at this location as a great incubator for my business,” said Tara Koenig, owner of Sweethaus Cupcakes and Candy. “If I can stay in the West Main Street area, I know the [pedestrian activity] will be good for [Sweethaus].”

Continue reading "New hotel planned for corner at West Main & Ridge McIntire" »

February 26, 2012

Camp feels shortchanged by dam deal

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 26, 2012

A camp for special-needs children is bracing for the start of construction of the new Ragged Mountain dam. Camp leaders have long expected disruptions to camp programming and to their use of Reservoir Road.

However, years of negotiations with the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority have ended with the camp feeling short-changed and apprehensive about its future.

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Tina LaRoche, Executive Director, Camp Holiday Trails

Tina LaRoche has been the executive director at Camp Holiday Trails since 2004. She participated in the negotiations with the RWSA during 2009-2011 that sought to address the water authority’s land acquisition and easement needs for the new dam.

“We don’t feel like we have been fairly compensated because we will have to cancel a therapeutic riding program for a minimum of two summers,” LaRoche said. “There is no compensation for that. It’s up to us to figure out what to do and how to pay for that dramatic program change.”

“Then there are just the inconveniences of traveling a road with construction vehicles, and of working with the constant hum of construction,” LaRoche added. “There are also the unknowns — the impacts of dust and noise on our programming, on our kids.”

Camp Holiday Trails will receive a $35,300 payment from the RWSA for the purchase of about half an acre near the base of the new dam and a spillway drainage easement on another half-acre. The payment also covers the costs of legal fees and an appraisal.

Last October, initial proposals from camp officials to the RWSA included over $800,000 for new buildings and compensation. The camp’s meeting notes show the RWSA responded with shock. The RWSA reminded the nonprofit that the authority had the power of eminent domain and that it could not “overcompensate.”

The RWSA’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., was a participant in many of the meetings with the camp.

Continue reading "Camp feels shortchanged by dam deal" »

Parkway interchange awaits result of federal lawsuit

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 26, 2012

A project to build a grade-separated interchange where the U.S 250 bypass will meet the Meadow Creek Parkway cannot be advertised for construction bids until a federal lawsuit to prevent it is resolved.

However, work has still continued on the design for the interchange, which has been under development for over six years.

“We are finalizing design as we work through the right of way phase,” said Angela Tucker, the city’s development services manager.

One year has passed since the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park filed a lawsuit alleging that the Federal Highway Administration broke the law when it approved the interchange, which is now estimated to cost $33.5 million.

The suit was filed in February 2011 in the United States District Court for Western Virginia. The case is on Judge Norman K. Moon’s docket and a hearing will be scheduled this spring, according to a court clerk.

The Coalition claims that the FHWA violated Section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act, which prohibits the agency from approving highway projects that affect parkland if a viable alternative can be found.

Continue reading "Parkway interchange awaits result of federal lawsuit " »

February 24, 2012

Design work on U.S. 29 widening to start this summer

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, February 24, 2012

Engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation will begin design work this summer on a $32.5 million project to widen U.S. 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Town Center to six lanes.

“That project is in the [VDOT] six-year plan and funds become available on July 1,” said VDOT engineer Brent Sprinkel in a meeting Wednesday of the Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board.
 
Sprinkel said a tentative date for construction would be 2015 after all environmental reviews of the project are conducted.
 
“Until we finalize the scoping, it’s really hard to set [a construction] date,” Sprinkel said.
 
The project was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board last July at the same meeting in which $197.4 million in additional funds were allocated to the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.
 
Sprinkel’s comments came during a briefing on VDOT’s priority projects, which include the replacement of the Belmont Bridge in Charlottesville, which is scheduled to be advertised for construction in September 2013.
 

Continue reading "Design work on U.S. 29 widening to start this summer" »

February 23, 2012

MPO agrees to conduct traffic modeling for bypass extension, other projects

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 23, 2012

The local Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board agreed Wednesday to conduct traffic models on a series of hypothetical projects in order to determine if they should be included in the region’s long-range transportation plan, including a potential extension of the proposed Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

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MPO Policy Board

“We are simply starting the process of investigating concepts or ideas for eventual inclusion in the long-range transportation plan, and we’ll be going through a lengthy process of analysis,” said Stephen W. Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

By federal law, each MPO must adopt a long-range transportation plan that lists all desired projects. The next update of the plan must be approved by the middle of 2014.

“We need to go through a very rigorous process of identifying projects to be included in the [plan],” Williams said. “We need to look at projects that are going to improve our transportation system… and we ultimately need for the projects to be fiscally constrained, meaning we can’t plan for more projects then we can reasonably expect to afford in the 30-year time frame of the plan.”

Williams said he expected many of the projects would be eliminated, some would be modified and some may be added as a result of the public participation system.

Several members of the public spoke to express an opinion on the possible bypass extension.

“The current plan would bring it out where traffic traveling northbound would hit five traffic lights, one right after another,” said Forest Lakes South resident Steve James. “The extension would do away with that problem and make it a true bypass.”

“We are strongly opposed to extending the bypass since it’s such a poor, ill-founded road to begin with and extending it will only make it worse,” said George Larie, the president of the Charlottesville Albemarle Transportation Coalition.

Continue reading "MPO agrees to conduct traffic modeling for bypass extension, other projects" »

February 22, 2012

Council opposes grant application for new Belmont Bridge design

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 22, 2012

A divided Charlottesville City Council decided this week against applying for a National Endowment of the Arts grant to help produce a new design for the Belmont Bridge.

Belmont-bridge

A majority of councilors were concerned delaying the process would jeopardize over $6 million in VDOT funding that has so far been accumulated to replace the bridge

Organizers of the Project Gait-Way design contest failed to convince a majority of councilors to submit an application for a $150,000 “Our Town” grant to further develop new ideas for the Belmont Bridge project. The winning entry in the contest recommended eliminating the bridge altogether.

City Manager Maurice Jones said he did not recommend moving forward with the application because its full scope had not yet been thought out.

“How do you incorporate some of the ideas that came out of the design contest into a bridge design that will still meet VDOT’s requirements?” Jones asked. “The other discussion we need to have is whether it will be a bridge at all, based on the winning proposal.”

Several supporters of the project argued the grant would provide the vehicle for distilling the many ideas that came out of the contest.

“Unfortunately taking design competition ideas and fleshing them out is… the valley of death for a lot of good design ideas,” said Brevy Cannon, who ran for City Council last year.

Continue reading "Council opposes grant application for new Belmont Bridge design" »

Western Bypass extension among conceptual ideas to be considered

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A proposal to extend the planned Western Bypass of U.S. 29 further northward is among the potential concepts that will be presented this afternoon to the Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board for possible inclusion in the region’s long-range transportation plan.


“The bypass probably shouldn’t stop where it is and it should continue and so we should have a plan,” said Supervisor Rodney Thomas, one of Albemarle County’s two representatives on the MPO.

“We must get as much as we can get out of constructing the bypass,” Thomas said in a phone interview.

Members of the MPO have been asked in recent months to suggest projects that could alleviate traffic congestion by 2040, the target year for the current update of the long-range plan.

At today’s meeting, the MPO will be asked what projects to program into traffic model software to determine if they should be further considered while the plan is developed.

Continue reading "Western Bypass extension among conceptual ideas to be considered" »

February 21, 2012

Winning design for Belmont: No bridge, more connectivity for Belmont and Downtown Mall

DailyProgress

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Kate Martin, UVa Architecture graduate student, next to her team’s winning entry

Related Belmont Bridge stories:

UVa teams unveil Belmont Bridge concepts, 2/12/2012 by Sean Tubbs

UVa teams finalizing designs for new Belmont Bridge, 2/11/2012 by Courtney Beale & Sean Tubbs

UVa architecture school to spend next 10 days imagining a new Belmont Bridge, 2/1/2012 by Brian Wheeler

Belmont residents seek new design for city bridge, 1/30/2012 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge design coming into focus, 6/22/2011 by Sean Tubbs

City to pay $14K to fence off Belmont Bridge sidewalk, 4/13/2011 by Jason Ha & Sean Tubbs

JPA bridge replacement funded by money from Belmont Bridge project, 1/27/2011 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge replacement offers opportunities for cyclists, pedestrians, 12/1/2010 by Sean Tubbs

City adopts new strategy to accelerate Belmont Bridge project, 5/19/2010 by Sean Tubbs

MMM Design selected to oversee new Belmont Bridge design work, 4/8/2009 by Sean Tubbs

By Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The winning entry in the grassroots contest to design a new Belmont Bridge is a proposal that recommended eliminating the bridge altogether. Community members and exhibitors gathered together Sunday at CitySpace to learn the results of the Project Gait-Way design contest.

With over 120 ballots for 36 entries, the jurors and the public agreed that the UVa project, “Belmont Unabridged,” was the best idea for the city. The concept won first place in all four categories: Judges’ Best Bridge Design, Judges’ Best Urban Design, People’s Choice Best Bridge Design and People’s Choice Best Urban Design.

The winning team was made up of UVa students Kate Martin, Wyatt Hill, Nell Connors, Charlotte Miller, Jason Truesdale, Joanna McKnight, Madeleine Hawks, Kirsten Sparenborg, Chris Barker, Enrique Cavelier, Meghan Maupin, Rodrick Cruz, and Kelly Hitzing. The UVa faculty advisors for the team were Daniel Bluestone and W.G. Clark.

“We had doubts about going into a bridge competition without a bridge, but we did feel strongly that [our design] was the right answer,” said Martin, a second-year graduate student in architecture and member of the winning team, which received $1,300 in prize money.

The winning concept focused on better connecting the Downtown Mall with Belmont and would remove the existing bridge over the railroad tracks to create an at-grade crossing on Avon Street for vehicles. The Belmont Unabridged entry would also relocate the nTelos Wireless Pavilion and widen the underpass on Fourth Street Southeast to two lanes to accommodate more traffic.

“We decided to take the Downtown Mall and design it in such a way that it reached Belmont,” Martin said.

The winning designers said they were thinking about the needs of Charlottesville in the future.

“Designs like [Belmont Unabridged] are looking forward and saying, ‘What are the needs of the community going to be in the next 100 years? Will we [have] 150 coal cars coming by holding up traffic and do we need to accommodate that?’ Probably not,” said Brian Wimer, the Belmont filmmaker who created the contest.

The jury was made of local community stakeholders Peter Waldman, a professor of Architecture at UVa; Phoebe Crisman, associate professor of architecture at UVa; Greg Jackson, president of the Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association; Joe Atkins, architect and former Board of Architectural Review chair; Heather Higgins from Bike Charlottesville; Zack Worrell, co-founder of the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative; and Brian Wimer.

Continue reading "Winning design for Belmont: No bridge, more connectivity for Belmont and Downtown Mall" »