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February 19, 2012

Meet Your Government: Charles Werner

Charles Werner

Fire Chief, City of Charlottesville

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

In the Valley: Harrisonburg, VA.

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

1978 with employment to the City as the youngest firefighter (18) hired at the Charlottesville Fire Department.  I am currently in my 34th year at CFD and presently the member with the most seniority.   

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I live in the Saddlewood subdivision area of Albemarle County.

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

I have a fantastic and supportive family with my wife (Judy), daughter (Tyler) and son (Nicholas).  As for pets, I have two SPCA adopted mixed breed dogs.  Support the SPCA, it’s a great organization. 

What were you doing before coming to the fire department?

I was a volunteer firefighter (Harrisonburg Fire Company #1) and volunteer EMT (Harrisonburg Volunteer Rescue Squad) just out of Harrisonburg High School.  My first job just prior to coming to Charlottesville was working as an administrative assistance to the fire chief in Harrisonburg.

Your job title is the Charlottesville Fire Chief - what, in your own words, would you say you do?

My job is to identify opportunities and implement programs that will create a safer and better Charlottesville community through individual and organizational relationships/partnerships and in the most fiscally responsible way possible.

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Charles Werner" »

Contractors bidding on Western Bypass challenge VDOT with questions

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 19, 2012

An internal Virginia Department of Transportation document has revealed that the nine firms developing proposals to design and build the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County still have many unanswered questions about the project.

The document, which was obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow, is a response to 220 questions asked by firms seeking more details in order to craft their bids. For example, firms want additional traffic data, noise analyses and information on bridge designs.

VDOT is referring companies to a supplemental information package available on its website, but also issues a warning 15 times in the 33-page document.

“The Department does not represent or warrant that the information contained in the supplemental information package is reliable or accurate or suitable for designing this project,” reads the document.

Bypass critics claim the document raises more questions about the suitability of the whole project.

“Our viewpoint is that VDOT is giving short shrift to these many concerns from bidders and they’re not thinking through some key issues,” said Morgan Butler, of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Continue reading "Contractors bidding on Western Bypass challenge VDOT with questions" »

February 16, 2012

EcoMOD project expanding efforts to build energy efficient affordable housing

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, February 16, 2012

A University of Virginia architecture professor who specializes in modular housing briefed the James River Green Building Council Tuesday on his work to bring down the cost of constructing energy efficient homes.

“The people who are at the lower end of the income level are the ones who need the most help in reducing their energy inefficiency, and yet they are also the ones who can least afford the services,” said John Quale, director of the ecoMOD research project.

Since 2004, ecoMOD has partnered with affordable housing organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Piedmont Housing Alliance to show that environmental awareness in construction and renovation does not need to be limited to high-end remodels and expensive new developments. Quale said each experience has translated into new insights for both ecoMOD and its partners.

Their collaborations have resulted in the construction of a single-family home on Elliott Avenue, renovations to historic homes on Ridge and 5th streets and a two-unit condominium in Fifeville, as well as projects in Mississippi and Jamaica.

Continue reading "EcoMOD project expanding efforts to build energy efficient affordable housing" »

February 15, 2012

Albemarle officials take another look at adequacy of housing pipeline and demand

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

With Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville both working on updates to their comprehensive plans, new reports on the local housing market are informing discussions about housing choices and availability.


Area housing market analysis [pdf]
by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Local officials and environmental activists both say the reports raise important questions about the types of homes people want to buy, their preferred location in the community, and whether the county should adjust its growth area to accommodate more homes and jobs.

Tom Olivier is the chairman of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club.

“There are built-in conflicts between some of the things being proposed in [Albemarle relating to] economic vitality, namely the promotion of job growth, which, of course, usually ends up meaning promotion of population growth,” Olivier said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission. “Population growth is the great destroyer of open space resources.”

Albemarle County staff said Tuesday that the continued pace of new homes being built in the rural countryside was “the thorn in our flesh.”

“We have concluded there is a base demand for rural-area housing that we can’t really impact,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “It is too easy to live in the rural area and drive in to work.”

Albemarle County Planning Commissioner Don Franco called for a better understanding of how to direct more people to housing in the 5 percent of the county designated for growth.

“We want to make sure opportunities are there so we don’t put additional [development] pressure on the rural area,” Franco said.

Continue reading "Albemarle officials take another look at adequacy of housing pipeline and demand" »

February 14, 2012

City Planning Commission recommends approval for 300-unit apartment complex

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The developers of a 300-unit apartment complex to be built near the Barracks Road Shopping Center received the blessing of the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday.


A 3D visualization depicting the massing of the proposed 300-unit complex

“I’m very supportive of this project and housing 500 graduate students in this vicinity,” said Genevieve Keller, the commission’s chairwoman.

Peak Campus Development of Georgia is the developer of the complex, which will be located at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and Millmont Drive.

The complex will be built in two phases and will include a parking garage with 480 spaces for vehicles and secure storage for 86 bikes.

To make way for the project, several structures will be demolished, resulting in the displacement of the Jefferson Trail Behavioral System and a Region Ten office in the first phase.

Offices rented by the Virginia Department of Psychology will continue to be occupied until August 2014, at which time the project’s second phase will begin.

Continue reading "City Planning Commission recommends approval for 300-unit apartment complex" »

Area stakeholders preparing bypass comments

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Virginia Department of Transportation is seeking comments and suggestions from Albemarle County officials on an ongoing environmental review of the plans for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

“The purpose of the current studies is to address any changes to the project and any new information or circumstances relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed project and its impacts,” wrote VDOT project manager Chris Collins in a Jan. 27 letter to Ann H. Mallek, chairwoman of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.

The 6.2-mile long, four-lane highway was first planned in the 1980s as a way to bypass Albemarle County’s commercial development. However, the project lay dormant for many years in part because Albemarle supervisors were opposed.

The bypass was revived last June after supervisors reversed their decision and the Commonwealth Transportation Board allocated $197 million towards the project.

The Federal Highway Administration is requiring VDOT to conduct an “environmental assessment” of the project to make sure previous environmental approvals for the project are still valid.

The FHWA originally issued a “finding of no significant impact” in 1997, which was reconfirmed in 2003.

Since then, the Albemarle supervisors have made several land-use decisions that allow for more residential and commercial development, particularly around the northern terminus for the bypass.

These include Hollymead Town Center, the expansion of the University of Virginia Research Park and North Pointe, said Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development.

At a briefing on the topic earlier this month, Graham told supervisors that his staff would need until the end of the month to meet VDOT’s Feb. 29 deadline.

Continue reading "Area stakeholders preparing bypass comments" »

February 12, 2012

UVa teams unveil Belmont Bridge concepts

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, February 12, 2012 

More than 300 people packed into Charlottesville’s Music Resource Center on Saturday to review the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture’s conceptual plans for redeveloping the city’s Belmont Bridge.


Photo: Daily Progress

“The ideas are many and varied and the level of practicality varies from project to project, but I think that in almost every single one of them there is a nugget to pull out that can give us a principle of how to proceed,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin.

Twenty-nine teams consisting of both students and faculty have been working since the beginning of the month to redesign the bridge as part of a contest meant to reopen discussion of the bridge’s replacement.

“We have here [nearly] 30 ideas for the city to put in the back of their mind and let it roll around and say, ‘what are the next 100 years going to be?’” said Brian Wimer, a Belmont filmmaker who launched the contest.

More than 75 members of the public voted to choose a favorite, and the prize was awarded to an entry titled “Belmont Unabridged” that removed the bridge altogether.

“Our main issue with the current bridge is that, although you would believe it to be a connector between Belmont and the Downtown Mall, it really is a separation,” said Nell Connors, a member of the design team.

Continue reading "UVa teams unveil Belmont Bridge concepts" »

Meet Your Government: Ella Jordan

Ella Jordan

Clerk to the Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County

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

I was born in Charlottesville and grew up in Esmont, a small, tight-knit community in Southern Albemarle. 

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

I’ve always lived in this area.  One of the reasons I stayed in the area was because I knew that it was a good area to raise my children.  I also have a deep connection with my family, friends and church.  

What neighborhood do you live in now?

Fifeville (Orangedale).

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

My husband, Jay, is an Autobody Technician at Cville Auto Body; we have five children – Ian (24) in the Air Force, stationed in Montana; Zanathan (24), student at Liberty University; Kirstin (22) lives in New York, preparing for grad school; and twins, Jessica (19), student at University of Mary Washington, and Amanda (19), student at PVCC; and two grandchildren, Brooklynn and Joscelyn.

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Ella Jordan" »

February 11, 2012

UVa teams finalizing designs for new Belmont Bridge

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale & Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, February 11, 2012

The architecture studios in Campbell Hall at the University of Virginia are filled with new ideas for Charlottesville’s Belmont Bridge. Students and faculty are shaping cardboard, metal and plastic to create designs that look beyond mere replacement of the deteriorating structure.

“We can turn a neglected part of Charlottesville into a really vital part of the city,” said graduate student Sarah Cancienne.


This team stretched rubber bands across a wooden mock-up of Charlottesville to depict travelways

Twenty-nine teams from UVa are participating in Project Gait-Way, a grassroots design competition launched by Belmont filmmaker Brian Wimer out of dissatisfaction with plans under review by the city of Charlottesville.

“It’s about having a dream about where the city is going to be, and that’s what UVa is providing now,” Wimer told the City Council at its meeting earlier this week.

However, Wimer said entries are coming in from places other than UVa as well.

“I’m getting designs from San Francisco, Brooklyn and Scotland,” Wimer said. “There is an entire school system in Rocky Mount [where the] eighth grade is dedicated to fixing our bridge issue.”

Continue reading "UVa teams finalizing designs for new Belmont Bridge" »

February 09, 2012

Fifth and Avon Center moving forward

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs and Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, February 9, 2012

A proposed retail and commercial center that has been dormant since it was approved in early 2008 could soon be moving forward.

“The 5th and Avon retail center will spur economic development and create 1,200 to 1,500 jobs for residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and surrounding areas,” said Alan Taylor, vice president of River Bend Management in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

The land has remained undeveloped since the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning in March 2008. Nearly 87 acres of land was changed from light industrial to planned commercial zoning for the project.

Conceptual drawings submitted as part of the rezoning process depicted space for at least two large retail establishments.

“While we cannot discuss specific retailers at this time, we can say we expect to introduce exciting new retailers to the Charlottesville market,” Taylor said.

Continue reading "Fifth and Avon Center moving forward" »