Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.
Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.
Meet Your Government: Wayne Cilimberg Director of Planning, Albemarle County
Where were you born (and raised, if different?)
Born and raised in Richmond. I’ve lived in Virginia all my life.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
Moved from Culpeper in 1989, but I had actually been commuting from there since I started with the County Department of Planning and Community Development in 1986. Previously worked for the Rappahannock-Rapidan Planning District Commission in Culpeper.
Wife Lee, step daughter Jessie, step son Devin, sons Justin and Jared. We’re empty nesters now except for Tilly our 17 year old dog!
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
Graduated twice from “that other school”, Virginia Tech; BA Urban Affairs in 1976 and Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in 1981.
What were you doing before coming to the County?
Before government (and grad school) I worked for a Savings and Loan in Richmond for 3 years during the 70’s. I ended up managing a branch of Virginia First S&L with the bulk of my work being in mortgage lending. In the very conservative lending environment of those times, someone in the modern day mortgage lending business would probably consider what we did back then to be prehistoric!
“We think it’s very important as our city celebrates its 250th birthday to bring greater attention to our very special landmark trees,” said Elizabeth “Bitsy” Waters, a former mayor and chairwoman of the tree commission.
The nine-member tree commission was created in late 2010 to oversee management of the city’s urban forests.
“We’ve learned that we already do a lot to preserve and plant trees in Charlottesville, but there are many opportunities to do more,” Waters said. “We look forward to identifying places that will benefit most from having additional trees, including corridors and neighborhoods with limited tree canopy.”
By Brian Wheeler Charlottesville Tomorrow Thursday, April 26, 2012
The Tom Tom Founders Festival continued its series of weekly innovation talks Wednesday with a panel discussion examining Charlottesville-based entrepreneurs working in the field of sustainability and sustainable design.
“My interest was to bring a conversation around innovation to Charlottesville,” said Tom Tom co-founder Oliver Platts-Mills. “It is stylized after SXSW in Austin.”
Pam Haley, a former NASA engineer from the Tidewater area, said she came to the event because she has long been interested in innovation.
“I also came last week and was thrilled to see what’s going on in this community.,” said Haley. “This is why I left Tidewater.”
Haley, a nine-month resident of Charlottesville, added that before the Tom Tom festival, she had been reluctant to move her furniture into her new home.
“Last week was the first time I felt like I might be in the right place,” Haley said.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Opponents of the Meadow Creek Parkway had their day in federal court Wednesday to argue that the Federal Highway Administration unlawfully split the road into three segments in order to avoid full federal scrutiny of the project.
“What the FHWA has done here is exactly what they can’t do,” said James B. Dougherty, an attorney for the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park.
An artist's rendering of how the interchange would look facing south from above McIntire Park (Source: RK&K)
In October 2010, the FHWA issued a “finding of no significant impact,” allowing the Virginia Department of Transportation to build a grade-separated interchange to connect the U.S. 250 Bypass with the Meadow Creek Parkway, known in the city as McIntire Road Extended.
On Wednesday, Dougherty argued before Judge Norman K. Moon in U.S. Western District Court that the FHWA violated the National Environmental Protection Act by not conducting a full environmental impact statement that took into account all of McIntire Park.
Instead, the FHWA conducted a less-restrictive environmental assessment that only considered the section of the park affected by the interchange.
Sharon Vaughn-Fair, assistant chief counsel for the Federal Highway Administration, argued that the “FONSI” was issued because there was no other feasible alternative to the interchange. She said the structure was necessary to overcome operational deficiencies at the existing interchange in order to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Alternative G-1 is prudent and meets all the purposes and needs of the project,” Vaughn-Fair said. “We are not required to do an environmental impact statement.”
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The Albemarle Planning Commission has voted 4-2 to recommend zoning changes to facilitate the opening of more bed and breakfasts in the county’s rural areas.
Albemarle’s zoning code currently allows property owners to open up to five rooms to overnight visitors as a by-right use, but they must either live in the structure or hire an on-site manager.
“Someone has to reside within that building,” said Amelia McCulley, the county’s director of planning.
One of the changes recommended for approval is that the property owner or manager could live elsewhere on the property but must still be present.
Under current rules, rooms cannot be located in secondary structures on the property.
“Sometimes there are rooms spread through the property in convenient locations, such as old barns and apartments above garages,” McCulley said.
If the zoning code change is adopted by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, rooms could be opened on any structure that meets the building code for dwelling units.
“Any structure used as a guest use still requires all the building and safety approvals,” McCulley said. “Not every barn and accessory structure can be reasonably or feasibly converted into a guest room and any that are would have to meet regulations.”
By Brian Wheeler Charlottesville Tomorrow Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The future plans for treating public drinking water dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority. However, the plan to introduce chloramines as a new disinfectant wasn’t even on the board’s meeting agenda.
Chloramines disinfection equipment in Los Angeles, CA Photo used by permission of LEE & RO, Inc.
Download recent chloramine documentation shared with the RWSA Board of Directors
It was comments by two Charlottesville city councilors and two concerned citizens that sparked the board’s discussion of the chloramines project it approved in February. They secured a commitment to a June public information session to allow for more input before the chloramines project moves much further ahead.
The local chloramines debate has gotten the attention of activists in other parts of the country too, including the team working with Erin Brockovich, the woman who famously took on California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company for chromium contamination of groundwater.
Robert W. Bowcock, an environmental investigator with Integrated Resource Management who works with Brockovich, said chloramine is quickly becoming a national issue. That’s in part because of recent changes in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that the RWSA says require action before October 2014.
“It’s a national problem and we have been receiving concerns from many of the communities near clean-up sites around the country that Erin’s involved in,” Bowcock said in an interview. “Erin Brockovich and I are getting involved because these stage 2 EPA regulations are just hitting now.”
Starting in 2014, the RWSA intends to replace chlorine with chloramines as the second step in the water treatment process, a project with capital costs of $5 million. The water authority says it is being compelled by tougher EPA regulations, and that chloramines are the best bang for the treatment buck.
The water treatment plants in Crozet and Scottsville, however, are recommended to receive a carbon filtration system with continued use of chlorine.
Charlottesville residents Lorrie Delehanty and Dr. Julia Whiting found themselves on the front lines of the debate during Tuesday’s public comment period before the RWSA board.
Whiting, a physician in emergency medicine, said she was concerned about potential health consequences of using chloramines as an additional disinfectant.
“Chloramines are a well-known pulmonary, neurologic and [gastrointestinal] toxin,” Whiting said. “The chloramine byproducts are carcinogenic ... we don’t even know that much about these byproducts, but what we do know is that they are highly toxic.”
“It seems to have been rushed along without a lot of discussion by the public,” Delehanty said after the meeting. “We need to inform people because it’s an issue that will affect every one of us.”
“Public input on new impacts and changed circumstances are crucial to mitigating the impacts of the project,” said Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, chairman of the Jack Jouett Bypass Advisory Committee.
In a letter dated April 24 to bypass project manager Harold Jones, Rooker said the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway will be the largest transportation project in Albemarle County since Interstate 64 was built 40 years ago.
“We believe it is imperative that the public should be given an opportunity for real and significant input on this project,” Rooker said. “It has enormous environmental and construction-related impacts due to its location in the heart of the urban ring of Albemarle County.”
To comply with Federal Highway Administration regulations, VDOT is conducting an assessment to determine whether previous federal approvals of the bypass are still valid. VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said earlier this month that that process will consist of a citizen information meeting, but not a full public hearing at which comments would be entered into the public record.
By Sean Tubbs Charlottesville Tomorrow Tuesday, April 24, 2012
A project to realign the flow of a section of Charlottesville’s Meadow Creek is scheduled to begin later this spring after six years of planning.
“We’re on the cusp of making this a reality,” Brian Daly, the director of Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation Department, said at a public meeting on the subject Monday at Charlottesville High School.
Click to enlarge this map depicting the scope of the restoration project (Source: City of Charlottesville)
The Meadow Creek stream restoration project is funded by $3.95 million from the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. That organization is a joint project of the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In total, 9,000 linear feet of Meadow Creek’s stream bank will be restored between Hydraulic Road and Greenbrier Park, preserving 10 acres of wetlands.
Meadow Creek is a tributary of the Rivanna River, which is listed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as impaired because of excessive sedimentation.
The waterway’s watershed has been severely affected by the gradual conversion of agricultural land to commercial development as U.S. 29 was transformed over many decades. Rain that falls on the impervious parking lots means that stormwater runs rapidly into the watershed, carrying increased sediment with it.
“There’s been quite a bit of excess sediment, which causes problems for fish and any bottom-dwelling creatures which serve as the base of the food chain,” said Diane Frisbee of the Nature Conservancy. “The whole system is in a state of instability.”
Issues of connectivity in downtown Charlottesville remain a hot topic for planners and residents.
Following up on a grassroots design competition for the Belmont Bridge — which brought new ideas for connecting West Main Street, Belmont and the Downtown Mall to the surface — community members gathered recently to hear a panel discussion on the area’s future.
Belmont Bridge area in 2009 photo via Charlottesville's GISWEB
“A community is a place where you encounter differences, and the place tends to socialize you,” said Maurice Cox, former city mayor and University of Virginia professor. “Charlottesville is very fortunate to have a downtown, a former main street, that became an even stronger place for people to encounter each other — the Downtown Mall.”
City Councilor Kathy Galvin compared a healthy community to a healthy ecosystem.
“There’s an ecology of a place,” Galvin said at Tuesday’s discussion, held at The Bridge, Progressive Arts Initiative. “It’s predicated on diversity and I do think that’s something that echoes throughout human history, as well.”
Galvin said diversity and density have enhanced communities throughout history.
“Those cities, those societies, that wound up being innovators were also the most cosmopolitan,” Galvin said. “It’s almost like you need that collision of culture to give you a spark of innovation that gives you the promise of a different day, a different tomorrow.”
As part of the Architecture Week event, panelists and community members also discussed the places where the Downtown Mall has room to improve. Galvin pointed out that there is a disconnect between the people who live downtown and the people who work there.