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June 21, 2012

Western Bypass observers withholding judgment on designs

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Detailed plans for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 are now available to the public for the first time following the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s decision Wednesday to award a $135 million contract to design and build the four-lane highway in Albemarle County
Technical drawings and construction plans have been kept under wraps since it was announced in early May that the joint venture between Skanska-USA and Branch Highways had submitted the lowest qualified bid. 
Both supporters and opponents are reserving judgment over the plans, given their highly technical nature. 
“There are 323 pages of plans,” said Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker. “The engineering drawings provided are broken into small sections, which will make it very time consuming to digest.” 
“With over 300 pages of technical data released, there is a great deal to be learned from the design-build methodology,” said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum. “Such transparency, while preserving the integrity of the competitive bidding, should be applauded.”
Several people contacted Thursday for this story withheld comment due to the sheer amount of data to sift through. 

Continue reading "Western Bypass observers withholding judgment on designs" »

Green business competition winners announced

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21, 2012

A contest to encourage environmentally friendly and energy efficient practices at area businesses concluded Thursday as the winners of the Better Business Challenge were announced. 

“This is the culmination of a year-long effort to bring awareness to environmental stewardship,” said Teri Kent, manager of the Better Business Challenge. “We wanted to galvanize the business community.” 
In all, 106 area businesses and nonprofits entered the competition last June. Ten volunteer judges reviewed all of their efforts and handed out 14 awards on the event’s “green carpet” at the Paramount Theater
Kent said the challenge was an opportunity for participants to save money by integrating environmentally sustainable practices into their operations. 
The Blue Moon Diner won the “Restaurant Superstar” award for their efforts to increase recycling and composting. They also replaced their dishwasher sprayer with a more efficient model. 
“We have always welcomed input from our customers, but the Challenge has directed those suggestions in ways that have really helped inspire us to action,” said Laura Galgano, the diner’s owner. 

Continue reading "Green business competition winners announced" »

More than a hundred residents come to chloramines panel

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority held a symposium Thursday in an effort to address public concerns raised about the safety of chloramines that are proposed for use in the Charlottesville-Albemarle urban water system beginning in 2014.

Jerry Higgins, manager, Blacksburg Christiansburg VPI Water Authority -- More information on panel

An audience of over 100 came to the Albemarle County Office Building to listen to and ask questions of a panel of water treatment experts recruited by the RWSA and local water activists.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20120621-RWSA-chloramines-panel

Chloramines are in wide use in Virginia, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended by the World Health Organization for water treatment systems.

Mike Gaffney, the RWSA’s chair, began the evening by telling the audience that 70 percent of Virginians are drinking chloraminated water.

“Seventeen primary waterworks in Virginia today provide chloraminated water that directly serves 2.9 million people,” Gaffney said. “In addition…there are wholesale supplies to 64 additional water systems … Overall 5.7 million people in Virginia now use and drink chloraminated water.”

Lorrie Delehanty, a city resident and medical researcher who opposes chloramines, had lobbied to get two national experts who share her concerns on the panel.

“I’m glad they got our participants on there,” Delehanty said in an interview. “I am very happy that Bob Bowcock and Susan Pickford are on the panel. We had to push for that.”

Continue reading "More than a hundred residents come to chloramines panel" »

Your community, your voice - Fill out the TJPDC questionnaire


20120621-TJPDC-surveyAs Charlottesville Tomorrow reported in a story earlier this month, a survey is being circulated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission seeking feedback on community priorities. 

The survey is available at http://1-community.org (look for blue button top right) and responses are due by July 2.

It is now available as an interactive Adobe PDF which allows online submissions.

The city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are working in concert with TJPDC and the University of Virginia to coordinate updates of their comprehensive plans.  The TJPDC received a three-year $1 million federal grant in 2010 grant for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project.

June 20, 2012

Western Bypass contract awarded

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board has officially awarded a $135 million contract to the team of Skanska/Branch Highways to design and build the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County.

One of the design drawings released by VDOT for the first time on June 20.  This depicts the Southern terminus of the Western Bypass near Leonard Sandridge Rd and the current U.S. 29/250 bypass. CLICK TO ENLARGE

“The Skanska-Branch joint venture combines the skills, experience and capabilities of two companies with over 120 years of combined experience supporting the motoring public of Virginia,” said Stephen Davis, assistant secretary of Skanska USA, in a letter accompanying the team’s proposal.

The contract was awarded despite several efforts by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District CTB representative to convince his colleagues to stop or delay the project.

“You have all heard today about the very severe [transportation] problems and needs we have in the commonwealth,” said James Rich. “We can’t afford to look the taxpayers of Virginia in the face and throw money on a road to nowhere.”

Rich’s comments came after opponents of the road pleaded with the CTB not to award the contract. One concern is that the $244.5 million road would have a northern terminus that ends in the middle of Albemarle’s growth area.

Lynchburg’s representative on the CTB said it was time to move forward with the contract.

“This is the plan, this is as good as we got, [and] this is as good as it’s going to get,” said Mark Peake. “This is far from being a road to nowhere. This is a road from North Carolina to Washington, D.C.”

Peake said the bypass would improve U.S. 29 as a corridor of statewide significance, allowing for economic development opportunities throughout southern Virginia. He said it was time for state interests to prevail over local opposition.

Continue reading "Western Bypass contract awarded" »

VDOT shares preliminary design for ‘Best Buy Ramp’ project

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

VDOT hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to share the preliminary design of changes being proposed around the interchange of U.S. 250 and 29. The $7.5 million project, also known as the “Best Buy Ramp,” is being designed by engineering firm RK&K.

20120620-Kressin-WhaleyLori Kressin & Diane Whaley speak to VDOT officials

The project includes an additional southbound lane on U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, an extra lane on the interchange ramp at Best Buy and an added acceleration lane on the 250 Bypass from the interchange to the Barracks Road exit.

Michael Jacobs, the VDOT project manager, encouraged the public to provide input on the plans.

“We are just now beginning the final design and there will be an additional public hearing with a lot more detailed information in the fall,” Jacobs said. “We want the public to give us their comments now; we will try to take those into account, and then we’ll come back in the fall when the plans are further developed.”

At the information session, residents were able to walk through VDOT project boards and ask questions. They were shown the first details of the lane configurations and the multiple retaining walls that will be built between the expanded highway and nearby residents.

“The biggest retaining wall that you will see will be along the 250 Bypass,” Jacobs said. “It will be between five, 10 maybe even 15 feet tall in some areas.”

Continue reading "VDOT shares preliminary design for ‘Best Buy Ramp’ project" »

Decision on new soccer fields deferred

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Albemarle Planning Commission said at its meeting Tuesday that it needs more information before it can make a decision on a special-use permit that would allow four new soccer fields and a parking area off Polo Grounds Road.

The Monticello United Soccer Club requested a deferral on its application after a lengthy public hearing.

Pat Reilly, president of the Monticello United Soccer Club

The club has worked out a lease with the owners of an almost 80-acre parcel between U.S. 29 and the entrance to the Montgomery Ridge neighborhood. Farther down Polo Grounds Road is the Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle’s South Fork Soccer Complex.

“We are trying to put four soccer fields on this property,” said Dan Ivory, a MONU board member and director of coaching. “We simply want to grow grass, put up some soccer goals and let kids play.”

“Local residents will be able to use the property,” Ivory added. “We are not opposed to allowing others to use the fields when MONU doesn’t have events taking place.”

Seventeen residents spoke at the commission’s public hearing, with only a handful offering support for the project. Some neighbors of the proposal’s site said they were concerned about the project bringing more traffic and about the location on a flood plain in Albemarle’s designated rural area.

Joseph Kulbok is president of the Montgomery Ridge neighborhood association.

“Montgomery Ridge has about 60 families and we have large houses and a lot of children — a lot of soccer players — and we support soccer,” Kulbok said. “However, the No. 1 problem is traffic, and people are very concerned about it. To put additional facilities there without changes to the road will cause gridlock.”

Continue reading "Decision on new soccer fields deferred" »

June 19, 2012

Council denies rezoning in Fry’s Spring area

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Charlottesville’s City Council voted Monday to deny a rezoning that would have allowed a developer to build seven single-family homes at the end of Eton Road, a cul-de-sac in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood.
Without the rezoning, Alex Hancock will only be able to build two or three homes on the 2.5-acre property, according to city planner Brian Haluska. The “planned unit development” Hancock sought would have allowed for more homes to be built closer together.
Denials of rezonings are relatively rare in Charlottesville.
“Typically, applicants will defer or withdraw their applications prior to things getting this far because of the one-year waiting period on re-applying once you receive a denial,” Haluska said.
However, Hancock has already asked for a deferral once before, when it appeared that the Planning Commission was ready to deny the project in October 2010.
When he reappeared before commissioners in May, nine members of the public spoke out against the project. They cited concerns about the loss of woods, additional traffic and a development that was out of character with existing homes.
The Planning Commission recommended 6-0 to deny the rezoning because it did not meet PUD standards. The City Council followed suit.
Phone calls to Hancock were not returned.

Continue reading "Council denies rezoning in Fry’s Spring area" »

Albemarle seeks to give design advice earlier in development process and calls for reconsideration of relegated parking

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board passed a resolution Monday supporting the addition of an ARB representative to the county’s site review committee in an effort to streamline the development review process.

Charles Lebo & Fred Missel, Albemarle Architectural Review Board

The committee, which contains a representative to assess each aspect of a development project, such as transportation issues, fire and rescue considerations, and engineering, is intended to prepare a development request for review by staff, the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.

For plans requiring ARB review, applicants could take advantage of a “pre-application” phase where basic site plan information, including building location and size, would be given to the committee for review. This initial evaluation of plans would serve to identify areas of applicants’ proposals that may need adjustment.

“The pre-application submittal would allow someone to submit some basic information and staff would then have 10 days to review it and provide a response,” said Bill Fritz, Albemarle’s chief of special projects. “What [the committee] would be doing is identifying major issues at that point.”

Although a representative of the ARB would sit on the committee and review the pre-applications, all comments made would be considered recommendations. Only plan changes supported by specific ordinances would be compulsory.

Continue reading "Albemarle seeks to give design advice earlier in development process and calls for reconsideration of relegated parking" »

June 18, 2012

Activists warn of health risks and environmental danger from chloramines

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 18, 2012

Local activists opposed to the use of chloramines in the Charlottesville-Albemarle County urban water supply held a “teach-in” Monday to share their concerns about risks to public health and safety. Organizers said they wanted to give the public a comprehensive look at the $5 million water treatment method being recommended by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority.

“This is the first opportunity for concerned citizens to learn about the upsides and the risks the addition of chloramines would pose to the regional water supply,” said city resident and medical researcher Lorrie Delehanty.

Lorrie Delehanty, speaking at chloramines information forum hosted by Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle

Download recent chloramine documentation
shared with the RWSA Board of Directors


March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project


July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer


EPA background information on chloramines


RWSA's drinking water
Frequently Asked Questions website

Monday’s forum was sponsored by Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle, a grassroots group affiliated with the global Transition Initiative, which seeks to work “toward sustainable local systems of food, goods, energy, communication and culture.” About 25 people came to the meeting at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library on Market Street.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120618-Chloramines-TeachIn

Delehanty was invited to share her research and a presentation from the Chloramines Information Center. She told the audience that the health risks of chloramines are significant.

“Short-term health effects include persistent skin rashes from shower water,” Delehanty said. “There can also be asthma-like symptoms as the chloramine heats up in a hot shower.”

Delehanty was asked what would happen if a home fish pond was filled from a hose.

“All your fish will die,” Delehanty responded. “If a [water] line breaks, it ends up killing everything downstream.”

Meanwhile, the RWSA insists chloramines are a safe and cost-effective way to meet new standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is requiring further limits on the level of disinfectant byproducts in drinking water which can react with organic material found naturally in water and pose health risks.

Chloramines are created by combining chlorine and ammonia, as a secondary disinfectant after first using chlorine, and are intended to prevent pathogens from growing within the water distribution system.

Although chloramines are in wide use in Virginia, approved by the EPA and recommended by the World Health Organization, activists Monday called for more scientific study.  

Dr. Julia Whiting, a city resident and emergency medicine physician on the panel, said this community needs to learn from Washington D.C.’s mistakes with lead poisoning caused by chloramines.

“Chloramines cause pipe corrosion and that led to the lead in the water,” Whiting said. “Whether you have old plumbing or new, it’s going to be a problem.”

Continue reading "Activists warn of health risks and environmental danger from chloramines" »