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July 14, 2012

Air station at AHS monitors ozone levels in Albemarle County

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, July 14, 2012

On the grounds of Albemarle High School, a small metal structure sits sniffing the air for pollutants and recording what it finds. Installed in 2008, the Ambient Air Monitoring System has been measuring the amount of ozone and PM2.5, the term for fine solid and liquid particulates 2.5 micrometers and smaller, in Albemarle County.

20120703-MaxOzone-graph2008-2012YTD
Caption here

The levels of the pollutants are then sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to determine whether or not the air in Albemarle meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal standards.

Areas that fail to meet the standards are deemed “nonattainment” by the EPA and are required to then formulate a long-term strategy for reducing the amount of pollutants.

However, according to Carolyn Stevens, a DEQ environmental specialist, man-made and industrial pollutants are only one part of the pollution that contributes to nonattainment.

“People instantly think to curtail industry, and there are things we could do for industry, but there are other sources,” said Stevens, referring to strategies employed in nonattainment areas. “There are also environmental and meteorological issues.”

Ozone is a secondary pollutant, which means that it is created when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced and met with direct sunlight and high temperatures.

“[Nonattainment] is dependent on things we have no control over,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “The hotter, more humid it is, the more likely you are to have a nonattainment event.”

Continue reading "Air station at AHS monitors ozone levels in Albemarle County" »

July 12, 2012

Bypass opponents launch campaign to promote alternatives

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two organizations opposed to the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County have produced a three-minute video to encourage citizens to consider alternatives to the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway.

“We put this video together to highlight better approaches to solving traffic problems on U.S. 29,” said Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday. “The community itself has developed an approach that is far less damaging than the bypass; it’s more cost-effective, and it provides benefits that the bypass simply does not.”
 
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This conceptual image from the video depicts how a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 might look like. Click here to see the video. Credit: Southern Environmental Law Center
In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded a $136 million contract to design and build the bypass to a team consisting of Skanska-USA and Branch Highways. 
 
However, the Skanska-Branch team cannot begin work on the final design until after the Virginia Department of Transportation completes an environmental assessment. The last study, known as an environmental impact study, was concluded in 2003. 
 
The Federal Highway Administration is expected to determine in the fall if further scrutiny is required. The environmental groups hope the FHWA will make a decision that stops the bypass once again.
 
“If changes have been made to the proposed project — or new information has become available — since the original EIS that would lead to significant environmental impacts, a supplemental EIS may be warranted,” said Doug Hecox, a FHWA spokesman.
 
Butler said the community’s development of the Places29 Master Plan is one of those changed circumstances. In addition to other transportation improvements, the plan approved in 2011 eventually calls for grade-separated interchanges at Hydraulic Road and Rio Road, the extensions of Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar Drive and an additional off-ramp at the U.S. 29/250 Interchange. 
 

Continue reading "Bypass opponents launch campaign to promote alternatives" »

July 11, 2012

Stonefield’s grading and stormwater reviewed by Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Facing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the developers of Stonefield had simply hoped to get an extension on the deadline to plant vegetation. However, the mixed-use development got more scrutiny Wednesday on the water below ground level than the plants above.
 
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A view looking down at the 72 inch pipe at the center of the controversy. Credit: City of Charlottesville
The board took the opportunity to discuss the developer’s alleged violation of a Charlottesville-issued erosion and sedimentation permit. The county’s water protection ordinance requires developers to plant vegetation on graded property within a specific timeframe and Edens has been unable to meet deadlines because of various delays. 
 
“This project has already received an administrative extension which took them to July, so now they are requesting a board extension which would take them … until the end of October,” said county engineer Glenn Brooks. 
 
Brooks said vegetation cannot be planted until the land on the 65-acre site is in its final graded state. That will require a basin that is currently retaining stormwater to be filled in. 
 
Stonefield’s Trader Joe’s and Regal Cinema are well underway as the first buildings approved for a development with a footprint twice as large as Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.
 
Before development of the site, stormwater on the northern end of the property drained through a 42-inch pipeline underneath U.S. 29 into a drainage channel on property in the city owned by Seminole Square Shopping Center, the Pepsi-Cola bottling factory and the U.S. Post Office. 
 
As part of its post-development stormwater management plan, Edens has built a second 72-inch pipe to carry water that drains from 108 acres of land west of the Stonefield property, as well as excess stormwater for when the 42-inch pipe backs up during heavy rainfall. 
 
The city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service issued a violation notice to Edens on June 1 after the pipe was opened this spring. The city claims the pipe was to remain plugged until Edens made certain improvements to the drainage channel. Those improvements require permission from the owners of Seminole and the Pepsi facility. 
 

Continue reading " Stonefield’s grading and stormwater reviewed by Albemarle" »

July 10, 2012

Seminole property owners: Hillsdale Drive threatened by Stonefield stormwater

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

 
A lawyer representing the Seminole Square Shopping Center told the Charlottesville Planning Commission Tuesday that the construction of one of the region’s top transportation priorities may not proceed as planned if the stormwater management plan for the Shops at Stonefield are not amended.
 
20120710-hillsdale-flood A map projecting how the stormwwater basin would be flooded in the event of a 100-year storm. Credit: Great Eastern Management Company
“It is likely that Hillsdale Drive will not be built if this thing goes forth,” said Frederick W. Payne, representing the Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 
 
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend that City Council uphold a determination by city staff that the developer of Stonefield, Edens, violated the conditions of an erosion and sedimentation permit issued by the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service. 
 
The city claims that Edens prematurely opened a 72 inch pipe that carries an unnamed tributary of Meadow Creek underneath U.S. 29. That pipe is also designed to carry a portion of excess stormwater from the Stonefield site in the event of heavy rainfall. The rest would flow through an existing 42 inch pipe. 
 
Water from both would flow into an existing stormwater basin between Seminole Square and the U.S. Post Office that is designed to handle a 100-year storm but assumes no development at the 65-acre Stonefield site.
 
“If they had never put their water in here, we would never in any way be impacted to have the existing basin’s ability to handle a 100-year storm,” said David Mitchell, an engineer with Great Eastern. 
 

Continue reading "Seminole property owners: Hillsdale Drive threatened by Stonefield stormwater " »

Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The mood was celebratory as local officials gathered to witness the dedication ceremony for the newly improved Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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The facility treats wastewater for all of the city of Charlottesville and for Albemarle County’s urban areas, including Crozet. The event marked the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s completion of the first major improvement there since the mid 1980s.

“Today we’re celebrating the completion of the $48 million Capital Improvement Project that lives and breathes our environmental policy of cleaner rivers, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and a smaller carbon footprint,” said RWSA chairman Mike Gaffney at the beginning of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The project brought improvements to almost all of the existing facilities, including modernizing aeration systems to improve the wastewater processing efficiency, as well as adding covers to existing structures to minimize the plant’s odor. In addition to the refurbishments, the plant received several new structures and increased the plant’s peak flow capabilities to almost 38 million gallons a day.

The additions and refurbishments will have an overall positive impact on the environment, and will assist in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Key among the goals is the reduction of phosphorous and nitrogen, which contribute to algal blooms and can be disastrous to wildlife.

“A lot of times you hear that we have failed on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” said David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “We have already accomplished 60 percent of the nitrogen removal that is our goal and 70 percent of the phosphorous. We’ve made a lot of progress; we’ve got some more to do.”

Continue reading "Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends" »

Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The James River Green Building Council welcomed Ann B. Jurczyk, the Virginia outreach and advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to Charlottesville on Tuesday to speak about pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Ann B. Jurczyk, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Jurczyk described ways to help the area meet its goals to improve the health of the bay under what is known as Phase 2 of the Watershed Implementation Plan.

In December 2010, the EPA established a “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. Each state was assigned a Total Maximum Daily Load of pollutants that can be released into the bay.

In accordance with WIP Phase 2, localities within the bay watershed have submitted their plans for achieving pollution reductions. This will be done through reducing sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff in local streams and rivers.

“Collectively I think we’ve all got an opportunity to share in some of the [pollution] reductions,” Jurczyk said. “If we can clean up locally, eventually the bay will take care of itself but we have to start here, with what goes on in our backyard.”

Both the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have submitted their input for the WIP. Both localities will create an inventory of current best management practices and increase BMP installations. Charlottesville will also conduct stormwater retention retrofits on school and city property and educate the public on the importance of reducing pet waste, among other things.

The difference between WIP Phase 2 and plans of the past is that it establishes attainment checkpoints every two years. This will allow localities to track their pollution levels and make adjustments as needed.

Continue reading "Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts" »

July 09, 2012

Stonefield developer appeals city stormwater violations

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, July 9, 2012

One of the largest commercial developments ever built in Albemarle County appears to be in violation of a land disturbance permit issued by the city of Charlottesville
 
Stonefield is located in Albemarle County, but all of the rain that falls upon the 65-acre site drains downstream into Meadow Creek through the city of Charlottesville. 
 
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NDS staff took this picture that demonstrates their claim that Edens did not install riprap to the streambank. To the right of the fence is Great Eastern Management's property. Credit: City of Charlottesville.
State law required the developer, Edens, to obtain an erosion and sedimentation permit from the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Services in order to ensure massive amounts of stormwater do not damage the watershed following heavy rainfall. 
 
“We simply said when they construct the outfall … we want it to be done correctly so it doesn’t blow out Meadow Creek,” said NDS director Jim Tolbert
 
Before construction began, all rainwater from the site’s stream drained through a 42-inch pipe underneath U.S. 29
 
Part of Edens’ stormwater management plan is to build a second 72-inch pipe further north that leads into a drainage channel within city limits. The channel crosses properties owned by the U.S. Post Office, Pepsi and the Seminole Square Shopping Center
 
The approved plan called for Edens to place rocks known as “riprap” on both sides of the channel in protect the banks by slowing down the velocity of stormwater. 
 
The city claims the new pipe was to remain closed until that work was complete. 
 
Edens received permission from the U.S. Post Office to install riprap improvements on their property, but Tolbert said the company did not get approval from either Pepsi or Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 

Continue reading "Stonefield developer appeals city stormwater violations " »

July 07, 2012

Soundboard 7-6-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

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.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120706-Soundboard

The July 6 show features contributors Giles Morris, Ryan McCrimmon & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and  Brian Wheeler & Ian Lamb (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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July 06, 2012

Council seeks answers to job creation challenges

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, July 6, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council took up an important question at a work session on Thursday — what can local government do to encourage more employment to lift more people out of poverty?
 
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The Orange Dot project was named after the color code for regions of the city that have low median incomes. (Source: Orange Dot project)
“It requires a community to foster the infrastructure needed for job creation,” said Ridge Schuyler, the co-author of a 2011 study called the Orange Dot Project which reported that nearly one-third of Charlottesville households do not earn enough to make ends meet.
 
Charlottesville has an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, but City Manager Maurice Jones said the city is committed to address the chronically unemployed and underemployed.
 
“We believe that tonight’s work session is an important step forward as we continue to address concerns about the future of job creation,” Jones said.
 
“The whole council is concerned with this general area and we are hoping to come up with steps today to get more good-paying jobs,” Mayor Satyendra Huja said. “A good job is the best economic development opportunity there is.”
 
The council was briefed on the Orange Dot report, as well as another study from the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development that identified specific industries appropriate for Charlottesville.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120705-CC-Job-Creation

Continue reading "Council seeks answers to job creation challenges" »

July 03, 2012

Early bypass plans raise questions

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 is completed as early as July 2016, drivers heading north around Charlottesville will be welcomed by a new traffic signal.

After the intersection with Leonard Sandridge Road, drivers will have a 6.2-mile, signal-free journey before being deposited back on U.S. 29 near Hollymead Town Center in Albemarle’s northern growth area.

“According to the conceptual roadway plans, there will be traffic signals to control traffic flow at the termination of the ramps to and from the U.S. 250/U.S. 29 bypass,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District.

That came as a surprise to Jeff Werner with the Piedmont Environmental Council, a group opposed to the bypass.

“Previously, the bypass design had traffic at both termini flowing onto and off of 29,” Werner said. “Now, with stoplights at the south ... I’m curious how that will cut into that time savings.”

In May, VDOT officials opened up plans from seven different teams that responded to a request for proposals to both design and build the road.

The lowest-priced proposal was a $136 million bid from a team consisting of Skanska USA and Branch Highways. However, the state’s public procurement law prevented the public from initially being able to see the 323-page proposal until the Commonwealth Transportation Board officially awarded a contract on June 20.

Continue reading "Early bypass plans raise questions" »