WELCOME

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

    The articles on this blog were published during 2005-2012. All of this content has been moved to our new website at www.cvilletomorrow.org
    © 2005-12 Charlottesville Tomorrow
    Our photos have some rights reserved.

Categories

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" »

May 09, 2012

Piney Mountain neighbors seek changes to church project

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Greg Quinn, a self-described constitutional conservative, found himself in a “conundrum” before the Albemarle County Planning Commission this week. His mission: Seek local government’s help intervening in a neighbor’s building plans.

20120508-NewHopeThe backyard neighbor? A non-denominational Christian church seeking to build a 400-seat sanctuary, and a less than regulation size soccer field, on 21 wooded acres in the county’s rural area off Dickerson Road. The congregation currently holds services at Sutherland Middle School.

In recent years, Quinn has been a critic of the county’s sustainability initiatives and programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions. He lobbied successfully, with the local Tea Party, to get the county to withdraw its membership in ICLEI, citing inappropriate intervention by the United Nations and the federal government in local policy.

“My land is mine, it’s deeded in my name, and until Albemarle County or the rest of the community owns it, it’s my business what I do with my land,” Quinn told the Albemarle supervisors in February 2011. “I’m getting sick and tired of being told what to do, especially by the international community.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Quinn told the commission he was a strong proponent of private property rights, but he thought the plan could be improved.

“I am not opposed to a church, but what I am opposed to is the impact to Piney Mountain and the close proximity to the road,” Quinn said. “We’ve got bird watchers and Tea Partiers on the same mountain, and we all get along very well.”

Continue reading "Piney Mountain neighbors seek changes to church project" »

August 10, 2011

Green builders encourage local action on major environmental challenges

DailyProgress

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

00:06:31 -- Amanda Burbage,  Staff Planner, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
Download Presentation

00:22:31 -- Andy Lowe, Albemarle County’s Environmental Compliance Manager

00:45:00 -- Cynthia Adams, Director of the Local Energy Alliance Program
DownloadPresentation

01:02:15 -- Ann Jurczyk, Virginia Outreach and Advocacy Manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
DownloadPresentation

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The James River Green Building Council is thinking globally and acting locally. It held its first annual “state of the world” luncheon Tuesday with a focus on environmental initiatives in the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area. 

Four speakers made presentations about local planning, energy conservation and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. These experts said a variety of local initiatives were aimed at addressing major environmental challenges facing the community, the region, and the planet.

“It’s important to know where we are, in order to plan for where we are going,” said Ben Hicks, co-chair of JRGBC’s program committee. “Part of the mission of the JRGBC is to promote and inspire the transformation to a sustainable built environment.”


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110809-JRGBC-luncheon

The council’s monthly luncheons attract building owners, building professionals and product manufacturers representing a variety of specialties.

“It’s important for these folks to get a big picture every once in a while,” Hicks added. “A lot of these folks in their offices are working on one particular thing, and to see everything come together and understand where the community is now, we can know how to improve it.”

Amanda Burbage, a staff planner at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, shared an overview of the Livable Communities Project. Last year, the TJPDC received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in part to help Charlottesville and Albemarle County update their comprehensive plans.


Burbage said one of the key grant products, a performance measurement system, was under development and still receiving public feedback. She said it will allow the community to benchmark its performance on 67 different indicators.

“This system was actually developed by a group of graduate students from the University of Virginia in the Urban and Environmental Planning Program,” Burbage said. “They did research on other communities that are tracking sustainability and looked at the things communities evaluate.”

Burbage said six system areas were identified: natural resources; housing; transportation; neighborhoods; economy; and infrastructure. Indicators and metrics were identified within each area.

“Every single indicator is linked to goals that are in both the city and county comprehensive plans,” Burbage added.

Andy Lowe, Albemarle’s environmental compliance manager, described efforts by local government to manage energy usage.  He said the short-term goal was to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent from a 2005 baseline by next year.

“To date, with our July [2011] bills, our overall reduction is 23.5 percent,” Lowe said. “The combined electrical usage for our three main facilities…[saw] about a 1 million kilowatt reduction, thus avoiding costs of about $75,000, so the results are definitely coming.”

Lowe acknowledged that the city and county government operations produced a mere 4 percent of local greenhouse gas emissions.  Overall community emissions have been targeted by both the Albemarle Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council to be reduced by 80% by the year 2050 to mitigate human impacts on global warming.

The Local Energy Alliance Program is a nonprofit organization working to retrofit residential and commercial buildings with energy efficient technologies.

“Buildings account for 54 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from our local community,” said LEAP director Cynthia Adams.  “If you are looking at this from a climate lens, that’s the important take away with respect to energy efficiency.”

“Thus far we have over 300 homeowners that have signed up to participate in our program, 255 of which have either completed their retrofit or are in process,” Adams said.

Ann Jurczyk, an advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, told the audience that the Chesapeake Bay’s health was improving slightly, but that it still didn’t have a passing grade.

“Agriculture has done a pretty good job of reducing nitrogen and phosphorous,” said Jurczyk. “Where we’ve got a serious problem still is in storm water. …With a low impact design, everything that you do on the land ultimately can have a positive impact on the bay.”

June 08, 2011

Hundreds show up for debate on planning grant

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The public and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors debated Wednesday whether a $1 million federal grant is a golden opportunity for cooperative planning or a Trojan Horse threatening individual liberties and private property rights.

20110608-public-hearing1 A spirited crowd of more than 300 packed Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building to discuss the Livable Communities Planning Project and the county’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. More than 85 people signed up to speak during the lengthy public hearing.

The three-year U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, already awarded to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, is intended to help coordinate a joint review of Albemarle and Charlottesville’s comprehensive and transportation plans. Albemarle staff recommended Wednesday that the board endorse the project.

In addition to questioning the grant, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd sought on two occasions earlier this year to end Albemarle’s membership in Local Governments for Sustainability.

“If someone had told me we were going to become the stewards of the community and tell them what to do and regulate what they do … I wouldn’t have signed off on that,” Boyd said during the staff presentation early in the evening.

Albemarle staff responded that the $1,200 annual fee to ICLEI provides them access to software to baseline and measure the community’s carbon footprint.

20110608-public-hearing2“I believe this whole discussion has slid into whether you are for or against sustainability,” said Boyd, reflecting on a significant lobbying effort taking place in the community. “I don’t think that’s what the discussion is — the question is who do we take our direction from, this board or some national or international group?”

“I think your presumption about someone outside directing anything is ridiculous,” responded Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Nelson County resident Albert C. Weed, a two-time local candidate for the U.S. Congress, told the supervisors they should not respond to “scare mongering.”

“America’s response to climate change has been stymied at the national level by what amounts to a tribalistic fear of science,” Weed said. “What matters to our future, then, is what we do at the local level. ... If this county pulls back from existing voluntary cooperative efforts, the message it sends will be clear … we can be stampeded by the criminally ignorant for short-term political gain.”

Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, said no recommendations from the grant would be binding and that only the board could decide what would be implemented. In addition, he said the grant would provide funding for the county’s effort to improve the Comprehensive Plan.

“State code requires us to review the plan every five years and to have a Comprehensive Plan,” Graham said. “Incremental updates over last 15 years have caused the document to be long and difficult for the public to use.”

20110608-public-hearing3 Opponents of the grant and ICLEI, who appeared to be a much smaller crowd in the audience, held signs that read “We the people; Sustain liberty.” Supporters of the initiatives held up signs that read “Use common sense; Use good tools” and “A voice for common sense.”

Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, has called for the community to withdraw from the grant. Tea Party members have argued that the grant is a “federal intrusion” into local affairs and a United Nations-linked effort aimed at behavioral change and social justice goals.

County resident and Tea Party member Chris Winter arrived early and was the first to speak at the public hearing.

“I am here because I am concerned about the relationship between ICLEI and the United Nations … and some of the positions taken by some of these board members,” said Winter in an interview. “I don’t want ICLEI in Charlottesville — if people in community want to protect our natural resources, we can do it without the help of the UN.”

Tea Party members also pointed out that the grant is expected to make recommendations on how to implement the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords. Tea Party member Charles Battig has argued that the accords, and the grant agreement, come straight from the U.N.’s “sustainability playbook.” He has told the board it poses a threat to individual decision making on such issues as population, transportation, housing and use of natural resources.

Lonnie Murray attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee.

“We support … these endeavors, primarily for the local benefits in terms of protecting our collective quality of life, enhancing our natural resources, and creating jobs here in Albemarle County,” said Murray in a statement provided to the board. “Developing better designed communities reduces the amount of expensive infrastructure and valuable resources we need in the future, saving money and promoting efficiency.”

Supervisor Boyd said that he thought most everyone in the room would agree that the local environment should be protected. Murray said that sustainability also contributed to local prosperity.

“Sustainability is inherently a good thing,” said Murray. “[It] suggests a vision whereby economic prosperity occurs in an ecologically smart and socially just way, protecting our natural resources for future generations.”

Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he had been involved for two years in the Local Climate Action Planning Process. He suggested one possible compromise.

“We have maintained that efficiency and conservation are values held clearly in all of private enterprise,” Hulbert said. “I don’t know if ICLEI is driving that, and I don’t care, nor does the Chamber.”

“We do care about consolidated planning … so I would suggest that you sign that [grant] agreement,” Hulbert added. “The ICLEI [membership] may be too polarizing.”

After more than 40 speakers, supporters of the grant outnumbered opponents by almost a 2 to 1 margin. The public hearing continued until after press time.

See the Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow websites on Thursday for complete coverage of the meeting and the board’s deliberations.

June 02, 2011

Local activists call for public action on environmental and sustainability initiatives

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 2, 2011

When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors hold a highly anticipated work session next Wednesday evening on local planning initiatives, two interest groups are hoping to sway the board by showing that public opinion is on their side. 

The Jefferson Area Tea Party has been beating a steady drum of opposition to what it describes as a United Nations-linked effort to infiltrate local government and erode individual liberties and private property rights.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is seeking public support for environmental stewardship and long-range regional planning efforts. Specifically, the alliance wants the community to sign on to a three-year federal grant allowing joint planning with the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.

Listen using player above or download the podcast of the Tea Party press conference: Download 20110602-JATP-sustainability

Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, said at a press conference Thursday that she supports “a reasonable, responsible, common goal of environmental standards designed to maintain healthy and adequate resources.” Thorpe said that was how she interpreted the term “sustainability.”

“When Sustainability is spelled with a capital ‘S,’ I interpret the definition as a radical political agenda that strives to impose big government-style central planning under the guise of well-intentioned environmentalism,” Thorpe said.  “It hijacks the commonly known meaning of ‘sustainability’…and twists it as a deceptive means to an end.”

The Tea Party is calling for Albemarle and Charlottesville to reject a $1 million federal grant for the Livable Communities Planning Project, an effort being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The three-year project would contribute to updates of the city and county comprehensive and transportation plans and make recommendations on how to implement the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords.

The Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance was organized over the past several months in response to activities, initially of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance, then later of the Tea Party. It’s organizers say it is a “non-partisan group of citizens dedicated to preserving and improving our quality of life in Albemarle County.”

Former Supervisor Sally Thomas is the group’s honorary chairwoman.  Thomas said in an interview she was a contributor to the 1998 Sustainability Accords and was involved as a citizen in the original formation of the TJPDC in 1972.

“I and others are concerned that decisions to be made on June 8 may take the county in a new direction, one that ought to get a lot of citizen input before being taken,” said Thomas.

“I was involved in writing the sustainability goals and objectives, and winnowing them down to the Sustainability Accords,” said Thomas.  “That’s a home-grown effort that I hope people will recognize set the county in a direction that we are proud of. Protecting the community’s natural resources is not a minority opinion, it has had a local and long history here.” 

Thorpe says the Tea Party wants its 100 to 125 active members, and other like-minded citizens, to join together and call for the Albemarle supervisors to address the community’s planning needs through local resources and decision-making. 

Thorpe called Thursday for the board to drop its membership in ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability and to repeal its December 2007 decision committing Albemarle to a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. 

“Sustainability has had much of its ‘science’ debunked as elaborate fraud,” Thorpe said.  “Despite all of this, brazen practitioners of this radical agenda continue to promulgate alarmist warnings crafted to whip up the irrational fear that our planet is on the brink of destruction.”

Albemarle staff says the ICLEI membership of $1,200 annually provides them access to software to baseline and measure the community’s carbon footprint. Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has been unsuccessful in two attempts this year to have the membership eliminated from the county’s budget.

Thomas says the Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is still getting organized and recruiting board members.  Current board members include Waldo Jaquith, Graham Paige and John Dean. 

Thomas was asked what she hoped the public would say at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I would hope people would speak in support of the TJPDC, sustainability and planning with the university and city,” said Thomas. 

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said in an interview Thursday that she was expecting a big turnout for the board’s Wednesday work session. The meeting will be held in the County Office Building at 6 p.m.

“A huge majority of the email we have received has been in favor of completing the activities we have been doing to preserve the quality of life,” said Mallek, a supporter of the ICLEI membership, energy efficiency efforts and the livability project.  “Everyone has been very supportive of the three components.”

“Citizens will probably have at the most two minutes for comment,” added Mallek.  “We want to try and encourage a good interchange between the public and the board.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:03 -- Carole Thorpe, Chair, Jefferson Area Tea Party
  • 14:20 -- John Munchmeyer, President, Jefferson Area Libertarians
  • 18:00 -- Codie Peters, President, Albemarle-Charlottesville Republican Women’s League
  • 20:42 -- Charles Battig, Jefferson Area Tea Party

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:

May 05, 2011

Boyd seeks end to Albemarle’s ‘Cool Counties’ initiative and questions joint planning project

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 5, 2011

A member of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has called for the county to rescind its membership in a U.N.-backed global organization that advises cities and counties on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are being infiltrated in local government by an agenda that is set by this international organization,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “I think it is time that we as a government took back that control.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110504-ICLEI

Boyd made a motion Wednesday for the county to cut ties with a group formerly known as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI. Over 1,220 local governments have joined the group, including the city of Charlottesville, which in 2003 changed its name to ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

Albemarle joined the organization shortly after adopting the Cool Counties initiative in December 2007. That action set a non-binding goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. ICLEI provides its members with software that compiles data so progress towards the goals can be tracked.

Boyd’s motion called for the county to end its participation in the initiative, which has also been adopted by Arlington and Fairfax counties.

“Cool Counties is the real problem here,” Boyd said. “It’s now becoming evident that this initiative was just an extension of the United Nations initiative Agenda 21 which is administered by [ICLEI].”

The motion was seconded by Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas, but Supervisor Dennis Rooker said the initiative was a voluntary effort by the county to encourage the community to reduce carbon emissions.

“In my mind, that’s a good thing,” Rooker said. “This whole thing about international control and one government is in my mind completely ridiculous.”

Rooker pointed out that he has never received a phone call or a letter from anyone from ICLEI lobbying for a particular vote.

Boyd responded by saying ICLEI representatives have been present at conferences attended by staff.

20110504-boyd
Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd

“My concern now is that this is the camel’s nose under the tent,” Boyd said. “It’s even beyond that. I think it’s now a cancer that is infiltrating our local government here.”

At a budget work session in March, Boyd sought to eliminate the $1,200 line item representing the annual cost of the ICLEI membership.  As the only supervisor who was strongly opposed at the time, the funding was ultimately retained in the FY 2012 budget.

Gil Meneses, communications director for ICLEI’s United States branch, said his group does not lobby any of its members.

“We support their local initiatives to become more energy efficient, which saves local governments energy costs and money,” Meneses said in an email.

Meneses added that ICLEI has nothing to do with the Cool Counties initiatives, though many of its members have signed on.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said the county’s efforts to promote sustainable development date back before the signing of Agenda 21.

“Albemarle County has been planning for fiscally and environmentally responsible ways to manage its growth [in] its comprehensive plans as far back as the 1970s,” Butler said. He pointed to the decision to set aside designated growth areas as well as the downzoning of rural land to discourage development.

Boyd withdrew his motion after Rooker asked for it to be placed on a future agenda so staff could answer questions about whether they’ve been influenced by ICLEI.  County Executive Thomas Foley said a work session would be scheduled for June.

Boyd also asked that the board spend time at the work session to discuss the role being played by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission in the ongoing review of the county’s update of its comprehensive plan. The TJPDC received a $999,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of its “Sustainable Communities” initiative.

“If staff wants to bring things to us that they think are wrong or legal changes that need to be made, that’s fine,” Boyd said. “But any other changes we make to our comprehensive plan should come from this board, and not from the TJPDC.”

At recent meetings, the board has received regular criticism of the ICLEI membership from Jefferson Area Tea Party member Charles Battig.  Battig also has called on the public to question the role of TJPDC in the county’s planning efforts.  

“This unelected organization has stated its intention to apply its own version of sustainability benchmarks against all activities of the public, and have its vision of citizen behavioral change and social justice objectives codified in the County Comprehensive Plan,” Battig wrote in a statement provided to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“We have nothing to do with ICLEI or Cool Counties,” said Steven Williams, the executive director of the TJPDC. “I don’t even know where the idea came from that we were related to them.”

Williams said Albemarle taxpayers would benefit from the county’s participation in the grant.

“This grant is bringing resources to Albemarle County for their comprehensive plan update that would not have been available otherwise, at no cost to the county,” Williams said. “They’re getting $122,000 in staff work without spending a dime.”

Williams added that the Board of Supervisors has the ultimate authority to approve the comprehensive plan.

 

March 29, 2011

City and county planning commission talk coordination, sustainability

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 28, 2011

Work has begun on implementing a $999,000 “sustainable communities” grant awarded last year to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions gave input on the grant at a joint work session on Tuesday, March 22.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110322-Joint-PC-meeting

20110322-cpc-apc
The two commissions met in CitySpace on March 22, 2011

Part of the grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow the city and county to hire additional staff to help rewrite their comprehensive plans. The plans help guide land use and zoning decisions.

“We’re both working on our comprehensive plans at relatively the same time, and the opportunity to receive this grant to assist us in that process is truly amazing and will allow us to do some things  we haven’t been able to do in the past,’ said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.

“The main benefit that we see for this project is that Charlottesville and Albemarle County are going to receive some really great resources and information into their comprehensive planning processes,” said Stephen Williams, the director of the TJPDC.

During the same time, the TJPDC will begin developing an update of its long-range transportation plan.

“This is going to be almost a complete re-write of the long-range transportation plan from beginning to end,” Williams said. “We have a great deal of data coming out of the census and another data set called the National Household Transportation Survey.”

He said it would take about three and a half years to complete the rewrite. The last one was adopted in May 2009.

Summer Frederick, TJPDC’s project manager for the grant, said it will help coordinate all three processes, which are independent of each other.

“Ultimately it’s up to each of the separate organizations to adopt the updates,” Frederick said. “It is by no means moving to one plan that will be shared by all.”

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said the county’s comprehensive plan review will be informed by the Board of Supervisor’s desire to increase economic development. The county will spend $25,000 next fiscal year on a study to identify which businesses and industries that it should try to attract.

“That will be informing some of the land use decisions we need to make,” Benish said.

Albemarle Planning Commissioner Tom Loach asked whether staff could handle the additional workload. Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the TJPDC grant would allow him to augment his staff to conduct the mandated review.

“This hasn’t made work for us,” Cilimberg said. “This is work we already anticipated.”

The University of Virginia says it will play an important role in the process.

“We view ourselves as collaborators in the sense that we’re technically either in the city or the county by boundary condition,” said David Neuman, the architect of the University of Virginia. “The fact is we have buildings and programs that are in both, like the law school.”

City Planning Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she wanted the joint review to address the edges between city, county and UVA.

“We [will be looking] at areas of pretty dramatic change over the next few months, most likely at Martha Jefferson as it moves up to Pantops,” Keller said. “I see those all of those edges as areas where we would want to focus some redevelopment.”

Albemarle Commissioner Cal Morris agreed.

“It’s a wonderful crossover, and we see that we have to start tearing down these artificial and real boundaries,” Morris said. “It just doesn’t work anymore.”

Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson said he welcomed the opportunity to work with his counterparts in Albemarle.

“What [is] exciting to me is the idea… of erasing the line that is currently the boundary of the city of Charlottesville and seeing this process as an opportunity to see that combined land area as an area of intelligent planning activity,” Pearson said.

For instance, Pearson said he wanted the comprehensive plan review to provide the chance to have deep conversations about regional planning.

“The idea that the city is an appropriate place to concentrate intense density and development and the county is a place to protect natural resources is an idea that reoccurs,” Pearson said. “I hope that this process will allow the city and county to have a conversation about the impacts of that language.”

The next public meeting on the grant’s implementation will be on April 27, 2011. That is the official kick-off date for the review of the TJPDC’s long-range transportation as well as the city and county’s comprehensive plans.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson calls meeting to order
  • 01:45 - Stephen Williams of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission begins describing grant 
  • 02:00 - Introduction of all commissioners and staff
  • 14:00 - Summer Frederick describes the April 27 kick-off event
  • 18:30 - County planner David Benish describes county's comprehensive planning process
  • 27:00 - City planner Missy Creasy describes city's comprehensive planning process
  • 36:00 - Benish responds to a question about growth area expansion
  • 46:00 - Kurt Keesecker asks what UVA's role will be in the grant implementation
  • 01:21:00 - Public comment from Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

City and county planning commission talk coordination, sustainability

 

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, March 24, 2011

 

Work has begun on implementing a $999,000 “sustainable communities” grant awarded last year to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions gave input on the grant at a joint work session on Tuesday, March 22.

 

Part of the grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow the city and county to hire additional staff to help rewrite their comprehensive plans. The plans help guide land use and zoning decisions.

 

“We’re both working on our comprehensive plans at relatively the same time, and the opportunity to receive this grant to assist us in that process is truly amazing and will allow us to do some things we haven’t been able to do in the past,’ said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.

 

“The main benefit that we see for this project is that Charlottesville and Albemarle County are going to receive some really great resources and information into their comprehensive planning processes,” said Stephen Williams, the director of the TJPDC.

 

During the same time, the TJPDC will begin developing an update of its long-range transportation plan.

 

“This is going to be almost a complete re-write of the long-range transportation plan from beginning to end,” Williams said. “We have a great deal of data coming out of the census and another data set called the National Household Transportation Survey.”

 

He said it would take about three and a half years to complete the rewrite. The last one was adopted in May 2009.

 

Summer Frederick, TJPDC’s project manager for the grant, said it will help coordinate all three processes, which are independent of each other.

 

“Ultimately it’s up to each of the separate organizations to adopt the updates,” Frederick said. “It is by no means moving to one plan that will be shared by all.”

 

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said the county’s comprehensive plan review will be informed by the Board of Supervisor’s desire to increase economic development. The county will spend $25,000 next fiscal year on a study to identify which businesses and industries that it should try to attract.

 

“That will be informing some of the land use decisions we need to make,” Benish said.

 

Albemarle Planning Commissioner Tom Loach asked whether staff could handle the additional workload. Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the TJPDC grant would allow him to augment his staff to conduct the mandated review.

 

“This hasn’t made work for us,” Cilimberg said. “This is work we already anticipated.”

 

The University of Virginia says it will play an important role in the process.

 

“We view ourselves as collaborators in the sense that we’re technically either in the city or the county by boundary condition,” said David Neuman, the architect of the University of Virginia. “The fact is we have buildings and programs that are in both, like the law school.”

 

City Planning Commissioner Genevieve Keller said she wanted the joint review to address the edges between city, county and UVA.

 

“We [will be looking] at areas of pretty dramatic change over the next few months, most likely at Martha Jefferson as it moves up to Pantops,” Keller said. “I see those all of those edges as areas where we would want to focus some redevelopment.”

 

Albemarle Commissioner Cal Morris agreed.

 

“It’s a wonderful crossover, and we see that we have to start tearing down these artificial and real boundaries,” Morris said. “It just doesn’t work anymore.”

 

Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson said he welcomed the opportunity to work with his counterparts in Albemarle.

 

“What [is] exciting to me is the idea… of erasing the line that is currently the boundary of the city of Charlottesville and seeing this process as an opportunity to see that combined land area as an area of intelligent planning activity,” Pearson said.

 

For instance, Pearson said he wanted the comprehensive plan review to provide the chance to have deep conversations about regional planning.

 

“The idea that the city is an appropriate place to concentrate intense density and development and the county is a place to protect natural resources is an idea that reoccurs,” Pearson said. “I hope that this process will allow the city and county to have a conversation about the impacts of that language.”

 

The next public meeting on the grant’s implementation will be on April 27, 2011. That is the official kick-off date for the review of the TJPDC’s long-range transportation as well as the city and county’s comprehensive plans.

 

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

 

·         01:00 - Charlottesville Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson calls meeting to order

·         01:45 - Stephen Williams of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission begins describing grant 

·         02:00 - Introduction of all commissioners and staff

·         14:00 - Summer Frederick describes the April 27 kick-off event

·         18:30 - County planner David Benish describes county's comprehensive planning process

·         27:00 - City planner Missy Creasy describes city's comprehensive planning process

·         36:00 - Benish responds to a question about growth area expansion

·         46:00 - Kurt Keesecker asks what UVA's role will be in the grant implementation

·         01:21:00 - Public comment from Tom Olivier of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

March 17, 2011

Tea Party hosting forum to review local sustainability initiatives

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 17, 2011

When it comes to energy efficiency, “green” buildings and climate change, the Jefferson Area Tea Party wants area residents to think carefully about decisions being made by local government.

At a community forum being held today, the party has invited two speakers to share information about an international “sustainability agenda” they say Albemarle County, the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are all pursuing.

“We want people to learn, then go off and study this on their own,” said Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. “We want to bring to the community’s attention what might be influencing local government.”


Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20110317-TeaParty

The speakers include local Tea Party member Charles Battig and Tom DeWeese, founder and president of the American Policy Center, a conservative think tank located in Northern Virginia that promotes free enterprise and limited government regulations.

Both speakers have written that they are concerned that a 1992 action plan backed by the United Nations — one that promotes sustainable development — is being embraced by local governments.

Battig, a Free Union resident and retired anesthesiologist, has lobbied the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to withdraw its $1,200 annual membership in the organization known as ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

“ICLEI participated in forming Agenda 21, the United Nations agenda for the 21st century, and basically it elevates sustainability, as they define it, as the new governing criteria for all actions, of all governments, all over,” Battig said in an interview. “ICLEI is within our local government and it brings their baggage and their dogma with it.”

The governments of both Charlottesville and Albemarle joined ICLEI and made public commitments when they signed on to national climate change declarations. Charlottesville signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in July 2006 and Albemarle signed the U.S. Cool Counties Stabilization Declaration in December 2007.

As a “Cool County,” Albemarle has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, an average annual reduction of 2 percent. At a budget work session last week, Albemarle staff said they use ICLEI to network with other member communities, obtain software and receive technical support on the maintenance of an inventory of local greenhouse gas emissions.

At the work session, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd called for a withdrawal from ICLEI, citing potential directives Albemarle might have to take from an international organization.

“I see ICLEI as being … a way to get local governments to start forcing people into making energy decisions, and I don’t think that’s something we should be doing,” Boyd said. “Our literature … incorporates some things [from ICLEI] that says what we’ve got to do is force our public to be efficient.”

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said that by focusing on an energy efficiency agenda in government buildings, the county had already recognized savings of about $600,000 in reduced utilities.

“Whether you believe in global warming or not, energy efficiency is smart from a dollar and cents standpoint; reducing pollution is smart from the standpoint of protecting the health of our citizens … to me those things are pretty wise to focus on,” Rooker said.

Boyd said he supports energy savings, but that he doesn’t accept the rest of the ICLEI agenda and that he regretted voting in favor of the initiative in 2007.

“I misunderstood what the Cool Counties resolution was. … I thought we were only talking about our own internal government uses and reductions of greenhouse gases,” Boyd said. “[Had I realized] we were talking about the community as a whole, I wouldn’t have voted for it.”

Boyd was the only supervisor to express strong opposition to ICLEI and the $1,200 membership remains in the county’s proposed budget for next fiscal year.

Battig says he is disappointed Boyd didn’t have more support, but he said that the ICLEI dues are more of a symbolic issue and an educational lesson about local government and good intentions gone awry.

“ICLEI is really not the issue at this point … it’s what has been set in motion,” Battig said. “We are heading down this road, do we want to fall off the cliff?”

Battig says a bigger concern is a three-year $999,000 federal grant received by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a regional sustainability implementation plan for the city, county and the University of Virginia.

“It’s going to happen because they’ve got the money, but the Board of Supervisors needs to be under pressure from the general public,” Battig said. “We’ll go along with saving money where we can, but we’re not ready to have an unelected group tell us how much food we can eat, how many miles we can drive and what the thermostat setting should be in my house.”

Stephen Williams, the TJPDC’s executive director, said the term “sustainability” has a lot of different meanings to people, “most of which are not favorable.” He said the grant will not bring to the community a United Nations agenda.

“We are trying to accomplish some goals I think the Tea Party would want to line up behind,” Williams said. “We are trying to … look at and agree upon a specific set of strategies to improve the region and then try and coordinate the activities and policies so we can accomplish things to benefit the people in the region.”

“We have no intention to dictate to people what they can do with their land, or to place any new requirements on them,” he added. “We are not in the business of telling people what to do. We are asking what can be done on a voluntary basis to increase sustainability in the region. We are looking for ways to educate people and incentivize them to make changes.”

The Tea Party’s Thorpe says she wants to “be a good steward and take care of the things that we have.”

“We want to keep nature in balance with the construction we do. The question is, is there something more involved? That is what we will be exploring at the forum,” Thorpe said.

The event is open to the public and is being held in Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire Road at 7 tonight.

 

February 25, 2011

Climate committee receives public input on energy reduction strategies

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, February 25, 2011

Charlottesville, Albemarle County and University of Virginia officials held a workshop Thursday to collect ideas from citizens about strategies to reduce energy consumption in the area.

“We have a lot of [information], but we came to the recognition that we’ve never had a chance to initiate a two-way dialogue on the topic,” said Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental administrator.

For the past 18 months, a Local Climate Action Planning Process steering committee has been working on an effort to coordinate regional programs to help area residents lower their energy usage. One of the goals is to help the region attain reductions in carbon emissions over the next several decades.

Riddervold said the intent is not to mandate energy reduction choices through government edicts, but to educate the public on the many benefits that come with doing so.

“I don’t think we can be effective if this is a top-down approach,” said Riddervold. “As a community we can be a lot more effective if everyone has the chance to identify what strategy works for them. For some people, it is 100 percent for economic reasons and wanting to save money, and for others it’s a health issue.”

Potential strategies could include encouraging mass transit, raising awareness about electricity usage and education about energy efficiency in the home.

“Buildings are producing 49 percent of all the carbon dioxide that is put in the atmosphere, and of that 70 percent is by the housing sector,” said former Albemarle Planning Commissioner William A. Edgerton. Edgerton is an architect who manages an energy sustainability program that seeks to encourage energy efficiency in affordable housing projects.

“Traditional affordable housing has been built using the least expensive products, meaning cheap windows and cheap heating and cooling systems,” he said.

Jay Willer is a former official with the Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association who is on the LCAPP steering committee.

“Most new homes have a lot of energy efficient features in them,” said Willer. “Every builder in this area has adopted the practices because buyers look for them.”

However, most homes in the area are not new.

“We’ve taken many steps, but there’s much more that must be done,” Edgerton said.

“Our existing building environment uses more energy than it could or should. That means we’re paying too much to heat, cool and light them.”

That’s where the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program could come in. City resident Wendy Roberman has already retrofitted her 1960’s-era home to reduce energy usage by taking advantage of the LEAP program.

“I’ve insulated the attic, sealed my ducts and put in new windows and a new heating system,” Roberman said. “I’ve definitely saved on the energy bills, and the house is much more comfortable to live in.”

Cynthia Adams, the director of LEAP, said the first step to use the program is to answer some questions about utility bills on the program’s website.

“Two reports will come back,” Adams said. “First, you’ll learn what improvements can be done based on what we can tell about the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. The second is a peer report so you can see how you compare to your neightbors.”

This initial step is free, but interested homeowners can get a rebate if they then decide to have a home energy audit.

Feedback collected at the workshop will inform work to be done as part of a $999,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Some of the money will allow the city and county to hire a temporary planner to address sustainability in this year’s review of both jurisdictions’ comprehensive plans.

Nearly 100 people attended the workshop, which featured information on current programs. Participants were asked to answer questions about what government incentives and policies would be most effective in helping individuals reduce their carbon footprint.

 

January 25, 2011

Workshop to identify public-private strategies for “green” energy

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
 
Charlottesville, Albemarle and the University of Virginia are gearing up for a public workshop Wednesday that will focus on the community’s energy future, specifically “green” energy, carbon emission reductions and preparing for global climate change.

Local leaders, from government, environmental groups and the business community, plan to work together to develop a climate action plan. They say achieving local greenhouse gas emission reduction goals is going to require many changes in behavior.

Kristel Riddervold is environmental administrator for the city.

“This is about energy and the ways in which we can improve the health, the efficiency, the cost savings and in the long term, the community’s ability to adapt and change and be prepared for both expected and unexpected influences,” Riddervold said.

The public is invited to participate in the workshop, titled “Carbon, Our Energy Future, and You,” which is being held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building.

“This is a way for us to ultimately check the pulse of our community,” Riddervold said. “We want to know who is interested, their questions, and how we can productively move forward.”

Featured speakers will include Andrea Larson, from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, and William A. Edgerton, a local architect, philanthropist and former member of the Albemarle Planning Commission.

“[Larson] will bring a very, very insightful presentation about the business of sustainability and the business of efficiency and how that can really help the community grow and prosper,” Riddervold said.

Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Local Climate Action Planning Process steering committee, the group holding the workshop.

“Efficiency is a critically important business value,” Hulbert said. “We have been pretty steadfast that the way to do this is to point out the economic advantages, and to the extent possible use incentives and partnerships, as opposed to the hammer of regulation.”

Local governments in both Charlottesville and Albemarle made public commitments when they signed on to national climate change declarations. Charlottesville signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in July 2006 and Albemarle signed the U.S. Cool Counties Stabilization Declaration in December 2007.

As a “Cool County,” Albemarle has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, an average annual reduction of 2 percent. The steering committee is focused on engaging the public to identify specific strategies for achieving these goals in the public and private sector.

“In order to [reach these goals], we need to be talking about thousands of homes that need to be more efficient, about thousands of acres of mature healthy forest, because of the import role that green space and landscapes play,” Riddervold said. “We are in a really good place to start thinking proactively as a community about what we could do. Let’s not wait 10 years until the problem gets bigger.”

More information about the initiative and the workshop is available online at www.charlottesville.org/agreencity.