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July 20, 2012

City Council reviews process for funding non-profits

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, July 19, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council held a work session Thursday to discuss changes to the process by which nonprofit social service agencies are funded.
 
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A breakdown of this year's funding as recommended by Agency Budget Review Task Force (Credit: City of Charlottesville)
“I hope we establish clear, open procedures for the use of council priority funds for ‘pilot’ programs and initiatives,” City Councilor Kathy Galvin said.
 
The goal was to better align funding with the council’s priorities.
 
A group known as the agency budget review team reviews funding requests from nonprofit agencies. It consists of members from both Charlottesville and Albemarle County and makes recommendations for both jurisdictions.
 
In the current year, the council awarded $1.87 million to 25 nonprofits ranging from $14,581 for the Boys & Girls Club to nearly $200,000 for the Monticello Area Community Action Agency.
 
“When you’re looking at ABRT funding, it’s a fairly narrow slice of our overall budget,” Councilor Dave Norris said. He added that the city addresses many of these issues through its own agencies and departments.
 
The origins of the ABRT date back to the 1980s. The group began measuring outcomes in 2001 and an objective review tool was used for the first time in 2006.
 
“In 2011, when the economy was bad, Albemarle County came to us after the applications were received and asked us to prioritize funding because their money was so tight,” said Gretchen Ellis, a member of the ABRT.
 

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July 19, 2012

Avoiding chloramines in drinking water may boost public confidence in system

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Less than a week away from a major public hearing on water treatment and chloramines, the Albemarle County Service Authority heard from citizens on Thursday both for and against the proposal.

Now at least one of its members has come to the conclusion that avoiding chloramines may help maintain public confidence in the water supply.

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Albemarle County resident May Liao

County resident May Liao started the conversation by encouraging the ACSA to give further scrutiny to the costs of one of the chloramines alternatives, granular activated carbon.

“It really seems like the only reason that people are doing this is for costs,” Liao said about the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s plan to use chloramines. “We have been working with … Integrated Resource Management, which suggests that Hazen & Sawyer’s numbers are greatly inflated.”

Hazen & Sawyer is the lead consultant working for the RWSA and California-based Integrated Resource Management’s Robert W. Bowcock participated in the June safe water symposium hosted by the authority.

“It would be great if we could get a further breakdown of how Hazen & Sawyer came up with those numbers,” Liao added. “Just as when you are remodeling a house, maybe we could get a third-party bid and not just trust this number that they are giving.”

In February, the RWSA approved a $5 million capital project to put chloramines in public water as a secondary disinfectant. Chlorine is and will remain the primary disinfectant. Chloramines was determined to be more cost effective than alternatives like GAC, which was estimated to cost $18.3 million.

RWSA executive director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. says the cost estimate for carbon filtration is based on the urban water treatment plants running 365 days a year at their full treatment capacity.

Chloramines are created by combining chlorine and ammonia and are intended to prevent pathogens from growing within the water distribution system. The RWSA says a new treatment approach is necessary to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Continue reading "Avoiding chloramines in drinking water may boost public confidence in system" »

July 18, 2012

State transportation board transfers funds for Hillsdale Drive

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board has approved the transfer of $9.7 million in additional funds for Hillsdale Drive Extended

That fully funds the current $13.8 million cost estimate for the Charlottesville road and completes a series of promises made by top Virginia officials in exchange for local support of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29
 
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Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton (file photo)
“We’ve made commitments to the community that we would fund certain projects and now we’re fulfilling them,” said Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s secretary of transportation. 
 
At their June meeting, the CTB fully funded the $14.5 replacement of the Belmont Bridge as well as a $7.7 million project to add a second lane on the west-bound on-ramp at the interchange of U.S. 29/250 and Emmet Street
 
The CTB also awarded in June a $136 million design-build contract to a team consisting of Skanska-USA and Branch Highways to build the 6.2-mile bypass. 
Hillsdale Drive Extended was supposed to have been funded at that time, but VDOT officials said a mistake was made with the paperwork. 
 
“We had indicated we would bring it back to the board fully funded through a transfer process,” said Reta Busher, VDOT’s chief of programming and planning. 
 
The funding was reallocated from four projects elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Lynchburg District donated $1.25 million, the Salem District donated $2 million and rest came from two projects in the Staunton District. 
 

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Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A new commercial development along U.S. 29 received a favorable recommendation from the Albemarle Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

Albrecht Place will consist of a 48,000-square-foot commercial building and 183-space parking lot on about 3.4 currently wooded acres behind the Shoppers World shopping center and next to the Berkley neighborhood.

20120717-AlbrechtPlaceThe property owner, Sue Albrecht, will be moving her Design Environs company, a commercial interiors firm, to a portion of the new development. Another tenant may include a local gym.

“I am very excited that we have gotten approval from the Planning Commission,” Albrecht said after the unanimous vote.

In its deliberations, the commission overcame concerns about potential traffic impacts that had led county staff to recommend against the project until more information could be considered.

VDOT evaluated the proposal and determined it did not meet the threshold of necessitating a full traffic impact study, but that some additional analysis by the developer would be beneficial. Access to the site would be via Shoppers World, Berkmar Drive, Commonwealth Drive and 29.

“The main issue of concern with this particular rezoning request has to do with transportation,” said Albemarle County senior planner Claudette Grant. “Submission of the traffic impact analysis will provide necessary information that will help us determine what impacts, if any, this development could have on the surrounding roads.”

Woody Parrish, an architect planning the development, said he had shared his own traffic consultant’s research with staff.

“The staff report does acknowledge that this is expected to have fairly light traffic impacts,” Parrish said. “We have had a traffic consultant look at this and they have come up with estimated trip generations and that number turns out to be less than 1 percent of the traffic than is currently using this section of U.S. 29.”

“We are having a hard time spending another $15,000 [on a traffic study] to quantify information that I think we understand well enough to affirm an existing zoning designation for an infill parcel in the development area that’s fully consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” Parrish said.

That statement struck a chord with the commission.

“Would your traffic consultant be willing to write a letter?” asked commissioner Mac Lafferty. “This seems to me to be the major hold up.”

Parrish said such a statement could be produced, and that satisfied the commission’s desire for more transportation data.

Continue reading "Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World" »

Environmentalists say Shenandoah National Park at risk

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

State and local environmental protection advocates gathered in Darden Towe Park on Wednesday to warn about federal legislation that they said poses a clear and present danger to the Shenandoah National Park and other wilderness lands in Virginia.

Activists said unless the bills pending in Congress are stopped, wilderness areas in Virginia will be threatened by road building, development and resource extraction.

Charlottesville City Councilor Dede Smith said public parks are “some of our nation’s greatest treasures.”

“Here in Virginia we are lucky enough to have one of our crown jewels in our own backyard,” said Smith. “More than one million people come to the Shenandoah National Park every year for its spectacular vistas, its quiet hollows and cascading waterfalls.”

The press conference was timed with the release of a report by Environment America, entitled “Trashing our Treasures: Congressional Assault on the Best of America.”

Priscilla Lin is a Washington-based preservation assistant with Environment Virginia, an affiliate of Environment America. The environmental advocacy organization works “to promote clean air, clean water and preserve natural spaces.”

“If passed, the three bills highlighted in this report would have particularly devastating impacts on Shenandoah,” Lin said. “The American Lands Act [H.R. 2588] would require the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to sell 8 percent of their lands annually until 2016 to the highest bidder.”

“The Wilderness and Roadless Release Act [H.R. 1581] and the Wilderness Development Act [H.R. 2834] would allow road building and logging in the most pristine and sensitive areas of Shenandoah National Park,” Lin said.

The latter bill’s official name is actually the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.

Kyle Bonini is communications director for Michigan Republican Rep. Dan Benishek, the sponsor of the bill.

“The claim that Dr. Benishek’s Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities legislation would allow logging in any national park is factually incorrect,” Bonini said. “The bill is a common sense measure to protect the long-standing tradition of hunting and fishing on federal lands, but explicitly does not apply to logging in areas like Shenandoah National Park or any of the national parks in America.”

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Council upholds Stonefield stormwater violation; Edens uncertain of next steps

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council has upheld a determination by city staff that the developers of Stonefield in Albemarle County violated an erosion control permit by opening up a new stormwater pipe before certain conditions were met.

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A view of the drainage basin to the east of Stonefield. Credit: City of Charlottesville

“I think staff’s determination is appropriate and that they have not followed through the plan and conditions of the permit,” Mayor Satyendra Huja said.

The managing director of Edens, the developer of Stonefield, said he was disappointed in the council’s unanimous decision.

“We’re dying to deliver this first-class project,” Steve Boyle said. “We’ve got tons of people that are waiting for new jobs here.”

The city issued a violation notice on June 1 and Edens made an appeal. The City Council began its review of the appeal shortly before 11 p.m. on Monday near the end of a busy meeting.

“Stonefield is a project in Albemarle County on the west side of U.S. 29,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services. “The drainage outfall for that project, however, comes into the city on the east side of U.S. 29 and drains into Meadow Creek.”

That meant Edens had to obtain an erosion and sediment control permit from the city because land within Charlottesville would be disturbed as a result of Stonefield’s development.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120716-CC-Stonefield

Before bulldozers began clearing land for Stonefield, all the rain that fell on the 65-acre property drained slowly through a 42-inch pipe under U.S. 29, designed to reduce the water’s velocity. That pipe also carried water from farther west of Stonefield that previously flowed naturally through an unnamed creek.

As part of Stonefield’s stormwater management plan, the creek was routed through a pipe that connects with a new 72-inch pipe that was drilled underneath U.S 29. The 42-inch pipe will primarily carry stormwater that falls on the northern half of Stonefield.

Both pipes eventually flow into a drainage channel on property in Charlottesville owned by Seminole Square, the U.S. Post Office and the Pepsi-Cola facility.

Continue reading "Council upholds Stonefield stormwater violation; Edens uncertain of next steps" »

July 17, 2012

Council denies rezoning for infill development in Rose Hill neighborhood

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Charlottesville’s City Council voted 3-2 Monday to deny a request to rezone a lot in the Rose Hill neighborhood out of a concern that the resulting development would be out of character with the area.

20120717-RosannaDannaCvilleThe developer, Rosanna Danna LLC, requested a zoning change on the properties in order to build a six-unit apartment complex on a site zoned for single-family housing.

Even though the change in land use did not match the Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Commission unanimously supported the zoning change because it was in line with current development policies.

“The [Comprehensive Plan] map is a general map and the policies are where we try to fall back,” said Jim Tolbert, director of the Neighborhood Development Services. “The policies they looked at are that we want to promote infill development and more density in areas that are adjacent or near public transit or public facilities.”

The property slated for redevelopment is near Burley Middle School, as well as public transit.

However, Councilor Kathy Galvin expressed concern that the rezoning may not be what Rose Hill neighborhood residents want. She referred to the 2006 Design Day held by Neighborhood Services that allowed Rose Hill residents to outline their priorities for their neighborhood. In those plans, residents stated that they wanted to maintain the character of single-family homes.

“I do think of the Design Day comments as something that’s part of what we should be referencing” Galvin said. “I’m very much a supporter of making sure that we have density tied to well-designed transit and infrastructure, but I’m also very concerned about public process and whatever public process and documents [we have] that gives us an idea of the community’s vision, [we should be] consulting that.”

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Plans approved for Fresh Market in Albemarle Square

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

At Monday’s Albemarle County Architectural Review Board meeting, members approved the design for a Fresh Market specialty grocery store that will occupy the old Circuit City building in the Albemarle Square shopping center on U.S. 29.

20100515-CityMarketThe Fresh Market will feature outdoor seating and a design that mimics a farmer’s market. Board members said they were pleased with the developer’s latest plans to add another set of windows to the front of the building.

“You have done a fantastic job and … if you can do anything to make these windows happen … we would certainly be pleased with it,” said board member Paul Wright.

“Compositionally, it is nicer,” board member John Quale said.

Members called attention to the fact that the windows would only be a positive addition if they did not feature spandrel glass, which gives a uniform appearance in building walls.

“Spandrel glass on the entrance corridor is discouraged,” said ARB chairman Fred Missel.

The board also held a work session to discuss Albemarle County’s requirement for relegated parking along entrance corridors that keeps parking lots out of view. Staff emphasized the importance of maintaining the ability to convert complexes along entrance corridors into walkable areas for the future.

“We’ve got to set things up for a ‘now’ and a ‘later’ so that you have that place where people … have the right place to walk, and the right place to walk is not right up on the road with the moving traffic. It’s pushed back,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner for Albemarle County.

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July 15, 2012

Local officials and residents reflect on chloramines and prepare for public hearing

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, July 15, 2012

In the aftermath of a well-attended symposium in June on alternatives for public drinking water treatment, area officials are preparing to hold a joint meeting to receive public comment from the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.

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Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin

The public hearing is being held July 25 in response to concerns about one of the water treatment approaches, the use of chloramines. Since the public became aware of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s March 2011 decision to use chloramines, some concerned residents have advocated for alternatives like carbon filtration.

Now some of the elected officials who will make the final decision say they are looking forward to the public feedback and reaching consensus on changes that must be made to comply with federal mandates.

Balancing public safety with increasing prices is on the minds of local representatives.

“You can say no cost is too high [to ensure safety], but we make those decisions all the time,” Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said. “There’s a point at which you do draw the line and say, ‘Well perhaps the additional cost is not worth the increase in safety.’”

A RWSA consultant, Hazen and Sawyer, estimates the installation of chloramines will initially cost about $5 million with an additional $102,000 per year to operate. The next most-affordable option is granular activated carbon (GAC), which Hazen and Sawyer estimates will have an upfront cost of $18.3 million and cost $983,000 per year to operate.

Chloramines opponents believe the benefits of GAC filtration are worth the additional cost.

“Just because Charlottesville and Albemarle County had the misfortune of qualifying for the cheapest solution … doesn’t mean we have to take it over the safest one,” May Liao, a county resident, said during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

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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. 
 

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