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May 07, 2012

Startups finding their place near UVa, Downtown Mall

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, May 7, 2012

Amid recent community discussions about innovation, entrepreneurship and industries targeted for growth, the physical spaces sought by startup companies seem less likely to be found in a traditional office or research park.

UVAResPark1-small
University of Virginia Research Park on U.S. Route 29 North

Buildings in close proximity to the University of Virginia or directly on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall appear to be gaining favor.

Michael J. Prichard, chief technology officer and founder of WillowTree Apps, chose the Downtown Mall instead of a traditional office park as the location to grow his business.

“As a tech company, we like to be more in an urban area rather than somewhere removed,” Prichard said. “[The Downtown Mall] is more of a metropolitan, city feel and better for our company culture.”

“Having all the restaurants, coffee shops, etc. in walking distance is a huge plus for our team,” said Tobias A. Dengel, chief executive officer of WillowTree Apps.

Prichard elaborated that he didn’t think those experiences would be as likely to happen in an office park.

“Our employees would revolt if we tried to move. It would be pretty hard to pull us out of here,” said Prichard. “For us, it’s just the fact that you would be removed from the center of town. Most of the parks I know are a little bit outside of the city … you have to drive to go anywhere.”

Continue reading "Startups finding their place near UVa, Downtown Mall" »

January 15, 2012

Hollymead movie theater falls through; Town center continues to fill out

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Despite the recent fizzling of plans to open a state-of-the-art 12 screen movie theater, Hollymead Town Center developer Wendell Wood is confident in the market’s continued interest in the development.

20120113-HTC2

He cites four new buildings providing 265,000 square feet of commercial space that are going up next to Kohl’s and says that he is seeing “pretty good demand” from prospective tenants.

“I should think people would be pretty impressed with what’s going on [at Hollymead Town Center] right now,” Wood said.

Even after receiving an approval from the Albemarle County Planning Commission for a larger movie theater, Great Escape Theatres has given up on the project.

“It’s died from inaction,” said Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, noting that the applicant failed to submit its final paperwork.

Wood identified a different culprit, saying that the theater would not accept the county’s favored traffic pattern in front of the proposed building site. He said that another movie theater has expressed interest in the location but that they also thought that the county’s traffic demands were inappropriate for a cinema.

Continue reading "Hollymead movie theater falls through; Town center continues to fill out" »

June 02, 2011

Supervisors seek more information on bus changes

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Albemarle County of Board of Supervisors has requested more information on how many riders would be affected if transit service to Pantops is adjusted to provide service to the new Martha Jefferson Hospital.

20110516-route10-12-changes
Source: Connetics Group (Click to enlarge)

A transit development plan created for Charlottesville Area Transit recommended that two city routes be realigned in order to provide service to the hospital every 30 minutes. Service to the Woolen Mills and Locust Grove neighborhoods would have been reduced.

“Those changes were rejected by Charlottesville City Council,” said Bill Watterson, director of CAT. “So we have to work with the service that is currently in place that goes to the Pantops area.”

Watterson has been working with county staff to find an alternative that will provide hourly service to the new hospital. On Wednesday he presented the board with a plan that would eliminate service on Route 10 to the Wilton Farms apartment complex and the Veterans Services Administration office on Peter Jefferson Place.

“There hasn’t been very much use of that stop,” Watterson said. “It’s not unheard of that a day can go by and no one uses it.”

However, supervisors asked for data to back up that claim before they make a decision in July.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans in the community and I’m familiar with that facility because I go there,” said Supervisor Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr.

Watterson said CAT had extended service to the VA after requests were made by local veterans groups.

“In a sense it’s been a bit of an experiment and it’s sort of up to you to determine whether the usage level warrants continued service,” Watterson said.

Watterson also wanted to know if the board supports the concept of extending service to the Hollymead Town Center. The transit development plan calls for service to be extended in 2015 using Route 5. That would require additional funding from the county.

“The approximate total cost for that would be about $325,000 a year,” Watterson said. “Exactly what is the county’s share is something that would have to be determined.”

A portion of the funding could come from Hollymead developer Wendell Wood, who is obligated by a proffer to spend $50,000 a year for five years on transit service once a route is established to the shopping center.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd questioned the need to extend service to the Hollymead Town Center.

“That’s right across the street from my district, and I’ve never had anybody bring that up to me,” Boyd said.

Watterson said he would provide more justification for extending service before his next appearance before the board.

“With limited resources, we’re not going to be able to service every destination someone may want,” Watterson said.

The city and county agreed in 2008 to discuss the creation of a regional transit authority with joint governance, but the idea has been shelved due to a lack of funding, as well as unresolved logistical issues.
 

January 13, 2011

New Kohl’s store still on schedule after Hollymead proffer amendment

DailyProgress

 By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has paved the way for Kohl’s to open at Hollymead Town Center by agreeing to give developer Wendell Wood more time to build a connector road.

Road-proffer-slide
The area circled in red depicts the stretch of Meeting Street that needed to have been completed until supervisors accepted the amendment

“Currently Kohl’s cannot get a certificate of occupancy until [Meeting Street] is built,” said Wayne Cilimberg, chief planner, just prior to the board’s vote Wednesday. A sign near the newly constructed store states that the store will open in March.

However, the board did not accept a second request that would have reduced the amount Wood must pay over 10 years to pay for transit operations in the area as soon as a bus route is established.

Meeting Street is a north-south connector road slated to connect, eventually, to Berkmar Drive Extended. The timetable for that road’s construction depends on whether Wood is successful in having land south of Hollymead Town Center brought into the county’s designated growth area, which will be decided when the board takes up the Places29 Master Plan later this year.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20110112-BOS-APC-Hollymead

Under the amended proffer, Wood simply needs to reserve and dedicate the land for Meeting Street at this time but can construct it later.

“We believe that what you’re merely doing is enabling a timing mechanism that was simply not thought about when the original proffers were done,” said Ron Higgins, zoning administrator. “We don’t want to eliminate the obligation. We want to phase it.”

Senior planner Judith Wiegand said county staff does not feel that Meeting Street is necessary at this time.

“The county is concerned that if the whole segment is constructed … you basically would be constructing a road to nowhere,” Wiegand said.

At least a portion of Meeting Street has to be complete for an adjacent movie theater to receive a certificate of occupancy. That project is also being developed by Wood.

Wood had made a second request to reduce the amount of funding he must contribute to public transit to serve the development. The original proffer required him to spend an annual $50,000 for 10 years, but only after bus lines were extended to the property.

Hollymead-areas

“I would like to have some type of relief,” Wood said. He added that many of his surrounding neighbors do not have such an obligation, which puts him at a competitive disadvantage.

The Planning Commission recommended Tuesday that Woods’ obligation for transit be cut in half, and added a sunset date of 2018.

“I would be more inclined under the current circumstances to end up with a proffer that actually gets paid,” Commissioner Linda Porterfield said.

However, Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she could not support the reduction.

“This was a contract made with the citizens,” Mallek said.

A majority of supervisors refused to reduce the transit funding.

Because of the urgency associated with keeping the Kohl’s opening on schedule, Wood agreed to drop his request to have the transit proffer amended, but said he would bring it back before the board later.
Wood said he expects the store to open on March 6.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 02:00 - Staff report from senior planner Judith Wiegand
  • 11:00 - Wiegand describes similar proffers related to transit in other county locations
  • 23:00 - Presentation by developer Wendell Wood
  • 36:10 - Public hearing comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 37:48 - Public hearing comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center
  • 40:30 - Public hearing comment from Kirk Bowers
  • 42:00 - Comment from VDOT engineer Joel DeNunzio
  • 42:30 - Discussion of the road's dedication
  • 47:00 - Ron Higgins answers question about road dedication t
  • 53:30 - Discussion of the proffer on transit obligations
  • 01:04:00 - Wood describes how much he has currently invested in infrastructure for Hollymead Town Center
  • 01:18:20 - Commissioner Cal Morris makes a motion followed by vote
  • 01:20:00 - Staff report for Board of Supervisors from Director of Planning Wayne Cilimberg
  • 01:27:15 - Director of Community Development Mark Graham explains the proffer for roads
  • 01:37:00 - Discussion of the transit proffer
  • 01:48:00 - Board recesses while staff adjusts proffers with Wendell Wood
  • 01:49:00 - Board reconvenes after several minutes of discussion
  • 01:50:30 - Wood expresses displeasure during public hearing
  • 02:02:00 - Public hearing comment from Jeffry Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council
  • 02:05:00 - Public hearing comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center

January 05, 2011

Forest Lakes residents continue to lobby against Hollymead expansion

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide today whether to include two expansions of the county’s designated growth area in the Places29 Master Plan, which comes up for a final vote next month.

“We’re hoping to get that direction so we can proceed and get this [plan] finalized for them to act on it in February,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.

Expansion-area-2
The proposed expansion, which community members thought had been tabled, would add around 140 acres to the county's growth area. Ken Boyd has stated the expansion may be smaller, but no further details have been officially revealed

Members of the Forest Lakes Community Association had thought one of the requests from developer Wendell Wood, to bring 140 acres south of Hollymead Town Center into the growth area, was dead. Neighbors expressed their opposition at a public hearing in November.

At the time, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd told residents he would follow their lead and not support the inclusion, even though he personally favored the idea.

However, at a subsequent work session in December, Boyd said his mind was changed by “additional information,” but he did not further elaborate at the meeting on the specifics. However, he did make an appearance in late December on WINA’s “Charlottesville Right Now” program to explain his views.

“I had an outpouring of people [from] Forest Lakes who said they didn’t want this,” Boyd said. “They thought we were approving development there. All [a growth area expansion] does is invite private investment. … It only says that this is an area that is available for rezoning. It doesn’t rezone the property, and I think that’s what the people are confused about.”

Boyd went on to say that a rezoning would allow the county to receive financial support, in the form of proffers from developer Wendell Wood, to pay for needed infrastructure.

“The reason I changed my mind is that we should give the public an opportunity to hear what they can get out of it,” Boyd said. He specifically singled out the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and U.S. 29 as one potential beneficiary of funding from a rezoning.

However, a member of the Forest Lakes Community Association’s Board of Directors said he fully understands the county’s land use policies and remains opposed to the reclassification of the land.

“We’re being told this is only a preliminary step in the process, but that does not make any difference,” Scott Elliff said in an interview. “We have said loud and clear that infrastructure needs to come first and that there should be no development on these parcels until traffic problems have been fixed, which is the key purpose of the Places29 program.”

Elliff said he and other Forest Lakes residents will appear before the board to make their views known during the public comment period in the morning. Board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek said in an interview that she did not plan to take further public comment during the work session.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Boyd said he would make no further public remarks until he can explain to his constituents why he is in favor of the expansion.

“There is obviously a great deal of misinformation out in the public and individuals trying to spin their opinions as my position,” Boyd wrote in an e-mail. “I have arranged a community conversation at Hollymead Elementary on January 27th and don’t plan on any more comments until that discussion.”
Elliff said he would welcome such a meeting, but said it was long overdue.

“We think it would have been much more preferable to get the opinions of those who live here early on and to listen to their overwhelming opposition to this bad idea,” Elliff said.

Supervisors will also decide whether another potential expansion area should be allowed near the Rivanna Station military base, some of which also includes land owned by Wood. In December, supervisors said they wanted more information about the Defense Intelligence Agency’s future expansion plans for the base. Cilimberg said that to his knowledge the DIA has not presented the information, but added it was possible supervisors could have had personal conversations with DIA staff.

The work session on Places29 will begin at 3:30 this afternoon. Opportunities for the public to speak will come in the morning during the regularly scheduled comment period.
 

December 02, 2010

Two supervisors call for reconsideration of Hollymead expansion area

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 2, 2010

When residents of the Forest Lakes neighborhood left a November public hearing on the Places29 Master Plan, they believed a proposal to expand Albemarle County’s growth area south of Hollymead Town Center was dead.

However, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd joined Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas on Wednesday in requesting that the idea be revisited. Boyd told a crowded auditorium in November that he would not support the expansion but has since reconsidered.

“There’s some additional information that’s been brought to my attention that’s made me reconsider what I said,” Boyd said. “And I’m perfectly willing to take the political heat for that.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101201-BOS-Hollymead-Expansion

When asked to elaborate in an interview, Boyd said he wanted to explore the possibility of a smaller expansion of the Hollymead area, possibly by 20 to 30 acres.

Expansion-area-2
The proposed expansion, which community members thought had been tabled, would add around 140 acres to the county's growth area

The Comprehensive Plan amendment on the table prepared by staff would have expanded the area by approximately 140 acres to allow developer Wendell Wood to build a large retail store.

“There are some by-right issues already existing along U.S. 29,” Boyd said. “If exercised, they would make [the road] much more congested and make the Ashwood Boulevard intersection even more dangerous.”

Boyd said under this compromise scenario, the county may be able to get Wood to invest in improvements to that intersection to satisfy Forest Lakes residents.

Scott Elliff of the Forest Lakes Community Association said he remains opposed to any expansion across from the neighborhood’s southern entrance, no matter how small.

20101201-BOS1
Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd

“It is irrelevant,” he said in an interview. “A community rose up overwhelmingly and indicated that this is a bad thing. As soon as the spotlight is off, an elected official tries to go back and do the same thing. ... You do not develop these parcels until you have the infrastructure.”

At Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors could not remember whether they had taken a definitive up or down vote on the Hollymead expansion and disagreed upon whether they had reached consensus.

“Everybody said where they stood, and the direction to staff was based upon that,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said.

County Attorney Larry Davis said consensus is not a binding vote, and so the Hollymead expansion could be reconsidered even though the required public hearing has been closed.

“There’s no legal requirement for any additional public hearing at this time,” Davis said. “The board has the discretion to add or delete those expansion areas under the process that’s already been conducted.”

Supervisor Duane Snow warned Boyd about the ramifications of changing his mind.

“You’ve got to keep your credibility with the citizens, and to have everyone here [at a public hearing] and take a vote and then change it in the back room, I don’t think is fair to the citizens,” Snow said.

Expansion1
Supervisors needed more information to determine whether to include 45 acres of land into the designated growth area

Staff had expected the board to decide whether to include another of Wood’s growth area expansion requests when the Places29 Master Plan receives its final approval. The Piney Mountain expansion involves land adjacent to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Rivanna Station. Wood has also already constructed an office complex near the National Ground Intelligence Center.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek and Rooker said they both oppose this expansion because of potential security implications for the military base and a belief that their action is not necessary, as the federal government could expand the base without local approval. The board directed staff to ask military officials about their long-range expansion plans and opinion on a larger growth area.

A final vote on the Places29 Master Plan had been expected in January, but supervisors decided to push that back to February to allow the board one more work session.

The board’s meeting Wednesday ended without any firm direction on whether to revisit the Hollymead expansion.

“They never got to the point where they agreed if they were going to bring it back,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning. He added that he had not yet seen the specifics of any compromise proposal of the type described by Boyd.

September 27, 2010

Albemarle planners narrowly approve Hollymead modification for new cinema

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, September 27, 2010

Plans for a new 12-screen Great Escapes movie theater in Albemarle County’s Hollymead Town Center moved one step ahead last week. The Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of a modification of the zoning text amendment that created the initial development.

“It’s a theater company that actually goes out and buys the land and develops their own building,” said Scott Collins, representing developer Wendell Wood before the commission last Tuesday. “So, they have a buy-in into the community.”

The theater would offer stadium seating, according to Collins. He said the modification to the rezoning was necessary to build the theater to Great Escape’s specifications. 

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20100921-APC-Great-Escapes

 

B1-2007-plan
The above plan submitted with the 2007 rezoning envisioned a different layout (click to enlarge)

B1-2010-plan The applicant redrew the plan to remove one through street and to allow for a large theater (click to enlarge)

One of the specific changes requested was to alter the flow of an internal road through the development in order to allow the theater to have a larger footprint. The original plans showed a wide through road connecting the northeast and southwest parts of this triangular shaped parcel of land.

Staff recommended approval of the modification as long as certain conditions were met. One was that the application reconsider how large retaining walls behind the theater would stand as much as 20 feet above a greenway called for in the original rezoning. Collins said the structures are necessary in order to develop the land.

“My concept of a greenway is it’s supposed to be used by people and relaxing, and I’m not sure if you’re walking next to a wall that’s four times your height that it’s very relaxing,” said commissioner Mac Lafferty.

Collins agreed to the move the trail.

After a long discussion, Chairman Tom Loach said he felt he needed to see how the applicant responded to the commission’s feedback before he could grant approval. He gave Collins a chance to defer in order to resubmit the plan.

Collins said Great Escape wants to be showing films in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest times of the year.

 “They have to be finish construction by October which means they have to start construction in February, which means the site plan has to be under review fairly quickly,” Collins said.

Cilimberg suggested the board consider recommending approval with conditions. That would allow the developer to alter the plan, but still allow the application to proceed to the Board of Supervisors without delay.

That was not acceptable to Loach.

 “Are we negating what our mission is in trying to craft something so that hopefully between now and when it gets to the board you will meet our recommendations without getting our feedback for them?” Loach asked.

Commissioner Don Franco said he was comfortable setting the conditions and voting for approval.

“We’ve got a board [of supervisors] that would like to see things facilitated and moved forward in a responsive manner,” Franco said.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said she appreciated the need to expedite the process but she needed to see if the conditions were carried out on the plan before she could consider approving the project.

“If we’re a planning commission, and we don’t do…our own job, you might as well just dissolve us and let’s let the Board of Supervisors act as a committee of the whole and they could just do this stuff,” Porterfield said.

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval with Lafferty, Loach, and Porterfield voting against.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from Judy Wiegand, introduced by Chair Tom Loach
  • 11:00 - Commissioner Linda Porterfield requests more information on the streets in the plan 
  • 14:30 - Testimony from Scott Collins representing Route 29 LLC
  • 26:30 - Commissioner Cal Morris asks for more information on
  • 37:00 - Collins explains why a multiple story parking garage is a "deal-breaker"
  • 52:30 - Commissioner Ed Smith asks if Collins has considered making a portion of the street one-way
  • 54:00 - Public hearing comment from Justin Morgan, a neighboring resident concerned about connection to Abingdon Place neighborhood
  • 55:00 - Loach resumes discussion after five-minute break
  • 1:00:45 - Loach asks Collins to respond to commission's input  
  • 1:10:00 - Planning Director Wayne Cilimberg reviews the various conditions he has heard
  • 1:27:20 - Commission Don Franco specifies the exact conditions on which PC approval is based

 

August 05, 2010

Board votes to uphold proffer for road connection

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has upheld a decision by the deputy zoning administrator that developer Wendell Wood is required to comply with a proffer made by the original developer of Hollymead Town Center.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100804-BOS-proffer-violation


20100804-map-proffer
The arrow indicates the location of the right of way to connect Hollymead Town Center to Willow Glen as called for in the proffe

When the board approved a section of the Hollymead Town Center in September 2007, developer Octagon Partners agreed to dedicate right of way for a connection to an adjoining subdivision known as Willow Glenn. The dedication was to be made whenever the county made an official request, which the county did in April 2009.

Wood’s Route 29 LLC acquired the Hollymead Town Center property in 2009. Neither he nor Octagon Partners complied with the county’s request.

“We were informed they did not want to do that in the form the proffer calls for,” said Ron Higgins, the county’s deputy zoning administrator.

Download Download presentation on the proffer violation

In an official appeal to Higgins, Woods wrote that the proffer had been “forced” upon the previous owner and had caused many problems with the project’s development.

“As the mortgage holder and subsequent owner, I did not approve the proffer,” Wood wrote in his letter. “This proffer was for the sole benefit of an adjoining property who is not participating in the cost of construction.”

However, the developer of Willow Glen agreed as part of that rezoning to pay for construction of the road. The land was rezoned from industrial to neighborhood model, allowing for the construction of 234 homes.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said Wood was legally bound to comply with the proffer, which is a legal contract between the county and whoever owns the rezoned property.

“If you go down that road, every proffer that’s ever made is subject to people walking away from it,” Rooker said. “We would not have approved this without this kind of connection.”

20100804-wendell-wood
Wendell Wood

Before the Board of Supervisors Wednesday, Wood said a stormwater retention pond is located where the right of way is to be dedicated.

“I don’t think Willow Glen wants to build a road over top of [the pond],” Wood said.

Wood claimed the language in the proffer allowed him to suggest another location for the right of way. Last week, he filed an application to do so with county planners. They have not had a chance to review the plan yet.

Valerie Long, an attorney for Willow Glen’s developer, said the project cannot get financing until the right of way is dedicated.

“We are happy to hear that [Wood] is willing to work with us,” Long said. “We just want to be able to build the connection at our expense and enable Willow Glen to move forward.”

The board voted unanimously to uphold Higgins’ decision.

January 06, 2010

Supervisors adopt pro-business “action plan”; Call for increased economic development, zero-based budgeting, and reduced property taxes

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In one of the first actions of the new year, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has adopted an “action plan” that includes new priorities addressing some of the campaign goals of the Board’s two new members. The statement, prepared by Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna), lists six points, including building next year’s budget based on a tax rate of 74.2 cents, using a zero-based budgeting process, reducing regulations to promote economic development, and making the extension Berkmar Drive a higher transportation priority.

The Board voted 4-2 to adopt the statement, with Supervisors Ann Mallek (White Hall) and Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) voting against.  Boyd, Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville), Rodney Thomas (Rio),and Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) all supported the action plan.

Download Download the adopted action plan

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:

Download 20100106-BOS-Action-Plan

The six points included the following:

  1. Increase tax revenues through economic development – Economic development is placed as the top fiscal priority for the County. As such, “unnecessary and burdensome regulations” should be reduced. Staff is directed to work with the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development  and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a plan within six months to increase the County’s commercial tax base.
  2. Zero-based budgeting – The County’s 2010-2011 budget should be built “from the ground up” using a zero-based budgeting process while also retaining the current 74.2 cent tax rate.  This reverses the direction given in October by the previous board to base the County’s next budget on a rate of 77.2 cents. The budget priority will be placed on “core government services.” 
  3. Development review process – The Board of Supervisors should revisit all recommendations made by the Development Review Task Force, a body formed in early 2006 to consider process improvements for rezonings and special use permits.
  4. Yancey Mills Business Park and 250 East corridor to Shadwell – A staff report on the inventory of properties zoned for light industrial uses should be expedited. A second report should be developed on the possibility of bringing Yancey Mills and the 250 East Corridor from I-64 to Shadwell Store into the growth area.
  5. Berkmar Drive Extended – Staff should work to develop a public-private partnership to design, fund and construct at least a portion of this proposed road project between the Sam’s Club and Hollymead Town Center.
  6. Sign ordinances – Staff should work with local businesses to develop new ordinances that “do not overly restrict economic vitality of area business.”
Boyd handed out the statement shortly after Mallek was elected chair of the board. He said he wanted the plan to be a “blueprint” to capture what the majority of the board wants to achieve in the coming year.

“We are elected because of the ideas and things we put forward for our constituents during the time of election,” Boyd said. He described his action plan as a way to clearly direct staff to pursue the majority’s policy objectives.

20100106-Rooker Supervisor Dennis Rooker
Rooker said he could not vote for the motion because he needed to discuss the complex concepts further before he could decide whether to support them. On changing the budget assumptions, Rooker said there is not enough information yet on how much revenue the county will be able to generate and how much will come from the state. On Berkmar Drive, he said he would need to know if the road would travel through an expanded growth area vs. its current rural area zoning.

Boyd said Rooker was misinterpreting the action plan and that it was not “approving anything” but rather was intended to provide direction to staff and shape future discussions by the board.

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) seconded Boyd’s motion to adopt the action plan.

“I think we’ve all rested on our laurels that Albemarle County has a low unemployment rate and therefore we don’t really tackle the issue of jobs,” Dorrier said.

The county’s unemployment rate in November 2009 was 4.6%, the lowest in the region. Rooker pointed out that is the second lowest in the state.

Rooker said the County should take advantage of the Chamber and TJPED, but added that the County could see the unemployment rate dip further thanks to the expansion of the National Ground Intelligence Center, other defense-related jobs and the continued growth of the University of Virginia. He warned that the infrastructure might not be present to accommodate the influx of new people.

“There are going to be a lot of school-aged kids in the area, and additional cars on the road,” said Rooker..
Rooker said attracting businesses like the federal government and the University provided stable employers.  He cautioned that other approaches to economic development might attract businesses that could be more easily lost in a future economic downturn.

Supervisors debate zero-based budgeting

Rooker said he wanted to hear from County Executive Bob Tucker if it were possible to use the zero-based budgeting approach this year, especially given that the budget has been in development since last fall. He also claimed that few localities actually use the practice.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas (Rio) pointed out that Greene County uses zero-based budgeting.

Supervisor Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) said he has been researching zero-based budgeting ever since he began his campaign. He said he felt Rooker was misunderstanding the process.“Basically you go in and say ‘What are our primary needs?’ Then establish those needs and then look to see what you need to fund [them],” Snow said. “And then all the other wants and things you would like to have, they get put on the back-burner until you see if there is any money… I know there are programs and things that we are doing that we don’t need to fund in the economic situation we’re in now.”

Rooker said that was not how he understood zero-based budgeting, and that the process Snow described was how the County was already developing its budgets.

Thomas said he runs his business, a printing company, using zero-based budgeting. He said it means starting with fixed costs and evaluating everything else to see if they should be continued to be funded.

20100106-Mallek New Chair Ann Mallek
“I don’t want anyone to think we haven’t been looking at this line by line all along,” Mallek said. Tucker said the county experimented with zero-based budgeting in the early 90’s, when three departments developed their budget according to that principle. However, that approach was discarded in favor of a modified form of zero-based budgeting.

“We’re going through every program and every service that every department provides,” Tucker said. He added the approach would require the Board to debate every single line item, which could be a tedious process. Tucker also said he would have a hard time restarting the budget process that is 2.5 weeks from going to the press.

“The staff is going to have to develop and write up each one of these programs,” Tucker said. “There’s a lot of writing involved in the budget, so you understand what these programs mean and what the impacts will be.”

Boyd said he understood Tucker’s concern, and he felt that Board input would come during the scheduled budget work sessions. Tucker said he will come back with more information at the Board’s meeting next Wednesday. He added that information on revenues is changing every day with further reductions in state revenues.

Further discussion and comment

On the topic of the development task force review, Rooker said the Board has poured over the recommendations of the task force, and did not implement some of them because they would cost more money. Boyd had originally called for all of the recommendations to be implemented, but agreed to modify the statement to have those brought back before the board for further review.

Mallek said she could not support the action plan because many of its items had either already been implemented or thoroughly discussed by previous boards. She pointed out that the Planning Commission would hear a report on light industrial zoning at its meeting on January 19.

20100106-Hulbert-Long Chamber President Tim Hulbert and Attorney Valerie Long said the Chamber is willing to do its part to promote economic development
Members of the business community were pleased at the adoption of the plan. Representatives of both the Chamber and TJPED indicated their willingness to work with county staff. “Many of the concepts contained within the action plan presented by Ken Boyd are items that the new members of the [board] pursued in their campaign,” said Neil Williamson, executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum, in an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow. “The approval of the action plan is indicative of a shift in focus for Albemarle County.”

However, Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council said he did not know why a resolution was necessary to get the Chamber and TJPED to work with the County. Albemarle joined both organizations in 2006. Werner said keeping the rural area should be a key economic objective, claiming that the county’s natural areas are a big draw of why both new residents and businesses choose to locate here.

Werner also said the PEC would oppose any effort to expand the county’s growth area.

October 28, 2009

Planning commission endorses Places29 over objections of business community

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

After an investment of four years and $1.6 million, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Tuesday to endorse Places29, a master plan for future development and transportation projects along the U.S. 29 corridor north of Charlottesville.

The decision came after a public hearing dominated by local business leaders who oppose many of the plan’s key transportation recommendations.  Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091027-CoPC-Places29
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Neil Williamson, Free Enterprise Forum

Neil Williamson, executive director of the business advocacy group the Free Enterprise Forum, told the commission his group could not support the current plan. 

“The plan is over budget, it over promises, and ignores the time frame stipulated by the planning process,”  said Williamson in an interview.  “By ignoring the [20 year time frame], the planners have relieved themselves from the restrictors of time and money.”

Commissioners Marcia Joseph (At-Large), William Edgerton (Jack Jouett), Cal Morris (Rivanna), and Tom Loach (White Hall) all voted to endorse the plan which now goes to the Board of Supervisors.  Commissioners Don Franco (Rio) and Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said the concerns of the business community about the impact of transportation proposals and potential fiscal impacts both needed further review.  Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) was not present at the meeting and was unavailable for comment today.

Chris Tyler is the owner of the Red Carpet Inn on U.S. 29. Tyler shared a view that resonated strongly with several members of the commission.

 “The first thing I’d like to say is kind of like what the doctors are told, ‘First, do no harm,’ said Tyler. “This plan will directly affect the businesses on the 29 corridor, and it will affect them adversely.  It will lower the revenues produced and therefore it will lower the tax base that the County has to work with.”

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Morgan Butler, Southern Environmental Law Center
Morgan Butler is an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  He was one of two speakers who encouraged the commission to endorse the master plan.

“Transforming this part of the County into a more appealing and functional growth area that can also generate sustainable economic growth is a big challenge, but it is also a critical one for the county to undertake,” said Butler. “The first step is getting a plan in place, that sets forth that vision and then charts the course for getting there.”

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

Judy Wiegand, the Albemarle planner heading the project, said the staff had been directed from the beginning to take that approach and that it was “essential that they be done at the same time.” 

“There is no place in the County where that can be shown more clearly than in the 29 North corridor,” said Wiegand. 

Wiegand also pointed out that when future development projects are reviewed, the Places29 master Plan will help establish expectations about private sector contributions to accommodate a backlog of existing transportation needs.

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Local developer Wendell Wood
Wiegand said she believed the extension of parallel roads like Berkmar Drive and Hillsdale Drive, combined with six grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29, would lead to greater economic vitality in the business sector.

“Businesses have been in our minds since the beginning,” said Wiegand. “Once we get more of the road improvements in place and the mixed use centers start to develop, there will be more economic vitality in the business community.  We are trying to make it easier for people to get to these businesses.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield was most concerned that the plan did not do more to encourage developer Wendell Wood to make a proffer to contribute financially to the plan’s road improvements.  She said expanding the County’s growth area to include land he owns in the path of the proposed Berkmar Drive extension was important.

Wood told the commission that he paid for the improvements and widening of U.S. 29 in front of Hollymead Town Center.  He encouraged the commission to expand the growth area to include his properties near the South Fork Rivanna River and the National Ground Intelligence Center, but those adjustments were not part of the final plan endorsed by the commission.

The Board of Supervisors is not expected to review the Places29 master plan until January 2010 at the earliest.  More information about the plan can be found on the County’s website at http://www.albemarle.org/places29

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

 

  • 1:35 – David Benish gives staff report on Places29 Master plan
  • 6:29 – Henry Weinschenk, Owner of Express Car Wash in the City, speaks against the plan, specifically the grade-separated interchanges
  • 9:34 – Neil Williamson, Executive Director of the Free Enterprise Forum, speaks against the plan, specifically against the absence of project timelines
  • 12:40 Carter Myers, owner of Colonial Auto Center, speaks against plan
  • 16:46 – Lloyd Wood, Chairman of the North Charlottesville Business Association, speaks against plan
  • 19:46 – Jim Kennan, County resident, speaks against plan
  • 22:36 – Tom Fromm, small business owner, speaks against plan
  • 26:39 – Chris Tyler, owner of the Red Carpet Inn, speaks against plan
  • 28:01 – Tim Hulbert, President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks against plan
  • 31:14 – Wendell Wood, property developer, speaks against existing designated growth area classifications [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 35:01 – Morgan Butler, from the Southern Environmental Law Center, speaks in support of the plan and against expanding the growth area
  • 37:36 – Jeff Werner, from the Piedmont Environmental Council, speaks in support of the plan
  • 40:08 – Bob Hodous, City resident, speaks against plan
  • 43:18 – Mark Green, the developer of Rivanna Plaza, speaks against plan
  • 45:36 – Roy Van Doren, owner of property at Hollymead Town Center, tells Commission that with plan which encourages density, comes traffic
  • 47:08 – Public hearing closed
  • 47:27 – Commissioner Cal Morris says business community concerns were clear
  • 48:06 – Commissioner Don Franco says public raised serious questions
  • 49:14 – Julia Monteith, UVA’s representative on the Planning Commission, asks why there is a disconnect between the planning process and resident concern
  • 50:08 – Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for Albemarle County, responds that the plan minimizes impact on businesses as much as possible, but says there must be a balance
  • 53:16 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph says this balance has been issue for a long time and specific components of the plan were decided long ago
  • 55:23 – Monteith says that she is surprised after all this planning that so many spoke against plan
  • 58:22 – Commissioner Bill Edgerton says that public comments did not come as a surprise to him and that since growth is coming to the area, improvements must be made on Route 29 now
  • 1:02:19 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield says that they have adequately heard objections from the business community in the past and that in the current economic climate, harm to businesses need to avoided as much as possible
  • 1:06:08 – Commissioner Tom Loach  says that the people commenting tonight do not fully represent the community as a whole and that the plan has been well-vetted
  • 1:21:16 -- Edgerton explains his view of consequences of growth area expansion and nature of Wendell Wood's offer to help build Berkmar Drive
  • 1:23:55 -- Cilimberg shares history of Wendell Wood's proposal to move this rural land into the growth area [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 1:25:43 – Joseph moves for approval; Edgerton seconds
  • 1:26:00 – Wendell Wood interrupts Planning Commission, accuses Edgerton of “lying” 
  • 1:27:04 – Cilimberg asks for clarification; does motion include the expansion for growth areas?
  • 1:27:34 – Joseph says that motion does not recommend expansion of growth area
  • 1:29:02 – Franco says he remains concerned about the plan’s impact on businesses along Route 29
  • 1:30:03 – Joseph says that she doesn’t see how impact on businesses can be accurately measured now
  • 1:30:59 – Cilimberg says that impacts must be reviewed and that any time comprehensive plans can be amended
  • 1:37:49 – Porterfield says she can’t support the plan that doesn’t contain adequate parallel roads
  • 1:39:03 – Final vote taken: 4 Yeas (Edgerton, Loach, Joseph, Morris), 2 Nays (Porterfield, Franco)

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