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December 21, 2011

City Council falls short of consenting to parkway opening

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council approved an ordinance Monday that asks the Virginia Department of Transportation to make several safety improvements before Albemarle County’s portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway is opened early next year.

However, councilors made clear the vote did not indicate they were pleased with the imminent opening of the road that will eventually connect the two communities while cutting through a city park.

“I am not for consenting because I think that our consent is not necessary and is not being asked for,” Councilor Kristin Szakos said. “[VDOT] will do it whether we consent or not.”

Construction of the county’s portion of the parkway was completed in mid-October. Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking VDOT to open the road to the public.

City staff held negotiations with VDOT and the county and determined a series of improvements to mitigate the effects of opening the parkway. They include longer turn lanes as well as a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour as the parkway approaches Melbourne Road.

Szakos said she could support a request that VDOT make those improvements.

Continue reading "City Council falls short of consenting to parkway opening " »

December 06, 2011

Council will not oppose opening of parkway

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Charlottesville’s City Council determined Monday that it would not oppose the opening of the first segment of the Meadow Creek Parkway.

Albemarle County’s portion of the parkway was officially completed in October. Residents in neighborhoods along Rio Road have been lobbying local leaders to open the road to alleviate traffic congestion.

20111207-MCP-picture

Cars are detoured from Rio Road onto the Meadow Creek Parkway in October 2010 during a temporary opening of the parkway while work was being done to Rio. (Daily Progress file photo)

City Councilor David Brown said he felt it was appropriate to open the parkway given that the city’s portion will not be completed for years.

“There’s a lot of people in the city who don’t think we need the road, but there’s plenty of city residents who say we should be opening it,” Brown said.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution today asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to open the completed portion of the road to traffic. City staff briefed councilors on Monday on steps they feel should be taken first to improve safety. Those requests were not part of the project’s original design.

Continue reading "Council will not oppose opening of parkway " »

November 07, 2011

City Council candidates on the Meadowcreek Parkway

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com
image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com

In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

CITY COUNCIL, EIGHTH IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comIf the federal lawsuit opposing the construction of the grade-separated interchange for the Meadow Creek Parkway is unsuccessful, will you support completion of the parkway?


 

Scott Bandy (I) – Challenger

This has been a no-win topic on either side, whether you are for or against the parkway. I come down on the side that I support completion of the parkway and that’s going to earn the bane of a lot of people that don’t want that parkway going through Mr. McIntire’s legacy.

Let me pose this. There are so many ways to look at this.  Yes. McIntire Park is one hell of a legacy. I don’t see the parkway detracting from Mr. McIntire’s legacy. If we want to talk about a most notable figure in this city’s history,  how he viewed things and what he would like to remembered for and his legacy, I mean, it could be hinted that well, why not bring the World’s Fair to the City of Charlottesville? It all goes to that turn of the century mentality of city beautification. What is in the eye of the beholder?

If the grade-separated interchange for Meadow Creek Parkway is unsuccessful, well, what do we want to do? Do we want to run it through there and put up a stop light like we’ve done with so many interchanges along that beautiful main street U.S 29 road from Hydraulic on out to Hollymead? Come on, common sense people, common sense.

 

Brandon Collins (I) – Challenger

I won’t, though it’s hard to say after the lawsuit what any next step in having the road be done would be.  Now if there is a majority on council that wants a new approach when it comes to the road, I think we can make that happen and I would be in favor of making that happen. 

Continue reading "City Council candidates on the Meadowcreek Parkway" »

November 01, 2011

City Council candidates on city/county/UVa cooperation

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com

In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

CITY COUNCIL, THIRD IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comHow should the city, county and the University of Virginia work together to enhance our community’s unique character and economic vitality?


 

Scott Bandy (I) – Challenger

That’s been a bone of contention with some folks. County and city relations, I chalk that up to the fact that the city in a way conducts itself as if though were the county, and the county conducts itself as though it were the city. Look at the urban ring there. Commercial development. People moving out to the county. The city has lost a lot of residents, people that have moved from the city into the county. You go where the jobs are. The jobs happen to be mostly in the county. Not that we don’t have them in the city, certainly we do.

And of course, the University of Virginia. Let’s drag that into this. Certainly there is room for improvement. We could talk to each more. Not that we don’t already. But as Bob Fenwick said, as a city, we have a problem of talking things to death. The people want action. Whether that’s in the next few minutes or over a period of time. Certainly I am willing to extend the hand of cordialness and consideration to the university, to the county, to work on things together.

One of the things that is close to me that also involves the county is the Sunset-Fontaine Connector. The improvements are going to be in the county, but that improvement is going to dramatically affect the city. The residents along Old Lynchburg Road, that segment of Jefferson Park Avenue. They will be impacted when that  connector is ever completed and done. Perhaps once it is done, and certainly that’s one of the things I would be most interested in the county with, and of course, the university, because we have the Fontaine Avenue Research Park over there, of accomplishing. That impact would be that Jefferson Park Avenue, [Old] Lynchburg Road, could return to the status of a slower paced neighborhood street, not the cut-through as it is and has been currently used as. Let’s move on.

 

Brandon Collins (I) – Challenger

… I think everyone knows that things between the county and the city have not been great for quite some time.  I am looking forward to at some point getting beyond the [Meadow Creek] Parkway and the water supply plan, and in to really seeing what the county and the city have in common … We can cooperate a lot on a regional transit plan, or a regional transit authority, if there’s interest in the county for that.  I think in the long term we really need to make a list of priorities for the city when it comes to the county and determine which of those are really worth taking a stand for and what is somewhat negotiable …

Continue reading "City Council candidates on city/county/UVa cooperation" »

October 22, 2011

City’s central park seen as home for botanical garden

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Woodland walks. Wildflower meadows. Waterfalls and native plants. Wetland gardens with raised paths. A winter sledding hill. Convenient access to the heart of downtown Charlottesville.

20111021-MBG-concept-sqNew design concepts for a proposed botanical garden made their debut at a gathering Friday evening. The McIntire Botanical Garden will be one of several projects competing for consideration in the city’s latest McIntire Park planning effort.

“We are envisioning this beautiful, free-flowing, open area in the center of the city,” said Helen Flamini, president of the McIntire Botanical Garden. “It will act as a hub … and people will be able to come into this park from every direction.”

Flamini said trails would access the park from along the new Meadow Creek Parkway, from Melbourne Road and from a new pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks connecting it to the western side of McIntire Park.

“We came to Charlottesville and we thought of its character as being very human, and [the botanical garden] would bring this back in a way we are starting to lose,” said Kat Draego, a resident of Albemarle County and self-described “Charlottesville girl” after she reviewed the garden plans.

“We are getting away from that small city that was the ‘best place to live,’ into a really raggedy, urban, dirty place,” said Draego. “This says, ‘Let’s be for people.’”

Continue reading "City’s central park seen as home for botanical garden" »

October 19, 2011

Albemarle grants preliminary approval for Dunlora Forest

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has approved a critical slopes waiver and preliminary site plan for a 90-home development off Rio Road despite concerns from neighbors that it would further deteriorate traffic conditions on the road.

Dunlora-forest-location
Dunlora Forest would be located at the corner of Rio Road and Pen Park Road

“You’re taking a beautiful place and you’re creating a traffic disaster,” said Anne Williams, a resident of nearby River Run. “If you don’t live there then you don’t know what we will be giving up if you approve of all of this.”

The Dunlora Forest development would include townhouses, single-family dwellings and duplexes on 22 acres at the corner of Rio and Pen Park Road.

Southern Development had originally hoped to build more homes as part of the project, but scaled back the density on the site following a meeting in July when it appeared the commission was unwilling to grant the critical slopes waiver.

The land is already zoned for high residential use and the Places29 master plan calls for dense development at that location.

“The property is located in the development area which has been identified by the Board [of Supervisors] and the Planning Commission as an area where development should occur,” said senior planner Megan Yaniglos.

The project’s primary entrance would be on Rio Road and its secondary entrance would be on Pen Park Road. This entrance is currently envisioned as being a right-in, right-out entrance, but engineers at the Virginia Department of Transportation will need to approve it.

Continue reading "Albemarle grants preliminary approval for Dunlora Forest" »

September 23, 2011

Audio & Video of Charlottesville City Council candidate forum

2011-election-DPx476On September 20, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress co-sponsored a city council candidate forum for six of the seven candidates (eight at that time) running for three of the five seats on Charlottesville City Council.
 
Local residents came to the Burley Middle School auditorium to hear the candidates respond to questions posed by the moderator, the audience, and each other.  Read this article for complete coverage by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

 


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110920-CityCouncilForum

20110920-city-candidate-forum

The candidate forum participants
  • Brandon Collins (I)
  • Bob Fenwick (I)
  • Kathleen M. Galvin (D)
  • Satyendra Huja (D)
  • Dede Smith (D)
  • Andrew Williams (I)
  • Brian Wheeler, Moderator

Not participating

Charlottesville City Council
candidate forum
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

QUICK RESPONSE TOPICS

Water plan
As the primary approach for adding to our long term water supply, do you favor dredging and water conservation before construction of a new or taller dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, YES or NO?

Meadow Creek Parkway
Do you support construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway in the city of Charlottesville, YES or NO? 

Ward-based elections
Would you support switching from at-large seats to ward-based representation for elections to Charlottesville City Council, YES or NO?

SEVEN MODERATOR QUESTION TOPICS

Your qualifications for City Council
Please describe your past experience that qualifies you to be on City Council.

Transportation / Transit
Do you support an expanded transit system? If so, how would you raise the money to pay for additional service?

City-County-UVA relations
How should the city, county and the University of Virginia work together to enhance our community’s unique character and economic vitality?

Workforce development / Jobs
Last month the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reported that Charlottesville lost 3,248 jobs during the years 2000 to 2010.  What specifically should city council do to promote employment?

Education
Do you support the city school board’s grade reconfiguration initiative?  Why or why not?

Comprehensive plan
Recent projections show that the city’s population will increase significantly in the next 50 years.  What changes would you advocate for in the city’s comprehensive plan to address that growth?

Police / crime
What is your top priority for the city police department?

After the moderator questions, the candidates each answered one question from the audience.  Then each candidate had an opportunity to ask another candidate a question.

 

Rosehill, Kellytown residents share concerns with council

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 23, 2011

Residents of two of Charlottesville’s central neighborhoods had the opportunity Thursday night to give advice to city councilors and department heads about how local government can work more effectively to serve their needs.

The City Council’s latest town hall meeting was targeted at residents of the Rose Hill neighborhood and a nearby community that is only now finding an identity.

20110922-Forum-Council

“We’ve discovered a lot of people don’t know what Kellytown is,” said Tom Bowe, the president of the Kellytown Neighborhood Association.

One city councilor said he could understand that sentiment.

“I’ve lived on Rugby Avenue for thirty years, and I wasn’t really sure if I was a resident of Kellytown,” said City Councilor David Brown. “Part of it in my view is that neighborhoods form around a community of interest, and that’s often a problem. What are the problems that can bring an identity to this neighborhood?”

City government recognizes many neighborhoods, but does not make decisions about their boundaries.

Bowe said problems facing the neighborhood include cut-through traffic on Rose Hill Drive, as well as the pressures of more development. He said the neighborhood is considering seeking historical status from the city in part to help protect its residential character.

“We’re concerned about commercial development on Rose Hill Drive and Amherst Street," Bowe said. He pointed to a pending development by Artisan Construction that will consolidate four businesses into one medical clinic, which he said will include an inappropriate access onto Amherst Street.

“That is a neighborhood street,” Bowe said. “If [patients] want to go to Barracks Road after they go to the clinic, they would cut through our neighborhood.”

Susan Hoffman, a resident of Augusta Street, said she felt a developer outmaneuvered the neighborhood during a rezoning process that allowed for the development.

“It is difficult for a neighborhood to pull together and come to a consensus in a short amount of time,” Hoffman said. “For the developer, that’s their business, and they have lawyers. We felt like we didn’t have any voice in the matter.”

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said he understood the neighborhood’s concerns, and that his department tries to inform citizens about how rezoning and other development applications work.

“If neighbors have concerns, we’ll give you advice on how the process works,” Tolbert said. “We’re not going to tell you how to defeat it, but we’ll put you in touch with the developer and help you strategize.”

Neighborhood resident Anne Colony is helping to research the history of Kellytown.

“It’s apparently one of the first free black neighborhoods in Charlottesville,” Colony said. “We are talking about doing a historic plaque to give a little of the history.”

Colony added that many in the neighborhood believe that Thomas Jefferson looked at the area as a potential location for the University of Virginia.

Tolbert also used the meeting to educate people about a new honorary street name that is being applied to Rose Hill Drive. The street will gain a second name, Jackson P. Burley Drive, from Preston Avenue to Madison Avenue.

James Hollins, the president of the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, asked the council to increase police patrols.

“Rose Hill is basically a quiet area and we like to keep it quiet and have the police come through late at night,” Hollins said.

In 2009, Councilor Kristin Szakos campaigned on a platform to hold town hall-style meetings in order to reach people who might feel uncomfortable coming to city hall for a regular meeting.

“I think they are going probably better than we expected,” said city spokesman Ric Barrick.

The program will continue next year, but Barrick said neighborhood associations will be encouraged to take a more active role in planning them.

The next town hall meeting will be held on Oct.13 at Walker Upper Elementary School for residents of the Greenbrier and Rugby neighborhoods.

September 21, 2011

Council candidates talk water, infrastructure

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Six of the eight candidates running for the Charlottesville City Council gave their view on the Meadow Creek Parkway, the water supply plan and electoral reform during a forum held Tuesday by Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress.

Independent candidates Scott Bandy and Paul Long chose not to appear at the event. Long later released a statement announcing he is withdrawing from the race.


 

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110920-CityCouncilForum

20110920-Forum

In his opening statement, Democratic incumbent Satyendra Huja, 69, pointed to news that a major website recently ranked Charlottesville as one of the best places to live in the country.

“This is no accident, and I have played a role,” Huja said. He cited his work in developing the Downtown Mall, creating a tree commission and volunteer work with Meals on Wheels.

Brandon Collins, 38, is a lifelong resident who has worked as a socialist activist at the state and national level.

“We hear a lot of talk about how great our city is, but Charlottesville, for many of our residents, remains a difficult place to live and a difficult place just to get by,” Collins said. He added that if elected, he would be an independent voice on the council.

Kathy Galvin, 55, said she was qualified for the council because of her experience as both an architect and as a current member of the school board.

“I can make a unique contribution if elected,” said Galvin, who is running as a Democrat.

Independent Bob Fenwick said one of the biggest threats to the city is the need to invest in capital projects while citizens are facing the potential of a double-dip recession.

“The city is poised to commit $300 million to huge public items like a new dam, a new pump station, the replacement of Belmont Bridge and replacement of sewer infrastructure,” Fenwick said. “I am poised to bring to City Council a look at these expenditures and help [Council] make the best decision.”

Dede Smith, 55 and a former member of the school board, said Charlottesville has been a great place to raise two children and that voting for herself and the rest of the Democratic ticket is the best way to keep it that way.

“I think you would see we would bring a wealth of experience, decision making and proven leadership to council,” Smith said.

Andrew Williams, 25, the only African-American in the council race, said he is running as an independent so he can bring a nonpartisan voice to the council.

“To become a world class city, shouldn’t we have a diverse representation on council?” Williams asked. He said his experience as a claims adjuster for State Farm showed he had the inquisitiveness and ingenuity to serve.

After opening statements, candidates were asked to give quick responses to three questions.

Collins, Fenwick, Smith and Williams said they would favor dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and water conservation as a first step to increase the community water supply plan before building on the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

Galvin indicated a new or taller dam should be the first step, though Huja said he would be open to studying dredging as a component of the water supply plan.

On the Meadow Creek Parkway, Huja and Galvin said they supported construction while the rest of the candidates said they were opposed.

The candidates were also asked if they would support a switch to how councilors are elected. Currently all councilors are elected at-large.

Collins and Williams both expressed their “cautious support” for ward-based elections. Fenwick said he was a “strong supporter” of the idea. Huja said he would support a combined system of both ward-based and at-large councilors. Smith and Galvin said the public should be asked what they think about the idea.

Jobs were a major theme during the forum. Candidates were reminded that a recent report from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce showed a net loss of 3,248 jobs over the past ten years.

Smith said the report offered an opportunity for the community to find a new identity for employees and employers.

“The biomedical industry meshes well but there are others,” Smith said. “We have a large university that is a major attractant to certain industries. We [also] need to retool our education system to produce a workforce that can be employed.”

Williams said that money spent on public housing could perhaps better be spent on vocational training.

“Educated people will go out and create jobs,” Williams said. “We should provide training in locations that need it. We should scrutinize the budget and make sure we are spending money where the needs are.

Huja said the city should help small businesses locate here because that is where most job creation can be done.

“I have suggested a very ambitious plan for guaranteed employment,” Collins said. “This is not something that can happen overnight but there are steps that can take us there.”

Fenwick said that he would favor council actions that would create jobs and not simply create more opportunities for workforce development.

“What good does workforce development do if we don’t have jobs?” Fenwick asked. “We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk.”

The two candidates with experience on the school board had divergent views on whether the school system should reconfigure itself by moving 5th- and 6th-grade students to an expanded Buford Middle School.

“I do support the reconfiguration,” Galvin said. She said the capital expenditure would pay for itself over 20 years by helping to reduce operational costs.

However, Smith said she did not support the idea, but would like to hear more information.

The candidate forum participants
  • Brandon Collins (I)
  • Bob Fenwick (I)
  • Kathleen M. Galvin (D)
  • Satyendra Huja (D)
  • Dede Smith (D)
  • Andrew Williams (I)
  • Brian Wheeler, Moderator

Not participating

Charlottesville City Council
candidate forum
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

September 11, 2011

VDOT moving forward with Meadow Creek Parkway construction

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, September 11, 2011


An engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation said last week that using an alternative method to ford a stream in McIntire Park will not significantly raise the cost of the city’s portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway.

Mcintire-bridge
Photosimulation of the 65-foot long bridge to be built in McIntire Park

“Our early estimates are that we’ll stay within the contingencies that are available in the contract,” said VDOT engineer Brent Sprinkel. “There should be sufficient money in the current budget to more than handle what we’re doing.”

The Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded a $3.37 million contract to Key Construction Company in April, more than a year after VDOT selected the firm as the lowest bidder for the project.

The contract could not be officially awarded until after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit allowing VDOT to reroute an unnamed tributary of Schenk’s Branch through a box culvert.

Soon after, the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park sought a preliminary injunction against VDOT to halt construction. The coalition claimed the permit was issued unlawfully because the environmental review was not broad enough to satisfy requirements.

However, VDOT asked for the permit to be withdrawn in mid-July, one day before the case was to be heard in federal court, because the agency’s engineers chose to use a 65-foot-long bridge to cross the stream instead of the culvert.

“We were going to be victorious in the lawsuit and there would be an injunction against any construction because of the invalidity of the permit,” said Peter Kleeman, a coalition member.

At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Dave Norris asked if the bridge would be a more expensive option.

“Generally speaking, bridges will cost more than a culvert but we have not finalized that yet,” Sprinkel said. “We have not gone to the contractor to negotiate prices.”

The City Council learned in a recent briefing that the bridge will include bike lanes on either side, as well as a sidewalk for pedestrians.

“The [multi-use] trail will also come up and cross on the bridge in a separated area on the bridge,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.

The bridge design will be similar to one that has already been constructed on Albemarle County’s portion of the parkway.

“I was a little startled at the way this project came to us but I think the bridge itself is something that’s very attractive,” said City Councilor Kristin Szakos.

Even without knowing the bridge’s final cost, Key Construction has begun clearing the land for the project, according to Sprinkel.

Construction on Albemarle’s portion of the parkway will be officially completed in mid-October. The multi-use trail next to that section of roadway could open soon afterwards.

“VDOT is working with the city and county to convey the trail property to the city of Charlottesville,” said VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter. “Once that is complete the trail can be officially opened.”

Later this year, the City Council will be presented with a final design for the grade-separated interchange that will connect the parkway with the U.S. 250 Bypass. The $33.5 million project is being funded in part by a federal earmark secured by former Sen. John Warner.

“We have several stakeholder groups that we’ve committed to meet with prior to council’s final presentation,” said Angela Tucker, the city’s project manager for the interchange. These groups include the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad, the Covenant School and the Hillcrest and Birdwood neighborhoods.

The Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park filed a federal lawsuit in February alleging the Federal Highway Administration unlawfully issued a “finding of no significant impact” for the interchange.

"Our primary goal is to address the federal protections for parkland, historic properties and the environmental impact issues that are triggered by the use of federal funding for the interchange,” Kleeman said.

No date has been set for that case to be heard by federal Judge Norman K. Moon, but it is not likely that a ruling will be made until early next year.

The city, county and VDOT have an informal understanding that prevents any portion of the road from opening to vehicular traffic before all three portions are completed.