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March 26, 2010

MPO discusses U.S. 29 study, Biscuit Run funding

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday,  March 26, 2010

At their meeting on March 24, 2010, the MPO Policy Board discussed how the proposed Berkmar Drive extension might affect traffic patterns in northern Albemarle County, the possibility of a bike commuter trail to connect Charlottesville and northern parts of the county, and the ongoing revision of a study designed to develop a master plan for all of U.S. 29 throughout Virginia.

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MPO Director raises questions about U.S. 29 Corridor Study

A subcommittee of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) is continuing work on a study of the entire U.S. 29 corridor from the North Carolina border to Gainesville. The ultimate goal of the study, which is referred to in CTB documents as a ‘blueprint,’, is to create a master plan for the road. The Parsons Transportation Group was hired by the Virginia Department of Transportation to conduct the study.

20091007-BOS-Center-State
This map depicts an alternative for a new road passing through eastern Albemarle County. This was not included as part of the draft. Click through for a larger image (.PDF) (Source: VDOT)

When a draft was unveiled last fall, it included three concepts for projects that were later removed at the request of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. These were an extension of Leonard Sandridge Road using right of way purchased by VDOT for the western bypass, an elevated highway connecting U.S. 250 with U.S. 29 at Hydraulic Road, as well as a new road to connect Culpeper to I-64 along the Route 15 corridor in eastern Albemarle.The study, minus these projects, was submitted to the Commonwealth Transportation Board last fall. In December, the CTB passed a resolution which was critical of the way in which the study was developed. The subcommittee was appointed to evaluate the way in which the study was conducted.

On Wednesday, MPO executive director Stephen Williams told the MPO Policy Board that he had heard the three projects might be put back in the study, which the CTB instructed the subcommittee to revise with a target completion date of July 1.  

Jim Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District, said he had not heard that information. Utterback, a member of the CTB subcommittee, said the resolution instructed VDOT to improve the way in which this and future corridor studies are conducted, but did not specifically ask for the three projects to be recommended.

“There has been no decision about that that I’m aware of,” Utterback told the MPO Policy Board.  In a follow-up e-mail sent two days after the MPO meeting, Utterback confirmed his understanding to local officials.

“These projects have not been put back in as recommendations and there is no intention to do such,” wrote Utterback.

Butch Davies, the representative of VDOT’s Culpeper District on the CTB, said in an interview that he also was unaware of any efforts to reinstitute the three projects.

“I’ve been to every meeting and played an active role with it,” Davies said. “The resolution adopted by the CTB does not include the adoption of the [projects].”

Davies said CTB members were concerned that the study became too bogged down on individual projects, and said that made it hard for any consensus to be reached.

“You can’t put in a dramatic interchange proposal without having local government vet it [first],” Davies said. He said several of the eliminated proposals went against the comprehensive plans put in place by jurisdictions, including Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Davies said many of the study’s recommendations involve finding a way to limit the number of intersections along the corridor in order to protect it as a transportation asset.

Charlie Rasnick, a retired VDOT engineer, is working with Parsons on the study. He said in an interview that the final report would honor the input from local elected officials.

“Once we got comments back from the public it was little of value to keep those recommendations in,” Rasnick said.

The subcommittee met earlier this month, and will next meet on April 7, 2010 in VDOT’s Warrenton office.  The CTB has requested the full report to be ready for their review by July 1.

Federal funding request for 29/H/250 improvements

Representative Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) has informed the MPO that he has made a request for $517,000 in funding  to pay for design work for additional lanes at the interchange that connects U.S. 29 with the U.S. 250 Bypass. If granted, the money would go to assist the City of Charlottesville with design work for the project, a key step towards actual construction of a long-planned second lane on the ramp that connects southbound U.S. 29 with westbound U.S. 250.

MPO Director Williams mistakenly told the MPO that the money had been appropriated, but that will not happen until Congress takes up the federal budget later this year.

“His staff told me that he views this as a very high priority project for his district, and one that will really serve the needs of his constituents all the way throughout his district down into Lynchburg and Danville,” Williams said.

Perriello made several other requests this year, including $4 million for the Battelle Corporation to develop a new interface for detecting biological threats on the battlefield. Battelle has a presence in the University of Virginia’s Research Park in northern Albemarle.  

Perriello also requested $1.5 million for the Jefferson School restoration and redevelopment project, $500,000 for Habitat for Humanity’s redevelopment of the Sunrise Trailer park, $2.2 million for Crozet’s downtown streetscape project and $720,000 for construction of a bridge to carry bikes and pedestrian over the north-south railroad line that bisects McIntire Park. Perriello also requested $1 million towards the extension of the runway at the Charlottesville-Albemarle airport.

Jessica Barba, a spokeswoman for Perriello, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that 17 of the congressman’s 48 appropriation requests in FY2010 were ultimately funded. She said decisions would be made by Congress by early May.

Federal government clears up source of Biscuit Run funding

In January, Williams sent a letter to the then-Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer requesting information about why the MPO was not consulted when Virginia acquired the Biscuit Run property as a new state park. Nearly half of the $9.8 million price was financed using federal transportation dollars.

Virginia’s new transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, wrote Williams to say that the money did not actually come from a funding pool from which the MPO needed to be consulted. The MPO is required by law to sign off on most federal funds granted to localities and the state for transportation purposes.

“The funds allocated to the Biscuit Run project were not Transportation Enhancement Funds but Equity Bonus Funds, which are statewide discretionary funds,” wrote Sean Connaughton in a letter dated February 8, 2010. That pool of money is not subject to the MPO’s jurisdiction.

The three paragraph letter says former Governor Tim Kaine directed Virginia Department of Transportation officials to work with the Department of Conservation and Recreation on a solution that would allow Virginia to buy the land to create a new park.

In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow last February, Williams explained how equity bonus funds work.

“Every state on an annual basis gets an allocation of formula funds,” Williams said. This money goes to pay for maintenance of road surfaces and bridges. “At the end of the year, if a state has not used up their entire allocation of funding, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) takes back the money.”

Then each state competes for a share of the additional money.

“My understanding is that Virginia got funds [and then] decided to spend the money for Biscuit Run,” Williams said.  

The MPO voted to authorize a letter which invited the Secretary to meet with the MPO to discuss transportation projects in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

Board members express skepticism over Berkmar Drive computer simulation

The MPO’s new transportation planner has used computer models to depict how traffic patterns would be affected by the construction of new roads. One of his first tasks, according to Williams, was to model how driver behavior would change if the proposed Berkmar Drive extension and a new bridge over the South Fork Rivanna River are built.

Download Download Williams' presentation of Berkmar traffic model

However, members of the MPO Policy Board did not think his first effort used correct information, and thus generated incorrect results.

For instance, existing conditions used to set a baseline for the model described Earlysville Road as having a level of service (LOS) of D. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) describes such conditions as “approaching unstable flow.”

20100324-MPO (left to right) JAUNT Director Donna Shaunesey, Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker, City Councilor Satyendra Huja, Albemarle County Supervisor Rodney Thomas

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said that did not meet with his experience.“I drive on that road frequently and I’ve never stopped that I can recall on the road,” Rooker said. He added he never stops now that there is a roundabout at the intersection of Earlysville and Dickerson Roads.

City Councilor Kristin Szakos questioned the current population figures used in one section of northern Albemarle County, saying they were too low. 

Rooker made the point that he wanted a model to serve as a tool to determine if a road such as Berkmar Drive should be built, especially if it means changing the land use of the property along the way.

Currently the land is designated in Albemarle’s rural area, but developer Wendell Wood has offered to pay for a portion of the road, but only if land he owns along the route is brought into the growth area.

“If you do nothing and you don’t expand the growth area over there, what happens with traffic?” Rooker asked. “What’s the gain for the investment, I want to find out. The cost of the bridge is probably $30 million.”

Williams said he would work with his staff to factor that into the next version of the model. But he also said that from a regional perspective, the model is designed to address traffic congestion on U.S. 29.  

"As 29 becomes more congested like we have in the no-build scenario here, traffic pushes off of 29 to surrounding roads and actually causes traffic and safety issues on Earlysville Road [and] Proffit Road,” Williams said.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center asked if the traffic model took into account that commercial land uses tend to generate large amounts of traffic.

Williams said the model factors in a 120,000 square foot “big-box” store located just north of the proposed Berkmar Bridge.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas asked if paving Rio Mils Road had been modeled to see if that might alleviate congestion. Williams said that scenario was not modeled because it not in the county’s transportation plans.

County Planner David Benish said significant terrain issues would prevent that road from being upgraded simply by adding asphalt. Rio Mills is one of only two roads in the development area that are unpaved.  

Williams said his staff will continue revising the model in response to feedback from elected officials.

Also at this meeting, the Policy Board members voted to join the new Virginia Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. However, some members did express concern that joining might take away from time spent dealing on local issues.  

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Meeting opened by Chair Satyendra Huja
  • 01:15 - Public comment from Peter Kleeman, who requested public forum on Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 03:20 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of Free Enterprise Forum, against Kleeman's request
  • 04:20 - Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker says opportunities for public comment on parkway have been numerous
  • 06:00 - MPO adopts minutes for January meeting
  • 06:30 - Discussion of proposed Northtown commuter trail
  • 10:30 - Discussion of Rep. Perriello's request for funding to pay for
  • 13:30 - Discussion of MPO's work plan and subsequent funding,
  • 14:45 - City Councilor Kristin Szakos requests work to build ridership on area transit
  • 16:45 - Rooker calls for work to make sure areas around transit stops are safe for pedestrians
  • 17:45 - Huja asks for more trails to be built linking city and county
  • 18:45 - County planner David Benish says Parks Director Dan Mahon is not working on trails much at the moment
  • 20:15 - Huja calls for more work to be done for cyclists and pedestrians, not so much on roads
  • 21:10 - Williams updates MPO on potential of joining Virginia Association of MPOs
  • 28:30 - Williams updates MPO on funding for Biscuit Run
  • 30:30 - Williams presents results of modeling study of the proposed extension of Berkmar Drive
  • 36:00 - Rooker expresses concern about LOS given for Earlysville Road
  • 39:00 - VDOT Engineer Chuck Proctor explains LOS
  • 41:00 - Williams explains how the model projects several potential scenarios
  • 45:30 - Williams describes the proposed alignments that were modeled
  • 48:30 - Szakos asks why model shows traffic as increasing on U.S. 29 if Berkmar Drive is extended
  • 55:15 - Rooker describes what he wants a model to achieve
  • 1:00:00 - UVA Senior Land Use Officer Julia Monteith asks
  • 1:14:20 - Rooker questions 2035 numbers for one section of the road
  • 1:26:30 - Monteith asks why the extension and the bridge were modeled, and what will be done with results
  • 1:27:30 - Williams describes why the Transportation Improvement Program is being adjusted for changes in McIntire Road interchange funding
  • 1:29:00 - Williams describes how the recently concluded General Assembly session affected transportation policy in Virginia
  • 1:31:00 - Williams begins discussion of U.S. 29 Corridor Study
  • 1:34:00 - Jim Utterback questions Williams' assertion that eliminated projects may be reinserted
  • 1:44:30 - JAUNT director Donna Shaunnesy gives a report on her agency
  • 1:45:30 - Nancy Ahrens of CAT gives a report on her agency
  • 1:47:00 - Update from Julia Monteith on UVA
  • 1:48:00 - Szakos discusses efforts to ban extra-long tractor trailers from U.S. highways
  • 1:49:00 - Williams talks about new coalition of federal agencies to plan for sustainability at a regional level
  • 1:50:30 - Public comment from Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center

September 27, 2009

County sewer authority considering special rate district for new pump station

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs & Tarpley Ashworth
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) is considering a special rate district so that new development will help pay for a $11.3 million sewer pump station to be located in the county’s northern growth areas.  The North Fork Regional Pump Station will replace the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant which does not have the capacity to meet future demand.  Wastewater will be pumped south to the Moores Creek facility in Charlottesville for treatment.

“Initially the overall plan was to have the developers [pay] up front the money for this overall project,” said Gary Fern, the ACSA’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately with the economy and all, the developers are saying they don’t have the money to do that.”

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Camelot

The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant will be decommissioned once the North Fork Regional Pump Station is operational


However, in a new plan shared with the water authority’s board earlier this month, the ACSA announced it is considering paying for the project through the sale of bonds which will be paid back through future connection fees. Fern is proposing two special districts, one serving the affected areas north and one serving the affected areas south of the North Fork of the Rivanna River. Properties in the north will be assessed more because two pumping facilities will be required to move their wastewater through the ACSA system.

According to a fee schedule proposed by Fern, each new residential, commercial, and industrial connection requested in the northern district would pay a $1,310 connection fee, and new connections in the south would pay the $1,012 fee. Developers will pay the fees based upon the number of “equivalent residential connections,” a formula which varies by the type of development.   

The fees would be levied on top of those that would normally apply for a new connection.  The ACSA raised its existing connection fees on September 1, 2009 . At a meeting in August, developers lobbied successfully to postpone an even greater fee increase until March of next year.

Jay Willer of the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association told Charlottesville Tomorrow that he preferred the pay-as-you-go system that Fern is recommending.

“The development community understands paying our share of the costs,” Willer said. “We  prefer approaches that let us put our money on the table as we have it to put on the table.”

Major developments in the area include the University of Virginia North Fork Research Park, the Rivanna Station military facilities, and North Pointe.  The nine-hundred home North Pointe development was approved in 2006 but has been delayed, in part, because of the absence of sewer capacity.

Fern estimates that the ACSA will raise approximately $10.15 million by imposing these connection fees. The projections are based on the 14,782 estimated new equivalent residential connections the ACSA expects to add over the next twenty years in this area alone. Fern said that if the actual number of new residential connections exceeds this total then the charges would be adjusted accordingly.

Fern also said the ACSA might need to keep the fees in place longer than twenty years if the number of new residential connections falls short of projections.

ACSA board member Jim Colbaugh suggested to Fern that the fee schedule should also include a 25% contingency charge to cover for additional land, construction, engineering, and inspection costs that could be imposed during the planning and construction process of the new pump station.

“My honest suggestion is not to surprise anybody at the tail end,” said Colbaugh. He warned that if this contingency charge is not built into the plan, then these hidden fees could disrupt the financial planning of the project. Fern said the fees could rise once the design for pump stations is complete.

The ACSA board will hold a public hearing later this year to vote on the proposed connection fees and rate districts. The pump station is expected to be complete in late summer of 2011, after which the Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant will be decommissioned.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 02:24 – Staff report from Gary Fern, Executive Director of the ACSA
  • 17:42 – Colbaugh suggests implementing a 25% contingency charge
  • 18:57 – Palmer asks if these charges would be reevaluated annually
  • 20:22 – Palmer asks how long fee will be in place
  • 21:31 – Colbaugh asks what happens if there are more new connections than anticipated
  • 23:14 – Martin asks Fern to clarify the statutory basis for the levying of special rates

March 11, 2009

RWSA’s Tom Frederick updates Albemarle County Board on water supply plan

20090304-Frederick

One day after the Board of Supervisors participated in a joint meeting with the City Council  to discuss the water supply plan, they received a more detailed briefing from the leaders of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA).

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Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, reported on the status of the panel of experts hired to take a look at the designs for the new Ragged Mountain Dam. The panel is meeting this week in Charlottesville, and Frederick said the main goal is to determine what additional studies are required to help inform the team’s work.

“If we reach the point where additional data is needed, we’re going to need to hire a driller to go out to the site,” Frederick said, adding that will slow down the panel’s work.

During Frederick’s briefing, Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked him to comment on statements made by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris’ that the existing dam at Ragged Mountain can be raised by 13 feet, rather than replaced. Thomas wanted to know if the panel would also be looking at the foundation of the existing plan.

“If there’s cracked rock in one place, it may not be safe to add to the existing dam, either,” Thomas said. Frederick said the expert panel would be looking at the 1908 dam too.

“We are not limiting the evaluation to the layout for the dam that Gannett Fleming proposed to us,” Frederick said. “That means that it is on the table to talk about the existing dam location… At this point in the process we think that our posture needs to be broad and invite those kinds of questions.”

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asked if the RWSA would meet the deadline imposed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Dam Safety Division to repair or replace the Ragged Mountain Dam. Currently, the RWSA has a conditional permit to continue operating the 100 year old Ragged Mountain dam until June 30, 2011. The permit requires the RWSA to submit a plan to either replace or strengthen the dam by November of this year. The pause in the dam’s design phase could jeopardize the RWSA’s ability to meet the deadline. Frederick said it was too early to tell if the agency would be granted another exception. 

Other news from Tom Frederick:

  • The Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant “Enhanced Nutrient Removal” project is out to bid. Contractors have until March 31, 2009 to submit bids. Frederick said the RWSA has applied for federal economic stimulus money to help pay for the project. The project has a cost estimate of around $65 million.
  • Frederick announced that the design for the Meadowcreek Interceptor is more or less complete, and right of ways negotiations are on-going with the City and City residents. He briefed Supervisors on changes made in response to community concerns about the pipe’s aesthetics.  Namely, a section of the pipe was lowered, and a landscaping plan was created. Frederick said the changes have raised the cost estimate for the project by $440,000. Negotiations between the City and the RWSA are still underway regarding the amount of money the RWSA will have to pay the City for an easement. Frederick said he hopes the project can go to bid in late April.

Fern says new pump station will handle future needs in northern development area
ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern shared the details of the $11 million North Fork Regional Pump Station, which he said is the largest construction project ever taken on by his organization. The pump station will replace the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is at the end of its useful life. In response to a question from Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), Fern said that the pump station should be able to accommodate the capacity of the 900-home North Pointe development.

In a follow-up interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Fern said the Powell Creek Interceptor would be large enough to accept all the extra sewage that will be sent to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, at least through the year 2030.

View other stories on North Pointe development and sewer capacity:

Sean Tubbs

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Frederick gives update on the expert panel for the Ragged Mountain Dam
  • 03:00 - Supervisor Sally Thomas asks Frederick about Mayor Dave Norris' alternative plan
  • 05:45 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks about Department of Conservation and Recreation mandate to fix or replace the Ragged Mountain dam
  • 08:00 - Frederick reports on the Moores Creek Enhanced Nutrient Removal project
  • 09:30 - Rooker asks if there is a chance of stimulus money, prompting discussion
  • 15:30 - Frederick briefs Board on Meadowcreek Interceptor
  • 22:40 - Rooker raises the concern that the City may hold up the Interceptor with discussion
  • 25:34 - Slutzky warns against making too much of the issue, says he will talk to the Mayor
  • 26:30 - Frederick takes "strong issue" with the idea that the new Meadowcreek Interceptor is only for County growth 
  • 30:30 - Frederick describes how a portion of the Interceptor will be built within VDOT's right-of-way for the Meadowcreek Parkway
  • 32:00 - Frederick briefs Board on the South Fork Stewardship Task Force
  • 32:30 - Thomas asks Frederick about Dominion Development Resources' claim that they can prevent siltation in the reservoir
  • 36:00 - Frederick reviews the RWSA's budget for the next year, as well as the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority's strategic plan
  • 47:30 - Frederick asks for feedback on the RWSA's new website
  • 48:20 - ACSA Executive Director Tom Frederick begins discussing the $11 million North Fork Regional Pump Station
  • 55:30 - Rooker asks how North Pointe development will be affected by the North Fork pump station
  • 58:30 - Fern discusses the ACSA's strategic plan, the ACSA rate study
  • 59:20 - Fern discusses the potential for connecting the Oak Hill trailer park to the ACSA jurisdictional area

January 06, 2009

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2008

In my weekly appearance today on WINA AM 1070 on the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot and I will count down Charlottesville Tomorrow's top-10 growth and development stories of 2008.

This is the third year we have counted down the top-10 growth and development stories in Charlottesville-Albemarle.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support of WINA for the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot for having me on the show each week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, and the excellent reporting by my colleague Sean Tubbs and our interns and fellows.

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Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth and Development Stories of 2008

  1. Approved 50-year Community Water Supply Plan comes under scrutiny as proposed Ragged Mountain Dam cost estimates rise and citizen group demands look at project alternatives and dredging options. [Review all our water supply news].
  2. Major new housing and retail developments held up by market forces and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity impacting North Pointe and Albemarle Place developments). National economic recession impacts local government budgets, housing market, and new home construction.  New County residential building permits total 360 through September 2008, on track to be the lowest annual total in over a decade.
  3. Supervisor Ann Mallek’s first year representing the White Hall District on the six member Albemarle County Board of Supervisors results in several significant 4-2 votes breaking the 3-3 stalemate that had existed on issues like property taxes and rural area protection strategies.
  4. City and County agree to seek legislation to support formation of Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA), a jointly run public transit authority that would take over and expand the bus operations of the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS). Separate legislation is being recommended by a work group of Supervisors and City Councilors to seek authority to raise funds for transportation projects (including transit operations) via a local sales tax increase, if approved in a voter referendum in each locality.
  5. Meadowcreek Parkway construction contract (for the County’s portion) awarded to Faulconer Construction with work scheduled to begin in early 2009. City Council opts for grade-separated “signalized diamond” interchange for the Parkway’s intersection with the Route 250. The Steering Committee had recommended a design with an overpass above an oval roundabout. City Planning Commission ends their work in 2008 with a recommendation to withdraw funding for City’s portion of project which is scheduled to go to bid in early 2009. 
  6. Albemarle County approves several rural area protection strategies. Three rural area ordinance changes were approved related to holding periods on family sub-divisions, stream buffers, and driveways across steep slopes. A new land use taxation revalidation program is also approved by a unanimous vote of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. 
  7. County continues review of economic development policy update in comprehensive plan and eyes light industrial zoning needs. As part of a lengthy (and frequently delayed) review of the Economic Development chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, Supervisors overturn a Planning Commission decision and opt to continue review of Yancey Mills Business Park, a proposal for a light industrial business park in Crozet near the I-64 and Route 250 interchange. Review of the economic development goals began in November 2007 and is once again on the agenda of the Board of Supervisors for their meeting on January 7, 2009.
  8. Charlottesville City Council holds retreat in Staunton, VACharlottesville Tomorrow attends as only observer from public or media
  9. Albemarle County improves citizen and media access to important planning information by providing Internet access to complete staff reports provided to the County Planning Commission and by releasing the County View web application which allows detailed tracking of planning and building applications. Combined with the County’s GISWEB application and complete access to Board of Supervisor meeting materials and podcasts, the County has an impressive collection of material available online.
  10. Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Pie Day 2008.  No other topic generated as much positive feedback and listener calls as Coy and Brian’s ongoing radio dialogue about homemade pies.

Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2009

  • 50-year Community Water Supply Plan
  • Results of government efficiency reviews released by City and County.  What changes will be implemented?
  • Local elections will be held for City Council and Board of Supervisors (see Election Watch 2009)
  • General Assembly will block local sales tax increase for transportation funding and continue to shrink VDOT funding allocations to Charlottesville-Albemarle
  • Downtown Mall renovations will be completed.  Will it be under budget and on schedule? Monitor the progress here.
  • Local governments will face budget challenges as recession continues.  Revenue sharing from County to City will increase by $4 million to around $18 million a year.
  • Places29 Master Plan will be unveiled.  Will it be approved?
  • Crozet Master Plan’s first 5-year review gets underway
  • Meadowcreek Parkway construction gets underway. Will a lawsuit stall City’s portion?
  • Community will review of ASAP’s optimal population study findings

The best way to keep track of these and other stories about growth and development is to subscribe to our free weekly e-mail updates.  Thanks for listening, reading, and commenting in 2008!

Brian Wheeler

October 07, 2008

Supervisors updated on sewer capacity for Albemarle Place and North Pointe

20080923-Fern
FILE PHOTO: Gary Fern, Executive Director,
Albemarle County Service Authority

At their meeting October 1, 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors heard a quarterly update from Gary Fern, Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority which is the utility for public water and sewer in the County’s urban areas.  Fern reported on sewer capacity for the Albemarle Place development and on the North Fork wastewater pump station project.

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On Albemarle Place, Fern described a September meeting between the ACSA, the new developer, Edens & Avant, their engineers, and the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) to discuss "how to get wastewater flow from the Albemarle Place site to the Meadowcreek Interceptor."  According to Fern, the collaboration between all the parties and the City of Charlottesville has led to identification of a sewer line route running near the US Post Office facility.

Albemarle Place is a major mixed use, town center development on 65 acres wrapping around the Sperry Marine facility on Route 29 North starting at Hydraulic Road.  The size of two Charlottesville downtown malls, the rezoning approved by Albemarle County in 2003 allows for 7-800 apartments, a large grocery store, parking garages, a theater, a hotel, and other retail shopping.  The preliminary site plan was approved in August 2006, but development has been on hold waiting for adequate sewer capacity.

Fern told the Supervisors that it was his understanding that the Albemarle Place developers would be paying the costs for the sewer connection to the RWSA's Meadowcreek Interceptor.  In a meeting on September 10, 2008, the Supervisors were told that the sewer capacity would be in place and available when Edens & Avant is ready to move forward with the development.  A separate upgrade of the capacity of the Meadowcreek Interceptor, necessary to support Albemarle Place, is scheduled to be completed by the RWSA by December 2009.

The North Fork pump station is a wastewater project on Route 29 North that will increase sewer capacity for the County's growth area area around the Rivanna Station Military Base, the future North Pointe development, and the UVA Research Park.  Fern said the preliminary engineering report would be completed in November 2008.  The pump station, or stations, are expected to be built by 2010.  Afterwards, the ACSA will decommission the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant and wastewater will be pumped to the Moores Creek facility in Charlottesville.  Developments not already connected to Camelot, like the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility at the military base and the North Pointe development, are expected to use the new pump station.

Fern updated the Supervisors on recent meetings between ACSA staff, developer Wendell Wood, developer Richard Spurzem, the UVA Foundation, North Pointe, and the US Army. "It's our intention that the developers will pay for their appropriate share of that particular project," said Fern.  "We have been meeting with them, talking over what their projected flows are going to be from now to buildout, and working through types of arrangements for payment."

Brian Wheeler

August 27, 2008

Albemarle County Service Authority prepares for joint meeting with County BOS

20080821-ACSA On September 10, 2008, the Board of Directors for the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) will hold a rare joint meeting with the County Board of Supervisors. They’ll have one hour to discuss issues ranging from how to pay for the extension of sewer infrastructure inside the urban ring to the future of the North Fork Pump Station. The ACSA Board spent their monthly meeting on August 21, 2008, preparing for the meeting.

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NORTH FORK PUMPING STATION UPDATE

20080821-map
Don Wagner said the area along the North Fork of the Rivanna River could be opened to development in a "receiving area" underneath a TDR plan. The areas in white are currently in the County's rural area

During a discussion of the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program, Executive Director Gary Fern updated the Board of Directors on the status of the North Fork Pump Station that the ACSA is planning in order to increase sewer capacity in the northern section of Albemarle’s urban ring. The Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearing the end of its service life, and new capacity is needed before recently approved developments such as North Pointe are built.  The pump station would move sewage to the Powell Creek Interceptor, which is under the RWSA’s jurisdiction.

Fern said ACSA staff have been holding meetings every two weeks with the various developers with projects in the area to determine anticipated flow rates over the next several decades, with full build-out anticipated by 2060. The consultant designing the station is modeling three potential pumping scenarios.

“Time is the crucial element right now in that we’re looking to have Camelot abandoned within two to three years, so we’re looking at what arrangement of pumping stations will work, which will be most efficient in that period so [the North Fork pump station] can be constructed very quickly and put on line very quickly,”  Fern said. The preliminary engineering report is expected to be ready by the first of October.
“Our next step internally is to meet with each of the developers, go over the flows, and that in essence is going to be their percentage of what they’re paying for the project,” Fern said. 

John Martin (White Hall) said it would be useful to have a cost estimate for the project in advance of the joint meeting. The last figure he was aware of was a $38 million figure provided by engineering firm Greeley and Hansen in their technical report from this July, but he said that might not be valid.

“Greeley and Hansen is recommending one pump station, but as I understand it, our engineers may be recommending two pump stations,” Martin said. Fern said he could not provide an estimate until the report is ready.

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) asked if there had ever been any discussion of routing a sewer line down the Rivanna River, which would allow gravity to move sewage to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said he had spoken with Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), and said that if that method were chosen it would allow that area to be developed, and that the land would be a “logical” receiving area in conjunction with Slutzky’s proposal for transferrable development rights or a TDR program.

“It is out of the watershed, and if you had a sewer line following the river it could open  the area close to the airport, close to NGIC, close to existing businesses on 29 North,” Wagner said.  

The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) is now part of the U.S. Army’s growing Rivanna Station Military Base.  Between the base and Watts Passage Road, the northern bank of the North Fork Rivanna River runs for about 2.5 miles entirely in the County’s rural area on 500 acres of land owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC.  Wood previously sold land to the Federal Government to allow the expansion of the base and requested expansions of the County’s Piney Mountain growth area.

20080821-Wagner
Don Wagner

The ACSA’s Wagner, who was involved in the nearby North Pointe project, said an increased growth area that was part of Slutzky’s TDR plan might call for different infrastructure.  “And if that was going to happen, we ought to be talking about a gravity line as opposed to a pump station.” However, Wagner added that he had talked to another Supervisor who was not very enthusiastic about the TDR plan. He said this would be a topic for the meeting on September 10.

Fern said those were the sorts of questions being discussed in the three scenarios. “In the short term, if we’re looking to get the Camelot plant abandoned, we’re going to need a pump station or two pump stations. Longer term, putting a gravity line to follow the river is where the Service Authority wants to be, preferably before 2060,” Fern said.

The capital costs for a gravity line would be considerably more expensive, but would have lower operating costs.  

Martin asked if the Powell Creek Interceptor would have the capacity to handle the growth. Fern said it would be able to, at least for the first few years, but that the RWSA and ACSA will need to determine at what point the Interceptor will need to be upgraded.

Wagner also said another unknown was what future members of the Board of Supervisors would do in terms of zoning in the North Fork area. “The lines are built to accommodate the zoning,” Wagner said. He said in the case of the Hollymead, the Board of Supervisors rezoned the area from Light Industrial to Neighborhood Model District without taking sewer capacity into account.

Colbaugh said that is why the ACSA is empowered to charge connection fees.

 “Our job is to serve and collect the money to build whatever it is that we need to build,” Colbaugh said.

BOARD APPROVES PHASE 4 OF NORTHFIELD SEWER PROJECT

The Board approved a plan to align Phase 4 of the Northfields Sewer Project underneath Huntington Road. The area is being connected to the Albemarle County Service Authority in part because septic fields in the development are failing. The other alternative was to route the sewer along one of the homeowner’s land, an action she had planned to oppose. VDOT granted a waiver to allow the alignment after Supervisor David Slutzky intervened on the ACSA’s behalf.

Robert Humphris (Jack Jouett) said he was concerned about the precedent the ACSA might be setting by putting the sewer line in the middle of the road. ACSA Counsel Jim Bowling  said he thought this was a one-time event, and that he suspected VDOT would not approve similar alignments in the future.  The ACSA estimates it will pay $36,000 to repave the road when the line is in place.

CAN THE COUNTY ASSESS ACSA CONNECTION FEES?

When existing homes need to be connected to sewer lines run by the Albemarle County Service Authority, they are subject to the full connection fee, which can cost up to $15,000. In a new home, that cost is built into the sale price. But, an existing homeowner would have to come up with the funds before service can be installed.  The ACSA is investigating what solutions can be found to lower the burden.

One possibility would be for Albemarle County to assess the connection charge, and then bill the customer on a monthly basis. This would be in the form of a County service district, which would require approval from 50 percent of the property owners in the area.

ACSA Attorney Jim Bowling said that service districts are not common in part because of the statutory framework that needs to be put in place.

“The Board of Supervisors would contract with the Service Authority to do the work, the Service Authority would put in a bid for the contract and collect the lump sum which would include hook up fees… they then would then and assess a levy on the property owners that were affected,” Bowling said.  

Jim Colbaugh was concerned that owners of vacant lots would be forced to pay for a connection they might not use until the property is developed.  The ACSA Board said they were hoping to address the issue at the September 10th  meeting with the Board of Supervisors.

ACSA DISCUSSES WATER RESTRICTIONS

The ACSA also discussed proposed changes to how the Authority will handle water restrictions in the future. Earlier this year, Gary Fern and Judy Mueller of the Charlottesville Public Works Department met with landscapers, irrigation contractors and members of the Mid-Atlantic Car Wash Association.  Now he is proposing changes.

  • During the “Drought Watch” stage, outdoor watering will be allowed from 8:00 PM to 10:00 AM
  • During the “Drought Warning” stage, cars can be washed at any licensed, certified vehicle wash facility
  • Buildings can be washed by a licensed commercial power washing company with written approval from the ACSA
  • The filling of swimming pools and wading pools will require ACSA approval
  • Hotels will be required to institute a policy limiting linens for customers during the “Drought Warning” stage. Previously, this was only required during the “Drought Emergency” stage.

The car-wash certification program will be created in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Carwash Association. Participating companies will be allowed to operate as long as they can prove they are recycling a percentage of their water. The percentage varies depending on the severity of the restrictions.

The City and County will both be asked to amend their ordinances to reflect these changes. Charlottesville City Council will hear a report on this matter in September.

The ACSA is also revising its drought management plan to change the way the public is notified about water restrictions. Fern did not have the draft ready by the time of the ACSA Board meeting.

ACSA LOSING WATER?

Water-flow-chart

During consideration of the ACSA’s financial report from July 2008, Clarence Roberts (Rivanna) was concerned about a discrepancy between the amount of water that the ACSA purchases from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and the amount it sells to its customers. By his estimate, the ACSA has lost over 500 million gallons (MGD) over the last year.

“To lose 500 million gallons of water in a year, something is just not right,” Roberts said. He called on the Board to address the issue.

Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the ACSA, said the Authority is working with the City to expand leak detection and repair programs, and is also working to recalibrate RWSA meters to make sure that they are accurate.

ACSA Chairman Don Wagner (Rio) said that the City has the same issue as well.

“The real point is that the ratepayers in the long run are having to absorb the loss,” Roberts said.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 1:15 - Discussion of whether ACSA or RWSA is losing water in the system
  • 10:50 - Update on the North Fork Pump Station
  • 22:40 - Discussion on changes to water restrictions
  • 47:00 - Discussion of alternative financing for existing homes that require connection to ACSA sewer lines

Sean Tubbs

July 07, 2008

Water pipelines may follow routes of old and new roadway proposals; New sewer pump station also in the works

20080702-BoS The two men in charge of the authorities that deliver water and sewer services to the urbanized section of Albemarle County gave a brief update to the Board of Supervisors on July 2, 2008. Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, began his presentation by wishing the Board a happy New Year – a happy new Fiscal Year, that is.

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Fern told the Board one of the new initiatives this year is that ACSA customers will be able to pay online. Another is that the ACSA Board and staff will be holding a strategic planning session to map out the future goals of the Authority.

Fern also discussed the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program. The main project to be built is the North Fork Pump Station, which Fern said would eventually allow the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant to be retired.  Preliminary engineering for the North Fork facility, which is expected to be located in the North Pointe development, is scheduled to be completed in September, after which a cost estimate can be made.  “It’s a pretty good size project,” Fern said. “It’s one of the largest [projects] the ACSA has ever undertaken.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked if ratepayers would be the sole funders of the multi-million dollar facility. Fern said he has been meeting with developers looking to build in the County’s northern growth area, a process that will continue as the design  of the plant proceeds.  The ACSA has previously said that participants will include the University of Virginia, the Rivanna Station Military Base, and the North Pointe developers.

“We’re now starting to meet with them individually as we learn what their needs are going to be over the next 20 to 40 years,” Fern said. He added that developers will be expected to make contributions above and beyond connection fees, but that the details have not been worked out.  Rooker asked if the need for the station is due to future growth, but Fern responded that the pressing need is to retire Camelot. The ACSA is spending $385,000 in its CIP for this new Fiscal Year to make temporary repairs to Camelot to extend its service life. Fern says Camelot is currently processing 120,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asked what kind of minutes were being produced by the ACSA for its Board meetings. Fern said at the moment the Authority is producing something in between summary and near-verbatim minutes.  Mallek encouraged the ACSA to use as detailed minutes as possible, given the millions of dollars being spent in the CIP.

Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, began his  report by thanking everyone who has written to him to point out that the RWSA seems to be incredibly busy.  “I appreciate hearing that because from the inside perspective and from the perspective of our employees, we’re really covering a lot of ground right now as an organization,” Frederick said.

Frederick took the same approach as Fern and highlighted several projects that are being initiated under the RWSA’s CIP. First, detailed engineering plans for the new Meadowcreek sewer interceptor replacement  project will be ready within 30 days.  They will then be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Quality, a process Frederick said would likely take up to two months. The right of way process has begun,  and if completed, Frederick said construction on the new interceptor could begin before the end of the calendar year.  Permits have been granted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The RWSA is also spending a lot of resources on the rehabilitation of sewer infrastructure, a maintenance item Frederick said the community has neglected to do for many years. He added that the cooperation between the RWSA, the ACSA and the City of Charlottesville has far exceeded his expectations.  The RWSA’s efforts are concentrated on the Schenk’s Branch interceptor, which is the oldest in the system.
Another major capital project is the upgrade of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to eliminate nutrients such as nitrogen from the water released into the Rivanna River. Frederick told the Board the project cost estimate is approaching “the upper $40 million range” due to the addition of components to control odors at the facility.

“It’s all related to efforts to continue the enhancement of our rivers in Virginia, especially in the estuary areas where nutrients tend to be of greater concern,” Frederick said.

Frederick shared one idea that has not previously received much public attention.  The RWSA is hoping to connect a new pipe from the North Fork and South Fork Water Treatment plants,  in part because VDOT has asked the RWSA to develop plans to relocate an existing water pipe out from underneath US 29.   The connection would also ensure the northern urban area had redundant sources for treated water.  If an accident or emergency shut down the North Fork facility today, there is no backup water source.

Frederick told the Board the most economical way to build the new connection would be along the right of way that would theoretically extend Berkmar Drive over the Rivanna River up to Hollymead Town Center.  Otherwise, new right of way will have to be acquired parallel to US 29, an alignment that could be difficult given that the topography of the land does not necessarily match the topography of the highway.

“There are so many questions related to that that I asked our staff to stop and let us have some discussion through County staff and others about whether the Berkmar project is going to go through in the near term,” Frederick said.  He added that he needs to know soon what the ultimate plans are for Berkmar. The work could proceed before the bridge is built, according to Frederick, as long as plans were coordinated with VDOT to make sure the two alignments were made at the same grade.

Expansion of the North Fork Water Treatment Plant is not an option because it takes water from the North Fork Rivanna River as opposed to a reservoir, thus creating the potential to more directly impact stream flows.  Frederick said the plant does not need any major repair work, and there is additional capacity to serve the northern urban area – for now.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), a proponent of the Berkmar Drive Bridge, said VDOT officials told him earlier this week that one obstacle to getting the project started is the expense of beginning the preliminary engineering. He asked Frederick if there were any ways of bringing down VDOT’s cost by undertaking that work as a joint effort. Frederick said if there was a green light to proceed, the RWSA would begin by doing preliminary engineering to determine if rock would need to be blasted.

“We certainly would go out of our way to be supportive of working alongside a roadway engineer who is asking and answering the same questions with respect to a roadway,” Frederick said.
Slutzky said he would like to schedule a meeting with VDOT Bridge Engineer David Pierce and Frederick to begin the conversation. Frederick agreed, and estimated the RWSA could complete the preliminary engineering process in three months.

Rooker switched gears and asked Frederick for a cost estimate on the new pipeline to connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir with the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  Frederick said the $55.9 million estimate first provided in 2006 still stands, a figure that assumes parts of the pipeline can be built along the right of way obtained by VDOT to build the Western Bypass, a road project that is on indefinite hold.  Rooker wanted to know if the plan to utilize the right of way was still valid.

“There are people who have thrown out statements that VDOT cannot legally allow the right of way to be used for this kind of thing,” Rooker said. “It would seem to me to be wise to, as soon as legally possible, to initiate discussions with the right people at VDOT about our use of that right of way. If they don’t build the bypass… they may be selling that right of way back, so it would be wise to get the easements in place before that might occur.”

County Executive Bob Tucker said VDOT officials have told him that the right of way “is secure” until 2012. Slutzky asked if any utility easements would survive any future sale of that land back to the original owners. Frederick did not know, but Rooker said that was exactly the kind of question he would want to have answered.

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

June 30, 2008

Board will receive update on cash proffers

Albemarle County received $819,300 in new proffers in the first three months of this calendar year, and spent $814,000 from various proffers collected in the past several years. The information was released as part of the County’s 3rd Quarter Proffer report, which also states the County has the potential to receive up to $56.7 million in cash proffers as approved residential and commercial developments are built-out. 

The new proffer money came from the rezoning of land for the Fontana subdivision on Pantops and the Patterson subdivision near Crozet, and will be mostly added to the County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The County now generally receives a $17,500 cash proffer from a developer for each new housing unit approved, as well as the expectation that 15 percent of units be designated as ‘affordable.’ If a developer opts to not build affordable homes, an additional cash proffer of $2,809 per unit is expected. In the case of the Fontana 4C rezoning approved on March 19, 2008, the developer chose to pay $95,500 in lieu of constructing the affordable units.

However, the County actually collected just over $69,000 in cash during the quarter. That’s because a developer often is not required to pay up until certain conditions are met. The process by which the funds are transferred to County coffers are governed by the proffer statements signed by the developer prior to the approval of a rezoning.

Proffer money spent in the quarter mostly went to help pay for the construction of the $5.9 million Hollymead Fire Station. Funds totaling nearly $555,000 came from the rezoning of Hollymead Areas C and D, which are in the process of being built out. The rezoning that allowed for the construction of the 35-unit Wickham Pond contributed $59,000 towards the Crozet Streetscaping project, and the proffer fund for North Pointe contributed $200,000 towards the County’s affordable housing fund.

At the end of the third quarter, staff tallied up the outstanding obligations owed by developers and came up with a total of over $56.7 million, adjusted for inflation.  The biggest single category is the Biscuit Run rezoning, which carries an adjusted total of $17.9 million in cash the County can expect if that development reaches full build-out. There are also additional non-cash proffers from the Biscuit Run development including land for a park and for a school. 

The next largest cash proffer is expected to come from Hollymead Town Center Area A2, which was rezoned the same evening as Biscuit Run. In all, the County can expect $15.2 million in cash proffers in exchange for changing the Rural Area zoning to Commercial and Neighborhood Model zoning. According to the proffer statement, the developer won’t have to pay until a building permit is issued for the 151st market rate unit. However, the amount per unit will be adjusted for inflation each year.

Sean Tubbs

January 08, 2008

Army base expansion requires new sewer capacity; Report also recommends widening Route 29

The US Army has determined that an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required for the expansion of the Rivanna Station Military Base on Route 29 north of Charlottesville.  However, the draft Environmental Assessment released by Fort Belvoir last month does shed new light on the Army’s plans for the current home of the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).  It also raises a number of issues related to sewer capacity, the ability to use leased space off-site, and the future of nearby land owned by local developer Wendell Wood.

20080108rivanna_station_2 COUNTY REVIEWS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Albemarle County officials are just beginning their review of Fort Belvoir’s 130-page Environmental Assessment this week.  The County’s Natural Resources Manager, Tamara Ambler, tells Charlottesville Tomorrow that the County has requested an extension beyond the January 9, 2008 deadline to provide written comments to the Federal Government.  Ambler is collecting feedback from numerous County departments about the issues raised in the Army’s report.

Susan Stimart, Albemarle’s Business Development Facilitator, says the Federal Government has been a good listener to the County’s feedback on Rivanna Station thus far.  “They are taking a pretty good attitude in listening to our requirements for design standards and erosion/sediment control standards,” said Stimart.  She also noted, the Federal Government can decide on its own to not comply with any of Albemarle’s standards for new development.

Among the most significant items raised in the report are the following:

  • The increased workforce at the base will double the sewage discharge.
  • The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program which is moving jobs from Bolling AFB to Charlottesville prohibits any of those jobs to be located in leased space.
  • The US Army intends to seek additional land as a buffer around their facility for both future growth and for enhanced security. 
  • The Environmental Assessment suggests the widening of Route 29 to 6 lanes (3 northbound and 3 southbound) is desirable to bring relief to congestion expected to result from increased traffic at the facility.

SEWER CAPACITY

Charlottesville Tomorrow was the first to report last month that the North Pointe development near NGIC was stalled in part because of inadequate sewer capacity at the Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant.  The current NGIC facility also uses the Camelot facility and the Army’s recent Environmental Assessment estimates that sewage discharge from the site will double as the result of the base’s expansion.  While the Army concluded the “increase in demand is well within the capacity of the [Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA)],” their report was completed before the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) could weigh in with specific recommendations on sewer infrastructure requirements. 

Peter Gorham, ACSA’s Engineering Director, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the authority wants to eliminate the Camelot treatment plant and replace it with a regional pump station.  Gorham is trying to schedule a meeting by the end of January for area property owners and other interested parties.  Invitations will be extended to the University of Virginia Foundation (North Fork Research Park), the US Army, developer Wendell Wood, and those involved with the North Pointe development.  The meetings will review timing, costs, and engineering options for the pump station project.  The RWSA is expected to weigh in on the downstream impacts on their sewer network which is also having its capacity studied. 

The ACSA is providing written feedback for inclusion in Albemarle County’s response to the Army’s report. In the meantime, Gorham says the ACSA is working on an interim solution that can boost the capacity of the Camelot plant, however that solution will not be able to accommodate all the potential new users in the area.

BASE EXPANSION AND BUFFER

The existing NGIC facility sits on about 29 acres at Route 29 North and Boulders Road.  The Federal government purchased an additional 47 acres from developer Wendell Wood in 2006.  The expansion of the base of this combined 76 acres includes an addition on the NGIC building, construction of a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility, a warehouse and delivery facility, additional surface parking, and a new parking garage.

The Environmental Assessment also reveals the Army’s intention to further protect a zone around the base by purchasing an additional 50 acres on the north side of Boulders Road.  According to County records, this land is currently owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC.  The report identifies the following purposes for the buffer:

“The purpose of the purchase of the land north and southeast of Boulders Road is to provide protection against encroachment on the Rivanna Station by industrial or residential development, and to allow for future expansion, if needed. It is critical that the Army provide sufficient buffers to meet [antiterrorism/force protection (AT/FP)] requirements and to prevent land uses that could eventually conflict with missions of the U.S. Government. Rivanna Station is currently located at the edge of a developing industrial area, which could ultimately lead to AT/FP and hostile intelligence risks to the facility and personnel through electronic eavesdropping and observation.”

WENDELL WOOD

In August 2007, local developer Wendell Wood received approval from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to have 15 acres near the NGIC facility rezoned for commercial offices and residential barracks.  According to the General Services Administration, on November 30, 2007 Wood was awarded a $14.76 million lease for non-residential buildings.  The Environmental Assessment notes that nearby land has been rezoned “for the construction of office buildings to support NGIC operations.” 

During the County’s review of this rezoning in 2007, Wood was told water and sewer services were available and, according to ACSA’s Peter Gorham, Wood’s project will be grandfathered into the Camelot treatment facility until the regional pump station is available.  ACSA’s interim sewer capacity measures will only help a limited number of new users, and only those accessible by gravity feed to the existing Camelot facility.  Other buildings and developments not already tied into Camelot will have to wait for the new pump station.

The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program which is moving jobs from Bolling AFB to Charlottesville prohibits any of those jobs to be located in leased space.  Thus, the expansion of NGIC and the construction of the new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility will take place entirely on the federally owned land at the site and not on the recently rezoned 15 acres which is expected to house other support facilities.

Since he sold the 47 acre parcel to the government in 2006, Wood has also been expecting the Board of Supervisors to carry through with a resolution of intent that would move yet another 30 acres nearby into the County’s designated growth area.  Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns almost 1,000 acres near the military base.

The 30 acres of land were proposed to be removed from the rural area to allow for more intense development such that Wood could recoup money he felt he lost on the original deal with the government.  Wood and a number of Supervisors believe this deal ensured NGIC would not leave Charlottesville as it looked for room to expand.  That matter will be considered by the Board of Supervisors as it reviews the Places29 Master Plan in 2008.  The County Planning Commission has already recommended against adding Wood’s land to the growth area.

WIDENING ROUTE 29

The Environmental Assessment suggests the widening of Route 29 to 6 lanes (3 northbound and 3 southbound) is desirable to bring relief to congestion expected to result from increased traffic at the facility.  The Route 29 and Boulders Road intersection is projected to go from a level of service (LOS) C in 2007 to level of service F in 2015 during peak evening traffic.  According to the report, “LOS F is used to identify that point where the facility has reached maximum capacity and a complete breakdown of service occurs.”

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recently approved the use of over $2 million to begin preliminary engineering on the widening of another section of Route 29, the area between Polo Grounds Road and Airport Road.  The US Army’s report suggests that widening should continue at least another 2 miles North to Rivanna Station and possibly all the way to Greene County.  Between Rivanna Station and Airport Road is the proposed North Pointe development which will add an estimated 30,000 vehicle trips per day to that portion of Route 29. 

Brian Wheeler

December 11, 2007

Sewer capacity stalls North Pointe development

The first site plan which would launch the residential construction of the North Pointe development has been denied by Albemarle County, in part, because of inadequate sewer capacity.  Developer Richard Spurzem’s 188 home proposal was denied by County staff on November 26, 2007.  Officials with the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) indicate that, until new sewer capacity and pumping stations are designed and built, any new construction at North Pointe is unlikely to move forward.

Northpointe20071211 When the North Pointe rezoning was approved in 2006, one of the unresolved issues related to the details of the 900-home development’s sewer system.  The plan proposed a new sewer pumping station that would handle the majority of the development.  Exactly how that station would be connected to the network of pipes leading to the Moore’s Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant near downtown Charlottesville was not specified.  However, about 40 acres of residential development in the northwest corner of the 264 acre project were shown by the developer, Great Eastern Management, to be connected to the existing Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant on the Western side of Route 29. 

Gary Whealan, a civil engineer with the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA), assessed the site plan and determined in early October that “there is no capacity for sanitary sewer” at the Camelot facility.  Whealan told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the 10 inch sewer line feeding into Camelot cannot handle any additional users. 

ACSA is one of two customers of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), the other being the City of Charlottesville.  The RWSA currently operates the Camelot facility which was built in 1988 and is operating at full capacity.  Instead of putting more money into a facility that needs repair and expansion, Tom Frederick, RWSA’s Executive Director, says he would support abandoning the facility in favor of connecting all of North Pointe to a new pump station.  “Through our discussions with ACSA, the preference is for a regional pumping station,” Frederick told Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Richard Spurzem has had past legal disputes with Albemarle County.  In 2005, Albemarle lost a court case with Spurzem that sought to deny the by-right development of Gazebo Plaza in the Pantops area near Interstate 64.  At Pantops, transportation capacity and safety were among the County and VDOT’s concerns.  Now at North Pointe, Spurzem’s development plans have hit another snag with the community’s inadequate sewer capacity.

While Spurzem declined to comment for this article, he has already written one letter to the County Planner managing his project demanding “appropriate action to enforce the County’s legal obligations.”  In that letter, Spurzem was seeking a timely decision on his preliminary site plan.  The County responded with a denial and a six-page list of items detailing concerns about sewer capacity and other items where the plan was found to not be in compliance with the original North Pointe rezoning.

Herbert White, President of WW Associates, maintains that the sewer design is exactly what the County should have been expecting.  WW Associates is Spurzem’s engineering firm and White points to the rezoning plan as evidence that the homes in this corner of North Pointe were to have their sewer flow by gravity feed to an existing pumping station on the other side of Route 29.  To reverse the flow towards a proposed pumping station inside the North Pointe development would, according to White, require pipes installed inside a 45’ vertical grade.  In his letter of October 15, 2007, White told Albemarle that “installing sewer at these depths is not feasible.”  White also suggested that if the Camelot plant was not an option, a second pump station may be necessary for his client.

Peter Gorham, ACSA’s Engineering Director, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the authority has consistently advised the developers since 2001-2002 that using Camelot was not an option.  “From the very first time we saw that plan, and saw the proposed gravity line, we said that is not a feasible option,” Gorham said.

Jeff Werner is the Field Officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council and someone who closely followed the North Pointe project and who raised concerns about the sewer plan’s uncertainties. 

“Many people in this community have been asking if the infrastructure is in place for new developments.  This is a disappointment,”  said Werner.  “A benefit of the whole rezoning process is to get developments to pay for themselves.  This is a disappointment that the County missed an opportunity to add additional sewer capacity.  The developer should pay their way.”

When asked about the approved North Pointe rezoning plans that show Spurzem’s property utilizing Camelot, the ACSA’s Gorham said those drawings were incomplete and not a formal engineering proposal for the development’s sewer needs.  According to Gorham, “A regional pump station still looks like the most cost effective option.  The next step is to get that station scoped and under design.”  Gorham expects the single regional pump station will be satisfactory for Spurzem’s needs.  Where that station is located, who will operate it, how much it will cost existing customers, and when it will be operational all remains to be decided.

In the case of other recently approved large developments like Biscuit Run (3,100 homes) and Hollymead Town Center Area A2 (1,228 homes), developers have had to sign memorandums of understanding with the Albemarle County Service Authority detailing arrangements by which they would pay to expand sewer capacity.  North Pointe (900 homes) was rezoned before local officials started seeking those commitments in advance of project approvals by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  Gorham says those negotiations will take place in the near future with all the existing users of the Camelot facility, like the University of Virginia North Fork Research Park, as well as new users in North Pointe.  The ACSA will be taking the lead to bring these parties together and to get a new regional pump station added to the Service Authority’s capital budget.

Charlottesville Tomorrow asked Gorham if new development at North Pointe would be delayed until the pump station is online.  “Yes, that’s correct,” said Gorham.  However, if that pump station is designed to connect to a sewer line known as the Powell Creek Interceptor, the RWSA’s Tom Frederick pointed out that the development might find more capacity problems downstream in RWSA's network.  “If [the ACSA] chose a route that uses Powell Creek, the capacity of that interceptor will also have to be assessed,” said Frederick. A comprehensive sewer interceptor study is already underway. It appears water and sewer officials, Spurzem, and the rest of the developers in North Pointe, have a lot of work to do before any new homes are occupied.

Brian Wheeler