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May 09, 2012

Piney Mountain neighbors seek changes to church project

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 03, 2012

Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee seeks more influence

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 3, 2012

 
The chairman of Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee appeared before the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to ask for a clarification of the group’s charge.
 
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Lonnie Murray
“We as a committee feel it is important that the board help identify the priorities that are most important to you,” said Lonnie Murray. “Certainly involve us and ask us questions so we can give [our] expertise.”
 
The NHC was created in 2005 following the work of a temporary committee that was charged with creating an inventory of the county’s natural assets.
 
“We’ve made a lot of progress in helping revalidate a lot of the great work done by the biodiversity work group in years past,” Murray said.
However, Murray said several members of the committee have resigned because of a perception the board considered the group’s work irrelevant.
 
“They [didn’t] feel like that they are being proactively engaged enough,” Murray said. “There are a lot of issues that relate directly to natural resources and biodiversity. In the past, it feels like we’re consulted after the fact.”
 

Continue reading " Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee seeks more influence " »

April 24, 2012

Planning Commission recommends changes to allow more rural lodging

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Albemarle Planning Commission has voted 4-2 to recommend zoning changes to facilitate the opening of more bed and breakfasts in the county’s rural areas.
 
Albemarle’s zoning code currently allows property owners to open up to five rooms to overnight visitors as a by-right use, but they must either live in the structure or hire an on-site manager.
 
“Someone has to reside within that building,” said Amelia McCulley, the county’s director of planning.
 
One of the changes recommended for approval is that the property owner or manager could live elsewhere on the property but must still be present.
 
Under current rules, rooms cannot be located in secondary structures on the property.
 
“Sometimes there are rooms spread through the property in convenient locations, such as old barns and apartments above garages,” McCulley said.
 
If the zoning code change is adopted by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, rooms could be opened on any structure that meets the building code for dwelling units.
 
“Any structure used as a guest use still requires all the building and safety approvals,” McCulley said. “Not every barn and accessory structure can be reasonably or feasibly converted into a guest room and any that are would have to meet regulations.”

Continue reading "Planning Commission recommends changes to allow more rural lodging" »

March 30, 2012

Soundboard 3-30-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120330-Soundboard

The March 30 show features contributors Giles Morris & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

  • Charlottesville residents celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the health reform law
  • VDOT’s change of plans for the Western Bypass construction
  • Guest Toan Nguyen on the innovative project between the Community Investment Cooperative and Tom Tom Founders Festival
  • land use planning in Charlottesville
  • Guest Kevin Pujanauski on the first Startup Weekend in Virginia for entrepreneurs
  • the upcoming weekend of music with Soundscapes of Jefferson’s America
  • Guest John Donnelly on PVCC’s associate degree program for the inmates of the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Facility
  • Guest Paul Hughes on the Virginia Food Heritage project
  • and the 10-miler that kicks off tomorrow morning

We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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March 28, 2012

Event discusses past, present and future of locally grown food

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Increasing awareness of how closely Central Virginia’s history is tied to farms and produce was the topic of discussion at the first Central Virginia Food Heritage Gathering.

20120326-Food-Heritage-CTMonday’s event welcomed those invested in increasing local food efforts to share stories and recipes, and to even swap seeds.

“The hope of this project is that by building what we know about our food heritage we will be able to grow a local food system that promotes our food-based heritage,” said Tanya Denckla Cobb, associate director for the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia and one of the founders of the Virginia Food Heritage Project.

The event featured interview stations to capture locals’ food-related memories and displayed maps where attendees could mark historical food production sites such as farmers’ markets and mills. The Virginia Food Heritage Project will use this information to create an interactive map that will be posted online, allowing anyone to contribute knowledge of historical food sites.

Denckla Cobb stated that the positive impacts of food heritage on the local economy are significant. She briefly named cider, tomatoes and beans as local products that possibly could increase economic vitality of agriculture in the region.

Continue reading "Event discusses past, present and future of locally grown food " »

March 24, 2012

Planning commission endorses continued protection of most rural interstate interchanges

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale &
By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, March 24, 2012

After evaluating the inventory and location of land zoned for light industry, the Albemarle Planning Commission concluded Tuesday that the county’s rural interchanges on Interstate 64 should not be targeted for further development.

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County staff had presented possibilities for expanding industrial land outside of the development area to encourage target industries to locate in Albemarle. Citizens provided feedback both for and against the zoning changes, with particular emphasis on the highway interchanges.

County resident John Chavan encouraged the commission to consider the business opportunities south of the Shadwell exit on I-64, just past the growth area boundary.

“My neighbor has a 250-room hotel and my property comes right in front of [U.S.] 250 and [the Virginia Department of Transportation] says there are between 30,000 and 50,000 cars [passing every] day,” Chavan said. “To me, that is not rural.”

A rezoning request from Chavan was unanimously denied by the Albemarle supervisors in 2008. When the Pantops Master Plan was developed, Albemarle officials intentionally left the land in the rural area.

“Taking into consideration the economic downturn … our county faces, I would think that it would be prudent to put something like a mini-warehouse where the traffic is,” Chavan added. “There is a place for a tree, also there is a place for a business, especially at our interchanges.”

Morgan Butler, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said he did not see the need for increasing industrial-zoned land outside of the development area.

“As for strategies that involve letting industrial development creep into the rural areas, we just don’t see a compelling reason to consider them in this Comprehensive Plan update,” Butler said.

Butler added that current inventory of land for industrial uses meets the community’s projected needs.

“From a prudent planning standpoint, this ‘Goldilocks area’ is not a bad place to be,” said Butler. “There is no pressing need to go looking outside the development areas to designate more land for industrial use right now.”

Staff stated that the need for more industrial land was based on the size and quality of the parcels currently available to support desired businesses. Industries such as information technology, defense, security, bioscience and medical devices will need high-speed Internet, are large power users and have large water needs.

Staff said there are not many industrially zoned parcels offering these services. In addition, information technology, defense and security industries could need up to 25 acres for their facilities and there are only two parcels of that size available in Albemarle’s undeveloped industrially designated parcels.

The Crozet interchange on I-64 was a hot topic of discussion for both commissioners and the public.

Continue reading "Planning commission endorses continued protection of most rural interstate interchanges" »

March 15, 2012

DEQ briefs localities on quality of area streams

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is moving ahead with an effort to clean up four polluted streams in Albemarle County and Charlottesville.

Lodge Creek, Meadow Creek, Moores Creek and Schenks Branch are all considered to be impaired by the DEQ because they are not healthy environments for aquatic life. Fishing and swimming are prohibited.

As part of a plan to restore the streams, the DEQ hired the Biological Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech to identify pollutants in the watersheds of the four streams.

“We think sediment is the major stressor and if we can provide a suitable habitat for [microorganisms], that will allow them to come back,” said Gene Yagow, a senior research scientist at Virginia Tech. “We think these changes in sediment will get us there, and we will monitor the aquatic community to see if that happens.”

Sediment chokes off life by depriving habitats for microorganisms that make up the bottom of the food chain.

Yagow and his researchers calculated that over 3,200 tons of sediment enter Moores Creek every year, flowing in from stormwater that falls onto the waterway’s 21,860-acre watershed. The study is recommending that steps be taken to reduce that amount by 500 tons a year, or a 15.8 percent reduction.

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Tara Sieber of the DEQ stands in front of a map depicting impaired streams

“Everyone has seen a dump truck load of dirt being brought down a street,” said Tara Sieber, a water quality coordinator for the DEQ.

“One dump truck load is about 20 tons of dirt,” Sieber said. “Think about 160 of those trucks being transported down Moores Creek every year. Our goal for Moores Creek is to reduce that to about 135 trucks.”

The research found that Lodge Creek receives 177 tons a year of sediment; 577.3 tons a year flow into Schenks Branch and 1,587 tons enter Meadow Creek. Similar reductions are recommended for those waterways.

Sieber presided over a meeting Thursday to gather input from the public on the next stage of the clean-up process, which is to create an implementation plan to meet the sediment reduction goals.

Continue reading "DEQ briefs localities on quality of area streams" »

County may study zoning changes to encourage rural B&Bs

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 16, 2012

Albemarle County Supervisor Ann H. Mallek is seeking changes to the county’s zoning code to allow for more lodging opportunities to be offered in the county’s rural areas in order to promote agribusiness and tourism, with an eye toward more bed and breakfasts. 
 
“This would assist the wineries particularly [because they] already have bridal changing suites and they have had many requests to allow brides’ family to stay on the property, rather than drive all the way back to town,” Mallek said.
 
Mallek has been encouraging county staff to move forward with a review of the code to make the changes as soon as possible. 
 
The zoning code for rural area districts currently allows a provision for “tourist lodging” as a by-right use. 
 
That allows property owners to open up to five rooms in their own home to travelers, or hire an on-site manager to live in the structure. Any more than five rooms and the facility would be considered a hotel. Rooms cannot be opened up in any secondary structures on the property. 
 
“The inhibition is not the limit of five rooms, but the requirement that the rooms be in the main dwelling unit, such as the big house at Keswick Winery,” Mallek said. 

Continue reading "County may study zoning changes to encourage rural B&Bs" »

March 12, 2012

Survey highlights value of rural areas, public participation

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 12, 2012

When it comes to our quality of life, another survey has found that nearly all local residents view the area’s rural countryside as an important contributor.

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The connection to the rural countryside appears especially strong among residents of Nelson County. In Albemarle County, more than six in 10 residents said they opposed having new businesses locate in the rural area.

“When it comes down to valuing the rural areas, that’s always ranked very highly by people in the county,” said Albemarle spokeswoman Lee Catlin. “That’s an enduring value.”

When, where and how the community grows are frequent topics before local government. The survey, undertaken by the University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research and commissioned by Charlottesville Tomorrow, also gauged how well local officials listen to and engage their residents.

“The issues of growth, development and transportation have been very hotly discussed in the public arena over the past several years,” said Thomas M. Guterbock, the center’s director. “The exciting thing about a survey like this is it gives voice to the many people who normally aren’t talking to officials or the media.”

The survey found that 96.5 percent of area residents believe the rural countryside is important to their quality of life. Among Albemarle County residents, 65.6 percent said they oppose having new businesses on land currently zoned as rural.

“Because Albemarle is so large, the survey included more than enough Albemarle residents to accurately gauge their opinion on this issue,” Guterbock said. “Over 97 percent of people we asked about this issue had an opinion. That is an unusually high number for a question about a local zoning issue.”

In January, 1,098 area residents were surveyed by telephone on a number of local issues as part of the inaugural Jefferson Area Community Survey, what is planned to be a bi-annual omnibus survey of public opinion.

Participants included residents of six area localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District: the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. The results have an accuracy of plus or minus 3.75 percentage points.

In Albemarle, the lines differentiating urban and rural areas have remained largely unchanged since the county was comprehensively rezoned in 1980. About 5 percent of the county is designated for residential and commercial growth.

Over the past several years, the county has received numerous requests to change the boundaries to add more land to the growth area. While most of those proposals have been turned down, the ongoing update of the Comprehensive Plan is generating new discussion about where the lines should be drawn.

Continue reading "Survey highlights value of rural areas, public participation" »

February 01, 2012

Albemarle moves ahead with wireless policy changes

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Efforts are moving ahead to speed up the process by which applications for new towers for wireless telecommunications are approved by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Representatives from wireless companies have been asking the county to streamline its cell tower ordinance before a series of applications for next-generation antennae are filed this year.

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An existing monopole located in Albemarle County

“What we’re trying to do there is identify some things we can do quickly in terms of amending the ordinance,” said Bill Fritz, the county’s chief of special projects.

Fritz told supervisors Wednesday that staff has been able to identify ways to shorten the application process by at least one month for towers that require a special use permit.

The county will retain Kreines & Krienes, a California-based company, to provide information on the current state of the wireless industry to see how Albemarle might change its ordinance to accommodate industry claims that more visible towers might be necessary to provide reliable data service to mobile customers.

Continue reading "Albemarle moves ahead with wireless policy changes" »