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August 08, 2011

Supervisors briefed on county participation in livability initiative

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, August 8, 2011

Albemarle planning staff have told the Board of Supervisors they will focus on county priorities while updating the Comprehensive Plan, alleviating concerns by some board members that staff would be consumed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s livability initiative.

“We clearly understood that we’re not to be spending time on trying to develop a lot of new and different things that no one really has had a chance to think about,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.

In early June, supervisors voted 4-2 to withdraw membership from a group called ICLEI — Local Governments for Local Sustainability. The group provides technical advice to communities that seek to increase energy efficiency.

Some residents argued at a lengthy public hearing that ICLEI is a United Nations organization that seeks to control behavior of American citizens by limiting their choices for housing and transportation.

However, supervisors did not withdraw the county’s participation in the $1 million “sustainable communities” grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to TJPDC.

The Livable Communities Project will provide additional staff to coordinate updates of Charlottesville’s and the county’s comprehensive plans. The TJPDC is also creating a performance measurement system, developing a common land-use map for both Albemarle and Charlottesville, and is updating its long-range transportation plan.

The cost of staff time by county and city planners had been factored into the grant as an in-kind local match.

One of the goals of the TJPDC’s livability initiative is to make recommendations as to how the comprehensive plans can be made more consistent with the Sustainability Accords, which were signed in 1998.

The county’s goals during its plan update include changing the policy regarding development around interstates, designating more land for industrial use and increasing allowable land uses in the rural areas.

After the June vote, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd asked staff to prepare a report outlining exactly how much time county staff would be spending on the project.

“I was having trouble meshing these two together and seeing how we were going to function and do the things we want to do in the county, and coordinate that somehow with what the sustainability group is going to do,” Boyd said.

Staff prepared a report for supervisors that stated the grant is not being used to pay for county staff, but the county planner assigned to overseeing the Comprehensive Plan will use 10 percent of her time working with TJPDC officials.

“A lot of that is up-front to make sure that there are no non-starters,” Cilimberg said. “We’re seeing them do in their work things that are consistent with our priorities.”

Boyd said he was concerned that the language of the TJPDC’s implementation plan are inconsistent with the county’s goals.

“There are a lot of platitudes talked about here that are sort of planner speak that don’t really translate to meaningful things for me,” Boyd said. “I see some of the things particularly in the sustainability accords that I don’t think I could support.”

As an example, Boyd said he did not want the TJPDC study to recommend greater amounts of mass transit, given that the city and county shelved plans in 2010 to enter into a regional transit authority together.

“There were millions of dollars involved [to implement] it,” Boyd said. “We didn’t have the millions of dollars and we were not willing to raise taxes to move forward with it, so we dropped it. Now, are we going to bring those same things up?”

David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the purpose of the grant is to allow the TJPDC to examine previous studies to see if new ways can be found to implement them.

“Transit has been one of those products that would provide for multimodal opportunities to provide support for one of the components that we define as being [required for] a sustainable community,” Benish said. “The grant funding doesn’t really call for a re-analysis of regional transportation.”

County Executive Thomas Foley said the work to be conducted by the TJPDC will develop ideas and proposals about how to attain goals shared between the sustainability accords and the county’s desired policy changes.

“Our staff would then work those into comp plan amendments that would then come before [the board],” Foley said. “There’s not going to be any studies engaged beyond what’s funded by the regional grant.”

Boyd said he was satisfied with the report and wanted to ensure county staff focuses on county priorities.

 

July 13, 2011

Community groups briefed on livability grant

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Representatives from more than 40 area groups gathered Monday to hear details of a project to coordinate the update of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s comprehensive plans.

“The more voices we can get involved, the more successful [the project] will be because it will have the representation of all of those voices,” said Summer Frederick, manager of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Livable Communities project.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $999,000 “sustainable community” grant to the TJPDC. The grant provides funding for the TJPDC to hire additional staff for the next three years.

20110711-partnership21
Participants were asked to review the draft performance measurement system

To help obtain public input, the TJPDC has created a forum it calls the “Livability Partnership” to communicate with a broad spectrum of community groups.

So far, 43 groups have signed up to become part of the partnership, ranging from Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population to the Willoughby Property Owners Association.

Frederick said partnership representatives are expected to provide feedback and to communicate information back to the groups they represent. The partnership is not a formal advisory body. In addition to the partnership, a livability advisory committee consisting of area planning staff has been created to serve in that capacity.

The partnership’s first task is to provide feedback on a performance measurement system that is under development to allow planners to gauge whether progress is being made towards goals in each jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan.

“In order to have benchmarks … you need to start somewhere and have a number you can start with to see if you can gauge if it is going to go up or down,” Frederick said.

John Lowry, chair of the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority, said he became a member of the partnership to make sure the area’s business community was represented.

“Albemarle County is now measuring itself on a vitality index each quarter and I can see where that rolling index would fit very well in what the TJPDC is trying to do,” Lowry said.

Justin Sarafin, a member of Preservation Piedmont, said his group wants the TJPDC to accurately measure the relationship between housing stock and affordability.

“[There are] incentives for rehabilitating versus demolishing and building new houses,” Sarafin said. “If there’s too much of a stress on new construction … that needs to be balanced with historic preservation as a more economically viable way of creating more housing as the region grows and becomes more dense.”

The grant has prompted many critics to publicly question whether the federal government should be playing such a large role in helping localities plan their future.

One of those skeptics is Carole Thorpe, the chair of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. She said her participation in the partnership does not mean she endorses the grant.

“Obviously the title [of partnership] would imply to someone that everyone is in favor of this, but what I am in favor of is getting first-hand information and providing that to Jefferson Area Tea Party members,” Thorpe said. “I think it’s important to have a bird’s eye view in to the step-by-step process.”

Thorpe said she hoped the partnership would allow for more dialogue between different stakeholder groups.

Other groups see the project as a chance to encourage citizens to change behavior.

“We want to convince people to live sustainably,” said Dave Redding of the group Transition Charlottesville/Albemarle. “We have reached ‘peak oil’ and we’re going to have less and less oil as time goes on.”

Redding said he was too new to the conversation to comment on a specific measurement that could capture progress towards that goal, but said he wanted to see more public transportation in the community.

The next meeting of the partnership will be a workshop in late September, according to Frederick.

June 28, 2011

Mallek seeks increased scrutiny of biosolids; Recyc seeks to apply treated sewage on more acreage

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The chair of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will ask her colleagues in July if they will support an effort to increase scrutiny of the use of treated human waste as fertilizer in Virginia.    

“Citizens have little substantive information about the contents and or safety of those contents, thus the uproar every time a permit is activated,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

 
20110531-biolsolids1
A tractor spreads biosolids on Jane Williamson's farm on May 31, 2011

Mallek’s request comes at a time when the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is considering whether to allow Culpeper-based Recyc Systems to extend the practice of spreading biosolids to more county land.

Susan Trumbo, Recyc’s technical manager, said she and many others have worked in direct contact with biosolids for years without ill effects.

“It's a very emotional topic, but if you look at the facts, the doctors and medical experts repeatedly say there's been no health issues in regards to properly applied biosolids,” Trumbo said in an interview.

The DEQ currently allows Recyc Systems to apply biosolids on 6,438 acres of county farmland, and the company has requested permission to add an additional 545.1 acres in the county. A decision will be made by the DEQ later this year.

The DEQ is also reviewing several changes to its regulations on biosolids, but these generally concern notification procedures and not whether more research is warranted into their safety.

Mallek has been reviewing the proposed changes, but feels they do not go far enough to address potential health concerns.

20110531-biolsolids3

“The DEQ maintains that they are watching the research to make sure they are current, but that is a long way from a complete list of components or their individual toxicity, or the way they may interact [with the environment],” Mallek said.

Trumbo said she understood the purpose of the new regulations, even if she does not think they are based in science.

“The new regulations are going to add another layer of rules, whether or not there's a need for them, in order to respond to the emotions of the public,” Trumbo said. “I don’t know if they'll protect the environment any more than we do today.”

Biosolids in Albemarle County generally come from Washington’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. The waste is treated by a series of processes to reduce pathogens, including using lime to raise the pH levels of the soil to destroy the cell membranes of any microbes.

Greg Evanylo, a professor of soil environmental quality at Virginia Tech, said he believes the practice is reasonably safe, but he does have his doubts.

“You have to assess risk versus reward, and there are plenty of situations in everyday life that we take for granted,” Evanylo said. “Nothing is 100 percent risk-free but I am comfortable that the regulations are protective.”

Evanylo said lime stabilization will not eliminate all of the pathogens that may be present in biosolids, but that their proper application greatly reduces the risk.

“I think it's much more difficult to get ill from these microbes than some people might want to believe,” Evanylo said.

However, Jordan Peccia, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, recently co-authored a paper that suggested current practices may not be enough to protect against norovirus, which can cause diarrhea.

20110531-biolsolids4
Under the new regulations, companies permitted to spread biosolids will be compelled to provide more information on required signage

Peccia said when the Environmental Protection Agency studied biosolids before issuing standards in 1992, its scientists based their assessments on two potential pathogens — salmonella and enterovirus.

“We went back and did a risk analysis and added all these pathogens,” Peccia said. “We found that the risk for salmonella and enterovirus were really quite low. But when we included new pathogens such as norovirus and adenovirus we found that the risk was significantly higher.”

Peccia said his research illustrates why more study is necessary, but that doesn’t mean he advocates banning the practice.

“The next step is that we really need to have a better idea of what the pathogens are before we can say anything about the risk,” Peccia said. 

Evanylo said he believes an area that requires further study is that of emerging organic compounds, such as flame-retardants and detergents. However he said data collected to date have not indicated anything alarming to him.

Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, which analyzes government policy on behalf of the local business community, said his organization has studied the issue and believes that current regulations are sufficient to monitor the practice.

“We generally believe that biosolids regulations as they exist today are rather stringent and protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens,” Williamson said in an interview.

He said they have been safely applied for twenty years and that the DEQ requires the biosolids to be tilled into the ground within 24 hours of application, as well as keeping cattle from grazing the lands for 30 days.

“Those [regulations] are designed to mitigate perceived concerns, not scientific concerns,” Williamson said. He added there is no public notification process required for the practice of using poultry waste as fertilizer.

Mallek has requested the Board of Supervisors discuss the matter at their meeting on July 6.

June 24, 2011

Livable Community planners roll out draft performance management system

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 24, 2011

Around 60 people attended an open house at the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration on Thursday to provide input on how the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission should track progress for the Livable Communities project.

“We want good data for good planning with a good knowledge of where we are so the public and elected officials can figure out where we need to be going,” said Stephen W. Williams, executive director of the TJPDC.

20110623-napoleon
City resident Pat Napoleon inspects one of the displays

Last year, the TJPDC received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in part to help Charlottesville and Albemarle County update their comprehensive plans.

As part of the grant, a committee consisting of city, county and UVa planners analyzed both jurisdictions’ comprehensive plans to identify common metrics that could be used to monitor progress.

Their work results in a “performance measure system” to track progress in various areas including “housing and the built environment”, “community and neighborhoods” and “natural resources and infrastructure.”

All of the data comes from third-party sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The TJPDC will not gather any of its own information during the project, according to Williams.

Sally Thomas, who served on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors for 16 years, said the creation of such a system was called for during work that created the writing of the Sustainability Accords in 1998.

“Most of those had a metric attached to them,” Thomas said. “It was lots of fun coming up with those things could be measured. The TJPDC has picked up some of those in this exercise, but by no means have they picked all of them.”

For instance, Thomas said she would like to track the number of birds in the community over time. The draft performance system only calls for tracking the number of endangered species sightings using data from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

20110623-murray2
Lonnie Murray inspects a display depicting measurements of the area's natural resources

Lonnie Murray, chair of the county’s Natural Heritage Committee, made several suggestions by placing Post-it notes on charts displayed by the TJPDC. He said he felt the system as depicted did not do enough to explain its purpose.

“There needs to be a better narrative that ties together all the data,” Murray said. “There also seems to not be enough consideration of the connection of rural areas to the growth areas and how the rural economy plays an important part in the growth areas.”

Murray said he would like to see more data tracked about the use of natural resources, particularly as they relate to development.

“A metric I think that’s very important is how much redevelopment are we doing versus how much development of green space,” Murray said. “Are we taking places like Albemarle Square Shopping Center that have much way too much parking lot and redeveloping them to be more dense, or are we building more Hollymead Town Centers?”

Audrey Wellborn, a 41-year Albemarle County resident who has been critical of the TJPDC grant, said she attended the open house to find out what the group wants to monitor.

“The charts are very interesting to look at,” Wellborn said. “When you look at the ‘community and neighborhood’ systems, [one metric is] is the percentage of people who have lived in Albemarle County [for certain periods of time].”

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that over 60 percent of Albemarle and Charlottesville residents have only lived here since 2000, and around 20 percent have lived in their home for 20 years.

“That puts us in a very small category,” Wellborn said.

20110623-chart
Participants were asked to mark up the displays to suggest other metrics and potential corrections

Clara Belle Wheeler, a county resident who is also opposed to the TJPDC grant, said this example points out how the data used by planners might be skewed.

“The other thing that’s not being considered is the separation of the student population versus the year-round full-time residents,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also objected to another metric captured in the survey. One chart under the “housing and built environment” system stated, “the number of occupants per room is an indicator of safe living conditions.”

“Some of the values that they’re making with the data I think are erroneous and are not germane to the question of livability or sustainability,” Wheeler said. “Many people have two children in the same room. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a good living condition. Lots of siblings grew up in the same room, but they’re portraying that as being detrimental.”

The TJPDC will continue to take feedback on the performance measurement system throughout the summer.

June 23, 2011

Business owners share different approaches to sustainability

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Local government and business leaders gathered at a workshop Thursday to share stories about how environmentally sustainable business practices are good for their bottom line and the community.

Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s city manager, said the city initially began making different environmental choices because it was “the right thing to do.” Now it’s also recognizing the financial benefits.

20110623-Jones
Charlottesville City Manager, Maurice Jones

“Over the last seven to 10 years, we’ve started to realize we are going to save money in the end as well,” Jones said. “We know that the investment we are making … while costing us more money up front, is in the long run going to save us a ton of money.”

About 30 people attended the workshop sponsored by the city, the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center, the Better Business Challenge and the Local Energy Alliance Program. Participants represented local government, non-profit organizations and both large and small local businesses.

Some panelists observed they had taken different paths to arrive at a similar eco-friendly philosophy.

Jim Duncan, a co-founder of Nest Realty, is known for integrating blogging, social media and new technology in his real estate business. However, Duncan said he didn’t approach his business as a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist.

“I’m grudgingly ‘green’ in what I do,” Duncan said. “I found that being green saves us money.”

Duncan said Nest Realty has made the strategic decision to go paperless, uncommon in a world of home-advertising flyers and paper sales contracts.

“We are building a back-end [operation] that’s going to allow us to manage our transactions much more efficiently, which by being efficient will save us money in everything we do,” Duncan said.

Duncan routinely writes on his blog and Twitter about the best practices he adopts, like riding a bike to his home showings, in part to communicate to buyers a neighborhood’s friendliness to bikers and pedestrians, but also to be a living example of his company’s green ethic.

20110623-SeeingGreen (L to R) John Lawrence, Crystal Mario, and Jim Duncan

Other panelists, those with lifelong green streaks, said they were becoming increasingly aware they should be more outspoken about their business practices. That can be good for business too.

John Lawrence co-founded the Mudhouse Coffeehouse with his wife Lynelle.

“Lynelle and I have been ‘green’ from the very beginning,” said Lawrence. “That’s been our intent from the start when we had a coffee cart [on the Downtown Mall] in 1993. We were composting our grinds and saving those for the sous chef at the Omni.”

Lawrence said that at his five area locations the Mudhouse is always looking for opportunities to become more energy efficient, use less water and produce less waste. He said upcoming renovations of the Downtown Mall Mudhouse would include a new roof, more insulation and solar panels.

Crystal Mario founded her business, Rivanna Natural Designs, after retiring as a globetrotting technology executive. In 2001, Mario said her goal was to create job opportunities in Charlottesville for recently arrived international refugees.

Early meetings with the International Rescue Committee led Mario to target light manufacturing jobs. Today, 100 percent of her business revolves around those refugees making eco-friendly plaques and awards from recycled wood and glass materials.

Rivanna Natural Designs also has a commitment to sustainable manufacturing processes with its vendors, and at its Allied Street facility.

“We just try and never throw anything away, we just try and find someone else in the community … who wants the stuff that we don’t want,” Mario said. “Invariably we find people who want it so it works out really well.”

Cynthia Adams, executive director of the Local Energy Alliance Program, said these individual business choices had an additive effect contributing to global sustainability.

“Sustainability is unique to each business,” Adams said. “It’s not a one-size fits all with sustainability, it’s completely customized to your business and that gives you a lot of room to maneuver.”

“There are growing expectations on business to help solve environmental and social issues,” said Adams. “Businesses need to be part of the solution, and just a part of ‘the problem.’”

June 08, 2011

Hundreds show up for debate on planning grant

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The public and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors debated Wednesday whether a $1 million federal grant is a golden opportunity for cooperative planning or a Trojan Horse threatening individual liberties and private property rights.

20110608-public-hearing1 A spirited crowd of more than 300 packed Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building to discuss the Livable Communities Planning Project and the county’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. More than 85 people signed up to speak during the lengthy public hearing.

The three-year U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, already awarded to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, is intended to help coordinate a joint review of Albemarle and Charlottesville’s comprehensive and transportation plans. Albemarle staff recommended Wednesday that the board endorse the project.

In addition to questioning the grant, Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd sought on two occasions earlier this year to end Albemarle’s membership in Local Governments for Sustainability.

“If someone had told me we were going to become the stewards of the community and tell them what to do and regulate what they do … I wouldn’t have signed off on that,” Boyd said during the staff presentation early in the evening.

Albemarle staff responded that the $1,200 annual fee to ICLEI provides them access to software to baseline and measure the community’s carbon footprint.

20110608-public-hearing2“I believe this whole discussion has slid into whether you are for or against sustainability,” said Boyd, reflecting on a significant lobbying effort taking place in the community. “I don’t think that’s what the discussion is — the question is who do we take our direction from, this board or some national or international group?”

“I think your presumption about someone outside directing anything is ridiculous,” responded Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Nelson County resident Albert C. Weed, a two-time local candidate for the U.S. Congress, told the supervisors they should not respond to “scare mongering.”

“America’s response to climate change has been stymied at the national level by what amounts to a tribalistic fear of science,” Weed said. “What matters to our future, then, is what we do at the local level. ... If this county pulls back from existing voluntary cooperative efforts, the message it sends will be clear … we can be stampeded by the criminally ignorant for short-term political gain.”

Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, said no recommendations from the grant would be binding and that only the board could decide what would be implemented. In addition, he said the grant would provide funding for the county’s effort to improve the Comprehensive Plan.

“State code requires us to review the plan every five years and to have a Comprehensive Plan,” Graham said. “Incremental updates over last 15 years have caused the document to be long and difficult for the public to use.”

20110608-public-hearing3 Opponents of the grant and ICLEI, who appeared to be a much smaller crowd in the audience, held signs that read “We the people; Sustain liberty.” Supporters of the initiatives held up signs that read “Use common sense; Use good tools” and “A voice for common sense.”

Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, has called for the community to withdraw from the grant. Tea Party members have argued that the grant is a “federal intrusion” into local affairs and a United Nations-linked effort aimed at behavioral change and social justice goals.

County resident and Tea Party member Chris Winter arrived early and was the first to speak at the public hearing.

“I am here because I am concerned about the relationship between ICLEI and the United Nations … and some of the positions taken by some of these board members,” said Winter in an interview. “I don’t want ICLEI in Charlottesville — if people in community want to protect our natural resources, we can do it without the help of the UN.”

Tea Party members also pointed out that the grant is expected to make recommendations on how to implement the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords. Tea Party member Charles Battig has argued that the accords, and the grant agreement, come straight from the U.N.’s “sustainability playbook.” He has told the board it poses a threat to individual decision making on such issues as population, transportation, housing and use of natural resources.

Lonnie Murray attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of Albemarle’s Natural Heritage Committee.

“We support … these endeavors, primarily for the local benefits in terms of protecting our collective quality of life, enhancing our natural resources, and creating jobs here in Albemarle County,” said Murray in a statement provided to the board. “Developing better designed communities reduces the amount of expensive infrastructure and valuable resources we need in the future, saving money and promoting efficiency.”

Supervisor Boyd said that he thought most everyone in the room would agree that the local environment should be protected. Murray said that sustainability also contributed to local prosperity.

“Sustainability is inherently a good thing,” said Murray. “[It] suggests a vision whereby economic prosperity occurs in an ecologically smart and socially just way, protecting our natural resources for future generations.”

Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he had been involved for two years in the Local Climate Action Planning Process. He suggested one possible compromise.

“We have maintained that efficiency and conservation are values held clearly in all of private enterprise,” Hulbert said. “I don’t know if ICLEI is driving that, and I don’t care, nor does the Chamber.”

“We do care about consolidated planning … so I would suggest that you sign that [grant] agreement,” Hulbert added. “The ICLEI [membership] may be too polarizing.”

After more than 40 speakers, supporters of the grant outnumbered opponents by almost a 2 to 1 margin. The public hearing continued until after press time.

See the Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow websites on Thursday for complete coverage of the meeting and the board’s deliberations.

Live audio streaming of tonight's Albemarle Supervisor meeting

 

Charlottesville Tomorrow will be streaming a live audio broadcast of the Wednesday, June 8 meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.

The board will receive a presentation and take public feedback on the Comprehensive Plan update process and its relationship to Sustainability Communities Grant (aka the TJPDC Livable Communities Project).  There will also be a presentation on the Cool Counties commitments and continued membership in the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

Click here to view agenda materials from Albemarle County's website.


Broadcast starts at 6:00 PM June 8, 2011


Stream videos at Ustream

June 02, 2011

Local activists call for public action on environmental and sustainability initiatives

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 2, 2011

When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors hold a highly anticipated work session next Wednesday evening on local planning initiatives, two interest groups are hoping to sway the board by showing that public opinion is on their side. 

The Jefferson Area Tea Party has been beating a steady drum of opposition to what it describes as a United Nations-linked effort to infiltrate local government and erode individual liberties and private property rights.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is seeking public support for environmental stewardship and long-range regional planning efforts. Specifically, the alliance wants the community to sign on to a three-year federal grant allowing joint planning with the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.

Listen using player above or download the podcast of the Tea Party press conference: Download 20110602-JATP-sustainability

Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, said at a press conference Thursday that she supports “a reasonable, responsible, common goal of environmental standards designed to maintain healthy and adequate resources.” Thorpe said that was how she interpreted the term “sustainability.”

“When Sustainability is spelled with a capital ‘S,’ I interpret the definition as a radical political agenda that strives to impose big government-style central planning under the guise of well-intentioned environmentalism,” Thorpe said.  “It hijacks the commonly known meaning of ‘sustainability’…and twists it as a deceptive means to an end.”

The Tea Party is calling for Albemarle and Charlottesville to reject a $1 million federal grant for the Livable Communities Planning Project, an effort being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The three-year project would contribute to updates of the city and county comprehensive and transportation plans and make recommendations on how to implement the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords.

The Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance was organized over the past several months in response to activities, initially of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance, then later of the Tea Party. It’s organizers say it is a “non-partisan group of citizens dedicated to preserving and improving our quality of life in Albemarle County.”

Former Supervisor Sally Thomas is the group’s honorary chairwoman.  Thomas said in an interview she was a contributor to the 1998 Sustainability Accords and was involved as a citizen in the original formation of the TJPDC in 1972.

“I and others are concerned that decisions to be made on June 8 may take the county in a new direction, one that ought to get a lot of citizen input before being taken,” said Thomas.

“I was involved in writing the sustainability goals and objectives, and winnowing them down to the Sustainability Accords,” said Thomas.  “That’s a home-grown effort that I hope people will recognize set the county in a direction that we are proud of. Protecting the community’s natural resources is not a minority opinion, it has had a local and long history here.” 

Thorpe says the Tea Party wants its 100 to 125 active members, and other like-minded citizens, to join together and call for the Albemarle supervisors to address the community’s planning needs through local resources and decision-making. 

Thorpe called Thursday for the board to drop its membership in ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability and to repeal its December 2007 decision committing Albemarle to a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. 

“Sustainability has had much of its ‘science’ debunked as elaborate fraud,” Thorpe said.  “Despite all of this, brazen practitioners of this radical agenda continue to promulgate alarmist warnings crafted to whip up the irrational fear that our planet is on the brink of destruction.”

Albemarle staff says the ICLEI membership of $1,200 annually provides them access to software to baseline and measure the community’s carbon footprint. Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has been unsuccessful in two attempts this year to have the membership eliminated from the county’s budget.

Thomas says the Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is still getting organized and recruiting board members.  Current board members include Waldo Jaquith, Graham Paige and John Dean. 

Thomas was asked what she hoped the public would say at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I would hope people would speak in support of the TJPDC, sustainability and planning with the university and city,” said Thomas. 

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said in an interview Thursday that she was expecting a big turnout for the board’s Wednesday work session. The meeting will be held in the County Office Building at 6 p.m.

“A huge majority of the email we have received has been in favor of completing the activities we have been doing to preserve the quality of life,” said Mallek, a supporter of the ICLEI membership, energy efficiency efforts and the livability project.  “Everyone has been very supportive of the three components.”

“Citizens will probably have at the most two minutes for comment,” added Mallek.  “We want to try and encourage a good interchange between the public and the board.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:03 -- Carole Thorpe, Chair, Jefferson Area Tea Party
  • 14:20 -- John Munchmeyer, President, Jefferson Area Libertarians
  • 18:00 -- Codie Peters, President, Albemarle-Charlottesville Republican Women’s League
  • 20:42 -- Charles Battig, Jefferson Area Tea Party

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:

May 25, 2011

Tea party plans campaign to stop TJPDC grant

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

 
The Jefferson Area Tea Party plans to ask city officials to end their involvement with a federal grant that is being used to coordinate a joint review of Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s separate comprehensive plans.

“Any statement that we’re making in terms of [the sustainability communities grant] … we’re certainly making it also [for] Charlottesville and the University of Virginia as well,” said Carole Thorpe, the group’s chairwoman.

Local tea party members object to a $999,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was awarded to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

One-community

The funding will allow the organization to coordinate the reviews of the city and county’s comprehensive plans at the same time the TJPDC updates its long-range transportation plan. For instance, the city and county planning commissions will hold several joint public hearings to collect input from citizens of both jurisdictions.

“The sustainable communities grant has the potential to improve collaboration between the city, county and UVa on regional planning for land use, transportation, housing, economic development and protection of natural resources,” Mayor Dave Norris wrote in an email.

Norris said that while he has questions about the specifics of how the money will be used, he does not see a downside to the project.

“We should redouble our commitment to the ideals of smart growth, sustainable living and regional collaboration and use this grant to move us in the right direction,” Norris said.

However, members of the Tea Party are concerned that the grant will be used to encourage principles that have been promoted by the United Nations.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has called for the county to end its membership in a group called ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, claiming that group has “infiltrated” county staff.

Because of that concern, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has postponed signing an agreement to move forward with the grant until after a work session on June 8.

The TJPDC’s application was based on an effort to implement the Sustainability Accords, which were signed by city and county officials in June 1998.

The accords are 15 vision statements that, among other things, encourage land use policies to ensure water quality, protection of wildlife habitats, and the development of transportation alternatives to reduce the number of people who drive alone to work.

Thorpe said her group is not opposed to regional cooperation but is opposed to federal and international involvement with local affairs. She said the accords have no authority because they were not signed by any sitting members of either the City Council or the Board of Supervisors.

Last week, city, county and UVa officials stressed at a meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council that the final products of the grant will only be advisory in nature.

The grant will produce several products. A performance measurement system will be created that will benchmark the area’s impacts on the environment. A single map will be developed to depict land uses in both jurisdictions. Recommendations will be made for ways city and county ordinances could be changed to encourage or implement “livability” policies.

On a practical level, the grant has allowed the TJPDC to hire additional staff to assist city and county planners. For instance, Charlottesville’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services will have extra help as it conducts a survey this summer to assess how every single parcel of land in Charlottesville is being used.

“City staff needs and wants to use this information in their Comprehensive Plan update,” said Steve Williams, executive director of the TJPDC.

City Planning Commission Chairman Jason Pearson said he welcomed the concerns of citizens who are concerned that the project is being coordinated by international forces.

However, Pearson said he sees no evidence that local officials are giving up control.

“The language of sustainability helps us to ask good questions about how we want to engage with the world — locally, regionally, nationally and globally,” Pearson said. “To my mind, that’s a good framework for community conversation.”

Thorpe said Tea Party representatives will soon appear before councilors to ask them to revoke their membership in ICLEI and to reject involvement with the HUD grant.

“We’re certainly for having a clean environment and we all want to have clean air and clean water …  but it’s the method by which we achieve that that has caused us to have a question in this matter,” Thorpe said.
 

 

May 20, 2011

Officials emphasize that three-year planning effort is non-binding

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 20, 2011

The Planning and Coordination Council — a joint body with representation from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — met Thursday and discussed both the Livable Communities Planning Project and the community water supply plan.

Officials agreed to revise a draft agreement outlining how they will work together on the three-year planning project, making it clear that the final products will only be advisory in nature.

On the water plan, Mayor Dave Norris rebuffed a request by Albemarle officials who wanted PACC’s formal endorsement of the 50-year plan.

20110519-city-PACC (L to R) Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones, Mayor Dave Norris, and councilor Holly Edwards

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110519-PACC

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 00:01:44 -- Leonard W. Sandridge, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, calls the quarterly PACC meeting to order
  • 00:03:20 -- Jim Rich, Culpeper District Representative, Commonwealth Transportation Board
  • 00:41:20 -- Stephen Williams, TJPDC executive director, on Livable Communities Planning Project
  • 01:06:05 -- Cynthia Adams, executive director, Local Energy Alliance Program
  • 01:34:45 -- Discussion of community water supply plan

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is managing the Livable Communities project, which is funded by an almost $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Stephen Williams, TJPDC’s executive director, said the grant will provide critical funding and resources at a time when local comprehensive plans and transportation plans had to be updated anyway.

“[The plan updates] presented an historic opportunity for all three to cooperate and particularly to include the University of Virginia,” Williams said.

Earlier this month, Albemarle officials put the brakes on signing an agreement to participate in the grant until after a work session is held June 8 by county supervisors.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd and members of the Jefferson Area Tea Party have raised concerns about a “sustainability agenda” they see as being pushed by organizations outside the community, such as the United Nations and ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

At Thursday’s PACC meeting, Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker asked that the draft agreement be modified to make it clear that any recommendations would not be binding on the participants.

“We’ve had people appear before us at our meetings who are concerned we are, in effect, turning over responsibility for making public policy decisions to a non-appointed body,” Rooker said. “That isn’t the case, and I think that needs to be clear in this agreement.”

“What’s being created here is basically work product to assist the ultimate decision makers with regard to making ordinance and comprehensive plan changes in their community,” Rooker said. “It’s information, it’s advisory.”

In a letter sent to the supervisors on Thursday, the Jefferson Area Tea Party’s chairwoman, Carole Thorpe, said she “does not believe this sort of massive, central planning endeavor is the proper role of county government.”

The project has received the backing of most of the community’s major environmental groups. The Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, representing the business community, the Commission on Children and Families and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging are among the groups acting as formal advisers.

Supervisor Duane Snow, another Albemarle representative on the PACC, asked what the cost of working on the grant would be for local governments.

“There is no direct budget contribution from either the city or the county … going towards this grant,” Williams responded. “We’re actually going to be counting the time that your staff was going to spend anyway on your comprehensive plans as a match towards this grant.”

“It’s simply a measure that HUD has made available so we can show a local commitment in the project without actually having to put any cash on the table,” he added.

Williams said the agreement would be revised by the end of the month to reflect the PACC’s input. He asked that each party review and approve the agreement before the end of June.

20110519-Snow
Albemarle County Supervisor, Duane Snow (Samuel Miller)

As the meeting was wrapping up, Snow asked the PACC to consider passing a motion to formally endorse the community water supply plan.

“Even though it’s been approved … there still seems to be a lot of confusion in the community,” Snow said. “[We need to] put to rest some of these rumors that this is driven by developers.”

“It’s a fact to me that the community is growing and it’s going to continue to grow,” Snow said. “If we don’t make allowances for it and support it unanimously, then we’re just allowing the naysayers to get more footing and control.”

Sitting across from Snow were Norris and fellow Councilor Holly Edwards, both of whom were in the minority on the city’s 3-2 vote in February to endorse construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

“I think there’s a lot of debate to be had on the water plan,” Norris responded. “I don’t think you are going to get a unanimous vote in favor of it, so I’m not sure how valuable it would be.”

Leonard W. Sandridge, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said he would support the motion, which was seconded by Rooker, and that he was willing to restate the university’s endorsement of the water plan.

City Manager Maurice Jones said the matter had “been decided” by the City Council and thus questioned why it was necessary for the PACC to have the discussion.

Sensing the stalemate, Sandridge suggested the conversation in and of itself would record their support for the plan.

“The discussion that we have had would indicate that all parties are moving forward with the plan that was approved by City Council and the county,” Sandridge said.

“Yes,” Jones responded. “We are moving ahead with the plan …”