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December 02, 2010

Proposed rural development in Albemarle denied connection to public water

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 2, 2010
 
Albemarle County supervisors have rejected a request to expand the public water system to serve a 30-home neighborhood near the Clifton Inn on U.S. 250 east of Charlottesville.

Supervisors on Wednesday denied the project’s developer a public hearing on his bid to connect to the system. Clifton Lake is located outside the county’s designated growth areas and its homes are expected to rely on well water and septic systems.

20101201-Clifton
CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP
Area map showing proposed Clifton Lake development (RED) and neighboring Clifton Inn properties (ORANGE outline). Second road access via Clifton Inn and over lake's dam (YELLOW dashed line) was required by April 2008 action of Albemarle Planning Commission.

Local Realtor Greg Baldwin is developing the 62-acre property, which is owned by Dr. Charles W. Hurt.

“I am disappointed they could not have at least had a public hearing to consider the issues,” Baldwin said in an interview. “Long term, the central well systems and septic systems tend to fail, and the county has to take them over. Why not address this now?”

The project was originally approved in 1978 for up to 39 homes as a planned residential development (PRD) with the condition that the homes share a centralized well water system.

“At the time, that was an important consideration because of the [housing] density of this PRD,” County Attorney Larry Davis said. “[Now] we only recommend these densities within jurisdictional areas that would be served by public water and sewer systems.”

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said the request was much different than the Whittington development on Old Lynchburg Road. In October, the supervisors approved that rural subdivision for public sewer connections.

Whittington, Benish said, is immediately adjacent to an existing growth area with available water and sewer capacity. Clifton Lake is in the rural area between Pantops and the Village of Rivanna at Glenmore, and the latter’s water and sewer capacity is expected to be challenged by growth that is already planned.

20101201-Benish
David Benish, Chief of Planning, Albemarle County

“Based on the work that was done with the Rivanna Master Plan, there was no intention or expectation to expand that village,” Benish said. “We try and focus the remaining and available capacities of water and sewer to our designated development areas.”

At their meeting Wednesday, Albemarle supervisors shared concerns about the density of the development in the rural area and its impacts on both transportation and nearby streams.

“If you approve it, you end up with 40 small lots right by the river with septic systems,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said. “The better result would be for a less dense neighborhood there.”

Clifton Lake will now be required to have a central well system as specified in the 1978 approval. Baldwin added that the project on Hurt’s land is only for 30 homes and that it would not be economical to build a smaller development.

“We need to think about how to proceed with the next steps,” said Baldwin.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas voted with the rest of the board to deny any further consideration of the request.

“I regret that we deprived him of a public hearing,” Thomas said afterwards. “I am not saying I was in favor of the [water connection], just that I wanted to hear some more discussion.”

See Charlottesville Tomorrow's April 2008 coverage of Clifton Lake's preliminary subdivision approval.

November 20, 2010

New water storage tank in the works for Glenmore development

DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, November 20, 2010
 
The Glenmore community has a single source of public drinking water, a 4-mile pipeline that runs along U.S. 250 east of Charlottesville. However, if Albemarle officials decide to add a backup storage tank, they will use $2 million of the county’s capital funds rather than ask the developers or Glenmore residents to pay for it.

“It is not something that is needed to provide [water] for Glenmore,” said James Bowling IV, legal counsel for the Albemarle County Service Authority. “It’s a convenience [but] one that you would certainly call a necessity if there was an emergency.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast:  Download 20101123-ACSA-Redundancy


The service authority board on Thursday discussed options for addressing the vulnerability created by the system’s potential for a single point of failure. The Michael Baker Jr. engineering firm has recommended a $2 million project to build a new water storage tank in case of a break.
In July, the authority had asked staff to determine if the Glenmore developers could be required to build the tank.

Bowling investigated the proffers included in the Glenmore rezoning and concluded that because the new tank is not essential for new development, the developers can’t legally be required to pay for it.
Another option would have been to charge Glenmore residents a special rate to cover the costs.

The ACSA has twice instituted such a rate, according to Bowling.

For example, developers of future neighborhoods in northern Albemarle County will contribute toward a sewer project with the new North Fork Regional Pump Station, and the Farmington neighborhood’s water distribution system was built with such a fee. Authority staffers, however, did not support this approach.

“[Glenmore] doesn’t seem to us to be the kind of project where a special rate district would apply,” said Gary O’Connell, ACSA executive director.

The authority has slowly been trying to build redundancy into the system by building parallel transmission lines and by asking private developers to install oversized pipes to allow for greater future capacity.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:30 - Presentation of report on water redundancy efforts by Pete Gorham
  • 13:30 - Presentation of item on Glenmore storage tank
  • 35:30 - Presentation of item on West Leigh tank

September 21, 2010

County planners debate decreased resources for community engagement

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission expressed concern last week that public bodies created to oversee the county’s master plans will be less effective now that budget cuts have forced them to meet less often.

“This is not a very good idea,” said Tom Loach, chair of the planning commission. “As far as I’m concerned, the advisory council has been indispensible in helping make decisions in my district because that’s where I get my feedback from.”

Download 20100914-APC-Community-Engagement

 

Lee Catlin, the county’s community relations manager, said the reduction is due to dwindling financial resources and is not a reflection they are no longer needed.

“It was pretty clearly stated during the budget process last year… that support to master planning advisory councils would be reduced,” said Catlin. She said no one from the councils spoke up during this year’s budget process to make the case for sustained funding. As a result, a community engagement position in her office was eliminated, as well as three positions in the planning department.

The Board of Supervisors endorsed the changes at their meeting on September 1.

When both the Crozet and Pantops master plans were adopted, advisory councils were created to provide a way for citizens to have a say in how those plans were implemented. However, their mission has been reduced because of county budget cutbacks.

“Each of the councils [will] meet three times a year,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning. “There [will] also be an annual meeting of all the councils together.”

The councils are public bodies, and as such fall under Virginia’s open meeting laws which require publicly advertised meetings and the keeping of minutes. No more than two members of a public body are allowed to meet and discuss public business without following those regulations.

County Attorney Larry Davis advised the board of supervisors earlier this month that council members had to be aware of these obligations in any forum where they are meeting when more than two members are present, even if it is at a local community association gathering, a meeting not convened by the county.

Loach said that when the Crozet master plan was originally adopted, the community accepted it because they were told a full-time community planner would assist with its implementation. However, over time that person has been moved to deal with rezoning due to budget cuts.

“If there’s a lot of development activity as a result of either the master plan or the economic stimulus plan, then these advisory councils may need to more regular,” Loach said.

The Village of Rivanna is the latest growth area to have an adopted master plan, but a council has not been created at this time due to a lack of current development there. However, key stakeholders will be invited to the annual meeting.

Commissioner Linda Porterfield said there are already significant problems her constituents and staff, and added it was inconsistent to treat her growth area different from that of Pantops and Crozet.

“We need communication, and if we lose communication, we’re in real trouble,” Porterfield said.  She also objected to supervisors signing off on the changes before the commission had a chance to weigh in.

Cilimberg pointed out that the adopted master plan for the Village of Rivanna anticipated a low level of development in the short-term.

“We have a capital program with essentially no money for initiatives,” Cilimberg said. “The Board is bombarded with a multitude of budget considerations and demands and balancing that against a constituency that does not want to see increases in their taxes,” Cilimberg said. “At some point the reality strikes and that’s our reality right now.”

The Board of Supervisors will consider the Places29 Master Plan in November.


July 21, 2010

ACSA debates source of funding for Glenmore water tank

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who should pay when the Albemarle County Service Authority decides to build new infrastructure to increase the reliability of its water distribution system? The ACSA Board of Directors briefly explored that question last week while discussing a proposed $2 million water tank to serve the Village of Rivanna.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100715-ACSA-Glenmore-Water-Tank

At their July 15 meeting, the ACSA board heard a report about a location study for a water tank which would add redundancy, but not additional storage capacity. The tank would ensure the growth area around the Glenmore community continues to have water if there is a break in the line that carries water to eastern Albemarle County.

 “From a system planning standpoint, you put things in place to anticipate something bad happening,” said ACSA executive director Gary O’Connell

As part of the conceptual phase, the ACSA hired the Michael Baker Jr. engineering firm to determine how big the structure should be and to provide a preliminary cost estimate. The size and location of the tank will be determined if the project moves into a design phase.

20100715-John-Martin
ACSA Board Member John Martin
“I think the tank should be built, but I think we should explore who should pay for it,” said ACSA board member John Martin.  He suggested the possibility of creating a special rate district or even asking the developers of Glenmore to pay for it.

Martin said that when the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning for the Glenmore development in December 1990, they accepted a proffer that required then developer Frank Kessler to cover the full costs of creating the infrastructure for water and sewer services.

“In order to build [Glenmore], they had to build a 23,000 foot water pipeline from the urban area to where the [neighborhood] was going to be,” Martin said. “One of the proffers was that the developer would provide water and sewer collection, distribution and treatment facilities at his expense.”

Martin said he wanted to know why the developers did not build the tank as Glenmore developed.

Jim Colbaugh, who represents the Scottsville district on the ACSA board, said a tank was possibly not considered to be necessary as the community was growing. 

“Now it’s [over] 800 homes, and it’s a little different and it’s going to be more different as future growth occurs,” Colbaugh said. “They probably never considered capacity issues for a tank when the 1990 agreement was made.”

Download Download staff report on proposed Glenmore water tank

Download Download documentation of proffers for Glenmore rezoning


Colbaugh said he would support the ACSA paying for the tank because it would be to increase system reliability, and not to expand capacity. He cited the upgrades the authority currently performing in the Scottsville system as a comparable project. The ACSA is also planning for a tank in the West Leigh subdivision to provide similar redundancy.

O’Connell said the ACSA might not want to set the precedent of asking developers to pay for system enhancements and other capital projects not related to enhancing capacity. He said traditionally such projects have been paid for by current ratepayers.

“With the reserve that we have, we have the ability to finance it and pay for it if the board wanted to move forward,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said he would like the board to sort out who will pay for it before taking the project to the community for their input. The ACSA Board will discuss the issue again at its meeting in August.

May 13, 2010

Master plan approved for the Village of Rivanna


DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in today's
Daily Progress.

Download Download the
Master Plan

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved a master plan for the Village of Rivanna at their meeting Wednesday.  The village is a designated growth area on U.S. 250 East and includes the Glenmore community.

After almost three years of work, the village joins Crozet and Pantops as the third master planned community in Albemarle.  Unlike its predecessors, however, this plan says that new development should be approved only after adequate transportation and sewer treatment facilities are in place.

20100512-BOS1
Trevor Joscelyne, the President of Glenmore Community Association, said in an interview that the association did not take a position on the final master plan.“A lot of residents have been involved over the past several years,” said Joscelyne.  “We don’t have any major issues with [the plan].  They have modified it quite substantially, particularly with respect to density of housing.  They have also included a park area which we were fighting for, so we have fought our battles already.”

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier, who represents the village on the Board of Supervisors, said in an interview that he thought the plan had been well received by his constituents.

“I think the plan has been thoroughly reviewed by all the parties,” said Dorrier.  “At one time there was some opposition, but that has been resolved.”

While the plan calls for infrastructure to be built in advance of new development, many residential and commercial projects have already been approved, but not yet built.

“We are not excited about the prospect of a lot of development on our doorstep,” said  Joscelyne, “but we realize that we don’t have a lot of say over that.”

“We need to improve the entrance into and out of [the village] at Route 250,” said Dorrier.  “That area is becoming more and more crowded and problematic….We need to look carefully at how we are going to solve the transportation issues out there.”

“The problem with Route 250 is that it is already near capacity, and many new homes have been approved already that will push it beyond capacity,” said Joscelyne.  “New development simply cannot happen unless the road is widened.”

Neil Williamson, executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum, sounded a note of caution about the infrastructure goals.

“I ask that you look carefully at the restrictions you are placing on new rezonings,” said Williamson.  “I am not sure you want to prevent any rezoning that may come in front of you.”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said the guidelines for concurrency of adequate infrastructure were important and a key to getting public support.  

“Without that language on future transportation and future rezonings, it wouldn’t have the support of the residents,” said Rooker.

20100512-Werner
Jeff Werner, Piedmont Environmental Council
The Piedmont Environment Council’s Jeff Werner said in an interview that Albemarle’s separate growth areas on Route 250 in Crozet and at Glenmore present some natural land use and transportation challenges.

“It raises some very good questions for the county, if you are going to allow growth in these separate areas which are disconnected from the urban growth area,” said Werner.  “There is a necessary level of transportation between the two that has to be accounted for in the plan.”

Werner also said that any plan would require careful consideration when it came time to make implementation decisions.  The board of supervisors is now controlled by conservative members, including Dorrier, who favor fiscal restraint combined with increased efforts to grow local businesses and streamline the review process for new development.

“People are worried that the current majority on the board is not really interested what these communities come up with in the master plans,” said Werner. “There is great concern this board majority will show deference to the business community, the development community, and not the residents’ priorities.”

Dorrier said the lack of state funding for transportation was going to present a challenge to any master plan and may require more local investment.

“We need to zero in on the problem areas and try to address them,” said Dorrier.  “We have not gotten any state support so we are going to have to do this ourselves.”

March 09, 2010

Board begins process of amending proposed $293.8 million budget

DailyProgress By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has begun amending County Executive Bob Tucker’s proposed $293.8 million budget for the next fiscal year. The Board is reviewing all areas of the budget during a series of four work sessions between now and next Wednesday.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100308-BOS-Work-Session1a

Monday’s session covered general government, and each Supervisor had the chance to suggest changes in the form of new cuts or increased spending on various initiatives.  By state law, the board must pass a balanced budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year which starts on July 1st.

Tucker’s budget reflects a $10.3 million decrease in county expenditures. One-time spending cuts range from $21,000 by reducing landscaping on county property to $100,000 by contracting out custodial services. 

“This recommended budget comes with some difficult and painful choices that change services in our community,” Tucker said.

Other cuts are more structural, particularly in reductions to the county administration and the community development department. The majority of the county’s 78 frozen or eliminated positions come from these two areas.

20100308-Foley Deputy County Executive Tom Foley leads Supervisors through the budget section by section
“We’ve been very responsive to the need to improve our operations and become more efficient, but our changes have also positioned our operations for the future by restructuring and reallocating staff to core responsibility,” said Deputy County Executive Tom Foley.

The impact of those cuts will likely be felt in the county’s efforts to guide development in its growth areas.

The Board of Supervisors has adopted two master plans (Crozet and Pantops) and action is pending on two more (Places29 and Village of Rivanna).

Assistant County Executive Bryan Elliot said the county may no longer have the resources to coordinate community input on how to prioritize the construction of new community infrastructure. For instance, the Pantops Advisory Committee has already cut back to quarterly meetings according to Supervisor Ken Boyd.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said this trend would reduce the effectiveness of the master planning efforts.

“It troubles me that we’re cutting back so significantly in that area that we’re not going to do what may be necessary to effectively implement [the Places29 master plan],” Rooker said.

Foley said the Board will eventually need to decide what level of community engagement will go to support the plans.

“This is probably the best time for us to be scaling back, but once the [plans] are finished, and those committees are formed, it’s going to drive some demand,” Foley said.

Additionally, the county’s transportation planner has been reassigned to another department because there are no funds in the capital improvement program for new projects.

20100308-BOS-wide Supervisors listen as details of budget are presented by county staff
Supervisor Ann Mallek asked for more information on why the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation is set to receive $6,000, claiming that the county pays the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to perform similar work.

A growing part of the proposed budget is a 4.4% increase for the county’s finance department. This includes the unfreezing of a business auditor position in county government to focus on tax collection in order to help secure new revenues. The concept was accepted by Supervisors.

The Board will discuss the school budget during Wednesday’s work session, and the capital improvement program next Monday. The amended budget will then be presented to the public on March 31.

TIMELINE FOR FIRST PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - County Executive Bob Tucker begins review of the proposed budget
  • 02:30 - Tucker lays out the philosophy behind how cuts were made
  • 06:50 - Tucker explains budget process to new Supervisors
  • 08:02 - Richard Wiggins explains why revenues are down
  • 13:30 - Supervisor Boyd asks a question about transfers between CIP and operating budgets
  • 18:22 - Wiggins outlines some of the factors that contribute to expenditure increases
  • 22:00 - Deputy County Executive Tom Foley describes cuts to general government
  • 25:30 - Discussion begins on frozen positions
  • 29:00 - Discussion of cuts to Board of Supervisor's office
  • 31:00 - Discussion of cuts to County Executive's office
  • 32:00 - Rooker questions Chamber of Commerce support of political advertising
  • 35:40 - Foley describes the purpose of unfreezing a business auditor position
  • 40:30 - Foley describes savings associated with eliminating Microsoft enterprise agreement
  • 41:00 - Discussion of funding for a primary election if one is necessary in 2011
  • 42:30 - Discussion of how stormwater position might be paid for
  • 43:30 - Discussion of contracting out custodial services
  • 48:30 - Foley discusses service impacts
  • 50:00 - Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier asks question about property assessments
  • 53:30 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks about potential increases to City-County fire contract
  • 55:30 - County spokeswoman Lee Catlin describes marketing efforts for ACE
  • 57:50 - Supervisor Duane Snow asks what temperature the heat is on in county buildings, rental of county buildings
  • 1:02:15 - Thomas asks how revenue sharing payments will increase or decrease in the next few years
  • 1:03:30 - Dorrier asks about reduction in line item for community relations
  • 1:05:30 - Discussion of master planning efforts
  • 1:12:15 - Snow calls for county to reduce printing of documents
  • 1:14:30 - Foley moves discussion to Community Development Department budget
  • 1:19:30 - Boyd asks if school system is creating ongoing positions using stimulus money
  • 1:27:45 - Foley moves discussion to Facilities Development Department
  • 1:29:30 - Foley begins discussion of agencies funded by Community Development
  • 1:31:30 - Mallek requests information on what ACCT does for its funding
  • 1:34:10 - Dorrier asks about the amount the county pays for CTS
  • 1:38:30 - Elliot lists some of the cumulative impacts of service reduction
  • 1:39:00 - Rooker discusses the value of having local enforcement of environmental issues
  • 1:43:30 - Rooker asks about stream buffer enforcement
  • 1:47:00 - Foley says providing staff for boards and commissions will be a challenge in the future
  • 1:48:15 - Foley explains how $350,000 in transportation funding will go to pay for ACE for one year
  • 1:51:00 - Foley talks about how master planning is going to be affected

January 05, 2010

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009

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 2009.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download Brian Wheeler's appearance on the Coy Barefoot show

This is the fourth 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.

Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009
  1. Biscuit Run goes from Albemarle’s largest proposed development ever to a future state park after all 1,200 acres are acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia in December.
  2. Meadowcreek Parkway construction begins in Albemarle.  Local lawsuit fails to stop construction and City Council’s 3-2 vote to convey City property is upheld in court.  In December, VDOT puts City’s portion (called McIntire Road Extended) out to bid and City Council approves preliminary interchange design.
  3. City & County both hold local elections.  Democrats keep all five seats on Charlottesville City Council.  Three independent candidates in the City are unsuccessful in their bids for Council with Bob Fenwick’s campaign largely a referendum on the future of McIntire Park and dredging for water supply needs.  In Albemarle, Republican Rodney Thomas upset incumbent Chairman Democrat David Slutzky (D-Rio).  In the open seat race to fill the Samuel Miller District seat, Republican Duane Snow defeats two opponents.  Thomas and Snow join Republican Ken Boyd to form a group of three Republicans.  Both newcomers are local businessmen born and raised in Charlottesville-Albemarle. The election results will bring a new mix of experience, politics and philosophy to the board in 2010 that could mean big changes in the board's approach to budgeting, tax rates, economic development and other key issues.
  4. Fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan continues to be evaluated by local officials and public for opportunities to improve plan and lower costs.  Engineering firm Gannett Fleming is dropped and replaced with local firm Schnabel Engineering.  Three studies get underway related to dredging of South Fork, the design of the new Ragged Mountain Dam, and a “conceptual review” of the proposed pipeline connecting the two reservoirs.
  5. Places29 Master Plan is recommended for approval by Albemarle County Planning Commission on 4-2 vote.  Many business leaders continue to oppose grade-separated interchanges and other transportation proposals that cannot currently be funded by state.  Wendell Wood lobbies for growth area expansion on to undeveloped land he owns in Northern Albemarle.
  6. Peter van der Linde opens recycling facility at Zion Crossroads.  Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (run jointly by Charlottesville-Albemarle) files lawsuit against van der Linde accusing him of fraud and non-payment of as much as $1 million in tipping fees to the RSWA facility.  RSWA decides to seek bids to privatize the Ivy Material Utilization Center and McIntire recycling facilities.
  7. Charlottesville Downtown Mall renovations completed under budget and mostly on schedule (fountains needed more work after deadline).
  8. Major new housing and retail developments continue to be held up by market forces, economic downturn, and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity).
  9. Virginia General Assembly blocks local sales tax voter referendum, requested by both Charlottesville & Albemarle as part of search for new transportation funding resources, specifically to support formation of a Regional Transit Authority.
  10. First annual CvillePieFest is held in Crozet.  Organized on Twitter, it was simply amazing.
    (Full disclosure: Coy Barefoot & Brian Wheeler really want to continue as permanent judges for this event, something that should become the Virginia Pie Festival! Keep track of all things local pie here.)
Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2010
  1. Key decisions will be made about next steps for the fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan related to Ragged Mountain dam design and dredging.
  2. Crozet Master Plan review is completed.  What is new target for Crozet’s build out population and will the growth area be expanded at Yancey Mills for a new business park?
  3. New growth area land in U.S. Route 29 corridor will be considered to replace the 3.5% of growth area lost to state’s acquisition in late 2009 of Biscuit Run for a new state park.
  4. Village of Rivanna and Places29 Master Plans will be reviewed by Board of Supervisors.  Will Places29 be approved and, if so, with what transportation vision for the future of U.S. 29 North?
  5. Local government continues to struggle with the continuing impact of state and local budget shortfalls in very difficult economy.  Officials will consider new proposals to diversify Albemarle’s tax base (increased commercial/industrial) and proposals to reduce recently adjusted cash proffer expectations in an effort to encourage new home construction.
  6. City-County-UVA cooperation will get more attention by the public and local officials (revenue sharing, water, solid waste, schools, public safety).  Will it get better or worse?
  7. Master Planning of McIntire Park will get underway and future uses, like a botanical garden, will be assessed. 
  8. The military facilities at Rivanna Station around the National Ground Intelligence Center will continue their expansion and bring new residents to the community working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and military sub-contractors.
  9. Charlottesville and Albemarle both face challenges from their residents concerned about urban infill development, the type of growth encouraged by each locality’s comprehensive plans, but often opposed in the face of neighborhood concerns about increased traffic, public safety, and noise.  How will this impact redevelopment of West Main and old Martha Jefferson Hospital?
  10. Landmark Hotel construction on Downtown Mall resumes, or not…

November 29, 2009

Growth strains highways, residents


250_logox750 
DailyProgress
This article is the first in a four-part series on the future of Route 250 published jointly by The Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow.
Part one is published here by permission of The Daily Progress.
Part: One, Two, Three, Four
250_logo_sm
By Rachana Dixit
The Daily Progress
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Neil and Susan Means’ property is the embodiment of the rural east in Albemarle County.

They live where there are few intersections and no parallel roads. Thick woods surround their home, and few noises pervade the landscape.

But the Meanses have become dismayed with the mounting traffic and bottlenecks around their neighborhood because of surrounding growth. The couple, having lived in the area since the 1970s and in their Village of Rivanna home since 1980, says the county’s strategy of concentrating growth in certain areas makes sense.

“But out here, there is one road going past it,” Neil Means said.

The road Means refers to is U.S. 250.

From Keswick to Crozet, U.S. 250 is one of Central Virginia’s most important routes for commutes and commerce. And from one end to the other, residents share concerns about whether the road’s condition will hold up with more growth and less money, or if a decline in transportation infrastructure could pose a detriment to the area’s scenery and high quality of life.

“There is no infrastructure to support the growth we have now,” Susan Means said.

In eastern Albemarle, the challenge involves both local traffic and those residents who head to work or shopping from points nearby that are not within county limits.

“It’s the Main Street for the east part of Albemarle County, if you will,” said Steve Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. U.S. 250, he said, is the best connection to the area’s major employment centers - downtown Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, Pantops and U.S. 29.

“No wonder the thing is congested,” Williams said.

The difficulty in balancing growth pressures and a decline in transportation infrastructure spending is growing more acute, but there is little movement toward solutions.

“We talked about the need to kind of coordinate these issues,” said Kenneth C. Boyd, a member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, of figuring out transportation solutions with officials in localities farther east of Albemarle, such as Louisa. But because there is essentially no money to implement solutions, Boyd said that idea “fell by the wayside.”

“It’s an interregional problem that really is difficult to solve,” he said.

Climbing traffic

Virginia Department of Transportation traffic counts for last year estimated that 24,000 vehicles traveled on U.S. 250 between Interstate 64 and Route 22 daily, and the number is expected to increase to 42,185 vehicles by 2035.

Between Route 22 and the Fluvanna County line, daily traffic counts from last year were 5,600 vehicles and are projected to jump to 24,400 by 2035.

“Rush hour is the problem,” Neil Means said. “It can be really horrible.”

The byway in the eastern part of Albemarle has been studied in an attempt to divine how congestion could be reduced. One study was done in 2004, and in March of last year, the Eastern Albemarle Sub-Area Study - coordinated with VDOT, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Albemarle County - was released and listed millions of dollars worth of recommendations.

Among them were improving the intersection of U.S. 250 and North Milton Road and constructing a roundabout or traffic signal at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Glenmore Way. The latter junction edges on the Village of Rivanna - a designated growth area east of where I-64 crosses U.S. 250 east of Charlottesville.

The village has increasingly attracted attention as its master plan is finalized and the growth-versus-infrastructure argument comes to a head.

It was decided last month that the master plan would state that unless several transportation improvements are made, many specifically to U.S. 250, the Albemarle Planning Commission would not recommend the approval of rezonings in the Rivanna growth area.

The commission solidified its opinion Nov. 17, recommending to supervisors that the Village of Rivanna master plan be approved, but authorization for developments that require rezonings would be contingent upon the completion of infrastructure upgrades.

$16 million needed

Albemarle has issued building permits in the village for hundreds of new residential units over the last 10 years, according to building activity reports. Between 1999 and the third quarter of this year, which ended in September, building permits were granted for 324 new units. The most were issued in 2003 - 53 total, 52 of which were for single-family homes.

The draft master plan points out that based on March estimates, there were 761 dwellings in the Village of Rivanna, with an estimated population of 1,617 to 1,918 residents.

The improvements that would be required to handle more vehicles in the corridor are estimated to cost more than $16 million. They include widening U.S. 250 to four lanes from I-64 to Glenmore Way; improving the intersections of U.S. 250 and North Milton Road and U.S. 250 and Black Cat Road; and improving the I-64 interchange at Shadwell.

“Beyond that, there’s really not that much more to say in terms of particular improvements to 250 that may be out there in the long term,” Wayne Cilimberg, Albemarle County’s director of planning, said of the village’s master plan.

“There’s never been any action taken on the east part of 250 by the county,” he said.

VDOT officials also say that two more traffic signals, primarily being funded by private developers, are planned along U.S. 250 near the village because of new projects - at Glenmore Way and at Route 22 in Shadwell.

Growing pains


The Meanses said they do not think the Village of Rivanna is suited to be a growth area because of where it is located in Albemarle, and because a sharp decline in transportation spending translates into U.S. 250 not being able to get the necessary improvements to handle an influx of growth.

But others say that growth will continue to happen, and if it is not concentrated in the areas that are designed for higher densities and more residents, then it would instead invade more rural areas.

“I’m having a really hard time with the thought of, OK, we’re just going to shut down our growth areas,” Planning Commission member Marcia Joseph said in an interview. Joseph said moving residents to rural areas, where it would not be realistic for them to use other transportation modes apart from their own vehicles, would ultimately not solve any traffic problems.

“What if we decide that our growth areas are no longer our growth areas?” she added. “Is that what we’re deciding? I don’t think so.”

Williams said the traffic increases that are expected on U.S. 250 are going to happen regardless of whether the village’s rezonings are approved - because of new development and employment opportunities further east, such as in Fluvanna County and Zion Crossroads in Louisa. Current sewer capacity would allow for another 300 to 400 units on top of 674 approved new units since 2001.

“We’ll deal with the specifics and the details as it moves forward,” Boyd said.

The Meanses, echoing the feelings of most county planning commissioners, say they are glad officials have acknowledged the growth and infrastructure conundrum. Even widening the roads and doing the other improvements, Neil Means said, is not going to solve U.S. 250’s traffic issues.

“Provide the roads if you’re going to have a growth area,” he said.

November 22, 2009

Village of Rivanna master plan will head to Board of Supervisors

By Connie Chang & Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Tuesday night, the Albemarle County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the Village of Rivanna master plan to the Board of Supervisors. The Village of Rivanna, which includes the Glenmore sub-division is one of Albemarle’s designated growth areas and is located on Route 250 East.

The County adopted the Crozet Master Plan in December 2004 and the Pantops Master Plan in March 2008. The Board will also take up the Places29 Master Plan next year. Work on a master plan for the County’s southern urban area, which includes Biscuit Run, has been postponed indefinitely due to budget cuts according to County Executive Bob Tucker.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091117-APC-Rivanna-Approval

20091117-APC-Rivanna

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the four Commissioners in attendance, Linda Porterfield (Scottsville), Calvin Morris (Rivanna), Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller), and Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett), said they were very enthusiastic to see the Rivanna master plan reach this stage.

In previous Planning Commission work sessions, Commissioners and local residents voiced concerns that the necessary infrastructure and transportation improvements would not be in place to adequately accommodate a growth of this magnitude.

According to the draft master plan, the number of additional units which may be approved for development will depend on the sewage treatment plant’s capacity. If water and sewer usage continues at the same level of usage in the Glenmore development, staff expect that a range between 300 and 400 units may be added to the area.

Approvals of any developments by rezoning within the Village will also be dependent on the completion of several transportation improvements that will improve the volume to capacity ratio of US 250 between Louisa Road and the City of Charlottesville.

These improvements include:

  • Interchange improvements at I-64 and US 250
  • Six-lanes on US 250 from Free Bridge to the I-64 interchange
  • Four-lanes on US 250 from the US 250/I-64 interchange to Route 729 (Milton Road) and, possibly, Glenmore Way
  • Intersection improvements at US 250 and Route 729 (Milton Road)
  • Bridge improvement or replacement over railroad at Route 22 (Louisa Road)
  • Addition of eastbound left turn and westbound right turn lanes on US 250 at Route 616 (Black Cat Road)
Senior planner Elaine Echols presented the updated draft which also included clarifications regarding service standards for fire/rescue and police.

During the public comment period, Shadwell resident William Orr commented that a true village should include those who live in other surrounding areas and not just those on the east side of 250.  

“A true village should have more landowners involved,” said Orr.

However, the Commissioners all agreed that development should not be expanded into nearby rural areas.

“I think the community has really spoken, decades ago, and more recently here, that there is a lot of concern about road capacity, sewer capacity, water capacity, school capacity and that we as a community made a commitment that we want to do good planning,” said Chairman Eric Strucko. “We want to develop our growth areas, we want to engage in rural area protection and preservation, but we want to do it in a way that doesn’t impose burdens.”

The Board of Supervisors will review the master plan draft in 2010 at a date to be determined.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST
  • 01:00 – Senior planner Elaine Echols presents
  • 04:45 – Shadwell resident William Oar comments
  • 07:56 – End of public comment
  • 09:35 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield makes motion to recommend master plan to Board of Supervisors
  • 09:53 – Chairman Eric Strucko comments
  • 12:15 – Linda Porterfield, Calvin Morris, Eric Strucko, and Bill Edgerton vote for approval of recommendation

October 15, 2009

County planners set public hearing date for Rivanna master plan

DailyProgress By Connie Chang
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unless several transportation improvements are completed, the Albemarle County Planning Commission will no longer recommend the approval of rezonings for the Village of Rivanna, the community’s upcoming master plan will state.

According to senior planner Elaine Echols, the Virginia Department of Transportation will need to increase the volume to capacity ratio on U.S. 250 East between Route 22 and Charlottesville. The road projects are estimated to cost over $16 million and include improvements to the Interstate 64 interchange at Shadwell, a widening to four-lanes of U.S. 250 from I-64 to Glenmore Way, and intersection improvements at U.S. 250 and North Milton Road.

At a Tuesday work session, the Albemarle County Planning Commission set November 17th as the public hearing date for the first Village of Rivanna master plan. Since September, County staff have updated the draft to clarify the conditions needed for future development in the area. Similar to previous work sessions, the Commission focused heavily on transportation projects they view as necessary to support the growing community.

The Village of Rivanna, which is located on Route 250 East and includes the Glenmore development, is one of the County’s designated growth areas. A total of 674 new residential units have already been approved and another 300-400 units can be accommodated based on the current sewer capacity in the area.

David Benish, the County’s Chief of Planning, said these improvements are unlikely to occur for many years to come given the current economic climate.

“This area won’t be developed for another 25 years because the funding isn’t there to do these improvements,” said Benish. “In the environment we’re in, we’ll never be able to reach those capacities. We don’t want to approve any development until the improvements are in place.”
  
Even with the implementation of these improvements to U.S. 250, the level of service adequacy is still being called into question. Glenmore resident Neil Means expressed his frustration that future traffic congestion will not be alleviated through the measures outlined in the master plan draft.

20091013-APC-Rivanna-Means “If these improvements were made, the road would still not be able to handle the traffic,” said Means.

U.S. 250, which has already been operating over capacity, is expected to see a 90% increase in traffic by 2035, up to an average of 42,185 vehicles per day between Route 22 and Charlottesville.

“Even with those improvements the volume to capacity ratio will exceed one. The 300 to 400 [potential] units are contributing a very small part of the traffic,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the County’s Director of Planning.

In considering the language within the draft for deciding on acceptable standards for road capacity, Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) noted the need to anticipate changes in future transportation patterns throughout the County.

“I think there will be substantial changes in how we move around and I think it’ll be bad if we don’t accommodate these patterns of change,” said Edgerton. “Hopefully there will be improvements with mass transit and carpooling. There will hopefully be less people driving to Pantops. We need a certain level of service and how that’s worded is worth thinking about.”

The public will have the opportunity to provide their input on the current draft at the public hearing on Tuesday evening, November 17th, 2009.