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July 18, 2012

Council upholds Stonefield stormwater violation; Edens uncertain of next steps

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council has upheld a determination by city staff that the developers of Stonefield in Albemarle County violated an erosion control permit by opening up a new stormwater pipe before certain conditions were met.

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A view of the drainage basin to the east of Stonefield. Credit: City of Charlottesville

“I think staff’s determination is appropriate and that they have not followed through the plan and conditions of the permit,” Mayor Satyendra Huja said.

The managing director of Edens, the developer of Stonefield, said he was disappointed in the council’s unanimous decision.

“We’re dying to deliver this first-class project,” Steve Boyle said. “We’ve got tons of people that are waiting for new jobs here.”

The city issued a violation notice on June 1 and Edens made an appeal. The City Council began its review of the appeal shortly before 11 p.m. on Monday near the end of a busy meeting.

“Stonefield is a project in Albemarle County on the west side of U.S. 29,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services. “The drainage outfall for that project, however, comes into the city on the east side of U.S. 29 and drains into Meadow Creek.”

That meant Edens had to obtain an erosion and sediment control permit from the city because land within Charlottesville would be disturbed as a result of Stonefield’s development.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120716-CC-Stonefield

Before bulldozers began clearing land for Stonefield, all the rain that fell on the 65-acre property drained slowly through a 42-inch pipe under U.S. 29, designed to reduce the water’s velocity. That pipe also carried water from farther west of Stonefield that previously flowed naturally through an unnamed creek.

As part of Stonefield’s stormwater management plan, the creek was routed through a pipe that connects with a new 72-inch pipe that was drilled underneath U.S 29. The 42-inch pipe will primarily carry stormwater that falls on the northern half of Stonefield.

Both pipes eventually flow into a drainage channel on property in Charlottesville owned by Seminole Square, the U.S. Post Office and the Pepsi-Cola facility.

Continue reading "Council upholds Stonefield stormwater violation; Edens uncertain of next steps" »

July 11, 2012

Stonefield’s grading and stormwater reviewed by Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Facing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the developers of Stonefield had simply hoped to get an extension on the deadline to plant vegetation. However, the mixed-use development got more scrutiny Wednesday on the water below ground level than the plants above.
 
20120524-pipe-picture
A view looking down at the 72 inch pipe at the center of the controversy. Credit: City of Charlottesville
The board took the opportunity to discuss the developer’s alleged violation of a Charlottesville-issued erosion and sedimentation permit. The county’s water protection ordinance requires developers to plant vegetation on graded property within a specific timeframe and Edens has been unable to meet deadlines because of various delays. 
 
“This project has already received an administrative extension which took them to July, so now they are requesting a board extension which would take them … until the end of October,” said county engineer Glenn Brooks. 
 
Brooks said vegetation cannot be planted until the land on the 65-acre site is in its final graded state. That will require a basin that is currently retaining stormwater to be filled in. 
 
Stonefield’s Trader Joe’s and Regal Cinema are well underway as the first buildings approved for a development with a footprint twice as large as Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.
 
Before development of the site, stormwater on the northern end of the property drained through a 42-inch pipeline underneath U.S. 29 into a drainage channel on property in the city owned by Seminole Square Shopping Center, the Pepsi-Cola bottling factory and the U.S. Post Office. 
 
As part of its post-development stormwater management plan, Edens has built a second 72-inch pipe to carry water that drains from 108 acres of land west of the Stonefield property, as well as excess stormwater for when the 42-inch pipe backs up during heavy rainfall. 
 
The city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service issued a violation notice to Edens on June 1 after the pipe was opened this spring. The city claims the pipe was to remain plugged until Edens made certain improvements to the drainage channel. Those improvements require permission from the owners of Seminole and the Pepsi facility. 
 

Continue reading " Stonefield’s grading and stormwater reviewed by Albemarle" »

July 10, 2012

Seminole property owners: Hillsdale Drive threatened by Stonefield stormwater

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

 
A lawyer representing the Seminole Square Shopping Center told the Charlottesville Planning Commission Tuesday that the construction of one of the region’s top transportation priorities may not proceed as planned if the stormwater management plan for the Shops at Stonefield are not amended.
 
20120710-hillsdale-flood A map projecting how the stormwwater basin would be flooded in the event of a 100-year storm. Credit: Great Eastern Management Company
“It is likely that Hillsdale Drive will not be built if this thing goes forth,” said Frederick W. Payne, representing the Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 
 
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend that City Council uphold a determination by city staff that the developer of Stonefield, Edens, violated the conditions of an erosion and sedimentation permit issued by the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service. 
 
The city claims that Edens prematurely opened a 72 inch pipe that carries an unnamed tributary of Meadow Creek underneath U.S. 29. That pipe is also designed to carry a portion of excess stormwater from the Stonefield site in the event of heavy rainfall. The rest would flow through an existing 42 inch pipe. 
 
Water from both would flow into an existing stormwater basin between Seminole Square and the U.S. Post Office that is designed to handle a 100-year storm but assumes no development at the 65-acre Stonefield site.
 
“If they had never put their water in here, we would never in any way be impacted to have the existing basin’s ability to handle a 100-year storm,” said David Mitchell, an engineer with Great Eastern. 
 

Continue reading "Seminole property owners: Hillsdale Drive threatened by Stonefield stormwater " »

Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The mood was celebratory as local officials gathered to witness the dedication ceremony for the newly improved Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

20120710-MooresCreekRibbonC
 

The facility treats wastewater for all of the city of Charlottesville and for Albemarle County’s urban areas, including Crozet. The event marked the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s completion of the first major improvement there since the mid 1980s.

“Today we’re celebrating the completion of the $48 million Capital Improvement Project that lives and breathes our environmental policy of cleaner rivers, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and a smaller carbon footprint,” said RWSA chairman Mike Gaffney at the beginning of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The project brought improvements to almost all of the existing facilities, including modernizing aeration systems to improve the wastewater processing efficiency, as well as adding covers to existing structures to minimize the plant’s odor. In addition to the refurbishments, the plant received several new structures and increased the plant’s peak flow capabilities to almost 38 million gallons a day.

The additions and refurbishments will have an overall positive impact on the environment, and will assist in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Key among the goals is the reduction of phosphorous and nitrogen, which contribute to algal blooms and can be disastrous to wildlife.

“A lot of times you hear that we have failed on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” said David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “We have already accomplished 60 percent of the nitrogen removal that is our goal and 70 percent of the phosphorous. We’ve made a lot of progress; we’ve got some more to do.”

Continue reading "Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends" »

Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The James River Green Building Council welcomed Ann B. Jurczyk, the Virginia outreach and advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to Charlottesville on Tuesday to speak about pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Ann B. Jurczyk, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Jurczyk described ways to help the area meet its goals to improve the health of the bay under what is known as Phase 2 of the Watershed Implementation Plan.

In December 2010, the EPA established a “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. Each state was assigned a Total Maximum Daily Load of pollutants that can be released into the bay.

In accordance with WIP Phase 2, localities within the bay watershed have submitted their plans for achieving pollution reductions. This will be done through reducing sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff in local streams and rivers.

“Collectively I think we’ve all got an opportunity to share in some of the [pollution] reductions,” Jurczyk said. “If we can clean up locally, eventually the bay will take care of itself but we have to start here, with what goes on in our backyard.”

Both the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have submitted their input for the WIP. Both localities will create an inventory of current best management practices and increase BMP installations. Charlottesville will also conduct stormwater retention retrofits on school and city property and educate the public on the importance of reducing pet waste, among other things.

The difference between WIP Phase 2 and plans of the past is that it establishes attainment checkpoints every two years. This will allow localities to track their pollution levels and make adjustments as needed.

Continue reading "Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts" »

July 09, 2012

Stonefield developer appeals city stormwater violations

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, July 9, 2012

One of the largest commercial developments ever built in Albemarle County appears to be in violation of a land disturbance permit issued by the city of Charlottesville
 
Stonefield is located in Albemarle County, but all of the rain that falls upon the 65-acre site drains downstream into Meadow Creek through the city of Charlottesville. 
 
20120524-rip-rap-picture
NDS staff took this picture that demonstrates their claim that Edens did not install riprap to the streambank. To the right of the fence is Great Eastern Management's property. Credit: City of Charlottesville.
State law required the developer, Edens, to obtain an erosion and sedimentation permit from the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Services in order to ensure massive amounts of stormwater do not damage the watershed following heavy rainfall. 
 
“We simply said when they construct the outfall … we want it to be done correctly so it doesn’t blow out Meadow Creek,” said NDS director Jim Tolbert
 
Before construction began, all rainwater from the site’s stream drained through a 42-inch pipe underneath U.S. 29
 
Part of Edens’ stormwater management plan is to build a second 72-inch pipe further north that leads into a drainage channel within city limits. The channel crosses properties owned by the U.S. Post Office, Pepsi and the Seminole Square Shopping Center
 
The approved plan called for Edens to place rocks known as “riprap” on both sides of the channel in protect the banks by slowing down the velocity of stormwater. 
 
The city claims the new pipe was to remain closed until that work was complete. 
 
Edens received permission from the U.S. Post Office to install riprap improvements on their property, but Tolbert said the company did not get approval from either Pepsi or Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 

Continue reading "Stonefield developer appeals city stormwater violations " »

May 15, 2012

Local officials learn about next phase of Chesapeake Bay cleanup

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What impact will the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans for improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay have on localities in the Rivanna watershed? A variety of local environmental stakeholders gathered Monday afternoon to discuss this question at a discussion sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Rivanna River Basin Commission.

20120514-TMDLPanel
(L to R) Alyson Sappington (TJSWCD), Rick Parrish (Southern Environmental Law Center), Charlie Armstrong (Southern Development), Irvin White (TJSWCD), & Mark Graham (Albemarle County)

“Our rivers, streams and creeks are all critical aspects of this,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the TJPDC. “It is hoped that our efforts to increase the quality in the Chesapeake Bay will also ultimately benefit us here at the local level, as the pollution that is flowing into our waterways is also reduced.”

The EPA has assigned a “pollution diet” to the bay, giving it a total maximum daily load of pollution from sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. This TMDL was determined by gathering pollution information from the localities within the Bay’s watershed during the first phase of the Virginia Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).

James Davis-Martin, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL coordinator, said that the next step in cleaning up the bay is to delegate authority to local governments. WIP Phase II takes the TMDL information gathered during the first phase and distributes it by watershed to allow localities to create their own implementation plans.

“The goal is acceptable water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025,” Davis-Martin said.

Continue reading "Local officials learn about next phase of Chesapeake Bay cleanup" »

October 29, 2011

Albemarle Supervisor candidates on growth area expansion

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com

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

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

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, SECOND IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comShould the board consider boundary adjustments for Albemarle County’s designated growth areas to create new locations for business on land currently zoned as rural areas?  Does it matter if the land is in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir?


 

Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) – Incumbent

Well, to the first question, since my joining the board the designated growth area has actually [been] reduced by legislative process and by our master planning efforts.  Additionally, a large section of the growth area has been rendered unusable for growth when the state took over the Biscuit Run property as a park. 

We are currently updating our comprehensive plan and studying land use needs, particularly as it relates to the economic vitality action plan and light industrial zoning.  These changing opportunities and needs are why I believe that we need to have an open mind regarding the growth area boundaries and not treat the growth area as something that is absolutely sacrosanct. 

I think it does matter [if the land is in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir].  We have already taken efforts to protect our watersheds with the setbacks, so we certainly would have to take a very close look at that.

 

Cynthia Neff (D) – Challenger

I am not comfortable at this moment expanding the boundaries of the growth area. 

Continue reading "Albemarle Supervisor candidates on growth area expansion" »

October 04, 2011

Environmental mitigation plan for dam will build new wetlands and protect streams

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The debate over the approved 50-year community water supply plan and the new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir has, more often than not, typically passed over in-depth discussions of its environmental mitigation plan.

At a Tuesday luncheon, the League of Women Voters of Charlottesville/Albemarle put that issue in focus for an audience of about 25 interested people.

20111004-wetlands Federal law requires the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to demonstrate how it will mitigate environmental damage caused by the construction of the new dam and the flooding of land at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, reviewed two major mitigation projects that he said are required by the Clean Water Act so that “on balance the environment is not being harmed” by the $140 million water plan.

“In our case, our mitigation plan consists of two projects at two different sites,” Frederick said. “One for wetlands mitigation, and a second one for streams mitigation.”

The RWSA has recently acquired or already owns land for both mitigation sites. Wetlands impacted by the new dam will be replaced on about 5 acres off Franklin Street in the city, adjacent to the Charlottesville Stockyard.

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Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director

“In the minds of many people who are in the field of study of soils, they believe that this was once a natural wetland and it just got lost along the way of early development of property,” Frederick said.

The RWSA will recreate 4 acres of wetlands to supplement one acre that still exists at the site today.

Stream and forest impacts will be mitigated in the Buck Mountain area of Albemarle near Free Union on more than 1,800 acres acquired in 1983 for a reservoir that was never built.

The Buck Mountain Reservoir ran into federal permitting challenges in large part because of the identification of habitat for the James spinymussel, an endangered species.

Frederick said 14 miles of streams and 300 acres of riparian buffer will be permanently protected limiting stormwater pollution and erosion that could contribute to further sedimentation of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir located downstream.

The League is one of several environmental groups that has endorsed the water plan, which calls for a new dam and pipeline to connect the Ragged Mountain and South Fork reservoirs. The Sierra Club and Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan continue to support dredging and repairing existing water infrastructure.

City resident Martha Levering is a member of the League’s natural resources committee, which organized the luncheon.

“There has been so much controversy, on many levels, and what I hear is a heartfelt fear that we are going to harm so much,” Levering said. “The mitigation shows that we are going to repair so much.”

Democratic City Council candidate Dede Smith, who opposes the new dam and is co-founder of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, asked if area schools would be able to utilize the streams in the Buck Mountain area for educational work. Frederick said such use would be possible and was a “great idea.”

Smith also asked if the Ragged Mountain Natural Area would remain open during construction of the earthen dam, which will raise the reservoir pool 30 feet in its first phase, and ultimately 42 feet if required in a second phase.

“We’ve had conversations with the city and the Ivy Creek Foundation about what needed to be done and how to best accommodate it,” Frederick said. “It was the choice of the city parks and recreation director, for safety reasons, to close the area and trails during construction.”

Frederick estimated the natural area would be closed to the public for 20 to 24 months. Construction of the earthen dam is expected to begin next year.

“I hate the idea of all that environmental degradation, but for me the most important thing is having enough water,” Levering said. “I absolutely know without a shadow of a doubt how important water is going to be in our very near future ... and I’m willing to see a little disruption.”

August 10, 2011

Green builders encourage local action on major environmental challenges

DailyProgress

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

00:06:31 -- Amanda Burbage,  Staff Planner, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
Download Presentation

00:22:31 -- Andy Lowe, Albemarle County’s Environmental Compliance Manager

00:45:00 -- Cynthia Adams, Director of the Local Energy Alliance Program
DownloadPresentation

01:02:15 -- Ann Jurczyk, Virginia Outreach and Advocacy Manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
DownloadPresentation

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The James River Green Building Council is thinking globally and acting locally. It held its first annual “state of the world” luncheon Tuesday with a focus on environmental initiatives in the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area. 

Four speakers made presentations about local planning, energy conservation and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. These experts said a variety of local initiatives were aimed at addressing major environmental challenges facing the community, the region, and the planet.

“It’s important to know where we are, in order to plan for where we are going,” said Ben Hicks, co-chair of JRGBC’s program committee. “Part of the mission of the JRGBC is to promote and inspire the transformation to a sustainable built environment.”


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110809-JRGBC-luncheon

The council’s monthly luncheons attract building owners, building professionals and product manufacturers representing a variety of specialties.

“It’s important for these folks to get a big picture every once in a while,” Hicks added. “A lot of these folks in their offices are working on one particular thing, and to see everything come together and understand where the community is now, we can know how to improve it.”

Amanda Burbage, a staff planner at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, shared an overview of the Livable Communities Project. 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.


Burbage said one of the key grant products, a performance measurement system, was under development and still receiving public feedback. She said it will allow the community to benchmark its performance on 67 different indicators.

“This system was actually developed by a group of graduate students from the University of Virginia in the Urban and Environmental Planning Program,” Burbage said. “They did research on other communities that are tracking sustainability and looked at the things communities evaluate.”

Burbage said six system areas were identified: natural resources; housing; transportation; neighborhoods; economy; and infrastructure. Indicators and metrics were identified within each area.

“Every single indicator is linked to goals that are in both the city and county comprehensive plans,” Burbage added.

Andy Lowe, Albemarle’s environmental compliance manager, described efforts by local government to manage energy usage.  He said the short-term goal was to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent from a 2005 baseline by next year.

“To date, with our July [2011] bills, our overall reduction is 23.5 percent,” Lowe said. “The combined electrical usage for our three main facilities…[saw] about a 1 million kilowatt reduction, thus avoiding costs of about $75,000, so the results are definitely coming.”

Lowe acknowledged that the city and county government operations produced a mere 4 percent of local greenhouse gas emissions.  Overall community emissions have been targeted by both the Albemarle Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council to be reduced by 80% by the year 2050 to mitigate human impacts on global warming.

The Local Energy Alliance Program is a nonprofit organization working to retrofit residential and commercial buildings with energy efficient technologies.

“Buildings account for 54 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from our local community,” said LEAP director Cynthia Adams.  “If you are looking at this from a climate lens, that’s the important take away with respect to energy efficiency.”

“Thus far we have over 300 homeowners that have signed up to participate in our program, 255 of which have either completed their retrofit or are in process,” Adams said.

Ann Jurczyk, an advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, told the audience that the Chesapeake Bay’s health was improving slightly, but that it still didn’t have a passing grade.

“Agriculture has done a pretty good job of reducing nitrogen and phosphorous,” said Jurczyk. “Where we’ve got a serious problem still is in storm water. …With a low impact design, everything that you do on the land ultimately can have a positive impact on the bay.”