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January 30, 2006

Julian Taliaferro Announces for City Council

Now two City Democrats have declared their interest in two seats on the Charlottesville City Council.  Former Charlottesville Fire Chief Julian Taliaferro announced today that he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the May 2, 2006 City Council Elections. City Democrats will have a mass meeting to nominate their candidates March 4th.  Mr. Taliaferro joins Dave Norris who announced earlier this month.

Councilor Blake Caravati is not running for re-election.  The other current councilor with a term expiring at the end of June 2006 is Rob Schilling.  Mr. Schilling has not announced if he plans to run for re-election.  City Republicans plan to have a mass meeting to nominate their candidates March 5th.

Brian Wheeler

January 19, 2006

Kaine's plan and local government

Charlottesville Tomorrow's focus is purely on local government and issues in the City and County.  However, I do get lots of questions about Governor Kaine's ideas on land use and transportation issues and his interest in having the General Assembly grant more authority to local governments.  I thought today's article in the Washington Post provided the best explanation I have seen of what Kaine's proposal would and would not address. 

Northern Virginia officials say one likely effect of the plan would be to give localities greater leeway in directing growth into areas where their planners have intended it, such as near rail stops.

There are also things the proposal wouldn't do. The plan would give local governments clearer authority in reviewing developers' requests to rezone land but not more power to reject plans in areas where zoning allows what a developer is proposing. For that reason, the plan wouldn't affect many building projects on the horizon. [i.e. what is called by-right development]

In that regard, Kaine is not going as far as states such as Maryland, where localities can judge projects by whether there are "adequate public facilities" to support them, even in areas where projects are allowed under existing zoning. In Maryland and many other states, local authorities assess impact fees on developers to cover the cost of public services.

In Virginia, a strong tradition of property rights and constitutional limits on local governments has led most localities to make do with a less formal system in which developers offer money for school or road improvements. Such proffers are negotiated only for rezonings and not for cases in which the zoning allows for the developer's plans.

Brian Wheeler

January 18, 2006

January 2006 MPO Policy Board Meeting


MPO accepts Transportation Funding Options Report, receives feedback on Biscuit Run/Fox Ridge development, and gets an update on Places29 master plan.

The Policy Board of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) met on January 18th to discuss the transportation needs of the region. The MPO is the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making among Charlottesville, Albemarle, state and federal officials.

Charlottesville Tomorrow's coverage of this meeting includes the first 5 of 11 agenda items in their entirety, including public comment, the MPO's acceptance of the transportation funding options report, and an update on the Places 29 master plan.  Brian Wheeler

[Complete agenda]

  • Public Comments
    • Information on the Safe Routes to School project of the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation
    • Public input opportunities before the MPO
    • Connections between land use and transportation issues around the Biscuit Run property South of Charlottesville, location of Fox Ridge, a proposed development in Albemarle's southern urban growth area
    • Feedback on the 29H250 transportation plan recommendations
  • Responses to matters from the public
  • Mpo20060118b_1Acceptance of the Transportation Funding Options Report
    • Funding options report was presented by Leigh Middleditch (photo at right) and includes a brief description of the origins of his group known as the "5Cs", or the Citizens Committee for City-County Cooperation
    • The MPO voted to accept the report, not necessarily endorsing every strategy, and urged careful consideration by City Council and the Board of Supervisors
  • Discussion of the Statewide Transportation Analysis and Recommendation Taskforce (START) and their recommendations for the future of transportation in Virginia
  • An Update on Places 29 Master Planning Process

Listen to Complete Podcast
Download MPO20060118-A.mp3

Listen to Podcast focused on Transportation Funding Options
Download MPO20060118-B.mp3

Listen to Podcast covering Biscuit Run and Places29 Master Plan (Note: Heavily edited to piece together conversation on Biscuit Run)
Download MPO20060118-C.mp3

Resource for Local Transportation Projects

Sqtraffic173Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to offer a new resource on our website--A summary of local transportation projects and an interactive map so you can see the general location of each project.

Since Charlottesville Tomorrow's launch this past year, I had hoped to find one web site that made it easy for the public to find the location, status, and cost of any given major road project in Charlottesville and Albemarle.  We have learned that the different jurisdictions and responsibilities between the MPO, City, County, and VDOT makes creating that resource a challenge.

As a result, we have created the Charlottesville Tomorrow Transportation Matrix to help fill the gaps. I welcome your feedback by email or via a comment on this weblog.  Brian Wheeler

January 13, 2006

County Development Process Under Review

On January 11, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held an afternoon worksession to review the entire community development process, the method by which such things as site plans, proffers, rezonings and special use permits are handled in Albemarle.  In the Podcast available below (9MB audio download), you can listen to the staff report from Mark Graham and the Board’s entire discussion, including a presentation by Supervisor Ken Boyd in which he recommended the formation of a development process task force.  The Board and staff are following up on discussions from 2005 at meetings in June, August, and DecemberThe Board reached consensus to have staff bring back a plan in February recommending actions to create the task force recommended by Mr. Boyd.

Listen to Podcast: Download 20060111-BOS.mp3

New Supervisor David Slutzky made the following remarks which I believe capture many important elements of the discussion:

“…the perception at least is out there in the community, in some parts of the community, that to try and do neighborhood model development inside the designated growth areas, which is clearly an imperative of our comp plan, that the inherent complexities of doing that take too long, are too confusing for some people, and result in a desire to go ahead to the rural areas and do the development out there because it is just plain easier.  That dynamic I think we all recognize is really problematic given the comp plan doesn’t want development in the rural area.”

“As to whether or not there is something broken, I think there is, I can’t put my finger on what it is, but I think that it would be healthy, and I like the idea of this proposal a lot, I like the idea of it having a sunset provision, I like the idea of getting it started quickly and bringing it to a swift and focused conclusion… We should really talk about what is the output of this exercise… the goal of all this should be to see if there are ways in fact to have, I would argue, an accelerated or at least a more efficient process for evaluating and deciding thumbs up or thumbs down on development proposals in the designated growth areas.”

“I think that’s only half of the conversation. I think that outside of this track, there are several proposals that have been floated around and been analyzed and considered over the years to address the other half of that equation, i.e. to explore ways to make it less appealing for development to happen in the rural areas while at the same time we are looking at ways to make it less burdensome to do neighborhood model development inside the growth areas.  I think that we ought to at the same time, but on a parallel track, make a commitment to resolving--Are we going to do clustering? Are we going to do phasing? Are we going to do mountaintop protection?  Because if we do those things that will reduce the pressures on rural area development at the same time we lighten up, which may be the goal of this, some of the impediments to developing in the growth areas, I think we will have a balanced chance… My recommendation is we go forward with what Ken is saying, while at the same time, we  make a commitment to going ahead and sorting out what if any of those three things that we have talked about for years are we actually going to implement, while we’re at the same time considering what changes we might want to implement with regard to development in the designated growth areas.  So that when we come out of this overall process, on these two parallel tracks, we may well have some value."

Brian Wheeler

January 11, 2006

Meadowcreek Pkwy Interchange Meeting

250interchangeround_1The City of Charlottesville's 250 Interchange Steering Committee held their second meeting yesterday. This committee is planning the interchange for Route 250, the Meadowcreek Parkway, and McIntire Road.  Information on environmental impacts and the benefits of roundabout intersections was presented, as well as several new conceptual images for the design.

The neighboring rescue squad and Charlottesville Skate Park will likely be relocated, as pictured to the left. The consultants from RK&K claimed that some parts of the park may not need to be examined for potential harm from the project, apparently drawing from a 1995 document finding no significant environmental impact from the entire Meadowcreek Parkway project. Transportation activist Peter Kleeman pointed out in his comments that that finding was based on a development plan for the park that is no longer being considered, and is therefore irrelevant. Mr. Kleeman called for the entire Meadowcreek Parkway project to be examined for potential environmental impacts.

Consultants pointed out the safety and efficiency benefits of roundabouts, noting potential problems for sight-impaired pedestrians. All three designs currently under consideration feature roundabouts.

Three options were discussed by the committee. The first was a partial cloverleaf intersection, similar to the existing eastbound onramp at 29 and the 250 bypass. The second was a diamond intersection with two roundabouts, similar to the intersection of 64 and 250 at Shadwell. The third (pictured above) was a diamond pattern feeding into one large roundabout. The committee members spoke favorably of this option, noting its smaller footprint on the land, and potentially smaller impacts on neighbors. City councilman Kevin Lynch noted that the Meadowcreek Parkway project can potentially connect the city, McIntire Park, and the northern neighborhoods of Charlottesville and Albemarle for bicyclists and pedestrians. Committee members supported a pedestrian tunnel (pictured below) under the 250 Bypass that shared space with Shenk's Branch as a safe and attractive option.

250interchangetunnel_1Former City Councilor and Mayor Maurice Cox substituted for another committee member. He pointed to a potential problem with the highway scale of the designs under discussion, calling them "bloated." Mr. Cox pointed to the recent stone bridge constructed near Monticello as a more appropriate scale to consider for this project.

A major problem that was discussed at the meeting was the issue of public participation in a project under significant time constraints. Project Director Angela Tucker noted that "this is an extremely aggressive schedule." The intent of the project is for it to be completed at the same time as the McIntire Extended and Meadowcreek Parkway projects. However, only two members of the public have been able to participate so far, Mr. Kleeman and Colette Hall, President of the North Downtown Residents Association (NDRA). Committee members discussed putting up a billboard at the intersection with the website's address, newspaper advertisements and e-mails, and an informational meeting. The first public meeting is planned for some time in March.

Lyle Solla-Yates

[Note: Lyle Solla-Yates is an intern at Charlottesville Tomorrow who has been closely following area transportation projects. This post updated on January 13th to accurately reflect the name and affiliation of Colette Hall.  Brian Wheeler]

January 10, 2006

Downtown Mall Vehicular Crossing Rejected

Sqdtmall102Tonight the City Planning Commission voted 5-2 against the opening of a second vehicular crossing on the Downtown Mall indicating such a crossing would not be consistent with the comprehensive plan.  In a follow-up motion that was approved unanimously, the Commission voted to send the following 4 recommendations to City Council:

  1. Conduct a safety study of the existing vehicular crossing at 2nd Street.  Commissioners expressed interest in implementation of additional safety measures to protect pedestrians.
  2. Conduct a study to examine reversing the traffic direction at the 2nd street crossing (i.e. send traffic South to Water Street).
  3. Expedite the "way-finding" study and implementation to provide improved signage indicating location of parking and the pedestrian mall.
  4. In one year, revisit the concerns of downtown business owners with respect to their concerns about circulation of traffic, signage for parking, and business performance.

Brian Wheeler

January 09, 2006

City Councilor Caravati not seeking 3rd term

Caravati_blakeWINA is reporting that City Councilor Blake Caravati is not seeking a 3rd term on Charlottesville City Council.  Elections for two City Council seats will take place this May.  City Democrats will have a mass meeting to nominate their candidates March 4th.

The other current councilor with a term expiring at the end of June 2006 is Rob Schilling.  Mr. Schilling has not announced if he plans to run for re-election.  City Republicans plan to have a mass meeting to nominate their candidates March 5th. 

Brian Wheeler

January 08, 2006

County to Discuss Joining Economic Development Group

At the January 11, 2006 County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board is scheduled to discuss whether to become a dues paying member of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED).  Charlottesville Tomorrow does not have a position on this matter, however we did help document the candidate positions on this issue in the 2005 Supervisor elections.  Of the successful candidates, Dennis Rooker and Sally Thomas said they oppose joining TJPED while new Supervisor David Slutzky said he favors joining.  There are three other members of the Board and their views will also be important part of this discussion.  The topic is to be discussed at the end of their evening meeting agenda.

The excerpts below are taken from the transcripts of various 2005 candidate forums.  Please chime in with your comments on our weblog.  Brian Wheeler

2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #2, October 10, 2005

Dennis Rooker:  I’ve not been in favor of joining the Thomas Jefferson Economic Development Partnership over the years.  It is a non-profit advocacy group with a stated purpose of increasing economic development in the area.  It was formed by a group of private businesspeople.  They have asked public parties to join.  Some of the communities in the area have joined; others have not.  We have had a policy on the Board of not joining advocacy program.  The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission does good work—  Excuse me, the TJPED does good work.  They bring us good ideas.  I’ve talked to prospects that they’ve brought in that they’re interested in having come into the area, but so does PEC, the Piedmont Environmental Council; so does Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population; so does the Chamber of Commerce; so does the League of Woman Voters; so does the Sierra Club.  They all do good work.  They’re all advocacy groups that can come before the Board to advocate for particular positions.  And we have, as a policy matter, decided not to join advocacy groups in the past. 

Second, we don’t need to be spending public funds to stimulate additional growth in this community.  We need to focus on managing growth and providing for the infrastructure for that growth.  Fifteen hundred to two thousand people a year are moving into this community every year.  That’s without spending any money, public money, to try to get more people to come here.  We have the lowest unemployment rate, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, one of the fastest rates of job growth in the state.  Employers like Sperry Marine added about 75 high-paid employees last year.  State Farm is adding a couple hundred employees.  UVA has $600 million of construction going on right now which has added 1,200 jobs to the community.  They’re expanding their student body, their faculty.  They’re expanding the hospital, medical facilities, hiring more people.  This year they attracted $313 million of research dollars into the community and according to them, that will produce about a thousand jobs.  NGIC just announced that they going to—which is the National Ground Intelligence Center—they’re going to add 1,200 jobs over the next three or four years. 

So, the other reason I don’t think we need to attract growth, but one of the other reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea to join this is there’s a legal prohibition against any member of the Board of Supervisors in sitting on this Board.  The statutes don’t authorize us to sit on the Board. 

Finally, we belong to the regional planning body that we are authorized by state law to belong to and that’s the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.  The Board of Supervisors members serve on that Planning District Commission.  There is an Economic Development Committee for that Commission that involves six different surrounding jurisdictions and we are one of the two communities that has adopted the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Economic Development Policy.

2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #4, October 20, 2005

David Slutzky...I strongly believe that the County should join TJPED.  I think that it’s an important collaboration of both public and private sector entities and I think its purpose is to try and attract development. 

Now, we’ve all talked about our fear of the impact of development but I think the responsibility for managing the impact of development falls on the shoulders of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the business community trying to find good matches for deficits in our labor market.  I also think it’s important for the County to be participating in the regional dialogue about how growth is going to happen regionally and if we sit out while everybody else is at the party, we don’t have a say, we don’t have a voice, and I think that it’s just a mistake on the part of the County.

As to the issue of participating in non-for-profit, I think public/private partnerships are a positive and productive thing and I don’t have a problem with the County being occasionally willing to select one organization and not another.  I don’t feel that there’s an imperative there.  I think in this instance it’s an opportunity for the County not to be missed.

2005 Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum #4, October 20, 2005

Sally Thomas:  When TJPED was first being formed, I was part of the group that was forming it and I ever since then have been very interested in it.  I think I’ve probably attended more of its meetings than many of its members.  I set out a series of standards that I thought such a group would have to meet if we were ever going to join it and some of those were that they would have to adopt our Comprehensive Plan as part of their guiding principles.  They’ve not done that and I had friends who worked for several years with the leadership trying to get the kind of agreement that would have support of our rural economy as part of their platform and they’ve never been able to find their way to shaping their organization in such a way that I thought it was at all appropriate for Albemarle County to join in

I’ve also done a lot of research on economic development—  No, I haven’t done research, I’ve read research, sorry, and I’m very influenced by someone who researched all the economic development in the sense of local tax dollars being put in as incentives to bring industries to the community which is what TJPED leads up and it only makes sense in two situation or two things have to exist:  there has to be a significant distinguishable population of unemployed people and they have to have known, specific skills.  In that situation and only in that situation does it make a payback to the community to put your tax dollars into bringing the traditional type of economic development to a community.   We are so far from being in that situation.  We’re one of the lowest unemployment standards in the nation that I think it doesn’t make any sense to join TJPED.

Daily Progress Editorial on Crozet

Today's Daily Progress has an editorial on the Crozet Growth Area and this past week's discussions about population estimates

One item is misleading in the editorial.  It suggests the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) developed an even greater population projection for up to 33,000 people in Crozet with a master plan in place. To my knowledge, PEC has not done such a public analysis.  Supervisor Dennis Rooker mentioned PEC did provide some back of the napkin estimates about Crozet's growth in response to this week's news that the County had determined that Crozet could grow to 24,000 people after the first 20 years of the master plan [County analysis here].  However, PEC's estimates should not be interpreted as a detailed analysis of Crozet's future with a master plan in place.  I don't think it is helpful for the Daily Progress to throw out another much larger number without being clear about the assumptions for each.  Based on my discussions this week with local leaders, there is a lot that needs clarification about all these estimates.  On that point, I agree with the newspaper.

I did want to follow up on an email message where I drew a comparison of Crozet to the City of Charlottesville.  I now have calculations for the size differences in square miles.

  • The City of Charlottesville has a population of about 45,000 people in an area the size of 10.4 square miles.
  • Crozet currently has a population of about 3,600 in an area the size of 4.55 square miles.

Brian Wheeler