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February 28, 2006

Loudoun County's Jim Burton Speaks at LWV Luncheon

On Tuesday, February 28, 2006, Jim Burton, Loudoun County Supervisor, spoke to the League of Women Voters.  Sean Tubbs and Charlottesville Podcasting have the audio here.

Brian Wheeler

February 27, 2006

Developer Proffers for Transportation

The Washington Post has a jaw dropping article this morning related to jumbo transportation proffers being offered by developers in Northern Virginia.

  • Prince William County--Developer of a 6,800 unit property is proffering $130 million, or $19,117 per home, to help overhaul I-66 and US 29 interchange.
  • Loudoun County--Developer of 15,000 units proffering $200 million, or $13,333 per home, including $20 million for a new road interchange on Rt. 50.

How does this compare to local residential projects near major road intersections?  Having recently reviewed the Albemarle Place project, I came up with the following:

Albemarle Place--Developer of 750 residential units (2003 rezoning states 700-800 units) proffering $5.46 million, or $7,280 per home.

I used documented cash proffers plus developer's estimate of $3 million in off-site transportation improvements. Albemarle Place is a mixed use development with hotels, restaurants, movie theater, and retail.  In August 2003, it was projected to have a positive fiscal impact contributing $2.6 to $3.6 million annually to Albemarle County.  Pure residential projects are always a negative cash drain on the locality, primarily because of school costs with annual per-child costs far exceeding the per houshold one-time cash proffers of a typical development.

I am not familiar with mix of uses in the residential developments cited in the article.  However, the point is that in Charlottesville/Albemarle proffers to build something like a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic and US 29 have been unheard of.  Maybe the times are changing.  The article outlines some of the pros and cons of accepting these large proffers.

Brian Wheeler

February 22, 2006

Rob Schilling Announces Re-Election Bid

Schilling_rob_1 Rob Schilling (R) announced yesterday he will seek re-election to a second term on the Charlottesville City Council.

  • John Yellig has the Daily Progress coverage here.
  • Cville News is talking about it here.
  • Rick Sincere has a copy of the announcement remarks here.
  • Mr. Schilling's website is here.

Charlottesville Tomorrow, a non-partisan organization, will be covering the May 2, 2006 City Council elections and developing a voter guide focusing on land use, transportation, and community design issues.  You can review Charlottesville Tomorrow’s coverage of the 2005 Board of Supervisors election here.

The Democratic nominees will be selected in a mass meeting on Saturday, March 4, 2006, at 1:00 PM in the Burley Middle School Auditorium.  Republican nominees will be selected in a mass meeting on Sunday, March 5th. Our calendar will have the time/place when announced.

Brian Wheeler

February 18, 2006

Democrats hold City Council Candidate Forum

Citycouncil20060218d_2On Saturday, February 18, 2006, Charlottesville and Albemarle Democrats held their monthly breakfast at the offices of the Jefferson Area Board of Aging (JABA).  The two declared Democratic candidates for City Council, Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro, participated in a candidate forum, in front of about 60 citizens, which was moderated by Kay Slaughter, former City Councilor and currently Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Charlottesville Tomorrow, a non-partisan organization, will be covering the 2006 City Council elections and developing a voter guide focusing on land use, transportation, and community design issues.  At this time, Mr. Norris and Mr. Taliaferro are the only declared candidates for the two seats on Charlottesville City Council for the May 2, 2006 election.  You can review Charlottesville Tomorrow’s coverage of the 2005 Board of Supervisors election here

Citycouncil20060218The Democratic nominees will be selected in a mass meeting on Saturday, March 4, 2006, at 1:00 PM in the Burley Middle School Auditorium.  Republican nominees will be selected in a mass meeting on Sunday, March 5th.  Current Councilor, Blake Caravati (D), has indicated he is not running for a third term.  Rob Schilling (R) has not yet announced if he will seek a second term.

This podcast is a jointly produced by Charlottesville Podcasting and Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Candidates answered questions related to growth and development in the City and County, affordable living choices, the City’s relationship with UVA, student housing issues, rising property assessments, issues of poverty, and interactions with the business community.

Listen to Podcast: Download CityCouncilForum20060218.mp3 (14.4 MB)

1:07 - Russ Linden, Co-Chair City Democratic Party – Intro and announcements

6:08 - Uriah Fields sings Old Man River in honor of Black History Month

9:17 - Additional announcements

11:24 - Kay Slaughter, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center – Candidate introductions

Opening statements
17:10 - Dave Norris
20:41 - Julian Taliaferro

26:22 - Question #1: Given growth in the County, what’s the City’s role in dealing with this issue?
27:04 - Julian Taliaferro
27:57 - Dave Norris

30:05 - Question #2: Asks candidates to reflect on big issues of sustainable development and resource protection in context of specific issues before City Council like a new vehicular crossing of Downtown Mall or the Meadow Creek Parkway.
32:29 - Dave Norris
34:34 - Julian Taliaferro

36:00 - Question #3: Asks candidates about their ideas on affordable living choices for our residents.
36:35 - Julian Taliaferro
38:20 - Dave Norris

40:58 - Question #4: Asks candidates what they might do about impact UVA has on availability of affordable housing because of current need to house students off-grounds.
42:18 - Julian Taliaferro
43:52 - Dave Norris

45:20 - Question #5: What is your view of new City ordinances that allow for increased housing density around UVA?
46:10 - Julian Taliaferro
47:27 - Dave Norris

48:31 - Question #6: Can you speak to rising property assessments and how that impacts affordable living choices of people on fixed incomes?
49:49 - Dave Norris
51:51 - Julian Taliaferro

53:58 - Question #7: What will you do to provide assistance to poor citizens and to address issues of poverty in Charlottesville?  What will you do for tenant rights?
56:48 - Dave Norris
58:20 - Julian Taliaferro

1:02:19 - Question #8: Should City Council encourage Governor to appoint someone from this community to the UVA Board of Visitors?
1:03:17 - Julian Taliaferro
1:03:58 - Dave Norris

1:04:05 - Question #9: How are you working to develop ties with the business community on issues like the vehicular crossing on the Downtown Mall?
1:05:20 - Dave Norris
1:06:45 - Julian Taliaferro

1:08:08  - Question #10: How can we do a better job telling our story?  How can we talk about and publicize positive things that are happening in our community?
1:09:43 - Julian Taliaferro
1:11:22 - Dave Norris

1:12:38 - Question #11: Virginia localities have a poor tax structure.  I would like our City Council to keep going to Richmond and advance the idea that we should not be so dependent on the property taxes. Kay Slaughter asks candidates to address this question and make their closing statements.
1:15:09 - Dave Norris
1:17:39 - Julian Taliaferro

February 14, 2006

Albemarle Place and Charlottesville Tomorrow on WINA

Winafeb14_1 The upcoming development Albemarle Place, at the intersection of US 29 and Hydraulic Road, was the subject of the WINA radio program "Charlottesville Live" the morning of February 14th.  Charlottesville Tomorrow's Brian Wheeler and Albemarle Place developer Frank Cox sat down in the studio with hosts Jane Foy and Dick Mountjoy to discuss the project, which is now near the end of the final site-planning stage.

Because of its sheer size, location, and planning process, Albemarle Place development is a critical project in a number of ways.  With expectations for 700-800 residential units, a major grocery store, a new movie theater, a new hotel, 616,000 sq.ft.of retail (about 2x what is complete at Hollymead Town Center), and all within 64 acres, Albemarle Place will equal roughly the size of two downtown malls.  And because it will be situated at the intersection of US-29 and Hydraulic Rd., there are significant traffic implications for an already congested area.  Albemarle Place is also what Cox called, a "test case" for the area's new planning regime under the "Neighborhood Model" concept. 

Although many questions remain as to how Albemarle Place will impact Charlottesville/Albemarle, Cox hopes to be ready to break ground during the summer.

Listen to the podcast: Download AlbemarlePlaceonWINA20060214.MP3

Previous postings on Albemarle Place:

February 10, 2006

Crozet Master Plan Town Meeting

WyantIn a town hall meeting called by Albemarle County staff members to address infrastructure projects currently underway in Crozet, more than three hundred Crozet residents gathered at Western Albemarle H.S. Thursday night to listen and express concern for the status of the Crozet Master Plan.  The meeting was an opportunity for county staff to make presentations and answer questions specifically on road projects, downtown sidewalks, downtown parking, green infrastructure, and the Crozet Library project.  It was also an opportunity for staff to comment on the recent population figures that has caused public outcry from the Crozet community.

Crozet_group2Earlier this year, County staff delivered a report estimating Crozet’s maximum population could reach 24,000.  During 2002-2004, Crozet residents worked tirelessly with county officials during a master planning process to set the stage for a twenty year plan that would increase Crozet’s population from its current population of 3,600 to 12,000.  At the town hall meeting this week, County staff restated their analysis that a “twenty-year build-out” population of 12,000 isn't the same as the "theoretical ultimate build-out" which could reach closer to 24,000 sometime beyond 2024. County staff’s expectations and the public’s expectations have now diverged on this critical interpretation of "build-out."

Crozet_group3 Assistant County Executive Tom Foley responded by saying "that confusion is really the result of the county's work on the Master Plan.  And we really accept responsibility for that confusion.  I don't think there is any question that there are some things that could have been more clear about the population projections."  Foley also stated: "We don't think 24,000 is realistic."  Supervisor David Wyant (White Hall) declared to audience members that the Board of Supervisors has confirmed "the twenty year population is 12,000, for Crozet." 

Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced two podcasts of the meeting.  The first is the bulk of the evening's session featuring county staff's infrastructure presentations and the question and answer period following.

Listen to podcast #1: Download CrozetTownMTG20060209.MP3

Presenters can be found at these times in the recording:
David Wyant - 6:02
Tom Foley - General comments 9:40
Susan Stimart - Library 25:05
Juan Wade - parking 30:04
David Benish - roads 35:24
George Shadman - sidewalks 42:47
Pat Mullaney - Greenways 52:43
question and answer - 1:08:03
Hugh Meagher - 1:25:00

The second podcast is the recording of community member comments which concluded the evening.

Listen to podcast #2: Download CrozetTownMTG20060209b.MP3

February 09, 2006

North Pointe Needs More Work

On February 8, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held their second worksession of the year on the proposed 270-acre North Pointe development (893 residential units + offices/retail) near Airport Road on 29 North [agenda].  As it turned out, a one-hour meeting was not enough, and the Supervisors decided to schedule another worksession for early March.


Activity has recently picked up on North Pointe project with the Board of Supervisors' decision to hold worksessions starting last month. Also, in 2005, the Places29 Master Plan process started and this property is within the master plan study area.

The developer, Chuck Rotgin, approached the Board of Supervisors for their direct consideration of this project in December 2003 after both staff and the Planning Commission recommended rejection of the rezoning request.  During 2004-2005, the Board, and a smaller subcommittee appointed by the Board, worked with the applicant to try to resolve the outstanding issues. At a worksession in November 2004 staff had indicated that they were at an impasse on proffer negotiations. Staff recommended that the Board vote the project up or down rather than continue negotiations at the staff level.  The Supervisors are holding worksessions to evaluate the rezoning request in advance of a public hearing that has been scheduled for March 16th.   

County staff are recommending that the rezoning request be rejected for the following reasons:

  1. The form and design overall does not adequately meet recommendations of the Neighborhood Model which is the preferred form of development identified in the Comprehensive Plan.  This is especially important given the size of the project (270 acres) on a greenfield site.
  2. The design of the library block area within the center of the development does not create a pedestrian-friendly environment or appropriately relegate parking.
  3. The County cannot reasonably absorb the additional commercial square footage within a ten year period.  The results would be either stale zoning or overdevelopment with high vacancies in existing shopping centers.
  4. The timing for the southbound improvements for Route 29 will result in a varying number of lanes and no correction of the vertical curvature, potentially for a long period of time.
  5. No commitment is made to obtain right-of-way which may be needed for Route 29 improvements.
  6. Affordable housing proffers are unworkable as written.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s podcast begins with an introduction by Albemarle’s Director of Community Development, Mark Graham and Senior Planner, Elaine Echols.  This is followed by the complete audio of the Supervisors’ discussion with staff, developer Chuck Rotgin, and his attorney Valerie Long.

Listen to Podcast: Download bos20060208b.mp3

Bosworksession20060208bHighlights (mm:ss)
4:30 – Elaine Echols discusses economic reports and the ability of County to absorb addition retail development like that proposed for North Pointe.  About 1.7 million sq.ft. of new retail shopping is under review around Albemarle. [For more information see draft ZHA consulting report on retail absorption prepared for Albemarle as part of Places29]

9:00 – Dennis Rooker asks for updated information from Chuck Rotgin on his assessment of retail absorption and a reconciliation of the various estimates received by the Board including a new fiscal impact analysis.

16:46 – Ken Boyd inquires as to whether retail absorption should even be on the table for discussion and suggests this should be left to the developer and market forces.  He indicates he does not want this to be a decision factor in the rezoning.

19:26 – Dennis Rooker suggests it should be up to the applicant to make their own case as to what market can absorb and states that any piece of relevant information can be a deciding factor for any given Supervisor when it comes time to vote on the rezoning.

20:30 – Sally Thomas encourages consideration of the marginal costs of adding a development of this size, for example costs to roads, water supply, sewage treatment, and other infrastructure needs.  She points out that the current “CRIM” model does not factor these in for the fiscal impact assessment.

23:56 – Dennis Rooker mentions traffic studies and asks for a report indicating level of service on roads around this project after proffered improvements have taken place.

31:20 – Elaine Echols discusses phasing of retail and accompanying residential development (up to 893 residential units proposed)

42:31 – Mark Graham talks about construction of pond, sediment control, and stormwater management efforts.  Ken Boyd asks if County will avoid problems seen at Hollymead Town Center with stormwater runoff.

45:03 – Mark Graham discusses concerns about steep slopes in northern portion of development and need for more protection during grading.

46:37 – Valerie Long indicates applicant has paid tremendous attention to protecting certain environmental features in the northern part of the development which must remain undisturbed.  Staff input has led to lots that are substantially smaller to avoid critical slopes.

48:19 – Chuck Rotgin indicates he is agreeable to being held to a higher standard on grading if it can be done on a per lot basis.

49:17 – David Wyant talks about criticism County received related to the grading at Hollymead Town Center and he hopes those problems can be avoided.

50:43 – David Slutzky asks about the nature of the grading in the northern part of the parcel that is most concerning to staff.

51:40 -- Mark Graham estimates 40% of sediment in runoff during construction will still flow downstream into the North Fork of the Rivanna River assuming sediment capture measures work properly.

County leaders discuss joint transit system with UVA & City

Bosworksession20060208County leaders discuss joint transit system with UVA & City

On February 8, 2006, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a second worksession on the development of the County’s 2007-2010 Strategic Plan [agenda].  This meeting focused on education and transportation issues.  Staff is working to help the Board identify specific measurable transportation goals that can be incorporated in the strategic plan. In this worksession, County leaders discussed joining forces with UVA and the City on a unified and improved regional public transit system.

Staff presented the following two recommendations for language in the strategic plan:

  • By June 30, 2010, maintain or accelerate the construction schedules of the Meadowcreek Parkway, 2 local and 2 regional transportation projects; or
  • By June 30, 2010, accelerate the completion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, 2 local and 2 regional projects

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s podcast includes an introduction by staff member Lori Allshouse and then the complete audio of the Supervisors’ discussion of transportation issues.

Listen to Podcast: Download bos20060208a.mp3

Highlights (mm:ss)

8:22 – Dennis Rooker, David Slutzky & Sally Thomas on goal of an improved regional public transit system
11:30 – Ken Boyd and Dennis Rooker on Southern Parkway and regional transportation plans.
14:08 – David Slutzky on goal of improving transit modalities and improving collaboration with City and University
17:34 – Sally Thomas on our area reaching a tipping point and overgrowing our transportation infrastructure—more than four projects and Meadowcreek Parkway are needed.

February 07, 2006

Albemarle Place: More than traffic under review

At this week’s meeting of the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB), there were a lot of questions about the next steps for Frank Cox’s Albemarle Place project.  This was the second worksession held by the ARB to help the applicant refine their site plan before it is submitted for a formal review.  Albemarle Place is a very large project occupying an area about the size of two downtown malls (Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is about 18 square blocks between Omni, the Pavilion, Water St. and Market St.).


County staff have raised questions about several aspects of the current plan which deviate from the concepts approved at the time of the rezoning in October 2003:

  • Buildings are being proposed that would exceed the 90’ height limit for residential/mixed use at this location (current plan has a 10-story residential building that tops 150’ and would require a modification to the rezoning);
  • There are no roads shown on the preliminary site plans connecting the development to Commonwealth Drive as desired by the County and required, in part, in the proffers.
  • Albemarleplacetheater20060A theater is in the site plan along Hydraulic Road (County prefers original plan that had townhouses and offices along Hydraulic instead of a long brick wall created by the theater building--image at right)

A few of the highlights from this week’s ARB meeting:

  • Because US 29 is an entrance corridor, the ARB is going to have to take action to approve a development plan before construction begins.
  • Albemarle Place developers really want to get the clearing of land started and a site plan approved before the May 2006 International Council of Shopping Centers annual convention in Las Vegas.  This is when they say the deals will be made for new tenants which will occupy Albemarle Place.  Miss this window and they believe they will face a one-year delay to get tenants lined up.
  • Candace Smith, ARB Chairman, informed the applicant that to get in two rounds of ARB review completed (preliminary and final), the soonest the applicant could receive ARB approval would be June 5, 2006.  At present, the preliminary site plan is on indefinite deferral and County planners are waiting for Mr. Cox to resubmit an updated plan.
  • The applicant expressed frustration about the challenge of getting approval, all at once, for all aspects of a massive urban project like Albemarle Place.  They explored with the ARB as to whether an overall concept could receive their approval with details to follow on building specifics in the future.  Candace Smith responded that the applicant needed to thoroughly complete the application checklist and get all the necessary materials in front of them for a formal review.  As an example, she pointed out that the ARB would not want to approve a concept for a grocery store and parking lot buffered by a strip of trees along US 29 if the utility right-of-way was going to later be found to be underneath that buffer, thus making the plantings impossible to implement and requiring the set aside of additional land for buffers that may impact the building or parking locations.
  • ARB member Paul Wright indicated he wanted to see the results of a “balloon test” so the Board could review the impact of the proposed residential tower on Hydraulic Road.  In a “balloon test,” photographs of a balloon, floated at the height of the proposed building, are taken from various perspectives so that decision makers can review the impact of buildings on the surrounding landscape.  The applicant stated they would bring the building in low enough in their plan so that it could be easily approved and then they would come back later and seek approval for greater height.
  • Paul Wright also indicated that he would meet personally with members of the Board of Supervisors to secure additional staff resources to get ARB’s review of this plan completed in a streamlined fashion.  He shared his view that the County had a lot at stake financially with this development and thus the County should ensure it moves forward on a timely basis, while at the same time not bypassing steps required by any applicant.

Brian Wheeler

February 02, 2006

Albemarle Place Update

Residential20060201smLast month, Charlottesville Tomorrow unveiled our Transportation Matrix, a comprehensive listing of the area's major road and transit projects.  However, one project you will not find on that list yet is a long-term plan for the intersection of Hydraulic Road and US 29. It has been studied in the past and always comes up when the Albemarle Place development is mentioned (concept drawing at left).  Albemarle Place is proposed to be a mix of retail, office and residential development surrounding the Sperry Marine site.

Charlottesville Tomorrow spoke recently to VDOT, the County of Albemarle and developer Frank Cox about the status of the Albemarle Place preliminary site plan.  Officially, the preliminary site plan is on indefinite deferral while Mr. Cox works on feedback provided by VDOT and the County.  Mr. Cox expects to resubmit a revised site plan within the next month.

Interchangeconceptct In December, VDOT asked for a design of an upgraded interchange at US 29 and Hydraulic Road, including the provision of the right-of-way on neighboring property in the City and County.  The Albemarle Place site plan, according to VDOT, would only meet with their approval if VDOT and local government accept a plan for long-term improvements. In the short-term, Mr. Cox has proffered to design and build for Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville intermediate improvements to US 29 and Hydraulic Road to support Albemarle Place.

On the question of a long-term grade-separated interchange for US 29 and Hydraulic (i.e. Hydraulic road traffic would pass over US 29), Frank Cox says he has come to an agreement with VDOT and the County to fund the preliminary engineering for a design.  This interchange design would then become part of the “official map” and thus a clearly defined transportation project.  That, however, does not guarantee any funding or a specific timeline for construction.  An interchange plan would allow Mr. Cox to move ahead with development of Albemarle Place as the right-of-way line would be designated allowing him to finalize building locations. 

[Photo simulation looking South along US 29 towards Hydraulic Rd.  Through traffic on US 29 at left is shown on ramp which would pass below a Hydraulic Rd overpass. Click image for enlarged view.]

The US 29-Hydraulic interchange is also under review as part of the Places29 Master Plan process and the US 29 North Corridor Study.  However, the interchange is not currently on the list of transportation projects identified as a priority by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  A recent review of these priority projects by Leigh Middleditch’s Transportation Funding Options Working Group (appointed by MPO) put the total cost of unfunded local priority projects at over $100 million (one-third of that total is intended for transit and walk-bike projects). The MPO received only $4.2 million from the state for FY 2006 as part of the Six-Year Improvement Program.

Improvements at Hydraulic and US 29 would add to the funding gap.  As Albemarle Place is evaluated, these transportation issues will be increasingly important for the community to monitor.

Brian Wheeler

Note: Design concepts for this intersection are from the 29H250 Phase II study located on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission website.