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November 21, 2006

Biscuit Run proffers for City transportation improvements?

City officials are optimistic that some proffer contributions will come their way as a result of the Biscuit Run development in Albemarle County (est. 3,500 homes).  However, the City Planning Commission was informed last Tuesday by staff that there was virtually no chance Biscuit Run proffers would pay for the Fontaine/Sunset Connector.

In response to a question from City Councilor Dave Norris* about the City's planning for the connector road, Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services responded:

“I think the chances of getting the Fontaine connector out of this project are slim to none.  I think we might get some money towards part of that.  The big unknown in there is the bridge cost [Note: estimates range from $3 to $18 million for the bridge per Mr. Tolbert].  The bridge cost is so excessive, potentially, that this development would not be able to be profitable, and therefore you wouldn’t get the proffer for the entire bridge cost.  We are working with the University and property owner of the Granger property looking at alternatives for financing and for moving that forward and I would anticipate that some of those [Biscuit Run] proffers might very well go towards a portion of that, but I don’t think we would expect to get enough out of it to be able to do that [entire] project.”

This exchange came during the Charlottesville Planning Commission's November 14, 2006 update on the Biscuit Run development located near the City's Southern border.  The City's new traffic engineer, Jeannie Alexander, provided information on the preliminary transportation study.  Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Development Services, answered questions about potential proffers and possible contributions to the construction of the Fontaine Ave/Sunset Connector.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061114-CityPC-BiscuitRun.MP3

Brian Wheeler

* In Charlottesville, City Councilors are required to attend some Planning Commission public hearings and they may participate in the meeting.  Supervisors do not participate in County Planning Commission meetings unless there is a joint meeting between the two bodies.

City Council Approves Vision Statement

At their recent retreat, the Charlottesville City Council approved an updated vision statement.  The core of the vision statement outlines the following thee major objectives:

Charlottesville: A Great Place to Live for All of Our Citizens

  • A leader in innovation, environmental sustainability, and social and economic justice
  • Flexible and progressive in anticipating and responding to the needs of our citizens
  • Cultural and creative capital of Central Virginia

According to the City's media release, the vision statement "will be used to guide city staff in working with the current members of City Council and sets the stage for discussion with citizens formulating the Strategic Plan for 2011."  Objectives in eight areas of interest are also described in the vision statement. They include:

  • Economic Sustainability
  • A Center for Lifelong Learning
  • Quality Housing Opportunities for All
  • C’ville Arts and Culture
  • A Green City
  • America’s Healthiest City
  • A Connected Community
  • Smart, Citizen-Focused Government

Here is a link to the previous 2020 vision statement if you wish to compare the documents.

Brian Wheeler

November 14, 2006

Biscuit Run back before Planning Commission

20061114copcOn November 14, 2006 the Albemarle County Planning Commission held a work session on the proposed Biscuit Run development.  This rezoning request was recently resubmitted to the County and the purpose of the meeting was to familiarize the Commissioners with the new plans and to allow an opportunity for public comment. Presentations were made by attorney Steve Blaine representing the applicant and by two members of the design team from Torti Gallas and Partners, Bob Goodill and Beth Hesler.  About 50 members of the public attended the meeting and 10 spoke during the public comment opportunity.  Transportation issues, disturbance of critical slopes, and the existing large supply of approved and unbuilt housing in Charlottesville-Albemarle topped the community's list of concerns.

Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced an audio podcast of the entire meeting available below.  Staff were not expected to submit an analysis or recommendations at this review.  The County is awaiting the submission of a revised transportation study. Additional work sessions are tentatively scheduled to be held on December 19, 2006 and January 16, 2007.

Click here to review all blog postings on Biscuit Run.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061114-BiscuitRun.mp3

Brian Wheeler

The Gleason Condos


Illustration: The Gleason, www.thegleason.com

At the Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting tonight, it is expected that The Gleason condominium project will be approved for construction near the intersection of Garrett Street and Second Street SE.

There is no public hearing on this project because it is a by-right development.  The plan calls for 71 luxury condominiums in a six-story L-shaped building wrapped around the old Gleasons building and adjacent to the new ACAC athletic facility. Buildings up to nine stories are allowed by-right in this part of downtown Charlottesville.

According to the staff report, the project is before the Planning Commission at the discretion of Jim Tolbert, the City's Director of Neighborhood Development Services, "based on the size and impact to the surrounding area."

Update 11/21/06: At the meeting on 11/14/06, the Charlottesville Planning Commission unanimously approved The Gleason condominium project.

Brian Wheeler

Slutzky to launch online constituent referendums

Slutzky_david_3On WINA's Charlottesville Live radio program this morning, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio District) announced that he would be launching by January 2007 a constituent website called Talk to Your Government that would allow him to conduct online referendums.  See: http://www.talktoyourgovernment.com/

Mr. Slutzky was finishing a question called in by Crozet Resident Tom Loach about the location decision for the Crozet Library.  Mr. Loach wanted to know why the Board didn't ask for additional public comment from the Crozet residents that attended the meeting at which the decision was made.  Mr. Slutzky said he thought a good point was being raised--"How as an elected official do you accurately read the will of your constituents?"

Mt. Slutzky says the online referendums will be one tool he plans to experiment with in 2007.

"By the first of the year I plan to have the site up and running and every one of my registered voters will be asked to join the website, and when they do, I will conduct online referendum with regard to issues like [the Crozet Library decision] where I am not sure how my constituents want me to vote.  It will be a way that I can get mass feedback in an organized fashion."

Brian Wheeler

November 13, 2006

PEC Issues Residential Development Report

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) has released a new report documenting the state our our local housing construction pipeline.  According to the report:

"Since 2000, there have been approvals granted or applications submitted for approximately 17,832 housing units (or Dwelling Units, DUs) for the City and the County Growth Areas. Specifically, these units have been proposed or approved through rezonings, site plans, or subdivisions. It is important to point out that this is not a list of building permit approvals nor does it include existing byright development potential or unbuilt units from proposals approved prior to 2000. This represents the largest short-term burst of residential development in Charlottesville’s and Albemarle’s history. This raises several questions for local decision-makers and local residents as to the wisdom of approving development proposals years, even decades ahead of anticipated need by our community."

Download_3You can download a copy here (163k PDF).

One of the more interesting points I have found in the report relates to the value of proffers accepted in rezoning agreements today vs. the potential future costs of infrastructure.  For example, the County currently has a 5% annual inflation factor on projects in the current draft of its Capital Improvements Program budget.  The inflation on a project like the Meadowcreek Parkway (rising land values and cost of materials) has jeopardized the 2008 construction start for that road project.  Another example is the elementary school envisioned in the Crozet Master plan which was listed as costing about $12.4 million in 2004 dollars when the plan was approved.  However, now the next elementary school in Albemarle is not projected to be built until 2015 and then the project is expected to cost about $29 million. 

Now on some proffers, the developer will feel the pain if inflation increases dramatically because they proffered an improvement, not a specific cash contribution.  They have to build something at whatever the cost is when they actually build it.  However, the PEC report suggests a potential dilemma if cash contributions on a per household basis are agreed to today and not paid until many years in the future when the houses are actually built.  The value of those proffers will certainly be less as time goes by.  Something to consider as Albemarle's Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee takes a look at recommendations for revising our proffer policies and expectations.

Brian Wheeler

4 projects from Biscuit Run to UVA

The Albemarle County Planning Commission is holding a public work session on the proposed Biscuit Run development this Tuesday evening November 14th at 6:00 PM at the County Office Building SOUTH on Fifth Street.  The public will be allowed to make comments on the rezoning request. 

Biscuit Run is now proposed to be a 3,500 home development on about 900 acres.  The applicant has asked that the property in Albemarle's designated growth area be rezoned in accordance with the County's neighborhood model to support three neighborhood town centers, an elementary school, a mix of residential housing types, commercial buildings, and offices.

BiscuitrunuvaAlso during this month, the Planning Commission is taking action on three other projects all within 2 miles of Biscuit Run.  In the map at the right you can see the line up of all these developments between UVA's Fontaine Research Park and Biscuit Run.  In total, the projects may include up to 4,200 new homes and 1 million square feet of new office space.

UVA-Fontaine: On Nov. 7th, the UVA Foundation received approval to expand the Fontaine Research Park by 30,000 sq. ft.  The County Board of Supervisors is expecting another request to add 300,000 to 500,000 sq. ft. of space at Fontaine in the near future.

Granger2Granger Property: Coran Capshaw (Stribling Holdings LLC) has a request in front of the Planning Commission on Nov. 28th to lay the groundwork for a development on almost 70 acres just South of the Fontaine Research Park (accessible via Sunset Avenue Ext in the County and Stribling Avenue in the City).  The project (concept master plan shown at left) is expected to yield about 500,000 sq. ft. of office space (in 4-story buildings) and 400 housing units (in buildings that may be up to 8 stories). Albemarle County would like to connect this property to the Fontaine Research Park by getting proffers for the construction of what is known as the Fontaine/Sunset Connector.  There will be multiple work sessions on this project, the first of which is Nov. 28th.  A future work session is expected to include the City Planning Commission. [Click here for more images (1.3 MB PDF) from the August 2005 Granger proposal]

Woodlands: On Nov. 7th, the Planning Commission approved the final site plan for the Woodlands development off Sunset Avenue Ext.  It will have 300 apartment units on 24 acres bordering on the Sherwood Manor neighborhood.

Biscuit Run: As mentioned above, the Biscuit Run rezoning request is back before the Planning Commission on Nov. 14th.  It has been scaled back from 5,000 homes to 3,500.  The applicant has retained the firm Torti Gallas & Partners as their land planners.  Torti Gallas literally wrote the book on the County's Neighborhood Model as they were the consulting firm that led the effort to define a new form of development in the County's urban areas.  One iteration of the traffic impact study has been completed and is now expected to be adjusted for the smaller number of homes.  This is the first of what will be multiple work sessions to allow the County to review the revised Biscuit Run development.

All these developments need to be assessed as part of the big picture of land use and transportation issues in the City and the County and the meetings on November 14th and November 28th give you the opportunity to speak up and provide feedback to the County Planning Commission. 

Brian Wheeler