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February 25, 2008

City, County and University hold first PACC meeting of 2008

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Pacclong

The Planning and Coordination Council is a body made up of two City Councilors, two members of the Board of Supervisors, and top officials at the University of Virginia. The group gets together four times a year to discuss planning issues that involve all three entities. Last year, the meeting was cancelled twice.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080221-PACC.mp3

In 2008, the University of Virginia is hosting these meetings. The first meeting was held on February 21, and began with a discussion of the Fontaine Avenue/Sunset Connector, a proposed road to link the University’s Fontaine Research Park with the County’s southern urbanized area. The University of Virginia Foundation has asked the County to rezone the research park to more than double the amount of currently allowed construction and for permission to build three parking garages. That rezoning is currently under review by the County Planning Commission.

David Benish, the County’s Chief Planner, said U.Va has commissioned a traffic study that models several development scenarios, including development of the nearby Granger property. The Granger tract is a 69-acre parcel of undeveloped land to the southwest of the Fontaine Research Park. The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently reviewing the results of a meeting at which University, City and County officials met to discuss the scope of the Fontaine Avenue/Sunset Connector which would traverse both properties. 

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) pointed out that the Granger property’s Comprehensive Plan designation was changed in 2007, and asked if the traffic study would reflect the higher amount of development allowed. Benish said the comprehensive plan amendment was written in such a way to restrict development subject to the road network being able to absorb the extra traffic, and that the traffic study will model several development scenarios. He said County staff have had preliminary conversations with the owner of the Granger property, but that there is no timeline for a rezoning.

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris asked Benish for an estimate on how much money would be needed to build the road. Benish said he did not have an updated cost estimate for the full extent of the road. He said the major cost would be a bridge to cross the railroad, and added that the County has currently set aside no money for the project, though it is a priority on the County’s Secondary Six Year Plan, and thus eligible for state funding. The Board of Supervisors was given an estimate of $12.8 million when it was discussing the comprehensive plan amendment last year. Rooker said that the Biscuit Run rezoning includes proffer money to help pay for the road, but the County won’t receive the money until building permits are issued for construction. With the current decline in the housing market, that isn’t expected to occur for some time. State funding for road construction is also expected to be significantly down for the next several years.
UVa Chief Operating Officer Leonard Sandridge said he thought it would be a very expensive project. “There’s a lot of bridging to go in that area,” he said.

Norris said he hoped all the parties could work together to build some version of the road. “The volume of traffic that we’re projecting will otherwise impact our residential neighborhoods,” Norris said.

Ltach
The building in red marks the location for UVa's planned Long-Term Acute Care Hospital

The PACC also discussed the future of the UVa Medical Center’s Northridge fa cility on Route 250 between Ivy and Charlottesville. The plan is to build a Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) at the site in order to free up beds at the hospital’s main campus. “This is a key step in our efforts to try to accommodate what has become a very heavy patient load that we’re experiencing in our hospital system,” Sandridge said. When built, the LTACH will be designed to house patients who need to stay in the hospital for several weeks.

The hospital may also play a role in the expansion of the region’s public safety infrastructure. Thomas Harkins, the Medical Center’s Facilities Planning and Capital Development Administrator, said he has been having conversations with the County about using some of the warehouse space to build a fire station. On a somewhat related note, the University is also considering leasing space in the Fontaine parking garages to the Charlottesville Fire Department for their new facility there.

Ed Howell, the CEO of the UVa Medical Center, said he hoped to break ground as quickly as possible, and is shooting for late May/early June. He estimates an 18 month construction period. Howell also said the majority of the staff at the new hospital would be new employees because different skills are required.

The meeting concluded with a presentation of environmental sustainability initiatives underway in the City, the County and the University of Virginia. Julia Monteith, UVa’s Senior Land Use Planner, said one milestone is that all new construction and renovations of existing buildings will be performed to LEED standards. Kristen Riddevold, the City’s Environmental Coordinator, remarked that all three jurisdictions are members of the U.S. Green Building Council, which means they are using the same benchmarks for sustainable building. The County’s first building to be submitted for LEED certification will be the new library in Crozet, according to County Environmental Compliance Manager Sarah Temple. For about 45 minutes, the trio talked efforts to improve stream quality, provide transportation choices besides driving, and recycling goals.

Rooker said he was pleased to see a status report from all three jurisdictions. “This presentation makes me feel proud to be a citizen of this area,” he said. “I kind of know what’s going on in the County, but to see it all together is impressive.”

Under other business, Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asked if the University would be open to the concept of using the former Blue Ridge Hospital to satisfy the County’s need for land that can be used for light industrial purposes. Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel  Miller) made this suggestion at a recent Board meeting.  Sandridge said that property has strict usage restrictions, but that he would take a look at the idea.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 1:00 - Introduction from Leonard Sandridge, and approval of minutes from August 16, 2007 meeting
  • 1:50 – Discussion of Sunset/Fontaine Connector
  • 10:13 – Presentation of UVa’s proposed Long Term Acute Care Hospital
  • 23:04 – Presentation of the Joint Environmental Sustainability efforts
  • 1:10:12 – Other business, agenda setting for future meetings

Sean Tubbs

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