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December 31, 2008

B&B/apartment complex near UVA gets approval from Planning Commission

Oakhurst The Charlottesville Planning Commission has granted a special use permit that will allow a developer to operate a 27-room bed and breakfast and 36-unit apartment building near the corner of Emmet Street and Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA). The permit will allow Tenth and Main LLC to build at a greater density than that allowed under R-3 zoning.

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Two existing apartment buildings and a single-family home will be converted into the bed and breakfast, which is allowed by-right under the existing zoning.  Another building on the site will be converted into a 5-unit apartment, and a new 36-unit apartment building will be constructed.

The Planning Commission deferred action on the item in July after hearing concerns from neighborhood. Residents argued the use of the land for additional housing would create too much traffic, citing a traffic model that projected an increase of 347 vehicle trips a day because of the new use. 

Architect Neal Deputy, representing Tenth and Main LLC, said he is very sensitive to the concerns of the neighborhood and has been working since July to ameliorate them. His company has an option to purchase an adjoining parcel on JPA to allow for vehicles to enter the complex via JPA rather than use Oakhurst Circle. 

“We propose using 1616 JPA to take all of the deliveries, all of the check-in, and to house the primary food service there,” Deputy said.  The goal is to have no commercial activity on Oakhurst Circle.

Deputy said he believed the development would be “in harmony with the patterns of development on JPA.” He also detailed several low impact development (LID) strategies that will be employed as the complex is built.

“We have two 15,000 gallon cisterns underground to catch all of the rainwater that falls on the roofs,” Deputy said. “This has the potential to save over 400,000 gallons of water a year.”  Other strategies will include a rideshare program as well as reduced rent for tenants who do not own a car.

Deputy’s strategy of reaching out to neighbors appears to have paid off. In July, Jane Foster of Gildersleeve Wood made a  public hearing comment that she was opposed to the project. Five months later, she rose to express her support. However, she thanked the Commission for agreeing to revisit the bed and breakfast bedroom limitation. The City’s definition of a bed and breakfast does not currently have a bedroom limit. The Commission will examine this issue in 2009.

Tenth and Main LLC will also be responsible for realigning the intersection of JPA and Emmet Street. The northbound right-turn lane will be eliminated in favor of a T-junction. City Planner Ebony Walden said the change will add more space for pedestrians, but it is not clear yet how the bike lane will be affected. The location of the lane will be addressed as the site plan proceeds through City Hall.  City Council will need to approve of the realignment plans before they go to construction.

Commissioner Michael Osteen owns a building next to the proposed complex, but did not recuse himself from the vote. Osteen said that because of the scale of the University of Virginia’s South Lawn Project, the additional density was appropriate at this location.  He made a motion to approve the SUP with several conditions:

  • At least four bicycles must be made available for use by B&B guests
  • The project must score at least ten points on the City’s LID worksheet
  • 104 Oakhurst can include no more than 5 apartment units
  • Applicant will be responsible for alignment of JPA and Emmet Street
  • New apartment units will be 33 two-bedroom units and 3 one-bedroom units

Commissioners had some minor issues with some elements depicted on the preliminary site plan. However, the site plan was not up for a vote at this meeting, so Commissioners will have the chance to influence the project at a future meeting.

Sean Tubbs


  • 1:00 - Commission Chairman Jason Pearson introduces the item       
  • 2:20 - Presentation from City Planner Ebony Walden
  • 13:30 - Pearson reviews Commission's July 23 hearing; says B&B is by-right and cannot be challenged
  • 15:00 - Various commissioners make their disclaimers regarding contact with the applicant
  • 19:30 - City Councilor Satyendra Huja asks if the SUP gives any power to limit size of B&B
  • 24:45 - Applicant Neal Deputy begins his presentation
  • 38:30 - Commissioner Bill Emory asks question of Deputy
  • 39:40 - Commissioner Genevieve Keller praises project for providing reduced rent for tenants without cars
  • 40:40 - Public hearing comment from Jane Foster of Gildersleeve Wood
  • 44:00 - Public hearing comment from Gail McIntosh of Gildersleeve Wood
  • 45:14 - Public hearing comment from Nina Barnes of Gildersleeve Wood
  • 48:30 - Comments from Commissioner Michael Osteen
  • 54:30 - Comments from Commissioner Cheri Lewis
  • 57:15 - Comments from Commissioner Dan Rosensweig
  • 59:30 - Comments from Commissioner Genevieve Keller
  • 1:01:00 - Comments from Commissioner Bill Emory
  • 1:02:15 - Chairman Jason Pearson gives a set of definitions of jargon used by the Planning Commission
  • 1:03:40 - Osteen asks Deputy about 104 Oakhurst Circle
  • 1:05:30 - Osteen makes a motion
  • 1:07:45 - Rosenweig reminds Commission that Commissioner Mike Farrugio was concerned about alignment of bike lane

December 30, 2008

A slideshow history of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan

A key aspect of Albemarle County's Comprehensive Plan is to protect the rural area from development

For nearly 40 years, Albemarle County government has attempted to shape growth and development guided by its Comprehensive Plan. Voters approved the County’s first zoning ordinance in 1969, and the Board of Supervisors adopted the first Comprehensive Plan two years later. Since then, the Comprehensive Plan continues to shape decisions about where development should be located and in what form.

The current Albemarle County Planning Commission got a history lesson at their retreat on December 16, 2008. David Benish, the County’s Chief Planner, traced the evolution of the Comprehensive Plan.  Benish said the County’s current growth management policy stems from the adoption of the first plan in 1971. The goals of the policy are:

  •  Promote the efficient utilization of County resources through a combination of Designated Development Areas and Rural Areas
  • Direct growth into Designated Development Areas
  • Protect Natural Scenic and Historic Resources
  • Discourage rural residential development other than dwellings related to a bona fide agricultural/forestal use
  • Strongly support and effectively implement the County’s growth management priorities in the planning and provision of transportation, and public facilities and utilities

In his 30 minute presentation, Benish explained the reasons for the various updates that have been conducted over the years. For instance, the Plan was updated in 1977 in part to address the rapid siltation that was occurring at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  That was followed in 1980 by the “great rezoning” that further refined the County’s urban zoning districts and downzoned the rural countryside.  Though the downzoning of the rural area was challenged in Court, the County eventually prevailed. In 1982, the growth area boundaries were adjusted to follow the water supply watershed, except in Crozet, Ivy and Earlysville. 

While various parts of the Comprehensive Plan come up for renewal and revisions on a periodic basis, the County is currently operating under the 1996-2016 Comprehensive Plan, which identified infill development as one of the County’s planning goals.  In 1996, according to Benish, a divided Planning Commission recommended a slight expansion of the growth area. However, the Board of Supervisors did not support the expansion and instead directed staff to find ways to encourage more efficient development in the designated growth areas.  That request would eventually lead to the adoption of the Neighborhood Model District, which allows for denser residential development. 

Daniel Nairn and Sean Tubbs

MPO considers US 29 study; prioritizes Rio interchange over Hydraulic interchange

An image taken from the presentation given to the MPO Policy Board

At their meeting on December 22, 2008, the MPO Policy Board heard the details of a comprehensive study being conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation on the entire US 29 corridor in Virginia, from the North Carolina border to Gainesville in Prince William County.  The MPO also made further adjustments to the UNJAM 2035 transportation plan, endorsed a grant application for the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center, and heard updates from area transit agencies.

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VDOT Program Manager Charlie Rasnick is coordinating the US29 study, which he said will be one of the largest studies his agency has ever conducted.  He said US 29 is a national highway classified just below the level of an interstate.

Charlie Rasnick

“[US 29’s] primary purpose is to carry long-distance travel,” Rasnick said. “But it also serves large volumes of local traffic.” However, reconciling those two purposes has been the primary focus of several previous studies as well as the ongoing Places29 Master Plan in Albemarle County. Rasnick said none of those studies looked at the entire 219 miles of the corridor, and that this corridor study will incorporate the access management elements called for under Places29. That master plan has still not been adopted by the County.

“What we’re trying to do is give an overarching blueprint for the corridor,” Rasnick said. In particular, the study will address ways to make the route more efficient for both long-distance travelers and local traffic.  The study will examine different jurisdiction’s policies regarding land use and transportation, and will recommend specific access management plans. 

 “There may need to be legislation to protect the corridor, and that is to ensure that in the future there is a connection to [land use decisions] through local streets rather than direct access onto Route 29,” Rasnick said. In other words, some stretches of the corridor that are now posted at 60 miles per hour may soon become unsafe because of continued development.

The study will be overseen by Parsons Transportation Group of Virginia, a Richmond-based firm. The Charlottesville office of the Renaissance Planning Group has been subcontracted to assist on land use policy. Project Manager Joe Springer of Parsons, who has experience working on previous studies of US 29, said the study will not involve the collection of new data.

 “The focus of this study, as per the direction of [VDOT Commissioner David Ekern], is to facilitate informed conversation,” Springer said.  However, he also acknowledged the potential challenges. “This is not a one-size-fit-all solution. We are certainly not naïve enough to come into this thinking we’ll have some monolithic 219-mile cross-section that’s going to work for everybody.”

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) asked what traffic data would be used, pointing out that some officials in Danville and Lynchburg question data that shows that only 12 percent of traffic on US 29 in Charlottesville is through-traffic.  Springer responded that data from previous studies would be used, as well as VDOT’s transportation modeling software. However, he said that he wanted to avoid getting “stuck in the mud” on the issue.

“I think there is a fairly good idea that there is some through-traffic  through Charlottesville and Albemarle County, but it’s not a huge number,” Springer said.  “Probably any improvement we look at whether it’s coming out of Places 29 is going to address both local and through-traffic.”  Later on in the meeting, Slutzky said that he did not expect the proposed western bypass to be part of the discussion.

“It has been sufficiently debunked as a viable solution to anybody’s transportation needs,” Slutzky said.

Eight public meetings will be held in February, including one event to be held in the Charlottesville area.  That will be followed by more detailed regional planning forums. Initial recommendations will be developed in the summer, to be followed by additional planning forums.  A report will be made to the Commonwealth Transportation Board in November 2009.


Ridership on the Charlottesville Transit Service continues to “do very well” according to CTS Director Bill Watterson. CTS provided over 819,000 rides in the fiscal year through November 30, a 12 percent increase on the previous year.  Part of the increase is due to expanded service. Night service is now available on Route 5, which runs in a loop around Albemarle County’s northern urban ring. However, CTS’s funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will be cut by $82,000 in this fiscal year. 

“At this point in time we are not planning any kind of adjustment,” Watterson said. He added that the CTS is currently enjoying the benefit of lower fuels costs and he hoped the reduction would take care of itself. The real challenge, he said, would involve preparing the budget for FY2010.  Next year’s capital budget will include a request to fund the replacement of two replica trolleys. 



The MPO Policy Board concluded their preliminary review of the Fiscally Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) which is part of the UNJAM 2035 process.

For the first time, the MPO has prioritized the order in which grade separated interchanges will be built along US 29. Supervisor Dennis Rooker pointed out that the CLRP’s “Route 29 Corridor Improvements” was vague, and that it would be wise to spell out the community’s priorities.  Grade separated interchanges along US 29 are the key elements in the transportation component of Places29.  In November, the Rio Road interchange was moved to the CLRP’s vision list, which means that it is being taken out of active consideration due to a lack of funding.

Supervisor Rooker said traffic data shows the Hydraulic Road intersection would be the most effective in reducing congestion. However, the intersection also sits on the border of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. In January 1995, City Council voted down plans to build the interchange, and Rooker sought Council’s opinion on whether they would consent to it being the higher priority.

However, Supervisor David Slutzky made the case that the Rio Road intersection will be impacted by the opening of the Meadowcreek Parkway, meriting a higher priority.  After some discussion, the MPO opted to move the Rio Road interchange to the CLRP and to move the Hydraulic Road interchange to the vision list.

In other news:

  • Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish was designated as an official alternate in the case that the County’s elected officials are not present.  Juandiego Wade, the County’s transportation engineer, was designated as a second alternate
  • MPO endorsed the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center’s Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA) grant  to make the facility handicap-accessible. Center President Alexandra Searls said the money would also be used to improve access to the Rivanna River
  • MPO endorsed the Regional Transit Authority Draft Final Report written by VHB. The study is the intellectual underpinning of the proposed RTA being formed by the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County 
  • JAUNT has begun a second route from Buckingham County into Albemarle County. The additional service has been added in part because of demand from employees of the National Ground Intelligence Center, a major employer in northern Albemarle County
  • A citizen has made an official request for the Meadowcreek Parkway to be renamed after outgoing Senator John Warner (R-VA).  The request is making its way through City and County governments, but the MPO was given a heads-up at this meeting

Sean Tubbs


  • 1:00 - Supervisor David Slutzky opens the meeting
  • 1:30 - David Benish designated as the County's alternative, Juandiego Wade designated as second alternative
  • 2:30 - Public hearing for Lewis and Clark Center's request for MPO to endorse $150,000 TEA Grant
  • 3:00 - Alexandria Searls and Fran Lawrence of the Lewis and Clark
  • 7:36 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker asks how much of the project will involve handicapped access at the Center
  • 10:30 - Public hearing comment from Ann Hemingway, current president of the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center
  • 12:30 - Public hearing item introduced for adoption of Regional Transit Authority study draft final report
  • 14:00 - Public hearing suspended while MPO waits until scheduled 4:30 time - adopts minutes
  • 18:00 -  VDOT officials begin their presentation
  • 30:40 - Slutzky asks if the study will require Albemarle County to limit access to 29
  • 32:30 - Slutzky asks if the study will take a look at Places29 Master Plan 
  • 34:00 - Supervisor Rooker says he anticipates the study will be more about future planning rather than fixing items in the short-term
  • 36:15 - Joe Springer of Parsons Transportation Group
  • 45:20 - City Councilor Satyendra Huja asks how pedestrian access fits into the study
  • 46:00 - Slutzky asks what traffic data is going to be used
  • 50:00 - Rooker says that for the study to be worthwhile, everyone will have to work from the same set of facts
  • 53:00 - CTS Director Bill Watterson gives an update
  • 57:30 - Huja asks how the on-time messaging system is working for CTS
  • 58:10 - Councilor Taliaferro asks about CTS' bus replacement/extension process
  • 1:01:00 - Slutzky asks how many miles a typical CTS bus travels in a day
  • 1:02:30 - Slutzky recommends selling buses to UVA students doing research into electric buses
  • 1:04:00 - JAUNT Update from Donna Shaunesey
  • 1:07:40 - Discussion begins of UNJAM
  • 1:08:30 - MPO's Ann Whitham details a new metric that can be used to model future population growth
  • 1:15:30 - Whitham updates Slutzky and Taliaferro on decisions made at November 2008 meeting
  • 1:16:30 - MPO discusses project to add bike lanes and sidewalks to commercial section of Old Ivy Road
  • 1:20:00 - Slutzky requests eliminating Rio Mills Road from UNJAM 2035 list because it is not a County priority
  • 1:25:00 - Rooker asks for Project I-15 (US 29 widening) to specifically refer to an additional north-south lane from South Fork Rivanna River to Airport Road
  • 1:26:30 - Rooker asks why full amount for Hillsdale Road Extended ($29 million) is listed; points out much of the cost is from right of way, and that planners anticipate some will be donated
  • 1:29:00 - Rooker suggests specifically listing a grade-separated interchange project, prompting discussion
  • 1:33:45 - Slutzky asks MPO if they want to prioritize
  • 1:38:30 - MPO considers Draft UNJAM 2035 Document Review
  • 1:52:45 - MPO reconsiders CLRP after Ann Whitham recalculates amount of potential funding
  • 1:57:30 - Huja says he wants non-highway projects prioritized over road projects
  • 1:58:30 - Slutzky asks David Benish for information about Hillsdale Drive safety improvement projects
  • 1:59:30 - Discussion of other elements on the MPO's Transportation Project Tracking List
  • 2:03:00 - Rooker asks if City and County Intelligent Transportation Systems are now in synch
  • 2:05:00 - Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum comments on US 29 Corridor Study
  • 2:07:00 - Rooker responds to Williamson's remark
  • 2:09:45 - Discussion of potential renaming of Meadowcreek Parkway to John Warner

December 24, 2008

Task force will wait until January to finish recommendation on future of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir


The South Fork Rivanna Stewardship Task Force has been meeting since August to study the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The basic questions:  Is dredging necessary, and if so, for what purposes?  How does the community use the reservoir?  Over the past four months, they have heard from numerous experts on a variety of topics. In two meetings this December, they began hashing out the details of what will be included in their final report.  The Task Force, however, missed its goal of completing its work before the end of the year.  They will continue preparing those recommendations at a meeting in January.

What was to be the final meeting took place on December 18, 2008. After more than three hours, Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggested holding yet another meeting in January to finalize the recommendations. 

“Everyone needs to understand what’s in the report and what it is we’re recommending and I really think we need some time to digest,” Rooker said. 


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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081218-SFRR-Part1


  • 1:00 - Task Force Chair Sally Thomas introduces the final report, which has been further edited since the meeting on 12/8.
  • 2:10 - Thomas goes through the first item: "How the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir benefits the community"
  • 4:05 - Liz Palmer disputes Smith's concern
  • 5:00 - Thomas offers to rewrite the final report per Smith's concern
  • 6:00 - Tom Jones says it is common in final reports to develop an executive summary
  • 6:30 - John Martin says there doesn't need to be an executive summary for a ten page report
  • 6:45 - Thomas agrees to write an executive summary for the 5-10 page report
  • 7:45 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggests going through the open issues - Thomas decides to go page by page first
  • 9:00 - John Martin says he wants a section describing the current state of the reservoir and its history 
  • 10:45 - Dede Smith suggests using Stephen Bowler's report  
  • 12:30 - Thomas asks the task force if it is in the correct order
  • 13:00 - Ridge Schuyler thanks Thomas and the task force for the "arduous process" they've been through
  • 13:45 - Schuyler says the background should include a reference from John Kaufman about lack of public access
  • 15:30 - Tom Jones questions whether the 5 facts listed in the background are the most relevant
  • 19:30 - Jones says there is a public ramp for access - it's just not well known
  • 19:50 - Thomas says that Gary O'Connell suggested a Power Point slideshow for the public presentation
  • 20:50 - Task force consents to a background section 
  • 21:20 - Discussion turns to the order in which the benefits of the reservoir will be listed
  • 23:30 - Palmer says that water storage should not be listed as a benefit
  • 24:30 - Jones suggests listing water storage as third, pointing out it currently provides 7% of RWSA's capacity
  • 25:30 - Thomas notes that she is using Jones' suggestion on how to order
  • 26:30 - Smith argues that water supply should be listed as a benefit
  • 27:00 - Martin says reservoir's importance as water storage will decrease
  • 27:30 - Fletcher says he is not sure about Martin's point
  • 28:44 - Rooker says the reservoir was built to be a water supply source, and not for aesthetic purposes
  • 29:50 - Ridge Schuyler says dredging is not needed to preserve the South Fork's status as a water supply within the next 50 years
  • 32:00 - Rooker says he doesn't see a problem recommending some form of maintenance dredging
  • 32:30 - Schuyler said the report should be absolutely clear that South Fork does not need to be dredged for storage
  • 34:30 - Jones points out the distinction between water supply and water storage
  • 35:45 - Thomas reorders benefits in the report in this order: water supply, water quality, recreation, physical aesthetics, biota
  • 39:30 - Palmer seeks clarification in the document to explain why dredging near SFRR's intake will need to be done in 80-90 years
  • 43:00 - Schuyler explains that the SFRR will need to be dredged in 80 to 90 years because dead storage will fill up
  • 45:40 - Jones suggests taking out the reference to dredging in 80 to 90 years
  • 46:50 - Schuyler defends leaving this fact in so decision-makers have a sense of how the water supply works
  • 50:30 - Task force agrees to ask RWSA staff to clarify the 80-90 year reference
  • 53:00 - Smith objects to a whole sentence that references Sugar Hollow Reservoir and wants it removed
  • 56:30 - Rooker says a reference to removing sediment from Sugar Hollow could be misleading
  • 59:30 - Task force removes references to removing sedimentation from other reservoirs, moves on to discussion of water storage
  • 1:00:00 - Schuyler states the amount of dead storage and usable storage in SFRR
  • 1:06:18 - Task force agrees that SFRR currently is 50% of the RWSA's water storage
  • 1:07:45 - Rooker says the task force is talking too much about the water plan, and not enough about what SFRR should be
  • 1:08:00 - Schuyler objects to listing that SFRR will be 7% water storage in the future
  • 1:12:30 - Task force discusses section that deals with rowing as submitted by Kevin Sauer of UVA
  • 1:15:50 - Mark Fletcher of UVA discusses Sauer's report
  • 1:21:30 - Tom Jones says different coaches have different assessments about how much room is needed for training
  • 1:22:45 - Discussion turns to fishing
  • 1:23:45 - Discussion turns to biota - Dede Smith points out a contradiction with the way hydrilla is presented
  • 1:27:30 - Fletcher says the report should include information about what the County is doing about hydrilla
  • 1:29:30 - Schuyler asks if dredging for hydrilla is practical given that disturbing it might accelerate its spread
  • 1:31:30 - Thomas says she will summarize the report on hydrilla by saying more research is needed
  • 1:34:30 - Discussion begins on long-term benefits
  • 1:36:00 - Palmer questions the claim that 1% of the SFRR's storage fills up every year, and says dredging for extra capacity is not necessary to attain 50-year water plan goals
  • 1:37:20 - Jones says sedimentation is causing certain areas to become shallow at first, and then to fill-in
  • 1:41:15 - Schuyler quotes Stephen Harper's theory that perhaps 20 acres of the reservoir could become wetlands in the next 50 years
  • 1:43:40 - Martin says there is no science behind the argument that preemptive dredging is necessary to prevent wetland formation
  • 1:44:10 - Rooker says he wants a legal opinion on wetland formation
  • 1:46:50 - Jones points out the flaws in Harper's extrapolation of how siltation will affect the reservoir
  • 1:52:40 - Schuyler points out the difference between Palmer's opinion and Jone's’ opinion on the need to dredge preemptively, suggests compromise
  • 1:55:10 - Thomas summarizes reasons why immediate dredging might be done
  • 1:59:00 - Thomas says the group agrees to say that preemptive dredging of emerging wetlands should be done soon if a legal opinion deems that is necessary


Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081218-SFRR-Part2


  • 1:00 - Conversation continues on long-term potential of dredging for capacity in the next few years
  • 1:30 - Karen Joyner says there should be a footnote that the RWSA is concerned about storage throughout its system
  • 3:00 - Thomas says that the task force is for the future of SFRR and not the future of the water supply
  • 4:15 - Rooker suggests addressing Joyner's concern in the introduction
  • 6:00 - Palmer says flow requirements for construction of new Ragged Mountain Dam anticipates adequate safe-yield, meaning dredging for additional storage at SFRR not necessary
  • 8:05 - Palmer says that dredging would take two or three years to be permitted - the same time that new Ragged Mountain dam will be under construction
  • 8:30 - Rooker disagrees with Palmer's facts and says that dredging could be done in less than 2 years
  • 10:15 - Martin asks Tom Frederick if an insurance policy is necessary given the current modeling
  • 10:45 - Frederick asks for clarification on the question
  • 11:00 - Rooker phrases the question "If we went into a drought of record today, would we meet the community's needs today?"
  • 13:30 - Frederick addresses the limited and temporary role of Beaver Creek Reservoir can play in a drought emergency
  • 16:10 - Smith objects and says that it is now unknown how the water supply plan will be implemented given the uncertainty of new Ragged Mountain Dam
  • 16:55 - Rooker asks Frederick to comment on maintenance dredging
  • 18:00 - Frederick points out some gaps in the presentation from Chris Gibson of Gahagan and Bryant
  • 21:30 - Rooker asks if smaller dredging operations would take less time to receive a permit
  • 22:30 - Task force returns to discussion of immediate benefits of dredging
  • 23:00 - Palmer says it would be doubtful to get additional storage online to satisfy 
  • 24:00 - Palmer says any money proposed for dredging should instead go to the South Fork pipeline
  • 25:00 - Jones point out what he sees as other benefits of maintenance dredging
  • 26:45 - Palmer says that the water system has to take priority to make sure that reliable service to City
  • 29:00 - Rooker points out that no final decision has been made about the phasing of the pipeline
  • 29:45 - Frederick says RWSA is still assuming that the Ragged Mountain dam will be built in 2011, pipeline by 2021
  • 32:00 - Rooker asks Palmer if she would be willing to say that dredging now would be useful for storage during droughts
  • 33:10 - Palmer goes along with Rooker's amended sentence as long as a reference to the long term water supply plan is removed
  • 33:30 - Schuyler asks if dredging for an “insurance policy” serves other purposes as well;
  • 34:50 - Rooker suggests new phrase: "increased capacity at South Fork Rivanna Reservoir might be helpful for storage during droughts"
  • 36:45 - Jones says there will be a lot of storage, more than needed, when everything is built
  • 38:00 - Palmer says that an expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir will provide extra capacity to withstand breakdowns of Sugar Hollow Pipeline
  • 41:00 - Task force begins to make only "easy comments" in an effort to finish up their work
  • 51:30 - When discussing recommendations, Rooker addresses the need to get a legal opinion on the status of emerging wetlands
  • 54:30 - Schuyler points out that the task force is not saying dredge or not dredge; but giving ideas about how to reach different objectives
  • 57:10 - Task force settles on recommending a legal opinion as its first recommendation
  • 58:30 - Schuyler addresses how the problems of hydrilla and sedimentation are worse when SFRR is lowered; offers alternative
  • 1:00:00 - Smith says that if dredging is not done soon, there will be no capacity for rowing
  • 1:02:20 - Thomas relates Joyner's suggestion that the authorities be urged to do non-dredging maintenance (removal of tree stumps, snags, etc)
  • 1:05:00 - Joyner points out that water conservation has not been mentioned in the document
  • 1:06:00 - Rooker says water conservation is not in the purview of the task force
  • 1:07:30 - Rooker asks if everyone is in agreement regarding recommending a feasibility study
  • 1:08:00 - Chris Lee says he cannot recommend a full feasibility study as requested by Gahagan and Bryant
  • 1:10:40 - Thomas describes the decision-tree handed out by Ridge Schuyler on what to do
  • 1:12:30 - Rooker calls for another meeting in January
  • 1:14:15 - Schuyler describes his decision-tree
  • 1:15:00 - Rooker refers back to the 2001 study by VHB that recommended bathymetric studies be conducted every 5 years
  • 1:16:20 - Palmer points out there are many kinds of bathymetric studies

December 19, 2008

ACSA Board reacts to Council’s water supply amendments


Members of the Albemarle County Service Authority’s Board of Directors have reacted to City Council’s amendment of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the next steps in the adopted community water supply plan. ACSA Executive Director Gary Fern received an e-mail with the amendments on the morning of the ACSA’s December 18, 2008 meeting and shared it with the Board. The Board decided to wait until early next year to make a formal response. 

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081218-ACSA-Reaction

At its meeting on December 15, City Council amended the MOU to include further study of pipeline alternatives, and to include a condition that no construction be performed on the new Ragged Mountain Dam until all requested studies are completed.  The MOU was also amended to require that the conservation studies conducted by the City and the ACSA “include a nationwide review of best practices of water conservation.”

Legal counsel James Bowling said, however, that he heard a consensus reached during the meeting of the four Boards on November 25, 2008. He recommended making a transcript of the meeting and sending it around to all of the parties as a reminder of the direction that was given to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA).

“The directions aren’t 100% clear but at  least there are signposts there pointing which way they’re supposed to go,” Bowling said. He said the RWSA still has to gather information and that a final agreement will come later.

Board Member John Martin (White Hall) said he was concerned that the review of best management practices on water conservation could become expensive if consultants are hired to compile the list. Liz Palmer (Samuel Miller) said she was uncomfortable with the term “nation-wide” because different areas might have different standards.  Fern said he was comfortable the review could be done in-house at the ACSA.

Martin suggested rejecting Council’s amendments and sending back a note saying that consensus had been reached previously. Martin said the ACSA should stand up and be strong.

“This is not acceptable,” Martin said. “Nobody is willing to stand up to the City on the way they’re behaving in this whole affair.”  Palmer said the ACSA should not be discourteous in its tone back to Council. 

On the topic of the pipeline study, Fern told the Board about an e-mail from Tom Frederick, the Executive Director of the RWSA. Frederick said that because Council asked for additional information on the pipeline, the requested study could exceed the $25,000 budget agreed to by the four boards. 
Bowling suggested a one-page cover sheet attached to the transcript advising them that consensus was reached.  Palmer suggested the ACSA Board wait until after the stewardship task force made its recommendations before communicating  anything to Council. Martin suggested waiting until after the Board of Supervisors has had time to consider Council’s revisions.

Robert Humprhis (Jack Jouett) wanted to see a legal definition of what a memorandum of understanding means in Virginia law. Bowling responded that there isn’t one.

“A memorandum of understanding  or a letter of intent is used when  the parties almost have a meeting of the minds but not quite, and it envisions that there will be a later event memorialized by a written agreement in which the minds actually meet so it becomes legally binding,” Bowling said.

Martin had one concern on Council’s demand that no construction on the Ragged Mountain Dam begin until all of the requested studies are complete. He asked what would happen if the task force recommends a feasibility study, but one is not conducted for 5 years. Would construction on the dam have to wait until then, he asked?

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) said he could understand the City’s need to have questions answered.  “I guess I would like to see the City get what they need in order to stand up to the folks who are beating them up,  and if we keep saying ‘No’… we’re not going to be in a good position.” He said that much of what the City has requested could be accomplished within six months.  Colbaugh added that he felt that all the Council wanted was a succinct summary of all the discussions and studies that have been conducted before.

However, Martin said the City would continue to make more requests in an effort to stall the process.  “It’s just going to go on and on and on,” Martin said.

Clarence Roberts (Rivanna) said that the City’s decision to reappoint Mike Gaffney was a step in the right direction.  “I believe that City Council, in doing that, sends the message ‘let’s move on with this.’”
ACSA Chair Don Wagner pointed out that two of City Council’s five seats are up for election next year and the water supply has become a political issue.  The first terms of Mayor Dave Norris and Councilor Julian Taliaferro end in December 2009.

Fern also briefed the ACSA Board on Council’s request to expand the membership of the RWSA Board by adding a City Councilor and an Albemarle County Supervisor. Roberts suggested making them ex officio members who are only there to observe. Colbaugh said this would water down the power of the single at-large Chair who would only have 1 out of 7 votes. Martin said that he thought the County should have a majority vote on the RWSA Board because the County will be paying for more of the community water supply plan. 

In other news, this was the final ACSA meeting for Robert Humprhis, who has served on the Board since 1978. His replacement will be named by the Board of Supervisors in early January.

Sean Tubbs


  • 1:00 - Gary Fern describes the revisions made by City Council to the memorandum of understanding
  • 3:10 - John Martin asks what the City's goal is in seeking a nationwide review of conservation best practices
  • 4:30 - Liz Palmer says she is also concerned with the idea of a nationwide review because of differing standards geographically
  • 7:30 - Robert Humprhis asks if the City's request is for similar sized cities
  • 8:00 - Fern reviews Council's amendment to the dredging feasibility section
  • 10:40 - Chairman Don Wagner expresses concern that members of the task force do not understand how water system works
  • 15:00 - ACSA Counsel Bowling said that he had heard consensus at the November 25 meeting of the four boards
  • 16:50 - Palmer says that there is a lot of confusion
  • 19:00 - Martin says the whole confusion began when City Council unilaterally issues their November 3 resolution demanding the additional studies
  • 22:45 - Bowling suggests a course of action
  • 23:50 - Martin addresses Council's demand that no work take place on the Ragged Mountain Dam until all studies are complete
  • 25:00 - Palmer describes what she thinks the task force will recommend
  • 27:00 - Jim Colbaugh says he understands the City's need for more information
  • 29:30 - Martin responds to Colbaugh's comment
  • 30:17 - Clarence Roberts says that Council's reappointment of Mike Gaffney is a step in the right direction
  • 31:45 - Wagner says Council's interest in further study is motivated by next year's elections
  • 37:00 - Robert Humprhis asks for a sense of what an MOU is
  • 40:00 - Palmer says that many people don't have an understanding of what it means to add something to a water supply plan
  • 41:00 - Roberts says someone needs to transcribe the meeting
  • 42:00 - Colbaugh points out that the 5% target for water conservation is in the plan, but it is not yet being met due to water loss
  • 43:30 - Palmer describes a discussion with Mayor Norris about water conservation
  • 46:45 - Fern reads from an e-mail from RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick
  • 52:00 - Fern briefs the ACSA Board on Council's request to restructure RWSA Board

VDOT to require more road connectivity

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is putting some finishing touches on a new Secondary Streets Acceptance Requirements policy, which would supplant Subdivision Street Requirements approved in 2005. The goal of this new policy is very clear. For the first time, VDOT will require “that streets accepted into the state system for perpetual public maintenance provide commensurate public benefit.” Although the plan includes many components, the element perhaps most likely to result in sweeping changes is a measured commitment to connectivity for all new road networks. In order to be accepted for maintenance funds, a proposed street network will have to look more like a grid and less like a series of cul-de-sacs.

The trouble with a disconnected road system, as VDOT sees it, is that local traffic is often funneled into major arterial roads, leading to congestion and all of the associated social costs. A connected system that allows multiple routes to a destination enhances travel efficiency, provides better response times for emergency vehicles, gives more options for detours, and reduces overall congestion. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), who authorized the drafting of the regulation, also pointed out that an interconnected street network could encourage pedestrians and bicyclists by providing options for travel away from crowded and dangerous transportation corridors.

Illustrations from policy summary provided to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB)

To understand exactly what level of connectivity VDOT is aiming for, an obscure technical term needs to be introduced into the discussion: a link-to-node ratio. A node is an intersection or dead-end and a link is any segment of street between nodes. The higher the link to node ratio, the more connected a network of streets is. It frames the backbone of VDOTs new requirements by providing a quantifiable standard to be applied across the board during review of preliminary site plans. However, exceptions will be allowed for extenuating circumstances, and the regulations do include an appeal process to resolve differences in opinion between developers and government officials.

The required link-to-node ratio will very depending on which of three area types the network falls into. “Compact areas,” which include the City of Charlottesville and Designated Growth Areas of Albemarle County, will require a 1.6 score or higher. “Suburban areas” are within a two mile buffer of the Designated Growth Areas. They will require a 1.4 score or higher. Street networks in “Rural areas” outside of the suburban ring will not have a specific requirement but will need to show some external connections.

The Secondary Street policy was open for public comment from its initiation in 2007 until the summer of 2008, and a few suggestions were incorporated into the plan. It was pointed out that internal connectivity within the network would not provide the same benefit that connectivity outside the network would provide. The language of the policy was revised accordingly, to ensure that streets would bridge existing developments and remain open for new development.

Secondly, the public comments helped fine-tune the exception clause, which had been left fairly vague. In general, a developer would be able to automatically reduce the connectivity requirements by the proportion of the development bordered by a constraint. A constraint could be a river, a railroad track, anything that prohibits roadway access. This will provide a potential for streamlining the straight-forward cases, but some more complex proposals will still have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


There have been some concerns expressed by citizens that these new requirements could compromise the privacy and safety of residential neighborhoods. Road networks could no longer be designed to block through-traffic. VDOT is meeting these concerns with a few other changes. Their traditionally wide street requirements will be narrowed considerably. Previous subdivision roads were required to have a width between 36 and 40 feet, a size that is known to encourage speeds in excess of posted limits. New streets will only need widths of 24 to 29 feet, unless on-street parking is a factor. This change is only possible, according to VDOT, because of the enhanced access for emergency vehicles connectivity allows. Transportation officials also recommend that the traffic impacts be mitigated through other traffic calming design strategies.

The change in Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements is expected to take effect in the beginning of 2009. There will be a 6-month transition period, within which developers can choose whether to submit a proposal under the new policy or the older one.

Specific Requirements by Area Type:

Compact Area
  • Includes all of the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s Designated Growth Areas
  • Link-to-node ratio of 1.6 or higher (closer to a grid)
  • A specific number of external connections, as determined by size of network
  • Sidewalks along both sides of the street
Suburban Area
  • 2 mile buffer around Designated Growth Areas
  • Link-to-node ratio of 1.4 or higher
  • A specific number of external connections, as determined by size of network
  • Sidewalks along both sides of the street or a system of trails and sidewalks, with exceptions for large-lot subdivisions.
Rural Area
  • All other areas
  • A specific number of external connections, as determined by size of network
  • Trail system or sidewalk along one side of the street, with exceptions for very low-volume roads
Daniel Nairn

December 18, 2008

Tolbert: Preparation for mall renovation “exceeding expectations”

The renovation of the downtown mall is scheduled to begin in earnest just after the New Yeark. City Council received an update on the project at its meeting on December 15, 2008 from Jim Tolbert,  Charlottesville’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services.  Tolbert said the project will be ready to begin next month as most of the major elements have been bid. 

  • Brick for the project has been ordered and Tolbert said bids came under budgeted amount
  • Masonry, runnel replacement, and demolition have been placed for bid
  • Electrical work has been bid and awarded to Design Electric
  • Fountain refurbishment work has not been bid yet
  • Tolbert said the project appears to be between 10% and 15% under the project’s $7.5 million price tag, but would produce a final report on cost savings by April 2009
  • The removed bricks will be taken up and pulverized for use in trail construction

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These bricks on 5th Street NE were removed in November as part of a demonstration project

Tolbert also shared the phasing schedule with Council and promised that no stores or restaurants would be closed during construction. He said there will be signage to direct pedestrian traffic while bricks are being removed and replaced. Block captains will meet every two weeks during the project to relay information between business owners and construction crews.  

When Council agreed to the project in July, Councilor Holly Edwards had asked about the possibility of employing local youth as a workforce development project. Tolbert said Barton Malow, the firm managing the construction, is working with the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) to hire students to serve as assistants for the project.  

“The hope is that those individuals would be helping do a lot of the work that needs to be done, directing citizens as citizens are looking for how to get to the businesses, but they’d also be learning the carpentry trade while they’re there,” Tolbert said. Councilor Satyendra Huja said Tolbert’s effort to create opportunities was a model for future City projects.

Sean Tubbs

December 17, 2008

Google Transit comes to Charlottesville

Google Transit
Sample trip generated by Google Transit

Google Transit is now available for all Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) routes. Directions for the shortest distance between two points by bus are fully integrated into the popular Google Maps feature. The user enters the starting and destination addresses, and chooses between walking, mass transit, or driving. Google Maps will calculate the shortest distance for multiple options, show the schedules of pick-up and arrival, estimate a total time for the trips, and give the fare prices. It will even tally the cost difference between busing and driving.

Google Transit was unveiled in Portland, Oregon about a year and a half ago, and it has been steadily spreading to metropolitan areas around the county. Currently, 21 other transit agencies in Virginia have opted to join Google Transit. This is the highest level of participation for any state in the country, surpassing California by almost 30%. This may be attributed to a strong push by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to join Google Transit.

Ridership for CTS is already at all-time high levels. According to a press release, “Over 1.7 million passengers boarded CTS buses from June 1, 2007 through July 31, 2008, a 12.5% upswing in service use compared to the previous fiscal year. Ridership in the first four months of the 2009 fiscal year is up almost 14%, to 658,040 passengers.” There is some evidence to suggest that the enhanced usability Google Transit offers may boost ridership even further. A local transit authority in Duluth, Minnesota saw a 12% jump after joining a year ago.

There is no cost to CTS for providing its schedule and route data to Google. Google Transit does not make use of the real-time CTS satellite global positioning system (GPS) equipment, though GPS data on the expected stop time of each bus is available through the City’s website. University of Virginia’s transit service is not currently available through Google Transit.

Daniel Nairn

December 16, 2008

Council amends water supply memorandum; Mayor Norris seeks study of larger pipeline

When the “four boards” with jurisdiction over the community’s water and sewer infrastructure met on November 25, 2008 to discuss the implementation of the community water supply plan, they reached consensus on a number of issues. Their decisions were codified in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which came before Charlottesville City Council at their meeting on December 15, 2008.  

DownloadDownload the Draft Memorandum of Understanding

The memorandum addresses the following key points:

  • The RWSA will hire a panel of experts to review the design of the new dam at Ragged Mountain to recommend ways to bring the project’s cost estimate in line with the community’s expectations. The panel will be convened under a scope of work approved by the RWSA Board on October 27, 2008.
  • The City Public Works Department and the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) will assess conservation measures and incentives  to “develop alternatives for more aggressive water conservation and water use efficiency measures.”
  • If the South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force recommends a dredging feasibility study, one will be conducted. Either the four boards or their chairs will have the chance to approve or amend and approve the recommendations regarding the scope of work.
  • The RWSA will spend no more than $25,000 to hire an engineer to review the “reasonableness of the methodology and opinion of cost used by Gannett Fleming in 2005 in its conceptual design of the pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir”
  • There will be no panel of experts to review the entire adopted community water supply plan.

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Council Gannett Fleming’s cost estimate for the Ragged Mountain Dam increased earlier this year from $37 million to nearly $100 million after additional evidence collected at the site turned up fractured rock. That prompted Council to vote on November 3, 2008 to seek further study of the entire plan to see what cost savings could be obtained, including a request to study the feasibility of the pipeline. The Board of Supervisors and the ACSA requested a sit-down with Council, resulting in the four-way meeting with the RWSA Board.

 “It was agreed at that meeting that a summary of the discussions and agreed-upon next steps be written up in a document for review and approval by the four boards,” City Manager Gary O’Connell said when introducing the item to Council. O’Connell said that while the agreement as written does not require the study of other pipeline alternatives, RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick has said his staff can provide a summary that lists the pros and cons of the adopted South Fork to Ragged Mountain concept, a replacement of the Sugar Hollow Pipeline and a pipeline to the James River.

Mayor Dave Norris began Council’s discussion by asking to simplify the process in order to avoid “wordsmithing an MOU which would then need to go back to the County and go back to the other boards.” Instead, Norris wanted Council to adopt a resolution of intent to see the various studies, but with an additional requirement that Council will not permit construction of the dam until all four requested studies are complete. Norris also sought to amend several of the provisions in the MOU.

Councilor David Brown wanted to know more about what would happen if Council opted for a resolution over the MOU. Several members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan had expressed concern that the MOU was too powerful a legal document and that the City would give up its rights by signing it.

City Attorney Craig Brown said that whether Council opted for a resolution or simply signed the MOU, it was most important to send a consistent message to the other parties.

“This is a guide that presumably all four boards can agree to that defines the scope of work primarily for [the RWSA],” Attorney Brown said. “I don’t think it is too powerful a document for this purpose.” Norris said it might be harder to revisit an MOU with four different bodies making amendments. 

Councilor Julian Taliaferro said that there were several important safeguards that puts the future of the plan in Council’s hands. First, the City owns the property and has to grant various construction easements. Second, Council will have to appropriate money. Attorney Brown said there were many other details that would have to be worked out as well. Council eventually opted to stick with the MOU.

Norris suggested several changes anyway. He wanted to add language to the conservation study item to include language to insist that any improvements be consistent with best management practices in other communities. He also wanted to streamline the section that dealt with how the RWSA will proceed with the recommendations of the South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force. Under the amendment, the task force’s recommendation will not have to come back before City Council or the Board of Supervisors.

Norris’ primary amendment concerned the proposal for a new pipeline. The MOU as presented to Council stated that the pipeline study would not require review of other pipeline alternatives.  Norris suggested adding language to insist in writing that Frederick’s summary of three alternatives would be included. 

“This is just reaffirming that we wish to see [RWSA] do that,” Norris said. His next amendment to this section added language that would require “an assessment of the impact of the size of [the South Fork] pipeline on the needed storage capacity of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir using existing modeling techniques.”

Councilor Brown asked for a clarification. Norris said that there are some in the community who feel that if the pipeline is wider, the Ragged Mountain Dam would not need to be as large because the South Fork pipeline could fill in the Ragged Mountain Reservoir faster after the community emerges from a prolonged drought.

“We have some good modeling programs that we’ve already paid for, and as we’re crunching numbers that’s one number I’d like to see us nail down,” Norris said.

City Manager O’Connell warned Norris that unless the review is based on modeling data compiled by Gannett Fleming, the requested review could not be obtained for less than $25,000. He said many opponents of the plan are already concerned about the credibility of Gannett Fleming.  Council agreed to Norris’ additions and approved the MOU unanimously.

Councilor Holly Edwards asked what would happen if the other Boards also decide to amend the MOU. Norris said that if they made “substantive changes” he would want the document to come back before Council. The ACSA will next take up the matter at its meeting on Thursday, December 18, 2008. The Board of Supervisors will consider the MOU in early January.

Sean Tubbs


  • 1:00 - Gary O'Connell provides the context for the memorandum of understanding
  • 7:30 - Norris proposes reframing the discussion
  • 9:30 - Brown seeks conversation about the merits of Norris' proposal 
  • 11:00 - City Attorney Craig Brown
  • 13:30 - Taliaferro points out several safeguards which gives Council control over Ragged Mountain construction
  • 15:00 - Brown asks about what happens with items 5 through 9 on the MOU
  • 17:40 - Norris begins listing the things he would like to change in the MOU
  • 23:00 - Brown says he doesn't mind the amendments, but wanted to leave them in a MOU rather than a resolution
  • 26:30 - Edwards asks if Council will see another version of this after other boards make their amendments
  • 28:15 - Taliaferro asks why Norris wants to consider a larger diameter

Gaffney reappointed as RWSA Chair

Mike Gaffney

The Charlottesville City Council has reappointed Mike Gaffney as chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA). Council also announced they will request an expansion of the RWSA’s Board of Directors to include one City Councilor and one County Supervisor.

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If the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agrees as expected with the City’s selection, Gaffney will be appointed to his fourth consecutive two-year term. He was one of six candidates recently interviewed by Council for the position.

Councilor David Brown praised Gaffney for helping to make the RWSA more transparent, but said that his appointment did not mean there was a consensus on the future status of the adopted water supply plan.

Councilor Holly Edwards said that the appointment was one of the more difficult decisions she has had to make in her one year on Council. She said public input was largely divided, and that Council’s discussion led to the idea of the Board’s expansion to include elected officials on the RWSA and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) which Gaffney would also continue to chair.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro called Gaffney an “honest individual” who will act in the interest of both the City and the County. Mayor Dave Norris said Gaffney’s work last year in helping the community end a solid waste dispute  was one factor that influenced his vote.

“Gaffney was very effective and spent many hours getting us back to the table and hashing out an agreement,” Norris said.  He added the more important issue involves making the board more accountable to the public through the addition of elected officials. The membership of the RWSA Board can be expanded by a concurrent resolution rather than an act of the General Assembly, according to Norris. 

The City is currently represented on the RWSA Board by City Manager Gary O’Connell and Public Works Director Judy Mueller. The County is represented by County Executive Bob Tucker and Albemarle County Service Authority Executive Director Gary Fern. The ACSA is governed by a six-member Board of Directors appointed by magisterial district by the Board of Supervisors. The City has no equivalent body to govern decisions regarding its water and sewer infrastructure since those matters are handled by the Public Works Department.

Sean Tubbs