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November 29, 2011

County continues conversation on industrial land use

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As part of Albemarle County’s comprehensive plan review, county staff members held a roundtable discussion Monday to gather stakeholder comments on industrial land needs.

Business owners, environmental and pro-business advocates and representatives from the city of Charlottesville and University of Virginia gave input on what amenities and zoning regulations would help facilitate operating a business in Albemarle.

County staff noted that the type of industry that they hope to attract is not the obtrusive, polluting factory kind, but “more modern” facilities, offering an image of an attractive molecular foundry in San Francisco as an example.

“When we talk about industrial land of 2011, we’re trying to get away from the concept of smokestacks,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner at the county. “This country isn’t doing much in the way of smokestacks anymore … what we’re looking at is the high tech industry.”

Continue reading "County continues conversation on industrial land use" »

November 26, 2011

Elected officials to discuss fluoride in drinking water

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, November 26, 2011

A campaign by local citizens has prompted local officials to consider whether the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water should be continued. 

“There are health risks that are a result of water fluoridation and this information has been repressed,” said Albemarle resident Emerald Young at a meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority on Tuesday.

Young has appeared this month before both city council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to express her concerns about fluoride, which she said poses a risk to public health. 

“It’s the only chemical that’s put in the water to treat humans, and the other chemicals are used to treat the water,” Young said. “The public is being treated without adequate informed consent.”

RWSA executive director Thomas L. Frederick said he was not a doctor and could take no position, but he was aware of the concern.

“I know there are some doctors who are speaking up who are opposed to fluoridation practice,” Frederick said. “I will also say that the medical establishment still strongly supports adding 0.7 parts per million of fluoride to water supplies for dental health.” 

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City’s capital budget lowest in years

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, November 26, 2011

Charlottesville’s capital improvement program budget for the next fiscal year will be the smallest in several years.

“This year’s CIP looks drastically different than anything we’ve done in years past,” said Ryan Davidson, the city’s deputy budget director.

The city has $24 million in this year’s capital budget. The budget office is proposing a $16.4 million capital budget for the coming year.

“It’s almost a $10 million reduction,” Davidson added.

Further reductions are anticipated in the four years after fiscal year 2013.

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November 22, 2011

City council endorses legislative package

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council has voted to officially oppose a bill that would transfer a portion of the city’s school funding to Albemarle County via a shift in the localities’ revenue sharing agreement. 

“The county School Board has asked the Board of Supervisors to put forth legislation to change the [composite index] so that money comes out of our school budget and goes into their school budget,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos. 

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, has agreed to sponsor an amendment to the state’s composite index to factor in Albemarle County’s annual revenue sharing payment to the city. That would result in a transfer of more than $2 million to the county. 

“I would like us to take a position against that,” Szakos added. 

Her request came during a discussion early Tuesday morning of the city’s legislative package in advance of the 2012 session of the General Assembly. 

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Tie vote on building design delays Trader Joe’s

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Developers of Stonefield, a mixed-use development along U.S. 29, ran into a minor roadblock in the form of a rare tie vote from the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board on Monday.

The four board members in attendance reached an impasse over the use of white-colored brick on the Trader Joe’s building slated to be built at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road.

Albemarle Architectural Review Board member Chuck Lebo compares material samples for Trader Joe's

Board members Charles Lebo and Paul Wright voted in opposition, having long expressed disapproval with the use of white brick on the Trader Joe’s building, which they described as giving the building a monolithic appearance and clashing with the community’s character.

“I’ve stated in the past and I’m stating it now: I’m looking for a more earth-toned brick color,” Lebo said.

However, the board found difficulty in suggesting an alternative color choice. Bruce Wardell and ARB chairman Fred Missel expressed concern that choosing a different brick color could cause the building to stick out from the rest of the development.

“I think putting red brick on that corner or tan brick on that corner would be like a cartoon,” Wardell said.

Developers said that the white brick color was important because white is perceived as a good color choice for retail businesses and because it is in keeping with the contemporary appearance they are seeking in the design.

Continue reading "Tie vote on building design delays Trader Joe’s" »

November 20, 2011

Some ideas of task force not included in bypass bid addendum

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Virginia Department of Transportation has issued the first addendum to a request for proposals for firms to both design and build the U.S. 29 Western Bypass in Albemarle County.

“A number of the things we requested will not be included, such as reduction of design speed and project budgets for noise abatement and landscaping,” said county Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Rooker chaired a task force this fall that asked for more than two dozen specific requests for how the road should be built. The recommendations of Rooker’s task force were endorsed by the Board of Supervisors earlier this month.

Requests that construction be limited to 12 hours a day and that construction noise not exceed 80 decibels were not included in the addendum.

The task force had also asked that the road be built with a design speed of 50 mph, but the RFP continues to ask companies to design it for a speed of 60 mph.

However, other recommendations were included, such as a requirement that the two termini not have traffic lights and not use U-turns or roundabouts.

Continue reading "Some ideas of task force not included in bypass bid addendum " »

Advocates: Coal an unhealthy choice for UVa

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Clean energy advocates have tried to make a case for shutting down the University of Virginia’s coal-fired heating plant by emphasizing coal’s public health risks.

20080308-UVAHowever, university officials say that the $73 million renovation of the Main Heating Plant, which finished in 2008, included strong pollution controls that greatly reduce the emissions that environmentalists say are harmful.

“First of all [we] control our source of coal – we don’t do any mountaintop [removal] coal sourcing – and then we clean it up through our emission controls systems,” said Donald Sundgren, chief facilities officer at UVa. “We also work very hard at energy conservation to reduce the need for [coal].”

At a press event last week, however, students in the Sierra Student Coalition’s “Beyond Coal” campaign underscored the public health benefits and “healthier community” that they said could result from moving the heating plant off of coal.

“The energy produced by this coal goes directly into university buildings, but the [health] costs are felt by the whole community,” said Rebecca Dudley, a UVa second year student.

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November 18, 2011

University, city, county share plans for major construction projects

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, November 18, 2011

Representatives from Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia presented updates on their planned and recently completed capital construction projects before a joint planning council on Thursday.

20111117-PACCNoticeable at the Planning and Coordination Council meeting was the contrast between the scale and ambition of a university angling to become “the premier undergraduate experience of the Americas” and those of the county government, which has had to cut back construction plans due to ongoing revenue shortfalls.

“We really have almost a maintenance-only budget right now going forward,” said Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Which is not to say that there are not projects being completed by each entity. The county highlighted it had just opened a newly improved Jarman’s Gap Road in Crozet. Meanwhile today UVa plans to hold a ribbon-cutting at its technology and engineering-focused Rice Hall today and the city will conduct a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fontaine Fire Station.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20111117-PACC

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Steep rate increase for sewer service projected in Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, November 18, 2011

The executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority told his board of directors Thursday that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s next capital infrastructure program will include around $200 million in projects.

“We will have to have a large rate increase for wastewater next year just to meet the RWSA capital improvements,” said Gary B. O’Connell.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20111117-ACSA

O’Connell noted that the increase for ACSA customers could be as much as 40 percent over five years for sewer service. However, he said an initial analysis shows water rates may decrease by as much as 7 percent over the same period.

The RWSA’s last CIP was adopted in September 2010 and included $171.6 million in both water and sewer projects, most of which will also be included into the new five-year plan.

"The CIP includes all costs for all the projects listed in the program including money that has already been spent,” said Thomas L. Frederick, executive director of the RWSA. “There is not $200 million in new spending proposed.”

Continue reading "Steep rate increase for sewer service projected in Albemarle" »

November 17, 2011

MPO directs staff to turn information over to VDOT

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, November 17, 2011

A dispute between the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District was resolved Wednesday. 

The Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board voted 4-1 to direct Stephen Williams to hand over details of changes made to a traffic forecast model.  Williams said he was trying to protect the community from having the data misused to support unwanted road projects. 

The TJPDC hired a planner in 2010 specifically to refine and operate the model so it can be used for local planning purposes. The model, which uses a format originally developed by VDOT, is intended to predict what effect potential road improvements will have on the number of trips generated by motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. 

Steve Williams

“We think the model is in good shape to be used for forecasting purposes,” Williams said. “We have provided all of these materials to both representatives of the university and its consultants as well as VDOT’s district and central offices.”

James Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District and a voting member of the MPO, said he has been concerned about the way the model has been altered. 

“It’s important for the MPO and VDOT to agree on changes to the model and verify those changes and then go through a validation and calibration process,” Utterback said. 

Continue reading "MPO directs staff to turn information over to VDOT" »