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December 30, 2011

Plan in works for land swap to create athletic fields at Biscuit Run

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 30, 2011

Throughout this year’s master planning process for the new Biscuit Run State Park, local officials repeatedly pushed for the inclusion of athletic fields. It was also the No. 1 request from the public.

CONCEPT illustration provided by Habitat for Humanity

However, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation said such facilities were the responsibility of local governments and not something to be included in a state park. DCR staff emphasized at one meeting that they were not “changing their paradigm.”

“We have been barking at the state officials for many months to include fields in the Biscuit Run master plan,” said Bob Crickenberger, Albemarle County’s parks and recreation director. “I don’t think that’s a possibility anymore.”

However, a paradigm shift of another sort appears to be under way. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville has stepped forward with a proposal to swap land it owns at the neighboring Southwood Mobile Home Park for land in the state park that it says is well-suited for a complex of up to five fields and parking.

“The county was deeply disappointed that there were no athletic fields as part of the master plan,” said Habitat’s executive director, Dan Rosensweig. “We know that the Biscuit Run development itself deeply divided this community, but there seemed to be one area of 100 percent consensus, and that is the fields are a great need and a great community amenity.”

Continue reading "Plan in works for land swap to create athletic fields at Biscuit Run" »

June 11, 2010

VDOT may wield influence in maintaining overpasses in Places29

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 11, 2010
Since the Places29 master planning process began in 2005, the Virginia Department of Transportation has been playing a prominent role advising Albemarle County officials on the future of the U.S. 29 corridor. Some local business leaders and elected officials, however, have been opposed to VDOT’s recent preference for building grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29 instead of building a western bypass.

Now, state regulations approved in 2006, which require VDOT to review plans such as Places29, may limit the transportation options under consideration to those approved by the state.

David Benish, Albemarle’s chief of planning, said at a public hearing Wednesday that the draft Places29 master plan recommends improvements at both the Hydraulic Road and Rio Road intersections as top priorities. At these locations, VDOT has recommended that traffic lights be eliminated in favor of overpasses that would allow U.S. 29 to pass beneath the cross streets.

However, this week’s meeting was the first time county staff have shared publicly that there may be consequences to removing these and four other grade-separated interchanges from the 20-year master plan.

“Staff talked to VDOT recently to get some preliminary information about what the implications would be if the interchanges were deleted from the master plan,” Benish said. “The master plan … is subject to review under a fairly recent state code that we refer to as the ‘527 review process.’”

According to information presented by Benish at the public hearing this week, VDOT views the interchanges as necessary for U.S. 29, with or without a western bypass, and that removing them from the master plan could put Albemarle at odds with state law.

The staff report read, in part: “[I]f the master plan is adopted without the proposed grade separated improvements, the supporting traffic analysis funded and approved by VDOT would no longer be valid, and the master plan would not be compliant [under] the Va. Code 527 regulations. The grade separations were identified in the traffic analysis as necessary to support existing and future land uses and local and regional transportation needs.”

“I have a tendency to want to push back a little bit to VDOT when they want to start dictating what we have planned and they are not providing any money for the next 30 years to do it,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “I think it is irresponsible for them to hold us to anything like that.”

A representative for VDOT was unavailable for comment Thursday.

VDOT conducted a pilot study for the regulations in 2006 when it did a traffic impact analysis on a 28,000-home development project near Dulles Airport in Loudoun County. That analysis showed the development would bring gridlock to the area without hundreds of millions of dollars of new roads.

Local business leaders said in interviews that they were skeptical VDOT would block the master planning effort if the interchanges were removed. Further, they continued to express concerns at the public hearing about the disruption the interchanges would cause to existing businesses on U.S. 29.

“What we heard was a third-party view of what VDOT may or may not do,” said Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. “That may or may not be accurate.”

“Certainly, VDOT should have a role in transportation planning on major arterial roads, but the question is, ‘What do they bring to the table?’” asked Neil Williamson, executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum.

“The General Assembly has unfunded VDOT and streamlined their operations to the point of a diminution of services to the localities,” Williamson said. “If they aren’t going to support the funding of the roads they are mandating, should they have as high a standing in this partnership?”

“That’s ridiculous, they aren’t mandating anything,” responded Jeff Werner with the Piedmont Environmental Council in an interview. “The intent of the regulations is that VDOT is involved, and if we say we want to do something different, then we have a responsibility to say whether the alternative meets the level of service objectives.”

Williamson said the Free Enterprise Forum is committed to working toward a Places29 plan that the Charlottesville-Albemarle business community can support, but that the assessment of VDOT’s position raises some questions for local officials.

“The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that the Board of Supervisors will be boxed into a corner where they must support a plan that has elements that they do not support, like grade-separated interchanges,” Williamson said.

Said Werner: “These grade-separated interchanges are what the experts think is the best solution for U.S. 29 … it comes from the findings of a thorough technical analysis. If you want to build a better mousetrap, you just can’t say it is better, you have to prove it is better.”

January 05, 2010

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009

In my weekly appearance today on WINA AM 1070 on the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot and I will count down Charlottesville Tomorrow's top-10 growth and development stories of 2009.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download Brian Wheeler's appearance on the Coy Barefoot show

This is the fourth year we have counted down the top-10 growth and development stories in Charlottesville-Albemarle.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support of WINA for the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot for having me on the show each week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, and the excellent reporting by my colleague Sean Tubbs and our interns.

Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009
  1. Biscuit Run goes from Albemarle’s largest proposed development ever to a future state park after all 1,200 acres are acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia in December.
  2. Meadowcreek Parkway construction begins in Albemarle.  Local lawsuit fails to stop construction and City Council’s 3-2 vote to convey City property is upheld in court.  In December, VDOT puts City’s portion (called McIntire Road Extended) out to bid and City Council approves preliminary interchange design.
  3. City & County both hold local elections.  Democrats keep all five seats on Charlottesville City Council.  Three independent candidates in the City are unsuccessful in their bids for Council with Bob Fenwick’s campaign largely a referendum on the future of McIntire Park and dredging for water supply needs.  In Albemarle, Republican Rodney Thomas upset incumbent Chairman Democrat David Slutzky (D-Rio).  In the open seat race to fill the Samuel Miller District seat, Republican Duane Snow defeats two opponents.  Thomas and Snow join Republican Ken Boyd to form a group of three Republicans.  Both newcomers are local businessmen born and raised in Charlottesville-Albemarle. The election results will bring a new mix of experience, politics and philosophy to the board in 2010 that could mean big changes in the board's approach to budgeting, tax rates, economic development and other key issues.
  4. Fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan continues to be evaluated by local officials and public for opportunities to improve plan and lower costs.  Engineering firm Gannett Fleming is dropped and replaced with local firm Schnabel Engineering.  Three studies get underway related to dredging of South Fork, the design of the new Ragged Mountain Dam, and a “conceptual review” of the proposed pipeline connecting the two reservoirs.
  5. Places29 Master Plan is recommended for approval by Albemarle County Planning Commission on 4-2 vote.  Many business leaders continue to oppose grade-separated interchanges and other transportation proposals that cannot currently be funded by state.  Wendell Wood lobbies for growth area expansion on to undeveloped land he owns in Northern Albemarle.
  6. Peter van der Linde opens recycling facility at Zion Crossroads.  Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (run jointly by Charlottesville-Albemarle) files lawsuit against van der Linde accusing him of fraud and non-payment of as much as $1 million in tipping fees to the RSWA facility.  RSWA decides to seek bids to privatize the Ivy Material Utilization Center and McIntire recycling facilities.
  7. Charlottesville Downtown Mall renovations completed under budget and mostly on schedule (fountains needed more work after deadline).
  8. Major new housing and retail developments continue to be held up by market forces, economic downturn, and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity).
  9. Virginia General Assembly blocks local sales tax voter referendum, requested by both Charlottesville & Albemarle as part of search for new transportation funding resources, specifically to support formation of a Regional Transit Authority.
  10. First annual CvillePieFest is held in Crozet.  Organized on Twitter, it was simply amazing.
    (Full disclosure: Coy Barefoot & Brian Wheeler really want to continue as permanent judges for this event, something that should become the Virginia Pie Festival! Keep track of all things local pie here.)
Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2010
  1. Key decisions will be made about next steps for the fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan related to Ragged Mountain dam design and dredging.
  2. Crozet Master Plan review is completed.  What is new target for Crozet’s build out population and will the growth area be expanded at Yancey Mills for a new business park?
  3. New growth area land in U.S. Route 29 corridor will be considered to replace the 3.5% of growth area lost to state’s acquisition in late 2009 of Biscuit Run for a new state park.
  4. Village of Rivanna and Places29 Master Plans will be reviewed by Board of Supervisors.  Will Places29 be approved and, if so, with what transportation vision for the future of U.S. 29 North?
  5. Local government continues to struggle with the continuing impact of state and local budget shortfalls in very difficult economy.  Officials will consider new proposals to diversify Albemarle’s tax base (increased commercial/industrial) and proposals to reduce recently adjusted cash proffer expectations in an effort to encourage new home construction.
  6. City-County-UVA cooperation will get more attention by the public and local officials (revenue sharing, water, solid waste, schools, public safety).  Will it get better or worse?
  7. Master Planning of McIntire Park will get underway and future uses, like a botanical garden, will be assessed. 
  8. The military facilities at Rivanna Station around the National Ground Intelligence Center will continue their expansion and bring new residents to the community working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and military sub-contractors.
  9. Charlottesville and Albemarle both face challenges from their residents concerned about urban infill development, the type of growth encouraged by each locality’s comprehensive plans, but often opposed in the face of neighborhood concerns about increased traffic, public safety, and noise.  How will this impact redevelopment of West Main and old Martha Jefferson Hospital?
  10. Landmark Hotel construction on Downtown Mall resumes, or not…

September 08, 2009

Supervisors prepare for 2010 General Assembly

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

There are only four months left until the beginning of the next General Assembly session, and all across Virginia, localities are putting together their lists of legislation they’d like to see passed. Both Albemarle County and Charlottesville use the services of David Blount, a legislative liaison who is employed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Blount checked in with the Board of Supervisors on September 2, 2009, to get a sense of their priorities.

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First, County Attorney Larry Davis briefed Supervisors on some of the legislative successes in the 2009 session of the General Assembly:
  • Maintained the County’s ability to fund Acquisition of Conservation Easements program through transient occupancy tax, and managed to keep $2 million in the state budget for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
  • Speed limits on unpaved roads lowered to a maximum of 35 miles an hour (HB1837).
  • Enabling legislation for creation of Regional Transit Authority was approved (HB2158), though Albemarle and Charlottesville were not permitted to ask voters if they would support a sales tax increase to fund it (HB2161).
  • The Rivanna River’s designation as a “scenic river” was expanded to include portion from South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Woolen Mills (SB957).
Davis also recommended three new items that should be included as priorities:
  • A request to allow Albemarle to transfer money VDOT allocates for unpaved roads to other local transportation priorities without being penalized.
  • The County’s social services agencies want a guarantee that the state will match federal funds.
  • A request to allow Albemarle to transfer money to a non-profit entity to operate the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP). Currently state law does not authorize the County to transfer its share of the $500,000 grant it was awarded (along with Charlottesville) to a non-profit that will actually implement the program.
Davis said that many of Albemarle’s requests were not granted in 2009, and he urged the Board to continue including those as priorities in its 2010 legislative agenda. One of these was a request to extend the roll-back period for properties that come out of land use taxation from 5 years to 10 years.

After a ten-minute discussion that continued an earlier debate about the merits of the program, the Supervisors opted to amend the language of the request to allow each locality to determine for themselves if they wanted to extend the period. Blount noted, however, that no legislator agreed to carry the bill for the 2009 General Assembly. 

During the RTA discussion last year, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce did not support the legislation for the sales tax referendum. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) said he felt the Chamber might be persuaded to support a gas tax to accomplish the same goal of funding local transportation projects with local dollars. However, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said there was currently no mechanism by which money from a gas tax would be returned specifically to its locality of origin.

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked about a rumor she had heard that there may be legislation to cap the amount that water and sewer authorities can charge for connection fees. The Albemarle County Service Authority recently decided to raise their rates in a two-tier process. Blount said he had also heard that rumor, and added that if the recession continues into January, the legislature could be sympathetic to the needs of the building industry.

On that same note, County Attorney Davis said he believes one bill will be introduced to require VDOT to allow signs in medians so developments can advertise new homes. That practice is currently illegal.

“I would have to ask them if they could ever point to a single additional house that has ever been sold because of a sign in the right-of-way,” said Rooker. “All they’re doing is trading aesthetics for a feel-good piece of legislation that accomplishes nothing in terms of overall housing demand.”


  • 01:00 – Introduction from County Attorney Larry Davis
  • 04:15 – Slutzky comments on enabling legislation for County to transfer money to LEAP program
  • 05:00 – David Blount makes his comments
  • 06:00 – Slutzky said he thinks the County should once again ask General Assembly to ask voters if they would approve a sales tax increase
  • 8:30 – Supervisor Sally Thomas asks a question about an attempt to change the definition of “urban development area” in state law
  • 9:00 – Blount says an attempt to replace proffers with impact fees has “not gained any traction at all”
  • 10:00 – Thomas asks about a rumor that there may be legislation to cap the amount of connection fees that can be charged by water and sewer authorities
  • 11:00 – Discussion of the possibility of a bill to allow for developers to post signs in VDOT’s right-of-way
  • 11:45- Thomas asks about alternative sewer treatment facilities
  • 13:45 – Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asks about conservation easements
  • 14:30 – Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asks a question about extending land use taxation roll-back period from 5 to 10 years
  • 27:20 – Motion to adopt legislative package

July 03, 2009

High Growth Coalition meets in Culpeper to discuss new state regulations impacting land use and transportation

By Julia Glendening
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, July 3, 2009

The Virginia Coalition of High Growth Communities, is a membership association for local government officials from counties in Virginia with rapid residential development. Also known as the High Growth Coalition, the group met on June 29, 2009 in Culpeper to listen to speakers and discuss three major topics: the regulation of alternative onsite sewage systems; new stormwater management requirements; and VDOT’s secondary street requirements. The focus of the discussion was to examine how local governments will be influenced by changes in legislation approved by the General Assembly and speakers stressed how important it is for local officials to make their opinions heard.  Albemarle County is a member of the Coalition and was represented by Supervisors Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller), Ann Mallek (White Hall), and Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development.

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Alternative Onsite Sewage Systems (AOSS)

According to the Code of Virginia (§ 32.1-163), a conventional onsite sewage system consists of one or more septic tanks flowing to a gravity distributed drainfield. An alternative onsite sewage system does not have the characteristics of a conventional system and does not flow to a point source discharge, such as a pipe.  An AOSS can treat sewage with a device other than a septic tank, such as a media filter, which uses other ways to separate the sewage, for example with peat, byproducts of coal, or foam cubes. Pressurized systems are also used instead of gravity to distribute the wastewater within a drainfield.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed two bills (HB 1788  and SB 1276) declaring that local governments cannot prohibit the use of alternative onsite sewage systems, both of which went into effect on July 1, 2009. Previously, a building permit could be withheld if the soil on site would not support a traditional septic system and public sewer was not available to the property.  In compliance with the interim requirements of the new legislation, alternative systems installed after July 1, 2009 will have to be operated and maintained by the most stringent policies declared by the manufacturer, the local government, or the state. These will be replaced by the Board of Health emergency regulations in April 6, 2010 and final regulations at the end of 2010.

In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Jeff McDaniel, local Environmental Health Manager for the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), said in 2008 about 74 alternative systems were approved in Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Greene, and Nelson Counties. McDaniel said Albemarle did not prohibit the use of alternative systems prior to this year’s legislation and he thought the legislation would have more of an effect on other regions of Virginia.

Albemarle County's Mark Graham, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that, before the new legislation went into effect this week, alternative onsite sewage systems were allowed only when an existing conventional system had failed. Graham said a developer previously had to demonstrate a conventional system could be implemented in order to get a building plan approved. Under the new law, an alternative system could be specified up front and local government would not be able to deny a development right.

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) expressed concern about the potential for increased residential growth on previously undevelopable land in an update she gave to the Board of Supervisors at their July 1 meeting.

“We have regarded whether land [percolates for septic] or not as a land use control,” said Thomas. “Now that will no longer be a controlling factor.”

McDaniel noted that about 5 to 10% of building permits with conventional sewage systems have been denied in the past year due to various limiting factors, such as soil or location limitations.

“I see it [alternative systems] as a positive thing,” said McDaniel. “Conventional systems treat the sewage, but alternative systems clean the sewage to a different level. There are places where alternative systems can be used to better treat the effluent.”

He emphasized the importance of properly maintaining all types of sewage systems and said he saw the new maintenance regulations as a way to improve VDH’s existing procedures.

“I think we’re going to clarify some better maintenance and monitoring of not just alternative but conventional [systems],” said McDaniel.

Panelists at the Coalition meeting, however, discussed potential problems with the AOSS regulations. Trapper Davis, from the Coastal Plains Environmental Group, LLC, said he maintains these systems and was also concerned with the cost for residential clients, which is currently $400 for a year of maintenance. He said that may deter people from keeping their sewage systems properly maintained. Davis also said he believed industry professionals do not have enough knowledge about proper maintenance for AOSS and this could be a problem once the interim regulations go into effect.

Bob Lee, from the Loudoun County Health Department, said many homeowners are unaware their sewage system is an AOSS, which could create a problem for trying to identify systems for inspection. Lee also emphasized the importance of establishing quantitative performance standards.

Allen Knapp, from the Virginia Department of Health, said the frequency and cost of monitoring are major issues for the implementation of AOSS.

Stormwater Management Requirements

The state is currently changing storm water management regulations for construction, local programs, and permit fees in order to increase water quality standards, in compliance with EPA standards for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) was created in 2004 with House Bill 1177, which authorized local authorities to implement stormwater management programs. The Soil and Water Conservation Board proposed amendments to parts I, II, III, and XIII of VSMP regulations on September 25, 2008. The amendments are still being discussed and there will be a 60-day public comment ending on August 21, 2009.

Ryan Brown, Policy and Planning Assistant Director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, described these amendments and said there will be a stricter phosphorous standard for new development from 0.45 lbs per acre per year to 0.28. The amendments also propose a decrease in nutrient levels for land redevelopment. Currently the standard is a 10% reduction to the predevelopment load and the amendments will require a 20% reduction in nutrients from the predevelopment load.

“This addresses new development and prevents us from making the situation worse,” said Brown.

Lisa Ochsenhirt, of Aqualaw, PLC, described the obligations for local governments in order to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. She stated the three year milestone goal is to increase the pace of reduction by 86% for nitrogen and 52% for phosphorous during 2009-2011. She said this reduction would cost Virginia’s state government a projected $1.2 billion. Ochsenhirt stated the consequences would include a tightening of regulations and permits, an increase in reporting and auditing, and an increase in lawsuits by the EPA, state, or citizens. She warned the High Growth Coalition that the restrictions would hit the high growth communities the hardest.

Mike Flagg, Director of Public Works for Hanover County, said Hanover had calculated the expense to retrofit areas with stormwater treatment from 2005 data and determined it would cost $1,525 a person. Flagg also declared it would cost $500 or more per lot to maintain the nutrient regulations for stormwater, all of which could create more expensive growth areas.

“We may actually be promoting sprawl with some of these rules,” said Flagg.

Thomas also commented at the Board of Supervisors meeting on how the stormwater regulations will affect Albemarle County.

“Our main concern I think in this community is that if you regulate stormwater in the city or in the urban area more stringently you’re just going to squish development out into the rural area because it will be a lot less expensive in the rural area,” said Thomas.

VDOT Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements (SSAR)

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has developed Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements (SSAR), which will become mandatory July 1, 2009. The SSAR includes three goals: ensuring the connectivity of road and pedestrian networks; minimizing impervious surface area; and addressing performance bonding needs of new secondary streets. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the SSAR in February 2009 and a transition period was instated from March 9 to June 30.

Ted McCormack, the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), outlined the requirements, which included a calculated interconnectivity index for each neighborhood. He stressed the importance of interconnectivity and said it would lead to less construction, increased pedestrian safety, a faster emergency vehicle response time, and a more efficient network overall. He said VDOT has determined that on average throughout Virginia, 10% of all trips are walking trips, demonstrating the lack of pedestrian accessibility.

Nick Donahue, Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Virginia, said VDOT has taken a position of not widening the right of way
to reduce congestion because they believe connectivity is a more successful solution.

“It’s much more cost effective for us to have connectivity so that people’s trips to school, the grocery store, etc. are on the local roads than it is for VDOT to widen the main roads,” said Donahue.

Donahue also answered questions about the impact a reduced state budget has had on VDOT. He said there have been cutbacks in many areas due to the decrease from $8.7 billion in revenue in FY2008 to $5.4 billion in FY2010.


  • 01:45 – Dennis Rooker asks about the Virginia Health Department’s view of alternative sewage systems
  • 04:45 – David Slutzky discusses the possibility of a cap and trade program
  • 06:45 – Rooker asks what local authority will regulate agricultural runoff
  • 07:55 – Ann Mallek comments on other counties’ setback requirements

January 06, 2009

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2008

In my weekly appearance today on WINA AM 1070 on the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot and I will count down Charlottesville Tomorrow's top-10 growth and development stories of 2008.

This is the third year we have counted down the top-10 growth and development stories in Charlottesville-Albemarle.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support of WINA for the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot for having me on the show each week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, and the excellent reporting by my colleague Sean Tubbs and our interns and fellows.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Brian Wheeler's Top 10 Stories

Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth and Development Stories of 2008

  1. Approved 50-year Community Water Supply Plan comes under scrutiny as proposed Ragged Mountain Dam cost estimates rise and citizen group demands look at project alternatives and dredging options. [Review all our water supply news].
  2. Major new housing and retail developments held up by market forces and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity impacting North Pointe and Albemarle Place developments). National economic recession impacts local government budgets, housing market, and new home construction.  New County residential building permits total 360 through September 2008, on track to be the lowest annual total in over a decade.
  3. Supervisor Ann Mallek’s first year representing the White Hall District on the six member Albemarle County Board of Supervisors results in several significant 4-2 votes breaking the 3-3 stalemate that had existed on issues like property taxes and rural area protection strategies.
  4. City and County agree to seek legislation to support formation of Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (CARTA), a jointly run public transit authority that would take over and expand the bus operations of the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS). Separate legislation is being recommended by a work group of Supervisors and City Councilors to seek authority to raise funds for transportation projects (including transit operations) via a local sales tax increase, if approved in a voter referendum in each locality.
  5. Meadowcreek Parkway construction contract (for the County’s portion) awarded to Faulconer Construction with work scheduled to begin in early 2009. City Council opts for grade-separated “signalized diamond” interchange for the Parkway’s intersection with the Route 250. The Steering Committee had recommended a design with an overpass above an oval roundabout. City Planning Commission ends their work in 2008 with a recommendation to withdraw funding for City’s portion of project which is scheduled to go to bid in early 2009. 
  6. Albemarle County approves several rural area protection strategies. Three rural area ordinance changes were approved related to holding periods on family sub-divisions, stream buffers, and driveways across steep slopes. A new land use taxation revalidation program is also approved by a unanimous vote of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. 
  7. County continues review of economic development policy update in comprehensive plan and eyes light industrial zoning needs. As part of a lengthy (and frequently delayed) review of the Economic Development chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, Supervisors overturn a Planning Commission decision and opt to continue review of Yancey Mills Business Park, a proposal for a light industrial business park in Crozet near the I-64 and Route 250 interchange. Review of the economic development goals began in November 2007 and is once again on the agenda of the Board of Supervisors for their meeting on January 7, 2009.
  8. Charlottesville City Council holds retreat in Staunton, VACharlottesville Tomorrow attends as only observer from public or media
  9. Albemarle County improves citizen and media access to important planning information by providing Internet access to complete staff reports provided to the County Planning Commission and by releasing the County View web application which allows detailed tracking of planning and building applications. Combined with the County’s GISWEB application and complete access to Board of Supervisor meeting materials and podcasts, the County has an impressive collection of material available online.
  10. Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Pie Day 2008.  No other topic generated as much positive feedback and listener calls as Coy and Brian’s ongoing radio dialogue about homemade pies.

Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2009

  • 50-year Community Water Supply Plan
  • Results of government efficiency reviews released by City and County.  What changes will be implemented?
  • Local elections will be held for City Council and Board of Supervisors (see Election Watch 2009)
  • General Assembly will block local sales tax increase for transportation funding and continue to shrink VDOT funding allocations to Charlottesville-Albemarle
  • Downtown Mall renovations will be completed.  Will it be under budget and on schedule? Monitor the progress here.
  • Local governments will face budget challenges as recession continues.  Revenue sharing from County to City will increase by $4 million to around $18 million a year.
  • Places29 Master Plan will be unveiled.  Will it be approved?
  • Crozet Master Plan’s first 5-year review gets underway
  • Meadowcreek Parkway construction gets underway. Will a lawsuit stall City’s portion?
  • Community will review of ASAP’s optimal population study findings

The best way to keep track of these and other stories about growth and development is to subscribe to our free weekly e-mail updates.  Thanks for listening, reading, and commenting in 2008!

Brian Wheeler

November 05, 2008

County joins City in endorsing resolution seeking permission to form new transit authority

David Blount, Legislative Liaison, TJPDC

On November 5, 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for enabling authority from the Virginia General Assembly to create a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in cooperation with the City of Charlottesville.  The resolution was presented to the Board for consideration by David Blount, Legislative Liaison with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.  A similar resolution was approved by City Council earlier this week.  As a result of this action, legislation allowing for the creation of a Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority is expected to be submitted for the 2009 General Assembly session by local legislators.

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A separate resolution, which would seek legislative approval for new local taxing powers to fund transit and transportation, has not yet been considered by City Council or the Board of Supervisors.  A work group of elected officials is continuing to meet with area stakeholders to reach consensus on what funding tools should be included in that second proposal.  Some local officials have stated that an RTA should not be created to replace the Charlottesville Transit System (CTS) without new sources of revenue being identified. 

20081104-BOS1 While road construction and maintenance has traditionally been funded at the state and federal level, area officials have said repeatedly that the state is not fulfilling its responsibility to adequately fund the area's transportation needs.  The City and County rely heavily on real estate property taxes to fund local budgets, but in the absence of state funding, they would prefer to fund major transportation projects with alternative sources of revenue.  A local gas tax or sales tax, however, would require authorization from the General Assembly.  The next step in the effort to create the RTA will be to focus on identifying specific funding sources and potential voter referendum requirements.

The RTA work group will report to City Council and the Board of Supervisors before the end of the year with their recommendations.  Their next meeting is scheduled for November 21, 2008.

The text of the resolution approved on November 5, 2008 is as follows:

Resolution To Seek Enabling Legislation To Establish a Regional Transit Authority In The Charlottesville-Albemarle Area
WHEREAS, transportation planning and systems are regional in scope; and
WHEREAS,  transportation planning includes both transit planning and transit operations; and
WHEREAS, limited transit facilities currently serve the overall Charlottesville-Albemarle area; and
WHEREAS, the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle intend to continue to serve existing ridership; and
WHEREAS, the City and County are interested in extended transit service to developing areas and providing faster, more frequent service to the existing system; and
WHEREAS, a Regional Transit Authority would coordinate regional transit planning and operations; and
WHEREAS, a Regional Transit Authority does not currently exist in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area; and
WHEREAS, enabling legislation is necessary to create a Regional Transit Authority.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the County of Albemarle requests that enabling authority for a Regional Transit Authority to serve the Charlottesville-Albemarle area be adopted.

Brian Wheeler

October 29, 2008

Area legislators offer feedback on proposals for transit authority and local tax increases for transportation

20081023-Legislative-Lunch1 The road got rough last week for local leaders trying to orchestrate the formation of a Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transit Authority (RTA).  On October 23, 2008, the task force of two City Councilors and two members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met with three area legislators to get their feedback to this regional approach to the state’s transportation funding crisis.  Before the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly, local leaders intend to endorse a legislative framework which, if approved in Richmond, would allow the creation of the RTA and for new taxing powers to raise funds for transportation.  

“We have a serious problem of inadequate funding to tackle our transportation challenges,” said Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio).  “Our community is being proactive… by coming up with a request for the enabling legislation to collaboratively manage our transit system.”

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Delegate David Toscano (D-57), Delegate Rob Bell (R-58), and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) listened to a description of the RTA project and then weighed in with their assessment of the political landscape in Richmond, and their home districts.  The legislators all offered their support to help Charlottesville and Albemarle seek authority to jointly operate a transit system.  However, funding it with new taxes ran into a mix of skepticism, alternative ideas, and outright opposition.  The legislators did agree that if there was to be any local tax increase, it would require a voter referendum.

Hanger and Toscano both expressed a preference for statewide solutions to fund transportation needs.  Hanger specifically suggested an income tax as a way to tap into the community’s wealth.  Hanger indicated a gas tax or a sales tax should only be adjusted at the state level.  Toscano said he didn’t want to “balkanize” the state’s approach to funding by giving Charlottesville-Albemarle a different set of taxing tools.

Rob Bell sat next to Supervisor David Slutzky and the two sparred over whether Albemarle residents should have the opportunity in a referendum to vote for a tax increase, solely to support transportation projects.  Slutzky said the voters should be able to decide whether they want to tax themselves.  Bell responded that the state and local government’s budgets had continued to grow in recent years and it was a question of how to allocate existing tax dollars.  Given the current national economic crisis, Bell said it wasn’t an appropriate time to raise anyone’s taxes.

“This is extraordinarily bad time to be looking at a tax increase,” said Delegate Bell.  Bell said he felt better that there was interest ina voter referendum, but that it was still an extraordinary request to seek a tax increase at a time when the economy is so fragile.

“That is a very substantial tax increase, and I am very concerned about it, said Bell.  “Nothing you have told me so far that would allow me to say, ‘Yes, I would support that.’”

Delegate David Toscano (D-57)

Delegate David Toscano said that since the General Assembly is unlikely to pass a statewide tax increase, local governments need to be granted the authority to do so by a voter referendum.  Toscano recommended the creation of a very concrete list of transportation projects that would receive support.  

“Specificity… is [the] key,” said Toscano.  “Unless you are specific, people are going to pick this thing to death and you won’t have a chance of getting it passed.”

As their almost two-hour conversation wrapped up, Dennis Rooker told the legislators that the community was not wed to a once cent sales tax increase and that even a half cent would be a significant help.  He warned, however, that the RTA was unlikely to move forward without new funding.

“I don’t know that the City really wants to cede control of transit in the absence of some commitment by the County [to expand funding],” said Rooker.  “Without additional revenues, it’s going to be difficult to do that.”

Councilor Huja agreed.  “I think the solution for the [Regional Transit] Authority alone without money is really a non-starter in my mind.”

Key points by local officials:

  • The state is not adequately funding transportation and allocations to this area have declined to the point no new major transportation project can be undertaken
  • Local government is being forced to fund transportation infrastructure
  • The City and County want to work together and provide increased support to public transit
  • In the absence of state funding, local government desires the power to levy a local tax that would generate revenues exclusively for transportation (including transit operations)
  • Authority to create the RTA and authority to raise a tax for transportation needs are two separate legislative matters
  • Funding transportation by increasing the local real estate property taxes should be avoided.  A sales tax increase is one likely option.
  • Taxing authority would remain in the hands of the elected officials (Council and Board of Supervisors).  The RTA would have no taxing powers.
  • A voter referendum on the tax increase could be required if that was deemed necessary to gain support in the General Assembly

Key points by General Assembly members:

  • A regional approach to public transit sounds like a good idea.
  • There should be specificity on the transportation projects to be supported by a tax increase.
  • There was no consensus as to which type of local tax should be increased, if any.
  • A voter referendum should be required for any local tax increase.

20081023-Legislative-Lunch2 The next day, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held their annual retreat.  Reflecting on the feedback from the legislators, Slutzky and Rooker gave their colleagues an assessment of the RTA’s legislative challenges.

“With the funding ideas that we put on the table, I certainly didn’t come away from that meeting feeling that they had much chance of getting passed this year,” said Rooker.  “We didn’t get real far with them on even accepting the idea of legislation that would enable us to have a referendum locally to determine if [our citizens] want to tax themselves to improve transportation in the area.”

Both Rooker and Slutzky recommended that enabling legislation still be pursued for the creation of the RTA, even if it could not be utilized in the near future.  Slutzky went further to say that, despite the cool reception from the legislators, he felt the community should also still move forward with the request for legislation allowing for a referendum on a local tax increase to support transportation.

The RTA work group meets again at the end of this week to select a legislative approach they can bring back to Charlottesville City Council and the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

Brian Wheeler


  • 01:26 – Call to order by Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), chair of the work group.  Slutzky shares the work group’s purpose, transportation funding challenges, and desire for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
  • 09:00 -- Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) provides background on the 2005 recommendations of the Transportation Funding Options Working Group (TFOG).
  • 16:57 – Rooker reports that a majority of citizens responding to a recent citizen survey, conducted for Albemarle County, indicated they would support increased taxes for transportation.
  • 21:11 -- Rooker comments on the difficulty of computing and collecting a local gas tax.
  • 32:07 – Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) shares his support for an RTA and mass transit.  He says there will be significant debate on the funding questions.  Hanger says there needs to be comprehensive tax reform in Virginia.  Hanger prefers sales taxes be adjusted uniformly across the state.
  • 34:40 – Senator Hanger describes challenges with sales tax and fuels tax.  Hanger prefers both be addressed statewide and said it would be reasonable to look at a gas tax as a transportation user fee.
  • 43:00 -- Senator Hanger says he would support a local income tax increase to take the burden off the property tax and to “capture the wealth of Charlottesville.”
  • 44:14 – Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) begins asking a series of detailed questions about the RTA proposal and funding options.
  • 48:20 -- Delegate Bell asks how much money would be raised on an annual basis with a 1 cent sales tax.  Rooker responds that 1 cent sales tax would raise about $25 million in Charlottesville and Albemarle County combined.
  • 48:30 – Delegate Bell asks what Albemarle County transportation projects would receive support.
  • 48:54 – Rooker outlines the current approval process by the County and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  He argues that the process for selecting projects would be no different if the state provided the funding vs. local governments raising the funds.
  • 1:09:09 – Slutzky asks Delegate Bell which taxing option he thinks might have more appeal.  Delegate Bell shares his view that a voter referendum on any tax increase would have to be a required for him to get even close to supporting this effort.
  • 1:10:22 – Delegate Bell says that state and local budgets continue to increase.  He says other priorities, besides transportation, have received support.  His first reaction is that a sales tax increase is not the answer to the funding problem.
  • 1:12:47 – Delegate Bell tells David Slutzky that he does not recall him bringing up a tax increase of this magnitude in his 2005 election for Supervisor.  Slutzky says at the time he supported a gas tax increase.  Rooker observes that a lot has changed with the funding picture since that election.
  • 1:20:57 -- Delegate Bell asks whether the proposed Western Bypass to Route 29 north of Charlottesville would be on the project list and eligible for support.  Slutzky responds that it is not a project on the list because in his view it fails any cost-benefit analysis.
  • 1:22:10 – Rooker says the Western 29 Bypass cost is estimated to be $300 million.  He shares VDOT’s opinion that even with the bypass Route 29 would have an “F-level of service” without additional improvements.
  • 1:28:10 -- Councilor Satyendra Huja asks Delegate Bell if he would support a tax increase, like a sales tax, if it had a voter referendum.  Bell answers that he could not support a tax increase unless it was approved by the majority of the voters first.  Huja points out that the group is seeking permission to ask that question of the voters.
  • 1:29:05 – Delegate Bell expresses concerns about the absence of a specific list of defined projects and costs.  Indicates the 1 cent sales tax increase seems to him an arbitrary way to arrive at a funding pool of $25 million.  Bell says this is an extraordinarily bad time to ask for a tax increase.
  • 1:32:50 – Delegate David Toscano says he is concerned about the balkanization of transportation funding around the state, but that since the General Assembly is unlikely to pass a statewide tax increase, local governments need to be granted the authority to do so.  Toscano recommends creation of a very concrete list of transportation projects that would receive support.  Toscano questions the size of the tax increase needed.
  • 1:39:45 -- Senator Hanger offers his closing remarks and says he prefers the local income tax option.
  • 1:43:40 – Delegate Bell offers his closing remarks and shares that nothing he has heard would lead him to support a local tax increase for transportation.
  • 1:46:45 – Rooker says even a half cent sales tax increase would help a lot.  He points out that the 1 cent number came from a consultant’s report that analyzed the transportation funding authority offered to Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.  Rooker says that a Regional Transit Authority is unlikely to go forward without additional funding.

October 17, 2008

Chamber of Commerce holds off endorsing regional transit initiative

Sue Lewis and Morgan Butler address the RTA Work Group including Supervisor David Slutzky and Mayor Dave Norris

The City-County work group developing a legislative strategy for the formation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) met on October 17, 2008 to give further consideration to feedback from community organizations that have been heavily involved in local transportation matters.  The two organizations that appeared before the group were the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, represented by Sue Lewis, and the Southern Environmental Law Center, represented by Morgan Butler.  Both organizations shared significant reservations about the proposals, though it appears the Chamber’s concerns may create significant obstacles to this local effort to address the state transportation funding crisis.

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At a September meeting, the RTA work group first started receiving feedback from some representatives of a diverse 2005 community transportation committee known as the Transportation Funding Options Working Group (TFOG).  Today’s meeting was planned as an opportunity for each organization to share its endorsement of enabling legislation both for the RTA and for new tax revenues to support local transportation projects.

Representing the Chamber of Commerce, Sue Lewis began by reading a prepared statement intended to reflect the Chamber’s position, though she acknowledged the Chamber leadership had not met to discuss any specific RTA proposal.

The statement emphasized past policy positions of the Chamber including: 1) keeping responsibility for funding transportation with state government; 2) seeing the completion of several specific transportation projects in the community; and 3) enhancement of “appropriate public transit options, including a regional transit system.”  

However, Lewis said the Chamber would prefer to see the governing body be named a “Transportation Authority” instead of a “Transit Authority” so that the focus of its efforts was clearly on matters beyond public transit.  The RTA work group has stated their intent for the authority to manage transit operations while enabling legislation for new taxes would allow revenues to be used more broadly for transportation projects, including road construction.

With respect to that separate legislation, yet to be drafted, that would seek funding authority, Lewis said the Chamber preferred a local gas tax over a sales tax.  

"In reference to the funding options, the Chamber would prefer the broader approach of a variety of local sources, rather than an increase in the sales tax.  Most of the other sources used by either the Northern Virginia or Williamsburg area Authorities are fairer and more directly linked to the uses of the funds….At this time, it doesn’t look like the Chamber will support a sales tax increase, but would be more favorable to a local gas tax and other options."

20081017-RTA-WG2 Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) reacted quickly to the statement.  “The position that the Chamber is taking, in my view, will greatly impair the community’s opportunity to get the funding.”

Lewis said she was trying to communicate that she hoped the legislation would not be written in a way that made the sales tax the only option.  Slutzky encouraged Lewis to go back to the Chamber leadership to discuss the importance of their support for this legislation and he warned that intransigence on the sales tax may lead to no new funding.  

“If the position of the Chamber becomes we won’t support the sales tax, that may be tantamount to [saying] ‘We would rather keep the status quo of funding,’” said Slutzky.

Slutzky outlined how he sees local government being forced to take on the job of transportation, something that requires the ability to raise revenues.  “We are going in front of a legislature made up of anti-tax zealots who have been completely derelict in their responsibility to fund transportation, in all of its forms, for local governments in Virginia,” said Slutzky. “What we are trying to do is approach that group…and say ‘Look you are not willing to do the job, let us do that job.’”

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) pointed out that the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) had indicated it could support a sales tax.  He said it would be very difficult to get a local gas tax approved in Richmond and that it would have to be twenty to thirty cents to generate comparable revenues.  With respect to a menu of other taxes, as was implemented in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, Rooker said that would be more confusing to the public.

“It’s much cleaner and straight forward, especially if we have a referendum requirement,  [for a sales tax] of a half cent or one cent,” said Rooker.  “People can really grasp very quickly the impact it will have on them financially and what they think the benefit is.”


Charlottesville Tomorrow asked Tim Hulbert, President of the Chamber of Commerce, whether he thought the Chamber Board of Directors would support a sales tax.  Hulbert, who was not present at the work group meeting, said he could not speculate on the Board’s position.  He encouraged a specific proposal be brought to the Chamber for consideration.

Hulbert did point out that the local Chamber parted company with its state organization when the Virginia Chamber of Commerce took a position to support a statewide sales tax increase of up to 1% in advance of the June 2008 special session of the General Assembly on transportation.  

The Chamber’s Economic and Government Affairs Committee stated in May 2008 that a gas tax was “the most direct, user-related, reliable source for… increased funding.”  Further, the Committee “did not endorse the sales tax method to raise new revenues as it would encompass virtually all consumer consumption rather than transportation uses.”

While Sue Lewis represented the Chamber during 2005 in the work of the Transportation Funding Options Working Group, Hulbert says the Chamber never endorsed the group’s October 2005 recommendations.

“We never signed on to that document,” said Hulbert.  “They were good discussions that we participated in.  However, we wouldn’t sign anything that described specific transportation priorities if it ignored the US Route 29 Western Bypass.”

The potential of having a road project like the Western Bypass receive new funding as a result of these legislative proposals for an RTA appeared to be among the concerns of the Southern Environmental Law Center.  

“From our point of view, we are concerned that some bad road projects may get funding,” said Attorney Morgan Butler.  “At this point there is no clear plan on the table.”

Butler asked for more specificity as to the process by which transportation projects would be added to or removed from the priority list.  In their discussion, the work group reached consensus to add language to the list of projects, and perhaps to the legislation, that indicated the revenues raised via any new taxing authority would only support projects identified in the City, County, and Metropolitan Planning Organization’s normal transportation plans.  

The RTA work group meets next on October 23, 2008 with members of the local General Assembly delegation to receive their input on legislative strategy.

Brian Wheeler

Note: Charlottesville Tomorrow is a member of the Charlottesville Area Regional Chamber of Commerce Brian Wheeler is a member of the Chamber’s Economic and Governmental Affairs Committee.  As a representative of Charlottesville Tomorrow, Mr. Wheeler does not vote on positions taken by the committee related to land use and transportation, or any other matters covered in the reporting of Charlottesville Tomorrow.


  • 01:04 – Call to order by Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), chair of the work group.
  • 02:10 – Sue Lewis addresses the group representing the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
  • 05:35 – Lewis explains how a gas tax is closer to the users of the transportation improvements.
  • 07:25 – Slutzky asks Chamber to give further consideration to legislative proposals with a sales tax.
  • 08:14 – Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) describes state funding cuts for transportation.  Mentions that Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) prefers a sales tax.
  • 11:47 – Lewis points out that the current draft list of projects that could receive financial support does not identify the expected costs of public transit.
  • 14:10 – Lewis reiterates Chamber position and explains that when more details of the RTA are clear, the Chamber be supportive.
  • 15:55 – Slutzky begins a discussion of how the transit authority and the funding options are being addressed in separate legislation.  He asks Lewis why the Chamber wants the authority itself to be focused on transportation as opposed to transit.
  • 20:42 -- Slutzky explains that the RTA work group does not want to be specific yet on the allocation of funding that would go to transit vs. transportation.
  • 28:55 – Attorney Morgan Butler addresses the group representing the Southern Environmental Law Center.
  • 29:44 – Rooker responds to Butler’s concern about who would decide what projects would receive support.
  • 31:06 – Butler continues describing preference for allocating funds to a known list of projects.
  • 32:42 – Slutzky outlines how he thinks the existing transportation planning process and the MPO can set priorities with meaningful community input.
  • 50:00 – Lewis asks whether a voter referendum will be required for any new taxes.
  • 51:00 -- Slutzky summarizes what he would like to receive from the Chamber and the Southern Environmental Law Center.  He asks for clarification from the Chamber which funding options they will support.
  • 52:08 – Jennifer Lyttle, Assistant Albemarle County Attorney, points out that no draft legislation to enable new funding sources will be prepared until after the October 23, 2008 meeting with local legislators.

October 07, 2008

City Council adopts legislative strategy for 2009 General Assembly


The next session of the Virginia General Assembly is in three months, and the Charlottesville City Council has adopted its legislative strategy. In addition for asking for permission to create a Regional Transit Authority, Council is also asking for permission for the City to tax property owners to pay for the placing of utility lines underground, as well as the ability for the City to make loans to property owners to pay for clean energy improvements.

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The Council took up the legislative strategies in two parts during their meeting on October 6, 2008. First, they heard from David Blount, the Legislative Liaison for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). Blount is coordinating the region’s efforts to secure various legislative goals, which include the following regional priorities:

  • The Planning District localities urge the governor and legislature to honor their funding obligations to services provided in cities and counties by their local government partners, and to resist shifting fiscal responsibility for these programs to localities.
  • The Planning District localities encourage the state to provide local governments with additional tools to manage growth, without preempting or circumventing of existing authorities.
  • The Planning District localities urge the state to establish separate, dedicated and permanent state revenue streams for our transportation infrastructure. The state also should not shift road maintenance and construction responsibilities to localities.
  • The Planning District’s member localities urge the state to be partners in containing costs of the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) and to better balance CSA responsibility between state and local government.

Blount said the TJPDC is requesting that the General Assembly not restrict the system of cash proffers that allow localities to charge developers for a portion of the construction of infrastructure. Last year, Senate Bill 768 would have repealed that authority in exchange for impact fees that would be capped at $7,500 per unit. In Albemarle County, the expectation for a cash proffer for a single family detached home is currently $17,800 per unit (adjusted annually for inflation). There is no set number in the City of Charlottesville. 

The TJPDC is also calling for a solution to the state’s transportation funding crisis, as well as the ability for Albemarle County and Charlottesville to establish “governance and funding mechanisms” for a Regional Transit Authority. The legislative program also calls for funding for improvements on rural portions of Route 29, increased funding for VDOT’s revenue-sharing agreement, as well as funding to pay for the TransDominionExpress.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro asked Blount if “governance and funding mechanism” meant that both would have to be in place for the RTA to go forward. Blount said that two separate pieces of legislation will be crafted to address each of those two items. Councilor Satyendra Huja suggested changing the TJPDC’s legislative program to create a separate sentence addressing each point to reflect that fact, which Blount agreed to do. 

Blount said he would also help support the City with its legislative goals, which are much more specific. They were introduced by City Attorney Craig Brown, who listed the requests. Here are the ones that relate to land use and transportation.

  • Request to designate Rivanna River from South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to former Woolen Mills Dam as a state scenic river
  • Request for authority to impose of taxes or assessments for certain local improvements on abutting property owners. The proposed amendment would allow the costs of undergrounding utilities to be assessed against the property owner, either through an agreement with the property owner or by a two-thirds vote of City Council.
  • Request for enabling legislation to create regional transit authority as well as the authority to impose an additional 1% sales tax to funding local and regional transit and transportation improvements. Actual legislation to be crafted by RTA working group and approved by Council on November 3
  • Request to give Charlottesville the power to “make loans to homeowners to finance the initial acquisition and installation costs of certain clean energy improvements”. These loans would be repaid through extra payments added to the property tax bill. City Sustainable Committee to develop legislation with review by Council in November.

City Attorney Craig Brown

Norris asked why Attorney Brown was calling for a 1% sales tax, opposed to a 1-cent sales tax. Attorney Brown said City Council minutes show they discussed a 1% sales tax, but that he would make the change.  Huja wanted the request to specifically mention other funding options if the General Assembly does not grant the sales tax option. Attorney Brown said those details are in the legislative package.

Councilor David Brown wanted an example of how the City might have used the power to assess additional property taxes for “certain local improvements.” Huja responded that City already used that power in the Corner district “many years back, about 15 years back.” Brown asked why the City lost the authority. Attorney Brown said the new legislation would specifically address undergrounding utilities, whereas the existing power allows the City to assess abutting property owners for sidewalks, curb and gutters, utility lines. Norris said he supported getting the authority to impose such an assessment, but said he was not sure if he would vote for it.

“My concern is that if the City were to agree to underground some utilities without the consent of adjacent property owners… and that’s a very expensive proposition, to hit them with a bill, without consent even though there are benefits to them, it gives me pause,” Norris said. Councilor Holly Edwards said she was concerned as well.

City Manager Gary O’Connell said the authority would help move projects forward by allowing property owners to amortize their contribution over time through the tax assessment.

Sean Tubbs