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June 14, 2012

Albemarle says shorter can be better when it comes to comprehensive plans

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 14, 2012

As a planner in Albemarle County for the past 15 years, Elaine Echols is one of the most knowledgeable officials guiding the locality’s update of its comprehensive plan. While changes happen each year, a major rewrite hasn’t happened since 1996, shortly before Echols started her job.

However, the plan she was handed as a new employee fit in a single three-ring binder. Today, she can only show community groups photos of the comprehensive plan. That’s because it’s too cumbersome to carry around.

Elements of Albemarle County's Comprehensive Plan in June 2012
Credit: Elaine Echols

“I took this picture yesterday, and I’m not sure it’s inclusive of everything, but this is our comprehensive plan,” Echols said Wednesday to a meeting of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. “You can see why it needs to be reduced in bulk.”

“We have master plans, a biodiversity report and recommendations, open space plans … the neighborhood model and historic preservation,” Echols observed of the stacks of material. “We’ve got a lot of plans where the substance doesn’t need to go but the form needs to be changed.”

Albemarle is reaching out to various stakeholders to get them involved in the effort. A similar process is under way in Charlottesville and both localities are working in concert with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The TJPDC received a three-year $1 million federal grant in 2010 grant for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project.

Tom Olivier is the chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. He followed up Echols’ presentation from the perspective of a long time environmental advocate in the community. He said he agreed having a more accessible plan was a “completely reasonable goal.”

“A plan should not be highly specific,” Olivier said. “It ceases to be a plan if it is so detailed that people can’t find the principles readily.

“At the same time, when text is reduced, it’s very easy for nuances and small bits of text which nonetheless involve key commitments, to get changed or eliminated,” Olivier warned. “We need for citizens with knowledge and commitment to be involved and look at the drafts as they are brought before the Planning Commission.”

Continue reading "Albemarle says shorter can be better when it comes to comprehensive plans" »

May 03, 2012

Biotech leaders say their industry is primed for growth around university

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 3, 2012

On one side of town, advocates for limiting local population growth told the Albemarle supervisors a new study recommending industries targeted for economic growth was flawed. In part, they said, because new businesses would seek to retain in the community students graduating from the University of Virginia.

Graham Anthony, CFO of Biovista

Later that evening in the city of Charlottesville, a mix of local officials, investors, innovators and start-up incubators gathered to talk about the work that’s already happening to grow the area’s biotech sector.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Download 20120502-TTFF-IS

A panel of speakers assembled Wednesday as part of the Tom Tom Founders Festival’s innovation series said they need students to stay in the area after graduating and that biotech is growth that’s good for the community.

In the audience of about 40 people, City Councilor Kathy M. Galvin challenged the crowd to work toward getting local government and the community to “embrace the idea of growth” to address “entrenched poverty.”

“I think when we no longer have 18 percent unemployment among our 18- to 30-year-old population in the city, when we no longer have over 50 percent of our children on the free and reduced[-price] lunch program in the city, [then] I think we can be very comfortable and say we don’t need to worry about growth and economic vitality,” Galvin said.

Continue reading "Biotech leaders say their industry is primed for growth around university" »

October 12, 2011

Albemarle planning commission considers growth area expansion

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 12 2011

The Albemarle Planning Commission began the review of the county comprehensive plan Tuesday with a work session on whether to expand the growth area to accommodate new development.

The county adopted a comprehensive plan in 1980 that designated 5 percent of its land to be used for dense residential and commercial use. Development is discouraged in the rest of the county in order to preserve environmental resources.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: 

Download 20111011-APC-Part1

Landowners can ask that their property be added to the growth area. Requests made over the past few years have been deferred until the comprehensive plan began.

“The reason for the postponing of the analysis and decision has to do with an overall look at the ability of the current land use plan designations to help the county accomplish its goals and specifically its growth management goals,” said Elaine Echols, a senior planner with the county.

The county is estimating that it will have an additional 34,000 residents by 2030. Staff estimated there would need to be between 1,770 and 7,438 new units to accommodate that population growth. However, they also concluded there are just over 8,000 units that have been approved by the county but not yet built.

“There is sufficient residential capacity to accommodate population growth through 2030 within current development area boundaries,” said Andy Sorrell, a planner in the county’s community development department.

Since the last comprehensive plan review, 792 acres that had been designated as growth area were sold to the state of Virginia for creation of the new Biscuit Run State Park.

Staff has suggested the county make up for the loss in part by adding the Whittington and Mosby Mountain developments to the growth area for a net gain of 348 acres.

Download Download staff presentation on growth area expansion requests

On the other hand, staff has recommended against approving the 12 requests received including one that would allow for the expansion of Redfields, which is further north of the planned Whittington development on Old Lynchburg Road.

Attorney Stephen Blaine objected that expansion at Whittington might be granted over a project he represents.

“[Redfields] is an area that’s being skipped over for other areas that are less suitable for development,” Blaine said.

But Christina Parker, a Redfields resident, reminded the commission that they denied a rezoning request to expand the development in late September. She said the commission had agreed with the neighborhood that the infrastructure is not in place to handle the additional growth.

Landowner James Morris is seeking to add his land off Barracks Road into the growth area.

“The property is located in the urban ring and surrounded by much more intense usage than the rural area [designation] will allow,” Morris wrote in his request. “It has lost its appeal as a single family home, but would work great for me to have an office there.”

Next door is a 14.7-acre property near the Montvue neighborhood which developer Charles Hurt wants to include in the development area. Hurt is also applying to add a 156.8-acre parcel further up Barracks Road that, if approved, could see an additional 312 to 628 housing units.

Both properties are in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“I cannot support any development in the watershed,” said commissioner Tom Loach. “We should take this time when we have extra capacity to look at our patterns of development.”

But Jo Higgins, who is representing Hurt, said the rezoning process could easily allow the developer to mitigate any impact on the watershed.

“The government can be smart about it and use [the comprehensive plan] as a strategic tool,” Higgins said.

The Vermillion family has asked for 27 acres on Stony Point Road to be included in the development area. The Board of Supervisors denied a similar request when the Pantops Master Plan was approved in March 2008.

“Years ago when the growth area began we were included in the initial drawing and we felt it was to our best advantage at that time not to be in the growth area,” said Vermillion said. “We now regret that. It’s become apparent it’s to our advantage because we are 25-acre island surrounded by development.

Map depicting location of Somerset Farm

Another expansion request is for Somerset Farm, a 710 acre tract owned by developer Wendell Wood that is to the east of Route 20. Wood plans to build up to 1,902 homes in the area with 350,000 square feet of commercial or office use.

“Somerset Farm is within walking distance to Monticello High School and Cale Elementary School,” Wood said. “It has public water and sewer. It’s within a mile of an interstate highway and a mile and a half away from downtown Charlottesville.”

Wood said he would develop it by-right if the growth area expansion was not granted.

“I don’t think that would be good planning for this county,” Wood said.

Echols said the goal is for the Board of Supervisors to adopt the comprehensive plan update by January 2013.

Update: After press time, the commission voted 4-2 to recommend against approving any of the growth area expansion requests. Details of the vote will be covered in an upcoming Charlottesville Tomorrow article.


  • 01:00 - Planning Commissioner Cal Morris explains discussion
  • 02:15 - Elaine Echols explains comprehensive planning process and begins review of county demographics
  • 07:15 - Discussion of development in the rural section and whether comprehensive plan goals are being met
  • 14:30 - Planner Andy Sorrell begins review of land-use analysis that concluded the county has enough approved dwelling units
  • 33:30 - Public comment period on demographics and land-use begins
  • 49:30 - Commission further discusses demographics and land use analysis
  • 58:30 - Elaine Echols begins discussion of the 12 expansion areas
  • 1:24:45 - Commission begins discussion of expansion areas


September 23, 2011

Audio & Video of Charlottesville City Council candidate forum

2011-election-DPx476On September 20, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress co-sponsored a city council candidate forum for six of the seven candidates (eight at that time) running for three of the five seats on Charlottesville City Council.
Local residents came to the Burley Middle School auditorium to hear the candidates respond to questions posed by the moderator, the audience, and each other.  Read this article for complete coverage by Charlottesville Tomorrow.


Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110920-CityCouncilForum


The candidate forum participants
  • Brandon Collins (I)
  • Bob Fenwick (I)
  • Kathleen M. Galvin (D)
  • Satyendra Huja (D)
  • Dede Smith (D)
  • Andrew Williams (I)
  • Brian Wheeler, Moderator

Not participating

Charlottesville City Council
candidate forum
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.


Water plan
As the primary approach for adding to our long term water supply, do you favor dredging and water conservation before construction of a new or taller dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, YES or NO?

Meadow Creek Parkway
Do you support construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway in the city of Charlottesville, YES or NO? 

Ward-based elections
Would you support switching from at-large seats to ward-based representation for elections to Charlottesville City Council, YES or NO?


Your qualifications for City Council
Please describe your past experience that qualifies you to be on City Council.

Transportation / Transit
Do you support an expanded transit system? If so, how would you raise the money to pay for additional service?

City-County-UVA relations
How should the city, county and the University of Virginia work together to enhance our community’s unique character and economic vitality?

Workforce development / Jobs
Last month the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reported that Charlottesville lost 3,248 jobs during the years 2000 to 2010.  What specifically should city council do to promote employment?

Do you support the city school board’s grade reconfiguration initiative?  Why or why not?

Comprehensive plan
Recent projections show that the city’s population will increase significantly in the next 50 years.  What changes would you advocate for in the city’s comprehensive plan to address that growth?

Police / crime
What is your top priority for the city police department?

After the moderator questions, the candidates each answered one question from the audience.  Then each candidate had an opportunity to ask another candidate a question.


August 30, 2011

Population and employment projections assessed in new water demand forecast

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A 50-year water demand forecast for Charlottesville-Albemarle has been updated in advance of a public hearing to be held in September.

AECOM Technology Corp.’s projections now show slightly less water consumption, but greater projected population growth.

Download Download AECOM's August 2011 water demand forecast

Late last week, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority released AECOM’s final forecast updating a July draft. The state is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2. 

Kim Shorter, AECOM

“The final regional water supply demands reflect the future human water demands of the regional water supply planning area which includes the citizens in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Town of Scottsville, and Crozet,” said Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM, in an email. “These forecasts will support development of the Regional Water Supply Plan, required by the Virginia Local and Regional Water Supply Planning regulations.”

This research is separate from the water storage plan being implemented for the urban water supply, which includes a new earthen dam and water supply pipeline to accommodate future droughts and population growth. Yet its findings allow a review of that 50-year water plan’s assumption that the community would need 18.7 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2055.

That original demand assumption was part of the information local leaders had in hand when voting to approve the $140 million water supply plan. Since, both the demand projections and the approved plan have come under intense scrutiny by those who believe dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could provide enough water for the city, urban areas of Albemarle and the University of Virginia.

A report released in July
by the RWSA indicated one-time dredging would produce a so-called “safe yield” of 9.2 mgd and continuous dredging of South Fork for 50 years would produce a safe yield of 10.3 mgd.

AECOM’s forecast revises the projected water needs downward to 16.17 mgd in 2055, a 13.5 percent drop from the water storage plan’s original assumptions. The report indicates current water usage is about 9.76 mgd.

AECOM’s estimate extends to 2060, when it projects demand will be 16.96 mgd. The revised figures are a slight decrease from AECOM’s July estimate of 17.01 mgd.

AECOM’s forecast method evaluates population projections, jobs, residential per capita water use and per employee water use. Baseline projections are then evaluated against other factors like water conservation, use of efficient water fixtures, area comprehensive plans and potential fluctuations in population or employment.

While AECOM considered scenarios that called for greater water usage, it ultimately lowered its estimates somewhat from the established baseline despite rising population projections.

At a July public input session, residents raised concerns about AECOM’s population projections for Charlottesville. In the previous report, the city’s 2010 population of 43,475 was projected to increase to 71,500 in 2060, reportedly based upon input from city planners.

At the last City Council meeting, Mayor Dave Norris asked city staff for feedback on the population projection, which he called a “pretty shocking estimate.”

“AECOM had expressed to folks that we had provided those numbers to them, which in fact we did not,” said City Manager Maurice Jones to council on Aug 1. “[AECOM] said they would go back … and reevaluate those numbers.”

In its final report, AECOM revised its estimate and disaggregated the University of Virginia student population between Charlottesville and Albemarle. The result is a revised city population projection of 63,482.

However, with the addition of on-grounds students that live in Albemarle but use city water, the population for the city’s “water service area” is projected to be 72,642, representing a further increase of 1,142 from the July estimate.

“We received additional information to help us refine the population forecasts,” Shorter said. “One of the refinements included a closer look at UVa population and the difference between the water-supplied population and the demographic population.”

Rebecca Quinn, chair of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, which favors dredging before building a new dam, said she remains concerned about the city population estimates and was surprised to see them go up even higher in the latest report.

“How can it go up?” asked Quinn. “I would like to know what the city has to say about the population numbers. It looks like they have simply taken the growth rate from the last six years and straight-lined it.”

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, said he thought the new population numbers were “reasonable.”

“What they basically did was lower that number from 71,500 to 63,482,” said Tolbert. “As they explained to me, the water service area includes the city plus the [UVa] students living on Grounds who do not live in the city.”

AECOM also raised its long-term estimate for Albemarle’s population of urban water users.

According to the report, the Albemarle County Service Authority had 51,095 urban water users in 2010. That is projected to increase to 112,210 in 2060 as the county directs further population growth into its urban growth areas on public water. That represents an increase of 10,348 from the July estimate.

“I think the way it was developed was about as reasonable a way as you could develop one,” Tolbert added. “It is very difficult to do a population projection in this community.”

On Sept. 13 AECOM will present its final forecast to a joint meeting of the “four boards” — the RWSA board, the ACSA board, Charlottesville City Council, and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. A separate presentation will be made to Scottsville’s Town Council on Sept. 12.

July 21, 2011

Audio & Video of Charlottesville City Council candidate forum

On July 20, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress co-sponsored a city council candidate forum for the seven candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for three of the five seats on Charlottesville City Council.

About 150 people filled the Burley Middle School auditorium to hear the candidates respond to questions posed by the moderator, the audience, and each other.  Read this article for complete coverage by the Daily Progress.

Photo by Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110720-CityDemsForum

Download Download complete transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

The Charlottesville Democratic Party will hold an “unassembled caucus,” also known as a Firehouse Primary, on Saturday, August 20th, from 9am to 7pm at Burley Middle School to select its three council nominees.  One candidate for Clerk of the Charlottesville Circuit Court will also be nominated.

In the primary, Charlottesville Democrats may vote for up to 7 council candidates and rank them by order of preference.  This ranking is to facilitate an instant runoff in the event there is not a simple majority.

The candidate forum participants
  • Paul Beyer
  • Colette E. Blount
  • Brevy Cannon
  • Kathleen M. Galvin
  • James Halfaday
  • Satyendra Huja
  • Dede Smith
  • Brian Wheeler, Moderator

Charlottesville City Council Democratic
candidate forum
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.


Quick response topics

Do you support construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway in the city of Charlottesville, YES or NO?

Do you support the Western Bypass route now in place if the state fully funds its construction as well as fully funding other local transportation priorities such as the Belmont Bridge replacement, Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended, the widening of Route 29, and the improvement of the Best Buy ramp to the U.S. 250 Bypass? YES or NO?

As the primary approach for adding to our long term water supply, do you favor dredging and water conservation before construction of a new or taller dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, YES or NO?

Moderator questions (each candidate received 3 of the 7 questions)

What is your transportation agenda for the city and how will you fund AND implement it? 

City-County relations
Much is made of the status of city-county relationships and the importance of maintaining and strengthening this relationship. On a grading scale of A to F, how would you grade this relationship, and how do you think it can be improved?

Performance measurements for local government
Do you think the city is doing a good job of measuring its performance on the implementation of its vision and council priorities? Would you favor any specific other approaches or methodology?

Water supply
Are you planning to seek a new vote by the council on the previously approved 50-year water supply plan and how would you change the plan, if at all?

Role of City Council
What are the top responsibilities that you believe City Council should be actively and consistently engaged in?

Are you satisfied with the performance of the city schools? How would you support continuous improvement as a member of City Council?

Workforce development / Jobs
What do you see as the best opportunities to develop career-ladder jobs that city residents can pursue?

After the moderator questions, the candidates each answered one question from the audience.  Then each candidate had an opportunity to ask another candidate a question.


July 13, 2011

Residents urge for water plan to include aggressive conservation efforts

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

At three meetings this week, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has received public input on water demand forecasts by AECOM Technology Corporation for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area. The commonwealth of Virginia is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2.

Kim Shorter, AECOM Technology Corporation

“The intent of the Virginia regulations was to have communities think about their long-range future because water supply takes a long time to develop,” said Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM, in an interview. “Virginia wanted people to think about drought conditions and think about long-term plans.”

The 50-year water supply plan approved first in 2006 and again in 2011 uses a new dam and supply pipeline to produce 18.7 million gallons per day by 2055. AECOM’s forecast revises that need downward to 16.26 mgd by 2055, a 13 percent drop, and at 17.01 mgd by 2060. 

“Between fiscal years 2002 and 2003 there’s about a 20 percent drop in average per capita water use,” Shorter said. “The changes continued for an eight-year history, so we feel that the last five years of data are an appropriate basis for planning.”

AECOM’s draft report received a lot of praise at a meeting Tuesday attended by about 35 people at Burley Middle School. However, opponents of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir challenged the engineering firm’s assumptions about water conservation and the city’s population growth.

Rebecca Quinn is chair of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, which favors dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir instead of building a new dam, as called for the approved $140 million urban water supply plan.

“I do not believe conservation has been adequately accounted for,” said Quinn. “We have got to include the savings with faucets and showerheads. You may think it’s negligible, but it may make a difference to us.”

Shorter said faucets and showerheads had been shown in other areas to have a negligible impact on water demand. However, she praised the “very low” per capita usage in the community today and said there was room to improve with the widespread installation of more efficient toilets.

Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, said he worried about water supply planning that depended too heavily on future conservation efforts. 

“I hope as a community we embrace conservation, but we shouldn’t count our chickens before they are hatched,” Williamson said. 

While projected water needs are on the decline, population estimates for the urban area remain steady. However, the report’s forecast that Charlottesville would increase in population from 43,475 today to 71,500 in 2060 raised some eyebrows.

Albemarle resident Kirk Bowers

Kirk Bowers, a county resident, challenged the assumptions around the city’s population growth that he said indicated 7,000 new units of housing would have to be built.

“Where are they going to be put? Where is the land for them? Is this all going to be vertical construction?” Bowers asked. “I think your figures may be a bit high on that issue and I’d like to ask you to look at that again.”

Shorter said AECOM relied on each locality to provide its own population estimates for the study.

“If you look historically in Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville, there has been very slow steady growth [in population] and we do forecast that to continue,” Shorter said. “For Charlottesville, that is based upon information provided by the city planning division.”

“I didn’t see anything that caused a big concern,” said Shorter in an interview. “At the end of the day I don’t know if it matters for this study if [population growth] is in the city of Charlottesville or in Albemarle County, because it’s the same source of water.”

AECOM will present its final forecast to local officials in September.

June 15, 2011

Neff seeks to challenge Boyd for Albemarle Board of Supervisors

DailyProgressBy Frank Muraca & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Retired IBM executive Cynthia Neff announced Tuesday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the Rivanna seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

“I’ve decided to run for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors against Ken Boyd, because someone needs to stand up for the residents of the Rivanna District and Albemarle County,” Neff said.

20110614-Neff Neff criticized the current board for its vote last Wednesday to reverse the county’s position on development of a Western Bypass for U.S. 29.

“What’s been going on recently at the Board of Supervisors is appalling, even embarrassing,” Neff said. “Deciding to vote against the rules in place [for meetings] to decide on important community issues at 11:30 at night, then changing the county’s transportation strategy in the dead of night, is not OK.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110614-neff-announcement

Scottsville Supervisor Lindsay G. Dorrier, Jr. asked the board to reconsider the bypass and four Albemarle Supervisors, including Boyd, voted to direct its representatives on the Metropolitan Planning Organization to remove language blocking the state from allocating money for its construction.  The topic was not on the meeting agenda for public comment and the board had to suspend its rules of order to enact the change. 

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, a Republican, is seeking re-election to a third term on the board. He was unavailable Tuesday to comment on Neff’s announcement.

Neff, 59, who ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2009 against Republican Rob Bell, made her announcement on the steps of the County Office Building while flanked by about 20 city and county residents.

Neff moved to Albemarle County in 2006 after retiring from IBM. She currently serves as board president for the AIDS/HIV Service Group and is on the board of directors for Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population. In 2008, the county contributed $25,000 to ASAP’s study of the city and county’s optimal population size.

“What I hope to find with ASAP, is to take all the research we’ve done, all the studies that have been done, all of the impact, work with the comprehensive plan, understand what it looks as it’s built out,” said Neff. “Is this working? Do we have the accompanying infrastructure? What is the impact on our natural resources?”

Neff outlined her other priorities, which included education and strong city, county and university relations.

“The [priority] that comes to the top of my mind is, first and foremost, is always education,” Neff said. “If we don’t have a maniacal focus on our community to make sure that our kids get a quality education that builds the future, we will never be successful.”

Neff said that she was wary of approving development that would bring low-paying jobs, where workers would be unable to live in the county.

“When I think of the economic development plan, I think of the recent MicroAire move here, I look at NGIC, I look at…the [University of] Virginia Research Park,” Neff said. “Those are the kind of jobs that we need, jobs that add value to the community.”

Neff also emphasized government transparency as a priority. She said it has been difficult to learn about Albemarle’s comprehensive plan and development plans.

“I also learned that sometimes the process wasn’t quite as transparent as it should be and that financial pressures made for strange bedfellows between the county and developers,” Neff said.

On the water supply plan, Neff said she supports the current plan to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

“I support the water supply plan [and I am willing to] learn a bit more, but I have seen nothing in the water supply plan … to say, ‘I don’t support that,’” Neff said.

Democrats will nominate their candidate in a caucus on Aug. 15. Currently, both Neff and Boyd are uncontested for their party’s nomination. Ann H. Mallek, the Democratic incumbent from White Hall, is currently running uncontested. In Scottsville, Democrat Christopher J. Dumler and Republican Jim Norwood are running to replace the retiring Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. The general election is Nov. 8.

Watch the video below:

Cynthia Neff announces bid for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

May 27, 2011

Public provides feedback in advance of new study on long-term water needs

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 27, 2011

After several years of debate about the decision to secure the community’s long-term water supply needs through the construction of a new dam and pipeline, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority now finds itself in the middle of another study of the region’s water needs.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is requiring localities to submit a comprehensive water supply plan by Nov. 2. One element of the plan will be a new study of the region’s 50-year water needs.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110526-RWSA-water-demand

About 25 people, mostly Charlottesville residents, came to a public input session Thursday to learn about the project and the process for calculating a new water-demand forecast.

“Previous conversations in this community about water…have focused on building a project for the urban water system, and those conversations led to the decision to build a new Ragged Mountain dam,” said Mike Gaffney, the RWSA chairman, in a media release.  “This focus is different. It’s a new conversation that is not about a dam or any other project focus; it is instead about regional, comprehensive planning, focused on water.”

Rebecca Quinn, with Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, insists the conversation is still about the dam, which the RWSA says it expects to start building by the end of 2011. Quinn says the community has a responsibility to adjust the water plan based upon the study’s findings.

“They don’t intend to use the results to revisit anything about the approved water supply plan,” said Quinn in an interview.  “They say the plan is adopted. I challenge that position.”

“We have not passed the irrevocable line on the water plan,” Quinn said. “We believe that if this new demand analysis, which we think is being done very well, if it shows our 50-year need is really different, we do have a responsibility to reevaluate our plans.”

RWSA officials and water plan activists have been debating the requirements of the state-mandated process for the past couple of years. Thomas L. Frederick Jr., RWSA’s executive director, said Thursday that the new study would provide helpful data that could impact the phasing of the water plan.

“The results of this analysis will definitely be considered with respect to the rate we implement different facilities within the approved water supply plan,” said Frederick in an interview.

The almost $140 million community water plan, originally approved in 2006, was based primarily upon water demand analyses completed in 1997 and 2004. To meet the projected 50-year needs, Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors agreed in February to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir for water storage. A new supply pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be built later to help keep it full.

The RWSA has hired AECOM, a global engineering firm and fortune 500 company, to analyze historical water use and project future water needs. The research involves all water users, including those on private wells and public water users in both Crozet and Scottsville.

Since 2007 opponents of the new dam, which would inundate nearly 100 acres in the Ragged Mountain natural area when the water level is raised 30-feet, have said that older demand estimates are overstated and that the community can spend less money on a smaller water supply that emphasizes dredging and conservation. 

Quinn said if any dam is going to be built it should be a smaller concrete extension of the 1908 lower Ragged Mountain dam.

“The beauty of the concrete dam is that we can [raise it incrementally] and pay for it when it’s needed, rather than all at once now,” Quinn said. “Then we have another 10, 20, 30 years of enjoyment of all the trees at Ragged Mountain.”

Tom Olivier spoke as chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. He encouraged the AECOM consultants to consider the community’s interest in environmental protection and sustainability. 

“We think it’s feasible that this community would support stronger water conservation measures, readily, than would many communities in many parts of the United States,” Olivier said. “We ask that…you consider using more aggressive conservation programs.”

“We also think it’s plausible that the growth rate of our population may decline over time in the face of the fact that our environment is limited,” Olivier added. “We ask that in the scenarios that you model you include some which include a declining rate of population growth.”

AECOM will present its initial findings at community meetings being held July 11 and 12. Their final report will be completed in September.

For more information see: http://rivanna.org/waterplan/index.htm

April 26, 2011

Three-year regional planning effort to launch on Wednesday

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Despite challenges facing some regional projects like the water supply and the Meadow Creek Parkway, Charlottesville, Albemarle, and University of Virginia will launch a three-year planning effort Wednesday under the rubric “many plans, one community.”

Stephen W. Williams, Executive Director, TJPDC

Coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, the primary objective of the “Livability Partnership” is to inform simultaneous updates of the city and county comprehensive and transportation plans.

“This is another example of where the city and Albemarle County are using a shared vision and are working together to make life for the residents in our community even better,” Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said in a prepared statement.

Last October TJPDC received a $999,000 federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to prepare a regional “sustainability implementation plan.”

“This may well be the biggest and most collaborative planning project that’s ever been attempted here in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area,” said Stephen W. Williams, TJPDC’s executive director at a briefing last week.

Listen to the Livability Partnership project briefing at the Planning and Coordination Council, Technical Advisory Committee (PACC-Tech) meeting held April 21, 2011.  Use the player above or download the podcast:
Download 20110421-PACC-Tech-Livability

Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning, Albemarle County

According to Wayne Cilimberg, Albemarle’s director of planning, the county’s last full comprehensive plan update was in 1989. Numerous chapters have been updated and added in the years since, most recently the Places29 master plan for the growth area along U.S. 29 North.

“We decided a year and a half ago that we were going to do a complete comprehensive plan review,” Cilimberg said in an interview. “[TJPDC] is providing assistance for some elements of the comprehensive plan that we will then have to take through our process. We want to figure out the common elements with the city of Charlottesville that we need to look at as a community.”

According to the draft consortium agreement, five major products will be produced as part of the partnership. These include:

  • A performance measurement system,
  • a common land-use and transportation map,
  • identification of specific “livability strategies,”
  • recommendations for changes to local regulations, and
  • a plan for voluntary changes by the public and organizations to improve livability in the community.

Carole Thorpe, chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, said her group was encouraging citizens to attend the project’s kick-off event on Wednesday.

“The Tea Party has concerns, and while I can’t speak for everybody in our group, I know a lot of what goes into this [involves] property rights and extensive government regulations,” said Thorpe in an interview. “What’s suggested today becomes a regulation tomorrow. That is a concern of the Tea Party.”

Thorpe said that the Tea Party also has concerns about a sustainability agenda she says is being pushed by organizations outside the community. At a Tea Party forum last month, both the city and county were criticized for their membership in ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.

“Is sustainability really what it appears to be?” asked Thorpe. “On the surface, we are not opposed to clean air and water, but when we get into ICLEI and [the United Nations] Agenda 21, that has nothing to do with local government and has a lot to do with a global influence.”

While the HUD grant’s project description references “sustainability,” Williams said the joint planning effort now emphasizes a focus on “livability.”

“We have made a specific choice to try and move our terminology for this grant from ‘sustainability’ to ‘livability,’” said Williams. “Our observation has been in the last few years that sustainability has lost some of the meaning it had … . It has been diluted.”

“We feel like this project is focusing on a broader selection of issues related to the community,” added Williams. “We are dealing not only with environmental issues, we are dealing with transportation, housing, neighborhood and community issues, and the economy.”

In the audience at last week’s briefing, former Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas urged a regional technical advisory committee to consider retaining a focus on sustainability. Thomas was directly involved in the drafting and approval of the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords, a document the HUD grant is expected to help move towards implementation.

“I can assure you we spent years if not months thinking about the term ‘sustainability,’” said Thomas. “The concept of sustainability that really stretched our minds, and that I am worried is being lost here, is the aspect of the future. It was not livability, which is how we can make our community better for people here today.”

Williams responded that there was no intent to lose a focus on the community’s future.

Wednesday’s kick-off event is an informal opportunity for the public to review a series of informational posters and to provide written comments.

“This is an introduction to the updates for the comprehensive plans and the long-range transportation plan,” said Williams in an interview. “We are hoping people will come and give us input on their concerns and provide general input about where the community is going.”

“It’s an opportunity to get in and learn a little bit about what we have been doing in past plans that gets us where we are right now,” said Cilimberg. “Part of this is a little bit of history and how we have evolved to where we are as a community in our planning processes.”

The event will be held at the Albemarle County Office Building on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. outside Lane Auditorium. Further information is available at the initiative’s website http://1-community.org/.