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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.

April 26, 2011

Third independent joins race for Charlottesville City Council

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A member of the Socialist Party of Central Virginia has announced he will run as an independent candidate for Charlottesville City Council.

“I’m in this to win, and it’s a long shot, but I think I can do it,” said Brandon Collins in an interview Monday. “We live in a really messed up world and we’ve got to start changing things now or we’re pretty much doomed.”

Image courtesy of Brandon Collins

Collins, 37, is a lifelong resident of Charlottesville and a graduate of Charlottesville High School. He is a board member of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and a co-founder of the Cville Workers Action Network.

Collins is a musician who works at the Blue Moon Diner and as a caretaker of a person with cerebral palsy.

In recent weeks, Collins has appeared before the council to oppose the Meadow Creek Parkway, to call for dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and to ask that the city distance itself from the emerging presence of the defense sector in the region.

“You can resist the war here in local government by taking a look at the massive amount of contractors we have here in Charlottesville, seeing what role the city plays with those folks, and eliminating that role altogether,” Collins said at the council’s April 18 meeting.  

One way to do that, Collins said, would be to prevent defense contractors and the military from participating in city-sponsored job fairs.

Collins’ platform would double the amount of funding for affordable housing programs and expand full public transit service to Sundays and to add late night service.

But Collins said he was still considering how the city could raise more revenue to pay for his suggested programs.

“Raising taxes might harm the working class and poor folks,” Collins said.  However, he said increasing tax rates for businesses would be an option.

Collins said he would like to pass a law requiring both public and private employers to pay a “living wage,” but acknowledged the General Assembly would need to give the city authority to do so.

“We can say we want a living wage for everyone in Charlottesville, but we can’t legally do that,” Collins said. He added that one possible suggestion would be to deny certain permits to companies that don’t offer a living wage.

Collins said he thinks Charlottesville is ready to elect a Socialist to its City Council, and that his party can’t grow until its ideas are on the table.

“There are plenty of progressives who support some of the things we talk about, and they may not be Socialists, but they’re willing to listen,” Collins said. “The Democratic Party might be scared of being labeled [Socialist], but for the most part progressive people and working-class voters are supportive.”

He said he is still collecting signatures and hopes to file his first paperwork with Charlottesville Registrar Sheri Iachetta by the end of the week.

Collins is the third independent to announce his candidacy, joining Scott Bandy and Bob Fenwick.

Three seats on the council are up for grabs this November, including those of councilors David Brown and Holly Edwards, who have announced they will not seek re-election.

Two Democrats, incumbent Satyendra Huja and challenger James Halfaday, have announced their intention to seek their party’s nomination at an August 20 unassembled caucus. Councilors Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos aren’t up for re-election until 2013.


March 11, 2010

County approves expansion of University of Virginia Research Park; Playing field dedication to be reviewed

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 11, 2010

The University of Virginia Research Park adjacent to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport will be expanding with a rezoning unanimously approved by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Wednesday evening.

Thirty acres will be added to the existing research park providing a new main entrance off of Airport Road, once Lewis & Clark Drive is extended from the other side of the park.

Concept drawing showing sample building locations on 30-acre addition to UVA Research Park
“This has been in development over the last four years,” said Fred Missel, Director of Design & Development for the UVA Foundation in an interview.  “It started in 2006 after the rezoning for the [Hollymead] fire station.  Our goal was to have a continuous piece of property zoned as [Planned Development – Industrial Park] (PDIP) and available for its highest and best use.”

The expanded facility will allow an additional 700,000 sq.ft. of development in the research park, roughly a 23% increase in existing capacity.  Today the UVA Foundation has only built about 500,000 sq.ft., or 17%, of the 3 million sq. ft. allowed prior to the expansion.

Local developer Wendell Wood was the only member of the public to speak during the public hearing.  He encouraged the board to approve the rezoning as one way to increase local employment options.

“We sold the land to the University of Virginia in 1985 and have been patiently waiting to see some results,” said Wood.  “I think we should do everything we can to support the further development when we have a world renown university.”

Valerie Long & Fred Missel presenting to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Valerie Long, an attorney with Williams Mullen representing the UVA Foundation, told the board that the research park is currently home to 1,100 employees.

A number of defense sub-contractors have established offices at the park to be near the Rivanna Station military base located on the other side of U.S. Route 29.  UVA Foundation officials said that is a trend they expect will continue.

In 1996, the project was called the North Fork Research Park and it covered 525 acres.  In addition to research park activities, the county has also approved special use permits to support laboratories, supporting commercial uses (e.g. restaurants and retail), and hotels.

Missel said this new rezoning has generated a lot of questions about the University’s plans for a hotel and conference center.

“A lot of people are excited about a conference center, but that has been allowed in the zoning since 1998,” said Missel.  He said the University has no immediate plans for a hotel or conference center anywhere in the park.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he was reminded in his review of the proffers, the contributions from the UVA Foundation to mitigate the impact of the development, that a recreational playing field had been promised in an earlier rezoning.  Rooker inquired about the status of the field to be donated to the county.

“I’ve never noticed playing fields and picnic areas,” said Rooker.  “We have a better system in place today for monitoring proffers… and I just want to make sure we are following the proffers reasonably carefully.”

Long said that there has not yet been a request from the County for dedication of the playing field.

County Executive Bob Tucker said he would bring the matter to the attention of his Parks & Recreation Department to see if the time was appropriate to receive the donation of the field.

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.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

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…

October 28, 2009

Planning commission endorses Places29 over objections of business community

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

After an investment of four years and $1.6 million, the Albemarle County Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Tuesday to endorse Places29, a master plan for future development and transportation projects along the U.S. 29 corridor north of Charlottesville.

The decision came after a public hearing dominated by local business leaders who oppose many of the plan’s key transportation recommendations.  Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20091027-CoPC-Places29
Neil Williamson, Free Enterprise Forum

Neil Williamson, executive director of the business advocacy group the Free Enterprise Forum, told the commission his group could not support the current plan. 

“The plan is over budget, it over promises, and ignores the time frame stipulated by the planning process,”  said Williamson in an interview.  “By ignoring the [20 year time frame], the planners have relieved themselves from the restrictors of time and money.”

Commissioners Marcia Joseph (At-Large), William Edgerton (Jack Jouett), Cal Morris (Rivanna), and Tom Loach (White Hall) all voted to endorse the plan which now goes to the Board of Supervisors.  Commissioners Don Franco (Rio) and Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) said the concerns of the business community about the impact of transportation proposals and potential fiscal impacts both needed further review.  Chairman Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) was not present at the meeting and was unavailable for comment today.

Chris Tyler is the owner of the Red Carpet Inn on U.S. 29. Tyler shared a view that resonated strongly with several members of the commission.

 “The first thing I’d like to say is kind of like what the doctors are told, ‘First, do no harm,’ said Tyler. “This plan will directly affect the businesses on the 29 corridor, and it will affect them adversely.  It will lower the revenues produced and therefore it will lower the tax base that the County has to work with.”

Morgan Butler, Southern Environmental Law Center
Morgan Butler is an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  He was one of two speakers who encouraged the commission to endorse the master plan.

“Transforming this part of the County into a more appealing and functional growth area that can also generate sustainable economic growth is a big challenge, but it is also a critical one for the county to undertake,” said Butler. “The first step is getting a plan in place, that sets forth that vision and then charts the course for getting there.”

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

Judy Wiegand, the Albemarle planner heading the project, said the staff had been directed from the beginning to take that approach and that it was “essential that they be done at the same time.” 

“There is no place in the County where that can be shown more clearly than in the 29 North corridor,” said Wiegand. 

Wiegand also pointed out that when future development projects are reviewed, the Places29 master Plan will help establish expectations about private sector contributions to accommodate a backlog of existing transportation needs.

Local developer Wendell Wood
Wiegand said she believed the extension of parallel roads like Berkmar Drive and Hillsdale Drive, combined with six grade-separated interchanges on U.S. 29, would lead to greater economic vitality in the business sector.

“Businesses have been in our minds since the beginning,” said Wiegand. “Once we get more of the road improvements in place and the mixed use centers start to develop, there will be more economic vitality in the business community.  We are trying to make it easier for people to get to these businesses.”

Commissioner Linda Porterfield was most concerned that the plan did not do more to encourage developer Wendell Wood to make a proffer to contribute financially to the plan’s road improvements.  She said expanding the County’s growth area to include land he owns in the path of the proposed Berkmar Drive extension was important.

Wood told the commission that he paid for the improvements and widening of U.S. 29 in front of Hollymead Town Center.  He encouraged the commission to expand the growth area to include his properties near the South Fork Rivanna River and the National Ground Intelligence Center, but those adjustments were not part of the final plan endorsed by the commission.

The Board of Supervisors is not expected to review the Places29 master plan until January 2010 at the earliest.  More information about the plan can be found on the County’s website at http://www.albemarle.org/places29



  • 1:35 – David Benish gives staff report on Places29 Master plan
  • 6:29 – Henry Weinschenk, Owner of Express Car Wash in the City, speaks against the plan, specifically the grade-separated interchanges
  • 9:34 – Neil Williamson, Executive Director of the Free Enterprise Forum, speaks against the plan, specifically against the absence of project timelines
  • 12:40 Carter Myers, owner of Colonial Auto Center, speaks against plan
  • 16:46 – Lloyd Wood, Chairman of the North Charlottesville Business Association, speaks against plan
  • 19:46 – Jim Kennan, County resident, speaks against plan
  • 22:36 – Tom Fromm, small business owner, speaks against plan
  • 26:39 – Chris Tyler, owner of the Red Carpet Inn, speaks against plan
  • 28:01 – Tim Hulbert, President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks against plan
  • 31:14 – Wendell Wood, property developer, speaks against existing designated growth area classifications [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 35:01 – Morgan Butler, from the Southern Environmental Law Center, speaks in support of the plan and against expanding the growth area
  • 37:36 – Jeff Werner, from the Piedmont Environmental Council, speaks in support of the plan
  • 40:08 – Bob Hodous, City resident, speaks against plan
  • 43:18 – Mark Green, the developer of Rivanna Plaza, speaks against plan
  • 45:36 – Roy Van Doren, owner of property at Hollymead Town Center, tells Commission that with plan which encourages density, comes traffic
  • 47:08 – Public hearing closed
  • 47:27 – Commissioner Cal Morris says business community concerns were clear
  • 48:06 – Commissioner Don Franco says public raised serious questions
  • 49:14 – Julia Monteith, UVA’s representative on the Planning Commission, asks why there is a disconnect between the planning process and resident concern
  • 50:08 – Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning for Albemarle County, responds that the plan minimizes impact on businesses as much as possible, but says there must be a balance
  • 53:16 – Commissioner Marcia Joseph says this balance has been issue for a long time and specific components of the plan were decided long ago
  • 55:23 – Monteith says that she is surprised after all this planning that so many spoke against plan
  • 58:22 – Commissioner Bill Edgerton says that public comments did not come as a surprise to him and that since growth is coming to the area, improvements must be made on Route 29 now
  • 1:02:19 – Commissioner Linda Porterfield says that they have adequately heard objections from the business community in the past and that in the current economic climate, harm to businesses need to avoided as much as possible
  • 1:06:08 – Commissioner Tom Loach  says that the people commenting tonight do not fully represent the community as a whole and that the plan has been well-vetted
  • 1:21:16 -- Edgerton explains his view of consequences of growth area expansion and nature of Wendell Wood's offer to help build Berkmar Drive
  • 1:23:55 -- Cilimberg shares history of Wendell Wood's proposal to move this rural land into the growth area [background on previous consideration of Berkmar Drive extension]
  • 1:25:43 – Joseph moves for approval; Edgerton seconds
  • 1:26:00 – Wendell Wood interrupts Planning Commission, accuses Edgerton of “lying” 
  • 1:27:04 – Cilimberg asks for clarification; does motion include the expansion for growth areas?
  • 1:27:34 – Joseph says that motion does not recommend expansion of growth area
  • 1:29:02 – Franco says he remains concerned about the plan’s impact on businesses along Route 29
  • 1:30:03 – Joseph says that she doesn’t see how impact on businesses can be accurately measured now
  • 1:30:59 – Cilimberg says that impacts must be reviewed and that any time comprehensive plans can be amended
  • 1:37:49 – Porterfield says she can’t support the plan that doesn’t contain adequate parallel roads
  • 1:39:03 – Final vote taken: 4 Yeas (Edgerton, Loach, Joseph, Morris), 2 Nays (Porterfield, Franco)


September 04, 2008

Wendell Wood seeks expedited review process for buildings near military base

Photo shows the first building under construction in the Boulders Office Complex.  Albemarle County is evaluating whether the revised plans for the basement will require additional parking.

A request to expedite approval of design changes for local developer Wendell Wood’s project to build offices adjacent to the Rivanna Station Military Base was considered by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on September 3, 2008.  Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) brought up the request under other matters from the Board.  The Supervisors devoted almost 40 minutes of their meeting to Wood’s request to amend his August 2007 “NGIC Expansion” rezoning. The item did not appear on the agenda nor was there a written report from staff for the Board’s consideration. 

Two weeks ago, Wood asked the County to allow him to change the layout of two four-story office buildings in the Boulders Office Complex.  What was to be basement storage with low ceilings Wood would like to be basement space with ceilings closer to height of a typical office floor.  Storage space, however, is required to have ceilings no taller than 6 feet 6 inches.  County staff told Charlottesville Tomorrow that it appears the basement of one building under construction has already been readied with bathrooms and HVAC in anticipation of future use.  With ceilings placed higher than the storage space maximum, the basements become a new floor on the buildings that could be occupied for future offices, thus requiring Wood to build 200 additional parking spaces, or seek a waiver from that standard.  Wood has requested a reduction in the parking requirements, presumably because the taller space will still be used for storage needs of his tenant and not for employees needing parking.

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What is going to happen in the basements of these two office buildings and why does it need a fast track approval?  Those are the two key questions that couldn’t be answered in the Supervisors’ discussion.  County staff reported that they were waiting for more information from Wood who was not present at the meeting.  Supervisors Boyd and David Slutzky (Rio) said they had enough information to request that Wood’s changes be expedited.

20080903-NGICx3 Wood’s commercial office complex is developing independent of the nearby military base expansion projects.  Ground was recently broken on a $58.5 million Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility (JUIAF) located on about 47 acres of land the federal government purchased from Wood.  JUIAF will join the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) as part of the growing military base.  Wood’s commercial project has been described by the military as something that would support the work at the base by, for example, providing space for private military contractors.

Albemarle County’s Director of Community Development, Mark Graham, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that when Wood submitted his building permit in March 2008, County staff noticed that the ceilings were too high at the basement level.  Wood was asked to drop the ceilings to six feet six inches and he submitted a revised building plan showing that change to be in compliance with his rezoning.

Boyd told the Board that the General Services Administration would be renting Wood’s building and that they had requested changes to the floor plan.  Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said he had met with NGIC officials and that they told him they did not know anything about the proposed use of Wood’s buildings.

“I don’t mind supporting [an expedited review] if the government needs the building…but I would like us to make certain we understand the reasons behind why it needs to be accelerated over, perhaps, some other project,” said Rooker.  “I would support it if we were in receipt of some kind of documentation from the user that they in effect needed this done sooner rather than later to meet hard deadlines for occupying the building…In the absence of that, I wouldn’t support it.”

Boyd and Slutzky shared that they thought security precautions and procurement red tape would prevent the government tenant from quickly responding to a request for more information about their needs.  County staff said they did not have any information yet from Wood beyond a request to authorize storage space with higher ceilings.  Slutzky suggested the tenant might move elsewhere in the County if this was not resolved quickly.

A zoning map amendment requires public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.  County staff told Charlottesville Tomorrow that Wood has not officially requested the first public hearing yet, but Supervisors made it clear they had been contacted by Wood and by Chairman Boyd and asked to expedite the process. 

Location of Wendell Wood's office complex near
the Rivanna Station Military Base

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) said she was disappointed in the Army’s response to the County’s concerns about the environmental and traffic impacts of the base expansion. “I would regard this as a two-way street.  If they want special consideration and speed in approval, they should, I believe, realize that…there has not been a very good response to our recognition of their environmental impact in some areas.  I would be interested in their being more responsive in those areas.”  Thomas acknowledged the distinction between the Army’s project and Wood’s project, but said the two parties “talk to each other” about these matters.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) joined Rooker in his desire for more information about the request.  “The plans were for some crawl space or something instead of a full basement.  It is a confusing trail of decisions and recommendations which we are as a County are involved in and that concerns me.  My wish for the future would be [that] things are written down and all these things are anticipated.”

After further discussion by the Supervisors, Thomas said, “I have no interest in expediting this.  I think it’s our staff that may be overworked at this point and if so it is because of our taxation decisions. I believe our staff works expeditiously on all the processes that are put in front of it so I don’t think there is any reason to pick out this particular one.”

After reviewing the matter for more than ten minutes under other matters in the morning, County Executive Bob Tucker suggested the Board delay a decision until the end of the day when staff would be available to answer more specific questions.

Mark Graham joined the meeting in the afternoon and provided the Board with additional information about Wood’s request and the review process.  “Everything we have [heard about the use] is anecdotal right now, quite frankly….Because we have heard storage is actually laboratory space as well, so we are trying to get a better handle on what the real use of this space is,” said Graham.

Boyd and Slutzky emphasized that, while they didn’t know exactly what the space was going to be used for, they believed Wood would be willing to accommodate the County’s requirements for additional parking, or for a proffer that would limit the use of the basements for storage.  They encouraged staff to identify those needs quickly and expedite the review process since Wood was working in good faith on the project.  Graham said his staff was waiting on Wood for more information.

Earlier in August, the Board of Supervisors endorsed recommendations from its staff to improve the overall development review process in the County.  A key practice in the revised process is to ensure public hearings are only scheduled upon the applicant’s request and only with plans and proffers finalized before staff prepare their report for the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  The goal, in part, is to have developers and staff iron out differences before information is sent to the public and decision makers, and thus avoid unnecessary deferrals by the applicant. 

Expediting Wood’s request would require an exception to the new process.  Graham asked the Supervisors if they would be comfortable with that approach since it would mean advertising a Board public hearing before the Planning Commission had even made a recommendation.  It would also set back public hearings on other projects.

“This isn’t just about expediting NGIC this is about delaying the other ten people in the queue,” said Graham. “I am going to make ten other people mad by making this one person happy.”

County Attorney Larry Davis and Graham explained to the Board about the requirements for storage, parking, and the possibility that certificates of occupancy could be issued on a floor by floor basis.  Graham suggested this would allow use of the building on the schedule desired by Wood while information is collected on the exact plans for the basement.

Afterwards, Graham summarized where he thought the Board was in their deliberations.  “You are not seeing a need to accelerate this unless [Wendell Wood] provides us some written evidence that there is a contract that requires this space to be occupiable in that December-January timeframe, and that would require a higher ceiling height.”

Rooker said the information provided by staff made him comfortable with this approach.  “Given the ability to get occupancy permits to occupy the floors, the various floors, as they are ready, I don’t see the nature of the emergency here if all they were going to use it for is storage.” 

Absent a compelling written request to fast track a revised plan, Wood’s project could come before the Board of Supervisors in January 2009.

Brian Wheeler

July 07, 2008

Water pipelines may follow routes of old and new roadway proposals; New sewer pump station also in the works

20080702-BoS The two men in charge of the authorities that deliver water and sewer services to the urbanized section of Albemarle County gave a brief update to the Board of Supervisors on July 2, 2008. Gary Fern, the Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, began his presentation by wishing the Board a happy New Year – a happy new Fiscal Year, that is.

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Fern told the Board one of the new initiatives this year is that ACSA customers will be able to pay online. Another is that the ACSA Board and staff will be holding a strategic planning session to map out the future goals of the Authority.

Fern also discussed the ACSA’s Capital Improvement Program. The main project to be built is the North Fork Pump Station, which Fern said would eventually allow the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant to be retired.  Preliminary engineering for the North Fork facility, which is expected to be located in the North Pointe development, is scheduled to be completed in September, after which a cost estimate can be made.  “It’s a pretty good size project,” Fern said. “It’s one of the largest [projects] the ACSA has ever undertaken.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) asked if ratepayers would be the sole funders of the multi-million dollar facility. Fern said he has been meeting with developers looking to build in the County’s northern growth area, a process that will continue as the design  of the plant proceeds.  The ACSA has previously said that participants will include the University of Virginia, the Rivanna Station Military Base, and the North Pointe developers.

“We’re now starting to meet with them individually as we learn what their needs are going to be over the next 20 to 40 years,” Fern said. He added that developers will be expected to make contributions above and beyond connection fees, but that the details have not been worked out.  Rooker asked if the need for the station is due to future growth, but Fern responded that the pressing need is to retire Camelot. The ACSA is spending $385,000 in its CIP for this new Fiscal Year to make temporary repairs to Camelot to extend its service life. Fern says Camelot is currently processing 120,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asked what kind of minutes were being produced by the ACSA for its Board meetings. Fern said at the moment the Authority is producing something in between summary and near-verbatim minutes.  Mallek encouraged the ACSA to use as detailed minutes as possible, given the millions of dollars being spent in the CIP.

Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, began his  report by thanking everyone who has written to him to point out that the RWSA seems to be incredibly busy.  “I appreciate hearing that because from the inside perspective and from the perspective of our employees, we’re really covering a lot of ground right now as an organization,” Frederick said.

Frederick took the same approach as Fern and highlighted several projects that are being initiated under the RWSA’s CIP. First, detailed engineering plans for the new Meadowcreek sewer interceptor replacement  project will be ready within 30 days.  They will then be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Quality, a process Frederick said would likely take up to two months. The right of way process has begun,  and if completed, Frederick said construction on the new interceptor could begin before the end of the calendar year.  Permits have been granted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The RWSA is also spending a lot of resources on the rehabilitation of sewer infrastructure, a maintenance item Frederick said the community has neglected to do for many years. He added that the cooperation between the RWSA, the ACSA and the City of Charlottesville has far exceeded his expectations.  The RWSA’s efforts are concentrated on the Schenk’s Branch interceptor, which is the oldest in the system.
Another major capital project is the upgrade of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to eliminate nutrients such as nitrogen from the water released into the Rivanna River. Frederick told the Board the project cost estimate is approaching “the upper $40 million range” due to the addition of components to control odors at the facility.

“It’s all related to efforts to continue the enhancement of our rivers in Virginia, especially in the estuary areas where nutrients tend to be of greater concern,” Frederick said.

Frederick shared one idea that has not previously received much public attention.  The RWSA is hoping to connect a new pipe from the North Fork and South Fork Water Treatment plants,  in part because VDOT has asked the RWSA to develop plans to relocate an existing water pipe out from underneath US 29.   The connection would also ensure the northern urban area had redundant sources for treated water.  If an accident or emergency shut down the North Fork facility today, there is no backup water source.

Frederick told the Board the most economical way to build the new connection would be along the right of way that would theoretically extend Berkmar Drive over the Rivanna River up to Hollymead Town Center.  Otherwise, new right of way will have to be acquired parallel to US 29, an alignment that could be difficult given that the topography of the land does not necessarily match the topography of the highway.

“There are so many questions related to that that I asked our staff to stop and let us have some discussion through County staff and others about whether the Berkmar project is going to go through in the near term,” Frederick said.  He added that he needs to know soon what the ultimate plans are for Berkmar. The work could proceed before the bridge is built, according to Frederick, as long as plans were coordinated with VDOT to make sure the two alignments were made at the same grade.

Expansion of the North Fork Water Treatment Plant is not an option because it takes water from the North Fork Rivanna River as opposed to a reservoir, thus creating the potential to more directly impact stream flows.  Frederick said the plant does not need any major repair work, and there is additional capacity to serve the northern urban area – for now.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio), a proponent of the Berkmar Drive Bridge, said VDOT officials told him earlier this week that one obstacle to getting the project started is the expense of beginning the preliminary engineering. He asked Frederick if there were any ways of bringing down VDOT’s cost by undertaking that work as a joint effort. Frederick said if there was a green light to proceed, the RWSA would begin by doing preliminary engineering to determine if rock would need to be blasted.

“We certainly would go out of our way to be supportive of working alongside a roadway engineer who is asking and answering the same questions with respect to a roadway,” Frederick said.
Slutzky said he would like to schedule a meeting with VDOT Bridge Engineer David Pierce and Frederick to begin the conversation. Frederick agreed, and estimated the RWSA could complete the preliminary engineering process in three months.

Rooker switched gears and asked Frederick for a cost estimate on the new pipeline to connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir with the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  Frederick said the $55.9 million estimate first provided in 2006 still stands, a figure that assumes parts of the pipeline can be built along the right of way obtained by VDOT to build the Western Bypass, a road project that is on indefinite hold.  Rooker wanted to know if the plan to utilize the right of way was still valid.

“There are people who have thrown out statements that VDOT cannot legally allow the right of way to be used for this kind of thing,” Rooker said. “It would seem to me to be wise to, as soon as legally possible, to initiate discussions with the right people at VDOT about our use of that right of way. If they don’t build the bypass… they may be selling that right of way back, so it would be wise to get the easements in place before that might occur.”

County Executive Bob Tucker said VDOT officials have told him that the right of way “is secure” until 2012. Slutzky asked if any utility easements would survive any future sale of that land back to the original owners. Frederick did not know, but Rooker said that was exactly the kind of question he would want to have answered.

Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler

June 05, 2008

Supervisors updated on military base expansion

Rivanna Station Military Base
Existing NGIC facility (on left) with new
Defense Intelligence Agency JUIAF building (on right)

On June 4, 2008, Fort Belvoir’s Col. Mark Moffatt made the trip from Fairfax, VA to give his first briefing to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on the growing Rivanna Station Military Base on Route 29 North.  Moffatt is responsible for new construction related to the Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program for defense facilities being built at both Ft. Belvoir, in Fairfax, and near Albemarle’s National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).  Ft. Belvoir is receiving 19,300 relocated personnel while Rivanna Station, home to NGIC, is expected to add 1,000 personnel.

“Everybody wants to know about… jobs,” said Moffatt.  “What are those opportunities?   What are 1,000 people going to do with potentially a 1,000 cars?  What’s going to happen with the combination there of Boulder’s Road and Route 29? What’s going to happen with school systems, with the environment as we build and work through all the complex issues we have to face?”

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20080604-Moffatt In Charlottesville, Moffatt will oversee construction of the $58.5 million Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility (JUIAF).  This 170,000 sq.ft. building will be located on about 47 acres of land the federal government purchased from local developer Wendell Wood.  The site will accommodate 800 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel and 200 additional NGIC personnel.  Parking will be available in surface lots for 625 vehicles.

“[It] is really an exciting time in our nation’s history,” said Moffatt. “This particular facility will be able to reach back to our nation’s capital and be able to provide the up to the minute analysis that they need to have to answer certain questions.  Charlottesville, and the greater Charlottesville area, is playing an important part for our national security…”

Recent discussions of the base expansion have included plans for the expansion of the NGIC facility’s existing Nicholson Building.  According to Moffatt, that is not an immediate project as there is no funding expected for five years, until 2013 at the earliest.

The Board of Supervisors asked Colonel Moffatt about the type of people that would be coming to Charlottesville, about the recently completed environmental review, and about the facility’s potential support for public transit. 

20080604-NGIC-JUIAF In previous presentations, the Supervisors have been told that Rivanna Station’s growth should be viewed as a workforce relocation program and not a significant job creation opportunity.  All jobs associated with the relocation require high level skills and education and security clearances and are currently filled by employees who will be offered the opportunity to maintain their employment.

Moffatt was asked by Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) when the military would know how many of the 1,000 people who were having their jobs relocated to Charlottesville would be accepting or declining that transfer.  Moffatt said he did not have the exact details from the DIA as to the current mood of the  employees about the potential move.  “I would tell you living in Fairfax County… I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to move down to Charlottesville.”

“The jobs that are coming here are high demand, well paying jobs,” said Moffatt. “The Charlottesville area has a lot going for it that, I would think, would encourage folks to say ‘I don’t need to mess with 90 minutes to 2 hours of commute…’”  Moffatt said he expects easily 70-80% of the employees to move.

Supervisors also sought confirmation that Wendell Wood’s adjacent commercial development was really needed to support the base’s operations.  Moffatt said that “in many people’s estimation,” Wood’s development would support the work at the base.  He described the contractors working outside a base as being part of what is known as “the contractor tail,” the group of support personnel around a military facility.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) asked how many people might be in that “contractor tail” in addition to the 1,000 personnel being relocated.  Moffatt said he was unsure and didn’t have any confidence in the estimates he has been provided previously, but that he would get back to the Board with a more accurate number within 30 days.

The Board’s discussion with Colonel Moffatt concluded with Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) and Slutzky encouraging traffic management accommodations, and financial contributions, for public transit to the base.

“In general in this community we are hoping to get much more public transit, and I think the price of gas is going make that more and more desirable,” said Thomas.  “Right now, for example, the way things are organized [at NGIC], it is difficult for a bus even to go in and deliver the few employees who come by bus...” She asked that transit accommodations be taken very seriously as they plan the base.  Moffatt agreed that it would be important to establish the viability of public transit from the very beginning of an employee’s tenure at the base, otherwise, he thought they would get too accustomed to driving their single occupancy vehicle.

Slutzky didn’t let Moffatt leave without making a pitch for political and financial assistance for the City-County Regional Transit Authority.  “It wouldn’t be an unwelcome thought…to [have you] look at potentially contributing, or planning to contribute, to the cost of extending a [bus] route out to the NGIC facility…”

Moffatt pointed out that while 1,000 people would be coming, only 625 new parking spaces were being built.  Moffatt has to meet the federal government’s goal in new construction of only providing parking for 60% of the employees. Slutzky said he was glad to hear about that requirement.  “It forces all of us to have to address it and that’s how we get transit results.”

Brian Wheeler

January 08, 2008

Army base expansion requires new sewer capacity; Report also recommends widening Route 29

The US Army has determined that an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required for the expansion of the Rivanna Station Military Base on Route 29 north of Charlottesville.  However, the draft Environmental Assessment released by Fort Belvoir last month does shed new light on the Army’s plans for the current home of the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).  It also raises a number of issues related to sewer capacity, the ability to use leased space off-site, and the future of nearby land owned by local developer Wendell Wood.


Albemarle County officials are just beginning their review of Fort Belvoir’s 130-page Environmental Assessment this week.  The County’s Natural Resources Manager, Tamara Ambler, tells Charlottesville Tomorrow that the County has requested an extension beyond the January 9, 2008 deadline to provide written comments to the Federal Government.  Ambler is collecting feedback from numerous County departments about the issues raised in the Army’s report.

Susan Stimart, Albemarle’s Business Development Facilitator, says the Federal Government has been a good listener to the County’s feedback on Rivanna Station thus far.  “They are taking a pretty good attitude in listening to our requirements for design standards and erosion/sediment control standards,” said Stimart.  She also noted, the Federal Government can decide on its own to not comply with any of Albemarle’s standards for new development.

Among the most significant items raised in the report are the following:

  • The increased workforce at the base will double the sewage discharge.
  • The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program which is moving jobs from Bolling AFB to Charlottesville prohibits any of those jobs to be located in leased space.
  • The US Army intends to seek additional land as a buffer around their facility for both future growth and for enhanced security. 
  • The Environmental Assessment suggests the widening of Route 29 to 6 lanes (3 northbound and 3 southbound) is desirable to bring relief to congestion expected to result from increased traffic at the facility.


Charlottesville Tomorrow was the first to report last month that the North Pointe development near NGIC was stalled in part because of inadequate sewer capacity at the Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant.  The current NGIC facility also uses the Camelot facility and the Army’s recent Environmental Assessment estimates that sewage discharge from the site will double as the result of the base’s expansion.  While the Army concluded the “increase in demand is well within the capacity of the [Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA)],” their report was completed before the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) could weigh in with specific recommendations on sewer infrastructure requirements. 

Peter Gorham, ACSA’s Engineering Director, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the authority wants to eliminate the Camelot treatment plant and replace it with a regional pump station.  Gorham is trying to schedule a meeting by the end of January for area property owners and other interested parties.  Invitations will be extended to the University of Virginia Foundation (North Fork Research Park), the US Army, developer Wendell Wood, and those involved with the North Pointe development.  The meetings will review timing, costs, and engineering options for the pump station project.  The RWSA is expected to weigh in on the downstream impacts on their sewer network which is also having its capacity studied. 

The ACSA is providing written feedback for inclusion in Albemarle County’s response to the Army’s report. In the meantime, Gorham says the ACSA is working on an interim solution that can boost the capacity of the Camelot plant, however that solution will not be able to accommodate all the potential new users in the area.


The existing NGIC facility sits on about 29 acres at Route 29 North and Boulders Road.  The Federal government purchased an additional 47 acres from developer Wendell Wood in 2006.  The expansion of the base of this combined 76 acres includes an addition on the NGIC building, construction of a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility, a warehouse and delivery facility, additional surface parking, and a new parking garage.

The Environmental Assessment also reveals the Army’s intention to further protect a zone around the base by purchasing an additional 50 acres on the north side of Boulders Road.  According to County records, this land is currently owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC.  The report identifies the following purposes for the buffer:

“The purpose of the purchase of the land north and southeast of Boulders Road is to provide protection against encroachment on the Rivanna Station by industrial or residential development, and to allow for future expansion, if needed. It is critical that the Army provide sufficient buffers to meet [antiterrorism/force protection (AT/FP)] requirements and to prevent land uses that could eventually conflict with missions of the U.S. Government. Rivanna Station is currently located at the edge of a developing industrial area, which could ultimately lead to AT/FP and hostile intelligence risks to the facility and personnel through electronic eavesdropping and observation.”


In August 2007, local developer Wendell Wood received approval from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to have 15 acres near the NGIC facility rezoned for commercial offices and residential barracks.  According to the General Services Administration, on November 30, 2007 Wood was awarded a $14.76 million lease for non-residential buildings.  The Environmental Assessment notes that nearby land has been rezoned “for the construction of office buildings to support NGIC operations.” 

During the County’s review of this rezoning in 2007, Wood was told water and sewer services were available and, according to ACSA’s Peter Gorham, Wood’s project will be grandfathered into the Camelot treatment facility until the regional pump station is available.  ACSA’s interim sewer capacity measures will only help a limited number of new users, and only those accessible by gravity feed to the existing Camelot facility.  Other buildings and developments not already tied into Camelot will have to wait for the new pump station.

The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program which is moving jobs from Bolling AFB to Charlottesville prohibits any of those jobs to be located in leased space.  Thus, the expansion of NGIC and the construction of the new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility will take place entirely on the federally owned land at the site and not on the recently rezoned 15 acres which is expected to house other support facilities.

Since he sold the 47 acre parcel to the government in 2006, Wood has also been expecting the Board of Supervisors to carry through with a resolution of intent that would move yet another 30 acres nearby into the County’s designated growth area.  Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns almost 1,000 acres near the military base.

The 30 acres of land were proposed to be removed from the rural area to allow for more intense development such that Wood could recoup money he felt he lost on the original deal with the government.  Wood and a number of Supervisors believe this deal ensured NGIC would not leave Charlottesville as it looked for room to expand.  That matter will be considered by the Board of Supervisors as it reviews the Places29 Master Plan in 2008.  The County Planning Commission has already recommended against adding Wood’s land to the growth area.


The Environmental Assessment suggests the widening of Route 29 to 6 lanes (3 northbound and 3 southbound) is desirable to bring relief to congestion expected to result from increased traffic at the facility.  The Route 29 and Boulders Road intersection is projected to go from a level of service (LOS) C in 2007 to level of service F in 2015 during peak evening traffic.  According to the report, “LOS F is used to identify that point where the facility has reached maximum capacity and a complete breakdown of service occurs.”

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recently approved the use of over $2 million to begin preliminary engineering on the widening of another section of Route 29, the area between Polo Grounds Road and Airport Road.  The US Army’s report suggests that widening should continue at least another 2 miles North to Rivanna Station and possibly all the way to Greene County.  Between Rivanna Station and Airport Road is the proposed North Pointe development which will add an estimated 30,000 vehicle trips per day to that portion of Route 29. 

Brian Wheeler

January 04, 2008

Army determines environmental impact statement not required for base expansion

UPDATE 1/9/08: The period for public comment has been extended to January 25, 2008.  Mailed items must be postmarked on or before that date to be considered.


The US Army has released a draft environmental assessment related to the expansion of the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the construction of the new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility which will be the home of jobs relocated from Bolling AFB as part of the Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program.  The assessment, released December 10, 2007 by Fort Belvoir, determined that the expansion of the Rivanna Station Military Base on Route 29N would not have “a significant adverse affect on the environment.”  As a result, the Army has concluded that a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required. 

The public and Albemarle County has until January 25, 2008 to submit written comments on this determination that an EIS is not required.   According to the Army's letter, those comments may be sent in writing to:

US Army Garrison Fort Belvoir
9430 Jackson Loop, Suite 100
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-5116
or e-mail: environmental-fb-dpw@conus.army.mil

Download Download complete draft environmental assessment

Download_2 Download cover letter / Finding of No Significant Impact

Brian Wheeler