Newscast

Newscast for January 4, 2019

Welcome to another look at local and regional government, in newscast form! Today’s installment is brought to you by Court Square Tavern, open in historic downtown since 1976. Consider Court Square Tavern for the next time you want to get together with a bunch of friends in a comfortable and welcome setting. Now, onto the news.  

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will meet all day tomorrow to begin the third year of reviewing the Comprehensive Plan. State law mandates that every planning commission in the state create a plan “for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.” Charlottesville City Council approved the last comp plan update in 2013, and began its review in early 2017.

“I don’t think that it’s any surprise that this is a major undertaking and that probably we understand how important this particular Comprehensive Plan is to our city at this time,” said Lisa Green, chair of the Planning Commission at a Council meeting in December. 

There has been a lot of turnover on the group since the review began with several new members appointed in the wake of a renewed community effort to increase the number of affordable housing units in the city. Commissioners will meet all day in city hall to discuss the land use chapter of the plan, as well as something called the future land use map. A revised map could eventually lead to more homes in some neighborhoods. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you informed.

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The current Comprehensive Plan designates the western edge of the city’s Little High Neighborhood as “Neighborhood Commercial.” That designation seemed confusing to many residents of the neighborhood when Council in December 2017 approved a special use permit to build over 120 apartments on a site currently owned by a former doctor’s office. That would double the number of housing units in the neighborhood. In addition to filing a lawsuit against the city, Little High residents have also asked for a historic survey of their neighborhood to see if it might become a historic district. On Monday, Council will see on their consent agenda an appropriation of just over $21,000 in city funds toward the effort. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has awarded another $12,000.

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Danville has joined the list of Virginia cities that are calling upon the General Assembly to legalize casinos within the Commonwealth. The Danville Register and Bee reports that the City Council has passed a resolution in support of upcoming legislation that would allow citizens in Danville, Portsmouth and Bristol to decide in a referendum whether gambling resorts could be operated in those cities. Councilors said such a resort could inject Danville with a massive influx of new revenues.

“This is the most significant economic development opportunity Danville has seen in my lifetime,” said vice mayor J. Lee Vogler. “We’re talking about nearly 7,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion into our local economy in the next decade.”

The vote to adopt the resolution was unanimous on the nine-person body. Mayor Alonzo Jones said the additional revenues could help prevent future tax increases and would help rebuild the city’s schools. The legislation has not yet been filed with the legislative information system.

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A member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Vienna has filed a bill that would change the way members of some state environmental boards are appointed. Currently the governor appoints all of the members of the Air Pollution Control Board, the Waste Management Board and the State Water Control Board. Proposed legislation from Delegate Mark Keam would allow legislators to name five members to each body, reserving only two for the executive branch. Last month, Governor Ralph Northam drew fire for naming two new members to the Air Pollution Control Board shortly before that panel was to vote on a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County necessary for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That vote has been delayed until next Tuesday, and the new members will not participate.

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And finally, Delegate David Toscano said yesterday that he will not carry legislation to amend Charlottesville’s charter to allow City Councilors to raise their salaries. A split Council voted in December to request such a bill as part of the city’s legislative package. Toscano told the Daily Progress he felt the idea needed to be vetted by the public. Localities in Virginia must get permission from the General Assembly to amend their charters, which are documents that lay out the basic rules for municipal government. Senator Creigh Deeds has not indicated whether he would introduce the bill.

And that’s it for today’s installment. Thanks to our sponsor, Court Square Tavern, for their support of our program. We’ll be back on Monday for another week of quick round-ups of local government news from across Virginia. Thanks for listening.

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