Infrastructure updates, Land Use - Albemarle, Land Use - Charlottesville

Two urban intersection projects to move forward 

The Virginia Department of Transportation has found additional funding that could lead to the reconstruction of two major intersections in our area.
Deputy Secretary Nick Donohue announced Tuesday that $8.88 million will be spent at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 20 in Albemarle County and $5.9 million will go towards the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue in Charlottesville.
thorgle
Both projects had been submitted for funding through VDOT’s Smart Scale process, but had not originally qualified for funding. Under Smart Scale, all potential road projects are ranked according to how they address safety issues, relieve congestion, boost economic development and more. The new funding for these projects comes in part from cancellation of other projects across the state as well as better-than-expected revenue projections.
The Preston Avenue project is intended to create safer conditions at its intersection with Grady Avenue and 10th Street. One goal will be to reduce crossing widths, and another is to reduce the number of commercial driveways in the vicinity. Bike lanes will be constructed along Preston Avenue.
“The improvements will realign Preston Avenue and create a consolidated signalized intersection of Preston Avenue / 10th Street, and Grady Avenue,” reads the Smart Scale application.
The intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 20 will be rebuilt with additional turn lanes, medians in the right of way, and new traffic signals. A “keyhole” bike lane would be “added along the right turn lane from U.S. 250 to Route 20. The project would also construct 385 linear feet of new sidewalk on the west side of Route 20 from the U.S. 250 intersection, filling a gap.
free-bridge

The projects still need to be approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. A final vote is scheduled for the CTB’s meeting in June.

 

Land Use - Albemarle, Land Use - Charlottesville, Week Ahead

Week Ahead for May 6

Welcome to a weekly look at meetings coming up in our community.  As with everything on this secret blog, this is an experiment and not considered official.

Monday:

A busy week kicks off with a series of meetings.

Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board is charged with ensuring new buildings are consistent with the county’s design expectations. On Monday, the five member body will consider a new AutoZone at the corner of U.S. 29 and Westfield Road, as well the expansion of an office building on U.S. 250 west of Crozet. We are watching the latter closely as the building is just outside of the county’s development area. Take a look at the full agenda here.

In Culpeper, Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine will host a public meeting on the state’s six-year improvement program. That fund is one of many sources of revenues for road, bridge, rail, bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation projects in the state. I’m going to take the opportunity to speak with planners about keeping the rural character of several roads in northeastern Albemarle. The meeting begins at 4:00 p.m. in VDOT’s office in Culpeper. Before the meeting, I’m going to participate in a litter clean-up with the Secretary.

Charlottesville City Council has an ambitious meeting agenda with items ranging from an update on the city’s climate action plan to a review of the West Main Streetscape Plan. There will also be proclamations for both Bike Month as well Kids to Parks Day, which is coming up on May 18. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers and can be viewed live through Facebook, the city’s website or Cable Channel 10.

Finally on this busy day, Albemarle will begin a series of events called Climate Mondays as part of the work toward the development of the county’s Climate Action Plan. The first event will discuss energy efficiency and renewable energy in residential buildings, which represents 27 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at room 235 in the County Office Building on McIntire Road.

Tuesday

If you’re interested in transportation projects in Albemarle, have I got a meeting for you.

The Planning Commission will be briefed on two major plans coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The first will be a presentation on the Long-Range Transportation Plan, a document that must be updated every five years to tell federal officials what projects are desired by the community. Want to know what this means? Give me a call and I’ll help you understand how it all works.

The second will be a public hearing on the 2019 Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan, a document that is a “focused list of regionally-significant bicycle and pedestrian projects that enhance connectivity to residential and economic centers.” Thanks to a grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, my colleague Peter Krebs has been working to develop public support for the plan. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Albemarle County Office Building.

Wednesday

Crozet is gearing up for an update of the master plan that guides future development. The Crozet Community Advisory Committee will meet at the Field School at 7:00 p.m. for their monthly which will set up the plan’s review. In particular, county planner Andrew Knuppel will brief citizens on what staff’s approach will be to the review. After that, the group will discuss the status of Eastern Avenue, a north-south road that has been called for since the Crozet Master Plan was first adopted in December 2014. I plan to be there and look forward to the discussion.

Thursday

Charlottesville’s PLACE Design Task Force was created in 2012 to advise City Council on urban placemaking. Since then, the group has weighed in on the Belmont Bridge, the West Main Streetscape and other key projects that affect the city. At this meeting, they will discuss the future of planning in the city. Shortly before the city hired Tarron Richardson as its next manager, Council authorized creation of a new position to oversee long range planning.

At the same time, review of Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan was put on on hold earlier this year. In early February, Council agreed to spend around $900,000 to hire the new position and to hire a new consultant to complete both the Comprehensive Plan and to begin a rewrite of the zoning ordinance. I am hopeful that I will get an update from staff at the PLACE meeting on Friday, which begins at noon in the Neighborhood Development Services Conference room in Charlottesville City Hall.

Friday (and Saturday)

There is nothing on the agenda, as far as I know, for Friday. This isn’t unusual. But I’ll be working with Peter Krebs to prepare for the Rivanna River Fest. Our friends at the Rivanna Conservation Alliance are holding this event on Saturday, May 11, to bring people downtown to enjoy the waterway that serves as the border between Albemarle and Charlottesville.

Events Include:

  • Underwater Photography at Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center
    Join the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center for a workshop on underwater photography with our cameras. Children and adults can participate. Children must be accompanied by a parent. Your hands will get wet, but your legs don’t have to! Available times: 10 AM and 11:30 AM. Workshop lasts approximately an hour. $5 per person. To register, please email lewisandclark@lewisandclarkvirginia.org
  • Music & Fun at Rivanna River Company

  • Join us for a River celebration at the Rivanna River Company!
  • There will be live music by the Rivanna Roustabouts and Red and the Romantics!
  • Food vendors include: Mexican Tacos, 106 Street Food, and Blue Ridge Creamery
  • Kids Activities: Face-painting, monitoring demonstrations, and more!
  • Shuttles will run from parking at Darden Towe Park (where the morning activities will be held) to the Rivanna River Company from 12:00 – 5:00 pm.

We can’t wait to see you on the river!






Elections - City

Snook leads Council campaign finance race

Attorney Lloyd Snook is well in front in the campaign finance race for Charlottesville City Council.

Snook reported $28,433 in contributions in the first quarter of 2019, according to campaign finance data published by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Snook received 53 cash contributions with amounts more than $100, including four $1,000 receipts. Former City Councilor Julian Taliaferro is among the donors in that category.

So far, Snook’s campaign has spent the money on campaign promotion materials through a company called The Blue Deal, as well as $1,000 to rent Bashir’s on the Downtown Mall.

Sena Magill raised $7,872 in the period, including six contributions over $100. Former City Councilors Meredith Richards and George Gilliam are included in that list.

Magill started the year with a balance of $11,723, including a $10,000 gift from Sonjia Smith. Her $4,625 in itemized expenditures include a $1,663 payment to herself as a vendor.

Brian Pinkston raised $10,182 in the period, including 25 donations of more than $100, totalling $6,785. Former City Councilors Meredith Richards, Elizabeth “Bitsy” Waters, Tom Vandever, and George Gilliam donated to the Pinkston campaign.

So far, Pinkston has spent $2,211 on the campaign, including $999 to himself as a vendor.

Michael Payne raised $9,281 in the period including 19 donations over $100.

Bellamy Brown, an independent candidate who joined the race in late March, reported $50 in the period.

VPAP did not list any data for former Councilor Bob Fenwick, who is also in the race for three Democratic nominations.

Neither John Edward Hall or Paul Long, independents in the race, raised any money in the first quarter of the year.

Albemarle County Supervisor Races

VPAP also lists data for Albemarle County, including the contested race for the Democratic nomination for Albemarle County. Incumbent Norman Dill declined to seek a second term.

Bea LaPisto Kirtley raised $7,350 in the period, including $5,000 from Sonjia Smith.

Jerrod Smith raised $4,906 in the first quarter.

In the open Scottsville seat, Democrat Donna Price raised $1,026 while Republican Mike Hallahan raised $2,500.

Incumbent Ann Mallek raised no money in the first quarter, but reported a campaign finance account balance of $2,658. She currently faces no challengers.

Land Use - Charlottesville

Developer purchases University Tire property on West Main

A New York-based developer who is currently constructing new apartments at 600 West Main Street has added another property to his portfolio.

Jeffrey Levien has purchased 602 West Main Street for $2.9 million. Plans have not yet been filed with the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services.

The property currently is home to a University Tire franchise and was assessed in 2019 at $1.43 million. The limited liability company that bought the property has the name Heirloom West Main Street Second Phase.

The first phase of Levien’s development project, known as Six Hundred West Main, is currently under construction. A six stories with 57 apartment is being behind two structures that are historically protected. One of these structures is the home of the Blue Moon Diner, which is expected to re-open later this year.

Levien is also seeking to purchase 218 West Market Street, a small shopping center that he is seeking to demolish. That request will go before the Board of Architectural Review at their meeting on March 19.

“Looking at the current and future expansion of Charlottesville, the BAR must identify opportunities for accomodating growth in ways that are sensitive to our historic urban fabric by protecting important structures in our cultural and urban development while recognizing that some old buildings must be allowed to be taken down to make way for the future,” reads the narrative for the demolition request. As with Six Hundred West Main, Levien is represented by the firm Bushman-Dreyfus.

The narrative for 218 West Market makes the case that the BAR has granted several demolition permits in the vicinity, most notably at the former Main Street Arena which is still in the process of being deconstructed. The seven-story CODE building will be built on the footprint by the entrepreneur Jaffray Woodriff.

The BAR did not allow Levien to take down the two structures that are now part of the Six Hundred West Main project. They were both contributing structures in the West Main Architectural Design Control District, as were two structures that are being incorporated into the Quirk Hotel across the street.

(this story will be updated as needed) 

Land Use - Albemarle

Albemarle land use report: Pantops self-storage and dozens of new homes off Berkmar

Every month, Albemarle receives various land use applications for upcoming developments. In the interest of letting you know what’s going on, we’ll occasionally bring you information about what you can expect.

Here are two such submissions:

Four-story self storage facility planned for Stony Point Road

A Henrico-based company has submitted plans for a four-story self storage facility that would be just off of U.S. 250. In all, the structure would include over 82,000 square feet of space, including a basement level. The site is on the east side of Stony Point Road and will include a subdivision of property already owned by Pantops Corner LLC. The company has other plans forthcoming for the adjacent properties. The storage building is by-right under the propery’s highway commercial zoning. It will need to go before the Architectural Review Board for design review. The next step for this project will be a site review conference on April 4.

Dozens of single family homes planned between Berkmar and Woodburn Road

A Charlottesville-based developer has submitted plans to build up to 71 single family homes on nearly nine acres of land between Woodburn Road and Berkmar Drive. The land for the Berkmar Overlook project is already zoned for up to six residential units per acre but the plans qualify for two types of bonus density. Without these, Berkmar Development LLC could only build 52 units on the site. However, the county allows additional density for the provision of affordable units as well as additional tree preservation. Eight units will be deemed as affordable under the county’s guidelines.

Meeting Reports

Council moves forward with long-range planning package

*programming note – the newscasts are on hiatus for a  few weeks following initial proof of concept. For now, I will be experimenting with these non-audio stories. Feedback welcome*

The Charlottesville City Council has voted unanimously to spend nearly a million dollars to hire a consultant to help complete the review of a state-mandated vision for the future.

“The acute need is to get the Comprehensive Plan finished and to have an integrated affordable housing strategy within that Comprehensive Plan and then to roll immediately into the rezoning citywide,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin.

Council also agreed to move forward with hiring a new position of “long-range planner” who would oversee the overall planning vision, including implementation of small-area plans.

“Now is the time to use the dollars for long-rage planning and to hire an individual with the skill set to shepherd these and other projects going forward and to have that person report directly to the city manager’s office,” said Mike Murphy, the city’s interim manager.

The city Planning Commission has been working on an update of the Comprehensive Plan for two years, and the plan’s review took a turn following the Unite the Right rally in August 2017. The commission’s membership changed, with four new members added in the last year on the seven person body.

Council got an update on the plan at their meeting on December 18. One area of concern related to a Future Land Use map that depicted more intense density in several areas of the city. Council indicated they wanted to take a pause and help the Planning Commission complete their work.

“One of the directives to the city’s manager’s office was to bring back what resources might be required for competion of the Comprehensive Plan,” said interim manager Mike Murphy.

A list of resources was compiled after consultation with the Planning Commission, the Housing Advisory Committee and others.

The total amount before Council to complete the plan and and hire a firm to do the zoning rewrite would be $975,890.

Just over $85,000 in the funding comes from a $100,000 Council previously allocated but has not yet spent. Another $200,000 was funding that had been set aside for a housing needs assessment. Another $600,000 would come from the capital improvement program fund contingency fund.

It is widely assumed and expected that a rewriting of the city’s zoning ordinance will be required upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan.

“We’ve been hurting terribly for a long time because our zoning is out of sync with our community vision,” Galvin said.

The funding for the long-range planner would come from a position that Council authorized and funded in the current fiscal year, but the city has yet to fill.

“We are going to be at least three quarters of the year having never used dollars that were in this year’s budget that were in for a long-range planner of assistant city manager,” Murphy said.

Councilor Wes Bellamy wanted to know if the new planner would have staff. Murphy said no.

“Think about this position as somebody who is making systems more effective, refining processes, steering big picture items and maybe relieving some burden from staff to direct things like the small area plans,” Murphy said. “They are operating from a level that’s not wedded to one department’s point of view. They’re operating across all silos.”

Earlier in the night, Council took action on a rezoning on River Road for a mixed-use development with apartments and storage units.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker said the discussion of the River Road rezoning helped her appreciate the reason for why the position was being proposed. But Walker expressed concern about filling the position before the city manager is hired.

Galvin said staff is overwhelmed with development review. She also said the position could change once the city has a new leader.

“The new city manager could decide that he or she wants to restructure everything,” Galvin said. “But that person is still an important and essential professional with skills that are going to be needed regardless.”

Walker said she heard loud and clear from the planning commission that they needed assistance following their five-hour meeting on January 5.

Murphy said he felt the position should be independent of the planning department.

“I find it pretty difficult to imagine that someone who reports to the NDS director and is [also] the agent-of-change in the development process,” Murphy said.

The position was one of several recommendations made by the Novak Group in an efficiency study of NDS. The draft budget for FY2020 will also include a support services manager in NDS to help with the caseload.

Council was unanimous in its vote.

Newscast

Teacher protest, Virginia population estimates: January 29th newscast

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of this experiment newscast, designed to give you a quick overview of what’s happening in and around greater Charlottesville in a format you can listen to quickly, or read quickly. Next week we debut out Smoke Signals edition. Look for it above a hillside near you. Today’s sponsor is Court Square Tavern, a great place where you can get a great meal while having a great time. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, open for dinner and drinks Tuesday through Saturday evening. That’s Court Square Tavern.

Teacher protest

Nearly 2,500 teachers from across Virginia marched on the state Capitol in Richmond on Monday to call for wage increases, according to a report in the Virginia Mercury. Organizers with Virginia Educators United stress that the event was not a strike, but a march attended by instructors who either covered their shift or were part of a school district who had the day off. Virginia allows teachers who go on strike to be fired. Delegate Lee Carter has filed a bill that would change that, and that legislation is before the House General Laws Committee..

 

Buyaki not running

There will be at least two new members of the Albemarle School Board when it convenes for the first time in 2020. That’s because Rivanna District incumbent Jason Buyaki announced last week he will not seek a third term. That’s according to a story in the Daily Progress from Thursday. Earlier the newspaper reported that Steve Koleszar will not seek a seventh term representing the Scottsville District. We still don’t yet know if White Hall member Dave Oberg or at-large member Jonno Alcaro will seek re-election.

 

Population numbers

The latest population estimates are out from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Over a thousand people moved into Albemarle County between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, a figure based on calculations from building permits and other measures of growth. The Weldon Cooper estimate for Albemarle is 108,639, or a 9.7 percent increase since the 2010 Census. Charlottesville has grown 13.5 percent since 2010 to an estimated figure of 49,281.

Other college towns in Virginia have also experienced a high rate of growth since 2010. Harrisonburg has grown 11.6 percent to an estimate of 54,606. Fredericksburg’s rate of growth is 16.9 percent to an estimate of 28,387. Over 22,000 people have moved to Richmond since 2010, a growth rate of 11.1 percent.

 

Waltons B&B

Fans of the Waltons may soon be able to stay overnight in a replica of their fictional Nelson county homestead. The Lynchburg News and Advance reports that Nelson County Planning Commission has recommended a rezoning and special use permit for a Waltons-themed Bed and Breakfast in Schuyler, which is the home of the Walton’s Mountain Museum as well as the home of Earl Hamner Jr, the late creator of the world-famous television program. The Waltons ran for nine seasons from 1972 to 1981 and the applicant says the project will boost tourism in Nelson County. The Board of Supervisors will take up the rezoning later this year.

 

Long Bridge resolution

It has been nearly five years since state officials approved funding for a second daily train between Lynchburg and Washington’s Union Station. Amtrak, private railroads and state officials have been unable to come up with a time slot for the train in part because the bridge that carries freight and passengers across the Potomac River is at capacity. Last week, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a resolution expressing support for a plan to expand Long Bridge. Planning for the project is currently in its third phase.

 

220 improvements

At the other end of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Transportation is taking comments through February 2 on a study of possible new roadways that would travel between Martinsville and the North Carolina border. The Martinsville Southern Connector Study is intended to come up with an alternative for the project, even though there is currently no funding to purchase land for the right of way or for construction.

 

And that’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with another installment. Now we’re off to go binge-watch some Walton’s.