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Week Ahead for March 2, 2020

Two months down, ten months to go. 2020 has been a busy year so far, and this week is no exception. This week features a key rezoning public hearing in Albemarle County, the formal beginning of Charlottesville’s budget development process, and the commemoration of the arrival of Union troops in the community in 1865, freeing thousands of enslaved people. City government has a public holiday Tuesday for Liberation and Freedom Day, as well as a series of events all week about equity and the pathway forward.  While we look to the future, the past is always with us.

Monday, March 2: Brookhill in Albemarle, City Council 

Charlottesville City Council has a full agenda that covers land use, transportation and budgetary matters. They’ll first take action on a special use permit for Harris Street Apartments, which would see 36 units built next to McIntire Plaza. The Planning Commission voted 7-0 in February to move to recommend the permit, which asks for additional residential density as well as two additional floors. Parking would be underground and the developer has to submit a traffic study before a final site plan is turned into the city. (staff report)

Next Council will take up a resolution to affirm that the $8.6 million Barracks Road / Emmet Street project funded by VDOT’s Smartscale process is compliant with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Among other things, the project will create a safer pathway for pedestrians and cyclists along Barracks Road. Why this review? Take a look at Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson’s note in the staff report. The project is only about a third of the way through the planning process and construction is not expected until spring 2023. (staff report)

After that, Council will be presented with the School Board’s budget request as well as city manager Tarron Richardson’s recommended budget. My colleague Peter Krebs is watching the process closely and is asking for restoration of funding cuts to bicycle infrastructure. (budget website)

The consent agenda is also worth a review, as always.

  • Council will accept $47,540 in donations to light the skate park at McIntire Park, though the cost estimate is around $300,000 (staff report)

  • Council will officially direct the Planning Commission to review three specific ways the city’s zoning could be changed to increase the supply of affordable housing units. They received a briefing on this on February 20 and directed staff to prepare this initiation. Read the details in the staff report. (staff report)

  • Council will consider raising the maximum rate that can be charged to remove devices that can immobilize vehicles that are parked in the wrong place. Currently the maximum charge to remove a boot is $25, but that figure is not enough to incentivize potential new technologies. This is an initiative of the Parking Advisory Panel. (staff report)

***

People who travel on U.S. 29 north in Albemarle’s northern ring may have noticed a lot of development activity south of Forest Lakes. The Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning for Brookhill in November 2016 that included several blocks of development. Two of these will go before the Architectural Review Board at their meeting which begins at 1:00 p.m. in Room 241 at the main county office building on McIntire Road. Specifically they’ll see a final design for Block 8B and an initial plan for blocks 9, 10 and 11. Block 8B is for 110 multifamily units and the other blocks are for 85 townhouses. These are both on the western side of the project towards U.S. 29. (agenda)

***

This week is the tenth year in a row that the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation is marking Telework Week in Virginia, a time when employers are encouraged to let workers telecommute from home. “Telework helps alleviate traffic congestion, reduces our consumption of fuel, and improves air quality,” reads a proclamation signed by Governor Ralph Northam. Do you have the opportunity to work from home some of the time? A “higher-use” of telecommuting is one of the University of Virginia’s strategies to manage parking and transportation on Grounds. (Telework Virginia website)

***

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors also meets at 5:00 p.m. in the county office building in Louisa. Items include an update on broadband initiatives and a public hearing on amending the county code to provide tax exemptions for solar energy equipment. (agenda)

***

The Scottsville Town Planning Commission will meet at the town hall beginning at 7:00 p.m. Scottsville is a separate town that is part of Albemarle but has its own government. That differs from Albemarle’s designated growth areas, which have no independent governance. The Planning Commission will take up a special use permit for a car wash and will continue to work on the West Downtown Small Area Plan. That covers a closed factory that town officials hope will be a major redevelopment item. (agenda)

Tuesday, March 3: Code for Charlottesville “navigation” work

While Albemarle and Charlottesville both investigate policy changes to encourage the creation of more affordable housing units, others in the community are finding ways to get information out about options that do exist. The group Code for Charlottesville is working on a project they’re calling “Building a Platform to Make Housing Navigation Easier.” The idea is to help those who have federal housing vouchers find property owners who will take them as tenants.

“The goal of this project is to develop software for the internal use of credentialed housing navigators that provides navigators with an up-to-date and comprehensive list of the available rentals in the Charlottesville area, along with the various screening policies employed by landlords,” reads the notice for a kickoff event being held at the Haven beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Todd Niemeier with the city’s Office of Human Rights will discuss the challenges faced by people with low incomes and Code for Charlottesville representatives will talk about how the work will be organized. A series of follow-up events will be held throughout the spring. (RSVP page)

***

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will hold their second work session for County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed budget. This time will cover operating expenses, including funding for community development, parks and recreation, and public works. The meeting begins at 3:00 p.m. in Room 241 in the county’s main office building on McIntire Road. (agenda)

***

Charlottesville City Hall is closed all day and there are no meetings due to the commemoration of Liberation and Freedom Day.  There are a series of events all week to mark the occasion. Check the city calendar’s website for a full listing. (calendar)

Wednesday, March 4: What will Albemarle’s planners do?

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1:00 p.m. and after a series of proclamations they will hold a work session on something called the Community Development Work Program. This is the first time that new director Jodie Filardo will present an update on what staff feels the Department of Community Development can handle in the coming year.

“The ongoing challenge is to manage the Board’s interests while addressing the needs of the department to build capacity in a world of increasing volumes in the CDD workload,” reads the staff report.

Supervisors last reviewed the work program in September, and since then two new Supervisors have joined the Board. It is important to track what staff works on and what never seems to make the cut. For instance, a further look at the county’s lighting ordinance to strengthen Dark Sky protections has been listed as a potential project for years, but not prioritized. For me, this is one of the most crucial discussions of the year. (staff report) (2019 staff report)

In the evening session, Supervisors will hold a public hearing for 999 Rio Road, a greenfield development proposed on two acres at the intersection of Rio and Belvedere Boulevard. The property is zoned for R-4 and developer Nicole Scro seeks a change to the Neighborhood Model District. Supervisors last saw this project last September when they sent it back to the Planning Commission. The current proposal is for 28 units and a maximum of 6,000 feet of office space. That’s down from as many as 46 units. (staff report)

Following that public hearing is another on County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed $451 million budget for FY21. Have you had a look yet? This year the budget’s title is “Expanding Opportunity” and is based on no new increase in the property tax rate. (budget page)

On the consent agenda:

  • The Piedmont Housing Alliance is seeking to build 80 units in a section of the Southwood redevelopment project off Old Lynchburg Road. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville obtained a rezoning for the project in August 2019. PHA needs the Board’s support for low-income housing tax credits for this phase of development, which would be new development along Old Lynchburg Road. (staff report)

  • There is new information about when several construction projects will get underway in Albemarle County. According to the VDOT monthly report, the first of six Smartscale projects will get under construction this summer. (VDOT report)

Thursday, March 5: UVA tops a long list of meetings 

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets all day and on Friday for their first major meeting of the year. The Buildings and Grounds Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. today at the Rotunda. The agendas for the meeting are not yet available. (BOV website)

Charlottesville City Council will hold the first work session on Dr. Tarron Richardson’s budget beginning at 5:00 p.m. in CitySpace. Have you taken a look yet? (budget page)

The Charlottesville Bike and Pedestrian Committee Meeting will also meet at 5:00 p.m. but in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room. This month features a discussion with Charlottesville Police Captain Victor Mitchell, as well as a review of the Safe Routes to School program. There will also be an update on the city’s capital improvement program. Dr. Richardson’s budget currently shows no additional funding for bicycle infrastructure in FY21. (agenda)

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will also have a budget work session beginning at 3:00 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s main office building on McIntire Road. (BOS agendas)

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will meet at 7:00 p.m. in their offices on Water Street. There does not appear to be a major item on the agenda for this regional body. Still, the packet is worth reviewing each month as it can give clues to future events and initiatives. (agenda)


Sean Tubbs
434-422-2375
Attachments area
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Week Ahead for February 24, 2020

Week Ahead for February 24, 2020

This week, Monday takes the turn as the day with the most activity. Every week is filled with key decision points for our community’s future. Every week, elected officials, staff, and the public come together to discuss options and possibilities. This newsletter tracks what’s happening before it does to keep you informed. The goal is to improve the built environment we have while preserving and protecting the natural one that sustains us all. Now, let’s get started. 

Monday, February 24, 2020: Transit detour and six meetings 

Our first item this week isn’t a meeting but important to civic life all the same. Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) has begun a two-week detour during which no buses will serve the Downtown Transit Center on Water Street. In all, 12 of 13 routes travel use the station, which opened in 2007 and is set up for CAT vehicles to travel only in a westbound direction in what is known as a “timed-pulse” system. 

Construction of a utility duct for the CODE Building will shut down Water Street through March 7, which will force all but Route 5 to travel on an alternate pathway as it comes through downtown. The city is blocking off eight on-street parking spaces across from City Hall on East Market Street to serve as a temporary transfer point, as all buses will travel west on a street on which they normally travel east. They’ll also all use High Street, testing the city’s streets. 

This two-week shut-down offers an opportunity to take a good look at a system that currently is overly downtown-centric. Of course Charlottesville is a major destination, but this shutdown illustrates how dependent the entire transit system is on downtown. This period of discomfort is an opportunity for the community to think about how future transit routes might be drawn differently.  (CAT page on detour)

*** 

According to a calendar on Albemarle’s website, the county’s Historic Preservation Committee meets today at 4:30 p.m. in Room 241 of the main office building on McIntire Road. Last month, the group endorsed the idea of asking the Board of Supervisors to require that the Miller School of Albemarle be required to update historical documents as a condition of a pending rezoning. Last week, Supervisors deferred a vote when Miller School officials said they had not been told of the committee’s request and were thus not prepared. That may come up at the meeting today, but there’s no agenda posted. (calendar item)

*** 

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority gathers at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers for their February meeting. On the agenda are resolutions supporting CRHA’s participation in the redevelopment of South First Street and the renovation of Crescent Halls. There is also a resolution supporting the appointment of Kathleen Glenn-Matthews as the interim director of CRHA. She has served as interim director of operations since November after becoming relocation coordinator last June. The CRHA website does not have this meeting listed, nor the agenda. (CRHA website)

***

The Pantops Community Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:15 p.m in the Kessler Conference Room at the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. The agenda hasn’t been posted yet, but the Pantops area faces many changes over the coming years, including the conversion of the I-64/U.S. 250 interchange into a diverging diamond. (Pantops CAC page)

***

Charlottesville City Schools begins a four-part series of Community Conversations on Equity with the first installment at Charlottesville High School beginning at 6:00 p.m. (website)

The other events are:

  • February 25th at Friendship Court at 6:30pm, 
  • February 26th at the Boys and Girls Club on Cherry Avenue at 6:30pm
  • February 27th at City of Promise at 12 noon.

***

Last week, the Charlottesville City Council gave the go-ahead to install another temporary marker for an auction block in Court Square where enslaved people were bought and sold. One set in the sidewalk was stolen earlier this year by an activist. A subcommittee of the city’s Historic Resources Committee had already been working on something that conveyed the enormity of slavery, and will take up the temporary markers at a meeting today at noon at the Gordon Avenue Library. (Historic Resources website)

Finally, the Social Services Advisory Board will meet at noon in the Basement Conference Room in City Hall. The meeting is open to the public. (agenda

Tuesday, February 25, 2020: A look at recycling in Albemarle

In a time when there’s much confusion about what can be recycled, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA) is a major resource. RSWA Recycling Director Phil McKalips will update the Board of Directors on the issue at their meeting which begins at 2:00 p.m at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The group is transitioning to a monthly meeting, which will increase the profile of solid waste policy in our community. That gives us all a chance to take a look at our own habits and see what we can do to reduce the tonnage of waste that reaches the landfill. (agenda and board packet

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors meets immediately afterward. The RWSA is responsible for maintaining the supply of treated drinking water and selling to the Albemarle County Service Authority and the city of Charlottesville. The main item on the agenda is the introduction of the $135.2 million Capital Improvement Program for FY2021 through 2025. That figure includes long-planned projects such as renovations of the South Rivanna, Observatory and Crozet water treatment plants. Planned wastewater projects include the second phase of replacement of a sewer line that runs along McIntire Road. (agenda and board packet)

***

The Greene County Board of Supervisors has a full agenda, including an application to rezone a 2-acre parcel in Ruckersville from A-1 to B-3. The owners do not have a specific business in mind for the property, but want to add this property to three other lots that are already zoned for business use. In this case, the property is not within the designated growth area. That’s lead to a resolution from staff to recommend denial. (staff report) (presentation)

Supervisors will also: 

***

At 5:00 p.m., the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will begin a series of work sessions on County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed $451 million budget for fiscal year 2021. This meeting will be held in Room 241, which does not have many seats for the public. The presentation will be streamed online. You can review the video of Richardson’s February 19 presentation to the Board here

***

Nelson County’s Planning Commission meets at 7:00 p.m. to discuss changes to the zoning code regarding how structures with non-conforming uses are to be treated. There are no active land use applications on the agenda. (agenda

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Charlottesville Planning Commission will take a look at three topics at a work session scheduled for 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Neighborhood Development Services conference room in City Hall. That includes a first look of the Cherry Avenue Small Area Plan, a document crafted by Fifeville residents with coordination from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). (Staff report and plan)

Next, the Planning Commission will meet with the consultants who are part of a nearly $1 million contract to oversee completion of the city’s next Comprehensive Plan. Current members of the group have different interpretations of why the Commission’s state-mandated review has not yet resulted in a completed product and they’ll have a chance to discuss the work that has been undertaken since 2017. They’ll also be asked questions about housing, and I will be curious to see if the presentation will take into Council’s decision last week to move forward with specific zoning changes designed to increase the supply of affordable and supported housing units. (staff report)

Finally, Commissioners will have a work session with Southern Development about a proposal to rezone 11.4 acres of property off of Stribling Avenue in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood from single-family residential to a zoning type that would accommodate 170 units on the property. The Planning Commission saw a previous proposal that would have created 68 duplexes. The new submission would see 74 two-to-three story townhomes and 96 apartment units spread across four buildings. Under this arrangement, Southern Development is proposing to contribute “significant funding for bike and pedestrian improvements on Stribling Avenue.” (staff report and presentation)

***

When I think of places to go see lectures, the University of Virginia Research Park does not usually come to mind. However, Meg Heubeck from the Center of Politics will present Talking Turkey: Taking the ‘Dis’ out of Civil Discourse beginning at noon at Town Center Two. The University of Virginia Foundation is seeking ways to increase the public profile of the research park. Later this year, a new connector road paid for by the foundation will extend from Airport Road into the research park. (RSVP for the event)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Places29-Rio Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There’s no agenda at the moment, but possible topics include the March 4 Board of Supervisors public hearing for the rezoning of 999 Rio Road, as well as the forthcoming Planning Commission public hearing on Parkway Place. If rezoned, both projects will need viable transit multimodal service so residents can have alternatives to driving. (Places29-Rio Advisory Committee page)

***

The forum to improve transit in the region is the aptly-named Regional Transit Partnership (RTP), which meets at 4:00 p.m. at the Water Street Center at 407 Water Street. The body consists of Albemarle, Charlottesville and University of Virginia officials, and is attended by transit agencies throughout the area. This will be the first meeting of the year and comes at a crucial time for transit decisions in our community. 

The agenda includes a presentation from a Leadership Charlottesville group that has been working on interviewing transit riders and people who don’t currently take a bus. Finding out what obstacles people have is an important step toward getting them to seek alternatives. 

Another item on the agenda is a presentation from a series of listening sessions conducted last fall by the Virginia Conservation Network and the Virginia Transit Association. That work may help inform a visioning process for regional transit that the TJPDC is seeking grant and local funding to conduct. (agenda and packet

This meeting provides the last chance for the Regional Transit Partnership to discuss the upcoming budget cycle for Albemarle and Charlottesville. Albemarle Supervisors will hold a work session on transit funding on March 11 to discuss CAT’s $1.7 million request in funding, a request that is not included in County Executive Jeffrey Richardson’s proposed budget. Instead, Richardson recommended the same $1.043 million in funding that is in the current year’s budget, as well as a $387,562 contingency. 

One question I have is how well this process matches the agreement adopted by City Council and the Board of Supervisors last year. The Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding is intended to govern Albemarle’s relationship to CAT including how budgets are to be developed. There’s a lot to think about between now and Thursday. (MOU)

 

Week Ahead

Week Ahead for February 3, 2020

Good morning, and welcome to another quick look forward at what’s happening at local meetings in Albemarle, Charlottesville and beyond. February gets off to a quick start and here’s what we know so far. As always, please let us know what we might have missed. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Charlottesville City Council begins its first meeting of the month beginning at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The agenda for tonight covers both land use and social justice issues. 

The first public hearing deals with the $5.8 million surplus left at the end of fiscal year 2019, which ended last June. Council first discussed this at their last meeting on January 21, and made some adjustments at the budget retreat on January 23. Still in the resolution is $1.25 million for a compensation study as well as $700,000 in additional money for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. (staff report)

Council will then take up the form based code for a portion of the Strategic Investment Area. In January, the Planning Commission had their public hearing and sent the plan on with several concerns. This is the first of two readings by Council, so a final decision won’t be made at this meeting. (staff report

After a discussion about the signs at the Dairy Central development, Council will take up the report on disproportionate minority contact in the adult criminal justice system. The firm MGT Consulting Group has completed a report on the topic for both Charlottesville and Albemarle County. (staff report)

There are lots of interesting items on the Council consent agenda, which is voted on as one big block at the beginning of the meeting. 

  • Council will vote on a letter of support for the proposed Afton Express Transit Service which would connect Staunton and Charlottesville via a bus route. The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission is applying for a state grant for a three-year demonstration of the service. (staff report)
  • PACEM, the organization that houses the homeless during cold winter nights, has asked for $20,000 in funds from the city’s Human Service Funds to cover additional transportation costs. (staff report)
  • Council will approve a sublease agreement to operate the City Market in 2020 on the privately-owned surface parking lot at 100 Water Street. The cost to the city is $99,750 from April to December. Developer Keith Woodard has leased the space from the Charlottesville Parking Center for several years in anticipation of the West 2nd development that has now been abandoned. (staff report)

***

The Louisa Board of Supervisors meets in open session at 6:00 p.m. in the county meeting room. There are no major rezonings on the agenda, but the Board will vote on a proposal to allow representatives of groups to speak for up to five minutes at public hearings. The idea meets all four of the Board’s Strategic Initiatives. Supervisors will also get an update on long-term transportation priorities for Louisa. All 12 of them are intersection improvements. (agenda)

***

The Albemarle Architectural Review Board meets at 1:00 p.m. in Room 241 of the county’s office building on McIntire Road. In the first item, they will review a proposal for a cell tower on U.S. 250 near Crozet. In the second, they’ll hold a work session on the new Malloy Ford. (agenda

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Albemarle Planning Commission meets at 6:00 p.m. in Lane Auditoriums and has two public hearings, each of which touch upon the county’s growth management policies. In the first, Tiger Fuel is seeking a special use permit to build a gas station, convenience store and restaurant on Black Cat Road at exit 129 on Interstate 64. The property is outside of the county’s development area and is not on public water and sewer. (staff report

In the second, the owners of a 3.6 area property on Stony Point Road on Pantops are seeking a rezoning from residential to commercial so they can open up daycare facility for up to 124 children. While in the development area, the Pantops Master Plan designates part of the land to be Urban Density Residential and the rest as Parks and Green System. Our Neighborhood Child Development Center needs a new home by the summer because their existing site on Ivy Road has been sold. (staff report)

***

The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2:00 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. On the agenda is a rehearing of a case involving a law office that operates out of a couple’s home in the Rivanna District. (agenda)

The Charlottesville Tree Commission meets at 5:00 p.m. for a two-hour meeting that has 55 minutes scheduled for a discussion of “goals, objectives and committee structures.” According to the city website, the panel is to “serve strictly in an advisory role” to “protect and improve the urban forest.” After that, Commissioners will discuss the Community Forestry Management Plan for 142 acres of new parkland adjacent to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. Other topics include a future canopy study, an update on the Capital Improvement Program and an item on “upcoming projects that impact trees.” 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has a relatively light meeting to start the month, beginning at 1:00 p.m. in Lane Auditorium. (full agenda)   

Housing coordinator Stacy Pethia will give an update on the formation of a new county policy on affordability. Last April, a needs assessment conducted by the the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) found that more than 10,000 Albemarle families struggle with the cost of housing. A stakeholder committee has been meeting since October and a draft policy will be the subject of a joint work session with the Planning Commission in April. (staff report)

The rest of the regular agenda will feature an update on the Bright Stars pre-school program, a report from the Department of Social Services, and a report on the three-month autonomous shuttle program in Crozet operated by Perrone Robotics last year. The county funded the AVNU project through the Economic Development Authority in partnership with Jaunt. 

“During the course of the pilot, safety of operations was paramount,” reads the report. “There were no accidents or unsafe incidents throughout the pilot program.” (report) (funding agreement)

The consent agenda features several items of note:

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Since 1972, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has been in operation to connect and coordinate regional government services. Many agencies in the area got their start as TJPDC programs, such as Jaunt, Jefferson Area Board for Aging, and the Piedmont Housing Alliance. TJPDC staff work on land use, transportation, housing, solid waste, and many other areas of interest to Albemarle, Charlottesville, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.  

The TJPDC’s work is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors that meets on the first Thursday of each month. Tonight is the first meeting for City Councilor Michael Payne, Albemarle Supervisors Ned Gallaway and Donna Price, and Louisa Supervisor Eric Purcell. The meeting is held at 407 Water Street in downtown Charlottesville beginning at 7:00 p.m. (full packet)

***

The Crozet Master Plan revision continues at 6:30 p.m. with another workshop at Western Albemarle High School. This time the “Character and Land Use” event will discuss neighborhoods and housing. (plan website)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Not quite a government meeting, but we welcome the new U.S. citizens who will be sworn in at a Naturalization Ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse at 255 West Main Street, beginning at 11:00 a.m. 





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Week Ahead for January 27, 2020

Week Ahead for January 27, 2020

The first month of 2020 is almost in the books and this final week of January is much quieter than in recent weeks. I only have items for the first three days. This is the lull before a very busy February begins and the arrival of budget season. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners meets today as both itself and as the nonprofit entity that exists to facilitate expansion and renovation of the city’s public housing stock. The regular meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers followed by the Charlottesville Community Development Corporation. Among other things, the CRHA will get a report from the interim operations director, Kathleen Glenn-Matthews. (CRHA agenda)

The CCDC will get an update on public housing redevelopment, including the news that Virginia Supportive Housing and CRHA will take another year to plan for redevelopment of a site on Levy Avenue. VSH has withdrawn its request for city funding for this year for a project known as Crossings II. The deadline to submit an application for low-income housing tax credits is coming up in March. The project could grow to include additional units, a University of Virginia Health Clinic and a “financial opportunity center.” (update) (CCDC agenda

***

The city’s Department of Social Services Advisory Board will meet at 12:00 p.m. in the Basement Conference Room in City Hall. The group is charged with monitoring social welfare programs in Virginia and one of its power and duties is “to interest itself in all matters pertaining to the social welfare of the people in the city.” There’s no agenda online but minutes from previous meetings as well as annual reports can be found here

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The two authorities that handle solid waste, sewage, and drinking water meet this afternoon for the first time in 2020. If you’re interested in recycling issues, be sure to dig into the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority agenda for the special meeting that begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. For instance, more than 113,400 paint cans have been dropped off at the Ivy Materials Utilization Center since August 2016. “The oil-based paints that are collected are beneficially used as fuel for heat recovery and the latex paints are re-processed back into commercial paints,” reads a report from RSWA’s director of solid waste. The document also notes that a new pilot program has begun at the McIntire Recycling Center to separately collect pizza delivery boxes. These can’t be recycled due to grease, but can be used for composting. (RSWA packet)

Immediately following the solid waste meeting is the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. The packet for this meeting is also full of interesting facts, including that the wastewater treatment plant generates 14,000 tons of biosolids each year. These are hauled to McGill Environmental in Waverly at a cost of $456.25 per trip. Another tidbit is that the agency is spending $75,000 on emergency repairs to cover up an exposed waterline. A staff report notes that “RWSA staff discovered that a large section of bank had collapsed within McIntire Park due to recent rains and runoff, causing approximately 20 feet of RWSA’s 24 inch Urban Waterline to become exposed.”  The RWSA Board will also be asked to approve a $36 million contract for English Construction Company to perform upgrades to the Observatory and South Rivanna Water Treatment Plants. (agenda)

***

A Daily Progress article from Sunday makes mention of a meeting between the City Council and the Charlottesville School Board, but this is not listed on the websites of either entity. The article states the meeting is to be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC). 

***

The Greene Board of Supervisors meets with their county School Board beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the administration building in Stanardsville. The regular meeting will include an update from the Ruckersville Advisory Committee, a citizen group convened to oversee the small area plan drafted for one of the county’s two designated growth areas. Among the group’s recommendations are to improve signage along U.S. 29 and to seek state funding for streetscape improvements. An audit of the county’s zoning code will get underway this year to inform other aspects of the Ruckersville Area Plan. (RAC recommendations) (agenda)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

All seven of Albemarle’s Community Advisory Committees will come together at 6:00 p.m. in Room A at the county office building on 5th Street Extended. The meeting is a chance for all of the committee members to get an update on county policy on capital planning, budgeting, transportation, and all of the other details you’d expect are ingredients for a growing county. Each CAC represents a specific designated growth area, and the meetings are the best chance to get involved with growth and development issues. There are vacancies on all of the committees and the county is seeking applications








Land Use - Albemarle, Meeting Reports, Placemaking, Urban Design

Architectural review board ponders its role under a form-based code

Albemarle planners are very clear that creating a form-based code for a portion of the county’s designated growth area is intended to speed up the development review process. 

“The goal of this project first and foremost is to incentivize redevelopment in this area consistent with the Rio Road Small Area Plan that was adopted last year,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a principal planner in the Albemarle Department of Community Development.

Albemarle Supervisors adopted the plan in December 2018 as a way to transform 20th century shopping centers into a 21st century “place” where people can live, work and play. That lofty vision that could help the county meets many of its housing, transportation and employment goal, but the details remain to be written that will translate the idea into reality.

“The majority of the land in the Rio-29 area is in entrance corridor overlay,” Falkenstein said. 

Three members of the Architectural Review Board spent some time on October 7, 2019 discussing the matter. The ARB is charged with judging development proposals against the Entrance Corridor (EC) guidelines, a step that many developers argue adds time to the process. 

“Personally I would have no objection to providing a solution where staff could potentially administratively review and approve items,” said ARB member Dade Van Der Werf. 

County planner Michaela Accardi said the proposed form-based code and certain EC guidelines are compatible, pointing out that #9 and #12 are of particular note. 

“Building forms and features, including roofs, windows, doors, materials, colors and textures should be compatible with the forms and features of the significant historic buildings in the area, exemplified by (but not limited to) the buildings described in Appendix A,” reads number 9. “The standard of compatibility can be met through scale, materials, and forms which may be embodied in architecture which is contemporary as well as traditional. The replication of important historic sites in Albemarle County is not the objective of these guidelines.”

“Architecture proposed within the Entrance Corridor should use forms, shapes, scale, and materials to create a cohesive whole,” reads number 12. 

One ARB member said he thought the form-based code could be an improvement over the current system. 

“It seems to me that these character areas, for lack of a better word, will be a huge advantage over what we’re dealing with now where we sort of have this one size fits all approach, yet we have areas that are very different in terms of their architectural heritage,” said Frank Stoner. “I think it will be a great improvement.”

Another intent of the form-based code would be to encourage a more walkable community in part by bringing buildings closer to the street.  But which street? U.S. 29, or new streets that would be created to serve the new places? 

“What is the intended character of Rio Road and U.S. 29?” Accardi asked. “Are auto-oriented designs appropriate along this road? We in this ordinance need to be thinking about where buildings should front and face. Should that be on U.S. 29 or should it be an interior network? That has been an on-going challenge.” 

Stoner said there is one reality to consider.

“The highway is not going to go away,” Stoner said. “But most of the plans that I’ve seen at the schematic level are trying to reorganize things and create appealing spaces within these quadrants, not necessarily facing U.S. 29.” 

At the same meeting, the ARB approved a final plan for a chain restaurant along U.S. 29. In the near future, they’ll also review plans for a car wash at the corner of Woodbrook and U.S. 29 on land currently occupied by the law firm Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen.

“There will still be uses and businesses that their desire will be to front U.S. 29 for visibility,” said ARB member Frank Hancock.

Falkenstein agreed. 

“We hear from VDOT that they’re going to continue to maximize speed and capacity of this roadway and they’ve put a lot of money into doing so,” Falkenstein said. “I do think that it will continue to be very auto-oriented and perhaps we can think about that in terms of scale of things. The scale of architecture and development along U.S. 29 could be a more auto-oriented scale.”

Before staff gets to the details of how the EC guidelines would become the form-based code, there still need to other considerations. 

“We have to write the regulations for the forms and architecture of the building and we can focus on local interior streets,” Falkenstein said. “We have to specify where the buildings orient, where the pedestrian entrances should be, where the roof forms and the facade treatment should go.”

PROCESS TO DATE 

The form-based code has gone before the Planning Commission twice this summer and will go before that body again on Tuesday for another work session.  

“We’ve heard from the Planning Commission that we should regulate block size or allow for pedestrian passages to make sure we don’t have large expanses of buildings,” Falkenstein said. 

Falkenstein said the Planning Commission has recommended a by-right height of four stories with an additional two stories if the structure contains items the county wants, such as additional housing that is below-market. 

Another aspect of the code will be to determine where it will be appropriate to require ground-floor retail uses to create active streets.

“There might be an architectural component to this by having higher ceiling heights or more transparency along the first floor,” Falkenstein said. 

Falkenstein said another question will be whether the county could relax its minimum parking requirements to avoid large expanses of asphalt. 

Much of the work has been done in-house.

“We had a consultant early on back in 2016 and we had a grant from the state of $60,000,” Falkenstein said. 

Stoner asked what would happen if an applicant was unhappy with a staff recommendation or interpretation. Planner Margaret Maliszewski said there would be some sort of an appeal process to either the ARB or the Board of Supervisors. 

“That would be something that as staff we have to work through where there should be exceptions while balancing between flexibility and ensuring there is not an exception for every place, which would invalidate the purpose,” Accardi said. 

July 2020 is the target for adoption of the form-based code. On Tuesday, October 15, the Albemarle Economic Development Authority will be presented with the results of a series of stakeholder groups held with businesses in September. 









Land Use - Albemarle, Placemaking, Urban Design

Form-based code seen as a tool to build urban Albemarle

Originally written in summer 2019

Can you imagine a future where the current shopping centers along U.S. 29 in Albemarle County have been replaced with mid-rise buildings where people are able to live, work and hang out in public? That’s the vision put forth in the Rio Road Small-Area Plan, a document adopted by the Board of Supervisors in December 2018. 

“The community [has] showed their vision for this area and said they felt that Rio/29 could be transformed into a walkable, mixed-use community,” said Nancy Hunt, the chair of the Places29-Rio Community Advisory Committee. “That would be a pretty wide-open vision for a big empty parking lot with a few empty stores.”

One planner from another Virginia locality said during a recent visit that she saw possibilities. 

“I think the benefit you have here is you’ve got four large quadrants and a good chunk of those are large properties that are already assembled,” said Ashby Moss, the strategic growth area planning and evaluation coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach. “It’s a lot easier once you got a large piece of land under one ownership to redesign it.’ 

Virginia Beach adopted a form-based code in 2012 to help guide redevelopment of land near the oceanfront that had been occupied by single-story buildings. This alternative form of zoning created incentives for property owners to build something that would create more space for residential or commercial use. 

However, many people in the community have expressed confusion about what form-based code is and some have expressed apprehension. Here’s the way it is defined in the Rio Road Small Area Plan. 

“A form-based code differs from a conventional (Euclidean) zoning code in that rather than focusing on the use of a property, a form-based code focuses on building form as its organizing principle,” reads the implementation chapter. “By prescribing detailed architectural and site design requirements, developments permitted under a form-based code produce a more consistent, connected, and predictable built environment while allowing greater flexibility of use.” 

What does that mean in practice? Here’s how a planner from Arlington County describes it. 

“With form-based code, you’re essentially designing every block and every series of blocks, but not actually looking at each parcel,” said Matt Mattauszek, a principal planner with Arlington County and the coordinator of the Columbia Pike Initiative.  

“Think of it as putting trace paper on top of the existing aerial plan of your community and working from the middle of the roadway into the property,” he said. “How many travel lanes do you want to have? Okay, that’s the edge of your curb. How wide do you want to have your sidewalks?”

For Albemarle, the work of putting together such a plan is just getting started. Mattauszek and Moss were both guests on an April 29 panel discussion put together by Albemarle County to help educate people about the zoning tool. 

Recent history and many eyes on the future 

Sprawling development on U.S. 29 began in the mid to late 20th century, with many farms and fields turned into single-family neighborhoods and single-story shopping centers. 

“As a primarily rural area, Albemarle County didn’t adopt zoning until 1969 at a time when suburban Charlottesville was starting to grow,” said Andrew Knuppel, a county planner. “The current code and zoning map were adopted in 1980 and set an expectation for continued and directed growth into our development areas and prioritized rural area and watershed protection.” 

However, Knuppel said the code from 1980 did not plan for an urban form in Albemarle. Instead, commercial shopping centers were built on those large parcels with surface parking up hundreds of acres. With the future of large retailers in question across the United States, planners everywhere are looking for solutions. 

“Civic leaders, planners and community members across the United States are beginning to recognize the challenges and limitations of single-use zoning,” said Michaela Accardi, a neighborhood planner with the county. “This type of zoning code may include regulations on building height, mass, set-backs, build-to lines, and building orientations. These regulations emphasize the qualities that affect site design and how our community experiences the space.”

The goal at Rio Road and 29 is to guide the redevelopment of properties as a more dense environment. The current conditions are geared for those in vehicles. 

“As this area transforms and redevelops, we can reorient and think about where we place the buildings on site so it’s more comfortable for people to walk around,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a senior planner with the county. “Right now the zoning in the area just allows for the commercial type of uses that are there, but with form-based code we can start to think about having residential or offices there.”

In some ways, a form-based code carries on the tradition of the county’s Neighborhood Model District zoning, which since 2001 has encouraged buildings to be closer to roadways and for parking to be relegated behind the structures. 

Form-based code could take that a step further by suggesting where future streets might go. Falkenstein said the area currently mainly consists of two busy roadways and travelways through private parking lots. The code could set up a future street grid and where public spaces would be located. 

“People have said this area lacks public amenities such as parks, trails and sidewalks,” Falkenstein said. “That’s something a lot of communities can regulate through form-based code.”

Form-based code in Arlington 

It’s one thing to talk about form-based code in theory. It’s another to hear concrete examples from other places where it has been implemented. In Arlington, much of the leg work of planning and community engagement was conducted by a nonprofit group that partnered with county planners. 

“It has to be complemented with a lot of other things, and vision for a place is the number one issue,” said Takis Karatonis, a former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. That group was created to promote the redevelopment of a three and a half mile stretch of Route 244 in Arlington County. 

“Economic development for the place is the number two issue,” he said. “Housing, equity, all of it will be on your table. The form-based code discussion is a good introduction to the complexity and holistic approach to a new place that you are going to build.” 

Karatonis said that Columbia Pike was not included on the Metro system when it was built, and there was a lack of new development on the corridor for decades. The organization was formed to brainstorm ways to attract private capital for redevelopment. An economist by trade, Karatonis said his job was to get people around the table to talk about potential futures. 

“That included government, developers, shop-owners, property owners, civic-association presidents and others, including the schools,” Karatonis said. “The idea was to see how we could influence the process together.” 

Mattauszek said the form-based code has led to new street connections, mini-parks, plazas and a community center built through a public-private partnership. 

“Now with Amazon locating in Crystal City and Pentagon City with their second headquarters,  we’re already starting to see another wave of development coming in because of the close proximity,” Mattauszek said. 

Form-based code in Leesburg 

Leesburg is a town in Loudoun County with an estimated population in 2017 of 54,215 that dates back to 1740. 

“If any of you have been to Leesburg, you know that the core of our identity is the downtown, said Susan Berry Hill, the town’s planning and zoning director for the Town of Leesburg. “But it’s not just the history… it’s the actual design that has been preserved over the years.” 

Berry Hill said the compact, walkable nature of Leesburg makes the town attractive to employers and residents alike. As officials sought to expand the footprint of the downtown, they wanted to find a way to make sure future development matched.

“That area was identified through a master plan as the Crescent District,” Berry Hill said. “The master plan identified some goals that we wanted to achieve in the town, which was to extend the walkability of the downtown into areas that surround the development and to make sure the development happens in a predictable pattern that is respectful of the scale of the historic core.”

“At its most elemental level, form-based codes are proactive,” Berry Hill said. “They are really about deciding what is the public realm such as the sidewalks, the streets, the public places. What do we want that to be? We don’t wait for a developer to hopefully get us there. It’s deciding as a community what we want that to be and then putting that into the regulations.”

Berry Hill said Leesburg does not have a robust public transit system, so their code emphasizes walkability.

“We are focusing on pedestrian connections and making those as easy as possible so that people don’t feel the need to get in the car to do short trips,” Berry Hill said. 

Form-based code in Virginia Beach 

Moss said Virginia Beach’s form-based stemmed from a planning exercise known as the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan, a project not that different from the Rio Road Small Area Plan.  

“Fortunately we had the bones and the street structure that was able to accommodate [the form-based code],” Moss said. “It was a lot easier to infill that to try to carve out new streets which will be a challenge for RIo/29.” 

Moss said it took three years to write and adopt the code. 

“We’ve seen significant results since then but not immediately,” Moss said. “It takes some time.” 

Moss said Virginia Beach’s form-based code limits building heights to serve as a curb on density near the shore. 

“We can’t really handle the density that can some our way so we have to monitor that,” Moss said. 

Incentivizing redevelopment for the whole community

Mattauszek said the goal in Arlington was to create a mechanism that would incentivize development. Another was to find ways to ensure no one was displaced. 

“We wanted to make sure that all of the demographics and broad ranges that resided on the corridor could still continue to do that as redevelopment happened,” Mattauszek said. “We wanted to make sure that certain preservation tools emphasized affordable housing on every site with every new development.” 

Karatonis said that 45,000 people lived on a three-and-a-half mile stretch of Columbia Pike, but there was not a single public square. 

“Any recreational spaces were quasi-accidentally there,” Karatonis said. “There was not an urban design that was conducive to build community and to make the neighborhoods be proud and take ownership.”

Karatonis said form-based code can designate where public spaces will be in the future. For Leesburg, that has meant open places where people can congregate. 

“Form-based codes are first and foremost about placemaking,” Berry Hill said. “It’s locating the buildings in such a way that you’re really forming a good public area.”  

Mattauszek said it helped for staff in the Arlington planning department to have a nonprofit partner to assist with negotiations with property owners and interested citizens. 

“Being able to engage with them in a slightly different way allowed for us to get that additional layer of input,” Mattauszek said. “It’s because of the interactions we had with the community, with design charrettes and open studios where they could come in and help us draft some of the documents.” 

Karatonis said that for most parties, predictability is the most important outcome of the form-based code.

“You see at the end of the process on the map what kind of building you get, where you get it, and how it relates to the street and the neighborhood,” Karatonis said. “For the development community, this is invaluable.” 

Moss said the primary friction in Virginia Beach in the early days of writing the code was between the people who wanted to see change and those who wanted everything to stay the same.

“A lot that was just reassuring people that we weren’t going to come into their single-family neighborhoods with eminent domain and build a high-rise,” Moss said. “Some people jumped to that conclusion. A lot of it was educating people about looking for a balance and the need to keep the economy growing.”

Form-based codes change over time 

Berry Hill said that even with adoption of a form-based code, work will continue on revising it over time as conditions change. 

“We recognize that we need to go back and revisit some of the basic principles that we are looking at, such as in our district, the Town Council said there would not be any public money for capital projects to go into collaborating with the development community and the private sector,” Berry Hill said. “We found that that’s very difficult to do when you see development happening on a parcel by parcel basis.”

Leesburg invited the Form Based Code Institute to review the form-based ordinance for an additional review. A report has recently been made to the Council which could lead to changes.

“I’m hoping we can make it even better and see more redevelopment happen because of that,” Berry Hill said. 

Karatonis said there would always be revisions, especially as the need for parking requirements may shift as more people switch away from private vehicles. 

“Form-based codes create a consistent base and a theory of change for the next step,” he said. “They create an acquired capital of urban experience.”

In his case, Karatonis said the transformation of Columbia Pike is about getting to people to experience their communities better. 

“We would have had to take the car to go somewhere like three miles away to have fun, and now we can just walk out of our house,” Karatonis said. 




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