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.


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.



Fossil fuel moratorium, Bedford train stop: Newscast for January 24, 2019

Good morning and welcome to a rainy-day version of the experimental newscast, dedicated to bringing you information about state and local government since January 1. Thanks for joining us again as we work out what we’re trying to do here. Today’s edition is brought to you by HairSmith and Co, a fine place to take care of your appearance, located at 1208 East Market Street in the Coterie Suites. I recently had my best haircut of the last ten years there, and can attest to the quality that comes with every cut. Thank you, HairSmith and Co! And now, on with the news.

A bill that would prohibit new fossil-fuel power plants in Virginia was passed out of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, according to a report from the Capital News Service. House Bill 1635 was introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke with Delegate Elizabeth Guzman serving as co-patron. Here’s some sound from the meeting yesterday beginning with committee chair Terry Kilgore.


The legislation would also commit Virginia to a plan that would require energy suppliers to only use “clean energy resources” after the year 2036.

One Republican joined eight Democrats in voting for the bill, while two Democrats joined five Republicans in voting no. Six other Republicans did not vote on the bill. A vote by the full House of Delegates has not yet been scheduled.


If you live in southeast Virginia, you may be been moved this into a House of Delegates new district. The Virginia Public Access Project today released a visualization tool which depicts the results of a recent 4th District Court of Appeals decision to redraw 26 state House districts. However, VPAP also reports in their newsletter today that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Republican appeal of the decision this spring.


The Bedford Town Council has added its voice to a growing call for Amtrak service to stop in that community, according to a story in the Lynchburg News and Advance. This month, both Council and the Bedford County Board of Supervisors adopted resolutions calling for a $9.8 million grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for a new train station. A passenger train has traveled through Roanoke every day since service to Roanoke was established in 2017, and train activists say a stop in Bedford would boost economic development.  Franklin County is also interested in the idea because it could help bring more people to Smith Mountain Lake. A study commissioned in 2017 by a grassroots group demonstrated such a stop would add 12,000 new riders to Amtrak’s service in Virginia.


A developer in Afton has told the Nelson County Times he will build six cabins on a portion of his property off of Route 151. Earlier this month, the Nelson County Board of Supervisors turned down a request for a special use permit for that use. The cabins are part of the Afton Depot development, which is across the street from Silverback Distillery. The company Rockfish Valley Events eventually wants to build a nanobrewery, farm winery and tasting room as part of the entire project. The Times reports that the Nelson County Planning Commission was set to take up a permit for a restaurant at their meeting this week.


Today is the first meeting of the Regional Housing Partnership, an advisory panel that will “focus on housing production, diversity, accessibility, cost, location, design, and increasing stability for the region’s residents.” Members include elected officials from throughout the Thomas Jefferson Planning District, which includes Albemarle, Charlottesville, Nelson, Green and Fluvanna counties. The idea behind the partnership is to address the need for more affordable housing on a regional basis. The meeting begins at 9:00 am at the Water Street Center on Water Street.


This next story from Louisa County is written by citizen journalist Tammy Purcell.

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors continued to wrestle with its vision for the locality’s future Tuesday night, listening to dozens of citizens share their concerns about the county’s proposal to develop a sprawling industrial park just off Interstate 64.  In a 4-3 decision, the board voted to purchase more than 700 acres near Shannon Hill in hopes of bringing both jobs and revenue to the county. The proposed industrial park met widespread opposition when it became public last summer. The original proposal spanned some 1600 acres, spilling far beyond the county’s designated growth area.  The board eventually downsized the project but many residents still expressed concerns about its threat to Louisa’s rural character. Thanks to citizen journalist Tammy Purcell for that story.


Dangerous streets, Albemarle elections, city leases: Newscast for January 23, 2019

Good morning and come on in as we read some top headlines from in and around the greater Charlottesville area. We’re entering our fourth week of this experiment, which is intended to  help you learn more about what’s happening. Today’s installment is brought to you Rapture, a restaurant and nightclub on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Tonight’s Wednesday Music Showcase presents the band Toad Head in a free show beginning at around 10:00 pm. Before, come on in for a great dinner. And now, that news we told you about.

The Equal Rights Amendment may have been defeated in the Virginia House of Delegates. The House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 4 to 2 to “pass by indefinitely” a bill that the Virginia Senate approved last week on a 26 to 14 vote. The Virginia Mercury reports that the only woman on the subcommittee, Delegate Margaret Ransone, said she did not need “words on a piece of paper” because she said “God made us all equal.” Supporters of the bill are still hoping it can be brought to the house floor for a full vote.


There are now two candidates for the open race in the Rivanna District on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. The Daily Progress reports that Bea Kirtley of Keswick will also seek the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Norman Dill. Dill announced earlier this year he would not run for a second term representing the northeast portion of Albemarle County. Kirtley moved to the area in 2007 after a long career in public service in the Los Angeles area, including a stint on City Council. Jerrod Smith announced last week that he would run for the seat as well. Ann Mallek has said she will run for a fourth term representing the White Hall district in northwest Albemarle. She has not been opposed since 2007. Rick Randolph, the incumbent in the Scottsville District, has not announced his plans.


In other Albemarle election news, longtime public defender Jim Hingeley is set today to announce his campaign to be the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Albemarle County. That seat is currently held by Republican Robert Tracci, who defeated Denise Lunsford in 2015. Hingeley created the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender and served there for 18 years.


The group Smart Growth America has issued its annual Dangerous by Design report, which states that drivers kill 13 pedestrians a day in crashes across the United States. The report ranks cities and states on something the group calls the Pedestrian Danger Index. Virginia is ranked as the 23rd worst state on that index.Most of the communities with the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities are within Florida. From 2008 to 2017, pedestrian deaths increased 35.4 percent while vehicle miles traveled increased by 8.1 percent. Smart Growth America calls upon states to adopt Complete Streets policies to make them safer for people on foot as well as cyclists. Charlottesville adopted such a policy in 2016 called Streets That Work that is used to help prioritize what projects get funded locally.  


If you’re interested in transportation issues, there are a couple of meetings in the next two days you might want to know about. The Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board meets at 4:00 today at 410 Water Street in downtown Charlottesville. The MPO is made up of two Charlottesville City Councilors and two Albemarle Supervisors, as well as the head of VDOT’s Culpeper District. The policy board will discuss the Long Range Transportation Plan, the Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan and will review how area transportation projects fared in a statewide funding competition. As we reported last week, the Smart Scale process has only recommended $2 million in funding for the West Main Streetscape project. Projects to improve the area around the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road were not recommended for funding. We’ll bring you some of that conversation on today’s installment.


Tomorrow, the Regional Transit Partnership will meet in the same place at 4:00 p.m. The partnership is similar to the MPO, but is a non-binding advisory group that works to try to encourage and implement cooperation between the three main transit agencies that serve urban Charlottesville. They are the Charlottesville Area Transit, JAUNT and the University Transit System. We’ll have a preview of that meeting tomorrow.


Finally today, Amtrak will begin a second daily passenger train to Norfolk from Washington D.C. beginning in March. The new service was announced at the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting last week by Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. Passenger service to Norfolk was restored in 2012, three years after daily passenger service came back to Charlottesville. Passenger service was restored to Roanoke last year. Have you taken the train? Let us know in the comments or send us an email.


Audio-only: City council discussion of the lease extension for the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society.