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.”


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. 

Land Use - Albemarle, Land Use - Charlottesville, Meeting Reports

Regional transit partnership paving way for better mobility in greater Charlottesville 

As the population of greater Charlottesville area continues to increase, so too will the need for alternatives to driving alone in single-occupancy vehicles. Doing so will reduce traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create better communities. 

Both Albemarle and the city of Charlottesville have Comprehensive Plans which call for dense, urban communities where people can choose not to drive because there are alternatives such as transit and greenways.  But how do we make sure those plans get implemented and options increase? 

I will continue to advocate for improvements to make it easier for people to make a change. We will also educate people about how policies work and how they can be improved. That is the purpose of this article, which is based on the June 27, 2019 meeting of the Regional Transit Partnership (RTP). 


There are currently three major transit agencies that operate in the area. They are the Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT), which is solely owned by the city and operates under their public works department. There’s JAUNT, a public service corporation owned by local governments that provides paratransit and commuter routes throughout the greater region. JAUNT also provides door-to-door service for people in rural communities. Finally, there is the University Transit Service (UTS), which focuses solely on moving people around the University of Virginia. 

In the late 2000s, there was a push to create a Regional Transit Authority that would become the sole provider of bus service in the city and county. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) coordinated the effort, which included a committee tasked with thinking through the details of how the three agencies might come together as one. 

Among other reasons, the idea fizzled after the General Assembly failed to pass legislation allowing a sales tax referendum to pay for the authority’s operations. The regional transit committee eventually disbanded. Discussions on the future of transit revered back to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). 

Several years later, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors began pressing city officials for more details about how their annual bill for the service was calculated. That resulted in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, JAUNT and the TJPDC forming in 2017 a Regional Transit Partnership to address that and other issues. 

The group currently meets monthly to discuss ways that CAT, JAUNT and UTS can cooperate in the name of increased community mobility.  Each serves a slightly different constituency, but when they work together, the goals of less traffic congestion and greater community mobility are more likely to be met. 

The RTP is valuable to our region’s future and fits within the community’s goals for urban areas that function well. This article is intended to serve as a primer for a public body that needs a higher public profile. 

The current numbers

One of the most commonly used metrics for how people get around is the American Community Survey, a service of the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2017 survey found that 76 percent of Albemarle commuters drove to work in a single-occupancy vehicle and another 11 percent carpooled. Only two percent took public transit, one percent rode a bike and another two percent walked. 

The numbers get a bit better when you look at the 2017 numbers for the urbanized population of 103,716 people that includes the city of Charlottesville. Sixty-eight percent drove alone and 11 percent carpooled. The public transit figures rose to six percent and eight percent walked to work. Cycling remained the same at two percent. 

One of the catalysts for the RTP’s creation was a desire by Albemarle to have up-to-date information about ridership. That data was being provided regularly but the most recent data available on the RTP website is unfortunately from December.

Ridership on CAT was down 5.35 percent from December 2017 to December 2018. In real terms, the drop was from 144,811 passengers to 137,065. 

Ridership on all routes declined except the trolley-style bus and Route 2, which serves the Fifth Street Station shopping center. JAUNT also experienced a ridership decrease over that period, with a 12.9 percent decline. (March 2019 ridership report)

Ridership declined nine percent from 2013 to 2017, according to reports filed with the Federal Transit Administration

The declines could eventually lead to a loss in funding. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) continues to implement transit reform that passed the General Assembly in 2018.  For those interested in improving community mobility in the region, it is crucial to keep an eye on how policies are made. (bill)

States changes in transit planning 

For many years, transit agencies in the state that receive public funding had to create a transit development plan (TDP) every six years. According to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, such plans “help transit operators improve their efficiency and effectiveness by identifying the need and required resources for modifying and enhancing services provided to the general public.” 

While CAT submitted an updated plan to DRPT last October, the plan has not been adopted by the City Council. Its most recent director, John Jones, left the position in February. 

The draft plan recommended many route changes but acting director Juwhan Lee told the RTP at the June 27 meeting that the agency decided to hold off until a new director settles in.  A month later, City Manager Tarron Richardson selected Garland Williams for the post. Williams has been the director of planning and scheduling for the Greater Richmond Transit System

Williams takes the reins at a time when the DRPT is switching away from requiring a TDP in favor of a new “transit strategic plan.” CAT will be among the first localities to create such a plan when that work begins in the summer of 2020. 

JAUNT also created a new TDP but their Board of Directors had not adopted it as of June 2019.

“The recommendations that came out of the TDP were not fully-formed enough for us to carry forward,” said JAUNT CEO Brad Sheffield. As a result, his team of planners has been working to collect more data to provide more information. 

JAUNT is implementing some of the recommendations from its TDP, such as the August 5 launch of commuter service between Crozet and the University of Virginia. 

“There is a recommendation in there about on-demand transit and we are in the process of analyzing that concept and the platform that would be needed,” Sheffield said. 

The strategic plans will require agencies to demonstrate what they will do to increase ridership and enhance service. This is part of legislation that passed the General Assembly in 2018 that reforms how transit is funded in Virginia. (bill)

“The General Assembly has said ‘we want you to really tell us what you’re trying to get out of this idea you want funded,’” Sheffield said. Annual reports from the plan will also have to document whether progress is being made. 

RTP successes 

The most significant achievement of the RTP has been to forge an agreement between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle over how CAT calculates the county’s contributions for fixed-route transit services. That agreement was adopted by elected officials in both communities this summer after months of negotiations. 

“That’s a big win because it’s the first time that’s ever been done,” said Chip Boyles, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

The partnership has also resulted in agencies coming closer to sharing data with each other, including from e-scooter services. Better understanding of that data might help explain ridership declines as well as paint a more accurate picture of how people who don’t drive get around the community.

More funding through can come through discussion 

The meetings also provide an opportunity for the agencies to talk about new sources of revenue. In May, there had been a robust discussion about whether Charlottesville Area Transit should report more data to the federal government in order to qualify for more funding. 

In June, the acting transit director told the RTP that it would be a matter of hiring more staff or getting a consultant to report the additional data. This would allow it to qualify for the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Transit Intensive Cities program.  (flowchart

“The project is an additional $500,000 and so that’s our end goal and we’re trying to figure out how we get there,” Lee said. “We’re also waiting for a new transit director to be part of the discussion.”

We wait to see what Mr. Williams will bring to the table. 

Whither the RTP? 

Near the end of the meeting, one member of City Council asked an existential question.

“Is this RTP just going to go on indefinitely?” asked City Councilor Kathy Galvin. “Is this a task force? What is the end game?” 

Boyles said the goal is to either create a regional transit authority or create a regional system that works together despite being multiple agencies. He said his hope is that the regional vision will continue to evolve as CAT and other transit agencies work on their planning documents. 

“That will hopefully push us in a direction of asking whether the authority is the end game,” Boyles said. 

Boyles said another benefit of the continued existence of the partnership is better alignment between the University Transit Service and the rest of the community. UTS is entirely paid for through enrollment fees and does not have to report any data to the state or federal government. That could change.   

“Currently UVA is a non-voting member of this board and they are now interested in becoming a member,” Boyles said.

Boyles said he does not see the RTP ending in the near future because of the work that needs to be done.

“It’s more important than ever that we are accurately reflecting ridership because of the new funding requirements,” Boyles said. “That’s new since this partnership began. The other thing that we will have to adjust for is the likelihood after the 2020 Census that the MPO boundaries will change which will change transit service as well.”

Talk about the regional transit partnership could come up again in September when the Board of Supervisors and City Council meet for a third time this calendar year. 

The Regional Transit Partnership is scheduled to meet again on August 22. One potential topic is the role that transit can play in encouraging and supporting economic development throughout the region. 

Another hope I have for the partnership is that it can be a forum where people can bring forward ideas. For instance, how can we transition the public transit fleet to electric vehicles? 

Increasing carpooling 

The Regional Transit Partnership is more than just fixed transit. 

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission offers a program called Rideshare to help connect people who don’t want to drive alone to work. About eleven percent of people in the Charlottesville metropolitan area carpool together, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census

“Our main goal is to help reduce traffic congestion by reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles,” said Sarah Pennington, the Rideshare coordinator. 

Rideshare is now launching a new app to try to increase that number. 

Pennington said she and her colleagues at the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission to offer alternatives.

“Many commuters are crossing those boundaries and we see many people come in from across the mountain over into Charlottesville for work,” Pennington said. 

Rideshare also operates a “guaranteed ride home” program where committed carpoolers can cover the cost of immediate transport if there is an emergency back home. 

“It’s kind of like an insurance policy,” Pennington said. “It’s one of the tools that we use to get people to change their behavior. Asking people to step out of their car is a really hard thing to do and people are a little hesitant at first. Knowing they will not be stuck is the first question.” 

Rideshare also coordinates information about park and ride lots in the area, which is where many carpools start from. Pennington also coordinates the van pools, which are more formalized than carpools.  A private contractor is hired to run the vans.

“Usually you’re looking at a minimum of seven to 12 people to put into a vanpool,” Pennington said. “There is a formal agreement they enter into in and then they pay a monthly fee for that seat in the van.” 

The TJPDC has hired a new person to assist Pennington in administering the program with an eye toward getting more out of their cars. Boyles said this part of an overall shift to market community mobility under one unified brand that spans the individual agencies. 

“This will start that process,” Boyles said. 


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

Two urban intersection projects to move forward 

(editor’s note:  Charlottesville opted to spend on a different project – this article is out of date and was not updated)
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.
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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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
  • 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!

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.