Archive for January, 2010

stormwater regs bill passes VA senate and a little local rain

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

from VACO Capitol Contact newsletter. Jan 28, 2010

Senate Agriculture subcommittee agrees on single stormwater bill

On Jan. 27 a special Senate Agriculture subcommittee recommended that a substitute version of SB 395 (Wagner) be reported. All other Senate bills delaying the implementation date of Virginia’s stormwater regulations by Senators Watkins, Whipple, and Hanger were “rolled into” SB 395.

The substitute version of SB 235 is the product of an agreement reached between a coalition of organizations supporting a delay (including VACo and VML) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation along with other environmental organizations.

SB 395 now provides that the technical criteria and “local program criteria and delegation procedures” of the stormwater regulations “shall become effective within 280 days after the establishment by the (EPA) of the Chesapeake Bay-wide (TMDL ) but in any event no later than Dec. 1, 2011.”

Locally, a coalition of interested citizens, government agencies and non profits began an effort in January to develop our own TMDL (total maximum daily load) implementation strategy centered on the Rivanna River. The Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC) is taking the lead organizing. Ann Mallek and Lindsay Dorrier represent the County on the RRBC.

The number of bills in the General Assembly is indicative of the complexity of the issue of regulating nutrient and sediment flow into the Chesapeake Bay and also the front line position that localites hold in that regulation and implementation. Local governments will have tremendous responsibilities while holding little power to collect funds to support implementation, except from developments in growth areas.  A broad based strategy to make each new property, in rural or growth area, responsible for controlling their own run off, will help. Efforts by many non-profits educate homeowners the benefits of rainwater harvesting, protecting pervious surfaces,  and rain gardens to their home landscapes. All these efforts will also help the community control stormwater runoff in neighborhoods and in the countryside.

Moomans River out of its Banks

The rains on January 24-25 were a re-education to all on the power of water. At 10 am Monday, the Mechums and the Moormans were widely out of their banks. The 50 year old lake on our farm overtopped the dam despite 2008 investments tripling the spillway capacity. Brown’s Gap Turnpike was closed temporarily at the intersection with Three Notched Road. Under the BG Tpk bridge, the usual 18-20 foot clearance had been reduced to three feet.

Floodwaters enter the Mechums at Browns Gap Turnpike

Storm water is an issue we will face in the next several years.

Expanding the growth area

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

In my opinion we are NOT in need of new growth area at this time. There is a huge inventory of approved projects which have not been built because of the economic slowdown . There has also been a dilution of demand because so much was approved in a short period of time. There are not enough customers to go around.

A market analyst told me that in a thirty mile radius of Charlottesville there are only 175,000 people, not enough for unlimited stores and housing developments to succeed.

Urban planners from other areas say that our growth area is too large for effective service provision, that it does not grow from the center out in an organized way, but development hop scotch jumps all over the place whenever a landowner wants to do something. This leaves the service authority chasing its tail to provide sewer and water services.

First should be growth in the area already designated, as highway improvements are made.

In the comprehensive plan the main reason to make change is when change is NEEDED for the community. At a time when there are more than 3 million square feet of already approved commercial space and thousands of houses for sale (with more thousands already approved), we do not NEED to add more empty houses and stores.

The light industrial land inventory will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on February 3. The existing LI zoned properties will be shown and evaluated for usefulness. There will certainly be a debate about the addition of more LI land.

An essential part of that discussion will be the multitude of uses allowed in our current LI zone, including office space. Standalone office buildings bring a higher return than warehouses and more typical light industrial uses. Many of the recent rezonings have taken LI land off the map, turning it into residential and commercial.

There is no point in increasing the area of LI without fixing the definitions which create the problem. For example, the Yancey property which had been proposed for light industrial property, contractor storage, and warehouse uses is now being called a Business Park and could contain more than one million square feet of office space.

How would that affect the revitalization of downtown Crozet which has been a target of county infrastructure investment with more than 4000 dwelling units approved there since 2000? What would be the effect to the road capacity of Route 250 west?

what is an artisan?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

An artisan creates objects of three dimensional craft, often to be used functionally, but always with a high degree of artistry and fine craftsmanship. Whether using hand tools or machines, the artisan takes no shortcuts that might compromise the quality of the work.

The artisan industry in Virginia remains one of the state’s greatest untapped economic assets. Skilled craftspeople, with expertise in design, manufacturing techniques and tradesmanship, are the backbone of the creative economy in many communities.

The White Hall district is full of artisans. Many agricultural producers are artisans in the off-season.

Some artisans have collaborated on successful studio tours, hosted joint holiday sales at nearby schools, or shared studio space, but for many what is lacking is an economical and efficient way to market their craft and gain exposure.

Enter the Artisan Trail. Summer, 2010, will be the time for artisans and artisan farmers, plus associated galleries, bed and breakfasts, restaurants with display connections to artisans, to sign up to be listed on the Artisan Trail.

I learned much of this information at the Artisan Center of Virginia conference, Create Craft – Create Community, January 23, 2010, Hotel Roanoke. Quoted text is from conference materials.

master plan and Crozet Streetscape update

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Crozet is a living example of the “neighborhood model” adopted by the County as desirable in the growth areas. It has residential areas within easy walking distance to the downtown employment and shopping along Crozet Avenue and Three Notched Road. In the master plan review,  two business centers which Crozetians want to retain are Old Trail, where the business component has been steadily increasing, and Clover Lawn, where old commercial space was expanded within the last ten years. In both of these centers, a heavy residential component also exists.

The 2004 master plan had suggested many other centers sprinkled throughout the growth area, each with some commercial, such as cleaners and shops, and surrounded by higher density housing. This year residents firmly agreed with the staff proposal that those sprinkled commercial centers and high density residential should be removed. Residential density which is mostly single family, with occasional multifamily or apartments is desired throughout the growth area.

The desired location of proposed high density residential development is in the downtown area, which is described by a new zoning overlay adopted in 2009. This zoning encourages zero setback urban buildings, at least two stories tall, with business and residential combinations, or standalone business permitted by right. Shared parking and standalone parking are also included by right. No standalone residential is encouraged by right, as the emphasis is on employment and residential in the downtown.

Long in planning, the Crozet streetscape phase 2 is the current public investment in Crozet infrastructure. Improving the walkability of Crozet Avenue by relocation of utilities and repair or construction of sidewalks and crosswalks will improve the appearance of the business district. First to be accomplished is the completion of easement donation from adjoining landowners. As soon as this is accomplished, utility work will commence within thirty days.

After utilities are moved, the streetscape construction phase will begin. The first section of the new Main Street will be constructed as far as the intersection of Oak Street (a right of way through the JB Barnes woodyard which completes the “Square”) opposite the entrance to the new Crozet library. Though the library construction is currently on hold until funds are found, the grading of the library site can be done this year and a rough parking lot constructed to assist downtown businesses and shoppers during construction.

All of these improvements will help to raise confidence in downtown “Destination Crozet.”

Crozet master plan review meeting LI zoning

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

142 residents in Crozet continued their historic involvement in community planning by attending Thursday’s master plan review meeting. There was support for continuing the 2004 master plan effort to keep employment and business in the downtown area for the next planning interval. The current light industrially zoned land was discussed as were additions to the LI zone along Three Notched Road.

There were some supporters for increasing the growth area to include new light industrial land, but they were a small minority. Most citizen attention was based on the integrity of the master planning process, that citizens had studied and participated and laid out plans which work well for their community and protect County assets recognized as important in the Comprehensive Plan: water and scenic resources especially.

Residents were very concerned about the loss of rural area on their boundary, that the growth area would be allowed to creep outward, thus removing the understanding for growth area residents, that the “country” was just over the hill or around the corner.

Proposals to increase the light industrial zone at the 64-250 interchange were met with concern. Since  1980 industrial zoning has been prohibited in rural areas. Older businesses in the rural areas resulted in ground water pollution in the watershed of the South Fork Reservoir. Repeatedly over the years, county boards verified their support for these protections and prevention of future mishaps which could damage the watershed and useable water capacity.

Of concern in any expansion of the growth area is the reduction in demand for the services and real estate in downtown Crozet.  The community affirmed that they want the downtown to grow first, to bring the community to life, before any increase in area.

Keep an eye on the Crozet Citizens Advisory Council website  www.albemarle.org/crozet for updates and calendars for future meetings.