Archive for January, 2011

Biscuit Run State Park planning committee

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The first meeting was January 24. Representatives of the state park system, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) directors, and lots of citizens from Albemarle and the City met to begin the process of figuring out the vision, goals, and facilities desired at the park. The process will take about a year, with semi-monthly committee meetings, a tour of the site, and two public meetings to get feedback to initial and to more final plans. The committee is advisory and final decisions will be made by the DCR and Park System and approved by the General Assembly.

The history of parks in Virginia and in the nation is a rich and colorful story. The DCR takes their job seriously and wants Biscuit Run State Park to be another jewel in Virginia’s resources.

The variety of interests represented is wide–walkers, hikers, bikers, botanists and naturalists, horseback riders, dancers, musicians, farmers, neighbors, and county staff and elected officials. We will all work to find common ground for this great natural and recreational resource in our urban area.

While some think we lost a valuable development asset and got dirt in return, I look forward to the things we CAN decide and plan to make this park a great asset for Albemarle’s quality of life and its economy.

Have a look at the Virginia Outdoors Plan on line. There are detailed assessments of the conservation (pg 451) and recreation (p 452) facilities in Region 10

I hope to see many citizens at the meetings. Please let me know if you have ideas to share.

What’s up with the Crozet library site?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

After twelve months of meetings and conversations to get the Crozet library design development process restarted, I am happy to report that it is happening. The building was pulled from the CIP or Capital Improvement Program a year ago, and at that point the final phase of design was halted by the Board of Supervisors. In order to learn a bona fide cost to build the library, final plans are needed.

The architect, Melanie Hennigan of Grimm and Parker, has met several times with county staff, me, and recently with members of the Architectural Review Board (ARB). These meetings have focused on complying with the ARB guidelines for buildings in the County’s entrance corridors. Work is ongoing.

The site plan for the parking lot is also moving through the process of zoning, planning, and ARB review. Originally the parking lot was proposed to the east of the building, thus the library would screen the lot from Crozet Ave. The extent of landscaping for a short (hopefully) time is one of the topics under discussion.

I believe that the library is essential to the private growth and redevelopment of downtown Crozet. The library will be a signal to landowners and to bankers that downtown is the core of the Crozet growth area, not just the old part that is to be left behind as growth occurs on Rt. 250.

Stonegate neighbors ask about the Albemarle Co Service Authority

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

On January 25th I had the pleasure of discussing county and neighborhood issues with several dozen residents of the Stonegate neighborhood, a lovely web of streets to the west of Western Ridge in Crozet. After an update on the Streetscape project in Crozet, discussion followed about several issues.

One resident perceived that sewer and water fees for the Albemarle County Service Authority were higher than other communities and should be reduced.

There is a good reason for the level of rates in Albemarle. The Service Authority was created to separate water system operations, investment in capital projects, and maintenance of our facilities from political control. The board of directors members are appointed from each magisterial district by the Board of Supervisors, on the recommendation of the district Supervisor.

In January 2008, I appointed John Martin, a retired prosecutor and river advocate, to the post with the express guidance to make sure that the rate payers and the public, elected and non-elected, were to be kept informed of ACSA work and decisions. Also that he was to maintain vigilance about implementation of the water supply plan and its effects on the Moormans and Rivanna Rivers, mainstays to the ecology of our region. He performed his task admirably and continues to be involved in the water supply discussion as a private citizen.  After three years of hard work, John resigned last fall and was followed in the post by Bill Kittrell, a Crozet resident and biologist/economist. He is already making effective contributions to the work of the Service Authority.

For protection of our streams and our environment, the Service Authority’s responsibility is to maintain intact and functioning distribution pipes for fresh water and solid and effective drain pipes for waste water. We cannot just look away from the constant need to rehab old facilities.

Fifty year old pipes tend to explode at the most inopportune moment, such as in a heavy rain. The potential to spill sewage into streams and neighborhoods is to be carefully avoided. We want our children and grandkids to play in the streams, to see crayfish and stoneflies, little fish and snakes. None of this would be possible with contamination due to neglect.

I applaud the Authority and the rates they have chosen to apply to their services. A percentage of all revenue is put aside for capital and maintenance projects, to permit a systematic and thorough rehabilitation program to be ongoing.

The Authority also has a water conservation program, with toilet and rainbarrel rebates, and a four-tier rate structure to encourage effective use of water. The rate doubles at each level, while the first 1500 gallons is sold at below wholesale price, to provide a basic level of water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

I encourage the Authority to more fully regulate irrigation consumption, to charge all irrigation water at the highest tier from the first gallon, rather than stepping through the three tiers before reaching the highest price. With over 15% of our summer water going to irrigation, we can no longer allow that much water to be used at minimal cost.

Questions were also asked about the revenue sharing agreement with the City and the Crozet Library. See other posts for those discussions.