Tag Archives: Politics

The Western Bypass is Apparently Dead. So What’s Next?

So says the Daily Progress.

One decades-old question was answered with a resounding no.

“A bypass is not something we would consider,” Norfolk-based consultant Philip A. Shucet, the head of the advisory panel and former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, told the board.

Nearly two years after officials awarded a contract for the bypass, and after $54 million was spent on the project, the planned 6.2-mile road has become a footnote.

The transportation board, a 17-member panel of gubernatorial appointees that presides over Virginia’s transportation system, will determine what happens to unspent money from a project state officials had valued at more than $244 million.

If nothing else, this seems to remove the uncertainty from the conversation about the Western Bypass. We can return now to our discussions about the woes of traffic on 29 North and how the CharlAlbemarle area is woefully incapable of understanding the issues and equally incapable of implementing solutions. Such is life.

Rather than go into the history of the Western Bypass (it goes on for decades), discuss the various regional influences (Lynchburg is key), the various local players (broadly it’s growth vs no-growth) and whether VDOT is going to sell the houses it bought many years ago (it should if the Bypass is truly dead) or even whether the Western Bypass was the right route (it wasn’t but that’s because it’s a 30+ year old design, designed well before massive growth on 29 North) – start looking at background at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Lynchburg is mad.

There is a fundamental disagreement over what, exactly, U.S. 29 is. Is it a major north-south transportation corridor with the goal of providing relatively unimpeded traffic flow to through traffic along its 1,000-mile path or is it, in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, a local retail strip? It can’t be both. …

Charlottesville and Albemarle, however, still persist in their silly, outdated belief that U.S. 29 is really just “Emmett Street,” the local retail strip, and has no connection to the rest of the state. That’s evident in Albemarle’s “plan” to address improvements on Emmett Street: a silly, utopian “Places29” with overpasses — built where major retail centers now sit — for through traffic, pedestrian-friendly amenities and added lanes for traffic.

I think they’re right. If the bypass is truly dead, what’s the solution?

Short story – a new solution needs to be implemented. One would assume it would need to be agreed upon first, so let’s accept that the segmentation of the Charlottesville – Albemarle region will continue. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just is. (more)

One of the first things I thought about what this line from Ocean’s 11.

I’m thinking we will need to wait for Elon Musk’s hyper loop.

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Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, General Real Estate, Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Albemarle County May Increase the Property Tax Rate

Assessments are up. So might be the mil rate.

From the Daily Progress:

Recommended budget value: $349.3 million

Increase over current year: 8.3 percent ($26.8 million)

Proposed real estate tax rate: 80.8 cents/$100 assessed value

Current rate: 76.6 cents/$100 assessed value

Impact: The annual tax bill on a property assessed at $300,000 would increase from $2,298 to $2,424 at the proposed rate.

Proposed raises: 2 percent for county staff

So … the tax rate cannot go higher than 80.8 cents/$100 assessed value. And it could stay at 76.6 cents. Of the proposed 4.2 cent increase, nearly half of that would be dedicated to the Albemarle County schools. This should be an interesting debate.

If you’re curious to learn even more about the Albemarle County budget, the County has a lot of information on their site.

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Posted in Albemarle, General Real Estate, Politics | Tagged , | 5 Comments

How to Pay for Albemarle County Schools?

It costs nearly $12,000 per year to educate a kid in Albemarle County Schools. This year, the County Schools are facing a proposed funding gap of nearly $7 million and the cry from many parents, administrators and citizens has been to “fully fund the schools. (including emails from the schools’ email distribution newsgroups).”

Rather than repeat myself, this is a story I wrote three years ago and it’s still relevant. Schools matter for housing values. Period. People move to the Charlottesville area all the time for the schools. Schools. Matter. (this is as good a time as any to remind folks to check your school district before you write an offer to purchase a home )

But …

How should the citizenry pay for the schools?

Would people support an Adequate Public Facilities legislation?

A schools tax?

Asking for “more!” without referencing the “how?” in my opinion diminishes the argument.

* note: one of my kids graduated from Western Albemarle schools and one is currently enrolled.

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Posted in Albemarle, Education, Politics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Will the Western Bypass Ever be Built?

Who knows if and when the Western Bypass will be built? Know this – lots of people will show up to comment on it. Again.

A vote on the resolution could follow the hearing, set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the County Office Building’s Lane Auditorium. That session is expected to stretch into the night and generate huge turnout, the latest turn in the enduring saga of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

I asked years ago a question about the Meadowcreek (John Warner) Parkway that could (and should, in a reasonable world) be asked of the Western Bypass – How would they design the Western Bypass today, with today’s human settlement and development patterns in place?

The answer is that the road would likely be a very different solution. Because implementing infrastructure solutions in the Charlottesville – Albemarle region takes a minimum of 30-50 years, plans should change, but they won’t.

I know this -

- The proponents aren’t going to give up just because the road is a flawed design. Terminating at Forest Lakes is the wrong terminus – it was probably the right location 30 years ago, but now it should dump traffic north of the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport, probably north of the UVA North Fork Research Park and really should terminate in Greene County. Those necessary changes aren’t going to happen.

- The opponents are accused of using flawed data as are the proponents, whenever these arguments arise. They don’t want the bypass and disregard the studies saying that the Western Bypass will save time.

- I just wish there was unbiased data and analysis by which the citizens could make informed decisions. I also wish that unicorns were real and

Charlottesville Tomorrow has the most comprehensive coverage of the Western Bypass, including the proposed route(s). Check out their CvillePedia page on the Western Bypass too.

UpdateInteresting analysis and commentary comes to us today from the C-Ville. Continue reading

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Charlottesville City Police Ticketing Bicyclists

Police officers in the City of Charlottesville have doubled in the past two years the number of tickets they have issued to bicyclists, Charlottesville Tomorrow reports.

First thoughts:

- Good. As a bicycle advocate and rider, seeing cyclists cutting in and out of traffic, on and off sidewalks, blowing through red lights, etc. makes it harder for the law-abiding cyclists.

- Really? The number of times I’ve watched a car badly blow through a red light while a police officer sits there watching the offense is itself almost criminal.

- Bad. Points on a driver’s license because of these infractions? Don’t you have to have a license in order to get points on said license?

- Good. Maybe this will serve as a discussion point for educating the police, cyclists and drivers.

- Is there something in the Code of Virginia for distracted pedestrians? Maybe they could target UVA students on the Corner; they’re dangerous, too.

Maybe the City can add this discussion point to their newest $50k study on creating and integrating “complete streets.” (it would be awfully nice to have this discussion include how to traverse City/County lines rather than myopically looking solely at each locality’s needs.)

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Posted in Charlottesville, Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Virginia’s General Assembly is Upon Us Again – 2014 Edition

Once again, the Virginia General Assembly will be in session soon. They’ll be filing all sorts of bills from whether a meth lab house needs to be disclosed (they tried this one last year, too) to whether there should be an extended minimum clearance space vehicles passing bicycles to this oddity: “Signing of pleadings, motions, and other papers; real estate licensees. Proscribes an individual from alleging a real estate licensee has engaged in untrue, deceptive, or misleading advertising unless such licensee has been convicted doing so.”

Richmond Sunlight is a tremendous resource for staying informed, getting educated, and realizing that there’s an awful lot of Commending in the General Assembly and that paid lobbyists are probably the only ones who can keep up with the flood of bills (and know which ones are BS, which ones are legitimate, who’s supporting what and which ones have a chance to pass).

As distasteful as politics are, this stuff matters. If you’re interested in what I’m tracking, these are the bills that I’m following. What interests you?

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Posted in General Real Estate, Politics | Tagged | 2 Comments

Do You Know What You Don’t Know about County Public Meetings?

What happens in public hearings affects darn near everyone.

So much happens in Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meetings that the public doesn’t find out about – and then get up in arms about, or support – until it (whatever it is) is too far along to change.

I try my best to follow what happens in these meetings as I think it’s part of my job to know more than my clients – whether buyers or sellers. I need to know what might be happening over there that might impact their quality of life, traffic congestion, shopping options, potential resale competition, growth and human settlement patterns, property taxes – you name it, it’s covered at local public meetings.

For example, the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is chock full of stuff that will affect people’s lives and property values, and these public hearings are all over the County – Barracks Road, 29 North, Pantops, Crozet …

Public Hearings (links go to PDFs):
ACSA-2013-0002. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc
ZMA-2012-00003. Out of Bounds

ZMA-2012-00004. Avon Park II
ZMA-2013-00001. The Lofts at Meadowcreek

ZMA-2012-0005. Hollymead Town Center (A-1)

ZMA-2013-0007. North Pointe Amendment

ZMA-2013-0002. Pantops Corner

SP-2013-000015. Mahone Family

ZTA-2013-00006. Residential and Industrial Uses in Downtown Crozet Zoning District (“DCD”)

If you’re interested in following these public meetings, two of the more prolific tweeters of public meetings are Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum and Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

To be equitable, I looked for the Charlottesville City Council’s agenda but it has not yet been posted. (actually it’s postponed, per C-Ville) Continue reading

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A Big Shift in Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors

Virginia Board of Elections - Election Night Results - November 5th, 2013 - Snow-Palmer.jpg

A lot of money was raised and spent in these elections.

The Albemarle County elections last night brought about a resounding change on the Albemarle County Supervisors. Gone are Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow; in are Brad Sheffield and Liz Palmer. For what it’s worth, the Democrats won and the Republicans lost.

Looking at the races through the lens of VPAP data, I saw this in a Facebook conversation:

So which Supervisors are beholden to real estate development groups? Here are some of the top donations by industry… Notice a pattern?

Duane Snow, $17,800 Real Estate/Construction
Liz Palmer, $26,043 Miscellaneous
Rodney Thomas, $12,300 Real Estate/Construction
Brad Sheffield, $17,386 Miscellaneous

It’s hard to argue with money. Seemingly more than the ballot box, money matters.

Local elections matter. The localities vote on growth management strategies, property tax rates, the ways in which the emergency services operate and cooperate (or not) and notably transportation and infrastructure improvements. And yesterday, about 13,000 people in Albemarle County helped decide the near (and long) term future of Albemarle County.

J. Reynolds Hutchins at the DP says:

Palmer, Sheffield and McKeel ran campaigns hinged on the county’s growing transportation problems and angst over the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

Whether the Western Bypass gets built will be an interesting (continued) debate. Will they build it? Will they shut it down? Will they study it more? Will they extend it so it’s a more logical and functional road?

The County needs infrastructure improvements … let’s see how the new Board chooses to take up that task.

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