Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Council endorses 30-foot earthen dam, denies Ridge-Cherry

“Above what the City chooses to pay, the County will pay the remainder,” – City Public Works Director Judy Mueller.

Charlottesville, Va. – Tonight City Council clarified that the new dam of the 2006 water plan be earthen, not concrete. The surprise vote of Jan. 18 for a 30-foot dam height increase didn’t specify whether it be a concrete or earthen dam built atop the existing 1908 Ragged Mountain dam.

Councilors David Brown, Satyendra Huja, and Kristin Szakos maintained their dam coalition. Mayor Dave Norris was willing to vote for 30 feet, despite his 13-foot plan unanimously resolved by Council in September, but insisted it be of concrete. Holly Edwards wanted the phased approach of the Norris plan but, if she had to, she would vote for the concrete.

The Council discussion was a civics lesson in how to argue a case. Szakos has matured since she voted for a plan not approved by Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply. Szakos has seen the dirty side of politics and sobered up. She said she has received email from supporters of the 2006 plan who are afraid, if they speak out, they’ll be ridiculed the next day in The Hook.

While Szakos has matured, Edwards has become less mature. Edwards announced yesterday she will not seek a second term but warned she will be speaking out at public meetings. She’s now a lame duck, not running for reelection so now she can be honest. On Council she has political power and can do something. As a minority of one speaking at occasional gatherings when it’s convenient, she will be dismissed as irrelevant. What an opportunity she walks away from!

Brown is also retiring this year, but after two terms. Huja, the third leg of this 30-foot dam triumvirate, is expected to announce next month that he will run for a second term. He certainly acted like it tonight. He didn’t back down from Norris on concerns about integrity and safety of the existing dam.

Norris keeps saying he hasn’t seen anything to question the dam’s integrity despite dozens of concerns documented back to 1912. Norris’ preference for concrete didn’t advance because he dismisses the concerns, does not address them. Huja’s right – Who builds a new dam on a 100-year old dam regardless of any expressed concerns?

It’s $1.1 million cheaper to build the earthen in the design alone. Black and Veatch would charge up to $1.4 million to finish design, which could be changed if further research or digging confirm the safety concerns. In that case the dam could cost more than estimated.

It would cost close to $250,000 for Schnabel to complete the earthen design. At one point, Norris said the concrete dam is cheaper. Huja responded that the concrete estimate is for 50% of design, not 90% where Schnabel would be after the expenditure.

If the Black & Veatch concrete dam is selected, the timeline as discussed in November would be 6 to 8 months to final design plus 2 to 3 months public review time. The construction time would be 2 to 8 months less than building the earthen dam.

City Public Works Director Judy Mueller delivered the water progress report. She and her assistant answered half the questions Council posed; the other half went unanswered. Mueller talked about the cost sharing agreement. The cost of water is divided into maintenance and additional supply. City uses and pays 55% of maintenance, but County will pay most or all of the cost of the new supply.

“Above what the City chooses to pay, the County will pay the remainder,” said Mueller.

In public comment, Bob Fenwick was back to defend his statement at the last meeting that Ragged Mountain reservoir would silt in. But the claim was refuted because the watershed is undeveloped forest. Fenwick named several lakes that have silted in. “They all silt in.” He echoed Huja from Jan. 22 and said, this is a “50-year plan not a one or two year plan.” Fenwick said the efforts of Citizens for a Sustainable Water supply have saved this community “tens of millions of dollars.”

Phyllis Koch-Seras, whose house overlooks the South Rivanna reservoir and added sedimentation to the reservoir when it was built, said dredging should be put in the cost sharing agreement. “We could have a drought this summer,” she said. This water plan is a “crime against nature.”

Rebecca Quinn said the Rivanna authority has finally issued RFPs for an updated water demand analysis after delaying for a year. The demand predictions should be for 50 years to compare with Ganett-Fleming water plan, not 30 years as the RFP is advertised.

Dede Smith, a former school board member, seemed like she was addressing a class of children, giving them false choices to choose from. She listed three reasons to delay a vote. (1) RWSA has just issued an RFP for a firm to conduct a water demand analysis. (2) The RFP process for dredging should be completed and advertised. (3) The cost sharing agreement has not been completed.

Stratton Salidis talked about the “legalized corruption” and ironically thanked Edwards for her one term of service. Edwards is an official supporter of urban renewal. Salidis described the “sprawl-growth industrial complex” as subtle “showering and shunning” He said this area’s local government has as much corruption as you see at the national level. He indirectly called Council corrupt.

After the water vote just after 10 pm, Edwards asked for a break and the mayor declared a ten minute recess. I turned off Council meeting to write this article.

Magic Money

What if you could invest $1 and get $10 or $11 back? Well, you wouldn’t call it investment. You would “leverage” one dollar into ten.

Karen Waters, Chairman of the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC), said “for any of this to work”, the plans require that every $1 have a $10 to $11 federal match. She wants the Charlottesville Housing Fund (CHF) to be fully funded and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)/HOME to be leveraged or put at risk.

Jennifer McKeever, a member of HAC, wants Council to keep the two funds separated, “not co-mingled.”. CHF should be fully funded from city general funds and CDBG/HOME to be leveraged. CHF funds new housing unit while CDBG/HOME targets neighborhoods. For a longtime, Council has designated its public housing as the neighborhood in need.

Jennifer Jacobs, director of Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) and member of HAC, wants the city to contribute $1.5 million to CHF. She said there are 176 homes on the waiting list for rehab and 25 for emergency repair within the city.

Council denies Ridge-Cherry: New plan inferior

Council wants the developer to build what was agreed in 2009 when Council first approved the sale of two city-owned lots, once known as 521 and 529 Ridge Street before VDOT came through with 5th Extended more than thirty years ago.

The developer wanted to amend the Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning exemption to a new PUD. But Council said no. So now this site remains zoned for the original PUD. Only that plan can be built. So effectively the land will remain open space for years to come.

Ten people spoke in the public hearing to sell the city land. The Planning Commission meeting Feb. 8 denied the zoning from PUD(A) to PUD(B) 4 to 2, and two dozen citizens spoke for denial of the rezoning request. That decision was appealed to City Council for tonight. And tonight the comment was more favorable for the new mixed income apartment complex, 30 affordable (subsidized) and 50 market-rate (independent) units.

Antoinette Roades described proffers as “legalized bribes.” She said this area doesn’t need anymore affordable housing. If you stand within sight the PUD site, you’re guaranteed to see 659 affordable housing units. We don’t need more affordable housing in this location.

Herb Porter said, most of the project’s supporters are from outside the neighborhood. He said the actual residents have opposed this and other measures such as conservation district designation. Council has ignored the desires of Fifeville. Porter was offended anyone would call his neighborhood “blighted.”

Paul Bussiere lives a few blocks away on 7 ½ St. He moved here from France 2 ½ years ago with his wife and son and bought the Updike House, a Victorian house built 1896. Bussiere fully supports the William Taylor Plaza approved in the 2009 PUD and the latest plans also. Any development in this part of town would be beneficial.

City Council Meeting Feb. 22, 2011, Charlottesville City Streaming Live and Archive Media

Council: Dueling dams, PUDs, dialogue on race, immigration, Feb. 8, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development goes to Council Feb 22, Feb. 24, 2011


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