Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Council: No JPA bridge detour, No Belmont bridge repair, No art in historic zone

“We abandoned an opportunity to do something big [on city-county revenue sharing]” – Councilor David Brown.

Charlottesville, Va. – The three biggest buzzes from last week came at the end of tonight’s 3-hour City Council meeting. The closing of the JPA bridge without a detour. Fencing off Belmont Bridge sidewalk to avoid repair. The BAR doesn’t like the new mural at Random Row Books on Vinegar Hill. The perennial theme: How can we do nothing but say so much you think we did something?

No Detour for You

The Jefferson Park Avenue Bridge at Fontaine in Fry’s Spring will be closed for replacement for more than a year beginning today. But Neighborhood Development Services Director Jim Tolbert said there is no official or posted detour. There is “no formal detour,” no preferred route and all routes go through residential areas.

A few years ago, the city pulled this same stunt on Locust Avenue closed for repairs after a couple tractor-trailers struck the bridge. After complaints, the city spokesperson was on the radio explaining the detour and that the signs are now posted.

The alternate route is Shamrock to Cherry Avenue across the railroad. East of the tracks is one lane because utility crews are still fixing a major water line connecting 7 or 8 customers. Stribling Avenue is the other route connecting UVA to JPA. Tolbert wondered “why anyone would want to drive down this windy road?” Because people are trying to get somewhere.

The city has promised on a number of instances that only one major road would be worked on at a time. But during the replacement of Ridge at Garrett Street, Belmont was also being repaired. Edwards asked, “We’ve been waiting for how long?” Tolbert tried to dispute that the 40-year-old bridge and sidewalks had been repaired many times in the past.

Councilor Holly Edwards wanted some kind of traffic calming. Tolbert said there would be a new cross walk at Spudnuts with LED flashing lights when the pedestrian presses the button. City Manager Maurice Jones suggested they could step up police enforcement on Belmont Bridge.

The motion to put up a prettier fence for $14 thousand was chosen 3 to 2 over the $300 thousand plus for concrete repair. The bridge is expected to be replaced in about 6 years and design is in progress, according to Tolbert. But councilors questioned the likelihood there would ever be funding and pedestrians are as important as cars. Referring to the half-sidewalk wide Way-Finding signs to guide you to the Downtown Mall, we would never block half the vehicular travel lane.

BAR doesn’t like freedom

The mural of American Indians on West Main at McIntire was not pre-approved by the Board of Architectural Review. Students and teacher at Tandem Friends School took the initiative to beautify one of the few buildings surviving the Vinegar Hill urban renewal.

Tolbert rolled his eyes a few times and frowned. He wondered why anyone would do something without approval. There have been other murals that went through the process. It’s all about “the need for process.” He reached out to area schools and art teachers but only one responded.

Mayor Dave Norris said we need a better process. The most recent non-pre-approved artistic expression of high profile is the camera shop at High St. and Meade Ave. The city came after the same students claiming the mural was not art, but a sign for a camera store. The mural of cameras was eventually permitted.

Mayor Norris said we need to encourage, not regulate art. The case of the uncontrolled artistic signage will come before the politburo when BAR meets at its next meeting. Rulings and certificates of appropriateness are sold on the third Tuesday monthly, according to Tolbert.

In other matters

Council approved the 9-precinct reconfiguration discussed two weeks ago. Council is set to approve bringing Jefferson School under Board of Architectural Review control so African American interests can be treated equally badly as the mural of Native Americans on West Main at Random Row Books only a block away.

An update on last year’s annexation summit showed no progress other than the recent 30-foot earthen dam water supply plan compromise. Mayor Dave Norris was unusually hypocritical tonight, saying the County “threatens” the City every two years to take $2.3 million from city schools unfairly allocated from the state’s Local Composite Index, while the mayor threatens the County with annexation if they stop making the ever-increasing annual rent, now at $18 million. Norris understood the force of an 8-year-old contract with the Pavilion but is still fighting against the community water plan City Council approved in June 2006.

Councilor David Brown said staff on each side have too much invested in the status quo to ask for changes or more consolidation. Since last April, City and County have discussed three areas: (1) Annexation / Revenue Sharing LCI with only one meeting and no more planned. (2) Fire and rescue and (3) social services consolidation. Brown said, “We abandoned an opportunity to do something big.”

The usual suspects are still at it, trying to thwart majority rule on the water plan. Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply have an online petition asking for dredging first and for the City to stop cooperating with the County. In public comment, Vonti Win (spelling) said there were 362 signatures as of 6 pm. The 2006 plan is “financially and environmentally reckless.”

John Cruikshank of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club had a different set of priorities. (1) Aggressive conservation. (2) Phased building on 1908 Ragged Mountain dam. (3) Dredging. “Please secure funding for dredging before anything else.” The County will pay 100% of the 2006 water plan according to the 1972 Four Party Agreement, which created Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, and recent official statements echo the 4-party contract. The City uses and must pay 55% of maintenance, including maintenance dredging. Water plan opponents demand the County to pay 100% of everything.

Rebecca Quinn attended the Mar. 22 RWSA board meeting. She thanked Councilor David Brown’s responsiveness, who replaced water plan opponent Mayor Norris when the Council majority rejected the Norris 13-foot plan on Jan. 18. Quinn said the RWSA would not answer her questions or provide a timeline.

The Garrett Street urban renewal area has a new name: Downtown Extended. Jacob Wolf used this euphemism in context of the music hall zoning regulations, describing the area from the X Lounge to the former Ix textile factory. Wolf said there are three levels of music zoning: By-right, special use with $1,500 fee, and provisional use. Under the new zoning, most businesses would become by-right able to play music or dance.

Later the mayor and others used this term. Scott Buyer talked about Single Room Occupancies, such as the one coming to 4th NW. They can be bad if social services are concentrated in a small area such as “Skid Row in L.A.” the most dangerous blocks in America. But SROs work in Greenwich Village where there are several universities and many market rate units. Here “urban renewal wiped out an entire neighborhood and didn’t replace it for two decades.” The City, including Mayor Norris and Councilor Holly Edwards, have for years been blocking access to official urban renewal archives in order to erase from public knowledge the history of Downtown Extended.

In the final public hearing on the 2011-2012 city budget, Collette Hall brought up urban renewal and “broached the sacred cow of affordable housing.” She listed myriad programs: land bought for the SRO, tax relief for the elderly, homeowner tax relief program originally part of the Nov. 2005 city charter amendment to dramatically expand the city’s liberal eminent domain powers. She said redevelopment of public housing will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. “When will it end?” asked Hall. This is “unsustainable and driving the middle class out of Charlottesville.”

The real estate tax levy is to remain the same. Councilor Kristin Szakos tried to correct Bob Fenwick from Public comment. “Raise money by raising assessments? We don’t do that,” declared Szakos. She wanted to make this clear. Luckily she added “theoretically” because this is exactly what Council has done for a decade, with surpluses every year, $3.5 million last year.

Some speakers wanted some of that money to go to the Haven day-time-only flop house on Market Street at 2nd NW, in front of Fellini’s, between McGuffy School and Lee Park. The shower facilities are sponsored by PACEM, the mayor’s nonprofit homeless program. You know, the crowd of bums behind the church that cause you not to see the Way-Finding signs to the Mall. When people see that, they drive on to Preston and Barracks Road.

Norris said the appropriation was conditioned that the Haven create a downtown workforce satellite office. As such, the Haven would become more like the Hope homeless shelter near the Westhaven public housing, which the City shut down using zoning codes.

Szakos said the Haven has withdrawn their request. She believes the withdrawal to be sincere. In a rare move of transparency, Edwards read the Haven’s email withdrawing their request. Several times people compared one expenditure with another. If you had to choose between art for rich people and a homeless shelter, which is more important. This is exactly how you prioritize spending items. Whatever items at the bottom of the list when you get to the bottom of the piggy bank are not funded.

The final speaker before Council adjourned was Scott Bandy, an independent Council candidate for November on the ballot, handed out papers to Council. But Bandy said it was late and that’s all. Talk about wasting an opportunity! He had 3 minutes to campaign for office but he didn’t address the public. Hello, Council meetings are on cable and the internet! Council will ignore him politely – that’s what they do best.

Bandy addresses his attention to 5 people on Council instead of everybody else – the voters. Bandy’s motivation to run for Council must be something other than election.

175-page, 18-item Council Agenda April 4, 2011 with background materials.

Video of Apr. 4, 2011 City Council Meeting.

Revenue Sharing Summit: More city-county cooperation, Apr. 25, 2010.

Previous Council Report: Council to approve 9 precincts due to 2010 census, Mar. 21, 2011.


Post a Comment

<< Home