In a sign that Albemarle County is becoming a more urban community, the Board of Supervisors has agreed to restore a staff transportation planner at a cost of $103,000 a year.
“Like many counties evolving from a rural level of service to an urban one, Albemarle is seeing a changing role for managing transportation issues,” said Mark Graham, the county’s community development director.
Graham said that 65 percent of Albemarle residents will be in the urban area by 2040, compared with around 45 percent today. The county estimates there are now 104,580 residents.
Staff asked for the position to be funded based on an assumption that the Virginia Department of Transportation will eventually require localities to maintain and construct secondary roads. Graham also said a denser population will want more bike lanes, sidewalks and other amenities to make their communities more walkable.
Graham said the idea is to eventually create a county public works department to oversee those functions.
However, the first step is simply to restore a transportation planner position that was eliminated five years ago at the height of the recession.
“We need someone who can pick up these issues and won’t have a large learning curve to get up to speed,” Graham said.
The planner also will be responsible for engaging with the public about neighborhood transportation issues, and also will serve as a liaison between the county and groups that seek more sidewalks and bike lanes.
“One thing I’ve learned over the last year is that there are a lot of small transportation issues that come to us as supervisors and we don’t have staff capacity for us to direct citizens to,” said Supervisor Jane Dittmar.
Kenneth C. Boyd was the lone supervisor to vote against restoring the position because he said he did not want to create a position outside of the budget cycle.
The position will be filled at a time when the county is seeking to increase the number of sidewalks in the growth area.
One project in the planning stages is to build 3,500 feet of sidewalks with curbs and gutters on South Pantops Drive and State Farm Boulevard. Funding for the $1 million project comes from VDOT revenue-sharing funds granted in fiscal year 2013.
A $1.6 million project will improve sidewalks along Hydraulic Road and Barracks Road. This will include 1,700 feet on the north side of Hydraulic between Commonwealth Drive and Georgetown Road, as well as two crosswalks in the vicinity.
That compares with about $102,000 to build 160 feet of sidewalk on Fontaine Avenue between the city limits and the University of Virginia’s Fontaine Research Park.
The county had planned to seek revenue-sharing funds in the next year to build sidewalks on Old Lynchburg Road, Avon Street, Rio Road between the John Warner Parkway and the Stonehenge neighborhood, and U.S. 250 in Crozet near the Harris Teeter. However, it is possible that VDOT may be able to fund those projects with leftover money from the John Warner Parkway.
Supervisors also recently confirmed a package of legislative requests in advance of the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session. The package includes a request for the county’s property to be exempt from a stormwater utility fee should supervisors eventually levy one.
The county also wants authority to issue tickets to motorists passing school buses recorded through the use of on-board cameras.
Another request is to allow counties to levy the same taxes as cities for various items.
“Parity means that we would be able to have a cigarette tax,” Dittmar said.
The board declined to support a request from Supervisor Ann H. Mallek seeking legislation to implement a cash deposit for all bottled beverages.
Such a bill was introduced by Sen. R. Creigh Deeds in 2000, but it died in subcommittee.
“This will happen when there is a grassroots effort throughout the state,” Mallek said. “I’m taking this as a long-term challenge.”
CATEC land proceeds
VDOT has paid the city and county $144,700 each for land taken at the jointly operated Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center for construction of the John Warner Parkway. This is in addition to another $167,313 paid to each locality in October 2010.
The county will reserve the funding for future capital improvements at CATEC.