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Albemarle to prioritize infrastructure near U.S. 29 and Rio Road
County Executive Tom Foley, February 10,  2016
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County Executive Tom Foley
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Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 9:11 p.m.

Albemarle officials are developing an action plan to quickly identify, fund and build infrastructure in an area around the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29.

“There seems to be frustration that stuff isn’t getting done,” said County Executive Tom Foley. “I want to find out what this board wants to get done and where the funding is going to come from.”

An exact geographical boundary for what properties would be covered in the plan has not yet been determined.

“We’re not coming to you with a line drawn on the map yet because we thought it was important to talk about the kind of criteria we would use,” assistant county executive Lee Catlin said to the Board of Supervisors.

Catlin said she has heard from all six supervisors that there is a need to address the continued growth of the county’s urban ring. Albemarle’s population has increased by 6,000 since 2010, according to estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.

Staff members recommend the county focus on one area to pilot a new way to not only plan infrastructure such as pocket parks and sidewalks, but to also fund and implement the projects as well.

Catlin has suggested targeting the U.S. 29-Rio Road intersection because of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s investments in road projects there and the county’s investment in the Northside Library and the Seminole Trail Rescue Squad on Berkmar Drive.

The board will be presented with the action plan for consideration April 6.

Last year, supervisors agreed to set aside $120,000 for a small-area plan for the intersection’s vicinity to guide redevelopment following construction of the grade-separated interchange, which is in progress.

“We want to be doing this [action plan] with the small-area plan and we are finalizing the scope,” said Wayne Cilimberg, director of planning. “We feel it’s a great opportunity to talk to stakeholders about potential projects that might be in this focused area for the urbanization efforts.”

The goal is to see if this targeted approach could then be replicated at other areas in the county’s urban ring.

Getting infrastructure funded though the capital improvement program depends on going through a months-long process where projects compete with each other. The action plan will consider alternate sources of funding such as tax-increment financing.

“I would envision that we would be looking at public-private partnerships in this area,” Foley said. “There are some creative things we’re trying to do, and we could use Rio Road as a way to try some of them out.”

Foley said the action plan also may involve service districts that might be used to pay for infrastructure in targeted areas.

Supervisors indicated they’re willing to support the action plan but said it should be realistic and lead to actual implementation.

“We should come up with a plan that incentivizes redevelopment,” said Supervisor Brad Sheffield. “We can come up with the best vision, but at the end of the day, it is the landowners that are going to have to embrace that.”

However, some supervisors said there also needs to be a way to get projects done quickly throughout the urban ring.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she would like to make sure projects in her district were considered.

“Some of what I’m looking at are really safety issues and the longer we wait, the more risk we put on citizens who live in those areas,” McKeel said.

On a separate path, Foley said staff will develop a process for “quick-fix” projects. Supervisors are expected to send him projects that would qualify.
 

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