The Albemarle Board of Supervisors spent several hours Wednesday debating possible scenarios for a November bond referendum, but finally decided to maintain their decision in May to prepare for a $59 million package.
Most of their discussion centered around a request from the Albemarle County School Board to increase the size of the referendum to $96 million in order to pay for several projects related to schools.
A successful referendum in November 2016 authorized the county to issue $35 million in general obligation bonds to finance school improvements.
This time around, one supervisor said she wanted other projects to be included as well.
“I absolutely cannot again see that all of the other local government efforts stop in order to maximize one department having a big investment and none of the other citizens get what they want,” said Ann Mallek, the White Hall district supervisor who is also chairwoman this year.
The $59 million bond referendum authorized by the supervisors on May 9 includes $12 million for local government projects.
Supervisor Rick Randolph also opposed increasing the amount of the bond referendum to address the school board’s concerns. He said the county’s Community Development department has encouraged citizens in the growth areas to come forward with infrastructure projects.
“The consequence of the [Neighborhood Improvements Funding Initiative] is that this board became aware [of general government needs] in the urban ring and Crozet,” Randolph said, adding these needs are related to recreational and connectivity issues.
The $12 million would be divided between projects to expand the parks department and projects to help people walk and bike in the urban ring.
“In order to have what many progressive cities and counties have in terms of being able to ride your bike to work and shop… would be about $6 million,” said Supervisor Norman Dill.
Potential transportation projects include bike and pedestrian improvements on Old Lynchburg Road, an Avon Street Extended shared-use pathway, sidewalks on Tabor Street and Hilltop Street in Crozet, a shared-use path on Rio Road and more.
Many of these projects would build segments of the Northtown Trail, a proposed commuter bike pathway that would connect downtown Charlottesville with the University of Virginia Research Park. A segment of the trail was built as part of the widening of U.S. 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center.
“We have a lot of pieces but there is a middle piece that is missing,” said David Benish, the county’s chief of planning. He was referring to a portion near Hilton Heights Drive. He said the work, if constructed, would support calls in the Rio Road small-area plan for greater connectivity.
Supervisor Liz Palmer said she supports the funding of the Old Lynchburg Road work due to its proximity to Brookdale and Timberland Park, two sites where apartment units are being constructed using low-income housing tax credits.
“We’re getting a lot of affordable housing into that area and the infrastructure and the road system are so underdeveloped,” Palmer said.
Another $6 million would pay for parts of four projects related to parks. That total would include $2.375 million to open the 340 acre Hedgerow Park, $2 million for lighting and synthetic turf fields at Darden Towe Park, $706,000 to open up Buck Island Creek Park and $1 million for a boat launch at the Rivanna Reservoir. The Darden Towe work would include funding from the city of Charlottesville, which jointly operates that park.
The county’s finance director said the board could decide to list specific projects on the ballot question for the referendum or they could decide to be more flexible.
“We could phrase the question broadly enough so that if it’s a series of transportation projects or a series of school project that you would have some flexibilities,” said Bill Letteri, adding that the county’s “education campaign” would provide more details for voters.
If approved by voters, funding for the transportation projects might not be complete but would put Albemarle in a position to qualify for additional resources.
“The presumption is that the bond money would allow us a stronger position in actually trying to achieve other funding which might allow us to expand the project further,” Benish said, referring to Smart Scale and other applications for grants.
Supervisors did not select projects at their June 6. They will next have the opportunity on July 5 to decide on what would be funded.