Negotiations to keep Albemarle’s court system in its historic setting in downtown Charlottesville are continuing, according to one county official.
“I think we’re making baby steps forward,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek at a recent meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
Albemarle is expected to make a decision within the next year about whether to renovate its existing court complex or relocate to a location within the county.
Either way, preliminary cost estimates for either option range between $40 million and $50 million.
A 2012 study concluded that the county needs more space to accommodate growing caseloads in its general district and circuit courts.
Some supervisors have said that a lack of downtown parking is one reason to vacate a court complex whose origins date back to 1763. Another is the ability to spur urban development elsewhere in Albemarle’s growth area.
Several city councilors expressed a willingness to work with the county to keep the courts downtown at a July joint retreat between supervisors and councilors.
Mallek is a member of a joint city-county task force formed after that meeting.
One solution is the possibility of sharing a general district court, similar to how the two localities currently share the juvenile and domestic relations court.
“Staff is putting together some scenarios about what co-location would look like,” Mallek said.
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said he wants to have comparisons of the cost-per-square foot to renovate the existing courts compared with building a new complex.
Supervisor Jane Dittmar, another task force member, said that would be premature.
“Our work group will be back to this board way before we get into any design,” Dittmar said. “Our task was to meet with our city counterparts and see if we could come back to the board with an option that satisfied us about parking.”
The next task force meeting is set for Oct. 27. These sessions are not open to the public, and are not required to be because there are only two councilors and two supervisors present, not the three members of either body required to trigger an open meeting under Virginia law.
Mallek also told supervisors that she would like the county to pass an ordinance banning stagnant pools of water on Albemarle properties, similar to one in place in Charlottesville.
Mallek said this is a health issue and that she wants zoning officials to be able to give a ticket to people with stagnant water that can breed mosquitoes.
“People really want to comply if there’s a rule,” Mallek said. “If there’s no rule at all, we’re never going to get anywhere.”
“Cities and towns have specific enabling authority to let them regulate stagnant water, and counties do not,” Davis said. “But there is general enabling authority to control nuisances so there may be an ability for a county to adopt an ordinance under [that] authority.”
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she would support such an ordinance.
“In several of our neighborhoods in the Jack Jouett District, I know of swimming pools that have been abandoned and the people that live in proximity suffer from mosquitoes,” McKeel said.
Supervisor Liz Palmer was concerned if the ordinance would extend to water in ditches and other temporary spots where rainwater collects.
“It depends on how you’re going to enforce it because we don’t have the staff to enforce the things we have on our books now,” Palmer said.
Thomas L. Foley Jr., county executive for Albemarle, said his staff would do some initial research into the issue and return to the board.
Mallek also asked her colleagues if they would consider supporting legislation to require Virginians to pay a deposit on glass bottles.
Ten states across the nation currently require such deposits.
“When I was little [in Albemarle County], there was a deposit on all glass and soda cans at the country store, and kids would pick up the [bottles] from the roadway and you didn’t have the terrible trash,” Mallek said.
“This legislation has been introduced multiple years in a row [without passage],” Foley said.
Boyd said he thought the county was trying to restrict the number of legislative requests, but he would take a look at the information. The county will finalize its legislative requests later this fall in advance of the General Assembly session that convenes in January.