Belmont parking restrictions weighed

Story updated 4:46 p.m. Sept. 18

Commuters and patrons of businesses in downtown Belmont soon may have to train themselves to check signs when parking on some of the neighborhood’s streets.

The Charlottesville City Council on Monday took no action on a request for a permit parking zone for that neighborhood. If eventually approved, the establishment of the zone would allow for the creation of permit restrictions on streets within the zone.

The ordinance stems from requests from five Belmont residents for permit parking. Currently, the city has six permit zones to allow residents reasonable access to their properties and “preserve the residential character of such areas and the property values therein,” according to city code. The results of three parking surveys in May determined that the 600 block of Hinton Avenue met the restriction criteria in city code by having at least 75 percent of its on-street parking spaces occupied and commuters using 50 percent of those spaces.

As the area was not within one of the city’s current zones that allow for permit parking, one has to be created before restrictions can be considered. Once the zone is established and a street is designated for permits, residents would be able to register for permits and guest passes at the city treasurer’s office. The permits are renewed yearly, and they cost $25. Exceptions to the fee include the first two permits for residents of homes that do not have off-street parking.

The city receives petitions for permit parking each between May 1 and the last day of February of the following year, and the parking surveys usually are held between March 1 and April 30.

The proposed Belmont zone would stretch from Sixth Street Southeast to Carlton Road and from the CSX tracks to Monticello Avenue. Unless changed later, the general hours for the permit restriction would be from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan said. If different hours are wanted for areas, such as the downtown Belmont area, the city could modify the regulations for the zone or break up the zone at a later date.

“I think the intention of this from the beginning was really a commuter type of mitigation. It wasn’t meant to be commercial,” Duncan said.

“If other requests come in for around the restaurant districts, we can revisit it at that point,” he said.

Councilors indicated that they would like city staff to explore solutions for overflow evening parking in the neighborhood’s commercial strip and hold a formal presentation to the council.

 “A lot of the people that come are parking on neighborhood streets, and that prevents residents of those streets from having their own parking spaces on the street,” Councilor Kathy Galvin said. “My concern is that with tonight since … we made a permit parking zone, …  that that’s going to kinda remove a source of parking, however, for the patrons in the Belmont center.”

Before the planned institution of permit parking in Belmont in February, Galvin said she would like to see a comprehensive parking plan and strategy.

Valet parking or shuttles could be an option, as well, she said, mentioning lots for several offices in the Belmont area.

“There’s an awful lot of parking that is not utilized in the evenings,” she said.

Stream restoration

The City Council also approved granting Albemarle County an easement in Pen Park for a stream restoration project.

In their work through a 2016 memorandum of understanding for collaborating on environmental issues, the city and the county chose a 560-foot section of stream that also goes through the county’s River Run neighborhood.

“Restoration of this stream will provide pollutant reduction credits needed by both localities to meet compliance requirements,” said Lauren Hildebrand, the city’s director of utilities.

“This is a severely degraded stretch of stream,” Galvin said.

The work is expected to improve water quality and generate 113 pounds of phosphorus nutrient credit reduction, 247 pounds of nitrogen nutrient credit reductions and 39,216 pounds of sediment reduction, which would help Albemarle become compliant in its total maximum daily load of pollutants that flow out of the county and into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Albemarle is funding the design and construction of the nearly $533,000 project through its Stormwater Capital Improvement Plan fund, hence the easement request for construction and maintenance. The city will take over maintenance of the part of the project inside its limits after 10 years, according to the staff report.

The city’s share of the project’s cost is $125,000.

“Funds for these efforts are allocated out of revenues from the stormwater utility fee,” Hildebrand said.

A second reading of the ordinance was waived so Albemarle could meet a deadline for the project.

Change to meetings

Also approved on the consent agenda was a change to the order of council meetings. The consent agenda was moved to come before citizen comments in the interest of allowing some city staff members to leave meetings early. Despite the comment period being limited to 16 speakers at three minutes each and a two-minute response from councilors, it often stretches over multiple hours.

The change will go into effect Oct. 1.