The Charlottesville Planning Commission has proposed some amendments to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) drawn up by City budget and planning staff. With less projected revenue coming in, the 2010-2014 CIP had to include some cuts . Several Commissioners felt these specific cuts did not reflect either the values of Charlottesville residents, the City’s Comprehensive Plan, or the ranking criteria used by the Budget Office to evaluate inclusion into the funding plan. They specifically asked to cut funding for the City’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, and reintroduced funding for new sidewalks and parkland acquisition.

During the December 9, 2008 planning commission meeting, the general sentiment among commissioners was that sidewalk and open space projects should be given a higher priority than the Meadowcreek Parkway (the City’s portion is referred to as McIntire Road Extended). Mayor Dave Norris weighed in on the irony of placing a higher priority on a new road project for a city with high aspirations for sustainability. Norris has voted against granting easements needed for the Meadowcreek Parkway on other City owned land .  Several citizens spoke during the public hearing, including two members of the Sierra Club, against the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Jim Tolbert, Director of Neighborhood Services, defended his decision to maintain funding for the controversial road project. First, he said the Commonwealth of Virginia, faced with heavy competition for road projects, may end up dropping their side of the funding if the City waffles and delays too much. Second, Albemarle County has already gone to bid for their portion of the road between Rio and Melbourne.  Tolbert said the original goal was to coordinate the timing of these endeavors so they will finish together. Without the Charlottesville side, the new Meadowcreek Parkway would just empty cars onto Melbourne Road and add to the congestion of the area.

Jim Tolbert defended his cuts to new sidewalks by calling attention to a balance of $778,000 sitting in the account. When asked why those funds are not being spent, given a priority list with 80 items, he responded in part that the City Manager has recently put a freeze on all new spending, so an engineering project waiting in the wings has been deferred. Tolbert also expressed concerns about the volume of projects existing staff could manage in a given year.

Nevertheless, many of the commissioners stated their opinion that these priorities should be flipped to be in line with the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Genevieve Keller came out strongly against funding for the road, stating that it was “a flawed plan based on 1960’s and 1970’s planning principles,” and Commissioner Dan Rosensweig thought the drop in land values could present opportunities for the purchase of parkland. Commissioners Cheri Lewis and Michael Osteen were the only two votes against the recommendation for reallocation of budget cuts. Commissioner Lewis was very sympathetic to the parkland suggestion, but could not countenance the elimination of funding for the Meadowcreek Parkway. Commissioner Osteen was less enthusiastic about spending money on parkland during an economic crunch.

The City’s capital budget for FY 2010-2014 is still in its preliminary stages. Every citizen of Charlottesville is being mailed a Citizen Budget Survey (available online here ), to be returned to the City Manager’s office by the end of 2008. The next step for the Planning Commission is to present the capital budget with their recommendations to City Council during a January meeting. From there, Council will take all of this input into account before making a final decision by April of 2009.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

1:20 – Mr. Davidson from Budget Office presents on CIP
14:20 – Ms. Beauregard explains why items are on hold
15:20 – Consequences of not funding City portion of Meadowcreek Parkway
19:20 – Commissioner Emory says ranking criteria not followed
22:10 – Why top three ranking projects not included
25:25 – Mayor Norris asks why sidewalk money is not being spent
28:20 – Public comments in opposition to Meadowcreek Parkway
42:35 – Commissioners want more involvement in CIP process
49:20 – Commissioner Emory makes case for parkland acquisition
55:10 – Commissioner Keller opposes funding McIntyre parkway
56:10 – Councilor Huja wants to comment, but not at appropriate time
58:50 – Pearson summarizes Commissions priorities
1:04:05 – Commission reviews their options for recommendation
1:07:25 – Commissioner Keller makes a motion
1:10:05 – Commissioners Lewis and Osteen explain their opposition
1:14:05 – Final vote of Commission

Daniel Nairn

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