Community members filled the Key Recreation Center earlier this week to voice their concerns to the Charlottesville City Council.

Part of the council’s Our Town neighborhood meeting series, the event gathered residents from the North Downtown, Little High, Locust Grove, Meadowbrook, Rugby and Woodhaven neighborhoods.

Many attendees voiced concerns with traffic speed on residential roads such as Hazel Street, Park Street, East Jefferson Street and Locust Avenue.

“Cars are driving up and down my street way too fast and I feel like something has to be done,” said Shawnee West, who lives on East Jefferson Street.

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, encouraged those with concerns about streets and traffic to attend the Streets That Work information meeting being held Saturday.

“We want you to voice what you want to see and join the conversation about our streets,” Tolbert said. The event is being held at the Carver Recreation Center from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

Tolbert said city staff members have been preparing for the event by collecting input at more than a dozen neighborhood meetings.

“We’ve been out in the public and think we know the concerns but we have not previously had a good system of prioritization,” he said. “We want to take all of those issues and compare them to the greater street network.”

Councilor Kristin Szakos said many speed concerns can be taken care of without having to add speed bumps or extra speed limit signs by reshaping streets to cause drivers to slow down naturally.

There will be a video at the Streets That Work event showcasing examples of innovative ideas used around the country to enhance pedestrian safety.

Tolbert said the Streets That Work initiative will last until the middle of next summer and may involve testing various ideas using paint and temporary flex posts.

Another issue raised at the town hall related to lighting. A resident of Park Street said the council should consider more pedestrian lighting as opposed to tall highway lights.

Judy Mueller, the city’s director of public works, said Dominion Virginia Power wouldn’t allow the city to change the height.

“We have been trying to work with them to receive more options but right now we have zero power,” Mueller said.

Another issue was the brightness of street lights shining into windows of downtown houses.

Harry Holsinger suggested the city move toward LED lighting, which he says is more expensive but will pay for itself in reduced energy costs. It also would not shine as brightly into his window.

“LED is much more friendly in the way it looks and the way it shines,” said Holsinger. “I would like to see Charlottesville move to LED lighting as a long-term aspirational goal.”

Mueller said electrical rates are negotiated through the Virginia Municipal League and she is surprised that the new rates are so high. 

The city already has changed most of the lights it owns to LED, including all the traffic lights, but a much larger set of the lights is controlled by Dominion.

The city’s environmental sustainability manager, Kristel Riddervold, said there is growing awareness of the benefits of LED lighting.

“There are a lot of communities in the same position as we are that see potential energy savings in street lighting, but that don’t have ownership over [the lights],” Riddervold said.

Other issues voiced included boat access off the Rivanna Trail, bus service improvements, use of synthetic chemical pesticides on city property and city security cameras.

More information on Saturday’s Streets That Work event is available at www.charlottesville.org/completestreets.

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