Sunday, May 25, 2008

As a follow-up to my previous posting - Where will all the flowers grow?, here is the city council approved 1975 Open Space Plan for McIntire Park. Click on the graphic to see it in greater detail. One goal of this plan was to "plant thousands of crocus and daffodil bulbs" in McIntire Park. This is also the plan often cited as justification for constructing a grade-separated interchange and parkway (then called the McIntire Parkway) in the eastern part of the park. It appears that neither the planting of thousands of bulbs or construction of an interchange and parkway or many of the other proposed improvements happened in the life of this plan. It is interesting to note that the proposed McIntire Parkway provided access to the eastern side of McIntire Park where many recreation opportunities were proposed - unlike recent McIntire Road Extended plans that simply cross through the park from Route 250 Bypass to Melbourne Road - and in plans dated May 2008, McIntire Road Extended plan starts in the park about 775 feet north of Melbourne Road.

Perhaps some bulbs were planted in McIntire Park in the late 1970s after city council approved this plan. Council did pass a request that a parkway (without an interchange) be planned by VDOT in 1978. Many plans for McIntire Park and a parkway through the park have apparently come and gone since this 1975 open space plan. Interestingly, little discussion about the eastern side of McIntire Park 0ccurred during presentation of recent McIntire Park Master Plan activities at the May 19, 2008 city council meeting.

Council has scheduled a work session in June to discuss the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road and its relationship to what is still officially considered the independent roadway project called the McIntire Road Extended. Yes, if you question (as I and many others do) how these two projects can be considered independent by our transportation planners, you are invited to join the conversation. The public will not be able to speak at the upcoming (I believe June 4) worksession, but you can attend and listen and provide your feedback to councilors by phone, email, letter, and at future council meetings. I hope you will join in this important discussion about the future of McIntire Park and vehicular transportation in greater Charlottesville.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where will all the flowers grow - or grass for that matter?

I acquired a copy of the Recommended Plan for siting the YMCA and the added parking and modified playing field space from the city and was surprised that in fact a very large area of the western part of McIntire Park will not support plant life. Included here are two of the color graphics from the May 19, 2008 council agenda packet on the YMCA and McIntire Park Master Plan. The primary impact is the footprint of the YMCA building itself, the addition of about 100-150 additional paved parking spaces, paved access ways and pedestrian paths, and a 240 x 360 foot artificial turf multi-purpose field. Some trees are proposed to be planted in the parking area that will provide some natural plant material and tree cover, but still several acres of now green space will be lost to buildings, pavement, and artificial turf. The artificial surface proposed is approximately two acres just by itself (an acre is 43,560 sq. ft. - a 210 x 210 foot square is approximately one acre).

Of course some of the current space has picnic shelters and pavement, but these spaces will be reconstructed elsewhere in the park and likely remove the equivalent area of green space.

I agree that the Charlottesville area needs quality recreation facilities for area residents (both city and county) and that some green space must be used to provide these facilities. But, we as a community need to be aware of how much loss of green space is currently programmed in and around Charlottesville. When we lose acreage for proposed parkways and connector roads, more acreage for proposed reservoir sites, and countless acres to sprawl development we are talking a significant loss of green space. How can our community meet its goal of expanding our tree cover and becoming a truly sustainable community if we do not balance this loss with some gains.

I proposed at the most recent city council meeting that the city should develop a formula that would require some area of currently paved space be converted to green space for every unit of green space lost to other development. Green space is a finite resource and it seems to be disappearing locally at an alarming rate. When the Court Square Area was re-bricked, part of Sixth Street NE was proposed to be converted to parkland. But due to changing priorities and reprogramming of funds to other uses, this conversion of asphalt space to green space was abandoned and the street reopened to motor vehicle traffic. I think we need to identify some paved areas in greater Charlottesville that could be converted to green space. So, make a list and send it to me and your city councilors or county supervisors. Maybe if enough of us get involved we can make a change for the better.

Pete Seeger's famous song "Where have all the flowers gone?" may not have originally been about loss urban sprawl, but that song has been in my head the entire time I have been composing this posting. Perhaps he anticipated this green space crisis over 50 years ago.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I knew "Diving" into the municipal pool issue would make a splash...

I am not surprised that some of my blog readers have commented on my recent posting about the book - Contested Waters - and our community municipal pool discussion. I suppose that there are other more highly charged issues like dog lease ordinances, but I did attend (and comment at) city council public hearings relating to this issue. Thanks for your comments - and I again suggest that you consider checking-out Contested Waters at our public library if you are interested in municipal pools and how they can impact a community.

Mike Svetz, Charlottesville's Director of Parks, Recreation & Golf, sent me some information he thought essential to clarify some information about Charlottesville Pools. Here is his comment in its entirety. I am delighted to get these details of the plan from Mr. Svetz and hope this clarifies any misleading or incorrect material I may have posted previously.

And, my thanks to Mike Svetz for reading my posting and providing more detail than I could ever provide.

From Mike Svetz, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Golf - May 22, 2008 via email.

Three major corrections to your blog that must be noted...

1. The current Smith and Crow pools are not "neighborhood" facilities as 78% of users are non-residents. They are in fact "regional community" facilities.

2. The YMCA land lease is for the construction of a 70,000 square foot community recreation center that will have at the very least, all of the following amenities, not just a pool...

fitness center
gymnasiums (including indoor walking-jogging track)
multi-purpose spaces (including meeting space)
locker rooms
child watch space
family aquatics center and competition pool

3 (AND MOST IMPORTANT). The City is consolidating the operations of the current Smith and Crow pools into a city constructed, city owned and city operated 25,000 square foot NEW SMITH AQUATIC AND WELLNESS CENTER on the campus of Buford School. The following is a brief description of what the NEW Smith facility will offer:

a. 19,000 square foot Family Aquatic Center with:

i. SIX (6) 25 yard lap fitness lanes with a water depth ranging from four (4) feet to approximately thirteen (13) feet.

ii. A zero depth entry to provide accessibility for the pool.

iii. A tot play zone with a water depth ranging from zero to 18 inches deep.

iv. The interactive play structure will be incorporated into the Tot Play zone.

v. A vortex area measuring approximate 17 feet in diameter.

vi. An approximately 80 feet long by 5 feet wide current channel.

vii. A pair of underwater benches has been added within the interior island space of the current channel. These benches have the option to be upgraded from a standard bench seating to a hydrotherapy (or spa like) bench by adding aerated nozzles in the bench back.

viii. Excess open water space has been provided to allow for water basketball and/or water volleyball

ix. Indoor, two-turn water slide.

x. Family Changing Locker rooms

xi. Birthday Party/Classroom

xii. Men’s and Women’s Locker rooms

b. Fitness Center

i. 3-5,000 square feet of exercise and fitness classroom space for use by primarily by seniors, therapeutic population and children (ages 10-15)

c. Customer Care/Office Space

We expect to open this facility by fall of 2010...

THANKS IN ADVANCE for making the corrections...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Interested in Charlottevsille Swimming Pool Decisions? Read this!

Charlottesville municipal pool availability is changing in the near future. Smith Pool will apparently be closing and demolished soon, Crow Pool is likely to be closed in the not too distant future. Instead of repairing these neighborhood pools, the city is promoting constructing a centralized pool that will be run under contract by the YMCA. The recent debate on pool maintenance, demolition, replacement, and contracting has been lively and many members of the public have commented at city council meetings and by letter and email to council and staff regarding this issue.

I just today finished reading Contested Waters A Social History of Swimming Pools in America by Jeff Wiltse that explores the history of municipal swimming pools in the United States and how decisions like the one going on in Charlottesville has impacted communities and politics and interaction among community members. This was one of the books in this year's Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. I saw the session at which this book was discussed on our public access TV station (fortunately the session was in City Council Chambers and was recorded). The discussion inspired me to check-out the book from the Public Library (they own several copies). I recommend you read it if you have interest in social issues about race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc.

I won't provide you a review of the book here, but encourage you to Google 'contested waters' and read some of the online reviews. Yes, reading this book was an unexpected treat for me, and I may well see if I can check-out a copy of The Springboard in the Pond: An Intimate History of the Swimming Pool by Thomas A. P. van Leeuwen. This book is about domestic swimming pools, and apparently explores "the human relationship to water from a variety of viewpoints: social, religious, artistic, sexual, psychological, technical, and above all architectural." Perhaps this will be interesting pool-side reading. It is not in the Jefferson-Madison Library catalog, but perhaps I can get a copy at UVA or through inter-library loan. Or, perhaps you have a personal copy to lend me for a few weeks -- if so, let me know?

Charlottesville's outdoor pools open this weekend, and I have my punch-pass ready to go. Hopefully I won't be the only person reading this book at Washington Park or Meade Park pool this summer. See you there?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Huffington Post publishes photo of Albemarle Morris Men

May Day coverage in the Huffington Post Internet Newspaper showed the Albemarle Morris Men in a photo for an article of odd May Day traditions. Dave Norris (yes, Charlottesville's Mayor) was cruising the online political news in the Huffington Post and called me to share his find. This is a May Day photo from the dedication of the then new outdoor space at Westminster Presbyterian Church. There was nothing about the Albemarle Morris Men in the story, but Dave Norris and I (playing the melodeon and partially obstructed) are both in the picture. Check out Dave's posting. And, I suggest you visit his blog (cvilledave) for other Charlottesville news on a regular basis.

I fully expect to see stories about Dave Norris in future editions of the Huffington Post. But, I must admit that checking out this posting was the first and only time I visited that site.

I have no clue how he could circle the image as shown in the image (or even how to clip a screen image like that). I guess there are lots of graphic tricks one can do that I have not figured out how to do yet. Thanks for posting this on your blog, Dave.

Well, I need to end because the Albemarle Morris Men will be dancing on the Downtown Mall at 7:00 pm (or so) and in spite of what the time on this posting turns out to be - is is 5:40 pm already. Stop in to say hello if you are on the mall tonight, or some other time you see the Albemarle Morris Men on the mall or elsewhere.

Rectangular Softball - or is it Political Football?

At last night's city council meeting, the McIntire Park Master Plan shows replacing the two softball fields with two rectangular fields (soccer fields I suppose) as part of the reworking of the park to accommodate the YMCA facility and expanded parking. The Meadow Creek Parkway project is planned to go directly through the softball field just north of Melbourne Road. Three softball field heading into other uses. What is a softball player to do? ADAPT!

Having attended college and graduate school in Cambridge Massachusetts, I became familiar with Boston Red Sox baseball games and oddly-shaped Fenway Park (unlike symmetrical Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati where I lived between undergraduate and graduate school for one baseball season). If the pros can adapt baseball to oddly-shaped spaces, certainly Charlottesville's softball players can too (if Parks and Recreation will allow rectangular softball to be played on these fields). I couldn't figure out how to rotate and overlap the graphical images I clipped from the internet, but I am sure you can figure out several possible designs for playing rectangular softball on the proposed McIntire Park fields - some requiring modifications to game of softball as we know it. Surely one could put home base in a corner of the rectangular field or perhaps have home base where the soccer goal is located to have 300 feet of open field in center field.

In college and graduate school, I played pick-up softball and possibly even some intramural softball on fields of irregular dimensions many times. Of course, I never played on a very competitive team or league, but I have fond memories of playing the games no matter how the field was shaped.

My Research: I went online to find softball and soccer field dimensions and see how difficult it would be to fit a proper softball field into the rectangular field likely to be constructed at McIntire Park.

A softball field has a distance from home base to the edge of the outfield at least 190 feet and up to a typical distance of 225 feet (depending on league requirements. The playing field for U.S. soccer is 210 feet by 300 feet with additional space needed to accommodate the goals and sufficient out-of-bounds space to throw-in the ball from the sidelines, etc. So it seems that if these dimensions are correct, one could actually put a proper softball field on a full-size soccer field.

If smaller rectangular fields are constructed at McIntire Park, I still think one could have good fun playing casual softball (like all of the games I ever played in) on an 'unofficial' field. Of course, wear and tear on the grass field (I hope Astroturf is not even being considered) where base paths would be creates challenges to field maintenance, but I also remember watching professional football and soccer games in the era of shared stadiums being played on professional baseball fields with the bare base paths on the otherwise grass covered field.

So, softball fans, perhaps you can get your teams and clubs to challenge the Rhodeside & Harwell designers who presented the Master Plan to council to design playing fields to best accommodate soccer, lacrosse, touch-football, and rectangular softball. After all, would the shape of field have that much impact on the annual Democrats vs. Republicans softball game traditionally played in McIntire Park. I have never played or watched that game, but if it were to be Charlottesville's first rectangular softball game, I would definitely plan to go (and blog about it, too). Maybe such a game could inspire some both Democrats and Republicans to find new political creativity in managing the challenging issues in our community, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bicycling to work can be more than a once a year thing. In some cities in Europe, many people bicycle to work (and lots of other places) most every day. Groningen - a major bicycling city - in the north of the Netherlands has about 50 percent of commuters traveling by bicycle to work (US average is less than 2 percent). But, having a great bicycle route system can make a huge difference in bicycle commuting appeal. Friday was bicycle to work day and all of us were encouraged to ride a bicycle to work. Depending on where you live and work in the Greater Charlottesville area, however, this can be a fun opportunity or a challenge for even the most serious and experienced cyclist.

I received an account of what it would take to do a commute by bicycle from north of the city to the downtown mall in an email from Steven Ashby. One clearly needs a strong will, a strong bicycle, and a strong sense of humor to attempt commutes of this type. I have experienced some of these very same sorts of obstacles in bicycling in Charlottesville and the Ashby commute is perhaps best done in one's imagination rather than on an actual bicycle. Steve Ashby sent this email to our local government leaders as a means of encouraging expansion of our bicycle infrastructure and safe commuting options. But, he also agreed to my posting it here for your enjoyment - and perhaps to encourage you to contact your councilors or supervisors about making bicycle commuting a real option for you and many of our area residents.

Dear Board of Supervisors and City Council:

Thank you so very much for your kind invitation to take my bicycle to work on Monday. Although I am now retired, I thought it might be fun to bicycle to the Downtown Mall.

I loaded my panniers with water and a light repast and started up Tompkins Drive, in Jefferson Village. Whistling merrily and thinking of the vast improvements made since 1999, when I first sat on the Community Mobility Committee, I was shocked to see no pedestrian/bicycle path between Tompkins and Timber Pointe. Instead, I was greeted by a NO TRESPASSING sign. I relaxed when I remembered that I could access Timber Pointe and the other public roads in Forest Lakes, via a tiny path in the woods on the Baker-Butler Elementary School property. I quickly applied insect repellant, remounted, and braved the forest primeval.

Not long after porting the stream at the base of the path, where the roots of a hardy native red maple form a bridge, I came upon a large official Forest Lakes Association sign, which proclaimed NO TRESPASSING so loudly, it completely drowned out the murmur of the pines and hemlocks. I was more than a bit annoyed. I steadied myself and pedaled my lunch and Longfellow's dactyls back up the path, down Tompkins and up Colonial Drive to Proffit Road. I was a bit winded, by then, I admit, but, hey!—it's great exercise, right?

I snugged my helmet and switched on my strobe-light. Then I gave my quadriceps the OK to speed their burden west toward the safety of U.S. 29. The bicycle lane (the soft, gravel shoulder to the right of the white side-line) was a bit rough and often gave way to a ditch filled with water, rocks, and litter. It seemed that quite a few county residents were unaware of your thoughtful invitation, for many of them roared by me in their automobiles—one or two of them shouting friendly, but anatomically impossible, suggestions of where I might wish to place my two-wheeled conveyance. Several unfortunate amputees smiled and waived, showing their remaining middle finger. I kept my two intact hands wrapped in a death-grip around the handlebars.

Tired and tense, I finally reached the light at 29. I smiled, when I remembered Ken Boyd's public forum a number of years ago, where Wendel Wood, Jr., and Steve Runkle described the planned bus stops at the soon-to-be-built Hollymead Town Center. I turned left on the green light, then right at CVS, made my way into the Center's burgeoning parking lots, and began looking for a bus stop. I knew that all CTS buses have easy-to-use bike racks and was looking forward to a restful ride to Fashion Square Mall, where I planned to continue under my own power. I looked and looked. No bus stop signs anywhere! I interrupted a Target employee, who looked up from his long line of shopping carts, and said, "I don't think I've ever seen a bus out here. You could probably get a cab at the airport." Disappointed, I reached into my left pannier for water. Along with my bottle, out came my long-forgotten CTS schedule, with its inviting, smiling-sun logo. A glance and a sip and I was off to the nearest stop: WalMart, just 3 miles south. This'll be a piece of cake, I thought, taking pride in my trite metaphor.

The cake proved stale. The bicycle lane, though wider than the one on Proffit Road, was nearly as soft, with grass nearly two-feet high, and much broken glass. In a few places, it narrowed to the point that I was forced into 55mph traffic. Horns blared and flat-bed trucks and big-rigs slowed and crept by within an inch or two of my left elbow. I gave a joyful "yah-hoo" when the road finally widened again on the downhill to the South Fork Rivanna bridge. As I turned into WalMart, I saw the 5-bus pulling away. It would be at least an hour before the next bus. Somewhere out of my Methodist childhood came an oy gevalt!

Thank goodness for the cool weather! I ascended the steep incline—well in excess of the new county driveway ordinance—and turned onto East Rio Road. I was going to have to hurry to meet my fellow cycle-commuters at the Mudhouse. Again I smiled, when I remembered Sally Thomas speaking proudly of the wonderful bike lanes, planned for the Meadow Creek Parkway. I found myself singing the old Al Jolson hit, "(Across the Breakfast Table) Looking at You," rhythmically cranking my way towards Rio Station. Soon I'd be sipping coffee and eating my brown-bag breakfast with my chums.

Passing CATEC and approaching the bridge at Rio, I anticipated taking the ramp to the southbound lane of the Parkway. It wasn't there! Then I heard Rod Serling's voice: "Consider one Stephen Ashby, a typical Albemarle County citizen and his bicycle—about to take an exit into [pause] The Twilight Zone...."

I recalled Peter Kleeman's suggestion that the Parkway be declared an off-road vehicle right-of-way. My Mongoose has hybrid tires, so I girded up my loins and headed down to where the Washington City, Central Virginia & Great Southern Railroad once ran. Although there were a few times I wished I had my machete, I made it to McIntire Road and eventually to the Mudhouse.

After breakfast, I begged a ride home from a friend with a station wagon. For my next bicycle adventure, I plan to drop by Ken's & Brenda's for lunch in the lovely Key West subdivision.

Anyhow, thanks, again, for inviting me to join in the "fun" of bicycle commuting in our well-planned community.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Ashby

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

McIntire Road Extended plan no longer even connects at McIntire Road!

As part of the storm water plan, new VDOT plans for McIntire Road Extended were developed. Now, however, the starting point for this roadway through McIntire Park is about 775 feet north of the Route 250 Bypass. McIntire Road Extended is no longer an extension of McIntire Road but a bit of a road to nowhere.

VDOT, and City and County transportation planners consider McIntire Road Extended, the Meadow Creek Parkway and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road to be independent projects - each having independent utility (would make transportation sense if built independent of other transportation projects). This no longer appears to be true. Building the current McIntire Road Extended project without the southernmost 775 feet of road makes no sense.

The plan illustrated above shows Route 250 Bypass, the first section of McIntire Road Extended (it extends for about 2100 feet north to Melbourne Road), and the multi-use trail in blue. The pink areas are land that will be bulldozed to contour the land to accommodate the roadway and provide maintainable slopes (typically 2:1 slope). The storm water improvement is highlighted in yellow. Continuing to claim that this project is independent of the interchange project is ridiculous.

The removed 775 feet of roadway is roughly one-fourth of the length of McIntire Road Extended which from a funding point of view results in a substantial decrease in project cost for this project. I wonder if this is a way of allowing the McIntire Road Extended project to remain fully funded using only state and local funds while the cost of the missing piece is now paid through the interchange project that is a federally funded project. It appears that these two projects are now neither physically nor economically independent.

I and other interested stakeholders have long argued that the interchange and the road need to be studied as one integrated project. With the new plan shown above I can't see how VDOT or the Federal Highway Administration can continue claiming these to be independent. Now is the time to combine the projects and follow the complete Federal-aid Highway process for project development and environmental review. Only then can we in the greater Charlottesville area clearly determine if this project is a desired expenditure of our ever more scarce transportation dollars than investments in transit and other modes of travel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Recommend You Hike the Path of the Meadow Creek Parkway

Although I have been involved in issues surrounding the proposal to build a parkway through McIntire Park in Charlottesville and land in Albemarle County between Melbourne Road East of Charlottesville High School (CHS) athletic fields and Rio Road east of CATEC (Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center) I had never explored the wooded area in Albemarle that will be the path of the roadway. So, I went on a brief hike with a friend along the Rivanna Trail from Melbourne Road to the point where the parkway would cross Meadow Creek and marveled at the size of some of the trees and beauty of the area just a short walk from the City/County line on Melbourne Road.

Here is a view across the roadway alignment. This area will be totally bulldozed to cut material (and the trees) from just behind the CHS baseball field and fill as far as 115 feet or so distance from the field to create a 2:1 slope and accommodating the Meadow Creek Parkway 10 to 20 feet above the current land elevation. It appears that every living thing in this 115 foot wide zone will be replace by grasses suitable for growing on these relatively steep slopes.

Below is a photograph of a particularly nice spot where the current Rivanna Trail travels along Meadow Creek a bit further north from the photo above. I definitely plan to visit this spot again on one of the hot summer days ahead where I expect the temperature will be dramatically lower than most everywhere else in Charlottesville.

And here is the double culvert that passes under the Norfolk & Southern Rail Line that accommodates Meadow Creek. A bridge is proposed to cross Meadow Creek about one hundred feet from where this photo was taken.

It was not possible to continue further north along the proposed parkway alignment without going through a working cattle farm. But, I highly recommend you find an opportunity to do the short hike along this section of the Rivanna Trail and see what will be lost if the Meadow Creek Parkway is constructed. The loss in tree cover alone will be very hard to replace in our region. I am not sure how we will ever meet our regional goal of expanding tree cover and meeting the challenges of climate change. Removing tree cover (that will sequester greenhouse gases) and replacing it with a parkway (that will increase emission of greenhouse gases) is not at all consistent with being the sustainable community we have committed to as a region.

Our transportation planners and government officials need to hear from you about this project - for or against. We will clearly be giving up significant resources to build this parkway. I don't see that the benefits (if any) that are projected from the parkway justify use of these resources and many millions of dollars in construction expenditure. Exactly what is the benefit of adding an additional 20,000 vehicles each day traveling this route and adding to the congestion already occurring where the parkway projects will meet Route 250 Bypass at McIntire Road. I am still looking for a simple cost-benefit justification of the parkway project. I do not know of one ever being provided for the public to review.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I have heard of the 'power tie' - but now here is the Power Dress

I came across this Power Dress article in the current issue of my May/June 2008 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Alumni Magazine - Technology Review (also available as a subscription journal if you are interested). In Charlottesville, perhaps we all will soon be wearing some version of this rather intriguing garment at Fridays After Five or while visiting art galleries on First Friday. Brown is not my fashion color choice, but this dress is 'green' even though it is brown. I guess that I am more active than the average person in Charlottesville, and could generate a fair bit of energy if I had perhaps some power clothes. I don't carry a cell phone or MP3 player, but perhaps I could transfer my generated power to a home appliance or power an LED flashlight while walking at night in our Charlottesville neighborhoods with less than adequate lighting. Let me know what you might do if you had some power clothes to wear around town. If we have to wear clothes, why not get some electronic benefits, too. Of course this will only change that age-old question of 'what to wear' to 'watts to wear' or something like that.

Below is the complete news article from the May/June issue of Technology Review for the education and amusement of kleemanblog readers. Enjoy.

Power Dressing

"An MIT-designed outfit modeled by grad student Heather Knight at the Seamless: Computational Couture fashion show at Boston's Museum of Science in Janu­ary captures and stores energy generated by natural body movements. The dress's designers, Media Lab grad students Amanda Parkes and Adam Kumpf, stitched thin strips of piezoelectric film onto the garment near the elbow and hip joints; they also sewed on buttonlike piezoelectric coins at strategic spots. With a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other, the piezoelectric material creates a voltage when it moves or is bent or twisted. A rectifier circuit connects the strips and coins to capacitors, which store electrical charge and are wired to a central coin near the wearer's belly button--or what Parkes calls "the point of life of the dress." Parkes is now optimizing the design so that one day, wearers will be able to power their cell phones, MP3 players, and other portable devices by plugging them into the central coin."

Travel the World at Saturday's Festival of Cultures

I hope you all will consider visiting the Festival of Cultures at Lee Park in Charlottesville on Saturday May 10, 2008. I attended this event the last two years and enjoyed it greatly. This year I will be participating along with the Albemarle Morris Men as part of the international dancing schedule (we or other morris dancers will be performing at 10:00 am and at 3:00 pm).

If you are not familiar with what is scheduled, here is a bit of information from their newsletter I received and was encouraged to share.

Charlottesville Festival of Cultures Coming Up on May 10 - The Charlottesville Festival of Cultures marks its 5th year celebrating diversity in the community on Saturday, May 10, 2008 from 10 am – 4 pm with cultural exhibits, live dance and music performances, vendors, crafts for kids, and delicious ethnic foods. The Festival takes place in Lee Park, on the corner of Market St. and Second St. NE. Don’t miss this chance to travel the world without leaving downtown.

You can visit the festival website for more information.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

McIntire Road Extended Stormwater Management Concept Approved by Council

On May 5, 2008 city council approved a stormwater management concept for the McIntire Road Extended project that if build would be an approximately one-half mile road through McIntire Park. The concept was presented to council, but the city staff has apparently already developed construction and planting plans for the entire project. These plans, however, were not made available to councilors or the public prior to the council meeting. No, that doesn't make sense to me either.

I have been overlaying various planning plans on a one-inch equals 100 feet base map of McIntire Park. When I overlay the current Route 250 Bypass Intersection at McIntire Road plans on the base map along with the proposed McIntire Road Extended (with at-grade intersection) alignment, they don't line up. In fact, the connection to the McIntire Road Extended alignment from all of the alternative interchange designs appears to travel about 100 feet east of the original McIntire Road Extended alignment. Due to the large foot-print of the interchange designs, they apparently need to have the ramps, etc. shifted to the east to avoid the Dogwood Viet Nam Memorial in McIntire Park. As I see it, the connecting road to McIntire Road Extended from the interchange, and the multi-use trail both would go through part of the stormwater management area in the concept map. My hunch is that this may also be a conflict in the city staffs stormwater and planting plans, too. City staff stated during the council meeting that this is not the case - but I am curious if they have checked the apparent plan conflicts with each other.

My other observation from the concept stormwater plan is that stormwater from the interchange would be managed in the proposed ponds. I have not seen any consideration of the stormwater from the several acres of interchange land ever considered elsewhere in the park. How independent can the interchange and the roadway be if they require joint stormwater management planning to manage storm flow and to avoid polluting Schenk's Branch with roadway runoff? I was pleased that Councilor Huja agreed with my recommendation that the interchange and the roadway projects in McIntire Park be combined. I will continue to encourage other councilors to see the merits of integrating these projects into one - especially when the southern several hundred feet of roadway throught McIntire Park could be considered part of the interchange project (and paid with federal funds) - or part of the roadway project (and paid with state funds) depending on the ultimate design.

Yes, this project is no less confusing now that new parkway related resolutions are being passed. In fact it may become ever more confusing as more and more conditions are place on each successive resolution.

Graphic source: agenda packet for May 5, 2008 city council meeting.

Charlottesville City Council Moves Parkway Easement Forward

The Charlottesville City Council moved and seconded the draft ordinance below at the first reading on May 5, 2008 to grant an easement for construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway (State Project 0631-002-128). After some discussion an ordinance roughly as provided below will be presented to council on June 2, 2008 for a second reading and council action.

I am curious to see the impact of the conditions relating to timing of the three closely related projects - Meadow Creek Parkway, McIntire Road Extended, and the Route 250 Bypass at McIntire Road. These conditions are in addition to conditions already put on these projects by city council when conditionally granting an easement for construction of the McIntire Road Extended. Although there are so many interrelationships of these projects and conditions connecting them, the project are still officially being pursued as totally independent projects. Yes, it doesn't make sense to me either. But, Councilor Satyendra Huja did express interest in combining the McIntire Road Extended and Route 250 Byapss at McIntire Road projects to avoid disconnects in planning the two projects independenty. I fully support combining all three projects, but that, I assume, would be beyond council's power.

Now that a public hearing on this matter was held, any comments you wish to provide on the granting of this easement should be addressed to city council by letter, phone, or by email. Mayor Dave Norris indicated that he will be voting against granting this easement. Perhaps other councilors still have open minds on the matter. Much can happen in the next four weeks.

General form of the ordinance being considered for June 2, 2008 by city council.....


WHEREAS, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), has asked the City of Charlottesville to grant permanent and temporary easements across City-owned property on or near Melbourne Road in the County of Albemarle (Tax Map 61, Parcel 193), described as follows:

(i) Permanent easement of approximately 1.796 acres for road right-of-way;

(ii) Permanent easement of approximately 2.561 acres for drainage, stormwater management and slopes;

(iii) Approximately 0.504 acres for utility easements; and

(iv) Temporary construction easement of approximately 3.722 acres to facilitate construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway and a public walking trail; and shown on the attached highway plan sheets for VDOT Project No. 0631-002-128, C502,

WHEREAS, in accordance with Virginia Code '15.2-1800(B), a public hearing was held to give the public an opportunity to comment on the conveyance of this easement; and

WHEREAS, City staff have reviewed the request and have no objection to the conveyance of said easements to VDOT; and

WHEREAS, the Charlottesville City School Board has considered the proposed conveyances and by Resolution adopted on May 1, 2008 expressed their consent to the granting of the easements, subject to certain conditions.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Council of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia that the Mayor is hereby authorized to execute one or more Deeds of Easement and such other documents as may be requested by VDOT, in form approved by the City Attorney, to convey the above-described easements to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Department of Transportation.

BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED that the Council’s consent to the conveyances of easements as described herein is contingent on the following conditions:

(1) that no part of the Meadow Creek Parkway project (i.e., the Albemarle County Meadow Creek Parkway section, the City McIntire Road Extended section, or the Interchange/Intersection project at the 250 Bypass and McIntire) will be open for public use until the entire project is complete and ready for opening;

(2) that safe and efficient means of passage for bicycles and pedestrians will be created and maintained at the intersection of the Parkway and Melbourne Road, as well as around Charlottesville High School property generally and around CATEC property (At a minimum there will be, well-marked crosswalks with pedestrian-activated, timed crossing lights at the Melbourne intersection and the entrance to CATEC);

(3) that appropriate landscaping and planting will be done to screen the Parkway from the playing fields;

(4) that the speed limit will be 25 miles per hour on the Parkway approaching the intersection in both directions at Melbourne Road and approaching in both directions the entrance to CATEC, marked by standard school zone signs with flashing lights; and,

(5) that the deed of easement conveying the permanent easement for construction of the road right-of-way will specifically provide that the duly constituted authorities of the City of Charlottesville shall have and retain exclusive control, jurisdiction and dominion over the intersection of the Meadow Creek Parkway / McIntire Road Extended and Melbourne Road for purposes of maintenance and the control and regulation of motor vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

[The following expectations were added by council at its first reading from the City School Board resolution of May 1, 2008. The wording in the presented ordinance may be different from this text]

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board’s city council consents to the conveyances as described herein is with the further expectations that:

(1) if other practicable pedestrian-bicycle connections are identified, the City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle, and VDOT will earnestly commit to working together to secure funds as required either through VDOT contingencies, state “enhancement grants,” and/or other local public (and private) sources as necessary;

(2) suitable replacement athletic field space will be created and made available to meet the needs of Charlottesville High School athletic programs or suitable existing athletic field space will be made available;

(3) truck traffic will be prohibited along the entire length of the Parkway;

(4) public transportation opportunities and/or carpooling will be encouraged to thereby cut down on the number of vehicles using the Parkway;

(5) the replacement park land being acquired for the City, as part of the Meadow Creek Parkway project, and the land designated for the linear park on land already owned by the City, will be placed in a Conservation Easement or will be otherwise similarly protected against development into the future; and

(6) that ongoing and timely School Board input into the design, location and funding of the intermediate bicycle-pedestrian connection(s) as well as the final design of the intersections of Melbourne Road, Rio Road and the Parkway will be ensured.

Friday, May 2, 2008

School Board fails leadership test - need to get tutorial from Burnley Moran SCA/Leadership students

Eighteen students from the Burnley Moran Elementary School (the Bobcats) presented a series of projects their student council association have undertaken in this school year. One aspect of the presentation was to present what they have been learning about leadership. One student stated that leadership required clear information to be an effective leader. In my opinion, the School Board action to approve granting an easement of school land to build the Meadow Creek Parkway through school property demonstrated that perhaps they need a work session with the Burnley Moran students as much as they needed a work session with the city council to develop a set of clear information upon which to make this decision.

There was an interest among some board members to arrange a work session with council prior to voting, but it seemed the board got wrapped up in parlimentary procedure and felt obliged to vote on the easement resolution before even considering the option of arranging a work session and acquiring clear answers to questions the board felt they needed during the discussion. I was surprised at the lack of information clarity provided by both the city staff and VDOT in responding to direct questions. Here are three examples of particular concern to me:

  • Board member Colette Blount inquired about the differences in environmental and historical property consideration between federally funded and state funded projects and asked if the Meadow Creek Parkway project was ever a federally funded project. City staff provided that federal projects would undergo a more stringent review of impacts, but claimed they were not aware of this ever being a federal project. In fact, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for this project (federal project M-5104(108)) was signed by the Federal Highway Administration on April 13, 1995. Also, a Dec. 22, 1997 letter sent to then mayor Katherine Slaughter discussed the federal role in this project. It is troubling to me that either the city staff did not know details of the history of this project - or that they knew and chose not to answer the direct question from a member of the school board.
  • Board chair Ned Michie also asked if it were true that the entire linear park including replacement parkland (not land replacing school land, but land in McIntire Park to be used on the McIntire Road Extended project) would be deeded to the city. The response from staff was that it would be deeded to the city. But, in a map posted on the city's website, a large portion of this land is indicated as not becoming public land - only a public easement will be acquired. As I understand it, the land deed will be held by private owners so that they do not lose development rights and the ability to construct more housing units on their property than would be allowed if portions of the land were deeded to the city.
  • Board member Llezelle Dugger asked directly if in fact the McIntire Road Extended project has been approved for construction and could be build independent of the school board's decision. The answer to this from staff was an unconditional yes. As I understand it, the city council has several conditions yet unsatisfied to be met before council will consider granting right-of-way easement for the road. Council will have to pass a resolution acknowledging that the conditions have been met. City council passed the easment resolution with these conditions at their October 1, 2007 meeting. To my knowledge, no confirmation of these conditions being met or resolutions authorizing construction has yet been even proposed.
I have been following this project since the mid 1990's and have seen many of these documents in the city's files. Perhaps it is time to have our city staff involved in this issue reacquaint themselves with the history of this project and review their files. Then they can actually provide credible answers to direct questions from elected officials making critical decisions such as the one taken by the school board on May 1, 2008.

I believe the school board, the city staff and VDOT staff all jcould have done a much better job in considering this action. I hope the staff at Burnley Moran will consider this issue as a case example of what can happen when decision makers fail to demand that clear information be available before acting. Go Bobcats.

Graphic Source: Burnley Moran school website.