Thursday, June 5, 2008

When is a concept a final design?

When is a concept a final design? Apparently when you are on Charlottesville's staff and wanting to move forward granting an easement to VDOT to build the McIntire Road Extended.

At the May 5, 2008 city council meeting, a resolution was passed that reads in part "that this Council hereby approves in concept the storm water management design" for the McIntire Road Extended project. But, at the May 21, 2008 Metropolitan Planning Organization this approval of concept was misrepresented as an approval of a final design for storm water management by the city's VDOT liaison, Jeanette Janiczek (in response to my comment to the MPO that no such design had been approved, but only a concept for storm water management). Then, at the city council work session on May 4, 2008 on the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project [advertised as the McIntire Road Extended Interchange project], City Manager Gary O'Connell stated that the resolution passed by council on May 5,2008 was an approval of a storm water plan - not a concept and that the condition included in the October 1, 2007 resolution by city council regarding storm water planning was thus satisfied. O'Connell went on to suggest that all of the three conditions of the October 1, 2007 resolution could be satisfied within a month or so and the easement letter could be legitimately signed. I beg to differ!

What is the condition that needs to be met?

The relevant - and exact- wording included in the resolution passed by city council on October 1, 2007 is as below in italics:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia that this Council hereby authorizes the City Manager to sign the following document, in form approved by the City Attorney, upon (1) certification from the Virginia Department of Transportation that the Commonwealth has acquired title to or a permanent easement over 49.1 acres of real property that will be dedicated for use by the City as replacement park land; (2) review and approval by City Council of the final design of the storm water drainage plan; and (3) written confirmation from the Virginia Department of Transportation that this temporary construction easement will not be used to construct an at-grade intersection at the intersection of U.S. Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road Extended:

Agreement between the City of Charlottesville, as "Grantor" and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as "Grantee", granting a temporary construction easement across and through McIntire Park for construction of McIntire Road Extended, and related utility and drainage work.

NOTE: the draft agreement is available online as page 29 of the October 1, 2007 city council agenda packet .pdf file.

So, what is the big deal?

Mayor Norris asked Ms. Janiczek at the May 5, 2008 meeting prior to the vote on the storm water management resolution given below if it was true that the vote was for just the concept, and not a storm water plan - to which Ms. Janiczek said yes. This being clarified, the vote was taken and the resolution given below in its entirety was passed.

It is my understanding, and apparently the mayor's understanding, that a final storm water management plan (including Best Management Practices) would need to be developed before the construction easement to VDOT would be brought back to council for final approval in compliance with the October 1, 2007 council resolution. Although no further action was taken, our city manager now believes that the condition is met.

Below is the complete resolution of May 5, 2008 passed by city council. Given that no final storm water design plan was even supplied to city council prior to the May 5, 2008 meeting, and the clear statement is included that "Council hereby approves in concept the storm water management design" rather than approving "the final design of the storm water drainage plan" as required indicates that council needs to be provided a final plan for its consideration and approval prior to the city manager signing any easement agreement.


WHEREAS, a committee (composed of City staff, VDOT representatives, landscape
professionals, etc.) was appointed by City Council to evaluate the design of storm water
management facilities for the McIntire Road Extended project; and

WHEREAS, the committee has submitted its recommendation for the design of storm water management facilities which will best blend with the natural contour and landscaping of McIntire
Park, with an emphasis on rain gardens; now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, that this Council hereby approves in concept the storm water management design shown on the attached two (2) drawings (Concept Plan and Concept Perspective) by Land Planning & Design Associates,
dated May 5, 2008.

Approved by council
May 5, 2008

Clerk of City Council

I don't believe the city staff is providing good service to city council members when reinterpreting council approved resolutions and confusing the status of ongoing issues as is the case here. Is it the role of the staff and our city manager to push projects forward prematurely? I communicated my concern about this misinformation, but they do not seem to be concerned enough to review the text of the resolutions already passed. One concern I expressed several years ago to council was that our city staff couldn't attract or sustain sufficient expertise to manage complex transportation development projects under the then proposed First Cities of Virginia agreements. I believe that staff is now demonstrating that this expertise is not currently available and the First Cities of Virginia agreement might be worth revisiting.

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