A contested shared-use path in Albemarle County was not supported by the Board of Supervisors for state funding on Wednesday.
Nine of the 11 possible Smart Scale project applications for proposed transportation projects in Albemarle were supported by the board.
Albemarle is allowed to submit four applications for the process, which is the current primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia, but 11 pre-applications for projects within the county were submitted, as the Thomas Jefferson Planning Commission and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization also are submitting applications for county projects.
Supervisors did not approve a resolution of support for a shared-use path on Route 20, and wanted more information about a proposed restricted-crossing U-turn at the intersection of Rio Road and Belvedere Boulevard.
The shared-use path likely would have required the relocation of multiple trees along Route 20.
The trees were planted in the median of Route 20 near Interstate 64 in late 2016 as part of an effort between the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards, Monticello, Journey Through Hallowed Ground and the Virginia Department of Transportation to create the Monticello Gateway. The trees were planted in memory of Civil War soldiers killed in battle as part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Living Legacy Tree Planting Project.
Multiple people with the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards spoke out against the shared-use path during the meeting.
Supervisor Donna Price said she walked in the median from Druid Avenue to Piedmont Virginia Community College and back, and that she could not imagine walking with her grandchildren down that path.
“I really have serious concerns about this proposal, recognizing that it may be the most direct route,” she said.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said the project needs to have a much better public process, and that other trail connections should be considered.
“I think we should deny this one and start again with a good process that the county has control over and is involved in from the very beginning in a public way,” she said.
The board also wanted more information from VDOT about the restricted-crossing U-turn at the intersection of Rio and Belvedere, including what incorporating a roundabout at the John W. Warner Parkway and Rio Road would add to the proposal in terms of what the local contribution would need to be to help it receive funding.
Mallek and Supervisor Bea LaPisto Kirtley voted against a resolution for a restricted-crossing U-turn at the intersection of Frays Mill Road, Burnley Station Road and U.S. 29, which is in both of their districts, but it ultimately passed.
Resolutions of support also were approved for a project to close the open median on the U.S. 250 corridor from Peoples Place to Hanson Road; a roundabout at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53; a roundabout at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street Extended; improvements at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road; interchange improvements at Fontaine Avenue and the U.S. 29 Bypass; a shared-use path on U.S. 29 from Carrsbrook Drive to Riverside Center; a park-and-ride lot at Exit 107 off Interstate 64; and a trail hub and trails at Fifth Street Extended.
At a Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting Wednesday, VDOT staff shared that 484 pre-applications have been submitted across the state for this upcoming round of Smart Scale, including 42 pre-applications in the Culpeper District, which includes Albemarle. The total cost of all submissions is $7.5 billion, with $389.8 million worth of projects in the Culpeper District.
Final, full Smart Scale applications are due Aug. 3.
Court Square rules
Also on Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors delayed a vote on proposed rules for the land surrounding the county courthouse to review comments from the public on the rules and to clarify items.
The proposed rules were originally on the board’s consent agenda, but Price pulled the item to allow for discussion following constituent concerns.
County Attorney Greg Kamptner said work on the proposed rules started with the work his office had done on the County Office Building rules update, which was approved in October.
“The courthouse grounds was an offshoot of that, because invariably when you do research regarding public spaces, you end up with cases challenging the right to engage in First Amendment activities around courthouses,” he said. “… Courts have been virtually unanimous that courthouse grounds are not … referred to as traditional public forums.”
The proposed rules had designated the property a “nonpublic forum,” which means it is not by tradition or designation a public forum for First Amendment purposes, according to the proposed rules. Kamptner said the property is not a public forum right now.
Under the proposed rules, the property would only be allowed to be used by people who are conducting court business; people who are actively traveling from one public sidewalk abutting the grounds to another; and certain specified activities, such as candidacy announcements, administering of oaths for public office, and participation in history tours or a class operated or sponsored by the state, Albemarle, Charlottesville, any school or any county or city historical society or organization. Other similar activities and road races would need prior consent of the court.
In an email, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley made two suggestions — that the rules would apply only during normal business hours for the courts, or if there was a special court session, and that the allowance of use by “any county or city historical society or organization” be broadened and clarified.
“Assuring the broadest public access possible to the courthouse grounds is vitally important in my view,” Hingeley said.
The board also briefly talked about what a timeline could look like for it to utilize the new authority it will have over its Confederate statue in Court Square.
Legislation that gives localities the authority to remove, relocate or alter their Confederate monuments goes into effect July 1. The law requires localities to first publish a notice of intent in a newspaper, followed by a public hearing within 30 days.
County spokeswoman Emily Kilroy said the board would have to ask staff to advertise for a public hearing, which it could do at its July 1 meeting. She said the legal advertisement could run in The Daily Progress by July 7 for a special meeting for a public hearing on Aug. 6.
Then, due to the requirement to wait 30 days for the requirement to offer the monument or memorial for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government, or military battlefield, the earliest the statue could be removed, relocated, contextualized or covered would be Sept. 5.
Board members said they’ve been getting many emails about the statue.
“I would just ask people who are writing, I appreciate them writing but please identify where [you] live, because it’s very important to me and to the constituents who have written to me that this be a county process and decided by county residents,” Mallek said. “This is not something where we are flowing with the tide from other places. We need to do it in our way directly and listening to our citizens.”
The county also is working on collecting public input through an online survey and virtual meetings on how the Court Square grounds in downtown Charlottesville should look.