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Albemarle to consider restricting public uses in front of courthouse

New rules for how the public may use the land around the Albemarle County courthouse could be adopted Wednesday.

On the Board of Supervisors consent agenda for Wednesday’s meeting are proposed rules for the property, which is bordered by East High, Park and East Jefferson streets and the city’s Court Square Park.

The property would be designated a “nonpublic forum,” which means it is not by tradition or designation a public forum for First Amendment purposes, according to the proposed rules.

If the proposed rules are adopted Wednesday, 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 people announcing their candidacy for public office; people being administered oaths for public office; people participating 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 need prior consent of the court.

County Executive Jeff Richardson would administer and enforce the proposed rules, and has the authority to close the courthouse grounds if people are interfering with or disrupting court business, when people are assembled in Court Square Park or on abutting public sidewalks or during a declared emergency.

The proposed rules would not apply to the buildings on the property.

According to a staff report, the proposed rules were shared with the Judge Cheryl Higgins, Circuit Court Clerk Jon Zug, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley and Sheriff Chan Bryant, and county staff had not received any comments.

The public can speak about the proposed rules during the board’s virtual general public comment period shortly after 1 p.m., which the board added back to its agenda earlier this month.

The board met in closed session during its May 20 meeting to discuss “specific legal matters requiring legal advice relating to” the public’s access to and use of the county-owned portion of Court Square.

In October, the board adopted revised rules for public use of the county office buildings on McIntire Road and Fifth Street Extended and their grounds, which allow the public to gather on a small portion of the front lawn of the McIntire Road office building.

The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday also are scheduled to vote on a resolution for Smart Scale project applications, which is the current primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia.

Albemarle is allowed to submit four applications, but there will be eleven applications for projects within Albemarle, as the Thomas Jefferson Planning Commission and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization are also submitting applications for projects in the county.

The county’s requested projects are 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 and a restricted crossing U-turn at the intersection of Rio Road and Belvedere Boulevard.

Other proposals in Albemarle include a shared use path on Route 20, 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, a trail hub and trails at 5th Street and a restricted crossing U-turn at the intersection of Frays Mill Road, Burnley Station Road and U.S. 29.

The board also is scheduled to have a work session on the draft of the first phase of the county’s climate action plan to give feedback ahead of a finalized plan that the board will vote on at a later meeting.

Later in the meeting, the board will hold a public hearing and vote on a special use permit for Boyd Tavern Market, a gas station on Black Cat Road.


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