City Utility Rates Adjusted Again

By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern

             In what was the only matter formally voted on during a very brief Charlottesville City Council meeting on June 1st, Council approved adjusted city utility rates by a 4-0 vote. Two weeks prior at the May 18th meeting Council was first introduced to the rates that staff recommended for 2010. After that meeting Council asked staff to reduce the budget by $60,000 a move resulting in modest cuts for the city rate payers. According to the staff presentation a customer using 5,150 gallons per month will see a water rate increase of 1.12% as opposed to the 1.25% increase proposed last month and a 3.79% increase in sewer rates, down from 3.93% proposed at the last meeting. Along with the increases in water and sewer gas will actually see a decrease next year at a rate of $1.39, also up from the $1.21 decrease proposed before the change in the budget.

            During last months meeting staff claimed that the increases in water and sewer were largely due to a rate increase by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RSWA), which staff says accounts for over 80% of the rate increase in both instances. Despite the increases staff defended the proposed rates last month, presenting them as very reasonable considering the circumstances. Monday’s proceedings on the issue yielded no discussion from Council and a very brief report from staff before passing unanimously.   

 Council Seems Willing to Enlarge Belmont Commercial Zone to Accommodate New Restaurant

             It appears as if a proposal to expand the Neighborhood Commercial Corridor to include 814 Hinton Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood has close to unanimous support from City Council. The applicant, who plans to use the location to open a new restaurant, seems to be in a good position to get the land rezoned from R-1, a residential zoning, to commercial. This comes less than a month after the Planning Commission recommended denial of the plan by a 4-2 vote citing traffic, parking, and noise concerns in the largely residential, but increasingly commercially vibrant neighborhood.

            The applicant’s lawyer Andrew Sneathern, worked to allay those concerns by insisting that the spirit of the commercial zone within Belmont and the intent behind expanding the zone in this circumstance is to promote foot traffic in the area, not attract more cars, leading to increased traffic and parking problems. The property owner also includes a proffer in the plan expressing their intent to construct a landscaped buffer, isolating the commercial zone from its residential neighbors.

            The Councilors present overwhelmingly sided with the potential new establishment at 814 Hinton as long as the concerns of the neighborhood are not ignored. Mayor Dave Norris insisted that his support for the rezoning is contingent upon attention being paid to the broader concerns of the area such as those that led to the Planning Commissions recommendation for denial. Councilor David Brown also added that he feels the property naturally belongs in the commercial zone based on its position in the neighborhood. Joining Norris and Brown, Councilors Edwards and Taliaferro expressed their support for the applicant, with Councilor Huja absent from the meeting. The final vote for this rezoning will come at a later meeting, as Monday was the first of two readings for the ordinance, but it appears as if Council has been sold on the rezoning.

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