City Council Chooses Not to Act on Potential Onesty Aquatic Center Parking Shortage

By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern 

Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Meade Park are concerned the opening of the new Onesty Family Aquatic Center, slated for later this month, will result in overflow parking that will crowd their neighborhood streets. Their concerns stem from a real shortage in parking for the facility. The approved plan includes just 38 parking spaces for the 62,000 square foot facility, 66 spots short of the 104 required for a structure with its amount of usable recreational area. This shortage was permitted by a September 2009 Planning Commission decision to grant Onesty a waiver for its parking requirement.

During the Monday June 15th Charlottesville City Council meeting, City staff presented Council with a solution that came from a June 4th meeting between staff and residents from the area. The proposed solution would create a trial permit parking zone in the following areas; Chesapeake Street from Meade Avenue to Fairway Avenue, Meade Avenue from Market Street to Fairway Avenue/Stewart Street, East Jefferson Street from 12th Street to Meade Avenue, 13th Street between East Jefferson and Little High Street, Little High Street from 13th Street to Meade Avenue, and 400-433 Fairway Avenue.

This potential permit parking zone would have lasted from June 20th to September 8th, effective seven days a week from 10 am to 8 pm. Despite staff recommendations and resident concerns the majority of Council was quite hesitant to take any proactive measures to handle the apparent parking dilemma. Councilor David Brown was perhaps the most vocal in his opposition to creating the permit parking zone now. Brown cited concerns over whether or not parking will truly be an issue at the facility as his reason for hesitation, essentially saying that preemptively dealing with the problem would unnecessarily restrict parking in the area without cause. Mayor Dave Norris was the only Council member that sided with the Meade area residents, saying his “preference is to be proactive”.

In the end Norris was the only dissenting vote as Councilor Brown’s motion to defer the issue until mid-July carried by a 3-1 vote. The intent behind the vote is that Councilors will follow the issue closely until their second meeting in July when they will have had a few weeks to observe the parking habits of the Aquatic Center patrons, giving them a factual basis for deciding if the temporary permit parking zone is necessary.

City Bus Fare Packages to Become More Rider Friendly

For most riders of the CTS bus system fares will be simpler, more rider friendly, and most importantly less expensive according to the Transit Manager for CTS Bill Watterson. In a presentation before Council, resulting in the 4-0 passing of the proposed new fare structure, Watterson detailed his plan. The one way, single ride fare will remain 75 cents and 35 cents for those who qualify for a reduced fare, but the multi-ride packages that CTS offers will soon receive an overhaul.

When the changes take effect the daily fare will drop from $2 to $1.50 and a reduced fare option of 75 cents will be added. In addition, the 10 and 40 ride packages that were $6 and $21 respectively will be replaced by a $20 monthly pass, which will also for the first time have a reduced fare option at $10.

 The fare structure changes came as the result of a rider survey conducted by CTS and are designed to be more rider friendly than the old options. “This is about finding ways to structure our fares to increase ridership” Watterson commented, also adding that these changes should be close to expense and revenue neutral. The changes are aimed at increasing ridership on the system which has already seen a 50% increase in riders over the last 5 years.

Rezoning of 814 Hinton Stricken From Agenda at Last Second

Upon arriving at Monday’s meeting some attendees may have noticed one hot button issue removed from the agenda. Sometime after the agendas were printed and the rezoning of 814 Hinton Avenue was placed on the consent agenda to be presumably fast tracked to passage, Council decided to defer the item to a later date.

The issue, which has been one of much contention for residents of the Belmont neighborhood seemed to be on its way to passing last meeting (June 1st) after all four present Councilors spoke out in favor of rezoning the current structure at 814 from R-1, a residential zoning, to Neighborhood Commercial Corridor in order to allow for the property owners to open a restaurant on the site.

Many within the neighborhood have significant concerns over the perceived increase in traffic and noise that expanding the commercial section of Belmont would have on the surrounding neighborhood. It was this argument that led to the Planning Commission’s denial of the rezoning attempt by a 4-2 vote last month. On the other hand, proponents of the rezoning contend that because of its location the property naturally belongs in Belmont’s burgeoning commercial center.

There was no word at the meeting on what caused the issue to be deferred, when exactly, or in what form it will appear on the agenda next.

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