Tag Archives: route29 solutions

VDOT’s ‘Charlie Brown’ Street Trees & ARB’s Double Standard

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

Much like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, the young street trees planted as cbrown christmas treepart of the Route 29 Solutions projects may be the very best suited to provide the long term tree canopy desired, but if such trees were a part of a private application (residential, industrial or commercial) they would be summarily rejected – just like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

The public policy question is: Should a tree planted on behalf of a state agency along one of Albemarle County’s 21(!) Entrance Corridors meet the County’s requirements for private businesses locating on said corridor?

In fairness, most would reply yes. Not in Albemarle.

Please let me explain.

Merriam-Webster defines a double standard as:

a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another;

20171127_112426

US 29 Northbound (just South of Ashwood Boulevard)

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will look back on 2017 in Charlottesville as a year of getting things done.  Working with motivated contractors (and elected officials) the Route 29 Solutions projects were completed with great agility.

As a part of the projects, VDOT contractors planted literally thousands of plants along US 29 and Berkmar Extended.  Each and every one of these plants have a one year guarantee from the contractor.   Therefore it is in the contractor’s best interest to plant trees that meet the VDOT standard and with the highest likelihood for survival.

Very few (if any) of these trees would meet Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) trunk requirement of 3 1/2”.

University of Missouri researcher W. Todd Watson, writing in Hortitechnology magazine, found virtually no difference in the eventual height of trees when caliper size was used as a metric for success.  image

Filled with engineers, VDOT is nothing if not specific about their tree planting activity.  The have an arborist on staff to assist in species selection as well as planting details.  Nowhere in VDOT Section 1200 Landscape can we find any information regarding mandated tree caliper size.  Could it be that VDOT prefers to allow the design professionals determine the most efficient and effective landscaping over the life of the roadway?

20171127_113636

Roundabout Berkmar Drive Ext at Hilton Heights Rd

This double standard was brought to the attention of the ARB and was discussed back in September.  The conversation recognized the higher cost and limited availability of 3 1/2” caliper trees and recognized the maintenance of the trees after transplanting had a significant impact on their rate of survival.  In addition, they mentioned one specific proposal that might be reconsidered based on this information and asked for that project to come back the following meeting.

The specific application that prompted the latest discussion was on the agenda on October 2nd but after a two week hiatus, the ARB seemed to have a change of heart regarding the flexibility of the “guidelines”

c. ARB-2017-69: North Pointe Middle Entrance Landscape Plan: Tree size

The ARB viewed the revised landscape plan and considered the applicant’s request to use a smaller planting size for EC street trees. It was the consensus of the ARB that the 3½” planting size requirement should be followed for this application, but staff should present additional information on the planting size issue for continued ARB discussion on a more general basis.

While the Free Enterprise Forum does not have an opinion on this application; we do wish the ARB would revisit their planting size requirement decision.  To do so could lower cost for applicants, perhaps increase tree viability and result with the same tree canopy.

In short, we ask the ARB to follow Linus Van Pelt’s advice regarding installation size and maintenance:charliebrowntree2

I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

—————————————————————

20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: United Feature Syndicate in cooperation with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1965)

Advertisements

Rio Road GSI, Route29 Solutions, VDOT and Dylan Thomas

By. Neil Williamson, President

rio gsiIn recent weeks, I have said that I believe the Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) at US29 and Rio Road will be built despite the significant, and valid, protestations of those opposing the project.  Based on the current political structure,  the manner this project has been steamrolled through and my personal experience with this process, I believe this project will be fully constructed by late 2016 and the balance of the projects will complete prior to the Gubernatorial Election Day 2017.

Despite this forgone reality, I also believe those who oppose the project must continue their efforts.  For if a project was wrong in its inception, the reality of construction does not change its meaning.  Dylan Thomas wrote about battling the inevitable in his great poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”.

Those with long memories will remember the Free Enterprise Forum speaking in opposition to the Places29 Plan at the Albemarle County Planning Commission.  As this 2009 Charlottesville Tomorrow article outlined:

Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

The Planning Commission endorsed the plan 4-2 and sent it to the Board of Supervisors for action.  Prior to the vote on the Places29 Plan we clearly called for a veto

Interestingly as a part of the Places29 discussion that was eventually endorsed (6-0) included [according to a 2011 article by Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow]:

At the request of the board, consideration of grade-separated interchanges at key intersections along U.S. 29 will be delayed for at least five years, until the plan is required by state law to be reviewed. State officials are warning against the total removal of the interchanges from the plan.

“If the interchanges are removed from the Places29 plan, additional traffic modeling and study would need to be done to ensure that current and future land use and recommended improvements to Route 29 support the goals of Places29 and the needs of the regional transportation network,” VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said in an interview.

Much has changed since the passing of Places29.  The Western Bypass was revived, contracted,  then discouraged by federal action only to be eventually discarded by the newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe.  The membership of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors changed as well. 

Just this year the community was introduced to Former Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Philip Shucet who led two panels that never voted but provided important input to the “Route29 Solutions” that will be completed prior to Governor McAuliffe’s last day in office.

don quixoteWith all of this as preface, I was reminded not of Cervantes Don Quixote but of the Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas (no known relation to former Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas).  Thomas clearly understood the realities ahead as he wrote his most famous work.

It is with Thomas’ words that I close this post and proudly support the continued, though perhaps futile, battle to eliminate the Grade Separated Interchange at US29 and Rio Road. 

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Dylan Thomas —

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

———————————————————————-

20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: Route29solutions.com