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tonight’s charlotteville city council meeting is underway. you can watch live on facebook

lot of public hearings tonight, mostly on budget matters

the full agenda is here - charlottesville.org/home/showdocum…
before proclamations, wes asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the christchurch shooting. mayor walker is now reading a proclamation rejecting hatred and extremism. members of our local islamic society are here to receive the proclamation.
the speaker says the mosque has received flowers, letters, and in person support from the community.
trying to keep up with the city council meeting as well as this exciting news on my other favorite beat - nazi social media

consent agenda passes unanimously with item B pulled for further discussion at the end of the meeting
now city manager mike murphy is responded to matters by the public from the last meeting. public works has been working on restriping the dangerous intersection at 5th and harris.
as to complaints about incomplete crash data, they pulled data from a time period i missed (will have to check the recording) and found
8 reportable crashes
14 non reportable (meaning damage less than $1500)
the data includes 2 blocks on either side of the intersection.
now we’re talking BENCHES. sounds like there are twelve benches in storage that could be put downtown. more on that later i guess.
re: the piloted altered trolley route - one of the proposals would reverse the direction of traffic on 2nd street and would remove 2-4 downtown parking spots.
now on to matters by the public. the first speaker on the list was a no show. same with the second. unusual.
walt is up, speaking on behalf of the people’s coalition.
“the media will inevitably be back” this summer asking what we’ve done in response to the events of 2017, what work is being done for racial equity.
he says the city will be able to point to two crowning policies in this regars - their stance on affordable housing & the formation of the police civilian review board.
walt says the CRB should have investigative power & the ability to compel documents & appearances by people.
mary carey up now thanking mike murphy for the changes to the trolley. (i can’t remember the last time i rode the trolley so i have no opinion on the matter)
now she’s addressing kathy galvin. “last month was black history month,” and says she thought kathy might’ve taken that opportunity to apologize for the interaction they had in november.
now another speaker from the people’s coalition. she reiterates their request for an opinion from the city attorney on the legality of the model put forward for the CRB.
they also ask that there be transparency about action taken in response to complaints found to be valid.
now a member of the human rights commission. they’ve reviewed the supplemental rental assistance program & have endorsed a resolution to continue & expand the program.
next up is tanesha. she’s asking on behalf of the owner of rose hill market to designate two spots on rose hill as 15 minute parking so people can access several businesses there.
she also asks for an expansion of the property tax relief program (which i believe is actually in the current proposed budget) - this is part of preventing gentrification. she says property taxes have been used to force black families out of neighborhoods many times
now ms rosia, a member of the police civilian review board. she is unhappy with the way the board has been painted publicly - “don’t call my whole board out, don’t make my whole board look bad.” particularly re: blaming the issue of officer retention on the existence of the board
mike murphy says “we understand” that the closure of complaints against police made during 2017-2018 “was inappropriate” and the process is being changed... but this is awfully vague.
ms rosia also says an overwhelming majority of complaints against police are returned with the result “exonerated” - “it makes it seem like the citizens are lying,” she says. the CRB needs the power to investigate - internal affairs doesn’t seem to be cutting it.
next speaker says the rising tax assessments need to stop - that they are forcing people from their home. he’s reading aloud from a paper the tax assessment on his home since 1997. it’s risen significantly.
jeff fogel -
“complying with the law is not transparency” - they don’t get credit for making public records available to the public. being transparent would be releasing information they weren’t legally required to.
the chief made a statement at the last CRB meeting that they could not, by law, release information about any action taken as a result of a complaint about an officer. jeff says this isn’t THE LAW, it’s a matter of policy that can be changed.
nikuyah says she spoke to chief brackney briefly after the meeting, but hasn’t had time to have a more in depth meeting about it.
“i don’t think anybody’s trying to hide anything, we’re discussing it,” nikuyah says. jeff pushes back - says they’ve been fighting this for 10yrs
there was a physical reaction from the crowd when the mayor called civil rights attorney jeff fogel “irrational.”
they’re engaged in a pretty tense, personal disagreement with her on the dais and him in the back of the chambers.
the next speaker wants to talk about real estate taxes. technically she shouldn’t be allowed to speak during open public comment about this - there’s a public hearing on real estate taxes on the agenda.
she makes a weird point about her neighborhood being safe because it has “lots of different age people” keeping an eye out. replace all cops with nosy retired people?
she says there’s no reason the city and county offices can’t merged. “why are we paying for two different offices” she asks. while there is a valid argument to be made about merging with the county, i’m not sure she knows what she’s talking about?
i do appreciate the old white lady complaining about real estate taxes ending her comment by saying there needs to be a revolution, though. let’s do it. unlikely allies overthrowing the city government.
don gathers says his 100+ year old home has been assessed at a steeply rising value, particularly due to its proximity to the derry central project. he says these kinds of developments cause backdoor gentrification, driving people out with rising assessments.
wes says he understands - his assessments went up, too. but in order to address affordable housing, they have to find a revenue stream.
kathy galvin says a big driver of rising assessments is luxury student housing. “that has had a reverberation across the city.”
“can we have a moratorium on luxury student housing?” it’s driving up land value all over the city.
city attorney john blair says you can’t have a general moratorium on development in localities. kathy says she’s talking about a specific kind of use. in typical lawyer fashion, he doesn’t want to commit to an answer.
he says one issue would be how to even define what she’s talking about when she says “luxury student housing” - she says it’s about a certain price point with amenities built in. blair says he will research the matter.
the average residential property saw an 8.7% increase in assessment, according to mike murphy, but he says some properties saw as much as an 18-19% increase.
attorney john blair addressing the issue of personnel files -
city ordinance currently states personnel files cannot be disclosed to outside parties & can only be used for administration of government.
again, that’s a *city ordinance* that the city can change.
we’ve rearranged the agenda after the recess to put the last item first - there are students here for the bennett’s village playground report who will be asleep by the time time meeting is over!
“just because playgrounds meet ADA regulations” doesn’t mean they are accessible to everyone. bennett’s parents are presenting about a fully inclusive playground in honor of their son who had spinal muscular atrophy.
bennett passed away last spring. they want to build a park he and his friends would have been able to enjoy. they’ve raised almost $100,000 from over 600 donors.
their proposal is that bennett’s village will fund the design and construction for the park and the city will provide the land - approximately 2.5 acres inside pen park.
b u d g e t. s e a s o n.
73% of general fund revenues come from taxes. this should be a surprise to no one.
we’re going over some slides we’ve all seen before (even though i missed TWO budget meetings last week - one was during a school board meeting & i was out of town saturday)
we’re all out of order. mike murphy is presenting the proposed budget. we’ll be having hearings on the real estate tax (not changing), meals tax, and lodging tax.
the proposed FY20 budget raises the income threshold for tax assistance from $50k to $65k under the charlottesville housing affordability program (CHAP), meaning more people will qualify for assistance with their tax bills.
re: nonprofit funding - the FY20 budget freezes budgets for agencies at 2019 levels while council reevaluates the agency budget review team process.
in a rare moment of levity during a budget powerpoint, councilor bellamy’s computer inexplicably announced “THIS IS WHAT I’LL SAY!” during a pause in the presentation.
the first speaker during the public comment period says “we don’t even know how many students go to school” in charlottesville city schools. this is... not true.
she concludes by saying she would be inclined to spend tax dollars in schools if we knew what was going on but “right now i think we’re wasting our money.”
i’m as confused as she clearly is.
this speaker says there is a problem in the assessment office - despite no change to her home, it was assessed this year as having one more bedroom than it did last year.
several mentions tonight of the fact that UVA pays no local taxes.
please be mindful of what you’re saying when you ask to be “grandfathered in” on lower tax rates, especially when you are asking for help staying in a neighborhood you gentrified

this woman says she wants the people who said at the budget forum that they will gladly pay a tax increase to fund affordable housing to pay her taxes, too.
her solution is simple: the city should simply tax her less and spend less money
“you need a sustained source of revenue if you’re going to fulfill the commitment you’re making to affordable housing,” says jeff fogel.
the main demographic of people being forced out of town is black people, jeff said. but we keep hearing from concerned white homeowners about the possibility that they will choose to leave town rather than pay more taxes.
the solution is simple: tax the rich.
mind you this is a public hearing on the real estate tax. which is not changing. that tax rate is not changing in FY2020. people are mad assessments went up, but this hearing is about the real estate tax rate which is not changing.
“real estate taxes are gonna be a necessary evil,” says a representative from the charlottesville low income housing coalition.
“this money has to come from somewhere,” and encourages an INCREASE in real estate taxes coupled with robust tax abatement for low income homeowners.
the woman who said we don’t know how many kids go to school tried to speak again and was told no.
“we’re here because people who look like me didn’t stand up against redlining” and other racist policies. that’s why we have to have this conversation about affordable housing now, says walt.
he supports a real estate tax increase.
“the federal government is not coming over the hill to save us. the state government is not coming over the hill to save us.” walt asks council to do right by this community, throwing signer’s “capital of the resistance” language right back at him.
nancy at the mic talking about a recently released proposed budget from the president that would cut a huge amount of federal funding for housing.
now hearing from brandon from PHAR. he acknowledges the pain of rising assessments but says we must address the affordable housing crisis.
“we can’t talk about affordable home ownership without talking about some kind of tax relief.” we’re hampered by being a dillon rule state, but we need to keep this in mind as we build our housing strategy.
city council candidate michael payne urges council to increase the CHAP threshold to the maximum amount (shielding low income homeowners from increased assessments and possible real estate tax increases)
he urges council to explore the value of community land trusts. we have to fight the cycle of displacement in working class neighborhoods.
that closes the public hearing on the real estate tax. now the hearing on the city manager’s proposed budget (presented earlier)
it’s a new hearing so the “we don’t know how many kids go to school” lady is allowed to give another comment. she wants to talk about real estate tax, which isn’t what this hearing is about. they’re letting her do it anyway.
she wants everyone over 65 to automatically get a break on their real estate taxes (there is a program for low/fixed income seniors. you don’t just get a break for being old if you’re rich. sit down.)
i forgot to post the link to the livestream of the second half of the meeting! that’s here, if you’re interested in watching several more public hearings on budget items

walt says some past decisions about consultants are hurting public perception about the budget today re: some complaints tonight about waste in the budget & the ongoing review of the ABRT process
walt reiterates his earlier comment that the budget’s commitment to affordable housing will be a jewel in the city’s crown when the media comes back this summer to ask what the city has done to address racial inequality since the events of summer 2017.
now moving on to the public hearing on a proposed meals tax increase. the first speaker says “i think you need to be really careful” increasing meals & lodging taxKarA
he says he is reluctant to buy a muffin because he’s resentful he’s paying ten cents on a one dollar muffin. that’s... not true? and also sorry about your breakfast, dude.
walt is up again! he says he supports the tax increase & sees it as a way to support the city’s commitment to equity. this should be reframed that way - the extra few cents on people’s restaurant bills will go toward solving real social ills.
walt frames this as an “opportunity to engage in socially conscious investing.”

nancy’s back at the mic supporting the meals tax increase. the money from the increase will fund necessary attention to equity issues.
now moving on to the public hearing on the proposed lodging tax increase. the lady who doesn’t know how many kids go to school & thinks her taxes should be free because she’s old is up first. she’s mad air bnb’s are being taxed, calling them “family business0bvM
walt is up again! again in support of the increase. he says emphasizing that the increase goes toward racial equity will be an ATTRACTION, rather than a detriment.
additionally: “you’ve already given them a deal” in letting them build here. “let them do something for us.”
nancy up again. she says marriott released their 5 year plan today - they plan to build nearly 2000 new hotels worldwide, so they probably won’t be bothered by our small city’s small lodging tax increase.
nancy says she has conflicted about air bnb, it takes rental properties off the market - “if you’re gonna rent out your place, rent it out,” she says.
we’ve still got two agenda items, item B pulled from the consent agenda, and closing matters by the public left to go
we seem to have lost city manager mike murphy over the recess. moving on to the public hearing on the rezoning for the hogwaller farm project
really need someone to do something exciting at this meeting now that i have a column to write about it. please and thank you.
public commenter is worried about the possibility of flooding on the proposed site. he says if a piece of vacant land in this city hasn’t been built on, there’s a reason for it.
“you cannot engineer mother nature,” he says.
the next commenter says there is a conflict of interest because the developer of this project assisted in redrawing the flood plain maps that make it possible.
the commenter says of the hogwaller project, if the goal is to provide locally grown food, why not let people farm rives park? (please do not farm the land kids are using to play)
“why is there no testimony from the environmental staff” asks the next commenter (i’m not sure what that means?)
several commenters tonight very worried about the flood plain issue of this project. this guy also calls the map redrawing a conflict of interest.
kathy has a question for the city attorney about the redrawing of the maps. blair says flood plain maps are provided by FEMA and any landowner can ask for amendments to the map. the applicant has to prove the change should be made. the owner didn’t simply make a change to the map
shimp engineering is addressing the issue now. “we provide technical information, surveys” for the change to the map. as to the issue of no comment tonight from city engineers, he says “they’ve already approved it”
he says changing the flood map was a 2 year process.
he reminds us, too, that he’s going to build on the lot. that’s not the issue. he has the right to build there. the issue is whether they will change the zoning to allow him to build a different number of units.
mayor walker asks for a reminder on the planning commission’s recommendation on this. they voted down both the rezoning & the special use permit 3-2. some small changes have been made since it was voted on by the planning commission.
heather says planning commissioner lahendro said a big influence on his no vote was how late in the game a lot of the information about the project was received.
kathy says if they vote down the rezoning, there’s no point in the SUP. it depends on the rezoning.
she motions to deny it & heather seconds.
she calls it a “short circuiting of the process” and a “breach of trust”
kathy is hung up on the idea of even building on the land at all (which again, is not at issue here - he has the right to build there, he’s just asking to build more units with more or less the same number of bedrooms)
“zoning is an ordinance, it’s a law. when you change the law you really do need to follow proper procedures,” kathy says. she’s upset a mixed use corridor zoning would be used to increase housing density.
she says the building plan they showed looks like a low cost motel and has no character.
“i cannot lower my own professional standards because of affordable housing,” kathy galvin says.
heather says the urban farming element of the project is really unique and she wants to be behind it, but she doesn’t see the necessary support from community partners.
i hate election season and would never say i am “looking forward to” an election but i am really excited for a time after november when i never have to hear mike signer talk again.
signer says he’s inclined to give the developer the benefit of the doubt - why would a developer build on a flood plain that endangers his own investment? of the planning commission vote, he says “it’s a complicated project”
but for him, “the pros outweigh the cons”
wes acknowledges this doesn’t have the votes, but wants to voice support. “we only have 10.5 square miles” - people need to be innovating & creative when it comes to building, especially when it comes to affordable housing.
nikuyah says she talked to three people in the neighborhood who had concerns about rainwater runoff. there is one person who would be displaced by the project (though they’d be displaced even without the rezoning & SUP - something gets built there regardless)
nikuyah says while she agrees with signer re: the flood plain map & the developer having no reason to build something that would be a bad investment, but she is inclined to follow the planning commission’s recommendation.
i’m very confused! they’d still be held to proffers they made to get a change that was denied??

galvin’s motion to deny the rezoning failed 3-2 with hill & galvin voting for denying. it appears nikuyah misunderstood the double negative and voted the wrong way. galvin is going to remake the motion.
galvin moves again to deny the request as recommended by the planning commission. heather seconds. “process matters,” kathy says, calling back to her earlier comments about zoning laws.
she says they can’t use “discretionary review” to “cavalierly” violate the existing zoning ordinance (which the neighborhood development services director called “a wastebasket of errors” at a meeting last year)
since the motion was reintroduced, debate is technically reopened and now we’re doing this all over again for no reason.
voting on the motion again. motion to deny the rezoning carries 3-2 with bellamy and signer voting no on denying.
since the SUP was tied to the rezoning, we don’t need to address that tonight.
item B pulled from the consent agenda is up now. the jail qualifies for a grant to reimburse them for the cost of incarcerating undocumented people. i wish it didn’t say “criminal alien” - that language is disgusting.
it seems the issue here is not how disgusting it is that they are eligible for money for doing something abhorrent, but questions about the $3000 chunk of the money that would be lost to administration costs.
nikuyah also has questions about whether accepting this money has any bearing on voluntary ICE notifications, which is current jail policy. murphy says that’s unrelated.
wow i did not know that the state bill requiring ICE notifications came from albemarle county prosecutor robert tracci. as if i needed more reasons to hate him.
@GovernorVA you can still veto that.
a motion was made to approve item b from the consent agenda, but the agenda says it’s a 1st of 2 readings so... there should’ve been no vote. oh well. moving on to other business.
nikuyah announced the meeting adjourned, forgetting closing matters by the public. meeting reopened! council candidate michael payne has some brief comments on the denial of the rezoning we just saw - “outcomes like this are really going to set us back on affordable housing.”
ok now the meeting is actually adjourned.
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