City Council meeting roundup

Just a few days after members of the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park held a press conference calling on the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to publicly release new designs for the McIntire Road Extended (MRE), one of the city portions of the now infamous Meadow Creek Parkway, City Manager Maurice Jones informed City Council at last night’s meeting that VDOT is building a bridge to cross the stream in McIntire Park.

In early July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew the permit that was required to build a box culvert for MRE. The withdrawal came just a day before Judge Norman Moon was set to hear arguments in a preliminary injunction filed by the Coalition to halt the road’s construction.

According to Jones, the bridge is in the very early design stages and its preliminary design will be completed by the end of the month and City Council will have a chance to look at the design in its September meeting.

In other news:
-In a presentation to Council, Virginia Dominion Power reported that Charlottesville is within the fastest growing area in the mid-Atlantic with 14 percent demand growth in our area alone compared to a few years back. However, Virginia is the second highest importer of energy after California. The representation also touched on the recent power outages and Dominion officials acknowledged this area’s reliability issues. Mostly, they said, it’s due to old or damaged trees. In fact, 38 percent of power outages in 2010 were tree related and 65 percent of that occurred outside the right of way. To curb the problem, Dominion is working with homeowners in an effort to identify and remove damaged trees.

-During its June retreat, City Council approved a new priority, children, that will be added to the seven already in place and will focus on reducing infant mortality rates, on early childhood education, or learning outside the school and outside of school hours, on expanding after-school activities and reduce the achievement gap.

-Downtown Mall vacancy rates have decreased to 3.9 percent from around 5 percent in January of this year, but Charlottesville is still below the national average of about 7 percent. The highest vacancy rate in July 2009 was 9 percent. According to Chris Engel, Assistant Director of Economic Development, the rate decrease is due, in part, to the city’s business spirit.

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