School spending, Stonefield suit, and City races: News briefs

The city has settled with Stonefield developer Edens over a stormwater dispute, allowing the largest development project in Albemarle County history to move forward. Photo by Jack Looney. The city has settled with Stonefield developer Edens over a stormwater dispute, allowing the largest development project in Albemarle County history to move forward. Photo by Jack Looney.

Check daily and pick up a copy of the paper Tuesday to for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’ve had an eye on for the past week.

County schools face budget gap

The Albemarle County School District is facing a $1.2 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year, which officials say will mean cuts in classroom spending, according to a Daily Progress report.

The schools are planning to spend $2.4 million on raises for faculty and staff, and must increase spending by $1.5 million to keep up with expanding enrollment, according to the report. They must also create a mandated online course system, which will come with a $250,000 price tag.

It’s all part of a proposed $155 million school budget—up 2.77 percent from last year. County Supervisors have called for a 76.6-cent tax rate, a slight increase that would steer about $600,000 in new revenue to the schools—not enough to prevent some cuts, officials said, which may mean larger class sizes.

A public hearing on the county budget is set for 6pm Wednesday at the County Office Building on McIntire Road.

Stonefield suit settled

A legal dispute over stormwater management between The Shops at Stonefield developer and the City of Charlottesville has been settled, and according to Charlottesville Tomorrow, Edens will soon proceed with a second phase of the project—the largest in Albemarle County’s history.

Stonefield, the long-anticipated shopping center featuring an IMAX theater, a Trader Joe’s, and several restaurants, is situated in the county, but its stormwater flows into the city. The city issued a citation last June after Edens placed a 72″ pipe underneath U.S. 29 as part of its stormwater management plan. Great Eastern Management, which owns Seminole Square Shopping Center across the street and within the city limits, argued that the pipe would unfairly dump water on its property and could cause flooding.

After months of mediation, Edens posted a $150,000 bond to cover the next five years’ worth of potential stormwater damage, and Charlottesville Tomorrow reported that the city now believes the shopping center presents no downstream threat.

Race for City Council heats up 

A third Democratic candidate is announcing his candidacy for one of the two seats opening on Charlottesville’s City Council. Lifelong city resident Melvin Grady is the nephew of former Mayor Charles Barbour. Grady, 44, graduated from Charlottesville High School and the University of Virginia, and is a math teacher at Buford Middle School. As a father of two, he said giving all children a head start will be one of his top priorities. He told C-VILLE that if elected, he wants to examine Charlottesville’s infrastructure, and focus on providing access to jobs and places like community gardens and the City Market.

Current Vice-Mayor Kristin Szakos announced in February that she will run for a second term, and 26-year-old Wes Bellamy announced his candidacy earlier this month. Bellamy, an Atlanta native, teaches computer science at Albemarle High School, and is the founder and chairman of youth mentoring group Helping Young People Evolve and president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle National Alliance of Black School Educators. Both are running as Democrats.

The Democratic primary for the November election will be held June 11.

Transit study, take two

Charlottesville City Councilors got a first look at the updated results of a long-awaited transit study last week, and while the commissioned report on the city’s bus system didn’t propose major changes, the plan isn’t without its detractors, according to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

San Francisco-based transportation consulting firm Nelson Nygaard first held a public hearing on its findings and recommendations in December, but the city sent the company back to the drawing board. At a presentation last Monday, representatives from the firm told Council that much of the city’s transit system works well already, but offered a few suggestions, including a new transit hub at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and West Main Street, increased service to Piedmont Virginia Community College and CATEC, and changes to the Route 11 bus circuit that would bring service through either the Greenbrier neighborhood or along Park Street and Rio Road.

A member of the Transit Riders Association of Charlottesville criticized the report for not taking a comprehensive, ground-up approach, and several people raised concerns about route shifts leading to loss of service for some residents.

Council will vote on the proposed changes next month, Charlottesville Tomorrow reported.

HUD says Norris in the clear

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says that City Councilor Dave Norris’ work for the Public Housing Association of Residents while Norris was chair of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority did not pose a conflict of interest.

HUD had noted Norris’ close relationship with PHAR and the fact that the group had paid him nearly $10,000 out of a HUD grant for consulting work in a recently released report that was highly critical of the CRHA. Norris maintained that his long relationship with the residents’ association did not conflict with his work as an elected and appointed official. On Monday, a HUD official confirmed that after looking into the issue, it had deemed there was no financial conflict of interest.—C-VILLE writers

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