Albemarle County school and government employees will be getting a $1,000 bonus this year after a Wednesday vote by the Board of Supervisors.
The bonuses will cost $2.66 million for school division employees and $803,136 for general government workers. They will be paid for from the division’s and general government’s year end fund balances.
During a virtual joint work session in January, the Board of Supervisors and School Board said they supported the bonuses. The School Board approved the one-time lump sum payment for its employees in February and supervisors were in favor of them again for general government employees this week.
“I’m very proud to be able to support recognizing the work that all of our county staff has done in a very difficult year without a pay raise, with fewer people doing more work, and I whole-heartedly support this proposal,” Supervisor Donna Price said.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said that it has been a very challenging year due to the pandemic.
“We all managed to keep work moving and … our citizens were the beneficiary, so thanks to all of our employees, every single one,” she said.
During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, community member Gary Grant questioned the bonuses, among other things.
“Why is it that Albemarle’s all-Democrat board wants to take taxpayers’ hard-earned money and give it away to county government employees in $1,000 bonuses on top of their known job descriptions and accepted compensation, when county government employees didn’t lose job hours or pay during the pandemic like private sector employees did?” he said. “Why is the power to spend rather than saving or refunding taxpayers money so appealing to Albemarle’s all-Democrat Board of Supervisors?”
The $1,000 lump-sum payment will go to regular full-time employees and regular part-time employees who are at least 0.7 full-time equivalent, while regular employees below 0.7 full-time equivalent will receive a portion of that amount. Substitutes and temporary employees will not receive the payment.
To be eligible, employees must have been hired before Jan. 1, and be an active, regular employee as of April 1.
Last year, the county gave $1,250 or $750 in gross pay to certain county employees as part of a pandemic risk recognition program.
Crozet Master Plan update
The board on Wednesday also gave feedback on the draft land use chapter of the Crozet Master Plan update.
Supervisors were concerned about the potential difficulties around affordable housing that the draft land use chapter could bring.
“ ... I’m concerned about not only the missing middle of housing, but also the affordability for lower income residents who may have the desire to move out to this area,” Price said.
In 2019 the county began updating the Crozet Master Plan, which helps to guide decisions about land use, transportation and parks in Crozet. It ultimately becomes part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
The plan includes land use categories assigned to properties, which serves as a marker to community members and developers about which kinds of potential projects the community wants to see on a site. Ultimately, a developer likely would need approval from the Board of Supervisors to change the zoning of a property to allow for the use.
County staff worked to create a proposed new land use category in the current draft plan — Middle Density Residential — that allows for those housing units that residents want to see with the goal of permitting smaller units that could be more affordable.
Originally the Middle Density Residential designation recommended six to 24 units per acre, but that was reduced to six to 12 units per acre after community feedback.
Charles Rapp, the county’s director of planning, said the reduction was to help balance between community and Crozet Community Advisory Committee feedback with the larger future land use goals of the county.
“One of the things we have been trying to do with this was to eliminate inconsistency so that we have density ranges throughout the county that are consistent in all the growth areas,” he said. “That’s kind of what led us down this route of a middle density designation so that we could adjust rather than having an urban density [designation] that was different in Crozet than in other growth areas, we felt we needed to address something different here that actually fit the densities that they had desired out there in the previous master planning efforts to try to capture that in a better way.”
Building types in the middle density areas would include bungalow courts, small multiplexes, accessory dwelling units, live/work units, small single family cottages, tiny houses and other similarly scaled residential development, according to the draft.
Price said she was concerned about the sizes of those types of units — like bungalow courts and tiny houses — for families.
“My concern is, will there be a sufficient quantity of this type of housing for the middle and lower income community members?” she said.
Many on the Crozet Community Advisory Committee have come out against the draft land use plan and the master plan update process.
At a meeting in November, the Crozet CAC voted in favor of a resolution asking the board to support the lowest possible density for any new projects, and to consider infrastructure capacity in reviewing rezoning requests. The committee also voted against recommending the Middle Density Residential category.
The four infrastructure priorities were completing the Eastern Avenue connector and the bridge over Lickinghole Creek, expanding school capacity in Crozet’s elementary schools, building Western Park and adding sidewalks, multi-use paths and other bicycle and pedestrian-friendly elements “in and between many existing neighborhoods.”
Board Chair Ned Gallaway noted that three of the four priorities were in process — Eastern Avenue is being evaluated with an alignment study and a conceptual design, an appropriation request for Western Park will be coming to the board in May to use proffer funding for initial improvements and the board approved funding in January for an addition to Crozet Elementary.
“If none of these things were in motion, then I can conceive of a density cap differently than if they aren’t in motion,” he said.
He said the county development areas as a whole are grappling with growth, density and infrastructure, and pointed to projects like Parkway Place, which was deferred, Breezy Hill, which was denied and has been submitted again with fewer units, and development along U.S. 29, where another project by RST Development was deferred after outcry from the residents of the Forest Lakes neighborhood.
“When I think of the development area as a whole, when we start taking large swaths of the development area and saying we’re going to limit the density in that whole area, what does that do to the rest of the development area and what kind of strain does that put on our bigger countywide goal of keeping the 5% development area?” he said. “I’m not sure where I stand, just yet on this Middle Density Residential being limited.”
McKeel said the draft land use plan continues the disparities between “what we say we want and what we’re actually getting.”
“I just don’t think this is encouraging affordability, and it’s setting us up to have one development area [that is] very different than other development areas,” she said. “I have a lot of concerns and I just don’t think the developers can provide affordability given what some of what we’re requiring here.”
McKeel and Gallaway said that community advisory committees — which are appointed committees by the board for most of the county’s development areas and provide feedback on implementation and support of the area’s adopted master plan, as well as a venue for community meetings for development projects and for master plan updates — are not legislative bodies.
“I hope that anybody that’s participating, especially on any CAC, understands that it’s advisory, and just because you voted a certain way doesn’t mean staff is required to follow, or the [Planning Commission] or the supervisors are in any way, shape or form obligated to follow that, other than to take the input,” Gallaway said.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, who represents the Crozet area, said there is great concern about protecting the older neighborhoods.
“The reason there was concern about having higher density and having every one of those houses have accessory units, for example, was where is the traffic going to go and how are these streets going to be able to handle doubling the population,” she said. “I think, as it’s working its way along, it will be something that can be accommodated.”