Regional planning committee hears presentation on its objectives, purpose

The committee also received an update on the University’s upgrade of the Birdwood Golf Course

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The Planning and Coordination Council Technical Committee received presentations from David Benish and Matt Perkins at Thursday's meeting.

Geremia Di Maro | Cavalier Daily

The Planning and Coordination Council Technical Committee met Thursday at the Albemarle County office building to hear presentations on the purpose of the body and an update on the University’s upgrade of the Birdwood Golf Course.

PACC is a regional committee originally established in 1986 under three parties — the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University. The body is comprised of local government and University officials with the goal of promoting cooperation, planning and community development among the three parties. Each of the three parties has typically been represented by three to four members on the committee and each party hosts the body on a revolving basis.

Recent members of PACC have included current Charlottesville City Councilors Kathy Galvin, and Mike Signer, University Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Hogan and current members of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Diantha McKeel and Liz Palmer.

PACC deals with matters of land use in areas of mutual interest to the county, city and University — or those areas which lie on the periphery of the three boundaries, collectively known as “Area B.” Property belonging to the University and serve “educational and supporting functions” are designated as “Area A.”

As a subcommittee of PACC, PACC-Tech serves to aid the larger committee with professional expertise and advice and does not make formal policy decisions but can recommend certain course of action to PACC. Current members of the subcommittee include University Architect Alice Raucher, Lauren Hildenbrand, director of utilities for the City of Charlottesville, and Andrew Gast-Bray, director of planning for Albemarle County.

David Benish, chief of planning for Albemarle County, presented to the committee first. He said that PACC itself is an advisory board and can only make recommendations to three parties.

“I think it's important to note that PACC is an advisory body, it in of itself isn't a decision making body,” Benish said. “Its purpose is to foster that cooperative planning which will lead to more unified, cooperative, comprehensive documents that ultimately have to be approved by the city and the county and the University.”

The three parties have collaborated in a number of construction projects in recent years and often comes in the form of coordination. For example, the University’s redevelopment of land along Ivy Road — including the relocation of its orthopedic services from the Fontaine Research Park to the area — will likely coincide with nearby sidewalk construction being carried out by the county.

The restatement of PACC’s purpose and objectives comes just over a month after the University Board of Visitors Buildings and Grounds Committee decided to defer a decision to construct a softball stadium at Lambeth Field following criticism of the plan from students and local residents. Lambeth Field is located on University property but just outside of Charlottesville City limits, resulting in some uncertainty about its status among the the three parties.

However, Lambeth Field is currently designated as an Area A property — meaning that any potential collaboration and coordination between the three parties concerning the development of the property would likely be external of the PACC.

At the Jan. 16 Charlottesville City Council meeting, City Manager Maurice Jones said the Council was considering drafting a letter to University officials about the softball field project after receiving a complaint from a neighborhood resident whose home is adjacent to Lambeth Field. However, Jones did not disclose what position the body may take on the matter.

“We have spoken to the University,” Jones said at the meeting. “They are planning engagement opportunities and meetings with the neighborhood and students … to talk about that project before it goes back to the Board of Visitors.”

Areas A and B as mapped in Albemarle County's Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2015. 

Matt Perkins — a representative of the U.Va. Foundation — also gave the PACC-Tech committee an update on the University’s plans to upgrade the existing Birdwood Golf Course, a part of the Boar’s Head Resort. Both properties are owned by the foundation.

The U.Va. Foundation is responsible for the management of a number of properties owned by the University — including the U.Va. and Fontaine Research Parks — and also oversees the allocation of University land for project design, development and construction. 

The multimillion dollar upgrades to the properties off Ivy Road include the construction of an indoor golf practice facility as well as a tennis stadium. An amended special use permit submitted to the Albemarle County Planning Commission for the practice facility was approved this past August after the foundation altered the original plans approved by a permit issued earlier in the summer. 

According to Perkins, construction of the indoor golf practice facility has already begun.

Perkins said a separate special use permit application for the tennis stadium was also submitted to the planning commission this past December and is pending feedback, which is expected in early February. 

Perkins said the foundation will likely apply for additional special use permits from the county in the future in anticipation of other upgrades to the Birdwood property. He said it was necessary for an Area B study to be conducted concerning the overall future of the Birdwood property to include all relevant parties in the planning process.

An Area B study establishes a structured plan for the use of land between the city, county and University based on a number of factors and serves to guide the future development of such areas. This process would also include additional cooperation with planning officials and the PACC as well as opportunities for public engagement on the projects. 

“There was never an Area B study, so let's go ahead and start that process … and find out what the overall plan is,” Perkins said. “We [already] have a master plan for Birdwood from a standpoint of what we would like to do.”

Perkins noted that the foundation would like to initiate the study process as soon as possible to expedite the construction process of the Birdwood facilities. 

“Time is of the essence for us on this, we would like to get going,” Perkins said. “The U.Va. tennis stadium looks like it's going to be moving forward, we're going to start design meetings on that over the next few weeks so any advisement from the county and PACC-Tech would be greatly appreciated.” 

Gast-Bray said the purpose of conducting an Area B study was to ensure that the city, county and University are all aware of the plan for the property moving forward. 

“That’s part of the reason why you have this — so that if one entity doesn't know what the other one is doing [they will],” Gast-Bray said. 

Perkins said the exact details and process of a potential Area B study would be worked out with the Albemarle County Planning Commission and PACC if it is approved by the committee. 

The PACC-Tech committee unanimously voted to encourage the PACC to endorse the process of conducting an Area B study of the Birdwood property and moving forward with its development. 

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