City Council appointed Lloyd Snook as Charlottesville’s new mayor and Juandiego Wade as the city’s new vice mayor during its first meeting of the new year Wednesday. The meeting was the first to include new Council members Wade and Brian Pinkston, who were elected to the Council in November.
City Council elects a new mayor and vice mayor
Former mayor Nikuyah Walker announced last September that she would not be running for reelection, claiming that she faced constant opposition in implementing some of her racial equity goals. Walker became the city’s first Black female mayor five months after the events of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017 and had been embroiled in multiple controversies during her term, including the writing of a graphic poem about Charlottesville and a credit card scandal, for which she ended up facing no charges. The firing of former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney also contributed to her decision to step down.
During nominations for the city’s mayor, Snook, who has served on the Council since January 2020, was nominated by Wade, a newcomer elected to the Council during the 2021 election. Pinkston seconded the nomination. Councilor Sena Magill nominated Councilor Michael Payne, who has also been a member of City Council since January 2020.
“I’ve worked with Lloyd for many years … and he has the knowledge and governance to handle this position,” Wade said. “He knows what it takes to hear everybody’s voice.”
Snook elaborated on his desire to recruit a dependable city manager who will have the ability to make their visions of the city a reality if elected mayor. Marc Woolley — who was appointed interim city manager of Charlottesville following former city manager Chip Boyles’ resignation — withdrew from the position in December, less than a month after accepting it. Currently, the Council is outsourcing to a firm that can provide interim city manager services. Wooley was Charlottesville’s sixth city manager since 2018.
With a new city manager, Snook believes that the public will “see a government that’s moving forward.”
“We have a good vision, we need to build our team to make it a reality,” Snook said.
Payne asserted his candidacy by speaking about ways that he hopes the Council can generate stability within the Charlottesville community, such as engaging with the public.
“We are a divided community … and this has been a time of unprecedented crisis,” Payne said. “I’ve seen us have critical conversations we haven’t had in years. If we’re going to create stability, we need stability with a mission and goal in mind, and we need to engage with the public … and confront our own failures as a Council.”
Snook was elected in a vote of 3-2, with Pinkston, Wade and Snook himself casting the winning votes. Magill and Payne cast their votes for Payne.
Pinkston then nominated Wade for vice mayor, saying that Wade has been “a fixture of this community for decades.” No other member was nominated, and Wade was unanimously voted in as vice mayor.
“I hope to be able to bring people together in a behind-the-scenes format,” Wade said.
COVID-19 update from the Blue Ridge Health District
Dr. Denise Bonds, director of the Blue Ridge Health District, then provided a COVID-19 update after reminding individuals of winter storm safety.
According to Bonds, the BRHD has seen a large increase in the number of cases due to the omicron and delta variants. The seven-day average number of COVID-19 cases in the BRHD is 162.9 new cases per day as of Thursday. Cases reached an all-time high between Dec. 27 and Dec. 30, exceeding 400 daily. Bonds noted, however, that while omicron is more transmissible, symptoms are somewhat milder.
Bonds urged people to get vaccinated or to get boosted if they received their second shot more than five months ago. All students and faculty planning to return to Grounds for the spring are required to obtain a booster shot and upload proof of a booster to either HealthyHoos or Workday by Jan. 14, up from the original deadline of Feb. 1.
In the Charlottesville community, 72.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 33.9 percent have received a third dose or booster shot. According to Bonds, only 50 percent of the population aged 18 to 24 is fully vaccinated.
If infected, individuals must isolate themselves for at least five days from the onset of symptoms or a positive test, and for the full ten days if their symptoms persist, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BRHD recommends a full 10-day isolation or quarantine period for students in K-12 schools in order to keep children in school long-term.
The health district offers testing every day of the week, with tests being offered at local pharmacies including those in the Seminole Square parking center and Personic at the North end of the Fashion Square Mall.
The Council considers rezoning requests and approves year-end budget appropriations
The new mayor approved the session’s consent agenda, during which the Council resolved to appropriate $680,263 in funding for the COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program, which supports emergency shelter operations.
Sam Sanders, deputy city manager for operations, reported from the city manager’s office that 1600 homes in Charlottesville were still without service as of Wednesday night following power outages in the aftermath of Monday’s winter storm, compared to 22,000 in the county. The office also offered condolences to the family of the individual killed Saturday on 5th Street in a car crash and alerted the Council that they will be presenting traffic control solutions to prevent further tragedy.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Albemarle and Charlottesville residents raised concerns and expressed excitement about the Park Street Christian Church Planned Unit Development requests and the rezoning request for the Monticello Area Community Action Agency Planned Unit Development, both action items on the meeting’s agenda.
Some residents praised the projects for expanding access to affordable housing in Charlottesville while some were concerned about how the development will impact traffic in the area.
Charlottesville resident Paul Mack requested that City Council install a sign into a parking sign or on its own freestanding pole acknowledging the city’s legacy of enslavement in 0 Park Street Court Square.
A few members of the community, including Elizabeth Stark and Ang Conn, urged City Council to reevaluate its Police Civilian Review Board after the release of emails and texts revealed disturbing comments. The Council previously established a Police Civilian Oversight Board to replace the review board and generate greater transparency between the board and the police.
The Council then moved into discussing action items.
City Planner Dannan O’Connell introduced the first ordinance to consider the Park Street Christian Church Planned Unit Development request. The project involves rezoning approximately seven acres of land to Planned Unit Development housing. The development will build 50 apartment units for seniors and 54 parking spaces, and project leaders claim it will be 100 percent affordable. The project intends to be a community-nonprofit partnership for affordability in perpetuity. The Council agreed to move the ordinance forward to the consent agenda.
The Council also considered a rezoning request on behalf of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency for nine acres of land along Park Street, calling for the property to be classified under Planned Unit Development. The applicant has proposed building a maximum of 95 new residential units, with at least 80 percent being offered as affordable housing.
Amid ongoing discussions surrounding traffic considerations, the Council did not move the ordinance to the consent agenda but moved it forward to the Jan. 18 meeting for a second reading, where it will be voted on.
Chris Cullinan, the city’s director of finance, provided an update on the city’s year-end budget appropriations for the 2021 fiscal year. Recommendations made in preparation for next year’s budget include setting aside $5.5 million from the general fund balance for employee compensation — comprising a bonus for employees who worked during the pandemic last year and a six percent mid-fiscal year salary increase.
The Council passed the year-end budget appropriation unanimously.