Charlottesville City Council hears U.Va. Student Comments on Climate Change at Second Hybrid Meeting – The Cavalier Daily
The Charlottesville City Council met Monday for its second hybrid session since 2019. The only item on the agenda The meeting discussed a special use permit to convert an apartment complex on 14th Street into a hotel.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, university lecturer Amanda Nelsen and students on the university course Write Climate: Art and Engagement expressed their concerns about climate change.
The students shared an artistic mural they have been working on over the past semester. The mural is made from postcards and uses color to depict surface temperature anomalies between 1880 and 2022. On the back of each postcard are statements from community members documenting their feelings about climate change and its impact on Charlottesville.
Third-year student Johnny Lindberg, one of Nelson’s students, spoke for the class as he introduced the play to the council and urged council members to support strong and comprehensive climate change policies to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
“Our mural visibly shows the warming of our climate,” Lindberg said. “On the other hand, each individually stitched postcard expresses a community member’s feelings about the climate crisis… our community members express feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, frustration, and sadness, but most importantly, they express the need for change.” ”
The council then considered a special use permit application to construct a hotel at 207 14th Street NW, which currently occupies a 21-building condominium. The developer hopes to renovate the existing building to create a 19-room hotel and an apartment. The proposed change would reduce the number of rental homes available, but according to applicant Bill Chapman, the conversion could generate $10,000 in tax revenue per month.
Councilwoman Sena Magill expressed concern about the proposed special use permit as it could hinder it Availability of already scarce housing in the Charlottesville area. Per year 2018 Housing needs assessment23 percent of Charlottesville renters spend more than half of their income on rent — the US Department of Housing and Urban Development says affordable housing should cost no more than 30 percent of household income.
“I can’t in good conscience vote to reduce the housing stock while we’re facing such a huge housing crisis,” Magill said.
The council voted to deny the special use permit with councilors Magill, Payne and Mayor Snook opposed to the permit and with councilor Pinkston and Vice Mayor Wade in support of the permit.
During the report session — which takes place before the start of the formal council meeting and allows council members to hear updates from community organizations or city staff — the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless gave a presentation. TJACH is an organization that aims to reduce homelessness through the coordination of regional resources.
TJACH Executive Director Anthony Haro spoke about local homelessness, including the Point-in-time counting which counts the number of people in a city affected by homelessness every January. According to Charlottesville’s January census, 228 people were living in shelters, up from 144 in 2021. Haro expressed his belief that this was due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Charlottesville’s lack of affordable housing.
Haro also noted that the number of vulnerable people — homeless people living outside — has remained about the same since 2010. The PIT Census has reported that around 20 to 30 people are unprotected each year, with Haro drawing attention to the city’s failure to address these individual needs.
“It says there’s a group of people living out there in our community that we haven’t been able to address significantly,” Haro said.
In addition to hearing TJACH, the Council heard a presentation from Josh Powell, Support Services Director for the Charlottesville-U.Va.-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center, on how citizens can access emergency services. According to Powell, citizens can access emergency services by calling 9-1-1 or texting. Powell also noted the development of a new emergency number — 9-8-8 — with mental health crisis counselors for those dealing with a mental health crisis.
Sonny Saxton, executive director of the Charlottesville-U.Va.-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center, then provided details of the Marcus Alert system used to help comply with the Marcus David Peters Act which was signed by former Governor Ralph Northam in November 2020.
According to Saxton, the goal of the Marcus Alert system is to enable emergency services to more easily identify people in mental health crises and provide them with appropriate assistance, while minimizing interactions between law enforcement officials and those in crisis situations. Under the new process, the emergency response to a mental or behavioral health crisis will be analogous to responding to a physical health crisis — allowing a person in crisis to contact a crisis response team on 9-8-8 or a local number, and get help from a cell phone receive crisis team.
The City Council will meet again on April 16.