Where We Live #3
Emergency Action – A MUST READ
All 7 members of the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee have resigned, effective immediately. (Resignation letters are below.)
Remind me, what is VORCAC?
We live in one of five county growth areas. Ours is called the Village of Rivanna (VOR) which is bounded by Rt. 250 on the north, the Rivanna River on the South, down the middle of Running Deer on the east, and Shadwell Estates on the west.
Each growth area has volunteers appointed by a Supervisor to a Community Advisory Committee (CAC). Ours is Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee (VORCAC)
What is VORCAC supposed to do?
The CAC Fact Sheet states:
“The Committees will be a catalyst for helping foster a sense of community and work towards effective and efficient Master Plan implementation. Committees are a venue to discuss and provide comments on program and policy questions and/or proposals. Community Advisory Committees are an important venue for discussion and Committees can provide feedback and indicate preferences related to development proposals, although Committees do not have a legislative role in the development process.” (Fact Sheet)
In addition, the CACs serve as liaisons contributing to public understanding, keeping the community informed, encouraging interest and participation in the Master Plan, enhancing collaboration among all community stakeholders, gathering input and bringing it to the attention of staff, stimulating creative thinking, providing advisory input, and maintaining a forward-looking agenda with regard to the Master Plan. (Fact Sheet)
So what’s the problem?
Over the years, VORCAC had dwindled since much wasn’t happening. Until Breezy Hill. Original VORCAC members had met term limits and were no longer on the committee but were working independently to provide information to you. Eventually, we all were appointed again to join the few existing members of the committee.
Meetings had dwindled to every other month and many were cancelled. We decided to reinstate monthly meetings and started to send a newsletter as part of a community education plan to update the residents of VOR area activities.
Because the Master Plan (MP) for VOR is due to be updated soon, we proactively began the process of reviewing it and collecting suggestions and corrections to offer at the time the Master Plan update occurs.
That doesn’t seem like a problem
It shouldn’t have been. We were reviewing segments of the MP, communicating to the residents, encouraging community engagement, and bringing questions and comments from the residents to the meetings.
Even though some residents were in attendance at the Zoom meetings, they were not recognized by staff and were not provided an opportunity to speak.
We were challenged by staff and Supervisor Price, as to the purpose of our efforts to provide Community Education.
We were notified that staff will provide “structured agendas” for the remainder of 2022. We were informed our agenda items are not appropriate: “If there are no development applications within a CAC boundary …” the meeting will be cancelled. Development applications are not the only business of the Committee.
Supervisor Price is concerned that our review of the Master Plan update is taking too much staff time. It is our opinion that more time is needed to create a working plan that can be used as intended. She also told us that we cannot be proactive with the update, but instead must wait until staff tells us we can work on it.
Our last meeting was cancelled at the last minute, with no discussion or notice, by Supervisor Price, doing so because “There are no active development applications ready for discussion and consistent with Staff recommendation from Mr. Charles Rapp [Deputy Director of Community Development] …, there is no necessity for holding a VORAC meeting…” Only when the meeting was cancelled did Supervisor Price communicate these concerns to the VORCAC Chairman via email.
Supervisor Price writes in her email “Additionally, and you may likely not be aware, the Board of Supervisors is currently engaged in some Boards and Commissions work as well, to include ensuring that all charters and charges to the various Boards, Committees and Commissions are up-to-date and accurate.” But, until the Comprehensive Plan is changed or updated, the current charter prevails. (See Supervisor Price’s email below.)
What exactly did Supervisor Price say?
I have this afternoon been provided with a copy of the draft Agenda for the next VORCAC meeting. I need to address two things: 1) whether to hold the meeting; and, 2) two items in the proposed Agenda: a) Master Plan Review; and, b) Community Education Program.
By way of background, I have been meaning to call you; and, apologize for not having done so in a more timely manner. Because there is a lot of information to go over, however, I am going to send this email instead of attempting to cover all of this in a phone call. After the last VORCAC meeting I had some concerns about both the amount of time being required of staff in attendance (as a County Staff Member has to be present) as well as the discussions over the last few VORCAC meetings involving proposed revisions to the VOR Master Plan. While my initial concerns were with regard to some proposed language, upon inquiring with County leadership I was better informed/educated on the appropriate sequencing of work on the various Master Plans as they come up for review.
Turning to 2)a) - What I have learned is that the actions of VORCAC in already working on the Master Plan is out of sequence with how that should proceed – with the Comprehensive Plan revision followed by County Staff initiating the Master Plan process (vice starting with a CAC). Additionally, and you may likely not be aware, the Board of Supervisors is currently engaged in some Boards and Commissions work as well, to include ensuring that all charters and charges to the various Boards, Committees and Commissions are up-to-date and accurate. At the present time there are inconsistent understandings of proper charges to the various CACs, and I believe it is important to get those things addressed in order to ensure that the CACs are, in fact, operating consistent with County policies and direction.
In that regard, I am providing FYI, a copy of the CDDs CAC Comp Plan timeline. Part of the reasoning for this proposed timeline (as addressed in the attachment and what follows in this email) is because of the demands on County Staff during the Comprehensive Plan overview. This includes a plan for structured CACs for the remainder of the 2022 calendar year, which incorporates sufficient time for development review community meetings (for Special Use Permits and Re-zonings) and builds in engagement and information sharing opportunities related to important County-wide initiatives. As you can see, the proposed schedule alternates each month between development review community meetings and topics relevant to CACs such as Transportation, Budget & CIP, Climate Action Planning, and Parks and Green Systems. While the topic meetings will not be specific comprehensive plan work sessions, they will provide an opportunity to share information on general topics to be addressed in the comprehensive plan and other long range planning efforts. The schedule also builds in an opportunity for CAC members to choose a topic of local interest for either their June or August meeting, depending on the timing of any needed Community Meetings.
With regard to 1): If there are no development applications within a CAC boundary in need of a community meeting for a month designated for development review, staff would reach out to the CAC chair and Board member with a recommendation to cancel the meeting. The schedule for the Development Review Community Meetings is intentionally staggered against the tentative schedule for Comprehensive Plan public workshops so that CAC members are available to participate in the Comp Plan engagement activities. Format for workshops will vary depending on the topic and timing, but these could be virtual events, focus groups, or open houses, supported by opportunities to fill out online questionnaires. This structured approach toward scheduling topics and community meetings will allow staff to efficiently prepare in advance for the designated topics in coordination with other ongoing work.
Finally, as regards 2)b: Can you give me a brief summary of what the Community Education Program entails? I apologize for not recalling that off the top of my head.
The attachment provides a draft timeline illustrating the CAC schedule and topics along with the relevant comprehensive plan schedule.
In summary: As There are no active development applications ready for discussion at the VORCAC, and consistent with Staff recommendation from Mr. Charles Rapp on March 1st, there is no necessity for holding a VORCAC meeting this month; and, the proper sequencing for a Master Plan review is for that to be initiated by County Staff when the preliminary actions have been completed.
Donna Price (She/Her/Hers)
Scottsville Magisterial District
Responses from the VORCAC Chair and members.
April 8, 2022
Donna Price, Chair
Board of Supervisors
Albemarle County, VA
Dear Ms. Price:
I received your letter of April 5, and in response I am notifying you that I am resigning my position on the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee effective immediately.
I have spent the last 16 years in a leadership role in the Village of Rivanna trying to encourage residents to become more knowledgeable regarding the land use philosophy and actions of the County, particularly as it pertains to our Village. There have been successes and failures, but I never wavered in my desire to dedicate a considerable amount of my unpaid time in this effort. Since 2010 I have been fortunate to be associated with a core group of people in VORCAC who served from 2010-2016 with me in participating in the preparation of our first Master Plan. There were more than 100 residents who attended the informational and planning meetings that went into this process. We were aided by the active participation of Planning Commission members, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, and Community Development staff.
The Comprehensive Plan was updated by 2015, and as part of this we were asked to review and comment on the pertinent chapters relating to the definition and language regarding Villages in the plan. We also made recommendations regarding net density application in evaluating zoning applications. We participated in these exercises at the request of the County.
It should be noted that the 2010 Master Plan was written by Staff as a result of input from residents and the corresponding goals of the Comprehensive Plan. The language regarding prohibition of any development until listed traffic implementation projects were done was the work of Staff with unanimous approval by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in 2010, and the updating in 2015 was again the result of unanimous approval by both bodies.
During the discussions regarding the Breezy Hill application, it became apparent that some of the language in the Master Plan was unclear, ambiguous, and open to interpretation. It was also made clear to us that the strong language in the Plan was impractical in application, and that the Plan was simply that and not law. We understood this, but many residents did not, because it is the nature of people in their daily lives to only become actively involved when they perceive a threat to their neighborhood.
We knew that the Comprehensive Plan was up for review and necessary revision, and we also knew that our Master Plan update was after Crozet.
I decided that this was an opportune time to look again at our Master Plan with the objective of clarifying the existing language to eliminate ambiguities. Additionally we wanted to eliminate language that rested on specific strict project actions that could become obsolete over the life of the Plan. This was created as a working document that could be referred to during and after the Comprehensive Plan revision process. At no time did we ever intend to supplant the role of Staff to lead us in the future in the updating of a new plan at the appropriate time. We don’t perceive this as a process out of sequence with the Comp Plan revision, as you stated in your letter. We look at this as a preparatory and educational process for our members, the Village community, and County Staff at the appropriate time. This is in keeping with the principles expressed in the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Fact Sheet which is part of the Resources section.
You asked about the Community Education Program which was discussed in a number of recent meetings. This is a parallel program which is a communications vehicle designed to educate the residents on basic understanding of :
What is the Village of Rivanna, and how is it different than Rivanna Village?
What is a Comprehensive Plan and what does it do?
What is a Master Plan and what does it do?
What is the Department of Community Development?
What is a ZMA, and what is the approval process regarding a submitted ZMA?
What does the Planning Commission do?
..and other subjects
This has been developed with the purpose of educating our residents so that they can comment on future development in our Village from a base of knowledge rather than emotion. Additionally it was with hope that it would elicit more active participation in community affairs.
All of the above could have been discussed with you if you had only bothered to meet with our committee or me to clear up the concerns that you and Staff seem to have with our activities. Instead, I received a one way communication from you that was subtly accusatory in nature with no indication that you understood or cared to understand what we were doing.
In my past working life, I was President of a multimillion dollar company after starting as a junior engineer in a factory. This could not have been achieved without having a deep concern for process and people. I have devoted a good portion of my time in trying to serve my community, and I have been fortunate to have worked with a group of individuals who have been a wonderful team.
I cannot be effective in the environment that you offer in your letter.
Dennis Odinov, Chair
April 11, 2022
“Dear Fellow Committee Members, Board of Supervisors and County Employees,
This letter serves as my resignation from the Village of Rivanna CAC, which instead of being a source of information to the County elected and employed officials, is treated more as a “rubber stamp” to their ideas which seldom reflect the will and ideas of the citizenry.
My understanding of the CAC Is that it Is advisory, serving similar to an RTM (Representative Town Meeting) to our officials and paid county employees. Supervisor Donna Price’s letter to our Chairman Mr. Dennis Odinov reads like a direct criticism of our efforts and ideas to represent the constituency. We were treated at best as students doing research for a Teaching Assistant and at worst as window dressing.
All residents realize that the kind of development we are witnessing is “UNSUSTAINABLE” for employment (and unemployment) in this area to say nothing of the destruction of the beauty of Albemarle County and the raised noise levels due to the leveling of forested areas. Development without infrastructure in place is backwards and detrimental. Being brushed aside by people who work for us and who recently gave themselves not only a raise but also a bonus is very “unsustainable”. Until such time as the county employees and supervisors recognize that they work for us…and not us for them…I resign from this committee.
Ginna Boyle Kelly
April 12, 2022
First, I’m very pleased to hear that your parents are recovering. It sounds like a very stressful weekend.
With regard to your email exchange with Dennis:
I don’t think that the VORCAC under Dennis’ chairmanship has had any problem with mission creep. We were reviewing the Master Plan in order to prepare for an expected future County rewrite. Any changes we came up with would only be recommendations. And we were attempting to communicate relevant issues to the VOR community in order to educate and prepare people for future discussions.
The Comprehensive Plan says:
[p 8.13] The Master Plans are updated approximately every five years. Community Advisory Committees appointed by the Board of Supervisors typically guide the update process.
[p S-29] Strategy 1b: Continue to use Community Advisory Committees to … act as a clearinghouse for information that is important to the Development Area.
So what we’ve been doing is precisely what the County says we should be doing.
You say you have concerns about “the amount of time being required of staff in attendance” at CAC meetings. If the County does not have the staff resources to support the CAC in its assigned work, then it seems to me the CAC system is not functional.
Therefore, I hereby resign my membership in the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee, effective immediately.
And by the way, I’ve served on the CAC previously, and I can attest that the degree of control being exerted by the current staff over the CAC is new. If there is evidence of mission creep, I’d say the County staff’s mission is doing the creeping.
— Neil Means
From: Betsy Baten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: April 12, 2022 at 1:50:40 PM EDT
To: Donna Price <email@example.com>
I am today joining my colleagues in resigning from the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee. I am saddened that some members of the current Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors pay little attention to Master Plans and tend to follow their own agendas in respect to granting development approvals — the current trend seems to be to pack density into the development areas without regard to whether infrastructure can support it or the effects on the surrounding community and the wishes of area residents. (That said, I have appreciated your past support in voting against proposals for the Breezy Hill development.)
To the point, Master Plans are important agreements between the County and Development Area residents as to how, how much, where, and at what rate growth should proceed — they are not simply words on paper to be ignored at whim. Thus it is important that they be clearly worded with ambiguities resolved. It was with this in mind that the members of our VoRCAC undertook a review of our Master Plan prior to the County’s instigating its update. We were in process of reviewing our Master Plan page by page to pinpoint problems in the text and to draft suggested wording to clarify inconsistencies — all to be presented to County Staff at the appropriate time — when your initial email to Dennis Odinov caught us quite off guard!
Your follow-up email to us as a group offers little in the way of encouragement for what the Comprehensive Plan gives as our mission — namely to " guide the update process” and " act as a clearinghouse for information that is important to the Development Area.” As a “clearinghouse for important information" we put together a community newsletter that is sent out periodically to address relevant topics such as what the Village of Rivanna is, what key terminology like “missing middle” means, what Comprehensive Plans and the Master Plans should do, and how County Boards and Committees function. Our goal is to interest area residents in participating when it is time to update our Master Plan.
We intend to function as an ad hoc committee independently of the County so there should be no further basis for complaints about involving Staff time.
I am happy to learn that your parents are recovering and I hope they will continue to do well. One’s parents are very important people - I certainly miss mine!
April 13, 2022
I too am resigning from VORCAC
I have been involved with the Rivanna committee since 2007. I have seen the group grow from a stakeholder group which, with the help of County staff, developed the Master Plan and eventually grew into the current committee.
I echo what others have said in their resignation letters so I will not repeat all of that.
I do take exception with County staff telling us what we can or cannot have on the agenda, and what we can or cannot discuss. This is something that is a new twist and, for me, not acceptable.
As far as these committees taking up too much of Staff time, isn’t that their job? They spend approximately 2 hours once a month plus perhaps another hour the next day which is the way it has been since I got involved.
It seems like the County employees have stopped working for the taxpayers and are running their own agenda which I find unacceptable.
Dottie Martin, Secretary
Supervisor Price, April 19, 2022
It is with much disappointment that I find I must resign from the Village of Rivanna CAC.
I was so happy to return to the committee after several years cycling off of my previous tenure. I was doubly happy to see so many of the original members at the first meeting had also returned. These are some of the finest, most informed, intelligent people one could have in such a role. I was also quite pleased after speaking with you during the interview process and really felt you were truly concerned about what the community and our committee have to say. You seemed to take in all perspectives, facts and figures before making an opinion/vote. I admired that you did not always hold the ‘popular’ opinion and respected that you had your own mind, and used it. I did not always agree with your view, but respected it feeling confident that you took a fair approach, and did your homework.
I walked away from our recent meeting with you on March 25th feeling that I had gotten to know you a bit better and my respect had been enhanced.
At the same time, I grew more and more concerned that our meetings were being cancelled or the agenda completely consumed by staff without regard for business the committee had planned. After explaining the purpose of the newsletter several times, I felt I was still being challenged as to why it exists. Haven’t you, or staff read the description of what tasks CAC’s are charged with?
When I read your letter to Dennis, I felt that not a word of it had come from you, rather that you had it handed to you and was told to sign on the line. This was not the person I spoke to just a few weeks ago on March 25th. I am deeply disappointed.
I told you during that meeting of 3/25 that I had great respect for everyone on the committee. That I had never worked with such engaged, diligent, smart, committed group of people in any other setting. I explained how many of us have been engaged since the first meetings almost 20 years ago, providing input on the direction of growth and other matters in the county. I told you on March 25th that this group of individuals are not friends outside of the VORCAC. We do not share a beer or meet up. We all do what we do whether we are on a committee or not, because being engaged is who we are.
You could have spoken to Dennis and gained insight into how shocked we all obviously were not only by your email, but by the not-so-gradual takeover of our agenda, redefining our purpose, and preventing us from our assigned missions - “censorship” is the only word that comes to my mind. I expressed my feelings to you that I would not sit on a board taken over by anyone who expects me to allow myself to be used as a muffled pawn for others’ aspirations. You were the hope that that would not happen.
The takeover of our agenda, the re-defining of our purpose by Staff, and your recent out of character communication are the reason for the collapse of the VORCAC. To waste the talents, experience and connections of this talented group of people is a mistake and I am quite sure we will all go on, with even more dedication and engagement in the community we live in, with a greater commitment to help our neighbors understand what is happening in and around their neighborhood. We will continue as a group outside of government power struggles to do what we do. We thought it was the VORCAC where we could best serve our community. I guess we were wrong.
I do hope your parents are doing well. I miss mine every day.
Paula Pagonakis, Newsletter Editor
April 19, 2022
First off, I am so sorry to hear about your parents’ illnesses and glad that they are better. I hope that continues. Taking care of elderly parents can be quite exhausting.
Secondly, I have been very impressed, and gratified, with your support for the citizens of the Village of Rivanna area of the county during your tenure on the BOS. I love that you like to gather all the data before making a decision, and that you care deeply about the rural areas of our county. Thank you for your support of the Running Deer neighborhood during the recent rezoning of Breezy Hill.
However, given recent communications, I must tender my resignation from VORCAC. Its purpose seems to have recently changed without input from the citizens on the committee.
I have been on over 120 committees over the last 4 decades, and never, ever, has a liaison written the agenda or scheduled meetings. That is the Chair’s job. That responsibility has been usurped by county staff. When I was chair of VORCAC, I set the agenda and consulted with staff as needed to arrange for speakers and programs. I then sent it out to all attendees a week before the date we had all agreed would be the next meeting. Our staff liaison then, at some point, posted it on the county website. I believe that is the way Dennis also handled it when he was chair before me. The protocol has changed without warning or explanation.
It seems to me that what we have here is a take-over of the CAC by county staff. The “mission creep” seems to be happening with county staff rather than CAC members. The first paragraph of the CAC charge in each committees’ Fact Sheet states: “Advisory Committee members will communicate with their constituencies to increase understanding of and support for successful implementation of the Master Plan.” This is what we have been attempting to do without, I might add, any assistance whatsoever from the county in setting up a means to do so. The second paragraph states: “Committees are a venue to discuss and provide comments on program and policy questions and/or proposals.” Yes, we provide feedback and citizen venues to discuss zoning changes, but that is not the entirety of our charge. I downloaded the CAC Fact Sheet on Nov 5, 2015 and it is the same as the current Fact Sheet. The Charge is the same for all CACs. It does not say that we only meet when there is a zoning change to discuss.
Just so you know, all of us on the CAC have previous experience on this CAC and have had the training supplied by county staff. We will continue to work together on the interests of our neighborhoods.
It is really sad to see this new attitude from the people we pay. The relationship between the citizens and the county staff who work for them should not be adversarial, but that is what it feels like on our end.
Lynda S. White, Vice Chair
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