County Holds Third Community Information Meeting on School Expansion

Woodbrook Elementary School Principal Lisa Molinaro speaking in the school gymnasium.
Approximately 30 people, many of them Woodbrook residents, attended the third in a series of meetings about the expansion of Woodbrook Elementary School. The November 29, 2016, meeting was held in the school’s gymnasium and focused on traffic and other concerns raised by residents at the two previous meetings.

The meeting was chaired by Rosalyn Schmitt, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning for Albemarle County Public Schools. Jack Clark from RRMM Architects, the site architects for the project, Bill Wuensch, Principal Transportation Engineer/Planner from EPRpc, and Craig Kotarski, a civil engineer with the Timmons Group, also spoke at the meeting.

The meeting was opened by Woodbrook Elementary principal Lisa Molinaro who introduced the overall project from an educator’s perspective. Rosalyn Schmitt then provided a more detailed overview of the project as well as its funding. “As many of you know, the bond referendum did pass,” said Schmitt, clearing the way to finance the project. “So the plan is to break ground this summer,” she added.

Following Schmitt’s introduction, Bill Wuensch addressed traffic concerns raised by Woodbrook residents at the previous two meetings. Wuensch reported that, based on data collected during a recent study of existing traffic at Woodbrook Drive and US 29, no significant additional delays are expected at the intersection as a result of the project. Speaking about his firm’s traffic projections into 2022, Wuensch said, “The additional queuing on 29 [is] minimal.” He expects an extra two vehicles to be in the outgoing queue, accounting for an additional 2.7 second delay at the Woodbrook light in 2022. Wuensch went on to say that his analysis did not consider the reduction in US 29 traffic resulting from the new Berkmar Drive extension, which would have the effect of reducing the delay. “It looks like you are still going to be able to make it through the light in one cycle,” said Wuensch. Additional details on Wuensch’s report are available here.

Summary of the expected effect of the Woodbrook Elementary expansion on traffic patterns in the year 2022. (EPRpc)

Jack Clark, architect for the project, then gave an overview of the entire project, after which questions were taken from the audience.

Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher asked if the area designated for bus parking could be reduced or eliminated. “We’re going to have to look at a pretty ugly parking lot,” said Kocher, whose backyard abuts this portion of the school property. “I don’t understand why [the parking lot] has to be so big,” she added. Clark indicated that the current design for angled bus parking is the most efficient method and maximizes the safety of the children. Clark offered to look into using more evergreen trees around the property instead of the current plan to use deciduous trees to hide the parking area.

Woodbrook resident Sandi Taylor asked if a double row of mixed deciduous and evergreen trees could be added between her property and the new south parking lot. The architects confirmed that this is in the current plan.

“Do you have hours of construction determined yet?” asked Taylor. “So, if you remember, you’re doing this in the midst of a community,” she added. “We allow the contractor to work whenever they want to work,” said Clark, adding that “typically for school construction they’re really not working at night.” Taylor also asked if the amphitheater included a public address system. Clark indicated that there were no plans to include a PA system at this time.

“What kind of screening will there be for the service entrance?” asked Kocher. “The dumpsters are required to be screened for the county ordinance,” said Craig Kotarski, a civil engineer with the project. “Everything with the existing school pre-dates the current ordinance,” he said. “Because now you are doing new development you have to then meet these new regulations,” he added.

Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans asked if fire, EMS, and police authorities were contacted as a part of the traffic study. “We met with [the] fire department and emergency services,” said Kotarski. According to Kotarski, a second emergency access on to the school site will be provided off Idlewood Drive. “There’s not another entrance into the Woodbrook neighborhood, but there is a secondary access into the site,” said Kotarski.

“Do you have an idea of what’s going to happen [and] when, construction wise?” asked a member of the audience. According to Clark, site work will begin in the summer of 2017 to get the vehicle circulation changed and to complete some work on the additions. Further renovations will take place in the summer of 2018. The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, according to Clark.

An audience member asked if site contractors will work with abutting property owners to minimize disruption during the construction process. “Typically we don’t want contractors negotiating with homeowners,” said Clark. “We can talk about that some more,” he added.

Audio for the full meeting follows. Readers might find it helpful to view this document, either independently or while listening to the audio. Our thanks go out to Rosalyn Schmitt for providing these slides.

Halloween Party and Parade

Approximately 20 Woodbrook children and their parents participated in a neighborhood Halloween party and parade Monday evening. The event was held at the Woodbrook Elementary School track at 5:30 PM on Halloween Day.
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Following the parade, the children and their families enjoyed pizza from Vocelli’s. The event was organized by Woodbrook resident Zarina Burdge.

Residents Disagree on New Community Association

Approximately 40 Woodbrook residents met to discuss the future of the Woodbrook Community Association.
Approximately 40 Woodbrook residents met in the Woodbrook Elementary School cafeteria on September 29, 2016, to discuss the future of the Woodbrook Community Association. The Association had become inactive on October 1, 2014, when its officers failed to call an election. Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher convened the meeting, and Woodbrook resident and attorney Peter Roane led the discussion.

Unfortunately, all the Woodbrook Community Association documents were lost sometime during or between the tenure of Susan Reed and that of Susan Fisher. However, since Dan Gould had scanned over 900 pages of Association documents in 2010, the history of the neighborhood and Association starting in 1972 has been preserved to that point.

Mr. Roane presented two options: either revive the existing Association or start a new one. Working from the scanned documents, Mr. Roane proposed that we start afresh with a new constitution and set of bylaws to replace the 1972 documents which are still in effect. “I vote for new,” said Woodbrook resident Gerry Petencin.

“Don’t you think that people not attending is a vote?” asked one Woodbrook resident. “A vote which way?” asked resident Beth Gould. There ensued a discussion as to whether declining to participate in the process was a vote in favor of or against reinstatement of the Association.

“It concerns me to use the word association, especially when I’ve seen it used at public meetings with elected officials not understanding the difference,” said Woodbrook resident Ryan Burdge.

“I’ve spoken to people that didn’t come because they don’t want to be represented by this group, and they are voting ‘no’ by not coming,” said resident Mary McIntyre. Mary went on to say that should the Association form, it should be required to clearly state publicly how many residents it represents. “We are representing 20 out of 212 homes,” she said, as an example of how the Association should represent itself in a public venue. “That way the people in the County won’t be misled and think that the whole neighborhood thinks something that necessarily only 20 people actually think,” she added.

“An organization that has even a few members is going to have more clout than somebody who just comes in as a voice in the wilderness and is the only voice speaking on the topic for any County board, and I think we would soon come to regret that—I really, really do,” said Roane. “There is a balance between representing, making sure that everyone’s views are represented, and not falsely stating that everybody is behind it, and having nothing at all,” Roane added.

Resident Dan Gould talked about how the neighborhood has been handling advocacy during the past two years in which the Association has been inactive. He cited, as an example, the possible loss of left turn access at Woodbrook Drive and US 29. In that instance, Gould and resident Heather Rose Dorsey floated a petition in 24 hours to make clear the neighborhood’s position on the issue. The petition was hand-delivered to Rio District Supervisor Brad Sheffield within only a few days.

Audrey Kocher presented several ideas for social functions that might be launched by an association, one of which was a “book exchange” where small mailbox-sized libraries are set up throughout the neighborhood. “If there were purely a social and informational organization that then could encourage or find like-minded people go speak on certain issues, I know, based on the folks I know who are opposed to it, [people] would be more in favor of  joining and being a part of it.”

“I’d like to say that the bylaws haven’t been followed in years. What is the point of making a new constitution and bylaws? The fact that the Association lapsed and had no election is why we’re here now,” said Beth Gould.

“If you were at the school board meeting where they heard [the dugout issue]… you had residents… yelling across and yelling to the School Board there’s not a real association,” said Burdge, reflecting the concerns of some that no association can truly represent Woodbrook views as a whole. “I’d be so much happier if [people] started it at the social level and information sharing level, and go from there,” he added.

“We’re not going to do it like this,” said resident Morgan Perkins, referring to the meeting process. She encouraged residents to submit their ideas for a new association in writing.

The meeting was adjourned with no clear path towards a viable resolution. Full audio of the meeting follows:

School Expansion Creates Traffic Concerns for Woodbrook Residents

Woodbrook residents and others meet with school officials.
Increased traffic was the main concern for Woodbrook residents at a meeting with Albemarle County officials at Woodbrook Elementary School on Tuesday. Over a hundred people, including many Woodbrook residents, attended the meeting.

The September 6, 2016, meeting was held in the school’s gymnasium and focused on the County’s expansion plans for the school. The meeting was chaired by Dean Tistadt, Albemarle County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer, and Rosalyn Schmitt, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning. Jack Clark from RRMM Architects, the site architects for the project, also spoke at the meeting.

The presentation can be viewed in its entirety here. Readers might find it helpful to view this document while listening to the accompanying meeting audio.

Woodbrook resident Susan Reed expressed the concerns of many neighbors regarding increased traffic in the neighborhood. “You will completely change the character of the neighborhood if you open up another entrance [road],” said Reed. “I’m pretty sure you guys are going to want to do that if you increase the size [of the school],” she added.

Tistadt said that a traffic study has not yet been completed for the site, adding that he didn’t see the need for one. Several Woodbrook residents asked that a traffic study be completed as a part of site planning.

Other issues for Woodbrook residents included drainage and the visual impact of the new school. Woodbrook resident Dick Mathias asked about site drainage. “We’re going to need to deal with the drainage there. That’s one thing we’ve talked about with the county today,” said Tistadt. Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher asked for a softer look to the “business end” of the school which faces her property. Resident Rose Mary Ratesic would like to see the current green space preserved.

Not everyone at the meeting was opposed to the project. A Greer Elementary School teacher said, “I’d love for you to see what the renovations have done for my children [at Greer]. Both of my children also happen to be in the new wing for Kindergarten with big huge beautiful windows and brightly colored fresh paint. What that does for children and what that does for teachers is huge,” she said.

Group Plans to Restart Woodbrook Community Association

Woodbrook Subdivision
In a nearly unanimous decision, a group of twenty Woodbrook residents voted to restart the Woodbrook Community Association (WCA). The association became inactive on October 1, 2014 when its officers failed to call an election. The meeting, held at the Northside Library on Thursday, May 19, 2016, was organized by Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher.

“I would vote that we form the association again because it really represents everyone and not just a few people,” said one Woodbrook resident. “I strongly feel that you do need an association,” said former WCA President Susan Reed. Woodbrook resident Dan Gould pointed out that re-establishing the WCA would require ratification from the neighborhood at large, not just from the people “in this room,” he said. “Absolutely,” said Kocher.

On the topic of neighborhood inclusiveness in the process, Reed was adamant. “If people don’t show up and vote in any election their vote just doesn’t count,” she said. Woodbrook resident Jenny Mathews added, “This is not harming anyone, for us to have this community association, and anyone who thinks it is, doesn’t understand what it’s all about.”

“I would like to call this a kind of provisional Woodbrook Community Association,” said Kocher, detailing her plans to gain support for the idea. “We need to revise the by-laws,” she added.

Dan Gould asked if Kocher’s plans contemplated annual membership dues as in previous incarnations of the WCA. “That would be up to the by-laws committee,” said Kocher.

“For the people who live in the neighborhood who do not want to be represented by a central organization, how would you handle that situation?” asked Gould. “My opinion is that people have a choice to be represented, if [they don’t choose] then too bad,” said Kocher, who also said that it would be the by-laws committee’s responsibility to make this decision.

There ensued a lengthy discussion on the rights of Woodbrook residents to opt out of being represented by a central organization. The general consensus was that if residents don’t participate in the election process they forfeit their right to choose. Comparisons were made to federal elections in which those who don’t vote lose their right to select their leaders. Only Dan Gould pushed back on this idea. “At least [federal voters] know there is an election,” he said.

Beth Gould asked about how the new by-laws would be approved. “That’s a little fuzzy,” said Kocher, who went on to say that additional research on this issue would be required.

“I think you have to have some regulations; I’m concerned about property values,” said one resident. “I’ve always wondered why people are so opposed to covenants of some sort that have to do with how you keep up your property,” said another. “[It’s] because to implement [the covenants] people have to spend money on their property and they don’t want to, or they don’t want to be forced to,” said Gould.

Woodbrook resident and legal expert Peter Roane said, “Go ahead and form a voluntary association. Get as many people as you can to join and present it to the County as no, this is not a homeowners’ association [with] covenants that run with the land that are in the deeds and all that. It is purely voluntary, but then cite to them this represents, I don’t know, 159 out of the 200 some homes in the neighborhood, so we speak for that.” “I could support that,” said Dan Gould.

“What’s the point in electing officers if nobody is doing anything?” asked Beth Gould. “We had no representation, we [only] had officers on paper,” she said. “I agree,” said Kocher. “We have got to appoint active leaders and hold them accountable,” Kocher added.

Roane volunteered to prepare a new set of by-laws for the association. Other residents volunteered to deliver flyers and to set up a new electronic communication network for the neighborhood.

Referring to the funds held by the previous WCA, Kocher said, “I don’t want to use it until there is some formal organization.”

Concerning Ms. Kocher’s plans to survey the neighborhood about the new organization, Dan Gould asked if the survey respondents will be required to sign a document indicating their support for a new WCA. “Yes, I think [they would sign] something that says they are interested in [a new association] or would support one, but that’s not the same as a vote,” said Kocher.

Click below for a recording of the meeting. The recording starts at about minute 34 of the meeting following an update on neighborhood news by Ms. Kocher.

Neighbors Express Concerns Over Woodbrook Elementary Expansion

Woodbrook Elementary

Dean Tistadt, Albemarle County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer, and Rosalyn Schmitt, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning, spoke to Woodbrook residents and others at a meeting held at Woodbrook Elementary School on Wednesday, February 10, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to address concerns raised by Woodbrook residents over property values, traffic and other issues pertaining to the proposed Woodbrook Elementary School expansion.

Mr. Tistadt opened the meeting by reminding the audience that the plan is only preliminary. “Frankly, as we stand here tonight, this project is still not funded and we don’t know if this project ever will be funded,” said Tistadt.

Ms. Schmitt then offered a review of the project’s history. Her presentation can be viewed in its entirety here. Readers might find it helpful to view this document while listening to the accompanying meeting audio.

Following the PowerPoint presentation, the floor was opened for questions. There ensued a lengthy discussion about why Woodbrook was selected for the expansion. Several residents offered their own ideas on how the need for additional capacity could be accommodated at an alternate location.

The expansion includes plans to redraw several school districts. Some residents were concerned about the sequence of these events. “If I heard you correctly, we are going to build it first, then talk redistricting later,” said Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans, to which Tistadt replied, “Yes.” And on the issue of a bond referendum, Schmitt said, “If the Board of Supervisors requests a bond referendum, it would be on the ballot in November of 2016. If it was endorsed by the public, they would have to find the revenues to support it,”

Some in attendance thought that the project was simply too large for Woodbrook. “So, just as a comparison, you’re talking about taking us up to almost 90,000 square feet, which is one of the largest schools on the smallest acreage,” said Woodbrook resident Sandi Taylor who, along with others, was concerned that the proposed project would overwhelm the site. According to Schmitt, the State guidelines for school property are eight acres for a 400-student school and ten acres for a 600-student school. “So we are within State guidelines,” said Schmitt.

One member of the audience asked if it would be practical to add a second story to the existing school building. “Construction typically takes about nine months to a year, so being an occupied building you would have to find a swing space for the whole school while under construction. We’ve never done that sort of thing,” said Schmitt.

But perhaps the most concern came from those Woodbrook residents whose properties are near the proposed development. “Construction will demolish my pool. We have privacy issues, there’s grade issues, there’s drainage issues,” said Woodbrook resident Sandi Taylor, speaking about the expected effect on her property which abuts the school. Taylor went on to make a proposal for improving vehicular access to the school with less disturbance to abutting properties. Referring to Ms. Taylor’s input, Tistadt said, “It would save us a bunch of money, frankly, if that worked.”

“[My house] is going to be no more than 30 feet from this section [of the development] and as these people have already spoken [the development] is going to crush my property values,” said Woodbrook resident Kenny Hoy. “Nobody is going to want to move into my home with a two-story addition looking into their back yard,” he added.

Many of the attendees expressed concern about the effect of increased traffic in the neighborhood. “Talking with Transportation, adding the 300 seats would introduce an additional three to four buses,” said Schmitt. “We have no sidewalks for these kids,” said one Woodbrook resident who has asked to remain anonymous. “There are lots of issues that are safety issues,” he added. “It seems like we should have some kind of impact study, traffic impact study before you even continue with the idea of putting a school [in there] that’s twice the size it is presently now,” said one attendee. There were also concerns about access to the neighborhood by emergency vehicles during busy hours.

“Whenever an event is held here we are overrun with cars in this neighborhood parking all over the streets,” said Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans. “If you are going to double that, we are going to have a problem,” she added.

Woodbrook PTO President Sara Henry spoke passionately in favor of the proposed development. “A lot of us are very excited about the idea of an addition to Woodbrook,” she said. According to Henry, the current size of the school does not justify hiring a full-time music or art teacher. “The fact that we sit on a number border is problematic for a lot of reasons, and it makes it really difficult to provide consistent classroom size, consistent instruction for those kids. When you’re a little bit larger, a lot of those problems go away,” said Henry. “It helps Woodbrook retain great teachers,” she added.

“So one of my takeaways this evening is that we will take a look at doing a traffic study,” said Tistadt as the meeting began to wind down. “I would make [the] comment that the traffic associated with this school increase is [of] a relatively short duration of time in the morning and the afternoon,” he added.

“It just would be really nice to make sure that the County and the School Board understand that Woodbrook is a unique situation–it is a school embedded in a community,” said Taylor.

Poor Turnout Hampers Organizer’s Efforts

Woodbrook Subdivision

Despite perfect weather, just four Woodbrook residents attended the September 13, 2015, neighborhood meeting. The meeting was called by Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher, who also chaired the meeting. The meeting was held outdoors in the playground area of Woodbrook Elementary School.

According to Ms. Kocher, Albemarle County plans to expand Woodbrook Elementary. “They are going to double the size of the school,” said Kocher. She is concerned that the expansion will increase the number of cars and buses entering the neighborhood, as well as increasing light and noise pollution for residents whose properties border the school. “I worry about fire access,” said Kocher.

The discussion then shifted to the planning of a Woodbrook social event. “People really want to get to know each other,” said Kocher, who admits that planning of the event has stalled. According to former Woodbrook Community Association Treasurer Sharon Evans, the cost of renting the Woodbrook Elementary cafeteria for an afternoon is $300. Alternative venues include the Northside Library or meeting outside. “I think we will need a committee [to organize the event],” said Kocher. The attendees agreed that unless a good turnout can be assured, there are better uses for this money. “I would like to see more people involved,” said Evans. To measure the level of involvement, Kocher said, “I was thinking of a door-to-door survey.” Beth Gould pointed out that when surveyed many people respond positively but still don’t show up at the events.

There was some disagreement about how residents should be informed of important issues. Former Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed said, “That big [police] car chase [this week] was a example of why you kind of need a central [contact] because the county likes to know somebody that they can call and say ‘put this out now’.” Dan Gould disagreed. “There are so many people in the Facebook group now, that the first sound of the sirens going through the neighborhood… people were there,” he said. Beth Gould added that the response in the Facebook group was in real-time, describing the drama as it unfolded. “The thing with the Facebook group is [that] they would [alert] their elderly neighbors,” said Beth Gould. “There’s never going to be one [communication] method that’s going to get everybody,” said Gould. She added that the on-line method is reaching a lot of residents. “Ideally, the on-line [communication reaches] a large group, and if people would just know which neighbors might not have that, and go tell them,” said Reed.

There has been no progress with the development of a new Woodbrook constitution according to Kocher.

“We lost our bus stop up at the library,” said Kocher. She said that she would like to see bus service returned to Woodbrook. “There are a number of older people in the neighborhood who are no longer driving,” she said. Kocher went on to say that she believed that a directory of Woodbrook residents who wanted to supply services to elderly neighbors could be established. Dan Gould said that this is already being done on an as-needed basis in the Facebook group.

Kocher would also like to see a neighborhood welcoming committee. Dan Gould pointed out that it’s difficult to track new people coming into the neighborhood.

“[Neighbors] were interested in having a book exchange,” said Kocher. Books would be deposited and taken from a neighborhood “box.”

Sharon Evans pointed out that the increasing number of renters in the neighborhood is a problem. “That’s going to affect how many people are going to want to participate [in neighborhood activities],” she said.

“I think the culture of neighborhood involvement is changing,” said Dan Gould. Involvement in neighborhood functions has been on the decline for years, he said.

Ms. Kocher expressed concern regarding the fire hazard between the school and her home. “So when I came home and saw a fire truck in front of my house it was a little scary. [They were] fighting the fire in the back,” she said.

Kocher says she is planning future programs for the neighborhood, including a visit by the fire department and rescue squad, but as to a future social event, that’s on hold, she said.

Ms. Kocher says she would like to develop a neighborhood vision that would include factors such as safety, livability and transportation. “That might help us develop some goals that we want to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood,” she said.

You can listen to the full audio of the meeting below. Our apologies for the poor audio quality during the first minute or so of the recording.

What do you think? Does Woodbrook need a social program? What speakers would you like to come to Woodbrook? Please comment in the space below.

Neighbors Meet with US 29 Solutions Team

VDOT Public Affairs Manager for the Charlottesville Area Lou Hatter speaking to Woodbrook residents at Northside Public Library. The event was organized by Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher.

VDOT representatives joined Albemarle County Police officers to speak with Woodbrook residents about the US 29 solutions initiative currently under way in the county. The initiative updates a stretch of US 29 from Best Buy in Charlottesville to Towncenter Drive in Albemarle County. The centerpiece of the development is a new grade separated interchange (GSI) at US 29 and Rio Road which is located just a mile south of the Woodbrook subdivision. The entire project is expected to be completed by October 30, 2017. VDOT Public Affairs Manager for the Charlottesville Area Lou Hatter led the discussion. During the presentation questions were taken from Woodbrook residents.

“The purpose of this is to separate local and through traffic,” said VDOT Regional Program Manager for Route29 Solutions Dave Covington referring to the GSI. The design includes a pedestrian crosswalk across both US 29 and Rio Road.

Listen to the entire VDOT/ACPD presentation. (74m) (Slides)

Woodbrook resident Jim Perkins asked for clarification on access to the local businesses located in Albemarle Square. According to Covington, all access to local businesses will be maintained, although the round trip distance for Woodbrook residents will be longer. The work will be done largely at night except from May 23, 2016 to September 2, 2016 said Covington. During that time residents may be required to use alternate routes through this area. “It will be a little bit of an inconvenience, we understand that, but we have compressed it to a very short period of time,” said Covington, “We do advocate the use of Berkmar [Road],” during this time he said. A temporary traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Berkmar Road and US 29 which will allow access to both north and south bound US 29 lanes during the construction period said Covington.

Woodbrook resident Beth Gould was concerned about the already heavy traffic on Woodbrook Drive between US 29 and Berkmar Road. “The problem with that is the existing signal at Woodbrook and Berkmar,” said Covington. “We are actually in the process of getting ready to start a complete rebuild of that signal,” he added.

Jim Perkins asked if the long delays Woodbrook residents experience while making a left-hand turn from south bound US 29 to Rio Road have been addressed. Joel DeNunzio explained that by bringing left turning traffic over US 29 a lot more “green time” can be provided for left turning vehicles reducing the delay for those vehicles that need to travel east on Rio Road. For vehicles turning right from Rio Road westbound on to US 29 north, a “free flow” right-turn lane will provide an almost continuous green light to prevent vehicles backing up on Rio Road as is presently the case.

“From a planning perspective things don’t always go according to plan,” said Woodbrook resident Skip Langford who was concerned that the best intentions of planners don’t always work out. He asked how VDOT plans to mitigate schedule issues should they arise. According to Covington the initiative uses a “carrot and stick” approach to project management whereby contractors are rewarded if they are early and face penalties if they are late.

Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans wanted to know why the adaptive traffic signal project wasn’t completed before the decision was made to build the GSI. “We know that a system like that is not going to deal with the issue we have here at Rio,” said Covington.

Woodbrook residents who wish to learn more about the US 29 Solutions Project can join the project’s email list. The list includes weekly project updates as well as alternate route advisorys. A online forum is also available to the public.

“The good news for you all is there is one way in and one way out so people are not going to be cutting through your neighborhood to get around this intersection,” said Albemarle County Police Sergeant Miller Stoddard. Regarding emergency response Stoddard doesn’t expect a problem. “There’s not a concern for us for emergency response to be delayed to your homes,” he said. According to Stoddard, should a problem arise, a backup plan is in place that would stage emergency equipment and personnel in strategic locations so as to ensure that response times are not degraded.

Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher expressed concern over the amount of construction noise at the site, particularly during the evening hours. “We have a book of specifications that determines what the acceptable noise level is,” said VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency Administrator Joel DeNunzio. “We are holding the design-builder to those noise levels that are set by VDOT,” he said.

The Woodbrook community business meeting which was to follow the presentation was cancelled.

County Reaches Out To Neighborhoods

Albemarle County Community Engagement Specialist Emily Kilroy speaking at the Neighborhood Leadership Summit in April 2015. Photo: Jody Lewis.

To facilitate better community involvement in the planning process, Albemarle County is reaching out to Woodbrook and other neighborhoods through its newly staffed Department of Community Engagement. To discover how this might benefit Woodbrook residents, we talked with Community Engagement Specialist Emily Kilroy about her work in the community. We caught up with Emily at her office in the Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire road. Our interview was recorded on July 7, 2015.

Listen to our interview with Emily Kilroy (20m)

“My office specifically works on engaging with the community, making sure that residents have a way to access all the different services and programs that the County is running,” said Kilroy during our interview. Kilroy is also responsible for collecting public comment and does the detective work, if needed, to find the best person who can answer a question from the public. Kilroy is often the contact person for the County’s AMail email list. The AMail system allows County residents to subscribe to both general County news as well as many specific topics. According to Kilroy, the AMail system currently has about 4500 subscribers.

Getting people involved on issues in the earliest stages of planning is a priority for Kilroy. “I think the main purpose of my position is to make sure that people find out about things before there is a big problem,” said Kilroy. “Typically, when there is a big question, or a big development project coming to the area, residents will show up at a Planning Commission meeting or a Board of Supervisors meeting on the night that it’s being decided,” she added. Kilroy went on to say that the earlier in the development process a concern is raised the more likely a solution can be found that will satisfy everyone involved.

Filling positions on County boards and commissions is an important part of Kilroy’s job. “The ones that I’m most closely involved with sort of fall into two buckets, one are citizen advisory committees and the other are special issue committees,” said Kilroy. She added that citizen committee meetings are open to the public, making them a good way to meet your neighbors and other stakeholders who have an interest in a particular planning area. Meetings are usually held monthly in the evenings and run from 90 minutes to two hours.

Some Woodbrook residents say they don’t volunteer for advisory committees because the committees don’t take their input seriously. “I think the commitment by the County to really take citizen committees seriously can be seen in the creation of my position, which for many years was vacant,” said Kilroy. “This Board of Supervisors has been very receptive to hearing from citizen committees.”

One committee that might interest Woodbrook residents is the Places 29 (RIO) Community Advisory Committee, which has vacancies at the time of this writing. The Committee works on transportation and development questions. Interested residents can apply to join the committee here.

For Woodbrook residents who would like to see a committee in action right now, the Water Resources Funding Advisory Committee is working throughout the summer on public engagement outreach. Their next meeting is July 21, 2015, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the Northside Library. Greg Harper, the water resources manager for the County, will give a presentation on the Committee’s work, with time afterwards for questions and comments from the audience.

Woodbrook residents are encouraged to contact Emily with their questions or comments by telephone at 434-296-5841 Ext. 3422 or by email at

Albemarle County Police Speak at Woodbrook Meeting

Captain Pete Mainzer speaking to Woodbrook residents at Woodbrook Elementary School. The event was organized by Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher in conjunction with the Albemarle County Department of Community Engagement.

On June 3, 2015, a group of about 16 Woodbrook residents attended a presentation on geo-policing by the Albemarle County Police Department (ACPD) at Woodbrook Elementary School. To bring their message to a wider Woodbrook audience, we interviewed two of the presenters. Captain Pete Mainzer joined the ACPD in 1986 and has responsibility for the Jefferson Patrol District which encompasses the northern and eastern part of Albemarle County. Lieutenant Tim Aylor is the Deputy District Commander for the Jefferson District and has served on the force since 1995. We caught up with the officers at the ACPD headquarters on 5th Street Extended. The interview was recorded on June 30, 2015.

Listen to our interview with Captain Mainzer and Lieutenant Aylor. (36m)

The Albemarle County Police Department was created in 1983; Albemarle County is one of just nine counties in Virginia with a dedicated police force. In December 2012, the ACPD was reorganized to implement geo-policing. Geographic-based policing is a revised version of community-oriented policing, says Mainzer in this interview. “We’ve created district teams,” said Mainzer, “and those teams consist of uniformed patrol officers, some of our detectives, animal control officers, some of our school resource officers, [and] some of our fire marshals that work along side us.” District officers work in the same geographic part of the county every day. “The creation of these district teams has really provided a much better system of accountability at all levels,” said Mainzer. In geo-policing’s final implementation, Mainzer expects to see the establishment of precinct stations within each district.

The Woodbrook community is in sector two of the Jefferson district. Sector two consists of everything east of US29 from the city limits at Hydraulic Road up to Polo Grounds Road.

According to Lieutenant Aylor, the most common crime in Woodbrook is theft from vehicles.

According to Lieutenant Aylor, the three most common crimes that occur in Woodbrook are larcenies from vehicles, scams, and daytime burglaries. “We particularly see an up-tick in larcenies from vehicles during the warm summertime months,” said Aylor, “It’s a crime of opportunity.” Vehicles that are unlocked are especially vulnerable to the theft of change, sunglasses, GPS devices, and anything else that can be carried on foot, said Aylor. “If you see a person at two or three o’clock in the morning, and they have a backpack on, they’re probably not making the right decisions,” he said. The lieutenant went on to say that it’s important to store valuables out of sight and to keep your vehicle locked at all times. Better yet, says Aylor, take your valuables inside with you.

Another precaution Woodbrook residents can take to prevent crime is to keep their property neat. “It could be a simple thing as keeping your lawn and your bushes trimmed,” said Aylor, “that’s a place where criminals could hide.”

Some Woodbrook residents have indicated that they are reluctant to report small crimes to the police. But according to Aylor, the ACPD wants to hear about all crimes committed in the neighborhood. “If you think it’s suspicious, we want to be called,” he said. Crimes in progress should be reported via the 9-1-1 system. “We try to get to emergency calls [from Woodbrook] within five minutes or less, 85% of the time.” said Mainzer. Past or non-emergency crimes can be reported through the non-emergency number, 434-977-9041, or via the ACPD web site.

Summertime brings a lot of door-to-door soliciting to Woodbrook. “[Criminals] will target an older person, an elderly person, where they will overcharge them for a small job,” is one example of a common door-to-door scam, said Aylor. He also said that a criminal will sometimes distract a homeowner in front of their house while their partner enters the home through the rear.

“What we encourage citizens to do is to call us if they want their house checked,” said Aylor

If you plan to be away for a vacation or long trip, “What we encourage citizens to do is to call us if they want their house checked,” said Aylor. The ACPD will assign an Auxiliary Police officer to check your property periodically during your absence.

The department’s Facebook page is used to alert citizens of potential crimes, motorist alerts, and other important bulletins. “From our stand point, with the ACPD, [Facebook] is a huge vehicle for us to push out information to the public,” said Mainzer.

Regarding the grade-separated interchange at Rio Road and US 29, the ACPD is not anticipating significant problems. “We’re in constant contact VDOT about the timeline and about the project as a whole,” said Mainzer. “I understand that much of the work, specifically at the grade-separated interchange is going to occur during the nighttime hours, so that may lessen some of the impact for people that have to travel along that corridor.”

What do you think? Have you had a recent need to call the police? Was your problem resolved to your satisfaction? How can the ACPD improve service to the Woodbrook Neighborhood? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.