At its meeting on August 6, 2007, the Charlottesville City Council approved a new Comprehensive Plan to guide zoning and redevelopment within the 10 square miles of the city. They took that action on the same night they adopted their own Strategic Vision, as well as the approval of funding to support a study to determine the region’s “ecological carrying capacity.”


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COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

At its meeting on August 6, 2007, the Charlottesville City Council approved a new

Comprehensive Plan

to guide zoning and redevelopment within the 10 square miles of the city. They took that action on the same night they adopted their own Strategic Vision, as well as the approval of funding to support a study to determine the region’s “ecological carrying capacity.”

The state of Virginia requires each locality to update its Comprehensive Plan every five years. The review process began in early 2005, and has involved the adoption of separate Neighborhood Plans as well as several work sessions designed to update the document to reflect the 2000 census as well as local market conditions.

The process was slowed by Charlottesville’s lack of a traffic engineer until the summer of 2006, as well as turnover on the Planning Commission. One new chapter in the Plan involves the creation of a Housing Chapter to guide the work of a new City Housing Task Force. The demographics chapter has been renamed as “Community Characteristics” and provides more in-depth information about city residents.






Charlottesville Planning Manager


Missy Creasy



Missy Creasy introduced the Plan to Council, and said her staff incorporated many changes requested by citizens since the last public hearing, at the Planning Commission in July.

“One citizen was concerned about the legality of the comprehensive plan, and we provided her with information on the plan since. We also had some concern about the public participation, and we were able to talk through that process and hopefully have that solved. We also had a concern from a citizen that the draft was very long.”

A passage that read “industrial land within the city limits is very important to our community” was deleted from the Land Use chapter after concerns were raised by the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association. Changes were also requested by the

Southern Environmental Law Center

to shore up the Plan’s environmental review procedures.

Creasy says these changes indicate that the planning process creates a fluid document that can be amended in the future.

Councilor

Kevin Lynch

was concerned that the Plan as presented to him was too much like a draft, and wanted to know exactly what he was approving. “It seems at some point, this thing ought to be final,” he said.

Creasy explained that the draft Plan is about 95 percent complete and only needed Council to sign off on the new changes. The Plan will be available as a polished, bound document complete with charts in about two weeks.

Councilor

Dave Norris

wondered if the Comprehensive Plan had any link to the Council’s Strategic Plan, and pointed out that both are road maps for action. Creasy said both documents were put together by the same people, and that there were no conflicts between the two documents.

During the public hearing, Woolen Mills activist Bill Emory asked Council to postpone a vote on the Plan until the presidents of all Neighborhood Associations had a chance to weigh in on the document, in part because he said there is no clear vision for how amendments to the Plan could be issued. Independent City Council Candidate Peter Kleeman echoed his comments, and said he wanted all capital projects in the area such as the South Lawn Project and the Meadowcreek Parkway to be analyzed in connection with both the Comprehensive Plan and the Strategic Plan.

“There’s no clear process by how this gets amended,” Kleeman said. “There’s no clear process by which a major investment project is evaluated as to being consistent or not consistent. The next major logical step is to bolster the strength of this plan and have some clear linkage between projects in the Comprehensive Plan and satisfying the community’s vision as to how this all fits together.”

“An amendment is really simple,” said Jim Tolbert, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Planning. “It’s first considered by the planning commission. It can be raised a citizen, council, or the planning commission.” He added that Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan is unusual because it contains an implementation plan containing key actions the City will take in the next five years.

In terms of land use, that would include a potential rezoning in the area around Martha Jefferson Hospital to Pantops. Another example would be a downzoning of the Fry’s Spring neighborhood along Jefferson Park Avenue Extended from two-family residential to single-family residential. Other “key actions” include a new parking study, develop a technology-based incubator program, and to recruit a grocery store chain to locate downtown.

Councilor Norris said he was proud that the Plan now contains a section on environmental sustainability because it would challenge the community to take action to protect the environment.

Commenting on how long the Comprehensive Plan process has taken this time around, Councilor Hamilton asked when they would begin the process again. Tolbert responded that it would be July 2012 before the next review would begin.

After a small discussion, Council unanimously adopted the plan (5-0), with direction to make the recommended changes from staff and Council.

After the Plan was adopted, Jim Tolbert said the City saved tens of thousand dollars by using staff to write the new plan, rather than seeking a consultant.

Later on in the meeting, the Council also adopted the Council’s Strategic Plan, which serves as an additional layer of guidance to city staff over the next twenty years.


ASAP RECEIVES MONEY FOR STUDY





ASAP’s Jack Marshall

Council also considered a request from the group

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population

for funding for the first phase of a study to define an optimal population size for the Albemarle-Charlottesville Community. ASAP requested $11,000, which will come from the Council’s reserve fund.

ASAP is currently raising about $90,000 to fund the first phase of the study, would establish a methodology. That will involve finding out what natural resources need to be measured, what population the current infrastructure can support, as well as the economy.

Earlier this summer, the County gave $25,000 to the cause

, as long as ASAP can raise funding and provide a detailed scope of work plan by the end of the summer.

ASAP President Jack Marshall asked the Council to take a look far past the 20 years of the Strategic Vision. He said city funding would help “legitimize the research” and help with fund-raising.

“We believe that Charlottesville and Albemarle County together comprise a single vibrant community, and that long-term planning should recognize this fact,” Marshall told Council. “We should identify the range at which our population size remains sustainable and attractive for future and current residents.”

Marshall said the study will be a tool that will allow planners to make more informed decisions on development, but first ASAP will have to determine if such a study will even be feasible. He acknowledged that Charlottesville’s population is not growing very rapidly, but asked Council to keep in mind that it is affected by growth in the county. Marshall also said that no other community in the nation has conducted a similar study, and that the national planning community is watching ASAP’s work to see if the study might be used as a harbinger of things to come.

“If we’re successful, it will provide a model for communities across the nation”

Marshall was joined by ASAP Board Member Francis Fife.

“One of the things that concerns me is that as we move along, we are using up more of our natural resources, and we are making some parts of the County and the City less desirable,” he said.

“We want people to think in general, what is the optimum for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area? Frankly, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We think that if people have the will and they come up with some kind of design whereby they can approach this issue, that it can be accomplished.”

Fife told Council that growth in the county is affecting the quality of life in the City, and that the study would provoke a lot of thought about what the community wants to see.

Lynch said he wanted the Council to echo the requirements placed by the Board of Supervisors on funding for ASAP that downplayed the study’s emphasis on population control.

“They wanted to fund it to support research focusing on the carrying capacities of our ecological systems to provide service values to our community,” said Lynch. “I think we should echo that language because that’s a defensible way of moving such a study forward.”

He went on to say that Charlottesville could easily support a larger population if the City prepared for a pedestrian-heavy population of people living in condominiums. “But if everyone wants a two-car garage on a big estate, there’s only so many people we can accommodate.”

When asked by Commissioner Dave Norris if ASAP would come back for additional funding in the future, Marshall responded he did not know at this time. Mayor

David Brown

encouraged ASAP to make this a one-time request.


A CURB ON BOTTLED WATER IN THE CITY?

Many cities around the country are discussing the possibility of banning plastic water bottles in municipal use. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome recently issued an order preventing city agencies to purchase bottled water. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Brown asked Councilors if they thought that might be a step Charlottesville could take.

“If we are moving forward with sustainability issues, it requires that everyone change their behavior a little bit,” he said. “The amount of energy used to make plastic bottles that people buy every day would fuel 100,000 cars a year. That’s not counting the energy costs of moving the water around. The City can set an example of trying to publicize the issue and get people to bring their own water from home.” Brown said the idea would be to convince individuals to make slight modifications to their behavior.

Councilor Lynch said he prefers not to drink water straight from the tap because of the purification techniques. “Part of the reason people drink bottled water is because you know it’s been filtered,” he said. “If we had a good source of filtered water, that’s fine.”

Council requested the City’s Sustainability Committee look at the issue to prepare a report.


OTHER ACTIONS

Council also approved a name change for the Industrial Development Area. The body will now be known as the Economic Development Authority for the City of Charlottesville. A portion of Valley Road will also be closed and turned into a cul-de-sac in support of the South Lawn project. The Council also approved a conveyance of the Jefferson School Property to a non-profit that will oversee the redevelopment of the historic property.






A map of CTS Route 5, which will have more frequent service as a result of County funding

Also on the consent agenda was a resolution to accept an additional $250,000 in funding from Albemarle County to pay for route improvements to the Charlottesville Transit Service. Mayor Brown called the extra money “a good omen” and a “show of good faith” as the City and County plan a regional transportation authority.

Council postponed a public hearing on whether to declare mandatory water restrictions. Mayor Brown said area reservoirs had not hit the target for Council to need to take that under consideration.

In the wake of last week’s collapse of a bridge near Minneapolis, Councilor

Kendra Hamilton

requested a report on the status of bridges in Charlottesville. City Manager O’Connell recommended putting a request for funding for bridge inspections on the City’s legislative agenda for next year, given the renewed attention the issue is receiving.

Council will reconvene on Tuesday, September 4.


TIMELINE

1:00 – Comprehensive Plan introduced by Missy Creasy

9:53 – Public comment from Bill Emory

11:30 – Public comment from Peter Kleeman

14:00 – Responses to public comment and further discussion

28:13 – Discussion on whether to fund ASAP “optimal population” study

45:52 – Discussion of City Council Strategic Vision 2025

55:55 – Discussion of bottled water

Sean Tubbs

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