City Planning Commissioners joined Council for the meeting

The Charlottesville City Council is set to adopt a revised comprehensive plan later this month after spending two hours Thursday ensuring officials agree on new language in the document.

Changes to the state-mandated plan have been under way since July 2010. More than 60 public meetings have been held.

However, councilors decided in June to hold a work session to further review the plan after Councilor Dede Smith suggested a number of changes, which included calling for the protection of trees and the addition of a pond somewhere in the city.

“We got far enough along tonight with all of the comments councilors provided to resolve the conflicts, so we’re good,” city Planning Manager Missy Creasy said after the meeting.

Mayor Satyendra Huja and Councilor Dave Norris did not attend the work session.

Much of the discussion centered on housing and land use.

The document, recommended by the Planning Commission, included a goal that the city “support projects that promote economic development and job creation, especially but not exclusively, in relatively underinvested, financially depressed areas.”

Smith wanted to delete that line, but Councilor Kathy Galvin said it should stay because that goal also was adopted by Albemarle County.

“The original statement is clearly attempting to draw a connection between housing affordability, income level and earning power among our residents,” Galvin wrote in comments before the meeting.

Smith also wanted to delete language that sought to “establish a series of incentives to create new housing” and to add a line that incentives should “meet the need of owners, renters and the homeless with varying levels of income.”

Galvin disagreed. Incentives are needed to encourage developers to build housing that doesn’t just satisfy the needs of the market, she said.

After some discussion, councilors agreed to change the language to “encourage mixed-income communities” in a manner that does not displace low-income residents.

“We have some disagreement on the specifics of how that would work, so I think we’re coming up with language by which we all feel comfortable with,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos.

Smith also asked for the plan to state a desire to add a pond somewhere within city limits in order to encourage wildlife habitats.

Staff recommended not being so specific.

“Whether you put it in or leave it out of the plan, if someone wants to put in a pond, we have enough language to allow it,” Creasy said.

“I would vote against putting it in the comp plan but I do want a pond,” Szakos said.

Smith also suggested several edits she said would protect trees.

“I had many places where I was hoping to strengthen our tree language and so I took lots of opportunities to add language to protect our tree canopy,” Smith said.

Galvin said she was concerned the language would prevent redevelopment.

Szakos sided with Galvin because the language might prevent trees from being cut down to preserve power lines.

The council is expected to adopt the plan Aug. 19. If that happens, a joint work session on implementation would be held Aug. 27.