Public hearing on Tuesday for Charlottesville’s new zoning; Albemarle to discuss affordable housing incentives
The Piedmont Environmental Council supports greater density and mixed uses in the City of Charlottesville because it is essential to our mission to protect and restore the lands and waters of the Virginia Piedmont, while building stronger, more sustainable, communities. In our area, that requires having places for people to live in the heart of our community: Charlottesville.
As the line graph below shows, Charlottesville effectively stopped accepting new net residents when the General Assembly prohibited the City from annexing County land (in the 70s) and when subsequent City Councils reduced density (starting in the 90s) through a series of downzonings that prohibited the creation of multifamily housing in many parts of the City.
Yet, people still came to the area. Left with few options in the City, they have tended to settle in Albemarle and surrounding counties, as the next graph shows.
The new zoning code will provide a partial – but essential – correction by authorizing more places for people to live in Charlottesville. Focusing new development – and investments – in existing neighborhoods within Charlottesville and Albemarle’s designated growth areas will bring numerous benefits, including:
- Reduced per capita vehicle miles traveled and related greenhouse gas and other pollutants;
- Lower transportation costs for households and the community at large;
- Less travel stress and shorter commutes; better health;
- Easier access to everyday activities and higher quality of life;
- Critical mass for transit, walkability, biking and school transportation;
- Smaller proportion of our lands are dedicated to impervious parking and roadway surfaces;
- More compact infrastructure that is easier to maintain and less burdensome to taxpayers;
- Protection of the surrounding area’s natural landscapes that residents cherish and depend on.
Many of these benefits apply especially to those with financial challenges, those who depend on transit and social services, and those who have been historically marginalized or segregated.
We know that a lot more investment in sidewalks and other infrastructure is still needed. We also need to emphasize that livability is key. That means increasing tree canopy, adding more parks, improving streetscape quality, and more. These are not incompatible with greater density.
The new Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code contain many good provisions that speak to community quality as well as density. Though they will not accomplish all of our goals by themselves, they provide the necessary ingredients.
The best way that we can protect all of our quality of life, address climate change and equity, and be responsible to future generations, is to make sure that development happens where it makes sense – in the region’s urban core. This is the new Zoning Code’s purpose and we support it.
City Council to review potential zoning map changes at final work session on Development code
Albemarle ARB to review AC44 goals; Council to get briefing on transit budget
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Contact: Rob McGinnis – firstname.lastname@example.org, (434) 962-9110
The AC44 Comprehensive Plan update will serve as a guiding document for Albemarle County for the years 2024-2044. It will define the County’s priorities for protecting and enhancing natural and historic resources, providing housing and transportation options, supporting the local economy, and much more. As such, it will have a significant impact on residents’ daily lives and the future of their communities. The County has committed to equity and climate action, goals The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) broadly supports and hopes will be fully and intentionally integrated into this Comprehensive Plan. The following are PEC’s current priority policy recommendations for the update.
1. Include a Rural Area chapter.
Three decades of community survey results and recent feedback from public engagement specifically related to the AC44 Comprehensive Plan have consistently revealed, with great clarity, that a majority of County residents understand and want to prioritize the County’s Rural Area. The County has done this in the past two comprehensive plans with the inclusion of a Rural Area chapter, and should do so again in this update. A separate chapter is required to address the complex interrelationships of natural and cultural resources unique to Albemarle’s rural communities.
2. Include a strong recommendation for the creation of a Rural Area Plan.
A Rural Area Plan is a master plan that provides a long-term vision for sustaining working farms and forests, natural resource protection, thriving communities, historic preservation, outdoor recreation, and tourism. It must be comprehensive, include mapping, and be informed by significant public engagement to implement the AC44 Rural Area policies. Intentional planning for the Rural Area can be a strong opportunity to protect all the values of the Rural Area and its communities.
3. Include a recommendation for the establishment of a Development Areas Task Force to address the obstacles to accommodating projected growth in the current Development Areas.
The County should create a task force to seek out and implement proactive solutions to the challenges faced when accommodating projected growth in the current Development Areas. The County must analyze whether the existing Development Areas are achieving a mix of uses, higher density, walkability, redevelopment, accommodation of growth, and accessible quality open spaces before it considers any expansion of those Development Areas.
4. Avoid mapping of future Development Area expansions.
Mapping future expansion of Development Areas is ill-advised and would likely lead to the acceleration of land speculation and its associated negative impacts, such as rising land prices, higher housing costs, and unnecessary expansion of infrastructure and services. There is a real danger that mapping could spur premature expansion by drawing attention away from currently feasible strategies that direct growth into the Development Areas.
5. The proposed future small area plans for the I-64/US250 Yancey and I-64/US250 Shadwell interchanges should be limited to the land areas near the interchanges.
Limiting future small area plan study areas to exclude the US250 corridor west of the Yancey interchange and the US250 corridor east of the Shadwell interchange is necessary to avoid inappropriate development extending into the Rural Area.
6. The Environmental Stewardship chapter should include strong recommendations for a consistent and dedicated funding source for the land conservation and purchase of development rights (PDR) programs.
To protect Albemarle’s water resources and drinking water supplies, as well as the rural areas where they originate, and to support key priorities of biodiversity conservation and climate action, the County must accelerate and increase funding support and staffing capacity for its land conservation and purchase of development rights (PDR) programs.
7. The Historic, Scenic, and Cultural Resources chapter should include strong recommendations for an updated Historic Preservation Plan and a Historic Preservation Ordinance.
The County should pursue proactive measures, programs, and regulations to better protect Albemarle’s historic, scenic, and cultural resources – specifically the cultural landscapes, districts, sites, and buildings that contribute to the rural quality of life and support our local economy.
Ways to Get Involved
- Submit Comments in Writing: Public comments should be sent to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at BOS@albemarle.org and the Planning Commission at PlanningCommission@albemarle.org. Note that when sending an email to the Board of Supervisors, the County Executive is also receiving your email.
- Attend a Work Session or Meeting: Showing up in person demonstrates to elected officials that their citizens are paying attention to the decisions that impact them.
- Speak Up: Citizens can speak for three minutes at the start of every Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meeting to have their voices heard.
- Stay Informed and Engaged: This is a long process that has the potential to impact every facet of life in Albemarle County for the next 20 years. Sign up for PEC’s AC44 email alerts, the County’s Engage updates, and review PEC’s AC44 Comprehensive Plan Policy Platform and Climate Action Plan at pecva.org/ac44-comp-plan/.