The following text was taken from an email alert sent out on June 4, 2021. Sign up for PEC email alerts >>
As we head into June, I want to share some items of interest for those in and around Charlottesville.
As you may be aware, the city is in the midst of updating its comprehensive plan. This email will fill you in on where things stand and how to share your input by June 13. Next, I will share an important mobility survey for Charlottesville residents and finish with a few ways that everyone can celebrate National Trails Day (June 5).
What is the Comprehensive Plan?
Representing a community’s vision for its future, a comprehensive plan sets the framework for how land is used, identifies needed improvements to transportation networks, and provides a useful guide for many other county programs and needs. Moreover, it guides all decisions and regulations regarding growth and development.
For the City of Charlottesville, this comprehensive plan rewrite is the second part of an intensive three-phase process that began with an Affordable Housing Strategy (adopted earlier this year) and will conclude later this year with a revision of the city’s Zoning Code. Normally, the comp plan is revised every five years (the last version was completed in 2013), but this more (no other word for it) comprehensive approach—plus the pandemic—has justifiably added more time to the process.
What’s New in this Draft?
From a land use perspective, the draft comprehensive plan currently under consideration has two notable characteristics. First, it seeks to focus development along existing transportation corridors while also creating “nodes,” which are envisioned as places for commercial activity within walking distance of neighborhoods. At the same time, it seeks to increase housing options across the city by introducing “soft density” (e.g., up to three units on a single lot, more flexible infill options) in neighborhoods that have historically excluded everything except single-family residences. Broadly speaking, PEC supports both of these approaches.
However, the draft plan leaves important questions unresolved that speak to the need to balance more housing and development options with greater affordability, while enhancing quality of life for existing residents. Notably, it does not go far enough to specify, define, or analyze (1) how the city’s population is expected to change and how much development is needed to support it, (2) how important community, ecological, and cultural assets would be protected, or (3) how necessary new infrastructure (like sidewalks or classrooms) would get built.
Smart growth, which PEC has championed for nearly 50 years, protects the environment by focusing development in cities, towns and designated growth areas, thereby reducing development pressure on natural areas, water quality, and other conservation values. Investment in infrastructure and services where people already live is more efficient and more effective over time, improving quality of life for both current and future generations.
Charlottesville needs more housing options. Existing and future residents also deserve quality communities with everyday access to the outdoors and excellent services, places in which they can afford—and desire—to stay. Balancing the goals of smart growth with other pressures is a challenge and requires thoughtful planning.
Share your thoughts and ideas by Sunday, June 13
At the encouragement of PEC and many others, the city has extended the deadline for public comment until June 13. There are numerous ways that you can share your thoughts and ideas: through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), a survey, telephone (833-752-6428), or this interactive map.
The consultants that are managing the comprehensive plan process will organize public feedback (grouped by themes) and present them to the planning commission at a June 29 (5:30 p.m.) work session. At that point, the planning commission will determine how to proceed with revisions. No matter what they decide, there will definitely be more opportunities for public input as the process moves forward.
Mobility Survey for Charlottesville Residents
The Move2Health Equity Coalition is conducting a short survey (7 minutes to complete) to assess the ability of Charlottesville residents to get around the community. We hope the results will help Move2Health be even stronger advocates and allies for mobility at the neighborhood level.
If you have any questions or if you would like to help get the word out, please contact them at email@example.com.
June 5 is National Trails Day
Below are some ways you can celebrate National Trails Day by actively supporting trails and connectivity in Charlottesville and Albemarle County:
Saturday, June 5, 8-10 a.m.
Darden Towe Park
Join Albemarle County staff (I will be there too!) for a litter clean-up and outreach event at the Old Mills Trail as we celebrate National Trails Day. Tim Padalino, Albemarle’s Chief of Parks Planning, will also be on-site to share information about the County’s plans for the Rivanna Greenway, including a planned future extension of the Old Mills Trail to MIlton (for a total of about 8 miles or more!).
Land Trust Day (PEC is the beneficiary!)
Saturday, June 5, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Great Outdoors Provision Company (Barracks Road)
Great Outdoor Provision is celebrating Land Trust Day (also on June 5!) by donating 10% of sales to The Piedmont Environmental Council. My colleague, Rex Linville, will be on hand to say “hello” and answer your conservation questions. Then, grab some gear and support our work!
Beer Run, Kardinal Hall, Random Row, and Selvedge breweries
To celebrate National Outdoors Month, a number of local breweries have partnered with the Rivanna Trails Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from certain menu items will go to help the foundation’s mission to maintain, operate, and expand the network of trails in our community.
Summer is my favorite season and I’m glad that we are increasingly able to celebrate our community, the natural world—and one another—in person during a time when the weather is warm and the days are long.
I look forward to there being more opportunities in the coming months.
Albemarle-Charlottesville Community Organizer
The Piedmont Environmental Council