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Albemarle supervisors discuss new strategic priorities
Lee Catlin at Albemarle Supervisor's strategic plan work session, May 21, 2016
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Assistant County Executive Lee Catlin at Albemarle Supervisor's strategic plan work session
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Sean Tubbs | Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 9:47 p.m.

Just about a month after adopting a new budget, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has begun the process of amending its strategic plan to inform the next funding cycle.

“Ultimately, we are hoping to get to a strategic plan document that focuses on what you want to do for the county,” said County Executive Tom Foley.

Foley said the goal for fiscal year 2018 is for supervisors to move toward a two-year budgeting process.

“As this evolves into a new plan that informs our two-year fiscal year plan, we want to take a moment to look at where we are in our existing plan,” said Louise Wyatt, the county’s organizational development manager.

The planks of the strategic plan signal to staff which priorities they should focus on. The work now is to identify whether items should be added to the plan and if others should be removed.

Possible inclusions

Supervisors recently were asked to identify what they thought should be included.

“As we are having more and more employees retire or we are otherwise losing them, I’m concerned about pay scales, keeping people retained and being able to hire the quality of teachers and police officers we want in this community,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said continued attention should be paid toward the master planning process. She also said Albemarle County should be more strategic in how it uses revenue-sharing funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“[VDOT] revenue sharing was previously used for road connections and was used effectively for the broader community,” Mallek said. “I would hope we can have a discussion and try to refocus that program onto some higher-level projects.”

The program has been used in recent years for sidewalks, and Mallek said she would like future projects to connect communities.

“There are these connections when the zoning and development decisions have been made and people are living there,” Mallek said. “We forget about the connections that were planned in the 1990s.”

Supervisor Brad Sheffield said he would like to convene a focus group to see how the county could better provide information to the public.

“I do have feedback and there is a feeling that our information is not as readily accessible as we think it is,” Sheffield said, adding that community members often want more information about forthcoming developments.

 
Mallek said she thinks the county’s community advisory committees will become more important in communicating information to a growing urban population.

Supervisor Rick Randolph said he first got involved with local government by serving on the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Committee.

“The county’s commitment to engaging citizens in master plans has been really critical to the success of those master plans and for a feeling of democratic participation and buy-in,” Randolph said, adding that he would like rural areas to also be master planned.

Randolph also said he would like the county to strategically acquire land for government expansion over the next 50 years.

“I don’t see anything in here about purchasing additional land for the school division or for the county’s needs,” Randolph said. “On Pantops, we have a piece of property for a fire station which allows no growth on that site.”

However, Sheffield said Albemarle should direct growth to areas where those needs will be satisfied by residential density.

“If we’re planning correctly, boards 50 years from now should not have to be planning for where schools go,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said he thinks the next strategic plan should address an aging population.

“We’re finding that what the aging-friendly community is looking for is also the same as the younger community,” Sheffield said. “We should strategically account for that in our decisions.”

Other potential new planks in the strategic plan could address geo-policing and increased funding for the Department of Social Services.

“They are so short-handed there and we’ll never serve everyone who needs to be served, but which of the programs should we be supporting to make the most difference?” asked Supervisor Norman Dill.

Randolph said partnerships could help augment what the overall community can do to help people in need.

Strategic connections

This month, both the Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council adopted four memorandums of understanding regarding areas where the two localities could collaborate. The areas include transportation, education and the environment.

“It sounds like we want to create in the strategic plan a bridge to those,” said Lee Catlin, assistant county executive.

The fourth area identified for collaboration is affordable housing.

“We ignore affordable housing at our own peril because of its link to fire, police, social services, education,” Randolph said. “Workforce housing is also part of that city-county memorandum of understanding. We’re going to need a coherent strategy.”

Supervisors also discussed whether regional transit should become a priority. Charlottesville Area Transit is an entity entirely controlled by the city.

“The CAT governance issue seems like it is reasonably solvable,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer, who asked if that should also be in the strategic plan.

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission currently is studying ways various transit agencies in the area can collaborate.

Supervisors are expected to next discuss strategic planning at a work session June 7. The goal is to adopt a new strategic plan by the end of the year.

“This is going to be a journey, and we’re looking forward to working with you over the next couple of months,” Catlin said.

Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. He can be reached at stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org or (434) 260-0763.
 

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