The Charlottesville Planning Commission is set to resume work Tuesday on its revision of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a document intended to guide local government decisions on issues such as growth and development.
As they do, some neighborhood leaders are seeking language that would lead to protection against the effects of a rising population.
“My neighbors are concerned about over development of Johnson Village,” said Heather Walker, president of that neighborhood association, referring to the recent construction of the Beacon on 5th apartment complex off Fifth Street Extended.
One component of the Comprehensive Plan is a land-use map that currently has seven categories ranging from yellow for “low density residential” to purple for “mixed-use.”
“The commission will continue working on the map and providing ranges for each of the ‘classifications,’” said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.
Johnson Village is largely shaded yellow on the land-use map for low density residential, but the western side of Fifth Street is shaded orange for “high density residential.” That means that Beacon on 5th is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
Virginia law requires all localities to maintain and update a Comprehensive Plan for “the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.” The City Council last updated its plan in August 2013 and has directed a new revision be completed by the end of June 2018.
The Planning Commission held numerous workshops over the spring and summer to get feedback on the plan’s update. They also met for several Friday mornings in September.
There is no set agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, which is set for 5 p.m. in the Department of Neighborhood Development Services conference room in City Hall. A second work session is scheduled for Wednesday at the same time and place. Meetings also are scheduled for Dec. 1 and 8, and both will begin at 11 a.m. in the conference room.
Most of the chapters from the 2013 plan have been updated by staff and are available for review on the city’s website. However, a draft chapter on land use in the city has not yet been marked up for the update.
“We are hopeful the map and supporting information will be closer to a version which can move forward for public comment,” Creasy said.
The draft chapter on housing includes a goal to “establish a series of incentives to create new, affordable, mixed-income, accessible and environmentally sustainable housing.”
To attain that goal, the draft then lists several actions that have either been taken by the council or is under consideration by the city’s Housing Advisory Committee. This includes a $75,000 landlord risk reduction plan approved by the council on Nov. 20.
Tom Bowe, president of the Kellytown Neighborhood Association, said he would like there to be a goal to “protect the integrity of city neighborhoods.”
“It seems like code is not a precise tool for dealing with the nuances of how neighborhoods and commercial development interact,” Bowe said, adding there is awareness of the Comprehensive Plan in his community due to a planned commercial building on Rose Hill Drive.
The three-story Greenleaf Center is on land designated in the plan as “business and technology” but many nearby residents said that is a mismatch. The property is directly adjacent to single-family residential zoning.
“I’m wondering if council could just pass a policy statement saying in essence that wherever any of the well-known city neighborhoods with R-1 zoning share a border with commercial zoning that greater buffer zones be required,” Bowe said.
Audrey Dannenburg, of the Lewis Mountain Neighborhood Association, said she has not participated in any of the community engagement efforts for the plan to date. She said most citizens likely aren’t aware of the existence of the Comprehensive Plan.
“I find that few people closely follow city government except when something bad happens, and then they pay attention and react after the fact,” Dannenburg said.
For instance, she said, most people were not aware that nine-story buildings could be built on West Main Street until after the Flats at West Village opened. The land-use map depicts that road as purple for “mixed-use.”
The Comprehensive Plan can be amended outside of the review cycle.
The council last amended the plan in September 2016 to incorporate the Streets that Work plan. Prior amendments include adding the Strategic Investment Area to the appendix in February 2014 and adopting a North Downtown Neighborhood Plan in February 2008.
The Comprehensive Plan review is not the only update of city development guidelines in progress.
The City Attorney’s Office is continuing with a legal review of the zoning ordinance that will see its first council action in December. Elected officials will weigh in on an amendment that would change the way building heights are calculated.
The Toole Design Group is being paid $199,987 to rewrite the city’s Standards and Design manual.
The firm Rhodeside & Harwell is developing construction documents for the West Main Streetscape, a $31 million project that has been divided into phases to speed up implementation. Final documents are expected to be ready for final review in the spring.
A land-use plan is being created for the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road. That work is being conducted by Kimley-Horn, the same firm that has been hired to develop a $5.63 million streetscape for East High Street.
Two other streetscapes for Fontaine Avenue and Emmet Street are also in the planning stages. These projects were funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation through the Smart Scale process.
The 2013 Comprehensive Plan called for a series of small-area plans to be conducted. The Strategic Investment Area was completed, but work still remains. The Form-Based Code Institute has been hired for $228,000 to review the city’s Downtown Extended zoning district for a potential rewrite.
The city has hired the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to complete a small-area plan for the Cherry Avenue corridor at a cost of $127,134.27.
Two members of the Planning Commission have stayed on past their terms to help complete the work of revising the Comprehensive Plan. Kurt Keesecker and John Santoski’s second four-year terms expired at the end of August.
“They have agreed at this point to serve through June 2018,” Creasy said.
Whatever revisions made by the Planning Commission will need the support of the next City Council. Independent Nikuyah Walker and Democrat Heather Hill will take their seats in January.