After three years and several dozen meetings, the Charlottesville City Council has adopted an update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The council had been set to adopt the plan in June, but an additional work session was held at the request of Councilor Dede Smith.

The new plan will be easier for citizens to access, according to city staff.

“The 2013 plan is concise and efficient, designed primarily for electronic use,” said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager. “While accessed and used online, a user has access to an array of supporting documents, plans, and studies which are digitally embedded throughout the plan.”

The most substantial revisions were made to the city’s housing chapter. To help the city meet its goal of having 15 percent of housing units classified as “affordable” by 2025, an emphasis will be placed on rehabilitating existing housing, and partnerships will be encouraged to promote workforce housing.

“Among other benefits, ensuring affordable housing options in the City helps to limit sprawl and protect our region’s natural resources, as it discourages residents from seeking housing in outlying rural areas and having to drive long distances to reach jobs and services,” said Travis Pietila, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, in written comments about the plan.

Other chapters also were influenced by the emphasis on housing. One of the land use goals now states explicitly that the city will “encourage the development of mixed income neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Shortly before adoption, the council held a final debate about language in the plan. Smith called for a goal that said the city should “consider the effect of housing decisions when considering the proximity of existing units and the effects of unit location on schools, neighborhood demographics and associated infrastructure.”

Councilor Dave Norris made a motion to move that language to a separate goal calling for an inventory where affordable housing current exists and where future opportunities lie.

“I don’t want to have anything in our plan that enshrines the possibility of redlining affordable housing in the community,” Norris said.  He added his suggested amendment would better connect low-income residents with opportunities in the rest of the cit

Smith disagreed and said she did not want the original phrase deleted.

“I think we lose something in morphing these together and changing the language to not include the impact on schools,” Smith said.

Norris’ motion prevailed 4-1.

“This appears to be a deliberate attempt to take out the impact poverty has on our schools,” Smith said. “This will promote the concentration of poverty.”

“It does not,” countered Councilor Kathy Galvin.

Another feature of the adopted Comprehensive Plan is the call for “small area plans” to help further the city’s various goals, such as becoming a more walkable community.

Smith took issue that neighborhoods were included in the small area plans, and said she was concerned the plans would encourage redevelopment where it is not appropriate.

However, Galvin said the plans would help identify the most appropriate places to install sidewalks, among other elements of infrastructure.
The Fry’s Spring neighborhood, of which Smith is a resident, will not be a subject of one of the smaller plans.

Shortly before adoption, Smith made one last motion to remove the word “must” from the city’s goals on housing.

“It seems too absolute for a Comprehensive Plan,” Smith said.

The motion failed on a 2-3 vote, with Mayor Satyendra Huja siding with Smith.

The plan also calls for the city to study the possibility of a historic conservation district for the Woolen Mills neighborhood.

On Aug. 27, the council and the Planning Commission are slated to hold a work session on implementing the plan.