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The Albemarle Board of Supervisors will take up to a year to review the county’s Comprehensive Plan update, even though the Planning Commission has held more than 60 meetings on the document over the past two years.
“I appreciate very much the hard work the Planning Commission has put into it, but I think we as elected officials need to take just as careful a look at this,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.
The current update began in spring 2011 and focused on reducing the bulk of the document and updating information within. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the document in July.
Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning, said the last time this much work went into a plan review was in 1996.
“That was our last major initiative to review the plan and make big decisions regarding land use and other sections,” Cilimberg said. For instance, the origins of the county’s preferred Neighborhood Model form of development stem from that review.
Cilimberg said this review has been focused on streamlining the plan and supporting documents such as the Rural Areas Plan.
Before this review, the plan was more than 700 pages long, not including the various master plans for development areas. Now the draft plan is about 300 pages.
“We were hoping to be able to consolidate the plan into a more manageable and readable Comprehensive Plan for the county,” Cilimberg said.
Since 2011, the Planning Commission has held a total of 62 meetings on the plan, including 13 work sessions with their counterparts on the Charlottesville Planning Commission.
Supervisors wanted more information on what was removed.
“To go from 700 pages to 300 pages, something obviously happened,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek.
The Planning Commission did not recommend any expansion of the development area, but did recommend the county find ways to allow urban agriculture, such as backyard chickens.
“What we’ve tried to do is to create uniformity in the plan so we have balance among the different chapters and they look the same,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner with the county.
Some supervisors had asked to see all of the edits that have been made to the plan, but Echols said that would be impossible as many of the changes were to reduce repetition.
“We’ve tried to say things in fewer words but retain the same meaning,” Echols said.
Echols asked supervisors if they would prefer to conduct their review by the end of the year, or take more time. Supervisors were unanimous in their decision to take a more thorough approach.
“[An update] has not been done with this kind of scale since 1996 and so it seems to me that we really need to know what’s in it and go through it chapter by chapter,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.
The review will begin during the current configuration of the board, but will conclude with at least two new supervisors behind the dais in Lane Auditorium after November’s elections.
One supervisor gave direction about the kind of information he wants to see about the new plan.
“How is this going to affect property rights?” asked Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas. “I’d like to see this pointed out to me if I don’t understand it.”
The commission’s work on a more detailed master plan for the county’s southern and western development areas will continue. The panel will hold a discussion of the topic Aug. 27.