What is the trend for the City of Charlottesville’s population? Does Charlottesville have the public infrastructure to support a growing population? Those are some of the questions explored during the August meeting of the

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population

(ASAP). Charlottesville Mayor

Dave Norris

, Planning Commission Chair Jason Pearson and transportation activist Peter Kleeman shared their views in a forum moderated by former Mayor Nancy O’Brien.

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Peter Kleeman held up a series of formulas to describe his ideas

Mayor Norris said he is both concerned and frustrated with the city’s infrastructure, saying too much time and effort is being put into refurbishing basic utility systems. Norris said the city needs to focus on how it will financially take care of maintaining the current infrastructure, much less debating how to fund new areas of development or where they should go.

Pearson encouraged citizens to embrace the World Wildlife Fund’s concept of“one planet living ” which strives for every person to use no more than their fair share of the planet’s resources.  Pearson said American’s use five times their share of available resources.  He said he is very interested in research and new technological progress, which will help manage how the city uses or takes advantage of its resources.

Pearson and Norris had differing perspectives on the question of an optimal population, a concept under review by ASAP in a study partly funded by both



Albemarle County

.  Pearson indicated he did not think it was possible to come up with an optimal size for a community.  Citing New York’s Manhattan Island as an example, Pearson said population size was a question of community values and not carrying capacity of the environment.

Mayor Norris said he thought growth was both good and inevitable for Charlottesville, but he specified that increased housing density should be in appropriate parts of the city and combined with adequate infrastructure.  “Good growth” should be transit oriented and pedestrian friendly.  Norris said he would not “lose any sleep” if there was a population cap established for the region, though he acknowledged the Commonwealth does not give local government’s authority to establish a population cap outside of a community’s zoning decisions.  ASAP’s Jack Marshall was quick to point out the study may determine an optimal population range, but not a specific number of people.

Kleeman stressed the idea of developing visions for the community using words like ‘justice’ and ‘optimize’ in an effort to help the community start thinking about its own values. He said people come to Charlottesville for a way of life and encouraged citizens and officials alike to think about whether the community is letting go of Charlottesville’s fundamental values.

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Brian Wheeler & Jessie Abrams


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