The land use map from the 2013 Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan Credit: Credit: City of Charlottesville

The Charlottesville Planning Commission is hoping to conclude its work updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan by June, a deadline set by the previous City Council.

“At some point, we’re just going to have to say we’re as ready as we’re going to be,” said Commissioner John Santoski.

State law requires planning commissions to “prepare and recommend a comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.”

Some members of the commission felt they should wait until the Form Based Code Institute completes a new citywide housing needs assessment.

The company’s existing contract to work on zoning for the Strategic Investment Area has been amended to add $54,500 on top of the $228,000 previously allocated by the City Council.

“What they will do is provide a breakdown by census tract of the existing housing units, and they project need out to 2040,” said Stacy Pethia, the city’s housing coordinator. “We can see looking from the data where we are lacking affordable housing units, where we can put affordable housing units and where we have a concentration and might want to think about not adding anymore.”

A draft version of the housing needs assessment will not be available until the end of March.

Commission Chairwoman Lisa Green suggested that the council could be asked to push back the deadline to give more time to incorporate more public engagement as well as the final version of the housing needs assessment.

“My opinion is that we will get a better product if we say we need to pump the brakes for a second and get this information,” Green said. “I think we are really, really messing up if we don’t use this housing data in this Comprehensive Plan.”

Other commissioners said the group should complete its task on schedule.

“There’s always going to be more information available at another time, and it doesn’t mean we can’t go back and amend the plan at another time in the future,” Santoski said.

Santoski’s second term on the commission expired in 2017, but the council agreed to extend his time, as well as the term of Commissioner Kurt Keesecker, so that they can continue their work on the Comprehensive Plan update.

Commissioner Corey Clayborne asked if any of the information could be given to the Planning Commission before the end of March, given the group’s interest in the data.

“It would be so unfortunate to go all this way and then knowing how important that information is to the community, not have it, and we’re just pushing to meet some deadline,” Clayborne said. “At the same time, is it worth waiting for?”

The main task for commission’s work session on Tuesday was to establish a community engagement strategy for the public to review the work completed by the commission so far.

Commissioner Jody Lahendro said the Housing Advisory Committee should also be able to review the commission’s work while it is still in process.

“Everybody on the HAC knows more about affordable housing and housing issues than I do,” Lahendro said. “I would like to have their specialized knowledge applied to the future land use plan.”

Santoski said any formal city advisory group that wants to weigh in on the Comprehensive Plan should be invited to do so.

“There’s the parks and recreation advisory board,” Santoski said. “If they want to meet with us and talk about parks and recreation, sure. If the Tree Commission want to come and meet with us? Sure.”

Commissioner Taneia Dowell said that many groups in Charlottesville feel they are not represented on those advisory bodies.

“Why not just have one, big open meeting, and if you want to come and be active and have a voice, show up,” Dowell said. “Whether you’re on an official body or a regular, normal citizen, to me that’s how we will be effectively trying to engage everybody.”

Dowell suggested this meeting be held outside of City Hall at a venue that can accommodate everyone.

Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager, said there are many advisory groups in the city and they would all have to be invited. Commissioners said they wouldn’t mind having one citywide meeting. The goal is to have that meeting in the first two weeks of March.

The ultimate goal is to have the Planning Commission’s public hearing in June.

Commissioners plan hold their next work session on the plan at 5:15 p.m. Monday in the NDS conference room.