One of the purposes of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s $1 million federal grant is to help coordinate the update of Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plans.
TJPDC staff are currently preparing for a Sept. 18 joint meeting at which both localities’ planning commissions will discuss ways in which they can cooperate on regional goals.
“The two localities are different but have some similar interests,” said Summer Frederick, the project manager for the TJPDC’s initiative. “What happens in one place has a direct impact on what happens on the other, and that needs to be acknowledged and built upon.”
In late August, TJPDC staff asked both planning commissions to provide feedback on potential goals related to parks and recreation, housing and economic development.
The city planning commission held its discussion at an Aug. 28 work session.
“This discussion is to focus as much as possible on things we can do with the county from a regional perspective,” said Missy Creasy, the city’s planning manager.
One topic that came up at the meeting was the idea of creating a linkage between the preservation of Albemarle County’s rural area by increasing density within Charlottesville’s city limits.
“As a city dweller, I benefit from them having the open space I can visit and I benefit from us being denser too,” said Commissioner Kurt Keesecker. “It’s more vibrant to be in a city that’s dense.”
In 2008, a proposal by former Albemarle County supervisor David Slutzky to create a system of transferrable development rights was studied by a regional task force. Under the idea, a market would be created where rural landowners could sell their development rights to property owners who live in a receiving area.
However, the idea was abandoned in part because a suitable mechanism could not be worked out.
The TDR program was not mentioned at the commission’s meeting, but commissioners shared other ways in which rural preservation could be tied to urban growth.
“We don’t have any sort of ironclad reciprocal agreement in place that that will happen,” said Genevieve Keller, the chair of the planning commission.
“I really do like the idea that city redevelopment activities could help take the pressure off of expanding the development areas,” said Commissioner Michael Osteen. “Knowing that if we’re prepared to take some of that burden, are they going to be preserving their rural areas better as a result. Do we get a seat at the table?”
Commissioner Kurt Keesecker said rural preservation could be encouraged through development of a robust farm-to-table program to promote local agriculture.
“[Albemarle has] farms and we have places to eat food,” Keesecker said.
However, Osteen said he thought that approach would have to expand beyond Albemarle to be effective.
“My sense is that Albemarle County is the least agricultural county for hundreds of miles in each direction,” Osteen said. “This is wine and horses. In Nelson County you can grow anything you want.
Keller said she was hopeful the county would also seek to encourage redevelopment.
“They have an aging urban edge that’s backed up next to us,” Keller said.
However, some commissioners also expressed skepticism that joint planning could ever fully work.
“I like all of these ideas that I’m hearing, but I’m not sure the county is going to be influenced by what we’re going to do here in the city,”Commissioner John Santoski said. “It would be nice if we all sat down at the same table.”
The livability initiative, which began in April 2011, has included a series of community work-shops, the creation of a database to track previous land-use plans, and a survey to gauge the community’s perspective on planning goals.
Commissioner Lisa Green said she felt the process needs to have buy-in from elected officials who will actually adopt the Comprehensive Plans.
“We haven’t heard anything from City Council or the Board of Supervisors… are they on board?” Green asked. “I sit and look at a lot of this and ask ‘is this a futile effort?’”
Creasy said both planning commissions will develop recommendations, but Council and the Board may not choose to advance all of them.
“We knew this was going to be a baby-step kind of process,” Creasy said. “We’re also expecting that we’ll see some progression.”
Each commission is expected to make recommendations on the comprehensive plans by the end of the year. City Council and the Board of Supervisors will begin their review