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City, County planning commissioners revisit common goals

In their second and final joint meeting Tuesday, the 16 members of the Albemarle and Charlottesville planning commissions continued their discussion about cooperative planning goals.

The meetings were supported by a $1 million planning grant awarded to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Prior to these meetings, TJPDC staff surveyed city and county residents to identify community priorities and crafted language that both localities might adopt into their respective comprehensive plans.

“This process has allowed the conversation to happen jointly, while recognizing that the city and county are their own separate localities, and that there are areas where joint work can happen,” said TJPDC project manager Summer Frederick.

In preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, one city and one county planning commissioner paired up to form subcommittees to discuss one section of joint goal language and the public comments from the One Community Conversations regarding those sections.

Albemarle Commissioner Calvin Morris drew a distinction between this joint planning effort and previous efforts.

“We will usually pick a topic that is non-controversial so we can all talk nice and go home without anyone throwing sand,” Morris said. “But this is the first time the joint planning commissions are talking about something that is really meaningful.”

“I would hope that it’s the start of some real dialogue,” he added. “We’ve come up with real goals and objectives.”

With respect to economic development, Albemarle Commissioner Richard Randolph wanted clarification of what size businesses the language referred to.

“The vision statement for this section doesn’t include small business,” Randolph said, “but small business is the driver of the engine of this economic system.”

University of Virginia architect David Neuman pointed to the absence of the university.

“Collaborating with the university is important because much of the financial, employment and bio-science are there,” Neuman said.

Speaking about entrance corridors, Charlottesville Commissioner Dan Rosensweig stressed the importance of place-making.

Neuman echoed this sentiment, and addressed the need to coordinate entrance corridor guidelines across jurisdictions.

“We need to see the entrance corridor as a progression, something you move through, not a point on a line,” Neuman said. “If we’re really going to do this, we need to take ownership of that language and make it firm language. We need to agree on what the vision is given the existing zoning.”

For the section on the environment, Morris and city Commissioner Genevieve Keller expanded the original language.

“We took a global approach to this,” Morris said. “We needed to address areas that were brought out by the citizens, so we were really looking at a number of areas other than water quality and streams.”

Morris and Keller added such issues as air quality, stormwater management, disposal practices, biodiversity, energy efficiency and conservation, and local foods.

With respect to local foods, Rosensweig said he would like to see farming added to the environment section.

“The city and county are symbiotic,” Rosensweig said. “The city provides the market place for an agrarian lifestyle. We have a vested interest in the city of having the county protect its open spaces.”

During a conversation on housing, Rosensweig highlighted a hurdle to locating affordable housing near job centers.

“There’s a lack of an availability to cross the jurisdiction of the city housing authority,” Rosensweig said. “If we really want to create affordable housing across the growth areas, we’ll need to talk about a regional housing authority.”

Commissioners would also like to see the definition of “affordable” solidified.

“I don’t think a couple that just graduated from UVa is going to be the target for affordable housing,” Albemarle Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty said.

“As long as we use income as the qualifier, we don’t run into that problem,” Randolph said.

With respect to land use, commissioners discussed the need to more clearly define appropriate land uses in Albemarle’s growth and rural areas.

“The word ‘limit’ can be an inflammatory term,” Albemarle Commissioner Tom Loach said, “so maybe we could use ‘maintain the rural character.’”

“We also need some methodology so we can evaluate the impacts of growth,” Loach added.

For parks and recreation, Rosensweig said the language about evaluating needs should be removed.

“We know what we need,” he said. “We need fields.”

“I don’t see any mention of indoor facilities,” Charlottesville Commissioner Lisa Green said.

TJPDC staff will now make changes to the joint goal language based upon the commissioners’ feedback. This revised language will go before both planning commissions for final approval in January.