The Charlottesville Planning Commission and one City Councilor spent two hours Tuesday discussing potential updates to a map that will guide development for the next few decades.
The “future land use map” is part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and features colored designations that represent where different kinds of development are encouraged by local government.
“[The map] sets the stage for general land use decisions down the road,” said City Planner Brian Haluska. “It also factors into [the Planning Commission’s] consideration of special use permits and rezonings.”
The map was last given a major overhaul with the adoption of the 2001 Comprehensive Plan. The new update is being revised with an eye towards what Charlottesville may look like in 2040.
Many of the changes recommended by staff are consolidations of what are currently shown as different land use designations. For instance, staff suggests depicting all parcels currently zoned for mixed-use development as one color. Another suggestion is for “office,” “commercial” and “neighborhood commercial” to all be designated as “neighborhood commercial.”
“We found there was no reason to delineate between those uses,” Haluska said. “This by no means means that they will all be zoned … ‘neighborhood commercial corridor.’”
Staff is also proposing that the “industrial” designation be rebranded as “business and technology” in order to promote economic development.
“What we wanted to do is set the tone by changing the name of the designation to include some of the things we’re looking for in these areas,” Haluska said. “One of the things that stands out about River Road, Harris Road and the Allied Street area is that there is a certain character to these [and] they are incubator spaces and there are businesses in these areas that aren’t really appropriate anywhere else in the city.”
The work session was at times a philosophical discussion about what purpose land use maps serve and whether the map goes far enough to promote good planning.
“It would be great to have a transportation network map that teased out connectivity and where new routes are going to go, be they bike-pedestrian or vehicular,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin.
Galvin also raised questions about the level of public input.
“What would be a valuable lesson is just asking people, ‘Where are their destinations? Where do they think their centers are?’” Galvin said. “Do we have the cart before the horse when we start laying down this aspirational land use before we have the notion of where we want place to be?”
However, staff explained that the process has been informed by public input collected over the past year through the Thomas Jeffer-son Planning District Commission as part of its “Many Plans, One Community” initiative.
“This is step one to get it generalized on a map so goals and objectives can be put in place to support that and then our next step is to dig deeper,” said planning manager Missy Creasy.
“But you’re telling them what to do,” Galvin said.
Haluska and Creasy both disagreed.
“We bring things to the Planning Commission and Council so they’re aware of what we’re doing before we go to the public with
documents like this,” Creasy said. She added that the TJPDC would hold three public input workshops this fall to gather public input specifically on Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan.
Haluska said his recommendations were based on general themes that he has seen during his time as a city planner.
“Part of this map is playing off of that intent that the public has come forward and said, ‘We’d like to see more trees, more pedestri-ans, more walkability, more bikes, but we’d like to maintain the character of what we have,’” Haluska said.
The TJPDC’s workshops for Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan will be held on Oct.r 17 at Buford Middle School, Oct. 25 at
Venable Elementary School and Nov. 1 at Clark Elementary School.
The planning commission will make a recommendation on the plan by the end of the year. City Council will adopt the plan sometime next year.