Charlottesville’s PLACE Design Task Force met last week to start an audit of all codes and policies related to land-use matters to make sure the city is being consistent with goals and visions of the new Comprehensive Plan.
The meeting set the stage for a Sept. 23 joint meeting between the advisory group, the City Council, the Planning Commission and the Board of Architectural Review.
“I’d like to use these documents to say this is a city where we appreciate good design and we’re going to build it into our regulations and policies,” said task force member Genevieve Keller, who represents the Planning Commission.
City officials said the review will cover building development codes in addition to the city’s goal of being a multi-modal and pedestrian-friendly community.
“We made an attempt to identify key recommendations and be able to explain to the average person what we plan to do with this plan,” said Charlottesville’s planning manager, Missy Creasy. “We are focusing on the things that move us towards a more walkable urban community.”
Amanda Poncy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, presented the work of a subcommittee that had come up with a list of 40 general topic areas. The task force evaluated the performance of each item.
During the meeting there was some confusion about the difference between goals and policies.
“A policy is something that helps makes a bridge between an aspirational goal and an operational item,” said Councilor Kathy Galvin.
Galvin said that regulations are an operational item but the Comprehensive Plan sets the goals. She said the question to address is whether the city has enough of those policies?
Poncy said the subcommittee found the vision was generally very good but there were some policy areas where minor tweaks were needed and others that needed major adjustments.
The city’s urban designer, Carrie Rainey, gave an overview on the Comprehensive Plan goals.
“We want spaces that are sustainable and beautiful,” Rainey said. “A lot of the corresponding aspects of the Comprehensive Plan speak to those ideas.”
The city scores itself well on connectivity and street design and a green city with innovative techniques to keep a healthy environment. The goal is to make sure quality of life preferences are not jeopardized through new codes and regulations.
Neighborhood Planner Brian Haluska discussed the implementation strategy. City staffers are tracking the implementation as they go through all of the identified items in the code audit. Priorities were determined by deficiencies and pressing needs, such as establishing block length standards.
“If we don’t do anything else out of this, having these conversations have been a great help,” said Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services. “A lot of people have put effort into this, so we look forward to the [Sept. 23 meeting] and where this is going.”
The task force also received an update on a $50,000 grant received by the city from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Our Town grant is being directed by the Piedmont Council for the Arts and the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative.
The two nonprofits will develop programming to engage residents who live in a 330-acre area around the Ix warehouse complex and Friendship Court that is slated for redevelopment.
“We are really pushing the Bridge to generate a creative hub where we bring artists, designers and architects together to address the issues within the community,” said Matthew Slaats, the Bridge PAI’s executive director. “Can art and design take the next step with this?”
The Bridge is launching a project called Play the City, which stems from the idea of playing with the complexity of the city such as design, history and people interactions.
“The one thing we felt could be interesting is how can we engage the community and get them thinking about what’s going to happen in the future,” Slaats said.
Slaats said the Bridge PAI has a lot of ideas for programming but wants to focus on involving residents, building leadership and thinking about the identity of the neighborhood.
“You will improve a neighborhood and you will change people’s lives,” said the Planning Commission’s Keller.
The joint meeting to continue the code audit is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Water Street Center at 407 E. Water St.