In the first of four community forums held Wednesday at CitySpace, area residents offered suggestions for improving the vision and goals developed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission as a part of a three-year planning grant.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the TJPDC a $1 million “sustainable communities” planning grant in October 2010. The planners have reached the stage in the project where they are seeking public feedback on the joint vision and goals that will be contributed to comprehensive plan updates in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

“It’s important to note that consensus is not the goal of these meetings, the conversation is the goal,” said Summer Frederick, the project manager of TJPDC’s Livable Communities project. “We’re hoping that this is an arena to get [community members’] feedback in front of the planning commissions.”

While staff reviewed content in all eight sections of the joint vision and goal language, members of the public most frequently commented on social inclusion and the need to stress the interdependency between sections.

With respect to transportation, county resident Nancy Carpenter would like to see language added that forces officials to provide access to all sections of the community.

“We have areas that are underserved,” she said, “and communities that don’t feel included. If we improve our transportation policy, we can address pockets of poverty and give people more opportunity.”

The conversation on housing echoed this sentiment.

“A fair distribution of housing is important,” city neighborhood planner Ebony Walden said in summary of a breakout session she facilitated during the meeting. “We discussed avoiding policies that disconnect housing from poverty.”

City Councilor Kathy Galvin felt that the targeted economic development areas left out blue-collar jobs.

“We need to foster manufacturing here,” Galvin said. “Many companies are having their products made in other states.”

Citizens also identified areas in the joint vision and goal language where officials could encourage links between chapters.

Matt Weaver, a TJPDC planner, said the idea to connect goals rose out of a conversation about parks and recreation.

“One idea raised was how trail systems could link to environmental or historical education by providing interpretive signage,” Weaver said. “We also discussed how the city and county could share programming like canoe and kayak rentals along the Rivanna River corridor.”

Missy Creasy, Charlottesville’s planning manager, said that staff sees the importance in drawing awareness to these links.

“Ultimately, we realize that all of the sections in the document are dependent upon each other,” Creasy said. “We plan to make a visual aid that shows links between sections in hopes to assist officials with the prioritization of goals.”

TJPDC staff said afterwards that they were pleased with the quality of conversation.

“Community members shared some good ideas that we hadn’t come up with,” Frederick said. “The meeting was a good mix between our long-range goals and how those goals apply to people’s everyday lives.”

There are three more meetings scheduled as part of the One Community Conversation series: Thursday, Oct. 11; Wednesday, Oct. 24; and Thursday, Oct. 25. All meetings run from 6-8 p.m. and are open to the public. Visit http://1-community.org/ for locations and more information.

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