By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 20, 2011

The Planning and Coordination Council — a joint body with representation from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — met Thursday and discussed both the Livable Communities Planning Project and the community water supply plan .

Officials agreed to revise a draft agreement outlining how they will work together on the three-year planning project, making it clear that the final products will only be advisory in nature.

On the water plan, Mayor Dave Norris rebuffed a request by Albemarle officials who wanted PACC’s formal endorsement of the 50-year plan.

(L to R) Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones, Mayor Dave Norris, and councilor Holly Edwards

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The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is managing the Livable Communities project, which is funded by an almost $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Stephen Williams , TJPDC’s executive director, said the grant will provide critical funding and resources at a time when local comprehensive plans and transportation plans had to be updated anyway.

“[The plan updates] presented an historic opportunity for all three to cooperate and particularly to include the University of Virginia,” Williams said.

Earlier this month , Albemarle officials put the brakes on signing an agreement to participate in the grant until after a work session is held June 8 by county supervisors.

Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd and members of the Jefferson Area Tea Party have raised concerns about a “sustainability agenda” they see as being pushed by organizations outside the community, such as the United Nations and ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability .

At Thursday’s PACC meeting, Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker asked that the draft agreement be modified to make it clear that any recommendations would not be binding on the participants.

“We’ve had people appear before us at our meetings who are concerned we are, in effect, turning over responsibility for making public policy decisions to a non-appointed body,” Rooker said. “That isn’t the case, and I think that needs to be clear in this agreement.”

“What’s being created here is basically work product to assist the ultimate decision makers with regard to making ordinance and comprehensive plan changes in their community,” Rooker said. “It’s information, it’s advisory.”

In a letter sent to the supervisors on Thursday, the Jefferson Area Tea Party’s chairwoman, Carole Thorpe , said she “does not believe this sort of massive, central planning endeavor is the proper role of county government.”

The project has received the backing of most of the community’s major environmental groups. The Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development , representing the business community, the Commission on Children and Families and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging are among the groups acting as formal advisers.

Supervisor Duane Snow , another Albemarle representative on the PACC, asked what the cost of working on the grant would be for local governments.

“There is no direct budget contribution from either the city or the county … going towards this grant,” Williams responded. “We’re actually going to be counting the time that your staff was going to spend anyway on your comprehensive plans as a match towards this grant.”

“It’s simply a measure that HUD has made available so we can show a local commitment in the project without actually having to put any cash on the table,” he added.

Williams said the agreement would be revised by the end of the month to reflect the PACC’s input. He asked that each party review and approve the agreement before the end of June.

Albemarle County Supervisor, Duane Snow (Samuel Miller)

As the meeting was wrapping up, Snow asked the PACC to consider passing a motion to formally endorse the community water supply plan.

“Even though it’s been approved … there still seems to be a lot of confusion in the community,” Snow said. “[We need to] put to rest some of these rumors that this is driven by developers.”

“It’s a fact to me that the community is growing and it’s going to continue to grow,” Snow said. “If we don’t make allowances for it and support it unanimously, then we’re just allowing the naysayers to get more footing and control.”

Sitting across from Snow were Norris and fellow Councilor Holly Edwards , both of whom were in the minority on the city’s 3-2 vote in February to endorse construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir .

“I think there’s a lot of debate to be had on the water plan,” Norris responded. “I don’t think you are going to get a unanimous vote in favor of it, so I’m not sure how valuable it would be.”

Leonard W. Sandridge , UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said he would support the motion, which was seconded by Rooker, and that he was willing to restate the university’s endorsement of the water plan.

City Manager Maurice Jones said the matter had “been decided” by the City Council and thus questioned why it was necessary for the PACC to have the discussion.

Sensing the stalemate, Sandridge suggested the conversation in and of itself would record their support for the plan.

“The discussion that we have had would indicate that all parties are moving forward with the plan that was approved by City Council and the county,” Sandridge said.

“Yes,” Jones responded. “We are moving ahead with the plan …”


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