County staff say transportation needs in Route 29 corridor have been neglected; Five priority projects identified in Places29 Master Plan

By Fania Gordon

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, April 17, 2009

The 17-page draft implementation table details projects called for in the Places29 Master Plan, along with rudimentary cost estimates

At the

March 31, 2009 meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission

, staff reviewed the text of the Implementation Chapter of the Places29 Master Plan. The discussion was held before the implementation details were handed out to Commissioners, and thus their conversation was not significantly informed by details of costs and the specific timing of improvements.

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At their meeting on April 14, 2009 the Commission discussed the implementation table that specifies the order of improvements and their estimated costs.

Albemarle County’s Chief Planner, David Benish, presented the table to the Commission reminding them that many of the projects included in the Places29 Master Plan are necessary to serve already existing  developments and developments that have been approved but not yet built.   Rather than review the details of the Implementation Table, Benish discussed the overall organization, themes and key points to remember when using the table.

Download the Staff Report

Download the Implementation Table

The Implementation Table details the approximate order the projects should begin, the traditionally responsible parties and funding sources, the issues to be addressed and what actions are needed, and milestones to be met during implementation.  Additionally, the table breaks the projects into three time periods (ongoing, first ten years, second ten years) and four project types (transportation, land use and development, community facilities and services, parks and green systems).

Benish laid out the five essential transportation projects to completion of the Places29 Master Plan:

Planning Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) asked staff why the top five projects were not listed first on the implementation table.  Commissioner Edgerton then suggested that the Commission must be clear about where its priorities lie.   “If in fact they are so important, perhaps this should be factored into the six year plan for road improvements as well so that we’re speaking as a community, with one voice about what needs to be done,” Edgerton said.

Julia Monteith, Senior Land Use officer at the University of Virginia and ex officio member of the Commission suggested that the table be reordered to show phasing of projects.  She explained that it is difficult to determine the relationships between the steps and said that a diagram would help to better express them in addition to the table. “It just became kind of a sea of projects that I couldn’t really understand how they work together or didn’t work together,” Monteith said.

The Commission then went on to discuss the funding of the improvements listed in the implementation table.  Commissioner Edgerton told the rest of the Commission that he thinks they should reconsider the discussion of creating a new tax district to support the projects.  He suggested that it would benefit the entire County if the improvements are made.  “Maybe it should be considered a county wide tax issue,” said Edgerton, “It will benefit the preservation of the rural areas if we can make it work.”

Director of Planning, Wayne Cilimberg reiterated this idea saying that the costs listed in the table are the result of a region that has been neglecting its transportation issues.  “They aren’t a result of Places29 as a plan but as a result of much bigger dynamics,” Cilimberg said.

Planning Commissioner Cal Morris (Rivanna) expressed his support of Commissioner Edgerton’s idea to look at the problems on Route 29N as a county wide issue. “We may not be able to do much about the region but can do something about the County,” Morris said.

During public comment, Neil Williamson, of the Free Enterprise Forum, asked the Commission if it found the level of detail included in the table to be adequate.  He pointed out that if a private entity proposed a development project, the Commission might ask for more specifics.   “There’s a lot here but there’s a lot more questions than answers,” said Williamson.

Monteith brought up the issue of how specific the plan should be,  asking if it should serve more as a framework with flexibility for change or a plan with a detailed timeline.    “If things play out a little bit differently than we think they might….can we reshuffle the deck with a five year update?” Monteith asked.

On May 12, 2009 the Planning Commission will reconvene for a work session to review and discuss the design guidelines for the Places29 Master Plan.  There will be opportunity for the public to ask questions and provide comment at this time.