An initiative to create guidelines for development of future Charlottesville streetscapes is nearing completion.
“We’ve tried to come up with some ideas that really represent what Charlottesville wants for its streets,” said Ken Ray, with the Toole Design Group.
The firm was hired nearly two years ago to fulfill a resolution by the City Council to ensure the streets of tomorrow can accommodate bicycles and pedestrians and not just motor vehicles. This concept is known as “complete streets.”
“This is one of the documents we plan to append to the Comprehensive Plan, so we’ll be going through the process of having it adopted,” said Missy Creasy, the city’s assistant director of neighborhood development services.
Streets make up 12 percent of the city’s 10.4 square miles and about 45 percent of land owned and maintained by the city.
The guidelines are technical and are intended primarily for developers, designers and city officials.
“We’re taking the existing conditions of what’s already here and looked at future land use,” Ray said. “This is more reflective of the future and what’s going to be there in five, 10 or 15 years as redevelopment happens.”
The Streets That Work manual is intended to include recommendations for stormwater management and suggestions for how other city plans can be implemented.
The plan will inform future projects such as three streetscape projects that have qualified through the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s new prioritization mechanism for funding.
While not yet approved, the city could see millions of dollars for projects that reconfigure portions of Emmet Street, Fontaine Avenue and East High Street.
The initiative classifies different streets into different categories depending on traffic circulation and volume.
The plan adds another dimension beyond simply calculating how much traffic travels on each road. It distinguishes between framework streets and neighborhood streets, and there are many kinds of framework streets.
Once the plan is adopted, work will begin on an “audit” of the zoning code that could inform a future rezoning.
Attendees of an open house Thursday had the opportunity to provide feedback.
“Currently, the plan provides for the minimum size for tree plantings, so we would intentionally have small flowering trees throughout the city,” said Paul Josey, chairman of the city’s Tree Commission. He added that more bike lanes means more asphalt and that might run counter to the city’s green infrastructure.
“I like that these draft guidelines incorporate the bicycle and pedestrian master plan for the city … I think slightly higher prioritization should be given to future growth in bicycle riders,” said Eberhard Gehle. “Build it and they will come.”
One resident of Locust Avenue wanted to know how the plan would address speeding.
“There are very important residential streets in Charlottesville and I don’t think you’ve addressed this issue,” said Paul Reynolds, a retired computer science professor who has installed three cameras on private property to track speeds.
Ray said plans can’t change individual behaviors by motorists.
“We can’t control how people drive except to design the streets for their speed,” Ray said. “What this plan does is provide some of the frameworks and guidelines.”
Reynolds has installed a camera on Old Lynchburg Road, a street that recently was reconfigured with sidewalks, drainage ditches and other elements.
“You’ve done just about as much traffic calming on that street as you can,” Reynolds said, before pointing out an image of one vehicle caught doing 56 mph in a 25 mph zone.
Ray said there was no silver bullet that could solve all problems, but that preparing for the redevelopment of streets can help coordinate many of the city’s planning goals.
The Planning Commission will have a work session on the draft plan followed by a joint public hearing with the City Council. Creasy said the council might take action as early as June.
There will be a live demonstration of some of the potential ways the initiative could impact further streets April 16 on Second Street Southeast between Water Street and Monticello Avenue. That also is one of the potential projects called for in the city’s Strategic Investment Area.