The group

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population

is seeking a meeting with University of Virginia officials to discuss the role the university plays in area population growth.

“The university is a major player, and in our consideration of what we want as a community, we have to build in what the university wants and they must not neglect us,” said

Jack Marshall

, president of ASAP.

Marshall’s comments came Wednesday during a briefing before the

Albemarle Board of Supervisors

on research ASAP research conducted into the community’s ecological-carrying capacity. Both

Albemarle

and

Charlottesville

helped fund several of ASAP’s recent studies.


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The study claims “a density of 210 people per square mile would severely harm water quality.’

Check ASAP’s site for the studies

.


ASAP’s study of the community’s ecological footprint claims the two communities can support only 37,000 people at current consumption levels. The current population is around 135,000.

“We find ourselves in a condition called ecological deficit, consuming more biological productivity than we can produce,” Marshall said. He added that a growing population will eliminate open space, decrease tree canopy cover and degrade water quality.

Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

was the only official who voted against using tax dollars to pay for the study when funding was approved in 2008.

“I saw no practical use for the data that you were going to generate for us, and I still don’t see any practical use for it,” Boyd said.

Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

said he voted for the study because he concluded the information about the community’s ecological carrying capacity was worth obtaining.

“We did not agree to spend any money toward the part of [the study] that deals with establishing an optimal population,” Rooker said. “What we did agree to do is participate in the part of it that dealt with the ability of our natural systems out there to handle our growth.”

During the briefing, skeptical supervisors also pointed out that UVa is a major factor in the city and county’s overall growth and economic vitality. In 1997, the university had 28,705 students and employees. By 2010, that number had risen to 34,176.

University spokeswoman Carol Wood said in an e-mail that the university is expanding by 150 students a year to help meet state demand.

“All of Virginia’s colleges and universities are being asked by the state to increase the number of degrees awarded by 100,000 by 2025,” Wood said. She added that UVa pays careful attention to how it grows.

“During the last decade in particular, the university has made determined efforts to build within our current footprint,” Wood wrote.

In response, Marshall suggested in an interview that UVa explore other ways to help meet Virginia’s educational goals.

“Satellite campuses would take some of the pressures off the community,” Marshall said, pointing to UVa’s 1,200-student College at Wise.

Marshall said ASAP is working with UVa’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation to set up a meeting with university officials, but efforts have not yet been successful.

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, a former member of ASAP’s board who works for the Virginia Natural History Museum, said she has seen anecdotal evidence that water quality has been slipping.

“Over the 18 years I’ve been taking children out to the streams to look at the creatures, we’ve seen a remarkable loss of the diversity, mainly because of the proximity of so many houses,” Mallek said.

Neil Williamson of the

Free Enterprise Forum

said he is adamantly opposed to the idea of using land-use policies to control population.

“Taken to its logical conclusion, Albemarle’s depopulation effort would require the selection of those who can stay and those who must leave,” Williamson said. “Part of the American dream for me is the freedom of movement. I can’t believe I’m the only one who finds the academic discussion ofdepopulation of a region rather sinister.”

However, Marshall said his organization is simply trying to get elected officials to consider the effects a growing population will have on the landscape.

“Don’t listen to folks who talk about building a moat or family planning,” Marshall told supervisors. “That’s not what we’re considering. We have a tool in our community to regulate growth, and it is land use regulation, primarily zoning.”


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