For decades, Albemarle County has planned for growth and investments such as the Pantops public safety station by concentrating residential development into designated areas. That’s codified in the county’s Comprehensive Plan which was last adopted in July 2015. Michaela Accardi is a senior planner with Albemarle County.
“The Comprehensive Plan or the comp plan establishes Albemarle’s long-range vision that guides growth, development, and change for the next 20 years,” Accardi said. “The Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for land use development regulations and decisions, such as rezoning and special use permits, capital improvements, new county programs and the distribution of county budget dollars to programs and agencies.”
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors directed the next plan review to take place at the same time changes are made to the county’s zoning ordinance. Accardi said the Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated to reflect new initiatives and policies adopted by the county, many of which are summarized in a strategic plan adopted by the Board in 2018. (download the presentation)
“The Board’s strategic plan includes climate action planning, economic development, infrastructure planning, revitalizing aging neighborhoods, and expanding broadband,” Accardi said.
Economic development is codified in the Project ENABLE plan. The Climate Action Plan was adopted last October. Housing Albemarle was adopted this past July. Now, the Comprehensive Plan has to be updated to reflect this general direction for the county.
“Finally, to further the county’s commitment to providing the highest level of public service and enhancing the quality of life for all its residents, the county’s Office of Equity and Inclusion was created in 2018,” Accardi said.
Accardi said staff hopes to take from best practices in planning to integrate all of these into a new plan. One cited is Minneapolis 2040.
“Which reviewed the city’s land uses to identify opportunities for a mixture of housing types and levels of affordability,” Accardi said.
Phased approached to zoning review
Rachel Falkenstein, a planning manager with Albemarle, said the zoning review will take place over many phases with adoption of several steps at a time.
“Phase 1 will be focused on simplification and clarity of a few topics such as use classification and setbacks and work on this phase has already begun,” Falkenstein said. “Phase 2 of the zoning update will be intended to focus on resource preservation topics such as dark skies, tree preservation, and historic preservation.”
Phase 3 would look at street standards in commercial and industrial zoning districts and Phase 4 will update residential and mixed-use zoning districts.
Most of the presentation dealt with the scope of the Comprehensive Plan update. The first phase will take a look at the central cornerstone of the plan for decades.
“Phase 1 is called Growth Management Policy and Plan Framework and the goal of this phase is to review, evaluate, and if needed update the growth management policy through the lens of equity, climate action, and county capacity projections,” Falkenstein said.
Work is underway on this phase. The second phase will look at what other topics should be highlighted in the plan and a review of the existing plan. Phase 3 will see the creation of action steps for implementation.
“In Phase 3 we also intend to detail out each of our topics and determine how the topic goals should be implemented and we’ll identify metrics for each of our topics so that we can track progress moving forward,” Falkenstein said.
Phase 4 will bring the draft document together. Falkenstein said the goal is to have an updated document ready for adoption in the middle of 2024.
More details will return to the Board at their first meeting in November when the Board will have a work session on how community engagement for the plan review will take place.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel supported the approach.
“I do like the targeted look at specifics rather than try to do a broad Comprehensive Plan all at one time,” McKeel said. “I think this is absolutely the way to go.”
Supervisor Liz Palmer sought more specifics for what specific changes needed to be reviewed in the zoning ordinance as part of this process. Falkenstein had this answer.
“Our zoning map does not match our comp plan land use map in a lot of places and that’s an additional step we could take to prioritize,” Falkenstein said.
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