Charlottesville sets April 18 work session for work session on climate action

Nearly all functions of government in most Virginia localities can be derived from their Comprehensive Plan, which lays out broad steps to turn a community’s vision into action. 

The new Comprehensive Plan adopted by Council in November calls upon the city to create a specific plan to demonstrate how Charlottesville will meet specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The nonprofit Community Climate Collaborative wants City Council to spend more money to get a plan in place as soon as possible. Executive Director Susan Kruse posted a blog entry on March 3 saying Charlottesville has fallen behind on efforts. She read from this post at Council’s meeting this past Monday.

“This July will mark three years since Charlottesville set its sights on climate leadership,” Kruse wrote in the post. “Three years, and we have no Climate Action Plan, our GHG emissions inventory is four years out-of-date, and the window to reduce emissions to prevent catastrophic impacts is rapidly closing.” 

On Monday, Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders acknowledged that the city has not been able to move swiftly to create a plan. 

“I just want to be upfront with everyone and acknowledge we know there’s work to be done there,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said there will be a Council work session on April 18 and staff in the city’s sustainability division will present what they have been working on since Council adopted reduction targets on July 1, 2019. That stated the city would work towards a “community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 target from its 2011 inventory year” as well as to be carbon neutral by 2050. (read the minutes)

A section of the July 1, 2019 resolution 

At the time, then-city manager Tarron Richardson was less than two months on the job and two other people have held that position since. Sanders has only worked for the city since last July. 

“There have been significant impacts from the COVID pandemic and organizational staffing changes that have prevented them from moving as originally planned,” Sanders said. “Our goal would be to try to get back on track so this would be a moment to reboot that effort.”

Sanders said groups such as the Community Climate Collaborative will be involved in the work. 

After Sanders gave Council an update, Kruse read from her prepared letter during the city’s Community Matters portion. She acknowledged the April 18 work session, but pushed for a deadline to complete a Climate Action Plan. .

“If current resources are not enough to complete the plan, it’s time for Council to bring in some outside help,” Kruse said. 

Last November, City Council adopted an update of the Comprehensive Plan, a document for which state code requires periodic revision. Review of this plan took nearly five years and its completion required the city to pay a consultant over a million dollars.

One of the guiding principles in the plan is under the heading Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. (look for it on page 22)

“The City government will reduce its carbon footprint and other environmental impacts,” reads that guiding principle. “The Charlottesville community will be empowered and encouraged to reduce their environmental footprint and benefit from energy-efficiency efforts.”

The various chapters of the Comprehensive Plan are embedded with many directives, strategies, and goals. 

For instance, Strategy 3.4 of the land use chapter (page 38) is to “encourage sustainable, energy efficient building designs and low impact development as complementary goals to historic preservation, including through support for adaptation, reuse, and repurposing of the built environment.” 

  • Goal 4 of the housing chapter has four strategies with steps toward addressing energy efficiency in new and existing housing (page 50)
  • The transportation chapter (page 55) seeks to expand alternatives to driving and encourages the “adoption and support of new and emerging transportation technologies will further expand travel options throughout the city and will contribute toward the City’s climate goals and improving public health by reducing vehicle-related emissions.” 
  • There is an entire chapter with the title Environment, Climate, and Food Equity (page 65) that repeats the July 1, 2019 greenhouse gas emissions goal of which the first goal is dedicated to reaching the reduction targets, with eight strategies. The first listed is to create a Climate Action Plan.
  • The environmental chapter also includes directives to prevent further degradation of the tree canopy, continue work in the city’s Water Resources Protection Program, and to encourage use of sustainable materials. 
  • The Community Facilities and Services chapter (page 79) covers community infrastructure and strategy 2.4 calls for the city “to employ innovative technology and green building practices for all eligible capital construction and renovation projects” and strategy 4.10 to “participate in and complete Climate Hazard Risk Assessment activities, to follow finalization of the Climate Action Plan.” 
  • Goal 1 of the Community Engagement and Collaboration is to “empower community members by providing and actively sharing the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.” 

Albemarle County adopted a Climate Action Plan in October 2020 that has much more specific details about how to get there. 

That work session will be held on April 18. Make sure you’re reading the Week Ahead newsletter each Sunday to know what’s coming up and follow along with stories on climate action at the Information Charlottesville archive. 

Goals and strategies specifically related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the adopted Comprehensive Plan (read the document)

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 11, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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