Albemarle County continues AC44 process with first of several community workshops
Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan is being reviewed in four phases under the name AC44. The public process has officially been underway since last November, when the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution of intent to make amendments to a document last updated on June 10, 2015.
“Engagement for the Comprehensive Plan update will apply the new [county value of Community], through an equitable engagement process designed to represent a diversity of voices and to reach community members whose perspectives have not historically been well-represented in County processes,” reads one paragraph in the resolution.
Where do we stand nearly ten months later?
Here’s what the county has been up to:
- In March, we learned that over a hundred people applied to be on a Working Group that has been meeting regularly this year. The first phase goes by the name “Plan for Growth.”
- In April, the county released two out of three reports intended to give people a background on the growth management policy that has been in place since the late 1970’s. One is an overview of the the entire process and the second is a history of the county’s growth management policies and why they were put in place.
- In May, the county reported the results of a first questionnaire in which about 125 people participated, though not all filled out all questions. This includes many long-form responses from people and the opinions run the gamut. It’s useful to read all of the different perspectives.
- In June, a second questionnaire was posted at around the same time a Land Use Buildout Analysis was conducted. This analysis is the third of the three reports produced as part of the first phase. I reported on the presentation to the Planning Commission in May.
“The Land Use Buildout Analysis is an estimate of the maximum number of homes and square feet of non-residential uses such as office, commercial/retail, and industrial, that could be built within the County’s Development Areas,” reads the StoryMap for this.
- In July, we learned that there were 474 responses to the second questionnaire and the Planning Commission was presented with seven potential themes to update the county’s growth management policy. These are also known as Growth Management Options and are well worth reviewing for anyone who wants to know the nomenclature and to demystify the jargon.
Now we’re caught up to the end of the summer. The public engagement continues tomorrow night with the first of several community workshops.
“We want to hear your ‘big ideas’ about how we can guide future development, natural resource protection, transportation systems, and other related topics,” reads the meeting page for the 6 p.m. event.
What big ideas might be found in the response to the second questionnaire? There’s a lot of responses in the feedback summary, but the following are the first chance respondents had to write out their views in response to Growth Management Option #1:
“Explore opportunities to provide more density and more infill development within the existing Development Areas, while retaining and enhancing green infrastructure”
Here are some of what popped out at me during my review in chronological order beginning with how they appear on page 30. There is no information in this report that identifies respondents. (read the Growth Management Options Feedback report)
“With the lack of restrictions on vineyards/cideries and their increasing wedding business, it would appear you are preserving space for the very affluent to make money off greenspace, and asking everyone else to live in very dense communities.”
“Need to ensure amenities are developed along with density. Lots of density currently going in along 5th and Avon streets without any community amenities. Need walkable parks, retail, safe bike and pedestrian trails, schools!”
“What is this ‘projected growth’ nonsense? Have you not heard the phrase ‘if you build it they will come?’ STOP APPROVING MORE GROWTH IN THE COUNTY. It’s wildly unsustainable, ugly, bad for climate change and water supply, and lacks infrastructure.”
“Infill sites are normally more expensive to develop which in turn raises cost on final product which eliminates the affordability aspect. Not all sites currently in the growth area are feasible to be developed which won’t allow us to reach the projection.”
“We keep building but we don’t provide roads on the 29 corridor. We need to take shopping centers that are vacant and redevelop them into apartments/condos/townhomes/greenspace!”
“You are not communicating well to your audience. This option is not clear. It appears you are ready to sacrifice the designated development areas in terms of quality of life, to protect the other 95% of ‘rural’ area”
“It would help me be in support of this option if there was some indication that there would be a directive to allow more by right uses in some of the rural areas. Rural citizens should not have to drive 35 miles for basic services.”
“Build a comprehensive high school in the north. High school centers are a waste of money and do not help with overcrowding.”
“Walking infrastructure, tree canopy, multi-use paths, and using low polluting transport are key to having this option work. I’m not sure how this project could meet equity goals if it doesn’t improve quality of life for those living in development areas.”
“There is vocabulary used that I don’t understand, namely because this isn’t a topic I have talked about/interacted with before—break it down into common language that people can connect with and have a conversation.”
That last one is a Big Idea I can get behind and do my best to try to explain all of these processes. I hope to attend this Big Ideas workshop tonight and share whatever I can learn. I want to focus more on this discussion over the years, which also includes a concurrent update of the zoning code.
There aren’t very many articles about this topic, but I hope to continue updating you as best I can on land use policies in Albemarle. The county’s U.S. Census count for 2020 is 112,395 and the latest Weldon Cooper projections model a 2050 population of 155,102.
If you’re interested in getting involved for the first time, for real, attending this in-person meeting would be a good way to help build whatever you want to see. As you see in the responses I’ve highlighted above, there’s a lot of disagreement. But that’s always going to be the case in a complex community such as the one in which we all live.