Charlottesville to reopen public hearing for Comprehensive Plan

Those with criticisms of Charlottesville’s new Comprehensive Plan will have another opportunity to go on the record about the long range planning document, as will those who are in support. But a joint public hearing scheduled for December 13, 2022 is largely a formality related to a legal challenge. 

“On that same day, following the public hearing, it is the intention of the City that the Planning Commission will vote on the proposed action,” reads a legal notice in the November 29, 2022 Daily Progress. “(City Council’s vote would take place at a later City Council meeting agenda, following receipt of the Commission’s recommendation.)” 

In late August, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell threw out three out of four counts of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous group of landowners seeking to overturn the plan’s adoption. However, Worrell ruled the city may not have provided enough notice that Council would take a vote at the November 15, 2022 meeting. (read the story)

In August, Worrell dismissed claims that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the Plan’s validity on the basis of insufficient consideration of transportation impacts, the role of manufactured housing, and whether the plan was too specific in nature.

The new advertisement also further explains what changes are being made between the 2013 plan and the new plan which was developed as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. All of the public hearings for the Comprehensive Plan were conducted online, but the December 13 meeting will be a hybrid meeting. 

Those with criticisms of Charlottesville’s new Comprehensive Plan will have another opportunity to go on the record about the long range planning document, as will those who are in support. But a joint public hearing scheduled for December 13, 2022 is largely a formality related to a legal challenge. 

“On that same day, following the public hearing, it is the intention of the City that the Planning Commission will vote on the proposed action,” reads a legal notice in the November 29, 2022 Daily Progress. “(City Council’s vote would take place at a later City Council meeting agenda, following receipt of the Commission’s recommendation.)” 

In late August, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell threw out three out of four counts of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous group of landowners seeking to overturn the plan’s adoption. However, Worrell ruled the city may not have provided enough notice that Council would take a vote at the November 15, 2022 meeting. (read the story)

In August, Worrell dismissed claims that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the Plan’s validity on the basis of insufficient consideration of transportation impacts, the role of manufactured housing, and whether the plan was too specific in nature.

The new advertisement also further explains what changes are being made between the 2013 plan and the new plan which was developed as part of the Cville Plans Together initiative. All of the public hearings for the Comprehensive Plan were conducted online, but the December 13 meeting will be a hybrid meeting. 

The new advertisement includes a table describing some of the differences between the 2013 plan and the one adopted (?) in November 2021. Take a look at the rest of the ad for more details. 

The new Comprehensive Plan is intended to make it easier to build housing in the city. A key component is a Future Land Use Map which grants more residential density across the entire city and has set in motion the creation of a new zoning ordinance intended to reduce the role the City Council and Planning Commission make in the land use process. 

Since adoption of the plan, Council has approved several rezonings that are consistent with the vision of a denser Charlottesville. 

I sent questions to the City Attorney on the day I wrote this story, and got these responses back:

  1. Why is the city holding another public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan?

The plaintiffs in Doe v. City (C’ville Cir. Ct. Case No. CL21-610) have challenged the validity of the Comp Plan, claiming that the previous public hearing notices were insufficient to put people on notice of what changes [particularly in relationship to residential density and affordable housing] were part of the “update”.  Since the City has amendments it wishes to present for consideration, it made sense to re-notice the public hearing for the previous updates as well.  

  1. Does this mean the plan is currently not in effect?

No.  The plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit are asking the court to declare the plan to be “void ab initio”, but the court has not made that ruling.

  1. Does this jeopardize any land use decisions made by Council since the adoption?

Staff does not believe so. Legally, the Comp Plan is a guide for development, but does not impose any mandatory requirements.

  1. The advertisement states the plan will be amended and re-enacted the same night. What amendments are in this plan for the public to review?

The Plan will be the subject of a joint public hearing on that night, and it is expected that the Planning Commission will vote to make a recommendation to City Council.  City Council would plan to vote at a subsequent meeting. The public hearing notice contains a chart that describes the amendments, and the specific amendments [amendment of Ch. 4 to include provisions referencing manufactured housing; amendment of Chapter 7 to add the City’s Climate Action Plan) can also be viewed on the City’s website.

  1. Are there opportunities for the Plan to amended once more? In other words, is this a meaningful public hearing or it the outcome already determined?

The Comp Plan is required to be reviewed at least every 5 years, to determine whether any amendment(s) are advisable. Va. Code 15.2-2230.  But that’s the minimum. Amendments may be considered and/or enacted at any time, and as frequently as City Council desires. Following any public hearing, the planning commission may approve, amend and approve, or disapprove the proposed plan; after the planning commission acts, the city council may, likewise, approve and adopt, amend and adopt, or disapprove the proposed plan. Thus, each time there is a proposed amendment and re-enactment, there is an opportunity for changes following the required public hearing.

  1. What is the next step in the underlying lawsuit?

The Plaintiffs have asked the Court to grant summary judgment in their favor (and to declare the comp plan adopted by City Council on 11-15-2021 invalid).  The City has opposed that motion (attached). The next step would be to have a hearing, and for the court to make a ruling.


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 November 30, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.