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Planning Commission to get more time to complete work on Comprehensive Plan
Sean Tubbs | Saturday, March 03, 2018 at 6:20 p.m.

The Charlottesville Planning Commission is set to get more time to complete its state-mandated review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The City Council’s consent agenda for Monday includes an item that will extend the amount of time the commission will have to complete its work from June to October

“The commission believes it will need additional time to fully engage with the public this spring and summer before finalizing the document this fall,” reads a staff report on the council’s agenda for Monday.

Some commissioners, however, would like to finish their work before then.

“My sense is that we need to move through the process and finish up what we need to do and then if it changes at some point in the future, that’s up to council,” said Commissioner John Santoski.

State law requires each locality’s planning commission to “prepare and recommend a Comprehensive Plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction.” The plans also must be updated every five years.

The Planning Commission has spent much of the last 18 months revising the 2013 update. A work plan approved by the council in September 2016 established a goal of June 19 for the commission to complete its review.

The Charlottesville Area Development Roundtable, the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Affordable Housing Coalition have called on the City Council to extend that date.

The latter group sent a letter to councilors and City Manager Maurice Jones in early January asking for the completion date to be postponed. The group also wants a housing strategy to be developed that focuses on low-income families.

The Form Based Code Institute currently is working on a citywide housing needs assessment that will not be completed until spring.

“We are chiefly concerned that the Comprehensive Plan will be missing critical and attainable input and information if not collected and incorporated,” reads the Jan. 3 letter from the affordable housing coalition, which consists of housing nonprofits.

Acting City Attorney Lisa Robertson said at a Planning Commission work session Tuesday that it is not unusual for some localities to update their plans on a rolling basis.

“You don’t have to wait five whole years to get what you need,” Robertson said. “You can simultaneously have the housing strategy being developed and then at an appropriate point in time you could circle back and make adjustments as you need to on your land-use map or other pieces of your Comprehensive Plan to incorporate that data.”

One commissioner whose term expires in August said the group can accommodate the community’s desire to address housing issues.

“It seems to me that we can reference the housing strategy that is coming,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller. “We can make a recommendation that the Comprehensive Plan be considered for amendment when that’s complete.”

Meanwhile, work on the plan continues regardless of the ultimate completion date.

The commission will hold a work session with all of the city’s boards and commissions at the Carver Recreation Center on Wednesday. In all, more than three dozen groups have been invited to participate, ranging from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to the Charlottesville Youth Council.

“We didn’t want to give preferential treatment to any one board or commission and the way to do that was to invite all the boards and commissions,” Santoski said at Tuesday’s work session.

“We are asking them to represent and think about the concerns of their board and commission,” said Commissioner Jody Lahendro. “We’re asking them to channel their board and commission’s interest. They still have an opportunity to come back as individuals at any of the other public meetings.”

After that meeting, the draft plan will be revised and taken before the public in a series of meetings in May that have not yet been scheduled.

By this fall there will be as many as four new members of the seven-member Planning Commission.

The City Council is in the process of interviewing candidates for the vacancy left by the imminent departure of Commissioner Corey Clayborne. His family recently moved to Albemarle County and so he is no longer eligible to serve.

Two other commissioners have had their terms extended to allow them to continue to work on the plan update. Both Kurt Keesecker and John Santoski will be replaced later this year.

Several commissioners whose terms will end later this year are seeking a chance to complete the work.

“It should be the best effort of this group that’s worked very diligently for many months that hopefully it will be wrapped up to be presented in August and then it will be up to council to decide what they want to do,” Keller said. “If they want to send it back to a new group, that is their prerogative.”
 

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