The Charlottesville Planning Commission is putting the finishing touches on a document that seeks to get more city residents involved in upcoming conversations about how the city is preparing for growth.
“It seems like it is our responsibility to bring a diverse group of people to the table,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller, adding that it is not the job of the Planning Commission to shape that input. “If we keep everyone in a silo, that’s going to lead to conflict.”
City Council has directed the commission to come up with a community engagement proposal for the update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a document required by state law to help guide development in the city’s future.
“The values of the city, as expressed in the City Council vision, strategic plan and the Comprehensive Plan will guide the Planning Commission and City Council throughout the five-year review process, and in making their ultimate decisions,” reads the draft strategy discussed by the commission at a Tuesday work session.
City Council is expected to review the strategy at a meeting March 20.
“Our deadline is looming,” said Commission Chairman Kurt Keesecker.
The plan was last adopted in August 2013 and is due for a revision by June 2018, according to a directive from City Council.
Since that time, the city has created the Strategic Investment Area, updated the bike and pedestrian master plan and adopted a complete streets policy known as Streets That Work.
The city is now seeking a consultant to create a form-based code for parts of the so-called SIA area with a potential budget of up to $228,000. The city also is working toward new streetscapes for West Main Street, Fontaine Avenue, Emmet Street and East High Street.
City staff members also are auditing the zoning code in a process now known as the Regulatory Framework Review. Among other things, that will include revisions to the city’s mixed-use districts to address concerns of incompatible zoning areas.
The emphasis for the next Comprehensive Plan update will be made on “managing, guiding and directing anticipated growth,” according to the draft engagement plan.
During that time, the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service is expected to make new population projections for Virginia localities for the first time since 2012. Their provisional findings project a city population of 52,839 in 2020, 54,563 in 2030 and 55,501 in 2040. Weldon Cooper is currently finalizing those projections.
Earlier this year, Weldon Cooper estimated that the city’s population was 49,071 on July 1, 2016. That would be a 12.9 percent increase since the U.S. Census reported 43,435 in April 2010.
The guiding principles for the Comprehensive Plan review include an assumption that the population of Charlottesville will continue to grow, that planning concepts should be made understandable and that place-making is desired.
“The places where we live, work and play are important in defining our community and they will be central to the discussion,” reads one of the principles in the document. “Comprehensive Plan updates, including implementation strategies and measures, must be designed to promote and/or preserve the places important to the community.”
The Planning Commission will hold four kick-off meetings across the city to launch the review process.
Commissioners added a new guiding principle Tuesday that says they want to begin a conversation about growth that can involve everyone.
“The goal of the meetings should be to get people together who don’t often get into the conversation together,” Keesecker said. “The outcome is that there would be working groups that would grow out of those many meetings.”
The four commissioners present debated the finer points of how those meetings should work. Commissioners Corey Clayborne, Taneia Dowell and Lisa Green were not present.
“Maybe it’s about finding common ground for the city’s future,” said Brian Hogg, UVa’s non-voting liaison to the commission.
The Planning Commission also wants to present the public with several pieces of information, including a list of developments since the last Comprehensive Plan update in 2013 and three-dimensional examples of how neighborhoods might look like under various development scenarios.
The discussion comes close to the fifth-year anniversary of the PLACE Design Task Force, which was created in March 2012 to inform City Council on urban design issues. That group developed its own guidelines for community engagement in 2013.