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April 24, 2009

Dave Norris calls for a “Greener Charlottesville”

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20090414-Norris1 By Fania Gordon & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, April 24, 2009

Several days before the official kickoff of Earth Week, Charlottesville Mayor, Dave Norris (D), called for action to make Charlottesville greener both literally (by a “significant expansion of green space”) and figuratively (by promoting environmentally friendly features and practices).  On April 14, 2009, Norris presented his Proposal for a Greener Charlottesville at a press conference in Northeast Park.  Norris has held a series of media events related to his current re-election campaign for City Council.

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Norris’ proposal includes recommendations to:

  • Increase the City’s tree canopy from 32% to 40% or more through public and private efforts.
  • Encourage construction of green roofs by facilitating their construction through incentive programs, technical assistance and support.
  • Convert “rivers and seas of barren asphalt” into landscaped green streets and green parking lots, and install more pocket parks and community gardens.
  • Purchase and preserve green space and new park land while enhancing existing parks by planting more native species.

At their September 2008 retreat, City Council identified achieving a 40% tree canopy as one of seven major priorities for 2008-2010. Norris expressed frustration about how difficult it has been to actually realize the Council’s tree canopy objectives.  “We’ve been talking about that for at least two years, and I’m frankly a little frustrated we haven’t gotten to the point of taking action on it,” said Norris.  “We need to implement a bold plan of action,” Norris said.

Norris said City Council had not yet received an Urban Forestry Management Plan that was supposed to be completed by January 1, 2009, according to the City’s workplan priorities.  “We’ve been asking for it for many months, and we are told it is coming soon.” 

At the press conference, Norris emphasized that his proposed actions are not in opposition to urban-infill development within the City, explaining that they should be part of a larger infill strategy.  When asked about the possibility of converting the City owned surface parking lot on Water Street into a green space, Norris said he thought it would be more appropriately used for something else.
“That site presents an opportunity for very creative infill development that could include some green space,” said Norris.

Norris also touted the fact the recently adopted City budget included funds for the greening of Charlottesville.  “This is the first year, in many many years, that the city in the FY 2010 budget has included a small amount of money, $100,000 for the purchase and preservation of green space,” said Norris.  “I’d like to see us expand that amount in the years to come.”

While Norris did not specify exactly which paved areas he would like to see converted to green space he suggested ways that existing roads and parking lots could be made greener. These suggestions included increasing parking lot plantings, installing storm-water runoff mitigation features and landscaping streets.  Norris expressed regret about the fact that the City is going to give up so many acres of green space in McIntire Park for the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway. “I think it’s the wrong direction for us to proceed,” he said.

When asked if the trees to be removed for expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir would be considered in of the City’s calculation of its tree cover, Norris said they would not because they lie outside of the City limits even though the land is technically owned by the City.  However, Norris did say that he felt this question was important as those trees contribute to the overall environmental health of the area and their removal would represent the largest clear-cut on City owned property in a long time.  “We haven’t done a very good job at balancing our talk with our plan of action,” said Norris.  

While 180 acres of trees are proposed to be cleared at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir site, the environmental mitigation plan concept for the 50-year community water supply has as a key element the preservation and enhancement of streams around the Buck Mountain property in Free Union, VA, including the replanting of some 200 acres of riparian corridor.

Norris concluded the press conference saying that the key to successfully greening the City will be community engagement.  “The city can and should be a part of it, but really what it’s going to take is engaging schoolchildren, garden clubs, neighborhood associations, our development partners, the whole community to identify opportunities,” Norris said.

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