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October 01, 2011

Livable communities project gets public input

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DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, October 1, 2011

 

20110929-livability
Attendees were asked to make suggestions to how the city and county comprehensive goals should be phrased

The Many Plans, One Community Livability Project kicked off its community input series this week with the first of six workshops seeking public suggestions for the update of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s comprehensive plans.

“We take all of these comments and they’ll all be transcribed [into a] usable format for elected and appointed officials,” said Summer Frederick, manager of the livable communities project for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The Thursday night workshop, which focused on environmental topics, was one component of a nearly $1 million regional planning grant awarded to the TJPDC by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grant kicked off a project allowing the TJPDC to help coordinate updates of the two communities’ comprehensive plans, as well as the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long-Range Transportation Plan. A livability implementation plan will also be created for the Charlottesville area.

Charlottesville planner Missy Creasy said that the city hopes to receive new ideas and hear whether there are any holes in its current Comprehensive Plan, adding that the process could identify areas of common interest where the city and county can cooperate, as well as areas of disagreement.

Frederick said that while collaboration is a large part of the livable communities project, all the end decisions will be made independently by the city, county, the University of Virginia and the MPO.

“It’s ultimately up to [each] elected board because they are separate and unique localities,” she said.

Thursday’s workshop asked attendees to submit comments on current city, county and UVa goals and action items in environmental categories ranging from sustainable development to trails and greenways. Attitudes amongst members of the public ranged from excitement at the opportunity to offer input to cynicism that the goals would truly be followed.

“Their plans look very good, but when it comes to spending money, it often goes to the wrong places,” said John Cruickshank of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. “I’d like a change in the whole movement of our community.”

Frederick said that the HUD grant has led to new levels of coordination between local jurisdictions, highlighting combined maps of the city and county for trails, parks and water resources, which she said had never been done before.

“That’s a really important part of this grant — to be able to have all the information in one place,” Frederick said.

Woolen Mills resident Bill Emory said the unified map allowed him new insights into how best to add to the community’s shared assets, pointing out the Rivanna River south of Pen and Darden Towe parks.

“My main thing is this incredible resource. [Here’s] this fabulous spot for a linear park [along the river],” Emory said.

Scottsville resident Edward Strickler was happy to add comments representing the concerns of southern Albemarle, but worried about how representative the process could be of lower-income residents, who he said might not be able to make it to planning workshops.

“A lot of the people that aren’t here are among the most vulnerable,” Strickler said.

Comments are also being accepted online at the project’s website, 1-community.org.

The next workshop, focusing on land use and transportation, will take place Oct. 27.

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