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October 28, 2011

Local planners collect public input on land use and transportation

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs & Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, October 28, 2011

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission held the second of six workshops Thursday to obtain public input on its “Many Plans, One Community” initiative.

20111027-workshop
Citizens were asked to mark up posters with notes

The workshop, focusing on land use and transportation, is part of a $1 million regional planning grant awarded to the TJPDC by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Part of the project involves the coordination of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s comprehensive plan reviews.

“The main thing about [these workshops] is to give people a chance to interact with what is in the plans now and say what they like and what they don’t,” said TJPDC executive director Stephen W. Williams. “They’re generating the kind of interest and discussion we’re looking for.”

Williams said he was pleased with the public response at the workshop, which drew nearly 100 citizens to submit their views on the different entities’ current plans for transportation and land use.

“It’s not really ‘are we directing growth to support transportation or directing transportation to support growth?’ but ‘are they going hand in hand?’” said Summer Frederick, the manager of the TJPDC’s livable communities project.

Citizens were asked to use Post-It notes to comment on dozens of posters listing current planning priorities for the city, county and the University of Virginia, as well as the policy measures that have been implemented to achieve those goals.

Anne Linden, a resident of River Run in Albemarle County, attended the workshop to share her views on development along her area of Rio Road.

“It seems to me we’re putting in two more big developments where Rio Road is already built out, and there are many traffic accidents,” said Linden. “It’s just a lack of foresight and a lack of judgment.”

Increasing density in targeted areas, however, is a component of both the city and county’s current comprehensive plans.

Many attendees considered the presentation of the information to be dense and said that it was difficult for most citizens to interact with. One commenter wrote “Too Much Info to absorb!” on one of the posters.

“It’s very hard to process it,” said Emerald Young, a resident of the Eagle’s Landing apartment complex south of the city limits. “The complexity of the information for the average person is overwhelming. If there was some way to simplify it that would be good.”

Young also said she would like to see the city and county work together to improve the region’s sidewalk system.

“I have instigated a petition to get a sidewalk and bike path on our one-lane street from Sunset Avenue to Fifth Street Extended,” Young said.

Albemarle Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas said his main priority is for the city and county to work together to implement whatever comes out of the grant. He fears that the results might be ignored afterwards, making the process a waste.

“If we start a plan, let’s finish it,” said Thomas. “We could conquer the world if we could get the two entities [working] together.”

Despite comments about the difficulty of participating in the workshop, Williams said the process should be viewed in the context of its alternatives.

“We feel like people are participating more than for a typical comprehensive planning process,” said Williams.

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

The next workshop will occur on Dec. 1 at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library on Market Street and will address housing and the area’s economy.

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