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June 06, 2007

Board of Supervisors sets aside money for ASAP study

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20070606rookerAt their meeting on June 6, 2007, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to set aside $25,000 from its reserve fund for a study into the "ecological carrying capacity" of Albemarle County's environmental resources. The study will be facilitated by the group Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population. In his motion, Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) specified that the money should not be appropriated until ASAP presents a more detailed scope of work to the Board. Funding was also contingent on the hiring of a consultant approved by the County.

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ASAP also plans to approach the City of Charlottesville and private donors for to help fund the study, which could cost as much as $90,000. ASAP President Jack Marshall says the study will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) was the lone vote against the motion.  In his remarks, Mr. Boyd pointed out that when the FY2008 operational budget was approved last month, the Board reached consensus to discuss this issue at their June 13, 2007 meeting as part of the FY2008 capital budget.

"I have a problem appropriating this when we can't pay for police officers," said Boyd. He also suggested that community development staff do not have enough time to help with the report. He asked if the county's Natural Heritage Commission could study this issue instead. But Boyd said he was mostly concerned about setting an 'optimal population', one of ASAP's stated goals in conducting the study.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) responded that county zoning rules technically do set a maximum population, pointing to a study released in the 1990's by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission which reported a total build-out of the metropolitan area of a million people. Slutzky says that number is divorced from the idea of conservation planning, a new way of establishing land-use policies based on what environmental resources can provide.

"You don't want to just use land use to just acknowledge human activity," said Slutzky. He said the study would give county staff a new tool to help adjust population densities based on what the land, watershed, and air shed could provide. Slutzky said he also wanted to make sure the study would produce scientific results, but Boyd said he didn't see how an ASAP report could be objective. He suggested other studies by groups such as Stream Watch have already reported that there are too many people in the rural areas, leading to polluted streams. Dennis Rooker said the ASAP study would likely draw upon existing resources while conducting its report, and that staff time spent on the study would be minimal.

Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) voted to set aside the funding, but said any study would also have to incorporate surrounding counties which are also part of the watershed and because potential changes to zoning in Albemarle may push people to live in neighboring localities.

"We think we can pull together a scope of work that will be acceptable to the supervisors," said Jack Marshall after the vote. He will meet with his board of directors this weekend to begin planning, and told Charlottesville Tomorrow he hopes to have a plan to present to the Board of Supervisors by the end of the summer.

Sean Tubbs

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