• Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

    The articles on this blog were published during 2005-2012. All of this content has been moved to our new website at www.cvilletomorrow.org
    © 2005-12 Charlottesville Tomorrow
    Our photos have some rights reserved.


June 21, 2012

Your community, your voice - Fill out the TJPDC questionnaire


20120621-TJPDC-surveyAs Charlottesville Tomorrow reported in a story earlier this month, a survey is being circulated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission seeking feedback on community priorities. 

The survey is available at http://1-community.org (look for blue button top right) and responses are due by July 2.

It is now available as an interactive Adobe PDF which allows online submissions.

The city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are working in concert with TJPDC and the University of Virginia to coordinate updates of their comprehensive plans.  The TJPDC received a three-year $1 million federal grant in 2010 grant for what is known as the Livable Communities Planning Project.

March 24, 2012

Planning commission endorses continued protection of most rural interstate interchanges

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale &
By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, March 24, 2012

After evaluating the inventory and location of land zoned for light industry, the Albemarle Planning Commission concluded Tuesday that the county’s rural interchanges on Interstate 64 should not be targeted for further development.



County staff had presented possibilities for expanding industrial land outside of the development area to encourage target industries to locate in Albemarle. Citizens provided feedback both for and against the zoning changes, with particular emphasis on the highway interchanges.

County resident John Chavan encouraged the commission to consider the business opportunities south of the Shadwell exit on I-64, just past the growth area boundary.

“My neighbor has a 250-room hotel and my property comes right in front of [U.S.] 250 and [the Virginia Department of Transportation] says there are between 30,000 and 50,000 cars [passing every] day,” Chavan said. “To me, that is not rural.”

A rezoning request from Chavan was unanimously denied by the Albemarle supervisors in 2008. When the Pantops Master Plan was developed, Albemarle officials intentionally left the land in the rural area.

“Taking into consideration the economic downturn … our county faces, I would think that it would be prudent to put something like a mini-warehouse where the traffic is,” Chavan added. “There is a place for a tree, also there is a place for a business, especially at our interchanges.”

Morgan Butler, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said he did not see the need for increasing industrial-zoned land outside of the development area.

“As for strategies that involve letting industrial development creep into the rural areas, we just don’t see a compelling reason to consider them in this Comprehensive Plan update,” Butler said.

Butler added that current inventory of land for industrial uses meets the community’s projected needs.

“From a prudent planning standpoint, this ‘Goldilocks area’ is not a bad place to be,” said Butler. “There is no pressing need to go looking outside the development areas to designate more land for industrial use right now.”

Staff stated that the need for more industrial land was based on the size and quality of the parcels currently available to support desired businesses. Industries such as information technology, defense, security, bioscience and medical devices will need high-speed Internet, are large power users and have large water needs.

Staff said there are not many industrially zoned parcels offering these services. In addition, information technology, defense and security industries could need up to 25 acres for their facilities and there are only two parcels of that size available in Albemarle’s undeveloped industrially designated parcels.

The Crozet interchange on I-64 was a hot topic of discussion for both commissioners and the public.

Continue reading "Planning commission endorses continued protection of most rural interstate interchanges" »

March 12, 2012

Survey highlights value of rural areas, public participation

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 12, 2012

When it comes to our quality of life, another survey has found that nearly all local residents view the area’s rural countryside as an important contributor.



The connection to the rural countryside appears especially strong among residents of Nelson County. In Albemarle County, more than six in 10 residents said they opposed having new businesses locate in the rural area.

“When it comes down to valuing the rural areas, that’s always ranked very highly by people in the county,” said Albemarle spokeswoman Lee Catlin. “That’s an enduring value.”

When, where and how the community grows are frequent topics before local government. The survey, undertaken by the University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research and commissioned by Charlottesville Tomorrow, also gauged how well local officials listen to and engage their residents.

“The issues of growth, development and transportation have been very hotly discussed in the public arena over the past several years,” said Thomas M. Guterbock, the center’s director. “The exciting thing about a survey like this is it gives voice to the many people who normally aren’t talking to officials or the media.”

The survey found that 96.5 percent of area residents believe the rural countryside is important to their quality of life. Among Albemarle County residents, 65.6 percent said they oppose having new businesses on land currently zoned as rural.

“Because Albemarle is so large, the survey included more than enough Albemarle residents to accurately gauge their opinion on this issue,” Guterbock said. “Over 97 percent of people we asked about this issue had an opinion. That is an unusually high number for a question about a local zoning issue.”

In January, 1,098 area residents were surveyed by telephone on a number of local issues as part of the inaugural Jefferson Area Community Survey, what is planned to be a bi-annual omnibus survey of public opinion.

Participants included residents of six area localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District: the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. The results have an accuracy of plus or minus 3.75 percentage points.

In Albemarle, the lines differentiating urban and rural areas have remained largely unchanged since the county was comprehensively rezoned in 1980. About 5 percent of the county is designated for residential and commercial growth.

Over the past several years, the county has received numerous requests to change the boundaries to add more land to the growth area. While most of those proposals have been turned down, the ongoing update of the Comprehensive Plan is generating new discussion about where the lines should be drawn.

Continue reading "Survey highlights value of rural areas, public participation" »

March 11, 2012

Survey finds public wants a bypass, open to alternatives to the Western Bypass

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nearly seven in 10 local residents say a need exists for a bypass of U.S. 29 around Charlottesville, according to a new survey. But almost as many said they would be in favor of exploring alternatives to the approved Western Bypass if they cost less and were effective in relieving congestion.


The survey, commissioned in part by Charlottesville Tomorrow, was undertaken by the University of Virginia’s Center for Survey Research, which co-sponsored a question on the need for a bypass.

“We have not really heard from the wider citizenry about this issue,” said Thomas M. Guterbock, the center’s director. “People on both sides have been very vocal, but it has not been clear whether this is something people want or they don’t.”

When asked if a bypass around Charlottesville is needed, 69.3 percent of respondents answered yes and 19.5 percent answered no. Some respondents said they didn’t know (10.8 percent) or refused to answer (0.4 percent).

Greene County residents were more likely to favor a bypass than those in Charlottesville or Albemarle County.

“I am not surprised, and we have heard that in the public hearings where even people who were opposed to the Western Bypass said we needed something,” said Jeff Werner, with the Piedmont Environmental Council, a bypass opponent. “That’s sort of an initial response that you expect a lot of people to make.”

Supporters of the approved Western Bypass also said responses to this question mirrored past surveys.

Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a group that conducted a survey in 2004 that found 67 percent of people in the region favored a bypass.

“This is greater than the results [of our survey], and traffic volumes have not decreased since 2004,” Williamson said. “Considering the level of attention the bypass has received over the past 12 months, an almost 70-percent approval rating for that road is significant.”

In January, 1,098 area residents were surveyed by telephone on a number of local issues, including three specific questions about transportation and the bypass.

Participants included residents of six area localities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District: the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. The results have an accuracy of plus or minus 3.75 percentage points

Continue reading "Survey finds public wants a bypass, open to alternatives to the Western Bypass" »

April 19, 2011

County switching from phone to paper surveys


By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Albemarle County has changed the process by which it surveys its citizens on the quality of local government services.

In previous years, the county has hired the University of Virginia’s Center for Research to conduct phone surveys with residents to ask questions specifically tailored to Albemarle. In 2008, the center conducted phone interviews with 767 residents at a cost of $43,000.

“The UVa surveys have been very useful and accurate over the past 10 or so years, but we needed to revisit our approach given budgetary constraints,” said Lee Catlin, county spokeswoman.

This year, Albemarle will instead spend $15,000 to participate in the National Citizen Survey, a paper questionnaire developed by the International City/County Management Association. The survey is used by more than 250 localities across the country, including Blacksburg and Lynchburg.

This week, the county will mail 1,200 of the forms to residents chosen at random.

“The survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions,” said County Executive Tom Foley in a news release. “We hope that those citizens who receive surveys in the mail will take the time to share their candid feedback with us.”

Catlin said the results will be different from previous years, but will still be useful in helping to guide county leadership.

“Because of the standard template used in this new survey instrument, we have not been able to edit questions to reflect specific Albemarle County issues, so the results will be less deep and specialized,” Catlin said.

However, Catlin said there were benefits to participating in the same survey used by other communities.

“The standardization of questions will allow us to benchmark very precisely with other communities in Virginia and across the country,” she said.

The results will be compiled and made available to county staff in the weeks leading up to the Board of Supervisors’ strategic retreat in June.

March 24, 2011

Commuting data unveiled for Albemarle, Charlottesville

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 24, 2011

A majority of Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents drive by themselves to work, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The American Community Survey, conducted from 2005 to 2009, shows that 59 percent of Charlottesville residents drive by themselves to work, as well as 77 percent of Albemarle workers.

The city has a goal in its comprehensive plan to reduce single occupancy to 50 percent of all vehicle trips by 2015. The county’s plan does not have a specific target, but contains many references to using transit and car-pooling to achieve reductions.

“It should be a priority for everyone to start working on those numbers to the best of our ability,” said County Supervisor Duane Snow. “I think that with the price of gasoline, it becomes even more important.”

The data, which was shown to members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization Wednesday, also breaks down how many people use alternative forms of transportation.

Ten percent of Charlottesville residents regularly car-pool, 7 percent take public transportation, 2 percent ride a bike and 15 percent walk. Another 5 percent work from home and 1 percent use “other means.”

In Albemarle, 11 percent car-pooled, 2 percent took the bus and 2 percent walk. The survey indicated that a statistically insignificant number of Albemarle residents bike to their place of employment work and 7 percent telecommute or work from home.

Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

“I think people make their choices about how they get to work based on cost and what’s convenient to them,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “These statistics are really a reflection of what works well for people from a cost point of view and what’s convenient for them.”

Williams said local governments have to work together to provide adequate alternatives in order to meet their goals. 

“People aren’t going to ride their bike to work if they don’t feel safe on the road,” Williams said.

“They’re not going to walk if they don’t feel safe. They’re not going to ride transit if the bus doesn’t go where they need to go.”

Bill Watterson, director of Charlottesville Area Transit, said he felt his service would play a role in helping the city further meet its goal.

“We want to see the number of people using transit grow, and I’m confident that number is growing because our ridership is growing,” Watterson said. He added that CAT is projected to increase its ridership by more than 4 percent in the current fiscal year.

Heather Higgins of the advocacy group Bike Charlottesville said there are a lot of ways to increase the number of people who cycle to work.

“We can have more bike corridors that are clearly marked with either bike lanes or ‘sharrows,’” Higgins said.  The latter term describes the use of shared-lane street markings to create bicycle paths on existing roads.

“We can have better connections between the city and the county so folks who don’t live in the city can actually get to [work in] the city more easily and more safely,” Higgins added.

One project on the MPO’s long-range transportation plan is a bike trail to connect the Hollymead area with downtown Charlottesville. The Northtown Commuter Trail would rely on a patchwork of other projects being completed, including the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Source: TJPDC (Click to enlarge)

In other business, the MPO policy board endorsed a route change for Bike Route 76, a national cycling corridor route that passes through Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

The route, also known as the Trans America Bike Trail, was created in the mid-seventies to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial.

“Route 76 was drawn from Williamsburg to Oregon to follow the original path of Lewis and Clark,” said city trail planner Chris Gensic.

Visiting cyclists recently complained that signage was missing in downtown Charlottesville. Gensic said that gave the city the opportunity to update the route.
The route currently crosses the Belmont Bridge and follows High Street to Ridge-McIntire before connecting to Water Street. Now the route will turn at Garrett Street before connecting to Water Street.

“People figured out it would be better to turn on Garrett and bring bicyclists to the downtown mall,” Gensic said. The route is laid out the way it currently is because Water Street was a one-way street when the route was created.

February 10, 2009

County satisfaction survey shows support for increased transportation spending

Source: Albemarle County / Weldon-Cooper Center

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has been briefed on the results of the County’s biennial citizen satisfaction survey. The survey was conducted from mid-August to mid-September 2008 by the Weldon-Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. There were 768 completed interviews yielding a margin of error of +/-3 points. Supervisors heard the results at their meeting on February 4, 2009. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090204-BOS-Survey

Lori Allshouse, the County’s Manager of Strategic Planning and Performance, said the goals of the survey were to establish citizens’ opinions on the County’s quality of life, growth management strategies, and satisfaction with County services. This year, questions were added that specifically addressed how the County should allocate its resources.

Some highlights:

  • 72.8% rated the County’s ‘quality of life’ as being 8 or better (on scale of 1 to 10)
  • 92.8% said they were satisfied with County programs and services
  • 26.6% of respondents said they had ridden a bus in the last 12 months.
  • 70.3% of respondents supported using County tax dollars to fund road programs
  • 58.2% said they would support a tax increase to fund transportation
  • 66.9% said they wanted taxes and services to remain the same
  • 52.2% were satisfied with the County’s efforts to provide recycling services
  • 67.3% would favor an increase in recycling services
  • 56.5% were satisfied with the County’s efforts to develop affordable housing
  • 45.9% would support an increase in property taxes to increase funding for affordable housing
  • 60.8% were satisfied with the County’s efforts to manage growth

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said he was concerned that a question was asked about tax assessments. When asked to rate satisfaction with whether the County “[provides] fair property tax assessments”, 58.4% answered yes. Allshouse said that “dropped significantly” from 2006, when 70.2% responded with a positive answer. Boyd said the Board had little input into that issue. Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said he agreed with Boyd’s concern.  

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) said she thought that the question had more to do with respondents’ philosophy on taxes. Allshouse said the result could be interpreted by the Board that there is room to improve public education regarding property assessments. 

Thomas Guterbock, the Director of the Weldon-Cooper Center for Survey Research, said the satisfaction percentage increased to 67% with the more specific wording of “How satisfied are you that the County “ensures property tax is based on a fair tax assessment of the property value.” He said that suggested the original question solicited responses that were more about taxation in general.

Thomas Guterbock (left) and Lori Allshouse (right) brief Supervisors on the survey results

Allshouse said the County experimented with alternate wordings on the section that dealt with allocation of resources. All respondents were given a list of service areas provided by the County. Half were asked how important it was to devote “resources” to each area, the same wording as in previous years.

The other half, however, were specifically asked if they would support “spending tax dollars” on each item.

“We found that it did make a difference,” Allshouse said. Rooker said that he was not surprised that results generally went down when the phrase “tax dollars” was used.

The survey also found that 70.3% of respondents said they “strongly favor” or “somewhat favor” the use of tax money to support “road construction”. Those who responded yes were asked a follow-up question if they would support a tax increase to fund “transportation”, resulting in 58.2% responding “yes” or “yes-depends.”

If the County decides to spend more of its own money on transportation, the Supervisors will either have to reduce spending elsewhere, increase property taxes, or create a transportation service district for areas that would be served by new transit lines or roads. A House of Delegates subcommittee killed a bill (HB2161) on January 28, 2009 that would have allowed County voters to decide for themselves if they wanted to raise the sales tax up to 1 cent to pay for transportation projects. They did so at a time when the Commonwealth Transportation Board is considering reducing Albemarle County’s state funding for secondary roads from $15.5 million to $11.7 million over the next six years.

Sean Tubbs

October 10, 2008

South Fork Reservoir Stewardship Task Force seeking public input


Members of the public who want to have their say on the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir will have several chances to make their views known in coming weeks. First, a questionnaire has been posted on the Albemarle County website that seeks to find out how people use the reservoir and whether that usage has been affected over the last “5 to 7 years.” There are no questions that directly deal with dredging, but citizens who fill out the survey can leave comments on their “expectations or desires for the future” of the reservoir. The survey is not intended to serve as a scientific study, and the form states:

“The results of the questionnaire can not be used to draw any specific conclusions or assumptions about the general community's preferences, but will be helpful in providing the ideas and perspectives of those who chose to participate.”

Second, there will be two opportunities to make public comment before the end of the month. The Task Force has agreed to let attendees speak for the first 30 minutes of the group’s meeting on October 13, 2008 in Room 241 at the County Office Building. Also, the task force’s entire meeting on October 27, 2008 will be dedicated to public comment, and will be held in Lane Auditorium.  The Task Force is expected to make their recommendations on the future of the reservoir by the end of the year.

Sean Tubbs

June 25, 2008

A visual look at the issues of interest to our subscribers

Last year Charlottesville Tomorrow began tracking information about the issues our subscribers would like to see us cover in our reporting.  You can edit or add your suggestion in your membership profile.

As the response postcards came in from residents who received our 2007 Voter Guide, I was impressed by the volume of interest in transportation matters, specifically public transportation, bikes, and rail.  I made a note to myself that I needed to find a way to mine this data and share the results.

Tag clouds” or “word clouds” are one interesting way to visually analyze text and I was alerted last week to a website called Wordle that is devoted to this task.  The basic concept is that words that appear more frequently in a document are given more prominence in a computer generated image of the words in that text.

So I took all the text that had been submitted by our subscribers and created the following word cloud. Given that the Virginia General Assembly is meeting this week in their special session on transportation, this cloud’s results seemed particularly timely.


[Note: You can click the cloud to visit its home on Wordle. Some of the text submitted by these 186 subscribers was standardized for clarity (eg. 'rt 29' became 'route29', 'bike' became 'bicycle')]

Providing in-depth coverage of transportation matters in our community has been a priority since Charlottesville Tomorrow launched in 2005.  This tag cloud, while not a scientific survey, certainly reinforces the importance of this issue in our work.  It was also a major topic that surfaced in last year's focus groups that supported our Survey 2007 research.

Here is a word cloud for Charlottesville Tomorrow’s mission statement:


Brian Wheeler

April 29, 2008

Planners want your feedback in creating regional transportation vision

2025_cover The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) wants your help in updating the region’s long-range transportation plan.  The United Jefferson Area Mobility 2025 Plan, or UNJAM 2025, was adopted in 2004 and is used by area and state government agencies to help plan out future roads by taking land use and development into consideration.

The process to create UnJAM 2035 officially kicks off on May 10 with a regional workshop to be held at Monticello High School. Before then, area residents are encouraged to complete a survey about their own transportation patterns.  Participants are asked how they get to work or school, how far do they travel, and how frequently they use public transportation. There are also opportunities to make suggestions, and add comments about the area’s road, train and trail infrastructure.

“Both the feedback we get from the survey and the workshop will help us in drafting the parts of the plan where we talk about regional priorities,” said Ann Whitham, a TJPDC planner who works on transportation. She said the survey process gives the region the opportunity to find out if conditions have changed in the past five years. For instance, the price of gas is significantly higher than it was in 2004. You can review the last plan here.

Each metropolitan area that collects federal funds is required to create and maintain a long-range transportation plan which lists important projects likely to be under construction during the planning horizon. The plan is fiscally constrained, meaning only those projects which have a possibility of funding are included on the list. UNJAM is just one measure of how the community would like to grow.

Sean Tubbs