January 10, 2006
Albemarle County Planning Commission
C/o Judith Wiegand
RE: Places 29
We commend your efforts to establish an overall plan for The Route 29 corridor. We support the Vision Statement you are considering tonight. We undoubtedly have some differences about individual items, but overall we applaud this effort. We are particularly interested in seeing some actions come out of this effort.
Attached is our policy statement concerning Places 29. Please include it in the public comment you receive.
Thank you for your service to the community,
Michael B. McGowan
NORTH CHARLOTTESVILLE BUSINESS COUNCIL
P O Box 234 • Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
US Route 29 is a key national highway. It is also the “Main Street” of Albemarle County and Greater Charlottesville’s most dense, mixed-use district. This district is “Central Albemarle.” The North Charlottesville Business Council of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce (“NCBC”) supports those improvements to Central Albemarle, US 29 and the surrounding travel network that enhance the district’s operation as a lively, community–oriented, mixed-use area with a central boulevard. We support projects that will make Central Albemarle someplace special and that will facilitate establishing a vibrant unified community in Albemarle County’s center.
In this region, we are proud of our Jeffersonian heritage. As a first step in contributing to local enjoyment of our Main Street, NCBC in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Federal Government and Albemarle County recently added rows of trees to the US 29 median. Over the last decade, we as a community have added traffic lanes and some sidewalks. Unfortunately we have not done anything to allow pedestrians or bicyclist to move east and west across our Main Street. In fact it is increasingly difficult for cars to travel across US 29. As our Main Street continues to evolve into a major high volume highway, it cuts Central Albemarle into two pieces and diminishes its civility. It is time to set higher standards for the public’s use and enjoyment of Central Albemarle; standards that are consistent with our heritage.
We applaud the “Places 29” planning effort that Albemarle’s County government has initiated. We make the following suggestions to improve Central Albemarle.
· Install textured crosswalks and similar pavement treatments. Explore pedestrian bridges in high-density areas.
· Provide additional sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping on connector roads, like Berkmar Drive, Rio and Hydraulic Roads.
· Install and actively maintain landscaping in the center median that is consistent with our position as America’s #1 Community.
· Install and maintain consistent, permanent and attractive signs and sign equipment.
· Remove or relocate overhead power and communication lines.
A Unified Community: Improving connections for the safe, efficient movement of people.
· Provide additional alternative routes for all forms of local travel to improve circulation within Central Albemarle. The proposed Hillsdale Drive extension and Meadowcreek Parkway are good examples of alternative automobile/bike/pedestrian routes.
· Add new signaled intersections on Seminole Trail to provide alternates to increasingly congested existing intersections and facilitate east-west travel. With proper signal timing, this can be done without disrupting north-south traffic.
· Ensure all lights are timed to facilitate balanced traffic flow. This can be done in both Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville.
· Provide safe routes for pedestrian and bicycle travel. Provide a system of bike and walking paths throughout Central Albemarle.
· Prohibit further widening of US 29 between Hydraulic and Polo Grounds Road. This will only increase problems at intersections and make connecting across the district more difficult.
· Modify existing planning and zoning to promote an urban, mixed-use character within the area. Changes could include decreasing building setbacks, on-street parking, and more flexible height restrictions in appropriate areas.
· Identify places and create public parks to facilitate increased activity within the district.
· Establish general budget funding of improvements that benefit the community.
· Establish incentives and eliminate obstacles to promote private development consistent with district goals.
· Utilize planners to help establish long term goals for Central Albemarle. Ask for plans that demonstrate the full potential of a vibrant Central Albemarle when an alternative route for regional/interstate traffic is constructed.
· The NCBC continues to question the efficacy and cost of grade-separated intersections. Those suggested in the past did more to create further divisions than to facilitate local use and enjoyment.
· While we recognize the local government nature of this effort, as citizens of the Commonwealth, we recognize and continue to advocate for broader transportation solutions to the congested and growing interregional and national traffic needs along a key national highway. The NCBC continues to believe that a US 29 western bypass can and should provide some relief to this unacceptable condition. It will also allow for greater flexibility in realizing the potential for local use and enjoyment of our Main Street.
– Approved by the NCBC Board of Directors,
Michael McGowan, Chairman
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