Attachment D


Comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission

10 January 2005  Places 29 Public Input


Good Evening.  My name is Neil Williamson and I work for the Free Enterprise Forum a think tank located here in Albemarle County.


Welcome to the new members of the Planning Commission.  I look forward to working with each of you and your unique perspectives on the issues facing this commission.


Places 29 is a new and unique planning challenge.  Unlike Crozet, which presented the opportunity to build a community somewhat on an island, North 29 is an important transportation corridor featuring several regional functions including regional employment centers (NGIC and UVA Research Park), Regional Shopping Centers (Hollymead Towncenter, Sam’s Club) as well as the successful Charlottesville Regional Airport.


In late September, The Free Enterprise Forum and other community groups were invited to make comment on the September 20th draft Vision statement.  We and other groups made clear our position that the vision statement for the 29 North Development Area must consider the impacts on all County residents and should reflect the Comprehensive Plan’s intent for development in this area.  While changes were made between the September 20th meeting and the October 27th revised statement, we do not believe these changes go far enough in expressing the county’s desire to see the development area developed or in recognizing US 29’s importance in the transportation infrastructure of the state.


Based on our Spring 2004 survey of the region, 55% of residents in the MSA found US Route 29 traffic to be a major issue. A full 42% of those surveyed indicated they sometimes avoid social activities or visiting businesses on Route 29 in Charlottesville due to traffic.


We raise the 2004 survey because we believe the Planning Commission has the responsibility to look beyond just the local residents to see how this neighborhood interrelates to the balance of the community.  We believe there was a significant change of tenor between the first Places 29 meetings held at the Doubletree and those held in October.  The October roundtables seemed to be much more focused on what ought to not happen versus what should occur.  Such NIMBYism is detrimental to this plans success.


In addition, several business owners have commented to me that the current draft seems disrespectful of the region’s significant business presence.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes the vision statement and guiding principals must accurately reflect the County’s desire for development and need of business growth to occur in this development area.  The inclusion of statements referencing rural areas without the clear understanding that these are adjacent rural areas creates unrealistic and deceptive public expectations. 


The Free Enterprise Forum has prepared specific wording suggestions that we believe will make the vision statement and guiding principles clearer and more in accord with the County’s Comprehensive plan.


I encourage you to utilize these notes in your deliberations.


Thank you.



The Free Enterprise Forum recommendations are underlined, comments in italics:


The Vision Statement


Albemarle County’s Northern Development Areas will feature compact development organized into neighborhood and employment centers, where practical. These centers will be walkable and mixed use; they will offer a variety of housing choices, high quality retail, and employment opportunities. They will be connected by an attractive, efficient, and accessible multimodal transportation system. In the midst of this urban-style development, parks and open spaces will provide a sense of respite and contribute to an overall excellent quality of life. US Route 29 shall be recognized as a main regional commercial boulevard, but must, at the same time, be respectful of limited local control over the roadway transportation needs of US Route 29 to accommodate through traffic traveling this major North/South corridor.



Guiding Principles


  1. As stated in the Comprehensive Plan, the County has chosen to focus future development in the Development Areas to the greatest possible extent in order to lessen development pressure on the Rural Areas. The four Northern development Areas are encouraged to develop in a compact, urban form—this will support portions of the Development Areas becoming lively mixed-use centers similar in character to a “downtown” or “main street”


  1. The natural environment and the character of the County’s rural areas should be preserved.  (This is not a plan about the rural area.)


  1. The four Northern Development Areas form a corridor centered on US 29 North, a critical interstate connector. As development in the corridor and elsewhere increases, the additional traffic it generates must be addressed by this master plan.


  1. By improving on the current configuration of new neighborhoods, places of employment, and shopping areas, the community seeks to create a pattern of walkable places with a diverse range of uses. Where practical, Pedestrian and bicycle connections and facilities should improve access and ensure safety.


  1. The Northern Development Areas can expect a combination of new development, infill development, and redevelopment to take place subject to this master plan. It is essential important for this development to follow the principles of the County’s neighborhood model; to respect and work with the terrain, not destroy it. (Residents must recognize that this principle is in conflict with itself, the implementation of the neighborhood model will require significant grading and land clearing)


  1. Preserving the character of the existing neighborhoods while improving the quality, diversity, and affordability of new housing is important.  Workforce housing located close to employment centers, shopping areas, transportation and creation is important for the Northern Development Area.


  1. The Northern Development Areas community values high quality design, which respects the scale and character of existing development and adjacent dedicated open spaces. (Adjacent open spaces perpetuated the concept if land is open today it will remain open).


  1. It is important government to appropriately funds provide infrastructure to support the underlying zoning at or before the time it is needed to serve new development.


  1. A high-quality transportation system will serve users across the entire spectrum, from local trips to regional ones and it will be multimodal—including vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle and transit access. In particular, improvement to the US 29 corridor should recognize and address the road’s multiple purposes: local, regional and interstate. The system will also address the movement of freight by truck, train and air.


  1. Future development of the transportation system is an opportunity to increase the connectivity of places and land uses currently separated by improve the traffic patterns on US 29 and other high-traffic roads, such as Hydraulic and Rio roads. The future transportation system can also enhance the connectivity between new neighborhoods, recreational, and community facilities through out the area. The road network that will best serve the northern development areas includes US 29, roads that are parallel to US 29, and good east-west connecting roads.


  1. Safety and aesthetics are important for new and existing streets.


  1. Public transit is now available in some parts of the NDA and is an important alternative form of transportation in the future US 29 corridor.  Per passenger mile  cost/benefit analysis of transit options should be completed to determine the most efficient option.


  1. The community values the expansive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and other vistas; they add to the quality of life. They should be preserved through careful delineation and protection of viewsheds.


  1. The Northern Development Areas community values a well-connected network of accessible public open spaces, greenways, and trails that will be created by preserving existing open spaces and adding new ones and making connections between open spaces in the development areas and surrounding Rural Areas and the City of Charlottesville. (Such an option would rob the development area of valuable developable land.  If considered an option to expand the development area, by the respective amount, should be considered as well)


  1. The County’s public facilities, such as libraries and schools, are both a source of pride and a resource. These facilities should be convenient and accessible to neighborhoods and employment centers.



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