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
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.
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”
environment and the character of the County’s rural areas should be
preserved. (This is not a plan about the rural area.)
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.
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.
Development Areas can expect a combination of new development, infill
development, and redevelopment to take place subject to this master plan. It
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)
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.
Development Areas community values high quality design, which respects the
scale and character of existing development and
open spaces. (Adjacent open spaces perpetuated the concept if land is
open today it will remain open).
It is important
to appropriately funds provide
infrastructure to support the underlying zoning at or before the time
it is needed to serve new development.
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.
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.
Safety and aesthetics
are important for new and existing streets.
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.
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.
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)
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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