Community Engagement Program




Discussion of organization needs related to expanded community engagement activities




Tucker, White, Catlin






December 6, 2006


ACTION:     X                      INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                           INFORMATION:   









In recent years, the County increasingly has engaged its citizens in the discussion of County issues, which is a trend that has been seen in jurisdictions nationwide as the emphasis has shifted from one-way information sharing to a more two-way community dialogue. In Albemarle County, this engagement has happened in a very focused way through the master planning process that incorporates discussion of the County’s goals, plans and policies in many of the County’s functional areas.  Additionally, County residents in general have become more involved in the issues and decisions facing our community. They have developed not only an increasing desire for information but also expectations of significant participation in the problem-solving approaches and decision-making processes used by the County. Staff expects this trend to continue increasing significantly in part because the County aims to complete master planning all of the development areas by June 30, 2011, an objective identified in the Board of Supervisors’ adopted Strategic Plan, and also because of the County’s evolving focus on collaborative community partnerships.


In order to successfully address this emerging need, the County Executive’s Office requests a Community Engagement Specialist to be funded beginning in Spring 2007 to ensure quality public participation efforts for the current and imminent master plan activities and other community engagement priorities. This position will work with the Community Relations Manager to encourage active citizen participation and awareness, facilitate community partnerships to develop innovative solutions to County issues, and support meaningful and credible public involvement in County planning and policy development and project implementation. Though much of the position’s work initially will be driven by the various master planning processes, there are other long-term functions and needs for this position. This position will report to the Community Relations Manager.



By June, 2010, increase citizen satisfaction with the County’s Development Areas, by completing Master Plans for all of the County’s Development Areas.



Impacts of the Master Plan Strategic Plan Objective

While public participation has long been a critical element of the County’s decision-making processes, and indeed is legally mandated in some instances, the Crozet Master Plan elevated that participation to a new and expanded level.  As is indicated by the timeline in Attachment A, the Crozet Master Plan process involved 12 major meetings and public sessions, ranging from a two-day Planning Academy to actual community design workshops,  in a two-year period leading up to adoption.  The process also involved five Planning Commission work sessions, three Board of Supervisors work sessions, and Planning Commission and Board public hearings.  Throughout this time period there was a strong need for ongoing community information, involvement and liaison work to not only ensure effective and well-attended meetings but also to keep residents informed and engaged as the process moved along.  As indicated by Attachment B, we are experiencing a similar level of effort with Places29, with one significant difference being that instead of bringing in a consultant to manage the public participation aspect of the process, County staff is handling those responsibilities in-house.


As we look ahead towards the master plan schedule established by the Strategic Plan, it becomes obvious that even without any other additional initiatives, master planning alone will continue to generate an increasing demand for community outreach and engagement.



FY 05/06

FY 06/07

FY 07/08

FY 08/09

FY 09/10

¢  Crozet

¢  Crozet

¢  Crozet

¢  Crozet


 ▲ Pantops

¢  Pantops

¢  Pantops

¢  Pantops

¢  Pantops

 ▲ Places 29

 ▲Places 29

¢  Places 29

¢  Places 29

¢  Places 29



¢  Rivanna

¢  Rivanna

¢  Rivanna



▲ So. Urban Area

¢  So. Urban Area

¢  So. Urban Area




▲  Neigh.6/7

¢  Neigh.6/7



















  ▲  Plan Creation and Adoption             ¢  Early Implementation              ¿  Plan Review/New Urban Form


Beyond Master Plan Adoption

As is demonstrated by this chart, public participation does not end when the master plan is adopted. Each master plan area will have an advisory committee beginning in the early implementation stage like the one actively underway in Crozet, with a continuing need for staff support and involvement.  Also, as implementation gets underway and infrastructure projects are identified and initiated, the community has a significant interest in the siting, planning, design and construction of those projects resulting in the need for community input opportunities like the recent Crozet library site selection process and the ongoing library design/programming process.  Finally, each master plan is on a path to be reviewed every five years, which will create a continuous cycle of public participation activities to be planned and managed.


It is important to stress that community engagement needs are not focused solely on Community Development-related issues and activities.  The master planning process energizes residents and creates interest in a variety of local government service issues ranging from public safety to recreational needs to human services as we have seen with the Crozet community.  Master planning catalyzes the community to a higher level of expectation and engagement with County government in general.


Current Community Relations Workload

Currently the majority of the community engagement tasks are being managed and performed by the Community Relations Manager.  Other major workload demands for that position include managing the County’s electronic communications program including the website, Amail, Inside Albemarle (County’s intranet), and podcasting; creating County public information and education programs; managing media relations including advertising, news releases, and media events; overseeing the Visitor’s Assistance program; managing special events; preparing County publications; and coordinating general community/neighborhood outreach and partnership efforts.  If additional resources with the appropriate expertise and skills are not dedicated to the increasing community engagement demands, either other Community Relations tasks will not be accomplished or the public participation needs associated with the Strategic Plan will not be adequately met.



Staff anticipates that the annual amount required to fund this position, including supporting equipment and materials, is approximately $65,000.  If the position is filled by April, 2007, an appropriation of approximately $16,200 from the general fund balance would be required to fund the position until the beginning of Fiscal Year 2007/08.  We will also plan on using a teleworking arrangement between this position and existing County Executive staff so that additional office space will not be required.



In order to meet the steadily increasing community engagement needs and expectations created by the Strategic Plan and other public priorities, staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors support the creation of a Community Engagement Specialist position and direct staff to bring back an appropriation request with the intent of hiring this position in Spring 2007.




Attachment A -  Crozet Master Plan Public Participation Timeline

Attachment BPlaces29 Master Plan Public Participation Timeline
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