The Albemarle Flu

By. Neil Williamson

Albemarle County is a pioneer in local land use planning.  Long before it was fashionable, Albemarle’s Development Initiatives Steering Committtees (DISC I and DISC II),  spent years working with (and at times against) the development community to create the “Neighborhood Model” principles for new development.  These principles, which are often in conflict with themselves, have since been integrated into Albemarle County’s policies and ordinances.  Regardless of your personal opinions of the neighborhood model, it is the result of locals hashing out their differences and determining a model (not the model) for development in Albemarle County. 

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is now propagating these (and other new urbanist concepts to surrounding localities with an evangelical zeal.  The Free Enterprise Forum has railed against such cookie cutter planning in the past.  In reviewing an early version of Fluvanna County’s draft comprehensive plan more than two years ago, the place type grid, lifted directly from the DISC II work, was presented as part of the comprehensive plan.  After the Free Enterprise Forum raised concerns, the section was removed. 

Greene County is the latest locality to have exposure to the Albemarle Flu.   By working with the TJPDC and their consultants on both Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)Multimodal corridor study AND the County Comprehensive Plan update, they have maximized their potential for infection.

Last week, Greene County held an open house to display the final draft of the Multimodal Corridor Study. The open house provided an opportunity for citizens to view posters containing a summary of the document. The Multimodal Corridor Study was presented to the Greene County Board of Supervisors last night (8/25). The entire plan is available on the Greene County Comprehensive Plan/Multimodal Corridor website or click here.

Greene County Multimodal Open House

Greene County Multimodal Open House

The open house drew a small crowd eager to comment on the new urbanist vision for the Town of Stanardsville with coffeeshops and sidewalk dining fronting business 33.

Some of the attendees took issue with the lines that were drawn regarding new transportation connections.  Additional questions were raised about the viability of vastly limiting US 29 access to better control traffic.

 The most interesting images however were very reminiscent of images I had seen in both Albemarle and Fluvanna’s planning exercises.  These designs provide wide urban type streetscapes for various traffic conditions.  

The “collector street” design in the photo is 100_4057 fully built out with street trees, park benches, curb & gutter, on street parking, bike lanes and two way traffic. 

Perhaps it is my lack of long term vision but I was wondering where in Greene County such a road would be appropriate and who would be charged with building it?   Such a streetscape will require significant impervious surface and a huge amount of land.  This is just one example of the new urbanist philosophy driving the local government planning process.

The Multimodal corridor study is designed to “inform” the Greene County Comprehensive Plan work that is being generated by TJPDC.  In last week’s presentation to the Greene County Planning Commission, I was struck by the legal interpretations provided by the TJPDC staff.  In addition to suggesting there is a rural clustering mandate from the state (there is not), TJPDC staff also suggested the way to address a state mandate for New Urbanism was to fully enact Albemarle County’s neighborhood model principles (there are several other approaches).

The Neighborhood Model principles were developed by Albemarle County for Albemarle County.  To suggest Greene County accept them as if they were divinely inspired commandments written on tablets of stone, short changes the citizens of Greene County.  

Serving as the consultant on the Greene County Comprehensive Plan, TJPDC would be wise to focus on working with Greene County to make their plan their own and not simply adopt Albemarle’s Neighborhood Model.

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