A Missed Opportunity

By. Neil Williamson, President

Last night (12/1), the Planning Commissions of Charlottesville and Albemarle County held a joint meeting including representatives from the University of Virginia.  Such a meeting held the potential for significant discussions regarding the integrated solutions to the planning challenges these organizations face.

But that did not happen.

Instead, the commissions received canned reports from staff about important projects.  Interesting? Yes, but there was very little interaction between commission members regarding concerns with these projects or how these plans work in context with the other plans moving forward.

Then, there was a glimmer of hope.  A chance for real dialog between these important decision makers.

One Charlottesville commissioner asked the members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, “Is there anything we can do for you”.

Regrettably, the Albemarle County’s Commissioners responded that better communication between Commissions would be great as Albemarle is seeking to build the development areas to be more urban like Charlottesville so they have much to learn from them.

“Communication” — Really????? 

Later in the meeting [after the city and UVA representatives had left], the Free Enterprise Forum expressed our opinion that the Albemarle County Planning Commission missed an excellent opportunity to explore the planning commissions’ different philosophies regarding:

  • Meadowcreek Parkway
  • Use of revenue sharing for mutually beneficial transportation projects
  • Transit operations
  • Traffic issues on 250 in the Pantops region
  • Neighborhood connectivity [called cut through traffic by some]

This criticism was met with both nods of agreement and shaking of heads of disagreement  by members of the Albemarle PC.  

In “Other Matters from the Public”, retiring Albemarle Board of Supervisors member Sally Thomas thanked all the planning commissioners for their work during her 16 year tenure as a supervisor and closed her remarks expressing  her agreement with the Free Enterprise Forum comments. 

After the meeting was adjourned, one member of the Planning Commission seemed disappointed (and angry) as she expressed her opinion of the situation stating, “I disagree with you . . .This was neither the time nor place for those discussions.”

With all due respect, if this wasn’t the time or place, what’s the point?

Rather than having what might have been a frank discussion of the many areas of disagreement between the localities, the Albemarle County Planning Commission [I blame Albemarle because at least the City raised the question] chose the path of least resistance. 

I believe the citizens of both Albemarle and Charlottesville should be disappointed with this waste of a meeting.  The optimist in me hopes for better with a new Planning Commission, only time will tell.


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


2 responses

  1. Unfortunately, not surprising given the reality that “not stepping on toes”, a political and social art form perfected at UVA, is seemingly more important than a frank discussion leading to measurable results. This explains how decades pass without anything getting accomplished regarding transportation, infrastructure, water resources, etc. For decades our local goverment(s) have neglected a regional approach/solution, delaying decisions until the problem worsens from a priority to an urgency (and getting painted into a corner).

    So that I won’t be accused of just griping without offering a fix, I’d be in favor of abolishing both the City and County goverment, through whatever mechanism is most logical, and forming ONE governing body that approaches problems regionally (i.e. what’s best for Albemarle/Charlottesville as a whole). But I dream.

  2. Todd articulates a major part of the problem -when people talk about regional problems they really mean Charlottesville AND Albemarle and conveniently ignore Madison, Greene, Nelson, Louisa and, and….. all of which have interests in the region – how can you address problems on Rt 29 (for example) looking through a soda straw? Previous comments about walled city and island mentality apply.

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