by. Neil Williamson, President
This morning’s (4/14) Daily Progress features a well written letter to the editor, “Density Must be Carefully Done” penned by Kathleen M. Galvin. Ms. Galvin raised concerns regarding the City of Charlottesville’s density desires as Rachana Dixit reported in her February 15th story “City Planners Aim for Dense Downtown”.
Charlottesville City staff is seeking to eliminate new single family residential construction on West Main as well as part of Preston Avenue and East High Street. Ms. Dixit’s article quotes Charlottesville Planning Commissioner Dan Rosensweig:
“In order to channel development, more specifically density of development, where we’d like it to be … it makes sense to extinguish a right to build single-family homes in favor of higher density,” he said.
Rosensweig added, “I think the reality is, the market restricts what can be built there. It would be prohibitively expensive to build a single-family home on a parcel on West Main.”
Ms. Galvin’s letter raises significant concerns that must be addressed before moving forward with the implementation of a more dense city.
Cities and towns all over the country are realizing that their economic survival depends upon cultivating a character and “sense of place” that attract creative people and growing businesses. As a result many jurisdictions have adopted objective, graphic-rich tools to regulate key aspects of the built environment such as number of stories, parking and building placement and streetscape design. Consequently, review processes become more objective and predictable.
The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the city desire for increased density. The City is in a unique position in the market to provide a lively, urban form that appeals to a segment of the population. The “sense of place” question Ms. Galvin raises is critically important to creating that desirable, dense community.
But we are drawn to the question, How much of the “sense of place” that exists today was generated by regulation versus grown organically by market forces?
Photo: Private investment, market driven form Bellevue, Washington
Where the Free Enterprise Forum may also have a concern is in the creation of “graphic rich tools to regulate key aspects”. Considering City density increases are philosophically being driven by consumer demand, shouldn’t the regulations allow for increased design flexibility rather than stringent bureaucrat driven demands?
Density can be dangerous, but overregulation is not the answer. The freedom of the market to be permitted to make attractive development investment choices could pave the way for a new, attractive and more dense downtown Charlottesville.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded 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