City/County Planning Commission Meeting Accomplishes Very Little

By. Neil Williamson, President

Earlier this week (9/28), the Planning Commissions of Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville held one of their semi regular joint meetings.  The purpose of the meeting was described as a transportation discussion.  The meeting started with a presentation by Stephen Williams Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC).  The other presenter was Linda Seaman the chair of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transportation Plan Citizen Advisory Committee (CHART).

The presentation focused on transportation planning and the long process it takes to get a transportation project approved, funded and constructed.  After Williams would cover the TJPDC perspective on a transportation issue, Seaman would ask the Commission to fill out a portion of the CHART survey.  Does anyone believe this  environment was conducive to objective data collection?

To further improperly impact the survey, none of the images contained in the presentation were from the Charlottesville Albemarle region.  The image below is actually a sculpture in New York, not a traffic control device.  The Free Enterprise Forum has to ask why the presentation could not have included images from the Polo Grounds Road choke point, the 250/McIntire intersection etc.

After the commissioners completed their surveys, there was time set aside on the agenda  for “Transportation Discussion” between the two commissions.

Rather than focusing on the areas of potential improvement in working together as a region, the commissioners discussed how transportation professionals  could better increase the “sustainability” of the community rather than utilizing traditional (and more measurable) traffic metrics of safety and through put.  This commissioner suggested that even if it took you longer to walk four blocks, you would feel better for doing so.  Williams suggested this is exactly the direction many in the transportation planning area want to go.

While the Free Enterprise Forum is supportive of market driven walkable communities, we fear that as government and transportation planners focus more on how people “feel” rather than their safety, the social engineering sect has gone too far.

In addition, considering last week’s remarks by the Virginia Secretary of Transportation highlighted the lack of consensus within our community as one reason for less funding,  we believe it would be helpful if the City and County Planning Commissions focused their joint meetings on regional issues (Meadowcreek Parkway, Transit, Hillsdale Connector, Best Buy Ramp, etc.) rather than being led through the looking glass to complete surveys and hold philosophical discussion without any real linkage to transportation improvements.

The truth is the objectives for this joint meeting were very low — both commissions managed to achieve them.


20070731williamson 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


2 responses

  1. Sounds a little bit like the gridlock in Congress. Is this the best we can expect from our elected leaders? Wait…. a thought’s arising. Maybe the county should just annex the city!!! I know that the city can’t annex the county due to the revenue sharing agreement, but what about the other way around? Think about it… We could get rid of a lot of duplicated services and overcome the impasse that occurs whenever the city/county try to accomplish anything. There! Problem solved.

  2. I think planning for walkable communities is a noble goal. I’m not sure though that our current framework is getting us there. As you know by now, I think economics is often the limiting factor in achieving goals in conservation and sustainability. So, if we have lots of rules requiring sidewalks for new developments, then I’m not sure that really gets us to walkable communities. C-ville weekly did an excellent expose of this issue a while back

    In short, the answer is to have the prices of real estate fairly represent impacts by incentivising practices that achieve community goals, and removing subsidies where subsidies are working against the comprehensive plan. In practice, this could be things like sharing the costs of building a parking garage or sidewalks to make them more affordable, or expediting the planning and approval process for projects that meet or exceed design expectations.

    As for roads… that’s a tougher one. I do feel much in the process could be improved. I’m not sure our funds are spend as effectively as they could be though. For example, why are allocating money to pave roads like Decca Lane or Dick Woods, while VDOT is questioning their ability to maintain the roads they already have? I’d much rather see these funds go towards projects like the Hillsdale Connector. Of couse part of that is how the Commonwealth allocates funds… So, some issues probably need to be solved on the State level

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