Many Staffs, Many Plans — Is the New Planning Paradigm Staff Driven?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Thanks to a three year, $999,000 grant from the Federal Government, The City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, The University of Virginia and The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) are working together to develop the “Livable Communities Planning Project”. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has raised significant concerns of the different perspectives regarding livability between city residents and county residents.  The Meadowcreek Parkway and Community Water supply issue are just two of the latest examples of different visions.

But this week, we are also concerned that the professional staffing for this project is ideologically homogenous with a significant new urbanist philosophical bent.  In a normal planning process we would not be as concerned because it is a more formalized public process with significant resident and business input.  This process values input but is process driven.

Summer Fredrick, a former Senior Planner in Albemarle who resigned to join TJPDC specifically to  head up this effort, said in the Daily Progress last week:

“This is a process-driven project, but the process is only as good as the input we get.”

The kick off event, held in the lobby of Albemarle County’s Lane Auditorium seemed crowded as folks milled about looking a number of different posters and speaking to planners about the Livable Communities Planning Project. 

Reflecting on the meeting, I was struck by the large number of staff in attendance.  I looked back on the photo by Brian Wheeler that ran in The Daily Progress:

staffing one community launch

Photo Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow Staff Identification by Free Enterprise Forum

It is important to note that The Free Enterprise Forum has worked with staff from all of the organizations represented in the Livable Communities Planning Project.  On the whole we have found these staff members to be solid planning professionals.  Given the federal funding and the significant in-kind staff support each of the participants are bringing to the table, citizens must remain vigilant that their perspectives are represented.  This will require a three year commitment from community members as well as advocacy groups.

We know the staff will remain engaged; will the public?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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


3 responses

  1. Awesome detective work Neil: Did the name tags that these people were wearing lead you to the unveiling on these persons true identify, or was it the Logos on the Staffers shirts? This community event brought in over 100 people within the first 2 hours. I am a staffer myself, but I am also a county resident as is most of the staff which was at the event.
    I have to drive to work. Shouldn’t I be able to have input on the things that affect my daily life. Hopefully those community members who really care about this process will hold on and be able to participate in making a difference in the community.

  2. […] a previous post we raised concerns that the planning staffs (Charlottesville, Albemarle and TJPDC) were driving the […]

  3. […] Williams was asked to address the Mankato delegation to speak about TJPDC’s Many Communities One Plan project.  The TJPDC received a $999,000 federal grant for this planning exercise.  […]

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