Monthly Archives: July, 2018

A New Charlottesville Parking Chapter?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Back in January, we spoke out regarding the long term parking problem the City of Charlottesville is choosing to ignore.

Currently, the existing garages are effectively full, with greater than 350 potential parkers on waiting lists for the opportunity to buy a monthly parking pass.

Commercial development activity continues in downtown with four prominent parking demanding projects currently in the pipeline. Conservative estimates place the new parking deficit [parking demand less parking provided] created by these developments to be 844 spaces [(386) Charlottesville Technology Center, (213) West 2nd Street, (160) Dewberry Hotel, (85) Vault Virginia].

Then this past week, Charlottesville cut a settlement with Charlottesville Parking Center owner Mark Brown to operate both downtown garages for 16 years.  The Daily Progress Editorial this morning (7/31) suggests “Parking Deal Buys Relief at Least for Now

As a matter of public policy — that is, providing parking for those who visit or work in Charlottesville and ending the uncertainty over whether parking would be reasonably available — the settlement has merit.

So the question is parking “a matter of public policy” and does the City have a responsibility to provide parking for those who work or live downtown?

Charlottesville enacted a parking action plan (January 2017-January 2020) that may remain as current policy but has been largely ignored by City Council.

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Currently, the Charlottesville Planning Commission is considering their long term (20 year) comprehensive plan for the development of the City.  Other than the inclusion of the Parking Action Plan internal to the 2016 Economic Development report, the draft comprehensive plan is silent about parking. 

A portion of the Bonus Height/Affordable Housing Financial Analysis prepared by the Form Based Codes Institute and Partners for Economic Solutions was presented to City Council earlier this summer and included specific parking construction costs.

Parking is a major cost factor, averaging $5,000 per surface space, $20,000 per space in an above-ground parking structure and $32,000 per space in a below-ground structure. Surface parking is the least expensive option, by far, but it consumes a great deal of land

If we accept that there is not land space available for an 844 space surface parking lot in Charlottesville, the we can project the cost for “solving” the projected parking shortfall will be between $16.8 million and $27 million dollars.

imageThe long term parking shortfall, and Charlottesville’s ostrich like response to it, creates at least two likely outcomes:

1.  The City does nothing and the parking shortfall results in development projects (or existing businesses) failing due to lack of parking for employees or customers.

2.  The City recognizes the need for significant parking investment and dedicates significant resources to it.  How they might pay for such an expenditure is unclear.

One thing is clear, ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

An idea that has been discussed is to require by code that any business with more than 25 employees has to submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan annually.  This is a written plan on how the business would mitigate their effect on parking and traffic congestion.  It might include employee incentives to use transit, carpool or bike to work.

Planning for the future parking needs, the Planning Commission is uniquely positioned to aid in this endeavor as it seeks to revise the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the Planning Commission to draft a new chapter on Parking ad clearly state if the city is accepting the responsibility for providing parking or not.  This document is the clearest place to state this critical public policy.

Or they can choose to remain silent on the issue – either way it is a choice.

Stay tuned.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President


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, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: City of Charlottesville, Community. curiosity.com

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Greene Planning Has Work Session on Animal Kennels

By. Brent Wilson Field Officer

At the May, 2018 Greene County Planning Commission meeting a public hearing was held related to animal kennels and several issues were to be researched as how other counties handle some issues and these were to be discussed at the June, 2018 meeting

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Stephanie Golon

County Planner Stephanie Golon  reviewed the issues for the three members of the Planning Commission (two members were absent from this meeting). Currently animal shelters are by right when there are 10 or more dogs are on sight. Personal dogs that are not for breeding were not included in the discussion. From May’s meeting the question was – should the level be lowered to five dogs down from ten dogs.

The issue then shifted to the age of the dog – when is a puppy no longer a puppy? Then what constitutes a breeder was discussed – does he raise dogs for sale and does he advertise in the paper and on the internet?

While the May meeting brought out a number of citizens, there was no one signed up to speak at the public hearing.  Golon stressed that a specific number needs to be identified to determine what a kennel is vs. raising dogs for a family.

Chairman Jay Willer wondered if a decision should be delayed since two commissioners were absent. Golon indicated that there are no public hearings scheduled for the July, 2018 meeting at this point. Willer proposed that the Planning Commission delay their decision until the August, 2018 meeting and, therefore, allowing the two absent commissioners time to review the information from tonight’s meeting and hold a public hearing in August.

Golon said that she would reach out to the two absent commissioners and provide the information discussed tonight and answer any questions that they may have in advance of the August meeting. With that decision, it was moved that there would be no Planning Commission meeting held in July.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene Supervisors Don’t Budge on Request to Lower Proffers

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On Tuesday(7/24), in a largely predictable move, the Greene County Board of Supervisors chose to retain the original cash proffer amounts on a proposed development located slightly Northwest of the intersection of 607 and US29 (Sheetz). in Ruckersville.

Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development defines a Cash Proffer as:

A cash proffer is (a)any money voluntarily proffered in a writing signed by the owner of property subject to rezoning, submitted as part of a rezoning application and accepted by a locality pursuant to the authority granted by Va. Code Ann. Section 15.2-2303 or Section 15.2-2298, or (b) any payment of money made pursuant to a development agreement entered into under authority granted by Va. Code Ann. Section 15.2-2303.1.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been a steadfast opponent of the cash proffer system. See the source image

At the May, 2018 meeting the Greene Planning Commission agreed to lower the proffer for a 2008 Planned Unit Development from $9,000 to $1,200.  Of course, the Planning Commission only makes a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

At the July 24th Board of Supervisors meeting the Board heard the request from the Kinvara Properties, LLC to reduce the amount of proffers for the 50 units proposed for the property. This calculates to a reduction in proffers of $390,000.

The new zoning administrator, Jim Frydl, outlined the public hearing which is about the property between the Food Lion development and Deer Lake Estates. And specifically, the public hearing was to deal with the request to amend the amount of proffers.

Butch Davies represented Kinvara Properties and explained that the company his client is negotiating with doesn’t believe they can pass on the cost of the $9,000 proffer in their price to the customer. In addition he explained that the economy has changed since the proffer was originally agreed to. He also believes that Greene County needs affordable housing for the workforce.

The meeting next shifted to comments from the public which all that addressed the board felt that the county should not change the proffer agreement that was originally made. Many felt that the county shouldn’t lower the proffers as it would set a precedent that would encourage other developers to request lower proffers also. One speaker from the public also shared that his work age children are just starting out in the workforce but their incomes are too high and they would not be eligible for the units in this project. So, in fact, the units are not “affordable housing for the workforce”.

The irony of the concern of setting a precedent by lowering the proffer is that the state has developed new proffer guidelines  which are designed to more accurately capture new government costs that are specifically generated by the development.  Therefore future proffers will likely be significantly reduced for new projects. So, in fact, the lowering of the proffer amount for this request would not set a precedent for future considerations (but might for the limited number of other unbuilt projects with existing proffers).

The consensus of the Board was that the original proffer agreement needs to be honored since it was freely agreed to by both parties. In fact the feeling is that the economy has improved recently. However, the concern that Kinvara Properties expressed at the Planning Commission meeting was that property wasn’t marketable with the full $9,000 proffer.

Based on this economic reality, the property will probably remain undeveloped with the current proffer burden until the market reaches a point where the project can sustain such costs or the parcel is again rezoned (with lower proffers).  In either case the community’s vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan for affordable residential development in the Ruckersville development area is a dream deferred.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

Charlottesville Needs Strong Voters

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

imageThe current question floating around Charlottesville City Hall centers around the concept of a strong mayor or a weak mayor form of governance.  While a majority of Council is seemingly disposed NOT to deal with this question now, the discussion is continuing.  In 2010, The Free Enterprise Forum advocated for such a discussion [Does Charlottesville Want To Elect A Strong Mayor?].  Today, we continue to believe the mayor discussion is healthy and useful, but it must also include the idea of a strong voter.

Please let me explain.

Today, each Charlottesville City Councilor is elected At-Large and then the Council votes amongst itself who will serve as the Weak Mayor. Rather than focusing the question of mayoral power, what if we instead focused on increasing the power of the individual voter.   The time has come for ward representation on City Council.

imageChanging from an at-large to a ward system is not a new idea.  In the late 1970’s there was an unsuccessful effort led by the NAACP.  Republican City Councilor (now radio host) Rob Schilling pursued such a change in the mid 2000s.  In 2006, several different maps of potential wards concepts were created by the City.

Local blogger Blair Hawkins who has  tracked this issue for many years links at-large elections to dilution of minority representation on council:

By itself At-Large is not enough to oppress blacks if blacks are 52% of the population. You need Annexation of white suburbs to dilute black power. Since the late 1800s black population has been fairly steady in the old town, called the inner city today. Under the Ward system, annexations would not matter much because the inner city would still have a representative on Council. Under At-Large the 80% whites determine all decisions and all discussion.

In February, Charlottesville Tomorrow hosted a panel discussion regarding the future of Charlottesville governance.  Joan MacCallum, the first woman elected to the Lynchburg City Council in 1978, spoke about their shift to the ward system:

“Until 1976, all seven members were elected at-large,” said MacCallum, “In that year, Lynchburg doubled its area by adding portions of Campbell and Bedford Counties. Both of these areas were overwhelmingly white, and it was recognized that this action diluted the black vote in Lynchburg.”

Lynchburg switched to a ward system to ensure there would be at least one African-American on Council.

MacCallum said the combined system has served Lynchburg well.

“We recognize that we do have a large black population, and it was necessary for them to be recognized,” MacCallum said.

To be clear, we do not believe the ward system is a panacea to all that currently ails Charlottesville.  We understand that many localities that have ward systems often complain about the number (and expertise) of candidates.  We are well aware of the turf battles that such representation can create.  In addition, we recognize the significant legal obstacles that exist to making this change.

The Free Enterprise Forum still believes you can have an elected Mayor AND Strong Voters (ward system).

We suggest an even number of ward elected councilors (4,6,8) and an at large elected mayor, who is also a member of Council.  We tend to believe neither extreme (Strong or Weak) is the exact fit for Charlottesville and a hybrid will likely develop.  Over the next few months, we hope the discussion will focus on how to get all of the citizens reconnected with Charlottesville and reengaged in the political process.

A good first step would be putting the elections more directly back into the hands of the governed.

Strong voters make strong cities.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: City of Charlottesville, Blair Hawkins, Politicalpolicy.net

Usurping Authority – Crozet Community Committee Resolution Recognition Request

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission July 17, 2018See the source image

Good evening.  Tonight, under new business, you have been asked to formally recognize a resolution from the Crozet Community Advisory Committee.

This would be a mistake.

Beyond being a very close vote (8-5) of an unelected advisory body, this type of mission creep is exactly what the Free Enterprise Forum warned about as the power of the Community Advisory Committees has expanded.

In 2015 we told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors:

While these entities may have been well intentioned at their formation, they have become an unelected mandated review sieve that provides planning commissioners and members of the Board of supervisors more than just a sounding board – they have become gatekeepers and defacto political cover for the Board of Supervisors.

The resolution provided to you, without your specific input seems to cite specific survey data and Master Plan sections but such items can not be taken in the abstract but should be considered in the context of the entire master plan to provide planning guidance not prescriptive or eliminate consideration of important economic development opportunities.

From the resolution:

WHEREAS, a combination of the current Crozet Master Plan (CMP), the recent survey results, and the opinion of the CCAC support this vision and these principles;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the CCAC requests that the Board of Supervisors schedule the update to the CMP as soon as possible, given the continued rapid growth in the Crozet area.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CCAC requests that the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors formally affirm the following principles in the CMP to provide direction and guidance in future decisions until the CMP Update is completed and adopted. As the prevailing vision of the CMP is to preserve Crozet’s “small town feel,” even while the area experiences further significant development, the following guiding principles support this vision:
1. Do not alter nor expand the current Crozet Growth Area Boundary [CMP pg.5, 32;survey slides 17,18].
2. Ensure that Downtown Crozet is the center of development for the Growth Area and a priority area for the focus of public capital investment and resource allocation [CMP pgs.21,24,54;survey slides 20, 21, 22];
3. Limit development along Route 250 West, west of Crozet Avenue [CMP pgs. 30, 37; survey slides 24, 25].
4. Recognize that Route 250 West is a State Scenic Byway containing aesthetic and cultural value and honor its status when making land development decisions [CMP pg.18; survey slide 24, 25]
5. Do not approve any rezoning for development of the I-64 and Route 250 interchange area (Fringe Areas and the Route 250 West Corridor) [CMP pgs. 32, 33; survey slide 26].
6. Expand transportation options in the Crozet Growth Area, and ensure that necessary infrastructure improvements keep pace with new development. [CMP pg. 41; survey slide 29] Priorities should include:
a. Library Avenue extended to Parkside Village [CMP pg. 39]
b. Bus and Shuttle services to the area [CMP pgs 40-41; survey slide 29];
c. Bike and Pedestrian pathways and improvements along Routes 240 and 250 [CMP pgs. 37, 38; survey slide 29];

Albemarle County is a large county with many demands, to elevate Development Area Citizen Advisory Councils as drafting resolutions to limit development fails to fully recognize the primary import of the Development areas to the Comprehensive Plan goals: to provide an area to develop!

While we concur with the Crozet community’s frustration at Albemarle’s failure to provide concurrent infrastructure, but we balance that concern with the reality of significant infrastructure infrastructure that has been focused in Crozet.

At best this is unnecessarily usurping the authority of those properly elected to serve Albemarle County, at worst it can be seen as a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) statement from a designated growth area that has seen significant infrastructure investment.

Please do not endorse, accept, or recognize this unbalanced resolution.

It is another step down a very slippery slope.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Photo Credit: be-hockey.com

Fluvanna Chasing VDOT Smart Scale Funding

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County has one traffic light. And according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  estimates, it should stay that way.

Image result for smartscale virginiaFluvanna will have four “Smart Scale” applications to the Commonwealth Transportation Board to be considered this cycle and two include adding two more roundabouts instead of traffic lights.

Virginia‘s SMART SCALE (§33.2-214.1) is about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects included in VTrans that are funded by House Bill 1887

imageThe intersection of Route 53 and Turkey Sag Trail rated the highest priority in the county. VDOT’s engineers recommended a roundabout. The proposal includes a multiuse path alongside Route 53 and connect to shopping centers on Turkey Sag.

“This works much more effective than a typical intersection,” said Chuck Proctor from VDOT.

If selected by the Smart Scale process and approved by the CTB, this would be the fourth roundabout on Route 53. There are two complete; one at South Boston Road and another at Route 15. There is one in preparation at Lake Monticello Road.

VDOT is recommending another roundabout on Route 250 at imagethe intersection with Troy Road. The supervisors requested this intersection to be studied especially for economic development reasons (a part of the Smart Scale scoring system). Zion Station and Zion Crossroads Industrial Park are both near the intersection.

The other two applications are intersections on Route 15 that the supervisors are sending applications to improve safety concerns.

imageThe first is Bybee’s Church Road where VDOT proposes adding turn lanes to help reduce rear end collisions, the primary cause of accidents at the intersection.

The other was heavily used Troy Road and Route 15 where a curve, dip and traffic have caused issues. VDOT found a way to add turn lanes, lower the road and straighten the curve to improve sight distance.

All will be sent to the CTB for review. The review cycle is ~16 months:

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It is not anticipated all four projects will receive Smart Scale funding. Those that do not get funding will be eligible for other revenue sources available to the area VDOT office.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: VDOT

Delta Response Team Rescue Headed to Fluvanna

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County will start with a new contract ambulance service this upcoming year.

Delta Response Team (DRT), headquartered in Appomattox, No automatic alt text available.was selected after a Request for Proposal (RFP) process was completed by the county. It will cost the county $438,000 for 24-hour services. The county budget $600,000 for FY19.

“We are not here to make a career service,” said Susan Walton, president of DRT.

DRT started in Appomattox as a way to compliment a dwindling volunteer force that county had. Over time and with DRT’s help, Appomattox has increased volunteers to help hold the line on adding additional career services.

Fluvanna is currently paying for one career service ambulance 24 hours a day to run out of the Palmyra Rescue Squad Station through a contract with UVA. Volunteers will continue to run out of the other stations.

The county has the option of adding additional services to theNo automatic alt text available. DRT contract on an as needed basis including additional crew, use of a DRT ambulance, billing review and consulting services.

DRT will help the county with volunteer efforts including allowing volunteers to train with DRT staff.

“We would love the volunteers to get on the truck to run with us,” said Walton who continues to volunteer in Appomattox.

“The more [volunteers] train and run with us, the better for the community,” Walton said.

The staff DRT will run for 24 hours with a 48-hour off period following. Fluvanna can request an additional crew with as little as 12-hour notice. This could be helpful in times of large events.

While DRT will operate under the Fluvanna Rescue license including using the FRS vehicle, DRT can provide an ambulance if something happens to the Fluvanna vehicle. That vehicle will be under the DRT license.

The Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad (BCVRS) president sent a letter of recommendation. DRT started providing similar service to Buckingham for over 18 months. BCVRS found dropped calls decreased with DRT.

Three other companies submitted to the RFP including Emergency Services Solutions, American Medical Response and incumbent UVA.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: DRT Facebook Page

Egotistical Entrance Corridor Expansion Effort

By. Neil Williamson, President

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are times when local public policy fails to follow logic.

When we learned in January the 1/3 Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors (EC) are Illegal, the Free Enterprise Forum was convinced Albemarle County supervisors would do the right thing to correct this code by reducing the number of roads designated as “Entrance Corridors”.  Imagine our shock to learn that this week, the Supervisors have a Resolution of Intent (on the consent agenda) to ADD a twenty-second road to the bloated EC list.

Please let me explain.

Late last year, according to a member of county staff, during a routine preapplication meeting, a question came up regarding the posted speed limit on the entrance corridor.  Staff researched the issue and determined both the speed limit and that the roadway was not an “arterial street”.

Virginia Code §15.2-2306 enables localities to establish entrance corridor districts encompassing parcels contiguous to arterial streets and highways found to be significant routes of tourist access to the county and to designated historic landmarks, structures, or districts within the county

This revelation, led staff to research each of the current twenty-one entrance corridor designated roadways and found eight did not meet the state “arterial” requirement.

To their credit, staff prepared a resolution of intent for the Board of Supervisors to consider in their February 7th meeting.  The purpose of this resolution is to revise the Entrance Corridor Ordinance removing those roadways that do not qualify as arterials.

In the first action of the February 7th meeting, Board Chair Ann Mallek asked that the Resolution of Intent be removed from the consent agenda:

so some technical items can be worked out before it is brought back for further discussion.

Despite multiple requests of staff and supervisors, we have not received any update regarding these “technical issues”.

As of last month, the staff indicates they are not enforcing entrance corridor regulations on those roads that do not meet the state definition of “arterial” roads.  This is not a fix, it is a band aid.

Meanwhile in February, the Planning Commission was flummoxed by its inability to mandate architectural review on proposed changes to City Church on West Rio Road.  Therefore they passed a resolution of Intent to bring West Rio Road/John Warner Parkway as the twenty second road on the bloated list of “Entrance Corridors”.  This is the true origin of the Resolution of Intent the Supervisors have on their consent agenda this week.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes any changes to the Entrance Corridors MUST FIRST fix the illegal Entrance Corridors – If not, we are left to ask

How long will Albemarle choose to ignore the law?

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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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, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: vancouver.mediacoop.ca

Greene County Administrator Resigns

By. Neil Williamson, President

barkley

John Barkley

On Friday (6/29), Greene County Administrator John Barkley resigned effective immediately.  The news was communicated to County staff via a letter from Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Flynn:

This is clearly a time of transition for the County and for you, our valued employees. The Board recognizes the anxiety and uncertainty transitions of this nature can produce. I want to assure you that each of you has the full support and confidence of the Board. We trust the county will continue to make progress and deliver excellent service to its citizens. We know that you will support and encourage one another throughout. The Board is optimistic that the challenges we currently face also present tremendous opportunity for progress.

Serving as Greene County administrator since 2013, Barkley previously served as Town Manager of Dumfries, VA, Colonial Beach, VA and Round Hill, VA in addition to other municipal postings.

In her letter to staff, Flynn indicated the Board would quickly be initiating a search for County Administrator.  She also indicated they would be hiring an interim administrator during the search process.  In the meantime, Deputy County Administrator Tracy Morris will be the point- of-contact. The letter continued:

Ms. Morris will also represent the County during Board meetings and assist in developing the agenda and notifying staff if they are expected to present at a meeting. It is not the Board’s intent that Ms. Morris assume the responsibilities of the County Administrator.

It will be interesting to see how Greene County moves through this transitional/search period.   With significant projects including the White Run Reservoir in the near future, the County Administrator position is critical to ensuring the public work is completed properly.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Does ‘Social Justice’ Fit in Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

See the source imageLast Tuesday (6/26), the Charlottesville Planning Commission heard from a large number of citizens calling for their Comprehensive Plan process to have more public engagement, to be informed by the recently released housing needs assessment, to directly address racial inequity and to include ‘Social Justice’ throughout the document.

From my Twitter (https://twitter.com/NeilSWilliamson ) notes:

Andrea Massie tells #Charlottesville Planning Commission she supports additional community engagement asks for the comprehensive plan to focus on race. “The planning maps were drawn in the 1950s to segregate our community. There must be an intentional effort to undo this”

Annie Stump tells #Charlottesville Planning Commission of her support for additional Comprehensive Plan Community Engagement. Housing Needs Assessment is a great first step. Calls out racial inequity in housing. We should be judged by how we serve our most marginalized.

Brendon Hassler #Albemarle resident tells #Charlottesville Planning Commission of marginalized, historically oppressed communities that have a severe lack of trust with the government regarding Comprehensive plan outreach

Lena Seville asks for housing policy to address a long history of discrimination in the #Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan

Anna from #Albemarle bemoans the lack of organization. Suggests that the Comprehensive Plan is designed to be difficult for normal folks to read so developers can push mixed use instead of #AffordableHousing

Virginia code § 15.2-2223 clearly delineates that each locality’s Planning Commission shall draft a comprehensive plan:

making a comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The code provides a non exclusive list of plan elements including:

D. The comprehensive plan shall include the designation of areas and implementation of measures for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of affordable housing, which is sufficient to meet the current and future needs of residents of all levels of income in the locality while considering the current and future needs of the planning district within which the locality is situated.

‘Social Justice” is not a required element, but does it belong in the plan?

Perhaps it depends on your definition of Social Justice.

  • The equitable distribution of advantages and disadvantages in society?
  • The proportional distribution of advantages and disadvantages as it relates to effort?
  • The redistribution of resources from those who “unjustly” gained them?
  • The equal distribution of opportunity?
  • A virtue?

The Pachamama Alliance provides a concise background on Social Justice:

Social Justice as a concept arose in the early 19th century during the Industrial Revolution and subsequent civil revolutions throughout Europe, which aimed to create more egalitarian societies and remedy capitalistic exploitation of human labor. Because of the stark stratifications between wealthy and the poor during this time, early social justice advocates focused primarily on capital, property, and the distribution of wealth.

By the mid-20th century, social justice had expanded from being primarily concerned with economics to include other spheres of social life to include the environment, race, gender, and other causes and manifestations of inequality. Concurrently, the measure of social justice expanded from being measured and enacted only by the nation-state (or government) to include a universal human dimension. For example, governments (still today) measure income inequality among people who share citizenship in common.

In 2015, Ashland Virginia’s Senior Planner Garet Prior penned a thoughtful post “Planning’s Role in Social Justice” calling for the industry reconsider their role and recognize their ethical responsibility to advocate for social justice.

Prior highlighted how activist planning philosophy impacted 1970s planning:

History teaches us the necessity of taking intentional steps to define our role in public service, or else we allow the entrenched powers to direct our purpose, thus making us a tool in continuing the status quo.

During the feverous pitch of the last Civil Rights Movement, in 1965, planning professor Paul Davidoff — who coined the term “advocacy planning” — instructed that “Planning action cannot be prescribed from a position of value neutrality.” Norman Krumholtz illustrated this concept as planning director for Cleveland in 1975 when he set the department’s overriding goal as “providing a wide range of choices for those Cleveland residents who have few, if any, choices.”

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the concept of developing a wide range of choices as long as those choices continue to respect property owner rights.  Prior’s argument goes further to suggest planning departments should be philosophically charged with advocating for specific outcomes rather than “opportunities”.

In his argument, Prior used the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) code of ethics for direction:

“We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs” (emphasis added).

If we are in a true pursuit of equitable outcomes for racially and economically disadvantaged groups, then history informs us that advocacy — more than an urge — will be required.

To fulfill this ethical call to advocacy, we need to better understand how change occurs. We should begin with a process of self-identification to be aware of our values, beliefs, and biases. In working with others, we need to understand that trust is necessary and will only be acquired through time. We need to get out of the office and form intentional relationships with underserved populations. . .

. . .As tensions around social inequities mount, now more than ever planners need to fulfill our ethical values by taking intentional action to advocate for equitable justice solutions. Inaction will only aid in continuing these broken systems because, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

This is a significantly higher level of advocacy than we see as appropriate from staff – the Free Enterprise Forum believes that the elected and appointed positions should be moving their planning philosophy forward and the professional staff should be following their lead.

We completely agree there is a responsibility on the part of planning commissioners and elected officials to actively seek out the opinions of those who are often under represented/underheard in our community.  This information, combined with all the other data that has been collected, should be considered.

Considering all of the above and the state mandated goals of the Comprehensive Plan document, The Free Enterprise Forum believes that while ‘Social Justice’ is an important element to our community conversation but should not be a separate chapter in Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org