By. Neil Williamson, President
On Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a work session on the C-ville Plans Together consultant team’s latest iteration of the Future Land Use Map (FLUM). Beyond our philosophical differences regarding building heights, intensity, and form of this “World Class City”, The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned at the misplaced, inappropriate, and insensitive redlining of several (but not all) historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
As recorded locally by the Mapping Cville project, so called “Redlining” included the practice of federal loan restrictions and racial covenants in deeds that prevent the sale of the property to African Americans. Earlier this year, Mapping C-ville Director Jody Yager was interviewed by NBC29:
Yager says lines were drawn around different neighborhoods on maps to separate whites and Blacks.
“They created an organization called the Homeowner’s Loan Corporation,” Yager said.
That, and community-based racial covenants, further restricted homes being sold or rented to people other than Caucasians.
Eventually outlawed in 1968, Yager says the lasting impacts continue: “So your neighborhood predicts life outcomes, whether it’s health, education, job employment, income, everything. They can actually look at your zip code, look at your block, and tell you with a 90% chance where you’ll end up,” she said.
In response to previous public and commission input, the consultant team picked up a red pen and drew broad brush lines around some of the “sensitive communities” within the city. This effort, perhaps well meaning, needs to be reexamined.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes the term “Sensitive Communities” should be reconsidered. Is the balance of the City not sensitive to change? When correctly delineated these areas should be called out in a manner that represents the true, often difficult, history of these important neighborhoods.
The broad-brush, census track, approach in delineating these “sensitive communities” is flawed. Encircling Ix Park, the former Kmart Shopping Center, and Seminole Square seems inappropriate as these are areas the city has identified as prime for redevelopment. In the case of Seminole Square and the Kmart site, there is an existing community endorsed small area plan that speaks to the mixed-use potential for these sites. How does the significant multi-jurisdictional small area plan relate to the proposed map?
Recognizing this is a Comprehensive Plan, not zoning code, we would appreciate additional context to the type of restrictions or incentives intended in these “Sensitive Communities”. Too often, the overzealous regulatory cure unintentionally exacerbates the underlying problem.
Charlottesville, as we know it today, was shaped by red lining’s systematic racist zoning and is an ugly, but important, part of our shared history. We humbly request that during Tuesday’s work session, the Planning Commission and consultant team correct the placement and change the color of the “Sensitive Community” lines.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson serves as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization focused on central Virginia’s local governments. Learn more at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo credit: C-ville Plans Together Consultant Presentation to Charlottesville Planning Commission August 31, 2021