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Make your voice heard on the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map

Citizens for Responsible Planning was formed in 2021 by a group of concerned citizens from across Charlottesville’s neighborhoods in response to concerns about the city’s Comprehensive Plan process. The group aims to inform residents about the Comprehensive Plan and the associated Zoning Ordinance rewrite and to provide research on issues related to housing, land use, and adjacent policy issues in Charlottesville and beyond.

Many residents got their first inkling of the potentially dramatic changes portended by the Draft Plan when its near-final form was released in the summer of 2021. We believe this resulted in part from COVID restrictions, disruptions in City governance during the 2018-2020 Council term, and the unfamiliarity of outside consultants with Charlottesville’s diverse range of resident organizations, and in part — and more insidiously — due to a deliberate strategy of the Planning Commission to bypass existing neighborhood associations as a purported strategy to make the plan more “equitable” by avoiding “relying on the existing power structure to set the narrative and define the discussion.”

We and many other residents were dismayed to find that the Comprehensive Plan relied on transparently sloppy analysis of exiguous data. It took what ought to be a technical discussion of the housing market, patterns of spatial development, transportation systems, and infrastructural capacity and turned it into a ideological-driven document that began with pre-ordained conclusions and made no more than a perfunctory effort to backfill analytical justification.

We supported and still support the stated goals of the Cville Plans Together process – a more affordable, connected, and sustainable Charlottesville.  Our community needs a wider range of housing options so that people work in Charlottesville have an opportunity to live here.  We agree that the comprehensive planning process should facilitate the maintenance of engaged, vibrant, thriving neighborhoods that reflects the rich diversity of our community.  We support the City’s desire to take affirmative steps to make housing more affordable to benefit residents.

While the goals of Cville Plans Together are admirable, neither the planning process nor the draft recommendations reflect or forward those crucial priorities.  The draft plan does not incorporate sufficient community input.  The consultants hired to draft the updated plan were charged with conducting community engagement and considering input from residents.  That process has been woefully inadequate.  There were no open meetings during the pandemic and little, if any, effort to directly solicit community input until the very end of the process – after a draft Plan and land use map were proposed.  The consultants did not engage with neighborhood associations, citizen advocacy groups, or businesses in the formulation of the plan.   The pattern of resistance to the consideration of citizen input has continued into the drafting of a new Zoning Ordinance based on the Comprehensive Plan. Feedback during periods of open public comment have run overwhelmingly against the plan. Residents have made extensive suggestions for changes that would avoid some of the worst potential unintended consequences of the Plan, but the City has studiously ignored its citizens’ ideas and preferences.

Likewise, we are concerned that the current draft Comprehensive Plan does not address the important goals of equity and affordability.  The Plan includes little data on the current problems it is designed to fix or explain how its proposed changes will address those problems.  It does not consider the economic consequences of the blanket up-zoning it proposes or its potential to cause out-migration and impact the tax base.  It makes no meaningful comment on the impact of the proposed density on infrastructure, schools, emergency services, transportation, and public safety.  It does not contemplate how density will impact the environment, including trees, streams, trails, and air quality.  We also have significant concerns regarding the methodology – or lack thereof – in formulating this plan.  Perhaps most significantly, the draft Plan does not indicate how increased density will lead to affordable housing as opposed to more expensive development.  

Please consider joining our mailing list and checking out our research to stay up-to-date on the Plan and Zoning Process and to see the kinds of analysis that the city and its consultants can’t or won’t do.