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Albemarle County Board of Supervisors highlights climate change, housing in strategic plan

Nurturing a safe and healthy community is the first goal of the new strategic plan adopted by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Wednesday.

Albemarle County uses the strategic plan as a way to set priorities and allocate resources and energy. According to the county’s website, the strategic plan helps the board “to inform policy development and financial decision-making and to achieve the community desires and values articulated in the County’s Comprehensive Plan.” The comprehensive plan acts as a long-term guide to shape the board’s decisions.

The new strategic plan will guide the board’s actions from July 2024 until July 2028. July marks the beginning of the county’s fiscal year.

The plan’s new first goal of nurturing a healthy community differs from the first objective of the board’s previous plan, which made climate action planning a top priority. That action plan has already been drafted.

Supervisor Jim Andrews, who represents the Samuel Miller district, said that a safe community is necessarily one that’s climate resilient. He said that was especially true as natural disasters exacerbated by climate change place greater stress on emergency response services.

“I’ll hold up the Biodiversity Action Plan, climate vulnerability and risk assessment as things that we should treat as priorities that we need to focus on,” Andrews said. His proposal to include long-term resilience under the first goal was accepted.

The 2024-2028 plan’s second goal addresses issues of equity in Albemarle County. It wants to “design programs and services that promote an equitable, engaged and climate-resilient community.” That means implementing the climate action plan, which was drafted in the winter of 2020.

Under the climate action plan, the county would reduce its emissions by 45% from 2008 levels by 2030.

The new strategic plan also stresses the importance of housing affordability. A report from the Virginia Realtors Group shows that in August, the median home price in the state increased more than 5%, despite the fact that the number of existing home sales fell about 20%.

“Affordable housing…means a lot of things for a lot of people,” said White Hall district Supervisor Ann Mallek. Mallek said it was critical that housing be both “attainable and sustainable”—that a person can make rent for more than just a couple months.

Housing affordability presents a special challenge for Albemarle County. Under current zoning rules, 95% of the county’s 726 square miles is designated for rural use. That leaves 36.3 square miles for the county’s development area. The higher density housing necessary that many believe will lower housing costs is limited to the development area.

Albemarle County residents want the board to “invest in redeveloping existing vacant buildings and permit the redevelopment of underused properties” to mitigate the lack of affordable housing, said the county’s director of performance and strategic planning Kristy Shifflett. Shifflett solicited community input as the board revised the strategic plan.

However, the board’s ability to invest in redevelopment is limited.

“We have no capacity to do that,” said Supervisor Ned Gallaway, who represents the Rio district. “We can invest in redevelopment, but it’s not us investing specifically in redevelopment. It would be providing incentives that encourage redevelopment.”

The strategic plan also intends to provide more economic and recreational opportunities, foster partnerships with local schools and work to recruit and retain public servants.


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