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Albemarle staff working to keep comp plan update on tight schedule

Albemarle County staffers are trying to keep the county’s upcoming Comprehensive Plan update on a tight timeline despite a growing to-do list.

Supervisors previously took issue with the proposed three-year schedule, but staff said a project engagement plan and a proposed content framework will help keep the it on track.

“While staff agrees with the urgency of this work, we feel that given the level of engagement and the breadth of topics that are covered in the Comp Plan, that three years is really a realistic timeline,” said Rachel Falkenstein, a county planning manager.

At the board’s meeting Wednesday, county staff said they will return with more specifics of what should be included in the update of the document that guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection.

“Right now, we have a really detailed Comp Plan that might have a lot of overlap with other policies that the county has that are more detailed, such as economic development, climate action planning, natural resource protection, things like that,” Falkenstein said. “So we think it’d be really helpful if we clarify what details should be in the Comp Plan and what details should be in other policy documents. Doing that upfront will really help us keep a tight scope and keep a tight timeline on the project.”

Some board members still seemed hesitant about the amount of time proposed, and wanted to see updates made to the county’s zoning ordinance at the same time.

“I’m not really in favor of a three-year full-blown Comp Plan review at this time,” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said. “I really want to look at our code and get that up to date, and maybe at the same time, if we could, have a process that looks at specific chapters.”

County Attorney Greg Kamptner said he was concerned that if the two were on the same track, the county “might be dealing with a moving target.”

“The ideal situation would be to have a Comp Plan, and then immediately following, a rewrite and updating of the zoning ordinance, because it’s 40 years old,” he said.

County staff have started to keep a list of priorities to address what has been mentioned by community members and supervisors, Director of Planning Charles Rapp said, and it’s growing.

“That’s kind of what is driving the idea that maybe we need to really take some time to do some of that scoping and determine what that is, because if everybody has an item in, over time it grows,” he said. “I think that’s what’s happened in the past, and that’s what some of our concern is.”

County staff will bring options back, Rapp said, so the board can see what can be accomplished.

County Executive Jeff Richardson said one of the board’s favorite sayings is “add to the list.”

“Three years sounds like a long time, but everywhere I’ve ever been comprehensive plan updates take quite some time because of the domino effect and touching all the various aspects of the entire plan document, so we’re really trying to manage the board’s expectations here,” he said.

Falkenstein said they were also no longer proposing stipends for advisory group members, but instead utilizing that money to reduce barriers to participation.

“Group members would be asked to communicate if there are any barriers to their participation and what those might be, such as language access or transportation, and then funds would be available to support their participation as needed,” she said. “Similar approaches have been done in other localities and it seems to be an effective approach to create more equitable processes.”


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