Changing zoning codes to make Charlottesville, VA more vibrant and sustainable

charlottesvilleDowntown Pedestrian Mall in Charlottesville, VA. Photo by Abi Bhattachan via Flickr.

Charlottesville, VA has ambitious plans to grow its economy while becoming a healthier, more sustainable place to live. In 1998, Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County adopted Sustainability Accords and in 2013 completed a regional livability plan. These plans have put forth an ambitious vision and to help achieve those goals, Charlottesville brought in some expert help.

On April 28 and 29, 2015, a technical assistance team from Smart Growth America visited Charlottesville to conduct a Sustainable Land Use Code Audit workshop. Our instructors met with community members to review key portions of the zoning code and to identify zoning changes that could help the city become more sustainable, healthy, and economically vibrant.

Before the workshop began, the Smart Growth America team audited specific portions of Charlottesville’s local zoning code and produced a detailed report identifying priority issues and options to address them.

Local residents joined the workshop’s first day for an introductory presentation how zoning changes can promote sustainable growth and economic development.

On the workshop’s second day, representatives from multiple city departments, members of the city council and Charlottesville planning commission as well as staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development came together to discuss Smart Growth America’s recommendations in detail. Workshop participants tackled key questions about how Charlottesville might use zoning to make outdoor lighting more energy efficient, increase green infrastructure, and promote community public health initiatives.

Charlottesville was one of 14 communities nationwide selected to receive one of Smart Growth America’s 2015 free technical assistance workshops. Stretching from Florida to Washington State, these 14 communities represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike. The program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. One other nonprofit organization—Project for Public Spaces—currently has an active grant to help communities get the kinds of development they want.

Want to bring Smart Growth America’s experts to your town? Learn more about our community workshops >>

Workshop Materials:

Technical assistance