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.

Councilmember Kathy Galvin commits to bringing equitable development to Charlottesville, VA

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Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA. Photo by Bob Mical via Flickr

Charlottesville, VA, is setting itself apart from other college towns through a focus on equitable development. The city, which comprises just 10 square miles in central Virginia’s Albemarle County, boasts a rich heritage with connections to Thomas Jefferson and colonial America. Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia as well as many historic sites, most famously including Monticello.

For nearly 30 years, Albemarle County has protected its rural areas through strong preservation practices—and residents have felt the benefits. The city has a strong downtown and walkable core, including the downtown pedestrian mall—one of the most successful in the country—and much of the city is within a 15-minute drive from nearby natural areas. Councilmember Kathy Galvin, a long time Charlottesville resident and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is committed to further strengthening the city’s core and making sure it in an equitable place for all current and future residents.

Dangerous by Design 2014: Virginia

The National Complete Streets Coalition reports on the national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, offering county-, metro-, and state-level data on traffic fatalities and an interactive map of each loss in the decade 2003 through 2012. This resource specific profiles the state of Virginia.

Since the workshop: Fairfax, VA identifies new development potential along Fairfax Boulevard

Dover Kohl VisualizationA visualization of the Northfax node along Fairfax Boulevard illustrating a potential future condition. Photo courtesy of Dover Kohl & Partners.

In June, 2013 Smart Growth America visited the city of Fairfax, VA to help city leaders there figure out new strategies for development. How is Fairfax using that workshop to inform its work today?

Since 2007, the City has been working to revitalize Fairfax Boulevard, the main commercial corridor running through the city. The boulevard is currently home to strip mall-type retail and other low-density commercial businesses but recent developer interest in projects along Fairfax Boulevard made the City realize that low-density development on the corridor would not support the community over the long term. So the Department of Community Development and Planning applied for one of Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance workshops, viewing it as an opportunity to ground public discussions about development in sound fiscal policy.

Councilmember Michael DeMarco has a plan to keep the City of Fairfax, VA competitive in its region

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Old Town Fairfax, VA. Photo by Brandon Wu via Flickr.

City Councilmember Michael DeMarco may just be in his first term of elected office, but he has a strong vision for the future of the City of Fairfax, VA.

As the previous Chair of the city’s Economic Development Authority, DeMarco is focused on smart growth and development for his city of 6.3 square miles and just under 25,000 residents. Fairfax is located in Northern Virginia and part of the growing greater Washington, DC metro region. “It’s not a question of when we will grow,” says DeMarco. “It’s a question of how we will grow.”

Virginia Beach, VA aims to attract new businesses and residents with more walkable neighborhoods

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Virginia Beach, VA’s Town Center. Photo by Barb Watson via Flickr.

Virginia Beach, VA is already a popular summertime destination. Now, city leaders are working to attract more year-round businesses and residents, and they’re using smart growth strategies to make it happen.

Virginia Beach is beginning to implement its comprehensive plan, beginning with the city’s Central Business District Core. The neighborhood is one of the city’s eight strategic growth areas, and Virginia Beach residents have said they want it to have “a mix of urban uses, great streets, mobility and transit alternatives.”

Jim Bacon explains the fiscal and economic benefits of smart growth

Jim Bacon is creator and publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion, a Virginia-based blog that covers a range of infrastructure, growth and policy issues. In an interview with Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Bacon discusses how he came to see smart growth strategies as a fiscally responsible approach to development.

A former editor of Virginia Business Magazine, Bacon has been following community development and transportation issues since the 1980s when northern Virginia was experiencing a building boom. “I was really concerned about costs of growth at the time,” says Bacon. “When you smear out growth over a large, huge land mass, it’s going to be far more expensive to build the roads, extend water and sewer, cable lines, and electricity.”

Transportation in the City event highlights the changing the face of transit in DC

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On Wednesday, September 25, Smart Growth America’s Transportation in the City event brought together a panel of transportation and startup experts, representatives from innovative transportation services operating in DC, and Washington residents to discuss the growth of transportation options over the past few years – and the challenges that lay ahead.

The panel included Donna Harris, Co-founder, 1776; Sita Vasan, Executive Director, SwitchPitch; Martin Di Caro, Transportation Reporter, WAMU; and Tom Fairchild, Director, Mobility Lab. Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth made the opening remarks and the panel was moderated by Smart Growth America Vice President and Chief of Staff Ilana Preuss.