Nov. 21-Dec. 4, 2003
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Getting in on the plan
City, county to take part in U.Va. planning process

By Dan Heuchert

If there’s one truism about master plans, it is this: they change.
In an effort to better inform the community about its master planning efforts, the University has pledged to formalize the way that the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County participate in its planning process. Specifically, U.Va. has reconstituted its Master Planning Council — charged with advising the University president on long-range physical planning issues — which includes nonvoting representatives from the city and the county.

The University will also send any modification to its master plan to a group made up of city, county and University planners for review and public comment before making final decisions.

“I think it’s a good step forward,” Charlottesville city manager Gary O’Connell said. “It’s one more step that the city, county and University are taking to help each other understand what we are doing.”

O’Connell’s Albemarle counterpart, county executive Robert W. Tucker Jr., agreed. “This change in process will enhance the working relationship that we, the University and city already have in regard to substantive development proposals planned for our respective areas,” he said.

University president John T. Casteen III and executive vice president and chief operating officer Leonard W. Sandridge presented the University’s pledge Nov. 20 to the Planning and Coordination Council, made up of representatives from the city, county and University. It was part of a three-party “proposal to improve communication and information sharing … as it pertains to physical planning and development,” which council members adopted by a unanimous voice vote. It will be forwarded to the city and county governments for their approval.

Sandridge stressed that the proposal was consistent with the 1986 Three-Party Agreement, which calls for the city, county and U.Va. to circulate their land use, construction and development plans among one another. The University has freely shared its master plan — available online at www.virginia.edu/architect office/masterplan.html — and has recently improved its communications with its neighbors, Sandridge said, but had only informal processes in place to share changes in the master plan.

The new process will address that more formally, he said.

“The University has committed to keeping the community informed about changes to the master plan,” Sandridge said. “This is one more step in our efforts to improve the current process.”

The University’s Board of Visitors approved the current University master plan in June 1999.

Mary Hughes, the University’s landscape architect, noted that the University’s planning has become less predictable in recent years, as state capital funding has fallen off and the University has become more dependent on private fund raising. Major gifts may accelerate the timeline for some projects, while others may be delayed if fund raising is slower, she said.

The Master Planning Council, chaired by the University architect and including the nonvoting city and county representatives — county planning director Wayne Cilimberg and city planning director James Tolbert — will now be charged with reviewing “any building or site improvement that is not officially recorded on the current master plan,” including an examination of alternative sites for such projects. That body’s recommendation will then go to an executive committee, made up of Sandridge, vice president and provost Gene Block and vice president for management and budget Colette Sheehy.

Before the executive committee takes final action, it will share the proposed master plan changes with the Planning and Coordination Council’s technical advisory group, made up of planning staff from the city, county and University. At that group’s quarterly meetings, members of the general public would be able to comment on the projects, according to the proposal.

The changes in the University’s planning process were actually put into effect in the spring, Hughes said. “Most people feel it to be working pretty well,” she said.

The University’s master plan will be reviewed in the near future, Hughes said.

 


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