“A common assumption among citizens and scholars concerned with land use is that the nature of the built environment helps shape social life in important ways,” writes Thad Williamson in his book, Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship: The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life. He says that the character of a place built in a particular way could be linked to individual actions and attitudes in predictable ways. Build the road and subdivisions will follow; build sidewalks and you calm traffic and promote physical activity and build parks and you promote social interaction and economic growth. Williamson argues that communities should roll back policies that promote sprawl. That is a basic fiber that runs through all of the elements of Chesterfield’s effort to construct a countywide comprehensive plan.
A draft of Chesterfield’s countywide comprehensive plan will be introduced to the public at community meetings beginning in January. The county’s comprehensive plan steering committee got its first look at the draft plan in its entirety Monday evening. The committee has seen, and constructed, most of the draft plan, but now it’s being presented in its entirety, including sections on the county’s plan vision, land use, transportation, revitalization, economic development, housing, environment and public facilities. Many of these elements have become part of the county’s comprehensive plan for the first time and although the draft is complete, there are still many opportunities to weigh-in on the plan.
“There are many groups on this list,” said Barbara Fassett, project manager for the comprehensive plan, referring to civic, business and community organizations. “We are interested in talking with all of you. Any groups who might be interested, we’d love to Continued from page 1.
come out and talk to you.”
While the major sections of the comp plan had been vetted by the various departments that would be affected, the transportation department’s staff received the draft transportation portion of the plan on Nov. 5. A note attached to the draft plan states the transportation department “has not had adequate time to review and comment on the plan. Accordingly, the transportation department’s review will occur concurrently with the [steering] committee’s review.”
“This [transportation] plan takes all of the land use plan into consideration,” said Lorna Parkins, of Michael Baker Jr., Inc., another of the consulting planners. She said it’s not just the next 20 years, but the entire plan through build out.
To date, most comments relating to the new countywide plan have pointed to transportation, the concept of 25-acre minimum parcels in the far western part of the county and how community comp plans recently completed would be incorporated. According to the draft plan’s executive summary, entire plans have not been embraced verbatim, although “all components of past plans were evaluated, and specific relevant details incorporated.”
The draft of the comp plan promotes smart growth through recognizing a number of strategic planning ideas while embracing economic development and considering the cost of transportation and other infrastructure costs. Draft plan language encourages higher density in appropriate areas to “accommodate a wider array of lifestyle and employment opportunities and the efficient use of land.”
“To promote employment opportunities, you want jobs close to housing; an employer wants a sense of community and a sense of place.” said Vlad Gavrilovic of Renaissance Planning Group, the lead consultant for the plan. Steve Haash, a principle planner with Chesterfield County added that the plan would recommend that the county “offer incentives to get this type of development started.”
Planners, through the introduction to the draft plan, also indicated that the plan should not only be only advisory, but be followed with policies and actions that achieve the plan’s goals and remain fluid enough to initiate new ideas quickly.
The steering committee will have one more meeting on Dec. 16 to discuss the draft plan before it is presented to a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and School Board on Jan. 12. By that time, county residents will be able to attend district meetings to review and offer input on the plan.