Should there be a population cap for Charlottesville and Albemarle? Who should decide?
If the "maximum" population is X, what happens when we reach X + 1?
Make no mistake, ASAP is a slow-no growth organization; their URL is stopgrowthasap.org, for goodness sakes. That said, there is some merit to evaluating the impacts of growth on our region. I just wish that, with all such matters – politics, transportation, growth – there was a wider recognition that Charlottesville and Albemarle (CharlAlbemarle) are not isolated in the Central Virginia region.
If nothing else, hopefully this report will help people understand that there is more to growth than building houses; lamentably I suspect that relatively few members of the public will take the time to read more than 30 seconds worth of a summary of a summary of the report … and then an equally relative few will be making decisions that impact the lives of so many.
If we ever did implement a population cap, those who own real estate in the area would likely do very well for themselves. People will likely continue to want to live in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area … limited supply + relatively steady demand = rising property values (although who knows who would be able to buy them).
This is a snip from Charlottesville Tomorrow’s interview with Jack Marshall, ASAP’s president. Visit Charlottesville Tomorrow to read and listen to the entire interview and download the PDF with ASAP’s findings.
07:35 –Â WHEELER: Why don’t you tell us about the methodology.
07:42 â€“Â MARSHALL:Â For purposes of this research, WHEN growth occurs is not relevant.Â First step was to project WHERE the growth will occur.Â The City and County were divided into eight sub-areas and various growth levels were evaluated in a computer model.Â Current zoning and historical development patterns were incorporated in the model.Â Hypothetically, each area is developed to a certain build-out number, and then continued growth spills out into the rural area.Â The population number at which no more development could occur in the computer model was found to be 400,000 people.Â We have about 135,000 people today.Â This build-out population estimate of 400,000 is pretty close to research done by a different methodology 5-7 years ago by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC).Â Next major issue was to assess impact to ecosystem services with population growth using computer software called CITYGreen.
13:06 –Â WHEELER: You mentioned a couple population numbers, let’s review those againâ€”135,000 people today, build-out population of 400,000.Â Were you surprised that matched the TJPDC’s findings?
13:45 â€“Â MARSHALL: The fact that it coincides with the TJPDC build-out number pleases but doesn’t surprise us.
14:04 â€“Â WHEELER: What optimal sustainable population did this research indicate was a good fit?
14:18 â€“Â MARSHALL: You are pushing me to give you specific numbers, but all this research does is show what happens to certain ecosystem services as population increases.Â At 125% population increase, which is about 280,000 people, roughly twice what we have now, there is in this model a degradation of ecosystem services, but contained primarily within the designated growth areas.Â As growth continues, it spills out into the rural areas, and that’s when we see a whole different level of impact.Â This report goes into detail about those impacts on ecosystem services.
16:18 –Â WHEELER: Let me read a quote from the report and you can react to it:â€œIf the community wishes to maintain ecosystem services across the study area, a population of roughly 200,000 or less should be maintained, with that growth being focused in the growth areas. If it is acceptable to sacrifice services in the developing areas, a population up to roughly 300,000 could be accommodated.â€
Is 200,000 to 300,000 the population range that ASAP was looking for?
17:05 â€“Â MARSHALL: You are trying to get me to indicate a number or a range that ASAP wants to defend.Â At this point we are not prepared to come out with specific numbers.Â This is the first phase of the study focusing on biological carrying capacity.Â Once we have the whole range of studies completed this fall, then we will be more inclined to come out with specific numbers.
18:52 –Â WHEELER: Let’s talk about the population trends.Â She identified 200,000 as a population not to go beyond to avoid damaging ecosystem services.Â How soon do you think we will reach 200,000 people?
19:20 â€“Â MARSHALL: City population is pretty stable, but County has been growing at 2.1% a year for the last 30-40 years.Â At that rate, we double our population every 33 years.Â Normally I would say you could extrapolate that, but we have slowed growth because of the global economic downturn.Â There is no question that temporarily we are growing slower.Â I am afraid that might lull our community into a false sense that we have licked the growth problem when in fact it will roar back as soon as people want to buy houses again.Â
If we were to continue growing at 2.1%, I think that a population of 200,000 might occur in about the year 2040.
I’ll say this – ASAP realizes the symbiotic relationship between the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.
* First noted on my posterous last night.
* Is it safe to assume that this report is in the public domain, as it was funded by local governments?