Charlottesville and Albemarle Need to Stabilize Population?

Population limits/thresholds in Albemarle and Charlottesville have been discussed for years. I’ve struggled with my opinions about growth for at least that long.

ASAP (Advocates for a Suitable Population) are continuing their rhetoric (read the whole thing):

ASAP says their research at this point is still insufficient to identify a specific optimal population for the community. However, faced with a limited supply of natural resources, Marshall said housing is the key piece of community infrastructure that needs to be limited to reduce demand.

I’m sure that Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson, Louisa and the other surrounding counties would love to have Charlottesville/Albemarle place caps on housing starts. Prices would likely go up artificially in Charlottesville and Albemarle and our neighbors would benefit. But … CharlAlbemarle would then have traffic coming into the urban ring without the benefit of property taxes (which don’t cover the cost of housing).

– How does one define “optimum population” and what are the consequences for exceeding said optimum population?

– Maybe we could also institute congestion pricing as they have in London (really not a bad idea) instead of a moat.

– Would we restrict services to residents if they weren’t in the urban ring and didn’t pay a fire or rescue fee?

This is so much bigger than a blog post. This is the sort of issue that is much like the boiling frog metaphor. If we don’t pay attention now, we just might find ourselves boiled later.

Update 19 October 2010: Neil Williamson at the Free Enterprise Forum opines on the fallacy of Marshall’s argument for construction causality.

Funny, I hadn’t focused on the “us versus them” quote. I’m one of them, too, and I’m glad I’m here. Now, my wife is a native of Charlottesville, and I bet she’d ask Mr. Marshall where he’s from.

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  1. Lonnie Murray October 19, 2010 at 16:13

    With due respect, there’s another fallacy here on Neil’s side too… Why would housing prices going up be a bad thing (especially right now). Think about it… If that’s really the fear then it’s a pretty poor argument, since no one really wants their own home to be “affordable” when they sell it. Likewise, I can’t imagine that local developers are really worried that land prices and demand will go up. In fact, sounds a bit like Br’er Rabbit. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that ASAP is barking up the wrong tree, but likewise I think the specter of downzoning is just that.

    1. Jim October 19, 2010 at 21:30

      I think that (as with most things) there is a middle ground in which we’ll find reality. Unbridled growth? Nope.

      Do we need to set a hard cap on population? That’s ludicrous.

      Do we need to have thoughtful, considered growth? Sure.

      Thanks for the Br’er Rabbit reference – a reminder to read that to the kids this week.

  2. Lonnie Murray October 19, 2010 at 22:37

    Thanks Jim, I obviously agree. For myself, I think quality is far more important an issue than quantity. If we get the quality part right then I believe the quantity part will work itself out with the market. I also think that it’d be foolish to consider Albemarle in a bubble and that surrounding counties need to be brought into the discussion for meaningful progress to be made.

    Most importantly, I think that the economy shouldn’t be ignored in all this. In that, I strongly agree with Neil. If conservation measures are to be successful, then they must work with the economy, not against it. Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with Creigh Deeds to talk about what Charlottesville and Albemarle can do to provide meaningful incentives for conservation of rural areas and natural resources. It’s also possible that there are ways to adjust policy to make the process easier for those who voluntarily go above and beyond in terms of protecting the local environment within their site plans. If you have any ideas… then please let me know.


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