Six Questions about Albemarle County’s Neighborhood Model

cul de sacs.

You can have the most walkable neighborhood in the world, but if the only places you can walk to are your neighbors’, the neighborhood is not truly walkable; this seems to be something lost on Albemarle County, whether intentionally or circumstantially.

Now the County seems to be grasping this disconnect –

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that the County is debating the Neighborhood Model.

Having islands (neighborhoods) unto themselves does not provide what homebuyers – or home owners – are looking for if they are seeking to live in a walkable community. I could rattle off the number of subdivisions in Albemarle County that are very walkable – but to do anything other than walk to friends’ houses (even that’s not allowed due to today’s fear-centric society!)

The number of neighborhoods in Albemarle County from which residents can get to stuff – stores, coffee shops, schools, work – without having to resort to a car is much smaller. Further, the number of neighborhoods built since 2001 that meet even two thirds of the 12 tenets can likely be counted on one hand.

Six questions about Albemarle County’s neighborhood model:

1 – What does one say to those who buy in a neighborhood who don’t know that interconnectivity is one of the 12 tenets of the Neighborhood Model? (hint: this is part of the buyer agent’s role – to help educate as best possible that if they don’t own it it’s going to change)

2 – Should developers be required to put in infrastructure from the beginning?

3 – Who should pay for the infrastructure – developers, homebuyers (see previous choice), all property owners (via property taxes)?

4 – How are walkability and access defined?

5 – Has the Neighborhood Model been successfully implemented?

6 – Which are the most “successful” neighborhoods? How is “success defined”?

The Neighborhood Model’s tenets are:

1. Accommodates walkers, bikers, and public transportation so that mobility can be a reality for the elderly, the young, and those with limited access to automobiles.
2. Makes open space integral to overall design so that residents and workers can walk to a public park, experience preserved natural areas, and enjoy public gathering places.
3. Keeps buildings and spaces at a human scale so that street views are attractive and pedestrian friendly.
4. Incorporates varying densities and gradually allows for an overall increase in density in the Development Areas to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.
5. Contains a mixture of residential and non-residential uses so residents have convenient access to work, to services, and to entertainment.
6. Requires interconnected streets within developments and between developments so that pedestrians can walk easily to many destinations, traffic has alternative routes, and car trips are reduced in number and length.
7. Moves off-street parking out of sight and encourages on-street parking.
8. Mixes housing types and markets so that the full range of housing choices is offered within the neighborhood.
9. Emphasizes re-use of sites.
10. Adapts development to site terrain so that natural topography can be preserved.
11. Maintains a clear boundary between Development Areas and Rural Areas.
12. Provides for neighborhoods to have a designated center to bring diverse and continuous activity to a neighborhood.

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  1. McG June 1, 2012 at 07:59

    Wickham Pond is a good example of the failure of the model. Sure, it’s walkable but other than the playground and greenspace, there are no destinations imagined by the neighborhood model. Instead, it has created frustration by homeowners who are seeing as it develops out just how tight the arrangement is. Parking will be a bear when built out, and the townhomes and single family homes are stacked atop one another. Still a great place because of the cool houses and friendly neighbors. And maybe one day there will be commercial stuff built, as per the original plan. But for now, Old Trail seems to be about the only one that hits the main points because to have meaningful destinations to walk and bike to for various activities, you need scale.

    1. Jim Duncan June 3, 2012 at 07:13

      I have to agree with you on Wickham. I’d also put Parkside Village in the mix as a great success. (disclosure: I live there). Close to Crozet Park & Pool, the growing downtown – Mudhouse, hardware store, pub, pharmacy.

      Old Trail has been quite the success, although I think it could have been done a bit better by putting the residential closer to the commercial spaces.

      1. McG June 4, 2012 at 07:56

         Parkside.. right. Forgot about that one. When I’m at the pool with kids or the arts/crafts festival I often think about how nice it would be to be able to walk from that neighborhood right to the pool and the fields.
        Don’t forget about the original “neighborhood model” areas in Crozet – the old neighborhoods and older homes that surround crozet elementary, etc. They had it right long before this modern incarnation of a model that seems to have good intentions but spotty implementation.

        1. Jim Duncan June 5, 2012 at 05:40

          Re: the older neighborhoods – it’s funny/sad that many of these don’t have sidewalks for easier accessibility. I’m thinking that when they were built, population was lower (and people were more responsible/less fearful) and the sidewalks weren’t as necessary. 

          1. Dave June 5, 2012 at 14:58

            Speaking of older neighborhoods…what is going on on Huntington Rd. in Northridge, Jim? Drove by the other day and saw a slew of homes for sale between Rio and the bridge to Belvedere. Coincidence? 

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