FLUM – Charlottesville’s Future Land Use Map (2021)

I’m not really sure how this post is going to turn out. I’ve been trying to make sense of the Charlottesville Future Land Use Map. I need to understand because I live in the County that surrounds the City of Charlottesville, and as if not more importantly, my clients depend on me to at least try to understand what’s going on.

My understanding is that the Charlottesville Future Land Use Map will affect how and where people live in the City of Charlottesville, how they move from one place to the next, and how the real estate market and values will be affected in the short and long term.

This plan been discussed for a long, long time as the City of Charlottesville grapples with whether and how it wants/needs to grow, how to balance a shifting still-in-a-pandemic-world, race and Charlottesville, recent and long past history, and NIMBY, YIMBY, affordable housing, and those who say they want change, but don’t want to change themselves in order for that change to happen, preferably “over there.”

Charlottesville’s future land use plan is a big deal. Land use touches and affects everything. Zoning, mixed-use, transportation, class, race, schools, climate … real estate values. Lots of stuff.

I’m going to try to get an opinion, and this is how and where I flesh things out. Charlottesville needs to grow up. I’ll focus on the fact that Charlottesville needs to grow up in the vertical and city sense. More density, more transportation options, more mixed use shops that discourage driving cars everywhere, and creating and facilitating an environment that draws people to the vibrant and inviting city we know Charlottesville can be. And create an environment that encourages building homes – not just single family homes – but duplexes, triplexes, quads, etc – that will be attractive and hopefully more affordable to those who want to live in a City.

Charlottesville has less than 50,000 people, Albemarle has about 115,000 people. The Charlottesville MSA has about 215,000 people. (* there’s Census uncertainty about our population) We aren’t that big.

Charlottesville needs to grow, change, evolve. That necessarily includes more density, fewer cars, and changes to existing land use and human settlement patterns within the City of Charlottesville limits, and how the City symbiotically interacts with its neighbors.

A reader emailed me several weeks ago:

I like your blog and I have followed on and off for years.

I wonder what you… think about cvilleplanstogether?

It seems like many people understand where it is coming from and the need but the actual implementation – like rezoning some streets (but not all) for “medium density” and potentially getting 4-12 units, 4.5 stories, “by right”, “reduced off street parking requirement” etc. – doesn’t sound very appealing. Even if the risk is low of it happening “next door”, the potential is disturbing. At one level, it is a taking of property / value without much process or compensation. Arguably defensible when dealing with people who appreciated their assets but what about people who just moved in, paid a high price, and thought R-1 had some meaning in terms of stability? (i.e. zoning means nothing to a purchaser if a body can come along and rezone at will). I fail to resist the temptation to point to “PRC” the People’s Republic of Charlottesville. Perhaps I should have known better at the outset (in 2000). Others have noted that upzoning may in fact increase property values even if residents’ initial concern is the opposite.

Thanks, I am sure you have a thoughtful insight – both personally and from the perspective of those you represent.

I see that perspective, appreciate the email and questions, and counter with this.

Charlottesville needs to grow up. We need more housing, fewer cars, more density. People buying houses in Charlottesville (and anywhere) should be doing research about what is happening to land use patterns, ask questions, read, and understand that if you don’t own it, it’s going to change. We need to become a region (I’m including Albemarle specifically, but our other neighbors in the MSA) that is welcoming and people do not require cars to get to work or the grocery store.

“Would building multi-family housing lower the values of their houses?

Answer is “it depends.” And “things change.”

Done right, I can see how it would accentuate and add value to all surrounding properties. Done poorly, the opposite.

What does Charlottesville want to be?

I don’t know, but I tend to come back to a conversation in 2007 about whether Charlottesville wants to be like Austin, Aspen, or Boulder. We have a lot of people who ostensibly want the same goals – affordable housing, clean environment, thriving and welcoming business development opportunities. We should want to be a great place to live. And “great” is defined by the person or contingent defining the meaning for their own selfish instance. Humans are selfish, and that’s ok.

This is an opportunity (and really should be done with UVA and Albemarle too) to place the stakes for a better future.

I still don’t have a fully formed opinion, but I’ve done a lot more reading, and I have a better understanding and am better prepared to represent my clients. So I’ll take the win.


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What am I missing? Where am I wrong? Where am I right? Happy to hear questions and opinions.

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