Comp Plan public involvement – redux

There’s a 50-50 chance that we’ll see a lasting peace agreement signed in the Middle East before the Board of County Supervisors adopts the new 2030 Comprehensive Plan – but in both cases, you gotta keep pushing for a good conclusion, despite the frustration.

Latest exercise: town hall meetings across the county through October, to discuss the draft Transportation and Land Use chapters.  First meeting is June 18.

In 2007-08, the Planning Department led separate advisory committees that produced separate, inconsistent draft chapters.  In 2008-09, the Planning Commission revised the Transportation and Land Use drafts… but failed to integrate them.

In theory, the Land Use chapter will identify where the county wants to build housing for 140,000 new residents arriving by 2030.  In theory, the Transportation Chapter will identify where the county plans to upgrade transportation infrastructure, minimizing the increase in traffic congestion as the population grows.

The current draft chapters are filled with smart growth jargon, but fail to steer new growth to the locations where we’ll build new roads/transit capabilities.  Between now and 2030, we’re at risk of seeing population increase primarily near Quantico Marine Corps Base, but building new roads/VRE stations primarily in Gainesville.

The Planning Department has further complicated the discussion by offering its own alternative, separate from the version approved by the Planning Commission.  Come to the town hall discussions prepared to wade through planning jargon *and* a confusing jumble of proposals.

If you feel lost in the debate, just focus on the results.  Ask “if this chapter is approved, what areas in the county will grow?  will we mitigate 100% of the new traffic congestion in those areas?  75%?  50%?”

Here are 4 ways to measure if the new Comprehensive Plan passes the common sense test:
– is the additional new development proposed in the Land Use chapter based on the projected demand from population growth predictions?
– how close will transportation upgrades (wider roads, new grade-separated intersections, additional VRE stations…) be located to where the population will grow?
– how much will it cost to implement the transportation plan, and how will it be funded?
– if we build all the proposed transportation upgrades, where will traffic congestion still increase by 2030?

No one can predict the future perfectly, but the whole point of the Comprehensive Plan is to shape the location and mitigate impacts of future growth.  Unplanned, fragmented development leads to higher taxes, forcing construction of an excessive number of new schools, fire stations, etc.

Every day on every road, drivers dream of a wider road, new turn lanes, and new overpasses at every intersection. Realistically, taxpayers can’t afford to convert every road into a 4-lane divided highway.  The Comp Plan is the tool to get the biggest bang for each buck invested in transportation upgrades.

If you hear at the town meetings “we’re allowing for growth in lots of places, and we’ll let the developers in the private sector decide what locations should become the centers of growth” – well, look for massive congestion, as new houses will be occupied long before transportation is improved.

We’ve seen this on Route 1/I-95 in the 1970’s, on Old Bridge and Sudley roads in the 1980’s, and more recently on Minnieville and Linton Hall roads.  We can learn from the lessons of the past when we plan for the future, but unless the draft Comp Plan chapters are integrated, we’re doomed to repeat our previous mistakes.

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1 comment so far

  1. Mom on

    I would bet on peace in the Middle East given the history of this piecemeal Comp Plan process. Let’s harken back to January of this year when the BOCS wanted it expedited by the Planning Commission because the process had already taken too long. The PC attempted to comply, were hamstrung by the Planning Office, and forced to hold an additional public hearing based on questionable interpretations by the Planning Office and County Attorney. After the public hearing were held the PC forwarded the amended draft to the BOCS which has now flip-flopped and apparently decided that they may get around to it in Decemeber. They (particularly Chairman Soundbite and Marty) take us all for fools as they twist the process to benefit backroom negotiations and potentially place the county in a delicate position as the process is not been comported in compliance with the State Code. Sigh, nothing but the same old same old in PWC.


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