Albemarle County on the right, Charlottesville City on the left
A decade ago it was unusual to see people recreating on the Rivanna. I saw ten boats yesterday.
People in the river
People next to the river.
There are two formal access points to the river along the shared 3.7 mile County City waterfront. The stairway at Riverview Park was built by Eagle Scout Chris Keeling
July 1 the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors meet. Item F on their agenda:
F. Rivanna River Planning
Historically, Charlottesville’s and Albemarle County’s economies grew in relation to the major roads and the James and Rivanna rivers. The smaller Rivanna River had manufacturing mills and a system of dams, locks, and canals for navigation. Nine miles of the Rivanna River and its south fork between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and Woolen Mills are designated as part of the state Scenic River system. Both Charlottesville and Albemarle County are responsible for regulating land use along the Rivanna, and both governments are now recognizing the growth potential of the river as a shared asset. Both planning commissions have advocated for, “creation of a plan that incorporates a unified vision for land uses adjacent to the Rivanna River which supports the river corridor as a destination; and that develops a shared vision for parks, trails, and recreational opportunities associated with the river.” There is potential for valuable synergy in the City and the County further developing the riverfront as a place to play and live.
Albemarle’s draft comprehensive plan states, “The City and County will create a unified vision for land uses adjacent to the Rivanna River that supports the river corridor as a destination while ensuring the protection and improvement of the river’s water quality.” The City has a River Initiative and River Corridor Plan which notes the need for coordinated planning, and the City’s comprehensive plan states, “Work with regional partners to draft and implement a plan that better utilizes and protects the Rivanna River as an environmental, recreational and economic amenity.” By working together, the Board and Council can help to make the riverfront more beautiful and valuable.
(letter from the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association Board to City Council)
October 3, 2013
Re: Rivanna River Corridor Plan
Dear Charlottesville City Council,
Congratulations on your recent adoption of the update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The
newly updated Plan, like the versions of the Comprehensive Plan that preceded it, prioritizes
restoring the health of the City’s most under-appreciated asset: the Rivanna River. In light of the
clear, urgent interest throughout the community on planning for appropriate land uses along the
Rivanna corridor, we are writing to urge you to take the necessary first steps now to ensure that
meaningful and productive planning can occur along the City’s portion of this invaluable natural
Goal one of the new Comprehensive Plan’s Environment chapter reads:
Value the Rivanna River as a major asset in the life of our City and region and restore it
to a healthy condition within our ecosystem in order to improve habitat, watershed health
and water quality.
Achieving this important goal will remain elusive unless and until our community develops a
unified plan for land uses, green infrastructure projects, and best management practices along the
Rivanna corridor. This is because haphazard review and approval of individual development
proposals as they are submitted precludes any real consideration of how each proposal fits into a
broader vision for the river and its restoration. A Rivanna corridor plan has been contemplated
at least as far back as 1998, when the very first recommendation of the Rivanna River Basin
Roundtable’s State of the Basin report was to “[d]evelop a Corridor Plan to guide decision
making related to preservation and use of the Rivanna River.”
Due to the absence of focused action from our elected officials in the City and County, the
pressure for such a plan is bubbling up in other places, as seen in the UVA Architecture School’s
recent Rivanna River Vortex project, as well as the joint discussions between the Charlottesville
and Albemarle planning commissions that were conducted as part of the TJPDC’s Livable
Communities Planning Project, and which culminated in a call for the “[c]reation of a plan that
incorporates a unified vision for land uses adjacent to the Rivanna River that support the river
corridor as a destination; and that develops a shared vision for parks, trails, and recreational
opportunities associated with the river.”
The need for a Rivanna corridor plan is stronger than ever. Impairments to the Rivanna remain a
significant environmental and health problem for our community, and development pressures
along the river are only bound to increase as the economy gradually improves. To have any
realistic chance of achieving the Comprehensive Plan’s goals of restoring a major asset of the
City to a healthy condition, our community must get started on a Rivanna corridor plan as soon
As the critical first step in developing a meaningful plan, we request that the City issue a
request for proposals to map and inventory the natural, cultural and built resources
located along the 3.7 miles of the City’s waterfront.
What do we stand to lose if we do not plan? The Police suggest that homeowners inventory and
photograph their valuables; we suggest the same approach be taken with the Rivanna corridor as
it passes through the City.
People have been living in this neighborhood, this place, for thousands of years.
We live in the bend of a state scenic River, on rich, fertile ground, Davidson Loam. Seated here we are eight tenths of a mile from the front porch of Monticello, a mile and 2/10ths from the downtown mall. Seated here we are home, in the center of our universe.
But often we feel, as a neighborhood, that we are in the center of the crosshairs.
Over the years our discussions with the Council have focused on a handful of issues. We’ve asked for reductions in traffic speed and volume, we’ve asked for a reduction of the sewage smell. We’ve asked for pedestrian safety improvements and we have asked that planning and zoning be used to conserve our cultural and natural resources as well as our quality of life.
We have partnered with government entities in the creation of a national historic district, in the design of a sewage pumping station and in the care of our City park. We plant streetscape trees. We pick up trash, we attend City meetings. We have accomplished much but still, we feel threatened.
We are reassured by statements from Mayor Huja and Vice Mayor Szakos in opposition to a bridge through the Woolen Mills. We thank Dave Norris for his enduring stand against the County using City neighborhoods as an interchange.
Diversity is a strength to our way of thinking. We are all kinds of people in this neighborhood. But our mixed status, our socio-economic profile, seems to attract locally unwanted landuses.
Please work with us in our effort to secure the quiet enjoyment of our own homes and the health, safety and welfare of our neighborhood. Together we can make it so.
Abrupt typology shift.
Theoretically, the primary purpose of zoning is to segregate uses that are thought to be incompatible. In practice, zoning is used to prevent new development from interfering with existing residents or businesses and to preserve the “character” of a community. Zoning is commonly controlled by local governments such as counties or municipalities, though the nature of the zoning regime may be determined or limited by state or national planning authorities or through enabling legislation.–Wikipedia
Mixed use districts downtown north and downtown extended, business, residential and manufacturing B1, R-1, R-2, M-I, plus several individually protected properties.
We changed our zoning east of the tracks to allow for higher density student habitat.
West of the tracks, human scale.
Sunday a forum was staged by the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association to brainstorm with members of City Staff, Council and Planning Commission what to do now that MJH has taken the suburban plunge.
I have deep affection for Martha Jefferson Hospital but no love for the mess its exit leaves behind, the acres of impervious surface, the far-flung degraded neighborhood landscape of single family residences repurposed to house the filing cabinets and fax machines of medicos.
No summary offered here of brain storm sequelae.
On a personal note, I had a profane response, an emotive outburst (fortunately, not televised) following the brainstorming session. The position in which Martha Jefferson and Little High neighborhoods find themselves is similar to that of the Woolen Mills neighborhood and that similarity provoked me to say GOD DAMN.
Fifty years ago the Woolen Mills lost a neighborhood institution. Since the time of that loss the Woolies (Woolen Mills neighbors) have worked with City Staff, the Council and the Planning Commission to take corrective steps to lessen the consequences of the vacuum, the big emptiness that happens when a mono-culture moves on.
These cases of institutional death and institutional relocation are different. The problems faced by the neighborhoods are different. But the cast in the plays are the same. Planners, bureaucrats, politicians, developers and citizens.
Woolies have worked steadily for 50 years to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.
Frankly, we have received little aid from the City in our efforts.