It may sound like a compact economy car from the 1980s, but a charette is the next step in the continuing Rt. 3 visioning process.
The Rt. 3 visioning process began in early May when the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Planning Commission agreed to make expanding the county’s economy a top priority to bring prosperity to both residents and businesses. And where’s the perfect area to expand the economy in Orange County? Route 3. In July, the three boards had a retreat focusing on the expansion initiative and in August, the boards, along with business and landowner stakeholders, spent a day traveling around to specific well-developed areas in Virginia gaining ideas about what Rt. 3 could look like.
At a joint meeting last week between supervisors, planning commission and EDA members, District 2 Supervisor Jim White explained the visioning process is a like a tree. He said while the best time to sow a seed for development was 20 years ago, the next best time is today.
“Think of this initiative as a plant, perhaps a tree,” he said. “From a seed we have advanced to [many] branches. Every meeting, every progress adds another leaf to the tree. This will take a lot of leaves going forward, but they are all important.”
The next step to add leaves to the tree is a charette. County administrator Julie Summs explained that a charette is a collaborative planning process that utilizes the talents and expertise of interested parties to create and support a vision or direction that represents significant community change. She said engaging in a charette would allow members of all three boards to further refine the vision for the Rt. 3 area.
“I’m confident this would be the best next step in the planning process,” she said. “If we can get a group together with unbiased ideas and get our vision together, this enables us to take further steps.”
During the charette, Summs said representatives from a multitude of disciplines, including planners, architects, chamber of commerce members, homeowners’ associations, landowners and more, would come together in order to help the board members answer specific questions. Possible questions discussed by the board members included infrastructure needs, specifically related to water, and getting the right balance of businesses in the area.
The charette would be facilitated by an outside entity who would choose the panel of objective representatives. Summs said a group like the Urban Land Institute (ULI) or Bowman Consulting would facilitate the exercise. These groups provide an unbiased platform to evaluate and brainstorm possibilities considered during the charette.
District 5 EDA member Winston Sides suggested developing a land use map prior to the charette focusing on typography and geography to see what could naturally go where in the area.
“We can go a long way with a plan and a map that makes sense,” he said.
County planning director Gregg Zody said developing such a map wouldn’t be difficult and it would “identify natural constraints” and be constructed with “a series of layers as to where things can go.”
Members of all three boards agreed to the charette as the next step in the process. It will be held in February over one to two days likely somewhere in the eastern end of the county to allow for a touring of the areas involved in the visioning process. Experts will study any associated documents four to eight weeks prior to the charette and will provide a written report within eight weeks after the event.
Following the discussion of the charette, all three boards unanimously approved a proposed timeline of the visioning process through fiscal year 2015. The timeline, which the boards said should act as a goal and not a set deadline, calls for a draft master plan by the second quarter of 2014, somewhere between April and June.