The Planning and Coordination Council likely be transforming into a new entity in the near future.
The council met Thursday to discuss a proposal to replace the regional planning group — organized to encourage collaboration between Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — with a new, staff-led initiative.
The advisory group supported, but did not take a vote on, the proposed changes, and will bring the matter to the Board of Supervisors and the City Council, who ultimately would need to give their approval for the group to dissolve.
“I’m not necessarily against this, but I’m not ready to recommend it,” said Liz Palmer, an Albemarle supervisor and member of the PACC. “I’d rather just bring it to our board for a discussion.”
The council currently is made up of the city manager, county executive, two city councilors, two county supervisors and two UVa administrators.
It originally was designed to avoid land-use decisions being made by one of the three entities that would negatively impact either or both of the other two.
“This redefinition suggests establishing a working group of professionals to not just include land use and planning, but also broaden that to an appropriate degree where we would also consider environmental and infrastructure issues,” County Executive Jeff Richardson said.
The new group would include the directors of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services and Public Works and Utilities departments; the directors of the county’s Community Development and Facility and Environmental Services departments; and UVa’s directors of facilities management operations and real estate and leasing services and UVa’s architect.
The body would post its agendas and meeting minutes on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission website.
Palmer and Mayor Nikuyah Walker, one of the two city councilors on the PACC, asked why the change involves closing the meetings to the public.
Richardson said it would give the staff the chance to vet the feasibility of ideas that might not yet be solid.
“The opportunity to have the entities together, but somewhat be cautionary in, ‘Is this something that’s even appropriate for us to talk about now,’ from a timing standpoint; trying to manage each other’s expectations, not to blindside, but also manage the public’s expectations,” he said.
The new group, which would be called the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee, would meet either every other month or quarterly and would present to the Board of Supervisors and the City Council at two joint meetings a year.
“I’m quite certain that if we assemble the full board and council and the university officials, we’re going to be giving a lot more daylight and transparency to those discussions than has ever happened in PACC meetings,” said Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy.
He said, for him, over the last year and a half or two, the meetings were not ones “where we’re breaking news.”
“These are things that are already happening at city venues and county venues and buildings and grounds and Board of Visitors — all this stuff was already happening somewhere else,” he said. “This is not where people would go.”
Palmer said her biggest concern is that transparency to the public be maintained. She asked about the level of detail of the meeting minutes.
“... given Jeff’s comment that this is all to serve citizens better, I think a little bit more than summary minutes are appropriate here,” she said.
Colette Sheehy, senior vice president for operations at UVa, said they could talk about that with the new group and that elected officials could give feedback after the first few meetings.
Sally Thomas, a former county supervisor and former director of governmental and community relations at UVa, called the Three Party Agreement, which would still exist, an “amazing accomplishment.”
“Maybe I’m just doing a eulogy for it,” she said during public comment at Thursday’s meeting. “I’m not urging you not to try to make it better, but the value of that organization in which real leaders in the three entities can sit at the table and look at their counterparts eye to eye and … had to take some public recognition of what they were talking about and doing ... it would be a shame to lose that.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Sean Tubbs of the Piedmont Environmental Council said a venue for the public, which has questions about future growth, is needed.
“PEC remains somewhat skeptical about what you have planned, and things that might not necessarily be as informative as what we’ve had before, but we’ll keep and open mind and see how this goes,” he said.