Quest for the Holy Grail

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Quest for the Holy Grail

Struggling to be charitable in my opinion of “Beware the Cyclops” by Richard Collins [Opinionated, June 12, 2007] and, in the same issue, the letters by Al Weed [“Can’t get a tee time,” Mailbag] and Jack Marshall [“Size matters,” Mailbag], I accept the challenge to describe an alternative vision for growth, the new status quo.

I agree we should have policies that promote an optimal, sustainable population. But nobody knows what that number is or will be. The writers frame the argument so opponents of population quotas appear uninformed. The writers themselves offer no figures and call for others to research the Holy Grail of growth.

In my opinion, a population is optimal when people freely come and stay, while others move away willingly. By this definition, the city appears to have an optimal population, nearly steady for four decades, and the county has population growth. The optimum population varies as free markets and free choices determine.

Collins points out there’s no mechanism in the county’s comprehensive plan to force the community to comply with the optimal population. “…what one won’t find is any operational basis for realizing a vision of the community’s future size and character…The optimum population range creates a legal, rational tool for managing growth.”

How has population control worked in the past? Are there any mistakes or dead-ends we could avoid in the future if only we knew the history? Is Collins an expert in urban planning and development? Yet, he dismisses the value of history several times. He describes the “growth machine” as an individual Cyclops with its eye in the back of the head, able only to see into the irrelevant past, where counter-arguments and cautionary tales are numerous.

Collins refers to his own history “as a professional planner for many years.” But he doesn’t mention any project he has planned where readers might be able to learn more. Is it because his experience is in urban renewal, having served as chairman of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority? On April 4, Governor Tim Kaine signed the eminent domain reforms passed by the General Assembly. The new laws make illegal what Collins has advocated and implemented during his career.

My vision of growth is based on individual liberty, private control and accountability, not on some arbitrary number created by experts for experts.

Blair Hawkins
Charlottesville

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River rudder

In response to a letter printed in the May 22, 2007 issue inquiring about access to the Rivanna River and various other questions [“A river runs where?” Mailbag], I encourage anyone interested in getting on the river (beginners welcome, boats provided) and seeing this beautiful natural resource to contact the Rivanna Conservation Society office at 97-RIVER or check the website at rivannariver.org for a schedule of public river trips. As the leader of these trips I love getting people out on the river, and I can also schedule additional trips and answer other questions. Thanks to C-VILLE Weekly for its coverage of the Rivanna River [“Cut the crap,” Cover Story, May 8, 2007] and environmental issues in general. Promoting public awareness and education are critical and, hopefully, lead to involvement and stewardship of our water supply and a beautiful recreational resource. The Rivanna Conservation Society welcomes citizens to become involved.

Phyllis White
Albemarle County
RCS Board of Directors

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Biscuit Run blues

The residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County need to take a more careful look at the proposed Biscuit Run development. This massive project of 3,100 homes will change the character of our community in ways we may not have imagined. Recent site plan improvements do not significantly alleviate the impacts on the city to the north and the rural area to the south.

What will be the costs in terms of traffic congestion, air and water pollution, and the destruction of natural habitats? Who will pay for the increased school costs, water supply, sewer treatment, fire and rescue, law enforcement, and social services? (The school costs alone are estimated to be $19 million and there are no per-household cash proffers being proposed for the Biscuit Run development to address school needs.) Recent history tells us that these developments cause incredible environmental damage and do not pay for themselves. People living in the county and city will pay most of these costs and receive very little benefit. County residents will be required to pay increased property taxes.

Others share these concerns. Over 700 local citizens have signed the Sierra Club’s petition asking the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to conduct a full analysis of the impact of the Biscuit Run development on surrounding areas before making a decision on the rezoning of this property. This is the very least we can expect from our government.

As citizens we need to develop a vision of a quality community with definite plans for the preservation of natural resources, social and economic opportunities, a clean, efficient transportation system, and cultural amenities. This cannot be achieved by chance or as a result of market forces. Just as architects draw blueprints and teachers develop specific learning objectives to achieve their goals, a community should know what it wants to become and carefully plan to make this a reality.

John A. Cruickshank,
Chair, Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club
Earlysville


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