The Planning Commission held its second work session to review and offer edits to the draft of the new countywide comprehensive plan. On Tuesday last week, before getting presentations of elements of the plan, including transportation, economic development and housing policy, the commission railed against the way the plan was structured.
The commissioners were not as concerned with the particular elements but how a company interested in locating in Chesterfield or even citizens would be able to understand the plan due to how its concepts are spread across sections of the plan, making it difficult to follow. The elements were not in question but the way they are presented.
“How are people going to do business in the county when they don’t understand how the plan works?” said Russell Gulley, commissioner representing the Clover Hill district. Gulley stressed that the items of the plan were not linked in a user-friendly way.
Greg Larson, Planning Department assistant director, answered that technology will link the different sections of the plan.
“Who is the client?” Midlothian Magisterial Planning Commissioner Rubin Waller said, “It’s not the staff; it’s not the board; it’s the citizens.”
Waller said the staff should take a piece of land and “take us through the process.” The user should be able to understand the impact of this plan without having to hire a land use attorney to interpret it.
The commission agreed the user of the plan should be able to see the interrelationship of the land use, transportation, environmental section of the plan.
“It’s a consensus that we are not happy with the structure of the plan.” said Planning Commission chairman and Matoaca District Planning Commissioner F. Wayne Bass. He further commented that the commission should cancel the work session planned for March 2 in order to get the plan in a “friendlier format for the citizenry.” Bass said that after a staff restructure, the commission will go back and look at changes the commission had made at its previous meeting.
The commission decided to continue the overall review of sections of the plan including transportation. But before the staff could begin the presentation of the transportation element of the plan Bass called John McCracken, director of the county’s transportation department forward and asked, “are you happy with the plan [for transportation]?” McCracken responded with an emphatic, “No.”
“I don’t know how the consultant [Renaisance Planning] and the internal structure worked,” McCracken said. “We still have a lot of things that need to be resolved.”
Kirk Turner, Chesterfield’s Planning Department director responded that “The board [of supervisors] wanted an outside consultant to take a fresh look. We have followed the direction of the board.” Turner continued that once the commission understands the consultant’s approach and hear from the consultants and then from the staff it will be easier to make decisions on the plan elements.
“Our job is to prepare this plan and send it on to the Board of Supervisors,” Bass said. “When we send it on, it should be complete” He continued, that when the transportation element of the plan comes out it will be “McCracken’s not the consultants.”
The commission’s comments on the transportation element of the plan, provided during a presentation by staff, centered on funding the items of the plan. The commission also asked the county attorney’s office to look at how the county’s request for proposal (RFP) compared to what was done by the consultant.
The Board of Supervisors has directed the Planning Commission to present the draft plan in a public hearing and to take action on the plan no later than their July 19, 2011 meeting.