Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan

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Since 1971, Albemarle County government has maintained a Comprehensive Plan to regulate land use in the county. Voters approved the County’s first zoning ordinance in 1969, and the Board of Supervisors adopted the first Comprehensive Plan two years later. Since then, the Comprehensive Plan continues to shape decisions about where development should be located and in what form. [1]

The Board of Supervisors adopted the latest update on June 10, 2015. [2]


The first Comprehensive Plan

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted its first Comprehensive Plan in January 1971. The work by Rosser H. Payne, Jr was funded by an urban planning grant from Virginia's Division of State Planning and Community Affairs. [citation needed]

The Albemarle County Planning Commission got a history lesson at their retreat on December 16, 2008. David Benish, the County’s Chief Planner, traced the evolution of the Comprehensive Plan. Benish said the County’s growth management policy stems from the adoption of the first plan in 1971.[3] At that time, the County's growth area was split into 11 separate zones.[4]

The goals of the policy:

  • Promote the efficient utilization of County resources through a combination of Designated Development Areas and Rural Areas
  • Direct growth into Designated Development Areas
  • Protect Natural Scenic and Historic Resources
  • Discourage rural residential development other than dwellings related to a bona fide agricultural/forestal use
  • Strongly support and effectively implement the County’s growth management priorities in the planning and provision of transportation, and public facilities and utilities

In his 30 minute presentation, Benish explained the reasons for the various updates that have been conducted over the years. For instance, the Plan was updated in 1977 in part to address the rapid siltation that was occurring at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. Supervisors adopted the plan and immediately directed staff to work on a new zoning ordinance that would reflect concerns about intense development in the watershed. [5]

That eventually led in 1980 by the so-called "great rezoning" that further refined the County’s urban zoning districts and downzoned the rural area. Though the downzoning of the rural area was challenged in court, the County eventually prevailed. In 1982, the growth area boundaries were adjusted to follow the water supply watershed, except in Crozet, Ivy and Earlysville.

While various parts of the Comprehensive Plan come up for renewal and revisions on a periodic basis, the County is currently operating under the 1996-2016 Comprehensive Plan, which identified infill development as one of the County’s planning goals. In 1996, according to Benish, a divided Planning Commission recommended a slight expansion of the growth area. However, the Board of Supervisors did not support the expansion and instead directed staff to find ways to encourage more efficient development in the designated growth areas. That request would eventually lead to the adoption of the Neighborhood Model District, which allows for denser residential development. [citation needed]

2013 update

Key parts of the comprehensive plan assembled for a photo in June 2012

Work on the 5-year-review of the plan officially kicked off on April 27, 2011 in a joint session with the City of Charlottesville. The two communities are coordinating their individual plan updates with assistance from a $990,000 sustainable communities grant from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.[6] [7]

On October 11, 2011, the Albemarle Planning Commission voted 4-2 to end requests to expand the county’s designated growth areas as part of the Comprehensive Plan review.[8]

On July 30, 2013, the Albemarle Planning Commission voted unanimously to conclude its review of the Comprehensive Plan and send its revisions to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. The commission had conducted over 38 public meetings and work sessions to review three different drafts of the plan. The changes the commission recommended included a new Southern and Western Neighborhoods Master Plan, reformed affordable housing and cash proffer policies, a greater number of land uses and activities (such as farm winery events) allowed in the rural area, and greater provision for agricultural and food processing at rural interstate interchanges. The commission also consolidated the plan to approximately half its former length.[9]

Master Plans

When the Neighborhood Model District was adopted in 2001, it was recommended that all of the 11 designated growth areas be master planned. So far, four plans have been adopted.


  1. Print: The Seventies: Central Virginia Ends Decade of Joy and Tragedy, Doug Kamholz, Daily Progress, Worrell Newspaper group January 1, 1980, Page .
  2. Web. Supervisors adopt Comprehensive Plan after four years of study, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, June 11, 2015, retrieved June 27, 2015.
  3. Web. A slideshow history of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan, Tubbs, Sean, Charlottesville Tomorrow
  4. Albemarle County. Department of Community Development. Places 29: A Master Plan for the Northern Development Area. 2009 DRAFT. 31 Mar. 2009. <>
  5. Web. County of Albemarle, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Minutes, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County, November 11, 1977, retrieved July 15, 2019.
  6. Web. City and county planning commission talk coordination, sustainability, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 29, 2011, retrieved March 30, 2011.
  7. Web. Large turnout for kickoff of local planning effort, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 28, 2011, retrieved April 28, 2011.
  8. Web. Albemarle planning commission votes against growth area expansion, Sean Tubbs, Oct 12 2012
  9. Web. Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan update clears the Planning Commission, Claudia Elzey, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 31 July 2013, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.
  10. Web. Places 29 Master Plan, County of Albemarle, 2 Feb 2011, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.
  11. Web. Pantops Master Plan, County of Albemarle, 17 Mar 2008, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.
  12. Web. Crozet Master Plan, County of Albemarle, 13 Oct 2010, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.
  13. Web. Southern and Western Neighborhoods Master Plan Draft, County of Albemarle, 23 July 2013, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.
  14. Web. Village of Rivanna Master Plan, County of Albemarle, 12 may 2010, retrieved 1 Aug 2013.

External links

Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan