Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan

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The Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan is a document that sets high-level policy direction for the City of Charlottesville.

The most recent updated was adopted by Council on November 15, 2021. Its creation was part of the Cville Plans Together initiative.


Virginia law requires that all cities and counties have a comprehensive plan to direct planning activities. Charlottesville adopted a new version of its comprehensive plan in 2001, 2007 and in 2013, as required by law.

2021 plan

Work toward adoption of the 2021 plan dates back to early 2017.

2017-2018 update process

The Charlottesville Planning Commission began its review of the plan at a work session in January 2017. [1] Planning continued that February at a work session. [2]

The commission held a series of workshops in the summer of 2018 to get public input. [3] In all, three phases of community engagement were conducted. (Summary booklet)

In August 2018, Council extended the deadline to complete a draft until the end of the year. [4]

2019-2021 update process

Charlottesville City Council put the process on hold in late December 2018. They sought to hire another consultant to work with the project. A request for proposal was issued in June 2019, and Rhodeside & Harwell was hired at a cost of $926,000. [5][6]Web. [ Request for Proposals

-Comprehensive Plan Update/Housing Strategy/Zoning Ordinance Rewrite], retrieved July 14, 2019.</ref>


Background from the RFP

"BACKGROUND: The Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) and Planning Commission of the City of Charlottesville developed the following background statement for this project:

The City of Charlottesville, Virginia (“City”) is the only incorporated city within the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and is composed of the City of Charlottesville and the Counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Greene, Nelson and Fluvanna. The main campus of University of Virginia is within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Charlottesville, as is the University of Virginia Hospital; however, in recent years the University has been expanding further into areas within the City and also into surrounding Albemarle County.

The City has a Downtown business district, with City and County courthouses situated to the north of its “Main Street”. This Main Street is improved as a brick-paved pedestrian mall (“Downtown Mall”) lined by a mixture of retail, commercial and entertainment uses (including numerous restaurants), anchored by City Hall and a privately operated amphitheater anchoring on its east end, and a major hotel at its west end. From 2008 to the present, the City has seen previously unprecedented development in areas proximate to the Downtown business district, and along the thoroughfare known as West Main Street (leading from the Downtown Mall westerly to the main campus of the University of Virginia).

Limited staff capacity within Neighborhood Development Services (NDS) to manage an effort of this depth, complexity, and intensity has led the HAC and Planning Commission to recommend seeking outside resources to ensure a brisk pace and a high-quality, thorough finished product.

In Charlottesville’s history, the failure of institutions and city government to be accountable to low-wealth communities, particularly communities of color, has taken many forms: violent suppression, structural oppression, neglect, half-hearted or insincere attempts that serve to manufacture consent, and well-meaning attempts that end up failing due to their assumptions, framework, and processes favoring those in power and resulting in lopsided and inaccurate information, community inaction, or community harm.

Housing is at the root of historical structural inequity and oppression in the United States, and it came to be this way deliberately. As we build a strategy to achieve a local housing landscape that is healthy, ample, high quality, and affordable, we must be equally deliberate in dismantling the dynamics and the structures that perpetuate continued inequity—structures that often go unnoticed by those of us who benefit from them or don’t directly experience their harm.

To that end, rather than relying on the existing power structure to set the narrative and define the discussion, the community engagement strategy must leverage community relationships and expertise to genuinely engage our community. This methodology is vital to the project’s success and to the quality and legitimacy of the final Comprehensive Plan Update/Housing Strategy/Zoning Ordinance Rewrite.

In the same vein, the Comprehensive Plan Update/Housing Strategy/Zoning Ordinance Rewrite must be consistent and supportive of these aims, reflecting the values of the community and commitment to equity and inclusion, recognizing the troubling history of segregation, racial covenants, urban renewal and exclusionary zoning, but also celebrating the diversity, history, culture, and visual beauty of our community." [6]


On December 15, 2021, a group of homeowners anonymously filed suit against the city to have the 2021 Comprehensive Plan declared void ab initio.[10] The complaint alleged four violations of state law:

  • Count I: The plan failed to meet the requirement in § 15.2-2223(B) that comprehensive plans be "general in nature," because each parcel was assigned a specific Future Land Use Map category.
  • Count II: The plan failed to satisfy § 15.2-2223.5 because it did not incorporate strategies to "promote manufactured housing as a source of affordable housing," though it was adopted after that statute took effect on July 1, 2021.
  • Count III: The city failed to provide an adequately descriptive notice when advertising the plan.
  • Count IV: the included transportation plan failed to meet the requirements of § 15.2-2223(B)(1) because it reused existing plans, including the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the Streets That Work plan, the CAT Transit Development Plan, and others.

On August 26, 2022, Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell dismissed three of the four counts. The transportation count was dismissed on the basis that state law did not require the city to "reinvent the wheel" with a wholly new transportation plan. The manufactured home count and generality count were dismissed on the basis that there was not yet a justiciable controversy. The notice count was allowed to proceed, based on an insufficient description of “updated density” as well as failure to state that a vote might take place at the November 15, 2021 City Council meeting.[11]

Following the readoption of the plan on January 17, 2023 to address the notice issue as well as to add manufactured home & Climate Action Plan amendments, a second lawsuit was filed by a smaller group of anonymous homeowners on February 13, 2023.[12] As of January 2024, the city had not been served with that lawsuit.

Filing History
Date Case # Document Filer
December 15, 2022 CL21-610 Complaint for Declaratory Judgment Plaintiff
April 7, 2022 CL21-610 Demurrer Defendant
April 7, 2022 CL21-610 Motion for Identification Defendant
April 7, 2022 CL21-610 Motion Craving Oyer Defendant
February 13, 2023 CL23-80 Complaint for Declaratory Judgment Plaintiff

2013 plan

Charlottesville City Council adopted the plan on August 19, 2013. [13]

The complete 2013 Comprehensive Plan is available here.

The 2013 process was done concurrently with Albemarle County's comprehensive plan with coordination from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. [14] The TJPDC received a $999,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help coordinate the work.

The following paragraphs are the aspirational texts of each chapter of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan.

Land Use

"The use of land in Charlottesville supports human activities and reflects community values. Our land use plan aims to promote harmonious development and support neighborhoods and places that allow residents to live, work, shop and play in proximity. Charlottesville’s land use patterns will create, preserve, and enhance neighborhood character, improve environmental quality, integrate a diversity of uses, encourage various modes of transportation, promote infill development, and increase commercial vitality and density in appropriate areas. These interdependent parts will converge to enhance the social, cultural, recreational and economic needs of our City."

Community Facilities

"The City of Charlottesville’s civic facilities and services are important to fostering a healthy and vibrant community. Residents benefit from access to excellent public services, recreational facilities and public buildings. Therefore, Charlottesville will have outstanding civic and recreational facilities, bicycle and walking trails and be served by a strong support system that includes one of the nation’s best emergency response systems. Effective and efficient water, wastewater and stormwater services will support the health and welfare of the City."

Economic Sustainability

"A strong economy is essential to the social, cultural and financial vitality of our city. Public and private initiatives help create employment opportunities and a vibrant and sustainable economy. The City of Charlottesville is committed to creating a strong, diversified economy and an environment that provides career ladder employment opportunities for residents. At its best, Charlottesville is a community with an effective workforce development system and a business-friendly environment that supports entrepreneurship; innovation; heritage tourism; commercial, mixed use, and infill development; and access to a growing array of diverse employment and career ladder opportunities for all City residents. The Downtown Mall, as the economic hub of the region, features a vibrant historic district with arts and entertainment, shopping, dining, cultural events and a dynamic City Market."


"The City of Charlottesville will be a green city, with clean and healthy air and water, sustainable neighborhoods, ample open space and natural areas that balance increased development and density in residential and economic centers, and walkable, bikeable and transit-supportive land use patterns that encourage healthy lifestyles."


"The quality and diversity of the City of Charlottesville’s housing stock creates the basis for viable neighborhoods and a thriving community. In order to be a truly world class city, Charlottesville must provide sufficient housing options to ensure safe, appealing, environmentally sustainable and affordable housing for all population segments and income levels, including middle income. Consequently, City neighborhoods will feature a variety of housing types, housing sizes, and incomes all within convenient walking, biking or transit distances of enhanced community amenities that include mixed use, barrier free, higher density, pedestrian and transit-oriented housing at employment and cultural centers connected to facilities, parks, trails and services."


"The City of Charlottesville’s transportation network provides the fundamental framework for creating a safe, livable community while reinforcing more sustainable land use patterns. The system connects people to each other and to destinations, fosters economic activity and provides public space for human interaction. As a result, the transportation system should be designed for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. A multimodal transportation network is an effective, flexible framework for building community and creating places in our City."

Historic Preservation & Urban Design

"Urban design and historic preservation contribute to the character and quality of neighborhoods, and to the aesthetic value of the entire community. As a result, the City of Charlottesville will be a well-designed community with neighborhoods, buildings, and public spaces, including the Downtown Mall, that are human scaled, sustainable, healthy, equitable and beautiful. Charlottesville will also seek to preserve its historic resources through education and collaboration to maintain the character of our neighborhoods’ core historic fabric, our major routes of tourism and our public spaces."

2007 plan

The complete 2007 Comprehensive Plan is available here.

2001 plan

The creation of the 2001 plan began on February 12, 2000 with a community-wide kickoff program. [15]

The complete 2001 Comprehensive Plan by chapter:

1995 plan

The 2001 Comprehensive Plan references a plan update in 1995. [16]

External links

City's comprehensive plan page


  1. Web. Charlottesville Planning Commission turns attention to Comprehensive Plan, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 12, 2017, retrieved January 30, 2020.
  2. Web. Commissioners finalizing strategy for Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan update, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 28, 2017, retrieved January 30, 2020.
  3. Web. Charlottesville’s growth at center of planning workshop, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, May 8, 2017, retrieved November 27, 2017.
  4. Web. City looks to have comprehensive plan draft completed by end of the year, Geremia De Maro, News Article, Cavalier Daily, August 28, 2018, retrieved August 3, 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Web. City planners defer form-based code proposal, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, November 12, 2019, retrieved November 14, 2019.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named rfp
  7. Web. Developers say Comprehensive Plan woes impacting plans, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, July 10, 2019, retrieved July 14, 2019.
  8. Web. Commission cautions consultants on troubles with last Comprehensive Plan update, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 28, 2020, retrieved March 1, 2020. Print. February 28, 2020 page A1.
  9. Print: Week Ahead for August 10, 2020, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Community Engagement, Town Crier Productions.
  10. Web. Charlottesville property owners sue city over Future Land Use Map, Ginny Bixby, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, January 10, 2022, retrieved 2022-06-22.
  11. Web. Circuit Court Judge reduces Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan lawsuit to one count, throws out three others, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Community Engagement, Town Crier Productions, August 29, 2022, retrieved 2024-01-18.
  12. Web. Lawsuit filed seeking voidance of Charlottesville’s new zoning code, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Town Crier Productions, January 17, 2024, retrieved 2024-01-18.
  13. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, August 19 , 2013.
  14. Web. Large turnout for kickoff of local planning effort, Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 28, 2011, retrieved April 28, 2011.
  15. Web. Overview, 2001 Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, City of Charlottesville, retrieved September 8, 2023.
  16. Web. Land Use, 2001 Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan, City of Charlottesville, retrieved July 8, 2023.