Alexandria’s Planning Foundations

EcoCityAlexandria_LogoSmallCropped_wwords

Throughout this project and assessment process, Virginia Tech raised questions about the City’s planning framework and its relationship (if any) to the Environmental Action Plan (EAP) and the Eco-City Charter. Alexandria has a robust planning history and civic engagement framework through its numerous boards and commissions and neighborhood/citizen associations. Most of the city’s recent planning efforts have focused on updating a few elements of its comprehensive plan (called the Master Plan) and revising its extensive network of Small Area Plans (SAP). Other city boards, commissions, and ad hoc committees also produce their own “master plans” that may directly address sustainability and land use planning issues but appear to have little “formal” connections to the city’s comprehensive plan. By not having an express or direct link to the city’s comprehensive plan, these ancillary plans and policies do not appear to have much legal and/or policy strength and thus, can be more easily ignored or overruled over time.

As the OEQ and EPC move forward in updating the EAP, the VT team thought it was critical to explore Alexandria’s planning framework and compare it with other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Hundreds of cities across the nation (and the world) have adopted sustainability chapters with their comprehensive plans while a few have completely written their compressive plans to become a new breed of sustainability plans.[1] The next sections of the report analyze Alexandria’s planning framework and offers several ideas and recommendations for potential actions OEQ and EPC could take in collaboration with the city’s Planning Department and Planning Commission in order to leverage the core principles of sustainability found in the Charter and EAP.

Alexandria’s Master Plan Framework and Analysis
Northern Virginia Comparative Comprehensive Plan Analysis

[1] For more information about the explosion in sustainability planning , click here; see also ICMA article by Schilling and Desouza on Local Sustainability Planning.