Chesterfield Looks at TND Zoning

It was probably the shortest staff-written article in the Sunday Times-Dispatch, and I can’t even find it posted online, but the story headlined “New zoning district proposed” may be the most significant article in the newspaper yesterday. Chesterfield County, long the poster child for dysfunctional land use patterns in the Richmond metro region, is getting close to creating a Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning category.

The zoning category would streamline the application and approval process for New Urbanism-style development, writes Wesley P. Hester, by putting a single label on what now requires a complex mix of zoning categories. And just in time, too, because many of the big new projects proposed for Chesterfield, the fastest growing jurisdiction in the Richmond region, are built around mixed uses, traditional city blocks with alleyways, and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. The more development that takes the form of TND neighborhoods, as opposed to the old helter-skelter development, the better off the county and its residents will be.

As I’ve long argued in this blog, TND development in well-planned projects makes far more efficient use of land and infrastructure than scattered, single-use development. Of course, the new zoning category is only a first step on a long road to recovery for Chesterfield, which has smeared growth inefficiently over a vast expanse of territory — and continues to see growth gravitate to the metropolitan edge toward the recently constructed U.S. 288. Even so, good development in the wrong location beats bad development in the wrong location. If approved, the measure will represent progress of a sort.

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  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TND – as a concept – has gone down in defeat in Stafford and Spotsylvania for two reasons:

    * – citizens were asking the question: ” tell us how TND will merely ADD to the existing rate of growth – especially the “by-right” kind”

    * – citizens wanted to know that the plans were for the roads around the proposed TND areas

    the answer that they got from the planners was essentially – “that’s VDOT’s responsibility”.

    The nascent TND proposals in BOTH Stafford and Spotsylvania include either new I-95 interchanges or major new roads to connect to existing interchanges.

    So.. TND advertised/promoted in concept as live close to where you work… will only continue to add to commuting traffic…

    If TND in reality does not reduce the daily commuting auto trips – what is it’s benefit?

    We already have what is known as neighborhood commercial – which allows things like grocery, drug, pizza and doctor’s offices tacked on to one corner of a development.

    What exactly would be gained if you take the neighborhood commercial template and convert it to TND?

    I don’t see a difference.. if the folks who live in TND are still commuters…to distant jobs…

    and this goes back to places like Stafford, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield.

    What exactly will TND do to make things better if they still generate 8 trips a day verses 10?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Ditto Larry,
    Really don’t see the point unless you locate a “traditional” neighborhood in a “traditional” spot where it was originally intended — in the middle of a city or town where you can also walk to work or take a bus or train.
    Otherwise it seems just more phony marketing BS sold to us by the real estate types.

    Peter Galuszka

  3. Accurate Avatar

    To me, traditional meant a yard, a driveway, a car – not this ‘mixed use’ concept that I keep watching government try to shove down our throats. When I grew up we had ‘mixed use’ we just didn’t call it that. It was a mom & pop store where mom and pop lived above it, and it wasn’t exactly looked upon as a living arraignment that was … desirable. Bring back yards, streets, going to a commercial area to get the stuff you need to live. I don’t necessarily like having my abode next to or above a commercial establishment – but there again, I happen to like yards.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think TND is the son of “smart growth”.

    the basic goal of these things is to re-create the “traditional” lifestyle where folks would live close(er) to where they worked.

    There are actually places where that still occurs – many of them spread across Canada .. but when we “connected” our American urban areas with interstates and beltways – we created the perfect ecosystem for the automobile and personal mobility.

    Mobility is freedom. To illustrate this, I’m willing to wager than not 1 out of 100 readers of this blog did anything BUT drive to their last dental appointment.

    Even the most ardent Smart Growth/TDN folks will. admit.. that their dentist probably does not live and work where they might live and work.

    and if you multiply all these different personal “freedoms” out across one’s daily lifestyle.. the “traditional” model is more nostalgia than practical.

    The vast, vast majority of automobile trips are the 2 trips a day to/from work.. often done in a solo car at rush hour…

    THOSE trips often have more mileage and time packed into them than the other 8 .. which are for bread, soccer and dental appointments.

    and it is THOSE trips that cause the problems with congestion/gridlock and it is THOSE trips that could change – without taking away one’s ability to be personally mobile.

    So.. when I see a “Smart Growth” or TND or “mixed-use” – in which the 2 biggest daily trips are still part of the “package”, I’m not at all sure what is being accomplished.

    TND to me is an artificial slice of a city ecosystem.

    It’s a facade. It “looks” like a city-type settlement pattern – but it’s not.

    the other comment that I’d make is that LOTS of urban areas have homes with back yards.

    Not ALL of the housing units in urban areas are devoid of back yards.

    On the contrary – in a very “traditional” city like Fredericksburg or Charlottesville or I dare say.. Richmond.. or Roanoke.. there are LOTS of homes with back yards for the “kids”.

    and these are not “new” suburbs either…

    for instance, in Fredericksburg’s historic area where homes are 100, 200, years old..on grid streets.. with sidewalks etc.. the vast majority of them have “yards”.

    and these Fredericksburg homes are very appealing and sell at good prices .. because.. they are within walking distance of VRE.

    see.. Fredericksburg was a very different place when it was truly “traditional” and did not have VRE.. and the folks that lived there… actually worked locally.

    Now.. more than a few.. are NoVa commuters…

    So.. even if you could take Fredericksburg and transplant in perfect duplication to North Stafford.. the perfect “picture” of TND – the folks who lived in it would most likely be ….NoVa commuters.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “To illustrate this, I’m willing to wager than not 1 out of 100 readers of this blog did anything BUT drive to their last dental appointment.”

    Every time I walk the dog, I drive.
    Otherwise he won’t go out of the yard because of the zapper.

    How sick is that?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    “THOSE trips often have more mileage and time packed into them than the other 8 .. which are for bread, soccer and dental appointments.”

    Not true, Larry. Commuting accounts for only 25% of auto travel.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “it is THOSE trips that cause the problems with congestion/gridlock and it is THOSE trips that could change “

    Exactly. All you have to do is change them so they are not all going to the same place.

    It isn’t THOSE trips that cause the congestion, it is THAT destination.

    We have 75% of all the other traffic that (mostly but not entirely) gets around OK. Why is that? they are not all going to the same place.

    If we had more places to work we would need less cars and less roads, and we could make do better with what we have.

    The car is not the problem, not that it is without problems.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “Fredericksburg was a very different place when it was truly “traditional” and did not have VRE.. “

    Yep, it was different. It had no where near as much money.


  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Commuting accounts for only 25% of auto travel.”

    RH – I want you to stand beside I-95 /495/I66 at 7am and make that statement.

    If it is true which I doubt – then it IS … THE 25% that is what everyone complains about the “terrible congestion” that costs folks hours and hours a year.

    we need to recognize that the 10 trips a day that happen are not the same.

    The commute trips at rush hour are the ones that are typically longer distance and typically the most congested and typically what most folks say.. needs more funding to fix.

    If this were not true.. then the whole concept of HOT lanes would be not valid.

    you keep saying “we” DON’T AGREE on what the problem is and that is not correct.

    YOU do not agree with MOST of the folks who deal with transportation issues.

    It could be that you are a genius and they are all mentally challenged but I seriously doubt it.

    Most transportation folks believe it’s the commute trips that are the problem.. AND the focus of demand strategies…

    So when we talk about the 10 trips a day (a number you also don’t agree with.. so just pick any number).. the point is that not all trips are the same.

    A 5 minute trip to buy bread at 7pm is NOT the same as a 10am trip to the dentist and that trip is not the same as the 18 mile trip to the office…

    and YES.. you CAN MEASURE these trips.. they do it ALL the time…

    VDOT keeps detailed records of traffic volumes on virtually every road in Virginia.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Yep, it was different. It had no where near as much money.”

    well.. folks who move from NoVa typically want more/better EXPENSIVE services.. MORE commuter-roads and rail and they will pay much more for a home..

    which makes things more expensive and less affordable for the folks who live and work LOCALLY.

    So you say more money.. and I say… more expensive and less affordable…

    Used to be our Deputies and Teachers could find “affordable” apartments.. Now those apartments are being snapped up by NoVa folks and the teachers and deputies have to go live in double-wides.. 20 miles out in the country…

    is this supposed to be a “good thing”?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “RH – I want you to stand beside I-95 /495/I66 at 7am and make that statement.”

    It isn’t my statement. That one is a well recognized fact. 90% of congestion is the result of 25% of travel that occurs on 10% of roads 15% of the time. Otherwise, it’s all clear out there. Plenty of room.

    Your observations are of the type that have a strong predilection to be wrong. Because most of us live in urbanized areas that’s all we see, and we assume that sprawl is taking over everything.

    But, if you actually go out antd take the data, you find out that the average commute is only 23 miles. Long distance commuters are a small part of the problem. Really long distance commuters tend not to do it for long. Eventually they either move, retire, or change jobs.

    On a VMT basis commuter traffic is only 25% of the total. Accept it or not, that is the answer, so far as we know. And almost all the traffic and land use studies concern themselves with how commuters make their choices: how do they trade off home prices and travel distance, how and when do commuters travel, etc etc.

    The rest of the travel situation is far larger, and we know almost nothing about what drives those trip and destination decisions.

    I-66 is in my front yard. I can watch it 24 hours a day. When you add up all the vehicles that travel all during the night, it easily equals the crush at rush hour. Think about it for five minutes and you can see the point.


    I never said I disagree with the ten trip number, just that the number has come under fire as too generalized and such numbers are presented as if they have far more precision than justified. If the right answer is 10.22 trips plus or minus three trips, that leads to a whole different level of decisions than jsut the figure 10.22 trips.

    BUT, if you take that number as some kind of gospel, then there is very little reason to believe we can change it very much by tring to alter settlemet patterns.


    “YOU do not agree with MOST of the folks who deal with transportation issues.”

    I’m pretty certain about this one. How many cites would you like to have, starting with FED DOT?


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “is this supposed to be a “good thing”?”

    I didn’t make any value judgements, just stated a fact.

    33% of the Cost inccrease in housing is due to regulations in many areas. If those folks are living in double wides 20 miles out, the people they should blame are not the people who moved there to buy homes – and can afford them.

    more expensive and less affordable…cuts both ways. When I lived in North Carolina I was offered a skilled job at half of what I earned doing a similar job – part time in high school.

    When I complained about the wage offered, I was told, “Well, our costs of living are lower here.”

    True enough. And so was the standard of living.

    Fact is the environment in F’burg has changed because it is now closer to the edge of the greater urban area. You adapt to your environment or expire.


  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”he average commute is only 23 miles”

    of the ten or 10.22 trips… it is the 2 that go 23 miles that are the lions share of the mileage AND the congestion…

    my point is that if TND/smart growth/New Urbanism/Mixed use .. claim as one of their benefits that they reduce the auto trips .. say from 10 to 8…. and the 2 that are reduced are not the two that are the 23 mile trips at rush hour then one might question what is actually being accomplished with these kinds of developments – if in fact, they really don’t reduce auto trips by more than a couple of percentage points…overall..

    You can accomplish the same thing with a neighborhood commercial strip tacked onto a subdivision because in the end the trips that are going away are not the major ones.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: ..”You adapt to your environment or expire.”

    perhaps… of course.. we got that little thing called elections.. where folks get to say how much they want to adapt verses how many government will adapt…

    but the funny thing is that before the advent of commuters – Fredericksburg did not have an “affordable” housing issue…and folks who lived and worked locally were able to find their own affordable housing without the Government being involved in it.

    So the same commuters who use up I-95 road capacity and clog NoVa roads at rush hour have also driven the folks who live and work locally in Fredericksburg out of affordable housing.

    and the more folks who commute to NoVa jobs, – the more they force local folks start commuting themselves to higher payer jobs so they can afford a home also..

    and then on top of that… local folks have to pay 2% more for gasoline so that NoVa commuters can be subsidized on VRE.

    Now the county has denied subdividing of rural land for ‘affordable” housing because the NoVa commuters say that the rural character is being lost to development…

    heck of a mess…

    In their quest for so-called “affordable housing” .. they have imposed congestion on others and essentially made housing too expensive for the folks who want to live and work locally.

    I think this is what is meant by location variable costs…

    How do you “pay” for these costs?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “we got that little thing called elections.. where folks get to say how much they want to adapt”

    Sure. But in this case it is assymetrical. Not only do the locals say how they will adapt, if the rules they adopt are too stringent, then they are essntially voting as to how others (outside the jurisdiciton, who can’t vote) will have to adapt to their future environment.

    More than 3500 jurisdictions have some kind of growth restrictions, and the ones that don’t, don’t have a growth problem. One result of mutually deterrent restrictions is, eventually, no deterrent and higher prices to no avail. It’s why 33% of the increase in home prices is driven by regulation (some necessary and some not).

    I agree it’s a mess, but restricitons are not the answer. We know that from ample historical precedent. When your environment is restricted, you have to work harder or smarter to live in it. As it gets more complicated, it takes more money. More for individuals, and more for government.

    What I hear you saying is that newcomers who can and are willing to pay their costs should also subsidize those that came earlier, when costs were lower. Those who haven’t recognized tat the environment has changed.

    Speaking of elections, didn’t someone vote for that 2% tax?


    You should understand how those trips are counted. If you go to the office and stop for coffee on the way and dry-cleaning on the way back, then that is counted as four trips.

    Coincidentally, when I got home yesterday, Margaret recounted her day, and all the errands she had to run, including three trips to her (local) job. She made more trips and drove farther than I did.


    claim as one of their benefits that they reduce the auto trips .. say from 10 to 8….

    You are right. If you don’t reduce the major trips, you haven’t done much in VMT reduction, let alone congestion reduction.

    And, in order to reduce the trips from 10 to 8 they propose increasing the density from 10 to 40. This is TMT’s argument that you wind up with more cars and more trips inside of less area.

    This reduces congestion how? Even if such developments are not out in Jepip, the idea behind them won’t work as advertised.

    It seems to me that part of the eanswe has to be more local jobs in F’burg. And those businesses can help pay the taxes.

    But, let’s not get too crazy about it. Alexandria has the lowest tax rate in the area, but that does not mean that their government costs less per person, or that it takes a leesser slice out of the local economy.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Don’t kid yourself. they won’t allow subdivision of rurla land for affordable housing because a0 they know it is a sales pitch, and b) they have no desire or incentive to promote affordable housing.

    They don’t really want it.

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