A growth guide for Richmond over the next two decades is officially on the books, but the City Council isn’t done with it yet.
The years-in-the-works Richmond 300 plan, an update to the city’s 20-year master plan, was adopted unanimously at the council’s meeting Monday night, with the caveat that council members will move quickly to amend certain parts of it that they, and others, find lacking.
Concerns that the roughly 250-page document does not sufficiently address challenges such as transforming public housing or addressing food scarcity were highlighted in a hearing that preceded the vote, as well as in council members’ comments that followed.
Critics questioned whether the plan was as inclusive as it could be, particularly in light of its rollout during the pandemic, which some speakers said stymied public input in the plan.
Others said changes made to it in recent months were not communicated well enough to stakeholders, and in some cases contradicted other planning efforts, such as a small area plan in the works for Shockoe Bottom.
While they stressed that more needs to be done with the master plan, council members agreed Monday to adopt it with the provision that they’ll come back in early January with amendments they want added or addressed. President Cynthia Newbille said such proposals would be due by Jan. 8 so that the council could consider them at its next meeting that month.
“This is a great vision for the city, but it is clear there is more work to be done,” Newbille said before calling for the vote.
Intended as a blueprint for growth in Richmond through its tricentennial in 2037, Richmond 300 has been in the works for nearly four years and replaces the city’s previous 20-year master plan, save for amendments made to it in the years since such as the Pulse Corridor Plan, the Riverfront Plan and others.
The document includes various recommendations that are meant to guide development and future zoning decisions, including several big-picture suggestions for areas including Jackson Ward, areas east of Scott’s Addition, Southside Plaza and Stony Point Fashion Park.
About a dozen speakers critiqued the plan in Monday’s hearing, which saw several members of the Richmond 300 Advisory Council speak in support of their efforts, while others criticized specific recommendations and called for the council to amend the plan and then adopt it, not the other way around.
Some speakers said the plan doesn’t go far enough in preserving historic resources or requiring affordability in residential developments.
Others said it needs more emphasis on sustainability policies and called for equitability in how different parts of town are represented, contending that some neighborhoods were not as involved in the plan’s development as others.
“If a plan does not include everyone, then it is not that much of a plan,” Councilmember Michael Jones said.
While council members lauded planners’ efforts with the document, describing it as a starting point and a step in the right direction, they also said it needs to address issues such as schools and other challenges that go beyond an urban planning approach.
Councilmember Ellen Robertson said she planned to oppose the plan when she saw its map of so-called “priority growth nodes,” which she described as disproportionate across the city. But she said she was willing to adopt it with the understanding from her colleagues that they would work expediently to address such concerns.
“I do think this is a workable plan,” Robertson said.
The full plan and related documents can be viewed on the Richmond 300 website.