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Richmond Master Plan Draft Proposes Environmental Policies

*VPM intern Patrick Larsen reported this story.

The City of Richmond is drafting its next master plan — Richmond 300. The plan’s proposed draft for future land use aims to achieve a more environmentally friendly city. 

Sustainability goals are centered around three main objectives: improving air and water quality, and adapting to the effects of human-caused climate change. Project Manager Maritza Pechin said the master plan may not address all of the city’s environmental issues, but it’s a good place to start.

“One of the main ways that you can combat the negative impacts of climate change is through land use and transportation policy,” Pechin said.

The plan proposes revising the city’s zoning law to maximize on green space, paying special attention to areas that are disproportionately affected by extreme heat. This approach would help Richmonders stay cool in a city that’s projected to have a greater number of dangerously hot days in the future.

Richmond 300 also aims to further the city’s goal to improve public transit. Proposed strategies to make that happen include: adding more bus routes and extending service hours to increase accessibility to all residents. Not only that, but officials said that making the city more transit-focused would likely reduce vehicle emissions, too — one of Virginia’s main sources of carbon pollution.

There’s no defined timeline for implementing emissions goals yet. The city has its own plan, RVAGreen2050, to cut emissions 80 percent by 2050, although it is not directly connected to the master plan. Officials also say that RVAGreen2050 could seek carbon neutrality in the same timeframe. Last month, Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order making a state wide commitment to reach fully sustainable electricity production by then. However, there was no mention of a similar commitment for transportation — but nothing is set in stone. Pechin said the finalized version of the master plan will undergo changes over its 20-year course.

“It sets forward some visions and goals and strategies, but it’s not gonna have all the answers right away,” Pechin said.

Impacts of Human-Caused Climate Disruption

Regardless of what the final timelines may be, it is too late for any emissions reductions to completely stop the effects of climate change. UN scientists said that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius would still cause major changes. Keeping temperatures at that level would require worldwide carbon neutrality by 2050. In any case, Richmonders will likely see a drastic increase in the number of dangerously hot days each year. Sea level rise would also pose a major threat to coastal cities like Norfolk, which is home to some of the nation’s key military operations.

Upcoming Meetings

Richmond 300 is hosting two more public forums for this stage of the draft. One will be held at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts auditorium, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m.. 

The next and final meeting of the year will take place at Martin Luther King Middle School auditorium, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.. The final Master Plan draft will be shared during the third and last community input session in 2020, before it’s sent to City Council for approval. 


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