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Conference Welcome


Innovations in Multimodal Planning – the Eastern Shore Rail Trail

By examining a recent case study, this session will achieve educational objectives related to civic engagement (including virtual outreach), multimodal transportation, and healthy community design. Presenters from VDOT and VHB will highlight specific aspects of the Eastern Shore Rail Trail Feasibility Study that demonstrate innovation in project delivery and innovation in planning outcomes.


The Eastern Shore Rail Trail Feasibility Study began in early 2020, and included an extensive effort to engage stakeholders and the general public, by means of a series of in-person meetings supplemented by a project website hosted on VDOT's webpage. The stakeholder group included federal, state, and regional agencies, non-profit advocacy groups, local governments, the rail owner, utility providers, and conservation groups. Public involvement needed to include two rural counties and multiple towns. As the project advanced during the pandemic, civic engagement shifted to a virtual format, expanding the use of the project website, incorporating recorded presentations, and executing an online survey that produced over 3,400 responses. The effort demonstrates an adaptive approach to engagement during the pandemic, and also provides a model for broad scale virtual engagement in a post-pandemic world.


As a rail-to-trail project, the study is inherently focused on multimodal transportation. By involving a wide range of stakeholders along with the rail owner, the project has resulted in innovative partnerships, shared goals, and momentum for implementation. The study identifies specific design treatments needed to adaptively reuse existing right-of-way and infrastructure.  In addition to the trail alignment and typical sections, the study includes recommendations for a variety of roadway crossings, as well as the locations and details for trailheads. The report identifies connections to tourism to tourism destinations that help drive the local economy.


Active transportation has long been recognized as a contributor to community health.  Because it will span the length of Virginia's Eastern Shore, the rail-to-trail will provide active transportation access to schools, jobs, recreation, and food. Outdoor activity also became  more important during the pandemic, as people sought ways to stay active outdoors. To the extent that the rail trail will help make this a long-term normal rather than a trend, it represents an innovative means of promoting outdoor activity and community health.


The session will achieve the following learning objectives:


1.  Design and execute broad reaching and multi-faceted civic engagement

2. Understand and replicate partnerships to plan and implement multimodal transportation improvements.

3. Incorporate Healthy Community Design into community planning studies


Chris DeWitt, AICP, Principal & Mid-Atlantic Planning + Design Service Leader, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc

John Bolecek, AICP, Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner, Virginia Department of Transportation

Cassi Patterson, Transportation Planner, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc


Community Engagement: The Pandemic Paradigm Shift

As the Town of Vienna began undertaking an update of its zoning code for the first time in 50 years, it knew that citizen engagement would be crucial – and also a challenge during a global pandemic. Still the Town knew that it wanted to cast a wide net of feedback opportunities and so working with YARD & Company, one of the consultants on its CODE CREATE VIENNA initiative, the Town has created an array of unique feedback opportunities, all designed with safety and accessibility in mind. 


Recognizing the widespread disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak, YARD & Company created an Engagement Toolkit for Spatial Distancing to guide communities through this unprecedented time to find ways to continue engaging stakeholders safely amidst spatial distancing requirements. Many of the approaches recommended transcend the current need to think outside of the traditional public meetings and challenge planners to go out to where the people are and go beyond the meeting and beyond the screen, now and in the future.


Joseph Kevin Wright, Principal and Director of Operation and Strategy, YARD & Company

Kelly O'Brien, LEED AP, Principal Planner, Town of Vienna, Project Manager of Engagement and Design for CODE CREATE VIENNA


The Virginia Statewide Rail Plan: Creating a People-Centric Rail Plan

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is embarking on an update to its Statewide Rail Plan, required every four years by the Federal Railroad Administration. This year, the Plan must take into consideration a whole range of new paradigms: from the effects of COVID-19 on transportation to the creation of a new Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and landmark agreement with CSXT for the Commonwealth's purchase of railroad rights-of-way to improve passenger service.  Unlike in previous rail plans, the connection between Virginians and their rail network is more critical than ever as the Commonwealth shifts to a customer service-centric model when planning for new rail initiatives.  This presentation will focus on completed and planned outreach activities, strategies for enhanced engagement by the general public, and the goals and objectives for a Rail Plan that is more consequential than ever.


Nicolas Ruiz, AICP, Rail Planning Project Manager, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation 

Emily Stock, AICP, Manager of Rail Planning, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

Randy Selleck, AICP, Rail Planning Project Manager, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation 

Michael Todd, AICP, Manager of Rail Enhancement Corridor Programs, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation 


Carbon Sequestration as an Economic Development and Community Development Tool

More​ information coming. 


Revolutionizing the Curbside Space: A Regional Perspective on Curbside Management

This panel discussion will focus on best practices regarding the management of curbside space from a regional perspective and highlight innovative strategies to consider. Members will learn about how the Curb is defined currently - where the curbside space is a valued asset for the region. The curb is where travelers of all types across all modes of transport transition between the roadway and places of interests. Also, members will learn about the main implications, best practices and lessons learned as it relates to curbside management, parking and multi-modal operations as well as contracting and procurement.


Mosi London, PE, Transportation Planning Project Manager, AECOM

Carlos Espindola, PE, Transportation Planner & Project Manager, AECOM

Phillip Baker, PE, Senior Project Manager, AECOM

Unwanna Dabney, PHD, Senior Planning Manager, AECOM


Recipe for Success: Feeding the Community and Supporting Businesses during a Pandemic

This session will discuss the creation and success of the Neighbors in Need program, which originated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millstone Kitchen, a shared-use commercial kitchen operated from the Old Prices Fork Elementary School, had several kitchen users affected by the pandemic and partnered with local food distribution agencies to provide made from scratch meals to food insecure families. From April to June 2020 the Neighbors in Need program was funded through community donations but was then awarded grant funding through the VA Dept of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to continue the program from July to December of 2020. A second round of funding from DHCD will continue the program through June 2021.


Millstone Kitchen opened in the summer of 2019 after Montgomery County was awarded $2.5M through the Vibrant Communities Initiative (via DHCD) and $500,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission. These grant funds were used to redevelop the Old Prices Fork Elementary School where Millstone Kitchen is located and were intended to generate 29 new jobs. Part of the redevelopment of this site includes not only the kitchen, but a brewery, restaurant space, and residential units. The pandemic threatened to slow or eliminate the progress and grant commitments. This session will discuss how leveraging existing funding partners along with forging new community partnerships were able to save a pandemic-affected business while serving a critical community need.


(The redevelopment of the Old Prices Fork Elementary School was originally shared in an APA Virginia session in 2017.)


Emily Gibson, Planning Director, Montgomery County

Jennifer Wilsie, AICP, Senior Planner, New River Valley Regional Commission


Placemaking on the Edge

Economic development professionals, entrepreneurs, and planners in York County, Williamsburg, and James City County are working together to bring new life to an older commercial corridor that runs through the Historic Triangle. Thanks to a combination of public and private sector initiatives including adaptive reuse; investments in walkability, landscaping, and transit; and marketing, the Merrimac Trail/Second Street corridor – branded the “Edge District” by the three localities – is starting to take shape as a dining and entertainment district with a host of restaurant options up and down the corridor and a craft brewery featuring live outdoor music on its front patio. This session will offer both a local government and business perspective on this effort, showing how the two can work in partnership to revitalize an aging, partially blighted commercial corridor in furtherance of shared aesthetic and economic goals.


The so-called “Amazon effect” and other factors have taken their toll on brick-and-mortar retail, resulting in an abundance of vacant commercial space in communities all across Virginia. With the rise of e-commerce over the past ten years, accelerated last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, communities will be increasingly challenged to find creative ways to revitalize their commercial corridors. This type of effort also addresses the need to support the development of “eatertainment” establishments that are necessary to attract and retain a younger workforce. This session will touch on a number of topics that are important to practicing planners: regionalism, adaptive reuse, economic development, blight removal, corridor revitalization, and public-private partnerships.


Timothy C. Cross, AICP, Deputy Director of Planning and Development Services, York County

James W. Noel, Jr., Director of Economic Development, York County

Michele Mixner DeWitt, CEcD, AICP, Economic Development Director, City of Williamsburg

Chris Smith, Co-Founder of The Virginia Beer Company

Stephanie Heinatz, Founder and Managing Partner of Consociate Media



APA Virginia Awards Ceremony


Exemptions and Exceptions for Substantail Improvements to Historic Structures in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs): Case Studies
(Part 1)

Historic structures necessitating “substantial improvement” require an “exception” or an “exemption” approval in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) in the local floodplain ordinance, as provided for and encouraged by FEMA.  Localities may opt to do this and how they do it varies, and sometimes the variance process mistakenly used for this purpose, instead or, in some cases, concurrently.  Navigating the process can be tricky.  Has your floodplain ordinance been updated to address this?  If so, how’s it working for you? Are property owners inadvertently getting stick in the middle as you apply it?  


This session will present FEMA’s instruction, along with a survey of local floodplain ordinances in Hampton Roads, the Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore, and the status of exemption or exception clauses within them for substantial improvements to historic structures in SFHAs.  What qualifies as a “historic structure?” What qualifies as a “substantial improvement?”  Hear and see through 3 case studies (commercial use, mixed-residential use, and single-family residence use) studies in Norfolk how it’s being applied and how building renovation designs for adaptation were applied to improve flood resiliency, despite being exempt. 


All attendees are asked to have access to viewing their locality’s Floodplain Ordinance for facilitated work group discussion and reporting out. This is a hands-on workshop.  


Jeryl Rose Phillips, AICP, Commonwealth Preservation Group and Building Resilient Solutions


Peter Johnston, Associate, Urban & Industrial Designer, Work Program Architects

Ashlen Stump, Data Analyst, Building Resilient Solutions

Mel Price, AIA, LEED AP, Architect and Owner, Work Program Architects

Jacob Combee, AIA, Architect, Work Program Architects

Katie Poulson, Preservation Project Manager, Commonwealth Preservation Group

Kerry Shackelford, Historic Restoration Builder and General Contractor, and Co-Owner,

Building Resilient Solutions


Pivoting, Planning, and Possibilities – Developing the Lexington 2040 Comprehensive Plan

About Lexington 2040: The Lexington 2040 Comprehensive Plan defines a vision for the City that acknowledges a difficult past while building an inclusive and progressive path forward. Organized around a series of five planning values rooted in community, equity and resilience, the plan tackles issues such as diversity, housing affordability, fiscal sustainability, alternative transportation, and governance. Lexington 2040 acknowledges that deep Civil War ties have factored powerfully in the past development and current state of the City. Community engagement began in 2019 on the heels of nationally-recognized political controversies – foreshadowing the volatile context that Lexington’s history would hold in this plan. As the plan moved toward adoption, the Black Lives Matter movement made it even more imperative that this plan not give lip service to these issues, but tackle tough subjects head on. Given the documented misuse of planning as a tool of racial injustice, the Planning Commission determined to address the enduring legacy of slavery and racism and seek additional input from underrepresented groups. In the midst of the global pandemic, the Planning Commission shared the draft plan during a Virtual Public Forum and subsequently completed a full review and major rewrite to ensure that the plan would address current issues and provide steps to remedy past injustices. The final plan, adopted in Fall 2020, represents the determination of a community committed to developing a complete understanding of itself, encouraging inclusive dialogue with respect to diverse viewpoints, and honoring tis citizens’ vision and goals through strong policy, partnerships, and implementation action.


About the Session: Through a traditional lecture that includes a presentation and moderated discussion, this session will explore the planning, pivoting, and possibilities that define the development of Lexington 2040. Presentation content will highlight the approach, obstacles, and innovations addressed in the plan. Moderated discussion will provide insight into the perspective of two members of Lexington’s Planning Commission, both of whom had a significant role in elevating the plan beyond narrowly construed legal requirements to consider such issues as equity, diversity, governance, and implementation. Moderated discussion will involve discourse on: I. How Planning Commission members took the lead as Citizen Planners to elevate issues of equity and diversity and expand the role of Comprehensive Planning in their community. II. Ways in which the Planning Commission pivoted during the global pandemic (e.g., using virtual platforms). III. Notable advancements embodied in the plan, including the introduction of catalyst projects and subsequent changes to the CIP process to strengthen its ties to the Plan and improve fiscal responsibility and transparency. IV. Practical advice for planners and Planning Commissions tackling tough issues and seeking consensus.


Kelly Davis, AICP, Planning Director, The Berkley Group

John Driscoll, AICP, Vice-President, Institute for International Urban Development, Cambridge. MA; World Bank Urban Planning Consultant; Research Affiliate, Univ. of Maryland Center for Smart Growth

Camille Miller, Ph.D., President, The Virginia Group


Avoiding Social Injustice and Planning for Equity in Historic Communities when Preparing Flood Resiliency Adaptation Policies, Regulations, and Implementation Programs: A Model Case Study and Dialogue 

(Part 2)

As the waters rise around us in Coastal Virginia, the Commonwealth and coastal communities have taken bold steps to respond with adaptation policies, regulations, and implementation programs for flood resiliency—including infrastructure projects.  The Chesterfield Heights Historic District in Norfolk, VA is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places.  This session will present a model case study for how the City of Norfolk engaged a historic neighborhood in the preservation of their community and identified what they value as large-scale watershed infrastructure flood resiliency project was being planned and implemented for the Owl’s Creek Watershed.  Respecting place, cultural heritage, and what makes community—and really listening to one another—was key to this project’s success to avoid social injustice and planning inequities moving forward. 

This session will be presented from the property owner’s perspective. You’ll hear about why her family chose to stay despite the waters rising higher over time. What binds people to their community and why relocation out of harm’s way is not always a viable solution.  You’ll also hear from the Project Manager.  Both presenters weave together a powerful story of commitment to one’s community and, all together, making decisions for greater safety and neighborhood resiliency for present and future generations in the neighborhood.


What is important to recognize and ask in order to have a successful outcome? The audience will be asked to share their own experiences in navigating the rising waters on the ground. Attendees should leave this session with greater awareness of how and why people experiencing the problems must be part of the effective solution. 


Jeryl Rose Phillips, AICP, Commonwealth Preservation Group and Building Resilient Solutions



Karen Speights, Property Owner, Chesterfield Heights Historic District

Kyle Spencer, P.E., Project Manager, City of Norfolk Office of Resiliency


Knowledge is Power: The Value of Authentic and Transparent Communication

In planning, we seek to create equitable solutions that reflect a community’s priorities. But often we overlook the inherent inequities between ourselves and the public we serve. We hold the keys to the planning process; we have the data; and we complete the analysis. Our communities have something we need as well, their lived experience. This transaction, our technical experience for their lived experience, must be built on trust earned through authentic, transparent communication. In this session, participants will cultivate their role as good stewards of public information using the 10 qualities of transparent communication. First, we will define these 10 qualities through project examples from the around Virginia. Then, using a hypothetical project, participants will practice preparing for, executing, and evaluating a transparent planning process.


Danielle R. McCray, PE, Professional Engineer, Kimley-Horn

Jessica Lawless, Graphics Team Leader, Kimley-Horn


APA Virginia Ethics Session

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