Conference Program Spotlight: Break-out Sessions featuring: Transportation, Economic Development, &a

*All sessions may be eligible for CM credits.

Closer to my Grocer: Increasing Access to Healthy Foods in Virginia (Monday July 17 – 1pm to 2pm)

1.7 million Virginians live in low income communities with limited access to supermarkets. Access to nutritious food is unequally distributed in Virginia and people who live in communities with limited supermarket access suffer disproportionately high rates of diet related health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Conversely, when a community has access to a grocery store they are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight. With nearly 30% of Virginia’s children obese, more must be done to help all children grow up at healthy weight. While grocery stores contribute positively to public health they also serve as important community anchors and economic development institutions for localities. The Closer to My Grocer campaign, managed by the American Heart Association, is working to increase healthy food retail in underserved areas. The campaign is supported by a diverse coalition business, health, child advocate and locality groups that have an interest in improving food access. Ultimately the campaign seeks to establish a Healthy Food Financing Initiative, the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund, to provide grants and loans to healthy food retail projects. Virginia Community Capital is a Community Development Financial Institution that supports housing and community development ventures, increase jobs, and build sustainable communities by offering flexible financial products and advisory services. Planning professionals will be able to identify what parts of the state have limited access to healthy food, economic development and planning tools to create healthy food retail and learn about statewide advocacy initiatives to increase funding for healthy food retail.


Allie Atkerson, Campaign Manager American Heart Association

Allie serves as a Campaign Manager with the Voices for Healthy Kids program at the American Heart Association in Virginia. In this role she manages advocacy efforts towards the creation of the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund. Prior to joining AHA, Allie worked for B2L Consulting during the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session where she assisted public health and education nonprofits with their advocacy needs. Allie completed a year of AmeriCorps service with the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, DC and spent five months teaching English for the Chilean Ministry of Education in Santiago, Chile.

Allie's work is guided by a strong belief in social justice, health equity and systemic change. She holds a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Biology from the University of Mary Washington.

James Wallace, Fresh Food Advisor, Virginia Community Capital (VCC)

James graduated from Virginia Tech in 2012, with a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning. He created a Sustainable Food System Plan for the Richmond Region, which led to being hired by GrowRVA, a farmers market management company. James has managed multiple farmers markets in the Richmond region, including the state’s largest producer only market, South of the James.He helped create a non-profit to accompany the market and encourage people who receive food stamps to shop at the farmers market for healthier, nutrient dense fresh fruits and vegetables.

Maureen McNamara Best MA, Executive Director, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP)

Maureen loves food- thinking about food, growing food, eating food, cooking food and, of course, buying local food at the LEAP Community Markets. Maureen has over twelve years of experience working with food, agriculture and community. Her work and professional experience is wide-ranging and includes teaching high school agriculture in Raleigh, NC, working with migrant farmworkers in eastern NC and in the Colorado plains, doing food safety inspections in Boulder CO, and studying the economic viability of the local food system in Northern Colorado. Maureen has a MA in Anthropology from Colorado State University and undergraduate degrees in Agriculture Education, Spanish, and Anthropology from North Carolina State University.

Do You Have Capacity for Residential Growth? (Monday July 17 – 1pm to 2pm)

Cities, counties, and towns with areas of undeveloped land need to know how much residential capacity exists within areas slated for growth. When Albemarle County updated its Comprehensive Plan in 2015, developers were asking for expanded growth area boundaries and conservationists wanted the County to more actively promote redevelopment. Using GIS shape files and Excel staff developed a tool to assess the capacity of the designated growth areas to accommodate future population on greenfield sites. This session will provide the tools and methodology needed to know whether zoned land and land designated for residential development on the land use plan can accommodate projected future populations.


Elaine Echols, FAICP, Chief of Planning, Albemarle County

Elaine has been a planner in Albemarle County Community Development for the past 20 years. Currently, she is Chief of Long Range Planning. Prior to Albemarle County, she was a planner for the City of Waynesboro, Town of Blacksburg, the New River Valley Planning District, and several localities in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Use of the capacity analysis technology in this presentation was essential to the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan update adopted in 2015.

Will Cockrell, AICP, Senior Planner, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Will currently serves as the Director of Planning at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) and the Coordinator at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CA-MPO). Prior to joining the Planning District, Will was a senior planner for Louisa County, located in Central Virginia. During that time, he also took on the role of Acting-Director of Community Development. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds a Master’s of Science in Urban Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, with a Concentration in Land Use Planning. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Urban Environmental Planning, along with a Minor in Architecture, also from UVA.

Will serves several additional leadership positions. He serves as External Affairs for the American Planning Association, Virginia Chapter. He is also Chair of the Virginia Association of MPOs (VAMPO) and teaches "Government in Planning" at the University of Virginia’s Planning Department.

Zach Herrman, Regional Planner, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Zach is a Regional Planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). His main responsibilities at the TJPDC are bike and pedestrian planning and GIS analysis. Prior to joining the TJPDC in January, Zach worked as a graduate research assistant at the Virginia Transportation Research Council and interned in the Department of Planning and Community Development for the Town of Warrenton. He holds a bachelor's and master's degree in planning from the University of Virginia.

Braiding the Way for Outdoor Recreation: Discovering and Marketing Your Outdoor Assets (Tuesday July 18 – 2:30pm to 3:30pm)

Braiding the Way is a case study with several themes for planners: planning and marketing to advance outdoor recreation as an economic development strategy, designing a structure and process for effective and sustainable regional collaboration around outdoor recreation assets, and synthesizing disconnected prior planning efforts and documents that remained valid but sat on the shelf The Rockbridge area, encompassing the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington also, is rich in outdoor recreation assets as well as history and culture. Each of its localities has its own character and strengths, but they are united in the increasing importance of outdoor recreation as the future of much tourism. The mission of Braiding the Way is “to develop a braided network of trails, bikeways, blueways, and parks that support community health and conservation goals, and link the region’s towns, and historic and natural attractions.”


Sam Crickenberger, Director of Community Development, Rockbridge County

Sam has been Director of Community Development for Rockbridge County for the past 23 years. Formerly a Wetlands Engineer for the Three Rivers Soil and Water Conservation District located in Tappahannock, Virginia, he also served as Planning Director and Zoning Administrator for Lancaster County, Virginia. Prior to his career in planning, he was a Team Leader at South Western Virginia Training Center for the Mentally Retarded in Hillsville, Virginia. He studied psychology at the University of the South and landscape architecture at Virginia Tech.

Thomas Roberts, City Planner, City of Buena Vista

Thomas is focused on revitalization efforts, in particular advancing outdoor recreation and livability. He received his Master in Urban & Regional Planning from Virginia Tech and previously worked in cultural resource management and human resources.

Roanoke: Renewal, Historic Preservation and Planning for the Future (Tuesday July 18 – 3:45pm to 4:45pm)

Like many other cities, Roanoke’s downtown has gone through cycles of change and repositioning. Originally the retail center for Southwest Virginia, Downtown Roanoke declined with the advent of suburbia and suburban shopping malls. Because of this decline, some of the downtown buildings and surrounding neighborhoods were razed during an era of urban renewal. Although the urban renewal projects were designed to bolster and support downtown, they had a lasting effect on the communities that once lived in these areas and created barriers between downtown and some of the remaining neighborhoods. Ultimately, Downtown Roanoke again prospered by focusing on their uniqueness, with a particular focus on historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Today, Downtown Roanoke is a celebration of old and new and as the community plans for the next twenty years, they see opportunities to make better connections between neighborhoods and other growing areas of downtown. This session will focus on the methods of revitalization that has resulted in many adaptive reuse projects.


Wayne Leftwich AICP, Senior City Planner, City of Roanoke

Wayne is responsible for long range planning initiatives, the City’s Brownfield program, and staff support for the City’s Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission. He is currently working on the City’s Downtown Plan and an update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Wayne previously worked as a Community Planner with the City of Greenville, SC and was responsible for community development planning and activities. He earned his Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University; and a BA in Economics from Virginia Tech.

Reginald Shareef, Professor, Radford University

Reginald is a Professor of Political Science/Public Administration at Radford University and an Adjunct Professor at VT's CPAP where he teaches courses in Public Personnel Administration and Organization Sensemaking. Reginald served as an expert witness for the Claytor Family in the eminent domain case of Walter Claytor et al v. the Roanoke Redvelopmemt & Housing Authority. Additionally, he has written academic journal articles and newspaper op-ed columns on the use eminent domain from an ethical public management perspective.

Alison Blanton, Architectural Historian, Hill Studio

Alison is responsible for cultural and historic preservation projects undertaken by Hill Studio. She has worked with planners, architects, economists, attorneys, and developers on Historic Tax Credit projects in VA and beyond. She has completed National Register nominations and architectural/district surveys, and consults frequently with State Historic Preservation Officers and the National Park Service to assist clients in coordinating historic preservation projects with state agencies. Alison has a Master’s in Architectural History / Certificate in Historic Preservation from UVA, and a BA from the University of Texas.

Understanding Virginia's Entrepreneurial Communities through Metrics and Benchmarking (Tuesday July 18 – 3:45pm to 4:45pm)

Entrepreneurial ecosystems are comprised of organizations, capital and people that foster thriving startups. Today, regions are strengthening their ecosystems through mapping, measuring and connecting resources. Through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development researched entrepreneurial ecosystems and the resource needs of different types of entrepreneurs—for instance, innovate-driven “gazelle” enterprises, lifestyle businesses, and second stage companies. The goal was twofold: to understand which metrics are feasible to collect for smaller regions, and to facilitate benchmarking across numerous regions. This session will present findings from this study and then ask panel participants to share their own stories and reflect on the findings within the context of their own ecosystems. Questions to explore include: 1) How have participants’ respective communities examined themselves and what measures/metrics have they found most useful to collect? 2) How can we think more inclusively as we endeavor to strengthen entrepreneurship in our regions? What steps have/might we take? 3) What role should planners and economic developers play in encouraging entrepreneurship and business growth?


John Provo, PhD. Director Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development

John is Director of Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development. John provides leadership for the office in the design and implementation of applied research and technical assistance projects that link university and community resources to address the economic development needs of the Commonwealth. He builds program partnerships and secures funding as a major point of contact between the office, academic departments within the University, federal, state, and local governments, as well as other public and private sector leaders.

Sarah Lyon-Hill Economic Development Specialist Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development

Sarah an Economic Development Specialist in Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, where she works with communities and organizations across Virginia. Her work includes feasibility, strategic planning, and economic impact analyses in areas ranging from tourism and workforce to larger scale entrepreneurial ecosystems and emerging technologies research. She has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech, a B.A. in French and International Relations from Beloit College, and is progressing towards a Ph.D. in Planning at Virginia Tech.

Margaret Cowell, PhD. Assistant Professor Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech

Maggie is an Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech. She teaches courses on economic development, urban economy, and public policy and was a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-funded research project, “Building Resilient Regions” and also part of a team of researchers assessing the potential of the homeland security economy for community economic development in Southeast Washington, DC.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White YouTube Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon

© 2019 by Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association. All rights reserved.  |  24 E. Cary St., Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23219   |   Contact Us