CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A few months ago, Albemarle County Supervisors released a community survey with the help from the Center for Survey Research of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Now, the results are in and painting a better picture of what people want the county to look like moving forward.
According to Director of the Center for Survey Research and Principal Investigator of the survey project, Kara Fitzgibbon, most respondents are concerned about the pace of growth, traffic congestion, and affordable housing.
“Overall, residents are really passionate about where they live and they want it to improve,” Fitzgibbon said.
With over 1,500 respondents and a condensed report nearly 400 pages long, Albemarle county got tons of feedback.
“These reports or surveys are so important even if the reports are a lot to get through because residents have a lot to say,” Fitzgibbon said. “I think that’s echoed in the fact that there was such a large turnout to the survey.”
Fitzgibbon says it is important to note that responses were collected before the pandemic really struck Albemarle.
“That’s important to view these findings in light of the fact that this is sort of prior to our new normal,” she said. 90% of respondents said overall quality of life was excellent or good, but 46% of respondents expect quality of life in the county to get worse.
“In particular, there were concerns around traffic congestion, as well as overcrowding of potential increased cost of living, and then with that concern over affordable housing came up repeatedly in the survey,” Fitzgibbon said.
She also pointed out that responses were largely varied based on whether a resident lived in a more rural or urban part of the county. Those in rural areas have more troubles accessing resources like child care and public transportation.
“We’re seeing over half of residents who want to use those services are running into barriers,” she said.
Race also played a role in responses. The overall rating of the current quality of life in Albemarle County did statistically vary with White residents reporting a higher average quality of life rating than Black residents reported. However, Black residents and Asian residents were more likely than White residents to report they think overall quality of life in the county will improve five years from now.
“When it comes to feelings of sense of belonging and wellness and Albemarle though again the average was high across residents, we did the some residents of color did have relatively lower average ratings there,” Fitzgibbon said.
One other area where Fitzgibbon observed reported differences between respondents of different racial or ethnic affiliations was on the topic of tax allocation. Compared to respondents of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, Black respondents reported higher average ratings of importance for allocating tax dollars to school facilities, affordable housing, rural broadband access, and expansion of other public buildings and facilities in the county.
“Through that openness and through that hearing of residents opinions and values that Albemarle can continue and improve and reflecting the needs of the residents,” Fitzgibbon said.
According to the press release, the county will work over the next several weeks to digest the data and decide how to address areas that need improvement.