Community Association to Conduct Survey on Growth
By Eric J. Wallace
Led by the Crozet Community Association, efforts to conduct a community survey that will provide information on growth issues for an update of the Crozet Master Plan are well underway. CMP provisions call for a plan update every five years that is now two years overdue.
According to CCA president Tim Tolson, that delay is causing Crozet residents problems.
“When it came time to do the master plan revision in 2015, the county said it did not have the staff or funding to do it until at least 2018,” said Tolson. “Since several project plans have come through the county’s process for approval where there seems to be a discrepancy between how the community interprets the language in the master plan versus the interpretations of county staff, rather than wait another two years for a revision, the community is undertaking the survey as a first step in the revision process.”
Cited as a prime example of the kind of issues a revision will help to avoid are those that recently played out with the proposed Adelaide development. Looking to the 2009 survey as a precedent, Tolson offered another case study. “One example from the 2009-2010 survey and master plan revision was regarding whether to permit development of the land around the Interstate 64 slash Route 250 interchange at Yancey’s Mill,” he said. “Some saw and advocated for it as an appropriate and prime economic development opportunity. However, the 2009 survey responses made it clear that an overwhelming majority [of Crozetians] did not want that area to be opened to development. Subsequent discussions illuminated why, and master plan revision continued the prohibition of development in what is currently zoned rural.”
The survey, which Tolson expects will be conducted in April and completed by May, is meant to provide county officials and CCA with information they need to make decisions reflecting of the specific desires of Crozet residents.
“I found the survey information to be profoundly useful in making decisions,” said former White Hall District Planning Commissioner Tom Loach. “It allowed me to cite specific data regarding how the people I was there to represent felt about a given issue… Being able to point to concrete data certainly held more sway with the other representatives.”
This time around, the CCA will ensure the survey is certifiably scientific.“By saying this will be a ‘scientific’ survey, what we’re really trying to communicate in one word is that it will follow established procedures for conducting a survey in such a way that the results can be generalized to a specific population, within a certain margin of error, such as say 3-5 percent,” explained Tolson, who holds a Ph.D. and in his professional life has routinely been tasked with research survey construction and analysis. “To do this, you first have to define the ‘population’ you want to refer to—in this case the Crozet growth area. However, for our purposes, that isn’t sufficient, because Crozet’s growth inside the growth area also impacts those outside the growth area… As a result, we’re presently raising funds to have a professional sample drawn that will include mostly persons inside the growth area and then some from outside the growth area—say, within 2 miles of Crozet or something along those lines.”
In addition to Tolson, Loach and current White Hall Planning Commissioner Jennie More, Crozet residents Shawn Bird and Tom Guterbock joined the CCA survey committee. “They are both Ph.D.’s with a ton of survey experience,” said Tolson. “Shawn has worked for many years as vice-president of a political polling firm and Tom serves as the director of the Center for Public Surveys at U.Va. They’re providing their expertise and have looked at and helped revise the questions and are assisting in all aspects of the project.”
To obtain the scientific sample, some residents will receive a specific invitation to participate in that group. “This ensures we can generalize the results to a defined Crozet area in a reliable and valid manner” said Tolson. “People identified in the scientific sample will get a postcard in the mail asking them to take the survey and providing a weblink or contact information if they would prefer a paper copy instead… We ask that only the person who was invited use this link, so that our sample will match the population we drew from.”
Meanwhile, the same questions will also be made available to anyone to answer via a different website, which will, according to Tolson, allow the CCA to keep the two groups of data separate from one other. Additionally, the survey will be published in the Crozet Gazette, and print copies will be available at the Crozet Library.
The group met Feb. 27 to hone the list of questions, which Tolson estimates will take participants around 20 minutes to complete. “We want to make sure we ask about the issues and areas of the current master plan over which there’s been disagreement, as well as topics we know are on the horizon, such as the re-development of the Barnes Lumberyard, plans for Crozet plaza, and so on. At the same time, we’ve been mindful of not making it too long. It’s a balancing act.”
Loach and Tolson have high hopes for the usefulness and accuracy of the potential response, “In 2009, we thought we’d get a hundred or so responses but ended up getting around 700,” said Tolson. “Since the population of the Crozet area at the time was around 5,000 people, the 2009 survey’s margin of error was only 4 percent.
“If, say, 67 percent of respondents agree that there should not be any additional growth at the Route 250 / I-64 interchange at Yancey’s Mill, generalizing this to the population of 10,000 would mean that there is a 95 percent likelihood that between 62 and 71 percent of the 10,000 people in the Crozet area feel that way,” Tolson explained.
“By using scientific sampling, we’ll know the specific area folks have come from. We’ve included the various areas in and around Crozet,” said Loach. “So our confidence in the reliability and representativeness of the survey is much higher approaching it like this.”
Once the survey information is compiled, it will be made public through the CCA and used by the community in CMP revision meetings.