Celebrating 50 years of regional collaboration

By Peter Stephenson, local government specialist

The Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) is celebrating 50 years of regional collaboration in 2019.  VAPDC kicked off this celebration with an extremely well-attended reception in Richmond on January 31.  We were pleased to be one of the sponsors for this special event.

VAPDC works to bring diverse resources together at the regional level in partnership with local, state and federal entities to strengthen our regions and the Commonwealth.  Planning District Commissions (PDC) in turn foster intergovernmental cooperation by bringing local elected and appointed officials and involved citizens together to discuss common needs and determine solutions to regional issues.

PDCs were created in the late 1960s under the Virginia Area Development Act (VADA), which required the preparation of regional comprehensive plans.  The VADA also required all local applications involving state or federal grants or loans to be reviewed by the PDCs.  State legislation was later updated in 1995 under the Regional Cooperation Act to further expand regional responsibilities.  PDCs provide a tremendous amount of technical assistance to their member localities.

It is interesting to note that PDC membership and participation among jurisdictions is strictly voluntary.  There were originally 22 PDCs or Regional Commissions (RCs) in Virginia.  In 1990 the Peninsula PDC and the Southeastern Virginia PDC merged, creating the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.  This is where I was most involved as an appointed official during much of my local government career.  Each PDC or RC is a legal political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the majority of Virginia PDCs or RCs are members of our risk sharing association.

Looking ahead, the work of the PDCs will continue to evolve as new demands continue to be placed on local governments to do more with less.  Regional cooperation will become increasingly important.  Next up is the VAPDC Summer Conference to be held in Williamsburg on July 24 through 26.  VRSA is proud to be a VAPDC Virginia Partner for the first time, effective July 1, and I look forward to my continued involvement with the association representing our pool as a VAPDC Associate Member.