Upgrade to Southeast Corner in Ruckersville Approved

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward upgrading the intersection of Routes 29 and 33 in Ruckersville on Wednesday, November 12th. Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director,  outlined the request of Milestone Investment Group, LLC  and George and Suzanne Haney, Jr. who was represented by L J Lopez from Milestone for the public hearing requesting a rezoning of 1.16 acres of the 3.62 acres the two owners have from B-2 to B-3. Parcel 29 and part of parcel 25 are the southern part of the property that borders Route 29 northbound.

Svoboda stated that the property is in an area identified as mixed use per the Comprehensive Plan. B-3 will allow for more options to be considered by the developers. He further explained that the development will allow for the closing of Jennings Loop Road where it intersects Route 33 just east of Route 29. The entry onto Route 33 will be farther east which will eliminate trouble traffic has making a left hand turn onto Route 33. Staff supported the rezoning request and the Planning Commission recommended approval with proffers to close Jennings Loop Road.

Lopez explained that a gas station would be part of the development. He further explained that the B-3 rezoning was requested on the southern part of the property along Route 29 where there is more traffic. B-3 zoning adds the by right use of a Convenient Store and a special use permit option of a Fuel Distribution Center. The hearing then turned to comments from the public. The silence was heard loud and clear – no one asked to speak on the rezoning application.

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The four supervisors (Supervisor Eddie Deane was absent) were all supportive of the application and anxious for the development to occur. Supervisor Davis Lamb, Ruckersville District, clarified that the current access to Route 33 will move east. Chairman Jim Frydl, Midway District, felt the development fits the Comprehensive Plan and it would also take care of an unsafe entry on to Route 33.

david_cox

Supervisor David Cox

Supervisor David Cox’s, Monroe District, only concern was how traffic entering onto Route 29 would be able to get over to be able to make a left hand turn onto Route 33 West. Svoboda assured Cox that the design was within VDOT’s standards.

Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, asked about connectivity with parcels to the south. Svoboda said there have been discussions with the owners which Lopez confirmed.

Frydl noted that this project moves Ruckersville toward the current Comprehensive Plan.

Martin stated that this development begins the new “town center” concept in Ruckersville and looks forward to the getting to work. The rezoning application was unanimously approved.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credit: Greene County

Misinformation, Compartmentalization and Realization on the US29 “Expressway”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of accusations of truths, half truths, and outright distortions of truth regarding the US29 Solutions Package and the overall plan for US29.

The Free Enterprise Forum shares the frustration of others in the community including the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding misinformation.

Facts, modeling and statistics, even when used in rhetorical analysis, should be both sourced and transparent so the reader can determine the validity of the argument.   As an organization we will continue to strive for such transparency in our work.

On Twitter earlier this month Former VDOT Commissioner and current Route 29 Solutions facilitator Philip Shucet wrote about the concern of a US29 Expressway:

Philip Shucet @PhilipShucet ·  Nov 5

Fact: There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making. No secret plans. No hidden agenda. Just some smart #rt29solutions at work.

0 replies 2 retweets 2 favorites

On Twitter, I queried Shucet about the $10,000,000 dedicated to preliminary engineering on the Hydraulic interchange; clearly this was an indication of the Commonwealth’s interest in building it.  His reply:

@NeilSWilliamson Good point. No preset intention either way. If study results are to go forward, then must go to MPO, HB2 priority process.

Shucet is a stand up guy who works hard to to keep his direct charge, the so called Route 29 Solutions, on track.

The Route 29 Solutions webpage [a great resource for up to date project details] lists each of the specific projects under this umbrella:

Route 29 Solutions Projects:

29/250 Ramp
Rio GSI
Rt. 29 Widening
Berkmar Extension
Adaptive Signals
Hillsdale Extended
Hydraulic/29 Study
Hillsdale South

By compartmentalizing his work to the list above, Shucet can accurately say that “There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making.  No secret plans”.  However if one digs further into the approved planning documents a different picture, or pictures, emerge.

In August, when Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne spoke to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding the US29 Solutions, he said, “Again, I want to emphasize these (projects) are not the end of the solutions; but they are a good start.  I believe in an incremental approach”Click here for the podcast [quote is at 18:24].

Back during the Western bypass discussion, Piedmont Environmental Council Field Officer Jeff Werner produced a slide show of sketches to show the problem on  US 29.

jeff's sketch 1

The solutions proposed in his sketch slide show included most of the Route 29 solutions package as well as a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic:

jeff sketch hydraulic interchange

Not to be left out of the discussion, our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) joined with PEC in producing a video rendering of the proposed solutions including how an interchange at Hydraulic would work:

SELC vision for Hydraulic

These ideas did not come out of thin air — All of this is actually part of the Places29 master plan for the region.

The Places29 Plan calls for 8 “Major Intersection Improvements” within the US 29 Corridor.  These improvements will be designed by those in power when funds are available but based on all of the above, we see a tendency to move toward grade separated interchanges.

The Free Enterprise Forum was critical of this plan throughout the development and spoke out in vocal opposition to the plan when it was presented for final approval.  The plan was approved unanimously.

I am not sure what most people mean when they use the term expressway.  I tend to think of a limited access road with few if any lights or other potential vehicular conflicts.

In looking at the picture below from the Places29 plan [figure 14.18], and the one above from SELC, I wonder what most readers would call these roads?

image

Former Secretary Shucet is right there is no secret expressway planned for US29 and his Route29 Solutions work, while a part of the overall plan, is not gong to build the “expressway” immediately.

Whether you call the new transportation network an expressway, a boulevard or “Fred”, what is planned is not a secret at all — it is all a part of the Places29 Master Plan and it always has been.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits:

Piedmont Environmental Council www.pecva.org accessed 11/10/2014

Southern Environmental Law Center www.selc.org accessed 11/10/2014

Albemarle County Places29 Master Plan

Albemarle’s Manifest Density

By. Neil Williamson, President

As Albemarle County’s Land Use philosophy of focusing development in the 5% of its land mass is under review as part of the Comprehensive Plan, we are starting to see significant push back from those already living in the designated development areas.  Residents are seeking not only to limit the amount of higher density development in the development areas; they are raising alarms at the lack of infrastructure spending to support existing communities and to encourage infill development.  The Home Builders have raised concerns that the calculation used to determine the residential land capacity fails to recognize market realities and at least one Supervisor has raised concerns that the existing neighborhoods are being left behind in plan.

Citizen Concern In their final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Council [a non elected citizen group appointed by the BOS] requested significant edits to the plan that addressed their concerns regarding density and how new development may impact existing residents.

Major consideration must be given to protecting surrounding properties from the impact of high density development[Emphasis added - nw].  The impact of the plan on existing development should be sensitive to the character of surrounding Rural Areas and major consideration should be given to the needs and wishes of those persons already living and owning property in the the area. The effect on existing transportation infrastructure should also be a major consideration in permitting the development.

Industry Concern In a letter to the Board, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) raised several questions about the development area and asked if staff had appropriately calculated the “Marketable Density”

The proposed Comprehensive Plan speaks of low and high capacity of units in the development areas. From multifamily apartment buildings to townhomes to single family homes, BRHBA members build all types of homes to serve all types of citizens. Each of our members proudly builds with the end user in mind – the occupant. As such, the reality capacity is likely significantly lower than the high end proposed in figure 5 of the Development Area chapter.

While there is a market for dense new urbanist style development, and our members serve that market, the vast majority of the new home buyers in Albemarle County are looking to live in single family detached housing. We are curious if based on the current market mix of housing, would those numbers multiplied by the dwelling unit demand would result in a different calculation of required land area? [emphasis added-nw]

Supervisor Concern In an October 6, 2014 memorandum to the Board of Supervisors, Rio Supervisor Brad Sheffield raised a number of issues with the Development Areas Chapter including the tone of the chapter, infrastructure investment, land use, industrial and residential capacity, and protecting existing neighborhoods.

Not to worry, as we wrote about in a September post,  the Comprehensive Plan clearly suggests a lack of understanding is the cause of such resident concerns. From Page 8.11:

It is natural for residents to fear the effects of change as the County makes efforts to create more dense and urban neighborhoods in the Development Areas. However, when residents understand the relationship between density and preservation of rural areas and the goals of the Neighborhood Model, they seem to find more acceptance of density. Conveying the benefits of density, such as neighborhood schools, parks, sidewalks, and bicycle paths is also important. Understanding that the Development Areas can be great places to live can help residents embrace density in the Development Areas.

The Free Enterprise Forum has to ask if citizens, industry and Supervisors continue to have significant concerns with Albemarle’s “Manifest Density”, why does it continue to move forward?

If such issues are unfounded why has the elongated public process of Comprehensive Plan update not alleviated these concerns?

Once again, we find we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Residential Greene Home Business Approved

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

While Greene County has recently seen a number of businesses open prior to requesting a special use permit, Ronald Snoddy did the process correctly – at the October 28th Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting he requested a Special Use Permit before he expanded his existing business. Bart Svoboda, Greene County’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director presented the request for the property on Matthew Mills Road in southern Greene County (SUP#14-009).

The business wants to expand into a 60 foot x 100 foot building for auto restoration on 2.27 acres zoned R-1, Residential. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had no concerns nor did Rapidan Service Authority. The Health Department said there are 2 drain fields on the property and the new structure will be able to tie into one of them or it may require a new field – this will be determined by a detailed site plan. The disposal of any hazardous materials will be determined by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)  at the same time.

The Greene County Planning Commission approved the Special Use Permit with three conditions – 1) the process will be housed in the 60’ x 100’ structure, 2) it is a home business and 3) no outside storage to be allowed.

Snoddy told the Board of Supervisors he plans to add 2 people to his business and will increase the business he does in Greene County. The hearing was then open to the public and there were no speakers either for or against the Special Use Permit. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District)  noted the lack of speakers on the issue and Snoddy said he proactively contacted all of his neighbors to explain the request and answer any questions/concerns that they had. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) asked Snoddy if he would be painting vehicles – he answered that he may in the future. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At Large) clarified that any painting would be done inside the building and therefore, not an issue for his neighbors.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe District) jokingly asked if Snoddy would be willing to teach a class in the process of requesting a Special Use Permit. Cox thanked Snoddy for speaking to his neighbors first and requesting the SUP before doing business. Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) then questioned Snoddy if he would keep all the vehicles inside the new building – which he agreed that he would. Frydl then asked Svoboda about the buffer requirement and was told that only one side of the building would require some additional trees be added to block the view of the building from his neighbors.

Deane requested clarification regarding the no outside storage condition – what if an emergency occurred or just moving one vehicle out to let another vehicle inside. Svoboda explained that the provision meant that no vehicle be “stored” outside the facility but short term vehicles would be allowed outside. With no other questions a motion was made to approve the SUP with the 3 conditions plus a 4th – all buffers will comply with code. The SUP was unanimously approved.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Elections Matter — Tuesday is Your Turn

By. Neil Williamson, President

Elections Matter – As one who follows local public policy for a living, I firmly believe not only elections matter — voting matters.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a non partisan public policy organization that does not endorse candidates but it does endorse, encourage, and cajole voter participation.

If you are not able to vote next Tuesday, Saturday is your last day to in person absentee vote.

Don’t know what district you live in?  Use the tool above

Don’t know where your polling place is located — Use the tool above

Don’t know what is on the ballot? — Use the tool above

Don’t know who to vote for — get educated about the candidates http://www.uselections.com/va/va.htm

While I am not one who subscribes to the notion that if you don’t vote you lose your right to complain, I do however believe the future belongs to those who show up and those who stand up.

Do your part — vote

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Admiral Stockdale and the Albemarle County Planning Commission

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission October 22, 2014

By. Neil Williamson, President

UnknownDuring the 1992 Vice Presidential debate Vice Admiral James Stockdale famously asked the existential, and rhetorical, question “Who am I, why am I here?”.

Tonight, we ask the Albemarle County Planning Commission to examine the same question in the context of when is it appropriate for a Planning Commissioner to talk to an applicant.

While the statutory requirements set forth in the Virginia state code are exceedingly clear in their direction for Planning Commissions, in Albemarle County the planning process has become exceedingly elongated for significant projects with the “not required”, “strongly suggested” neighborhood meetings that simply do not exist in state code.

Beyond the “non-mandated” pre-application neighbor meetings, the unelected community councils continue to grow in power in Albemarle County.  Their influence has grown to the point that one Planning Commissioner has said on the record that he would have a tough time supporting any proposal that did not have the blessing of the Community Council.

If all these individuals are meeting with applicants prior to the application coming before the Planning Commission, why shouldn’t Planning Commissioners independently meet with applicants prior to the hearing.

Meanwhile Albemarle’s current Board of Supervisors has shown a tendency to want to send applications back to the Planning Commission if they have significant questions about them.  This is not helpful.

The Free Enterprise Forum is troubled by the lack of leadership from the Albemarle Board of Supervisors regarding direction to the Planning Commission.  To the layperson it would seem that any project that is in accordance with the community vetted comprehensive plan should have a rather smooth route to approval – this is not the case.

Even By-Right projects that have minor special exceptions required tend to be put through the extended Albemarle County application fun ride.

Institutionally, the Albemarle County Planning Commission (and by extension staff) seem to believe the longer it takes an application to work its way through the process the better the application will be.  — this is not the case.

Tonight, the Planning Commission will also be discussing some of the proposed process improvements put forth by the Development Review Task Force a couple years ago.  If this seems familiar, in 1999 we went through a similar process with the Development Initiatives Steering Committee (DISC) not to be confused with 2001 “Son of DISC” (DISC II).  Believe it or not some of the DISC II proposals are still working their way through the bureaucratic process.

While the idea of continuous process review and refinement is laudatory and the concept of preapplication planning commissioner meeting should be discussed — but the bigger picture question must be answered – does Albemarle truly want development in their development areas AND are you encouraging such activity?

The Free Enterprise Forum hopes the Albemarle County Planning Commission will take this opportunity to consider the question of who they are and what is their proper role.  We believe it really is the job of the Board of Supervisors to provide that direction but absent such leadership the Planning Commission self introspection will be helpful.

For what it is worth, we believe their role is to direct staff and advise the board on the appropriateness of proposals as compared with the Comprehensive Plan.  We believe they should, if anything, have a proactive prejudice that suggests they stand up for development in the development areas.  We believe this dovetails with the comprehensive plan as well as the economic development initiatives of Albemarle County

Some on this commission may feel your role is to mitigate the impacts of such development on existing residents while others may not want to see significant increases in development whatsoever.  Regardless of your position it would be good to know where this commission stands.

It is unfortunate that an entire generation only know Admiral Stockdale as Ross Perot’s Vice Presidential running mate. Admiral Stockdale was one of the most decorated officers in the history of the Navy with 26 personal combat decorations, including four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor.  During his time as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton, he provided the troops held with him both leadership and inspiration.  Tonight I will close with my favorite Stockdale quote:

“In order to do something, you must be something”

This seems to be a fitting charge for your discussion this evening.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene PC Recommends Ruckersville Rezoning

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

One of the two owners of the southeast corner of Ruckersville intersection of Routes 29 and 33 presented a plan to renovate the property to the Greene County Planning Commission on Wednesday, October 15th . Milestone Investment Group, LLC and George & Suzanne Haney, Jr. requested a rezoning of about 1/3 of the corner from B-2 to B-3 (1.16 of the 3.62 acres owned).

Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, outlined the request that affects part of the property owned by both parties. This is the second busiest intersection in Greene County. The plan is to replace the existing structures with 4 new buildings and to move the entrance off Route 33 East farther away from Route 29. Both water and sewer are available at the site and the owners have 7 EDU’s of which currently only 2 EDU’s are being used [EDU is Equivalent Dwelling Unit allocation for municipal water use]. The county’s Comprehensive Plan supports redevelopment in this area.

PC Packet for 10-15-14 Milestone.pdf

Louis J. Lopez III from Milestone presented for both applicants their request for some of the property to be rezoned to B-3. Commissioner John McClosky asked why only a portion of the property was being requested for the rezone. Lopez stated that the applicant felt requesting all of the property be rezoned to B-3 would be overwhelming and the logical place to start is the southern part of the parcel facing Route 29 that has heavier traffic.

Chairman Jay Willer asked Lopez about the proffer related to the design of the buildings for the whole parcels since the rezone was only for a part of the parcel – would the same style be used on the rezoned section as well as the 2.5 acres that would remain B-2 ? Mr. Lopez replied that they would want to have consistent design of the whole parcel. Willer then questioned if the 7 EDU’s would be enough for the development. Lopez felt that the 7 EDUs would meet their needs for the four buildings that are planned that would hold commercial, retail, restaurants and a gas station. Lopez also pointed out that there are currently no gas stations north of Sheetz on Route 29 and he felt that would be a good location.

Next Willer asked if a timeline had been planned for the development. Lopez indicated that the pace of development would be driven as businesses lease property in the new development. When enough business is secured that match the design of a building then the current building would be razed. As he pointed out keeping the existing business in place as long as possible is in their best interest but they are pursuing businesses in anticipation of the rezone being approved.

The hearing then shifted to the public portion – only David Holtzman from the Piedmont Environmental Council spoke about the design of the development. He asked about sidewalks and the walkability of the development and encouraged the Commission that this is the chance to remake Ruckersville to be more pedestrian friendly.

The session then shifted back to the Planning Commission – only three of the five members were in attendance for this meeting – Chairman Willer, Commissioners McClosky and Young. Chairman Willer asked Lopez to review the design diagram on display during the hearing and point out the sidewalks, parking, etc. Lopez pointed out all of the above and addressed Holtzman’s concerns that the northernmost building would front Route 29 and have parking and a patio area facing Route 29 and the area on the south side of the building would have parking and sidewalks. The second building just south of the first building would have a patio area since this is the building designated for a restaurant it would also include outside seating. The third building south of the first two would have sidewalks, parking and trees along with plantings to buffer from Route 29 for all the buildings. Svoboda assured that the Greene County Code would address the sidewalks and plantings.

Chairman Willer stated that he felt this is a good project at an important location in Greene County and it is a step in the right direction and he is glad to hear they are actively marketing the property. Lopez thanked him for the compliment and assured Willer and the commission that they are proactively seeking occupants. The final question of the night was from McCloskey involved the southbound roadway that parallels Route 29. Lopez said they would like to abandon the right of way and make it a solely southbound roadway within the development. However, the road farther east would be the exit going northbound to access Route 33 farther east than access is currently located. They will work with The Daniels family, the owner of the property south of the 2 parcels being discussed, to make the changes he outlined. There being no other questions the rezone was recommended for approval unanimously and the Board of Supervisors will now hear the request for rezoning.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Greene BOS Considers Food Trucks

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

food truck fidel gastroMobile Food Units, more commonly referred to as “Food Trucks” have gained in popularity over the last seven or eight years.  According to IBIS World Market Information Service:

The Food Trucks industry has only grown in strength over the past five years, and is one of the best performing segments in the broader food-services sector. The industry’s remarkable rise began in 2008, just as the recession hit, as hundreds of new vendors recognized changing consumer preferences favoring unique, gourmet cuisine. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles and Austin sought to differentiate themselves by crafting laws and creating areas specially designed for mobile food trucks. While the recession put the brakes on the broader food-services sector in 2008-09, it was in fact a boon for the Food Trucks industry as consumers sought to maximize their disposable income by indulging in small conveniences such the affordable gourmet food

In the past few years more and more mobile food units have been food truck crab-cabappearing in Greene County and this has lead the county to propose a revision to their zoning ordinances, Articles 8, 9, 10, Business B-1, B-2 and B-3, and Articles 11 and 12, Industrial (Limited) M-1, and Industrial (General) M-2, Article 22 Definitions to include mobile food units as a by right use. This led to the Greene County Board of Supervisors to review the proposal at their October 14th meeting.

Bart Svoboda, Greene County’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, reviewed the proposed ordinance (OR#14-005). He indicated that he looked at Albemarle County and other counties in the valley to see how they handle this issue. The current rules that address brick and mortal restaurants don’t work for portable food units. The new ordinance would be used for wheeled, towed or pushcart stands. Greene has towable trailers which have their own power generation and water supply. The rules are different because the set-up is different.

food truck_redboneThe new ordinance proposes safe parking be provided, not the side of a roadway. It will allow one vendor to have three locations with approval of the owner of the sites. The Health Department must approve the operation especially for disposal of waste. A dining space no larger than 10 feet x 10 feet is to be allowed and that it is required to be packed up and cleaned each night. The unit is to be at least 100 feet from a residential use – away from homes. The recommendation is to offer a one year approval and that it must be updated annually.

The session was opened to the public but there were no one wishingFood truck oscar myer to speak. The session was then brought to the supervisor’s discussion. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District)  asked what happens if a vendor wants more than three locations. Svoboda said that the vendor would need to make a second application for another three spaces all approved by the owners. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) asked how the mobile unit would be handled if the owner of the parking area is a brick and mortar restaurant. Svoboda stated it is up to the owner of the property to grant permission to the mobile unit owner – they would have the right to decline the request of the mobile unit.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) asked Svoboda how this would be handled at a vineyard. Svoboda answered that the zoning of the property would determine if it would be allowed or not. At the county fair which is held on property that is zoned A-1 a food truck would be allowed because of the condition of the fair which overrides the A-1 zoning of the property where the fair is located. The food truck couldn’t set up on the fairgrounds without the fair going on, since it is zoned A-1. Supervisor David Cox (Monroe District) asked if food trucks would be allowed on school property and the answer was no since it was not one of the allowable zones. But they could locate as close as the nearest zone in the revised ordinance.

Chairman Frydl’s last comment was that a fFrydl Campaign photoood truck probably compliments many of the businesses that might host a food truck. Also, the county would have no liability if there are any injuries caused near a food truck – this would be the responsibility of the individual causing the accident. Finally, he has asked several restaurant owners if they opposed food trucks and the answer was no as long as there were rules similar to what is proposed in the new ordinance. At this point the discussion was closed and the revision to the ordinance was approved unanimously.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credits: Pintrest, Vintage Virginia, Frydl Campaign

Fluvanna BOS Covers School’s Budget Shortfall

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved filling a gap in the School Board budget for the last fiscal year.

In the middle of the fiscal year, School Board Office officials realized the projected state revenue would be less than budgeted, by over $500,000. Officials starting spending less for the remainder of thfluvanna school bus credit NBC29e fiscal year.

Revenues overall came in $659,000 less than budgeted. School officials spent $561,000 less than budgeted as well.

“The bottom line is we missed the revenue by $98,000,” said school superintendent Gena Keller to the supervisors.

Don Weaver (Cunningham District) questioned how the projections were higher than actuals. One reason is the district lost 69 students year over year in the average daily membership.

“If there is wiggle room [in the budget] this isn’t a public story,” Keller said.

Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) said a more funded budget would give better the district space to adapt to issues like this.

Weaver appreciated the information Keller provided and lauded her administrative team for their candidness.

“I think we are getting a lot of good information here,” said Weaver.

Tony O’Brien said, “When there is a drop in [non-local funding], it falls on us.”

Supervisors discussed what a contingency fund would look like just for the school budget. However, 1 percent of the school budget would be $300,000. That is more than a cent on the real estate tax rate.

“We (Board of Supervisors) have a contingency fund and I think it works quite well,” said Weaver.

A 1 percent contingency is what is typically judged as a safe margin to over budget to give cushion when revenues come in low or expenditures run high. The Fluvanna school budget contingencies are spread in small portions across multiple budget lines.

The School Board Office administrative team didn’t spend money in FY14 by doing matters like replacing employment opening slower and cutting instructional materials.

The supervisors voted 4-0 for the supplemental funding. Also at the Oct. 15 meeting, supervisors approved a $39,000 loan to Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD).

FUSD recently raised rates and supervisors are hoping the new rates will stop the need for regular loans. The board will hear an update on FUSD revenues in early 2016.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credit NBC29

Signs of Anti Business Bluster at the ARB

By. Neil Williamson, President

What started as a small matter of replacing Crozet Volunteer Fire Department’s aging channel letter community announcement sign has morphed into a debate over the future of business signage in Albemarle County’s Entrance Corridors.

According to Albemarle’s website:

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and is charged with the responsibility of regulating the design of development within the County’s Entrance Corridors. Entrance Corridors are streets that provide routes of tourist access to the County and to historic landmarks, structures, and districts. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that new development in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture of the area and that development within the corridors is orderly and attractive.

While the impact of such regulation may seem small, and well it should be, Albemarle has perverted the original intent of the EC legislation and restricted 21 roadways as Entrance Corridors.  It is our understanding that once the John W. Warner/Meadowcreek Parkway is completed the number will advance to 22.

With 21 Entrance Corridors, Albemarle spends a vast amount of money and staff time aggressively examining the architectural design, landscape design, color scheme, lighting and signage of all parcels sharing a boundary line with the EC or within 500 feet of the EC.

The result is any restriction placed on the Entrance Corridor effectively covers a majority of the county’s commercial activities.

With this as a backdrop, the ARB discussion of electronic signs was especially interesting.  Albemarle Zoning Staff reminded the ARB that any such sign would require a special use permit and no such application has come forward to date.

The staff was aware that the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) planned to submit an application in the near future.

The CVFD uses their existing sign to get the word out about fire prevention, promote CVFD fundraising and community messages.  The existing sign is pictured below and predates the EC legislation:

Crozet-Fire-Department-Sign_thumb.jpg

Signage technology has changed a great deal since CVFD first erected this message board.  Recognizing this digital-sign-example.jpgadvancement and noting the age of the current message board, CVFD came to the ARB with an idea – an electronic message board; similar in style to the one pictured to the right.

It is important to note, the Free Enterprise Forum does not have an opinion regarding the CVFD potential application – or any other application for that matter –  we use this as an example of our concern for the significant policy decision the ARB is considering.

In early October the ARB determined some new guidelines to use regarding digital signs and message boards

The ARB held a work session on design criteria for electronic message signs. ARB members made the following comments on the “Characteristics and Criteria” table presented by staff:
1. Eliminate the criteria regarding daytime and nighttime intensity limitations.
2. Add a note indicating that standard color guidelines apply, including the limitation to three colors.
3. Add a criteria indicating that graphic images will not be allowed on the electronic message portion of
the sign.
4. Graphics are prohibited in the electronic message portion of the sign.

This week Eric King from Watchfire Signs, a digital sign company met with the ARB and explained the state of the industry.  Somewhat surprisingly, he indicated that appropriate regulation makes for good signage as no one wants to be Las Vegas (unless of course you are Las Vegas).  King also said “Unreasonable regulation is harmful to tax generation as commerce will go elsewhere.”  He also alluded to constitutional questions regarding commercial free speech.

He raised a number of concerns regarding the proposed regulations.  One of the great benefits of the digital signs is the ability to readily change it and to include graphics.  It seems like Albemarle’s ARB was opposed to both of these advancements.

King said, “If you restrict color and eliminate graphics, you effectively ban digital signs”.

ARB Chair Bruce Wardell had more questions than answers in this work session indicating his need for the county attorney’s opinion on some of the matters raised.  Wardell also said, “If we allow 21st Century technology, it seems a bit hard to restrain using 19th century law.”

ARB Member Marcia Joseph took a different tact, she wanted to make the digital signs appear just as a fixed sign would and be regulated the same.  In her argument she cited the need for fairness for all those businesses who already have approvals under the existing guidelines.  The Free Enterprise Forum finds this argument to be rather circular seeing as businesses existed in the entrance corridors prior to the creation of the ARB and the body had no problem creating a new set of rules that made doing business more difficult to new comers – why not make it easier?

Albemarle County seems to have a need to understand economic development is more than a department it is a philosophy.  While we understand the need to regulate the size of signage and the speed of content changes, we fail to see the benefit with maintaining antiquated sign regulations that no longer fit the industry.

This business visibility issue is not the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding economic vitality – but it is a sign [pun intended] of how far we have to go before existing businesses, and start ups feel welcome in Albemarle County.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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