Albemarle Development Double Standard Exposed as VDOT Steamrolls Places29 Master Plan

By. Neil Williamson, President

Funny what a difference a few years makes.

Back in February 2011, as a part of gaining eventual acceptance of their Places29 Master Plan,  Albemarle County made what many might be called a promise to their citizens:

In order to coordinate land uses with recommended road improvements and to offer business and property
owners the opportunity to be involved in the design of the road improvements, this Plan recommends preparation of Small Area Plans for two areas:
1) The area around the intersection of US 29 and Rio Road
2) The Airport Road Corridor

Remember Places29? A six year $1 Million dollar planning exercise complete with renderings and an implementation plan.  Lest anyone think the small area plans were just a throw away line in a lengthy Master Plan —  the promise included great detail. (and we fought it, and lost)

During preparation of the Small Area Plan and design of the road improvements, business and property owners will be invited to work with County, VDOT, and TJPDC staff to identify and eliminate or minimize possible impacts of the road improvements. When the Small Area Plan and preliminary design are completed, the short-term (construction) impacts and long-term impacts of the road improvements will be known.

Now specifically as it relates to US29 and Rio Road intersection, the Places29 Master Plan clearly outlines what is to occur:

Intersection Improvements at Rio Road and US 29. The process of improving this intersection and the transportation network around it will begin with preparation of a Small Area Plan. The small area planning process will include evaluation and development of the preliminary design concepts for transportation improvements that could prolong the life of the at-grade intersection and provide a design
concept for long-term improvements, as determined necessary at the time based on updated traffic information. The small area planning process is not expected to begin until the second five years of Plan
implementation.

As we now know, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is in the process of steam rolling past the Comprehensive Plan and having conceptual plans in front of the Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP)  next Thursday (8/28).  It has been made abundantly clear that the design concepts will be for a grade separated intersection despite Page A2-23, Project Reference No.18 of the Master Plan calling for:

Pursue design concepts that provide, to the extent feasible and practical, at grade relationships of roads to business to facilitate visibility and access.

The Free Enterprise Forum, and others have been incredibly concerned about the sequencing of the US29 improvements.  The Master Plan also considered this issue:

Short-term issues related to the construction of intersection improvements should be addressed through strategic construction phasing, development of the parallel local road network to provide alternative access prior to the construction of intersection improvements, and other strategies.

100_0338While the Free Enterprise Forum did not support passage of the Places29 Master Plan, we are well aware of the significant staff time and citizen engagement that was a part of the process.

As we see private applicants held up to the exacting standards of the Master Plans as compared with their development plans, one has to wonder what kind of double standard Albemarle County is pursuing.

To be clear, if a developer wanted to make such a significant change staff would mandate a Comprehensive Plan Amendment process (likely a year) be initiated before they would ever look at a such a development proposal.  Then if successful, a Zoning Text Amendment (another 18-24 months) would be required.

The timetable for the VDOT projects is significantly truncated.  According to the summary minutes of the August 7th VDOT PDAP meeting:

The panel should see conceptual drawings at the next PDAP meeting on Aug. 28.  Design Public hearings for Rio intersection and Rt. 29 widening are currently scheduled for November 2014, and for Berkmar in July 2015.

The July 24th PDAP presentation provided the final milestone on VDOT’s projected timetables:

No-Excuses Deadline to complete
Berkmar, 29 Widening and all associated
work outside Rio intersection
Oct 30, 2017

No where is there any discussion of conformity with the Master Plan. 

Could the County is possibly unaware that their Million Dollar citizen involved Places29 master plan is being steamrolled by VDOT?

As a state agency, is VDOT a super developer with extraordinary powers over the mandates in the Comprehensive Plan? 

Clearly a Master Planning development double standard exists in Albemarle; the question is will anyone do anything about it?

If the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors fails to act and provide the citizens the promises contained in Places29 perhaps the entire Master Planning process should be questioned.

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

Greene Supervisors Get TJPDC Legislative Update

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has been undergoing some major personnel changes this year  . Prior to the naming of a new executive director due to the dismissal of Stephen Williams,  David Blount, the agency’s longtime legislative liaison had been serving as interim director for part of the year.

Annually, Blount meets with the respective localities in the TJPDC and gets their input on a proposed joint legislative agenda.  After the initial meetings, he takes the input back reworks the legislative agenda and returns to get each locality’s blessing prior to pursuing the agenda when the General Assembly is in session.

At the Greene County  Board of Supervisors meeting on August 12th, Blount gave an update on what is happening in Richmond that has an impact on Greene and the surrounding counties (Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson and the city of Charlottesville) – both from the 2014 Legislative Program and what is in the proposed program for 2015.

In 2014 the emphasis has been on primarily on public education funding – primarily “without making formula and policy changes that shift the funding burden to localities” and that the unfunded liability for the teacher’s retirement plan that “should be a shared responsibility of state and local government”.

In 2015, a major legislative priority emphasis is on giving the counties more tools to generate tax revenue similar to what powers cities and towns now have. Also, he said that School Boards were going to be invited into their process as their budgets are major component of localities expenditures.

After the overview, Blount opened his presentation to the Board Of Supervisors for their comments and questions. Supervisor Davis Lamb, At Large, commented that in the 1990’s and 2000’s like before the recession the state should provide more funding to counties.  Blount agreed and stated the equal taxation authority to enable counties to tax like cities and towns is a top issue this coming year.

Chairman Jim Frydl, Midway District, commented on the multiple studies cited by Commission that state that taxes other than property taxes need to be developed. Mr. Blount again agreed with the comment.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Supervisor Bill Martin – Stanardsville

Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District,  wanted to be clear that Greene County supports other methods of taxing, but is not trying to increase total taxes and wants Richmond to pay their share of the tax burden. Frydl added to the issue that ideally taxes would be assigned by some method based on the cause or driver of the activity as opposed to property taxes as the main source of revenue.

The concluding point that was agreed upon was that while Richmond talks about low taxes and having a reserve fund, this has been accomplished on the backs of counties by pushing unfunded mandates to localities and shifting the cost away from the state with no transfer of any revenue to cover the program.

Blount also expressed frustration that the underfunded Virginia Retirement System  has not been brought up for discussion. The VRS still has an unfunded liability of approximately $20 billion

Lamb along with County Administrator John Barkley both complimented Blount on being very responsive as questions arise throughout the year.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

Fluvanna BOS Approves Poplar Ridge Rezoning

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

After two years of applications, Hotel Street Capital LLC has finally amended the previous Rivanna Ridge property zoning.

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved the zoning amendment and also a special use permit with two 3-2 votes, with Don Weaver (Cunningham District) and Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) dissenting both times during the Aug. 6 meeting.

PoplarmapThe location, just north of the Village of Palmyra and bordering Camp Friendship, was previously zoned in 2009 for about 60 hotel rooms and 250 residential units.

Rivanna Ridge failed before even submitting a final site plan. Thomas Ross, current applicant, started the rezoning application in July 2012. Originally the proposal was a planned unit development of over 900 homes known as Walker’s Ridge. The final amendment proposal was for same number units as Rivanna Ridge but all residential and no condominiums.

The approved proposal, Poplar Ridge, is for 156 single-family attached units and 175 single-family detached units. Commercial space is maximized at 74,000 square feet. The development will use mass drain fields and common wells.

The special use permit allows for the common utilities needed for the sewer and water. The zoning amendment keeps the R-3 zoning and same number of total units on the 230 acre property but just changes how the units are allocated.

The public hearing had 19 people speak, 18 spoke against the property while one spoke in generalities and took neither side. Supervisors were also given a petition with over 1,500 signatures against approving the project and accompanying SUP.

“Residential growth has put us in this problem,” said Al Talley referencing the county’s growing tax rate.

Carolyn Talley added, “This isn’t an issue that divides our county…everyone is against it.”

Chuck Ackenbom, founder and owner of Camp Friendship, was worried on the impact the project would have on his neighboring business, “I think this proposal is too big for Fluvanna County.”

Ackenbom previously owned the property and sold the main portion, 222 acres, for $2.18 million in 2008 according to the county’s online property information system.

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) took issue with Ackenbom complaining about the proposal, “I think the (sale proceeds of the property) was more important to Camp Friendship, that’s my opinion.”

Area residents raised concern to how the drain fields and common wells would affect the Rivanna River and area wells, respectively.

Former Supervisor Marvin Moss was chairman on the board when the property was previously zoned R-3. One proffer in that zoning was the county required connection to the proposed extension of the Palmyra water system. The system never expanded and does not have the excess capacity it once was projected to have. It currently only services government facilities.

Moss said no one took issue with the previous zoning change because central water was required. He said the SUP for central wells was too risky to the area. “You have the correct zoning for it now,” Moss told the board.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) countered later in the meeting that centralized water down Route 15 would have the opposite effect that residents wanting to keep Fluvanna rural would want.

“You wouldn’t be happy if we had water and sewer,” O’Brien told the crowd after the public hearing ended. “We probably would’ve approved 900 homes (Walker’s Ridge).”

Weaver thought the amendment would violate a tenant of county policy that rezoning should not have an impact on the surrounding area. “If you want to keep Fluvanna rural, then we don’t want this place,” said Weaver.

Weaver mentioned there were no perk tests or test wells to give enough evidence the mass drain fields and community wells would sustain the project. The applicant provided expert opinion based on studies that the property should be able to handle both sewer and water levels needed.

Ullenbruch and Supervisor Chair Mozell Booker (Fork Union) noted that if the Department of Environmental Control and Virginia Department of Health determine the drain fields and wells to not be sufficient, the project would not proceed.

Sheridan agreed with Weaver. “There’s too many open-ended questions on this,” said Sheridan.

The interesting aspect of the approval was Ullenbruch, an elected Republican, sided with Booker and O’Brien on the vote. While both Booker and O’Brien ran as independents, both are viewed on the more liberal leaning side of the board. Ullenbruch typically votes closer with Weaver.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Optimism or VDOT Optics on US29 Project Panel?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Even this full throated critic of the Richmond based US29 Projects Steam Roller can see signs of optimism from the latest Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) US29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP) meeting.  It has yet to be seen if these optimistic indicators are indicative of true community engagement or merely a part of a multimedia VDOT charm offensive.  To be clear, no promises have been made and in the end these it may end up simply being window dressing but the Free Enterprise Forum chooses to be positive after attending the panel’s third meeting.

us-29-logo.jpgLed by facilitator (and former VDOT Commissioner) Philip Shucet the first two meetings featured long Shucet soliloquies regarding process, agenda item postponements and project goals. On Wednesday,  Albemarle County Supervisor Brad Sheffield Ken Boyd [Correction 09:55 8.11.14-nw]very publicly told Virginia  Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne that panel members did not feel as if they were being heard.

The latest meeting (8/7) started much the same fashion with the release of a very aggressive implementation schedule:

Rio Grade Separated Intersection
• Conceptual drawings:  Aug 28, 2014 PDAP Meeting
•MOT plan development: Mar – May 2015
•Utility relocation plans:  Mar – Apr 2015
•Grading plans:  Apr – May 2015
• Roadway and Bridge Reviews:  April – June – July 2015
• Approve Construction Plans: Aug 2015

[MOT = Maintenance of Traffic-NW]

After hearing the Rio Interchange schedule, the panel was then updated on the regarding the so called “Best Buy” ramp. Several panel members questioned why a project with 99% of the engineering completed could not be accelerated to minimize the overlap between these significant disruptions of US29.

As Sean Tubbs reported for Charlottesville Tomorrow in The Daily Progress:

Henry Weinschenk, a panelist who owns the Express Car Wash on U.S. 29, said he thought it was unrealistic that VDOT could finish the projects before October 2017, given that the Best Buy ramp has been in the planning stages for several years.

“I am somewhat concerned that these projects, which are not fully designed, are moving along at 100 mph,” Weinschenk said. “And this project, which is pretty much done and we know a lot about, it’s going slow. We have a contradiction going on here, and to get some credibility out of VDOT, we need the Best Buy ramp done by the end of 2015.”

Shucet, a very skilled facilitator, seemed interested in the concept and pushed the questions to VDOT technical team members in the room and promised to circle back to that issue in the next meeting.

A member of the panel also questioned what would happen if the bids come in significantly higher than VDOT had estimated.  The concern was that perhaps Rio would be completed and the other projects would be cancelled.  VDOT representatives suggested their estimates were very conservative and they had a high level of confidence.

Perhaps due to this high level of conservative estimation, another panel member asked about the design for Berkmar Extended. Currently contemplated as a two lane road, with a two lane bridge over the South Fork Rivanna River, the panel member asked if VDOT was being short sighted not building a four lane bridge.

Other panel members requested that a connection between Berkmar and  Ashwood Boulevard; or at least the acquisition of right of way.  Again, while making no promises Shucet asked the VDOT technical team to make note of the suggestion and come back to the group.

All told, nothing was promised, many items were pushed off to the August 28th meeting but the issues raised by the panel members seem to be headed toward further conversation.

The tenor and attitude of all participants in Thursday’s meeting was more positive and more solution focused.  The responsibility to keeping this forward momentum is shared by both the facilitation team and the panel members.

The VDOT multimedia charm offensive continued in Sunday’s (8/10) Daily Progress where Secretary Layne penned an opinion piece that reiterated a position he stated to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on Wednesday (and will likely say to City Council):

Although the panel was not unanimous in its support for all the projects, there was broad agreement that transportation improvements much move forward.  Doing nothing gets us nowhere.  We are living with the consequences of our inaction over the years.

It is too early to know if the US29 Projects glass is half empty or half full, but The Free Enterprise Forum choses to think positively. While we remain concerned of falling into the “Don’t Get Fooled Again” trap, perhaps in the end the panel will find The Rolling Stones 1969 hit as their anthem:

No, you can’t always get what you wantrolling stones
But if you try sometime, you just might find
You get what you need

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

 

Will Albemarle Supervisors Seek US29 Answers from Secretary Layne?

 

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors August 6, 2014 under Matters from the Public

Good Morning. My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as President of the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization located in Albemarle County.

Later today you will hear from Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne regarding Richmond’s plans for your main street US29. It is amazing what a difference a couple years makes. Two years ago, this board was so engaged in the design build process that you had not one but two separate ad hoc committees to provide input to the design build contractor.US29-Survey-July-16-2014_thumb.jpg

Flash forward to the end of the July 23rd to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting in this very space, when Former Supervisor Dennis Rooker said the Design Build Contractor should be provide flexibility in implementation.  My how things have changed.

We are well aware of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) VDOT Project Delivery Advisory Panel that Philip Shucet is facilitating. While we believe the panel’s members are thoughtful, we do not believe the panel is designed for any action. We believe this panel has been creatively designed to talk a great deal and accomplish nothing. Supervisors Sheffield has raised many concerns during the PDAP process only to be told yes that’s a good question let’s get it on a future agenda.

Therefore, we come to the Board of Supervisors and your 2 pm audience with the Secretary and ask, “Will You Press for Real Answers?”

The community wants to know:

How many lanes of traffic will be maintained during the construction of the US29/Rio inrterchange?

How will this impact the level of service?

How long will construction take?

Why is Rio prioritized first?

What traffic mitigation plan does VDOT have for the intersection during construction?

This is not fear mongering this is nothard core — these are real questions I hear from businesses up and down US29 everyday.

Thank you for taking the time to listen. I remain hopeful that you will ask these questions, since the public has not been afforded such an opportunity.

Greene Gets Proffers for Interconnectivity

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the Greene Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, July 22nd the deal was finalized for new proffers to provide vehicular interconnectivity in front of Deer Lake and behind the Food Lion shopping center.

kinvara-sat-image.jpgKinvara Properties, LLC amended their previously approved proffers proffers from  May 13, 2008. The project is located on  39 acres on the west side of Route 29 from the Food Lion shopping center up to Deer Lake that has requested a PUD (Planned Unit Development) on Cedar Grove Road/Seminole Trail (Route 29)/Buck Drive.

While the total residential density requested did not change from the previous approval, the timing of bringing the units online was slightly altered.   A total of 98 units were requested and a proffer of $9,000 per unit was offered for any units above the 46 units authorized by right – potentially 52 additional units totaling $468,000 in proffers  – for a total of 98 units. The key change in the new proffers was to provide interconnectivity through Buck Drive.

KinvaraStaffReport.pdf

The approved 2007 Master Plan for Deerfield Village

Dick Johnson with Blackwell Engineering  outlined the changes. The main entrance would be at Advance Auto on Deer Field Drive and the need for a stop light will be evaluated. A connecting road from Buck Road to Deer Drive would be constructed triggered either by more residential or 25% commercial construction.

frydlChairman Jim Frydl (Midway District)  asked for clarification about meeting VDOT requirements in the future and was assured that roadways constructed would meet VDOT’s current requirements. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) asked how long the connection between Buck Drive and Deerfield Drive would remain gated and was told it was tied to the commercial development. Attorney Butch Davies and owner Jim Lavin were also present at the meeting.

Frydl explained that this was not a public hearing since one had already been held and this meeting was reviewing changes since that meeting.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) clarified that the original proffers were about to expire (after seven years) and new proffers would need to be approved to go forward.

Supervisor Lamb (Ruckersville District) brought up the concern ofdavis_lamb increased traffic turning off Route 29 south into the Advance Auto entrance. Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator/Planning Director explained that if volumes grow enough, then the crossover to go northbound could be closed and force traffic to the Route 607 stoplight and require northbound traffic to make a U-turn.

Frydl further stated that the Comprehensive Plan  encourages interconnectivity and the opening of the gate will benefit more people than it might harm.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) mentioned that he a lot of feedback from his constituents to follow the vote of the Planning Commission, which was to deny the request. He clarified that in speaking with members of the Planning Commission the issue was the lack of cash proffers caused the Planning Commission to vote no. With the replacement of the cash proffers, he supports the project.  Frydl again brought when the gate would be opened and Svoboda confirmed that construction would happen on the Advance Auto side and would not be opened until the construction was complete.

With no further discussion from the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) proposed that the amended proffers be accepted and the motion passed with a 5-0 vote.

The next item on the agenda was “Matters from the Public” and a resident of Deer Lake stated his disappointment in the decision. He did not want “workforce housing” in his neighborhood.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

VDOT Losing Control on US29 Solutions?

By. Neil Williamson, President

“It seems how lately, baby
Got a bad case steamroller blues” – James Taylor

US29 Survey July 16 2014As we all are getting accustomed to yellow and orange vests in the impacted areas of US29, the Free Enterprise Forum has learned we will have significantly less control over the US29 projects than we were led to believe at the outset.

Later this week the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will rubber stamp the Shucet  US29 Solution Package.  Interestingly, only now have we learned (via Twitter) the sequencing of these long desired projects is seemingly out of our control.

That’s right despite calm (and exceedingly carefully worded) reassurances during the misnamed US29 Advisory Board meetings that sequencing will be an important part of the implementation strategies.  We learned in a Twitter exchange (below) not only will the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) not control the sequencing of project – the contract will incentivize Rio first.

“Projects will be reasonably sequenced. But the order can’t be presumed.” – Philip Shucet  July 17 via Twitter

I then “tweeted back”pressed for more information asking “who would dictate the order VDOT or the winner of the Design Build competition?”

“Contractor will propose sequence. But incentive will be to finish Rio early.” – Philip Shucet July 17 via Twitter

Shucet continues to amaze at his deft and transparent efforts to move the projects and the conversation forward.  By placing the decision of sequencing to the contractor he eliminates VDOT responsibility for the decision.  By placing a financial incentive on early Rio completion, he clearly stacks the deck in favor of the fast track for that project.

us-29-logo_thumb.jpgWhat of the critically important (and funded) parallel road network that might alleviate some of the construction impacts?  It will now be at the contractor’s discretion and financial detriment to place those projects ahead of the construction at Rio Road.

In February 2008, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned a study of the Rio interchange concept by Jack Hodge of Volkert Engineering.  Hodge, with over thirty nine years of experience as a VDOT engineer, including 11 years as the Chief Engineer, found significant technical concerns, including issues with the ability for the project to maintain a free-flow of traffic on US 29 during construction of the interchange.

The maintenance of traffic will be a major concern during construction causing delays to the motorist and interruption of access to businesses located in the vicinity.  The Places 29 study assumes, in addition to the US 29 proposed improvements, significant local street improvements parallel to US 29 on both the east and west sides of US 29.  For traffic to have any hope of reaching its destination in a reasonable travel time, these improvements will have to be in place prior to the construction of the interchanges.  [Emphasis added –NW]

In their first meeting, the newly assembled US 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel identified four success measures for their work:

1. Maintain 80%-85% of current traffic on local roads through Rio-29 intersection

2. Maintain the county’s current tax revenue market share from the 29 corridor

3. Maintain all current traffic lanes and access points during construction

4. Develop adequate risk management practices to anticipate and avoid consequences

While these success metrics are admirable, a failure to maintain control the sequence of the construction of the various projects negatively impacts the ability to attain such targets.Amarillo “Slim” Preston

How, and when, we continue learn critical parts of the US 29 Solutions implementation reminds me of professional gambler Amarillo “Slim” Preston who famously said “If you’re at a poker table and you don’t see a sucker, it’s you.” 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Food Truck Regulations Considered in Greene County

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County  Planning Commission  heard a proposal from Zoning Administrator/Planning Director Bart Svoboda  to create a category of mobile food units (more commonely refered to as Food Trucks) allowed by right in B-1, B-2, B-3, M-1 and M-2 zoning districts at their monthly meeting on July 16th. Svoboda explained that in tcrab-cabhe past few years there have been more mobile food units in industrial areas in the county.

The proposed new ordinance would allow a vendor to take their mobile unit to three locations in the county for a year. The issues that he brought up to the PC were safety, traffic flow, fire hydrant locations, and set back distance and Charlottesville’s ordinance has recently been reviewed .

According to the proposed regulations, the unit must be located on private property and not in the right of way. The unit must be moved from one of the approved locations each day. The hours would be limited to 6 am to 10 pm.

Commissioner John McCloskey asked Svoboda how this affectstruck_redbone vineyards and was told this does not apply to vineyards. Commissioner Vic Schaff had a unique perspective as an owner of a brick and mortar restaurant. He questioned how (and if) these businesses paid the same taxes to the county as other businesses.  He raised concerns that the creation of  this new zoning classification could create an uneven playing field and harm existing businesses in Greene (including his own).  While to some many of his comments may have seemed self serving, his questions were valid.

The hearing was then opened up to the public and the only speaker was David Holtzman, Land Use Field Office for the Piedmont Environmental Council . He had several questions for the PC, including why does the unit have to vacate daily, the space allowed, and music/sound levels.

The hearing then moved to the discussion within the Planning Commission. Chairman Jay Willer confirmed that a vendor must get a zoning permit and there should be a verification process that the vendor has a Greene County business license.

As to the collection of taxes, Svobada stated that the Commissioner of Revenue is responsible for collection of taxes from businesses in Greene County. As for the need to have the unit move daily, Svoboda stated that units have limited capacity and need to be serviced daily. And if they didn’t move daily, they would be considered a permanent structure.

Willer recapped the issues that the Planning Commission had agreed on. Svoboda asked if the Commission would want to approve with the agreed to changes, deny the request or defer the request and have a revised request come back to them at the next meeting. The Commission agreed to defer the request to allow Svoboda to present an updated request at next August’s meeting.

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

Photo Credit: Vintage Virginia and Respective Food Trucks

Fluvanna BOS Defers Action on Poplar Ridge

By. Bryan Rothamel

The packed house at last week’s Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors cleared out rather quickly with just one action.

Poplar Ridge, previously known Walker’s Ridge and The Point at the Rivanna Resort, was deferred until the Aug. 6 meeting. The issue was a missing document that was discovered the morning of the supervisors meeting and proposed changes to the motions.

“I’m certainly disappointed no action will occur (tonight),” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District) to the packed courthouse.

The supervisors still had two other public hearings that went without a hitch.

The first was for a commercial dog kennel located in Palmyra on Route 15. The kennel will hold no more than 60 dogs and would be an accessory building to a house.

Applicants, Jeff and Gayle Stoneman, operate PawsCienda Pet Resort in Montplier. The Stonemans will live in the house with the kennel located behind it.

It was approved unanimously with small restrictions such as how many dogs can stay at once (60) and also how many can dogs can be outside at once (eight).

The second public hearing was for a school to operate in the Lake Centre shopping center. The location is the old Montague, Miller & Co office, adjacent to Dogwood Restaurant.

The educational facility is for 50 students between kindergarten and eighth grade and a homeschool co-operative for all ages.

The supervisors were presented with conditions to restrict the time of operation but struck it so the school could have weekend hours and night adult classes.

The Light Academy was approved unanimously.

In presentations, the board heard what an additional school resource officer would mean for the school system and the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Eric Hess explained how the one current SRO is used amongst the five schools. The officer is housed at the high school but shared between the schools.

The second SRO would be housed at the middle school and service the elementary schools too. The officers could do more proactive things like educational courses instead of more reactionary tasks.

“Unfortunately, in today’s world this is necessary,” said Bob Ullenburch (Palmyra District).

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

The estimated cost for an additional officer is over $60,000 but the Sheriff’s Office is expected to be under budget this year with staffing changes because of military deployments. The grant mentioned previously this year to fund another SRO was denied.

Hess said if he received funding for another SRO he would use a current officer and hire a new officer for patrol. He wants to make sure to get a good fit for the schools instead of a new face to the department.

The FY15 budget did include an additional officer for patrol. The Sheriff’s Office, then under the direction of Ryant Washington, requested three new officers.

Several years ago there were two SROs but because an external audit showed the department was understaffed. A round of budget cuts forced the second SRO to be pulled back to patrol.

Supervisors instructed staff and Hess to come back with a proposal to be approved at a future meeting.

In the consent agenda, supervisors voted to release second half voluntary contributions. Fluvanna collected $1,608.92 with $748.92 going to the school system.

Per board tradition, the supervisors will have just one meeting date in August, the first meeting on August 6. It will include a 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. session. There will be no other work meetings scheduled for August.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

The Zombie Comp Plan — Return of the “Voluntary” Viewshed Requirements

By. Neil Williamson, President

D_nightofzombiesposterIn classic horror films, zombies are among the best villains as it is so hard to kill the “Walking Dead”.

Just like a zombie the Monticello Viewshed requirements are back and property rights are again under attack in Albemarle County.

But it’s OK because the requirements are voluntary.

Please let me explain

Last Spring, we led the charge opposing the voluntary requirements The Thomas Jefferson Foundation asked to have added to the comprehensive plan.  At that time the language they asked to have inserted was as follows:

Bright pastels and whites on exterior faces of buildings and roofs can be distracting when viewing the natural landscape from Monticello. Muted colors for roofs and walls that blend with the natural landscape (ie. mid-spectrum browns and greys, sandy tones) can be substituted for bright pastels and whites on building faces and roofs.

To minimize impact, avoid large roof expanses, especially those of one color—mottled coloring that combines light and dark elements for roofs is preferred.

Surfaces that are prone to glare and reflection increase visibility and should be avoided whenever possible.

For example, expansive windows facing Monticello should be avoided.

Flood lights, up- lights and exposed bulbs are more apparent in the night sky than shielded fixtures. Lighting for buildings and parking areas can use shielded fixtures at lower heights to reduce impacts. Whenever possible lighting should not be placed higher than the tree line.

Lighting on the tops of cellular towers should be avoided when possible.

Lighting for buildings and parking areas should use fixtures that reduce/eliminate glare.

Employ techniques that break up massing.

Development that breaks the mature tree line is more apparent than development that is lower than the mature tree line. Special consideration should be given to development which is higher than the mature tree line to camouflage impacts.

Parking can always be broken up with interspersed plantings of trees and other landscaping.

When there is no conflict with Entrance Corridor or Neighborhood Model guidelines, the preferred location for parking is on the far side of buildings as viewed from Monticello.

Landscaping to screen buildings and parking should employ trees which will generate a mature canopy of trees.

Monticello welcomes the opportunity to assist homeowners and developers who are contemplating construction in the MPA. Please contact Monticello with any questions about these guidelines.

Projects that require discretionary land use permits should consider offering a proffer that addresses protection of the views from Monticello. Albemarle County could consider conditions that protect the views from Monticello when special use permits are issued.

After months of discussions, the Planning Commission recommended these “voluntary” requirements be dropped from the plan AND that the Foundation receive notification when an application for rezoning within their overlay area is requested.  Such notification would allow the Foundation the opportunity to contact the property owner and discuss how they might work together to minimize the visual impacts of the project.  Therefore the government is NOT involved in the negotiations between property owners

As K. Burnell Evans reported in her Daily Progress article:

“The Planning Commission said, ‘It’s not our job to protect Monticello for Monticello,’” said Elaine Echols, principal planner at the county’s Department of Community Development.”

In last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Ann Mallek (White Hall) reopened the Monticello Viewshed discussion under the rural areas comprehensive plan work session.  After providing a revisionist history of the issue, she indicated she wanted any and all staff reports for projects in the Monticello Vista overlay to have a check box for staff to indicate Monticello’s feelings about the cooperation.  This would only be “one variable among many to consider in the application” and the requirements are “voluntary”.

Hogwash!

Monticello credit NBC 29This is a direct attack on the property rights of land owners in the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) delineated vista map.  The change in language and policy provides the Foundation a proxy VETO on projects proposed within the overlay.

As one of the handful of public in the room, I was perplexed by the revisionist history that was presented and more surprised that the board (in lockstep) voted 5-1 in favor of keeping staff engaged between two private property owners.  As the issue was considered settled at the Planning Commission, I am not convinced those voting in favor of the proposal knew the hours of work by many that had developed an elegant compromise that protected property rights.

Monticello’s own website outlines Jefferson’s view on property rights:

1771. Jefferson took steps to acquire the mountain he would call High Mountain and Montalto. In exchange for legal services for Edward Carter (docking the entail of the Carter lands), Jefferson was to receive “as much of his nearest mountain as can be seen from mine, and 100 yds. beyond the lines of sight agreed before Capt. Burton.”

Clearly Jefferson understood that the only way to protect “view shed” was to buy it.

In 2004, we cheered when the Foundation purchased a neighboring 334 acre “Browns Mountain” parcel now known as Montalto.  This purchase is the proper way to control view shed – you want it — buy it.

When President Thomas Jefferson looked west to the expansion of the United States, he initiated the Louisiana Purchase.  I firmly believe Jefferson would advocate for the protection of property rights over the view shed protections currently proposed.

Most zombie movies end once the hero is able to rally the community and push back the undead.  Will Albemarle’s citizenry recognize that there are no “voluntary” restrictions on property rights?

Will Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors endorse the more refined answer developed by the Planning Commission?

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: Abwe.com, NBC29

 

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