Greene Board of Supervisors Denies B&B in Riverdale Subdivision

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

What started as a zoning complaint back in May against David and Kumud Vanderveer’s bed and breakfast (B&B) led to a Notice of Official Determination of Violation delivered in June. Currently their appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals is pending. So while the B&B has been operating for over a year, a  request was made to the Planning Commission in August to allow the B&B including an expansion. This request was denied, 4 – 1, and the process then brought the request to the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission didn’t feel the business was not in harmony with the surrounding residential development.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday night to an overflow crowd in County Office Meeting Room where the request for a Special Use Permit was brought to the Board of Supervisors and it has been scaled down to the two buildings that currently exist.

Zoning Administrator/Planning Director Bart Svoboda presented the request to the Board of Supervisors stating the property is 21 acres within the Riverdale Subdivision and has several access roads. He explained that the original request was for seven structures but it is now down to the existing two structures. Comments provided from VDOT, the Health Department, etc. brought up no problem issues. The Comprehensive Plan  for A-1 zoning states that the rural area is to be preserved and supports growth of cottage industries.

The Vandeveers addressed the Board of Supervisors. They explained that their dream is for a quiet, peaceful place to live. The use of their property as a B&B rented mainly on the weekend, has less traffic than if they rented their property full time which they are allowed to do by right. The buildings are in the middle of the 21 acres and therefore there is minimal noise to their neighbors.

When the meeting was opened for public comments there were over 30 speakers. Out of the 15 residents from the Riverdale subdivision who spoke, 13 were against the B&B. The comments came down to those who spoke in favor of the B&B and how the property was well run and well taken care of. These were friends of the Vanderveers and those who have stayed at the B&B.

On the other hand, the residents of Riverdale spoke highly of the Vanderveers but expressed concern that the Special Use Permit (SUP) stays with the property and if the Vanderveers were to leave, the property could be modified into any of the permitted uses that a SUP allows. In addition, the residents of Riverdale brought up the fact that the covenants of the deed expressly prohibit businesses in the subdivision.

County Attorney Ray Clark clarified that the zoning and the covenants of the deed are independent of each other and can each exist. He indicated that if the SUP was granted but the covenants disallowed a business, then there would have to be a legal remedy to the conflict. Also, several residents in Riverdale questioned how the Vanderveers are operating a business without a business license.

The meeting then shifted to the discussion of the Board. Supervisor Davis Lamb – Ruckersville District reviewed how long the business has been operating vs. when the Special Use Permit was made. Supervisor Eddie Deane – At Large stated he visited the site and appreciates all the work that has been done on the property. However, he agrees with the Planning Commission. Supervisor Bill Martin – Stanardsville District stated that Greene is looking for businesses and tax revenue to take the burden off of homeowners. He is a friend of the Vanderveers and believes they mean well but they got their operation out in front of the process. There is not harmony in the Riverdale community as per the zoning ordinance states in Section 16-2-b “The use shall be in harmony with the uses permitted by right” and while the concept is good, the location is wrong.

Chairman Jim Frydl – Midway District agreed with Martin’s comments – it is a good business, but that is not the issue they have to rule on. If there was no existing business in operation would the SUP be approved – the answer is no. Vice Chairman David Cox – Monroe District has been to the property many times and what bothers him is that it has been operating without a Permit. He also agreed that it is a good idea in the wrong place. The vote was 5-0 to deny the Special Use Permit.

The deeper issue for Greene County is how to stay ahead of these type of operations to ensure they seek the proper approval before they begin.

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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.

Albemarle’s Cool Hand Luke Development Areas Plan

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

As the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors prepare to review the “Development Areas” chapter of their comprehensive plan, many are wondering what exactly would trigger a revision of the development area boundfailure-to-communicatearies?

Instead of considering a revision of their development area boundaries Albemarle’s Draft Comprehensive Plan chooses to change consumer behavior.

Our independent analysis of the proposed Comprehensive Plan exposes a clear “Albemarle Arrogance” regarding consumer desires.  The draft Comprehensive Plan considers the market demands to be, as the prison Captain in Cool Hand Luke would say, really a “failure to communicate”

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. Emphasis added-nw

So if only consumers were properly educated, they would “understand” and no longer choose to live in single family homes with yards for their children to play in and would embrace Albemarle’s mandated “Dream of Density”.

imagePlease let me explain what we “understand”.

A significant portion of the development area chapter is dedicated to promoting efficient land use and the new urbanist designs that are embodied in the Neighborhood Model.

Despite our opposition, over the last ten years many of these Neighborhood Model “guidelines” have been codified to make them no longer options but requirements (i.e. street trees, open space, curb, gutter, relegated parking etc.).

Well intentioned environmental regulations have significantly reduced the area available for development in the development areas (stream buffers, wetlands, intermittent stream protection).

Since the last comprehensive plan we have also seen the Commonwealth of Virginia decide the most efficient use of 1,200 acres of Albemarle’s Development Area is a state park (Biscuit Run).image

Yet the Comprehensive Plan Draft seems to feel that the development area boundaries, originally drawn in 1979, continue to provide enough land for twenty years of residential and commercial  development. image

To review, the growth control philosophy implemented in Albemarle County is to focus dense human activity (housing, employment, recreation) in the development areas and retain the rural areas for less intensive agricultural and forestal uses.

To maximize density, the draft Comprehensive Plan would likely force  more residents to live in less space.  But is this what the market wants?

In a recent letter to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors 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]

With well over ten years of “understanding” of neighborhood model implementation, the Draft Comprehensive Plan discussion provides the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors an opportunity to discuss if they are comfortable with the high density being pushed into the development areas despite lack of consumer demand AND if they will put their money where their mouth is to provide concurrent infrastructure investment to support their “density dreams”.

If Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan fails to radically change consumer demand, the twenty year anticipated growth will exceed the capacity of the allocated development area pushing lot prices significantly higher and pushing many out of the Albemarle’s designated growth area. Some of this displaced demand may be answered by those who choose to build their homes in the rural areas by right; the majority of new housing starts [and commercial activity] will move into the outlying counties where the regulations and staff are more receptive to market driven design – perhaps we are starting to really understand that maybe this was the “plan” all along?

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

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, Albemarle County

Fluvanna BOS Approves 3 Communication Towers and Lafayette School

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved two applicants’ special use permits bringing three more cellular service towers and one school to the county.

The three cellular service towers is to fulfill a desire from the federal government to bring high speed internet and cellular phone service to rural areas. 52-Eighty, a cell tower construction company, wants to build three towers in the eastern portion of the county.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made the area eligible for a $1.9 million grant to a company who was willing to expand service to that portion of the county. FCC wants 176 miles covered by the money.

T-Mobile won the reverse bid to provide the service to the area. 52-Eighty was contracted to build the towers.

The three towers are all east of Route 15 starting at Bremo Bluff, near the power plant. Another will be placed near the James River, still in the Fork Union area. The third location, in Kents Store, will be on land the tower company will purchase.

Each tower is permitted to be up to 199 feet. Over 200 feet requires to be lit.

The tower company will work with Fluvanna if tower space is needed as part of the county’s E911 radio upgrades. Towers will also be able to have co-location capabilities for other cell phone companies to place antennas on the monopoles.

The three SUP applications by 52-Eighty were approved unanimously.

Supervisors also unanimously approved Lafayette School, to be located in the Zion Station Industrial Subdivision on Route 250.

The private school is for 24 students who do not succeed in a public school environment. The facility has three classrooms encompassing elementary, middle and high school.

The school combines special education and therapeutic intervention. Two instructors are in each classroom with availability for therapy sessions when needed.

Lafayette School currently is in Charlottesville on Fontaine Avenue. The new Fluvanna facility is limited to the 24 students number and normal weekday, working hours.

Supervisors did ask if the hours were too limiting and were willing to expand to weekend allowances but an official of the school said it was not necessary. There is a provision to have school Board of Directors meetings once a month after school hours.

In other action items, the board approved changing their work session schedule to have a 4 p.m. work session on the third Wednesday of the month, when necessary, prior to the regularly schedule 7 p.m. meeting.

Previously, supervisors had work sessions on the first Wednesday, after the 4 p.m. meeting.

Supervisors also approved an FY16 budget calendar that includes setting two tax rates. The first, in February, will be because of a possible reassessment. A county cannot raise taxes through a reassessment.

The second will allow supervisors to raise taxes, which is a most likely considering the county’s financial picture.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.

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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

Greene Home Business Approved in Residential Zone

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Located on the Southern end of Greene County, Matthew Mills Road is east of Route 29 near the Sheetz convenience store. It is a residential area where applicant Roddy Snoddy lives in and his wife operates a hair salon business. On September 17th the Greene County Planning Commission considered his application for a  Special Use Permit to expand his business – SUP#14-009.

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Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, outlined the request and reminded the Planning Commission that they are allowed to place conditions on a request for a home business per Article 22. The request is for permission to construct a 60’ x 100’ structure – the fact that a separate structure is to be constructed is what causes the need for a Special Use Permit. Svoboda referred to the county’s Comprehensive Plan that states the desire to be business friendly.

Svoboda provided updates from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) who had no concerns with the request. Rapidan Service Authority  did not have an additional request for service therefore it was a non-issue for them. The Health Department will have to see if the 2 drain fields can handle the increased use caused by the restroom to be added in the new structure.

With no comments from the public, the commissioners began their discussion. Commissioner McCloskey  asked if Snoddy currently does auto restorations at his home.  Svoboda stated that he did but the addition of the separate building is what is causing the need for a SUP. McCloskey stated that as long as there was no outside storage that he would be fine with the business – he assumed that the restoration work would not be left outside.

Acting Chairman Vic Schaff said that the property is clean and that he drives by it daily. With no further discussion, the motion was made to approve the SUP with the provision of no outside storage and it was approved 4-0.

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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.

Image Credit: Greene County

Greene Denies AT&T Cell Tower

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

A process that started in November, 2013 ended for AT&T at the Greene County  Board of Supervisor Meeting on September 9th. Cell phone reception down Route 810 in western Greene County is spotty and AT&T had identified a location that happened to be in the view of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church . In February the Planning Commission approved the site and the request proceeded on to the Board of Supervisors.

At the first Board of Supervisors meeting where AT&T presented their request, it was recommended to analyze an existing tower location south of Velocitel, Inc. owned by John and Barbara Hayes Revocable Trust – the proposed location. At the September 9th Board Meeting AT&T presented to the Board their analysis of the other tower being considered – one owned by Monticello Media  – which is only 115 feet tall but it sits atop a mountain and therefore is, in total, taller than the location AT&T proposed with a tower of 199 feet. The increased height provides a significant increase in coverage of over double. However, the Monticello Media tower will not support the AT&T equipment and a new tower would have to be built on the site.

Below is the coverage map of the proposed site on the Hayes property.

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Below is the coverage expected from a tower constructed near the Monticello Media existing tower, further south of the Hayes property.

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AT&T’s attorney, Preston Lloyd, addressed the Board and told them that Greene County has clear rules – more so than other counties. He also explained to the Board that a neighbor near the Monticello Media site complained that they did not want a 200 foot tower close to them just like Mount Vernon United Methodist Church doesn’t want it near their location. Lloyd pointed out that if either of two conditions in the code is evident then the tower should be approved. The first is that Monticello Media tower can’t support AT&T’s equipment and therefore, AT&T would have to rebuild. Secondly, the cost to construct a similar tower at the Monticello Media site is more expensive than the site on the Hayes property. The intent is that the Board of Supervisors would not force the applicant to choose a more expensive alternative.

AT&T showed a comparison of construction on the Hayes site vs. the Monticello Media site – $275,000 vs. $520,000. The costs reflected that the site of the Monticello Media tower is on a hillside and therefore significantly more expensive. The grading of the site and roadways was $100,000 for the Monticello Media site vs. only $25,000 for the Hayes site. The Monticello Media site requires $30,000 for road improvement, creating a cutover and clearing of $50,000 each while there would be no cost for any of these factors at the Hayes property.

The meeting then turned to the discussion among the Board members. Since the public hearing had already occurred there we no comments from the public. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville)  stated that the Monticello Media site would provide significantly more coverage vs. the requested site. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) noted that there is already a Special Use Permit for the Monticello Media site and therefore AT&T could use this tower without a new SUP. He also speculated that since the coverage is more than double, that AT&T’s revenue would significantly increase. Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) reminded all that the ordinance does not use revenue as a basis for issuing the SUP, only the cost is considered. Supervisor Martin said he kept coming back to the Zoning Ordinance 21-2-1 which is to encourage a minimum number of cell towers and to increase the opportunity for joint use of towers.

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AT&T’s attorney noted that Zoning Ordinance 21-2-8.5 states that if the cost for one site is more expensive than the other site, then the second site is presumed unreasonable. This is the case of the Monticello Media site vs. the site on the Hayes property.

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Supervisor Frydl agreed that the cost factor has eliminated the Monticello Media site from consideration. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At Large) told AT&T that he appreciated their efforts and in meeting the county’s requirements. He expressed disappointment that the “filet mignon” or Monticello Media site would not work and that the “sirloin” alternative at the Hayes property was the other option. Deane stated he struggled with keeping the vista of Greene Co clear vs. providing 911 service down Dyke Road but felt that safety must take priority.

Supervisor Martin also expressed his appreciation to AT&T for their efforts and thanked them for an open process. In the end, he believes the county needs to take a long range view on cell coverage in the county and look for the best coverage vs. just keep adding tower after tower until you get around the mountains to the Albemarle County line. For that reason he is against the current SUP.

Chairman Frydl said that AT&T has been portrayed unfairly in this process and that they have followed the ordinance in detail and looked at existing sites per the BOS recommendation. However, AT&T has to look out for what is best for their business which may be different than what Greene County may want. Chairman Frydl struggled with the decision because the SUP will enhance cell service but it won’t minimize the number of cell towers in the long run. Supervisor Deane expressed concern that if AT&T’s request is denied they may leave the county and the fact that the county requested a comparison to another site actual caused them to shoot themselves in the foot. This is the reverse of the classic taking the bird in the hand over two in the bush

At this point, Dr. John Hayes – the owner of the site where AT&T wants to locate – stood to address the board. You could feel his frustration with the Board. While the normal process would not allow a speaker, Chairman Frydl allowed him to speak since he was the owner of the property. Hayes stated that AT&T did what the Board of Supervisors asked. Most of the land in the Dyke valley is in conservation which excludes constructing a cell tower and many of the remaining properties are too small for a cell tower fall requirement.

Supervisor David Cox said that this decision is the hardest he has faced while on the Board. He lives in the valley that is being impacted. His home has a view of a 600 foot tower when he looks up the mountain but from his front porch he has a clear view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that so many value. Topography is the problem in cell service but it is also what creates the magnificent views in Greene County. He said that he has been seriously injured several times and without cell service to call for EMS responders he might not be here. He felt that safety outweighs the aesthetics in this case and he was in favor of the SUP.

The motion was made to reject the Special Use Permit request and it passed on a 3-2 vote – denying the SUP at the Hayes site. The irony is that two supervisors – Cox and Deane who live in the western part of Greene Co – voted to allow the cell tower.

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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.

Only in Albemarle, Do You Make Housing Affordable by Making It More Expensive

Adapted from Comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan September 9, 2014.

My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum  a privately funded public policy organization covering local government in Charlottesville and the surrounding localities.

Tonight you might be discussing the Housing Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. Internal to this chapter is one of the most baffling policies of Albemarle County – the affordable housing proffer. I have passed out a recent Richmond Times Dispatch article questioning the rationale and nexus of cash proffers Are Proffers on Shaky Ground?.

For all residential rezonings, Albemarle currently requires 15% of the new units be affordable. This is on top of the $20,000+ per Single Family Unit Cash Proffer.

The affordable housing proffer ultimately results in 85% of all new units to be less affordable. By making the majority of the new houses more expensive, you have harmed overall housing affordability. Only in Albemarle do you make things more affordable by making them more expensive.

According to the Draft Chapter:

Albemarle County’s Affordable Housing is defined as houses affordable to households not exceeding 80% of the area median income.  At present an “affordable” sales price for a home is $211,250 for a family of four paying 30% of their income for housing costs.  Approximately 40% of the households in Albemarle have incomes at 80% of the median or lower.

Those buyers who acquire the “affordable” units are effectively lottery winners. Their neighbors have subsidized their purchase and when they choose to sell, there is nothing that keeps that home affordable and the buyers gain the windfall. As noted on Page 9.13 “If Albemarle County is to have affordable housing stock, it must find a way to make sure the affordable units stay affordable.

Why does it fall on new home buyers to “solve” the affordable housing inventory issue?

To date as a result of rezonings,  approximately 1,200 affordable units have been “voluntarily” proffered (100 have been built).  In addition, approximately $1.6 Million Dollars have been “voluntarily” proffered as cash-in-lieu of units.

If this is a community issue, why isn’t the community equally invested?

The reality is due to the myriad of regulations, codes of development, $20,000 per single family home cash proffers, mandated sidewalks, street trees, water and sewer hookup fees – new housing stock is perhaps the worst place to try and create (and maintain) affordable housing.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes adaptive reuse and refurbishment of existing housing stock would be a much more cost effective method to increase affordable housing. Further study should be done regarding financial vehicles that allow the property to remain at market value and the loan to be modified – such work might go a long way in keeping housing affordable – The Housing Trust model is one such vehicle.

In addition, we do not believe this chapter adequately addresses the significant impact of rental units on the market. Affordable housing does not have to be affordable housing ownership.

We encourage you to pursue code changes to allow more flexibility for accessory units in the development areas and to allow residential dependencies in the rural areas. While the latter may seem to contradict your goal of moving development into the development areas, it is a reality that eliminating the land cost for a second residence on a 21+ acre parcel dramatically impacts the cost of the home.

We applaud the attention paid to reducing or eliminating minimum lot sizes in the development areas.  We encourage the continued review of setbacks to further maximize land in the development area for development.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not raise issue with Strategy 6d regarding increased staffing. Just as in the other chapters, staffing levels should be an operational decision by the Board of Supervisors and not a line item in a Comprehensive Plan.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment

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

Albemarle’s Mad Hatter Paradoxical Proffer Policy

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass 

This Wednesday afternoon (9/3) Albemarle County’s counter productive paradoxical cash proffer policy and calculations could get some much needed sunlight – or the Supervisors could direct the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) to simply treat a couple symptoms instead of the underlying problem.  The resulting discussion could have significant ramifications for the future or not.

Please let me explain.

For those just arriving a cash proffer is a set amount of money a landowner “voluntarily” pays for the opportunity to construct a new unit.  The amounts vary by type of unit.  In Albemarle, the cash proffer amount for a single family home is almost $21,000.

It is important to recognize, Albemarle’s  land use philosophy can be summed up in one sentence; development in the designated development area.

For many years, some have said that cash proffers do not impede growth in the development areas.  A recent memo drafted for the Board of Supervisors to send to the FIAC supports reduced or eliminated proffers (in some conditions) will encourage development.

The Board of Supervisors is directing the Fiscal Impact Committee to:

1) Analyze possible credits for:
-Development in targeted areas. Targeted areas are those areas shown as Priority Areas identified in each Master Plan Area.
-Mixed use developments.
-Development supportive of growth management strategies of the Comprehensive Plan.

2) Provide recommendations on changes to existing credits in the policy, including the credit that may be provided for by-right units, now available by policy only in limited circumstances (Policy § C(6)(c)).

3) Update the County’s maximum per unit cash proffer amount by dwelling unit type, using the methodology used in 2007.

Did you see the underlying theme in the first direction? 

This memo may be the first official document I have seen that acknowledges the Bizzaro economic theory of Albemarle’s current cash proffer policy. 

If the FIAC is to consider giving cash proffer credits in the “targeted areas” (We called these “Super Development Areas” in our opposition to the Places29 master plan) then this memo implicitly recognizes the $20,986.76 Single Family Home  cash proffer must have negative impact on development.

But wait, why is Albemarle considering credits ONLY in the targeted areas? 

If the fundamental land use philosophy is to encourage development in the development areas and you have identified a barrier to such growth, why would you not change it for the ENTIRE development area?  As we have said in a previous post “It’s all about the money, money, money”.

While the Free Enterprise Forum appreciates Albemarle’s willingness to address some of the symptoms, we continue our call for a full repeal of cash proffers.

Counting noses, I doubt the current Board of Supervisors will significantly change the charge to the FIAC.mad-hatter-1-300x240

Just as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland is busy celebrating unbirthdays, the Albemarle supervisors will  likely celebrate their symptom addressing charge  to the committee and happily continue to  knowingly undercut the philosophical underpinnings of their much lauded land use plan.

So it goes.

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

Photo Credit: Disney

Fluvanna Supervisors Consider Bond Financing and Refinancing

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The conditions are starting to come together for Fluvanna County to make a decision on water infrastructure.

One of the biggest hurdles is how to finance it and right now, bond rates are extremely low.

Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O'Brien

Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien

“You are never going to see money this cheap right now,” Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said following a presentation from Raymond James & Associates, the county’s financial advisor.

Dianne Klaiss, senior vice president of Raymond James & Associates, agrees with O’Brien’s assessment, “If you have to do a capital project, now would be a good time to finance it.”

Rates were their lowest in history November 2012 and have stayed below the historical average since.

Unfortunately, another hurdle in adding to the county’s debt load is its financial history. In FY15, the current fiscal year, the county is paying $7.62 million for debt service. The total budget is $80 million but includes borrowing another $12.48 million.

Two previous projects are eligible for refinancing and the advisor is recommending the board start the process of doing so.

The Series 2005 bonds issued for the courthouse is at 4.29 percent interest rate and has a current balance of $1.86 million. It is subject to acceleration on Oct. 15, 2020 with a $720,000 final balloon payment in 2026. The county is currently scheduled to pay $2.51 million for the rest of the bond.

The two options to refinance the Series 2005 bonds is to have the same maturity date or to match the current debt service payment. Both will have a savings over the course of the loan compared to the current agreement.

Keeping the same maturity date would have a $204,000 savings but mean higher payments until 2026. Refinancing to keep the $162,000 payment of this year means only saving $157,000 but extending the maturity date to 2029.

The other bond is the Series 2006 bonds for the library. It matures in 2022 but has $1.75 million left. The county is currently scheduled to pay $2.07 million over the course of the bond. A refinance could save $116,000 overall with the same maturity date.

This fiscal year the county is considering paying for a fire truck and projects at the middle school with two bonds.

A fire truck bond of $550,000 would have a maturity in 2025 with annual payments of $65,000. The middle school bond projects are for $5 million with debt service payments around $500,000, changing depending on the bond length choice of 10, 15 or 20 years.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the refinancing of the first two bonds and issue the other two bonds soon.

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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

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

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

———————————————————————-

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

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