Monthly Archives: November, 2008

US 29 Plan Price Tag 1/4 Billion Dollars — Kinda

Forum Watch Editorial

By. Neil Williamson

On Monday (11/24), The Charlottesville/Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved the US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study (pdf)  despite the fact that in contains inconsistent and inaccurate project cost information.  The cost information presented in the document did not include totals for the various time frames (short term, mid-term, long term).  The Free Enterprise Forum  independently calculated the total project costs (see spreadsheet below)  that totals over $292 Million Dollars in public funding and just shy of $22 Million Dollars of private funding. 

In total the plan calls for in excess of a quarter of a Billion (with a B) dollars in the next twenty years - WITHOUT LAND ACQUISITION COSTS. 

In 2005, The MPO approved the Hydraulic/250 Report that indicated the interchange at Hydraulic and 250 would cost $89 Million dollars.  In the most recent report (exclusive of right of way costs) the interchange cost is listed as $33 Million dollars.  Elsewhere in the report, it references “Interchanges are individual projects in the range of $15-$50 Million and would all require more detailed design studies to determine actual cost”. 

Why does this taxpayer funded report not reference the previous taxpayer funded report regarding cost? 

When the Free Enterprise Forum raised the issue of costs inconsistencies in the MPO Public Hearing on this report, one voting member of the MPO indicated it did not matter what the cost numbers were.  Another member suggested they are merely place holders.

Recognizing the extremely limited funds for transportation projects, it is most regrettable that the cost numbers produced by a $400,000 transportation study, do not really matter to the MPO.  How much road maintenance does $400,000 buy? 

Despite our call that the report lacked intellectual consistency, it passed unanimously.

Why am I not surprised?

 

RIGHT OF WAY ACQUISITION COSTS AND UTILITIES ARE NOT INCLUDED
METHODOLOGY If both public and private sources were listed the cost was split 50/50
       
   Public    Private  Time
Project  Funding   Funding  Frame
US29 Expand  Best Buy ramp      2,000,000   short term (1-5 years)
US29 Access Management        260,000   short term (1-5 years)
New Planning Document for Rio Ring road          50,000   short term (1-5 years)
Construct Northpoint Dr & Airport Acres Ext    10,240,000 short term (1-5 years)
Alignment Study for Berkmar ext Bridge        150,000   short term (1-5 years)
Add left turn lanes Burnley Station/Frays Mill      2,150,000   short term (1-5 years)
       
Subtotal      4,610,000  10,240,000 short term (1-5 years)
US29 Bus Rapid Transit Service Cville to Midtwn    16,500,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29/US250 Ramps    12,000,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Expansion Seminole Sq to Morton Dr      8,000,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Reconstruct Hydraulic Road US29 to US250      8,000,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Access Lane from USPS to Greenbrier        680,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Construct Cedar Hill Ext to Greenbrier        715,000       715,000 mid term (5-10 years)
US 29 Construct north lanes for Rio Ring Road        450,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US 29 Widen Shoppers World approach/ mall drive        265,000       265,000 mid term (5-10 years)
US29 new Southbound lane at Berkmar          50,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Westbound Albemarle Square Approach      2,620,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Channelize Woodbrook intersection        910,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Parallel Roads – Berkmar Bridge across South Fork    14,910,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Widen Berkmar from Rio to Hilton Heights    10,020,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Extend Berkmar to the River      2,660,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Hollymead Drive        100,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Construct Berkmar Ext to Towncenter Drive    10,230,000   mid term (5-10 years)
Construct Hollymead Drive Extended      1,010,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Jug handle (?)          70,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29 East side Jug handle (FL area)      1,085,000    1,085,000 mid term (5-10 years)
US 29 West side Jug handle access (FL area)      1,305,000    1,305,000 mid term (5-10 years)
US29/Airport Acres signalization        270,000   mid term (5-10 years)
US29/Northside signalization        270,000   mid term (5-10 years)
       
Subtotal    92,120,000    3,370,000 mid term (5-10 years)
US29 Implement BRT from midtown to Uptown    16,500,000   long term (11-20 years)
US29/Hydraulic Replace intersection with SPUI    33,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Reconstruct 250 Bypass/Hydraulic intersection      4,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Turn Lane at Seminole Square        280,000   long term (11-20 years)
Extended Turn Lane at Branchlands        140,000   long term (11-20 years)
Realign Premier Circle        130,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct Cedar Hill Ext to Shoppers World      2,550,000   long term (11-20 years)
US29/Rio interchange    35,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct pedestrian overcrossing (of US29) @Berkmar      1,800,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct SW Rio Ring Road      3,940,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct NE Rio Ring Road      2,320,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct roundabout on Mall Drive         450,000 long term (11-20 years)
Construct Cedar Hill Drive to Berkmar        430,000       430,000 long term (11-20 years)
Extend Roadway on west side 29 alb sq to Berkmar      1,745,000    1,745,000 long term (11-20 years)
Extend Roadway on east side 29 Mall dr to Rio Ring        940,000       940,000 long term (11-20 years)
US29 Extend turn lanes at Shewels      1,180,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct US29 Jug handles for Wal-Mart access        750,000   long term (11-20 years)
US29 overcrossing Hilton Heights, access rd, aux lane    17,640,000   long term (11-20 years)
US29 Widen to six lanes Polo grounds to Town Center    15,060,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct US29 Overcrossing at Ashwood Blvd    10,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Extend Ashwood Blvd to Berkmar Ext      1,590,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct US29 cross over @ Airport Road    15,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct US29 Cross over @ Timberwood    15,000,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct Jug Handles and roundabouts FL area        315,000       315,000 long term (11-20 years)
Widen US29 to six lanes from Airport Rd to L&C Drive    10,690,000   long term (11-20 years)
Airport Acres South Aux lane          50,000   long term (11-20 years)
Construct frontage road Airport acres to Airport rd        870,000       870,000 long term (11-20 years)
US29/Lewis & Clark transition        240,000   long term (11-20 years)
Signalize US29/Austin Dr        270,000   long term (11-20 years)
Signalize US29/Dickerson        270,000   long term (11-20 years)
Boulders Road Extended        475,000       475,000 long term (11-20 years)
Austin Road Extended      3,125,000    3,125,000 long term (11-20 years)
       
Subtotal  195,300,000    8,350,000 long term (11-20 years)
SUMMARY  Public   Private   
not including ROW or Utilities  Funding   Funding   
short term (1-5 years)      4,610,000  10,240,000  
mid term (5-10 years)    92,120,000    3,370,000  
long term (11-20 years)  195,300,000    8,350,000  
       
TOTAL  292,030,000  21,960,000  
       
       

Public Presence is Strong at Greene Planning Commission Meeting

Kara L. Reese, Greene County Field Officer

 

 

Action Summary:

Ted Corp, Inc./Oak Hill Development LLC/Wendell W. Gibson, Inc .rezoning application to amend proffers approved on July 13, 2004 for property zoned PUD and  consisting of approximately 32.22 acres located in Ruckersville on Route 33 (Spotswood

Trail/Greenecroft Boulevard) – Disapproval Recommended

Jefferson Area Board for Aging rezoning request from R-1, Residential, to SR, Senior Residential, on approximately 15.16 acres located on Preddy Creek DriveDeferred at Applicant’s Request

 

7: 31 Call to Order

D. Lamb, Chairman was not present due to illness.

 

I.  StreamWatch Report

 

John Murphy, Director of StreamWatch gave a presentation regarding the 2008 StreamWatch Report. The Board asked a few questions after the presentation regarding Greene County’s streams.

 

II. Public Hearing regarding Ted Corp, Inc./Oak Hill Development LLC/Wendell W. Gibson, Inc.’s rezoning application to amend proffers approved on July 13, 2004 for property zoned PUD and  consisting of approximately 32.22 acres located in Ruckersville on Route 33.

 

Staff Report:

 

            This is a request to amend the July 2004 proffers for the Greencroft Development. Greencroft is located along Route 33 and is adjacent to the Four Seasons Senior Development. Applicant is requesting that the proffers be amended to reduce the minimum square footage requirement for homes in the development from 2600 square feet to 1800 square feet. Applicant would add a $2,000 cash proffer for any home that is less than 2600 square feet. Applicant originally gave the County a $200,000 proffer in advance of any development.

 

Applicant:

 

Rob Lynch spoke on behalf of the applicants. He noted that the builders needed to be able to adjust to changes in the market. He state that these are local builders with local connections. He also argued that this would promote a healthy subdivision and encourage economic development.

 

            Wendell W. Gibson, co-applicant and owner of Gibson Homes addressed the Board. He told the Board that the market has changed and that it is difficult for local builders to compete against other larger home builders like Ryan Homes. Homeowners are no longer able to get financing for the larger homes.

 

            Ryan Roman, co-applicant and owner of Roman Homes also spoke to the Board regarding the application. He felt the change would help him stay in business. He noted that many people are now looking for smaller homes.

 

            Kevin Jones, a third co-applicant also spoke about market trends. He said that people are looking to downsize and larger homes are no longer marketable.

 

Public Comment

            Nine members of the public addressed the Board. The majority of the speakers were from the Four Seasons Development. Their concerns fell into two primary categories. Citizens were primarily concerned about the effect the less expensive homes would have on their property values. They also were concerned about the reduced revenue that the homes would provide.

 

 Most citizen who spoke felt that living next to 1800 sq. ft homes which might sell in the $300,000 range would drastically lower their home values. As one homeowner noted “We expect citizens to be protected.” He went on to state that the Board must look out for current residents and not those who may some day move to Greene County.  Other citizens argued that they purchased their homes in Four Seasons because they believed that homes of similar value would be built in the nearby Greencroft.

 

            The second concern that some citizens addressed was that the smaller homes would generate a much lower tax revenue than the larger home. Some felt that this would place an even larger burden on other homeowners.

 

            A third concern that was voiced by some homeowners included the failure of developers to follow through on some of the other proffers that were set forth in the original rezoning. Citizens stated that the developers had not provided required privacy fencing and had created a negative environmental impact on the lake.

 

Comments from the Planning Commission

 

            N. Slezak provided a report from the site visit. He noted that the location is very visible from 33. Currently there are about 10 homes out of the approximately 120 potential homes. Most of those 10 homes are vacant.

 

            A. Herring noted that for purposes of maintaining transparency, he was previously a property manager at Four Seasons and that his parents own property abutting Greencroft. He then asked several questions regarding the development including whether 1800 sq. ft. included basements, prices estimates for the smaller two level homes, and how many houses have currently been sold.  Applicant responded that the 1800 sq. ft included basements, so a home could be 900 sq. ft on each floor. Only 4 homes in the Greencroft development are currently occupied. Applicant did not have a price estimate for a two story home yet; however, given the level of current investment in the land applicant did not believe any home could be priced at less than $300,000.

 

            J. Frydl noted that he was concerned about some of the enforcement issues that were raised by citizens with the current development; however, that is a separate issue from this application. He also noted that “it doesn’t benefit home values to have a completely empty lot {next door}.” He also noted that there were some generally false assumptions being made including that all homes built would be the minimum square footage and that every home will have children that will impact the schools.

 

            B. Martin noted that this was a difficult situation. He asked staff how the $2,000 compares to our current proffer policy. Staff responded that this development was approved prior to the creation of the current policy; however, its proffer with the additional $2,000 is still short of the suggested amount by $1,600.  B. Martin was also interested in the energy efficiency of the homes. He was concerned about the discord between the developer and community. He also sympathized with homeowners concerns over their home values. He also stated that in his experience a smaller home doesn’t necessarily equate a lower quality home. He believes that smaller homes will be a trend in the future. However, lowering the square footage of these homes feels like a bailout of the builders.

 

            N. Slezak asked the builders how they got the $2,000 per home under 2600 sq. ft. He was also concerned about the lower tax revenue from these homes. Applicant responded that in addition to the up front proffer of $200,000 cash, they also provided land to allow for the entrance of Four Seasons valued about approximately $900,000.

 

Vote:

J. Frydl moved to approve the application with amended proffers submitted on 8/27/2008.B. Martin provided a second. A. Herring and J. Frydl voted in favor of the amended proffers. N. Slezak and B. Martin opposed the motion.

 

II. Jefferson Area Board for Aging rezoning request from R-1, Residential to Senior Residential on approximately 15.16 acres located on Preddy Creek Drive

 

Staff Report:

 

            This is a request to rezone approximately 15 acres for use as a 55+ community. The development would include both subsidized and market value homes. Applicant is seeking approval for 225 units. The community requires public water and sewer. At least two possible means of hookup to water and sewer have been identified. This property doesn’t qualify for a traffic study under VDOT’s regulations. The property is located in the growth area. There are no proffers at this time.

 

Applicant:

 

Chris Murray spoke on behalf of JABA. He explained that this type of development is needed in Greene County.  Part of the project would provide low income housing to seniors. He believe that the close proximity of the development to new retail develop will help seniors who need to continue to work. Applicant is aware that traffic is a big concern, but believes the seniors will create less traffic than the 39 houses that are permitted by right on this property. Applicant acknowledged that had not yet made any proffers because they were seeking feedback from this hearing, but that they do intend to make proffers.

 

Public Comment:

 

Lori Gore, Greene’s representative to JABA spoke in favor of the project. She noted that this is something that Greene County really needs. She believes that they will be able to make good proffers that benefit the community.

 

Andrea Wilkinson of Ruckersville Citizens Council stated that she believes that we need more 55+ developments in Greene. However she would like to see this become a full service facility with assisted living.

 

Eight residents who live along Preddy Creek Drive spoke against the project. They were primarily concerned about traffic on Preddy Creek road. They also expressed some concern that the development would negatively affect their property values.

 

Comments from the Planning Commission

 

J. Frydl provided a report from his site visit. He noted that the proposed entrance was very narrow. He also noted that it would be at least 3 city blocks to get to the Rapidan Center and currently there is no walkable access.

 

A. Herring noted that we need senior communities; however, he was concerned about the accuracy of the estimated trips per day. He also wondered if walkability would be possible in this location.

 

J. Frydl reminded the applicant of the items the Planning Commission must consider as required by law.

 

B. Martin indicated that he was worried about traffic and the opposition that residents had to the project. He noted that the proposed entrance seemed like it wouldn’t work. However, he reminded citizens that the alternative to this project is not that nothing will be built on this property. There are 39 houses permitted by right which will also have a negative affect on traffic.

 

N. Slezak did not feel he had enough information to make a judgment about the project at this time. He would like to see the written proffers.

 

Vote:

 

Applicant requested that the application be deferred to the December meeting. A. Herring moved to accept the deferral. The deferral was accepted.

 

III. Other Business

 

A. Bylaws

 

            New bylaws were discussed in the last meeting but not passed. A. Herring moved to accept the new bylaws. The motion passed unanimously.

 

B. Minutes

 

            J. Frydl moved to approve the minutes from the last meeting. The minutes were unanimously approved.

 

Adjournment 10:35 pm.

Greene BOS November Meeting

By Kara L. Reese, Greene County Field Officer

Action Summary:

Motion to Reappoint Lori Gore to the JABA Board – Approved

SUP#08-Request by Alann Enterprises for a special use permit allowing an indoor recreational facility located on a 4.56 acre tract of land – Approved

SUP#04-722 Public Hearing on Randolph and Marsha Gibson’s request for a renewal of a special use permit for a manufactured home on approximately 5.0 acres located along Echo Lane – Approved

Resolution to create to Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority, amend Regional Jail agreement and transfer property to the Authority – Approved

 

 

            The Greene County Board of Supervisors welcomed another new business to Greene County Tuesday night. The Board unanimously approved a special use permit for an indoor recreational facility located behind Wendy’s just off of Route 29.  The applicant previously sold hot tubs and pool tables in Albemarle County, but had moved the retail portion of his business to Greene County in hopes of opening a family game room next to the retail showroom.

Staff provided a brief overview of the project, noting that it was in an area designated for growth by the current Comprehensive Plan. Staff also reported that the Planning Commission reviewed the project and recommended approval of the special use permit with conditions during its October meeting.

 

There was no comment from the public on this matter, so the Board moved directly to their discussion. B. Peyton was interested in the hours of operation and age restrictions. C. Schmitt and S. Catalano were also interested adding a condition that the business can not operate past 11 pm. S. Catalano wondered if the special use permit should be limited to this particular land owner.  The applicant was concerned that if his business was successful and he retired he would not be able to sell his business. As an alternative, it was proposed that a 3 year review by staff be added to the conditions and that the special use permit be limited to a family game room only.

 

            Following discussion by the Board, the applicant’s request for a special use permit was approved by unanimous vote. Conditions placed on the special use permit included that 1) requirements in the Building Code and Zoning Ordinance be met 2) no outdoor amplification shall be permitted 3) no alcohol sale or use on premises 4) the business must close by 11 pm 5) the special use permit is limited to a family game room only 6) staff is to review the property in 3 years to confirm that all conditions are being complied with.

 

Hardship Special Use Permit

 

            In the second public hearing of the evening the Board considered an application for renewal of a special use permit by Randolph and Marsha Gibson to allow a manufactured home on a 5 acre lot where a separate residence already exists. The presence of two homes on the lot creates a greater density than permitted by Greene’s Ordinances thus creating the need for a special use permit. Applicant was previously granted a hardship special use permit for a medical condition.

 

Staff reported that it appeared the medical condition that necessitated the second home still existed. Based on the site visit staff concluded the second home is difficult to see from the road unless one knows exactly were to look for it. The Comprehensive Plan gives little direction on hardship special use permits. Staff also noted that the Planning Commission recommended approval of the special use permit during their October meeting.

 

The applicant briefly addressed the Board stating that the medical condition was not was expected to improve. It is very helpful to applicants to have their son nearby to help out and in case of emergency situations.

 

The Board briefly discussed the application. J. Allen noted that this was not an obtrusive use and the hardship was present. M. Skeens also agreed that their truly is a hardship in this instance. C. Schmitt moved to approve the special use permit with the condition that it expires in three years or when the hardship ceases. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.

 

Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority

 

The Greene County Board of Supervisors also held a public hearing on the formation of and transfer of certain property to the Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority. The County Attorney briefly described that the purpose of Authority was to allow the Jail to seek funding through bonding. Further, a public hearing was necessary in this instance because the Board is also considering transferring its ownership interest in the land that the jail sits on to the Authority.  After no comment from the public and minimal discussion by the Board, the Board unanimously approved three items 1) a Resolution to create a Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority 2) the amended Regional Jail Agreement and 3) the transfer of certain property to the Authority.

 

Matters from the Public

 

            Don Lewisof Region Ten Community Services Board (CSB) addressed the Board regarding his resignation. He indicated that his position would be filled. In the interim any questions could be directed to hissupervisor. He also discussed the issue with lack of office space in Greene County that his current staff isfacing. He noted that if they could find a space large enough for the entire office, CSB would actually be able to cut expenses because it would eliminate the need for two phone systems, two copiers and other office items that could be shared.

 

Greene County Health Department Funding Cuts

 

Dr. Lillian Peake, District Health Director addressed the Board regarding budget cuts to the Greene County Health Department.  She informed the Board that the State cuts applicable to Greene County were approximately $7,600. Because of the loss of state funding the County of Greenewould not be required to contribute as much matching funds to the Health Department. Dr. Peake requested that the Board allow the Greene County Health Department to keep approximately $3,000 in funds that were budgeted to them, but no longer required to be given as matching funds.

 

            The Board was concerned about these cuts and whether the money had already been budgeted to the Health Department. It was clarified that Dr. Peake was not asking for any additional funds, but to be allowed to keep the funds that were already accounted for in the current budget. J. Allen expressed concern that the County might be setting bad precedent by continuing to cover for the State; however, since the funds were already in the current budget she was not opposed to allowing them to keep the funding. C. Schmitt noted that the Board isonly willing to do this because it is already in the budget. He warned “next year all bets are off.” B. Peyton echoed a similar sentiment.  The consensus on the Board was to leave the current budget as is, but next year it is likely that the County will only pay their required match.

 

Other Matters

 

John Murphy, Director of StreamWatch, gave a presentation regarding the 2008 StreamWatch Report.

 

            J. Allen reported that the RSA held its public hearing on a rate increase. There was no public comment on the increase.

 

            C. Schmitt reported on the progress of the county-wide energy audit.

 

 

Fluvanna Supervisors Set Special Meeting

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Over the past weekend, Fluvanna supervisors set a special meeting for Monday evening (7:00 pm Fluvanna County Courthouse) to discuss the proposed high school bond issue.  Two members are needed to force a special meeting and sources indicate that the two more conservative members:  Gene Ott (Rivanna) and Don Weaver (Cunningham) pressed the issue.

Both Ott and Weaver want to have another look at the bond proposal made by Davenport and Company, the county’s bond advisers.  Ott has in the past cited a potential conflict of interest since the bond adviser is paid when the county uses it to place the bonds.

The text of the required announcement states:  “Based on the current economic situation affecting the bond market and interest rates, this meeting is called to determine if the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors needs more information for (sic) an independent financial expert on the bond market status and to seek answers as to the most desirable time to enter the market place for the High School bond interest rates and to consider delaying the offering, sale and issuance of such bonds pending receipt of such advice.”

According to one well placed official, the supervisors are unlikely to take any action that would delay going to the market which now is scheduled for December 1st.

Supervisors Meeting of November 19, 2008

Mr. Bill Hughes, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8169 (Scottsville), with several members in attendance, briefed the Board on major renovations and upgrade to the Post facility.  The United Way designated the renewal as a “Day of Caring” project. 

Accomplished entirely through volunteer labor and donations, Fluvanna county staff and numerous local businesses donated time and material.  Mr. Hughes noted that for the first time the facility now had hot water, and estimated that the donated time and materials amounted to at least $75,000.

The Post presented Certificates of Appreciation to the county staff that participated in the project.

School Bond Update

County Administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV informed the supervisors that he anticipates going to the bond market on December 1st to secure the funds necessary for the new high school.  Mr. Lawton also expects to close on the funds by the end of the year.

About a dozen citizens spoke again regarding the bond issue and only two supported going forward at the present time.  Other comments ranged from suggesting just a short-term deferral until the markets stabilize to outright cancellation of the bond solicitation.  Over the past two Board meetings, there has been considerable public comment urging the Board to reconsider its decision to go forward with the bond issue, especially given the current uncertain economic climate and the impact it is having on personal finances.

Prior to the discussion, the county administrator told the supervisors that he has instructed staff to develop contingency plans for budget reductions at both the five and ten percent levels.  The county’s next real estate tax deadline is December 5th and the Administration will have a better idea of the county’s finances by then, according to Lawton.

As of the meeting, county officials still were confident that the bonds could be sold at an interest ate at or lower than the Board set limit of six percent.

Other Board Actions

In other actions, the Board:

·        Was updated on potential improvements to the Human Services building at Carysbrook.  A complete renovation and new construction could cost as much as $4 million, or it could be phased in and cost as little as $1.3 million initially for the old high school building renovations;

·        Approved the creation of a Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority, which would have the ability to secure funds through its own borrowing (the Authority’s creation must be approved by all member governments);

·        Approved a county investment policy that will provide guidance to the Treasurer regarding the investment of the county’s general funds, capital project funds, and bond repayment account;

·        Appointed supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Marvin Moss (Columbia) to a new Energy Performance Contracting Committee, which will provide guidance regarding performance based contracts for the county’s energy related projects; and,

·        Set two work sessions to review the Comprehensive Plan — Saturday, February 7th, 2009 (9:00 am to 4:00 pm) and Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm).

The Board’s next regular meeting will be held on December 3rd, at 2:00 pm in the County Courthouse.

Soundbite Water Politics

By. Neil Williamson

The discussion of the approved and permitted community water supply proposal is getting a great deal of ink lately.  I was appalled last week when, not one, but three members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply argued again that the James River Spiny Mussel, an endangered species, had never been documented in the area once destined for the Buck Mountain Reservoir.  Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council  suggested the community water supply plan was being “swift-boated” by opponents selectively using facts to make political points.  Charlottesville Tomorrow has the report and podcast from November 12th Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting.

By playing fast and loose with the facts, CSWS has created many great soundbites.  As is often the case,  reality is much more complex than their soundbites suggest. 

For many months, one member of CSWS has been using the example of dredged material use on Philadelphia’s airport as justification for such an approach here in Charlottesville.  A great sound bite but reality, as expressed by Airport Executive Director Barbara Hutchison, is much more complex.  Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow has the podcast and reports:

Hutchison also addressed a suggestion made by Joe Mooney, a member of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, that the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport could follow an example set by the Philadelphia International Airport. That facility used dredged material from the Delaware River to build an extension, and Mooney has cited it frequently over the past year. Hutchison said an “apples to apples” comparison between the two airports could not be made for several reasons:

  • Dredging is constantly being done in the Delaware River to keep navigational channels clear
  • Composition of dredged material (gravel and rocks) is known because of ongoing dredging
  • The Philadelphia International Airport is built on the Delaware River
  • The City of Philadelphia paid for the dredged material, not the airport

“While we would like to be a player, we wouldn’t recommend [the Task Force] make decisions based on our projects because we don’t know when or if [the runway extension project] will receive full funding from the state and the FAA,” Hutchison said. “We’ve never been opposed, we just don’t have the information to be able to intelligently say if we could participate

As is usually the case the reality of the situation is much more complex than a simple soundbite.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes in informed public discussion.  Throughout the community water supply discussion, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has very open and public. 

Faced with emerging engineering and cost challenges of the Ragged Mountain Dam Project, RWSA chose to go forward publicly and explain the rather complex design disagreement between two nationally respected engineering consultants.  While a nuanced soundbite may have been better received, the complexity of the issue required an extensive explanation.  The fact that it was a very public explanation is further evidence of RWSA’s commitment to community involvement. 

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the use of aggressive soundbite politics, such as when a member of CSWS on Monday called for Charlottesville City Council to “stick to your guns”, only polarizes the community and does not add positively to the discussion. 

While we may have different views on how the community should solve its water supply issue, it is important that as a community we use facts to build support these positions.  The selective use of facts, aggressive baiting of officials and questioning of the existence of the James River Spiny mussel is taking the community backwards.

Fluvanna Notes -FOIA, BPOL, Comp Plan

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

A Supervisor’s FOIA Request – If you feel that sometimes Fluvanna County has not been as responsive as you might like, do not feel lonely.  Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain documented information he has long sought regarding revenue sources and projections for the proposed James River water pipeline.

He finally received the county’s reply but declined to comment on its responsiveness because he had not had the opportunity to review the information.  County officials waived the customary fees they normally charge for this type of request because he is a supervisor.

Business Tax Update — Although the Business and Professional Occupation License, or BPOL Tax as it is commonly known, has not come before the Board of Supervisors, the business community is taking no chances.  The Chamber of Commerce has become involved and has begun to quietly oppose the measure. 

A particular problem with the tax according to one observer is that it is applied to the gross revenue of a business, not just the profits.  As a result it can be particularly onerous to a small business, especially in a recession.

Comp Plan Concerns – Although it is late in the game, the county’s minority citizens might be finding a voice regarding concerns with the draft Comprehensive Plan.  A Fork Union minister has urged that the county focus more on economic development for Fork Union and less on rural preservation in that area.  Other significant concerns include:

·        Employment opportunities, coupled with greater transportation options; and,

·        Education and substance abuse programs.

The brief, provided to county officials, argues that income and demographic statistics show the need for more economic and social project development in Fork Union and less rural preservation.  Tellingly, many of the proposals for expanding services would seek out private rather than county funding.

Community Planning or Consultant Control

By. Neil Williamson

On Saturday (11/15) morning, about thirty Greene County residents gathered at the Stanardsville Fire Hall to participate in an activity designed to support the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Multi Modal Study.  The exercise was led by Jason Espie of The Reanassiance Planning Group.  The stated goal of the exercise was to have Greene County residents choose how their county will develop over the next twenty years.

Prior to the exercise, Mr. Espie and Mr. Vladimir Gavrilovic (also of RPG) provided a planning “101″ that linked land use and transportation.  In one slide, Mr. Espie redefined transportation planning’s goal as no longer “mobility” but “accessibility” — by creating higher density mixed use communities you keep trips off the major arterials.  In addition, he compared the past thirty years of transportation planning to planning for wastewater. 

The exercise was explained that each table would put different colored dots on the map to indicate where they wanted to place what density of residential and employment activity.  Each dot had a different density point value and each table had to achieve 200 points for both employment and residential.

Prior to the start of the exercise, one audience member asked if they should consider developments already approved but not yet built.  The answer was no this was an exercise to see where on a blank slate you would want what level of density to occur. 

I then asked Mr. Espie if the planning industry has any known figures regarding the market for high density mixed use communities and should we consider this number into planning for the future?  Mr. Espie responded that many such communities exist and they have been very successful.  When pressed by another audience member, Mr. Garilovic said the group would not have enough time to consider such things as a part of this exercise.

Interestingly, considering the focus of this planning is multi modal transportation, the final instructions on the exercise included to place the dots first and then determine how to connect them with a road network. 

So after being properly inoculated with new urbanist theory, being told to ignore what the market may want and to ignore what the community knows is already approved the exercise was ready for launch.

After 1.5 hours of work, a member from each group presented the outcome from their table.  With the exception of one group’s idea of a light rail line across Greene County, the results were predictably similar. 

Following the direction of the consultants, most groups placed higher density in the current development corridors and kept the rural areas as open space.  Like lemmings going off the cliff, community members used a large amount of higher density mixed use development to reach the required residential dot numbers.  

Wearing the consultant provided market blinders, residents were able to ignore the reality that most folks move to Greene County to escape high density residential development.  Each and every map included a new Standardsville that would be walkable with townhouse after townhouse at its core.

Was the community a true participant in this exercise? 

Was the program orchestrated from the outset to achieve the exact outcome that was achieved?      

The consultants indicated surprise at the uniformity of the results across the tables. 

Sitting in the back, I did not think it could turn out any other way.

Charlottesville and Albemarle Retail Retreat

According to a recently released report by The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, Charlottesville and Albemarle County are seeing local retail sales tax decreases while counties such as Augusta, Greene, and Louisa are seeing increases in their retail sales tax revenue.

Monthly Local Option One Percent Sales Tax Revenue

 

 

 

 

 

Through Sept 2008

 

 

YTD Percent Change

 

 

2007/2008

 

 

 

Albemarle County

-3.86%

Augusta County

6.54%

Charlottesville City

-3.59%

Greene County

2.62%

Louisa County

19.07%

Waynesboro City

5.78%

 

 

 

Source:  VA Department of Taxation

This report comes out at the same time as the Virginia Employment Commission reports the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which includes Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson suffered a net loss of 500 jobs between September 2007 and September of this year.  Brian McNeil has the story in today’s Daily Progress.

What is remarkable is that the Albemarle Board of Supervisors were told just a few weeks ago (in preparation for their retreat) that the business climate was positive and jobs were being added to the regional economy.   One supervisor questioned the assertion suggesting sales tax revenues were down.  Staff replied such revenues were down across the region — This report debunks that notion.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the latest figures on retail sales are the manifestation of anti-business/anti-retail philosophy in Albemarle County (and to a lesser degree Charlottesville).  Albemarle’s Planning Commission and Architectural review Board have on many occasions suggested that they will not accept Retailer X’s business model and the architectural elements required of their plan. 

The consensus opinion has been if Retailer X really wants to operate in Albemarle County they must meet our high community standard of development.  Individuals have suggested that a two story home improvement store is in operation in Arlington, Virginia surely such a model could work in Albemarle.  What such a philosophy ignores is the other options available.  In Albemarle, there are several other close by localities with ample development opportunities that would welcome a one story big box with the jobs and retail sales tax revenue it represents.  While The Free Enterprise Forum has heard the argument that these are “just” retail jobs and not “good” jobs, we believe any job is a good job. 

When local government stands in the way of citizens being able to obtain jobs and reduce reliance on property taxes, it is time for a change.  Highly regulated development policies play a role in business location and business relocation.  If Charlottesville and Albemarle continue to lose sales tax revenue to more business friendly localities, they will become even more dependant on property tax revenue.   Local government has few revenue options, this loss of revenue should be a call to arms to reduce regulatory barriers to work to retain existing businesses in town.

Albemarle BOS Spins Survey Results

Every other year Albemarle County surveys the citizens to determine their opinions regarding county services etc. While The Free Enterprise Forum has raised concerns about the survey, we continue to believe the exercise has value.  The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Survey Research has released some preliminary numbers from this year’s survey, the full results will not be released until December.

Some members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors are already working to “spin” the results of the survey.  In a recent BOS meeting, the survey results that said citizens were interested in preserving the rural areas as a high priority were used as the justification for increase level of land use planning. 

Later, in the same meeting, as the historic preservation committee presented its findings supporting the creation of an HP ordinance, when the results of the survey were mentioned (citizens were fairly happy with the current state of historical protection) one Supervisor seemed to infer the survey respondents were ill informed.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is attempting to have it both ways.  If the survey data supports their position it is considered a public mandate for action.  If the survey does not conveniently fit their philosophical position, they see it as an opportunity to educate the public on the issue.  The latter is both condescending and inaccurate.  Such philosophical arrogance presupposes anyone who is educated on a specific topic would agree. If you do not agree with me, you must be ignorant.

The Free Enterprise Forum spends significant resources covering meetings and working with members of the communities we serve. On important issues I find the citizens in this region to be some of the best informed in the state.  The high level of competency of our citizens should not be questioned.

To dismiss citizen opinions as uneducated or ill informed because they disagree with your political view is regrettable and, ultimately, politically short sighted.

Fluvanna Supervisors Get an Earful

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

Any thoughts that a light agenda meant an early evening quickly disappeared at the Board of Supervisors meeting on November 5th. 

Things got off to an interesting start when a clearly agitated Chairman Marvin Moss (Columbia) interrupted county administrator G. Cabell Lawton’s routine briefing on a potential bond issuance to berate a letter-writing citizen who happened to be in the audience.

Reading from a letter written by Mr. Leroy McCampbell that appeared in the November 3rd issue of the Daily Progress, Mr. Moss blasted the statement that said:  “Fluvanna taxpayers have been led to believe that the agenda for the Nov. 5 Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meeting will include a proposal to seek buyers for the new bonds at interest rates of 8.5 percent to 9 percent.”

“This is irresponsible and misleading, and I want everyone here and in the county to know it”, Moss said.  He also stated that there was never any idea to raise the allowable borrowing rate to those levels.

Then during the public comment period fourteen citizens addressed the need for supervisors to take into account the current economic circumstances when considering the upcoming bond issue for the new high school.  All urged restraint, reconsideration, or delay until economic circumstances improved.  Several cited existing county obligations such as social services that will require greater county funding as the state cuts funding to localities.

While some criticized the school system and the need for a new high school directly, most speakers emphasized the affordability and the necessary tax increases that would be needed to pay for the bond. 

In the second public comment period, Mr. Lee True, head of the Fluvanna Taxpayers Association, repeatedly sought assurances from the supervisors that they would not authorize paying an interest rate above six percent.  While no supervisor responded directly, the impression was left that the Board would retain that rate.

Supervisors seemed surprised by the spate of comments directed at them.  While consideration of a possible interest rate increase initially was planned as part of a presentation by the county bond advisors, the briefing never made it to the agenda.  Prior to the meeting some supervisors wondered why so many citizens showed up.  They soon learned.

Board Presentations

There were several reports to the Board including one by Sheriff Ryant Washington and one by Dr. Jackie Meyers, head of the county’s Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) program.

The sheriff highlighted his department’s activities for 2007 and noted that overall crime in the county had declined by four percent over 2006.  This continues a trend that shows an overall decrease of 16 percent over the past three years. 

Destruction and vandalism of property declined by over twenty percent in the county last year, while assaults decreased by 16 percent.  Burglaries, larcenies, and breaking and enterings did rise by about eighteen percent however.

Dr. Meyers highlighted how the CSA program spent its allocated $2 million.  Roughly four fifths of the expenditures were for foster care programs, while the remaining was spent on special education – beyond what the county schools provide.

Meyers also confirmed what one citizen alluded to in the public comment portion of the meeting:  the upcoming state assistance cutbacks.  The county share of residential and foster care costs (excluding family foster care) will increase from the current 38 percent to 44 percent in January, 2009 and then to 48 percent next July.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for November 19th, at 7:00 pm in the County Courthouse.

 

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