By. Neil Williamson
On Tuesday evening (3/31), the Albemarle County Planning Commission ducked the Places29 SuperTax discussion passing the buck to the Board of Supervisors.
As the Free Enterprise Forum mentioned during public comment at the meeting, The Places29 SuperTax represents a dramatic, seismic shift in Albemarle County’s master planning philosophy.
The current comprehensive plan strategy (since 1980) is to drive growth and development into specified development areas and discourage growth in the rural areas. The economic rationale is by focusing a high number of residents in a concentrated area (5% of Albemarle County) you reduce the cost of delivering government services (police, fire, rescue, schools) to this population.
In this paradigm, residents will be attracted to the development areas by the relative close proximity of services (public and private), the attention to walkability and new urbanist design considerations provided in the Neighborhood Model. (The market viability of only one model is the subject for another post).
Albemarle County has been working under this paradigm for many years. With the addition of the Places29 SuperTax,the barrier to market acceptance of the new urbanist product will be even higher.
Imagine you are in the market for a home, how does a 3 bedroom house on a ¼ acre lot in the Places29 development area compete with a slightly older 3 bedroom house on 2 acres in Earlysville, at the same price?
Under the current paradigm, an economic argument can be made that potential maintenance costs, the gas costs incurred running in and out of town coupled with the time lost in traffic makes the rural area home more expensive.
With the Places29 SuperTax, your property taxes could be up to $.25 per $100 higher on the development area home. Does this additional tax burden enter into your thinking?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes the concept of making development area residents pay higher taxes because they receive higher services than rural residents is beyond a mistake it is a shatters the foundation on which the last thirty years of comprehensive planning is built.
The Places29 SuperTax will create a financial disincentive to live in the North US 29 development area and increase residential pressure on the rural areas the comprehensive plan seeks to protect.
The Free Enterprise Forum calls for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to direct their appointees on the planning commission to accept their responsibility to examine the funding options in the report. Further we ask that they remove The Places29 Super Tax from their current draft and revisit all other funding options – including expansion of the development areas.
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