By. Neil Williamson
Community leaders say residents would benefit from part of Crozet becoming a historic district, and though the first steps were taken to make that happen, paperwork has been stalled. And uncertainty lingers about when the application will be completed and who’ll pay for it.
Michael Marshall, chairman of the Crozet Community Advisory Council, said that such a request should be filed by Albemarle County, particularly considering that most of the work is already done and part of the expenses were paid by the county. But Margaret Maliszewski, the county’s principal planner for architectural review and historic resources, says that the county doesn’t have the money or staff to finish the work.
“It’s just sitting on a shelf now,” Marshall said. “At a recent CCAC meeting, [county officials] said, ‘Well, you guys have to come up with $5,000 to package this report in an application to the feds.’”
Crozet community leaders say that the advantage of having a historic district would be that eligible businesses would be able to get tax credits that would cover as much as 45 percent of the cost of renovating historic buildings that are more than a half-century old, and homeowners could have as much as 25 percent of renovation costs covered.
What is the proper role for local government? In this time of significant reductions in local government revenue, The Free Enterprise Forum asks what are the benefits to the entire community of having this historic district designation. One may argue that it builds community pride but so do many other community funded activities.
The historic district designation’s primary beneficiary is landowners within the historic district. As the article cites, they would be eligible for special tax credits (funded by federal tax dollars) for up to 45% of the cost of renovations to their structures.
While there may be some limited benefit to those directly adjacent to the district, the Free Enterprise Forum questions the significance of any benefits to those outside the historic district.
In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum notes with great trepidation this quote from the article:
There would be no disadvantage to having a special district in Crozet, experts agree, and no regulations would be forced upon home or business owners.
While there may not be significant regulations being forced upon home or business owners at this time, significant additional regulation will likely come into play at a later point. Once identified as a historic district, architectural restrictions are commonplace. A review of the replacement of the Advanced Mills Bridge is an excellent primer on the impact of Historic District designation. The designation did NOT preclude the replacement of the bridge but it did require additional study and planning to minimize the impact to the historic district.
The Free Enterprise Forum is not opposed to the creation of Historic Districts but we do ask all property owners within the district voluntarily choose to be in the district with their eyes open regarding the potential impacts. In addition, if the landowners are the primary beneficiaries, why would the burden of funding the application fall on the taxpayers of Albemarle County?
By. Kara Reese Pennella, Field Officer
Albemarle County held two town hall meetings this week to address citizen concerns regarding the new land use revalidation process. The meetings were hosted by Albemarle Board of Supervisors member Ken Boyd with County Assessor Bob Willingham providing a presentation on the revalidation process. The first of two meetings was held Monday at the Stony Point Ruritan Club and was well attended by residents who were concerned with the revalidation process.
The new revalidation represents a compromise forged earlier this year between those who believe that land use taxation should be eliminated entirely and those who support the program. The purpose is to assure that those citizens who are receiving the lower land use tax rate actually use their land for one of the qualifying activities.
There are four categories under which land can qualify for the lower tax rate: including Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry and Open Space. Open Space was by far the most controversial designation serving as a catch-all for land that did not qualify under one of the first three designations. It also has the most potential to restrict the owner’s use of their land. To qualify under this category the owner must either put the land under a Conservation Easement, apply to be included in an Agricultural or Forest District, or sign an Open Space Commitment with the County. All of these designations place restrictions on the future use of the land.
County Assessor Bob Willingham repeatedly reassured citizens that the goal of the revalidation process is not to reduce the amount of property in land use but to help bring owners into compliance with land use requirements.
Some citizens argued that the stricter enforcement of the rules was unfair. Landowners had relied on the way that the program was previously administered. Those who can not or choose not to qualify during the revalidation process will face substantial rollback taxes. Citizens also voiced concerns that these changes would force owners to sell land to developers rather than make the necessary changes to comply with the program.
By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
On Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 7:30 pm the Greene County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to amend the Greene County Code to include a section addressing animal noise. Although applicable to all animal noise the driving force behind the revision has been to control excessive barking.
The ordinance, as drafted, is a more restrictive version of Albemarle County’s animal noise ordinance. Albemarle’s ordinance restricts barking to the 30 minutes with no more than a 5 minute break in barking. The proposed Greene County version will only allow dogs to bark for 20 minutes with no more than a 5 minute break in barking before owners are subject to criminal penalties. The new ordinance will apply to all areas of the County except lots of 5 acres or more in C-1 or A-1 districts.
When Albemarle considered adopting a similar ordinance, Free Enterprise ForumPresident Neil Williamson questioned the wisdom in “abdicat[ing] all aspects of personal responsibility and creat[ing] an Orwellian world where the Board of Supervisors is empowered to legislate good neighborship?”
The Free Enterprise Forum wonders if Greene County should be so eager for follow Albemarle’s example. While Greene County is admittedly in transition from a rural county, one wonders “have we already progressed or regressed so much that the best solution for a bad neighbor is to slap them with criminal penalties?”
A Forum Watch Editorial
By. Neil Williamson
There is a subtle shift in transportation planning philosophy. The ultimate conversion to this philosophy may reduce or eliminate the freedom of mobility Americans have grown to cherish since the invention of the automobile.
Americans by both their nature and nurture love mobility. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
Mobility is at the heart of America’s culture. Americans love the freedom of easily moving where they want, when they want. Mobility is at the heart of our economy, getting goods to market and getting people to work
For generations, transportation planners understood this fact and built transportation networks designed to segregate various uses (retail, industrial, residential). Today’s planners see such old thinking as a mistake. This generation of local planners has been swept up in the call for New Urbanism, a policy that places a greater importance on the project planner’s decisions rather than creating an environment for citizen mobility.
When discussing “smart transportation” in the New Urbanist founding principles enumerate -
- A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
- Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation
It is rather amazing the concept of automobile traffic is merely an after thought in the New Urbanist philosophy suggesting a greater use of “scooters” for daily transportation.
Given all of the above, I suppose I should not have been surprised when a planner from The Renaissance Group said in a public meeting earlier this year that planning today is about designing multi-modal accessibility to the things government believes you want not providing you independent mobility (to make your own choices).
Please go back and reread the underlined section of this indirect quote. This is a very foreboding concept. Reading only slightly between the lines, the automobile (and the freedom of movement it provides) is the enemy to this line of thinking. To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum believes there is a market for new urbanist development. We also believe that market is a small segment. Citizens should be given the choice of being placed in such a development.
It is easy to see why local government may wish to force such a form of development. Highly concentrated residential areas tend to cost less to deliver local governmental services. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission website contends (note the similarity to the new urbanist theory above):
Where we choose to live and work matters. . . . How our places are connected matters. – Changing where and how we grow – by building around historic town centers in walkable, village-scaled development patterns – could save $500 million in transportation system investments over the 50 years.
But is this really what citizens want?
Citizens may clamor for lower taxes but are they willing to sacrifice personal mobility to balance the books of the locality?
Will citizens engage in this laborious time intensive planning process?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes people want a choice; but based on the drafts of Places29, Greene County Multimodal study and other regional planning exercises we remain unconvinced citizens will be provided such an option.
City Planning Commission Grants Special Use Permit for New Entertainment Venue at Former Gravity Lounge Site
By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern
Just a few months after local entertainment venue Gravity Lounge closed its doors, the Charlottesville Planning Commission has granted a Special Use Permit (SUP) allowing for a new ownership group to open The Southern Café and Music Hall in its place. The new entertainment destination will move into the vacated Downtown Mall side street space at 101 and 103 South 1st Street and is slated to begin operations in late September.
The applicants received little Commission resistance during their Joint Public Hearing on June 14th. The only significant debate centered on what hour was appropriate for The Southern Café to stop all sound, vibration, and odor causing activities. This was a particularly relevant issue because the building that will house the venue has residences on its top floor. After some discussion the Commission agreed that The Southern should be held to the same standard as all comparable nighttime entertainment locations prohibiting noise after 2 am. The discussion may have been moot however, as Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws prohibit on premises sale and consumption of alcohol after 2 a.m. anyway. As discussion wound to a close the Special Use Permit necessary for the venue to open was granted by a unanimous vote.
Site Plan for New Oakhurst Inn and Apartments Approved
Tenth and Main L.L.C. received unanimous support and some praise for the preliminary site plan of its redevelopment of parts of Oakhurst Circle and JPA into Oakhurst Inn and Apartments. The plan is to convert three apartment buildings at 100, 102, and 104 Oakhurst Circle and one single family home at 1616 Jefferson Park Avenue into a 27 room Bed and Breakfast and a 36 unit apartment complex with a 47 space parking garage. The Commission has been working with the developer extensively over the course of the planning of this project and seemed quite impressed with the steps Tenth and Main has taken in response to PC feedback. Commissioner Michael Osteen expressed his appreciation claiming “the applicant and their designers have gone out of their way to make this a successful project”.
Southside Builders Supply Given SUP for Masonry Supply Yard on Harris Road
Southside Builders Supply, a masonry supplier out of Richmond, received a Special Use Permit on June 14th allowing them to use their property at 900 and 902 Harris Road as an outdoor masonry supply yard. The company sees this location as a temporary site, which they hope to only use for only one or two years.
Though the proceedings went fairly smoothly for the applicant, one point of concern for the Commission was noise and traffic generated from delivery and pickup at the site. Commissioner Cheri Lewis voiced the most concern over this aspect of the new supply yard. With her prodding the Commissioners agreed to not only place limitations on the hours in which deliveries could be made to the location, but also to cap how early and late audible noise could emanate from the site. The original suggestion for these limitations was to prohibit deliveries and noise before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m. however, Southside’s representatives insisted there were practical reasons for why the restrictions needed to be expanded, leading the Commissioners to expand the workable day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. With that issue resolved the SUP was granted quite easily, with Michael Farruggio remarking “I think this is a perfect use [for this property]”, citing its conformity to the nature of the light industrial neighborhood that is Harris Road, compliance with the Comprehensive Plan, and the possibility that is could promote economic growth in the area.
By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern
Not only has Charlottesville’s $7.5 million Downtown Mall Rebricking project improved the Mall, but it has come in so far under budget that the excess funds are going to other projects around the City. Director of Neighborhood Development Services Jim Tolbert estimated that the Mall project may have come in as much as $1.5 million under budget as he pitched a few uses for the excess funds to City Council at its June 20th meeting.
As it came to vote Council unanimously chose to spend $800,000 of the surplus Mall money on projects at the Corner and 2nd Street, East. The part of 2nd Street that will receive attention is area affected by the now halted Landmark Hotel construction. The total work on the street including some underground pipe and electrical unrelated to the hotel is estimated to cost $800,000, $600,000 of which will be transferred from the Mall project and over $200,000 was already budgeted. The developer of the hotel has committed to fund $200,000 of the project, but that money will not come until the completion of the Hotel or June 2014, which is simply too late for both safety and aesthetics as far as council is concerned.
On the Corner, 14th Street, and Elliewood Avenue City Staff believes there is $500,000 worth of street, brick, and curb repairs that need to be done. The project has already begun and had $300,000 budgeted for it, but in order to be completed Council approved moving $200,000 of the Malls excess funds its way. Tolbert stressed the importance of trying to get the project done before the majority of the University’s students come back for the fall semester. He believes that the work will serve to not only make the Corner safer for pedestrians but may promote a sense of identity among the Corner businesses.
Nixed from staff’s recommended plan for the extra funds was a $300,000 rehab of 6th Street, East between City Hall and the Market Street parking garage. This plan, most Councilors believed was not necessary and wasteful given the current economic climate. Councilor David Brown sarcastically ridiculed the proposed project, highlighting that the Corner and 2nd Street work could help area businesses, but the 6th street plan would not because the only business there is the United States Post Office and “they have kind of cornered the market on [their business]”.
Council plans to save the rest of the money saved on the Mall restoration project to guard against future budget shortfalls that may occur as the City rides out the current recession.
By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
- RZ#09-001 Request by Wexford Subdivision to amend proffers to lower the minimum square footage on homes – Approval Recommended
- RZ#08-005 Request Jerry, Kathryn & Steven Worley to rezone 2.66 acres from A-1 to B-3 – Disproval Recommended
- OR #09-002 Revision to Zoning Ordinance Articles 3 & 4 and the Subdivision Ordinance Sections 5 & 6 regarding utility lots – Approval Recommended
- OR#9-003 Revision to Articles 3 & 2 regarding equine uses in low intensity agriculture –Deferred Indefinitely
The Greene County Planning Commission tackled a full agenda during its monthly meeting on Wednesday July 15, 2009. First, the Commission heard from J. Espie of Renaissance Planning Group regarding the Multimodal Corridor Study. The Commission also had four public hearings on the agenda. Wexford Subdivision LLC applied to amend proffers to allow for homes with a smaller square footage. The Commission also heard a request to rezone a small tract of land located on Fredericksburg Road and Spotswood Trail from A-1 to B-3. Finally, staff presented two applications for ordinance revisions.
J. Espie of Renaissance Planning Group provided a summary of the Draft Report on the Multimodal Corridor Study to the Planning Commission. The report compares two scenarios for the Route 29 Corridor. The first scenario is the Trend Scenario based on projections for future growth continuing at the same rate as current growth. The second scenario called the “Preferred Scenario” is a combination of scenarios developed from input at public workshops. The focus of Renaissance’s recommendations to the county is to construct a network of parallel roads to reduce the burden on Route 29. It was also noted that the number of stoplights and access points onto Route 29 are a problem and should be reduced.
The Planning Commission briefly provided a few comments and questions regarding the report. N. Slezak observed that the report indicates the county has allowed too many access points to Route 29 and this contributes to the failure of Route 29, yet the county gains approval for access points from VDOT. He wondered “What are we missing here?” J. Frydl asked if Renaissance Planning Group had looked at the effects that partial construction of the secondary road network might have on Route 29. He was concerned with “what happens if we can’t build the entire loop road?”
The first public hearing of the evening was a request from Wexford Subdivision to amend proffers to reduce the minimum square footage of a home from 2400 square feet to 1800 square feet. The proffer amount on homes below 2400 square feet would be $5780. The proffer amount on home above 2400 square feet would remain at the current proffer rate of $2000. Wexford’s representatives also requested to amend the proffer for a volleyball court to allow for the installation of a general recreation field instead.
A. Wilkinson of Ruckersville Citizens Council opposed the request. She did not believe that lowering the minimum square footage would increase the potential for sales. She noted that there were still too many houses on the market for this change to make much difference in sales. She argued that the smaller houses would have more children living in them and increase the burden on the county.
N. Williamson of Free Enterprise Forum also addressed the Commission noting that county policy should not be to set floors and ceilings on a home’s footprint. Further there is not firm data that supports the proposition that smaller houses cost the county more. Housing should be allowed to follow the market.
Both N. Slezak and B. Martin were concerned that the new proffer amount was not enough to cover the county’s expenses. They were extremely troubled that county would still be stuck with the original $2000 proffer amount that was previously approved on the homes with a square footage over 2400. J. Frydl noted that proffers must have a reasonable relationship to the cost of a development. The $2000 amount was set at a time when the proffer policy in the county often relied on what the last applicant did. He also observed that this hearing was not a renegotiation of the prior cash proffers.
D. Lamb moved to approve the amendments to the proffers. B. Martin and N. Slezak opposed the motion. D. Lamb, J. Frydl and A. Herring voted in favor of the amendment to the proffers.
The second public hearing of the night was a request to rezone property located at Spotswood Trail and Fredericksburg Road from A-1, Agriculture to B-3, Business. This application had been previously deferred to allow the applicant to address concerns regarding traffic, lighting, impact on the neighborhood and the view shed. The parcel of land in question is included as part of the current growth area as office/industrial.
Applicant addressed the Commission briefly regarding traffic. Applicants concluded that the traffic impact would be minimal and included a full traffic study as part of their proffers if the county felt one was needed in the future. They also included proffers to have the main access off of Route 609 and to add right turn lane. Applicants would like to have a right in and out only entrance off of Spotswood Trail if VDOT approves it.
Two residents who live near the property spoke in opposition to the development. They were concerned that they would loose their view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and night sky. They also were concerned about the types of people a new business in the area might draw.
The Planning Commission expressed concern about the project. B. Martin noted that several prior concerns had not been addressed such as the intensity of the business and impact on the neighbors. Further, he did not feel that the Impact Study required in Greene County Ordinance 16-11 had been met. D. Lamb felt that something less intense than B-3 might be suitable for the property. J. Frydl noted that three of proffers made by the applicant were simply to follow the county’s ordinances.
B. Martin moved to recommend denial of the zoning request because applicant failed to meet the requirements of County Ordinance 16-11 and because a site plan was not included with the application. The motion was passed by a unanimous vote.
The Planning Commission then heard a request for an ordinance revision from staff. Staff requested that the Zoning Ordinance be amended to allow for small utility lots. These lots would be use used for things such as wells and would allow the county to acquire the land at a lower cost. After a brief discussion the Planning Commission unanimously approved the ordinance revision.
Staff presented its second request of the evening for an ordinance revision. The proposed revisions are to Equine Uses. Staff is trying to bring definitions more in line with what is already going on the county. The revisions focused on clarifying the definition of Equestrian Facilities as well as requirements for boarding horses and giving small group lessons. The proposed revision would allow individuals to board horses and give private one on one lessons without obtaining a special use permit.
A. Wilkinson was concerned about the inclusion of the term horseback riding because it is also addressed under outdoor recreation. She also felt the definition of Equestrian Facilitations should be further clarified. Finally, she requested that the student to teacher ratio in private lessons be increased.
After careful review of the various provisions the Planning Commission did not feel ready to make the changes. B. Martin was particularly concerned that there might be unintended consequences from these revisions and suggested a deferral. Staff noted that there is full agenda ahead and requested that the deferral be indefinite. The deferral was accepted by the Planning Commission.
By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
Supervisor Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna) shocked fellow Board members when he informed them on July 15th that he was quitting his reelection bid. Later in the evening Mr. Allbaugh made it official in a public announcement at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Allbaugh cited his desire to spend more time with his family as a primary reason for leaving the race barely a month after he submitted his paperwork to run for reelection. Observers believed that Allbaugh was in for a tough reelection campaign against Planning Commissioner Joe Chesser.
Allbaugh praised Mr. Chesser on two occasions, stating his belief that Chesser would “do a good job” as his replacement. Allbaugh was elected handily to his first term and campaigned on a promise to build a new high school. The new high school currently is under construction and Allbaugh said in his remarks that he had accomplished what he set out to do [as supervisor].
Widely perceive as a strong ally of Board Chairman Marvin Moss (Columbia), his departure will make it more difficult for the Chairman to bend the Board to his agenda.
Only a highly organized write-in campaign could defeat Chesser at this point who now is running unopposed for the second Rivanna seat. The two Rivanna districts encompass the Lake Monticello area of the county.
During the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board deferred consideration of the proposed new Planned Urban Development (PUD) zone. Supervisor Gene Ott complained that they had not been adequately briefed on the proposal prior to the public hearing. He suggested that the Board consider it at a work session on July 22nd and then vote on the proposal at the August meeting.
In other matters, supervisors granted a special use permit for a nursery and one for a “mud bog”: a facility that will test drivers’ and trucks’ ability to complete a linear course without getting stuck.
The Board will only meet once in August, on the 5th, and then take its summer break for the rest of the month.
By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
- Motion to reallocate funds to cover the Parks and Recreation Department overage – Approved
- Motion to adopt the Capital Improvements Plan – Approved
- Resolution to accept and appropriate $140,000 grant from the Virginia Wireless E911 Services Board – Approved
Budget concerns were on everyone’s minds at the Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, July 14, 2009. First, the Board heard from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in their quarterly meeting where budget cuts and delays have become the norm. Next, the Board considered and approved the Capital Improvements Plan recommended by the Planning Commission. This was followed by a request for the reallocation of funds by the Parks and Recreation Department. Finally, the Board discussed the potential that the county would face additional cuts in state funding.
VDOT provided the Board of Supervisors with their quarterly report. VDOT expects to start work on the one lane bridge on 642 at the end of July. Mutton Hollow Road improvements have been delayed in order to conduct a hydraulic analysis; however, VDOT expects the money for the improvements to continue to be available. VDOT noted that stimulus package projects had taken priority and were slowing down some of the other planned projects.
Additionally, VDOT has limited mowing to one pass due to budget cuts. VDOT’s representative also noted that the state is starting to have difficulty meeting the match for federal funding and money has been transferred from other projects in order to meet matching requirements.
Board members understand that the current decline in state revenue has limited VDOT’s options when maintaining and improving roads. Nevertheless, board members brought up a number of safety concerns. Several board members mentioned various problems with the Route 29/33 intersection. They quickly learned that plans to improve the intersection have been delayed, although VDOT has installed a traffic camera at the light. S. Catalano also noted that there has been an increase in the number of motorcycle accidents on the mountainous portion of Route 33 and requested that better safety signs be installed.
Next the Board of Supervisors turned their attention to the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). Staff highlighted a few of the changes to the plan and noted that the total cost of the plan was about $1 million less than the prior fiscal year’s plan. Staff also noted that the next CIP would be completed earlier next year so that it can be considered when the Board is working on the budget. The Board expressed desire that future CIPs be more accurate so they can be used a planning tool. C. Schmitt was concerned about how cost estimates were obtained and if cost escalators were used for some of the long term projects. J. Allen noted that many agencies do not take this process seriously enough. The Board approved the current plan by a unanimous vote.
The Board then tackled another tough financial issue. The Parks and Recreation Department is over budget for FY 2009-2010. Portions of this overage may have been due to the unexpected success of some of the department’s programs. Other contributing factors included increased costs in program items such at equipment, uniforms and portable restroom rentals. J. Bates requested that the Board allow the department to transfer approximately $5000 from the line item for salary and wages in order to make up for the shortfall. Even with the reappropriation of funds department will still be short approximately $1600 which will need to be taken from the general fund.
Board Members were all displeased with the overage. However, they were split on how to handle the fact that the department was over budget. C. Schmitt advocated leniency after observing that the department had some of the money available and unused in the budget under the salary and wages line item. Further, he pointed out that the overage could be set off by the profits that the Park’s and Recreation Department had made on three bus trips to New York. Those three trips earned approximately a $1000 profit each which was placed into the general fund. S. Catalano and B. Peyton took a firmer approach noting that the profit did not change the fact that the department was over budget. M. Skeens observed that the money is due and that the Board did not have much choice on the matter.
C. Schmitt moved that the Department of Parks and Recreation be permitted to transfer the balance of their salaries line item and to appropriate the $1600 from the general fund to cover the remaining balance. He also noted that the Board expected the department to do everything necessary to make sure that this does not happen again.
M. Skeens, C. Schmitt and J. Allen voted to approve the motion. B. Peyton and S. Catalano voted against the motion.
Finally, in other matters from the Board, B. Peyton announced that the Governor has asked that localities preplan for budget cuts of 5%, 10% and 15%. All departments will be asked to create a plan in the upcoming weeks. B. Peyton noted that “cuts should be shared equally across all departments.” S. Catalano indicated that he expected more funding cuts when the General Assembly returns to session.