VDOT Updates Greene Supervisors

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

image

Joel DeNunzio

Joel DeNunzio, the resident engineer from Charlottesville’s office of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  covered two areas with the Greene County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (5/24)  – 1) the Secondary Six Year Plan for Fiscal Years 2016/17 through 2021/22 and 2) the normal quarterly update.

The Six Year Plan is a partnership between VDOT who provides funding and Greene County who prioritizes the projects as funds are available. The plan DeNunzio presented was unchanged from last year. The top project comes under the Rural Rustic Road program and is a project on Matthew Mills Road and it is fully funded for $1.39 million . In descending order, the other projects are Simms Road, Route 630 between Routes 810 and 631 for $210,000 in the next three years, and .55 miles of Beazley Road is scheduled for 2018-2020.

VDOT logoAs the Six Year Plan requires a Public Hearing and the first to address the Board was Bill Murray who lives on South River Road. He indicated that at the end of South River Road where the pavement ends there is about .4 miles where he and three other families live. When there is rain the road has ruts that VDOT has to come out and scrape to level the road which happens about every three months. His request is to have VDOT pave this section of road which would eliminate the need for the scraping every three months.

David Underwood brought up that he had previously requested on April 8, 2014 that that VDOT allocate funds for paving the road in his development and to add this project to the six year plan.

DeNunzio addressed the two questions that the public brought up. On the South River Road project he will see if it can be moved up on the prioritization and notify the Board to confirm that they want to reprioritize the project. On the second question it is not in the Rural Rustic Road list and therefore only 5% of the funds used on all other roads could be allocated for this project. This amounts to 5% of $60,000 or only $3,000. Not enough to do the project.

With no more questions from the Board, the Six Year Plan was approved unanimously. The meeting then moved on to the quarterly update from DeNunzio. The work scheduled on Route 607 should be completed by September, 2016. The Route 29 and Route 33 intersection project will be added to the list in July but he is unsure when funding will be placed in the six year plan.

The repaving on Route 33 and the Route 33 bypass is having trenching being added to widen the road to get additional width for bicycles – although not enough for a true bike lane.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked DeNunzio where to find the Route 607 and Route 29 project on the VDOT website – DeNunzio said he would email her the link. Board Chair Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked when a traffic study for the Ford Avenue and Business Route 33 intersection would be undertaken and DeNunzio indicated that it will be completed by next week.

Martin then asked DeNunzio a question that a resident of the county had asked – at the Route 33 and Route 33 Bypass there is trash – dirt, debris, etc. – and he wanted to know if the trash is VDOT’s and, if so, can it be cleaned up.  DeNunzio indicated he would check into the intersection and see if VDOT can do the cleanup.

Finally, Martin congratulated DeNunzio on all of the work that VDOT is doing in Greene County however he asked that VDOT do a better job in communicating their schedule of work. DeNunzio indicated that the information is sent out weekly and that the information is passed on to fire, rescue and the school system.  Martin indicated that there have been some changes to the schedule that were not communicated and asked if VDOT could correct the information as the changes occur.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

WarGames and Albemarle’s Proffer Paradox

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL  (adapted from Comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission May 24)

By. Neil Williamson, President

war-games1Tonight, you will be hearing from newly appointed County Attorney Greg Kamptner regarding the Virginia State Code changes and how this will impact your ability to calculate, collect and legally defend the use of so called “voluntary” proffers in the future.

The entire exercise reminds me  of the penultimate scene in the 1983 move WarGames (more on that later).

To be clear, despite being on your agenda, the Free Enterprise Forum does not believe this issue is within your areas of expertise and we believe you are being used by the Board of Supervisors for political cover.

The Free Enterprise Forum has long contended that cash proffers are nothing more than a “Welcome  Stranger Tax” that provides an unreliable and relatively insignificant revenue source for infrastructure capacity improvement.  While we actively supported the new legislation, we continue to believe the elimination of cash proffers is good public policy and good fiscal policy.

Katherine Hafner of The Virginian-Pilot has a good wrap up of the new legislation which goes into effect July 1st.

Introduced by Sens. Mark Obenshain, R- Harrisonburg, and Richard Saslaw, D- Fairfax County, the legislation prohibits localities from asking for proffers deemed “unreasonable” or not directly related to the impacts of a development itself.

The state proffer system, enacted in the mid-1970s, started with modest goals, allowing landowners to chip in for road improvements and the like when new homes appeared likely to strain city services.

The system has evolved into a form of taxation on the industry and new homeowners, said Mike Toalson, CEO of the Homebuilders Association of Virginia.

“The bill was brought forward to rebalance it back to a system that would make it more fair,” said Toalson, who worked with legislators.

The law stipulates that developers should offer money or improvements only for impacts “specifically attributable” to their projects.

The proffers are also now restricted to core public facilities such as schools or sewer systems. Toalson said his association saw some cities extract money from developers for unrelated, offsite enterprises such as retirement homes.

“We’re not going to be the bank anymore for whatever you might want within your capital improvements program,” he said.

As you can see from your Capital Improvement Plan Public Hearing this evening,  Albemarle County has failed to maintain the concurrence of infrastructure needed to support its existing population.  This failure is not the result of newly rezoned property but is in fact due to a lack of a political will to spend the money required to enact the vision stated in your much vaunted Comprehensive Plan.

Despite having no budgetary control, this Planning Commission has often raised concerns regarding the amount of work being placed on limited staff resources.  Mr. Lafferty, in particular, has raised this issue in many of your discussions.

Reading the new proffer legislation, we believe it would be irresponsible for Albemarle staff to move forward without a determination of the total staff cost associated with the calculation, collection and defense of the cash proffer policy for each and every rezoning.  The Proffer Paradox is that the likely revenue generated from a standard size rezoning in Albemarle County will be exceeded by the staff costs associated with obtaining the proffer.

WarGames-are we still playingThis is where WarGames comes in.

In the climactic scene, where a rouge computer is running all the models for thermonuclear war, as it is quickly decoding the numbers needed to launch the missiles – it determines that the only way to win is not to play – will Albemarle be smart enough to see this as the solution to their cash proffer policy? Or will the potentially empty proffer piggy bank be too alluring to refuse?

Stay Tuned.

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits: MGM

Fluvanna Gets Brewery and Assistant Administrator

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County is about to get its first brewery after unanimous approval from the Board of Supervisors.

foamy-pint-smallAntioch Brewery is looking to get started as a home industry on Branch Road. The brewery has spent a year testing and learning from around the area because it didn’t have approval yet.

The brewery will not have a tasting room but the goal is to eventually have a public tap room in a Fluvanna location but not the same property.

The capacity of the home industry allows 40 gallons a batch and approximately two batches a day. It will use well water and representatives of the organization think the Fluvanna well water helps the taste of the trial runs.

“I don’t see any adverse effects to the neighbors,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District) about the application.

Eric Dahl

Eric Dahl

In other business, the county has a deputy county administrator. Eric Dahl, the finance director, was promoted to deputy county administrator and finance director.

The county last had an assistant county administrator in 2010 when Shelly Wright was the assistant county administrator to Cabell Lawton. When Lawton resigned in early 2010, Wright served as interim. Wright left later in that year and the job was never filled.

With the county trimming the budget to bare bones in the last several years, adding a job of at least $100,000 in salary plus benefits never made it past the, “that seems nice” phase.

Dahl will get a total raise of $12,000 with an initial bump from the county immediately then an additional two percent when the state raises take effect in December. Dahl will make $82,000. [clarification 11:52 5/24 NW]

According to county administrator Steve Nichols, Madison County is advertising a job of the same title for $85,000. Dahl was the full time finance director with a budget analyst also in his department. That position is currently vacant.

Supervisors voted 3-1 to promote Dahl with Weaver voting against it. Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) was absent.

“I have some reservations,” said Weaver. He felt raising someone so

Weaver2014

Supervisor Don Weaver

significantly in one year was too much. Weaver regularly wants items like these to be discussed in the budget calendar.

Nichols already started grooming Dahl for the new job by sending him to an out of county meeting that Nichols usual attends. The week preceding Memorial Day, Dahl is the county administrator designate as Nichols will be on vacation.

The next meeting of the supervisors is June 1 at 4 p.m. Supervisors also scheduled a work session before the 7 p.m. June 15 meeting. The work session will be on water infrastructure policy, economic development and revenue enhancement.

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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: BeerLegends.com, LinkedIn, Fluvanna County

Greene Repair Shop Seeks Revision to SUP

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In October, 2014 Ronald Snoddy got approval from the Greene County Board of Supervisors for a Special Use Permit to expand his vehicle restoration business at his home on Matthew Mills Road . His plan was to construct a new building of 6,000 SF – but it never happened.

Snoddy has since revised his expansion plan and decided to expand his business but not by constructing a new structure, he is requesting to add on to the existing building on the property. However, the expansion puts the addition to the back of his property – a different location than the new building previously approved.

The real issue seems to be the paint booth and the concern with noise and fumes that it may generate.  Snoddy indicated that he operates the booth from 10am to 4pm but he would like to expand the operation to 7am to 4 pm.

Three people addressed the commission during the public hearing. The first speaker indicated that he is an expert in the paint booth equipment and is available to answer any questions about the process. He indicated that the equipment is inside and the air is filtered several times before it is released outside. It is possible that the process could be modified to lower the noise to the outside.

The other two speakers were Snoddy’s neighbors and spoke in opposition to the Special Use Permit (SUP16-002) . Skip Forbes lives behind Snoddy and he can smell the fumes from the paint process. He has measured the noise from Snoddy’s business and said it registers 69 DB. He can also hear grinding and pounding when he is outside of his home. Finally, he is concerned about the impact the business will have on his property value. Michael Dubell pointed out that Snoddy did not do what the original Special Use Permit was for so how can he amend the Special Use Permit?

The commissioners then discussed the request. Commissioner John McCloskey asked about the expansion site.  Snoddy stated he put the mechanicals inside to cut down the noise and his wife can barely hear his equipment in her beauty salon which is located in their home.   McCloskey asked how the paint fumes are handled and Snoddy explained that the fumes pass through multiple air filters before being released to the air.

Chairman Jay Willer stated that Snoddy is not in compliance with the Special Use Permit from 2014 and this new request would have to be approved to be in compliance.  Snoddy said he had no intent to build 60 x 100 ft. building which was approved in 2014 but may do a 20 x 40 ft. addition.

Commissioner Vic Schaff made a motion to recommend denial of the request since the original Special Use Permit was not followed and the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the Special Use Permit with Commissioner Frank Morris voting in favor. As in all cases, the action will go to the Board of Supervisors for their review and final action. 

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene County Youth Center Goes To Bat For Financial Support

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the May 10th  Greene County  Board of Supervisors meeting the 2016/17 budget was approved. At the same meeting, Greene County Youth Center (GCYC) President,  David Mack addressed the Board about their future infrastructure  needs.

imageMack explained that the GCYC is an all volunteer organization headed by a 12 member Board of Directors serving rotating three year terms. The center provides spring and fall baseball and softball for over 300 youth. The focus of their request is for financial assistance to  improve their athletic facilities off Route 33 west of US29, behind the Ruckersville fire hall.

GCYC’s main source of funds is from fundraising efforts such as the recent Bingo event which raised $6,000 and the concessions at the games which raise from $25,000 to $30,000 per year. The major facility improvement this year has been to overhaul the batting cages and enclosing them. The Swing

The next major task on their infrastructure improvement agenda is to refurbish 3 of the 4 ball fields at an estimated cost of $25,000 per field plus providing lights for the fields at a cost of $100,000. This year the 12 & Under District tournament will be held in Ruckersville which will attract many teams from outside of Greene County.

The GCYC is requesting financial assistance to help finance these projects for the enjoyment of the youth of Greene County.  The GCYC believes their programs provide important services to the citizens.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) asked when the Greene County Parks and Recreation stopped providing this activity. Mack believed it was approximately a dozen years ago and at that point the county department  only offered t-ball for the very young.

Supervisor Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked about the direct costs to the players. Mack said that player fees range from $75 to $95 and there is a financial aid program to assist those unable to pay.

In terms of the cost to GCYC to provide the different level of programs, t-ball is the least expensive with no umpires and a much lower level of insurance. The teenagers require an insurance cost of more than three times that of the t-ball program.

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) thanked Mack for making the presentation and reminded him to bring these issues up at the next (FY18) budget cycle. It should be noted that the FY17 budget just approved has no funds appropriated for GCYC.

In a related note, the only speaker from the public at the beginning of the meeting asked that with all of the funds needed in the school system that the Board of Supervisors should not provide funds to organizations outside the county’s operation.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County, Greene County Youth Center, Frydl  Campaign

Ripping of the Rio GSI Band-Aid

By. Neil Williamson, President

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

“This is gonna hurt” — Taking off a Band Aid, you know there will be pain.  There are two diametrically different schools of thought regarding bandage removal: slowly easing it off the wound, or ripping it of swiftly.  The US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) project is clearly the latter of the two.

In both the skinned knee and the road construction project, the merit of the “rip it off” option is reduced duration (if not intensity) of pain.

Please let me explain what I have learned about this ‘short term’ pain which will start May 22nd.

As it has every night in recent months, at 9 pm on Sunday May 22nd the U.S. 29/Rio Road intersection will close to cross traffic; the difference is this time it will not reopen at 6 am on May 24th.  Vehicles will be allowed to turn right onto Rio and Rio traffic will be allowed to turn right onto U.S. 29 but the cross over will close. On U.S.  29 two southbound lanes and three northbound lanes will be maintained between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

A milling crew in action

Starting the night of the 22nd, the construction crews will begin digging out the asphalt (about three feet deep) and earth required to construct the bridge in the center of the intersection.  Two different milling crews will utilize two ten hour shifts and a total of thirty trucks to move the 60,000 yards of dirt and millings from the Grade Separated Interchange project up US 29 to the Berkmar Extended project where it will be stockpiled.

 

The dump truck fleet will be coordinated by a contractor spotter that will have the ability to stop traffic at the existing temporary light at Berkmar Drive.  Trucks will cue in the construction area on the southbound side and when the spotter turns the light red for US 29 traffic, the trucks will complete a U turn to head North on US 29 up to Towncenter drive and then take Dickerson South to Earlysville Road and then Rio Mills Road.
The clearing will start in the center but then alternate between the north and south side of the bridge.  It is important to note that two lanes Southbound and three lanes Northbound will remain open during from 6 am – 9 pm.  At night, the lane closures will be more significant (similar to today’s nigh time pattern).

As the excavators are doing their work on either side of the bridge, carpenters will be utilizing pre-tied rebar to install lagging for the retaining walls. As the earth on either side of the bridge are appropriately dropped, the clearing of earth under the bridge deck can begin and the piers that have already been poured (under the steel plates we have been driving over) can be exposed.

 

VDOT bridge engineer Brad Chapman inspects a bridge abutment under the construction of US29/Rio.  The abutment is covered by steel plates during the day

All 60,000 yards of dirt and millings will be cleared from the site by June 15, 2016.  To be clear, a fleet of 30 trucks will be going up and down US29 for 20 hours everyday for 23 days.  It will be an intensive, albeit short, clearing period.

 

The plan calls for the bridge beams to be placed starting on May 26th (a mere 39 hours after the intersection closes), with the concrete for the deck itself to be poured on top of the beams in June.

Everyone involved in this project has a high level of confidence in the safety as well as the integrity of the plans.  It is the consensus opinion that the contractor Lane/Corman will complete the majority of the work ahead of the contract requirements.

The Five Million Dollar Day.  Based on our analysis of the documents presented, and the level of confidence expressed by the contractor, the project administrator and engineers working on the project, Free Enterprise Forum believes the contractor will substantially complete the project on or before August 5, 2016 thus qualifying for the $6,829,209 incentive, that drops to $1,854,361 on August 6, 2015.

To qualify for the financial incentive, the contractor must meet a number of specific objectives including the ability for all lanes of the new interchange to be open for daytime traffic (6 am  – 9 pm).  This means not all the work will be done, but all the work that requires daytime closure will be completed.  It is anticipate the nighttime lane closures (such as we have now) will continue through December 2016.

While the Free Enterprise Forum remains steadfastly opposed to the Rio GSI, we have been impressed with the level of detail, safety and professionalism of the contractor.  We are also supportive of the financial incentive that shortens the construction period and lessens the pain for all involved.

Once more with feeling, we supported the other Route 29 solution projects (Berkmar Extended, Hillsdale Extended, US29 Widening, US29/250 Interchange improvements, Synchronized lights) but we believe the community would have been better served without the Rio GSI. We continue to believe citizens do not know Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan calls for 7 of these “intersection improvements”. Whether they admit it or not the expressway is coming.

That being said, if you are going to rip a Band Aid off, you know the pain is coming,  the quicker you do it the better.

Respectfully Submitted,
Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits: VDOT

Greene Approves Budget, Sets New Tax Rate

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Historically when the Greene County Board of Supervisors meet to discuss the new budget and tax rates, it draws a large turnout and the meeting is moved to the Performing Arts Center at the high school. It starts an hour early and goes late into the night. This year the plan was the same for the meeting on April 26th, except only one speaker addressed the Board.

Greene had advertised a personal property tax rate of $.775/$100 of assessed value – an increase of $.025/$100 or 3.3%. Chairman Bill Martin asked County Administrator John Barkley to outline the process that brought them to the $.775 rate

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John Barkley

Barkley indicated that revenues for the current year are on target and there is a healthy reserve fund balance. He was complimentary of the county departments since 21 departments presented reduced budget requests. The increase of $.025/$100 will generate additional revenue of $460,000. In terms of the impact to a homeowner – a home assessed at $200,000 would require $50 in additional property taxes. All other tax rates will stay the same in the county.

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Sharon Mack

The meeting then shifted to comments from the public. The only person to sign up was Greene County School Board Chair Sharon Mack. She thanked the Board for their support and explained why the school’s requested near a 3% increase. She indicated that the main driver is that teachers have been budgeted a 3% increase and a 5% increase for has been budgeted for teacher assistants in order to remain competitive in attracting and keeping good teachers and their assistants. In closing, she appreciated that the Board of Supervisors fully funded the schools request.

With the public hearing closed, the discussion then shifted back to the Board members. Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) said that in addition to the 21 departments reducing costs, 16 had no increase and some had less than $1,000 increase. The budget addresses current and future needs, especially the water impoundment.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) agreed with Herring and expanded on the school situation. In the past 4-5 years there has been an increase of 14% in number of students with fewer teachers rather than adding teachers. His other main comment was that Greene doesn’t act like D.C. – in Greene we invest in key functions especially for the long term, such as water and sewer and water impoundment.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) has seen Greene grow over the years and he stated that the school system is the future of Greene County and it is playing catch up. We have major issues to address in the water impoundment and the fact that the schools don’t have enough capacity for the growth we’ve experienced. imageHe also highlighted the poor emergency communication capability where a firefighter was in a burning building a year ago and he couldn’t talk to people 200 feet away. It almost cost him his life.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville)  indicated that during her orientation she heard of counties raising their personal property tax rates more than $.10/$100. She was glad that Greene could hold to only a $.025 tax increase.

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Bill Martin

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) believes that the table is set for Greene County. The county has a great school system but we need more commercial expansion to increase our tax base. The water impoundment is the lynch pin to the county’s progress. However, the budget incrementally adds over $680,000 in new expenditures (the largest component being $170,000 for the regional jail) but only has new revenue of $460,000. The additional $120,000 would equate to an additional tax rate increase of $.012/$100 or a total tax rate of $.037/$100 of assessed value. This imbalance caused Martin to not support the budget.

Cox made a motion to approve the budget and the tax rate Frydl seconded the motion which passed of 4-1 (Martin opposed). At the first Board of Supervisors meeting in May, the Board will vote to appropriate funds for fiscal year 2017.

However, several questions came out of the budget process……..

1) how much Reserve Fund is left vs. the balance the auditors recommend having?

2) does the county have enough cash on hand going forward to get through the low periods right before the semiannual personal property tax payments?

3) should there be a “cash only” minimum balance in order to be able to pay the bills every month?

4) how should Greene look to finance the large, looming expenditures such as the water impoundment and school expansion?

Finance Director/Deputy County Administrator, Tracy Morris provided what the Reserve Balance has been the past four years (calculated at September 30th, the end of the fiscal year):

Fiscal Year Balance

% Decline

% Cumulative Decline

2012 $19,633,000

2013 $17,446,000

11.1%

11.1%

2014 $15,731,000

9.8%

19.9%

2015 $14,412,000

8.4%

26.6%

In the FY2017 budget included a $2,850,000 decline in the Reserve Balance to balance the budget. The FY2016 budget projected a decline in the Reserve Balance of $3,067,000 and with these amounts being used the 2016 and 2017 estimated Reserved Balance would be:

Projected Balance

% Decline

% Cumulative Decline (since 2012)

FY2016

15.6%

42.2%

FY2017

14.5%

56.7%

Two keys to remember are that the Reserve Balance is not all Cash. It is made up of all Balance Sheet accounts – both cash and non-cash. Morris also indicated that all investments of cash have been liquidated. In addition, Board Policy indicates a goal of maintaining a minimum reserve Balance of 15% of income plus 1 month of expense  which seems to be in jeopardy.

There has been discussion that an additional benchmark might be provided to operate the county on a sound financial basis and that would be to have a “cash only” minimum balance. This lead to ask how much cash does the county have which Morris directed to the County Treasurer, Stephanie Deal.

Deal provided the following detail of the cash balance by year in the two months (June and December) before personal property taxes are collected.

FY2012 FY2013 FY2014 FY2015 FY2016
April $8,855 $9,925 $6,873 $7,712 TBD
May $10,851 $13,951 $11,746 $12,050 TBD
October $8,999 $10,758 $8,389 $8,777 $7,794
November $10,869 $13,878 $11,026 $11,461 $10,829

(All numbers in thousands) *Fiscal Year ends 9/30

The trend shows a steady decline in the cash balance after peaking in 2013, similar, but not as steep as the decline in the Reserve Balance over the same period. May and November showing increases in the cash balance indicate that a large portion of the county pays their personal property taxes in the month before they are due.

As for Frydl’s comment that Greene County is not like Washington, D.C. he is currently correct – Greene got out of borrowing that plagued the county in the past. There is concern that there are major projects on the horizon – the water impoundment project for over $40,000,000 and the study currently being conducted on the physical needs of the school system – price to be determined.

The “good news” about the schools teaching more students with fewer teachers while on the surface sounds good but it is a concern whether it is sustainable. Cuts have been made to administrative staff causing teachers to take on more “non-teaching” tasks with growing classrooms. The combination of these issues raises concerns whether Greene County schools will keep their good teachers and help attract businesses to the county.

Lastly, the 2017 budget includes $2,836,000 of Debt Service. The “real” good news is that this amount declines annually the next nine years (2018 to 2026). Absent any new debt being acquired, starting in 2027 the annual decline jumps to $1,952,000 (in one year) and gets bigger the next 10 years to $2,224,000 in 2036. The total decline for the 11 year period is $19,288,000 and for the total 20 year period the total reduction will be nearly $27 million.

The chart below shows the trend line going down – significantly in the out years providing a source of revenue within the existing debt structure.

image

Will this reduction in existing debt service be enough to fund all the projects needed to be done in Greene? Probably not, but it is a good start for the future.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County, Greene County Record, Martin Campaign

Albemarle and VDOT Create US29+Rio Lemonade

By. Neil Williamson, President

While the Free Enterprise Forum lost the battle against the US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI), we have found Albemarle County (and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)) to be working exceedingly well together and significantly positively impacting the challenging business environment due to the roadway construction.

In the most recent Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel meeting, former VDOT Commissioner and PDAP facilitator Philip Shucet indicated the next phase of the Rio GSI project, where the intersection will close for up to 103 days,  “Isn’t going to be a birthday party”.  This might be the understatement of the year.

The closure of the intersection (right turns will still be permitted) will have an impact on businesses in the area.  A little over a year ago the Free Enterprise Forum asked a simple question regarding the business assistance program for US29 Rio Grade Separated Interchange:  US29 Business Survival – Will Albemarle Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

In short, VDOT and Albemarle have answered the call to make lemonade out of the challenging construction period.

The get around guide produced by VDOT (and printed locally) is quite good and available at local merchants.

An illustrated map of the Route 29 corridor.

Beyond being a helpful tool, these are not being handed out by a team of interns that do not know how to answer business owner questions.  VDOT Communications Director Lou Hatter is personally delivering these maps to retailers, hoteliers in the impacted footprint.

VDOT also has print, radio and television advertisements running in significant rotation, letting people know that the intersection will be closed but access to all businesses and neighborhoods will be maintained.

Rio 29 logoConcurrent, and coordinated with VDOT’s informational efforts, Albemarle County, working with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is running radio, television, and print advertisements focused on the businesses in the Rio and 29 footprint.  The message that Route 29 is “Open for Business” during construction at Rio Road.

To be clear, The Free Enterprise Forum fought the Rio GSI because it is either the addition of a 2 inch pipe on a 1/2 inch line or it is the first step toward an expressway that will divide the community.  We lost that fight.

US29 Rio April 29 2016VDOT is taking a “tear the band aid off” approach to the construction plans for Rio GSI getting as much done as quickly as possible.  The contractor’s current trajectory seems to have the project reopening to daytime traffic on or before August 5 (and earning the contractor a $6.8 Million incentive).

Today, we are appreciative that Albemarle County and VDOT were good to their word in supporting the businesses that are most impacted by the construction.

We still believe there will be significant economic dislocation of some businesses (ie: Better Living), we also believe the combined efforts of VDOT and Albemarle County significant business outreach, advertising and communication efforts may soften the negative impacts.

I like lemonade.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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 PC Chooses to Ignore State Law, Again

By. Neil Williamson, President

go-to-jail-photo-credit-myanimelist.net_.jpgIn tonight’s (4/26) Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting the commissioners again voted that their opinion on Cash Proffers was more important than state law (and the staff opinion).  And this wasn’t even the first time this year that they made such a vote (Albemarle Planning Commission Tells Supervisors To Violate State Law)

Add to this “fun house of mirrors” that this very same Planning Commission voted 5 – 0 on a Resolution of Intent to consider amending the Comprehensive Plan by repealing the Cash Proffer Policy.  This issue will come to the Planning Commission as a public hearing on May 10th.

I’d like to be able to explain all of this — but I am at a loss.

As a reminder what is at stake is a reduction of cash proffer of ~$15,000 per single family home in rezoned residential housing.

Here is the justification the Planning Commission made to support their first arrogant state code violating vote in February:

By a vote of 7:0, the Planning Commission recommends denial of ZMA-2015-09 Spring Hill Village Proffer Amendment for the following reasons:

1. Some reduction in cash proffer amounts may be in order based on looking at the school enrollments and capacities; but, the Commission at this point does not know what the reduced amount would be.
2. The recommendation of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) of this reduced amount has not yet been fully analyzed by the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors; and, the additional information is still needed that was requested a number of weeks ago.
3. A full analysis should be conducted of the actual costs to the county of going forward with this development, and
4. The Board of Supervisors should set a new proffer policy, not use this project to set a precedent, and possibly consider repealing the current cash proffer policy while that is undertaken.

#2 is perhaps the most outlandish of these.  The proffer change was driven by a 2013 change in state code.  A full three years late Albemarle still has not obtained “the additional information still needed that was requested a number of weeks ago”?????  Based on this logic, the applicant is being punished because Albemarle County did not do their job.

In the meeting, the commissioners discussion started with school impacts and Commissioner Mac Lafferty again stated his belief that the action should go directly to the Board rather than the Planning Commission.  The Free Enterprise Forum agrees with Lafferty’s position.

Commissioner Bruce Dotson suggested the applicant, who is selling product at $600,000+, can afford the proffer.  The applicant indicated they can afford it but told the commission the previous proffer amount is now in violation of State law. The Free Enterprise Forum believes the fact that a project can afford it is not germane to the argument.

Tonight’s vote was unanimous 7-0 to recommend denial of the cash proffer amendment.

The repetitive arrogance of the Albemarle County Planning Commission to determine they are above the Code of Virginia is astounding.

Remembering the Planning Commission is merely advisory to the Board of Supervisors, the true question is will the current Board of Supervisors also choose to willfully violate state law?

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

TJPDC Discusses Transportation With Greene PC

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Unlike urban areas in Virginia, rural localities do not have federally mandated Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) instead their long range transportation planning is doTJPDCne via the state’s planning districts working directly with planning commissions and staff.

Wood Hudson, Senior Environmental Planner of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (TJPDC), addressed Greene County’s  Planning Commission at their April meeting. His goal was to inform the Planning Commission on the current Rural Long Range Transportation Planning (RLRTP) activities in Greene and to solicit feedback from the planning commission.

Several years ago, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) partnered with 20 Planning District Commissions to review their rural transportation programs. They developed Long Range Transportation Plans for rural areas to compliment plans in urban areas (MPOs). These included:

  • Identify transportation deficiencies and recommendations
  • Assist with comprehensive plan updates and traffic impact studies
  • Evaluate the effects of land use and development on the surrounding network
  • Establish programming of transportation improvements
  • Provide content and guidance for statewide transportation plans

The RLRTP is in the process of their update every five years to help serve as a valuable tool to attract dwindling transportation funds. Feedback from planning commissions is requested to help identify a county’s needs. The rest of the process should take 6-9 months so Greene’s feedback would be useful in the next month.

TJPDC has been working with local planning staff and VDOT to draft a project list. Much of this work is completed through TJPDC’s Rural Transportation Planning Technical (R-Tech) Committee.  The 2016 Chairman of R-Tech is Bart Svoboda – Greene County’s Planning Director.

Hudson provided a map of the county and project list divided into three categories – 1) new projects, 2) existing current projects and 3) existing projects scheduled in the future and asked that the commission provide feedback on the inclusion or exclusion of each project.

Greene Long Range Trans Plan

The existing project list includes work on US 33 to Rockingham County, US 33 from Route 230 to US 33 Bypass, US 29 from Albemarle County line to US 33 and US 29 at VA 616 – Carpenters Mill Road.

Chairman Jay Willer asked if the list of projects had been prioritized and who would determine the priorities VDOT or Greene County?

Hudson indicated that the projects will be ranked in the future after the list is completed. Hudson also said that the prioritization would be VDOT’s decision but the county can influence that decision based on their requirements.

Willer thanked Mr. Hudson for addressing the planning commission and looks forward to seeing projects completed in the next few years.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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