Albemarle’s RAIN TAX Bureaucracy

By. Neil Williamson, President

PrintIn preparation for an April 11th work session, Albemarle County has released a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) regarding their proposed Stormwater Utility Fee (AKA RAIN TAX).  Generally, we support good information getting out to the public on such an important issue.  Unfortunately there were some clear political spin to some of the answers – not untruths, but spin.  This is the first in a series of blog posts to unpack the answers.

Today’s question ‘Will the stormwater utility result in the creation of a new bureaucracy?’ 

Albemarle’s FAQ’s response:

A stormwater utility will not result in the creation of a separate organization or a new County department. Revenues from the utility will be used to support existing staff and mandated programs related to stormwater management and water resource protection, as well as some program enhancements to better achieve County needs and goals [link to below “New Programs”]. Administration of the utility is expected to require the equivalent of about one-half additional staff. [Emphasis added-nw]

To be fair, like a good politician, Albemarle did not answer the yes/no question posed.  Perhaps we have a different definition of bureaucracy.  Merriam-Webster defines it as follows:


In the answer above,  Albemarle references the revenues will be used to “support existing staff”; true but not complete.  The program budget projects staff INCREASES from the current  ~16.5 Full Time Equivalents (FTE) to 23.4 staff in FY28 (nearly a 42% increase).  But note there is not a new department.

Albemarle’s Stormwater Utility Program’s 10 year budget is $52 Million dollars But note there is no new department.

The program budget approved by the Board of Supervisors included two line items that we think of as bureaucratic (absent the fee they are not needed):  Program Management/Administration and Regulation and Enforcement.

Albemarle County’s program budget (chart below) shows that roughly 1/3 of every dollar generated by the RAIN TAX foes to these two line items.  That between $1.2 – $2 million dollars annually.   The Free Enterprise Forum contends absent this funding mechanism, those funds could be used for stormwater infrastructure if they were not being spent on administration and enforcement.

2018-03-15 14_00_44-Rain Tax Figures - Excel

Let’s the question for the class; ‘Will the stormwater utility result in the creation of a new bureaucracy?’

PrintYES!  The Free Enterprise Forum believes the RAIN TAX will create a new bureaucracy (but not a new department).  The storm water mitigation credits allowed by the RAIN TAX will need to be verified at installation and regularly inspected to ensure proper compliance.  In addition, the mapping services required to make parcel corrections and other adjustments will be most significant in the first five years.  While we can understand some considering this work a part of the stormwater protection, we contend this specific, bureaucratic work would not be required if this funding mechanism was not used.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “A bureaucracy by any other name would smell as sweet”

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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


Fluvanna Supervisors Work Budget & Encourage Economic Development

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The local government budget season is nearing its climax. On March 14, the Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors will meet to pick a tax rate to advertise.  Once advertised, the rate can be reduced but it can not be increased.

BOS FRONT (L-R): Mozell Booker (Vice Chair), Patricia Eager REAR (L-R): Don Weaver, Mike Sheridan (Chair), Tony O'Brien

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors

The supervisors will meet for a work session at 7 p.m. but expect a long night. This will be the first time the supervisors go line by line to determine what should and should not be in the budget.

The county administrator proposed nearly a three cent increase in real property tax in his budget. Steve Nichols didn’t include any additional money for the schools in his budget.

The School Board unanimously passed a budget that requested an additional $1 million in local funding. The largest portion of the request includes $700,000 for salary increases.

Nichols’ budget also doesn’t any salary increases for the county staff. It does include one additional staff member but the departments requested four new positions.

The county’s budget situation will only get tighter in future years without new development. The proposed LKQ salvage yard is estimated to bring in about $300,000 of tax revenue, the equivalent of a penny of real estate taxes for all land owners.

The supervisors have actively followed staff recommendations to make development easier. Besides the Shovel Ready Sites program passing, the county made a change to collection of the land use back taxes for the Zion Crossroads community planning area.

The old rule was when a property changed zoning, it was out of the land use program. The owner would then have to pay five years of back taxes. The recently passed rule is the landowner can request a zoning change, the zoning change can occur but paying five years worth of taxes is not collected until the use of the land changes.

The problem was previously landowners trying to sell and develop land had to pay for zoning changes plus the five years of taxes before even listed the property for sale. Now the landowner can factor in paying the taxes into the sale of the property. Plus, the “five years of back taxes” may include the new zoning. Commercial land is valued higher than agriculture.

Supervisors also reduced fees to rezone. Applications to rezone now will only cost $1,000. Previously they cost $1,000 plus $50 per acre. If a property owner has multiple parcels to rezone but submits one application, it is still just $1,000.

The next supervisor meeting is the budget work session on March 14. It is shaping up to be a long one, bring snacks if coming. Cookies will probably be available.

The 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 Credits: Fluvanna County

Where do Proffers Come From?

By. Neil Williamson, PresidentSee the source image

As Virginia localities prepare to gather to discuss the possible use of impact fees and proffers to offset the cost of delivering government services, the Free Enterprise Forum thought it appropriate to reprint a portion of our Contradictory Consequences report regarding where proffers come from.  Without further ado below is our version of the “Birds and the fees” talk.

Cash proffers are a form of conditional zoning in Virginia. Conditional zoning was enabled to address the inadequacy of traditional zoning methods and procedures when competing and incompatible land uses conflict. Virginia Code § 15.2-2296.

In 2016, the Virginia legislature vastly curtailed the use of “voluntary” proffers.   In a blog post, John Foote from the Walsh, Colucci Lubely & Walsh law firm wrote:

The legislation was intended to effect a significant change in the use of proffers, principally to assure that proffers mitigate impacts “specifically attributable” to new residential development and to limit their perceived misuse as a means of raising funds from a single industry for public improvements more appropriately funded by general taxation.

Thus, under the new law, a proffer (whether onsite or offsite) will be deemed reasonable only if it mitigates an impact “specifically attributable” to a new residential development or new residential use (as those terms are defined in the statute). In general, the law applies to property that requires a rezoning or proffer condition amendment to allow for new residential development, whether the development is exclusively residential or a mixed-used project with a residential component.

In addition, offsite proffers with respect to the effects of a development on identified public facilities, including offsite transportation, public safety, schools, and parks, must not only meet the “specifically attributable” requirement, but the development must create “a need, or an identifiable portion of a need, for one or more public facility improvements in excess of existing public facility capacity at the time of the rezoning or proffer condition amendment.” For offsite proffers, each development or use must receive a “direct and material benefit” from any such improvement. Proffers for operating expenses of public facilities are precluded, but the locality may “base its assessment of public facility capacity on projected impacts specifically attributable” to the new development or use.

Lower land values, lower property tax revenue – In concept, cash proffers are voluntary payments made by landowners to mitigate the impacts of changing the prescriptive zoning on their property. The concept works best when the rezoned value exceeds the increased cost of the cash proffer combined with the other increased costs of rezoning the property (time, additional proffers, carrying costs, etc.). Such a symbiotic relationship is difficult to achieve with automatic inflation increasing cash proffers and fragile, fickle housing markets not keeping pace.

Many believe the increased cost of a cash proffer will be borne by the end user, the new homebuyer. While this can and does occur, it can only occur in a housing market that has constant upward motion. Affordable housing is a critical issue in all localities and in rising markets cash proffers further drive up new (and by extension existing) home prices.

Basic economic theory indicates any increased cost must be paid by an entity that is a part of the transaction. Economic theory of the firm begins with theory of production. The firm is a supplier in market for goods and services. It has to adjust its production to satisfy the demand curve of its customers at profit. It is assumed that the firm or the owner of the firm always strives to produce efficiently, or at lowest cost. He will always attempt to produce the maximum level of output for a given dose of inputs avoiding waste whenever possible.[1]

If prices do not continually increase, some believe the proffer cost will be extracted from the developer (often referred to as “speculative enterprise”) profit margin. In reality, almost all projects require some level of financing to complete their development. In recent years, the level of financial analysis (or pro forma) required to obtain such financing have increased; therefore the “developer margin” must be maintained. If the margin is not retained, the project does not obtain the required financing to move forward; no cash proffer is paid.

The economic definition of the “production function” is the relationship between the maximum amount of output that can be produced and the inputs required to make that output. From the production function, the cost curves of a firm for each of its products can be determined. Contribution of each factor of production i.e., land, capital is also determined from production functions. The price that a factor of production will command in the market will be determined by the production functions from the demand side.[2]

The theory of production decisions in the short run, as just outlined, leads to two conclusions (of fundamental importance throughout the field of economics) about the responses of business firms to the market prices of the commodities they produce and the factors of production they buy or hire: (1) the firm will produce the quantity of its product for which the marginal cost is equal to the market price and (2) it will purchase or hire factors of production in such quantities that the price of the commodity produced multiplied by the marginal product of the factor will be equal to the cost of a unit of the factor. The first explains the supply curves of the commodities produced in an economy. Though the conclusions were deduced within the context of a firm that uses two factors of production, they are clearly applicable in general.[3]

According to the production theory, if the end user and developer are not available to accept the cost of the cash proffer it is the land owner, whose land will be discounted by the increased entitlement costs that cash proffers create. In turn, such reduced land values reduce the locality’s real estate tax assessed value and revenue (absent an increase in the tax rate).

And that my friends is where proffers (and impact fees) come from.  Aren’t you glad you asked.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

[1] Management Theory Review, Dr. Narayana Rao, December 11, 2011

[2] Ibid

[3] Encyclopedia Britanica, Dr. Robert Dorfman, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Harvard University, retrieved 2/15/2013

Albemarle’s Prophylactic Proffer Policy

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from Comments to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors March 7, 2018

Good afternoon, my name is Neil Williamson with the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded Public Policy organization focused on local government in Central Virginia.

This afternoon you will receive a detailed report from your Residential Development Impact Work Group regarding the Proffer reform legislation that became effective in July of 2016. The bulk of their recommendation is to pursue enabling legislation for impact fees at the General Assembly.

For the last thirty six months or so, Albemarle (and many other localities across the Commonwealth) have had a Prophylactic Proffer Policy that prevented the types of rezonings envisioned in your Comprehensive Plan from moving forward.

In a related development, all of this year’s proffer legislation in the General Assembly has been set aside for this session with the promise of a “Proffer Party” this summer to discuss solutions with all stakeholders.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been concerned about proffers (also known as a ‘Welcome Stranger’ tax) for a very long time. I have provided each of you a copy of our 2013 Contradictory Consequences report. It is interesting that the three case studies internal to the report are now entering the market.

As you contemplate your advocacy for residential impact fees that will drive up the cost of housing, we have a few questions:

  • How would you grade Albemarle’s efforts to fund the infrastructure promised in your own Comprehensive Plan?
  • Considering the unintended consequences of getting the very type of development you don’t want, are proffers or impact fees worth it?
  • With the community growing at a predictable (and sustainable) rate of about 2% annually, how has Albemarle’s infrastructure spending properly prepared for this growth?

It is clear the siren’s song of cash proffers and impact fees is very strong for elected officials. The idea of generating revenue from new home buyers (who are not yet voters) to “pay their way” is too good to be true.

The negative impacts of cash proffers and impact fees as documented in our report include tearing up the community vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. Cash Proffers and Impact Fees produce a plethora of contradictory consequences without achieving significant community benefit.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil 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 Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow

Greene County Government and Citizens Work Together on E911 Resolution

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the February 13th Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting it was agreed that a group of stakeholders would meet to try to find a solution of how best to manage their E911 system  . On Thursday, February 22nd a meeting including Board of Supervisor Chairperson Michelle Flynn, Supervisor David Cox (liaison to the emergency management system), Sheriff Steve Smith, and representatives from the Fire Departments and Rescue Squads was held and the following agreement was reached:



This agreement puts in place a solution to an issue that goes back to 2016 related to the management of the E911. The good news is that the Board of Supervisors acted swiftly after their February 13th meeting in which over 20 citizens called for action and they got the stakeholders together and met on February 22nd . The concern is why it took so long for the leaders of Greene County – Supervisors and Sheriff – to meet face to face and reach a compromise solution?

clip_image003The major change that the memo states is that “the E911 Center will be placed under the direction of the Sheriff” and he has been give the budget for E911. The agreement is in place through June 30, 2018 – the end of the current budget cycle.

During the public comment portion of the February 27th meeting citizens were pleased with the action of the Supervisors but expressed concern about trusting the Supervisors.

The silver lining is that citizens were motivated to participate in the process and the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff responded and worked out a compromise in a timely fashion. This is something that they were unable to do by themselves.

At the end of the meeting, Flynn asked Smith if he had begun advertising for the three vacant positions within the E911 system. Smith assured that advertisements are out and the positions will be filled (see the Facebook post below).

Steven Smith shared Greene County, Va. Sheriff’s Office‘s post.

58 mins ·


Greene County, Va. Sheriff’s Office

59 mins ·

Greene County Sheriff’s Office
Full-Time & Part Time Communications Officers

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is currently accepting applications for full-time & part time communications officers. Salary: $32,675 – $33,655. Seeking professional, highly responsible, technical individuals. Minimum Qualifications: Excellent listening & written communications skills; ability to speak distinctly on the telephone/radio & accurately relay information into a computer; ability to type with speed/accuracy; ability to multi-task under pressure; 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma/GED. Final candidates must pass a thorough background investigation. Preferred Qualification: 2 years emergency dispatch experience. Candidates may pick up an application at the Sheriff’s Office or at EEO

Emergency Services Director, Melissa G. Meador will remain at the County Administration Building and will coordinate E911, Fire and Rescue calls. E911 calls will be handled out of the existing system at the Sheriff’s Office. This will be far less expensive than recreating an E911 facility in the County Administration Building.

clip_image005 clip_image007

At the end of the day it is hoped that the E911 system gets fully staffed as soon as possible so that the citizens of Greene County can be protected in a timely manner.

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

Greene Planning Commission Considers Expanding Tourism

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County’s Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to look at including Tourist Lodging in the Residential (R-1) zoning district. Planner Stephanie Golon outlined the proposed revision to the zoning ordinance explaining that several citizens have requested this change to have Travel Lodging as a by right use.

Golon explained that Transit Occupational Tax (TOT)  has increased the past three years from $174,000 to last year hitting $226,000. Tourist Lodging is defined as having no more than 5 guest rooms in each structure and no more than 4 events can be held per year. Most of the R-1 areas are Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Dyke, Lydia and subdivisions such as Greene Mountain Lake.

Some negative aspects of this use is that it takes away from commercial lodging and the transient nature of the dwelling takes away from the nature of a residential neighborhood. Golon also clarified that a development’s HOA (homeowners association) may have more stringent rules than the county which might bar tourism lodging in their neighborhood.

Chairman Jay Willer clarified that most of the funds go to support tourism rather than come to the county as tax revenue. Ms. Golon added that the Commissioner of Revenue works with owners of the properties to collect the proper taxes. Also, each property must be in compliance and pay the proper taxes to have their property advertised by the EDA.

Willer’s main concern was the granting of four (4) events per year in a residential neighborhood and he would prefer that a Special Use Permit (SUP) be required in order to hold an event in R-1. Planning Director Bart Svoboda explained that there is a 100 foot set back requirement but Willer still had a concern that noise isn’t limited to 100 feet.

Willer agreed that some properties may be large enough to allow the event with minimal noise problems, but others in dense neighborhoods would have the noise carry to many properties. If the revision is allowed then there is no control while a SUP will provide flexibility in deciding to allow the event or not. After discussion with the Commission, Svoboda and Golon it was unanimously agreed to defer action until next month and the staff would add the SUP requirement for the R-1 zone.

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

Business Vitality Sustains Better Communities


By. Neil Williamson, President

In recent weeks, we have heard several calls to slow economic development and advancement in our community.  Many of these calls are accompanied by concerns of gentrification, income inequality and economic fairness. These calls have manifested themselves in vocal opposition to pro-business policies.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes a flourishing business sector is mission critical to creating a vibrant community; beyond the financial benefit a diverse, successful business community generates a positive, accepting, thriving community.  image

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce recently released the 2017 Sales tax data.  This empirical data does not capture all local economic activity but provides an objective metric to the overall health of the economy.

The reality is, using a ten year lens, all of our localities have increased their sales tax base.  The percent increase is largest in those areas which previously had very little retail but all localities see growth in the last decade.

It is into this context, that I read this morning’s Washington Post opinion piece by economic writer Robert SamuelsonThe political consequences of slower growth”.  In his piece, Samuelson defines the import of economic growth:

The role of economic growth in advanced democracies is not mainly the accumulation of more material goods. By any historical norm, even today’s poor are staggeringly wealthy. Economic growth plays a more subtle role. It gives people a sense that they are getting ahead and are in control of their lives. It serves as the social glue that holds us together and counteracts — to some extent — the influences of race, class, religion, ethnicity and geography, which drive us apart. emphasis added-nw

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the same socioeconomic theory works on the local level and has a correlated counter theory.See the source image  The higher the citizen confidence in their local economy regarding opportunity as well as job growth, tensions between often competing factions are reduced.

If however, the political environment highlights the divisions between groups and accentuates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, then despite economic positives, citizen confidence generally drops and a drop in economic vitality soon follows.

Earlier this month, Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy was quoted by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs chiding an applicant about a requested density increase in the West2nd rezoning:

“Some would say you have made a lot of money in this city and because you have already made so much, maybe you could give one back to us,” Bellamy said.

Later in the month, in a presentation to the Charlottesville’s Housing Summit City Principal Planner Brian Haluska provided an inadvertent counter to Bellamy’s Anti-Profit position:

A developer that does not make a profit is a developer that won’t be around for long

Profit has a place in our economic growth engine.  Absent the opportunity to add value, why would investors put their resources at risk.  Absent cooperation from the localities, market demanded projects (residential and commercial) will be financed and developed ‘by right’ making the well funded vision of localities comprehensive plans nothing but a mirage.

Samuelson’s piece concluded by projecting the influence a declining rate of economic growth has on society:

We should also remember the larger role played by the economy in shaping the nation’s political and social climate. Unless we are able to raise the rate of economic growth — a task whose inherent difficulty ought to be obvious by now — we face an increasingly contentious and politically strained future.

We can expect intensifying competition among Americans (the rich and the poor, the young and the old, cities and states, businesses and governments) for ever-larger shares of the nation’s slow-growing income. We’ll also miss the muffling effect that higher economic growth has on the nation’s other conflicts and grievances.

While I may differ regarding the verbiage “muffling effect”, the sentiment is clear; a community that has economic growth tends to be more cohesive, collaborative, congenial, and accepting.  The community that lacks such economic vitality tends to be more combative, restrictive and protectionist.

The question for our communities is do we want to spend resources fighting for “our” slice of the pie or should we work together to increase the size of the community pie?

Respectfully Submitted,


Neil Williamson, President

Neil 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 Credit:

Greene E911 – “A Failure To Communicate”

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

When the Greene County Board of Supervisors placed on their agenda “Matters from the public” for their February 13th meeting, they may not of anticipated the significant turnout. The Greene citizens responded with an overflow crowd at the County Administration building including two local television stations.

In this era of disrupting meetings, Greene citizens are to be commended as how they addressed the Supervisors – at the beginning of the meeting. The main issue brought up by over 20 speakers was concern about spending funds for a new E911 system when major expenditures for a dam and school expansion have been committed. The general understanding of those in attendance was that the E911 center was going to be moved at a significant cost and the former administrator was retained by the county and works in the County Administration building.

Representatives of the volunteer rescue squad and Fire Departments also addressed the Board of Supervisors. Their message was clear – we are getting “no clear supervision” and it goes back and forth who we are to answer to.

Several other citizens asked that the Supervisors have the courage to back up and revert to how E911 worked since 2012 and then have a committee analyze how best to address E911 services in the future. One of the final public comments was there seems to be “a failure to communicate” in Greene County – just like Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke.


After the public comment – Chairperson Michelle Flynn restated what was in the press release from the Board, no decision has been made to move the E911 center. And that the intent of tonight’s public comments is to gather information to provide a safe E911 program for the citizens of Greene County.

Vice Chairperson, Bill Martin, said that since he was Chairperson 18 months ago when the E911 system became an issue, he wanted to recap what has transpired. He began stressing that there is no “plot” and no decision has been made. The Board has two concerns related to E911 – safety of the citizens of Greene and providing a cost effective solution.

In 2012, the E911 system was consolidated with the Sheriff’s office to be cost effective. In August, 2016, Sheriff Steve Smith “terminated” the E911 Supervisor. However, this person is employed by Greene County, not the Sheriff and therefore she could not be terminated by the Sheriff. But, she was refused admittance to the E911 center (within the Sheriff’s office) even though she was never fired by the county. The Sheriff effectively prevented her from doing the core functions of her job.


Sheriff Steve Smith

Supervisor Martin continued, stating that there were no negative comments in her personnel file. She was provided office space in the County Administration building and fulfilled the rest of the duties assigned to her.

Sheriff Smith then requested $77,000 additional funding to the budget to fund the hiring of a replacement. This request was denied by the Board. Smith then filed a lawsuit against the county.

Pat Fitzgerald’s article in the February 7th Greene County Record picks up the story:

In October, a judge ruled in favor of the county.

“That case is still pending even though the county says otherwise,” Smith stated last Friday.

The county’s news release issued that week, however, stated: “On December 19, the County Administrator, with the full support of the Board of Supervisors, sent a memo again clarifying that the county-owned E911 center is under the management and direction of the county Emergency Services Coordinator. The notification did not suggest a separation or relocation of any E911 dispatch services and, in fact, the Board maintains that it changed nothing about the structure.

“The Sheriff continues to maintain the fully trained and qualified Emergency Services Coordinator will not be permitted in the county E911 dispatch center to provide management supervision,” the county stated. “He also asserts that the Sheriff must have full authority to determine who enters and is employed in the county-owned dispatch center because it is located in the same building the county provides for the Sheriff’s department….

Smith, however, said Friday “the statement that was put out by Chairman Michelle Flynn is inflammatory and mostly untrue.”

Martin requested that we get all of the stakeholders at the table and find a solution that provides a safe county at no additional cost.

In the end, it was agreed that a meeting with all the stakeholders, including Flynn, Board liaison Supervisor David Cox, Smith, the three fire chiefs in the county and the rescue squad be held. Sheriff Smith stated that his lawsuit would be dropped if an agreement could be reached.

Obviously personnel matters are confidential but many in the community hope that this power struggle between the Supervisors and the Sheriff can be resolved.  Some have suggested the following:

1) The Supervisors would review the information that Sheriff Smith used to justify the termination of the E911 supervisor

2) If the Supervisors agreed with the data then the employee should be terminated and a new employee hired to work at the Sheriff’s Office

3) If the Supervisors disagreed that the employee should be fired then they should try to work out a solution with Sheriff Smith to have the supervisor return to work at the Sheriff’s office

4) If an agreement cannot be reached, either: the employee should be reassigned to other duties outside of the Sheriff’s office and a new E911 supervisor be hired or a new independent E911 center should be created outside of the Sheriff’s office.

5) The Sheriff and the fire chiefs need to discuss the several instances where the E911 response dispatched did not follow accepted procedures.  Both parties must agree to a response protocol that protects citizens.

6) If such an agreement can not be reached, E911 must be removed from the Sheriff’s office and an independent E911 facility must be established outside the Sheriff’s office building.

Any needed changes need to happen quickly as an effective and efficient E911 system is critical the the health and safety of Greene County citizens.

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

Fluvanna Budget Proposal Includes Real Estate Tax Increase

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Steve Nichols

Fluvanna County’s Administrator Steve Nichols presented his budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors on February 7. It included just over a three cent increase in the real estate tax rate.

The current real estate tax rate is $0.907 per $100 assessed. Steve Nichols proposed a $0.939 tax rate for FY19.
His proposed budget holds the line on county services and programs. It adds one position and includes no pay raises for staff.  Nichols’ budget increase is primarily from additional debt the county brought in for the Zion Crossroads water project. The county also has additional maintenance cost for the new radio project.  Debt service for the county went up an additional $275,000, just under the equivalent to a penny in real estate tax rate. The emergency management budget went up $225,000.  Department heads asked for four new positions and six upgraded positions. The Nichols proposal provides one position.

Don Weaver

Don Weaver (Cunningham District) pointed out Fluvanna is still highest county for tax rates in the area and asked if a tax cut was possible.  “Unless you cut people or programs, you can’t,” said Nichols.
The two major issues that aren’t addressed in Nichols’ budget are health insurance costs and additional money for the school system.
Staff is awaiting final numbers for the insurance cost and it is looking to be a slight increase to steady. A finalized number will be available soon.
Nichols level funded the schools. The superintendent, Chuck Winkler, presented his budget proposal to the School Board the same day Nichols’ proposed his. A report from NBC29 listed the school budget proposal to include increases.
Fluvanna’s continual real estate tax raises will continue until additional tax revenues work their way into the coffers. One way to entice additional businesses to come to the county is lowering the business and public utility personal property tax. Nichols proposed to lower it from $2.90 to $2.40 per $100 assessed.  It is more a symbolic move to attract new businesses and help current businesses. Overall it isn’t a huge reduction in taxes received. The change in collections is $45,000.
The county is attracting one new business. The salvage yard operator LKQ, going behind the old Cosners’ location, will bring in an estimated $150,000 in tax revenue. That was a low end estimate, per staff.  The outlook for future years is not nearly as grim as it was a few years ago. Unless the county starts taking on additional debt, it can hold the tax rate rather steady, Nichols estimates.
“Frankly, (future) budgets…look steady state,” said Nichols.  Fluvanna had previously kept a sizable unreserved savings account, known as the fund balance. That unreserved amount is slowly being spent.
It currently is $6.3 million but supervisors have verbally committed to spending a large portion of that to cash fund part of the Zions Crossroads water project. That is estimated to be a $3.5 million commitment.
“It really is in a tight, tight position,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).  The fund balance accumulates when the county receives more revenue than expenditures, either through higher tax collection or budgets not be fully spent. Previous years the fund balance has been used for capital improvement plan items. Last year to the tune of $1.2 million. This year that number decreases to $1 million.
Supervisors will have various work sessions on the budget. The next one on February 14 with the constitutional officers.


The 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 Credits: Fluvanna County

Over 1/3 of Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors Are Illegal

By. Neil Williamson, President

On January 16th, 2018, both the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) and Planning Commission went into to closed sessions “to be briefed by legal counsel related to a zoning overlay district”  — we now know what that was about.

The Free Enterprise Forum has learned that eight of Albemarle County twenty-one Entrance Corridors fail to meet the state requirements for such designation.  Some of these have been in violation since inception in 1990.  This revelation, made by staff, calls into question the legality and enforceability of any ARB conditions placed on properties along the eight illegal entrance corridors.

First a little background:

On October 3, 1990 Albemarle County held a public hearing on the proposed Entrance Corridor Guidelines [and the Architectural Review Board].  In that hearing, Mr. Andrew Dracopoli raised concerns about the proposed ordinance:

“is concerned that the ordinance has “sprouted wings”.  It seems like almost every road in the County has become a part of this ordinance whereas when it originally came up, it had only five or six roads.  He would like to see it scaled back to just major roads.”

Today, almost 28 years later, Mr. Dracopoli is proven correct.

According to county staff, during a routine preapplication meeting, a question came up regarding the posted speed limit on the entrance corridor.  Staff researched the issue and determined both the speed limit and that the roadway was not an “arterial street”.

Virginia Code §15.2-2306 enables localities to establish entrance corridor districts encompassing parcels contiguous to arterial streets and highways found to be significant routes of tourist access to the county and to designated historic landmarks, structures, or districts within the county

This revelation, led staff to research each of the current twenty-one entrance corridor designated roadways and found eight did not meet the state “arterial” requirement.

To their credit, staff has prepared a resolution of intent the Board of Supervisors will consider in their February 7th meeting.  The purpose of this resolution is to revise the Entrance Corridor Ordinance removing those roadways that do not qualify as arterials.  The following roadways will no longer be under ARB jurisdiction (nor ever should have been)

Non-Arterial Corridors: Avon St Ext (Rt.742), Barracks Rd (Rt.654), Irish Rd (Rt. 6), Thomas Jefferson Parkway (Rt.53)

Corridors with mixed classifications:5th St and Old Lynchburg Rd (RT. 631), Louisa Rd (Rt.22), Richmond Rd (Rt.250), Stoney Point Rd (Rt. 20)

The Free Enterprise Forum has written extensively about overreach at the ARB – including our 27 page report:  Eye of the Beholder – Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board’s Mission Creep. While we understand the goals and objectives of the ARB and the Entrance Corridors, we believe Albemarle has, since 1990, vastly exceeded the intentions of the enabling legislation.

Today we see many positive signs as Albemarle staff is looking to do the right thing by repealing the illegal designations.  Perhaps now, as a community, we can look to limiting ARB purview to the five or six roads Mr. Dracopoli mentioned in his 1990 testimony.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil 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.

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