Fluvanna Supervisor Ullenbruch Not Running

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch will not seek re-election for the Palmyra District seat, despite speculation and reading into recent public comments.

Ullenbruch released the following written statement to the Free Enterprise Forum:

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Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Since I will be moving out of the Palmyra District at the end of my present term and moving to Cape Cod, I will not be seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

It is a time in my life where I want to be close in proximity to my grandchildren and family. My parents are aging and other health issues with family members were defining factors in planning the move.

I would like to thank the members of the Fluvanna Republican Committee for the encouragement and ever continued support. I need to give the Committee time to recruit a viable candidate for the Palmyra District Seat.

Finally, I would like to thank my constituents. I have enjoyed serving the Palmyra District throughout my term and look forward to finishing the year.”

Ullenbruch ran as a Republican in 2011, defeating incumbent John Gooch.

Often times in board votes Ullenbruch has sided with fellow Republican Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Now the Palmyra seat is wide open for the 2015 election. So far obvious candidates to run for the seat are not clear. Board of Supervisors meetings have been scarcely attended, even during the budget season.

The other Supervisor seat up for re-election this cycle is in Fork Union. Early speculation is the incumbent, Mozell Booker,  will seek re-election but she has not commented on the matter.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Greene Supervisors Approve B&B

By. Brent Wilson Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors gave approval for a Bed and Breakfast on Route 33 west of Stanardsville just below the Shenandoah National Park at their April 14th meeting. Rob and Carmen Lynch represented three principals requesting a Special Use Permit on the nearly 14 acres zoned C-1 – Conservation.

Bart Svoboda, Director/Zoning Administrator,  presented the Special Use Permit (SUP# 15-002)  to the Board and explained that up to 13 units can be permitted which this particular SUP requests only 5 cabins and a lodge. A SUP can place restrictions similar to those that the Planning Commission proposed on March 18th when they unanimously approved the Special Use Permit. Svoboda stated that the SUP fit the county’s Comprehensive Plan by encouraging tourism and encouraging frequenting businesses in Greene County and that even though it is located outside the growth area it is near the Shenandoah National Park which has many tourists traveling Route 33. Mr. Lynch agreed with Svoboda in that the B&B fits well in the area and hopes that it will encourage tourists to spend their tourism dollars in Greene.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Supervisor Bill Martin

The lack of public comment clearly came as an endorsement for the project. The discussion amongst the Board members also indicated support for the project. Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District,  asked Mr. Lynch did they plan on the maximum number of people of 100. Lynch indicated that the 100 was the maximum the Planning Commission allowed and he felt that would not be the normal activity but special events might raise the number.

Supervisor Eddie Deane, At Large, didn’t believe this project would compete directly with Lydia Mountain Cabins  and that this project would attract more tourists to Greene County. Supervisor Jim Frydl, Midway District, thinks the location near Route 33 and the Shenandoah National Park  is good for this type of venue and it is a good application.

Supervisor Frydl made a motion to place the same restrictions on the Special Use Permit as the Planning Commission passed:

1) 6 cabins and 1 lodge

2) any renter is limited to 30 of 365 days per year

3) limit to 100 guests between 7 am to midnight

4) site approvals required

5) must be developed in accordance with the map in Special Use Permit

With no further discussion, the motion passed unanimously 5-0.

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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

US 29 Business Assistance – The Least Albemarle Can Do

By Neil Williamson, President

question-signLast night (4/7/2015)  the Albemarle County Planning Commission considered and approved changes to the temporary sign ordinance allowing 10 signs that will be removed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for the easements and construction of the US29/Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange.

Prior to their action the Free Enterprise Forum spoke as a part of the public hearing:

Tonight you have before you common sense regulatory relief for the 12 businesses that will lose their permanent signage during the utility relocation and construction of the Rio US29 Grade Separated Interchange.  This regulation will allow these businesses to erect temporary signage for the duration of the construction period.

Our long standing opposition to this project is well recorded. I continue to believe the costs far outweigh any limited benefits and it sets the stage for the eventual Albemarle Expressway that will decimate this important business corridor. Yes, the lost signage is just one of the ways many businesses will be impacted by the Rio GSI.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has already started discussions with business owners about just compensation for the signs scheduled to be removed.

Removal of these signs could start in just a few weeks’ time. We applaud staff for moving this up the agenda to assist the impacted business. We believe not only is this regulation change commonsensical – it is clearly the least you can do.

We look forward the staff promised phase two and phase three  of the signage review. It is our hope that businesses that have restricted visibility or limited access gain increased signage by right for the construction period and the six months after. Further, we ask that you use this opportunity to set up a provision in code that helps businesses during such road construction regardless of location.

The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to approve the zoning ordinance before you and move it forward to the Board of Supervisors with all deliberate speed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

While the Planning Commission acknowledged that Joes Diner arrowthere would be a lack of visibility for businesses during and after construction, staff made clear their position in opposition to any additional signage in this area.  Staff believes that VDOT’s proposed way finding signs will be more than adequate.

This temporary sign ordinance is really setting the tone for Albemarle’s Least You Can Do “Business Assistance Program”.

Here are the not so lofty goals of Albemarle’s “Business Assistance Program”:

Goals of the Program
 Provide accurate and complete information in advance to help businesses plan for the construction period
 Provide resource expertise to support affected businesses
 Create a rapid response communication network during construction that identifies critical business issues and responds to needs of businesses
 Ensure fair and equitable assistance for all qualifying businesses
 Leverage opportunities for partnership – take advantage of ideas, services and relationships that partners can offer to help businesses manage the challenges of construction
 Actively engage construction contractor to positively affect business outreach and support

This is significantly lower bar than was discussed when the projects were first proposed.  Clearly as the momentum for project construction increases the likelihood of significant resources being allocated to  businesses assistance has been reduced or eliminated.

Speaking last night of concerns regarding equity across the entire county, the Albemarle Deputy County Attorney minimized efforts to promote the construction challenged businesses via county communication tools.

Yes, Albemarle has a business assistance program for those impacted by the Route29 solutions projects – it is the least they can do.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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

Photo Credits: VDOT, http://quovadisblog.com 

Fireworks at Fluvanna Supervisors Meeting

By. Bryan Rothamel

What looked like a light agenda and golden opportunity for a quick meeting of the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors on April 1, turned up as fools gold. And no one was laughing after the meeting.

It included one supervisor leaving the meeting in uproar over a comment from a fellow board member.

Supervisors breezed through the proposed tax rate public hearing with no residents speaking. It easily proclaimed April as Celebrating Children Month after hearing an update from Social Services, didn’t even entertain a vote on a resolution against the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case and then updated the parks and recreation fees.

Then came the employee ethics statement and recognition program. Gail Parish, Director of Human Resources, presented what a group of employees has come up with.

By this point, the only members in the audience were staff members, a constitutional officer and two members of the press. No residents without the affiliations described were there. The few that were there previously left after the Citizens United resolution failed.

The employee ethics statement is a springboard from the county’s mission, given by the Board of Supervisors. The employee ethics statement is PRIDE: People first, Respect, Integrity, Deliver and Excel.
After Parish briefly started his presentation on the recognition program, which includes monetary gifts for various awards throughout the year, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) raised his issues with the recognition program.

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Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Ullenbruch compared the recognition program as a pat on the back and children in youth sports getting a participation trophy. He then concluded his remarks and what ensued was Ullenbruch leaving the meeting after Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) responded.

Here is a transcription from the end of Ullenbruch’s statements. It was the 1 hour, 59 minutes mark of the meeting.

Ullenbruch: You are hired to do a job. You are hired to do a job the best you can. I’m not saying our employees are paid enough or they’re not recognized enough. I’m not saying that at all. I’m trying, once again, keep people from being divided. This is devise. I’ve lived in this atmosphere of awards and plaques and that-a-boys, in the back, in the little huddles, in the little corners, it becomes a bitch session. The intent is not for that to happens, but it happens.

O’Brien: You sound like a communist, Bob. I mean honestly, why don’t we–

Ullenbruch: Wow. Wow. That’s on tape.

O’Brien: Yeah, your idea is that people don’t appreciate recognition. That they should just do their damn job, to use your words.

Ullenbruch: I’m just saying it causes divisiveness.

O’Brien: It does not cause divisiveness.

Ullenbruch: Why did you call me a communist?

O’Brien: Because that’s what you sound like. You basically sound like you are saying, ‘Just do the…’

At this point Ullenbruch stands up to leaves. The two began talking over each other but O’Brien responds to Ullenbruch’s comments with, “I mean, that’s what you sound like. I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Ullenbruch talks from the doorway. O’Brien responds, “I don’t think calling someone a communist is necessarily insulting them, Bob.” He turns back to the board, “That’s a first. Sorry. Apologies.”

O’Brien continues:  I mean, honestly, I think a fundamental part of any organization is to recognize its people. Maybe the amount is too much but to argue that people should just do their damn job, and they should just like it, I find that offensive to the people that work in this county. I think the people who work in this county care about their jobs and I think they also care about how they’re performing their jobs. But by the same token being recognized for being exceptional, that’s pretty important. That shows leadership. That brings the bar up. When we create a program that raises the bar for all of our people, that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe $5,000 is too much.

The discussion continues as usual board discussion until Ullenbruch comes back in about three minutes later and interrupts Parrish who is elaborating on the program.

Ullenbruch: I want to make a point. We were talking code of ethics just now. We have a code of ethics and disrespectful to other members of this board is part of our code of ethics. And it just showed, just now, in front of everybody, in front of all the employees here, what we think of our code of ethics.

O’Brien and Ullenbruch talk at the same time again.

Ullenbruch: How are you going to vote on someone else’s code of ethics?

O’Brien: First of all–

Ullenbuch starts leaving with his belongings: You are the one that said it. I would never insult you.

O’Brien: You should like the height of democracy, Bob. Does that make you feel any better?

Ullenbruch’s response is hard to hear but sounded like he said, “I should be (or am) the height of democracy.

O’Brien: Oh really? Sit down. I just said you are the height of democracy. Come on, sit down.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) calls for Ullenbruch to sit down.

Ullenbruch: If I would’ve said that to you (O’Brien)–

O’Brien: And what do you think I would’ve say?

At this point, another member of the board breaths out, blowing into the direction of one of the table microphones.

O’Brien: Call me an anarchist, Bob. I don’t care. I have the ability to react to the–

Ullenbruch: You know that I would never do that.

O’Brien: You know what? You can be a professional and sit down.

Booker: Bob, you need to come back and have seat. You know that its not–

Ullenbruch has walked out of the room.

Booker: That’s ok. Alright.

O’Brien: Apologies, madam chair. I did not mean to cause a fracas.

Booker: You can’t control other people’s actions. You apologized so let’s move on.

The board then continues to discuss the issue for another 35 minutes, most of the debate around the monetary gifts the program would award.

The proposed annual PRIDE in Public Service Award would give $100 bonus each month for 12 months to the recipient. The winner of the public service award would also be recognized on a plaque. The other five nominees would receive a $250 bonus check. Groups would be eligible with each member of the group to receive the bonus check.

The on the spot awards would be given by department or agency head and could include a thank you note, a lunch ordered in for the team, an hour of personal leave, praise in private or in a team setting, and/or certificate for the specific behavior.

Finally, the program would recognized retirees. All retiring employees would receive a plaque and employees with more than 20 years of county service would receive a gift of no more than $100. Gifts that are over $100, excess amount would be paid with non-public money.

After the lengthy discussion, the board elected to send the program back to the employee committee with less money involved. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) said he didn’t mind the money but felt it was too much of the emphasis and not on the actual recognition of the deed.

Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) agreed with Weaver to still include monetary gifts but decrease the emphasis.

OBrien2014 photo credit Fluvanna County

Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien

After the meeting, O’Brien spoke in an exclusive interview with Free Enterprise Forum. He references how Ullenbruch and he say ‘colorful’ things to each other and the board. He said in length:

“We’re both colorful people, I guess is the best way I can put it. I was not personally calling him a communist. I said ‘you sound like a communist’ there’s a difference between that. I think if I had the opportunity to finish my statement would have been, ‘recognizing people, in the same way capitalism recognizes excellence, is a good thing.’ But since I didn’t get to finish that statement, all we heard was ‘you sound like a communist.’ I’m pretty sure Bob would agree with me that recognition of excellence is probably a good thing but I can’t speak for Bob.”

The Board will next meet at 7 p.m. on April 8 to have a public hearing on the budget. The budget proposed includes an $0.899 real estate tax rate and $4.35 personal property tax rate. Both are based on every $100 assessed.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Albemarle’s April Fools Day – 7.5% Fee Increase

By. Neil Williamson, President

april-fools-dayNo fooling, Albemarle County is clearly on a roll. As the members of the Board of Supervisors are considering the economic impacts of increased property taxes on the community, on April Fool’s day they are also considering a semi-automatic 7.5% increase in Community Development fees.  These are the fees associated with gaining approvals on home improvements, construction, neighborhood development and inspections.  Staff projects this will generate $106,000 in FY16 revenue [not included in current budget].

The rationale for the fee  increase is the county wide increase in staff salaries since the last increase.  While labor costs are generally the largest component to most enterprise activities.  Local government lacks the demand for efficiency that the free enterprise system uses to keep labor costs in check.

Please let me explain.

The private sector utilizes the lowest paid but qualified individual to accomplish any given task, this frees the more highly compensated staff to accomplish more highly demanding tasks.  As this qualified person becomes adroit in the task, the task takes less time and the staff member gains skills.

If a private sector organization assigns the task to someone without the ability to accomplish the task in a competitive amount of time the client takes their business elsewhere.  Not in government.Plan Review stamp-of-approval Photo Credit Montery County CA

If a private sector organization continually returns to the client on multiple instances with repetitive questions thus delaying the project, the client takes their business elsewhere.   Not in government.

If an organization fails to prioritize their labor properly the pricing becomes too high for the market to bear and the client takes their business elsewhere. Not in government.

How long an employee takes to process and approve an application is dependent on five key elements:

  • the clarity of the application
  • the clarity of the ordinances to be measured against
  • the quality and experience of the reviewer
  • the institutional personality of management regarding applications

Applicants can only control the first of the four key elements.

Far too many in local government believe, “No planner has ever been fired for saying ‘No’ to an applicant or for asking too many questions.”

In Albemarle, we have heard tales of  several larger applicants that have spent tens of thousands of dollars in reengineering plans multiple times in attempts to gain acceptance.  These applicants are in a difficult position, if they choose to fight the staff regarding an overzealous legal interpretation they put their project at risk.  Instead they chose to accept the overzealous interpretation (and the increased costs).  This then emboldens staff to increase the application requirements based on precedent (rather than ordinance change) All of these costs are passed on to the end user.

UNDERDOG POINTING UP COLORWe are aware of one misguided senior staff member who believes he, alone, stands as the public’s watchdog, the protector of all things Albemarle.  This staff member has gone so far as to refusing to accept application approvals from state regulating agencies including  Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  Unfortunately, perhaps due to a lack of proper management controls, this long time staff member has, over time, achieved significant influence over development applications.

Short of moving a project to a neighboring locality (which we are seeing more and more of) local government does not have the same economic checks and balances as the private sector.   With a monopoly on construction inspections and approvals, the only mechanism to promote efficiency is the willingness of the Board of Supervisors (or City/Town Council) to increase fees.

The Free Enterprise Forum wonders if on her first day (4/1/2015), Albemarle’s Faith McClinticnew Economic Development Director Faith McClintic will be called on by the Board of Supervisors to weigh in on the impact of fee inflation has on attraction and, equally important retention of businesses.

Clearly businesses recognizes the costs associated with running government.  The question remains are the fees representative of an efficient operation or is Albemarle’s semi-automatic fee increase program creating an environment where work expands to fill the planner time available?

Will the semi-automatic 7.5% fee increase become the new “normal” or with the Albemarle Board of Supervisors recognize the negative impacts of the proposal and reject it as a bad April Fools joke?

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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

Photo Credits: ownbond.com, NBC, Monterrey County,  Albemarle County

Is Charlottesville Catching the Albemarle Flu?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over the last twenty years or so, the City of Charlottesville has beenflu-man-200x300 politically left leaning but has recognized the import of business contribution not only to the tax revenue but also to the fabric of the community.

As a land locked 10 square miles, the City determined to make it easier to increase density where it wanted such density to occur. By right reduction of parking requirements in certain University zones is just one of the many ordinance revisions the City designed to be more open for development. Today, the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that recent actions may have the City moving away from this philosophical paradigm.

We fear the city is moving in the direction of Albemarle County [Also known as the Albemarle Flu] who has made development applications so expensive and time consuming that they have not seen a significant residential rezoning in many years.

On Tuesday night, the Charlottesville Planning Commission considered a resolution of intent to require almost all development proposals greater than six units to hold public neighborhood meetings prior to being processed. This includes site plans that are utilizing existing zoning.

The Free Enterprise Forum has significant questions regarding the legality of these provisions especially the site plan review.

Considering the import of hearing from members of the public and development community we found it interesting that the staff report admitted that they moved this public engagement initiative forward absent ANY public engagement:

Community Engagement:
There has been no community engagement prior to preparation of this Resolution for your consideration; however, the purpose of the proposed text amendments is specifically to provide for enhanced community engagement on an ongoing basis.

On the face of this it seems like increased public engagement would be a good thing, and many property owners already conduct such meetings and find them to be competitive advantages to getting projects approved. When such meetings are mandated – or worse delegated to a super citizen “advisory” panel – this empowers that unelected group of citizens with defacto veto power over the project.

The result of such power can be changes to the project design that benefits the neighborhood but may weaken the projects impact on the region. Over our dozen years of operation, the strongest voices in opposition to projects tend to be opposed to the increased density such a project may bring. At the Planning Commission level, there is an understanding and acceptance that the density of any rezoning should mirror the designation in the community vetted Comprehensive Plan. This is rarely the case at Neighborhood Meetings where the focus tends to be on reducing the density proposed and reducing the impact of such density on the surrounding community.

The Free Enterprise Forum has significant questions regarding the legality of these provisions especially the site plan review.

No application seeking approval of a site plan, preliminary or final, for property that will be used for any commercial or industrial purpose, or that will contain six (6) or more residential dwelling units, shall be accepted for review, unless and until the applicant has participated in a pre-application conference and has held a community meeting in accordance with guidelines established by the director of neighborhood development services in accordance with sec. 34-41(c)(2). Any application that fails to demonstrate compliance with these requirements shall be rejected as incomplete. The director may waive the requirement for a community meeting, if a community meeting was previously held for the same development at the time of city council’s consideration of an application for approval of a special use permit or petition for a zoning map amendment.

Unintended consequence 1- Loss of density and innovative design — If an applicant must complete the neighborhood meeting prior to their application being complete, the Planning Commission will see significantly fewer innovative higher density projects because the neighbors will not approve of the density or the creative design.

Unintended (?) consequence 2 – Increased application time – Virginia state code mandates completed applications must be considered by the Planning Commission and Board within 90 days of submittal. By inserting language that the results of a neighborhood meeting must be a part of a completed application, the staff is able to hit “snooze” on the so called 90 day shot clock until the meeting has been held. In addition, the proposed ordinance contains a not so veiled threat, considering the applicant has a subjective review in from of the Planning Commission/City Council:

The applicant’s consent to a work session is required, if the work session would extend the time for action by the board or commission beyond applicable deadlines established by law.

The proposed ordinance also provides for more favorable treatment of some applications if the Planning Director wants to waive the meeting requirement. While the Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the flexibility such a provision provides, we wonder if the criteria for waiving the meeting is objective enough to meet the Virginia Supreme Court’s Sinclair decision regarding staff determinations:

The director may waive the requirement for a public meeting, upon a determination that the meeting is not likely to achieve the public purposes intended to be served, after consideration of the following: (i) the nature of the approval requested, the acreage affected, the proposed density, the proposed scale, and potential impacts, (ii) any other factors deemed relevant upon applying sound zoning principles, (iii) whether other public work sessions or meetings have already been held regarding the application, so as to make a community meeting unreasonably duplicative.

Unintended consequence 3 – Increase cost and use of “stale” zoning – If adding a mandated neighborhood meeting increases the approval time on a rezoning by 1 month and adds another set of plan revisions, the cost of the project increases due to financial carrying costs and design fees. Dependent on the size of the project this increase in cost could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Rather than subject themselves to such cost and uncertainty, many property owners will calculate the value of developing the land not as it is in the community vetted Comprehensive Plan but as the land is currently zoned and move forward in six unit phases. The result is no neighborhood involvement and reduced density in direct conflict with the Comprehensive Plan.

The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that Charlottesville’s well intentioned desire for increased public engagement results in several significant unintended consequences and may be legally challenged. Further, we believe this new layer of review will significantly reduce the number of applications that come forward and reduce the economic vitality of the development sector. We fear this may be the intended consequence of the proponents of this ordinance change.

Tuesday night’s resolution may be the first sneeze of Charlottesville catching the Albemarle Flu, I sure hope not.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson 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

Photo Credit: Donlon Healthmart Pharmacy

Greene Tennis Courts Face Opposition

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The request for a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a tennis facility in Greene County easily got approved by the Planning Commission, not so much when it came before the Board of Supervisors at their March 24th meeting. Planning Director Bart Svoboda outlined the Special Use Permit request and explained that the property is zoned A1 but very close to a growth area near Ruckersville.

Svoboda cited the 2010 Comprehensive Plan encourages development of businesses – “Goals and Objectives 4. Enhanced image of Greene County as a business-friendly location” – and the alternative is that 8 homes could be built by right on the property. The plan calls for setbacks around the property at a minimum of 200 feet with some parts going up to over 600 feet. The Planning Commission approved the SUP with the following requirements 1) 30 foot screening, 2) lighting not on from 10 pm to 7 am, 3) only sport courts to be to be allowed, 4) indoor court sports only, and 5) a site plan is required. Svoboda also reported that there were no red flags from any agency – i.e. ADA, Health Department, etc.

clip_image002.jpg

Mourad Fahim

Next Mourad Fahim, the applicant, addressed the Board of Supervisors stating that Greene County is a growing community and tennis continues to grow in popularity. There are no public courts in Greene County and the high school doesn’t have a tennis team. Tennis is a sport of a lifetime with players from age 4 to those in their 90’s and it develops discipline, teaches hard work and integrity. Fahim finished stating he reserved the right to defer the request after the public hearing.

This time there were plenty of comments from the public, mostly against the project from adjoining land owners. Jeremy Lay brought a petition that all residents of Carpenter Mill Road  signed along with others in the area. Lay explained that the site selected is visible from all of the residents on Carpenter Mill Road and the project would change the peaceful nature of the neighborhood and that it would be an atrocity to destroy the charm and beauty of the neighborhood. He further explained that the SUP request was not filled out correctly – no distances were provided and no information on what type of lighting was provided – more information is needed. His final concern was that of the site grading and the significant drop off of over 100 feet on the property. He finished by asking the Board, would you want this in your back yard?

Several others spoke against the SUP. Dan Ratzlaff, however, is an avid tennis player and supports the Fahims in their project. He told the Board that this is a great opportunity for Greene County and he trusted them to make the right decision.

The discussion then shifted to the Board members. Supervisor Jim Frydl told the audience he was glad to see a large turnout for the issue. This SUP fits what has been done in other area of the county in A1 districts. It is similar to the Greene County Recreation Center which is closer to homes off Route 33 than the tennis facility would be. There is a horseback riding facility in an A1 district that has horse trailers and is more impactful. The erosion control issue will be managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  to a state standard. He felt the tennis facility would be a good fit for Greene County and his suggestion was to modify the request to have outside play limited to dawn to dusk with no outside lighting. His other concern was that the SUP as submitted allowed other sports that could attract much more traffic and noise – such as a basketball league. Bart Svoboda told the supervisors that they could modify the SUP to limit the play only to tennis and paddle tennis, or whatever they wanted. If other sports would be wanted in the future they could be requested at that time.

Greene County Supervisor Davis Lamb

Greene County Supervisor Davis Lamb

Supervisor Davis Lamb agreed with Frydl that it would be a great addition to Greene County. However, he expressed concern about having the facility in A1 zoning and he was concerned about the runoff on a sloped parcel. Svoboda reconfirmed that VDOT would oversee this part of the process and that storm water runoff would also be regulated. The final issue Lamb expressed concern over was the traffic in this rural area. Svoboda estimated traffic counts at 56 and going up to a peak of 80 per day. Lamb then addressed Mr. Fahim and suggested that he meet with the neighbors to see if they could come to a compromise solution. Mr. Fahim stated that he wants to comply with the county and work together with the residents of Greene to provide the facility.

Supervisor Bill Martin addressed again the storm water issue. He asked Dan Ratzlaff, who had spoken in favor of the issue during the public comment time, to address the board in his capacity as Erosion Administrator in Greene County. Ratcliff confirmed that the development of the lot would require the runoff to be better than it currently is now, both in volume and rate of flow. Ratcliff stated that annual inspections would be requested of the property owner and that every five years an onsite inspection would occur. Also, if there were any calls complaining, an on-site review would occur at that time to see if there is a problem.

Martin expressed concern for the community vs. the rights of the owner of the property. The alternative is that this property has division rights to allow eight homes to be built. That is a lot of rooftops, lights and educating children. He agreed with Mr. Frydl’s suggestion of a dawn to dusk for the outside play. Also he was encouraged by the $1 million expenditure in Greene County that would provide jobs to the county residents and he liked the idea of the developer speaking with the community.

Supervisor Frydl made another comment that he had done some research out of comments from neighbors before the meeting. He found no indication that property values would decline with a tennis facility in the area, in fact, it may add value. The noise level from a lesser distance than is being proposed is very low.

Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Cox

Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Cox

Chairman David Cox spoke last (Supervisor Eddie Deane was absent) and said that he had made three trips to the site. He felt he still had some unanswered questions that weren’t addressed on the application. The hours of operation were not on the application. Mr. Fahim stated that 7 am to 10 pm for indoor play. He suggested 9 or 10 pm for outdoor play or until the end of daylight if no lights were erected. Other questions Cox had were the size of the structure for indoor play and the type of lighting in the parking area.

Supervisor Lamb asked Svoboda if VDOT required either a deceleration lane or a turn lane – they did not at this time. At this time Chairman Cox asked Mr. Fahim if he would like to defer the request and he said yes. The May 12th date was selected to allow time for Mr. Fahim to gather data and meet with the neighbors and the SUP was deferred unanimously. Following the meeting Supervisor Martin was asked if the park would be a good location for the tennis facility. He believed it would be difficult to have a private entity on county property – it sounds easier than it would be to get it done.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Fluvanna BOS Hammers Out Budget–“It’s All About the Money, Money, Money”

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna-BOS_group2014_sm_thumb.jpg

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors got its wish on March 18. Thanks to five hours of work session within the week preceding, the board voted unanimously to advertise a $68 million budget that includes tax increases in both real estate and personal property.

The advertised budget requires a real estate tax rate of $0.899 per $100 assessed and a personal property rate of $4.35 per $100 assessed to balance. The previously discussed increase in fees were not included.

“Everything we have a demand or need for is taken care of,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District) during the work session just before the regular session.

The board did add a slight pay increase for employees to 1.5 percent. Before it was just one percent. That came to a total of $6,722. It was added by subtracting it from the school budget, a proposal put by Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).

From the County Administrators’ budget proposal, Fluvanna supervisors added funding for JAUNT, Region 10, staff raises and school funding. They added positions in the E911 center, Department of Social Services and Commonwealth Attorney’s office. They took away the 10 percent operational cut.

Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

“You all did a good job at holding the line,” said Steve Nichols, county administrator.

“There are times I walk away (from meetings) where I don’t feel proud but walking away last week, I did,” said Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) about the four and a half hour work session that hammered the budget out to get a unanimous vote.

In a sign of togetherness, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) made the motion and O’Brien seconded it.

Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the increased real estate tax rate on April 1. The budget public hearing will be April 8 and supervisors are set to formally adopt the budget and tax rates on April 15.

According to Virginia state code, the advertised budget and tax rates can only decrease, not increase.

The fee increases previously contemplated by the Board were not increased because there is debate if the amount Fluvanna currently charges is the state mandated ceiling. While other localities charge more but the county attorney believes a conservative view of the law puts Fluvanna at the ceiling.

Fluvanna could increase fees by differentiating based on weight of vehicles. Because of the uncertainty of the fees, supervisors will take up the issue later this year. Unlike taxes that must be completed in the established budget calendar, fees can be increased at any time during the year, with proper public notice.

Not increasing the fees left revenue $100,000 short but supervisors will use the county’s savings to fill the hole until a resolution can occur on the fee structure.

Also at the March 18 meeting, supervisors voted to allow itself to charge for ambulance transport services. The ordinance paves the path to rescue cost recovery coming to the county. Supervisors have not voted to start rescue cost recovery, yet.

Fluvanna supervisors also rezoned land in the Zion Crossroads area to I-2. This will allow for other various forms of industry including companies that require heavy water use.

Industries that can use treated sewer discharge is an industry Fluvanna is very interested in. It helps lower the nutrients that are put back into the water shed.

The land that was rezoned is near and downstream from the correctional facility that the county has an agreement to treat sewer for a Zion Crossroads water system.

In a related note, supervisors will have a work session on water for the proposed Zion Crossroads system and the current Fork Union’s system tentatively scheduled for May but a date hasn’t been selected.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Tourism Growth in Greene County

By. Brent Wilson, Field clip_image002Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission considered a request for a  special use permit (SUP) for a Bed & Breakfast with Cabins on Route 33 west of Stanardsville at Mutton Hollow Road.  The property (3526 Mutton Hollow Road, 18-(A)-29), is nearly 14 acres which is zoned C-1, Conservation.

Zoning Administrator, Bart Svoboda  addressed the Planning Commission stating that the request was to have six cabins and the existing residence on the property. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  had no issues with the entrance to the property.

The property is identified as rural in Greene’s Comprehensive Plan which supports the project. The conditions proposed for the Special Use Permit (SUP#15-102) include the B&B would be limited to six cabins, no guests could stay more than 30 days in a row, there would be a maximum of 100 guests per event and the project must meet all applicable Health Department and VDOT regulations.

Rob Lynch, the applicant, then addressed the Planning Commission stating that he and his family have recently moved clip_image003into the home on the property.

He stated that the location is right off Route 33 west of Stanardsville and across from Lydia Mountain Cabins and near the Tea Room, the Blue Ridge Pottery and just east of the Shenandoah National Park  making it a natural addition to the entrance of Greene County to attract visitors to Greene County.

The 2010 Comprehensive Plan recognized the underutilized tourism opportunities in Greene County:

Greene County has several assets for a vital tourism industry. Proximity to Shenandoah National Park and many acres of scenic rural lands provide an ideal backdrop for visitors, and various amenities exist to serve those who do visit.

When compared to counties in similar situations, it is clear that Greene County has not completely tapped into its full potential as a tourism destination, as the table reveals.

In 2008, $15.17 million was spent in Greene County, generating approximately 210 jobs. This is lower than the amounts spent in any of the surrounding localities.

According to The VirginiVirginia is For Loversa Tourism Corporation (VTC) Greene County saw an increase of 1.3% in 2013 tourism expenditures.  Even with that increase the VTC Economic Impact Report showed that Greene continues to lag far behind neighboring localities in terms of tourism:

                                                            2013 Tourism
                                                            Expenditures (in Millions)
Albemarle                                           $315.46
Rockingham                                      $183.29
Louisa                                                  $ 67.59
Orange                                                 $ 43.66
Madison                                              $ 32.49
Greene                                                 $ 17.69

Commissioner Frank Morris asked Lynch if there were plans of hosting weddings on the property. Lynch stated that they did hope to hold small weddings on the property and the 100 person limit would be sufficient.

Commissioner John McCloskey asked about the septic and sewer capability of the project. Lynch stated that this issue would be addressed as the development grew. He hoped to have each cabin in a wooded setting depending on where the ground perked allowing the location. Morris asked why the 100 person limitation while also asking what the county could do to help the project be successful? Lynch stated that VDOT targeted the 100 person maximum and he felt that number of people would allow the project to be successful.

No one from the public had comments on the project. With no further discussion the Planning Commission recommended approval of the SUP 4-0 as Chairman Jay Willer was absent. The SUP will proceed to the Board of Supervisors for their review.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Albemarle’s Community Councils Get New Name–Mission Creep Continues

By. Neil Williamson, President

As an organization, the Free Enterprise Forum is very active in many local public policy discussions.  I appreciated Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sunday (3/15) article regarding our comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding community councils.

In the end, only the most tepid of reforms were passed (6-0).  The number of groups will be expanded.  Language discouraging voting was eliminated from the reforms at the request of the now renamed Community Committees.  I actually believe we may be worse off after the “reforms” than we were before.

I found it most interesting the Supervisors took issue with the concept of limiting the committees’ ability to vote.   This Board has applauded the US 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel which seems to be functioning absent any voting or consensus.

On Tuesday, I received a call from a student at Monticello High School who was interested in our position on the issue.  In the interest of clarity, I have published our entire statement in the space below.

My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum a public policy organization focused on local government located in Albemarle County.

We have had serious concerns about the mission creeping community councils at least as far back as 2009. I have shared just two of our posts regarding these concerns.

https://freeenterpriseforum.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/eliminate-albemarles-mission-creeping-community-councils/

https://freeenterpriseforum.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/the-sheffield-shuffle-places29-citizen-council-suspended-by-bos/

While these entities may have been well intentioned at their formation, they have become an unelected mandated review sieve that provides planning commissioners and members of the Board of supervisors more than just a sounding board – they have become gatekeepers and defacto political cover for the Board of Supervisors.

Planning Commissioner Tom Loach is on the record stating he would have great difficulty supporting any project that does not have the support of the community council. This is not an issue about any community council or any particular decision, frankly I have seen some good things come out of community councils. This is a bad government by design.

I applaud your tepid changes to the councils because they are probably all that could politically pass muster but the Free Enterprise Forum believes citizens should be free to gather however they see fit and speak out on any policy or project but the government should not be directly involved in that assemblage.

We call on you as elected leaders to lead. Evaluate projects on their merits and with the input of the community do not promote some members of the community to unelected fiefdoms in control of which projects advance.

We ask that you disband the community councils if you fail to do that, we encourage you to reign in these unelected mission creeping bodies to their original intent as sounding boards.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak

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20070731williamson 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

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