Joni Mitchell and Albemarle’s Land Use Plan

By. Neil Williamson, President

These are confused days for economic development in  Albemarle County.

The Board of Supervisors initiated a development boundary adjustment and sent it to the Planning Commission for their advice and counsel.  While the Board seems interested in generating tax revenue from sources other than the residential property taxes, the Planning Commission does not have that concern.

In fact, considering the tenor of public and commission comments in last week’s (7/21) Planning Commission Work Session on the partial restoration of their development area, I am skeptical this Commission will support either the development area adjustment or the potential rezoning.  This sets up a most interesting political moment when the Board of Supervisors considers the development area issue in September; and create unsure footing for any potential applicant considering 1/3 of the BOS will change on 12/31.

Please let me explain.

At the meeting, a number of citizens came out opposed to the consideration of changing the Comprehensive Plan Development Area Boundaries.

After the first speaker suggested that Albemarle was about to be “raped”, Former Planning Commissioner Marcia Joseph applauded the fact that there is no Cracker Barrel as part of our charm.

Ignoring the obvious ownership issues, Albemarle resident Bradford Davis said not to “give Mystery Corporation Inc. the right to develop on our property“. [emphasis added-nw]

Another speaker took the opportunity to quote Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” ballad:Joni_Mitchell_2004

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

There were a couple speakers who outlined specific positives of the proposed partial restoration (including the Free Enterprise Forum) but the vast majority of those who spoke were opposed to any adjustment.

Fighting with one (or both) arms behind their back

One of the Comprehensive plan goals is to grow the Commercial/Industrial tax base to make up 30% of the Albemarle’s tax revenue.   According to Albemarle’s Economic Development Director Faith McClintic, Albemarle currently is at 16.7% commercial tax revenue.  McClintic also reported that just .18% of Albemarle County’s land mass is designated for commercial and Industrial use.  Therefore, Albemarle strives to generate 30% of it tax revenue from just 825 acres (see chart below).

image

Albemarle staff has indicated in previous meetings of 23 missed businesses opportunities (19 existing/4 relocations) due to a lack of available acreage.  This represents an estimated creation/retention of 1,160 Albemarle County jobs.

One of the key challenges for the Planning Commission is that economic development is not a key element in their land planning.

One commissioner, Tom Loach,  suggested he was opposed to development area restoration because the County has not kept up with its infrastructure promises in the existing development area.  Considering the positive economic input of industrial land, he might want to reconsider the basis of his opposition – designating (and eventually rezoning) these parcels will result in increased revenue potentially for capital projects within the development areas.

On August 18th when Albemarle’s Planning Commission holds a public hearing on this issue, we fully anticipate a large number of speakers asking not to alter the development area boundary.  We hope the Planning Commission will consider the impact of their decision on all Albemarle citizens including the positive county revenue ramifications, the job creation, existing environmental protections provided by ordinance and the small portion of land involved in this partial development area restoration.

In the end, the Free Enterprise Forum hopes the Planning Commission will choose to provide space in their Comprehensive Plan for business to grow jobs —  But, we’re not betting on it.

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: First-Thoughts.org

Forest Lakes Outlaws

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

outlawThe Brookhill development that is in the early planning stages is located north of Polo Grounds Road and East of US29.  To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum does not take positions on projects and has no position on the Brookhill proposal.  Our concern is focused on planning policy and how those policies stifle creativity and consumer choice.

This project is located just south of the Forest Lakes South development, that has been well received by the market since its inception over twenty years ago.  Considering Forest Lakes appeal and the location of the project, one might think a thoughtful applicant would attempt to mimic some of Forest Lakes “desirable” characteristics.

But as I was sipping my morning coffee reading Elise Cruz’s Daily Progress/Charlottesville Tomorrow article about the neighborhood meeting concerning Brookhill, I found myself nodding in agreement with the quote from Alan Taylor of Riverbend Development:

“This is the new way that communities are developed,” Taylor said. “If I tried to build a development like Forest Lakes now, … it wouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Taylor’s comments reflect the reality of development in Albemarle County.  Over the last decade, via ordinance changes and policy direction, residential development has been forced into a new urbanist form that includes a higher level of density than the neighbors or the market wants.

The Neighborhood Model, which originally was sold as A model not THE model includes several concepts many of which are not only required in rezoning applications but are mandated by code:

Pedestrian Orientation
Mixture of Uses
Neighborhood Centers
Mixture of Housing Types and Affordability
Interconnected Streets and Transportation Networks
Multi-modal Transportation Opportunities
Parks, Recreational Amenities, and Open Space
Buildings and Space of Human Scale
Relegated Parking
Redevelopment
Respecting Terrain and Careful Grading and Re-grading of Terrain
Clear Boundaries with the Rural Area

The reality is that no longer can an applicant put forth the imageneighborhood design that they believe is best, will best sell or best fits the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. 

They are forced into new urbanist designs that prefer mixed use products, density over distance and pocket parks over parkways.

The buyer that is seeking a more traditional design, is left to look to existing housing stock, rural area development or to the surrounding localities with less restrictive design parameters. 

That how Albemarle is forcing the new housing market forward.  

Yes, when Albemarle County planning officials outlawed Forest Lakes, Forest Lakes became outlaws.

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

Albemarle’s Development Area Shrinkage

Adapted from comments made to the Albemarle County Planning Commission June 21, 2015

By. Neil Williamson, President

lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin as Incredible Shrinking Woman

Good Evening, I am Neil Williamson and I serve as President of the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government.

A review of Albemarle County’s Development Area designation and implementation reminds me a great deal of Lily Tomlin’s 1981 masterpiece, The Incredible Shrinking Woman.

According to the online records, Albemarle County’s development area was first ordained in 1971.   The map below suggests the land mass that was then considered the development areas. In that initial map 37,000 acres (~58 square miles) were in the development areas and there were an additional fourteen villages identified for development.Slideshow-compplan

In the 1977 Comprehensive Plan the Development Area was reduced to about 25,000 acres (~39 square miles).

In 1982, the number of villages dedicated for development dropped from fourteen to four.  The early 1990s saw a number of Comprehensive Plan amendments approved for expansion of the development areas including Rivanna Village, North Fork Research Park Expansion, Towers Land Trust (Northpointe) and Piney Mountain.  These totaled over 2,400 acres.

Then in the 1995 Comprehensive Plan, a divided Planning Commission sent a small expansion of the Development Areas to the Board of Supervisors who refused their recommendation. Instead, Albemarle launched the Development Initiative Steering Committee (DISC) designed to increase the efficiency of the land available in the Development Areas.  The Neighborhood Model was the eventual output from this, and other efforts.

Fast forwarding to the 2000s and we find the manner in which development areas are reduced is no longer by moving the lines and reducing the land mass.  Instead, well meaning environmental restrictions were passed to reduce the amount of land available for development in the development areas.

Preserved slopes are hillsides of 25% or greater that the County has determined are not to be disturbed (with some minor exceptions).  This reduced the developable acreage by 2,271 acres (~3.5 Square miles).

Stream buffers also reduce the amount of developable amount of land available as does the flood plain.  Many of these parcels may also be counted in the preserved slope number so, to be conservative, we opted not to count those in Albemarle’s “shrinkage”.

Last week, I told the Commission that I did not recall having the opportunity to speak at the Comprehensive Plan Amendment that removed Biscuit Run State Park from the Development Area.  As my good friend Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) reminded me, Biscuit Run is still in the Development Area.  Chalk up another 800 undevelopable Development Area acres for Biscuit Run.  You can also deduct 138 acres for the County’s Development Area Parks. Therefore parks reduce the developable acreage by 938 acres (~1.5 square miles).

Land dedicated to schools and other community infrastructure (Airport = 610 acres) further limits the amount of developable land in the development area.

In addition, Albemarle’s Neighborhood Model Development policies dictate most new developments have 15% open space as a part of their development plan, this coupled with street design regulations may reduce the true developable acreage by an additional 17% 3,808 acres (~6 square miles).

Combined these decisions and policies have reduced the developable acreage by 7,017 acres (~11 square miles).

At a time when your so called “peer” communities have dedicated 20% or greater of their land mass to development areas, The Free Enterprise Forum hopes tonight’s work session will include a discussion of how you plan to fully restore the developable land in the development area to 5% of the land mass of Albemarle County.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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

 

 

Fluvanna Considers Compassionate Billing, Zion’s Rezoning, and Insufficient Infrastructure Appeal

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

One the longest regular Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meetings in recent history included a little bit of everything.

The supervisors voted to set pricing and the collection of payment for transport emergency services.

The county will charge 125 percent of what Medicare sets. It will adjust as Medicare changes its maximum rates. The pricing passed 4-0, Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) was not present for the meeting.

The more hot button issue is how it will be collected.

Ullenbruch2014

Bob Ullenbruch

Insurance companies, like Medicare, sets maximums to what patients can be charged for transport services. If an insurance company sets a rate, typically it will pay a percentage of that total. In that case, residents would be charged the remaining balance, between what the insurance company allows to be charged and what the insurance company pays.

Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) wanted only insurance companies charged, not directly to residents. Charging insurance companies only requires an opinion of the Office of Inspector General. Staff stressed it is not an easy process but can be done in three months.

The option that passed, called ‘compassionate billing’ charges the insurance company based on its policies. The county’s third-party for billing collects from the insurance company then sends the remainder of the charge to the resident. The resident’s charges can be forgiven all or a portion of the bill based on income levels.

“Proof of inability to pay is insulting and demeaning,” said Ullenbruch.

‘Compassionate billing’ passed on a 3-1 vote. Supervisors later can decide to change to ‘insurance only’.

Supervisors also passed the rezoning of land on Route 15 near the county border in the Zion Crossroads area. The property was zoned A-1 and now rezoned to I-1. The applicant intends to use it for landscape stone company but the zoning allows other industrial uses.

Supervisors were leery of the rezoning because the property is near the Route 250 intersection and the county has longingly eyed the area for major development, once a water system is installed.

A water system for just the area would cost several million dollars and has been debated for decades because of hopes of money coming back to the county by way of water rates and commercial tax base. I-1 uses aren’t as lucrative for tax base as B-1 uses.

water bibThe issue currently is the land doesn’t have water yet. In fact, the supervisors still haven’t fully approved a water system. I-1 uses typically use less water than B-1. This is the second rezoning to I-1 in the area in the past few months.

“Are we focusing on what the vision is?” said Ullenbruch as the rezoning came up.

Supervisors really are at the mercy of the market on how things are developed, unless the county buys land and develops it itself.

Supervisors have discussed creating zoning overlays that would allow ‘fast tracked’ rezoning. The idea of an overlay is to tell the market what the county is most interested in properties becoming. Most of the property in Zion Crossroads is A-1, like the rest of the county.

Supervisors passed the rezoning 4-0.

Also unanimously approved was the denial of an appeal regarding a decision of the county’s subdivision agent.

The county has been issuing building and occupancy permits to properties that are in subdivisions that do not have public roads. Subdivisions are required to have public roads but because of the bursting of the housing bubble, some have been left with inadequate roads according to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  standards.

The county had been issuing permits incorrectly for these questionable properties. Now the county is denying any more permit requests for properties that are on roads that are supposed to be public but are not completed.

Liberty Homes, Home Builder in VALiberty Homes, the owner of the remaining lots in Cunningham Meadows, has recently completed a house and had a contract of sale for it. When applying for the certificate of occupancy, it was denied because the road is not public.

Liberty Homes appealed the decision to the supervisors because permits have been previously issued. The subdivision has multiple occupied houses. Other subdivisions not in compliance have occupied houses.

The appellant asked for the appeal because other homes have been incorrectly granted permits. The appellant viewed this similar to the other properties.

Fred Payne, the county attorney, argued that the property in question is clearly in violation of the subdivision ordinance and should be denied. He further showed is different because Liberty Homes, in his opinion, is the developer of the property, not just an owner of lots.

When Liberty purchased the remaining lots of the subdivision, an appraiser noted the lots ‘as is’ were less than typical market value because the infrastructure of the subdivision was ‘nearly complete’. The appraisal, provided by the appellant, notes it was “adjusted for the estimated cost to complete the infrastructure.”

The estimated costs to complete the road to VDOT standards is less than $200,000, Payne said. Liberty Homes still currently owns nine lots in the subdivision.

Neil Talegaonkar, lawyer representing Liberty Homes, said following the denial of the appeal, “We have a right to appeal to circuit court. We will evaluate and see if that’s something we are interested in.”

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is Aug. 5 at 4 p.m. There is no meeting on the third Wednesday in the month of August.

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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

Greene PC Approves Business in Ruckersville

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

With several parcels changing uses near the intersection of US29 and Route 33, several Ruckersville enterprises are on the move.

Melissa Andrusczyk, who operates a business on the southeast corner of Routes 33 and 29 in Ruckersville, approached the Greene County  Planning Commission on Wednesday, July 15 seeking approval of a special use permit to open another business just west of Ruckersville on Route 33.

clip_image002The new facility, located at 14343 Spotswood Trail, has recently been vacated by a church presenting the opportunity for Andrysczk to open Ruckersville Rummage in the existing building.

Bart Svoboda, Director/Zoning Administrator presented the request to the Planning Commission  explaining that VDOT felt no additional parking would be needed as well as no upgrades. The structure is just west of a crossover near Creative Press and the Ruckersville Fire Department so that customers wanting to travel east would have to exit westbound and take the next crossover to head east on Route 33. The Health Department also had no concerns related to the new business.

clip_image004The plot is located in the A-1 district (County Tax Map 60B-(A)-2) and the Comprehensive Plan supports economic growth in this area of the county. That area of the county has approximately a 20/80 split between business vs. residential currently. Staff recommends approval since it keeps the character of the area the same and no outside storage or flea market would be allowed with the special use permit.

Commissioner Frank Morris, At Large Member, questioned if any display of product for sale or advertisement would be needed since no outside tables would be allowed. Andrysczyk asked if some product could be displayed to advertise the business and that it would be brought inside nightly.

Svoboda stated that any outside display is prohibited unless specifically allowed by the commission. He asked that the commission define a measurable/enforceable distance/area or totally strike the display restriction.

The Planning Commission discussed various boundary limits for the display and finally decided not to limit the display of product with the assumption that parking requirements would limit where product could be displayed. Commissioner Eva Young made a motion to approve the SUP with the only provision being that no outside sales be allowed and motion was passed unanimously.

Note: The current location of Ruckersville Rummage that is operated on the southeast corner of Routes 29 and 33 has had plans approved to develop the parcel.

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

Greene BOS Gets Quarterly VDOT Update

VDOT-logo.jpgBy. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On a quarterly basis,  the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  Resident Administrator Charlottesville, Joel DeNunzio provides and update on road programs in the region to the Greene County Board of Supervisors.   The district includes Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa counties.  On July 14th James Greis, the manager of maintenance for the same district, came before the Greene BOS meeting in place of DeNunzio.

Greis updated the Board on a variety of projects in the county. Of primary importance is the Route 29 and Route 33 intersection. There is a traffic study being conducted on volume of traffic coming eastbound on Route 33 into the intersection and on Route 33 westbound concerning the traffic light. There are three lights on the westbound Route 33 intersection of Route 29 but only two lanes. The left most light is a turn arrow and the other two lights are both for the right hand lane (through traffic and right turn). It is confusing and dangerous – for fear that a driver in the left hand lane may take the middle light as his and signal him that it is ok to make a left hand turn into oncoming through traffic.  Greis reported that the two lights cannot be reduced to one nor can they be moved farther to the right or closer together.

Patch paving on Route 33 west of Stanardsville toward the Shenandoah National Park is being done.  Next spring the entire stretch from Rockingham County to Stanardsville is to be repaved. That same stretch has had a review of replacing the guardrails and the cost has been estimated to be approximately $1 million .

Roger Morris who lives near Geer was the only speaker from the public and his issue concerned parking on Garth Road which blocked his driveway to his home. Chairman David Cox (Monroe District) suggested that Morris and Greis meet after the VDOT segment of the meeting to discuss the issue directly.

clip_image002

Greene Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville)

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District)returned to the Route 33 westbound lanes at the Route 29 intersection. He again expressed concern about the safety of the turn lane and asked if a turn arrow could be painted in the left lane to clearly identify it as a turn lane.  Greis agreed to follow up on the request.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) discussed a speed study be done on Dunnes Shop Road – Route 670.  Greis said that a consensus of the Board was required and it was quickly agreed to move forward.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

Renaming Fluvanna’s “Confederate Park”?

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The July 1st Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meeting was filled with discussions about history and historical perspective. And ended with the supervisors wanting the public to talk about it more.

The meeting started unusually with new business item ‘renaming of park’ being moved to beginning of the meeting. New business typically occurs at the end of the public session, just before the last public comment section.

The park in question is currently identified as ‘Confederate Park’ by a sign the public works installed last year. County records never show a formal name being selected for the small grassed area.

The only thing in the park is a confederate war memorial, honoring the Fluvanna soldiers who died. Around the monument are three stones, one for a Fluvanna battalion, one for a Fluvanna man and a third for all the Fluvanna women who died during the war.

Booker2014

Mozell Booker

“We are not thinking of doing anything to the park,” said chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).

Booker suggested the park should be expanded to not only include just the confederate memorial but other memorials. Names were suggest of ‘Memorial Park’ or ‘Monument Park’,

Booker, who grew up in Fluvanna and graduated from segregated Abrams High School, emphasized the confederate monument should stay because it signifies an important part of history. “It is Fluvanna’s history. It is my history,” she said.

The county placed the sign in the park during a 2014 emphasis of identifying public areas. The reason it was given the name Confederate Park is because it has frequently been identified throughout history as such. But formally, no name has been given.

“The timing is just suspicious to me, but if it is for all the right reasons then I’m for it,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).

Booker said the timing was fine because it was a discussion about Fluvanna and “it is always a good time to talk about Fluvanna.”

She said many times that the monument should not come down. She suggested other monuments that could be placed in the park including something to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She said the park could be a safe place for families to talk about the Civil War.

“It is a good place for families to come and talk personal history,” said Booker. She said often the Civil War is a difficult item to talk about in schools but families could talk together about it.

Four people spoke during public comments to voice support of renaming the park and no one suggested taking the monument down.

“The space could be more than just a memorial to more than just the confederate soldiers,” said Marvin Moss, president of the Fluvanna Historical Society. He said the society has someone willing to donate a stone to honor the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Dr. Frank Gallo felt if the name was such an issue, he could handle it immediately after the meeting, without any fanfare. “I have a hacksaw in the back of my car. We can take it down tonight.”

Supervisors are asking residents to suggest names via the county’s website feature called, ‘My Two Cents’. Residents can also contact county administration to suggest names. As always, public comments are a good time to talk to the supervisors.

Ullenbruch2014

Bob Ullenbruch

At the first June meeting a resident suggested naming the new Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) bridge on Route 6 after the name of the original 1800s bridge  that was there, Temperance Bridge. John Hartwell Cocke**, often viewed as a ‘founding father of Fluvanna’, was a Thomas Jefferson contemporary and also a supporter of temperance, a movement to stop alcohol consumption. The name would give reverence to Cooke.

To name a VDOT bridge, it will cost the county possibly a few thousand dollars. County staff will get final estimates from the state department. VDOT requires the county to foot the bill of making the signs.

Ullenbruch suggested not just naming a bridge in reference to someone from old Fluvanna history but of people who have made a difference in more recent history.

Steve Nichols, county administrator, suggested there are many public spaces that need names. He gave the example of county rooms that are rented that should be named to make identifying them easier.

Supervisors again will look to the public to give two cents or five minutes of time (length of public comments) to identify names that would be appropriate for everything from bridges to rooms.

The supervisors voted to accept a $10,000 gift that will be used to place a 20-station outdoor fitness track along the Heritage Trail.

“This really is a long-standing setup,” said Nichols.

The money was donated by the Heritage Trail Foundation. The fit trail will be at the Eastern Trailhead.

The board also approved a county-wide employee appreciation program. Last time the Board discussed the program, Ullenbruch left the meeting after Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said Ullenbruch sounded like a communist.

The program now includes a total county payout of $1,750 per year. There is yearly prize of a one-time bonus of $500 for the top employee in public service. If a group wins the award, it will be divided equally. The other five nominees for the yearly award will receive a one-time bonus of $250. Again, a group would divide the earnings.

The program was reduced in monetary size after supervisors voiced concerns with how much money was being asked. It still includes on the spot and retiree recognition.

Ullenbruch moved to pass the program with O’Brien seconding. It passed unanimously.

Supervisors also voted to buy the property currently being used as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. The county is currently paying $2,000 a month to lease the space.

Oddly enough, according to the county’s online tax records, the county sold the property to the current owner on April 29, 1999 for $76,000. The county is purchasing the property for the 2015 assessed value of $147,900. The fund balance will be used to pay for the property.

Supervisors will next meeting on July 15. The August schedule includes two meetings on August 5 but none the rest of the month.

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**John Hartwell Cocke name was misspelled in a previous version of this post nw 7/8/15

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

US29 Business Assistance – What Are You Willing To Do?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, July 1, 2015

Good Afternoon. My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government.

I understand you received an e-mail from my associate, Tim Hulbert of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tim can’t be here for public comment due to a previously scheduled medical appointment but does hope to join you later this afternoon when you are discussing the US29 Business survival program.

In a blog post yesterday, I highlighted the many expressions of support this board has provided to potentially impacted businesses throughout the Route 29 Solutions approval process.

According to the approved minutes of the May 27th 2014 meeting:

Ms. [Diantha] McKeel commented that it’s the intent of this Board to make the businesses as strong as possible during this period of construction

I am a big Sean Connery fan. Considering his many memorable roles, it is hard to believe he  only won a single Academy Award. He won as Best Supporting Actor for his role as veteran patrolman Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables.

sean-connery-as-jim-malone-in-the-untouchablesIn one of the best scenes in the movie, Malone confronts Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner and asks, “ You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Ness replies: “Anything within the law.”

Considering the broad support this board has indicated it would provide to the businesses impacted by the construction of the Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange and the modest plan your professional staff has created to mitigate some of the business interruption, I have just one question.

What are you willing to do?

Your answer will speak volumes.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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

US29 Business Survival – Will Albemarle Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Wayback MachineJumping into Mr. Peabody’s WABAC time machine, we travel to May, 2014 where  we find the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors over the top in support of businesses in the US29/Rio Road area as they discussed and voted in favor of moving the Route 29 Solutions forward:

Ms. [Diantha] McKeel commented that it’s the intent of this Board to make the businesses as strong as possible during this period of construction, and felt that it was critical for VDOT to work with the Board as it reaches out to businesses

Ms. [Liz] Palmer said she agreed, and stated that there were a number of business owners who stated their support for the package – and she felt it was extremely important that they start working with the business community as soon as possible.

Ms. [Jane] Dittmar added that they have a very attentive Board of Supervisors that would stand by the business community 100% as they go through the process to improve the roads in the community, and finally have the ability to attend to some other things with a full concentration – ACBOS Minutes 5/27/14 Emphasis added –nw

Fast forward eleven months and the tenor of the conversation at the June 3, 2015 meeting of the Board was decidedly different.  As the Board was discussing making what Assistant County Executive Lee Catlin called “an investment in the future”, Supervisors pushed back about spending any money on an “Open for Business” advertising campaign or even increased signage.

While he noted the Chamber of Commerce support, Supervisor Brad Sheffield questioned if business owners even cared about this issue as so few showed up for the meeting when it was being discussed. 

Supervisor Ken Boyd, long an opponent of the Rio Interchange, took a decidedly different approach to his opposition stating he felt this was the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) folly and they should pay for any marketing effort not the Albemarle County taxpayers.

Supervisor McKeel was very concerned about the potential precedent such an expenditure might create.  She stated:

I have to have a comfort level that we are being fair to all the businesses in Albemarle County

When pressed for a legal opinion regarding the precedent setting and fairness issue, County Attorney Larry Davis explained that the documents presented laid out a clear case and rationale for the Board’s decision, if they should so choose, to fund this expenditure.  He concluded by saying:

I’m comfortable with it

After a motion to fund the business assistance program fully failed (2-4), Chair Jane Dittmar (one of the two votes in favor) asked a decidedly pointed question of her fellow Board members:

Do you want to put any financial wherewithal on an open for business campaign?  If not we won’t discuss it any further

us 29 logoAfter this cajoling from the chair and some internal grumblings, there was a majority on the Board that was interested in seeing the specifics of a campaign before ruling out the “investment”

This brings us to this week’s meeting (7/1).  Staff has brought forward a combined marketing campaign that is designed to:

·      encourage customer loyalty and minimize disruption to impacted businesses and their employees

·      support the larger tourism industry in the County, as many of the visitors who support the County’s tourism destinations are from locations such as northern Virginia/Washington DC and travel to the area using Route 29 North.

·      protect tax revenues generated from the general business district along the Route 29 corridor

In addition to the marketing campaign, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce  has suggested a series of signs be erected as soon as possible to alert commuters of the enterprises that are and will remain “open for business”.  The concept is these signs be placed now and remain up during and a little after the construction period.

The Chamber even created a concept sign for the Board to consider.

chamber sign concept

Such a temporary set of signs, albeit redesigned, will certainly provide  US29 businesses with increased visibility during a difficult time.

Considering the import of this investment  issue and the importance of business in the North US29 corridor.  The question now is Will the Board put their money where their mouth is?

Sally Thomas photo credit Charlottesville TomorrowBased on their statements in the last meeting, I have my doubts but perhaps they will listen to former Supervisor Sally Thomas, a long time bypass opponent,  who also spoke at the May 27, 2014 BOS meeting regarding the  Route 29 solutions:

the Board [of Supervisors] also has the right to make businesses a priority, and encouraged them to learn from what’s just happened at McIntire in ensuring that local businesses are advertised and that alternative routes are provided, with VDOT giving them priority in their planning and engineering.  emphasis added – nw

As always, 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: Jay Ward Productions, Charlottesville Tomorrow 

Greene BOS Approves Cabins on Route 33

clip_image002Bruce Shifflett, owner of Lydia Mountain Resorts, appeared before the Greene County Board of Supervisors to request a Special Use Permit (SUP#15-003) for a general store and five (5) cabins on a parcel that partially fronts Route 33 west of Stanardsville (18-(A)-11B). Prior to the hearing, Supervisor Eddie Deane recused himself since his wife, Tina, works for the applicant.

Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the request for the nearly 4 acres that is zoned C-1 and partially fronts Route 33 at the entrance to Lydia Mountain Resorts. The Planning Commission on May 20th approved the SUP with a 5-0 vote with the only restriction that guests could stay no more than 30 days in a years time.

Shifflett addressed the Board and explained that the existing building on Route 33 was at one time a general store when he was growing up in Greene and he hopes to use it as a check in location for his guests. Currently the guests go directly to their cabin and there is no personal contact with the resort staff.

Next the session was open to the public where four speakers were evenly split on the permit. An adjacent landowner, Paul Vannoy, expressed concern about the density of having 6 buildings on less than 4 acres where property owners in C-1 can only build one home per 8 acres by right. He also lives downhill from the proposed dwellings and expressed concern about his ground water being contaminated.

Tina Deane, who is the manager of Lydia Mountain Resort, said that they are very sensitive to their neighbors and the units would be small one bedroom units approximately 400 square feet. She lives right beside the resort and it is quiet.

The hearing then shifted to a discussion of the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) said he had received several emails opposing the SUP but he felt that it was supported by the Comprehensive Plan to develop tourism in Greene County and he likes the idea of the store front on Route 33. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) complimented Shifflett on his quality of his development but he expressed concern that the ground water may be contaminated.

clip_image006

Greene County BOS Chairman David Cox

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) said that Shifflett’s development has been good for Greene County and that his only concern was the density of the four acres with 5 units. He suggested to Shifflett that he reduce the request to fewer units. Chairman David Cox (Monroe District) expressed concern that for generations either 5 and then 8 acres have been required for one dwelling.

Shifflett offered to reduce the number of cabins from 5 down to 3 and explained that he isn’t sure if he would get 3 units and that it will depend if the lot would perk in proper locations to put in the units. At that point, a motion was made to approve the SUP with the general store and 3 cabins with the same 30 day restriction that the PC approved. The motion was passed 3-1 with Cox voting no.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

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