Albemarle PC – “I Got You Babe”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Groundhog Day PosterWhile being nowhere near as funny (or good looking) as Actor Bill Murray, I must say that thanks to cash proffer inaction by  Albemarle County, I can closely identify with one of his more famous roles.

Please let me explain.

In the seminal 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s weatherman character, Phil Connors, wakes up every day in the same small Pennsylvania hotel to the same song by Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”.

Regardless of what occurs the day that follow – literally no matter what he does,  every morning is the same — Murray is magically transported back to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and the alarm clock’s warning on Groundhog Day.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In January 2013, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned the Contradictory Consequences study that showed how cash proffers were causing residential projects to move forward by right rather than rezoning along the lines of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked us to present the paper to the Board in May.  Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In 2014, the Virginia passed a law that restricted localities to only murray groundhoginclude infrastructure projects that increased capacity in their cash proffer calculations.  Surely this will prompt significant action in Albemarle.  In September, the Supervisors sent the issue to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

A full year, and 18 meetings, later (September 2015) the Committee forwarded their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Over the Fall and early winter, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke in six different public meetings in the following three months admonishing Albemarle to make the changes demanded by state code.

For months, there was no action.  But then in November, a glimmer of light, the Chair of the BOS told me it would be on their December agenda.

It was on the December BOS agenda, as an information item that the FIAC report was being sent to the Planning Commission for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Last week, the Planning Commission (with several new members) took up the issue and decided [despite having a subcommittee study it for 18 meetings] they did not have enough information to make a decision and that since the General Assembly is considering additional proffer reform this session, maybe they should just wait.  In the meantime, let’s work on our Fantasy Island CIP. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

So tonight, just as Phil Connors gave his forecast every morning,  the Free Enterprise Forum will again ask Albemarle County to follow state law and reform their “voluntary cash proffer policy”.  I am pretty sure I know what their redundant response will be.groundhog day 1993

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of the same old song out of Albemarle.

But just like Phil Connors, I don’t know when it will possibly get better.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, Columbia Pictures

Greene’s Ambitious 2016 Agenda

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

barkley

Greene County Administrator John Barkley

At the January 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator John Barkley revealed an ambitious agenda for 2016. Prepared at the request of the Board and reflecting BOS priorities, the top items are improving the timeliness of financial reporting, starting the 2017 budget process and finalizing the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the county so that it can be balanced with the county’s funds and the Board of Supervisor’s priorities.

DEQlogowThe largest capital project on Barkley’s list is the White Run Reservoir  and it is estimated at a cost in excess of $40,000,000. The final cost will depend on the negotiated purchases of property, the access road, facility design/location and in the range of $7 to $9 Million in compensatory mitigation for stream and wetland impacts permitted by Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The compensatory mitigation may be paid to a third party mitigation site within the watershed that is authorized to sell credits for the White Run impact site in Greene

It will be of interest to see if there are any projects in Greene County that could use these credits/funds to restore/enhance streams to offset those that the dam will displace and get value back to Greene County.

star logoThe Stanardsville Revitalization project  was included on Barkley’s priority list and he specifically mentioned a pavilion on the grounds of the County Administration building along with façade and infrastructure improvements in downtown Stanardsville.

Long term (2018-2020) the preliminary CIP lists sidewalk improvements, underground utilities and a water/sewer project for the town with the last being in excess of $10 million.

Barkley then spoke about the new county website with a presentation planned for the Board of Supervisors in February. This will also include a revision to the Economic Development and Tourism website .

Barkley also mentioned a desire to complete a facility assessment of all county owned property. Such an assessment would provide longitudinal data to update the CIP with a realistic cost to maintain all facilities. The fact that this study needs to be done indicates that whatever CIP is approved in the short-term will likely be understated until this assessment can be fully priced out.

Several other issues were mentioned by Barkley – transportation/Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Greene County Library, and broadband service for the western part of Greene County.

The CIP  is a look forward five years and while many of the projects that  Barkley mentioned are included, there are many other projects in future years that are also in the CIP.

After the meeting, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke with Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Planning Director  and new Supervisor Dale Herring about the high speed internet lines being put down along Route 33 by the school system.  In addition to being a newly elected supervisor, Herring serves as the Director of Technology for the Greene County Schools and therefore is heavily involved in the internet project. Herring explained that the installation of high speed internet service is part of a five year lease which will lower the operating cost of the schools internet and dramatically increase the speed to 10 GIG

william monroe high school 2

This project is targeted to be completed by June, 2016 with a five year lease to commence after it is operational. http://www.usac.org/sl/. At the end of the lease period the school system will have the option to purchase the system at a very low cost. If the school system takes ownership of the system, then they can make it available for other departments of Greene County.

Herring

Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large)

According to Herring:

With the recent changes to eRate  (http://www.usac.org/sl/) our school division was able to:

a. Increase our division internet connection from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

b. Increase the connection from the Technical Education Center to the Central Office from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

c. Lease a fiber connection from Ruckersville Elementary School and Technical Education Center to the Central Office increasing connection speeds from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps.  The estimated time to be fully implemented is the summer of 2016.  Greene County Schools will have the option to purchase the fiber in year 6.  If it is decided to purchase the fiber, there would be a cost for a service contract.

Herring went on to explain that with eRate the schools costs have been reduced approximately $500 per month.

The county’s CIP update is long overdue. The CIP is a tool for projecting future costs of the county and is also a requirement of some grant applications. It will be interesting to see what the five year costs are estimated to be when it is updated and presented to the Board of Supervisors and what the proposed impact will be to the citizens of Greene in terms of infrastructure spending and potential tax increases.

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

Albemarle PC Irresponsible Fantasy Island Fiscal Follies Could Equal 37.5% Tax Increase

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Albemarle County Planning Commission (PC) has reached a new high in mission creep as in their January 26th meeting they chose to not only ignore a 2014 change in Virginia state law, they also decided to ignore a clearly worded memo of direction from the Board of Supervisors regarding cash proffer calculation.

Fantasy Island 2Along the way, they expanded their directive and in an effort to extract more cash proffers from new home buyers, they started the ball rolling on a “Fantasy Island” Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that could, if ever implemented,  increase annual CIP spending by $144.3 Million and increase property taxes by 37.5% ($750+ on a $250,000 home).

Please let me explain.

The Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) produced a report in September 2015 indicating the need to dramatically reduce the maximum cash proffer amount permitted to bring Albemarle County in line with the 2014 change in State Code.  The 2014 law requires the calculation be based on only CIP projects that increase capacity (rather than maintenance).

FIAC’s recommendation followed the 2014 state law change:

2) Amend the maximum per unit cash proffer amounts to:
o SFD – $4,918 (2014 value was $20,987)
o SFA/TH – $3,845 (2014 value was $14,271)
o MF – $5,262 (2014 value was $14,871)

The September 3, 2014 memo from the Board of Supervisors directing the PC and FIAC to review the Cash Proffer Calculation was very clear:

Specifically the Board requests that the Committee:
1) Analyze possible credits for:
-Development in targeted areas. Targeted areas are those areas shown as Priority Areas identified in each Master Plan Area.
-Mixed use developments.
-Development supportive of growth management        strategies of the Comprehensive Plan.
2) Provide recommendations on changes to existing credits in the policy, including the credit that may be provided for by-right units, now available by policy only in limited circumstances (Policy § C(6)(c)).
3) Update the County’s maximum per unit cash proffer amount by dwelling unit type.
4) Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

Several members of the FIAC complained to the Planning Commission that the proffer number was too low due to the change in State law and Albemarle’s recent “maintenance only” CIP.  Rather than accepting the report and direction from a committee that met 18 times over the last year and half, the Planning Commission discussion focused the committee’s disgruntled members and on their own uncomfortableness with the resultant proffer numbers required by state law.

PC Members wanted staff to detail all the capital projects required to achieve the vision of the newly approved comprehensive plan.  It was their thought that this would provide a better context than what the state law provided.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been critical of the Planning Commission’s involvement in these fiscal discussions.  Part of that criticism is based on the limited scope of the commission and the reality that Planning Commissioners do not fully understand the capital spending crisis Albemarle County is already in.

Cash proffers provide less than 3.5% of the annual revenue for capital spending.  The lion’s share comes from property taxes.

With the economic downturn, recent Boards of Supervisors chose not to increase taxes to keep up with new infrastructure demands but rather to kick such funding down the road and only fund maintaining existing infrastructure.

Albemarle’s FY2016 Budget Message summed it up succinctly:

As most recently reviewed, the CIP continues to focus on meeting mandates, maintaining existing infrastructure, and investing in those projects that allow the County to continue core and necessary services without substantial increases in operational costs. … As most recently reviewed, $152.1 million or 50% of the requested CIP projects were unable to be funded with current resources.

So what does that mean the Planning Commission is contemplating?

Based on our review of the Comprehensive Plan and Albemarle’s own assessment that they can’t fund half of the CIP projects already on the books now – we conservatively estimate the Planning Commission Fiscal Follies would likely triple the CIP need.

fantasy island 3Therefore, to fully fund the Planning Commission’s “Fantasy Island” CIP could be $.40+ (currently ~$.10) on the tax rate.  Based on Albemarle’s tax calculator – on a $250,000 home that equates to a $750 [37.5%] increase in local property taxes.

But the Planning Commission really is not in a place to understand this fiscal reality.  As unelected appointees, they do not have to face the voters with such fiscal follies.

The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the Planning Commission to cease wasting limited staff resources on this fanciful mission creep into County fiscal matters.  We believe they should vote (either way) on the September 2015 FIAC recommendation and send their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors who do answer to the voters.

We believe a 37.5% “Fantasy Island” CIP property tax increase would generate significant  discussion among the Board and voters.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, ABC Television

Fluvanna Reluctantly Opens JRWA Water Spigot

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

water bibOn January 20th, the Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the special use permit for the James River Water Authority (JRWA).  The permit allows the JRWA to construct an intake facility and pump raw water to a location near Route 6.

The permit was a resubmitted request from December 2nd when the board voted 2-2 (resulting in a non approval). The difference in approved version was the facility moved to the adjacent property. Previously it was in a wooded area, now it is strip of trees of a field.

The other main difference, and probably the reason it passed, was the filed lawsuit Louisa County, Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) and the JRWA filed (but not served) after the first permit failed.

Eager2016Cropped

Fluvanna Supervisor Patricia Eager

“It breaks my heart that we have been checkmated,” said Patricia Eager (Palmyra District).

Eager and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) noted before the vote that the county asked outside counsel about the basis of the pending legal action. Weaver noted the lawyers gave ‘strong worded’ counsel.

“The decision here tonight was made two years ago,” Weaver said, referencing the October 2013 vote of the inter-jurisdictional agreement. It passed on a 3-1 vote, Weaver voting against it.

During the public hearing fourteen speakers spoke against the JRWA permit. Seven spoke in favor and one did not state an outright opinion.

One resident threatened possible legal action if the permit passed. He also said he would stand in front of any bulldozer to stop any action.

Weaver said before casting his vote, “I will make a decision that in my opinion would do less damage to the county.”

The second special use permit on January 20th was for the LCWA to construct a pipeline from Route 6, along the eastern portion of the county to Louisa County line. It passed unanimously.

Mozell Booker

Fluvanna Vice Chairperson Mozell Booker

After the votes, vice chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) said, “I can’t be anything but elated.”

The public hearings were held jointly with the Planning Commission. Both permits were recommended for approval by the commission unanimously.

Chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) was not at the meeting because of health reasons. He is expected to be back starting in February. He may attend portions of the supervisors’ scheduled retreat on January 30th.

That retreat was previously scheduled for January 23 but postponed because of weather. It is planned to be at the Fork Union Community Center.

The next regular supervisors’ meeting is February 3rd at 4 p.m.

————————————————————-

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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Asking the Wrong People the Right Question

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

What if during the climatic western movie scene, the stable boy, who knows the location of the gang’s hideout, went to the grocery clerk rather than getting word to the Lone Ranger?

This is exactly what Albemarle County is doing on Tuesday night.

Please let me explain.

On September 3, 2014, Albemarle BOS directed their appointed bodies to evaluate and come up with a recommendation to address changes in state code regarding cash proffers.

The Board of Supervisors requests that the Albemarle County Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee provide advice and recommendations to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors on revisions to the credit provisions and the per unit cash proffer amounts of the Cash Proffer Policy…Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

To be fair, the members of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee did their work as effectively as they could despite what the Free Enterprise Forum sees as staff driven delays.  After the FIAC report was issued, staff continued to drag their feet.

For the last four months, the Free Enterprise Forum has regularly highlighted Albemarle County’s Cash Proffer Policy is in direct violation of State law.  County Attorney, Larry Davis, disagrees indicating that Albemarle has not had a rezoning come before it since the change in state law and if such a rezoning application did come before the Board, legal staff would inform them of the impact of the change in state law on the cash proffer amount.

With all due respect Mr. Davis, might the $20,000+ cash proffer amount per unit be a reason Albemarle has not seen more rezonings coming forward?

The results of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (which included a member of the Planning Commission) should have been sent directly to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for immediate action.

While we believe cash proffers should be eliminated entirely, the proposal from the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee helps put some reasonable, rational, (and legally mandated) conditions on the calculation of Albemarle Illegal Cash Proffer Gravy Train.

Whether the Planning Commission, who in the role of the Western Grocery Clerk, is ill equipped to process this request, will send this recommendation forward to the Board of Supervisors  is yet to be seen.

We hope the hero shows up soon, to bring Albemarle in line with the law.

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, maryrobertsonwriter.blogspot.com tomsoter.com

Greene Planning Commission Counting Their Chickens

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission began their January, 2016 meeting electing officers with Jay Willer and Vic Schaff maintaining their Chairman and Vice-Chairman positions respectively. There were only four commissioners for this meeting as Eva Young’s term expired at the end of 2015 and the Board of Supervisors has yet to appoint a replacement.

The only public hearing for the Planning Commission in January was a revision to a zoning ordinance – how many rabbits should be allowed in Residential zoning. Last April this issue was discussed and was deferred to allow staff to do research on such issues as set back requirements, the number of chickens to allow, etc. Currently no chickens are allowed in R-1 zones.

There has been a growing interest in keeping chickens in the residential, R-1, zoning district. The proposed ordinance is to allow residents to own chickens in residential areas but also balance their neighbors rights. Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, presented OR#15-003 stating that staff suggests a sliding scale of the quantity of chickens allowed based upon the lot size.

Area in square feet      Area in acreage       # of hens

10,000                                       0.23                     2

15,000                                       0.34                     3

20,000                                       0.46                    4

25,000                                       0.57                     5

30,000                                       0.69                    6

35,000                                       0.80                    7

40,000                                       0.92                   8

45,000                                       1.03                    9

50,000                                       1.15                  10

55,000                                       1.26                  11

60,000                                       1.38                 12

65,000                                       1.49                 13

70,000                                       1.61                 14

75,000                                       1.72                 15

80,000                                       1.84                16

85,000                                       1.95                 17

90,000                                       2.07                18

95,000                                       2.18                 19

100,000                                     2.30                20

The hearing was then opened for public comment with Keith Bourne being the only speaker. Mr. Bourne stated that he lives in an Ag District but he supports urban agriculture such as this but suggests researching how other counties control the slaughter of these animals and he believes this should be done inside rather than outside for neighbors to view.

The hearing then shifted to discussion within the commission. Chairman Willer felt the sliding scale of number of chickens vs. the size of the lot would be hard to enforce. Since the intent is to allow chickens for families to have as pets instead of raising them to sell dozen of eggs at the farmers market he suggested a more simple 2 step scale of allowing 5 for less than .5 acre and up to 10 maximum for property greater that .5 acre. Secondly, he addressed setbacks to minimize the potential noise and smell issues with the following recommendations:

25 foot setback from property lines

50 foot setback from occupied buildings

25 foot setback from wells

50 foot setback from water sources (other than wells) including litter storage

Commissioner Frank Morris suggested raising the 5 chickens for .5 acres or less to 6 since Southern States sells them at a minimum quantity of 6. Svoboda said he would research this and report back to the commission. Commissioner Schaff said he liked 5/10 thresholds as it would much easier to enforce but agreed that he would be ok with the 6 quantity if that is the minimum being sold.

This lead to a discussion of what department would enforce the ordinance. Mr. Svoboda stated he would ask the Sheriff’s Dept. how to enforce. Commissioner McCloskey also said he supported the 5/10 limits and had a concern about allowing up to 20 chickens.

Commissioner Morris raised an issue related to the 25 feet setback – his concern is that many lots have trees at the back of their property which would be a good place to provide shade for the chickens but may not be 25 feet from their property line. This lead to a discussion of reducing the setback requirement as some developments in R-1 may not have enough space to allow the 25 feet setback. Commissioner Schaff said that if a lot can’t provide the 25 feet setback then the property should not be allowed to have chickens.

As for the slaughtering question that Mr. Bourne brought up, the commissioners decided to not include this in the ordinance and would address the issue if it becomes a problem. It was agreed to vote on the 25 foot setback issue separately, since that seemed to be the only point of contention. This change passed 3-1 with Commissioner Morris voting against it. The other setback suggestions and the limitation of 6 for under .5 acres and a maximum of 10 for greater than .5 acre was approved, 4-0.

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

 

The Economic Development Snowstorm

By. Neil Williamson, President

As I write this, social media is all a buzz regarding projected significant snowfall for the region late this week. It seems as though that despite the differences in the various predictive models (European, American, etc.) all have some amount of snow in the forecast.  Latest update, they have just named the storm “Jonas” (hopefully not for the Disney movie based boy band).

A “Storm of the Century”, especially in the Mid Atlantic states requires a specific environment to occur; the same is true for local economic vitality.

The jet stream must have the just proper bend to bring the storm up the coast, but not the warmth to the region; localities must have a clearly stated vision, and actions to match, to let businesses know they are welcome to come or to stay and grow here.

Possible East Coast Storm Setup

To achieve a super storm,  the atmospheric  temperatures must be high enough to allow water to condense and low enough to support snow formation; the regulatory environment must be high enough to provide a quality community but low enough to allow businesses to responsibly grow here.

A great deal is being made of the ice damming effect on this storm; just as the storm needs the ice dam to fully develop absent a trained workforce economic development will not reach its full potential.

Possible East Coast Storm Setup

If there are not specific humidity levels just prior to the storm’s arrival, it does not materialize; if there is not land ready and permitted for business use prior to the prospect business expansion, economic development goes elsewhere.

Just as the winds can’t be too high to push the storm through too quickly; citizens must recognize and acknowledge the value of new (or expanding) business, new tax revenue, new jobs and economic advancement or such advancement will be pushed away.

Unlike the super storm formation, local government controls many, but not all, of the economic development environmental conditions.

How do you think Central Virginia’s local governments measure up?

Are they creating a positive economic development environment?

What letter grade would you give your locality?

Just as with “Jonas” – time will make the results readily apparent.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, The Weather Channel, Snipview.com, quazoo.com

Greene Supervisors Set 2016 Officers and Assignments

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Board Supervisors had their first meeting of 2016 on Tuesday, January 12th with two supervisors attending their first meeting. Eddie Deane, Supervisor at Large, decided not to run for reelection and the race for the seat was between Dale Herring and Bob Young.  Herring won the election 54% vs. 45%.

The Ruckersville District has been represented by Supervisor Davis Lamb who ran for reelection against Michelle Flynn, former Greene County School Board Chairman, with Flynn winning the election. The third race was for the Monroe District with the seat being held by Chairman David Cox. Although he technically ran unopposed, Donna Harlow ran as a write in candidate and collected a third of the votes.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Board of Supervisors 2016 Chairman Bill Martin

Supervisor Bill Martin was elected Chairman and Supervisor Michelle Flynn was elected Vice-Chairman. Martin’s first order of business was to propose revising the “Matters from the public” to have only 3 requirements – 1) speakers sign up in advance, 2) speakers will be allocated 3 minutes unless the Chairman grants more time and 3) the Chairman will monitor time and maintain decorum. This motion was passed unanimously.

The main business of the meeting was to reassign Liaison Functions, especially the 8 that had been assigned to Deane and Lamb. Supervisor Jim Frydl took the second position for the Central Virginia Regional Jail Board. Dale Peyton took the Parks and Recreation Dept., the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Flynn took the Jefferson Area Board of Aging, the Rivanna River Basin and Social Services Board.

Commissioner David Cox proposed reinstating a Board Liaison with the Emergency Services after being approached by several of the fire departments and the rescue squad. He had previously held this position when he first joined the Board. After debating if staff could provide this connection, it was decided to assign Cox as the liaison to the Emergency Services.

The final reorganizational issue discussed was the vacancy on the Planning Commission and Supervisor David Cox explained that there are three applicants for the position and the Board will appoint one of them at their second meeting in January. As a result, the Planning Commission will have only four members at their January meeting next week.

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

Year of Shaking My Head – 2015

By. Neil Williamson, President

It is amazing to look back and see how often this year, I was top ten listdumbfounded by the strategy, actions and inactions of public officials and the lack of action by some because while the process was broken, it was meeting their need.

Here are the Free Enterprise Forum Top Ten 2015 SMH moments

#10 U.S. 29 is not a city street Kevin Bacon and Albemarle’s Thank You Letter for VDOT’s U.S. 29 Steamroller

While we have found former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  Commissioner Phillip Shucet to be a most effective facilitator and an honest supporter of the McAuliffe administration positions, we believe the public has not been, nor will be, fully “engaged” in the process.  As an example, In  last week’s BOS meeting Supervisor Ann Mallek suggested there would be a public hearing on the design of the interchange – Nope.  Even though this is a design build process, the VDOT proposed design (not what will actually be built) was already taken to public hearing, satisfying the legal requirements.

Aubrey Layne photo credit VDOTIn his Daily Progress opinion piece on Sunday (1/11), [Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey] Layne used the same song sheet as he wrote somewhat single mindedly of Albemarle County’s economic engine that is North US 29:

“Between Short Pump to the east, Staunton to the west, Danville to the south and Gainesville to the north, no section of highway carries more traffic than U.S. 29 between U.S. 250 and Rio Road – not even Interstate 64. U.S. 29 is not a city street.  It is a major Virginia arterial highway” Emphasis added-nw

#9 Fluvanna sees higher taxes as far as the eye can seeFluvanna 4% Property Tax Increase Proposed

This year, Fluvanna is projecting a five-year forecast to see how future budgets will look, conceptually, based on what decisions are made this year. It includes a two percent rate of inflation along with anticipation of certain upcoming projects.

The projection based off of Nichols’ budget shows a real estate tax rate of $1.05 in FY17, $1.06 in FY1Weaver20146 and FY19 and a $1.11 in FY20.

“Even if they are ballpark figures, it is alarming,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Nichols replied, “It is absolutely alarming.”

#8 Albemarle’s Political Cover Committees – Meanwhile, back in Albemarle County the county is seeking a diversity of opinions as long as they all agree #SMH  Eliminate Albemarle’s Mission Creeping Community Councils 

In addition, Albemarle’s new Community Council Policies also suggests the councils reflect a diversity of perspectives as long as all members of the councils support the approved master plan:

The Advisory Councils will provide assistance, feedback and input to County staff and the Board of Supervisors on community and county efforts related to implementation and support of the adopted Master Plan, in accordance with established county procedures. Advisory Council members will communicate with their constituencies to increase understanding of and support for successful implementation of the Master Plan. The membership is broad-based to incorporate a variety of perspectives and ideas and to provide citizens, business people, and representatives of community highlight added-nw

If all the members of the Community Council must be drinking the Kool Aid that the Master Plans came down on stone tablets from the Board of Supervisors – What’s the point?

#7 ARB managing views that can’t be seen  In June, we were shaking our head when we asked about  the authority of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board (ARB) over the Rio area businesses that will not be visible to at least half of the US29 motorists Is The Rio Ramp An Entrance Corridor?

Are entrance ramps arterial streets? wendy's frosty

While a Wendy’s Frosty is good, is it historic?

Interestingly, the ARB seemed equally concerned how to best treat this new Rio GSI reality.  “I don’t even know how to think about this,” said ARB Chair Bruce Wardell.

For those not paying full attention VDOT has awarded a contract to build US 29 under Rio Road thus making those businesses above somewhat invisible to through traffic.

rio gsi

#6 Albemarle Comprehensive Plan Places Preservation of Natural Resources as #1 Priority What abut citizen health Safety and Welfare? Albemarle’s Natural Resources Chapter Rewrite – More Planners, Less Property Rights

The newly revised goal is much more expansive and interventionist in its tone:

“Albemarle’s ecosystems and natural resources will be thoughtfully protected and managed in both the Rural and Development Areas to safeguard the quality of life of current and future generations.”

If there was any question the direction the Chapter is headed, the BOS rewritten chapter declares

“Natural resource protection is the County’s highest priority.”

Really??

Natural Resource Protection is the Highest Priority?

Over the safety and protection of your citizens?

Over the education of the children where you currently dedicate 60% of your budget?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is philosophical hyperbole and is not supported by the facts (or four supervisors), we hope such inflammatory and incorrect language will be removed from the plan.

#4 Albemarle Planning Commission Attempts to Bully staff The Albemarle County Planning Commission was unhappy that the economic development office did not come to them first regarding the Deschutes Brewing prospect.  Despite being beyond their role in government, their egos were bruised in the process.  This lead to our #4 SMH moment Albemarle PC Seeks Improper Staff Influence

How much is designated Light Industrial in the Comprehensive Plan but not in the underlying zoning?

These would seem like a set of objective questions to ask of a professional staff to produce an objective report – But not in Albemarle County.

Please let me explain.

Oct 20 PC meetingAt the very end of this week’s lengthy Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Tim Keller (At-Large), with just two members of the public in the audience (FEF & SELC)  and with the consent of his fellow commissioners, explicitly directed staff to have Economic Development Director Faith McClintic meet with the Planning Commission PRIOR to finalizing her inventory report on Light Industrial land.

Remembering that the Planning Commission is made up of politically appointed individuals (one of which is running for Scottsville Supervisor), one might reasonably ask why should the Economic Development Director, who reports to the County Executive, be required to run her professional report past the PC before it goes final?

The ONLY reason is because they want to impact the content of the report.

While I’ll agree the PC should see and comment on the report after it is written, to give them editorial control seems far beyond the pale and entirely unprofessional.

#5 Greene County battles with Jail Superintendent over budget and plan There was a great deal of head shaking in Greene this year (gun range, recycling center, public comment) but the Jail has been a source of some interjurisdictional anger.  As out own Brent Wilson reports Jail House Rocks Greene BOS

Bill Martin Greene County SupervisorSupervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) expressed concern about the poor timing in the budget process of the CVRJ and the impact to Greene County. Up until December, there was no indication of a significant increase and then in December, 2014 [Central Virginia Jail Superintendent Glenn] Aylor announced over a 50% increase in operating cost allocation to Greene County.

[Ruckersville Supervisor Davis] Lamb responded that there are a lot of pieces to the prison budget.

Martin stated he understood the complexity but all five counties that utilize the regional jail were caught by surprise by the size of the budget increase. Residents of Greene County are pushing back on a $10 facility fee on the water and sewer bill, Martin can’t imagine what residents will say when they see the cost increase for the jail in the upcoming budget.

Martin continued to state that the communication between the Greene Board of Supervisors and Aylor has been poor. He was not impressed when Aylor spoke at the last board meeting and Martin questions who is serving whom.

[Midway Supervisor Jim] Frydl questioned Lamb why the alternative budget that the five counties had presented at the last jail meeting wasn’t considered? Lamb’s only reply was that if you can find a better plan to bring it to the meeting and there are many variables. Frydl asked Lamb if he was ok with the jails budget to which there was no reply.

#3 Greene County Muzzles Public Comment The Free Enterprise Forum continues to have issues with Greene County’s current Matters from the Public Policy but after months of “inappropriate” public comments Greene seemed to want to muzzle public comments as Brent Wilson reports

The hearing of comments (or not hearing comments) from the public has been a work in progress the past several weeks in Greene County. The year started with all comments being allowed at BOS meetings with very little guidelines or restrictions. Several weeks ago, the Chairman decided to eliminate all comments from the public from the July 28th agenda.  The Board discussed the issue at the July 28th meeting and adopted (4-1 Deane opposed) a very restrictive procedure in place to allow public comment at the July 28th meeting

This takes us to the most recent Board of Supervisor meeting. Chairman David Cox, Monroe District, started the meeting stating that it is critical to hear comments from the public. He has not been trying to silence the public but trying to control rude and confrontational behavior.

Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, stated he believes that Cox has an impeccable record in allowing all comments – sometimes to a fault. Cox would never disallow the public to speak and he believes that Cox will be fair to all citizens and not infringe their freedom of speech.

The Free Enterprise Forum has written extensively regarding the import of public comments and we believe they should be placed near the top of every agenda. While the comments some citizens make may cause you to shake your head, not hearing those citizens speak is much worse.

#2 Albemarle Chooses Not To Have a Beer – In a clear affront to the County’s new Economic Development Initiatives, Albemarle County decided not to expand its development areas enough to accommodate Deschutes Brewery [and about 100 new jobs]  from Bend, Oregon while shaking our head we did come up with  Da Lessons from Deschutes

Deschutes-BrewingIt is entirely possible that [Former Albemarle Supervisor] Sally Thomas’ position of keeping growth in check may be the majority opinion of Albemarle County citizens.  If the philosophy of the Board is that any business is lucky that we are allowing them to locate here and should be happy to jump through our bureaucratic hoops, then there is not “A new day” in Albemarle.

The current and future leadership of Albemarle County need to determine the direction of the Economic Development Department.  That decision, perhaps more than any other, will determine not only the success of businesses to locate and expand; but also the jobs that may or may not be available as well as the percentage of government costs that will be carried by property taxes.

Da Lesson from Deschutes – Albemarle was not ready.

Da Question from Deschutes – Do they really want to be?

But this year’s #1 is without a doubt

#1 If I call you Karl Marx is it an insult?  Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors gave us plenty to shake our heads about this year including accusations of Communism.   The Board meeting sounded more like a playground taunt than a governing body as our own Bryan Rothamel reported Fireworks at Fluvanna Supervisors Meeting

After Parish briefly started his presentation on the [employee] recognition program, which includes monetary gifts for various awards throughout the year, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) raised his issues with the recognition program.

Ullenbruch2014

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.

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.”

Yes, the Free Enterprise Forum will look back on 2015 as the Year of Shaking My Head.

Perhaps 2016 will be different.

I know which way I am betting.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, Fluvanna County, Greene County, Virginia Department of Transportation,

Fluvanna To Move Polling Station

Ballot-Box_thumb.jpgBy Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors will have a special public hearing on Jan. 6 about moving the Rivanna District polling station.

It is currently the Lake Monticello Clubhouse but because of planned renovations, the facility may not be accessible during a primary election, if held, and the general election.

The new proposed location is the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Squad Station (LMVFS). It previously served as the second precinct in the Rivanna District until 2010 when the redistricting eliminated the second precinct and shrunk the district size.

An interesting note, the LMVFS is located outside of the Rivanna District and is in the Cunningham District. While the voting districts are close in population, the Rivanna District is so small geographically because it mainly includes only area inside Jefferson Drive at Lake Monticello. The district is almost completely residential except for the Lake Monticello Clubhouse and Lake Monticello Marina.

The county ordinance (2-2-3) states, “Precincts shall be known by their respective polling places and shall be coterminous with the respective electoral districts.”

The state code (24.2-310) allows polling stations to be outside the precinct if within one mile of the boundary.

The Rivanna District boundary is less than half a mile from the proposed location.

The other options considered were Effort Baptist Church and Lake Christian Church. Both are also located in the Cunningham District and both are within a mile of the boundary lines.

Questions to the Registrar’s Office regarding the county ordinance went unanswered as Joyce Pace, the registrar, is out on vacation for a week.

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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

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