Monthly Archives: July, 2008

Albemarle County – Business Unfriendly?

Over the years, people [including members of the Board of Supervisors] have asked why Albemarle is perceived as unfriendly to business.  This week’s [July 29] Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting provides even more evidence supporting Albemarle’s disregard for existing businesses.

During the previously postponed work session on industrial service land designations in the Comprehensive Plan, staff presented a report indicating a projected shortfall of industrial service land over the planning period [20 years].  This shortage is generated by multiplying average business growth times the existing businesses already operating in Albemarle County not accounting for any new start ups or transplanted businesses. 

Ms. Nora Gillespie of the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center spoke at length regarding the number of home based businesses that have had great difficulty finding land in Albemarle County to move their growing businesses.  

Commissioner Eric Strucko questioned the validity of the numbers in the staff report.  He was “not convinced” there is a problem.  Despite testimony to the contrary, the majority of the Commission believes there are plenty of industrial service opportunities within the development areas that can easily accommodate light industrial uses. 

The Free Enterprise Forum advocated for consideration of Strategic Enterprise Zones located outside the development area that could appropriately be “up zoned to allow for Light Industrial Use”. 

Commissioner Tom Loach suggested any industrial service designations should be a part of the community driven Master Planning process.  While appreciative of Mr. Loach’s suggestion, I have some difficulty seeing a master planning process choosing to put land for a contractor’s service yard over open space or mixed use in the development area.

Commissioner Jon Cannon compared the lack of industrial service land to the affordable housing issue.  His point was we did not expand the growth area to solve the affordable housing issue, we have other mechanisms at our disposal.  Mr. Cannon is referring to the “affordable housing” mandate that all new residential rezonings must provide 15% of their stock as “affordable”.  The Free Enterprise Forum was the sole voice in opposition when this mandate was passed.  The result of this mandate is that 85% of new housing product became less affordable. 

It was not clear if Mr. Cannon was suggesting a portion of each rezoned property in the development areas should provide land for industrial service.  If this was his suggestion, The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that the ever rising mandates to rezonings (cash proffers, affordable housing, sidewalks, street trees, etc.) will force land not to be developed as planned communities but by right as designated by the underlying zoning.

While Mr. Loach did mention the importance of having jobs in the community, at no time, did the Planning Commission focus on the issue of existing industrial service jobs leaving Albemarle County.  

Early this morning more than twenty thousand workers commuted into Santa Barbara County California.  This evening, these workers will drive [the VAST majority alone] out of the county back to their homes, construction yards, plant nurseries and offices in the surrounding localities.  It has gotten so bad the saying is “Santa Barbara’s for newlyweds and nearly deads”.  I fear this is where Albemarle County is headed.  But don’t worry, the Planning Commission does not believe we have a problem.

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A House of Cards

Forum Watch Editorial

 

Regular readers of Forum Watch or The Free Enterprise Forum Blog know of our many concerns surrounding Albemarle County’s Places 29 Master Planning Project. 

Now that the government has put their heads together with the consultants [and requisite public outreach meetings] the plan moving forward has a VERY conservative price tag of $250 million dollars, excluding right of way acquisition costs. 

Based on our conversations with individuals close to the numbers, we anticipate, if ever completed, the costs of this network of interlinked transportation projects will most likely exceed half a BILLION dollars.

When this cost was brought to the attention of officals working on the project, they indicated, of course, not everything would get built. But each road built provided a part of the eventual solution.

Wait a minute — this is very different than the manner in which this network of parallel roads were sold as a transportation solution.  It was the existence of the entire network that kept trips off National Highway U.S. 29. 

The economic reality of transportation funding in Virginia is that there is little to no funding available.  In addition, like it or not, based on the metrics used for evaluating congestion, the Charlottesville region’s transportation woes pale in comparison to Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

So now we have a framework of roads that officials privately admit will likely not be built out over the time frame of the plan (20 years).

What to do next — Build on this plan. 

In addition working on the development of the Places 29 plan with Albemarle County, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission(TJPDC) is also contracting with Fluvanna and Greene County to assist [not outsource] in writing their comprehensive plans. 

Bill Wanner, Senior Regional Planner at TJPDC thinks Places 29 should be incorporated in to the Greene County Comprehensive plan.  Quoted in the Greene County Record ( July 10, 2008 ) Mr. Wanner said, “That Plan is about how transportation is working up and down the corridor regardless of political jurisdiction.”

Based on this organizational philosophy, it would be entirely consistent that the concepts of Places 29 also be integrated into the Fluvanna County Comprehensive planning process.

There are two grave problems with this paradigm – first Greene and Fluvanna are NOT Albemarle and have unique set of transportation issues.  Second, and perhaps most important — There is near zero likelihood that Places 29 will be built in any reasonable planning horizon.

Fluvanna County and Greene County would be wise to push back on the experts they have hired to “assist” or “facilitate” their comprehensive planning process. 

Look past the pretty renderings and cool computer graphics and ask the hard questions —

Who pays for this? 

When do you think this will happen? 

How do market factors impact this plan? 

What are alternative scenarios for development?

Without a very clear and public understanding of the reality of the very pillars of the plan it is merely a house of cards, destined to fail.

Greene County Board of Supervisors July 22nd

by. Kara L. Reese, Greene County Field Officer

Executive Summary:

RZ#08-001 W. Copley McLean Trust request to rezone from R-1 to B-3 approximately 16.16 acres located on Seminole Trail and Cedar Grove Rd – Deferred at Applicant’s Request

RZ#06-002 Carroll & Lynette Morris Request to rezone from A-1 to B-2 and R-2 on approximately 327.54 acres near Spotswood Trail, Dunnes Shop Rd, and M&M Rd. – Denied

I. Public Hearing -W. Copley McLean Trust request to rezone from R-1 to B-3 16.16 acres located at Seminole Trail and Cedar Grove.

            Applicant requested a deferral. The Board approved the deferral by a unanimous vote.

II. Carroll & Lynnette Morris/K & B Properties request to rezone from A-1 to B-2 and R-2 approximately 327.54 acres located on Spotswood Trail, Dunnes Shop Road, and M & M Road.

Staff:            This parcel does not have a specific designation in the Comprehensive Plan; however, it is included as a potential growth area.  The Planning Commission previously recommended denial based on lack of a traffic study and failure to provide more details regarding the impact of the proposed project. Applicant proposes that 730 homes be built including single family homes, duplexes and townhomes. The applicant also proposes 400,000 square feet of commercial space. Applicant has not completed a traffic study, but has agreed to complete a study before submission of a final plan.

Applicant has proffered 42 acres to Greene County for construction of a water impoundment on the condition that the Greene County gains regulatory approval of the reservoir within five years. If the county constructs the water impoundment, an easement on 44 acres of shoreline will be conveyed to the county after completion of water impoundment. If the county can not gain approval within five years the land reverts back to the applicant. In its place the applicant has proffered $5,771 for each housing unit over 88.

Applicant:            D. Johnson spoke on behalf of the Carroll and Lynette Morris. He made two brief points. First, that the applicant anticipated waiting until a decision regarding the water impoundment was made to develop the area. Second, since that could be 5-10 years in the future, there is no need to do a traffic study now. Traffic studies are only good for two years.

 Comments from the Public:

            Public comment on this project was extensive. Ten individuals spoke against the project. For the sake of expediency, their basic arguments are summarized together.

Citizens were largely concerned about the size the development and its impact on the county. They felt that Greene County does not need that much housing. Citizens were also worried about traffic and the lack of a traffic study. There was also a concern about the impact of the project on schools. Citizens felt the proffer amount was insufficient to cover the additional schools, fire and rescue, police and other services this number of people would require.

There was also some unease and confusion regarding the reservoir. At least one citizen believed that the reservoir was for the development and not the county as a whole. There was also some concern that taxpayers would have to pay for the reservoir.

P. Morris was the only member of the public to speak on behalf of the applicant. She argued that the applicant had grown up in the community. Applicant had invested his tax dollars in the county. He has proffered 40 acres for a reservoir. The land is already in a growth area. If this request is denied he will be able to build houses by right anyway and the county will not get any land for the reservoir.

Comments from the Board:

J. Allen stated “This is Greene County’s Biscuit Run.” She noted that the county has never had to deal with a development of this size. It could potentially require a new school. She felt this was “very large for Greene County. She was also worried that the reservoir may not go forward in that location. If it doesn’t she is not sure the proffers are sufficient to cover the cost of the services required for that many homes. She doesn’t “think that county can afford this development at this time.”

M. Skeens noted that this project was going to overwhelm the schools. He felt that if the applicant was not going to start this project for five years then why do we need to go forward now.  He was also concerned about the lack of detail in the plans for the site.

C. Schmitt observed that we have a “long way to go” with the plans for the water impoundment. Currently, the county does not have primary site, so we don’t know if the proffer of land is worth anything or not. He also noted that this feels out of character with Quinque. This is a “beautiful piece of land” with lots of potential good uses.

S. Catalano believes that this land should be in the growth area and that some rezoning is appropriate. He commented that this does not like the proffer system. “It is arbitrary at best.” However, “this is not an auction.” The Board has to look at its ability to provide services to its citizens. He was concerned that without the water impoundment the county will not be able to provide services to the increasing population of Greene County. However, this particular site has run into issues with stream remediation and it is not clear if it will be usable. He would have preferred to defer a decision until they know more about where the reservoir can be located.

B. Peyton would also like to have seen the decision deferred. He was concerned about the adequacy of the proffers and the lack of a current traffic study.

Vote: C. Schmitt moved to deny the request to rezone the property. The motion carried four to one with S. Catalano dissenting.

III. Matters from the public – None

IV. Consent Agenda – Unanimously Approved with minor changes

a.         Minutes of previous meetings.

b.         Resolution to transfer sponsorship responsibilities for TEA-21 grant to Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

c.         Letter of support for the Greene County Transit, Inc.

d.         Resolution to accept and appropriate $29,427 to the Sheriff’s Department from the Department of Criminal Justice Services for a School Resource Officer

e.         Resolution of support for the Stanardsville Volunteer Fire Company.

V. Other Matters from the Board

T. Morris reported that the bulk of the $47,000 in State cuts discussed during the last meeting are to CSA and the jail. Consequently, the county can not pass the cuts on to agencies. These are two State mandated programs the county must fund even if the state does not provide funding for them. At the end of the year, the county will have to write a check to the state for approximately $107,000.

S. Catalano requested that B. Clark arrange meetings with all Constitutional Officers to warn them that more cuts from the State are likely to follow next year.

J. Allen reported that at the RSA Board meeting a rate increase was discussed.

J. Allen also informed the Board that at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission meeting discussion occurred regarding finalizing the contract with STAR. JPDC recommended that the comprehensive plan be done in phases from most important to least important to prevent going over budget.

C. Schmitt reported on the continued effort to increase cooperation between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. He distributed a report from the Hanover trip.

C. Schmitt was also interested in trying to get a park and ride lot set up in the future.

B. Peyton reported that the Town of Stanardsville had not yet approved a resolution to join the county’s water plan, but expected to do so shortly.

S. Catalano recounted his discussion with the Sheriff’s Office regarding an anti-idling policy. The Sheriff’s office was already working on an internal policy.

Fluvanna Planning Commission Discusses Comprehensive Plan

 

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanuvannana Field Officer

Fluvanna’s Planning Commissioners met on July 23rdto discuss the state of the Comprehensive Plan and to hear a presentation on Albemarle County’s cell tower policy.  Since the agenda had no land use hearings, the commissioners wrapped up the meeting by 10:00 pm. 

Commissioners reviewed the status of the draft Comprehensive Plan.  The current draft runs over 175 pages and Planning Director Daren Coffey would like to pare it back and ensure greater consistency regarding format.  To that end, Commissioners agreed to do the following:

  • Develop a short vision statement for each chapter (land use, community design, public safety etc.) that would be compatible with the overall vision of the Comprehensive Plan;
  • Amplify the vision statement later in each chapter to more specifically outline the vision appropriate to the chapter;
  • Create goals that would implement the vision that are measurable, and achievable; and,
  • Develop the policy formulations that would ensure that the goals are met.

By following the same format for each chapter, the commissioners hope to strengthen the document and the overall vision for the county.

There will be a series of public meetings in each of the election districts during September to obtain citizen input and Mr. Coffey hopes to present a draft recommendation to the Board of Supervisors by the end of November.

Mr. Bill Fritz, Albemarle County’s Chief of Current Development provided the planners with an overview of the Albemarle policy regarding communication towers.  Faced with the decision to opt for either taller, but fewer, towers or shorter, but more, towers, the county adopted the latter approach.

Shorter towers enabled Albemarle to institute a policy of visual impact assessment, rather than one centered on aesthetic issues.    Mr. Fritz noted that Virginia law precludes aesthetic regulation, but not visual.

This visibility approach in turn enabled Albemarle to adopt strict but clear standards, which, according to Mr. Fritz, appealed to the communication providers since it, provided greater predictability in the application process.

The cell tower issue has come to the fore in Fluvanna in recent months, as two applications have been deferred pending alternative site study.  The question of “taller or shorter” towers has vexed planners and supervisors over the past several years without a definitive resolution.  Currently the county opts for taller but fewer towers.  That may change as the county seeks to ensure that cell service is provided to all areas of the county.

The Commission agreed to continue its practice of reviewing development sketch plans; Mr. Coffey had suggested that the practice might be ended if the plans are substantially the same as the original plans.  The discussion arose because the Sycamore Square property had submitted a sketch plan for review as currently required.

New housing starts in Fluvanna continued their downward trend in June.  According to county statistics, seven new homes were started last month, down from seventeen in June 2007.  For the year, new housing starts are down by twenty-nine percent.

James Halstead (Palmyra) was introduced as the newest Planning Commission member.  He replaces Ms. Patricia Eager on the Commission.

Albemarle Light Industrial Land Shortage?

The Albemarle County Planing Commission had scheduled a work session on last Tuesday evening (July 23, 2008) to discuss the Comprehensive Plan Economic Policy Update regarding Available, Affordable Light Industrial Land.  This discussion was postponed one week (to July 30) by the commission due to a lack of attendance by Planning Commissioners.

Light Industrial zoning is generally referred to as allowing industrial, office and limited commercial uses (no residential). Light industrial users are varied and include bio-tech companies, defense contractors, food processors, equipment manufacturer, as well as service providers such as kennels, natural gas storage, auto body shop, waste management, contractor storage for excavation equipment, etc.

The staff report, written by Albemarle County Business Development Facilitator Susan Stimart, quantifies the projected need for Light Industrial (LI) Zoned land by existing Albemarle County businesses over the next twenty years.  The report indicates:

Gathering 2006 employment by NAIC [North American Industrial Classification] codes typically found in LI, staff estimates current space using an average of 500SF [square feet] per employee, or a baseline consumption of between 454 and 672 acres.  Based in growth trends of 3.5% annual growth [business growth not population-nw] and our desire to provide for local business expansion, this employment base is likely to double in the next 20 years, or a projected total consumption of between 908 and 1,345 acres.  Taking out the 694 acres already developed and 333 vacant acres, this would result in a future shortage ranging from 121 to 339 acres.

It is important to note this demand analysis was prepared using data only reflective of existing business growth not new companies moving into Albemarle County.

The report correctly identifies a number of rezonings over the last few years (Hollymead Towncenter, Willoughby/Fifth Street, Albemarle Place) that have reduced the inventory of Industrial Service designated land.  It also mentions the recent plant closings (Badger, Avionic Specialties) have created a “bump” in vacant developed LI property.   

While it is hard to imagine a basic industrial user developing the land that is now Target/Harris Teeter it is easier to imagine a turn key operation moving into the Badger or Avionics plant.  

Beyond the large manufacturer, many Albemarle County home operated small businesses (landscaping, hauling, etc.) are being forced out of their home occupation status as their businesses grow.  In recent years, we have seen more and more of these businesses choosing to pull their equipment (and tax revenue) across the county line into neighboring, more business friendly jurisdictions.    

The Albemarle County Planning Commission accepted public comment prior to deferring the topic on Tuesday evening.  The philosophical question the Free Enterprise Forum posed was “Does Industrial Service belong in your growth area?  and How do you deal with the ever present conflicts between Industrial Service and residential uses?”

The staff report framed the discussion along three options:

1.  As a part of Master Plan process, designate and proactively re-zone additional areas into development areas to LI uses.

2. Modify the Zoning code as regards allowed uses in the LI and other zoning districts

3.  Increase land available for industrial purposes through modification of allowances outside Development Area boundaries or expansion of Development Area boundaries.

Once again, Albemarle County is faced with the challenge of defining who it wants to be.  In order to reach their adopted goal of “Providing local business development opportunities”, they may need to adjust their philosophical opposition to altering Development Area boundaries.

If Albemarle County is serious about its dedication to have industry (and the related jobs), it should create strategic enterprise zones outside of the development areas for this growth to occur.  Failing this or a significant expansion of the development areas themselves, as industry grows it will simply move out of Albemarle County. 

Perhaps this is the goal?

The Green Monster – Government Mandates

With energy costs soaring, everyone is reexamining the manner in which they use energy and how they may be able to reduce their consumption (and their cost).  This is the free market at work. 

Interestingly, just as the free market is buying up hybrid vehicles, LEED Certified plans and EarthCraft® homes  some in the community are seeking to create government mandates to achieve the same goals.

In the July 20th Daily Progress, Reporter Brandon Shulleeta’s article was headlined “How Green Will Officals make Albemarle County?”To be fair the headline was a touch misleading as the article was focused on the green initiatives Albemarle County has instituted in their government buildings.  Albemarle installed a green roof on their McIntire facility three years ago and continues its commitment to make environmentally friendly building and operating decisions.  The Free Enterprise Forum  applauds the intent of these actions we remain hopeful that Albemarle County will provide an audit the energy savings these efforts produce and at what cost.

A Letter to the Editor in this morning’s Daily Progress by Ms. Kathy Osvath asks “whether the County Office Building’s green roof success story might be applied to commercial buildings in Albemarle County — and whether Albemarle should incentivize builders to install green roofs.”

Last week the Albemarle Planning Commission considered a special use permit application from St. Anne’s Belfield (STAB) regarding significant changes in their physical plant, including new buildings.  In a previous work session, the applicant had stated a desire to build to LEED silver certification.  The Planning Commission (and planning staff)  drafted a new condition written to require such efforts toward certification.  The applicant disagreed with this condition.  Charlottesville Tomorrow has an excellent article regarding the meeting and a podcast of the discussion. [Important aside:  The Free Enterprise Forum does not take positions on projects,  only policy.  Our interest in this application revolves around the policy decision to use LEED certification as a condition for approval.  We do not have a position on the application itself.] 

What is the proper role for government in the green building revolution? 

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the market is already moving toward environmentally sustainable green building practices.  One need only look at the most recent issue of Commonwealth, a journal published by the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, where the cover reads “Your success will depend on your knowledge of the greening market.”  

Where government is the builder of new construction, and thus transparency can exist, experimental programs such as the green roof should be encouraged.  These experiments are only as valuable as the data they provide to frame future decisions in both the private and public sector.  Government should publicize the results of their energy audits but NOT mandate any particular form of green building.

While the letter writer to the Daily Progress suggested government funded incentives, the Albemarle County’s Planning Commission made LEED Certification efforts a condition of the approval of the STAB Special Use Permit. This is a government mandate.  I fear government mandates of such policies will increase prices and ultimately harm the dynamics of this expaning innovative free market.

      

    

Fluvanna July Board of Supervisors

By William J. Des Rochers
Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors Chairman Marvin Moss (Cunningham) had a relatively straightforward idea at the July 16th meeting: supervisors should have a discussion at their August session of a possible reassessment next year. The Board could debate the pros and cons and make a determination. Declining real estate values would suggest that homes are over assessed, according to the Chairman.

Even a discussion of the idea was too much for three members: supervisors Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna), Gene Ott (Rivanna), and Don Weaver (Cunningham) signaled their opposition, and the idea died on the table.

Mr. Allbaugh pointed out that any reassessment that would result in a lower property assessment likely would hamper homeowners’ ability to borrow against the value of their homes. Mr. Ott stated that if the assessments came in at a lower level then the tax rate would have to rise to compensate for potential lost revenue. Mr. Weaver reiterated his longstanding objection to county assessors, citing potential appearances of conflicts and favoritism.

Mr. Moss is correct regarding declining values. Through May of this year, according to county records, the sale prices of homes in Fluvanna are running at about ninety percent of the assessed value. On a $250,000 home, that suggests that the county is receiving a tax windfall of about $120 over what would be paid at that ninety percent level.

Land Use Issues

Planning Director Darren Coffey outlined some new land use application procedures that the supervisors endorsed. To make the process more transparent, and insulated from charges of favoritism, Mr. Coffey announced the following:

• Developers will now participate in a pre-application meeting to have a better understanding of the process and hopefully submit a higher quality application;

• There will be a neighborhood meeting for rezoning applications and special use permits prior to the Technical Review Committee meeting. This would provide for earlier citizen input in the process and more information for both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors; and,

• The planning staff no longer will make a recommendation when submitting its staff report. Coffey stated that it was important for the staff to remain credible and neutral throughout the process, and that the staff should not make policy recommendations but rather “accurately and fairly evaluate each application that is submitted”.

Supervisors also referred to the Planning Commission certain zoning and subdivision ordinance amendments for a public hearing and consideration at the Commissioners’ August 27th meeting. These amendments respond to the recent court decision that overturned the county’s special use permit requirement for central water and sewer systems. Supervisors will vote on the proposals in September.

The Board also addressed several other planning issues. Supervisors:

• Approved a rezoning application by Fluvanna Auto LLC to rezone 7 acres from A-1 (Agricultural, General) to B-1 Business (General) in the Zion Crossroads area of the Palmyra district;

• Deferred until September 17th a request by the Fluvanna-Louisa Foundation to rezone 1.4 acres from R-1 Residential (Limited) to R-2 Residential (General). This is to obtain additional information from the Fork Union Sanitation District and the Department of Environmental Health regarding concerns with potential water contamination;

• Revoked, by mutual agreement, the special use permit (SUP 01:07) previously provided to CPV Cunningham Creek LLC. The revocation was for failure to construct of a power production plant (Rivanna district);

• Received a verbal and written notification from Kingsbridge Land Partners regarding their intent to construct a sewerage system for their major cluster subdivision of 28 lots. According to County Attorney Frederick W. Payne, this notification is required under Virginia law since the new zoning amendments regarding such facilities have not been enacted. The issue will be brought back to the Board at its September 3rd meeting.

A Gift for the County?

County Administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV informed the Board that Enviro-Klean has offered to give the county an alternative wastewater treatment system at the ARC building in Kent Store with eventual connection to the new Kent Store firehouse.

According to Mr. Mike Clark the owner of Enviro-Klean, and the successful litigant against the county in the recent lawsuit over the by-right use for such systems, the county will receive a package worth about $30,000, including five years of free maintenance.

Supervisors asked the staff to evaluate the proposal. If the county were to accept the offer, it might be perceived as undercutting the position of those who argue that such systems are unproven and should not be permitted until regulations are in place governing their use. Conversely, if the county were to reject the offer, others might object to spending taxpayer funds on a project that could have been provided for free.

The next Board meeting will be held at the county courthouse on August 6th at 2:00 pm in the Courthouse. In keeping with the Board’s tradition, this will be the only August meeting.

Greene County July Planning Commission Meeting

Kara L. Reese, Greene County Field Officer

July 16, 2008

 

Executive Summary:

RZ#08-002 Rezoning request from A-1 to B-3 on 2.03 acres near Blue Ridge Trailers along Seminole Trail – Approved

RZ#08-001 Rezoning request from R-1 to B-3 approximately 16.16 acres located on Seminole Trail and Cedar Grove Road – Disapproved

OR#08-002 Inoperative Vehicle Ordinance – Approved

Capital Improvements Plan – Approved

 

Call to order 7:31 pm

 

1. Public Hearing on Martin Investments, LLC’s request to rezone from A-1 to B-3 approximately 2.03 acres located on Seminole Trail.

 

Staff Report:

This is a request to rezone one lot located along Seminole Trail located adjacent to Blue Ridge Trailer Sales. The two lots occupied by Blue Ridge Trailers are already zones B-3. The Comprehensive Plan designates this area for commercial growth. Currently, city water and sewer do not extend this far. The proffers for this lot will be taken together with the two other parcels on which Blue Ridge Trailers sits. The heavy uses in B-3 are proffered out. Previously the two lots on which Blue Ridge sits had a restriction that they could not be used for anything other than trailer sales until 2010. This restriction will be lifted.

 

Applicant:

Applicant did not have much to say. In response to Commission’s questions, he indicated that he does not have a current buyer for these properties, but given current economic conditions would like to add as much value to his land as possible. Rezoning and lifting prior restrictions will make the land more desirable. He also noted that one portion of the current Blue Ridge site is too narrow for construction of any other business. The rezoning will permit construction that complies with setback requirements and other county ordinances.

 

Comment from the Planning Commission:

N. Slezak was concerned about whether the neighbors objected. Applicant was unaware of any objection.

D. Lamb expressed concern about the jump from A-1 zoning to B-3 zoning.

 

Vote:

N.Slezak. Moved to recommend approval of the rezoning request withproffers dated May 14, 2008. The motion was approved 4 to 1 with Lamb dissenting.

 

2. Public Hearing regarding revisions to the Inoperative Vehicle Ordinance.

 

Staff:

This ordinance is a reworking of provisions already scattered throughout the code. This ordinance will allow all the provisions to be found in one place and make them more easily enforceable. Some on the language in the ordinance was clarified as well. The new ordinance makes penalties civil instead of criminal.

 

Public Comment – None

 

Planning Commission Comments:

N. Slezak wanted confirmation that this ordinance was comparable to other localities and state guidelines. He also thought that some of the legal jargon in the ordinance was unnecessary and too complex for the ordinary citizen to understand.

 

D. Lamb felt that this might be interfering with citizens’ rights a little too much and observed that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

 

Vote:

P. Woodfolk moved to approve the ordinance. The ordinance was approved by unanimous vote.

 

 

3. Capital Improvements Plan –Approved without much discussion and no public comment.

 

4. W. Copley McLean Trust request to rezone from R-1 to B-3 16.16 acres located at Seminole Trail and Cedar Grove.

 

Staff:

This is the request to rezone property located catty corner from Sheetz. The decision was deferred at the May meeting so that the developer could meet with concerned citizens.

 

Applicant:

M. Barnes, spoke on behalf of the applicant. He noted that there had been two meetings with citizens: one at the Ruckersville Citizens Council and on at the elementary school. They were able to make some progress, but had not reached complete agreement with the residents of Enderly Acres. With respect to buffers, the applicant had agreed to increased buffers and a security fence. The applicant would also place signs at the neighborhood entrance indicating the drive was private and had no outlet. There were also some questions regarding the developer’s right to Heatherton Road. The applicant clarified that they now control the parcels on which Heatherton Road is located.

 

Public Comment:

            Four residents of Enderly Acres spoke against the project. Their primary concern was that there would be 24 hour businesses go into the development which would result in a hangout crowd and increased noise. They were also concerned that there would be increased noise from deliveries being made by semis just 25 feet from their homes. Residents also presented a petition with 107 signatures of individuals opposed to the development. Residents indicated that they might be more receptive to the B-1 designation.

 

A. Wilkinson addressed concerns that the plan needed more work. She felt that businesses should eventually occupy this space, but that they need to be the right kind of business. She was also concerned about the additional traffic issues that the development would cause.

 

Three residents of Willow Creek spoke about their concern with increased traffic on 607. They felt that the entrance to the development is too close to the light and will cause traffic back ups.

 

Planning Commissioner’s Comments:

P. Woodfolkfelt that there was still a lot that needs to be worked on with this project. The developer and citizens need to reach a compromise. The issue of security was an understandable one and that she wouldn’t’ want to live next to at 24 hour business either. She further expressed concerns that homeowners’ would have a difficult time selling their homes after the development was completed.

 

N. Slezakwas concerned about the B-3 designation. He would rather see the applicant work out a plan with residents that incorporated B-1. He was concerned that B-3 would be “an open check-book” to the developer.

 

J. Frydl observed that the development is located at a major intersection that has been designated by the comprehensive plan for commercial development. He also felt that many concerns could be addressed in later hearings. Further, the development would benefit the county as a whole.

 

A. Herring wanted clarification that the developer had rights to use Heatherton Road.

 

Vote. A Herring moved to recommend disapproval of the request to rezone the parcels.

The motion to reject the plan passed 3 to 2, with D. Lamb and J. Frydl voting against the motion and in favor of the development.

 

5. Minutes of May Meeting – Approved

 

6. Other Matters –

Staff will be meeting with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on Tuesday. They expect to develop a timeline for revisions to the Comprehensive plan.

 

Meeting adjourned at 9:36 pm

 

L.A.’s Proposed Burger Ban – Cutting Edge Land Use Tool?

This Sunday’s Washington Post (July 13, 2008) featured an article titled “L.A. Official Wants a Change of Menu“.  City Councilwoman Jan Perry is pushing for a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in South-Central Los Angeles.  Councilwoman Perry is concerned that the existing restaurants in her district (45% fast food as opposed to 16% fast food in tonier West L.A.) are negatively impacting childhood obesity and overall health of the community (29% in South Central compared with 23% County wide).

“Some people will say, ‘Well, people just don’t have to eat it,’ ” said Jan Perry, the Democrat who represents the city’s overwhelmingly African American and Latino District 9. “But the fact of the matter is, what if you have no other choices?”

The proposed ordinance, which takes a page from boutique communities that turn up their noses at franchises, is supported by nutritionists, frustrated residents and community activists who call restrictive zoning an appropriate response to “food apartheid.”

The article also included a prominent photograph of a McDonald’srestaurant and their drive thru point of purchase display promoting a “new fruit and walnut salad“.  Increasingly, fast food establishments have been adding healthy choices to their menu not as a matter of government mandate but in response to consumer demand.  Interestingly, the article twice questions the availability of a salad in South-Central Los Angeles:

  “You try to get a salad within 20 minutes of our location; it’s virtually impossible,” said Harris-Dawson.”

“”There’s no choice,” said Jessica Quintana, 15, leaving McDonald’s after a lunch of a fried chicken sandwich, fries and a soda. “It was nasty, but I ate it ’cause I’m hungry.”

Beyond the inherent irony of the photograph and menu choices highlighted above, the question the article does not ask is should local government use zoning to restrict the type of food sold? 

While ordinances are generally developed to promote the general health, safety and welfare of the community, should government be restricting menu options?  Perhaps there should be different restrictions based on body mass index and/or medical history. 

Why not limit choices to granola and tofu for everyone?  How is this government’s role?  What about individual responsibility?

Perhaps the most troubling quote in the piece is the following:

But researchers and activists praised the strategy as a cutting-edge application of government power to promote health.

“As far as we’re aware, it’s fairly precedent-setting,” said Mark Vallianatos, director of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College. “It’s an important public statement on how planning intersects with food health.

This is an example of an abuse of government power.  The person responsible for making decisions regarding what one eats should be the individual.  If the individual wishes to make “healthy” choices they will frequent those establishments that allow him to make such choices.  If the “healthy” choice population cohort grows, businesses that do not offer “healthy” choices will not remain in business. 

To put government in the business of determining what types of food will be sold under the guise of health is a prime example of how a “government knows best” or nanny state philosophy has taken over significant segments the planning discipline. 

Remember the saying, as goes California …… 

Changing Trains

Last month, in a post titled A Desire Named Streetcar, the Free Enterprise Forum outlined our concerns with the proposed streetcar West Main Corridor study for Charlottesville. Charlottesville Tomorrow has a very good summary of the City Council meeting as well as the podcast 

With just two members of the Charlottesville City Council (Huja,Taliaferro ) in favor the $200,000 study, Coucil took no action on the agenda item.  The City Council meeting occurred on Monday evening, two days later the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) held its monthly meeting.   The five member MPO is made up of two Albemarle County Supervisors, Two City Councilors and the Virginia Department of Transportation Culpeper District Representative.

The Charlottesville City Council is represented on the MPO by Councilors Huja and Taliaferro.  Huja asked that the West Main corridor/streetcar study be considered for addition to the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  

Thus a concept that was considered by the elected body of the City of Charlottesville and failed to gain a majority of support from that elected body, is now being considered by a body where the city’s only representation is the very minority who favor the failed plan.  In pushing this option forward, is the City being well represented?

I encourage readers to listen to Charlottesville’s Tomorrow’spodcast of the June MPO meeting and make your own decision, is Mr. Huja representing the City or his own agenda?