Monthly Archives: August, 2008

Greene County BOS August 26th

By. Kara L. Reese

Greene County Field Officer

 

Executive Summary:

RZ 08-001 – request by W. Copley McLean to rezone from R-1 Residential to B-3 Business approximately 16.16 acres located on Seminole Trail/Cedar Grove Road – Deferred to September 9, 2008

Resolution Directing Greene County Planning Commission to Begin Work on the Comprehensive Plan – Approved

 

Call to Order 7:40 pm

 

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

 

Staff Report:

The property is located cattycorner from Sheets on the southwest corner of Cedar Grove and Route 29. The property is currently zoned for residential use with 39 single family homes permitted ‘by right’.

 

The concept plan calls for an access road running from Cedar Grove Road to the Rapidan Center. The proffers are currently split by this road. Additional prohibitions and restrictions on uses exist on the Western side of the road closer to residences. Numerous uses have been proffered out of the project.

 

VDOT provided additional comments at 2:15 pm on Tuesday giving staff very little time to review them. It appears that VDOT has requested that the applicant agree to set the values for any land dedicated to VDOT at today’s value on the R-1 zoning. It also appears that VDOT wants applicant to reserve an additional 50 feet of right of way in addition to turn lanes and cash value toward road improvements that applicant has already proffered.  Applicant would not get any credit towards cash proffers for this additional reservation.

 

Staff believes that the proposed use complies with the comprehensive plan by making the Route 29 corridor a commercial area.  However, staff noted that the Planning Commission had recommended denial of the application.  Since the Planning Commission’s denial the applicant had clarified proffers and met with residents again.

 

Applicant:

            M. Barnes spoke for the applicants. M. Barnes began by providing some history of the property. It was purchased from applicant’s father who purchased the land in the 1970’s as an investment property. M. Barnes noted that the covenants and restrictions to Enderly Acres anticipate the construction of business on this property giving homeowners notice that the property would eventually be rezoned.

 

            M. Barnes stated that the project is a positive for the county as a whole. It is consistent with the comprehensive plan and current trends in economic development. It also will generate funds for schools and other infrastructure.

 

            Applicant has tried to work with citizens. Applicant has agreed to a buffer that will consist of either woods and a fence or a berm and a fence. Applicant has also agreed to post signs at the entrance to Enderly Acres stating it is a private road. Many uses have been proffered out. Bus stops and sidewalks have been added to the project at the request of citizens as well.

 

            M. Barnes addressed two sticking points that remain. The first is with VDOT’s new comments. The second issue is that applicant can not commit to the exact location of the parallel road. Market forces will dictate where the road runs through the property. If they do not have that flexibility applicant believes that the property will be difficult to market.

 

Public Comment:

 

Justin Claey spoke on behalf of several residents of Enderly Acres.  J. Claey admits that the applicant has been working with him and other adjoining homeowners. He believes there are still some unresolved issues. While he understands the problem with committing to the location of the parallel road, residents are not willing to agree to it. He agrees that it will give them and extra 50 feet of buffer if the road is moved to the back of the property, but is concerned because then businesses will be facing the houses.

 

Residents are also concerned about a provision in the proffers that allows a maximum of 20 feet of buffer to be removed for drainage or utility purposes. J. Claey noted that he agreed with C. Schmitt’s email to staff regarding this issue. He and other residents are also concerned that the fence is not high enough. Residents want a 10 foot fence instead of a 6 foot fence. He again referenced C. Schmitt’s email to support the residents’ position.

 

Security remains an issue for residents who want restricted hours of operation on the business. They would like to see businesses closest to their homes close by 8 pm. J. Claey believes this is a reasonable restriction because that is what Northern Virginia does. He also argued that this would cut back on law enforcement costs to the area.

 

            Two additional citizens spoke against the project and echoed similar complaints.

 

            A. Wilkinson observed that this project has moved very quickly in comparison to Deerfield.  She believes that the new proffers and change in the crossover at 607 are good improvements; however, there are still some sticking points as have already been discussed. She is concerned about the developer’s ability to move the location of the access road. She would like to see a deferral.

 

Comments from the Board:

 

B. Peyton inquired about whether all the issues with VDOT had been resolved. Staff indicated that all but three issues had been resolved. VDOT sent additional comments at 2:14 that day. They addressed three issues:

·        In proffer 7(b) VDOT felt that turn lanes were not addressed. Applicant responded that proffer 10 covers this issue.

·        VDOT requested an additional right of way reservation of 50 feet

·        VDOT is seeking to have current value applied when determining cash credit for land dedicated to VDOT

 

Applicant addressed the VDOT comments. Applicant felt that VDOT seeking an additional 50 feet of right of way was really double dipping. They are already getting turn lanes and cash proffers toward road improvements. Applicant also felt that basing credits for land dedicated to VDOT on the R-1 value was unfair.

 

S. Catalano was concerned about VDOT’s new comments and wants to know what effect not getting the additional proffers would have on plans for the Cedar Grove/29 intersection.

 

C. Schmitt commented that VDOT may be doing this out of fear that the value of the land designated is so high that once the applicant gets credit for the land, there will not be any cash proffer left.

 

C. Schmitt was also concerned about the issue of moving the parallel road. He stated “It seems to me the whole concept gets turned on its head if it gets moved.” He felt that would make all the concessions that residents had gained useless. C. Schmitt also felt that there should be a better security fence to prohibit trespass.

 

C. Schmitt was concerned about language regarding the completion of road improvements when 50% of the commercial construction was completed. Applicant responded that this language was the same language C. Schmitt had used in his emailed comments to the proffers and applicant had incorporated his suggestions into the proffers.  C. Schmitt responded that he did not use that language.

 

M. Skeens asked who would be responsible for the maintenance of the fence. He also noted that he had a problem with the parallel road moving.

 

J. Allen inquired under what circumstances the road would move. Applicant responded that it would be market driven. If they found a large single user for the property they might move the road back.

 

J. Allen noted that the plan for Ruckersville clearly shows this area is intended for commercial development. She noted that the time that it has taken applicant to get through the system should not be compared to Deerfield. This project started at a much higher level. She doesn’t believe it is in the best interest of the county to place so many restrictions on the development that it is doomed to fail.

 

B. Peyton asked that applicant if there was anything left to negotiate with the residents. He noted that he would like to see a 10 foot fence instead of a 6 foot fence. He would like to see this development proceed but was not sure that all the details have been worked out.

 

S. Catalano believes the comprehensive plan supports this project. The location is not going to remain a wooded lot forever. Thirty-nine houses permitted by right would have a significant impact on the landscape. However, he is concerned about VDOT comments and would like some time to digest them. He admitted that if he were the applicant he would not want to agree to them either.

 

Vote:

            C. Schmitt moved to defer the application to September 9, 2008. The Board deferred the project by a unanimous vote.

 

II. Consent agenda – approved unanimously

 

III. Resolution Directing Greene County Planning Commission to Begin Work on the Comprehensive Plan.

 

            C. Schmitt proposed that a citizen’s advisory committee be developed. He wanted to get together a group of people with some expertise to serve long term. He believes that having a dedicated group would groom people for the planning commission.

 

            B. Peyton stated that he believed it had already been determined that citizen committees would be formed as needed.

 

            S. Catalano commented that initially they had agreed to have committees to deal with special issues, but since they were hiring professionals it was not longer necessary.

 

            J. Allen believed that the public meetings would be ample opportunity for citizen input.

 

Vote:

J. Allen moved to adopt the resolution as written. The motion was passed by a unanimous vote.

 

IV. Revisions to the Building Permit Fee Schedule

           

            Staff noted that the revisions were mostly to lower fees. One exception would be the addition of fees for pre-approval of site plans. The changes also allow applicants to get a permit the clear land without being required to build a house. Rates are also reduced on temporary swimming pools under $500.

 

            J. Allen expressed concern that if the issue with swimming pools is really the running of electricity to them then why couldn’t permits be limited to temporary pools that use electricity.

 

            No vote was taken. Staff will look into the changes further.

 

V. Revisions to the Bylaws for the Parks and Recreation Committee

           

 The primary purpose of the revisions was to provide for a youth board member. Additional language was also added regarding grants. The Board was concerned about the grants language and asked for clarification before they vote on the revisions.

 

VI. Request for additional appropriation from Juvenile Court Services –Withdrawn

VI. Matters from the Pubic – None

VII. Other Matters from the Board

S. Catalano reminded the Board that local politicians have been invited to the September 23, 2008 meeting. He asked that comment be limited to funding issues.

J. Allen reported that rate increases are currently being advertised by RSA.

C. Schmitt reported on a meeting with the Rivanna River Basin Commission.

B. Peyton reminded the Board about the School Board Retreat on September 20th.

M. Skeens reported on the first day of school.

9:48 pm Public Meeting Adjourned – The Board went into executive session.

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Illegal Road Signs and Bounty Hunters

Forum Watch Editorial

 

In an ongoing (five years or more) discussion with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Albemarle County Board of Supervisorsis now contemplating hiring bounty hunters to collect illegal road signs erected in the VDOT right of way.

 

What makes a sign illegal?  According to The Code of Virginia Section 33.1

§ 33.1-370. Special provisions pertaining to interstate, national highway system, and federal-aid primary highways.

A. Notwithstanding the territorial limitation set out in § 33.1-353, no sign or advertisement adjacent to any interstate, national highway system, or federal-aid primary highway shall be erected, maintained or displayed which is visible from the main traveled way within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way, except as provided in subsections B and D of this section, and outside of an urban area no sign or advertisement beyond 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way of any interstate, national highway system, or federal-aid primary highway which is visible from the main traveled way shall be erected, maintained, or displayed with the purpose of its message being read from the main traveled way, except as set forth in subsection C.

According to Albemarle County’s August 3, 2005 staff report:

VDOT has authority to remove all the signs from the right of way, recover the costs of this removal and to impose a $100 civil fine for each sign.  There is a rebuttable presumption that the sign was placed by the entity the sign advertises.  This presumption allows VDOT to prosecute in a civil process without having to catch the offenders in the act of placing the signs.  The local VDOT office does not aggressively seek costs or fines for these violations and believes the effort required to collect these costs and fines would often exceed the amounts that could be collected.

Faced with this reality in 2005, Albemarle County tested a pilot program designed to determine if an enforcement effort by the county coupled with a public education campaign could impact the number of illegal signs placed in the VDOT right of way. 

According to the February 1, 2006 staff report, this pilot program, of just 2 roadways US 29 and Route 250 had mixed reviews and generated significant costs.

The resources required for the 5 sign sweeps and the follow up contact were significant.  Approximately 115 staff hours were dedicated to this pilot program, the majority of which was paid at time-and-a-half.  It is estimated that the program cost just over $3,960, or $790 per sweep.  The response to our follow up letter sent to the potential violators was overwhelmingly negative, and consumed a significant amount of staff time during regular work hours when calls were received.  Multiple callers stated that the program was not a good use of taxpayer’s money. Callers also pointed out that the County places its public notice signs in the public right-of-way. [emphasis added-nw]

Staff also highlighted the additional demand on staff time would likely preclude maintaining their current level of service with their current staff level.

So in 2006 when presented with this conundrum that the removal of such signs would likely cost more than it would generate Albemarle County chose not to move forward with implementing this plan. 

Last month a new idea came forward, Road Sign Bounty Hunters.  Supervisors discussed the possibility of splitting the civil penalty $25/$75 with VDOT and then Albemarle could pay private individuals $25 per sign presented.  Supervisor Thomas thought VDOT might want to look at this enforcement actiona as a new revenue source in these dollar strapped times.

The idea generated a great deal of discussion but does not appear in the Board Action noted from the meeting.  It remains to be seen if this discussion will ever go any further.  My notes indicate it was left that Allen Sumptner from VDOT would get back to the Board on the Sign Bounty Hunter concept.

While The Free Enterprise Forum does not condone any illegal activity, we do question the level of priority road sign enforcement is being given considering the many other important issues Albemarle County is facing.  If this is the top priority for Albemarle County, the enforcement should be conducted in a professional manner by Albemarle County staff (at a huge cost to the taxpayers).  To offer a reward for every torn cardboard box that reads “Garage Sale 8-?” is a recipe for disaster and does little to improve the fabric of the community.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

Fluvanna: Comp Plan’s Economic Strategy Approved

BY WILLIAM J. DES ROCHERS, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna County’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Planning Commission met jointly on August 19th to discuss and approve the draft economic development chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.  Although there likely will be more cosmetic changes before the chapter is forwarded to the Board of Supervisors, the participants adopted the goals with little discussion.  

The commissioners actually spent most of the meeting assessing the relevance and timeliness of the statistical package that makes up fourteen of the chapter’s twenty-three pages.  The Planning staff was asked to check numerous data and reformat what is presented.

The chairman of the Economic Development Commission, Chris Fairchild, praised the broad outlines of the report (“from 30,000 feet” as he described it).  “The [overall] gist of the section certainly covers what the EDC is hoping for … overall, I applaud it”, he said.

Mr. Fairchild also said that the document had attainable goals, spoke well to the EDC’s goals, and included qualitative goals that were relevant to his commissioners – such as the importance of land use to sound economic development – rural preservation through economic development, as he noted later.

The commissioners agreed to recommend five economic development goals in the Comprehensive Plan.   They are:

  • Strengthen and clarify the county’s commitment to economic development. To implement the goal the Comprehensive Plan calls for a full time economic development officer position in the county, a business development plan, and greater communication between the EDC and the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission
  • Implement the county’s growth areas as shown on the [future] land use map. Achieving this goal will require the establishment of Urban Development Areas – as required by state law – and the creation of a “planned unit development (PUD) zoning district” that would permit mixed-use development and flexibility within the growth areas. The goal also calls for infrastructure improvements such as the water pipeline and wastewater treatment facilities, along with road improvements and broadband/cellular services;
  • Protect rural areas through economic development. The chapter calls for greater cooperation with large landowners to have larger scale farming, horticultural, and forestry activity in the county. [In the first quarter of 2007, this sector employed 58 people in Fluvanna, according to the Census Bureau]. It also supports: the development of local business, particularly those of a “rural character”, mixed-income (with emphasis on affordable) housing in the growth areas of the county, and tourism development;
  • Diversify the county’s tax base. This goal seeks to retain existing and recruit new business to the county through management assistance and streamlined permitting procedures. The goal also calls for a more educated and skilled workforce through cooperative efforts with local educational institutions; and,
  • Develop a stronger regional presence. The chapter’s last goal calls for greater cooperation with regional entities and Louisa County as a means to enhance Fluvanna’s regional economic development activities.

The chapter does drop a major goal of the EDC, one articulated just three years ago:  the development of an industrial/business park in Fluvanna.  The proposal never got off the ground then, and any significant county financial involvement at this point is highly unlikely, given other pressing demands, such as water, education, and telecommunications infrastructure development.

Greene County Planning Commission Contemplates the County’s Business Zoning

by. Kara L. Reese Greene County Field Officer

August 20, 2008

The Greene County Planning Commission considered the County’s business zoning districts at the first of what may be many work sessions on Wednesday, August 20th.  It did so at the request of the Board of Supervisors, who in light of a recent trend of developers seeking B-3 zoning designations then proffering out a laundry list of “heavy uses,” felt that a revamp of the Zoning Ordinance was long overdue. 

Before Wednesday all indicators showed these changes would be the type of practical updates Greene County needs to continue to grow in a manner consistent with its Comprehensive Plan. However, conversation took an unexpected turn at the Planning Commission’s work session. Board Members present at the meeting, as well as citizens, suggested additional restrictions and complicating factors be added to Greene’s ordinances. Among suggestions were adopting harmonious use requirements, incorporating additional architectural requirements to blend businesses with housing, using traffic counts to determine if a business falls under B-2 or B-3 Zoning, and requiring special use permits for all businesses that wish to operate after 10 pm. Suggestions, that while well meaning, would only complicate the legal landscape in Greene County and discourage businesses looking for an alternative to heavily regulated Albemarle and Charlottesville from relocating to Greene.

Instead of complicating matters the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and citizens need to focus on the task at hand. Creating a straight forward, business friendly ordinance that solves the real obstacles businesses seeking to move to Greene County are facing. 

The Planning Commission will hold another work session on at 6:30 pm on September 17, 2008.

During their regular meeting the Planning Commission Recommended approval of OR#08-003 amending the Corner Lots provisions in Greene’s Zoning Ordinance. The amendments are intended to clarify current confusing language.

 The Planning Commission also discussed holding the “kick off” for work on the Comprehensive Plan during their September meeting. Public Meetings will begin shortly thereafter in September and early October.

McMansions, Garage Mahals, and Starter Castles

In last night’s Charlottesville City Council meeting, Council member David Brown suggested a McMansion Task Force be created to consider how the city can best regulate the housing market to control/eliminate the construction of homes that do not fit the City defined context of the neighborhood.   

Using a term such as McMansion Task Force, provides a great laugh line in Council Chambers but becomes more difficult to define in the real world.  Is it a McMansion if it is a certain number of square feet?  Is it a McMansion if it has an elevator to allow an elderly resident access to their second floor? 

It is difficult to believe but the City of Austin actually has a McMansion Amendment (pdf) [yes, that is how it is referenced on the City website].  Interestingly, the Austin Contrarian blog has a great photo example of what the market response has been to this inappropriate government regulation.

The City of Boulder Colorado has also instituted a McMansion Ordinance.  According to David Fromkin (Liberal and Loving it Blog) suggests Boulder Colorado’s definition of McMansion as “any house bigger than their own”

This concept of neighbor class envy clearly enters into this discussion.  Americans tend to live in income stratified communities that rise and fall along with their residents fortunes.   When an infill property is redeveloped in a neighborhood, the change is more abrupt than the traditional rise and fall. 

The concept of infill development, popular with new urbanists (while McMansions are not), is to better utilize urban land where government services can be more efficiently be delivered.   In addition, we are starting to see a trend of empty nesters and others returning vitality to the city centers. 

How then should we address the desires of these potential new taxpayers to improve intercity property without upsetting the delicate balance of the neighborhood? 

The Free Enterprise Forum believes less government intervention into this market is better.  My review of the current real estate market sees more properties looking at small footprints (physical and environmental).  Perhaps the market is adequately addressing this issue.

I doubt the Task Force will see their way clear any solution without regulation.

Should Freedom of Information Act Requests be Free?

In the July 28th Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Board meeting, Executive Director Tom Frederick informed the Board that the number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests had increased in both complexity and volume.  Frederick stated that the RWSA may go over budget by as much as $10,000 in legal fees in recent months to determine how to reply to the requests.  This cost figure does not include the staff time spent on the requests.

Charlottesville Tommorow has a good synopsis of this meeting on their blog [page down to July 28th meeting].

In making the statement about FOIA Frederick stated [as quoted by Charlottesville Tomorrow]:

“This organization takes the issue of the people’s right to know very, very seriously….We will do whatever we need and is necessary to ensure the public is informed,” said Frederick.  “Over the past four months there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Freedom of Information Act requests; in particular, requests are sometimes very very broad in scope, cover many many years of files, including files that this organization has placed in the archives, and in some cases the requests are written in a complex manner that requires considerable legal consultation.” 

As a public authority there is a presumption of openness required.  The Free Enterprise Forum has always been a strong advocate for sunshine in all government activities.  How then does one balance the public’s right to know and the rate payers responsibility and cost burden?

The US Postal Service has a fairly direct manner dealing with FOIA requests:

What does a FOIA request cost?
A requester may be charged a fee for some or all of the Postal Service’s direct costs. Fees are based on the amount of time it takes to process a request, the number of pages provided, and a requester’s fee category (educational, news media, commercial, or other).

Educational and news media requesters are charged for duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.
Commercial requesters are charged fees for search time, review time, and duplication costs.
Other requesters are charged fees for search time in excess of two hours and duplication costs in excess of 100 pages.

Duplication costs are 15 cents per page. Search and review time is $32 per hour. Direct costs are assessed for information that must be retrieved by computer. If the assessable cost is $10.00 or less, we do not charge a fee. If the fee exceeds $25 and you did not indicate willingness to accept all costs, the Postal Service will notify you of the estimated fee and ask for your written agreement to accept liability. If the estimated fee is over $250, our regulations allow us to collect an amount up to the full estimated cost before processing the request.
 
This methodology, along with certain waiver conditions, permits the USPS to recapture the reasonable costs of gathering and copying files.  I am unclear whether the legal fees associated with the request can be recaptured but the concept of any large project that might result in a fee of over $250.00 must be paid in advance make good business sense.
 
  • But does this cost recapture policy hinder or prevent the public’s right to know?
The Free Enterprise Forum encourages all governments, agencies and commissions to place as much of their public files as possible into digital format.  The digital archives prove to provide easier public access and lower staff time in research.  It also involves slightly higher upfront costs but these costs are trending down as technologies advance.
  • The requester of public information must share a reasonable cost burden for such information if a significant time has passed and the request involves staff time to fufill.  To place the entire cost burden on the already stressed rate payer (or taxpayer) would be unfair.   

Greene County Board of Supervisors August Meeting

Kara L. Reese, Greene County Field Officer

Executive Summary:

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

OR#08-002 Inoperative Vehicle Ordinance – Approved

 Call to Order 7:42 pm

 I. 2009 Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Legislative Program

 David Blount, Legislative Liaison:

            D. Blount reported that the priorities for this coming session would be very similar to last year’s Legislative Program. Key issues would be transportation funding, state funding to localities and CSA. He expected a draft to be available by mid-September.

             The Board discussed there plans to invite Senator Hanger and Representative Bell to the September 23, 2008 Board of Supervisors Meeting. The Board would like citizens to address the effects that recent budget cuts are having on the County at that meeting.

             J. Allen inquired about what kind of mindset there is in Richmond that allows politicians, who have a wide taxing authority to continue to cut funding to localities when localities are limited to real estate taxes to raise the additional revenue. D. Blount noted that the House of Delegates will not raise taxes. Any change that occurs will have to come from a grass roots effort.

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

 Staff Report:

This request involves three lots. Two lots abut Route 29 and are currently zoned B-3. The two lots are restricted in use to trailer sales only until 2010. The third lots is currently zoned R-1 and abuts two B-3 lots.  Applicant is requesting that the proffers for all three lots be considered together so that they will have the same restrictions. The new conditions on all three lots will be permanent. Currently, there is a single family residence located in the residential lot. It has driveway access off of Forest Lane. Applicant has proffered that when the property begins to be used for commercial purposes the driveway will no longer be used. All access will be from 29.

 Applicant:

Applicant believes this will be a win-win situation for the county. Applicant wants to expand his existing business and when economic conditions improve will make use of the new parcel.

Public Comment: None

 Comments from the Board:

             B. Peyton was concerned about the letter from the Health Department stating that when the use changes on the land water and sewer may need to be reevaluated.  Staff noted that this concern could be addressed when site plans were submitted for approval.

             C. Schmitt asked about the turn lane at the entrance of the property. Staff confirmed that it was currently a sufficient length, but might need to be extended if a second entrance was constructed off of Route 29.

             J. Allen wanted to know if the current driveway off of Forest Lane would be closed when construction begins or when it was completed. She was concerned about construction vehicles using the road. Staff stated that once construction began the driveway would be closed and buffer would be created pursuant to county ordinances in the location of the current driveway.

             S. Catalano stated that he remembered when the first two lots were zoned. He was concerned then that several uses that would be beneficial to the County had been proffered out. He noted that this is a good use of the land.

 Vote:

J. Allen moved to approve the application to rezone the property with attached proffers. B. Peyton seconded the motion. It was approved by a unanimous vote.

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

 Staff:

This ordinance is a reworking of provisions already scattered throughout the County Code. This ordinance will allow all the provisions to be found in one place and make them more easily enforceable. Much of the language in the new ordinance mirrors State Law. It permits vehicles to be shielded by a screen or fence. The ordinance also limits the number of inoperable vehicles a person may keep on their property.

 Public Comment:

            Dennis Fyder was in support of the ordinance but was concerned that it might need some clarification. Specifically, he was concerned that it lacked a provision to cover race cars and farm vehicles. He was also concerned about whether the shield requirements were sufficient to truly hide a vehicle.

            Bob Roberts thought the ordinance was a good start. He was concerned that semi trailers might be excluded. He also disagreed that covering a vehicle with a tarp would be sufficient.

 Comments from the Board:

            C. Schmitt requested that staff address the concerns raised by members of the public. Staff indicated that both farm vehicles and race cars were exempted under the ordinance. Staff also explained that vehicles shielded by trees or a fence must be hidden from all lines of sight.

           

Vote:

J. Allen moved to approve the ordinance with the correction of one typo. The Board passed the ordinance by a unanimous vote.

IV. Other Matters

 

            C. Schmitt reported that the Parks and Recreation Department is moving forward with installing power to the park. They were also looking into applying for a grant which could be used to help fund the well.

            C. Schmitt also indicated that the Board would be attending the School Board’s retreat at Rosebrook Inn. There was some concern that the meeting may have been inaccurately advertised, so it may not go forward.

            S. Catalano indicated that he had spoken with the Constitutional Officers regarding budget cuts and had invited them to the September meeting with local politicians.

            J. Allen reported that as part of her role as Planning Department Liaison there had been discussion about changing the ordinance regarding new business licenses. There is concern that people may interpret the license as permission to do business not a tax. Staff would like to see a change that requires zoning approval before a business license will issue.

9:05 pm Meeting continued to August 26, 2008

Ring-Ring – Albemarle Calling

Starting next week, randomly selected Albemarle County residents will be called and asked to participate in an 18 minute telephone survey regarding their satisfaction with county services and policies.  If you live in Albemarle County and receive such a call, The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to make the time to answer the survey.

Albemarle County conducts this exercise every two years.  Since the beginning of the survey in 2002, it has been conducted by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center’s Center for Survey Research.  The most recent (2006) survey results may be found here.

Quoted in Albemarle County’s Media Release, County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. said:

The Survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions.

If this is the true goal of the survey, why are dollars not attached to the questions?  In 2006, when asked about 22 county functions almost all were rated as important or somewhat important. 

One must question the survey design if respondents have the opportunity to rank everything as important doesn’t that mean nothing is more important?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes conducting such a citizen survey has value but questions the freshness and vision of the personnel involved in the question making process.  While many of the questions are repeated for consistency year after year, when was the last time an outsider reviewed the process?  In the accounting business after several years of audits, it is generally accepted accounting procedures to change firms, regardless of the level of satisfaction with the vendor.

At the conclusion of this cycle, it’s time for Albemarle County to make a call — to a new survey vendor.  This vendor should be engaged early to review the previously compiled survey data and engage with government, political and outside stakeholders to determine the direction for future satisfaction surveys.

Charlottesville to Make New Housing Units LESS affordable

Sometime after 10:00 pm this evening, Charlottesville’s Planning Commission will likely pass the “Affordable Housing Zoning Text Amendment” which will require 5% of the square footage in certain projects (Special Use Permits and Rezonings) be offered as “affordable”, or offer cash equivalent. 

The concept is that applicants that wish to receive additional density will do so at a cost of providing affordable housing.  The reality is the economic result of this action will be an increase of cost of the 95% of the project [or 100% if the cash option is used] to subsidize the non market rate units [or cash equivalent].

In his July 30 Memorandum to the Charlottesville Planning Commission, Neighborhood Planner Nick Rogers delineates the standard of review required for such a change:

The Planning Commission must make an advisory recommendation to City Council.  Council may amend the zoning ordinance upon finding that the proposed amendment would serve the interests of “public necessity, convenience, general welfare, or good zoning practice.”  [Italics in original-nw]

Rogers continues in his analysis:

Staff has not yet developed an effective strategy for implementing or monitoring the 30-year, long term affordability Innovative Ideas are being used throughout the country in similar situations, such as a community land trust, a limited-equity cooperative, or resale-restricted individual ownership.  ….. Given the current economic downturn, and the minimal number of qualifying projects in discussion, staff is comfortable that a solution to guarantee the 30-year term of affordability can be generated in the near future.

In owner-occupied situations, the initial sale of the unit can be ensured affordable by requiring the developer to submit documentation that the sale price was at or below the 60% income threshold to obtain a certificate of occupancy.  Deed restrictions that require compliance with the 30-year affordability term offer another solution.  However, based on preliminary feedback from the development community,most developers will likely opt to use the cash formula.

….Cash contributions made to satisfy this ordinance’s requirements would aid Council’s strategy to raise “significant resources” for the City’s Housing Fund.

Charlottesville is actually a little late getting in on this stealth new home buyer tax.  Governor Kaine signed the requiring enabling legislation earlier this year.  Albemarle County [which has had such authority] has mandated affordable housing in its new projects for a number of years. As The Free Enterprise Forum predicted when Albemarle considered their ordinance, the costs have been passed on to the end user.  In addition for those new affordable units that have come on-line, it has been VERY difficult to find buyers that meet the income restrictions with quality credit history to permit financing.

Charlottesville City Council has stated their vision for affordable housing to offer housing “that is affordable and attainable for people of all income levels, life stages, and abilities”.   If this is a stated community goal, why is the cost burden being placed clearly on the new residential unit buyer?  

Fluvanna Supervisors Survive Marathon Meeting

By William J. Des Rochers

Fluvanna Field Officer

Since Fluvanna’s supervisors meet only once this month, the August 6th meeting had twenty-eight items on the agenda, plus assorted other briefings and comment periods.  The meeting lasted less than five hour, but there were no public hearings.

County Bond Issue

The session’s most significant item was the upcoming bond issue.  Fluvanna’s solid bond rating likely will save the county as much as ten million dollars in interest payments, according to Mr. David Rose, the county’s bond counsel.

Mr. Rose told the supervisors that there are four approaches they might take to secure the funding for the new high school.  Currently, one does not seem viable:  securing bond insurance to lower the potential interest rate.  Given the current uneasiness in the credit markets, the two bond insurers approached by the county are unlikely to offer it [primarily due to their own financial condition].

The preferred option at this time would be to secure the bonds through the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA).  Rose believes the authority will meet in September or October and once their decision is known, the supervisors would be able to make a decision between obtaining funding from the authority or through a publically issued lease revenue bond issue.

Currently, Rose estimates that the total debt service (principal and interest) for the lease revenue bonds would amount to $127,5 million (at 5.25 percent) over twenty-eight years, while the VPSA debt service would be about $120 million (at 4.9 percent).

Making Nice

Supervisors unanimously agreed to accept a gift of an alternative wastewater treatment system from Mr. Mike Clark, who previously won a lawsuit from the county over whether such systems could be installed on a by-right basis.  The gift is estimated to be worth about $30,000, according to Mr. Clark.  The county expects to amend its zoning ordinance in September to require a special use permit for alternative wastewater systems.

Other Items

Supervisors:

  • Might order a pay and classification study, to ensure the county is competitive in the job market. However, should the study suggested that higher salaries are necessary and then not implemented, it could lead to what human resources director Barbara Wall Magee called “negative employee relations”. The study will cost between $13 and $45 thousand, according to Ms. Wall Magee and the proposal will return as an action item on the September 3rd agenda;
  • Agreed to relocate the Commonwealth Attorney’s offices for three years subject to successful rental negotiations with Mr. Bosley Crowther;
  • Approved the proposed Public Works reorganization, without a position for heating and cooling worker;
  • Authorized the county administrator to advertise a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a telecommunications policy study for the county – the study will include provisions for public safety radio communications, cellular communications, and provisions for rural broadband service. This is an outgrowth of the ongoing dispute regarding the placement of cell communication towers throughout the county; and,
  • Made four appointments to the Economic Development Commission. The Board reappointed Mr. Chris Fairchild (Cunningham district) to an at-large position with a term to begin on August 1st, 2008 and expire on July 31st, 2012; also reappointed Ms. Catherine Palmer (Palmyra district) to a term from July 1st, 2008 and ending on June 30th, 2012; appointed Mr. Joseph Chesser (Rivanna district) with a term beginning immediately and ending on December 31st, 2009 – replacing Mr. Dennis Rawls, who had resigned; and appointed Mr. Stephen Scott (Columbia district) to an at-large position with a term from July 1st, 2008 and ending on June 30th, 2012.

Early in the meeting, Mr. Jamie Glass, the VDOT representative to the county, informed the Board that the highway agency will not lower the speed limit on Route 600, currently 45 miles per hour, but will install additional signage.  Mr. Glass said that a traffic study indicated that 85 percent of the drivers exceed the posted limit by 7 mph, and to lower it would not solve the problem.  Supervisor Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna) said that the VDOT position that if the speed limit were lowered, people would still ignore it “makes no sense”.

Supervisors will meet next on September 3rd, at 2:00 pm at the Courthouse.  The regular meeting will be followed by a work session to review progress on the goals they established last February.