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.