By. Neil Williamson
In a week filled with dour budget meetings highlighting the drop in property values and the exodus of sales tax revenue from Albemarle County, the Board of Supervisors is poised to approve the first significant revision to the Economic Development Chapter of their comprehensive plan since 1995.
In January, the Board of Supervisors held the public hearing on the changes and then provided several significant wordsmithing adjustments to the chapter. While it was generally supported, the Board wanted the document to come back on the consent agenda this week (3/4) to ensure all of their edits were correctly transcribed.
Just three weeks ago, Albemarle County’s independent Resource Management Review(pdf) conducted by Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute(CEPI), a division of the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University recommended a more positive stance regarding economic development. Charlottesville Tomorrow reported the highlights of the presentation included:
The County should develop an economic development philosophy to attract businesses in order to generate more tax revenue.
To be fair, Albemarle County’s Economic Development Policy chapter rewrite was well on its way to completion prior to the CPI study presentation.
Perhaps because of an increased understanding of the importance of business to the fabric of our community, many organizations have been involved in the drafting of the chapter over the last eighteen months. Thanks to thoughtful contributions from across the political spectrum, this revision has received the support of both the Free Enterprise Forum and the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The new introduction contains a much wider vision regarding economic development and its benefits to the community:
The purpose of this economic development policy is, first and foremost, to provide the local citizenry an improved standard of living and enhanced quality of life. Economic growth and vitality are required to sustain and enhance the human economic, cultural, and natural characteristics of our community.
By creating and sustaining a high quality, diversified economic environment, citizens will enjoy improved job opportunities, competitive wages, work force development opportunities, and the community will enjoy a growing and diversified tax base. Within well-defined development areas, we will seek to designate opportunity sites to address future growth needs in a manner that will add to the strength of our community. We will engage with our resident and new enterprises seeking to expand their businesses. We will work to find appropriate development areas sites to accommodate this positive growth within the context of the Master Planning process and the Comprehensive Plan.
We will work to encourage a mix of uses, and a balance of jobs and housing within our development areas, in keeping with our commitment to the Neighborhood model form of development.
The introduction continues with the first ever inclusion of the agribusiness community seen as a driver of economic development AND rural preservation.
We will work with resident and new agricultural enterprises to, in an environmentally sustainable manner, maximize their productivity and tourism opportunities as a part of our overall strategy to preserve the rich agrarian tradition and texture of our rural areas.
Many in the community provided input on this new vision for economic development. It is important to note the Comprehensive Plan is a visioning document but it does serve as a guide for policy makers.
The introduction also recognizes the regional aspects of economic development and the significant influences of The University of Virginia on our regional economy.
The passage of this revised chapter will not automatically make Albemarle County instantly more business friendly, it will be up to the implementation of the goals, objectives and strategies contained in the document to achieve that lofty goal.
This revision is an important NEW recognition that businesses are a positive aspect of our community.
With the banner headlines screaming of Wall Street’s slide, I am working hard to find good news. The passage of this chapter, and Albemarle County’s commitment to positively address economic development is good news.