By. Neil Williamson
Tonight (3/31) the Albemarle County Planning Commission will consider the Implementation chapter of Places29 master plan. Note these implementation strategies are being considered without numbers attached to them because planning staff believed (and the Commission agreed) a better discussion could occur without the numbers.
The Free Enterprise Forum knows the cost for Places29 will far exceed $300 million dollars listed in the US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study as their numbers were 2008 dollars not project year dollars and did not include the cost of land acquisition and utilities.
In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum notes with some cynicism the following line from the implementation plan:
The funding issue is critical: there is little funding available from many of the traditional sources for projects recommended in the master plan. There are several reasons to adopt the Master Plan even though all funding for infrastructure to support the plan has not been identified. Emphasis added
The vast majority of US 29 improvements that have been completed in recent memory have been the result of developer proffers from large rezonings (Hollymead TownCenter, NorthPointe, UVA Research Park). A cursory review of the Places29 map does not indicate any area in the current development area where such a large rezoning could occur. In a previous meeting, the Planning Commission reaffirmed its commitment not to reconsider the 1980 development area boundaries. Therefore, without significant land for rezoning activity available, significant proffers will not be available.
So where does the implementation chapter suggest the funding will come from?
In addition to the usual funding sources (which the plan acknowledges have been drying up), the Places29 Implementation plan suggests consideration of a Places29 SuperTax.
This SuperTax may take the form of a Community Development Authority, Service District, or Transportation District. Each of these legal instruments could be designed to generate additional tax revenue (usually property tax) from those landowners within the district or authority. Most of these options require the consent of a majority of the landowners. Based on my discussions, I doubt such consent could be achieved.
Would residents of Forest Lakes, Carrsbrook and Hollymead welcome up to an additional $.25 per $100 on their real estate taxes?
On the business side, such a SuperTax would result in increased consumer prices and increased sales tax exodus to outlying areas. The WorkPlace 29 region supports approximately 20,000 jobs and provides over $800 million dollars in annual salaries. This region also generates over 73 times the tax revenue per square foot of the average land in Albemarle County. To inflict a SuperTax the most productive geographic region of your locality makes little economic sense.
While the Free Enterprise Forum is supportive of community funded infrastructure, we oppose the implementation of a targeted Places29 SuperTax and call on the Planning Commission to reconsider the Places29 plan.
We call on the Albemarle County Planning Commission to act responsibly and consider the reality of what can be actually be accomplished during the legally mandated twenty year planning horizon and limit the document to that horizon.
The Places 29 SuperTax is simply the latest in a series of missteps in the marathon master planning process (3 1/2 years and counting). While there are some good things in the plan, the half billion dollar boondoggle known as Places29 will never be achieved as it is currently written. Which begs the question, should it be written this way at all?