The Free Enterprise Forum and Charlottesville Tomorrow announced today they are co-hosting a City Council candidate forum at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at Burley Middle School. All three candidates seeking the two Democratic Party nominations have agreed to participate in the forum moderated by Brian Wheeler and Neil Williamson.
This free event will feature formal questions regarding each candidate’s individual visions for the future of The City of Charlottesville. After the formal questioning, the candidates will answer questions submitted by the audience and selected by the moderators.
Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “We are excited and proud to lead this important discussion. The very design of our jointly produced program promotes communication between the candidates and potential voters. As non-partisan organizations, our goal is to stimulate interest in the primary process and generate a clear understanding of each candidate’s positions.”
The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on issues of regional importance in Central Virginia. For more information about the Free Enterprise Forum visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org. For more information about Charlottesville Tomorrow visit their web page www.cvilletomorrow.org
By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
On April 1st, Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors had one of those meetings where a seemingly noncontroversial issue suddenly became one. The Board considered a federal grant request for up to $250,000 to fund five sheriff deputies for three years.
The application, if successful, would come from the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. But the program comes with some strings, and that was the concern of some supervisors.
The county would be obligated to initially equip the new positions ($181,000) and fund a fourth year at an assumed $250,000 plus pay increases that occur over the first three years. Given the tight budget situation, some supervisors wondered how they would fund the initial obligation. Moreover, the staff report was unclear if the program would provide $250,000 each year, or for the life of the program.
After much discussion, supervisors finally approved the request by a 5-1 vote with Don Weaver (Cunningham) dissenting.
In other matters, the Board learned that it will have to place in trust some $286,000 to comply with accounting requirements for retiree health benefit costs (GASB 45). Failure to do so would dramatically increase unfunded liabilities and that could have consequences for the county’s bond rating.
Supervisors unanimously authorized the negotiation of a structure lease agreement with U.S. Cellular to construct a communications tower at no cost to the county. The tower would be constructed on county owned land in the Fork Union area of the county and, according to staff, could link with a tower planned by Ntelos at another county site. The two sites would significantly increase coverage in the central and southern parts of the county.
by. Kara Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
The Greene County Planning Commission hosted a workshop on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 to seek public input for the Multi-Modal Corridor Study currently underway in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan Update. The workshop was coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Renaissance Planning Group.
The meeting was called to order by Planning Commission Chair, J. Frydl, and then turned over to TJPDC for a presentation. Following the presentation, citizens were divided into workgroups and given a selection of three growth scenarios. Each group was instructed to reach a consensus regarding which of three growth scenarios each group preferred. During the final session of the meeting each group then made a presentation regarding the group’s choice.
While Free Enterprise Forum applauds members of the Planning Commission for stepping forward to act as group facilitators for the workshop, it was difficult not be disappointed by TJPDC’s persistence in providing value laden guidance that can’t help but lead individual groups the “correct answer.” Some citizens were surprised that the presentations by individual groups were so similar. Free Enterprise Forum was not so astounded. While the intentions of creating a consensus may seem good, the reality is in the rush to agree on a single scenario dissenting opinions were quickly silenced or discouraged altogether. Also missed was the opportunity to improve on the existing scenarios through open debate and the selection of the best parts of each scenario.
Also disheartening was the low public turnout for the meeting. Most of the public present also participated in one or more of the prior public work sessions. When viewed in terms to the number of staff present (including TJPDC Staff, County Staff, Planning Commissioners and Board of Supervisors’ members) in comparison to the number of citizens present the lack of public participation becomes more striking. For every staff member/official in attendance there were approximately 2.5 citizens in attendance. This low turn out was yet another factor limiting the diversity of opinion and ideas within each group.
As the Comprehensive Plan Update moves into public hearings over the next few months, Free Enterprise Forum strongly urges Greene’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors carefully examine the recommendations it receives and to consider the consequences of pursuing the policies so clearly favored by TJPDC’s staff. It is more important than ever that Greene County’s citizens and business owners come forward and provide their valuable input into the process.
And finally, Zion Crossroads did not appear on the maps presented in the meeting. [For readers who would like the full story on how Zion Crossroads temporarily ended up on the map in Greene County click here.]
By. Neil Williamson
The current comprehensive plan strategy (since 1980) is to drive growth and development into specified development areas and discourage growth in the rural areas. The economic rationale is by focusing a high number of residents in a concentrated area (5% of Albemarle County) you reduce the cost of delivering government services (police, fire, rescue, schools) to this population.
In this paradigm, residents will be attracted to the development areas by the relative close proximity of services (public and private), the attention to walkability and new urbanist design considerations provided in the Neighborhood Model. (The market viability of only one model is the subject for another post).
Albemarle County has been working under this paradigm for many years. With the addition of the Places29 SuperTax,the barrier to market acceptance of the new urbanist product will be even higher.
Imagine you are in the market for a home, how does a 3 bedroom house on a ¼ acre lot in the Places29 development area compete with a slightly older 3 bedroom house on 2 acres in Earlysville, at the same price?
Under the current paradigm, an economic argument can be made that potential maintenance costs, the gas costs incurred running in and out of town coupled with the time lost in traffic makes the rural area home more expensive.
With the Places29 SuperTax, your property taxes could be up to $.25 per $100 higher on the development area home. Does this additional tax burden enter into your thinking?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes the concept of making development area residents pay higher taxes because they receive higher services than rural residents is beyond a mistake it is a shatters the foundation on which the last thirty years of comprehensive planning is built.
The Places29 SuperTax will create a financial disincentive to live in the North US 29 development area and increase residential pressure on the rural areas the comprehensive plan seeks to protect.
The Free Enterprise Forum calls for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to direct their appointees on the planning commission to accept their responsibility to examine the funding options in the report. Further we ask that they remove The Places29 Super Tax from their current draft and revisit all other funding options – including expansion of the development areas.