Charlottesville, VA – Albemarle County’s Places29 Master Plan for the North US 29 corridor under counts cost by over $175,000,000 (40.5%) according to the ‘Reality Check Report’ released today by the Free Enterprise Forum.
Using cost data buried on the back pages of Places29’s Technical Memorandum 11 and Federal Highway Transportation Administration (FHTA) historic cost data, the Free Enterprise Forum’s Reality Check Report generated a road inflation escalating trend line analysis. The land costs were increased by a similar historic trend line analysis of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The ‘Reality Check Report’ suggests the Albemarle County Planning Commission’s decision to use constant (2007) dollars instead of the Virginia Department of Transportation preferred project year dollars may be a backhanded attempt to mislead the public regarding the real dollars that will be required to complete Places29.
“If anything, I believe the shocking numbers included in the ‘Reality Check Report’ are understated,” said Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson. “For over four years, we have raised concerns that Places29 costs have not been properly quantified. Now the Planning Commission will not agree to use project year dollars. While they accept the projected traffic figures that support their positions, they refuse to accept the reality of escalating costs. This is beyond bad project management, it is deceitful. The public deserves better,” Williamson concluded.
The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy and research organization covering The City of Charlottesville, and the Counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, and Nelson. For more information about The Free Enterprise Forum and the ‘Reality Check Report’ visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org.
By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative
Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a scaled-down version of the Rivanna Resort golf community that it unanimously rejected earlier this year. The lower density, as well as the perceived better siting of the dwelling units on the property, were the key factors.
The property is located along the west side Route 15, north of Palmyra village. The application was for a rezoning from A-1 (Agricultural) to R-3 (Residential, Planned Community). The application stated that there will be 254 dwelling units (72 of which will be age restricted) and 75,000 square feet of commercial space.
Another factor was the minimal citizen opposition this time around. Some opponents conceded that the plan was far superior to the previous one and seemed to have little enthusiasm for continuing the battle. One observer expects that the project will take years to develop and that the rezoning likely will make financing for the earliest phases easier to obtain.
In another matter, the Board approved the VDOT six-year secondary road program for the county, a rather pointless exercise since members were informed that there was no funding available for any additions.
Developer Keith Smith is expected to decide shortly whether or not to challenge incumbent supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) for his seat in the fall election. Ms. Elizabeth Franklin has told people that she has decided not to challenge Board Chairman Marvin Moss (Columbia), leaving conservative Sean Kenney as Moss’ only likely opponent.
By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
SUP#09-001 – Request for a Special Use Permit for an Electronic Message Center on a 1.04 acre tract zoned B-2 and located on Route 29 – Approval Recommended
OR#09-001 – Revision to Article 19 – Site Development Plan regarding letters of revision – Approval Recommended
Yearly update to the Capital Improvements Plan – Approval Recommended
The Greene County Planning Commission met on Wednesday May 20, 2009 with a full agenda. The Commission discussed a special use permit, an ordinance revision and the Capital Improvements Plan. The Planning Commission also held a workshop session on the Comprehensive Plan.
The first public hearing on the agenda was a special use permit for an electronic message center. Applicants were Bruce Shifflett and George and Suzanne Haney of Lydia Mountain Lodge and Log Cabins. Kim Brown spoke on behalf of the applicants. Applicants have acquired office space on the Southeast corner of the Route 29/33 intersection. They intend to use the space as a central office for several aspects of their business including cabin rentals, a dinner show and a new furniture sales department. Applicants hope that having a main office at this intersection will help direct tourists to their businesses. They are seeking special use permit for an electronic message board to help them advertise vacancies and other specials. Applicant noted that it would be a benefit to the county as a whole if they can attract more customers.
A. Wilkinson provided the only public comment on the application noting that tourism is important in Greene County. She would like to see all tourist destinations listed on one sign so each business does not have multiple signs.
The Planning Commission had several questions for the applicants primarily to clarify what type of sign the applicants were contemplating and what conditions should be placed on the sign. Commissioners were particularly focused on hours of operation and how often the sign changes images. The Planning Commission previously approved an electronic message board for Arby’s and were interested in maintaining some level of continuity in the conditions placed on both electronic message centers given their relatively close proximity to each other along Route 29.
B. Martin moved to approve the special use permit with the conditions that 1) The electronic message center shall be considered part of the aggregate signage 2)The electronic message center shall not have neon colored lights and shall not flash, rotate or visually move so as to preserve the aesthetic character of the community and promote traffic safety, except as provided in number six 3) The message center shall not be animated in any manner 4) The electronic message shall not scroll across the electronic center 5) The permitted hours of operation for the electronic message center shall be consistent with the hours of operation of the building located on 60-(A)-20E. The electronic message center shall not be operated after 11pm. 6) Electronic message center may be changed at periodical intervals of every two hours, within the hours of operation. The motion passed by unanimous vote.
The second public hearing regarded revisions to the Greene County Zoning Ordinance Article 19 – Site Development Plan. This is an application put forth by staff to allow staff to issue letters of revision for minor changes to approved site plans. A plan could receive up to three letters of revision before a new site plan would be required. The purpose of this proposed change is to free up staff time and reduce costs to applicants. The Commission briefly discussed the revision and voted to approve it. There was no public comment on the revision.
The final public hearing regarded the adoption of the Capital Improvements Plan. Staff provided some updates to estimates from the school and from Parks and Recreation. The Planning Commission discussed their hesitance regarding the information provided by departments. N. Slezak was concerned about the accuracy of the estimates. B. Martin was worried that departments do not take the process as seriously as they should. J. Frydl echoed these concerns noting that the planning commission “can’t prioritize without true justifications from each department.” D. Lamb moved to approve the Capital Improvements Plan. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.
The remainder of the meeting was spent in a workshop session regarding the comprehensive plan. Bill Wanner of Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission gave a brief overview of the next steps in the process of revising the plan. Several goals have been extracted from prior meetings and will be turned into individual chapters.
For the workshop portion of the meeting Bill Wanner, requested members of the public to prioritize these goals either on large posters provided around the room or on individual handouts. The Planning Commission then took a break to allow the public to participate in the exercise. The results of the exercise demonstrated just how diverse public opinion is regarding the direction that Greene County should take in the future.
Many goals would be highlighted as important by one citizen but crossed out as unimportant or inappropriate for a comprehensive plan by another citizen.
To conclude the meeting, Bill Wanner briefly provided a summary of the exercise.
The Greene County Board of Supervisors Adopts Business Zoning Ordinance Amendment and Discusses the Future of Dogs in Greene County
By. Kara Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
Adoption of the Proposed County Budget for FY2009-2010 – Approved
Adoption of the 2010 Six Year Plan for improving roads in the secondary road system – Approved
Revision of the B-1, B-2 and B-3 business zoning districts in the Greene County Zoning Ordinance – Approved
Revision of the Greene County Code, Chapter 11 – Businesses by deleting Section 22-213 – telephone, internet and catalog sales – Approved
Resolution to authorize a Second Amendment to Assumption Agreement for water with respect to the Rapidan Service Authority’s Revenue Bonds –Approved
Resolution to Authorize the refinancing of the Water and Sewer System Revenue Bonds, Series 1998 – Approved
Request by Social Services for authorization to fill a vacant position –Approved
Motion to award a contract for a well to Valley Drilling of Virginia – Approved
The Greene County Board of Supervisors tackled a full agenda on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. The Board held public hearings on the Six Year Plan, amendments to the business zoning district ordinance and amendments to the Greene County Code. The Board also took measures to refinance Water and Sewer Bonds. A request to fill a vacant position in the Department of Social Services was heard by the Board as well. Finally, the Board held a lengthy discussion regarding the criminalization of owners of barking dogs and dogs running at large in residential areas.
VDOT: Six Year Plan
VDOT provided a brief overview of the six year plan. Six roads were placed on the list including: Bacon Hollow Road which is currently under construction, Mutton Hollow Road, the bridge on Beazley Road, Simms Road and a portion of Rosebrook Road. VDOT also reported to the Board on the feasibility of dividing Simms Road into two projects. It was determined that for the early planning stages the road should remain one project, but might later be able to be divided into two projects.
The Board opened the floor to the public. Five citizens thanked VDOT for their efforts to qualify Simms Road for the rural rustic road program. Following the public’s comments B. Peyton moved to approve the revised six year plan. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.
Business Zoning Districts
The Board considered the revisions to the County’s business zoning ordinance. The revisions have been revised extensively be the Planning Commission who met numerous times to discuss the ordinance. Staff noted that these revisions were meant to reduce the number of uses that developers must proffer out during the rezoning process. Staff also indicated that these revisions hopefully will bring more businesses into the community.
C. Schmitt recommended several additional changes to the proposed ordinance. First, he suggested that hours of operation and noise be limited in B-1 districts. He also suggested that restaurants with drive-through windows be differentiated from those without drive-through windows. C. Schmitt also suggested that the hotels with internal hallway access to rooms be separate from motels with external access to rooms since motels would be less desirable. Motels should be more restricted. He also raised some concerns about the definitions of farmer markets and retail businesses.
Other members of the Board were hesitant to adopt the more restrictive aspects of C. Schmitt’s recommended changes but did agree on some cosmetic change to definitions and corrections of typos. During the discussion both J. Allen and B. Peyton expressed concern about over regulating businesses. S. Catalano noted that the Board should be cautious not to “micromanage every aspect of a business.”
C. Schmitt moved to accept the revisions as approved by the Planning Commission with correction of a few minor typos, the deletion of a definition of florist and a revision to the definition of farmers market. The motion was approved by all the Board members.
Telephone, Internet and Catalog Sales
This is a proposal by the County Administrator to eliminate Section 22-213 –telephone, internet and catalog sales from the Greene County Code. The section reduces the tax on these types of businesses from $.15/$100 to $.025/$100. Staff was concerned that the definition of telephone and internet sales is very broad and could include a variety of businesses. Additionally, staff felt that all businesses should be treated the same.
There was no comment from the public and little discussion among Board members regarding the proposed changes. C. Schmitt moved to delete the section from the County Code. The motion passed unanimously.
FY 2009-2010 Budget
The Board disposed of the next issue on its agenda rather quickly. The Budget had been discussed at the last Board of Supervisors Meeting which had served as the public hearing for this budget cycle. Members of the Board noted that more cuts from the State are likely and that wherever possible those cuts will be passed directly to the department where the State cuts occurred. The County does not intend to make up any shortfalls in state funding.
J. Allen moved to approve the proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. The budget was approved by a unanimous vote.
County Dog Ordinances
The Board held workshop discussions on two ordinance changes regarding dogs. The first proposal is that Greene adopts a barking dog ordinance similar Albemarle’s barking dog ordinance. The second proposal was to expand the ordinance regarding dogs running at large to cover all residential zoning districts.
The push for a barking dog ordinance in Greene County has been led by J. Allen. The Board has been looking at possible solutions for several weeks. In previous discussions a general nuisance ordinance was discussed and rejected. On several occasions it has been noted that Greene County already has a general noise ordinance although it is rarely enforced.
The ordinance currently being considered is an adapted a version of Albemarle’s barking dog ordinance. The County Attorney noted that it had worked quite well in Albemarle. This ordinance permits citizens to go to a magistrate to seek a remedy for animal noise. Albemarle’s ordinance prohibits barking for a period of 30 minutes with less than a 5 minute cessation in barking. The proposed ordinance would exempt dogs in A-1 Agriculture on lots of five acres or more. Those whose dogs violate this ordinance would become criminals guilty of a Class III Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. After three convictions in a year the dog would be removed from the property.
After some discussion the Board decided to pursue a more restrictive ordinance for Greene County that would prohibit barking for 20 minutes with less than a 5 minute cessation in barking. The arbitrary nature of these numbers was noted in the discussion although it did not seem to bother the Board. The ordinance will be advertised for a public hearing.
A second ordinance regarding dogs was discussed. This was a proposal to expand the prohibition on dogs running at large to areas zoned as residential. This is intended as a compromise between those who would prefer a county-wide ordinance and the current ordinance. Under the current ordinance subdivisions can petition to be included under the ordinance. Board members were more hesitant about pursuing this ordinance change but did not rule it out.
The Board also addressed several other housekeeping matters during its meeting. The Department of Social Services was given permission to hire an eligibility worker to fill a position that will be vacated in June. Social Services also provided some insight into the increased number of requests for assistance in the county.
Additionally the Board took steps necessary to refinance the Water and Sewer Revenue Bonds, Series 1998. These efforts will provide significant savings to the County. The new rate on the bonds will be about 3% below the previous rate.
The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be Tuesday May 26, 2009 at 7:30pm.
Last week (May 15) the Free Enterprise Forum blog featured a post titled “Albemarle Sign Police Look the Other Way?“. The post highlighted the large number of signs placed in the VDOT right of way Warning of the Seat Belt Enforcement Area.
Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker read the post and asked County Attorney Larry Davis for his opinion of the situation.
“The County’s agreement with VDOT is limited by Virginia Code § 33.1-375.1(D) to only allow the County to remove advertisements, defined as: any sign “intended to invite or to draw the attention or to solicit the patronage or support of the public to any goods, merchandise, real or personal property, business, services, entertainment, or amusement manufactured, produced, bought, sold, conducted, furnished, or dealt in by any person.” (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+33.1-351) The County, under the agreement with VDOT, cannot remove non-commercial signs. These warning signs fall in the non-commercial sign category.
VDOT’s sign-removal authority is more expansive than the County’s. Virginia Code § 33.1-375 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+33.1-375)addresses signs, advertisements and advertising structures. Under this section VDOT can remove any sign that it has not issued a permit to be in its right of way.
I am informed by Chief Miller that these warning signs were actually put up by our police department with the permission of VDOT. The signs were obtained from the State as part of the enforcement campaign and are being used by many participating localities. Because of the blog and other feedback, the signs have now been removed by the police department.” – Larry Davis, Albemarle County Attorney
The Free Enterprise Forum sincerely appreciates Supervisor Rooker looking into this issue and agrees the final resolution having the police remove the signs they put up was the proper action.
We are concerned that The Albemarle County Police, with permission from VDOT, thought this was a good idea at all. Albemarle County spent over half a year working with VDOT on their sign enforcement strategy.
We agree that it is important to buckle up this holiday weekend, we also think County Police have better things to do with their time than post signs in the right of way. While it appears the signs were legal, that does not make it right.
Everyone makes mistakes, kudos to Chief Miller for pulling the signs.
By. Neil Williamson
Forty two years after it was first drawn on a cocktail napkin (so the legend goes) the Albemarle County portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway is under construction. But even as contractors prepare the northern terminus of the road, the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park (CPMP) is battling in court to stop the road.
The CPMP’s latest ally in the battle is Preservation Virginia; who this week listed McIntire Park as an endangered site. The list itself was rather eclectic including:
Former Home of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Colonial Heights The congregation built a large new structure in 2008. The building has been unused since that time. … We urge a serious consideration of adaptive reuse that would preserve the presence of this stately building on the main street through Colonial Heights.
Wolftrap, Isle of Wight County –
threatened by vandalism; damage from large trees that could potentially fall on the house, and serious termite and rot to its foundation. We urge the owner of the house and the owner of the adjacent lands to work together to ensure the stabilization and preservation of this unusual and unique architectural gem.
Selma, Loudoun County
We … urge the owners as well as the County to work together to protect this important local landmark.
McIntire Park, Charlottesville
McIntire Park is Charlottesville’s largest and most underutilized park. We urge the City and all concerned to give proper consideration to this amenity and not to allow convenience to outweigh the benefit of open recreational space available to all citizens.
Historic Barns of Pittsylvania County
We urge Pittsylvania County and its citizens to investigate … stewardship measures before more of these tangible reminders of our agricultural heritage are lost.
Konnarock Girl’s School, Troutdale
Konnarock Girls’ School was the center of the community during much of its existence. We urge the community and county to take swift action to arrest the deterioration that is threatening this building.
A cursory review of the many of the good works of Preservation Virginia, leads this writer to belive they accepted the self nomination of CSMP without significant due diligence. Such a proper examination would have revealed the acquisition of Pen Park as a replacement for the Meadowcreek golf course, the significant parkland swap that was a part of the Meadowcreek Parkway agreement as well as the forty two year history of community discussion of this rather short 2 mile parkway. In addition, an understanding of the project would include the addition of bicycle lanes and the expanded access to McIntire Park.
To be blunt, I do not know which I find more out of place, McIntire Park on the Preservation Virginia’s Endangered List or the organization’s media release (absent a byline) on the front page of this morning’s (5/20) Daily Progress.
By. Neil Williamson
Last year, Albemarle County entered into a unique enforcement arrangement with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding signs placed illegally in the VDOT right of way. Albemarle County staff now regularly remove real estate, garage sale, going out of business sale, and other signs from the VDOT right of way (including the buffer zones near roadways).
This week, The Free Enterprise Forum noticed a vast proliforation of signs indicating “WARNING – Seat Belt Enforcement Area” in the very locations the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors claimed any such signs were visual clutter.
These signs were funded (according to the bottom line of the sign) by DRIVE SMART Virginia
DRIVE SMART Virginia (DSV) is the only 501c3 non-profit in Virginia dedicated entirely to making Virginia’s roadways the safest in the nation. Founded by automobile insurance companies that represent more than 85% of the driving insured on our roads, DSV is a formidable presence in the homes and businesses of our Virginia citizens
Can you imagine the result of a business placing a sign 2 inches from a travel way?
Regardless of what anyone thinks of the “Click it or Ticket Campaign”, The Free Enterprise Forum believes the sign law is supposed to be content nuetral. It will be interesting to see if the Albemarle County sign police fail to use their sign removal powers on these illegal “public safety” messages.
3:52 May 15 UPDATE A friend just counted 43 seat belt signs on Northbound US 29 from the Nelson/Albemarle County line to the Albemarle/Greene County line.
SEE RELATED STORY FOR UPDATE:
In the alphabet soup that is regional transportation planning, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization(MPO) has been working with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) and a consultant to conduct a transit survey. The survey has now been launched but it is titled as a regional transportation survey. The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to answer the survey by clicking here.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a logo that captures a product’s meaning and essence is priceless. A study of the logo to the right reveals a great deal from what’s not in the picture. The logo (which may have been appropriate for a transit survey) suggests Transportation Tomorrow will be only walking, bicycling, by bus, or by train. This is the kind of subtle agenda bias The Free Enterprise Forum continually finds throughout the TJPDC’s work in the region.
Tell me where your brain would be as you click on a button marked Transportation Tomorrow and it did not include a car?
While the online survey data will be interesting, I will also be interested in the results of the transit rider survey (conducted in coordination with CTS/JAUNT) and the other mechanisms the MPO is utilizing to collect this data. All the data collected must be examined carefully as the sample selection is not random and will likely over represent the “transit” oriented cohort in the community.
The results of the survey will be presented on May 21st at 7:00 pm in the Albemarle County Office Building. Note – there is a bus stop near the building.
By. Neil Williamson
Tonight (5/12) the Albemarle County Planning Commission will consider minor changes to their entrance corridor regulations to reduce confusion in the ordinance. The Free Enterprise Forum, while appreciative of the effort, believes more comprehensive change is in order.
In the early 1980’s there was a popular bumper sticker that stated “All Dirt Roads Lead to Tech”. I am reminded of this concept in considering the number of “Entrance Corridors” Albemarle County has enumerated in its ordinance. Albemarle County has designated TWENTY ONE (21) roads as “entrance corridors”.
- U.S. Route 250 East
- U.S. Route 29 North
- U.S. Route 29 South
- Virginia Route 20 South
- Virginia Route 631 South from Charlottesville City limits to Route 708 and from U.S. Route 29 North to Route 743
- U.S. Route 250 West
- Virginia Route 6
- Virginia Route 151
- Interstate Route 64
- Virginia Route 20 North
- Virginia Route 22
- Virginia Route 53
- Virginia Route 231
- Virginia Route 240
- U.S. Route 29 Business
- U.S. Route 29/250 Bypass
- Virginia Route 654
- Virginia Route 742
- Virginia Route 649 from U.S. Route 29 North to Virginia Route 606
- Virginia Route 743 from U.S. Route 29 North to Virginia Route 676
- Virginia Route 631 from U.S. 29 North easterly to the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks.
When the state granted localities the power to determine an Entrance Corridor, I do not believe it was the legislative intent to provide such a wide swath of power.
Section 15.2-2306 of the Code of Virginia authorizes the creation of such districts along streets or highways which constitute “significant routes of tourist access to the locality or to designated historic landmarks, buildings, structures or districts.” Upon designation of such an area, the Ordinance may require review to determine whether proposed construction along the tourist route is “architecturally compatible” with the historic landmarks, buildings or structures located in the destination. In the event such an ordinance is adopted, it authorizes the Board of Supervisors to designate areas within the County as entrance corridor overlay districts and to establish standards for such districts.
With 21 entrance corridors, Albemarle County spends a vast amount of money and staff time aggressively examining the architectural design, landscape design, color scheme, lighting and signage of all parcels sharing a boundary line with the EC or within 500 feet of the EC.
Is this the proper scope for the Entrance Corridor?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes that in time Albemarle County may face a lawsuit for overzealously embracing the Entrance Corridor concept. Until such an aggrieved party comes forward, any property owner located within 500 feet of the 21 Entrance Corridors has a reduction of property rights and are subject to big government, via the Architectural Review Board deciding how to design their project.
As we see increasing retail sales flee out of Albemarle County, perhaps such roads should be considered “Sales Tax Escape Routes” rather than Entrance Corridors.