Albemarle’s Stragedy Retreat

By. Neil Williamson, President

The first two hours of last week’s (10/16) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Strategic Retreat featured multiple reports indicating a significant drop in local, state and federal revenue over the last several quarters.  The five year economic forecast was equally dismal.  It was under this backdrop the County Supervisors brainstormed strategic concepts to positively impact their budget.

After the discussion, each Supervisor was given a number of green dots to rank their priorities on the list of strategic issues the retreat had identified.

Board Retreat Dot Exercise

photo credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow

The strategy receiving the most votes on this page was “Promote Economy, work with the Business Community”.  If I was new to the community, I would have to ask how this qualified as a new strategic priority. 

Doesn’t Albemarle County always work with the business community? 

Perhaps an example will illuminate the issue. 

Earlier in the meeting Supervisor Ken Boyd raised an example from out at the airport.  According to Boyd, there is a very expensive aircraft that wishes to be housed at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO).  A private entity is prepared to use private money to build a hanger to house the aircraft (and others perhaps) in a location and manner that is consistent with the Airport Authority Master Plan.  Parties to this proposal met with Boyd some time ago to brief him on the issue.

It is important to note, aircraft pay taxes at the airport where they are permanently housed.  Any additional aircraft permanently housed at CHO it would represent an increase in personal property taxes paid.

So as a win-win-win issue where is this proposal today, Supervisor Ann Mallek reported to the Board that the application is now in process. 

Lifting a concept from Ronald Reagan:  “In Process” is not a solution – “The Process” is the problem.

Albemarle County has long considered itself to be so desirable, that anyone wanting to open an enterprise here must be willing to do it the Albemarle way.  If they don’t want to play ball, we don’t need them.  This attitude manifests itself in laborious architectural review boards, a multiplicity of workshops and public hearings at the planning commission as well as a staff that is guided by starting with “No” as an answer.

The Free Enterprise Forum has written extensively about The Cost of Complexity and the many altruistic goals that lead to an application now requiring over 100 eyes to review prior to approval.  Often the cost of an Albemarle application review is higher than the cost to draw up the plans.

With the dark economic clouds above (and on the horizon), Albemarle County is starting to feel the ramifications of what they have wrought.  Significant retail sales tax revenue is bleeding out of Albemarle and Charlottesville as more and more shoppers are finding what they need, often at lower prices, just over the county line.

Some have suggested this retail flight is a good thing as Albemarle wants to save their limited land resources for higher paying jobs.  The reality is in economic development, the localities surrounding Albemarle all have the same slogan “We’re not Albemarle”. 

Beyond the competitive nature of relocating businesses, Albemarle has significant issues with both business retention and encouraging start up companies.

Without a strong business tax base, a larger share of the tax burden will fall to property owners.  Perhaps this dot exercise indicates Albemarle’s willingness to “work w/ business”  because too many times to count it has seemed like Albemarle County Government has been working against business.      

Albemarle County has spent the last fifteen to twenty years building an anti-business reputation, it will take much more than four green dots on a poster to change it.  But you have to start somewhere.

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3 responses

  1. Will Albemarle strange its stripes? Let’s see if the expensive aircraft parking is approved or if further study from the County determines that air waves from additional aircraft will disrupt the breeding grounds of an endangered, soon-to-be discovered bug.

  2. Thinking about the poster again, should we be concerned that there are only 4 green dots on the economic vitality strategy?

  3. Neil, please don’t complicate things for them. Let’s just take baby steps. Four is a really big number-ha.

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