Citizen Councils Should Inform Not Replace Decision Makers


By. Neil Williamson, President

The Free Enterprise Forum believes citizen groups (including us) should have the ability to be active participants in the workings of local government.  That being said, we are increasingly concerned that the leadership function of some Boards and Commissions may be inappropriately delegating to community organizations.

In last week’s (11/17) Greene County Planning Commission meeting, members of the Ruckersville Citizens Council (RCC)  came forward and suggested their organization should be given the responsibility for evaluating the Ruckersville section of the Comprehensive Plan draft.  While the formal letter they submitted  suggested “a group” be formed, their remarks to the commission left no doubt that they believed the RCC should be provided some type of “official” status within Greene County’s planning process.  They based this concept on the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) in Albemarle.

As opposed to the self selected RCC, The CCAC is directly appointed by Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors and has a specific mission.

The CCAC will be a catalyst for effective and efficient Crozet Master Plan implementation. The CCAC will provide periodic reports to the Board of Supervisors on the status of Crozet Master Plan implementation and CCAC activities, such as:
land use form of development, business development and activity, services such as fire/rescue, police, schools and libraries, transportation and connections, affordable housing
and community-based activities such as parks and an historic preservation committee.
The CCAC will contribute to public understanding of and support for Master Plan implementation through enhanced communication and collaboration among all Crozet community stakeholders, and will seek to identify, and communicate and collaborate with unrepresented stakeholder groups.

In addition, there are specific qualification for serving on the CCAC:

Members shall consist of residents of the Community of Crozet, with representation of the following:
1. Community of Crozet citizens at large members 2)
2. Business community 2)
3. Other potential community representatives 8):
Claudius Crozet Park Board
Jefferson Madison Regional Library
Crozet Community Association
Parent Teacher Organization members from either the High School, Middle School, Elementary School
Public Safety representative i.e. Crozet Volunteer Fire Department or Rescue Squad
Other organizations or representatives

Even if the selection process is stringent and the scope of work is well defined, it does not matter if these groups are misused by decision makers. 

Recently, Albemarle County’s Planning Commission chose not to hear a Zoning Map Amendment (Yancey Mills Industrial Park) application, choosing instead to include it as part of the five year review of the Crozet Master Plan.  The Free Enterprise Forum does not have an opinion regarding the Yancey Mills project (or any other project for that matter) but we do believe this was an inappropriate decision by the Planning Commission.  Rather than voting the application up or down, the application was delayed and delegated to the CCAC. 

Is the CCAC appropriately equipped to weigh the needs of the entire county versus the needs of the Crozet community?

The Free Enterprise Forum thinks not.  The Planning Commission is.  This is why the Albemarle County Planning Commission has seven members (one from each district and one at large) to consider the application in the context of the entire community. 

Make no mistake, neighborhood groups can — and should– organize and have a voice.  This is a critical part of our process but all parties must be heard.  Applicants are often placed in a defensive position as they attempt to develop their property within their rights.

In the end, elected leaders must lead, not delegate, if citizens don’t like the direction they should replace the leaders.


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


2 responses

  1. […] years ago, I wrote a blog post regarding  the Free Enterprise Forum’s concerns about Albemarle’s Community Councils and their […]

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