Is Biscuit Run a Canary in a Coal Mine?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Not that long ago, miners used to take canaries with them into the mine, the canary would become irate, and often die, if their were toxic fumes present, providing miners the warning needed to escape with their lives. 

In today’s Daily Progress (12/9), Brian Wheeler of Charlottesville Tomorrow has an interesting story regarding the potential of the Biscuit Run development becoming a State Park.  Given the high profile nature of this development and its residential potential of 3,100 homes, this article prompts a number of important questions.

[It is important to note The Free Enterprise Forum does not take positions on projects and has never spoken in favor or opposition of any development project.  The following is designed to examine the processes and policies rather than this particular project.]

Unsustainable and undeliverable?

Biscuit Run was approved 6-0 by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  The level of proffers and mitigation were called “the gold standard” by the applicant.  Supervisor David Slutzky called the project “A poster child for how a development can make it through our process and add to our community” [Will Goldsmith quote from C-ville].

In C-ville’s Will Goldsmith’s coverage of the Biscuit Run Board of Supervisors approval he reported:

County staff had a few last-minute questions about “the most complicated set of proffers we’re ever going to be asked to administer,” in the words of Community Development Director Mark Graham

Could causality be established that the high level of cash proffers, the complexities of the proffers coupled with the significant other concessions made by the applicant negatively impacted the projected financial performance of the project?

If the project was a poster child when it was approved and is now seemingly financially unsustainable,  should we reexamine the “gold standard(s)” other applicants have been held to since Biscuit Run’s approval?

Often we look to projects that have been successful to mimic performance.  The Free Enterprise Forum wonders if a close examination of projects that do not meet their anticipated goals can be even more enlightening.  We ignore the canary in the coal mine at our own peril.


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


3 responses

  1. “Who is John Galt?”

    In Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged”, the government, through excessive regulations and by imposing financial burdens, so squeezed the productive members of society that they decided to leave the system and no longer provide the benefits of their productivity.

    I’m not saying that this development group was on a par with the Dagny Taggarts of the world, but they were ready to fulfill a need for quality housing in this area. Now the same county government agents who were so pleased with “the gold standard” are now bemoaning the loss of tax revenue and proffered infrastructure improvements if this project becomes a state park.

    I find it hard to be too sympathetic to these government agents, and I believe your cautionary comments should be taken seriously. My sympathies are with those who live here and have to pay for the costs of over-regulation by our local governments.

    To paraphrase, maybe we can say “Hunter Shrugged”?

  2. […] The Free Enterprise Forum raises some interesting points. […]

  3. […] [For additional context on the Biscuit Run issue please see our previous post "Is Biscuit Run a Canary in a Coal Mine"] […]

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