Monthly Archives: April, 2010

Greene County Planning Commission Considers Capitol Improvement and Comprehensive Plans

 By.  Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

The April meeting of the Greene County Planning Commission opened with the introduction and welcome of new member Frank Steele.

Planning Director Bart Svboda reported on the status of the Greene County Capital Improvement Plan. Radio systems for E911 have been implemented and construction on Pump Station 13 is 80% complete. Commission members expressed disappointment with the input from several departments for the next fiscal year. Some departments were unable to prioritize projects and ranked all projects as number one. Other departments provided no response and input that was received reflected “almost a mirror image of last year’s requests” per Norm Slezak, Planning Commission chair. Commissioner Davis Lamb expressed the need for a solid Capital Improvement Plan to be able to get meaningful proffers from developers.

The Commission discussed its role in the process of capital planning and felt that they could not ascertain the accuracy of the costs of any given project. They did feel strongly that the CIP should reflect what is in the Comprehensive Plan and so deferred decisions until the next meeting. This will provide time to compare the two documents and make sure that all projects listed in the Comprehensive Plan are addressed in the Capital Improvement Plan. Departments will be asked to provide additional input no later than May 7 with clarity as to how they derived their figures.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the two recommendations of the Agricultural and Forestral District Advisory Committee. These recommendations included reducing the time frame of the District from ten years to five years (four years is the minimum required by Virginia) and approval of Article 3 regarding the continuation of districts. The Commission wants to ensure that property owners have information about land that has switched from belonging to an AFD to a conservation easement. Anthony Herring, Planning Commissioner, suggested that related maps be color coded to differentiate how these lands are protected.

Stanardsville officials are in the process of advertising the ordinance that would be required for the Greene County Planning Commission to serve as the Planning Commission for Stanardsville. After a public hearing, the Town Council will decide whether or not to approve the ordinance. Pending approval, the May agenda for the Greene County Planning Commission will include items for recommendation to either the Stanardsville Town Council or the Greene County Board of Supervisors.

Leon Szeptycki, Director, UVA Environmental Law and Conservation Clinic, presented the “Reducing Runoff from New Development: Recommendations for Greene County” report. For more information or to obtain a copy of the report, contact the Rivanna Conservation Society. With Greene County poised at the headwaters of the Rivanna and Rapidan rivers, it is in control of the quality of water for the area and neighboring counties downstream. The report discusses the correlation between development and water quality with a goal of reducing the amount of impervious surface area. Among the recommendations included are:

  • Reducing parking space requirements for professional office and retail buildings
  • Increasing landscaping designed to collect and filter runoff in new parking lots
  • Allowing landscaped islands incorporating stormwater features in the middle of cul-de-sacs
  • Offering incentives to developers to preserve trees and utilize low impact development features
  • Implementing a comprehensive buffers ordinance to protect water quality and water supply

The Comprehensive Plan was reviewed but layout and graphics errors remain a problem. A representative from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission stated that the plan will need to be put into a more sophisticated computer program to eliminate these problems. The Commission unanimously agreed that these issues should not delay presentation of the plan to the Board of Supervisors.


Fluvanna’s Budget Mess

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

fluvanna sealJust days after Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors approved a $60.6 million budget for FY 2011, things have started to unravel. Supervisors neglected to fund anticipated increases in the Virginia retirement system and medical insurance cost hikes. These costs collectively will be in the six figures.

Some supervisors also were surprised to learn that the tax collection assumptions also were adjusted upward without their agreement. This had the effect of projected about $100,000 more in revenue.

And, more than one supervisor was unhappy with other aspects of the budget process. For example:

Chairman Gene Ott (Rivanna) propounded the objective of equal burden sharing: if taxpayers were to pay more in taxes, then departments and agencies should, for the most part, share the pain equally. However, the only departments that absorb cuts approximate to or greater than the eight percent tax hike are: the schools (-8.7 percent), parks and recreation (-23.6 percent), and the library (-7.5 percent). Most departments within the county administration received modest increases.

The interim county administrator, Shelly Wright suggested that there could be double-digit layoffs, if funding were not restored within the county administration department. Even though no documentation was provided, supervisors restored some funding, and were then assured that layoffs would be substantially less.

Reportedly, the chairman wants to dip into the county’s savings account to solve the problems: something that previously he had  considered untouchable in this budget process. Supervisors also will have to address this fiscal year’s deficit of another half million dollars or so this summer. Presumably, that will come out of the undesignated fund balance as well.

Supervisor Shaun Kenney (Columbia) was sharply critical of the whole process. He said: “What was lacking here was leadership. The chairman is expected to marshal four votes in an orderly fashion. What we had here was more akin to budget bingo than a thoughtful budget process”.

Fluvanna Supervisors Set Tax Rate

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

Late in the evening of April 21st, Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors set the FY 2011 real estate tax rate at $.54 per $100 of assessed value. This represents an eight percent increase over the current $.50 cent rate, but was a reduction of two cents from the advertised proposed rate of $.56 cents.

fluvanna sealThree of the four cents tax hike are earmarked for debt payment on the high school currently under construction, while the other cent: the  equivalent of about $350,000, is scattered among various departments. To reach the goal of less than a ten percent tax increase, supervisors cut an additional $300,000 from the school budget. This is on top of the previous $1 million cut.

Apart from schools and Parks and Recreation, most other departments were spared significant reductions. Towards the end of the meeting, funds were restored to a number of departments and agencies, which the supervisors hoped would mitigate employee layoffs.

Supervisors Kenney (Columbia) and Weaver (Cunningham) voted against the budget, which passed 4-2. Supervisors also approved a Capital Improvement Plan that contained no funding for new projects, but did provide for a $200,000 capital reserve.

Given its size, the county’s library likely took the biggest relative hit of all. Supervisors cut its budget by 8.4 percent, the effect of which will force the layoff of all of the library’s part-time librarians.

It was a curious end to a messy budget process this year. Most, if not all, observers expected that a more conservative board would seek to fundamentally alter the priorities of the county’s government. But this Board chose not to do that in this budget.

The two conservatives were isolated as the Board’s two more moderate members joined with the two liberal members to make Fluvanna only the second jurisdiction in the Charlottesville area to raise taxes for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Melbourne Parkway


By. Neil Williamson, President

This front page of morning’s Daily Progress (4/21) features a Rachana Dixit article outlining the latest effort by Meadowcreek Parkway opponents (AKA The Coalition to Save McIntire Park) to push Charlottesville City Council to delay the construction of McIntire Extended.  This article and the recent announcement by Former Mayor David Brown that he would not be seeking reelection led the Free Enterprise Forum to consider the very real potentiality of the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway.

100_0036 After spending part of yesterday afternoon watching vehicular traffic at the intersection of Melbourne and Park Streets, the Free Enterprise Forum is left wondering, how might traffic counts be impacted if the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway were to open in April 2012?   While there has been some discussion in the community regarding the northern terminus of McIntire Road Extended project, few have mentioned how the Albemarle County road project’s southern terminus will be impacted by non action.

Before Charlottesville City Council last year, VDOT Engineer Kenneth Shirley, PE testified that all the project were scheduled to open concurrently, other than a brief use of the county portion as a detour during the construction on part of the City project.  But what if those schedules, as they seem to be doing,  slip?

While the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will not comment on such hypothetical situations, one could imagine that it started construction on the Albemarle portion of the road relying on multiple assurances from the city including then Mayor Virginia Daugherty 1999 letter which (after indicating City Council’s 12 conditions for approval) closed stating “We stand ready to cooperate with VDOT in moving this project from the proverbial drawing board to construction.”

In this photo, looking toward Park Street, one100_0025 can see what could be the effective southern terminus for the renamed Melbourne Parkway.

The Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway could provide limited traffic relief while the Army Corps of Engineers and various legal maneuvering  dither regarding the City’s linguistics in their memorandum of understanding.

As the three separate projects [Meadowcreek Parkway (county), 250/McIntire Interchange (Federal/City) and McIntire Extended (city)] sit today, the Albemarle County project is estimated to be complete in October of 2011.   The Free Enterprise Forum has learned that the most optimistic projection, barring any further delays, for completion of the de100_0034sign (not construction) of the interchange is now 2011.

It is no secret that  VDOT is strapped for road construction funds; therefore it would be folly to imagine they would simply let the $30,590,522 infrastructure investment sit closed for any longer than the six months already agreed to by Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. 

One of the legal points the opponents to the Meadowcreek Parkway use is that the projects do not have “independent utilit100_0043y”.  If VDOT does choose to open the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway prior to the completion of the two city projects, it will be abundantly  clear to the residents near Melbourne and Park Street and to every student at Charlottesville High School that the new road has independent utility.  In addition, the traffic that will cut through on Brandywine, Kenwood and Yorktown as well as Park Street may  cause residents to put up new  “Save The Neighborhood, Build the Road” signs.

This really is much more than an academic question, given Albemarle County’s stated willingness to hold off opening their project for at least six months, The Melbourne Parkway ribbon cutting could be held as early as Thomas Jefferson’s 269th birthday April 13th, 2012.

As it stands today, the possible ribbon cutting dates for the McIntire/250 Interchange and McIntire Extended projects can not yet be projected.


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

Greene Supervisors Discuss Revenue Recovery and School Bonds

Greene County Board of Supervisors Meeting April 14, 2010

By Terri Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer


The second public workshop to discuss Emergency Medical Services (EMS) revenue recovery started with a presentation by Gary Matthews from Diversified Ambulance Billing and Bob Townsend, the Public Relations Officer from the Greene County Rescue Squad. Additional state-mandated but unfunded training requirements and planning for capital expenditures for equipment provided the rationale for considering a compassionate billing system for ambulance services. See FAQs related to the proposed EMS revenue recovery at:

Public comment from Mr. McMullen and Mr. Fried included concerns about drops in donations if a billing system is implemented. Mr. Catalano, the BOS Chair and a volunteer firefighter at the Stanardsville VFD, stated that research has shown a slight decline in donations over the first three years after revenue recovery is implemented. After the first three years, donations appear to level out and remain steady.

During the regular board session, Jim Utterback, Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Culpeper District Administrator,  spoke about  the growth challenges faced by all nine counties copotholemprising the Culpeper district, the impact of the winter storms and subsequent road damage, and the downsizing of the department. The four major storms brought 78 inches of snow overall to the district. Although budgeted for $80 million dollars, VDOT’s state storm-related expenditures exceeded $240 million dollars. Governor McDonnell has requested a pot hole repair blitz that further increases expenditures.

To reduce rising VDOT expenses, two of the four residency offices (Culpeper and Louisa) are closing. The Warrenton office in the north will serve 5 counties; the Charlottesville office will serve Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Louisa counties. VDOT shops in Orange and Louisa have closed and those areas will be served by shops in Culpeper and Zion’s Crossroads. Layoffs in December 2008 and 2009 have brought staffing levels to within 130 employees of those in 2005.

The public hearing with VDOT officials to consider approval of the proposed Six Year Plan revealed that Bacon Hollow Road and Mutton Hollow Road are funded and design is in progress. Simms Road is the priority for fund allocation; at present $61K of the needed $250K has been allocated. There is currently no funding for new construction at the intersection of VA 607 and US 29. The Board unanimously approved the Six Year Plan. The latest VDOT news can be found at:

Discussion about the awarded allocation of $2,425,596 of Qualified  School Construction bonds continued between school officials and the BOS. Kim Powell, Greene County Public Schools (GCPS) Director of Business and Facilities, requested a decision authorizing a public hearing for the May 11 School Board meeting.   The Board of Supervisors endorsed a resolution of intent in support of the bond issue.  GCPS currently has a $1.8 million bond debt. A result of this investment is anticipated energy cost savings of twenty percent.  At current utility rate, after fifteen years, the capital investment would be repaid with the energy savings. Improvements would be mainly related to lighting and water conservation.

Qualified School Construction Bonds are part of an $11 billion allocation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. For more information, see

Charlottesville’s Dangerous Density Desires?

by. Neil Williamson, President

This morning’s (4/14) Daily Progress features a well written letter to the editor, “Density Must be Carefully Done”  penned by Kathleen M. Galvin.  Ms. Galvin raised concerns regarding the City of Charlottesville’s density desires as Rachana Dixit reported in her  February 15th  story “City Planners Aim for Dense Downtown”.

Charlottesville City staff is seeking to eliminate new single family residential construction on West Main as well as part of Preston Avenue and East High Street.  Ms. Dixit’s article quotes Charlottesville Planning Commissioner Dan Rosensweig:

“In order to channel development, more specifically density of development, where we’d like it to be … it makes sense to extinguish a right to build single-family homes in favor of higher density,” he said.

Rosensweig added, “I think the reality is, the market restricts what can be built there. It would be prohibitively expensive to build a single-family home on a parcel on West Main.”

Ms. Galvin’s letter raises significant concerns that must be addressed before moving forward with the implementation of a more dense city.

Cities and towns all over the country are realizing that their economic survival depends upon cultivating a character and “sense of place” that attract creative people and growing businesses. As a result many jurisdictions have adopted objective, graphic-rich tools to regulate key aspects of the built environment such as number of stories, parking and building placement and streetscape design. Consequently, review processes become more objective and predictable.

The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the city desire for increased density.  The City is in a unique position in the market to provide a   lively, urban form that appeals to a segment of the population.  The “sense of place” question Ms. Galvin raises is critically important to creating that desirable, dense community.   Bellvue Washington

But we are drawn to the question, How much of the “sense of place” that exists today was generated by regulation versus grown organically by market forces?

Photo: Private investment, market driven form Bellevue, Washington

Where the Free Enterprise Forum may also have a concern is in the creation of “graphic rich tools to regulate key aspects”.  Considering City density increases are philosophically being driven by consumer demand, shouldn’t the regulations allow for increased design flexibility rather than stringent bureaucrat driven demands?  

Density can be dangerous, but overregulation is not the answer.  The freedom of the market to be permitted to make attractive development investment choices could pave the way for a new, attractive and more dense downtown Charlottesville.


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

Asphalt Production – Where The Road meets the Rubber

By. Neil Williamson, President

Statistics can be very powerful.  The discussion about transportation needs has been at fever pitch for almost a decade but when one looks closely at the statistics, actual asphalt production  in the Commonwealth is at 1985 levels.

 total tons asphalt

According to the Old Dominion Highway Contractors Association’s interpretation of the Department of Mining and Minerals data:

Steep declines in quarry and asphalt production and Crews paving new lanes (VDOT) employment illustrate the magnitude of the lost highway contracting work in recent years. According to DMME data for the last three years, aggregate production in Northern and Central Virginia has fallen about 20 million tons or 40% and man-hours worked have fallen by more than 1.6 million hours, greater than 50%. Production, jobs and man-hours worked in 2009 were at or below 1986 levels. VAA data reveals state asphalt production has declined by about 7 million tons or 50% over the last four years to below 1986 levels. About 2000 direct asphalt industry jobs have been lost over the same period, a nearly 50% reduction, with 2009 employment falling to lowest level in 32 years.

aggragate tons asphalt

aggragate manhours asphalt

Economic Stimulus Spent Elsewhere

Of the $695 million of federal stimulus funds received, Virginia dedicated just 16% to transportation projects.

Personal Economic Impact

In 2004, The Road Information Project (TRIP) wrote in their paper “Paying the Price for Inadequate Roads in Virginia”:

TRIP estimates that Virginia’s roadways that lack desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers approximately $4.4 billion annually in the form of traffic accidents, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays. TRIP estimates that the annual cost of inadequate roadways is

  • $2,131 per average driver in the Washington metro area
  • $1,032 in the Richmond area
  • $874 in the Roanoke area
  • $1,290 in the Hampton Roads area
  • $684 per average urban driver living elsewhere in the state.

Statewide Economic Impact

According to The Old Dominion Highway Contractors Association:

More than $4.6 billion has been cut from Virginia’s six-year transportation program since Spring 2008. Using the industry accepted standard of 42,000 jobs created for each billion dollars spent, this loss of funds cost Virginia’s economy more than 200,000 jobs.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes it does not take a degree in economics to conclude that a continued failure to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure needs will negatively impact economic development.  The corollary is also true, significant targeted investment in transportation infrastructure will most certainly result in increase economic activity for the entire state. 

If we agree that money spent on transportation infrastructure (including heavy rail for freight), how do we, as a commonwealth, fund the transportation infrastructure we need to get on the road to economic vitality?


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

Fluvanna Commentary: The Citizen Water Committee

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

It probably always has been this way, but put a citizen committee together to make recommendations on any subject, and the prospect that someone will try to hijack it are pretty much certain.CLIPART_OF_15195_SM_2-300x225

So it seems with Fluvanna County’s latest iteration of such a committee: the citizen’s water committee. Formed to get citizen views on how to increase the availability of clean water to county residents, it has the ancillary purpose of trying to amend for past supervisor mistakes on the issue. There is a widespread feeling in the county that citizens were ignored when Fluvanna joined with Louisa County to form a joint water authority.

Citizens representing various citizen organizations sit on the committee, which is chaired by the interim county administrator. But there are signs that some on the committee seem bent on using it to further their own agendas.

Already, for example, the spokesman for the Fluvanna Friends of Rural Preservation has stated that the “prospects for protecting the Rural Preservation Area are even gloomier than I feared”. The committee has met twice.

Moreover, the spokesman also apparently was miffed that he was not allowed to broaden the discussion of a primary waterline to include lateral connectors, which he contended would violate the Comprehensive Plan. This was ruled “too far afield” by the committee chair.

The call to arms may stir the loyalists but it also has had a disquieting effect. At least one member already has considered resigning over the insertion of the rural preservation issue and given the county’s delicate financial situation, a fractured committee would not help advance the waterline’s prospects.

Without firm leadership, the committee may well end up doing more harm than good, and create more problems for supervisors than it was tasked to solve.

How Much Water Should We Plan For?

By Neil Williamson, President

Opponents of the approved community water supply (Charlottesville & Albemarle) often suggest that the demand numbers being pursued are too high.  Based on the drop in demand over the past couple of years, they suggest the trend line should be permanently altered.

water dropIn addition, some suggest in 30 years we will be handling water differently (using gray water, etc.) and this will decrease our demand for water.

As a community we can not see the future but we can make a strategic decision not to predict how much we water we will be using in 2060, rather to determine what level of capacity should we plan for.  This should be a statement of fact by all four boards impacting the decision (Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County Service Authority, Charlottesville City Council and Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority).

Looking at the question academically, the metric used for projecting demand is gallons per capita (person) per day.  Built into this metric are business, domestic, hospital and fire protection uses. 

Benchmarking is a tool all localities use to determine their relative position to the rest of their “peer” localities.  DEQlogow Based on 2007 data from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Office of Water Supply Planning, The Free Enterprise Forum has compiled a chart listing how much water is being planned for by a variety of different jurisdictions across Virginia. 


gross gallons per person per day









South Boston




















Front Royal






Is it wise for Albemarle and Charlottesville to be at the bottom of this list?

With all the snow of the past winter and solid rainy springs, one might forget the water restrictions that were in place in August 2007:

  1. The washing of automobiles, trucks, trailers or any other type of mobile equipment except    in licensed commercial vehicle wash facilities.
  2. The washing of streets, driveways, parking lots, service station aprons, office buildings, exteriors of homes or apartments or other outdoor surfaces except where mandated by state or local ordinance or when performed by a licensed commercial power-washing company.
  3. The watering of outside shrubbery, trees, lawns, grass, plants, home vegetable gardens, or any other vegetation, except from a watering can or other container not exceeding three gallons in capacity. This limitation shall not apply to commercial greenhouse or nursery stocks, athletic fields and courts, which may be watered only between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and only as necessary to preserve plant life.
  4. The operation of any ornamental fountain or other structure with a similar use of water.
  5. The filling of swimming or wading pools requiring more than five gallons of water, or the refilling of swimming or wading pools which were drained after the effective date of this ordinance, except that pools may be filled to a level of two feet below normal, or water may be added to bring the level to two feet below normal, or as necessary to protect the structure from hydrostatic damage, as to pools constructed or contracted for on or before the effective date of this ordinance.
  6. The service of drinking water in restaurants except upon request.
  7. The use of water from fire hydrants for any purposes other than fire suppression unless otherwise specifically approved by the Executive Director.
  8. The operation of any water-cooled comfort air-conditioning, which does not have water conserving equipment in operation.

The Free Enterprise Forum looks forward to the results of the revised demand analysis study and hopes that the community will look forward with confidence in future water supply planning.  The results of inadequate infrastructure will likely include an increased likelihood of drought restrictions and the resultant economic decline.


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

State Cuts Impact Greene County Budget Worksession

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

RonaldReagan In November, 1982 Ronald Reagan was warming up for his radio address and didn’t realize he was connected to the microphone when he said, “I’ve talked to you on a number of occasions about the economic problems our nation faces, and I am prepared to tell you it’s in a hell of a mess.” Here we go again – FY2010 brings us budget shortfalls which means cutbacks for state governments and that translates to less money for local governments.

In a budget workshop on April 5, the Greene County Board of Supervisors discussed efficiency and planning as the key words driving the Greene County budget process for FY2010. With the majority of appropriations assigned, the remaining new local revenue of $593,172 was considered for addition to the school budget. Unfortunately, additional reductions in state funds for constitutional officers totaling $191,417 would reduce this amount to $401,755 if the county made up the entire funding difference.

 After reviewing the individual offices and evaluating their efficiency, the Board made a strategic decision to cut $9,605 from the office of the treasurer and add it back into the new local revenue funds bringing the amount that could be added to the school budget to $411,360. School funding has historically hovered around 60% of the county budget and this is consistent with what is planned for FY2010.

Supervisor Mike Skeens (Monroe) expressed concerns over what appeared to be raises for Assistant Principals, Technology, supplemental salaries, and transportation. The School Board previously clarified that there were no salary increases; changes in bus driver salaries related to an increase in their routes.

Other Board members voiced some frustration over changes the School Board makes once budget dollars are appropriated but acknowledged that this may be a reflection of unanticipated changes that occur after the budget is finalized.  Some of the Board of Supervisors’ frustration may be structural. State code mandates while they are charged with taxing the population and appropriating funds to the schools, the elected School Board has line item spending authority.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) added that the Board will continue to gear policy toward prudent fiscal management of funds that may eventually exceed required reserves. Management of these funds would be through three areas:

  • putting a capital improvement plan in place
  • allocating funds to departments
  • returning money to taxpayers

The Public Hearing for the FY2010 budget is scheduled for April 27 at the Raymond C. Dingledine III Performing Arts Center at William Monroe High School Auditorium at 7:30 pm.