Monthly Archives: May, 2010

Greene Supervisors Hold Secret Public Meeting

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Free Enterprise Forum has learned on  Monday, May 24th at 11:45 am the Greene County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting and signed a waiver that allowed the Board to waive public notice of the meeting. 

Fueling local conspiracy theorists, the Supervisors also chose not to alert the media to the gathering or even make mention of their secret public meeting in their regularly scheduled meeting held the very next evening.

greene county seal The items discussed in the secret public meeting included an amendment to the Greene County Code pertaining to regulation of private water and sewer systems, amendments to special use permit regulations relating to water and sewer utilities, amendment of definitions in the subdivision ordinance pertaining to private water and sewer systems and adoption of the Water and Sewer Service Area (WSSA).

The Free Enterprise Forum has obtained the documents from Monday’s  meeting and has posted them to the web

These are important public issues.  Clearly the Supervisors felt the matter was urgent and could not wait the two weeks for standard public notification.  While it appears Greene County may have met all the legal requirements to hold this secret public meeting, they should have done more.

  • The Clerk has a small Board agenda distribution e-mail list, surely a quick e-mail could have been sent alerting these self identified stakeholders a special meeting had been called.
  • The agenda for the meeting could have been posted to the website [it had not been posted as of 10:00 am 5/27].
  • The public documents from the meeting could have been posted to the website [these had not been posted as of 10:00 am 5/27].
  • At a minimum after holding the secret public meeting on Monday morning, when the Board met again on Tuesday evening, they could have let the public know of the meeting and issues that were discussed.

The public perception (and perhaps reality) is of a Board of Supervisors that is willing to hold secret public meetings to advance their agenda.  The public should demand more transparency. 

Just because it may be legal doesn’t make it right.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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Albemarle BOS: Economic Development vs. Four Corners Offense

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Longtime college basketball fans may remember the frustrating four corners offense.  Before the adoption of the shot clock in college basketball, it was most frequently used to retain a lead by holding on to the ball until the clock ran out.  

unc basketball In the nationally televised 1982 ACC championship game between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Carolina held the ball for roughly the last twelve minutes of the second half to nurse a small lead.  The next year, the ACC approved a shot clock pilot program

A minority version of UNC’s hated four corners offense seems to be on display at the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. 

On Wednesday, June 2nd Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) will be accepting public comment regarding the Draft Economic Development Action Plan.  This plan is a direct result of the six point action plan passed 4-2 (Mallek, Rooker opposed) by the BOS on January 6th, 2010.

The January 6th action plan set out specific goals and deadlines for government action.  The same ideas are present in the six point action plan with clearly defined strategies, actions and metrics for success.  Clearly, the action plan has a sense of urgency to it.

When presented with the draft Economic Development Action Plan last month, some Board members were upset that they were not consulted in the development of the draft.  

Brandon Shuleetta reported in the Daily Progress:

Independent Dennis S. Rooker called it “completely inappropriate” to work with county staff and community leaders on a major initiative without informing the board. Rooker said that it would have been “the easiest thing” for Boyd to say at a public meeting that he wanted county leaders to start crafting an economic development action plan.

Despite Mr. Rooker’s stated concern, the six point plan that was approved by a majority of the Board 4-2 contained the following verbiage:

Staff should work closely with the Partnership for Economic Development [TJPED] and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a plan in the first six months of 2010 to significantly increase non-personal tax revenue through economic growth and not increased taxes to our business community.

During the meeting on January 6th, Mr. Rooker also expressed his opposition to all of these items coming forward at once without a staff report or public input.

Regarding the January 6th Action Plan, Ms. Mallek explained her negative vote on her blog:

Voting immediately on information in a new form, presenting multiple issues without time for discussion or public input is not necessarily in the best interest of our citizens.

Clearly, the current majority of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors are focused on Economic Development as their priority issue.  The staff has, as directed by formal BOS action, worked with The Chamber and TJPED [The Free Enterprise Forum was not a part of these meetings] to develop an economic development action plan. 

It is not an accident that “action” is a part of the plan.  While the minority of the Board may wish to employ delaying tactics, it is up to the entire community and the majority of the board  to continue to “press the ball up the floor” to address the need for economic development.

Time is short.  While local government does not create economic development it can create a positive (or negative) enterprise environment.  Enterprises mean jobs, good career ladder jobs.  Is that a priority for you? 

In last month’s BOS meeting, several individuals spoke in opposition to the manner the plan was developed and some seemed to indicate economic development could be harmful to Albemarle County.

While I do not expect to see pitchforks and torches at the Albemarle County Office Building on June 2nd, I do anticipate a number of citizens will voice their opinions of economic development to the members of the BOS.

The question is will you? 

The Board’s e-mail is bos@albemarle.org

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

 

 

Fluvanna Supervisors Poised to Adopt New Sign Rules

 By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

fluvanna seal At its May 19th meeting, Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors was briefed on new amendments to the county sign ordinance that they will vote on next month. According to county staff, the amendments are needed to remove inconsistencies in the current draft, replace inadequate definitions, and address such things as sign size.

The county planning commission will consider the draft at its meeting on May 28th. There are no penalties outlined in the statute for non-compliance; the zoning administrator merely is tasked with enforcement.

Non-conforming signs will be grandfathered and subject to certain conditions may be repaired. Non-conforming signs, however, may not be altered to reflect a new business.

Real estate signs are permitted but not in the public right-of-way; there are no setback requirements.

The Board also conditionally agreed to refinance nearly $68 million in school bond debt.

The Board directed its new bond counsel, Morgan Keegan, ensure that the interest rate for the refinance did not exceed 4.5 percent. Currently the rate is almost six percent. The county hopes to save some three percent in costs: around 200,000 per year.

Supervisors also dealt with a number of housekeeping chores at the meeting. They:

· Increased the filing fee to place one’s property in – or remove from – an agricultural/forestall district to $500; currently it is $100;

· Agreed to purchase new management software and services from Tyler Technologies for $427,000; and,

· Approved the construction of a Pleasant Grove Comfort Station ($187,000, only $25,000 of which is county funding);

Greene County Schools Receive Additional Funds

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

The Greene County School Board was pleasantly surprised at the May 11 meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors. An additional $42, 427 in funds were awarded to the schools after the state reductions in constitutional officers resulted in money from fringe benefits associated with those positions becoming available. Supervisors also unanimously authorized the issuance of general obligation school bonds in an amount up to $2,668,467 to finance certain capital projects. School Board members and school employees thanked the Board for their continued support and promised to be first in line in July for any additional or supplemental funding that may become available from the state or county.

Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the renewal of the Agricultural and Forestral District Program, decreasing the time period from 10 years to 5 years. Sixty-eight percent of the property owners remained in the program; of the thirty-two percent who left the program, many moved to conservation easements.

The following ordinance amendments were unanimously approved:

In matters from the public, Roy Dye of the Stanardsville Area Revitalization (*STAR*) group updated the Board on recent progress.

  • Initial VDOT study is complete
  • Draper-Aden will provide two design options consistent with the historic charm of the Town
  • Federal grants of $674,000 will provide two new crosswalks and enhance the streetscape from Celt Road to Rectory Lane, thereby improving safety and attracting tourists

Dye expressed continued concerns with the “antiquated water line going down Main Street” and expressed the groups desire that the sidewalks and water line work be completed simultaneously to minimize disruption of businesses on Main Street.

The meeting concluded with Board Chairman Steve Catalano thanking everyone for their hard work on the budget. Over the next couple months, the Board of Supervisors will be reviewing their bylaws and their personnel plan as well as the Comprehensive Plan.

Stanardsville and Greene County – Learning from The Neighbors to the South

By Terri Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

With an eye toward a revitalized collaborative relationship, the Stanardsville Town Council voted unanimously on May 10 to endorse the Greene County Planning Commission to also serve as the Planning Commission for the Town of Stanardsville. The Planning Commission will utilize the Stanardsville Town Ordinances in making recommendations to the Town Council while continuing to use Greene County ordinances for the rest of the County. Members of the Planning Commission and the Town Council have expressed enthusiasm at this opportunity for the Town and the County to continue building a strong relationship while hoping to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by neighboring districts. The public hearing on the Proposed Budget for the Town of Stanardsville for FY 2010-2011 reflected an additional line item for administrative expenses ($500) for the Planning Commission.

Speed limits, particularly on VA 230, were discussed and the question was raised as to how speed limits VDOT logoare determined. The governing body would need to make a recommendation to VDOT for a change in the limit. VDOT would then conduct a study and have public hearings before making a decision. The Council opted to recommend keeping the speed limit as posted but will investigate the possibility of getting “reduced speed ahead” signage.

Concerns were raised about property maintenance ordinance differences between Stanardsville and Greene County. Currently Stanardsville has a property maintenance code but Greene County does not. Town property owners held to a different standard than county property owners are frustrated when there is proximity to poorly maintained property. Changes in the working relationship between Stanardsville and Greene County may facilitate greater alignment of town and county ordinances.

Parking for Main Street businesses was discussed. The parking lot behind the Town Hall is scheduled for line painting for parking spaces. There was a request that signage in the lot indicate which spaces were available for public parking. This led to a broader discussion of the need for more parking vs. improved signage for parking that is already available.

It was suggested that business owners contact the Greene County Chamber of Commerce for assistance in this matter. One business owner queried about the process of Chamber membership and wasn’t aware that businesses did not need an invitation to join the Chamber. A greater representation of Stanardsville businesses in the Greene County Chamber of Commerce would be another way to facilitate the esprit de corps between the Town and the County.

Fluvanna’s Interim County Administrator Quits

 

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

Shelly h WrightMs. Shelly H. Wright, Fluvanna’s interim county administrator and principal deputy, has resigned. According to a well-placed source, Wright announced her decision at a staff meeting this morning (May 14th) and it will be effective in mid-June.

 Reportedly, Wright will assume the budget director’s position in Hanover County. She has been intimately involved with Fluvanna’s annual budget preparation for several years.

This leaves the top two county positions vacant. Supervisors currently are interviewing candidates to replace former county administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV, who resigned late last year.

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

Eye of the Beholder Report Released

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over the last eight weeks, I have been researching the history and decisions of Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board (ARB).  The ARB sets and implements design “guidelines” in Albemarleclip_image002[7]’s twenty-one (21) entrance corridors.  The resulting report outlines ARB issues and their unchecked expansion of regulatory power was released this morning (5/10/10).

The Free Enterprise Forum “Eye of the Beholder Report” contends the ARB guidelines have been implemented beyond their legal authority absent proper oversight from the Board of Supervisors.

One of the case studies in the report demonstrates the ARB’s protection of the entrance corridor from federally protected trademarks such as Stellar One:

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The photo at left is a Fredericksburg branch of StellarOne.  Such signage was denied ARB approval in Albemarle County.

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The photo at right is StellarOne’s ARB approved Entrance corridor signage on North U.S. 29

The “Eye of the Beholder” report draws on research, legal challenges and case studies over the last twenty years.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on possible process revisions to the ARB on Wednesday May 12. The Eye of the Beholder” report commends some of the changes but suggests there is more to do. Specifically the report recommends:

  • ·reorganize by placing ARB approval below the Planning Commission
  • ·refining the charge of the ARB
  • ·revising design guidelines
  • ·restricting the ARB ability to move buildings on a site
  • ·redirecting staff and applicants to tell the board “no” when they make requests beyond their scope

See full size imageIt is important to note that criticism of the ARB is difficult for many applicants as they know they will be back before the ARB in the future. The scarcity of appeals to the Board of Supervisors may be an indication of the power the ARB currently wields. The research identified some enterprises that chose not to locate in Albemarle based on ARB precedent.100_0098

The photo at right is just some of the material samples that the ARB keeps a catalog for each ARB application.

After twenty years of ARB review, perhaps the community should look with fresh eyes at the impact of this process on the Entrance Corridor and business decisions that impact the tapestry of our economic vitality.  Perhaps the homogenization of the entrance corridors have gone too far. The goal of this independent research is to foster that community discussion.

The “Eye of The Beholder” report  benefits from personal interviews with applicants, applicant representatives, design professionals, former members of the Architectural Review Board and Albemarle County staff.

100_0105 Researching this report has been eye opening to me.     Weighing in at 27 pages the amazing thing about the report are the many things that ended up not in the report.  As a part of this research, I personally interviewed ARB applicants, representatives, former ARB members, design professionals as well as elected officials.  I also reviewed hundreds of pages of ARB minutes covering the last twenty years.

The questions raised by the report are significant. 

  • Are there too many (21) “Entrance Corridors”?
  • Should the ARB regulate areas visible for less than 30 seconds on the “Entrance Corridor”?
  • Should the ARB have the power to reduce the size of a building footprint based on its proposed use?  Even if that use and building size in permitted By-Right?
  • Is a homogenous appearance the desired result in the Entrance Corridor?
  • Does the community feel the loss of some enterprises due to the Entrance Corridor Regulations”?
  • How does the ARB’s charge conflict with other Comprehensive Plan goals?  How are such conflicts mitigated?

As usual for a report of this scope, many questions are raised.  Hopefully the community can actively engage in the question of “what should the Entrance Corridor look like?” as well as “How do we make it attractive and economically viable?”

The full “Eye of the Beholder” report can be found here.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene County Citizens Sound Off on Budget

 

Greene County Board of Supervisors Meeting April 27, 2010

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

The public hearing for Greene County’s FY 2010—2011 county budget heard requests from the community to restore funding to departments impacted by anticipated budget cuts. Additional funds were requested for the following:

  • Greene County Treasurer Gail Berry requested $9,000 be restored to maintain the improved tax collections and reduced delinquencies achieved over the past year. She expressed concern about the increased workload required for collection of dog tag fees.
  • Cardie Luminack from the Shelter for Help in Emergency requested that the Board “make an investment, not a gesture” to support the Shelter. After being eliminated in a previous iteration of the draft budget, funding for the Shelter in the proposed budget is $1,000.
  • Several staff and community members supported increased fundingjaba logo for Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) to facilitate programs for senior citizens. Decreased funding would reduce home meals by 34 meals per person per year for those currently served. Home meals include frozen dinners and a nutritional supplement. Hot lunches offered at the community center would be reduced from twice a week to once a week. Eugene Sullivan, Greene County’s representative to the JABA Board, expressed that “efforts in Greene meet or exceed other counties” served by JABA.
  • Greene County School Board members Troy Harlow and Michele Flynn requested an additional $145, 545 for the school budget. Flynn suggested that reserve funds could be cut to meet funding requests of the school, JABA, and the shelter.
  • Cindy Knight identified herself as a “school employee, a tax payer, a voter, and a home owner” who’s son attended Greene County schools. Her concerns correlated increased school funding to productive citizenship for future generations and job security for those in the school system.
  • Jo Ann Woods, a Greene County kindergarten teacher, supported additional funding for the schools and JABA. She asked the Board to identify “where the fluff is” in the schools.

The majority of those who spoke thanked the Board for its careful consideration of their funding requests and acknowledged that changes are required in the current economic climate.

Board members expressed appreciation of the community’s input and added their comments:

  • Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) conveyed that the disappointing state shortfall will change the way we do business going forward in Greene County. Cuts for constitutional officers and the schools had a huge impact. The Board had to cut $78,000 from other agencies to feed into the school budget and the additional $411, 000 provided by the County exhausted new revenues available. Despite the reduced funding from the state, County contributions to the school budget are, in fact, up by 3.6% over last year. The following table illustrates funding changes over the past five years:
  County Budget School Budget
FY0607 $64,000,000 $38,000,000
FY1011 $49,000,000 $29,000,000

While the School budget dropped by $9,000,000 over the past five years, the County budget has dropped by $15,000,000 over the same time frame. Peyton continued that counties will need to grow their commercial base to increase local revenues to support local needs. He stated that proactive planning should prepare for anticipated continued reductions in state funding.

  • Carl Schmitt (At-Large) articulated that we as a country, a state, and as individuals “have been spending beyond our means for far too long” and that there can no longer be the assumption that revenue is coming. He reiterated the Board’s commitment to remaining a solvent and viable government and stated that more will be asked of individual citizens to respond to neighbors in times of need. “The government won’t be able to do it all, nor should it. If we had all the money in the world to fund everything, the community would be poorer because of it. The responsiveness of citizens helping others in need is what makes us richer as a community.”
  • Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) elaborated on Peyton’s comments, saying that although contributions to departmental budgets have decreased from the state, they have increased from the county. For the third year in a row, budget projections from the state have been wrong, meaning that the state has had to cut budgets and contributions to the counties. The $1.2 million allocated to reserves aren’t actual monies but are based on revenue projections that may or may not be funded. Frydl continued that current revenues for the state are 2% below projections and tax refunds are 2% above projections therefore Richmond may ask for more money. If they ask, they could ask for 4% of the county budget which is equal to $2,000,000.
  • Mike Skeens (Monroe) appreciated that citizens had provided food for thought and expressed concern that while this year was difficult next year’s budget could be even tougher.
  • Chairman Steve Catalano (At-Large) emphasized that the budget cuts are not a reflection of the caliber and quality of services delivered. The unanticipated edicts and fluid funding from the state has mandated a conservative approach. He reiterated that hope is on the horizon for revenue regeneration with new development in Ruckersville. He anticipates that the state will phase out funding for constitutional officers over a period of years. The County will continue restrictive practices related to hiring and travel and will not be providing take home vehicles.

In other action, the Board voted unanimously to maintain tax levies at FY 2009-2010 levels and to approve the resolution to reduce the percentage of tax relief for FY 2010-2011 as authorized by the Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 1998 as amended