Crozet’s Misplaced “Priority” Master Planning

By. Neil Williamson, President

While Crozet Master Plan2010 Chapter 8 “Implementation” has not yet been released to the public, a portion of this chapter was included in Albemarle County Planning Commission packet for June 15th.  Buried on Page 46 of the draft is the following:

While decisions regarding public development proposals/investments should not be based solely on these priority areas, decisions on development proposals should be made with an understanding where public investments are being focused.  Land use decisions should be consistent with the priority areas established in the Plan.  New proposals outside of the priority areas should not be approved if planned facilities are not in place to support the project and the existing neighborhood.  These projects will need to provide a more significant level of improvements to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area. [Emphasis added-nw]

crozet-mountain-view-with-downtown Taken to its logical extreme, a new rezoning in Crozet, inside the development area but outside the “Priority” area could be held liable for funding infrastructure project that have little or any direct causation by the introduction of the development.

If this seems to have a familiar ring to it.  It is because almost a year ago today, the Free Enterprise Forum blog exposed this folly in the Places 29 plan:

Doesn’t Albemarle County bear some of the burden for providing infrastructure within the 5% of the county it has designated for development?

While we understand and concur with focusing limited local dollars in priority areas, the Free Enterprise Forum believes development area land use decisions should be evaluated on their individual merits not  on the basis of if they are in the county’s newly defined Priority Areas.

Does the Places29 Master Plan contemplate rejecting worthy projects within the development areas in favor of less worthy projects in the newly designated Priority Areas?

Imagine the economic impacts of a philosophical position where new residents fund the infrastructure demands of existing residents.

Given: Albemarle County is focusing limited local dollars in the priority development areas www.taxplaza.org

  • A new proposal for 100 homes comes in outside the “Priority”  development area but inside the Crozet development area.
  • The master plan identifies a need for a new police sub station to be located near the new development to serve the entire community. 
    • The capital cost of the new sub station is 500,000.      
    • Therefore:  Each new housing unit in the development would have to contribute $5,000 [above the existing “voluntary” cash proffer]

Considering the significant economic disadvantage this would place on this potential development, one could see two options playing out:

First, the development is built, the substation is built and the increased cost of development is passed onto the homebuyer inflating housing costs for the entire region.

Second, and much more likely in today’s economic condition, the accountants will determine the development to be unsustainable with the $500,000 infrastructure requirement and development does not occur within the development area because it is not in the “Priority Area”.

Albemarle County must accept the responsibility of concurrently funding the infrastructure demands of existing development area residents.  A failure to accept this responsibility and passing the buck to new projects not only will not work, it will push development into the rural areas where it is more expensive to provide public services and where by right development do not contribute any “voluntary proffers”.

Economic theory dictates that while Albemarle may choose “priority areas” for infrastructure spending, such prioritization should not impact the status of future proposals within the designated development areas.  If Albemarle chooses to go this route, new development proposals will not be financially viable and will not come forward.

Or perhaps that was the idea all along.

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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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