Monthly Archives: July, 2010

Greene BOS Advised to Continue Conservative Fiscal Management

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

The generally favorable audit for FY 2008-2009 was presented by Robert Huff of Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates at the Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 27, 2010. Supervisors were commended on maintaining a healthy fund balance and cautioned to maintain conservative measures with respect to the total amount of debt service.

The Bgreene county sealoard was advised to concentrate on two areas. The first area is collections, an area noted as especially important in today’s economy. Delinquencies add up and impact on the overall health of the county coffers. The second area is the lack of reconciliation in cash accounts. This is a control matter that needs further follow up by the Board and respective departments.

Board Chairman Steve Catalano (At-Large) asked if there were publications that addressed standards for reserve funds. Huff stated that there were extensive government publications as well as books published addressing reserve fund standards. He cautioned that policies that might have worked 3 – 4 years ago would need to be more stringent in today’s economy. Greene County compares well to other jurisdictions due to conservative financial management.

Following up on ongoing matters:

  • Public hearing and ordinance revisions related to Revenue Recovery are planned for the first Board of Supervisor’s meeting in September.
  • Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) reported back to the Board on the first steering committee meeting related to the school facilities upgrade bond application. The group is in the process of categorizing items into three categories: must do, should do, and want to do. The track will need to remain at 6 lanes due to cost constraints of moving to an 8 lane track. The Board of Supervisors and the School Board will hold a workshop meeting at Ruckersville Elementary School on August 4 at 3 pm.
  • Bylaws and the personnel plan are scheduled for review at the BOS meeting on August 10.

Did The Historical Overlay Cost Charlottesville Jobs?

 By. Neil Williamson, President

UPDATED 2:33 pm 7/28 additional information provided at end of post – nw

As the word got out regarding Coca-Cola Mid-Atlantic closing its Preston Avenue facility in Charlottesville and consolidatingcoke operations in Sandston, the Daily Progress quote from Curtis Etherly Jr., vice president of public affairs for the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co. caused me a case of déjà vu:

Part of the company’s decision to close the Charlottesville sales center on Preston Avenue is size and the inability to expand there, Etherly said. The building has had two expansions, according to city records, in the 1950s and 1980s.

It seems I had heard this sentiment previously.  A quick review of the Charlottesville Planning Commission August 8, 2008 minutes, when the Commission was considering a historic overlay designation for the Coca-Cola Building found the following:

Mr. Curtis Southerly was present on behalf of Charlottesville Coca-Cola Bottling Company. He expressed concerns about the inclusion of the additions to the property at 722 Preston Avenue. He also expressed concern that this would limit their ability to make changes in the future to allow for better traffic access and circulation

Mr. Southerly was not the only property owner concerned that his property rights were being impinged by this new designation.  Several others raised concerns and asked the commission not to create the overlay.

Interestingly, Commissioner Cheri Lewis raised the issue of property owner objections:

Ms. Lewis felt the fact that the owners were not in complete agreement with the designation was a vexing factor. She noted the City Attorney had advised that was not a reason to deny. She cited the Staff report that their standard for review was to make an advisory recommendation to the City Council as to whether the proposed amendment would serve the interests of public necessity, convenience, general welfare, or good zoning practice. To determine that they were to ask whether the existing zoning of the property is reasonable and whether the proposed zoning would be reasonable and a relevant factor to look at was the Comprehensive Plan designation for the property.

Back in August 2008, Will Goldsmith of C-ville summed up the historical overlay designation well:

What does it mean if the city considers a property “historic”? The city, either through staff or the BAR, will have to approve additions, renovations and especially demolitions. Charlottesville’s BAR has earned a reputation for being particularly tough on building owners wanting to alter design-controlled property [emphasis added-nw], which means many property owners aren’t going to be enthused by seeing their addresses on the list.

To add local design control, owner consent is not absolutely necessary—it’s legally like a rezoning—but any Council decision must involve public hearings and meetings by the BAR and the city Planning Commission, as well as Council.

The Planning Commission was split on their final vote:

The motion passed, 4-3; Mr. Mitchell, Ms. Lewis, and Mr. Rosensweig voted against.

Summary: In August 2008, Coca-Cola Mid-Atlantic asked not to have their property saddled with this historic designation; the City of Charlottesville ignored their wishes and enacted the overlay.  In July 2010, the company announced it was closing the plant.

The Free Enterprise Forum does not believe the consolidation decision rests solely on the historical overlay designation, but it certainly was a factor in the decision making. 

The City of Charlottesville’s choice of historic preservation over property owners wishes helped usher 42 good career ladder jobs out of Charlottesville. 

The question is, was it worth it?

UPDATE 7/28 2:33 pm – One regular reader of the blog, who was involved in this issue, indicated the City changed their position and (on a 3-2 vote) only designated the front of the building as historic.  Further this reader suggested the Coca-Cola company was comfortable with this change.  A review of the minutes of City Council show that the City did change the designation to be only the older section of the building but there is no public record of the property owner support (that does not mean it was not the case).  The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates this clarification.

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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

FOIA Required to Gain Release of DEQ Water Plan Analysis?

By. Neil Williamson, President

The front page banner headline in this morning (7/25) Daily Progress reads “DEQ: Norris plan fails to meet needs” .  The well written article by Brian Wheeler outlines the analysis of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding a proposal to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and increase the height of the existing Ragged Mountain Dam.  The “Norris Plan” a it as been dubbed was first formally presented to DEQ a year ago this week by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris and then Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors David Slutzky.

Relatively late in the article it is mentioned:

The draft results were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Charlottesville Tomorrow. DEQ officials said in an interview that Norris had not contacted them in the past year, but that they were actively preparing to submit the study to local officials and could do so as early as this week.

According to George Washington University’s National Security Archive:

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law ensuring public access to U.S. government records. FOIA carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on the government – not the public – to substantiate why information may not be released. Upon written request, agencies of the United States government are required to disclose those records, unless they can be lawfully withheld from disclosure under one of nine specific exemptions in the FOIA. This right of access is ultimately enforceable in federal court.

Charlottesville Tomorrow deserves credit for filing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  The Free Enterprise Forum questions the failure of the DEQ to release this information previously.  Refusing to believe in coincidences, we find it highly suspect that the DEQ just happened to be “actively preparing to submit the study to local officials”.

Regarding the delayed response this morning’s Daily Progress article quotes Scott Kudlas, a DEQ director responsible for surface and groundwater planning:

“Frankly, one of the primary reasons there was a delay to providing this information to the localities was that we were really hoping that they would work this out and we wouldn’t have to comment on it,” Kudlas said.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this approach is indicative of the political nature of regulatory agencies.  The Mayor and The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors ask DEQ a specific question and a year later the answer is revealed ONLY thanks to a FOIA request.  Regulatory agencies should see those that are regulated as customers and answer their questions promptly and professionally regardless of how the political chips may fall.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality is set up to protect the environment not political harmony between localities.  This report should have been released when it was completed not delayed to let the localities “work this out”.

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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 Supervisors Move Forward with Schools Facility Application; Step Back on Sewer Water Ordinance

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

greene county seal Despite the heat and rain, a large crowd turned out for the July 13 Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting held at the Raymond C. Dingledine III Performing Arts Center at William Monroe High School auditorium. Steve Catalano (At-Large), Board Chairman, opened the meeting by welcoming the public and setting the tone for a cordial discourse.

Dr. David Jeck, Superintendent of Greene County Schools, presented greene county track crack an abbreviated version of his presentation given at the June 22 Board of Supervisors meeting. He reiterated that the needs for facilities upgrades are well-documented. He detailed the timeline for the grant application and identified future meeting dates that the Board would be updated on the status of the application with the public hearing for approval of the loan anticipated for late November. He reiterated the scope of the project and budget estimates and referred to the documents posted on the Greene County Schools website.

100_0296 Public comment was heard from 27 members of the community. With opposition coming from only two citizens, the vast majority spoke in favor of the Board supporting the move forward with the grant application. Citing safety as the primary concern and regional competitiveness a close second, remaining speakers were passionate yet reasoned in addressing the Board. Acknowledging appreciation for the Board’s past fiscal conservative fiscal management, others noted the limited window for such favorable financing opportunities.

The Board discussion revealed some continuing reservations about the application process and the need for better communication between the schools and the Board of Supervisors but verbalized support for proceeding with the loan application.

The Board appointed Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) to serve on the project’s steering committee charged with defining the scope of the project and brining it forward when this issue comes for public hearing in the fall.

Water and Sewer Authority Ordinances

Background: On May 24, 2010 The Greene County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to enact emergency legislation relating to water and sewer (See our blog post Secret Public Meeting).   The special meeting provision in State Code dictates that public hearings (both Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors) on these ordinances (which were made effective immediately) has to be held within 60 days of the Board Emergency Action.

The Joint Public Hearing with the Greene County Planning Commission to consider revisions to the Greene County Subdivision Ordinance and Greene County Zoning Ordinance pertaining to regulations related to Water/Sewer Utilities and all applicable references (OR #10-002) began with a review of the changes made to the ordinance during the emergency Board meeting held on May 24. Property owners and their legal representatives, addressed the Board with concerns related to the ambiguous wording of the revised ordinance and the perception that it was rushed and shrouded in secrecy. Some questioned the timing of the revisions and warned the Board that adoption of the revisions will lead to litigation.

Public comments concluded with Neil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise Fo100_0298rum, recommending the Board get clarification from the County Attorney and to avoid using water and sewer regulations to limit development. He questioned whether it was in the county’s best interest to stay in the Rapidan Service Authority and encouraged the Board to act as a partner with land owners and developers to drive growth in the county.

The Planning Commission discussed the proposed revisions, considered the public comment, and expressed concerns over the rush to adopt the revisions. They unanimously opposed the changes in the ordinance.

The Board of Supervisors decided unanimously to have the County attorney review the proposed revisions and send the revisions to the Planning Committee for review. 

After a brief public hearing to consider the proposed amendment to the Greene County Code regarding the addition of Chapter 31 – Water and Sewer – pertaining to the regulation of private water and sewer systems and the adoption of the Water and Sewer Service Area, the Board decided to bundle these with OR#10-002 and return all to the Planning Commission for further review.

The result of these actions, the ordinances passed in the emergency Board of Supervisors meeting on May 24th will become null and void on July 24th.

Fluvanna Supervisors Continue Holding Action

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Perhaps feeding upon the county’s current sense of political ennui, Fluvanna’s supervisors on July 7th deferred appointing a new economic development coordinator/director until after a decision on a water line. While the supervisors made several appointments, they also deferred appointing a Columbia representative to the Planning Commission since the Columbia supervisor, Shaun Kenney, was absent.

Tfluvanna BOS 2010he Board did establish a tentative agenda for its four hour “retreat” on July 24th. Supervisors will discuss the financial condition of the county and economic development policies for the county. Presumably the latter will be a function of the former, but the discussion also should shed some light on the Board’s view on the water pipeline.

Separately, the supervisors were briefed on Fluvanna’s participation in Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC): one-quarter of the Fluvanna graduating class from 2009 attended PVCC the following fall. Fluvanna high school students also rank first in the area for students participating in dual enrollment courses.

Supervisors also confirmed the county salary scale for FY2011. For the second consecutive year, county employees will receive no pay increase – salaries have been frozen since July 2008.

A familiar face will return to the public scene on behalf of the county. The supervisors have nominated Former Board Chairman Marvin F. Moss as Fluvanna’s representative to the Rivanna River Basin Commission for a three-year term, ending in August 2013.

What Does Economic Development Look Like?

By. Neil Williamson

As Albemarle County is considering their Economic Development Action Plan in a public hearing on Wednesday, July 14th, the Free Enterprise Forum has been examining what does economic development/vitality looks like. harry-truman-picture

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a  depression when you lose yours. –Harry S Truman, in Observer, April 13, 1958
33rd president of US (1884 – 1972)

While President Truman’s quote rings home, there are a series of leading economic indicators usually include job creation, existing home sales, new housing starts as well as a myriad of other statistics that make up the economic landscape. 

These are important, objective measures but, there are much more local statistics that may be even more enlightening.

school lunch Free and reduced lunch program – how many children in the Albemarle County Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch? 

Last year it was 24.5% 

The Economic Underclass – How many local jobs are producing an annual income of under $22,000?

Last year it was 30%

The Unemployment Denominator – The equation used to determine the percent of unemployed in Albemarle County is determined by dividing the number of people looking for work by the number of people in the workforce.  How many people have dropped out of Albemarle County’s workforce and are no longer actively seeking work?

According to Virginia Employment Commission 500 people left Albemarle County’s civilian workforce [May 2009-May 2010].  This represents the loss of 1% of the civilian workforce.

The Free Enterprise Forum does not believe there is anyone in the community who wants to see one in four students need financial help to purchase lunch or who believes Albemarle should support a permanent underclass due to lack of economic opportunity. 

The benefits of a fully productive workforce can not be overstated.  Workers earning under $22,000 annually are a huge cost center for social services.  The best way to help these families is to create an environment that fosters job creation.

Rather than only focusing on cold statistics, we can also see economic vitality in a different light.  Beyond simple employment and personal empowerment, are the significant benefits to the community of a vibrant, diverse enterprise community.  Business sponsorships and underwriting are mission critical to the performing arts, public radio, community hospitals, area non profits and youth sports. 

In addition, the countless volunteer hours that are put in by owners and employees of local enterprises help to provide caring for animals, build houses, repair trails, clean up local parks, deliver meals, and countless other community activities.   

Albemarle County’s Economic Development Action Plan is an important first step in making employers and entrepreneurial enterprises feel welcome.  It is not a panacea but it is a clear statement that Albemarle County is open for business.

For the cold, hard statistical realities and the softer gentler social underpinnings of the community, the Free Enterprise Forum enthusiastically endorses the Economic Development Action Plan and the philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships.

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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’s Haste Makes Waste

By. Neil Williamson, President

On May 24, 2010, the Greene County’s Board of Supervisors held a special meeting which the Free Enterprise Forum called a “Secret Public Meeting”. The purpose of the meeting was to enact a Water Service Area and mandate new homes constructed within the service area hook up to public water and sewer. The new code chapter was made effective immediately and a public hearing to be held within sixty days of the action.

Interestingly, on May 24th, the Board also took action regarding the Greene County Water and Sewer Service Area Policy and revisions to the zoning and subdivision ordinance [revised 7/06/10 6:15 pm, the County placed separate legal ads for the two ordinances] that are not up for public hearing according to the legal notice published in The Greene County Record (July 1, 2010).

With the ordinance available for review and the public hearing now scheduled for July 13th, the Free Enterprise Forum has serious concerns with the language in the Water and Sewer Service Area Policy and the Ordinance revisions.

The Policy reads in part:

Reliable public water and sewer service is essential to the welfare of many Greene County residents and businesses and is a key element in future sustainable growth within the County.  The provisions of these services is limited by water availability and the public water and sewer infrastructure.  To address these considerations, the policy herein promulgated establishes the area in the County where public water and sewer services will be nominally available.

Most localities (including Greene until May 24th) specify a maximum distance from a water main or sewer line that a property owner would be mandated to hook up. The Greene County ordinance reads “nominal” in terms of distance.

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law defines Nominal as:

Trifling, token, or slight; not real or substantial; in name only.

Nominal capital, for example, refers to extremely small or negligible funds, the use of which in a particular business is incidental.

The obvious question left by this enigmatic reference is nominal to whom? The County may judge the cost of extending a water pipe and sewer line over a half mile to reach the main to be “not real or substantial” or it may not, the ordinance is not clear on this issue.

Throughout the Zoning Ordinance revision (that does not seem to be up for public hearing on Tuesday), the term ‘New Construction” is used.

Public water and sanitary sewer hookup is mandatory for new construction within the Water and Sewer Service Area (WSSA) in accordance with these 16-17 regulations, unless the Greene County Board of Supervisors, in consultation with the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA) find that the capacity of the public water and/or sewerage system is inadequate to serve the proposed development.

What of developments that have already been developed [streets and curbs in] with water only hook ups?  A strict interpretation of this language would prohibit Greene County from issuing a building permit for any structure not hooked up to both water and sewer.  We have heard from one applicant that there is some significant confusion on the implementation of this facet of the ordinance.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the intent of the policy is geared toward new home construction but as written, if one chooses to add a deck to an existing home within the water service area, one could be mandated to tie in to the water system. While this is not the intent of the ordinance such sloppiness should be expected when such legislation is rushed.

Greene County made a significant investment in the water treatment facility and is actively pursuing additional community water supply sources. Based on this investment, and the repayment of debt required, it is clear that Greene County needs to mandate water hookups within the service area or the taxpayers (rather than the ratepayers) will be saddled with the debt.

There is a middle ground available to Greene County, constructing a mandated hook up policy built on the concept of volume and distance would be a good start. In addition, the policy should recognize (and provide credits) for over sizing infrastructure that in turn provides revenue opportunity for the authority by increasing the authority’s capacity.

Mandating water hook ups for new residential construction increases the cost of development and this cost will be passed on directly to the new home buyer.

Such a mandate alone would be a challenge regardless of process but considering the non public manner this language was developed, one can’t be surprise by the output.

It reminds me of the old saying, “If you don’t have time to do It right, when will you find time to do it over?”

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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

Albemarle’s Economic Development Action Plan

by. Neil Williamson, President

The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization, is strongly supportive of Albemarle’s Draft Economic Development Action Plan. While the document is not perfect, we believe the specific tactics described in the plan are strategically  aligned with the goals of the economic vitality chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, which we supported and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors enacted unanimously.

This action plan contains specific steps, many that have already been initiated and objective metrics to measure the effectiveness of the economic development activities. Those projects that generate results in the short term should be continued and expanded; those projects that fail to add value should be discontinued.

We firmly believe economic vitality will be beneficial to everyone who lives here now or chooses to do so in the future. Albemarle’s greatest asset is not the rolling mountains to the south, not the economic engine of US 29 North, not the new hospital going up in Pantops nor the moneyed horse estates scattered throughout the county. While all of these contribute to our community, Albemarle’s greatest asset is its citizens (both current and future).

The Free Enterprise Forum is diametrically opposed to government population control and questions the validity of including any such statements in an economic development action plan.

The Free Enterprise Forum takes issue with those in the community who are opposed with the concept of economic vitality for fear of population growth. This Action Plan is designed to address the 30% of our regional workforce who earn less than $22,000 a year. Those in opposition to economic vitality are, consciously or not, perpetuating a permanent underclass.

open for business The latest version of the Action Plan has struck the verbiage “Albemarle County is ‘Open for Business’” this should be restored. The revision, while technically correct, is weak and fails to convey the urgency the Board of Supervisors has given to economic development.

Albemarle is home to hundreds of employers that do not fit into the category of business. Start-ups, entrepreneurs, and not for profit organizations contribute greatly to the economic vitality of our community. The Free Enterprise Forum suggests replacing “business” with “enterprises”.

The Action Plan calls for the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) to work with staff in coordinating rural roundtables. cow FreeDigitalPhotos.net This is neither an area of expertise nor a good use of time for the CACVB. Many of the recommended strategies for rural economic development are already enumerated in the comprehensive plan; staff should be directed to work with The Farm Bureau, Piedmont Environmental Council, Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Roundtable and other stakeholders to select the actionable support activities that promote ecologically sound agricultural activities that provide economic viability by December 31, 2010.

Promoting Albemarle County’s economic vitality is in the best interest of all citizens.