Monthly Archives: October, 2010

Mayor Wants DEQ to Quiet ‘Squabbling Children’

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Earlier this week (10/26)  Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) meeting, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris suggested the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) should step in and “mediate” the dispute between Charlottesville and Albemarle County regarding the community water supply.  Mayor Norris described the two localities as “squabbling children” and suggested rather than having the DEQ answer written questions perhaps they would want to sit down in a meeting and help the two localities work the issues out.  Later in discussion, Mayor Norris accepted the term “facilitate” might be a better description than “mediate”.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes that asking the DEQ, a state regulatory agency,  to mediate (or “facilitate”) the water supply dispute is as sensible as asking the IRS to help you build your household budget.  

In his written Responses to Public Comment, RWSA Tom Frederick expressed his frustration with the RWSA Board failing to provide clear direction:

With respect to the state water plan, it’s time to get the horse in front of the cart. Our public officials need to agree, hopefully before the end of this year, on what the local plan is in time for the RWSA staff to be able to write the state water plan submittal. The deadline for the state plan submittal should not become an excuse to “do another study” while board officials postpone making decisions. Our state plan is suppose to be a regional one, shared by the City and County as well as the Town of Scottsville. How can the RWSA staff possibly write one regional plan for the Urban Water System unless the two local governments first agree on what plan each will accept? In the context of trying to meet a November 2011 deadline, RWSA staff disagrees with the idea that the most important question should be when is the staff going to do the work? The first and most important question, without which failure is guaranteed above and beyond RWSA staff’s control, is when are the officials on the public boards going to agree on the plan? [emphasis added – nw]

The Free Enterprise Forum is quickly losing patience with our friend, the Mayor.  It was clear in the RWSA meeting the proposal of DEQ mediation was not a sense of City Council but was yet one more unvetted mayoral independent initiatives.  From the outside, it seems that the mayor’s tactics (which may or may not accurately reflect City Council) are designed to delay implementation of any plan.   

Perhaps that is the plan.

Respectfully submitted,

 Neil Williamson, President

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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

Ambitious Fluvanna Capital Improvement Plan (Including Waterline) Presented to PC

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna county departments and agencies have presented an ambitious $41 million capital improvement plan (CIP) for consideration in the FY 2012 budget. Highlights of the plan, presented to Fluvanna County’s Planning Commission, include:

· Water and sewer infrastructure for Zion Crossroads: $15.2 million;

· Refurbishment of athletic and other school facilities: $11.6 million;

· Parks and recreation facilities, including an “intergenerational center”: $4.6 million; and,

· Public safety (E-911, fire and rescue, and sheriff) equipment modernization: $6.3 million.

Funding for the waterline presupposes some form of cooperative venture, most likely with Aqua Virginia. There remains widespread county opposition to any waterline construction and supervisors remain divided as well.

In our analysis, the CIP, as written, has no chance of passage. The county will face higher debt service payments in FY 2012, as debt service will exceed 40 percent of real estate tax collections. Moreover, the county’s undesignated fund balance, or savings account, has dipped below $4 million. Until the past few years it had been in the double digits.

On another note, the county ended up its FY 2010 budget year with a surplus, but only because of $4 million in capitalized interest. Actual expenditures exceeded actual revenues by $1.6 million.

And county homeowners received another piece of bad news when Mr. Mel Sheridan, Fluvanna’s Commissioner of the Revenue, reported that the sales price to assessment ratio currently stands at about 75 percent. Supervisors like will have to budget funds in the next few months to conduct a reassessment in 2012. The reassessment must be completed by 2013.

Greene PC Approves Special Use Permit by Narrow 3-2 Vote

By Pauline O. Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Bruce Shifflett, owner of Lydia Mountain Lodge & Cabins, returned to the Greene County Planning Commissioners last night to receive their approval of a special use permit, which would allow him to add outdoor recreational activities to his Mountain Laurel Pass property.

The property is zoned C-1, Conservation, and as such, the zoning ordinances require usage meet certain guidelines and standards. Shifflett first presented his request to the Planning Commission in May 2010 and has since been modifying his original plans in order to accommodate the original intent of the ordinances and decrease any adverse impact to the area or environment.

In the revised application, Shifflett is currently seeking to add a rock-climbing wall, non-motorized biking/hiking trails, rope courses, two lanes—down from the originally proposed eight—of all-season tubing, and one, rather than two, zip lines with an ATV trail to return guests to the top of the mountain. Use of the recreational activities would be limited to guests of the Lydia Mountain Lodge & Cabins rentals. In addition, he plans to expand the lodge from 10 to 20 rooms.

Greene County Planning Director Bart Svoboda reported he had met with a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) official at the property to walk the roadway and determine the impact of the proposed expansion of the lodge and the special use request. In VDOT’s opinion, such usage would not generate enough trip changes to require any improvements to the road based on the original approval.

Svoboda and Greene County Planner Stephanie Golon offered their written report to the commissioners stating that staff supports the lodge, cabins, and proposed amenities, noting the changes are an environmentally friendly use of the land and would create jobs and sales tax revenue, in addition to providing other possible benefits to the community.

Several residents spoke in favor of the special use permit, including three neighbors. Two neighbors spoke against approval of the permit, other opponents have spoken at previous meetings and have written letters to the commissioners against the permit.

Although all commissioners agreed that Shifflett was to be commended for the changes he had made to his original proposal and for his contributions to the community, they disagreed on interpretation of the zoning ordinances for a property zoned C-1 and the adverse effect granting this permit would have on neighboring properties. Those against expressed concerns such as the impact of ATVs on the mountainside, appropriate use of C-1 property, and the possible misuse of the permit by future owners should Shifflett sell the property.

Commissioners Davis Lamb, Anthony Herring, and Frank Steele approved the special use permit amendment application with certain conditions. Chairman Norman Slezak and Vice Chairman Bill Martin voted against granting the permit. The matter will now move to the Board of Supervisors.

Albemarle PC Wastes Hours of Staff Time

By. Neil Williamson, President

Somewhere there should be a rule that members of boards and commissions should limit their remarks to the action before them.  Unfortunately, such a rule must  not exist, or is not being enforced, at the Albemarle County Planning Commission.  The community is the poorer for it.

In last night’s (10/19) Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting, there were three applications for waiver of critical slopes ordinance.  The criteria for granting these waivers are clearly delineated in the code.  The Free Enterprise Forum has been pushing for these waivers to be granted administratively.  While staff is “working” on this change, members of the Planning Commission consider these applications “open mike night” to discuss elements of plans that are not under review.

Last night, when considering the critical slopes waiver for a proposed fire station on Pantops, we learned that one planning commissioner believed this would be the proper time to opine that he thought the station should be two stories with a community room for meetings.  Then a lengthy discussion ensued regarding the lack of public meeting room space in the Pantops Master Planning area.  When the commissioner questioned the Albemarle County Fire Chief if there was any reason he couldn’t build a second story the Chief replied “budget”.

Another commissioner expressed her dissent that the building was designed to only house one engine and hoped that an ambulance (if not another engine as well) would be added soon.  The Fire Chief responded that a needs analysis had been completed and the station was designed based on that analysis.

Neither of these lengthy discussions were germane to the critical slopes waiver at hand.

The motion, as written up in the staff report was a clear A or B choice:

A. Should the Planning Commission choose to approve the critical slopes disturbance waiver:

I move to approve SDP 2010-67 Pantops Fire Station Critical Slopes Disturbance Waiver Request upon finding that the request satisfies the requirements of section 4.2.3.2 as outlined in staff’s report.

B. Should the Planning Commission choose to deny the critical slopes disturbance waiver:

I move to deny SDP 2010-67 Pantops Fire Station Critical Slopes Disturbance Waiver Request. If the commission chooses to deny the critical slopes disturbance waiver request, it shall identify/establish requirements/reasons for denial.

In the end,  fire station waiver passed unanimously [as did all of the critical slopes waivers].

The discussion of these three items was over an hour of the meeting.

The Free Enterprise Forum found the irrelevant discussion to be a waste of time but in addition it was a waste of limited resources.  Staff members attending the meeting included:

  1. Assistant County Attorney
  2. Director of Planning
  3. Director of Zoning
  4. Chief of Current Development
  5. Chief of Zoning
  6. Chief of Planning
  7. Recording Secretary
  8. Principal Planner 1
  9. Principal Planner 2
  10. Fire Chief (ACFD)
  11. Project Administrator (ACFD)

Considering the continued drumbeat regarding the lack of Albemarle County staffing resources, is it too much to ask the Planning Commission to stop opining on firehouse design and get on with the issue at hand?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the entire commission should be held accountable for this waste of resources.

Until such time that critical slopes waivers can be administratively approved, the Free Enterprise Forum calls on the members of the Albemarle Planning Commission to police themselves and refrain from redesigning projects when a critical slopes waiver is the issue at hand.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle’s Water Supply “Nuclear” Option?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Last night (10/18) Charlottesville City Council heard several residents admonish Albemarle County for a planned informational flyer to be included in their citizens’ property tax bills.  Former Councilor Kevin Lynch called it “a troubling document”.   Citizen Richard Statman rhetorically asked Albemarle County, “Have you no shame?”.  Mayor Norris, while not agreeing with the citizen comments in their entirety, said he was “troubled by the misinformation in the insert”.

This is yet one more example of the irreconcilable differences within the City/County “partnership” known as Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

While the City has taken every opportunity to assert its ownership of the reservoirs as “holding all the cards”, the Free Enterprise Forum believes since the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is in Albemarle County there may yet be a trump card yet to be played in this game, eminent domain.

As an organization dedicated to private property rights, there are few instances where we believe the use of eminent domain powers to be justified.  The water supply may just be one such area.

What if a private corporation was a land owner preventing a fifty year water supply plan from moving forward because of the direct impacts to their property? 

If such a landowner was preventing a community from access to a community water resource, how would government respond?

While reminding the gentle reader that I am not an attorney, my read of Virginia law, the water authority would have the power to condemn the land and provide fair market value to make the landowner whole.

§ 1-219.1. Limitations on eminent domain.

A. The right to private property being a fundamental right, the General Assembly shall not pass any law whereby private property shall be taken or damaged for public uses without just compensation. The term “public uses” mentioned in Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia is hereby defined as to embrace only the acquisition of property where: (i) the property is taken for the possession, ownership, occupation, and enjoyment of property by the public or a public corporation; (ii) the property is taken for construction, maintenance, or operation of public facilities by public corporations or by private entities provided that there is a written agreement with a public corporation providing for use of the facility by the public; (iii) the property is taken for the creation or functioning of any public service corporation, public service company, or railroad; (iv) the property is taken for the provision of any authorized utility service by a government utility corporation; (v) the property is taken for the elimination of blight provided that the property itself is a blighted property; or (vi) the property taken is in a redevelopment or conservation area and is abandoned or the acquisition is needed to clear title where one of the owners agrees to such acquisition or the acquisition is by agreement of all the owners. [emphasis added- nw]

So now what if the landowner in question was not a private landowner but the City of Charlottesville?

Would the same rules apply?  Should they?

Is it time to pursue such a “nuclear” option?

Who could pursue this action?  RWSA?  ACSA?

How would such an eminent domain case impact the city/county relationship?

Considering where the relationship is today, could such litigation make it worse?

Once again, we find more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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

Depopulation — Where is the Outrage?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In a front page article in today’s Daily Progress by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Brian Wheeler, a local population control group calls for the depopulation of the region.  Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) President Jack Marshall is quoted directly:

“We must, if we care about having a sustainable community for our grandchildren, we must consume less and simultaneously we must stabilize our population size or even reduce the population size of our community,” Marshall said. [emphasis added-nw]

Over the objections of the Free Enterprise Forum, ASAP received government funding for research to determine the region’s Optimum Population Size (OPS).  While the funding has been provided and expended Marshall  says the research is still insufficient to identify a specific optimal population.  Interesting, he can’t pin a number on it but knows we need to stabilize or reduce our size?

Marshall sees restricting housing choices as the manner to best achieve local population control.  He asserts in the article:

“If we don’t build it, they won’t come,” Marshall said. “We could achieve a realistic stationary population simply by adjusting the development potential in the community by changing the zoning.”

Housing starts respond to demand.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes one need only look to the most recent Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors ® (CAAR) market report to understand the fallacy of Marshall’s argument for construction causality.

In this quote, perhaps unintentionally, Marshall reveals an underlying philosophical plank to his organization’s goals:

“If we don’t build it, they won’t come,” [emphasis added –nw]

Taken to its logical conclusion, Albemarle’s depopulation effort will require the selection of those who can stay and those who must leave.  Clearly we (who got here first) are better than (them) who aren’t here yet (and may not look like us).

Perhaps, I am too close to this issue because I take great exception to the fear of “them”.  Part of the American Dream for me is the freedom of movement.  I can’t believe I am the only one who finds the academic discussion of depopulating a region rather sinister.

Again taken to it’s logical conclusion, if one reduces the number of available housing units and demand remains the same, the price on the remaining units will rise. 

As the land prices increase, the homes built on the property will also increase.  Look to Santa Barbara California, with a State University (UCSB), thirty thousand working class people commute in and out of Santa Barbara county because they can’t afford to live there.  How do you think that’s impacting the carbon footprint.

I am surprised at the lack of outrage at the concept of depopulation.  I am also surprise ASAP is again provided an audience at City Council to spread their propaganda.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes ASAP has the freedom to pursue any research they choose; but we do not believe tax dollars, nor city council meetings, should be used to propel their agenda.

To be clear, I consider myself to be one of “them”.  Over ten years ago (I am still a newbie) my family chose to live here over living somewhere else.  How could I, or my government,  possibly justify preventing another family from exercising that very American freedom?

Further, how can Charlottesville this forward thinking community, embrace this backward notion? 

 The Free Enterprise Forum calls on Charlottesville City Council to be unified in support of American mobility and while appreciating ASAP’s research, reaffirm your commitment to high quality infill development across all price ranges.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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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 County Goes on Water Information Offense

By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County is preparing to play offense in the community water supply information game.  Frustrated by a multitude of misinformation (and out of context statements) that have been stated at public meetings, discussed on talk radio, and printed in the media, Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors instructed staff to prepare an insert to be included with every resident’s tax bill.

The insert (reprinted below) is one of the better written explanation of the Board of Supervisors unanimous support of the Community Water Supply Plan.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE COMMUNITY WATER SUPPLY PLAN

A Message from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Albemarle County Service Authority – October, 2010

Following extensive public engagement, all elected officials from both Albemarle County and Charlottesville adopted a Community Water Supply Plan in 2006.

Key elements of this long-term Plan:

1. Replace the existing unsafe Ragged Mountain dam with a new one that raises the dam height by 42 feet .

2. Replace the 83-year-old Sugar Hollow pipeline with a newer, shorter pipeline connecting the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir with the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and the two corresponding treatment plants.

3. Upgrade and expand water treatment plants.

4. Provide enough storage to get us through the most severe drought of record.

The Board of Supervisors and the Albemarle County Service Authority (members listed below) want to speak directly to county citizens about the factual and objective reasons why our support for the Plan remains firm, despite some recent discussion about potential changes to the Plan. County officials have not forgotten the 2002 drought and have promised the community that we will take action to ensure our community’s water supply. Our unwavering support for timely implementation of this Plan represents that commitment. Our key reasons for endorsing the approved Plan include the following:

This Plan is the most cost-effective way to meet the community’s long term water needs.

 

· The cost per gallon from increasing the height of Ragged Mountain Dam is less than 1/6 the cost of supplying a gallon of water from dredging, according to a recent dredging study. Dredging alone will not come close to satisfying the fifty year water needs of the community.

· A recently proposed plan to build the new dam in stages is more expensive and impractical, because 99% of the cost is in building the base of the dam. Raising the height at a later date would add another 15% to the total cost.

· More than 70% of the $140 million cost of the plan goes to repair or replace aging infrastructure, is agreed upon by all boards, and is needed regardless of which plan for acquiring additional water capacity is implemented.

· We are currently experiencing unprecedented favorable construction costs and very low interest rates. If we delay the implementation of the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir for further debate or studies, we may miss this favorable construction market resulting in higher future costs for citizens. The approved Plan has already been subject to several years of scrutiny and has been fully permitted by State and Federal officials.

· The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has performed a five-year financial analysis that shows a new earthen dam at Ragged Mountain can be financed with no increase in current wholesale water rates.

This Plan is the most environmentally-friendly option available.

§ Federal and State agencies approved the Plan as the least environmentally damaging practicable plan among all of the plans considered for increasing our water supply.

§ The expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is being designed to minimize disturbance of the surrounding natural area above the new shore line, preserving this area for passive recreation and wildlife, while providing a new lake with expanded recreational opportunities and new habitat for diverse aquatic fish and other species.

§ The approved Plan keeps our water local. Our largest local watershed, the South Fork Rivanna, will supply our needs while providing increased storage at Ragged Mountain. Environmental studies have confirmed the storage at Ragged Mountain can be obtained with the fewest impacts on the environment.

§ The approved Plan restores water levels in the Moormans River back to their natural flow patterns, benefitting recreation, farming, fishing and the abundant wildlife that depend on the Moormans.

§ The Plan also helps restore the South Fork Rivanna River by improving stream flow.

§ Any water supply expansion plan which is approved will require environmental mitigation.  The current Plan includes a mitigation plan which more than mitigates the environmental impacts as measured by the State and Federal agencies and has been approved by The Nature Conservancy.

§ The Plan does not in any way limit our capability to conserve water or the means to educate our citizens to conserve water. Some recent discussion about the Plan implies that we are only capable of conserving water if we restrict the availability of our future water supply. Conservation of water comes through education, individual habits, and incentives within retail water sales and policies, not by restricting the size of a reservoir.

Why not just dredge??

 

§ Complete dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would only provide about half the needed water to sustain us through a future drought and would cost six times more per gallon.  We would still need to either expand Ragged Mountain or build a new pipeline to the James River to make up the difference.

§ The Plan does not prohibit dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir but instead allows us to do it when fuel prices are lowest and when it is most cost effective to process and sell or store the sediment. Alternatives to the Plan that would rely on dredging as the primary or only source of future drinking water would force dredging on terms dictated by water demand leaving us at the mercy of market conditions.

§ Dredging is not a onetime cost.  If the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir were completely dredged in the next five years, it could lose much of that new capacity over the next fifty years as it continues to silt in.

The Plan continues to have widespread support in the community from diverse groups including the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Charlottesville Albemarle Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Environment Law Center, the League of Women Voters, the Free Enterprise Forum, and The Nature Conservancy to name a few.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors  § Ann Mallek, Chairman§ Duane Snow, Vice Chairman

§ Ken Boyd

§ Lindsay Dorrier

§ Dennis Rooker

§ Rodney Thomas

§ Bob Tucker, County Executive

Albemarle County Service Authority Board of Directors § Clarence Roberts, Chairman§ Richard E. Carter

§ Lizbeth Palmer

§ James Colbaugh

§ David Thomas

§ Gary O’Connell, Executive Director

We hope this factual and objective information is helpful to county residents as public discussion concerning the Plan continues.

The Community Water Supply Plan issue is confusing.  Numbers and spreadsheets are flying regarding the costs and benefits of four different water supply options.  The Free Enterprise Forum applauds Albemarle County’s decision to move forward with this cost effective manner to cut through the clutter and communicate directly with its citizens.

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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 Supervisors Move to Update Capital Improvement Plan

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

The most important item that showed up in a rather uneventful Board of Supervisors meeting last night was something not even on the agenda—the capital improvement plan. In “other matters from the board,” Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) stressed he would like to see the supervisors push the capital improvement plan forward. “We need to drive buy-in and commitment from various departments so we can get a thorough, active list of capital projects we need and start planning for the future and spend the money wisely,” Frydl said.

Chairman Steve Catalano agreed that having such a list of projects is a necessary “tool for us to appropriate capital improvement money. We want to know what big ticket capital projects are coming and we need to be able to prioritize what we spend capital improvement money on.”

Once it becomes clear what’s needed and what the County’s future needs will be, supervisors anticipate being able to set funding priorities and make better decisions in the budget process year to year.

Supervisor Frydl suggested requiring updated information from county agencies and giving them a format to follow to enable them to more easily provide this information. Supervisors unanimously agreed to move forward on updating the CIP and agreed to have County Administrator Barry Clark refine the current list.

Other agenda included a quarterly update from a Virginia Department of Transportation official concerning the status of road projects and routine road maintenance. Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) requested VDOT look into extending the turning lane from Rte. 29 heading north turning west onto Rte. 33. Now that the super Wal-Mart has opened at that intersection, he is concerned about the growing amount of traffic turning at that intersection. The VDOT rep requested the board provide a letter stating their request and why.

Greg Wichelns, district manager of Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District, provided an update on the current strategic plan required by the state. Much remains uncertain as to what types of changes in water quality improvement the state and federal agencies will require. In the meantime, dialogue among the various interested parties will continue.

One final matter worth noting, the board unanimously approved authorization to apply for grants from the Department of Forestry and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for stream restoration and interpretive trails at Greene County’s community park.

City/County Planning Commission Meeting Accomplishes Very Little

By. Neil Williamson, President

Earlier this week (9/28), the Planning Commissions of Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville held one of their semi regular joint meetings.  The purpose of the meeting was described as a transportation discussion.  The meeting started with a presentation by Stephen Williams Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC).  The other presenter was Linda Seaman the chair of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transportation Plan Citizen Advisory Committee (CHART).

The presentation focused on transportation planning and the long process it takes to get a transportation project approved, funded and constructed.  After Williams would cover the TJPDC perspective on a transportation issue, Seaman would ask the Commission to fill out a portion of the CHART survey.  Does anyone believe this  environment was conducive to objective data collection?

To further improperly impact the survey, none of the images contained in the presentation were from the Charlottesville Albemarle region.  The image below is actually a sculpture in New York, not a traffic control device.  The Free Enterprise Forum has to ask why the presentation could not have included images from the Polo Grounds Road choke point, the 250/McIntire intersection etc.

After the commissioners completed their surveys, there was time set aside on the agenda  for “Transportation Discussion” between the two commissions.

Rather than focusing on the areas of potential improvement in working together as a region, the commissioners discussed how transportation professionals  could better increase the “sustainability” of the community rather than utilizing traditional (and more measurable) traffic metrics of safety and through put.  This commissioner suggested that even if it took you longer to walk four blocks, you would feel better for doing so.  Williams suggested this is exactly the direction many in the transportation planning area want to go.

While the Free Enterprise Forum is supportive of market driven walkable communities, we fear that as government and transportation planners focus more on how people “feel” rather than their safety, the social engineering sect has gone too far.

In addition, considering last week’s remarks by the Virginia Secretary of Transportation highlighted the lack of consensus within our community as one reason for less funding,  we believe it would be helpful if the City and County Planning Commissions focused their joint meetings on regional issues (Meadowcreek Parkway, Transit, Hillsdale Connector, Best Buy Ramp, etc.) rather than being led through the looking glass to complete surveys and hold philosophical discussion without any real linkage to transportation improvements.

The truth is the objectives for this joint meeting were very low — both commissions managed to achieve them.

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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