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 188.8.131.52 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:
- Assistant County Attorney
- Director of Planning
- Director of Zoning
- Chief of Current Development
- Chief of Zoning
- Chief of Planning
- Recording Secretary
- Principal Planner 1
- Principal Planner 2
- Fire Chief (ACFD)
- 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.
Neil Williamson, President