By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer
The Greene County Board of Supervisors began a full and ambitious schedule on Tuesday by inviting input from area business leaders concerning water and sewer availability, pricing, a review of current site plan procedures, and other matters. Although Chairman Steve Catalano (At Large) remarked that the purpose of the 4:30 p.m. workshop was “informal discussion to hear from the community” and an estimated 30 or more people attended, only four attendees addressed the board.
With connections for public water and sewer currently running $10,000 each for an equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) in the Ruckersville Water System and the Rapidan Wastewater System, Greene County has the highest hookup fees in the area. Mr. Steve Jones, Chief Operating Officer representing Fried Companies, Inc., and one of three developers speaking at the workshop, noted the hookup fees were “extremely high” and suggested a few alternatives, including cutting costs for smaller residential dwellings and changing to a meter-based system for commercial properties, possibly increasing user fees based on a business’ water consumption.
Mr. Andrew Boninti, spokesperson for the Gateway Market Center located at Rtes. 33 & 29, home to the new Super Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, agreed that in order for Greene to stay business friendly, the county will need to address these costs. He suggested that the water and sewer fees are cost prohibitive for smaller retail businesses and restaurants, which will prevent them from locating in Greene County. He asked the board to “consider tax-incentive financing now to get ahead of the curve before you face a future business proposition.” He suggested if the board wants to entice prospective businesses, it would be in its best interest to work out these issues in advance.
Jones also addressed the site plan process, commenting that zoning and planning is “a work in progress” that needs open discussion to make it “more user friendly” and suggested forming a committee to address “what currently works and doesn’t work.” Noting the length of time it takes for the site plan process to move forward, he suggested some leeway is needed in the current regulations to the assist the County Planning Director in performing his duties more efficiently.
Following community comments, Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) stated he would like to bring more businesses to Greene County and suggested they look at the water and sewer hookup model and make revisions. Chairman Catalano added, “Our main goal is to be business friendly,” as he closed the workshop. The supervisors did not elaborate on any specific action they would take from here.
The workshop was followed by executive session, a workshop with the Rivanna River Basin Commission to review a proposed pilot study of total maximum daily loads (TMDL), and finally the regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m., the highlight of which came through “other matters from the board” at the end of the night. Supervisor Peyton warned the board to expect a shortfall in next year’s budget due to the reduction in property values. He expected the results of a property reassessment will reduce the county’s income by an estimated 4.5 percent. No definite figures are available at this point, but the supervisors are aware of the challenges ahead as they face the upcoming budget process.
That information generated further discussion regarding Supervisor Jim Frydl’s (Ruckersville) previous request to push the capital improvement plan (CIP) forward. Following up on his request from the last board meeting, Frydl asked when the information for the CIP would be available, noting it would be needed by the end of January in order to be used in the next budget process. He was reassured that the process to retrieve the necessary information from various departments is underway.