By. Neil Williamson, President
In late November of last year, Albemarle County installed red light enforcement cameras (Photosafe Program) at the intersection of Rio Road and US 29. As regular readers of this blog know, Albemarle County has designated twenty one of its roadways as “Entrance Corridors” which requires a “certificate of appropriateness” to be issued from the Architectural Review Board (ARB). Both US 29 and Rio Road are “Entrance Corridors”.
According to Albemarle’s website:
The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and is charged with the responsibility of regulating the design of development within the County’s Entrance Corridors. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that new development in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture of the area and that development within the corridors is orderly and attractive.
As the only regular public attendee at ARB meetings, the Free Enterprise Forum has witnessed many long discussions about specific sign colors, sign height, massing of letters on a sign, materials used, and much more.
Last week, we watched as the ARB admonished business owners who were placing neon signs in their window or placing their products out in front of their store in the entrance corridor.
We are aware that there is a well established criteria for cell tower composition (hollow metal painted brown). So we were most curious how we missed the meeting where the ARB approved the construction of the sleek, tall silver twin towers peering directly on the entrance corridor.
Remembering that these units were placed in the Entrance Corridor at the specific direction of Albemarle County, not the Commonwealth of Virginia and that they reach approximately 15 feet into the view shed; we were more than a little confused to learn that the cameras were not the subject of a review by the ARB. Examining the photos in this post, it is difficult to argue these twin towers do not have an impact on the appearance of the entrance corridor. At a minimum, they have as much impact as a cell tower located much further from the Entrance Corridor.
The ARB has had a significant impact on development (and the cost of development) in the “entrance corridors”. Last year, the Free Enterprise Forum published the “Eye of the Beholder” report documenting some of our issues and potential solutions to the delays that often accompany an “entrance corridor” project.
To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum does not have a position on the effectiveness, legality or appropriateness of red light cameras, we will leave those discussions to others. We do take great issue with the double standard that Albemarle County is not required to undergo the same level of ARB review for revenue generating (and perhaps life saving) red light cameras as the businesses located in entrance corridors.
Based on our understanding of the sensibilities of the members of the ARB, We believe they would likely have made modifications to the design to improve the project’s “impact on the entrance corridor”.
But instead of adding this delay to the implementation of PhotoSafe Albemarle County choose to simply run the light hoping no one would notice. Luckily we had our camera.
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