Monthly Archives: June, 2011

BOS Bypass Vote – 4 is greater than 3

By. Neil Williamson, President

In a previous blog post, I spoke of the importance of counting to three on the five member Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  The arithmetic is a little different on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (ACBOS). While Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier’s (Scottsville) vote allowed the ACBOS to instruct their MPO members to vote in favor of the Western Bypass, switching one vote will not change this newly endorsed position of the Board.four 004

It’s all about getting to four.

The June 1st vote to drop the language opposing the bypass from the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) had failed 3-3.  According to the ACBOS Rules of Procedures (adopted in January 2011):

Approval by Motion. Unless otherwise provided, decisions of the Board shall be made by approval of a majority of the members present and voting on a motion properly made by a member and seconded by another member. Any motion that is not seconded shall not be further considered. The vote on the motion shall be by a voice vote. The Clerk shall record the name of each member voting and how he voted on the motion. If any member abstains from voting on any motion, he shall state his abstention. The abstention will be announced by the Chairman and recorded by the Clerk. A tie vote shall defeat the motion voted upon. (Article VII, Section 7, Virginia Constitution) Emphasis Added – NW

Charlottesville Tomorrow reported the June 8th meeting had a different result:

Late in a meeting on June 8, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to direct its two MPO representatives to remove language from the local transportation improvement program opposing the bypass. The unannounced vote reversed an almost 15-year-old policy position of county opposition to the bypass.

Why is this important?

According to the BOS Rules of Procedure, in order to change the current Albemarle County policy will require a majority of the Board of Supervisors.  A 3-3 tie doesn’t get you there.  In addition, any vote to suspend those rules will require a similar majority vote.

According to the legal notice in Sunday’s Daily Progress,  the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors  has scheduled their own June 13th public hearing:

to consider the following Route 29 Western Bypass.  Public comment on Albemarle County’s position to support the proposed construction of a Route 29 Western Bypass.  This public hearing is not a public hearing of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  The MPO will advertise and conduct a separate public hearing on this matter for its purposes. Emphasis added – NW

Not to be confused, the MPO will hold not one but two public hearings on the Western Bypass issue, July 14th and July 27th also at the Albemarle County Office Building.  The Free Enterprise Forum found the notice for the MPO hearing to be surprisingly direct for a public notification:

The project that is being considered for this amendment process is the project analyzed in the U.S. Route 29 Corridor Study, Final Environmental Impact Statement Section 4(f)/106 Evaluation, State Project No. 6029-002-122 PE 100, approved in 1993 and U.S. Route 29 Bypass Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, FHWA-VA-EIS-90-02-DS, Federal Protection Number: NH-037-2 (130), State Project Number: 6092-002-F22, PE 101; RUVA-002-001, PE 101, approved in 2002. These proposed amendments will allow for funding for this project and this project only. The proposed amendments will not consider or fund any other bypass routes or general bypass option. Emphasis added – NW

The Free Enterprise Forum believes that these three public hearings (and the Richmond meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board on July 20th) will provide more than adequate opportunity for public comment on the US 29 Western Bypass. 

The first of the big questions is will the public comments at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 13, change two votes from yes to no? 

If not, the BOS representatives on the MPO will be duty bound to vote in favor of the bypass regardless of any comments made at the MPO public hearings.

The second set of questions revolve around the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting on July 20th (prior to the final vote by the MPO).

Will this Governor appointed body conditionally approve the funding dependent an affirmative vote on July 27th at the MPO?

Will the anticipated abundant public comment influence these appointees? 

Will the CTB seek to change the direction of the Executive Branch?

I can hear you out there counting noses.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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, Louisa and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

Western Bypass Public Hearing: Playing to an Audience of One?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

three-fingersMuch of local government (and most levels of government) is simply learning how to count.

In yet another example of the dysfunctional City/County relationship, the stage is now set for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to cast the swing vote for or against the proposed Western US 29 Bypass at the July 27th Charlottesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CA-MPO or MPO).

Please let me first  explain this acronym heavy alphabet soup.

Who is the MPO?

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) serves as the staff of the (CA-MPO).  The TJPDC is led by Executive Director Stephen Williams.   According to the most recently approved FY12 Unified Planning and Work Program (UPWP):

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) provides a forum for conducting continuing, comprehensive, and coordinated (3-C) transportation decision-making among the City, County, UVA, JAUNT, CAT, DRPT and VDOT officials. The local governments of Charlottesville and Albemarle established the MPO in response to a federal mandate through a memorandum of understanding signed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (PDC), JAUNT, VDOT and the two localities in 1982.

The MPO conducts transportation studies and ongoing planning activities, including an annual Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which lists road and transit improvements approved for federal funding, and the 20-year long range plan for the overall transportation network, which is updated every five years. Projects funded in the TIP are required to be in the long range plan.

Transportation and land use issues in urban areas affect development and decision making in the suburban and rural areas and therefore, planning should consider the regional effects. The UnJAM 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan focuses specifically on projects within the MPO, but considers the long term effects of these projects on the entire region.

The policy making body of the CA-MPO is its Board, which consists of five voting members. The voting membership of the Policy Board consists of two representatives from the City of Charlottesville and two representatives from the County of Albemarle. The fifth representative is from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Emphasis Added NW

Where the members of the MPO come from is critically important because their voting on any particular issue is supposed to represent the official position of their organization not their own personal political position.  This helps form the basis of getting to three votes on the MPO.  This concept was made very clear by a resolution that was drafted by Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett)  and passed by the Board earlier this month, prior to the vote on US 29 Bypass:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Board members who are appointed to boards, committees and commissions are required to vote on matters that come before those entities in a manner which is consistent with the policies and positions of the Board as reflected in previously adopted resolutions or official action of the Board on such matters.

Regular readers of the Free Enterprise Forum blog know Albemarle County in a 4-2 vote dropped their opposition to the Western US 29 Bypass earlier this month.  Monday night Charlottesville’s City Council on a 4-0 vote (Huja abstain) instructed their representatives to vote in opposition to the roadway.

It is important to note the fifth vote on the MPO belongs to Jim Utterback, the District Administrator for Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

In a phone interview yesterday (6/22) with The Free Enterprise Forum, Utterback indicated to date he has not had any conversations with anyone from Richmond regarding the Western Bypass MPO vote.

In the chain of VDOT command, Utterback reports directly to Virginia Transportation Commissioner Gregory Whirley.    Utterback reported that  if any direction was to be provided, he anticipated it would come through the Commissioner’s office.

Whirley was appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 and reports to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton who serves in the Governor’s cabinet. The Free Enterprise Forum understands Secretary Connaughton has been in touch with several Albemarle County Board of Supervisors members throughout this process.

Bypass Headline April 2011In April, VDOT’s Freight study endorsed the idea of a Western US 29 Bypass.

The Free Enterprise Forum found the description of the Charlottesville Bypass on page 318 (of 523 pages) to be most interesting as the road is described as having a “High Impact” on Freight Transportation.

On June 15, 2011, after many months of delay, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the Route 29 Corridor Study final report that included the language:

Plan to improve mobility and accessibility north of Charlottesville, evaluating various alternatives, and not limited to prior proposals

So now we have the program for the public hearing, 2 votes for the US 29 Bypass from Albemarle County, 2 votes in opposition from City of Charlottesville with VDOT vote not yet decided.

Federal regulations require any amendment to the TIP must have a public hearing.  If it is determined to be an “update” two hearings are required.

Yes, the public must be heard and they will.  The Free Enterprise Forum anticipates a lengthy public hearing with three to four hours of public comment on both sides (likely limited to two minutes each).

Utterback_j

VDOT Culpeper District Administrator James Utterback (Credit: VDOT)

Speaking to an audience of one?

Four of our voters already have their lines and the only way to change them would be for their organizations to change their positions, that won’t happen due to the public hearing.

The fifth vote, VDOT, will be getting a great deal of attention in the coming weeks to attempt to sway his vote.

On July 14th, pack your popcorn because it will be a long night in Lane Auditorium without any conclusion.   Based on our research, unless something dramatic changes the vote on this issue will not take place until the second MPO Policy Board meeting on July 27th.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the opportunity to build the Western Bypass should not be taken lightly.  The type of statewide funding only comes around every 20 years or so.

It now comes down to the unelected VDOT District Administrator.  regardless of his decision, he will upset a cohort of people.  VDOT has already spent $47 million dollars on preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition.  These funds will need to be repaid if the project does not move forward.

What decision is in the best interest of the community and the state transportation program?

Our answer is simple – Build the Bypass – now.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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

Council Votes No on US 29 Bypass

By Amelie Baily, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Charlottesville City Council met on Monday night (6/20) to discuss affordable housing, as well as to respond to the recent decision by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to reconsider construction of a US 29 Western Bypass.

Matters by the Public featured several individuals voicing frustration with the process by which the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors reached their decision to request that the Charlottesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) reconsider building the Western Bypass. These citizens described the process as lacking transparency. The decision to reconsider was made late at night, and was not included as a regular agenda item.

Several councilors echoed frustrations with the process as well as the decision itself, as they discussed whether to advise City MPO representatives (Councilors Huja and Szakos) to approve or vote against the project.

The Bypass has been estimated to cost between $250 and $300 million, and some believe to result in approximately 1 minute of travel time saved for commuters (though no one could site a specific study that claimed this).

Council members generally agreed with one another that the project was an inefficient use of limited transportation funds, and expressed concern that the project would transfer funds away from transportation projects of greater interest to the City such as Belmont Bridge. Currently, there is no clear answer as to where the funds would come from if the project were approved. Councilors voted 4-0 (with Councilor Huja abstaining) to advise the MPO representatives to vote against the project if a vote is taken at the next MPO meeting.

In the first of several discussions on affordable housing, staff recommended approval of the transfer of an Elliot Avenue lot to Habitat for Humanity, who will partner with Southern Development Group in creating a mixed income development. The proposed development includes 48 homes, 7 of which will be affordable housing units. Four units will be developed by Habitat for Humanity, while the other three will be provided by Southern Development Group. Due to an error in providing adequate notice of a public hearing on this matter, the official public hearing will not be conducted until the next City Council meeting, scheduled for July 5th.

Staff also negotiated the purchase of four town house lots located on the corner of Nunley and Paton Streets from Habitat for Humanity in order to create much needed affordable housing options for community members. Two lots are intended for special needs individuals who are Region Ten Community Service clients. One of the additional two lots is intended for a transitional housing project and the other for first time home buyers. The total cost of all four lots is 150,000 dollars. However, the total proposed cost with design and construction costs included will be $690,000. Council unanimously approved the purchase of the lots.

In Response to Council request, city staff presented a plan for greater implementation of “Section 3” in the region. Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 requires that HUD (Housing and Urban Development) financial assistance be accompanied by an effort to direct training, employment, and other opportunities to lower income individuals. This federal law applies to contractors when HUD funding is greater than $200,000 and/or the contract is over $100,000. The proposed plan contains seven goals with proposed actions to take in order to fulfill such goals. Among the changes is the creation of a temporary staff position to coordinate the proposed plan. This position will be funded out of CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds and supplemented by CHF (Charlottesville Housing Fund) as well as CRHA (Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority) funds. Council unanimously voted to approve the resolution.

The Carver Precinct voting location will be moved temporarily due to a 15-month renovation project on the Carver Recreation Center, which will begin in July of this year. Staff proposed that the precinct be moved to the Virginia Institute of Autism building, which is located off of Rose Hill Drive, approximately one mile from the Carver Recreation Center. The benefits of such location are the accessibility, size, and sufficient parking available. Council expressed a desire for significant signage on both Rose Hill Drive and 250 Bypass, as well as near the Carver Recreation Center. They also requested that staff consider creative ways of shuttling voters from the Carver Recreation Center to Virginia Institute of Autism. The new location was approved to be further discussed at a second reading.

Staff updated Council on the progress in designing the new Belmont Bridge. The aim is to create a safe, attractive, and multi modal access bridge. Initial designs include pedestrian access on both sides of the bridge, on-road bike lanes, two northbound lanes, and one southbound lane. At least one lane of traffic in each direction will remain open during construction, as will pedestrian access. Staff emphasized that they are carefully considering aesthetics of the bridge, as was requested by citizens. Council member Kristin Szakos inquired if a sound barrier (between the Pavilion and Belmont) would be constructed, however staff admitted that it was most likely not possible, given funding.

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Switch Again – News and Analysis

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Surprising many, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors reversed a previous decision and opted to create a five member Board of Supervisors in response to redistricting requirements. Previously, the Board opted to advertise a seven member Board, an increase of one from the current six.

Supervisor Joe Chesser (Rivanna) surprised fellow Board members when he announced at the June 15th meeting he had changed his mind and now favored five seats, not seven. Joining Chesser to advertise a five member Board were Supervisors Booker (Fork Union), Gooch (Palmyra), and Kenney (Columbia). Supervisors Weaver (Cunningham) and Fairchild (Rivanna) voted against.

The change will have significant political implications for Fluvanna politics. Supervisor Chris Fairchild lost his seat in the redistricting. Perhaps the second most conservative member of the Board – after Weaver – his departure will make it easier for the Board’s more liberal members to implement their policy objectives.

This assumes of course that the two most liberal members (Booker and Gooch) are reelected in November. Board Chairman Gooch benefits significantly from the reduction to five. Under the seven-seat scenario, his Palmyra district would have been truncated into the northwest corner of the county.

Reportedly, much of the Gooch support in his first campaign came from the southern part of the district, an area he now will retain. Additionally, there are persistent reports that two conservatives may oppose Gooch in the November election, raising the possibility of a split vote among conservatives.

Supervisors will vote on the final redistricting plan at their July 6th meeting and then forward it to the federal Justice Department for approval.

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William Des Rochers serves as Free Enterprise Forum’s Fluvanna County Field Officer.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization covering Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson county as well as the City of Charlottesville.  If you find this update helpful, please consider financially supporting these efforts.  More information about the organization and how to donate can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Charlottesville Planning Commission Considers Zoning Ordinance Amendments

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

The Charlottesville City Planning Commission met on Tuesday night (6/14) for their monthly meeting to deliver reports as well as to evaluate proposed amendments to the City Zoning Ordinance, and to examine a waiver request to the Critical Slopes Ordinance.

In the initial reports, Chairman Jason Pearson, who will be leaving the commission at the end of the month, announced the creation of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Corporation. This non-profit corporation is designed to strengthen the work of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) by making it easier for the organization to accept private funds on behalf of the region and localities. The purpose of the corporation is to allow localities to identify unfunded projects within their comprehensive plans and to allow private funds to be connected to the projects.

Staff proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Charlottesville with the intention of clarifying the validity periods of Certificates of Appropriateness. The proposed amendments synchronize the validity of Certificates of Appropriateness with valid site plans to avoid unnecessary reapplications.

A Certificate of Appropriateness is currently valid for one year unless an applicant obtains either a building permit, or an administrative extension of one year. The proposed text amendment maintains the requirement that preliminary site plans be approved within the year that the Certificate of Appropriateness is valid. However the amendment ensures that if a preliminary site plan is approved within the initial, one year time frame, the applicant does not have to go back to design review after the expiration of the Certificate of Appropriateness. In other words, the Certificate of Appropriateness will remain valid as long as a site plan is valid (five years), under the proposed changes. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the amendments to City Council after adjusting the initial validity of a Certificate of Appropriateness from one year to eighteen months. These amendments will proceed to review by City Council.

In another unanimous vote, the Planning Commission followed the staff recommendation to recommend approval of a waiver to the Critical Slopes Ordinance for a proposed Wertland Street Apartment Building. “Finding 3” (as basis for waiver) of the current Critical Slopes Ordinance reads that a waiver may be granted if “due to unusual size, topography, shape, location or other unusual physical conditions of a property one (1) or more of these critical slopes provisions would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of such property or would result in significant degradation of the site, or adjacent properties”. The commission reasoned that restricting the use of this particular critical slope would unreasonably restrict plans to increase density in the area, which is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The Commission added conditions to their approval for waiver, requiring the applicant to incorporate Low Impact Development Strategies and Stormwater Best Management Practices, as well as a design solution to reduce the visual impacts of the retaining wall to adjacent properties.

Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fourth District Easy Decision for Greene Supervisors, Public Hearing Produces Minimal Input

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

After receiving minimal input at Tuesday (6/14) night’s public hearing, the Greene County Board of Supervisors easily decided to create a fourth voting district and eliminate one at-large seat. Although supervisors reported receiving a number of phone calls on the matter, only three residents provided input at the hearing, and all were concerned about not forcing out an incumbent due to redistricting changes.

With the Ruckersville district having at least 750 more residents than the county’s other two voting districts and Virginia state law allowing only a 5-percent differential among districts, this matter needed to be resolved before the upcoming election. Retaining three districts by splitting Ruckersville’s overflow into the existing Monroe and Stanardsville districts seemed the least practical, least cost-effective choice since the Ruckersville area continues to grow and may require additional adjustments in the near future.

jim_frydl“Even though most of us would not want to change the districts, it’s not feasible to stay with only three districts because of how much we’ve grown,” said Supervisor Jim Frydl, who currently represents the Ruckersville district.

Supervisors unanimously agreed to name the fourth district Midway and, since Supervisor Frydl lives within the boundaries of this new district, designated elections for this district be held in 2013, which would allow Frydl to complete his four-year term and run again if he chose. The boundaries of all existing districts are affected by this decision. Residents will vote in the new districts in the November 2011 election and should expect to receive voter cards designating their voting precinct/polling place. The new Midway district will vote at Ruckersville Elementary School, and the new Ruckersville district will vote at the current location of the Ruckersville Fire Station. The population in each district will be as follows: Monroe = 4,727; Stanardsville = 4,588; Midway = 4,528; Ruckersville 4,554. Boundaries of all four districts are available on the county website at http://www.gcva.us/Redistricting.pdf.

Another matter of importance to county residents, as noted by Supervisor Frydl, is the disturbing fact that the Commissioner of Revenue continues to fail to provide reports on county revenues despite repeated requests from the supervisors. “We’ve made multiple requests for reports from this office; we’re trying to do due diligence on behalf of the taxpayers; and we’re getting no response to our requests,” Frydl said. “It’s impossible for us to provide oversight without reports from that office.”

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the elected position of Commissioner of the Revenue was created in the Virginia Constitution to establish and protect the independent status of the office and to ensure that local tax revenues will be assessed by an officer who reports directly to the people.

Among other responsibilities, the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue assesses individual and business personal property taxes and issues business licenses. Without obtaining such reports, supervisors cannot know if county businesses are operating legally and paying their taxes. Although not addressed any further at the meeting, this issue remains unresolved and most likely will turn up in future board meetings.

With the federal government’s environmental limit on total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) looming, Supervisor Frydl noted that, thanks to the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), the county is “very far ahead of other regions in the state in understanding the health of our rivers and how to meet the TMDLs.” As a result, once the TMDLs are established, “they may have no bearing on our community,” Frydl said. During a recent study, the RRBC identified Rivanna’s healthy waters and has been promoting their protection through land use planning in the Rivanna watershed. The RRBC provided recommendations to Greene County during its 2010 update to the county’s comprehensive plan.

Earlier Tuesday morning, supervisors attended a groundbreaking ceremony at the Greene County Community Park for a new comfort station/concession area, thanks to a very generous $100,000 donation from resident Ethyle Cole Giuseppe. Although the Board planned to construct the much-needed comfort station to replace the park’s two portable toilets and address the lack of running water, supervisors were awaiting official results of the county’s financial situation before moving forward. Giuseppe, a 92-year-old Greene County native, upset by this unfulfilled need, decided to act sooner rather than later.

Supervisor Carl Schmitt (at-large), who served as carl_schmittmaster of ceremonies, reported that the county has agreed to put in the necessary well and septic field for the comfort station. The $20,000 needed for this project is available and had been earmarked previously for this purpose, so, Schmitt said, it will not involve designating any “new money” to the project. He expects the comfort station will be completed within 90 days.

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

US 29 Bypass — It’s About Time

By. Neil Williamson, President

Last week’s (6/8) Board of Supervisors split decision (4-2) “not to oppose” the Western Bypass of US 29 may prevent the loss of this  transportation alternative forever.  While we would have preferred the vote occurred as a scheduled agenda item, the Free Enterprise Forum believes this is a courageous and most timely decision.

Let me explain.

Back in us 29 logoSeptember 1992 (18 years ago)  the first parcel was acquired for the Western Bypass Right of Way.  Since that time an additional 61 parcels have been acquired. A total of $47.2 Million dollars have been spent on right of way acquisition and preliminary engineering.

The Free Enterprise Forum recently contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the “Federal Clock” and the “State Clock” that were ticking regarding positive action on the US 29 Bypass project.

VDOT directed us to  Section 112 Code of Federal Regulations – Title 23 Highways (23 CFR 630.112 – Agreement provisions)

(c) The State must stipulate that as a condition to payment of the Federal funds obligated, it accepts and will comply with the following applicable provisions: (1) Project for acquisition of rights-of-way. In the event that actual construction of a road on this right-of-way is not undertaken by the close of the twentieth fiscal year following the fiscal year in which the project is authorized, the STD will repay to the FHWA the sum or sums of Federal funds paid to the transportation department under the terms of the agreement. The State may request a time extension beyond the 20-year limit with no repayment of Federal funds, and the FHWA may approve this request if it is considered reasonable.

(2) Preliminary engineering project. In the event that right-of-way acquisition for, or actual construction of, the road for which this preliminary engineering is undertaken is not started by the close of the tenth fiscal year following the fiscal year in which the project is authorized, the STD will repay to the FHWA the sum or sums of Federal funds paid to the transportation department under the terms of the agreement. The State may request a time extension for any preliminary engineering project beyond the 10-year limit with no repayment of Federal funds, and the FHWA may approve this request if it is considered reasonable.

[Emphasis added – nw]

In addition to the Federal clock that was clearly ticking toward repayment of funds, Virginia State Code § 33.1-90 stipulates:

If the transportation project contemplated, or project as defined in § 33.1-268, has not been let to contract or construction commenced within a period of twenty years from the date of the acquisition of such property and a need for the use of such property has not been determined for any alternative transportation project, upon written demand of the owner or owners, their heirs or assigns, received within ninety days from the expiration of such twenty-year period or such extension as provided for in this section or within thirty days from publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the political subdivision in which the property is located of a notice of the Commissioner’s intent to dispose of such property and shall notify to the extent practical, the last known owner(s) of said property by certified mail, such property shall be reconveyed by the Commonwealth of Virginia to such owner or owners, their heirs or assigns, upon repayment of the original purchase price, without interest.

[Emphasis added – nw]

Put bluntly the regulations mandate you have 20 years to either “Fish or Cut Bait” (with limited relief provisions).

The  Lynchburg News Advance trumpeted last week’s change as “A Major Break Through” and cited Virginia Transportation 10rel27a (connaughton pix)Secretary Sean Connaughton’s role in the discussion as well as other individuals and organizations:

Key to Albemarle’s official change of heart was a conversation [Albemarle County Supervisor Lindsay] Dorrier had with state Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, who promised to find the dollars in the state’s transportation coffers for a badly needed project in Albemarle that’s also gone unfunded.

Also of untold importance to this development have been the efforts of many civic, business and political leaders in Central Virginia. They’ve toiled for years, fighting to get state dollars to upgrade the U.S. 29 corridor from Danville in Southside to its intersection with Interstate 66 in Gainesville. Major upgrades of every urban bottleneck were addressed, save for one: Charlottesville.

There were times when it was hard to be optimistic, but folks such as Sen. Steve Newman of Lynchburg, Rex Hammond of the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, Commonwealth Transportation Board members Jim Candler, Kenneth White and Marke Peake, Will Mays of Amherst and a host of others kept plugging away.

It would be remiss not to include The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce their North Charlottesville Business Council in this list of influential parties.

This decision sets forth a number of dominos and it does not necessarily mean the Western Bypass will obtain the required approvals to move forward.  As has been the case in many major decisions over the last 36 months the City of Charlottesville may have an important role to play. As Charlottesville Tomorrow reported:

At least one of the Charlottesville City Council’s representatives will have to vote to also change the language.

“This council hasn’t taken a position on the Western Bypass,” said Councilor Satyendra Huja. “Former councils were supporters of the bypass. I will consult with this council to see what their position is.”

In addition, this recent action by the Board of Supervisors will make the Bypass (along with water, sewer, and taxes) among the key campaign issues.

With the Federal and State clocks steadfastly ticking toward a potential required return of property and/or funding, the future of the US 29 Bypass may hang in the balance at the ballot box and at Charlottesville City Hall.

As the clocks continue to tick, expect a long, hot summer of debate.

It really is all about timing.  September 2012 is fast approaching.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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, Louisa and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Developer Considers Adding Townhomes to Ruckersville Landscape

By Pauline Hovey

The Greene County Board of Supervisors met with local developer Fried Companies, Inc., last week to hear the company’s consideration to build several hundred townhomes in the Ruckersville area. Mr. Steve Jones, chief operating officer representing Fried Companies, Inc., presented the developer’s ideas to the board regarding the possibility of rezoning the area proposed for the Creekside Subdivision, located on Seminole Trail/Route 29.

Current Creekside Site Plan (image credit: Fried website)

The property is zoned R-1, which allows up to 800 single family homes, and according to Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville), the developer wanted to meet with the board to discuss possible rezoning to a PUD, or planned urban development. A PUD would allow the developer more flexibility in changing the planned development from 800 homes on one-acre lots to 1180 homes, 580 of which would be townhomes, and the remainder, single family homes on various-sized lots. Fried Companies is considering the change because of market conditions, which seem to favor townhomes and smaller homes in general that require less upkeep. In addition, Greene County does not currently offer new construction townhomes, and the belief is they would sell easily.

According to Frydl, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) traffic study would not require any major road improvements for the change to 1180 homes, but Fried is offering to immediately build an access road cutting across the development onto Rte. 29 before any homes would be built. The proposed property extends eastward to Preddy Creek Road—a road already well traveled due to several housing subdivisions built along that roadway. In addition, the developer offered to shave down a hillside that currently creates a blind curve along Preddy Creek Road. The developer also proffered a phased construction of 100 townhomes per year so as not to invade the market all at once.

Frydl said one of the main reasons the developer wanted to meet with the board was to address the county’s expensive rezoning fees and ask for consideration of constructing a more reasonable fee structure before Fried decides to move forward. The Planning and Zoning Department will study the issue to determine whether a more balanced structure could be implemented through the current code, Frydl said. Once fees have been determined, Fried Companies will most likely bring its request to the Planning Commission in July. Since this was not a public hearing, Frydl added that the supervisors could not respond to Jones’ request at this time.

Later that evening, the board unanimously approved a special use permit for a veterinary clinic to open in the plaza on Seminole Trail/Rte. 29 where the Best Western is located. The special permit was needed because of the nature of the business, but, as Planning Director Bart Svoboda noted, “this business meets the comp plan and goes along with the scheme of things.”

“This is a business that’s good for the county,” Supervisor Carl Schmitt (at-large) said, and others agreed, including Chairman Steve Catalano (at-large), who cited the importance of “diversifying the business population.”

In addition, the Planning and Zoning Department’s Stephanie Golon presented an evaluation of the county’s EAGLE/AutoCAD mapping services compared to Geographical Information System with the recommendation that the county change to a better, more technologically improved service. Golon noted she is concerned that the current company, MSAG Data Consultants, is not consistent in the type of service it provides in relation to its price increases, and customer service has decreased considerably.

“Our current mapping system is not standardized,” Golon added, which would allow the county to share information with other counties “should we have a catastrophic or emergency situation,”— something the county cannot do now. The system’s inability to remain up to date with the county’s level of development has encumbered all departments in regards to the information they receive, and MSAG’s programs are “technically outdated,” she said. The board approved the Planning Department move forward in seeking RFPs for a replacement mapping service.

Neil Williamson

In matters from the public, Neil Williamson, representing both the Free Enterprise Forum and his interest as a Ruckersville resident, presented his concerns regarding the board’s discussion of redistricting at its last meeting. Noting his concern of the possible loss of an incumbent supervisor if the board renames Supervisor Frydl’s district, he argued that one of the main goals of the board in considering redistricting should be to keep an incumbent in his or her district.

During other matters from the board, Supervisor Schmitt said he agreed with Williamson’s concerns about redistricting causing an issue for the incumbent supervisor. “Neil brings up an interesting point, and we really have to think through how this will play out.”

Chairman Catalano noted that nothing has been decided about redistricting, and the workshop was mainly to arrive at some possibilities for the changes that need to be made. “We still can do the will of the public at the next meeting,” he said, referring to an upcoming June 14th public hearing on redistricting.

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org