Monthly Archives: October, 2011

Julius Morris Withdraws from Greene BOS Race

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Late yesterday (10/25), the Free Enterprise Forum confirmed that Julius Morris, candidate for the Greene County Board of Supervisors (Ruckersville), withdrew from the board of supervisors’ race. Contacted at his home last night, Morris said, “After giving it a lot of thought, I decided not to run for personal reasons.”

imageBased on a discussion with the Greene County Registrar, Sandra Shifflett (photo right), the withdrawal occurred on Monday, October 17th.  Shifflett indicated Morris’ name will remain on the ballot and a withdrawal notice will be posted on all Ruckersville voting machines.  In addition, any absentee ballots mailed out will include the notification.  As of this morning, less than 40 Ruckersville District voters have already cast their absentee ballots.

Throughout his candidacy, whenever asked why he was running, Morris has stated that phone calls from individual citizens encouraging him to run influenced his decision. Now he’s mysteriously decided to bow out so close to the election.

Morris, who served as Greene County administrator from 1973 thru 2005, said he wants to stay involved in the county. He said he’s “concerned about new people coming onto the board that have not served before. There’s a learning curve involved and it takes a couple of years.”

Morris sent the following letter to the local newspaper announcing his withdrawal:

Dear Greene County Citizens:

Due to personal reasons, I have decided to withdraw as a candidate for the Board of Supervisors from the Ruckersville District. I sincerely appreciate the support and warm reception afforded me by citizens throughout Greene County. The concerns expressed to me by each citizen and businesses will be referred to our local elected officials.

Thank you for your vital interest in local government matters which can impact every citizen. I plan to devote more time to stay informed of local government actions and issues important to our citizens and businesses.

Sincerely,

Julius Morris

The Ruckersville district is a new district created by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year.  The three candidates vying for the seat include Flint Engleman, Davis Lamb, and Vic Schaff.

The election is Tuesday November 8th.

__________________________________________________

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.

Photo Credit:  Greene County

Apathy Increases Voter Value

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

Yes, Virginia this is an election year.

Poor Virginia – Every year somebody is running for something and this year, if historical trends hold true – your vote is even more important. 

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking towardBallot Box November 2012 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County building or City Hall.

2011 is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

According to Bill McClintock of GOP Wins [as quoted in Campaigns and Elections Magazine]:

the high point for voter participation is the presidential election cycle, which sees about 73 percent of the state’s voters turn out. Next is the gubernatorial election, when about 49 percent turn out. After that comes the non-presidential federal election (Senate or Congressional seat), which sees about 45% turnout. Finally, there’s a year like 2011 when the state legislature tops the ticket and the turnout plummets to a meager 33 percent. Generalizing across states—or even within states—is difficult because individual factors will obviously impact turnout. But it’s clear that turnout falls dramatically in these years. Emphasis added – nw

From the left leaning leaning My Fire Dog Lake blog discussing the 2009 election “Off” Year election (with a gubernatorial race) turnout:

Political writer Paul Loeb summarizes the voter turnout as follows: “In exit polls, Virginia voters under 30 dropped from 21% of the 2008 electorate to 10% this year, and from 17% to 9% in New Jersey. Minority voting saw a similar decline. In both states, over half the Obama voters of a year ago simply stayed home, more than a million people in both Virginia and New Jersey. With this collapse of the Democratic base, even relatively modest Republican turnout could carry the day, and did.” Emphasis added – nw

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.

Albemarle County 2007 Rivanna District’s Board of Supervisor’s election, 4,667 votes were cast and Incumbent Ken Boyd beat challenger Marcia Joseph by 149 votes.

The Free Enterprise Forum anticipates higher than average turnout in Greene County and Louisa County.  Both have contested races for retiring Constitutional Officers (Sheriff in Greene and Treasurer in Louisa).  The last time there was an open Sheriff’s race in Greene (2003) there were 5 candidates and voter turnout was over 47%. 

In addition Greene County has adjusted their Board of Supervisors to four magisterial districts and one at large member (formerly 2).  The new “Ruckersville” District features a four way race.  The last multiple candidate race for a Greene Board of Supervisor the decision was made by less than 100 votes.

Yes Virginia, there is an election in 2011.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Yes Virginia will hold an election on November 8th; the question is will you be a part of it? 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

—————————————————————

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

 

Will Greene’s Ordinance Revisions Make Life Easier?

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer 

Greene County Planning Commissioners tackled the revisions of three ordinances Wednesday night, with indications they want to make life easier for Greene County residents. The ordinances dealt with issues of zoning for temporary events, nonconforming uses, and interconnectivity of parcels.

One in particular, the difficulty of obtaining a special use permit for a temporary event, attracted news coverage over the past few months and an outcry from residents unaware the county had such restrictions.

Last summer a church group was unable to obtain a permit to hold a revival, and recently a private citizen nearly had to move  a fundraiser festival in memory of his young son when he discovered he couldn’t hold the event on his property nor could he locate a legal venue within the county. The resident wound up moving the venue to Louisa.  At the time of the individuals’ requests, “the ordinance was in place,” said Norm Slezak, chair of the commission. “There was nothing that could be done.”

Planning Director Bart Svoboda reported that the Planning Department has been looking at revising the temporary events zoning permit for several months since developing their work plan with the Board of Supervisors. But recent negative publicity “sparked an increased amount of energy to get this ordinance changed so that such situations could be avoided in the future,” Slezak said. “It’s been a contentious issue, and we want to respect citizens’ rights.”

The Planning Commission unanimously supported the revisions, which will provide more flexibility for temporary events such as craft festivals, revivals, and other festivities. It now moves to the Board of Supervisors for review and approval.

Commissioners also approved revisions to a second zoning and subdivision ordinance, OR#11-006, which concerns new access management regulations and interconnectivity of parcels to improve rights of way.

Commissioners stated their main purpose is better connectivity that would allow residents to take advantage of local shopping and get traffic off main roads, while not causing hardship for developers in the process. In 2007, the General Assembly approved the new access management regulations, which focus on the location, spacing, and design of entrances, street intersections, median openings, and traffic signals. As Svoboda explained, each of these creates conflict points where vehicles have to stop or slow down, disrupting the flow of traffic and creating challenges to the public wanting to access local businesses.

clip_image002

Source: Final Report of the Colorado Access Control Demonstration Project. Colorado Dept of Transportation, Denver, June, 1985 and Access Management Manual, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2003. (As cited By VDOT)

In attempting to comply with such regulations, if developers or owners discover that conditions are such that an inordinate expense or other impractical effort would be involved, then adherence would not be required. “The revision is written so that the owner has an out when complying is not feasible,” Svoboda said, such as in cases of significant differences in grading from one

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

Fluvanna Okays Economic Development Director

 

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

With minimum debate on the subject, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors on October 19th finally agreed to hire a full-time economic development director. The vote was 4-2 — supervisors Weaver (Cunningham) and Fairchild (Rivanna) dissented.

The issue over hiring a full-time director has lingered for years in the county; previously the county could agree only to hire part time personnel, and those directors did not stay for long. At one point, supervisors voted to fund a full-time position but it never was filled.

Initially, the economic development office will be a small endeavor. The director’s salary will be less than $50,000, and the entire office is budgeted for just $108,000 annually.

The Board spent several minutes wrangling over whether or not it also should hire consultants to analyze the economic prospects for the county and include rates of return for various development proposals. While the supervisors took no action on the matter, they informally agreed to take up the idea sometime in the future.

In other matters, supervisors:

· Agreed to assume its financial share ($460,000) of the Central Virginia Regional Jail expansion;

· Were informed that the county’s CSA (Community Services Act) program finished with a small ($38,000) surplus at the close of its fiscal year, and that the expenditures per child were less than 80 percent of the statewide average.

Three business owners addressed the Board with concerns that the supervisors were considering a 5 percent BPOL tax. Chairman John Gooch (Palmyra) stated that a BPOL tax was not under consideration at the present time. However, several supervisors have, in the past, seemed favorably disposed towards establishing such a tax, with some safeguards for small businesses in the county.

__________________________________________________

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.

Are Albemarle’s High Density Dreams a Neighborhood’s Nightmare?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In this week’s, Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting there was a public hearing on the Dunlora Forest Preliminary Site Plan.  To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum has no position on this, or any, project.  Neighbors raised significant concerns regarding the density of the development and the traffic impacts it would create. 

It seems like in the abstract, the public is blissfully unaware of the ongoing Comprehensive Plan Density drama but when a specific high density project comes forward in their neighborhood, they tend to be opposed to the impacts of such a community.

The question to the policy makers is “Is High Residential Density a Planning Dream Come True or a sweet dreamsNeighborhood Nightmare?”

freddy-kruegerPlease let me explain.

In last week’s Planning Commission meeting, the commission held a work session regarding development area capacity.  It is important to understand the density discussion. 

The Livable Communities Coalition (Atlanta,Georgia) site provides a solid primer:

Housing density or residential density refers to the number of homes per unit of land. It is typically reported in dwelling units per acre (or du/ac). For example, the average density in the Atlanta Metro area is 1.3 dwelling units per acre.

In evaluating the capacity for new development in the existing development area the staff report determined that:

Staff has concluded that 11% or 2,498 acres of the Development Area designated land is able to accommodate future residential and non-residential development.

As we mentioned in a previous post “Light Industrial Land Availability = Jobs” the light industrial land uses will be competing with residential uses in the never expanding development area.  This creates pressure to move those uses out of Albemarle County.

If we accept the premise that no new land will be rezoned light industrial and ALL available land will be used for residential use, how dense are we?

The report contained several population projections:

The additional dwelling units needed to meet the projected housing need of 2030 is 1,770 to 7,437 dwelling units. As can be seen, there is significant residential capacity within the confines of the existing development areas yet to be developed.

Based on the Planning Commission’s decision not to consider development area expansion in the next Comprehensive Plan (2013-2018), increased density is required to provide required capacity for the higher end of population projections.

Any new residential project in these areas will likely require a rezoning.  Such rezoning will mandate that 30% of the project be open space. This reduces the available residential land to 1,748 acres.

Roadways and interconnectivity of such roadways will eat up about 200 acres of the developable land leaving 1,548 acres available.  AT the high end of the population projects this equates to in excess of 4.8 units per acre required to meet the projected need.    

That means more dense development in the development area which, if the latest Planning Commission meeting is any guide, the public may not have the same density desires as the County.

RiverwoodTownhomesRyanIt makes sense that the County would lean toward denser development as it provides a much more economical model for delivering County services (Schools, Fire, Police).

The previously mentioned Livable Communities Coalition has a pro-density, pro-transit agenda:

Higher-density, compact development provides more housing choices in the places that are most convenient, especially in our region’s job and activity centers and near major transportation corridors.

So the “new urbanists” want density because to them that is good planning, but what of the new “unit” buyer, what do they want? 

Should it matter?

The Free Enterprise Forum thinks so; not only for the buyers but for the entire community, the ripple impacts of development area restriction are significant.

If the market rejects the higher density model and the County does not allow expansion of single family homes in the development area, the Comprehensive Plan will push such home buyers into the rural areas.

If this occurs, and without development area expansion we believe it will, the blame falls to the planners (and the politicians who support the plan)  who chose to design the development areas for their dense transit friendly dreams rather than the wishes of future home buyers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

—————————————————————

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

Photo Credits: New Line Cinema, Ryan Homes

Greene Board Carefully Considering Next Step on Reserve Fund

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Not surprisingly, despite significant discussion, there’s no decision yet from the Greene County Board of Supervisors on establishing reserve fund policies.

At a board workshop on Tuesday, Robert Huff, CPA, with Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates presented the latest guidelines recommended for reserve funds: retain 15 percent of general fund expenditures—a much smaller percentage than the 26 percent of total budget the county currently has on hand.

Huff also recommended the board have a cash management policy separate from the reserve fund, suggesting the county reinvests any “leftover money” for capital projects. With Greene County facing increasing growth and pressure for impending capital projects, Huff’s third recommendation seemed especially timely: review the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), identify priorities within the plan, and ensure the board is retaining enough money to handle the CIP.

Between water impoundment, new school buildings and expansions, fire and rescue services, and other growing needs as the county continues to develop, the board will not have a dearth of projects on which to spend any “leftover” funds.

In their paper, Benchmarking and Municipal Reserve Funds: Theory Versus Practice, The University of South Carolina’s Michael Shelton and Charlie Tyer wrote of the tightrope localities face regarding the proper balance in a reserve fund:

… there are many sound reasons for a government to maintain an adequate fund balance. At the same time, it is also possible for a governmental entity to accumulate an excessively large fund balance. An excessively large fund balance would be one beyond the contingency and cash flow needs of the community in the short term, and which lacks any planned use for other longer term projects or expenditures. In such a case, taxpayers are either paying unnecessarily high taxes or other charges, or they are not receiving an adequate return on their tax dollars in services and facilities.

Hence, the need for city policy makers to engage in some type of planning, but also to have some yardstick to use to set a general fund balance policy.

Discussion ensued among the members of this mainly conservative board, ranging from recommendations to set a policy of 15 percent of the total budget to as much as 25 percent of the budget. The end result? A commitment to review the CIP and a request for Deputy County Administrator and Finance Director Tracy Morris to draw up a draft policy with her recommendations for review at the next board meeting. Supervisors are tackling this issue slowly, carefully considering their options, since whatever policy they set will determine the county’s financial future.

As for increasing traffic in Greene, the board received an update during its quarterly meeting with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on the possibility of adding/widening turn lanes from Rte. 29 North onto Rte. 33 West—a congested intersection causing traffic flow problems now that the Super Wal-Mart has opened. VDOT reported that the project will take a little longer than suspected because of the amount of engineering involved. Apparently, VDOT discovered a drainage problem due to the difference in elevation between the two roadways. The added cost of engineering may mean the turn lanes will get designed, but when the turn lanes will actually be constructed is anyone’s guess due to the limited funding available.

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

Light Industrial Land Availability = JOBS

By. Neil Williamson, President

On Tuesday (10/11) The Albemarle County Planning Commission will be discussing the upcoming revision for their Comprehensive Plan as it relates to the size and location of the Development Areas.

The Free Enterprise Forum has reviewed the 100+ page staff report and was disappointed at the lack of focus on light industrial needs within the development areas.

While the report includes statistical census data relating to jobs, all of the discussion regarding “land capacity for growth” is focused on residential growth.  Albemarle planning staff has indicated it wishes to discuss industrial land in a separate portion of the Comprehensive Plan update, The Free Enterprise Forum disagrees. Now is the time to focus on the potential expansion of the development areas to accommodate job growth (and retention).

Way back in 2008, we wrote about the lack of Light Industrial land in Albemarle County.

In 2010 when Albemarle County’s Business Facilitator Susan Stimart produced her report on the Light Industrial land  it indicated only about 100 acres of Light Industrial Land was available.

Charlottesville Tomorrow penned an article about the 2010 report, citing the among the report’s conclusions:

In general, the report recommends the county take several steps to increase the amount of land available for industrial use. Using employment statistics extrapolated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Stimart estimates the county will need between 184 and 500 additional acres of land zoned for industrial uses by 2018 in order to meet future employment needs.

The article went on to quote one local environmental advocate’s opposition to development area expansion (and the related jobs).

Jeff Werner with the Piedmont Environmental Council said the county has squandered much of the land that had been zoned light industrial. During the residential and retail boom of the last decade, many properties that had been zoned for light industrial use were rezoned to make way for new developments such as Albemarle Place and Hollymead Town Center.

Werner specifically pointed to the March 2008 rezoning of 88 acres off of Fifth Street Extended to make way for a new shopping center.

“I don’t recall anyone from the development community raising any concerns about that,” Werner said

“Given that the county has been willing to rezone light industrial lands for retail, I see no need to expand the growth area.”

Mr. Werner is correct that land that was ill suited for industrial has been rezoned over the past decade. In each case the applicants successfully argued that their “stale” industrial zoned land had a higher, better use as residential or commercial should be rezoned to that use.   

When such upzoning  of industrial land occurs, if the community is committed to light industrial jobs, then there is a need for replacement capacity by expansion of the development area.

Earlier this year, in a meeting of industrial land users one more than one company indicated significant frustration with the lack of available industrial property and suggested they may be leaving Albemarle because of this lack of capacity.

Given that as a community we have limited funds to spend on infrastructure, doesn’t it seem silly to prohibit light industrial activity where the infrastructure already exists (or could easily be located)?

To be clear, changing the Comprehensive Plan does not change the underlying zoning on the land, it merely opens the opportunity for the land owner to request such a rezoning (and for the land owner to “voluntarily” proffer improvements required to mitigate the projects impacts).

Back in July 2008, Planning Commissioner Tom Loach indicated his preference was for Master Plans to dictate any changes to their respective development areas.  The Free Enterprise Forum  disagrees, the Board of Supervisors (and their appointees on the Planning Commission) are much better positioned to address county wide employment opportunity needs rather than  Master Planning Groups.

When we highlighted the shift of jobs moving out of manufacturing and into Leisure and Tourism (Making Products or Making Beds), we were taken to task by some asking what did we want government to do? 

Here is what Government can and should  do – Plan  for Job Creation and Retention.  If we fail to address this need in this Comprehensive Plan update, we are destined to lose enterprises.

Tuesday night the planning staff only wants to talk about residential growth, we suggest the Planning Commission lead the process by pushing staff to consider industrial expansion, now.

In Albemarle we are asking the Planning Commission to make Jobs- Job One.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

———————————————————————-

20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a 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

Louisa Candidate Forum Presented to Voters

By. John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

On September 22nd, the Free Enterprise Forum presented the first Louisa County Candidate Forum for the incumbents and challengers for the Board of Supervisors. The county has seven districts and, every two years, either three or four districts’ voters select their representatives at the polls. There are two contested seats in this election cycle, and one seat uncontested.

clip_image002[4]The event was held in the Great Room of the Bettie J. Queen Intergenerational Center and moderated by Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson. Dan Byers is the incumbent for the Jackson District and Troy Davis is challenging P.T. Spencer, who was unable to attend for medical reasons, for the Louisa district.

The event featured a series of eight formal, pre-disclosed questions regarding each candidate’s personal vision for the future of Louisa County. Questions regarding economic development, comprehensive planning, environmental issues, a disaster reserve fund, transportation and fiscal responsibility. The formal question and answer period, given in detail below, was followed by an informal discussion.

Question 1: What is your top priority for action by the Board of Supervisors if you are elected?

Mr. Wade: My top priority if elected is a bit of a twofold priority list as of right now. My long-term top priority for the board of supervisors will be to create jobs through economic development. My top priority at this red hot moment would be to develop a plan of action to help the victims of this most recent earthquake. I don’t think we should wait around on Federal aid options before we devise a plan. I think that if we get Federal aid then that’s great; we can help to reimburse the county for its expenses but we need help right now and I think a decisive plan of action is in order. That would be my top priority right now. (0:49)

Mr. Byers: Thank you, Neil and John, for hosting us this evening. Since I am currently serving with the Board of Supervisors I think one of the things I would like to continue working on is a greater…building a greater relationship among the various entities of county government and I think that, as Mr. Wade just mentioned, part of that would deal with the earthquake. As you are aware there has been a tremendous amount of time and effort that has been spent recently by members of the Board of Supervisors, the School Board, employees of the school system, employees of county government, various volunteer organizations and groups coming together, trying to embrace the building back of a community that had a devastation. To me, that goes a long ways in building the type of county that we all want to live and continue to work and exist in. In addition to that another top priority is to continue my efforts of looking at ways to streamline county government. I believe we have too much government , both county, state and federal, and I think we need to look at greater efficiencies in county government and I would continue to speak to that issue. (1:20)

Question 2: Do you support continued economic development in Louisa County? Why or why not? What policies would you support, or tools would you use to further this goal?

Mr. Byers: I certainly do support economic development. I think that’s a critical, or key, part or ingredient in making our county one that you can live in with a reasonable tax base. Economic development is certainly a central item and I think we need to look at economic development in the sense that there are many things that we need to do in order to have a place which is going to be attractive for folk coming in and then setting up developments, setting up businesses, and we have to have an infrastructure that will support that and also, we need to make sure that we are supportive by our actions to folks who want to come in and be a part of our community. Now, economic development is certainly something that is attracted to Louisa County because you find that in most of the areas, ‘Location, location, location!’ is a major attraction for companies wanting to come and locate here so we built ourselves an infrastructure, a system that trains people to be able to perform the jobs, we have the right location – economic development should grow well in our county. (1:!6)

Mr. Wade: I am a strong supporter of economic development in our designated growth areas which represent, if I am correct, about ten percent of Louisa County. One thing I love about Louisa is how rural we are. With close to ninety percent of our county being rural we get to have the best of both worlds here which is a small town rural county with all the services and amenities of more developed areas. The great thing here is all the development is going to be in a few specified locations without the effects of urban sprawl. I think economic development is an extremely competitive industry right now on the state and local level, with every state and locality fighting to land the same prospects. For that reason I think we need to be ready, to have the components in place, to land these companies and businesses. I-64 is our business backbone of Louisa County. Given transportation costs are high, the closer you can locate a business to an interstate the better its going to be. That said, it doesn’t really help out too much if you don’t have the infrastructure in place that you need, i.e., water, sewer, gas. Utilities are key component to economic development. We need to focus our efforts on growing our growth areas and getting these utilities to those markets. I know the county does have some policies for attracting businesses – some tax breaks to give existing businesses as well as new businesses but it needs to be a more streamlined process, kind of like Mr. Byers said earlier, we need a littler bit less red tape. As a small business owner I know that things move fast in a results base business world; its not always the case in government. I’d like to do a little bit to improve that. (1:37)

Question 3: How do we ensure the community infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, public safety facilities, libraries, etc. – is in place to support our current population, new development and redevelopment in our designated growth areas? To what degree should this infrastructure be funded by developer proffers?

clip_image004[4]Mr. Wade: I think that In this tough economic time the county needs to spend your money very wisely and as best as it can. I think public safety should always be a top priority. I think we have a great volunteer program [that] saves the county a ton of money working alongside our county’s paid service members do a fantastic job taking care of residents of Louisa County. After public safety I believe that the county needs to spend your money where it can garnish the best return on investment. In my opinion that would be building the infrastructure as in the growth areas to attract more businesses, therefore increasing our tax base as much as possible and giving the county more money to operate on. Proffers, I think, are a a bit of a twofold issue. I think that proffers can be good when you have a strong and thriving economy but I don’t think that proffers make much sense when you are in an economic crisis. When things are booming and everybody can make money developers can afford to pay some proffers but when lot sales are down by twenty-five to fifty percent no developer is going to come in and pay high proffers when they are not going to make any return on their investment to begin with so I don’t think we should let the allure of the short term gain – proffers on developers, proffers on investors – detract us from the long term goal which is an increased tax base for the long term. (1:32)

Mr. Byers: This is really a critical part of county government and a critical issue that we have to deal with every day and that’s an infrastructure. I think often people don’t realize the amount of money it takes in order to build and maintain an infrastructure that really is able to support a thriving community. As an example, we have just spent about twelve million dollars in Zion Crossroad on a waste treatment plant up there. There’s been some discussion with a similar system in the Lake Anna area which is about ten to twelve million dollars. If you add those monies up along with what may happen with the earthquake that’s a lot of money. And so, for me, what I like to do is to look at, long range, what is it going to take us to be able to attract the type of businesses that we need in ur county? How much is is going to cost us? How long is it going to take us to get our payback and how is that going to …I guess…impact our taxing revenues? Looking at all of that, we try to make some determination as to what level of infrastructure we can continue to support. I do believe that there’s a proper place for proffers. Developers typically come in, the proffers are passed on to the buyer. They usually don’t lose that money; they usually pass it on to the buyer. So we look at that and see. There has to be some…I think…buy-in from developers, some buy-in from businesses if we are going to continue to expand, because it is not an inexpensive process. And so, I think there is some opportunity to utilize proffers that helps to fund some of the infrastructure we have and some that we need. Infrastructure is really important and its one of the things that is constantly an issue before our board that we have to look at. (2:02)

Question 4: What steps, if any, do you think Louisa County should take to develop some sort of reserve fund to assist citizens with recovery from future declared disasters?

Mr. Byers: I think that has been demonstrated in the past few months there has been a lot of activity by county government looking at ways of being able to assist citizens who have the unfortunate experience of dealing with a disaster. I think when we look at that there is a number of opportunities that we have. One, we have an opportunity to put in place an educational component that talks about the types of insurances or protection that homeowners need to have in order to protect their valuable assets. Also, we need to look at working through our communities, through our churches, through other organizations helping to raise money. There are a lot of people that think that what we need to set aside some of the taxpayers’ money to do that. I believe that when we look at helping people, such as the persons that suffered from the earthquake, that becomes a benevolent issue. When we look at programs that we have, social programs, if there’s some opportunity to take some money, that’s been designated from that, to help set aside, there may be some application there, but I just find it difficult to levy against individual taxpayers to set aside a fund for what may or may not be needed. The federal government and state government already have programs in place that they use for funding disasters. When the state and federal government can send money to other countries, and to other areas, they ought to be able to help out here in our community of Louisa County. (1:38)

Mr. Wade: I think there definitely needs to be monies available to the citizens of Louisa County when disasters occur. That said, I agree with Mr. Byers and I think that we all pay enough federal and state taxes that we should be able to rely on federal and state funding in the event of a declared disaster. But also, that being said, I think we need to plan on how to help ourselves in the even that that help doesn’t come from anywhere else. I know from what I’ve seen since this earthquake that we are a strong community that’s come together to get through these tough times. We should have a plan to take care of our own regardless of how much or how little the federal government decides to help us. It should be a plan that cuts through red tape, and can go into action quickly. When elected to the board, I’ve got some ideas about this and I look forward to discussing those ideas with my fellow board members. (0:51)

Question 5: The Board of Supervisors allocates the funding for the schools, but the elected School Board dictates how those funds are spent. How do you think these two boards should interact?

Mr. Wade: I think that government needs a system of checks and balances and we have a system that incorporates those needs in place. The citizens elect the school board to decide on how best to run our school system. They elect the board of supervisors to appropriate the county’s funds responsibly and use it with the entire county as a whole in mind. I know there will always be heated discussions when it comes to funding our schools. The school board is concerned with the schools; that’s what they’re elected to do while the board of supervisors has the needs of the entire county to consider. I know there will always be differences of opinion when it comes to funding the school systems and I hope to bring calm with my limited problem solving approach to these discussions while keeping our ultimate goal in mind, which is the betterment of our children. (0:48)

Mr. Byers: One of the things that’s interesting about our county is that both the school board and the board of supervisors are elected. Each of us have distinctly different responsibilities. One of the things that’s really important is for each of the respective boards to realize what their responsibility is, and to work collectively in order to be able to have the best school system that’s possible. Now, it is appropriate, I believe, for us as members of the board of supervisors to ask pointed questions, trying to get sufficient information to be able to make a determination because we have to look at a kind of a multitude of essential services and try to determine how much money is going to be allocated to each of those service providers. Education is important, but I can tell you, its important at 3 o’clock in the morning when your house is being broken in that law enforcement is there. Its important for other types of services so we have to look and make sure that we allocate monies appropriately. So, I think that it really is important for us not only to have that relationship with the school board but also the constitutional officers but we have that. I think that the relationship between the board of supervisors today and the school board is as good as I have seen since I’ve been in this county and I’ve been here for sixty-seven years. (1:32)

Question 6: What are your thoughts regarding the size and location of the growth areas in the current County’s Comprehensive Plan?

clip_image006[4]Mr. Byers: As you perhaps are aware, we have nine designated growth areas. Four of them kind of go along the corridor of I-64, the Town of Louisa, the Town of Mineral, the Town of Gordonsville, and then Lake Anna. I believe, in looking at the county, I believe that they are fairly mapped out. Having served on the Planning Commission before, having looked at development in our county, and having looked at the infrastructure that we have in order to be able to support development and growth areas, I believe they are well-situated. In realizing that we have a fairly large number of growth areas for a rural county. When we look at developing growth areas, we have to look at long range. What is it going to take, what kind of infrastructure are we going to have to have to support that? And so, I believe we have a sufficient number now. I believe that we are going to see growth pick up in the Lake Anna area, and I think we are going to see I-64 develop more. I think its appropriate to look at those growth areas because most of them have good access roads, especially along the I-64 and they are areas that can attract economic development and help us with our taxes. (1:18)

Mr. Wade: I would tend to agree with Mr. Byers. I think our locations are perfect as they are and they are already establishing communities of their own, defined by their ow attributes. The four that stand out to me, as I perceive, are the big four, are Zions Crossroads, Ferncliff, Lake Anna and the Gum Springs area. Zions Crossroads, goes without saying, has great commercial potential and great residential base to support continued commercial development. The size is adequate for all we want to do and I think there’s a lot of potential there to help increase our tax base. Ferncliff, I envision as a lighter industrial office park type destination, accessible to commuters with great access to the interstate, we just need the utilities there; its going to be a really great price point for future growth in that area I think. Lake Anna – the residential densities are there to accommodate tremendous commercial and retail growth; the only issue with Lake Anna is water and sewer. If this part had water and sewer the potential is unlimited. We’d have hotels, shopping restaurants, town center living…the town center living concept. Gum Springs, I look at as kind of the…Zions Crossroads to Richmond; as Zions Crossroads is to Charlottesville. Get water, sewer out there would be great for proximity to Richmond, would make a great location for new commercial, residential development. From a pure revenue perspective, these locations would do a lot to provide a lot of tax revenue for Louisa County. The interstate locations pick up interstate business, the lake picks up summer visitors and tourists. I think most important the locations also attract residents from other counties that spend money and generate revenue for Louisa County which goes to pay for all of our services and benefits that we get to enjoy as citizens and they don’t have access to. Thank You. (1:56)

Question 7: What is the greatest issue that you believe Louisa County will face in the next four years? What are your plans to deal with this issue?

Mr. Wade: The answer to that question is pretty simple. The biggest issue we’re going to face is the biggest issue the country is going to face and thats an absolutely terrible and horrible economy and my answer is pretty simple. I plan to support our economic development department and our growth areas as much as possible to increase our tax base, help create jobs, and keep the tax rate on individual citizens as low as possible. I think we’ve got somewhat close to a fifty-five percent commuter rate for people living in Louisa County. Over half them don’t work here. The more industry, the more jobs we can bring to the county, the more people we can keep in house, I think the better off we’ll be. (0:40)

Mr. Byers: I think Mr. Wade really zeroed in on the fact that the economy has a major impact that’s one we’re going to have to deal with, perhaps for longer than four years. I think we have to look at ways of being able to provide essential services that are needed, within the bounds of the revenues that we have. I think that’s going to cause us to look more closely at spending and trying to make sure that there’s, everything that we do, that there’s a level of accountability that’s assigned to it that is equal or greater than the amount of money that we allocate to that particular activity. Funding is one of the major res- ponsibilities of the board; and when we look at funding we have to look at and define what the essential services are, and how best for them to be carried out. We have to reduce spending in areas if we are going to continue to absorb what’s being handed down to us by state and federal bodies. To be able to do that the money has to come from somewhere. You can not spend your way out of debt, so one of the things we have to do is to look at being able to provide more efficiencies in the processes that we have to undertake and so that’s an area that I’ve looked at in the past four years and I plan to continue looking at that with a keen eye towards conservatism if I am re-elected. (1:37)

Question 8: How should an elected official balance citizen input, staff input, and the goal of making decisions that are in the best interests of the community as a whole?

Mr. Byers: This certainly is a challenging process that we need to go through. I think one of the things we have to realize is that we are elected to an office to carry out the…I guess, the goals and ideals of a number of groups. One is the citizens that we serve, the voters, one is looking at the county as a whole, and the other taking into consideration a vast array of information that we are able to collect; maybe from other counties or other localities that have dealt with similar circumstances or situations. We try to fit all that information, glean as much as we can, look at what success had been from the types of programs and the decisions they’ve made and try to form the best informed decision. Often there are decisions that are made that have a greater impact on one part of the county than the other part of the county but the total county has to respond and so, citizen input is extremely important. It is extremely important before you get to the decision point. Also, staff…one of the things that has happened over the past four years is that we have employed some excellent staff. I think one of the things that we look at and certainly I have a keen eye towards, I want to make sure that when we hire somebody, if I have a role in that, that that person has integrity, that person has skills to be able to perform the job, that person has a passion for what they want to do and how they’re going to serve our county. I think that type of person helps to give us a lot of good staff input and we have to consider the staff input, we have to consider the citizens, and we have to consider what’s best for our county, and then we look at that and try to make the best decision we can…one that is not made to give us any praise but rather to accomplish our true goal of what we’re here to do. (1:58)

Mr. Wade: In my opinion board members are elected to represent their districts and Louisa County. Must be willing to listen to all points of view, from the staff, the citizens, in odrer to make well-informed decisions. I own a small business and I am a firm believer that you don’t micromanage people; you hire the right person to do the job and you let them do it. We have some really great personnel for county employees that have their eyes and ears immersed in the county’s affairs forty hours or more a week and I don’t believe there’s any way that the board of supervisors menbers can make a logical decision on any county affairs without their input. In Louisa we also have a very well-informed and passionate private citizens that always have opinions, be it same or contrasting to those in the public sector. The public, in my opinion, is the most important group to respectfully listen to whenever they have something to say, regardless of if you agree with them all or not. After all, they are the ones who put the beard members on the boar in the first place. (0:58)

Closing Statements

Mr. Wade: I would just like to thank you guys for having us out tonight. Like I said before, I am a small business owner, I’m an advocate for our public schools, I’m an advocate for our volunteer and paid services and I’m pro-economic development and land rights. I look forward to speaking with many of you in person if you want to and thank you again and I appreciate your help and support on November Eighth.

Mr. Byers: Thank you Neil and John for hosting this event this evening and thank you Mr. Wade for sharing this table with me. I am not a politician. I was asked to serve on the planning commission a number of years ago; I served there for seven years, three years of which I was chairperson. I spent a career in state government; I was fortunate enough to be able to serve on the executive staff there. I’ve implemented programs that affected up to fourteen million people. I supervised as much as twelve hundred folk but I think one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had is being able to serve on the board and being able to – I believe – to make a difference in the decisions that the county makes. I ran for the board the first time because I have a passion for this county. I’ve lived here all my life; my children were raised here and my grandkids are being raised here now. I enjoy living in Louisa County. I enjoy being able to have a rural atmosphere to grow up in. I enjoy being able to work alongside other fellow board members and other members of our county government and our community leaders in order to make this the best place that we can live and enjoy our lives.

———————————————–

John Haksch is the Louisa 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

“Business” 29 – The Road the Bypass Built

By. Neil Williamson, President

This editorial first appeared in The Daily Progress on Sunday October 2, 2011.

The Free Enterprise Forum and other organizations and citizens support construction of the US29 Western Bypass because it will alleviate congestion by taking thousands of vehicles off our community’s main commercial boulevard while increasing safety exponentially.

us 29 logoThe new 6.2 mile road features no exits, no intermediate interchanges, merely a northern and southern terminus. This is a true bypass.

Beyond the safety and improvement of freight, the Western Bypass will pave the way (pun intended) for the creation of the new ‘Business 29’.

Please let me explain.

Our stretch of US29 is the most dangerous portion of the entire US29 Corridor. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has reported that 49% of all motor vehicle accidents – 41% of all personal injury accidents – within the Commonwealth of Virginia along US 29 occur in Charlottesville or Albemarle.  The current roadway is increasingly unsafe and the US29 Western Bypass will increase safety on our main street dramatically.Rt29logocorridor study

Current VDOT data estimates that an average of 57,000 motor vehicles cross US29 at Hydraulic Road every day. VDOT has further estimated between 10%-20% of those vehicles are “thru-traffic” with no intention of stopping in our community. Using the median range (15%) means that more than 8,000 vehicles, many heavy trucks, would be removed. In addition each day as many as 10,000 or more vehicles within our region would bypass ‘Business 29’.

Health BenefitsThe Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not convinced of the linkages between health risks and roadway locations.  They have prepared detailed analysis regarding Mobile Source Air Toxic (MSAT) emissions indicating significant concerns with the data collection methods and the results of the studies recently quoted by ‘Business 29’ opponents.

In fact, the FHWA believes, “There is also the lack of a national consensus on an acceptable level of risk”.   Further, the FHWA using the EPA MOBILE6.2 Model projects advancements in regulations for vehicle engines and fuels will cause overall emissions to decline by 72% by 2050 while Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) actually increases 145%

speed limit 55Based on our analysis, we believe ‘Business 29’ will actually improve air quality by keeping the through traffic moving at 55 mph rather than creeping through fourteen (soon to be fifteen) stoplights.

us29 woodbrook rd 0830 7.27.11

US29 at Woodbrook

Freight Impact VDOT’s freight study earlier this year identified the US 29 Bypass as a “High Impact” roadway. Considering the fourteen traffic lights removed from the trip through Charlottesville, one can imagine not only the time and fuel savings but the environmental benefits of removing the tractor trailers stacking up from Best Buy all the way to Northrop Grumman.

Business 29’, unlike the five interchange expressway originallybike lane sign envisioned in Places29, will not be a shared superhighway ineffectively serving both local and through trips. Instead, this new road may allow some of the existing asphalt to be used for alternative purposes such as bike and transit lanes.

In addition without the demands of through traffic, the speed on the roadway could be reduced to make it much more of an urban boulevard rather than an expressway.

Albemarle’s Economic Engine A 2007 study conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum for the North Charlottesville Business Council tracked the economic impact of the North 29 area (called Workplace29).  The Workplace 29 report found that the North US 29 corridor:

· contributes over 45% of Albemarle County’s local tax revenue from less than 2% of the land area.

· supports approximately 20,000 jobs and provides over $800 million dollars in annual salaries to these workers.

· Non residential properties in Workplace 29 comprise .4% of Albemarle County’s land area and generate 60% of the non-residential taxes levied.

‘Business 29’ will revitalize the US29 North corridor. The Places29 vision includes outdoor cafés and wide urban sidewalks for window urban frontageshopping. Such enhancements can only be achieved with a slower paced main street rather than an expressway, with its five interchanges bisecting the community. Instead of eliminating existing businesses (and jobs) with enterprise consuming interchanges, ‘Business 29’ will allow existing businesses to expand and others to open.

Further, a local main street will make infill development significantlyPlaces29 Bistro Corner more attractive in the core of the development area rather than sprawling out into the edges. There is no way to achieve what Places29 envisions without removing some of the traffic from the corridor; it cannot function as both our “Main Street” and as our only north-south corridor.

This route was always a part of the plan. After studying approximately 27 possible road locations in the City and County, it was determined that the one with the least impacts, most direct path, and least cost was Alternative 10, (“Rt. 29 Western By-pass”).

Even though some of the areas on US29 North have been rezoned and/or developed since the study was originally prepared, these areas have been designated for high density growth since at least the 1984 Comprehensive Plan Land Use Plan. This designation was factored in when the original route was developed.

SignificantlyUS29_Charlottesville_Bypass_L, the route of the bypass has been on the Comprehensive Plan Land Use maps for many, many years.   The most recent map, which was effective up until Places 29 was approved, is entitled “2015 Land Use Map” and is marked “Adopted June 1996, Amended May 2010.”  So all land use decisions since at least 1984 were made with the expectation that this road follow this route and as recently as May 2010 Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan map envisioned this road in this location for its long range planning purposes.

Cost Factors. Recent reports have the cost estimates for the Western Bypass varying dramatically. The only way to determine the actual cost to build the roadway is to send the project out to bid, as was done this week. The Free Enterprise Forum sees no benefit to arguing about an internal VDOT project estimate when an actionable bid will be made available in the very near term.

All of the above raises the question, had this project been completed when first proposed how many millions of dollars may have been saved?

Should the taxpayers pursue legal action to recoup the increased opportunity costs?

It’s About Time. This is the time for ‘Business 29’ and the US29 Western Bypass to come to fruition. These roads will answer important transportation and economic vitality needs both for this community and the Old Dominion as a whole.

Each year the Federal Government and Virginia collect more than $40 million in motor vehicle taxes in Charlottesville and Albemarle.  The last major public road project completed locally is the widening of US29 (mid 1990s).  It has been estimated that as a community we have paid $600 million in motor vehicle taxes in the sixteen years since VDOT constructed any new road project here. It’s time our community got some of its infrastructure investment back.

Twenty years from now, citizens will look back on this discussion and not talk about the meritorious Western Bypass but instead wonder, as with the Route 250 Bypass, “How would our community survive without the vitality of ‘Business 29’?”

—————————————————————

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

Photo Credits: Albemarle County, VDOT