Monthly Archives: February, 2012

Reading the Local Tax Revenue Cereal Box

By Neil Williamson, President

Feet-on-treadmills-e1325683225938Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live healthier.  Some of these folks fill the local gyms for the first couple weeks of the year.  You know the type, hyper-energized to make a difference by adding exercise to their routine as they strategically park their car closest to the health club entrance.

However, those individuals who are most successful with their healthy resolutions recognize not only exercise (output) is important but what, andcerealboxesnutrition how much, you eat has a direct, dramatic impact on wellness levels.

How does this possibly relate to local government? 

Please let me explain.

The local government budget season is now upon us.  The annual, and often substantiated, cries of unfunded state mandates echo from Palmyra to Lovingston.  While “equalized” tax rates and assessment accuracy continue to be annual topics of controversy, The Free Enterprise Forum is examining the local tax revenue cereal box to see if there is anything we can learn from the revenue types and trends.

In the City of Charlottesville, for instance, almost 12% of all FY2013 General Fund revenue comes from the City/County Revenue Sharing agreement.  This is the second largest source of revenue behind only Real Estate Taxes which, at $50,074,178, make up just over 34% of General Find revenue.

house redIn the County Administrator’s proposed budget, Fluvanna County anticipates their real estate tax revenues will exceed $20.7 Million for FY2013.  This is more than double their actual collections for FY2011.  Real Estate Taxes are projected to make up more than 50% of their Local General Fund revenue.    

This compares favorably with Greene County where FY2013 Real Estate tax revenue is projected to be just over $12.5 million and represents just over 50% of total local revenueNelson County Real Estate Tax Revenue makes up 62% of its local revenue.

In Albemarle County FY12/13 Budget totals $311.7 million dollars.  According to the proposed budget the largest portion of revenue is coming from Real Estate taxes which is expected to generate $111.9 million or 50.4% of all local revenue.

Louisa County has the highest percentage of local tax revenue from property taxes with 87% of all local revenue represented by property taxes.  Interestingly in Fairfax County, 60.1% of Local General Tax Revenue comes from property taxes; to the tune of $2.1 Billion dollars. 

It is important to note that all of the above numbers include both residential and commercial real estate taxes. 

So of all of these localities, Charlottesville has the lowest percentage of General Fund Revenue from Real Estate at just over a third of local revenue. 

In addition, based on our initial analysis it seems that the recession is actually causing local governments to be increasingly dependent on local property taxes. 

Just as your doctor might suggest just exercising won’t make you fit, should we be looking at our local revenue sources?

While the budget battles wage on the Free Enterprise Forum asks rather than jockeying for what specific spending program should be increased or decreased what if localities worked to grow the revenue side of the ledger?

Just an idea.

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


Budget Woes Arrive in Fluvanna; Ullenbruch’s Support Erodes

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Well that did not take long. Just a week after Fluvanna County’s draft budget was announced, the fractures in the Budget Committee presentation appeared, with one committee member – new supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) backpedalling from his support for spending cuts and a large tax increase.

During the February 15th Board of Supervisors meeting, at which there was a paucity of substantive action, some budgetary outlines did emerge. Subsequent conversations showed even more fissures.

Both supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Ullenbruch opposed establishing a capital reserve fund that would allow for planned replacement and repair of county facilities and equipment. This was one of the more novel additions to the Capital Improvement Plan by the Budget Committee and is designed to institute a more professional approach to county management.

Mr. Weaver introduced a number of other budget cut proposals to the Board that would drastically reduce the need for major tax increase, but the supervisors took no action on his proposal. Mr. Ullenbruch sought to introduce into this budget operational funding necessary to support future capital improvement projects beyond FY 2013. Chairman Shaun Kenney politely informed him that such expenditures would be irrelevant until such time as the projects are undertaken.

Subsequent conversations with government officials revealed heightened frustration with the turn of events. Instead of working from an endorsed budget committee proposal to the supervisors, the backtracking began almost immediately. For example, small cuts to constitutional officers — less than $100,000 — now may be restored if one supervisor gets his way, according to one source.

Moreover there is a strong element of mistrust creeping into the whole process. One supervisor has accused the staff of duplicity, saying he “was duped”, according to a senior official. Moreover, Mr. Ullenbruch has publically informed his colleagues that he “probably knows more about the budget than anyone at this table”. Frequently he also has publically informed the staff that they are wrong on particular points.

Frustration also was evident when Ullenbruch could not get one colleague to support his “government reform committee” proposal. It went beyond the Board of Supervisors’ governing authority and his colleagues returned it to him for further work.

The supervisors will meet with the Fluvanna School Board on February 22nd for an initial budget discussion.


William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at

Louisa Planning Commission Approves Dominion’s Request for CUP Renewal

By John Haksch, Field Officer

The Louisa County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve Dominion’s request for a renewal of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the dry cask storage site at the North Anna Power Station (NAPS) at Lake Anna. The site stores the nuclear waste from their reactors until such time as a Federal storage facility (currently on hold in Utah) can be opened for business. The CUP has a built-in seven year review and renewal period.

A few nuclear power opponents spoke against approval, citing their views on the general evils of nuclear power but did not articulate any specific reasons for denying the CUP.

The contingent from NAPS provided a cogent, well-documented and illustrated presentation describing the current state of the storage facility, their expected storage needs for the life of the upcoming CUP, and their hazardous waste storage plans for the future.


John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support our work please donate online at

Louisa County Fire Chief Resigns

By. John Haksch, Field Officer

The Louisa County Fire Chief Scott Keim resigned Monday evening (2/20).  His resignation is effective as of the end of the month.    Keim was hired as Chief of the Louisa County combined volunteer and professional Fire and Rescue services in July of 2010, when Robert Dubé was promoted from the post to that of County Manager. The earthquake of August 2010 occurred on his watch and his tireless efforts to ensure citizen safety and to provide the county and FEMA with comprehensive damage assessments garnered him praise from every agency involved.

Mr. Keim cited personal reasons – wanting to spend more time with his family – for relinquishing his post and returning to his former position as a Fire Captain in Albemarle County.

Mr. Dubé stated that Assistant Chief Kenneth Greene will assume the duties of Chief until a replacement for Mr. Keim can be found. This process could take weeks or months, depending on the number and qualifications of the applicants for the position.


John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support our work please donate online at

Comprehensive Planning or California Dreaming?


by Neil Williamson, President

California DreamingCalifornia dreamin’
On such a winter’s day
John and Michelle Phillips, © 1966

Under the guidance of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC)Albemarle County, the City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are utilizing a nearly one million dollar grant to coordinate their respective comprehensive plan updates in support of a sustainable, interrelated, community. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has gone on the record several times in opposition to this additional level of bureaucracy (see TJPDC Institutional Arrogance Exposed, Programming the Livability GPS, Livability Grant Metrics and Methods).

It is important to recognize that Comprehensive Planning is a critical part of local government’s responsibility.  Virginia State Code mandates each locality prepare a Comprehensive Plan for its jurisdiction:

§ 15.2-2223. Comprehensive plan to be prepared and adopted; scope and purpose.

The local planning commission shall prepare and recommend a comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.

In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The comprehensive plan shall be general in nature, in that it shall designate the general or approximate location, character, and extent of each feature, including any road improvement and any transportation improvement, shown on the plan and shall indicate where existing lands or facilities are proposed to be extended, widened, removed, relocated, vacated, narrowed, abandoned, or changed in use as the case may be.

The Code makes it clear that the plan is to be “general in nature” but we have repeatedly seen localities, including Albemarle County and Charlottesville, creating very specific goals in their comprehensive plans.  While we applaud specific goals because they provide clear metrics, our concern is that the comprehensive plan process is too far removed from the budgetary process that might make these goals a reality.

many plans logoNow with the new “One Community” planning paradigm that includes a 76 page report on Performance Measurement System, it is clear to us that this process is completely removed from the very real decisions that must be made for such plans to come to fruition.

Back in August, Charlottesville Tomorrow covered a PC  meeting where Albemarle Planning Commissioner Don Franco (Rio) was quoted:

“What I see happening is that we’re creating this performance measurement system and I’m not sure what we know what we’re measuring yet until we know what our goals and objectives are as a community,” Franco said.

Based on our experience, we continue to see goals that have been set under the auspices of the Comprehensive Planning process [even to TJPDC’s Involvement] die at the Board of Supervisors or City Council due to a combination of a lack of funding and/or widespread public support. 

While the 1-Community plan does not set the Comprehensive Plan for the localities, we anticipate significant pushback if the approved Comprehensive Plan is not in significant accord with the document the TJPDC publishes.

Six months after the August Planning Commission presentation, Mr. Franco’s question still resonates and if such goals are clearly established by the governing bodies, will they be supported in budgets and action items? 

If not, just as the 1979 movie poster above suggests, we are “California Dreaming – a state somewhere between fantasy and reality.”

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

Greene Supervisors Fail to Approve Proffer Changes for Greenecroft Developer

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Despite the Greene County  Planning Commission’s unanimous decision in December to recommend approval of Ted Corp, Inc./Greenecroft LLC’s request to amend proffers for their nearly 24-acre tract Planned Unit Development (PUD), the new Board of Supervisors voted against the amendment at its meeting on February 14. Once again the argument for and against more rooftops in Greene took over at a public hearing, ending with tough news for the developer, who was hoping for greater flexibility in the use and design of a commercial property located on Route 33 West.

The proffers the Board had approved in July 2004 required the development to consist of a maximum of 21, one-acre commercial parcels. Rob Lynch, manager of Ted Corp, Inc./Greenecroft LLC, argued that, because of the amount of commercial space now available, this requirement has created a hindrance by not allowing the market to dictate the size of the parcels. “I would love to do more commercial, but there’s already a lot of unused commercial space in Ruckersville,” Lynch said, as he explained his request for more flexibility in being able to reduce the size of the lots and build townhomes as well while maintaining 30-percent commercial use. Although the planning commissioners had agreed that the mixed-use PUD was a good model for Greene, a majority of supervisors and some residents saw it differently.

Residents who were not in favor of this change expressed concerns about future water shortages, the impact that additional homes would have on the schools and fire and rescue services, and the amount of cash proffers being offered. However, most residents of Greenecroft and the Four Seasons subdivisions spoke very favorably of Ted Corp, Inc., as a conscientious and trustworthy developer. “This developer has been a class act in the three years I’ve been here,” said Greenecroft resident Mark Sanford, who saw this as an “attractive proposal. I believe we can trust what the developer will do.”

Greene business owners like Vic Shaff, who also resides in Greene, spoke in favor of the amendment, noting, “We need these rooftops,” and with townhomes shown to bring in “40 percent fewer kids, changing proffers makes sense.”

Supervisors Jim Frydl (Midway) and Eddie Deane (at-large) agreed and favored the amendment. “The whole point of a PUD is to meet the market,” Frydl said, adding that flexibility is needed in areas that the county’s comprehensive plan has determined to be growth areas. From the standpoint of calculating cash proffers for townhomes, Frydl said the calculation made sense, and noted there is a lack of this type of housing in Greene – an indication that townhomes would be a favorable addition.

But Chairman Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) and new supervisors Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) and David Cox (Monroe) voted against the request for various reasons, including concerns residents had addressed, such as a perceived increased need for sheriff, fire, and rescue services and a potential water shortage. Peyton seemed particularly concerned about changing the amount of cash proffers. “I don’t agree we should reduce proffers under any circumstances,” he told the board. As a result, they denied the developer’s request 3-2.


Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at

Fluvanna Adopts a New Budget Approach

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

As if to emphasize the dire budget constraints facing the county, Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors adopted a new budget approach for fiscal year 2013, which begins in July. A budget committee comprised of two supervisors, the interim county manager, and the finance director produced a balanced budget with a nearly twenty percent real estate tax hike over FY2012, but one designed to be stable for three years.

On February 3rd, the committee proposed a real estate tax rate of $.68 per $100 of assessed value, which might translate to a revenue neutral $.90 rate once the reassessment is completed later this year. Board Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia) has consistently argued for a “sustainable” tax rate that will take into account the county’s large debt service and provide some predictability for county residents. The current proposal appears to do that.

The proposed budget would make significant cuts in several county programs. For example:

  • · The county’s contributions to the school division would be reduced by $1.2 million, or 8.2 percent. Reportedly, the school board has considered requesting a $2 million increase over FY 2021;
  • · The county’s refuse convenience center would be closed;
  • · Two constitutional officers’ (Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue) would be cut deeply enough to cause possible layoffs ($81,000 combined);
  • · Other cuts would come from Parks and Recreation and Social Services (another $91,000).

The budget anticipates additional payments to: the Virginia retirement system, the county’s self-insured medical program, an employee bonus program, and an expanded public safety budget for fire and rescue.

The county also is looking to establish a capital reserve fund. The initial contribution for both the county and the school division would be about $600,000, and apart from vehicle expenditures, any left over funds would roll over into the next fiscal year. This approach would reverse long standing county policy of funding maintenance and replacement of county assets through the operating budget.

It is not clear whether or not the new budget approach will be successful. Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan attacked the proposal stating that it would pit one department against another, and when supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) heard the size of the proposed school contribution cut, she noted that these numbers could change.

But by making two supervisors part of the process, it will be difficult for the other three to stray very far from the overall parameters of the budget. Supervisor Robert Ullenbruch (Palmyra), a member of the committee who ran on a “keep taxes low and cut spending” platform, already has accepted a 19 percent tax increase. The big winners on the Board so far are Mr. Kenney, who achieved his “sustainable budget” objective, and supervisor Joe Chesser (Rivanna) who has long sought to develop the budget along more professional lines.

Budget work sessions will continue over the next two months with final adoption slated for mid-April.


William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at

Creating C-ville’s Human Rights Commission Crisis

By. Neil Williamson, President

Tonight, (2/6/12) Charlottesville City Council will be discussing the potential expansion of the “Dialog on Race” into a more carefully named Human Rights Commission.  This concept is a product of an action group out of the “Dialog” process.  Since late December, some have been working to create a crisis mentality regarding the issue.

Nothing in this post is designed to dispute that racism continues to exist in our community; rather it is to question the demonstrated need for a new $300,000 city department. 

Do the significant mechanisms that exist today not work?

Is there a crisis? 

If not why might some want a crisis to seem to exist?

In December’s City Council meeting, some indicated that ONLY a Human Rights Commission could solve the “structural issues of racism in our community”.  Interestingly late last month in announcing a lawsuit regarding gender discrimination the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated:

“The EEOC is uniquely positioned to challenge systemic hiring discrimination,” said P. David Lopez, General Counsel of the EEOC.  “Where necessary, we are prepared to use litigation to hold employers accountable for depriving qualified applicants of job opportunities, simply because of their sex.”

University of Virginia Professor Walter Heinecke is leading the charge for a Human Rights Commission.  He included EEOC statistics in his justification for the new board:

as of Oct. 14, there were 49 discrimination complaints made by citizens of Charlottesville in fiscal year 2011. Of those cases, 37 are still open. In 2010, there were 42 total charges, 36 of which are closed and six remain open.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been outspoken in its opposition to the creation of this duplicative agency.  In a previous post, we asked if we could be opposed to the commission and not seen as supporting racism. 

We have grave concerns that the commission, which was conceived without significant input from the business and property owner community it seeks to regulate, is designed with an assumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence.

As if to confirm these misgivings, the January 9th Daily Progress quoted, Jim Shea, of the Dialogue on Race Relations:

“If there weren’t opposition to this proposal, that would prove that it’s meaningless. The fact that there is opposition, it shows that it isn’t meaningless, that people are scared that they might get caught doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing,”

So if there is opposition, someone must be doing something that is improper?  We respectfully disagree.

In a memo to City Council, City Manager Maurice Jones is recommending a middle approach, working with a commission without investigative powers for a year and then determining if the need exists for additional Council action.  While the Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the effort to find an agreeable alternative, we continue to believe adequate implementation of existing regulations and enforcement mechanisms will better fight discrimination in our community than a new commission.

The middle road is not a path the proponents of the commission seem ready to embrace.  Their goal is to create false urgency to their proposal and bully City Council into a corner where a vote against their vision is a vote for discrimination.

In yesterday’s Daily Progress, there was further evidence of the creation of a crisis mentality that requires immediate action:

“Waiting another year is a common political stall tactic by the city,” said M. Rick Turner, president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP, which is backing the commission. “… They’re hoping that people will either forget or they’ll become less interested.”

This attempt to create a crisis mentality is not accidental, it is a proven advocacy technique.  Stanford Professor Tom Sowell wrote about crises creation in his  his 1995 book, The Vision of the Anointed:

Stage One: The “Crisis.” Some situation exists, whose negative aspects the anointed propose to eliminate. Such a situation is routinely characterized as a “crisis,” even though evidence is seldom asked or given to show how the situation at hand is either uniquely bad or threatening to get worse.

Stage Two: The “Solution.” Policies to end the “crisis” are advocated by the anointed, who say that these policies will lead to beneficial result A. Critics say that these policies will lead to detrimental result Z. The anointed dismiss these critical claims as absurd and “simplistic,” if not outright dishonest.

Stage Three: The Results. The policies are instituted and lead to detrimental result Z.

Stage Four: The Response. Those who attribute detrimental result Z to the policies instituted are dismissed as “simplistic” for ignoring the “complexities” involved, as “many factors” went into determining the outcome. No burden of proof whatever is put on those who had so confidently predicted improvement. Indeed, it is often asserted that things would have been even worse were it not for the wonderful programs that mitigated the inevitable damage from other factors.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the implementation plan for the Charlottesville Human Rights Commission is Stage Two of Sewell’s vision.  We fear economic hardship, for businesses and in turn residents will be Stage Three and then you will hear calls from the community bemoaning the loss of jobs and commercial tax revenue as businesses flee the overregulation and high taxes of the city.

It does not have to be this way.

Charlottesville City Council should not be bullied into this new expansion of government power.  Instead, they should look at the problem, and the considerable resources available to combat it and determine if (and why) the existing solutions do not meet the needs of those impacted. 

Importantly enterprises, big and small, should be a part of this discussion; for only with the consent of the governed will such regulations ever work.

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

Predicted Sharp Decrease in Property Values Could Reduce Greene Tax Revenue

By Pauline Hovey, Field Officer

At the request of Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Buggs Peyton (Standardsville), various county offices, Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue, provided public presentations of their various department functions and financial updates at last Tuesday night’s board meeting. While the Board has requested written reports from these offices, this marked the first time a chairman had requested such a presentation, most likely to familiarize the three new board members with county procedures.

Greene County Commissioner of the Revenue Larry SnowCommissioner of Revenue Larry Snow (photo left) offered the most noteworthy news of the evening when he suggested that this year’s property reassessment, which will be completed this fall and go into effect January 1, 2013, will create “a sharp reduction” in property values, maybe as much as 15 percent. “Assessors are saying our property values are high,” Snow reported, warning the board that if his prediction is correct, “we will probably lose $1.5 million in revenue.” That’s not good news for the county, which is already anticipating a more than $2 million shortfall in state and federal funding for education.

In order to “streamline the process” for potential businesses desiring to locate in Greene, Supervisor Jim Frydl suggested the commissioner’s office have a work session with Economic Development Authority Director Tony Williams, County Planning Director Bart Svoboda, and others involved. Frydl would like to see brochures or other types of written materials available to better assist those interested in coming to Greene.

Treasurer Stephanie Deal, who was elected one year ago facing the challenge of dealing with unreconciled accounts, offered a most impressive report of her ability to turn that office around. Greene County has an impressive collection rate of 92 percent overall: a 94 percent collection rate in real estate, 81 percent for personal property, and 98 percent for public service corporations. “This speaks very highly of our citizens and their desire to pay their taxes,” Deal said. But Supervisor Frydl gave Deal much credit, noting the county’s collection rate is better than the state average and “speaks to your office as well.”   Deal was reelected to a four year term in November of 2010.

Among Deal’s goals for the county are establishing an online tax payment system, getting payment arrangements in place for those residents who need help paying real estate taxes, and establishing a new banking relationship as Bank of America will soon close its Stanardsville location. Since the treasurer’s office conducts all its automatic deposits and other banking at this location, Deal expects the closing will “dramatically affect” her office.

Public Safety Director Dave Lawrence ended his detailed presentation on the county’s Emergency Operations Plan with a request to pursue the possibility of a grant to establish an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Apparently, Greene currently does not have such a center. “It would give the county an extremely secure, centralized location to go to in an emergency,” Lawrence said, urging the board to approve his request to move forward in determining whether the county would be eligible for a grant to establish an EOC. Supervisors unanimously approved his request.

With some discussion, supervisors also agreed to grant the sheriff’s office approval to apply for a $25,000 grant from the Department of Criminal Justice to start up a program on combating Internet crimes against children. Although this is a one-time grant and Supervisor Frydl was concerned about where the money would come from to continue the program, Greene County Sheriff Steve Smith suggested once the program is started, his department can seek federal and state funding in the future.


Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at

Fluvanna Planners Set CIP Priorities

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna Countys Planning Commissioners unanimously forwarded the staff’s capital improvement (CIP) budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on January 25th. The CIP calls for spending $21.3 million over the next five years on such facilities as a new swimming pool, an intergenerational center, and a new animal shelter. There also is a major E-911 planned upgrade that will cost some $4.9 million over the next two fiscal years.

The Planning Commission recommended the E-911 upgrade as the most critical project facing the county and also recommended that the supervisors fund the school bus and patrol car requests – an additional $2.8 million over the next five years.

There are also school upgrade projects highlighted and a capital reserve fund proposal that would be drawn upon for emergency repairs. The initial reserve would be funded at $156,000 and surpluses would be carried over year to year.

At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, planners also invited public comments on the sign ordinance with a view towards amending it if necessary. In recent months the ordinance has become a contentious issue among some members of the business community.

Only five members of the business community provided comments, none of which addressed specific concerns, but were more concerned that the county provide a “business friendly” environment. One businessperson: former supervisor Chris Fairchild disagreed and stated that he believed the environment already was friendly towards business. The Commission will consider some changes and will report back to the supervisors after it holds a public hearing, expected in April.

As reported in an earlier blog, the Planning Commission has an ambitious work program scheduled for the coming year. Here is a list of the major issues to be considered as well as the anticipated month for the public hearing on each:

· Amend the parking and landscaping sections of the Zoning Ordinance – April

· Amend the Sign Ordinance – April

· Amend A-1 zoning district and create a new rural zoning district – June

· Develop a cash proffer program – July

· Develop specific program policies for the transfer/purchase of development rights – October

· Review of the Conservation Easement Program – December

After the public hearings, commission recommendations would be forwarded to the supervisors for appropriate action.

Planners also selected a new chairman and vice-chairman to serve in 2012. The new chairman is James Halstead Jr. (Palmyra district) and Donald Gaines (Rivanna).

The next meeting will be held on February 22nd.


William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at