Monthly Archives: March, 2012

Louisa Considers Edible Economic Development

By. John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

In their meeting last week (3/19), Andy Wade, Director of the Louisa County Department of Economic Development (LCDED), presented a new twist on incentive programs to the Board of Supervisors – huge incentives that the county normally offers to large industrial projects – targeted in part at wholive-garden-logoat would be considered, were they not part of a major corporation, to be essentially ‘mom & pop’ businesses. Specifically mentioned as an example was The Olive Garden, a part of the Darden portfolio of restaurants.

Mr. Wade’s proposal would offer a mix of incentives including tax breaks, utility fee waivers and – most troublesome – an up-front payment of up to $500,000 to the owners to help defray the costs of building the business here in the county. clip_image002

This amount is subject to recovery through meals and sales tax revenues – but only if the business does well. One must question whether there is a large enough potential customer base for an eatery to generate the ‘rosy-glasses’ $3,000,000 first year gross sales projected by the LCDED.

It is not clear if the earnings of – at most – twenty or so employees at less-than-median wage jobs and a modest tax revenue increase would justify tying up a half a million dollars of otherwise interest-earning county funds for nearly three and a half years. Further, the document presented to the board confuses return on investment(ROI) with funds recovery. The plan, as presented, shows no real ROI for more than three years…not such a bargain!

One has only to look eastward down the I-64 corridor to see West Creek and White Oak, both projects that cost their local taxpayers many millions in infrastructure improvements only to have the projects – and the carrot of promised jobs – vanish with a few apologetic shrugs. These were major initiatives by giants in their fields, each with a huge international customer base.

How much more risky is a restaurant, regardless of its name recognition, that is dependent on the fickle tastes and economic success of the general public?

Fitzgerald BarnesFitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District) commented that “There’s not a board member that has not been hit by the word, ‘When will Louisa get an Olive Garden?”

The Free Enterprise Forum asks is the culinary preference of a few constituents good enough reason to risk the hard-earned taxes of the vast majority of our citizens, who are more concerned with getting bread on their tables than where to get warm breadsticks delivered to their table?

In the end the incentive package framework passed unanimously with the understanding that each and every applicant seeking any (or all) of these incentives will require Board of Supervisors approval.

Considering the pressing needs of county infrastructure, massive damage from our earthquake, and threats of VDOT devolution the Free Enterprise Forum wonders if there are more constructive uses for limited revenues than creating economic development incentives for chain (or any other) restaurants. 

It would seem that economic development activity should be focused on increasing employment opportunities for Louisa County citizens not expanding culinary options.

In many respects if Louisa County had stronger economic demographics, population and infrastructure, it could be argued such businesses would come without any local government incentives.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo credits: Olive Garden, Louisa Department of Economic Development, Louisa County

Garbage In, Garbage Out at the TJPDC

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s (TJPDC) 1-community  Livability Project is at it again.

In last month’s Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting.  Livability Project Manager Planner Summer Frederick  presented a new tool that allows certain areas, states and large metropolitan areas to asses the cost of living for their geographic areas using both housing and transportation costs.  The mapping device focuses in on areas that utilize more than 45% of their income on housing and transportation. 

First and foremost, the Free Enterprise Forum questions the need for the MPO [ federally mandated to advise on transportation funding]  to be engaged in this discussion as it represents much of the mission creep we have written about recentlyIf we get past that philosophical issue, we not only question the validity of the data and but also the objectivity of the source.

The mapping device was created by the official sounding Center for Neighborhood Technologies (CNT).  A quick review of the CNT website reveals the true nature of their work is advocacy:

Building coalitions to advocate for public policies that can help address urban sustainability issues.

But clearly the biggest problem with this new tool is that IT’S WRONG!

As 30 year transportation veteran Alan Pisarski documented in his op-ed piece in Sunday’s (3/25) Washington Examiner:

The figures presented by CNT seem distant from reality. More importantly, they are inconsistent with data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one of the main sources of the Consumer Price Index. The government’s numbers suggest that the basic housing and transportation costs of suburban and rural life remain slightly more affordable than cities, and far more affordable if homeownership rates are factored in.

The BLS survey shows that CNT is just wrong about the sums of transportation and housing costs. The CNT numbers suggest that transportation spending runs about 26 percent of average household expenditures instead of the 16 percent in the BLS reporting for 2010. Their average for the Washington area is only reached by the highest income quintile of Americans, according to BLS. [Emphasis added-nw]

In the February MPO meeting, but not reflected in the draft minutes, Frederick said the purpose of our participation is simply participation and “she would not question the data”. 

The February draft minutes do reflect questions one MPO member raised about the data:

Mr. Lafferty stated that he was surprised that Scottsville was showing up under the 45% threshold. Ms.Fredrick stated that the area could be close to the 45%, or residents of Scottsville proper are not commuting as much as people who live on the route 20 corridor.

The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that questionable data is being accepted as fact and the maps developed from such data will then form the rationale for the development of the “livability” project that will inform both the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle Countys Comprehensive Plans.

The draft February minutes reflect this direction when they report:

[MPO Chair Kristin] Szakos stated that she thought the tool was highly informative, because it showed that living further from the urban core might not be as cost-effective as people think.

The logic of Szakos’ comment is troubling (and could be misquoted in the minutes) but would the tool be less informative if the results were different?

The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the MPO not only to  dig deeper into the data and data sources being used for creating our community’s livability project but to question the idea of using this erroneous tool at all.

Perhaps for the livability project the old saying of garbage in, garbage out should be changed to compost in, compost out.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Opts For 11-Cent Tax Hike

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

On March 21stFluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to advertise an increased real estate tax of 11 cents for fiscal year 2013 to $.68 per $100 of assessed value, a 19.3 percent increase over the current $.57.     Supervisors Shaun Kenney (Chairman, Columbia), Joe Chesser (Rivanna), and Mozell Booker (Fork Union) supported the measure. The personal property tax rate will remain the same at $4.15 per $100.

The Board can reduce the tax rate below the advertised rate but it can not go above the advertised rate.

The decision came quickly after prolonged internal discussions that fractured the Board’s comity at times. Essentially, the supervisors agreed to fund all departments at a tax rate of $65.5, and then agreed to add an additional $900,000 to the school division budget to cover the costs to open the new high school.

The school division will receive $14.85 million in local funds, up from just under $14 million, a 6.5 percent increase. The schools had asked for a $1.4 million increase, or a 10 percent hike. One highly placed school official, when asked if the final $14.85 million figure were ”doable”, replied: “oh sure”.

Other cuts that were restored included those to the Commissioner of the Revenue, the Treasurer, and Social Services. The Board also funded a “capital reserve” (depreciation) fund. Additional details will be provided once the final budget is adopted in April.

In other business, supervisors also terminated a one-year experiment in self-insured health care and instead will link up with a program that is managed by Anthem Blue Cross and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

3/23/2013 – Additional information added for clarification- Neil Williamson

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Albemarle’s ARB wants to be VDOT?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In their March 19th meeting, the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) was considering a lighting application from the Shops at Stonefield [US 29 at Hydraulic]. 

In the discussion, one member of the ARB suggested part of the photometric plan presented included lighting so bright it could distract drivers and impact automobile safety in the intersection. The applicant countered that the plan had been fully vetted and met or exceeded all of Albemarle’s existing lighting ordinances.  In this instance the ARB seems to be acting like a black hole, opining on  anything and everything in the application regardless of limitations on its authority.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has a very specific mission:

    Our mission is to plan, deliver, operate and maintain a transportation system that is safe, enables easy movement of people and goods, enhances the economy and improves our quality of life.

To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum has no position on this, or any other specific application but it seems clear that this ARB member is well outside of the ARB bounds set by the state code:

Section  15.2-2306  of  the  Code  of  Virginia  authorizes  localities  to  regulate  the  design  of development along streets, roads, and highways providing significant routes of tourist access to the County and to designated historic landmarks, structures or districts and to contiguous cities
and towns to insure that such development is compatible with the architecture of the historically significant landmarks, buildings, and structures to which these routes lead.   These “entrance corridors” have been designated by the locality.  The review of development proposals within such corridors is to be undertaken by the locally designated Architectural Review Board.

While the Free Enterprise Forum believes that Albemarle has expanded the concept of Entrance Corridors beyond the state intent (There are 21 Albemarle roads designated as “Entrance Corridors”) our larger concern in this post is the unabated mission creep that seems to be crop up annually.  Back in February 2011 in our “Anti Business Mission Creep” post we documented several instances where the ARB was “difficult” with new businesses.

It’s not that Albemarle County’s materials do not clearly state the scope of influence.  The ARB’s own glossy brochure describes their function in this manner:

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) is responsible  for  regulating  the  design  of development in the County’s Entrance Corridors.     The  purpose  of  the  ARB’s review  is  to  ensure  that  development  in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture  of  the  area and  that development within the corridors is orderly, attractive,  and  enhances  the  community’s quality of life.

The linguist in me sees the language “enhances the quality of life” as problematic.  It could be argued that everything from the building materials used to the products sold might impact the community’s quality of life.  But the reality is the ARB has a limited scope of work.

It is interesting to note not fifteen minutes prior to the Stonefield application, this same board member was quoting chapter and verse out of the ARB’s Design GuidelinesThe fact that these design guidelines say NOTHING about ARB purview on vehicular safety was not adequately discussed.

It seems clear to this regular ARB meeting attendee that quoting the guidelines only when it suits your opinion is somewhere between disingenuous and hypocritical. 

Considering Albemarle County’s stated desire to be business friendly, one might think the Board of Supervisors appointees on the ARB would stick to their knitting and allow Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) do their state mandated job and worry about traffic impacts.  Unless on any particular application such a division of labor doesn’t suit their ideological interventionist philosophy.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene County Receives Outstanding Financial Report, $16 M in Reserves

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Within days of receiving an impressive financial report setting thevgt Greene County’s reserve fund at $16.2 million, the Board of Supervisors learned that a major county employer, Video Gaming Technology (VGT), will close its doors, meaning the loss of as many as 250 jobs and $129,276 in business and personal property tax.

How that closing might affect the county is uncertain, but for now the county is in excellent financial condition, according to financial audit reports supervisors received from Robinson, Farmer and Cox Associates at their meeting last week. Here are the highlights of a comparison of fiscal year data through the end of June 2011:

  • Greene County debt reserve has dropped 79.3%
  • Unreserved funds have risen from $.02 million to $16.2 million
  • As a percent of the annual budget, unreserved funds rose from 0.4% to 31.5%
  • The general fund balance has gone from $3.3 million to $16.3 million – a 394% increase
  • Net assets have increased 125 percent

These are impressive reserves for a county that only 10 years ago was borrowing money to pay bills. Now supervisors must decide how much to keep in reserve and where and how to spend the remainder. There’s no shortage of choices, as Greene County has some challenges ahead.

In addition to the closing of VGT, the county faces significant decreases in state funding, which will particularly affect the school budget, and a decrease in property taxes with the upcoming property reassessment. Added to that is the impending capital projects and current and future needs, including water impoundment, which will surely be needed, based on continuing growth in the Ruckersville area including the supervisors recent rezoning approval planned unit development (PUD) on Route 29 north that will bring townhomes to Greene County.

Supervisors are in the midst of the 2012/13 budget process and currently reviewing the capital improvement program. Stay tuned for more developments.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Clean House, Firing Staff

By William Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Planning Director and former acting county administrator Darren Coffey has been fired over the pay increase scandal enveloping Fluvanna County. The supervisors announced this after emerging from a closed session on Wednesday night. Also fired were Finance Director Renee Hoover, county engineer John Robins, Parks and Recreation Director Dwight Godwin, and the human resources director.

The purge leaves the county with only one staff member supervising any personnel: Garland Nuckles of the public works department.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org


All Survey Questions Are Not Equal

By. Neil Williamson, President

Surveys are interesting and valuable tools for gauging public opinion.  They are limited however because as they seek to provide important contextual information to create an informed answer, they often slip, perhaps unintentionally, into a “push” poll, predetermining the outcome.

The recent  Jefferson Area Community Survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research (CSR) at University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center offers some questions that in their wording or position (fixed, not randomized) in the questionnaire might prove questionable.

In a telephone interview, CSR Director Dr. Thomas Guterbock indicated each of the survey sponsors paid CSR a fee per question to be asked.  Thomas Jefferson Health District, Charlottesville Gas, WTJU (Public Radio) and the Jefferson Area Board on Aging along with Charlottesville Tomorrow funded the survey.

It is important to note, Charlottesville Tomorrow should be applauded for paying for what looks like the majority of the survey because it does provide many interesting data discussion points.  We do take issue with several of the questions.

First and foremost The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates that the survey repeated the question we posed in our 2004 Transportation Survey:

Do you believe a U.S. Route 29 Bypass around Charlottesville is needed, or not.

bypass Survey HeadlineAs survey questions go, this is a clear black and white question.  Over two-thirds (69.3%) of respondents said that such a bypass was needed.  This was even greater than the approval rating in our 2004 Survey.

The next question, however, fell into the aforementioned “contextual quandary”

As you may know, a Western Bypass of U.S. Route 29 has been approved. Some people have recommended alternative transportation investments as being both more effective in reducing traffic congestion and costing less than the bypass. Do you favor or oppose our elected officials evaluating these options as an alternative to the Western Bypass? Would you say you . . . .
1 Strongly favor
2 Somewhat favor
3 Somewhat oppose
4 Strongly oppose
8 UNABLE TO RATE/DON’T KNOW
9 REFUSED [emphasis added-nw]

Should more cost effective alternatives be considered? 

Who could be opposed to this? 

When the Free Enterprise Forum asked CSR Director Dr. Guterbock directly if he felt this question was fair, he said he believed the question was a fair “hypothetical” question.  We respectfully disagree.

This question provides as a given that such alternatives exist, and infers that funding could simply be shifted from one project to another.  The Free Enterprise Forum contends neither is the case.  In such a “What if” question It is NOT surprising that over 66% somewhat favor or strongly favor evaluation of alternatives.  What is surprising is that the rate is not higher considering the phraseology of the question.

There is a theory in survey research regardingCT Survey Graphic question ordering.  If you examine the order the questions regarding Albemarle County’s growth management strategies the survey starts with what I call an apple pie question:

“How important is the rural countryside, Albemarle County’s farms, fields, and forests, to your quality of life?

This question was asked in Charlottesville Tomorrow’s previous survey. While we can appreciate the desire for question integrity by repeating  the same questions that were asked in previous surveys, we find ourselves repeating the same criticism we raised in the earlier surapple pie sweetpeaskitchenvey.

Words like rural countryside, farms fields and forest have a positive, warm and fuzzy connotation and tend to elicit a positive result.  Considering there is no cost in the question, who doesn’t like apple pie.

After getting the majority of respondents to say, absent any cost, they value the rural countryside, the survey rolls into a series of questions about the Western Bypass and then comes back to a rural areas question:

Do you favor or oppose having the County Board of Supervisors change Albemarle’s designated growth areas to create new locations for business on land currently zoned as rural countryside?

Not only does this question not include any cost issues, it could be inferred that the entire rural area may be in jeopardy.  There really is no “right” way to ask this question without shading the answer.

I believe the answers would have been different if asked in the same tenor as the Western Bypass Alternatives Question above: 

PROPOSED SURVEY QUESTION: The Existing Development Area Boundaries were established in 1980.  Much has changed since then.  Some have indicated that Albemarle County is losing career ladder jobs, should supervisors consider alternatives to the current growth area boundaries that will promote economic development and allow new jobs to come to Albemarle?

If the question was asked, what do you think the response to such a question might be?

Do you think such a question is fair?

Compare this question to the one listed for the Western Bypass Alternatives.  Now do you think either is a fair way to gauge public opinion?

After examining the Jefferson Area Community Survey, we find we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: graphics: Charlottesville Tomorrow, Photo www.sweetpeaskitchen.com 

 

Pay Dispute Rocks Fluvanna Government

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Last December unbeknownst to Fluvanna County Supervisors, the acting county administrator, Darren Coffey, authorized pay raises to numerous county employees, even as the Board was signaling that there would no increases for yet another year.

Details are murky but according to several sources the amount in question is about $120 thousand (annualized), and department heads were authorized to determine the amount employees received. One well-placed source said that employees also were instructed to remain silent about the issue.

It is this “cone of silence” that has vexed some supervisors. It suggests, according to one, that senior staff anticipated that supervisors would react badly if the pay hikes were publicized. County employees have not received any pay raise for four years, and personnel turnover is currently running at just under 20 percent per year.

One supervisor also may request a state investigation into the issue. This supervisor stated that the Board no longer trusts senior staff and it would be ludicrous to ask the staff to investigate themselves.

Fluvanna BOS 2012Supervisors met in closed sessions that lasted for several hours at both the start and end of the scheduled Board meeting on March 7th. The Board removed Mr. Coffey as acting administrator and ordered written reprimands for each department head that participated in the pay hike program.

Board Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia) is now interim County administrator.  The staff raises have been rescinded but the county will not seek reimbursement of the funds already provided to some 30 employees.  According to sources, the cost of recovering the funds might exceed the amount distributed.

In other actions at the meeting, the Board:

· Directed the county attorney to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court the dismissal of its multi-million dollar lawsuit against Davenport & Co.; and,

· Heard thirteen presentations by local agencies seeking funding contributions for FY 2013.

The staff also presented the 2011 Development Activity Report, which will be the subject of a separate posting.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

Why Albemarle’s “Fast Track” Is Headed Off The Rails

By. Neil Williamson, President

In yesterday’s (3/7) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting there was a staff presentation and discussion of creating a “fast track” for select industries that require land use designation changes.

gettingdownunderAaron Richardson of the Daily Progress has a very good synopsis of the “bickering” story.  The real disagreement between the supervisors seemed to be a deep philosophical rift regarding how much review should be waived, or accelerated, for one particular desired business and how would businesses could qualify for the accelerated review.

The reality is that some portion of the Board is looking to set the business qualification bar so high that no business could qualify.

The Staff Report suggested only those businesses identified in the soon to be released Targeted Industry conducted by the  Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED).  In addition to being identified in the TJPED Study staff suggested additional specific objective criteria must be met to qualify for the Fast Track:

Staff recommends that a formal fast track review process be reserved for qualified target industry enterprises located within appropriately designated development areas that also meet two or more of the following criteria:
 Projects that provide a minimum (amount to be determined) number of jobs with higher wages than the prevailing County average;
 Projects that bring in a minimum (amount to be determined) capital investment;
 Projects that are anticipated to result in a minimum (amount to be determined) positive fiscal impact to the County; and
 Projects that generate over 50% of their revenue from outside the TJPED region. [emphasis added-nw]

In discussion, several Supervisors thought any qualifying business should meet all of the criteria.  Mr. Rooker was concerned that the environmental impacts of the business were not a part of the fast track qualification.

It seemed obvious from the discussion that some of the supervisors had great trepidation about creating any process that would accelerate the approval process for anyone.

Other localities in the state, those that are eager to embrace new business, have set up fast tracking of applications for specific targeted areas.  As an example, Loudoun County makes their  “modified approval process” for the following types of projects:

New construction for businesses in these targeted industries:

So Loudoun has created a list of specific industries it wants to attract and is actively providing those industries staff support and expedited review – this is not rocket science folks.  But considering the tenor of the conversation yesterday the Free Enterprise Forum believes the battle over which projects should be fast tracked is a waste of time. 

If Albemarle County is not willing to use the TJPED targeted industry study as the only filter for fast tracking projects, then they should focus all of their limited staff time on fixing the track for everyone.

If instead, the citizens of Albemarle wish to see more career ladder jobs moving into the surrounding counties, do nothing.  In that case, I predict very few, if any, of the new “targeted industries” will locate in Albemarle. 

Perhaps, that was idea all along.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: gettingdownunder.com

 

FCI’s Greene County Development Proposal Narrowly Approved, 3-2

By Pauline Hovey, Field Officer

After a two-hour public hearing on Tuesday (2/28) evening, the Greene County Board of Supervisors approved, by a vote of 3-2, a controversial planned unit development (PUD) on Route 29 north that will bring townhomes to Greene County.

“This will put us in a unique market position that nobody’s serving right now,” Steve Jones, chief operating officer of Fried Companies, Inc., said after the meeting. “We think this is a better project that will provide more market diversity. There already are many single family options out there.”

The applicant BlueMarle LLC/Missus LLC/Fried Companies’ had requested a rezoning that would allow the developer to change its model from an approved 800 unit by-right subdivision to a PUD of 1,180 dwelling units, to include no more than 600 single family homes and 580 townhomes. This request has raised the ire and interest of local residents and businesses over the past several months, attested by the standing-room-only crowd that turned out for the public hearing.

Of particular interest here and in the Board’s recent denial of Greenecroft’s application to amend proffers is that both decisions are in opposition to the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The Planning Commission had unanimously recommended approval of Greenecroft’s request, which also would have brought townhomes to the county and created less controversy among residents, and unanimously recommended denial of the BlueMarle/Fried Companies’ request.

About a dozen people on either side of the issue addressed the board, with many local business owners supporting the rezoning request because of the anticipated increase in their business and boon to the local economy the additional homes would bring. Referring to Fried Companies’ proposal to build the additional 380 homes over a 20-year period, Alan Pyle, owner of The Lafayette Inn in Stanardsville, said, “The question is, what do we have to gain for the extra 19 new homes per year?” Pyle noted the developer already has approval for 800 by-right homes on that site, so the traffic will increase regardless. But, he argued, if supervisors did not approve this PUD, they would not only not receive needed proffers but would eventually pass on the county’s water and sewer financial needs to taxpayers.

Pyle’s sentiments were echoed by other business interests such as the owners of the local Dunkin Donuts, Fabio’s Restaurant, and Anytime Fitness; Jim Kuznar of the Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association; Harry Daniel, principal of the Greene County Tech Center; and Don Pamenter representing the Economic Development Authority board.

Those speaking against the rezoning were concerned about the additional traffic, the condition and safety of Preddy Creek Road, the increased need for fire and rescue services, the impact on the school system, and the county’s growing water and sewer needs. Some suggested the board take time to consider all options, including additional proffers, before approving the request.

“The capacity of the sewer plant will be reached without these additional homes,” warned Andrea Wilkinson, of the Ruckersville Citizens Council.

carl_schmittFormer supervisor Carl Schmitt had several issues with the proposal, including the unneeded increased residential potential, noting that Greene County “is second only to Albemarle in population density,” and the public water supply. “We don’t even have the permit application approved yet,” he said of the water impoundment project. “Few people appreciate the difficult situation we’re in.”

Based on the number of townhomes expected to be built as a result of the rezoning, the applicant estimates the county will receive $7.6 million in tap fees. This amount is based on Greene’s current $20,000 combined water and sewer hookup fees. Proffers offered are $1.6 million in transportation improvements, three acres of land dedicated to public use, $570,000 in cash, and $1,500 per single family unit for the first three units. The developer is proffering a connector road running east to west, from Preddy Creek Road at its intersection with Autumn Oaks Lane through the development emptying onto Route 29. Although Jones said they would build the connector road, which was recommended in a traffic impact study, before any homes are constructed, the road is contingent upon VDOT’s approval of a traffic signal and entrance location on Route 29. Jones argued it would relieve the congestion on Matthew Mill Road that residents experience during commuter hours. “VDOT supports this connector road and is on record as saying the improvements they’re making to 607 will not be enough to alleviate traffic,” he said.

But local residents challenged that claim and many were particularly concerned about adding any vehicles to the already dangerous Preddy Creek Road—the site of numerous accidents and a few deaths. Greg Krystyniak, a licensed engineer and resident, expressed concern about the road’s current condition and suggested more proffers were needed to fix the road before allowing any increased traffic.

After the lengthy hearing, Supervisors Eddied Deane (at-large) and David Cox (Monroe) voted without hesitation to approve the project. Chairman Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville), despite noting some positive considerations about the project, voted against it, as did Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville).

jim_frydlWhen the vote came to Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway), he wavered before approving the project. When the Free Enterprise Forum asked him later about his hesitation, Frydl said, “I thought it was the least bad of two bad choices. It was a tradeoff for the county to get some things we need from this decision and obtain more than we’ll lose. With the sewer plant debt looming and the future water impoundment, this will help offset payments. We’ll get 15 to 20 water sewer taps at a time with the townhomes.”

At the same time, Frydl is concerned about the board not following any written cash proffer policy and handling this on an individual basis. “It’s setting a precedent, making it difficult to make such decisions in the future,” he said.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County