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.
Aaron 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:
- Life Sciences
- Technology (hardware and software)
- International Business (business with foreign ownership seeking U.S. location)
- Post-High School Educational Facilities
- Homeland Security and Defense Contractors
- Projects compatible with the operation and future development of Washington Dulles International Airport
- Office/flex/industrial buildings that are over 75,000 square feet
- Commercial projects in rural Loudoun focused on tourism-related activities, such as country inns, rural resorts and restaurants
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.
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