Monthly Archives: July, 2012

Is Economic Development Up A Creek in Fluvanna?

By. Neil Williamson, President

When is a picture not worth a thousand words?

When it is not the whole picture.

Please let me explain.

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are reconsidering their Proposed Riparian Protection Areas.  Regular readers may recall that the Free Enterprise Forum called for this additional review so the Planning Commission and Board could consider the proposals impact on the buildable areas in their Community Planning areas, most notably Zion Crossroads.

As a part of the review, staff prepared a number of maps including the one below, seemingly indicating very little impact from the buffers highlighted.

Stream scan 1

But wait – all the required buffers are not highlighted.  sharpie-accent-tank-style-highlighter-yellow-pic1

According to the legend, intermittent streams are included in the map but even at 400% magnification I could not identify the vast majority of intermittent streams in all of Fluvanna County.  While the legend suggests all stream buffers are highlighted, the required 50’ (each side) intermittent stream buffer is not.

To prove this point even further,  according to this map. many ponds have no outflows even in “derecho” storms!

So, how many intermittent streams are there? 

How will this regulation impact the developable land in the Community Planning Areas?

These were among the questions the BOS asked staff to answer. 

The Planning Commission looked at the map above and moved the Zoning Text Amendment forward.  Unless they received something that is not being shared with the public, the Planning Commission had no way of knowing how intermittent stream buffers will negatively impact development in Fluvanna’s Community Planning Area.

By means of background, the United States Geological Service defines intermittent stream as:

Intermittent stream – A stream that flows only when it receives water from rainfall runoff or springs, or from some surface source such as melting snow.

We are unclear if the maps become a part of the ordinance or if the USGS definition controls?

Are all of the impacted streams on the map?

If the the material presented in the BOS Board packet does not include the complete requested buffer information for intermittent streams and the benefits of such a buffer are less important than the streams and rivers, the Free Enterprise Forum respectfully requests that the local mandates for intermittent streams in the Community Planning Areas be dropped from the ZTA. 

Such an action would allow the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers regulations to rule in the Community Planning Area.

Without the elimination of the intermittent stream buffer in the Community Planning Area, Fluvanna will reduce the amount of land available and increase the cost of developing the property.  The rational market would respond by choosing a more hospitable locality to locate their enterprise (and the associated jobs).

Like water,  economic activity tends to follow the path of least resistance.  If Fluvanna enacts such a restrictive ordinance, one might wonder which neighboring locality might benefit from such an economic outflow? 

With such economic dislocation, the Free Enterprise Forum fears Fluvanna will then find itself “Up a Creek”?

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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 Credit: Fluvanna County, Sharpie

 

Greene BOS Discusses MPO Membership

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

Stephen Williams, Executive Director for the Thomas Jefferson Planning Steve Williams TJPDC Photo Credit Greene County RecordDistrict Commission (TJPDC)  came to Stanardsville to sell the Charlottesville – Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)  to the Greene County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, July 24th.

Every 10 years, in coordination with the national census,  the MPO looks to reorganize/expand to include areas greater than 50,000 population, which now includes portions of Greene County.

Williams outlined the benefits of MPO membership:

  • MPO looks to upgrade transportation ahead of demand
  • MPO offers technical assistance to communities
  • MPO works with VDOT and advocates for projects
  • Offer demand model to review new/future traffic flows
  • No cost to Greene
  • Have input on Route 29 flowing from Albemarle into Greene

Several issues of concern were raised  by the supervisors:

Mr. Williams invited the Greene BOS to the September meeting of the MPO Policy Board which will be held somewhere in Greene County in order for the BOS to become more familiar with the organization.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors agreed to consider the proposal.

While it seems nice to be invited to the party, the fact that Greene most likely wouldn’t have a say in the decision making process is a strong strike against joining. Greene would also give up the ability to work directly with VDOT – strike two. A ten year commitment for the test drive – strike three!

The Free Enterprise Forum believes it is important, and good government dictates, that  the BOS consider all the costs and benefits.  On balance, we continue to believe Greene (and Fluvanna) should Say “No” to the MPO.

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Brent Wilson 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 Credit: Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Saying “No” to the MPO

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

When is a regional organization not regional enough?

In the coming days, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) [and the Greene County Board of Supervisors] will be discussing a potential expansion to include Albemarle Countys Crozet, Fluvanna County’s Lake Monticello as well as the Twin Lakes and Ruckersville “urban clusters” of Greene County.

MPO Expansion (2)By means of background, the 2010 Census identified these areas currently outside the MPO Boundary area as attaining urban cluster population numbers. 

The MPO Policy Board and the respective localities must discuss if there is interest on both parties to move forward with the expansion of the MPO Area.

The MPO is a federally mandated and federally funded organization designed to facilitate regional cooperation on transportation issues of regional importance in communities of over 50,000 residents.

According to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) website [TJPDC serves as staff for the MPO]:

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making among Charlottesville, Albemarle, state and federal officials.

The MPO considers long-range regional projects and combines public input, technical data, and agency collaboration to develop forward-thinking solutions. Organized for the City of Charlottesville and the urbanized area of Albemarle County immediately surrounding the City, it is responsible for carrying out continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning and programming process*.

The MPO coordinates the transportation planning activities of the various transportation-related agencies that have both a direct and indirect impact on the Long Range Plan and Transportation Improvement Program.

Steve Williams TJPDC Photo Credit Greene County RecordThe MPO is led by TJPDC Executive Director Stephen Williams who reports to a Policy Board including five voting members, two Charlottesville City Councilors, two Albemarle County Supervisors and one representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) If the MPO was to expand the construct of the voting members of the Policy Board must change to include the new localities as well. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has documented how the current construct proved critically important during the recent approval of the US29 Western Bypass (What the MPO could learn from Kenny Rogers).   Expanding the voting members significantly changes the voting pool and diminishes the import of the VDOT representative. 

In addition, the geographic unity of the MPO footprint would be lost.  While we recognize the entire transportation network is interlinked, it is difficult to draw a direct impact of Hillsdale Drive Extended to Lake Monticello. 

Currently, if Federal funds are available for a project in an area outside the MPO, VDOT works directly with the locality to secure those funds.  If the area is within an MPO footprint there must be additional consent from the MPO .  This results in a loss of autonomy by the locality.

Finally, such an expansion would require the outlying counties to increase staffing.  The Policy Board currently meets only every other month as does the technical committee but each of these public meetings requires staff (and elected) to review and understand the matters coming before the MPO. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has attended well ovneil at MPOer a hundred hours of MPO meetings.  As a seasoned observer, we believe the potential loss of locality autonomy, the increase in staff time on issues not germane to the locality, as well as the lack of geographic unity are reason enough for Greene and Fluvanna to say “No to the MPO”.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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: Greene County Record, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Fluvanna Planners Consider Buffers

By William J. Des Rochers – Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna County Planning Commissioners declined to make major changes to a draft Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that aroused concerns from developers. The planners met in a work session on July 11th to consider proposed changes that would have modified required landscape and stream buffers. Previously, the Board of Supervisors had returned the proposed amendment to the Planning Commission to consider changes in light of business concerns.

The most contentious of the issues – the requirement to place 75-foot buffers on either side of perennial streams and 50-foot buffers along intermittent streams – was not changed. Commissioners were amenable to allow for remediation plans to be submitted if developers sought waivers to the requirement. The authority to grant waivers would reside with the planning director.

The planning staff showed an aerial photograph of part of the Zion Crossroads development area that highlighted the impact upon a portion of the county’s designated growth area — however, the area shown already was largely developed. Staff did not present any information regarding the rest of the development area, nor did it show any intermittent streams that further would impact developable lots.

Thus, the commissioners were left with wanting to support the intent of the riparian buffers, but without any understanding of the economic development implications that would result from the introduction of riparian buffers.

Commissioners also expressed a desire to reduce the time for holding a landscape bond from three years to one.

Commissioners also agreed that if a developer were to incorporate “high quality landscaping and/or architectural features” into a subdivision, then the “subdivision agent” could approve a modified landscape proposal. Just what constitutes “high quality” was not further defined.

The Planning Commission’s next public meeting is scheduled for July 25th at 7:00 pm at the County Courthouse.

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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

Greene County Enacts Reserve Policy

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

At their July 10th meeting the Greene County Board of Supervisors endorsed a financial reserve fund policy to set a minimum balance in the County coffers.  The proposal, which had been discussed at four different meetings over the last three years, passes 4-1 (Frydl – No)

The policy sets a 15% (of the annual budget) basic reserve plus an additional amount to cover one month’s average county cash flow.  The 15% minimum had been proposed by auditor Robinson, Farmer, Cox and Associates at their October 11, 2005 meeting.

Working on the back of the envelope, the new policy equates to roughly $6 million and $4.5 million, respectively, for a total of $10.5 million. This is nearly 3 months of operating funds. To calculate the latter amount, the BOS used the gross outflow of funds even though the county pays less than 2/3rds of this amount with local taxpayer funds. These absolute amounts will fluctuate as the budget is reset each year.

This begs the obvious question – what will the Board of Supervisors choose to do with the excess Reserve Fund of approximately $5.5 million? And one layer deeper is the question, why wasn’t the policy set sooner – before the reserve fund became overfunded by over 50%?

Supervisor Jim Frydl agreed that taxpayers have been “overtaxed to build the fund” given the new policy. This is money that the taxpayers in Greene worked hard for and now it is determined that they have paid too much.

So rather than act to return the excess revenue, the BOS elected to assign these extra funds to three capital projects: additional School Funding, Water and Sewer and Water Impoundment.

The Free Enterprise Forum is not convinced that the reserve fund policy is a simple as it could be but we applaud the Greene County Board for enacting a policy after years of discussion. 

In a perfect world, government would only tax exactly the amount needed for operation of governmental functions.  We recognize that we do not live in such a perfect world and appreciate efforts to utilize “excess” funding on one time capital costs rather than raiding the windfall cookie jar for operating expenditures.  It is important to note the school expenditure is for operating expenditures.

The largest lesson in this multiple year saga is the need for increased transparency and Board understanding of Greene County’s financial documents.  While it should not require a CPA to be a member of the Board of Supervisors, each and every member has a fiscal responsibility to understand how the government finances work.

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Brent Wilson 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

Greene County Administrator Resigns

By. Neil Williamson, President

Barry Clark1In a letter to Greene County employees, County Administrator Barry Clark announced he had tendered his resignation to the Board of Supervisors effective November 30th.  Clark indicated he would be on administrative leave until the effective date but would be available by telephone for any questions.

In the letter, Clark told employees:

“ I consider it an honor and privilege to have served the citizens of Greene over the past six years. Working together, I believe that we have made positive, important contributions to the County.  I sincerely appreciate the chance to have gotten to know and work with you. I wish you all the best going forward.”

If they follow other localities’ lead, it is anticipated that the Greene County Board of Supervisors will appoint one of the senior members of their administrative staff as an interim Administrator while conducting a search for a permanent successor to Clark.  Deputy County Administrator/Finance Director Tracy Morris has been mentioned by some sources  as a possible interim administrator.

According to the Greene County web site, the Administrator serves a variety of functions:

“The County Administrator has a combined advisory and executive role. It includes researching options and alternatives to proposed plans and advising the Board of Supervisors as they develop policy and direction for the County government. When policies are enacted, the Administrator directs the staff as it carries out the policies of the Board.”

It is interesting to note, the 2011 elections resulted in three new members to Greene County’s five member Board of Supervisors.  It is not clear that this shift in the Board’s makeup had any impact on Clark’s resignation.

Attempts to reach both Clark and Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clarence “Buggs” Peyton were unsuccessful at the time of this article’s posting.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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 Credit: Greene County