Monthly Archives: March, 2013

Should VDOT Force Trucks to Bypass Stanardsville?

By Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

stanardsville bypassThe Route 33 by-pass around Stanardsville in Greene County  was built in 2000.  This project was first envisioned in 1964 as part of the Virginia Arterial System that was designated for 4-laning and bypasses around major towns. The connection between US-33 from I-81 at Harrisonburg to US-29 at Ruckersville was considered an important part of this plan.   Elkton’s bypass was completed in the early 1970’s.  In addition to improving traffic flow on the arterials, such bypasses also reduce the impact of through traffic on the towns bypassed, especially tractor trailers. Logically you would think that “if you build it, they will come”

The reality is for traffic headed East or West, the Bypass works well.standardsville route

But for traffic coming to and from the North, geometry wins out.

Traffic coming from the north and wanting to cross over to Route 81 have two options to get there. They can take the right triangle of Route 29 South to Ruckersville and head west on Route 33 and take the scenic bypass [16.0 miles]. However, the shorter route is the hypotenuse of the right triangle. From Madison take Route 230 South which ends on the east side of Stanardsville and then turn right through town on Main Street (old Route 33) toward the valley [12.6 miles]. Of course, this works in reverse for traffic heading north.

So, the economics of taking the shorter (less costly route) wins and one of the benefits of the bypass is significantly diluted.  The question is should through truck traffic be prohibited in Stanardsville? 

This issue is significant enough to be included in the Town of Standardsville Comprehensive Plan.

The Main Street of Stanardsville currently sustains an excessive amount of truck traffic, 9% of all vehicles.  This leads to heightened safety concerns, increases need for roadway maintenance, and generates pollution and noise in close proximity to businesses and homes. The route is utilized as a shortcut by trucks travelling eastbound on Route 33 to northbound on Route 29, although there is little evidence that this alternative route saves time on average.

At the February 26th BOS meeting Supervisor Davis Lamb brought up a citizen’s request to hold a public hearing to discuss the Town of Stanardsville’s  request to consider the restriction of truck traffic in Stanardsville 

Chairman Jim Frydl said the BOS would be willing to hold a public hearing if there were any facts regarding safety issues and concerns.

Fast forward to the March 26th meeting. Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe  was one of 14 people addressing the issue of truck traffic in Stanardsville. Speaking under “other matters from the public” Lowe explained that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  has four criteria to check before they will consider redirecting tractor trailer traffic of which the first three have been met. The fourth step is to have the BOS hold a public hearing and then decide if they will pass a resolution of support that would then be forwarded to VDOT. VDOT would then have up to 9 months to render a decision based on a study of alternative route safety, impact on trucks and does it benefit the community. VDOT must also have support and commitment of local law enforcement before they agree to redirect truck traffic.

Sherriff Steve Smith  addressed the BOS and stated that his department is neutral on the matter but that he could enforce the new restriction if VDOT approved.

The other speakers expressed concerns from safety issues, the streetscape expenditures  to happen this year, noise issues, aesthetic issues, etc. Only one speaker, after listing five negatives about the truck traffic in Stanardsville, offered up a positive – it is less traffic on the bypass.

The BOS made no comment in response to the issues raised under “matters from the public” session of their meeting. The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the public’s participation and encourages the BOS to go forward with the public hearing to allow comments from both sides of this issue.

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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 Credits: http://www.wrx900.com/, bing maps 

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Fluvanna BOS To Lower Tax Burden

PALMYRA — The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to advertise a budget that includes a tax decrease.

The advertised budget will be for $65,312,998 which includes a real property tax rate of $0.795 per $100 assessed and a personal property tax rate of $4.15 per $100 assessed.

The school funding was raised from the baseline of $12.2 million to $13.75 million but still short of the School Board requested amount of $14.1 million.

“As we incrementally improve, we need to incrementally put back the things that we had taken away. I think everyone recognizes that,” said chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District) before the motion was made. “That just doesn’t involve the school system. It involves deputies, it involves county staff, it involves the tax payer. …. Those are things that need to be addressed.”

Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) made the motion and it was seconded by Joe Chesser (Rivanna District).

Booker said before the motion, “Everyone in this room knows I am a strong advocate for education. I would love to be able to say and desire that we were at an equalized rate, that we could fund the schools beyond what they are asking for.

“The only thing I can do is get you a little bit past $0.79 and move it to $0.795. And that would help and bring you to $13.7 [million].”

The vote went quickly without discussion.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Chesser made a motion to reconsider the tax rate motion. It is a Roberts Rule of Order procedure that a motion during a meeting can be ‘called to reconsider’ later in the same meeting. It last was used during a budget advertisement meeting in 2010. It was successful and the board voted to increase the tax rate to help with school funding at the time.

This year the reconsider motion by Chesser and seconded by Booker failed 3-2. Don Weaver (Cunningham District), Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) and Kenney voted against it.

The advertised budget means the supervisors will hold a public hearing on the advertised budget and tax rates. The board can only decrease from the advertised amount. If the board wants to increase from the advertised budget and tax rates, it requires holding another public hearing and advertising in the local newspaper for two consecutive weeks.

The public hearing on this budget and tax rates will be on April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom.

Increasing the budget and tax rates is unlikely because it puts a strain on county operations. The first tax bill that reflects the accepted tax rate has a payment deadline of June 5. If the supervisors try to change the timeline, the county treasurer has a limited window to prepare tax bills, send them out and then give time for residents to pay.

Many residents pay the real estate tax through their mortgages. The mortgage companies are not as easy to change the rates on so late in the process. Reportedly, moving the timeline back could cause many delayed payments and other collection issues.

The process of increasing the budget and rates after advertising can be done but it is just unlikely.

The Board of Supervisors next meets on April 3 at 2 p.m. in the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom. There will be a work session that evening to discuss the budget. A finalized budget is scheduled to pass after the public hearing on April 10.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Monticello’s Comp Plan Land Grab

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

“The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.” –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:36

Considering Thomas Jefferson’s strong belief in personal property rights, one must wonder what Jefferson would think of the Foundation that bears his name seeking to use Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan to enact ‘voluntary’ restrictions on the property rights of landowners whose properties might be visible from Monticello.

The Free Enterprise Forum sees this as an effective land grab via comprehensive plan.

Please let me explain.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term land grab was first used in the middle 1800’s  “to describe a usually swift acquisition of property (as land or patent rights) often by fraud or force”.

Today, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc., owner and operator of Monticello, is calling for the creation of a “Monticello Protection Area” overlay in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan.   The Foundation contends that the view from Monticello is an important part of their dual nonprofit mission of education and preservation.  They are seeking to have input on any development/construction activity that occurs within this “Protection Area”. 

The map below, prepared by Foundation staff and included in the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, illustrates the vast area Monticello wishes to exercise their ‘voluntary’ design control.

map

The current iteration of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan includes a significantly smaller Monticello view shed map.  The map below includes both the current (in blue) and proposed (in gray)  view shed maps:

current and proposed

This is a huge increase in area and includes parcels that, due to topography can not be seen from Monticello (example: portions of Avon Street Extended).

Foundation staff provided both the verbiage and the map to be included in the just released Albemarle Comprehensive Plan.   The word voluntary does not appear anywhere in the documents provided.

From the draft Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan (as drafted by the Foundation):

The Monticello Protection Area is defined by the GIS map on file with Albemarle County which depicts all property visible from the Monticello mountaintop.  The intent of the Guidelines for Development within the Monticello Protection Area (MPA) is to protect the historic character of Monticello and the rural character of entrance corridors, particularly as it relates to the visitor experience. The implementation of these guidelines is intended to maintain the historic and rural character of the area for both visitors and residents to improve the economic vitality of this community resource.

Members of the Foundation staff have indicated property owners will not have to abide by their ‘voluntary’ restrictions.  They simply want to make the landowners aware that the view from their very important community asset might be negatively impacted by something the landowner could lawfully do with their property.  The Foundation also wants to suggests ways property owners could change their plans to better suit the desires of the Foundation.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes if included in the Comprehensive Plan, the regulatory reality (different from the true legal standing) is that the Foundation would have effective design control power over all development in the “Monticello Protection Area”. 

The guidelines the Foundation has proposed are exceedingly specific and overreaching.  The Foundation wants to weigh in on the color, arrangement, lighting and even placement of windows on properties they do not own.  They are mandating a seat at the table at every rezoning Albemarle considers in their view shed.  In addition, while they want to have the ability to enjoy the view of properties they don’t own, they specifically do not want windows facing their property.  Lest you think we have overstated these voluntary restrictions, here is exactly as they appear in the Draft Comprehensive plan:

Bright pastels and whites on exterior faces of buildings and roofs can be distracting when viewing the natural landscape from Monticello. Muted colors for roofs and walls that blend with the natural landscape (ie. mid-spectrum browns and greys, sandy tones) can be substituted for bright pastels and whites on building faces and roofs.

To minimize impact, avoid large roof expanses, especially those of one color—mottled coloring that combines light and dark elements for roofs is preferred.

Surfaces that are prone to glare and reflection increase visibility and should be avoided whenever possible.

For example, expansive windows facing Monticello should be avoided.

Flood lights, up- lights and exposed bulbs are more apparent in the night sky than shielded fixtures. Lighting for buildings and parking areas can use shielded fixtures at lower heights to reduce impacts. Whenever possible lighting should not be placed higher than the tree line.

Lighting on the tops of cellular towers should be avoided when possible.

Lighting for buildings and parking areas should use fixtures that reduce/eliminate glare.

Employ techniques that break up massing.

Development that breaks the mature tree line is more apparent than development that is lower than the mature tree line. Special consideration should be given to development which is higher than the mature tree line to camouflage impacts.

Parking can always be broken up with interspersed plantings of trees and other landscaping.

When there is no conflict with Entrance Corridor or Neighborhood Model guidelines, the preferred location for parking is on the far side of buildings as viewed from Monticello.

Landscaping to screen buildings and parking should employ trees which will generate a mature canopy of trees.

Monticello welcomes the opportunity to assist homeowners and developers who are contemplating construction in the MPA. Please contact Monticello with any questions about these guidelines.

Projects that require discretionary land use permits should consider offering a proffer that addresses protection of the views from Monticello. Albemarle County could consider conditions that protect the views from Monticello when special use permits are issued.

Considering the revised map and the voluntary restrictions listed above, development (that the Comprehensive Plan seeks to encourage) just got a great deal more difficult in the Monticello visible development areas of Albemarle County.  In addition, The Free Enterprise Forum questions the legal standing for the existing Monticello view shed protection in the current Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan.   

In 2004, we cheered when the Foundation purchased a neighboring 334 acre parcel now known as Montalto.  This purchase is the proper way to control view shed – you want it — buy it.

When President Thomas Jefferson looked west to the expansion of the United States, he initiated the Louisiana Purchase.  I firmly believe Jefferson would advocate for the protection of property rights over the view shed protections currently proposed.

Despite the fact that they wrote it, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation should now ask the Albemarle County Planning Commission to remove the “Monticello Protection Area” map and the associated  ‘voluntary’ land grab language from the Comprehensive Plan before prior to sending it on to the Board of Supervisors.

As Jefferson wrote “Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of.” –[Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, 1786. ME 5:440]. 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. The full Contradictory Consequences report can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Image Credits:Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc.

Fluvanna and Louisa Supervisors Discuss JRWA and Pipeline

By. Bryan Rothamel

PALMYRA — The Fluvanna and Louisa Board of Supervisors might finally have a way to get water out of the James River.

It has been discussed for over 20 years and in 24 minutes the two boards were able to move the discussion closer to reality than ever before.

Louisa supervisors called the March 6th meeting to discuss four tennets to having the jointly owned James River Water Authority (JRWA)  pull water from the James River and bring it across Fluvanna to the Louisa border.

The points Louisa wanted to discuss were:

1) Is Fluvanna County still interested in a longer term water solution benefiting both counties using the James River Water Authority?

2) Louisa County proposes to run a raw water line from Columbia, directly along the Colonial gas pipeline into Louisa where Louisa would construct and operate a water treatment facility. The facility then could produce usable water along Route 250 for Louisa growth areas.

3) Louisa County proposes to fund the entire project to begin as soon as possible.

4) Louisa County requests to have one additional vote on the JRWA until such time Fluvanna funds their share of the project.

The Fluvanna supervisors found no issues with the first three points. The fourth point fell flat.

“Conceptually we are in agreement. We think it is a project that can move forward, we are very confident it can move forward,” said Louisa chairman Willie Harper (Mineral District) after the meeting.

During the meeting, Fluvanna chairman Shaun Kenney said, “If Louisa is willing to pay for the pipeline, there isn’t much more to discuss.”

The issues the JRWA has had is the board is split evenly by Fluvanna and Louisa representatives. Neither county owns the permit to withdraw water from the James River, it is jointly shared though the authority. Finally, the permit allows withdrawing from the river in the Bremo Bluff area.

To accomplish what Louisa proposes, the JRWA would have to request Department of Environment Quality to have the ‘straw’ placed at Columbia instead of Bremo Bluff. Then Louisa would run the water line along side the Colonial gas line to Ferncliff where it would reach the Louisa border.

That project would be owned by the JRWA. Louisa would then own, all to itself, any pipes or treatment facilities in Louisa County. There is no discussion of what Fluvanna would have to do to become a ‘fully funded parter’ to tap into this raw water line.

“It has always been a joint effort, continues to be a joint effort. We are just going to be the sole participant, payer and benefactor until such time they’ll find the need. It will come,” said Harper.

Louisa estimates the entire project, including the treatment facility to be over $50 million. The project to just get the water from the river to the Louisa border is estimated at $15 million.

This agreement is nothing new to what the JRWA has always been. The only change is Louisa willing to fully fund it to get water quicker than when both parties are ready.

The JRWA’s plan has been to provide raw water across Fluvanna. The intent of the JRWA has been to take raw water out of the James River and then either county can treat it where they wish.

Also, the JRWA still has the agreement that the counties split the intake evenly. In order to change that, both counties would have to agree in contract. If Louisa would want to use more than 50 percent of the intake, then Fluvanna could sell the water wholesale without amending the original agreement.

The Louisa timeline is to request a change of the permit and get approval in about 60 days. Louisa will also work on engineering and design work.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Why Didn’t Somebody Call The Police

By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County just released its latest draft of their comprehensive plan.  A large portion of the plan regards land use.  Interior to the land use portion is the concept of the “neighborhood model”.  The Neighborhood Model is a form of New Urbanism that promotes pedestrian orientation, building mass, interconnected streets, multi modal transportation options and even public art.

But what about crime?  There is an increasing volume of research indicating some elements of new urbanism promote criminal activity. 

So we were most interested when Albemarlecrime scene tape County announced in July 2011 that a new Crime Prevention Officer position (click here for the media release).  Ten year Albemarle Police veteran Steve Watson, a CEPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) Certified Police Officer was selected for this position.  According to the County media release:

Officer Watson’s duties and responsibilities will include managing community related events, and coordinating the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program and the Neighborhood Watch Program.  Officer Watson will be the liaison between the community and the police department as it relates to crime prevention.

In a telephone interview with the Free Enterprise Forum, Officer Watson indicated he has had no interaction with the Planning Department regarding Crime Prevention and the Neighborhood Model but he would welcome such a conversation.  Frankly, Officer Watson seemed almost evangelical about his passion for CPTED.

Considering this newly acquired talent, why didn’t somebody call the Police? 

During the discussion of relegated parking (once merely a part of the Neighborhood Model, now written into County Code), the Free Enterprise Forum asked what the Albemarle County Police Department thought of this planning concept.  Based on our limited understanding of CPTED, hidden parking lots created a fertile environment for criminal activity.  Our calls for police involvement fell on deaf ears.

Basic CPTED theory focuses on examining the built environment and how CPTED principles apply to problem solving, community planning, and safety and security assessments. 

NCPClogo.gifThe National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) offers certification in CPTED and indicates the basic coursework provides:

The Basic CPTED course covers the theory behind CPTED and give an overview of the history of crime and the physical environment; the basics of CPTED principles and how they work; applying successful applications and techniques of CPTED to specific crimes; how to consider CPTED principles in plans to secure key public places and facilities; and how to conduct a community safety assessment using CPTED principles.

  • CPTED applications to specific crimes and “hot spots” locations
  • Specific practical techniques including street and security lighting, landscaping, barriers, traffic calming, and target hardening
  • Role of maintenance, ordinances, and other local laws in strategies to prevent crime and improve quality of life
  • How to conduct a community safety assessment using tools based on CPTED principles
  • How to consider CPTED principles in plans to secure key public places and facilities
  • How to link neighborhood volunteers to local crime prevention, community building, and homeland security initiatives.

Naively perhaps, the Free Enterprise Forum believed that the Albemarle County Planning Department would know that the Albemarle County Police Department had this new position dedicated to Crime Prevention and would utilize this resource to evaluate the Comprehensive Plan review.  [Remember this Comprehensive Plan revision included a Million Dollar Grant to help Albemarle coordinate planning work with Charlottesville and the University].

There is mention of CPTED in the Current Comprehensive Plan under Parks and Open Space:

The design and location of open space determines how fully it will be used. For example, a public space framed by building fronts, surrounded by neighborhood thoroughfares, and accessible to nearby residents is inviting and safe. Such principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) can improve siting decisions, as can such criteria as locating parks near paths or major destinations like schools and other public facilities

But nowhere in this state mandated document is there significant consideration of crime prevention through better community design.

For a government dedicated to the health, safety and welfare of its citizens,  that is a crime.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. The full Contradictory Consequences report can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene BOS Budget Balancing Act: Capital Needs, Reserve Fund,Tax Rates, Services

By. Brent Wilson

At the March 12th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors   the discussion centered around the Capital Improvement Plan vs. the growth in the Reserve Fund. The BOS had previously approved the county’s CIP in total but had struggled to identify which projects would receive funding in the next 3 to 5 years.

Several projects were immediately identified as needing to be accomplished in the near future – a Rescue Squad building and an expansion to the high school cafeteria (there are four lunch periods starting at 10:42 am due to the lack of space)  – all agreed these need to happen soon. One possible source of funding for the school cafeteria expansion is by retiring of existing school debt.

The BOS discussed whether the new task force on CIPs should handle the prioritization or should a request go back to each department to sort out their critical needs in the next 5 year. Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) proposed that the BOS request all departments to provide back a list of 5 year must have projects with written justification for each project. This was agreed by all 5 supervisors.

The discussion moved on to how to pay for the projects and whether the Reserve Fund could be a source of funds for some of the projects. Last year the BOS set a policy on how much should be maintained in the Reserve Fund, funded the schools budget request and then earmarked the remaining additional money in the Reserve Fund to various projects.

The Reserve Fund has continued to grow and exceeds the target level by over $4 million. Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) suggested reviewing what balance should be left in the Reserve Fund and then use any amount beyond that to help fund the capital projects that come back from all departments. Chairman Frydl questioned if the BOS wanted to modify the Reserve Fund policy that has already been set at 15% of the annual budget plus one month operating expenses. He suggested that the departmental requests for the next 5 years be compared to the excess Reserve Fund and if additional funds are required then the Board would have to consider a tax increase would be required to fund all projects.

Mr. Peyton said that the CIP is a wish list – “a Sears Catalogue” and he objected to additional taxes for capital projects but he would agree to pull down the Reserve Fund for the water and sewer project. Supervisor Davis Lamb  (Ruckersville) expressed concern about drawing down the Reserve Fund to zero and wanted to avoid going back to borrowing funds to be able to pay ongoing obligations.

Chairman Frydl commented that the preliminary audit has indicated the Reserve Fund is now approximately 32% of the annual budget of $53.5 million or $17.1 million. This compares to a minimum balance of 15% of $53.5 million or $8.0 million plus one month’s budget of $4.5 million for a total of $12.5 million Reserve Fund target. Therefore the Reserve Fund has grown, based on preliminary audit, by approximately $4.6 million since the Reserve Fund was set last spring.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) expressed concern that he did not want the county to have to borrow to fund their needs. Discussion followed as to whether all excess Reserve Funds should be allocated to projects or not. This lead to a discussion of the property tax rate, given that the property assessments are expected to decline.

Supervisor Peyton stated that he would not increase taxes but would cut spending to balance the budget, the decision is “easy for me”.  When Mr. Peyton was asked for a clarification whether he meant he wouldn’t support raising the tax rate (generating less tax revenue) or raising total property taxes (equal to that of the prior year) that an equalization rate would provide, he indicated that he opposed an increase in the tax rate. He further explained that raising the tax rate to equalize tax revenue would cause some property taxes to increase and some to decrease and he didn’t believe that was fair.

Chairman Frydl summarized that the BOS needs the list of projects required to be done in the next 5 years. At that time, the BOS will be able to determine if there are enough funds for all projects by using the excess Reserve Fund. If more funds are required then the BOS will need to decide if additional tax revenue is required to fund all projects. He also noted that Albemarle County has acted to advertise an increase in their tax rate to equalize tax revenue since their property values have declined, similar to what Greene County is facing.

The key issue facing Greene County as it listens to each department’s budget request  is that the current tax rate is generating revenue to provide funding for operating budgets and growth in the Reserve Fund which is being used as a source of capital fund.

If the property tax rate is not equalized then there will be less tax revenue coming into the county which will result in less funds flowing to the Reserve Fund.  A decision will have to be made whether to maintain current levels of operating expenses by tapping into the reserve funds or use those funds for capital projects. There will not be enough revenue to do both.

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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

‘Rezoning Ransom’: Repeal cash proffers

Rezoning Ransom OpEd Headline Daily Progress 3 March 2013This editorial first appeared in The Daily Progress on Sunday March 3, 2013.  The full “Contradictory Consequences” white paper can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org under the reports tab.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government in the Central Virginia region.

 

By. Neil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise Forum

There are times you have to say no to one thing because you said yes to something else. Such is the case with cash proffers.

If a community believes in citizen vetted comprehensive planning, preserving rural areas by densification of development areas and economic vitality, then such a community must say no to the fatally flawed cash proffer system.

In the recently released “Contradictory Consequences” white paper, the Free Enterprise Forum research and case studies explain the impacts of cash proffers. Sold to the public as a way to make growth pay for itself, the unintended negative economic and planning impacts have caused localities across the Commonwealth to repeal this “rezoning ransom” and replace these funds with more dependable and equitable infrastructure funding options. Today, rather than simply recalibrating their cash proffer calculation, as Albemarle County is doing, full repeal is a much more economically and ecologically sensible and sustainable alternative.

Cash proffers are per unit fees “voluntarily” extracted from applicants seeking to rezone their property. In theory, such “voluntary” proffers would be directly tied to the costs associated with the increased density of a rezoning. In reality, cash proffers lower land values, encourage development contrary to comprehensive plans, and create false hope for outside infrastructure funding.

Lower land values, lower property tax revenue – In concept, cash proffers are voluntary payments made by landowners to mitigate the impacts of changing the prescriptive zoning on their property. The concept works best when the rezoned value exceeds the increased cost of the proffer. Such a symbiotic relationship is difficult to achieve with automatic inflation increasing cash proffers and fickle housing markets not keeping pace.

Albemarle Single Family Detached $19,753Townhouse $13,432Multi Family $13,996
Charlottesville No cash proffers
Greene $5,778 per unit
Fluvanna $6,577 per unit
Louisa $4,362 per unit
Nelson No cash proffers

Basic economic theory indicates any increased cost must be paid by an entity that is a part of the transaction. Many believe the increased cost of a cash proffer will be borne by the end user, the new homebuyer. This can only occur in a housing market that has constant upward motion.

If, due to market conditions, the end user is not available to accept the cost of the cash proffer it is the land owner, whose land will be discounted by the increased entitlement costs that cash proffers create. In turn, such reduced land values reduce the locality’s real estate tax assessed value and revenue (absent an increase in the tax rate).

‘By Right’ Development Encouraged Charlottesville and Albemarle are currently updating their State mandated comprehensive plans. These community vetted plans suggest the manner in which the locality wishes to grow in the next twenty years.

In many, if not most, cases the zoning in a locality’s development area does not match the comprehensive plan designation. While the property owner does not have to agree to the comprehensive plan changes, they cannot act on those new designations until they have rezoned the property. Alternatively, if the land owner chooses to move forward with the existing, some might call “stale”, zoning, which likely does not agree with the locality’s comprehensive plan, they can do so immediately without paying any cash proffers.

In 2011, a developer acquired the rights to a project that included property in The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Charlottesville does not have a cash proffer, while Albemarle’s exceeds $19,000 per single family home. After calculating the increased value of the land with the rezoning in each locality, the developer chose to rezone the property that was in the City (without cash proffers) and chose NOT to rezone the property in the county. This calculated decision was based on calculation of the cost (in money and time) of rezoning the County land exceeded the increase value.

Therefore, the land owner is incentivized to not to follow the community vetted comprehensive plan vision but instead to construct lower density, less thoughtfully designed developments. These projects are built to meet local building and zoning code but absent the enhancements and flexibility a rezoning might allow.

False Financial Hope – Forecasting cash proffer revenue is much like predicting snow in Central Virginia, localities do not know when it is coming, how much they are actually going to get or when it will stop. Cash proffers rarely, if ever, total the amounts localities are banking on.

In November 2012, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was presented a staff report outlining cash proffers that were in excess of $49.3 million dollars quite literally off the chart.

albemarle proffer 2012 chart with biscuit runAs one looks at this chart (right) and sees almost $50 Million dollars proffered, one might anticipate the cash proffer program is answering the very need it was designed but the Free Enterprise Forum estimates at least 28% of those proffers will never be collected as they are associated with the now defunct Biscuit Run Development.

It is interesting that while the State of Virginia acquired the property for a state park on December 31, 2009, Albemarle County continued to calculate those proffers as receivable in November 2012.

Rural Areas Jeopardized – According to the Piedmont Environmental Council, Albemarle County has in excess of 10,000 units already rezoned for residential development. Why have these not moved forward?

Have the embedded costs of development in Albemarle County, including cash proffers, created a cost burden the market is unable to bear?

If growth trends continue, won’t these embedded costs push residential development out of Albemarle County’s designated growth areas and into the rural areas?

The reality is that cash proffers contribute to the paradigm that rural residential development remains the least expensive, most profitable development option in Albemarle County.

If the cash proffers are pushing development into the rural areas and surrounding localities, what are the community costs of increased traffic, more costly government services delivery, as well as loss of ecologically contributing farmland, and productivity?

Cash proffers have produced a plethora of Contradictory Consequences without achieving significant benefit. Now is the time to repeal this rezoning ransom and replace it with a more sensible and equitable alternative.

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. The full Contradictory Consequences report can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene BOS Adopts Capital Improvement Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

At the February 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors the annual Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was approved. Minor changes were made to the CIP that the Planning Commission approved back in January. The School System made adjustments to various roof projects and also added a school security system for $175,000 in the school year 2013/2014.

The CIP is a multi-year production and scheduling of capital projects with an appropriate financing plan to fund these projects. Greene examines the CIP is prepared annually in an effort to facilitate planning and setting priorities among capital improvement needs over a subsequent five-year period. The CIP is designed to identify projects for all departments for which funding has already been committed or is being sought for some time within the five-year planning period.

Community Development Director, Bart Svoboda , also mentioned how the CIP is used to develop Cash Proffers  in the county and that the make-up of the departments would be how the funds would be allocated back for any cash proffers collected.

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) asked for a clarification about capital vs. maintenance costs.

Chairman Frydl concluded that the CIP met the state requirement but that the BOS hoped in the future that a CIP will be able to be reviewed in more detail by the five person panel that the Planning Commission recommended on January 16th. Bart Svoboda agreed that the process needs to be accelerated in the future to allow time to prioritize the requests.

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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

Is the Louisa/Fluvanna James RIver Pipeline Back?

By. Bryan Rothamel

LOUISA — The James River water pipeline is getting a second look.

The Louisa Board of Supervisors has sent notice, calling a special meeting to be held in Fluvanna with the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors. The Louisa notice states the two boards will meet to ‘discuss the James River Water Project.’

The notice says at 6 p.m. on March 6 in Palmyra. The Fluvanna supervisors have a normally scheduled meeting that day and do not require additional notice beyond the routine meeting notice.

The James River Water Authority, while still a legal entity, has not be active for years. Both counties paid money for the JRWA to defend it legally but it has not been seriously discussed since the summer of 2010 when the two parties split from discussing a water project.

The endeavor was officially canceled, but not disbanded, by Louisa on Aug. 17, 2010 when then Louisa supervisors felt Fluvanna stop acting in good faith towards making a financial decision. Fluvanna’s then leadership allowed a Aug. 16, 2010 Virginia Resource Authority application deadline for financing pass without an application.

There was a Memorandum of Understanding about a possible James River water pipeline  and until that August 2010 deadline, Louisa supervisors were willing to pay for up to half the water pipeline had it met “reasonable standards for costs and water age.” Louisa’s only public concern was to get water from the James River, across Fluvanna and to the Zion Crossroad planning area.

At the time, discussions in Fluvanna raised questions about extending the debt load of the county when the high school debt payments had not fully started. Some residents also voiced concerns about paying half the costs of a water line that would send water directly to where, Fluvanna residents felt, Louisa competed with Fluvanna the most, the Zion Crossroad economic development.

Louisa leaders countered in the Aug. 17, 2010 press release and follow up interviews with Louisa’s availability for future growth was much more limited than Fluvanna’s possible future growth because of Green Springs Historical District. The historical district is federally protected from development. Fluvanna has no such limitations.

Louisa leaders also said Fluvanna could strategically place the pipeline to hit major economic areas inside Fluvanna before even getting to Zion Crossroad. The proposed route was over 22 miles, winding through Pleasant Grove, near Lake Monticello and down Route 250.

The biggest issue about take water from the James River for either county is neither county owns the withdrawal permit. The JRWA owns the permit to take any water from the river. Neither county can get that permit without the authority relinquishing control. The JRWA board has three Fluvanna members and three Louisa members.

Reportedly, the JRWA has not met beyond keeping up with regulated bylaws. The Louisa County’s website last has minutes for the JRWA board dating January 2010. Fluvanna’s last published minutes are February 2010.

The joint Louisa-Fluvanna meeting will happen on March 6 although discussions with Fluvanna sources say the Fluvanna supervisors will have additional agenda items to accomplish before meeting with Louisa.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com