Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Albemarle’s Development Double Standard Allows The Library To Cross The Road

By. Neil Williamson, President

On Wednesday (5/1) the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have an $11.8 Million dollar consent agenda item regarding the relocation of Northside library from its current rental space in the Albemarle Square Shopping Center to a location just west of the intersection of Rio Road and US 29.

The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned a double standard may be in play as this is a “public” project as opposed to a private development. As private development interests are regularly told that the financial demands of regulatory approvals are not the concern of the County. 

In the past, Albemarle has taken such opportunities to showcase how well their projects embrace the goals of the comprehensive plan and build to the highest criteria.  In this case, we believe the county has identified a parcel and is trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Would a private development get the same free pass?

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Currently the Northside Library is in a retail center with significant parking as well as other community facilities within reasonable walking distances such as a bakery, a number of restaurants, a movie theater, a private health club, as well as a new grocery store.

It is important to the discussion that the County is in a lease agreement in this space and that agreement is up for renewal/renegotiation in 2014.

The new site is located on the south side of Rio Road West, just west of the intersection with US29.  The staff proposal is to reuse the existing structure to house both the Northside Library (30,000 sq. ft.)as well as long term County warehouse and storage space (20,000+ sq. ft.).

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The site is bounded by commercial land on all sides and is zoned for HC Highway commercial. 

The headquarters for the Daily Progress is located immediately to west on Rio Road.

Interestingly, this same parcel (in combination with the adjacent parcel) was under consideration for a Homewood Suites hotel location in January of last year. 

That project went to Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) on January 4th.  At some point after the homewood suites logo crossoutARB issued their initial 15 demands (including the need for 3D Modeling) for future submittals, the investors in the hotel project chose to move the project into the more business friendly City of Charlottesville (read the January 3, 2012 ARB minutes here).

While we are not suggesting the ARB review was the exclusive cause of the hotel project relocation, it certainly was one of the contributing factors.  So now, as the private development (tax generating) option has been eliminated we are looking at a public use on the parcel.

Seeing this item on the Board of Supervisors consent agenda leads us to believe last Tuesday’s discussion at the Albemarle County Planning Commission may be the only public discussion regarding this project. 

100_0668_thumb.jpgStaff met with the Board of Supervisors in closed session early this year to initiate this discussion and to place contractual “holds” on the land to allow for due diligence.  Staff has projected the upfit of the property to be in the $8 million dollar range (~$166 per sq. ft.) as compared with $250 a square foot for new construction.

The staff conveniently found the project to be generally consistent with the demands of the facilities and would be a positive redevelopment of this parcel.  Unlike a private development, the focus of the Planning Commission discussion was not as directed “whether the general location, character and extent of the proposed facility are in substantial accord with the adopted Comprehensive Plan” but instead focused on the economics of this infrastructure addition.

The Neighborhood Model portion of the Comprehensive Plan places significant importance to interconnectivity of roadways, pedestrian orientation, relegated parking and multi model access.  

Section 5.9.15 of the proposed Comprehensive Plan includes:

Strategy 2a: All government facilities in the Development Areas should conform to the principles of the Neighborhood Model.

The reality is the West Rio site is not well placed to become a neighborhood center, it is not located near significant residential activity and  the existing bike lanes end at Berkmar.  While the location is “not completely devoid of residences,” according to County staff the density of this residential is low, and access from those homes to the site is challenged.

Commissioner Tom Loach perhaps put it most succinctly when he said “Theoretically, this is not the Neighborhood Model”.  But Loach also said, “ we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

Commissioner Rick Randolph voiced cost effectiveness concerns saying “Focusing on the ideal should not get in the way of this moving forward”.  Commissioner Ed Smith echoed this sentiment stating “It’s not a campus atmosphere but it is the lesser of two evils”.  Commissioner “Mac” Lafferty believes this is an opportunity that will not repeat itself. 

As a part of the discussion, Commissioner Don Franco pushed County staff suggesting there might be ways to make the project more Neighborhood Model friendly and asked if the applicant (the County) was prepared to make commitments to mitigate the negative impacts of the redevelopment.  He was concerned that by approving this use, the County might end up in a “firing range” situation where as a commission they have no choice but to approve the site plan regardless of the many concerns.

Commissioner Bruce Dotson enumerated a laundry list of things he would like to see in a library site: Activity center, pedestrian friendly, open space, green space were all important items he wanted to be in the Comprehensive Plan.  How this project failed to measure up to those standards was relatively clear.

To address these concerns staff has suggested that future improvements to make the project more pedestrian and bicycle friendly could be reprogrammed from the proposed Berkmar Extension. The Free Enterprise Forum is very troubled by the suggestion of removing a transportation backbone to make a library fit on a less than ideal site.

Loach was OK with the idea that the applicant (the County) would do their best to address them.  Would a private developer get this level of trust?

In the end the unanimous Planning Commission decision supported the library use with the condition that the applicant (the county) “come as close to the Neighborhood Model as possible”  Perhaps this will be the language used in all future land use discussions – I have my doubts.

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.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Free Enterprise Forum

Map Credit: Bing.com

Greene Raises Tax Rate to Counter Property Assessment Decline

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On Tuesday night, April 23rd,  the Greene County Board of Supervisors heard from only 12 speakers, a fraction of citizens that they heard from a year ago (over 90 speakers), in the public hearing on the property tax rate. With property assessments declining 6.99%, a tax rate increase of $.03/$100 would be required to roughly equalize tax revenue – this is the rate that was published in advance. Chairman Jim Frydl clarified that the meeting was only to take action on the tax rate and that setting the budget will be at the May 14th meeting.

The comments from the public overwhelmingly supported the increase to generate level funding. Andrea Whitmarsh, current assistant superintendent who has been named to be the new superintendent, thanked the BOS for public funding for the schools. She vowed to continue to strive for improved cost control in the school system. She announced to the BOS that after the School Board submitted their budget they have learned that health insurance costs will be reduced by $150,000. These funds will be used to reinstate some of the cuts announced to offset reduced state and federal funding (of over $700,000).

School Board Chairperson, Michelle Flynn, thanked the BOS in advance for level funding and for their time spent coming to the schools – all five have attended some event in the school system. She also echoed the Stanardsville Fire Department  who earlier commented on the private fundraising that they do to help fund the schools.

Several citizens did express concern over a tax rate increase and that once a levy is raised it is hard to lower it and that seniors have a hard time making their tax payments. One citizen asked that the county do a zero based budget. He was willing to go along with an increase of $.015/$100 instead of the $.03/$100 proposed. His fear was that increased taxes would deter new businesses from locating in Greene County.

Several of the citizens spoke in favor of the equalized rate and made the comment that this is not raising taxes, but merely to balance out the decline in assessed property valued to generate the same tax revenue – the bill will be the same amount. One citizen encouraged the BOS to equalize taxes to ensure that the quality of life is maintained in Greene County to attract businesses to the county.

The meeting then turned to a discussion among the supervisors. Supervisor Davis Lamb referred to a study he found on line that indicated that in the past decade funding for schools has increased faster than enrollment. He indicated he was not in favor of increasing the property tax rate as Social Security COLA is increasing only 1.4%  and Medicare Part B has a 9.3% increase. Supervisor Buggs Peyton also did not support the tax rate increase since the schools received their largest increase ever last year. He expressed concern over the funding the past two years of athletic facilities instead of academics. He also expressed concern that it is time to stop bullying and intimidation and promote collaboration within the schools. Lastly, he indicated that to meet all the needs of Greene County the tax rate would need to be at $.85/$100.

Supervisor Eddie Deane, the supervisor who proposed the $.72/$100 tax rate, believes that the increase will help avoid a larger increase in the future. He appreciates the transparency with the school system. When a more detailed budget by line item was requested, it was presented the next day. He does not want more people in the schools to lose their jobs. He also suggested that the county look into citizens being able to pay more than their tax bill and identify what function it should be assigned to.

Supervisor David Cox appreciated the comments from the public and applauded them for being respectful this evening. And also he complimented the School Board for being open during the school year. He also supported the $.72/$100 tax rate to help offset problems down the road.

Chairman Jim Frydl was last to speak and he also thanked the audience for attending. He also stated that the county has underspent by $979,000 to date. He agreed with Supervisors Dean and Cox that the alternative to raising the tax rate is to put our head in the sand. He indicated that the School System is not asking for increased funding, but for level funding. With that being said, they are already having to eliminate 22.5 positions due to reduced state and federal funding. He supports the $.72/$100 equalized tax rate which would charge residents the same amount as last year.

Supervisor Lamb said that some of the positions being eliminated are due to people leaving the school system. Supervisor Dean indicated that the lack of sale of EDU’s has caused the county to bear the full cost of the water and sewer system. Supervisor Frydl agreed stating that any units sold at the $10,000 rate will help offset the $2,000,000 cost which is the worst case.

At that time Chairman Frydl summarized each supervisors position with 3 supporting the $.72 rate and 2 supporting maintaining the $.69 rate. David Cox proposed the motion for the $.72 rate with Eddie Deane seconding the motion. Peyton and Lamb voted no and Frydl, Deane and Cox voted in favor of the equalized rate.

The Free Enterprise Forum commends the citizens of Greene County for their behavior during the meeting, quite a difference from a year ago. The vote to equalize the tax rate will allow Greene County to replenish their Reserve Fund which has proven to allow the county to address major financial issues.

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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

Will Increasing Regulation Increase Prosperity?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

On the national level, President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it”. 

One has to ask, Do the majority of our elected representative support or oppose this concept?

Just as the leaders of our community are being asked to think big regarding their comprehensive plan goals and objectives, they continue to consider government actions that would demonstrably add bureaucracy, and cost with limited public benefit.

Interestingly, the proponents for this type regulations work hard to use a lexicon that discourages opposition. Charlottesville, the “Human Rights Commission” sounds like something everyone should agree on. It was perhaps because they did not want to be seen as opposing “Human Rights” that a majority of City Council favored adding enforcement language to this politically appointed group. Aaron Richardson of The Daily Progress reports:

“The council on Monday night reached consensus to hold a public hearing on the ordinance that would establish a commission that could investigate, mediate and make judgments on claims of discrimination in small businesses and delegate claims from larger businesses to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. .

… Councilor Kathy Galvin told the council on Monday that she was skeptical of the effect a commission with full enforcement powers could have on local businesses. She added that discrimination is not the only thing keeping low-income residents and minorities out of work.”

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds Ms. Galvin’s persistence on this critical issue. Back in December of 2011, the Free Enterprise Forum asked if you could be in favor of Human Rights and Opposed to the Human Rights Commission.

We said, “the Free Enterprise Forum fears that moving forward with the politically appointed Human Rights Commission, based on its current construct and goals, will do more harm than good for City economic opportunities across all demographic cohorts”.

Couple this with Charlottesville’s tax rates, the newly enacted Stormwater fees, one has to wonder how much more regulatory burden can businesses withstand before looking at space outside the City. 

Things are not significantly better in Albemarle County, where their Planning Commission is considering a number of new overlay zones that will increase complexity, reduce property rights and increase the scope and size of local government.

Adopt a historic overlay district ordinance to recognize and protect historic, architectural, and cultural resources, including individual sites and districts at the local level.

Expand the authority of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to include the review required under the recommended historic district overlay ordinance. Revise the make up of the ARB to include members with expertise in historic preservation and revise the name of the group accordingly”.

This is in addition to the Monticello “land grab” vista preservation overlay (note the verbiage change), the new proposed “Biodiversity” inventory and action plan. Clearly there is an undercurrent in government that more control is better government. The Free Enterprise Forum respectfully disagrees.

All of these regulatory hurdles have an impact on economic development and stability.  This morning’s (4/22) Washington Post featured a Sarah Halzack article explaining DC bucking the trend of “Job Sprawl”.  Citing Brookings Institute’s Elizabeth Kneebone’s study showing DC was the only one of 100 studied that had added jobs to its urban core.  According to the article:

“Decentralization of jobs can have either a positive or negative effect on a metropolitan area.  The implications of this shift can depend largely on a region’s land-use policies as well as the quality and reach of its transit system. [Emphasis added-nw]

“Particularly for low income residents, if jobs move further out, if there isn’t reliable transit and they don’t have a car, that could limit their opportunities,” Kneebone said.

This information coupled with the Charlottesville dearth of jobs in the so called “Orange Dot” Report proves economic realities must help shape local policies if we wish to attract and retain JOBS to live in our region.  The concept of economic vitality has been woefully understated during the community discussions regarding poverty, employment issues and property rights.

While we appreciate Monticello’s contribution to the community, we believe they are a private property owner. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation takes great pains to mention that it receives no government support but now is asking Albemarle County to serve as a middle man between the mountaintop and their neighbors. Perhaps the Foundation might choose to use a part of their most recent $10 million dollar gift to directly reach out to their neighbors rather than mandating local government do so.  

While we understand and appreciate the goals of biodiversity, we do not believe this chapter should be the longest in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan and we question the need for a Biodiversity Action Plan that virtually deputizes the Natural Resource Committee.

While we remain very concerned with human rights, we are equally concerned that unnecessary red tape will push more businesses out of not only Charlottesville but the entire region. 

While we believe the importance of historic places, we find that property owners, not government, should determine what to do with their property.

If we as a community choose to ignore the significant negative implications of over regulation on business development and retention, the resultant community may not be one you wish to see preserved.  Just as one can ask if the community vision is “Aspen or Austin”, if  these proposals come to fruition a better question may be should Charlottesville be known for Making Products or Making Beds.

Today, we find ourselves at  a tipping point, as the number of government overlays, rights commissions and review boards increase, the economic vitality of the region decreases by an inverse proportion.

Which way will the scale fall?

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Passes Budget and CIP

By. Bryan Rothamel

PALMYRA – The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed the 2014 fiscal year budget and associated tax rates unanimously during the April 17 meeting.

The budget had minimal changes from the advertised budget. The tax rates did not change from advertised amounts, with the real property tax rate at $0.795 per $100 assessed and personal property tax at $4.15 per $100 assessed.

Mozell Booker“I love this budget,” said Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) after the meeting. “We put in some things that we took out last year and the schools are in a better position. I loved the whole budget process, the way it was organized, the way it was presented. And we got a 5-0 on the tax rate.”

The minor changes to the budget were increased funding for the Fluvanna-Louisa Foundation and Jefferson Area Board of Aging. These two changes came from other budget lines but totaled $17,000 of changes.

Notable budget items include $13.75 million for the school district, educational supplements for deputies and structured pay increases for county employees who are currently paid less than market value.

kenney_200px“It was a win-win situation for everybody involved: for schools, for deputies, for staff. Those are the best sorts of budgets. I think that’s why we had such smooth sailing this time around,” said chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District).

The FY2014 budget is for $65,312,998. The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), included in the total budget figure, has $3,834,662 worth of projects for FY2014.

The CIP caused more discussion than the budget. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) did not like the inclusion of a $20 million new elementary school for FY2018. The supervisors only commit to fund items in the FY14 column unless an item stretches from FY14 into following years. The other years were described as ‘hopeful’, ‘dreams’ and ‘planned for’.

Bob Ullenbruch agreed with Weaver’s dissension on the elementary school.

Weaver said he would prefer the School Board raise the issue instead of the Board of Supervisors just including an item from very basic discussions. Weaver hoped in the next nine months the School Board would have a better idea of student enrollment, projections and usage of current facilities including the pending closures of Columbia and Cunningham elementary schools.

The CIP for FY14 includes $575,000 for construction of a Zion Crossroad water and sewer system with another $3.1 million in FY15 and $975,000 in FY16. All three years are slated to be paid for by cash, with the first year coming from the Fund Balance instead of operating expenses.

Also in the plan are a groundwater study and adding a water source to the Fork Union Sanitary Department system. The plan also includes replacing an emergency services apparatus.

The CIP has $1.26 million of spending on school projects including new buses, implementation of a new financial system the county finance department uses, renovations to Carysbrook Elementary School and information technology like server virtualization and internet equipment upgrades.

The CIP was adjusted to take school flooring replacement and playground equipment upgrades out of the FY14 year. The supervisors will vote at the next meeting to pay for those items, totaling $150,000, from the FY13 budget. This will allow the school district to award a contract and begin work sooner in order to give proper time before school resumes this August.

The CIP passed 3-2 with Weaver and Ullenbruch voting against it. Weaver announced before the vote his vote against was a protest vote of the FY18 elementary school line.

The first tax bill to include the new tax rates will be due June 5. The FY14 calendar year begins July 1, 2013.

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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 Proposal Still Infringes Property Rights

A open letter to Albemarle County Planning Commission:

Dear Chairman Morris and members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission,

Many thanks to Albemarle Director of Planning Wayne Cilimberg for forwarding me the new submissions the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has presented for inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan for discussion. The Free Enterprise Forum regrets the majority of the public will not get to see them in advance of the Planning Commission discussion this evening. Again, I regret I will not be able to join you this evening due to a previously scheduled family event.

Considering our outspoken position in favor of individual property rights, we believed a response to Mr. Cilimberg would be appropriate given this newly available information.

After reviewing the e-mailed documents, we agree that this iteration of language is significantly better than the language the Thomas Jefferson Foundation originally wanted. In addition it is also improved from the language the Foundation inserted into the existing Comprehensive Plan.

Recognizing this marked improvement, the Free Enterprise Forum must continue to oppose the intrusion of local government into this basic property rights issue. We ask the section be removed entirely from the Comprehensive Plan.

Please let me explain.

Regardless of their status or import, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is a property owner with property rights. Their neighbors are also property owners with rights. Because of their position in the community, they have successfully lobbied Albemarle County to insert language into the state mandated planning document that will require the County to act as the Foundation’s agent in delivering voluntary design guidelines to limit the property rights of parcels that may be seen from the “Big House”.

The rationale for this inclusion , according to tonight’s staff report is “In recent years, keeping up with all site plans, subdivision plats, rezonings, and special use permits has been difficult for TJF staff”. As Planning Commission Mac Lafferty regularly reminds the public, the planning staff has increasing responsibilities without the requisite increasing in staffing.

Is Albemarle County now in a position to provide additional staff work for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation?

Will Albemarle extend this courtesy to other property owners as well?

The Free Enterprise Forum is aware that Albemarle County is blessed to have the homes of two presidents within its borders. Why has the County not provided the same accommodations to the staff at Ash Lawn?

This issue of visual impact is an issue between property owners not an issue for government. The reality of voluntary guidelines being delivered by government when a building permit is pulled or a pre-application process is initiated is nothing more than a thinly veiled requirement.

Considering all of the above, we find it ironic that Albemarle County and the home of the drafter of the Declaration of Independence are advocating Comprehensive Plan language that makes some property owners more equal than others.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on this issue.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

President

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan–Deep in the Weeds

By. Neil Williamson

An open letter to the Albemarle County Planning Commission:

April 15, 2013

Mr. Calvin Morris, Chairman, Albemarle County Planning Commission

Dear Chairman Morris and members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission,

Thank you for the extended deadline to provide written comments on the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan. Staff should be commended for marshaling this process forward and seeking to limit the size of the plan (which is still too big).

Before we get to our analysis of the plan, the Free Enterprise Forum wishes to highlight the failure of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to meet the deadlines associated with the joint City/County/TJPDC/UVA livability plan. In concept this over 1 million dollar expenditure was to “inform the comprehensive planning in the City and County”, the money has been spent but the work is not yet complete. The plethora of meetings, public input sessions and joint Planning Commission meetings produced a number of benefits but absent the final work product the effort must be deemed a failure. While appreciative of the supplementary benefits, the Free Enterprise Forum remains concerned that this project was mismanaged by the lead agency.

We have reviewed the entire plan and our comments are organized sequentially with the plan.

Chapter 2 Growth Management Policy – page 2.2.2 the joint City Count statement “the scale and scope of the impacts of new development on this infrastructure necessitate greater financial participation by new development in addressing this need.” The statement infers that absent new development infrastructure would be adequate – which is not true. A lack of concurrency of infrastructure has been a concern of the Free Enterprise Forum for over ten years. If the answer to this concern is to make Development area projects even more expensive, this will force development into by right status , into the rural areas, or out of Albemarle County entirely.

Page 2.2.3 should recognize that the County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has not kept up with the community needs.

Page 2.2.4 The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with the concept of priority areas within the development area. We recognize the limitation of public funds and the need to focus those funds. Where we are concerned is the language: “Land Use decisions should be made consistent with the priority areas established in the Development Area Master Plans. The County may decide not to approve new rezoning or special use permit outside of the designated priority areas as planned facilities are not in place to support the proposed project and the existing neighborhoods. If approved, however, as a part of the land development process, developers will need to provide more significant levels of improvement to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area.

If, as we contend, the County has failed to properly fund and construct concurrent infrastructure, the cost to provide adequate infrastructure to both new and existing residents is now on the private land owner whose development area parcel happens not to fall in the “Priority Area”. For the same reasons as cited above this will accelerate the kind of By Right development the Comprehensive Plan indicates it wishes to avoid.

As an aside, The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with the growing power of appointed Community Councils. We are troubled that development proposals are regularly referred to these councils for their blessing prior to going before the Planning Commission.

Chapter 3 Comprehensive Plan and Background – Page 3.2 The 1998 Sustainability Accords these items have appeared in the Comprehensive Plan since their passage. While there has been little discussion of these accords the plan states “Goals for sustainability were most recently adopted in 2007 when the Comprehensive Plan reaffirmed the accords” Has the Planning Commission, or any other body really reviewed the sustainability accords recently? They were written 15 years ago. Should we accept these accords as if they came down from the mountain on stone tablets? Or should they be examined prior to passing the comprehensive plan that would “reaffirm the Accords”

Historic Preservation Page 3.9 (joint City County goals) “To do this the City and County will: Colloborate with the University of Virginia, Ashlawn-Highland, Monticello and other community organizations on historic preservation matters.” The Free Enterprise Forum finds the failure to include property owners in the list of collaborators is an error and speaks to an institutional bias in opposition to property rights.

Chapter 5.1 Natural Resources – Page 5.1.1 This chapter is in need of editing. It speaks to the importance of an issue that the Natural Resources chapter of the comprehensive plan is 30 pages while only 11 pages are dedicated to the economic development chapter.

Page 5.2.4 Mountain Protection – This section correctly identifies the Mountain Protection Ordinance as being rejected by the community in January 2007. IS there a reason for including this text in the plan? The issue has been resolved. This text should be removed.

Page 5.1.10 Stormwater Management – The plan states “Evidence has shown that, once constructed, many facilities are not maintained properly.” While this may be true in some areas, it is clearly not true in other areas. This text is prejudicial and should be reworded.

Page 5.1.13 Objective 1: Retain Biodiversity in the County – “This information should be used to create a database that includes both landscape features such as habitats and critical slopes areas and species occurrences from point observations. The database should then be included in the County’s Geographical Information System so that County staff and the public can use the information for conservation purposes. The information could also be used in reviewing requests for legislative approvals.” [emphasis added]

Is Albemarle County prepared to limit development in their development area based on the number of species established by a biodiversity inventory? What possible project could be approved under such a standard?

Page 5.1.14 Biodiversity Action PlanBuilding on this analysis, the County should develop the action plan based on conserving ecological integrity at the scale of the landscape” Ecological integrity is an undefined buzz word that promotes existing conditions while failing to recognize potential ecological benefits of development (or redevelopment) This entire concept should be removed from the plan

Page 5.1.15 Strategies – In no other chapter does the work of the comprehensive plan fall so directly on one group of unelected individuals. The Natural Heritage Committee is continually mentioned as a resource and an “expert” on Biodiversity. Interestingly this group has lost more than half of its members in the last year and the clerk’s office has not received any interested applicants in the last two months.

Page 5.1.19 Strategy 4d.3 – “Apply a general risk management approach to the public water supply watershed whereby land use management takes priority over design and best management practices (BMPs) to reduce or eliminate risk from land development activities.” Reading between the lines of this dense statement, it suggests regardless of placement in the development areas, any parcel should not be developed if it is within the public water supply watershed. This could be read as a call for no development. This is absurd.

Page 5.1.19 Strategy 4e.1 – The explanation of groundwater is overly verbose and at times nonsensical. The suggestion that “A new well may also draw water from the flow that is going to a different resident’s well” is gently worded enough to be technically correct but contradicts testimony provided to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors from then Water resource Manager David Hirshman.

Chapter 5.2 Historic, Cultural, and Scenic Resources – Page 5.2.3Moreover the number of resources destroyed in recent years suggests that continued reliance on solely voluntary measures would not be adequate to protect those resources. Instead a combination of strategies is necessary, including voluntary techniques, regulation, education and financial incentives.” The Free Enterprise Forum calls for regulation to be removed from the strategies listed. This community has a firm desire for voluntary measures and incentives but Historic Preservation Ordinances are unacceptable.

Page 5.2.8 – No one of the strategies for historic preservation includes the phrase with the consent of the property owner.

Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2b1: “Adopt a historic overlay district ordinance to recognize and protect historic, architectural, and cultural resources, including individual sites and districts at the local level”. We acknowledge that this language exists in the current comprehensive plan but we have not seen significant public support for a new confiscatory historic overlay. The Free Enterprise Forum asks that this language be struck from the Comprehensive Plan.

Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2.b.3: “Expand the authority of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to include the review required under the recommended historic district overlay ordinance. Revise the make up of the ARB to include members with expertise in historic preservation and revise the name of the group accordingly”. Considering our significant concerns with the existing regulatory over reach of the ARB, the Free Enterprise Forum does not support the creation of the Super ARB and ask that it be struck from the Comprehensive Plan.

Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2b.7:To discourage the destruction of important historic resources, seek enabling legislation that would allow the County to impose meaningful civil penalty for inappropriate demolition, razing or moving of any designated historic resource. This enabling legislation should also authorize the County to use civil penalties collected to fund components of the County’s historic preservation program.” The fact that the County can’t work with existing legislative authority and is seeking to develop a civil penalty slush fund to be used for preservation suggests this is not a true priority for the County. If the county wishes to preserve a historic building or landscape – they should buy it.

Page 5.2.12 Strategy 4a:The County should help protect Monticello’s viewshed using these measures:” The Free Enterprise Forum has been very outspoken on this issue. Time and again when we raise the issue we have been told this is a voluntary program. Reading the introductory statement this is not voluntary it is declarative.

While we believe all of strategy 4a should be dropped, we ask that if you consider retaining any language it be improved to recognize that the “protection” Monticello is seeking is at the cost of other tax paying property owners rights. Perhaps change this directive to encourage communication (not cooperation) between Monticello and other private property owners regarding visual impacts (not viewshed).

Page 5.2.12 Strategy 4a.5: “Staff should be aware of the Viewshed area and be especially careful when applying land use regulations to properties in the viewshed.” Again we believe the whole section should be dropped but this is ridiculous is staff NOT to be careful in applying land use regulations elsewhere in the County. This is superfluous and suggests additional special treatment that does not exist in code!

Page 5.2.14 Cultural and Scenic resources (last paragraph): “Existing regulations only go so far in protecting the resources. Greater ability to regulate aesthetics is desired to help preserve these qualities“. Recognizing the balance of this chapter calls for increased regulatory powers and aesthetic controls, the Free Enterprise Forum asks how this balances with the “desire” for economic development. Albemarle County is at a critical tipping point where over regulation, while seeking to maintain the existing condition, may forestall the economic advancement of the community.

Page 5.2.21 Plan for Scenic Resources Objective 1: Support wider enabling legislation for regulating aesthetics in specified areas of importance.” Once again the desires of the property owners will be secondary to the powers of regulations for “areas of importance” This objective and the following strategy should be dropped from the plan.

Page 5.2.21 Strategy 1a: “Support enabling legislation for Albemarle County to provide for a scenic protection and tourist enhancement overlay district”. Based on the Free Enterprise Forum’s opposition to the Monticello viewshed overlay one can imagine we are equally, if not more, concerned with the concept of a tourism enhancement overlay district that would hinder the property rights of Albemarle citizens. We do not believe this is the general direction of the Board of Supervisors at this time and question whether the Planning Commission, utilizing Zero Based Planning, has fully vetted this question. If such a proposal were to go forward, the Free Enterprise Forum promises to fight it at the local and state level.

Page 5.2.22 Strategy 2f: “ Consider additional EC [Entrance Corridor] designations as appropriate, or as road classifications change for roads such as the John W. Warner Parkway, Route 614 (Sugar Hollow Road), Route 692/712 Plank Road, and Route 810 (Brown’s Gap Turnpike)”. Albemarle County today has 19 Entrance Corridors. The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is a gross misuse of the enabling legislation. The Free Enterprise Forum asks that the number of entrance corridors be reduced to ten and that no new road may be added as an entrance corridor unless one is removed.

Page 5.2.23 Strategy 2g:Review the EC guidelines for effectiveness in protecting the integrity of exceptionally scenic EC corridors, such as Route 250 West.” Now the EC guidelines are not enough the concept is to plan for super guidelines for those “exceptional corridors”. If Albemarle County is serious about create protection for the exceptional, the Free Enterprise Forum suggests simply reducing the number of Entrance Corridors and implementing the exceptional strategies on that reduced number.

The natural progression from this concept is recognized in the last line of this section “recommendations for stricter zoning regulations in the ECs may be an outcome of this review”.

Page 5.2.24 Objective 5: Preserve important views as they relate to tourism and recreational assets. This objective and the strategies supporting it suggest a regulatory solution to the organic change of the community. How does this balance with the economic development [or ecological in the case of controlled burns, timber harvesting].

Page 5.2.24 Strategy 5b: Protect the Monticello viewshed as indicated in the historical Resources Section. – see our comments above

Chapter 5.3 Economic Development: While the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that the Economic Development chapter is the shortest in the Comprehensive Plan, we applaud the inclusion of this important concept.

We are concerned that the length of the Natural Resources chapter is three times that of Economic Development chapter. While both are important, the Free Enterprise Forum believes ample opportunity exists to balance the chapters to better reflect their equal import.

Chapter 5.4 Land use for the Rural areas. The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the inclusion of economic sustainability as a goal for the rural areas. The best way to keep land in agricultural and forestry uses is to allow ancillary uses to help economically support the primary uses.

Chapter 5.5 Land Use for Development Areas, page 5.5.11: Tables for remaining non-constrained land the tables were not updated by the time the document was released to the public for review. We are eager to see the new numbers and anticipate they will consider the land that is now slated to be Biscuit Run State Park to be “constrained”.

Page 5.5.11: “Several studies over the last seven years have indicated that the County has enough rezoned commercial square footage to last more than 20 years. The Studies did not include analysis of already zoned commercial areas or the potential for redevelopment. Because of the amount of work that has already been done on the topic, staff is not going to perform another retail analysis. Instead, attention will be paid to the land designated for industrial and/or employment uses ”. This is a false choice. There is no reason the Planning Commission (or the BOS) should not demand that a retail analysis be conducted for this 5 year update of the comprehensive plan. While the studies are mentioned they are not cited and in just about every case I am aware of these reports were completed with an agenda (both pro and con). Albemarle should insist a proper accounting of commercial space be conducted as a part of this plan.

Page 5.5.15: Objective 1: Achieve high quality development through the application of Neighborhood Model principles. The phraseology of this objective is troublesome. The Free Enterprise Forum believes most if not all applications that come before the Planning Commission have to balance the principles of the neighborhood model to their projects goals and site limitations. We respectfully suggest that the word “flexible” be placed between through and application to better reflect the reality of development [and redevelopment] in Albemarle County.

Page 5.5.19: “A network of streets and convenient routes for pedestrians, bicyclists, buses and other transit, including the potential for light rail in the future allows alternatives to driving”. Back in 2009, we wrote extensively regarding the population required to support the investment of light rail in any community. While we are aware of the highly popular Tide line in the Virginia Beach area, we also recognize they have significantly higher population to support light rail. This twenty year comprehensive plan does not include such population projections; therefore this reference, while fanciful to many in the planning community, should be removed.

Page 5.5.20 Relegated Parking The Free Enterprise Forum believes the parking regulations in Albemarle County are in need of review and revision. The Comprehensive Plan provides an opportunity to suggest such a review. No other principle has received more attention than so called relegated parking. We call on Albemarle County to review the parking regulations with the Albemarle County Police Community Safety through Environmental Design Officer and report back to the BOS prior to moving forward again endorsing relegated parking in the Comprehensive Plan.

Page 5.5.22Review the cash proffer policy to assess what effect it may have on density”. Earlier this year the Free Enterprise Forum provided the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors our white paper “Contradictory Consequences” on cash proffers. We encourage examining our paper, and the examples included, to evaluate the effectiveness of cash proffers on density. We anticipate your findings will be similar to ours that a cash proffer policy encourages by right development at a density and form that is contrary to the County’s approved Comprehensive Plan.

In 2007, Albemarle County looked to Chesterfield County a model for cash proffer legislation. It is interesting that Chesterfield is now contemplating repeal, or at least rolling back, its cash proffer policy. It may be time for Albemarle to take similar action.

Page 5.5.25 Strategy 6b: “Make land use decisions that are consistent with Priority Areas that are established in the Development Area Master Plans. Do not approve proposed rezonings and special use permits outside of the priority areas when planned facilities are not in place to support the project and existing neighborhoods, unless the proposed project will provide significant improvements to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area[emphasis added].

As stated above [under growth management] If, as we contend, the County has failed to properly fund and construct concurrent infrastructure, the cost to provide adequate infrastructure to both new and existing residents is now on the private land owner whose development area parcel happens not to fall in the “Priority Area”. For the same reasons as cited above this will accelerate the kind of By Right development the Comprehensive Plan indicates it wishes to avoid. The Free Enterprise Forum is opposed to the se of Priority Areas to reject land use applications that would otherwise have been approved.

Page 5.6.11: “Fund programs of the County’s Housing Department to implement housing policies.” Similar to our concerns regarding the Natural Resource Chapter mandating the County “Hire” an environmental planner, the Free Enterprise Forum does not believe the comprehensive plan is the proper place for the housing department to be requesting additional funding.

Page 5.7.3:Dispersed development patterns have helped promote a transportation network that is mostly focused on the automobile. In the past a more abundant supply of cheap land and fuel encouraged development patterns that have become hard to sustain”. This anti automobile philosophy is prevalent throughout academic papers in planning. The reality is the automobile is and for the foreseeable future will be the primary form of transportation for the majority of Albemarle’s population. Given advances in fuel economy, hybrid vehicles and transit opportunities, we must question if the current development patterns are really “hard to sustain”?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes multi modal opportunities should be evaluated and implemented but only after recognizing that people who live, work and play in Albemarle County appreciate and invest in the independent mobility of the automobile.

If you have made it this far, thank you. The Free Enterprise Forum is appreciative of the considerable effort of staff, planning commissioners and the public to engage with this document. In addition, thank you for the extension for written comments, as the 3,000+ words above indicate this is a dense document and required time to digest.

We look forward to being a part of the continuing dialog on this issue.

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.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisor Advocates “Tax” Donations to County

By. Bryan Rothamel

PALMYRA – A Fluvanna County supervisor has a plan to allow easier and unrestricted access to donate to specific line items in the budget through overpaying a tax bill.

“Folks are saying they want to be taxed higher, this is an opportunityUllenbruch - Nov 2012 Web to tax yourself higher and point that extra tax to what you feel most important about,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).

“There’s many different departments that people have a passion for and this gives them the opportunity to put their money where they’re passionate.”

Ullenbruch was alerted by a constituent of an option to give residents a section on tax bills to overpay on purpose. The constituent asked House of Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) if an option of unrestricted overpayment for a specific department was allowed. Bell responded that state statute does allow such an option and Prince Edward is the only county to utilize the practice.

On April 8, Ullenbruch met with Commissioner of Revenue Mel Sheridan, Treasurer Linda Lenherr and finance director  Barbara Horlacher to discuss the implementation of such an option. Discussions with Prince Edward about carry out will have to occur but the option could begin as early as the second tax cycle in 2013 (the December tax bill).

The option to overpay would be on both real property and personal property tax bills. There would be the amount to pay based on assessed taxes then a second line asking if the taxpayer would like to contribute extra to any budgeted department the Board of Supervisors funds.

This includes school funding, Sheriff Department, parks and recreation, any non-profit, information technology, finance, etc. The donation is unrestricted for the department.

Ullenbruch said the process after each tax collection would include the Treasurer presenting the Board of Supervisors with the excess tax collection earmarked for each department. The supervisors would then vote to release the funds to the departments. The personnel in charge of the department, or School Board in the case of the school system, then decides how to spend the money, without restriction.

“There’s a difference between [the proposal] and say, I show up to the School Board meeting with a check for $100. They can’t use that money for [much] — they’d have to come in with school supplies or this or that. You can’t donate money into the school budget. In this case, you can,” said Ullenbruch.

Most real property tax bills are never seen by the homeowners. Ullenbruch said a majority of tax bills are paid through mortgage bills. The county could choose to mail a separate ‘bill’ to the homeowner for this excess contribution. Tenants could also decide to contribute excess of whatever the owner pays.

All personal property owners would also see the line for additional tax payment on bills. The line, however, is not directing spending of the taxed amount. In order to utilize the option, the taxpayer has to pay the tax in full.

“On the back of the tax bill it’ll be very clear that it is not a portion of your taxes. It is actual overpayment of your taxes. That one of those things we have to be very clear about that,” said Ullenbruch.

Ullenbruch will propose the option on April 10. He is confident it will pass but expects discussion on how the process will be fully carried out.

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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

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

Who’s Responsible for TJPDC Failure To Deliver Million Dollar Planning Promise?

By. Neil Williamson, President

As Albemarle County and The City of Charlottesville continue to move forward on their comprehensive plans, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) effort entitled “Many Plans One Community” is failing to meet deadlines and has lost their project manager The HUD funded “Livability Communities” Planning Project continues to disappoint citizens and decision makers alike.

The “Performance Measurement System Report” document was designed to be the first deliverable for the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant (p.4).  The work on this deliverable  was mainly completed from January 2011 to April 2011.  Yet today the draft provided to the public for consideration as a part of Charlottesvilles Comprehensive Plan includes typographical errors and is missing critical information.  Throughout the document are the terms “placeholder” (p.25,26, 26, 28) or “need updated Information from City and County” (p.37)  All of the executive summaries in the March 15, 2013 draft (almost two years since the work was completed) contain Latin placeholders.

A review of the work plan included on the “Many Plans One Community” website indicates that all text was to be completed by January 31, 2013 to coincide with the respective Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan reviews.

The TJPDC process was designed from the outset to improve, not delay, the comprehensive plan process.  In their 2011 media release kicking off the process the TJPDC described the process:

Many Plans, One Community is the portal for information exchange and public input that will inform the updates of the Charlottesville and Albemarle County comprehensive plans, the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Long Range Transportation Plan update and the development of a regional Livable Communities Plan. Many Plans, One Community will be a One-Stop Shop for all information about each of these four different plans, as well as a forum for the public to provide feedback throughout the process. It is envisioned that this process will extend limited staff resources and encourage collaboration, facilitate public information sharing and increase transparency across municipal boundaries.

Back in September, 2012 Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs reported that three “One Community” TJPDC Planners had been let go earlier than planned due to budget overruns:

Two temporary employees of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission hired to help update the Albemarle and Charlottesville comprehensive plans will leave their jobs seven months earlier than expected as money from a $1 million federal grant begins to run out. . .

…“We are anticipating that we will be able to close out the project, complete all of the products

that have been promised both to HUD, the city and the

TJPDC Exec Stephen Williams

TJPDC Exec Stephen Williams

county and the MPO within the budget and within the time frames that are proposed,” Williams said.

Then on January 31, 2013 Project Manager Summer Frederick left the TJPDC to return to work for Albemarle County.  The TJPDC media release indicates:

As of February 1, 2013, Mr. Williams, will be the primary point of contact for all project management issues related to the Many Plans, One Community Livability Project.  Mr. Williams may be reached via phone at 434-979-7310 x110, or via email at swilliams@tjpdc.org

After three years and nearly a million dollars, what do the citizens have to show for it?  A litany of meetings, a website, partially completed reports and now TJPDC Exec Williams is taking management responsibility?

One has to wonder has the TJPDC met the terms, objectives and deadlines of the HUD Federal Grant?

And if not, who should be held responsible?

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.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Discuss Economic Development in Zion Crossroads

By. Bryan Rothamel

The talk of Fluvanna County since the 1990s has been economic development. Finally, Fluvanna is starting to make concrete steps towards actually seeing the long discussed economic development.

During the April 3 work session, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors heard staff updates on many topics including economic development and a Zion Crossroad update.

open for business“We need economic development because we have to find another way to pay for the services we do need in this county — including schools, education, employees, rescue squad — all those things have to be provided. To put all that burden on the property owners is a pretty heavy burden,” said Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) after the work session.

The director of community planning and development, Bobby Popowicz, told the board of economic projects in the works.

Currently Popowicz is trying to secure and locate a training facility on 750 total acres with 100 usable acres (building footprint, etc.) of the facility. The building would be buffered and hidden by trees.

Also, he is working with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Fluvanna County Cooperative Extension to find Fluvanna grape growers and land suitable for the regional demand of wine grapes.

Part of this work is including Fluvanna in the Monticello American Viticultural Area for local wineries to buy Fluvanna grapes.

Popowicz biggest focus is bringing an employment center or ‘legacy project’ to Fluvanna. A legacy project is the centerpiece of a major development. It provides a development with a strong nucleus for retail and residential to surround.

Popowicz is targeting a medical facility and a federal research company. One federal contractor he has talked with isn’t looking to expand but did offer to recommend Fluvanna for other companies entering the Central Virginia market.

Finally, Popowicz was approached by his Albemarle counterpart about the possibility of a megasite in the Route 250 Corridor. Such a site would involve a revenue sharing program but would allow both counties to add jobs with easy access to Interstate 64.

This past year Popowicz has worked on getting Fluvanna’s recognition amongst state and local economic development leaders. It has started to pay off with such officials. Popowicz hopes to encourage business expanding in the region to move to Zion Crossroad.

“Water to Zion Crossroads, probably the most important thing we can do,” said Popowicz to the board.

Fluvanna BOS Chair Shaun Kenney

Fluvanna BOS Chair Shaun Kenney

Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District) said after the meeting, “There are still a lot of hurdles we have to clear: we have to get water to Zion Crossroads, we have to get broadband to Zion Crossroads, we have to get sewer to Zion Crossroads. Even when you get all that there, what comes after and in what way?”

The planning department is working on that. Allyson Finchum, director of planning, briefed the board on a Zion Crossroad plan following Popowicz’s presentation.

The Zion Crossroad area has had 10 studies or plans mentioning the area in the last 15 years. Now the county needs one plan for the area and the area only. It could be used in conjunction with the Fluvanna Comprehensive Plan, but one dedicated to the area will help Popowicz match businesses to the county’s plans.

The Virginia Employment Commission, the gold standard in population projection in Virginia, projected Fluvanna’s population will increase to 37,433 by 2020 and 47,010 by 2030. In 2010, Fluvanna had 25,691 residents.

The Zion Crossroad urban development area couldzion map have 11,000 to 21,000 new residents over the next 10 to 20 years. The amount of acreage using the rural and suburban density method would require 11,041 to 25,186 acres to accommodate. The traditional neighborhood development method would only require 711 to 1,708 acres.

“[Economic development] means a lot of things. You are going to have to bring in more people but you want to bring in the right businesses to have a sustainable economy,” said Chesser.

By planning to use a traditional neighborhood development, Fluvanna would have to plan for village like developments where employment, retail and residential are in walking distance. It requires legacy projects that Popowicz is actively recruiting.

“There is a quick temptation to building out very quickly which is box stores and townhomes. If you end up doing it that way, sure there is a great short-term benefit, it feels good in the short term.

“But in 15 years, when those box stores go empty and the townhomes degrade, then at what type of condition are you at? This is making sure we do it properly, we do it smart, we do it according to a plan. It is absolutely critical. If we go for the sugar high, we are going to kill ourselves long term. We only have one chance to build out Zion Crossroads right,” said Kenney.

Zion Crossroad actually could set up quite nicely for a traditional neighborhood development. Of the 6,016 total acres in the Route 250 corridor, 3,196 acres are developed. That leaves 2,820 acres undeveloped. There are also pretty well connected areas of undeveloped land.

What comes of it is now for a master plan.

A lot of the discussion around Zion Crossroad is similar to how Short Pump was discussed years ago. That isn’t something Chesser sees as a perfect solution because of the congestion that plagues the area.

He does like elements and basic design of Stonefield in Charlottesville. Stonefield incorporates retail and residential while surrounding Sperry Marine – Northrop Grumman.

“If you can put shopping center behind trees but still have viable businesses like, some of these larger consulting companies. You can even have a manufacturing company out there because manufacturing is so much more aggressive and high tech,” said Chesser.

While the idea of making a master plan seems like another study in the process, Kenney insists this is different. During the work session he credited Crozet having a master plan that helped spark development.

“It is not another study to a study. What this is, at this point in time we’ve collected the data, we know we have an opportunity there, how are we going to seize that opportunity? That’s the difference between now and then,” said Kenney.

The supervisors hope to make decisions on water infrastructure and start a master plan in the coming months.

“We can talk about what we want up there and put a picture for people to see. Hopefully, by showing [a plan], by us invest in that area, someone will come and do the right job. There are some great developers out there that have done things across the country,” said Chesser.

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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 Albemarle Needs Zero Based Planning

Comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan Update Public Hearing April 2, 2013

Mr. Chairman, members of the Planning Commission my name is Neil Williamson and I work for the Free Enterprise Forum a public policy organization based in Albemarle County.

We find many positives in this revised Comprehensive Plan. The inclusion of a chapter on Economic Development is a welcome shift. The plan length, while still too long, is probably half the size of the previous iteration. We also applaud the use of appendices to catalogue important supplementary material.

Even with those positives, throughout the Comprehensive Plan Update the Free Enterprise Forum has raised significant concerns with the general direction of the plan. It is only now, when viewing the plan in total that we have identified a critical flaw in the Plan’s development.

While we remained concerned about several of the proposed changes in the Plan, we are most concerned that the entire plan has not been fully vetted by this commission.

Staff has continued to highlight the changes to the Comprehensive Plan but has this body fully evaluated those items that remain in the Plan?

Did this commission hold a vote to retain the Historical Preservation Ordinance and related Architectural Review Board expansion to cover all parcels within or adjacent to the historic overlay? It’s in there

Has this Commission been briefed by counsel on the legal standing or lack thereof regarding the word Viewshed? It’s in there

Speaking of viewshed, prior to this hearing had you even seen the new land grab language that The Thomas Jefferson Foundation strong armed into this draft document? It’s in there

Does this Commission really believe in the next 50 years there will be the population density required to support light rail? It’s in there

Does this Commission believe the Comprehensive Plan should demand the hiring of an environmental planner? It’s in there

Unlike the special interest groups that have drafted much of the proposed comprehensive plan, the Planning Commission is charged with representing the entire community.

This plan lacks a unified voice that balances community needs with property rights. Previous plans did not fully meet this standard.

The Free Enterprise Forum is asking the Planning Commission not to accept the Current Comprehensive Plan as the baseline but to practice zero based planning.

Examine the whole document.

Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan Update Deserves a Comprehensive Review.

Thank you for your service to the community.

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