Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Greene BOS Passes Truck Issue to VDOT

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On Tuesday, May 28th, the Greene County Board of Supervisors  held a public hearing concerning the restriction of semi-trucks through downtown Stanardsville. This is one of several steps required to make it illegal for semi-trucks to travel through downtown Stanardsville.

The issue has gathered quite a bit of momentum among residents and business owners of Stanardsville, in fact, many wore a sticker with a line drawn through a truck. A total of 21 people spoke to the Board taking several different points of view, however, the main issue raised was safety with most of the county’s schools being located in Stanardsville.

Gary Lowe, mayor of Stanardsville, was the first speaker and Chairman Jim Frydl asked that he give an overview of the project. He indicated that this public hearing is one step that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) . If the BOS passes the issue to VDOT  then a study would be performed by VDOT which could then be forwarded to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB)  for a final vote. The issue is the semi-truck traffic through downtown Stanardsville with the alternative being to route traffic east of Stanardsville onto Business 33 to connect to Route 230 heading to Madison County . Mr. Lowe pointed out that this t-intersection is problematic however traffic is managed as it is a narrow two lane road and the turning radius is very difficult for semi-trucks to navigate in either direction. Semi-trucks having business in Stanardsville will still be permitted to travel down Main Street as they currently do. Mr. Lowe summarized that this is a safety issue and with the Streetscaping Project beginning the reduced truck traffic would cause less wear to the street in town.

The issues that the speakers brought up ranged from the noise of the truck traffic, the vibration and potential damage to the sewer system, the owner of a preschool expressing concern for the children in her school, etc. The owner of the Lafayette Hotel, Alan Pyles , expressed concern over the noise of trucks changing gears in front of his hotel. Several speakers brought up the issue of dining outside being interrupted by truck traffic in town. Don Pamenter, head of the County’s Economic Development Authority, agreed that restricting truck traffic from downtown Stanardsville is not the ideal solution but hopes that Greene can work with Madison County to totally restrict semi-trucks from Route 230 and make Stanardsville more inviting. Jackie Pamenter, President of the Greene County Historical Society, gave some history of Stanardsville and how it was laid out with its narrow streets. She felt that truck traffic should be restricted through town and believes that Mr. Stanard would agree with her.

However, some speakers supported leaving the traffic pattern alone. Several speakers expressed concern about the turn radius if you force trucks to head westbound on Main Street and have to make the right hand turn onto Route 230 North. Trucks have to swing into the oncoming traffic lane and go up onto the grass of the opposite lane – blocking oncoming traffic – to complete the turn. The logic was that restricting truck traffic through town was just trading it for another problem making the right hand turn onto Route 230 North.

After the public speakers, Joel DeNunzio from VDOT addressed the BOS and outlined the process if the BOS passed the issue on to VDOT. There are 4 criteria of which 3 must be attained in order for the project to be approved.

1. A reasonable alternative route is available that is appropriate as the old route.

2. Is the character of the truck traffic not compatible with the area.

3. Roadway is residential – meaning per 1,000 feet there are 12 homes.

OR

4. Rural alternative road – this alternative is not available

He confirmed that a safety study would be performed and made available to Greene County. Mr. Cox asked if there was any recourse if VDOT denied the change, which Mr. DeNunzio said there was none. Mr. Deane asked Mr. Lowe about the crosswalks in the streetscapes project and was told that they are to be stamped asphalt – the most cost effective alternative  . Mr. Cox confirmed that making the right hand turn onto Route 230 is dangerous and that it is safer to make the left hand off Main Street onto Route 230. Mr. Deane stated he had not seen trucks speeding through Stanardsville and while restricting truck traffic through town may make it safer, there is an increased safety issue at Main Street and Route 230. Mr. Peyton stated he believes that truck drivers are safer than regular traffic as their CDL license depends on being safe and not being cited.

Chairman Frydl agreed with many of the points that the other supervisors raised and doubted that VDOT would approve the restriction but he placed a lot of value in receiving the analysis that VDOT would perform. In addition, he cited the overwhelming support of the public of passing this issue on to VDOT for their analysis and encouraged the BOS should let VDOT do the analysis and make a recommendation. At that point, the motion to pass on to VDOT was unanimously approved.

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the open discussion and citizen activism that generated this request.  We agree this is a safety issue that should be studied by the engineers at VDOT rather than be a political issue in Greene County.

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.

US29 Bypass – Building a Roadblock is Easier Than Building a Road

By. Neil Williamson, President

VDOT-logo_thumb.jpgOn Thursday, May 23rd, from 5 pm – 7 pm at the University Area Holiday Inn,  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be holding an open house style meeting to discuss alternative designs to the southern terminus of the US 29 Western Bypass.  But the question is will “the public” focus on the meeting topic or use this meeting as a platform for opposition to this much needed safety improvement to US29?

Based on the e-mbypass-survey-results-graphic-2012.jpgail and Facebook traffic I have seen this week, I fully anticipate the “roadblock builders” to be out in great numbers at this meeting.  Does this mean the public is opposed to the road? 

No, in fact our 2004 transportation survey, Charlottesville Tomorrow 2012 survey [graphic] (and others) as well as the 2011 Rivanna District Supervisor election all seem to indicate the pubic is in favor of the road.

However, when a cohort of any population, regardless of size, is in opposition to a project that cohort is generally more energized than the cohort that is in support of an already approved project.  Therefore, I anticipate the “road blockers” to dominate the attendance at Thursday’s citizen informational meeting.

While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds this vocal minority for remaining engaged, we question the structural integrity of their current six part “GO29” argument.

Please let me explain. 

On their website, The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) advocates for several steps to relieve the congestion on US29 other than the bypass. 

The first step in building an effective roadblock is to redefine the argument.  If you can include portions of the opposition’s solution in your solution, you will have them chasing their rhetorical tail.

By branding this as “GO29”, the SELC seems to think the public will not recognize that many parts of “their” solution are already in process at the direction of those supporting the bypass {and were included in Places29].

From the SELC website:

We can’t bypass our problems. Our community has developed an approach that addresses traffic backups directly, and also gives drivers more ways to reach destinations. Our Go29 video highlights six key pieces of the solution:       

    1. Improve the interchange with the 250 Bypass near Best Buy;  
    2. Build a compact overpass at Hydraulic Road to eliminate a major source of congestion and allow through-traffic on 29 to flow without stopping;
    3. Extend Hillsdale Drive parallel to 29 to give local drivers ways to reach destinations without having to use 29;
    4. Build a second compact overpass at Rio to solve this traffic snarl (same concept as Hydraulic);
    5. Extend Berkmar Drive up to Hollymead Town Center and beyond, so that drivers could go from Kmart to Lowe’s to Target without getting on 29; and
    6. Eliminate the bottleneck between the Rivanna River and Hollymead by widenin100_0404_thumb.jpgg 29 in both directions.

Wait a minute, four of these items are not issues.  There is community consensus (and in some cases studies completed and even funding) for:

  1. The Best Buy Ramp
  2. Hillsdale Drive Extended
  3. Berkmar Drive Extended
  4. The widening of US29 North of the Rivanna River

By suggesting these other items won’t be built, SELC is knowingly constructing a multi faceted false choice argument designed to obfuscate the simple question Expressway or Bypass?  

Should vehicles without business in the North US29 corridor be forced to go through the corridor or should they be given the option to bypass it?

But none of this is the topic of Thursday’s meeting.

According to VDOT:

The purpose of this Citizen Information Meeting is to provide an opportunity for interested citizens and organizations to review preliminary alternatives for the proposed interchange at the southern terminus of the project. . . The project will include construction of a new interchange at the southern terminus of the project that will replace the existing U.S. 250 Bypass interchange at Leonard Sandridge Road. VDOT is considering three alternative configurations for this proposed interchange. Displays showing each alternative under consideration are being presented at this meeting for public review and comment.

So the question remains, will Thursday’s meeting be about the alternatives to the southern terminus of UAlice-Falling-Down-the-Rabbit-HoleS29 Bypass or a trip down the roadblock builder’s rhetorical rabbit hole?

Will the vocal minority succeed in redefining the meeting agenda to include settled issues or will VDOT be able to maintain the focus on the three proposed southern terminus options?

Clearly in Albemarle County, and many communities, building a roadblock is much easier than building a road.

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

Photo Credits: Free Enterprise Forum, Disney

Graphic Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow

Greene PC Denies Proffer Amendment

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Back in 2008, Kinvara Properties, LLC received approval of their Greene County rezoning on the west side of US29 near its intersection with Cedar Grove Road (Route 607).  As a part of the rezoning, a series of voluntary proffers were offered by the developer and accepted by Greene County.   On Wednesday, May 15th Kinerva returned to the Greene County Planning Commission  to request to amendment of the proffers including interconnectivity and removal of the cash proffers 

Attorney Butch Davies spoke on behalf of the request and indicated that Kinvara has a party, Jeana Server, interested in purchasing the property if it included passage from Deer Lake Estates to the Food Lion shopping center and the elimination of cash proffers. Mr. Davies indicated that the buyer would not make the purchase without these conditions.

After hearing from the applicant, the commission opened the public hearing. Chad Womack, a resident in Deer Lake Estates, stated that the residents did not want connectivity to the Food Lion shopping center. Ed Mahoney echoed Mr. Womack’s concern and suggested that a traffic light be installed on Route 29 at the Deer Lake entrance.

Jenna Server, the prospective buyer, said that the $9,000 cash proffer  that was a part of the 2008 rezoning, was not economically feasible given the market study she recently had performed.

Matt Straus, a resident of the Willow Creek subdivision, urged the Planning Commission not to bail out the developer by waiving the cash proffer at the expense of having the residents in Greene County bear this cost. Brian Higgins from the Piedmont Environmental Council asked that the Planning Commission not start a trend of waiving cash proffers. One speaker did speak in favor of the amendment stating it would be good for business in a down economy.

The final speaker was Carl Schmitt, former Greene County supervisor, who helped develop the Cash Proffer policy. He asked the commission not to allow the amendment and to keep the Cash Proffer policy in effect.

The Planning Commission then closed the public hearing and opened their discussion of the request. Vice Chairman Jay Willer indicated he had some concerns about the proffer policy itself, but as for this specific request, he felt there should not be a modification to the proffer policy. Chairman Anthony Herring Joel Snow stated that while he is a businessman and had sympathy with the request he did not support waiving the Cash Proffer. The remaining three commissioners were all in agreement and the vote was unanimous 5 – 0 to deny the rezoning application.

Earlier this Spring, the Free Enterprise Forum issued a white paper ‘Contradictory Consequencesregarding the impacts of cash proffers on development projects. While we do not take a position on any project, the Free Enterprise Forum believes the testimony supports that cash proffers are one (not the only) factor in the market viability of this specific project.

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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

Fluvanna Supervisors Talk Roads

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year-plan for Fluvanna County and was briefed on the Fork Union project during the May 15 meeting.

VDOT-logo_thumb.jpgVDOT’s plan includes paving several unpaved country roads through the ‘rural rustic road’ program and widening heavily traveled county roads.

The rural rustic roads to get paved are Hells Bend Road (Route 606), Stag Road (Route 715), Lantre Road (Route 621), Canal Street (Route 687) and Radicel Circle (Route 687).

Garden Lane (Route 636) qualifies for Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) funds because it has high enough usage and is unpaved. This is different than the rural rustic program that has maximums of road usage to qualify. CTB formula has a minimum to be included and Garden Lane is the only unpaved Fluvanna road to qualify.

The major road projects are widening two county routes, both named North Boston Road (Route 600 and Route 633). North Boston connects the Lake Monticello area to Troy. It is often used by Lake Monticello area traffic to get to Zion Crossroad. This two lane road does not have side white lines and has many pavement patches.

Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) asked for its inclusion during an April VDOT work session. The two projects for the one road were included in previous six-year plans so it could be included in this year’s version without issue. The entire road has a budget of over $3 million to complete. It will require funds in each of the six years to complete the ‘minor widening.’

VDOT also includes in the six-year plan rural additions, countywide engineering and surveying, countywide traffic services and countywide right of way studies for general usage. This helps with speed studies, incidental work that comes up and other issues that arise throughout the budget cycle.

The entire six-year plan has an estimated allocation of $1.2 million from the state government.

Since 2004 the Fork Union community has prepared for a streetscape project. The project is to help improve Route 15 at or near the Route 6 intersection. The project has been slow-moving but county staff hope to submit plans to improve the west side of Route 15 from the Post Office to the second entrance of Fork Union Military Academy soon.

The request for bid will include curb and gutter work, crosswalks, concrete sidewalks with grass utility strip, vehicle entrances, street lights and metering equipment for the business side of Route 15.

Also included in the request will be the first alternate plan to include installation of site furnishings and dry-laid brick pavers in lieu of the grass utility strip. The second alternate is to extend the project from the Post Office to Academy Road (the ‘new’ road around the academy). The third alternate is installing site furnishings and dry-laid brick pavers to that second entrance and the final alternate is street trees installed in the brick paver sections.

The entire project, including all alternates is estimated at $475,300. The early estimates of the construction of just the base bid and first section of brick pavers is $395,900. The project estimates grant money available will be $400,000 for construction costs.

The hope is to get a request for bid out in the next month but the plan has hit snags along the way since 2004. Originally the plan included from the Post Office to the Dollar Store but it was discovered landowners owned from the middle of the road. In order to do such a project, landowners would have to give permanent right of way which not all were willing to do.

Pat Groot, grans administrator for the county, believes as long as the plan moves to bid soon, the county won’t lose any grant money. However, if the plan is delayed longer the transportation enhancement grants have been under heavy scrutiny because many localities have been stretching the project timeframes 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

Split Board Approves Greene County Budget 3-2

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the previous Board of Supervisors meeting in Greene County  the property tax rate was increased to equalize the reduction in property values so that the same amount of tax revenue would be generated in the coming year. At the May 14th BOS meeting the proposed budget that was being reviewed that held local spending flat and required the school system to absorb lower state and federal funding, as had been requested by the school system.

jim_frydl.jpgBefore discussion of the budget started, Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) proposed that a consultant be contracted to review the budget process and provide an evaluation on the process. The only change to the budget that was presented on the 14th was a new request from the Economic Development Authority for additional funding of $12,000 for Small Business Development to hire a part time position. The Board chose not to fund this request in the budget.

davis_lamb.jpgSupervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) was the first supervisor to speak to the budget and he indicated that he couldn’t approve the advertised budget. He cited many inconsistencies in the school budget and referred to cuts in number of school employees made in 2006/7 and 2008/9 along with the 22.5 employee reduction  required to offset the reduction in state and federal funding but then when he compared number of employees of 2008 vs. 2012 he found there is an increase. He said that he would be a hypocrite if he approved the budget with the schools request when he voted against the higher tax rate. He had agreed to only advertise the $.72/$100 new tax rate but he didn’t favor the schools flat funding.

Chairman Frydl asked Mr. Lamb how much he would reduce the request by but Mr. Lamb didn’t provide a specific figure instead he indicated that it was only the school component of the budget he didn’t approve of – the major part of the budget.

Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville District) spoke next and he also said he opposed the proposed budget and stated that the majority of citizens he has spoken with were against tax increases. Also, he argued why should citizens pay a higher rate when their property assessments have declined indicating a decline in the property’s value. He felt that the county should only spend 60% of its revenue for schools. He expressed concern that the Reserve Fund has been drawn down the past two years and that in order to pay for all the future projects being considered the property tax rate would need to go up to $.85/$100. Mr. Peyton also indicated concern that Greene County is heading down a path of financial insecurity and fears that Greene will have to return to borrowing to pay the bills. Currently Greene County has $46 million in debt, the Reserve Fund has been consumed and replenished the past two years and the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is a wish list and won’t get done. He is fearful that the county is heading down the same path as the federal government and Greene County can’t continue to tax and spend.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large)  spoke next. He recalled that ten years ago the rate was $.84/$100. The tax rate has eddie_deane_thumb.jpgbeen lowered and now the failure to sell more hook ups to the water and sewer system is causing the cost of that project to be borne by the taxpayers in their tax rate.  He also said it is sad that local communities have to make up for state and federal mandates being passed on without funding. While he believes there may be cuts in spending in every department in the county, he was in favor of the proposed budget.

Supervisor David Cox stated he supports our budget and thanked Tracy Morrisl for her efforts in preparing the budget and he also thanked the school system in responding timely to his requests for additional information. He indicated that he supports the budget even thought his own property taxes will be increasing as a result of an increase in his properties appraised value.

Chairman Frydl spoke last and challenged Mr. Peyton’s comment about the majority of residents in Greene being opposed to tax increases as he has gotten comments supporting both sides. He also agreed with Supervisor Cox’s comment about getting timely responses from the School System. He also disagreed with the 60% limit on school funding stating that the funding requests should be reviewed on an individual basis and not an arbitrary percentage.  He supported the $.72/$100 tax rate and saw no reason to change from the advertised budget.

Mr. Cox proposed a motion to accept the proposed budget which Mr. Deane seconded. The vote of three ayes of Cox, Deane and Frydl carried the motion vs. the two no votes of Peyton and Lamb.

An additional item of note at the meeting was the announcement of Supervisor Buggs Peyton that he will not seek re-election.

The Free Enterprise Forum commends the Greene Board of Supervisors for their clear discussion on the pros and cons of the budget that was approved.

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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