Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Charlottesville Requires Residents To Tell How Their “Natural” Garden Grows

Forum Watch Editorial

By. Neil Williamson, President

snow's flowersSpringtime means planting time in the Old Dominion.  The recent rains may have hindered some gardening plans but I anticipate there will be big crowds at the nurseries this weekend.

But be careful out there, if you wish to plant a so called “Natural Landscape” The City of Charlottesville Department of Neighborhood Services (NDS) is most interested in how your garden grows.

There’s a form, process and an enforcement mechanism for that.

Do you think your neighbors should have to sign off on the plans for your Natural Landscape garden?

The City does:

A Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) shall include at least the following details:

1. Two-week public posting of the proposed VMP so that the neighboring property owners are allowed an opportunity to comment on the VMP prior to approval.

So if you and your neighbor have a difference of opinion regarding the design and implementation of your garden they can provide their comments to NDS, who may, or may not, issue the permit to allow you to plant a natural garden on your property.

Further Charlottesville’s Standard Operating Procedure for Natural Landscaping requires:

A schedule for general maintenance, including appropriate means of discarding vegetative material, removal of dead trees and pruning of live trees as all these may affect the general public safety.

A plan to identify and manage native plant material as well as a plan to manage and eliminate noxious weeds.

It is recommended to include and maintain at least 80% species native to the mid-Atlantic measured by volume. Owner is responsible for being able to identify species, or have a landscape professional do so for them.

Changes to the VMP must be approved by the Property Maintenance Inspector and a revised/approved plan must be submitted for the file. Any VMP approval may be revoked at any time by NDS, if it can be shown that the agreement is not being followed, if the property has become a threat to health, safety or the environment, or if all required buffers are not adequately maintained.

dandylionTo understand the City’s interest in this issue, one must understand that the impetus for this legislation is the weed ordinance.  Local weed ordinances were enacted across the nation to protect the public from littered yards that could attract vermin or present a fire hazard.  The unintended consequence of said “weed ordinances” is that they have been used to prevent homeowners from practicing low impact natural landscaping.

Natural landscaping is defined as: “the practice of cultivating plants which are native to the bioregion without resort to artificial methods of planting and care such as chemical fertilizer, mowing, watering other than by through natural processes (rain), with the goal of harmonizing the landscape with the larger biotic community and ecosystem of the immediate and surrounding bioregion”.

A natural garden is “a smaller version of a natural landscape. In itsnatural landscaping most simple terms, it is a garden planned and designed to work with, rather than against, Nature.”

Considering Charlottesville’s reputation as being a green city, the Free Enterprise Forum was surprised to learn these regulations seem to be in direct conflict with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent literature  regarding natural landscaping.

Citing a similar “permission” law in Madison Wisconsin, an EPA document states:

The Madison Ordinance requires the homeowner to file an application for a natural landscape and then obtain the approval of a majority of his neighbors. By expressly allowing natural landscapes, the ordinance represents a significant first step in the process of reversing the blight of truly environmentally harmful turf. The neighbor veto and the application and approval process, however, are unnecessary limitations on the right to naturally landscape one’s yard. These requirements also lead to a process of ad hoc “permission” to plant native plants and grasses. Finally, the premise of the Madison Ordinance is counterintuitive – why should natural landscapes be singled out as requiring permission when truly harmful landscapes remain unregulated? [Emphasis added – nw]

While we take some issue with the concept of “truly harmful” language we agree that property owners have rights.  Some may be surprised by the Free Enterprise Forum endorsement of natural landscaping options as a basic property right but we concur with the John Marshal Law Review regarding the regulation of landscaping design:

1. The ordinance should protect the fundamental right of residents to choose their own landscaping;

2. The ordinance should apply equally to all residents as well as the City. County and State. if possible:

3. Any restrictions in the ordinance should have a rational basis; i.e., a legitimate interest in public health, safety or welfare;

4. The ordinance must not legislate conformity or aesthetics nor allow residents of the City to exercise control over their neighbors’ landscapes;

5. The ordinance should not require the filing of an application, statement of intent or management plan; and there should be no review or approval process or fees assessed against residents who intend to engage in legitimate natural landscaping;

One of the challenges in local government is the constant need to revise ordinances to match the reality on the ground.  The benefit in the changes proposed above is that it could relieve residents and staff of an unnecessary and inappropriate burden in the planting and maintenance of beneficial natural landscapes.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Snows Garden Center, Virginia Tech

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Greene Supervisors Hold Line on Tax Rate

More State Money Makes Passing Greene’s Budget Easier

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

As has become the tradition for budget public hearings, the April 22nd Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting  was relocated to the Performing Arts Center at William Monroe High School , but could have been held at the County Office Building as normal given the relatively small crowd in attendance. An increase of two million dollars from Richmond made the budget process in Greene County much easier compared to two years ago due a decrease in the Composite Index of the Local Ability to Pay.

County Administrator John Barkley started the evening reviewing the budget process. He explained that the FY 2015 Budget has conservatively estimated economic growth. What Barkley did not explain was the increase in state funds of $2 million and the use of the reserve fund of nearly $600k, for a total of $2.6 million of the $3.1 million increase in budgeted funds. The other interesting part of the presentation was the fact that Capital Outlay expenditure increased from $54,330 to $540,881 without a Capital Improvement Plan being approved.

John Barkley

Greene County Administrator John Barkley

The public comment portion of the public hearing was a thank you from parents, School Board members and PTA representatives with only one speaker raising concerns over the budget.

The meeting quickly moved to the Board of Supervisors with Bill Martin (Stanardsville) speaking first. He stated he appreciated the cooperation from all of the departments in Greene, especially the school system, reflecting a new spirit in the budget process. Funding from the county is to remain level and the increase in funding is to come from the state. Mr. Martin indicated some concerns – debt service is growing – up to $2.5 million per year and the revenue is not hitting the projected level from water and sewer hook ups .

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) was glad for the extra revenue from the state but expressed concern about being able to fund the raises given in the coming year going forward. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) also expressed concern about the water impoundment needed by the county and the cost that it will take to develop it.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) appreciated the new approach with the school’s budget. He also stated that this is not the time to raise taxes. Most counties in the area are having to raise taxes whereas Greene has addressed issues driving up costs in prior years. Frydl also stated that Greene County teachers pay is now ranked last in the area. He indicated pay raises for the school system is critical to keeping quality teachers. Frydl also stated that while Debt Service is concerning, it is a tool for counties to help finance large expenditures. Finally, Frydl expressed appreciation to the departments in the county consistently under spending their budget by 2 to 4% annually and Greene County departments don’t arbitrarily spend their whole budget in order to justify a large budget the following year.

The BOS unanimously approved the budget and maintained the tax rate at $.72/$100.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credit: Linked In

Workplace 29 – Facts are Stubborn Things

By Neil Williamson, President

In recent days, the Route 29 Solutions advisory panel has received a number of seemingly coordinated e-mails us-29-logo_thumb.jpgcasting doubt over the accuracy and integrity of The Free Enterprise Forum’s 2007 economic impact report known as Workplace 29

Using such terms as “ridiculous” and “canard” these misguided advocate e-mails seem to desire the Advisory Board ignore the economic realities identified in Workplace 29.  As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their his own opinion, but not his own facts”.

In 2007 in an effort to further inform the Places 29 planning process, The North Charlottesville Business Council (NCBC) of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce requested The Free Enterprise Forum determine the approximate tax revenue generated by business activities as well as the Capital Improvement expenditures in the study area. Workplace 29 seeks to quantify the economic importance of North U.S. 29 businesses to the region.

Workplace 29, authored by then University of Virginia graduate student and Free Enterprise Forum Research Associate Natasha Sienitsky, is meticulous in its definition of geographic scope (see figure 1) and methodology (pages 7 -10).  The four appendices included in the report provide the sources and the data used to develop the conclusions.

Workplace 29 finds:

Workplace 29 serves as the Charlottesville region’s most important commercial district, providing citizens with opportunities to live, shop, work and play. Over 20,000 area residents work in this vital economic artery. For visitors, US 29 functions as the primary entrance corridor to the Charlottesville region. In addition to providing essential services and serving as the main gateway to our community, the Workplace 29 study area represents a substantial portion of the tax base for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County.

The Workplace 29 study area:
• supports more than 20,000 jobs, conservatively providing more than $800 million ($874,216,408) alone in direct salaries each year.
• generates 35% of taxes by all non-residential uses in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville; approximately $ 33,019,354 in total tax revenue paid to Albemarle County and Charlottesville City in 2006.
• provides per acre tax revenue of $24,700 for non-residential uses, compared to the entire county average of $335 per acre.
• produces approximately 45% of the county’s total tax revenue in 2006.

It is important to note Workplace 29 does not advocate any specific position regarding transportation solutions it merely provides an economic snapshot of the corridor. To be fair, this snapshot is now dated as it used 2006 tax data and significant changes have occurred since Workplace 29 was completed.

Even now, seven years later, the conclusion of Workplace 29 rings true:

Non-residential uses in Workplace 29 generate significant jobs and taxes for Albemarle County. The master planning process must continue to engage owners of these properties as the economic vitality and level of government service in Albemarle County and Charlottesville City have a close relationship to revenues generated by non-residential properties in the Workplace 29 area. The current Places 29 plan calls for a reconfiguration of the road network which will cause significant business disruptions along US Route 29 during an extended construction period. Neither the extent nor time frame of disruptions has been addressed.

Although changes in the character of US Route 29 may have long term economic benefits, short term disruptions, through extended construction periods, most likely would negatively impact business and as a result the revenue stream for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the impact of master plan formulation and implementation on business.

The Free Enterprise Forum is proud of our 2007 Workplace 29 .  We stand by the scope, methodologies and results.  We encourage anyone with serious questions to engage us in conversation so as a community we can evaluate the economic impacts of transportation infrastructure decisions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Pass 22% Higher 2015 Budget Without Drama

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Much like the rest of the budget process, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed the 2015 fiscal year budget in quick order and without much fanfare on April 16.

The budget process was full of short discussion and few residents in attendance and the passing of the budget to finish the familiar script.

One person spoke in favor during the first public comment session. Then without any discussion from the board, Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) moved to pass the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) seconded.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) voted with Sheridan and O’Brien to pass the CIP on a 3-2.

The tax rate and budget was moved by O’Brien and seconded by Sheridan. Again, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) voted against the measure but Booker joined the majority in a 3-2 vote.

The budget is 22 percent higher than last year but the extra money comes some from increase tax revenue but includes $12.5 million of debt service for the CIP.

The real estate tax rate increases from $0.795 to $0.88 per $100 assessed. The increase in revenue will help pay for the CIP, debt service incurred previously, public safety, information technology and the school system.

The School Board will receive $1.5 million over FY14 budget. It is anticipated the Board of Supervisors will also have to contribute an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 to fill a hole in the FY14 budget because of over anticipated average daily membership. Overestimating the ADM miscalculates the state contribution to the local budget.

The CIP is for five years but the supervisors only commit to paying for the current fiscal year. The FY15 budget will borrow $12.5 billion for items like a Zion Crossroads water project, James River Water Authority construction costs, renovations to the middle school and emergency service vehicle work.

The largest item on ‘out years’ is still the ‘multigenerational center’ that has been discussed in the CIP since at least 2009. It is placed in FY18 for $2.6 million.

The supervisors will work on alternative revenue sources at the next work session on May 7. The alternative ‘revenue’ are various taxes and fees the county currently does not collect such as business/professional/occupational licenses, meals tax, revenue recovery of emergency services and other charges.

Also at the April 16 meeting, supervisors opted to allow the state to handle the stormwater management program for the county and heard updates from the procurement department, planning department on 2013 development activity and compensation of various boards, commissions and committees.

The next supervisor meeting is May 7 at 4 p.m. followed by the revenue work session.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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 covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

Greene Planning Commission Struggles with Zoning for Recycling Center

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission heard two related issues on Wednesday, April, 16th. Larry and Barbara Hall of APEX, LLC  have found a business opportunity – recycling concrete and blacktop – to locate on their property between Lowes and Luck Stone in Ruckersville.

The property is currently zoned A-1 which does not permit the recycling center. So the request was made to revise A-1 Agricultural and M-1 Industrial to permit the recycling center by special use permit.

Planning Commissioner John McCloskey asked for a clarification on the size of the recycling center and Zoning Administrator/Planning Director Bart Svoboda said that 10 acres or less could be allowed, if over 10 acres then it would have to be located in an industrial zone. A-1 won’t fit in all cases, but where the roadway is large enough to permit truck traffic it would be an option.

Only two speakers from the public addressed the Planning Commission and they both brought up concerns about pollution from the recycling center. Commissioner Vic Schaff questioned why a recycling center would not be included under B-3 zoning instead of A-1? This lead to a discussion whether B-3 could be added to the ordinance revision. Svoboda stated that the request before the Planning Commission could not have an addition but they could delete and place restrictions on the request. If the Planning Commission wanted to act on B-3 zoning it would have to be heard as a separate action and the meeting would have to be advertised.

Chairman Jay Willer addressed Mr. Hall to clarify his desire. Mr. Hall stated he preferred the A-1 zoning but would be willing to work with whatever zoning the Planning Commission decided upon. If the Planning Commission decided to pursue the B-3 zoning Bart Svoboda explained that APEX would need to request a rezoning of their property to B-3 and then request the SUP. At that point, Commissioner Schaff made a motion to approve the ordinance revision, remove A-1 from the zoning and to define recycling by excluding junk yards and hazardous materials. The motion passed 4-1 with Commissioner Eva Young voting against it.

The second item of the evening was the special use permit request of APEX, LLC/Larry and Barbara Hall for 5 acres of the 23 acre tract they own at the location noted above currently zoned A-1. Since the actions of the Planning Commission are recommendations to the BOS the exclusion of A-1 has not technically occurred. So the Planning Commission took a mulligan and went ahead with the SUP in case the Board of Supervisors allows recycling centers in A-1 zones. Of particular interest during Bart Svoboda’s presentation was the state requirement of 25% recycling  that this center would help the county in attaining. Svoboda also outlined the requirements of building up a berm and planting six foot evergreens near the north end of Lowes to block the view. Finally, the hours of operation would be restricted the same as Luck Stone, from 7 am to 9 pm.

Mr. Hall outlined the process that they want to start up in Greene. This recycling operation reclaims 100% of the materials taken in. Currently Virginia does not use this material, but VDOT is working on getting such recycled materials approved for use. He also stated that the volume he has of 38,000 tons when recycled would meet the 25% goal by itself. He also stated that they have closed the entrance off US 29 and would be using the entrance near Lowes that has a stop light.

The same two environmental concerns that were raised by the public in the ordinance proposal were repeated in the SUP hearing.   Dave Holtzman with the Piedmont Environmental Council felt that the location for the recycling center was appropriate especially next to the Luck Stone quarry. He raised the question if all of the materials coming into the recycling center originated in Greene and therefore would the county get credit for recycling toward the 25% requirement and what volume of truck traffic would be at the light near Lowes.

Commissioner McCloskey asked Mr. Hall how much material would be on site when in operation. Mr. Hall stated 5-6,000 tons which is much less than is stored currently (materials before recycling).

Chairman Willer asked if the business is currently registered with Greene County and Mr. Hall indicated that after the zoning issues were resolved, he would then register the business.

This lead to a rather complicated motion of denying the request in A-1 unless the Board of Supervisors allowed the recycling center in A-1, then the PC would approve the request. This was approved 5-0 and it will be passed on to the BOS as will the request for the ordinance revision.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Shucet’s Charade – A Public Participation Illusion

By. Neil Williamson, Presidentus-29-logo_thumb.jpg

The Route 29 Advisory Panel is, perhaps unwittingly, playing a part in a masterfully orchestrated and expertly conducted illusion of public participation where the questions, concerns and opinions of panel members are being denied or actively dismissed. No votes are taken nor consensus measured. All the while the facilitator is complementing the panel for its incredible positive forward momentum.

And the public is none the wiser.

Please let me explain.

When Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne selected former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner turned consultant Phillip Shucet to lead and facilitate the Route 29 Advisory panel, many thought it was an inspired choice. Shucet had led a massive turnaround at VDOT gaining control of an often dysfunctional agency.

Now that the panel has had two of their three scheduled meetings, Shucet’s facilitation techniques are raising significant doubts about the integrity of the process.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes Shucet is utilizing his own specialized version of The Delphi Technique to squelch dissention and preserve forward momentum absent true public participation.

Author Lynn M Stuter explains the Delphi Technique:

The Delphi Technique is based on the Hegelian Principle of achieving Oneness of Mind through a three step process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In thesis and antithesis, all present their opinion or views on a given subject, establishing views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their own views to align with the new thesis. Through a continual process of evolution, Oneness of Mind will supposedly occur.

The theory of the Delphi and the reality of the Delphi are, obviously, quite different — the reality being that Oneness of Mind does not occur but only the illusion of Oneness of Mind with those who refuse to be Delphi’d being alienated from participating in the process.

As one who has been closely following the Route 29 Advisory Group meetings, I have found “The Shucet’s Six” as the primary facilitation techniques being used to impact the outcome:

  1. Control who is in the group. The number of participants and their representative groups were hand selected by Shucet to provide appearance of balance of perspectives
  2. Control Content and Release of Decision Data. Detailed materials have not been made available to members of the group until just hours prior to the meetings, Technical data supporting screening has not been available, and several specific information requests have been denied as immaterial including most recently Ms. Kristina Hoffman’s specific request for right of way requirements.
  3. Reduce/Eliminate Outside Influences. By removing public comment from the meetings and accepting it online, Shucet insulates the panel’s meetings from being distracted by a boisterous critic [AKA Citizen]
  4. Demurely Dominate Conversation. Shucet’s down home drawl, overzealous compliments and genteel demeanor seem to engage the entire panel in discussion while his voice is most often heard directing the conversation. In addition, strictly limiting the group meeting time to two hours also helps this technique succeed.
  5. Limit Decision Options. While the Route 29 Advisory Panel was supposedly provided nine options to consider in their first meeting, Shucet brought forward just four options to the second meeting as possibly moving forward based on the “Professional Judgment” [note the word opinion was not used] and screening of the Technical Team.
  6. Don’t Ask for Consensus. After two of the three scheduled meetings have occurred, how many votes have been taken? None. How many times has consensus been “tested”? Never. The closest is when Shucet indicated he saw a number of heads nodding.

Studer highlights the use of the Delphi Technique in education policy discussions:

In Educating for the New World Order by B. Eakman, the reader finds reference upon reference for the need to preserve the illusion that there is “…lay, or community, participation (in the decision-making process), while lay citizens were, in fact, being squeezed out.”

Regardless of their political stripe, the members of the Route 29 Advisory Panel are smart independent thinkers.  This charade of public process serves no one.   The Free Enterprise Forum wants to believe the members are biding their time until the final meeting and that they recognize that the process is being manipulated.

While we hope that in the panel’s next meeting members will raise concerns regarding this pseudo-public process, we know better than to bet on it.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

AT&T To Examine Possible Alternate Tower Location In Greene

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

An oft repeated real estate axiom is “location, location, location”.  The same could be said for most land use cases especially those involving wireless communication towers. 

Greene County has been engaged in such a conversation over the past few months.   At their first April meeting the Greene County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing regarding  Velocitel, Inc  and the John & Barbara Hayes Revocable Trust request for a Special Use Permit (SUP)  for a wireless facility in a valley near Route 810 in western Greene County.

810 cell tower locationThe location is what has caused this SUP  to be hotly contested, not the fact that a cell tower for that part of the county is needed. In fact, no one speaking at the meeting spoke against the need for a cell tower, but spoke against the specific location selected by AT&T.

AT&T’s attorney, Preston Lloyd, made a presentation to open the public hearing.  Mr. Lloyd explained that AT&T searched the area based on the County zoning requirements  to see where to locate the tower.

With wireless technology, line of site is the basis, therefore height is critical to maximize coverage. However, based on Greene’s zoning, the cell tower fall pattern must not cross to another property making a large lot a requirement. He further explained that Greene County stresses fewer cell towers as opposed to Albemarle County that stresses maximum height of only 10 feet above the tree line (resulting in more shorter towers).

Mr. Lloyd further explained that having the tower located at the bottom of the valley would minimize the need to cut a roadway to the tower. Finally, Mr. Lloyd explained that there were no other towers in the valley capable of colocation of their equipment (in their current condition).

The meeting was then opened to public comment. The majority of the comments were against the particular location since it was in the view shed of Peace Garden of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church.

Perhaps one of the most informative speakers of the evening was Alan Williams, Chief Engineer of Monticello Media, who indicated that they were not contacted about the use of the tower for use by AT&T. He did admit that the current tower would not support the additional weight of the AT&T equipment but indicated that they would be willing to consider either beefing up the tower or build a new tower. In addition, the Monticello Media location is that it is higher than the AT&T sight by over 800 feet and therefore would provide more coverage.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) asked Mr. Lloyd if he had any response to the public comments. He didn’t answer directly but explained that AT&T didn’t need to contact Monticello Media in order to analyze their tower by their own engineers to determine that the tower would not work.

The Board of Supervisors then made their comments. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) asked about coverage and location of other sites in Greene County. A tower was just installed on Tower Road within 3 miles of the proposed site. Mr. Deane asked what the impact on coverage will be once that tower is put into service? Coverage will be significantly increased per Mr. Lloyd. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) indicated that the tower on Tower Road is at a height of 1,500 feet which is over 800 feet above the proposed tower. Mr. Lloyd said that he did not have the coverage projected from this tower but could provide it.

Chairman Frydl clarified with Mr. Lloyd that a coverage map was not available from the Monticello Media tower because it is not structurally able to support the AT& T equipment.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if AT&T had a second choice and was told no. Mr. Martin expressed concern over installing a new tower close to the Monticello Media tower. He asked if a coverage map from the Monticello Media could be generated? Mr. Lloyd restated that AT&T had not spoken to Monticello Media but would be willing to do so. But Mr. Lloyd stated that restarting the analysis would affect the timeline which he was under pressure to maintain. Mr. Martin indicated that he and the county have all the time needed – to do it right.

Mr. Deane stated that cell service for safety issues is most important. But leaving out Dyke and other areas in southwest Greene County was unacceptable. Deane further stated “Why should we settle for sirloin when we can have filet mignon”?

Mr. Martin then made a motion to defer the decision with the following provisions to define what would be needed to make the Monticello Media location usable and that the Greene BOS should seek a legal opinion on this issue. Chairman Frydl asked Mr. Lloyd when he could be ready to address the issues and they agreed on the May 13th meeting. The BOS agreed 5-0 to defer the request for the Special Use Permit.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credit: NBC29

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.

Fluvanna Supervisors Prepare for Tax Increase

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors held its FY15 budget public hearing in front of 23 people. Of that, only 14 people were members of the public.  In total, the public hearing only had four people speak and all four favored the full advertised increase in taxes.

The advertised budget includes an increase in real estate taxes from $0.795 per $100 assessed to $0.88. The personal property rate will remain at $4.15 per $100 assessed.  The budget expenditures increases 22 percent because it includes a Capital Improvement Plan that is $15 million for FY15. A majority of that, $10 million, will come from financing.

“I don’t like paying more tax, however I think it is essential to move Fluvanna forward,” said resident Kerry Murphy-Hammond.

That followed up a short comment from Perrie Johnson, “I’m willing to pay more to move Fluvanna forward.”

Supervisor discussion after the public hearing seemed like a recap session of the budget process, even if the budget and tax rate won’t be adopted for another week.

“Could we have saved a few cents this year? Possibly, but it would come back next year,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).

O’Brien noted the process did not have deep discussion on items to cut saying “there wasn’t a lot of fat” to begin with.

And the process didn’t have much public discussion.

The longest work session on expenditures did not have a member of the public present. It was completely attended by staff, constitutional officers and members of the media. There are people who are county residents in that group.

That session painfully went through things to add to the budget but did not spend much time to cut anything.

Ullenbruch - Nov 2012 Web

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District)

Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) said there is a silent majority who do not want a tax increase. He noted one out of every six homes in the county is living below the poverty line.

“What we do to save one penny now will cost us $5 down the road,” responded O’Brien. He mentioned things like not paying employees competitively leads to a more expensive cost of replacement and knowledge. The budget this year does include raising the county pay rates.

Still, the increase doesn’t sit well with the two Republican elected supervisors, Ullenbruch and Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

“We now are one of the highest counties in this area (for tax rate). That’s not good for economic development,” said Weaver.

“I think next year is the real teller,” said Ullenbruch who mentioned a possible starting increase of another six cents.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker led the praise of the work county staff did to start the budget process.

Steve Nichols, county administrator, named personnel specifically that have been instrumental in the budget process. One of them, Barbara Horlacher, is leaving the county on April 18. In an email on April 10, the county announced Eric Dahl, county budget analyst, will replace her.

The supervisors will vote to adopt the budget on April 16 at the Fluvanna Courthouse. The regularly scheduled meeting is set for 7 p.m. start.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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 covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

Fluvanna Supervisors Pass New Code of Ethics

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors passed a new ethical code, with trouble, at their April 2 meeting.

The ‘Code of Ethics’ passed on a 3-2 vote with concerns the document opened up too many problems for a public relations document.

The document’s original draft had more direct language and was called the ‘Code of Performance.’ Fred Payne, the county’s attorney, felt it was too confusing as a legal document.

“This is what I would call an aspirational document.” He continued, “It does not have any legal standing.”

He later referred to it as a moral document and said it can be used as spin but not as a violation of office.

Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) agreed it could create problems as soon as a supervisor votes against a way a resident wants.

“I think this is just a can of worms,” said Weaver.

The example was based on a few points of the document like promoting the greatest public good. Different parties can think of different public good.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) thought it was better to put how the board aspires to act in an official resolution.

“When you put it in writing and you put it before you, it puts it as another [type of] commitment,” said Booker.

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) thought the points weren’t anything bad to attach to his name.

“I think it speaks volumes when you put it down and say, ‘This is how we want to act,'” said O’Brien.

Any perceived violation does not bring any discipline to the supervisor.

“This doesn’t mean a thing,” said Ullenbruch.

The idea came from the initial work session the board conducted in January. One of the items included adopting a code of conduct to demonstrate good governance.

Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) voted with Booker and O’Brien to pass the resolution with Ullenbruch and Weaver dissenting.

In other Board of Supervisors action, they for the first time rejected the Aqua PPEA. The first go round with Aqua’s PPEA the supervisors let it be after Aqua announced an impasse. Supervisors then later voted to approve it but there was no agreement from Aqua.

The agreements were rejected on a 5-0 vote.

Supervisors vote 5-0 to declare April Celebrating Children, Fair Housing and Emergency Telecommunications month and a week National Crime Victims’ Week.

County staff briefed the board on a possible plan to move MACAA’s thrift store to the old county operated fitness center in the Carysbrook Gymnasium. This would allow the county to move maintenance operations to the current MACAA building.

The thrift store is in the Carysbrook High School vocational center. It was used for shop classes and is in need of renovation. The current county maintenance facility is scheduled to be torn down in fiscal year 2015.

At the April 9 meeting, supervisors will hold a public hearing on the county budget, tax rates and capital improvement plan. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Circuit Courtroom.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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 covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.