Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors July 2, 2014
By. Neil Williamson, President
I want to start with the good news.
This is a historic day. This is the first time Economic Development has its own chapter in the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan. This is good.
The question is what would you have as the top priority for Albemarle County’s economic development?
Should it be that Albemarle County is “Open for Business”?
Perhaps it should be creating an environment that supports jobs
Or reducing regulatory hurdles that prevent enterprise development.
Not in Albemarle – the first priority is an apology
“Objective 1: Ensure that economic development efforts are supportive of the County’s Growth Policy and consistent with other Comprehensive Plan goals.”
This is in stark contrast to the Natural Resources Mega Chapter that reads like a naturalist handbook. Any reader of the comprehensive plan must understand that all the all the goals and objectives require balance, but no other Comprehensive Plan chapter begins with such a statement.
This uneven business apologist treatment continues in Strategy 5a:
“the purpose of implementing economic development initiatives aimed at encouraging development and business consistent with the comprehensive plan.
“In Albemarle County, though, new business and industrial growth must occur in conjunction with other goals of the Comprehensive Plan”
While the Free Enterprise Forum has noted the Economic Development Chapter is the shortest chapter in the entire plan, we believe it should be even shorter.
Unless the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is prepared to rewrite the entire Comprehensive Plan, adding a new Balance objective one to every chapter and CP Balance language to each and every objective, the Board should remove Economic Development Objective 1 and pick up with Objective #2
“Provide diversified economic opportunities that benefit County citizens and existing businesses by basing policy decisions on efforts which support and enhance the strengths of the County”
Further the offending language in Strategy 5a and 5g should be dropped.
Finally, while we believe there are significant benefits to being environmentally responsible, we question the appropriateness of Strategy 1d
“Encourage all businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices.”
This objective, while laudable, is not directly in support of economic development. Just as the Free Enterprise Forum opposed the inclusion of the interesting but misplaced natural heritage section on habitat segmentation we believe this goal should be removed.
We believe that the new economic development chapter is a positive step and we hope with these edits we can assist in making Albemarle “Open for Business”
Neil Williamson. President
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