Recognizing Rural Realities and Opportunities

By Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from remarks to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors Comprehensive Plan Work session July 9 2014

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds much of what is in the revised Rural Area Chapter of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive plan.

On the one hand, the chapter considers allowing some new uses and enterprises in the rural areas that will help keep the land economically and environmentally sustainable. On the other hand, we have identified very real challenges to the potential rural enterprises ever getting established.

We have had very positive discussions with several supervisors regarding the philosophically offensive (and likely illegal) language that was inserted on page 7.34 (and in Attachment H)

While new golf courses should not be prohibited, they should only be allowed when a significant unmet need can be established for more of this type of use.

The concept that the government will only permit businesses to exist that serve a government identified unmet need is beyond the pale even for Albemarle County.  The Free Enterprise Forum hopes Supervisors will direct staff to strike this paragraph from the document.

In a much more subtle attack, the Planning Commission has also proposed new criteria for potential new uses in the rural areas.  This criteria, enumerated in the staff report but not yet placed in the comprehensive plan, virtually guarantee that no new uses will be approved in the rural areas:

be compatible with and have a negligible impact on natural, cultural, and historic resources;

not conflict with nearby agricultural and forestal uses;

complement the character of the area in which they will be located;

result in little discernible difference in traffic patterns;

Depending on the interpretation, this criteria could prevent most if not all of the identified rural enterprises form occurring.  The concept of resulting in little discernible difference in traffic patterns reminds me of a former supervisor who once famously said

We love all the wineries, we just don’t like the customers

The rural areas makes up 95% of Albemarle County, certainly rural enterprises are bigger than just weddings and wineries.  These criteria (and to a lesser extent this chapter) need to be revised to recognize the rural realities and the need for additional economic opportunity in the rural areas.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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.

Photo Credit: Albemarle County

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