Albemarle’s Mad Hatter Paradoxical Proffer Policy


By. Neil Williamson, President

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass 

This Wednesday afternoon (9/3) Albemarle County’s counter productive paradoxical cash proffer policy and calculations could get some much needed sunlight – or the Supervisors could direct the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) to simply treat a couple symptoms instead of the underlying problem.  The resulting discussion could have significant ramifications for the future or not.

Please let me explain.

For those just arriving a cash proffer is a set amount of money a landowner “voluntarily” pays for the opportunity to construct a new unit.  The amounts vary by type of unit.  In Albemarle, the cash proffer amount for a single family home is almost $21,000.

It is important to recognize, Albemarle’s  land use philosophy can be summed up in one sentence; development in the designated development area.

For many years, some have said that cash proffers do not impede growth in the development areas.  A recent memo drafted for the Board of Supervisors to send to the FIAC supports reduced or eliminated proffers (in some conditions) will encourage development.

The Board of Supervisors is directing the Fiscal Impact Committee to:

1) Analyze possible credits for:
-Development in targeted areas. Targeted areas are those areas shown as Priority Areas identified in each Master Plan Area.
-Mixed use developments.
-Development supportive of growth management strategies of the Comprehensive Plan.

2) Provide recommendations on changes to existing credits in the policy, including the credit that may be provided for by-right units, now available by policy only in limited circumstances (Policy § C(6)(c)).

3) Update the County’s maximum per unit cash proffer amount by dwelling unit type, using the methodology used in 2007.

Did you see the underlying theme in the first direction? 

This memo may be the first official document I have seen that acknowledges the Bizzaro economic theory of Albemarle’s current cash proffer policy. 

If the FIAC is to consider giving cash proffer credits in the “targeted areas” (We called these “Super Development Areas” in our opposition to the Places29 master plan) then this memo implicitly recognizes the $20,986.76 Single Family Home  cash proffer must have negative impact on development.

But wait, why is Albemarle considering credits ONLY in the targeted areas? 

If the fundamental land use philosophy is to encourage development in the development areas and you have identified a barrier to such growth, why would you not change it for the ENTIRE development area?  As we have said in a previous post “It’s all about the money, money, money”.

While the Free Enterprise Forum appreciates Albemarle’s willingness to address some of the symptoms, we continue our call for a full repeal of cash proffers.

Counting noses, I doubt the current Board of Supervisors will significantly change the charge to the FIAC.mad-hatter-1-300x240

Just as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland is busy celebrating unbirthdays, the Albemarle supervisors will  likely celebrate their symptom addressing charge  to the committee and happily continue to  knowingly undercut the philosophical underpinnings of their much lauded land use plan.

So it goes.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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

Photo Credit: Disney

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