Monthly Archives: November, 2014

Regulatory Hurdles and Lack of Infrastructure Hinders Fluvanna Economic Development

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

In an effort to become more educated about the economic development process, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors  were briefed about what goes into site selection and site analysis for prospective businesses.

Joe Hines from Timmons Group, gave the presentation about general information that goes into site selection and specifically looked at one property in Fluvanna.

The bottom line, Fluvanna has no property that is close to being ready for a large outside business to develop.

In Hines’ presentation he gave examples of large projects that have either looked at Virginia or committed to move to Virginia. They included projects like Amazon and Caterpillar.

The property in Fluvanna that was examined was the old Cosner location. It is over 100 acres with a potential buildout for 706,000 square feet over multiple buildings. The property was rated to be the lowest tier preparation for potential businesses.

It lacks studies and permits, but the major drawback is no public water or sewer. The entire development, as with everything in the Zion Crossroads area of the county, would have to be on wells and septic.

Welcome to Fluvanna CountyLocalities can proclaim a desire to lower their residential tax burden but then stop development by slowing the process.

“Either you get it or you don’t; you’re for it or you aren’t,” said Hines.

The county can help make land in the county more appetizing for business. Besides building water and sewer infrastructure, the county is in the process of developing economic development strategy.

The county already has transportations and utility infrastructure in the Zion Crossroads area.

“This is a team effort,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said.

Area residents did attend the presentation about how to ready land for such development. Hines said the area lacks 100 acre lots that are ready for development. Fluvanna is years away having a lot that would be considered ‘ready to go.’

In the Central Virginia area, there were 13 announced new economic development projects. Those projects created 520 jobs with none coming to Fluvanna. Culpeper had the largest bump and that was driven by its location and incentives.

The supervisors will have a water infrastructure planning session on Dec. 17 at 4 p.m.

A decision like building water infrastructure will be costly and won’t have return of investment for over decade, at least. If it is anything like the last major capital project for the county, the high school building, it will cost political capital also.

“You could be making a decision that will cost you your seat,” said Hines.

The county is studying ground water availability in the area also. Supervisors are expected to discuss water infrastructure in total on Dec. 17. The James River Water Authority, a joint venture with Louisa, is also an option for the county.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Photo Credit: Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development

Fluvanna Supervisors Talk New Taxes

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

After back to back shorter meetings, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors had a meeting with full of informational presentations.

The Board of Supervisors are starting again to look at adding a business fee or tax. It is a subject that comes up every few years.

Fluvanna currently only taxes personal property and real estate for business, just like it does for county residents. There are three options the county can do to further regulate businesses: business directory, business fee or a business/professional/occupational license (BPOL) tax.

The directory option would require businesses to register with the county. The county would publish the directory for residents to peruse business in the locality.

The business fee would require businesses to pay a nominal fee yearly. The fee would be around $30, officials estimated. With over 600 businesses in the county, the county would only bring in $18,000 to $20,000 a year. It would require additional employee hours, creating a net loss for the county.

“It will be revenue neutral. It would probably cost us money,” said Mel Sheridan, Commissioner of Revenue. His office would be in charge of collecting money.

The BPOL tax would go on gross receipts of businesses. Albemarle and Charlottesville charge a BPOL tax. Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) owns a business in Charlottesville and he estimated he paid several thousand in taxes last year.

Ullenbruch2014Vice chairman Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) said there are businesses in Fluvanna who fly under the radar and they do not pay business personal property tax. He suggested a directory or business fee would help correct some of this.

Sheridan said his office actively looks for businesses and makes sure to keep a list of businesses for business personal property taxes, however there are very few not on his list.

“I don’t think (business directory or business fee) would be a 100 percent cure,” said Sheridan.

Sheridan will give an update or ways forward in the first quarter of 2015.

Fluvanna’s biennial reassessment program, completing its first cycle, will increase property values by approximately 2 percent across the county.

“It might be five or six percent increase in a few years, but it won’t be a big swing,” said Dave Hickey from Blue Ridge Mass Appraisals, the company contracted to perform the reassessment.

Sheridan said, “I again want to compliment you for the decision you made a few years back (of doing the reassessment every two years).”

The previous reassessment was done with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2013. The time before that was the state maximum allowed at six years.

This most recent assessment will go in effect Jan. 1, 2015.Nichols2014

County Administrator Steve Nichols gave updates to the board on various projects. On January 15 VDOT will hold a public open house about the Route 15 and Route 53 roundabout.

Louisa County and Louisa County Water Authority will hold a town hall meeting on Dec. 16 about their pipeline that will run along the eastern portion of the county.

The state has cut localities money based on budget shortfalls. Fluvanna will not receive $59,000 in FY15 that it was expecting. At the first December meeting staff will give recommendations on where to pull money. The school budget may also be affected.

The Pleasant Grove House Museum and Welcome Center is now open. It is open for four hours six days a week and Saturday for six hours.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Upgrade to Southeast Corner in Ruckersville Approved

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward upgrading the intersection of Routes 29 and 33 in Ruckersville on Wednesday, November 12th. Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director,  outlined the request of Milestone Investment Group, LLC  and George and Suzanne Haney, Jr. who was represented by L J Lopez from Milestone for the public hearing requesting a rezoning of 1.16 acres of the 3.62 acres the two owners have from B-2 to B-3. Parcel 29 and part of parcel 25 are the southern part of the property that borders Route 29 northbound.

Svoboda stated that the property is in an area identified as mixed use per the Comprehensive Plan. B-3 will allow for more options to be considered by the developers. He further explained that the development will allow for the closing of Jennings Loop Road where it intersects Route 33 just east of Route 29. The entry onto Route 33 will be farther east which will eliminate trouble traffic has making a left hand turn onto Route 33. Staff supported the rezoning request and the Planning Commission recommended approval with proffers to close Jennings Loop Road.

Lopez explained that a gas station would be part of the development. He further explained that the B-3 rezoning was requested on the southern part of the property along Route 29 where there is more traffic. B-3 zoning adds the by right use of a Convenient Store and a special use permit option of a Fuel Distribution Center. The hearing then turned to comments from the public. The silence was heard loud and clear – no one asked to speak on the rezoning application.

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The four supervisors (Supervisor Eddie Deane was absent) were all supportive of the application and anxious for the development to occur. Supervisor Davis Lamb, Ruckersville District, clarified that the current access to Route 33 will move east. Chairman Jim Frydl, Midway District, felt the development fits the Comprehensive Plan and it would also take care of an unsafe entry on to Route 33.

david_cox

Supervisor David Cox

Supervisor David Cox’s, Monroe District, only concern was how traffic entering onto Route 29 would be able to get over to be able to make a left hand turn onto Route 33 West. Svoboda assured Cox that the design was within VDOT’s standards.

Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, asked about connectivity with parcels to the south. Svoboda said there have been discussions with the owners which Lopez confirmed.

Frydl noted that this project moves Ruckersville toward the current Comprehensive Plan.

Martin stated that this development begins the new “town center” concept in Ruckersville and looks forward to the getting to work. The rezoning application was unanimously approved.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

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

Photo Credit: Greene County

Misinformation, Compartmentalization and Realization on the US29 “Expressway”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of accusations of truths, half truths, and outright distortions of truth regarding the US29 Solutions Package and the overall plan for US29.

The Free Enterprise Forum shares the frustration of others in the community including the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding misinformation.

Facts, modeling and statistics, even when used in rhetorical analysis, should be both sourced and transparent so the reader can determine the validity of the argument.   As an organization we will continue to strive for such transparency in our work.

On Twitter earlier this month Former VDOT Commissioner and current Route 29 Solutions facilitator Philip Shucet wrote about the concern of a US29 Expressway:

Philip Shucet @PhilipShucet ·  Nov 5

Fact: There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making. No secret plans. No hidden agenda. Just some smart #rt29solutions at work.

0 replies 2 retweets 2 favorites

On Twitter, I queried Shucet about the $10,000,000 dedicated to preliminary engineering on the Hydraulic interchange; clearly this was an indication of the Commonwealth’s interest in building it.  His reply:

@NeilSWilliamson Good point. No preset intention either way. If study results are to go forward, then must go to MPO, HB2 priority process.

Shucet is a stand up guy who works hard to to keep his direct charge, the so called Route 29 Solutions, on track.

The Route 29 Solutions webpage [a great resource for up to date project details] lists each of the specific projects under this umbrella:

Route 29 Solutions Projects:

29/250 Ramp
Rio GSI
Rt. 29 Widening
Berkmar Extension
Adaptive Signals
Hillsdale Extended
Hydraulic/29 Study
Hillsdale South

By compartmentalizing his work to the list above, Shucet can accurately say that “There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making.  No secret plans”.  However if one digs further into the approved planning documents a different picture, or pictures, emerge.

In August, when Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne spoke to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding the US29 Solutions, he said, “Again, I want to emphasize these (projects) are not the end of the solutions; but they are a good start.  I believe in an incremental approach”Click here for the podcast [quote is at 18:24].

Back during the Western bypass discussion, Piedmont Environmental Council Field Officer Jeff Werner produced a slide show of sketches to show the problem on  US 29.

jeff's sketch 1

The solutions proposed in his sketch slide show included most of the Route 29 solutions package as well as a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic:

jeff sketch hydraulic interchange

Not to be left out of the discussion, our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) joined with PEC in producing a video rendering of the proposed solutions including how an interchange at Hydraulic would work:

SELC vision for Hydraulic

These ideas did not come out of thin air — All of this is actually part of the Places29 master plan for the region.

The Places29 Plan calls for 8 “Major Intersection Improvements” within the US 29 Corridor.  These improvements will be designed by those in power when funds are available but based on all of the above, we see a tendency to move toward grade separated interchanges.

The Free Enterprise Forum was critical of this plan throughout the development and spoke out in vocal opposition to the plan when it was presented for final approval.  The plan was approved unanimously.

I am not sure what most people mean when they use the term expressway.  I tend to think of a limited access road with few if any lights or other potential vehicular conflicts.

In looking at the picture below from the Places29 plan [figure 14.18], and the one above from SELC, I wonder what most readers would call these roads?

image

Former Secretary Shucet is right there is no secret expressway planned for US29 and his Route29 Solutions work, while a part of the overall plan, is not gong to build the “expressway” immediately.

Whether you call the new transportation network an expressway, a boulevard or “Fred”, what is planned is not a secret at all — it is all a part of the Places29 Master Plan and it always has been.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson

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

Photo Credits:

Piedmont Environmental Council www.pecva.org accessed 11/10/2014

Southern Environmental Law Center www.selc.org accessed 11/10/2014

Albemarle County Places29 Master Plan

Albemarle’s Manifest Density

By. Neil Williamson, President

As Albemarle County’s Land Use philosophy of focusing development in the 5% of its land mass is under review as part of the Comprehensive Plan, we are starting to see significant push back from those already living in the designated development areas.  Residents are seeking not only to limit the amount of higher density development in the development areas; they are raising alarms at the lack of infrastructure spending to support existing communities and to encourage infill development.  The Home Builders have raised concerns that the calculation used to determine the residential land capacity fails to recognize market realities and at least one Supervisor has raised concerns that the existing neighborhoods are being left behind in plan.

Citizen Concern In their final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Council [a non elected citizen group appointed by the BOS] requested significant edits to the plan that addressed their concerns regarding density and how new development may impact existing residents.

Major consideration must be given to protecting surrounding properties from the impact of high density development[Emphasis added – nw].  The impact of the plan on existing development should be sensitive to the character of surrounding Rural Areas and major consideration should be given to the needs and wishes of those persons already living and owning property in the the area. The effect on existing transportation infrastructure should also be a major consideration in permitting the development.

Industry Concern In a letter to the Board, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) raised several questions about the development area and asked if staff had appropriately calculated the “Marketable Density”

The proposed Comprehensive Plan speaks of low and high capacity of units in the development areas. From multifamily apartment buildings to townhomes to single family homes, BRHBA members build all types of homes to serve all types of citizens. Each of our members proudly builds with the end user in mind – the occupant. As such, the reality capacity is likely significantly lower than the high end proposed in figure 5 of the Development Area chapter.

While there is a market for dense new urbanist style development, and our members serve that market, the vast majority of the new home buyers in Albemarle County are looking to live in single family detached housing. We are curious if based on the current market mix of housing, would those numbers multiplied by the dwelling unit demand would result in a different calculation of required land area? [emphasis added-nw]

Supervisor Concern In an October 6, 2014 memorandum to the Board of Supervisors, Rio Supervisor Brad Sheffield raised a number of issues with the Development Areas Chapter including the tone of the chapter, infrastructure investment, land use, industrial and residential capacity, and protecting existing neighborhoods.

Not to worry, as we wrote about in a September post,  the Comprehensive Plan clearly suggests a lack of understanding is the cause of such resident concerns. From Page 8.11:

It is natural for residents to fear the effects of change as the County makes efforts to create more dense and urban neighborhoods in the Development Areas. However, when residents understand the relationship between density and preservation of rural areas and the goals of the Neighborhood Model, they seem to find more acceptance of density. Conveying the benefits of density, such as neighborhood schools, parks, sidewalks, and bicycle paths is also important. Understanding that the Development Areas can be great places to live can help residents embrace density in the Development Areas.

The Free Enterprise Forum has to ask if citizens, industry and Supervisors continue to have significant concerns with Albemarle’s “Manifest Density”, why does it continue to move forward?

If such issues are unfounded why has the elongated public process of Comprehensive Plan update not alleviated these concerns?

Once again, we find we have more questions than answers.

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

Residential Greene Home Business Approved

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

While Greene County has recently seen a number of businesses open prior to requesting a special use permit, Ronald Snoddy did the process correctly – at the October 28th Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting he requested a Special Use Permit before he expanded his existing business. Bart Svoboda, Greene County’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director presented the request for the property on Matthew Mills Road in southern Greene County (SUP#14-009).

The business wants to expand into a 60 foot x 100 foot building for auto restoration on 2.27 acres zoned R-1, Residential. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had no concerns nor did Rapidan Service Authority. The Health Department said there are 2 drain fields on the property and the new structure will be able to tie into one of them or it may require a new field – this will be determined by a detailed site plan. The disposal of any hazardous materials will be determined by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)  at the same time.

The Greene County Planning Commission approved the Special Use Permit with three conditions – 1) the process will be housed in the 60’ x 100’ structure, 2) it is a home business and 3) no outside storage to be allowed.

Snoddy told the Board of Supervisors he plans to add 2 people to his business and will increase the business he does in Greene County. The hearing was then open to the public and there were no speakers either for or against the Special Use Permit. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District)  noted the lack of speakers on the issue and Snoddy said he proactively contacted all of his neighbors to explain the request and answer any questions/concerns that they had. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) asked Snoddy if he would be painting vehicles – he answered that he may in the future. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At Large) clarified that any painting would be done inside the building and therefore, not an issue for his neighbors.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe District) jokingly asked if Snoddy would be willing to teach a class in the process of requesting a Special Use Permit. Cox thanked Snoddy for speaking to his neighbors first and requesting the SUP before doing business. Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) then questioned Snoddy if he would keep all the vehicles inside the new building – which he agreed that he would. Frydl then asked Svoboda about the buffer requirement and was told that only one side of the building would require some additional trees be added to block the view of the building from his neighbors.

Deane requested clarification regarding the no outside storage condition – what if an emergency occurred or just moving one vehicle out to let another vehicle inside. Svoboda explained that the provision meant that no vehicle be “stored” outside the facility but short term vehicles would be allowed outside. With no other questions a motion was made to approve the SUP with the 3 conditions plus a 4th – all buffers will comply with code. The SUP was unanimously approved.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

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