By Neil Williamson, President
Last night (4/7/2015) the Albemarle County Planning Commission considered and approved changes to the temporary sign ordinance allowing 10 signs that will be removed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for the easements and construction of the US29/Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange.
Prior to their action the Free Enterprise Forum spoke as a part of the public hearing:
Tonight you have before you common sense regulatory relief for the 12 businesses that will lose their permanent signage during the utility relocation and construction of the Rio US29 Grade Separated Interchange. This regulation will allow these businesses to erect temporary signage for the duration of the construction period.
Our long standing opposition to this project is well recorded. I continue to believe the costs far outweigh any limited benefits and it sets the stage for the eventual Albemarle Expressway that will decimate this important business corridor. Yes, the lost signage is just one of the ways many businesses will be impacted by the Rio GSI.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has already started discussions with business owners about just compensation for the signs scheduled to be removed.
Removal of these signs could start in just a few weeks’ time. We applaud staff for moving this up the agenda to assist the impacted business. We believe not only is this regulation change commonsensical – it is clearly the least you can do.
We look forward the staff promised phase two and phase three of the signage review. It is our hope that businesses that have restricted visibility or limited access gain increased signage by right for the construction period and the six months after. Further, we ask that you use this opportunity to set up a provision in code that helps businesses during such road construction regardless of location.
The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to approve the zoning ordinance before you and move it forward to the Board of Supervisors with all deliberate speed.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
While the Planning Commission acknowledged that there would be a lack of visibility for businesses during and after construction, staff made clear their position in opposition to any additional signage in this area. Staff believes that VDOT’s proposed way finding signs will be more than adequate.
This temporary sign ordinance is really setting the tone for Albemarle’s Least You Can Do “Business Assistance Program”.
Here are the not so lofty goals of Albemarle’s “Business Assistance Program”:
Goals of the Program
Provide accurate and complete information in advance to help businesses plan for the construction period
Provide resource expertise to support affected businesses
Create a rapid response communication network during construction that identifies critical business issues and responds to needs of businesses
Ensure fair and equitable assistance for all qualifying businesses
Leverage opportunities for partnership – take advantage of ideas, services and relationships that partners can offer to help businesses manage the challenges of construction
Actively engage construction contractor to positively affect business outreach and support
This is significantly lower bar than was discussed when the projects were first proposed. Clearly as the momentum for project construction increases the likelihood of significant resources being allocated to businesses assistance has been reduced or eliminated.
Speaking last night of concerns regarding equity across the entire county, the Albemarle Deputy County Attorney minimized efforts to promote the construction challenged businesses via county communication tools.
Yes, Albemarle has a business assistance program for those impacted by the Route29 solutions projects – it is the least they can do.
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: VDOT, http://quovadisblog.com