Or at least we thought we were.
It turns out the significantly edited version staff has provided to the Board of Supervisors for their review and discussion is not available to the public.
The Free Enterprise Forum has obtained a copy of the redlined version of the Comp Plan and compared it to the version currently available online. They are radically different documents.
Please let me explain.
As an example the overarching Goal of the Development Area Plans according to the official draft (Dated January 23, 2015) reads:
Albemarle’s Development Areas will be made up of high quality, mixed-use urban neighborhoods and employment centers that are walkable and adequately supported by services and facilities.
The Supervisors however have a draft (Dated February 25, 2015) that is best described as more different:
Albemarle’s Development Areas will be vibrant active places with attractive neighborhoods, high quality, mixed use areas, thriving business and industry, all supported by services, infrastructure, and multimodal transportation networks.
We will hold off discussing the merits of the language until our series later this month but why not allow the public to see what the Supervisors are going to be discussing?
In the Rural Area Chapter the Supervisors edits are more severe and still unseen by the public. In the version online (dated January 23, 2014) accessed 5/18/15 Consideration for more permissive ordinance amendments regarding breweries and distilleries are mentioned:
Strategy 2d: Consider amending the Zoning Ordinance to allow for small-scale beer and spirits production in the Rural Area. Ordinance amendments should clearly define the minimum amount of produce to be grown on site.
The recent success of farm wineries in Albemarle County and microbreweries in adjoining Nelson County have prompted several requests to pursue beer production as well as production of spirits. Full-scale breweries use complex manufacturing processes and large quantities of water, so they are more appropriately located in the Development Areas. Microbreweries, on the other hand, can operate at a much smaller level. The main difference between breweries and wineries is the crop used for processing. Grapes traditionally grow in Albemarle County, but grains and hops are not typically grown in the County. In addition, the quantity of grains and hops needed for a brewery is much larger than the amount of grapes needed by a winery. Microbreweries often also rely on restaurants for their business, which are not recommended in the Rural Areas. If a microbrewery were to be developed at a small scale where onsite tasting activities resembled those of a winery, it might be an appropriate use. If a microbrewery needs a restaurant use in order to be viable, it would need to be located in the Development Areas.
Some property owners have also expressed an interest in placing distilleries in the Rural Areas. Distilleries can have a direct relationship to locally produced fruits and grains and, unlike breweries, have low water requirements. If fruit or other crops are grown locally, a distillery might be appropriate in the Rural Area. The scale of the distillation operation would need to be small enough that it didn’t generate a major trucking or water demand. The State Alcoholic Beverage Commission should be consulted as it regulates this use differently than breweries and wineries.
In the Supervisors version (Dated November 13, 2014) but not available to the public – ALL OF THE ABOVE LANGUAGE IS REMOVED.
Do you think the document is different absent this passage? These are just two examples there are literally HUNDREDS more.
First and foremost, The Free Enterprise Forum alerted Albemarle County officials of our concerns over three weeks ago. At the time we were assured it was a technical error and it would be fixed. We remained quiet and waited for the fix.
Today, after confirming the change has not been made, we are raising the alarm.
As we are less that one month away from the public having their last opportunity to voice their concerns about the plan – It would be helpful if we could be singing from the same sheet of music.
In addition, we are concerned such faulty notification may legally nullify the proper advertisement of the Comprehensive Plan Public Hearing and further elongate this four year odyssey.
Regardless of your position on the content of the plan – Albemarle citizens have a right to see what is under consideration.
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
Photo Credits: Towdistributing.com