FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
The Free Enterprise Forum has been a willing and active participant in Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan revision for over four years. We have written extensively regarding our concerns about affordable housing, density, design criteria, social engineering via planning priorities and many other topics.
Now after three years of Planning Commission consideration and another year of Board of Supervisors editing and review, we must stand opposed to the current draft of the document based on its overarching government intervention tone, rural area restrictions and property rights infringements. We do not take this position lightly and in fact note some of our advocated changes did make it in to the plan – but not enough.
The final scheduled Board of Supervisors public hearing is on Wednesday night (June 10). After spending four years (and a nearly $1 million dollar HUD planning grant) of engagement, I am fairly certain the staff, the Board and even the special interest group advocates (myself included) are tired of wrestling with this document.
The easy thing would be to say “We did what we could, let’s pass this thing” but that would not be the right thing to do.
Not when the plan gives super property rights to one private entity – Monticello and punishes those land owners who have the gall to own property in that can be seen from “Jefferson’s Little Mountain”.
Not when the plan continues to apologize for economic development efforts that may provide good career ladder jobs in the development area for our kids and grandkids.
Not when the plan uses neighborhood design to increase the cost and complexity of providing housing in the development area in one chapter and then bemoans the lack of affordable housing in the next.
Not when the plan focuses more on getting citizens out of cars rather than improving the transportation network.
Not when the plan promises concurrency of infrastructure and public investment in the development areas and then threatens to deny development applications if the Board fails to find the political backbone to make such investment.
Not when the plan bombastically decries Natural Resource Protection the top priority for local government and calls for more planners less property rights.
Not when the plan threatens to remove some recreational uses and take away economic opportunity from rural land owners in the name of environmental protection and ignoring the current special use permit provisions that already address provide such protections.
No this plan must be vetoed – and it won’t be.
In reading the entire plan for the 14th time over the last month I have been struck by two somewhat allegorical comparisons to my current predicament.
The first is the 1964 dark comedy movie Dr. Strangelove. Few people remember that the full title of the movie was “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. The inevitability of the Comprehensive Plan passing is only measured by the number of times the Board of Supervisors has used the phrase “it’s only a guide” in their review even as they parsed the language.
The second allegorical comparison comes from MAD magazine and their cover boy Alfred E. Newman. Newman’s philosophical position of “What? Me worry” might be the best way to understand the real meaning of this herculean attempt at planning control.
I wish I had a dollar for every time this plan has been referred to as a guide — not an ordinance. Sure, until your ox is the one being gored, then it is up to who is interpeting the “guide”. Considering the fact that the current Comprehensive Plan dictates that a small area plan WILL be completed prior to any transportation improvements on US29 at Rio Road and the interchange will be completed before the small area plan is really started – MAD may be the best fit.
But in the end, as the Board of Supervisors positions itself to endorse the plan, I think Albemarle citizens might best identify with the Slim Pickens character in Dr. Strangelove as he rode the nuclear bomb into Russia.
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 Credit: Columbia Pictures, MAD magazine