Joni Mitchell and Albemarle’s Land Use Plan

By. Neil Williamson, President

These are confused days for economic development in  Albemarle County.

The Board of Supervisors initiated a development boundary adjustment and sent it to the Planning Commission for their advice and counsel.  While the Board seems interested in generating tax revenue from sources other than the residential property taxes, the Planning Commission does not have that concern.

In fact, considering the tenor of public and commission comments in last week’s (7/21) Planning Commission Work Session on the partial restoration of their development area, I am skeptical this Commission will support either the development area adjustment or the potential rezoning.  This sets up a most interesting political moment when the Board of Supervisors considers the development area issue in September; and create unsure footing for any potential applicant considering 1/3 of the BOS will change on 12/31.

Please let me explain.

At the meeting, a number of citizens came out opposed to the consideration of changing the Comprehensive Plan Development Area Boundaries.

After the first speaker suggested that Albemarle was about to be “raped”, Former Planning Commissioner Marcia Joseph applauded the fact that there is no Cracker Barrel as part of our charm.

Ignoring the obvious ownership issues, Albemarle resident Bradford Davis said not to “give Mystery Corporation Inc. the right to develop on our property“. [emphasis added-nw]

Another speaker took the opportunity to quote Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” ballad:Joni_Mitchell_2004

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

There were a couple speakers who outlined specific positives of the proposed partial restoration (including the Free Enterprise Forum) but the vast majority of those who spoke were opposed to any adjustment.

Fighting with one (or both) arms behind their back

One of the Comprehensive plan goals is to grow the Commercial/Industrial tax base to make up 30% of the Albemarle’s tax revenue.   According to Albemarle’s Economic Development Director Faith McClintic, Albemarle currently is at 16.7% commercial tax revenue.  McClintic also reported that just .18% of Albemarle County’s land mass is designated for commercial and Industrial use.  Therefore, Albemarle strives to generate 30% of it tax revenue from just 825 acres (see chart below).


Albemarle staff has indicated in previous meetings of 23 missed businesses opportunities (19 existing/4 relocations) due to a lack of available acreage.  This represents an estimated creation/retention of 1,160 Albemarle County jobs.

One of the key challenges for the Planning Commission is that economic development is not a key element in their land planning.

One commissioner, Tom Loach,  suggested he was opposed to development area restoration because the County has not kept up with its infrastructure promises in the existing development area.  Considering the positive economic input of industrial land, he might want to reconsider the basis of his opposition – designating (and eventually rezoning) these parcels will result in increased revenue potentially for capital projects within the development areas.

On August 18th when Albemarle’s Planning Commission holds a public hearing on this issue, we fully anticipate a large number of speakers asking not to alter the development area boundary.  We hope the Planning Commission will consider the impact of their decision on all Albemarle citizens including the positive county revenue ramifications, the job creation, existing environmental protections provided by ordinance and the small portion of land involved in this partial development area restoration.

In the end, the Free Enterprise Forum hopes the Planning Commission will choose to provide space in their Comprehensive Plan for business to grow jobs —  But, we’re not betting on it.

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

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