FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
Before we get ahead of ourselves – Beer alone will not solve Albemarle County’s projected revenue shortfall in future years – but it could help. If a light industrial park, perhaps with a craft brewery, could generate the equivalent of $.02 of the Real Estate Tax rate, might you pull up a bar stool?
Please let me explain.
Later this week, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is considering a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) that would change the development area boundary near the intersection of US 29 and I-64. The CPA would change the designation of approximately 223 acres from rural use to development land use. This week is a work session, the public hearing will be next Wednesday evening. It is important to note the CPA would not change the underlying zoning on the land; that would require a rezoning. However, such a rezoning could not occur without a CPA approval first.
Proponents, including the Free Enterprise Forum, have referred to the change as a restoration of the development area to replace some of the land mass that was effectively lost with the creation of the Biscuit Run State Park within Albemarle’s Development area. Others have contended the Biscuit Run property was mainly residential and the proposed restoration is light industrial but that only makes the math work more in the favor of the proposal.
Faith McClintic, Albemarle’s new Economic Development Director told the Planning Commission that they have a prospect business very interested, but not yet committed, to locate on a portion of the proposed development area expansion.
According to media reports, Deschutes Brewery of Bend Oregon is considering Albemarle, Ashville, North Carolina, Charleston South Carolina and Greeneville South Carolina. One source indicated the company is seeking to build a facility that would have the capacity to expand to produce up to 600,000 barrels a year. The company hopes to make a final decision by the end of the year and to begin operations by the spring of 2019.
To be clear, the CPA is for much greater land mass than required by the prospect. The brewery is reported to need between 25 and 35 acres for their operations. In looking at Albemarle County, they found only two other parcels that were properly sized and zoned and neither met the applicants site location needs.
It is interesting to see the push back by some at Albemarle’s new reality seeking to grow business rather than contain it. In this week’s C-ville, Lisa Provence highlighted these concerns:
“Former supervisor Sally Thomas represented the Samuel Miller District from 1993 to 2009, and she’s seeing a way of doing business that simply wasn’t done during her tenure on the Board of Supervisors, when the board was more concerned with keeping growth in check than luring out-of-state businesses.
“In the game of economic development, we’re shocked by the things Faith McClintic says are quite common in communities determined to bring new businesses,” says Thomas.
After our incredibly persuasive argument in favor of the CPA, we were somewhat shocked by the unanimous decision of the Planning Commission recommending denial. The Planning Commission however has a very limited view. They do not have to spend four months in meetings determining how to fund unfunded mandates and hearing the pleas of those who have their programs on the chopping block as well as those who have been “taxed enough already”.
According to information shared at the Planning Commission, the prospective company could employ more than 100 workers at or above Albemarle’s current average income level and produce greater than two million dollars in annual local tax revenue.
Staff has estimated the “theoretical” by-right development potential of the impact area to be 54 homes. Over the years, we have often heard that residential units do not pay for themselves with the taxes they generate.
If the leaked estimates are accurate, if approved and subsequently rezoned, once operational this partial restoration of the development area could generate almost 2 pennies of tax relief (or at least lower increases) for Albemarle County.
I would suggest supervisors take a good hard look at this economic development proposal — perhaps over a craft beer.
Neil Williamson, President
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, Louisa and Nelson County.
Photo Credits: Zazzle.com, Deschutes.com