Monthly Archives: October, 2015

Greene Supervisors Approve Mount Vernon UMC Permit

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Mount Vernon United Methodist Church requested a Special Use Permit (SUP 15-005) at the October 27th Greene County Board of Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church - Stanardsville, VASupervisor’s meeting. The SUP is to bring the non-conforming church into conformance and allow for future expansions since it is slightly below the two acre minimum.

What is a non-conforming use?  Any building or land that is lawfully in use, and in which the zoning district changes or the zoning text is amended, and the building or land no longer adheres to the regulations of that new district. Often this situation is referred to as “grandfathered,” however the correct terminology is non-conforming.  As Mount Vernon UMC has been in existence longer than the zoning ordinance and it conflicts, it is deemed a non-conforming use.

Such use is fine until the property owner wished to make changes to the property, then the property must be brought “into conformance” with current zoning.

Country Zoning Administrator/Planning Director Bart Svoboda  explained that the church is located on Route 810 (76 Garth Road) in the western part of Greene County. Specifically, the church wants to install three “No Parking” signs on Route 810 to make the stretch of Route 810 safer.

Kendall Tata spoke on behalf of the applicant and explained that Mount Vernon Church wants to conform with the county code. The hearing then switched to comments from the public. Ginger Morris, an adjoining land owner, spoke out about her driveway being blocked by people wanting to visit the church’s peace garden. Another comment was also about their drive being blocked by churchgoers and those attending a wedding at the church.

Tata followed up the public comment by addressing concerns about closing Garth Road for 30 minutes and the church had a County issued permit to do so for a 5K race. She again stated that the church only wants to get into compliance and she thanked Bart Svoboda for coming to the church and explaining the impact of the SUP.

The meeting then shifted to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, expressed concern about the Morris’s ability to get in and out of their driveway. Supervisor Eddie Deane. Large, commented to Svoboda that the old right of way is not shown on the current plot.

Greene Supervisor Jim Frydl

Greene Supervisor Jim Frydl

Supervisor Jim Frydl, Midway District, stated that the peace garden is not part of the SUP, it is only to have the church come into compliance with county code. And if a gazebo is desired, then it will have to come under a separate SUP later. Supervisor Davis Lamb, Ruckersville District, stated that it is 260 feet from the church parking to the peace garden and he is concerned that there is no walkway and that people will walk in the road.  Frydl didn’t feel that the county could require that the church add a sidewalk as a part of the SUP.

Martin stated that he hoped the church would add a sidewalk in the future. Frydl made a motion to approve the SUP and it was approved on a vote of 4-1 with Supervisor Deane voting against the request.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Facebook, Greene County

Advertisements

Geddy Lee Explains Why Every 2015 Voter is a Super-Voter

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

super voter pinSome folks honestly believe their vote doesn’t make a difference.  They could not be more wrong in the 2015 election cycle.

This year every voter is a super voter.  Geddy Lee from the Canadian rock band Rush explained this concept precisely many years ago – Please let me explain.

Over the years we have written extensively about voter turnout and why it matters.

In Virginia, along with our peanuts and Virginia Wine we love our elections; we love them so much we hold them every year.

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking toward November 2016 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County office building or City Hall.

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: Virginia Board of Elections

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: VA Board of Elections

2015 (as 2007 and 2011) is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

It means, as the button above suggest, your vote has superpowers. In every election every vote matters but in off off year elections with less than 25% of registered voters in any given district voting, your vote matters 75% more.

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.  Fast forward to 2011, when Bob Ullenbruch beat Gooch by 106 votes.

Albemarle County Rivanna District 2015 race features three candidates.  Historically, a multiplicity of candidates further inflates the value of each vote. In 2011, Greene County had a four way race for the newly created Ruckersville District, absent an incumbent the race was very close, with the eventual winner Davis Lamb winning by just 15 votes:

Virginia Elections Database » 2011 Board of Supervisors General Election Greene County - Ruckersville Considering that the 2007 Rivanna District’s contest was decided by 149 votes and the 2011 election was decided by 685 votes, this year’s three way race without an incumbent will likely be decided by the candidates Get Out The Vote (GOTV) success.

Adding complexity to predicting the Albemarle County turnout, is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s and Clerk of the Courts races which seems to be gathering momentum in the final days of the campaign.  If these races continue to generate attention you may see a slight increase in the number of Albemarle voters headed to the polls.

vote superheroThe Free Enterprise Forum anticipates slightly higher than average turnout in Greene County this year.  The Greene election features several county wide elected positions (At-Large Supervisor,  Clerk, Sherriff).  Based on historical trends, and dependent on the candidate GOTV efforts, we would not be surprised to see better than 38% voter turnout in Greene County this cycle.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Do you know where your polling place is? If not click here.

Polls will be open from 6 am to 7 pm. Based on projections, there will not be significant lines.

Yes, Virginia will hold an election next Tuesday; the question is will you be a part of it?

Regardless of your involvement in this year’s election, the results will impact you for years to come.

As classic rock composer Geddy Lee posed in his anthem “Freewill

Canadian Rocker Geddy Lee

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

It really is all up to you.

Will you be one of the 2015 super voters?

or not?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

20070731williamson

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: Blogspot, Charlottesville Tomorrow,  Virgina Board of Elections

Fluvanna BOS Approves Colonial Circle and Bails Out FUSD, Again

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

What was once thought to be a long meeting went rather quickly as the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors deferred two public hearings on Oct. 21.

Supervisors did approved a 21-acre commercial development at the corner of Route 53 and Lake Monticello Road.

The property is across Lake Monticello Road from Effort Baptist Church. The intersection had planned Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) improvements of putting a turn lane on Route 53, however recently the focus has shifted to putting in a roundabout to further improve safety issues.

The development, called Colonial Circle, will help make the roundabout happen. The owner proffered the right away for the road improvement. The county can then donate the land to VDOT and it would be considered a county match to VDOT funds.

Colonial Circle map

The owner further proffered commercial space would be limited to 20,000 square feet until the roundabout was built.

Bob Ullenburch (Palmyra District) asked if the intersection is bad now, would a new development make it worse. Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) calmed his concerns saying he felt the commercial spaces wouldn’t attract destination shoppers but residents who already use the roadways.

“I think it is a tremendous project here,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

The supervisors also voted unanimously to loan another $9,000 to the Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD). It wasn’t without concern from Weaver.

FUSD has continually borrowed money from the county and continually not repaid the debt. FUSD loans over the year are: $40,000 in 2010, $30,000 in 2013, $39,000 in 2014 and now $9,000 in 2015. In total, FUSD owes $118,000 to the county.

“When will we (FUSD) get on our feet? I don’t know, but we will in the future,” said chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).

Last year, the supervisors raised the rates of FUSD to help repay the money. This past year the water system had increased revenues but unexpected capital expenses have sunk profits.

“It is going to take time. That’s reality,” said Booker.

Weaver responded, “That’s what bothers me; that is the reality.”

Ullenbruch2014

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Ullenbruch countered that staff warned the first year projected revenues would be lower because higher rates lower customer usage early on. Then over time, customers will start using at previous levels.

“If we expected to break even [this year], this is on us,” said Ullenbruch. He also noted the supervisors didn’t pick the highest rate increase that would’ve recouped the funds quicker.

The expected James River Water Authority (JRWA)  public hearings were deferred, without consideration. Those deferments turned the expected marathon meeting into what felt like just a short jog.

The JRWA opposition is mounting, especially in the eastern part of the county. The intake facility is proposed near Columbia. From there Louisa County Water Authority would construct a pipeline along the eastern border to bring water to the Ferncliff area in Louisa County.

The public hearings are expected to be held on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. during a special meeting.

The next scheduled meeting is Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. At that meeting there may be a water infrastructure work session. While the Zion Crossroads water project was originally projected to be formally presented in October, that clearly has been delayed.

————————————————————-

bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Greene County PC Studies Future Land Use

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County is nearing the end of work sessions regarding their state mandated Comprehensive Plan revision. As regular readers know, localities must update their comprehensive plans every five years.  The Planning Commission is charged with the development of the plan while the Board of Supervisors votes on the final document.

At the October 21st workshop the Greene County’s Planning Commission reviewed the future land use of the county including the current vision, density and population, Virginia Code requirements and an overview of the current land use map. In order to enhance the quality of life and its rural character the county plans on…..

1. Conserving farmland

2. Planning diverse housing needs

3. Modes of travel

4. Support existing businesses

5. Attract low impact, environmentally friendly industry

6. Tourism

7. Create jobs

8. Quality school and recreation areas

9. Preserve natural resources and cultural and historical heritage

It wants to encourage development in the designated growth areas and have businesses in mixed use villages and town centers. Greene County had its largest growth between 1990 and 2000 – 48% up to 15,244. At 2010 the population was 18,403 or 21% and it is projected to be at 24,000 by 2020 or a growth of 30%.

In the past five years there have been 302 multi-family dwellings built in Greene – Terrace Greene  and Lily Ridge Apartments. Urban development areas have targets of 4 single family dwellings per acre, 6 townhouses per acre and 12 apartments per acre. In addition, the following designs are encouraged – pedestrian friendly roads, interconnection of new local streets with existing streets, preservation of natural areas, reduction of front and side setbacks and reduction of street width and radii.

Greene County has three Urban Development Areas – Corner Store, Ruckersville and Stanardsville.

image

Stanardsville Streetscapes Project West Business 33

image

Stanardsville Streetscapes Project Ford Avenue

 

image

Ruckersville US 33 and US 29

image

Ruckersville Elementary School

In addition, there are six categories of growth areas…….

Mixed Use Village Center – centers, short set-backs, open space, office/commercial/residential

Mixed Use Town Centers – commercial and residential, short set-backs, open space

Mixed Use Residential – retail, civic and restaurants, green space

Suburban Residential – private, vehicular access, open space

Industrial – transportation access, vegetative buffer, environmentally sensitive

Senior Residential – age-restricted, close to services/activities, variety of housing

image

Currently Greene County has nearly 60,000 acres of A-1 Agricultural – the largest category of zoning by a factor of 3 over C-1 Conservation and a factor of 4 over the Shenandoah National Park. A proposal for C-1 is to increase the density of lot size from 8 acres down to 5 acres. There are 905 C-1 parcels in Greene and there are 162 parcels of 16 acres or more and there are 222 parcels of 10 acres or more.

The meeting concluded with a discussion on a future meeting with Rapidan Service Authority  to review needs and ability to provide water to county residents – a top priority to the county. RSA has 2 members on their board from Greene, Supervisor Jim Frydl and Matthew Woodson, but RSA have not been responsive in the past. “Since water is a huge issue” to Greene County, Chairman Jay Willer asked that Bart Svoboda request RSA to attend a work session of the Greene Planning Commission for the review of the Comprehensive Plan.

Once all work sessions have been completed then at least one public hearing will be held where citizens will have their chance to input to the Planning Commission related to the revised Comprehensive Plan.  The plan will then be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their input and enactment.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Albemarle PC Seeks Improper Staff Influence

By. Neil Williamson, President

It is a simple, objective question really, how much light industrial land is available in Albemarle County?

How much is properly zoned?  simple-questions-title

How much is designated Light Industrial in the Comprehensive Plan but not in the underlying zoning?

These would seem like a set of objective questions to ask of a professional staff to produce an objective report – But not in Albemarle County.

Please let me explain.

Oct 20 PC meetingAt the very end of this week’s lengthy Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Tim Keller (At-Large), with just two members of the public in the audience (FEF & SELC)  and with the consent of his fellow commissioners, explicitly directed staff to have Economic Development Director Faith McClintic meet with the Planning Commission PRIOR to finalizing her inventory report on Light Industrial land.

Remembering that the Planning Commission is made up of politically appointed individuals (one of which is running for Scottsville Supervisor), one might reasonably ask why should the Economic Development Director, who reports to the County Executive, be required to run her professional report past the PC before it goes final?

The ONLY reason is because they want to impact the content of the report.

While I’ll agree the PC should see and comment on the report after it is written, to give them editorial control seems far beyond the pale and entirely unprofessional.

To this observer, Keller’s actions have much more to do with bruised egos over the I-64/US29 Deschutes Brewing Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) that the PC voted unanimously to reject and the Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed (albeit with a much smaller footprint).

In the discussion of the CPA, it was clear the PC believes, despite reports to the contrary, there were countless appropriate sites within the development areas.  Two years ago, the Albemarle PC stopped the work on the Light Industrial Inventory because in their opinion there was plenty in the development area. Again this political direction was in direct opposition of the staff position.

Economic Development staff had a different opinion, as reported by Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow in a 2010 article:

That report, initiated well before last November’s elections, will be presented to the Albemarle County Planning Commission on Tuesday night. Susan Stimart, the county’s business development facilitator, analyzed real-estate records and conducted interviews with business owners to produce a “snapshot” of available industrial land.

“Staff concludes there is a shortage of high-quality, vacant industrial land compared with existing users’ stated demands, workforce projections and comparable supply in other jurisdictions,” Stimart writes in the report.

The text in the report itself goes even further:

There is a very limited supply of undeveloped zoned land within the designated development areas.  Most of the available, vacant zoned parcels are small in size (average size, 3.5 acres). There are properties currently zoned industrial within the County’s Development Areas, which are designated for other uses in the Master Plan. Most of these sites are located near existing employment areas. This creates a disincentive to market and develop these sites for industrial uses, instead marketing the site for higher valued uses (commercial-retail, office and residential).

The Planning Commission does not want the unvarnished truth for it will call into question much of the planning assumptions they have been using to design their designated growth areas. They fail to see how their planning paradigm has pushed quality businesses (read JOBS) from Albemarle County.  No, they want to influence and shade, if not change, the professional reporting from Albemarle Economic Development staff.

One sure way to run off a professional is to treat them in an unprofessional manner.

Perhaps, that is the underlying goal.

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

20070731williamson

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.

Greene BOS Denies Ruckersville Shooting Range

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny a Special Use Permit for a shooting range in Ruckersville, just east of the Route 29 and 33 intersection.

image

Lyle Durrer, owner Big Iron Outdoors

Ellis Lyle II, Tammy Durrer and Virginia Durrer (owners of Big Iron Outdoors) Special Use Permit, #15-002, request was heard at the October 13th supervisors meeting.  The meeting was moved to the William Monroe High School Performing Arts Center to accommodate a larger than average citizen turnout.

If granted, the proposed Special Use Permit would allow the construction of an open air shooting range on the southwest 2 acres of their 105 acres which is zoned A-1.

image

A strongly polarized crowd attended the meeting and 68 people signed up to speak. At issue were the property rights of the Durrers vs. the concern of over 300 homeowners in a two mile radius and whether the shooting range would change the character of the community. The allowance of a shooting range is allowed only with a Special Use Permit in A-1, Agriculture districts.

Director/Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the request with the main points being the range is to be located .2 of a mile for Route 33, close to multiple residential areas and generating a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimated 350 trips per week.

In presenting his proposal, Durrer indicated he had been contacted by the Greene County Economic Development Authority last September and encouraged to pursue the project.  He indicated there are no existing ranges in Greene and he believes he has met all the requirements of a Special Use Permit.  Durrer also said he has contacted several expert companies to help with the design of the range. Further, he estimated the economic benefit to the county of over $90,000 per month and he had a letter from Commissioner of Revenue, Larry Snow, that nothing built in the county in 28 years has caused property values to decline. And finally, he believes the noise escaping the range will be no louder than the ambient noise surrounding the range.

In summary, Durrer stated he believes he has exceeded the special use permit requirements. He asked the Board not to default to NIMBY outcries. And finally when he asked supporters of the shooting range to stand – nearly half of the audience stood.

The public hearing with the 63 speakers being split 14 for and 49 against. Speakers ranged from children speaking out of fear to military experts. The theme coming from the majority of those against the range was they didn’t oppose it per se, but they opposed the specific location of an open shooting range. In fact, many of those against this request were shooters in favor of a range in Greene County, just not in the location in Ruckersville.

Those in favor of the range stressed that there is no range in Greene to shoot at and as a result many shoot at targets on trees with no buffer to catch stray bullets. A range would be a much safer environment for the county and provide training for shooters as well as a local training facility for the Sheriff’s Dept. Related, Sheriff Steve Smith spoke in favor of the application.

Many of those opposed to the range in Ruckersville stated they had made extensive searches in central Virginia where to retire to and chose Greene County due to its relative low cost of living and the tranquil setting while still being relatively close to shopping, restaurants, etc. Several indicated had they known the shooting range might be located in Ruckersville they would not have bought their home there.

Attorney Michael Derdeyn, representing a group against the range, spoke to the legality of the issue and urged the Board to do the same in their decision making. By definition, a shooting range is not a by right use allowed in A-1 and it must have a Special Use Permit to allow it. The statue requires that the Board of Supervisors look to see if the shooting range would change the character of the area – in this case, he believes it does.

One of the major issues of those opposed to the Special Use Permit being granted was the range would lower the values of their homes – in some cases, a large portion of their life savings. Others argued that other ranges have not lowered the value of homes near the range. A key issue brought up is what came first – the shooting range or the homes? In most cases the shooting range was built in the country and then homes were built near the range – the point being that the market set the price of the homes given the knowledge of a range being close. However, in this case, homes in several neighborhoods were built with no thought of a shooting range being in the area. Logically, the building of a range after the market had set the price at one level, would, as several realtors spoke, significantly reduce property values.

The 45th speaker, Jenny Strange, pointed out what she believed clearly would disallow the open air shooting range. In the Agricultural (A-1) District, the following are the only uses that can be granted by Special Use Permit. Note item #8 which states “Indoor” shooting ranges. The range that the Durrer’s are seeking is an “open’ shooting range. So, by code, the range could not be allowed – see the list of uses allowed by Special Use Permit in A-1……

4-1-2 Uses Permitted by Special Use Permit

Same as Conservation C-1 plus:

.1 Temporary or permanent dwellings for farm workers, where the land’s primary use meets the

definition of general or high intensity agriculture.

.2 Commercial kennels, as defined in Article 22 and subject to the provisions of Section 4-11 and where

the kennel is at least 300 feet from the closest adjoining property line. (Revised 5/12/09)

.3 Veterinary clinics and veterinary hospitals.

.4 Volunteer fire and rescue facilities.

.5 Commercial warehouses for bulk agricultural products.

.6 Private airports and heliports.

.7 Dinner theaters and outdoor performance spaces where the seating capacity does not exceed 500

persons.

.8 Indoor shooting ranges.

.9 Country clubs, community centers, swimming, tennis, golf, fishing, and gun clubs and similar uses.

.10 Carnivals, fairs and circuses — temporary only. (Revised 1/11/05)

.11 Commercial cemeteries and memorial parks.

.12 Child care centers.

.13 Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.

.14 Adult day-care centers.

.15 Meeting places for clubs, fraternal and civic organizations.

.16 Home businesses, as defined.

.17 Extraction and processing of natural resources for commercial use.

.18 Garden centers.

.19 Observation Tower–In addition to the criteria listed in 16-2, the Planning Commission shall consider the following in its review of Special Use Permit requests for Observation Towers; lighting, security & access, distance from the nearest hard surface road or state maintained road, size of the parcel on which the tower is to be built and construction materials and design of the tower. (9/25/01)

.20 Outdoor Recreational Facilities. (adopted 1/8/02)

.21 Mulch production facility. (Revised 1/11/05)

.22 Group home or home for developmentally disabled persons (per Code of Virginia.) (Revised 1/11/05)

.23 Residential Accessory Structure—greater than 768 square feet (Revised 8/18/05)

****Clarification 10/19 – The first line in this section of code references “Same as Conservation C-1 plus:” — as open air ranges ARE permitted by Special Use Permit in C-1 Districts so they are also permitted by SUP in A-1 — The Free Enterprise Forum regrets any confusion — Neil Williamson Editor *****

About 2/3rd of the way through the public speakers, Marie Durrer  – retired Circuit Court Clerk of Greene County, spoke that there had been no complaints about shooting on her property until the hearings started. Her family has a right to pursue this business. It is safe and controlling an activity for the county and it will have a positive impact to Greene by generating additional tax revenue.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Supervisor Bill Martin

The Supervisors then considered the request. Supervisor Bill Martin said he visited the property and he asked Durrer if the design he is proposing exists anywhere in the country. Durrer stated that one is being built in California. Martin pointed out that when the Special Use Permit for the store was granted it specifically stated that no gun range would be allowed in the future.

Supervisor Davis Lamb pointed out that the SUP regulations allowed in A-1 can only be granted for indoor facilities and open facilities are not listed. Supervisor Eddie Deane went to the property and spoke with Troy Accoustics  about the level of sound and was told that 70 DB’s is what should be expected outside the range.

Martin thanked all the citizens that spoke and for the over 100 contacts related to this issue. It is obvious that we need a range in Greene County but we need it to be safe. However, when Big Iron received their SUP for their store they were specifically told that a range would not be allowed. Further, per Article 16-2, issuing a Special Use Permit cannot change the character of the area which he believes the range would do.

Supervisor Jim Frydl then spoke and he told the audience that the applicants were in their rights to ask for the hearing. He also pointed out that a SUP goes with the land not with the owner of the land. So even if the Durrers later sold the land, the SUP would stay in effect. For him, the letters from multiple developers stating that the range would negatively impact the property values in the area was a key issue.

Supervisor Eddie Deane

Supervisor Eddie Deane

Deane challenged the issue of changing the characteristic of an area. His example is the addition of Tractor Supply in front of the residential community on Route 33 west of Ruckersville. This property was developed as a mixed use parcel and the addition of commercial property in front was in the original design that the home owners knew would occur when they built their homes.

Lamb spoke to the range in Yorktown, Va. and that the range was built first before homes were built around the range. Chairman David Cox then spoke to the fact that the county would be safer having a shooting range rather than having individuals firing all around the county and he supported the range.

Finally, Supervisor Lamb made a motion, going into great detail of state and local code to support the motion, to deny the Special Use Permit request with the main point being that the shooting range would change the neighborhood per Section 16-2aSection 16-2a . Frydl seconded the motion and he, Lamb and Martin voted in favor while Cox and Deane voted against the motion to disallow the Special Use Permit.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County, NBC29

Da Lessons from Deschutes

By. Neil Williamson, President

Often life’s greatest lessons do not come when things are going right but more often in those less than positive experiences.

Deschutes-BrewingNow that even the ever optimistic Virginia Governor McAuliffe  has given up hope of landing Deschutes Brewery in Albemarle County (Roanoke looks good though), the time is ripe to examine what lessons this unsuccessful process may provide.

1.  Albemarle is a very attractive location.  Despite higher than average land prices, the quality of life and intangibles are very positive in the region.

2.  There is a lack of well positioned and permitted light industrial land. This is a competitive disadvantage.  We know the Board of Supervisors has commissioned a staff examination of this issue but based on our conversations with commercial REALTORS® the results are already known.

3.  The land permitting process is broken and takes too long.  This  places Albemarle at a competitive disadvantage.  During the discussion of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, those opposed to the project asked what we considered to be good questions regarding traffic,  building footprint etc. Such details are not part of the CPA process.  Planning staff has indicated a preference for CPAs to come forward separately as they require a different level of scrutiny (30,000 feet).   This is also self serving philosophy as it provides additional work for the planning department.    The processes can and should be combined to allow for a CPA, rezoning and site plan approval to be completed in six months.

4.  While the Supervisors recognize the economic reality, the public is notnimby1 yet sold on the concept of increased economic development.  This lack of public support is seen by outsiders as “unwelcoming” and is clearly a competitive disadvantage.   As Lisa Provence reported in C-ville regarding the Planning Commission denial of the CPA, some are not convinced that economic development (AKA Growth) is a good thing:

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. While Albemarle always extracted proffers from developers to help pay for infrastructure costs, in other areas, taxpayers are paying for utility extensions like the one that will be needed to get water and sewer to the land Deschutes is eying.

Thomas says she encouraged the planning commission “not to be guilted into” voting for the amendment for fear of being accused of not being supportive of economic development.

5.  Albemarle Economic Development Director Faith McClintic is a sharp, smart, economic development professional with a daunting task ahead of her.  There has been relatively uniform approval of the job McClintic has done thus far (even from those opposing the CPA).  It will be interesting to see if McClintic is able to maintain her high level of performance in the face of Albemarle’s competitive disadvantages  or is recruited away to a more “business welcoming” locality.

It is entirely possible that Ms. Thomas position of keeping growth in check may be the majority opinion of Albemarle County citizens.  If the philosophy of the Board is that any business is lucky that we are allowing them to locate here and should be happy to jump through our bureaucratic hoops, then there is not “A new day” in Albemarle.

The current and future leadership of Albemarle County need to determine the direction of the Economic Development Department.  That decision, perhaps more than any other, will determine not only the success of businesses to locate and expand; but also the jobs that may or may not be available as well as the percentage of government costs that will be carried by property taxes.

Da Lesson from Deschutes – Albemarle was not ready.

Da Question from Deschutes – Do they really want to be?

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

20070731williamson

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.

Fluvanna BOS Reviews Pay Scales

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Working on a dinner deadline, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors mainly flew through its October 7th meeting.

The one issue that divided the board was increasing pay for employees that achieve additional educational, licensure or certificates after hiring.  The supervisors approved increasing wages on a sliding scale based on the item earned, retroactively effective July 1, 2015. The vote was 3-2, Don Weaver (Cunningham District) and Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) dissented.

Previously, Fluvanna would hire employees with a base salary starting on the lowest end of the salary band the job was in. The county administration staff can increase the base up to 15 percent from that base. Steve Nichols, the county administrator, takes in consideration experience, additional education beyond requirements, and licenses and certificates earned at that time.  Then after the hire date, if an employee earns additional education, licenses or certificates, no additional compensation was given. Employees would only earn normal raises or bonuses.

Gail Parrish, the county’s human resource manager, told the board increasing pay on a predictable scale will help retain employees. Currently, employees best hope of an increased salary is to get a job elsewhere; making Fluvanna a training ground. Hiring and training a new employee becomes costly for the county and loses institutional knowledge.  “Once the employee comes to work for us, if they gain a degree…they are not recognized with additional pay,” said Parrish.

The scale presented included an annual increase of $500 for certificate, $1,000 for a licensure, $500 for an associate’s degree, $1,000 for a bachelor’s degree, $1,000 for a graduate degree and $2,000 for a doctorate.  Employees would be limited to a $2,000 increase over the course of a fiscal year. Permanent part-time employees would be eligible on an equivalent amount to hours worked. So a half-time employee would get half the amount.

Weaver and Ullenbruch objected to the item, which was estimated to impact the current fiscal year by $16,000, being brought up in the middle of the year and not during the budget cycle. Staff proposed using the personnel contingency budget line to pay for FY16.

Weaver2014

Fluvanna Supervisor Don Weaver

“To me, this should be brought up and integrated during the budget time,” said Weaver.

Ullenbruch asked why the county would pay for hypothetical degrees such as someone who cuts grass who earns a degree in a field not related to outside maintenance.

Nichols said if the county hired someone with a bachelor’s, even if unrelated to the field working in, it would pay more than for someone in the same position without any degree.

“A lot of the skills people do take away [from earning the degree] add to every job,” said Parrish.

Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) thought the idea had merit because it makes employees feel appreciated. “I think it makes a huge effort when they know it’s a ‘family’,” said Sheridan.

Supervisors passed the measure but required staff to include some minor changes. Supervisors will have to ratify the changes at the next meeting, most likely during the consent agenda.

Supervisors also passed a new salary band scale that included increases from the latest budget period. It also put constitutional officers in a band that included all officers, instead of having some beyond their band because of tenure and regular bonuses. No officers are given raises not required from state or county pay plans.

A deer hunt for handicapped hunters will occur at Pleasant Grove on the afternoon of January 1, 2016. This has been an annual occurrence since 2013. The park will be closed for the hunters to shoot without the public around.  Deer that are killed are kept by the hunters or given to others associated with the hunt.  No harvested deer are left.

An information technology position was reclassified to help attract a position that the county currently needs compared to what was previously done. The position is currently vacant.

Fluvanna’s Finance Board moved $5 million into a higher generating interest account this summer. It has earned $16,000 since the move. Previously, the $5 million was sitting in a very low interest savings account.

The next supervisor meeting is Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. It is expected to be long with James River Water Authority special use permits, Zion Crossroads water project design and build contract and a business rezoning request near Lake Monticello’s west end. All are expected to be on the agenda.   If citizens are planning to stay until the end, bring snacks.

————————————————————-

bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

LGSI Released Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending

By. Neil Williamson, President

As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2016 budget process, our new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically.

The “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, is based on an independent locality-specific local cost of government spending index (LGSI). The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2014, identified Albemarle County as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI.

The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog. The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions. Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the elections and budget season. clip_image002

The LGSI is based on self-reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.

It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment. While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:

Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 130% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 52% and 35% respectively. 2015 Albemarle Indicators

City of CharlottesvilleDuring the study period (1990-2014), Charlottesville experienced a population increase of just 18%, the second smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative decline in school enrollment  (-2%).

In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased at 62% during the study period. The LGSI in Charlottesville was 133.28 in 2014 markedly below its 2009 apex.

2015 Charlottesville Indicators

For other localities (Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelsonclip_image004) see the Choices and Decision Report.

In FY2014 per capita spending is as follows (in 2014$):

Charlottesville $ 4,119.32

Albemarle – $ 2,867.31

Nelson – $ 2,637.11

Louisa – $ 2,537.49

Greene – $ 2,419.63

Fluvanna – $ 2,201.50

It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities. In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities. During the study period, Albemarle had the greatest increase inflation adjusted operating spending per capita at 51.33%, the balance of the localities increased less than 50%. Greene County (28.81%) had the lowest increase.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom. The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

20070731williamson

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.