Monthly Archives: January, 2016

Albemarle PC Irresponsible Fantasy Island Fiscal Follies Could Equal 37.5% Tax Increase

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Albemarle County Planning Commission (PC) has reached a new high in mission creep as in their January 26th meeting they chose to not only ignore a 2014 change in Virginia state law, they also decided to ignore a clearly worded memo of direction from the Board of Supervisors regarding cash proffer calculation.

Fantasy Island 2Along the way, they expanded their directive and in an effort to extract more cash proffers from new home buyers, they started the ball rolling on a “Fantasy Island” Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that could, if ever implemented,  increase annual CIP spending by $144.3 Million and increase property taxes by 37.5% ($750+ on a $250,000 home).

Please let me explain.

The Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) produced a report in September 2015 indicating the need to dramatically reduce the maximum cash proffer amount permitted to bring Albemarle County in line with the 2014 change in State Code.  The 2014 law requires the calculation be based on only CIP projects that increase capacity (rather than maintenance).

FIAC’s recommendation followed the 2014 state law change:

2) Amend the maximum per unit cash proffer amounts to:
o SFD – $4,918 (2014 value was $20,987)
o SFA/TH – $3,845 (2014 value was $14,271)
o MF – $5,262 (2014 value was $14,871)

The September 3, 2014 memo from the Board of Supervisors directing the PC and FIAC to review the Cash Proffer Calculation was very clear:

Specifically the Board requests that the Committee:
1) Analyze possible credits for:
-Development in targeted areas. Targeted areas are those areas shown as Priority Areas identified in each Master Plan Area.
-Mixed use developments.
-Development supportive of growth management        strategies of the Comprehensive Plan.
2) Provide recommendations on changes to existing credits in the policy, including the credit that may be provided for by-right units, now available by policy only in limited circumstances (Policy § C(6)(c)).
3) Update the County’s maximum per unit cash proffer amount by dwelling unit type.
4) Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

Several members of the FIAC complained to the Planning Commission that the proffer number was too low due to the change in State law and Albemarle’s recent “maintenance only” CIP.  Rather than accepting the report and direction from a committee that met 18 times over the last year and half, the Planning Commission discussion focused the committee’s disgruntled members and on their own uncomfortableness with the resultant proffer numbers required by state law.

PC Members wanted staff to detail all the capital projects required to achieve the vision of the newly approved comprehensive plan.  It was their thought that this would provide a better context than what the state law provided.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been critical of the Planning Commission’s involvement in these fiscal discussions.  Part of that criticism is based on the limited scope of the commission and the reality that Planning Commissioners do not fully understand the capital spending crisis Albemarle County is already in.

Cash proffers provide less than 3.5% of the annual revenue for capital spending.  The lion’s share comes from property taxes.

With the economic downturn, recent Boards of Supervisors chose not to increase taxes to keep up with new infrastructure demands but rather to kick such funding down the road and only fund maintaining existing infrastructure.

Albemarle’s FY2016 Budget Message summed it up succinctly:

As most recently reviewed, the CIP continues to focus on meeting mandates, maintaining existing infrastructure, and investing in those projects that allow the County to continue core and necessary services without substantial increases in operational costs. … As most recently reviewed, $152.1 million or 50% of the requested CIP projects were unable to be funded with current resources.

So what does that mean the Planning Commission is contemplating?

Based on our review of the Comprehensive Plan and Albemarle’s own assessment that they can’t fund half of the CIP projects already on the books now – we conservatively estimate the Planning Commission Fiscal Follies would likely triple the CIP need.

fantasy island 3Therefore, to fully fund the Planning Commission’s “Fantasy Island” CIP could be $.40+ (currently ~$.10) on the tax rate.  Based on Albemarle’s tax calculator – on a $250,000 home that equates to a $750 [37.5%] increase in local property taxes.

But the Planning Commission really is not in a place to understand this fiscal reality.  As unelected appointees, they do not have to face the voters with such fiscal follies.

The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the Planning Commission to cease wasting limited staff resources on this fanciful mission creep into County fiscal matters.  We believe they should vote (either way) on the September 2015 FIAC recommendation and send their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors who do answer to the voters.

We believe a 37.5% “Fantasy Island” CIP property tax increase would generate significant  discussion among the Board and voters.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, ABC Television

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Fluvanna Reluctantly Opens JRWA Water Spigot

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

water bibOn January 20th, the Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the special use permit for the James River Water Authority (JRWA).  The permit allows the JRWA to construct an intake facility and pump raw water to a location near Route 6.

The permit was a resubmitted request from December 2nd when the board voted 2-2 (resulting in a non approval). The difference in approved version was the facility moved to the adjacent property. Previously it was in a wooded area, now it is strip of trees of a field.

The other main difference, and probably the reason it passed, was the filed lawsuit Louisa County, Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) and the JRWA filed (but not served) after the first permit failed.

Eager2016Cropped

Fluvanna Supervisor Patricia Eager

“It breaks my heart that we have been checkmated,” said Patricia Eager (Palmyra District).

Eager and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) noted before the vote that the county asked outside counsel about the basis of the pending legal action. Weaver noted the lawyers gave ‘strong worded’ counsel.

“The decision here tonight was made two years ago,” Weaver said, referencing the October 2013 vote of the inter-jurisdictional agreement. It passed on a 3-1 vote, Weaver voting against it.

During the public hearing fourteen speakers spoke against the JRWA permit. Seven spoke in favor and one did not state an outright opinion.

One resident threatened possible legal action if the permit passed. He also said he would stand in front of any bulldozer to stop any action.

Weaver said before casting his vote, “I will make a decision that in my opinion would do less damage to the county.”

The second special use permit on January 20th was for the LCWA to construct a pipeline from Route 6, along the eastern portion of the county to Louisa County line. It passed unanimously.

Mozell Booker

Fluvanna Vice Chairperson Mozell Booker

After the votes, vice chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) said, “I can’t be anything but elated.”

The public hearings were held jointly with the Planning Commission. Both permits were recommended for approval by the commission unanimously.

Chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) was not at the meeting because of health reasons. He is expected to be back starting in February. He may attend portions of the supervisors’ scheduled retreat on January 30th.

That retreat was previously scheduled for January 23 but postponed because of weather. It is planned to be at the Fork Union Community Center.

The next regular supervisors’ meeting is February 3rd at 4 p.m.

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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

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Asking the Wrong People the Right Question

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

What if during the climatic western movie scene, the stable boy, who knows the location of the gang’s hideout, went to the grocery clerk rather than getting word to the Lone Ranger?

This is exactly what Albemarle County is doing on Tuesday night.

Please let me explain.

On September 3, 2014, Albemarle BOS directed their appointed bodies to evaluate and come up with a recommendation to address changes in state code regarding cash proffers.

The Board of Supervisors requests that the Albemarle County Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee provide advice and recommendations to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors on revisions to the credit provisions and the per unit cash proffer amounts of the Cash Proffer Policy…Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

To be fair, the members of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee did their work as effectively as they could despite what the Free Enterprise Forum sees as staff driven delays.  After the FIAC report was issued, staff continued to drag their feet.

For the last four months, the Free Enterprise Forum has regularly highlighted Albemarle County’s Cash Proffer Policy is in direct violation of State law.  County Attorney, Larry Davis, disagrees indicating that Albemarle has not had a rezoning come before it since the change in state law and if such a rezoning application did come before the Board, legal staff would inform them of the impact of the change in state law on the cash proffer amount.

With all due respect Mr. Davis, might the $20,000+ cash proffer amount per unit be a reason Albemarle has not seen more rezonings coming forward?

The results of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (which included a member of the Planning Commission) should have been sent directly to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for immediate action.

While we believe cash proffers should be eliminated entirely, the proposal from the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee helps put some reasonable, rational, (and legally mandated) conditions on the calculation of Albemarle Illegal Cash Proffer Gravy Train.

Whether the Planning Commission, who in the role of the Western Grocery Clerk, is ill equipped to process this request, will send this recommendation forward to the Board of Supervisors  is yet to be seen.

We hope the hero shows up soon, to bring Albemarle in line with the law.

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, maryrobertsonwriter.blogspot.com tomsoter.com

Greene Planning Commission Counting Their Chickens

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission began their January, 2016 meeting electing officers with Jay Willer and Vic Schaff maintaining their Chairman and Vice-Chairman positions respectively. There were only four commissioners for this meeting as Eva Young’s term expired at the end of 2015 and the Board of Supervisors has yet to appoint a replacement.

The only public hearing for the Planning Commission in January was a revision to a zoning ordinance – how many rabbits should be allowed in Residential zoning. Last April this issue was discussed and was deferred to allow staff to do research on such issues as set back requirements, the number of chickens to allow, etc. Currently no chickens are allowed in R-1 zones.

There has been a growing interest in keeping chickens in the residential, R-1, zoning district. The proposed ordinance is to allow residents to own chickens in residential areas but also balance their neighbors rights. Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, presented OR#15-003 stating that staff suggests a sliding scale of the quantity of chickens allowed based upon the lot size.

Area in square feet      Area in acreage       # of hens

10,000                                       0.23                     2

15,000                                       0.34                     3

20,000                                       0.46                    4

25,000                                       0.57                     5

30,000                                       0.69                    6

35,000                                       0.80                    7

40,000                                       0.92                   8

45,000                                       1.03                    9

50,000                                       1.15                  10

55,000                                       1.26                  11

60,000                                       1.38                 12

65,000                                       1.49                 13

70,000                                       1.61                 14

75,000                                       1.72                 15

80,000                                       1.84                16

85,000                                       1.95                 17

90,000                                       2.07                18

95,000                                       2.18                 19

100,000                                     2.30                20

The hearing was then opened for public comment with Keith Bourne being the only speaker. Mr. Bourne stated that he lives in an Ag District but he supports urban agriculture such as this but suggests researching how other counties control the slaughter of these animals and he believes this should be done inside rather than outside for neighbors to view.

The hearing then shifted to discussion within the commission. Chairman Willer felt the sliding scale of number of chickens vs. the size of the lot would be hard to enforce. Since the intent is to allow chickens for families to have as pets instead of raising them to sell dozen of eggs at the farmers market he suggested a more simple 2 step scale of allowing 5 for less than .5 acre and up to 10 maximum for property greater that .5 acre. Secondly, he addressed setbacks to minimize the potential noise and smell issues with the following recommendations:

25 foot setback from property lines

50 foot setback from occupied buildings

25 foot setback from wells

50 foot setback from water sources (other than wells) including litter storage

Commissioner Frank Morris suggested raising the 5 chickens for .5 acres or less to 6 since Southern States sells them at a minimum quantity of 6. Svoboda said he would research this and report back to the commission. Commissioner Schaff said he liked 5/10 thresholds as it would much easier to enforce but agreed that he would be ok with the 6 quantity if that is the minimum being sold.

This lead to a discussion of what department would enforce the ordinance. Mr. Svoboda stated he would ask the Sheriff’s Dept. how to enforce. Commissioner McCloskey also said he supported the 5/10 limits and had a concern about allowing up to 20 chickens.

Commissioner Morris raised an issue related to the 25 feet setback – his concern is that many lots have trees at the back of their property which would be a good place to provide shade for the chickens but may not be 25 feet from their property line. This lead to a discussion of reducing the setback requirement as some developments in R-1 may not have enough space to allow the 25 feet setback. Commissioner Schaff said that if a lot can’t provide the 25 feet setback then the property should not be allowed to have chickens.

As for the slaughtering question that Mr. Bourne brought up, the commissioners decided to not include this in the ordinance and would address the issue if it becomes a problem. It was agreed to vote on the 25 foot setback issue separately, since that seemed to be the only point of contention. This change passed 3-1 with Commissioner Morris voting against it. The other setback suggestions and the limitation of 6 for under .5 acres and a maximum of 10 for greater than .5 acre was approved, 4-0.

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

 

The Economic Development Snowstorm

By. Neil Williamson, President

As I write this, social media is all a buzz regarding projected significant snowfall for the region late this week. It seems as though that despite the differences in the various predictive models (European, American, etc.) all have some amount of snow in the forecast.  Latest update, they have just named the storm “Jonas” (hopefully not for the Disney movie based boy band).

A “Storm of the Century”, especially in the Mid Atlantic states requires a specific environment to occur; the same is true for local economic vitality.

The jet stream must have the just proper bend to bring the storm up the coast, but not the warmth to the region; localities must have a clearly stated vision, and actions to match, to let businesses know they are welcome to come or to stay and grow here.

Possible East Coast Storm Setup

To achieve a super storm,  the atmospheric  temperatures must be high enough to allow water to condense and low enough to support snow formation; the regulatory environment must be high enough to provide a quality community but low enough to allow businesses to responsibly grow here.

A great deal is being made of the ice damming effect on this storm; just as the storm needs the ice dam to fully develop absent a trained workforce economic development will not reach its full potential.

Possible East Coast Storm Setup

If there are not specific humidity levels just prior to the storm’s arrival, it does not materialize; if there is not land ready and permitted for business use prior to the prospect business expansion, economic development goes elsewhere.

Just as the winds can’t be too high to push the storm through too quickly; citizens must recognize and acknowledge the value of new (or expanding) business, new tax revenue, new jobs and economic advancement or such advancement will be pushed away.

Unlike the super storm formation, local government controls many, but not all, of the economic development environmental conditions.

How do you think Central Virginia’s local governments measure up?

Are they creating a positive economic development environment?

What letter grade would you give your locality?

Just as with “Jonas” – time will make the results readily apparent.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, The Weather Channel, Snipview.com, quazoo.com

Greene Supervisors Set 2016 Officers and Assignments

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Board Supervisors had their first meeting of 2016 on Tuesday, January 12th with two supervisors attending their first meeting. Eddie Deane, Supervisor at Large, decided not to run for reelection and the race for the seat was between Dale Herring and Bob Young.  Herring won the election 54% vs. 45%.

The Ruckersville District has been represented by Supervisor Davis Lamb who ran for reelection against Michelle Flynn, former Greene County School Board Chairman, with Flynn winning the election. The third race was for the Monroe District with the seat being held by Chairman David Cox. Although he technically ran unopposed, Donna Harlow ran as a write in candidate and collected a third of the votes.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Board of Supervisors 2016 Chairman Bill Martin

Supervisor Bill Martin was elected Chairman and Supervisor Michelle Flynn was elected Vice-Chairman. Martin’s first order of business was to propose revising the “Matters from the public” to have only 3 requirements – 1) speakers sign up in advance, 2) speakers will be allocated 3 minutes unless the Chairman grants more time and 3) the Chairman will monitor time and maintain decorum. This motion was passed unanimously.

The main business of the meeting was to reassign Liaison Functions, especially the 8 that had been assigned to Deane and Lamb. Supervisor Jim Frydl took the second position for the Central Virginia Regional Jail Board. Dale Peyton took the Parks and Recreation Dept., the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Flynn took the Jefferson Area Board of Aging, the Rivanna River Basin and Social Services Board.

Commissioner David Cox proposed reinstating a Board Liaison with the Emergency Services after being approached by several of the fire departments and the rescue squad. He had previously held this position when he first joined the Board. After debating if staff could provide this connection, it was decided to assign Cox as the liaison to the Emergency Services.

The final reorganizational issue discussed was the vacancy on the Planning Commission and Supervisor David Cox explained that there are three applicants for the position and the Board will appoint one of them at their second meeting in January. As a result, the Planning Commission will have only four members at their January meeting next week.

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