Monthly Archives: February, 2016

SOMEONE’s Shameful Sensationalism

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over the last dozen years, I have read literally hundreds of Albemarle County staff reports.  I tend to find the reports to be professional, concise, factually correct and devoid of generalizations or editorial commentary – until last week when I determined that SOMEONE  improperly and sensationally  used a tragedy to further an advocacy position in what was presented as an impartial staff analysis.

In an attempt to sensationalize the need for closing of Earlysville Road to truck traffic, SOMEONE has stooped so low as to cite a terrible teenage 2002 drunk driving accident as justification to overrule the technical analysis of professional traffic engineers.

Please let me try to explain.

For many years, residents on Earlysville Road have complained about traffic and road safety conditions.

A traffic analysis of Earlysville Road was completed July 7, 2015 (and revised July 30 2015 and December 29, 2015) by Bill Wuensch, P.E. PTOE of EPRPC.  The fact that the report was revised twice is of interest and perhaps indicative of SOMEONE not being happy with the report. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crash data in the report indicated there were 60 crashes in the last three years and only one involved a truck.  The crash was a read end incident and the truck involved was a two-axle vehicle [the kind that would not be prohibited by the proposed closure].   

The final report had 3 conclusions:

Overall there seems to be a fairly typical number of multiple axle trucks (i.e. three or more axels) on the Earlysville Road corridor.  The truck percentage does not generally exceed the typical value of 2% that is found across the state on similar facilities.  Note the 2% does not include long wheelbase two axel vehicles, such as delivery trucks including mulch trucks, fedex trucks, etc.

The study corridor has features that do not meet current design standards, though we would look for a correlation with crash data before identifying road design as a major concern relative to truck traffic.

The crash data does not appear to indicate that trucks are causing crashes along the corridor [emphasis added – nw].

SOMEONE did not think the report went far enough so they drafted a “Staff Summary Analysis” Document that has become part of the project’s complete package provided to the Board of Supervisors. 

In what reads more like an angry ‘Letter to the Editor’ rather than a staff analysis:

The report acknowledges that the 3-year crash data included numerous “runoff the road” crashes that were either the result of the lack of shoulders or avoidance maneuvers.  This 3-year old data is only a small sampling of the “run off the road” incidents along this corridor and doesn’t include the July 2002 incident that claimed the life of one teenager and caused incapacitating injury to a second. [emphasis added-nw]

Wow, that sensational tidbit had great meaning – since we are discussing a closure of the road to truck traffic – did a truck cause this accident, as was clearly implied?  I actually stopped reading the report to find out.

No, it was a community tragedy but there was no truck involved.  According to Lisa Provence writing for The Hook:

On July 16, [2002] three Albemarle High School girls attended a couple of parties where alcohol was served, with tragic results. Around 2am, the Honda Civic driven by 17-year-old Kirsten Zamorski flipped over on Earlysville Road near the reservoir. Sixteen-year-old Brittany Bishop, a passenger in the car, died at the scene, and Zamorski spent weeks in the hospital. Police cite drinking as a factor in the accident.

SOMEONE is attempting to tip the scales in their favor by sensationalizing and editorializing a staff report.

Not surprisingly SOMEONE’s   so called “Staff Analysis” conclusions are vastly different than the twice revised professional traffic analysis:

Therefore it’s Staff’s opinion that the substandard road widths, the lack of adequate shoulders and recoverable areas, and the history of “runoff the road” incidents gives credence to the petitioner’s claim that physical characteristics of Earlysville Road creates an incompatible and unsafe environment between truck or truck and trailer or semitrailer combination and the other vehicles using the roadway 

Based on my experience, I do NOT believe Albemarle County Staff wrote the document titled “Staff Summary Analysis”.  SOMEONE else did.  The verbiage, terminology, tenor and cadence of the language is all wrong.  My attempts to determine the true authorship have not yet been fruitful.

Regardless of your position on the Earlysville Road closure to truck traffic, all citizens should be concerned with this clear abuse of power [and professional staff].

SOMEONE should be ashamed.

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.

 

 

Greene PC Reviews Special Use Permit Process

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

With a new commissioner, William Sanders, on board the Greene County Planning Commission held a public hearing to review the ordinance for issuance of Special Use Permits (SUP) in their February  meeting. The process was last revised when Gerald Ford was in the White House (1975).

Last year, the Planning Commission held two meetings focused on the topic and the Board of Supervisors held a November public hearing  on the proposal (OR#15-002).  Many of the public comments at the Board Public hearing were concerned with the scope of the information required from applicants and others questioned if the ordinance was “business friendly” as written.  After the public hearing, the Board unanimously referred the issue back to the Planning Commission.

According to the staff report:

Additional research performed since the Board of Supervisors meeting has indicated that the wording for special use permit regulations vary greatly from one locality to another.  it is clear from the review of other localities regulations that all possible variations of the special use permit uses cannot be accommodated in an ordinance.  The General Assembly appears to agree because special use permit uses are considered by the governing body to have greater impacts on neighboring properties than those permitted by right.  Special Use Permits are “special” in that they may be approved in one area of a zoning district but not in another.  The impacts from noise, traffic, storage, pollution, etc. of a special use permit use located on 10 or 20 acres varies greatly from the same impact located on a quarter acre lot or within a neighborhood area.

Special use permits are reviewed using reasonable standards, some of which may be contained within local, state, or federal regulations.  However, there may also be other standards based on reasonable zoning principles that arise from impacts created by the type, location and nature of the proposed use.

Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda presented proposed revisions that staff worked on adding 16-2-6 and 16-2-7 and to have them in synch with Va. State code 15.2.28B.

The Planning Commission discussed several other portions of the regulations, in particular, did all the conditions for the SUP need to be listed and what takes precedent – the zoning ordinance or the SUP, if they are different? Saunders asked if Greene County code needs to specify what the state code states or just refer to the state code.

Commissioner Frank Morris asked who is to inspect and enforce the SUP’s that are approved.  Svoboda stated that the building official may inspect situations but that the enforcement would be the responsibility of the Zoning Administrator – himself.

The hearing then shifted to the Public Comment section and former Planning Commissioner Eva Young asked about 16-2-1 the noncompliance notification process. She stated that other localities allow up to one year to be notified and she would like to see the Planning Commission be more stringent in contacting applicants.

The hearing then shifted back to discussion among the commissioners. Commissioner John McCloskey asked about code 16-2-6 and if it were to be more restrictive than the SUP allowed. Svoboda stated that what would be in force would be the code that was in place at the time of the action and ordinances passed after would not be required to be followed. But if an addition or change was requested the applicant would be held to the current ordinance.

Discussion then shifted to 16-2-4 with Commissioner Frank Morris stating he felt this was confusing while Commissioner Vic Schaff liked it and thought it was more streamlined. The next issue addressed what the process of revising code and what role the Planning Director should play in developing proposed new codes. Svoboda stated that currently he and staff prepare a draft as a starting point for discussion. The thinking is that this takes the task off the “to do” list of the Planning Commission. Chairman Jay Willer agreed that the Planning Commission could make any changes they would like.

Willer also brought up in section 16-2-4 and other sections where it is stated that the ordinance is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the county – he proposed adding “to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan”? Svoboda said that normally ordinances are changed to match the Comprehensive Plan.  McCloskey agreed that the statement should include the comment of the Comprehensive Plan.  Morris stated that he would prefer more time to review the changes however, McCloskey felt that changes should be made in a timely manner if possible and Schaff agreed.

Lastly, Willer addressed code 16-2-1 and suggested that items a, b, c, and d be listed first and then followed with what is currently leading the code – i.e. the Zoning Administrator may ask for additional information. Also, Willer suggested revising 16-2-3a to state that the SUP should not change the pattern of the area to include – shall not “adversely” change the pattern of the area.

A motion to recommend approval of the changes was made and seconded with a 4-1 vote in favor of the changes, with Morris voting against. The changes will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their review and possible action.

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

SE Rural Community Assistance Project addresses Greene BOS

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County is in the process of building a municipal water impoundment to provide water to the residents of the county. However, not all residents are served by the public water system.  Others are on well and septic  but some don’t have access to water at all. Randolph Phillips of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. http://southeastrcap.org/ addressed Greene’s Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to present their services.

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Randolph Phillips

Phillips explained that SERCAP has existed in Virginia for over 40 years with a mission to improve the quality of life of low income families to help them become self-sufficient and gain their independence. SERCAP has a staff of 25 and he specializes in housing and partners with many federal agencies such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), etc. Phillips also works with home inspections and redevelopment grants for low income families.

imageSERCAP helps homes acquire safe drinking water and indoor plumbing by drilling new wells and installing septic systems.  Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) asked if any work has been done in Greene County? Phillips said that none has been done so far but it has been done in surrounding counties.

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James Howard

Frydl pointed out to Phillips that Greene’s Social Services Director, James Howard, was in the audience and asked if Phillips would speak with him after the meeting to coordinate the use of his service in Greene County. Supervisor Michele Flynn (Ruckersville District) confirmed that there are some Greene County citizens that do not have running water.

Phillips went on to explain that the only requirements to use the services are you must own your home and your income must be below the minimum level. Another service that SERCAP provides is “aging in place”, where home are modified to install a ramp for a wheel chair, widen doorways to permit wheel chairs, install grab bars in bathrooms, and other safety improvements.

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) asked Phillips who provides the funding for SERCAP. Mr. Phillips said that funding comes from a variety of sources such including state and federal agencies. Martin thanked Phillips for presenting the information to the Board and hoped that Greene can take advantage of SERCAP services.

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: Southeast CAP, Greene County 

Albemarle Planning Commission Tells Supervisors To Violate State Law

By. Neil Williamson, President

go to jail photo credit myanimelist.netIt is not everyday that an appointed body of government clearly, and unanimously, ignore both legal and planner recommendations and instead recommend a violation of the state code.  But that is exactly what happened last night (2/23) Planning Commission meeting in Albemarle County.

While we have been opposed to cash proffers since their inception, for the last eighteen months, the Free Enterprise Forum has been begging Albemarle to revise their current cash proffer policy because it was illegal.

Rather than following other localities and adjusting their cash profferrezoning-ransom-oped-headline-daily-progress-3-march-20132 policy after a 2013 change in state code required proffers only include projects that expand capacity, Albemarle Supervisors delegated to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) and the Planning Commission.  Now over two years later the illegal policy remains on the books.

On Groundhog Day 2016, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner publicly indicated that since the new law passed the County had not applied the illegal maximum amount proffer to anyone, they were not in violation.  In addition, the number was a maximum and should an applicant come forward the recommendations of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee would be used.  True to his word the staff report included very clear direction from the Albemarle County legal department:

In addition, application of the new amounts based on the current CIP and CNA is consistent with State law. Virginia Code § 15.2-2303 requires that proffers be “reasonable,” and reasonableness is evaluated on whether there is an “essential nexus” between the proffer and the impact it is intended to address, and whether the extent of the proffer is “roughly proportional” to the impact created. The cash proffer amounts recommended by FIAC, based on the current CIP and CNA, provide the best benchmark for reasonableness for a maximum cash proffer amount under the current Cash Proffer Policy. In addition, the new amount proffered is consistent with the current Cash Proffer Policy, which sets a maximum cash proffer amount that the Board will accept but does not identify a minimum amount.

When coupled with Albemarle County’s lack of capital spending over the last few years and the requirement that any proffer funds only apply for those projects that increase capacity, the resulting figures are significantly different than the current policy.  Again from the staff report:

At the time of the rezoning the applicant proffered cash proffers for the residential units in the following amounts:

$20,460.57 for each single family detached unit
$13,913.18 for each single family attached or townhouse unit

The applicant requests a change in the cash proffer amounts as follows:
$4,918.00 for each single family detached unit
$3,845.00 for each sing family attached or townhouse unit

In this morning’s Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs article accurately depicted the tenor of the meeting:

“In my seven years on the planning commission, we have never been asked to make an evaluation on a cash proffer,” said Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty.

Lafferty might have been quoting the Free Enterprise Forum blog  “Asking the Wrong People the Right Question

piggy-bankRather than focusing on the planning question many commissioners looked sadly at a smaller proffer piggy bank.  Other commissioners decided to focus on how the school system was spending their budget.  Mission Creeping topics of the value of using trailers (AKA “Learning Cottages”),  and student population trends were discussed.

Amazingly, one commissioner publicly suggested the applicant should have engaged in proffer “horse trading” prior to the public hearing.  Tubbs reported other possible demands of commissioners:

“One of the issues we’ve been woefully behind in our area are basic pedestrian infrastructure,” said Commissioner Pam Reilly, adding that Cetta might be persuaded to build a sidewalk to Cale Elementary School.

The arrogance of the Albemarle County Planning Commission to determine they are above the Code of Virginia is astounding.

Remembering the Planning Commission is merely advisory to the Board of Supervisors, the true question is will the current Board of Supervisors also choose to willfully violate state law?

Only time will tell.

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, myanimelist.net, 

Albemarle’s Anemic VDOT Economic Development Score

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County earned a failing report card from Virginia Departmentepic fail of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the economic development impacts on their proposed transportation improvement.

This low score, coupled with other factors, resulted in the ONLY Transportation project Albemarle County The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization [correction 11:27am 2/22-nw] submitted for possible funding the I-64/US29 Interchange (Exit 118) ranking 282 out of 287 projects statewide and DEAD LAST in Culpeper District.

Like a parent, the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with this economic development report card and we wonder if Albemarle is willing to do what is necessary to improve their scores.  We believe absent a paradigm shift regarding economic development and proactive zoning Albemarle County  may not receive significant transportation dollars for a generation.

Please let me explain.

The Commonwealth just completed the first ever objective scoring exercise of transportation projects.  This exercise is the result of a 2014 state law commonly referred to as HB2.  This legislation was so significant – it has its own website.  According to the website:

House Bill Two (HB2) is about investing limited tax dollars in the right projects that meet the most critical transportation needs in Virginia. At the heart of the new law is scoring projects based on an objective process that involves public engagement and input. Once projects are scored, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will have the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed HB2 into law in 2014, which directs the CTB to develop and use a scoring process for project selection by July 2016. Candidate projects will be screened to determine if they qualify to be scored. Projects will be scored based on an objective and fair analysis applied statewide. The law will improve transparency and accountability. The public will know how projects scored and the decisions behind the CTB’s project selections.

In an attempt to capture the different demographic needs of the state, different values are placed on the six different areas of scoring.  Albemarle and Charlottesville are in Category B.

In Category B, accessibility factors (which really are about economic opportunity) are weighted 25%,  economic development factors are weighted 20%, safety factors are also weighted 20%; Environmental quality and land use are each weighted at 10%.

In VDOT’s safety calculations, fatalities rank significantly higher than simple injury and property damage accidents rank even lower.  As this is an interchange not an intersection, the majority of the accidents are sideswipe incidents.

In his article on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s meeting on this issue Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs quotes Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Executive Director Chip Boyles:

“We got zeroes for economic development and we got zeroes for crash frequency reduction,” Boyles said, adding that there have been no fatalities at the intersection in the past three years.

Short of generating a rash severe life grabbing accidents, there is little a locality can do to change the safety ranking.  The other areas however localities can make a difference.

Examine the scorecard below for Exit 118, 60% of the accessibility factor revolves around “Increase in Access to Jobs” another 20% of this score is related to “Increase in Access to Jobs for disadvantaged Populations”. Therefore, 80% of the accessibility score relates to economic opportunity.  Reading the report card below, Albemarle failed to achieve a full integer on accessibility scoring .9

The Charlottesville Tomorrow article highlighted opportunities for improving scores:

John Lynch, VDOT’s Culpeper District administrator and a voting member of the MPO, said localities can increase scores by demonstrating they are actively investing in infrastructure.

“As you progress through the development of that site you would get more points towards that particular element because you’re investing money into that plan,” Lynch said.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the HB2 ranking system is here to stay and that the system as currently designed favors those localities seeking to use state dollars to advance economic development and economic opportunity.  The logical nexus is that by spending limited state dollars on projects that increase economic activity, there will be more state dollars to spend in the future.

This is where proactive zoning comes in.  Proactive zoning is when a locality seeks to rezone land, with the consent of the owner, to the uses already approved in the Comprehensive Plan.  Albemarle county last completed a proactive rezoning when it created the Downtown Crozet District.  Opponents of proactive rezoning cite the lack of applicant proffers creating an undue burden on the locality to mitigate the project impacts.

While we have been a proponent for landowner authorized proactive zoning for many years, the new transportation funding paradigm makes the proffers argument moot.

If proactively rezoning land, and investing in infrastructure, allows the community to be not only more attractive to new or expanding business but will improve our chances to receive needed state funding for transportation, the economic benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

poker chipsHB2 Transportation funding is very similar to sitting down at a new poker game.  The cards are the same but the rules are now completely different.  The big question is  if the Albemarle County Supervisors will ante up.

If not, other localities surely will and they will reap the benefits of their foresight and investment.

Time will surely tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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, VDOT

Fluvanna to Build Two 350 Foot Towers

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead to get into the tower business.The supervisors want staff to continue with plans to build two 350-foot towers for the new emergency radio project. The towers will help improve radio coverage and wouldn’t require leasing as many towers as the original plan.
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The county could also rent out space on the tower to recoup costs of the tower. It is estimated the county will spend $275,000 per tower to build plus land acquisition.
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One odd item is the county restricts telecommunication towers to less than 200 feet. In the agenda the staff report states, “with construction of new 350 feet towers and continuing to restrict commercial towers to under 200 feet, carriers will be drawn to the taller towers (with better coverage options) for co-leasing instead of applying to build their own. This option more likely ‘guarantees’ additional revenue for the county.”
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Supervisors tried to downplay this aspect because the towers are needed for public safety first and foremost. Supervisors took estimated ten year operational costs and when removing any rental income projected, building the two towers was still one of the better options. Over the life of the towers (estimated at 40 years), it would be even better.
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The problem with leasing commercial towers is the county would need so much space on a 195 feet tower that the county would sometimes lease an entire tower. It would completely shut out the market to being on those towers.  The 350 feet towers would give plenty of room for the emergency radio services and still leave room higher than 200 feet for commercial telecommunication providers.
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[Clarification 2/19 9:23 am The supervisors only gave a direction to staff to continue researching this option. Final approval will be necessary to build the towers, one near Lake Monticello and one on the old landfill.-NW]
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Also at the Feb. 17 meeting the supervisors approved a special use permit to allow a preschool at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. The permit is for a year round school of 150 students between ages 2 and 6 years old.
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Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien

“I think it’ll be a great addition,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) after no one spoke at the public hearing.

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Supervisors also approved a zoning change for property on Lake Monticello Road. Fluvanna Self Storage will develop the land in two phases for a remote storage facility and a third phase for commercial development along the road.
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Currently Fluvanna Self Storage is located over a mile down the road and has outgrown its space. Phase one in the new property is about 70 percent of the original facility.  “It is very similar in nature to our other facility,” said Carlos Burns, the applicant. He said the buildings will look the same but will be more earth toned.
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Burns estimates the first phase might take 15 to 20 years to develop. FSS has been in operation for 23 years.
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The new remote site backs into Lake Monticello housing. One amazing aspect is residents closest to the property have commended Burns for his work on minimizing impact of the development.  Even those that spoke against it weren’t passionately against it. The owner closest to the new facility, Steve Carney, said he hopes Burns continues to operate in good faith to minimize impact.
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“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone work together better than on this project,” Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) said about the communication between the applicant and nearby property owners.
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The next supervisors’ session will be on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. for a work session with the School Board. Supervisors will then meet at 7 p.m. for the formal presentation of the School Board budget.

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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

Greene Supervisors Briefed on Stanardsville Revitalization Grants

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

stanardsville sealCraig Wilson of the Community Planning Partners has been hired by Stanardsville and addressed the Greene County Board of Supervisors  at their first meeting of February to discuss the potential of additional grants to further enhance the Town of Stanardsville, the county seat of Greene.

Speaking prior to Wilson, Superintendent Jim Northup from the Shenandoah National Park, updated the Board and one of his key statistics was that last year there were 1.3 million tourists in the park in 2015. This was a perfect entry to Wilson asking for support of the Board to try to attract more of the tourists to downtown Stanardsville.  Wilson went on to explain there are $9 million available in state grants (Community Development Block Grants or CDBG) with probably 30 applicants trying to receive grants of up to $700,000.

The grant can be used for improving infrastructure in Stanardsville. Wilson showed a diagram of a performance pavilion for both inside and outside events as a result of the planning grant already received.

David Hill of Hill Studios along with Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe, Chairman Bill Martin, Country Administrator John Barkley, Economic Development Director Alan Yost and STAR President Don Pamenter, have been working with Mr. Wilson. He addressed the proposed location as the hillside behind the county administration building  which slopes down to a creek and then the other side goes up to the school parking lot. He further explained that the sloping hill would make the structure very economical to construct.  He did not address any stream buffers, stormwater impacts or other environmental mitigation that the site might require.

As currently conceived, the project would be done in phases with the octagonal pavilion being done first, with a wing added followed by additional phases. According to Wilson, Hill estimates the venue being able to seat nearly 2,000 people. Further, the structure could be used for a farmers market and suggested one or more pedestrian bridges to the school parking lot.

Whitmarsh 2

Andrea Witmarsh, Greene County Schools Superintendent

Wilson went on to explain that he has spoken with Greene County School Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh about how the school system could also use the facility.

The key issue of the presentation was explaining to the Board of Supervisors that the more support that the Board would give the project the more apt Greene County would be to get the grant. Wilson suggested at least a letter from the Board or, better yet, a resolution in support of the project. The grants are to be awarded on March 23rd by the Department of Housing Community Development.

Chairman Bill Martin asked what else the grant would be used for. Wilson said that improvement to facades of structures in Stanardsville and possibly demolishing blighted structures. There are also funds that can be used for marketing and signage. Wilson will also be meeting with Lowe and the town council to discuss the grant process.

Supervisor Jim Frydl asked if owners of the buildings need to give approval at this point. Wilson explained that at this point it is non-binding on the owners of the structures but the more owners of building in town would be looked upon favorably. Frydl asked when the Board needs to act and Wilson explained that he recommended not waiting until the day the grant applications are due (March 23, 2016) as there is a lot of detail and suggested submitting it one or two days in advance.

Vice Chairman Michelle Flynn asked how much the maintenance of the structure would cost. Wilson did not have that at this time but the operating plan will be developed and he will provide it to the Board.  Barkley then addressed the Board with his support of the project. It is an example of the private and public sectors partnering and hopes that the Board and Town Council will support the grant request.

Supervisor David Cox agreed that we need something positive in Stanardsville but had questions on ownership of the structure, who is liable for the structure and where do we park 2,000 cars?

Wilson assumed most of the events would take place on the weekend or during the summer when school parking would be available. He further explained that this would be a 2 year project and could it begin this fall.

Frydl expressed his support of a resolution. Wilson offered his help in drafting a resolution and presenting it back to the Board. It was agreed that having the resolution done by the first Board meeting in March (March 8, 2016) would be most helpful. Wilson said that he would provide a draft document to Barkley before the March 8th meeting.

Ironically, this project sounds similar to the amphitheater in the county park that Dave Matthews’ manager Coran Capshaw proposed to Greene County in 1998. This was to be fully funded by Capshaw along with up to $1 million to develop that park. The tradeoff was that Capshaw/Matthews wanted to have 2 or 3 dates per year to have new bands get exposure. This proposal was turned down by the Board of Supervisors at that time and led to the development of the amphitheater on the Charlottesville downtown mall. It will be interesting to see if now, 18 years later, this Board of Supervisors believes an amphitheater is now a “good idea” in Greene County.

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: Community Planning Partners, Greene County, Hill Studios 

Fluvanna’s Bare Bones Base Budget

By. Brian Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Fluvanna budget season for FY17 has started.

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Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

County administrator Steve Nichols has given his budget proposal, which includes no tax increase.

His budget proposal includes two new positions, ‘lean’ departmental budgets and no pay raises nor cost of living adjustments for employees. The budget does not include any additional requests for schools because those haven’t been hashed out at the School Board yet. Also, health care rates for next year are not in yet.

Bottom line, to keep the tax rate level will be a balancing act that maybe acrobatic Nik Wallenda would have difficulty completing.

Nichols has historically delivered a budget that allows the supervisors to build on. His predecessors have often set budgets the supervisors have to later tear down to get them to pass. Nichols approach breeds supervisors working together to add, which is obvious in two 5-0 votes in his three years.

Previous supervisors, even off the record, never complained about his budget proposals. He is often lauded publicly and privately for setting a foundation for supervisors to build on.

Nichols’ FY17 budget proposes adding an in-house county attorney with a paralegal. Currently the supervisors contract those services.

Nichols did not include adding an assistant county administrator, a position that has been vacated since Shelly Wright left in 2010. The county government has taken on more responsibilities since 2010 but the role never makes it into the budget.

He also did not include additional personnel for public utilities while supervisors plan on building water and sewer infrastructure projects. He did include additional utilities personnel in future budget projections.

In total, departmental leaders requested nine positions that were left off the proposal.

Supervisors will also have to weigh the deferred regular maintenance that has accumulated. The infrastructure improvements, much like staff pay, has been put off for the proverbial ‘next year’ in Fluvanna often. While more recent boards have fought to get ahead in both areas, there is still catch-up to be completed.

The Capital Improvements Plan  (CIP) could be bloated again in FY17, much like in FY15. Currently the plan is $9 million. Last year, FY16, it was under $2 million. Supervisors have over $9 million in the bank currently that could be used for CIP projects or pay off higher interest debt. Then supervisors could take on lower interest debt for projects like Zion Crossroads water infrastructure.

Supervisors will hold regular work sessions regarding the budget over the next two months. February 10th the supervisors will hear presentations from various non-profit organizations seeking County financial support at 7 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

Albemarle PC – “I Got You Babe”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Groundhog Day PosterWhile being nowhere near as funny (or good looking) as Actor Bill Murray, I must say that thanks to cash proffer inaction by  Albemarle County, I can closely identify with one of his more famous roles.

Please let me explain.

In the seminal 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s weatherman character, Phil Connors, wakes up every day in the same small Pennsylvania hotel to the same song by Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”.

Regardless of what occurs the day that follow – literally no matter what he does,  every morning is the same — Murray is magically transported back to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and the alarm clock’s warning on Groundhog Day.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In January 2013, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned the Contradictory Consequences study that showed how cash proffers were causing residential projects to move forward by right rather than rezoning along the lines of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked us to present the paper to the Board in May.  Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In 2014, the Virginia passed a law that restricted localities to only murray groundhoginclude infrastructure projects that increased capacity in their cash proffer calculations.  Surely this will prompt significant action in Albemarle.  In September, the Supervisors sent the issue to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

A full year, and 18 meetings, later (September 2015) the Committee forwarded their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Over the Fall and early winter, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke in six different public meetings in the following three months admonishing Albemarle to make the changes demanded by state code.

For months, there was no action.  But then in November, a glimmer of light, the Chair of the BOS told me it would be on their December agenda.

It was on the December BOS agenda, as an information item that the FIAC report was being sent to the Planning Commission for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Last week, the Planning Commission (with several new members) took up the issue and decided [despite having a subcommittee study it for 18 meetings] they did not have enough information to make a decision and that since the General Assembly is considering additional proffer reform this session, maybe they should just wait.  In the meantime, let’s work on our Fantasy Island CIP. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

So tonight, just as Phil Connors gave his forecast every morning,  the Free Enterprise Forum will again ask Albemarle County to follow state law and reform their “voluntary cash proffer policy”.  I am pretty sure I know what their redundant response will be.groundhog day 1993

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of the same old song out of Albemarle.

But just like Phil Connors, I don’t know when it will possibly get better.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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, Columbia Pictures

Greene’s Ambitious 2016 Agenda

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

barkley

Greene County Administrator John Barkley

At the January 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator John Barkley revealed an ambitious agenda for 2016. Prepared at the request of the Board and reflecting BOS priorities, the top items are improving the timeliness of financial reporting, starting the 2017 budget process and finalizing the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the county so that it can be balanced with the county’s funds and the Board of Supervisor’s priorities.

DEQlogowThe largest capital project on Barkley’s list is the White Run Reservoir  and it is estimated at a cost in excess of $40,000,000. The final cost will depend on the negotiated purchases of property, the access road, facility design/location and in the range of $7 to $9 Million in compensatory mitigation for stream and wetland impacts permitted by Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The compensatory mitigation may be paid to a third party mitigation site within the watershed that is authorized to sell credits for the White Run impact site in Greene

It will be of interest to see if there are any projects in Greene County that could use these credits/funds to restore/enhance streams to offset those that the dam will displace and get value back to Greene County.

star logoThe Stanardsville Revitalization project  was included on Barkley’s priority list and he specifically mentioned a pavilion on the grounds of the County Administration building along with façade and infrastructure improvements in downtown Stanardsville.

Long term (2018-2020) the preliminary CIP lists sidewalk improvements, underground utilities and a water/sewer project for the town with the last being in excess of $10 million.

Barkley then spoke about the new county website with a presentation planned for the Board of Supervisors in February. This will also include a revision to the Economic Development and Tourism website .

Barkley also mentioned a desire to complete a facility assessment of all county owned property. Such an assessment would provide longitudinal data to update the CIP with a realistic cost to maintain all facilities. The fact that this study needs to be done indicates that whatever CIP is approved in the short-term will likely be understated until this assessment can be fully priced out.

Several other issues were mentioned by Barkley – transportation/Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Greene County Library, and broadband service for the western part of Greene County.

The CIP  is a look forward five years and while many of the projects that  Barkley mentioned are included, there are many other projects in future years that are also in the CIP.

After the meeting, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke with Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Planning Director  and new Supervisor Dale Herring about the high speed internet lines being put down along Route 33 by the school system.  In addition to being a newly elected supervisor, Herring serves as the Director of Technology for the Greene County Schools and therefore is heavily involved in the internet project. Herring explained that the installation of high speed internet service is part of a five year lease which will lower the operating cost of the schools internet and dramatically increase the speed to 10 GIG

william monroe high school 2

This project is targeted to be completed by June, 2016 with a five year lease to commence after it is operational. http://www.usac.org/sl/. At the end of the lease period the school system will have the option to purchase the system at a very low cost. If the school system takes ownership of the system, then they can make it available for other departments of Greene County.

Herring

Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large)

According to Herring:

With the recent changes to eRate  (http://www.usac.org/sl/) our school division was able to:

a. Increase our division internet connection from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

b. Increase the connection from the Technical Education Center to the Central Office from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

c. Lease a fiber connection from Ruckersville Elementary School and Technical Education Center to the Central Office increasing connection speeds from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps.  The estimated time to be fully implemented is the summer of 2016.  Greene County Schools will have the option to purchase the fiber in year 6.  If it is decided to purchase the fiber, there would be a cost for a service contract.

Herring went on to explain that with eRate the schools costs have been reduced approximately $500 per month.

The county’s CIP update is long overdue. The CIP is a tool for projecting future costs of the county and is also a requirement of some grant applications. It will be interesting to see what the five year costs are estimated to be when it is updated and presented to the Board of Supervisors and what the proposed impact will be to the citizens of Greene in terms of infrastructure spending and potential tax increases.

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