Monthly Archives: July, 2016

Greene PC Approves Comprehensive Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission held a final review of the revised Comprehensive Plan at their July 20th meeting. The Planning Commission has held public hearings to have their input into the revised document.

Per Virginia State Code Comprehensive Plans are to be updated every 5 years.

§ 15.2-2223. Comprehensive plan to be prepared and adopted; scope and purpose.

A. The local planning commission shall prepare and recommend a comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.

In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The comprehensive plan shall be general in nature, in that it shall designate the general or approximate location, character, and extent of each feature, including any road improvement and any transportation improvement, shown on the plan and shall indicate where existing lands or facilities are proposed to be extended, widened, removed, relocated, vacated, narrowed, abandoned, or changed in use as the case may be.

Chairman Jay Willer asked the Commission if they had any revisions to add to the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Frank Morris would have like to have seen more language to slow down housing growth in the county. But he indicated that he was happy with the draft as it was presented.

Commissioner Morris asked Planning Director Bart Svoboda if the revised Comprehensive Plan was available on the county website.

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Stephanie Golon

Svoboda said that due to the size of the document that it was not yet on the website. Planner Stephanie Golon did indicate that it is currently online with the red line changes under the agenda.

When it is recommended for approval by the Planning Commission it will be added to the county website.

Willer had the only suggested change to the draft – he asked that the last sentence on page 8 which states there were no farms in the property that became the Shenandoah National Park be eliminated since there were in fact farms on that property. With that being the only change, the revised Comprehensive Plan was unanimously approved.

Willer explained that the Board of Supervisors will have at least one public hearing related the Comprehensive Plan. In addition, Willer presented two additional documents to also be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors. One was a formal resolution to forward the Comprehensive Plan to the Board of Supervisors and the second one was a transmittal letter with suggestions of how to change/enhance the process the next time the Comprehensive Plan is revised. Below are the six items being suggested to the Board of Supervisors:

· Better documentation, schedules and controls for the county’s fiscal management, both for anticipating revenue streams and accommodating future service growth and capital funding needs;

· Attention to the rigorous planning being enacted by the Board of Education and by the county’s emergency services functions to adequately incorporate future county needs, including funding possibilities and locational decisions;

· Assessment of county infrastructure and policies necessary for supporting continued growth and job creation in the designated growth areas, with funding strategies to support those needs;

· Strengthen the county’s health infrastructure, including both medical and emotional needs, particularly in light of steady increases in the number of aging residents;

· Review of the county’s needs for broadband communication, both for county services and for individual homes and businesses, evaluating county ordinances and emerging technologies that might leverage better access for all county residents; and

· Strategies for more consistent enforcement and oversight of county ordinances.

Both of these were approved 5-0.

The Comprehensive Plan will now be forwarded to the Greene County Board of Supervisors for their review and approval.

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

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Where Is Albemarle’s Economic Development Headed?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Much like turning an aircraft carrier, Albemarle County Economic Development Strategic Planning Process is very slowly moving forward while some involved are busy paddling in very different directions. The reality is there is not only a need to change direction, there is a dire need for the crew to work together to change the many adverse elements surrounding the ship.

Last night’s (7/26) joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission and the Economic Development Authority showcases how each member of this crew has a different perspective on not only the current reality but also regarding the eventual destination of this cruise.

Albemarle Economic Development Director, Faith McClintic shared a couple of stunning facts regarding how the county must respond to business inquiries (including expansion of existing businesses):

If a manufacturer calls interested in locating near a highway they tell them “we have nothing for you”

Prospect businesses are looking to move within 3 – 6 months if they are not looking to build. We have no product “ready to go today”

Several members of the joint meeting questioned some of the statistics presented and suggested the focus of the economic development strategic plan might be redirected.  Board of Supervisors Chair Liz Palmer mentioned that she thought this process was about bringing more business into the county to generate new tax revenue.

Planning Commission Chair Tim Keller also raised the concept of the types of jobs the plan was seeking to target suggesting the breakeven point [when the taxes = the services demand] for residential is $600K+ questions if we should be seeking to grow lower pay jobs.

Supervisor Ann Mallek took a different approach highlighting that the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Orange Dot report identified her district as having 440 families lack basic self-sufficiency.  She is thinking of them when she is thinking about economic vitality.

Supervisor Rick Randolph took exception to the concept of looking toward advanced manufacturing as the sector focus.  Aaron Richardson of Charlottesville Tomorrow reports:

Of those in the workforce, the report showed, more than 26 percent of Albemarle residents hold some form of advanced degree, but only 7.8 percent of available jobs require more than a bachelor’s degree.

Those numbers, said Supervisor Rick Randolph, do not support staff’s assertion about the need for more manufacturing jobs.

“I am feeling a disconnect between the need for manufacturing, when what we really need to focus on is the underemployment situation,” he said. “I am looking at a target sector for employment that is missing our biggest need.”

Over the last five years, Albemarle has been focused on several target business sectors for growing and expanding business.  The numbers indicate they have actually lost 324 jobs in those segments that have been the focus.  We agree based on these results a re-tuning of the targets may be appropriate.

The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates all of these different perspectives on the types of jobs needed but we continue to believe all the navel gazing in the world will not promote a new Albemarle paradigm where land is readily available and businesses are welcomed by the community rather than being seen as a threat to their way of life.

Until significant structural (proactive zoning, streamline approval process, etc.) and cultural changes are made Albemarle will continue to lose new job opportunities and existing businesses who chose to locate in localities who have embraced the prospect of new business.

Absent such changes Albemarle’s Economic Development Program will not be compared to a well coordinated warship but more to the S.S. Minnow of Gilligan’s Island fame.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Photo Credit: United Artist Television

 

 

Albemarle as Princess Elsa

By. Neil Williamson, President

frozen_elsa-wideJust as in the 2013 Disney smash movie, last night the Albemarle Supervisors in a couple of split votes  have effectively “Frozen” new residential development.

The end result will, in due course, significantly increase housing costs and pressure on the rural area and by right projects.  Chasing the elusive cash proffer, Albemarle may lose the intent of its  community vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. And all of this could have been avoided.

Please let me explain.

All of this is in response to a new state law (effective July 1, 2016) that was created to make proffers better reflect the specific impacts of a proposed residential development.  The goal of the legislation is to make cash proffers fair.

Unlike the 2013 state proffer reform that Albemarle County adroitly avoided via years of Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) meetings (18) followed by no action, the 2016 law put Albemarle into a flurry of activity ending with the repeal of their cash proffer policy but not the elimination of cash proffers.

It is becoming clear this strategic repeal of the soon to be illegal proffer policy was designed and timed not to facilitate new development but instead to provide Albemarle questionable legal leverage to reject cash proffer amendments filed prior to July.

As a result of this legal slight of hand, Albemarle seems to be eager to delay or deny any application that might set precedent due to any  cash proffers.

Further there are indications that Albemarle will seek to impose new higher fees to capture the staff time required to assess and calculate the exacting amount of financial impact of a development on the four permitted areas: education, transportation, public safety and parks.

This untimely chill on new residential development comes the same day as the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) market report (pdf) is released indicating:

Inventories are now one-third lower than the peak levels of 2010, when there were 2,812 active listings at mid-year and home prices were still searching for a bottom. At that point, there were 13.1 months of supply in the region and prices still had a few years left before bottoming out. Currently, the 1,836 active listings represent 7.3 months of supply given the average sales pace of the last twelve months. Still a buyer’s market, but trending towards balance compared to the 9.4 months of supply available last year.

If inventory is tightening and the supply of new homes is being “frozen” what does market economics predict regarding future housing affordability?

Absent proactive rezoning, such dramatically increasing development fees and dubious prospects for future rezonings will force many developers to either develop using stale zoning with in the development areas or build in the rural areas.

As we stated in our 2013 White Paper – Contradictory Consequences(pdf):

In addition cash proffers are an unreliable way to fund infrastructure spending.  Forecasting cash proffer revenue is much like predicting snow in Central Virginia, localities do not know when it is coming, how much they are actually going to get or when it will stop. Cash proffers rarely, if ever, total the amounts localities are banking on.

Based on this research, we believe local governments are starting to recognize the negative impacts of cash proffers. Localities are finding that just because the state legislature may empower the ability to collect cash proffers in may not be in the localities best interest to collect them.

The elimination of cash proffers will promote better community design and encourage new home construction invigorating the economic vitality of all localities

Cash proffers have produced a plethora of Contradictory Consequences without achieving significant benefit. Now is the time to repeal this rezoning ransom.

Albemarle is not alone reprising the role of Princess Elsa in this sad, cold, housing limiting  drama.  We have heard reports of similar “Freeze Everything” response to the new proffer reform from local governments across the Commonwealth.

While there are undoubtedly some who welcome this result, the Free Enterprise Forum believes that in time, just as in the movie, someone will come along and fix this problem, likely via a lawsuit forcing the Supervisors to do what they should have done with cash proffers in the first place:

Image result for let it go frozen

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits: Disney, memecrunch.com

Greene Supervisors Deny Auto Shop SUP Amendment

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In their first July meeting, the Greene County Board of Supervisors denied a special use permit request that if approved would have amended an existing special use permit the terms of which are not currently being met.

Confused yet?  Here is the back story.

Ronald Snoddy received a Special Use Permit (SUP) on October 29, 2014 to expand his auto restoration home business on Mathew Mills Road (Route 607) with approval to construct a building at the back of his property to paint the cars that he restores.

In the 17 months that followed the SUP approval, Snoddy found a paint booth system small enough so that he would not need to construct a new building to house it and, in fact, it would fit in one of the existing buildings with some modifications. So Snoddy was able to avoid a significant expenditure and has been painting the automobiles that he is restoring. [Snoddy was issued a citation for being in violation of the 2014 SUP. He has appealed that violation. The appeal will be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals on July 27th ]

At some point in the last few months, perhaps recognizing a lack of consistency with the  2014 SUP, Snoddy applied for a new SUP that more accurately depicted the placement and uses on his property.  Snoddy appeared before  the Greene County Planning Commission on May 18th to ask for a revision to SUP 14-009.

The Planning Commission recommended denial of the request on May 18th but as in all cases, the special use permit request goes forward to the Board of Supervisors. Snoddy presented the request to the Board of Supervisors  stating he felt he would be able to reduce the noise level of the paint booth and also reduce the emissions from the booth with a charcoal filter system.

The issue is that the building where he wants to locate the booth is close to one of his neighbors. In the public hearing, the neighbor near the location of the paint booth addressed the Supervisors and stated that the booth would be 50 feet from his property. He has concerns over the noise and emissions from the paint booth and sited that the issuance of a SUP requires that the character of the area not be changed which he feels the paint booth would change the character of the neighborhood where the originally approved location would not.

With the public hearing completed, the process shifted to a discussion of the Supervisors.

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Michelle Flynn

Supervisor Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) stated that the original SUP clearly approved the construction of a separate facility at the back of the property which did not occur. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) clarified that the first SUP was for construction of a structure farther away from neighbors and would comply with screening requirements. Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) stated he served on the Planning Commission in 2014 when the first SUP was approved and recalled that the location for the new structure was to be at a lower elevation and therefore the sound and fumes released would be reduced.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) wanted clarification – are there really two issues being discussed. Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda explained that if the revision was approved then it would replace the original SUP. If the revision was denied, then the original SUP would still be in effect.

Cox indicated his desire to see the operation continue and while there is some noise the lot provides natural screening and he can understand why Snoddy doesn’t want to add the expense of a new building if he doesn’t have to.

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) was pleased with Snoddy’s approach with his neighbors. But he expressed concern that relocating the paint booth would adversely affect the neighborhood and he wasn’t sure why the building approved by the first SUP couldn’t be constructed.

Snoddy addressed the Board at this point and asked if he could have time to speak to his neighbors and address the noise/pollution issues and would the Board be willing to approve the SUP if the neighbor’s concerns were addressed?

Several supervisors expressed reservations about guaranteeing approval even if the neighbors were satisfied.

Flynn had concerns that Snoddy has violated the first SUP by not placing the paint booth in the structure that was approved. Martin asked why Snoddy changed the location of the paint booth and was told that he found a paint booth that would fit in one of his existing buildings.

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Jim Frydl

Frydl  agreed with Flynn that Snoddy was currently operating illegally since he didn’t locate the paint booth per the approved SUP.

Martin asked Snoddy how much time he would need to make the changes to the system?  Snoddy stated up to 60 days.

Flynn stated that she could not guarantee that she would approve the new SUP even if the changes were made.

At that point, Snoddy asked for a brief recess and finally came back to the meeting and said he is requesting a deferral of 60 days with no guarantee of approval after that time. The Board voted 3-2 to not grant the applicant requested deferral. Another motion was made to deny SUP 16-002 which was approved 4-1 with Cox voting against the motion.

Despite the clarity of the decision several questions remain open:

  • What will Snoddy do with his current paint booth system?
  • Will he construct the building approved by SUP 14-009 or will he stop painting vehicles (even though he now owns a paint booth)?
  • Is Snoddy going to stop painting vehicles where he currently has the paint booth located since it is outside the original SUP and in violation of the law?

A number of these questions may be answered by the ruling of the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing and subsequent decision on July 27th.

Stay tuned.

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

Fluvanna Supervisors Approve Tower, Change Municipal Rezoning Regulations

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors approved a relocation of a microwave tower at the Dominion Bremo Power Plant on July 5.

The new tower will be 1,400 feet from the current tower. Its new location requires it to be taller, coming in a 390 feet. Fluvanna is planning on also putting E-911 radio equipment on the lattice tower.

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 Don Weaver

Don Weaver (Cunningham District) raised concern the public didn’t realize the new tower will be 390 feet. He thought local residents would have concern with a taller tower. Staff said the tower is the same sea level height because the terrain is lower.

Also on July 5 supervisors approved including Columbia area property into the county’s special flood hazard district.

The state requires localities to designate flood areas in special flood hazard districts in order for the property owner to apply for federal insurance protection.

The Town of Columbia designated land, allowing residents to apply. When the town government disbanded, effective July 1, 2016, the county had to amend its districts to include the same land.

Supervisors also approved three changes to county ordinances that speeds up the approval process of the county rezoning land for public use.

Up until July 5, the county would have to pay fees to the county to review proposed county changes to land use. Essentially, it was a delay in the process as the county moved money from one account to another account.

Any proposed land changes will still have to be reviewed and necessary permits obtained, but the county will no longer pay itself to do the reviews.

Supervisors typically have slower summers so they will only have one meeting date in July. The next scheduled meeting is August 3 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

Albemarle New Tax Targets Small Businesses

By. Neil Williamson, President

An open letter to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Dear Supervisors,

Thanks to restrictive land use decisions and other cost factors, many of the small businesses that service Albemarle County are located outside of the county limits. These enterprises are important players in our regional economy and, perhaps unknowingly, via your agenda item #23 you are about to stick it to them by requiring increased accounting and a new local tax all for a gain of just over $10,000 a year in revenue.

Please let me explain.

Currently any business located outside of Albemarle County with Albemarle gross receipts greater than $100,000 has to report that income and pay Business and Professional Occupational License (BPOL) Tax to Albemarle. The proposed ordinance drops the gross receipts threshold to $25,000.

Sec. 8-603 Contractors, developers, electricians, plumbers, steamfitters and speculative builders.

Each person engaged as a contractor, developer, electrician, plumber, steamfitter or speculative builder shall be subject to a license tax, and other provisions, as set forth herein:

A. Each contractor, developer, electrician, plumber, steamfitter or speculative builder contractor speculative builder or developer shall be subject to a license tax of sixteen cents ($0.16) for each one hundred dollars ($100.00) of gross receipts from the business conducted during the preceding fiscal or calendar year.

B. Each person engaged in the business of a contractor shall include in his gross receipts all work done, whether such work is done by contract, subcontract, day labor or time and material.

C. Each contractor who has paid a local license tax to another locality in which his principal office or branch office is located shall be exempt from obtaining a license and from paying a license tax to this county for conducting any such business within this county unless the amount of business done by any such person in this county is equal to or greater than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00). The amount of business done in the other locality in which the license tax is paid may be deducted by the person from the gross receipts reported to this county.

Nothing being proposed is illegal but just because you can does not mean you should.

Beyond the problematic issue of double taxation (will the entity continue to pay for ALL their gross receipts in their home locality), the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned about fairness to small business.

Consider the small family owned HVAC repair company located in Greene County. They do the majority of their work in Greene but from time to time they do work in Albemarle. Because this ordinance is based on gross receipts all of the pass through costs are included, if HVAC install is between $5,000 and $15,000 this company could only take on less than 5 such jobs a year or it has to file for business taxes in Albemarle.

The choice is for the small business to either not offer service to Albemarle or to increase its accounting costs and tax payment planning. Any increase in pricing will be passed along directly to the end user.

And what is the anticipated benefit to Albemarle?

From Albemarle Finance Director Betty Burrell’s staff report:

•  Sec. 8-603(C) – License Tax — threshold for out-of-County contractors – projected $10,250 revenue gain per year. Staff does not anticipate a significant budgetary impact from the other proposed revisions. [Emphasis added nw]

I understand state law has changed that will allow you to do this.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this lower threshold will inadvertently increase administrative cost for already financially strapped small contractors and in the end harm Albemarle citizens with increased costs, reduced services or both.

Please retain the $100,000 threshold.  Thank you for your service to the community.

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 County Awards Reassessment Bid

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County reassesses property values every two years and it is scheduled to happen again this fall. Two vendors  provided quotations including the firm that has performed the service the past two times – Pearson Appraisal Service Inc.

As a part of their June 28th meeting, County Administrator John Barkley  presented the two vendors quotations to the Board of Supervisors  for their review.

clip_image003Pricing from both vendors was based on the number of parcels included in the reassessment.

Blue Ridge Appraisal Company, LLC from Staunton submitted a quotation of $8.25 per parcel with an estimated number of parcels of 10,600 for a total cost of $87,500 using BAI Software .

Pearson Appraisal Service, Inc.   is located in Richmond, Va. and has done the last twopearsons appraisals for Greene County. The price quoted by Pearson’s per parcel was $5.96 for 10,400 parcels for a total cost of $61,984. In addition, for new appraisals a cost of $31.25 was quoted and it is estimated that there would be 24 parcels to appraise.

The total estimate from Pearson would be just under $63,000 vs. a budget of $62,000. Barkley felt certain that the price with Pearson could be negotiated down to the budgeted level. Barkley further explained that Pearson has a good reputation and does reassessments from Virginia all the way down to Georgia.

The timeline for the process would be to have the vendor complete the analysis by September 16th.

Notices would be mailed to property owners by November and the appeals process would take place in December of this year. With all of that completed the new rates would go into effect the first of 2017. After several clarifying questions the Board of Supervisors voted to award the reassessment process to Pearson.

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