By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
Fluvanna County is preparing the way for development in the Zion Crossroads area. Water and sewer will start construction in the coming year, but Fluvanna County staff have an idea to make properties in development area ‘shovel ready.’
The proposed program, Fluvanna Shovel Ready Sites Program (FSRSP), will provide money to property owners to help them have land ready for development quicker.
Jason Smith, director of community and economic development, has vocal approval to develop the program. His idea is a play off of a similar state program, Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The statewide program has a minimum acreage of 100 acres. Fluvanna has two cooperating landowners who can combine to be eligible but most properties in Zion Crossroads area are smaller.
FSRSP would fill the gap for properties 2 to 99 acres.. Smith said several property owners he speaks to are willing to have their land developed, but they don’t fully know the process or what it entails.
“This is a program creates an avenue to have a conversation,” said Smith.
Virginia classifies property for development in five tiers. The higher the tier, the easier it is to develop. Most Fluvanna land is sitting in tier one.
“One of the core features of the Fluvanna Shovel Ready Site Program is rezoning. That takes two to three months. Developers don’t want to fiddle with that paperwork and two or three meetings,” said Smith.
Rezoning a property from Agricultural-1, which the vast majority of Fluvanna is zoned, to a business friendly zoning jumps property to tier three.
Along with zoning, the program would help landowners take care of various other due diligence programs like surveying or environmental studies. Smith said developers don’t want to hear there is an issue that needs to be mitigated because they’ll move to another location in another locality.
Smith said, “If we can do all the red tape, if we can take care of that, [developers] want to open up and make money. They don’t want to sit around for a year.”
He briefed the Board of Supervisors of the program during a work session in September. He will bring it back for final approval in November in hopes of rolling it out by January 1.
“We can’t wait. We can’t,” said an anxious Smith.
He said his office gets request for information every few months with questions that automatically disqualify any county property. Water infrastructure will help but moving properties to tier three or four will help speed things along.
Smith proposes moving $35,000 from a microloan program to FSRSP. The microloan money has been budgeted for several years with no businesses applying or using the money.
Just like the idea behind microloans, anyone interested in getting financial assistance through FSRSP would have to apply through the Economic Development Authority of Fluvanna. Once approved, landowners would work with county staff to complete the proposal.
“[The program will] provide a financial assistance opportunity to actually do something with the property, instead of just letting it sit and watch the property two miles up the street in Louisa county be developed,” said Smith.
Smith’s intention is to get final supervisor approval during the November 1 session. If approved, he would then have community meetings to publicize to landowners.
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