Monthly Archives: September, 2018

Greene County Relaxes Kennel Regulations

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Currently a commercial kennel in Greene County must have 10 or more animals to operate as a business. For several years, officials have been reviewing this ordinance to decide how to become less restrictive.

In 2015, the Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to review this issue and try to clarify the language. Since then, the issue has been studied by looking to see how other counties in Virginia handle this issue and even looking at how other states handle it. Issues that were addressed are the number of animals and the ages of the animals.

Last August, the Board of Supervisors voted to have the Planning Commission to propose imagechanges to the zoning ordinance and make a recommendation to the Supervisors. The Planning Commission proposed having two levels of shelters – small being less than five animals and large having five or more animals. Again, this only applies to commercial kennels.

Planning Director Jim Frydl outlined the proposal and explained that this revision to the ordinance only applies to kennels run as a business. The selling of several puppies or kittens does not qualify as a business and would not be included under the revised ordinance. Also, owners that keep any number of dogs for hunting would not fall under this ordinance.

In fact, recently there have been no kennels operating as a business in Greene County. The revision to the zoning ordinance actually would encourage commercial kennels to operate with less than five animals being allowed by right in A1, C1, B2 and B2 zones. Up until now, kennels had to have 10 or more animals to be legal. Kennels with five or more animals will be allowed in the same districts with a Special Use Permit. Frydl explained that a SUP is proposed for the larger number so that a review of the specific lot and other issues can be made.

Frydl also explained that the Planning/Zoning Department is a complaint driven agency. This ordinance does create any authority to regulate non-businesses. The perception is that the county is trying to be more restrictive but in fact just the opposite is what would occur.

However, the 20 speakers during the public comment section of the hearing seemed very concerned that since there are no kennels under the current definition (10 or more animals) then why are we trying to fix the situation?

Other comments were that too much government interference affects people who have a litter of puppies.

One speaker complained that too many city people have moved into Greene County. Many of the speakers asked that hunting dogs and pets specifically be excluded from the ordinance.

The supervisors then discussed the issue and agreed that the proposed change to the zoning ordinance would allow more and smaller kennels to operate businesses. Again the clarification was made that selling from a litter doesn’t make a business.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) reconfirmed that this zoning ordinance would only apply to kennels that are being run as a business and that the less than five animals would make it easier to have a business.

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Marie Durrer

Chairperson Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) reconfirmed that under the new ordinance a person could have as many hunting dogs as they wanted. The one clarification from the proposed revision was to clarify that the kennel is “operating as a business”.

The revision to the zoning ordinance was approved by a 4-1 vote with Supervisor Marie Durrer (Midway) voting against the change.

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 http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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Proposed Politically Proactive Agenda of Albemarle’s Community Advisory Committees

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, PresidentImage result for warner wolf let's go to the videotape

I grew up watching television sports anchor Warner Wolf’s trademark introduction to each evening’s highlights, “Let’s Go To The Videotape”.

I anticipate Wolf would be most appreciative of The Crozet Gazette recording (digitally) the entirety of last week’s Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting.

But I get ahead of myself.  Please let me explain. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has been very critical of Albemarle County’s Community Advisory Committees.  Here are just a few of our posts:

Most of the people serving on these unelected development area committees are sincere residents working to make their community a better place by commenting on development proposals, evaluating traffic reduction measures and discussing community infrastructure investments.  But there are some that seem to believe these CACs, as they are known “represent the majority of the development area residents” and should be empowered to set the political agenda.

At the very end of last week’s CCAC meeting,  Former Planning Commissioner Tom Loach clearly outlined his desire for the group to work with the other CACs to develop a Proactive CAC Action Agenda:

Loach said:

Why we should have a dialog with the other CACs [is] because I don’t think their problems are any different than ours … Here every year we have a meeting that the county calls and its all the CACs together…. but nothing gets done, there is no result in it….

…What I would like to see us do is work with the other CACs and start to come up with an agenda, an action agenda, that we can use for all of the CACs for the next year so that when we do that we’re not talking as individual CACs we’re talking essentially as the majority of the residents of the growth areas … I’d rather be proactive than reactive.

…What I am looking for are the global [themes between CACs] that we can focus on as an agenda item to work with the Board [of Supervisors] Emphasis Added-NW

Don’t believe me, thanks to the Crozet Gazette we can [as Warner Wolf would say]  go to the videotape:  https://t.co/PZFK6W60bv

Now to be fair, Loach was seeking to have a larger discussion about this concept at the next CCAC meeting and the last minute proposal was greeted by CCAC members gathering their papers. The topic will be added to the group’s October agenda.

The Free Enterprise Forum has learned this is not the first time this issue has come up.  It was apparently discussed at the CAC Chairs/Vice Chairs meeting earlier this year.  The topic is listed as a 10 minute discussion item on tomorrow night’s Places 29 Rio CAC agenda.

We hope each CAC will push back on the Loach Proactive CAC Action Agenda concept, perhaps by citing Albemarle County’s specific charge of the CAC:

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Based on the diverse membership of the CCAC and the general level headedness of the other CACs, I do not think the Loach Proactive CAC Action Agenda will see the light of day.

We hope not; such is the work of elected officials who are answerable to all the voters both in and outside of the development areas.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: www.networthpost.com

Dissecting A Decade of Data

By. Neil Williamson, President

Did you ever have a question gnaw at you?

Earlier this month, I attended the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® Development Summit.  A panel of area developers were discussing Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce’s recently released 2018 Jobs Report and attempted to correlate how job creation related to the local housing market.  Absent any specific data, the panel inferred the new jobs in the region clearly were one (not the only) driver of housing demand.

imageMuch like Timothy Hulbert’s inspiration for the first Chamber “Jobs Report” fifteen years ago, I knew this data set could be assembled and I set out to obtain this objective new housing unit data.

Reaching out to each of the localities (two required Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)Requests) we assembled the new housing unit data (2007-2017) and compared it on a locality basis the Jobs report data for the same study period.

We then compiled this data on a regional basis and found (or perhaps did not find) a most interesting correlation and perhaps an impending tipping point.image

As of 2017, the cumulative number of new jobs since 2007 is growing closer to the number of new housing units created in the same study period.

There is a distinct lack of correlation between the number of jobs created and the number of new housing units.  Even when the region was losing jobs in 2009, there were over 900 new housing units created [It was the lowest number of units in the study period].

This line of inquiry led to considering the other significant impacts on the housing industry beyond Jobs.  The enrollment at the University of Virginia for instance increased by 2,408 students from 2007-2017.  Regionally the population increased by 30,633 persons.  Overlaying The Weldon Cooper Center’s population estimates with our other gathered data started to prove the population demand driver.

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Examining the introduction of the population trend line leads to a number of new questions:

  • In 2007, just prior to the Great Recession, how many excess units existed before our study period?
  • If our regional household size is ~2.4 persons (US Census), then new housing units should equal 41.6% of the population growth.  In those areas with higher than 41.6%, likely have a lower number of persons in the household.
  • Considered on a locality basis, job creation does not have a direct correlation to new housing units.  We anticipate this lack of correlation is related to the relative ease of working in a different locality than you reside. Louisa and Orange Counties seem to have the closest direct correlation between job and housing creation.
  • Anecdotally, we continue to see an increase in the number of retirees relocating to the region.  While retirees are included in the Weldon Cooper population information, we have yet to find an objective metric to track this data separately.

Dissecting this decade of data (2007-2017), we again end up with more questions than answers.

But often, the best questions drive the best community discussion.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

What Is the Most Important Question in the C-ville Survey?

By. Neil Williamson, PresidentSee the source image

The Charlottesville Planning Commission is, once again, seeking public engagement regarding their drafting of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.  This time the engagement methodology is an  online survey instrument.

While many folks will focus on the specific questions that are asked in the survey.  The most important question in any such survey is who will take the time (5-8 minutes) to complete the survey.

Will you?

You see when a respondent has to perform an action, such as visit a website or call in to answer, this is known as a self selection survey.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) cautions that results of surveys based on respondents who self-select may not be reliable. The characteristics of people who choose to participate in this type of survey may be different than those who do not in ways that bias the final results. These polls may sometimes be accurate, but it is very hard to evaluate whether they are accurate simply because of good luck or because they were able to capture good information about the population they were trying to represent. AAPOR has not yet made a final judgment about the reliability of opt-in samples, but warns that this type of sample is not based on the full target population.

Based on prior experience with self selection surveys, we anticipate the sample set will be over represented by a subset of the entire Charlottesville population who are more engaged with the planning process.  It is not that the survey seeks to exclude those currently unengaged, it simply is not built to achieve this goal.  With the Planning Commission looking to wrap their work by November, this is one of the last (but not the last) opportunities to weigh in on the proposed plan.

In the end, this survey document is one of many efforts the Charlottesville Planning Commission has made to engage the public.  The Free Enterprise Forum hopes the results will be used in their proper context and strongly encourages participation in this survey.The information collected will be considered when finalizing the Comprehensive Plan.

If you care about Charlottesville’s future, please encourage complete the survey by Thurs., Oct. 4th.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit http://deskofbrian.com

Fluvanna Supervisors Record Setting Non-Meeting

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Yesterday, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors set a new record for inaction and meeting See the source imagetime because legally they couldn’t do anything but two motions.

The Sept. 5 meeting lasted all of a minute or two because a quorum was not met. Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) were present. Vice chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) had previously announced she would be absent. Chairperson Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) were not present.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 4 p.m. but was in a 45-minute holding pattern while the crowd mainly of staff or school officials waited for a quorum to be met. At 4:47 p.m. county administrator Steve Nichols announced the meeting was canceled because an unnamed third supervisor could make it, but in an hour — two hours after the meeting was scheduled to start.

County attorney Fred Payne announced a board of less than a quorum could only do two motions: defer the agenda and adjourn. With that, Nichols called the meeting to order in absence of the chair and vice chair people.

He asked if there was a motion to defer and adjourn. Weaver responded he would make that motion. Eager seconded. Nichols called for a vote and it carried unanimously.

The two supervisors then went to meet privately with the county attorney and administrator. Legally, supervisors can meet in groups of less than a quorum to discuss business without violating the open meeting laws. Once a quorum is met, it has to follow normal meeting procedures.

As Weaver and Eager left, Weaver said, “just two of us”, a reference to the gathering not being an official meeting.

Action that was deferred was BOS meeting dates change, library assistant position reclassification, E-911 grant, capital reserve maintenance fund supplemental appropriation, and the consent agenda.

Any item with a time sensitivity that waiting until Sept. 19 will not be feasible will have staff action. On Sept. 19 the board will have to ratify that action. It isn’t an ideal practice and is used sparingly.

But here’s what would’ve happened, had the meeting had a third supervisor:

The big ticket item that was the grant from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The $246,000 grant was awarded to Fluvanna to replace voice logging software and other E-911 equipment.

The state would pay for installation and increase contract costs for 24 months. Estimated increase in the contract is $12,000 a year. There is no local match required for the grant besides the county assuming the additional costs in month 25. The county previously received this grant in FY13 and FY14. Estimated deployment of the new equipment is the first half of 2020.

Another big issue was a supplemental appropriation of the capital reserve maintenance fund. This was connected to the unspent middle school funds from last meeting. FCPS is requesting $72,000 for abatement of an unusable classroom in the Abrams building.

County staff has gone through unused CIP allocated funds to see what could be transferred or returned to unassigned in the fund balance, the county savings. Staff found $138,000 of projects that could be moved to the Capital Reserve Maintenance Fund.

Those projects included are a no longer needed hydrogeological study, Carysbrook roof that was repaired instead of replaced, unspent funds of a completed courthouse fire detection system, and unspent funds of a completed courthouse lighting and control system.

A fifth project, building envelope renewal and repair, was reduced in scope or completed in other projects. It had a remaining balance of $120,000. Some of the project was for the historic courthouse that needs additional work of shutter repair, column restoration and painting all exterior trim. That $120,000 was requested to go towards work at the John Hartwell Cooke designed building.

The BOS meeting date change would push back the January 2019 meetings to the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month instead of first and third. The first Wednesday is January 2.

The reclassification of library assistant was to elevate the position to alleviate work from the library director. Currently all employees that work at the library report to the director. Elevating the position would allow a tier setup with chances for promotion. In the tier, only the assistants would directly report to the director. Other positions would report to the assistants.

But none of these happened. The supervisors will try again on September 19 at 7 p.m. Bring snacks.

The 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 Credit:  PerrysburgRotary.org