Author Archive: neilswilliamson

Free Enterprise Wants 7 Minutes and Your Opinion

See the source imageAs a community leader, can you spare 7 minutes of your time to complete an important, anonymous, survey regarding the Free Enterprise Forum?

Your voice is important.  The Board seeks your input via this short, albeit unscientific, survey.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government in the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding counties.

We utilize direct appeal, research papers, social media, mainstream media, and blog posts to add pro-business balance to public policy discussions.  Areas of impact include housing affordability, land use, economic development, as well as environmental regulation.

Now in its sixteenth year, the Free Enterprise Forum Board of Directors is discerning the organization’s effectiveness and future direction and the results of this survey will help.

Please click on this link (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CZNSBPR) or any of the survey hyperlinks in this post to complete the 7 minute survey.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Robert P. Hodous, 2019 Free Enterprise Forum Chair

Photo Credit: Incolors Club

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Public Voices Greene Scenic Byway Support

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the December 11th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors everyone who spokeimage about Greene County pursuing Route 810 and Route 230 as a Scenic Byway were against the idea. Economic Development Authority Director, Alan Yost, asked that the Board advertise and hold a public hearing to give the public notice of the opportunity to discuss the issue.

So the schedule for the January 8th meeting included a public hearing on the Proposed Virginia Byway designation.

Virginia code dictates that public hearings must be advertised in the local paper in advance of the meeting. Due to an error at the Greene County Record, the required notice did not appear in the newspaper and therefore the public hearing could not officially be held although the meeting room was at capacity with citizens ready to speak on this issue.

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Alan Yost

The Board of Supervisors recognized that a large number of citizens came to the meeting to be heard on the issue so they went ahead with a “Public Comment” session and allowed the public to speak on the issue and assured them their comments will be added to the comments made at the January 22nd public hearing.

Yost thanked the Board for going forward with the meeting and presented several reasons why the Board should support the Scenic Byway resolution.  Yost indicated Scenic Byways are supported in the Comprehensive Plan, more tourists will improve the economy of the county, tourism tax revenue helps decrease the tax burden on the residents of Greene, and tourism doesn’t place demand on County services such as the school system.

In addition, Yost is working with Albemarle County and Madison County. Madison has already approved the Scenic Byway for Route 230. Albemarle is behind both Madison and Greene County in their process.

Yost indicated that Greene County would incur no cost with the program, there are no restrictions to what vehicles can use the roadway, Route 810 is actually rated by VDOT for 4 times the current traffic volume and it is estimated that a 4% increase will occur from the designation.

Finally, Yost referred to the editorial in last week’s Greene County Record which referenced  3,000 miles of Scenic Byways in Virginia.  Yost stated that he has been unable to find a county that regrets naming a Scenic Byway and a county can change their mind and remove the designation at any time.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At Large) asked Yost if  the designation would apply to the parts of Route 33 Bypass and Route 33 Business that connects Route 810 and Route 230 and was told they would be included in the proposal to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  and that small sections of four lane roads have been designated when they connect other parts of a Byway. Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) outlined the route as Route 230 to Route 33 Business through Stanardsville to Route 33 By-Pass West to Route 810 toward Albemarle County.

The presentation shifted to comments from the public of which 18 of 19 speakers spoke in favor of the Scenic Byway designation. One of the main issues brought up is the town of Stanardsville would benefit from tourism traffic which has been down since the Route 33 Bypass was built around the town.

The hope is that more traffic through town would attract more businesses to locate in Stanardsville. One thought was that if the Scenic Byway was adopted that possibly the southern portion of Route 810 would be better maintained.

The final speaker in favor of the Scenic Byway designation took off from the movie Field of Dreams by suggesting the Board to…. Approve It and They Will Come!

There was one speaker opposed to the designation.  His comments focused on the road conditions and narrowness of Route 810 at the southern end near Albemarle County was not safe or adequate for the increased traffic.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) reminded everyone that the formal public hearing on this issue will be held at the next Board meeting on January 22nd. She assured those that spoke tonight would have their comments entered into the record as will any emails, phone calls or letters up until the next meeting.  Martin was pleased with the great attendance and encouraged others to come to the next meeting. At that point the issue was tabled until the January 22nd meeting.

Later in the meeting it was announced that Greene County has hired a new County Administrator – Mark B. Taylor – who holds the same position at Spotsylvania County and he will start in April.

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

Fluvanna Administrator To Retire

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Nichols2014

Steve Nichols

Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols announced his retirement effective July 5, 2019.  “Thank you very much for the opportunity,” Nichols told the Board of Supervisors at the December 19 meeting. Nichols has served in this capacity since 2012 [Fluvanna Gets A New County Administrator].

Nichols cited his wife and he have been discussing his retirement and the timing was good for his family. He joked he wanted to be goof off, gopher and golfer while attending less meetings in retirement. Even displayed a few Bitmojis of himself getting ready for the “permanent vacation.”

After the meeting, Nichols touted progress achieved during his tenure. “This board believes and trusts this staff. I’ve been part of that, but all my staff has be part of that. This board is a very supportive board. We’ve made progress because of that relationship between staff members and board members,” said Nichols.

“I think he’s been a great servant to our county,” said chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District). “One of the things he and I have talked about is we haven’t always seen eye to eye but we all have the same goal: we want to move Fluvanna County forward. I wish him well.”

Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) was partly surprised he retired and she hoped he had four years left. “The county is in good shape because of him,” said Booker. She lauded his leadership and naval background as being attributes that led him well in his role in government.

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) echoed her thoughts, “[He’s an] extremely hard worker, very committed to the success of the county. He helped guide the board through some very difficult times. [He’s] always put the county first, we’ve been so lucky to have him.”

In his retirement letter, Nichols spent over a quarter of it suggesting the supervisors skip the search for a replacement and name deputy county administrator Eric Dahl to the role.

“It is my hope that you will quickly come to the same conclusion and select Eric to become county administrator when I depart,” wrote Nichols.

Dahl started at the county prior to Nichols and worked as second in the finance department before being named the director. A few years ago the supervisors approve adding deputy county administrator to his title.

“I’ve enjoyed working with him. We’ve had a great working relationship,” said Dahl after the meeting. “I appreciate what he said.”

Booker and O’Brien offered no comment on the suggestion of Dahl as the replacement.

Nichols final day, July 5, 2019, is slated to be a Board of Supervisors meeting. He mentioned he picked the date so his successor would have a month before having a supervisor meeting to prepare for.

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 Credits: Fluvanna County

2018 Forum Watch Top 10

By. Neil Williamson, President

top ten listPerhaps the best thing that can be said about 2018 was it was not 2017.

As our community is still dealing with the very real ramifications of August 2017, The Free Enterprise Forum remained focused on monitoring local government, reducing regulatory burdens, promoting market based solutions, protecting property rights, and encouraging economic vitality.

None of this could be accomplished without the generous support of our donors and our regular readers. Thank you.  As we complete our fifteenth year of operation, we remain vigilant, and “pleasantly” persistent.

Each year, we select the top ten blog posts for our year in review.  There were many other blog posts that reached honorable mention status.  I would be remiss if I did not thank our Field Officers Brent Wilson (Greene County) and Bryan Rothamel (Fluvanna County) for their significant reportage in 2018.

With apologies to the now retired David Letterman, here are our Top 10 posts for 2018:

clip_image002#10 Greene E911 – “A Failure To Communicate”  “ …Representatives of the volunteer rescue squad and Fire Departments also addressed the Board of Supervisors. Their message was clear – we are getting “no clear supervision” and it goes back and forth who we are to answer to.

Several other citizens asked that the Supervisors have the courage to back up and revert to how E911 worked since 2012 and then have a committee analyze how best to address E911 services in the future. One of the final public comments was there seems to be “a failure to communicate” in Greene County”

#9 Lack of Infrastructure Investment Dooms Albemarle’s Neighborhood Model …”A funny thing happened on the way to Albemarle urbanization.  Elements of the Neighborhood Model of development [which had been sold as “A” model not “The” model] became part of the Albemarle County code forcing developers to put in curb, gutter, street trees and other Neighborhood Model “amenities”.  Developers built sidewalks interior to their development and Albemarle County has failed to connect the developments and thus failed to create the “walkability” they promised….”

#8 Is Charlottesville ready for Collins’ Affordable Housing “Marshall Plan”? “…At the end of the meeting, [Brandon] Collins presented a different pers

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Brandon Collins

pective on the reports.  He admonished City Council to think big.  If they are really serious about fixing the housing affordability issue, they should stop depending on developers; they should do it themselves with their existing Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.  Collins’ “Marshall Plan” might include $140 million dollar bond issuance dedicated simply to the creation of new affordable units that will stay perpetually affordable. When pressed by Councilor Wes Bellamy how the city might pay for that debt service, Collins admitted he had not figured that out yet but thought it could be resolved.”

#7 Delta Response Team Rescue Headed to Fluvanna …Fluvanna County will start with a new contract ambulance service this upcoming year.Delta Response Team (DRT), headquartered in Appomattox, was selected after a Request for Proposal (RFP) process was completed by the county. It will cost the county $438,000 for 24-hour services. The county budget $600,000 for FY19.  “We are not here to make a career service,” said Susan Walton, president of DRT.

#6 Albemarle Rushes Rural Rights Reduction “…This proposal has sped through the County’s approval process faster than any in recent memory.  Their “need for speed” is not clear and an e-mail requesting more information has not been returned.

Throughout this speedy process, there has been significant discussion regarding the impact of this land use change on property values.  In testimony before the Planning Commission several residents suggested the value could drop by up to 90%.  One speaker indicated that a potential real estate contract is in peril because of the proposed ZTA….”

#5 Government Tourism Coup Will Produce Poor, Politically Palatable, Promotion and Pitiful Profitability “…So now that the tourist tax dollars have been properly collected and turned over to the government, who should be in charge of making the marketing decisions designed to generate tourism?

The industry or the elected officials?…”

See the source image#4 Top Gun, BRT, and The Dog Bone Roundabout “…The Free Enterprise Forum believes BRT is dramatically better than light rail, but we are not yet convinced that a mere two years after widening North US29, the community is willing to give up a lane on US29 for bus only access.  Since the jury is clearly still out regarding BRT, should we be planning this critical infrastructure piece with the station as the center?

In addition, the long term connectivity plan calls for roads to cut through Fashion Square Mall to connect to a new access road paralleling US29 and a pedestrian/bike bridge over US29 and that’s just the Southeast corner of the plan….”

#3 Parking Is Driving Charlottesville’s Future  “…  Prediction: In 2056, Charlottesville’s Market Street Garage and City Hall Complex will be razed to make way for a new Hotel and Conference Center.  There are two distinctly different paths to this prediction, economic dislocation/collapse [think Detroit 2013] or a capstone of a visionary community investment program – interestingly, parking will be a leading indicator on the City’s direction.

Please let me explain….”

#2 Over 1/3 of Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors Are Illegal “…The Free Enterprise Forum has learned that eight of Albemarle County twenty-one Entrance Corridors fail to meet the state requirements for such designation.  Some of these have been in violation since inception in 1990.  This revelation, made by staff, calls into question the legality and enforceability of any ARB conditions placed on properties along the eight illegal entrance corridors….”

and the #1 post for 2019  Albemarle’s RAIN TAX Bureaucracy “…Albemarle’s Stormwater https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/no-rain-tax-logo.jpg?w=175&h=175Utility Program’s 10 year budget is $52 Million dollars But note there is no new department….Albemarle County’s program budget (chart below) shows that roughly 1/3 of every dollar generated by the RAIN TAX foes to these two line items.  That between $1.2 – $2 million dollars annually.   The Free Enterprise Forum contends absent this funding mechanism, those funds could be used for stormwater infrastructure if they were not being spent on administration and enforcement.

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But most of all THANK YOU, the readers and supporters of this blog and our work in Central Virginia.  Without your generous support, we would not exist, thank you!

BRING ON 2019!

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.

Greene Supervisors to Meet at Undisclosed Location


****CORRECTED 4:18 pm****

By. Neil Williamson, President

Over eight years ago, the Free Enterprise Forum called out the Greene County Board of See the source imageSupervisors for holding a public meeting and not notifying the media [Greene Supervisors Hold Secret Public Meeting].  This morning, in a moment of Deja Vu all over again, Greene County alerted the media, of a special meeting on December 18th at an “undisclosed location”. Here is the proposed agenda:

Greene County Board of Supervisors

Undisclosed Location

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 – 8:00 a.m.

1.         Call to order

 

2.         8:00 a.m.         –           CLOSED MEETING

Matters pursuant to Section 2.2-3711 (a, 1-7) of the Code of Virginia

3.         –           OPEN MEETING

4.         Reconvene, certify closed meeting

5.         Adjourn

We applaud Greene letting us know they are meeting.  We anticipate this is regarding the hiring of their new County administrator which is absolutely a proper use of the closed meeting provisions provided by Virginia State Code.

We believe holding the meeting at an “Undisclosed Location” is a violation of the **spirit but not the letter [added at 4:13 pm nw]** of public meetings law.

§ 2.2-3707. Meetings to be public; notice of meetings; recordings; minutes.

A. All meetings of public bodies shall be open, except as provided in §§ 2.2-3707.01 and 2.2-3711.

C. Every public body shall give notice of the date, time, and location of its meetings by:

1. Posting such notice on its official public government website, if any;

2. Placing such notice in a prominent public location at which notices are regularly posted; and

3. Placing such notice at the office of the clerk of the public body or, in the case of a public body that has no clerk, at the office of the chief administrator.

Emphasis added – NW

After publishing this post, I learned of a different code section that explicitly permits closed meetings at an undisclosed location.

B. The notice provisions of this chapter shall not apply to closed meetings of any public body held solely for the purpose of interviewing candidates for the position of chief administrative officer. Prior to any such closed meeting for the purpose of interviewing candidates, the public body shall announce in an open meeting that such closed meeting shall be held at a disclosed or undisclosed location within 15 days thereafter.

Greene County Board of Supervisors is hosting a legal meeting at an undisclosed location.  Despite being just as legal as the secret public meeting was in 2010 — it does not make it right.

Yogi Berra said it best, “Deja Vu all over again”.

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 and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: davescottblog.com

Greene Supervisors Approve Ruckersville Rezoning

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Ruckersville, especially near the intersection of US 29 and Route 33, is one of Greene County’simage designated development areas.  The northwest corner of Ruckersville has developed with Walmart and Lowes. The newly redeveloped Market by Tiger Fuel opened its doors late last year on the Southeast corner. Last night (12/11) the Greene County Board of Supervisors heard a rezoning request  that could eventually add residential uses and lead to a solution to efficient access to the northeast corner of Ruckersville.

For over a decade, Frank Eways has tried to develop a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on his property on Moore Road off Route 33 East with no success. So he has now partnered with Denstock, LLC from Charlottesville to develop an apartment complex on the property.

Planning Director Jim Frydl presented the rezoning request.  The Rapidan Service Authority (RSA) would provide water and sewer to the site.  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) traffic impact study for the apartment project indicated the traffic created by the apartment use is close to the traffic predicted by the existing PUD.

The school impact data indicated these apartments would have less impact than other development types. The average number of students per Single Family Home is .56 students/house, a Multi-Family Unit – townhouse/condo – normally is .32 students/unit. However, Terrace Greene apartments in Greene County near the Albemarle County line have produced .14 students/unit. In addition, Terrace Greene low vacancy rate indicates a strong demand for high end apartments.

Denise LaCour from Denstock, LLC has significant local development experience. She was the head of the Kessler Group that developed Forest Lakes and in 2013 she started Denstock. Currently Denstock has developed 965 high end apartments in central Virginia with another 224 units in process

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Stone Creek Village near Monticello High School – Developed by Denstock, LLC

Denstock’s plan is to develop the Eways property and hopes that the county will approve a connector road to US 29 at the intersection where the road from Lowes intersects US 29. The connector road is not part of the rezoning application however it is on the agenda for the Planning Commission next week as a Special Use Permit.

LaCour addressed the markets the project is trying to serve – millennials and baby boomers – both with disposable income and without families. In broad strokes she described millennials as mobile and not wanting to be tied down to owning a property. She also indicated Baby boomers don’t want the maintenance that comes with ownership. They want to be able to travel for weeks at a time without worrying about mowing the yard.

In the public hearing portion of the meeting three citizens spoke about Moore Road being a rural road.

Supervisors Chair Michelle Flynn pointed out that the area being considered is not zoned agricultural but is being considered to rezone from PUD to R-2, Residential with basically the same density. She also highlighted that the demand for this project is confirmed by Terrace Greene being full.

Supervisor Bill Martin indicated this property is in an area that is planned to grow but that the existing PUD zoning has not been successful. The presentation clearly demonstrates there is a demand which is supported by Terrace Greene’s success. He also appreciated the explanation of the connection to US 29 – although it was not part of the rezoning being requested – it demonstrates a long term solution to getting traffic onto US 29.

Supervisor Marie Durrer clearly stated that she was against the rezoning request prior to the meeting but, now understanding that the plan is to eventually connect to US 29 where the Lowes intersection is located, has changed her mind. Supervisor David Cox also agreed that the connector road was a major factor in his supporting the rezone request.

Although the connector road will be addressed as a Special Use Permit and is not part of the rezoning application, the applicant clearly stated that the connector road is a critical piece to the success of this development. With that, the Supervisors unanimously approved the rezoning request.

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

A Holiday Tradition– “Rio The SmallPlan”

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission 12/18/2018

By. Neil Williamson, President

In what has become either a dreaded recurrence or a nice tradition, the Free Enterprise Forum annually presents a reworked holiday poem as a literary gift to the Planning Commission.

Last year, we penned Rudolph the Rio The SmallPlanForm Based Code.  In 2017 we started the tradition with An Albemarle Planning Christmas.  So this year before we pack up our holiday fare and go over the riparian buffer and through the forest easement to grandmother’s house for the holiday, with apologies to original songwriters Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson we offer the 2018 poem “Rio – The SmallPlan”.

Rio the
SmallPlan

Rio, the SmallPlan was a fighter against sprawl
With a dog bone roundabout and a transit stop
And roads right through Fashion Square Mall

Rio, the SmallPlan is a fairy tale, they say
He was made of ink, but the planners think
He may come to life one day

There must have been some magic
In that new Form Based Code they penned
For even before they got it enacted
Rezonings started to trend

Oh Rio, the SmallPlan was alive as he could be
And the Planners say he could bend and play
Just the same as Euclidian and me

Roads running here and there

Through structures in the square,

Saying “Market Build me if you can…”

Traffic calming humpty, hump, hump,
humpety, hump, hump

Look how Rio thrives, traffic calming
humpety, hump, hump,
Elevated crosswalk, bumpety, bump, bump

the walkable community where everyone drives.

Rio, the SmallPlan knew his roads were interconnected
So he said, “Let’s run and we’ll have some fun
Now, before I am traffic infected”

Rio, the SmallPlan knew his roads were interconnected
So he said, “Let’s run and we’ll have some fun
Now, before I am traffic infected”

Down to ACAC with a set of green dots in his hand
Runnin’ here and there, all around Albemarle Square
Sayin’, “Prioritize me if you can”

Traffic calming humpty, hump, hump,

humpety, hump, hump

Look how Rio thrives,

traffic humpety, hump, hump,
flooded parkland sump pump,

the walkable community where everyone drives.

He led them through
pedestrian oriented plan
Right to Rachel, the Planner Czar
He only paused for just a moment
When he heard her holler, “Car”

Because ol’ Rio, the SmallPlan, he had to hurry on his way
But he waved goodbye sayin’, “Don’t you cry
when market condition are right, I’ll be back again some day “

Merry Christmas to one and all.

santa neilRespectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

 

 

Original Songwriters: Jack Rollins,Steve Nelson

Albemarle’s $5 Million ACP Mitigation & The Big Blue Marble

By. Neil Williamson, President

See the source image

The PBS series The Big Blue Marble was very popular in my elementary school years.  This program was ground breaking in presenting environmental (and social) concepts to children around the world including the interconnectivity of all natural systems to one another.

Based on recent actions, we are confused if Albemarle County considers itself part of the world’s larger interconnected ecosystem or an independent environment.

In their recent discussions of proposed stream health guidelines in the development area, Albemarle County seems to claim independence from the larger ecosystem –

9. Require that all stormwater treatment be conducted on-site or that any nutrient credits purchased are from a nutrient credit bank located in Albemarle County in order to qualify for special exceptions to zoning requirements, density bonuses, or cluster provisions,

Despite our recent post [Snow White and Albemarle’s Stream Health Incentives] highlighting the fact that currently no such nutrient credit bank exists in Albemarle County, staff contends this concept of “Albemarle Specific” Credits were critically important to the environmental community.

With this understanding we were perplexed by Allison Wrabel’s front page Daily Progress article [$5M in pipeline funds to support new Albemarle park] .

Though the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route does not cross through Albemarle, $5 million in pipeline mitigation money is earmarked for the future Biscuit Run Park in the county….Being in the route of the pipeline is not a criterion to receive mitigation funds, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Joshua Saks said…

Philosophically, the existence of the federally approved mitigation offer ignoring geographic specifics and Albemarle’s acceptance of such funds indicate an understanding and acknowledgement of natural interdependence.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes intellectual integrity requires that Albemarle County drop its isolationist environmental stream health demands and join with the rest of the world on our journey through space on our shared Big Blue Marble.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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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:lermaster.weebly.com

Government Tourism Coup Will Produce Poor, Politically Palatable, Promotion and Pitiful Profitability

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Local government is poised to cook the golden goose — tourism.

After a series of political moves over several years, local government, not the local tourism industry, is now in charge of marketing our community to the outside world; they honestly don’t know what they don’t know.

And they are about to become more powerful.

Please let me explain.

Imagine if your business was required to calculate, collect and turn over to the government additional taxes purportedly to promote the region and therefore generate more business for you.

That’s how § 58.1-3819. Transient occupancy tax (TOT) works.  This is the taxes paid by those who stay in a particular locality (Hotel, Motel, Campground, AirBnB, etc.) for the privilege of doing so.

So now that the tourist tax dollars have been properly collected and turned over to the government, who should be in charge of making the marketing decisions designed to generate tourism?

The industry or the elected officials?

The state code section seems to have an opinion about that specific issue:

….may levy a transient occupancy tax not to exceed five percent, and any excess over two percent shall be designated and spent solely for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that, as determined after consultation with the local tourism industry organizations, including representatives of lodging properties located in the county, attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the locality. If any locality has enacted an additional transient occupancy tax pursuant to subsection C of § 58.1-3823, then the governing body of the locality shall be deemed to have complied with the requirement that it consult with local tourism industry organizations, including lodging properties.

The Free Enterprise Forum joined with many in the tourism and hospitality industry raising concerns when the elected officials changed the structure of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) Board from being industry led (a best management practice across the nation) to being led by elected officials and government employees.  The current Executive Board includes a representative from each elected body, as well as Charlottesville’s city manager, Albemarle’s county executive, an economic development staff member from both the city and the county and a representative from the University of Virginia and two industry representatives, one each appointed by the city and the county. This means currently two-thirds (66.6%) of the current board is elected or works for the locality.

The localities want this to change, they want MORE POWER.  Next week (12/12) Albemarle County will accept public comment on the proposed changes to the CACVB.

From their proposed proclamation:

WHEREAS, the County and the City desire to amend the Agreement to authorize two members of the Board of Supervisors and two members of the City Council to serve on the CACVB’s Executive Board and to making any corresponding changes to the Agreement as provided in the amended agreement attached hereto as Attachment A (the “First Amended Agreement”).

Regardless of the individuals in the positions, this means that marketing and advertising decisions will be made by a a board where 73% of the members are not directly involved in tourism (either elected officials or work for the locality).  Does this sound like the kind of consultation contemplated under State Code?

The challenge of getting officials to understand marketing outside of their world was made exceedingly clear in the October CACVB advertising pitch.  Allison Wrabel of the Daily Progress has the story

CACVB Interim Executive Director Adam Healey said that the campaign is aimed at 25 to 44 year olds in the Washington, D.C. area and Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina, who are looking for short or overnight trips.

“You are not always your customer when you’re doing marketing,” he said…..

…Board member Roger Johnson, Albemarle County economic development director, said he thought the same general concept, but with a regional brand that “wasn’t so Charlottesville centered” would be “better accepted by the folks in Albemarle County who are taxpayers” and the target group….

…Albemarle supervisors Diantha McKeel and Ann Mallek said they hardly saw the county mentioned….“It will be a surprise to no one that it took me seven years to get Albemarle on the logo and I’m not going to give it up,” Mallek said….

Many of the industry representatives on the board supported using “C’ville” in some fashion and said they thought the proposed campaign was a great start.

“In my mind, the C’ville six letters identifies the region,” said George Hodson with Veritas Vineyard & Winery, the county tourism industry representative on the board. “I think we can’t lose sight of the forest through the trees and kind of lead with our own baggage. C’ville identifies this region without saying Charlottesville.”

“Why try to gum up peoples’ mouths with phrases and long things that aren’t going to be marketable?”

The proposal is the groundwork of a good campaign, he said.

With the latest government expansion it is being made abundantly clear that the government, not the practitioners will control the marketing message.  It’s difficult for many to understand, the message that resonates to you (and your voters) may not be the message needed to attract young visitors with disposable income and free time.  If such decisions are left to municipal officials, it may be a very expensive lesson.

We believe this structural error goes against best management principles and is in conflict with the intent of the state code.  We believe the imbalance should be reversed, those who collect tourist tax dollars [and have a vested interest in their success] should have the ability to impact where and how the promotional dollars are spent.

In addition, many of the officials on the CACVB board wants to change the performance metrics away from hotel occupancy rates “Heads in Beds” to something else.  If the funding comes from those “Heads in Beds” shouldn’t that be the promotional focus and evaluation tool?

I really hope we are wrong about the officials’ CACVB marketing blind spots and the localities don’t waste millions of visitor (not residents) tax dollars in poor promotion.

If we are right, unfortunately, it will be the tourism industry that will first feel the pain of a poor, politically palatable, promotion producing pitiful profitability.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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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://angielskidlakazdego.blox.pl/resource/goldenegg.jpg

Thankful, Hopeful & Skeptical in Charlottesville

By. Neil Williamson, President

In this time of Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful for; unexpectedly, the Charlottesville Planning Commission is now on that list.

Please let me explain.

Late in last night’s Planning Commission work session, after hearing the Free Enterprise Forum concerns with the proposed comprehensive plan and the land use map, as it existed prior to Saturday’s meeting, Chair Lisa Green asked that the map and narrative they created be shared with the 4 members of the public in attendance.  Each of us took photographs of the map and narrative with the understanding these are just drafts.

https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/image2.png?w=208&h=310

Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan Map Draft Before Saturday (11/17) Planning Commission Matinee Meeting

comp plan photo 2

Revisions to Charlottesville Draft Comprehensive Plan Map from Post Planning Commission Saturday Matinee Meeting (11/17)

Comparing the two images, I see hope for increased intensity, AKA density, in many nodes.

Green expressed a desire for folks to read the narrative- something I refer to as the “Intensity Spectrum”.  Staff attempted to type in new language on the fly during Saturday’s meeting – that is the image below – it will undoubtedly change but we like the direction it is headed.

We again see hope in the draft language that was captured includes the verbiage “Missing Middle Housing”.  The previous version went from high to low with very little room for middle housing.

Comp Plan Photo 4

It is our understanding that the Planning Commission will see staff’s rendition of the changes at their regular December 11th meeting but the documents will have already been submitted for the December 17th City Council meeting.  The Planning Commission will deliver an incomplete update of the Comprehensive Plan, the Community Engagement chapter is not yet drafted and the Land Use chapter is not yet complete.

Council will provide their comments on the draft and it will return to the Planning Commission for further meetings and refinements (and completion of the two unfinished chapters).

While I remain a healthy skeptic waiting to see the devil in the details, I sincerely appreciate the direction and conversations about making the CITY of Charlottesville a “Welcoming urban environment for all people”.

So I am thankful for the Charlottesville Planning Commission for listening to the public AND sharing the draft output from their Saturday matinee session.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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