Author Archive: neilswilliamson

Fluvanna Seeks to Direct ZXR Commercial Growth Via Water/Sewer Fees

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors have a blank canvas when it comes to Zion Crossroads, but it doesn’t own the land.

The vast majority of the land the new Zion Crossroads (ZXR) water system will service is currently zoned A-1 so it will require rezoning to allow commercial activity. The fear is the land currently isn’t expensive with a new water system, there could be an economic incentive to developing single family homes by right. This would be contrary to the economic development rationale used to justify the water system as the county spent the money to attract businesses, not more residential.water-bib_thumb.jpg

One way to discourage housing is finding a sweet spot with connection fees of the ZXR water system. Supervisors had a work session on November 7th to discuss strategies for the system.

The idea is connection charges would be higher than most localities but not the highest. Connection charges for a single family house would typically be absorbed in the cost of the house. But if the total connection is at minimum $16,000, that would be too large a percentage of an average home price in Fluvanna.

A large business wouldn’t bat an eye to the same cost. “That’s pennies or peanuts compared to their overall market studies,” said Wayne Stephens, ZXR water project manager.

Other options the county has is changing the comprehensive plan in regards to the community planning area.

“(The comprehensive plan) already talks about encouraging high density but we need to emphasize discouraging low density,” said Jason Stewart, planning and zoning administrator.

Also, county staff is working on minimizing the rezoning process including trying to make the

Nichols2014

Steve Nichols

county ordinance easier to navigate. The county attorney, Fred Payne, said some of that might make it easier for the average person but it might not stand up in court.

“Find a way to make it easy,” said Steve Nichols, County Administrator.

Fluvanna County will start using Municode, a program that makes the county code searchable. Currently the code is available on the county website via downloadable PDFs by chapter.

Supervisors are attempting to use all the tools at their disposal to make the Zion Crossroads area desirable to business and less attractive to residential.  The Free Enterprise Forum is not convinced making water and sewer hook ups more expensive is the right direction.  Generally speaking, we oppose using water as a growth control tool within designated development areas.

We do applaud the concept of  streamlining the rezoning process to make Fluvanna more business friendly and we sincerely appreciate the County Administrator’s clear direction, “Find a way to make it easy”.  We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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

The Countdown — Time to Think About 2019

By. Neil Williamson, President

Recognizing today is the ‘Morning After’ Election Day 2018, it may seem premature to start talking about 2019.  It’s not.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the vast majority of the candidates for the 2019 races will make their decisions in the next 60 days.

That’s right, by the time you watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, who will be on the ballot in November (and the primaries) will likely already be determined.

Wait, we just had an election.

Yes, this is Virginia, we love elections so much we vote EVERY year.  What are we voting for in 2019?  So glad you asked — from Virginia’s Board of Elections:image

Some might look at that list (on the left) and believe this is not that important an election, we think otherwise.

While the Federal and statewide offices get a significant amount of publicity (and paid advertising), it is the local races that bring government home.  These are the elected officials you run into at the grocery store AND who control your property taxes, school spending as well as the majority of your land use decisions.

Who is up?

In addition to the House of Delegates, Virginia Senate, School Boards and Constitutional officers, here is the list for Board of Supervisors and City Council –

Albemarle County: Board of Supervisors Ann Mallek, White Hall; Rick Randolph, Scottsville; Norman Dill, Rivanna

Charlottesville:  Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin, Mike Signer [important note Primary Date is June 11th]

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors Mozell Booker, Fork Union; Patricia Eager, Palmyra

Greene County Board of Supervisors David Cox, Monroe;  Michelle Flynn, Ruckersville; Dale Herring, At Large

Louisa County Board of Supervisors Willie Gentry, Cuckoo; Troy Wade, Louisa; Toni Williams, Jackson;

Nelson County Board of Supervisors  Thomas Bruguiere, Jr, West; Larry Saunders, South

Without question local (and state) government impacts your life.

The question is who will step up to fill these important leadership positions.

  • Will the current incumbents run again?
  • Will they have any opposition?
  • Who will step up?
  • Will there be a primary challenge?
  • Do you know someone who should run?
  • Should you run for office?

Once again we have more questions than answers but this much we do know – the candidates (and their families) will likely decide by NYE 2019.

The Free Enterprise Forum maintains an open door policy to talk with anyone regarding running for local office and what is required to serve.

As a non-partisan organization, we do not endorse candidates but we do support contested elections.  We believe uncontested elections make untested officials.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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.

Snow White and Albemarle’s Stream Health Incentives

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

snow-white-seven-dwarfs-cartoon-background-image-pcWhat does Albemarle County’s proposed incentives to improve stream health in the Development Areas have in common with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

Beyond being simple and well intentioned, neither is based in reality.

Please let me explain.

Stream health regulation in Virginia really came into its own with the 1988 passage of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.  According to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ):

Virginia designed the Bay Act to enhance water quality and still allow reasonable development to continue.  The Bay Act balances state and local economic interests and water quality improvement by creating a unique cooperative partnership between state and Tidewater local governments to reduce and prevent nonpoint source pollution.  The Bay Act recognizes that local governments have the primary responsibility for land use decisions, expanding local government authority to manage water quality, and establishing a more specific relationship between water quality protection and local land use decision-making.

The Bay Act Program is the only program in Virginia state government that comprehensively addresses the effects of land use planning and development on water quality.  It is also the only program that has as one of its core elements a requirement to assist local governments with land use planning to meet water quality goals and the development of land use ordinances and comprehensive plans.

At the heart of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act is the concept that in any given watershed, actions in that watershed impact others downstream.

However the proposed Albemarle stream health incentive fail to recognize the value of environmental activity outside of Albemarle County:

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,

Beyond the philosophical whiplash of this Albemarle-centric regulation, the reality is – There is no nutrient bank located in Albemarle County.

Interestingly there is a “pending” application for Ivy Creek that was submitted 7/21/0616 [Date corrected 10/30 -nw].  It just so happens that the Bank sponsor is former Albemarle Supervisor David Slutsky.

When I pressed staff on this issue earlier this month, I was told three things:

  1. this was a concept they heard from the public
  2. this is an incentive developers don’t have to use
  3. there could be a nutrient bank in Albemarle in the next 20 years.

Regarding #3 Prince Charming “could” come riding in on his horse and we “could” live happily ever after.  Honestly, I don’t recall a single regulation ever prospectively passed on a “could be” concept.

To be clear, we sincerely appreciate the significant public outreach staff is doing with these draft proposals.  The Free Enterprise Forum encourages readers to review the proposals and provide feedback via the county’s short online survey.  A public meeting is also scheduled for November 1, 2018 at 4:00 pm in Lane Auditorium of the County Office Building at 401 McIntire Road in Charlottesville. https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9f/1f/ff/9f1fffda74e8dea7c6c12303cb8a9115--grumpy-dwarf-dwarf-costume.jpg

Absent your input, this fractured fairy tale of an ordinance may become a reality and an incentive that can’t be achieved may become law – that’s enough to make anyone ‘Grumpy’

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Albemarle ARB Expansion on a Shaky Foundation

By. Neil Williamson, President

See the source imageIf you have limited resources and a house with faulty plumbing, foundation issues, and a leaky roof, would you fix the existing house or expand it?

Indirectly, that is the question before the Albemarle County Planning Commission next week (10/30) as they consider further expanding the number of roads that are considered ‘Entrance Corridors’ and thus subject to additional review by the Architectural Review Board (ARB).

Late in January, we learned that over a third of Albemarle’s twenty-one entrance corridors are illegal.  At first we were encouraged when a Resolution of Intent to remove the impacted roadways appeared on the Board of Supervisors consent agenda, this positive energy was very brief as the item was removed from the agenda and never heard from again.

On top of the illegal roadways, members of the ARB have been discussing the need for a comprehensive update to their guidelines some of which were last revised in 2011.  The fuel pump canopy requirements have not been adjusted since Bill Clinton was president (1998).  The guidelines include specific language directed at “trademark” designs:

State law and County ordinance both require that the ARB approve only those proposals which reflect designs which are compatible with the historically significant architecture of the County of Albemarle and City of Charlottesville.  It is not intended that proposed designs mirror existing historic structures in the area. Replication of historic structures is neither required nor desired. However, developers proposing “trademark” designs can expect that significant modification will be required by the ARB before approval will be granted.

This language was used by one ARB member (in the minority) to advocate a proposed Pantops gas station’s fueling stations should be located in the rear of the building outside of the view of passing traffic (cars).  Correctly, the applicant pushed back that this would be a significant competitive disadvantage considering all the other gas stations on US 250 with pumps in front of their locations.

So into this mess, the Planning Commission wants to expand the purview of the ARB to include Rio Road East/John Warner Parkway.

Back to our house analogy, the problem is varied responsibilities of the three entities involved.

  • The Board of Supervisors, who has the checkbook, has not prioritized fixing the illegal entrance corridors See the source imagechoosing instead to “not enforce” the regulations. Similar to a family not using the hallway bathroom, this merely solves the leaky toilet symptom without fixing the plumbing problem.
  • The Board of Supervisors, via the Community Development Work Plan, has not dedicated resources to improving the Entrance Corridor Guidelines to have them better mesh with market practices and ARB precedents.  In our house analogy, the roof only leaks when it rains and it does not rain all the time, therefore I will not fix the roof.
  • The Planning Commission, empowered by the Board of Supervisors, will race forward with additional regulation the creation and enforcement will further impact limited staff time in order to expand the power of the regulators over additional property.  Let’s expand, rather than repair, this old house.
  • Interestingly it is the members of the ARB who are the semi tragic figures in this epic drama.  Absent Supervisor action, the ARB is impotent to modify the area or the outdated regulations that they are charged with enforcing.

Despite the fact that some of the reforms we advocated for in our 2010 ARB analysis The Eye of The Beholder report have occurred, the dire need to repair the existing ARB jurisdiction and guidelines far exceeds the expansionist desires of the Planning Commission.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Neil Williamson

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 Credit Hanna Barbara Scooby Doo

Albemarle Banning Through Trucks–NIMBY 2.0

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors October 10, 2018

By, Neil Williamson, President

Tonight, you will be considering asking for permission from the Commonwealth Transportation Board to ban through trucks on Owensville and Miller School Roads.

Trucks make up a small fraction of all of the traffic on these roads.  According to the staff report, trucks make up less than 4% of all traffic on Owensville Road and 10.4% of traffic on Miller School Road.  Recognizing some portion of this truck traffic is local, the ban would likely impact less than 5% of the traffic.

This is just the latest in a series of truck bans the county has pursued.  Such bans are NOT supported by the state.  From your packet this evening:

It is the philosophy of the Commonwealth Transportation Board that all vehicles should have access to the roads on which they are legally entitled to travel. Travel by any class of vehicle on any class of highway should be restricted only upon demonstration that it will promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth without creating an undue hardship on any of the users of the transportation system. Emphasis added -nw

We believe health, safety and welfare are core government functions but that’s not what we see in action here.  We believe this is an evolution of the Not In My Backyard or NIMBY movement. We call it NIMBY 2.0.

The staff report cites a higher than average crash incidence on Owensville and Miller School Road but it does not answer the larger question. According to the state vehicular crash database, there were 41 crashes on Owensville Road from 2010-2017.  During the same time frame there were 50 crashes on Miller School Road.

Do you know how many of these crashes involved large trucks? 

Staff indicates 3, our research says ZERO

If you accept staff’s numbers then there were 88 vehicle crashes that were not large trucks.  If this is about health, safety and welfare perhaps you should consider banning cars or fixing the road; neither of which are being talked about.2018-10-10 16_05_09-Interactive Public Report

This is not about health, safety or welfare; if this is your interest fixing the road would do the trick.

The data does not support banning through trucks.  These roads were paid for by public dollars and all have a right to use them.

The Free Enterprise Forum asks you to follow the direction of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and affirm the right of all legal vehicles to use public roads.

This is what we will argue to the CTB, or the Commissioner should you choose to recommend this NIMBY 2.0 regulation.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Neil Williamson

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.

VDOT Updates Greene Supervisors

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Normally,  Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  Residency Administrator Joel imageDenunzio provides the Greene County Board of Supervisors update.  In the October 9th meeting, Deputy Administrator Ed Nicholas filled in for Denunzio to give the  report.

Nicholas indicated the recent flooding events, especially in Madison and Stanardsville, have been a challenge to address across the district and that also delayed the normal mowing schedule.  He also addressed specific problems starting with South River on either side of Route 230 (Wolftown Road). In order to redirect the river on the west side of Route 230 back to where it had previously flowed, they are working with the property owner to develop a solution.  Once the solution has been fully engineered, an environmental permit will be required before they, or the property owner, can commence with this work.

image

South River Road

Prior to the Nicholas’ presentation, a young man and his mother spoke during ‘Matters From The Public’ and the youth addressed the South River Road flooding and its impacts on his life.  Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked Nicholas if VDOT could try to contact the young man and show he and his mother what is planned.

Also to be accomplished this week is to work on final grading and seeding on Route 33 near the Shenandoah National Park. In addition, in the next two weeks the VDOT property at the intersection of Route 33 and the Route 33 bypass will be cleared of debris, have dirt spread and it will be reseeded.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) mentioned to Nicholas that Greene County is reaching out to Washington, Richmond and the Army Corps of Engineers to ask for guidance/help on how to go forward with modifying the flow of several rivers in the county to minimize the impact to roadways. Martin asked that VDOT participate in these discussions.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) asked Nicholas what the priorities were on paving/patching the secondary roads in the county that have not yet been completed due to flooding. Especially Route 674 – Parker Mountain Road which is a 2 mile long stretch has a great many potholes and it needs to be addressed.  Nicholas assured Cox that VDOT would address this road and any roadway that is a safety issue.

Flynn brought up the final issue for VDOT asking when will Preddy Creek Road going away from Sheetz be addressed? The roadway continues to degrade and patching doesn’t seem to resolve the problem. Nicholas indicated that he would research the problem and reply with a timetable to address the issue.

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 Supervisors Hear Property Assessment Results

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Last week, (10/3) the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors were briefed on the latest mass appraisal of real property performed.  The City of Fargo has a concise definition of this process:

Mass appraisal is the systematic appraisal of groups of properties as of a given date using standardized procedures and statistical testing. This differs from single-property appraisal, commonly referred to as “fee” or “bank” appraisal, which normally deals with only a particular property as of a given date.

Pearson’s Appraisal Service performed an appraisal this year, the first by the company in Fluvanna. Overall, the county saw an average increase of 4.7 percent increase across the county limits. However, inside Lake Monticello only increased 3.4 percent.

Representative from Pearson explained all assessment decisions were based on data from sales.

Lake Monticello vacant land had a decrease in assessment by 15 to 20 percent. Because the subdivision is nearly built out, most undeveloped property is not desirable.

The public utility infrastructure was also reassessed and goes effective immediately. The Commissioner of Revenue estimates that will bring in $83,000 of additional revenue. Those funds will increase the FY19 collection.

Notices of new tax values will be mailed to all land owners and Pearson will be available to discuss the new assessment.

Also at the October 3 Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors approved two change orders to complete the E911 radio project. The last two changes needed an additional $26,500.

The county’s animal shelter services are handled by Fluvanna SPCA. Despite the county only contributing for 50 percent of the operational costs, the county’s shelter takes up 75 percent of the FSPCA. To help alleviate some funding issues, supervisors approved a supplement of $35,000.

FSPCA and the county operate on a contract services. In future years, FSPCA will present a budget that supervisors can go over with FSPCA officials during the budget season.

Supervisors approved creating an employee ladder system in the E911 operations center. The FY19 fiscal impact was $10,000. Over the last few years county administration has worked at creating mobility options in the organization chart of departments to allow employees to get promoted. Previously employees would have to either wait to become a department head or leave for a bigger organization with a larger chart to fill.

Supervisors will next meet on October 17 at 7 p.m.

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:  Fluvanna SPCA

The Hindsight Report Back in the News

The Free Enterprise Forum’s 2017 ‘Hindsight’ Report was mentioned in Allison Wrabel’s  Daily Progress  article this morning. 

For context, we are reposting our original post on the topic.  The Free Enterprise Forum welcomes the community discussion of the agreement.

By. Neil Williamson, President

Often the most enlightening questions start with, “What if?”

Working with co-author Derek Bedarf, we looked at developing empirical data to answer the question, “What if Charlottesville’s annexation was successful compared with the results of the negotiated Revenue Sharing Agreement?”

After significant research and deliberation, it was determined that this information was available but not assembled in a manner that made such calculations easy. Utilizing Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for the real estate assessment data and 15 years of Albemarle County budget documents for the other taxes (sales taxes, consumer utility taxes, business taxes, motor vehicle licenses  and prepared food and beverage taxes.  Other taxes excluded from this study, for a variety of reasons, include utility consumption tax, short term rental tax, clerk fees, transient occupancy tax, penalties  interest, and audit revenues), The Free Enterprise Forum calculated the tax revenue generating power of the study area.

The resulting “Hindsight Report” examines the tax generating power of the proposed annexation area as it compares with the revenue sharing payments.

  •  The Hindsight Report indicates that over the study period (2001-2016), Albemarle County received, from the study area, over $277 million in local tax revenue compared with the $212.9 million revenue sharing payments made to the City of Charlottesville (+$64.1 million).

  • Had Charlottesville been successful in the annexation and the revenue sharing agreement not been in place, the City would have received $304.7 million in tax revenue from the study area during the study period compared with $212.9 million in revenue sharing payments from Albemarle County (-$91.8 million).

 

  • During the study period, study area property owners paid $72 million less in real estate taxes by being in Albemarle instead of the City of Charlottesville. This “Non-Annexation” Dividend averaged saved (Albemarle) property owners between $3 million and $4 million annually topping out at $6 million in 2007.

The question the data does not answer is whether the Revenue Sharing Agreement was a good deal for all involved.  This is a subjective question that can only be answered in context.

At the time, the historical record suggests annexation was a very real threat and revenue sharing negotiations were heated.

The historical public record also shows many citizens at the public hearing raising some of the same questions regarding equity and fairness that remain part of the discussion today.

Was it a good deal?

Hopefully this data will help you decide.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the Revenue Sharing agreement during their second August meeting on Wednesday August 9th.

Founded in 2003, The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization focused on Central Virginia’s local governments.

The entire Hindsight Report can be accessed at www.freeenterprisefoum.org under the reports tab.

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 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.

image

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