Category Archives: Community Involvement

Your Voice Is Needed

By. Neil Williamson, President

See the source image

With over 1,000 archived blog posts, it could be said that you know where the Free Enterprise Forum stands on most matters of local government.

Today, we want to know what you think.

  • What is important to you?
  • How are we doing?
  • What should we do more of?
  • How should we change?

There are just five days left to make your voice heard.  Earlier this month, the Free Enterprise Forum launched a short, anonymous 7 minute survey to discern public perception of our organization, assist in understanding the community’s areas of interest  and assist the Board of directors in charting the future.

While an unscientific community engagement methodology, the survey link has been shared far and wide in hopes that supporters and opponents alike will take the opportunity to make their voices heard. Please feel free to share the link with your contacts.

With a number of anonymous survey responses already in, I can tell you this discernment process is revealing.

Please take the 7 minute survey and make your voice heard.

The survey closes at 5 pm on Friday, January 25th.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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

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

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.

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

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:

image

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

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