Category Archives: elections

Albemarle Passes The Bucks ($1.4 Million) To Unelected CACs

By Neil Williamson, President

piggy-bankIn Wednesday’s (2/1) meeting, without so much as a formal public hearing, Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors plans to send a $1.4 million dollar piggy bank to the unelected Citizen Advisory Councils so that the elected officials don’t have to make the hard budget choices.

Nothing they are doing is illegal, it’s just not right.  Please let me explain.

Albemarle’s annual Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Budget is laborious and involves significant number of staff hours to determine the staff priority for Capital projects such as vehicles, buildings and renovations.

Over the last 13 years the Free Enterprise Forum has been impressed with the level of detail and careful consideration the CIP committee (including citizen representation and 2 elected BOS members) have put into these discussions.  There have been times when one geographic portion of the development areas had CIP projects that garnered higher scores by the committee and these were funded rather than less urgent projects.

The new “Neighborhood Funding Initiative” would siphon off $1.4 million of the annual CIP budget and allocate it geographically and by population.  The staff has proposed a formula to accomplish this task:

17-155 - Proposed Allocation of Funding - View

Staff has simply developed this Board driven concept.  In fact, the staff report hints at a better manner to utilize citizen involvement along with the elected officials within the current CIP process.

staff has conducted best practices research which is summarized as Attachment A that revealed that the majority of these types of community focused improvement funding programs fall into three basic categories:  neighborhood matching grants; formal citizen involvement in capital planning; and citizen-driven Capital Improvement Programs. After hearing the Board’s discussion, staff thinks that the third category may most clearly align with the Board’s preferences, so the program has been designed along those lines.  If the Board would like this program to be more closely incorporated in the already existing CIP review, evaluation and ranking process that would be another viable approach.

The Free Enterprise Forum has long been a critic of the unelected CACs.

In 2009 we wrote:

The Free Enterprise Forum believes citizen groups (including us) should have the ability to be active participants in the workings of local government.  That being said, we are increasingly concerned that the leadership function of some Boards and Commissions may be inappropriately delegating to community organizations.

With the proposed policy change, beyond effective regulatory veto power over development projects that would advance the community vetted comprehensive plan, Albemarle now seems poised to give these unelected “mission creeping” Citizen Advisory Councils the county purse strings as well.

As the Supervisors continue to delegate, I wonder what will be left for them to do … besides run for reelection.

As we said in 2009:

In the end, elected leaders must lead, not delegate, if citizens don’t like the direction they should replace the leaders.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson

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

2016 – A Year of Exits (Executive and Grade Separated)

By. Neil Williamson, President

https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/top-ten-list.jpg?w=179&h=161At this time each year, I take time to look in the rearview and see what issues we have covered that have garnered the most attention.  As usual, I am amazed, and thankful, for the large number of people who read and financially support our work.

Here are the Free Enterprise Forum Top Ten 2016 Shaking My Head (SMH) Moments

#10 Is Charlottesville the $17.86 Million Court Jester?

Imagine you are a mayor or a City Manager, if a major employer and economic driver in your city was poised to leave, how would you respond?Image result for Court Jester

Perhaps its just me, but I would likely fight like heck to keep them in the city.  It is much easier to retain a major employer than to attract one.

But what if the employer is actually an arm of a neighboring government, should that matter? …

If Albemarle decides to bring $17.86 million of ‘County’ economic activity back to Albemarle, Charlottesville may end up looking as wise as the Court Jester this Halloween.

 

#9 Bananas and Albemarle’s Outdated Economic Opportunity Map

Imagine being in the banana business — and you have no way to obtain fruit.Image result for Albemarle county development area

That is Albemarle County’s current economic development sales position: “Yes, we have no bananas.”

“If a manufacturer calls interested in locating near a highway, we tell them, ‘We have nothing for you,’. Prospect businesses are looking to move within three to six months if they are not looking to build. We tell them, ‘We have no product ready to go today.’” – Faith McClintic, Albemarle County’s economic development director

#8 Greene Supervisors Approve Overspending FY17 Budget

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In just the second month of the new budget cycle, the Greene County Board of Supervisors discussed clip_image002two issues last night (8/23) that would allow the county to spend nearly $33,000 over the approved FY17 budget.

The first issue that County Administrator John Barkley explained was that several positions are needed to be brought up to market value. He further explained that supplemental funds are being requested to fund the $27,250 for the reclassification of positions. Surplus funds from the FY16 budget will allow the county to be able to fund this request.

#7 C’ville’s Hydraulic Houdini

What would you call it when Charlottesville works to make a primary pillar of an integrated

Trafficit knot  @ Proff Rd             Trafficlymead Town Center             @ Hol                       knotTrafficLakes ...

transportation program disappear?

The Hydraulic Houdini.

Please let me explain.

Those with even decent short term memory can remember the argument over the now defunct Western Bypass and the Route 29 “Solutions”.  Rather than building a limited access bypass around Charlottesville’s congestion (The Free Enterprise Forum supported), Bypass opponents proposed a series of integrated “solutions” would increase the existing roadway capacity.

My friend Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) even had a nifty PowerPoint Presentation regarding the  congestion

#6 Albemarle’s Executive Exodus x 2

Albemarle Executive Foley Finds Greener Pastures

Thomas FoleyWith rumors flying around Albemarle County (and Social Media) all day, a 4 pm Stafford County announcement made it official; County Executive Tom Foley is leaving Albemarle County to take up the same post in Stafford County.  In the announcement Stafford highlighted Foley’s service and temperament as key qualities they were looking for in their new administrator:

Albemarle is Losing Faith

leavingyourjobAs anticipated as the sun rising in the east, it is with absolutely no surprise that Albemarle County’s first Economic Development Director, Faith McClintic, will be leaving her position later this year.  In her short  18 month tenure, McClintic often found herself at odds with Planning Commissioners, some members of the public, this writer, and some elected officials.  In addition, she found herself without product as she said in August of this year:

“If a manufacturer calls interested in locating near a highway, we tell them, ‘We have nothing for you,’. Prospect businesses are looking to move within three to six months if they are not looking to build. We tell them, ‘We have no product ready to go today.’” – Faith McClintic, Albemarle County’s economic development director

#5 Albemarle and VDOT Create US29+Rio Lemonade

While the Free Enterprise Forum lost the battle against the US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI), we have found Albemarle County (and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)) to be working exceedingly well together and significantly positively impacting the challenging business environment due to the roadway construction.

rio gsiIn the most recent Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel meeting, former VDOT Commissioner and PDAP facilitator Philip Shucet indicated the next phase of the Rio GSI project, where the intersection will close for up to 103 days,  “Isn’t going to be a birthday party”.  This might be the understatement of the year.

#4 SOMEONE’s Shameful Sensationalism

Over the last dozen years, I have read literally hundreds of Albemarle County staff reports.  I tend to find the reports to be professional, concise, factually correct and devoid of generalizations or editorial commentary – until last week when I determined that SOMEONE  improperly and sensationally  used a tragedy to further an advocacy position in what was presented as an impartial staff analysis.

In an attempt to sensationalize the need for closing of Earlysville Road to truck traffic, SOMEONE has stooped so low as to cite a terrible teenage 2002 drunk driving accident as justification to overrule the technical analysis of professional traffic engineers.

#3 ‘Snob Zoning’ Crozet Master Plan in the Works?

Recently, C-ville magazine cover story posed the question, “Can Crozet maintain its small town charm snob-zones-640-for-web-194x300.jpgas its population increases?”

Perhaps the question should be “After millions of dollars of planning and infrastructure spending, should Crozet residents be allowed to stifle population and economic growth by hijacking the master planning process?”

We’ve recently learned such a plan is in the works.  And it is a bad idea….

The reality is the CCAC is opposed to density in the development area that is critical to achieve the philosophical goals of the Comprehensive Plan. The community vetted plan calls for densely populated development areas filled with amenities and services surrounded by less populated rural areas that are supportive of agriculture, forestry and open space.

In her seminal book “Snob Zoning”, Liza Prevost, exposed what happens when NIMBY zealots are able to change plans and regulations

#2 Fluvanna Land Use Fireworks

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

OBrien2014-photo-credit-Fluvanna-County_thumb.jpg

“I’m a little surprised board members are so happy to push this under the rug,” said Supervisor Tony O’Brien. . .

O’Brien said there were supervisors who should recuse themselves from the vote because they should know they aren’t compliant with the program.

Eager asked O’Brien to name who he thinks is not compliant as she has done everything to be compliant. He replied he never thought she wasn’t but questioned if Supervisor Don Weaver and chairperson Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) were compliant. He also thought Supervisor Mozell Booker might not be compliant but she was in a different arm of the program.

Sheridan said he asked a cooperative agent if he was in compliance and was told his practices were.

Fred Payne, county attorney, gave a legal opinion that supervisors do not have to recuse themselves just because they participate in the program.

O’Brien also suggested Mike Sheridan should recuse himself because Mel Sheridan is his brother.

Payne’s said Mike Sheridan had no need legally reason to recuse himself. He continued supervisors can always recuse themselves if they feel it is necessary but there was no legal reason to do so.

Weaver, who was quiet for the discussion, called for a vote which ended the discussion.

O’Brien said under his breath after the vote, “Embarrassing.”

#1 $52.5 Million Dollar Indecent Proposal – Albemarle Backs Off Threat to Wedding Industry

Last Tuesday evening, a rare joint meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors heard a great deal from both wedding venues and the vendors that support them.  Albemarle staff had prepared a proposed ordinance that, among other things, would limit the ability of wineries, breweries and distilleries to 24 events a year.  In the end the supervisors backed away from the most restrictive portion of the ‘indecent proposal’.

The testimony Tuesday was insightful and passionate.    Wedding Photographer Jen Fariello asked pointedly “Why are weddings being attacked?”  Wedding planner Adam Donovan-Groves [name correction 9:01 6/20 nw] told of one recent wedding whose local fiscal impact exceeded $250,000 musicians, gift packs, invitations, transportation, jewelry, photographer, etc.

Yes, 2016 has been a year of executive exits, speedy construction and threats of overregulation.  Through it all the Free Enterprise Forum continues to blog, tweet (@neilswilliamson) and Facebook about local issues of significant importance.

The year ahead is filled with promise: the promise of a national search for a new Albemarle County Executive, the promise of so called “Solutions” 29 being completed earlier than scheduled (looks like June), the promise of new form based code development in Charlottesville, as well as the promise of elections across all localities.

seats available2016 will also bring us the opportunity and privilege of attending and participating in  many more government meetings where important policy decisions are made and #SeatsAvailable.

Thank you for your support!

 

Happy New Year

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.

Ballot Box Capital Spending Exceeds $1.3 Billion

By. Neil Williamson, President

In case you did not notice, earlier this week there was an election.

In addition to the Presidential race, several localities had so called “Bond Issues” on their ballots.  Albemarle County was one of 17 bond issues presented by 6 localities this year – This represents over $1.3 Billion in capital spending – not surprisingly all passed by fairly significant margins.    bond-chart-2016

The Free Enterprise Forum does not question the need for any of these projects but we do wonder if the ballot box is the proper place for determining their priority in the community.

Voters are provided a binary choice of support or not support a distinct number of capital projects in a particular government function but they are not told (on the ballot) the impact on their local budget or the other capital improvement items that might have to be postponed in order to pay for the proposed bond referendum.

Interestingly, this year when voters in four localities were provided the option to institute a meal tax – it failed in three of the four localities (Passed Matthews County 54%).  The lesson, regardless of the actual impact, if you do not call something a tax the citizens will be likely endorse it.

The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that referendums [and fees (i.e. storm water)] are providing local government a new way to generate revenue and duck responsibility for making the hard choices that result in tax increases.

In addition, it seems that the manner the ballot question is phrased also has an impact on the success of the effort.

Tuesday, Augusta County residents were asked not about a bond issue but a straight spending question.

Shall the Courthouse of Augusta County be removed to the Augusta County Government Center Complex in Verona, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $45,000,000.00 therefore?

Voters (66%) said no.

But Henrico Schools Bond referendum asked a 6 times larger spending question in a completely different way:

Shall Henrico County, Virginia, be authorized to contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $272,600,000 pursuant to the Public Finance Act of 1991 to finance school projects and the Henrico County School Board’s Capital Improvement Program, including capital improvements to schools, furnishing and equipping of schools, acquisition of future school sites, and such other school construction, renovations, and improvements as may be required by the actual education needs in Henrico County?

It seems to this observer that voters strongly favor financing options for municipal spending even absent tax ramification information but push back on the concept of making specific spending decisions.  The language of the ballot question matters.

More importantly perhaps is not how voters are asked but should they be?

The self governance part of our philosophy appreciates the apparent citizen involvement in the process but the cynical portion questions if by limiting the choice to a binary yes/no decision they are truly engaged.

Shouldn’t those we elect make the tough choices between adding classroom space or adding a firehouse?  Aren’t they in the best position to evaluate competing priorities?

The reality is each and every one of the bond referendums that passed will be repaid using local tax revenue but not one of them said in the ballot question how the amount borrowed equates to the property tax rate increases during the term of the bond.  .

Considering the significant disclosures required when we as private citizens take on debt (car, auto, etc.) is it too much to ask for a truth in lending statement for over $1.3 BILLION in capital spending?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes such fiscal clarity should be an integral part of such ballot questions.  Unfortunately, we doubt such change will be made any time soon as that might negatively impact the passage rate and require elected officials to make the tough capital budget decisions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

 

Fluvanna To Move Polling Station

Ballot-Box_thumb.jpgBy Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors will have a special public hearing on Jan. 6 about moving the Rivanna District polling station.

It is currently the Lake Monticello Clubhouse but because of planned renovations, the facility may not be accessible during a primary election, if held, and the general election.

The new proposed location is the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Squad Station (LMVFS). It previously served as the second precinct in the Rivanna District until 2010 when the redistricting eliminated the second precinct and shrunk the district size.

An interesting note, the LMVFS is located outside of the Rivanna District and is in the Cunningham District. While the voting districts are close in population, the Rivanna District is so small geographically because it mainly includes only area inside Jefferson Drive at Lake Monticello. The district is almost completely residential except for the Lake Monticello Clubhouse and Lake Monticello Marina.

The county ordinance (2-2-3) states, “Precincts shall be known by their respective polling places and shall be coterminous with the respective electoral districts.”

The state code (24.2-310) allows polling stations to be outside the precinct if within one mile of the boundary.

The Rivanna District boundary is less than half a mile from the proposed location.

The other options considered were Effort Baptist Church and Lake Christian Church. Both are also located in the Cunningham District and both are within a mile of the boundary lines.

Questions to the Registrar’s Office regarding the county ordinance went unanswered as Joyce Pace, the registrar, is out on vacation for a week.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Geddy Lee Explains Why Every 2015 Voter is a Super-Voter

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

super voter pinSome folks honestly believe their vote doesn’t make a difference.  They could not be more wrong in the 2015 election cycle.

This year every voter is a super voter.  Geddy Lee from the Canadian rock band Rush explained this concept precisely many years ago – Please let me explain.

Over the years we have written extensively about voter turnout and why it matters.

In Virginia, along with our peanuts and Virginia Wine we love our elections; we love them so much we hold them every year.

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking toward November 2016 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County office building or City Hall.

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: Virginia Board of Elections

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: VA Board of Elections

2015 (as 2007 and 2011) is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

It means, as the button above suggest, your vote has superpowers. In every election every vote matters but in off off year elections with less than 25% of registered voters in any given district voting, your vote matters 75% more.

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.  Fast forward to 2011, when Bob Ullenbruch beat Gooch by 106 votes.

Albemarle County Rivanna District 2015 race features three candidates.  Historically, a multiplicity of candidates further inflates the value of each vote. In 2011, Greene County had a four way race for the newly created Ruckersville District, absent an incumbent the race was very close, with the eventual winner Davis Lamb winning by just 15 votes:

Virginia Elections Database » 2011 Board of Supervisors General Election Greene County - Ruckersville Considering that the 2007 Rivanna District’s contest was decided by 149 votes and the 2011 election was decided by 685 votes, this year’s three way race without an incumbent will likely be decided by the candidates Get Out The Vote (GOTV) success.

Adding complexity to predicting the Albemarle County turnout, is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s and Clerk of the Courts races which seems to be gathering momentum in the final days of the campaign.  If these races continue to generate attention you may see a slight increase in the number of Albemarle voters headed to the polls.

vote superheroThe Free Enterprise Forum anticipates slightly higher than average turnout in Greene County this year.  The Greene election features several county wide elected positions (At-Large Supervisor,  Clerk, Sherriff).  Based on historical trends, and dependent on the candidate GOTV efforts, we would not be surprised to see better than 38% voter turnout in Greene County this cycle.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Do you know where your polling place is? If not click here.

Polls will be open from 6 am to 7 pm. Based on projections, there will not be significant lines.

Yes, Virginia will hold an election next Tuesday; the question is will you be a part of it?

Regardless of your involvement in this year’s election, the results will impact you for years to come.

As classic rock composer Geddy Lee posed in his anthem “Freewill

Canadian Rocker Geddy Lee

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

It really is all up to you.

Will you be one of the 2015 super voters?

or not?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

20070731williamson

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: Blogspot, Charlottesville Tomorrow,  Virgina Board of Elections

Greene’s Lydia Mountain to Expand

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Bruce Shifflett, the owner of Lydia Mountain Lodge & Log Cabins, asked Greene County’s Planning Commission for a Special Use Permit (SUP # 15-003) so he could construct a general store and five lodging houses, some fronting Route 33 westbound at the monthly meeting on May 20th. Lydia Mountain consists for various sized cabins, a motel, a pavilion, and recreational activities such as a zip line and tubing track.

image

Director / Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda presented the SUP to the commissioners explaining that the property is an odd shaped lot – an “L” shape that is not deep off Route 33. Svoboda explained that there are to be several entrances directly from Route 33 – one to the store and the other to the 2 units fronting Route 33. He stated that Greene’s Comprehensive Plan supports tourism and transient travelers. His recommendation to the PC is to approve the SUP with a limitation of guests staying no more than 30 days of a year.

Shifflett addressed the Planning Commission and he explained that the current building used to be a general store. He envisions reopening the store on a limited basis, mainly as a check in location but also to purchase fire wood and other supplies. He also wants to “clean up” the corner which is the entrance to Lydia Mountain.

image

Chairman Jay Willer asked how far this location is to the Skyline Drive National Park. Shifflett said that it is a little more than five miles.

The hearing then shifted to the comments from the public. Tina Deane, Lydia Mountain’s property manager, spoke and she was in favor of the SUP. She was hopeful that having a storefront on Route 33 would help their customers locate Lydia Mountain and she also offered the general store as a visitor center for Greene County to supplement the current visitor center on Route 29.

The endorsement from the commissioners was evident as there were no questions. A motion with the limitation of the store and five houses and no guests to stay beyond 30 days in a year was made and seconded. The motion passed 5-0 and Willer commented to Shifflett that this is a “great addition” to the county and recommended that he meet with Alan Yost, Director of Tourism for Greene, Economic Development & Tourism Director, who was in the audience, if the Board of Supervisors approves the SUP.

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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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisor Ullenbruch Not Running

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch will not seek re-election for the Palmyra District seat, despite speculation and reading into recent public comments.

Ullenbruch released the following written statement to the Free Enterprise Forum:

Ullenbruch2014

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Since I will be moving out of the Palmyra District at the end of my present term and moving to Cape Cod, I will not be seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

It is a time in my life where I want to be close in proximity to my grandchildren and family. My parents are aging and other health issues with family members were defining factors in planning the move.

I would like to thank the members of the Fluvanna Republican Committee for the encouragement and ever continued support. I need to give the Committee time to recruit a viable candidate for the Palmyra District Seat.

Finally, I would like to thank my constituents. I have enjoyed serving the Palmyra District throughout my term and look forward to finishing the year.”

Ullenbruch ran as a Republican in 2011, defeating incumbent John Gooch.

Often times in board votes Ullenbruch has sided with fellow Republican Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Now the Palmyra seat is wide open for the 2015 election. So far obvious candidates to run for the seat are not clear. Board of Supervisors meetings have been scarcely attended, even during the budget season.

The other Supervisor seat up for re-election this cycle is in Fork Union. Early speculation is the incumbent, Mozell Booker,  will seek re-election but she has not commented on the matter.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Rio Road GSI, Route29 Solutions, VDOT and Dylan Thomas

By. Neil Williamson, President

rio gsiIn recent weeks, I have said that I believe the Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) at US29 and Rio Road will be built despite the significant, and valid, protestations of those opposing the project.  Based on the current political structure,  the manner this project has been steamrolled through and my personal experience with this process, I believe this project will be fully constructed by late 2016 and the balance of the projects will complete prior to the Gubernatorial Election Day 2017.

Despite this forgone reality, I also believe those who oppose the project must continue their efforts.  For if a project was wrong in its inception, the reality of construction does not change its meaning.  Dylan Thomas wrote about battling the inevitable in his great poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”.

Those with long memories will remember the Free Enterprise Forum speaking in opposition to the Places29 Plan at the Albemarle County Planning Commission.  As this 2009 Charlottesville Tomorrow article outlined:

Twelve of the 14 speakers addressing the commission represented businesses and business organizations.  They spoke in opposition primarily to transportation elements of the plan, specifically grade separation on U.S. 29 at six key interchanges.

Williamson said in an interview that his organization had reached the conclusion that the County shouldn’t even attempt to do land use and transportation planning together and that attempts to do so were “perpetuating the island mentality of the Albemarle-Charlottesville community.”

“I believe Places29 would be better served if it was simply a land use plan,” said Williamson. “Land use should inform transportation decisions, but the transportation decisions should be made in a larger regional context.”

The Planning Commission endorsed the plan 4-2 and sent it to the Board of Supervisors for action.  Prior to the vote on the Places29 Plan we clearly called for a veto

Interestingly as a part of the Places29 discussion that was eventually endorsed (6-0) included [according to a 2011 article by Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow]:

At the request of the board, consideration of grade-separated interchanges at key intersections along U.S. 29 will be delayed for at least five years, until the plan is required by state law to be reviewed. State officials are warning against the total removal of the interchanges from the plan.

“If the interchanges are removed from the Places29 plan, additional traffic modeling and study would need to be done to ensure that current and future land use and recommended improvements to Route 29 support the goals of Places29 and the needs of the regional transportation network,” VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said in an interview.

Much has changed since the passing of Places29.  The Western Bypass was revived, contracted,  then discouraged by federal action only to be eventually discarded by the newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe.  The membership of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors changed as well. 

Just this year the community was introduced to Former Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Philip Shucet who led two panels that never voted but provided important input to the “Route29 Solutions” that will be completed prior to Governor McAuliffe’s last day in office.

don quixoteWith all of this as preface, I was reminded not of Cervantes Don Quixote but of the Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas (no known relation to former Albemarle Supervisor Rodney Thomas).  Thomas clearly understood the realities ahead as he wrote his most famous work.

It is with Thomas’ words that I close this post and proudly support the continued, though perhaps futile, battle to eliminate the Grade Separated Interchange at US29 and Rio Road. 

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Dylan Thomas —

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson 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: Route29solutions.com

Fluvanna BOS Retreats to Set Priorities

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors recently spent two days looking at the county situation and future planning during a retreat at the Fluvanna County Library.

Mike Chandler, the retreat facilitator, helped the board through county issues and plans.

The supervisors had five items it wants to complete in the next two years. They include education support, tourism development, changing how it handles capital maintenance, support of local businesses and a plan for infrastructure.

The retreat also allowed the new board to develop ideas on how it wants to operate.

Chair Mozell Booker

Chair Mozell Booker

“I think we’ve done a good job,” said chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) at the completion of the retreat. “We’ve done a lot so far.”

“It has been surprisingly good and positive and goal oriented. Like we said earlier, there’s a lot of words written around us here,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) as he motioned to the walls, lined with paper of things the board discussed throughout the retreat.

He continued, “It’s nice to have a plan — if you don’t carry it out, it is just a plan.”

Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said, “It is easy to solve today’s problems but we need to solve tomorrow’s problems too.”

The supervisors have picked a new vision statement of the county, “Fluvanna County: The heart of Central Virginia and your gateway to the future.” The board wants to include various tag lines in marketing including, “A great place to live, learn and play” and “Proud of our past, confident in our future.”

Other changes for 2014 include a new mission statement. Supervisors plan on initiating a comprehensive plan review, to start in 2014 and go into 2015. The board will look at additional revenue streams, including different taxes.

“I think [the retreat] has been a big help for Steve (Nichols, county administrator),” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

The board next enters the heart of the budget season. The board is slated to have a water infrastructure plan in place during 2014, and water will certainly impact the budget already. The board will need to pay for James River Water Authority costs plus any infrastructure to Zion Crossroads.

Other impacts to the budget include the education piece. That currently looks to be at least an increase of over $1.5 million from fiscal year 2014 but the School Board hasn’t set priorities for the budget yet. The number could also change because of the the state budget with a new governor.

Supervisors have met privately with Nichols to discuss the budget but he will formally present his budget proposal at the Feb. 5 meeting. It starts at 4 p.m. in the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom.

The supervisors have a planned meeting and/or work session scheduled for each Wednesday starting on Feb. 5 until April 16.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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.

Fluvanna Elects O’Brien and Sheridan

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — A slight shift in the political landscape, Mike Sheridan and Tony O’Brien have won their respective elections to serve on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor elect Tony O'Brien

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Tony O’Brien

The biggest surprise of the night was O’Brien’s sizable victory of 321 votes over Republican candidate Rick Kelly in the Rivanna District. The seat is currently held by Joe Chesser who did not run.

O’Brien campaigned on infrastructure investments to attract businesses. Kelly took a more conservative approach to growing the business community and finding what Kelly deemed ‘fat’ in the budget. Kelly had support of local Republicans including delegate Rob Bell.

O’Brien had strong support of Focus on Fluvanna’s Future group. Many members of the group hosted campaign events for O’Brien who is a senior partner of a Charlottesville business, Helix Systems.

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Mike Sheridan

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Mike Sheridan

Sheridan, a school teacher, beat Elizabeth Franklin in the Columbia District. Sheridan captured 58 percent of the vote with over 1,200 votes placed. Shaun Kenney currently serves the district and did not run.

Sheridan grew up in the county. His brother is the Commissioner of Revenue but this is Mike’s first campaign.

In the other Board of Supervisors race was Cunningham District. Don Weaver (Republican) ran unopposed.

The only contested School Board race was Cunningham. Charles Rittenhouse beat William Hughes for the second consecutive year. This will be Rittenhouse’s first full term after both candidates served one years to fulfill the term for the late Doug Johnson.

Camilla Washington beat write-in candidate Claudia Thomas in the Columbia District. Carol Tracy Carr won the Rivanna District in her uncontested race.

All elected candidates terms will begin Jan. 1, 2014 for four years.

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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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

 Photo Credits: NBC29, Fluvanna Review