Category Archives: Greene County

Greene County Planning Commission Lowers Proffers

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission  heard a rezoning request at their May meeting to remove or reduce the cash proffer required for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) originally granted in 2008. For the last ten years, Kinvara Properties, LLC has tried to develop approximately 33 acres fronting Route 29 southbound just north of the Food Lion plaza.

A cash proffer is a “voluntary” financial contribution the applicant makes per unit designed to offset a project’s fiscal impacts to the locality.  The Free Enterprise Forum has written extensively about proffers including the 2013 white paper “Contradictory Consequences“.

In 2016, Virginia’s General Assembly passed significant proffer reform.  The legislation required that any proffer provided must be answering a specific demand created by the project.  Most localities (including Greene) have not rewritten their zoning code to reflect these changes.

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Lily Ridge Apartments

A recent Greene County project, Lily Ridge Apartments, did pay the $9,000 per unit cash proffer for those units developed above the by right number of units (prior to the rezoning).

However, Kinvara Properties, represented by Attorney Butch Davies from Madison County, argued that their PUD will be more dense and have only 2 bedroom units therefore creating less demand on the school system – one of the major drivers of the cash proffer policy.

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Butch Davies

Davies explained that Kinvara has had several clients interested in the property but they have said that the size of the proffer makes the project economically unfeasible. In addition, the developer has already made expenditures for water and sewer hookups and road improvements. Chairman Jay Willer pointed out that these items, while having value to the county, are not part of the proffer calculation.

Davies offered $1,200 per unit in cash proffers with the logic being that the change in the law starting in July, 2018 will require proffers to be specific in the items related to the project. Davies referred to several other projects where proffers in the $1,200 range had been accepted by Greene County.

The hearing shifted to comments from the public, which there were none. Planner Stephanie Golon pointed out that the rezoning would allow 50 residential units to be built and she estimated that the number of students would range between Lily Ridge, 27 students or .58 students per unit and Terrace Greene, 30 students or .11 students per unit.

If the Lily Ridge ratio is used then the development would have approximately 29 students but Weldon Cooper Center for Public Policy data would only project 16 students. Commissioner Ron Williams pointed out that given the current proffer and that schools are the main contributor to the costs involved then the amount should be approximately $4,500 vs. the $1,200 offered by the developer. Williams asked how the $1,200 was calculated and Davies answered that it is based on the smaller number of students.

Willer brought up the fact that Kinvara Properties accepted the original proffer agreement  and he had a difficult time lowering the proffer.  Davies again stated that potential sales to developers have fallen through with the current proffer and he believes a reduction will allow the sale to be completed and the development to go forward.

Williams stated that he thinks the development is a good fit for the area and he isn’t sure when the $9,000 proffer would become affordable. Inversely, the $1,200 proposed proffer lacks supporting detail as how it was calculated. But the county needs commercial development and he believes more residents in Greene County will attract more businesses.

While Willer agreed that more people attract businesses, he has a difficult time in revising an agreement that the two parties made and the lowering of the proffer would cost Greene County $390,000 in proffers when the development is completed.

Williams made a motion to recommend approval of a revised cash proffer of  $1,200 per unit and it was approved 3-1, with Willer voting against it and one commissioner absent. The rezoning application now goes to the Board of Supervisors for their decision with the recommendation of approval from the Planning Commission.

The reduction of the proffer in this specific case continues to set a precedent for a lower proffer. The original proffer amount was set over 10 years and should be updated with current cost and the impact of the 2016 proffer law. Another option would be to have separate proffers for individual homes, townhomes, condos, etc. and possibly down to the number of bedrooms in each unit. These are the issues that have been discussed in past meetings.

Definitely future requests from developers will point to the $1,200 amount, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, as a basis to set (or lower) their cash proffer.

An argument could be made that since lower proffers attract more developers wouldn’t doing away with proffers altogether attract the most developers?

Is 0% of the current proffer more valuable than 100% of $1,200?

Or is more residential development worth the upside of more driving potential commercial development and increased tax revenue?

It will be interesting to see how the Greene County Board of Supervisors deal with this application and if they ever get around to adjusting their cash proffer policy to be congruent with state code.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

 

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No Increase for Greene County Real Estate Tax Rates

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In the next to final step in their FY2019 budget process, The Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to maintain the same real estate tax rate forclip_image001 the coming fiscal year – $.775/$100 of the assessed value.

 

County Administrator John Barkley presented an overview of the budget process that started last July, 2017 and will conclude with at the May 8, 2018 Supervisor meeting when the budget is voted upon. The process included three workshops, advertising the rates, tonight’s presentation and the May 8th vote on the final budget.

Barkley highlighted that the county is investing in training of county personnel but, other than the school system, there are no increases in headcount. In addition, the county is focused on improved technology for improved services. The budget has 16 departments that are reflecting reductions in spending.

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John Barkley

Barkley then showed that Greene County’s Real Estate Tax Rate ($.775/$100) is in the middle of the surrounding counties – higher than Madison ($.680/$100) , but lower than Albemarle ($.839/$100) and Orange ($.804/$100).

The proposed budget does have an increase from $61,281K to $63,592K, an increase of over $2 million. The rate is able to stay the same since there is a significant increase in the number of houses in Greene County which is the primary contributor to increased local funding of over $1.5 million from real estate taxes.

Two other reductions that stand out is a 12% reduction in Greene County’s share of the funding of the Central Virginia Regional jail. The other significant reduction is over $400,000 reduction in debt service as borrowings are being fully paid off. The budget for capital expenditures is approximately $750,000 ($550,000 for all departments except the school system and $200,000 for the schools) even though there are significant projects in the near future – such as interconnectivity of the Sheriff, Rescue Squad and Fire Departments, the water impoundment project and the school renovation project.

The meeting shifted to comments from the public with four citizens speaking. Keith Bourne again brought up the elimination of 2 additional officers from the Sheriff’s budget. He suggested, as he has in past meetings, that the source for funding these positions could be by eliminating the $250,000 deficit incurred by the Solid Waste Facility by raising the tipping fees.

Current Tipping Fees for Greene County Landfill

30 Gallon Single (household garbage) $1.00
50 Gallon Single (household garbage) $2.00
90 Gallon Single (household garbage) $3.00

Tammy Durrer continued this discussion stating that the citizens of Greene County should not be required to subsidize the Solid Waste Facility. Her research came up with a fact that is unique to Greene County vs. neighboring counties. Greene County allows citizens from other counties to dispose their trash with no premium being charged. Albemarle County for example charges an additional $10 for people outside their county.

Mallory Lamb presented information related to how understaffed Greene County is in the Sheriff’s Department. She presented data from Page County (14,000 citizens) and Patrick County (18,000) vs. Greene County’s population of 19,000 (counties that have similar population to Greene County). Here is how the number of reports, total deputies and deputies funded by the county compare (as presented by Lamb).

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Steve Smith

According to these figures, Greene County generates more reports with significantly fewer deputies. Lamb also suggested that eliminating the subsidizing of the Solid Waste Facility by raising rates and charging a premium for citizens from outside Greene County would fund two additional positions – the budget that Sheriff Smith presented. Per the chart above, the number of citizens per deputy in Greene County is more than twice that of Page and Patrick County’s.

The final adoption of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget is scheduled for May 8, 2018.

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

Citizens Ask Sheriff’s Budget Request Be Fully Funded

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

“Matters from the Public” provides citizens the opportunity to address elected officials on any issue that is not on the governing bodies agenda for a public hearing.  On April 10th, the Greene County Board of Supervisors heard from two citizens regarding restoration Sheriff Department FY19 funding.

The Board previously held budget review meetings and made recommendations that will be formally considered on April 24th at 6:30 pm. One of the Board directed changes to the departmental requests was to reduce the Sheriff’s Department requested increase of nearly $400,000 to $157,236 – which was the value of 2 new deputy positions.

Under “Matters from the Public”, Keith Bourne offered an offset to the increase requested by Sheriff Smith that was reduced by the Supervisors – $241,966. His suggestion was to eliminate the subsidy for the land fill/recycling center and have their tipping fees raised to have all costs paid for and, therefore, not require taxpayer funds to support the center. His logic was that this would encourage citizens to do more recycling to minimize the cost to dispose of trash. Those funds could then be used to fully fund the budget request of Sheriff Steve Smith.

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Sheriff Steve Smith

Some though think that raising the tipping fees would cause people to stop bringing their trash to the landfill and disposing of it themselves.  In addition to the potential increase in illegal dumping, an increase in cost could decrease use, which could lessen the tipping fees received and increase the need for more of a subsidy.

In speaking with Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) about the reduction in Smith’s budget request, he indicated that the supervisors eliminated all headcount increases in the departmental requested budgets.  Herring clarified that the School Board receives a total dollar amount from the Supervisors and they, not the supervisors, determine whether to spend funds on increased headcount and the supervisors would have no say in that matter.

The other citizen, Mallory Lamb, brought up the issue that the school system has been able to keep unspent funds this past year of $700,000 and have accumulated over $3.5 million to date. This is the only department that is allowed to keep any unspent funds and is allowed to use those funds for capital expenditures. This means that these funds could be used for equipment or buildings but not for people or supplies.

This citizen asked that the Board of Supervisors fully fund Smith’s budget request  and explained that the Sheriff’s Department has underspent their budget by approximately $250,000 the past four years. And that looking at these sources of revenue – increased tipping fees or the accumulated unspent funds the past four years be used to fund Smith’s requested budget.

Possibly the policy allowing the school system to “bank” unspent budgets should be reviewed for all county departments. It is important to note schools is not a county department but a separate entity with its own elected Board to oversee spending decisions.  In addition, while other department have limited outside state and federal funding, the significance of variable, attendance based, state and federal funding create an additional level of complexity in school funding.

While most departments have needs for operating expenses vs. the schools having a large need for building and equipment the policy might be offered for expense items. The commitment to recurring operating expenses, such as personnel, would have to be managed so that it can be afforded ongoing. Reviewing spending patterns that show a consistent unspent balance to support a new expenditure could be put in place. However, this begs the question, why is a department consistently favorable to the budget that is submitted.

If the Sheriff’s Department is spending $250,000 less than budgeted for four straight years – why is the request for the prior year’s budget amount plus an additional $400,000 more for next year? Shouldn’t it only be for an additional $150,000 ($400,000 gross increase less $250,000 unspent)?

The final approval of the budget for all departments in the county rests with the Board of Supervisors. If a department is consistently spending $250,000 below budget for four straight years, why would the next year’s budget continue to be the prior year’s budget plus new items? It seems that the Board of Supervisors should look at the historical actual spending of a department, not just the prior year budget.

So if every department’s budget was calculated by using the most recent actual full year spending and a current year to date actual spending, maybe there would be funds available to fund some of the manpower requests, especially for the sheriff’s department which protects the citizens of Greene County.

Inversely, if any department is overspending their budget compared to previous year, it would prompt the question as to why and look for some corrective action.

It is unfortunate is that the different funding source complexities and governance structure results in the school system to march to a different budget beat than the other county departments.

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

Greene Examines Needed Emergency Communications Upgrade Options

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

clip_image002The Greene County Board of Supervisors asked engineering consultants from  engineering consultants Black and Veatch attend their March 27th meeting to present three alternatives to improve the communication systems between Sheriff, Fire and Rescue throughout Greene County.

Don Bowman, Consulting Manager of Black and Veatch, provided the Supervisors an update on the coverage that currently exists with the system which are extremely concerning. The Sheriff can communicate about 80% outside of a building and that drops to 15-60% inside depending on the type of building they are in. Fire and Rescue range from 35-55% depending on where in the county they are located (outside of a building) and it drops down to 5-25% (inside a building). In addition, the equipment is over a decade old.

Based on the consultant assessment, Greene County needs to upgrade their system; Black and Veatch presented three options to accomplish that goal. The options varied on whether Greene County would go alone in developing a system, the second option was to partner with Madison County and the third option was to join forces with Madison, Louisa and Fluvanna Counties and utilizing Fluvanna’s existing system.

All three options show significant improvement vs. the current situation – the in building connectivity ranges from 50-90%. But the costs go down from the first option of creating a standalone system in Greene County to the two options to partner with other counties. The cost impact of the three alternatives is telling:

Greene County alone $6,167,000

Greene and Madison $5,616,000

Greene, Madison, Louisa and Fluvanna $5,291,000

(these are estimated onetime costs for Greene County with estimated annual operating costs of $220K)

Chairperson Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) added that not only is the cost less to partner with other counties but it logically makes sense to be able to communicate with nearby counties as has been demonstrated in the past. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if there was any improvement in coverage with option 2 or option 3.   Bowman indicated that option 2 would provide some overlap benefit to both Greene and Madison Counties.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) expressed concerns with the life of the solutions.  Bowman had representatives from Motorola present at the meeting and they assured that the system would be functional until 2040. Martin asked where Madison County is in their communication assessment/acquisition process and was assured that Madison is very interested in partnering with Greene County.

The Board of Supervisors is to be commended for pursuing this upgrade for the safety of the citizens of Greene County. The ability to have the Sheriff, Fire and Safety effectively communicate can mean the difference of life and death. These are the type of issues that need to be recognized and prioritized in the Capital Improvement Plan for the future of Greene County.

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

Greene Board Takes Action on Blighted Properties

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer 

Like Mr. Bs Ruckersvillemany localities, there are several properties in Greene County that either have been left vacant for decades and deteriorating or have had a fire without being repaired.  Two specific properties have attracted significant attention over the last few years and last week, Greene County’s Board of Supervisors took the first step to seeking force the owners to repair the structures or declaring them as ‘blighted’.

In the Supervisors March 13th meeting, Greene County Zoning Administrator, Bart Svoboda, reviewed the status of the two subject properties. The first property is the old Mr. B’s store on the northeast corner of Route 29 and Route 33 in Ruckersville.

Virginia State Code section regarding blight requires  that a letter be mailed to the owner of the property and give them 30 days to reply on how they are going to correct the property.

B. The chief executive or designee of the locality or authority shall make a preliminary determination that a property is blighted in accordance with this chapter. It shall send notice to the owner or owners of record determined in accordance with subsection B of § 36-27, specifying the reasons why the property is blighted. The owner or owners of record shall have 30 days from the date the notice is sent in which to respond in writing with a spot blight abatement plan to address the blight within a reasonable time.

Mr. B’s property just had the letter sent out giving the owner until April 12th to reply. The second property discussed by the Supervisors is the house on Route 230 near the Stanardsville Baptist Church that was destroyed by a fire in 2016.

clip_image003This situation is slightly complicated by being within the Town of Stanardsville and the county will have to coordinate with the town council for this process.

Svoboda stated that he has secured telephone numbers for both owners and they are communicating with the county. If the owner doesn’t respond after 30 days then the property can be declared blighted.

C. If the owner or owners of record fail to respond within the 30-day period with a written spot blight abatement plan that is acceptable to the chief executive of the agency, authority or locality, the agency, authority or locality may request the locality to declare the property as blighted, which declaration shall be by ordinance adopted by the governing body.

Svoboda stated that the goal of the county is to get the all “possibly blighted” properties into compliance with these two as the first properties to be addressed.

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

Photo Credit: Google Maps (accessed 3/22/2018) and Greene County Record

Greene County Government and Citizens Work Together on E911 Resolution

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the February 13th Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting it was agreed that a group of stakeholders would meet to try to find a solution of how best to manage their E911 system  . On Thursday, February 22nd a meeting including Board of Supervisor Chairperson Michelle Flynn, Supervisor David Cox (liaison to the emergency management system), Sheriff Steve Smith, and representatives from the Fire Departments and Rescue Squads was held and the following agreement was reached:

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This agreement puts in place a solution to an issue that goes back to 2016 related to the management of the E911. The good news is that the Board of Supervisors acted swiftly after their February 13th meeting in which over 20 citizens called for action and they got the stakeholders together and met on February 22nd . The concern is why it took so long for the leaders of Greene County – Supervisors and Sheriff – to meet face to face and reach a compromise solution?

clip_image003The major change that the memo states is that “the E911 Center will be placed under the direction of the Sheriff” and he has been give the budget for E911. The agreement is in place through June 30, 2018 – the end of the current budget cycle.

During the public comment portion of the February 27th meeting citizens were pleased with the action of the Supervisors but expressed concern about trusting the Supervisors.

The silver lining is that citizens were motivated to participate in the process and the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff responded and worked out a compromise in a timely fashion. This is something that they were unable to do by themselves.

At the end of the meeting, Flynn asked Smith if he had begun advertising for the three vacant positions within the E911 system. Smith assured that advertisements are out and the positions will be filled (see the Facebook post below).

Steven Smith shared Greene County, Va. Sheriff’s Office‘s post.

58 mins ·

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Greene County, Va. Sheriff’s Office

59 mins ·

Greene County Sheriff’s Office
Full-Time & Part Time Communications Officers

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is currently accepting applications for full-time & part time communications officers. Salary: $32,675 – $33,655. Seeking professional, highly responsible, technical individuals. Minimum Qualifications: Excellent listening & written communications skills; ability to speak distinctly on the telephone/radio & accurately relay information into a computer; ability to type with speed/accuracy; ability to multi-task under pressure; 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma/GED. Final candidates must pass a thorough background investigation. Preferred Qualification: 2 years emergency dispatch experience. Candidates may pick up an application at the Sheriff’s Office or at http://www.greenecountysheriffva.com/about-us/join-our-team/ EEO

Emergency Services Director, Melissa G. Meador will remain at the County Administration Building and will coordinate E911, Fire and Rescue calls. E911 calls will be handled out of the existing system at the Sheriff’s Office. This will be far less expensive than recreating an E911 facility in the County Administration Building.

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At the end of the day it is hoped that the E911 system gets fully staffed as soon as possible so that the citizens of Greene County can be protected in a timely manner.

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

Greene Planning Commission Considers Expanding Tourism

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County’s Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to look at including Tourist Lodging in the Residential (R-1) zoning district. Planner Stephanie Golon outlined the proposed revision to the zoning ordinance explaining that several citizens have requested this change to have Travel Lodging as a by right use.

Golon explained that Transit Occupational Tax (TOT)  has increased the past three years from $174,000 to last year hitting $226,000. Tourist Lodging is defined as having no more than 5 guest rooms in each structure and no more than 4 events can be held per year. Most of the R-1 areas are Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Dyke, Lydia and subdivisions such as Greene Mountain Lake.

Some negative aspects of this use is that it takes away from commercial lodging and the transient nature of the dwelling takes away from the nature of a residential neighborhood. Golon also clarified that a development’s HOA (homeowners association) may have more stringent rules than the county which might bar tourism lodging in their neighborhood.

Chairman Jay Willer clarified that most of the funds go to support tourism rather than come to the county as tax revenue. Ms. Golon added that the Commissioner of Revenue works with owners of the properties to collect the proper taxes. Also, each property must be in compliance and pay the proper taxes to have their property advertised by the EDA.

Willer’s main concern was the granting of four (4) events per year in a residential neighborhood and he would prefer that a Special Use Permit (SUP) be required in order to hold an event in R-1. Planning Director Bart Svoboda explained that there is a 100 foot set back requirement but Willer still had a concern that noise isn’t limited to 100 feet.

Willer agreed that some properties may be large enough to allow the event with minimal noise problems, but others in dense neighborhoods would have the noise carry to many properties. If the revision is allowed then there is no control while a SUP will provide flexibility in deciding to allow the event or not. After discussion with the Commission, Svoboda and Golon it was unanimously agreed to defer action until next month and the staff would add the SUP requirement for the R-1 zone.

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

Business Vitality Sustains Better Communities

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

In recent weeks, we have heard several calls to slow economic development and advancement in our community.  Many of these calls are accompanied by concerns of gentrification, income inequality and economic fairness. These calls have manifested themselves in vocal opposition to pro-business policies.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes a flourishing business sector is mission critical to creating a vibrant community; beyond the financial benefit a diverse, successful business community generates a positive, accepting, thriving community.  image

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce recently released the 2017 Sales tax data.  This empirical data does not capture all local economic activity but provides an objective metric to the overall health of the economy.

The reality is, using a ten year lens, all of our localities have increased their sales tax base.  The percent increase is largest in those areas which previously had very little retail but all localities see growth in the last decade.

It is into this context, that I read this morning’s Washington Post opinion piece by economic writer Robert SamuelsonThe political consequences of slower growth”.  In his piece, Samuelson defines the import of economic growth:

The role of economic growth in advanced democracies is not mainly the accumulation of more material goods. By any historical norm, even today’s poor are staggeringly wealthy. Economic growth plays a more subtle role. It gives people a sense that they are getting ahead and are in control of their lives. It serves as the social glue that holds us together and counteracts — to some extent — the influences of race, class, religion, ethnicity and geography, which drive us apart. emphasis added-nw

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the same socioeconomic theory works on the local level and has a correlated counter theory.See the source image  The higher the citizen confidence in their local economy regarding opportunity as well as job growth, tensions between often competing factions are reduced.

If however, the political environment highlights the divisions between groups and accentuates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, then despite economic positives, citizen confidence generally drops and a drop in economic vitality soon follows.

Earlier this month, Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy was quoted by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs chiding an applicant about a requested density increase in the West2nd rezoning:

“Some would say you have made a lot of money in this city and because you have already made so much, maybe you could give one back to us,” Bellamy said.

Later in the month, in a presentation to the Charlottesville’s Housing Summit City Principal Planner Brian Haluska provided an inadvertent counter to Bellamy’s Anti-Profit position:

A developer that does not make a profit is a developer that won’t be around for long

Profit has a place in our economic growth engine.  Absent the opportunity to add value, why would investors put their resources at risk.  Absent cooperation from the localities, market demanded projects (residential and commercial) will be financed and developed ‘by right’ making the well funded vision of localities comprehensive plans nothing but a mirage.

Samuelson’s piece concluded by projecting the influence a declining rate of economic growth has on society:

We should also remember the larger role played by the economy in shaping the nation’s political and social climate. Unless we are able to raise the rate of economic growth — a task whose inherent difficulty ought to be obvious by now — we face an increasingly contentious and politically strained future.

We can expect intensifying competition among Americans (the rich and the poor, the young and the old, cities and states, businesses and governments) for ever-larger shares of the nation’s slow-growing income. We’ll also miss the muffling effect that higher economic growth has on the nation’s other conflicts and grievances.

While I may differ regarding the verbiage “muffling effect”, the sentiment is clear; a community that has economic growth tends to be more cohesive, collaborative, congenial, and accepting.  The community that lacks such economic vitality tends to be more combative, restrictive and protectionist.

The question for our communities is do we want to spend resources fighting for “our” slice of the pie or should we work together to increase the size of the community pie?

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.

Photo Credit: housedems.ct.gov

Greene E911 – “A Failure To Communicate”

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

When the Greene County Board of Supervisors placed on their agenda “Matters from the public” for their February 13th meeting, they may not of anticipated the significant turnout. The Greene citizens responded with an overflow crowd at the County Administration building including two local television stations.

In this era of disrupting meetings, Greene citizens are to be commended as how they addressed the Supervisors – at the beginning of the meeting. The main issue brought up by over 20 speakers was concern about spending funds for a new E911 system when major expenditures for a dam and school expansion have been committed. The general understanding of those in attendance was that the E911 center was going to be moved at a significant cost and the former administrator was retained by the county and works in the County Administration building.

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 – just like Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke.

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After the public comment – Chairperson Michelle Flynn restated what was in the press release from the Board, no decision has been made to move the E911 center. And that the intent of tonight’s public comments is to gather information to provide a safe E911 program for the citizens of Greene County.

Vice Chairperson, Bill Martin, said that since he was Chairperson 18 months ago when the E911 system became an issue, he wanted to recap what has transpired. He began stressing that there is no “plot” and no decision has been made. The Board has two concerns related to E911 – safety of the citizens of Greene and providing a cost effective solution.

In 2012, the E911 system was consolidated with the Sheriff’s office to be cost effective. In August, 2016, Sheriff Steve Smith “terminated” the E911 Supervisor. However, this person is employed by Greene County, not the Sheriff and therefore she could not be terminated by the Sheriff. But, she was refused admittance to the E911 center (within the Sheriff’s office) even though she was never fired by the county. The Sheriff effectively prevented her from doing the core functions of her job.

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Sheriff Steve Smith

Supervisor Martin continued, stating that there were no negative comments in her personnel file. She was provided office space in the County Administration building and fulfilled the rest of the duties assigned to her.

Sheriff Smith then requested $77,000 additional funding to the budget to fund the hiring of a replacement. This request was denied by the Board. Smith then filed a lawsuit against the county.

Pat Fitzgerald’s article in the February 7th Greene County Record picks up the story:

In October, a judge ruled in favor of the county.

“That case is still pending even though the county says otherwise,” Smith stated last Friday.

The county’s news release issued that week, however, stated: “On December 19, the County Administrator, with the full support of the Board of Supervisors, sent a memo again clarifying that the county-owned E911 center is under the management and direction of the county Emergency Services Coordinator. The notification did not suggest a separation or relocation of any E911 dispatch services and, in fact, the Board maintains that it changed nothing about the structure.

“The Sheriff continues to maintain the fully trained and qualified Emergency Services Coordinator will not be permitted in the county E911 dispatch center to provide management supervision,” the county stated. “He also asserts that the Sheriff must have full authority to determine who enters and is employed in the county-owned dispatch center because it is located in the same building the county provides for the Sheriff’s department….

Smith, however, said Friday “the statement that was put out by Chairman Michelle Flynn is inflammatory and mostly untrue.”

Martin requested that we get all of the stakeholders at the table and find a solution that provides a safe county at no additional cost.

In the end, it was agreed that a meeting with all the stakeholders, including Flynn, Board liaison Supervisor David Cox, Smith, the three fire chiefs in the county and the rescue squad be held. Sheriff Smith stated that his lawsuit would be dropped if an agreement could be reached.

Obviously personnel matters are confidential but many in the community hope that this power struggle between the Supervisors and the Sheriff can be resolved.  Some have suggested the following:

1) The Supervisors would review the information that Sheriff Smith used to justify the termination of the E911 supervisor

2) If the Supervisors agreed with the data then the employee should be terminated and a new employee hired to work at the Sheriff’s Office

3) If the Supervisors disagreed that the employee should be fired then they should try to work out a solution with Sheriff Smith to have the supervisor return to work at the Sheriff’s office

4) If an agreement cannot be reached, either: the employee should be reassigned to other duties outside of the Sheriff’s office and a new E911 supervisor be hired or a new independent E911 center should be created outside of the Sheriff’s office.

5) The Sheriff and the fire chiefs need to discuss the several instances where the E911 response dispatched did not follow accepted procedures.  Both parties must agree to a response protocol that protects citizens.

6) If such an agreement can not be reached, E911 must be removed from the Sheriff’s office and an independent E911 facility must be established outside the Sheriff’s office building.

Any needed changes need to happen quickly as an effective and efficient E911 system is critical the the health and safety of Greene County citizens.

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

Greene Supervisors Decline US 29 Residential Rezone

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Significant public policy issues including affordable housing, economic development and commercial capacity were all part of Tuesday night’s Greene County Board of Supervisors’ rezoning public hearing. A standing room only crowd as well as several media outlets were on hand to hear an unsuccessful rezoning request and, then if rezoing were approved, a request for a Special Use Permit.

Back in December the Greene County Planning Commission voted 4-1 (Morris opposed) to recommend approval of the Mark-Dana Corporation request to rezone of a tract of 8 acres in Ruckersville from B-2, Business to R-2 , Residential.  The current owners of the property are John and Wanda Melone of the Melone Family Trust who plan on selling the property to the Mark-Dana Corporation to be developed.

Greene County Planner Stephanie Golon presented the rezoning application identifying the property as just south of the Blue Ridge Café and the Ruckersville Antiques Gallery on Route 29 South. The 8 acres requesting to be rezoned sits to the west of 7 acres (farther away from Route 29), both parcels owned by the Melone Family Trust.

Golon mentioned that the parcel is located at the south end of the area identified as mixed use in the Comprehensive Plan. The feedback from the departments in Greene County did not have any concerns other than the school system – Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh responded that the Ruckersville Elementary School was at capacity already and the addition of 105 apartments would add to the overcrowding.

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Andrea Whitmarsh

Projected residential growth of the county is expected and is part of the schools justification for expanding the school system. However, the development could generate up to $1.2 million in tap fees to access the public water system.

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David Koogler

Next David Koogler, chairman of the Mark-Dana Corporation,  gave the Supervisors some background of his company. His mother, father and Sister – Dana – operate the company that was started in the 1980’s when President Reagan signed low income housing into law. They have done similar projects in Virginia and Texas and they live in Grottoes, VA.

Jack Melone, one of the owners of the property, then addressed the Board. He explained that the parcel was originally zoned Agricultural, the front part then was rezoned to B-2 and later the county changed all of the zoning to B-2.  Melone stated that this rezone to B-2 has brought about a significant tax increase for him and his family.

The hearing then was open to the public with 12 people commenting and all but two asked that the Supervisors decline the rezoning with the major reason being that it would be take away from business property along Route 29. However, Simon Fiscus Director of Skyline CAP spoke in favor of the project as a way to provide more low income housing for the county.

Several of those opposed to the project agreed that low income housing in Greene County is needed, but not in this location – a prime business location. Others opposed the rezone since the county has already signed up for large expenditures for a water supply and school expansion. The consensus was that adding more people would aggravate both of these issues.

The other issue made by Bill Gentry a realtor with Jefferson Land & Realty in Madison in favor of the rezone was that commercial development looks at rooftops to determine if there is enough demand to support their business. He cited the Lamb property that has set vacant for decades and other parcels that have similar situations. The rezone and the proposed development would help attract more development.

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Bill Gentry

The meeting then shifted to a discussion amongst the Board members. Supervisor Bill Martin asked Golon if the access to the parcel being considered would be through the frontage rather than by some connector in the rear. Golon indicated it is planned to access through the front of the property. Martin further stated that he supports affordable housing and Greene County needs it. However, this property is better suited as B-2, Business.

Supervisor Dale Herring agreed that the property should stay B-2 and that in the long run – 20 to 30 years – the property will better serve the county as currently zoned. Greene needs affordable house, but somewhere else.

Supervisor David Cox brought up another issue that he is not in favor of split zoning and that this would go against developing a business district. The Supervisors unanimously agreed to not approve the zoning request.

At this point Chairperson Michelle Flynn asked Koogler if he wanted to pursue the Special Use Permit.  Koogler said no but he asked to address the Board. He stated that this is the third parcel he has brought before the Supervisors in Greene and all have been disapproved. He stated that his company’s projects do attract businesses. His final request was – would the county please point him to a parcel that would meet the approval of the Supervisors so that his company can bring affordable housing to Greene County

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Alan Yost

Hopefully Greene County can have Economic Development Director Alan Yost and the EDA help identify a viable parcel for this development. As for the specific parcel of Melone, he has previously stated that the tax burden of the property is not sustainable for him. While the county may want commercial development on the parcel – Melone he has tried for years to develop it with business developers, unsuccessfully – he may have to find another way to dispose of the property.

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