Tag Archives: Business Assistance

US29 Business Assistance – What Are You Willing To Do?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, July 1, 2015

Good Afternoon. My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government.

I understand you received an e-mail from my associate, Tim Hulbert of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tim can’t be here for public comment due to a previously scheduled medical appointment but does hope to join you later this afternoon when you are discussing the US29 Business survival program.

In a blog post yesterday, I highlighted the many expressions of support this board has provided to potentially impacted businesses throughout the Route 29 Solutions approval process.

According to the approved minutes of the May 27th 2014 meeting:

Ms. [Diantha] McKeel commented that it’s the intent of this Board to make the businesses as strong as possible during this period of construction

I am a big Sean Connery fan. Considering his many memorable roles, it is hard to believe he  only won a single Academy Award. He won as Best Supporting Actor for his role as veteran patrolman Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables.

sean-connery-as-jim-malone-in-the-untouchablesIn one of the best scenes in the movie, Malone confronts Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner and asks, “ You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Ness replies: “Anything within the law.”

Considering the broad support this board has indicated it would provide to the businesses impacted by the construction of the Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange and the modest plan your professional staff has created to mitigate some of the business interruption, I have just one question.

What are you willing to do?

Your answer will speak volumes.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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

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“Nero” – Albemarle’s US29 Business Assistance Program Delayed

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

nero-plays-while-rome-burns-w450A popular (and generally debunked) legend has it that the Roman Emperor Nero played the fiddle during the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. This story has given rise to the idiom “fiddling while Rome burns”, which means to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.

Given the different rates of production between the public and private sectors, this idiom may be appropriate in the Albemarle County’s laborious discussion of potential business assistance for those impacted by the Route 29 Solutions.

In yesterday’s (4/30) Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP) meeting, Lane-Corman, the contractor for the projects indicated currently they are on schedule and will meet or beat all the deadlines in the project timeline.

In a previous meeting, Lane-Corman indicated that their target completion date for the first project, the Rio/US29 Grade Separated Interchange is August 5, 2016.  This date is an important milestone in the “No-Excuses” incentive portion of the project contract:

The Design-Builder will receive a “no excuses” incentive payment in the amount of Eight Million Dollars ($8,000,000) if the Milestone One Completion Work is completed on June 29, 2016. For every day after June 29, 2016 the Design-Builder takes to complete the Milestone One Completion Work, the incentive will decrease at a daily rate of Thirty One Thousand Six Hundred Forty three Dollars ($31,643) until August 5, 2016 when the “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work will be Six Million Eight Hundred Twenty Nine Thousand Two Hundred Nine Dollars ($6,829,209).

The Design-Builder will receive a “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work in the amount of One Million Eight Hundred Fifty Four Thousand Three Hundred Sixty One Dollars ($1,854,361) if the Milestone One Completion Work is completed on August 6, 2016. For every day after August 6, 2016 the Design-Builder takes to complete the Milestone One Completion Work, the incentive will decrease at a daily rate of Thirty One Thousand Six Hundred Forty Three Dollars ($31,643) until September 2, 2016 when the “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work will be One Million Dollars ($1,000,000).

US29 solutions Incentives

While the financial incentives seem to be keeping the private sector moving ahead of the agreed upon schedule, the same can not be said for the public sector.  As a part of the PDAP meeting, Albemarle County’s Community Development Director Mark Graham revealed that the county’s long anticipated Business Assistance Program that was scheduled for discussion at the Board of Supervisors in May has been delayed and now will not be on their agenda until June.  Graham cited the desire for increase business engagement as the rationale for the delay.

The Free Enterprise Forum has advocated for the business assistance program to include a relaxation of sign regulations to increase the visibility of businesses impacted by construction [US 29 Business Assistance – The Least Albemarle Can Do].

In the April 16th meeting, PDAP Moderator Philip Shucet clearly indicated that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) policy does not govern business signs on private property.

rio corners signage draft

CORNER DESTINATION SIGNS- DRAFT

VDOT is appropriately focused on those things it can control in its right of way.  One may have differing opinions of the signage (or place names) currently under consideration but at least they are moving forward.

Albemarle County has been discussing their business assistance program for over a year and now enterprises will have to wait another month to see what, if anything, the County will be willing to do to help them survive the construction and post construction period.

In the time the County has been discussing this program the private sector has responded to the request for bids, had bids awarded, been given the notice to proceed and these transportation  projects are underway.

Considering the significant contact over the fifteen months between county officials and businesses and the speed of the construction projects – the Free Enterprise Forum finds this latest delay, to “better engage the business community”, difficult to swallow.

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 Credits: sodahead.com, VDOT

US 29 Business Assistance – The Least Albemarle Can Do

By Neil Williamson, President

question-signLast night (4/7/2015)  the Albemarle County Planning Commission considered and approved changes to the temporary sign ordinance allowing 10 signs that will be removed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for the easements and construction of the US29/Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange.

Prior to their action the Free Enterprise Forum spoke as a part of the public hearing:

Tonight you have before you common sense regulatory relief for the 12 businesses that will lose their permanent signage during the utility relocation and construction of the Rio US29 Grade Separated Interchange.  This regulation will allow these businesses to erect temporary signage for the duration of the construction period.

Our long standing opposition to this project is well recorded. I continue to believe the costs far outweigh any limited benefits and it sets the stage for the eventual Albemarle Expressway that will decimate this important business corridor. Yes, the lost signage is just one of the ways many businesses will be impacted by the Rio GSI.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has already started discussions with business owners about just compensation for the signs scheduled to be removed.

Removal of these signs could start in just a few weeks’ time. We applaud staff for moving this up the agenda to assist the impacted business. We believe not only is this regulation change commonsensical – it is clearly the least you can do.

We look forward the staff promised phase two and phase three  of the signage review. It is our hope that businesses that have restricted visibility or limited access gain increased signage by right for the construction period and the six months after. Further, we ask that you use this opportunity to set up a provision in code that helps businesses during such road construction regardless of location.

The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to approve the zoning ordinance before you and move it forward to the Board of Supervisors with all deliberate speed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

While the Planning Commission acknowledged that Joes Diner arrowthere would be a lack of visibility for businesses during and after construction, staff made clear their position in opposition to any additional signage in this area.  Staff believes that VDOT’s proposed way finding signs will be more than adequate.

This temporary sign ordinance is really setting the tone for Albemarle’s Least You Can Do “Business Assistance Program”.

Here are the not so lofty goals of Albemarle’s “Business Assistance Program”:

Goals of the Program
 Provide accurate and complete information in advance to help businesses plan for the construction period
 Provide resource expertise to support affected businesses
 Create a rapid response communication network during construction that identifies critical business issues and responds to needs of businesses
 Ensure fair and equitable assistance for all qualifying businesses
 Leverage opportunities for partnership – take advantage of ideas, services and relationships that partners can offer to help businesses manage the challenges of construction
 Actively engage construction contractor to positively affect business outreach and support

This is significantly lower bar than was discussed when the projects were first proposed.  Clearly as the momentum for project construction increases the likelihood of significant resources being allocated to  businesses assistance has been reduced or eliminated.

Speaking last night of concerns regarding equity across the entire county, the Albemarle Deputy County Attorney minimized efforts to promote the construction challenged businesses via county communication tools.

Yes, Albemarle has a business assistance program for those impacted by the Route29 solutions projects – it is the least they can do.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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 Credits: VDOT, http://quovadisblog.com