Tag Archives: cash proffers

Albemarle as Princess Elsa

By. Neil Williamson, President

frozen_elsa-wideJust as in the 2013 Disney smash movie, last night the Albemarle Supervisors in a couple of split votes  have effectively “Frozen” new residential development.

The end result will, in due course, significantly increase housing costs and pressure on the rural area and by right projects.  Chasing the elusive cash proffer, Albemarle may lose the intent of its  community vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. And all of this could have been avoided.

Please let me explain.

All of this is in response to a new state law (effective July 1, 2016) that was created to make proffers better reflect the specific impacts of a proposed residential development.  The goal of the legislation is to make cash proffers fair.

Unlike the 2013 state proffer reform that Albemarle County adroitly avoided via years of Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) meetings (18) followed by no action, the 2016 law put Albemarle into a flurry of activity ending with the repeal of their cash proffer policy but not the elimination of cash proffers.

It is becoming clear this strategic repeal of the soon to be illegal proffer policy was designed and timed not to facilitate new development but instead to provide Albemarle questionable legal leverage to reject cash proffer amendments filed prior to July.

As a result of this legal slight of hand, Albemarle seems to be eager to delay or deny any application that might set precedent due to any  cash proffers.

Further there are indications that Albemarle will seek to impose new higher fees to capture the staff time required to assess and calculate the exacting amount of financial impact of a development on the four permitted areas: education, transportation, public safety and parks.

This untimely chill on new residential development comes the same day as the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) market report (pdf) is released indicating:

Inventories are now one-third lower than the peak levels of 2010, when there were 2,812 active listings at mid-year and home prices were still searching for a bottom. At that point, there were 13.1 months of supply in the region and prices still had a few years left before bottoming out. Currently, the 1,836 active listings represent 7.3 months of supply given the average sales pace of the last twelve months. Still a buyer’s market, but trending towards balance compared to the 9.4 months of supply available last year.

If inventory is tightening and the supply of new homes is being “frozen” what does market economics predict regarding future housing affordability?

Absent proactive rezoning, such dramatically increasing development fees and dubious prospects for future rezonings will force many developers to either develop using stale zoning with in the development areas or build in the rural areas.

As we stated in our 2013 White Paper – Contradictory Consequences(pdf):

In addition cash proffers are an unreliable way to fund infrastructure spending.  Forecasting cash proffer revenue is much like predicting snow in Central Virginia, localities do not know when it is coming, how much they are actually going to get or when it will stop. Cash proffers rarely, if ever, total the amounts localities are banking on.

Based on this research, we believe local governments are starting to recognize the negative impacts of cash proffers. Localities are finding that just because the state legislature may empower the ability to collect cash proffers in may not be in the localities best interest to collect them.

The elimination of cash proffers will promote better community design and encourage new home construction invigorating the economic vitality of all localities

Cash proffers have produced a plethora of Contradictory Consequences without achieving significant benefit. Now is the time to repeal this rezoning ransom.

Albemarle is not alone reprising the role of Princess Elsa in this sad, cold, housing limiting  drama.  We have heard reports of similar “Freeze Everything” response to the new proffer reform from local governments across the Commonwealth.

While there are undoubtedly some who welcome this result, the Free Enterprise Forum believes that in time, just as in the movie, someone will come along and fix this problem, likely via a lawsuit forcing the Supervisors to do what they should have done with cash proffers in the first place:

Image result for let it go frozen

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 Credits: Disney, memecrunch.com

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WarGames and Albemarle’s Proffer Paradox

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL  (adapted from Comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission May 24)

By. Neil Williamson, President

war-games1Tonight, you will be hearing from newly appointed County Attorney Greg Kamptner regarding the Virginia State Code changes and how this will impact your ability to calculate, collect and legally defend the use of so called “voluntary” proffers in the future.

The entire exercise reminds me  of the penultimate scene in the 1983 move WarGames (more on that later).

To be clear, despite being on your agenda, the Free Enterprise Forum does not believe this issue is within your areas of expertise and we believe you are being used by the Board of Supervisors for political cover.

The Free Enterprise Forum has long contended that cash proffers are nothing more than a “Welcome  Stranger Tax” that provides an unreliable and relatively insignificant revenue source for infrastructure capacity improvement.  While we actively supported the new legislation, we continue to believe the elimination of cash proffers is good public policy and good fiscal policy.

Katherine Hafner of The Virginian-Pilot has a good wrap up of the new legislation which goes into effect July 1st.

Introduced by Sens. Mark Obenshain, R- Harrisonburg, and Richard Saslaw, D- Fairfax County, the legislation prohibits localities from asking for proffers deemed “unreasonable” or not directly related to the impacts of a development itself.

The state proffer system, enacted in the mid-1970s, started with modest goals, allowing landowners to chip in for road improvements and the like when new homes appeared likely to strain city services.

The system has evolved into a form of taxation on the industry and new homeowners, said Mike Toalson, CEO of the Homebuilders Association of Virginia.

“The bill was brought forward to rebalance it back to a system that would make it more fair,” said Toalson, who worked with legislators.

The law stipulates that developers should offer money or improvements only for impacts “specifically attributable” to their projects.

The proffers are also now restricted to core public facilities such as schools or sewer systems. Toalson said his association saw some cities extract money from developers for unrelated, offsite enterprises such as retirement homes.

“We’re not going to be the bank anymore for whatever you might want within your capital improvements program,” he said.

As you can see from your Capital Improvement Plan Public Hearing this evening,  Albemarle County has failed to maintain the concurrence of infrastructure needed to support its existing population.  This failure is not the result of newly rezoned property but is in fact due to a lack of a political will to spend the money required to enact the vision stated in your much vaunted Comprehensive Plan.

Despite having no budgetary control, this Planning Commission has often raised concerns regarding the amount of work being placed on limited staff resources.  Mr. Lafferty, in particular, has raised this issue in many of your discussions.

Reading the new proffer legislation, we believe it would be irresponsible for Albemarle staff to move forward without a determination of the total staff cost associated with the calculation, collection and defense of the cash proffer policy for each and every rezoning.  The Proffer Paradox is that the likely revenue generated from a standard size rezoning in Albemarle County will be exceeded by the staff costs associated with obtaining the proffer.

WarGames-are we still playingThis is where WarGames comes in.

In the climactic scene, where a rouge computer is running all the models for thermonuclear war, as it is quickly decoding the numbers needed to launch the missiles – it determines that the only way to win is not to play – will Albemarle be smart enough to see this as the solution to their cash proffer policy? Or will the potentially empty proffer piggy bank be too alluring to refuse?

Stay Tuned.

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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: MGM

Albemarle PC Chooses to Ignore State Law, Again

By. Neil Williamson, President

go-to-jail-photo-credit-myanimelist.net_.jpgIn tonight’s (4/26) Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting the commissioners again voted that their opinion on Cash Proffers was more important than state law (and the staff opinion).  And this wasn’t even the first time this year that they made such a vote (Albemarle Planning Commission Tells Supervisors To Violate State Law)

Add to this “fun house of mirrors” that this very same Planning Commission voted 5 – 0 on a Resolution of Intent to consider amending the Comprehensive Plan by repealing the Cash Proffer Policy.  This issue will come to the Planning Commission as a public hearing on May 10th.

I’d like to be able to explain all of this — but I am at a loss.

As a reminder what is at stake is a reduction of cash proffer of ~$15,000 per single family home in rezoned residential housing.

Here is the justification the Planning Commission made to support their first arrogant state code violating vote in February:

By a vote of 7:0, the Planning Commission recommends denial of ZMA-2015-09 Spring Hill Village Proffer Amendment for the following reasons:

1. Some reduction in cash proffer amounts may be in order based on looking at the school enrollments and capacities; but, the Commission at this point does not know what the reduced amount would be.
2. The recommendation of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) of this reduced amount has not yet been fully analyzed by the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors; and, the additional information is still needed that was requested a number of weeks ago.
3. A full analysis should be conducted of the actual costs to the county of going forward with this development, and
4. The Board of Supervisors should set a new proffer policy, not use this project to set a precedent, and possibly consider repealing the current cash proffer policy while that is undertaken.

#2 is perhaps the most outlandish of these.  The proffer change was driven by a 2013 change in state code.  A full three years late Albemarle still has not obtained “the additional information still needed that was requested a number of weeks ago”?????  Based on this logic, the applicant is being punished because Albemarle County did not do their job.

In the meeting, the commissioners discussion started with school impacts and Commissioner Mac Lafferty again stated his belief that the action should go directly to the Board rather than the Planning Commission.  The Free Enterprise Forum agrees with Lafferty’s position.

Commissioner Bruce Dotson suggested the applicant, who is selling product at $600,000+, can afford the proffer.  The applicant indicated they can afford it but told the commission the previous proffer amount is now in violation of State law. The Free Enterprise Forum believes the fact that a project can afford it is not germane to the argument.

Tonight’s vote was unanimous 7-0 to recommend denial of the cash proffer amendment.

The repetitive arrogance of the Albemarle County Planning Commission to determine they are above the Code of Virginia is astounding.

Remembering the Planning Commission is merely advisory to the Board of Supervisors, the true question is will the current Board of Supervisors also choose to willfully violate state law?

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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.

“Missed It By That Much” – Albemarle Neuters A Good Idea

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

maxwellsmart_missed_it_by_that_much

It only took only ninety days to neuter a good idea.

Back on January 6th – in their very first meeting as a newly constituted board, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution of intent that promised to reform and streamline changes to rezoning applications.

The resolution was eminently clear:

WHEREAS, in order to improve the efficiency of applications that do not affect use or density, it may be desirable to amend the regulations in Albemarle County Code 18-33.4 and 18-35.1 pertaining to the application and procedural requirements as well as the fees for such rezonings.

The Free Enterprise Forum saw this as a huge step forward.

If there were adjustments to a rezoning that did not affect use or density a streamlined process could accelerate projects and in term foster positive economic development.  We believed that the state mandated revisions to cash proffers (both 2013 and 2016) clearly fell into this category.

This would mean their would be a fair and efficient manner to amend existing rezonings to fit current state law regarding cash proffers – that’s a good thing right?

Imagine our surprise when staff much more narrowly interpreted the Supervisors’ action and came out with a gauntlet of conditions to be applied to applicants seeking a simplified review:

To be consistent and objective in determining whether to grant a request that is eligible for a simplified application process, the Board will consider the following factors relevant to the proposed proffer amendment:

o Was the proffer as originally provided material to the approval of the original rezoning?

o Does the proposed proffer amendment have a potential impact on adjacent properties not anticipated with the original rezoning?

o Has development already occurred within the rezoned area for which current residents/businesses would have relied on the proffer or for which an amendment to the proffer would materially affect them?

o Is there a general public interest in the proffer as originally accepted that would be materially affected by the requested amendment?

Surely, by this ridiculously high standard, the staff must not think many applications would meet this standard?

Nope.

In public testimony to the Planning Commission, staff indicated they thought this might be used twice a year.  Specifically, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner stated Cash Proffer amendments would not be recommended by staff for the more efficient review.

As the only member of the public to speak on this issue at the Planning Commission last month, I was dumbfounded by staff’s limitations on what seemed like a really good idea.  Quite honestly, it is like building a car and leaving off the wheels.Car-Without-Wheels-013

Rather than streamlining the onerous and cumbersome rezoning amendment process, staff’s interpretation discourages use of the expedited review AND further encourages the use of the Planning Commission (and the Community Councils) as political cover for the Board of Supervisors.

Further, such a preponderance of public hearings on state mandated proffer amendments, creates a false citizen expectation as Albemarle is restricted by state law on their cash proffer calculation.  But the Planning Commission will hear from citizens that the rezonings, that are an actualization of the community vetted Comprehensive Plan, do not pay for themselves and should be rejected.

The Planning Commission, if past is prologue, will ignore the law and send an improper (and potentially illegal if acted upon) recommendation for denial to the Board of Supervisors. (See Spring Hill)

But all is not lost.

At the public hearing Wednesday night, the Board could see the error in the staff interpretation and request all proffer amendments regularly be sent directly for Board action?

This would certainly streamline getting to the Board but would not guarantee a decision.

Based on this Board’s proclivity for Planning Commission input (and political cover), the realist in me anticipates few if any amendments would be approved but would rather be referred back to the Planning Commission for their consideration – thus neutering the entire streamlining idea.  “Missed it by that much” as Maxwell smart used to say.

Perhaps making it easier to build in the development areas wasn’t such a good idea after all – of course by right rural area residential parcels have no such regulatory barriers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

—————————————————————————

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Kolzmen.kz, CBS Television Distributor

You Say You Want A Resolution

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from “other matters from the public” comments presented to the Albemarle County Planning Commission March 15, 2016

rezoning-ransom-oped-headline-daily-progress-3-march-20132.jpg

March 3, 2013 Editorial calling for the end of Cash Proffers

At the very end of last week’s Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting, with just two people in the audience, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner indicated he would be bringing you a resolution of intent to repeal Albemarle’s current cash proffer system (which will be illegal effective July 1, 2016) and to start the process of developing a cash proffer policy that adheres to the new state code.

While such an item did not appear on the online agenda available to the public, the Free Enterprise Forum offers an alternative resolution for your consideration, that I would like to read into the record.

RESOLUTION OF INTENT

WHEREAS, the Cash Proffer Policy for Public Facilities was adopted as part of the County’s Comprehensive Plan on October 10, 2007 so that all new rezoning that include residential development would pay for the equivalent of their full impact; and

WHEREAS, last Monday evening, March 7th Governor McAuliffe signed SB549 which invalidates Albemarle County’s fundamentally flawed fiscal methodology currently being used to calculate the Cash Proffer Policy for Public Facilities, and

WHEREAS, Cash Proffers are an unreliable, inappropriate ‘welcome stranger’ tax that encourages by right development in direct conflict with Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan, and

WHEREAS,  We, the Albemarle County Planning Commission, and the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee have wasted over eighteen months and failed to yet act on the General Assembly’s 2013 Cash Proffer reforms, and

WHEREAS,  the proffer discussion, while related to planning and development is best heard by the elected Board of Supervisors NOT the Planning Commission.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT for purposes of public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good planning practices, the Albemarle County Planning Commission hereby adopts and forwards a resolution of intent to ask the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to consider amending the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan as deemed necessary in order to achieve the purposes described herein; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Albemarle County Planning Commission asks the Board of Supervisors to expeditiously hold a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan amendment proposed by this resolution of intent and repeal cash proffers by July 1, 2016.

* * * * *

We ask that you do the unthinkable and tell the Board of Supervisors that you are not political cover nor are you to be used as a delaying tactic, ask the Supervisors to do their job and act on repealing cash proffers by July 1, 2016.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. The full Contradictory Consequences report can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Albemarle Planning Commission Tells Supervisors To Violate State Law

By. Neil Williamson, President

go to jail photo credit myanimelist.netIt is not everyday that an appointed body of government clearly, and unanimously, ignore both legal and planner recommendations and instead recommend a violation of the state code.  But that is exactly what happened last night (2/23) Planning Commission meeting in Albemarle County.

While we have been opposed to cash proffers since their inception, for the last eighteen months, the Free Enterprise Forum has been begging Albemarle to revise their current cash proffer policy because it was illegal.

Rather than following other localities and adjusting their cash profferrezoning-ransom-oped-headline-daily-progress-3-march-20132 policy after a 2013 change in state code required proffers only include projects that expand capacity, Albemarle Supervisors delegated to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) and the Planning Commission.  Now over two years later the illegal policy remains on the books.

On Groundhog Day 2016, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner publicly indicated that since the new law passed the County had not applied the illegal maximum amount proffer to anyone, they were not in violation.  In addition, the number was a maximum and should an applicant come forward the recommendations of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee would be used.  True to his word the staff report included very clear direction from the Albemarle County legal department:

In addition, application of the new amounts based on the current CIP and CNA is consistent with State law. Virginia Code § 15.2-2303 requires that proffers be “reasonable,” and reasonableness is evaluated on whether there is an “essential nexus” between the proffer and the impact it is intended to address, and whether the extent of the proffer is “roughly proportional” to the impact created. The cash proffer amounts recommended by FIAC, based on the current CIP and CNA, provide the best benchmark for reasonableness for a maximum cash proffer amount under the current Cash Proffer Policy. In addition, the new amount proffered is consistent with the current Cash Proffer Policy, which sets a maximum cash proffer amount that the Board will accept but does not identify a minimum amount.

When coupled with Albemarle County’s lack of capital spending over the last few years and the requirement that any proffer funds only apply for those projects that increase capacity, the resulting figures are significantly different than the current policy.  Again from the staff report:

At the time of the rezoning the applicant proffered cash proffers for the residential units in the following amounts:

$20,460.57 for each single family detached unit
$13,913.18 for each single family attached or townhouse unit

The applicant requests a change in the cash proffer amounts as follows:
$4,918.00 for each single family detached unit
$3,845.00 for each sing family attached or townhouse unit

In this morning’s Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs article accurately depicted the tenor of the meeting:

“In my seven years on the planning commission, we have never been asked to make an evaluation on a cash proffer,” said Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty.

Lafferty might have been quoting the Free Enterprise Forum blog  “Asking the Wrong People the Right Question

piggy-bankRather than focusing on the planning question many commissioners looked sadly at a smaller proffer piggy bank.  Other commissioners decided to focus on how the school system was spending their budget.  Mission Creeping topics of the value of using trailers (AKA “Learning Cottages”),  and student population trends were discussed.

Amazingly, one commissioner publicly suggested the applicant should have engaged in proffer “horse trading” prior to the public hearing.  Tubbs reported other possible demands of commissioners:

“One of the issues we’ve been woefully behind in our area are basic pedestrian infrastructure,” said Commissioner Pam Reilly, adding that Cetta might be persuaded to build a sidewalk to Cale Elementary School.

The arrogance of the Albemarle County Planning Commission to determine they are above the Code of Virginia is astounding.

Remembering the Planning Commission is merely advisory to the Board of Supervisors, the true question is will the current Board of Supervisors also choose to willfully violate state law?

Only time will tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, myanimelist.net, 

Albemarle PC – “I Got You Babe”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Groundhog Day PosterWhile being nowhere near as funny (or good looking) as Actor Bill Murray, I must say that thanks to cash proffer inaction by  Albemarle County, I can closely identify with one of his more famous roles.

Please let me explain.

In the seminal 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s weatherman character, Phil Connors, wakes up every day in the same small Pennsylvania hotel to the same song by Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”.

Regardless of what occurs the day that follow – literally no matter what he does,  every morning is the same — Murray is magically transported back to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and the alarm clock’s warning on Groundhog Day.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In January 2013, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned the Contradictory Consequences study that showed how cash proffers were causing residential projects to move forward by right rather than rezoning along the lines of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked us to present the paper to the Board in May.  Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In 2014, the Virginia passed a law that restricted localities to only murray groundhoginclude infrastructure projects that increased capacity in their cash proffer calculations.  Surely this will prompt significant action in Albemarle.  In September, the Supervisors sent the issue to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

A full year, and 18 meetings, later (September 2015) the Committee forwarded their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Over the Fall and early winter, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke in six different public meetings in the following three months admonishing Albemarle to make the changes demanded by state code.

For months, there was no action.  But then in November, a glimmer of light, the Chair of the BOS told me it would be on their December agenda.

It was on the December BOS agenda, as an information item that the FIAC report was being sent to the Planning Commission for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Last week, the Planning Commission (with several new members) took up the issue and decided [despite having a subcommittee study it for 18 meetings] they did not have enough information to make a decision and that since the General Assembly is considering additional proffer reform this session, maybe they should just wait.  In the meantime, let’s work on our Fantasy Island CIP. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

So tonight, just as Phil Connors gave his forecast every morning,  the Free Enterprise Forum will again ask Albemarle County to follow state law and reform their “voluntary cash proffer policy”.  I am pretty sure I know what their redundant response will be.groundhog day 1993

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of the same old song out of Albemarle.

But just like Phil Connors, I don’t know when it will possibly get better.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, Columbia Pictures

Asking the Wrong People the Right Question

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

What if during the climatic western movie scene, the stable boy, who knows the location of the gang’s hideout, went to the grocery clerk rather than getting word to the Lone Ranger?

This is exactly what Albemarle County is doing on Tuesday night.

Please let me explain.

On September 3, 2014, Albemarle BOS directed their appointed bodies to evaluate and come up with a recommendation to address changes in state code regarding cash proffers.

The Board of Supervisors requests that the Albemarle County Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee provide advice and recommendations to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors on revisions to the credit provisions and the per unit cash proffer amounts of the Cash Proffer Policy…Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

To be fair, the members of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee did their work as effectively as they could despite what the Free Enterprise Forum sees as staff driven delays.  After the FIAC report was issued, staff continued to drag their feet.

For the last four months, the Free Enterprise Forum has regularly highlighted Albemarle County’s Cash Proffer Policy is in direct violation of State law.  County Attorney, Larry Davis, disagrees indicating that Albemarle has not had a rezoning come before it since the change in state law and if such a rezoning application did come before the Board, legal staff would inform them of the impact of the change in state law on the cash proffer amount.

With all due respect Mr. Davis, might the $20,000+ cash proffer amount per unit be a reason Albemarle has not seen more rezonings coming forward?

The results of the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (which included a member of the Planning Commission) should have been sent directly to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for immediate action.

While we believe cash proffers should be eliminated entirely, the proposal from the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee helps put some reasonable, rational, (and legally mandated) conditions on the calculation of Albemarle Illegal Cash Proffer Gravy Train.

Whether the Planning Commission, who in the role of the Western Grocery Clerk, is ill equipped to process this request, will send this recommendation forward to the Board of Supervisors  is yet to be seen.

We hope the hero shows up soon, to bring Albemarle in line with the law.

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, maryrobertsonwriter.blogspot.com tomsoter.com

Albemarle’s Persistent Proffer Procrastination

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from “Comments from the Public” December 9, 2015

While I would like to simply join in the holiday chorus of speakers thanking Supervisors Ken Boyd and Jane Dittmar for their service to the community, I must use my three minutes this evening to again request that the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors do their elected duty and follow state code to modify their cash proffer policy in accordance with state law changes enacted in 2014.

When I raised this issue in November, I was told by one Supervisor “Don’t worry staff assures me this will be on our  December agenda”.  Pardon me for feeling like Charlie Brown as Lucy pulls the football away because yes it is on your agenda tonight, as an informational item indicating the Planning Commission may hold public hearing in the 1st quarter of 2016.

Last week when I said Albemarle County’s current cash proffer policy was operating in violation of state code, County Attorney Larry Davis told the Board of Supervisors it was not.

I am not an attorney but I understand the spirit of the General Assembly’s action TWO YEARS AGO:

Virginia Code 15.2-2303.2: Proffered cash payments and expenditures D. Notwithstanding any provision of this section or any other provision of law, general or special, no cash payment proffered pursuant to § 15.2-2298, 15.2-2303, or 15.2-2303.1 shall be used for any capital improvement to an existing facility, such as a renovation or technology upgrade, that does not expand the capacity of such facility or for any operating expense of any existing facility such as ordinary maintenance or repair.

Following the passage of this code change the Board of Supervisors charged a select group of community leaders known as the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee to meet and adjust the calculation.  In September, they presented their results.

Building Type Current Proposed
Single Family Detached $20,987 $4,918
Single Family Attached $14,271 $3,845
Multifamily $14,871 $5,262

The reality is the County’s current cash proffer policy calculation includes renovations and technological upgrades and thus does NOT agree with State Law.

According to tonight’s informational staff report rather than immediately fixing this egregious error that overcharges cash proffers by 426% than allowed by law, staff has again and again deferred and delayed action on this proposal for the financial gain of the County.

I hope the new Board of Supervisors will stop this “Rope-a-dope” of delays and deferments and legalisms and instead demand staff act on the spirit of the State Code changes.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak, thank you for your service and Happy Holidays.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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: Charles Schultz, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Albemarle’s ‘Welcome Stranger’ Tax May Be Slashed by 75%

By. Neil Williamson, President

luther ingramSomehow, I hear Luther Ingram’s  “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” as I read through the detailed reporting on the  current discussion of cash proffers.

While State law changes and a lack of locality infrastructure expenditures have combined to generate a new cash proffer number that is 75% lower than the current amounts, Albemarle supervisors are still entranced by cash proffers as the latest report indicates they have received promises of nearly $50 million dollars.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Please let me explain.

Albemarle County’s Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FAIC) has issued their advice regarding the County’s cash proffer policy.

To review, according to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development:

A cash proffer is (a)any money voluntarily proffered in a writing signed by the owner of property subject to rezoning, submitted as part of a rezoning application and accepted by a locality pursuant to the authority granted by Va. Code Ann. Section 15.2-2303 or Section 15.2-2298, or (b) any payment of money made pursuant to a development agreement entered into under authority granted by Va. Code Ann. Section 15.2-2303.1.

Theoretically, cash proffers are designed to offset the infrastructure cost of new development.  The reality is that these “voluntary” sums are required to gain approval of residential rezonings.

It is important to note the cash proffer amount does not include the infrastructure cost (AKA Hook-up fees) for Albemarle County Service Authority.  Those are a separate line item totaling about $20,000 per Single Family Detached unit.

Until recently, localities had the ability to include maintenance items in their Capital Improvement Program as a part of the proffer calculation absent any true connection to new development.  Albemarle had considered many inappropriate capital items as a part of their cash proffer calculation.  The most egregious of these (that we know about) was three years ago when a technology upgrade was included.  At the time we stated our belief that new residential development did not generate the need for the technology upgrade.  Recently, Richmond tightened the rules regarding proffer calculation.

The staff report outlining the new methodology references the change in state code:

Note that the proffer amounts calculated in this memorandum reflect the net costs generated by growth-related capital projects in the following categories: Public safety facilities, park facilities, libraries, schools, and transportation projects. Note also, that, under current Virginia law, costs associated with maintenance and replacement capital projects cannot be included in the calculation.

In their memo to the Board of Supervisors the FAIC outlined the changes to the proffer calculations:

Under the revised provisions of the Code of Virginia only those items which expand capacity may be considered. The CIP and CNA has also been reduced to be essentially a maintenance program with limited capacity expansion. Moreover, the Committee finds that under the current proffer model, as the County’s capital budgets grow, so too do the dollar values of the proffer amounts per unit.
The committee found that the new calculated amounts were:

Single Family Detached (SFD): $4,918
Single Family Attached/Townhouse (SFA/TH): $3,845
Multifamily (MF): $5,262

For context, the 2014 “voluntary” cash proffer amounts were:

Single Family Detached (SFD): $20,987
Single Family Attached/Townhouse (SFA/TH): $14,271
Multifamily (MF): $14,871

Interestingly, buried in the staff memo is a different set of numbers based on the concept that only the FY 15- FY 19 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) should be used rather than the CIP plus the Capital Needs Assessment.  That calculation results:

Single Family Detached (SFD): $487
Single Family Attached/Townhouse (SFA/TH): $1,477
Multifamily (MF): $2,144

To most accurately reflect Albemarle County’s Capital expenditures, the cash proffer amount would not need to be $20,987 (the current amount) nor $4,918 but a mere $487 per Single Family Detached Unit.  

The Free Enterprise Forum has consistently called for the elimination of the ‘Welcome Stranger’  tax.  We agree that at these lower rates some of the concerns we raised in our 2013 White Paper Contradictory Consequences may be avoided.

However, even as these “voluntary cash contributions” may be reduced still find them to be an ineffective, unreliable revenue source with significant negative impacts.  Yes, capital programs must be funded but they should be funded by the entire community not just the new residential home buyer.

Again, we call on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to eliminate the ‘Welcome Stranger’ Tax.

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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