Tag Archives: CIP

Greene PC Forwards Capital Improvement Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At their December 21st meeting, the Greene County Planning Commission endorsed (4-1) the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and sent it on for consideration by the Board of Supervisors for their first January 2017 meeting.

The required Public Hearing was held at the November Planning Commission meeting. Chairman Jay Willer prepared a memo to go with the CIP when it is presented to the Board of Supervisors. This memo stressed the importance of two projects – the water and sewer project and the school expansion project – both have been vetted by outside consulting firms.

Unfortunately, the timing of the passing of the CIP to the Supervisors is too late to benefit the upcoming budget cycle which has already started. The proper timing would be to have completed the CIP in the fall to be able to use the results to help project the expense budget of the county. Hopefully this template can be used at the beginning of the next budget cycle as the document is intended.

clip_image002Willer expressed satisfaction with the format of the CIP and stated that it is a major step going forward. The only change to his current memo would be to stress the priority of the water and sewer project and school project should take priority.

 

With a vote of 4-1 – Commissioner Frank Morris voting no – the Planning Commission endorsed the plan agreed to forward to the Board of Supervisors for their action.

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

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Greene Discusses Capital Improvement Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The chairman of the Greene County Planning Commission, Jay Willer, has been charged by the Board of Supervisors with updating and improving the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process . At the first Board of Supervisor’s meeting in March he provided an update and asked for direction from the Supervisors.

Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Planning Director  started the presentation stating that the current CIP process is cumbersome and it is a “wish list”. The goal of Willer’s refinement is to fine tune the process to sort true capital expenditures vs. maintenance items.

Willer then addressed the Board of Supervisors stating that the current CIP is not a “pretty” document and it is a “pile of paper that doesn’t make much sense” that up until now Supervisors would see the millions of dollars needed and say – “Oh my God” and move on. Over the years many citizens have indicated this is not a way to plan for the future.

Willer stepped the Supervisors through the CIP’s latest draft.

 

Annual Totals by Function: FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 Total
Gross totals $10,535,805 $10,520,394 $11,855,523 $58,264,973 $67,631,638 $158,808,333
Federal / State Required $68,836 $5,000 $0 $0 $0 $73,836
Maintenance of Existing Capital Assets $583,000 $312,400 $277,400 $447,400 $25,000 $1,645,200
Replacement of Existing Capital Assets $6,272,753 $4,240,000 $4,615,000 $2,420,000 $0 $17,547,753
Upgrade of Existing Capital Assets $136,000 $380,000 $1,420,000 $9,515,000 $12,000,000 $23,451,000
Improvement of Existing Capital Assets $207,453 $261,815 $328,123 $539,773 $16,101,323 $17,438,487
New Capital Projects $3,267,763 $5,321,179 $5,215,000 $45,342,800 $39,505,315 $98,652,057

The first grouping of the projects is sorted by function, six in all. The first grouping is projects that either the federal or state government requires. The rest of the categories go from maintenance projects progressively to new capital projects. Maintenance vs. replacement projects go together in that maintaining an asset may preclude or delay the replacement of an asset, such as, fix the leaky roof or replace it later if it is not maintained. Upgrading, improving and new equipment are categories that are either volume driven or a new approach to solving a problem.

The second chart identifies how the projects above can be funded. The majority of funds come out of the General Fund. The other four categories are a variety of different sources of funds from outside the county.

Annual Totals by Source of Funds:  FY15  FY16  FY17 FY18  FY19  TOTAL
Gross totals $10,535,805 $10,520,394 $11,855,523 $58,264,973 $67,631,638 $158,808,333
General Fund $10,328,352 $8,237,181 $11,497,400 $49,627,400 $12,275,000 $91,965,333
Proffers / Grants $0 $21,398 $30,000 $8,097,800 $255,315 $8,404,513
Rustic Rural $0 $0 $0 $0 $960,000 $960,000
VRA $0 $2,000,000 $0 $0 $39,000,000 $41,000,000
6 Year Plan $207,453 $261,815 $328,123 $539,773 $15,141,323 $16,478,487

The rest of the draft showed the detail of all projects sorted by departments within the county.  Willer used the analogy that his former boss used which was “kill the closest snakes” – meaning what needs to be done first. He also wanted the Board to be clear that the document they had in front of them was not a CIP, some of the projects are 1 to 2 years old and some have been completed. The question is – is the format ok?

In addition to the CIP format that has been drafted, forms have been developed to input each project with significantly more data being required instead of just what and when. Also, determining who will decide what to cull out of the submissions needs to be determined.

Willer hoped that part of the benefit of the new CIP formatting would be helping the county group like expenditures – such as packs for all the fire departments – in order to combine the purchase and leverage the buying power of the county and driving the cost per unit down and thereby saving the county money. However, the timing is too late for this CIP format to be used in the 2016/2017 budget cycle.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) thanked Willer for the work to date and liked the format of the draft and believes it will be easier for department heads to understand the process. Willer encouraged the Board to provide “small victories” in approving some projects so that departments will have some credibility in the process.

Vice-Chairman, Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) hoped that the forms could be distributed and submitted electronically. Willer answered that the draft is a hardcopy but can be converted in the future.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) asked what the time frame is for this process? Willer replied that the Board sets the time frame but assumes that it would be needed early in the budget process so that the impact of any expense items can be realized as well as the capital required by the county’s departments. In addition, projects in some cases need to be identified in a county’s CIP in order to qualify for grants. The real question is – when will County Administrator John Barkley want the data in order to feed the budget process.

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Greene County Administrator, John Barkley

Supervisor Chairman Bill Martin (Standardsville) asked Barkley if he had any comments and he stated it is incumbent of staff to lead this process and the goal is to get this ready by the end of the summer to use in the next budget cycle. Being able to see the data sorted as presented is very helpful even though it won’t help with the new budget but it is a step in the right direction.

Willer suggested that the Supervisors keep the CIP in mind as they go through the budget process as they may find needs that can be incorporated in next year’s budget process. Martin asked Willer if he would prepare a one page guide of key questions/actions and dates, including who is to maintain and decide the process, the transmission of the data to the Administrator and finally to the Board.  Willer agreed to prepare this document.

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

Fluvanna’s Bare Bones Base Budget

By. Brian Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Fluvanna budget season for FY17 has started.

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Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols

County administrator Steve Nichols has given his budget proposal, which includes no tax increase.

His budget proposal includes two new positions, ‘lean’ departmental budgets and no pay raises nor cost of living adjustments for employees. The budget does not include any additional requests for schools because those haven’t been hashed out at the School Board yet. Also, health care rates for next year are not in yet.

Bottom line, to keep the tax rate level will be a balancing act that maybe acrobatic Nik Wallenda would have difficulty completing.

Nichols has historically delivered a budget that allows the supervisors to build on. His predecessors have often set budgets the supervisors have to later tear down to get them to pass. Nichols approach breeds supervisors working together to add, which is obvious in two 5-0 votes in his three years.

Previous supervisors, even off the record, never complained about his budget proposals. He is often lauded publicly and privately for setting a foundation for supervisors to build on.

Nichols’ FY17 budget proposes adding an in-house county attorney with a paralegal. Currently the supervisors contract those services.

Nichols did not include adding an assistant county administrator, a position that has been vacated since Shelly Wright left in 2010. The county government has taken on more responsibilities since 2010 but the role never makes it into the budget.

He also did not include additional personnel for public utilities while supervisors plan on building water and sewer infrastructure projects. He did include additional utilities personnel in future budget projections.

In total, departmental leaders requested nine positions that were left off the proposal.

Supervisors will also have to weigh the deferred regular maintenance that has accumulated. The infrastructure improvements, much like staff pay, has been put off for the proverbial ‘next year’ in Fluvanna often. While more recent boards have fought to get ahead in both areas, there is still catch-up to be completed.

The Capital Improvements Plan  (CIP) could be bloated again in FY17, much like in FY15. Currently the plan is $9 million. Last year, FY16, it was under $2 million. Supervisors have over $9 million in the bank currently that could be used for CIP projects or pay off higher interest debt. Then supervisors could take on lower interest debt for projects like Zion Crossroads water infrastructure.

Supervisors will hold regular work sessions regarding the budget over the next two months. February 10th the supervisors will hear presentations from various non-profit organizations seeking County financial support at 7 p.m.

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bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Greene’s Ambitious 2016 Agenda

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

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Greene County Administrator John Barkley

At the January 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator John Barkley revealed an ambitious agenda for 2016. Prepared at the request of the Board and reflecting BOS priorities, the top items are improving the timeliness of financial reporting, starting the 2017 budget process and finalizing the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the county so that it can be balanced with the county’s funds and the Board of Supervisor’s priorities.

DEQlogowThe largest capital project on Barkley’s list is the White Run Reservoir  and it is estimated at a cost in excess of $40,000,000. The final cost will depend on the negotiated purchases of property, the access road, facility design/location and in the range of $7 to $9 Million in compensatory mitigation for stream and wetland impacts permitted by Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The compensatory mitigation may be paid to a third party mitigation site within the watershed that is authorized to sell credits for the White Run impact site in Greene

It will be of interest to see if there are any projects in Greene County that could use these credits/funds to restore/enhance streams to offset those that the dam will displace and get value back to Greene County.

star logoThe Stanardsville Revitalization project  was included on Barkley’s priority list and he specifically mentioned a pavilion on the grounds of the County Administration building along with façade and infrastructure improvements in downtown Stanardsville.

Long term (2018-2020) the preliminary CIP lists sidewalk improvements, underground utilities and a water/sewer project for the town with the last being in excess of $10 million.

Barkley then spoke about the new county website with a presentation planned for the Board of Supervisors in February. This will also include a revision to the Economic Development and Tourism website .

Barkley also mentioned a desire to complete a facility assessment of all county owned property. Such an assessment would provide longitudinal data to update the CIP with a realistic cost to maintain all facilities. The fact that this study needs to be done indicates that whatever CIP is approved in the short-term will likely be understated until this assessment can be fully priced out.

Several other issues were mentioned by Barkley – transportation/Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Greene County Library, and broadband service for the western part of Greene County.

The CIP  is a look forward five years and while many of the projects that  Barkley mentioned are included, there are many other projects in future years that are also in the CIP.

After the meeting, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke with Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Planning Director  and new Supervisor Dale Herring about the high speed internet lines being put down along Route 33 by the school system.  In addition to being a newly elected supervisor, Herring serves as the Director of Technology for the Greene County Schools and therefore is heavily involved in the internet project. Herring explained that the installation of high speed internet service is part of a five year lease which will lower the operating cost of the schools internet and dramatically increase the speed to 10 GIG

william monroe high school 2

This project is targeted to be completed by June, 2016 with a five year lease to commence after it is operational. http://www.usac.org/sl/. At the end of the lease period the school system will have the option to purchase the system at a very low cost. If the school system takes ownership of the system, then they can make it available for other departments of Greene County.

Herring

Greene County Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large)

According to Herring:

With the recent changes to eRate  (http://www.usac.org/sl/) our school division was able to:

a. Increase our division internet connection from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

b. Increase the connection from the Technical Education Center to the Central Office from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

c. Lease a fiber connection from Ruckersville Elementary School and Technical Education Center to the Central Office increasing connection speeds from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps.  The estimated time to be fully implemented is the summer of 2016.  Greene County Schools will have the option to purchase the fiber in year 6.  If it is decided to purchase the fiber, there would be a cost for a service contract.

Herring went on to explain that with eRate the schools costs have been reduced approximately $500 per month.

The county’s CIP update is long overdue. The CIP is a tool for projecting future costs of the county and is also a requirement of some grant applications. It will be interesting to see what the five year costs are estimated to be when it is updated and presented to the Board of Supervisors and what the proposed impact will be to the citizens of Greene in terms of infrastructure spending and potential tax increases.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

Albemarle PC Irresponsible Fantasy Island Fiscal Follies Could Equal 37.5% Tax Increase

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Albemarle County Planning Commission (PC) has reached a new high in mission creep as in their January 26th meeting they chose to not only ignore a 2014 change in Virginia state law, they also decided to ignore a clearly worded memo of direction from the Board of Supervisors regarding cash proffer calculation.

Fantasy Island 2Along the way, they expanded their directive and in an effort to extract more cash proffers from new home buyers, they started the ball rolling on a “Fantasy Island” Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that could, if ever implemented,  increase annual CIP spending by $144.3 Million and increase property taxes by 37.5% ($750+ on a $250,000 home).

Please let me explain.

The Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) produced a report in September 2015 indicating the need to dramatically reduce the maximum cash proffer amount permitted to bring Albemarle County in line with the 2014 change in State Code.  The 2014 law requires the calculation be based on only CIP projects that increase capacity (rather than maintenance).

FIAC’s recommendation followed the 2014 state law change:

2) Amend the maximum per unit cash proffer amounts to:
o SFD – $4,918 (2014 value was $20,987)
o SFA/TH – $3,845 (2014 value was $14,271)
o MF – $5,262 (2014 value was $14,871)

The September 3, 2014 memo from the Board of Supervisors directing the PC and FIAC to review the Cash Proffer Calculation was very clear:

Specifically the Board requests that the Committee:
1) Analyze possible credits for:
-Development in targeted areas. Targeted areas are those areas shown as Priority Areas identified in each Master Plan Area.
-Mixed use developments.
-Development supportive of growth management        strategies of the Comprehensive Plan.
2) Provide recommendations on changes to existing credits in the policy, including the credit that may be provided for by-right units, now available by policy only in limited circumstances (Policy § C(6)(c)).
3) Update the County’s maximum per unit cash proffer amount by dwelling unit type.
4) Provide this advice and recommendation at the earliest possible date.

Several members of the FIAC complained to the Planning Commission that the proffer number was too low due to the change in State law and Albemarle’s recent “maintenance only” CIP.  Rather than accepting the report and direction from a committee that met 18 times over the last year and half, the Planning Commission discussion focused the committee’s disgruntled members and on their own uncomfortableness with the resultant proffer numbers required by state law.

PC Members wanted staff to detail all the capital projects required to achieve the vision of the newly approved comprehensive plan.  It was their thought that this would provide a better context than what the state law provided.

The Free Enterprise Forum has been critical of the Planning Commission’s involvement in these fiscal discussions.  Part of that criticism is based on the limited scope of the commission and the reality that Planning Commissioners do not fully understand the capital spending crisis Albemarle County is already in.

Cash proffers provide less than 3.5% of the annual revenue for capital spending.  The lion’s share comes from property taxes.

With the economic downturn, recent Boards of Supervisors chose not to increase taxes to keep up with new infrastructure demands but rather to kick such funding down the road and only fund maintaining existing infrastructure.

Albemarle’s FY2016 Budget Message summed it up succinctly:

As most recently reviewed, the CIP continues to focus on meeting mandates, maintaining existing infrastructure, and investing in those projects that allow the County to continue core and necessary services without substantial increases in operational costs. … As most recently reviewed, $152.1 million or 50% of the requested CIP projects were unable to be funded with current resources.

So what does that mean the Planning Commission is contemplating?

Based on our review of the Comprehensive Plan and Albemarle’s own assessment that they can’t fund half of the CIP projects already on the books now – we conservatively estimate the Planning Commission Fiscal Follies would likely triple the CIP need.

fantasy island 3Therefore, to fully fund the Planning Commission’s “Fantasy Island” CIP could be $.40+ (currently ~$.10) on the tax rate.  Based on Albemarle’s tax calculator – on a $250,000 home that equates to a $750 [37.5%] increase in local property taxes.

But the Planning Commission really is not in a place to understand this fiscal reality.  As unelected appointees, they do not have to face the voters with such fiscal follies.

The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the Planning Commission to cease wasting limited staff resources on this fanciful mission creep into County fiscal matters.  We believe they should vote (either way) on the September 2015 FIAC recommendation and send their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors who do answer to the voters.

We believe a 37.5% “Fantasy Island” CIP property tax increase would generate significant  discussion among the Board and voters.

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, ABC Television

Greene EOC Requests Carryover Funds for Capital Expenditures

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the May 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, Melissa McDaniel, Emergency Services Manager, requested that the Board change their current fiscal policy and allow hers and several other departments to keep any unspent moneys that was budgeted and have those funds directed to a capital fund.  In the case of EMS the primary expenditure for this fund currently would be for new communication technology.  A similar policy is already in place for the  Greene County Schools.

McDaniel indicated that the past three Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) have included a request for an Emergency Communication System and have not been funded. The current CIP is being accumulated and will again contain a request for a new system. She further indicated that since she originally submitted the CIP request with a cost of $10.3 million, she has been able to identify cost savings reduce the amount required to $7.5 million for the system.

The new system would remedy communication challenges between the sheriff’s department, the fire department and EMS. McDaniel indicated their goal is to have a system that operates at a 95% reliability rate and coverage instead of the 55-75% rates that currently exist in Greene.

To give a specific example of the seriousness of the need of the county, she invited Stanardsville’s Assistant Fire Chief Dusty Clay to tell them what happened on April 25th at a fire on Madison Road in the town of Stanardsville. Clay was the first to respond to the house fire and entered the building. He became trapped when a television and dresser fell on him. Twice he tried to use his system to call for help with no success.

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Only his training as a firefighter, allowed him to calmly try multiple times to free himself finally by using another piece of furniture he was able to pry the dresser off of him and escape. He was treated with first and second degree burns on his back, shoulders and arms. The irony of this situation is that it occurred within the town limits of Stanardsville and the systems in use could not communicate with each other. This was not some distant point on Route 810 – this was in the town of Stanardsville.

McDaniel stated that only the training and experience of Clay allowed him to escape the fire with his life and she is fearful that a less trained firefighter would have perished.

Jim Frydl

Jim Frydl

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) asked McDaniel if the problem is the device or the antennae? McDaniel said the problem is the whole system which is 15-20 years old and the lack of interconnectivity that the different systems present. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) asked how long it would take to correct this situation. McDaniel said that from the time it was started to be installed it would probably take near 2.5 years to be completely operational.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) supported the idea of leftover funds going to this project. Frydl stated that while he proposed the school policy of keeping excess funds for capital projects, he believes that this issue should be budgeted.

Lamb asked Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator, what the status of the CIP is. Svoboda said that it is being assembled and should be to the Planning Commission by July.

Lamb suggested that action should be deferred until the CIP is presented so that the Board can prioritize all projects. Frydl agreed with Lamb and cautioned that Greene County will likely have to borrow funds to do this project and can’t afford to pay cash for this size project. It was agreed to defer action on McDaniel’s request until the CIP can be reviewed.

What seems out of synch is that the county budget for 2015/2016 has been approved with capital expenditures of only $58,836 (this expenditure is undefined). This has been done without a Capital Improvement Plan completed to see what the county’s needs are and what the cost of those items are. Last year’s CIP had a request of over $5 million for 2014/2015 with a grand total of over $167 million.

 

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Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credit: WVIR – NBC29

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Pass 22% Higher 2015 Budget Without Drama

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Much like the rest of the budget process, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed the 2015 fiscal year budget in quick order and without much fanfare on April 16.

The budget process was full of short discussion and few residents in attendance and the passing of the budget to finish the familiar script.

One person spoke in favor during the first public comment session. Then without any discussion from the board, Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) moved to pass the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) seconded.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) voted with Sheridan and O’Brien to pass the CIP on a 3-2.

The tax rate and budget was moved by O’Brien and seconded by Sheridan. Again, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) voted against the measure but Booker joined the majority in a 3-2 vote.

The budget is 22 percent higher than last year but the extra money comes some from increase tax revenue but includes $12.5 million of debt service for the CIP.

The real estate tax rate increases from $0.795 to $0.88 per $100 assessed. The increase in revenue will help pay for the CIP, debt service incurred previously, public safety, information technology and the school system.

The School Board will receive $1.5 million over FY14 budget. It is anticipated the Board of Supervisors will also have to contribute an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 to fill a hole in the FY14 budget because of over anticipated average daily membership. Overestimating the ADM miscalculates the state contribution to the local budget.

The CIP is for five years but the supervisors only commit to paying for the current fiscal year. The FY15 budget will borrow $12.5 billion for items like a Zion Crossroads water project, James River Water Authority construction costs, renovations to the middle school and emergency service vehicle work.

The largest item on ‘out years’ is still the ‘multigenerational center’ that has been discussed in the CIP since at least 2009. It is placed in FY18 for $2.6 million.

The supervisors will work on alternative revenue sources at the next work session on May 7. The alternative ‘revenue’ are various taxes and fees the county currently does not collect such as business/professional/occupational licenses, meals tax, revenue recovery of emergency services and other charges.

Also at the April 16 meeting, supervisors opted to allow the state to handle the stormwater management program for the county and heard updates from the procurement department, planning department on 2013 development activity and compensation of various boards, commissions and committees.

The next supervisor meeting is May 7 at 4 p.m. followed by the revenue work session.

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bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

Albemarle’s Development Double Standard Allows The Library To Cross The Road

By. Neil Williamson, President

On Wednesday (5/1) the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have an $11.8 Million dollar consent agenda item regarding the relocation of Northside library from its current rental space in the Albemarle Square Shopping Center to a location just west of the intersection of Rio Road and US 29.

The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned a double standard may be in play as this is a “public” project as opposed to a private development. As private development interests are regularly told that the financial demands of regulatory approvals are not the concern of the County. 

In the past, Albemarle has taken such opportunities to showcase how well their projects embrace the goals of the comprehensive plan and build to the highest criteria.  In this case, we believe the county has identified a parcel and is trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Would a private development get the same free pass?

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Currently the Northside Library is in a retail center with significant parking as well as other community facilities within reasonable walking distances such as a bakery, a number of restaurants, a movie theater, a private health club, as well as a new grocery store.

It is important to the discussion that the County is in a lease agreement in this space and that agreement is up for renewal/renegotiation in 2014.

The new site is located on the south side of Rio Road West, just west of the intersection with US29.  The staff proposal is to reuse the existing structure to house both the Northside Library (30,000 sq. ft.)as well as long term County warehouse and storage space (20,000+ sq. ft.).

map

The site is bounded by commercial land on all sides and is zoned for HC Highway commercial. 

The headquarters for the Daily Progress is located immediately to west on Rio Road.

Interestingly, this same parcel (in combination with the adjacent parcel) was under consideration for a Homewood Suites hotel location in January of last year. 

That project went to Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) on January 4th.  At some point after the homewood suites logo crossoutARB issued their initial 15 demands (including the need for 3D Modeling) for future submittals, the investors in the hotel project chose to move the project into the more business friendly City of Charlottesville (read the January 3, 2012 ARB minutes here).

While we are not suggesting the ARB review was the exclusive cause of the hotel project relocation, it certainly was one of the contributing factors.  So now, as the private development (tax generating) option has been eliminated we are looking at a public use on the parcel.

Seeing this item on the Board of Supervisors consent agenda leads us to believe last Tuesday’s discussion at the Albemarle County Planning Commission may be the only public discussion regarding this project. 

100_0668_thumb.jpgStaff met with the Board of Supervisors in closed session early this year to initiate this discussion and to place contractual “holds” on the land to allow for due diligence.  Staff has projected the upfit of the property to be in the $8 million dollar range (~$166 per sq. ft.) as compared with $250 a square foot for new construction.

The staff conveniently found the project to be generally consistent with the demands of the facilities and would be a positive redevelopment of this parcel.  Unlike a private development, the focus of the Planning Commission discussion was not as directed “whether the general location, character and extent of the proposed facility are in substantial accord with the adopted Comprehensive Plan” but instead focused on the economics of this infrastructure addition.

The Neighborhood Model portion of the Comprehensive Plan places significant importance to interconnectivity of roadways, pedestrian orientation, relegated parking and multi model access.  

Section 5.9.15 of the proposed Comprehensive Plan includes:

Strategy 2a: All government facilities in the Development Areas should conform to the principles of the Neighborhood Model.

The reality is the West Rio site is not well placed to become a neighborhood center, it is not located near significant residential activity and  the existing bike lanes end at Berkmar.  While the location is “not completely devoid of residences,” according to County staff the density of this residential is low, and access from those homes to the site is challenged.

Commissioner Tom Loach perhaps put it most succinctly when he said “Theoretically, this is not the Neighborhood Model”.  But Loach also said, “ we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

Commissioner Rick Randolph voiced cost effectiveness concerns saying “Focusing on the ideal should not get in the way of this moving forward”.  Commissioner Ed Smith echoed this sentiment stating “It’s not a campus atmosphere but it is the lesser of two evils”.  Commissioner “Mac” Lafferty believes this is an opportunity that will not repeat itself. 

As a part of the discussion, Commissioner Don Franco pushed County staff suggesting there might be ways to make the project more Neighborhood Model friendly and asked if the applicant (the County) was prepared to make commitments to mitigate the negative impacts of the redevelopment.  He was concerned that by approving this use, the County might end up in a “firing range” situation where as a commission they have no choice but to approve the site plan regardless of the many concerns.

Commissioner Bruce Dotson enumerated a laundry list of things he would like to see in a library site: Activity center, pedestrian friendly, open space, green space were all important items he wanted to be in the Comprehensive Plan.  How this project failed to measure up to those standards was relatively clear.

To address these concerns staff has suggested that future improvements to make the project more pedestrian and bicycle friendly could be reprogrammed from the proposed Berkmar Extension. The Free Enterprise Forum is very troubled by the suggestion of removing a transportation backbone to make a library fit on a less than ideal site.

Loach was OK with the idea that the applicant (the County) would do their best to address them.  Would a private developer get this level of trust?

In the end the unanimous Planning Commission decision supported the library use with the condition that the applicant (the county) “come as close to the Neighborhood Model as possible”  Perhaps this will be the language used in all future land use discussions – I have my doubts.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Free Enterprise Forum

Map Credit: Bing.com

Fluvanna Passes Budget and CIP

By. Bryan Rothamel

PALMYRA – The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed the 2014 fiscal year budget and associated tax rates unanimously during the April 17 meeting.

The budget had minimal changes from the advertised budget. The tax rates did not change from advertised amounts, with the real property tax rate at $0.795 per $100 assessed and personal property tax at $4.15 per $100 assessed.

Mozell Booker“I love this budget,” said Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) after the meeting. “We put in some things that we took out last year and the schools are in a better position. I loved the whole budget process, the way it was organized, the way it was presented. And we got a 5-0 on the tax rate.”

The minor changes to the budget were increased funding for the Fluvanna-Louisa Foundation and Jefferson Area Board of Aging. These two changes came from other budget lines but totaled $17,000 of changes.

Notable budget items include $13.75 million for the school district, educational supplements for deputies and structured pay increases for county employees who are currently paid less than market value.

kenney_200px“It was a win-win situation for everybody involved: for schools, for deputies, for staff. Those are the best sorts of budgets. I think that’s why we had such smooth sailing this time around,” said chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District).

The FY2014 budget is for $65,312,998. The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), included in the total budget figure, has $3,834,662 worth of projects for FY2014.

The CIP caused more discussion than the budget. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) did not like the inclusion of a $20 million new elementary school for FY2018. The supervisors only commit to fund items in the FY14 column unless an item stretches from FY14 into following years. The other years were described as ‘hopeful’, ‘dreams’ and ‘planned for’.

Bob Ullenbruch agreed with Weaver’s dissension on the elementary school.

Weaver said he would prefer the School Board raise the issue instead of the Board of Supervisors just including an item from very basic discussions. Weaver hoped in the next nine months the School Board would have a better idea of student enrollment, projections and usage of current facilities including the pending closures of Columbia and Cunningham elementary schools.

The CIP for FY14 includes $575,000 for construction of a Zion Crossroad water and sewer system with another $3.1 million in FY15 and $975,000 in FY16. All three years are slated to be paid for by cash, with the first year coming from the Fund Balance instead of operating expenses.

Also in the plan are a groundwater study and adding a water source to the Fork Union Sanitary Department system. The plan also includes replacing an emergency services apparatus.

The CIP has $1.26 million of spending on school projects including new buses, implementation of a new financial system the county finance department uses, renovations to Carysbrook Elementary School and information technology like server virtualization and internet equipment upgrades.

The CIP was adjusted to take school flooring replacement and playground equipment upgrades out of the FY14 year. The supervisors will vote at the next meeting to pay for those items, totaling $150,000, from the FY13 budget. This will allow the school district to award a contract and begin work sooner in order to give proper time before school resumes this August.

The CIP passed 3-2 with Weaver and Ullenbruch voting against it. Weaver announced before the vote his vote against was a protest vote of the FY18 elementary school line.

The first tax bill to include the new tax rates will be due June 5. The FY14 calendar year begins July 1, 2013.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Greene BOS Adopts Capital Improvement Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

At the February 26th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors the annual Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was approved. Minor changes were made to the CIP that the Planning Commission approved back in January. The School System made adjustments to various roof projects and also added a school security system for $175,000 in the school year 2013/2014.

The CIP is a multi-year production and scheduling of capital projects with an appropriate financing plan to fund these projects. Greene examines the CIP is prepared annually in an effort to facilitate planning and setting priorities among capital improvement needs over a subsequent five-year period. The CIP is designed to identify projects for all departments for which funding has already been committed or is being sought for some time within the five-year planning period.

Community Development Director, Bart Svoboda , also mentioned how the CIP is used to develop Cash Proffers  in the county and that the make-up of the departments would be how the funds would be allocated back for any cash proffers collected.

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) asked for a clarification about capital vs. maintenance costs.

Chairman Frydl concluded that the CIP met the state requirement but that the BOS hoped in the future that a CIP will be able to be reviewed in more detail by the five person panel that the Planning Commission recommended on January 16th. Bart Svoboda agreed that the process needs to be accelerated in the future to allow time to prioritize the requests.

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Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org