By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors recently spent two days looking at the county situation and future planning during a retreat at the Fluvanna County Library.
Mike Chandler, the retreat facilitator, helped the board through county issues and plans.
The supervisors had five items it wants to complete in the next two years. They include education support, tourism development, changing how it handles capital maintenance, support of local businesses and a plan for infrastructure.
The retreat also allowed the new board to develop ideas on how it wants to operate.
“I think we’ve done a good job,” said chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) at the completion of the retreat. “We’ve done a lot so far.”
“It has been surprisingly good and positive and goal oriented. Like we said earlier, there’s a lot of words written around us here,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) as he motioned to the walls, lined with paper of things the board discussed throughout the retreat.
He continued, “It’s nice to have a plan — if you don’t carry it out, it is just a plan.”
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said, “It is easy to solve today’s problems but we need to solve tomorrow’s problems too.”
The supervisors have picked a new vision statement of the county, “Fluvanna County: The heart of Central Virginia and your gateway to the future.” The board wants to include various tag lines in marketing including, “A great place to live, learn and play” and “Proud of our past, confident in our future.”
Other changes for 2014 include a new mission statement. Supervisors plan on initiating a comprehensive plan review, to start in 2014 and go into 2015. The board will look at additional revenue streams, including different taxes.
“I think [the retreat] has been a big help for Steve (Nichols, county administrator),” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).
The board next enters the heart of the budget season. The board is slated to have a water infrastructure plan in place during 2014, and water will certainly impact the budget already. The board will need to pay for James River Water Authority costs plus any infrastructure to Zion Crossroads.
Other impacts to the budget include the education piece. That currently looks to be at least an increase of over $1.5 million from fiscal year 2014 but the School Board hasn’t set priorities for the budget yet. The number could also change because of the the state budget with a new governor.
Supervisors have met privately with Nichols to discuss the budget but he will formally present his budget proposal at the Feb. 5 meeting. It starts at 4 p.m. in the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom.
The supervisors have a planned meeting and/or work session scheduled for each Wednesday starting on Feb. 5 until April 16.
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.
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
After giving the county attorney time to revise the Public–Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act (PPEA) contract with Aqua, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to send a new offer to water service company.
Fred Payne, county attorney, briefed the supervisors on changes he recommend to the last iteration of the contract before the two sides stepped away. His changes were based on four key points: constitutionality, more reasonable protection for the county, fulfilling requirements of the PPEA and good practice of contract law.
The changes were specific to changes to the water and sewer lines contracts. The most common change was to give more protection to the county in regards to how the agreement might terminate in various ways. Previous versions of the contracts required Fluvanna to pay Aqua or its subsidiaries, even if both sides agreed to terminate the contract early.
Another notable changes were specifying venue of legal dispute to Fluvanna’s Circuit Court or elsewhere only if permissible by law, lowering the threshold of commitments to begin the water service contract and wording regarding appropriation versus financial obligation.
In regards to minimum commitments to begin the service agreement, Payne suggested reverting to an original wording of 15,000 gallons a day from a minimum of 30 households. Previously, the agreement required 120,000 gallons of water a day commitment to move the contract past early stages. The lower threshold will allow Fluvanna to start the contract and organically grow development.
Wording and penalties of failure of re-appropriation of funds were changed to move away from obligation on the county’s part.
Now the supervisors have approved to send the offer to Aqua for consideration, the contract and working documents will be available for public consumption. http://fluvannacounty.org/content/documents/BOS/Packages/2013/00%20-%20Package%202013-12-04%20Addendum%20-%20Aqua%20Agreements.pdf
The likelihood of the contract being accepted in current form by Aqua is low; perhaps even lower than when the Aqua deal was resurrected in November. Payne noted some items changed were discussed previously and might not a big deal to change. However there are more drastic changes, such as shift of financial responsibility after a terminated contract, that have not been negotiated.
Even if Aqua does accept the deal, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will have to approve the contract. Such approval will include supervisors-elect Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) in the New Year.
In other board news, the supervisors bid farewell to Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) and chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District) after four years of service. Supervisors also unanimously approved a special use permit for a commercial kennel in the Bybee area.
The only presentation was a briefing on the annual audit of the county finances. Of note, the county has $99.717 million worth of debt. The county is projected to pay of the debt by 2036. FY2013, which ended in June, saw the highest sales tax revenue for Fluvanna.
This editorial first appeared in The Daily Progress on Sunday March 3, 2013. The full “Contradictory Consequences” white paper can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org under the reports tab. The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government in the Central Virginia region.
By. Neil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise Forum
There are times you have to say no to one thing because you said yes to something else. Such is the case with cash proffers.
If a community believes in citizen vetted comprehensive planning, preserving rural areas by densification of development areas and economic vitality, then such a community must say no to the fatally flawed cash proffer system.
In the recently released “Contradictory Consequences” white paper, the Free Enterprise Forum research and case studies explain the impacts of cash proffers. Sold to the public as a way to make growth pay for itself, the unintended negative economic and planning impacts have caused localities across the Commonwealth to repeal this “rezoning ransom” and replace these funds with more dependable and equitable infrastructure funding options. Today, rather than simply recalibrating their cash proffer calculation, as Albemarle County is doing, full repeal is a much more economically and ecologically sensible and sustainable alternative.
Cash proffers are per unit fees “voluntarily” extracted from applicants seeking to rezone their property. In theory, such “voluntary” proffers would be directly tied to the costs associated with the increased density of a rezoning. In reality, cash proffers lower land values, encourage development contrary to comprehensive plans, and create false hope for outside infrastructure funding.
Lower land values, lower property tax revenue – In concept, cash proffers are voluntary payments made by landowners to mitigate the impacts of changing the prescriptive zoning on their property. The concept works best when the rezoned value exceeds the increased cost of the proffer. Such a symbiotic relationship is difficult to achieve with automatic inflation increasing cash proffers and fickle housing markets not keeping pace.
|Albemarle||Single Family Detached $19,753Townhouse $13,432Multi Family $13,996|
|Charlottesville||No cash proffers|
|Greene||$5,778 per unit|
|Fluvanna||$6,577 per unit|
|Louisa||$4,362 per unit|
|Nelson||No cash proffers|
Basic economic theory indicates any increased cost must be paid by an entity that is a part of the transaction. Many believe the increased cost of a cash proffer will be borne by the end user, the new homebuyer. This can only occur in a housing market that has constant upward motion.
If, due to market conditions, the end user is not available to accept the cost of the cash proffer it is the land owner, whose land will be discounted by the increased entitlement costs that cash proffers create. In turn, such reduced land values reduce the locality’s real estate tax assessed value and revenue (absent an increase in the tax rate).
‘By Right’ Development Encouraged Charlottesville and Albemarle are currently updating their State mandated comprehensive plans. These community vetted plans suggest the manner in which the locality wishes to grow in the next twenty years.
In many, if not most, cases the zoning in a locality’s development area does not match the comprehensive plan designation. While the property owner does not have to agree to the comprehensive plan changes, they cannot act on those new designations until they have rezoned the property. Alternatively, if the land owner chooses to move forward with the existing, some might call “stale”, zoning, which likely does not agree with the locality’s comprehensive plan, they can do so immediately without paying any cash proffers.
In 2011, a developer acquired the rights to a project that included property in The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Charlottesville does not have a cash proffer, while Albemarle’s exceeds $19,000 per single family home. After calculating the increased value of the land with the rezoning in each locality, the developer chose to rezone the property that was in the City (without cash proffers) and chose NOT to rezone the property in the county. This calculated decision was based on calculation of the cost (in money and time) of rezoning the County land exceeded the increase value.
Therefore, the land owner is incentivized to not to follow the community vetted comprehensive plan vision but instead to construct lower density, less thoughtfully designed developments. These projects are built to meet local building and zoning code but absent the enhancements and flexibility a rezoning might allow.
False Financial Hope – 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.
In November 2012, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was presented a staff report outlining cash proffers that were in excess of $49.3 million dollars quite literally off the chart.
As one looks at this chart (right) and sees almost $50 Million dollars proffered, one might anticipate the cash proffer program is answering the very need it was designed but the Free Enterprise Forum estimates at least 28% of those proffers will never be collected as they are associated with the now defunct Biscuit Run Development.
It is interesting that while the State of Virginia acquired the property for a state park on December 31, 2009, Albemarle County continued to calculate those proffers as receivable in November 2012.
Rural Areas Jeopardized – According to the Piedmont Environmental Council, Albemarle County has in excess of 10,000 units already rezoned for residential development. Why have these not moved forward?
Have the embedded costs of development in Albemarle County, including cash proffers, created a cost burden the market is unable to bear?
If growth trends continue, won’t these embedded costs push residential development out of Albemarle County’s designated growth areas and into the rural areas?
The reality is that cash proffers contribute to the paradigm that rural residential development remains the least expensive, most profitable development option in Albemarle County.
If the cash proffers are pushing development into the rural areas and surrounding localities, what are the community costs of increased traffic, more costly government services delivery, as well as loss of ecologically contributing farmland, and productivity?
Cash proffers have produced a plethora of Contradictory Consequences without achieving significant benefit. Now is the time to repeal this rezoning ransom and replace it with a more sensible and equitable alternative.
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
By. Bryan Rothamel
LOUISA — The James River water pipeline is getting a second look.
The Louisa Board of Supervisors has sent notice, calling a special meeting to be held in Fluvanna with the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors. The Louisa notice states the two boards will meet to ‘discuss the James River Water Project.’
The notice says at 6 p.m. on March 6 in Palmyra. The Fluvanna supervisors have a normally scheduled meeting that day and do not require additional notice beyond the routine meeting notice.
The James River Water Authority, while still a legal entity, has not be active for years. Both counties paid money for the JRWA to defend it legally but it has not been seriously discussed since the summer of 2010 when the two parties split from discussing a water project.
The endeavor was officially canceled, but not disbanded, by Louisa on Aug. 17, 2010 when then Louisa supervisors felt Fluvanna stop acting in good faith towards making a financial decision. Fluvanna’s then leadership allowed a Aug. 16, 2010 Virginia Resource Authority application deadline for financing pass without an application.
There was a Memorandum of Understanding about a possible James River water pipeline and until that August 2010 deadline, Louisa supervisors were willing to pay for up to half the water pipeline had it met “reasonable standards for costs and water age.” Louisa’s only public concern was to get water from the James River, across Fluvanna and to the Zion Crossroad planning area.
At the time, discussions in Fluvanna raised questions about extending the debt load of the county when the high school debt payments had not fully started. Some residents also voiced concerns about paying half the costs of a water line that would send water directly to where, Fluvanna residents felt, Louisa competed with Fluvanna the most, the Zion Crossroad economic development.
Louisa leaders countered in the Aug. 17, 2010 press release and follow up interviews with Louisa’s availability for future growth was much more limited than Fluvanna’s possible future growth because of Green Springs Historical District. The historical district is federally protected from development. Fluvanna has no such limitations.
Louisa leaders also said Fluvanna could strategically place the pipeline to hit major economic areas inside Fluvanna before even getting to Zion Crossroad. The proposed route was over 22 miles, winding through Pleasant Grove, near Lake Monticello and down Route 250.
The biggest issue about take water from the James River for either county is neither county owns the withdrawal permit. The JRWA owns the permit to take any water from the river. Neither county can get that permit without the authority relinquishing control. The JRWA board has three Fluvanna members and three Louisa members.
Reportedly, the JRWA has not met beyond keeping up with regulated bylaws. The Louisa County’s website last has minutes for the JRWA board dating January 2010. Fluvanna’s last published minutes are February 2010.
The joint Louisa-Fluvanna meeting will happen on March 6 although discussions with Fluvanna sources say the Fluvanna supervisors will have additional agenda items to accomplish before meeting with Louisa.
By. Bryan Rothamel
Included in the Fluvanna County administrator’s proposed budget capital improvements plan is a hydrogeologic study.
Hydrogeologic study is examining the distribution, occurrence and effect of groundwater. Steve Nichols, county administrator, included this study because of how important he feels groundwater can be.
The CIP has not been approved, and up until the last Board of Supervisors meeting it wasn’t publicly discussed by the board. However, the hydrogeologic study was brought up.
The study is proposed for $50,000 to pay for the study. County administration suggests studying the Zion Crossroad, Palmyra and Fork Union planning areas for water.
Nichols told the board he didn’t believe groundwater was useful until he heard a presentation from a groundwater expert.
Nichols said if the board wasn’t a believer in usefulness of groundwater, just look across the county line in Louisa. The Zion Crossroad area is supported with groundwater, he said.
He mentioned the advantages to groundwater is once the the source is tapped, it is much more cost effective than surface water. It is cleaner, requiring less, if not no, treatment to serve.
There could be massive amounts of water in the ground that the county just needs to, literally, tap into. It could be the most cost effective way to start a water system at Zion Crossroad before larger sources are used.
The county also will need to add a new well to the Fork Union Sanitary District. FUSD is supported by wells that are aging. If a catastrophic failure happens to one of the operating wells, the county does not have a contingency plan currently.
A well could operate a Palmyra water system. Reportedly, Palmyra already has pipes in the ground. The system could serve the various government entities.
Nichols told the board he would like to have a water engineer present at an upcoming meeting reasons why using groundwater is sometimes a better option. He said it could turn them into a ‘believer’ also.
The supervisors are scheduled to approve the FY14 budget and capital improvement plan on April 17. Anything in the plan for Fiscal Year 2014 is approved for funding. Anything in the plan past FY14 is planned for but not approved for funding, unless it is in connection with an FY14 item.
The next Board of Supervisor meeting is Feb. 27. It is a work session to hear presentations from nonprofit and regional agencies. The meeting will start at 6 p.m.
Image Credit: State of California
By. Neil Williamson, President
The 2006 Disney Movie High School Musical featured a mind numbing song called Get’cha Head in the Game. Despite the inane catchiness of the song, it has a solid message for our local 2011 elections.
While 77% of the registered voters are projected to NOT cast ballots this “off-off” year election, how many of the balance will cast knowledgeable votes?
Do you know who you are voting for?
Do you know what issues the candidates agree on?
or where they differ from each other?
If not, why not?
Regular readers know the Free Enterprise Forum is appreciative of all who put themselves up for election. It is a very time consuming and ego challenging thing to do. Elections are about ideas, the candidates have, for the most part, put their ideas out for the voters to see. Have you looked?
The work of an election does not fall completely on the candidates. Do you know where you vote? many polling places have changed due to the census data. Take two minutes right now today and confirm your polling place with the Virginia Board of Elections by clicking here I’ll wait.
OK, now that you know where you are going to vote, the question of who you plan to vote for is of equal importance. In addition to the candidates’ web sites, Facebook pages and advertising there are other sources of information:
- In Charlottesville and Albemarle, you can learn about the candidates through Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center
- The Greene County Record has candidate biographies in this week’s paper
- The Fluvanna Review asked all the Fluvanna Candidate’s five questions about the future of the County.
- The transcript for the Louisa County Candidate Forum can be found on our blog
- The Nelson County Times has a good overview of the Nelson races.
As a reader of this blog, you already know more about the issues facing local government than the average citizen. You owe it to yourself and your community to continue your education, learn about the candidates AND VOTE.
To paraphrase the late Sy Syms – “An educated Voter is our best citizen”.
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. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits: Disney, New York Daily News
By, John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer
The Zion Crossroads area of southwestern Louisa County is rapidly becoming the poster child for their efforts to manage growth and suburban development in a predominantly rural locality.
The short 16 mile drive – almost exactly equal to the Gum Spring to Metro Richmond run – makes this burgeoning community attractive for commuters from the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, with significantly lower housing costs for comparable accommodations within the Charlottesville Metropolitan Area
Some new residents to Louisa cite the added benefit of distancing ones’ family from the urban problems once thought to be the exclusive province of much larger cities than Charlottesville. The Free Enterprise Forum notes this citizen perception is often short lived for as communities change and increase population density many of the crime challenges tend to increase as well.
The residential community of Spring Creek is the largest, but certainly not the only housing development in the Zions Crossroads area. It boasts a world-class golf course flanked by nearly three hundred single family homes and another thirty or so 3-story town homes.
Such residential development does not come with out costs (schools, police, fire, etc.) to the locality. It is critical that commercial and/or industrial growth be encouraged to balance the residential demands.
Literally across from the entrance to the Spring Creek community are a Wal-Mart mega store, a Lowes Hardware and a string of boutique shops.
Within half a mile one can find fast-food franchises, gas stations, banks, and other essential services that used to require a trip to “town”.
This growth is enabled, in part, by Louisa County’s foresight in providing an abundant municipal water supply. The area has access to a generous 582,000 gallons per day (of which only 16% is currently used) and state of the art waste-water processing plant. Clearly Louisa’s targeted infrastructure investment was a critical part of its long range vision for economic development.
There are other planned future growth areas along the I-64 corridor, at Ferncliff, Shannon Hill, and Gum Spring, but none are expected to be of comparable scope in the forseeable future…largely due to the difficulty of providing scarce water and problematic sewer services in those areas.
During a downturn in the overall economy, Louisa County’s local option 1% sales tax revenue has grown from $1.5 million in 2006 to $2.6 million in 2010. Clearly Louisa County’s experience with targeted water and sewer infrastructure investment is worthy of examination by other localities as they seek to shape future economic development.
John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org
FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are in the midst of a series of “cooperative” projects that are more like games of high stakes poker than regional cooperation. Each project is a different game with different outside players (Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Federal Highway Administration, US Corps of Engineers, etc.) but each game features these two marquee players and the public, as either tax payers or rate payers are funding the game. One thing is certain the friction in one game clearly rubs off to the others in a cumulative manner.
Meadowcreek Parkway/250 Interchange/McIntire Extended
Perhaps the longest poker game on record (43 years), Charlottesville raised the ante by demanding a grade separated interchange be fully funded prior to any of the three independent projects moving forward (the largest in a litany of many conditions). Despite the interchange funding secured through a Senator John Warner federal earmark, City Council currently retains a narrow 3-2 split in favor of construction of the City project (McIntire Extended). There has also been a federal lawsuit filed by a number of city residents.
When the three independent projects will open is still unclear. At this point, Albemarle County seems to have an upper hand with a full constructed, albeit closed, road. The lawsuit is a wild card that may or may not trump Albemarle.
The Community Water Supply Plan
One of the more contentious, and expensive, poker games in recent memory. This game required each side to fund preliminary engineering on two very different proposals for expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. At the time, the Free Enterprise Forum opined regardless of who won someone was wasting money because their plan would not be used. In the end, the jointly run Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority selected the County favored plan of an earthen dam but at a lower height than the county wanted.
Recognizing that the lower height was the only way the project would move forward at all, Albemarle agreed to Charlottesville’s demands. In March 2009, Mayor Dave Norris famously said, “We hold all the cards” because the City holds title to the reservoir.
While the regulatory agencies have not yet approved the modifications to the permit, sources indicate such approval should be relatively easily attained. This game seems to be won by Albemarle but not without giving Charlottesville a few chips. Charlottesville played its hand beautifully and still has the dredging card yet to be played.
The “Best Buy” Ramp
Few can argue that the on ramp to westbound 250 and Emmet Street is a choke point. Between the multiple curb cuts and the bus stop in the right lane, traffic can back up into the Hydraulic US29 intersection. It is one of the “doable” projects the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce supported in the Places29 masterplan.
Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville went together to get special legislation to allow proffer money in one jurisdiction be used in another for an off site improvement. The bill passed and Stonefield (the mixed use shopping area formerly known as Albemarle Place) has promised through a proffer to provide $1,000,00 to the project. The local match of VDOT funds is $500,000 (from the city).
As an outsider looking in, it seems Charlottesville has all it needs to move forward with construction if it would meet the match and finance the proffer. Considering the favorable climate for construction, why would the city wait?
“This improvement has been judged by the city and the county through the MPO to be perhaps the most important project in the area,” Rooker said. “My concern is that if the city doesn’t move to utilize those funds they could end up being lost to the area.”
In this game, the city is holding their cards close to the vest, leaving the other players to wonder about motivations for this delay tactic.
Woolen Mills Pump Station
In the newest project to test City/County cooperation, RWSA is seeking to increase system pumping capacity at (or near) the existing Woolen Mills Sewage Pumping Station (at the end of Chesapeake Street in the City). When the RWSA Board was queried about their preference of location of the new pump station, Board member (and Charlottesville City Manager) Maurice Jones asked that the item be deferred until he could speak to City Council.
According to a Charlottesville Tomorrow story the options were:
Four sites have been under consideration for the upgraded pump station and each has a preliminary “concept level” cost estimate:
- Concept A ($25 million): upgrade the pump station at its existing location
- Concept B ($29 million): up the Rivanna River in Riverview Park
- Concept C ($37 million): downstream near the old Woolen Mill and Moores Creek
- Concept D ($34 million): across the Rivanna River below State Farm Insurance
Charlottesville City Council looked at the four options presented by the RWSA and selected the only option not located in the city. Some in the community decried this as NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) thinking.
The cost impactsof the selection were a source of contention between Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) and City Councilor David Brown at the RWSA meeting yesterday (3/22). Mr. Boyd mentioned that Option “D” was $9,000,000 more expensive than Option A and asked if the City was willing to pay the difference. Mr. Brown suggested that the RWSA Board was not charged with making the “cheapest” choice but the “best” choice.
After some unusually direct conversation regarding the Board of Supervisors role in this discussion between the two elected officials, the issue was deferred to the April RWSA meeting so Mr. Boyd could discuss the issue with his Supervisors collogues.
This particular poker game is just getting started and likely will have more twists and turns before the final cards fall.
One problem with seeing the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County locked in a poker game is that the stakes are very high. In every case, the public (either tax payers or ratepayers) are providing the chips. Another problem is that in every poker game I’ve ever played there is always a big winner and a big loser (and lesser of both).
The Free Enterprise Forum would much prefer the community to come together and work together to build a stronger community. While there is some natural tension between the two localities, today it is well beyond a normal condition.
Is this contention the “new” normal?
Will the elected leaders find the way to lead the community to a solution or will our mutual road to success remain closed?
Will this green light ever mean go forward?
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 and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org