Tag Archives: Development Policies

Egotistical Entrance Corridor Expansion Effort

By. Neil Williamson, President

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are times when local public policy fails to follow logic.

When we learned in January the 1/3 Albemarle’s Entrance Corridors (EC) are Illegal, the Free Enterprise Forum was convinced Albemarle County supervisors would do the right thing to correct this code by reducing the number of roads designated as “Entrance Corridors”.  Imagine our shock to learn that this week, the Supervisors have a Resolution of Intent (on the consent agenda) to ADD a twenty-second road to the bloated EC list.

Please let me explain.

Late last year, according to a member of county staff, during a routine preapplication meeting, a question came up regarding the posted speed limit on the entrance corridor.  Staff researched the issue and determined both the speed limit and that the roadway was not an “arterial street”.

Virginia Code §15.2-2306 enables localities to establish entrance corridor districts encompassing parcels contiguous to arterial streets and highways found to be significant routes of tourist access to the county and to designated historic landmarks, structures, or districts within the county

This revelation, led staff to research each of the current twenty-one entrance corridor designated roadways and found eight did not meet the state “arterial” requirement.

To their credit, staff prepared a resolution of intent for the Board of Supervisors to consider in their February 7th meeting.  The purpose of this resolution is to revise the Entrance Corridor Ordinance removing those roadways that do not qualify as arterials.

In the first action of the February 7th meeting, Board Chair Ann Mallek asked that the Resolution of Intent be removed from the consent agenda:

so some technical items can be worked out before it is brought back for further discussion.

Despite multiple requests of staff and supervisors, we have not received any update regarding these “technical issues”.

As of last month, the staff indicates they are not enforcing entrance corridor regulations on those roads that do not meet the state definition of “arterial” roads.  This is not a fix, it is a band aid.

Meanwhile in February, the Planning Commission was flummoxed by its inability to mandate architectural review on proposed changes to City Church on West Rio Road.  Therefore they passed a resolution of Intent to bring West Rio Road/John Warner Parkway as the twenty second road on the bloated list of “Entrance Corridors”.  This is the true origin of the Resolution of Intent the Supervisors have on their consent agenda this week.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes any changes to the Entrance Corridors MUST FIRST fix the illegal Entrance Corridors – If not, we are left to ask

How long will Albemarle choose to ignore the law?

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 Credit: vancouver.mediacoop.ca


A Tradition Like No Other–Albemarle Again Seeks to Ban Golf

By. Neil Williamson

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors April 5th, 2017

Wow, did you fit a great deal into today’s consent agenda.

The sheer number of resolutions of intent required almost the entire alphabet for attachments.  Clearly what started as “Code Housekeeping” has been greatly expanded to a seismic shift of Albemarle’s Planning Philosophy. In the interest of time I will highlight only two of these shifts.

Old Trail Golf Course (in the Rural Area)

#1.  Banning golf courses.  Perhaps it is fitting that this week, the week of the Masters golf tournament, the Board of Supervisors is voting on effectively eliminating new golf courses. Attachment T of your consent agenda item item 8.4.

While this proposal would eliminate golf, swim and tennis club special use permits in the Rural Areas, it really would ban golf courses in Albemarle County.  The concept of putting a golf course in the development area would be an economic challenge and would eliminate roughly 200 acres of developable land. The Free Enterprise Forum notes earlier in this meeting you thanked the donors of 1,500 acres of rural area land for a park – does not parkland recreation have many of the same impacts as a golf course?  Perhaps Albemarle wishes to eliminate your rural park policies as well.

#2 Shrinking the Development Area using Net vs. Gross density – This deep in the weeds issue will have the likely intended consequence of lowering by right residential density therefore increasing the demand for rezonings and increasing the cost of housing in the community.  For two decades, we have heard that placing residents in the development areas provides more efficient delivery of government services.  Why now are you going the other direction?  The perhaps unintended consequence of this action will be to significantly reduce the carrying capacity of the development areas and therefore accelerate the need for an expansion of the development areas.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes these two examples can trace their lineage to individualNIMBY-sign-0411b applications (or proposals) that ended up not moving forward.  In these cases the NIMBY’s (Not In My Backyard) won.  Now these same forces are pursuing regulatory changes that are counter to Albemarle’s planning philosophies but suit their needs; rather than pursuing an anti economic development spot zoning decision they are pushing the NIABY (Not In Anybody’s Backyard) agenda.

In this election year, I know this Board will not reject any of the alphabet soup attachments on the consent agenda.  I can only hope that these proposed ordinance changes will be fairly researched and debated by all and that the Board of Supervisors stands up to the CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) agenda and consider the impact of your decisions on the basic pillars of your planning philosophy.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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: Old Trail Golf Club

C-ville UDO – Merging (Not Fixing) Ordinances

By. Neil Williamson, President

measure twice cut onceOn Tuesday evening, Charlottesville’s Planning Commission is being asked to endorse a new “concept” that would seek to merge the development regulations and subdivision ordinances and refer to the consolidated requirements as a “Unified Development Ordinance” (UDO).

This staff driven concept is allegedly being prompted by a change in state code that no longer allows localities to mandate a preliminary AND final submission.  Therefore, staff desires City Code clearly delineate all requirements for subdivision and zoning final plans in one ordinance.

Originally presented as “housekeeping items”, the Planning Commission balked and questioned the breadth of the significant changes.  The Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) also weighed in with two pages of concerns.

After meeting with BRHBA representatives, Chief Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson dismissed their concerns suggesting now was not the time to discuss “substantive” provisions of the two ordinances being merged.  In addition she wrote that the concerns

relate to existing provisions of the City’s zoning ordinance (“Z.O.)” or subdivision ordinance (“S.O.”) and are not new within the draft UDO:

For those not following the ordinance merry-go-round already in motion – Charlottesville has initiated a “Code Audit” that will likely result in significant ordinance changes beyond (and perhaps in conflict with) the changes contemplated under this UDA “concept”.  If they move forward with the UDA this will result in two confusing massive overhauls in City Code.  Why not wait until the audit is completed before going forward with the UDA concept?

With all due respect to the Chief Deputy County Attorney, if the UDO “concept” has significant problems, it is important to raise those concerns prior to endorsing the concept.  It may be that the entire ordinance structure needs to be “substantively reviewed” prior to the Planning Commission providing their proof of concept.

Further complicating matters is the imminent departure of Jim Tolbert who has served as the Director of Neighborhood Development Services (NDS) since its inception.  While we have not always agreed with Tolbert, we know him to be a pragmatic professional and will miss his wit and wisdom.  We fully anticipate a lengthy national search for Tolbert’s replacement and have heard rumors of a potential reorganization of the entire City Planning/Zoning Department.  In the interim, the departments will likely run shorthanded.

design charetteIf the Planning Commission decides now is the best time to push forward an UDO, the Free Enterprise Forum anticipates this will be yet another outside consultant exercise where local understanding of the regulations and policies regarding development operations may become lost in the mirage of charettes and renderings of other localities.

It is rather sad that rather than dealing with the substantive issues raised by the very people impacted by the ordinances, the Chief Deputy City Attorney was dismissive of their concerns.

Could the staff concerns regarding the elimination of preapplication plans be solved without a massive consolidated UDA?

Of course it could.

Will Charlottesville’s Planning Commission challenge staff to deal directly with the issues raised, choose to wait for their own Code Audit to complete prior to overhauling the City Code  or will they chose to follow staff’s direction and put off the important substantive problems with the existing (and proposed) ordinances and push forward with the UDA concept?

I know which way I am betting.

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: Free Enterprise Forum, aggieworkshop.com, arbroath.blogspot.com

US29 Bypass – Building a Roadblock is Easier Than Building a Road

By. Neil Williamson, President

VDOT-logo_thumb.jpgOn Thursday, May 23rd, from 5 pm – 7 pm at the University Area Holiday Inn,  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be holding an open house style meeting to discuss alternative designs to the southern terminus of the US 29 Western Bypass.  But the question is will “the public” focus on the meeting topic or use this meeting as a platform for opposition to this much needed safety improvement to US29?

Based on the e-mbypass-survey-results-graphic-2012.jpgail and Facebook traffic I have seen this week, I fully anticipate the “roadblock builders” to be out in great numbers at this meeting.  Does this mean the public is opposed to the road? 

No, in fact our 2004 transportation survey, Charlottesville Tomorrow 2012 survey [graphic] (and others) as well as the 2011 Rivanna District Supervisor election all seem to indicate the pubic is in favor of the road.

However, when a cohort of any population, regardless of size, is in opposition to a project that cohort is generally more energized than the cohort that is in support of an already approved project.  Therefore, I anticipate the “road blockers” to dominate the attendance at Thursday’s citizen informational meeting.

While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds this vocal minority for remaining engaged, we question the structural integrity of their current six part “GO29” argument.

Please let me explain. 

On their website, The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) advocates for several steps to relieve the congestion on US29 other than the bypass. 

The first step in building an effective roadblock is to redefine the argument.  If you can include portions of the opposition’s solution in your solution, you will have them chasing their rhetorical tail.

By branding this as “GO29”, the SELC seems to think the public will not recognize that many parts of “their” solution are already in process at the direction of those supporting the bypass {and were included in Places29].

From the SELC website:

We can’t bypass our problems. Our community has developed an approach that addresses traffic backups directly, and also gives drivers more ways to reach destinations. Our Go29 video highlights six key pieces of the solution:       

    1. Improve the interchange with the 250 Bypass near Best Buy;  
    2. Build a compact overpass at Hydraulic Road to eliminate a major source of congestion and allow through-traffic on 29 to flow without stopping;
    3. Extend Hillsdale Drive parallel to 29 to give local drivers ways to reach destinations without having to use 29;
    4. Build a second compact overpass at Rio to solve this traffic snarl (same concept as Hydraulic);
    5. Extend Berkmar Drive up to Hollymead Town Center and beyond, so that drivers could go from Kmart to Lowe’s to Target without getting on 29; and
    6. Eliminate the bottleneck between the Rivanna River and Hollymead by widenin100_0404_thumb.jpgg 29 in both directions.

Wait a minute, four of these items are not issues.  There is community consensus (and in some cases studies completed and even funding) for:

  1. The Best Buy Ramp
  2. Hillsdale Drive Extended
  3. Berkmar Drive Extended
  4. The widening of US29 North of the Rivanna River

By suggesting these other items won’t be built, SELC is knowingly constructing a multi faceted false choice argument designed to obfuscate the simple question Expressway or Bypass?  

Should vehicles without business in the North US29 corridor be forced to go through the corridor or should they be given the option to bypass it?

But none of this is the topic of Thursday’s meeting.

According to VDOT:

The purpose of this Citizen Information Meeting is to provide an opportunity for interested citizens and organizations to review preliminary alternatives for the proposed interchange at the southern terminus of the project. . . The project will include construction of a new interchange at the southern terminus of the project that will replace the existing U.S. 250 Bypass interchange at Leonard Sandridge Road. VDOT is considering three alternative configurations for this proposed interchange. Displays showing each alternative under consideration are being presented at this meeting for public review and comment.

So the question remains, will Thursday’s meeting be about the alternatives to the southern terminus of UAlice-Falling-Down-the-Rabbit-HoleS29 Bypass or a trip down the roadblock builder’s rhetorical rabbit hole?

Will the vocal minority succeed in redefining the meeting agenda to include settled issues or will VDOT be able to maintain the focus on the three proposed southern terminus options?

Clearly in Albemarle County, and many communities, building a roadblock is much easier than building a road.

Stay tuned.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson,President


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, Disney

Graphic Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow

Greene PC Denies Proffer Amendment

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Back in 2008, Kinvara Properties, LLC received approval of their Greene County rezoning on the west side of US29 near its intersection with Cedar Grove Road (Route 607).  As a part of the rezoning, a series of voluntary proffers were offered by the developer and accepted by Greene County.   On Wednesday, May 15th Kinerva returned to the Greene County Planning Commission  to request to amendment of the proffers including interconnectivity and removal of the cash proffers 

Attorney Butch Davies spoke on behalf of the request and indicated that Kinvara has a party, Jeana Server, interested in purchasing the property if it included passage from Deer Lake Estates to the Food Lion shopping center and the elimination of cash proffers. Mr. Davies indicated that the buyer would not make the purchase without these conditions.

After hearing from the applicant, the commission opened the public hearing. Chad Womack, a resident in Deer Lake Estates, stated that the residents did not want connectivity to the Food Lion shopping center. Ed Mahoney echoed Mr. Womack’s concern and suggested that a traffic light be installed on Route 29 at the Deer Lake entrance.

Jenna Server, the prospective buyer, said that the $9,000 cash proffer  that was a part of the 2008 rezoning, was not economically feasible given the market study she recently had performed.

Matt Straus, a resident of the Willow Creek subdivision, urged the Planning Commission not to bail out the developer by waiving the cash proffer at the expense of having the residents in Greene County bear this cost. Brian Higgins from the Piedmont Environmental Council asked that the Planning Commission not start a trend of waiving cash proffers. One speaker did speak in favor of the amendment stating it would be good for business in a down economy.

The final speaker was Carl Schmitt, former Greene County supervisor, who helped develop the Cash Proffer policy. He asked the commission not to allow the amendment and to keep the Cash Proffer policy in effect.

The Planning Commission then closed the public hearing and opened their discussion of the request. Vice Chairman Jay Willer indicated he had some concerns about the proffer policy itself, but as for this specific request, he felt there should not be a modification to the proffer policy. Chairman Anthony Herring Joel Snow stated that while he is a businessman and had sympathy with the request he did not support waiving the Cash Proffer. The remaining three commissioners were all in agreement and the vote was unanimous 5 – 0 to deny the rezoning application.

Earlier this Spring, the Free Enterprise Forum issued a white paper ‘Contradictory Consequencesregarding the impacts of cash proffers on development projects. While we do not take a position on any project, the Free Enterprise Forum believes the testimony supports that cash proffers are one (not the only) factor in the market viability of this specific project.


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

Heavy Handed Albemarle Comp Plan is Not Ready For Prime Time

By. Neil Williamson, President

The 2013 Comprehensive Update to Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan is headed to public hearing on Tuesday (4/2) night.  The plan is available online, but the Free Enterprise Forum purchased a hard copy from the Planning Department for the princely sum of $168.

The new plan weighs in at about half the weight of the previous plan and we applaud the use of appendices rather than embedding policies and master plans into the text of the comp plan. 

We are encouraged by the brief (shortest in the Comp Plan) but meaningful chapter on Economic Development as well as the recognition of the importance of agriculture and forestry to the rural areas. We are encouraged that the document asks the question ‘How do Cash Proffers hinder density’.

But with that being said, we find the comprehensive plan to be lacking a consistent, unified voice.  For all the brevity of the Economic Development chapter, there are long winded almost evangelical undercurrents written into the Natural (and Historic) Resources chapters that have little or no concern for the cost of implementation nor property owner rights and do not belong in this planning document. 

  …the County should develop the action plan to focus on conserving ecological integrity at the scale of the landscape.  The landscape approach focuses on a wide scale (square miles rather than square feet) an the management of major land features (e.g., forest blocks, watersheds, urbanized areas) to both conserve ecological diversity and support conservation measures (such as conservation easements) or for restoration efforts.  This plan should also establish conservation approaches for aquatic conservation through land management techniques designed for a specific watershed. (5.1.14)

The concept of a historical protection ordinance has been a flaw in Albemarle County’s comprehensive plan for years.  In this iteration, the concept has been vastly expanded to use GIS technology to create a historic overlay layer and empower (likely without legislative authority) the Architectural Review Board to evaluate development proposals and by right building in and adjacent to the Historic Overlay.

Strategy 2b.3: Expand the Authority of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to include the review required under the recommended historical overlay district ordinance.  Revise the make-up of the ARB to include members with expertise in historic preservation and revise the name of the board accordingly.

Strategy 2b.4: Establish an advisory review by the ARB of all rezonings, special use permits, site plans, and subdivision plats for proposals located within or abutting a locally designated historic district to ensure that historic preservation considerations are available as part of the decision making process. (5.2.10)

The Free Enterprise Forum has already written extensively about the Monticello Land Grab that is currently drafted into the comp plan has attempted to put into the Comprehensive Plan.  To be clear there is no reason for Monticello’s viewshed to be enumerated in the Comprehensive Plan.  We encourage Monticello to work directly with their neighbors to discuss how each of them exercise their property rights and leave government out of the equation.  

Upon further study, it became clear that Monticello is not the only entity seeking to regulate aesthetics.  Under the Cultural and Scenic resources section the comprehensive plan calls for expanded (again without legislative authority) power for Albemarle County:

The County’s scenic resources are highly valued and contribute both to the quality of life and the tourism economy.  Existing regulations only go so far in protecting the resources.  Greater ability to regulate aesthetics is desired to help preserve these qualities. (5.2.14)

The Transportation chapter section of the Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated to reflect reality.  Without population increases exponentially above the current projection, automobiles will continue to be the dominant form of transportation and home buyers will continue to choose homes that best fit their lifestyle choices rather than being limited by transportation availability.  Highlighting an anti car/anti personal mobility bias the plan states:

Dispersed development patterns have helped promote a transportation network that is mostly focused on the automobile.  In the past, a more abundant supply of cheap land and fuel encouraged development patterns that have become hard to sustain.  Today, and n the future, the local transportation system is faced with the challenge of finding adequate revenue, an aging transportation infrastructure (and an aging population), higher energy prices, and accommodating future population and employment growth….

Since our founding, the Free Enterprise Forum has had issues with the mandated neighborhood model form of development and the manner in which the County has now codified THE MODEL rather than a model.  Considering the importance of this document and our ten years of experience with THE model shouldn’t more time be taken to see how these “principles” have turned out in real projects both good and bad?  In addition, based on all of the evidence light rail will not work in Albemarle County in the next 50 years; why then is it still on page 5.5.19 of the comprehensive plan. 

The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the significant effort staff and the Planning Commission have put into the document thus far.  We believe there are positives in this iteration but we also believe it could still be better.

We hope that the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors take their time with the document that is supposed to guide our community for the next twenty years.

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. The full Contradictory Consequences report can be found at www.freeenterpriseforum.org


‘Rezoning Ransom’: Repeal cash proffers

Rezoning Ransom OpEd Headline Daily Progress 3 March 2013This 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.

albemarle proffer 2012 chart with biscuit runAs 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.

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil 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

Greene BOS Works With Citizens

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

The June 26 Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting provided several examples of how private citizens working with government can achieve community advancement.

Ethyle Cole Giuseppe, 92, was recognized for her continued generosity to the Greene County Park.  Last year, Giuseppe donated the funds for construction of a comfort station at the county park.  At this meeting she agreed to pay for a basketball court at the park which will allow Greene County to delay expenditures for the park until next fiscal year and start down the list of priorities to further enhance the park.

The renovation of the second story of the Greene County owned library building  is ahead of schedule and will be ready for Fall, 2012 semester of Piedmont Virginia Community College,  in the Eugene Giuseppe Center (this project, as well as the furnishings for the library, were also accomplished with significant private support).  While the second floor has remained vacant since the library opened in 2003, Chairman “Buggs” Peyton commended the foresight to construct the library building with the second floor that is now ready to provide PVCC classes in Stanardsville.

Roy Dye of Stanardsville Area Revitalization (*STAR*) reported thatstar logo grants to renovate the downtown Stanardsville streetscapes are making progress . All right of way required have been donated by property owners – some were only asking for 6 inches to allow wider sidewalks. Documents have been submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for review. After approval by VDOT, the project will be advertised to make selection of vendors with work scheduled to begin as early as this fall.

Considering recent discussions of an oversized reserve fund, it’s easy to forget that not long ago, Greene County was nearly bankrupt. In those days, Greene regularly borrowed funds in order to meet payroll and other obligations before the next property tax semiannual payment.  Strict financial controls were enacted to change this practice.  One BOS meeting during this time featured a constitutional officer requesting, and being denied, funds to replace a dying computer (>$1,000) outside the normal budget cycle.

The fiscal restraint that previous Boards of Supervisors utilized is evident as Greene now boasts a large financial reserve, far beyond the minimum recommended by their auditing firm.  Even as they accrued this reserve, Greene continued to continued to advance important capital projects at the same time.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors are successfully leveraging both corporate and private citizen support to enhance the quality of life for all citizens. While unfunded state mandates continue to negatively impact Greene’s budget, their strategic capital investments as well as a business friendly environment have created a new fiscal reality for local government.

How the Board will deal with this new reality will be the discussion in their next Board meeting on July 10th.  The Board has heard from some citizens advocating for maintaining a larger than required reserve, some wishing to spend down a portion of the reserve and still others that consider the reserve to be an indication they have been over taxed. 

Will Greene County create endorse a written financial reserve policy? 

How will that policy impact scheduled capital improvement projects? 

Will such a policy create a financial safety net to avoid raising taxes?

Once again the Free Enterprise Forum has more questions than answers.

Stay tuned.


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

Albemarle’s Proposed ARB Solution is Worse than The Problem


By. Neil Williamson, President

The other afternoon, as the sky grew dark and I heard loud rumbling in the distance, I was reminded of Albemarle County’s proposed improvements to the development review process.

Just as the rumbling prior to a summer storm, last summer thunderstorm Ann Stromber Nelson County Lifeweek’s stakeholder roundtable  provided significant warning that the proposed revisions are not embraced by those whom will be impacted, and that the provisions regarding the Architectural Review Board (ARB) may make an existing bad problem exponentially worse.

Please let me explain.

By code, the ARB has very specific and limited powers.  The ARB has been concerned that by the time they get to see the project’s “final site plan” too many decisions have already been approved (including the location of buildings on a site).

In a May 2008 post, the Free Enterprise Forum highlighted the ARB’s desire to increase their purview:

After the staff presentations, Paul Wright of the Architectural Review Board presented a number of concerns the ARB has with the current processes.  These concerns included enforcement and an inability of the ARB under its current powers to control the skyline within the entrance corridors.

The resulting discussion changed the course of the meeting entirely.  Rather than looking for ways to streamline the development review process and improve public understanding, the members of the ARB pressed for more power.  In addition they expressed concerns that they were the last consulted regarding one of the County’s own projects Albemarle High School expansion.  One member of the ARB suggested they should be consulted on every building the County has an interest in.

Trapped in a regulatory box, Albemarle County staff has proposed placing an ARB  staff member on the site review committee.  The site review committee will review all by right site development and the ARB representative will only be consulted on projects in the entrance corridor.

In addition, as this is a by right development, the site review committee will be able to issue two types of direction – requirements and recommendations.  Most of the ARB work is directly written in the code so their comments will be recommendations.

As staff explained to the ARB last week, you would likely identify areas that, while not legally required for approval, might need additional landscaping to mitigate their impacts.

Taking this to its logical conclusion the ARB may wish to have a building on the rear of the parcel to better protect the streetscape in the entrance corridor, while the planning department may wish to have the building on the entrance corridor better to hide the sea of parking.  Since relegated parking is in the code, and ARB’s preference is not codified, the building would be placed on the front of the parcel and the site plan is approved.

Now it comes time for the final site plan approval and the required certificate of appropriateness from the ARB.  This applicant, who followed the prescribed plan clearly has ignored the ARB’s wishes because they did not move the building as ARB “recommended”.

How can the ARB move forward without malice on this application?  How can they not even if just subliminally believe the applicant is unwilling to work with them?

How exactly is this situation better than the current scenario?angry-bee.thumbnail

The angry bee theory — as a young boy, my mother told me not to swat at a bee unless I was sure I would kill it; otherwise you have an angry, focused and motivated opponent.

While understanding staff’s intent in including the ARB in the site review committee, the Free Enterprise Forum believes that since much of the ARB power is not codified, the end result would be an ARB even more ostracized (and angry) than the current approval construct.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson 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 Credit: Ann Stober -Nelson County Life, Keenkid Blog

Fluvanna to Reexamine Amendment’s Impact on Economic Development

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Despite coming late to the game, developer Charlie Armstrong and the Free Enterprise Forum persuaded Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors to reexamine the implications of a proposed zoning text amendment for economic development.

At its June 20th meeting, supervisors agreed to defer consideration of the amendment until August after Mr. Armstrong pointed out potential flaws n the ordinance that could derail potential development in the Zion Crossroads area of the county. Specifically Armstrong pointed to draft setback requirements for riparian buffers, landscape requirements, and three-year bonding for landscaping.

Earlier in an editorial comment, the Free Enterprise Forum urged a ninety-day deferral so that staff could examine the economic development implications of the proposed zoning changes. While Supervisors unanimously agreed to send the draft back to the planning staff.

The Board however did not accede to the School Board’s request to reinstate nearly $540,000 to the school budget to supplement employee health benefit costs. School officials presented data that suggested that some lower level employees would actually have to pay to work since their month health insurance premiums would exceed their net income.

The Board also unanimously rejected sending a proposed four percent meals tax to a public referendum this November. Supervisors believed that the $300,000 annual projected income was not worth it. Fluvanna does not attract many out of county diners, and is not major restaurant magnet.

Supervisors did adopt a proposal to give county (non-school) employees a five percent pay raise to offset the new five percent employee contribution to the Virginia retirement system. The decision will cost the county an additional $79,000, money that county administrator Steven Nichols said would have to be found from existing budget lines.

Supervisors also received the sobering new that there is just $8.1 million in the county’s undesignated fund balance, or “savings account”. The required minimum balance, based upon county revenues and expenditures, is approximately $7.1 million, leaving county officials with just $1 million in liquid savings. Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) noted that just a few years ago the balance exceeded $16 million.

In other matters, the supervisors:

· Approved incorporating the county’s new vision statement into the Comprehensive Plan; and,

· Endorsed the School Board’s decision to request a Commonwealth efficiency study of the school division’s operations and expenditures.

Supervisors will next meet on July 3rd, at 2:00 pm, rather than on Wednesday, July 4th.


William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna 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