Tag Archives: economic develoment

Public Voices Greene Scenic Byway Support

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the December 11th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors everyone who spokeimage about Greene County pursuing Route 810 and Route 230 as a Scenic Byway were against the idea. Economic Development Authority Director, Alan Yost, asked that the Board advertise and hold a public hearing to give the public notice of the opportunity to discuss the issue.

So the schedule for the January 8th meeting included a public hearing on the Proposed Virginia Byway designation.

Virginia code dictates that public hearings must be advertised in the local paper in advance of the meeting. Due to an error at the Greene County Record, the required notice did not appear in the newspaper and therefore the public hearing could not officially be held although the meeting room was at capacity with citizens ready to speak on this issue.

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Alan Yost

The Board of Supervisors recognized that a large number of citizens came to the meeting to be heard on the issue so they went ahead with a “Public Comment” session and allowed the public to speak on the issue and assured them their comments will be added to the comments made at the January 22nd public hearing.

Yost thanked the Board for going forward with the meeting and presented several reasons why the Board should support the Scenic Byway resolution.  Yost indicated Scenic Byways are supported in the Comprehensive Plan, more tourists will improve the economy of the county, tourism tax revenue helps decrease the tax burden on the residents of Greene, and tourism doesn’t place demand on County services such as the school system.

In addition, Yost is working with Albemarle County and Madison County. Madison has already approved the Scenic Byway for Route 230. Albemarle is behind both Madison and Greene County in their process.

Yost indicated that Greene County would incur no cost with the program, there are no restrictions to what vehicles can use the roadway, Route 810 is actually rated by VDOT for 4 times the current traffic volume and it is estimated that a 4% increase will occur from the designation.

Finally, Yost referred to the editorial in last week’s Greene County Record which referenced  3,000 miles of Scenic Byways in Virginia.  Yost stated that he has been unable to find a county that regrets naming a Scenic Byway and a county can change their mind and remove the designation at any time.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At Large) asked Yost if  the designation would apply to the parts of Route 33 Bypass and Route 33 Business that connects Route 810 and Route 230 and was told they would be included in the proposal to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  and that small sections of four lane roads have been designated when they connect other parts of a Byway. Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) outlined the route as Route 230 to Route 33 Business through Stanardsville to Route 33 By-Pass West to Route 810 toward Albemarle County.

The presentation shifted to comments from the public of which 18 of 19 speakers spoke in favor of the Scenic Byway designation. One of the main issues brought up is the town of Stanardsville would benefit from tourism traffic which has been down since the Route 33 Bypass was built around the town.

The hope is that more traffic through town would attract more businesses to locate in Stanardsville. One thought was that if the Scenic Byway was adopted that possibly the southern portion of Route 810 would be better maintained.

The final speaker in favor of the Scenic Byway designation took off from the movie Field of Dreams by suggesting the Board to…. Approve It and They Will Come!

There was one speaker opposed to the designation.  His comments focused on the road conditions and narrowness of Route 810 at the southern end near Albemarle County was not safe or adequate for the increased traffic.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) reminded everyone that the formal public hearing on this issue will be held at the next Board meeting on January 22nd. She assured those that spoke tonight would have their comments entered into the record as will any emails, phone calls or letters up until the next meeting.  Martin was pleased with the great attendance and encouraged others to come to the next meeting. At that point the issue was tabled until the January 22nd meeting.

Later in the meeting it was announced that Greene County has hired a new County Administrator – Mark B. Taylor – who holds the same position at Spotsylvania County and he will start in April.

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 http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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Albemarle Economic Development X Files

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

i want to believeAlbemarle County says that it is in favor of economic development.  The former County Executive Tom Foley went so far as to say it is a “new day in Albemarle” regarding being open for business.  A couple of supervisors have even gone on the road attempting to drum up public support for economic vitality.

I find myself thinking of the 1990’s science fiction series the X-files where two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained, while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.

Just as Fox Mulder in the X-Files, I want to believe Albemarle, but the facts keep getting in the way.

Please let me explain.

In big ways and small, Albemarle seems to be losing ground.

Losing Faith, Missing Deadlines

When Economic Development Director Faith McClintic resigned in October 2016, Foley stated:

I am pleased that Faith will continue leading the development of the county’s first economic development strategic plan through the plan’s presentation to the Board in mid-December, and we will work with her during that time to assist in her transition to her new job responsibilities in Richmond.

But that did not happen.

In the same article, McClintic seemingly dissed Albemarle stating:

“I have told the county that I will finish the economic development plan so that if they get the political will to do it, they will have a roadmap,” she said. [emphasis added –nw]

Perhaps because of her comments on her way out the door,  McClintic did not complete the work she started.

We now understand a Richmond based consultant has been engaged to conduct stakeholder interviews and complete the economic development strategic plan with a late May delivery date to the Board of Supervisors.

False Expectations

Interestingly, as Albemarle’s Planning Commission seems to want the opportunity to weigh in on all sorts of issues beyond their direct scope of work, I was heartened when the Chairman wrote in an e-mail to the Free Enterprise Forum in Late July 2016:

 

“Last evening (7/26), under New Business (after your departure) the planning commissioners briefly discussed your comments under “matters from the public.” We wonder if you might expand on your thoughts in a 1-3 page “discussion piece” for our review, reflection and comment at a future meeting.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Tim

J. Timothy Keller – At-Large Commissioner and Chair
Albemarle Co. Planning Commission

Never one to turn away an opportunity to participate, I provided my Economic Development Homework Assignment from Albemarle PC.  In the post I posed a simple question:

The question is not only does Albemarle want to compete – the question is does Albemarle want to win?

Then………crickets.

Despite specifically requesting my input for their “review, reflection and comment” the Planning Commission has yet to take up the six basic concepts we raised in our so called “thought paper”.

Perception is Reality

Last week, Virginia Business ran an article about “Getting on the Radar” regarding Richmond’s economic development efforts.  Writer Paula Squires quoted national site consultant Tom Striger who explained why Austin, Texas is not as hot as it once was:

… he referred to Austin as a cautionary tale. For years, it enjoyed the buzz of being a young, hip, university town, and it drew corporate relocations.

Yet when Austin needed to invest in infrastructure, such as building new roads or expanding its airport, the city balked, Stringer said, out of fear of damaging its charm.

That’s where Austin has gone off the rails. People don’t go to Austin anymore. 

It takes three years for a building permit, and there’s no incentives. You have to live 20 miles from the city or put the facility near San Antonio. ‘It’s a privilege to be in Austin.’ That’s the mindset you have to avoid.”[emphasis added –nw]

Sound familiar?

Back in 2015, during the Deschutes Brewery discussion we wrote about Albemarle’s New Day or Arrogance:

 During my daughter’s accepted seniors college tour we heard two types of pitches from the schools she was considering the first “We are a great school, you are lucky to be considered” vs the college president saying directly “If you hear just one thing today please know, we want you here”.  Guess which school we selected. …

…. Please do not return to the Albemarle Arrogance that says to those who want to operate a business “you’re lucky to be here” and instead say you are “open for business” [emphasis added –nw]

Albemarle could benefit from a good hard look in the mirror.

Yes, there are a couple champions for economic development on the Board of Supervisors, but they are not in the majority.

Five months after McClintic’s departure and with Foley now leading Stafford County, Albemarle is without a County Executive, without an Economic Development Director and without a strategic plan to move economic development forward.I still want to believe

But I still want to believe.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

 

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Albemarle’s Economic Development Tipping Point

Adapted from comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Public Hearing September 9, 2015

By. Neil Williamson, President

Good evening, my name is Neil Williamson and I serve as President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization focused on the local governments of Central Virginia.

The decision before you tonight is whether you wish to open a portion of well located land into your development area as a new center for light industrial jobs.  This is likely a tipping point in Albemarle’s economic development history.  The crux of the discussion of this Comprehensive Plan Amendment is about three things: Jobs, Revenue and Growth ControlEverything else is a designed distraction.

Go Big or Go Home.  There have been some who have suggested shrinking the proposed development area expansion to just one or perhaps two parcels.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes the larger the expansion the more flexibility the county will have if and when rezonings come before the board and, perhaps most importantly,  the bigger the expansion, the more career ladder jobs can be located in Albemarle.

JOBS are the building blocks of a community.   Economic diversity helps a local economy weather market cycles. A number of academic studies show that a city’s or region’s economy will perform better with more diversification because risk and market effects are spread out. This CPA will help diversify the job base.

two centsMy Two Cents.  As a Board you are intently aware of the significant demands on your budget.  You have even appointed a Citizen Resource Advisory Committee (AKA CRAC Committee) to find new sources of revenue.  . You spent this afternoon with the School Board discussing funding the future.

If the numbers that have been leaked are correct, the use of just part of the Development area expansion could equate to $.02 on the residential tax rate.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?  For years Albemarle’s economic policy was that applicants were lucky we are even considering your application regardless if it was an expansion or a new business.

It was not unusual to see other localities market themselves as “not Albemarle”  In recent months, we have seen a warming in favor of economic development and a positive business climate – a positive vote on this CPA will be a strong signal to the world – “ALBEMARLE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS”

Please know, a negative vote will be equally enlightening.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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.