Tag Archives: economic vitality

AT&T To Examine Possible Alternate Tower Location In Greene

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

An oft repeated real estate axiom is “location, location, location”.  The same could be said for most land use cases especially those involving wireless communication towers. 

Greene County has been engaged in such a conversation over the past few months.   At their first April meeting the Greene County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing regarding  Velocitel, Inc  and the John & Barbara Hayes Revocable Trust request for a Special Use Permit (SUP)  for a wireless facility in a valley near Route 810 in western Greene County.

810 cell tower locationThe location is what has caused this SUP  to be hotly contested, not the fact that a cell tower for that part of the county is needed. In fact, no one speaking at the meeting spoke against the need for a cell tower, but spoke against the specific location selected by AT&T.

AT&T’s attorney, Preston Lloyd, made a presentation to open the public hearing.  Mr. Lloyd explained that AT&T searched the area based on the County zoning requirements  to see where to locate the tower.

With wireless technology, line of site is the basis, therefore height is critical to maximize coverage. However, based on Greene’s zoning, the cell tower fall pattern must not cross to another property making a large lot a requirement. He further explained that Greene County stresses fewer cell towers as opposed to Albemarle County that stresses maximum height of only 10 feet above the tree line (resulting in more shorter towers).

Mr. Lloyd further explained that having the tower located at the bottom of the valley would minimize the need to cut a roadway to the tower. Finally, Mr. Lloyd explained that there were no other towers in the valley capable of colocation of their equipment (in their current condition).

The meeting was then opened to public comment. The majority of the comments were against the particular location since it was in the view shed of Peace Garden of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church.

Perhaps one of the most informative speakers of the evening was Alan Williams, Chief Engineer of Monticello Media, who indicated that they were not contacted about the use of the tower for use by AT&T. He did admit that the current tower would not support the additional weight of the AT&T equipment but indicated that they would be willing to consider either beefing up the tower or build a new tower. In addition, the Monticello Media location is that it is higher than the AT&T sight by over 800 feet and therefore would provide more coverage.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) asked Mr. Lloyd if he had any response to the public comments. He didn’t answer directly but explained that AT&T didn’t need to contact Monticello Media in order to analyze their tower by their own engineers to determine that the tower would not work.

The Board of Supervisors then made their comments. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) asked about coverage and location of other sites in Greene County. A tower was just installed on Tower Road within 3 miles of the proposed site. Mr. Deane asked what the impact on coverage will be once that tower is put into service? Coverage will be significantly increased per Mr. Lloyd. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) indicated that the tower on Tower Road is at a height of 1,500 feet which is over 800 feet above the proposed tower. Mr. Lloyd said that he did not have the coverage projected from this tower but could provide it.

Chairman Frydl clarified with Mr. Lloyd that a coverage map was not available from the Monticello Media tower because it is not structurally able to support the AT& T equipment.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if AT&T had a second choice and was told no. Mr. Martin expressed concern over installing a new tower close to the Monticello Media tower. He asked if a coverage map from the Monticello Media could be generated? Mr. Lloyd restated that AT&T had not spoken to Monticello Media but would be willing to do so. But Mr. Lloyd stated that restarting the analysis would affect the timeline which he was under pressure to maintain. Mr. Martin indicated that he and the county have all the time needed – to do it right.

Mr. Deane stated that cell service for safety issues is most important. But leaving out Dyke and other areas in southwest Greene County was unacceptable. Deane further stated “Why should we settle for sirloin when we can have filet mignon”?

Mr. Martin then made a motion to defer the decision with the following provisions to define what would be needed to make the Monticello Media location usable and that the Greene BOS should seek a legal opinion on this issue. Chairman Frydl asked Mr. Lloyd when he could be ready to address the issues and they agreed on the May 13th meeting. The BOS agreed 5-0 to defer the request for the Special Use Permit.

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

Photo Credit: 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.


Will Albemarle’s Lame Ducks Support Economic Development?

By. Neil Williamson, President

lame duckEconomic development deferred equals jobs denied.

The 2013 election is over.  Three new Albemarle County supervisors will be sworn in on December 19th.  What, if anything, should the existing Board of Supervisors due in the interim?

In a comment to the Free Enterprise Forum blog retiring Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggests that important decisions like the direction of an economic development office should not be decided by the lame duck board:

“It would be wise for the new Board of Supervisors to have this information and make this decision after they take office; after all, they will be living with the economic consequences.”

Read Mr. Rooker’s entire comment here.

I must heartily, and politely, disagree with Supervisor Rooker we will ALL be living with the economic consequences.  Last time I checked, Supervisors were elected to four year terms, not 3 years and eleven months.  The supervisors should not accept Mr. Rooker’s delay tactic and should vote up or down on the permanent establishment of an economic development office.

Mr. Rooker raises a fair point in understanding the return on investment on economic development.  While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds the concept of objective metrics for success at all levels of government, we do not feel the establishment decision must wait until these metrics are determined. 

A little context for those just joining the discussion, for many years the economic development attitude in Albemarle County was one of affluent arrogance.  Commercial interests were lucky to be coming to the great Albemarle and if they really want to be here they will not mind answering to a higher standard than anytown USA.  There was a time in the recent past when Albemarle County  (one of the regions largest employers) was neither a member of the Chamber of Commerce nor a participant in the Regional Economic Development Partnership.

In the last few years we have seen a much more vibrant embrace of economic development.  There was unanimous support for the Economic Vitality Action Plan.  Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley served as Chairman of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development.  These are all advancements but with a new Board are we headed back to the previous paradoxical paradigm?

Only time will tell.

The question before the CURRENT Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday is one of investment and intent.  Does the Board intend to take the next logical step for economic vitality and move forward with an office of Economic Development or (pardon the mixed metaphor) will the lame ducks choose to punt?

I know which way I am betting.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan 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


The Free Enterprise Forum Five–Q1 Economic Development

By. Neil Williamson, President

As a part of the Free Enterprise Forum mission to inform the public, we posed five questions to the eight candidates for Albemarle Board of Supervisors.  Other than minor formatting, the candidate answers are reprinted exactly as they responded.  One Question will be answered by each of the candidates each day this week. 

  • Economic Development Monday
  • Transportation Tuesday
  • Development Area Expansion Wednesday
  • Environmental Mandates Thursday
  • Proffer Policy Friday 


1. Economic Development has been advocated by the current Board of Supervisors.  What is your vision for the proper role of government in economic development?  How do you grade Albemarle’s recent three year effort in gaining and retaining business? 

Scottsville Candidates:

Burket campaignCindi Burket – The proper role of government in dealing with economic development is to streamline regulations for new and established businesses, setting common sense regulations that promotes growth while protecting our environment.

Making Albemarle County an attractive place for businesses to move to by keeping taxes low, having a ready workforce from which they can hire and by setting an optimistic and enthusiastic tone to make it all happen.

dittmar campaignJane Dittmar In 1995 I was proud to be on a team of private and public sector officials who launched the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (now called the Central Virginia Partnership) and eventually chaired the partnership from 2003-4

I authored the original plan that was used to eventually write the agreement with the unusual funding formula drawing 50% of the funds from the private sector and 50 % from the public sector with leadership of the partnership switching each year between the private and the public sectors. I chose this model because in the partnerships I studied across the commonwealth, those that relied totally on public funds, tended to exclude private sector leadership. The partnerships that relied totally on private funds were not as stable because they shrank or went out of existence during recessionary times. The one jurisdiction that did not join the Partnership at its inception was Albemarle County. By 2000 Albemarle was reconsidering this and in 2011 the chairman of the partnership that year was Tom Foley, the County Executive.

I am very pleased by the progress our Boards of Supervisors have made in recent years supporting the hiring a professional staff member to focus on business services. If elected, I would like to ensure that the next comprehensive plan thoughtfully lays out a vision for economic development that focuses on business retention and attraction. I would also like to continue efforts to streamline the development timeline if there are more efficiencies to be found.

Rio Candidates:

Sheffield campaignBrad Sheffield: The role of government, with respect to economic development, is to provide good, competitive infrastructure and public-private partnerships necessary to attract new business and to enhance existing business. I give Albemarle County a “C.”

The County is failing at maintaining the infrastructure to existing businesses, which not only hurts those businesses, but affects the decisions of new businesses who might consider locating here. We could be doing a better job with attracting more innovation and small business growth by building better “places” that create the environment needed to build on energy and activity.

Also, over the last three years we have failed to capitalize on the City of Charlottesville’s shift to residential growth. We should have been establishing policies and approaches to making Albemarle County’s growth area the strongest economic hub in the region.

Thomas campaignRodney Thomas:  The action plan deserves high marks for designing a plan. The next step is to fund and implement it. The targeted industry study was a valued effort to match the skill sets of our workers with the jobs of the future.

What we must not lose sight of is that there are many skilled level support jobs that go along with the targeted jobs. We are still going to need electricians, carpenters, etc.. In a vibrant economy. These are career level jobs that should also be referenced in the study as an important part and we need to recognize this when considering government action.

Jack Jouett Candidates:

McKeel campaignDiantha McKeel: I fully subscribe to the purpose of government as promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s my view that government should be a catalyst in bringing together those components that achieve each of these goals. Economic development is a vital path for the pursuit of happiness and on the local level that means creating a climate where our workforce is well-educated and in alignment with workforce needs; our community is safe and we are tapping into our natural resources, which in Albemarle is the creativity and innovation of all of our partners, including the university.

This reliance on building partnerships is why I proposed and led the way for our school division to join and become an active participant in the regional Chamber of Commerce. I supported the 2010 BOS’ adopted Economic Vitality Action Plan. As public officials it is our responsibility to work to expand our commercial tax base to reduce the reliance upon property taxes in support of county services and infrastructure improvements. Over the past three years, I would grade the county as achieving a B—for example we’ve made some good grades with the Target Industry Study and we’ve protected our exemplary bond rating. We’ve moderated tax rate increases.

We need to be A-plus, however, and that will come from taking steps that achieve the promise of our growth potential, leveraging our high quality of life and our intellectual and creative resources to become a national model of excellence.

seay campaignPhillip Seay: Our County government should encourage and demonstrate economic development. Implement and fund The Economic Action Vitality Plan with the understanding of the needs and wants of the community.

Samuel Miller Candidates:

Palmer campaignLiz Palmer: As the economy slowly recovers, everyone can claim credit for our local situation, and probably we all should claim credit. The local government can set the tone, express interest, review ordinances, engage the public in discussions and, in other ways, affect the morale and reality of our local economy.  Its own human resource decisions enlarge, or shrink, the number of employed people, and its salary scale affects other employers’ pay scale decisions (and vice versa).

I believe that retaining the attractiveness of our county is a subtle but major part of what government can do to attract and retain businesses.  We must not assault the county in the name of economic development. Likewise, the quality of our schools is a major expense and a major part of what local government does to attract residents and business-owners.  Taking this broader view, I think the last three years are a mixed bag, with some words of encouragement but some doubts planted regarding the County’s interest in assuring the quality of life that is so important to present and prospective employers.

Snow campaignDuane Snow: Prior to 2010 Albemarle County did not have an economic development plan, with action steps. They had an economic development statement. We are now in the implementation part of the plan.

Economic Development is a major part of the County’s responsibility.

· provides well paying jobs for our community/career opportunities for our children.

· Provides additional tax revenue to fund the core responsibilities of Government . Thereby reducing the pressure to raise property Tax.


Tuesday – Candidates answer Q2 – Transportation of the Free Enterprise Forum Five.


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan 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 : Candidate Websites, Facebook, Newsplex

Contradictory Consequences White Paper Released


“Contradictory Consequences” White Paper Examines Cash Proffers Unintended Negative Impacts

Charlottesville, VA – A new white paper outlines significant negative economic and ecological impacts of cash proffers on community development in Central Virginia.

The Free Enterprise Forum’s “Contradictory Consequences” draws on statewide research and case studies to illustrate the challenges implementing a cash proffer program.

The Albemarle County Fiscal Impact Review Committee is scheduled to discuss recalculating their cash proffer program in March. The committee has been instructed by staff that their role is not to consider the policy discussion but only the mathematical calculation of the proffer amount. The “Contradictory Consequences” paper calls on the Board of Supervisors to “Repeal the Rezoning Ransom”. Specific negative impacts of cash proffers illustrated in the paper include:

· reduced land value

· reduced property tax revenue

· increased “by right” development

· false financial hope

· reduced economic vitality

· reduced adherence to Comprehensive Plan

· increased pressure on rural areas

· increased leapfrog development.

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “Localities across the Commonwealth are waking up to recognize the siren’s song of cash proffers is too good to be true. Now is the time to contemplate significant proffer reform. Our research suggests repeal of Cash Proffers will result in increased economic vitality and adherence to the comprehensive clip_image0024_thumb.pngplan.

“Perhaps the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and other localities, will take a fresh look at what they are really getting from the cash proffer program and how this policy negatively impacts their vision for the future. Our goal with this independent research is to reach out to the community and start this important discussion,” Williamson said.

“Contradictory Consequences” was written and researched by Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson. Tracking local government since 2002, Williamson’s examination generated a well documented, balanced review of the many legal issues and economic concerns surrounding implementation of a cash proffer policy.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization. The entire report can be accessed under the reports tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

The Politics of Economic Development – Employment, Underemployment & Goldilocks

By. Neil Williamson, President

targetTomorrow (April 11), the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED) will release their highly anticipated regional targeted industry study.  This study will attempt to quantify the specific geographic and demographic assets each participating locality brings to the economic development table and synch those assets with industry sectors poised for expansion.

First and foremost, the Free Enterprise Forum sincerely appreciates the renewed regional attention economic development has received over the last 36 months.  As they say – there’s nothing like a recession to focus economic development activity.

Despite a deceptive low unemployment rate, too many in our region are doing less than they could.  We are most interested in the promised “underemployment” information in the TJPED report.  Based on significant anecdotal evidence, we believe our region has enormous untapped potential.  Further, we believe in some cases, regulatory red tape and hubris  is preventing citizens from finding employment that fully utilizes their capabilities.

Keep an ear open to what our elected officials say about the very real underemployment problem.  Beyond those who are underemployed, the problem trickles down as the underemployed are holding positions that might otherwise go to a more appropriately qualified applicant. 

The Free Enterprise Forum does not believe just moving the underemployed up in the job cue is nearly enough.

figure 1 jobs report 2011

Based on our initial employment analysis, the City of Charlottesville is perhaps facing the largest challenge.  The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce 2011 Jobs Report indicated:

The City of Charlottesville has the 2nd largest private sector employment base within the Region in 2010 with 24,708 jobs. However, private sector employment in Charlottesville is 8.8% lower in 2010 than it was in 2000 (27,094), the 2nd worst overall private sector job growth performance in the Region. [Emphasis added-nw]

It will take political courage for leaders to question the goals of the TJPED study if it only focuses on the high end white collar jobs and fails to identify appropriate targeted industries for this underutilized population. 

While we have been eagerly awaiting the release of the TJPED study, we are equally interested in the specific feedback political leaders provide.  Philosophically discussing improving economic vitality is one thing but when you get down to the brass tacks of business sector identification, it is interesting to see the urgency shift.

Earlier this year in a discussion of the “fast track” process in Albemarle County, Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) suggested perhaps a distribution hub could qualify for a speedy application process.  Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) thought otherwise raising the environmental and traffic impacts of such a facility located within Albemarle’s urban ring.  He said that application probably would deserve EXTRA scrutiny based on potential impacts.

The Board of Supervisors even had a brief discussion last week on how to “receive” the report.  There was trepidation by some Board members that is they “accept” the report it would be akin to endorsing it.

This really speaks to the myriad of different perceptions of economic development. 

Position 1 might best be summed up by British Researcher and Author Richard Wilkerson who once suggested:

In its broadest ecological context, economic development is the development of more intensive ways of exploiting the natural environment.

Position 2 could be captured in Ronald Reagan’s quote regarding economic development. 

Reagan said:

We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development. [emphasis added-nw]

Position 3 – perhaps the “Goldilocks” perspective comes from Bill Clinton who  addressed a group of New York economic developers last September.

Clinton said a strong economy requires an effective government and one that will ask the right questions. He credited [Andrew] Cuomo for doing just that in New York.

Clinton said, “These regional economic groups you set up, the discipline, the thinking you had to undergo to ask ourselves, what are our problems and what are our assets? How can we develop the economy? How can we maximize our partnership with government? How much government do we need and what is the best way to pay for it? [emphasis added – nw]

As we examine this new study, the Free Enterprise Forum will be listening closely to elected leaders to hear which path – if any – they choose to stimulate economic vitality.

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: http://www.greatoccupations.com

Graphics Credit: Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce 2011 Jobs Report

Reading the Local Tax Revenue Cereal Box

By Neil Williamson, President

Feet-on-treadmills-e1325683225938Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live healthier.  Some of these folks fill the local gyms for the first couple weeks of the year.  You know the type, hyper-energized to make a difference by adding exercise to their routine as they strategically park their car closest to the health club entrance.

However, those individuals who are most successful with their healthy resolutions recognize not only exercise (output) is important but what, andcerealboxesnutrition how much, you eat has a direct, dramatic impact on wellness levels.

How does this possibly relate to local government? 

Please let me explain.

The local government budget season is now upon us.  The annual, and often substantiated, cries of unfunded state mandates echo from Palmyra to Lovingston.  While “equalized” tax rates and assessment accuracy continue to be annual topics of controversy, The Free Enterprise Forum is examining the local tax revenue cereal box to see if there is anything we can learn from the revenue types and trends.

In the City of Charlottesville, for instance, almost 12% of all FY2013 General Fund revenue comes from the City/County Revenue Sharing agreement.  This is the second largest source of revenue behind only Real Estate Taxes which, at $50,074,178, make up just over 34% of General Find revenue.

house redIn the County Administrator’s proposed budget, Fluvanna County anticipates their real estate tax revenues will exceed $20.7 Million for FY2013.  This is more than double their actual collections for FY2011.  Real Estate Taxes are projected to make up more than 50% of their Local General Fund revenue.    

This compares favorably with Greene County where FY2013 Real Estate tax revenue is projected to be just over $12.5 million and represents just over 50% of total local revenueNelson County Real Estate Tax Revenue makes up 62% of its local revenue.

In Albemarle County FY12/13 Budget totals $311.7 million dollars.  According to the proposed budget the largest portion of revenue is coming from Real Estate taxes which is expected to generate $111.9 million or 50.4% of all local revenue.

Louisa County has the highest percentage of local tax revenue from property taxes with 87% of all local revenue represented by property taxes.  Interestingly in Fairfax County, 60.1% of Local General Tax Revenue comes from property taxes; to the tune of $2.1 Billion dollars. 

It is important to note that all of the above numbers include both residential and commercial real estate taxes. 

So of all of these localities, Charlottesville has the lowest percentage of General Fund Revenue from Real Estate at just over a third of local revenue. 

In addition, based on our initial analysis it seems that the recession is actually causing local governments to be increasingly dependent on local property taxes. 

Just as your doctor might suggest just exercising won’t make you fit, should we be looking at our local revenue sources?

While the budget battles wage on the Free Enterprise Forum asks rather than jockeying for what specific spending program should be increased or decreased what if localities worked to grow the revenue side of the ledger?

Just an idea.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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

Suburbanization in Louisa County

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.

clip_image006The 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.

clip_image004Such 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”.

clip_image008By combining commercial and residential growth near the I-64 corridor, Louisa has mitigated many of the traffic issues generated by such activity elsewhere in the region.

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