By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
Fluvanna County is trying to be more shovel ready.
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved transferring $35,000 to start the Fluvanna Shovel Ready Sites Program (FSRSP). The program is set up to help Zion Crossroad area landowners move sites up the development tier.
Currently the county has no properties in the lowest of a five tier grading scale. The FSRSP will help move properties higher up the scale.
“The objective is to get as close as possible to tier five,” said economic development coordinator Jason Smith.
Staff stressed the program is assist landowners wanting to move closer to development.
“The program is not to tell citizens what to do with their property,” said Steve Nichols, county administrator.
The program would be administrated by the Fluvanna Economic Development Authority. The EDA and staff recommended a grant based program. The supervisors approved an interest free loan program to be repaid paid back after land use changed.
“There are a lot of places you can put shovel ready sites, but I think we all agree Zion Crossroads makes a lot of sense,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District). O’Brien noted being briefed on a report that Virginia was losing out to development because of lack of shovel ready sites.
Also at the November 15 meeting, supervisors appropriated an additional $54,000 to construct the Farm Heritage Museum to be placed at Pleasant Grove, near the farm house.
The project includes over $250,000 from the funds raised and secured by the Fluvanna Historical Society. The historical society also pledged to give $5,000 over five years to help offset the $54,000 the county is outlaying.
The entire project is estimated at $340,000. The facility will be owned by the county. The bid for construction was awarded to Fuog/InterBuild. The company estimates it will take eight weeks to complete after building permit is issued.
Don Weaver (Cunningham District) was the lone vote against the county contributing $54,000 to complete the project. The county already gave $15,000 to complete site work.
“Should the tax payers pick up the tab,” asked Weaver.
Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) noted how much money was raised from resident and business donations. “That’s telling me there is community support,” said Booker.
Weaver voted with the majority to award the bid and accept funding from the historical society.
Photo Credits: Fluvanna County
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
“I think the election was a reflection of educated voters who understand that the county’s continued need to balance the tax base through economic development and recognize that we need to provide competitive cores services to thrive,” said O’Brien in an emailed statement.
“The voter also recognized that both the county administration and the [Board of Supervisors] are focused and committed to resolving these challenges while always striving for transparent and accountable fiscal stewardship.”
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
On November 1st, 2017, Fluvanna County put the Zion Crossroads water and sewer project out to bid.
Decades of discussion have culminated in the supervisors advertising for bid the $11.9 million project.
The request for bid will be done in three parts. The pipes, the mechanical and the water tower are all in separate requests in hops of getting better bids by companies that would otherwise have to subcontract.
After the supervisors completed a series of motions, the room applauded as the long chapter of Fluvanna politics is nearing a close. The project is expected to take 18 months to construct.
Economic Development? Supervisors also initiated a rezoning process for an undisclosed business trying to relocate in the Zion Crossroads area. The project would be an investment of $8 to $10 million and bring about 40 jobs to the county. The business would be disclosed once the public hearings occur.
The property is currently zoned agricultural and is seeking an industrial zoning. The county is also working with the business to get a hookup to the aforementioned water project once water is flowing.
In other water news, after a closed meeting, the supervisors pledged $5,000 to Caroline County for proposed legal advice on fighting Aqua America’s proposed rate increases. Lake Monticello is served by Aqua. Caroline County has several subdivisions also served by Aqua, estimated at 30 percent of its population.
Caroline reached out to other home owners associations and locality governments for assistance in teaming together to fight against Aqua’s request. Caroline estimated the cost of legal advice and State Corporation Commission expert help at over $75,000.
Other presentations during the November 1st meeting included one from an official from Fluvanna Girls Softball League (FGSL). FGSL wanted the county to loan $25,000 to the private organization to field improvements at the Carysbrook field. Work included leveling the infield and outfield as well as replacing the backstop and adding an outfield fence.
The proposed loan was $25,000 paid over five years with 2 percent interest. Unfortunately, supervisors were briefed by the county attorney they have no legal authority to loan money to FGSL, a private organization. Because Carysbrook is county property, the county could construct the requested work and FGSL can voluntarily contribute to the county’s coffers.
Chris Fairchild, FGSL official, said even if the supervisors said they didn’t want to be paid back, FGSL wants to pay for the improvements. Supervisors and the parks and recreation department will work with FGSL to get work scheduled as previously planned.
Over the course of the last 15 years, FGSL has invested $168,000 in field improvements including construction of dugouts and concession stand.
Supervisors were briefed on preliminary budget projections of the Fluvanna County Public Schools system. Chuck Winkler, superintendent, is projecting a request of $2.2 million over last year’s budget.
That estimate included standards of quality changes that are partially funded by the state. He included the entire figure but noted if the state implemented, it would have a huge state budget implication. He said the likelihood of being passed was slim, but included it as a precaution.
Also in Winkler’s increase were pay raises and increase in health care costs. He also had additional money for technology improvements. He noted that if technology was funded again by Capital Improvement funds, it lowers the county’s per pupil spending.
The supervisors will next meet on November 15 at 7 p.m.
By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
In response to this requirement, Billie Campbell, Senior Program Manager, and Wood Hudson, Planning Manager, of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission addressed the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their first meeting of October (10/10). They presented a draft of the 2017 Update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan . The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 set out requirements for State and local governments to update their plans every five (5) years.
The purpose of plan is prepare for natural disasters before they occur and it covers all jurisdictions in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District – Albemarle County, the City of Charlottesville, Greene County, Louisa County, Fluvanna County, Nelson County, and the towns of Scottsville, Stanardsville, Louisa and Mineral. The first plan was approved in 2006, then in 2012 and it is now due to be updated by December 17, 2017.
In August a draft of Regional HMP was submitted to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) who will then forward it to FEMA for their review and comments and once they have approved it, each jurisdiction must adopt the plan.
According to the draft plan:
Natural hazards tend to be low-probability, high-impact events. One year could be mild with natural
events scarcely interrupting communities, while the next could be literally disastrous. The purpose of hazard mitigation is to make an effort to minimize the damage and loss of life caused by disasters when they do occur. Hazard mitigation is one component, along with emergency response and post-disaster recovery, to the larger strategy of dealing with the human impacts of natural hazard
With more people living in areas susceptible to natural hazards, the costs associated with such hazards have been steadily increasing over time. The localities of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (the Counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson, the City of Charlottesville, and the Towns of Scottsville, Columbia, Stanardsville, Louisa, and Mineral) are impacted by variety of different hazards. In order to lessen the growing cost of disaster recovery on the localities and minimize the disruption of business during a disaster, there is a growing need to mitigate the impact of known hazards. Through proper planning and the implementation of policies and projects identified in this Hazard Mitigation Plan, the region and the localities can reduce the likelihood that these events will result in costly disasters.
The Hazard Identification and Analysis section of the plan describes natural hazards which pose the greatest threat to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Hazards are profiled in terms of prevalence, intensity, and geographical scope. The section includes a description of the hazard as well as analysis based upon historical and scientific data.
The specific areas of the plan are:
- flooding and dam failure
- winter weather
- temperature extremes, drought and landslides, and
- tornado and earthquakes.
The plan calculates a risk factor for each event within the TJPDC study area.
Within each category are specific actions recommended to be taken that include describing the hazard, potential mitigation, lead responsible entity, estimated cost, funding method and the time period of the issue.
Campbell asked that the Board consider making the resolution supporting the plan. All of the supervisors supported the plan but wanted to wait until the second board meeting of the month to allow time for them to review the proposal. The request was deferred until the October 24, 2017 meeting and it is hoped that the Supervisors will approve the resolution at that time.
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
Fluvanna County is preparing the way for development in the Zion Crossroads area. Water and sewer will start construction in the coming year, but Fluvanna County staff have an idea to make properties in development area ‘shovel ready.’
The proposed program, Fluvanna Shovel Ready Sites Program (FSRSP), will provide money to property owners to help them have land ready for development quicker.
Jason Smith, director of community and economic development, has vocal approval to develop the program. His idea is a play off of a similar state program, Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The statewide program has a minimum acreage of 100 acres. Fluvanna has two cooperating landowners who can combine to be eligible but most properties in Zion Crossroads area are smaller.
FSRSP would fill the gap for properties 2 to 99 acres.. Smith said several property owners he speaks to are willing to have their land developed, but they don’t fully know the process or what it entails.
“This is a program creates an avenue to have a conversation,” said Smith.
Virginia classifies property for development in five tiers. The higher the tier, the easier it is to develop. Most Fluvanna land is sitting in tier one.
“One of the core features of the Fluvanna Shovel Ready Site Program is rezoning. That takes two to three months. Developers don’t want to fiddle with that paperwork and two or three meetings,” said Smith.
Rezoning a property from Agricultural-1, which the vast majority of Fluvanna is zoned, to a business friendly zoning jumps property to tier three.
Along with zoning, the program would help landowners take care of various other due diligence programs like surveying or environmental studies. Smith said developers don’t want to hear there is an issue that needs to be mitigated because they’ll move to another location in another locality.
Smith said, “If we can do all the red tape, if we can take care of that, [developers] want to open up and make money. They don’t want to sit around for a year.”
He briefed the Board of Supervisors of the program during a work session in September. He will bring it back for final approval in November in hopes of rolling it out by January 1.
“We can’t wait. We can’t,” said an anxious Smith.
He said his office gets request for information every few months with questions that automatically disqualify any county property. Water infrastructure will help but moving properties to tier three or four will help speed things along.
Smith proposes moving $35,000 from a microloan program to FSRSP. The microloan money has been budgeted for several years with no businesses applying or using the money.
Just like the idea behind microloans, anyone interested in getting financial assistance through FSRSP would have to apply through the Economic Development Authority of Fluvanna. Once approved, landowners would work with county staff to complete the proposal.
“[The program will] provide a financial assistance opportunity to actually do something with the property, instead of just letting it sit and watch the property two miles up the street in Louisa county be developed,” said Smith.
Smith’s intention is to get final supervisor approval during the November 1 session. If approved, he would then have community meetings to publicize to landowners.
Photo Credit: Ryan Pace Communications Management, LLC
Study Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending
Charlottesville, VA – As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2019 budget process, a new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically. The “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, is based on an independent locality-specific local government spending index (LGSI). The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2016, identified Nelson County as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI with Albemarle County a close second.
Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog. The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions. Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the elections and budget season”.
The LGSI is based on self-reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.
It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment. While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:
Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 152% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 55% and 36% respectively.
City of Charlottesville – During the study period (1990-2016), Charlottesville experienced a population increase of almost 23%, the second smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative growth in school enrollment of just over 1%. In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased over 80% during the study period.
It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities.
In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities. During the study period, four localities had roughly 50% increase in per capita spending, while two, Albemarle and Nelson, increased per capita spending by over 60%.
The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom. The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
If you operate a short-term rental in Fluvanna County, bad news, it is a zoning violation. Good news, the Board of Supervisors wants to make it legal with limited government regulation.
The board was briefed on the item during its August 16 meeting because county staff was alerted to a new ‘bed and breakfast’ in the locality. It was a home listed on Airbnb.
Upon review, staff determined there was no legal way to operate such using the current laws. The supervisors gave overwhelming support to allowing the operation.
Currently if there was a complaint, staff would determine it was a commercial operation (hotel) operating in a residential zoned property. This would be a zoning violation.
Staff proposed making short-term rentals a by-right operation in residentially zoned properties. There would be no special use permit, there would be no need to register.
Still, even that Don Weaver (Cunningham District) was against. He wanted even less government regulation than that. Staff said unfortunately if the board wanted to allow the operations, the only recourse was to add it to the zoning laws.
A zoning ordinance change will have to go through the Planning Commission before it works its way back to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Also during the meeting staff briefed the board on approval of a grant for the burn building. The grant will help the county build a practice facility for the volunteer firefighters. The anticipation is the county will have to match up to $300,000 for the building.
One option staff previously discussed was getting donations or using staff man hours to ‘match’ the funds. For example, if a cement company donated the slab the building sits, the value of the cement would be considered part of the county match funding.
The county will soon be able to accept debit and credit cards along with online payments, through a contract with PayGov. The county will install multiple card readers throughout to handle various payment needs.
The lease with Fluvanna Christian Service Society (FCSS) is finalized. FCSS, which operates a food bank, will lease ground space behind Carysbrook Gymnasium. The lease is for $15 a month and FCSS can pay in yearly checks.
FCSS will put moveable sheds on the leased area. FCSS currently operates a shed and a stick-built building behind Social Services building, mere yards from the new location. The move will make it easier to load and service those in need. The county is buying the stick-built building from FCSS once the move is complete.
The supervisors will next meet on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. There will be a work session scheduled for after. At the Sept. 20 session, supervisors will discuss the Emancipation Monument that will be donated.
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are adding another $8.5 million to the county’s debt total.
The supervisors voted 4-0 to finance $8.5 million for the Zion Crossroads water and sewer project.Chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) had a pre-planned absence.
Current estimates has the project at over $10 million. The remaining amount will be paid in cash from the county’s reserves.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) wanted to include in the financing the first year’s payment but it failed to reach a second. Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) moved to pay the first year’s payment in cash. This payment was not budgeted for in FY18.
The supervisors originally applied and were approved for $8.5 million through the Virginia Resource Authority but debated on financing less than the full amount. The county’s reserves are sitting at $4.8 million above policy of keeping 12 percent of the budget in reserves. This additional amount above policy is called the ‘fund balance.’
With financing of $8.5 million for the project, the county will still pay $1.7 million in cash from the fund balance.
“Flexibility [in the cash balance] is important. $2 million is not a lot of flexibility,” said O’Brien.
The county’s debt total will be over $100 million. Starting in FY19 the county will be retiring $6 to $7 million a year of debt.
Also at the June 21 meeting, the supervisors approved a number of changes in the the zoning ordinances.
The only one not to get an unanimous vote was the one regarding planning unit developments. Fluvanna still does not have an approved PUD and only one has come to a vote, Walker’s Ridge.
The changes would restrict PUDs to the Zion Crossroads community planning area and would require use of public water and sewer. O’Brien raised concern if a developer needed more capacity than the county could offer at the time, it would stop development.
County staff said if a developer wanted a PUD, the developer would help finance an expansion of the system to make it work.
Wayne Stephens, director of public works, said he thought it would be a huge mistake to allow people to build a private system in a community planning area.
O’Brien envisioned a scenario where the developer would have a private system that later would connect when the capacity would allow.
“Trust me, if you have an out…someone will take it,” said Stephens.
The ordinance change passed 3-1 with O’Brien against it.
The other zoning text amendments passed without dissension. The sign ordinance became less restrictive including allowing larger signs in the Zion Crossroads urban development area. The ZXR sign overlay district will have similar dimensions as Louisa County but slightly smaller.
The other change was increasing the maximum height of Industrial 2 zoned properties. It also will now require less setback unless bordering a residential zoned property.
All of the changes are geared to helping development in the Zion Crossroads’ area with the anticipating of the aforementioned planned water system.
In other news, the supervisors approved the county applying for a grant to build a fire training tower building at the Fork Union Fire Station. The goal of the application is for the county’s match to be provided by staff work or already budget resources instead of additional cash contribution.
The supervisors approved a new private secondary school at the old ABC Preschool by Slice Road. The facility is a six week program geared to helping students return to the public school classroom by working on social skills and classwork. The private school has agreements with Fluvanna, Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, Nelson and Madison already.
The board transferred money to pay for county attorney services. The FY17 projected cost is $273,000. The county’s attorney costs have increased each of the last four years. The supervisors briefly discussed during the budget season hiring a full time county attorney, however that discussion didn’t go far.
Also at the June 21 meeting the supervisors extended the contract for the county attorney services at the same rates as the current fiscal year.
The supervisors will next meet on July 5 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The supervisors have no second meeting in July. A public hearing on issuance of the ZXR bonds will be on the 7 p.m. docket.
Photo Credit: Fluvanna County
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors have a tentatively agreed to finance the Zion Crossroads (ZXR) water project with $8 million of debt. The county was approved to finance up to $8.5 million through the Virginia Resource Authority.
The ZXR project is projected to cost $10.2 million. The county has $4 million in cash savings, most commonly called the fund balance. Supervisors debated how much they would feel comfortable financing between $6 million and $8 million and for how long.
“I would encourage you to go $8 [million],” said county administrator Steve Nichols.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said, “The more flexibility we have in regards to the fund balance, the better.”
The county was advised by staff to go no more than 25 years on the bonds to avoid financing a project longer than the project’s replacement cycle. The estimated lifespan of the project is 50 years for the water tower, 15 to 20 years for mechanical parts and 70 to 80 years for the pipes.
“You should view this debt as an investment,” said O’Brien.
Don Weaver (Cunningham District) said, “It is definitely an investment.”
Also at the June 7 meeting, supervisors decided it will sit back and watch the market in regards to how to reinvest $58 million worth of bonds. In third quarter 2018, the school bonds will have about a 100-day span where money can be reinvested. The proceeds of the investments would be profit for the county.
“I don’t think you will make less [later] than you are going to make today,” said Patricia Eager (Palmyra District).
The county explored a float agreement where the county would now offer companies an opportunity to invest money when the chance arises in 2018. The companies would pay the county now for the opportunity later.
Another option is to buy state and local government series (SLGS) securities. However, the government regulates when those can be purchased. Currently SLGS securities are not allowed to be purchased but it is expected to open again.
As the opportunity to reinvest the bonds gets closer, the float agreement becomes less advantageous because companies would not be ‘betting’ on the market. Another issue with the float agreement is the county would pay fees which would take away maximum income.
If SLGS window is closed during the reinvestment period, the county could purchase treasury bonds for a similar rate.
“In other words, [by not doing anything now] we are taking a risk?” said Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).
Eager responded, “Not a very big risk.”
The county administration recent discovered a new ‘bed and breakfast’. Staff has discovered 20 to 25 homes are listed on popular sharing economy website airbnb, where owners can rent out spare rooms to strangers.
The state now allows localities to regulate this new type of lodging options. Many localities have had an adversarial relationship with airbnb because many owners are failing to pay lodging (and business) taxes. [Albemarle County is considering a new lodging tax and business tax ordinance this Wednesday]
However Fluvanna has no lodging taxes. County staff asked the supervisors for direction regarding the issue. Weaver found no issue if renting your own home was legal.
“Have you had any issues?” Weaver asked and received a no. “Then leave it alone.”
County attorney Fred Payne said, “I think [the market] is so new, it is still shaking down.”
Staff offered an opportunity to require airbnb hosts to register with the county. “I think it is a very fluid market,” said O’Brien.
Staff research and return to the board with opportunities or regulations.
The next Fluvanna Board of Supervisors meeting is June 21 at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Fluvanna County
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved debt financing plan for Zion Crossroads water project at the April 19th meeting.
The project doesn’t have final design or numbers yet, but the possible funding source will be the Virginia Resource Authority (VRA).
The supervisors approved applying in the summer bond pool with the VRA. The application will be for $10 million, the latest estimated cost of the project. The deadline for the application is May 1.
The county should get a final design and cost in the next month. At that time, the supervisors can decide how much financing they want to use and amend the application. The county administrator recommends putting $4 million from the county’s cash balance to the project.
In regards to current county debt, the high school bonds have a window of about 100 days in the fourth quarter 2018 where $57 million can be reinvested. The county has two known options.
One option is to issue a ‘float agreement’ where the county contracts with an investment firm now at a locked in amount. The investment firm gives the county a set amount now with the hopes the firm can invest that money for a better return when the window opens.
If the county issued a float agreement right now, it is estimated it would bring in a $74,000 immediate payout. They could also ask for a specific amount and once a bid comes in at that price, accept it. The county can issue the float agreement at any time but as the window nears, firms will be less like to ‘bet’ high.
A second option is to purchase a state and local government series (SLGS) when the 100 day period occurs. The only issue is the SLGS are sometimes blocked to be purchased. Two years ago SLGS were not allowed to be purchased for most of the year.
Supervisors directed staff to ask more questions about possibilities to Raymond James, the county’s financial adviser.
At April 12th meeting, the supervisors approved the FY18 budget and tax rates on a 4-1 with Don Weaver (Cunningham District) dissenting.
The real estate tax rate is set at $0.907 per $100 assessed. The personal property stayed at $4.35 per $100. The business rates decreased in an effort to help local businesses.
Late changes to the budget included giving staff a 2 percent raise to start January 1, increasing the budget for county attorney, additional funds for the Sheriff’s Office and Earth Day hazardous waste collection. The supervisors also are using cash to purchase a new brush truck for emergency services.
More public was present at the meeting but overall the budget season had few county residents active in the process.
The supervisors will next meet on May 3 at 4 p.m. for a regular session. A work session on county projects, including the Zion Crossroads water project, is expected before the May 17 meeting.