Tag Archives: land use

Albemarle Prefers Pigs over Pinot

By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County has a large number of wineries and vineyards as a part of its agricultural economy.  The Monticello Wine Trail, which includes all of Albemarle, produces roughly 1/2 of all the wine produced in the Commonwealth.

According to the Washington Post:

Virginia ranks fifth in the nation in the number of wineries — with more than 255 — and is the nation’s fifth-largest wine grape producer, officials said. According to a 2011 economic impact study, the wine industry contributes almost $750 million to the state’s economy on an annual basis.

More than 1.6 million tourists visited Virginia wineries in 2013.

Albemarle County’s official website includes a page to “Discover your Albemarle Crush”

pigsWhy then is Albemarle now proposing new regulations that prefer swine over wine?

If the proposed regulations are adopted, a landowner may have a pig pen directly on the property line but a tasting room, parking lot or even a tent for a winery event must be set back 125’.

Rather than valuing the viticultural operations and allowing these rural farms to operate most efficiently (including events), Albemarle is seeking to dictate many of the business decisions including, tent setbacks, hours of operation and even how they bottle their product.

But this is FAR beyond the Supervisors original intent.

Please let me explain.

Last March, the Board of Supervisors determined that they wanted to create a more direct linkage between Albemarle County agricultural use and the ability to hold events at farm wineries, farm breweries, and farm distilleries (FWBDs).

The 1979 Virginia state law, which was designed to promote viticulture in the state, allows farm wineries to utilize leased vineyards anywhere in the state.  Albemarle, seeing to promote viticulture in Albemarle and prevent “faux” farm wineries from becoming by right event spaces in the rural areas, asked staff to address this concern in new event regulations.

WHEREAS, conducting such activities and events on lands designated Rural Area in the Comprehensive Plan and on lands zoned Rural Areas where there is little or no connection to agriculture is contrary to the policies in the Rural Area section of the Comprehensive Plan and the purposes of the Rural Areas zoning district; and

WHEREAS, in order to address these concerns, it is desired to conduct a new study of the relationship between activities and events at FWBDs, their agricultural nature, whether the activities and events are usual and customary as agricultural activities and events, whether and under what circumstances the activities and events are creating adverse impacts on other properties, and the economic impact of any such regulations that may be considered to address these concerns; and

WHEREAS, if the study so warrants, it is desired to consider amending the zoning regulations by strengthening the requisite relationship between agriculture and the activities and events at FWBDs, reasonably addressing any adverse impacts by performance standards or other means identified in the study in order to protect the public health, safety or general welfare, and to address any other issue identified in the study deemed to be necessary and appropriate. Emphasis Added – nw

Staff used the last line in the last Whereas to be a blank check to impact the very business operations of the FWBDs.

While the Free Enterprise Forum is understanding of mandating 5 acres of on site planted acreage to hold events, therby tying agriculture to the events,  the balance of the proposed ordinance goes too far:

1.  Increasing setbacks from 75’ front/25’ side/35’ rear to 125’ from property line.

This relatively arbitrary increase seems to be directed at mitigating impact on the neighbors.  Proper enforcement of existing regulations would seem to be a better less property rights limiting manner to achieve the same result.

In addition, when queries via email regarding agricultural setbacks the Zoning Administrator:

There is no Albemarle County zoning setback for those things [livestock].  We also don’t have setbacks for fencing in general.

Clearly, if enacted as drafted the setbacks portion of this code would significantly favor slopping hogs over sipping hops near the property line.

2. Mandating and not defining “regular hours open to the public”

The concept behind this suggestion is good; any winery seeking to hold events should have enough wine to sell to the public regularly.  Unfortunately, the concept does not hold up to close examination.  Today there are nearly 300 Napa Valley (CA) wineries operating on a ‘By Appointment only’ including such industry stalwarts such as Opus One and Duckhorn Vineyards.  There are a number of high end wineries with significant production in Virginia operating under a similar business model (RDV, Boxwood Estate, etc.).  One local winery (Mountfair Winery) is now closed to the public selling the majority of their production via their wine club.  From their website:

Mountfair Vineyards A private club winery! Mountfair Vineyards, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge near Charlottesville, is a family owned and operated Club Winery serving our club members through appointment and special events. Mountfair is no longer open for regular tasting room hours.

Considering the reduced neighbor impact of an appointment only winery, why should Montfair (or other properties like them) be excluded from holding events?

This market reality raises the question why Albemarle would seek to require wineries that need not be open to make their business model work open their doors to hold events.

Further, a lack of definition of “regular hours” allows the zoning administrator (and her successors) significant latitude in their interpretation of the code.

3.  Punishing the Sunday Bride – Curfew on amplified music.

Currently there is no curfew on amplified music beyond the noise ordinance.  Staff heard loud and clear (pun intended) in the Joint Board of Supervisors/Planning Commission meeting that current practice is to stop all amplified music at 11 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  Rather than accepting a self imposed industry practice and adopting it as code staff selected 10 pm on Sunday night to be the cut off.

One winery, who has been commended for their noise cancelling practices, indicated 20% of their wedding business is Sunday weddings.  If we assume the wedding season runs from May – October (6 months), allowing an 11 pm Sunday cutoff would amount to 24 additional hours of operation (if all dates were booked).  Why not accept the market reality and be done with this – enforce the noise ordinance without punishing the Sunday bride.

Albemarle wineries and cideries (more than breweries and distilleries) have a long history of being good neighbors and benefiting the local economy with their events.  Albemarle can tie the event ordinance to the land but should step away from the mission creep of dictating the business activities on the land.

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.

Photo Credit: http://www.droid-life.com/2014/08/13/t-mobile-identifies-data-hogs-p2p/

 

Fluvanna Land Use Fireworks

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The past few months, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors have discussed how the land use program works and information regarding it. On September 7, the supervisors voted to keep the program as is. The vote was contentious at 3-2 with Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) and Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) voting against it.

The program helps keep the county rural by reducing real estate taxes for property owners who use the land for agricultural, horticultural or forestry uses. The fourth section of the land use program is called open space.

Last month, the supervisors had a work session regarding the program but didn’t vote on it. On September 7th in the regular session the supervisors returned to the subject during unfinished business.

As soon as the item came up, Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) immediately moved to reaffirm the program as it currently is stated. Don Weaver (Fork Union District) seconded the motion. O’Brien then requested the item be discussed.

OBrien2014-photo-credit-Fluvanna-County_thumb.jpg

Tony O’Brien

“I’m a little surprised board members are so happy to push this under the rug,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien said he wanted the item to be tabled until he could get answers to 17 questions he had sent to Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan. Mel Sheridan was not at the meeting.

O’Brien requested the supervisors hire a third party to investigate if residents utilizing land use are complying with the rules of the program. The third party could rule if residents qualify.

From there the residents could make amends to become compliant, change to a section of the program they do comply with or just pay full taxes and no longer be in the program.

Booker said she had no problem having an audit performed by a third party saying residents might not know they aren’t in compliance, herself included.

“We want land use. This county wants to be rural,” said Booker.

O’Brien said there were supervisors who should recuse themselves from the vote because they should know they aren’t compliant with the program.

Eager asked O’Brien to name who he thinks is not compliant as she has done everything to be compliant. He replied he never thought she wasn’t but questioned if Weaver and chairperson Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) were compliant. He also thought Booker might not be compliant but she was in a different arm of the program.

Sheridan said he asked a cooperative agent if he was in compliance and was told his practices were.

Fred Payne, county attorney, gave a legal opinion that supervisors do not have to recuse themselves just because they participate in the program.

O’Brien also suggested Mike Sheridan should recuse himself because Mel Sheridan is his brother.

Payne’s said Mike Sheridan had no need legally reason to recuse himself. He continued supervisors can always recuse themselves if they feel it is necessary but there was no legal reason to do so.

Weaver, who was quiet for the discussion, called for a vote which ended the discussion.

O’Brien said under his breath after the vote, “Embarrassing.”

Following the vote O’Brien made a motion to put the full rules of the land use program on the county’s website.

Payne then gave a legal opinion the motion was out of order because the issue was already voted on. Mike Sheridan then ruled the motion out of order thus not allowing it. O’Brien asked for a clarification of the opinion.

Payne said the motion was continuing an item that was discussed and voted on therefore a second vote was not necessary. The original vote was to ‘reaffirm and retain current Fluvanna County Land Use Program ordinances, policies, and procedures.’

O’Brien then asked the county administrator Steve Nichols who makes decisions regarding information on the website. Nichols said staff does not make decisions on content on the portions regarding the constitutional officers. Commissioner of Revenue is a constitutional officer.

As checked on the evening of Sept. 7, the Commissioner of Revenue’s portion of the website has a land use program section. There is a brief description of the program and another PDF page of instructions of the program.

As part of the PDF, there is citation of the exact county ordinance regarding land use and told to look for the ordinance on the county’s website. The PDF also says residents can call the commissioner’s office for further information.

Mel Sheridan was unavailable for comment regarding the Board of Supervisors meeting.


https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/bryan-rothamel.jpg?w=151&h=151The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

“Missed It By That Much” – Albemarle Neuters A Good Idea

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

maxwellsmart_missed_it_by_that_much

It only took only ninety days to neuter a good idea.

Back on January 6th – in their very first meeting as a newly constituted board, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution of intent that promised to reform and streamline changes to rezoning applications.

The resolution was eminently clear:

WHEREAS, in order to improve the efficiency of applications that do not affect use or density, it may be desirable to amend the regulations in Albemarle County Code 18-33.4 and 18-35.1 pertaining to the application and procedural requirements as well as the fees for such rezonings.

The Free Enterprise Forum saw this as a huge step forward.

If there were adjustments to a rezoning that did not affect use or density a streamlined process could accelerate projects and in term foster positive economic development.  We believed that the state mandated revisions to cash proffers (both 2013 and 2016) clearly fell into this category.

This would mean their would be a fair and efficient manner to amend existing rezonings to fit current state law regarding cash proffers – that’s a good thing right?

Imagine our surprise when staff much more narrowly interpreted the Supervisors’ action and came out with a gauntlet of conditions to be applied to applicants seeking a simplified review:

To be consistent and objective in determining whether to grant a request that is eligible for a simplified application process, the Board will consider the following factors relevant to the proposed proffer amendment:

o Was the proffer as originally provided material to the approval of the original rezoning?

o Does the proposed proffer amendment have a potential impact on adjacent properties not anticipated with the original rezoning?

o Has development already occurred within the rezoned area for which current residents/businesses would have relied on the proffer or for which an amendment to the proffer would materially affect them?

o Is there a general public interest in the proffer as originally accepted that would be materially affected by the requested amendment?

Surely, by this ridiculously high standard, the staff must not think many applications would meet this standard?

Nope.

In public testimony to the Planning Commission, staff indicated they thought this might be used twice a year.  Specifically, Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner stated Cash Proffer amendments would not be recommended by staff for the more efficient review.

As the only member of the public to speak on this issue at the Planning Commission last month, I was dumbfounded by staff’s limitations on what seemed like a really good idea.  Quite honestly, it is like building a car and leaving off the wheels.Car-Without-Wheels-013

Rather than streamlining the onerous and cumbersome rezoning amendment process, staff’s interpretation discourages use of the expedited review AND further encourages the use of the Planning Commission (and the Community Councils) as political cover for the Board of Supervisors.

Further, such a preponderance of public hearings on state mandated proffer amendments, creates a false citizen expectation as Albemarle is restricted by state law on their cash proffer calculation.  But the Planning Commission will hear from citizens that the rezonings, that are an actualization of the community vetted Comprehensive Plan, do not pay for themselves and should be rejected.

The Planning Commission, if past is prologue, will ignore the law and send an improper (and potentially illegal if acted upon) recommendation for denial to the Board of Supervisors. (See Spring Hill)

But all is not lost.

At the public hearing Wednesday night, the Board could see the error in the staff interpretation and request all proffer amendments regularly be sent directly for Board action?

This would certainly streamline getting to the Board but would not guarantee a decision.

Based on this Board’s proclivity for Planning Commission input (and political cover), the realist in me anticipates few if any amendments would be approved but would rather be referred back to the Planning Commission for their consideration – thus neutering the entire streamlining idea.  “Missed it by that much” as Maxwell smart used to say.

Perhaps making it easier to build in the development areas wasn’t such a good idea after all – of course by right rural area residential parcels have no such regulatory barriers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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: Kolzmen.kz, CBS Television Distributor

Albemarle PC – “I Got You Babe”

By. Neil Williamson, President

Groundhog Day PosterWhile being nowhere near as funny (or good looking) as Actor Bill Murray, I must say that thanks to cash proffer inaction by  Albemarle County, I can closely identify with one of his more famous roles.

Please let me explain.

In the seminal 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s weatherman character, Phil Connors, wakes up every day in the same small Pennsylvania hotel to the same song by Sonny and Cher – “I Got You Babe”.

Regardless of what occurs the day that follow – literally no matter what he does,  every morning is the same — Murray is magically transported back to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and the alarm clock’s warning on Groundhog Day.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In January 2013, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned the Contradictory Consequences study that showed how cash proffers were causing residential projects to move forward by right rather than rezoning along the lines of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked us to present the paper to the Board in May.  Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

In 2014, the Virginia passed a law that restricted localities to only murray groundhoginclude infrastructure projects that increased capacity in their cash proffer calculations.  Surely this will prompt significant action in Albemarle.  In September, the Supervisors sent the issue to the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee (FIAC) for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

A full year, and 18 meetings, later (September 2015) the Committee forwarded their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Over the Fall and early winter, the Free Enterprise Forum spoke in six different public meetings in the following three months admonishing Albemarle to make the changes demanded by state code.

For months, there was no action.  But then in November, a glimmer of light, the Chair of the BOS told me it would be on their December agenda.

It was on the December BOS agenda, as an information item that the FIAC report was being sent to the Planning Commission for their review. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Last week, the Planning Commission (with several new members) took up the issue and decided [despite having a subcommittee study it for 18 meetings] they did not have enough information to make a decision and that since the General Assembly is considering additional proffer reform this session, maybe they should just wait.  In the meantime, let’s work on our Fantasy Island CIP. Nothing happened.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

So tonight, just as Phil Connors gave his forecast every morning,  the Free Enterprise Forum will again ask Albemarle County to follow state law and reform their “voluntary cash proffer policy”.  I am pretty sure I know what their redundant response will be.groundhog day 1993

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of the same old song out of Albemarle.

But just like Phil Connors, I don’t know when it will possibly get better.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you
[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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.

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, Columbia Pictures

Albemarle Land Use Decision, Orange Dots and Friday Night Lights

By. Neil Williamson, President

The subtitle of The Friday Night Lights television program ask the question “What if a moment could change everything?”; an appropriate question considering the facts surrounding the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Comprehensive Plan Amendment decision this week.

This morning (9/21) The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce released an updated Orange Dot report on family self sufficiency.  The report, which will be presented at the Chamber Jobs Action Summit on Wednesday found:

The Report update identifies that within the City of Charlottesville, 1,800 families (25%) lack self-sufficiency and within Albemarle County, 3,861 families (16%) also lack self-sufficiency. Using a realistic formula accounting for area costs for food, shelter, clothing, energy and transportation – and child care where needed, area families (depending upon the number of children) need to earn $35,000 – $40,000 a year to be self-sufficient.

This unsettling information comes as the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors are poised to vote on a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to expand the development area by adding land near the intersection of US 29 and I-64 for light industrial jobs.  While the timing of the expansion is being driven by a specific economic development prospect, the decision is significantly larger than any potential applicant.

In discussing the issue Planning Commissioner (and BOS candidate) Rick Randolph has inaccurately positioned the question.  In addition to referring to this as the “Brewery CPA” on his campaign Facebook page he also wrote:

It is apparent from my remarks on the 18th that I opposed this proposed beer industry being located at this site at this time. This does not mean, as I stated, that had the CPA been for a 1,000 employee high-tech industry wanting to open an East Coast corporate center in this property that I would have felt the same way.

Albemarle County, not any business, is the applicant for the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment.  This point, while being made abundantly clear to all attending the meeting, has been conveniently left out of Randolph’s political statement.  This omission, and his apparent lack of understanding that absent this CPA approval his fictional 1,000 employee high-tech industry would be lacking space in Albemarle is regrettable.  The fact he is propagating such misinformation through his campaign is enlightening.

This Sunday, The Daily Progress ran a front page story regarding the CPA and those who support jobs in Albemarle.  I was quoted in the article:

“It’s beyond one applicant,” Williamson said. “This is the county as an applicant trying to expand the product base that you have to sell as economic development. If Albemarle chooses not to move forward with economic development, with this economic development Comprehensive Plan Amendment, I fear the ripple effects to be negative for perhaps a generation.”

Here in the start of High School Football season, the BOS would be wise to consider why these so called Friday Night Lights are already lit when visiting teams arrive at the stadium in the late afternoon.  As with econopen-for-business_thumb.jpgomic development, you can’t just flick a switch and turn the lights on and when they go off it takes a long time to get them back on.

We believe a moment can change everything.  We continue to hope the Albemarle Board of Supervisors keeps the Open for Business light on by voting in favor of jobs in approving this CPA.

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.

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.

Fluvanna Supervisors Fly Through Light August Agenda

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

In the quickest meeting in recent memory, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved a new restaurant in the Cunningham District.

Fluvanna Supervisors typically hold a 4 p.m. meeting on the first Wednesday and a 7 p.m. meeting on the third Wednesday of each month. August has just one meeting scheduled on the first Wednesday as it typically is a slower time of the year.

The afternoon session had appointments to two boards, a budget amendment, reclassification of an open maintenance position and two appropriations to the Department of Social Services.

The evening session had just two public hearings, for the same property. The property is located on Route 6, near the intersection of The Cross Road (Route 733). Interestingly, the property was originally zoned R-1 in the 1970s when the county adopted zoning. It is only 300 feet wide.

The applicant asked to rezone from R-1 to A-1, which was granted unanimously. The applicant then also asked for a special use permit to operate a small restaurant. It was also approved unanimously.

No one from the public, other than the applicant, was present at the public hearing.

The earlier session finished up some fiscal housekeeping for action the supervisors took in late 2014. The supervisors voted to refinance two loan payments. It changed the FY15 budget by more than 1 percent, thus requiring public hearing and formal action on the budget changes.

The public hearing was held the meeting prior but Don Weaver (Cunningham District) asked staff to include a total recap of the 2014 action. The refinance of the 2005 courthouse bond saved the county $117,822 over the course of the debt. The refinance of the 2006 library bond saved the county $217,712 over the life of the loan.

The Department of Social Services requested two FY16 supplemental appropriations from state and federal funds. One of the appropriations allowed the hiring of a new benefit specialist, part time to help reduce the Medicaid backlog. The second one allows for additional overtime to help with the aforementioned backlog. No new money was expended. The DSS budget provided the required match.

Supervisors are looking to save money by spending more on a maintenance position. They voted to raise the pay but also increase the requirements of an open position. The net salary difference might be a few thousand a year, but the position now requires a specialty. This will allow the county to stop more costly contract services of the hired specialty, whatever it might be.

Chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) was absent from the meeting so vice chair Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) handled the gavel. Booker, on planned vacation, is expected back for the September meetings. Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) was present for the 4 p.m. session but left before the 7 p.m. session.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Greene BOS Approves Cabins on Route 33

clip_image002Bruce Shifflett, owner of Lydia Mountain Resorts, appeared before the Greene County Board of Supervisors to request a Special Use Permit (SUP#15-003) for a general store and five (5) cabins on a parcel that partially fronts Route 33 west of Stanardsville (18-(A)-11B). Prior to the hearing, Supervisor Eddie Deane recused himself since his wife, Tina, works for the applicant.

Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the request for the nearly 4 acres that is zoned C-1 and partially fronts Route 33 at the entrance to Lydia Mountain Resorts. The Planning Commission on May 20th approved the SUP with a 5-0 vote with the only restriction that guests could stay no more than 30 days in a years time.

Shifflett addressed the Board and explained that the existing building on Route 33 was at one time a general store when he was growing up in Greene and he hopes to use it as a check in location for his guests. Currently the guests go directly to their cabin and there is no personal contact with the resort staff.

Next the session was open to the public where four speakers were evenly split on the permit. An adjacent landowner, Paul Vannoy, expressed concern about the density of having 6 buildings on less than 4 acres where property owners in C-1 can only build one home per 8 acres by right. He also lives downhill from the proposed dwellings and expressed concern about his ground water being contaminated.

Tina Deane, who is the manager of Lydia Mountain Resort, said that they are very sensitive to their neighbors and the units would be small one bedroom units approximately 400 square feet. She lives right beside the resort and it is quiet.

The hearing then shifted to a discussion of the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) said he had received several emails opposing the SUP but he felt that it was supported by the Comprehensive Plan to develop tourism in Greene County and he likes the idea of the store front on Route 33. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) complimented Shifflett on his quality of his development but he expressed concern that the ground water may be contaminated.

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Greene County BOS Chairman David Cox

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) said that Shifflett’s development has been good for Greene County and that his only concern was the density of the four acres with 5 units. He suggested to Shifflett that he reduce the request to fewer units. Chairman David Cox (Monroe District) expressed concern that for generations either 5 and then 8 acres have been required for one dwelling.

Shifflett offered to reduce the number of cabins from 5 down to 3 and explained that he isn’t sure if he would get 3 units and that it will depend if the lot would perk in proper locations to put in the units. At that point, a motion was made to approve the SUP with the general store and 3 cabins with the same 30 day restriction that the PC approved. The motion was passed 3-1 with Cox voting no.

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

Photo Credits: Greene County

Greene Extends Permit for Recycling Center

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County’s Apex Corporation / Larry and Barbara Hall requested an extension of their Special Use Permit (#15-004) to make up for delays that has impacted their recycling operation north of Lowes off Route 29 southbound at the May 12th Board of Supervisor meeting.

imageThe original SUP (#14-006) was approved on May 27, 2014. The Planning Commission approved the revised SUP last month with only the elimination of the screening requirement being changed.

Brent Hall spoke for his parents and explained that it has taken 8 months to get the site plan approved. Rapidan Service Authority (RSA)  continues to be an issue to be resolved. Hall is requesting that the SUP be extended by 8 months and that the screening requirement be eliminated since it would actually require the cutting down of existing trees and replacing them 6 foot high trees which would not be as high.

The hearing was then open to the public but no one signed up to comment. The hearing then shifted to the Board. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) stated he attended the Planning Commission meeting last month and he agreed with the Planning Commission’s approval of the extension. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At Large) apologized to the applicant for not noticing that requiring the 6’ evergreens wouldn’t make sense.

Hall was asked to clarify the issue with RSA and he explained that first he had been connected to RSA but then they disconnected his operation. Lamb asked the Board who should be providing water to the property – RSA or Greene County? Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) stated that the Halls would need an EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) to access water. Hall stated that they currently own 13 EDUs so that was not an issue. The issue is that he doesn’t want to use an EDU for a temporarily use. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) interjected that the source of water was not part of the SUP. But if they did not want to use an EDU to hook up then they would need to secure their water from RSA.  Deane was sympathetic to the Halls problem and that they pay over $60,000 in taxes to the county and “we don’t want to push businesses out of Greene.”

Frydl addressed Hall’s reference to how Albemarle County would be more accommodating than Greene County. However, Frydl stated that zoning violations in Albemarle County are fined $200 and then there is an ongoing fine of $500 for every 6 days that you are in violation. Greene County however allowed the Halls to not be fined before they received their original SUP. Frydl further addressed the charge of the county delaying the process by 8 months. According to his research, the county took 55 days to handle the SUP. Other departments, such as the Health Dept., caused the additional delay. So for that reason Frydl stated he could not support the extension to the SUP.

Martin understood why there is no need to replace the trees per the original SUP. However, he did not see the need to extend the SUP, similar to Frydl’s position. Chairman David Cox’s only comment was that he agreed that the 6’ trees should not have been required.

The final issue discussed was whether there was a need to require a performance bond to ensure that the land would be returned to an acceptable level for A1 zoning. Martin asked Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda what is needed and what the cost might be. Svoboda answered that there is a fee based on acreage but that the potential removal of rock would have to be investigated to see what costs might be involved. Cox asked Hall if he knew what the cost might be. Hall said he didn’t plan on leaving any material but there was already and ENS bond to protect the land which should suffice for stabilizing the property. Cox commented that he didn’t see the need for a performance bond.

With no other comments Supervisor Deane proposed that the extension be approved for the SUP. Lamb seconded the motion. Frydl and Martin voted against the SUP, with Deane, Cox and Lamb voting  in favor of the SUP extension.  therefore the Halls will have until February, 2017 to finish their recycling operation.

As the meeting was moving on to the next agenda item and the Halls were exiting the meeting, Deane addressed the Halls by stating – “don’t leave us” in asking the Halls not to move their development out of Greene County.

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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 Manifest Density

By. Neil Williamson, President

As Albemarle County’s Land Use philosophy of focusing development in the 5% of its land mass is under review as part of the Comprehensive Plan, we are starting to see significant push back from those already living in the designated development areas.  Residents are seeking not only to limit the amount of higher density development in the development areas; they are raising alarms at the lack of infrastructure spending to support existing communities and to encourage infill development.  The Home Builders have raised concerns that the calculation used to determine the residential land capacity fails to recognize market realities and at least one Supervisor has raised concerns that the existing neighborhoods are being left behind in plan.

Citizen Concern In their final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, the Village of Rivanna Community Advisory Council [a non elected citizen group appointed by the BOS] requested significant edits to the plan that addressed their concerns regarding density and how new development may impact existing residents.

Major consideration must be given to protecting surrounding properties from the impact of high density development[Emphasis added – nw].  The impact of the plan on existing development should be sensitive to the character of surrounding Rural Areas and major consideration should be given to the needs and wishes of those persons already living and owning property in the the area. The effect on existing transportation infrastructure should also be a major consideration in permitting the development.

Industry Concern In a letter to the Board, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) raised several questions about the development area and asked if staff had appropriately calculated the “Marketable Density”

The proposed Comprehensive Plan speaks of low and high capacity of units in the development areas. From multifamily apartment buildings to townhomes to single family homes, BRHBA members build all types of homes to serve all types of citizens. Each of our members proudly builds with the end user in mind – the occupant. As such, the reality capacity is likely significantly lower than the high end proposed in figure 5 of the Development Area chapter.

While there is a market for dense new urbanist style development, and our members serve that market, the vast majority of the new home buyers in Albemarle County are looking to live in single family detached housing. We are curious if based on the current market mix of housing, would those numbers multiplied by the dwelling unit demand would result in a different calculation of required land area? [emphasis added-nw]

Supervisor Concern In an October 6, 2014 memorandum to the Board of Supervisors, Rio Supervisor Brad Sheffield raised a number of issues with the Development Areas Chapter including the tone of the chapter, infrastructure investment, land use, industrial and residential capacity, and protecting existing neighborhoods.

Not to worry, as we wrote about in a September post,  the Comprehensive Plan clearly suggests a lack of understanding is the cause of such resident concerns. From Page 8.11:

It is natural for residents to fear the effects of change as the County makes efforts to create more dense and urban neighborhoods in the Development Areas. However, when residents understand the relationship between density and preservation of rural areas and the goals of the Neighborhood Model, they seem to find more acceptance of density. Conveying the benefits of density, such as neighborhood schools, parks, sidewalks, and bicycle paths is also important. Understanding that the Development Areas can be great places to live can help residents embrace density in the Development Areas.

The Free Enterprise Forum has to ask if citizens, industry and Supervisors continue to have significant concerns with Albemarle’s “Manifest Density”, why does it continue to move forward?

If such issues are unfounded why has the elongated public process of Comprehensive Plan update not alleviated these concerns?

Once again, we find we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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