By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
At the December 11th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors everyone who spoke about Greene County pursuing Route 810 and Route 230 as a Scenic Byway were against the idea. Economic Development Authority Director, Alan Yost, asked that the Board advertise and hold a public hearing to give the public notice of the opportunity to discuss the issue.
So the schedule for the January 8th meeting included a public hearing on the Proposed Virginia Byway designation.
Virginia code dictates that public hearings must be advertised in the local paper in advance of the meeting. Due to an error at the Greene County Record, the required notice did not appear in the newspaper and therefore the public hearing could not officially be held although the meeting room was at capacity with citizens ready to speak on this issue.
The Board of Supervisors recognized that a large number of citizens came to the meeting to be heard on the issue so they went ahead with a “Public Comment” session and allowed the public to speak on the issue and assured them their comments will be added to the comments made at the January 22nd public hearing.
Yost thanked the Board for going forward with the meeting and presented several reasons why the Board should support the Scenic Byway resolution. Yost indicated Scenic Byways are supported in the Comprehensive Plan, more tourists will improve the economy of the county, tourism tax revenue helps decrease the tax burden on the residents of Greene, and tourism doesn’t place demand on County services such as the school system.
In addition, Yost is working with Albemarle County and Madison County. Madison has already approved the Scenic Byway for Route 230. Albemarle is behind both Madison and Greene County in their process.
Yost indicated that Greene County would incur no cost with the program, there are no restrictions to what vehicles can use the roadway, Route 810 is actually rated by VDOT for 4 times the current traffic volume and it is estimated that a 4% increase will occur from the designation.
Finally, Yost referred to the editorial in last week’s Greene County Record which referenced 3,000 miles of Scenic Byways in Virginia. Yost stated that he has been unable to find a county that regrets naming a Scenic Byway and a county can change their mind and remove the designation at any time.
Supervisor Dale Herring (At Large) asked Yost if the designation would apply to the parts of Route 33 Bypass and Route 33 Business that connects Route 810 and Route 230 and was told they would be included in the proposal to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and that small sections of four lane roads have been designated when they connect other parts of a Byway. Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) outlined the route as Route 230 to Route 33 Business through Stanardsville to Route 33 By-Pass West to Route 810 toward Albemarle County.
The presentation shifted to comments from the public of which 18 of 19 speakers spoke in favor of the Scenic Byway designation. One of the main issues brought up is the town of Stanardsville would benefit from tourism traffic which has been down since the Route 33 Bypass was built around the town.
The hope is that more traffic through town would attract more businesses to locate in Stanardsville. One thought was that if the Scenic Byway was adopted that possibly the southern portion of Route 810 would be better maintained.
The final speaker in favor of the Scenic Byway designation took off from the movie Field of Dreams by suggesting the Board to…. Approve It and They Will Come!
There was one speaker opposed to the designation. His comments focused on the road conditions and narrowness of Route 810 at the southern end near Albemarle County was not safe or adequate for the increased traffic.
Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) reminded everyone that the formal public hearing on this issue will be held at the next Board meeting on January 22nd. She assured those that spoke tonight would have their comments entered into the record as will any emails, phone calls or letters up until the next meeting. Martin was pleased with the great attendance and encouraged others to come to the next meeting. At that point the issue was tabled until the January 22nd meeting.
Later in the meeting it was announced that Greene County has hired a new County Administrator – Mark B. Taylor – who holds the same position at Spotsylvania County and he will start in April.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org
By. Neil Williamson, President
On Friday (6/29), Greene County Administrator John Barkley resigned effective immediately. The news was communicated to County staff via a letter from Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Flynn:
This is clearly a time of transition for the County and for you, our valued employees. The Board recognizes the anxiety and uncertainty transitions of this nature can produce. I want to assure you that each of you has the full support and confidence of the Board. We trust the county will continue to make progress and deliver excellent service to its citizens. We know that you will support and encourage one another throughout. The Board is optimistic that the challenges we currently face also present tremendous opportunity for progress.
Serving as Greene County administrator since 2013, Barkley previously served as Town Manager of Dumfries, VA, Colonial Beach, VA and Round Hill, VA in addition to other municipal postings.
In her letter to staff, Flynn indicated the Board would quickly be initiating a search for County Administrator. She also indicated they would be hiring an interim administrator during the search process. In the meantime, Deputy County Administrator Tracy Morris will be the point- of-contact. The letter continued:
Ms. Morris will also represent the County during Board meetings and assist in developing the agenda and notifying staff if they are expected to present at a meeting. It is not the Board’s intent that Ms. Morris assume the responsibilities of the County Administrator.
It will be interesting to see how Greene County moves through this transitional/search period. With significant projects including the White Run Reservoir in the near future, the County Administrator position is critical to ensuring the public work is completed properly.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
By Brent Wilson, Field Officer
At the November 8th Greene County Board of Supervisors the agenda contained a “General discussion of White Run Reservoir Project”. Normally the supervisors take actions or receive reports – a simple discussion is not the norm but it proved quite effective.
Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) began the discussion stating that information regarding the Reservoir Project reported on social media that is not entirely accurate. The fact that the reservoir project has been going on for 8 years has made it difficult, especially for new residents of Greene County, to keep up with project in terms of what has happened, why, what needs to happen and at what cost.
While true that each meeting is available on line on the county website, Flynn explained that there is no one place to get an overview of the project.
Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) agreed that it is hard to understand how the White Run site chosen. He agreed that there needs to be a summary of the project that highlights each step of the process.
Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) suggested a narrative to summarize the project is needed and volunteered to do the draft of the document since he has been the supervisor who has dealt with the project from the beginning.
The general discussion evolved into how Greene County got to the point of needing a reservoir. According to Frydl, many rural communities haven’t invested in water resource and therefore water rates are artificially low and don’t pay for the operating costs let alone provide funds to expand their system. Even grants that are pursued say that Greene County needs to charge market rates for water.
Frydl continued to explain that the county is required to meet a 50 year supply plan as required by the Army Corps of Engineers. The first site reviewed was that of Carroll Morris’ property on Route 33 but the soil was not good for the dam. This led Greene to pursue the second choice which is the White Water location.
The cost of the project has been a topic of discussion for some time. The cost is to be passed on via a rate increase for water and an increase in personal property tax that is to be done incrementally over time. Recently, there were reports of a robo-call indicating the Supervisors would vote on a tax increase at the November 8th meeting. Such a vote was not scheduled and did not occur.
There is still much work on the project to be done – designs are yet to be completed, the dam layout has to be determined, once the specifications are submitted, cost estimates can be developed and the exact funding mechanisms will be determined.
Flynn felt that the uncertainty in the community supports the need for a summary to the public of what has been done and what has to been done. Herring agreed there is a lot of material related to the project over the years that needs to be summarized into a presentation to allow the whole history of the project to be understood.
Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) stated that the public wants to know how they will be forced to pay for the water supply. Martin felt that the Supervisors need to communicate better and pledged to be transparent in the process. He proposed a town hall meeting to review the history of the project and remind the citizens of Greene of the drought when the county nearly ran out of water.
Frydl indicated that doing a summary of the project would help citizens more easily understand what has happened to date. Martin thought that more needs to be done especially with the starting of live streaming of Supervisor meetings in December.
Martin asked for input from County Administrator John Barkley. He appreciates that the Board seems to be unified in wanting to provide easily understood information on the project. And while all of the information is available over the eight years of Supervisor meeting minutes, it is very time consuming to gather all of the information over the years.
Barkley recommended summarizing the history of the project and carrying forward the actions required to design, build, maintain the water supply. Frydl agreed with Barkley and reconfirmed that the dam is needed since the current water supply cannot handle new large users and thus significantly restricts the economic growth of Greene County.
Martin asked Barkley to look at a town hall meeting with the consultants once we are comfortable with the time line on the remaining tasks. Frydl offered to do an outline and to work with Barkley to develop a presentation for the public.
It is hoped that the summary would cover all the decision points over the project to date and link back to each meeting where the issue was discussed so that citizens could easily get the details of any particular issue. In addition, the tasks yet to be done with approximate times and cost should be estimated and updated as the project moves forward.
Live streaming of the Supervisor meetings start in December as a new way to get information out to the public.
In the end, the Board of Supervisors heard the concerns from the citizens of Greene County and the board is going to communicate better.
It sounds like how the system should work.
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