Tag Archives: Planning Commission

Ruckersville’s Zoning Evolution

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In the not so distant past, the Ruckersville corner (US 29 intersection with Route 33) of Greene County was best known for a cluster of small antique shops, restaurants, and a couple of gas stations.  The 2010 opening of The Gateway Center, the success of several mom and pop businesses, and infrastructure investment in water and sewer have fundamentally changed the potential economic opportunity of the area.

Many of the existing zoning designations reflect the intersection’s former self.  This zoning disconnect was the issue before the July Planning Commission meeting.

Applicant John Silke, who owns several Ruckersville properties, requested to rezone (RZ#17-002clip_image002) a 1.59 acre parcel on Route 29 South, north of Route 33 – roughly midway between Wal-mart and Lowes. The parcel (60-(A)-20A) was zoned from A-1 to B-2 with some proffers nearly 20 years ago when water and sewer was not available. With those services now available, there is no need to exclude those items via proffers.

Cattails Creek  was the most recent commercial tenant for the property. That business has now vacated the property and Silke is looking to rezone to B-3 to allow for more tenant business options.

Planning Director Bart Svoboda reviewed the request pointing out that all the surrounding parcels, including those on the northbound US 29, are zoned B-3. There is currently an intersection of US 29 and Enterprise Drive with only a right hand turn in and out. There is a crossover to Route 29 northbound at Stoneridge Drive, just south of Silke’s property.

Svoboda also pointed out that the county’s Comprehensive Plan supports economic development in this section of the county.

Staff recommended approval of the rezone but he pointed out that the proffers currently in effect would no longer be in effect with the rezone to B-3.

Chairman Jay Willer asked Svoboda about roadways near the property. Svoboda said “Interconnectivity to the parcel located to the north will be required during the site development plan review. Staff will work with the applicant, the adjacent property owner, and project engineers to ensure the interconnectivity access is planned to provide the optimal ingress/egress for all individuals.”

Commissioner Bill Saunders asked about the proffers back in 1999. Svoboda indicated that in 1999 the property was solely used as a private residence and, therefore, some of the proffers restricted uses that a private residence wouldn’t need. But now this property has a rental unit upstairs and the lower level has had other commercial entities and the B-3 classification is logical.

Commissioner John McCloskey encouraged Silke to find a new business for the first floor. The commission unanimously recommended approval of the SUP request and will forward this request to the Board of Supervisors.

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 May Cut Rural Regulatory Red Tape

By. Neil Williamson, President

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”- Thomas Jefferson

Considering Albemarle County is 95% rural areas, it is perhaps appropriate that the Comprehensive Plan’s Rural Area Chapter has as Objective 1 “Support a strong agricultural and forestal economy”.

It seems completely counter intuitive the hoops farmers must go through to sell their agricultural products in Albemarle.  In 2010, the Board of Supervisors made Farmer’s Markets a Special Use Permit (SUP) AND required a site plan.  This is a most involved process.

On Tuesday (7/11) evening the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to discuss what, if any, regulatory reforms they wish to recommend to the Board of Supervisors.

For those unfamiliar with the SUP process it is as bureaucratic as it sounds.

From the staff report:

Currently, the applicant must submit a site plan. This plan may propose to contain less detailed information then required by the site plan chapter.  When the plan is submitted it is referred to the Site Review Committee. The members of the Committee may request additional information or they may recommend approval. The plan is then processed along with the special use permit and presented to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors must then act on the site plan to authorize the reduced level of detail. . .

. . . the current ordinance requires the plan to be distributed to the full site plan committee. This means that the Albemarle County Service Authority and Architectural Review Board receive the plan even if their review is not required. The Health Department also receives the plan twice, once during the plan review and again prior to clearance. This double review is not necessary as the Health Department’s only comment during the plan review is that it will need to review the site plan prior to issuance of a clearance.

Virgina had 90 farmers markets in 2005, has 250 in 2017Is it any wonder that there have only been four applications for farmer’s markets since 2010.  This is in direct opposition to the statewide trend.

Staff is right in recommending a so called ‘Sketch Plan’ be sufficient for this use.  The Free Enterprise Forum was surprised when the North Garden Farmer’s market came before the Board of Supervisors, an engineer had volunteered to assist with the application.  Absent that professional support, it is not clear the application would have reached the Board.

While the Free Enterprise Forum applauds the lower regulatory hurdle of the ‘sketch’ plan over the site plan – the larger question is shouldn’t this be a “By Right” use.

For over thirty years, Albemarle’s comprehensive plan has discussed supporting agricultural enterprises – are these just words?  From the Comprehensive Plan:

Strategy 1d: Continue to assist Rural Area property owners to diversify agricultural activities, including helping to connect local farms with local consumers

We respectfully request Farmer’s Markets become a by right use that requires a zoning clearance (>$100) that can be processed administratively.

Only then will Albemarle be living up to their Comprehensive Plan goal:

Objective 1: Support a strong agricultural and forestal economy.

Please join me in asking the Albemarle County Planning Commission to cut the red tape and make Farmers’ Markets a by right use in the rural areas.

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: Virginia Farm Bureau

Greene Defers Doggone Zoning Changes

By.Brent Wilson, Field Officer

While attempting to follow the direction of the Greene County Board of Supervisors to review the zoning code, the Planning Commission determined they needed additional information, public engagement and increased transparency before moving forward.

Last fall (August 23, 2016) the Greene County Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to review several zoning ordinances in 2017. The memo states that they are to be “reviewed for purposes of correction, modification and elaboration”. At the May 17th meeting of the Planning Commission reviewed how Commercial Kennels, Animal Shelters and Animal Kennels are regulated.

beagle-puppiesCounty Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the proposed revisions such as reducing the number of dogs in a commercial kennel from a maximum of 10 down to a maximum of 5 and animal kennels would be limited to less than 5. This would not apply to personal pets. Staff did not provide a justification offered as to why the reduction was being sought.

The Planning Commission discussed the proposed revisions to the ordinances – Commissioner Frank Morris asked Svoboda if breeding puppies would be covered by this change as a business. Svoboda indicated that doing so as a hobby would not be included under the zoning ordinances being discussed. He also suggested that there may be a need for a public work session on the proposed changes. (it should be noted that only three of the five commissioners were in attendance – Chairman Jay Willer, Morris, and William Saunders – a quorum of three).

The session then moved to comments from the public of which there were seven speakers. Several speakers were concerned about restricting property rights by reducing number of dogs allowed. Several other speakers were concerned that this change might place restrictions on hunting dogs. Another speaker expressed concern that he only learned about the proposed ordinance revision the night before the Planning Commission meeting.

Willer explained that notices of the Planning Commission meetings are published in the Greene County Record and also appear on the county’s website. Saunders expressed his appreciation to the turnout on the issue.

Morris suggested that a public workshop to gather information before deciding on revisions to the zoning ordinances. He asked Svoboda how much a Special Use Permit cost and was told each permit cost $500.

Svoboda suggested that the revisions be indefinitely deferred until the Planning staff can further research on how other counties such as Rockingham County handle this issue. He estimated that it would take until the end of the summer to research and gather facts to be ready for a work session. The Planning Commission voted to unanimously to defer the ordinance revisions, to hold one or two public work sessions and then make decisions on how to change the proposed ordinance, if at all.

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 Credit: doglib.com

Greene PC Recommends Approval of Church Office At US29/33

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

clip_image003At their January meeting the Greene County  heard a request for a special use permit (SUP #15-009)  to allow the northwest corner of Route 29 and Route 33 to “have meeting places for clubs, fraternal and civic organizations” as listed in Article 4-1-2-15 where the Music Store was formerly located.

Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda reviewed the request for the parcel that is oddly zoned A-1, Agricultural, even though it is on the busiest corner in Greene County. Since the parcel is not zoned business like the clip_image002other three corners, it requires a Special Use Permit in order to allow a church to have an office locate in the two story building on the corner.

While the SUP request is for the 2.41 acres, the Legacy Church (who wants to rent the building as an office) is only looking to use the building where the Music Store was formerly located.

Svoboda went on to explain that the parcel is an odd “L” shape and the building is on the narrow portion of the lot that touches the northwest corner in Ruckersville. The larger portion of the lot continues up Route 29 north and in behind the Greene House Shops and the Jack Shops Restaurant. And he clarified that he recommends that the SUP only be for the two story building, not the motel rooms running up US29 north.

Commissiclip_image006oner Vic Schaff asked Svoboda that if the property were to rezoned to B-1, would the use being requested tonight be changed to a by right use. Svoboda agreed and stated that the SUP would then be void.

Ken Lawson from Grandview Real Estate Services addressed the commissioner and addressed only an issue brought up by the Health Department. The Health Department expressed concerns about the use of the septic system but Lawson clarified that the use is only for the “Music Store” and not the motel rooms. Lawson further clarified he contacted the Health Department and clarified this issue with them and they revised their report to have no problem with using the current septic system that the Music Store used as there would be similar demand on the system.

Chairman Jay Willer asked Lawson if there were any plans to use the motel rooms in the future and he said they did not plan on using the rooms. He further explained that the owners plan on selling the property but wanted to acquire the SUP to get a tenant in the short term.

Commission John McCloskey asked if the church would hook up to the county sewer system. Lawson stated that while they could hook up with a connection line to the pump station, the less expensive option is to use the existing septic system which is their plan.

Willer asked Svoboda if a developer bought the property and built a new structure would they be required to hook up to the septic system and the answer was yes. Svoboda went on to say that the county hopes the parcel is rezoned to business which would increase the uses allowed.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the SUP request and the request will go to the Board of Supervisors for their decision. The question that remains is why is this parcel still zoned Agricultural instead of Business?

The argument goes both ways: leaving it Agricultural is less expensive to request a SUP than to have the property rezoned Business. However, many potential buyers may be attracted to a parcel that is zoned for business and that is what the county wants on the land.  This is one of many commercial looking properties that are on Agricultural land in Greene County.

The real issue is the odd shape of the parcel – the “L” shape significantly limits what can be built on the narrow portion that touches the corner of Route 29/33. Would the Greene House Shops/Jack Shop Restaurant lot, which lies to the west of the parcel, be able to use the corner piece of the property for parking?

Hopefully, a long term solution can be found for this property that meets Greene County’s and the property owner’s long term objectives for this important corner of Ruckersville.

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

Greene PC Forwards Capital Improvement Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At their December 21st meeting, the Greene County Planning Commission endorsed (4-1) the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and sent it on for consideration by the Board of Supervisors for their first January 2017 meeting.

The required Public Hearing was held at the November Planning Commission meeting. Chairman Jay Willer prepared a memo to go with the CIP when it is presented to the Board of Supervisors. This memo stressed the importance of two projects – the water and sewer project and the school expansion project – both have been vetted by outside consulting firms.

Unfortunately, the timing of the passing of the CIP to the Supervisors is too late to benefit the upcoming budget cycle which has already started. The proper timing would be to have completed the CIP in the fall to be able to use the results to help project the expense budget of the county. Hopefully this template can be used at the beginning of the next budget cycle as the document is intended.

clip_image002Willer expressed satisfaction with the format of the CIP and stated that it is a major step going forward. The only change to his current memo would be to stress the priority of the water and sewer project and school project should take priority.

 

With a vote of 4-1 – Commissioner Frank Morris voting no – the Planning Commission endorsed the plan agreed to forward to the Board of Supervisors for their action.

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

“The Market” Seeks Approval in Ruckersville

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

clip_image006Tiger Fuel owns and operates the gasoline station at the southwest corner of the Route 33 and Route 29 intersection in Ruckersville.  Currently, they lease the food service portion of the building to Burger King. Well, if you want a whopper – you better get it soon.

On Wednesday (November 16thGordon Sutton, Director of Retail Operations for Tiger Fuel came to the Greene County Planning Commission meeting to request a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a car wash at their Ruckersville location.

The rest of the story for the highly visible corner in Ruckersville is that the current building will be demolished and a new structure will be constructed that will offer Tiger Fuel’s specialty sandwich shop The Market.

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Gordon Sutton

Sutton indicated if he received all the required approvals in a timely fashion, he hoped the project including the car wash will be completed by end of next summer. The car wash is to be manned similar to other Tiger Fuel operations in Albemarle County.

Sutton came to the Planning Commission to request a Special Use Permit (SUP#16-005) for the car wash which is required by code. The balance of the project is permitted by right under the existing B-3 Zoning and, therefore, the SUP is limited to the car wash use.

There were no comments from the public. Several changes to the current layout are proposed.  There will only be one access point off Route 29 instead of the two that currently exist. The placement of the pumps will be rearranged to discourage drivers cut off the corner of Route 33 west and Route 29 south to avoid the stop light. The car wash will be constructed in the open space just west of the current building.

clip_image002While outside the purview of the Planning Commission, Chairman Jay Willer mentioned that Tiger Fuel will need to purchase increased water connection fees (known as Equivalent Dwelling Units or EDU’s).

Commissioner Vic Schaff  asked how much water will be used by the car wash. Planning Director Bart Svoboda said the car wash will recycle water which will minimize the consumption of water from 50-60 gallons per car at a normal car wash down to 22 gallons per car.

With only four commissioners present, the SUP was recommended for approved by a vote of 4-0. The SUP request will now go to the Board of Supervisors for their review and possible action at their December meetings.

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

Economic Development Homework Assignment from Albemarle PC

E-mail received Wednesday July 27th:

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

Thank you.

Best regards,

Tim

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

By. Neil Williamson, President Free Enterprise Forum

For a LONG TIME, Albemarle County has been institutionally aloof regarding business prospects. The consensus thinking had been ‘of course they want to come here, they are lucky we’re even considering letting them in’. Virginia’s economic development office only reluctantly sent prospects to Albemarle based on this attitude and the lack of inventory available. Many neighboring localities benefited from this posture as they positioned themselves as “Not Albemarle”.

According to some, this philosophical position has changed, we are still waiting to see “the New Day in Albemarle”. Like it or not, economic development is a competitive effort. The question is not only does Albemarle want to compete – the question is does Albemarle want to win?

Citizens are beginning to recognize the need for commercial and light industrial economic development that could increase revenue and relieve tax pressure on Albemarle County land owners. Staff to is recognizing the need as some have taken to comparing economic development decisions to getting a child to eat vegetables, it is no longer ‘do you want vegetables’ the question is ‘peas or carrots?’.

As part of Albemarle County’s Economic Development Strategic Planning, the Free Enterprise Forum believes the Planning Commission is uniquely qualified to assist in identifying and reducing the regulatory barriers to development while preserving the public input to the process.

In her presentation, Economic Development Director Faith McClintic identified Regulation & Development Review Time as one of the four County influences of cost components. As “Time is money”, the Planning Commission should consider several steps to reducing the time required for a prospect business to gain the necessary approvals to build or lease space and be open for business.

We believe the Planning Commission should focus on this charge rather than determining which type of job or income level we should be targeting. By focusing on improving the process, you make Albemarle more welcoming to ALL jobs.

Idea #1 Proactive Rezoning – The community vetted Comprehensive Plan map and the Zoning maps do not agree. If the Planning Commission simply did a County wide adjustment to the maps, with owner consent and proper public input, you could increase the inventory of properly designated land AND remove an unproductive 1.5 years from an applicant approval process. Such a public process might include a public education component regarding business taxes reducing pressure on property taxes.

To be successful the proactive rezoning must allow for development to occur. When Albemarle created the Downtown Crozet District with a proactive rezoning it added a burdensome layer of design guidelines that precluded almost all private investment in the district (only 1 business is now using the DCD zoning- and they almost could not).

Idea #2 Expand the development areas

Albemarle County is woefully behind other communities in land designated for growth. Based on the new environmental restrictions (stream buffers, preserved slopes) and the Creation of Biscuit Run State Park.

Expecting 5% of your land mass to generate enough positive business revenue to pay for citizen service demands, is not feasible. Absent new land for light industrial development, Albemarle’s projected property tax increases are only just beginning. As the tax rates grow, businesses will stop expanding here, choosing instead more business friendly (and lower tax burdensome) localities.

Albemarle will never catch up to its so called “peer” communities if it does not dedicate, designate and zone more land to jobs.

Idea #2.5 Removing highway interchange zoning restrictions.

Starting with the end in mind, Albemarle County should have land available to meet the Comprehensive Plan’s Economic Development goal of a varied and vibrant job base. According to McClintic, if a prospect business contacts her office seeking to have highway access, she must tell them she has nothing to offer.

Due to political work of those who came before us, Albemarle has Interstate 64 cutting through the County. In 1979, when the development area boundaries were created, Albemarle made a decision not to maximize this highway frontage. Let’s face it 1979 had a number of bad ideas (pet rocks, disco, Ford Pinto etc.) it is time to reconsider this nonsensical notion and open economic development near interchanges to both commercial and industrial opportunities.

As an aside, this issue continues to be discussed in the community. Just last week, the Albemarle County Farm Bureau passed a resolution in support of this concept.

Idea #3 Streamline Approval Process – One need only look to the Development Review Task Force, Development Initiative Steering Committee (DISC), DISCII (AKA Son of DISC) to see specific proposals to streamline operations that have not been instituted.

The level of detail required at the rezoning stage is ridiculous. Albemarle should return to the “bubble map” methodology which focuses on the use not the design of the project. This would significantly reduce the staff time to process applications and the applicant cost of reengineered drawings for multiple iterations.

Idea #3.5 Eliminate Mandated Community Meetings-Holding such meetings in the prescribed county fashion adds unnecessary red tape and time costs. Such meetings should be voluntary for applicants and those who hold them will tend to have a competitive advantage when their proposal comes forward. These meetings have become unelected screening devices that limit the quality and density of proposals that move forward to the Planning Commission.

Idea #4 Consider Municipal investment in an Industrial Park – Albemarle County has dedicated a significant portion of its development area to open space (parks, easements, stream buffers, etc.) that positively impacts the “Quality of Life” but generates zero tax revenue. An argument could be made that investing in an industrial park where local jobs could grow would be at least as valuable as paying a landowner not to develop their development area property.

Idea #5 Remove Development Area Building Height Restrictions If Albemarle wishes to develop a true urban core with significant population and business density, the current height limitations should be repealed. Allow the market (rather than government) dictate height requirements.

Idea #6 Metrics, Metrics, Metrics The Free Enterprise Forum believes people pay attention to those things that are measured. We recommend the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors receive quarterly reports that contain the following:

          • what is the success rate for NMD projects?
            • How much commercial absorption is happening each year? If we achieve no real commercial, then aren’t these just overcomplicated residential projects?
          • What’s the Review time per project?
          • What’s the tax revenue impact per project?
          • What is the cumulative tax revenue impact of commercial development?
          • New Commercial SF construction/yr
          • New Industrial/Flex SF construction/yr
          • Residential build-out of higher profile areas or projects (e.g., Crozet, HTC, Belvedere, Liberty Hall, Spring Hill, Riverside Village, Old Trail)

As stated previously, the Free Enterprise Forum believes the Planning Commission is in the best position to identify and eliminate regulatory barriers. Such action will require courage and faith. Many of these types of decisions will require the Planning Commission NOT to weigh in rather to grant approval administratively. While we recognize this may be a new concept for many commissioners we believe not weighing in may actually generate more of the type of development the Comprehensive Plan envisions.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide more than three minutes of thoughts on this issue.

Respectfully,

Neil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise Forum

Greene PC Approves Comprehensive Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission held a final review of the revised Comprehensive Plan at their July 20th meeting. The Planning Commission has held public hearings to have their input into the revised document.

Per Virginia State Code Comprehensive Plans are to be updated every 5 years.

§ 15.2-2223. Comprehensive plan to be prepared and adopted; scope and purpose.

A. The local planning commission shall prepare and recommend a comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.

In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The comprehensive plan shall be general in nature, in that it shall designate the general or approximate location, character, and extent of each feature, including any road improvement and any transportation improvement, shown on the plan and shall indicate where existing lands or facilities are proposed to be extended, widened, removed, relocated, vacated, narrowed, abandoned, or changed in use as the case may be.

Chairman Jay Willer asked the Commission if they had any revisions to add to the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Frank Morris would have like to have seen more language to slow down housing growth in the county. But he indicated that he was happy with the draft as it was presented.

Commissioner Morris asked Planning Director Bart Svoboda if the revised Comprehensive Plan was available on the county website.

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Stephanie Golon

Svoboda said that due to the size of the document that it was not yet on the website. Planner Stephanie Golon did indicate that it is currently online with the red line changes under the agenda.

When it is recommended for approval by the Planning Commission it will be added to the county website.

Willer had the only suggested change to the draft – he asked that the last sentence on page 8 which states there were no farms in the property that became the Shenandoah National Park be eliminated since there were in fact farms on that property. With that being the only change, the revised Comprehensive Plan was unanimously approved.

Willer explained that the Board of Supervisors will have at least one public hearing related the Comprehensive Plan. In addition, Willer presented two additional documents to also be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors. One was a formal resolution to forward the Comprehensive Plan to the Board of Supervisors and the second one was a transmittal letter with suggestions of how to change/enhance the process the next time the Comprehensive Plan is revised. Below are the six items being suggested to the Board of Supervisors:

· Better documentation, schedules and controls for the county’s fiscal management, both for anticipating revenue streams and accommodating future service growth and capital funding needs;

· Attention to the rigorous planning being enacted by the Board of Education and by the county’s emergency services functions to adequately incorporate future county needs, including funding possibilities and locational decisions;

· Assessment of county infrastructure and policies necessary for supporting continued growth and job creation in the designated growth areas, with funding strategies to support those needs;

· Strengthen the county’s health infrastructure, including both medical and emotional needs, particularly in light of steady increases in the number of aging residents;

· Review of the county’s needs for broadband communication, both for county services and for individual homes and businesses, evaluating county ordinances and emerging technologies that might leverage better access for all county residents; and

· Strategies for more consistent enforcement and oversight of county ordinances.

Both of these were approved 5-0.

The Comprehensive Plan will now be forwarded to the Greene County Board of Supervisors for their review and approval.

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

$52.5 Million Dollar Indecent Proposal – Albemarle Backs Off Threat to Wedding Industry

By. Neil Williamson, President

Weddings should be celebrated.  Regardless of the ceremony or the participants weddings are a joyful time that from a public policy perspective generate significant economic activity absent the demand for significant public services (school, fire, police).  Last week, Albemarle County considered an “Indecent Proposal” that would have drastically limiting the frequency of events on rural lands (95% of the county).

Please let me explain.

Last Tuesday evening, a rare joint meeting of the Albemarle County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors heard a great deal from both wedding venues and the vendors that support them.  Albemarle staff had prepared a proposed ordinance that, among other things, would limit the ability of wineries, breweries and distilleries to 24 events a year.  In the end the supervisors backed away from the most restrictive portion of the ‘indecent proposal’.

The testimony Tuesday was insightful and passionate.    Wedding Photographer Jen Fariello asked pointedly “Why are weddings being attacked?”  Wedding planner Adam Donovan-Groves [name correction 9:01 6/20 nw] told of one recent wedding whose local fiscal impact exceeded $250,000 musicians, gift packs, invitations, transportation, jewelry, photographer, etc.

During the discussion, I unscientifically developed a simple back of the envelope calculation regarding local wedding annual economic impact:

$10,000 wedding cost (likely low)

50% of 200 guests are from out of town 1 hotel night stay ($150) + meals ($100)

$10,000+[(200/2)*$250] = $35,000

If we factor in 20 Saturdays in wedding season and 75 wedding venues a VERY conservative wedding economic impact is $52,500,000

Anna Quillen of a transportation company explained the impact was significantly larger than just the venues;  her job (and her employee) are interdependent on the wedding industry.  Charlotte Shelton of Albemarle Ciderworks expressed her concern that  small enterprises need event revenue to be economically viable.  Sarah Henley of Henley Orchards explained that events help keep farms sustainable and in family ownership.

There were also a number of rural landowners who were concerned with the potential proliferation of event venues across the rural landscape.  One Free Union resident suggested “Don’t overlook the economic value of the family farm in this community”.

After about an hour and a half of testimony the issue came back to the joint work session for discussion.

Supervisor Rick Randolph suggested creating an objective sliding scale  grading system for scoring a potential event venue for evaluation.  Commissioner ‘Mac’ Lafferty suggested requiring such a scale might create “a chilling effect” on the expansion of wedding venues in Albemarle County.

Supervisor Norman Dill indicated his concern that “So many of these rules will limit creativity”.  Dill also said setting a cap for the number of events for only new entrants is unfair.

The group also discussed the concern worried about unintended consequences of mandating paved roads in rural areas where neighbors don’t want their roads paved.

Supervisor Brad Sheffield asked directly if the wineries are doing such a good job self policing, is this a solution in search of a problem.

The result of the work session was to move forward with an ordinance that more directly ties the event space to the agricultural use on the property but would not limit the number of events a parcel could hold.  Additional consideration regarding amplified music and set backs will also be a part of the draft ordinance.  Staff hopes to bring such an ordinance to stakeholders late this summer and the Planning Commission in early fall.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this long (4 hour) work session format was helpful.  Absent the Supervisors’ direct input, we believe the event control portion of the indecent staff proposal would have moved forward.

We are hopefully optimistic that the latest controls being discussed don’t hinder this vibrant rural economic engine that is helping to keep rural Albemarle economically and environmentally sustainable.

The revised proposal has been made, however the key  question remains — will Albemarle say “I do”  — that’s the $52.5 million dollar question.

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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: Aaron Watson Photography,  Keswick Vineyards, Albemarle Ciderworks, Celestial Sights Photography, Jack Looney Photography.

WarGames and Albemarle’s Proffer Paradox

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL  (adapted from Comments to the Albemarle County Planning Commission May 24)

By. Neil Williamson, President

war-games1Tonight, you will be hearing from newly appointed County Attorney Greg Kamptner regarding the Virginia State Code changes and how this will impact your ability to calculate, collect and legally defend the use of so called “voluntary” proffers in the future.

The entire exercise reminds me  of the penultimate scene in the 1983 move WarGames (more on that later).

To be clear, despite being on your agenda, the Free Enterprise Forum does not believe this issue is within your areas of expertise and we believe you are being used by the Board of Supervisors for political cover.

The Free Enterprise Forum has long contended that cash proffers are nothing more than a “Welcome  Stranger Tax” that provides an unreliable and relatively insignificant revenue source for infrastructure capacity improvement.  While we actively supported the new legislation, we continue to believe the elimination of cash proffers is good public policy and good fiscal policy.

Katherine Hafner of The Virginian-Pilot has a good wrap up of the new legislation which goes into effect July 1st.

Introduced by Sens. Mark Obenshain, R- Harrisonburg, and Richard Saslaw, D- Fairfax County, the legislation prohibits localities from asking for proffers deemed “unreasonable” or not directly related to the impacts of a development itself.

The state proffer system, enacted in the mid-1970s, started with modest goals, allowing landowners to chip in for road improvements and the like when new homes appeared likely to strain city services.

The system has evolved into a form of taxation on the industry and new homeowners, said Mike Toalson, CEO of the Homebuilders Association of Virginia.

“The bill was brought forward to rebalance it back to a system that would make it more fair,” said Toalson, who worked with legislators.

The law stipulates that developers should offer money or improvements only for impacts “specifically attributable” to their projects.

The proffers are also now restricted to core public facilities such as schools or sewer systems. Toalson said his association saw some cities extract money from developers for unrelated, offsite enterprises such as retirement homes.

“We’re not going to be the bank anymore for whatever you might want within your capital improvements program,” he said.

As you can see from your Capital Improvement Plan Public Hearing this evening,  Albemarle County has failed to maintain the concurrence of infrastructure needed to support its existing population.  This failure is not the result of newly rezoned property but is in fact due to a lack of a political will to spend the money required to enact the vision stated in your much vaunted Comprehensive Plan.

Despite having no budgetary control, this Planning Commission has often raised concerns regarding the amount of work being placed on limited staff resources.  Mr. Lafferty, in particular, has raised this issue in many of your discussions.

Reading the new proffer legislation, we believe it would be irresponsible for Albemarle staff to move forward without a determination of the total staff cost associated with the calculation, collection and defense of the cash proffer policy for each and every rezoning.  The Proffer Paradox is that the likely revenue generated from a standard size rezoning in Albemarle County will be exceeded by the staff costs associated with obtaining the proffer.

WarGames-are we still playingThis is where WarGames comes in.

In the climactic scene, where a rouge computer is running all the models for thermonuclear war, as it is quickly decoding the numbers needed to launch the missiles – it determines that the only way to win is not to play – will Albemarle be smart enough to see this as the solution to their cash proffer policy? Or will the potentially empty proffer piggy bank be too alluring to refuse?

Stay Tuned.

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: MGM