Tag Archives: signs

Good Signs Are Good For Business

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from comments made to the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board April 17, 2017

Your agenda today includes a work session on sign regulations.  In the years I have been following issues in Albemarle, two specific localities always come up in signage conversations: Hilton Head, South Carolina and Route 3 in Fredericksburg.  Neither is appropriate to the discussion of Albemarle.

5th street station credit NBC29It is also important to note as you discuss the size, number and proportion of signs that you also consider their purpose – to help customers find businesses.

The Free Enterprise Forum is aware of at least one planning commissioner who believes we will have no signs in the future as our autonomous cars and GPS tracking will make them obsolete; we do not share that view.

In fact we want to share some relatively recent sign statistics from two surveys in 2015.  The first was commissioned by FedEx Office, measured the importance of signage to business operations and consumer decision making.  The second by the Economic Center, University of Cincinnati, measured the impact on business owners in different industries.

The surveys found that:

  • Nearly 76% of consumers (8 in 10) said they had entered a store or business they had never visited before based simply on its signs. (FedEx)
  • Nearly 75% indicated that they had told others about a business simply based on its signage. (FedEx)
  • About 68% of consumers believe that a business’ signage reflects the quality of its products or services. (FedEx)
  • About 67% of the consumers surveyed said they had purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye. (FedEx)
  • Nearly 60% of consumers said that the absence of signs deters them from entering a store or business. (FedEx)
  • Roughly 60% of businesses reported that changing the design or enhancing the visibility of their signage had a positive impact on sales, number of transactions and profits, with an average increase of about 10%. (UC)
  • Over 50% of survey respondents indicated that poor signage (e.g., poor quality, misspelled words) deters them from entering a place of business. (FedEx)
  • 38% of large companies with multiple locations identified branding/image as the most important purpose of effective signage, while small firms and single establishments perceived signs to be most important for making their business stand out and for helping customers find their location. (UC)
  • Legibility was chosen by both consumers and businesses as the most important characteristic of signs. (UC)

open for businessWhile we know that the ARB is seeking to make our community great (to coin a phrase).  It is important to remember that the tax paying businesses in Albemarle’s 20+ Entrance Corridors NEED signage to attract and retain customers.

Albemarle is currently outsourcing their economic development strategic plan to a Richmond based consultant.  When we talk about being business friendly, changing the corporate brand colors (ARB trivia – who changed the red in Red Lobster) might not be the best first impression.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo credit:  NBC29


Fluvanna Supervisors Wrap 2015

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors got in its last minute items in a long meeting on December 16.

Three residents spoke during public comments regarding the Special Use Permits of the James River Water Authority (JRWA)  intake and a Louisa County owned water line that failed to pass. In an unusual move, chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) wanted to immediately address the comments.

One issue was raised because the supervisors had on their agenda to vote to ‘ratify’ the November 20 vote on the addendum to the interjurisdictional agreement. That controversial vote was 2-1 with Don Weaver (Cunningham District) dissenting, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) not present and Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) recused.

Fred Payne, the county attorney, felt a vote on December 16 was not necessary to ratify the previous action. His reasoning is all parties to the contract had agreed to the addendum so Fluvanna was bound to it regardless of if the ratification occurred.

Booker  said the decision to include it was to show the public the supervisors felt it was a correct action because some residents questioned if the vote was legal.

“[Ratifying the vote] would eliminate one possible argument,” Payne agreed.

Ullenbruch2014Vice chairman Ullenbruch wanted to vote on ratification because he felt he lost something by the November 20 vote.

“I thought my voice was taken away by that,” said Ullenbruch. He said had he known it would be on the agenda, it would’ve been a different situation.

Supervisors passed the ratification 3-1 with Weaver  still dissenting. Sheridan is currently not at board meetings for health reasons.

Weaver protested even having the vote because it found it odd the supervisors would vote on something they already voted on. He said it was confusing. He did agree the addendum was favorable for the county and commended Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) for working on it.

“You got more consideration than we would have had if we just approved [the previous agreement],” Weaver said to O’Brien.

Supervisors also approved more ordinance changes that brought county laws into agreement with state and federal changes. One was the sign ordinance.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Reed v. Town of Gilbert that government couldn’t restrict signs based on content without strict scrutiny. Fluvanna had restricted political signs differently than other temporary signs.

The new changes to the ordinance now eliminate the political signs subset and all temporary signs are held to the same standard. Temporary signs can only be displayed 60 days prior to the event and 10 days after.

This change actually does not extend the limit on political signs but on temporary signs. In Fluvanna, political signs had 60 days but temporary signs only had 30 days prior to the event. They both had 10 days after the event.

Also, in seemingly direct violation of the Reed decision,  the state passed a law requiring the localities to issue permits for ‘going out of business sales.’ The reasoning was the permitting eliminated businesses to have ‘going out of business sales’ repetitively. The state wants only businesses really closing to have such sales.

The county has to issue permits for these sales now and never previously had an ordinance addressing it. The fee for permit is $50. It was proposed at $65.

Supervisors also received the FY2015 comprehensive annual financial report. The audit gave the highest marks possible.

Ullenbruch was honored for his service on the board the past four years. His familiar line of ‘do your job’ was listed on his going away cake. At the start of the meeting he received a plaque. He said it would be hard to walk away.

“I say a lot of stuff and you know I don’t mean 97 percent of it. I love you all,” Ullenbruch said directly to county staff. He said over the last four years the staff has made the county better.

The next supervisor meeting is January 6 at 4 p.m. It will be the first meeting for supervisor-elect Patricia Eager. She fills Ullenbruch’s Palmyra seat. At the first meeting of the year, supervisors will elect a chairperson, vice chairperson and set meeting dates and times.

2016 will mark the first time in four years Ullenbruch will not be the vice chairman.


bryan-rothamelThe 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

Photo Credit: Fluvanna County

The ARB Should Follow The EPA on U.S. 29 GSI

By. Neil Williamson, President

Earlier today, the Free Enterprise Forum asked the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) to follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead and issue a limited categorical exclusion for business signage in the U S 29/ Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) Impact Area.

The EPA determined that the GSI project qualified for a categorical exclusion from environmental review, shouldn’t businesses attempting to survive the onslaught of construction and new traffic patterns receive the same kind of treatment from the ARB.

Please let me explain.

Even those not directly involved with business understand that businesses exist to meet the needs of customers.  If a customer is unaware of a business it is impossible to meet the customer needs.  This is where customer awareness and signage comes in.

While potential customers may not stop in to a North 29 business every time they travel on the road – they do see it and this raises company awareness.

In a recent project in Gainesville (Linton Hall Interchange) we watched many local businesses suffer Jiffy Lube Linton Hallthrough their construction time line.  Predictably, some did not make it.

Jiffy Lube was one of the local businesses impacted severely. After the highway construction was started they petitioned and got a small sign placed just past the “Jersey” barrier (photo left).  In a phone interview, the Jiffy Lube manager indicated the sign has helped “bring some of the customers back but we have lost a ton of business.”  

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the time is NOW to get the changes in place in Albemarle.  Not only do we want to have little or no ARB constraint, we believe the signage permitted should be at least doubled for impacted businesses and height constraints be considered due to the change in roadway elevation.

Further, we ask that Route 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel member (especially Mark Graham and Brad Sheffield) champion this cause and do what ever can bspeed reevese done to fast track the ordinance change process.

I recognize this may seem like an alarmist call to action but believe me, just like Keanu Reeves in the 1994 film Speed, this entire project is rolling very fast and will explode if we don’t take action.

The ever speeding US29 Solutions steamroller is on schedule.  Despite significant public outcry the Rio Road GSI is prioritized first.  According to the Route 29 Solutions website:

[US29/RIO GSI] Construction is scheduled to begin in 2015 and will be completed no later than Dec. 2, 2016. Construction that restricts movement on Rio Road through the intersection must be done between May 23 and Sept. 2, 2016. During that time, Rio Road will be closed to through traffic and left turns at the Route 29 intersection.The Rio Road intersection must be reopened to all traffic movements no later than Sept. 2, 2016. [Emphasis added-nw]

Four lanes in each direction on Route 29, and two lanes in each direction on Rio Road, will be maintained during construction except during the period between May 23 and Sept. 2, 2016. During that time traffic on Rio Road will be limited to right turns onto Route 29 and traffic will not be able to cross the intersection. On Route 29 two southbound lanes and three northbound lanes will be maintained between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and right turns onto Rio Road will be allowed at all times.

A temporary intersection at Route 29 and Berkmar Drive, controlled by a signal, will serve as a detour and allow traffic from Berkmar to turn right or left onto Route 29 and travel north or south to Rio Road and businesses along Route 29 north or south of Berkmar. That signal will also have preemption equipment that allows priority access for emergency vehicles.Traffic from Route 29 north and south will be able to access Berkmar at the temporary intersection.

Recognizing Albemarle’s unceasing  desire to have homogenized entrance corridors, the Free Enterprise Forum has requested that the sign ordinance and ARB regulations be lifted for 24 months.  This time frame would provide those owners who choose to make the investment in temporary signage to impact consumer travel and shopping patterns during and AFTER construction.

Two members of the ARB, Chuck Lebo and Fred Missel, seemed to be in general agreement with our suggestion.  The third member present, Vice Chair Marcia Joseph asked to receive the information in writing so she might consider it from all angles.  The ARB asked staff to consider the concept and perhaps draft a resolution to the Board of Supervisors regarding our proposal.

If we fail to act NOW, the businesses will be dying on the vine before the regulatory relief can help them.

Then we will see signs that really negatively impact the community:


Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


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

Photo Credit: Free Enterprise Forum, christheentrepreneur.wordpress.com

Signs of Anti Business Bluster at the ARB

By. Neil Williamson, President

What started as a small matter of replacing Crozet Volunteer Fire Department’s aging channel letter community announcement sign has morphed into a debate over the future of business signage in Albemarle County’s Entrance Corridors.

According to Albemarle’s website:

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and is charged with the responsibility of regulating the design of development within the County’s Entrance Corridors. Entrance Corridors are streets that provide routes of tourist access to the County and to historic landmarks, structures, and districts. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that new development in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture of the area and that development within the corridors is orderly and attractive.

While the impact of such regulation may seem small, and well it should be, Albemarle has perverted the original intent of the EC legislation and restricted 21 roadways as Entrance Corridors.  It is our understanding that once the John W. Warner/Meadowcreek Parkway is completed the number will advance to 22.

With 21 Entrance Corridors, Albemarle spends a vast amount of money and staff time aggressively examining the architectural design, landscape design, color scheme, lighting and signage of all parcels sharing a boundary line with the EC or within 500 feet of the EC.

The result is any restriction placed on the Entrance Corridor effectively covers a majority of the county’s commercial activities.

With this as a backdrop, the ARB discussion of electronic signs was especially interesting.  Albemarle Zoning Staff reminded the ARB that any such sign would require a special use permit and no such application has come forward to date.

The staff was aware that the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) planned to submit an application in the near future.

The CVFD uses their existing sign to get the word out about fire prevention, promote CVFD fundraising and community messages.  The existing sign is pictured below and predates the EC legislation:


Signage technology has changed a great deal since CVFD first erected this message board.  Recognizing this digital-sign-example.jpgadvancement and noting the age of the current message board, CVFD came to the ARB with an idea – an electronic message board; similar in style to the one pictured to the right.

It is important to note, the Free Enterprise Forum does not have an opinion regarding the CVFD potential application – or any other application for that matter —  we use this as an example of our concern for the significant policy decision the ARB is considering.

In early October the ARB determined some new guidelines to use regarding digital signs and message boards

The ARB held a work session on design criteria for electronic message signs. ARB members made the following comments on the “Characteristics and Criteria” table presented by staff:
1. Eliminate the criteria regarding daytime and nighttime intensity limitations.
2. Add a note indicating that standard color guidelines apply, including the limitation to three colors.
3. Add a criteria indicating that graphic images will not be allowed on the electronic message portion of
the sign.
4. Graphics are prohibited in the electronic message portion of the sign.

This week Eric King from Watchfire Signs, a digital sign company met with the ARB and explained the state of the industry.  Somewhat surprisingly, he indicated that appropriate regulation makes for good signage as no one wants to be Las Vegas (unless of course you are Las Vegas).  King also said “Unreasonable regulation is harmful to tax generation as commerce will go elsewhere.”  He also alluded to constitutional questions regarding commercial free speech.

He raised a number of concerns regarding the proposed regulations.  One of the great benefits of the digital signs is the ability to readily change it and to include graphics.  It seems like Albemarle’s ARB was opposed to both of these advancements.

King said, “If you restrict color and eliminate graphics, you effectively ban digital signs”.

ARB Chair Bruce Wardell had more questions than answers in this work session indicating his need for the county attorney’s opinion on some of the matters raised.  Wardell also said, “If we allow 21st Century technology, it seems a bit hard to restrain using 19th century law.”

ARB Member Marcia Joseph took a different tact, she wanted to make the digital signs appear just as a fixed sign would and be regulated the same.  In her argument she cited the need for fairness for all those businesses who already have approvals under the existing guidelines.  The Free Enterprise Forum finds this argument to be rather circular seeing as businesses existed in the entrance corridors prior to the creation of the ARB and the body had no problem creating a new set of rules that made doing business more difficult to new comers – why not make it easier?

Albemarle County seems to have a need to understand economic development is more than a department it is a philosophy.  While we understand the need to regulate the size of signage and the speed of content changes, we fail to see the benefit with maintaining antiquated sign regulations that no longer fit the industry.

This business visibility issue is not the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding economic vitality – but it is a sign [pun intended] of how far we have to go before existing businesses, and start ups feel welcome in Albemarle County.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


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

Albemarle’s Anti Business Mission Creep


By. Neil Williamson, President

Last year, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed their Economic Development Action Plan designed to improve economic vitality and business perception of Albemarle County.  It seems as though someone forgot to tell their appointed Boards and Commissions. 

In several different actions over the last two weeks, the Architectural Review Board (ARB) and the Planning Commission have unnecessarily flexed their regulatory muscles to the detriment of the business climate/perception. 

Before going into detail on these issues, it is important to note, the Free Enterprise Forum does not have a position on any specific project application, we use these examples to highlight the policy positions we do support.

ARB Does Not Like “Wells Fargo” Yellow

Wells Fargo Sign Arlington Texas Back in 2008, Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia.  Since that time west coast based Wells Fargo has been steadily working their way east, rebranding Wachovia branches as Wells Fargo branches (Arlington, Texas in photograph). 

In their February 22nd meeting, Albemarle County’s Architectural Review Board reviewed a color sample provided to staff by Wells Fargo prior to submitting an application.   It was clear the ARB did not like what was called “Wells Fargo” yellow.  As with the Giant Food application below, the ARB places no value nor import on established corporate branding.  As one Board member put it, “The corporate standard is not germane to the discussion of the ARB”.

To add insult to injury, the sign in question (Airport Road & US 29) is100_0350 located just eleven paces south of the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport sign that did not undergo ARB review.  As we wrote in a post earlier this month regarding the red light cameras (which also did not go through ARB approval), such action reeks of a double standard between “county/VDOT” projects and private businesses. 

It is difficult to argue that this sign  is not “advertising” the airport; why then does it not rise to the same level of county scrutiny as the Wells Fargo sign (eleven paces south)?

Giant’s New Logo does not impress ARB  

100_0356 Giant Food is also in the process of a rebranding effort.  The Seminole Square Giant is located in the City of Charlottesville (see photos) and has completed their new signage project

In September of 2010, The Pantops location applied  to the ARB to change out their sign with a colorful new sign where the logo is larger than the letters of the word Giant.

Working from staff’s recommendation, the ARB was troubled by the difference in size between the logo and the letters.  In discussion, one Board member voiced his concern that “ Graphically the logo is too large for the type”. 

Without any firsthand knowledge of the situation, I would imagine the graphic image that Giant Food is placing on their stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region has been focus group tested and represents what the company feels conveys its corporate message and will bring in the most business.  The applicant described the logo as a “fruit bowl” that is important to Giant’s corporate identity. 

Rather than follow the the corporate standard (and the sign package100_0355 located a few miles away in the City), the ARB unanimously chose to dictate that the logo height must be limited to 4’, which is the maximum height of the Giant letters. 

The Free Enterprise Forum questions the impact of this size differential on a sign located approximately 500’ from the Entrance Corridor and if the benefit of the reduction in logo size is really worth the five months it took to get through the ARB process.

Planning Commission Dictates Membership

There has been a significant amount of media attention to the Blue Ridge Pool/Day Camp application.  In considering the application to establish a summer day camp at the existing pool location in Ivy, the Planning Commission heard from neighbors of the facility regarding impacts on their lives.  The applicant agreed to restrictions on the hours of operation, days of operation, number of persons on the property and number of memberships. 

The Free Enterprise Forum is most concerned with the last of these conditions.  The Planning Commission is charged with land use planning and regulation, how does the number of memberships impact the intensity of land use?  It does not. 

Clearly the Planning Commission was within their bounds regarding the number of persons on the property at any one time, this speaks to the intensity of the use.  To limit the number of memberships sold unnecessarily infringes on the applicant’s ability to address the needs of the market.  If the applicant finds that a weekday only membership provides new members (and revenue) to the club and does not impact his maximum capacity, why should this be restricted as a land use issue?

Without having an opinion on the outcome of this specific application, the Free Enterprise Forum hopes that the Board of Supervisors will remove the membership restriction prior to voting on the proposal.


As we reported in our Regulatory Rationale post, Albemarle County’s Planning Commission is clearly pushing the envelope of their regulatory powers by “criminalizing” winery noise violations.  It seems clear from reading the County Attorney’s remarks that this was not the direction provided to the Planning Commission by the Board of Supervisors.

Whether or not the ARB’s actions are in concert with the thinking of Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors is a bit more difficult to determine.  While applicants have the ability to appeal ARB decisions to the BOS, few ever do.  While this is regrettable, it is understandable – applicants have a business to run not windmills to tilt.

100_0358 Back in 2001, the ARB considered the Albemarle County welcome signs (in the US 29 median) on three different occasions.  It is unclear why Albemarle no longer believes such signs impact the entrance corridor and are not subject to ARB review.  There should not be such a double standard

In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that appointed committees and boards may not have a solid understanding of their role on these “advisory” panels.  Too often these positions have become soapboxes for advancing personal agendas rather than promoting the publicly vetted and supervisor endorsed Comprehensive Plan. 

There is no doubt that Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors is very concerned with changing the County’s anti-business perception and promoting the economic vitality of the region.  The anti-businees mission creep of their appointed boards and commissions actions seem in conflict with this mission.

If appointed committee members are not following Board Policy, they should be reprimanded, redirected or removed.   That’s the level of accountability the community deserves.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


Did Albemarle’s Photosafe Cameras Run the ARB Stop Light?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In late November of last year, Albemarle County installed red lightPhotoSafe_logo enforcement cameras (Photosafe Program) at the intersection of Rio Road and US 29.  As regular readers of this blog know, Albemarle County has designated twenty one of its roadways as “Entrance Corridors” which requires a “certificate of appropriateness” to be issued from the Architectural Review Board (ARB).  Both US 29 and Rio Road are “Entrance Corridors”. 

According to Albemarle’s website:

The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (ARB) is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and is charged with the responsibility of regulating the design of development within the County’s Entrance Corridors. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that new development in these corridors reflects the traditional architecture of the area and that development within the corridors is orderly and attractive.


As the only regular public attendee at ARB meetings, the Free Enterprise Forum has witnessed many long discussions about specific sign colors, sign height, massing of letters on a sign, materials used, and much more.

Last week, we watched as the ARB admonished business owners who were placing neon signs in their window or placing their products out in front of their store in the entrance corridor. 

We are aware that there is a well established criteria for cell tower composition (hollow metal painted brown).  So we were most curious how we missed the meeting where the ARB approved the construction of the sleek, tall silver twin towers peering directly on the entrance corridor. 100_0346

Remembering that these units were placed in the Entrance Corridor at the specific direction of Albemarle County, not the Commonwealth of Virginia and that they reach approximately 15 feet into the view shed; we were more than a little confused to learn that the  cameras were not the subject of a review by the ARB.  Examining the photos in this post, it is difficult to argue these twin towers do not have an impact on the appearance of the entrance corridor.  At a minimum, they have as much impact as a cell tower located much further from the Entrance Corridor.

The ARB has had a significant impact on development (and the cost of development) in the “entrance corridors”.  Last year, the Free Enterprise Forum published the  “Eye of the Beholder” report documenting some of our issues and potential solutions to the delays that often accompany an “entrance corridor” project.

To be clear, the Free Enterprise Forum does not have a position on the effectiveness, legality  or appropriateness of red light cameras, we will leave those discussions to others.  We do take great issue with the double standard that Albemarle County is not required 100_0344to undergo the same level of ARB review for revenue generating (and perhaps life saving) red light cameras as the businesses located  in entrance corridors. 

Based on our understanding of the sensibilities of the members of the ARB, We believe they would likely have made modifications to the design to improve the project’s “impact on the entrance corridor”.

But instead of adding this delay to the implementation of PhotoSafe Albemarle County choose to simply run the light hoping no one would notice.  Luckily we had our camera.

 Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


Albemarle BOS: Economic Development vs. Four Corners Offense


By. Neil Williamson, President

Longtime college basketball fans may remember the frustrating four corners offense.  Before the adoption of the shot clock in college basketball, it was most frequently used to retain a lead by holding on to the ball until the clock ran out.  

unc basketball In the nationally televised 1982 ACC championship game between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Carolina held the ball for roughly the last twelve minutes of the second half to nurse a small lead.  The next year, the ACC approved a shot clock pilot program

A minority version of UNC’s hated four corners offense seems to be on display at the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. 

On Wednesday, June 2nd Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) will be accepting public comment regarding the Draft Economic Development Action Plan.  This plan is a direct result of the six point action plan passed 4-2 (Mallek, Rooker opposed) by the BOS on January 6th, 2010.

The January 6th action plan set out specific goals and deadlines for government action.  The same ideas are present in the six point action plan with clearly defined strategies, actions and metrics for success.  Clearly, the action plan has a sense of urgency to it.

When presented with the draft Economic Development Action Plan last month, some Board members were upset that they were not consulted in the development of the draft.  

Brandon Shuleetta reported in the Daily Progress:

Independent Dennis S. Rooker called it “completely inappropriate” to work with county staff and community leaders on a major initiative without informing the board. Rooker said that it would have been “the easiest thing” for Boyd to say at a public meeting that he wanted county leaders to start crafting an economic development action plan.

Despite Mr. Rooker’s stated concern, the six point plan that was approved by a majority of the Board 4-2 contained the following verbiage:

Staff should work closely with the Partnership for Economic Development [TJPED] and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a plan in the first six months of 2010 to significantly increase non-personal tax revenue through economic growth and not increased taxes to our business community.

During the meeting on January 6th, Mr. Rooker also expressed his opposition to all of these items coming forward at once without a staff report or public input.

Regarding the January 6th Action Plan, Ms. Mallek explained her negative vote on her blog:

Voting immediately on information in a new form, presenting multiple issues without time for discussion or public input is not necessarily in the best interest of our citizens.

Clearly, the current majority of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors are focused on Economic Development as their priority issue.  The staff has, as directed by formal BOS action, worked with The Chamber and TJPED [The Free Enterprise Forum was not a part of these meetings] to develop an economic development action plan. 

It is not an accident that “action” is a part of the plan.  While the minority of the Board may wish to employ delaying tactics, it is up to the entire community and the majority of the board  to continue to “press the ball up the floor” to address the need for economic development.

Time is short.  While local government does not create economic development it can create a positive (or negative) enterprise environment.  Enterprises mean jobs, good career ladder jobs.  Is that a priority for you? 

In last month’s BOS meeting, several individuals spoke in opposition to the manner the plan was developed and some seemed to indicate economic development could be harmful to Albemarle County.

While I do not expect to see pitchforks and torches at the Albemarle County Office Building on June 2nd, I do anticipate a number of citizens will voice their opinions of economic development to the members of the BOS.

The question is will you? 

The Board’s e-mail is bos@albemarle.org

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org




Fluvanna Supervisors Poised to Adopt New Sign Rules

 By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

fluvanna seal At its May 19th meeting, Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors was briefed on new amendments to the county sign ordinance that they will vote on next month. According to county staff, the amendments are needed to remove inconsistencies in the current draft, replace inadequate definitions, and address such things as sign size.

The county planning commission will consider the draft at its meeting on May 28th. There are no penalties outlined in the statute for non-compliance; the zoning administrator merely is tasked with enforcement.

Non-conforming signs will be grandfathered and subject to certain conditions may be repaired. Non-conforming signs, however, may not be altered to reflect a new business.

Real estate signs are permitted but not in the public right-of-way; there are no setback requirements.

The Board also conditionally agreed to refinance nearly $68 million in school bond debt.

The Board directed its new bond counsel, Morgan Keegan, ensure that the interest rate for the refinance did not exceed 4.5 percent. Currently the rate is almost six percent. The county hopes to save some three percent in costs: around 200,000 per year.

Supervisors also dealt with a number of housekeeping chores at the meeting. They:

· Increased the filing fee to place one’s property in – or remove from – an agricultural/forestall district to $500; currently it is $100;

· Agreed to purchase new management software and services from Tyler Technologies for $427,000; and,

· Approved the construction of a Pleasant Grove Comfort Station ($187,000, only $25,000 of which is county funding);

Greene County BOS Approves Revisions to the Sign Ordinance

By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer

  • Motion to award a contract for snow removal to Countryside Landscaping – Approved
  • OR #09-004 Revisions to Greene County Zoning Ordinance Article 14 – Sign Regulations – Approved

  • OR #09-005 Revisions to Greene County Zoning Ordinance Article 21A – Wind Turbines – Deferred


The Greene County Board of Supervisors held its continued October meeting on October 27, 2009. Items discussed at the meeting included revisions to the Greene County Zoning Ordinance and several grant opportunities for the county.

First, the Board reviewed changes to the county’s sign ordinance. Most of the proposed changes to the ordinance were intended to clarify revisions made to the ordinance in March of 2008. Additionally, electronic message boards would be prohibited in the proposed version of the ordinance. The signs which were already approved would remain in place; however, new applications for the electronic signs would no longer be permitted. The ordinance also clarified that advertising vehicles are not permitted in the county.

Several citizens and business owners addressed the Board regarding numerous portions of the ordinance that might be confusing or unclear. Business owners were concerned that the prohibition on advertising vehicles might start the county down a slippery slope where business owners would no longer be able to park their company vehicles out from if they have business logos on them. Issues were also raised over whether language regarding the signs at entrances to subdivisions should be clarified.

Business owners also took the opportunity to discuss some of the unintended consequences of the March 2008 revisions to the sign ordinance. Many business owners who supported the revisions believed their signs and most of the existing signs in the county had a permit; however, it turned out that many did not have permits on file. Many owners were unaware that they did not have sign permits. Now small businesses are finding it difficult to come into compliance. Several concerns were also raised that county buildings may not be complying with the new ordinance and that this creates a double standard. Finally, questions were raised about businesses that had similar signs but might not have been notified of a violation.

J. Allen reiterated her position on the sign ordinance noting that so many business owners have already spent money complying with the ordinance that it would be unfair to make exceptions now. B. Peyton also noted that he was not in favor of adding a grandfathering provision at this stage but requested that staff investigate the specific questions regarding some possible nonconforming signs that had not been cited for violations.

The Board discussed some of the issues raised by the public regarding confusing language in the ordinance but ultimately decided to adopt the revisions as advertised. J. Allen moved to approve the ordinance revisions as advertised. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.

The Board also considered an ordinance revision that would allow the use of small wind turbines to generate power for personal use. Currently, there is no provision in the zoning ordinance to allow them. The proposed ordinance was created in response to increased public inquiries. Under the proposed ordinance, large scale commercial production would not be allowed. Wind energy systems that produced between 10 kW and 50 kW would be permitted by special use permit and would have accompanying set back requirements. Small roof mounted systems would be permitted by right.

The Board discussed the provisions extensively. J. Allen noted that the idea of these systems going up in Greene County “just creeps me out.” S. Catalano agreed that it represented change that was hard to wrap your arms around. The county attorney noted that similar aesthetic objections were once made about telephone poles and electrical wires. S. Catalano expressed concern that one of these turbines might go up in the low flight area preapproved for Pegasus and asked that staff see if anything could be done to alleviate any problems that might cause.

The Board also asked for clarification regarding colors, lighting and how many units could be installed per parcel. The Board deferred the application in order to allow staff to answer some of its concerns.

The Board also discussed some potential grant opportunities with staff. The schools sought permission to apply for a grant that would help address problems with the school’s roof and windows. The grant is aimed at increasing energy efficiency in schools. It would help cover costs of repairs that need to be made soon. No local match is required if the grant funds are received. The Board encouraged the schools to move forward with the grant application.

Staff also requested permission to pursue grants with from the Department of Forestry to make improvements to the County Park. The grant would require a 50/50 match but the match can be made in kind or with other grant money the county has available. The Board gave staff permission to move forward with these applications as well.

Greene County BOS Discuss Roads and 2010 Legislative Program

By. Kara Pennella, Greene County Field Officer

 Action Summary:

  • Motion to approve 2010 Legislative Program – Approved
  • Request for a Special User Permit for a residential accessory structure greater than 768 square feet on 4.64 acres of land located on Spotswood Trail – Approved
  • Resolution to accept and appropriate $240.00 in grant funds for the Stanardsville Volunteer Fire Department – Approved
  • Resolution to accept and appropriate $50,000 in grant funds for the Sherriff’s Department – Approved

             During its regular meeting the Greene County Board of Supervisors received its quarterly report from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  David Blount presented the 2010 Legislative Program. The only public hearing of the evening was a request for a special use permit. Finally, the Board of Supervisors heard two requests for ordinance revisions from the public.

            VDOT representatives reported that Bacon Hollow Road has been completed and the speed limit has been reduced on portions of Route 29N. They are currently working on a step down from 55 to 25 on Route 230 so that the reduction in speed is not so abrupt.  VDOT has been working with a consultant on a traffic light for 607 and Preddy Creek Road. They may be able to do some preliminary engineering but there is no funding to go forward. Federal funding requires a 20 % state match which is unavailable right now. The Board is concerned because the County has about 1.6 million in proffers for the area that needs to be used.

             David Blount, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission provided a review of the 2010 Legislative Program. He noted that not many of the agenda items had changed from last year. He expects that the legislature will have to start cutting funding from education to make up shortfalls. He predicted that this is will be the toughest budget the state has seen and expects that it will get worse before it gets better. After a brief discussion, the Board unanimously approved the 2010 Legislative Program.

             In the only public hearing of the evening, Wendell & Janice Lamb requested a special use permit for the construction of a covered picnic shelter larger than 768 square feet. The lot is zoned residential, but currently doesn’t have a home on it. The Planning Commission recommended approval with some conditions including that it not be used for commercial or public events, restoration of a stream buffer, a 20 ft screening yard, no pipe will be allowed to drain into the stream, outdoor lighting will be mounted horizontal to the ground and applicant will submit a site sketch for parking.  Applicant did not have anything to add to staff’s report.

             One neighbor addressed the Board regarding his concerns that the shelter might be used for public events. He was not necessarily opposed to the project, but had some questions about the use of the structure and what would prevent it from becoming a commercial enterprise.

             The Board discussed some of the proposed conditions on the special use permit. C. Schmitt wanted more stringent restrictions on the use. He proposed that the Board require that a majority of all persons using the property at any one time be members of the applicant’s family. He also proposed that they limit the time that applicant can use the shelter and place more restrictions on parking.  B. Peyton felt that the conditions sufficiently addressed concerns about the picnic shelter being turned into a business. J. Allen was concerned about other things that the shelter could be used for that were not a public use but might be offensive to the neighbors. Both M. Skeens and S. Catalano felt that the conditions would address most of the neighbors concerns. B. Peyton moved to approve the request with conditions. The special use permit request was passed 4-1 with C. Schmitt voting no.

             In matters from the public, Doug Watson a co-owner of the local BP Station requested that the Board consider amending the sign ordinance to include a grandfathering clause. He noted that he was having difficulty documenting whether his sign went up before the first sign ordinance in the county was passed.

            S. Catalano asked the Board if they would like to revise the sign ordinance and opened it up for discussion by the Board. J. Allen asked staff how many noncompliant signs they had found in the county so far and out of these how many have already made changes to their signs to comply with the ordinance. Staff indicated they had provided notice of noncompliance to about 50 businesses and 30 of those have already made changes to their signs. The Board quickly agreed that it was unfair to revise the ordinance now when so many people had spent money and time complying with the ordinance. 

             Tom Burgess addressed the Board and asked what happened to a county wide leash law.  The issue was discussed with staff who already has a draft ordinance and will schedule a public hearing.

           Finally, the holiday schedule for the Board of Supervisors’ meetings was announced. The Board will meet only once in November and December. Those meetings are scheduled for November 10, 2009 and December, 8, 2009.