By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
As a part of their mission, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has a Legislative Liaison who represents the interests and positions of the region’s localities before the state legislature and other state policymakers. Much of this effort occurs at the General Assembly during January-March of each year as well as, during the off season, attending legislative study committee meetings and other meetings of interest to local governments.
David Blount serves as the TJPDC Legislative Liaison (serving Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and the City of Charlottesville). In this role, he annually prepares and presents the TJPDC legislative agenda proposal to local elected officials and requests their input and in time their endorsement. Tuesday night it was Greene County Board of Supervisors opportunity for review.
Surveys have been collected from all the counties and Charlottesville to help develop the legislative priorities for 2017. Blount plans on getting information in real time as opposed to reporting at the end of the process. He also wanted to review the 2016 legislative plan since there are two new Supervisors on the board since he last met with the Greene Board of Supervisors.
The Top Priorities of the 2016 TJPDC Legislative Plan were:
1) public education funding
2) equalized revenue authority
3) state mandate and funding obligations
Related to public education funding, Blount commented that the General Assembly had raised funding back to 2009 levels and he hoped the state would protect that investment. The main issue for the 3rd item was that the state should not impose unfunded mandates and shift costs to localities.
Blount will present each of the member localities an updated draft program in October and requested that they respond to him by November.
He addressed several issues that will impact next year such as the state revenue gap of $1.2 billion. His understanding is that the budgeted 2% pay raises will be delayed along with dipping into the “rainy day fund” to help close the shortfall.
In addition, Blount addressed the Airbnb bill , wireless infrastructure (cell towers), standard of qualities in education and the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). The VRS rate of return the past year (of 7%) is actually above the past two years rates. Chairman Bill Martin agreed with the three priorities and committed to working with Blount’s schedule.
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
By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Unlike urban areas in Virginia, rural localities do not have federally mandated Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) instead their long range transportation planning is done via the state’s planning districts working directly with planning commissions and staff.
Wood Hudson, Senior Environmental Planner of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (TJPDC), addressed Greene County’s Planning Commission at their April meeting. His goal was to inform the Planning Commission on the current Rural Long Range Transportation Planning (RLRTP) activities in Greene and to solicit feedback from the planning commission.
Several years ago, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) partnered with 20 Planning District Commissions to review their rural transportation programs. They developed Long Range Transportation Plans for rural areas to compliment plans in urban areas (MPOs). These included:
- Identify transportation deficiencies and recommendations
- Assist with comprehensive plan updates and traffic impact studies
- Evaluate the effects of land use and development on the surrounding network
- Establish programming of transportation improvements
- Provide content and guidance for statewide transportation plans
The RLRTP is in the process of their update every five years to help serve as a valuable tool to attract dwindling transportation funds. Feedback from planning commissions is requested to help identify a county’s needs. The rest of the process should take 6-9 months so Greene’s feedback would be useful in the next month.
TJPDC has been working with local planning staff and VDOT to draft a project list. Much of this work is completed through TJPDC’s Rural Transportation Planning Technical (R-Tech) Committee. The 2016 Chairman of R-Tech is Bart Svoboda – Greene County’s Planning Director.
Hudson provided a map of the county and project list divided into three categories – 1) new projects, 2) existing current projects and 3) existing projects scheduled in the future and asked that the commission provide feedback on the inclusion or exclusion of each project.
The existing project list includes work on US 33 to Rockingham County, US 33 from Route 230 to US 33 Bypass, US 29 from Albemarle County line to US 33 and US 29 at VA 616 – Carpenters Mill Road.
Chairman Jay Willer asked if the list of projects had been prioritized and who would determine the priorities VDOT or Greene County?
Hudson indicated that the projects will be ranked in the future after the list is completed. Hudson also said that the prioritization would be VDOT’s decision but the county can influence that decision based on their requirements.
Willer thanked Mr. Hudson for addressing the planning commission and looks forward to seeing projects completed in the next few years.
By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has been undergoing some major personnel changes this year . Prior to the naming of a new executive director due to the dismissal of Stephen Williams, David Blount, the agency’s longtime legislative liaison had been serving as interim director for part of the year.
Annually, Blount meets with the respective localities in the TJPDC and gets their input on a proposed joint legislative agenda. After the initial meetings, he takes the input back reworks the legislative agenda and returns to get each locality’s blessing prior to pursuing the agenda when the General Assembly is in session.
At the Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting on August 12th, Blount gave an update on what is happening in Richmond that has an impact on Greene and the surrounding counties (Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson and the city of Charlottesville) – both from the 2014 Legislative Program and what is in the proposed program for 2015.
In 2014 the emphasis has been on primarily on public education funding – primarily “without making formula and policy changes that shift the funding burden to localities” and that the unfunded liability for the teacher’s retirement plan that “should be a shared responsibility of state and local government”.
In 2015, a major legislative priority emphasis is on giving the counties more tools to generate tax revenue similar to what powers cities and towns now have. Also, he said that School Boards were going to be invited into their process as their budgets are major component of localities expenditures.
After the overview, Blount opened his presentation to the Board Of Supervisors for their comments and questions. Supervisor Davis Lamb, At Large, commented that in the 1990’s and 2000’s like before the recession the state should provide more funding to counties. Blount agreed and stated the equal taxation authority to enable counties to tax like cities and towns is a top issue this coming year.
Chairman Jim Frydl, Midway District, commented on the multiple studies cited by Commission that state that taxes other than property taxes need to be developed. Mr. Blount again agreed with the comment.
Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, wanted to be clear that Greene County supports other methods of taxing, but is not trying to increase total taxes and wants Richmond to pay their share of the tax burden. Frydl added to the issue that ideally taxes would be assigned by some method based on the cause or driver of the activity as opposed to property taxes as the main source of revenue.
The concluding point that was agreed upon was that while Richmond talks about low taxes and having a reserve fund, this has been accomplished on the backs of counties by pushing unfunded mandates to localities and shifting the cost away from the state with no transfer of any revenue to cover the program.
Lamb along with County Administrator John Barkley both complimented Blount on being very responsive as questions arise throughout the year.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
Photo Credits: Greene County
By. Neil Williamson, President
On Wednesday, August 14, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will receive their first staff report on the State mandated five year update of their Comprehensive Plan. The question before the Board is how detailed a review do they want?
While the report correctly indicates the Albemarle Planning Commission held almost forty meetings on the document, the Free Enterprise Forum was critical that some of those meetings were literally meetings to discuss how how the commission was going to discuss comprehensive plan issues when it was time to discuss them.
Several of these meetings were joint City/County Planning commission meetings funded by the nearly $1,000,000 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “Livibility” planning grant designed to coordinate planning in the City, County and University. This grant was applied for and administrated by the recently released Stephen Williams formerly of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). While these joint meetings did foster a better understanding between the commissions and a recognition of the Rivanna River as a shared under appreciated resource, we fail to see $1,000,000 of benefit.
Regardless of all of the above, Now the Comp Plan goes to the Supervisors for their review.
How through should the review be?
Since the Planning Commission spent so much time on it, staff asks if a truncated review would be most appropriate. We disagree with this approach. The state code is rather clear on the different responsibilities:
§ 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. emphasis added – nw
In addition to aligning the potential infrastructure improvements, the comprehensive plan also dictates the limits of the development areas in the County. Originally set in 1979, the development area lines have only been slightly modified by Comprehensive Plan updates.
Somewhat surprisingly the acreage of land available for development however, has been dramatically reduced in this time. Yes, you read that correctly, despite not moving the lines, development area has been reduced. Critical slopes, stream buffers, increased setbacks and the “Biscuit Run” State Park have all contributed to the 6-15% reduction of development area acreage. The Planning Commission elected to ignore those realities and not even deliberate the merits of any of the potential development area expansions.
To be clear, we have been engaged in the Comprehensive Plan process for over two years. We have written extensively about our concerns with aspects of the Plan. Many of our suggestions have been taken and we are appreciative of the progress that has been made.
However, the Free Enterprise Forum not only believes the Board of Supervisors should review the Comprehensive Plan closely, we hope all candidates for the Board will make this an issue in their campaigns.
This document is designed to guide development in Albemarle County until 2018 shouldn’t it get more than a rubberstamp?
Neil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits : Quotecollection.com
By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
PALMYRA — In a week full of leaked documents, another hits the list. This time, possible corrections to the water infrastructure return on investment. See the leaked document by clicking here.
An email forwarded to Fluco Blog includes possible corrections and errors in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s ROI. The email is dated Aug. 2. It was sent by Steve Nichols, county administrator, to the planning commission’s acting executive director, David Blount, and a planner, Will Cockrell. The Board of Supervisors’ email list was carbon copied.
The correction summary sheet is four pages, landscape. It includes where county staff reportedly feels numbers are missing, formulas are incorrect and assumptions are off.
The vast majority of issues the email raises concerns about are Excel formulas related. The issues are listed from the ‘No Water’ tab of the document but majority are repeated onto the Aqua’s and Department of Corrections’ tabs.
The possible issues with the ‘Pro Formula’ tabs occur in both the Aqua and DOC tabs.
Late Saturday night, supervisor Joe Chesser (Rivanna District) apologized on the Focus on Fluvanna’s Future private Facebook group for releasing the ROI too early. In his apology, he notes county staff has found possible errors and the planning district commission was re-examining the ROI.
Last week Chesser released a portable document file of results of the ROI on the FFF Facebook group. Late last week Fluco Blog obtained a full, locked version of the ROI spreadsheet that is questioned in the latest leaked document.
The Board of Supervisors next meet on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Fluvanna County High School auditorium. There is no 7 p.m. hearing.
The 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.
By. Brian Rothamel, Field Officer
PALMYRA — Rivanna District supervisor Joe Chesser has released the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) return on investment on an online message board. The ROI was expected to be released early last week. According to multiple sources, there is high internal debate between county staff, Board of Supervisors and the TJPDC.
Chesser released the ROI on Focus on Fluvanna’s Future Facebook group page. After his initial post he wrote, “Below is the latest ROI that the County staff had developed by the TJPDC. The staff has some issue with this ROI. They feel that the formulas used are inaccurate. “The County asked TJPDC to recheck their work. TJPDC reviewed and found that there were minor change but did not change the results. Please take a look.”
View the ROI here
Multiple sources close to the debate have said the changes county staff have desired result in the Aqua proposal coming out near or even below the Department of Corrections (DOC) proposal. Reportedly, TJPDC has rejected these changes. The ROI Chesser released, reportedly directly from TJDPC without changes, has the Aqua plan making money annual by year four under ‘expected growth’ projections. It would make money cumulatively by year seven under expected growth. In 20 years, it would cumulatively make $34 million.
Under a slow growth projection, the Aqua pipeline makes money annually in the sixth year. By the 15th year it would make $2.9 million cumulatively. Overall, slow growth has the county making $6.6 million over 20 years.
Using the released ROI, the DOC only plan makes money annually in years five through eight but then starts losing money again. In year 20, it is making $39,212 a year but overall it has lost $1.785 million. The issue being under the DOC plan, water usage is capped at 75,000 gallons per day of usage requiring another water source for anything over 75,000 gallons.
The Board of Supervisors will have a public hearing on the Aqua public-private partnership agreement on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Fluvanna County High School auditorium.
FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson
On Tuesday July 23rd, Albemarle County’s Planning Commission will take final public comment on the Comprehensive Plan. After working with the document for over two years, I believe the PC [and staff]would like to vote it ahead regardless of its true readiness for the stage.
The 2012 movie ‘Pitch Perfect’ follows an all-girl college a cappella group, The Barden Bellas, as they compete against another a cappella group from their college to win Nationals. Along the way the “Bellas” must re-imagine their identity and find their voice by working to harmonize their very different extreme personalities and talents.
The latest rendition of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive plan fails to find this multi faceted harmony and instead sounds more like an ill prepared middle school choir with several different talented voices but no harmony.
Remembering that this process was a part of the one million dollar planning grant the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) was awarded, one might have thought the document would be better coordinated.
Not singing from the same music
For well over four years, the Planning Commission has effectively refused to consider most changes proposed to the development area boundaries that were created in 1979.
Many thought that the state came in and took a significant portion of Albemarle’s planned development area with the ‘Biscuit Run’ state park acquisition was reason enough to reconsider the lines drawn during the Carter Administration.
Since about 2009, the Planning Commission promised applicants that they would consider their concepts “comprehensively” as a part of the Comp Plan process. When the time finally came to discuss potential expansion, the Commission did not weigh the merits of the potential expansion, they did (on a split vote) decide not to consider ANY potential expansion of the Development Area.
Regardless of their eventual decision to changing their tune regarding listening to the proposals was bad policy.
Lack of balance
While we significantly appreciate the mere existence of an economic development chapter in the Comprehensive Plan, it seems almost apologetic for taking up space in the development area for jobs.
The very thin (smallest chapter in the plan) economic development chapter has one specific environmental stewardship plank:
Strategy 1c: Encourage all businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices.
Natural resource protection and conservation, including improving water quality, preserving water quantity, and reducing air pollution are established Albemarle County priorities. Encouraging sustainable business practices helps to further these priorities. The County is a sponsor of the Better Business Challenge, a friendly competition among local businesses to integrate sustainable initiatives into day-to-day business. The challenge centers on sustainability goals in the areas of Energy, Transportation, Water, Waste, Purchasing, and Leadership.
If this is appropriate why not have a portion of the Natural Resource Chapter focused on the County’s goals for Economic Development?
If the County can team up with Better World Betty, shouldn’t equal import be placed on Better Business Betty?
The Natural Resources chapter reads like a environmental evangelism text to the extent of explaining the details and detriment of habitat fragmentation. The level of detail in the Natural Resources text is mind numbing. While much of this seems like good information, the Free Enterprise Forum questions the need for such text in the Comprehensive Plan:
The next step in planning for biodiversity protection is a landscape-level analysis that incorporates data on the County’s landforms and on the location and quality of habitats, including fragmentation and connectivity, as well as their current level of biodiversity. Aquatic biodiversity should also be addressed through a sub-watershed analysis. The landscape approach focuses on a wide scale (square miles rather than square feet) and on the management of major land features (e.g., forest blocks, watersheds, urbanized areas) to conserve biodiversity.
The squeakiest wheels get solos
In considering this document, the Planning Commission again and again has asked “What does the Neighborhood Advisory Council think of this?”. While the advice of the advisory council is important, it is also important to recognize that those who serve as members of the council are “representative”.
Too often the advice of such council is to change nothing. This Citizens Against Virtually Everything (CAVE) mentality permeates many of the advisory councils and is not representative of the citizenry at large. Elected to lead, one hopes the Board of Supervisors would put the advisory council opinions to the side and consider the good of the entire county.
Just as ‘Pitch Perfect’ isn’t over after [spoiler alert] the girls finish third in regional competition, the Planning Commission’s July vote isn’t the beginning of the end, it is merely the end of the beginning; The yet to be scheduled big finale will be with the Board of Supervisors sometime late in 2014 or early 2015.
If, however, the Board of Supervisors fails to fix both the lack of harmony and the intellectual inconsistencies, this document may end up like pre-Beca Bellas – All dressed up with nothing meaningful to say. And that would be — as they say in the movie – “Aca-Tragic”.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits : Universal Pictures
By. Neil Williamson, President
Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow reports in this morning’s Daily Progress that Stephen Williams’ contract as Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) will not be renewed. While the Free Enterprise Forum has often questioned much of the TJPDC’s work under Mr. Williams, we wish him only the best in his future endeavors.
Where does the TJPDC go from here?
In selecting its next executive, should the TJPDC Board seek out planning professionals who have rich resumes filled with writing, securing and administering grants?
Should the Board focus on the significant transportation component of the job and look to transportation and transit professionals with a litany of studies and reports under their belt?
Or should this regional planning organization consider seeking out a “Trumpeter Swan” who may or may not have the planning credentials but has a resume filled with assignments that required leadership, consensus building and risk management?
Please let me explain.
The “Trumpeter Swan” moniker is attributed to advertising giant David Ogilvy who in seeking new Creative Directors wrote a space advertisement seeking “Trumpeter Swans who combine personal genius with inspiring leadership – we have an opening for one of these rare birds”.
Such talented individuals tend to be long on world experience and short on academic credentials. In addition, the most successful trumpeter swans are self aware of their own shortcomings, as such they tend to surround themselves with high level talent without fear of being out shined.
But the question remains would such a rare bird have an chance of survival in the TJPDC environment?
The safer choice is a technocrat; someone who has worked their way up through the planning ranks perhaps with a smaller region. Such an individual would know ‘how to play the game’. This is the lens which was used to select the past two TJPDC leaders.
Which direction will the TJPDC Board go?
Neil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org
By. Neil Williamson
An open letter to the Albemarle County Planning Commission:
April 15, 2013
Mr. Calvin Morris, Chairman, Albemarle County Planning Commission
Dear Chairman Morris and members of the Albemarle County Planning Commission,
Thank you for the extended deadline to provide written comments on the Albemarle Comprehensive Plan. Staff should be commended for marshaling this process forward and seeking to limit the size of the plan (which is still too big).
Before we get to our analysis of the plan, the Free Enterprise Forum wishes to highlight the failure of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to meet the deadlines associated with the joint City/County/TJPDC/UVA livability plan. In concept this over 1 million dollar expenditure was to “inform the comprehensive planning in the City and County”, the money has been spent but the work is not yet complete. The plethora of meetings, public input sessions and joint Planning Commission meetings produced a number of benefits but absent the final work product the effort must be deemed a failure. While appreciative of the supplementary benefits, the Free Enterprise Forum remains concerned that this project was mismanaged by the lead agency.
We have reviewed the entire plan and our comments are organized sequentially with the plan.
Chapter 2 Growth Management Policy – page 2.2.2 the joint City Count statement “the scale and scope of the impacts of new development on this infrastructure necessitate greater financial participation by new development in addressing this need.” The statement infers that absent new development infrastructure would be adequate – which is not true. A lack of concurrency of infrastructure has been a concern of the Free Enterprise Forum for over ten years. If the answer to this concern is to make Development area projects even more expensive, this will force development into by right status , into the rural areas, or out of Albemarle County entirely.
Page 2.2.3 should recognize that the County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has not kept up with the community needs.
Page 2.2.4 The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with the concept of priority areas within the development area. We recognize the limitation of public funds and the need to focus those funds. Where we are concerned is the language: “Land Use decisions should be made consistent with the priority areas established in the Development Area Master Plans. The County may decide not to approve new rezoning or special use permit outside of the designated priority areas as planned facilities are not in place to support the proposed project and the existing neighborhoods. If approved, however, as a part of the land development process, developers will need to provide more significant levels of improvement to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area.”
If, as we contend, the County has failed to properly fund and construct concurrent infrastructure, the cost to provide adequate infrastructure to both new and existing residents is now on the private land owner whose development area parcel happens not to fall in the “Priority Area”. For the same reasons as cited above this will accelerate the kind of By Right development the Comprehensive Plan indicates it wishes to avoid.
As an aside, The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with the growing power of appointed Community Councils. We are troubled that development proposals are regularly referred to these councils for their blessing prior to going before the Planning Commission.
Chapter 3 Comprehensive Plan and Background – Page 3.2 The 1998 Sustainability Accords these items have appeared in the Comprehensive Plan since their passage. While there has been little discussion of these accords the plan states “Goals for sustainability were most recently adopted in 2007 when the Comprehensive Plan reaffirmed the accords” Has the Planning Commission, or any other body really reviewed the sustainability accords recently? They were written 15 years ago. Should we accept these accords as if they came down from the mountain on stone tablets? Or should they be examined prior to passing the comprehensive plan that would “reaffirm the Accords”
Historic Preservation Page 3.9 (joint City County goals) “To do this the City and County will: Colloborate with the University of Virginia, Ashlawn-Highland, Monticello and other community organizations on historic preservation matters.” The Free Enterprise Forum finds the failure to include property owners in the list of collaborators is an error and speaks to an institutional bias in opposition to property rights.
Chapter 5.1 Natural Resources – Page 5.1.1 This chapter is in need of editing. It speaks to the importance of an issue that the Natural Resources chapter of the comprehensive plan is 30 pages while only 11 pages are dedicated to the economic development chapter.
Page 5.2.4 Mountain Protection – This section correctly identifies the Mountain Protection Ordinance as being rejected by the community in January 2007. IS there a reason for including this text in the plan? The issue has been resolved. This text should be removed.
Page 5.1.10 Stormwater Management – The plan states “Evidence has shown that, once constructed, many facilities are not maintained properly.” While this may be true in some areas, it is clearly not true in other areas. This text is prejudicial and should be reworded.
Page 5.1.13 Objective 1: Retain Biodiversity in the County – “This information should be used to create a database that includes both landscape features such as habitats and critical slopes areas and species occurrences from point observations. The database should then be included in the County’s Geographical Information System so that County staff and the public can use the information for conservation purposes. The information could also be used in reviewing requests for legislative approvals.” [emphasis added]
Is Albemarle County prepared to limit development in their development area based on the number of species established by a biodiversity inventory? What possible project could be approved under such a standard?
Page 5.1.14 Biodiversity Action Plan “Building on this analysis, the County should develop the action plan based on conserving ecological integrity at the scale of the landscape” Ecological integrity is an undefined buzz word that promotes existing conditions while failing to recognize potential ecological benefits of development (or redevelopment) This entire concept should be removed from the plan
Page 5.1.15 Strategies – In no other chapter does the work of the comprehensive plan fall so directly on one group of unelected individuals. The Natural Heritage Committee is continually mentioned as a resource and an “expert” on Biodiversity. Interestingly this group has lost more than half of its members in the last year and the clerk’s office has not received any interested applicants in the last two months.
Page 5.1.19 Strategy 4d.3 – “Apply a general risk management approach to the public water supply watershed whereby land use management takes priority over design and best management practices (BMPs) to reduce or eliminate risk from land development activities.” Reading between the lines of this dense statement, it suggests regardless of placement in the development areas, any parcel should not be developed if it is within the public water supply watershed. This could be read as a call for no development. This is absurd.
Page 5.1.19 Strategy 4e.1 – The explanation of groundwater is overly verbose and at times nonsensical. The suggestion that “A new well may also draw water from the flow that is going to a different resident’s well” is gently worded enough to be technically correct but contradicts testimony provided to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors from then Water resource Manager David Hirshman.
Chapter 5.2 Historic, Cultural, and Scenic Resources – Page 5.2.3 “Moreover the number of resources destroyed in recent years suggests that continued reliance on solely voluntary measures would not be adequate to protect those resources. Instead a combination of strategies is necessary, including voluntary techniques, regulation, education and financial incentives.” The Free Enterprise Forum calls for regulation to be removed from the strategies listed. This community has a firm desire for voluntary measures and incentives but Historic Preservation Ordinances are unacceptable.
Page 5.2.8 – No one of the strategies for historic preservation includes the phrase with the consent of the property owner.
Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2b1: “Adopt a historic overlay district ordinance to recognize and protect historic, architectural, and cultural resources, including individual sites and districts at the local level”. We acknowledge that this language exists in the current comprehensive plan but we have not seen significant public support for a new confiscatory historic overlay. The Free Enterprise Forum asks that this language be struck from the Comprehensive Plan.
Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2.b.3: “Expand the authority of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) to include the review required under the recommended historic district overlay ordinance. Revise the make up of the ARB to include members with expertise in historic preservation and revise the name of the group accordingly”. Considering our significant concerns with the existing regulatory over reach of the ARB, the Free Enterprise Forum does not support the creation of the Super ARB and ask that it be struck from the Comprehensive Plan.
Page 5.2.10 Strategy 2b.7: “To discourage the destruction of important historic resources, seek enabling legislation that would allow the County to impose meaningful civil penalty for inappropriate demolition, razing or moving of any designated historic resource. This enabling legislation should also authorize the County to use civil penalties collected to fund components of the County’s historic preservation program.” The fact that the County can’t work with existing legislative authority and is seeking to develop a civil penalty slush fund to be used for preservation suggests this is not a true priority for the County. If the county wishes to preserve a historic building or landscape – they should buy it.
Page 5.2.12 Strategy 4a: “The County should help protect Monticello’s viewshed using these measures:” The Free Enterprise Forum has been very outspoken on this issue. Time and again when we raise the issue we have been told this is a voluntary program. Reading the introductory statement this is not voluntary it is declarative.
While we believe all of strategy 4a should be dropped, we ask that if you consider retaining any language it be improved to recognize that the “protection” Monticello is seeking is at the cost of other tax paying property owners rights. Perhaps change this directive to encourage communication (not cooperation) between Monticello and other private property owners regarding visual impacts (not viewshed).
Page 5.2.12 Strategy 4a.5: “Staff should be aware of the Viewshed area and be especially careful when applying land use regulations to properties in the viewshed.” Again we believe the whole section should be dropped but this is ridiculous is staff NOT to be careful in applying land use regulations elsewhere in the County. This is superfluous and suggests additional special treatment that does not exist in code!
Page 5.2.14 Cultural and Scenic resources (last paragraph): “Existing regulations only go so far in protecting the resources. Greater ability to regulate aesthetics is desired to help preserve these qualities“. Recognizing the balance of this chapter calls for increased regulatory powers and aesthetic controls, the Free Enterprise Forum asks how this balances with the “desire” for economic development. Albemarle County is at a critical tipping point where over regulation, while seeking to maintain the existing condition, may forestall the economic advancement of the community.
Page 5.2.21 Plan for Scenic Resources Objective 1: Support wider enabling legislation for regulating aesthetics in specified areas of importance.” Once again the desires of the property owners will be secondary to the powers of regulations for “areas of importance” This objective and the following strategy should be dropped from the plan.
Page 5.2.21 Strategy 1a: “Support enabling legislation for Albemarle County to provide for a scenic protection and tourist enhancement overlay district”. Based on the Free Enterprise Forum’s opposition to the Monticello viewshed overlay one can imagine we are equally, if not more, concerned with the concept of a tourism enhancement overlay district that would hinder the property rights of Albemarle citizens. We do not believe this is the general direction of the Board of Supervisors at this time and question whether the Planning Commission, utilizing Zero Based Planning, has fully vetted this question. If such a proposal were to go forward, the Free Enterprise Forum promises to fight it at the local and state level.
Page 5.2.22 Strategy 2f: “ Consider additional EC [Entrance Corridor] designations as appropriate, or as road classifications change for roads such as the John W. Warner Parkway, Route 614 (Sugar Hollow Road), Route 692/712 Plank Road, and Route 810 (Brown’s Gap Turnpike)”. Albemarle County today has 19 Entrance Corridors. The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is a gross misuse of the enabling legislation. The Free Enterprise Forum asks that the number of entrance corridors be reduced to ten and that no new road may be added as an entrance corridor unless one is removed.
Page 5.2.23 Strategy 2g: “Review the EC guidelines for effectiveness in protecting the integrity of exceptionally scenic EC corridors, such as Route 250 West.” Now the EC guidelines are not enough the concept is to plan for super guidelines for those “exceptional corridors”. If Albemarle County is serious about create protection for the exceptional, the Free Enterprise Forum suggests simply reducing the number of Entrance Corridors and implementing the exceptional strategies on that reduced number.
The natural progression from this concept is recognized in the last line of this section “recommendations for stricter zoning regulations in the ECs may be an outcome of this review”.
Page 5.2.24 Objective 5: Preserve important views as they relate to tourism and recreational assets. This objective and the strategies supporting it suggest a regulatory solution to the organic change of the community. How does this balance with the economic development [or ecological in the case of controlled burns, timber harvesting].
Page 5.2.24 Strategy 5b: Protect the Monticello viewshed as indicated in the historical Resources Section. – see our comments above
Chapter 5.3 Economic Development: While the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that the Economic Development chapter is the shortest in the Comprehensive Plan, we applaud the inclusion of this important concept.
We are concerned that the length of the Natural Resources chapter is three times that of Economic Development chapter. While both are important, the Free Enterprise Forum believes ample opportunity exists to balance the chapters to better reflect their equal import.
Chapter 5.4 Land use for the Rural areas. The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the inclusion of economic sustainability as a goal for the rural areas. The best way to keep land in agricultural and forestry uses is to allow ancillary uses to help economically support the primary uses.
Chapter 5.5 Land Use for Development Areas, page 5.5.11: Tables for remaining non-constrained land the tables were not updated by the time the document was released to the public for review. We are eager to see the new numbers and anticipate they will consider the land that is now slated to be Biscuit Run State Park to be “constrained”.
Page 5.5.11: “Several studies over the last seven years have indicated that the County has enough rezoned commercial square footage to last more than 20 years. The Studies did not include analysis of already zoned commercial areas or the potential for redevelopment. Because of the amount of work that has already been done on the topic, staff is not going to perform another retail analysis. Instead, attention will be paid to the land designated for industrial and/or employment uses ”. This is a false choice. There is no reason the Planning Commission (or the BOS) should not demand that a retail analysis be conducted for this 5 year update of the comprehensive plan. While the studies are mentioned they are not cited and in just about every case I am aware of these reports were completed with an agenda (both pro and con). Albemarle should insist a proper accounting of commercial space be conducted as a part of this plan.
Page 5.5.15: Objective 1: Achieve high quality development through the application of Neighborhood Model principles. The phraseology of this objective is troublesome. The Free Enterprise Forum believes most if not all applications that come before the Planning Commission have to balance the principles of the neighborhood model to their projects goals and site limitations. We respectfully suggest that the word “flexible” be placed between through and application to better reflect the reality of development [and redevelopment] in Albemarle County.
Page 5.5.19: “A network of streets and convenient routes for pedestrians, bicyclists, buses and other transit, including the potential for light rail in the future allows alternatives to driving”. Back in 2009, we wrote extensively regarding the population required to support the investment of light rail in any community. While we are aware of the highly popular Tide line in the Virginia Beach area, we also recognize they have significantly higher population to support light rail. This twenty year comprehensive plan does not include such population projections; therefore this reference, while fanciful to many in the planning community, should be removed.
Page 5.5.20 Relegated Parking The Free Enterprise Forum believes the parking regulations in Albemarle County are in need of review and revision. The Comprehensive Plan provides an opportunity to suggest such a review. No other principle has received more attention than so called relegated parking. We call on Albemarle County to review the parking regulations with the Albemarle County Police Community Safety through Environmental Design Officer and report back to the BOS prior to moving forward again endorsing relegated parking in the Comprehensive Plan.
Page 5.5.22 “Review the cash proffer policy to assess what effect it may have on density”. Earlier this year the Free Enterprise Forum provided the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors our white paper “Contradictory Consequences” on cash proffers. We encourage examining our paper, and the examples included, to evaluate the effectiveness of cash proffers on density. We anticipate your findings will be similar to ours that a cash proffer policy encourages by right development at a density and form that is contrary to the County’s approved Comprehensive Plan.
In 2007, Albemarle County looked to Chesterfield County a model for cash proffer legislation. It is interesting that Chesterfield is now contemplating repeal, or at least rolling back, its cash proffer policy. It may be time for Albemarle to take similar action.
Page 5.5.25 Strategy 6b: “Make land use decisions that are consistent with Priority Areas that are established in the Development Area Master Plans. Do not approve proposed rezonings and special use permits outside of the priority areas when planned facilities are not in place to support the project and existing neighborhoods, unless the proposed project will provide significant improvements to ensure adequate infrastructure and services are available to the area”[emphasis added].
As stated above [under growth management] If, as we contend, the County has failed to properly fund and construct concurrent infrastructure, the cost to provide adequate infrastructure to both new and existing residents is now on the private land owner whose development area parcel happens not to fall in the “Priority Area”. For the same reasons as cited above this will accelerate the kind of By Right development the Comprehensive Plan indicates it wishes to avoid. The Free Enterprise Forum is opposed to the se of Priority Areas to reject land use applications that would otherwise have been approved.
Page 5.6.11: “Fund programs of the County’s Housing Department to implement housing policies.” Similar to our concerns regarding the Natural Resource Chapter mandating the County “Hire” an environmental planner, the Free Enterprise Forum does not believe the comprehensive plan is the proper place for the housing department to be requesting additional funding.
Page 5.7.3: “Dispersed development patterns have helped promote a transportation network that is mostly focused on the automobile. In the past a more abundant supply of cheap land and fuel encouraged development patterns that have become hard to sustain”. This anti automobile philosophy is prevalent throughout academic papers in planning. The reality is the automobile is and for the foreseeable future will be the primary form of transportation for the majority of Albemarle’s population. Given advances in fuel economy, hybrid vehicles and transit opportunities, we must question if the current development patterns are really “hard to sustain”?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes multi modal opportunities should be evaluated and implemented but only after recognizing that people who live, work and play in Albemarle County appreciate and invest in the independent mobility of the automobile.
If you have made it this far, thank you. The Free Enterprise Forum is appreciative of the considerable effort of staff, planning commissioners and the public to engage with this document. In addition, thank you for the extension for written comments, as the 3,000+ words above indicate this is a dense document and required time to digest.
We look forward to being a part of the continuing dialog on this issue.
By. Neil Williamson, President
As Albemarle County and The City of Charlottesville continue to move forward on their comprehensive plans, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) effort entitled “Many Plans One Community” is failing to meet deadlines and has lost their project manager. The HUD funded “Livability Communities” Planning Project continues to disappoint citizens and decision makers alike.
The “Performance Measurement System Report” document was designed to be the first deliverable for the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant (p.4). The work on this deliverable was mainly completed from January 2011 to April 2011. Yet today the draft provided to the public for consideration as a part of Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan includes typographical errors and is missing critical information. Throughout the document are the terms “placeholder” (p.25,26, 26, 28) or “need updated Information from City and County” (p.37) All of the executive summaries in the March 15, 2013 draft (almost two years since the work was completed) contain Latin placeholders.
A review of the work plan included on the “Many Plans One Community” website indicates that all text was to be completed by January 31, 2013 to coincide with the respective Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan reviews.
The TJPDC process was designed from the outset to improve, not delay, the comprehensive plan process. In their 2011 media release kicking off the process the TJPDC described the process:
Many Plans, One Community is the portal for information exchange and public input that will inform the updates of the Charlottesville and Albemarle County comprehensive plans, the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Long Range Transportation Plan update and the development of a regional Livable Communities Plan. Many Plans, One Community will be a One-Stop Shop for all information about each of these four different plans, as well as a forum for the public to provide feedback throughout the process. It is envisioned that this process will extend limited staff resources and encourage collaboration, facilitate public information sharing and increase transparency across municipal boundaries.
Back in September, 2012 Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs reported that three “One Community” TJPDC Planners had been let go earlier than planned due to budget overruns:
Two temporary employees of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission hired to help update the Albemarle and Charlottesville comprehensive plans will leave their jobs seven months earlier than expected as money from a $1 million federal grant begins to run out. . .
…“We are anticipating that we will be able to close out the project, complete all of the products
that have been promised both to HUD, the city and the
county and the MPO within the budget and within the time frames that are proposed,” Williams said.
Then on January 31, 2013 Project Manager Summer Frederick left the TJPDC to return to work for Albemarle County. The TJPDC media release indicates:
As of February 1, 2013, Mr. Williams, will be the primary point of contact for all project management issues related to the Many Plans, One Community Livability Project. Mr. Williams may be reached via phone at 434-979-7310 x110, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
After three years and nearly a million dollars, what do the citizens have to show for it? A litany of meetings, a website, partially completed reports and now TJPDC Exec Williams is taking management responsibility?
One has to wonder has the TJPDC met the terms, objectives and deadlines of the HUD Federal Grant?
And if not, who should be held responsible?