Tag Archives: VDOT

VDOT Updates Greene County Supervisors

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Joel DeNunzio, the local Virginia Department of Transportation representative from the Culpeper District, updated http://gcva.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&event_id=51&meta_id=1565 the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their second meeting of January.

Two transportation projects received funding from the VDOT’s new Smart Scale funding program.  The scoring program is relatively complex but is transparent.  According to VDOT:

Virginia’s SMART SCALE (§33.2-214.1) is about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects included in VTrans that are funded by HB 1887. Transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers. Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

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US29/Route 33

The first Greene County Smart Scale project funded addresses the upgrade to the southeast corner of the Routes 29/33 intersection based on congestion mitigation, safety and economic development. DeNunzio explained that this project was submitted in the Fiscal Year 2017 and has been funded. VDOT is meeting with the contractor with a targeted completion date of December, 2020.

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Joel DeNunzio

The second project DeNunzio discussed was the paving of Route 630 / Beazley Road which is to be started by July of this year.

As for construction projects, the main concern is the intersection of Route 29 and Route 607 / Matthew Mill Road. This is one of the most congested intersections in Greene County and the work will begin this summer and should be completed by September, 2017 as it also included in the Smart Scale program in Fiscal Year 2017 and has been funded.

Another concern is the speed on Preddy Creek Road, especially on the curves. Under State law where there is no posted speed limit, by default the speed limit is 55 mph. Discussion centered on whether a speed limit of 35 mph should be posted on the curves and whether drivers would actually slow down. Over the last year the Greene County Sheriff has placed speed enforcement units on Preddy Creek Road.  What was unclear from the Board discussion was why there should be a concern to post a lower speed limit on dangerous curves

A comment from the public brought up the unpaved Ice House Road and DeNunzio agreed that it should be paved. County Administrator John Barkley indicated to Jessica and James Maupin that he would contact them when this issue would be discussed again.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) then asked DeNunzio if the mobile speed signs that he has seen in other counties could be used in Greene County. DeNunzio agreed that they may help in certain areas and he said that he would work with Sheriff Steve Smith to partner with them to acquire the signs for Greene’s use at a cost of about $5,000 each.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) again expressed his concern about materials left by VDOT and asked that the remaining materials at the northwest corner of the Route 33 Bypass and Swift Run Road be removed. DeNunzio has had the metals removed but committed to have the remaining materials removed.

The final issue discussed with DeNunzio was the possibility of the connector road that was designed in the Preddy Creek project on Route 29. When the project was designed it showed a connector road from Route 29 northbound going through to Matthew Mills Road.

Only a fraction of this project has been completed – the apartment complex. The proposed 1,100 homes and businesses have not been constructed. Chairman Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked Planning Director Bart Svoboda if the connector road would have to be built if the project was completed. Svoboda indicated that the road would need to be built.

A further question from Flynn asked could funds from another project be redirected to provide this road. DeNunzio clarified that funds cannot be redirected to other projects but each project would have to re-apply for funds that specific project.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene Residents Ask for VDOT Road Relief

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In a shift from previous years, the Greene County Board of Supervisors now starts, rather than ends, their meetings with ‘Matters from the public not on the agenda for public hearing’.  The Free Enterprise Forum endorsed the change as it empowers citizens to bring issues directly to the Board at a predictable, and reasonable, time; prior to board discussion and decision on agenda items.

Tuesday night (9/27/16) nine residents of Golden Hills Subdivision took the ‘Matters from the Public’ speaking opportunity to brief the Board about the inability to have the maintenance of Wood Drive and Haney Road in their residential development taken over by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). While on the agenda as a discussion item, the reordered ‘matters from the public’ period provided important citizen input opportunity.

The issues that the speakers addressed date back to when the development started and the developer sold the lots with the understanding that there would not be a Home Owners Association (HOA) in the development.  In 1990, as a part of the land development,  the developer posted bonds worth $220,000 and those were twice reduced to $50,000 in November, 1991 and further reduced to $20,000 in November, 1993.

golden-hills

The remaining $20,000 bond was called by Greene County in February, 2003.  In an attempt to bring the road up to VDOT standards, between 2004 and 2010 Greene County spent $27,972 for drainage, grading and other work thereby consuming more than the $20,000.

Unfortunately, all the landowners along the road didn’t sign the plat which is one of the requirements to have VDOT take over the road and the developer passed away.

The residents argued that the County shouldn’t have reduced the bond until the work had been completed.  Many of the speakers gave examples of the problems with the roads  including the many potholes.  Speakers suggested that former Board of Supervisors betrayed them, when it snows the potholes can’t be seen and it is very damaging to their vehicles and kids are now required to walk to the end of the road to get on the school bus, since they bus won’t drive down the road for fear of the potholes doing damage to the buses. [School buses are actually legally prohibited from traveling on roads that are not part of the state system – NW]

Other residents feel that their homes have declined in value due to the poor condition of the roads.  One gave a specific example of receiving an offer with a deduction of $10,000 due to the condition of the roads.  Another resident had a severe medical condition and was fearful that had it been in the winter the ambulance would not have been able to reach his home.

Vice-Chairman Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville District) understands that the road building bond process VDOT-logo_thumb.jpghas changed and that now all of the deposit would not be released until the road was taken over by VDOT.  Unfortunately the $20,000 wouldn’t cover the cost (even if it was still available) that it would take to get the road up to current VDOT standards  and that it would probably cost in excess of $100,000 to bring the road up to VDOT standards.

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardville District) asked Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda who is responsible to get all of the landowners to sign to get the road taken over by VDOT?  Mr. Svoboda explained that it is the developer’s responsibility but that didn’t occur before he passed away.

Martin stated that this situation is unfortunate and that the residents are suffering because the process didn’t work as intended when the development was originally constructed.

Regarding concerns of transparency, he further explained that the Supervisors discussed this issue in closed session when there was a possibility of being sued over the issue.  Martin believes that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were complied with and information was offered even though not accepted.

The Supervisors expressed their understanding of the residents’ frustration but explained that they could not set a precedent of spending public funds on a private road without the risk of other communities making similar requests.

Martin asked for any final comments from County Administrator John Barkley.  Barkley suggested creating an HOA or working with VDOT to see what programs they can offer the homeowners.  Finally, Martin suggested that there might be grant funds available that could help the homeowners.  There was no formal action by the Board of Supervisors since this was strictly a discussion item with the comments coming during the matters from the public portion of the meeting.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Independent American Communities

Albemarle Economy Weathers the US29/Rio GSI Storm?

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

The early economic indicators are in.  While there are limitations in the initial data set, it looks like the significant efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) may have worked as designed.

Please let me explain our logic.

Back in 2007, Free Enterprise Forum Research Associate Natasha Sienitsky authored the Workplace 29 report that found:

The Workplace 29 study area:
• supports more than 20,000 jobs, conservatively providing more than $800 million ($874,216,408) alone in direct salaries each year.
• generates 35% of taxes by all non-residential uses in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville; approximately $ 33,019,354 in total tax revenue paid to Albemarle County and Charlottesville City in 2006.
• provides per acre tax revenue of $24,700 for non-residential uses, compared to the entire county average of $335 per acre.
•produces approximately 45% of the county’s total tax revenue in 2006.

In addition to the above economic impacts it was determined that the Workplace29 study area generated 57% of all of Albemarle’s sales tax income.  Considering this was prior to the construction of Stonefield, Costco, and several other retail establishments it is not a reach to suggest that number has remained steady.

The conclusion of Workplace 29 stated:

Non-residential uses in Workplace 29 generate significant jobs and taxes for Albemarle County. The master planning process must continue to engage owners of these properties as the economic vitality and level of government service in Albemarle County and Charlottesville City have a close relationship to revenues generated by non-residential properties in the Workplace 29 area. The current Places 29 plan calls for a reconfiguration of the road network which will cause significant business disruptions along US Route 29 during an extended construction period. Neither the extent nor time frame of disruptions has been addressed.

Although changes in the character of US Route 29 may have long term economic benefits, short term disruptions, through extended construction periods, most likely would negatively impact business and as a result the revenue stream for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the impact of master plan formulation and implementation on business.

Our 2007 hypothesis does not hold up based on recently released 2016 economic data.

Book1The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce regularly reports regional sales tax data.  Their reports provide both updates as well as historical sales tax data.

The report last week, for all of Albemarle County, indicated sales tax revenue for the first half of 2016 was up over 2015 by greater than $495,000 (+7.25%).

Considering the significant disruption to the corridor including the closure of the intersection from May 23 – July 18, 2016 [opening date corrected 12:50 8/29-nw], one must conclude the intense marketing efforts, signage and business assistance efforts had an impact.

Back in March [in our Lemonade Post], we mentioned our appreciation for the marketing efforts of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) as well as Albemarle County.

With these early returns, it seems their mitigation efforts, which continue today, are having the intended results.  While we continue to witness economic dislocation (Better Living, PJ Networks, Sultan Kabob), much of this dislocation may have occurred with or without the new GSI.

As Albemarle prepares to produce a small area plan for the US29/Rio area, they would be wise to attempt to capture intersection specific economic data to confirm our conclusions based on county wide data.

We have not yet seen the July numbers but considering the trend for the first six months, I anticipate they will continue to be slightly ahead of 2015.

Absent a more detailed metric, I believe it would be appropriate to congratulate all the businesses involved for weathering a difficult storm; and to congratulate the speedy construction, all of the marketing and business outreach teams for a job well done.

As for our failed 2007 hypothesis, I am happy to have been wrong but one might wonder what the numbers would look like with a longer construction period and absent the unprecedented outreach efforts.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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

 

Fluvanna Busy But Quiet Supervisors Meeting

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

After a rather uneventful summer, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors stretched out a bit with a busy meeting on August 17th.

Supervisors approved four public hearings without a single resident speaking.

First the developer of Nahor Village on Route 53 requested to lower the density of the subdivision. The development is eliminating additional attached units to make them detached units. The approved amendment to the zoning lowers the approved dwellings from 103 to 78.

Image result for hydrangaA new commercial greenhouse on Haden Martin Road was approved. The greenhouse will have retail operations and an annual hydrangea festival.

It is located on a private road that currently is maintained by owners of property on the road. The applicant, Silver Lining Flowers LLC, will take over maintenance of the road.

Supervisors cleaned wording in the other two public hearings. First was an amendment to a county ordinance, eliminating the need for the county to pay itself to review any property the government is trying to subdivide for the use of the county.

The other wording change was for an assisted living facility to be located across from the Lake Monticello main entrance. The facility will be in the Village Oaks community and was originally approved in 2005. The 2016 amendment brought the facility to be within the same understanding as the current county ordinance for assisted living facilities.

In action items supervisors approved advertising an amendment to the vehicle fees schedule. Currently if you have a titled vehicle, you are required to pay the vehicle ‘sticker’ fee (the county no longer issues stickers but the fee exists).

The proposed amendment is to only require vehicles registered with the DMV to pay fee. Meaning, if the car is not registered to operate on public roads it is exempt from needing a ‘sticker’.

During the budget process the supervisors briefly discussed hiring a full time county attorney instead of contracting legal services to Fred Payne and his law firm.

Staff noted supervisors budgeted $168,140 for the fiscal year for legal services. It is expecting additional funding will be needed to pay for full cost of services.

Supervisors waived the fees typically required for erosion and sentiment control for the Louisa County water line. One rationale being Fluvanna will have benefit of the pipeline via hydrants and the availability to pipe its own raw water through the line. Both things are being paid for by Louisa.

VDOT logoThe biggest surprise in the meeting was the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) update when the Fluvanna/Louisa residency administer, Alan Sanders, announced the speed limit on Route 53 will lower from 55 mph  to 45 mph between Route 618 and Route 619.

Various times the county has lobbied VDOT to lower the speed limit but it has been rejected each time. In 2010, then chairman Gene Ott sent a letter on behalf of the board requesting the change. Sanders said he spoke to Ott after receiving the speed study determining the lower speed.

The speed change will occur within the month and as early as 14 days. The regional office is responsible for the new signs but if not completed by the 15th day, the local office will schedule the new signs.

Supervisors will next meet on September 7th at 4 p.m.

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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: www.Hydrangamania.com

VDOT Updates Greene Supervisors

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

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Joel DeNunzio

Joel DeNunzio, the resident engineer from Charlottesville’s office of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  covered two areas with the Greene County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (5/24)  – 1) the Secondary Six Year Plan for Fiscal Years 2016/17 through 2021/22 and 2) the normal quarterly update.

The Six Year Plan is a partnership between VDOT who provides funding and Greene County who prioritizes the projects as funds are available. The plan DeNunzio presented was unchanged from last year. The top project comes under the Rural Rustic Road program and is a project on Matthew Mills Road and it is fully funded for $1.39 million . In descending order, the other projects are Simms Road, Route 630 between Routes 810 and 631 for $210,000 in the next three years, and .55 miles of Beazley Road is scheduled for 2018-2020.

VDOT logoAs the Six Year Plan requires a Public Hearing and the first to address the Board was Bill Murray who lives on South River Road. He indicated that at the end of South River Road where the pavement ends there is about .4 miles where he and three other families live. When there is rain the road has ruts that VDOT has to come out and scrape to level the road which happens about every three months. His request is to have VDOT pave this section of road which would eliminate the need for the scraping every three months.

David Underwood brought up that he had previously requested on April 8, 2014 that that VDOT allocate funds for paving the road in his development and to add this project to the six year plan.

DeNunzio addressed the two questions that the public brought up. On the South River Road project he will see if it can be moved up on the prioritization and notify the Board to confirm that they want to reprioritize the project. On the second question it is not in the Rural Rustic Road list and therefore only 5% of the funds used on all other roads could be allocated for this project. This amounts to 5% of $60,000 or only $3,000. Not enough to do the project.

With no more questions from the Board, the Six Year Plan was approved unanimously. The meeting then moved on to the quarterly update from DeNunzio. The work scheduled on Route 607 should be completed by September, 2016. The Route 29 and Route 33 intersection project will be added to the list in July but he is unsure when funding will be placed in the six year plan.

The repaving on Route 33 and the Route 33 bypass is having trenching being added to widen the road to get additional width for bicycles – although not enough for a true bike lane.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked DeNunzio where to find the Route 607 and Route 29 project on the VDOT website – DeNunzio said he would email her the link. Board Chair Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked when a traffic study for the Ford Avenue and Business Route 33 intersection would be undertaken and DeNunzio indicated that it will be completed by next week.

Martin then asked DeNunzio a question that a resident of the county had asked – at the Route 33 and Route 33 Bypass there is trash – dirt, debris, etc. – and he wanted to know if the trash is VDOT’s and, if so, can it be cleaned up.  DeNunzio indicated he would check into the intersection and see if VDOT can do the cleanup.

Finally, Martin congratulated DeNunzio on all of the work that VDOT is doing in Greene County however he asked that VDOT do a better job in communicating their schedule of work. DeNunzio indicated that the information is sent out weekly and that the information is passed on to fire, rescue and the school system.  Martin indicated that there have been some changes to the schedule that were not communicated and asked if VDOT could correct the information as the changes occur.

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

Ripping of the Rio GSI Band-Aid

By. Neil Williamson, President

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

“This is gonna hurt” — Taking off a Band Aid, you know there will be pain.  There are two diametrically different schools of thought regarding bandage removal: slowly easing it off the wound, or ripping it of swiftly.  The US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) project is clearly the latter of the two.

In both the skinned knee and the road construction project, the merit of the “rip it off” option is reduced duration (if not intensity) of pain.

Please let me explain what I have learned about this ‘short term’ pain which will start May 22nd.

As it has every night in recent months, at 9 pm on Sunday May 22nd the U.S. 29/Rio Road intersection will close to cross traffic; the difference is this time it will not reopen at 6 am on May 24th.  Vehicles will be allowed to turn right onto Rio and Rio traffic will be allowed to turn right onto U.S. 29 but the cross over will close. On U.S.  29 two southbound lanes and three northbound lanes will be maintained between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

A milling crew in action

Starting the night of the 22nd, the construction crews will begin digging out the asphalt (about three feet deep) and earth required to construct the bridge in the center of the intersection.  Two different milling crews will utilize two ten hour shifts and a total of thirty trucks to move the 60,000 yards of dirt and millings from the Grade Separated Interchange project up US 29 to the Berkmar Extended project where it will be stockpiled.

 

The dump truck fleet will be coordinated by a contractor spotter that will have the ability to stop traffic at the existing temporary light at Berkmar Drive.  Trucks will cue in the construction area on the southbound side and when the spotter turns the light red for US 29 traffic, the trucks will complete a U turn to head North on US 29 up to Towncenter drive and then take Dickerson South to Earlysville Road and then Rio Mills Road.
The clearing will start in the center but then alternate between the north and south side of the bridge.  It is important to note that two lanes Southbound and three lanes Northbound will remain open during from 6 am – 9 pm.  At night, the lane closures will be more significant (similar to today’s nigh time pattern).

As the excavators are doing their work on either side of the bridge, carpenters will be utilizing pre-tied rebar to install lagging for the retaining walls. As the earth on either side of the bridge are appropriately dropped, the clearing of earth under the bridge deck can begin and the piers that have already been poured (under the steel plates we have been driving over) can be exposed.

 

VDOT bridge engineer Brad Chapman inspects a bridge abutment under the construction of US29/Rio.  The abutment is covered by steel plates during the day

All 60,000 yards of dirt and millings will be cleared from the site by June 15, 2016.  To be clear, a fleet of 30 trucks will be going up and down US29 for 20 hours everyday for 23 days.  It will be an intensive, albeit short, clearing period.

 

The plan calls for the bridge beams to be placed starting on May 26th (a mere 39 hours after the intersection closes), with the concrete for the deck itself to be poured on top of the beams in June.

Everyone involved in this project has a high level of confidence in the safety as well as the integrity of the plans.  It is the consensus opinion that the contractor Lane/Corman will complete the majority of the work ahead of the contract requirements.

The Five Million Dollar Day.  Based on our analysis of the documents presented, and the level of confidence expressed by the contractor, the project administrator and engineers working on the project, Free Enterprise Forum believes the contractor will substantially complete the project on or before August 5, 2016 thus qualifying for the $6,829,209 incentive, that drops to $1,854,361 on August 6, 2015.

To qualify for the financial incentive, the contractor must meet a number of specific objectives including the ability for all lanes of the new interchange to be open for daytime traffic (6 am  – 9 pm).  This means not all the work will be done, but all the work that requires daytime closure will be completed.  It is anticipate the nighttime lane closures (such as we have now) will continue through December 2016.

While the Free Enterprise Forum remains steadfastly opposed to the Rio GSI, we have been impressed with the level of detail, safety and professionalism of the contractor.  We are also supportive of the financial incentive that shortens the construction period and lessens the pain for all involved.

Once more with feeling, we supported the other Route 29 solution projects (Berkmar Extended, Hillsdale Extended, US29 Widening, US29/250 Interchange improvements, Synchronized lights) but we believe the community would have been better served without the Rio GSI. We continue to believe citizens do not know Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan calls for 7 of these “intersection improvements”. Whether they admit it or not the expressway is coming.

That being said, if you are going to rip a Band Aid off, you know the pain is coming,  the quicker you do it the better.

Respectfully Submitted,
Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits: VDOT

Albemarle and VDOT Create US29+Rio Lemonade

By. Neil Williamson, President

While the Free Enterprise Forum lost the battle against the US29/Rio Grade Separated Interchange (GSI), we have found Albemarle County (and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)) to be working exceedingly well together and significantly positively impacting the challenging business environment due to the roadway construction.

In the most recent Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel meeting, former VDOT Commissioner and PDAP facilitator Philip Shucet indicated the next phase of the Rio GSI project, where the intersection will close for up to 103 days,  “Isn’t going to be a birthday party”.  This might be the understatement of the year.

The closure of the intersection (right turns will still be permitted) will have an impact on businesses in the area.  A little over a year ago the Free Enterprise Forum asked a simple question regarding the business assistance program for US29 Rio Grade Separated Interchange:  US29 Business Survival – Will Albemarle Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

In short, VDOT and Albemarle have answered the call to make lemonade out of the challenging construction period.

The get around guide produced by VDOT (and printed locally) is quite good and available at local merchants.

An illustrated map of the Route 29 corridor.

Beyond being a helpful tool, these are not being handed out by a team of interns that do not know how to answer business owner questions.  VDOT Communications Director Lou Hatter is personally delivering these maps to retailers, hoteliers in the impacted footprint.

VDOT also has print, radio and television advertisements running in significant rotation, letting people know that the intersection will be closed but access to all businesses and neighborhoods will be maintained.

Rio 29 logoConcurrent, and coordinated with VDOT’s informational efforts, Albemarle County, working with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is running radio, television, and print advertisements focused on the businesses in the Rio and 29 footprint.  The message that Route 29 is “Open for Business” during construction at Rio Road.

To be clear, The Free Enterprise Forum fought the Rio GSI because it is either the addition of a 2 inch pipe on a 1/2 inch line or it is the first step toward an expressway that will divide the community.  We lost that fight.

US29 Rio April 29 2016VDOT is taking a “tear the band aid off” approach to the construction plans for Rio GSI getting as much done as quickly as possible.  The contractor’s current trajectory seems to have the project reopening to daytime traffic on or before August 5 (and earning the contractor a $6.8 Million incentive).

Today, we are appreciative that Albemarle County and VDOT were good to their word in supporting the businesses that are most impacted by the construction.

We still believe there will be significant economic dislocation of some businesses (ie: Better Living), we also believe the combined efforts of VDOT and Albemarle County significant business outreach, advertising and communication efforts may soften the negative impacts.

I like lemonade.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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

Year of Shaking My Head – 2015

By. Neil Williamson, President

It is amazing to look back and see how often this year, I was top ten listdumbfounded by the strategy, actions and inactions of public officials and the lack of action by some because while the process was broken, it was meeting their need.

Here are the Free Enterprise Forum Top Ten 2015 SMH moments

#10 U.S. 29 is not a city street Kevin Bacon and Albemarle’s Thank You Letter for VDOT’s U.S. 29 Steamroller

While we have found former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  Commissioner Phillip Shucet to be a most effective facilitator and an honest supporter of the McAuliffe administration positions, we believe the public has not been, nor will be, fully “engaged” in the process.  As an example, In  last week’s BOS meeting Supervisor Ann Mallek suggested there would be a public hearing on the design of the interchange – Nope.  Even though this is a design build process, the VDOT proposed design (not what will actually be built) was already taken to public hearing, satisfying the legal requirements.

Aubrey Layne photo credit VDOTIn his Daily Progress opinion piece on Sunday (1/11), [Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey] Layne used the same song sheet as he wrote somewhat single mindedly of Albemarle County’s economic engine that is North US 29:

“Between Short Pump to the east, Staunton to the west, Danville to the south and Gainesville to the north, no section of highway carries more traffic than U.S. 29 between U.S. 250 and Rio Road – not even Interstate 64. U.S. 29 is not a city street.  It is a major Virginia arterial highway” Emphasis added-nw

#9 Fluvanna sees higher taxes as far as the eye can seeFluvanna 4% Property Tax Increase Proposed

This year, Fluvanna is projecting a five-year forecast to see how future budgets will look, conceptually, based on what decisions are made this year. It includes a two percent rate of inflation along with anticipation of certain upcoming projects.

The projection based off of Nichols’ budget shows a real estate tax rate of $1.05 in FY17, $1.06 in FY1Weaver20146 and FY19 and a $1.11 in FY20.

“Even if they are ballpark figures, it is alarming,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Nichols replied, “It is absolutely alarming.”

#8 Albemarle’s Political Cover Committees – Meanwhile, back in Albemarle County the county is seeking a diversity of opinions as long as they all agree #SMH  Eliminate Albemarle’s Mission Creeping Community Councils 

In addition, Albemarle’s new Community Council Policies also suggests the councils reflect a diversity of perspectives as long as all members of the councils support the approved master plan:

The Advisory Councils will provide assistance, feedback and input to County staff and the Board of Supervisors on community and county efforts related to implementation and support of the adopted Master Plan, in accordance with established county procedures. Advisory Council members will communicate with their constituencies to increase understanding of and support for successful implementation of the Master Plan. The membership is broad-based to incorporate a variety of perspectives and ideas and to provide citizens, business people, and representatives of community highlight added-nw

If all the members of the Community Council must be drinking the Kool Aid that the Master Plans came down on stone tablets from the Board of Supervisors – What’s the point?

#7 ARB managing views that can’t be seen  In June, we were shaking our head when we asked about  the authority of the Albemarle Architectural Review Board (ARB) over the Rio area businesses that will not be visible to at least half of the US29 motorists Is The Rio Ramp An Entrance Corridor?

Are entrance ramps arterial streets? wendy's frosty

While a Wendy’s Frosty is good, is it historic?

Interestingly, the ARB seemed equally concerned how to best treat this new Rio GSI reality.  “I don’t even know how to think about this,” said ARB Chair Bruce Wardell.

For those not paying full attention VDOT has awarded a contract to build US 29 under Rio Road thus making those businesses above somewhat invisible to through traffic.

rio gsi

#6 Albemarle Comprehensive Plan Places Preservation of Natural Resources as #1 Priority What abut citizen health Safety and Welfare? Albemarle’s Natural Resources Chapter Rewrite – More Planners, Less Property Rights

The newly revised goal is much more expansive and interventionist in its tone:

“Albemarle’s ecosystems and natural resources will be thoughtfully protected and managed in both the Rural and Development Areas to safeguard the quality of life of current and future generations.”

If there was any question the direction the Chapter is headed, the BOS rewritten chapter declares

“Natural resource protection is the County’s highest priority.”

Really??

Natural Resource Protection is the Highest Priority?

Over the safety and protection of your citizens?

Over the education of the children where you currently dedicate 60% of your budget?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is philosophical hyperbole and is not supported by the facts (or four supervisors), we hope such inflammatory and incorrect language will be removed from the plan.

#4 Albemarle Planning Commission Attempts to Bully staff The Albemarle County Planning Commission was unhappy that the economic development office did not come to them first regarding the Deschutes Brewing prospect.  Despite being beyond their role in government, their egos were bruised in the process.  This lead to our #4 SMH moment Albemarle PC Seeks Improper Staff Influence

How much is designated Light Industrial in the Comprehensive Plan but not in the underlying zoning?

These would seem like a set of objective questions to ask of a professional staff to produce an objective report – But not in Albemarle County.

Please let me explain.

Oct 20 PC meetingAt the very end of this week’s lengthy Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Tim Keller (At-Large), with just two members of the public in the audience (FEF & SELC)  and with the consent of his fellow commissioners, explicitly directed staff to have Economic Development Director Faith McClintic meet with the Planning Commission PRIOR to finalizing her inventory report on Light Industrial land.

Remembering that the Planning Commission is made up of politically appointed individuals (one of which is running for Scottsville Supervisor), one might reasonably ask why should the Economic Development Director, who reports to the County Executive, be required to run her professional report past the PC before it goes final?

The ONLY reason is because they want to impact the content of the report.

While I’ll agree the PC should see and comment on the report after it is written, to give them editorial control seems far beyond the pale and entirely unprofessional.

#5 Greene County battles with Jail Superintendent over budget and plan There was a great deal of head shaking in Greene this year (gun range, recycling center, public comment) but the Jail has been a source of some interjurisdictional anger.  As out own Brent Wilson reports Jail House Rocks Greene BOS

Bill Martin Greene County SupervisorSupervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) expressed concern about the poor timing in the budget process of the CVRJ and the impact to Greene County. Up until December, there was no indication of a significant increase and then in December, 2014 [Central Virginia Jail Superintendent Glenn] Aylor announced over a 50% increase in operating cost allocation to Greene County.

[Ruckersville Supervisor Davis] Lamb responded that there are a lot of pieces to the prison budget.

Martin stated he understood the complexity but all five counties that utilize the regional jail were caught by surprise by the size of the budget increase. Residents of Greene County are pushing back on a $10 facility fee on the water and sewer bill, Martin can’t imagine what residents will say when they see the cost increase for the jail in the upcoming budget.

Martin continued to state that the communication between the Greene Board of Supervisors and Aylor has been poor. He was not impressed when Aylor spoke at the last board meeting and Martin questions who is serving whom.

[Midway Supervisor Jim] Frydl questioned Lamb why the alternative budget that the five counties had presented at the last jail meeting wasn’t considered? Lamb’s only reply was that if you can find a better plan to bring it to the meeting and there are many variables. Frydl asked Lamb if he was ok with the jails budget to which there was no reply.

#3 Greene County Muzzles Public Comment The Free Enterprise Forum continues to have issues with Greene County’s current Matters from the Public Policy but after months of “inappropriate” public comments Greene seemed to want to muzzle public comments as Brent Wilson reports

The hearing of comments (or not hearing comments) from the public has been a work in progress the past several weeks in Greene County. The year started with all comments being allowed at BOS meetings with very little guidelines or restrictions. Several weeks ago, the Chairman decided to eliminate all comments from the public from the July 28th agenda.  The Board discussed the issue at the July 28th meeting and adopted (4-1 Deane opposed) a very restrictive procedure in place to allow public comment at the July 28th meeting

This takes us to the most recent Board of Supervisor meeting. Chairman David Cox, Monroe District, started the meeting stating that it is critical to hear comments from the public. He has not been trying to silence the public but trying to control rude and confrontational behavior.

Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, stated he believes that Cox has an impeccable record in allowing all comments – sometimes to a fault. Cox would never disallow the public to speak and he believes that Cox will be fair to all citizens and not infringe their freedom of speech.

The Free Enterprise Forum has written extensively regarding the import of public comments and we believe they should be placed near the top of every agenda. While the comments some citizens make may cause you to shake your head, not hearing those citizens speak is much worse.

#2 Albemarle Chooses Not To Have a Beer – In a clear affront to the County’s new Economic Development Initiatives, Albemarle County decided not to expand its development areas enough to accommodate Deschutes Brewery [and about 100 new jobs]  from Bend, Oregon while shaking our head we did come up with  Da Lessons from Deschutes

Deschutes-BrewingIt is entirely possible that [Former Albemarle Supervisor] Sally Thomas’ position of keeping growth in check may be the majority opinion of Albemarle County citizens.  If the philosophy of the Board is that any business is lucky that we are allowing them to locate here and should be happy to jump through our bureaucratic hoops, then there is not “A new day” in Albemarle.

The current and future leadership of Albemarle County need to determine the direction of the Economic Development Department.  That decision, perhaps more than any other, will determine not only the success of businesses to locate and expand; but also the jobs that may or may not be available as well as the percentage of government costs that will be carried by property taxes.

Da Lesson from Deschutes – Albemarle was not ready.

Da Question from Deschutes – Do they really want to be?

But this year’s #1 is without a doubt

#1 If I call you Karl Marx is it an insult?  Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors gave us plenty to shake our heads about this year including accusations of Communism.   The Board meeting sounded more like a playground taunt than a governing body as our own Bryan Rothamel reported Fireworks at Fluvanna Supervisors Meeting

After Parish briefly started his presentation on the [employee] recognition program, which includes monetary gifts for various awards throughout the year, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) raised his issues with the recognition program.

Ullenbruch2014

Ullenbruch compared the recognition program as a pat on the back and children in youth sports getting a participation trophy. He then concluded his remarks and what ensued was Ullenbruch leaving the meeting after Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) responded.

Here is a transcription from the end of  Ullenbruch’s statements. It was the 1 hour, 59 minutes mark of the meeting.

Ullenbruch: You are hired to do a job. You are hired to do a job the best you can. I’m not saying our employees are paid enough or they’re not recognized enough. I’m not saying that at all. I’m trying, once again, keep people from being divided. This is devise. I’ve lived in this atmosphere of awards and plaques and that-a-boys, in the back, in the little huddles, in the little corners, it becomes a bitch session. The intent is not for that to happens, but it happens.

O’Brien: You sound like a communist, Bob. I mean honestly, why don’t we–

Ullenbruch: Wow. Wow. That’s on tape.

O’Brien: Yeah, your idea is that people don’t appreciate recognition. That they should just do their damn job, to use your words.

Ullenbruch: I’m just saying it causes divisiveness.

At this point Ullenbruch stands up to leaves. The two began talking over each other but O’Brien responds to Ullenbruch’s comments with, “I mean, that’s what you sound like. I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Ullenbruch talks from the doorway. O’Brien responds, “I don’t think calling someone a communist is necessarily insulting them, Bob.” He turns back to the board, “That’s a first. Sorry. Apologies.”

Yes, the Free Enterprise Forum will look back on 2015 as the Year of Shaking My Head.

Perhaps 2016 will be different.

I know which way I am betting.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, Fluvanna County, Greene County, Virginia Department of Transportation,

Greene BOS Gets Quarterly VDOT Update

VDOT-logo.jpgBy. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On a quarterly basis,  the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  Resident Administrator Charlottesville, Joel DeNunzio provides and update on road programs in the region to the Greene County Board of Supervisors.   The district includes Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa counties.  On July 14th James Greis, the manager of maintenance for the same district, came before the Greene BOS meeting in place of DeNunzio.

Greis updated the Board on a variety of projects in the county. Of primary importance is the Route 29 and Route 33 intersection. There is a traffic study being conducted on volume of traffic coming eastbound on Route 33 into the intersection and on Route 33 westbound concerning the traffic light. There are three lights on the westbound Route 33 intersection of Route 29 but only two lanes. The left most light is a turn arrow and the other two lights are both for the right hand lane (through traffic and right turn). It is confusing and dangerous – for fear that a driver in the left hand lane may take the middle light as his and signal him that it is ok to make a left hand turn into oncoming through traffic.  Greis reported that the two lights cannot be reduced to one nor can they be moved farther to the right or closer together.

Patch paving on Route 33 west of Stanardsville toward the Shenandoah National Park is being done.  Next spring the entire stretch from Rockingham County to Stanardsville is to be repaved. That same stretch has had a review of replacing the guardrails and the cost has been estimated to be approximately $1 million .

Roger Morris who lives near Geer was the only speaker from the public and his issue concerned parking on Garth Road which blocked his driveway to his home. Chairman David Cox (Monroe District) suggested that Morris and Greis meet after the VDOT segment of the meeting to discuss the issue directly.

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Greene Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville)

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District)returned to the Route 33 westbound lanes at the Route 29 intersection. He again expressed concern about the safety of the turn lane and asked if a turn arrow could be painted in the left lane to clearly identify it as a turn lane.  Greis agreed to follow up on the request.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) discussed a speed study be done on Dunnes Shop Road – Route 670.  Greis said that a consensus of the Board was required and it was quickly agreed to move forward.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County

“Nero” – Albemarle’s US29 Business Assistance Program Delayed

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

nero-plays-while-rome-burns-w450A popular (and generally debunked) legend has it that the Roman Emperor Nero played the fiddle during the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. This story has given rise to the idiom “fiddling while Rome burns”, which means to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.

Given the different rates of production between the public and private sectors, this idiom may be appropriate in the Albemarle County’s laborious discussion of potential business assistance for those impacted by the Route 29 Solutions.

In yesterday’s (4/30) Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP) meeting, Lane-Corman, the contractor for the projects indicated currently they are on schedule and will meet or beat all the deadlines in the project timeline.

In a previous meeting, Lane-Corman indicated that their target completion date for the first project, the Rio/US29 Grade Separated Interchange is August 5, 2016.  This date is an important milestone in the “No-Excuses” incentive portion of the project contract:

The Design-Builder will receive a “no excuses” incentive payment in the amount of Eight Million Dollars ($8,000,000) if the Milestone One Completion Work is completed on June 29, 2016. For every day after June 29, 2016 the Design-Builder takes to complete the Milestone One Completion Work, the incentive will decrease at a daily rate of Thirty One Thousand Six Hundred Forty three Dollars ($31,643) until August 5, 2016 when the “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work will be Six Million Eight Hundred Twenty Nine Thousand Two Hundred Nine Dollars ($6,829,209).

The Design-Builder will receive a “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work in the amount of One Million Eight Hundred Fifty Four Thousand Three Hundred Sixty One Dollars ($1,854,361) if the Milestone One Completion Work is completed on August 6, 2016. For every day after August 6, 2016 the Design-Builder takes to complete the Milestone One Completion Work, the incentive will decrease at a daily rate of Thirty One Thousand Six Hundred Forty Three Dollars ($31,643) until September 2, 2016 when the “no excuses” incentive payment for Milestone One Completion Work will be One Million Dollars ($1,000,000).

US29 solutions Incentives

While the financial incentives seem to be keeping the private sector moving ahead of the agreed upon schedule, the same can not be said for the public sector.  As a part of the PDAP meeting, Albemarle County’s Community Development Director Mark Graham revealed that the county’s long anticipated Business Assistance Program that was scheduled for discussion at the Board of Supervisors in May has been delayed and now will not be on their agenda until June.  Graham cited the desire for increase business engagement as the rationale for the delay.

The Free Enterprise Forum has advocated for the business assistance program to include a relaxation of sign regulations to increase the visibility of businesses impacted by construction [US 29 Business Assistance – The Least Albemarle Can Do].

In the April 16th meeting, PDAP Moderator Philip Shucet clearly indicated that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) policy does not govern business signs on private property.

rio corners signage draft

CORNER DESTINATION SIGNS- DRAFT

VDOT is appropriately focused on those things it can control in its right of way.  One may have differing opinions of the signage (or place names) currently under consideration but at least they are moving forward.

Albemarle County has been discussing their business assistance program for over a year and now enterprises will have to wait another month to see what, if anything, the County will be willing to do to help them survive the construction and post construction period.

In the time the County has been discussing this program the private sector has responded to the request for bids, had bids awarded, been given the notice to proceed and these transportation  projects are underway.

Considering the significant contact over the fifteen months between county officials and businesses and the speed of the construction projects – the Free Enterprise Forum finds this latest delay, to “better engage the business community”, difficult to swallow.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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

Photo Credits: sodahead.com, VDOT