Tag Archives: VDOT

Free Enterprise Forum 2017 Top 10

By. Neil Williamson

top ten listWell, 2017 is the year many in Central Virginia would like to forget.  Beyond the far reaching ramifications of the year when Charlottesville became a verb on the national stage, The Free Enterprise Forum remained focused on monitoring local government, reducing regulatory burdens, promoting market based solutions, protecting property rights, and encouraging economic vitality.

None of this could be accomplished without the generous support of our donors and our regular readers. Thank you.  As we embark on our fifteenth year of operation,we remain vigilant, and “pleasantly” persistent.

Each year, we select the top ten blog posts for our year in review.  There were many other blog posts that reached honorable mention status.  I would be remiss if I did not thank our Field Officers Brent Wilson (Greene County) and Bryan Rothamel (Fluvanna County) for their significant reportage in 2017.

With apologies to the now retired David Letterman, here are our Top 10 posts for 2017:

#10 Albemarle’s $52 Million Rain Tax Department December 4, 2017

rain gifFarmers count on rain to feed their crops; Albemarle County is counting on the Rain Tax (AKA Storm water “fee”) to grow government with a 10 year budget that exceeds $52 million.


#9 Charlottesville’s Paid Parking ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ ? March 14, 2017

canary in coal mine photo credit share.america.govWhile it is heartening to see Charlottesville position parking meters as a “pilot” and only a part of the parking solutions considered.. . Available parking is the life’s blood of most small businesses.

… The Free Enterprise Forum hopes the City Council will pay attention when the canary stops singing – local businesses (as well as the jobs and taxes they generate) will be at risk.

#8 The Wizard of Oz and the Rio/29 Small Area Plan March 1, 2017

Scarecrow, tin man, lionOver the years, some have considered the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz to be less than perfect heroes – I beg to differ I find them to be the best kind of heroes – those that must work together to achieve a goal.

Today, (3/1) as the Board of Supervisors considers the innovative Form Based Code land use planning for Rio/29 small area plan I believe this unlikely trio could provide important guidance

#7 Frederick Fleet and Charlottesville’s Form Based Code Charrette Sept. 7, 2017

Frederick Fleet photo credit 123people….Considering the current [Charlottesville] climate, I am reminded of Titanic crewman (and survivor) Frederick Fleet who was on duty when he saw a black mass ahead of the ship. He struck three bells and telephoned the bridge. Though the ship swung out of the way, he watched as an iceberg scraped the starboard side.

The Free Enterprise Forum is ringing the bell.

We fear this ill timed, but worthy, Form Based Charrette exercise will be met with a similar fate.

It is a shame.

#6 Fixing Charlottesville NDS Engine Light February 16, 2017

car-check-engine-lightIf you have ever driven with a “Check Engine” light illuminated, you have an idea of where Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Development Services (NDS) Department has been for some time.

Everyone (land owners, neighborhood associations, developers, etc.) agrees that something is seriously wrong but no one knows specifically what it is or, perhaps more importantly, how to fix it – until now.

#5 Albemarle Economic Development X Files March 29, 2017

i want to believeAlbemarle County says that it is in favor of economic development.  The former County Executive Tom Foley went so far as to say it is a “new day in Albemarle” regarding being open for business.  A couple of supervisors have even gone on the road attempting to drum up public support for economic vitality.

I find myself thinking of the 1990’s science fiction series the X-files where two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained, while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.

Just as Fox Mulder in the X-Files, I want to believe Albemarle, but the facts keep getting in the way.

#4 Changing Charlottesville Philosophy to YIMBY July 25, 2017Image result for yimby

…This is not a development problem, it is a political problem, and it exists nationwide.

I recently reviewed the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) San Francisco platform and I believe there are many parallels to Charlottesville….

We believe that San Francisco has always been, and should continue to be, an innovative and forward-looking city of immigrants from around the U.S. and the world. San Francisco is not full, and the Bay Area is definitely not full. Ours is an inclusive vision of welcoming all new and potential residents. Anyone who wants to should be able to afford housing in the Bay Area.

#3 Hindsight Report Asks ‘What If?’ August 1, 2017

…The Hindsight Report indicates that over the study period (2001-2016), Albemarle County received, from the study area, over $277 million in local tax revenue compared with the $212.9 million revenue sharing payments made to the City of Charlottesville (+$64.1 million).

….Had Charlottesville been successful in the annexation and the revenue sharing agreement not been in place, the City would have received $304.7 million in tax revenue from the study area during the study period compared with $212.9 million in revenue sharing payments from Albemarle County (-$91.8 million).


#2 A Tradition Like No Other–Albemarle Again Seeks to Ban Golf  April 5, 2017 and

Sunny Day? Albemarle Prohibits Greens, Endorses ‘Green’ April 24, 2017

See the source image

….By our back of the envelope calculations, rural recreation is an economic driver in the community representing nearly 2,000 jobs and an annual payroll of $40 million dollars.  In addition, rural recreation is a part of the fabric of Albemarle County.  The Free Enterprise Forum asks you to abandon this folly and utilize your limited staff resources to meet real needs of the community.

#1 Sayonara Shucet March 31, 2017

Shucet - Photo Credit CvillepediaLate yesterday afternoon (3/30), the embattled Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) named former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Philip Shucet as their new Chief Executive Officer.

In our three years of observation, we have grown to appreciate the charming manner in which Shucet manages (some might say manipulates) meetings and their outcomes…. As a facilitator extraordinaire, he has stayed true to the “Shucet Six” we first identified in 2014…. for now we say Sayonara Shucet, we wish you fair winds and following seas.


But most of all THANK YOU, the readers and supporters of this blog and our work in Central Virginia.  Without your generous support, we would not exist, thank you!

BRING ON 2018!

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.


VDOT’s ‘Charlie Brown’ Street Trees & ARB’s Double Standard


By Neil Williamson, President

Much like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, the young street trees planted as cbrown christmas treepart of the Route 29 Solutions projects may be the very best suited to provide the long term tree canopy desired, but if such trees were a part of a private application (residential, industrial or commercial) they would be summarily rejected – just like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

The public policy question is: Should a tree planted on behalf of a state agency along one of Albemarle County’s 21(!) Entrance Corridors meet the County’s requirements for private businesses locating on said corridor?

In fairness, most would reply yes. Not in Albemarle.

Please let me explain.

Merriam-Webster defines a double standard as:

a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another;


US 29 Northbound (just South of Ashwood Boulevard)

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will look back on 2017 in Charlottesville as a year of getting things done.  Working with motivated contractors (and elected officials) the Route 29 Solutions projects were completed with great agility.

As a part of the projects, VDOT contractors planted literally thousands of plants along US 29 and Berkmar Extended.  Each and every one of these plants have a one year guarantee from the contractor.   Therefore it is in the contractor’s best interest to plant trees that meet the VDOT standard and with the highest likelihood for survival.

Very few (if any) of these trees would meet Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) trunk requirement of 3 1/2”.

University of Missouri researcher W. Todd Watson, writing in Hortitechnology magazine, found virtually no difference in the eventual height of trees when caliper size was used as a metric for success.  image

Filled with engineers, VDOT is nothing if not specific about their tree planting activity.  The have an arborist on staff to assist in species selection as well as planting details.  Nowhere in VDOT Section 1200 Landscape can we find any information regarding mandated tree caliper size.  Could it be that VDOT prefers to allow the design professionals determine the most efficient and effective landscaping over the life of the roadway?


Roundabout Berkmar Drive Ext at Hilton Heights Rd

This double standard was brought to the attention of the ARB and was discussed back in September.  The conversation recognized the higher cost and limited availability of 3 1/2” caliper trees and recognized the maintenance of the trees after transplanting had a significant impact on their rate of survival.  In addition, they mentioned one specific proposal that might be reconsidered based on this information and asked for that project to come back the following meeting.

The specific application that prompted the latest discussion was on the agenda on October 2nd but after a two week hiatus, the ARB seemed to have a change of heart regarding the flexibility of the “guidelines”

c. ARB-2017-69: North Pointe Middle Entrance Landscape Plan: Tree size

The ARB viewed the revised landscape plan and considered the applicant’s request to use a smaller planting size for EC street trees. It was the consensus of the ARB that the 3½” planting size requirement should be followed for this application, but staff should present additional information on the planting size issue for continued ARB discussion on a more general basis.

While the Free Enterprise Forum does not have an opinion on this application; we do wish the ARB would revisit their planting size requirement decision.  To do so could lower cost for applicants, perhaps increase tree viability and result with the same tree canopy.

In short, we ask the ARB to follow Linus Van Pelt’s advice regarding installation size and maintenance:charliebrowntree2

I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


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

Photo Credit: United Feature Syndicate in cooperation with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1965)

The Route 29 Solutions Finish Line(s)

By. Neil Williamson, President, Free Enterprise Forum

In a display of confidence and political expediency, then new Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe set an aggressive deadline for the Route29Solutions projects of October 30, 2017 (a week before the 2017 General Election).  In addition, the Commonwealth Transportation Board provided significant incentives to the contractors for completing projects ahead of the mandated schedule — it worked.

Rio/US29 GSI – OPEN 7/18/2016
US29 Widening – Scheduled Open June 30, 2017
Berkmar Extended – Schedule Open June 30, 2017
Traffic Signal Synchronization – Scheduled June 30, 2017
Hillsdale Drive Extended – Scheduled October 30, 2017

The Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP) has been working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the contractors throughout this fast paced design/build program.  The PDAP meetings, which are live streamed on the web, always receive project updates as well as information about business assistance programming.  The PDAP has initiated several refinements to the project.

In many ways, this set of projects has positively impacted the manner VDOT now delivers projects.  The Free Enterprise Forum has been a vocal critic of the Rio Grade Separated Interchange plan and of many aspects of the Project Delivery Advisory Panel.  We have also been critical of the methodology of former panel facilitator Philip Shucet.  We have been and are supportive and appreciative of the many men and women who have worked so hard to put these important transportation projects ahead of schedule.

We hope our thoughtful, respectful opposition provided the opportunity to “sharpen the saw” and through our tough questions we have helped refine the process.  While we still see significant transportation infrastructure needs, we believe our community, and our Commonwealth are better off for this significant transportation investment.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

VDOT Updates Greene Supervisors

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Charlottesville Residency Administrator, Joel DeNunzio, from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), came to the Greene County Supervisors meeting for three official reasons on Tuesday, May 23rd .

The first two issues were mandated public hearings for the proposed Secondary Six Year Plan for Fiscal Year 2018 through 2023 and the Secondary System Construction Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.


Joel DeNunzio

Funding for both plans come from state and federal revenue such as gas tax and sales tax. Distribution of funds is based on population and lane/miles of roadway in a locality. Funding allocations are made for unpaved roads with at least 50 trips per day. Secondary roadways, both paved and unpaved, are considered and there are 151 miles of unpaved roadways in Greene County.

The first project which is currently under construction is Route 607 / Matthew Mills Road east of Route 29.  This project is to widen to roadway and improve the intersection on the northbound lane of Route 29 turning onto Route 607. The next project to be done this year is Route 630 / Rosebrook Road. By year, below are the additional roadways scheduled:

  1. 2018 Route 624 / Beazely Road
  2. 2019 Route 638 / Turkey Ridge Road
  3. 2020 Route 603 / Bingham Mountain Road
  4. 2020 Route 628 / Simmons Gap Road
  5. New 2022 Route 677 / Ice House Road

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) asked DeNunzio if the Supervisors could make changes to the order of projects and was told that they could. Supervisor Bill Martin pointed out to DeNunzio that Ice House Road has 290 trips per day and they may want to change its priority.

The hearing was next open to the public with one person addressing the board. Mr. Murray addressed the Supervisors requesting paving of .4 of a mile of South River Road east of Route 230. This is the end of South River Road where four families live and a fifth is moving into. Mr. Murray refreshed the Supervisors memory that he had appeared in May, 2016 when VDOT was in attendance asking for the same section of roadway to be paved and he has never received an answer.

DeNunzio answered that he would have to review his information to see if it qualifies or if it has already been approved to be worked on and to answer the request. DeNunzio indicated that there could be funds available after the Ice House Road project if the Supervisors want to use those funds for South River Road.

Frydl was concerned about holding up other projects while waiting on an answer for South River Road. DeNunzio told the supervisors that he would have an answer by the next Board meeting and that nothing would be impacted in that time frame. Given that answer the Board voted to defer action until the June 13th meeting.

Later in the meeting, DeNunzio gave VDOT’s quarterly update. Bids have been received on upgrading guardrails on Route 33 with a target cost of $1.1 million. If there is a qualified bid the work with be done from August, 2017 to June, 2018. The bridge replacement on Route 230 near the Madison County line over the Conway River has just switched to work the west side of the roadway. This project is scheduled to be completed by November, 2017. clip_image003

Martin thanked DeNunzio for VDOT cleaning up the intersection of Route 33 and Route 33 Bypass. Martin asked what VDOT is planning to do with the lot. DeNunzio indicated there is a procedure for the original owner to buy the property back. Martin indicated that the parcel would be ideal for either a safety function or a commercial operation.

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

Sayonara Shucet

By. Neil Williamson, President

Shucet - Photo Credit CvillepediaLate yesterday afternoon (3/30), the embattled Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) named former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Philip Shucet as their new Chief Executive Officer.

Shucet has most recently served as a consultant to VDOT as a facilitator and problem solver for challenging projects including the Route 29 Solutions panels.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said in the ERC News Release:

I know Philip personally and am confident he is the right man for the job.

It does not appear everyone in the Transportation Department was as prepared for Shucet’s sayonara as Secretary Layne.  According to VDOT’s Lou Hatter:

The Route 29 Solutions project team will work through VDOT Commissioner Kilpatrick’s office to develop a plan going forward.

While appreciative of the professionalism and speed of Route 29 solutions project management, the Free Enterprise Forum has been a vocal critic of the meeting tactics and lack of true public engagement offered by Shucet’s panel process.  In our 2014 post Shucet’s Charade – A Public Participation Illusion:

The Route 29 Advisory Panel is, perhaps unwittingly, playing a part in a masterfully orchestrated and expertly conducted illusion of public participation where the questions, concerns and opinions of panel members are being denied or actively dismissed. No votes are taken nor consensus measured. All the while the facilitator is complementing the panel for its incredible positive forward momentum.

In our three years of observation, we have grown to appreciate the charming manner in which Shucet manages (some might say manipulates) meetings and their outcomes.  His pioneering (for VDOT) of video streaming meetings promotes transparency but not participation.  By reviewing e-mails and phone calls received, Shucet can color the manner in which the complaint was made and how VDOT, or the contractor handled it.

As a facilitator extraordinaire, he has stayed true to the “Shucet Six” we first identified in 2014:

  1. Control who is in the group. The number of participants and their representative groups selected to provide appearance of balance of perspectives
  2. Control Content, Agenda and Release of Data Controlling when and where data is released allows the facilitator the opportunity to build “proper context”
  3. Reduce/Eliminate Outside Influences. By removing public comment from the meetings and accepting it only online, Shucet insulates the panel’s meetings from being distracted by a boisterous critic [AKA Citizen]
  4. Demurely Dominate Conversation. Shucet’s down home drawl, overzealous compliments and genteel demeanor seem to engage the entire panel in discussion while his voice is most often heard directing the conversation. In addition, strictly limiting the group meeting time to two hours also helps this technique succeed.
  5. Limit Decision Options. While the Route 29 Advisory Panel was supposedly provided nine options to consider in their first meeting, Shucet brought forward just four options to the second meeting as possibly moving forward based on the “Professional Judgment” [note the word opinion was not used] and screening of the Technical Team.
  6. No Voting and Don’t Ask for Consensus. After three years, how many votes have been taken? None. How many times has consensus been “tested”? Never. The closest is when Shucet indicated he saw a number of heads nodding.

None of this is news and it does not change the fact that Shucet has served in this role well.  Personally and professionally I consider Shucet to be an excellent public servant.  That being said, I also believe he and I see the role of the so called “advisory” panels differently.

This morning blogger Jim Bacon applauded Philip Shucet, Transportation’s First Responder:

Bacon’s bottom line: Most people working the interstices between the public and private sectors are usually looking to line their pockets by trading on their relationships. Philip Shucet is a different breed. Not to say that he hasn’t done well for himself as a businessman and consultant in recent years, but he could work anywhere in the country he chooses and probably make a lot more money. Fortunately for the commonwealth, Shucet, who lives in Virginia Beach, has chosen to dedicate much of his career to public service and tackling some of the biggest, stickiest transportation problems. We’re lucky to have him.

Recently, in a conversation with VDOT officials someone asked me if I believe the blue tourism oriented destination signs, that were offered to impacted US29 businesses made a difference during the Rio/US29 interchange construction.

I indicated that while the signs likely did not change anything significant, they were an important step to let the local businesses know VDOT was aware (and listening) to their very real concerns – perhaps such tepid tranquility is the overall goal of these panels as well.

How and who will replace Shucet in the facilitator role is the challenge for the future, for now we say Sayonara Shucet, we wish you fair winds and following seas.

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

Photo Credit: Cvillepedia

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.


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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


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