By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are adding another $8.5 million to the county’s debt total.
The supervisors voted 4-0 to finance $8.5 million for the Zion Crossroads water and sewer project.Chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) had a pre-planned absence.
Current estimates has the project at over $10 million. The remaining amount will be paid in cash from the county’s reserves.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) wanted to include in the financing the first year’s payment but it failed to reach a second. Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) moved to pay the first year’s payment in cash. This payment was not budgeted for in FY18.
The supervisors originally applied and were approved for $8.5 million through the Virginia Resource Authority but debated on financing less than the full amount. The county’s reserves are sitting at $4.8 million above policy of keeping 12 percent of the budget in reserves. This additional amount above policy is called the ‘fund balance.’
With financing of $8.5 million for the project, the county will still pay $1.7 million in cash from the fund balance.
“Flexibility [in the cash balance] is important. $2 million is not a lot of flexibility,” said O’Brien.
The county’s debt total will be over $100 million. Starting in FY19 the county will be retiring $6 to $7 million a year of debt.
Also at the June 21 meeting, the supervisors approved a number of changes in the the zoning ordinances.
The only one not to get an unanimous vote was the one regarding planning unit developments. Fluvanna still does not have an approved PUD and only one has come to a vote, Walker’s Ridge.
The changes would restrict PUDs to the Zion Crossroads community planning area and would require use of public water and sewer. O’Brien raised concern if a developer needed more capacity than the county could offer at the time, it would stop development.
County staff said if a developer wanted a PUD, the developer would help finance an expansion of the system to make it work.
Wayne Stephens, director of public works, said he thought it would be a huge mistake to allow people to build a private system in a community planning area.
O’Brien envisioned a scenario where the developer would have a private system that later would connect when the capacity would allow.
“Trust me, if you have an out…someone will take it,” said Stephens.
The ordinance change passed 3-1 with O’Brien against it.
The other zoning text amendments passed without dissension. The sign ordinance became less restrictive including allowing larger signs in the Zion Crossroads urban development area. The ZXR sign overlay district will have similar dimensions as Louisa County but slightly smaller.
The other change was increasing the maximum height of Industrial 2 zoned properties. It also will now require less setback unless bordering a residential zoned property.
All of the changes are geared to helping development in the Zion Crossroads’ area with the anticipating of the aforementioned planned water system.
In other news, the supervisors approved the county applying for a grant to build a fire training tower building at the Fork Union Fire Station. The goal of the application is for the county’s match to be provided by staff work or already budget resources instead of additional cash contribution.
The supervisors approved a new private secondary school at the old ABC Preschool by Slice Road. The facility is a six week program geared to helping students return to the public school classroom by working on social skills and classwork. The private school has agreements with Fluvanna, Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, Nelson and Madison already.
The board transferred money to pay for county attorney services. The FY17 projected cost is $273,000. The county’s attorney costs have increased each of the last four years. The supervisors briefly discussed during the budget season hiring a full time county attorney, however that discussion didn’t go far.
Also at the June 21 meeting the supervisors extended the contract for the county attorney services at the same rates as the current fiscal year.
The supervisors will next meet on July 5 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The supervisors have no second meeting in July. A public hearing on issuance of the ZXR bonds will be on the 7 p.m. docket.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®and by the support of readers like you.
Photo Credit: Fluvanna County
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
One the longest regular Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meetings in recent history included a little bit of everything.
The supervisors voted to set pricing and the collection of payment for transport emergency services.
The county will charge 125 percent of what Medicare sets. It will adjust as Medicare changes its maximum rates. The pricing passed 4-0, Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) was not present for the meeting.
The more hot button issue is how it will be collected.
Insurance companies, like Medicare, sets maximums to what patients can be charged for transport services. If an insurance company sets a rate, typically it will pay a percentage of that total. In that case, residents would be charged the remaining balance, between what the insurance company allows to be charged and what the insurance company pays.
Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) wanted only insurance companies charged, not directly to residents. Charging insurance companies only requires an opinion of the Office of Inspector General. Staff stressed it is not an easy process but can be done in three months.
The option that passed, called ‘compassionate billing’ charges the insurance company based on its policies. The county’s third-party for billing collects from the insurance company then sends the remainder of the charge to the resident. The resident’s charges can be forgiven all or a portion of the bill based on income levels.
“Proof of inability to pay is insulting and demeaning,” said Ullenbruch.
‘Compassionate billing’ passed on a 3-1 vote. Supervisors later can decide to change to ‘insurance only’.
Supervisors also passed the rezoning of land on Route 15 near the county border in the Zion Crossroads area. The property was zoned A-1 and now rezoned to I-1. The applicant intends to use it for landscape stone company but the zoning allows other industrial uses.
Supervisors were leery of the rezoning because the property is near the Route 250 intersection and the county has longingly eyed the area for major development, once a water system is installed.
A water system for just the area would cost several million dollars and has been debated for decades because of hopes of money coming back to the county by way of water rates and commercial tax base. I-1 uses aren’t as lucrative for tax base as B-1 uses.
The issue currently is the land doesn’t have water yet. In fact, the supervisors still haven’t fully approved a water system. I-1 uses typically use less water than B-1. This is the second rezoning to I-1 in the area in the past few months.
“Are we focusing on what the vision is?” said Ullenbruch as the rezoning came up.
Supervisors really are at the mercy of the market on how things are developed, unless the county buys land and develops it itself.
Supervisors have discussed creating zoning overlays that would allow ‘fast tracked’ rezoning. The idea of an overlay is to tell the market what the county is most interested in properties becoming. Most of the property in Zion Crossroads is A-1, like the rest of the county.
Supervisors passed the rezoning 4-0.
Also unanimously approved was the denial of an appeal regarding a decision of the county’s subdivision agent.
The county has been issuing building and occupancy permits to properties that are in subdivisions that do not have public roads. Subdivisions are required to have public roads but because of the bursting of the housing bubble, some have been left with inadequate roads according to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) standards.
The county had been issuing permits incorrectly for these questionable properties. Now the county is denying any more permit requests for properties that are on roads that are supposed to be public but are not completed.
Liberty Homes, the owner of the remaining lots in Cunningham Meadows, has recently completed a house and had a contract of sale for it. When applying for the certificate of occupancy, it was denied because the road is not public.
Liberty Homes appealed the decision to the supervisors because permits have been previously issued. The subdivision has multiple occupied houses. Other subdivisions not in compliance have occupied houses.
The appellant asked for the appeal because other homes have been incorrectly granted permits. The appellant viewed this similar to the other properties.
Fred Payne, the county attorney, argued that the property in question is clearly in violation of the subdivision ordinance and should be denied. He further showed is different because Liberty Homes, in his opinion, is the developer of the property, not just an owner of lots.
When Liberty purchased the remaining lots of the subdivision, an appraiser noted the lots ‘as is’ were less than typical market value because the infrastructure of the subdivision was ‘nearly complete’. The appraisal, provided by the appellant, notes it was “adjusted for the estimated cost to complete the infrastructure.”
The estimated costs to complete the road to VDOT standards is less than $200,000, Payne said. Liberty Homes still currently owns nine lots in the subdivision.
Neil Talegaonkar, lawyer representing Liberty Homes, said following the denial of the appeal, “We have a right to appeal to circuit court. We will evaluate and see if that’s something we are interested in.”
The next Board of Supervisors meeting is Aug. 5 at 4 p.m. There is no meeting on the third Wednesday in the month of August.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) presented its Return on Investment Study of the Zion Crossroads Water/Sewer lines to the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors at its June 6th meeting. The organization sees a positive financial return for the county should it be built.
TJPDC Executive Director Stephen Williams (photo right) provided a presentation indicating that even with slow growth in the Zion Crossroads area over the next ten years, the county will receive a positive net revenue stream in excess of $2 million. Without bringing water and sewer to the region, Fluvanna would suffer a financial loss of about $4.8 million over the same time period according to the TJPDC analysis. The financial losses stem from the excess of county expenditures over revenue from the region.
Under more optimistic growth scenarios, the county could see a return from $5.3 to $15.6 million over the ten year period. The study also assumed that if there were no water/sewer, the growth pattern for Zion Crossroads in Fluvanna would be the same as occurred in 2000-2010.
The study was requested by the previous Board of Supervisors and will buttress the efforts to bring water and sewer to the region. Currently Aqua Virginia is holding discussions with the county about constructing the water and sewer lines, and according to one source, informal conversations also have been renewed with Louisa officials.
In other developments:
· Supervisors were informed that Louisa County is suspending all mutual emergency medical services (EMS) aid to Fluvanna. Louisa increasingly has had to respond to assistance requests from Fluvanna’s overwhelmed EMS and contends that it has not received sufficient support in return;
· An independent review of Fluvanna’s Fire/EMS systems will begin at the end of June;
· The audit of county financial records has been delayed because of lack of county personnel, but according to the county administrator, the deadlines will be met; and,
· Supervisors passed out $16,500 in bonuses to staff members who had to assume additional duties because of the firings of staff directors – the funds come from salary savings; Mr. Robert Popowicz was named to be the Director of Community Planning and Development – previously he was the county’s economic development coordinator.
Many residents refuse to give up the school budget fight. At the first public comment session, which lasted nearly an hour and a half, twenty-two residents argued for restored school funding, while five supported the Board’s decision.
The next supervisors’ meeting will be held on June 20th at which time the Board will consider sending a proposed county meal tax (4 percent) to a November referendum.
William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission