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March 30, 2007

Kevin Fletcher running for Supervisor

20070116ccopckfletcherThe Daily Progress is reporting that Scottsville area resident Kevin Fletcher intends to launch a campaign for the Board of Supervisors challenging Democratic incumbent Lindsay Dorrier.  Earlier this year Mr. Dorrier announced he would seek another four-year term.

Mr. Fletcher ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign for Supervisor in 2003 and this year, he told Charlottesville Tomorrow, he is planning to challenge Mr. Dorrier for the Democratic nomination.  Charlottesville Tomorrow first reported Mr. Fletcher's interest in a second campaign for the Scottsville seat on January 16, 2007. On that evening (photo at right), he spoke before the Albemarle County Planning Commission in opposition to the Biscuit Run development.  He shared his belief that, "We don't need more housing and we don't need more commercial space....We need to conserve as much of our growth area as possible because once this is gone the cry will come out for more growth area."

Denny King is the third candidate running for Supervisor in the Scottsville District.  Mr. King has not yet decided whether he will seek the nomination of a political party or run as an independent.

Visit Charlottesville Tomorrow's 2007 Election Watch website for the list of all active candidates. Sign up for our e-mail alerts to keep track of all the campaign announcements in 2007.

Brian Wheeler

March 29, 2007

Marcia Joseph running for Supervisor

20070227pc1Keswick resident Marcia Joseph, the current Chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, has filed the necessary paperwork to become an official candidate for the Board of Supervisors.  Ms. Joseph, a landscape architect, is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for the Rivanna District seat currently held by Republican Ken Boyd.  Mr. Boyd announced he was seeking election to a second term in February.

Ms. Joseph was first appointed to the At-Large seat on the Planning Commission in 2004.  In January 2006, the Board of Supervisors appointed her to a second two-year term that expires December 31, 2007.

Visit Charlottesville Tomorrow's 2007 Election Watch website for the list of all active candidates. Sign up for our e-mail alerts to keep track of all the campaign announcements in 2007.

Brian Wheeler

March 28, 2007

Biscuit Run rejected unanimously

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held their public hearing on the Biscuit Run development Tuesday evening.  After a six-hour meeting and shortly before the stroke of midnight, the Planning Commission unanimously rejected the Biscuit Run rezoning request by a 7-0 vote. With this recommendation for denial, the development will next be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors in a work session scheduled for April 11, 2007.

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About eighty-five people attended the public hearing and about twenty-seven of them provided feedback when the Commission took public comment.  Two residents expressed optimism and a positive opinion on the Biscuit Run development.  Two adjoining property owners, the Covenant School and Habitat for Humanity (who recently acquired the Southwood neighborhood), also expressed their support for Biscuit Run.  The remaining twenty-three speakers expressed a variety of concerns including transportation needs and traffic safety, environmental degradation, water and sewer infrastructure, and the general need for more detailed information on the plan before a decision is made.

[Watch a video of the applicant's presentation]

After public feedback, the Planning Commission asked attorney Steve Blaine (representing the applicant) if he would consider a deferral, something that has to be requested by the applicant who otherwise gets an up or down vote on the project. Mr. Blaine responded that it would depend on the Commission's expectations about how much more information they required.  Mr. Blaine said he wanted to have his first work session before the Board of Supervisors by May 9, 2007 and thus he could only afford a deferral of a couple weeks.  Mr. Blaine asked for a, "clear path forward" to a decision and suggested that there were a number of concerns he could address immediately.  At this point early in the evening, the Planning Commission determined it was not ready to vote on the project without more discussion and they shifted into work session mode for the next 4-5 hours.

The Planning Commission then received two significant updates, one from the Virginia Department of Transportation on transportation infrastructure and one from the Albemarle County Service Authority on upgrades which may be required to expand sewer line capacity.

[Watch a video of the VDOT report on transportation]

[Watch a video of the ACSA report on sewer capacity]

After these presentations, which covered new information since the previous work session, the Planning Commission had in-depth discussions on old issues that included: 1) the overall layout of the development; 2) the phasing of the development; 3) the affordable housing proffers; 4) the school site and possible proffers to mitigate cost of adding school capacity at all levels (elementary, middle, and high school); and 5) transportation.

By the end of the evening with a large number of unresolved issues the Commissioners once again asked Mr. Blaine if he would request a deferral.  He responded with a request that the rezoning be approved by the Commission.  Unmoved, the Planning Commission quickly dispatched the development with a unanimous vote to deny the rezoning citing the numerous issues discussed during the evening and raised in the staff report.  Next up: the Board of Supervisors.

[Watch a video of the Planning Commission vote]

Brian Wheeler

March 26, 2007

Biscuit Run goes to public hearing

Sqphotowheeler519Tomorrow evening, the Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed 3,100 home Biscuit Run development on 828 acres just south of the City of Charlottesville.  Unless the applicant requests a deferral, which is not expected, the Commission's vote and recommendation would send the project to the Board of Supervisors who could schedule work sessions to begin in April and could hold their own public hearing and vote as early as May 9, 2007.

In their report released last Friday, County staff outlined both favorable and unfavorable aspects of the development, but concluded that they could not recommend approval of Biscuit Run until a number of outstanding issues were resolved and a revised plan and proffers are submitted and evaluated.

Two key reports have been finalized since the applicant last submitted their plans to the County for final review.  Earlier this month, Charlottesville Tomorrow was the first to share the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) assessment of Biscuit Run's transportation infrastructure needs.  VDOT's analysis focused on improvements required only to Route 20, Avon Street, and Old Lynchburg Road. The total cost of the improvements is estimated to be $88,092,000 (2014 dollars) with VDOT suggesting the pro-rata share that should be proffered in cash by the developer totaling $32,085,000.  That amount is just for improvements on these three streets.

The second new report is the County's fiscal impact analysis which is conducted for most major developments in the County.  According to the staff report it reveals Biscuit Run would have "a negative fiscal impact."  Staff estimate that over the next twenty-years, if the Biscuit Run property is developed as requested, it could have a negative impact of $134.6 million on Albemarle County.  The property could also be developed "by-right" with fewer homes resulting in a negative fiscal impact of $88.7 million over twenty years.  To mitigate the impact of the Biscuit Run rezoning, the developer has proffered the equivalent of $20.7 million in transportation improvements, greenways, parks, affordable housing, and a school site.

The staff report also points out that, "[w]hile many mixed-use projects have either no fiscal impact or a positive fiscal impact, in this case, the commercial area is too small relative to the residential area to influence the fiscal impact in a positive way. Almost all residential projects result in a negative net fiscal impact."

Brian Wheeler

March 20, 2007

Local Republicans rally to discuss tax rate and budget

20070319gop1 Keith Drake doesn't hide how he feels about taxes in Albemarle County.  In fact, the Chairman of the Albemarle County Republicans takes his low tax message with him everywhere he goes since his Jeep has "58 cents" painted on the back (photo at right).  Over the past several weeks, Mr. Drake has led a campaign to get the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to start their budget discussions from a different vantage point, that of real estate property taxes increasing by only 1% over last year.  That campaign included a rally tonight at the County office building that attracted over 150 residents.  In his remarks, Mr. Drake argued local government should start their budget revenue assumptions based upon a tax rate of $0.58 per $100 in assessed property values and build their budget up from there with modest increases for inflation, population growth, and student enrollment.  Additional speakers at the rally included Buddy Weber (City Republican Chair), Al Aitken (www.votors.org), Christian Schoenewald, and Peter Way.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070319-budget-rally.mp3

20070319gop2Charlottesville Tomorrow has previously reported on the differing views of Mr. Drake and members of the Board of Supervisors, like Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), as to whether state law says the tax rate has already changed to $0.58 in the aftermath of the recent increase in property assessments or whether that can only happen after the Supervisors take their annual vote on the 2007 tax rate as part of their annual budget process. In another post, I even prepared a user guide for the current tax rate debate.

Regardless of the differing interpretations of state law, Mr. Drake would not have been pleased with today's budget work session held by the Board of Supervisors where the majority of the discussion focused on tax rates of $0.70 (the 2006 tax rate was $0.74).  In fact, staff tailored their presentation today to reflect the fact that Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) had recently adjusted his outlook upwards on tax rates to $0.70.  In a previous meeting, Mr. Dorrier had joined Ken Boyd (Rivanna) and David Wyant (White Hall) recommending a rate of $0.68, the lowest rate discussed publicly by the Board in their budget meetings, and a rate that is a full dime above the County Republican benchmark discussed at their rally this evening.

At the end of the rally, Mr. Drake encouraged citizens to return for the Board's public hearing on the proposed tax rate being held Wednesday, April 4th.  He suggested they each resident bring six tea bags, one for each Supervisor, to help start an "Albemarle Tea Party."  The Supervisors are expected to set a proposed tax rate this Wednesday, March 21st.  Once that rate is advertised for the public hearing, the Supervisors cannot pass a rate higher than that amount.

NOTE: Charlottesville Tomorrow is a non-partisan organization that provides information to the public on issues related to land use, transportation, and community design. This material on the County budget is being shared for informational and news purposes only and is not an endorsement of the views of any candidate or political party.  Also, Charlottesville Tomorrow does not cover issues related to public education.

Brian Wheeler

March 13, 2007

Supervisors start County budget review

On March 12, 2007, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors began a series of work sessions on the FY2008 County budget.  Charlottesville Tomorrow has selected three clips from the 4-hour meeting that focus on several issues often discussed on this blog: master plans; funding of infrastructure; land use tax breaks; and property taxes.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070312-BOS.MP3

Highlights:

00:56 -- In this first clip, Supervisor David Slutzky launches a discussion about the funding of infrastructure in the County's master plans.  That topic is discussed further in clip number three.

09:33 -- In this second clip, the Board of Supervisors discusses the effectiveness of the County's land use tax program. This program lowers the property value for purposes of real estate taxes when the land is in use for agricultural, horticultural, forestry, or open space uses. The goal of land use program is to provide an incentive to keep land undeveloped.  It does not, however, provide permanent protection for the land like a conservation easement. You will hear the Supervisors discuss whether additional protections from development should be added to the land use program.  About 59% of the County's total acreage is currently enrolled in  the land use tax valuation program.  In 2005, it was estimated that the tax burden for rural area land owners was reduced by almost $13 million, or almost 11 cents on the real estate property tax rate at that time.

27:50 -- In this third clip, each Supervisor gives their perspective on where the property tax rate should be set for the 2007-08 budget (Boyd, Dorrier, Wyant - 68 cents; Rooker - 71 cents; Thomas - 72 cents; Slutzky - 74 cents).  They return to a discussion of how to fund infrastructure and debate whether a master plan really makes any promises to the public for future investments in infrastructure.

Brian Wheeler

Mallek formally launches campaign for Supervisor

20070313mallek1 This morning in front of the Albemarle County Office Building, Democrat Ann Mallek formally announced her campaign for the White Hall District seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.  She is challenging incumbent David Wyant (R) who was elected in 2003 to a four-year term. Elections are being held this November for three seats on the Board.

A native of Albemarle and a 1967 graduate of Albemarle High School, Ms. Mallek runs a cattle operation in Earlysville with her husband Leo Mallek, an Earlysville dentist.  In her announcement speech, Ms. Mallek described her past volunteer experience on County boards dealing with issues including zoning, transportation, development, and conservation.  "I am a strong proponent of protecting the environment and rural spaces, and of growth areas that are developed only after rationale, long term planning and proper funding of necessary public services," said Mallek.

Ms. Mallek highlighted three goals for her service on the Board:

  • Support of Crozet's small town quality of life
  • Support for Albemarle's agriculture and its rural quality of life
  • Only encourage development that protects human and natural resources

She also made two pledges "to the people of the White Hall District."  Mallek said, "I will not sacrifice the people in the Crozet growth area....Downtown is the heart of the Crozet Master Plan.  It has a living commercial center today.  The County must honor its commitment to downtown Crozet..."  Secondly, she indicated she would "work against policies that try to squeeze too many [housing] units into the growth areas."

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070313-Mallek.mp3

Watch the program on YouTube:

Brian Wheeler

March 09, 2007

Jim Bacon addresses Free Enterprise Forum luncheon

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Jim Bacon & Neil Williamson

On March 6, 2007, the Free Enterprise Forum hosted a luncheon at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Jim Bacon was invited to discuss the political realities of transportation policy as well as the links between economic opportunity and mobility in Virginia.  Mr. Bacon is the publisher of the online newsletter Bacon's Rebellion which he launched in 2002.  Prior to that he was Publisher and Editor in Chief of Virginia Business magazine. Mr. Bacon, who lives in Richmond, is among the most prominent and well respected of the new media writers providing insights on Virginia public policy issues and the Virginia General Assembly.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070306-Bacon.mp3

Watch the program on Google Video:

Brian Wheeler

March 08, 2007

City runs ad on proposed tax rate

The City of Charlottesville has run their required ad related to the annual process to set the real estate property tax rate.  City Manager Gary O’Connell is recommending to City Council a rate of $0.99 per $100 of assessed value, an effective increase of 11.5 cents as shown in the ad below.  Click here for a user guide to the tax rate debate which I prepared for the discussion in Albemarle County.

The City's budget materials can be found online here.  City Council holds a public hearing on the tax rate on March 19th.

Brian Wheeler


NOTICE OF PROPOSED REAL PROPERTY TAX INCREASE

The City of Charlottesville proposes to increase property tax levies.

1.  Assessment Increase: Total assessed value of real property, excluding additional assessments due to new construction or improvements to property, exceeds last year's total assessed value of real property by 13.2 percent.

2.  Lowered Rate Necessary to Offset Increased Assessment: The tax rate which would levy the same amount of real estate tax as last year, when multiplied by the new total assessed value of real estate with the exclusions mentioned above, would be $0.875 per $100 of assessed value.  This rate will be known as the "lowered tax rate".

3.  Effective Rate Increase: The City of Charlottesville proposes to adopt a tax rate of $0.99 per $100 of assessed value.  The difference between the lowered tax rate and the proposed rate would be $0.115 per $100, or 13.1 percent.  This difference will be known as the "effective tax rate increase."  Individual property taxes may, however, increase at a percentage greater than or less than the above percentage.

4.  Proposed Total Budget Increase: Based on the proposed real property tax rate and changes in other revenues, the total General Fund budget of the City of Charlottesville will exceed last year's by 13.64 percent.

A public hearing on the increase will be held on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

The hearing is open to the public, and persons desiring to present oral testimony will have an opportunity to speak at this time.

Jeanne Cox
Clerk of Council

March 07, 2007

VDOT weighs in on Biscuit Run proffers

Within the past 24 hours, both the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and their Planning Commission have received separate reports from County staff that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has now weighed in with feedback on the Biscuit Run transportation study. 

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The e-mail from VDOT was sent on Monday, March 5, 2007, past the deadline for County staff and the applicant to fully consider the material in advance of the Planning Commission's March 27th public hearing on Biscuit Run.  As a result, staff do not expect the proffers to change at this point in the review of the largest development in the County's history.  Comments by the Board of Supervisors today made clear that they have a number of questions they will need answered after the Planning Commission votes on the project later this month.  Those concerns included VDOT's new feedback on the proffers as well as a more comprehensive traffic study that takes into account the proposed Fontaine-Sunset Avenue Connector.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070307-VDOT-BiscuitRun.mp3

County staff have not completed their review of the comments from VDOT, nor has the message been shared yet with the Supervisors or Planning Commission.  It will be included in the staff's final report heading into the March 27th public hearing. Charlottesville Tomorrow has obtained a copy of the message and is making a copy of it available to the public as well as an audio recording of the public discussion from last night's Planning Commission meeting and today's meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Download_7 Download the VDOT memo from our Research Center

VDOT's Joel DeNunzio writes that the analysis is intended to show, "the cost of improvements for the impacted roads and what the development should be responsible to provide in cash for the needed improvements."  VDOT's analysis focused on improvements required only to Route 20, Avon Street, and Old Lynchburg Road. The total cost of the improvements is estimated to be $88,092,000 (2014 dollars) with VDOT suggesting the pro-rata share that should be proffered in cash by the developer totaling $32,085,000.

The Biscuit Run developer's existing cash proffer to add lanes on Route 20 was deemed by VDOT to be low.  "The $5.5 million proffer on this road is low. According to the attached worksheets, the development's portion needs to be closer to $15 million," according to Mr. DeNunzio. 

Brian Wheeler