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February 06, 2009

Albemarle County sets priorities for Department of Community Development

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Mark Graham, Director of Albemarle County's Department of Community Development

During their February 4, 2009 meeting, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved the work program for the Department of Community Development for the upcoming year. Director Mark Graham presented his recommendations for priority work related to County master planning efforts, Comprehensive Plan updates, and other initiatives.

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The County’s Community Development Department is operating with nine and one half less staff members than they had the year before, due to positions that have been frozen as a response to a budget cuts.  However, the workload has also been reduced.  Requests for building permits are down almost 25%. Subdivision applications are down 15%. Rezoning applications are also down.

Site plans and applications to the Architectural Review Board (ARB) are the exception. These actually reached record high levels in 2008. Graham told the Board that the actual capacity of the Department to take on new initiatives has not changed much. The slimmer department is offset by the slower state of the economy.

Legally mandated objectives were given the highest priority in the work plan. State law requires that the County’s Comprehensive plan undergo an update every five years. There are a few ongoing master plans that will receive staff attention. Places29 and the Village of Rivanna plans are expected to be finished later this year. The Crozet Master Plan and the Rural Areas plan are also due for updates this year. Work on the Southern Urban Area plan has been pushed back to FY2010-11.

The Board of Supervisors raised no serious disagreements with Graham’s strategy for the coming year, but offered a few administrative suggestions.

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) wanted to be clearly informed of how much money was spent on consultant fees, and other Supervisors questioned whether more projects could be handled in-house. Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) thought the Board should move quickly to develop a coherent stance on wind turbines. He also asked how rural landowners could be kept better informed of the options available for voluntary conservation easements. However, Boyd told Graham that he would prefer that staff resources be prioritized towards the completion of the Places29 master plan for the Route 29N corridor.

Daniel Nairn


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