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September 08, 2009

Supervisors prepare for 2010 General Assembly

Reader comments (0) By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

There are only four months left until the beginning of the next General Assembly session, and all across Virginia, localities are putting together their lists of legislation they’d like to see passed. Both Albemarle County and Charlottesville use the services of David Blount, a legislative liaison who is employed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Blount checked in with the Board of Supervisors on September 2, 2009, to get a sense of their priorities.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090902-BOS-Legislative-Agenda

First, County Attorney Larry Davis briefed Supervisors on some of the legislative successes in the 2009 session of the General Assembly:
  • Maintained the County’s ability to fund Acquisition of Conservation Easements program through transient occupancy tax, and managed to keep $2 million in the state budget for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
  • Speed limits on unpaved roads lowered to a maximum of 35 miles an hour (HB1837).
  • Enabling legislation for creation of Regional Transit Authority was approved (HB2158), though Albemarle and Charlottesville were not permitted to ask voters if they would support a sales tax increase to fund it (HB2161).
  • The Rivanna River’s designation as a “scenic river” was expanded to include portion from South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Woolen Mills (SB957).
Davis also recommended three new items that should be included as priorities:
  • A request to allow Albemarle to transfer money VDOT allocates for unpaved roads to other local transportation priorities without being penalized.
  • The County’s social services agencies want a guarantee that the state will match federal funds.
  • A request to allow Albemarle to transfer money to a non-profit entity to operate the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP). Currently state law does not authorize the County to transfer its share of the $500,000 grant it was awarded (along with Charlottesville) to a non-profit that will actually implement the program.
Davis said that many of Albemarle’s requests were not granted in 2009, and he urged the Board to continue including those as priorities in its 2010 legislative agenda. One of these was a request to extend the roll-back period for properties that come out of land use taxation from 5 years to 10 years.

After a ten-minute discussion that continued an earlier debate about the merits of the program, the Supervisors opted to amend the language of the request to allow each locality to determine for themselves if they wanted to extend the period. Blount noted, however, that no legislator agreed to carry the bill for the 2009 General Assembly. 

During the RTA discussion last year, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce did not support the legislation for the sales tax referendum. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) said he felt the Chamber might be persuaded to support a gas tax to accomplish the same goal of funding local transportation projects with local dollars. However, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said there was currently no mechanism by which money from a gas tax would be returned specifically to its locality of origin.

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) asked about a rumor she had heard that there may be legislation to cap the amount that water and sewer authorities can charge for connection fees. The Albemarle County Service Authority recently decided to raise their rates in a two-tier process. Blount said he had also heard that rumor, and added that if the recession continues into January, the legislature could be sympathetic to the needs of the building industry.

On that same note, County Attorney Davis said he believes one bill will be introduced to require VDOT to allow signs in medians so developments can advertise new homes. That practice is currently illegal.

“I would have to ask them if they could ever point to a single additional house that has ever been sold because of a sign in the right-of-way,” said Rooker. “All they’re doing is trading aesthetics for a feel-good piece of legislation that accomplishes nothing in terms of overall housing demand.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Introduction from County Attorney Larry Davis
  • 04:15 – Slutzky comments on enabling legislation for County to transfer money to LEAP program
  • 05:00 – David Blount makes his comments
  • 06:00 – Slutzky said he thinks the County should once again ask General Assembly to ask voters if they would approve a sales tax increase
  • 8:30 – Supervisor Sally Thomas asks a question about an attempt to change the definition of “urban development area” in state law
  • 9:00 – Blount says an attempt to replace proffers with impact fees has “not gained any traction at all”
  • 10:00 – Thomas asks about a rumor that there may be legislation to cap the amount of connection fees that can be charged by water and sewer authorities
  • 11:00 – Discussion of the possibility of a bill to allow for developers to post signs in VDOT’s right-of-way
  • 11:45- Thomas asks about alternative sewer treatment facilities
  • 13:45 – Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) asks about conservation easements
  • 14:30 – Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) asks a question about extending land use taxation roll-back period from 5 to 10 years
  • 27:20 – Motion to adopt legislative package

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