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October 29, 2011

Albemarle Supervisor candidates on growth area expansion

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, SECOND IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comShould the board consider boundary adjustments for Albemarle County’s designated growth areas to create new locations for business on land currently zoned as rural areas?  Does it matter if the land is in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir?


 

Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) – Incumbent

Well, to the first question, since my joining the board the designated growth area has actually [been] reduced by legislative process and by our master planning efforts.  Additionally, a large section of the growth area has been rendered unusable for growth when the state took over the Biscuit Run property as a park. 

We are currently updating our comprehensive plan and studying land use needs, particularly as it relates to the economic vitality action plan and light industrial zoning.  These changing opportunities and needs are why I believe that we need to have an open mind regarding the growth area boundaries and not treat the growth area as something that is absolutely sacrosanct. 

I think it does matter [if the land is in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir].  We have already taken efforts to protect our watersheds with the setbacks, so we certainly would have to take a very close look at that.

 

Cynthia Neff (D) – Challenger

I am not comfortable at this moment expanding the boundaries of the growth area. 

I think especially with the Comprehensive Plan review coming up, we have a unique opportunity at this kind of pivotal point, I think, in our community.  I mean I really sense that we’ve had this convergence of a lot of growth.  We’ve had a lot of development.  You know, there’s jobs are tough to find.   You know, there’s not been the infrastructure improvements.  You know, there’s been some stuff happening at the Board of Supervisors level.  There’s a frustration with government period, bottom line.  And I think all of that is coming together and people are anxious. 

And so when I look at the Comprehensive Plan, it’s an opportunity for us to determine where we’re at now.  What have we done?  You know, what do we have now?  What have we created?  What really does it look like from a transportation standpoint?  What does it look like from a school standpoint?  I know I’ve been standing outside a number of schools and I’m seeing more trailers than I’ve ever seen, you know, here in the county.  And, you know, what does that mean…? 

I’m not certain that we need to expand into rural areas.  Everybody uses Biscuit Run.  “Well Biscuit Run went away and so now we’ve, you know, got to make it up.”  I’m not so sure.  I really think we have to see what we do and if we can’t afford to support with infrastructure and all, that means schools….I think we have an opportunity to take a pause.  And I would suggest there’s at least ten projects that, you know, people want to [include as expansions] and I think that’s premature.  I would not support that….

The South Fork of the Rivanna River is a critical part of our water infrastructure.  I’m very nervous about, you know, the proposed bypass…going so close to our water infrastructure.  But certainly I don’t [support] expanding the growth area closer and closer to the critical elements….[P]rotecting our waterways is hard enough and important enough that we ought to all recognize that and kind of have them off limits in my opinion.

 

Scottsville District

Chris Dumler (D) – Open seat

I think the Board should definitely consider it and I think it should be part of the Comprehensive Plan review that’s coming up soon.  We made a policy decision here in Albemarle County however many years ago that a certain portion of the County is going to be dedicated to growth, 5%, and the remainder of the County should be dedicated towards more rural appropriate activities and when it comes to new locations for business, I think there are lots of opportunities in the current growth area as it’s defined for business. 

Up 29 the number of vacant impervious surfaces that you have all the way 29, it’s getting astounding and so I think one of the things we need to focus on is incentives to encourage redevelopment of existing commercial spaces as opposed to the current incentive system which overwhelmingly encourages paving over green fields which isn’t good for—  It may be good for the bottom line of the developer but those incentives can be adjusted such that it’s easier to redevelop and that’s one of the things I think we need, before we talk about expanding the growth area for business….

Beyond that, I think part of the answer to this question lies in creating and encouraging rural innovation.  Now, what I mean by that is if we have zoning ordinances in Albemarle County or regulations in Albemarle County or even on the state level, then we can partner with state officials to fix [them]….

Obviously, there’re always going to be counter examples, things like NGIC where we need to do a spot rezoning very quickly or we’re going to lose a thousand jobs.  Those are the exceptions to the rule rather than the rule, but as a general rule I think that we should look for alternatives before we consider expanding the growth area.

And to answer the second question, it definitely matters if the land is in the watershed of the Rivanna reservoir and I think that that’s, again, a case-by-case basis.  It always factors in.  It’s definitely important.  It’s about a conversation with folks.

 

Jim Norwood (R) – Open seat

As I understand it right now, there is a master plan relative to expansion.  I would be very very careful to expand and rezone rural areas.  There might be a need but I think that when that need arises, that a very careful attention would have to be paid to rezoning.  I’m not for that at all but I am for growth and I think we have to think in terms of how we manage our rural area.  And we want to maintain it, but we also have to entertain growth.  So does it matter?  Yeah, it does matter if it’s in the watershed.  I think that that would be a concern to me.

 

White Hall District

Ann Mallek (D) – Incumbent

The short answer to your question is no.  And the short answer to the question, “Does it matter if land is in the South Fork Rivanna watershed?”, the answer is yes it matters – tremendously – because that is the reason why we plan the way we have planned in the last 30 years. 

I’m not in favor of expanding the growth area at this time.  This Comprehensive Plan-level decision must be based on need for the community and the benefit to the entire community, and not limited to the potential profit of one applicant.  The Comprehensive Plan changes adopted in 1980 created a growth area of 5% of the county’s acres, reserving the remaining 95% as rural area devoted primarily to agriculture and forestry with incidental or accessory residential development and associated small businesses.  The rural economy has grown with the success of our wineries and the local food movement, both contributing to the development of the county’s niche in food production. 

The growth area designation is a contract with our citizens, as are our master plans.  The boundary is the predictor of future development and is relied upon by the citizens as they invest in new homes and businesses.  Our growth area is so large already that leapfrog development has already occurred.  Rather than growing concentrically from the inside, projects have hopped over open land and sprung up at the remote areas of the designated growth area, increasing traffic demands on the corridors between these urban density areas.

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