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February 08, 2012

Albemarle officials briefed on target industry study

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission were briefed at a joint meeting Wednesday on the preliminary results of a study to identify specific types of industry that should be persuaded to relocate or grow in the community.

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“This will help us leverage our unique assets both as a region and as Albemarle County to make sure we are focusing on the kinds of industries and enterprises that are going to be the most successful here,” said Lee Catlin, the county’s community relations director.

The consultant who conducted the study on behalf of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development found that the top three industries to encourage are: bioscience and medical devices; business and financial services; and information technology and defense security.

However, Catlin stressed that the results are preliminary and need to be refined before they can fully inform the review of the comprehensive plan.

“The consultant has done a great data search and has brought forth things that make sense to them, but we really need to put the lens of what’s right for Albemarle County on it,” Catlin said.

The meeting was part of a larger discussion that has been underway since January 2010, when Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd first raised the idea of creating an economic vitality action plan to boost the county’s economy.

Boyd said the target industries are a good first step, but greater economic development won’t occur until local government gets out of the way.

“What we’ve got to do as a government entity is define what our role is, because even though we’ve defined a lot of things it doesn’t mean we as a government have to do it all,” Boyd said.

Download Download presentation on target industry study

County planner Elaine Echols said the study is an important tool that will inform all of the decisions to be made as part of the comprehensive plan review process.

“What is decided as far as our target industries go directs what kind of land and where it should be located that we would want to designate through our land use plan process,” Echols said.

Echols said a full review of the comprehensive plan, particularly in the southern half of the growth area, could determine what land should be redesignated for industrial uses.

“We have three [interstate] interchanges in that particular area where we have land that is already designated in the urban setting that [the county] may want to look at as a different kind of designation which better meets the needs for our target industries,” Echols said.

As part of the review, county staff are also evaluating the three interstate interchanges in the rural areas to allow for low-impact industrial uses.

One of the interchanges, exit 107 in Crozet, is potentially the site of a new industrial park. The Yancey family has submitted a request for a comprehensive plan amendment to bring their land into the growth area.

A request for an expansion was not granted as part of the update of the Crozet Master Plan in 2011.

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Supervisor Ken Boyd

Boyd called for the board to take an up-or-down vote on the Yancey Mills project.

Commissioner Tom Loach disagreed and said the Planning Commission had turned down that proposal twice.

“We did our due diligence and we don’t recommend it,” Loach said. “If the board is going to circumvent the will of the people in the growth areas because it thinks it’s a good idea to zone land that’s rural over the objections of the community, I think that’s a very important decision to make.”

At the end of the meeting, staff wanted input from supervisors and commissioners on whether the schedule for the review process was appropriate.

“The question is whether we should pull these issues out of the current schedule for review or keep them as part of the review process,” Echols said. Staff recommended keeping on the same schedule.

However, Boyd said he was concerned the process was moving too slow and wanted light industrial zoning and the interchange policy to be separated from the full comprehensive plan review.

“It’s very difficult to get your arms around a massive comprehensive master plan,” Boyd said. “When you go to the public, the people are not able to focus in on some of the details and get lost in the process.”

Planning commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty disagreed.

“So much is contingent on that industry study and doing anything ahead of that would be premature,” Lafferty said.

Supervisors agreed on a 5-1 vote to allow the Planning Commission to spend the next year reviewing the plan before it comes back to the board in January. Boyd was the lone dissenter.

 

 

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