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August 06, 2010

Albemarle collects almost $1 million in land-use revalidation program

DailyProgress

By Bridgett Lynn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, August 6, 2010

Albemarle County has collected $955,000 worth of roll-back taxes from a land-use taxation revalidation program adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2008.

The report was shared with the board Wednesday.

“It was important that we put in place a revalidation program so that the public has confidence that the parcels receiving the land-use tax benefits were using their land for agricultural purposes,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker in an interview.

20080808-sunflowers3

Since 1975, the county has used a land-use program to give reduced assessments to landowners who use their property for agriculture, horticulture, open space or forestry. The program was started to help protect rural land from development.

With the revalidation program, property owners who receive a tax break have to submit proof every two years that they continue to qualify.

“I was disappointed that the county had never done a revalidation,” said Glenmore resident Paul Accad in an interview. “Now they are in the process of completing the first one and look how much money has been, and will continue to be, collected due to the revalidation.”

“My thoughts on the program are that it needs to be run as cheaply as possible given the program’s goals,” Accad said. “I’d like to see those goals posted on the Web site since I’m not sure what they are.”

In 2009, owners of each of the 4,927 properties in the land-use program were mailed revalidation applications and approximately 98 percent of the forms were returned by the December deadline. The applications that were not submitted or that no longer qualified for the tax break were removed from the land-use program and had to pay the roll-back taxes.

20080808-cows The result was a loss of 177 parcels of land and the collection of $955,000 worth of roll-back taxes. The county also received an increase in taxable land value of $46,254,500 and new real estate revenues of $343,208.

Although Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas said he supports the land-use program, he said that he does not necessarily agree with the policy on roll-back taxes paid by people losing eligibility.

“What if I want to get out of this land-use program?” asked Thomas in an interview. “Does that mean I don’t have to pay for the roll-back taxes even if I gave a five-year notice? No, I would have to pay for it. [That’s] one thing I didn’t like about the program.”

The General Assembly has capped the roll-back tax period at five years. Property owners leaving the program have to pay the difference between what they paid under land use and the taxes they would have paid at fair market value. Albemarle County has been unsuccessful in past attempts to get the General Assembly to extend the roll-back penalty to 10 years.

According to Bob Willingham, the county’s assessor, the Real Estate Division is now two months into a field review process to ensure that the parcels in the program meet qualifying standards. The goal is to review the remaining 4,800 parcels over the next two years.

Because the review process just started recently, information on the number of parcels verified has not been collected yet, according to Willingham. Preliminary findings indicate about 33 percent of the applications need additional follow up to verify a qualifying use.

Each property owner will be given an opportunity to provide documentation of a qualifying use before the property is removed from the land-use program and the owner is billed for roll-back taxes.

April 12, 2010

Council adopts $140.8 million budget for FY2011

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, April 12, 2010

20100412-Norris

Mayor Dave Norris reads the resolution adopting the budget for FY2011

The Charlottesville City Council has adopted a $140.75 million budget, a 1.19% reduction from the one adopted last year. The real estate tax rate will remain the same at 95 cents per $100 of assessed value. Council took the action at a special meeting held Monday night. The operational budget for FY2011 is $126,001,345, 0.77% less than that during the current year.

Real estate taxes make up the bulk of the budget , and they are projected to be down by 1.59% in the next fiscal year due to a decline in property assessments. Sales taxes are also projected to decrease by 5.56%.

At some point during the year, Council will have to determine where to make $624,000 of cuts to programs funded by the state. Governor Bob McDonnell balanced the budget by requiring localities to reduce spending, but gave cities and counties the flexibility to determine where to make the reductions.

FY2011-revenues

Click for larger image (Source: City of Charlottesville)

Council adopted a $33.85 million capital improvement program (CIP) budget, twice as much as the $16.3 million CIP adopted for FY2010. The increase is due to the transfer of federal and state money being used to pay for Meadowcreek Parkway interchange project.  Other funded projects in this year’s CIP include $1 million for the Charlottesville Housing Fund, $625,000 for the City’s contribution to the Piedmont Family YMCA in McIntire Park and $250,000 for storm-water initiatives. The city will spend $250,000 to acquire new parkland.

Both the budget and the CIP were slightly amended in the weeks since City Manager Gary O’Connell unveiled the proposed budget in late February.

A new dedicated fund for improving the city’s bicycle infrastructure will be created, with an initial funding of $50,000. That amount will be transferred from an account for citywide traffic improvements.

Council opted not to spend $110,000 to increase service on three bus routes operated by the Charlottesville Area Transit service. Instead, the money will either be allocated once a design charette on the future of the system is held, or will be allocated into Council’s pool of funding for “priority initiatives.”

Download Download resolution authorizing the FY2011 budget for more details

Council opted to allocate some of that money during the budget review process. The organization People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry (PACEM) received $10,000 in funding, and the Foothills Child Advocacy Center received $25,000. The police department received in additional $10,000 to help pay for overtime related to helping catch sexual predators people who use the internet to meet children.

FY2011-expenditures  

Click for larger image (Source: City of Charlottesville)

Council also chose not to spend $200,000 in this year’s CIP to renovate the mall west of the Charlottesville Ice Park. Instead, that money will be allocated to the Charlottesville Housing Fund. In all, there will be $1.4 million placed in the fund this year because Council also opted to dedicate $200,000 in federal community development block grant (CDBG) for that purpose. The budget anticipates the receipt of $18,454,658 in revenue sharing funds from Albemarle County. Of this amount, $4.25 million goes to the CIP, $250,000 goes to a facilities repair fund $211,826 goes to an equipment replacement fund, and nearly $2.8 million goes into the economic downturn fund. The remaining $10,948,527 goes into Charlottesville’s operating budget.

March 18, 2010

Albemarle Supervisors set tax rate for advertisement and commit to funding YMCA

20100317-Boyd
Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna)

On March 17, 2010, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held their fourth work session related to the FY 2011 budget.  During this meeting, the Board reiterated its commitment to provide $2.03 million to the Piedmont Family YMCA for construction of its new facility in McIntire Park, received an update on school funding, reviewed proposed additions to the budget, and discussed capital funding needs. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board voted 4-2 to advertise a real estate property tax rate of 74.2 cents for the 2010 calendar year (Boyd, Dorrier, Snow & Thomas in favor; Mallek & Rooker against).

Having set the maximum tax rate, the County budget will proceed to a public hearing on March 31st.  The Board is expected to adopt a final budget and tax rate at their meeting on April 7th.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100317-BOS-Budget4

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 00:01:36 - Supervisor Rodney Thomas (Rio) reads motion certifying closed meeting.  A topic in the closed meeting was the contract to provide $2.03 in funding to the Piedmont Family YMCA.  Three Supervisors had expressed interest in reconsidering those funds at a work session earlier in the week.
  • 00:02:12 - Statement by Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett), on behalf of the board, reiterating the County's support for providing $2.03 million in capital funding for the construction of the YMCA facility.
  • 00:02:52 - County Executive Bob Tucker introduces budget work session
  • 00:03:15 - Ron Price, Chairman of the Albemarle County School Board, updates the board on the state budget's impact on the school's budget.
  • 00:35:00 - Richard Wiggans, Albemarle County Director of Finance, provides update on the general fund revenues from the state. The state budget provides and additional $350,000 to local gov (excluding schools).
  • 00:38:00 - Tucker informs the board that a 76.2 cent tax rate covers budget additions proposed by Supervisors w/ 2 cents dedicated for capital needs.
  • 00:40:00 - Supervisors ask questions about Family Support Workers and Bright Stars Program.
  • 00:44:30 - Supervisor Ken Boyd expresses concerns about "picking out winners and losers" in the course of the board's discussion as to whether anything should be added back to Tucker's budget.
  • 00:45:35 - Albemarle Supervisors begin reviewing list of 10 proposed additions to budget totaling about $440,000. The board has made no reductions to Tucker's budget.
  • 01:06:35 - Supervisors discussing restoration of $158,657 to level fund regional library system. Boyd has suggested in 2 previous meetings withdrawing from Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (JMRL) system.
  • 01:07:13 - Clark Draper, Scottsville Town Administrator, speaks in support of Scottsville Library and Scottsville Community Center.
  • 01:13:15 - Boyd says he will support library funding and asks for consideration of regional library system in the board's June 2010 strategic planning mtg.
  • 01:15:45 - Tim Tolson, JMRL Trustee, says if libraries are level-funded he will recommend other methods for closing a remaining $85,000 budget deficit without resorting to cutting of hours at Scottsville and Crozet branches.  Albemarle Supervisors reach consensus to level fund regional library system w/ $158,657 addition to Tucker's budget.
  • 01:23:20 - Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) says she supports adding 2 cents to Albemarle's 74.2 cent tax rate to generate additional $3.073 million for capital budget.
  • 01:24:05 - Mallek raises issue of capital funding reduction for Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad (liquidating prior years' allocations in capital budget).
  • 01:28:15 - Supervisors reviewing pros and cons of tax rate adjustments and Albemarle's capital needs.
  • 01:31:14 - Supervisor Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) says he wants to represent people who have e-mailed him asking that Albemarle's tax rate not be raised
  • 01:31:57 - Rooker advocates for tax rate increase from 74.2, but below 'equalized rate' in order to support capital funding
  • 01:33:42 - Boyd encourages board to hold the line on tax rate and make tough decisions like those being made by business sector
  • 01:36:40 - Boyd makes motion to advertise real estate property tax rate of 74.2 cents (2009 rate) for calendar year 2010.
  • 01:37:20 - Rooker says he has never seen a County budget that has not invested in capital needs
  • 01:39:30 - Mallek says most of her constituents have said they can pay same as they paid last year (i.e. equalized rate)
  • 01:40:47 - Rooker says community should 'keep taxes about the same' (i.e. not a tax cut as provided by 74.2 rate) and have a 'modest capital budget instead of no capital budget.'
  • 01:43:35 - Boyd says, 'The times demand that we give taxpayers a break.'
  • 01:44:52 - Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) says the public will see we are making 'wise investments at the local level.'
  • 01:45:35 - Albemarle Supervisors vote 4-2 (Rooker & Mallek against) to advertise 74.2 cent real estate property tax rate (current rate)

February 26, 2010

County Executive unveils Albemarle’s $293.8 million budget for FY2011

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, February 26, 2010

Albemarle County Executive Bob Tucker has unveiled a budget for FY2011 that is 3.4% less than the current year, and 11.9% less than that for FY2009. The proposed budget of $293.8 million is based on a 74.2 cent tax rate, though lower property assessments translate into a projected $1.9 million reduction in revenue from property taxes.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100225-BOS-Budget

“The budget confronts the difficult realities of reshaping our organization while attempting to establish reasonable expectations for local government services in a time of significantly reduced revenues,” Tucker told the Board at a briefing on Thursday. “Balancing this budget creates very difficult choices that will change the nature of our service levels and funding support in fundamental ways.”

20100225-Budget-Chart1
Revenues from all sources are down. Real estate tax revenues will decrease because property values have declined by 3.18%. Sales tax revenues are down 11.4%, or $1.4 million. There have also been decreases in both state funding and personal property tax.

Tucker has proposed an operating budget of $266.5 million, a capital budget of $8 million, and $18.5 million in revenue sharing funds for the City of Charlottesville. Tucker also suggests an $800,000 shortfall contingency fund in case revenues are lower than expected.

The various cuts continue a restructuring that Tucker says the county has been working towards since the economic downturn began in 2007. With a total of 78 positions either frozen or eliminated since 2007, Albemarle will have as many local government employees as it did in 2002.

Among those 78 positions are 5 police officers. The County has a goal of having 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, but the actual ratio is closer to 1.2 according to Bryan Elliot, the county’s assistant county executive for community services.

“This action is translating into increased response times for both urban and rural parts of the county to priority-one calls,” Elliot said.

At least one position has been unfrozen. Deputy County Executive Tom Foley said a “business auditor” will be restored in order to track down unpaid taxes. The move is one recommendation from a efficiency study conducted last year by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, a building inspector will be reassigned to staff the county’s new land use revalidation program.

Affordable housing initiatives will be reduced with the County saving $190,000 by eliminating its down payment assistance program. A housing counselor position has also been cut, and rental subsidies for the Wood’s Edge apartment complex will be phased out.

However, some expenditures had to be increased due to state mandates and other cost increases, including a $203,450 increase in funding for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last year, the SPCA argued that both Charlottesville and Albemarle were not paying their fair share to the agency, which is the region’s official animal shelter. The county will also pay an additional $426,000 in employee health and dental benefits.

Other highlights:

  • Funding for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will be reduced by 5%, but Tucker said the county would not support the closing of branches in Scottsville or Crozet.
  • Zoning complaints that are not directly related to health and safety will receive a lesser priority from county staff.
  • The County will no longer be a member of several organizations, such as the Virginia Municipal League, the Alliance of Innovation and the Virginia Institute for Government. County will continue to be member of economic development agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
  • County will no longer help fund “bulk waste amnesty days” held by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, saving $22,000.
  • Funding for local community development agencies will be reduced between 5% and 10%, including the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, StreamWatch, and the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.
  • The County will no longer pursue environmental complaints but will forward them on to federal and state officials.
  • Efforts to calm traffic in neighborhoods will not be made, as there is no longer a county transportation planner.
  • Funding for ACE program will continue for at least one more year, with a one-time $350,000 transfer from transportation balance in the CIP. No more general revenue funding will be used.
  • Funding for implementing master plans has been eliminated, meaning no further sidewalks or streetscapes for at least the next five years.

Supervisors had little comment after the briefing. Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) called the budget “sobering news.” Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) said he needed to time to reflect before he could make a comment.

Members of the public can weigh in with their thoughts on the proposed budget at a public hearing to be held next Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Lane Auditorium. After that, the Board will hold a series of work sessions to amend Tucker’s proposed budget before its adoption in early April.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Briefing on the budget from County Executive Bob Tucker
  • 10:10 – Tucker describes the goals that helped shape the budget
  • 12:15 – Tucker discusses highlights in the budget
  • 14:30 – Tucker addresses 5% funding cut for library
  • 18:30 – Tucker describes how tax rate will affect tax bills, with most resident seeing a decrease
  • 21:15 – Deputy County Executive Tom Foley describes how community development services will be affected
  • 35:35 – Foley directly address discusses service impacts in community development
  • 39:05 – Assistant County Executive Bryan Elliot outlines reductions to community services
  • 45:45 – Elliot discusses how affordable housing initiatives are affected by budget
  • 50:00 – Elliot addresses how parks and spending on cultural events will be affected
  • 53:15 – Elliot describes reduction in funding for Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
  • 56:45 – Tucker wraps up the briefing on the budget
  • 1:02:30 – Tucker outlines next steps in the budget process


 

February 09, 2010

County defers decision on zoning fees for a second time

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

For the second time in three months, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has deferred consideration of a proposal to increase zoning fees charged for land use applications and home business operations

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100203-BOS-Fees


20100203-BOS2 Supervisors Duane Snow, Ann Mallek and Dennis Rooker
Supervisors opposed to the increases said they first wanted more information on how the department’s review process can be made more efficient.  Supervisors supporting the changes said the fees were justified and would allow Albemarle to recover, on average, just 30% of the costs incurred by the County.  The Planning Commission had originally advertised fees that would recover 75% of the costs.

The amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance last came before the board in December after a review process of its own that lasted over two years. Even though the proposal was not altered since the initial deferral, two new Supervisors who criticized the fee increases during the campaign have since joined the Board.

New Supervisor Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) promised in an October 2009 campaign event that, if elected, he would oppose any increase in zoning fees.  At the time, Snow instead called for a new economic development plan to improve the county’s fiscal condition.

The second new Supervisor, Rodney Thomas (Rio), began his line of questioning regarding the fees by reading several questions he received via e-mail from Jay Willer of the Blue Ridge Home Builder’s Association.  The questions included:

  • “Do County procedures take longer than necessary because they are too complex?
  • Are staff reviews more time consuming than necessary because their guidelines are too confusing or contradictory?
  • Are authorities clouded by too many layers of review or lack of clear direction?
  • Is there a culture of leadership that encourages staff to diligently resolve conflicts or find e-mails?
  • What are the County’s obligations to provide the most efficient services possible?
  • Have they been adequately met?
  • What portion of the County’s review is for the benefit of the community at large and not just for the internal issues of the project itself?
  • What benefits and therefore value accrue to the county and its residents from the rezoned conditions?
  • Does the increased density relieve growth and infrastructure pressure elsewhere?
  • Is this a more valuable use of the land than the original zoning had in mind?
  • Are the county requirements and costs fair to the project itself?
  • Is the County as aggressive about cost recovery from recipients of other county services as the county is on the building community?”

20100203-Fee-Sheet These fee increases were not approved by the Board of Supervisors. Click to enlarge.
Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said many of those questions have been answered during the current review of the fees. He also said streamlining efforts implemented a few years ago in the community development department have resulted in annual savings of $500,000 including an online application system.

Rooker said the Board had three criteria in mind when it directed staff to begin this current review of fees in 2007. First, fees should recover a “significant part” of the cost of a project’s review. Second, fees in Albemarle should be comparable to those in neighboring localities. Finally, fees should be reviewed and updated every two years to reflect inflation and other cost increases.

The fees have not been updated in nearly 20 years, and there is currently no automatic method of raising them on a regular basis. Rooker also said it was time for the county to recover more of its costs from developers.

“If you’d had Biscuit Run in Greene County, [the rezoning process] would have cost the applicant $84,000,” Rooker said. Instead Forest Lodge LLC paid Albemarle a total of $1,570 for a process that cost the county over $200,000 according to Rooker.  He also pointed out that under the proposed fees, Forest Lodge would have paid $35,000.

Snow said the county should consider itself in a partnership with developers, but the county should not dictate all of the terms.
   
“In the economic times that we’re involved in, we need to work together and maybe come up with something more reasonable,” Snow said. While he acknowledged some fees needed to be increased, Snow said fees and cash proffers result in more expensive houses.

Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) passed out a spreadsheet that calculated costs based on salary positions and the time required for each task. Based on his figures, the proposed rates were too high. For instance, he questioned whether it should really take 67 hours of staff time to approve a permit allowing someone to operate a business out of their home. He also asked whether it should take 1,048 hours of staff time to review a rezoning of a parcel larger than 50 acres.

Rooker said the county could save money by choosing to reduce the amount of public participation required for rezonings and special use permits. He said one way to shorten the process would be to simply deny more applications that don’t fit in with the county’s expectations. 

“We generally work with applicants to go through a process where the needs of the community are dealt with and the applicant gets his project approved,” Rooker said.

County Attorney Larry Davis said it was his experience that resubmissions and deferrals add inefficiencies to the system and extends the time and cost of review.

“[The new] fee system by design is trying to get people to focus in on the work they submit to be responsive to the ordinance and for staff to be responsive as well early in the process so there are not multiple resubmissions,” Davis said.

Snow countered that staff would have no similar incentive to reduce their scrutiny. Boyd also placed the blame of inefficiencies on staff. Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville) said many of the reviews went on “ad infinitum” at a cost to the developer.

Mark Graham, director of the Department of Community Development, said the fees are set at a rate to recover about 30% of the cost of applications. He also said in the past year, his department has provided comments back to applicants within 45 days on 100% of initial rezoning and special use permit applications.

“We’ve looked at all this and we certainly are more than willing to look at it again, but I think we’ve found that we do a pretty good job on most of these things,” Graham said.

Members of the public were invited to weigh in on the topic.

Jack Marshall of the group Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population said development needed to be carefully overseen. He called for applicants to pay for 100% of the cost of review.

“A request for a subdivision is a special interest initiative proposed by an entity hoping for a private benefit,” Marshall said. “The need for community oversight is created by the developers’ actions. The cost should be their responsibility, and not us taxpayers.”

20100203-Lowry Former Supervisor candidate John Lowry
Former candidate for the Board of Supervisors, John Lowry, said he supported the increase in fees.

"In government, there is no free lunch," Lowry said. "The economics of fees is not a gift to anyone. It is a cost that needs to be paid."

Jay Willer of the Blue Ridge Homebuilder's Association said he hoped the community development process could be streamlined in order to save costs for both the County and developers. 

Rooker made a motion to pass the same ordinance under consideration in December. He said the issue had already been studied for two years.

“After a long-winding road, including many adjustments and including outside expertise, I think we met the three criteria the Board established two years ago,” Rooker said.But only Supervisor Ann Mallek (White Hall) joined Rooker in support of the motion, which was defeated 2-4.

Davis asked the Board if they intended to vote to deny the zoning ordinance change, or send it back for further review.  Rooker initially said he did not want any more money or time on the issue if it was just going to be defeated again.

“We have spent a fortune getting to where we are today,” Rooker said. “This Board today decided these cost should be borne by the taxpayer rather than applicants.”

Boyd took exception to Rooker’s characterization, and said he was not happy with the numbers put in front of the Board. Boyd said he wanted more study of the efficiency of  staff.

“I would like to see a report back from staff indicating why it takes 67 hours to do a [home occupation B permit] and why that’s necessary,” Boyd said. “And I’d like to see that for each of these.”

Supervisors voted to defer the matter until staff comes back with further information.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Public comment from John Lowry in favor of expanding the fees per staff recommendations
  • 04:15 - Public comment from Jay Willer in the Blue Ridge Homebuilder's Association
  • 05:23 - Chair Ann Mallek opens up the discussion and says she will accept comments from the public
  • 05:45 - Mark Graham reviews the reasons for the fee increases
  • 13:40 - Supervisor Rodney Thomas reads from questions received from Jay Willer
  • 15:30 - Supervisor Dennis Rooker responds to Willer's questions
  • 21:45 - Supervisor Duane Snow calls for implementing fee increases on a more gradual basis
  • 24:45 - Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier calls for fewer projects to go before Architectural Review Board
  • 26:45 - Snow, a former ARB member, defends the ARB
  • 28:50 - Supervisor Ken Boyd discusses ways to streamline community development review process
  • 34:30 - County Attorney Larry Davis explains what information was given to author of efficiency study
  • 40:30 - Boyd suggests switching to a system where fees are based on "time and materials" rather than a simple fee
  • 46:50 - Snow says he can't support the rate of increase
  • 51:00 - Public comment from Jack Marshall of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population
  • 54:15 - Public comment from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
  • 57:00 - Public comment from Jay Willer
  • 59:00 - Rooker makes a motion to pass the ordinance
  • 1:03:00 - Snow explains his vote against Rooker's motion
  • 1:06:00 - County Attorney Larry Davis said re-submissions and deferrals
  • 1:11:30 - Boyd asks for a vote on the motion, which is defeated 2-4
  • 1:18:00 - Deputy County Executive Tom Foley describes how staff is trying to be responsive
  • 1:21:40 - Motion to defer passes

January 05, 2010

Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009

In my weekly appearance today on WINA AM 1070 on the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot and I will count down Charlottesville Tomorrow's top-10 growth and development stories of 2009.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download Brian Wheeler's appearance on the Coy Barefoot show

This is the fourth year we have counted down the top-10 growth and development stories in Charlottesville-Albemarle.  This wouldn’t be possible without the support of WINA for the Charlottesville Right Now program, host Coy Barefoot for having me on the show each week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, and the excellent reporting by my colleague Sean Tubbs and our interns.

Charlottesville Tomorrow's Top-10 Growth & Development Stories of 2009
  1. Biscuit Run goes from Albemarle’s largest proposed development ever to a future state park after all 1,200 acres are acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia in December.
  2. Meadowcreek Parkway construction begins in Albemarle.  Local lawsuit fails to stop construction and City Council’s 3-2 vote to convey City property is upheld in court.  In December, VDOT puts City’s portion (called McIntire Road Extended) out to bid and City Council approves preliminary interchange design.
  3. City & County both hold local elections.  Democrats keep all five seats on Charlottesville City Council.  Three independent candidates in the City are unsuccessful in their bids for Council with Bob Fenwick’s campaign largely a referendum on the future of McIntire Park and dredging for water supply needs.  In Albemarle, Republican Rodney Thomas upset incumbent Chairman Democrat David Slutzky (D-Rio).  In the open seat race to fill the Samuel Miller District seat, Republican Duane Snow defeats two opponents.  Thomas and Snow join Republican Ken Boyd to form a group of three Republicans.  Both newcomers are local businessmen born and raised in Charlottesville-Albemarle. The election results will bring a new mix of experience, politics and philosophy to the board in 2010 that could mean big changes in the board's approach to budgeting, tax rates, economic development and other key issues.
  4. Fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan continues to be evaluated by local officials and public for opportunities to improve plan and lower costs.  Engineering firm Gannett Fleming is dropped and replaced with local firm Schnabel Engineering.  Three studies get underway related to dredging of South Fork, the design of the new Ragged Mountain Dam, and a “conceptual review” of the proposed pipeline connecting the two reservoirs.
  5. Places29 Master Plan is recommended for approval by Albemarle County Planning Commission on 4-2 vote.  Many business leaders continue to oppose grade-separated interchanges and other transportation proposals that cannot currently be funded by state.  Wendell Wood lobbies for growth area expansion on to undeveloped land he owns in Northern Albemarle.
  6. Peter van der Linde opens recycling facility at Zion Crossroads.  Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (run jointly by Charlottesville-Albemarle) files lawsuit against van der Linde accusing him of fraud and non-payment of as much as $1 million in tipping fees to the RSWA facility.  RSWA decides to seek bids to privatize the Ivy Material Utilization Center and McIntire recycling facilities.
  7. Charlottesville Downtown Mall renovations completed under budget and mostly on schedule (fountains needed more work after deadline).
  8. Major new housing and retail developments continue to be held up by market forces, economic downturn, and lack of adequate public infrastructure (e.g. sewer capacity).
  9. Virginia General Assembly blocks local sales tax voter referendum, requested by both Charlottesville & Albemarle as part of search for new transportation funding resources, specifically to support formation of a Regional Transit Authority.
  10. First annual CvillePieFest is held in Crozet.  Organized on Twitter, it was simply amazing.
    (Full disclosure: Coy Barefoot & Brian Wheeler really want to continue as permanent judges for this event, something that should become the Virginia Pie Festival! Keep track of all things local pie here.)
Brian’s predictions for the top stories of 2010
  1. Key decisions will be made about next steps for the fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan related to Ragged Mountain dam design and dredging.
  2. Crozet Master Plan review is completed.  What is new target for Crozet’s build out population and will the growth area be expanded at Yancey Mills for a new business park?
  3. New growth area land in U.S. Route 29 corridor will be considered to replace the 3.5% of growth area lost to state’s acquisition in late 2009 of Biscuit Run for a new state park.
  4. Village of Rivanna and Places29 Master Plans will be reviewed by Board of Supervisors.  Will Places29 be approved and, if so, with what transportation vision for the future of U.S. 29 North?
  5. Local government continues to struggle with the continuing impact of state and local budget shortfalls in very difficult economy.  Officials will consider new proposals to diversify Albemarle’s tax base (increased commercial/industrial) and proposals to reduce recently adjusted cash proffer expectations in an effort to encourage new home construction.
  6. City-County-UVA cooperation will get more attention by the public and local officials (revenue sharing, water, solid waste, schools, public safety).  Will it get better or worse?
  7. Master Planning of McIntire Park will get underway and future uses, like a botanical garden, will be assessed. 
  8. The military facilities at Rivanna Station around the National Ground Intelligence Center will continue their expansion and bring new residents to the community working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and military sub-contractors.
  9. Charlottesville and Albemarle both face challenges from their residents concerned about urban infill development, the type of growth encouraged by each locality’s comprehensive plans, but often opposed in the face of neighborhood concerns about increased traffic, public safety, and noise.  How will this impact redevelopment of West Main and old Martha Jefferson Hospital?
  10. Landmark Hotel construction on Downtown Mall resumes, or not…

December 31, 2009

Biscuit Run bought by Virginia to create new state park in Albemarle

DailyProgress

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Download Deed of Bargain and Sale

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Download 12-1-09 DEQ Environmental Impact Report

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Download 11-30-09 Albemarle County comments

20091209-BiscuitRun-DP


Related Stories:

Windfall for Biscuit Run developer? Tax credits could become cash - 12/28/09
By Bryan McKenzie and Brandon Shulleeta, The Daily Progress

Biscuit Run may become state park - 12/9/09
By Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Biscuit Run property in Albemarle County has been acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia for $9.8 million for use as a future state park. On Wednesday, Forest Lodge LLC transferred the 1,200 acres to the state, land that had once comprised the largest residential development ever approved in Albemarle County.

“When developed as a state park, this extraordinary piece of land will benefit the citizens of Albemarle, Charlottesville and the Commonwealth for recreation, natural resource protection and the preservation of open space in a fast growing area,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a media release.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state to acquire such a valuable property which offers spectacular mountain views, abundant flora and fauna and is in the viewshed of Mr. Jefferson’s Monticello estate and farms,” said Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr.

Forest Lodge LLC and its principal, local banker and developer Hunter E. Craig, have been in discussions with the state for the past several months. Susan Payne, of Payne, Ross & Associates, a public relations firm representing Craig, said the sale was a very exciting outcome for everyone involved in the project.

“The investors believe that preserving 1,200 acres of land for generations to come will be a tremendous benefit to the County of Albemarle,” said Payne in an interview. “Giving a gift was in the best interest of all concerned.”

Asked about the financial impact on investors who paid a reported $46.2 million for the land in 2005, Payne said “the investors will not come out whole and no one is getting a windfall.”

According to the deed records, Craig intends to pursue Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credits and federal charitable deductions. The state credits are an incentive for property owners to permanently protect undeveloped land and are available for 40 percent of the appraised value of the property. The property is currently assessed by Albemarle County at almost $44 million.

‘Bargain sale’

“This is what is known legally as a ‘bargain sale,’ when there is a reduced cash payment and the seller applies for tax credits,” said Bryant in an interview. “We have determined that this project is eligible for land preservation tax credits. The seller will have to apply in the 2010 calendar year and it will be up to the state Department of Taxation to act on their application.”

The amount of those tax credits has not yet been determined, according to Bryant, and will be a matter for Craig to resolve with the department of taxation.

Since this story was first reported by The Daily Progress and Charlottesville Tomorrow earlier this month, Albemarle County officials have also expressed concerns about the loss of a quality neighborhood project and the loss of proffers that would help build community infrastructure.

The 800 developable acres, and 400 acres originally proposed for a county park, are between Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road south of Charlottesville, in one of the county’s designated growth areas. Urban development is only permitted in about 5 percent of the county’s land.

“The county has not been involved in the recent Biscuit Run transaction and did not have any authority or ability to influence the decision one way or another,” said County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. “We will work cooperatively with state officials to create the most positive possible outcome for the community and to realize the maximum benefits of the park, which include protected land for our residents and a boost to our tourism industry.”

In September 2007, Biscuit Run was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors for 3,100 homes on about 800 acres, representing about 3.5 percent of Albemarle’s designated growth area. Another 400 acres of rural land was going to become a local park.

“We do remain concerned about what we consider to be substantial impacts to the county which include loss of tax revenue and proffers including a school site and a major road connection,” said Tucker. “The loss of significant acreage in our designated development area will create pressure for development elsewhere in the county.”

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Group lauds park idea

John Cruickshank, head of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, said he thought the new park would be supported by the “vast majority” of area residents.

“This is a wonderful development for the greater Charlottesville community and for the whole state of Virginia,” said Cruickshank in an interview. “The Sierra Club commends all those who made this possible.”

Asked about the County’s concern that pressure may build for replacement land in the growth area, Cruickshank said he did not expect that to be a problem.

“I don’t see that this is a reason to open up new areas for growth. There has already been plenty of growth and other areas zoned for new development,” said Cruickshank. “A lot of that growth is already going to occur north of town and there is plenty of room for people who need homes.”

Secretary Bryant was asked how the state reconciled its 40-year goal to have a new park in central Virginia with Albemarle’s existing comprehensive plan designating Biscuit Run for development.

“Albemarle has among the most progressive land use planning processes of any jurisdiction in the state,” said Bryant. “The County had an opportunity to weigh in and we are very cognizant of this land being in the growth area.”

Bryant also emphasized that, while Albemarle would lose some short-term property taxes since the property is now tax-exempt, there would be other economic benefits from tourism.

‘Economic benefit’

“I think this is going to be a very good recreational and economic benefit to Albemarle County,” said Bryant. “The 2009 figures for the revenue generated from all state parks show they created about $180 million in positive economic impact to localities.”

The state funding to purchase the property is coming from two sources. According to Bryant, $5 million is left over from a 2002 voter-approved bond issue for the purchase of state park lands. The balance of $4.8 million is federal transportation enhancement funds.

“The federal government gives VDOT funding each year for enhancement projects like land acquisition and beautification,” said Bryant.

Both the Federal Highway Administration and the Commonwealth Transportation Board have already approved the use of funds for the purchase.

Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council helps negotiate many local conservation easements. He said PEC had initially been approached to help with the donation of the property.

“Given the magnitude of the project, we thought it was best left to the state because of the implications for local planning,” said Linville who was also at the courthouse to witness the transaction. “The way they have prepared this deed ties their hands in a positive way for the community. The state has formally agreed to only use it for park land.”

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will launch a master planning process for the future park, a process that can take as long as a year. Beyond that, Bryant said the General Assembly would also have to appropriate operating funds consistent with the park’s master plan.

The deal was negotiated throughout December and Payne said it was a challenge to pull it all together before the Albemarle County Circuit Court closed for the calendar year. The Biscuit Run deed paperwork was brought to the courthouse by Lori Schweller, of the firm LeClair Ryan, late Wednesday afternoon.

Schweller stood patiently for about thirty minutes while she waited for a final phone call giving her authorization to make the transfer. Once the call came in at 4:23 p.m., the documents were recorded. With the New Year’s holiday beginning today, Clerk Debra M. Shipp said it was the last deed recorded in Albemarle for 2009.

Kaine is expected to attend a news conference on Jan. 8 in Charlottesville to formally announce the purchase.

December 09, 2009

Biscuit Run may become state park

DailyProgress

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Download 12-1-09 DEQ Environmental Impact Report

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Download 11-30-09 Albemarle County comments
20091209-BiscuitRun Map used with permission of The Daily Progress

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
 
Biscuit Run, the largest development ever approved in Albemarle County, may instead become a state park. Forest Lodge LLC, fronted by local developer, builder and banker Hunter E. Craig, is in discussions with the state to donate the 1,200 acres it owns between Route 20 and Old Lynchburg Road.

The land includes about 800 acres rezoned in 2007 on which Craig had planned to build up to 3,100 homes. Craig had proffered an additional 400 acres in the county’s rural area for use as a local park.

Craig and his investors bought Biscuit Run for a reported $46.2 million from the Breeden family in 2005. The property has an assessed value of almost $44 million.

Craig referred questions to a local public relations firm. Representatives there declined to comment on the record. An attorney representing the project said in January that development of Biscuit Run had stalled, though he said work continued behind the scenes.

“The business climate is such that it’s not in the investors’ best interest to proceed with development at this stage,” attorney Steve Blaine said at the time.

Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said in an interview that he would be disappointed to see the Biscuit Run development plan abandoned.

“This plan was approved after a lot of time and effort by all the parties involved,” Rooker said. “Everyone recognizes that the current economic conditions make it difficult to execute a large development plan.”

“On the other hand, it is always nice to see additional land go into permanent protection,” Rooker said. “Assuming the transaction is completed, we would be very interested in working with the state to maximize the value of the property to our community.”

The Board of Supervisors approved the development unanimously in September 2007 after two years of work and controversy. Many residents had opposed the project adamantly, fearing its effects on roads, schools and the area’s quality of life.

In considering the impacts of the potential donation of Biscuit Run to the state, officials with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality last month asked Albemarle to provide feedback for an environmental review.

Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development, responded with a four-page letter. Graham raised concerns about both the financial impact of the move and its inconsistency with local planning efforts.

Graham said that “locating a state park within the development area portion of this property is not consistent with the growth management goal of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.”

“The 825 acres of this property located within the development area, particularly now that it has been rezoned consistent with the land use plan, constitutes a very important area in achieving the growth management goal and its loss could place pressure on other parts of the county to absorb future development (either through development area expansion elsewhere or by-right development in the rural areas),” Graham wrote.

With respect to financial issues, Graham noted that the property generates more than $325,000 per year in property taxes for Albemarle.

“While the removal of this property reduces anticipated demands for infrastructure, it also eliminates critical improvements and funding sources,” Graham wrote. “The proffers associated with the Biscuit Run rezoning were evaluated by staff and found to provide a value in excess of $38 million.”

One of those proffers related to construction of a road connecting Route 20 to Old Lynchburg Road. The “Southwood Connector” was envisioned to pass through not only the Biscuit Run development but also a redeveloped Southwood Mobile Home Park.

Habitat for Humanity purchased Southwood in 2007 and has 350 residential sites there, according to the group’s executive director, Dan Rosensweig. Habitat has a separate agreement with Forest Lodge related to the redevelopment project, and Rosensweig said he continues discussions with the developer about Habitat’s plans.

“Our deal involves them granting us some easements and them agreeing to purchase a road easement from us for $1 million,” Rosensweig said in an interview. “We have always considered this a key financial component to jumpstarting the Southwood redevelopment project.”

Pat Mullaney, Albemarle’s parks director, also provided feedback for the DEQ’s environmental impact report. Mullaney described Albemarle’s existing park resources and encouraged any new park plan to include consideration of the city and county needs for new athletics fields.

“While I believe local residents will certainly enjoy the availability of a state park, the need for a traditional state park in this region is not an urgent one due to the availability and character of our local park system,” Mullaney wrote.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation notes in the report that the donation would allow for “recreational facilities in a region of Virginia not presently served by a state park.”

“In addition,” the agency continues, “the acquisition of this property will result in the protection of approximately 1,200 acres contributing toward the governor’s goal to preserve 400,000 acres of new historic and open land by the end of the decade.”

According to Nikki Rovner, deputy secretary of natural resources, 365,170 acres had been protected in Virginia as of Nov. 16. Rovner said in an interview that any property donated for a park would count toward Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s land preservation goal, though she declined to comment specifically on the Biscuit Run property.

Virginia has 35 state parks open to the public and at least four others in development. If the donation of Biscuit Run goes through, the project would see a second phase of environmental reviews and a master plan would be developed for the public use of the property.

December 04, 2009

City staff working to address $2.81 million deficit in next budget

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, December 4, 2009

At a budget work session Thursday evening, Charlottesville City Manager Gary O’Connell said he was certain his funding request would not include a real estate tax rate increase.  O’Connell also told City Council he was not yet prepared to make a recommendation on whether city employees should receive salary increases.

20091203-citycouncil3

The current Charlottesville tax rate is 95 cents per $100 of assessed property value.  Even with the rate held steady, the city’s revenue from real estate taxes is projected to fall as property values are forecast to decline over the next two years. 

In an interview after the work session O’Connell said funding the retirement system would be his top priority for city employees and that his staff had not yet discussed compensation.

20091203-citycouncil0  (L to R) Councilor Holly Edwards, City Manager Gary O'Connell, Mayor Dave Norris, and Councilor Satyendra Huja
“I suspect our employees are not expecting an increase,” O’Connell told City Council.  “The emphasis will be on maintaining a sound retirement system.” 

City budget director Leslie Beauregard said this was the first time city council has held a budget work session in advance of the city manager presenting his budget.  O’Connell said the meeting was scheduled at the request of the mayor so council could take some time to review financial forecasts and council funding priorities.

“We are still in the very preliminary stages of planning the 2011 budget,” said Beauregard.  She described the challenges facing the city as unprecedented. “It is kind of scary looking down the road.”

Councilors learned that the projected gap between revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2011 has increased to $2.81 million.  Staff said that they will be working over the next two months to eliminate the deficit in their budget proposal. 

Staff also showed projections of how the deficit would hypothetically grow to $9.86 million over the next five years if no adjustments were made.  The budget that city council will approve in April will ultimately have to be balanced.  City Manager Gary O’Connell is scheduled to present his financial plan to council and the public on February 11th.

Beauregard said in an interview that there were no plans yet to increase the salaries of city employees in the next budget.  “We are already in the hole almost $3 million without [cost of living] increases,” explained Beauregard.

In the current budget, the city has a $2.8 million economic downturn fund.  Beauregard said a similar fund would be in next year’s budget.  In the first five months of this fiscal year, the city has already utilized $2 million from the fund.

20091203-citycouncil2
City Councilor-Elect Kristin Szakos & Councilor David Brown
The city is going to have increased pressure from unmet social service needs,” said councilor David Brown in an interview.  “I think we are going to face a lot of pressures in the next couple of years and at the same time have less and less money.  I think it is going to be a really hard time, so the more things we can avoid committing to the better.”

City leaders also discussed a balance of $1 million remaining in surplus from FY2009.  Council decided to set aside $500,000 for a down payment on land know as Davis Field near Northeast Park in the Locust Grove neighborhood. 

Brown said this was a unique opportunity he felt he had to support.  Staff told council the property was assessed at $802,000.  If purchased by the city, the land would be used for park and playing field purposes.

The remaining $500,000 in surplus was set aside for consideration later in the budget process when additional information is expected to be available about state and local revenues.

Councilor-elect Kristin Szakos participated fully in the work session raising a number of questions of staff about their presentations.  Szakos takes office January 1st replacing councilor Julian Taliaferro. 

Szakos said in an interview that even with the financial challenges, she thought the lengthy budget process would lead to a positive outcome for the city.

“You have to set your priorities and really concentrate on that,” said Szakos. “It’s painful, but that’s how you get a budget that reflects your priorities.”

November 08, 2009

Are big changes ahead in budgeting, taxes, and economic development?

DailyProgress
This article is an extended version of what appears in today's
Daily Progress.
By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, November 8, 2009

The day after his fellow Republicans swept the competitive races for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Ken Boyd (Rivanna) was not gloating.  In a board meeting that lasted all day on Wednesday, Boyd patiently listened to reports of dire economic conditions and jabs by his colleagues at the promises made by victorious Republican candidates Duane Snow (Samuel Miller) and Rodney Thomas (Rio).

Thomas defeated one-term incumbent Democrat David Slutzky (Rio) and Snow won the open seat race in the Samuel Miller district over Democrat Madison Cummings and Independent John Lowry.  Both winners are local businessmen born and raised in Charlottesville-Albemarle. 

The election results will bring a new mix of experience, politics and philosophy to the board starting in January. That could mean big changes in the board's approach to budgeting, tax rates, economic development and other key issues.

“I don’t know how much it will change,” said Boyd in an interview after a grim work session on the County’s five-year financial plan.  “When you run one way, then get elected, you are faced with certain realities once you are on the board. Running for election is different from actually legislating.”

“Even people with experience in the community get faced with having to make fiscal decisions, and it can be different on the inside than from the outside looking in,” said Boyd.

Jack Marshall, president of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), said in an interview that he thought the election would bring significant changes.

“In the last 20 years, there has been a natural tension on the board, between those that subscribe to a traditional strategy—constant growth is good; we always need to attract new businesses—and a newer strategy, that a community should seek a sustainable level of economic development that over the long haul doesn’t disrupt our environment and quality of life,” said Marshall.  “Last week’s election pretty clearly shifted the balance toward the more pro-growth approach.”

A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO BUDGETING

Thomas and Snow both indicated in their campaigns that zero-based budgeting process would be part of their approach to cutting government expenses and avoiding tax increases.

In an interview after the election, both Thomas and Snow said the budget and economic development remained at the top of their priority lists.

“My priority is the budget.  We now have a $5.7 million deficit [in this fiscal year],” said Thomas.  “We have to start cutting expenses because we don’t have any money and it is not getting any better.”

Boyd, Snow and Thomas all say they believe zero-based budgeting could improve the County’s financial position.

“Instead of staff coming back with budget recommendations [to the board], department heads would build their budgets from the bottom up,” explained Boyd.  “One advantage of zero-based budgeting is that instead of staff making decisions about what is essential, the board is forced to do that.”

“When requests for money are made, we need to have [staff] justify that expense,” said Snow in an interview.  “You have to be prepared to say why you need it and what will happen if you don’t get it.”

Jeff Werner, a land use field officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), said in an interview that zero-based budgeting was going to force some tough choices at the board level.

“In the past it has been easy for some of the supervisors to say they support various initiatives, but that they also want to cut taxes,” said Werner. “It is going to require them to take very specific positions on the things they want to cut and I think that will be very interesting.”

CUTTING EXPENSES VS. RAISING TAXES

The board of supervisors that meets in January will start with four votes opposed to any increase of Albemarle’s current 74.2-cent real estate property tax rate.  The three Republicans and Democrat Lindsay Dorrier all say they are currently opposed to a staff proposal to increase the rate by 3 cents and maintain that rate for the next five years. 

“I don’t want to increase the tax rate at all,” said Thomas. “I would rather look at where we can save some money and programs that we can cut out of the budget.  Maybe in the police department, but I don’t have all the facts yet.”

“I would like to keep the tax rate the same as it is now,” said Boyd.  “Everybody I know, in business and personally, is having to cut back.  Until we reach the point where we are having to sacrifice critical services, I wouldn’t be willing to raise that rate.”

The majority of today’s board, however, has given County Executive Bob Tucker direction to pencil in the higher tax rate to prepare a draft five year financial plan.  At the meeting Wednesday, staff reiterated that a 77.2-cent rate would mean the average homeowner would pay the same real-estate taxes as this year because of declining property values. The Board is expected to approve a five year financial plan in December.  In April, the new board of Supervisors will set a final tax rate for calendar year 2010.

In the work session Wednesday, the board received new financial projections and learned that the current fiscal year revenues were now $5.7 million below what was budgeted.  Second, they were warned that a 74.2-cent tax rate would not even cover the costs to service existing debt in the next capital budget.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

With this election, the next board of supervisors can be expected to bring economic development center stage as one tool they will propose to use to improve the county’s fiscal health.  In their campaigns, both Thomas and Snow emphasized the need to attract new businesses to the community with more specific economic development plans.

“The entire culture needs to be changed to be more business friendly.  We are open for business,” said Thomas.  “We need to attract more businesses to Albemarle County.. and I am not speaking of commercial or retail businesses, I am primarily talking about businesses that can hire significant numbers of people.”

Thomas said he was interested in creating new locations for light industrial businesses and that he was open to discussing the Yancey Mills Business Park proposal in Crozet’s rural area.

The PEC's Jeff Werner said he expected the next board would be “pre-disposed to grant developers what they want.”

“How much more would they have to approve to be business friendly?” asked Werner. “Look at the pipeline of residential and commercial development that has been approved but not built.  To say we need a growth area expansion for new business is absurd.”

Snow said he wanted to focus on the county’s economic development plans, with a focus on development within the designated growth areas. 

“We should come up with a system where we facilitate and help [business] rather than drag our feet.  There is a problem,” said Snow.  “It will be a team effort, I am not coming in with both guns blazing.  It will take a mentality of all of us working together.”

ASAP’s Jack Marshall said he hoped the new board would plan carefully for future of the entire community.  He also indicated his preference was for the County to support existing local businesses rather than attract new ones.

“I know that the new supervisors are concerned about the long term good of the whole community and trust they will carefully weigh the impact of their decisions on future generations,” said Marshall.  “I would urge that we do everything we can to support and strengthen local businesses.  Over the long haul, it is not healthy to make great efforts to bring in new businesses.  Any economic development efforts should go into sustaining and strengthening what we already have here.”