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October 10, 2008

Edgerton calls for more resources for County’s master planning; Increased fees will be considered for subdivision applications

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20081007-PC Two things were readily apparent in work sessions at the Albemarle County Planning Commission meeting on October 7, 2008.  First, the County is anticipating a very substantial community engagement effort for the Crozet Master Plan’s five-year review.  Second, when it comes to new development and master plans, the Planning Commission would like more resources, both in terms of personnel for master planning, and then also financially in the form of fees to recoup some or even all of the County’s costs for reviewing development applications. 

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20081007-Crozet-Fees

Download Download Crozet Master Plan staff report

The Crozet Master Plan, the County’s first for one of its designated growth areas, was approved in 2004.  Master Plans are expected to be reviewed every five years.  Albemarle County Senior Planner, Elaine Echols described the goal of the review which will take place initially behind the scenes and then be in front of the public in a significant way after July 1, 2009.

“This is not a complete overhaul of the Crozet Master Plan,” said Echols.  “The plan is basically good.  There are some tweaks that are needed.  There have been some specific areas of concern to the community as well as to the staff, and these issues are going to be resolved through the update.”

County staff outlined how they plan to work co-operatively with the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) which is setting up several subcommittees to keep the review on track between now and mid-2009.  County Community Relations Manager, Lee Catlin, described the work as a “very vigorous public involvement effort.”

“In the spectrum that we look at for public participation, we see this in the most engaged category,” said Catlin.  The County, according to Catlin, will be “collaborating with members of the public in many or all aspects of the decisions, including the development of alternatives and the identification of a preferred solution.”

Planning Commissioner Bill Edgerton (Jack Jouett) noted that the staff recommendation was not to start any new master plans in Albemarle until the Crozet review is completed.  In the discussion, staff responded to his concern noting that it was because of a lack of staff resources.

20081007-Graham “Staff shares the concern, but the real issue here is one of resources,” said Mark Graham, Director of Community Development. “We’re just stretched.”

Edgerton asked that the Board of Supervisors be informed of this consequence.  “It really is important that they, at some point in the not too distant future, begin to address the staff resources to allow us to do our job for the entire community.”

The Board of Supervisors will discuss the allocation of resources for master planning at their October 24, 2008 retreat.

Download Download Subdivision Fees staff report

Another agenda item before the Commission related to continued implementation of proposals from a 2007 Community Development Department fee study.  The County adopted fee changes related to building regulations and water protection ordinances in August 2008.  This meeting focused on a discussion of subdivision fees which will be followed in the future by zoning ordinance fees.

County staff compared several common subdivision fees to those in five other localities.  Albemarle County is currently recovering anywhere from 7 to 27% of its actual costs for processing these sub-division applications.  In their research, staff found that “some other localities are also attempting to develop a more consistent fee structure and recover a higher percentage of their costs.”  Chesterfield County sets its fees to recover 75% of its costs and Arlington County sets many of its fees for 100% cost recovery.

Albemarle County staff recommended a 50% cost recovery target for new fees.  For example, a two-lot family subdivision costs the County $1,377 to process.  The current fee is $95 or about 7% of the cost.  With 50% cost recovery, the new fee would be rounded to $690.  No member of the public provided feedback to the Commission when Chairman Morris opened the public comment period.

The Albemarle County Planning Commission had a spirited discussion about whether 50% cost recovery was the appropriate target.  They reached consensus to have staff bring back information on both 75% and 100% cost recovery approaches like those levied by Chesterfield and Arlington respectively.  The Planning Commission will review this matter further at a future meeting at which point there will be another opportunity for public input before it goes to the Board of Supervisors.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:45 – Planning Commission Chairman Cal Morris (Rivanna) opens the Crozet Master Plan Review work session
  • 02:34 – Elaine Echols, County Senior Planner, begins staff report
  • 04:33 – Lee Catlin, Community Relations Manager, begins discussion of public participation process
  • 09:25 – Catlin introduces Tim Tolson, representative of the Crozet Community Advisory Council (CCAC) 
  • 14:00 – Catlin asks the Planning Commission any guidance on the Crozet Master Plan revision process
  • 14:55 – William Schrader, a representative of the CCAC, speaks during the public comment opportunity
  • 15:50 – The Planning Commission begins its discussion
  • 16:00 – Commissioner William Edgerton (Jack Jouett) asks about timing of review and impact on schedule for other County Master Plans
  • 18:00 – Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development, responds to Edgerton’s question and states that limited staff resources are requiring that the Crozet Master Plan’s review take place before any new plans are begun for other parts of the County
  • 19:00 – Planning Commissioner Tom Loach (White Hall) comments on the merits moving forward with the five-year review to establish a “gold standard” for the County’s master plans
  • 22:44 – Edgerton asks that the Board of Supervisors be informed of the challenge presented by the inadequate staff resources
  • 23:55 -- Morris opens the Subdivision Fees work session
  • 24:20 – Graham begins staff report
  • 31:00 – Commission questions begin with Marcia Joseph (At-Large)
  • 32:20 – Morris asks why staff recommended a 50% cost recovery for subdivision fees as opposed to a higher number
  • 34:46 – Edgerton gets clarification that number of “units” in the fee structure table relates to the number of applications of that type in 2006
  • 38:10 – Graham says his department is looking at implementing time sheets to accurately track staff time
  • 38:43 – Eric Strucko (Samuel Miller) asks about impact to overall revenues if fees are approved
  • 40:26 – Morris asks if fees might be set for 60% cost recovery as a minimum standard
  • 40:37 – Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) asks if fees might be set higher than 60% cost recovery
  • 42:00 – Joseph responds that, given the current economic situation, raising fees beyond 50% cost recovery should wait a couple of years
  • 42:44 – Joseph asks about complexity of County’s zoning ordinance compared to other localities
  • 45:22 – Strucko says he would support fee increase to 50% cost recovery, particularly if it brought Albemarle in line with neighboring localities
  • 46:45 – Morris asks that recommendations which go before the Board of Supervisors include recommendations for 50%, 60% and 70% cost recovery options
  • 48:50 – Porterfield says the regular review of this ordinance should adjust fees automatically based on  a certain cost recovery percentage
  • 49:43 – Porterfield indicates she would support 100% cost recovery for subdivision applications and seek full recovery for all public notification requirements
  • 51:04 – Graham summarizes the feedback from the Planning Commission.  
  • 59:37 – Morris asks if there is anyone present to provide public comment.  There was no one.
  • 59:50 – Graham restates next steps including investigation of cost recovery for notice requirements and the plan to bring back information on what a 75% and 100% cost recovery approach would entail.

Brian Wheeler

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