Archive for January, 2010

Artisan Trail grant approved for Albemarle and Nelson

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Last fall, Susan Stimart,  business facilitator for Albemarle County, partnered with the economic development and tourism director in Nelson County to apply for grant funds to promote our rural artisan businesses by developing an Artisan Trail, similar to the Monticello Wine Trail, The Brew Ridge Trail for beer, and The Crooked Road Music Trail in southwest Virginia. Our BOS was in agreement and approved $1000 in county funding for the project.

On January 26, 2010, Albemarle and Nelson Counties received approval for the grant, which will total $18,000.  The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) along with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) are providing support funds, along with the Economic Development Partnership and the Department of Business Assistance. The sustainability plan includes a participatory fee structure for the artisans, agri-artisans, supporting sites, and additional sponsors. The project will benefit the livelihoods of our local artisans and our local creative economy, further stimulating tourism and our community.

The Central Virginia Artisan Trail project will work with the Artisan Center of Virginia (ACV) to produce a tourist brochure and map linking our artisan studios, galleries, and agri-tourism businesses throughout Albemarle and Nelson Counties as trail sites. The Central Virginia Artisan Trail map will be available for tourists and citizens throughout the area. To supplement the paper brochure, the ACV Artisan Trail Directory website will list local artisans’ studios and galleries as regional trail sites. The online directory will provide detailed information, photographs, and links to partner websites.

Virginia’s Artisan Trails began in southwest VA where the economic aftermath of loss of manufacturing jobs in textiles and woodworking is severe. The Trail’s goal is to identify the locations of participating artisans, the hours the studio or gallery is open, and the affiliated businesses along the route, many of whom display the works of artists whose locations or work processes do not lend themselves to visitors.  In addition to helping artisans to market their craft, VTC Entrepreneurship Express assistance is available to strengthen business aspects.

There will be no need to reinvent the wheel. In the mid 90s the Handmade in America program was launched in western North Carolina by a business facilitator named Becky Anderson. She spoke at the artisan conference I attended on January 23 and had some terrific numbers to inspire us in our rural business activities.

The goal of the program is to reverse the market, bringing the tourist and local shopper to the artisan rather than the artisan carrying their crafts to a remote sales place. The brochures will include listings for artists, artisans, farms, artisanal meat, veggie or cheese makers. Listings will show off our natural resources, mountain peaks and waterfalls, scenic vistas, byways, and rivers, local heritage sites, local bed and breakfasts, and restaurants who display the works of artisans in their décor.

In North Carolina in 1995, the economic impact of the Handmade in America program was $122 Million, 4x tobacco and equal to the manufacturing wages of the region. In 2007, after 12 years, the impact was measured at $207 Million. Tourists purchase more than 65 percent of the artisan sales in NC.

The economic success of our rural economy benefits the artisan families directly, as well as our county and region. This is an exciting beginning.

I learned much of this information at the Artisan Center of Virginia conference, Create Craft – Create Community, January 23, 2010, Hotel Roanoke.

For purple mountains majesty

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

I saw it today at dawn as I was driving west on 64. I was half way up to Afton when the sun peeked over the eastern hills and bathed the trees to the north in a red glow. The tops of the trees were all covered in ice, and on the south, across the Greenwood valley, were the purple mountains. Every little dip was full of fog, the hills were purple topped with white. Quite a spectacle and no camera at hand. Sometimes we forget the magic of our scenic location, yet it provides the backdrop for our community success, inspiration for our quality of life, and a call to stewardship.

Why was I there? The Artisan conference in Roanoke.

Crozet Master Plan Review Meeting – Rescheduled-Thursday, Jan 28, 7 pm

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Important call to action – Crozet Master Plan meeting! Share your ideas for your community; the Master Plan guides growth, change, and investment in Crozet for the next FIVE years.

Hot Topic: light industrial areas in Crozet

Thursday, January 28
Field School Auditorium (Old Crozet School on Crozet Ave)
7 pm

If you cannot attend the meeting, please share your thoughts with the Supervisors at bos@albemarle.org.

You may also write just to me at amallek@albemarle.org.

Thoughts on opening day – January 6 Board of Supervisors meeting

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Thank you to citizens who have contacted me concerning my No vote on the “2010 Albemarle County Action Plan.”  Members of the Board were handed a six-point motion during Matters Not Listed on the Agenda. This page was new to at least two of the Board members, myself included.

Occasionally single items have been supported by resolution on their first introduction. One example is when I asked the Board to support a grant application for the new Artisan Trail grant with Nelson County.

But traditionally, when complex ideas are introduced, discussion and review occur at a later date, after staff reports and investigation. I have notified the other Board members ahead of time about an issue I plan to bring up.

Voting immediately on information in a new form, presenting multiple issues without time for discussion or public input is not necessarily in the best interest of our citizens.

One lesson I have learned in the short two years I have served is that when I do not agree with the content of an item to be voted, I MUST vote No. Reading of the minutes for an explanation cannot overturn the negative consequences of voting Yes when one does not agree. I thought of this lesson when it was clear that the majority would adopt their motion immediately and in its entirety, rather than discuss each part individually as I requested.

Part of the exercise was to force anyone with concerns to vote “No” on the entire motion rather than to allow any type of debate. In the past two years, Mr. Boyd has frequently requested to postpone a vote on an item which he has just received. What was the rush to force a vote this time?

The numbered list below is the motion that the Board was asked to skim and support. After each numbered statement, I discuss the concerns that prevented me from voting Yes at the meeting. Many of these issues are ongoing for county government and need to be addressed along with important information provided by staff and with public input. Putting these items on the next agenda would have continued that process.

2010 Albemarle County Action Plan (by Ken Boyd)
January 6, 2010

1.    Increase Revenues through Economic Development – We need to increase the commercial tax base, restore fading sales taxes, and provide taxpayers relief from constant increases in the personal property and real estate taxes. Increasing economic development is now the top fiscal priority for Albemarle County. The best way to accomplish this is by reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulations and shortening approval times.  Staff should work closely with the Partnership for Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a plan in the first six months of 2010 to significantly increase non-personal tax revenues through economic growth and not increased taxes to our business community. We should update our five year strategic plan to reflect this priority and goal.

Ann’s thoughts:
I disagree that it is regulation and process times which always cause hardship for local businesses. In studies by the Development Review Task Force, the same staff and process resulted in varied approval times depending on efforts made by applicants to comply with requirements.

Regulations were developed to prevent repetition of bad experiences, to protect the citizens and their quality of life, and to ensure quality development. Business owners have told me the most important factor in deciding where to locate their business is whether they want to raise their children here. Quality of life is important.

Unless extra staff is found, shortening processing time will reduce checking of plans, allow fewer inspections and reduce public input. There is no other way to do it. Albemarle County citizens have a stake in how growth occurs in our area. We have a right and a responsibility to learn about projects that will affect our lives and to tell decision makers our views. To remove citizen access to the process in order to speed projects would be a poor decision.

I attend meetings of the Partnership and am a member of the Chamber. I praise the mission of helping our local businesses grow. Locally-owned businesses keep money here and provide dollar multipliers to support our local economy. County staff regularly provides assistance to businesses interested in relocating here.

To hear the cries for economic development, one would think the County makes no effort in this regard. Surely the current economy has something to do with the lack of progress on so many of our recently approved projects. Perhaps the solution is to increase the staff assigned to work on this task and to remove them from the umbrella of Community Development into a more visible position.

Dennis Rooker raised an interesting point about the net cost of new jobs. Do new industries employ our current residents? Will they bring in new employees with children to educate and with other service demands? How much do these new employees increase our costs? We know for certain that every new house raises the costs to the existing residents. Approximately $800 per year is the figure adopted in 2007 for a single family home. I invite local economists to provide impact figures for commercial, retail, and manufacturing uses.

Fast growing Loudoun County has a higher tax rate and tax bills than does Albemarle. Loudoun’s rate for FY2010 is $1.245 per $100 in value. Even rural Fauquier County’s rate is 76.5 cents. For comparison, remember that the effective tax rate for Albemarle in the current year, FY2010, is 64.2 cents after the funds for revenue sharing with Charlottesville are deducted.

2.    Zero based budgeting – This year we want to build the County budget from the ground up in all departments based on realistic revenue projections, and the current tax rate of $0.742. The 2010-2011 budget should be developed under a zero based budget model with priority on core government services and separate categorical expenses for non-core services.

Ann’s thoughts:
Each board member has had a different experience with ZBB. For the museum, we listed what materials and expenses we had to have to function and costed it out. That was the budget.  This proposal mixes the ZBB philosophy with a cap, saying that the ZBB must equal a 74.2 cent tax rate. In reality we may find that the list of essential services will cost more or less.

A new ZBB process cannot be implemented until next year as it will take considerable time by staff. For many years the Board has analyzed the budget line by line, program by program with performance review over several years. There is every opportunity to remove any program or line in the budget the Board votes to cut.

3.    The Development Review Process – As part of the economic development priority all the outcomes from the Development Review Process that were designed to streamline the process should be brought back to the board for consideration of implementation and/or improvement within the year.

Ann’s thoughts:
As a citizen representative on the Development Review Task Force (DRTF), I was very involved in the deliberations of the committee and the adoption of a detailed report. On a quarterly basis the board has discussed changes implemented so far and prioritized the next steps. This motion makes it seem as if the report was ignored.

The 104 questions mentioned so scathingly in Board discussion refer to a set of questions provided to development applicants informing them of all the issues that will be reviewed by staff.  The process ensures that applicants know what is expected of them from the beginning. I have urged further clarification of processes in the Community Development department, so the procedures are accessible to ordinary citizens, as well as to those who choose to hire a consultant to shepherd their project through the process.

One pilot project was an expedited review — if plans were prepared and stamped by a certified preparer, then within five days, the review would be completed by staff. The pilot was abandoned due to lack of interest from the business community. Apparently most applicants found it comforting to have staff review their plans in great detail to find any problems.

4.    Yancey Mills and 250 East Corridor from I-64 to Shadwell Store – The report on available light industrial zoning should be expedited and a report on the possibility of expansion of this type of zoning in these areas should be brought back to the board in the first quarter of the year for discussion and possible action.

Ann’s thoughts:
As I mentioned on January 13, (link) the light industrial inventory and associated recommendations is complete NOW and will be presented to the Planning Commission on January 19, 2010. The Board will receive the report on February 3.

This motion statement implies that the work is not done or is being ignored. The original survey performed for the review of the economic development policy in 2009 was expanded to explain parcel usefulness and other factors, to get a better understanding of the true nature of our inventory.

In Crozet, there is a large amount of vacant light industrial land within the growth area boundary. Crozet residents will discuss the inventory at the master plan revision meeting on January 21.

An essential part of the light industrial discussion is the narrowing of the definition for light industrial. Currently it is a kitchen sink of uses by right, including office uses. What happens most often is that the contractor storage yards and heavy machinery storage gives way to more remunerative office space. The bleeding away to other uses must stop before any new area is considered for light industrial.

5.    Berkmar Drive Extended – Identified as of critical importance to help alleviate traffic congestion on Rt. 29 North, staff should be directed to work expeditiously, in concert with the private sector on a public/private solution to getting some portion of this road developed.

Ann’s thoughts:
During my years on the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transportation advisory committee (CHART), we supported the concept of parallel roads to remove local traffic from Rt 29 to reduce congestion. Many questions still remain, however, before determining if this road will truly be a good value for dollars spent.

If the road and bridge can only be built while allowing thousands more square feet of office, commercial and big box, there will be more traffic drawn to those sites, which will overwhelm any added capacity in the new roadway. We would want new business to be facing Berkmar Road, rather than adding access points onto Rt 29.

Applicants have promised to build a bridge over the Rivanna for Berkmar Extended but no offer has been made in writing. We have yet to receive delivery of the connector road from Rt 29 to Dickerson Rd through Hollymead Town Center. That road was to be completed 18 months after the permit was granted in 2004. I do not put much store in promises.

6.    Sign Ordinances – The sign ordinances need to be re-examined to ensure they do not overly restrict economic vitality of area businesses. Staff should work with local retailers to develop new ordinances that will help promote good business practices as well as maintaining quality aesthetic values.

Ann’s thoughts:
Since Queen Elizabeth of England came to Albemarle in 1976 to celebrate the two hundredth birthday of our country, our county has been blessed with a landscape mostly free of sign clutter. Appropriately-sized signs help shoppers and travelers find their destinations without overwhelming the attention of drivers. Cross the county line north on Rt 29 and you are faced with so many signs that it is hard to find the one needed.

Have there even been houses sold or items bought solely because of a sign? Only the sign maker will prosper in a sign war.

The signs in question have been turned down in court as well as by our zoning administrator. That is a good indication that nothing capricious or unfair has been done.

Text box with contact me request.

Is this the kind of government that you want? No public input, no staff report.

Parts false, parts hyperbole. Didn’t want to vote on things not narrowly focused w/ understood consequences.

Thoughts on opening day – January 6th Board of Supervisors meeting.

Thank you to citizens who have contacted me concerning my No vote on the “2010 Albemarle County Action Plan.” Members of the Board were handed a six-point motion during Matters Not Listed on the Agenda. This page was new to at least two of the Board members, myself included.

Occasionally single items have been supported by resolution on their first introduction. One example is when I asked the Board to support a grant application for the new Artisan Trail grant with Nelson County.

But traditionally, when complex ideas are introduced, discussion and review occur at a later date, after staff reports and investigation. I have notified the other Board members ahead of time about an issue I plan to bring up.

Voting immediately on information in a new form, presenting multiple issues without time for discussion or public input is not necessarily in the best interest of our citizens.

One lesson I have learned in the short two years I have served is that when I do not agree with the content of an item to be voted, I MUST vote No. Reading of the minutes for an explanation cannot overturn the negative consequences of voting Yes when one does not agree. I thought of this lesson when it was clear that the majority would adopt their motion immediately and in its entirety, rather than discuss each part individually as I requested.

Part of the exercise was to force anyone with concerns to vote “No” on the entire motion rather than to allow any type of debate. In the past two years, Mr. Boyd has frequently requested to postpone a vote on an item which he has just received. What was the rush to force a vote this time?

The numbered list below is the motion that the Board was asked to skim and support. After each numbered statement, I discuss the concerns that prevented me from voting Yes at the meeting. Many of these issues are ongoing for county government and need to be addressed along with important information provided by staff and with public input. Putting these items on the next agenda would have continued that process.

2010 Albemarle County Action Plan (by Ken Boyd)

January 6, 2010

  1. Increase Revenues through Economic Development – We need to increase the commercial tax base, restore fading sales taxes, and provide taxpayers relief from constant increases in the personal property and real estate taxes. Increasing economic development is now the top fiscal priority for Albemarle County. The best way to accomplish this is by reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulations and shortening approval times.  Staff should work closely with the Partnership for Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a plan in the first six months of 2010 to significantly increase non-personal tax revenues through economic growth and not increased taxes to our business community. We should update our five year strategic plan to reflect this priority and goal.

Ann’s thoughts:

I disagree that it is regulation and process times which always cause hardship for local businesses. In studies by the Development Review Task Force, the same staff and process resulted in varied approval times depending on efforts made by applicants to comply with requirements.

Regulations were developed to prevent repetition of bad experiences, to protect the citizens and their quality of life, and to ensure quality development. Business owners have told me the most important factor in deciding where to locate their business is whether they want to raise their children here. Quality of life is important.

Unless extra staff is found, shortening processing time will reduce checking of plans, allow fewer inspections and reduce public input. There is no other way to do it. Albemarle County citizens have a stake in how growth occurs in our area. We have a right and a responsibility to learn about projects that will affect our lives and to tell decision makers our views. To remove citizen access to the process in order to speed projects would be a poor decision.

I attend meetings of the Partnership and am a member of the Chamber. I praise the mission of helping our local businesses grow. Locally-owned businesses keep money here and provide dollar multipliers to support our local economy. County staff regularly provides assistance to businesses interested in relocating here.

To hear the cries for economic development, one would think the County makes no effort in this regard. Surely the current economy has something to do with the lack of progress on so many of our recently approved projects. Perhaps the solution is to increase the staff assigned to work on this task and to remove them from the umbrella of Community Development into a more visible position.

Dennis Rooker raised an interesting point about the net cost of new jobs. Do new industries employ our current residents? Will they bring in new employees with children to educate and with other service demands? How much do these new employees increase our costs? We know for certain that every new house raises the costs to the existing residents. Approximately $800 per year is the figure adopted in 2007 for a single family home. I invite local economists to provide impact figures for commercial, retail, and manufacturing uses.

Fast growing Loudoun County has a higher tax rate and tax bills than does Albemarle. Loudoun’s rate for FY2010 is $1.245 per $100 in value. Even rural Fauquier County’s rate is 76.5 cents. For comparison, remember that the effective tax rate for Albemarle in the current year, FY2010, is 64.2 cents after the funds for revenue sharing with Charlottesville are deducted.

  1. Zero based budgeting – This year we want to build the County budget from the ground up in all departments based on realistic revenue projections, and the current tax rate of $0.742. The 2010-2011 budget should be developed under a zero based budget model with priority on core government services and separate categorical expenses for non-core services.

Ann’s thoughts:

Each board member has had a different experience with ZBB. For the museum, we listed what materials and expenses we had to have to function and costed it out. That was the budget. This proposal mixes the ZBB philosophy with a cap, saying that the ZBB must equal a 74.2 cent tax rate. In reality we may find that the list of essential services will cost more or less.

A new ZBB process cannot be implemented until next year as it will take considerable time by staff. For many years the Board has analyzed the budget line by line, program by program with performance review over several years. There is every opportunity to remove any program or line in the budget the Board votes to cut.

  1. The Development Review Process – As part of the economic development priority all the outcomes from the Development Review Process that were designed to streamline the process should be brought back to the board for consideration of implementation and/or improvement within the year.

Ann’s thoughts:

As a citizen representative on the Development Review Task Force (DRTF), I was very involved in the deliberations of the committee and the adoption of a detailed report. On a quarterly basis the board has discussed changes implemented so far and prioritized the next steps. This motion makes it seem as if the report was ignored.

The 104 questions mentioned so scathingly in Board discussion refer to a set of questions provided to development applicants informing them of all the issues that will be reviewed by staff. The process ensures that applicants know what is expected of them from the beginning. I have urged further clarification of processes in the Community Development department, so the procedures are accessible to ordinary citizens, as well as to those who choose to hire a consultant to shepherd their project through the process.

One pilot project was an expedited review — if plans were prepared and stamped by a certified preparer, then within five days, the review would be completed by staff. The pilot was abandoned due to lack of interest from the business community. Apparently most applicants found it comforting to have staff review their plans in great detail to find any problems.

  1. Yancey Mills and 250 East Corridor from I-64 to Shadwell Store – The report on available light industrial zoning should be expedited and a report on the possibility of expansion of this type of zoning in these areas should be brought back to the board in the first quarter of the year for discussion and possible action.

Ann’s thoughts:

As I mentioned on January 13, (link) the light industrial inventory and associated recommendations is complete NOW and will be presented to the Planning Commission on January 19, 2010. The Board will receive the report on February 3.

This motion statement implies that the work is not done or is being ignored. The original survey performed for the review of the economic development policy in 2009 was expanded to explain parcel usefulness and other factors, to get a better understanding of the true nature of our inventory.

In Crozet, there is a large amount of vacant light industrial land within the growth area boundary. Crozet residents will discuss the inventory at the master plan revision meeting on January 21.

An essential part of the light industrial discussion is the narrowing of the definition for light industrial. Currently it is a kitchen sink of uses by right, including office uses. What happens most often is that the contractor storage yards and heavy machinery storage gives way to more remunerative office space. The bleeding away to other uses must stop before any new area is considered for light industrial.

  1. Berkmar Drive Extended – Identified as of critical importance to help alleviate traffic congestion on Rt. 29 North, staff should be directed to work expeditiously, in concert with the private sector on a public/private solution to getting some portion of this road developed.

Ann’s thoughts:

During my years on the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transportation advisory committee (CHART), we supported the concept of parallel roads to remove local traffic from Rt 29 to reduce congestion. Many questions still remain, however, before determining if this road will truly be a good value for dollars spent.

If the road and bridge can only be built while allowing thousands more square feet of office, commercial and big box, there will be more traffic drawn to those sites, which will overwhelm any added capacity in the new roadway. We would want new business to be facing Berkmar Road, rather than adding access points onto Rt 29.

Applicants have promised to build a bridge over the Rivanna for Berkmar Extended but no offer has been made in writing. We have yet to receive delivery of the connector road from Rt 29 to Dickerson Rd through Hollymead Town Center. That road was to be completed 18 months after the permit was granted in 2004. I do not put much store in promises.

  1. Sign Ordinances – The sign ordinances need to be re-examined to ensure they do not overly restrict economic vitality of area businesses. Staff should work with local retailers to develop new ordinances that will help promote good business practices as well as maintaining quality aesthetic values.

Ann’s thoughts:

Since Queen Elizabeth of England came to Albemarle in 1976 to celebrate the two hundredth birthday of our country, our county has been blessed with a landscape mostly free of sign clutter. Appropriately-sized signs help shoppers and travelers find their destinations without overwhelming the attention of drivers. Cross the county line north on Rt 29 and you are faced with so many signs that it is hard to find the one needed.

Have there even been houses sold or items bought solely because of a sign? Only the sign maker will prosper in a sign war.

The signs in question have been turned down in court as well as by our zoning administrator. That is a good indication that nothing capricious or unfair has been done.

On citizen involvement

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

As we begin a new year, I want to invite residents to raise their level of involvement in county affairs.

Supervisors represent our voters, their concerns and preferences, as well as we can. Through town hall meetings, emails, and phone calls, voters can share their ideas with their representatives.

Your ideas count, your solutions are needed. Please know that there are many different views in the White Hall district, and the prevailing view at one gathering may not be the same as that at another meeting or in another conversation. But I do listen and try to find areas of agreement, areas of common ground, on which we as a county can progress.

There are many opportunities for you to share your thoughts and ideas:

  • Crozet master plan meetings are every third Thursday of the month through the spring.
  • There will be round table discussions on farm stand regulations and work sessions and hearings on the adoption of the Places 29 master plan.
  • There will be budget work sessions or public hearings on March 8, 10, 15, 17, and 31 which will provide lots of opportunities for citizens to share.

Check on albemarle.org or at 296-5843 for agenda information. You can sign up for emails about county doings at www.albemarle.org.

Thank you in advance for your time and interest in the well being and quality of life of Albemarle County and its citizens.