Albemarle County Planning Commission

October 21, 2008

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a meeting, work session and public hearing on Tuesday, October 21, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Members attending were Linda Porterfield, Thomas Loach, Marcia Joseph, Bill Edgerton, Eric Strucko and Jon Cannon, Vice Chairman.  Calvin Morris, Chairman was absent.  Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia was absent.  Mr. Strucko arrived at 6:02 p.m.  Mr. Loach arrived at 6:15 p.m.

 

Other officials present were Phil Custer, Engineer; Susan M. Stimart, Business Development Facilitator; Elizabeth Marotta, Senior Planner; Summer Frederick, Senior Planner; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; David Benish, Chief of Planning; Bill Fritz, Chief of Community Development and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Cannon called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

            Public Hearing Item:

 

CPA-2008-00004 Economic Development Policy 

Draft Policy changes to address key areas of rural vitality, LI land and workforce development (Susan Stimart)

 

Susan Stimart, Business Development Facilitator, presented a Power-point presentation and reviewed an outline of the project, which included the time line, the policy’s goals, guidance and changes made to date.  (See Power-point presentation and staff report.)

 

·         Staff explained the changes made since the 9-30-08 Planning Commission meeting.  With those changes, staff recommends adoption of the drafted amendment in Attachment A of the staff report.

 

There being no questions for staff, Mr. Cannon opened the public hearing and invited public comment.

 

John Chavan, resident of Albemarle County, said that he had been following the Economic Development Policy update for a while.  He supported staff’s research and the input and support from the Commission.  He recommended that this plan be adopted today.

 

John Lowry, Chair of the Economic Development Authority of Albemarle County, said that he was here last month picking up a packet upstairs on a bond hearing and heard about the Planning Commission’s meeting on the Economic Development Policy.  Therefore, he came to the meeting to hear the discussion and actually spoke.  He seconded Mr. Chavan’s remarks.  It is a little adversarial when you are not invited to be a guest speaker on a subject.  In a non-gratuitous way he appreciated the Commissioner’s contributions to the county. He was also a volunteer.  After hearing Ms. Porterfield’s remarks on what was being discussed as policy that had come to them in a fashion as that could have been considerably different. His thought was that it could have come as a request to have a business consultant hired to do a study of the policy.  He thought after the meeting that he did not mean to in any way to be disrespectful to Ms. Stimart’s hard work and efforts.  He appreciated all of the factual accumulation that she has done.  It  is a good work and they are doing it in an interesting way.  A couple days later he went to his office and looked at James City County web page to see how they do it since it is a state requirement to update the Economic Development Policy. He chose James City County because of its similarities to Albemarle County with the university and similar growth patterns.  James City County had a nice big study on their web site, which was done by a consultant.  He expects even though they are going a different path that it was long past the time to hire a consultant. They could have gone about what they are doing in a different way.  All he wanted to do tonight is ask a couple of questions.  It seems that this would be the appropriate time to bring up this subject.  He did not see where an executive in charge of economic development is named in the county.  Should we not have a person in this building or on Fifth Street who is in charge seeing through what our Economic Development Policy is?  In fact, they could have an Economic Development Commission who is different stakeholders in the community.  Is this the appropriate time to discuss it and why don’t we, like our sister City of Charlottesville has, an Economic Developer Director?  He would like to reserve the right to come back and speak to the Commission again.

 

Neil Williamson, representative for the Free Enterprise Forum, thanked staff and the Commission for their work on this project.  They are supportive for the changes that have come through. 

 

Morgan Butler, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, asked to make one suggestion, as follows.

·         On page 4 of 45 of Exhibit A in Objective IV, Strategy 4 -  which was one of the strategies added at the recommendation by Neil Williamson – “Recognize, identify and quantify new cost burdens for business and citizens imposed by any proposed ordinance or policy change on business prior to taking action.  He was struck by the way it is phrased because it focuses only on burdens.  It would also be good to recognize that proposed policy or ordinance changes often times can have a positive impact on business.  It is also important that the positive impacts be evaluated and quantified in addition to the burdens.  He would suggest that language be added there.

 

There being no further public comment, Mr. Cannon closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Commission for discussion and action. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked Ms. Stimart what her job title was, what were the expectations from the Board of Supervisors and how is the job described.  She questioned if she was the County’s Economic person.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that her title was Business Development Facilitator primarily tasked with assistance in implementing our master plans, helping foster jobs and housing bounds primarily focused on local business expansion.  She reports to Mark Graham and Tom Foley. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if businesses are funneled to her if they are in need of any particular properties and she talks to them about what is available, what they need to do and the processes.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that was correct.  They help them if they are able to qualify for state incentives to work through those processes. 

 

Mr. Benish noted that on page 2 of 45, in number 6 it identifies her role as a strategy in this.

 

Mr. Loach said on page 2 of 45 it says maintain cooperation with the City of Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development, and other jurisdictions.  He asked if that falls under her job, too.   

 

Ms. Stimart replied yes regarding economic development questions.  She noted that Bob Tucker sits on the Board of Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.   She serves on the TJPED Advisory Board.  She also sits on the Board for the Piedmont Workforce Network and the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center. 

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he had a few specific questions.  In the background statement in the staff report it mentions that the board had asked for updating the economic development policy to address three key areas – work force development, light industrial land development and agricultural vitality. In reading this he did not see that being addressed as a part of this.  He asked staff to help him see if he had missed something regarding the agricultural vitality issue.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that under Objective I, Strategy 4 staff modified that strategy towards that purpose.  There are three additional bullets that are supposed to provide guidance for helping to enhance agricultural vitality in the rural areas. 

 

Mr. Edgerton asked if it was those bullets that she was hoping would address that.  He pointed out that he had several questions on that.  The first bullet at the end of the sentence says, “(the agricultural infrastructure provides markets and supplies to farmers and significant economic activity to Albemarle County as a whole.”  He was trying to get a measurement of what was meant by significant. He asked if they were talking dollar value.

 

Ms. Stimart replied in terms of overall employment it is not significant, but it does tie into our rural protection policies.  They do have certain areas where they really excel within the state in grape production and the tourism that is associated with that along with equine or the raising of horses.  She asked if he felt that the adjective is too strong.

 

Mr. Edgerton replied no, but was just wondering because he struggles with this.   Personally he saw enormous value in that.  But, he worries at times about the economic viability of some of the agricultural lands and was hoping that possibly they could come up with some creative idea that would really be something specific that the county could do to stimulate more appreciation of these agricultural lands. He felt that the language here seemed real general. In response to the board’s request, he was hoping they could come up with something a little stronger than that. 

 

Mr. Benish noted that the rural areas section of the plan lists a number of items that they would want to undertake to support agriculture and forestry. Some of those are more direct economic issues and other more indirect allowing certain uses in the rural area that might make farming more viable. So in this amendment staff relied on references to the goals, objectives and implementation strategies of the Comprehensive Plan and didn’t provide all of those bullets that are in the rural areas section. He felt that it was a very valid point.

 

Mr. Edgerton suggested adding a bullet to direct the reader to that in the way a dictionary does if that is where they are putting the value.  He suggested adding a fourth bullet because it continues to be a pretty vital part of our program.  Another question is on page 245, item 9.  It says encourage all commercial businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable measures.   He asked why they would encourage all businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable practices.  He would prefer to take the work “commercial” out.  At the last work session they discussed taking out the specific names of different software packets with the reason being that they would become outdated if they found a better packet.  On page 3 of 45, under Strategies, Objective 3, he noticed that they were still listing Business First.  It was listed again on page 5 of 45.

 

Ms. Stimart explained that was a typo.  She noted that the business retention program is called Business First and she needed to take out the reference software.  It is actually called Executive Pulse and is trade marked.  So Business First is our own program name that has been adopted regionally.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he thought they had a discussion about this in the last session where they decided that they would try to come up with a generic description of the kind of software that would be helpful to use and not specifically name a particular software packet. 

 

Ms. Stimart noted that the software is called Executive Pulse.  It is a company product.  Our business retention program that rolled out a few weeks ago for the region is called Business First, which is not software but a program for several counties. 

 

Mr. Cannon noted that staff needed to take out the word “software” because it is a policy program.

 

Ms. Stimart agreed that the word “software” would be deleted.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that on page 5 it says use unfamiliar software such as Business First.  It sounds like a software name and it needs to be clarified.

 

Mr. Benish suggested that they go back to the first bullet on page 3 of 45 and leave it as “the development of a coordinated economic database.” 

 

Ms. Joseph said that suggestion sounded good.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he would appreciate that change.  He said that he had a question on the third bullet on page 3 of 45 at the bottom, “Distribution of information about development opportunities in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission ….”  He got a little worried when he read that since based on some of the stress they currently face that this could get to be overwhelming.  He suggested adding some language to the bullet that suggests the businesses that would be benefiting from this could share in the expense of this distribution.  One of the things that Ms. Porterfield has pointed out is that other communities when short of staff ask the development community to accept some of the expense of distributing materials.  He knew this was a problem that they encounter.

 

Mr. Cilimberg believed that the third bullet has been a fairly prominent function of TJPED.  He questioned if that was correct.  It was the distribution of information about development opportunities in the Thomas Jefferson District Commission to those who request it.  He thought that was a TJPED function primarily since they produce the information.  But, certainly staff or any member can provide it.

 

Ms. Stimart replied that was correct.  She noted that they cost share their operations now with other jurisdictions and the private sector.

 

Mr. Edgerton agreed that it was just a worry he had and it might never become an issue.  On page 4 of 45, Objective IV in the new strategies he strongly supported the suggestion by Morgan Butler for Strategy 4 be amended to “quantify the positive impacts as well as the cost burdens.”

 

Mr. Strucko noted that he was going to suggest the same thing.  He suggested adding the language as “New benefits and costs” with the elimination of “burdens.”

 

Mr. Loach suggested a change on page 1 of 45 in the policy heading that says, “We will work to find appropriate development area sites to accommodate this positive growth.”  He asked to add, “Within the context of the master planning process” so that development area growth is tied to the master planning process. This is the Comp Plan and he was saying that the subsection of this is within the context of the master planning process. 

 

Mr. Strucko noted that he had several sections that probably would not be unanimously accepted.  He asked to add language on page 3 of 4 under Objective II plan for land and infrastructure to accommodate future business and growth Strategy 2.  He asked to change it to,”Designate areas for office, commercial and industrial development . . .” adding “within the designated growth area that meet the development standards of the Comprehensive Plan and will provide a sufficient land to meet community needs through the next Comprehensive Plan revision.”  He suggested deleting the last sentence since it was redundant.  He asked to add language in Strategy 4 changing it to read, “Encourage infill development of business and industrial uses in areas designated for growth in the land plan.”  It removes the word “appropriately” and inserting “for growth” after the word designated.

 

Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton supported both requested changes.

 

Ms. Porterfield objected to the changes.  She suggested adding bullet 7 to Objective II Strategies, as follows:

 

In view of the 2008 financial problems faced by city, county and state governments, it is imperative to seek additional sources of revenue which could avoid placing additional tax burdens on individual property owners.  Therefore, Albemarle County government should entertain discussion of business and/or industry proposals for land not currently in the Development Areas but having one or more of the following attributes:  location proximate to an I-64 interchange, location abutting a Development Area and/or location currently possessing or abutting public water and/or sewer services.

 

Mr. Strucko said that he could not support that addition because it would have an opposite effect and increase the tax burden. 

 

Ms. Joseph noted that Comp Plan amendments are looked at twice a year.  She looked at the burdens it would put on the community.  Therefore, she did not agree with the addition of #7.

 

Mr. Loach noted that the Crozet Advisory Committee met last week and discussed the matter about the potential of adding land to the designated growth area.  Their position was that any discussion of any additional land as proposed by Ms. Porterfield’s #7 should be done in accordance with the master plan.

 

Mr. Strucko moved for approval of CPA-2008-00004, Economic Development Policy with the following changes, as follows:

 

·         The changes as proposed by Mr. Edgerton including the change on page 4 of 45, Objective IV, Strategy 4 to read, “Recognize, identify and quantify new benefits and costs . . .”

 

·         The changes as proposed by Mr. Loach on the policy statement in the introduction in the sentence a half way in the paragraph, “We will work to find appropriate development areas sites to accommodate this positive growth . .  . ” with the addition of “within the context of the master planning process.”

 

·         Changes to Objective I, Strategy 9, to remove the word “commercial” from “Encourage all commercial businesses to adopt environmentally measures.”

 

·         Changes to Objective II, Strategy 2 to read, “Designate areas for office, commercial and industrial development within the designated growth area that meet the development standards of the Comprehensive Plan and will provide sufficient land to meet community needs through the next Comprehensive Plan revision” and striking the last sentence.

 

·         Changes to Objective II, Strategy 4 the first phase to read, “Encourage infill development of business and industrial uses in areas appropriately designated for growth in the Land Use Plan, . . .” striking the word appropriately. 

 

·         Remove all specific references to software titles.

 

This excludes suggestion from Commissioner Porterfield to add her Strategy 7.

 

Mr. Edgerton seconded the motion.

 

Mr. Benish asked for clarification on Mr. Loach’s comment.  He asked to add, “Within the context of the Comprehensive Plan/Master Planning process. 

 

Mr. Strucko amended the motion to include the suggestion made by Mr. Benish. 

 

Mr. Edgerton seconded the amended motion.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that based on the fact that she thought that this is dated even before it is going to be voted on she could not support it and would vote nay.

 

The motion carried by a vote 5:1.  (Ms. Porterfield voted nay.) (Mr. Morris was absent.)

 

Mr. Cannon noted that CPA-2008-00004 will go to the Board of Supervisors on November 12 with a recommendation for approval with the changes as recommended.

 

Ms. Joseph thanked staff for a good job. She understood Mr. Lowry’s suggestion about getting professionals as consultants.  She honestly thinks that staff knows the community and all of the players and got them all to speak.  She appreciated Mr. Williamson’s contributions because at the end of this all they had were positive comments from the community.  That says a lot.  She really appreciates what staff has done.

 

IN SUMMARY -

The Planning Commission, by a vote of 5:1, recommended approval of CPA-2008-00004 with the following:

 

·         Add a bullet to Objective I, Strategy 4, referencing economic activities described by the Rural Area plan.

 

·         Change Objective IV, Strategy 4 on page 4 of 45 to add, “Recognize, identify and quantify new benefits and costs . . .”

 

·         Changes in the introductory policy statement in the sentence half way through the paragraph, “We will work to find appropriate development areas sites to accommodate this positive growth . .  . “ with the addition of “within the context of the Comprehensive Plan/Master Planning process.“

 

·         Changes to Objective I, Strategy 9, to remove the word “commercial” from “Encourage all commercial businesses to adopt environmentally measures.”

 

·         Changes to Objective II, Strategy 2 to read, “Designate areas for office, commercial and industrial development within the designated development area that meet the development standards of the Comprehensive Plan and will provide sufficient land to meet community needs through the next Comprehensive Plan revision” and striking the last sentence.

 

·         Changes to Objective II, Strategy 4 the first phase to read, “Encourage infill development of business and industrial uses in areas appropriately designated for growth in the Land Use Plan, . . .” striking the word appropriately. 

 

·         Remove all specific references to software titles.

 

(Note:  Ms. Porterfield voted nay based on the fact that she thought that this is dated even before it is going to be voted on. She was concerned that especially due to the current  economy, to confine potential business and/or industry proposals to only development areas indicated in the Comp Plan does not give latitude to attract commercial entities to the county (or to stay in the county for that matter).  She was especially interested in expanding the document to cover the areas she noted--location proximate to an I-64 interchange, location abutting a development area and/or location currently possessing or abutting public water and/or sewer services.  Because none of this was included in the document, she felt that the document was dated prior to adoption.)

 

(Recorded and Transcribed by Sharon Claytor Taylor, Clerk to Planning Commission and Planning Boards)

 

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