The Albemarle Board of Supervisors began its review of the Comprehensive Plan update Wednesday with a discussion of cash proffers, growth management and the role historic documents such as the Jefferson Area Sustainability Accords play in future planning.
The deliberation comes after the Planning Commission spent dozens of meetings reviewing the document, which guides development and land use decisions in Albemarle.
“It’s been a long two years but I’m very glad to be here to go through this update with you,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner with the county.
On the topic of proffers, a policy where developers pay the county for each housing parcel that is enabled through rezoning, some supervisors called for the system to be restructured.
“We’re getting a lot of feedback from the development community that cash proffers are the cause of the affordable housing problem,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd. “When you add $19,000 for a single-family attached home, it’s causing them to do projects by-right.”
In a by-right development, Albemarle may not get the density of housing areas it seeks in the Comprehensive Plan or financial support for community infrastructure needed for the influx of residents.
Boyd did not say he wanted to completely eliminate the system and suggested having the county’s Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee to review the price of proffers.
“This is something that has been talked about a lot in the last several years and we need to let various groups run with it and see what we come up with,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek.
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker disagreed with making any knee-jerk changes to the proffer system.
“You have to be careful about setting policies during boom times and recession times,” Rooker said. “At the time these were adopted, nobody seemed to have a problem with it.”
The board also discussed what role the 1998 Sustainability Accords should play in the plan. The document, from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, contains the goal to “strive for a size and distribute the human population in ways that preserve vital resources.” Previous county plans echoed portions of the accords.
“That bothers me a little bit that that’s something we’re going to do here,” Boyd said. He said he could support changing the word “human population” with housing.
Wayne Cilimberg, the director of planning, said the accords are aspirational.
“You’re not going to say this is how you evaluate every project that comes in for review,” he said. “It’s really to set a foundation for the kinds of things that would be important to a thriving community.”
Another growth management tool is a concept where services are concentrated in the county’s growth area and discouraged in the rural area.
Boyd questioned whether Albemarle truly was accomplishing that goal.
“We have a huge school bus fleet that goes anywhere and everywhere out in the rural area,” Boyd said. “If this is going to be a strategy, we need to work with the school system.”
Boyd also said the possibility of creating more police substations would also be against that policy.
Cilimberg said that discussion will occur fully when supervisors discuss the community facilities section of the Comprehensive Plan.
Boyd also wanted to know when the board would be able to discuss the Neighborhood Model Development, a zoning category that is intended to encourage mixed-use development.
“For the neighborhood model specifically, we had planned to get to that when we get to the development areas chapter,” Echols said.
Supervisors also signed off on language that states that private property rights are an important value for Albemarle County.
Review of the comprehensive plan will continue into 2014.