More than 60 Albemarle County residents recently spent a sunny evening networking with county staff at an event designed to encourage more citizen participation in a growing community.
“We’re excited to be reviving something that we haven’t been able to do since the recession when we eliminated a community engagement position,” said Lee Catlin, the assistant county executive.
That position was restored in the current fiscal year’s budget, allowing for the resumption of a neighborhood leadership summit with members of homeowners associations and other stakeholders.
“This summit is an investment in active neighborhood engagement,” Catlin said.
The last time such an event was held was more than 10 years ago, Catlin said. Since then, about 15,000 additional people have moved to Albemarle according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In the meantime, Catlin said, Albemarle switched its focus to master planning in specific areas rather than communicating with neighborhood leaders countywide.
The summit, held last week, included break-out sessions that offered in-depth descriptions of how various departments operate.
For instance, planners described how the Comprehensive Plan informs most decisions the Board of Supervisors makes regarding the department of community development.
Part of the community development presentation also involved details on the rezoning process, which can involve the payment of cash proffers to the county.
“It sounds like a legal bribe to me,” county resident James Dean said, “and I want to know if the details of proffers are public information.”
Developers pay cash proffers of about $21,000 per single-family home when there is a rezoning. They pay $14,271 for each townhouse unit and $14,870 for each apartment unit.
“The proffers are something voluntarily offered as a condition associated with a rezoning where the developer is doing something to offset those impacts,” said Mark Graham, the county’s community development director.
Graham said suggested proffers are attached to all rezoning applications and open to review before the public hearing. Supervisors are also given a report every quarter that tracks which ones have been received and how the money has been spent.
The county is currently reviewing its cash proffer system. The Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee — consisting of citizens, developers and other stakeholders — is expected later this month to report its recommendations for changing the system to the Board of Supervisors.
There also was a discussion about the county’s Comprehensive Plan only allowing growth in 5 percent of the county’s acreage.
“I just think we’re going to run out of space,” Stan Rose, of the Pantops area said. “Is expansion being looked at?”
The Weldon Cooper Center projects the county’s population will be more than 134,000 in 2030.
“We do have a review every five years of the Comprehensive Plan and assess the development area for its ability to handle all of the projected population growth for the 20 years of the plan,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s chief of planning.
The event was also a chance for staff to brief attendees on the mandated need to invest in stormwater management facilities to meet more stringent state regulations. The county holds a stormwater permit from the Department of Environmental Quality.
“There are local streams that require a clean-up plan, and as part of the mandate, we have to design capital projects to get the pollutants out of stormwater before they get into the streams,” said Greg Harper, the county’s water resource manager.
To meet its mandate, the city of Charlottesville implemented a stormwater utility fee in early 2013. The county will have to decide this year how to pay for its additional investment.
The summit also was a chance for attendees to hear more about future decisions on government involvement in solid waste, the county’s forthcoming adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan and the police department’s desire to switch to a geo-policing model.
They were also briefed on recently completed items in the county’s capital improvement plan, including the Northside Library and the regional firearms training center at the former Milton airport site.
“There’s a lot of interest in transportation and sidewalk projects,” said Trevor Henry, the county’s facilities management director.