Two things were readily apparent in work sessions at the
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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