The County’s

Development Process Review Task Force

met yesterday (6 of 11 members present) continuing its search for unwanted obstacles that lead to developer frustration and to houses where the County does not want them, in the rural countryside.  The task force was initiated by Supervisor Ken Boyd (Rivanna) in

a presentation he made to his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors in January 2006

.  In the Board’s discussion then, newly elected Supervisor David Slutzky described the challenge facing Albemarle as follows:

“…the perception at least is out there in the community, in some parts of the community, that to try and do neighborhood model development inside the designated growth areas, which is clearly an imperative of our Comp Plan, that the inherent complexities of doing that take too long, are too confusing for some people, and result in a desire to go ahead to the rural areas and do the development out there because it is just plain easier.  That dynamic I think we all recognize is really problematic given the comp plan doesn’t want development in the rural area.”

The task force began its meetings in April 2006 and Ken Boyd has promised it will wrap up its activities this September and deliver recommendations to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) shortly thereafter.

Yesterday, Mr. Boyd identified three main areas to be the focus of the task force’s remaining meetings and recommendations

:

The

personnel issues

were identified by Mr. Boyd as a challenge because of position vacancies, turnover, and burn out by County planners and engineers.  Attorney Valerie Long (counsel to numerous local developers) suggested professional six-month “internships” where private sector engineers would work side by side in the County office building to provide additional resources and learn the County process.  She thought this would increase the skills of local engineers and provide needed resources to review projects.  There was also discussion about staff compensation and Valerie Long asked if engineers were being paid competitive wages.


Communications

was highlighted as a challenge and the task force brainstormed about ways to improve the development application process, particularly in the early stages, such that expectations were clearer on both sides.  Planning Commission Chair, Marcia Joseph (At-Large), described her view that everyone ends up in the state of “analysis paralysis” where plans go back and forth between a developer and the County.  She asked if there could be a way for the County to stop the process entirely when no headway is being made on requested modifications.

Ken Boyd suggested that what was needed was a better

vision statement

and

executive summary

written by the developer for every application.  Many members agreed that this would aid in the County’s understanding of the developers intent and improve the review process.  Developer Michael Barnes of KG Associates remarked that if he did the work up front he wanted a commitment from the County for a faster review and further that once staff signed off on an issue he wanted assurances that it would not be reversed later by more senior staff or the Board.  Valerie Long mentioned her frustrations with respect to the timing of staff reviews, particularly on proffers, because the applicant in her view is the only one with a deadline that has consequences. She said they are at the mercy of staff to provide feedback, but there is no penalty to the County if it misses a deadline.  Former Supervisor David Bowerman was skeptical that the vision statement and executive summary would help and thought it would just create more bureaucracy up front as the developer tried to write a narrative addressing the more than 100 points in the County’s review criteria.

Ken Boyd asked Valerie Long to write a sample

vision statement

and Mark Graham, the County’s Director of Community Development, to draft a description of what the County would want addressed in a developer’s

executive summary

.  Mr. Boyd said he wanted the narrative from the developer to be more definitive on all the issues of interest to the County in advance of the application submission.

The task force’s

next meeting is August 9th

.

Brian Wheeler

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