Scottsville new town manager talks economic development
The new administrator of Albemarle’s only town has briefed the county’s economic development authority on the potential that Scottsville has to offer to the greater community’s future.
“We are 1.5 square miles on the southern edge of Albemarle County on the James River with a population of about 600 and growing slightly,” said Matt Lawless on May 15.
Lawless became Scottsville’s town administrator in March after serving in the same position in Boones Mill, a town within Franklin County.
Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan calls for cooperation with Scottsville, which
served as the county seat from 1744 to 1761 before it was moved to what would become Charlottesville. The county provides water and sewer service, thus recognizing the community as one of Albemarle’s development areas.
These days many people drive through Scottsville on their way to somewhere else.
“There are about 8,000 cars a day passing through the middle of town on Route 20,” Lawless said. “There’s lot of commuter traffic on the way to Charlottesville and Albemarle’s urban ring from Buckingham, Fluvanna and Nelson counties.”
“Scottsville has the position of providing basic services to parts of four counties and that’s part of the legacy of our river industry that we cherish,” he added.
The chair of the authority agreed that Scottsville has a strategic role to play.
“If Scottsville grows and prospers, Buckingham County will grow and prosper,” said Rod Gentry. “It helps the whole region.”
The Scottsville Planning Commission is in the midst of updating its Comprehensive Plan.
“Scottsville should preserve its small-town character, protect its historic, scenic and natural areas, and be guided by a thoughtful and harmonious development plan which will best promote the well-being of its residents and maintain quality of life for all,” reads the draft plan.
Lawless has already been in talks with Roger Johnson, Albemarle County’s economic development director, to see where the two governments can work together.
“There are commercially-zoned flex sites available that are on the market now,” Lawless said.
The draft plan calls for more renovation of downtown Scottsville. A big puzzle piece in the adaptive reuse of the former Hyosung tire factory, which has been shuttered since 2010.
“That’s our large opportunity,” Lawless said, “It’s a 60-acre site with 150,000 square feet of factory space, walkable to our historic district.”
Lawless said the town has been working with the Virginia Housing Development Authority to conduct a residential and commercial market study for the site.
“There is some support for some variety of mixed-use on it,” Lawless said. “We don’t currently have a zoning category that does that so county planners have been helpful with some advice.”
Lawless also drew attention to Scottsville’s housing market.
“The sale prices and rents are lower than what you would see in Charlottesville and the Albemarle urban ring, but there’s not a lot of available stock,” Lawless said. “The homes we do have on the market sell pretty quickly.”
The Scottsville Planning Commission and the Scottsville Town Council will hold a joint meeting on June 18 to discuss the idea further. The goal is to adopt the new town Comprehensive Plan in July.
In the meantime, tourism season is beginning. One of the biggest events of the year will happen on June 20 when the James River Batteau Festival will stop in Scottsville.
“Scottsville is the only town between Lynchburg and Richmond where you can take out and enjoy the historic downtown and then continue along the river,” Lawless said.
The economic development authority’s attorney said Scottsville’s built environment is also unique.
“It also probably has the greatest example of Federal architecture in any small town setting that I can imagine,” said James M Bowling IV, the authority’s attorney.
The authority also adopted a resolution endorsing the Better Business Challenge, a competition sponsored by the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative. Firms will compete to see which can reduce their energy usage over the course of the challenge.
“In the last round, we had 78 businesses that saved $185,000 collectively,” said Teri Kent, the creator of the initiative. “They did that primarily through lighting retrofit, different energy efficiency measures and using less water.”
“A year from now we will collect the final scores for these businesses and we will have a celebration, an Oscar-style party,” said Lena Lewis, program manager for the challenge. “Instead of a red carpet we will have a green carpet for our award winners.”