On October 2, 2007, the two candidates for the White Hall District of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met at a Candidates Forum sponsored by Charlottesville Tomorrow and the Free Enterprise Forum. Republican David Wyant and Democrat Ann Mallek answered ten questions on land use, transportation, and growth in the County. The candidates also answered several questions submitted by members of the audience. The event, held at Henley Middle School in Crozet, was co-moderated by Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum and Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow.
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David Wyant (R):
“I’m running for my second term as the White Hall district Supervisor. I’ve spent my whole life in Albemarle County – ten generations of Wyants have lived in the White Hall area – and I received both my BA and MA in Civil Engineering from UVA. I worked for 30 years with VDOT in erosion control and stormwater management, and helped to develop standards for both of those fields, as well as in roadway maintenance and water quality. I still practice as a consultant for VDOT, and also own a family store in White Hall.”
Ann Mallek (D):
“I’m a native of Albemarle who has also lived in some other wonderful places: one big city and one small town. I’m rooted by my upbringing in conservation, grounded by my profession as teacher and naturalist, and energized by my grassroots experience to involve citizens in community decisions. I am a blend of old and new – I grew up on a farm and live on one again now. I am committed to the success of our local government and I ask that you approach me with your questions.”
Question 1: How would you assess Albemarle County’s growth management strategies? What other steps would you advocate be taken to discourage development in the rural countryside and encourage development in the growth areas? Are the existing incentives adequate?
David Wyant (R): “We want our development to occur in the development areas…The neighborhood model is a form… our society is moving towards and our community has desired. I’ve encouraged that development to be there. I’ve discouraged development in the rural areas. We have not had a rezoning.. in the rural areas…We’ve increased our involvement in the [Acquisition of Conservation Easements] programs… Our building permits in the rural areas have decreased since 1999… I’m interested in pursuing [transfer of development rights]…”
Ann Mallek (D): “Success is mixed. Why do we have growth management strategies? We do that to determine the kind of place we’re going to have, what kind of County do we want to live in? Farsighted leaders in 1980 determined that to protect our watershed we needed to increase the size of the building lots in the county… There are some improvements we could do. The County should clarify the processes for the growth area by adopting the recommendations of the Development Review Task Force. Builders should know in advance, and be held accountable to the process requirements. Every rezoning project should provide benefits to the community beyond the particular borders of its project…“
Question 2: How important is creating new jobs to the future of Albemarle County? Should particular businesses be encouraged or discouraged from coming to or remaining in Albemarle County? Who? How?
Ann Mallek (D): “Jobs are the essential fiber of life… 2006 was the third year in a row that our locality had increased jobs created… Many years I asked a CEO of a small but very successful manufacturing business how he made his choice of location. He said the one most important question was is the community a place where I want to live and my family to live? To further the appeal we have to businesses we would to attract, we need to maintain our quality of life – our modest pace, our friendly atmosphere, our scenery… I would be cautious of offering incentives…”
David Wyant (R): “We’ve got to recognize we’re in a changing society… We’ve been losing factories from here… In our changing world, we’re going to a technological age. A lot of are using the Internet to do our business… U.Va. is our big gorillia in this room and they are our biggest employer, and most of the jobs are around the University… With the first Master Plan being in Crozet, we have an employment center… Now, U.Va. is moving out a group to the Cloverlawn building on 250. Some of that is starting to happen, but we need more. “
Question 3: How will you deal with neighborhood opposition to rezonings in our growth areas that are in line with the goals of Albemarle’s Comprehensive plan?
David Wyant (R): “Remember I said we had the neighborhood model in the development areas. They’re the amenities that our families want today… The several projects that we’ve had, they’ve met with the neighborhoods. The choice that you’re running into, and we’ve faced a couple of these here in Crozet. With the new form of development in the Neighborhood Model, there’s more density but you get your sidewalks, and you get your roads, and you’re getting other things. The trade off is, if you do by-right, you do not get any of those…”
Ann Mallek (D): “Over the years, I’ve worked to bring citizens into the process of government. It is the responsibility of the applicant to meet early in the process with citizens, best at neighborhood meetings to share the vision of the process and answer questions… Community trust, however, is very fragile…We should anticipate future Crozet Master Plan opposition may relate to the 12,000-24,000 dilemma… To dismiss the concerns of existing residents because an area is in a designated growth area is counter to everything I’ve worked for.”
Question 4: In this year’s budget, Albemarle County has dedicated $2 million towards priority transportation projects. With the state unable to fund critical road projects, what do you see as the responsibility of local government bodies to fund road projects?
Ann Mallek (D): “It may not be the responsibility… but it may be a necessity…”
David Wyant (R): “With my 30 years of experience working within VDOT… at last week’s retreat I cautioned the Board that we could be getting ourselves into road work forever… We have to make sure that we are not taking total responsibility over, or our tax rate could be tremendously higher than it is today.”
Question 5: Albemarle County has expectations for the development community to build or pay for affordable housing. Do you agree with that approach? How do you believe the County should address the need for not just affordable housing, but also workforce housing?
David Wyant (R): “We need to be clear about what we mean by affordable housing… I was opposed to it when it came before the Board almost four years ago… because it did not have an implementation plan in place… We still need to work on it…”
Ann Mallek (D): “I think the current procedure is off to a good start..The County must pursue many parallel tracks to help to preserve the diversity of people that we have living here in the County…”
Question 6: The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission have both had work sessions on the transportation elements of the Places29 Master Plan. Will you support Berkmar Drive Extended from the Sam’s Club to Hollymead Town Center and grade separation on Route 29 as major components of that plan? Why or why not?
Ann Mallek (D): “I support parallel routes as a way to divert local traffic from through-route 29. I find Berkmar myself a useful connection for looping west around the commercial center, and the bridge over the river would be a jewel for that road… Regarding grade separation… I have thought this was an excellent idea since the first ones were proposed and designed in the late 80’s…”
David Wyant (R): “I’m supportive of [the Berkmar] connection… We need to probably look and see when our traffic is at the highest and how to deal with it… they’ve already helped us on 29 with the synching of the lights. The grade separation is going to be expensive, but they are a worthwhile addition…”
Question 7: Do you support a limited access bypass for Route 29 around northern Charlottesville and, if so, where would that be located?
David Wyant (R): “I prefer not to call it a bypass, but it’s a parallel road again. We ought to really consider that. I know folks say it’s a large amount of money… The design of that road is critical… VDOT has already acquired the right of way… We need to be able to figure out a way to get the traffic to the University.”
Ann Mallek (D): “My response is aimed at the design which is currently before the community… and no, I do not support that…At $287 million dollars, it would require all the money we might get from the federal government for the next twenty years for all road projects. That is not a reasonable investment.”
Question 8: The county’s water and sewer infrastructure will need upgrades and expansion. How do you propose to fund our water and sewer infrastructure and over what timeframe?. What changes, if any, would you make to the boards of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority or the Albemarle County Service Authority?
Ann Mallek (D): “The County has now fifty-year old infrastructure which is at or beyond its useful design lifespan… Appointed boards of both water authorities must be proactive to save ahead for repairs, and to collect from their developers for their share of improvements called for by growth…”
David Wyant (R): “We need to protect the investment of the existing infrastructure… We want to have a better say in those two boards… the way it’s set up is with the City and the County. If the City doesn’t agree to it, we cannot make that work. We would like to have Board members on the Boards…”
Question 9: Does County government have the appropriate resources, financial and personnel, to achieve the objectives in our comprehensive and strategic plans?
David Wyant (R): “Yes, financially. If you look at how the way our assessments have changed, over the last six years we’ve done more than 10 percent increase in our assessments over the last ten years, and the funds have come in. Whether it’s been spent wisely is another issue. The personnel, we have them there. We are now in the process of redirecting some of our personnel and funds to meet our strategic plan and our comprehensive plan…”
Ann Mallek (D): “Considering the impacts of the current budget upon our least affluent taxpayers and the falling revenues we are now facing… the County must thoughtfully prioritize its expenditures very carefully.”
Question 10: The Board of Supervisors has recently endorsed the concept of prioritizing areas for new development and community infrastructure within our growth areas. Do you think this prioritization is a good idea? Why or why not?
Ann Mallek (D): “I’m troubled by this concept. We’re already prioritizing investments in the growth areas themselves… I would have preferred that one neighborhood model district had been completed before we improve many more… The County costs for public infrastructure are turning out to be far greater than those approving the projects seem to have anticipated…”
David Wyant (R): “Originally I thought it was a good idea, but after further review I would say I differ on that… When another Master Plan comes on, it’s going to be competing for the same dollars [as Crozet].. these are going to be some difficult struggles we’re going to be facing…”
Audience question 1: Since neither of you are growth area residents, how can Crozet residents be assured you will represent their interests?
David Wyant (R): “I’ve lived in this County all my life. I’ve lived around Crozet for almost 40 years. Crozet has kind of been my town… We’re moving into this new era of urban development and we’re trying to marry our past with our future…”
Ann Mallek (D): “I am truly interested and devoted to the idea of representing the citizen, which is why I’ve tried so far to make contact with people on an individual basis since I began this campaign.”
Audience question 2: On October 10th, there’s a Board of Supervisor meeting on rural protection ordinances, including a critical slopes protection ordinance, which will affect a majority of landowners in the western half of the county. Where do you stand on the issue?
Ann Mallek (D): “We must make a start in this process. I’ve been working with many people on this issue, people who have lived in the mountains for generations who feel they know how to take appropriate care… People want to protect their rights to live there while others want to protect the natural resources the community needs. We must come together to balance our competing interests on this question…”
David Wyant (R): “The public hearing is to listen to the public. Before I take a position, I want to hear what they have to say. I know I’ve already started receiving phone calls, I’ve started receiving e-mails, from all sides… This has been a shortened notice process, and I’ve not been very happy with that.”
Audience question 3: Very few people from Crozet attend the Board of Supervisors meetings. One reason cited is a lack of advertising is a lack of meeting dates and the agenda. Other issues have been cited. How could you get more citizen participation at these meetings?
David Wyant (R): “It’s been a major concern. There have been meetings where there’s only three or four people and we’re discussing matters of utmost importance… We need to find other ways… When we talked about doing things in Crozet, where do we put the notices? When they were doing the Master Plan, we put them in the Post Office. On this meeting coming up on October 10, I understand we sent out 14,000 letters…”
Ann Mallek (D): “A whole chain of sharing information, lots of different methods each used in their own way would help, there are many well-organized neighborhood associations in Crozet… Some people don’t feel they have the right to make a comment… Breaking down those barriers to get people to understand that their comments are important is a very important thing.”
Audience question 4: The County is currently facing a revenue shortfall this year, with anticipated cuts in government services, including schools. Where do you put the blame for this situation and how would you fix it?
Ann Mallek (D): “We need to have a much more thorough and well attended budget discussion during the next go-round, beginning in the fall, so there is not this sense of rush… Citizens felt run over by the budget process last year. The more transparency we can provide… the more support we will get.”
David Wyant (R): “Our economy has made a turn that has affected us… What we’ve done here locally is we’ve froze positions we were going to advertise… We’re reallocating folks on staff. The other thing is that the budget process that we have is going to be changed… We’ve lengthened the process.”
Audience question 5: Will you pledge not to participate in private meetings to discuss public matters with developers?
David Wyant (R): “We have abided by the law, and our Board work will attest to that…We meet with [Piedmont Environment Council], I met with Sierra Club, I meet with all of interest groups, and I meet with developers, and when they have a question, they want to know our positions on things… I do not know a Board person who does not meet with developers, with environmental groups, water groups…”
Ann Mallek (D): “I would very much prefer to have a third person present taking notes, and I think that should be part of the public record… What is missing when meetings happen privately is that those issues are sometimes not fully discussed in the public hearing…”
Audience question 6: How many doors have you knocked on to personally introduce yourself to district voters, and why would this be important to you?
Ann Mallek (D): “Well over 1,000, and it’s essential… it’s absolutely the core of my campaign to meet people at their doors to ask them what issues are of greatest concern to them in the local area now.”
David Wyant (R): “Every free night I’ve had we’ve been doing door to door… Well over a thousand…”
Closing statement by Ann Mallek (D):
“I know what we have to lose if we don’t think about issues such as the size of the towns we want and how much infrastructure we can afford to sustain that size… I have the experience to serve as your next representative on the Board of Supervisors”
Closing Statement by David Wyant (R):
“I sit on nine committees in addition to doing the Board work. I’m on the building committee that reviews all buildings that go in Albemarle County. I brought value engineering… to make sure that we build with the most efficient tools at the least cost…”
1:00 – Introduction from Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum
2:10 – David Wyant’s opening statement
3:33 – Ann Mallek’s opening statements
5:19 – Question 1
11:34 – Question 2
17:35 – Question 3
23:16 – Question 4
25:56 – Question 5
32:15 – Question 6
36:32 – Question 7
39:40 – Question 8
45:08 – Question 9
50:36 – Question 10
55:00 – Audience question 1
59:07 – Audience question 2
1:05:00 – Audience question 3
1:09:56 – Audience question 4
1:13:27 – Audience question 5
1:17:10 – Audience question 6
1:20:28 – Ann Mallek’s closing statement
1:23:16 – David Wyant’s closing statement