The Greene County Board of Supervisors received an update on the county’s strategic plan at its July 9 meeting. The board usually updates its plan at the beginning of each calendar year, but the April state date for new County Administrator Mark Taylor postponed it until mid-year.
Taylor led last Tuesday’s presentation with an update on the county’s fiscal management policy. Taylor said that at this time it is in draft form.
“My desire is to hold those proposed policies up against some best practices that are available from other localities and the state and try to revise those policies further,” he said.
A refined draft on fiscal management policies is expected by early fall.
Also in the draft stage, Taylor noted, is the county facilities plan.
“We need to envision how the future needs of our county staff’s and constitutional officers’ spaces and other needs might actually be met in practical terms and affordable terms on the ground here in Greene County,” Taylor said.
He also suggested a tour of the current county facilities to the board in order to better envision the best uses of the spaces. The board unanimously agreed, with Chairman Bill Martin, Stanardsville, adding vacant county properties to the tour.
“I think there are several parcels out there, some we know about and some we don’t all know about. For planning purposes, it might be beneficial for us to at least know where they are,” Martin said.
The facilities tour is slated for Sept. 10, the date of the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, at 4 p.m.
On the note of facilities, Taylor added that the board is eager for the completion of the latest construction as part of the school’s capital improvement plan (CIP). The current construction at William Monroe High School is scheduled to be completed Aug. 9. Taylor added that a future site for another elementary school in Ruckersville is in its very early stages.
Taylor next addressed code and ordinance audits, as well as zoning ordinance revisions.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed in my short time here is that we have had before us a number of land use applications that have predominantly, if not entirely, been residential. It’s led me to ask questions of the planning staff about how balanced are our mixed-use provisions? What do you do in our comprehensive plan to set aside land for future employment centers?” Taylor said.
From 2000-19 Greene County saw 2,565 additional single-family units, with 555 in the last five years. The American Community Survey projects the population of Greene County to be 25,596 in another 20 years, which may equate to 3,000 new additional dwelling units.
In addition, Greene County residents who also work in Greene is only around 15%. Taylor would like to see the number of residents commuting decrease. The presentation noted the current parking ratio for business districts, current height restrictions in business districts, necessary ratio for residential and commercial development in a planned unit development (PUD) and the deficiency of potential incentives as potential barriers to employment centers in the county.
“The problem has become can we grow more employment opportunities in county and thereby increase our 15%? These are small fixes, small changes, in our ordinances that can address these potential barriers,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to be taken as suggesting that there is any need for major change. Quite the contrary, we’re a healthy and growing community. We’re seeing changes in our housing types. We are recovering as a community from the recession. We have some opportunity for growth to continue, and we have an opportunity to grow our non-residential tax base, reduce our out-commute rate and improve the balance of our tax base in our community.”
Another topic of discussion was the county’s broadband initiative. Taylor said the county has some “business concepts that are beginning to mature” and “discussion is ongoing with potential institutional partners that could help in some significantly affordable ways.”
“The broadband committee has done so much, and they’ve come so far, and I sense there’s frustration in certain segments of the community that we’re not getting there yet,” Martin said. “In fact, a lot has been done. Sometimes it’s laying the foundation before you have the skills to hit a double or a triple or a homerun.”
Ruckersville Supervisor Michelle Flynn agreed that there is disconnect.
“Sometimes I feel like my spoon is broken. I was thinking about some things that came up at the Ruckersville Area Committee meeting, some questions for [the Virginia Department of Transportation], that they’ve covered and have been covering for years. Someone new moves in and they don’t know it’s been covered and then we have to completely go over everything again,” Flynn said. “The reality is that I’m not disagreeing with you, but at the same time I think we need to focus on our limited staff resources on moving things forward and not having to revisit the whole history of a project every time we take a step forward with it.”
Dale Herring, at-large supervisor, who heads the committee, said broadband is looking more promising than in the past.
“Four years ago people weren’t talking about these subjects and now they are. That by itself is progress to me. People are now aware of it, or aware of lack of coverage, which is helpful, too. Things look a lot more promising today than they did even three months ago,” Herring said.
Taylor also briefly discussed a 2020 Smart Scale application with VDOT, as well as water and sewer infrastructure.
The Smart Scale application must be for a highway of significance which receives some direct federal funding that the state manages with a change that will increase or improve safety and/or congestion. In Greene County, the only two possible highway options are U.S. Routes 29 and 33. However, Taylor said that the prospect previously in discussion does not fit the criteria, and they are looking for a new option.
Taylor said water and sewer is an “enormous priority” and there are discussions with Rapidan Service Authority (RSA), but that was “all that can be said publicly at present.”
Lastly, Taylor took suggestions from the board on any new items to add to the strategic plan.
“I’m looking back at our strategic plan, and if you look at ‘promote community engagement’ we talk about encouraging greater citizen involvement in our county government, but I’m thinking we did not talk about greater citizen involvement in our county,” Flynn said.
“Everyone is begging for help and assistance and volunteers, so I’m with you. I’m not sure how Mr. Taylor will work that into our agenda, but it’s worth a try,” Martin added.
Taylor noted the importance of volunteer fire departments and EMS in the community.
“[Volunteer fire companies] provide a tremendous and needful service to our community which honestly we don’t know how to afford today were we called upon to pay for them,” Taylor said. “We need very badly the benefit of those good people give to our community. I say that without embarrassment. I appreciate them every day, every call and every service that they give.”
The board agreed to add both volunteerism focused on public safety and community engagement to its strategic plan going forward. They will officially vote on the plan at the July 23 regular meeting.