Monthly Archive for December, 2009

Biscuit Run State Park

It’s official: Biscuit Run is now a state park. That’s 1,200 acres, just south of Charlottesville, to be preserved as a state park indefinitely. If I had a bottle of champagne, I’d pop the cork right now. The paperwork has been filed, the deed has been filed at the courthouse, and Governor Tim Kaine will be here to make the official announcement in a couple of weeks, during the last days of his administration. The conversion to parkland will save county and state government $222M, making this a sort of a financial windfall, insofar as it prevents us from spending a whole lot of money that we would have needed to spend had the planned housing development gone in.

But don’t start tramping around in the woods just yet. The state still needs to figure out what to do with it, build out whatever facilities need to be created, get it staffed, etc. There’s no word on how long that will take, but presumably Governor Kaine will address that in his remarks here on January 8.

12:50 AM Update: Brian Wheeler provides lots of great details over at Charlottesville Tomorrow. The important bit is that the state is paying $9.8M for this land, using money from a 2002 voter-approved bond to buy more park land and from federal funding for land acquisition, and (former) owner Hunter Craig will work out tax credits with the Virginia Department of Taxation.

Boyd Decides Against Pursuing BoS Chairmanship

Ken Boyd has decided he’s no longer interested in being chairman of the Board of Supervisors, NBC-29 reports. Boyd wanted to become chair (again), despite that Democrat Ann Mallek was due to be the next chair. Boyd announced this in this press release today, which I reproduce in its entirety because I suspect it’ll be of interest to folks:

Since the November election, when it became clear that David Slutsky was not going to fill out his 2nd one year term as chairman, many Albemarle citizens have ask me to consider filling out the remainder of his traditional term. This would also allow the Vice Chair to fulfill the customary two year term in that position, as all previous Vice Chairs have done in recent times. They were eager for change in the way County government will be run and wanted someone who would champion their concerns. I still remain committed to a new agenda of fiscal conservatism; tax relief for our residents; economic vitality; replacing jobs that have been lost and encouraging businesses in Albemarle to create new ones; and smaller government. I will work tirelessly to accomplish these goals and being chairman does not enhance or detract from these initiatives. I am also honored by the outpouring of confidence and support from constituents and fellow board members.

A few months ago I announced that I was running for the Republican nomination to become the next Congressman from the 5th district. I take this commitment very seriously and have already spent much time and effort furthering that goal. Recently the Republican Party decided to nominate their candidate in a primary rather than a convention. This will involve significantly more time on the road meeting the people of the 5th district. While I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones, the primary will reduce the time I would have to be Albemarle’s Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

It is unfortunate that this entire process has played out in the press and that some have tried to politicize the process. I would have preferred this to have been settled the way it has always been done- in consultation with the other supervisors. However, this has become an unnecessary distraction that is not in the best interest for County government and delays the hard work of getting Albemarle County open for business. It is for this and other reasons I have already mentioned that I am withdrawing my name for consideration for the job of chairman.

It’s tough to square a couple of parts of this press release. On the one hand, Boyd writes that he wanted to be chair because voters told him that “[t]hey were eager for change in the way County government will be run and wanted someone who would champion their concerns,” which is to say that Republicans won the races, ergo a Republican should be in charge. On the other hand, he laments “that some have tried to politicize the process.” But, as he admits, that’s precisely what he did. If politicizing the process is wrong, then he shouldn’t have done it. If politicizing the process is what he believes he had the political capital to do after the election, then he shouldn’t accuse others of politicizing it.

Monticello to Rent Out Grounds and Outbuildings

Monticello Naturalization Ceremony

Brian McNeill had an interesting article in the Progress on Friday that I don’t want to miss: Monticello is going to start renting out their grounds for private events. They’re not (yet) allowing the home itself to be rented out, but much of the property is fair game, and for the right price, you can buy a private tour of the house. They’re even looking at renting the grounds out for weddings. This is a significant change from how Monticello was run under the twenty year tenure of recently-retired Daniel Jordan, the prior executive director of the private organization that owns and operates Thomas Jefferson’s home. (Jordan had no comment for McNeill, which I think can be read as a rebuke of the new practice.)

It’s not clear to me whether this new practice is innovative or reprehensible, but the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s claim that this is “kind of in the Jeffersonian tradition” strikes me as ridiculous. It’s true that Jefferson was known for his hospitality, which is rather a different thing than renting out his front lawn for bar mitzvahs.

Biscuit Run Would Turn into Resellable Tax Credits

Bryan McKenzie and Brandon Shulleeta explained the mechanism behind the likely tax benefits of turning Biscuit Run into a state park in yesterday’s Daily Progress. After paying $46M for the 1,200 acre parcel four years ago, owner Hunter Craig is looking to minimize his losses in this wretched housing market (though I have my doubts that it was ever viable to sell 3,100 houses here in that manner), and would surely be looking for a financial benefit in giving it to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. McKenzie and Shulleeta explain that the idea is to receive tax credits, which can be resold. So if Craig got (say) $46M in tax credits, he could resell those, probably for about eighty cents on the dollar. If I wanted to save $1,000 on my state taxes, I could pay Craig $800 for that $1k tax credit, netting myself $200 in savings. Tax credit transactions are not a matter of public record, so unless Craig chooses to disclose those numbers, we’ll never know precisely what the arrangement is. (Which isn’t to say that we ought to know.) Virginia is moving quickly to close on this deal, and the transaction may happen in the next day or two.

There’s one heartening note in the story. So far we’ve seen county officials lamenting the loss of the $325k in annual property tax revenue from the land, ignoring the $222M price to taxpayers, $134M out of county coffers. (For perspective, the county’s entire annual budget is just over $300M.) Turning Biscuit Run into a park would be great economic news for the county. The first acknowledgement of that fact comes from the county comes in this article:

However, Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said no longer receiving the $38 million worth of proffers might not be as bad as its sounds, considering that much of what was proffered “offset the expense of the development there.”

“If you don’t have the development, you don’t have the expense,” Boyd said, adding that any future developments that might be done in place of Biscuit Run would likely require proffers as well.

Good for Ken Boyd.

Boyd Elbowing His Way to BoS Chairmanship

Republican Ken Boyd may be the new chair of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Brandon Shulleeta wrote in the Progress on Saturday, in a rather unusual move. By tradition, members of the BoS take turns being chair, with a process of succession—the vice chair becomes the chair after the chair finishes his turn. The current vice chair is Democrat Ann Mallek, who represents White Hall. The prior chair was Democrat David Slutzky, who just lost reelection. That would normally leave Mallek as chair. That is how the BoS has operated for many decades. But Ken Boyd, who already took his two year turn as chair, wants the position back. (Boyd is running for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello, and presumably knows that it looks better to be chair of the BoS than a mere member; Boyd argues it’s a handicap, because being chair would take time away from his campaign.) Boyd argues that Mallek is only halfway through her two-year term as vice chair, and that a year from now, he’ll be happy to let her be chair, although that does nothing to explain why he ought to be the chair right now.

Republican Rodney Thomas, who unseated Slutzky, supports Boyd’s bid; the board’s third Republican, Duane Snow, isn’t saying how he’ll vote. Ostensible Democrat Lindsay Dorrier, a reliable Republican vote, says he hasn’t made up his mind. The remaining member of the board, independent Dennis Rooker, strongly supports Mallek, arguing that if he’d known that it was going to be a partisan matter, Boyd wouldn’t have been allowed to be chair four years ago. The BoS will go into a closed session on January 6 to figure it out amongst themselves.



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