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.

80 Responses to “Biscuit Run State Park”


  • Is the state buying the land? If so, who owns it and how much is the state paying for it?

    While I’m glad we aren’t getting another huge cookie cutter development I’m wondering how the state winds up owning the property and why buying this land takes priority over seemingly more critical budget items. Seems to me if the state is buying the land and maybe now has to build facilities and staff it that maybe it isn’t saving us anything (in terms of $’s).

  • I addressed all of that yesterday: yes, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and nobody knows. The state isn’t buying the land, they’re trading it for tax credits. Assuming the state got it for ~$35M in tax credits, they’d have to spend $185M on building facilities and hiring staff for this to be a money loser. Given that the entire Shenandoah National Park has an annual budget of just $11M—Yellowstone’s is $30M—I think we can safely assume that Biscuit Run State Park will not be burning through that $185M any time soon. :)

  • Wait, hold that thought—Charlottesville Tomorrow has a bunch more information, and Brian Wheeler writes that the state is paying $9.8M cash for the land, with lots more (an undisclosed amount) coming in the form of tax credits. The money is coming from funds left from a 2002 bond issue to buy more state park land and from federal funds for land acquisition.

  • When Biscuit Run was put up for sale several years ago,I thought how nice it would if it could be preserved as open space, as a park or wildlife refuge, maybe something like Ivy Creek. And now it seems like that has come true. Goes to show that wishes sometimes do become reality.

  • Ivy Creek is too restrictive in the uses allowed there. Add Ragged Mountain, the SNP, and XYZ Wilderness Area and you’ll see this area has plenty of land for restricted uses. Fortunately, that style of park management does not dominate our “local” parks scene and there are other areas for active recreation which includes those activities engaged in at Ivy Creek.

    A State Park where multiple use is be a primary goal, is a win-win situation for all…well maybe not the ATV fans. Maybe a nearby opportunity will develop for that use as well.

  • Hooray! It’s a beautiful piece of land, and I’m so happy to see it preserved.

    The Breedens must be thrilled as well.

  • Now that the state has moved in direct opposition to Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan and removed 3.5% (800 acres) of Albemarle’s dedicated development area, the question remains how do we restore the Development Areas to 5% of Albemarle County’s land mass?

    http://freeenterpriseforum.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/biscuit-run-state-park-where-do-we-grow-from-here/

    Just asking

  • Now that the state has moved in direct opposition to Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan and removed 3.5% (800 acres) of Albemarle’s dedicated development area, the question remains how do we restore the Development Areas to 5% of Albemarle County’s land mass?

    So we’ve removed 3.5% of 5%, meaning that we’re down to 4.825%? This hardly sounds like an urgent matter. :) 5% isn’t a magic number. Nobody did years of study and determined that, through some amazing coincidence, exactly 5% of Albemarle’s land mass should be designated as a growth area. It’s an arbitrary number that was selected because it seemed basically about right. Losing 0.175% of the growth area isn’t going to have any meaningful effect on development.

    But let’s pretend it is important. The most problematic thing in how that would go down is the bullshittery that would come of adding land into the growth area—which is a quick way to make land a great deal more valuable. It’s not going to go to a random selection of landowners. It’ll all go to Charlie Hurt, or some developer like that. If these rights are reverting to the county, then it’s functionally like money coming back to the county—if that revenue is to be passed back to taxpayers, then it should be distributed fairly, not to make one rich guy a lot richer.

  • If the State choose to take 800 acres of Albemarle County’s rural land and make it a state prison, would there be a call to reduce the size of the development area? I seem to recall an issue like this a couple of years ago.

  • Is there any one person in the whole of Albemarle County who would want such a thing? Probably. But, heck, you could have a proposal to make government more libertarian—charging developers for the real cost of development, rather than passing it onto taxpayers—and even the ostensible libertarians would come out against that. :) It’s a big county—there’s somebodyanything..

    Without a fair method of distributing the benefits of that reclassification to growth area, such a change would just be a way for taxpayers to get screwed. Also, it sucks for the folks who live in a rural area who suddenly find that they’re in the growth area. I’m building a house in a rural area because I want to live in a rural area. If my road was suddenly deemed “growth area,” and a shopping center went in across the street, I’d be pissed off. I’m OK with anything somebody wants to do within the confines of rural zoning, and if I wasn’t OK with that, it’d be my obligation to buy the land that I wanted to see preserved or to shut up about it. Zoning is a contract, an expectation at the time that property is purchased. Violating that contract is a nasty thing to do.

  • Waldo, I think you’ve really nailed it. The way growth areas have been created thus far involves the County picking winners and losers. If the situation evolves where new growth area is needed then we should give more thought on how to do that in a fairer market-based way. My preference would be to designate an area as a receiving area so that people in the rural area can sell development rights to it. For developers that want density above that, they could get a density bonus by proffering infrastructure, or voluntarily following neighborhood model design.

    That said, Neil, I know you’ve spoken to folks in real estate and you must know that frankly they don’t want more growth area right now. Flooding the market with more development is really just going to make it harder to sell what’s already out there. That’s why this property got donated, because frankly it wasn’t in anyone’s financial interest to develop it right now (and probably wont be for quite some time.) I’m not sure creating more growth area just to meet some arbitrary five percent is really a good idea for anyone.

    In truth, I think the counties designation of five percent was its own contribution to irrational exuberance. We should have started much smaller with a plan to grow. Planners overestimated the market, and had they not done that we might be it a more economically sound position right now.

  • My parents have a house at the end of the Mill Creek, on the backside looking over Biscuit run, with undeveloped lots on either side of their house for peace and quiet.

    You can guess how they were dancing this morning.

  • Well with this becoming a state park – there are 6 rural carrier postal jobs that just won’t be created.

  • Alleged loss of postal jobs will be offset by jobs building and operating the park. Increase in sales of picnic and camping supplies are probable as well.Won’t have to build another couple schools to acomodate campers. I count this as a win, and can hardly believe it is happening. Another great attraction for our tourism industry.

  • Nothing “alleged” about the loss. 500 to 600 new residential units equals 1 postal route. At 3000 that would’ve been 5 to 6 jobs.

  • I don’t buy it. Those people are coming from somewhere, a place where they are no longer and thus mail service is no longer required. Or, alternately, people wouldn’t have moved there.

    Building new houses doesn’t create new human beings.

  • Waldo: “But, heck, you could have a proposal to make government more libertarian—charging developers for the real cost of development, rather than passing it onto taxpayers—and even the ostensible libertarians would come out against that.”

    This ostensible libertarian thinks that’s a great idea. Rational economic choices are only possible when prices reflect true costs.

  • Geez Waldo, the population is not static. People don’t just move from place to place. Building more houses does crate new human beings. But, really, I think you know how it’s done. So, inverse is the correct analogue, i.e. making more human beings does create (a need for) more new houses.

  • Guess we wouldn’t be needing that 200 million dollar new dam and energy dependent uphill, routeless pipeline now.

    The project was approved for 3,000 homes.  I think the average water usage, per home, is around 5,000 gallons; this means that future water need could drop by 15,000,000 gallons a month from the elimination of this project.

    So how about it folks–time to admit that the 10year trend of lower water usage, than the consultants projected in our community water plan, is real, and will continue, that the population projections for the 50 year time frame, are wrong, and that the new estimates putting the cost at over $200 million make this plan too expensive for those who will pay ( now many thousand less than had been anticipated).

  • Where is the State going to get money to equip and staf this park? How are people going to access it? They’re still cutting the current budget. Plans for a natural area seem more sensible to me.

  • A natural area would be nice, but not bring in the tourist revenue, or justify spending state dollars that a state park would. There has been an identified need for such a park in our area for many years.

  • Geez Waldo, the population is not static. People don’t just move from place to place. Building more houses does crate new human beings.

    You’re telling me that, by building 3,100 new houses, ~6,200 new humans will pop into being to occupy them? Remember, we’re talking about the mail service here. These ~6,200 people would have to either a) not have existed prior to living in these houses or b) be from a place where no mail service existed. Which is it?

  • How many tourist do people think will be using this park and why?
    How can the State spend dollars on this park while it’s cutting its budget by several billion dollars. Does the State cut money to schools and police to equip and staff a state park?
    “There has been an identified need for such a park in our area for many years.” I believe the county officials have told the state that the county already has plenty of parks. Indeed, I infer from statement s made by one county official that the county feels there’s a great need for ball fields. http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2009/12/biscuit_run.html

  • Yes, 6200 people will pop up if you build the houses. I play Sims, I know.

  • As I drove around today, I thought about the future of Charlottesville. I’ve lived here since the 60’s and much has changed, but truthfully, I think our town is built-out, and presently it is overbuilt and prices will drop more. UVA is no longer a growth engine for the community, and, although, students will be added, that wouldn’t mean a great many more jobs. Realistically, the area is too expensive for other major industries to locate here, or is zoned to prohibit them if they are polluters. Taxes,fees, living expenses, and utilities are expensive, and going up. Schools are good, but housing and living expenses are high compared to other cities with equally good schools and better jobs.

    It was once envisioned by Maurice Cox, that Charlottesville would become a metropolitan area, but the above reasons will prevent that. Depending on retired people to move here in droves is also a bubble, that has burst. The baby boomers have seen their savings fall and are more likely to locate near their grown children and grandchildren than move to someplace just because it is highly rated in the America’s Best Cities book.

    Let’s face it, times have changed and Mr. Craig sensed this and got out, just in time. Other builders will follow. Old Trail will be next with those who can get out doing so, as some already have. And many other potential development sites will remain vacant, buildings will be torn down, like the one on Avon Street and large swaths of cleared land will see weeds and small shrubs sprouting.

    The go go days are gone and both county and city budgets will see dramatic contraction; meaning fewer high paying government jobs with benefits, further driving down housing prices, as middle income people chose to live in the surrounding counties, Nelson, Greene and Fluvanna; where taxes and utilities are more affordable and you can get more house for your money.

    To accommodate the changing demographics of the region, businesses that do come will also locate in these outlying counties and not in Albemarle and Charlottesville, so major housing developments will follow and no longer be needed here.

    Check back in 10 years –we do not need, nor can we afford, large scale new infrastructure expenses placed on the citizens of this community that are being pushed by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, ( new dam, pipeline and larger sewer pipes with expensive treatment facilities, nor do we need a new solid waste facility)
    We need to maintain what we have, and turn waste disposal over entirely to the private sector, the obvious choice being the already DEQ permitted and applauded recycling facility, being run by Mr. Van der Linde.

    If we do not rein in the spending of the RWSA and RSWA, the debt burden will only make the community an even more expensive place to live and further discourage people from moving here or businesses from locating here.

  • THis is fantastic news!

  • @Local, very thoughtful and observant. I think so much of the growth in central VA will continue to happen between Waynesboro and Crozet and between Zion Crossroads and Short Pump. Greene County seems to showing signs of attracting considerable people, too.

  • My biggest problem with this “deal” is that a lot more land could have been conserved by the state elsewhere with the same amount of money. What seems to be missing is a recognition that the parties involved will likely tap into tens of millions of dollars worth of Va. Land Preservation Tax Credits in 2010, which is capped at $100 million per year, in order to preserve only 1200 acres (wasn’t 400 of that already proffered as park land?). While they may not be able to use them, credits can be sold to willing buyers. These tax credits are a terrific incentive for land conservation, but from a statewide (or even region wide) perspective consuming a large chunk (1/3?) of these credits to protect only 1,200 acres hardly makes sense. I’ve heard that this project may eat up the same amount of tax credits that could have otherwise been used to protected roughly 30,000 acres. So, do we as tax payers win?

    One last thought…does it make sense to make major land use decisions for our community based on a temporary economic downturn and a developers financial problems?

  • @Asking, where did the figure of 30,000 acres come from?

  • Without the necessary infrastructure and tax base, this was an unwarranted land use decision to begin with. Charlottesville and Albemarle don’t need developments of this size or cost to the taxpayers. Far better to incentivize citizens, to upgrade existing housing, and not gobble up large chuncks of land with uncertain population projections for the future.

  • RE Asking
    I tend to be with you on this one. While I welcome the preservation of green/open space as much as the next person, something about this deal smells like a bailout – it may be win/win/win, but some will be bigger winners than others. This much we know:
    The County is currently collecting $325,772 per year in taxes on the BR property. This will disappear forever as the State does not pay taxes. Forest Lodge LLC sold the property to the State for $9.8 million and can apply for up to 40% of the property’s appraised value in (resaleable) tax credits. Currently the entire 1200-acre property is appraised at $44-45 million. Should the property be reappraised prior to the application for tax credits to reflect its most recent $9.8 mill sale price? What was it’s appraised value prior to it’s rezoning two years ago, or for that matter prior to its sale to Forest Lodge/Craig et.al, and is one of these figures a better measure for calculating tax credits? What was the cost to the County of the two-year-long rezoning application process in terms of staff time and who pays for this?

    Sale to the State is a good deal for the owners and that is why they did it. But they are not the only ones invested in the project.

  • Thanks, Wallace, for the figures. Do I have this right? Forest Lodge LLC has approx. $9.8M in hand from the State. Even if the property is appraised at the prior selling price, $46M, the maximum tax credits that can be gained at 40% (Is it 60% is the LLC uses the credits itself and 40% if it sells the?) appraisal is $46M x .4, or $18.4M. Thus, Forest Lodge LLC stands to receive from this deal is $18.4M $9.8M, or $28.2M. Right now, it seems to be a difference of -$17.2M. If this is correct, where will the LLC make up the difference?

  • As I understand it, they can apply for tax credits for up to 40% of the property’s appraised value regardless of how they intend to use them. Clearly, they will lose money, but not as much as they might have. The question is, should they be allowed to calculate tax credits on an appraised value that likely reflects the property’s rezoning to Neighborhood Model and/or it’s existence within the County’s designated growth area or should it be based on some other value. In other words, the relatively high value of the property is based on the premise that it was to be developed – a comparably sized piece of property not zoned for high density development and/or outside of the designated growth area would not be so highly appraised. Clearly the LLC will lose money on the deal, but they could have lost quite a lot more. Further, not only does the County lose everything they have invested in the project, but clearly the State will have to make its own investments before it has any chance of making a financial return.

  • You seem to be forgetting Waldo’s initial salvo.

    “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.”

    I agree that this will save money not the other way around.

  • Thanks, Wallace, for taking the time to explain.
    Waldo, can you tell how you came up with the $222M figure or point me to it? I know that you have been pricing development for awhile but I don’t recall reading your figure of $222M before.

  • You’re telling me that, by building 3,100 new houses, ~6,200 new humans will pop into being to occupy them? Remember, we’re talking about the mail service here. These ~6,200 people would have to either a) not have existed prior to living in these houses or b) be from a place where no mail service existed. Which is it?

    Waldo,

    3,100 new “residential units” be they condos or stand alone houses (or even if they aren’t residential at all and are instead commercial). Are 3100 new physical addresses that did not exist in Cville prior to being built. Even if only one person lives in each (unlikely I know).

    Further- these houses usually don’t get built before there is a buyer. They get built slowly over time.

    Your choice of “A or B” is flawed logic – a false dilemma. Population is not static. An address created here in Cville does not automatically mean an unused address in another place.

    When you have a new development (take Belvedere for example) you have more streets and buildings that did not exist prior to being carved out of the pristine forest, all of these have physical addresses and as such are entitled to mail service.

  • Actually, I’ve tossed around that $222M figure enough that I’ve been wondering when somebody would tell me to shut up about it. :) I first wrote about it in 2007. The county’s own fiscal impact statement. It’s very clearly worded, and very strongly worded. It’s amazing to me that, after this fiscal impact statement was completed, that anybody at the county could still have thought this was a good idea. Anyhow, that’s the $134M that the county has to shell out. Then there’s the state’s cost, in the form of transportation upgrades, which is $88M. That comes to $222M.

  • Thanks, for taking the time out of your holiday celebration time to bring me up to date. I hadn’t seen that post that had the initial calculations for that figure. I enjoyed reading Brian Wheeler’s comments also.

  • Here’s a new slant on the story. Is Gov. Kaine’s offer demaging the banks who made the loan for the LLC’s purchase? http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2009/12/31/state-buys-biscuit-run-for-park/

  • 3,100 new “residential units” be they condos or stand alone houses (or even if they aren’t residential at all and are instead commercial). Are 3100 new physical addresses that did not exist in Cville prior to being built. Even if only one person lives in each (unlikely I know).

    There’s your first problem. Building 3,100 houses doesn’t mean that they’d be occupied. Clearly. Because if there was demand, Hunter Craig would have built houses there. What you argued was that 3,100 new houses would have employed six new mail carriers. I’m really quite certain that’s wrong.

    Your choice of “A or B” is flawed logic – a false dilemma. Population is not static. An address created here in Cville does not automatically mean an unused address in another place.

    No, but it almost certainly does. Ask anybody trying to sell their home right now to buy a new one—it’s a 1:1 ratio. For 3,100 houses to be newly occupied, we would need 3,100 kids to move out of their parents’ homes, while 3,100 people failed to die who otherwise would have (demographically speaking), launching a domino effect whereby 3,100 other family units move up into new houses. In a nutshell, what is required is population growth, and a lot of it. That’s not something that we’ve got goin’ on right now. Immigrants who came here for the great work opportunities are going home. The Baby Boomers are aging out—they’re moving into condos, townhouses, and apartments, now that the kids are moving out.

    With an aging population, a lack of immigration, and a fecundity rate that’s barely about replacement level, the only way that we fill 3,100 houses is with people moving out of 3,100 other houses. Which means that they’re empty or demolished, ergo not receiving mail service.

    If the USPS is creating new mail carrier jobs on that kind of math, I think I’ve IDd the source of their financial woes.

  • Isn’t it possible that the LLC was unable to get banks to finance the new construction and the carrying charges on the initial loan was too steep and they sought another avenue rather than deal with foreclosure?

  • Waldo, the several minutes of your life spent so far in the mail discussion will never be coming back to you. You could have been eating bacon, kissing your wife, perusing the back rooms of local video stores, or planning a wild snowy afternoon that involves all three.

    Any of those would have been a much better use of your time and energy whether your argument is right or not. The first mail carrier comment was dumb enough as it was and deserved to just be ignored.

  • “You could have been eating bacon, kissing your wife, perusing the back rooms of local video stores, or planning a wild snowy afternoon that involves all three. ”
    @the boss of me, Why doesn’t the same apply to you? It has become apparent to me that Waldo accomplishes a great deal more than most people I have known is a day’s time, several blogs, VQRR, political groups I have no interest in, enjoying the dowtown mall with his wife and friends, photography, web design networking, seeking to build a new house, supporting various causes including cat pushing, etc., that I hardly think he needs advice on how to use his time.

  • Should I just have said it was a really fucking ridiculous conversation instead?

  • I find the discussion interesting and pertinent, sorry it annoys you, but that is the wonderful freedom of these blogs–the free exchange of ideas, unencumbered by fear of retribution ( alive and well in Charlottesville).

    What I am now interested in is: if our officials are smart enough to make the necessary adjustments to their planning to re-evaluate the water, sewer and solid waste decisions in a way that will save their residents money. There is nothing to indicate that the current population projections for these projects are correct, and if they do not change course, that will tell us their true intentions and the special interests that they are controlled by, and it will not be their citizens.

    They have a chance, but time is running out, currently, their credibility is severely strained in these areas.

  • Oh, I eat bacon while blogging. It’s the food of champions. ;) No, I think Jimmy John and I just have two very different views that are likely irreconcilable. What’s very clear to one person can be very clearly wrong to another, regardless of the facts—consider the question of whether an airplane on a conveyor belt can take off. :)

  • RE Waldo’s $222M
    This figure is only accurate if you actually don’t follow the logic of the analysis. Yes, a $134 mill cost over 20 years might have been possible, but that wasn’t the scenario envisioned by the County’s analysis.
    Check the County’s “clearly worded” document again. The analysis begins by first examining the fiscal impact of development of the BR property “by right” and follows with an examination of the fiscal impact of development of the property if rezoned to Neighborhood Model. Both scenarios would cost the County money ($4.4 mill per year in the first “by right” scenario, 6.66 mill per year in the second rezoned scenario). The analysis then looks at the two scenarios in terms of cumulative fiscal impacts over a 20-year period and, what you miss, is that it is the differential between the two that is important not simply the later case:
    “Over the course of the twenty year period, the County, according to CRIM, would be roughly $25,213,000 worse off approving the [Biscuit Run] rezoning than denying it. On an annual basis, this figure would come to $1,260,650.” The analysis goes on to state that unknowns regarding the total mix of other possible development within the county might result in a “revenue-neutral outcome” and hence the anaylsis “does not necessarily mean that [the rezoning] should be denied.”
    Now, the analysis does/did assume that the correct comparison is between “by right” and rezoned development of the BR tract rather than no development vs rezoned development. Your figure of a $134 mill cost to the county is accurate only if no development of the parcel takes place. While that might have begun to seem increasingly likely over the past 18 months, clearly it was not an assumption that could have been made lightly in early 2007.

    As for the VDOT analysis, the conclusion there was that the developer’s proffer for road improvements – which might cost up to $88 mill – should have been roughly $10 mill higher – that is, about $15 mill instead of the $5.5 mill already proffered if we understand that a pro-rated share of these costs is the best way to go. I don’t have the details of this analysis, but as with the earlier case, I really don’t think that you can rightly assume that no development along the Rt 20/Old Lynchburg Road corridors south of town would take place if BR didn’t get rezoned and hence no road improvements (not even routine maintenance) would be needed over the next 20 years.

    It’s not just that new development costs the County money. Those of us who already live here also don’t come cheaply. However, my point was (and still is) that the whole Biscuit Run rezoning process also cost the County money – unless of course you are willing to believe that the developers were actually billed for the hundreds and hundreds of labor hours spent by County staff during the process rather than simply being charged a nominal filing fee. Furthermore, this expenditure by the County had the result of raising the property’s appraised value, which now looks to be a big benefit to the developers as regards tax credits. And to top it all off, the prospect of 1200 acres of never-to-be developed land on the edge of Cville seems to overshadow the more sober assessment that construction of a State Park too will carry costs in terms both of its internal development and supporting infrastructure leading to it. If this is such a great and obvious deal for the County, why did Forest Lodge LLC feel the need to relegate explanation of these benefits to a hired PR firm?

  • Ahh bacon, even with all the times I disagree with Waldo, he reminds me why I love this blog so. Before reading the comments I knew that this would come to to the central Waldo belief “new residential growth (almost never) pays for itself.” This boils down to whether or not the new resident put their kids in public school. Schools are around 60% of the budget.

    New construction of homes has created the appearance of new humans however. The ones that build them. 20 years ago a hispanic construction worker was a rarity, with the building boom it’s difficult to find non hispanic dry waller or many other skill sets. These and many others clearly didn’t exist (in this country) before the building boom. And no I’m not trying to comment about immigration, illegal and otherwise.

  • Before reading the comments I knew that this would come to to the central Waldo belief “new residential growth (almost never) pays for itself.” This boils down to whether or not the new resident put their kids in public school. Schools are around 60% of the budget.

    You bet. Bring on the retirees! :)

  • Wallace, what we can certainly agree on is that the costs are not at all easy to arrive at—$222M is a convenient number, as would be any single number, but one would have to be psychic to know what the final number would be. What’s very clear, at least based on the state and county numbers, is that Biscuit Run would be a clear money loser. You’re right that this process cost the county a lot. Somewhere in the past few days—I’m afraid that I don’t remember where—I read a number of something like a quarter million dollars in staff time was spent on this by the county. A lot of money, no doubt. It would be great if there was some way to offset that, but, unfortunately, developers successfully torpedoed the plan to pass that cost onto them, rather than tax payers, and it was killed in the most recent BoS meeting. This is another example of why I scoff when my Republican friends say that businesses are naturally libertarian. Not hardly. Everybody likes socialism when they get the long end of that stick, and that’s as true for Charlie Hurt as anybody else.

  • There’s your first problem. Building 3,100 houses doesn’t mean that they’d be occupied. Clearly. Because if there was demand, Hunter Craig would have built houses there.

    And as I wrote in my post prior to yours:

    Further- these houses usually don’t get built before there is a buyer. They get built slowly over time.

    Waldo wrote:

    In a nutshell, what is required is population growth, and a lot of it. That’s not something that we’ve got goin’ on right now. Immigrants who came here for the great work opportunities are going home.

    I don’t dispute that point. Nor do I dispute the reasons and logic behind having the developer turn it into a state park in order to not lose any of his initial investment. With the downturn in the real estate market the houses not being built mean a loss of a lot of jobs (mostly construction jobs for illegals – because we all know citizens just won’t do some jobs) 5 or 6 of which would’ve been postal.

    And no they wouldn’t be brand new employees. But they would be people already working for the USPS who are classified as “non-career” (meaning they get absolutely no benefits- which is in fact a large percentage of their workforce) it would mean 5 or 6 of those people having opportunities to get converted to a regular status (thus get benefits). And the positions vacated by the new regulars could be filled by new hires.

    For the purpose of debate – if you really need a “gain/loss” scenario then take a look at Detroit or places like it.

  • I forgot to close the blockquote after the last italicized paragraph. The non-italicized stuff after that shouldn’t have been a part of the blockquote.

  • “What’s very clear, at least based on the state and county numbers, is that Biscuit Run would be a clear money loser [for the County].”
    Actually, it’s not all that clear. Unless of course you are a psychic. I can certainly envision scenarios by which the County might have gained. That much said, I tend to agree with you more than not. Developers, like the rest of us, should pay their way as fully as possible. I’m not against their right to develop, however I draw the line at being required to believe the invariably unsubstantiated trickle down jibberish that holds that what they do will ultimately benefit us all (equally). That goes whether it’s 3100 residential units or a State Park in Bisuit Run. For now, let’s just wait and see how much compensation they ultimately do get (via tax credits) for what was a risk that they chose to take and how much the local public/County receives for its part in the venture. Privatized wealth and socialized loss – especially when its dressed up as “win/win” is getting pretty annoying.

  • The interesting thing about public schools is in the last decade the growth seem to come in the private schools, with the economy those numbers may well change. It may be that formulas based on the prediction of how many kids one can expect that would attend public school are flawed when applied in Albemarle county.

    If you can put down the bacon long enough (I know it’s hard;)) a decade in review might be interesting. I think that what people will observe is that the population increased at a much higher rate then the amount of increase of kids in public school. Retirees and private schools increases explain it. That means most model of future enrollment in Albemarle are flawed. Also I’s wager that water use per person has dropped at quite noteworthy rate. This does put some of the cost of growth numbers and need of significant revision. Really not a criticism more a observation that will change some of the cost of growth numbers.

  • Waldo said “For 3,100 houses to be newly occupied, we would need 3,100 kids to move out of their parents’ homes, while 3,100 people failed to die who otherwise would have (demographically speaking), launching a domino effect whereby 3,100 other family units move up into new houses. In a nutshell, what is required is population growth, and a lot of it.”

    The “lot of it” is the excluded ten’s of thousands of grads, that every year need a place to live after school. They don’t always move back in with mom and dad. (thankfully)

  • What about all the people that die.

  • Local is right (or soon will be) about “Depending on retired people to move here in droves is also a bubble, that has burst. We’d be astoundingly foolish to invest too much in the assumption of a boomer economy. We need to start building a strong economy not reliant on them, which is solid enough to support them when they become a sum negative financial impact on society as they age.

    As for the county gaining or losing money on this deal, I’d say the county already lost that the moment they went down the path towards development policies that enabled Biscuit Run. To do any fair analysis of the impact of the gift you need to look at both sides of this equation. You can’t really count staff time because gift or not that money is already gone either way. As for taxes, the county would eventually be forced to take a hit there too, we just don’t know how much. Either way, the developer would have to dump it at a significant loss which would lower the property value (and may negatively impact the property values of the entire area). As a park, I the assessment of all adjoining properties will skyrocket. It may even improve the demand in the county overall, and thus increase the taxes off existing properties. That combined with new park jobs, and increased tourism is a gain for the county.

  • Yikes, worse editing than usual. (Waldo, when can we get a preview feature?) I missed a close quote after “burst” in the second line. I also closed my italics improperly among other things… I should finish my coffee before commenting on these things!

  • I say we name it “Historic Biscuit Run State Park.” Isn’t that what we do when me mean to draw tourists around here. Think of all the jobs that will create. And I know I’m not the only one hoping we get a little Pigeon Forge type thing right outside of it.

  • While the sarcasm isn’t lost on me, one (I) hope/s the historic and prehistoric landscape will not be totally ignored as this park moves forward. At least the developer’s proffers for BR included identification and evaluation of potential historical and archaeological resources on the property prior to building. While the State is by law be required do the same, it doesn’t always work out that way.

  • Hopefully, they’ll build a road to connect Old Lynchburg Road to 20S.

  • Historic Red Hill Road does that rather nicely.

  • Not close enough to the city.

  • I’d say what we need more than a connector is a bike path to keep all the dumbasses on bikes off of Old Lynchburg Road.

  • Then, we’ll have both and everybody’s happy.

  • For Forest Lodge, that nearly 80 percent loss in value isn’t quite as unfortunate as it first appears thanks to state tax credits of up to 40 percent of the appraised value for certain land donations. In a best-case scenario for Biscuit Run— using an appraisal of $46.2 million— that could amount to around $15 million in tax credits, which Forest Lodge owners could then sell for about 80 cents on the dollar— bringing in an additional $12 million or so and boosting the total cash out from the deal to around $21 million. It’s better than $9.8 million, but nowhere near the $34.3 million Forest Lodge had borrowed.

    http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2009/12/31/state-buys-biscuit-run-for-park/

  • And from the same source:

    According to a Ginny Slaughter, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Taxation, such credits are considered confidential taxpayer information. Since 2000 in Albemarle County, she says, more than 44,000 acres have been placed under development restrictions to gain tax credits totaling $114 million.

  • Waldo, your quoting that $222 million number is a little misleading, no? Taking into account all of the money the County would spend on this project and none of what it would have made isnt quite fair, I think. 3,100 homes x $5,000 per year in property taxes =$15,000,000 in County revenue, a number that will continue pouring in forever and is virtually guaranteed never to drop significantly. 3,100 homes built at a cost of (plus or minus) $200,000 each = $620,000,000 in concrete or lumber or tile, etc. Sales tax on that? I don’t know, something like $30 mil? Income taxes on the people who’d build them? Even more… Yeah, it’ll cost $$ to run utilities like gas and water/sewer out there, but you don’t think those improvements will pay for themselves in a few years? maybe a decade?
    NOT saying this project should have gone forward, just that its not so black and white from a $ standpoint

  • ****, County income tax? I’ve lived in the city for many years now, but I don’t recall paying county income tax when I lived there. Utilities would also cost $$ for upkeep and operation, not to mention massive and expensive water storage facilities that might be built because of an increased population. A lot of ongoing costs would be eating into ongoing income making any payback longer in coming even if it were possible.

  • ****, it’s a pointless argument since no one was ever going to actually build 3100 homes there any time soon. This is a speculation mindset, the same kind that some folks have concerning their homes. People are convinced that they’ve lost money on their homes when the bubble burst, when really, for many of them, their homes never really had that much value in the first place; it was play money all along. (It doesn’t become real money unless you can actually sell it for that amount.)

    Same thing here, you can’t compare the purchase by the State to what would have happened if 3100 homes had been built and sold, because the market demonstrated that was never realistic. It’s no different than comparing the park to the value of the property based on if it contained pink unicorns instead. Either way, It’s an exercise in fantasy.

  • I don’t think we have to be worried about it being “overdeveloped.” I have visited some other state parks and found them well run and attractive.
    Not every public space like a park has to be pristine wilderness, nor does it have to be covered in asphalt and manicured grass(like is the case in most of the city parks).
    There is a place for state parks, wildlife management areas,places like Ivy Creek, national parks,forests, and wildlife refuges. All serve different needs and have different emphases. For instance some state parks have overnight cabins. Be great for someone in the area who was here for birdwatching or hiking.
    The point is that it is preserved, does not become another suburban wasteland, filled with mcmansions, and bringing more and more cars and more and more people to the area.More congestion, more pollution.
    Think though that the weakest argument in favor of development there is that it would mean more post office jobs. Hello, snail mail is tottering, the last thing it needs is expansion. The day may come when its only reason for existence is delivering stuff people bought shopping online. That is , if private enterprise like UPS hasnt taken all of that over. And maybe there will be a few people who still send traditional Christmas cards(about the only reason I ever buy postage stamps).

  • “3,100 homes built at a cost of (plus or minus) $200,000 each = $620,000,000 in concrete or lumber or tile, etc. Sales tax on that?”

    Hunter Craig is a one of the few pioneers left in the county and the only negative towards him is his fascination with doing deals with Ryan Homes which does not contribute anything to the localities, they bring in all out of town sub-contractors and they do not buy materials locally. The whole power buying concept. Charlottesville needs to stick together instead of resourcing outside.

    [Comment form “Al GROH SUPPORTER” at http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2009/12/31/state-buys-biscuit-run-for-park/%5D.
    How is the figure of “$5,000 per year in property taxes” arrived at?

  • @Hollowboy, can you explain your use of “suburban wasteland?”

  • Dirt Worshipper wrote:

    People are convinced that they’ve lost money on their homes when the bubble burst, when really, for many of them, their homes never really had that much value in the first place; it was play money all along. (It doesn’t become real money unless you can actually sell it for that amount.)

    For those people that have owned their homes from well before the real estate bubble perhaps that statement is true.

    But for people who purchased during the real estate bubble and at the height of the real estate bubble- those people most likely have lost money. Or would have lost a lot more money had the U.S. government not made the poor decision to artificially prop up the real estate market (instead of letting it adjust naturally – as they should have).

  • HollowBoy wrote:

    Think though that the weakest argument in favor of development there is that it would mean more post office jobs.

    You know I’m surprised that anyone took the initial comment seriously. It was intended as a one-off.

    The follow up comments were simply because some people did take it seriously, so I figured – okay sure lets go with it.

    @CvilleEye:

    Suburban Wasteland- Forest Lakes, Dunlora, Belevedere, and pretty much any other neighborhood where the back yard is no bigger than a postage stamp and you can see right into the bedroom window of the neighbor who lives 2 streets over from you, and whose postage stamp back yard also faces yours.

  • @Jimmy John , frin tiy exokabatuib ut seens kuje a nusbiner ti ne, They didn’t waste and land that the owners obviously do not want to use for relaxation, pets and landscaping. They’re indoor people.

  • frin tiy exokabatuib ut seens kuje a nusbiner ti ne

    In english please. I never learned the language of the people of Gibberish.

    They’re indoor people.

    I guessed that much. But as someone who grew up here and can remember what things used to look like. And has a different aesthetic, it seems like a waste to me.

    But hey it’s only an opinion.

  • Sorry, I meant to type

    “Suburban wasteland” seems like a misnomer to me. They didn’t waste any land that the owners obviously do not want to use for relaxation, pets and landscaping. They’re indoor people.

    If you really look around the city, you’ll see quite a few postage-size backyards, side yards and front yards, especially in the oldest sections of town. Those setbacks are often smaller than, say, in Woodbrook, Carrsbrook, and West Leigh.

  • Waldo, your quoting that $222 million number is a little misleading, no? Taking into account all of the money the County would spend on this project and none of what it would have made isnt quite fair, I think.

    I’m quoting the county’s own study, which is taking into account both spending and income.

  • “frin tiy exokabatuib ut seens kuje a nusbiner ti ne”

    Whaaa? Google translate, which now attempts to detect the source language, says:

    “We are not yet able to translate from Sundanese into English.”

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