Taxes, Growth and Our Albemarle County Quality of Life

palmer-and-keller

Liz Palmer, Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Tim Keller, Chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission

We all appreciate the amenities, cultural and historical richness of our community and those are the very things that attract others. Growth often increases road congestion, noise and property taxes. How can we avoid these problems?  This question was addressed by officials of Albemarle County at our October 17th meeting where the program was moderated by SSV past president Bob McGrath. The details are in this podcast.

Liz Palmer is the chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and represents the Samuel Miller District. She was elected in 2013. Prior local government service includes eight years on the board of the Albemarle County Service Authority. She has been a practicing veterinarian for 35 years. She currently operates a mobile practice, Charlottesville End of Life Pet Care.

Tim Keller serves as the at-large commissioner and chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission. He is a founding principal of Land and Community Associates and professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. Tim has directed a variety of innovative landscape planning and conservation projects throughout the United States and abroad.

Program Summary

In her opening remarks, Ms. Palmer observed, “Anyone who has lived here for the last decade or longer has witnessed the population growth of our area and has felt the effects. Many enjoy our beautiful countryside and the fact that we can drive just a short distance outside of town and be in the rural areas. This is possible because of the growth management practices of the last 30 + years and hard development lines established in 1980 which Tim will talk more about later.

Others complain that this growth management plan holds back business and thereby hurts people’s ability to make a living. They also believe it is driving up land prices and making the county increasingly unaffordable. Then there are higher taxes which is a negative impact not always directly associated with growth. Our talk will concentrate on what local government can do to balance these competing concerns. What kind of economic development can help with the budget without stoking growth.”

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Keller covered three discussion points:  1. Does growth pay for itself?  That is, do the local taxes paid by the average family in a single family home cover the costs of services provided by local government? (Spoiler alert: No! Growth does not pay for itself).

2. Does local government possess the tools to mitigate the negative impacts of growth on our taxes, environment, and quality of life? (Another spoiler alert: Yes, but ultimately will need state help and tax reform).

3. Can urban infill and redevelopment help us maintain our Albemarle County quality of life in the face of population growth and increased property taxes?

Ms. Palmer turned over the presentation to Mr. Keller to address the third point. His answer: the Albemarle County Growth Management Plan is successful. The rural is still rural. Development is primarily directed to the growth areas. The growth areas warrant focus through continued and refined economic and land use planning and urban design.

One of Mr. Keller’s major takeaways: “This quick trip through planning history brings us to today. Would some folks like to see more development, and less controls? Of course. Would others like to see little or no change? Albemarle County’s growth management approach provides a reasonable middle ground.” The current rural areas policy has proven effective.

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