By Sean Tubbs

Dexter Auction

Monday, October 26, 2009

Population growth, transportation improvements and protecting the watershed were the three topics discussed at the final candidate forum for the six men vying for the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

. The forum, held on October 22, 2009, was sponsored by

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population


Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation

(ACCT), the

Piedmont Environmental Council

and the Rivanna Conservation Society.

Podcast produced by Dexter Auction * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:

Download 20091022-Final-County-Forum

Watch the video:

Albemarle County Candidates Forum


Dexter Auction




The forum was moderated by Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the

Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership

at the University of Virginia.

The sponsors asked three long questions in advance of the forum, each of which was backed up with facts and footnotes.

Download the full list of questions here

Question 1:

In light of ASAP’s survey on the area’s ecosystem services capacity, what policy implications do you envision for the pending revision of the Comprehensive Plan? What additional facts would be necessary to help you form your opinion about the desirability of capping County growth at an optimal sustainable population size?

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio):

“I think the research for this study was flawed because it didn’t take into consideration technological advances and the increase in growth and density proposed by the master plan… After the last drought, many residents stepped up and worked to reduce the amount of water they used…. We can continue to be good stewards of the land and not handcuff future generations… I don’t believe in population control.”

David Slutzky (D-Rio):

“The comprehensive plan is a beautiful statement of intent, but intent is empty, if you will, without process to support it, and we are limited in our process elements to our comprehensive plan… We need to strengthen policy choices that would lead to rural area protection….”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett):

“Some of the additional information we need is really what I would call geographic specific information about the areas that we need to focus on to better protect areas where natural resources are housed. One of the things we do know is that forest protection is incredibly important.”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller):

“The facts presented should give us all pause regarding the future size of our population. The study gives us time to address the possibility of rampant growth… If we can keep the growth in the urban ring… we’ll be able to mitigate the potentially harmful effects on our water, forests and fields.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller):

“The study is valuable from the standpoint of helping to illustrate the needfor us to continue to set clear-cut policies in terms of zoning… I asked the question if the study took into account conservation easements… [the Consultant] said no… Right now some of the things we can continue to do is fund the [Acquisition of Conservation Easements] program…”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller):

“I did see some things in the study that didn’t seem quite right. I am in North Garden, only 6.5% developed, and the study said the population could go from 6,800 to 60,000, and I don’t see that happening… It’s good to have the discussion in a conceptual and abstract sense because it’s better to plan for your future than not plan for your future…”

Question 2:

Do you support the approach taken in the Places29 Master Plan to address traffic congestion through parallel roads, bus rapid transit, grade-separated interchanges and better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians? If so, how will you secure funding? If not, what is your plan for addressing the transportation problems of the County?

David Slutzky (D-Rio):

“If we’re going to have traffic, meaning people moving from place to place, I think we need to disperse and diffuse that energy across modalities… We’ve got to get people out of cars and into alternative modes of transportation… To the extent that people are in automobiles, we need to create a network of parallel roads… How we pay for them is a whole other matter….”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio):

“I know of no place in the United States where a community our size has significantly increased alternative transportation by throwing massive amounts of taxpayer dollars at it, so I am inclined to think that throwing money at a fleet of empty buses is not the answer…. We need some of the parallel roads that are on the drawing board put in place, but at this time there does not appear to be any money for them…”

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett):

“We sought a bill at the legislature last year that would have allowed us to have a public referendum on whether or not we could add up to a penny on the sales tax for dedicated transportation funding for this area. The legislature did not allow that to get out of committee. Had we done that… we would have had adequate transportation funds to do most of the things that we know need to be done.”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller):

“If we have the seed money that we can raise on our own, that will allow us to do debt issues of long term capital to finance our improvements in the transportation system. After all, they’re long-term investments and they’ll pay us back… We really need to have the Sunset Avenue/Fontaine Avenue connector….”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller):

“We must find ways to get out of our cars…If the General Assembly were to at least allow the localities to choose what improvements their citizens would desire and how to fund them by means of local referenda, I believe we would do the responsible thing.”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller):

“I think that we need the parallel roads… I’m not interested in seeing in seeing a through-way with U.S. 29 with grade-separated interchanges and increasing the speed limit to 60 miles an hour….”

Question 3:

The County’s comprehensive plan calls for a number of policies to protect the Rivanna watershed, but a number have not been implemented. Can you comment on the County’s willingness to approve developments that are consistent with the plan, but its unwillingness to support policies such as the Mountain Overlay District? Do you agree with the County passing ordinances to make sure clean water flows towards the Chesapeake Bay?

Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett):

“The County amended the zoning ordinance to include driveway standards… The County amended the water protection ordinance to require stream buffers and all intermittent and perennial streams… The County amended its process for development in the rural areas to require that building permits include critical resource reviews….”

John Lowry (I-Samuel Miller):

“I do feel like Albemarle County is very effectively managed… I do support ordinances to protect the watershed… I think we need to have firm policies that we will not expand our growth area….”

Madison Cummings (D-Samuel Miller):

“There should be equal respect given to protecting the natural environment as there is to development… I feel like we’ve made a promise to our fellow citizens in this community and the other states that feed into the Bay… We all need to do a better job… I feel like we must protect our forests because they clean the air, they hold the soil from erosion, and they enhance the quality of the water….”

Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller):

“Working on the Architectural
Review Board, we started taking a really close look at how these
projects were developing and making sure they got the controls in
place… In large-scale development we need to make sure we have the
runoff that we’ve had in the past… I’ve spent my life trying to educate
people on how to take care of their land and how to improve water
quality… I look at myself as one of the original environmentalists in
the area….”

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio):

“I think the solutions arrived at by the Board of Supervisors over the past several years were a reasonable balancing of the rights of property owners and improved steps to preserve our ecosystems…100 foot buffers on streams, required timely vegetation on development sites, driveway requirements in rural standards… We must be careful not to make farming impossible by making rules that limit our farming heritage….”

David Slutzky (D-Rio):

“The comp plan gives us guidance… but it’s the Board’s job to carry out that will… How do we get further? I tell you when we sit there at a Board hearing and the folks who are there to defend their property rights are out in numbers, and the folks that want to have ecological systems protected for the benefit of future generations are at home talking about it among themselves, the political will isn’t there for our Board to be more proactive and assertive….”


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