It Ain’t Broke. Don’t “Fix” It.
The Crozet Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate its centennial next month. The Western Albemarle Rescue Squad has been saving our lives since 1978. Day and night, indefatigable, they race to us in our emergencies out of the best of motives, love of neighbor. They are superbly trained and well-equipped. They perform critical services with zeal, wisdom, integrity and efficiency.
Just exactly how have they let us down? Just exactly what indication have they given that they are not competent to manage themselves? Just exactly why does the county government think it knows their business better or that somehow they are improved by being subsumed under county bureaucratic control?
Albemarle’s 10 volunteer fire and rescue companies are fully entitled to feel insulted by the county’s government’s relentless efforts to aggrandize its powers at their expense. County leaders should be on their knees in gratitude to these folks. Does anyone dare to calculate the millions of dollars it will cost us when finally the volunteers are so discouraged that they give up and we are forced to pay salaries for fire and rescue services? (That does seem to be government’s ultimate goal: another reason to demand more in taxes.)
The county should help the volunteer departments with their operating and equipment expenses, just as we appreciative citizens do when we send donations every year in thanks for the occasions when they have to come our aid when we were desperate for them. Beyond that, more government involvement is more likely to result in an expensive mess.
Citizens who can make it to the Board of Supervisors’ August 11 public hearing on an ordinance that would commandeer the volunteers under the authority of the county fire chief—aren’t the volunteer departments already cooperating?—are urged to show up to deliver one emphatic message: Back Off.
After the ratification of the Crozet Master Plan in 2004, Crozet’s experience with the county’s growth management policies and the Supervisors’ rezoning decisions could be summed up as betrayal. We have always taken the view that Crozetians are adults, generally speaking, who are well able to envision the future we want for our town and who have, as Americans, the right to define it for ourselves, rather than have it delivered to us in edicts from people who have nothing at stake themselves.
Crozet, and western Albemarle generally, are well served by the revisions of the Master Plan. We have repaired features in it that threatened our small town cohesion and even the tranquility of our neighborhoods. Conjectural “urban centers” in the plan, scattered through maps of established neighborhoods, have been scrubbed out and this time around we have been more vigilant about the density implications of map colors and fine print.
The new plan does not restore us to our original population capacity, 12,500, but, given the facts on the ground, as they say, we have scaled back the runaway projection of 24,000 to something closer to our original expectations. In 2004, we agreed to grow by 400 percent and now we must accept that it will be 500-600 percent.
So-called “mixed use” areas—a euphemistic term for a situation in which commercial uses are inserted into neighborhoods where they never existed before—around downtown have been beaten back. We need only look at the conflicts over noise that developed in Charlottesville’s Belmont section for an object lesson in what we want to spare ourselves.
Some imaginary roads that might have sliced through neighborhoods no longer have even an imaginary existence. Our capacity to accept light industry has been enlarged.
Crozetians owe thanks to the Crozet Community Advisory Council, who proved to be town patriots, sincere, thoughtful and adamant in doing what they thought best for the town, and to county planning staffers and elected leaders who showed respect for our vision and cooperated in codifying it. White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek and Planning Commissioner Tom Loach have been our faithful advocates and defenders. Crozet, a “Land of Oz,” as our bumper stickers once declared, will build on a sound, community-made foundation.