Common Sense Advice Is Good
In a recent Board of Supervisors discussion over whether community advisory councils should be established in the Rivanna and 29 North growth areas, Rivanna District Supervisor Ken Boyd declared that the advisory councils–the one in Crozet and the more-recently created one for the Pantops growth area—were becoming another layer of “bureaucracy” interfering with developers and that citizens on the councils didn’t have the proper training in planning to make informed recommendations. The insinuation is that the councils, in discussing public choices and offering their consensus advice on alternatives, are getting too assertive. This may have something to do with the proposal to create 184-acre industrial park in Yancey Mills, a concept the Crozet council has steadfastly opposed as demolishing the Crozet Master Plan and even the original premise for growth areas, but nonetheless an idea Mr. Boyd has doggedly championed.
Let’s not forget that the 15-member councils are all appointed by the supervisors with an eye toward to engaging a cross-section of backgrounds and opinions and must leave after at most four years of service. While most citizens join with a layman’s exposure to growth issues, most pick up planner terminology quickly and can soon recognize the truly salient features in development issues. And since when has a “proper” background been required before some one can run for Supervisor?
Further, councils have no legislative or executive authority. They are citizen volunteers who love their communities, who are sincerely concerned for their neighbors’ general welfare, who study issues in depth, and who in the end unite to offer what are typically common sense directions. They are useful sounding boards for public officials. Recently, Crozet’s council has shown that citizens can run public meetings without being chaperoned by county staffers and that the trust democracy places in citizen virtue is justified. In the five years since it formed, Crozet council members have attend more than 50 evening meetings as well as countless Planning Commission and Supervisors meetings where they have stood up to articulate the views of the community. White Hall district’s representatives never miss CCAC meetings, but that may be because they are actually trying to represent community wishes, rather than pursue a private agenda that defies public goals.
In the end, the supervisors created the new councils in fairness to the citizens living in those growth areas. In the future, expect the councils to coordinate more as they perceive common issues. Thus, we can expect Albemarle’s growth policies and implementation decisions to get more consistent and in line with citizen aspirations for the future of the place they love most.
Some Crozet council members will rotate off this spring. Consider applying and carrying on the grassroots effort to keep Crozet the place where we want to live.