Albemarle County is waiving rent for one of its commercial tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to, beginning with April, waive rent for Crozet Arts and to waive late fees, penalties and interest for The Field School, Crozet Artisan Depot and Crozet Running until restrictions are lifted by Gov. Ralph Northam.
All of the businesses are tenants of the county, and rent space in either the old Crozet Elementary School, the old Crozet Train Depot or the Crozet Library.
The board previously had voted to defer the rent waivers at its April 1 meeting.
“… I would really prefer that we take individual votes on these businesses because they are really very different, and lumping them all together has created some consternation and some confusion,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.
Only board Chairman Ned Gallaway supported waiving rent for all of the tenants. Supervisor Ann H. Mallek supported waiving rent for the Crozet Artisan Depot in addition to Crozet Arts.
“They have been great tenants for five years and are providing a way for 80 different artists, 60 of whom live in Albemarle County, to sell their pieces of art,” Mallek said of Crozet Arts.
According to a county document, Crozet Arts requested a waiver from March 16 to at least June 10. The organization has applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and is in the process of applying for an Economic Injury Disaster loan, but has not been notified of the status of the application.
The Field School, Crozet Artisan Depot and Crozet Running also had requested waivers.
On a comment page added to the board’s agendas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 28 people wrote in support of the rent waiver for Crozet Arts, and many supported waivers for the other businesses.
Crozet Arts pays about $2,965 a month to the county for rent, while The Field School pays $4,904, Crozet Artisan Depot pays $1,615.14 and Crozet Running pays $2,834.41.
The board also held a public hearing on the upcoming budget that starts July 1.
Due to projected revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic, a new balanced proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 is nearly $60 million smaller than the current-year budget, and about $54 million less than of the plan proposed in February. The February plan was 1.3% smaller than the current year’s budget.
The new proposal freezes hiring, nixes staff raises and does not fund a plan to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
During the hearing, Jay James, assistant director of The Bridge Ministry, a substance abuse and ministry program, asked for $240,000 in funding, which would allow the organization to move 20 people out of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to its facility.
“So we can keep spending $35,000 per individual a year to incarcerate individuals who have a five- to 15-year history of repeating the same addictive behaviors, or we can send them to our program, keep them safe from the COVID-19 virus and change their lives,” he said.
James said participants stay in the program for 18 months and are provided vocational training and treatment, and leave with a guaranteed job making $16 to $20 an hour with an 86% success rate.
“We’re not asking you to find new revenues,” James said. “We would ask you to look at our request from the public safety budget … or, if necessary, from the nonprofit budget.”
Peter Krebs, with the Piedmont Environmental Council, also spoke during the public hearing about the importance of parks. He said that during March, four times as many people used the trail along John W. Warner Parkway as they did in March 2019. The trail is maintained by the city of Charlottesville, but a large portion of it is technically in Albemarle.
“It really just shows how important investment in connectivity and access to open space is,” he said. “It is about quality of life, but it’s about much more. It’s really essential infrastructure, and we hope the commitment to them will remain.”
In the revised fiscal year 2021 budget, much of the capital funding for new park projects is recommended to be delayed.
A second work session is scheduled for Monday and the board is set to adopt a budget on May 14.
More information on the revised budget can be found at albemarle.org/budget.