The Scottsville Town Council wants to have a better and more regular working relationship with the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
During a virtual meeting of the two bodies Monday, the councilors made asks of the board and county to work together on issues of representation, infrastructure, economic development and the environment.
County supervisors were receptive to the asks, and even agreed to some right off the bat.
“Some of these requests are pretty much no-brainers,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel. “Sorry to be trite, but absolutely I would be interested in meeting with you all annually. I think that’s a great idea.”
Scottsville, at the southern tip of Albemarle, is the only incorporated town in the county. Approximately 960 acres of the town are in Albemarle, with part of the town lying in Fluvanna County. The town has about 600 residents.
The town of Scottsville is a designated area for development, but unlike Albemarle’s official development areas, it has its own governance, as well as its own Comprehensive Plan, land use map and zoning ordinance. Albemarle residents in Scottsville pay county real estate taxes and receive services such as schools and supplemental police and fire from the county. Most of the town’s revenues come from local levies such as meals and cigarette taxes and business license fees.
In terms of improving representation of area residents, both within Scottsville town limits and southern Albemarle in general, the councilors asked to resume monthly reports from the Scottsville Magisterial District board representative or a county staff liaison and to schedule a joint meeting every October.
“That’s the time we’re both gearing up to talk about capital projects, we’re both looking at budgets, we’re both planning for those long-term investments and projects and potentially looking at our plans,” said Councilor Laura Mellusi.
The town asked that the county coordinate with the council, whenever possible, as if it were a community advisory committee. Community advisory committees are appointed panels for the county’s development areas that meet to provide feedback and input related to implementation of the respective area’s master plan, which is part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
At monthly CAC meetings, community members give feedback related to development proposals in their areas, among other things, and the meetings have grown into venues for other outreach around topics of interest to a broad range of community members, such as election information.
Mellusi said Scottsville has several master plans that impact county infrastructure, such as roads, schools and basic utilities, and that the CAC staff liaisons ensure ongoing community engagement.
“The Town Council is not asking to become a CAC,” Mellusi said. “We are asking to have the dedicated liaison from the Planning Commission, reports from the Board of Supervisors that reflect the same content that a CAC would receive at a monthly meeting, a dedicated liaison from the county staff and to be a formal body that ensures collaborative planning and ongoing community engagement on behalf of the greater Scottsville area.”
Supervisors Chairman Ned Gallaway said CAC chairs reach out to county staff about presentations at their meetings that are relevant to the area.
“I would think that if there are particulars like our economic development office or transportation planners or any of those areas, just like our CACs do, to reach out — they’d be happy to come down and make a presentation to the Town Council,” he said.
Town Administrator Matt Lawless asked that the county incorporate town planning documents — such as the Scottsville Comprehensive Plan, West Downtown Small Area Plan, Van Clief Nature Area Master Plan and the town’s economic market and development studies — into Albemarle websites and include appropriate references to town plans in county plans.
“Our [Comprehensive] Plan is in many ways equivalent to one of Albemarle County’s development area master plans, so the board may wish to afford it a similar status,” Lawless said.
Councilor Stuart Munson, who also sits on the Albemarle Economic Development Authority, said he’s gotten the impression that county economic development staff have thought of Scottsville as “a sleepy little town that doesn’t want to grow anymore.”
“We don’t really want to become Crozet, but we want to grow more than we are now,” he said. “What I would very much appreciate from you all is just keeping us in mind as you think of, or are exposed to, ideas for development, people who are interested in developing in the county.”
Munson pointed to the site of the former Hyosung Tire plant and other properties that the town wants to see developed as potential sites for new projects.
He said that partially because of COVID, the town already is starting to see more interest in people wanting to live in the town, as it’s more affordable than other areas of the county.
The council also wants to work with supervisors and the county to further preserve and protect the James River and to have Scottsville trails and parks — such as the Van Clief Nature Area, a 63-acre park owned by the town — included in the county’s park listings.
The overall tone of Monday’s meeting was positive. Relations with the town councilors were somewhat strained since the Board of Supervisors voted to dissolve the area’s volunteer rescue squad in 2019.
Then-Scottsville Mayor Nancy Gill invited supervisors and county staff to a Scottsville Town Council meeting at that time to let the community know about the short- and long-term plans for the rescue squad. No supervisors attended the meeting, citing the “board’s well-established practice of scheduling joint meetings with other bodies involves active pre-planning and calendar coordination to ensure maximum participation and clarity around the shared objectives and desired outcomes.”
Issues around the dissolution are still playing out in court, and paid county rescue staff are covering the area.
Toward the end of the meeting, Councilor Eddie Payne said there are people in southern Albemarle who don’t think they’re “getting much bang for the buck.”
He said a high-ranking county employee said last year that the rural areas should not expect the same level of service as the more urbanized areas of the county, which is noted multiple times in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan.
“I took great exception to that, because our tax rate is the same,” Payne said. “So, if the service is being provided, let them pay for it, and we’ll pay for what we get. But that’s not the way this government works, it’s not the way Albemarle County works.”
Gallaway said those sentiments were not only good questions, but are ones that are shared by people around the county.
“It’s contingent upon the Board of Supervisors to make sure we’re communicating what the return on the tax investment is, regardless of the level of services …, I think that part of it has to be clear,” he said.