Thursday, April 16, 2015

Recap of April 14th Council Meeting

Well, another meeting and it is becoming more and more apparent that there is a machination in motion against Mayor Fraser (though I am often a target as well).  I can't be sure what the intention is, but perhaps some of our colleagues shy away from new ideas that collide with their world view. However, I believe that conflicting ideas that challenge you or go against your "group" belief can be difficult, but it can lead to progress.  If we don't continually challenge ourselves and question what we do, why and how we do it, then we won't shed the things that don't work and build a better tomorrow.

Chairman of the Planning Commission, Gil Paist, came before the Town Council and expressed his dismay that Mayor Fraser included in his April Newsletter an agenda for the Comprehensive Plan Review Training for the Planning Commissions taking place April 18th at Town Hall.  Chairman Paist's complaint was centered on the fact that the agenda was posted before it was fully finalized.  I fail to understand how this necessitated the chair of the commission publicly trying to flog the Mayor for something quite minor and was merely an effort by the Mayor to inform the public. From my point of view,  this was an attempt to find fault where there was none for the sake of putting a notch in the unfounded totem of so-called contrived mis-steps.

Any discussion about the Zoning Administrators Determination for Vineyard Square was suppressed by a motion put forward by Council Member Lehr.  Looking back at the previous council's lawsuits and similar determinations and legal actions, those councils seemed to take liberty with regards to commentary about pending legal action.  I believe the public deserves to know some of the details of this appeal and why it is being put forward.

I would have liked a chance to appeal the Zoning Administrators decision as a town council, but I did not see the letter immediately since it was distributed via our town clerk and not the zoning administrator and done so late on a Friday afternoon, which guaranteed it would either not be seen or not seen for a few days, as was the case. We were never advised of of any course or action after the zoning administrators decision was released and there was no mention of it until I spoke publicly at our last town council meeting.  As I have said publicly before, I believe this decision may be against our code and that it is merely a backdoor way for the developer to get the extension that was sought back in June and July of 2014.

We discussed the Purcellville Business Association and their current presence on the town website and literature. As I have previously written before, it seems imperative that as a town we make sure that any and all we do business and align with are who they say they are.
Town of Purcellville Business Guide.
More information than listed on our Town Website. 

The PBA has purported themselves to be a non-profit for years and have only recently begun to pursue that status and have readily admitted they currently do not have status as a non-profit entity.

The PBA provided documentation at our meeting that they were a non-stock corporation; non-stock corporations are formed for non-profit purposes.  However, non-stock corporations are not barred from making profits from their activities, it is just that their profits are not distributed to their members or directors.  

The town currently asks for verification of non-profit status when renting the train station due to different rental fees for various types of organizations.  If the town is going to promote the PBA through town literature and other means, we should at the very least verify across the board.
Fairfax County Website

Currently the Town of Purcellville's website has no business presence or directory of stores or restaurants in town. Equity in treatment is important to me and I support incorporating all of our local businesses into our online presence.  I believe that EDAC (Economic, Development Advisory Committee) is going to try and implement a visitors icon on the website eventually.  This is long overdue and critical, especially when the top engine search for Purcellville is our Town website.

I am not against aligning with the PBA, I just don't agree in the continued exclusivity of the PBA with the Town.  There seems to be a wall of separation between the Town and the Business community and the PBA should be narrowing that gap.  The PBA should be a key partner in assisting EDAC with expanding the Town of Purcellville's web presence for our business community because after all their focus should be on the businesses.  

Mayor Fraser pushed forward reasonable requirements that the Planning Commission have public input sessions during the zoning use changes that are being brought forward at this time.  Several colleagues believe that since all public meetings are open to the public and the public can speak at the beginning of those meetings that a public input session is not warranted.  The changes being put forward are akin to what would occur during a Comprehensive Plan review and as such it is seems prudent to treat the current undertaking in a similar manner.   A true input session allows discourse and input in a meaningful way from the public.  If the public chooses not the engage, so be it, but we must as a governing body ensure that each and every citizen has true access to the processes of its government.

The other subject of the night was......TAXES!   The council has had three budget work sessions and will have another one on Thursday, April 23, 2015.  The council passed a lower property tax rate than what the town manager recommended, however due to increases in assessments and the rate passed, there will be a slight increase in the average property owners tax bill. As council member Lehr put it, it will be less than $5 a month.

Mayor Fraser and myself voted against the meals tax as we are both fearful that in time there will be too much reliance on this tax and it will be hard to revert back to a lower rate that is more competitive and in line with our neighboring communities and one which will put more money into people's pockets and have lower cost to the restaurants that operate here.

The budget is lower than the previous years budget due to less capital improvement spending. However just like your personal finances and the increase in the cost of doing business, the town must also endure those increases.  This budget enables us to maintain our AAA rating that the previous council secured for the town and maintain the high level of services our residents have come to expect.  The next budget meeting will focus on refining our spending for the next fiscal year.   I wasn't sure what to expect from this budget season, but the town staff has been most helpful in their explanations and making necessary cuts so that we can deliver a solid budget to the town.

The Town Wide Clean up was last Saturday.  I enjoyed my assignment picking up trash along Main Street with Mayor Fraser.  We stopped in a few businesses to say hi and enjoyed the honks and waves from folks driving by.  Please consider volunteering to be part of this terrific yearly event that helps keep Purcellville Green and Clean.

Enjoy the beautiful weather!