I’ve not done this before – asking candidates questions for publication, but the 2023 White Hall Board of Supervisors election is interesting, and substantive conversations are being offered.
I asked incumbent Anne Mallek and challenger Brad Rykal the following questions; I had the post formatted and ready to go, and Brad got back to me with answers, while Ann declined.
I appreciate Brad’s willingness to engage in the dialogue in a public blog post, and hope you find value in his time and his answers.
A few questions and answers with Brad Rykal
Answer: Yes, it is possible if the County is willing to invest in its relationship with Crozet. We need to rebuild trust after the previous Master Planning process strained our connection. To start, we should carefully assess the required infrastructure investment for the Crozet Master Plan’s proposed growth. Crozet needs a realistic plan based on public data and prior commitments. By working together, we can solve any challenge.
It is really this simple: if the County cannot afford to build the infrastructure in Crozet, the County cannot afford the growth in Crozet.
We must reconcile the Crozet Master Plan with reality. We’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with the County over the last 16 years. If I have the privilege of serving as your new Supervisor, I will begin healing the relationship from Day 1.
- How do you justify or rationalize green-lighting more development while current transportation infrastructure plans are sliding behind schedule?
I condemn it because it is a matter of safety. When gridlock paralyzes traffic from Old Trail to Star Hill, it endangers not only our community’s quality of life, but safety. First responders can’t reach their destinations when their routes are blocked. One of the top priorities as White Hall Supervisor is to prioritize Crozet’s transportation infrastructure needs.
- Would you support suspending or reducing land use taxation breaks for non-productive agricultural properties?
The County made a commitment long ago to safeguard the rural area, and it is essential to honor that promise. Imposing higher land use taxes would render many farms in the rural area financially unfeasible. The presence of both large and small farms contributes significantly to the appeal and vitality of White Hall as a community. It is imperative to support and nurture our agricultural economy, and I would never take actions that could put it in jeopardy.
- There’s a huge backlog of critical infrastructure projects—both in Crozet and around the County—and not nearly enough money in the Capital Improvement budget to fund them. How would you change the budget (revenue or spending or both) to provide more funding for infrastructure?
Answer: The County’s tax collection has increased by $100M since 2019, indicating that there is no shortage of tax revenue. Therefore, the issue lies within the expense budget. This election cycle is crucial because the County will update its comprehensive plan, which will shape spending priorities for the next 20 years.
Having worked in or alongside the government for a significant part of my adult life, including positions at Rivanna Station after the United States Army and as an executive for a defense contracting company, I know that government budgets often contain waste and bureaucratic inefficiencies. They are not in plain sight with line items that say “government waste” but hidden in bloated programs that have drifted from their original and useful purpose. Finding these savings and redeploying them to higher priority investments doesn’t take a rocket scientist (trust me, I’m married to one).
As elected leaders, the Board of Supervisors should diligently scrutinize the budget and inquire about its components. I will advocate for critical infrastructure projects to be a priority in Crozet by being a strong fiscal voice in Board meetings.
- Do you support creating a dedicated funding source for school construction in light of continued population growth and the fact that no entirely new school buildings have been constructed in almost 20 years?
Answer: I support any reasonable, transparent, and data-driven budget approaches to ensure we are funding the County’s highest priority capital projects.
- Transportation is the primary source of greenhouse gases in the county. What will you do to reduce residents’ dependency on personal autos, specifically addressing bike/ped (sidewalks & 3 Notched Trail) and public transit?
Answer: While Crozet serves as a bedroom community for Charlottesville, where many residents commute by car to work (I even know of bike enthusiast realtors that get into their car to drive to Charlottesville for work!), we can still improve connectivity within Crozet itself and increase support for public transit.
To achieve this, I will advocate for a detailed capital budget that allocates funding for the catalyst projects outlined in the Crozet Master Plan (as displayed on page 47 of the document). This includes High Priority sidewalks, Phase 1 of the Three Notched Trail, and the Afton Express Stop for public transit. As I said earlier, if the County cannot afford these capital projects, we will need to revisit the Crozet Master Plan and bring its growth and infrastructure goals into alignment.
Additionally, I will implement sensible policies to protect our environment. Currently, the County’s Water Protection Ordinance contains a problematic loophole that incentivizes developers to bury natural streams underground—an illogical approach. Stream preservation and buffers are crucial for clean drinking water, safe corridors for wildlife, and carbon sequestration. Our current Board of Supervisors is well aware of this issue but has failed to address the issue.
We need a leader who fearlessly confronts reality. If we can secure the necessary infrastructure, let’s proceed. If not, we should responsibly adjust the plans.
My question (if limited on time/energy, please focus on the above questions)
- How does Albemarle County (and specifically Crozet) get money to fund infrastructure? What’s the process and is there a typical timeline?
Answer: The first step in acquiring funding for infrastructure projects in Albemarle County, particularly in Crozet, is to elect bold leaders to the Board of Supervisors. These leaders must identify and prioritize critical infrastructure projects that can be funded by our local Capital Improvement budget or are likely to receive state funding within a reasonable timeframe. The next step is to balance the budget without further increasing citizen’s tax burden. During this process, there will be tough tradeoffs, as some infrastructure projects and County operating expenses hold greater significance than others. This is the fundamental challenge facing our elected leaders. No magic wand is required; rather, it is a matter of prioritizing what is right over what is expedient.
Question: What areas around Crozet do you propose to expand the Growth Area into?
Answer: I have not seen any evidence that we need to expand the Growth Area around Crozet or elsewhere in the County. I know there is a prevailing sense that our housing demand is greater than our housing supply. While that may be true in some specific areas, it simply is not the case at the County level.
How do I know? The Land Build Out analysis, which is part of the AC44 comprehensive plan update, says so. According to the report, approximately 12,600 new homes need to be constructed by 2044 to accommodate the County’s total projected population growth. But the County has already approved a housing pipeline that will satisfy the need for 12,000 of these homes.
I am always open to new data and ideas, but at the moment, I do not see the quantitative justification for expanding the growth area.
Brad offered this as well
Jim, thank you for taking the time to compose and share these questions with me. It is clear that these questions not only occupy your mind but also resonate with many readers and residents who deserve candid and transparent answers.
Please also extend my invitation to any of your followers to come and chat with me in person after the Crozet Parade at my designated table under the pavilion. We are planning a light-hearted event and I have arranged some games for children with a few prizes! I will also be at Pro Re Nata Brewery on Sunday, July 2nd, from 1-3 PM for anyone interested who would like to ask me questions or share their ideas for improving Crozet, White Hall, or Albemarle County.
Finally, I invite everyone to get more informed about my positions by following my campaign on Facebook.
One comment from me – politics is hard, and local politics is more personal as the people we elect, the decisions they make, the willingness to listen and learn – all of these are tangible to us, more so in my opinion, than national politics.
I appreciate their willingness to serve and run.