On Friday morning, I came out of a briefing with several members of Fluvanna County staff and members of the school system. The details of these numbers will be made more public at a Board of Supervisors presentation in February, but it will be safe to say that none of the numbers that will emerge will surprise those who have been sounding the alarm for the past five years.
One of the real questions in the statistical forecasting done by Robinson, Farmer & Cox is the condition of the local economy — one which at the moment, is entirely dependent upon the homeowners. This report from Strong Team Realtors may give the slight indication of hope, but it is based largely on the sale of foreclosures and homes whose housing prices have been cut. In other words, when we see a slight uptick in the median price, that’s not because your $450K home increased in value… it’s because the $450K home is being sold for $205K rather than $200K.
While it’s not the prettiest picture in the world, there are several strong advantages for Fluvanna in the near term.
First, though the tax credit for new homes did expire, our location is giving every indication that we’re starting to bottom out for the moment.
Second, the Zion Crossroads location is still doing remarkably well on the Louisa side of the fence. Should we choose to develop this well and not allow internal fiscal pressures to wreck it, this will be a long term and sustainable (I really hate that word because it is so politically charged, but I’ve yet to find one better) approach to developing the Zion Crossroads interchange, as well as a long-term look towards the Ferncliff exit as well.
Lastly, we still need to be fostering a greater appreciation for the sort of entrepreneurship that doesn’t require water pipelines, sewer treatment plants, and other such massive infrastructure investments. Agribusiness is one good start, but creating the conditions for people to become their own producers rather than strict consumers — i.e. work and live locally — is where we need to start aggressively focusing our efforts. That starts with making sure there’s a robust system of workforce education, liberating some of the more strict ordinances that prevent property owners from doing business, and creating a workable system of local microfinance would be “thinking outside of the box” for a change. And it will work.
The question still remains whether the sticker shock of fixing the problems of the past is going to force Fluvanna to recoil at the very prospect of doing something to prevent it from happening again? I don’t have that answer… but I’ll do my best to make sure we have the conversation.