Survey: Residents say county good place to retire, live but not work

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors got its first look at the results of the 2020 County Residents Survey during their regular meeting on Wednesday night (March 3).

Deputy County Administrator Kelly Belanger Harris gave a detailed presentation on the survey, which ran from Oct. 23 to Dec. 18, 2020. They received 524 responses, about 200 more than received the last time the county ran the survey in 2017.

Overall, respondents said Fluvanna was a good place to retire (70 percent), live (88 percent), and raise kids (66 percent). Only 29 percent said it was a good place to work, and only 19 percent said it was a good place to run a business. These numbers are very similar to the 2017 results.

Core county services like the library and parks and rec were rated as “excellent” to “good,” but ratings were much lower for areas like social services (33.8 percent), education (46.2 percent), and planning and zoning (30.9 percent.)

Government performance was generally rated as excellent/good, but one thing that stood out was a 36.07 percent rating for “being transparent in decision-making.”

“I feel like we’re being pretty darn transparent, so then it becomes, how do we promote how things get done?” Harris said.

When asked where the county was headed, almost 42 percent said it was “at a standstill,” and only 35.5 percent felt the county was going in the right direction.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said some of that feeling may be due to the sense of stagnation coming from the pandemic. “I’ll be interested to see what the results are two years from now comparing some of the same things.”

Harris said full results of the survey, including comments and suggestions, will be put on the county website in the coming days.

“The average respondent is an over-65-year-old white female, who has lived in the county for over 20 years and lives in the Palmyra District,” she said.

Of the responses, 33 percent were from Palmyra District, 18.2 percent were from Rivanna District (which includes Lake Monticello), 11.7 percent came from the Fork Union District, 17.1 percent came from Cunningham District, and 11.4 percent came from Columbia District. Close to 42 percent were aged 65+ and 58 percent were women.

Unlike 2017, respondents were asked to identify by race. “I thought it was important,” said Harris. “Some folks on the survey disagreed.”

Of those who chose to identify themselves, 85.4 percent said they were White and 5.6 percent said they were African-American.

When given the space to more specifically self-identify, over 150 respondents left comments ranging from common genealogical definitions  like “Irish-American” and “German/English/French,” to comments like  “Who knows, it’s been 200 years?” and “UNACCEPTABLE QUESTION.”

Harris said she disagreed the question was inappropriate. “If 80 percent of respondents in the county said everything was hunky-dory and it’s all great, and 20 percent of the population says ‘everything stinks, do better,’ I need to know who that 20 percent is,” and if race is a factor in that perception.


In the night’s only voting matter, supervisors voted 5-0 to transfer $60,794 from the unassigned fund balance to the FY21 facilities budget to cover expenses for an abandoned plan to turn the basement of the county administration building into a meeting room for county boards and commissions.

Because there are few spaces in the county for the public to attend meetings under social-distancing guidelines, the Board originally intended to use federal CARES Act funds for the project. The idea was scuttled when it became clear that there was no way to get it done before the Dec. 30 federal deadline for using the funds.

The money transfer will be used to cover preliminary work done on the basement before it was canceled, including the cost of environmental testing and remediation. The county has not yet come up with a plan for further developing the space.

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