Residents meet for coffee and conversation with county officials

By Heather Michon

Almost two dozen Lake Monticello area residents gathered in the Maple Room at the Lake Monticello firehouse on Saturday (Oct. 21) for the “Coffee and Conversation With the County,” the second in a series of open meetings for citizens to learn more about the current state of Fluvanna County government.

County Administrator Eric Dahl, Economic Development Director Jennifer Schmack, and Community Planning Director Douglas Miles each gave presentations focusing on the county’s evolving infrastructure, economic development, and commercial planning projects.

They were joined by Supervisors Mozell Booker, Patricia Eager, Chris Fairchild and Tony O’Brien and Planning Commissioners Barry Bibb, Howard Lagomarsino, and Loretta Johnson-Morgan.

Economic development sits at the center of the county’s goals. 

Schmack showed data from the 2020 census indicating that, for each workday, 1,131 Fluvanna residents work within the county and another 1,654 workers come in from surrounding counties.

However, a total of 6,991 Fluvanna residents leave each day to work in other localities, including Charlottesville and Richmond. 

The data, compiled during the pandemic, did not account for remote workers. Even if those figures were updated, Schmack believed it would likely still show that more residents work outside the county than within its borders.

The Economic Development office is focusing on drawing in businesses like financial services, light manufacturing, transportation and logistics firms, agribusiness, and food processing. It is also working to retain and grow businesses currently located in the county, supporting workforce development programs, and building the tourism sector.

Dahl highlighted the role of infrastructure in building the business sector. He pointed to the recently completed Zion Crossroads water and sewer project, plans to expand water availability in the Fork Union area, and the completion of the long-delayed James River Water Project as critical to expanding commercial growth. 

The county is also looking at ways to create more “pad-ready” sites at the new business park in Fork Union and in the Zion Crossroads area.   

As the industrial sector grows in those areas, closer to Lake Monticello, Douglas Miles pointed to three commercial developments currently under review for Lake Monticello Road (Rt. 618). Located at Colonial Circle, River Oaks, and near Crofton Plaza, these developments would focus on small retail shops, medical and financial services and other office space.

Throughout the conversation, there were some updates on current projects:

Wawa is planning on a mid-2024 opening at Zion Crossroads;

Colonial Circle construction has slowed as it waits for infrastructure to be put in place;

The S.B.Cox recycling center is still planned for Memory Lane;

A draft Comprehensive Plan should be ready for review by the end of the year.

Audience questions focused primarily on how these new developments would be integrated into the county’s rural surroundings and how the county is planning to promote tourism.

The meeting lasted around 90 minutes, although staff stayed to answer any remaining questions. They plan to hold a similar meeting in another part of the county in the near future.

“I just wanted to say what a fabulous job the administration, the leadership, and our elected officials have done in the past two years since Covid to move forward with these projects,” said one resident at the end of the meeting. 

He said he appreciated that he could walk into any county office and meet people and ask questions. “That is something that is rare these days.”

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