Underwood Farms
Culpeper County, Virginia
email me
September 2008

The September 2008 Culpeper Board of Supervisors’ meeting had two major components to it:  water and sewer infrastructure and land use decisions.

Water and Sewer

At the September 2008 meeting, I introduced a motion to the Angler PPEA for water and sewer services.  I was concerned that the project was financially risky for the taxpayer, it provided for taps that were too expensive for commercial users, and it was not competitively bid.  Fortunately, a majority of the board shared concerns, and consideration of the PPEA was ended.

The need identified by the PPEA – independent water and sewer service to county customers – is a vital need that the county needs to address.

Currently, most land in the county near the town is served by the town sewer plant.  Years ago, when most non-industrial growth was in town, this arrangement made sense.  Now, when a majority of retail and restaurants are opening in the county outside of town limits, the arrangement has problems.

The first problem is a significant conflict of interest.  Town council represents town residents and businesses, but it also operates the town sewer business.  Many town businesses would prefer less competition.  Additionally, many town businesses feel at a disadvantage to county businesses when it comes to taxes:  county businesses don’t pay BPOL (license) taxes, meals taxes, cigarette taxes, etc.  Further, county businesses pay significantly lower real estate and personal property taxes.  Therefore, some town council representatives are reluctant to provide sewer services to areas outside the town.  Currently, when services are available, the cost is 50% greater to county businesses than it is to town businesses. 

It is vital for economic development that county businesses have access to critical utilities like water and sewer through a service that is not controlled by another political jurisdiction.  In simple terms, we need to take the politics out of the water and sewer business.

The most efficient method to achieve less politics in the sewer business would be a joint, independent Culpeper Service Authority.  The Authority would have its own board and would provide service where needed.  Service districts could be created to allow those with lower rates to be protected as compared to those that would require more infrastructure for new use and thus have to pay higher rates.  Finally, accounting between taxpayers and ratepayers would be separated, reducing risk to taxpayers and having those that use the services actually pay for them.

Land Use

There were two rezonings before the Board of Supervisors at its evening meeting, the first rezonings since I joined the board in January.  Both were to rezone for commercial-type uses, and both passed 7-0.  The most significant rezoning was for a potential 40,000 square feet of commercial space on Route 3 near Richardsville.  I do not believe the proposed uses of the 40,000 square feet will significantly adversely impact owners or taxpayers.  Further, many local residents want retail on the site.  I wish the owners well with their commercial ventures.

I am an ardent supporter and believer in property rights.  An owner ought to have a right to use his property as he(she) sees fit, as long as he does not infringe upon his neighbors’ use of their property.  When disputes exist as to whether a use infringes on another’s use, I back allowing the owner to use the property.

In general, I support business retention, expansion, and development.  I am less supportive of large-scale residential development, but I believe it usually adversely impacts the taxes of existing residents.  I’ll save an explanation of the challenges of residential growth for another time.

I hope the update is useful to residents of the Salem District in terms of understanding how I am viewing issues facing us as your representative on the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors.  I appreciate those of you that contribute your insights and opinions on the issues facing Culpeper County.  If any readers would like to talk local government, my county e-mail is tunderwood@culpepercounty.gov, and my home phone is (540) 547-2742. 


Tom Underwood
Culpeper County Board of Supervisors
Salem District
September 7, 2008

Polled Hereford Cattle