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Fluvanna Review, At a Crossroads

Fluvanna Review, At a Crossroads

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Published by Betsy Gunnels

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Published by: Betsy Gunnels on Feb 05, 2011
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At a Crossroads
Written by Tammy Purcell, CorrespondentWednesday, 02 February 2011 13:15 - Last Updated Wednesday, 02 February 2011 13:18
To motorists on I-64, Zion Crossroads is a convenient stop, offering quick access to gas, fastfood and overnight lodging. For local residents, the community is an emerging commercialdestination. There’s shopping at big box stores like Walmart and Lowe’s, jobs at businesses asdiverse as banks, warehouses and a sawmill, a sprawling subdivision and top-notch golf.Just 15 miles east of Charlottesville and straddling the Louisa-Fluvanna County line, ZionCrossroads has long been a target for development. It’s growth explosion over the pastdecade-particularly around the I-64 interchange on the Louisa side-has made it an economicfocal point and, in some instances, a battleground. As county leaders in both Fluvanna and Louisa have wrestled with how to best developZion-considering such broad issues as infrastructure, preservation and aesthetics-tensions havesurfaced both between and within the counties. The water negotiations of 2010, during which Louisa and Fluvanna failed to ink a deal aimed atbringing water to the area via a James River pipeline-a key in Fluvanna County’s plan to sparkeconomic development and Louisa County’s efforts to continue its commercial growth-is onlyone manifestation of the swirling debate over what Zion will become in the next decade and howit will get there. 
By the numbers
 Louisa County, which claims both the bustling I-64 interchange and the intersection of Rts. 250and 15-the crossroads from which the community derives its name-has transformed Zion into aneconomic engine, dotted with retailers, fast-food restaurants, business parks, a hotel and aresidential community, much of which cropped up just in the last five years. 
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At a Crossroads
Written by Tammy Purcell, CorrespondentWednesday, 02 February 2011 13:15 - Last Updated Wednesday, 02 February 2011 13:18
In 1999, developers broke ground on the 990-acre Spring Creek subdivision along Route 15.The potential for thousands of new residents at Zion primed the pump for other sorts of growth,helping the county attract the jewels in its retail crown-Lowe’s and a Walmart Supercenter. Butany sizable development at Zion demanded infrastructure, namely a water and sewer system. Over the last decade, Louisa County invested approximately $6.5 million in such a system,drawing water from over a dozen wells, drilled in excess of 600 feet, and, in 2003, opening theZion Crossroads Waste Water Treatment Plant. According to local officials, it’s money wellspent. “Look at what Zion brings back to the county in real estate taxes and now sales taxes. It’s avery sound investment,” Louisa’s Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes said.“Zion has always been a desired location from a geographic standpoint. For us, infrastructurewas the key. Zion would remain a ghost town if not for the water and sewer infrastructure weput in.” Louisa County boasts a significant return on its investment. Since 2008, the county pulled inover $12 million in revenue, including property taxes and sales taxes, from the Zion CrossroadsDesignated Growth Area, which stretches south of Camp Creek to the Fluvanna County lineand east along Rt. 250. In 2005, prior to much of Zion’s commercial growth, Louisa’s revenuefor the area totaled approximately $1.28 million compared to $4.5 million in 2010. In Oct. of2010, the county collected almost $50,000 in sales tax from Walmart alone. Lowe’s chipped innearly $20,000. (Virginia localities receive one percent of sale tax revenue). According to Louisa’s Economic Development Director Andy Wade, the retail behemothstogether project about $100 million in sales in the coming year. Walmart, which also operates alarge distribution center at Zion, has emerged as one of the county’s leading employers and toptaxpayers. “Folks in Louisa and Fluvanna didn’t have any where to shop. Paychecks cashed here justwent to further economic growth in Charlottesville and Richmond,” said Supervisor RichardHavasy, whose Green Springs District includes Zion. “Now people don’t have to leave to spendtheir money. It stays in the community.” 
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At a Crossroads
Written by Tammy Purcell, CorrespondentWednesday, 02 February 2011 13:15 - Last Updated Wednesday, 02 February 2011 13:18
Over the last two years, a variety of establishments have opened in the area’s shopping centersand business parks including Walmart, IHOP, UVA Credit Union, a dentist office, medicalpractice and animal hospital, among others. The businesses provide shopping, dining andmuch-needed services, local officials said. For its part, Fluvanna County has been reluctant to fund infrastructure at Zion, leading to muchslower growth. Its side of the crossroads is primarily home to semi-industrial businesses and afew retailers. Better Living Building Supplies, Cabinets by Design, Van der linde Recycling andBlue Ridge Mountain Sports corporate headquarters and warehouse all opened aroundFluvanna’s slice of the Rt. 250 corridor over the last several years. 
Big box stores
 Still, such development can’t compete with big box store revenues. From Nov. 1, 2009 to Oct.31, 2010, Walmart and Lowe’s contributed $776,651.17 in sales tax to Louisa County. Forfiscal year 2010, Fluvanna collected just over $1 million in sales tax from the county as a whole.According to Virginia Department of Taxation figures, made available via UVA’s Weldon CooperCenter for Public Policy, Fluvanna collected nearly $97,500 in sales tax revenue in September2010 while Louisa garnered over $245,000. Walmart and Lowe’s contributed almost $68,000per Louisa County’s figures. Specific revenue data for the Zion growth area was notimmediately available from Fluvanna County, which currently lacks an economic developmentdirector. “I can only speculate [about Fluvanna’s approach to Zion]. Some people may feel that[investing in infrastructure] will increase sprawl. Some people don’t want growth,” Barnes saidof the divergent development patterns along the county line. “When you make these kinds ofinvestments, you have to believe what you are doing will benefit the population. We’ve seen theresults in Louisa.” Some Fluvanna officials have seen those results too and believe it’s time the county joins thecrossroads’ business boom. Investing in infrastructure at Zion, they claim, is crucial to pullingthe county out of its near crippling fiscal constraints—Fluvanna faces mounting debt, much of itassociated with the construction of its new high school, about a million dollars in annualoperating expenses once the school opens, a significant overhaul of its emergencycommunication system and other issues that could further cloud its financial picture. “[Zion is] definitely our primary target for economic development…it’s a not a panacea. It’s not
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