Business leaders argue need for more growth
By David Dadurka  / Daily Progress staff writer
June 4, 2004

Will population growth in Albemarle County ever stop?

Three local businessmen hope not.

“There are a lot of problems with growth, but they are better than those” in communities without growth, said Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hulbert and two local developers discussed their views on population growth and the local economy at a meeting Thursday.

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, which believes that endless growth is not sustainable, sponsored the meeting. ASAP president Jack Marshall said it was an opportunity for members to hear views on growth opposing the group’s core beliefs.

“I don’t desire to see Albemarle paved over,” said Charles Rotgin, chief executive of Great Eastern Management Co.

Rotgin’s company is seeking approval from Albemarle County to build the North Pointe community, a 269-acre development located just north of Proffit Road along U.S. 29.

Calling himself an “unabashed capitalist,” Rotgin said he believes that county government should work with businesses to maintain quality of life in the area. The developer said that the private sector has to impress on county officials how costly the process is to attain approval of building projects.

He added that he believes 30 percent of a locality’s tax base should come from business taxes, but said in Albemarle only 13 percent of the tax base comes from the business community.

“The county should be more conducive to business,” he said. “We’ve lost 5,000 jobs over the past several years and though most of those were replaced, the replacement jobs have been lower paying.”

Blake Hurt, who developed Republic Plaza in the city, said he believes population growth will not stop.

Hurt projected that, based on the state’s population trends, the University of Virginia’s student population will grow to 29,000 in 2025 while the county will reach a total of 155,000 residents.

By 2085, he projected, the county’s population will be approximately 217,000 - about the same population as Boulder, Colo., in the early 1980s.

“That didn’t sound that bad to me,” Hurt said. “In the 1970s, you could get a parking space at the Downtown Mall, but you didn’t want to go there.”

Hulbert said growth is inevitable in a vibrant community.

“I reject the premise, the notion that we as individuals, that we could preordain a vision” 50 to 80 years into the future, he said.

“If you asked 50 years ago ‘What are we going to do with our schools?’” Hulbert said, the answers would be much different from what exists today.

Contact David Dadurka at (434) 978-7299 or ddadurka@dailyprogress.com