The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
District 4 candidates discuss issues in Orange
Candidates for the District 4 Board of Supervisors seat in Orange County spoke and answered audience questions at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum at Locust Grove Elementary School this week.
Jon Chasen, a financial adviser, cited his service as two-term president of the chamber, as scholarship chairman for the Orange County Education Foundation and as vice chairman of the county Board of Zoning Appeals.
“I understand business, zoning, budget and education—areas that I think are important for supervisors to understand,” he said.
District 4, which covers the northeastern corner of the county, has changed dramatically since the previous census, becoming more suburban, he said.
“I think it is important to have [a supervisor] who understands that mindset,” he said. “I’ve lived here only 10 years. I didn’t grow up here, and I commute out of the county for my work.”
His major issues, he said, included intelligent growth for the county and improving schools. “I want to make sure that we grow in a way that doesn’t just enrich developers, but enriches the community as a whole,” he said.
County schools, Chasen said, should concentrate on “areas where we can do better, including vocational education, and reopening Locust Grove Middle School.”
Jim Crozier, a 25-year county resident and retired firefighter, noted his lengthy involvement in the community, including youth sports, the school system, the Chamber of Commerce executive board, and as vice chairman of the Economic Development Authority. He also runs a business with his son.
“I believe that Orange County is a very diverse county, especially District 4,” he said. “We have businesses, subdivisions and very rural areas. It takes a lot of work and a lot of understanding to bring a good mix to the community, to maintain taxes at a reasonable level, and provide a good education as well as essential services.”
On the major challenges facing the district, Crozier said officials need to consider the needs of residents, property owners and businesses and “balance our economic development so that we don’t end up with something like Central Park.”
Both candidates agreed on the need to attract jobs to the county, so residents and new graduates can remain in the county for work.
Asked if conservation easements have a negative impact on the county tax base, both men said they like the idea behind easements, but are concerned that they are providing tax breaks for wealthy landowners instead of protecting valuable land.
“One thing that concerns me is that often conservation easements aren’t going to where I envision they should go, to somebody who is farming and wants to pass on the family farm. Often, at least in our western end, very wealthy people live in the county, and they decide they’d sure like a tax benefit,” Chasen said.
“There are particular areas that conservation easements can work,” Crozier said. “If they fell under the original design, for the beautification of the countryside, it would be wonderful. But people have taken advantage of this, and are causing an undue burden on the county and all its citizens.”
On the issue of the mothballed Locust Grove Middle School, both candidates agreed that there was no point in debating decisions made in the past. They had different views about how soon it should reopen.
“I think virtually all of our county citizens would like to see all of our schools being utilized,” Crozier said. “But I’m not positive that it will happen in the immediate future because we may not have the tax base to get that school open this year. I’d like to see that school open, however, we must look at the funding we have, and do the most feasible thing.”
Chasen said, “Unlike my opponent, I will vote 100 percent for opening that school. There is no reason we can’t afford it; it’s simply a matter of a priority. It needs to be open, and it needs to be open as soon as possible.”