This is not John Lowry’s first Albemarle Board of Supervisors rodeo. He ran for the Samuel Miller District seat in 2009, and lost to one-term Republican Duane Snow.
Lowry, 69, is doing a few things differently this time around. For one, he’s seeking the GOP nomination at the party’s mass meeting in May rather than go it alone as an independent. And he’s decided to eschew the bow tie that was his signature look in 2009.
“I decided to run again because increasingly in the past couple of years, I’ve been unhappy with the direction of the Board of Supervisors,” he says.
Specifically, he’s talking about the comprehensive plan amendment rebuff that deterred Deschutes Brewery from locating here in 2015 and sent it packing to Roanoke.
“I couldn’t believe how the door was closed on the prospect of having a craft brewery close to two highways on the edge of the growth area,” he says.
With a new county executive and economic director being hired, says Lowry, “We need a new economic development strategy and we don’t have one.” The retired businessman from Wheat, First/Wachovia/Wells Fargo, who chaired the county’s Economic Development Authority for 12 years, and the Board of Equalization, which hears tax assessment appeals, for five years, says he’s the person who can provide that strategy.
To do so, Lowry is calling out a few of the county’s sacred cows. He says the growth area needs to be expanded and he challenges the long-held tenet that growth doesn’t pay for itself.
To maintain the county’s rural character, the comprehensive plan put 25,000 acres into the growth area. That area has shrunk to fewer than 24,000 acres after Biscuit Run was repurposed from a mega-development south of town to a future state park. “I would certainly be open to the suggestion of expanding it,” he says.
No-growth advocates maintain growth doesn’t pay for itself because new residents require expensive services, such as schools.
“It’s just flatly not so,” declares Lowry. Instead, the county should look at the cost of infrastructure as an investment that will eventually pay off.
Incumbent Liz Palmer says she’s not ready to announce whether she’ll seek another term. Lowry, she says, “has been active in the Republican party so I’m sure he’ll run a good campaign.”
In 2009, Lowry ran against two other candidates who had never run before for the open seat that had been held by Sally Thomas for four terms.
“A lot feels different,” he says. “The incumbent has a track record and I have a track record.”
Key word: ‘balance’
- Expand growth area
- More light-industry zoning
- Encourage new businesses
- Hold real estate tax rate
- Create rainy day fund