Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Not in my backyard

 


We give little thought to emergency services until we need to call 911. Minutes, if not seconds, matter to save lives and protect property.

On January 30, residents of Kinloch Villas, a 33-lot residential enclave on the west side of Hockett Road, north of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, attended a community meeting about the new West Creek Fire-Rescue station. The site is opposite homes on the east side of Hockett Road.

Proposed West Creek fire-rescue station


Goochland County Administrator Vic Carpenter and D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr. Goochland Chief of Fire-Rescue and Emergency Services, gave an overview of why the station—the first built out of the footprint of existing stations—is needed and, of greater importance to the attendees, why so close to their homes.

On November 4, 2019, a community meeting addressed the same topic. The possible location discussed then, was a parcel just south the one in question. It is unknown which adjoining property owners, if any, were notified of the 2019 meeting. At that time, Boone Homes was the owner of most the land on the west side of Hockett Road.

Many of the homes closest to the proposed fire-rescue station site were built since 2020. It appears that some people who recently bought homes in the Villas were unaware of the planned fire-rescue station.

Villas residents are concerned about the impact of a nearby fire-rescue station, especially the noise of sirens and apparatus, on their homes and property values.

(At the 2019 meeting a women said that she had lived opposite a fire-rescue station whose nighttime sirens never woke her children. She also said that she loved having them close because when one of her kids became ill, they were on the way to the hospital in five minutes.)

Both Carpenter and Ferguson explained that growth in eastern Goochland, especially residential, has drastically increased fire-rescue call volume in recent years. Using maps outlining response areas, they illustrated the need for an additional station in the county’s east end to meet rising demand for service as this part of the county, much still raw land, develops. Subdivisions in close proximity to the Tuckahoe Creek Parkway/Hockett Road intersection, including Mosaic, approximately 500 homes; Readers Branch, about 450; Tuckahoe Creek, 50; Songbird, 65; will be served by Goochland Fire-Rescue. Expected development at the south end of Hockett Road, whose form is yet unknown, will also add to call volume.

Ferguson explained that incidents on either 288 or Interstate 64 can tie up all available resources, fire trucks, ambulances, and most importantly people, of existing nearby fire-rescue companies, shifting the entire area’s response burden to a single  company. The West Creek station will complement coverage.

Contending that Henrico covers more area with fewer stations, some Villas residents questioned the need for another station at all and on Hockett Road in particular.

Existing county fire-rescue stations were built decades ago. While most are being renovated to accommodate career providers who work 24/7, there are limits to the utility of these upgrades.

One speaker said that Henrico locates its fire stations only in commercial areas. For the record, Henrico Station 19, on Kain Road west of Pouncey Tract Road, is surrounded by large homes whose prices start in the upper six figures. Apparatus at this station includes an ambulance, engine, and ladder truck, more than planned for the West Creek station.

This Henrico fire station is surrounded by high dollar homes.

In 2012, the owners of West Creek agreed to donate a five-acre site to the county for a fire-rescue station, the timing and location to be determined. Ferguson said that several sites were considered—except for the one discussed in 2019 adjoining the site in question—he declined to identify others—but that the Hockett Road location was deemed to be the best fit for long term county needs.

The parcel is currently zoned M-1 but must be rezoned to B-1, business general for use as a fire-rescue station. The community meeting is the first step in the county’s rezoning process.

Ferguson explained that most calls for service originate outside of West Creek. Increased distance and turning involved with exiting the now defunct West Creek emergency Center, for instance, would increase response times.  He also gave a brief overview of the importance of fast emergency response for both medical emergencies and fires. New homes, he said, are built with highly flammable materials that emit toxic fumes when they burn. Minutes matter in medical emergencies.

The proposed facility will include limited office space for sheriff’s deputies but no holding cells.

Residents’ questions whether the station could be built further back from Hockett Road were not addressed. Other locations were suggested, including part of a Capital One athletic field whose use declined during Covid.

Carpenter said that the donated land shaved millions of dollars from the cost of the new station—estimated in the $9 million range—and that the county will not condemn privately owned land, like that of Capital One, for public facilities. West Creek and Capital One are different entities.

The building has not yet been designed, but Carpenter said that it will be an attractive well-maintained facility. Drive through apparatus bays will reduce, if not eliminate, annoying back up alarms helping to mitigate some noise.

Traffic safety was addressed. There is general agreement that the 55mph speed limit on Hockett Road is too high.  That is controlled by VDOT, said Carpenter. The county can ask for a reduction, but there is no guarantee it will be lowered.

Signalization of the Hockett Road/Tuckahoe Creek Parkway interchange depends on VDOT warrant policy, which may include chicken bones and a full moon and over which Goochland also has no control.

Ferguson and Carpenter said that VDOT must approve all road improvements including line of sight, turn lanes, and a possible signal indicating activity at the station similar to that on Broad Street Road in front of Company 3.

The “slides” used at the meeting may be viewed at https://www.goochlandva.us/DocumentCenter/View/9207/Proposed-West-Creek-Fire-Station-Presentation-January-2023

Public hearings on the rezoning application will be held before the planning commission, perhaps as soon as March 2, and the board of supervisors, typically a month later. The supervisors make the final decision. Dates of the hearings will be posted on the county website goochlandva.us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Making lemonade

 

Brianna Schwartz turned sore feet into a successful business. Her company Yenta+Posha, (yentaposha.com) named for her late dogs, sells insoles that transform cute, but painful shoes into comfy and supportive footwear. Schwartz currently runs the business from her home near Sandy Hook, where she has lived for 17 years, but hopes to move into a commercial space soon.


Brianna Schwartz wearing new lounge socks

Working as an event planner, Schwartz spent long days on her feet. The job required “professional attire,” which meant no sneakers and sore feet. Other women she met along the way had similar complaints. Fashionable women’s shoes are designed for looks, not comfort. Insoles allegedly designed to mitigate deficiencies in dress shoes rarely did the job or wore out quickly, explained Schwartz.

She decided that there had to be a better way and set out to create insoles to make any shoe comfortable and supportive of foot health. Her performance and embrace insoles recently earned the seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association. These are the thinnest women’s insoles on the market that provide excellent shock absorption and alignment. These patented designs made of breathable materials fit into “fashion forward” shoe designs unable to accommodate thicker insoles.

The first step was to learn about feet, shoes, and the best way to make the two work properly together for comfort and foot health.

“I asked lots of questions and did lots of research,” she recalled. This included working with doctors and orthotists to find ways to support feet so that they move they way they are supposed to.  Effective insoles are more than extra cushioning, Schwartz explained. Proper  alignment of feet so they work the way nature intended is also crucial to comfort. “I learned so much that some people wondered if I was a doctor.”

When her research led to a prototype insole, she hoped to manufacture them in the United States. Alas, Schwartz  soon learned that the machinery needed to make her insoles were not available here. She investigated manufacturing opportunities in Mexico, but ultimately found the right fit in China. Some are now assembled in central Virginia, and she hopes to expand domestic manufacturing soon. In 2017 Schwartz secured patents for her Embrace and Performance Series insoles.

The insoles, made of breathable bamboo charcoal leather, do not break down over time, said Schwartz.

Initially, Yenta+Posha sold shoes, with the insoles as a sideline. The insoles soon outsold the shoes and became the focus of the company. A new product, no show cushion lounge socks thin enough to fit into any shoe has been added.

The website includes a short quiz to help customers figure out what kind of insole would work best for them and had lots of interesting information about foot health.

Schwartz is working on a line of insoles for men, with the goal of becoming a foot care company. 

Yenta+Posha gives back to animal welfare groups and soles4souls.org, which distributes unwanted clothing and shoes to those in need.  

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Back to the drawing board

 

Results of studies undertaken by consultant Hill Studio of Roanoke intended to update the Goochland County Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Centerville and Courthouse Village underwhelmed and confused citizens. The county paid Hill Studio $184,000 for their work.

At a joint board of supervisors planning commission workshop on January 11, staff indicated that they are going back to the drawing board to find the sweet spot in permitted development density. This could be a positive indication that the small area plans will be—at least somewhat—in line with community expectations.

The “branding” piece of the consultants’ work has been discarded. This is a good thing. The proposed logos and slogans for both Centerville and Courthouse were contrived at best and a little silly. Centerville does have an identity issue. Too many people refer to Centerville as Manakin because the Broad Street Road corridor has a Manakin Sabot zip code. This cannot be remedied by the comp plan.

 

Following comments that changes to the village plans presented by the consultants were generic, staff will focus on making updates to the Comp Plan Goochland centric. Adoption deadlines for the proposed updates have been pushed back to late spring after more tweaking and community meetings to “get it right”.

Courthouse and Centerville are two very different animals land use wise, though both face growth pressures.  It may be too early for increasing interest rates to have significant impact on the local housing market, which could ease the pace of local residential growth.

Centerville Village



Courthouse Village


Courthouse Village has a “there there” with elements of a true village: government offices; churches; a library; recreational outlets including parks and the YMCA; restaurants; shopping; and some services.

Centerville directly in the path of steamroller development from Short Pump is another story. Indeed, the part of the Centerville Village—its  boundary is the Henrico county line—east of Rt. 288 is attitudinally Short Pump.

Unlike Courthouse Village, Centerville is more of a blank canvas, its open land privately owned. To make the Centerville small area plan work  well, there must be “buy in” from land owners. So far in the process, input from these entities has been opaque. We don’t need to know that landowner x wants to build Y on parcel Q, but it would be helpful to get a generic overview of what might be built. Other than interest expressed by a landowner just west of 288 to locate a car dealership there, and perhaps more low slung medical offices like the new urology center, this has not happened.

Maybe that’s because landowners want to carpet the Broad Street Road corridor with various forms of high-density housing like the ghastly mess behind Aldi,  over the Henrico line.

The big issue in both villages is residential density, how many “dwelling units” per acre should be allowed. Before Courthouse Village had public utilities—water and sewer—its density was no more than one unit per acre, and that might have been stretching it given local soil hydraulics. Availability of utilities changes everything. It may be time to lower the minimum lot size but restrict the kind dwelling units permitted. Small lots with modest homes could increase the density and keep the village feel.

In Centerville, high land costs probably make this unlikely.

Developers develop to make a profit. That’s okay. The trick is to craft a comp plan vision where development is both profitable and enhances the community.

A big concern about growth is adding traffic to already overburdened roads. The county’s major thoroughfare plan has lots of lines indicating future roads to ease congestion. Trouble is, these roads never seem to get built when land around them is developed. Case in point is “Road A” south of Broad Street Road near Sammary Forest. When an expansion of Readers Branch needed another access point, traffic was dumped on to Whippoorwill Road, a neighborhood street, instead of building Road A.

Stay tuned for the next iteration of these plans. In the meantime, go tohttps://www.goochlandva.us/1201/Goochland-County-Village-Plans-2022.

 

 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Notes on our school division

 

Bulldogs rule

Goochland County Public Schools (GCPS) have come a long way in a short time. Once a school division with a lackluster reputation, we have been rated as the best in the region by Niche.com for five consecutive years. Go to the GCPS website https://www.goochlandschools.org/ and wander around to see what how you tax dollars are being used to prepare the next generation to grab its piece of the American dream by maximizing the potential of every learner.

Educating children is a difficult task in normal times, dealing with challenges created by the pandemic shut down makes it worse. We are blessed by the dedication of  “Team Goochland,” which includes every school employee, who show up every day and do their best to help each student identify and develop their individual talents. This sounds easy in theory but could not happen with out the dedication of a creative and dedicated educators supported by a school board that values innovation.

While the quality of an education is the result of hard working people, infrastructure, buildings, vehicles, equipment, are important too. After a great many difficult, yet productive conversations between the supervisors and school board, a contract was signed last week to build the new 700 student capacity Goochland Elementary School on Bulldog Way. The special relationship between these two boards is unique among jurisdictions in the Commonwealth. GCPS Superintendent Jeremy Raley, Ed. D. said that this facility will serve the citizens of Goochland well for the next sixty years. It is expected to open in August 2024 for the start of the 2024-25 school year.

Our division and students work hard to excel at all endeavors.

GHS Senior Josh Usry, the Cadet Executive Officer of the Marine Corps JR OTC Program, was nominated for the United Staes Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.  He plans to major in political science and government. After completion of the four-year program Usry will be commissioned as an ensign in the Coast Guard and hopes to serve in the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction mission. The service academies are among the most elite institutions of higher learning in the country. Admission is highly competitive and based on merit alone. About 300 cadets are admitted each year from a field of thousands of applicants. This is the first in hopefully a long line, of GHS graduates that go on to attend one of these fine institutions.

Seniors Tyler Black and Haden Raley signed letters of intent to attend respectively, Division I colleges Wake Forest and William and Mary to continue their football careers as they pursue higher education.

Black, a kicker and punter for GHS, is ranked 19th in the nation by Kohl’s Professional Football camps and earned state and regional honors for his football prowess. He is also a two-time state pole vault champion.

Raley is a four year letter winner and two time team captain. He lettered in basketball and has been on the academic honor roll for his entire high school career.

A further indication of the high standards of education in GCPS is its recent selection to the Virginia High School League fall sportsmanship honor roll. Integrity is a valuable component of good citizenship on and off the field.  

The Randolph Elementary School Lego Robotics team received state level recognition at a December competition.

These are a few of the many accolades GCPS collects on a regular basis. These include being recognized by the Virginia Department of Education as a “division of innovation”; all GCPS schools are Apple Schools of Distinction; and recognition of GHS as a Special Olympics unified champion.

Our school division is hiring. Job fairs will be held in person at GHS, 3250-A River Road West, Goochland 23063 on February 25 from 9-12 and virtually the week of March 6 at goochlandschools.org/jobs. Anyone interested can find out why “Goochland is the small division with the big reputation.”

Public education in Goochland is not a one size fits all proposition. Thanks to every member of Team Goochland who perseveres every day to teach our kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Solar policy meeting rescheduled

 A community meeting about the county's proposed solar ordinance and related policies, originally scheduled for January 19 has been rescheduled to Thursday, February 16 from  6 to 9 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the Central High School Cultural and Educational Complex at 2748 Dogtown Road.

Please pass this along to those who might be interested.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

People make the difference

 

Dale Agnew (holding plaque) with Goochland supervisors

The Hon. Dale W. Agnew retired as Clerk of the Goochland Circuit Court effective December 31, 2022. Her forty years of service to the citizens of Goochland was recognized by the Board of Supervisors at its January 3 meeting. Amanda Adams was sworn in as Clerk to serve the remainder of Agnew’s term.

Jonathan Lyle, who rarely misses an opportunity to speak during citizen comment, remarked that while Goochland County has a land area of about 280 square miles, but what makes it remarkable are its people. He commended Agnew for her four decades of service.

Before being elected as Clerk of the Court, Agnew served a 32-year apprenticeship in the clerk’s office, becoming familiar with the more than 800 sections of the Code of Virginia that govern the functions of the clerk’s office.

She was responsible for decades of spotless departmental audits and meticulous attention to detail to ensure accurate recordation of public documents ranging from deeds to marriage licenses and court proceedings. The Clerk is the probate judge for the county; issues marriage licenses; certifies people to perform marriages; issues concealed carry permits; and records deeds among many other functions.

The Clerk is responsible for administration of court records, preparation of orders on the instruction of the judge, and swearing in jurors. These records include historic documents. Goochland is not a “burned county” because, unlike some other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, our court records were not sent to Richmond for safekeeping during the civil war and destroyed by the 1865 fire.

Agnew secured grant funding for the preservation of these archival documents and digitization of other vital records. She advocated for higher salary for her staff to attract and retain high quality employees.

Agnew said that leaving her post was bittersweet, but she leaves the clerk’s office in the good hands of a well-trained intelligent staff who use true servants’ hearts in service to the community.

Goochland is blessed to have had the service of Dale Agnew overseeing this important governmental function. May her next chapter be filled with all good things.

 

 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Into the new year

 

          Like it or not, 2023 is here. The first order of business at the first annual meeting of Goochland Board of Supervisors is election of officers. Breaking with its tradition of rotating the chair, the board voted unanimously to return Neil Spoonhower, District 2 to the top post, with newbie Charlie Vaughters, District 4 as vice chair. John Lumpkins, District 3 who was appointed to the vice chair spot after the passing of Don Sharpe and would have been expected to take the chair spot in 2023, is seeking the Republican nomination for Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney in next November’s election.


Neil Spoonhower, (l) and Charlie Vaughters will lead the supervisors  in 2023


          Spoonhower thanked his fellow board members for their confidence in him. He said that he looked forward to working closely with Vaughters for the benefit of all citizens and thanked those who worked hard over the holidays to serve the citizens, especially those in law enforcement, fire-rescue, and the convenience center staff.

          Adoption of the Board’s code of ethics, rules of procedure, and standards of conduct is also part of the first meeting of the year protocol. Each supervisor signed a copy of the code of ethics and standards of conduct, which will be framed and mounted on the wall at the back of the meeting room. This is done to honor Don Sharpe, District 4, who was serving as board vice chair before his passing last fall. Sharpe, explained Spoonhower, believed that the supervisors should have a visual reminder of their commitment to the highest integrity as they make decisions on behalf of citizens.

          The Board’s January agenda included routine reports. Paul Drumwright, Community Affairs Manager and the county’s point person on internet matters, updated the supervisors on the broadband expansion project. The regional internet service expansion (RISE) initiative to bring high speed internet access to western Goochland is a patchwork of partners and funding. Firefly Fiber Broadband is partnering with the electric utilities, Central Virginia Electric Coop (CVEC) Rappahannock Electric Coop (REC), and Dominion Energy to install fiber optic cable to unserved areas.

          Work on the Dominion portion is still in the design, permitting, and engineering phase for installation of the “middle mile” infrastructure off of which Firefly will run lateral lines to connect individual users. This portion of the initiative is not going as fast as underserved Goochlanders would like, but all areas in the RISE project are expected to have access to broadband in the next two years, hopefully far sooner.      

          In the Crozier area, another provider, Port80 (https://port80.us/) is wrapping up its grant to connect users there. Drumwright said that about 100 potential customers in the Port80 area remain unconnected. If you live there, call today before the connection price goes up after the grant funding expires.

          Bringing broadband to all Goochlanders has never been a one size fits all proposition. While many people use wireless options via cell towers, the county has never viewed this as the ultimate solution, said Drumwright. He reiterated that the county welcomes all providers to serve our citizens in addition to those that the county partners with in the RISE initiative.  “We don’t stop anyone from bringing broadband into Goochland County. If someone wants to come in, we’re happy to talk with them and help them expand,” said Drumwright.

          Director of Economic Development Sara Worley presented the tourism strategic plan, designed to expand tourism in Goochland County, which was unanimously adopted by the board. Tourism has the potential to spotlight the county, grow exiting businesses, and attract new ones to grow the county’s economy.

          The “vision” of the plan is to promote Goochland as a family friendly poplar destination for history, crafts, food and beverage, and recreational outdoor enthusiasts and a source of pride for residents. Agritourism, highlighting our rural heritage, is also a part of the plan.

          First steps in implementing the plan include creating day trip itineraries and using social media to promote what Goochland has to offer. Our location, said Worley, is easily accessible to visitors from the Richmond and Charlottesville areas.

          Getting Goochland “on the radar screen” is an immediate goal. Far too many people seem to have little idea where we are.      Worley is recruiting volunteer “tourism ambassadors” to help spread the word about visiting Goochland.

          The full plan is available beginning on page 174 of the January 3 Board packet available at  https://www.goochlandforbusiness.com/DocumentCenter/View/643/Tourism-Strategic-Plan.

          Rezoning for a parcel for land for the new fire-rescue station in the Hockett Road corridor is under way. A community meeting is expected to be scheduled to provide more information on the proposal in coming months.