Sunday, July 15, 2018

On the eve of the Fourth of July

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to  Goochland Treasure Pam Johnson, who is recuperating from injuries sustained during a fall.

The July 3 meeting of the Board of Supervisors marked the last report from Director of Economic Development, Matthew Ryan, who is returning to his native South Carolina. We wish Ryan well in his new position and hope, should he ever encounter a prospect seeking to locate in Virginia, that he mentions Goochland! During the six years he has served Goochland, Ryan has worked tirelessly to attract new enterprises to the county. More commercial development means a stable tax rate. A search for his successor—Ryan essentially operated as a “one man band” with staff support—is undoubtedly underway.

Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, commended Ryan for a job well done and wished him success in his future endeavors.
Ryan thanked the board for its support over his tenure. The 2018 midyear update—economic development runs on a calendar year—included lots of good news. DriveShack is vertical, the hospital is underway, Audi is open for business, and the breweries are going full steam and has filed plans for its amphitheater. They are “blown away by the support they’ve seen thus far,” said Ryan. “It may not be a record setting year, but a god year nonetheless.”

Goochland is on track to break $100 million of new investment in 2018 and has been o the upswing since 2014.   The biggest drawback is that Goochland has no inventory is leasable space. A few possible office projects are in the works. There is still no plans for construction of speculative office space.

More than 4,500 jobs have been created in the past five years, giving us the highest percentage of  job growth in the Commonwealth.

He addressed the economic development strategic plan in progress. Much of the data has been collected and the next step is drafting the plan. Nurturing existing businesses, attracting new enterprises and honing tourism are its “three legs.” He  contended that agriculture is big business in Goochland that should be capitalized on. Citizen involvement in tourism is a big part of the process.  A  list of “things we want” to foster  economic development, included Broadband expansion, an executive roundtable, customer-focused employees that “always find a way to say “yes”, and a business culture that supports retention and expansion of existing businesses.

Once again, Goochland County has been awarded the certificate for excellence in financial reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. “Ban counting” is perhaps the most important function of local government and the true test of good stewardship of public finds. County Administration John Budesky said this award is the result of dedicated teamwork by the entire county and school staff.  As not that long ago, Goochland was on track to surpass Petersburg for fiscal dysfunction, this is an achievement to be grateful for.

Deputy County Administrator Derek Stamey gave an update on the new animal shelter. After delays caused by weather and a complex foundation, construction is moving forward. Shelter operations have been temporarily relocated to an area behind the gym at central High School on Dogtown Road. Stamey commended general services and animal protection for their good work on the relocation. Animal protection services will remain there until the new facility is completed.   These Central High School improvements, said Stamey, can be reused if needed in the future. The old shelter has been demolished and completion is expected by the end of 2018 or early next year, weather and Murphy’s law permitting.
The old animal shelter has been torn down to make way for the future!

Goochland Pet Lovers, the private non-profit organization formed to work  in conjunction with Goochland Animal Protection, has rasied$1.522 million and has increased its ultimate goal to $1.65 million. (visit for information on special events and fundraising opportunities.)

The supervisors voted to approve an application for  VDOT “Smart Scale” project funding. Under this program Goochland competes with other jurisdictions for road funds. As Susan Lascolette, Distirct1, observed this is a “take it or leave it” proposition if VDOT  selects our application. The county may apply for these funds every two years.

Projects included in Goochland’s SmartScale application include installation of a “diverging diamond” traffic pattern at the Interstate 64/Ashland Road interchange;  building a roundabout at the I64 Oilville exit; reconnecting Three Chopt Road north of Rt. 250 by building a bridge over Rt. 288 (no, I am not making this up); and adding an auxiliary lane on Rt. 288 between the James River bridge and Rt.6.

Marshall Winn, VDOT representative reported the repairing storm damage caused by recent record rains, cleaning up debris from those storms, and cutting grass have kept his crews busy. The traffic signal at Rt. 6 and West Creek Parkway is on track for completion and work on improvements for the Rt. 288. Broad Street Road interchange are expected in early 2020.

Winn announced a public meeting about a planned roundabout at the Rt. 522/Rt.250 intersection, which is in Louisa County,  is scheduled for July 24 at the Locust Grove Fire Station.`

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

More on tourism

Words of wisdom presented during the citizen comment period from Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner Jonathan Lyle are a regular feature of monthly meetings of the Goochland Board of Supervisors.

In his other life, Lyle is Managing Director of Highway Information Media, LLC, a tourism industry marketing firm. He was unable to attend the June 27 supervisors/Economic Development Authority workshop, but shared some thoughts on the subject of tourism with the Board at its July 3 meeting.
Sharing Goochland's beauty is a tourism opportunity.
Lyle cautioned against “irrational exuberance” about the opportunity of tourism, citing Richmond’s failed  Sixth Street Marketplace. Built in 1985 as a tourist destination, the Sixth Street Marketplace was called by some “a shiny project that lacked substance.”  That tourism initiative was ill-conceived and lost millions each year until it was ultimately torn down.

There is no return on investment for a visitors’ center, Lyle contended. Louisa County had one and closed it being unable to justify its annual cost of $15,000.

The new hotel in The Notch at West Creek will be the county’s primary source of  “tourism” revenue.  Lyle did not recommend raising the county’s transient occupancy tax over two percent;  revenues generated above that rate must be invested in tourism. He suggested that the county craft a plan, determine the cost of achieving the goals of that plan, and see if that makes sense for Goochland, or if the money would be better spent on a business recruitment program.

Tourism, said Lyle, is a business. Private industry “should not be looking to the county” to pay for its marketing. If local government does get involved at some level in “tourism” it should expect a healthy return on its investment, or not participate.

“Know what you are trying to achieve before you commit to anything. This (tourism) is not a turn on the spigot and watch the dollars flow” proposition, Lyle said. “Tourism is everybody’s job, but no one is responsible.”

He estimated that in the 2020 timeframe, tourism could add about $200 thousand, less than a penny on the tax rate, to county revenues.

Tourism is a business for the private sector, which should not look to county government for funding, Lyle contended. It is easier to get people to do more of what they’re doing than start something new to attract tourists. “People tell you what they want to do with their wallets. If they have a good experience, they’ll come back and do more of it.”

He cited the success of the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in West Creek, that exceed expectations as soon as its doors opened last spring. It is expected to build an onsite amphitheater  and increase its capital investment in Goochland. Hardywood has hosted the Richmond Symphony at its other locations; it would be nice if that were included in musical offerings at the West Creek site.

Tourism is a great opportunity, not a magic bean, Lyle said. He offered to share his expertise with the county. Perhaps the supervisors and Economic Development Authority should hold another workshop focused solely on tourism.

He added that agriculture and agritourism are also businesses.

Lyle commended Economic Development Director Matthew Ryan, who is leaving Goochland for an opportunity in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, for his excellent work in bringing  business to Goochland.

Lyle’s comments were nutrient rich food for thought. Does Goochland want to increase tourism, or better capitalize on visitors to existing attractions and events? How much “tourism” can we handle with current levels of public safety staffing?

The best course of action may well be to create an environment that encourages the private sector to exploit tourism.  Entrepreneurs have the ingenuity and agility to respond to shifting market trends.

Above all, efforts to bring visitors to Goochland must echo the Hippocratic oath and “do no harm” to the peace and privacy of those who already live here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


(This is a continuation of reflections on the day long economic development workshop. See previous post “Kissing Toads” for details)

No discussion of economic development is complete without addressing tourism.  Conceptually, this is an ideal industry. People visit, spend money, and leave to educate their children and grow old elsewhere. As with many things, the devil is in the details.

Why tourism? Matt Ryan, Goochland’s Director of Economic Development, often says that “you never know who is standing on the sidelines of a soccer tournament at Strikers’ Park. It might be CEO of a company in Northern Virginia looking for a new location for his business who never heard of Goochland.”  It is a “soft” way to market the county and generate returns.

Goochland's beauty is an economic resource.
Goochland already has tourism. From the grandeur of the Dover Hall castle to the more rustic charms of Westview on the James, people visit Goochland for recreation. The new Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in West Creek (  that opened last spring is but one of several local enterprises that regularly attract guests to the county.

Budesky touted Field Day of the Past, the Deep Run Horse Show, and the Rassawek festival as events that bring many thousands of out-of-towners to Goochland each year. The LL Bean Discovery School entices folks visiting its Short Pump mall store to enjoy the James River at Tucker Park.  Thousands of people attend soccer tournaments  in West Creek.

Connecting those visitors with opportunities to spend money at restaurants, our potpourri of potent potable venues, the gift shop at the Historical Society, or other local emporiums, is the goal. Promoting local attractions can boost the bottom line of local businesses and enhance the perception of Goochland.

Goochland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bonnie Creasy suggested that tourism phone apps are a good way to make visitors aware of what an area has to offer. The rub is, as with all tourism initiatives, is who oversees the outreach activity, which attractions are included, who updates the app, and how is that funded? A few years back, someone, perhaps the Chamber, created a beautiful color brochure about county attractions that was soon obsolete.

The Goochland Historical Society recently completed a restoration of the old stone jail and placed informational markers on the Courthouse green. There are many homes of historical interest in the county, but most are privately owned. Tuckahoe Planation on River Road is open for tours only by appointment, but there are self-guided tours of the gardens and grounds.

Wedding venues are sprouting all over the county. They give wedding guests a taste of Goochland that hopefully will bring them back.

While there was much discussion  about tourism opportunities, there was no mention of protecting the peace and privacy of those who moved to Goochland to get away from crowds.

For instance, when the notion of a rural farm brewery first appeared, it seemed like a great idea. When neighbors found their yards choked with dust from streams of cars and their fenceposts used as urinals, not so much. Those in the western part of the county never expected to find a wedding venue, complete with amplified music, disturbing their lives.

Agritourism was also touted as a great way to showcase Goochland. However, close neighbors should have some notice and say about the possibility of a gaggle of strangers invited to, for example, workshops on raising chickens or beekeeping, before the fact.

Kerfuffles between neighbors and breweries and wedding venues were worked out after a great deal of heartache. A mechanism to avoid this at the outset, with clear sanctions for violations, before the fact to protect the interests of all involved.
Productive preemptive dialog among all sides is preferable to conflict. Property rights of all must be protected. Community meetings to iron wrinkles out of proposed land use changes are a good way to accomplish this.

Though touted as an income generator, there is a cost to tourism. There was no discussion of a cost/benefit analysis or, one of Peterson’s favorite themes, return on investment.

Tubing the James in Goochland is a popular summer activity. Signs are posted at departure points with approximate times to move from Westview to Maidens. Each year, people call 911 when they realize the trip is far longer than expected. Fire-rescue personnel, more often paid employees than volunteers, are dispatched to get  them off of the water. Who should pick up the tab for this?

Goochland has breweries, wineries, and a cidery. There have been complaints about what some consider over zealous enforcement of DUI laws near these establishments. Driving on our narrow, winding roads can be challenging for people familiar with the territory in daylight, when stone cold sober.  How to discourage visitors who may have over enthusiastically indulged without making our roads more dangerous, needs to be addressed. This could be an opportunity for local limousine companies to offer something like a  “potent potables pilgrimage” that picks up folks at a hotel, drives them from place to place, and returns them to their lodging so they can recover before hitting the road.

Cyclists visit Goochland in ever greater numbers. Peterson said that adding bike lanes to our roads would reduce the amount of funds that VDOT would allocate to maintenance. West Creek Parkway seems to be a favorite haunt of cyclists, especially on weekends. It would be nice if there were some way to encourage, if not mandate, that they wear brightly colored clothing to make them very visible to drivers. They come, ride around the county, and leave to eat, drink, and service their equipment elsewhere.

There was general agreement that Goochland needs a visitor’s center, but no consensus on its ideal location. Indeed, the notion of a  “gateway” to Goochland seemed vague. Some contend that it should be on Rt. 6, some Broad Street Road, Courthouse Village, or maybe River Road. The Henrico/Goochland line at both Broad Street Road and Rt. 6 are congested and commercialized. It is doubtful that River Road residents would welcome strangers stopping in that corridor.

Courthouse Village is the county seat, but it can be hard to find. Would a visitor’s center on the Courthouse Green attract enough people to justify the expense of staffing it, and who would pay for that?

District 3 Supervisor John Lumpkins, Jr. mentioned the  variety of reasons people visit Goochland including historic sites; recreational opportunities; and scenic beauty. “How do we keep people here after they’re done on the River?” he asked.  County government he contended, is just the catalyst. Goochland needs to leverage its assets, and avoid “Mickey Mouse attempts to create fake venues.”

Measuring the impact of tourism in a meaningful way is tricky. Ryan said that hotel stays, a measure typically used to track tourism, doesn’t apply in Goochland, because we do not yet have any hotels. Anecdotal information, like Wawa selling out of cold drinks during soccer tournament, suggests that there is a lot of missed opportunity.

Creation of a central calendar, contended Budesky, to avoid event conflicts is badly needed. Far too often, groups schedule events without regard to what else might be taking place at the same time. People must choose, which reduces attendance. Better scheduling would avoid this and bolster attendance—and success—across the board.

Who would maintain and publish this calendar is another unanswered question.

Tourism has the potential to enhance Goochland’s economy from one end to the other without destroying the rural character. But, it must be done well and respect the peace and privacy of county residents.

The June 27 workshop was the start of what will be an ongoing conversation.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Kissing toads

Goochland Supervisors and members of the county Economic Development Authority met for a long overdue workshop at the West Creek Emergency Center on June 27. Economic Development is a complicated endeavor with many moving parts. This day-long session explored many facets of the subject and  raised more questions than it answered. GOMM will explore some of these in additional posts.

The session—the first of hopefully several—was facilitated by  John Thomas and Will Davis of DecideSmart, LLC (, a consulting firm retained by the county to  help update to the county’s  strategic plan for economic development adopted in October, 2011 by the previous Board of Supervisors. Davis is the former economic development director for Chesterfield County and  Thomas  was director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

Supervisors Susan, Lascolette, District 1; Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2; John Lumpkins, Jr., District 4; Bob Minnick, District 4;, and Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5 were joined by EDA members Lisa Dearden chair; Ben Slone; D. B. Smit; Curt Pituck; and Lucy Wysong, as well as John Budesky, county administrator, and Matthew Ryan, director of economic development. Bonney Creasy, executive director of the Goochland Chamber of Commerce and Christina Jordan Dunn, president of the board of directors of the Goochland Historical Society also attended.
Will Davis (standing) makes a point about economic development.

As warm-up exercise, the group was polled about what makes Goochland unique. The condensed response “a place of great beauty where all things are possible with well-managed local government.” Without its unique potpourri of people, Goochland is just rocks, trees, water, too many deer, and a burgeoning ursine community.

While enhancing the tax base to achieve  a 30/80 percent ratio of commercial to residential was the overall theme, many threads of growth swirled around the day’s discussions.

Participants were asked  during recent individual interviews  to prioritize needs, opportunities, and issues facing Goochland as it endeavors to enhance the tax base and preserve rural character.

Defining roles and expectations for economic development; establishing EDA procedures for loans; and infrastructure development ranked high. Starter home residential development was ranked low.

Opportunities for continued development of West Creek; new target development (medical, office, hotel, food, tourism); and sustaining and growing existing business ranked high. Workforce development in connection with Reynolds Community College was at the bottom of the scale.

Cost of infrastructure and cost of collaboration snagged only medium priority, while private sector land ownership ranked low.

Goochland’s EDA  has acted as a pass through for state economic development funds and made modest loans and grants to local businesses. It is the issuing agency for the bonds used to finance the rehabilitation hospital, which imposes no cost on the county or EDA.

For the past several months, the EDA has been trying to establish criteria and procedures for granting loans. Questions about the ability of the EDA to effectively and impartially evaluate loan applications to avoid “picking winners and losers” remain.

The northeast part of the county is experiencing the growth spurt anticipated since the turn of the century. Part of this is spillover from Short Pump. Some resulted from the county collaborating, rather than warring, with major landowners to being new enterprises to Goochland.

In the past few years one medical office building in the Notch spawned another, which now houses a surgical center. Ground was broken earlier this year for a rehabilitation hospital joint venture between Sheltering Arms and VCU. A recently opened Audi dealer sits in the shadow of Rt. 288. Behind that DriveShack is building a golf entertainment center. If it ever stops raining, a hotel will sprout opposite the Wawa and could attract small businesses like a bank branch and restaurants. A memory care facility is planned for the south side of Broad Street Road at the Henrico border.

On the residential side, a continuing care community is on tap for the Notch. An age restricted single family/townhome enclave will join a more traditional subdivision in the Hockett Road corridor. The old “Oak Hill” property at the junction of Rt. 288 and Patterson Avenue was given the green light for mixed use development, but no firm plans have yet emerged there. All of these projects are in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, where increased property valuations bolster county coffers and service utility debt.

Concentrating this growth in an area served by public water and sewer, “the designated growth area”  should ensure that 85 percent of Goochland remains rural in the long term.

The real question about economic development— in the “designated growth area” and entire county— is what kind is most beneficial in the long term and how to attract it. “What would you like Goochland to be in 10 years?” Davis asked. “Should you figure it out as you go along, or plan?” Whether you have slow growth, good growth or no growth, it must be managed.

Ryan, who strives to handle prospects from first contact through issuance of certificate of occupancy, is the only member of county staff dealing solely with economic development though Budesky often collaborates.

We do a lot of good work to attract business  that never comes to fruition, said Budesky. “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.” Goochland, he said, has limited resources. Ryan works mostly alone. For the past seven years our strategy has been to catch Henrico spillover, but Goochland must be nimble to change as market conditions shift.

Goochland is experiencing a development surge, it’s time to evaluate next steps.

Ryan worked hard to convince Sheltering arms and VCU to build their hospital in West Creek.  Many other projects were the result of leads furnished by landowners. Unlike other major players in the central Virginia region, Goochland cannot afford to participate in the Greater Richmond Partnership, a regional economic development consortium comprised of  the counties of Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfield and the City of Richmond, whose annual fee—the equivalent of more than a penny on our tax rate—is too rich for our blood. As GRP members pay to play, they do not share leads with outsiders.

Going forward, said Davis, Goochland needs to decide what kind of enterprises it hope to attract and be comfortable enough with those choices to reject proposals that do not align with its goals.

Peterson said he favors non-residential, taxable entities. He mentioned distribution facilities to exploit the county’s sweet spot location for transshipping cargo arriving at Tidewater ports west along the Interstate 64 corridor.  Lascolette suggested a data center. Ryan pointed out that Goochland currently has no vacant warehouse space, very little office space, but lots of vacant land that is a harder sell.

People involved in site selection for new businesses are looking for a reason to say no, Thomas said. “You need to find a way to get to ‘yes’ quickly to close the deal.”

Budesky pointed out job diversity is a criteria used in bond rating evaluations. Thanks to the Capital One campus, Goochland’s workforce is heavily weighted in the banking sector. As the hospital and other medical facilities build out, health care  is likely to change that, but more variety is desirable. Right now, health care seems to be a “hot”  market sector, but Goochland needs  a “Plan B” should that cool down.

Retention of existing business was addressed. Due to lack of resources, a visitation program for each of the county’s 1,600 businesses was put on the back burner. Thomas suggested that these interviews are vital and could be used to generate leads as in “what kind of businesses would you like to see nearby to support what you do?” Removing county procedures that businesses consider “ harassment”  and ensuring that county staff is customer focused is important.

“You need to be aware of your businesses,” Davis said. “It is just as important to know what’s going on with Cecil Wise (Wise Choice on Ashland Road) as it is with Capital One.”

Budesky contended that the county needs more attention in regional media. Richmond television stations fall all over themselves to cover crimes here, but  rarely report on the good things. Sometimes, they even for get to mention power outages or school closing in Goochland. The success of our schools, and the county securing at AAA bond rating get no attention.

He also said that the county must do a better job of branding itself to highlight that we are different from Henrico. “Capital One employees have no idea that they work in Goochland.” Budesky suggested a strong partnership with the development community to tout advantages of doing business in Goochland.

Budesky said that the meeting was the first step. Information gathered will be distilled into a framework in the next 60 days to include more information about the visitation process; tools available to achieve and end game; and ways to use the EDA to improve the business process.

The meeting generated much information to process. Many questions need answers. What is the role of the EDA? How does government create an environment that encourages and supports local business without overwhelming core services of education and public safety? How to ensure that actions are taken in an open and transparent manner for the benefit of all?

Monday, June 25, 2018

The rest of the story so far

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew held a press conference on Monday, June 25 to share more details about the attempted home invasion/shooting that happened in the center of the county last Friday.

A press release distributed several hours after the incident r contained the bare bones of the story. A man from New Zealand named Troy George Skinner attempted to gain entry to a home in the Holland Hills subdivision. After breaking a glass door, the lady of the house shot at him twice, catching him once in the neck. Skinner ran to a neighboring home, where he collapsed in the front yard. First aid was rendered as he was taken into custody by Goochland Deputies. He was transported via MedFlight to MCV hospital.

Over the weekend, Agnew and his investigators conducted interviews and began to assemble pieces of this bizarre puzzle. Agnew has asked the FBI for assistance in the case and expected to meet with the FBI later on Monday afternoon.

Agnew said that on Friday afternoon, June 22, the mother and her 14 year-old-daughter were painting in the basement of the home in Holland Hills, an enclave of spacious homes on large lots, when she heard the front doorbell ring. As she was not expecting anyone, she ignored it. A few minutes later, a man appeared at the basement door pounding on it saying that he had hitchhiked 30 miles and demanding entry.

 The mother and daughter ran upstairs and locked the door to the basement. The mother called her husband who told her to call 911 and get their gun.  Her 18 year- old daughter, who was upstairs, brought the weapon, a P22 Walther pistol, to her mother who loaded it.  By then, Skinner, who according to Agnew is 6’1” and weighs 275 pounds, was beating on the door to the deck with a  landscape stone. The mother told Skinner three times that she had called the police and had a gun. That did not deter him. He smashed the door with the stone and reached in to unlatch it. The mother shot twice, one bullet caught Skinner in the neck, the other went into the door jam.

Skinner used a landscape stone to smash the glass in this door.

Skinner  remains at MCV. He refuses to talk to law enforcement. His condition has improved and Agnew said he expects that Skinner will soon be charged with entering a dwelling with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery, or arson and transported to the Henrico jail, west. Skinner was in possession of a large knife, which could be considered a deadly weapon, at the time of entry, making the crime  a class 2 felony, which could result  in life imprisonment if convicted. Agnew did not rule out the possibility that federal charges could also be find against Skinner.

According to Agnew, Skinner is believed to have encountered the 14 year-old on an online gaming site called Discord ( She told him she was no longer interested in continuing the interaction earlier in the year.

Agnew contended that Skinner planned his actions well in advance. The 25 year-old man traveled from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles, arriving in Washington, D. C. at 9:40 p.m. on June 20. Skinner took a Greyhound bus to Richmond and spent one night at Hosteling International USA there, checking out at 8:46 a.m. on June 22. He purchased a knife and duct tape at the Short Pump Walmart at 12:45 p.m.He also had pepper spray in his possession. Agnew said they have no information about how Skinner made his way from Short Pump to Goochland.

A Goochland investigator displays the knife that Skinner bought at Walmart while Sheriff Agnew looks on.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. on June 22, a Holland Hills resident noticed a male wearing black clothes and a hoodie, even though it was a hot day, crossing the road along Bulldog Way and Steeplechase Parkway. (This information was relayed to the Sheriff’s Office several hours after the incident occurred.)

WTVR Channel reporter Melissa Hipilot told the Sheriff that she had been in contact with someone in New Zealand who claimed that Skinner was taking some sort of mental health medication. Agnew said has no knowledge of that. He also said that he had no idea if Skinner has a criminal history, and hopes the FBI can facilitate the international implications of the case, and supply more information about Skinner.

A  bag carried by Skinner contained his New Zealand driver’s license, and an indication that he planned to return there on June 30.  A phone and tablet computer have been taken into evidence and have not yet been analyzed. Law enforcement does not yet know how Skinner obtained the Goochland address.

Agnew said that the family was badly shaken by the incident, are nice people, and the victim in this crime.

He cautioned parents to be aware of their children’s online habits and do not assume that people they meet in cyberspace may not be good people or who they claim to be.

The Sheriff said he will share information on the case as it becomes available.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Land use matters

Goochland’s Planning Commission is comprised of five appointees, one from each district. It is an advisory body charged with reviewing land use matters and making recommendations to the Board of supervisors, which has the final say.

Current Commissioners are: John Myers, District 1; Matt Brewer District; Carter Duke, District 3; Chair John Shelhorse, District 4; and Tom Rockecharlie, District 5.

At its June 7 meeting, the Commission reviewed tentative plats for recently rezoned residential enclaves,  Mosaic and Reader’s Branch, located in the Hockett Road corridor in eastern Goochland.

Once a rezoning application had been approved by the supervisors, most actions concerning new projects take place administratively. 

Mosaic, a 55 plus community approved in March, submitted a tentative plat for  476 dwelling units, a mix of town houses and single family homes.  Topography of the site and gas line easements, said Director of Community Development JoAnn Hunter, resulted in 44 fewer lots than originally approved. Rezoning applications include conceptual plans that tend to be broad overviews of a site. As developers refine projects, things change.

As a result, many lots in Mosaic could be between 65 and 55 feet wide. There was some discussion about side setback for the townhomes, which seemed odd, because they tend to be attached. No projections into the setback areas will be permitted, which prevents  future enlargement of these homes.

The plat presented on June 7 places the clubhouse and fitness facility at the center of the community, which will extend from Tuckahoe Creek Parkway to Broad Branch Drive, between Capital One and Hockett Road. Of the approximately 207acres in Mosaic, 87.042 is designated as lot acreage; 79.613 open space; and 29 acres for roads. The remainder could be the amenities.

Reader’s Branch, east of Hockett Road opposite the Parke at Centerville, also got approval of its tentative plat. This subdivision also shrank two lots after a more careful look at the site revealed that topographic features will support 301 versus the 303 home site approved.

A proffer amendment application filed by Cameron General Contractors to allow a “home for the aged” on the north side of Rt. 6 opposite the entrance to Rivergate. The 38.8 acre parcel was  zoned in 1998 for two office buildings totaling 180,000 square feet, which never materialized.

Proposed is a 130 independent senior living units in one three story building. Services will include dining, housekeeping, valent parking, some retail, concierge services, and a shuttle bus.   Residents will average 80 years of age. It will not offered skilled nursing or assisted living options.

The application substitutes the residential structure for one of the office buildings and reserves the right to construct the other, perhaps to offer higher levels of care, in the future. The county’s wastewater pump station, located on an adjunct parcel, will continue to use the same access point onto Rt. 6.

There was no opposition to the facility. It will generate less traffic than an office building and upscale materials, setbacks, and landscaping complement Rivergate.

Community meetings with Rivergate residents  resulted in a right turn only option exiting the property for safety reasons. Crossing the very narrow existing median to safely turn left, Rivergate residents believe, is perilous, especially for older people.

The narrow Route 6 median at the Rivergate entrance makes left turns dicey.

Roger Spence, a Rivergate resident, said that the developer was receptive to the concerns of his neighbors. He also said that if the right turn only condition  had not been part of the application, the board room would have been filled with opponents from his community. The narrow median, Spence contended, requires a commitment to cross all lanes of traffic to turn left, a difficult maneuver in heavy traffic. Fatalities will occur there, he predicted, if left turns are permitted.

Spence also said that it is often difficult to ascertain which lane oncoming vehicles occupy. He predicted a 10 hour public hearing before the supervisors if left turns are permitted there.

The only objection county staff had to the application was the right turn only provision, contending that VDOT standards will require the applicant to widen the median for safety.  The right turn only provision just moves the turning action further west and does little to improve safety, said Debbie Byrd, assistant director of community development. A traffic signal at Rt. 6 opposite Hope Church, just west of the site, which will be in place by the end of 2018, will provide breaks in eastbound traffic.

Commissioners were not convinced. Rockecharlie said that he would have a hard time recommending something that could cause an older person to be t-boned by a  gravel truck coming east from the Luck Stone quarry. The access point is located at the top of a blind hill on a road with a 55 mile per hour speed limit, decreasing the margin for error when turning. Brewer said he could support left and right turns if the median was widened.

The commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval, expressing concern  that the intersection be improved to ensure safe left turns. The application moves on to the supervisors for another public hearing.

In the meantime the applicant and staff will refine the proposal to address these safety issues.

All community meetings are posted on the county website well in advance of their occurrence. Pay attention, be engaged, make a difference.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Slipping into summer

After busy start to 2018, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors began summer with a light agenda at its June 5 meeting. As no public hearings were on tap, there was no evening session.

Perhaps the most interesting factoid in the Board packet was the notice that Hermitage Gardens, LLC has withdrawn its rezoning application to build 438 homes on 176.34 acres the east side of Hockett Road. Vigorous push back to the proposal at a May 14 community meeting may have given the applicants second thoughts. Adding more traffic to Hockett Road; impact on county schools; and erosion of the county’s rural character were the main objections voiced by citizens.

Other landowners eyeing dense residential development in the Hockett Road corridor must understand that they need to devise a more concrete solution to the Hockett/Broad intersection than paying full cash proffers and letting the county and VDOT figure out how to mitigate traffic impact.

According to VDOT Ashland residency administrator Marshall Winn, the traffic signal at West Creek Parkway and Route 6, opposite Hope Church, is on the VDOT construction schedule and should be in place by the end of 2018.

Winn also reported that utility conflicts and  easements needed for upgrades to the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange have been secured. The target date for this road work has moved up from September 2020 to January 2020. He speculated that further acceleration of the project is possible.

Paving of the stretch  of Manakin Road mangled by gas line installation is under way and  should be finished by June 8, said Winn. The gas company will then begin installing the gas line along Broad Street Road east of Manakin Road. The right lane will be closed on Broad Street Rd. (Rt. 250) between Manakin Rd. and Hockett Rd. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 11-15 for utility work.

Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, welcomed, in absentia, Vern Fleming to the District 3 seat school Board seat. Fleming succeeded John Lumpkins, Jr. who was appointed to the District 3 supervisor in April. They will both serve until replacements are elected in November.

County Administrator John Budesky said that the annual fireworks display will be held on July 4 in Courthouse Village as usual. He thanked the Sheriff’s Office in advance for doing an excellent job of controlling traffic and keeping everyone safe during and after this event. He also asked those attending to pack their patience and be considerate of others traveling to and from the event.

The fireworks are delightful. However, as more people from outside Goochland clog our roads to attend the display, fewer Goochland residents, whose tax dollars pay for the pyrotechnics and public safety costs, decline to participate in the countywide traffic jam to watch “the bombs bursting in air” as we celebrate America. It may be time to rethink this annual event.

Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay reported that EMS crews recently used the LUCAS © chest compression system to deliver two patients to hospitals with a “fighting chance” to recover. Providing manual CPR is physically demanding and difficult to perform consistently for long periods of time. Once CPR compressions have begun, they must continue until either the patient responds; reaches a hospital; or CPR is terminated on the orders of a doctor. Goochland ambulances are equipped with telemetry that transmits patient information to a hospital during transport. MacKay thanked the supervisors for funding this lifesaving equipment.

MacKay gave a shout out to Goochland schools for getting through the academic year with no school related student traffic accidents.

He also commended fire-rescue providers for actions during the recent flooding on Riddles Bridge Road who responded to the scene in the middle of the night and waded into rushing water to save trapped motorists

Two additional Fire-Rescue folks completed paramedic certification, MacKay said. Two career providers have completed tactical medic training to support law enforcement operations in uncontrolled environments.

The Hon. Dale W. Agnew, Clerk of the Goochland Circuit Court, gave the Board an update on her office. She thanked Budesky and Barbara Horlacher, Director of Financial Services for  making  the budget process easy.  She reported that her office received a clean audit.

A new system that electronically enters real estate information upon recordation will speed and simplify title searches.   As new condos and other properties are sold, this is an important time saver.

The record room has been reorganized to maximize space and ensure that public records can be easily accessed.
Agnew also said that probate activities have increased approximately 25 percent in the last two years. She expects this trend to continue as people move into the recently approved senior communities in the county.

The criminal court case load has remained level, but civil actions, especially those to collect unpaid taxes, have risen about 25 percent.

Dr. Gary Rhodes, President of Reynolds Community College, announced that he is retiring at the end of August after 16 years at the helm of the college. His successor is Dr. Paula Pando.

Rhodes said that in May, 21 Goochland High School students earned Associate’s Degrees about a month before their high school diplomas thanks to the dual enrollment program. Next year, 31 local students are expected to follow suit.

He reported that community college enrollment tends to fall in good economic times. He also said that he would like to see the Goochland campus expand programs offered, perhaps to include additional career and technical opportunities. Community colleges are a vital tool in fixing the mismatch between open jobs and lack of skilled employees to fill them.

The consent agenda, routine items that require supervisor approval, included amendments of the school budget that have no impact on the county transfer amount. (See Board packet beginning on page 91 for details.)

More amendments to the school budget were necessitated by funding for the Junior ROTC program being picked up by the Marine Corps. Goochland is one of a very few similar programs nationwide to achieve this. Thanks to everyone who made this happen and kudos to our Marine cadets and school staff who make the program a success.

Additional funds, some made available when bids for paving at Byrd Elementary School came in less than budgeted, were allocated for capital projects, including security upgrades and improvements to the high school football field.
Capital Improvement funds were also allocated for purchase of a new animal protection vehicle and fund design of improvements to the Rt. 6 sidewalk, which was damaged by erosion during our rainy spring.

The Board authorized Budesky to execute a license agreement and memorandum of understanding to relocate the Virginia Cooperative Extension office to the Central High School complex. This would occur after anticipated renovations to the complex are completed later in 2018.

Several public hearings were scheduled for the July 3 meeting.

Application to add 12 parcels of land totaling 56.365 acres, which are part of the recently approved Mosaic senior residential enclave, to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

Other July public hearings on changes to county code to align with state law include: an ordinance to amend the number of members of the Economic Development authority from seven to five, with three constituting a quorum; changing the local health director’s discretion about quarantining a police dog; what work on an onsite sewage treatment system constitutes maintenance; when real estate taxes are due; changes to the law regarding variances; prohibiting a planning commission from delaying of any proposed plant, site plan, or plan of development. (see the board packet for details.)