Thursday, February 22, 2024

Dividing the worm

 


Feeding every baby

On Tuesday, February 20, Goochland County Administrator Vic Carpenter presented his recommended budget for FY2025, which begins on July 1, to the board of supervisors. A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 2, with final approval and setting of tax and fee rates on April 16. Go to https://www.goochlandva.us/1165/Budget-Transparency for details. Sheriff Steven Ned Creasey and Fire-Rescue Chief D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr. made presentations about their budget requests.

The 2024 pie

The school budget, which accounts for approximately 33 percent of county expenditures, will be presented to the supervisors at their March 5 meeting.

Carpenter said that because 71 percent of county revenues come from real estate taxes, government is funded by a “one-legged” stool whose precarious balance can be negatively affected by circumstances beyond its control.

The supervisors authorized advertisement of proposed tax rates, 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for real estate. The real estate tax rate has been 53 cents since 2007. This year retention of that rate, due to an increase in assessments, represents an effective tax increase of 4.9 percent. The personal property tax rate is proposed at $2.99 per $100 of valuation—owners of high mileage vehicles need to submit appropriate documentation to the Commissioner of the Revenue by March 1—and 32 cents per $100 of valuation for land in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Advertisement of a fee schedule that includes an increase for public water and sewer customers and adoption fees at the Animal Shelter was approved..

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on April 2. The board will adopt the budget and set tax rates and fee schedules on April 16.

District 2 Supervisor Neil Spoonhower pointed out that this is a draft budget, the first step in the final budget process and may be revised before final approval. The board wants citizen feedback about the budget. Town Hall meetings will be held in March to explain and discuss the budget. (District 1, March 11 at Byrd Elementary School; Districts 2 and 3 March 18 at the County Administration Building; District 4 March 25 at Salem Baptist Church; and District 5 March 7 at Dover Baptist Church. Please try to attend one or all of these meetings which will be livestreamed at https://va-goochlandcounty.civicplus.com/1154. Submit questions in advance to townhall@goochlandva.us)

Carpenter explained that the budget process starts in November and will be revised until April adoption. It is the product of meetings with board members, the community, and departments to see what worked last year and what did not. The starting point is the expected available revenue from real estate and other taxes, state and federal aid, and fees. Since 2018, the general fund had grown from $60 to almost $90 million. Using a conservative approach and the county’s strategic plan, the budget is crafted to seek efficiencies and cost savings where possible while funding priorities of public safety and education. Recruiting and retaining the best employees—highly skilled and motivated people are necessary to provide excellent delivery of government services—is a challenge in our competitive environment.


Utilities are a self-sustaining enterprise fund, a business unit that stands on its own two feet, said Carpenter. Modest increases in water and sewer are proposed. The ad valorem tax levied on property in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District is used by statute to service debt incurred by the county in 2002 to build water and sewer trunk lines.

Inflation, which Carpenter said is still at three percent, is a concern as is the possibility of a recession. Goochland is growing, and graying, which increases demand for emergency medical services especially in the east end driven by the arrival of senior citizen enclaves and Sheltering Arms Hospital.

Goochland has excellent schools. Preserving quality education in the county is also a high priority budget goal.

This year’s proposed general fund is 13 percent more than last year’s driven by significant increases in public safety funding, salaries, and benefits. Real estate taxes, based on a 9.9 percent increase in assessed valuations, account for 71 percent of revenues. Public safety spending accounts for over $6 million of the $7.3 million budget increase.

New positions in many departments, including information technology security, account for the increase. A new position in Animal Protection for instance, will improve communication between citizens and officers in the field. Three new 911 dispatchers, the first responders on the scene of any emergency, are needed to ensure that all emergency calls are answered.

Sheriff

Creasey explained that his department is the primary law enforcement agency for Goochland, responsible for 911 dispatch, court security, civil process service, prisoner transport, patrol, investigations, community outreach, enforcement of court orders, and providing school resource officers.

Last year’s River Road utility line break highlighted the need for additional dispatchers to deal with the influx of calls about the road closure. The 911 call center is the secondary phone line for utility issues. Had there been other incidents at the time, calls might have gone unanswered, which Creasey indicated is unacceptable.

His presentation included high quality videos made by Goochland High School students. To view, go to the county website gooclandva.us, click on “watch county meetings”, select February 20 under archive meetings and scroll to the 33-minute mark.

It can take 12 to 18 months from the date a deputy is hired until they are “turned loose” for solo patrol, so personnel requests for the current budget will take effect in future years, the Sheriff explained.

The Sheriff’s Office oversees several budgets, including those for the school resource officers, court related, and correction detention.

Creasey cautioned the board that he will make a much larger request for personnel next year to staff the new courthouse, provide necessary training for deputies, and add patrol deputies.

Compensation is Creasey’s major concern. He agreed to a five percent boost in starting salary, backing off his initial request for a 10 percent increase. “If our friends to the east blow us out of the water, I plan on coming back,” he said. Competition for law enforcement officers among surrounding jurisdictions is fierce.

The Sheriff’s budget also includes equipment upgrades and incarceration expenses. Goochland does not have a jail of its own and takes prisoners to jails in other jurisdictions whose costs have increased dramatically, Creasey said he is investigating other options.

As the county grows, so does the number of crimes that consume the time and attention of deputies.

Fire-Rescue

Ferguson began his presentation by acknowledging the role that the 911 dispatchers play in delivery of fire-rescue services and the close collaboration between his department and the Sheriff’s office.

The Chief explained that the influx of older residents at senior communities and the Sheltering Arms Hospital has dramatically increased demand for fire-rescue services, especially EMS in the past years and that the demand is expected to grow as Avery Point nears build out.

Goochland ambulances, said Ferguson, transport patients to hospitals throughout Central Virginia, including Charlottesville. A phenomenon referred to as “wall time” when ambulances wait, sometimes for hours, at an emergency department to offload patients, increases the length of a call, keeping the unit out of the county unable to handle other calls.

Goochland fire-rescue is just that. Employees and volunteers are trained in both EMS and fire suppression. Which hat they put on for any emergency depends on the situation. Structure fires, especially those in areas not served by public water, require water shuttle operations to transport water from ponds to the fire ground. This requires many firefighters, making them unavailable to respond to calls.  

Ferguson said that almost 70 percent of calls to fire-rescue are for EMS. Apparatus, including ambulances and engines are expensive to buy and maintain. Lead time for ordering new equipment is years.

Then there are new stations. A part time Sandy Hook station 8 came about thanks to delays caused by roundabout construction. Temporary measures worked so well there that they have morphed into an EMS station. The West Creek fire-rescue station is in the design phase. Stations at Manakin and Centerville, owned by the Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, have been renovated to accommodate 24/7 career personnel, and Courthouse Company 5 renovations are under construction. Crozier cannot be expanded and must be relocated to a site as yet unidentified, perhaps somewhere on Cardwell Road.

Ferguson’s budget request of $12,411,317 is about a 19.3 percent increase over last year, which he attributed to salaries, wages, and benefits. Fire-Rescue too competes for people. He said that the remainder of his budget is pretty much flat from last year.

Since the first career fire-rescue personnel were hired in 2009, said Ferguson, responders in the field have increased exponentially, but there are not enough administrators to support them. Of the positions he requested this budget cycle, six would be assigned to Sandy Hook. His goal is to have five people on duty at each station 24/7. Because people need time off to train, take vacation, and sick days, more people are needed to ensure adequate coverage.

Providing excellent services to citizens in a fiscally responsible manner is a delicate task.


Friday, February 16, 2024

February board highlights

 


The Goochland Board of Supervisors, with three new members, held a brief monthly meeting on February 6. As no public hearings were scheduled, the afternoon session, which began at 4 p.m., moved briskly through its agenda. (A recording of the meeting is available under the “watch county meetings” tab on the county website goochlandva.us)

Meeting times have been changed to a “to be determined” schedule and agendas have been streamlined for more efficient use of staff time. Check the county website goochlandva.us for updates.

County Administrator Vic Carpenter said that county offices will be closed on Monday, February 19 in observance of President’s Day, but the convenience centers will be open. He reminded the board about the February 20 meeting at which he will present his recommended budget for fiscal year 2025, which begins on July 1. Carpenter invited all to the dedication of the Freedom of Choice marker in front of the administration building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road on Sunday, February 25 at 2 p.m. to commemorate the desegregation of Goochland High School. (This is sponsored by the Goochland Historical Society and Goochland Rotary Club.)

Reports for VDOT, Goochland Fire-Rescue and Emergency Services, and Broadband were included in the board packet (available online at the ‘transparency” tab, click on public notices and scroll to agendas, minutes to select)

Fire-Rescue Chief D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr. reminded those who use alternative power sources like generators and kerosene heaters to do so in a safe and careful manner. Free smoke alarms are available through the fire-rescue office at 1-804-556-5304.

Ferguson’s report includes a summary of his department’s activities that illustrate its wide range of incident response including structure fires; motor vehicle wrecks with entrapment and fires (this could become more a concern as the number of electric vehicles in Goochland rises);spill of hazardous material; brush fires; a fall from a roof; and water rescue.

A new fire-rescue website has been created go to http://www.goochlandfire-rescue.org/ to learn more about this department. Volunteers are needed, visit the website for information.

The monthly broadband update is included in the packet beginning on page 59. Firefly is making good progress and connecting residents daily. Dominion Power, which is installing the middle mile infrastructure from which Firefly will lateral run lines connecting to homes, has completed much of its work but is waiting for State Corporation Commission approval to turn their lines over to Firefly for the final steps. This is expected in April 2024. It’s important that citizens in the areas target for broadband expansion register for service at https://register.fireflyva.com/.

The supervisors adopted a resolution in support of the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) adopt confirming Goochland County’s support and participation in Firefly Fiber Broadband’s SM Expanded Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) project and the 2024 Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) broadband grant opportunity by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), including providing local match funding.  

Neil Spoonhower, District 2 said that the resolution in support of this will not only ensure that all parts of Goochland have access to broadband, but, as the grant is presented, will allow Firefly to offer services to residents who may already be customers of other providers giving citizens more choice through competition.

Under the consent agenda, the supervisors adopted a resolution affirming Goochland’s commitment to fund the local cost of revenue sharing to build a roundabout at the Oilville Road ramp of westbound I-64. Funds were not appropriated at this time but are expected to be at a future date.  Go to https://www.goochlandva.us/1255/10781/Oilville-RdI-64-Westbound-Ramp-Roundabou for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

up up and away

 

Value are going up


By now, all property owners in Goochland should have received notice of their 2024 assessed valuation. Most had a robust increase.

Deputy Goochland County Assessor Christi Hess presented the annual assessment report to the supervisors at their February 6 meeting.

She explained that annual assessments are made as of January 1, and were mailed out on January 12. Property owners have until February 15 to appeal. (Information about appealing is on the notice.) As of February 1, Hess reported, 24 appeals, all non-commercial, had been received by her office. Last year, 114 total appeals were made.

Property values are established by reviewing actual sales for accuracy by appraisers and field inspections and are then sampled for statistical relevance. Using an assessment to sales ratio to measure the quality of the assessment. She then went into detail about how the “coefficient of dispersion measures assessment uniformity. The tighter the curve, the better our numbers are.” The International Association of Assessing Officers’ technical appraisal standards should be the median between 90 and 110 percent. Then she discussed coefficients of dispersion, a level below 15 percent is desirable. (To view the presentation, go to the “watch county meetings” tab on the website, select BoS February 6 then video. Hess’ remarks start around the 36-minute mark.)

Long story short, in 2023, Goochland had 570 sales of residential properties, and nine commercial properties. The total taxable value of all property in the county increased by 9.9 percent to $8.62 billion. Of that, $392 million,  was new construction—45 percent commercial 55 percent residential— accounting for five percent of the overall value increase. The fair market value of property in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District is $2.46 billion. Land use assessments were $791 million. A projected increase in revenue for next year is projected to be between four and five percent.

Hess attributed the higher assessments to increases in construction costs, and lack of improved properties that created a seller’s market.

Property actively engaged in agricultural, forestall, or horticultural activity is eligible for land use taxation whose rates are determined by the State Land Evaluation and Advisory Council comprised of a tax commissioner, the Dean of Virginia Tech, the Commissioner of Agriculture and  Consumer Services, the State Forester, and the Director of Conservation and Recreation. Goochland Assessor Mary Ann Davis serves on the land use value committee of the Virginia Association of Assessing Officers.

Per acre land use rates for 2024 are $800 for horticulture and agriculture, and $583 for forestry. Land use is considered deferred taxation, this year equating to $4.91 million.

District 2 Supervisor Neil Spoonhower said that citizens often call him contending that they are unable to sell their homes for the assessed valuation. “It is my understanding that we look at assessments and houses that have actually sold to see if they are close to the assessment. According to this, we are underassessing homes by about 2.8 percent so we’re in line with the market,” said Spoonhower.

Hess said that the state requires that property be assessed at 100 percent, which would over assess property. Goochland, she said, tends to be over on half of assessments and under on the rest. She confirmed that about half of the property in Goochland is in some form of land use taxation.

The percentage ratio of residential to commercial property—the county’s long-term goal is a 70/30 split to bolster overall tax revenue and tax some of the tax burden off of homeowners—is currently 81.35 residential and 18.65 commercial.

To appeal their assessment, property owners must contact the assessor’s office before February 15, next Thursday, which will trigger an investigation into the accuracy of the 2024 assessment. Should the property owner not be satisfied with the outcome of that action, property owners have 30 days to make a formal appeal to the Board of Equalization. If that does not resolve disputes, the property owner’s final step is to make an appeal to Goochland Circuit Court for resolution.

Tax rates for calendar year 2024 will be set by the supervisors in April. County Administrator Vic Carpenter will present his recommended budget for fiscal year 2025, which begins on July 1 to the supervisors at a special meeting on the afternoon of February 20, which will also include budget workshop discussions.

The proposed budget and tax rates will be posted on the county website https://www.goochlandva.us/  after February 20. This is the time to review budget recommendations and submit comments to your supervisor rather than complain about tax bills in May.

District specific town hall meetings will be held in March to explain the plan to spend tax dollars. Please pay attention and take the time to make your views about the budget known to the supervisors.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Let's get to work

 

Students in the heavy equipment operator class and their new dozer

On Tuesday, February 6, the Career and Technical Education department of Goochland High School celebrated the donation of a Caterpillar D3 Dozer from the Sargent Corporation, (https://sargent.us/) to the heavy equipment operator program in the equipment bay at the CTE center.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Cromartie, Ed.D., welcomed guests, including Goochland’s own Grace Creasey, President of the Virginia State Board of Education; Emily Gullickson, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education; Supervisors Tom Winfree, District 3, Charlie Vaughters, District 4, Jonathan Lyle, District 5; School members Chair Angela Allen, District 3,  Lucy Meredith Moses, District 1, and Ellen Robinson, District 5. Also in attendance was James Lane who was Goochland Superintendent to Schools from 2012 to 2016 and school officials and staff.

James Lane and Lucy Meredith Moses

Allen said she is grateful for the donation. “Sargent is an employee-owned company, its 450 dedicated employees have a say in the decision to make this generous donation to our school. We are truly grateful. Sargent’s task is to build and their themes of investing in people and let’s get to work perfectly align with Goochland’s goal to maximize the potential of every learner.

“We are so thankful to be the beneficiary of the Sargent’s legacy in action.” Allen challenged other businesses throughout the region to partner with our school division to build a bigger, brighter future for all Virginians.

Justin Embry of Sargent said that his company is always looking for new and better ways to attract young adults to the heavy civil industry. “From our collaborations with Goochland, we’ve observed a rise in student interest in the heavy equipment program, which increases the need to expose them to this bulldozer, because this is the equipment that they’re going to encounter when they enter the workforce. We feel this is an investment in people, future Sargent employees. With this donation, Sargent aims to elevate the heavy equipment program, with practical training and empowers students with first-hand experience with the latest and greatest that we can provide. We are certainly thankful for the partnership.” He introduced Sargent employees including Hunter Proffit, a graduate of the CTE program. “Hunter is an example of what every student in this program can become.”


Hunter Proffit

Proffit graduated from GHS in 2018 and thanked the men and women who put all this together. “I went to work as a laborer at Sargent the same summer and now am a senior foreman. If CTE didn’t exist, none of this would have been possible. Through teaching fundamentals of construction skills, teamwork, and a lot of life lessons, teachers dedicated their time and effort every day to help me improve my life. Mr. V, Mr. Greenway, Mr. Watson, and many others knew what it took to give us a foundation to build on for man years to come. It boils down to one simple phrase, that is also Sargent’s number one core value, and that is investing in people. This program, the classes, faculty, staff, and most of all this bulldozer is an investment for the future generations to come. Thank you for your guidance and leadership that played a big part in helping me lead and be here today.”

Cromartie explained that as the legend goes about a decade ago there was a need for a catalyst to forge and grow CTE. As happens often in Goochland, the right person at the right time, in this case Bruce Watson, arrived.

Bruce Watson and dozer


Back in 2013 a friend who worked in quarry said we need equipment operators, why don’t’ you do something about that in Goochland. I came back and talked to Dr. Lane who said let’s try it. We started this program with zero equipment, bought tools used to maintain equipment. Parks and rec donated old equipment that was too big and old to use in this department. We sold that and used those funds to buy more appropriate equipment. Now we own all of our equipment thanks to our business partners and some other funding. We are only one of two heavy equipment programs on the secondary level in the Commonwealth. Ours just happens to be the biggest and the best,” said Watson.

He thanked Lane for his vision and support, the school board, superintendents over the years for their support, and Tim Greenway CTE Chair. “Our business partners are the heart and soul of our program. This is the epitome is that support. We couldn’t survive without them.”

People make the difference. “When we started this program we needed an instructor,” Watson said, noting that it’s no secret that teachers are hard to find. “To find a heavy equipment operator instructor back in 2014 was on the verge of impossible, but we found the best. Mr. V (Mike Verasstro) was a heavy equipment operator in the Seabees (look it up, well worth your time), and a national heavy equipment rodeo winner so we got the very best. For seven years he led and built this program, retiring three years ago due to health reasons. “Enrollment in this program is now full because of him.” He was unable to attend in person but watched electronically.

Watson introduced graduates of the program, including 2018 graduate Brandon Eubank, who is now the instructor in this program. They unfurled a banner “In honor of Mr. V”.

He said that Skills USA is a student organization for trade and industrial education in America. “Last year, our students competed on the state level in the heavy equipment operator category. I’m proud to say that the state champion for heavy equipment operation, William Mendoza, came from Goochland High school.”

Mendoza, said Watson, will graduate from GHS on Friday, walk across the stage, collect his diploma, and start a job soon thereafter making about $70k a year with no college debt.

Many facets of the CTE program were involved in the event including culinary arts, who prepared and served delicious refreshments and the Marine Corps Junior ROTC that handled parking media classes provided graphics.

Katherine Nava-Ovalie, the sole female student in the heavy equipment operator program, said that her entire family is involved in that industry. While her career may not involve operating a bulldozer, the experience she will be able to use skills and lessons from the program in all facets of construction contracting.

Creasey congratulated Goochland Schools for their commitment to workforce development in pursuit of educational excellence.

We each have differing gifts, which, when discovered and cultivated lead to successful, satisfying lives that contribute to the rich tapestry of a successful community. Kudos to our schools for recognizing the value of CTE as they strive to maximize the potential of every learner.

 

 

 

 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Getting off the ground

 

Starting and running a small business is not a task for the faint of heart. Goochlanders often claim that they want “Mom and Pop” businesses in the county but making that happen is a challenge, often for lack of funds.

People who operate small businesses are good at what they do, be it caring for children, baking, removing trees, and so forth. Where they get hung up is the nuts and bolts of running a business and finding enough money to get started and generate a profit.

Small businesses are typically funded with every penny that the owner has or can borrow. Often, unexpected expenses swamp a start up leading to closed doors and personal financial difficulties.

On January 29, Karen White of the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity held a workshop on small business lending from the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

White explained that, while her agency lends money, it is not a bank, but rather the financing arm for small business and economic development.  It helps to bridge gaps between commercial lenders and private equity for small businesses, defined as having fewer than 250 employees, less than $10 million in annual revenues, and less a gross net worth less than $2 million.   

Programs offered by the VSBFA include an economic development loan fund; childcare financing; loan guarantees; and micro loans.

Eligible uses among the programs include the purchase or expansion of owner-occupied property and leasehold improvements, equipment purchases; working capital; and for childcare programs, playground and infant care equipment, technology, and property modification for child safety.

White described the micro loan program as “out of the box” to help with a onetime need. She used the example of a quilting business needed to buy a specific piece of equipment to fulfill a contract and how acquiring that equipment allowed the business to expand.

Childcare, which White characterized as “way more than babysitting”, and is in short supply, has its own financing program with a zero percent loan interest rate for qualifying entities.

This is not a giveaway, contended White, but a helping hand for small business.

There is a robust application process that requires submission of a detailed business plan. She listed basic information required by all lenders including a certificate in good standing from the state corporation commission; and employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service; most recent business and personal tax returns with all schedules; most recent interim financial statements; list of current debts for the owner; business operating agreements; articles of  incorporation and by-laws.

White said that applicants must know how much they need to borrow to succeed and have a plan to pay it back.

Careful management of financial records is crucial to success. White suggested that business owners obtain professional help to set up their books to document costs, deductible expenses, and revenues. “If you can’t afford to hire a bookkeeper or accountant, go to some place like Reynolds Community College to see if they have accounting student interns who would set up your books in return for experience for their resume,” White suggested.

The VSBFA also has an economic development loan fund.

For more information visit  the VSBF or contact White at karen.white@sbsd.virginia.gov.

 

 

 

 





 

 

Friday, February 2, 2024

Another subdivision on a troublesome road

 

(First, the good news. Goochland County Engineer Austin Goyne has confirmed that the intersection of Broad Street and Hockett Roads will remain signalized, unchanged, after completion of the Hockett Road realignment.)

 

SRO crowd at St. Matthew's Church


Concerned citizens filled the St. Matthew’s Church meeting room on the evening of January 30 for a community meeting fora rezoning proposal for up to 199 single family detached homes on a 136.97-acre parcel on Rockville Road. Attendees included supervisors Board Chair Charlie Vaughters, District 4; Vice Chair Tom Winfree, District 3; Jonathan Lyle, District 5; planning commissioners Curt Pituck, District 4, and John Myers, District 1 who were there “to listen”. The project under consideration is in District 4.

For the record, every property owner has the right to petition local government for changes to permitted uses of their land. The Board of Supervisors has the final say and there are no guarantees that any rezoning application will be approved.

A community meeting requires an applicant, in this case developer MarkelEagle, to share details of proposed rezoning projects and gather citizen feedback.  Ideally, the applicant will address concerns and tweak the proposal to earn community support and increase chances of approval. This is the first mandatory step in Goochland County’s rezoning process and must occur before any formal rezoning application may be filed. Markel Eagle has built other communities in Goochland, including the Parke at Saddlecreek, Readers Branch, and Parkside Village.

(On April 8, a Community Planning Workshop will be held at Goochland Baptist Church, 2454 Manakin Road, beginning at 6:30 p.m. This workshop will review specific tools and resources and explain the rezoning process to help citizens understand how things work.)

Natalie Croft of Eagle Homes gave a brief overview of the proposed subdivision, named Highfield, and its amenities that include walking trails, a neighborhood gathering place, parks, and extensive landscaping with native plant materials. To proceed, zoning fo the subject parcel must change from the current A-2 agricultural, to residential planned unit development (RPUD), which permits an average density of 2.5 units per acre.

This land is at the edge of the Centerville Village and in the footprint of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Public water and sewer are necessary to accommodate higher density development. The 2024 assessed valuation of the parcel, which has not yet been purchased by Markel Eagle, is $12.9 million, it was $4.7 million in 2023.

As presented— Croft was clear that this was a “first draft” of the project—Highfield will have one entrance on Rockville Road and connect to phase II of Tuckahoe Bridge to its south via an internal road, satisfying the requirement for two access points for subdivisions with more than 49 homes. Turn lanes and extensive road improvements will be made on Highfield’s frontage on Rockville Road, but no offsite traffic mitigation.


Conceptual Plan for Highfield I64 at top

She referenced the county’s major thoroughfare plan, which shows Rockville Road being improved at an unspecified future date. Goyne said that, at this time, there are no plans, or funding, to widen Rockville Road or improve its intersection with Ashland Road. A possible “solution” to the dangerously dysfunctional left turn onto Ashland Road would allow only right turns from Ashland to Rockville and Rockville to Ashland. No mention of how this would be enforced, or if it would be approved by VDOT. Traffic wishing to go left onto Ashland Road would instead turn right onto St. Matthew’s Lane, left on Plaza Drive, and left on Ashland Road at a signalized intersection there. Goyne said that there are no plans, or more importantly, funding sources, to build these road improvements by the projected 2026 start of construction for Highfield. There are no plans for any improvement to St. Matthew’s Lane.

Most of the objections/concerns expressed by the citizens, many of whom travel Rockville Road daily, referenced the lack of mitigation to address the drastic increase in the number of vehicles on an already dangerous road from residents of Highfield. At least one speaker mentioned the large white crosses on the side of Rockville Road that mark the site of past fatalities.

Traffic engineers contended that Highfield would add about 1,900 additional daily trips on Rockville Road, not enough to trigger the VDOT “warrant” threshold for a traffic light because traffic is measured over long period of time and averages are used.

This seems to be another instance of “things need to get worse before they can get better” that complicates building and funding roads. Goochland does not build or maintain its roads. County roads are handled by VDOT, through a Byzantine “mother may I” process. Speakers contended that no new construction should be approved until the roads are built but sadly, that’s not how things work.

Significant improvements to Ashland Road north of I64, including a second bridge over the interstate and a diverging diamond have been approved, and more important, fully funded. No improvements south of I64 are in the works currently.

Proposed density was another objection. The county comprehensive land use plan https://www.goochlandva.us/250/2035-Comprehensive-Plan indicates that the parcel is intended for residential medium density, which is an average of one dwelling unit per acre. Croft said that the average proposed density for Highfield is just under 1.5 units per acre. As indicated on a conceptual plan, lots in Highfield would vary in size to accommodate modest homes on smaller lots that might be affordable for teachers and other county employees. Croft declined to comment on expected price points in Highfield citing uncertainties of market conditions several years in the future.

A speaker noted that good land use practice places the highest residential density in the center of a growth area, in this case the Centerville Village, and diminishes toward the edges. The subject parcel is at the very edge of the village, whose center is somewhere around the Company 3 fire-rescue station. Croft contended that Highfield’s density lessens toward I64, seeming to indicate that her notion of village density applies only to Highfield.

Croft rejected the objection that the density of Highfield could seep into adjoining land, especially the 123-acre parcel along Manakin Road that is currently for sale, by explaining that Highfield is locked in by I64 to the north, and a large, undevelopable wetland to the east, which would prevent any expansion.

Should the General Assembly mandate high growth localities—Goochland has been put into this category because our growth percentage is one of the highest in the Commonwealth—build affordable housing, Highfield could help the county comply. As Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, jurisdictions have only those powers given to them by the Commonwealth.

Croft parried concerns about the impact of the large subdivision on county schools contending that cash proffers would address that.

For homes in the eastern sector, the maximum acceptable cash proffer per home is currently $9,809. That includes $5,080 for schools; $1,075 for parks and recreation; $1,961 for public safety; and $1,695 for transportation(roads). The 199 proposed homes would generate $1,010,920 for schools, less than the cost of furnishing the new $60 million Goochland Elementary School under construction.  Total cash proffers for 199 homes would be just under $2 million. Cash proffers address capital costs for big ticket items with a long useful life, like schools and fire-rescue stations. Operating costs, salaries for teachers and fire-rescue personnel are paid by recurring tax revenues.

There is no way to predict demographics of home buyers in Highfield. Trends, as discussed at the Supervisors’ January 20 retreat, indicate that newcomers tend to be older, with fewer school age children. While this could take pressure off education needs going forward, older people increase calls for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) which has an economic impact on the county’s ability to address citizen needs. In short, it’s complicated.

Croft said that Eagle is committed to transparency and will include information about the 32 cent per $100 of valuation ad valorem tax levied on property in the TCSD; that land on the opposite side of Rockville Road is designated for commercial development; and that there is an active quarry just over I64, in its marketing materials. She asked the anyone with additional comments or questions send them to highfield@eagleofva.com. Croft said that at least two people will read every email. A website for Highfield is under development to share information about the project as it moves forward.

A timeline presented by Croft indicated that the application will be submitted to the county in March, go before the planning commission after Labor Day, moving to final approval by the supervisors before Thanksgiving, with groundbreaking in early fall of 2025, and home construction starting in 2026.

Hopefully, Eagle will use the time between now and its presentation to the planning commission to refine its proposal to address concerns about density and traffic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Next steps

 

THIS IS GOOCHLAND, NOT SHORT PUMP!



Over lunch at their January 20 retreat, Goochland supervisors, (Jonathan Christy District 1; Neil Spoonhower, District 2; Board Vice Chair Tom Winfree, District 3; Board Chair Charlie Vaughters, District 4; and Jonathan Lyle, District 5), chatted with staff members and digested the information presented in the morning.

Grant Neely and Rachel Yost of SIR https://www.sirhq.com/, facilitated the session. (The daylong event was recorded and archived on the county website https://www.goochlandva.us/https://for your viewing pleasure. Kudos to the county IT department for making this possible.)

Focus of the afternoon was a wide-ranging discussion about goals for growth both residential and commercial, how to reach and pay for them, and what outside forces could hobble local government actions.

Goochland is in a good place right now. The new supervisors face the challenge of building upon the hard work of their predecessors.

The local population increase, reported Neely, has averaged between one and two percent over the last decade even though it may seem higher. While there seemed to be a consensus among board members to temper residential growth in a mindful way, no specific mechanisms to achieve that goal appeared.  

The county’s 2035 comprehensive land use plan, https://www.goochlandva.us/250/2035-Comprehensive-Plan last updated about nine years ago has a goal of keeping Goochland 85percent rural and 15 percent developed. Defining exactly what that means from a land use perspective is still vague.

The goal of a tax revenue ratio of 70 percent residential/30 percent business moved further out of reach as burgeoning home sales and prices during and after Covid, moved that ratio to 81/18.

Vaughters contended that Goochland does not have “the right mix” to fund service needs generated by current economic development. He wondered if Goochland is attracting the kind of business revenue to flip the mix in the near term and suggested that economic development efforts vigorously pursue healthy, well capitalized companies.

 

Christy said that growth generated by large data centers coming to Lousia will spill over into western Goochland. He contended that data centers attract data centers because of the skill sets of their employees, and that could be a positive for Goochland.

Money matters, deciding what expenditures are needed and how to pay for them, were explored. In 2018, the county compiled a 25-year capital improvement plan (CIP) that listed all expected expenditures whose cost could not be absorbed in a single year’s budget. This was done in response to action by the General Assembly to counteract perceived abuses of cash proffer policies in some jurisdictions.

The supervisors wanted more data about county operations. Lyle wanted to know if county government staffing is too lean and lacking in cross training to avoid choke points that could occur if only one employee handles a specific task. What are baseline and acceptable levels of government service, especially in public safety? Are there ways that the county can effectively compete for the best employees against neighbors like Henrico with deep pockets?

Efforts to bolster tourism in Goochland are just starting. An app, touting ways to enjoy the county, has been created. Lyle wondered why there is virtually no mention of the county’s equestrian heritage—he said there are more horses than children in Goochland—including the important shows at the Deep Run Hunt Club on Manakin Road. Sports tourism, said Lyle, generates significant revenue in the region.

The term community was batted around a bit during the day’s conversation. That concept may be in the eye of the beholder. Goochland Day was cited as a community building event that brings citizens together, but maybe only those who live near Courthouse Village and west. Residents of the east end may send their children to private schools outside Goochland and have little interest in the county.

Citizen engagement, keeping residents “in the loop” about what’s going on is vital for community support and understanding. Currently, it seems like controversial zoning applications drive citizen interaction at well-attended public hearings.

Vaughters noted that, because of its location, the county is in danger of being swallowed by westward growth from Henrico. It’s important that Goochland retain its identity. How to do that, not so simple as the site of the retreat, the Residence Inn, identifies itself as being in Short Pump. Preserving the rural nature of Goochland with appropriate growth will be tricky. As Spoonhower pointed out Goochland does the right thing even if it is the hard thing.

The retreat introduced the supervisors to issues they will face during their term of office. Their next big task is approval of the county budget for FY2025, which begins on July 1. County Administrator Vic Carpenter will present his recommended budget to the board on February 20. The budget is a reflection of county policy. Please pay attention and follow this important process.