Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November in the Board Room

Items on the Wednesday, November 8 monthly meeting agenda for the Goochland Board of Supervisors ran the gamut from grappling with growth issues to expansion of by-right chicken keeping. 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Emergency Operations/ Communications center that included tours, preceded the supervisors’ meeting.  During opening remarks, Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew Board reported that he and others from county administration attended the 28th Annual Valor awards ceremony in Richmond where Cpl. Harrison Hankins received the Bronze award for actions taken during a December, 2016 motor vehicle crash. Goochland Fire-Rescue Chief Bill MacKay noted that this is the first time anyone can recall that a  Goochland responder has been recognized this way.

Visit the Facebook page for the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office to view the body- cam footage of the incident.  The county is blessed to have officers like Cpl. Hankins. He also served in the United States Marine Corps, and is another veteran whose skills, experience, and integrity strengthen our community.

Board Chair Ned  Creasey, District 3, an early supporter of the state-of-the-art communications facility, missed the event due to ill health. Creasey also lobbied successfully for the inclusion of area Ham Radio operators in the emergency communications mix as a belt-and-suspenders measure should the metaphorical fan turn brown.

The new EEC/EOC came to be as the result of the vison of Maj. Don Bewkes, who translated ideas into a cardboard model that became reality. After Hurricane Isabel blew through Goochland in September 2003, it became apparent to Bewkes that the county needed an EOC that  is a self-contained nerve center for the county in the aftermath of widespread emergency. Bewkes oversaw all facets of the design and construction of the facility, which was completed on time and on budget.
Maj. Don Bewkes explains new equipment at EEC/EOC

Large enough to house  representatives  of all county agencies involved in disaster response and recovery for extended periods of time, the new center was built with an eye towards expansion as the county grows. The facility includes many ingenious touches, like paint that permits walls to serve as whiteboard, and raised flooring for easy access to electronic cables.

The exterior of the new building blends into existing structures so well that some people do not believe it is new.

Back in the board room, the afternoon supervisors’ session began with County Administrator John Budesky congratulating Goochland native Justin Verlander for his Houston Astros’ victory in the 2017 World Series. Budesky said that the county would be honored to have Verlander and his new bride, Kate Upton, visit a board meeting. Kathy and Richard Verlander, parents of the star pitcher, live in Goochland and chair fundraising efforts for Goochland Pet Lovers.

Budesky thanked everyone who participated in the county’s fall festival for making it successful. He said that annual Christmas tree lighting will take place on Friday, December 1, starting at 6 p.m. The tree is located in the field opposite the intersection of Fairground and Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village.

On November 28, the audit committee will receive the certified annual financial report (CAFR) in a meeting at 1:30. Following the supervisors will hold  special meeting to accept the CAFR. After that, the supervisors will hold a workshop with the school board to discuss their facility study, which is a part of the 25 year capital improvement plan, currently in progress.

Budesky said he is pleased with the turnout at this year’s town hall meetings and engagement of our citizens. “This is a great opportunity for us to hear what we need to hear and not what we want to hear,” he said.

During the monthly VDOT update, Marshall Wynn said that there is still no word on “the year” in which improvements to the Rt. 228/Board Street Road interchange will be advertised. Dates for upcoming gas line work on Manakin Road are not yet firm as no permits have been issued. Wynn opined that this is the wrong time of year for gas line work.

Beth Parker Ferguson, 2017 Goochland Christmas Mother, spoke to the supervisors about the program, which as been brightening the holiday season for the less fortunate in our community since before she was born. The Goochland Christmas Mother provides food, new clothing, toys, books, and other essential items to qualified Goochland County families with children, seniors age 60 and older, and disabled adults during the holiday season. 

Ferguson, who has taught at Randolph Elementary School for 13 years and a lifetime member of the Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue, is the embodiment of community service. She personally knows many of the families who qualified for the means tested program “I’ve taught many of their children and see them at Food Lion. I had no idea they were struggling,” she said.

The Goochland Christmas Mother organization is grass roots compassion at its finest. Visit to find out how you can volunteer. If you have an extra bean or two, this 501 (c) (3) organization accepts donations year round.

District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick vented his frustration at the statutory straight jacket the county find itself in thanks to the revised proffer law passed during the 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Following the public hearing on a rezoning case for a handful of lots near the intersection of Hermitage and Manakin Roads, whose fiscal impact on the county is still unclear. The rezoning application would create subdivision with two different zoning districts. GOMM has listened to the applicant’s presentation and still has no idea why it should be approved.

“The GA did us no significant favor with the new proffer law, and in fact did a tremendous disservice to county staff  that wrack their brains to fit round pegs into square holes and does no favors for the developer community or our constituents. Based on the strict constrict of how I’m supposed to look at this, I have no idea how to judge the long term capital impact of this on the county.”

The board voted unanimously to defer action on this case until its March meeting, by which time, hopefully, the development impact model has been finished and adopted. It seems likely that action on the two major subdivisions forwarded to the supervisors by the November 2 tie vote at the Planning Commission will also be deferred.

Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter said that the goal of the capital impact model is to ease the burden of crafting development impact statements and speed the process.

Later in the evening, the supervisors unanimously approved expansion of by-right chicken keeping in R-1 zoning districts, which are predominantly  in Districts 2, 3, 4, and 5. It precludes roosters and permits up to six female chickens, which shall not be permitted to trespass beyond the property line and must be kept in an enclosure of some sort—a fenced a yard would qualify. Coops and other enclosures must be behind dwellings and kept clean at all times. Trespass will be enforced by complaint to the planning staff.

Nancy Simpson contended that chickens provide an infinite amount of laughter. “There’s this sense of being back in nature and what Goochland is all about. They remind us that there are good things in our world. This is a good things for kids and all the way up to grandparents, to grow high quality protein.”

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nobody told me

A recent report of the sale of  the ten acre parcel of land behind Satterwhite’s Restaurant on the northwest corner of Manakin and Broad Street Roads to build a shopping center and hotel has some citizens up in arms. The parcel in question is in the CENTERVILLE village, Manakin is on Rt.6.

They are furious that there was no notice of the development. Well, there was, in 2009. A for sale sign, indicating that the land is zoned B-1, which permits shopping centers and hotels and fast food by right, has been there for a very long time.

(See for GOMM’s take on a community meeting before the rezoning application went to the  planning commission.)

The Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning in August 2009. That was a turbulent year for the county.  Local government was reeling from irregularities in the utility department, the abrupt “retirement” of the county administrator and the impact from the economic downturn, which brought a significant decline in property values and real estate tax revenues.

According to county property records, NOVA Hotels, LLC, with an eastern Goochland address, purchased the parcel for $1.7 million, far less than the current assessed valuation of $2.65 million on November 1, 2017.

NOVA Hotels’ alleged plan for the site includes 100,000 square feet of retail and office space and a 100 room hotel. Design standards included in the rezoning and the Centerville Village overlay criteria are rigorous.

Since 2009, the state imposed stringent storm water runoff control regulations,  which could reduce the amount of developable land. A traffic light was installed at the corner of Manakin and Broad Street Roads, which could alter road access to the site. At the time of rezoning, the widening of Broad Street Road was in process and completion of turn lanes for the project was postponed until its completion. It would seem that VDOT would need to sign off on access points for this parcel, which could also add to development costs and delay its completion.

The timing of the sale was also interesting. November 1 was the day before rezoning applications for two large subdivisions, that if approved, could increase the number of homes county by ten per cent, were heard by  the planning commission. Tie votes on both proposals moved them to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

At their November 8 meeting, the supervisors voted to defer another residential rezoning application until  their March meeting in the hopes that the Development Impact Model, currently under construction, is complete and adopted.  That would seem to indicate that the two large subdivisions will also be deferred until the supervisors have a better handle on the fiscal impact of more homes.

Conventional wisdom among developers is that “retail follows rooftops” and the advent of those 800 or more homes may have been interpreted as an opportunity. The thing is, new folks coming to the Centerville in the past decade are not all that likely to shop there, especially with the delights of Short Pump so close. If this developer expects residents of the new subdivisions, as well as those currently around Centerville, to patronize his center, he may be disappointed. For whatever reason, new residents tend not to go west of where they live to a burger doodle. If those rooftops do not materialize, will there be enough traffic to support the new businesses and make it economically feasible?

Goochland has a high employment rate. Where will the employees come from to staff the new businesses?

Success of the commercial portion of this project could depend on the tenants. There is a need for new office space in Centerville. If the fast food options are brands like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and/or Panera objections will fade fast.

Adding a hotel to the mix seems odd, but it is permitted in B-1 zoning. The notion of a hotel on that property never, to GOMM’s recollection, came up  during the rezoning application discussions. But back then, a hotel in Goochland seemed as likely as a flying saucer landing pad. Times change.

The parcel should never have been included in the Centerville village—Manakin Road is a natural boundary—but it was.

People say that they understand growth is coming to Goochland, especially in the Broad Street Road corridor, but object to anything new. When asked what they would rather have in a particular place, the response is too often, “I don’t know, but not that.”

Private dollars fund development. Landowners pay taxes while hoping to shape their property for its highest and best use.  They take a risk that their land may never sell at a profit. Some go broke. A lot of hard work and expense is involved in successful development of  a piece of property.

The supervisors have the power to reject a rezoning or conditional use application if they believe it is not in the best interest of the county. They did not decide that there would be a McDonald’s rather than a Burger King in Centerville, or any fast food for that matter.

Please keep an eye on the county website and its Facebook page for announcements of community meetings and public hearings for land use issues.

Come to the meetings and learn what it’s all about when your opinion can make a difference. Tell your supervisor what you think, they really want to hear from you. Pay attention, be engaged at the start when things can change, don’t wait until it’s too late and whine that nobody told you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Goochland’s Planning Commission deadlocked—Commission Chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, was absent— on two major rezoning applications at its November 2 meeting, opted to send the cases to the supervisors noting the tie vote. The Commissioners were frustrated at the dearth of data on which to base sound decisions.  They voted, in both instances, 2-2 with John Shelhorse, District 4 and John Myers, District 1, in favor and Derek Murray, District 3 and Matt Brewer, District 2 in dissent.

The commissioners voted to suspend the provision in their by-laws that automatically defers tie votes to the next meeting to secure an up or down vote. Both applications began the rezoning process early in 2017, and, by statute, needed planning commission action by the end of December. According to County Attorney Tara McGee, the supervisors then have a year to act on the applications.

As Commissioner Vice Chair John Shelhorse, District 4, observed, these are landmark cases. If approved as submitted, they could, together, add more than 800 new homes to Goochland, the equivalent of one tenth the number of homes currently in the county. It is believed that other larger subdivisions may follow.

Realizing that the county does not have a clear picture of the true cost of significant residential growth over the next 50 years or so, consultants have been retained  to provide detailed criteria for evaluating the impact of residential growth on county facilities. This model is expected to be completed and adopted by February, 2018. An updated thoroughfare plan to address actual county growth is also underway.

The cases, an application filed by HH Hunt Land  (HHH) for 207.839 acres to build a 520 home senior residential community named Mosaic, and an application filed by Readers Branch Partners, LLC, and Hockett Road Partners, LLC, to rezone two subdivisions, Reader’s Branch and Swanson Ridge “on the books” creating a single community, Reader’s Branch, were the first large enclaves to run the gauntlet created by the new state proffer law.  Both are located on or near Hockett Road south of Broad Street Road. 

Major areas of impact that cash proffer calculations may address are: schools; public safety—law enforcement and fire-rescue; transportation; and parks.

Transportation—roads—was perhaps the biggest concern to citizens and planning commissioners for both cases.

Traffic Engineer Erich Strohhacker, who worked on both communities, explained that Hockett Road is currently capable of handling 12,000 trips per day (TPD) and has traffic of 2,000 TPD, according to VDOT. Neither proposed subdivision would add sufficient traffic to Hockett Road to exceed the 12,000 TPD threshold. (It would seem that these numbers are based on 24 hour days and that most of the trips happen during morning and evening rush hours, further clouding the issue.)

The problem with Hockett Road traffic, contended Strohhacker, is its intersection with Broad Street, which is currently at a failing service level. A short term solution to this is the addition of a right turn lane at the intersection. The Reader’s Branch application seemed to $100 thousand to build the turn lane. However, as it does not own the land, it cannot build the lane on its own, so the county and VDOT—glaciers move faster—need to be involved. Strohhacker said that the ultimate solution to the bottleneck at Hockett and Broad is the rerouting of Ashland Road to connect with Hockett further south.

Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter took great care to explain the restraints of the new proffer law before presenting each case. As handed down by the Virginia General Assembly, the statute governing cash proffers is vague. The county adopted a revised proffer policy to adhere to state code as best it could, but dealings between the county and developers remain as delicate at a porcupine mating dance.

Hunter said that residential development that fails address its fiscal impact on community facilities could create a financial burden on the county.

It seems like both sides want to deal in good faith without giving away the store. The county is very wary of approving hundreds of new homes without a clear cost/benefit analysis. Developers want to maximize profit, which makes them capitalists, not evil. The search for balance between the two remains elusive.

As described by Kim Kacani,  of HHH, Mosaic will add a new housing option for long time older Goochlanders to downsize and remain in the county. It will provide a wide range of amenities for active seniors. As no residents under the age of 19 will be permitted to live in Mosaic, it will have no impact on schools—the most expensive county service—but adding at least 500 older people  will further stress emergency medical services.

HHH retained the services of a consultant to determine Mosaic’s impact on Goochland EMS using call volume statistics supplied by the county. Perhaps a more meaningful metric is the number of hours that Goochland EMS is in a condition known as NUA (no units available), meaning that if you call 911 for EMS, no crews are available to respond.

Another issue plaguing the Mosaic case was what seems to be a “false flag” objection by adjoining property owners who contended that Mosaic must provide connectivity to main roads in West Creek and not block a conceptual interconnective road. Hunter indicated that this issue does not involve Mosaic.

Kacani said that an eight year build out if envisioned for Mosaic. It offered  a cash proffer of $1,471 per home for public safety. This is about $750 thousand over eight years (proffers are paid when certificates of occupancy are issued), roughly one and a half fully equipped ambulances at today’s prices.

Scott Gaeser presented the rezoning application for a new improved Reader’s Branch.  He contended that since Goochland began accepting cash proffers in 2000, the county has collected about $300 thousand per year, which is  approximately one half of one percent of the annual budget. He further contended that the effort put forth by developers and county staff dealing with the new proffer legislation may not be worth the effort. The supervisors have shown little interest in unwinding Goochland’s proffer policy.

The Reader’s Branch application included cash proffers of $1,585 per lot, $1,506 for public safety, $79 for parks and zero for transportation and schools. According to its development impact statement (DIS), Reader’s Branch is expected to generate 93 school-aged children. Gaeser contended that these students would not increase enrollment at any county school in excess of capacity, therefore no school proffer can  be justified. The Planning Commissioners metaphorically scratched their heads over that one.

Both applications touted the increased real estate tax revenue that will be generated by their communities as well connection fees and ad valorem tax revenues for the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.  The message implied is that the increase in real estate tax revenue will more than offset the cost of the development.

Comment on the applications was somewhat mixed. Several people support the Mosaic application, agreeing that Goochland needs a dedicated senior enclave. Others were appalled at the number on homes on small lots, contending that they will bring Short Pump to Goochland. Shelhorse contended that both proposed communities in an area designated for growth that will keep the rest of Goochland rural.

Joe Lacy, former District 3 supervisor and planning commissioner, characterized the cases as  the most significant land use decision since the creation of West Creek more than a generation ago. He contended that jamming as many houses as possible on to small lots is not what Goochland is about. Adding traffic generated by these projects, he said, will make Hockett Road a disaster. He also observed that Rt. 288 is already at a standstill around 5:30 p.m. He urged deferral until more impact information is available.

See the planning commission packet for its November 2 meeting at: for complete details on both cases.

Mosaic will be a good addition to Goochland housing options, if it does not swamp EMS. If Reader’s Branch can find a way to build the turn lane at Hockett and Broad and help the Hickory Haven subdivision, which has been paying TCSD ad valorem tax since its inception, connect to sewer lines, it could be a win for the county. But, we still need much more data about the burden, if any, that large subdivisions will have on county facilities. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Conservators of the peace

Attendees of an alumni reunion for the  25th anniversary of the Goochland Sheriff’s Academy were treated to a tour of the county’s new emergency communications center on October 25.

Deputy Shawn Creasey, who organized the reunion, kicked off the evening with a screening of a public service announcement video created by students at Goochland High School reminding people not to leave valuables in their vehicles and to lock the doors. Larcenies from cars, when people take things from vehicles, especially those left unlocked, have increased dramatically. 

Sheriff James L. Agnew presented a brief update on activity. The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for law enforcement in Goochland. That includes traffic response; criminal apprehension; patrol; answering a wide variety of calls for service; extended investigations of serious crimes; providing court security; and transporting prisoners from Department of Corrections facilities throughout the state for court appearances.

Last year, the  H&K 45 mm firearms carried by Goochland Deputies were replaced with Sig Sauer P320s. These guns, said Agnew, are smaller, lighter, easier to shoot, and have a ten year life span.

Our deputies are now equipped with body cams. “We know our guys are doing a fantastic job, now it’s confirmed on video,” the Sheriff said. As more lawyers are requesting these videos, especially in car crash cases,  FOIA  requests have skyrocketed.

Goochland, said Agnew, to no one’s surprise, is growing. A hotel, hospital, major subdivisions, and apartments are coming to the east end of the county in the next few years. More people bring more traffic accidents and opportunities for criminal activity.  When people live in close proximity to one another, the potential for violent interaction escalates. All of these factors have an impact on service delivery.

More deputies will be needed to handle increased calls, said Agnew. Finding new people with the proper skills, and personal integrity is a challenge in Goochland as it is with other law enforcement agencies. The current social environment, contended Agnew, discourages seeking careers in law enforcement. Agnew believes it is better to have a vacant position than to hire someone lacking the necessary attributes to make a good deputy.

Agnew presented some statistics from the past few years.

Traffic is a high priority concern. The most dangerous intersection in the county by far is the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange. VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—has promised improvements there, but not until 2020 at the earliest. Poorly designed and overburdened roads are only part of the cause of accidents. Distracted  and drunk drivers contribute to the problem.

For patrol purposes, Goochland is divided into six beats. The northeast beat, which includes Centerville and the Broad Street Road corridor to the Henrico border, generated the lion’s share of calls during 2016. County geography, said Agnew, presents a major challenge. It is about 36 miles from Randolph Square in the county’s southeast to Shannon Hill in the northwest. Given the road network and ever increasing traffic, Agnew said is it impossible to travel the distance in 35 minutes.
Calls estimated for the last quarter of 2017

While every effort is made to have deputies in all parts of the county, when someone needs backup, officers will be diverted to help.

For more detailed information about the operation of the Sheriff’s Office, enroll in the next Citizen’s Academy, which is expected to start next year.

The group then toured the new combined Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Emergency Communications Center (ECC).

Grafted on to the back of the Sheriff's Office, the new facility will serve Goochland well for many years.

Grafted on to the back of the Sheriff’s office, this spacious state-of-the-art facility brings emergency communications in Goochland into the 21st century. The new facility, said Agnew,  is the brainchild of  the vision of Chief Deputy Major Don Bewkes, who shepherded it from vision to reality.

Dispatch, the county’s nerve center, where phones are answered by a real person 24/7/365, is better equipped to help deputies and fire-rescue respond to emergencies than ever before.  No longer will dispatchers work their 12 hour shift in quarters so cramped they almost sat in each other’s pockets.

The new EOC/ECC has ample room for many large monitors.

Thanks to a new $10 or so million county-wide communications system mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, which includes new towers around the county, the “dead spots” where deputies, who typically patrol alone, were unable to radio for back up, are a thing of the past.

“We can hear what they’re saying, clear as a bell,” said Tammy Witt, who has more than 20 years’ experience as  a Goochland dispatcher.   Poor signals sometimes garbled transmissions between dispatch, deputies and fire-rescue providers, a cause for concern in emergences when every second matters.

Banks of computers, radios, and wall mounted monitors displaying security camera feed, give the dispatchers real time eyes on the courthouse complex, including holding cells.
Real time security camera feed gives dispatchers eyes on the courthouse complex

While Witt explained the new equipment, Dispatcher Tammy Harmon answered 911 calls. A large electronic map of Goochland helps dispatches visualize the real time locations of incidents and deputies.
Tammy Witt, left, explains the new equipment, while Tammy Harmon, right answers 911 and non-emergency calls,
The floor in dispatch is raised so that cables beneath may be easily accessed for repair or upgrades.  Sound absorbing  panels on the walls prevent unwanted noise. The ceiling is high enough to accommodate expansion to a second floor without raising the roof. The server room, like the rest of the new ECC/EOC has lots of room for expansion.
Ample room for expansion in the server room for new equipment to keep pace with demand,
In addition to dispatch, the facility includes a large conference and smaller break out rooms;  a full kitchen; shower and laundry facilities and a large generator able to provide power for several days.

When Hurricane Isabel visited Goochland in 2003, the Sheriff’s Office was used as the EOC, where representatives from many county agencies including fire-rescue, administration, schools, and social services were crammed into a small room for many hours. 

The new ECC/EOC will equip Goochland to deal with increasing demand for law enforcement and other public safety services and  challenges of the next disaster be it man made or weather related and expand to meet the needs of a growing county.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Going local

Goochland Town Hall meeting season is just about over. The District 2 and 3 session will be held at the  Goochland  Company 5 fire-rescue station on October 30, starting at 7 p.m.

GOMM attended the Districts 4 and 5 meeting, held on October 16 at the Hermitage Country Club.

Following brief introductory remarks by Supervisors Ken Peterson, District 5, and Bob Minnick, District 4, County Administrator John Budesky gave a brief summary of the county’s annual report.

“Goochland is a special place,” Peterson said. The generosity of the community has funded a new headquarters facility for Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services and supported Goochland Pet Lovers in its endeavors to fund a comprehensive adoption center as part of the new animal shelter, now under construction. He  touted the county’s AAA bond rating, better than that of the state or federal government.

“When we have a problem, we come together to find solutions,” Peterson said. “Because Goochland has the best citizens in the Commonwealth, we on the Board of Supervisors have an obligation to bring them the best government at the lowest tax rate.”

Budesky said that he is honored to work with  talented staff in pursuit of the same goal—delivery of excellent government services to the citizens. “If you don’t have trust in government, we can’t do our job effectively,” he said.

In an effort to ensure that citizens are informed about the doings in  county government, it has taken to social media, including Facebook and Twitter to get information out. This includes notices about upcoming meetings; holiday closures, including convenience centers; upcoming VDOT roadwork; and weather advisories. Follow the county on Facebook at Goochland County, VA and on Twitter @GoochlandGovtVA. The county website is

As many attendees live in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, (TCSD), Budesky said that the county has added detailed information about it on the county website under the public utilities tab to  “demystify” its origins and operation.

 The ad valorem tax, which is levied on land in the TCSD to pay debt service on bonds issued to build its infrastructure, said Budesky, is expected to stay at its current 32 cents per $100 dollars of assessed valuation in addition to the countywide base real estate tax rate of 53 cents per $100 for the foreseeable future. The issue is revisited each year during budget deliberations.

Another topic on the minds of those living in the east end of the county is growth and development pressures.  

All property owners, said Budesky, have the right to petition the county to rezone their land for a different use. That doesn’t mean that the request will be granted, but the county must allow that request to go through the rezoning process, which includes community meetings and public hearings before the planning commission and board of supervisors. The media, he said, has a tendency to report on rezoning applications when they begin their way through the process as though they are “done deals” before they are approved, which is not necessarily the case.

To address mounting development pressures, the county, said Budesky, has retained consultants to craft a comprehensive capital impact model addressing all of the county’s capital needs, including roads. As residential communities have lifespans in excess of fifty years, their impact on county infrastructure must be evaluated over the long term. This model, expected to be complete around February 2018, will enable Goochland to understand the cost of growth so that it can better judge the merits of rezoning land.

“We see development as a major concern to you,” said Budesky. “Developers want clear rules to operate by, so it is critical to have this information to analyze the totality of the impact (of development)”.

There are approximately 2,400 housing units “on the books”  that are zoned but unbuilt, including the reconfigured Reader’s Branch subdivision, which will be heard at the November 2 planning commission meeting, said Budesky.

Budesky said that the county’s fall festival is coming up on Saturday, October 28 and the Christmas tree lighting will take place in December.

A citizen asked if Goochland is actively pursuing the second Amazon headquarters facility.  Budesky said that Goochland probably does not check all of Amazon’s boxes, but that the county always  tries to put is best foot forward and works with landowners to secure  beneficial economic development.

County owned property on Hockett Road has not yet been designated for any particular use, but is a “placeholder,” Budesky contended. Possible uses include a school, park, or convenience center.

Another citizen asked if the county is pursuing additional  internet choices. Budesky said that the supervisors declined to get into the internet provider business, but want to create an environment that attracts providers. The dearth of additional providers in the east end is the result of Verizon’s decisions not to expand FIOS and go in the direction of wireless, not any action taken by the county.  Residents in western Goochland, he said, would be happy to have any internet options.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley told the assemblage about the great return on the investment of their tax dollars created in Goochland Schools. “We are preparing the next generation of leaders and maximizing the potential of every learner,” he said.

Raley listed the impressive achievements of Goochland Schools. Visit  for an in depth look .

Our schools, said Raley, are being proactive by looking down the road 25 years in terms of enrollment and facility needs.  “There is no crystal ball,” he said. “So we had our consultants prepare  two growth models, one moderate, the other more aggressive.” Both enrollment models see the Goochland public school population remaining around 3,000. Currently, there are about 1,000 school aged children in the county who are either home schooled or attend private educational institutions.

Raley said that by the start of the 2027-28 school year, the goal is to have 1,400 elementary school seats. Schools will be renovated or replaced in phases and there will be an analysis of attendance boundaries at the beginning of each phase.

A 25,000 square foot career and technical addition to the high school is contemplated in along with other changes.  “Decisions need to be made,” said Raley. There will be a lot to discuss when the school board and supervisors hold a joint meeting on November 28. “Our goal is to provide an exceptional education experience for our awesome kids.”

There were some questions about public utilities. Apparently the smelly water problem plaguing the Parke at Saddle Creek has not been solved after upgrades to the TCSD water system.

Residents of the Hickory Haven subdivision, who have been patiently paying TCSD ad valorem tax for 15 years wanted to know when they will be able to hook on to the sewer lines. Budesky said that the Readers Branch proposal would bring  sewer line to the edge of Hickory  Haven. If that rezoning application is not approved, other connection strategies will need to be explored.

These meetings facilitate the citizen engagement that is vital to good government.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Doing the math

The Virginia General Assembly defanged the existing law regarding cash proffer policies during its 2016 session.  The new law took effect on July 1, 2016.

Since then local governments and developers have been scratching their heads over the convoluted language of the new law and searching for ways to use the rule change to their advantage. What might be described as the first skirmish in this conflict between Goochland County and developers took place at the October 5 meeting of the Planning Commission.

The agenda contained three residential rezoning applications. One, filed by HHH Land, LLC for a 55 plus community in West Creek, requested, and was granted, a 30 day deferral. Another submitted by Readers Branch Partners, LLC and Hockett Road Partners, LLC included substantially  revised proffers submitted on the day of the meeting. As its bylaws give the Planning Commission the option of declining to hear a case with proffers submitted fewer than eight days before the public hearing, the Commissioners unanimously deferred this case to its November 2 session. These two applications, if approved as submitted, could add more than 800 new homes to the eastern part of Goochland. Both are expected to be heard at the November 2 meeting of the Planning Commission,

A third application, filed by Dover Branch,  LLC for a dozen homes off of Hermitage Road near its intersection with Manakin Road, was heard.  It too submitted revised proffers within the eight day window, but they were deemed not to include substantial changes; the Commissioners waived the rule and heard the case.

Developer, Gibson Wright expressed frustration that he was obligated to go through the entire rigmarole of preparing a development impact statement (DIS) for a few houses that will have no impact on county facilities. There were other difficulties with his case—two different zoning categories in a single subdivision and lot sizes under two acres—that did not hinge on cash proffers. His amended proffers included a $3,063 per home cash proffer.

Wright contended that the studies needed to prepare a DIS “is a burden”  and that it would have been cheaper for him to pay the county’s previous full cash proffer, which was $14,250 per home before the new state law went into effect.

Wright’s application was recommended for approval by a 3-2 split, with Derek Murray, District 3; John Shelhorse, District 4; and John Myers, District 1, voting in favor. Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, and Matt Brewer, District 2, were in dissent. The Planning Commission is an advisory board, the supervisors make the final pronouncement on land use matters.

Before the 2016 legislation, jurisdictions were  able to establish cash proffers—a “voluntary” payment by residential developers to mitigate the impact of new homes on capital infrastructure like schools, fire-rescue stations and equipment; parks; and roads. These amounts were computed with formulas that estimated the burden each new dwelling unit would place on county infrastructure, such as .3 students per home. Salaries for teachers, deputies, fire-rescue providers, and other staff are assumed to be paid for by revenues generated by the ongoing increase in real estate taxes resulting from development.

Goochland also has an EMS cost recovery policy that charges a fee plus a mileage cost for hospital transport that offsets part of the expense of fire-rescue staffing.

Cash proffers apply only to residential rezoning. Each time land is rezoned, it becomes an ordinance—a  law—that applies to the particular property in question. Not all new homes pay proffers. Kinloch, for instance, was zoned before the county adopted a proffer policy in 2000, and pays no proffers. Breeze Hill, currently under construction on Fairground Road, pays about $20 thousand per home, the cash proffer in place when that land was rezoned.

According to comments made by Director of Community Development Jo Ann Hunter to the Commissioners, Goochland has 39 proffered subdivisions in place— representing 2,336 homes that are zoned but unbuilt—which are estimated to generate more than $18 million. Cash proffers are paid at the time a certificate of occupancy is issued for a new home.

As no rezoning was involved to permit apartments in West Creek, proffers did not apply. However, donation of an as yet unidentified several acre site for a new fire-rescue station within West Creek was part of that arrangement.

The DIS requirement includes mitigation strategies, which may include construction of road improvements.  The catch seems to be that these do not have to take the cumulative effect of many new homes into account. For instance, if a residential project is estimated to add 30 students to the school system, the DIS must only address the expense of those students, not the current capacity of the schools. If those 30 new students increase the school population enough to trigger the need for a new school, the fiscal impact is greater than the additional children in our schools.

Some jurisdictions, like Henrico, do not use cash proffers. Henrico, whose population following the 2010 census was 306,935 versus Goochland’s approximately 21,000, may be better able to absorb increased capital costs by issuing bonds to pay for them and spreading the debt service among its many  residents. Henrico also has an airport, hospitals, malls, and soon a Facebook data center, to generate tax revenue.

Henrico takes care of its own roads, while Goochland is at the mercy of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—for all transportation needs, a cumbersome and slow process.

Therefore, new homes, especially in large numbers,  have a significant impact on our facilities and how they are funded.

Several studies are underway to craft a clear picture of the cost of  responding to population growth, as well as replacing and renovating aging facilities. The school division recently completed a comprehensive facility master plan that includes costs for replacing, expanding and renovating schools. This replaces the long held notion that the county needs to build new elementary school somewhere in the eastern part of the county for about $24 million. A countywide capital impact model based on all of these studies is expected in February, 2018.

Goochland is not the only jurisdiction dealing with these issues, and there is hope that the General Assembly will address the confusion that the 2016 law caused. Until then, the county and developers will continue something akin to a porcupine mating dance as rezoning applications wend their way through the process.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Small town living

Lots of folks say they like Goochland’s rural character and small town atmosphere. Among the “life savors” of small town living are productions staged by the high school drama department.

Next weekend, October 13, 14, and 15, the GHS Drama Department will present “Little Shops of Horrors” in the GHS auditorium.

Lessons learned by the students involved in these plays, from lead actors to set builders who ensure that a myriad of components come together at the right time in the right place, will stand them in good stead wherever life’s journey takes them. Our kids work hard to put on a good show, and deserve a full house at each performance.

Neil Burch, Theater Educator, is entering his seventh year in Goochland. He is a catalyst who helps each of his students find the best within themselves, and best of all, enjoys his work.

Trading ten bucks for a couple of hours of enjoyable entertainment is a good deal. For the students, getting applause from people other than their parents is priceless. For ticket information, visit