Sunday, February 21, 2010

Odds and ends

Lots of stuff in the hopper

Business as usual seems to be a thing of the past in Goochland, a development that is long overdue.

The emerging revelations about the profound mismanagement of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District will reach to the next elections. In the meantime, identifying the problems in the system and fixing them will consume much of the time and energy of county administration, resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

Citizens need to trust that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, which is apparently a new concept for the three supervisors who cast blind eyes on county management.

Speaking of spending money wisely, outraged parents continue to get only arrogant and insufficient response from the superintendent of schools and school board when they ask detailed, intelligent and important questions about the school budget.

Crafting a lean budget that protects core services is a mighty challenge for the entire county and pretty much everyone in America.

The schools this year, however, are throwing a tantrum when told to cut back. The school board and superintendent are acting like a jockey told to lose weight before a race. Instead of switching to a low fat diet, getting a close shave, short haircut and perhaps an enema, the jockey threatens instead to cut off an arm and a leg to meet weight requirements.

What outrageous nonsense. The refusal of the superintendent to justify the administrative positions in question does nothing to support her allegations that she knows better than anyone else which jobs are vital to the school system. Unfortunately, that bunch cannot be sent to the barn.

The economic meltdown has slowed zoning activity to a crawl. A flurry of conditional use permit applications by churches provides the opportunity to see how the county protects its landowners.

Good land use decisions should balance private property rights against the public good. Of late, those decisions seem to be made with the sole aim of avoiding litigation.

The supervisors will hold a public hearing on a CUP application on the Grace Chinese Baptist Church of Richmond on March 2.

The congregation, which, with the exception of one family, lives in Henrico, bought the land next to the Wedgewood Properties’ compound because it was affordable. While they seem like a nice group of people who just want to have their own church home, they, like everyone else in the world today, are on a tight budget.

Although they say they want to become a part of the community and respect our rural character, they also plan to plunk a large, stark building in the midst of modest homes and a restored farmstead. Unfortunately, there is little beyond the good will of the members of Grace Chinese Baptist to ensure that any of this will happen.

One of the conditions that the county wants the church to adhere to is construction of both left and right turn lanes at the outset. The church wants to delay the left turn lane for three years so it can accumulate some additional funds.

The planning commission, in its great wisdom, recommended that the county go along with that request.

So, people who actually live here and drive on that stretch of Board Street Road every day will be inconvenienced by construction delays twice, once when the church is built, and a second time three years later for the left turn lane installation.

Then there is the proposed design of the buildings. The main structure intended for worship and fellowship is large, high and stark. When built in the middle of the property, currently a field, it will look a bit like a factory dropped from a helicopter. There is nothing to prevent the congregation from erecting a pre-engineered metal building for their church as long as it meets the building codes.

Once the CUP hearings are over, there is no further opportunity for citizen input on the project.

A church on the subject parcel of land that blends with existing structures nearby is a great use for the property. Citing the size of the ATT tower next door is a bit of a red herring. As telecommunications technology evolves, that tower may be torn down. It is already far less visually intrusive that it was only a few years ago.

This is not about freedom of religion, but about being good neighbors. The Joyners, whose property adjoins the parcel in question, were required to meet stringent requirements when they applied for a CUP. Their property values and other rights have received little consideration in this entire process.

The conditional use mechanism provides control beyond the building codes for certain uses. Had the building proposed for this property been less than 10,000 square feet, no CUP would have been necessary. The supervisors are obligated to protect the health safety and welfare of Goochland citizens. They can and should mandate the left turn lane and plead for a building more compatible with its neighbors.

If Grace Chinese Baptist really wants to fit into the community, it is hard to understand why it turns a deaf ear to the song being sung by the neighbors — your church is welcome here, but please make the entrance safe and please don’t put up a huge ugly building.

Budget deliberations continue next week as the supervisors hold their first workshop on the matter. Perhaps some long serving members will finally understand the reason that Goochland needs many more businesses.


Anonymous said...

I ask again... why does Goochland need another church? With a population of around 21,000, Goochland has 36 churches or about 580 people per church. Henrico with a population of 293,000 and 140 churches has about 2100 people per church. Surely there is no shortage of churches in Goochland!

We need businesses in this county that will pay taxes. Until such time as we wake up and understand that churces are sales organizations selling an intangible product, and tax them based on their receipts, we don't need any more freeloaders.

The Grace Chinese Baptist Church's members don't even hail from Goochland. What benefit do they propose to bring to the county? All good partnerships require a win/win. Someone please tell me how Goochland wins in this scenario.

As for the school budget, I could not sign the GEPA petition. In difficult times, the mantra must always turn to 'greatest good for greatest number.' Meeting the diverse educational desires ( I don't believe these are all "needs") of "every" child is not realistic during difficult times. I DO "accept the reduction of any teachers, programs or educational tools" as may be required to generate the greatest good for the greatest number.

Obviously it is imperative that teacher cuts come last, after cutting out the fat in administrative staff, transportation and other non-educational aspects of our school system - perhaps even football (gasp!).

Maybe the GEPA could entice some volunteers to fill in for Ms Underwood's oh-so-critical administrative staff on a part or full time basis, in order to take away her argument for retaining these administrative positions.

Perhaps the Grace Chinese Baptist Church could provide Ms Underwood with some volunteer administrative staff....


Anonymous said...

An important question for Goochland is who will take responsibility for any accidents that occur for 3 years while the Chinese Baptist church is allowed to raise money to pay for the left turn lane?

Also, why do they get the luxury of a delay when other churchs do not?

How are they going to get the money to deal with the wetlands that they right turn lane will take them through? They aren't even addressing that problem yet.

If they don't have the money to execute the entire plan at once, perhaps it isn't time to start.

Anonymous said...

Everyone say we need more businesses. The people in that area don't even want a church,can you imagine what the out cry would be if someone wanted a business there.

jd said...

I find it sad that citizens accept high paid administrative positions in the schools over teachers and textbooks. Just as sad is the thought that they believe these teacher cuts are necessary when time and time again GEPA has shown that they are not. There is no need for volunteer effort to replace "oh so important" administrative positions that didn't exist 3 years ago. Let's not forget the waste in maintenance and transportation, or that the schools pay $500k annually to lease computers. Teachers are indeed the last place to go for budgetary cuts.

Still I respect citizens right to an opinion and their courage to voice it.