Back to old habits?
The May 4 Goochland Board of Supervisors’ meeting was short and boring. The brain deadening marathons of yore have been replaced with rocket docket meetings where supervisors cast votes on procedural matters and listen to citizen concerns.
That’s not a bad thing, but it does seem like the oft- touted move toward government transparency has been replaced with even more behind the scenes machinations.
While this year’s budget process generated a lot of heat, it’s still unclear how the spending cuts were arrived at. More cuts will be presented for board approval at its June meeting. Hopefully, there will be some justification for the further cuts.
Citizen comment period was peppered with concerns about the evergreen subject of school bus garage. Citizens who live in the vicinity of the old middle school in the Sandy Hook area told the supervisors that they don’t want the bus garage in their backyard.
Hopefully, their fears are unfounded. Geographically, it makes no sense to put the bus garage there. A location in or near Courthouse Village still seems like the best choice.
The GEPA folk asked the supervisors to use the money allocated to the bus garage project for other capital improvements, including transforming the old high school gym into classroom space for Goochland Elementary School, which is bursting at the seams with children.
Another concern about GES raised by GEPA is a foul sewage stench emanating from some of the restrooms. In spite of extensive efforts by maintenance, they contend, the source of the smell cannot be located and corrected.
Although concerns about GES and the bus garage are of greatest concern to parents and those whose property values could be affected by moving the bus garage, the issues are symptoms of a larger problem.
The board of supervisors is incapable of planning for the future and committing to pretty much anything.
The old middle school has been vacant for almost three years. The supervisors and school board have known that the building was going to be surplus for about a decade and yet, no decision about its use going forward has been made.
Little attention was even paid to preserving the structure with item such as roof repair even though a considerable amount of money was spent a few years ago to fix the gym floor even thought the roof above was leaking.
On a positive note, the supervisors actually seemed to approve the notion of a strategic planning session to be held on the morning of July 6. Though held outside of the admin building, the meeting will be open to the public. Let’s hope that the board sees this as a golden opportunity to let citizens understand the complexity of issues facing local government.
Gary Rhodes, president of J.Sargeant Reynolds Community College made his annual presentation to the supervisors. He explained that JSRCC is the third largest of the 23 community colleges in Virginia. The bad economy and tuition increases have worked together to increase enrollment. A successful collaboration with Goochland High School permits participating students to earn college credits at no cost while still in high school helping to keep tutu ion costs down.
The automotive technology department on the 100 acre western campus is one of several special programs that prepares students for employment in specialty trades.
Rhodes said that JSRCC works with the Goochland Chamber and other local groups.
There was no comment about the County’s Spring Fest on May 1. Attendance seemed poor. Perhaps a moratorium on county funded celebrations is in order until the fiscal situation improves.
County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson discussed the conditions of a $50,000 Urban Development Area (UDA) grant received from the state.
By September 30, 2011, the county, in order to comply with the state mandated requirement that all fast growing counties in exurban areas like Goochland must identify a UDA as a magnet for expected growth.
Centerville, said Dickinson, has been selected as Goochland’s UDA. The grant money will be used to defray the cost of consultants vetted by VDOT, who will help the county planning staff make the necessary changes to the county’s comprehensive land use plan and zoning ordinances. The minimum residential density in a UDA is 4 units per acre. Goochland currently has a minimum density of 2.5 units per acre. The supervisors declined to approve an increase in density a few years ago.
Centerville is an ideal location for a UDA. It has water and sewer, is close to major highways and is on the brink of development spillover from Short Pump.
Had these changes, at a minimum, been put in place about eight years ago, perhaps the TCSD would solvent an Goochland have meaningful economic development.
It will be interesting to see the supervisors balk at these changes and try to justify their objections to the obvious.
VDOT representatives announced that 4,101 potholes were repaired in Goochland as part of the governor’s pothole blitz.
The long awaited widening project for Broad Street Road through Centerville is back on track. In spite of exhaustive public meetings and planning sessions with a proposed plan for the project, the water lines will need to be moved. District 4 Supervisor Rudy Butler is justifiably steamed about this because VDOT made repeated assurances that the water lines, which were supposedly installed in a location that was out of the widening easement area, would not need to be moved during the road widening. The state will pay for the cost of moving the lines. As Butler said, that money could have been used on another project.
Perhaps the answer to Virginia’s transportation woes is to eliminate VDOT and start over.
The board voted to approve the purchase of development rights in exchange for a perpetual open space and conservation easement on 500 acres of land owned by Albert Pyle in the western end of the county. Half of the $320,000 purchase price will be refunded by the state. The property will continue to be taxed at land use rates as modified by the easement.
In 2007, the supervisors established a program to purchase development rights to preserve agricultural, historic and scenic property in the county. Goochland was the recipient of a $403,219.75 Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS)/ Farmland Preservation Program grant to purchase development rights on working farms within the county.
Protecting the Pyle property from development in perpetuity is a sound investment in the county’s future.