Back to the Stone Age
On September 8, a public hearing before the board of supervisors clearly illustrated that Goochland County is on a disastrous path. Our supervisors, being of different mindsets, often vote on issues with a 3-2 split, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. Lockstep unanimous voting is the trademark of decisions made in secret.
James Eads, District 5, is often the tie breaker. He sides both with the supervisors who decline to increase the real estate tax rate and with those who seem hell bent on discouraging meaningful economic development. The result, a stalemate worse than the stagflation of the Carter administration in the late 1970’s that crippled our nation, that will ensure that Goochland returns to its backwater status.
Eads seems to delight in asking tangentially relevant questions during public hearings. It’s hard to tell if he is unprepared for the session or merely delights in kibitzing to ensure that serious issues are never resolved.
The matter before the board concerned prezoning of 132 acres land near the Interstate 64 Oilville Road interchange from business and agriculture to B-3 to facilitate economic development there. At the planning commission meeting, rumors of a truck stop coming to the area caused the planners to recoil from the application and fire a silver bullet of recommendation to deny approval to the supervisors.
Included with the application for the supervisors’ consideration was a proffer to exclude truck stops; land for rights of way for road widening and cash money on the table. They also proffered that no buildings would be higher than 60 feet even though the B-3 zoning district permits 100 feet. Owners of the land in question spent at least $200,000 on traffic and water studies. Their proffers included significant amounts of cash money to get projects underway, all to no avail.
Director of Community Development Don Charles reminded the supervisors that they had expressed some interest in the prezoning concept a few years ago to encourage economic development and be proactive for prospective businesses.
Eads obsessed on the forever nature of proffers included in the applications. While landowners have the right to apply for a change in proffers, the supervisors are not obligated to grant those changes.
Although Eads repeatedly asked for “clarity in the process” he ignored any remarks counter to his thesis and did a good job of muddying the waters of fact presented by the county staff..
Residents of the Autumn Breeze subdivision in Oilville who protested the prospect of a truck stop were clearly unaware of the opposition to the creation of their community because it would increase traffic; its cookie cutter nature was not an appropriate design for the Oilville village and would flood the school system with children, all of which came to pass.
It would also be interesting to know if any of the people who live in that subdivision realize that their property borders potential commercial development. What do they think is going to be built on the south side of Rt. 250? Locals still contend that the creation of Autumn Breeze is a severe disruption of the rural beauty that these new residents claim to love so much. Building those large houses served by well and septic on small two acre lots is not rural and helped to set a precedent for the sprawl they all decry. It was interesting to note that no one mentioned the threat to the water table posed by Autumn Breeze.
What about the property rights of the landowners? People move here, buy a few acres and scream if anyone wants to develop anything else. Then, they complain about the long drive to Short Pump. Those who have lived here for generations and held onto their land with an eye to realize some financial gain are being held hostage by a handful of new residents who pay no attention to land use issues until the bulldozers are next door.
One of the property owners explained that they have been approached over the years about developing their land. However, when told that it would take three to five years to develop prospects went elsewhere taking their tax revenues with them.
Speakers chose to ignore the fact that the subject property is located in the Oilville Village overlay district, which means that, before any plans can be put into place, they would have to be approved by the fearsome Design Review Committee, which enforces these rules. Ask any business that has located here recently about trying to get away with inadequate landscaping; lights that do not protect the night sky or use of low end building materials.
Andrew Pryor, District 1 contended that the prime property at the interchange, parcels on Rt. 250 near Oilville Road, is already zoned B-1. Charles opined that those parcels are too small for significant development. Sadly, Pryor lacks the imagination needed to move the county forward. His constituents will be most harmed by lack of economic development. There will either be less money for government services, including schools, or higher property taxes.
Eads moved to decline the application, Pryor seconded.
Chairman William Quarles Jr. District 2 observed that since the comprehensive plan defines the location and boundaries of a village and identifies acceptable land uses therein, citizens must realize that they may not be happy with the reality of those uses.
This decision puts the local development community on notice that Goochland County has little interest in working with landowners and developers for mutual benefit. It’s a good thing that Goochland has a high per capita income because we’re not going to get money for services from anywhere but our own pockets.