Monday, September 13, 2010

The worst of all worlds

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.


Michael M. McDermott / Maidens, Virginia said...

Sandie - I disagree that the message given by the rezoning application's denial is one of anti-development. We need to develop West Creek and the TCSD before leap-frogging to Oilville. Not doing so, in my opinion, only sets the stage for more unwanted sprawl. Goochland's top developmental priority, again, in my opinion, is an experienced, well qualified, top-notch Economic Development Director. Having such a person seeking out profitable ratables for West Creek & TCSD would make the "low hanging fruit" just presented less appealing. Our new County Administrator, Ms Dickson, shared this need's immediacy during her Strategic Priority presentation prior to the rezoning arguments. Everyone agrees Goochland is in an economic hole. Using the same strategies that got us there will not get us out.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be beneficial for a little more development in Oilville! By the way this is America, do our county leaders have a problem with Capitalism and Free Enterprise?

Anonymous said...

When realizing that this is but a blink in time, one realizes that we have nothing but a temporary stewardship over the land - or anything else. We must look to the long-term impact of our actions on our environment and our community over the long haul - think hundreds of years out, or even further - don't think just to the next election cycle. Getting any "thinking" at all, rather than the typical human response of simply "reacting" would be of benefit.

The arguments on both sides are persuasive. Mr. McDermott's point about managed expansion makes sense to me. I also understand the argument for landowner's rights, but truly we are not really "owners" of anything given the blink of time that we spend here.

If you believe we are all ONE as I do, then we have to work together to agree and compromise on what is good for ALL in the long term.

Pat Gannon

The Truth Teller said...

Love the title and tone of your post Sandie!

Our Constitution affirms our right to own property and also guarantees us personal liberty. When the government puts ridiculous hurdles in the way of property owners which prevent them from utilizing their property in what ever way they choose it has in effect ignored the Constitution. Our nation was founded on the basic concept that the rights of the individual are paramount. Put another way- Don’t tell me what to do on my land and I won’t tell you what to do on yours. That ladies and gentlemen is as American as it gets! Unfortunately many of our leaders in Goochland are swayed by the nonexistent “right” of the government to preserving “rural character” over the inalienable rights of the individual.

The we are “all one” concepts smacks of socialism and if an individual wants to build a business in Oilville instead of the TCSD/West Creek then he/she should be able to do so and the government should get out of the way.

Anonymous said...

Dear Truth Teller, be careful what you ask for - you may get it.

If I as a property owner may do anything I like with my property then perhaps I will build a pig farm next to your home - or put in a prison, or maybe an airport or a low-rent housing unit. Perhaps as a land owner I should have the right to build a private transfer station or dump next door to you.

Please reread the Constitution. You may notice at the very beginning that it starts with "We the people..."

As to the 'we are all ONE' concept - please note that this is not Socialism. It is in fact more in line with the intent of the founders when they said, "We the people..."

If everyone lived by the concept that we are all ONE, and that what we do to or for another we do to or for ourselves, there would be no need for government. As an individual I would know that it is harmful to you for me to build my dump next to your property and knowing that hurting you also hurts me as a part of the whole, then there would be no call for me to act in that manner. Unfortunately people have been raised to believe that we are all separate and that there is not enough "stuff" for everyone, therefore we must compete with each other for what there is. This belief is mistaken and does not work for us, as can be seen in the state of our world.

Just imagine if all national boundaries were eliminated along with all the armies of the world that defend those arbitrary boundaries. The money used to support the world's military forces would easily solve every societal ill in our world. It's time to change the way we think about things.


Anonymous said...

Opening a "dump" next door to you or me, is not the same as an ambitious business owner, wanting to open a store, hotel, or a restaurant in Oilville. If we allow free enterprise, that does not mean, we have to allow dumps to open any or everywhere.

Pat, so i can better understand what you want, rather than speaking as a Constitutionalist, please give an opinion as a realist to your thoughts of development in Oilville.

Anonymous said...

"...please give an opinion as a realist to your thoughts of development in Oilville."

That's a fair request. I generally support additional business development in Goochland. Bedroom communities are limited in how much control they have over their destinies since revenue sources are limited.

I think every effort should be made to develop West Creek and TCSD, given the investment that we've already made in that area. However I don't think that should be to the exclusion of all other development in the county.

I've thought at times that it would be nice to see something truly unique and fun to put Goochland on the map. We're in an ideal location. I'm thinking of an entertainment business such as indoor surfboarding or snow skiing. See:

The more ideas, and the crazier they appear to be on the surface - the better. Something will stick. Lets's take our time and work through them.

I'd just hate to see Innsbrook stretched all the way to Charlottesville with the same old, same old... Let's do something exciting and different!


Anonymous said...

I know people are cringing reading this, but tell me that Rt. 288/West Creek would not be a perfect location for a Minor League Ballpark or Major Sports Complex (not just those comi kickball fields), like Chesterfield got. It would be a nice setting, and easy access for people to get into and back to where they come from! All the while spending money in Goochland!