Sunday, December 26, 2010

More strange critter sightings

Christmas birds One horned goat

Earlier in the month reports of a strange creature began to circulate in the county.
Although the description of the anomalous creature (AC) was not remotely simian, it was dubbed the devil monkey.
Other folks reported seeing odd things.
Last week, the Goochland sheriff’s Department posted photos of a one horned goat spotted in the Maidens area as an answer to sightings of the AC.
It’s good to have a photo, but this goat does not seem to have the long long, fluffy tail that was a feautre of the initial sighting.
Other sightings have been reported.
On Christmas Eve, a black deer was spotted running along Manakin Road in the daytime.
An entity calling itself the Goochland Public Safety Network contends that some sort of creature had been sighted on Rt. 250 moving westward from Gum Spring toward Hadensville but offered no description of whatever was sighted.
On Christmas morning, a huge flock of black birds was swarming in the Oilville area. This could have simply been a precursor to the big storm, but it was creepy.

Perhaps all of these phenomonena are the result of animal response to the weired weather we’ve been having, or something else entirely.
We’ve got more snow on the ground, which should provide an opportunity to spot strange tracks if there are any.
We all ejoy a scary story, especially as a diversion on snowy days. However, if there is something odd lurking in our woods, we need to be careful and alert.
Keep an eye out for anything strange including tracks in the snow! It’s probably not Frosty!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

By the numbers

Can formulas mandate behavior?
Last week, the Goochland Board of Supervisors learned from a consultant, whose services were mandated and funded by the state, that the county must permit high density housing options on between 470 and 1,055 acres of land. (There are about 181,760 acres in the county.)
According to District 4 supervisor Rudy Butler, failure to comply with the state mandate could put the county at risk to lose state money for roads and schools.
These numbers are the product of calculating the acreage consumed by the population increase of the past few years and moving them forward.
The assumption is that high density housing will absorb the entire demand for new housing in Goochland over the next few decades and remove development pressure from land in the “rural” part of the county.
Without this change said the consultant, between 5,000 and 11,000 acreages could be consumed by traditional land use, which includes homes and new roads to access them.
Goochland’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which includes language encouraging higher residential densities in both the Centerville and Courthouse Village areas, is already in compliance with the state mandate, said the consultant.
The supervisors unanimously agreed to give staff the go ahead to put this change in motion. Upon recommendation from Butler exploration of some sort of mixed use zoning option for the Tuckahoe Creek Service District was included.
The county has long needed a higher density zoning option, especially in Centerville and the TCSD to provide opportunities for reasonably priced housing.
This could easily become a gateway precedent for local governing boards to permit only high density housing curtailing the property rights of landowners in other parts of the county. By limiting the number of developable lots supply is reduced regardless of demand, paving the way inflated property values and higher real estate taxes.
Members of the Goochland Tea Party expressed serious concern about the downside of smart growth options during public comments at the afternoon session of the December 7 supervisors’ meeting. It is good to see people taking an interest in land use matters and articulately expressing their opinions.
The high density housing options, per se, are not the main threat of the “smart growth” movement. Use of those options to deprive landowners elsewhere in the county of their right to develop their land could well be the first step on a slippery slope to population control.
When zoning came to Goochland, about 35 years ago, a system of by right division was put in place. This permitted property owners to subdivide relatively large parcels of land into smaller lots in a descending size order without county approval. As property values increased, landowners started chopping the larger parcels into more lots, which required rezoning and created many of the subdivisions that sprouted all over the county.
The by right divisions result in random growth that located modest and upscale homes in the same area, which is a feature of rural character.
Somewhere along the line, people began to panic that all of the open space was going to disappear and Goochland would resemble northern Virginia.
True, Goochland has experienced a healthy population increase, but the percentages seem to distort the reality. Our population is expected to be around 21,000 when the results of this year’s census are in. In 2000, our population was 16,863, which translates into something like a 26 percent increase; not really a lot of people when you consider that the population density is about 59 per square mile.
In response to the allegedly burgeoning population, Goochland devised something called rural preservation zoning, which basically permits clustering a clutch of high end homes on relatively small lots surrounded by a common area referred to as a preservation tract that cannot be developed - ever.
There is nothing rural about rural preservation. It is simply a mechanism to maximize a developer’s profits, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Advocates of smart growth are really trying to recreate the cities and towns of sentimental memory. Had these locales not failed for social and political reasons, the development pressures that create the dreaded “sprawl” would not exist.
Public transportation in certain circumstances is wonderful, but it has limited appeal. People like the freedom of traveling by personal vehicle.
Yes, the whole issue of land use is very complicated. That is why it is vital for every citizen to pay attention and try to understand the issues at stake.
Please go to the county website and listen to the consultant report. It is in the board of supervisors’ section under recordings for December 7 and labeled as work session.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More on the Goochland "devil monkey"

Keeping the lid on

The recent “devil monkey” post generated a few snide comments and a video on another site. All of the responses give little credence to the sighting.
The actual account of the initial sighting is quite different from the fatuous comments about a “devil monkey” floating around the YMCA.
The creature, according to the stable, sober folk who saw it and wish to remain anonymous, stood on all fours. Its front legs were shorter than the rear legs. It had a long furry tail, pointy ears, and a long nose and was larger than a standard deer.
The creature did display menacing behavior, including bearing its teeth. It bounded away in very long powerful strides. In short, this was not a deer, coyote or anything else normally seen roaming around the county. The sighting was made in the Courthouse Village area early in the morning a few weeks ago.
Little credence has been given to the sighting, even though those at its source have no reason to fabricate such a tale. The next person who sees this creature will probably keep it to themselves, unless they happen to have a camera.
Emily Neal has put up a blog dedicated to the sightings at
The folks at Channel 12 must have had a slow news day, because they did a story about the situation and decided that the creature was a spider monkey. It seems like they called the Sheriff’s office, which declared the matter a hoax ; the implication being that people in Goochland are seeing things due to the cold weather and long nights. If the Richmond media is going to report on Goochland, its representatives should get in their trucks and come out here and investigate in person.
Neal’s site has some interesting information. Please visit The sketch on the right over the “animal” heading seems to embody the description of the Goochland whatever it is.
As none of the reports indicate that the creature flies, it is curious that there have been no reports of strange tracks in the snow. If hunters have spied the creature they are keeping mum. There also seem to be no actual photos of the creature on those automatic cameras deployed in the woods to locate deer.
While many people are ready to dismiss the notion of a strange creature found in the dark days of the year as a scary but entertaining story, what if there really is a new kind of critter roaming in Goochland?
First of all, if it poses a threat to anyone, people should be made aware that these critters are not warm and fuzzy and will eat out of their hands.

What if it turns out to be a new and endangered species? That could draw all sorts of environmentalists into our midst. What if they were to declare certain parts of the county protected habitats off limits to any activity? Let’s see the supervisors devise a new property tax rate for protected habitat.
On the other hand, that could also spawn a new local industry, photo safaris to see and photograph the strange new creature. That would be an opportunity to create local jobs and revenue.
Using ridicule to suppress information outside the realm of “normal” is a subtle yet effective form of mind control designed to discourage questioning of the status quo. It’s also a way to will the boogey man away from your door.
Let’s see what sort of evidence may appear in the coming weeks before declaring these episodes a hoax. The people who have reported the sightings are solid, sober folk who have no reason to fabricate such stories.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last board meeting for 2010

Girding for more hard times

The last meeting of 2010 of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors included usual year-end housekeeping matters. Streamlined procedures have shortened monthly sessions to a few hours in the afternoon and early evening.

It’s good to see new faces attending these meetings, especially Susan Lascollette from the Goochland Tea Party. There is just no substitute for watching these proceedings in person. However, recordings posted on the county website a few days after the meetings are a second best way to follow local government and make up your own mind.

The December board meeting agenda usually includes the annual inclusion and deletion of parcels of land in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. This year, however, major changes are planned. Instead of simply amending the TCSD ordinance, according to county administrator Rebecca T. Dickson, the Virginia Attorney General has opined that the entire ordinance should be repealed and a new, improved ordinance enacted in its place.

In addition to adding and deleting parcels, the new TCSD ordinance will address matters including mandatory granting of easements and connection policy, which were not part of the original ordinance.

This is a welcome and long overdue action. Confusion and inequity about easements and connection policy have plagued the TCSD since its inception in 2002. Failure to properly address wastewater treatment funding mechanisms in the original ordinance led to the dramatic rate increases that began this year and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. There will be several public hearings on the matter. Stay tuned and pay attention.

The new year will bring renewed fiscal headaches as the board grapples with the task of funding county services with a revenue base that is expected to continue its decline as a result of a continued decline in real estate assessments.

Initial salvos in that battle were quietly fired by board chair William Quarles, Jr. District 2, who requested that Dickson present, as she did for fiscal 2011, several options for the county budget based on different tax rates. This could provide justification for a real estate tax rate hike.

James Eads, District 5, however, was adamantly opposed to an increase and suggested that Dickson base next year’s budget only on revenue generated by the current 53 cent per $100 of valuation rate.

Eads also suggested that the county explore outsourcing all vehicle maintenance and janitorial services; combine school and county general maintenance personnel; combine school and county purchasing activities and prepare an inventory of small parcels of land owned by the county with an eye toward selling some.

Eads also said that the school system should be strongly urged to present a budget dealing with expected revenues, which it did not do for the current year.

He repeated his entreaty for the school board to hold its meetings in the administration board room where adequate seating, good microphones and an efficient recording system are in place. This would save the school system a little money while enabling it to hold more transparent meetings.

Eads’ comments on outsourcing make a great deal of sense. One way to resolve the perennial debacle of the school bus maintenance garage is to pay someone else to do the job. Given the constraints of the situation, this would require a location in the county, probably Courthouse Village, so that buses and other vehicles could be serviced nearby.

One great advantage outsourcing has is to lessen the number of permanent county employees, which in turn lowers benefit costs including pension liabilities.

The board also approved its 2011 legislative agenda, which notifies the General Assembly Goochland’s stance on a variety of issues. It did not endorse a measure to permit the Virginia Retirement Authority to explore alternative defined contribution funding options for local employees. Few private companies provide defined benefit pension options because of prohibitive costs. Governments at all levels should follow suit or risk being swamped by ever increasing pension liabilities.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have you seen a devil monkey?

It’s that time of year again. Darkness of long nights can play tricks on our minds, perhaps.

According to scuttlebutt at the Goochland YMCA, there have been several recent sightings of a creature described as a devil monkey.

In some of these encounters, the alleged creature became aggressive and gave the people who saw it quite a scare.

A brief internet search indicates that devil monkey sightings have occurred around the southeast, including several sightings in southwest Virginia.

The DM is described as being money like with long hair and a simian face. Size ranges from about three to eight feet in height. There are no photographs on the internet.

In a time when most people carry photo capable cell phones, this makes the entire subject a bit suspect.

However, truth is often far stranger than fiction.

So, if you have spotted a devil monkey or any other unusual beings — it should be about time for the Druids in Gum spring to make their annual appearance — post a comment to share information.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Holiday delights close to home

There are many things to do right here in Goochland to get you into the holiday spirit.

From December 1 through 5 Salem Baptist Church presents Bethlehem Walk. Located on Broad Street Road a few miles west of Centerville Bethlehem Walk gives new meaning to the Christmas story. Visit for details. Salem members and the Goochland Sheriff’s Department do an amazing job to ensure that the event’s impact on regular traffic is minimal.

On Saturday, December 4, fire-rescue stations in Centerville, (Company 3) and Fife, (Company 4) open their doors for annual Santa breakfasts to thank the communities they serve throughout the year. Thanks to Christmas magic Santa is able to be in both places at once, ready to listen to gift requests from good little girls and boys. Delicious cooked to order breakfasts are served to everyone. Centerville opens its doors at 7:30 and Fife at 8 and breakfast ends around 10.

Later on December 4 Field Day of the Past opens its show grounds on Ashland Road just north of Broad Street Road for a celebration of the season. Travel to a simpler time from 4 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

On Tuesday, December 7, the Grace Episcopal Church Concert Series will present The Virginia Benefit Chorale at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 2955 River Road West, Goochland, VA 23063. Sponsored by Grace Church Mission and Outreach
to benefit the Goochland Food Pantry and the Christmas Mother.
The fifteen member a cappella group sings choral music by Holst, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and from the rich tradition of American folk music. The concert is free, but please make a donation or bring non-perishable food items. For more information call: (804) 556-3051.

On Friday evenining December 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. come to the inaugural lighting of a Goochland Community Tree located at the corner of Dickinson Road and River Road West in Courthouse Village. Visit the county website at for additional information.

A Candlelight Christmas Tour of Tuckahoe Plantation will take place on December 10th-12th from 4 to 7 p.m.

Tickets will be sold at the door. No reservations or advance purchase necessary. The tour of the home is $12.00 per person. For more information please visit

The Goochland Farmers Market is pleased to present its second Holiday Market of the season on Saturday, December 11 from 10 to 2.

It will be held indoors at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Western Campus, 1851 Dickinson Road in Courthouse Village.

Many of the regular market vendors will be participating in this special market. Pastured poultry, beef, pork, seasonal vegetables, honey, herbs, indoor plants, baked goods, eggs, cheese, prepared foods, and many fine arts and crafts will be available, including plenty of holiday goodies - perfect for gift giving! Local musicians will serenade you as you shop. For more information call 804-332-3144 or email

Most of these events are sponsored by community groups and are offered at no charge. Donations are always welcome to these groups who do so much good. If you are blessed to have a little extra this year, please share. Don’t forget non-perishable food for the concert at Grace Church.