Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking stock

A year of contrasts

The first post at Goochland on my mind went up in late November, 2008. Since then the world has shaken a bit both literally and figuratively.

One of the first posts lauded the announcement that Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) had decided to build a hospital in West Creek. Three years later, the West Creek Emergency Center is nearing completion.
Although the facility under construction on the east side of Rt. 288 is a modest one, about half the size of the Centerville Food Lion, it is a great beginning.

Emergency medical care is closer than ever to Goochland residents. This will save lives and reduce suffering. We envision its success will soon encourage expansion.

The last post of 2008 urged Goochland to “Ring in the year with a clean house.” It took a while, but 2012 will see the results of a hardworking broom wielded by county voters.

For the first time in decades Districts 1, 2 and 4 will have new supervisors. We have an entirely new school board. All of our newly elected officials have already rolled up their sleeves and started crafting strategies to move Goochland toward a brighter future.

Their task is daunting. The incompetence and mismanagement that have plagued county government for years cannot be reversed overnight.

Although the arrival of Rebecca T. Dickson as county administrator in July, 2009 was the start of some changes, it is pretty evident that she did not have the full understanding and support of all the supervisors.

The school board also has a great deal of unraveling to do.

We will be watching closely but wish them well in their endeavors.

Over the years, GOMM has reported and commented on many topics of local interest ranging from the devil monkey to the downfall of Brenda Grubbs.
The Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) was the subject of many posts and will be in the future.

At the start of each year, certain subjects loom large, but are often replaced by matters that were not anywhere near our radar screen. This time last year, everyone dreaded the budget cuts portended by declining real estate valuations. Before the budget was finalized, the treasurer had been arrested.

Last year was one of contrasts. We had drought, flood, cold weather, hot weather, an earthquake in the ground and at the polls, and our terrific Bulldogs coming within a few points of winning the state football championship.

No one knows what sort of surprises 2012 will bring. May your 2012 be filled with love, laughter and good health. Thanks for your support. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quack quack

Fat lady mute on CUP

Goochland’s outgoing board of supervisors met in an extremely rare called meeting on December 22, 2011 to approve the minutes of its December 6 meeting. They also voted to ratify their findings of December 6 to grant a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow Benedictine Preparatory High School to move to Goochland.

Such an extraordinary action seems to indicate that the outgoing board wants to ensure that the December 6 vote cannot be challenged on technical grounds.

This adds credence to the notion that the bitter controversy over moving the private high school to property on River Road is not over. It seems likely that parties as yet unknown may be planning litigation against the county about the CUP.

The vote remained unchanged with only returning incumbent Ned Creasey District 3 dissenting. A motion to approve the CUP was made by Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 3 and seconded by Andrew Pryor District 1.
District 5 supervisor James Eads, who bitterly opposed the CUP and abstained in the December 6 vote, was absent.

Creasey took a few minutes during the very brief meeting to explain his concerns about the matter. He said that after speaking with a Mr. Butler of VDOT that the turn lane and taper proffers in the CUP do not agree with those required by VDOT.

Creasey said that in order to comply with the VDOT turn lane and taper requirements BPH would need to either widen the bridge over State Route 288, which abuts the property on the west, relocate its existing entrance or obtain additional rights of way on River Road.

It is believed that landowners to the north and east of the subject property are adamantly opposed to ceding any of their land to BHP for this purpose.

Given the strong property rights beliefs of our new supervisors, it is highly doubtful that there would be any support to use eminent domain on behalf of BHP to obtain additional land for rights of way for the school.

The county zoning ordinance states that failure to comply with the requirements of a CUP can lead to its revocation. It will be interesting to see who blinks first should any confrontation over this matter arise in the future.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas came early

Oaths administered

Judge Timothy K. Sanner swore in newly elected officials during an investiture held in the venerable Goochland Circuit Court on December 22, 2011. This was an early Christmas present for those who thought they would not live to see widespread change in Goochland County government.

Clerk of the Court Lee Turner said she could not recall a time that the courtroom had been filled to capacity.

“This is a ceremonial and joyous occasion,” Sanner said in brief opening remarks before administering the oath of office to each official, whose terms begin on January 1, 2012.

Although applause followed each oath, there was an underlying acknowledgement of the gravity of the words spoken by those entrusted by the citizens to run local government for the next four years.

Our new supervisors are: Susan Lascollete District 1; Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2; Ned Creasey District 3; R.H. “Bob” Minnick District 4 and Ken Petersen District 5.

Our new school board members are: Michael Payne District 1; W. Kevin Hazzard District 2; John Lumpkins District 3; E.A. “Beth” Hardy District 4 and John Wright District 5.

Constitutional officers are: Pamela Cooke Johnson, Treasurer; Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. Commonwealth’s Attorney; Jeanne S. Bryant Commissioner of the Revenue and James L. Agnew, Sheriff.
Goochland Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson

Monacan Soil and Water District Commissioners Jonathan Lyle and Ronald Nuckols were sworn in as were deputies of Constitutional Officers.

Although the new supervisors and school board members do not take office for another week or so, they have been hard at work preparing for their new roles.

Supervisors left to right:Petersen, Alvarez,Lascollette,Creasey and Minnick.

School board left to right:Payne,Hazzard, Hardy, Lumpkins, Wright.

Congratulations to all of our new officials. Thank you for your commitment to public service.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The end is near

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 marked the end of an era as four members of the Goochland Board of Supervisors attended their last regular monthly meeting
At the start of the afternoon session, county administrator Rebecca Dickson presented the four outgoing supervisors— Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2; Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler, District 4 and James Eads, District 5 — with plaques honoring them for their service, a total of 80 years in office, on behalf of county staff.

That’s an average of 20 years, about a generation, per supervisor. Pryor was first elected 40 years ago when Nixon was in the White House and many of us thought it was a good idea to wear lots of plaid.

Only Eads, who declined to seek reelection after three terms, was not defeated at last month’s election.

Quarles, who has served as chairman for the past two years, and Eads had something of a disagreement over the status of the board. Eads contended that the current board members, with the exception of Ned Creasey District 3 who was reelected, were lame ducks and should address only routine matters of board business.

Quarles, on the other hand, contended that the board was elected to oversee county government until December 31, 2011 and had a responsibility to conduct all county business until then.

The audit committee, comprised of Butler, Quarles and several department heads, met two hours before the start of the regularly scheduled board meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to receive the preliminary report of the certified annual financial report (CAFR) from KPMG, the County’s outside accountants. (The CAFR is posted on the county website under the Finance Department.)

The composition of the audit committee, which meets only a few times per year, was also discussed. It was agreed that the committee should include representatives from the schools. That was certainly a reasonable decision, but why did they bother to make rather than leave any changes to the incoming board? The meeting should have been cancelled.

The outgoing board did properly address the county’s legislative agenda, which must be presented to our General Assembly delegation as soon as possible.

The legislative agenda is a list of issues causing the county some heartburn that need remediation at the state level. As Goochland will be represented by an entirely new delegation—Tom Garrett in the State Senate and Peter Farrell and Lee Ware in the House of Delegates—in the General Assembly next year timeliness is especially important. Newbies Garrett and Farrell will be far too busy discussing abortion and finding the restroom to be of any use to their constituents. Ware is our best hope for meaningful representation in the General Assembly in 2012.

Items on the legislative priority list include: changing the method used to calculate the composite index; creating a regulatory environment attractive to entice private sector high speed internet providers to underserved rural areas; imposing minimum qualifications county treasurer candidates; making urban development area zoning optional rather than mandatory; giving localities greater flexibility in land use taxation designations and permitting amendment of service district ordinances to adjust their boundaries.

(To see the full text of the complete list go to part A of the December 6 board packet on the county website at

Only Pryor voted against this item citing concerns about forcing property owners out of land use taxation status within the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Eads ranted that land use taxation is designed to discourage economic development and permitting it inside the TCSD, allegedly created to attract new business to the county, is absurd and counter-productive.

Butler said that if some TCSD landowners were denied land use taxation they might put their property into a conservation easement, which would remove it from the tax rolls permanently.

Once again Eads moved to defer board action on the Benedictine conditional use permit application until February to saddle the incoming board with the onus of the decision. Eads contended that the outgoing supervisors were lame ducks and had no business voting on the matter. His motion died for lack of a second.

This prompted Quarles to launch into a smug soliloquy about the term. “Lame duck,” said Quarles, is a term coined at a time when there was a long interval between elections and the start of a term of office. Those who had been voted out got up to all sorts of mischief before leaving. Goochland, he contended is different. “We will be your board of supervisors until December 31, 2011,” he said.

Quarles said that if another natural disaster, for instance, should occur before January 1, the sitting board has the responsibility to take action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.

Also on the agenda was a request to refer two land use items to the planning commission.

The first was a conditional use permit for a drive through window on the new pizza place in Courthouse Commons. The supervisors dissected the referral information as though they were being asked to site a nuclear missile silo. It seemed like they did not want the meeting to end.

Proposed new zoning categories for high density residential development, to be located primarily in West Creek and Centerville, areas served by public utilities, also received intense scrutiny. The proposed ordinances would increase permitted density in West Creek to 15 units per acre and in the TCSD to 14 units per acre well up from the existing maximum density of 2.5 units per acre. The board seemed to realize that would be its final opportunity to opine on a matter it has sidestepped for at least a decade.

Eads said that the high density has is necessary to save the TCSD, which he characterized as on “life support.” He said that the conversation has to take place and that he is shocked at how much this will drive taxes up, or something. He snarkily opined that the new board “in its wisdom” will make these decisions.

Creasey said that people who own the land in question should be part of the discussion. Principal Planner Tom Coleman indicated that will be part of the process.

Pryor, who cast the only vote against the referral said that he is opposed to adding this many rooftops to areas served by public utilities is not the answer to the problem “by a long stretch.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Go to jail

Pay $80,000

Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner sentenced former County Treasurer Brenda Grubbs to 20 years in prison with all but four suspended on December 13. The sentencing ends more than ten months of public embarrassment for Goochland’s government and citizens following revelations that Grubbs had her hand in the county till to the tune of about $180,000.

“This is a very sad day for Goochland,” Sanner said.
He said he could not imagine a more substantive breach of public trust than that caused by Grubb’s crimes. The oath she took as a constitutional officer is a serious thing and represents the trust of the people who elected her to office. “You failed them in the most miserable way you could,” Sanner told Grubbs.

In addition to the active incarceration, Grubbs will serve five year of supervised probation during which time she will have no access to the internet and was ordered to make restitution to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the balance of the amount she took, about $80,000.

Goochland County collected the amount of Grubbs’ theft from a state treasurer’s bond earlier this year, which is why she was ordered to repay the Commonwealth.

In his sentencing remarks, Sanner alluded to the victim impact statement, a sealed document, prepared on behalf of the county by Rebecca T. Dickson county administrator.

Grubbs’ actions, said Sanner, affected more people than just herself. They caused “real trauma to real people” including her chief deputy who Grubbs coerced into making wire transfers. That person, explained Sanner, was incorrectly suspected of being part of the embezzlement. She has resigned from her job in a bad economy.

Goochland government has been maligned about things that were Grubbs’ responsibility, said Sanner. County employees who pitched in to keep the treasurer’s office operating suffered scathing attacks from citizens outraged over Grubbs’ actions.

The amount Grubbs stole, said Sanner, could amount to three or four teacher or deputy positions, especially important in the current lean budget environment.

Sanner said that Grubbs apparently got to middle age and was dissatisfied with her life and troubled by health concerns and reacted in a very bad fashion by seeking comfort on an internet dating site. Many people face similar situations, said Sanner, but they do not resort to crime to assuage their misery.

As is typical of sentencing proceedings, various witnesses testified in open court as to the character of the accused and to offer an explanation of possible mitigating circumstances of the crime.

Grubbs sentencing was no exception. Her attorney James Maloney called psychiatrist Dr. James Selman to the stand. He said that Grubbs suffered from depression, which was improperly treated by medications that exacerbated rather than relieved her condition.

Maloney told the court that Grubbs suffered from chronic pain, headaches, diabetes and depression, which began to manifest itself around the end of 2008.

Selman said that Grubbs was mentally ill and on the wrong medication, which interfered with her ability to solve problems. When she first made contact with Bobby Johnson, characterized by Sanner as a “crazy Nigerian,” Grubbs core identity was vulnerable to an attack by someone who convinced her to take actions contrary to her core beliefs.

Yet, somehow she figured out how to get money out of county accounts and send it via wire transfer to Nigeria. That certainly took a bit of focus and ability to follow through on a complex task.

Maloney said that Johnson’s pleas for money, which Selman described as “mind control,” included a promise of repayment. He also pointed out that Grubbs exhausted personal and family funds of about $70,000 before she began to embezzle public funds to send to Johnson.

Selman said that once Grubbs was placed on appropriate medication and received counseling to address her self-esteem and gain insight into the issues of her complex childhood she will be able to function well.

Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip, acting as special prosecutor in the case, was skeptical of Selman’s characterization of Johnson as a master manipulator citing the clumsy language of the emails that allegedly ensnared Grubbs’ affections.

Grubbs’ husband Gerald, her son Jason and her pastor Tim Wilson of Perkins Baptist Church took the stand to testify about Brenda’s goodness and generosity.

Gerald Grubbs said that he forgives his wife for her actions, which included borrowing against their home without his knowledge. He also said that he had not read the email communications between his wife and Johnson.
An unsophisticated man, Gerald Grubbs clearly understands the “for better or for worse” clause in his marriage vows.

At the August hearing where Grubbs pleaded guilty to the embezzlement Haislip said that Grubbs “met” Johnson on an internet dating site on Valentine’s Day 2009.

Maloney said that the Grubbs raised $40,000 after selling most of their possessions except for the basic equipment needed to operate their 70 acre farm. Grubbs also turned over the cash value of her state pension, about $60,000 as restitution. No mention was made of Maloney’s fee, which was undoubtedly first in line for payment.

Maloney argued that because this was Grubbs’ first offense; that she is receiving medical treatment and has no access to public funds she should not have to serve active incarceration. He also pointed out that Grubbs readily confessed when confronted with her transgressions and pleaded guilty rather than force Goochland to incur the expense of a trial.

He also reiterated that Johnson fed on Grubbs’ vulnerability and craving for affection filling a “black hole of neediness” by calling her “wife” in the emails.

Haislip disagreed citing the magnitude of Grubbs’ offenses. Sanner concurred.

Sanner indicated that he believed that Grubbs’ crime was the result of her loving the mythical Bobby Johnson and giving him any money she could get her hands on. Even though Grubbs told those she inveigled into helping her that the money was being used to build a church in Africa, she was preparing to “chuck it all” for a new life with Johnson, Sanner contended.

The judge rejected a plea from Maloney to permit Grubbs to begin her sentence after the holidays citing Grubbs’ suicide attempt last summer when she took an overdose of oxycontin and emotional pitfalls of the season.

Grubbs was permitted to make a statement before pronouncement of sentence, but after getting out “I’m very sorry,” her words were drowned out by sobs.

The sound of handcuffs clicking around Grubbs’ wrists was clearly audible after the court session ended.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The party's over

The party’s over

A panel of three judges from the Virginia 16th Circuit, appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court, denied a recount request made by District 4 supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

The ruling followed about two hours of deliberation after a hearing on the matter held in Goochland Circuit Court on December 8. Butler appeared at a special hearing on December 2 without a lawyer but was represented by Darvin Satterwhite at the second hearing.

Butler, who lost the November 8 supervisor election to challenger R. H. “Bob” Minnick by six votes, was entitled to a free recount under state law, but only if that recount was requested according to the law. Recounts are not automatic in close elections.

Minnick’s counsel Brad Marrs, a former member of the House of Delegates, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly or in a timely manner. State law requires that a recount petition for a local election must be filed with the circuit court and served on the other candidate within ten days of the certification of the election, which happened on November 9.

Marrs said that the notice must be served with a summons form attached and contain the total number of votes cast in the subject election and the ballots received by each candidate. Butler’s request, which he mailed, and was subsequently served by the Goochland Circuit Court, reportedly stated only that Minnick had a six vote margin.

Minnick received notification of the recount request on November 28.
Marrs said that Minnick’s motion to dismiss the petition did not question the validity of Butler’s request but rather that the court did not have the power to act on the petition because it was not filed within ten days of certification of the election.

Satterwhite tried mightily to find loopholes in a tightly crafted statute. He contended that a recount differs from a challenge and the judges have the power to extend the filing deadline. The three judge panel rejected his arguments.

According to comments made by Robin Lind secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board at its December 12 meeting, the judges ruled that they had no jurisdiction to overturn the filing deadline specified by state law. Their decision is final and not subject to appeal.

The decision saved the Goochland electoral board the cost of the recount, which would have required reprogramming of the machine used to count absentee ballots.

Minutes of the November 9 meeting of the Goochland Electoral Board, at which election results were certified, reflect that Butler was “advised to seek counsel.”

Given the integrity and competence of Goochland election officials and registrar Frances C. Ragland, it is highly doubtful that a recount would have changed the election results.

Butler lost the election and bungled his attempts at securing a recount.
It’s time to move on.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

March of the pengiuns

Benedictine hearing

As their last official act defeated Goochland supervisors Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2 and Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 voted to approve a conditional use permit to allow a Benedictine Preparatory, a prestigious area private high school, to relocate to Goochland. Ned Creasey, District 3 voted no and James Eads, District 5 abstained.

The vote followed the second public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, December 6. There was no singing this time.

Happily the floor in the park and rec gym, site of the public hearing, was covered with protective tarps because lots of mud was thrown during more than three hours of mind numbing public comment.

The hearing began with a presentation of the details of the application by the county’s principal planner Tom Coleman and Benedictine’s side given by its attorney Darvin Satterwhite.

Someone needs to review documents associated with this matter. Unless the cadets have a lot more fun than a military style education would indicate, they begin their day with reveille rather than revelry.

Issues of contention for the land use application were mainly appropriateness of the site for use as a school; increased traffic; noise; soundness of the existing on site wastewater treatment plant and the ability of the site’s 10,000 gallon per day water allocation to support a future student body of up to 550 students.

Some supervisors seemed skeptical about the amount of water various activities at the school were expected to use. Satterwhite countered each objection with charts supporting his allegations.

Given the water pressure problems that have plagued the River Road corridor for years the lack of discussion of water pressure seemed curious. On the surface, it would seem as though peak water use for the school would when residential use is low. Remarks from county engineer Gary Duval about this would have been helpful.

A reduction in water pressure for residents in the River Road corridor is a valid reason for concern and there should have been some mechanism requiring Benedictine to remedy any drops in water pressure it causes in the CUP.

Swirling in the background was a schism between factions of Benedictine alumni caused by the very notion of moving the school from its venerable location on Sheppard Street in Richmond where it has educated young men for a century.

Many of the comments addressed issues that had little to do with the land use matter at hand. Board chair Quarles did nothing to keep the comment on point. Internecine alumni conflicts do not concern Goochland government and should not have been part of the discussion at the public hearing.

Luminaries, including Tom Bliley former mayor of Richmond and U.S. Congressman and outgoing Virginia delegate Bill Janis, spoke in favor of the move.

Janis also repudiated darker allegations made about the school. (A recording of the hearing will soon appear on the county website under the supervisors’ tab.)

Many speakers lauded the integrity and character of the cadets and that the school will be an asset to the community that will have a net positive impact on nearby property values.

Opponents contended that River Road is the wrong place for this school and too intense a land use for a residential area.

Many raised concerns about an increase in already objectionable traffic levels as a reason to deny the application, which included a detailed route that all cadet traffic will follow.

Here again it would seem as though residential traffic would be going in the opposite direction from the Benedictine traffic. Several residents complained that Blair Road, which cadets are proscribed from using, is narrow, unsafe and already overburdened.

Creasey is believed to have voted against the application due to concerns that Benedictine will fail to comply with all of the conditions in the CUP.
Eads, who has been against the move from the start and opposed to the outgoing supervisors voting on the matter, made long and rambling remarks on the matter in which he repeated himself several times.

Benedictine Preparatory High School is moving to Goochland. It is now up to the organization to illustrate its honor and integrity by complying with all building permit requirements and living the matters agreed to in the CUP. If that happens, Benedictine will settle in as a valued member of the committee and folk will wonder what the fuss was all about.

The ball is in the cadets’ court.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Burden or blessing

The Benedictine matter

On Tuesday, December 6, the Goochland Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an application for a conditional use permit to allow Benedictine High School to move its operations to property owned by the Benedictine Society of Virginia. The site in question is on the south side of River Road, just east of Rt. 288.

The facility, which was built about 50 years ago, before Goochland adopted zoning, began life as a preparatory high school for seminary bound students. A dwindling interest in the priesthood among other things, led to its closing.

For a time after that, the property was used to rehabilitate those with chemical dependency problems and is currently used as an abbey for Benedictine Monks. The grounds are used as athletic fields for Benedictine High School, which has been located on Sheppard Street in Richmond’s museum district for a century.

Benedictine has owned the property in question for some time and the cadets regularly engage in athletic and other activities on the site.
About four years ago Benedictine leadership began to explore moving the school to the Goochland property. Two groups, some residents of the River Road corridor and a faction of Benedictine alumni, expressed strong opposition to the move.

Those opposed to the move are not happy. During the public hearing held by the planning commission in July, whose minutes are on the county website under the planning commission tab, those factions expressed themselves at length.

Before that meeting county residents were inundated with mailings and robocalls from unidentified sources claiming that Goochland taxpayers would be forced to fund the extension of water and sewer lines to the Benedictine property and that the influx of these students would place an unacceptable burden on county law enforcement and fire-rescue resources and drastically increase traffic on River Road.

The property has a finite water allocation of 10,000 gallons per day. At the July hearing, representatives for Benedictine contended that the cadets actually use less water than state department of education amounts used for comparison. Unfortunately, no supporting evidence such as current water bills from the Sheppard Street facility and student enrollment was presented to back up the claim.

The information in the December 6 board packet, which is available on the county website, states that Benedictine expects its corps of cadets to grow to more than 500 in future decades even though the finite water allocation will support fewer than 400. No alternate water sources are mentioned.

The supervisors held an initial public hearing at their September meeting after acceding to a request by Benedictine to defer a vote for 90 days. That hearing was quite a show complete with original banjo music.
All sorts of “facts” are swirling around right now. Opponents cite a 2007 from the late Don Charles former Director of Community Development stating that the county does not permit private wastewater treatment plants.

At its June 3, 2008 meeting, the board of supervisors unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance allowing alternate on- site sewage systems that included stringent maintenance and inspection requirements.

The issue with the existing Benedictine wastewater plant is what will happen if it, for whatever reason, stops working. The costs for any repair or replacement will be the sole responsibility of Benedictine. Goochland County does not fund repair or replacement of any utilities belonging to private entities.

The real question is will the county close the school if its wastewater treatment plant stops working and does Benedictine have the funds to quickly resolve the situation.

Also, as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will be keeping careful watch over any discharges made by Benedictine into the James River violations on that front should be treated seriously.
Although the county seems to indicate that Benedictine cannot move its school to Goochland without the CUP, the school’s website seems to indicate that the move is a done deal. Renovations on the facility are in progress. A section on the Benedictine website entitled “the next hundred years” is set in Goochland.

Benedictine contends it will cause students and parents to access the school from the western terminus of River Road at Rt. 6. According to one of several pro move pamphlets mailed to Goochlanders in the past weeks, Benedictine contends that moving all school operations to Goochland will actually reduce the traffic on River Road because there will be no back and forthing to Sheppard Street.

Local residents contend that a high school has no place in their community. They fear Benedictine could pave the way for Collegiate and St. Catherine’s to complement their area athletic facilities with schools.
Should the CUP be denied, Benedictine will continue to use the River Road property for athletic events.

So, what’s in it for Goochland?

Supporters of the move claim that having a prestigious private school in our midst is a good thing. The school will provide a local option for those who wish to send their sons to a private school. They believe home values will be enhanced by proximity to Benedictine.
Opponents of the move cite traffic, noise, strain on utilities and other county resources. They believe the school will have a negative impact on nearby home prices.

Regardless of the vote on the CUP, it seems likely that the losing side will take legal action.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fair and square

District 4 recount

John G. Berry chief Judge of the 16th Virginia Judicial Circuit in a special appearance in Goochland Circuit on Friday, December 2 dismissed a motion made by Robert Minnick to reject a recount request made by District 4 incumbent supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

According to election results certified by the county electoral board on November 9, Minnick received 842 votes, Butler 836.

Under Virginia law, because Minnick’s margin was less than half a percent of the total votes cast for both candidates, Butler is entitled to a free recount. The law requires that he file the request with the Circuit Court of the jurisdiction in which the election occurred within ten days of certification of election results.

Brad Marrs, Minnick’s lawyer, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who lost an election by a small margin, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly nor in a timely manner.

Marrs said that Minnick received notice of Butler’s request for a recount on November 28, well beyond the ten day deadline. He also contended that because Butler’s petition for a recount was not attached to the summons form attached to all notice of civil legal actions, it was improperly served and should be disallowed.

The Judge stated that a recount is not quite a civil action.
Marrs said that the issue must be resolved by December 22, the date of supervisor investiture.

Butler, although he is believed to have been urged to retain counsel by a county election official, represented himself.

Butler contended that he mailed a letter requesting a recount to the State Board of Elections, Goochland Circuit Court and Minnick’s home in “due time.” He argued that state law does not specify how the notice is made.
Judge Berry told Butler that a recount petition is served like any other paper used to start a court case. (A recount is conducted by a recount court, in this case,comprised of Judge Berry and two other judges, appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.)

Butler seemed a bit put out by all the fuss. “If I’d a won by six votes, I’d agree to a recount,” he told the judge. “The public needs to know. This was the closest election in Virginia this year.”

Judge Berry concurred stating that court is committed to safeguarding the integrity of the election process in an expedited manner.

A preliminary hearing to determine the details of recount process will be held on December 8 at 1 p.m. The actual recount will take place on December 15 at 1 p.m.

As votes were electronically cast at the polls on November 8 and their tally is unlikely to change. The focus of the recount will be the 91 paper absentee ballots, which are counted by an optical scanner. The recount court will decide if the absentee ballots need to be physically examined during the recount.

A copy of the tally tapes for the electronic voting machines in the possession of county registrar Frances Ragland was transferred to the custody of Lee G. Turner, Goochland’s Clerk of the Court until the recount. The absentee ballots have been in the clerk’s vault since the canvass on November 9.

Minnick and Butler will each designate two election officials and one observer to conduct the recount under supervision of the recount court.
This is a very delicate matter. As new kid on the block Minnick must tread lightly while standing his ground and insisting on proper procedure for the recount to avoid being snookerd by the good old boys. His win at the polls must be well documented and above reproach.

Butler’s actions illustrate all too well the pseudo competence, baseless arrogance and penny wise and pound foolish attitude that characterized Goochland government operations for decades. The recount will show that he did not lose to one of those pesky imports on a technicality.

Butler must have known on election night that he wanted a recount. A proper request for a recount should have been in the hands of the proper parties no later than November 14.

It is curious that the Republican Party seems to have provided Butler with no support legal or otherwise. You’d think that the Republican Party of Virginia would have some sort of legal aid available for its standard bearers who lose by tight margins.

The recount will be held. It will set the record straight and clear the air of any doubt about who won the election.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On to the state finals

Bullgdogs keep a zero in the loss colum

The Goochland Bulldogs beat Augusta County's Wilson Memorial High School in the state semi-final football game 47 to 21 at home this afternoon.

Goochland scored six offensive touchdowns and one interception return. Except for "taking a knee" at the end of each half, the Bulldogs scored every time they had possesion of the ball.

The Bulldogs made the Green Hornets work hard for their scores.

Next Saturday Goochland will play Gretna at Salem City Stadium at 4:30 p.m. for the state championship.

Go Bulldogs, bring the championship home. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to excellence.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The shape of things to come

SBE on the job, unofficially

On Tuesday, November 29, the Goochland School Board Elect (SBE) comprised of our five newly elected school board members met with school superintendent Dr. Linda Underwood for some orientation about school operations. The informal informational session was open to the public but was attended mostly by school staff.

The SBE is comprised of: Michael Payne District 1; Kevin Hazzard District 2; John Lumpkins District 3; Beth Hardy District 4 and John Wright District 5.

Hardy, acting as spox for the group, began the session with a brief statement thanking everyone for their support during the election. “We are truly humbled,” she said.

Humble is undoubtedly a word and concept unfamiliar to the vanquished incumbents. Its use by the SBE is a clear indication that things have already changed radically for the better.

The SBE hit the ground running by attending the Virginia School Board Association Conference the week after the election. They attended a total of 27 different sessions collectively, and are sharing the information gleaned.

Hardy added that the SBE is working hard to ensure a smooth transition when it officially takes office. Also, the SBE is actively engaged in preparation of next year’s school budget, which will be presented to the new supervisors on January 3.

That too is good news. There will be no repeat of Underwood metaphorically waving her PhD at the supervisors and saying she knows best how to craft a school budget. Indeed, some of those who took issue with past school budgets will be her bosses next year.

Underwood began her presentation with excerpts from the Code of Virginia outlining the duties and responsibilities of local school boards.
Much of the information was inside baseball. The SBE focused on Underwood’s every word.

The organization chart, which Underwood indicated has been in place for about four years, would give Rube Goldberg a headache. She said that, although it seems confusing, everyone “works the work that needs to be done to make it work for our kids” or something.

Unfunded federal and state regulatory reporting requirements burden most aspects of the school system, said Underwood.

Obtaining accurate information about many aspects of the school system seems to be cumbersome at best.

To further complicate matters, the school system and county do not seem to have compatible accounting software, which requires data to be moved from one system to another manually. This wastes time and increases the possibility of error.

“We have to fix that,” Hazzard said.

Throughout Underwood’s presentation, the SBE paid careful attention and took copious notes. They asked on point questions about cost centers, budget classifications and other matters. There were more than a few discreetly raised eyebrows, subtle shudders and head shakes among the group at some of her statements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wright urged those present to contact any of the SBE with questions and comments. The days of unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails are over. No longer will school board members respond to parental queries with “it’s complicated and you wouldn’t understand” arrogance.

The path ahead for the SBE is amply strewn with challenge and opportunity. This fine group of citizens is up to the task and already at work.

Email for the SBE are:;;;;

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bulldogs rule!

16-12 over King William

Goochland’s Bulldogs hung on tonight winning a section football semi-final 16-12 by refusing to give up.

Unlike some of the Bulldogs’ previous games, where the scores indicate that the referees may be courting shoulder problems from repeatedly making the signal for touchdown, this one went down to the wire.

GOMM has no sports expertise, so you’ll need to go elsewhere to find out who did what, but it was a great game.

Goochland indulged in little successful passing, but lots of well executed teamwork that moved the ball downfield yard by yard. Goochland took a field goal when a touchdown drive ran out of steam. King William failed to execute the two point option following both of its touchdowns.

In the last seconds of the game, when King William was an arm’s length away from the winning touchdown, the Bulldogs stood their ground, refused to let King William score, and won.

Hard work, tenacity and teamwork got the job done.

The stands and sidelines were filled with enthusiastic supporters cheering them on. It was a great game.

Go Bulldogs! Thanks for making Goochland proud!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Planners reject UDAs

The issue moves to the new board

Goochland’s planning commission voted 8-0 at its November 17, 2011 meeting to recommend that the new board of supervisors table the urban development area UDA) issue until the Virginia General Assembly adjourns next spring.
District 3 planning commissioners Tommy Carter and Derek Murray were absent.

After more than a year of research by a VDOT funded land use consultants and input from community meetings, discussions with landowners and a public hearing on the issue before the planning commission in September, the county’s final UDA proposal was confusing at best.

When the planners got their first shot at the UDAs in September, they were clearly befuddled by the “plan,” which was little more than maps of both Courthouse Village and Centerville with various parcels of land outlined in bright colors.

The parcels, presumably selected because their owners indicated a willingness to entertain high density development, seemed randomly selected. The proposals lacked even the vaguest explanation of how the parcels could fit together to craft the new urbanism nirvana touted as the cure all for that dreaded sprawl.

In fact, the entire UDA exercise, as manifested in Goochland, is an example of government waste and intrusion on the private property rights of citizens.

The $3 million spent by VDOT statewide to hire so called land use experts to take a look at “high growth “ localities and help them save their open space, is a classic boondoggle. Somehow, the Commonwealth found these funds in a rapidly shrinking budget choosing instead to save money by closing Interstate rest areas throughout Virginia.

An initial proposal, created without any boots on the ground visit to the land in question, would have permitted high density residential and commercial development on environmentally sensitive land in Courthouse Village near the James River and did not even suggest improvements to existing roads so narrow that two cars passing must perform maneuvers appropriate for porcupine mating.

Parcels seem to have been added with no justification other than landowners were receptive to higher density zoning options. No doubt these landowners are so tired of paying taxes on land they cannot profitably develop that they would agree to pretty much anything to make their property economically viable.

Detractors of the UDA mandate believe that the initiative is a part of a global conspiracy to herd populations into small areas where they can be easily controlled. That theory has way too m much credibility for comfort.
In September, following a great deal of thoughtful and well- founded public comment the planners deferred a decision and requested that staff to return with a UDA proposal that met the minimum requirements as to land area and density.

Instead, staff, perhaps anticipating the mood of the planners, brought back what was essentially the same proposal presented in September.
Some of the commissioners acted as though the November 17 hearing was their first exposure to the UDA concept. Indeed, few planning commissioners bothered to attend any of the community meetings held to gather citizen input.

This issue has been on the agenda for quite some time. Some of the more vocal and better organized UDA opponents have been sending commissioners information supporting their contentions for months. You would think that they would have done some homework on such an important matter.
Yet, James Crews, District 4 for instance, seemed unaware that VDOT selected and paid for a land use consultant to prepare a UDA proposal for Goochland.

The elephant in the corner remained possible state imposed sanctions if Goochland fails to comply with the UDA mandate. Concern that the county would be forced to repay the $50,000 was mentioned several times. There seems to be no state policy in place to deal with failure to comply with UDA mandates. There are several initiatives at the state level to repeal or revise the legislation to make the addition of UDAs to a locality’s comprehensive land use plan optional.

(Please listen to the discussion and draw your own conclusions. A recording of the meeting is available on the county website

There was discussion about the feasibility of high density development in Goochland and whether any developers would be interested in operating here given all of the proposed projects just over the Henrico line.

Tom Coleman, the county’s principal planner observed that overall economic conditions ultimately dictate the degree of demand for high density development in Centerville.

Although the idea of punting on the UDA mandate surfaced early in the discussion, some commissioners expressed concern about failure to make any effort to comply with the mandate.

Eugene Bryce, District 1 said that he would hate to be sorry in ten years that nothing was done regarding UDAs. James Atkinson, also District 1 said that he would rather regret doing nothing than taking the wrong action.
Other concerns were the fiscal impact of high density development on other services, especially the school system; fire-rescue services and roads. Coleman said that every UDA project would need to submit a fiscal impact statement as part of the rezoning process.

Bryce cautioned that the county must be very careful about future growth. He contended that past growth caused the massive changes at the polls, electing “imports” to offices formerly held by lifelong residents, including several of his relatives.

Citizens made important points during the public hearing.
Patricia Hendy of the Centerville area likened the current widening of Broad Street Road to what UDAs could bring to Goochland. She recalled the plethora of public meetings held by VDOT over the past several years to trot out various versions of the new, improved road and allegedly gather citizen input.

Now, said Hendy, we have an eyesore that we didn’t want and it is clear that no one at VDOT paid any attention to the desires and concerns of local citizens. She contended that UDAs could well turn out to be the same sort of disaster.

Hendy said that New Kent Village, which was touted as a prime example of the benefits of the new urbanism to create a cash cow for tax revenues, recently declared bankruptcy becoming economic road kill instead.
Patti Rosner of District 2 contended that the UDA mandate is nothing more than social engineering designed to deprive citizens of their property rights. She urged the planners to tell the state to keep its nose out of Goochland’s affairs.

Paul Costello of the Centerville area pointed out that neither proposed UDA bothered to identify the center of the village. He said that in a successful village highest density uses are at the center of the village and decrease toward its boundaries. The proposed UDAs have high density parcels all over the place, reminiscent of newspaper used to paper train a puppy.

No matter what the motivation for the UDA mandate, we do not need a one-size-fits-all solution to problems we do not have.

Goochland does need to include more development friendly zoning options in areas served by public water and sewer, especially the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Those zoning rules, however, must be determined locally and be of a scale and density appropriate for Goochland.

We can only hope that the General Assembly repeals the legislation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The morning after

Taking on the TCSD

As winners bathed in the afterglow of victory after Tuesday’s elections and caught up on their sleep, the problems they will face in January continue to fester.

At an infrequent meeting of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District Advisory committee, comprised of major landowners, held on November 10, supervisors elect got a glimpse of things to come. This was the first time the TCSDAC met since March of 2010.

Also in attendance were some TCSD property owners who expressed outrage at the TCSDAC for its alleged failures. Creation of the TCSDAC was mandated when the TCSD was created in 2002. Neither Kinloch nor the Parke at Centerville existed. Charter members of the TCSDAC were owners of large parcels of land in the TCSD.

According to Tommy Pruitt, the county approached major TCSD landowners around 2000 with a plan to provide water and sewer to the TCSD and wanted the landowners to put up their land as security for the bonds to fund the infrastructure.

Pruitt recalled that none of the landowners liked the resulting plan but, as it was the only possibility to bring utilities to their land, they “held their nose and went with it.”

Pruitt observed that because the TCSD was such a large undertaking by such a small county, it was important at the outset to have a landowner advisory committee with a seat at the table to know what was going on.
He said that now he would not be bothered if the TCSDAC were to go away because he is far more comfortable with the administration that is currently overseeing the project.

The early meetings between the TCSDAC and county administration including the former county administrator, county attorney, county engineer and director of economic development, all of whom have followed Elvis out of the building, were pro forma exercises in obfuscation. They featured progress reports illustrated with brightly colored graphs and timelines with optimistic completion dates that were rarely met.

The project budget, which seemed to have been written on mirrors with smoke, seemed fluid at best. Every time a TCSDAC member asked a question about the budget it was answered with a plethora of buzzwords and more projections but few hard facts or simple numbers.

It is no wonder that several of the original TCSDAC members resigned, it was clearly a waste of their time.

In 2004, the TCSDAC asked the supervisors to grant a brief tax amnesty to attract new landowners to the district. This request was granted but had little impact.

The county held a few seminars for all TCSD landowners in 2004 to explain the process and rewards for rezoning land in the TCSDAC. Indeed, except for West Creek, a significant portion of the land in the TCSD is still zoned agricultural.

Many landowners were unwilling or unable to undertake the cumbersome and costly rezoning process with little clear idea of what sort of zoning to seek.

Members of the TCSDAC repeatedly requested that the supervisors permit higher densities in all zoning categories for the TCSD but were ignored.

Indeed, at the November 10 meeting, Sid Stern, a TCSDAC member said that times and trends have changed. Goochland still has 1950’s zoning, which makes developers go elsewhere. The TCSD, he said, must be run like a business or it will fail. It must be competitive and that includes having zoning options sought by developers.

Scott Gaeser, chair of the TCSDAC observed that the meeting was held to reestablish a relationship with Goochland. Everyone needs to work together to find a way to pay for the lines in the ground. The debt, Gaeser said, is not going away.

He observed that the recent extension of sewer and water lines to the extreme northeast corner of the TCSD, which were not built at the outset because the county ran out of money, was simplified by having a local government that wanted to work with him.

Jeff Wells, a Kinloch resident asked why West Creek is the best kept secret on the east coast because it is never mentioned in economic develop circles. He said that West Creek must get onto these radar screens immediately and something must be done about the “draconian” ad valorem tax that puts the TCSD at a competitive disadvantage.

County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson explained that Goochland is not a member of the Greater Richmond Partnership, a regional economic development consortium that markets the greater Richmond region to the world, because we cannot afford the $390,000 annual membership fee. That is a huge number, more than a penny on the real estate tax rate.

Dickson reported that the county has engaged a recruiter to find a competent economic development director to attract new business to the TCSD. A job description has been crafted and posted in places likely to attract the attention of appropriate candidates. She hopes to begin interviews after the first of the New Year.

The Kinloch residents asked for at least one seat on the TCSDAC, which members indicated would be beneficial for all concerned.

Another meeting was tentatively scheduled for some time in February after the new board of supervisors has taken office.

In fact, the TCSDAC was pretty much ignored as the TCSD lurched from crisis to crisis. The county established an adversarial rather than collaborative relationship with the TCSDAC that deteriorated over the years.

The atmosphere of positive collaboration at this meeting to get the TCSD on track is nothing less than a positive paradigm shift in attitude that has been long overdue.

To be sure, choices are ahead for our new supervisors, but they are up to the challenge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The people have spoken

Voters repudiate status quo

November 8, 2011 will go down in Goochland history as a day of great change. Although the day was far too warm to suggest that hell had frozen over, Goochland voters cleaned house by ousting almost all incumbent supervisors and school board members. (Go to and click on local office for Goochland County to see all the gory details.)

Only District 3 supervisor Ned S. Creasey, running for his second term, was returned to office by a healthy margin. Creasey has worked hard to improve county government, not cover things up.

After nearly four years of regular revelations of incompetence, cover ups and dubious policies the voters sent all of the multi-term incumbents to the showers. The good old boys are history.

Even Andrew Pryor, who was first elected when Nixon was in the White House, was deftly defeated by the hard work of Susan Lascollette.

The entire school board was expelled by voters tired of being treated like idiots by the people they elected to oversee our school system.

Our new elected supervisors: Susan Lascollette; Manuel Alvarez, Jr.; Ned Creasey; Bob Minnick and Ken Petersen have their work cut out for them. Goochland has a lot of pressing challenges that have been allowed to fester for far too long.

Citizens have made it clear they are tired of a county government that seems to lack direction. Jump starting economic development during this chronic financial downturn will be an uphill battle, but these folks have the skills to get things moving without petty power struggles.

The new supervisors should be aware that the citizens who voted them into office expect results. We’ve had too many years of unproductive churning. How about finding a way to build a new bus garage for starters?

The new school board: Michael Payne; Kevin Hazzard; John Lupkins; Beth Hardy and John Wright, has a lot of great ideas and is ready to get to work. Expect a carefully crafted school budget next year that focuses on educating the kids not building an empire while working with the funds available.

Look for lively discussions at school board meetings to replace the group bobble head impressions practiced by the outgoing school board.

To be sure, these newly elected officials have a lot of work to do.
Congratulations to the victors and Godspeed in your efforts on behalf of the citizens. Enjoy your victory laps and then rest up; there is much to be done.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stop the insanity

Endorsements for local office

Doing something over and over and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.

Next Tuesday Goochland voters will go to the polls and select a team to lead county government for the next four years. For the first time in decades, every seat on the board of supervisors and most school board positions have been contested giving voters real alternatives to the status quo.

Remember, we have elections every four years even though some incumbents act as though they were elected for life. Only the voters can disabuse them of this notion.

Goochland on my mind has been observing the candidates and makes the following endorsements.

The treasurer slot is the only contested constitutional office. Pamela Cook Johnson, who has served as interim treasurer since her appointment by the Circuit Court in April deserves to be elected to a full term. She is to be commended for her hard work and willingness to confront the mess left by the former treasurer.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr.; Sheriff James L. Agnew and Commissioner of the Revenue Jeanne S. Bryant have all served the citizens well.

Jonathan Lyle will be an excellent commissioner for the Monacan Soil and Water District.

During the course of the campaigns a wise man observed that Goochland has morphed from the equivalent of a mom and pop store to a major corporation and that its supervisors need higher level intellectual and experiential skill sets than that possessed by long term incumbents.

The multi-term incumbents (MTIs,) Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles Jr. District 2 and Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 have all tap danced on a tightrope this election season by simultaneously touting their experience and distancing themselves from the revelations of abysmal mismanagement of local government on their watch.

Although they promise greater transparency in local government, an eleventh hour campaign mailing by Butler— probably similar to those sent by the other MTIs— promising that the supervisors have a plan to solve the ad valorem tax problem (the mailing misspelled ad valorem several times) indicates more of the behind closed doors decisions that got the county into trouble in the first place. The MTIs have irrevocably broken the public trust and must be replaced.

For too long the fortunes of Goochland County have rested in the hands of the same few men and their handlers.

The sense of entitlement exhibited by the MTIs is very troubling. After presiding over years of incompetence in local government, they voted to put a mechanism into place to raise their compensation next year when further reductions in real estate value are expected to translate into more budget cuts. This is the same bunch that went to Hawaii on the public dime a few years back.

To be sure, the job of supervisor is no picnic, which makes the reluctance for incumbents to retire and let someone else have a turn in the cross hairs of citizen discontent quite puzzling.

Many of the challengers are relative newcomers to Goochland. This means they are free of often hidden entanglements that influence public policy.
Susan Lascollette is the best candidate for District 1. Her business experience gives her the analytical tools and insight to evaluate proposals brought before the board. Our new county staff is far more sophisticated than the old and needs supervisors able to rein it in when needed.

Lascollette has also done an outstanding job of listening to the concerns of all District 1 citizens, not just enough sycophantic supporters to ensure reelection.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. will bring a new day to every citizen of District 2 and Goochland County. On his own in a foreign land at an early age Alvarez has never had anything handed to him and knows both the value of hard work and meaning of responsibility. He too has a long record of achievement in the business world coupled with the common sense to understand what is good for Goochland.

As a relative newcomer to Goochland, Alvarez will look at our problems with fresh eyes and seek achievable resolutions to chronic difficulties.
Quarles is a fine man and was an outstanding planning commissioner. His career as a supervisor, which began with great promise when he succeeded his father-in-law in 2004, got derailed somewhere along the way. For at least the past two years he has used his political skills to keep the lid on ever unfolding trouble in county government. It’s time for him to return to private life and pursue other interests.

Ned S. Creasey District 3 is the only incumbent supervisor who merits reelection to finish what he started four years ago. Creasey’s detractors have learned to underestimate him at their peril.

He advocated posting of check registers for the county and school system online. He insisted that all public meetings be recorded and those recordings posted on the county website so that citizens unable to attend the meetings could hear what transpired. Creasey refused to go along to get along and insisted on answers to questions about those pesky checks in the utility department.

He has tirelessly pursued documentation of location of the entire TCSD infrastructure and refused to put up with the school board’s annual game of budget chicken.

Butler, who has been a supervisor for about 20 years, has done a great job on the ceremonial side. Unlike Pryor, he returns phone calls from constituents even if he knows the ensuring conversation will be unpleasant.
He touts his experience in luring Capital One to West Creek in almost the same breath that he says he supports the Sheriff and fire-rescue. Yet, Capital One was assured that if it came to West Creek its law enforcement and emergency services would be provided by Henrico County.

Butler’s pledge to support law enforcement, fire-rescue and the library are vague at best.

Butler’s eleventh hour mailing also contends that his opponent Bob Minnick will increase taxes by voting to spread the debt service for the TCSD to the entire county. Minnick’s website clearly states that he opposes raising taxes to service the TCSD debt. Few incumbents or contenders favor that resolution to the TCSD debt quandary.

At one forum, Butler sloughed off responsibility for the peculiar bond configuration of the TCSD debt by blaming it on advisor recommendation. That is precisely why we need supervisors who understand complicated financial matters and area able to ask hard questions and understand the answers. Butler’s attempt to throw money from the rapidly shrinking general fund at the seriously flawed school budget this year was very troubling.

Butler also seems to be preparing to assume the mantle of obfuscator in chief wielded so deftly by retiring District 5 supervisor James Eads to derail important initiatives. Butler’s unprofessional tendency to berate county employees and others at public meetings, including his angry outburst at a Comcast representative earlier this year, is embarrassing at best. He does not understand that swaggering belligerence is not appropriate or acceptable behavior for an elected official.

Butler should have quietly retired and rested on his laurels.

Minnick, who comes late to the race and has a lot to learn about Goochland, is far better equipped than Butler to deal with the hard choices that face the county in the next four years. His work with the Boys’ State program sponsored by the American Legion has helped him connect with a wide range of Goochlanders.

He too has a wide range of experience in dealing with large budgets and complicated transactions.

Ken Petersen, who prevailed in an August primary for the republican nomination for District 5 supervisor faces no opposition in the general election. His financial background will be invaluable as the county tries to find its way out of the TCSD debt morass.

Petersen has pledged to do a cost/benefit analysis on any proposal coming before him to determine if the risk to Goochland is worth any potential reward.

The three incumbent members of the school board running this year, James Haskell District 1; Raymond Miller District 2 and Ivan Mattox, Sr. District 3 seem not to have noticed the widespread discontent expressed during at least the past two years by a large number of parents.

They seem to believe that the only problem is a lack of money that can be fixed if only the mean supervisors would just increase property taxes. The school board MTIs act as though they are unaware that county revenue has declined as a result of the economic downturn and do little other than rubber stamp recommendations made by the superintendent.

One action that these MTIs do often is to extend the employment contract of the superintendent while eliminating teaching positions. Although Mattox and Miller have excellent educational credentials, they seem unable or unwilling to make an effort to work with the school financial staff to craft a budget using expected revenues. They do not understand that the superintendent works for them.

District 1 challenger Michael Payne who is a parent and teacher brings on the ground insights about providing a meaningful education for all students. His contention that reinstating vocational education opportunities, which were removed by the MTIs, makes a lot of sense.

District 2 challenger Kevin Hazzard has given a great deal of thought to issues facing the schools and the best ways to reach all students. Unlike the incumbent, Hazzard believes that the school system must work harder to ensure that black and economically disadvantaged students, whose academic performance often trails that of other students, leave school equipped to seek their piece of the American dream.

Hazzard believes that supporting and nurturing good teachers is the foundation of excellence in education. His website, which contains several thoughtful essays on the subject of education is
John Lumpkins District 3 challenger is a lawyer, accountant, former police officer and concerned parent. He will use all of his skills to eliminate the "us and them" mindset that pits the school board against the supervisors every budget cycle to the detriment of all.

Lumpkins also believes that teachers are the cornerstone of excellence in education and the current school board seems to have little interest in supporting teachers. Lumpkins’ legal skills will add a new dimension to the school board.

Voters in District 4 are blessed to have two excellent candidates seeking their open school board seat. In a campaign season all too often marred by snarky comments and outright attacks, Phil Davis and Beth Hardy have conducted themselves and their campaigns in an exemplary manner that defines good citizenship.

Both Davis and Hardy have children in county schools and have been involved in with their kids’ education. They both believe that our schools can do a better job for all of our children and be fiscally responsible. They have excellent educational and career credentials.

This is the only race that GOMM believes there is no clear choice but that the students and citizens of Goochland will be well served by whoever is chosen by the electorate.

Accountant John Wright, who faces no opposition for the District 5 school board seat will be a fine addition to the Goochland leadership team. Wright was one of the first parents to take a hard look at the school budget a few years ago, which lead to probing and unanswered questions about school finance and operations.

The level of dissatisfaction with business as usual in Goochland government is higher than it has been in recent memory. Only the voters can ensure that the county takes a new path next year.

Stop the insanity, chart a new course for Goochland by voting in new supervisors to help Ned Creasey finish what he started and replace the entire school board with people who really want excellent and fiscally responsible education for all of our kids.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 8.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On best behavior

Playing supervisor

One week before Election Day, the Goochland Board of Supervisors was on its best behavior while conducting government business.

Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke alarm when you change your clocks this weekend.

The meeting began by recognizing county employees celebrating service anniversaries. Lt. Jimmy Mann of the Goochland Sheriff’s Office, who has served the county very well for the last 18 years, is retiring in the next few weeks. He will be missed and deserves our thanks.

The most controversial agenda item was the scheduling of the public hearing on the application for a conditional use permit that, if approved, would allow Benedictine High School to move its academic campus to property owned by the Benedictines on River Road.

A motion by District 5 supervisor James Eads to defer the matter until the board’s February 7, 2012 meeting so that it could be addressed by the newly elected board, failed for lack of a second. The hearing will be held, as formerly planned, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6.

The site of the hearing has not yet been determined. Due to the large number of people expected to attend a venue larger than the board room will be needed. The high school auditorium has already been reserved for that evening so an alternate site will be announced in the near future.

The Benedictine matter has generated a lot of heat but little light on the facts of the matter. Some River Road residents believe that the school’s presence there will erode their property values. Others contend that proximity to Benedictine will increase property values. Other issues will be discussed at the hearing.

Clean out your attics, the industrial strength shredders are coming to Courthouse Village on December 10. Bring all of your old papers; a limit of four boxes per person applies. Further details will be forthcoming.

There will be Fourth of July fireworks in 2012. The cost for next year’s rockets’ red glare is expected to be $10,000 down a bit from this year. The county is soliciting sponsorships to offset the cost.

Happily, improvements to the intersection of Rts. 288 and 250 in Centerville have been given high priority status on the list of regionally significant road improvement projects to be included in the Regional Long Range Transportation plan update. This doesn’t mean that it will happen soon, but at least it’s in a prominent place on the list.

Also taking a prominent place on the wish list of transportation improvements is the bridge over Tuckahoe Creek to connect Goochland with Henrico Roads. In the past this bridge seemed as likely as a unicorn sighting, but the advent of the HCA medical facility in West Creek has pushed it to the front burner.

Revenue projections for the current fiscal year are a bit ahead of expectations, according to John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Services. Seems lots of people bought new cars, which increased personal property tax collections. However, real estate values are expected to continue their decline into 2013, which means more extreme budget cutting next year.

New construction projects at the Capital One West Creek campus are expected to add to building permit revenues next year. Because Capital One is a bank it is exempt from paying personal property tax on things like furniture and business equipment.

The supervisors approved budget amendments totaling $665,000 to fund items including a fuel tank for emergency vehicles to be located at the new HCA facility in West Creek and $400,000 to create a utilities master plan.

Rudy Butler District 4 abstained from the vote contending that the master plan would not fully address Tuckahoe Creek Service District concerns. Given the patchwork of utility systems currently in place and that we still don’t know where all of the TCSD water and sewer lines are located, this plan is money well spent.

The board also got a first look at the proposed legislative agenda, which communicates county concerns to our representatives in the Virginia General Assembly. As the county will have an all new team in Richmond, this is especially important for 2012.

Goochland seeks repeal of the FY 2011 and 2012 reductions in K-12 funding and opposes any further cuts to education. In a related item, the county urges the GA to study the composite index formula used to determine the amount of state aid received by localities and make recommendations to achieve a more objective approach to funding public education.

Currently, the composite index uses per capita income to determine a locality’s ability to fund its schools. As Goochland has a small population and a handful of high income residents, it is considered to be a very affluent county. In reality, a significant number of our citizens are at best struggling economically and their children are eligible for free meals. Something needs to be done to make this mechanism reflect conditions on the ground.

The county also seeks assistance to encourage widespread deployment of high speed internet to aid economic development and education opportunities for citizens in every part of Goochland.

Land use initiatives include making the urban development area designation nonsense optional leaving decisions about development densities up to localities rather than mandated by the state in a set of one-size-fits-all regulations.

There is also some language in the legislative agenda discussing service districts. This includes adding Goochland to a list of localities authorized to include certain provisions regulating special assessment for land preservation and adding service districts to this provision. This looks like the first salvo in what will be a battle to remove the land use taxation option from the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

The Board is also seeking legislation to enable localities to adjust the boundaries of a service district by amending rather than repealing an existing ordinance. This would make it far easier to expand the TCSD adding new customers than is currently permitted.

Sounds like this change could also prevent disgruntled landowners currently in the TCSD from jumping ship.

During the evening session, the supervisors recognized the 60th anniversary of Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue.

The most important public hearing concerned removal of the flex use comprehensive plan designation for all lots in the Bellview Gardens subdivision north of Broad Street Road just west of Rt. 288.

Throughout a long battle to preserve the residential nature of this neighborhood the residents of Bellview Gardens have defined responsible citizen involvement. They stood together and presented their case in a clear and compelling manner and are an example for others to follow. Please listen to the recording of their thoughtful comments at on the supervisors’ page.

Bellview Gardens residents acknowledge that there will be development in their back yard, but they reject it, literally, at their front door.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the change with only Andrew Pryor, District 1 in dissent. He contended that the “front lots” should not be removed from flex use due to their location.

The amount of heartache that the fine folk of Bellview Gardens were subjected to as the results of an “oops” by the county is unconscionable.

The heartburn of the landowners behind Bellview Gardens could have been avoided had the county insisted on a master plan for all of the parcels before approving the residential density change in 2004. Had the uses for the rear parcel been meshed with the proposed residential development everyone would have been happier.

This episode should be trotted out as a “teachable moment” in the preliminary stages of future land use discussions.

The meeting was adjourned until November 15 when the supervisors will hold a joint meeting with the school board on neutral ground at the Luck Stone facility in Manakin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About the treasurer

We were all stunned, shocked and saddened last February when former county treasurer Brenda Grubbs was arrested for embezzling public money.
As several law enforcement and regulatory agencies investigated all operations of the treasurer’s office, discussion raged over what to do next.

Some people believe that we should change to a county manager form of local government, which would place all fiscal matters under control of a county manager and the board of supervisors.

Proponents of this course contend that having a county department of finance in addition to an elected treasurer and commission of the revenue, both constitutional offices, is a duplication of efforts that wastes money.

(Elimination of the county treasurer position is a lengthy process that includes involvement of the Virginia General Assembly and approval via referendum by Goochland citizens.)

Not so fast, say supporters of our current form of local government organization. We had one bad apple, but most counties in the Commonwealth function just fine with an elected treasurer. They fear that eliminating the oversight of county funds by a treasurer elected by all voters paves the way for fiscal mischief by the supervisors.

When Pamela Johnson was appointed as interim treasurer by the Circuit Court in April, the furor got a second wind.

How could the Circuit Court appoint someone trained as an English teacher to be county treasurer? Most recently, Johnson worked with federal agencies and is quite familiar with the workings of governmental reporting policies. She also passed regular and rigorous detailed background checks in conjunction with that employment.

Folks were horrified that the interim treasurer was not an accountant or someone with advanced financial acumen.

Why should anyone leave a successful career to take a job that includes huge headaches and probably a pay cut? Younger professionals are not only working their way up career ladders, but have mortgages to pay and college educations for their children to fund.

If indeed the county changes its form of government voluntarily, or is pushed in that direction should the state cease to fund a portion of those positions, the incumbent could be unemployed in a few years.

People who have retired from high level financial positions probably are not anxious to deal with cleaning up the mess Grubbs left behind or day to day headaches.

Johnson has been working hard to get the treasurer’s office back on track and regain the public trust. She has also taken advantage of a wide range of training opportunities offered by the state to ensure that all employees are able to perform their jobs.

We are lucky that Johnson and her opponent Tana Hogue are seeking the office.

In fact, except for Commonwealth’s Attorney, which requires proof of bar membership but no evidence of prosecutorial experience, there are no qualifications to hold elected office beyond residency, age and not having assumed room temperature.

Framers of the Virginia Constitution presumably believed that only qualified people would seek office and the voters would have the wisdom to choose the best candidate.

Given the habitually low voter turnouts of local elections, it is somewhat surprising that our old friend Bret the Wonder Dog has not been elected to office.

The county treasurer is up for election every four years giving others an opportunity to challenge the incumbent and convince voters they are a better choice.

Sadly, the electorate acts as though these officials are elected for life and fail to pay attention to the performance of those they put into office.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We have a plan!

Roadmap for economic development unveiled

White smoke did not rise from the Goochland County administration building on October 4 when John Rhodes presented the strategic plan for economic development he has been crafting since late spring.

While many of the suggestions are not new, Rhodes wove them into a countywide approach. Goochland is not a one size fits all kind of place and this strategic plan is very careful to make place appropriate suggestions.

The plan is not rocket science, but it never occurred to the space cadets that made county policy ten years ago that such a plan was needed then. Their approach to economic development was like putting a boat into a pond churning with fish and expecting the fish to jump into the boat while others dangle enticing lures and tasty bait. Guess who got all the big fish?

The report is in Part II of the board packet, which is in the supervisors’ section of the county website at A recording of Rhodes’ presentation is in the same place.

Rhodes explained that current conditions in the real estate market do not favor the large supply of raw developable land that Goochland has banked on for the last decade. The county has no existing buildings with space to lease, which is in greatest demand right now.

The good news is that major companies that are in West Creek want small businesses including a hotel, restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners and day care providers nearby so their employees don’t have to go to Short Pump.

That means opportunities for small business, which everyone says they support, but county policy discourages. Rhodes said that the county must streamline its procedures to encourage, not deter creation of business. A survey of existing businesses in the report included complaints that Goochland is, at best, not business friendly.

A new element in this strategic plan for economic development is a timetable and tracking to measure results.

Recommended steps to be taken include creation of mixed use zoning for the TCSD; streamline county processes; create an economic development website and hiring an economic development director. The existing Economic Development Authority, comprised of appointees from the county, will be an integral part of this initiative.

While Goochland need to attract economic growth, Rhodes said, it must define itself in a way that reflects our rural character. To this end Rhodes’ plan includes creation of a master plan for Centerville that would include mixed use on a less intense scale, reflective of a rural community, in order to differentiate it from Short Pump.

A key component of this strategy is creation of an economic development website that touts Goochland’s resources in detail.

Rhodes observed that the Interstate 64 interchanges lack public utilities and high speed internet access, which make them less attractive for development in spite of location. Plans for enhancing water, sewer and telecom in these areas must be crafted, perhaps in conjunction with Louisa County.

A conceptual plan for Courthouse Village needs to be drawn. Rhodes suggested building on the strength of the J. Sergeant Reynolds horticulture program to create a horticulture and garden center that could attract serious gardeners.

There is a need for some sort of lodging in Courthouse Village for students at the JSRCC automotive training program who now must travel out of the county for this service. Rhodes was careful to characterize this lodging facility as an inn rather than a hotel keeping with the less intense scale of Courthouse Village.
Outdoor enthusiasts should also be ta
rgeted, said Rhodes, by finding ways to make the James River and our scenic byways more accessible to affluent city dwellers looking for a recreational dose of the great outdoors.

Rhodes pointed out that “pad ready sites,” parcels of zoned land with utilities and roads in place are needed to get new businesses to even consider a locality. Goochland, he said, has few of these. Even West Creek, which is zoned, is mostly covered by timber. It’s lovely to drive through, but if you’re shopping for a place to put your company, trees are a turn off.

This leads to; pardon the expression, a teachable moment that is unfolding in Centerville. Remember the contentious Goodwill zoning application for land in front of a subdivision on Broad Street Road that was withdrawn after intense citizen opposition?

Well, Goodwill is in the design review stage of bringing the same store to property on the west side of St. Matthew’s Lane between Broad Street Road and Plaza Drive. The land was zoned, cleared, served by roads and utilities and ready to go. Had someone been paying attention about a year ago, the Goodwill Store might already be in operation.

The plan also suggests elimination of land use taxation in the TCSD, which will be implemented about two days after hell freezes over.

Rhodes has delivered a workable plan to get economic development on track in Goochland. Encouraging creation of small businesses to target employees of large companies in West Creek is a little like harvesting anchovies. If done well, the whales will follow.

The real question here is will the board elected in November use this plan as a blueprint for action or add it to the pile gathering dust on a shelf.
If you believe that the actions outlined in the strategic plan for economic development are sound, please let all candidates know it’s time for action.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hope on the horizon

School board on the cusp

A relative handful of people attended an October 20 Chamber of Commerce forum for school board candidates, but they got a clear picture of what’s wrong with our current school board.

Phil Daniel of WZEZ 100.5 FM moderated both forums. “The good doctor Phil,” did an outstanding job of keeping the discussion on schedule.

Incumbents contended that current difficulties are the result of budget cuts; the whole kerfuffle over the past few school budgets was generated by a handful of parents who got crabby when their favorite programs were cut. They touted their experience and dedication to delivery of a quality education for all county students as justification for reelection but gave few examples.

Challengers by contrast offered a wide range of innovative approaches to the problems faced by Goochland schools that do not necessarily include increasing property taxes.

The very fact that new people are running for every school board seat clearly indicates widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Once again, as the bland nature of questions put forth offered copious shelter for incumbents, challengers used the opportunity to paint a clear picture of what can be accomplished with a new school board.

Subjects covered were general and, for the most part, ignored the question of the superintendent.

Incumbents never explained why the school system failed, for at least the past two budget cycles, to prepare proposed budgets based expected actual revenues. Instead, the schools presented budgets far in excess of expected revenues and demanded that the supervisors raise taxes to fund them.

(An October 23 revelation by District 3 incumbent supervisor Ned Creasey that the schools had about $1 million left over at the end of the last fiscal year gives credence to allegations by challengers that the school budget is essentially based on magical thinking rather than hard facts and real numbers.)

Incumbents in Districts 4 and 5 did not seek reelection. John Wright faces no opposition in District 5. Beth Hardy and Phil Davis, both excellent candidates are running for the District 4 seat.

Several challengers compared this year’s election to Goochland hiring a team to lead the schools for the next four years.

The new candidates bring complementary skill sets to the task.

Only Penny Palen, who entered the race to ensure that District 2 incumbent Ray Miller, allegedly a member of the Bowles/Quarles clan, faced opposition, offers little in the way of real world experience.

Palen’s unsuccessful suit against the school board to prevent another extension of the superintendent’s contract indicates that she is not a team player. Palen’s involvement in or schools and commitment to excellence in Goochland education is commendable. However, if she truly wants Miller replaced she must withdraw from the race and throw her support behind Kevin Hazzard. A three person race works in Miller’s favor.

Hazzard brings impressive career credentials and boundless innovative energy to the table. Suggestions he presented during his brief comment period included establishing a junior ROTC program in Goochland, which could be done with no cost to the school system. The leadership and personal discipline skills taught by such a program are useful no matter where a student’s life path leads.

Hazzard, who has skills and connections in the education and information technology worlds also believes that it is possible to ensure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to some sort of broadband connection so that they can keep up with their school work. He contended that Goochland schools currently do nothing to prepare students for the skilled labor market.

Michael Payne, District 1 challenger, who is a vocational tech teacher in Henrico, strongly believes that removing vo-tech opportunities from the Goochland curriculum has hobbled many students from reaching their full potential. Payne contended that all students can benefit from this kind of pratical learning opportunity, which sometimes makes the importance of “classroom learning” like math more accessible by illustrating real world applications.

All challengers have children in Goochland schools and well aware of the good and bad in our educational system.

John Lumpkins District 3 challenger got a round of applause when he advocated keeping the library at the high school open for student use all day.

All of the challengers said that the school budget should focus on teachers, which they believe are the foundation of a good education.
Hardy said that our teachers should be respected as professionals and be able to speak openly about their concerns without fear of reprisal. She believes that fresh eyes on the schools and new leadership will provide the inspiration to get things back on track.

Davis concurred stating that our schools need to create a supportive environment to untether teachers from restrictions that prevent them from using all of their skills to light the fire of learning in our kids. Goochland schools, he said, are at a turning point. People are fed up with incumbents saying the same thing year after year and never getting things right.

Lumpkins knew there was a serious problem with the school board when the supervisors imposed a holdback on some school funds following repeated failure of the schools to comply with requests for explanatory budget information.

All challengers repeatedly took issue with the lack of school board discussion before voting on issues. Indeed, attend a school board meeting to see the term “done deal” in action.

The challengers will bring new energy and insight to issues that face our schools and regain citizen trust. The incumbents just need more of your money to fail to accomplish what they’ve failed to accomplish in the past.

Items of local interest

The Richmond Symphony will present a concert at Goochland High School on Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Goochland Rotary, the concert will benefit local charities. This is a great way to introduce your children to classical music. Visit for more information. Tickets may be purchased online.

Attention all hunters! The Center for Rural Culture presents “Deer Processing Made Simple” a workshop that teaches methods for gleaning the most usable meat from a deer carcass. Two sessions, Thursday, November 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, November 12 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. will be held at Nadolski’s Butcher Shop on River Road West in Goochland Courthouse Village.

The cost is $25 and space is limited. To register, go to All meat processed during the workshops will be donated to the Goochland Community Food Pantry.

Advance orders for the Goochland Historical Society calendar featuring vintage photos are being taken. Bundles of 25 calendars for $100 are available. The 2012 calendar cover will feature a photo of the first firefighter class offered in Goochland to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue. For more information, contact and put GHS calendar in the subject line.

Don’t forget the county fall festival this Saturday, October 29 from 12 to 4 p.m. on the old football field behind the county administration building. Michelle Nixon and Drive is the featured entertainment.