Friday, February 18, 2011

Connecting the dots

Unintended consequences

Goodwill Industries wants to build a big new facility in eastern Goochland County in the general area where we need and want business. The plan includes a large thrift store and an employment center to help people find jobs.

Goodwill stores are generally staffed by people with serious criminal histories trying to put their lives back together, a noble purpose. However, such jobsites should not be located anywhere near residential areas

The problem is that the proposed location is on the corner of Belleview Gardens, a new and fairly upscale residential community, located just east of Tuckahoe Creek on the north side of Broad Street Road.

There had been a few houses in there for many years, but it was not until after the Tuckahoe Creek Service District utilities came online that an enterprising developer had the vacant land rezoned in 2004 for smaller lots, which would use water and sewer.

Given the expected pressure for commercial growth in the Broad Street Road corridor, remember, this rezoning occurred about a year after Short Pump Town Center opened, this seemed an odd place to locate upscale single family homes. A townhouse or apartment community might have been more appropriate, but of course, Goochland has no such zoning options.

Although the rezoning was approved, little thought seems to have been given to the expectations of the people who would live in those homes or how plunking several upscale homes in an area generally considered destined for commercial development would change the big picture. Right now it seems like the county is pretending that the existence of Belleview Gardens has no impact on development plans.

Why would anyone in their right mind believe that it makes sense to establish a large Goodwill complex at the edge of a residential community? This is a stupid idea as is the portion of the county’s proposed thoroughfare plan that would connect Mills Road, which is now a residential street, with Ashland Road to move northbound traffic from Broad Street Road.

Why on earth would Goodwill want to locate this facility on that parcel of land? Where are their expected clients and employees going to come from and how are they going to get there?

According to November 2010 news reports, Goodwill Industries plans to finance the facility with bonds. Why is an organization like Goodwill taking on debt? Aren’t its thrift stores usually located in areas of low-income housing? Is that eastern Goochland or adjacent Short Pump?

Those who live near the proposed Goodwill facility are up in arms and rightly so. If that sort of facility is appropriate for the Centerville area, shouldn’t it be located closer to existing businesses or perhaps along Ashland Road in an industrial area?

As Short Pump bloomed some Goochlanders feared that its growth would overrun our county. Would that it had. Instead, we sit wistfully on our side of the county line and watch as our residents take their sales tax dollars to Henrico County because there are few places to buy things here.

Just how desperate is Goochland for new business? On the surface, it seems like the supervisors are very desperate for business, but are they really?

Rumors abound that the property in question is being offered to Goodwill at a very attractive price. No doubt because the current owner is disgusted with Goochland County land use policy and wants to get rid of the land and run to a place where they have a reasonable expectation of being able to do business.

Last year the supervisors rejected a proposal to facilitate development at the Interstate 64/Oilville Road interchange. Detractors of that proposal spread false information that a truck stop was to be built there. Businesses then looking hard at Oilville would have brought revenue, jobs and no truck stops.

Now, nothing will be built there for at least a generation, except for perhaps yet another gas station/convenience store.

The Oilville interchange is a good place to encourage development. There are no homes in the immediate vicinity. Would the folks who continually derail businesses they contend are not “right” for Goochland please publish a list of what sort of businesses are acceptable? Coffee shops and art galleries are not going to fund even a minimal level of county services.

While all of this is percolating, Goochland County continues to hound (pun intended) the Paws Inn on Plaza Drive. For at least the last decade Goochland County has spent lots of tax dollars in legal and other fees to close a functioning business. The county decided, after issuing all sorts of permits to Paws Inn when it first opened, that it was in the wrong place and must move.

We will probably never know the real reasons for the vendetta against Paws Inn, but noise generated by barking dogs is not at the top of the list. However, at least three supervisors must consider the matter important enough to continue the legal battle. With all of the other stuff on the table, it is past time for the county to drop legal action against Paws Inn and stop wasting tax dollars on legal fees.

The Goodwill rezoning is currently scheduled for a public hearing before the planning commission at its March 17 meeting. If the planners vote on the application, regardless of their recommendation, it will move onto the supervisors for a final vote, perhaps in May.

In recent years, the county has made community meetings between developers and neighbors of land under consideration for development by the county a prerequisite for zoning applications. This provides the opportunity for citizens to air concerns and obtain information “from the horse’s mouth” rather than the rumor mill.

The supervisors must approve the rezoning application for the Goodwill proposal to happen. Although the county can discourage landowners from filing rezoning applications, every landowner has the right to make a case before the governing board. Not all rezoning applications are approved.

Belleview Gardens is to be applauded for its proactive stance in protecting the neighborhood from this bizarre intrusion.

However, it is somewhat naïve to assume that there will be no business development in the Broad Street Road corridor.

Perhaps a small daycare or modest assisted living facility built on a neighborhood scale would be more compatible with Belleview Gardens. This conversation must continue and expand.


Carol Salmon said...

Well said, once again, Sandie. Being a thrift store addict I was excited to hear Goodwill was moving to Goochland thinking the Food Lion area of Centerville the perfect place. I was appalled to find out where it was really going to locate. What is the County thinking, not using our interstate interchanges, trying to put Goodwill in a residential area, and using our tax dollars to run a successful tax paying business, that the County approved, out of Goochland?

Jordan Hedgepeth said...

Thanks for a well informed and wonderfully written piece. I am a resident of Bellview Gardens and while I expect growth along the Broad St. corridor, I was stunned to discover they were going to put a 17,450 sq ft facility with a drive through, and nearly 100 parking spaces directly inside of my neighborhood. I was then appalled to discover that if this proposal goes through, convicted sex offenders and other ex-cons would be working inside of the neighborhood where children play. I am hopeful that the planning commission members of the board of supervisors will agree this as completely inappropriate. The output of this, at the least, for my neighbors and I, is that we must stay engaged and informed, continuing to seek feedback from our elected and appointed officials and engaging them in dialog that sometimes brings tough questions and even tougher answers. If we and the other residential property owners abandon this process, we have only ourselves to blame for ridiculous outcomes such as the placement of a ex-criminal hiring facility and thrift store INSIDE a residential neighborhood located less than a mile away from Richmond’s premier shopping district.

JRN said...

While I get that you do not want such a big facility in front of your house, I am going to take issue with the way you are trying to represent Goodwill and the people that they serve.

To answer your question of where the employees would come from - Goochland. Your area is not on the bus line so the store employees would need a car. Who would drive from "low income housing" for a job that would barely pay minimum.

The stores on Brook Rd and one at Ironbridge are not in or around "low-income" housing. I have used Goodwill services and bought items from the Goodwill Store since being laid off - I own my own home.

I know for a fact that non profits usually have a restriction on hiring sex offenders in order to keep their accreditation. Goodwill
serves people in the community with barriers to unemployment(ie, lack of experience, need training to change careers, dislocated workers, mental challenges, etc.)

Jordan Hedgepeth said...


I agree Goodwill is a great organization that changes lives. That fact is one of the things that puzzles me most about this proposed development.

Apparently the lives that are to be “changed” in this case are those of my family and neighbors.

I hope you understand there are many here who have troubling concerns and questions about a facility which is to be built and operated inside of our existing neighborhood, of which all parcels are exclusively zoned as R-1 (residential.)

In my opinion, Goodwill's representatives did little to quell these concerns at a required "neighborhood meeting" last week.

In regard to the hiring policies of Goodwill, if you have access to the official and specific hiring guidelines for the Goodwill that is proposed, as a parent and resident of the targeted neighborhood, I would be very interested in seeing it.

I believe this is a link to some information on the Goodwill website related to the "Second Chance" program:

To address your point in regard to this location being for Goochland and employing those from Goochland, I have to ask, "Why is it then going to be placed at the far eastern periphery of our county, less than 1-mile from Henrico County and the premier shopping district of Short Pump?"

You mentioned bus-lines. Is there a plan to extend the bus line from Richmond into Goochland?

If so, wouldn't Centreville village be more appropriate for such a stop, than inside an existing residential community?

I do not question the benefits of Goodwill nor do I intend to cast any negative dispersions upon the noble causes championed by Goodwill nor the character of those who would shop and work there.

To me, this is about my home and the neighborhood in which my family and I live as well as the due-diligence and good-faith of the local bodies that govern proper land-use.

Although there is no question as to the noble intentions of Goodwill, it does seem odd to me that such a charitable organization, in particular one that plans a large facility with tractor trailers, daily hours, warehouse space and which appears to offer “second chances” to ex-cons, would fail to recognize the legitimate concerns of a living-breathing community that is less than open to having these elements inside of the residential neighborhood where we rest and allow our children to play.

Unfortunately, it appears that my neighbors and I will be forced to continue to ask questions and seek clarity regarding these concerns.

JRN said...


There are no plans to extend the busline to Goochland. My point was that Goodwill serves communities - the community that the new facility would get their employees would be in the Goochland area. I have a car and I would not apply simply because of distance/pay ratio. It simply would not benefit me to work in your area. There should not be a fear on your part that masses of "low income housing"
residents (code name for the projects) will come taint the Goochland Area.

Once again I will state, there are people at Goodwill that have a criminal background. I stated that there are no SEX offenders because Goodwill is not allowed to hire them based on the fact that most Goodwill stores are located near school/residential neighborhoods and the fact that Goodwill has Government Contracts.

Goochland is not immune to the problems in society. There are probably people with criminal backgrounds that live in Goochland and I'm almost positive that you have worked for a company that has at least one person that has been involved in the legal system. I've worked at banks, transportation companies, and I assure you Goodwill is not the only place an ex-offender can get a job. Most places don't put that on their web sites. But, once again, Goodwill primarily helps that have circumstances that put them at a disadvantage to employment.

Where do your kids get there first job - barrier no experience. Where do dislocated workers go after being laid off - barrier perhaps need new skills or resume. Where do many people with mental challenges go to lead a more independent life.

Exactly where are ex-offenders supposed to go, they need to work like everyone else - to be involved in their communities and to be productive human beings.

Your argument would go further with me if you kept it to the objections of not wanting the facility because of zoning or not wanting commercial property across the street from your home. I understand not wanting more traffic/noise/etc. When you start making assumptions about what kind of people might work there based on your preconceived notions - I take issue.

How about visiting a Goodwill instead of just reading about it? No one there is contagious and pretty sure you will not be robbed/assaulted. I recommend going to the Corporate Headquarters. While you are there I'm sure that Goodwill can provide you with any statistics that you need, if you ask.