Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nuts and bolts of a vision

What is a village part IX

The Goochland Comprehensive Land Use Plan was arranged around something called “the village concept” more than 30 years ago. Since then various citizen groups have endeavored to craft a concrete definition of a village that could be applied to county land use.

Although several plans were created, some in detail, the supervisors have yet to endorse or support the meaningful change in zoning ordinances that would make any of them possible. In the meantime, our county grows via cookie cutter subdivisions and strip shopping centers.

On Wednesday, February 9 Citizens Concerned with Goochland Growth presented part 2 of its Goochland Village Series titled “Learning from a neighboring village model.”

Trip Pollard an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law center started the session with an overview of growth issues. He said that, based on the preliminary 2010 census figures, Goochland’s population increased by about 28 percent, making it one of the faster growing jurisdiction in the Commonwealth.

Scary numbers, right? Not so fast.

At the 2000 census Goochland’s population was 16,833. Preliminary 2010 census reports indicate that the county’s population on April 1, 2010 was 21,717, an increase of 4,854. Goochland’s land area at just over 284 square miles is slightly larger than that of Henrico County whose population is over 300,000.

On April 1, 2011 our population will drop by about 450 when the James River Correctional Center closes and its inmates, who are counted as part of Goochland’s population, move to another prison.

Pollard also presented statistics about the number of miles that residents of the Richmond drive each year and contended that our roads are very congested. The cost of building and maintaining roads keeps growing as people move further away from their jobs.

Again, this is scary stuff. County residents complain about the road congestion and contend that existing roads cannot handle one more vehicle. Yet it is possible to drive on many county roads at non-peak hours and see few other cars. People are always complaining to Sheriff Agnew about speeders. In general, it’s very hard to speed on congested roads.

He also raised the specter of vanishing open space, which segued into the evening’s main event.

The focus of the program was New Kent Courthouse Village where private developer John Crump developed some land in a style he calls “new ruralism” that includes residential, commercial, institutional and cultural uses adjacent to the New Kent County Courthouse Complex.

New Kent and Goochland have many similarities. Their populations are about the same size; they are just outside of the first tier jurisdictions of the Richmond metro area and are on Interstate 64 between Richmond and other popular destinations.

Crump, who grew up on land in New Kent that has been in his family for generations, saw an opportunity to bring amenities to the New Kent Courthouse area, attract new residents and, if the economy ever improves, make a little money on the deal. He also saw an opportunity to add New Kent Courthouse to the growing tourism market in central Virginia.

Crump began to notice that people across the demographic scale were losing interest in the McMansion housing style.

“People wanted to move to the country and have 15 acres and a mule,” Crump quipped. “After a few years, they wondered what to do with the other 14 acres.”

Crump began to investigate exactly which part of “rural” brought folks out of the cities and suburbs. His search took him to England, where he studied traditional villages.

He found that those villages grew organically over long periods of time with little planning or grouping of uses in specific places like contemporary zoning theory.

Please visit for details.

The important part of the presentation was that the transformation of New Kent Courthouse from a bunch of county buildings to a place that people could live and enjoy was that it was created on private land with private funding.

New Kent County was provided a regulatory environment that enabled the project to exist. This included creating zoning for high-density development, including residential. While Crump did mention that such development requires public water and sewer, he did not elaborate how that was implemented.

The entire New Kent Village project consumes a very small amount of land. It also provides a variety of housing choices including small but high quality detached homes; townhouse type dwellings and options for rental property like flats over garages.

New Kent Village is an intriguing concept. Is a similar idea appropriate for Goochland? Perhaps, but it would work only in the few parts of the county served by sewer and water.

Goochland Courthouse Village is far from scenic and maybe beyond help. The overlay district rules that are supposed to ensure attractive development only put a damper on attracting new business there. A charming sub-village there would add character and bring in people to patronize local businesses.

It’s past time for Goochland to adopt zoning ordinances that permit higher density development in limited areas and create a regulatory environment that acts as an incentive rather than a hindrance to private investment in the county.

High-density zoning should be created as another option for landowners to realize the value of their property, not to curtail private property rights.


Anonymous said...

So how does the new Goodwill fit into this picture ?A non profit organization that will pay no taxes to the county ? Instead it will decrease the property values and lower the taxes for the neighborhood surrounding it . It seems as though this county is like a teenager so anxious to develop but now really sure how to handle what it has .

Ron Nease said...

The village concept has not been developed in Goochland because in most of those areas there is no public water and sewer. In addition, the great minds in our county have resisted growth in general, and high density growth in particular. Mom and Pop businesses cannot survive in a low population area as they cannot compete with the
Wall Marts of the world. Ron Nease

Anonymous said...

That is an excellent point to the Goodwill store!

New Kent Village said...

Thank you for posting this blog. It accurately describes the project and the information conveyed during our presentation. I enjoyed the event and all the questions. As a citizen of a similar county and a person with an historic interest in making improvements I wanted to offer this project for consideration. I don't think it has to be mandated or the only approach to consider. If the citizens of Goochland want to protect their rural nature and avoid big box development this is but one option. We've had good success and our people seem to like it. They thank me often. We have also had our problems and I have made some mistakes. I've learned from them and will gladly help you in any way I can. I sincerely wish you all the best as you move forward. If you ever want to visit us please drop me a line or give me a call. Or just show up anywhere in the village and ask for John. The Rose and Crown Tavern and Village Market and Deli are great meeting places. Again, All the best, John Crump, Managing Member, New Kent Courthouse Village, LLC and local resident.