Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lessons out of school

Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day. Goochland American legion Post 215 will hold an observance on the Courthouse green at 10 a.m. The rain location is the high school.

There will be flags, speakers, uniformed service members, patriotic music and veterans— small town Americana at its best. This is when we, as a nation, pause to remember those who have died defending freedom and pray for those who go in harm’s way to protect our way of life. Such reflection is a necessary part of citizenship.

Please come and bring your children and grandchildren. Teach them how to honor our flag. Take off their ball caps, put their hands over their hearts when Old Glory passes by and the national anthem is played. It’s the least you can do.

Those we honor and remember on Memorial Day made it possible for us to question authority and bellyache publicly about whatever we choose. They will never again attend a barbecue or ballgame. Their places at family gatherings will be forever empty.

Think about that as you enjoy the holiday. Kids, dead with their lives ahead of them guaranteed your right to publicly complain, without fear of reprisal, about your elected officials. Men and women in the prime of life laid down their lives so you could vote.

Take a peek at our Constitution. Every right promised there is guaranteed by the blood of our troops.

Remember their sacrifice on Memorial and every day. Thank a sailor (God Bless the SEALs), Marine, soldier, airman and Coasty for their service and the sacrifice of their comrades.

Be sure to explain what it all means to your kids so they will not forget. It’s up to you to pass it on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lighting candles

EDA takes action

Eleanor Roosevelt said she’d rather light candles than curse the darkness.
While the rest of county officialdom has wrung its hands for most of the past decade whining about the evil developers and hard time, the Goochland Economic Development Authority quietly began to look for ways to get something going here.

Late last year, the EDA lit a small candle that may well be the spark that ignites badly needed commercial growth in the county. It partnered with a business to extend water and sewer lines to the northeast corner of Goochland in order to build a car wash/convenience center/food emporium. In exchange for extending the utility lines, the developer will receive the first few connection fees as other businesses connect to the system.
At first glance, this seems like a small potatoes kind of enterprise. Closer examination reveal s that the extension of these utility lines, which are part of Tuckahoe Creek Service District, makes all of the land in the extreme northeast corridor of the county more attractive to business.

The far end of Ashland Road, which intersects with Pouncey Tract Road near both the Henrico and Hanover County lines, had languished because, though part of the TCSD and burdened with the dread ad valorem tax, Goochland ran out of money before the lines could be extended to the limits of the district.

While finger pointing has evolved into a fine art as the blame game goes into extra innings, the EDA, with mostly new faces since the old regime left the building, got on with business.

At its Wednesday, May 18 meeting, members discussed progress on the new enterprise. Don Charles deputy county administrator and director of community development reported that the buildings are “coming out of the ground” and opening is expected this summer.

The location will snag commerce from the west end of Henrico and Hanover and put some dollars into Goochland coffers. It will create jobs and hopefully encourage neighboring land owners to develop their land.
The EDA put up $250,000 for the project. Its funds are separate from those of the county. One member observed that the EDA’s contribution was well worth it if it helped people make up their minds to move forward with the project.

Indeed, that seems to be one of the underlying problems with any economic development project in Goochland. In the past seedlings of economic activity were either crushed under the heel of overzealous regulation or withered by the herbicide of negative vibes from the good old boy network.
The EDA, comprised of members from each district appointed by supervisors and two at large members, languished under the previous regime. It seemed to do little other than serve as a pass through entity for state incentives funneled to Capital One.

Ben Slone, District 3, who also serves as EDA treasurer, reported that the interim county treasurer has been unable to find any documentation on an EDA account in that office. This is yet another thread of past dysfunction that impedes forward progress.

The supervisors are quite adept at ignoring recommendations from the EDA about economic development opportunities. The most glaring example of this was the board’s abject refusal to pursue a joint venture with VDOT to provide water and sewer at the Oilville interchange in 2002. They dismissed this concept a few more times and even paid to have a study completed that was a repeat of one performed by the EDA.

Slone also reported that he plans to meet with county administrator Rebecca Dickson, district 3 supervisor Ned Creasey and Ken Petersen of Manakin-Sabot, who has a wealth of high level experience with bonds, to explore ways for the EDA to offer bonds to any business in Goochland. This will enable the EDA to be more proactive in economic development activities.

This group will also discuss possibilities to refinance TCSD bonds due in 2013.

Leigh Gordon informed the EDA about water quality issues and other ongoing matters concerning the Midpoint Industrial Park near Hadensville. Although economic conditions caused Gordon to lose his lots in Midpoint, he took the time to ensure that the EDA, which owns seven lots and hopes to generate new interest there, has access to information about all issues facing the project.

EDA chair Marshall Bowden, District 5 observed that landowners in Midpoint, including Fulton Bank, which bought Gordon’s lots, need to work together to address issues including grass cutting, water quality measures, road paving and marketing going forward.

John Joyce, District 4 suggested that the EDA send a letter of appreciation to Gordon in recognition of his time and effort to ensure continuity of operations even after he had no interest in the land.

The EDA will meet with the consultant hired to craft a strategic plan for economic development on June 7 at 5:15 p.m. All EDA meetings are open to the public.

Here's hoping that the EDA candle will burn brightly and serve as a beacon to attract commerce to Goochland.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Education is part of the economic development equation

The focus of the strategic plan for Goochland economic development will be the Tuckahoe Creek Service District and the Interstate 64 interchanges.
This is a sensible approach. The county’s most developable land, already served by public utilities and with good road access, is where major commercial and mixed use development should happen in the near term.

However, landing a corporate headquarters for West Creek, or some industrial companies in the Ashland Road corridor is only part of the task.
Creating an environment where business and citizens help each other grow and thrive is a more global and complicated undertaking.

Quality of local educational opportunity is an important element of overall community strength.

Both the supervisors and school board have been rudely awakened in the past year or so by the realization that the people who moved to Goochland in the past few years are educated, affluent and quite capable of organizing to express their displeasure with elected officials.

For decades, affluent residents of the county pretty much huddled in the River Road corridor and had little interest in county happenings. Their kids went to private schools to the east; their lives were lived in Richmond and all they wanted was low taxes and, on occasion, the services of a rescue squad or deputy.

New folks have moved in all over the county and are sending their kids to public schools. Many come from places where a half million dollar price tag on a house includes the expectation of good public schools.
We were meeting those expectations until the budget cuts resulting from plummeting property values pulled the rug out from under all county services.

A change in school superintendents didn’t help matters.
This fall’s local elections, which are likely to bring many new faces to the school board, are just the start of needed changes. Whoever the voters choose to be supervisors or school board members will face a formidable task next January.

In addition to finding a way to service the debt on the TCSD, they will need to craft strategies to adequately fund all county services.
This will be a tricky balancing act, because the economic development needed to fund these services will not materialize without those services.

Good schools are necessary for a healthy community. This means a universal acknowledgement that good schools cost money and must be funded. The real point of contention is how much is enough for schools and who foots the bill.

Parents of school children believe that everyone should pay higher taxes so that their kids can have the best education on the planet. People on fixed incomes don’t want their taxes raised. Others question why schools cost so much more than they used to and why do kids need sports, are, robotics, etc.

Those of us blessed with good public educations need to think twice before we snarl about the cost of schools. Those who make decisions on behalf of the school system must ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely. What we do not need more of is a superintendent figuratively waving her PhD and declaring that she knows better than anyone else how to allocate school funding.

Somehow, our elected officials need to answer these questions and create consensus among taxpayers. We need to be convinced that huge amounts of money dedicated to our local schools are necessary. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Greater transparency on the part of the schools coupled with wider community involvement is needed to bring this about.

While a college degree is a worthy goal, there should be other options for Goochland students so all GHS graduates are ready to succeed at the next level be it college, the military or the world of work.

The Western, soon to be Goochland, campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, must also be part of an economic development strategy.
J. Sarge is a quiet placeholder in Courthouse Village. It is a good neighbor offering its grounds for tiny soccer players and hosting local events.

For some reason, J. Sarge does little to promote its presence or course offerings. We are vaguely aware of its interface with Goochland High School that enables students to get a leg up on college courses. Some of us take advantage of its internet access or perhaps even taken some horticulture classes there.
At the very least, a link to courses offered at J. Sarge in Goochland should be on the county website and perhaps on bookmarks at the library or even on an insert in tax bills to make it easier to find them.

Right now, accessing the J. Sarge catalog online is difficult. Paper catalogs are expensive to prepare and often outdated before the ink is dry. Better electronic promotion is needed.

If enrollment is down, or never was strong, perhaps that is because courses that would interest area residents aren’t offered. Has J. Sarge ever made an effort to see what kind of courses resident of Goochland, Louisa and Powhatan might like to see offered?

Partnering with J. Sarge to offer company specific training could help to lure new businesses to Goochland. It would also provide students and perhaps funding for the college.

The disconnect among the various segments of our community has created a dysfunction that repels rather than attracts new commerce.

Economic development is far more than hiring a salesman to schmooze big companies into locating a plant or office building in the county. Everyone needs to be on board or the ship will sink. Right now Goochland is listing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On economic development

Once again, Goochland County may actually do something about economic development.

At its May 3 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire a consultant to craft a strategic plan for economic development. Completion of the plan is expected by October, ten years after it was first needed.

The Board also voted, after a convoluted discussion, to simultaneously search for an economic development director (EDD) to implement the strategic plan.

The very fact the county administration keeps economic development on the agenda is a hopeful sign.

Indeed, Goochland has approached the fast moving digital three dimensional chess match arena of contemporary economic development with a checkers by the pot-bellied stove mentality.

The administration of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is working hard to keep its election promise of economic revitalization and job creation.

At a recent appearance in Goochland, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling explained that the state is willing and eager to do whatever it can to assist local government to attract new business and create jobs.

Many localities have their economic development plans on file with the state to ensure that they are considered when a prospect seeking what they have to offer comes along. Goochland’s file is empty.

Economic development is not a one-time thing, but requires a paradigm shift in the thought processes of those who make the important decisions for Goochland, whoever they may be.

Geographically and attitudinally, Goochland is part of the Richmond region but has managed to keep itself isolated except for the Byzantine arrangements that created the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD.) The county needs to join the Greater Richmond Partnership, an entity that scours the world to bring new business to the region.

Our supervisors cited cost (about $250,000 annually) when they declined to join this organization when the TCSD was under construction. The real reason may have been a reluctance to help major TCSD landowners market their product even though that would have translated into increased tax revenue. The county frittered away far more money on fruitless plans for a central maintenance garage instead of reeling in new businesses.

The main duty of the new EDD will be to entice new businesses large and small to Goochland. This person must be a consummate salesperson intimately familiar with every facet of Goochland. The best salespeople understand that thorough knowledge their product is essential to close deals.

An EDD must be involved in every phase of bringing new commerce to Goochland from the initial contact to the issuance of final permits. The county must cooperated here and streamline its regulatory process.

A global knowledge of business is also necessary to avoid mistakes of the past like those made during the Capital One negotiations.

For instance, no one on the Goochland side seemed to understand that Capital One is a bank when incentives were considered. This is important because banks are exempt from local personal property taxes in Virginia so Goochland does not realize any revenues from the computers, office furniture and items considered personal property.

Capital One was also led to believe that law enforcement and fire-rescue services for its West Creek campus would be provided by Henrico County.

Any economic development strategy must include additional deputies and accelerate the move toward paid fire-rescue providers. (This is not a denigration of our amazing skilled and well-trained volunteers who give freely of their time and talents to save lives and protect property in Goochland. They are wonderful, but too few in number.) Businesses will not move here if they do not believe that their employees and customers have a reasonable expectation of a safe environment.

Skills of a matchmaker, marriage counselor and ombudsman should also be requirements for an EDD. The salesmanship must be multidirectional to sell Goochland to a prospect and sell the prospect to the community.

The EDD must be able to visualize how all pieces of the puzzle that is Goochland fit together and interact. The ability see how every rezoning affects other parcels of land several moves ahead is vital.

Recent heartburn over a proposed rezoning along Broad Street Road adjacent to the Bellview Gardens subdivision is a case in point.

The application to rezone lots in an old existing subdivision, Bellview Gardens, that had never built out because the land did not perc, should have been denied in 2004.

Instead, the supervisors focused solely on the fact that houses there would be connected to the TCSD and ignored the comprehensive land use plan’s designation of that entire stretch of land for “flex use,” which does not include residential use.

Someone should have had the presence of mind to look at the big picture and make it clear to the owners of the large parcel north of Bellview Gardens that new homes in the old subdivision would impact future development of their land.

If the ultimate goal of revitalizing an old subdivision— besides making a quick buck—was to expand the existing subdivision road as a gateway to the rear parcel, no new homes should have been permitted anywhere near Mills Road.

Instead, a new home was built almost at the end of the existing road in line of sight of all future construction.

Either no one looked at the big picture, or strings were pulled behind the scenes to quash dissent on the matter.

Although it seemed like an odd place to for an upscale community, little attention was paid. Developers of the project seemed surprised and annoyed at the furor over the proposal to plunk a large Goodwill facility literally in the front yard of a subdivision.

The matter blossomed into a major land use battle that could have been avoided for mutual benefit. When the county’s comprehensive land use plan was last updated, about two years ago, the Bellview Gardens use change was overlooked paving the way for mischief.

Goodwill dropped it rezoning application last month.

Recent embarrassments like the failure of the supervisors to pre-zone land at the Oilville interstate interchange for personal rather than sound business reasons have got to stop.

The process to craft the strategic plan for economic development, as presented to the supervisors, includes the solicitation of input from a wide range of “stakeholders” in the county.

These include: major landowners in the TCSD; homeowners in Kinloch, The Parke at Centerville, and Bellview Gardens, which are served and taxed by the TCSD; Goochland Chamber of Commerce; local realtors; Goochland Rotary; School Administration; representatives from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership; representatives of the Greater Richmond Partnership; JSRCC and possibly two open community meetings.

This economic development initiative is filled with great promise. Let’s hope that it brings forth much sweet and nourishing fruit and is not blighted by the puppet masters behind the curtain.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thoughts on the May Supervisors' meeting

The May 3 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors was the calm after the budget storm ended in April. Indeed, the session began with a plethora of recognitions of worthy causes and retiring planning commissioners Bob Rich and Bill Neal.

Members of the county staff, including Wanda Tormey, Myrtis Quarles, Faye Mann, Bill Cleveland and Jennifer Brown were recognized by County Administrator Rebecca Dickson for their extraordinary contribution to serve the citizens of the county following the crisis in the Treasurer’s office. These folks rolled up their sleeves and got the job done without complaint. Now that most of the bad apples have been removed from the county fruit bowl we can really appreciate the gems on staff that held things together through thick and thin.

Herb Griffith chair of the Goochland Electoral Board used the citizen comment period of the afternoon session to take Board chair William Quarles, Jr., District 2, to task for insinuating that a voting machine at the Three Square precinct in District 2 malfunctioned during the November 7, 2010 election. Quarles' comments were made during the April 11 public hearing on redistricting. Griffith explained the procedures, as decreed by state law, that election officials are required to use during such an event. He said that a careful investigation of Quarles’ allegations, including a thorough review of all election reports concerning the 2010 election, revealed absolutely no indication of voting machine malfunction nor any sort of problem during the day’s voting.

The election at all county precincts was certified without exception, said Griffith.

“Any individual or group of individuals that wish to make mischief or degrade voter confidence in the electoral process could seize on this seeming conflict in voting machine performance to disrupt this or any future election. We will not permit that possibility to exist if we could possible prevent it.”

Griffith further explained that there were two voting machines at the Three Square precinct and the statement of results indicates no discrepancies and was signed by all four precinct officials. There were no reports of voting machine failure. He said that the electoral Board was unable to find any evidence of Quarles’ allegations and asked that a withdrawal of the comment is appropriate.

After closing the public comment period, Quarles sort of said that he had made a mistake and failed to personally check out a complaint made to him by a constituent. Next time, Quarles promised, he will check with the registrar. He said there was never an intent to defraud to bring embarrassment upon the electoral Board and contended that his comments were not made in that vein. (Recordings of both April 11 and the May 3 Board meeting are available on the county website please listen for yourself.)

Dr. Gary Rhodes, president of J. Sargent Reynolds Community College wants to designate the current western campus as the Goochland Campus and the supervisors gave this change their blessing.

The June Board meeting will be held on Monday, June 13.

The supervisors voted 3-2 to renew the county’s franchise agreement with Comcast. Rudy Butler, District 4 and Ned Creasey District 3 voted against the measure. Butler took Ken Dye, Comcast area general manager to task for the company’s failure to work with area subdivisions to provide high speed internet service.

Dye said that the company has a rule of thumb that densities of fewer than 30 homes per road mile are not economically feasible for the company to wire them. He said that Comcast would continue to explore partnering with subdivisions in the future. He gave no explanation why areas like Cedar Plains Road and Millers Lane, which are served by Comcast and have density lower than 30 homes per mile are served by Comcast.

Dye contended that lowering the density threshold “is not a sustainable business model. The folks who hold the capital purse strings make the decisions to protect the long term interest of the company.” Butler took Comcast to task for “cherry picking.” It sure seems like Comcast has all the benefits of being a public utility without any of the headaches. (Didn’t President Obama promise that the entire country would have access to high speed internet during the 2008 campaign?)

Most of the county has little access to high speed internet. Air cards and satellite internet are better than dial up but do not work for all properties. In the meantime, Goochland has less internet access than some third world countries. There was some indication that the agreement with Comcast is not exclusive. The agreement also provides for Comcast to broadcast supervisors’ meetings, but only to those with Comcast service.

County assessor Glenn Branham reported that property values may drop slightly in 2011.

The supervisors voted 4-1 (James Eads District 5 in dissent) to permit staff to perform due diligence on a six acre piece of property in Courthouse Village roughly across the Road from Southern States. The current price is $70,000, down from $90,000 when the matter was first brought before the Board late last year.

While this parcel would provide access to Sandy Hook Road from the school property, we really don’t know why the county is interested in buying this land. With money as tight as it is, there should be a compelling reason for the purchase.

During public hearings, the supervisors approved an ordinance amendment to requires precious metals dealers to photograph people selling precious metals in addition to obtaining a great deal of personal information. While the purpose of this is to make it harder to fence stolen goods, Mark Fisher, owner of The Gold Spot in Oilville contended that stolen precious metals is sold locally at “gold parties” that are totally unregulated.

An ordinance amendment to permit that rifles of a caliber larger than 0.22 may be used to hunt from a stand elevated at least ten feet from the ground was unanimously approved following thoughtful and detailed comments from local hunters supporting the change.

Rifle hunting from an elevated stand, hunters contended, is safer and more humane than shotgun hunting at grade. The use of rifles from a stand requires less ammunition, one bullet per shot from a rifle essentially aimed at the ground versus shotgun shells filled with pellets aimed outward. Rifles kill targets cleanly and more humanely. Many of these hunters also said that they prefer to hunt with rifles and are now forced to hunt outside of Goochland. Hopefully, this change will keep skilled and conscientious hunters closer to home and reduce our deer population.

The Board sent a proposed amendment to the M-2 zoning classification regarding outside storage to the showers contending that creation of a M-3 classification would be more appropriate. The change seems to have been proposed in response to complaints about mulch vendors.

Adult day care centers were added as a permitted use in B-1 and B-2 zoning districts.

Goochland County’s proposed redistricting plan was unanimously approved by the supervisors and will now go the United States Department of Justice for approval. The Goochland electoral Board; county attorney Norman Sales and GIS coordinator and many others on county staff, are to be commended for their hard work in this difficult process, which is not yet complete.

The final plan moves only 606 voters. There will be new voting precincts in Districts 5 and 3. The change in District 3 was caused by the split in representation in the Virginia House of Delegates. Both polling places, however, will remain at the Company 5 fire-rescue station on Fairground Road. In District 5, a new precinct was created to relieve overcrowding at Dover Church. Those delegated to the new precinct will cast ballots at the Collegiate Athletic Facility on Blair Road.

The Crozier precinct was eliminated in District 4 because henceforth all of Goochland will be in the new 22nd district for the Virginia Senate. All District 4 voters will cast their ballots at St. Matthews Church in Centerville. The electoral Board deemed that the widening of Broad Street Road would make the existing polling place, Company 3, too dangerous.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's urban about rural?

The UDA conundrum
In 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation realized that the state’s growth pattern, sometimes called sprawl, was wreaking havoc on its budget. Burgeoning regions spawned new subdivisions and shopping centers that needed new roads, which VDOT was expected to maintain. As the statewide maintenance budget loomed to grow greater than the construction budget, VDOT searched for a remedy.
Only a few jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, including Henrico County, maintain their own roads. Every other road in the state is VDOT’s problem. Each time a subdivision is completed, roads, built by developers, are turned over to the state. The cost of their upkeep is added to the VDOT maintenance budget.
The answer to the problem, concluded VDOT, is to reduce the number of new roads in areas with the highest growth rates. Somehow, this notion was cobbled into legislation touted as a long term money saving scheme and became law.
The law translated into a mandate for the fastest growing areas, which includes Goochland, to amend their comprehensive land use plans to designate urban development areas (UDAs) with high density development options. These areas are intended to absorb all of the growth predicted for the ensuing twenty years or so. High density areas would require fewer roads and allow people living there to access services and amenities without needing to drive.
Enter the new urbanism and smart growth folks with their utopian visions of a return to the idyllic lifestyle experienced by those who lived in the villages of yore before the rise of the evil automobile that gave Americans the freedom to move about the country.
On April 26, the county held a session for property owners in the proximity of areas proposed for UDAs. Representatives of Cox Company of Charlottesville, a land use consulting firm retained by VDOT for Goochland to the tune of $50,000, presented their suggestions for Goochland UDAs. The final determination will be made by the board of supervisors.
Notice of this meeting was allegedly mailed to landowners in questions, even though most of those who attended learned about it via worth of mouth efforts. (A cryptic notice of the meeting popped up on the county website the day before.)
For reasons not explained during the session, of the 961 acres Goochland is required to designate as a UDA (specific formulas for arriving at this amount of land are included in the legislation) 547 were proposed for a parcel of land near the James River in Courthouse Village. Another 273 acres in the Manakintowne area of the Centerville Village and 132 acres in West Creek complete the total acreage.
The UDA mandate requires the localities to put zoning laws in place to support high density housing options that include apartments, townhouses as well as commercial uses. The mix of housing types is up to the county.
The UDAs will not change any existing zoning, and all land must be rezoned before being developed as a UDA, which, in theory, gives localities some control over the process.
The consultants never explained how these parcels were selected beyond that landowners were interested in participating.
Surprisingly, no one asked what sort of herbs the consultants and county planning staff were ingesting when they concluded that it makes any kind of sense to designate land accessed only by thoroughfares that are little more than paved country lanes as a sensible place to locate high density residential development and retail space.
Any UDA in Courthouse Village should be near existing main roads, such as they are. Courthouse Village is charming and has lots of possibilities but is accessible only by two lane roads, Route 6 and Fairground Road that will not be improved any time soon. To even consider large amounts of high density zoning there, especially well off the beaten track, is madness.
As citizens tried to understand the proposal, they asked the consultant how the proposed elements of the UDA compared to Mechanicsville or the Fan. The consultant said he was unfamiliar with those areas and was unable to relate them to his proposal casting.
After residents expressed strong disapproval of the proposal for Courthouse Village — there seemed to be few people from the Centerville area in attendance— the consultants admitted that sanctions for failure to comply with the UDA legislation are vague and perhaps nonexistent.
Both the no high density growth anywhere faction and the “smart growth” adherents concurred that the initial UDA proposals for Courthouse Village are inappropriate at best and disastrous at worst.
Several people spoke passionately about their regard for the small town feel of Courthouse Village contending that it would be destroyed by large scale high density development.
Others raised concerns about the impact of a UDA on surrounding land. “Once your draw this boundary you stigmatize every piece of property that is anywhere near it,” said one resident.
Members of a group that worked in the Virginia General Assembly to repeal the UDA legislation, which failed by one vote, explained that the law is so complicated that one in four legislators did not even know what the letters UDA represent. “But they are redrawing our maps and telling us what we have to accept.”
One angry gentleman said that he was insulted that there were no supervisors present (District 3 supervisor Ned Creasey was there.) “That’s why they all need to be replaced,” the citizen declared.
Comments included the observation that the large lot single family home market is not interchangeable with the townhouse market; “that’s not what we’re about out here; questioning the need to build more commercial space when there are vacant stores and offices and “please God, don’t do this.”
One man questioned the validity of returning to the idyllic village of yore where everyone walked wherever they needed to go and everything was close at hand.
“Of course they walked. No one had a car. Now we have cars and can go wherever we want,” he said. “I resent the Commonwealth of Virginia sticking its nose into our business.”
Several speakers expressed bewilderment that high density development would be considered anywhere in the county other than the Centerville area, which is served by the Tuckahoe Creek Service District; has roads and other infrastructure in place and is drowning in debt.
County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that the county could “push back” against the UDA mandates and perhaps designate the smallest amount of acreage possible. She also said that the county’s UDA process, which was described by the consultant as being in the fourth inning of the game, is closer to the beginning.
Dickson stressed that the meeting was held only to gather feedback from people living near proposed UDAs. “Sounds like the people who live in Courthouse Village do not want a UDA there,” she said stating the obvious.
Hopefully, the planning staff will go back to the drawing board on this and concentrate on the TCSD for any UDA proposals.
The one positive outcome of the meeting is that so many people, though still a small portion of the county population are engaged and willing to take the time to make thoughtful and constructive comments on the matter.