Thursday, July 21, 2011


As Goochland broils under the summer sun, various matters continue to simmer.

The ongoing “discussion” of the county’s response to a state mandate to designate “urban development areas” grinds along. On Tuesday, July 19, the latest iteration of proposals for specific UDAs in Centerville, including the new addition if land on the east side of Ashland Road just south of Interstate 64 got little support from those who mostly filled the Centerville Company 3 meeting room.

Incumbent District 4 supervisor Rudy Butler and county administrator Rebecca T. Dickson offered good news when they announced that the long needed traffic signal at the intersection of Manakin and Broad Street Roads will be part of the widening project. Completion of the new roadway is expected sometime this fall.

Several citizens raised concerns that the UDAs will be put into place right away. Dickson said that, before any designations are made, which would require amendment of the county’s comprehensive land use plan and creation of supporting zoning classifications, public hearings before both the planning commission and board of supervisors must be held.

Questions about the urgency of complying with the state mandate were deflected. It looks like a delaying tactic is underway to ensure that the matter does not reach the supervisors for a vote before the November 8 local elections.

Part of the problem is that county staff continues to do a poor job of explaining that designating UDAs does not mean that housing projects, funded by state dollars, will immediately sprout there. The designation of UDAs and associated comp plan and zoning changes will simply provide the possibility that higher density housing and/or business uses could occur. Anything built under the UDA rules, which will happen only where public water and sewer are available, will be the result of market forces.

For instance, the county has had a B3 zoning classification that permits, within about a half mile radius of interstate interchanges, buildings up to 100 feet high to accommodate hotels. So far there is no land zoned B3 because the free market sees no advantage to doing so. Higher density options could very well result in no construction for quite some time.
Many people are opposed to mixed use zoning options, which place business and residential uses on the same or nearby parcels of land. This usually requires some sort of master plan to show what goes where long before the start of any construction.

Some land in the county has been zoned for de facto mixed use and has been since late 2006. It is located, in of all places, the Manakin Village, which is not served by water and sewer. Because market forces show no advantage to building this project, nothing has happened. Look for this to get going when the private wastewater system that currently serves Manakin Farms, Hillside Estates and the Parke at Manakin fails and the county is forced to connect them to the TCSD. The shortest distance between TCSD trunk lines and those communities goes right through the mixed use area.

Probably because it is an election year, county officials fail to mention the fact that the county carries a crushing debt burden. Failure to create higher density development options, even in a small corner of the county, will have dire consequences for every tax payer.

The supervisors need to stop dancing around the idea of a master plan for Centerville and just approve one. It makes sense to permit higher density development options there.

The degree of that density is another matter than must be addressed right now. We neither need nor want the same density at Short Pump, but, at the current 2.5 units per acre, no one can make a profit so the free market attracts the dollars we need to pay our debts elsewhere.

Having said all that, the notion that higher density housing in Centerville will absorb all of the people that want to move to Goochland for 20 years is absurd. This is what happens when a bureaucrat fiddles with statistics and writes policies that try to dictate how people will live.

The more options the better. Maybe we could sell some sort of horse boarding and riding facility with townhouses nearby so the equestrians can walk to the stable and don’t have to worry about cutting the grass. Sounds crazy but there just might be a market for something like that here. Our zoning options must accommodate the changes in the way people live.

Even if UDAs are designated, that land must be rezoned before a thimble of dirt may be moved. That requires at least two public hearings and probably a more informal community meeting.

The state should keep its nose out of our land use decisions, but Goochland needs higher density zoning options to survive. We’ve got some fairly stringent design guidelines in our villages that should ensure a pleasing result to any of these projects, which must include detailed maste plans.

At the July 20 meeting of the Economic Development Authority Dickson said that the county is getting an increasing number of initial inquiries from businesses. She said that there is nothing concrete yet, but things seem to be picking up a little.

District 5 representativeand chair Marshall Bowden said that the EDA is eager to help the county in any way possible and wants to be a catalyst to improve business activity in Goochland.

Dickson reported that the consultants are working away on the strategic plan for economic development and expects that it will be presented to the supervisors in the fall.

The county will distribute a simple survey to small and medium sized businesses in the next few weeks to gather information actually doing business in Goochland.

There may be hope for a better tomorrow. At least someone is doing something!

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