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.

1 comment:

Pat said...

"...which means more extreme budget cutting next year."

It's going to be very interesting to see how long the honeymoon with new officials (assuming some newcomers will win posts) will last for those who have been critical of the current SB and BoS when the newly elected boards are forced to make similarly painful cuts in the future.

As things get tougher, let's work together to keep it fair and civil with the goal of greatest good for greatest number, rather than greatest good for greatest volume.