As their last official act defeated Goochland supervisors Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2 and Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 voted to approve a conditional use permit to allow a Benedictine Preparatory, a prestigious area private high school, to relocate to Goochland. Ned Creasey, District 3 voted no and James Eads, District 5 abstained.
The vote followed the second public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, December 6. There was no singing this time.
Happily the floor in the park and rec gym, site of the public hearing, was covered with protective tarps because lots of mud was thrown during more than three hours of mind numbing public comment.
The hearing began with a presentation of the details of the application by the county’s principal planner Tom Coleman and Benedictine’s side given by its attorney Darvin Satterwhite.
Someone needs to review documents associated with this matter. Unless the cadets have a lot more fun than a military style education would indicate, they begin their day with reveille rather than revelry.
Issues of contention for the land use application were mainly appropriateness of the site for use as a school; increased traffic; noise; soundness of the existing on site wastewater treatment plant and the ability of the site’s 10,000 gallon per day water allocation to support a future student body of up to 550 students.
Some supervisors seemed skeptical about the amount of water various activities at the school were expected to use. Satterwhite countered each objection with charts supporting his allegations.
Given the water pressure problems that have plagued the River Road corridor for years the lack of discussion of water pressure seemed curious. On the surface, it would seem as though peak water use for the school would when residential use is low. Remarks from county engineer Gary Duval about this would have been helpful.
A reduction in water pressure for residents in the River Road corridor is a valid reason for concern and there should have been some mechanism requiring Benedictine to remedy any drops in water pressure it causes in the CUP.
Swirling in the background was a schism between factions of Benedictine alumni caused by the very notion of moving the school from its venerable location on Sheppard Street in Richmond where it has educated young men for a century.
Many of the comments addressed issues that had little to do with the land use matter at hand. Board chair Quarles did nothing to keep the comment on point. Internecine alumni conflicts do not concern Goochland government and should not have been part of the discussion at the public hearing.
Luminaries, including Tom Bliley former mayor of Richmond and U.S. Congressman and outgoing Virginia delegate Bill Janis, spoke in favor of the move.
Janis also repudiated darker allegations made about the school. (A recording of the hearing will soon appear on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us under the supervisors’ tab.)
Many speakers lauded the integrity and character of the cadets and that the school will be an asset to the community that will have a net positive impact on nearby property values.
Opponents contended that River Road is the wrong place for this school and too intense a land use for a residential area.
Many raised concerns about an increase in already objectionable traffic levels as a reason to deny the application, which included a detailed route that all cadet traffic will follow.
Here again it would seem as though residential traffic would be going in the opposite direction from the Benedictine traffic. Several residents complained that Blair Road, which cadets are proscribed from using, is narrow, unsafe and already overburdened.
Creasey is believed to have voted against the application due to concerns that Benedictine will fail to comply with all of the conditions in the CUP.
Eads, who has been against the move from the start and opposed to the outgoing supervisors voting on the matter, made long and rambling remarks on the matter in which he repeated himself several times.
Benedictine Preparatory High School is moving to Goochland. It is now up to the organization to illustrate its honor and integrity by complying with all building permit requirements and living the matters agreed to in the CUP. If that happens, Benedictine will settle in as a valued member of the committee and folk will wonder what the fuss was all about.
The ball is in the cadets’ court.