The end is near
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 marked the end of an era as four members of the Goochland Board of Supervisors attended their last regular monthly meeting
At the start of the afternoon session, county administrator Rebecca Dickson presented the four outgoing supervisors— Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2; Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler, District 4 and James Eads, District 5 — with plaques honoring them for their service, a total of 80 years in office, on behalf of county staff.
That’s an average of 20 years, about a generation, per supervisor. Pryor was first elected 40 years ago when Nixon was in the White House and many of us thought it was a good idea to wear lots of plaid.
Only Eads, who declined to seek reelection after three terms, was not defeated at last month’s election.
Quarles, who has served as chairman for the past two years, and Eads had something of a disagreement over the status of the board. Eads contended that the current board members, with the exception of Ned Creasey District 3 who was reelected, were lame ducks and should address only routine matters of board business.
Quarles, on the other hand, contended that the board was elected to oversee county government until December 31, 2011 and had a responsibility to conduct all county business until then.
The audit committee, comprised of Butler, Quarles and several department heads, met two hours before the start of the regularly scheduled board meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to receive the preliminary report of the certified annual financial report (CAFR) from KPMG, the County’s outside accountants. (The CAFR is posted on the county website under the Finance Department.)
The composition of the audit committee, which meets only a few times per year, was also discussed. It was agreed that the committee should include representatives from the schools. That was certainly a reasonable decision, but why did they bother to make rather than leave any changes to the incoming board? The meeting should have been cancelled.
The outgoing board did properly address the county’s legislative agenda, which must be presented to our General Assembly delegation as soon as possible.
The legislative agenda is a list of issues causing the county some heartburn that need remediation at the state level. As Goochland will be represented by an entirely new delegation—Tom Garrett in the State Senate and Peter Farrell and Lee Ware in the House of Delegates—in the General Assembly next year timeliness is especially important. Newbies Garrett and Farrell will be far too busy discussing abortion and finding the restroom to be of any use to their constituents. Ware is our best hope for meaningful representation in the General Assembly in 2012.
Items on the legislative priority list include: changing the method used to calculate the composite index; creating a regulatory environment attractive to entice private sector high speed internet providers to underserved rural areas; imposing minimum qualifications county treasurer candidates; making urban development area zoning optional rather than mandatory; giving localities greater flexibility in land use taxation designations and permitting amendment of service district ordinances to adjust their boundaries.
(To see the full text of the complete list go to part A of the December 6 board packet on the county website at www.co.goochland.va.us.)
Only Pryor voted against this item citing concerns about forcing property owners out of land use taxation status within the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Eads ranted that land use taxation is designed to discourage economic development and permitting it inside the TCSD, allegedly created to attract new business to the county, is absurd and counter-productive.
Butler said that if some TCSD landowners were denied land use taxation they might put their property into a conservation easement, which would remove it from the tax rolls permanently.
Once again Eads moved to defer board action on the Benedictine conditional use permit application until February to saddle the incoming board with the onus of the decision. Eads contended that the outgoing supervisors were lame ducks and had no business voting on the matter. His motion died for lack of a second.
This prompted Quarles to launch into a smug soliloquy about the term. “Lame duck,” said Quarles, is a term coined at a time when there was a long interval between elections and the start of a term of office. Those who had been voted out got up to all sorts of mischief before leaving. Goochland, he contended is different. “We will be your board of supervisors until December 31, 2011,” he said.
Quarles said that if another natural disaster, for instance, should occur before January 1, the sitting board has the responsibility to take action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.
Also on the agenda was a request to refer two land use items to the planning commission.
The first was a conditional use permit for a drive through window on the new pizza place in Courthouse Commons. The supervisors dissected the referral information as though they were being asked to site a nuclear missile silo. It seemed like they did not want the meeting to end.
Proposed new zoning categories for high density residential development, to be located primarily in West Creek and Centerville, areas served by public utilities, also received intense scrutiny. The proposed ordinances would increase permitted density in West Creek to 15 units per acre and in the TCSD to 14 units per acre well up from the existing maximum density of 2.5 units per acre. The board seemed to realize that would be its final opportunity to opine on a matter it has sidestepped for at least a decade.
Eads said that the high density has is necessary to save the TCSD, which he characterized as on “life support.” He said that the conversation has to take place and that he is shocked at how much this will drive taxes up, or something. He snarkily opined that the new board “in its wisdom” will make these decisions.
Creasey said that people who own the land in question should be part of the discussion. Principal Planner Tom Coleman indicated that will be part of the process.
Pryor, who cast the only vote against the referral said that he is opposed to adding this many rooftops to areas served by public utilities is not the answer to the problem “by a long stretch.”